Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Unless the Lord builds the house......

Two personal experiences affected me this week. One occurred at home. The other on the road today. In recent times, at home, we had erected a higher fence, as one day a strange man presented himself in my yard claiming " refugee status"....according to him others were chasing him. Then one day another young man presented himself, this time without any excuse. Just a plain thief. Fortunately I was at home to challenge him, and he ran. Needless to say, my wife was not a happy camper, as she had taken great care of what he had come to steal. So we put in an electronic gate. Then a few days later, in our absence, he simply proceeded to scale the fence, or the wall, and took what he had come for the first time, and more. So what were we to do now? Migrate? Get some dogs? Really, what kind of country is this! Well to cut a long story and debate short, the Lord instructed us to go on our knees and pray, using His Word.

"Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain".
Psalm 127: 1. NIV

So we placed our security in the hands of the Lord, relocated the " prized objects" to the back of the yard, and moved on with our life.

We, my wife and I, went for brunch after church today. That's when the madness started at the first traffic light down the road from our home. We had the green light, but the traffic with the red light, to our amazement, just kept on coming. It was a good thing I didn't venture out very far. Then we realized that today was the conference day for the ruling Jamaica Labour Party, akin , but clearly on a much smaller scale, to the Democratic or Republican party's convention in the USA. And despite the warning from the police high command, the party supporters, in their exuberance were in no mood to obey the laws governing the movement of traffic in our land. So the madness reached a higher level at another traffic light, when we noticed a young man hanging out the window of a bus laden with supporters, and a young lady seated, well not really seated, but doing what can only be described as a lap dance above him, dancing to the music. The driver, not be outdone, then proceeded to rock the steering from right to left, again keeping time with the music, thus making the bus, laden with supporters, behave like a drunken soldier. Needless to say, a lone policeman in a patrol car, spotted by my wife, chose, perhaps wisely, to ignore all of this as they sped pass him in numbers. Of course, we were the only ones alarmed, as they were all having a " good time". So we wondered, after brunch, as we were again caught up in the traffic, if this kind of thing took place anywhere else in the world, as both political party supporters behave in like manner!

As I write, I am reminded of a title of a song made popular by one of our better gospel artists, Carlene Davis: " This island needs Jesus". As only the " Living God" can so change the hearts of people who " carry on" like this. No appeal from any politician, whether young or more mature, sports-personality, entertainer, journalist or any other leader in national life, can make a difference. So the Lord led me a particular meditation, one more time, in the midst of my own anxieties, and His Word this week to make it clear how we should proceed on the journey to know Christ better, and thus to make ourselves available to be the change agents of Jesus in this land. Or any other.

First of all, we need to get rid for any idea that our desire and prayers for God's blessings, even for the essential things of life, can take place priority over our desire to know God Himself, and to delight in His will. As it is the complete determination to seek and know God which will enable him or her to know Jesus. There can be no competition, no matter how great is the personal need. Whether it be personal financial distress.... health issues, security issues, relationship problems, or national problems....on the roads, in the Parliament, in the PM's Cabinet, on the airwaves or in the boardroom! All legitimate concerns but to be pursued after another priority has been established in one mind.

A. B. Simpson

Verse: Matthew 17:8

Once it was the blessing, now it is the Lord;
Once it was the feeling, now it is his word;
Once it was the gift I wanted, now, the Given own;
Once I sought for healing, now himself alone

Once 'twas painful trying, now 'tis perfect trust;
Once a half salvation, now the uttermost;
Once 'twas ceaseless holding, now he holds me fast;
Once 'twas constant drifting, now my anchor's cast.

Once 'twas busy planning, now 'tis trustful prayer;
Once 'twas anxious caring, now he has he care;
One 'twas what i wanted, now what Jesus says;
Once 'twas constant asking, now 'tis ceaseless praise.

Once I hoped in Jesus, now I know he is mine;
Once my lamps were dying, now they brightly shine;
Once for death I waited, now his coming hail;
And my hopes are anchored safe within the veil.

All in all forever,
Only Christ I'll sing
Ev'rything is in Christ
And Christ is ev'rything.

Not many of us , if we are truthful, think about God in Christ like that. We are far more comfortable with the blessings. But seeking His blessings alone will not make my country a better place. It will not lead to a renewal of either personal faith or the corporate faith of the church; a prerequisite for renewal in inner city life, on our roads, in our music, and in the decisions taken by Ministers of Government. We have to seek God Himself, in and through Christ, if we are serious about change in the behaviour of our people and ourselves. And then when we get to know God better, there is another step. The one taken by our Lord Himself, as recorded in the book of Philippians.

" Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:

Who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death...
even death of a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name........."

Philippians 2: 5-9 NIV

So we seek to know God in Christ better day by day, and then having started on that journey, we commit ourselves to servant-hood. Dying to self, in the power of Christ, forgetting about ourselves, so that we may better find ourselves, and our true role in serving others. Then and only then will my country and your country change. No doubt it is this kind of revelation which led the hymn-writer to pen these words which touched my soul this week.

O Love that wilt not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in thee:
I give you back the life I owe,
that in thine ocean depths its flow
may richer, fuller, be.

O Light that followest all my way,
I yield my flickering torch to thee:
my heart restores its borrowed ray,
that in thy sunshine's blaze its day
may, brighter, fairer be.

O Joy that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to thee:
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
and feel the promise is not vain
that morn shall tearless be........

I pray God that we may allow the " builder of our house", and the " watchman of our city", to reign completely in our lives. And so transform us with His grace, in and through Christ, that the Spirit of the Living God may flow through us and touch and transform the lives of people who we meet along the way in life. Whether in our homes or on the public thoroughfare. Amen.