The big news all around the world, well certainly in the western world, is that today is celebrated as father's day. And we here in Jamaica are fully on board, although like everywhere else I would imagine, mother's day is is a far bigger deal. But nonetheless we celebrate all responsible fathers today. And even the potential ones as was done today at a Methodist Church in the capital city where I had the privilege to share the Word. What did the Lord lay on my heart? The state of my country caused by irresponsible fathers. Two Fathers and a Son, and Spiritual Warfare. It it my prayer that wherever in the world you are, you may examine the state of your country and pose the same questions that I asked the men and women of Saxthorpe Methodist church this morning. First to yourself, and then to any other denomination to which you belong. Be it Adventist, Church of God, Baptist, Moravian, Roman Catholic, United Church, Salvation Army, Pentecostal, Anglican or any other of the myriad of denominations present across the globe
First the state of my country in respect of fatherhood....in note form, but it is not hard to get the gist of it
Fundamental truths.....Christian Life, a life lived in community....life lived in and through Jesus Christ...so are always children of God our Father, living a life empowered by the Spirit of Christ in a community...Saxthorpe...St. Andrew parish church....Manor park, HWT, St Andrew, Jamaica, the Caribbean or the entire world.So today on Father's day, and seek a deeper understanding of what fatherhood is all about, in that context, what is the state of our community?Majority of our people are born out of wedlock.....RGD 2004 83%.......majority of the families in Jamaica are headed and in many cases solely maintained by mothers. In many homes where there is a father, visiting or in a live in dad, there is much abuse ...of mother and of children...and even sexual abuse of daughters. We thank God to day on father's day then for the responsible fathers who care for and show love to their children and for the mother of his children and who, even more importantly, bring up their children in the fear of the Lord. The effects of this kind of in some instances benign, and in other instances, malicious neglect, on the society's CHILDREN is profound....aggressive and angry children and mothers.......premature sexual encounters...teenage pregnancy ..... abortions HIV/AIDS.....broken relationships......prostitution. bully's....violent behaviour......involvement in gangs...criminal behaviors ...premature death.......So they were scattered because there was no shepherd, and when they were scattered, they became food for all the wild animals...Ezekiel 34:5
These children become ...adults growing up without love, discipline and a focus in life....breeding ground ....greed....envy..... immediate gratification....lack of appreciation of a sound education..... lack of self-control...sound example police and involvement in young girls.....big men in society and involvement in young girls ....resistance to any kind of authority....roads...minibus drivers.... rampant cynicism...lack of commitment to anyone...relationship issuesAll of this contributing to the reality of a very violent society.... in too many cases, a very uncaring people......a nation with many people with unfulfilled potential, affecting production and productivity.... people with emotional immaturity....a people who neither fear God nor man.....a land where begging and the dependency syndrome has become ever so pervasive....lack of shame....a irresponsible and morally challenged society...corruption, illegality, immorality...not even to blush.This the is the downside of a once caring responsible productive visionary society.
MY EARTHLY FATHERToday on father's day I thank God that I had a father about whom I can say nothing but good. A quiet man who loved my mother. A gentle and gracious man who served his country well. A loving dad who was there for his children....teaching us to play dominoes,,..being there on sports-day...at Sabina Park....going to the drive -in theater on a Sunday. A responsible man who provided for his family and protected us from evil forces around us. A serious disciplinarian who only had the threaten us for us to shape up....and of course going to church on a Sunday morning was a requirement...and even when we were adults..little nuggets of advice would still be forthcoming. Of course when the grandchildren came he used to pick them up on Christmas morning, in particular, and carry them around to other siblings, while beaming with pride.
MY HEAVENLY FATHERToday on Father's Day I also give thanks that we all have a Father in heaven who loves and cares for us. All of us can bear witness to the goodness of our Father in heaven and the many blessings that He continues to bestow on us. A Father who has been there for us on so many occasions, in good times and in bad times. And as I was quite specific in describing why my earthly father meant so much to me so I intend to speak openly about my Heavenly Father.Right up front I will tell you that I love my Father in heaven because He is the Creator God....as His Word says that; " I am fearfully and wonderfully made....and moreso ...made in the very image and likeness of God." And I love my Father because He is the Redeemer God in Christ Jesus.....as according to the songwriter:My God I love thee; not becauseI hole for heaven thereby,nor yet because who love thee notare lost eternally.Thou, O my Jesus, thou didst meupon the cross embrace;for me didst bear the nails and spear,and manifold disgrace.and griefs and torments numberless,and sweat of agony;yea death itself - and all for mewho was thine enemy......So would I love thee, dearest Lord,and in thy praise will sing;solely because thou art my God,and most loving King.. And I love my Father because He is the enabling God in and through the Holy Spirit...as the Word of God reveals the comforting and life-transforming fact, that: God will not leave us as orphans but will send us a Counselor, the Spirit of truth who will teach us all things.So I love my God; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, One God. In other words my love is guided by my understanding of the Trinity, as it was the same God who created the world, who responded to man's Sin when in Adam we all disobeyed God and fell short of His glory. And responded in such love by coming to earth as man...incarnation, and dying for us on the Cross in the great act of Atonement which we call redemption. And who after being raised from the dead with power, sent the Holy Spirit so that we could have life everlasting and who with power will come again to judge both the living and the dead.
THE SONOne of my favourite gospel songs which I sing regularly sums up my love for Jesus.....Accept these prayers from a grateful heart, every time I think of you the praises start...I love you so much, Jesus. I love you so much. And in fact just this week, in my office an elderly lady who lives alone, her husband died a few years ago, and they both came back home to Jamaica to escape the cold, in praising her Jesus, got goose bumps as she spoke and began crying with joy for this Jesus who watches over her each night and allows her to sleep without disturbance each and every night. My friends, as much as we fear God our Father in heaven, and welcome God the Holy Spirit into our lives each day, we have a special love for God in Jesus Christ, who suffered and died for us at Calvary. A special love for the Christ by whose Blood, the Scriptures reveal, we can enter into the very presence of an awesome and Holy God, and ask for grace and mercy in times of trials. This is the same God in human form, the Son of Man, who according to the songwriter...thou didst leave thy throne and thy kingly crown when thou camest to earth for me, but in Bethlehem's home was there found no room for thy holy nativity...O come to my heart Lord Jesus, there is room in my heart for thee. And the most wonderful thing about God the Son, is that there is much more benefit in his death and resurrection that the forgiveness of Sins. Listen to two of the most instructive passages in the Bible both of which we should commit to memory." For if when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life." Romans 5:10.' The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full ( abundantly). " John 10:10The main thing in the Christian life, in giving thanks to our earthly Father, today is to accept that without the indwelling of the Spirit of Christ Jesus, we can never become true disciples of Christ. We can never become holy in the way God desires his children to be holy and free from blame and every stain of sin. As the Bible says that he who lives according to the flesh cannot please God....nothing in my hand I bring...simply to thy cross I cling...naked...helpless.....I to the fountain fly,.wash me savior lest I die So the take home message from this Father's day meditation is that if we really wish to love our Father in Heaven and please Him, we have to believe that Christ died for our sins, and that, in Him, we die to self, the flesh, and in the same way Christ was raised from the dead with power, so we too in Christ rise with Him to a new life in God. This is the good news of the Gospel of Christ which Satan does not wish for us to accept and for the world to know about. For once we truly believe and walk in the Spirit, then the same Spirit will flow out of us, as promised in Scripture and allow us to love one another, to love our neighbour, and to love the Lord with all our heart and mind and strength, and to perform miracles in the mighty name of Jesus Christ.
SPIRITUAL WARFAREOn Friday night, in a manner which has now become quite regular but still amazing every time it happens, the Lord led me to the following passages of Scripture:" When you go into a battle in your own land against an enemy who is oppressing you, sound a blast on the trumpets. Then you will be remembered by the Lord your God and rescued from your enemies". Numbers 10:10...first time I gave ever read that passage.A more familiar one:Therefore the Lord was ......My understanding of why God led me to read this passage at a time when I was preparing my self to speak to you this morning is that, we who profess love for our heavenly Father, and who we have come to know in and through Jesus his Son, have been called to engage in a spiritual warfare , in love and with perseverance, for the souls and lives of those whom God has placed in our paths as we journey through this life here on earth. And we are to engage in a battle for their souls as well as well as to heal the sick, free the captives, feed the hungry, cloth the naked and promote social justice in the face of grinding poverty, ignorance and injustice, all of which keep our people in bondage. And in the same way that Jesus was persecuted...thou didst come with the living word to set thy people free, but with mocking scorn and a crown of thorn they carried thee to Calvary...O come to me heart Lord Jesus, there is room in my heart for thee. In that same way we are to expect resistance, persecution and even death, if it is God's will, as we engage in this warfare. So be aware that choosing to love God, Father Son and Holy Spirit will change your life, drastically.And as God prepares us for warfare, He will discipline us and test us to see what is in our heart ...in the same way He tested the children of Israel in the desert for 40 years...to show them that man does not live by bread alone abut by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.In the same way that the writer to the Hebrews writes:"...endure hardship as a discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? if you are not disciplines, and everybody undergoes discipline, then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best, but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on it produces Harvest of Righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it." Hebrews 12: 7-11 NIV.in the same way that Jesus told Peter: Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you, Simon that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back strengthen your brothers. Luke 22: 31-32 NIVHe will require that you believe, as without faith it is impossible to please God.How long will I put up with this perverse and unbelieving generation...bring your son to me...Jesus.My friends this is why we need to be soundly grounded in the doctrines of the Christian faith as passed on to us by the Apostles, and not what the spirit of this world is teaching us. For if some are not careful, they will place a focus on Jesus alone, as a New Testament phenomenon, and disregard the fact that He was there from the beginning of Creation, and that the children drank from the same spiritual rock which was Jesus. It is important then that we get the understanding correct as the kingdom of God is not about talk but about power. And when we engage in battle, unless we sound the rams horn, and blow the trumpet, which in modern day language means to call upon the Name of Jesus, in faith, we will never conquer the forces of evil which have become very pervasive in our country.Early this morning, in the depth of my sleep, the Lord reminded me about Psalm 83 which I read before I go to bed at nights. It's Psalm which appeals to God for help, and asks God to remember what how he helped the people of Israel when they cried out for help as the Medianites and others oppressed them. Battles which are fully described in the book of Judges. And so the Psalmist cries out:O God, do not keep silent, be not quiet O God, be not still. See how your enemies are astir and how your foes rear their heads. With cunning they conspire against your people; they plot against those who you cherish..further he says...do to them as you did to Median, as you did to Sisera and Jabin at the river Kishon, who perished at Endor and became like refuse on the ground.Therefore the message from the Lord this morning is: You men of Saxthorpe Methodist church, when you engage in battle against the " Midianites" of this world, who are still oppressing God's people...all who are created in the likeness and image of God, and as they cry out to Him as did the people of Israel, let us remember the mighty warrior Gideon who when told by God, " Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian's hand. Am I not sending you", responded " But Lord how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family. Then the Lord answered, " I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Medianites together". And so I ask you on this Father's day, as I ask myself.....the Lord taught me two very profound things this week....one is, " it is not the sermon that needs preparation, but the preacher"... the other is " beware of knowing what you do not practice".......and so I ask myself and my church at St. Andrews and all Christians in this country, where is the spirit of Gideon in this church? Where is the Spirit of Gideon in this nation? Has God not called you, has God not called me, to save Jamaica from those evil forces that oppress our people? Has our Heavenly Father, in and through Christ Jesus promised not to leave us nor forsake us? And as we are all one in Christ Jesus, men and women, even though we are placing a focus on men this morning, where is the Spirit of Deborah in this church, a Judge of Israel just like Gideon who waged war against Sisera, the commander of the army of Jabin the King of the Canaanites who oppressed the people of God. And they cried out, and God sent them this mighty warrior who pursued Sisera. And when he fled, he was killed by another brave woman, Jael, the wife of Herber the Kenite. Therefore in returning to the context in which we have been called by God our Father, we no longer view the behaviour of our deadbeat fathers, the behaviour of the minibus drivers and taximen, the behaviour of our schoolchildren, the police, our entertainers, businessmen and politicians as something strange, or social problems beyond salvage about which we can only lament and remember the good old days when Jamaica was not like this.In the Name of Jesus No. It is time my brothers and sisters to wage war. But like St.Paul, we do not wage war with the weapons of this world. But rather, we use the weapons that have divine power to destroy strongholds, weapons that can destroy every argument and pretension that sets itself against the knowledge of God, and with them we take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ Jesus.And we depend on the might power of the Holy Spirit to pray as Jesus taught His disciples, when that father brought his son to him for healing. That son who was possessed by an evil spirit, and which illness could be not cured by the disciples to him he was brought in the first instance. And when the father cried out for help and wondered if Jesus could help him, our blessed savior's response, the response from He who came from our heavenly Father was " everything is possible for those who believe."So my friends in take the Name of Jesus with you this week, in every situation that you face, at home, in the community, at church, on the roads, at work, at school. Call upon Him often. Remember the Words of the songwriter:Take the name of Jesus with youChild of sorrow and of woeit will joy and comfort give youtake it then where're you goPrecious Name, O How sweetHope of earth and joy of heavenPrecious Name.......Take the Name of Jesus ever,As a shield from every snare;If temptations round you gather,Breathe that holy Name in prayer.My friends as we close this morning, let us declare first in this house where we worship a heavenly Father, and then let us shout it out in the hills and valleys of this blessed nation as we celebrate our 50th year of independence. That the only hope of a new Jamaica, ultimately, is a Jamaica where children are born in wedlock and reared in the fear and love of God, is a Jamaica where fathers accept their responsibility to help to raise their children, and so provide the discipline that we all need to prepare us for responsible adulthood. Is for the church to produce disciples who are abandoned to Jesus. Disciples who are totally dependent on Christ as a mediator between a Holy God and and sinful man . And as we realize more and more the extent of our own wretchedness and helplessness before a Holy Father, and accept that only the mercy of God our Father in and through Jesus can allow us to enter into His presence, we will indeed cry out to Him and He will enable us to walk with Christ. And therefore that Christ is the only hope for a new Jamaica where immorality and poverty and injustice and ignorance do not continue keep our people in subjection in this the 50th year of our anniversary as a sovereign nation. But all of that depends on the extent of our love for our Father in heaven, and our willingness to die to self in and through Christ Jesus, and become new children in Him and thus be empowered by the Holy Spirit, one God to bear fruit. Fruit that will last. Fruit that is pleasing to our Father who art in heaven, and whose Son is seated at His right hand, who ever lives to intercede for us, and who will come again with glory to judge us all. So let us all make sure that on this father's day and henceforth, as sons and daughters of the King, that we worship our heavenly Father, God Almighty in spirit and in truth, and in faith and with love, and be obedient to His call to save this nation. In the same way that His Son, Christ our Lord, responded in love and in obedience to save the whole world. Amen.