The battle between President Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney for the 2012 presidential elections is truly joined. And one of the many debates they have been engaged in over the media, is the most recent issue concerning entrepreneurship and it's owner. What really drives business in America? Is is the bright young creative mind like Steve Jobs of Apple fame, or does the infrastructure provided by the government which started the information highway which we now know as the Internet, the real key to all of this. In a sense this is the very same question that needs to be posed in trying to understand the horrific event which took place in Aurora, Colorado this week, where 12 persons were shot to death and 70 injured, one of the worse tragedies in the recent American history. Was this a simple random act of violence carried out by a mad man? Or is there an infrastructure of Sin in the world in general, and in America in this instant case, which allows evil to flourish and manifest itself in this spasm of violence which has shattered the lives of so many and disturbed the tranquility of life in the USA.
How did the Lord speak to me about this and other issues during this week? This week commencing on July 19, during my early morning devotions and reading of God's Word during the day, I was led to write on at least three occasions to senior members of my church, the first of which deals with the the Anglican/Episcopalian church to which I belong, and the wider church family, about the need to call upon the Name of Jesus continually and why. As I reflect on the relevance of this message in the context of the Colorado massacre, the key issue is Oswald Chambers' assertion that, the basis of life is tragic on account of sin. Also that the first verse of the hymn quoted below has been ' in my head " all week" and speaks clearly about the battle - against evil and temptation- that all Christians will encounter. As we are called to be holy in God's sight, and that can only happen when we are truly " in Christ".
"Early morning thoughts in Miami as the battle continues" July 19.
O Jesus, I have promised to serve thee to the end;
be thou forever near me, my master and my friend;
I shall not fear the battle if thou be by my side,
not wander from the pathway,
if thou wilt be my guide.
Oswald Chambers asserts that the basis of life is tragic ( on account of sin) and thus we live in peace only by the grace of God - through the Redemption wrought on the Cross of Calvary by Christ Jesus. It's the same message, or rather a reflection of that which Jesus sent, when at the end of John 16, He said: " I have told you these things so that in me you will have peace. In this world you will have trouble, but do not be afraid, I have overcome the world". It's a lesson which our Anglican community, in particular, needs to take on board, and call upon the Name of Jesus often. Not just during morning devotions and at nights, and on a Sunday morning. That's for young Christians, as the " tempting sounds, sights that dazzle, foes, the world, according to the hymn writer in verse two,, are " around and within", and the only hope is to cry out continually , " Jesus draw thou nearer and shield my soul from sin". And from evil. I would suggest based on my own struggles and revelations from the Lord, that It is the failure, at least in part, to appreciate and to be obedient to this basic fact of the Christian life, why the Anglican/Episcopalian church is embroiled in so much turmoil; why it is losing membership...in the face of trials...and David Kuck is correct, it cannot be simply on account of the quality of leadership in and by itself, at whatever level...but rather when people cease to concentrate of Jesus and Him crucified; and why is it having less and less effect on the moral fibre of the society...at least in the Western world. And as St. Paul asserts, "the Kingdom of God is not about talk, but about power". So we need to have Jesus near us at all times, lest we " wander from the pathway, or begin to fear when the battle is joined". In this respect I have come to appreciate Isaiah's words; " He will keep in perfect peace, he whose mind is steadfast of him as he trusts in him." Chambers asserts that it is a matter of will, of making a determination to concentrate on Jesus at all times, of believing that God is in the midst of everything, of willing that all that is unacceptable to the will of God be, " identified with the death of Christ", immediately.......As ultimately, as Uzzah found out, as recorded in 2 Samuel 6: 6-7 God is holy, " and just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do" ( 1 Peter 1:15) And " God chose us in...Christ Jesus..before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight". Ephesians 1:4. So if we live in peace, and protection from evil only by the grace of God, then it is only a life lived in completely, and not partially or sometimes, crucified to the world and world to us, in Christ Jesus, that can be blameless and holy before God. And not suffer that fate that Uzzah suffered. May God give us the grace to ponder on those things and seek to be holy in all that we so as Christ is holy. Then and only then as David asserts...." will I teach transgressors your ways and sinners turn back to you". Psalm 51: 13.
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The second message is a direct follow-up to the first and reminds us about the need to " present the gospel in all it's fullness", to all whom we encounter along life's journey. Both the love of God for the entire sinful and lost world which is the reason why " in the fullness of time" Christ came as a Savior. And the anger of God which burns against all those who have rejected His Son and elect to continue to live in their sinful state, and who will one day face judgment. Thus St.Paul when he was leaving his disciples for the last time and facing death could declare with confidence that, " I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God". ( Acts 20:26-27) In the sense that he proclaimed the whole gospel to all whom he met in life. We have no idea what is going to happen to people from one moment to the other and therefore are called to " preach the word in season out of season".
" Early morning thoughts in Miami as the battle continues" July 19
In this context then, the question Jesus posed to his early disciples, " You give them something to eat", is quite intriguing. Clearly He must have meant for them to tell those who were " without a Shepherd", some good news about Him as much as they knew at that time - as that's the essence of the gospel. So what are we called in this age to " give them something to eat"? The truth about life in Christ - a life of suffering and self-denial; a life of constant praise and thanksgiving; a life of loving God and neighbor ; a life of being broken bread and poured out wine; a life of being " broken" for Christ and not just called; a life of " be of good courage, do not be terrified or afraid, for the Lord thy God is with you wherever you go; a life of faith in God and also in Christ with Whom all things are possible for those who believe. For His faithfulness is established in heaven itself. Amen And as they chanted in the early days of the Angolan revolution...a luta continua.....the struggle continues, wherever; in Miami, in Kingston, at St. Andrew's or St. Thomas' or Holy Family or Holy Sacrament, with Bishop Frade or with Bishop Gregory.
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The third message was sent on the actual morning of the massacre and it is all about mercy. For us the " gentiles" to whom the message of grace has come in and through Jesus, and to the children of Abraham, "from whom the human ancestry of Christ is traced". An issue about which I was moved to make a post on my Facebook page later that day. We pray God for grace and mercy for all of us as we reflect on this massacre, but pray especially that through this evil people may come to understand how much they are in need of salvation - which can only be gained by believing that Christ died for us and repent of our sinful ways and become obedient to God.
"There is a kind of madness here in America which is unbelievable ...the Colorado movie killer colored his hair red, as he were The Joker. And then proceeded to create mayhem. if this is not sheer evil then my God what is! May the Lord have mercy on the souls of those of those who died; may He have mercy on the injured. But may He have a special mercy on a nation out of which this kind of evil merges every so often.
The very morning that news began to filter through about the Aurora disaster, during my devotions, I was led to read and then to write the following :
" Early morning thoughts in Miami as the battle continues...part 111
As I opened the i Pad I was greeted with the news of a gunman killing 14 and injuring 50 in Colorado at a Friday screening of the new Batman movie. And I began thanking God for mercy last night as I commenced my early morning devotions, the Spirit of God reminded me about mercy in Romans 11: 32 (The most recent reminder of many others) . Actually that's the reason why I opened the iPad - to write, and found the message from CNN. Is there a connection between the massacre in Colorado and this message? Always! As God is in the midst of everything. "For God has bound over all men to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all." And as I was led read the two chapters concerning God's Sovereign choice, 9-11 and then the first part of 12, two thoughts came into my mind. One is that is that praying for the children of Abraham ought to be a regular feature of every Christian's private and public worship. Secondly I don't understand parts of what I am reading, it is actually a bit puzzling, as even John Stott's monumental work, " The Cross of Christ", makes no mention of " making Israel envious", but I am trusting in God's word, and usually that which is " difficult", the Lord makes clear in due course. There is a third matter, and a fourth too, and perhaps they represent the "keys" to all of the above. " Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God - this is your spiritual act of worship". (Chap 12:1) And , " For by the grace given to me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgement, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you." ( 12:3) There are all kinds of messages here for us as we seek to avoid the pervasive influence "of the gods of the nations around us", In the same way that God warned Joshua and the children of Israel when He led them into the promised land and drove out many nations before them " destroying everything that breathed", so that they would not be led astray by foreign gods. And we all knew what happened, and the consequences which followed.
THE WORD OF GOD
I speak the truth in Christ - I am not lying, my conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit - I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, the people of Israel. Theirs is the adopt as sons; theirs the the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. Theirs the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised. Amen.......... Chap 9:1-5 Again, I ask: Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgressions, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious. But if their transgressions means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their fullness bring...... If some of the branches have been broken off, and you,though a wild olive shoot, have been grated in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, do not boast over those branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you. You will say then, " Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in." Granted. But they were broken off because of their unbelief , and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but be afraid. For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either. Consider the kindness and sternness of God ( a much forgotten principle in this modern age): sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off. And if they do not persist in unbelief ( a basis for prayer) , they will be grated in, for God is able to graft them in again......... I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited; Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob. And this is my convenient with them when I take away their sins........ Just as you who were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience, so they too have now become disobedient in order that they may now receive mercy as a result of God's mercy to you. For God has bound......... Chap 11: 11-32
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Finally in the context of the disobedience which is so pervasive in my country and in these United States of America, a Meditation on this issue " caught my eye".
A PERSONAL PRAYER FOR OBEDIENCE
John Baille ( 1886-1960... a Scottish theologian, educator and ecumenical leader and author of " A Diary of Private Prayer".
Holy God, to whose service I long ago dedicated my soul and life, I grieve and lament before thee that I am so prone to sin and so little inclined to obedience:
So much attracted to the pleasures of sense; so neglectful of things spiritual:
So prompt to gratify my body, so slow to nourish my soul:
So greedy for present delight, so indifferent to lasting blessedness:
So fond of idleness; so indisposed to labor:
So soon at play, so late at prayer:
So brisk in the service of self, so slack in the service of others:
So eager to get, so reluctant to give:
So lofty in my profession, so low in my practice:
So full of good intentions, so backward to fulfill them :
So severe with my neighbors, so indulgent with myself:
So eager to find fault, so resentful at being found with:
So little able for great tasks, so discontented with small ones:
So weak in adversity, so swollen and self-satisfied in prosperity:
So helpless apart from thee, and yet so little willing to to be bound to thee.
O merciful heart of God, grant me yet again thy forgiveness. hear my sorrowful tale and in thy great mercy blot it out from the book of thy remembrance. Give me faith so to lay hold of thine own holiness and so rejoice in the righteousness of Christ my Savior that, resting on his merits rather than on my own, I may more and more become conformed to his likeness, my will becoming one with his in obedience to thine. All this I ask his holy name's sake. Amen.
May the Lord have mercy on us all in these troubling times and grant us the grace to be obedient to His will in this dying world.