" Lord renew thy church, beginning with me. Lord renew the church that the church may renew the nation(s)
No one big story in the news this week touched my soul in a dramatic way. But several ongoing issues did. The brutal slaying of a young policeman and the interview with a distraught mother; the shooting death of the wife of a farmer in a rural area of my country - the husband was also shot but not fatally; " an interesting story" as termed by a popular talk-show host, who shared a BBC story on the reported rise of atheists in Black America - a group known for its strong faith in God; Governor's Romney;s take on the 47% of Americans who according to him are in the back-pocket of the President on account of a dependency syndrome and his potentially explosive dismissal of the Palestinian cause in favor of the Jewish lobby; the ongoing bloody war in Syria. All of which makes one wonder if Bob Marley's observation, immortalized in song, that " everywhere is war", in the sense that things seems to be unraveling all of the world. Especially when you add to the mix, the severe financial stress that families and nations are being subjected to, along with often intractable relationship challenges within the family.
In all of this the Lord reminded of a feature on one of our local television station entitled : " A Ray of Hope". In the sense that Christians are called to be a ray of hope for all people everywhere in the midst of even " impossible situations". This is how the conversation developed as time and time again, the Lord would call my attention to His Word in various situations. The first message was triggered by a radio programme which is also aired on TV, and hosted by one of our most popular and well read journalist, but who happens also to be a Pastor of a church
THE FIRST MESSAGE
"Crowds gathered also from towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by evil spirits, and all of them were healed". Acts5:16 NIV
As I read the passage above tonight, I remembered this one also :
" Why have you torn your robes? Have the man come to me and he will know that there is a prophet in Israel. So Naaman went with his horses and chariots and stopped at the door of Elisha's house". 2 Kings 4:8-9.
On Sunday evening I listened on radio to Ian Boyne's interview with a revivalist - the daughter of the late ( Kapo) Reynolds. Among other things, she spoke of regular healing of body and mind during the worship service at her church. And that members of other denominations, Pentecostals, Adventists, Church of God and even sects like the Jehovah's witnesses, would come for healing, not having had success in their church. She also spoke about " getting into higher heights in the Spirit" and traveling in the Spirit to other countries, the ability to " secure favorable judgments in court for persons, and the importance of certain colours of candles and garments. All of this she insisted was Biblical and she gave honor to Jesus Christ the Son of God, and to be fair spoke about the need for faith in Christ for the healing to take place. Further, she insisted that they were not into " reading up " people nor obeah...although the word was not mentioned.
Ian seemed quite comfortable with these " revelations", and in a sense, at the end, was almost
" recommending" the revivalists to the country. I must tell you that I feared for his soul, as he did not in any way refute or challenge this " version" of Christianity, which seems to have forgotten all about the " suffering servant" as prophesied in Isaiah. And the Word in Romans which speaks about " sharing in Christ's glory if we share also in His suffering".
Having said that though, there is great need for us to explore this issue of healing in the church. Healing of body, mind and soul, from evil spirits, as this was the practice and power of not only the early church, but from the Scriptures, the practice of the the forerunner of Christianity, Judaism. The question remains though, what is the role and function of the call to suffering even as we seek to experience the healing that the Holy Spirit does in and through His chosen servants, all to the glory of God Almighty. Perhaps one answer is that, these revivalists seem too " strong" to be powerful in the sight of God, especially having regard to Paul's experience of " being strong only when he was weak". As God's grace was sufficient for him.
It's a matter that should occupy a lot of our time in this hour of crisis in our nation when evil stalks the land...in the schools, in the cane fields, in the town square, in our music, and in our homes. And the church of Jesus Christ surely ought to be able to say to our suffering people like Elisha, "bring them to me and they will know that there is a prophet in Jamaica."
Sent from my iPad
The strong Word in the first message was that the church was set up to heal and to drive our evil spirits and to call people to repentance. This is the essence of Elisha's Old Covenant experience with the God of Abraham, Jacob and Issac. That he Elisha, was a representative of that God, and therefore Naaman should be brought to him for healing rather than the King " throwing up his hands in the air" in defeat. This kind of attitude ought to be same within the church of the New Covenant in Christ Jesus, that wherever we are, healing ought to taking place. So there should be no need for despair in Jamaica, in Black America or White America for that matter, in Syria and in Palestine and Israel. The second point is that in this first conversation the importance of suffering emerges. A concept steeped in the age old attribute of patience. In the sense that all things happens in God's own time. So there is no need for panic even though things may seem to be out of control and hopeless. A point underscored by a Word which I read and which struck a chord deep in my heart thus triggering a text message to many folks whose numbers are stored on my cell phone.
" It does not therefore depend on man's effort or desire but on God's mercy. Romans 9:16. Ask God for mercy if you believe that Jesus died for you."
Then came four messages about suffering. The point here is that if Christians are going to carry out our God-given mandate to be a Ray of Hope in any society, we cannot plan to do so according to our own strength and wisdom but ony in keeping with God's purpose that when we are weak, we are strong and therefore His grace is sufficient for us. It's a lesson which the church of a " Suffering Servant" needs to be reminded about in this age of the " Prosperity Gospel". The kind of gospel which allows for " super-apostles" with mega churches, and a doctrine of " God blessing the faithful with material wealth". A doctrine, if truth be told, which led many of us in the church in Jamaica to invest, most unwisely, recently, in an regulated financial scheme run by a " scamp" who is now in jail in the USA, leaving behind broken hearts and broken dreams. A doctrine which has no place in the Kingdom of God, and has no power to rescue a people from murder, economic disaster and dysfunctional families. A doctrine which has leads to false ambitions, wrong concepts about God, and leaves out the foundation on which Christianity stands - God's grace and mercy. A point underscored in one of the all time great teaching hymns by Charles Wesley, and to which the Lord led me to read and to reflect, especially:
He left his Father's throne above,
So free, so infinite His grace;
Emptied Himself of all but love,
and bled for Adam's helpless race.
'Tis mercy all, immense and free,
For, O my God, it found out me
MESSAGE ABOUT SUFFERING
The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. Acts 5:41 NIV
Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless device from LIME.
"Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ's afflictions, for the sake of his body which is the church." Colossians 1:24 NIV.
Now if we are children, then we are heirs - heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ. If indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may share in his glory. I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager anticipation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay, and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.
Romans 8:17-21 NIV
Sent from my iPad
On Sep 20, 2012, at 10:53 PM, Lucien Jones
> "But the Lord said to Ananias, Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name." Acts 9:15-16
> Sent from my iPad
> We cannot escape the reality that to be effective in establishing God's kingdom here on earth there will be some kind of suffering according to God's will and purpose. More for some, less for others. But all are required to follow the way of the cross. Without which there is no power to carry out God's will. Only talk.
The final Word from the Lord this week spoke about the need for us to depend on the word of God, to love one another, and to have faith in Christ. These are three areas of Christian life which, if neglected, undermines the effectiveness of the prophetic voice of the church in any society and renders its witness worthless and powerless. Could it be that across the world and in Jamaica, we who are called to be the " Light of the World", and A Ray of Hope in any society, have not paid as much attention to the Word, our neighbour and trust in God as we go about being " busy for God"? Could this be the reason why Jamaica has no Elisha, who will call a people to the living God, in times of trouble as Naaman was called. Could this be the reason why in Black America or White America, despite the many many churches across the land and radio stations, people are turning away from the God of Abraham, Jacob and Isaac, and "creating", gods in their own likeness? Have we lost the zeal to win souls in distant lands, in hostile territories, as many missionaries did in the early years, amidst much suffering and even death? Are we guilty of " giving up too easily" in the face of trouble when we have an Almighty God to depend on, whose faithfulness is established in heaven itself according to the Psalmist. have we forgotten what Jesus said about His Word - that they are Spirit and life, and that flesh counts for nothing. My brothers and sisters we musT begin to pay close attention to Paul's word in Colossians, if we hope to be a Ray of Hope in this country. As spiritual wisdom and understanding, living a life worthy of the Lord, bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power, patience and endurance, all comes when we have faith in Christ, and love one another. That's the only hope for Jamaica, for the USA and the entire world. Engaging in the basics of the faith and not following people who have "lost connection with the head', according to St. Paul, whether or not they come on public television, radio, cable or any other means of communication.
THE FINAL WORD
"Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom., as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ giving thanks to God the Father through him."
Colossians 3:17 NIV
I woke up with that Word in my head this morning and reflected on the fact that, to meditate, to ponder deeply on the Word of God is the most important thing that a Christian needs to do regularly if we are to truly hear God speaking in this " noisy " world. For without that Word who can be sure what path to take, what decision to make, what to leave alone, what to run from, what glitters and is not gold, what seems like a good thing to do but will lead to our destruction, or worse, bring contempt on the name our our Savior.
For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God.....
1. To fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.
2. And we pray this in order that:
a) you may live a life worthy of the Lord,
b)and may please him in every way;
c)bearing fruit in every good work,
d) growing in the knowledge of God,
e) being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might,
f) so that you may have great endurance and patience,
g) and joyfully giving thanks to the Father who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints of the kingdom of light.
3. For he has rescued us,
a) from the dominion of darkness,
b) and brought us into the kingdom of the Son who he loves,
c) in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
Colossians 1:9-14 NIV
For what reason?
" We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you,
1. Because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus
2. and the love you have for all the saints
Colossians 1:3-4 NIV
I have been moved to number each blessings and observations and revelations separately, so that when we pray for each other and for others - which the objective of this message - we may do so according to God's Word, and with great specificity. Let us remember always to pray that others may hear about our faith in Christ and our love for each other. Which is what church is all about.