This year in Jamaica has not started well. In the first week, 12 persons died on our roads and 30 were murdered. And this week, the mayhem continued. But we are not alone. Strife in Lagos Nigeria, tragedy off the coast of Italy, a cynical and potentially dangerous ( for the entire world) assassination in Iran, continued mayhem in Syria and other kinds trouble in various parts of the globe have all accompanied the onset of the new year. But there is also much for which to give thanks. A generally peaceful election in my country, a slowing down of the drug related violence in Mexico, life returning to normal in Japan, the job market in the USA on the uptick, peace holding in Northern Ireland, a relatively mild winter in the northern climes so far, and so much more. But all of that could change in an instant.
Why? There is is a constant war going on at cosmic levels about which we Christians and the entire world need to take notice. This is reason why, as someone who has some responsibility for ensuring that the roads in Jamaica remain safe, I wrote to a prominent member of the church community, following the spate of deaths last week, asking for prayer, as the Devil's hand was seen in the midst of the road deaths. No doubt also that's the reason why the Lord woke me up early one morning to read His Word and to send out the following message to my Parish Church here in St. Andrew Jamaica
Of late the Lord has been speaking more intensely about this matter of spiritual warfare. After 12 persons had died early last week within a 7 day period, I sent out a message to the wider church community, for the church to be mobilized in prayer, as this dramatic upsurge, following the announcement of only 305 deaths in 2011, had to be the work of the enemy. Just last night I was speaking to a patient for whom much prayers had been sent up, she and her husband who, to cut a long story short, had been giving her a " warm time", and she told me how much he had turned around. So we both rejoiced about the goodness of God.
One of the things I said to her, and about which I have been speaking and reflecting on for some time, is that this matter of spiritual warfare is both highlighted and placed in perspective by Jesus Himself in one of the most profound passages in the Bible:
" The thief comes only to kill only to steal and kill and to destroy, I have come that that they may have life, and have it to the full". Luke 10:10 NIV
And then this morning , early, the Lord woke me up to read and share this word. Interestingly, perhaps instructively, I cannot recall, although I must have at some point in time, reading this passage before.
I saw heaven standing open and there was before me a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. he has a name written on him that no one knows but but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. " He will rule them with an iron scepter." He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written:
KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.
And I saw an angel standing in the sun, who cried in a loud voice to all the birds flying in midair, " Come, gather together for the great supper of God, so that you may eat the flesh of kings, generals, and mighty men, of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, small and great."
Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to make war against the rider on the horse and his army. But the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who had performed the miraculous signs on his behalf. With these signs he deluded those who had received the mark of the beast and worshiped his image. The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulphur. The rest of them were killed with the sword that came out of the mouth of the rider on the horse, and all the birds gorged themselves on their flesh. Revelations 19: 11-21 NIV
Lessons for me and hopefully for you too:
There is an absolute connection between knowing the Word and knowing Jesus.
There is a war going on with the intent of the thief, the temptations of this world and our own sinful nature of the old Adam, to corrupt our souls, destroy our families, our finances and our health ( and God allows it to happen sometimes to test our faith, and we make it happen by flirting with the enemy) corrupt our nation and most importantly to thwart the work of the church in proclaiming the good news about the KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS dressed in a robe of blood.
We can only gain victory in that war by the knowledge of the intentions and ways of the enemy, surrendering completely and absolutely to Christ and him crucified, and being completely dependent on and obedient to the Word of God, in our struggles.
Spiritual warfare then calls for sacrifice, for time spent in the Word and in prayer, in discernment about events happening around us, in perseverance and patience and therefore for judicious use of our time, how we spend it, what are our priorities, and the recognition that those with whom God had led us into contact, wherever and whenever, are in desperate need of our prayers and witness to rescue them in this war. ( discussions about politics, sports and fashion may be interesting but leave us at then end no different, but time spent in the Word transforms us)
That the battle is already won by the rider of the white horse and his army, but we by faith and trusting in the faithfulness of a loving God have to claim that victory.
And then who knows what God will do for our country, through a believing church, ready, willing and able, for war!
Further, a reading of the OT lesson appointed for today highlights the importance of immersing oneself in the Word.
" Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord: The word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him.............The Lord was with Samuel as he grew up, and he let none of words fall to the ground". 1 Samuel 37& 19 NIV.
And, to underscore the point that, it is not only the reading of God's Word that is critical in knowing God, and thus be able to engage successfully in the kind of spiritual warfare being unleashed against God's people in particular, and the entire world in general, but being obedient to the Word, I was led to the following meditation this week:
Charles G. Finney
Verse 2 Kings 14:4 ....The high places, however, were not removed; the people continued to offer sacrifices and burn incense there.
Whosoever keeps the whole law yet offends at one point is guilty of all ( see James 2:10). He is rightly subject to the whole penalty. If he habitually disobeys God in one thing, then he doesn't obey him in anything, because obedience to God consists in an attitude of the heart. It is willingness to obey God, to let him rule everything. So if a a person habitually disobeys God in one thing, his state of heart renders obedience in anything else impossible, because a person can't in one area obey God out of respect for his authority while in another area refuse obedience.
Obedience to God is an obedient state of heart, a preference for God's authority and commandments over everything else. if a person therefore appears to obey in some areas yet he knowingly disobeys in others, he is deceived. He offends in one point, and this proves that he is guilty of all; in other words, he doesn't obey from the heart at all.....If a person refuses to obey God's law, even a single duty, he.......has no true faith, and his outwardly spiritual acts are loathsome.
The one thing that all of us as Christians have to get right, is absolute and complete obedience to God. And if we sin in this respect, and all sin originates from disobedience, repentance is an immediate requirement, not a " tomorrow story". That my friends is the only way to thwart the kind of spiritual warfare which the Devil has launched on all humanity, and which is manifest in the many calamities which continue to plague the entire world. But such a war is not being fought for ourselves and our families alone, but on behalf of those who are unaware of the devil's schemes and power, ignorant and disobedient.... Those who sit in darkness and therefore are in the shadow of death according to the Benedictus ( Luke 1;67-79 ) which is the song, sang by John the Baptist's father Zechariah, when his eyes were opened after he was again obedient to God.
I pray God that this year, all of us will learn, and yearn to be obedient to the Lord Jesus Christ. As nations rise and fall accordingly. As leaders rise and fall accordingly. As people live useful lives or die accordingly. And God is merciful, slow to anger and full of compassion and love to all who seek His mercy in faith and in obedience to His Crucified and Risen Son Christ, The KING of KINGS. And thus we sing his praises in the words of the hymnwiter Martin Rickhart, a hymn the Lord laid on my heart this week and which words, having noursihed my soul and which I had not read for a long time, I recommended to two men who the Lord instructed me to engage with this song.
Now thank we all our God,
with hearts and hands and voices,
who wondrous things hath done,
in whom his world rejoices:
who from our mother's arms
hath blessed us on our way
with countless gifts of love,
and still is ours today.
O may this bounteous God
through all our life be near us,
with ever joyful hearts
and blessed peace to cheer us;
and keep us in his grace,
and guide us when perplexed,
and free us from all ills
in this world and the next.
All praise and thanks to God
the Father now be given,
the Son, and him who reigns
with them in highest heaven,
the one eternal God,
whom heaven and earth adore,
for thus it was, is now
and shall be evermore.