Sunday, April 29, 2012

The power of social media, the power of prayer and the deeper need for Jesus

The power of social media was very much in evidence in this week as news broke on Facebook that Yendi Phillips, who nearly won the Miss Universe crown last year, and who was dating the Internationally famous athlete Asafa Powell, was pregnant for the son of famed reggae artist Freddie McGregor. And that news began trending on Twitter. Now for something to be " happening" on Twitter, which , from one report on a single day can have upwards of 180 million tweets, it has to be of huge significance for millions of people. And just this evening an award winning local journalist, on a radio program, mooted the idea of using social media to advance democracy. Interesting! Also interesting this week, was a media report on a television station which attracts upwards of a million viewers nightly, of a tough inner city neighborhoods where unemployment is the order of the day, with the attendant social problems of teen-age pregnancy and violence. T'was interesting for me, as the church to which I belong has had a presence there for years ministering to the needs of the community as best as it can. The question then of how effective has been our ministry, emerged during a follow up discussion on radio which the station so graciously arranged. part of the answer clearly lies in the inability of the state to provide the kind of housing solution which was help to promote the kind of community spirit which would in turn assist in dealing with a lot of the attendant social issues. But a deeper issue, which the Lord led me to consider provoked the following note to the station's news editor: Actually there is more...a part 111 if you will, as this morning during my devotions, whilst contemplating the whole issue a very strong "voice" came up about faith and prayer as I was guided from passage to passage in the Bible. From the little old lady who persevered with the "unjust judge", who feared neither man nor God, and eventually got justice and Jesus' encouraging words that how much more will a loving God grant us justice if we persevere. To the disciples who were frightened by the storm and cried out oi the Lord who stilled the raging waters, and then asked where was their faith. To the centurion who only heard about Jesus, and asked that he come and heal the sick soldier. And before Jesus arrived he sent a word saying that he was unworthy to have Jesus visit with him and asked that the Lord just " say the word" and his soldier would be healed....and our Lord was amazed at his faith. Finally to the little boy who had epilepsy and whose father has unsuccessfully appealed to the disciples to heal his son. Then along came Jesus who rebuked the evil spirit and healed the man's son. All of this pointing the fact that, in addition to the lack of infrastructure as one of the basic problems to which I pointed last night, the church has an even bigger problem. Lack of persistent believing prayer which would have resulted in an even bigger dent in the huge problem that the community faces. And that kind of spiritual lack will not change no matter how often and how in depth the media highlights the problem. The solution resides in the hearts of the congregations and in the collective vision and leadership of the church. In obedience to the Word and to the revelation. LWJ As I pondered the issue of a lack of faith and unbelieving prayer, two things happened which really helped me to understand in a profound way the message from the Lord in all of this news and power of social media. One was the singing of a well known hymn, and one of my favorites, on the very same radio station, RJR, this morning: Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart, be all else but naught to me, save that thou art; be thou my best thought in thee day and the night, both waking and sleeping, thy presence my light. Be thou my wisdom, be thou my true word, be thou ever with me, and I with thee, Lord; be thou my great Father, and I thy true son; be thou in me dwelling, and I with thee one. Be thou my breastplate, my sword for the fight; be thou my whole armour, be thou my true might; be thou my soul's shelter, be thou my strong tower: O raise thou me heavenward, great Power of my power. Riches I need not, nor man's empty praise; be thou mine inheritance now and always; be thou and thou only the first in my heart; O Sovereign of heaven, my treasure thou art. High King of heaven, thou heaven's bright Sun, O grant its joys after victory is won; great Heart of mine own heart, whatever befall, still be my vision, O Ruler of all. The other was the quotation below from Timothy Keller new book ' The Kings Cross", which I read during Lent and started reading again. The essence of the message from both the hymn and the book, is that in order for true faith to emerge and also for believing prayer to develop, we have to go deeper in our quest to know Christ. In the sense that we have to get pass the superficial stage of seeking to get something from God, but rather to have God Himself as our " end game". As that is the only way to true faith in a God who died that we may have life, and have it abundantly. So that we may truly represent Him and be witnesses for Him. Otherwise we will never have the effect that Jesus had wherever He went - miracles happened and people's lives were changed forever. I really believe that if more of us in the church today, were really seeking Christ as our end game, and not as a means to and end, then our witness in the tough inner city neighborhoods, and even in the more affluent areas would change dramatically. The question is are we prepared as Eustace was for the " pain" of the process of Jesus getting deeper into our hearts. As real change as a Christian involves much sacrifice, and even " dying to our old way of looking at things". Whatever would take our minds from Jesus as our only savior. That's where the real power lies to effect change in a nation going many challenges. Not in twitter, or Facebook or Linkedin, no matter what is " trending" there. EVEN DEEPER - QUOTATION FROM TIMOTHY KELLER The Bible says that our real problem is that every one of us is building our identity on something else besides Jesus. Whether it's to succeed in our chosen field or to have a certain relationship -- or even to get up and walk - we're saying, " if I have that, if I get my deepest wish, then everything will be okay." You're looking to that thing to save you from oblivion, from disillusionment, from mediocrity. You've made that wish into your savior. You never use that term, of course - but that's what's happening. And if you never do get it, you're angry, unhappy, empty. But if you do get it, you ultimately feel more empty, more unhappy. You've distorted your deepest wish by trying to make it into your savior, and now that you finally have it, it's turned on you. Jesus says, " You see, if you have me, I will actually fulfill you, and if you fail me, I will always forgive you. I'm the only savior who can do that". But it is hard to figure that out. many of us first start going to God, going to church, because we have problems, and we're asking God to give us a little boost over the hump so that we can get back to saving ourselves, back to pursuing our deepest wish. The problem is that we're looking to something besides Jesus as savior. Almost always when we first go to Jesus saying, " This is my deepest wish, " his response is that we need to go a lot deeper than that. C.S. Lewis put this so poetically in ' The Voyage of he Dawn Treader. There's a boy named Eustace, and everybody hates him and he hates everybody. He's selfish, he's mean, and nobody can get along with him. But he finds himself magically on a boat, the Dawn Treader, taking a great voyage. At one point this boat pulls in to an island, and Eustace wanders off and finds a cave. The cave proves to be filled with diamonds and rubies and gold. He thinks, " I'm rich!" And immediately, because he is who he is, he thinks that now he'll be able to pay everybody back. Anyone who has laughed at him, stepped on him, slighted him, will now get their comeuppance. Eustace then falls asleep on the pile of treasure - which he doesn't yet know is the hoard of a dragon. And because he falls asleep with greedy dragonish thoughts in his heart, when he wakes up, he's become a dragon - big, terrible, and ugly. Soon he realizes that there's is no way out. He can't go on the boat, he's going to be left on the island alone, he's going to be horrible all his life. He falls into despair. One day the great lion Aslan shows up, leads him to a clear pool of water, and then tells him to undress and jump in. And suddenly Eustace realizes that " undress" means " take off the dragon skin". he begins to gnaw and claw off the scales, and he realizes that he can shed his skin. Working at it, he finally peels off this skin - but to his dismay, he finds that underneath he's got another dragon skin. He tries a second time and a third time, to no avail; the same thing still happens each time. In the end the lion says, You're going to have to let me go deeper. And here's how Eustace tels the story later: I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now.....The very first tear he made was so deep that i thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I've ever felt.....We, he peeled the beastly stuff right off - just as I thought i"d done it myself the same other three times, only they hadn't hurt - and then there it was lying on the grass: only ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobbly looking than the others had been ....Then he caught hold of me....and threw me into the water. it smarted like anything but only for a moment....Then I saw....I'd turned into a boy again. For many of us, it's hard to read that passage without weeping. Because like the paralyzed man, and like Eustace, we thought that if we just got a little bit of help we could save ourselves. But we learned that Jesus wanted to take us deeper. We had to let him use his claws and go all the way to our heart and reconfigure the main thing that our heart wanted. You see, it wasn't wrong for the paralyzed man to want to walk, or for the celebrity to want to succeed or for Eustace to want to be loved and respected. The fact that we thought getting our deepest wish would heal us, would save us - that was the problem. We had to let Jesus be our savior. END OF QUOTE I pray God that all of us will make Jesus our savior and not some other "end game". No matter how important it may be, whether financial success, health, family, relationships, political success, constituency development, poverty eradication, personal growth and ambitions, or even national deelopment. As if and when those things are achieved, we will still find our lives empty, if it is not filled with the God who created us and gave us life. Thus validating one of the great quotes of all time. That from a Bishop who had a great influence n the church in its early history - St Augustine of Hippo: " Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you ( O God). The point Rev. Keller was making prior to the quotation above, was that many celebrities seeking for success, and we can identify many, " lose their way in life", sometimes in a spectacular fashion, as success in material things many times lead to more emptiness and unhappiness. As the basic problem is that the heart of mankind was made only to worship God in Christ, and nothing else. Not mother. Not father. Not wife. Not husband. Not children or grandchildren. Not music - of whatever genre. Not our famous athletes or celebrities. And certainly not facebook or twitter. Amen