Sunday, May 6, 2012

Usain Bolt, Jamaica's #1 athlete: Jesus, the only lover of my soul

The skies were overcast and the rain fell but still they came. The came to see the fastest man on the planet, Usain Bolt, run. They came to see Johan Blake, " the beast", unleashed. They came to cheer on Carmelita Jeter the American 100 M champion run, even though she was competing against some of the home favorites. The noise of the vuvuzela's was absolutely deafening when the local girl Novelene Mills ran past the reigning world indoor 400 M champion US athlete Sanya Richards in her pet event. They came to see Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce run the 200 M even though it was not her strong event. The Prime Minister came. So did the Governor -General. The leader of the Parliamentary Opposition and his wife were too, and so were many cabinet ministers and leaders of the private sector. The son of the current IAAF President was in attendance, and so too were many members of the diplomatic corps including the American and Russian Ambassadors. But more importantly the masses came to pay tribute to, and encourage, the athletes who we expect to made Jamaica proud during the staging of the Summer Olympics in London later this year. Yes, the National Stadium in Kingston Jamaica where the ninth staging of the IAAf endorsed International Track and Field was held, was the place to be this week. In classic Jamaica parlance, " every puss and dawg", was there. But if in one aspect of life, track and field dominated my attention this week, in another and more important area, the transcendent, the name of Jesus was in my thoughts all week. Beginning with the words of one of Charles Wesley's ( the brother of the famous English Evangelist and preacher John Wesley and who founded the Methodist church) favorite hymns: Jesus, lover of my soul, let me to thy bosom fly, while the nearer waters roll, while the tempest still is high. Hide me, O my savior, hide, till the storm of life is past; safe into the haven guide; O receive my soul at last Other refuge have I none, hangs my helpless soul on thee; leave, ah! leave me not alone, still support and comfort me. All my trust on thee is stayed, all my help from thee bring; cover my defenseless head with the shadow of thy wing......... Remarkably, it was the first time I had seen the words, and I had to google it, as it was not to be found in any of my hymnbooks. And my only recollection of anything near to these words comes from the story of how John Wesley came to faith, when " His heart was strangely warmed", on that famous evening in Aldersgate in England on May 24th 1738, and how the following morning he was awakened by " Jesus, Master". Apart from that experience I don't know how the hymn came into my head. But praise God that He whispered it in my ears, as employing the words in faith and as a prayer, the Lord helped me to withstand the fiery darts of "the enemy" all week. Secondly, not in any chronological order, was revelation from the Lord about the role of the church and the sufficiency of Jesus: EPHESIANS 3: 2-12 NIV Surely you heard about the administration of God's grace that was given to me for you, that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into this mystery of Christ, which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God's holy apostles and prophets. This mystery is that through the gospel the gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together in the promise of Christ Jesus. I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God's grace given to me through the working of his power. Although I am less than the least of all God's people, this grace was given to me: to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. This matter then of the church revealing this " mystery " to the world of our being able to approaching the living God "with freedom and with confidence" needs some clarification less we fall into the trap that so many have experienced - seeing God only as a celestial bellhop, to be called on for every desire without reference to how we achieved the privilege of entering into his presence. For a direct answer to that question God provided an answer in the book of meditations by Oswald Chambers, " My utmost for His highest", which I read each night. " Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest, by the blood of Jesus.' Hebrews 10:19 Beware of imagining that intercession means bringing our personal sympathies into the presence of God and demanding that he does what we ask. Our approach to God is due entirely to the vicarious identification of our Lord with sin. We " have boldness into the holiest by the blood of Jesus". Spiritual stubbornness is the most effectual hindrance to intercession, because it is based on sympathy with that in ourselves and in others that we do not think need atoning for. We have the notion that there are certain right and virtuous things in us which do not need to be based on the Atonement..........we do not identify ourselves with God's interest in others, we get petulant with god; we are always ready with our own ideas, and intercession becomes the glorification of our natural sympathies. We have to realize that identification of Jesus with sin means the radical alteration of all our sympathies. Vicarious intercession means that we deliberately substitute God's interest in others for our natural sympathy with them...... The passage is a bit heavy to read but essentially it makes the point that since our ability to enter God's presence is based on the shedding of the Blood of Jesus, then our prayers to Him when we enter His presence, and our life with Him must be dominated by the reason why Christ's Blood was shed. And sin is the most important one. If you think about it seriously for a minute, why would Jesus have to die and suffer on a Cross to allow us to enter God's presence so that we can intercede on our own behalf for a new flat screen television, or for financial success, or even for the success of our athletes in London. Does that really make sense to anyone? In fact the God who is always ahead of us inspired a set of messages this week to leaders in my church on this very same issue. Amazing! Ponder carefully on them, as I did , as they deal with the age old question which has sparked many a debate in the church, of how to understand the Word of God. PART 1 " Do you understand what you are reading", asked Phillip? How can I unless someone explains it to me.....the Ethiopian eunuch. The Epistle for next Sunday. " For no matter how many promises God made they are "Yes" in Christ. And so through him the "Amen" is spoken by God. Paul's second letter to Corinthian church. 1:20 NIV " These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what they had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us they would be made perfect". Letter to the Hebrews. 11:39-40 .....I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints....... Letter to the Ephesians 1:18 In obedience to the Spirit of Christ. LWJ Sent from my iPad PART 11 Consecrate me now, to thy service Lord By the power of love divine Let my heart look up, with a steadfast gaze And my will be lost in thine Draw me nearer, nearer, nearer blessed Lord to the Cross where thou hast died. Draw me nearer, nearer, blessed Lord To thy precious bleeding side....from memory as the Lord halted my prayers for this. Another part of the answer is the prayer, and desire to be set apart and to accept the suffering that will flow from having the mind of Christ. But thank God having His mind also brings comfort. Peace. LWJ PART 111 Then we will be able to " preach with a demonstration of the Spirit's power so that your faith may not rest on men's wisdom but on God's power. 1 Cor. 2.4 NIV Amen Sent from my iPad In my experience with the leading of the Holy Spirit this week, the central message is that like the prophet Isaiah, our minds must be steadfast on the Lord at all times. That we must call upon the name and person of Jesus who is the only lover of our souls. That we must " keep on" praying for ourselves and for each other that God in His mercy will consecrate us, set us apart from the temptations and snares of this world, for that's why the Blood of Jesus was shed and allows us to enter into the very presence of God, along with the children of Israel. Recall how on Mount Horeb God spoke to them out the fire, and they did not die. And how they celebrated this fact as no other God on earth had done that. But still they could not enter into His presence. Only with us in Christ would that happen. And this is the mystery that the church has been called out, consecrated, to reveal to the authorities in today's world. Finally that we must always be mindful of the sufering which will accompany the child of God on his or her journey in life, as that was rhe expererience of our Lord. And ultimately that where alll the power of God will begin to flow through us to a " dying world" which is so desperately needs the love and mercy of God, een though " they know not what they do". So yes, let us celebrate our athletes and do all we can to encourage them, but as we pray for our nation, let us ponder these things that the Lord laid on my heart this week, as much guidance is needed, for the church now, to properly understand the ways of God, as was the case of the Ethiopian eunuch thousands of years ago. For while we were at the stadium reveling in the glory of of athletes, people evil was abound in the land and sin still reigned in the hearts of men. And in turn much guidance is needed for the unbeliever's to understand rthe Word and the life of us who claim Christ. That's why the headlines in the newspapers, on the morning after Bolt ran 9.82 and after the Johan "beast was unleashed", featured stories on the prevalence of Abortions and Sexual predators stalking children in our schools. That's why on radio today, an award winning journalist Earl Moxam, was discussing the vicious murder of four men in the western part of country. That's why our minds should be fixed on the author and perfecter of our faith, as only He alone can help us in this our time of great need. Amen.