Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Let the Games begin! Indeed when the Olympics games are on wherever in the world,  it captures the hearts, imagination and attention of most people around the globe. Even the opening ceremony attracted a global audience which exceeded one Billion persons. And here in America all you can hear and see is about Team USA. The fact that little Jamaica managed to secure a place in the finals of the women's  100m breast stroke, was of  apparently little moment to the giant NBC television network as it was not carried live . But since this is  the age of social media, within minutes I was able to see the results on  Twitter posted  many  of those who I follow.  But as the star of My Fair Lady warned, " just you wait, Henry Higgins, just you wait", all Jamaicans are, (including Asafa Powell one of  our stars who tweeted that he was bored waiting on the athletics to begin)  just waiting until next week when we are expected to shine in the sprints, with great performances anticipated from Bolt, Blake et al. In the meanwhile we have to enjoy the soccer, with all the surprises -  who could have predicted that Spain would have been  knocked out so early; the boxing, with names with which we are quite unfamiliar; the gymnastics and the less than top class performances by the  Beijing gold medalists,  the  Chinese so far; beach volley ball which is such a popular sport worldwide; and basketball where the ," The Dream Team", with Kobe, King James and company expected to win the gold without breaking a sweat.  However, as much as I am an avid sports fan, and therefore throughly  enjoying the Games despite the obvious, expected, and perhaps understandable bias of NBC, I am by far, much more thrilled to be in the company of my grandchildren. All four of them.  Including a pretty little baby girl, " the wash belly" - which for non Jamaicans translates into, "the  last one".  Yes it's great to see the children again, but at this stage of life, grandchildren trump everything and everybody. Even when they have not seen you for a while and take a little while to " warm up". So as we thank God for the joy of sports and of grandchildren, what else did I hear from the Creator of heaven and earth this week. That I should listen carefully to the Lord. Seriously?  Yes, and very seriously indeed.  Sports have their place in life, and for some persons according to their calling, a very important place. Family lies at the very center of this earthly  life and its pursuits, as without the joy and support of family, one can achieve very little and life has very little or no  meaning at all. But in order to really live a real full and satisfying  life, in family, in community, and most importantly in eternity, one needs to listen very careful to the God who created life in the first place, and sustains our life in and through Christ His Son, As the Bible which cannot lie speaks volumes when it declares:  " He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God has no life."  1 John 5:12. NIV  And so as I continues to read the book of Samuel, the Spirit of God prompted the   following two e- mails  July 24th .......Even though I am holiday, and having my grandfathering skills taxed to the limit, I am determined to spend some quality time reading God's Word each day, apart from mornng and night time devotions. And reading 1 Samuel and then a meditation on vs 3:10 entitled, " I wonder If That Is God's  Voice ", by Oswald  Chambers, and which reflection  pointed me to 1 Thessalonians 5:23 and Luke 11:13, I came upon this short quote from Augustine which in the context of recent debates in our church, is so timely, that  I was prompted  to share.   " If you believe what you like in the Gospel, and reject what you don't like, it is not the Gospel you believe, but youself."   Food for thought, isn't it, especially coming from one of the " fathers" of the church. Makes you wonder what was the context then! LWJ Actually I send out the quote from Augustine as a tweet and also posted it on my Facebook page, as I considered it worthwhile sharing immediately with a wider audience, especially having regard for the kind of  " selected "  reading of God's Word which passes for " truth" in today's world.   It is so true, as  people are not really listening to God but to themselves on many issues. July 24th..part 11 I really did not intend to write so much today, just to read. But having read the entire meditation from Chambers, and even briefly reflected on it, what else could I do. You tell me, as even this " situation",  represents the " hand of God".   I WONDER IF THAT IS GOD'S VOICE  Oswald Chambers   Vs. 1 Samuel 3:10   God never speaks to us in dramatic ways, but in ways that are easy  to understand. Then we say, " I wonder if that is God's voice?" Isaiah said that the Lord spoke to him, " with a strong hand",  that is by the pressure of circumstances( Isaiah 8:11). Without the sovereign hand of God himself, nothing touches our lives, Do we discern his hand at work, or do we see things as mere coincidences?   Get into the habit of saying, " Speak, Lord," and life will become a romance. ( 1 Samuel 3:9). Every time circumstances press on you, say, " Speak Lord", and make time to listen. Chastening is more than a means of discipline - it means to get me to the point of saying, " Speak Lord."  Think back to a time when God spoke to you. Do you remember what he said? Was it Luke 11:13, or was it 1 Thessalonians 5:23?  As we listen, our ears become more sensitive, and like Jesus, we shall hear God all the time.   Should I tell my " Eli" (this is the part that got to particular) what God has shown to me?  This is where the dilemma of obedience hits us. We disobey God by becoming amateur providences and thinking, " I must shield Eli", who represents the best people we know. God did not tell Samuel to tell Eli - he had to decide that for himself. God's message to you my hurt your " Eli", but trying to prevent suffering in another's life will prove to be an obstruction between your soul and God. END   Of course the key thing here is " Did I really hear God's Voice"?  And only you can decide. What helps is the Word ( amazing)  I read this morning: " In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may freely understand what God has freely given us.......for who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ. 1 Cor. 2: 11-16 NIV   Amen. LWJ  During the night this past week,  the Lord placed spoke very clearly about the Benedictus, the song  sung by Zechariah,  John the Baptist's father,  when John was born. So next morning  I got up and read it again, and googled the familiar version which is set out below: From the Book of Common Prayer (1662):[5] Blessed be the Lord God of Israel : for he hath visited, and redeemed his people; And hath raised up a mighty salvation for us : in the house of his servant David; As he spake by the mouth of his holy Prophets : which have been since the world began; That we should be saved from our enemies : and from the hands of all that hate us; To perform the mercy promised to our forefathers : and to remember his holy Covenant; To perform the oath which he sware to our forefather Abraham : that he would give us; That we being delivered out of the hands of our enemies : might serve him without fear; In holiness and righteousness before him : all the days of our life. And thou, Child, shalt be called the Prophet of the Highest : for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways; To give knowledge of salvation unto his people : for the remission of their sins, Through the tender mercy of our God : whereby the day-spring from on high hath visited us; To give light to them that sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death : and to guide our feet into the way of peace. Having read and reflected on this really good news from God's Word , time and time again, on this occasion it was a great message of comfort for me at a time when I was celebrating the anniversary of a great rescue act in my life by the God of Jacob. But the added message to me, and also to countless others who have experienced the joy of hearing from the Lord through this passage of Scripture, is the clear instruction not only to " serve him without fear", but also to " give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death". In other words those who " do not have the Son of God". The interesting thing is  the prayerful  reading of the Benedictus during my devotions led me to Isaiah 40 which is captioned in the NIV, " Comfort my People". So, if we listen, in  the midst of the noise and excitement of the Olympic Games,and even in the midst of the noise and joy of very active grandchildren, we can always hear the voice of the Lord comforting His people. Again even in the midst of the many and varied challenges of life, as our God is a God whose love is unfailing. Praise God indeed And finally, in preparation for worship and participation in Holy Communion with family, Son, wife and two grandchildren Holy Sacrament in Pembroke Pines Episcopalian church this morning, the Lord led me to reflect deeply on and then pray according to the words, this  wonderful  Repentance/Family/Eucharistic hymn: And, O Father, mindful of the love that bought us, once for all on calvary's tree, and having with us him that pleads above, we here present, we here spread forth to thee that  only true offering perfect in thine eyes, that one true, pure, immortal sacrifice. Look, Father, look on his anointed face, and only  look on us as found in him; look not on our misusings of thy grace, our prayer so languid, and our faith so dim; for lo! Between our sins and their reward we set the passion of thy Son our Lord. And then for those, our dearest and our best, by this prevailing presence we appeal; O fold them closer to thy soul's true weal; from tainting mischief keep them white and clear, and crown thy gifts with strength to persevere. And so we come: O draw us to thy feet, most patient Saviour, who cant love us still; and by this food, so awful and  sweet, deliver us from every touch of ill: in thine  own service make us glad and free, and grant us never more to part with thee. I am led to write that there are two main, among others, messages here that need careful attention and action. One is that regardless of how much pleasure and glory that our Olympic athletes bring to a nation and to themselves, if they do not " have the Son of God", they are " sitting in darkness and in the shadow if death."  Likewise no matter how much joy and blessing that family bring us, if they, anyone of them, no matter how sweet, do not have " the Son of God", then they too are in deep trouble and subject of the wrath of God. Secondly, for us who have come to believe in, and therefore " have the Son", if we continue to " Misuse" the grace of God, continue with languid prayers and dim faith, continue to relegate the Word of God to second, third and fourth place, behind the Television and other pursuits, if we continue to neglect going to church regularly and participating in Holy Communion, without repentance, then we too may be subject to judgment. Both of which issues require urgent attention from those who   love the Lord with all their heart. I pray God that all of us may learn to put into right perspective the joys of life, and truly learn to " seek ye first the kingdom of God and  his righteousness". And accept that " all  these things will be given to you as well." The final message  "heard" in the middle of  the night. " Grace and mercy and by extension, his righteousness ", is not something to be explained, but a person to be accepted, even Jesus Christ of Nazareth. Amen