Thursday, August 16, 2012

Olympic fever and Spiritual realities

So the Olympic Games are finally over, and the athletes of Jamaica and the wider Caribbean community brought the curtain down on this fabulous event in fine style. A world record by the Jamaicans in the men's sprints - the final event on the track; a gold medal for the Bahamians in the men's 4x400 and the first ever gold medal for T&T in the Javelin. Events over which other countries have ruled for years. But the vanquished Americans and Europeans had their many moments of glory, not the least of which was the world record run by the American female sprinters in the 4x100 relay and the great double gold medal in the 5000, and 10,000 achieved by the British long distance runner. Questions and debates over Bolt's status as a Legend will continue. The issue of drug use raised its ugly head again, not surprisingly by a peeved and disgruntled former American champion. How do we transfer all this goodwill, tremendous achievements, and a significant lift for " Brand Jamaica", into increased production and productivity and a better life for our people are legitimate questions? So too, the question of the further development of sports in the Caribbean so that we can also perform well in the non traditional events. But for the time being, like good coffee or fine wine, most folks just wish to savor the moment and look forward to have a repeat in Rio in Brazil in four years time -right after we welcome back home our athletes with a grand party. This week perhaps more than another, the quotation, which I have used before, and which guides these reflections, brought into very sharp focus the difference between what God considers important and that which concerns humankind. " I read my Bible to know what people ought to do, and my newspaper to know what they are doing" - John Henry Newman. As whilst the world was idolizing, and hero worshiping Usain Bolt, the up and coming Yohan Blake, the long overdue for great things Allison Felix, the man with the great human interest story Mo Farah, the simply unbeatable Rudisha, the phenomenal Michael Phelps and company limited, The Holy One of Israel, the Creator of Heaven and Earth, spoke about death to the " old sinful man", subject to the wrath of God, and new and abundant life in Christ Jesus. In whom there is no longer any condemnation. And as I was led to read the first 6 chapters of the book of Romans, in which there is to found such great truths, a couple of things became clear to me. I list them for clarity. 1. This constant focus on, and and debate about the gay and lesbian life-style, as important as it undoubtedly is in some respects, can become a huge smokescreen, a distraction and a great danger if not understood carefully. Why? When one reads the first few chapters of Romans, the central message is how sinful all mankind became because of the Sin of one man Adam. " All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God" is a well known passage of Scripture. But it occurs within the context of grace and righteousness in Christ Jesus. " You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same thing. Now we know that God's judgment against those who do such things is based on truth ( lest we forget that as we proceed). So when you, mere man, pass judgment on them and yet do the same thing, do you think you will escape God's judgment. Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you towards repentance. But because of your stubbornness and your repentant heart, you are storing up wrath for yourself for the day of God's wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. God will give to each person according to what he has done. To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger." Romans 2:1-11. The reality is that even though the first chapter of Romans speaks very clearly about the evil of homosexuality, almost in a sense that God is amazed at the evil..." even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another" Romans 1 : 26-27 NIV. The term " even" is important as it marks the extent to which " God has given over mankind to shameful lusts", because all mankind , " although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks. And so "their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened" . vs 21. The reality is that this mindset and state before God ...subject to God's wrath, and subject to being given over to our own "wickedness", was and continues to be the state of anyone who has not accepted the grace that Christ Jesus wrought - a free gift for all mankind - by His death on the Cross of Calvary. Hence the reason why I believe that an undue focus on the homosexual lifestyle, which may prevent some from understanding the extent our own wickedness and sinful state before God, can become a snare. And something which the devil is very good at doing - creating distractions. So all of us need to recognize and share with some of these athletes, that regardless of their fantastic and very rewarding for achievements, " if they reject the truth - the Atoning death of Christ for all who have sinned - and follow evil", there will be trouble and distress for everyone of them. It would be a classic validation of the Scriptural truth which poses the question, " what does it profit a man to gain the world and lose his very soul. I pray God that those around Bolt in particular, who has truly attained superstar status, if not his much coveted Legend, and others, will seek to guide him spiritually so that His soul may not be in danger, despite his impressive track and field credentials. 2. The focus on grace, which is only truly understood if we know how sinful we are, triggered an e-mail to members of my church in the area where I work, and not where I worship. Which was followed by the forwarding of a meditation which I have recently encountered and which has been of great spiritual blessing for me. THE E-MAIL For those of you who pay close attention to the weekly Internet Ministry which the Lord has placed on my heart, you will recall that quite regularly, I am led to write to my church family, or senior members of wider church. This week I tried to send a message to my church family at St. Andrew's, but for some reason the e-mail would not go through. This morning I am led to write to my church family in May Pen. May I suggest that you forward this note to those who may need to read it, as you are led by the Holy Spirit. It concerns the matter of living a holy life - to which we are all called to do in and through Jesus Christ. And not for ourselves alone, but for Him who died for us and so that the world may know that God sent His Son for all mankind. The message is in one single powerful passage of Scripture, but the Lord led me also to read and reflect on Colossians 3:1-17. This particular passage in the NIV is captioned, not by coincidence, " Rules for Holy Living". I would urge you to read this passage also and be obedient to the Word of God. And which obedience the Lord reminded me about as I went for my morning walk yesterday as He placed in my mind the refrain, " Trust and obey! For there's is no other way To be happy in Jesus, But to trust and obey. Last night when I came home and read the entire hymn, " When we walk with the Lord, in the light of his word, What a glory he sheds on our way He abides with us still, And with all who would trust and obey!.........I received a great blessing and a reassurance of His love in midst of my own struggles in life. Praise God. Finally, in terms of context, this week I have been led to struggle with Romans chap 1-8. Not yet finished, but within these passages of Scripture you will find great truths and deep understanding of what Sin is all about, and thank God, what the grace of God is all about. As one cannot truly understand grace unless one has a full understanding of Sin, and it's consequences. And that's why the Lord also placed on my heart this week the words of that great hymn, Amazing Grace. THE PASSAGE " What shall we say then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin, how can we live in it any longer? Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus, were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life." Romans 6: 1-4. NIV May the Lord's peace be with you. In Christ LWJ Sent from my iPad THE MEDITATION For many years now I have been convicted of the fact that I don't meet people by chance but by God's design. Hence this message to you who I met this morning in church. Feel free to circulate it to others, if it touches your heart, as it did mine. Assuming of course that you have not already in receipt of this online ministry. Peace. LWJ Sent from my iPad Begin forwarded message: From: Date: August 11, 2012 8:18:49 PM EDT To: Subject: UCB Word For Today - Abounding Help us to send The Word for Today to more people 12 Aug 2012 Abounding Always abounding in the work of the Lord. 1 Corinthians 15:58 In Scripture the word 'abounding' means 'to overflow.' Today let's look at three 'abounding' Scriptures and see what we can learn: 1) Abounding iniquity. 'Because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold' (Matthew 24:12 KJV). The word 'iniquity' means 'lawlessness.' Do you remember your life before you met Jesus? You had no boundaries. You were ruled by your impulses. You'd go anywhere, do anything, and say whatever you pleased. Now, we're not bringing up your past to make you feel bad, but to make you grateful and to show you how far God has brought you. And what was God's solution to your sin problem? 2) Abounding grace. 'Where sin abounded, grace abounded much more' (Romans 5:20 NKJV). God's grace cannot be earned or merited. And that's a good thing, because we were all spiritually bankrupt. But as Martin Luther said, 'The recognition of sin is the beginning of salvation.' It's feeling bad about your sin that leads to feeling good about God's grace. Do you remember the day Jesus found you, saved you, brought you into His family and showered you with His blessings? What should your response to such grace be? 3) Abounding in the work of the Lord. 'Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.' You were saved to serve! When you don't, you'll feel like a fish out of water. So pray, 'Lord, today I give myself fully to You, to be used in Your service as You see fit. ' Bible in a Year: Ezek 37:1-14; 1 Thess 4:13-18; Matt 27:50- 53?; Did you enjoy reading this? We'd love you to share it with a friend Can we send you a copy of this quarterly devotional? © 2012: This devotional is produced by UCB, free of charge through the generosity of our supporters. As a gift to the body of Christ, permission is given to Churches and Christian organisations to copy up to a maximum of 52 daily excerpts per year. Excerpts must acknowledge The Word For Today as the source, give the UCB address and inform that free issues of the daily devotional are available for the UK and Republic of Ireland. The Word For Today is written by Bob and Debby Gass, with Ruth Gass Halliday. New here? Subscribe to this email Unsubscribe from this email My prayer is that we will all come to a true understanding of Sin brought by one man - Adam, and Grace brought by one God -Man, Christ Jesus. So that whether we be Americans, Russians, Nigerians, Kenyans, Chinese, from the the UK, from the Caribbean, South America, the far-east, the middle east; whether we be gold medalists, arm chair experts on all matters relating to sports, enthusiastic spectators, administrators, former greats; whether we be Anglicans, of the Roman Catholic denomination, Pentecostals or Evangelicals or Sabbath-Keepers; Muslims, Buddhists, Jews or followers of the Confucian ethic we may all come to accept that all of sinned before God Almighty, and all have been given the free gift, Salvation, that removes all condemnation and wrath from God, in and through Christ Jesus. It will profit a man and a woman much to consider these things, as, at the end of the day, it will not be the Olympics to which we look forward, but eternal life or eternal trouble and distress. We need to chose carefully, as a life in Christ leads in one direction, and a life without Christ Jesus, in another. For everyman woman or child. No matter how much we love and adore them.