After four days we got back power form our local Electricity company JPS last night at about mid-night. And thank God we had a generator which we used for periods in the days and up until10pm at nights in order to preserve our frozen food and provide light. Reportedly 70% of Jamaican homes, with a population now of 2.69 million persons according to the latest Census, were without power during the direct hit by Category 1 Storm Sandy, whose eye passed directly over my home in Kingston our capital city late Wednesday afternoon. Needless to say life changed very dramatically for me during those few days, and even more so for those folks who unfortunately were also without water, or whose homes were devastated by the storm. I am still without Internet service so I am going by a friend's home to send off this message in a while...yes God provides in all situations.
In a few hours, the same storm Sandy, with conditions favoring the development of what the Americans are now calling a " Perfect Storm" is predicted to to disrupt the lives of over 60 million persons living along the Eastern Seaboard of America. Their lives will change change dramatically in a very short time.
In times like these when we come face to face literally, not metaphorically as in many other instances, with the reality of how puny, weak and helpless mankind really is in the face of a greater power than us, it is perhaps only then that some people will even think about God as the One who wields ultimate power in this world.
At a time like this then, when many of us had our lives disrupted however temporarily, the messages from the Lord this week were very dramatic and life changing indeed.
Thursday Oct 25.
The first message came from a reading again of the story of the demon possessed man ...who name was Legion, as they were so many demons in him......as recorded in Luke 8:26-38 NIV. I was impressed by the the fact that Jesus was met by this man as he arrived in the region of the Gerasenes.....and also how he recognized Jesus as the " Son of the Most High God".........how the demons begged Jesus repeatedly not to order them to go into the abyss. And so as I reflected I wrote an e-mail to some friends in my church:
" Read again the story in Luke 8:26-39.
Revelation - Jesus and anything which is not of God cannot co-exist. Evil will always be cast out...and defeated, which I added on reflection tonight..... when Jesus is around. So once the Lord is with you, fear, doubt, malice, anger, an uncharitable spirit, greed, any kind of sinful thoughts and actions. in the same way the demons could not stay in the man one Jesus was with him. They knew exactly what was their fate - to be cast into the abyss.
The key thing in life therefore is not to try too hard to be a Christian, as like the man possessed we cannot rid ourselves of sin no matter how hard we try, but rather to pray without ceasing with a repentant heart, and believe St Paul's prayer as recorded in Ephesians 3:16-17.......
" I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may live in your heart through faith".
And although God has no " bad plans " for those who fear him, be mindful of St Paul's assertions in 2 Corinthians 1: 5....." For just as the sufferings of Christ flow into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.
For even though the presence of Christ will drive away anything which is not of God, so too will His presence bring both suffering and comfort in the midst of suffering. And then the Lord will use you/we the "weak ones", to achieve His purpose in the lives of individuals and nations, so that no one can boast, and His Name alone will be glorified for ever. So let us pray without ceasing that christ may dwell in us so that " our demons too" may be cast out.
And then we will be able to " tell the whole town" ( vs 38) what God in Christ has done for us on the Cross of Calvary.
May the Lord's peace be with you.
The point here is that just as how Sandy, this " perfect storm" is about to disrupt the lives of millions of people in the US, anyone who has had an encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ will have his or her life disrupted. Whether temporarily or not, depends on our decision to be obedient to Him. Or not. Life can never be the same again, whether in this life or the one to come. This life altering change...metanoia..... lies at the heart of the gospel message as the old " sinful man", disobedient, rebellious, self-seeking, self -satisfying and self-sufficient cannot exist in the presence of the Risen and Ascended Lord Christ. One has to go.
That's why the Scriptures declare that:
" If any man is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!....2. Corinthians 5:17 NIV. In fact this verse was included in a response to a non Christian friend who questioned and warned me at the same time, after last week's message about the " correct faith", as prayed for by St. Francis of Assisi, as he was concerned about the kind of religious intolerance which occasioned the shooting by the Taliban of a young girl recently. And the response to him, as directed by the Lord was not to " defend myself", but to share with him the passage of Scripture which speaks about Christians being charged with the message of reconciliation and being the Ambassadors of Christ vs 11-6:1-2. NIV. The same Christ who " died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. So from now on we regard no one from a wordily point of view, Though once we regarded Christ in this way we do do no longer".
" From now on..." means a complete turn around, a complete change of heart, which the Greek termed Metanoia, in the same way that the demon possessed man regained his right mind and made a complete change from what he was before Christ came into his life
A few days ago the results of the latest National Census was released. And among other things, the reality of the significant drop in the number of persons claiming an affiliation with the " mail line" churches, Anglicans, Methodists, Roman Catholics, Moravians and to a lesser extent Baptists, has been the subject of great debate in my country. The Census also showed correspondingly that there was has been a significant increase in the " newer" churches, Pentecostals, Church of God and Seventh Day Adventists.
Most worrying however, was the data which indicated that more and more Jamaicans, over 600,000 do not claim any affiliation at all.
In this midst of this debate the Lord led me back to read, once more, Bonhoeffer's ...the German priest and martyr who along with other Christians opposed Hitler and his totalitarian anti-God regime and paid the ultimate price with his life.....The Cost of Discipleship. And he begins with a startling and very profound ...written in 1937, almost 80 years ago......statement :
" Cheap grace is the deadly enemy of the church. We are fighting today for for costly grace".
It's a subject that warrants a lot more space than this blog affords, but suffice it to say, that one of the problems which still plagues the church today, is the encouragement of a doctrine which suggests that one can encounter Christ and not have to sacrifice, not have to change anything, not have to die to self and sin, not have to undergo a metanoia, not have to have one's life disrupted, as " God's grace is sufficient".
What effect this " cheap grace", this message from the evil one, this message from the pit of hell, has had on the church in Jamaica and the shifting numbers ought to be the subject of deep and abiding prayer by the " remnant ", the faithful who have decided to " give up everything with God's help" here in my country. What effect this issue of cheap grace has had on the church in the USA and other areas of " liberal thought" , ought also to be the subject of deep and abiding prayer by the faithful there and everywhere. And the issue is not the numbers that has " crossed lines", as that in and by itself is immaterial in the building up God's Kingdom. The key thing is what power does the church have to make a difference in the lives of hurting, suffering, confused and alone people, created in the image of God, and loved by God their Creator. The murderers, the prostitutes, the abused children, the poor and the destitute, the homosexual, the greedy, the gossipers, the proud and haughty, the fornicators, the vulnerable boys and girls, the underpaid workers, and even the " wicked and the ungrateful" , about whom the Scriptures declare that " God is merciful".....and all those ignorant of God's salvation in and through Christ. In essence those who are " sick and in need of physician"
Unless we have that kind of change of heart, first for ourselves, and then for others, in respect of where we are coming from spiritually, and what God in Christ offers, then we will be satisfied with " comfortable Christianity" which does not place any demand on us, does not disrupt our plans to be rich and famous" and ambitious and our desires to be " first in the kingdom. In other words we will be happy with the doctrine of cheap grace, about which Bohoeffer warned almost 80 years ago when evil raised its ugly head, not just to devour Germany, but the entire western civilization. What then will the response be in our generation when, the very same evil dressed up in the more subtle and beguiling garb of " religious tolerance, let all ideas contend movement, the prosperity gospel, intellectual freedom and liberal's within the church" raises it ugly head against the inerrant Word of God! All we are called to to do, like Bonhoeffer was, and as Adventist friend of mine remind me recently, is to be faithful to God and obedient to the Christ who lives in us by faith and by grace. But our lives cannot never be the same again. This disruption is forever.
Why for ourselves first: This is the Word I was led to read this week
" You say, 'I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.' But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful poor. blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so that you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so that you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so that you can see.
Those who I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent.......Revelation 3:17-19 NIV
The point here is that John, under divine guidance, was writing to the church members in the church in Laodicea. ....baptized and practicing Christians who deeds were neither cold nor hot...lukewarm...no metanoia...no change of heart.
If then those who were guilty in the time of Christ of this kind of bad attitude, were warned so severely, and yet encouraged too, are we in the 21 st century going to judged any differently.
My friends in Jamaica, the USA and anywhere that the gospel is proclaimed, a life that is not " disrupted" by an encounter with Christ, cannot be " salt" in a nation. And that which has lost its saltiness is fit only to to be thrown away.
I pray God that all of us will remember Sandy, and other life changing forces, as an opportunity to reflect on who has ultimate power o this world. To reflect on the power that Christ has to " cast away sin" in our lives, as he did for the demon possessed man. To reflect on the urgent need for all of us to accept that the grace that God offers in Christ out of love for all mankind, as a costly one indeed, and which then requires sacrifice on our part. So that we too become ambassadors of the message of that grace which the world so urgently needs, whether at a time like this , in the case of Sandy, or during the time of Hitler, or just your average day when we all need Jesus, every hour, as the song writer urges, as the times all always evil and challenging.
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On Oct 21, 2012, at 11:30 PM, Lucien Jones
The early reports informed us that it was a young girl. A mere wisp of a girl about 12 or 13 years. Now we are being told that she was in fact older and pregnant too. But does it matter. The fact is that once again a nation was rocked with the news of a young woman, raped, probably strangled and burnt to death. And so we mourn for our troubled land. This weekend I was privileged to address a group of Lay magistrates ( they perform an important function in the justice system, attesting to persons identities and doing petty sessions) and inter alia, I recalled a noted Professor of Education and well respected historian, Errol Miller, suggesting in a speech, delivered many years ago, that, " the barbarians were no longer at the gates of the city, but were in fact right here with us". A reference no doubt to the state of Rome before that famous city was " sacked" by barbarians - people of uncouth and uncivilized nature. The question which arises in our minds , as we continue in this country to live with these acts of terror and barbarism, is no longer whether or not the barbarians are sharing space with us in the city, but rather, how will we rescue a nation from the hands of evil and wicked men.
And as we contemplate this issue, of violence against our women and children in particular and the broader society in general, which is the most pressing problem confronting the nation, the recently concluded national census makes for interesting reading. The main line ( once prominent churches.....Anglicans, Roman Catholic, Methodist, and Moravian.....have suffered significant declines in their membership. The more Evangelical and recent churches....Adventists, Church of God and Pentecostals...have the lion share of those who identify themselves with a church. While the number of persons who do not claim any affiliation is also steadily climbing. Food for a lot of thought within religious circles, and beyond.
This week then as I read and listened to the news to see what men are doing and read my Bible to see what men ought to do, the following passages of Scripture and words of inspiration struck me.
A prayer by St Francis of Assisi - the famous preacher, mystic and founder of many monasteries and a great " father of the early church, who is probably most famous in recent times as the author of the much quoted poem, "Lord make me an instrument of your peace, where there is hatred let me sow love....
" Most high, glorious God, enlighten the darkness of my heart and give me, Lord, a correct faith, a certain hope, a perfect charity, sense and knowledge, so that I may carry out your holy and true command"
The implication of this prayer by St. Francis is there is in fact an incorrect faith. An incorrect understanding of the gospel. An incorrect understanding of who Christ is, what He came to do, and therefore an incorrect doctrine. The further and very profound implication of this prayer is that an incorrect faith and doctrine and belief, regardless of the numbers of people who are attracted to that doctrine, has no power to rescue Jamaica or any other nation, or anyone from the power of Sin, which is at the root of all the problems we have here in my troubled country. So whether most Americans or Jamaicans are Religious, and whether or not most of them are of the Christain faith, is really of little moment in respect of the power which flows out of the church to heal the sick, to rescue those who are held captive to " liberal views", and to bring good news to the poor. What really matters in the final analysis, is one's relationship with God in and through Christ Jesus. As it is only when one is " in Christ" that the promised Holy Spirit will flow out of that person and through the church to be "salt" in a nation and "light" for the world.
A word from the prophet Micah -
"What misery is mine!
I am like one who gathers summer fruit
at the gleaning of the vineyard;
there is no cluster of grapes to eat,
none of the early figs that I crave.
The godly have been swept from the land;
not one upright man remains.
All men lie in wait to shed blood;
each hunts his brother with a net.
Both hands are skilled at doing evil;
the ruler demands gifts,
the judge accepts bribes,
the powerful dictate what they desire-
they all conspire together.........
But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord,
I wait for God my Savior;
my God will hear me."
One of the things that the word of God teaches us, is that wickedness and barbarians have been in existence forever. Godly men have been swept from " the land " before. There is a long a and sad history of bloodshed in the land...remember Cain and Abel. Judges perverting the course of justice or corruption among leaders is not a new thing. And the socially disruptive and patently unfair practice of the powerful dictating what they desire is as " old as the hills. Thank God, that the prophet Micah, remembered and declared that God is a faithful God who never leaves His people without hope.
That is why, despite the murder and the rape, and the "enlightened" columnists, like Mark Wignall writing in the Jamaica Observer today http://www.jamaicanobserver.com/ ( one the popular ones in my country) who mock the value of prayer to an Almighty God, the popular song which we sang at the small inner city church where I was privileged to preach this morning, shares a different perspective.
In times like these you need a Savior
In times like these you need an anchor;
Be very sure, be very sure
Your anchor holds and grip the solid Rock.
This Rock is Jesus, Yes He's the One;
This Rock is Jesus, the only One!
Be very sure, be very sure
Your anchor holds and grips the solid Rock
In times like these you need the Bible,
In times like these O be not idle......
The Word of God - This morning in my church, the Epistle appointed for this Sunday is one of the most profound passages of Scripture, which offers a full and sufficient account of the power of the Word of God.
" For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any two edged sword. It penetrates even to diving soul and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give an account". Hebrews 4: 12-13 NIV
The reality, based on the inerrant word of God, as Jesus said " Scripture cannot be broken", is that " nothing in creation is hidden from God". Not the barbaric killings in my country. Not the judges who are " taking a bribe"! Not the corrupt rulers who are taking " gifts". Not the rich and powerful who " force their will" on the weak, vulnerable and and unsuspecting. One day every man woman and child will have to give an account to God. There is no getting away from this reality, however much we may seek to "hide behind our lofty rhetoric", and " much vaunted intellect". As the Bible says, " it is appointed to every man once to die and then the judgment".
Therefore one day, one day all who knowingly and willingly partake in the rebellion against the Holy One of Israel; all who kill and main and rape our women and children; all who use their power to keep people in subjection; all who, though responsible for protecting and promoting justice, but instead seek to pervert the course of justice; all leaders who " sell their souls" for personal gain, will have to give an account to God Almighty.
An inspired word from Oswald Chambers ( the author of " My Utmost for His Highest"...probably the most popular book outside of the Bible)
GREATER WORKS OCTOBER 17
"And greater works than these shall he do; because I go to My Father".
Prayer does not fit us for the greater works: prayer is the greater work. We think of prayer as a common-sense exercise of our higher powers in order to prepare us for God's work. In the teaching of Jesus Christ, prayer is the working of the miracle of Redemption in me which produces the miracle of Redemption in others by the power of God. The way fruit remains is by prayer, but remember it is prayer based on the agony of the Redemption, not on my agony. Only a child gets prayers answered; a wise man does not.
Prayer is the battle; it is a matter of indifference where you are. Whichever God engineers circumstances, the duty is to pray. never allow the thought -- " I am of no use where I am": because you can certainly be of no use where you are not. Wherever God has dumped you down in circumstances pray, ejaculate to him all the time. " Whatsoever ye ask in My name, that will I do". We won't pray unless we get thrills, that is the most intense form of spiritual selfishness. We have to labor along the line of God's direction, and He says pray. " Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth laborers into His harvest.".
There is nothing thrilling about a laboring man's work, but it is the laboring man who makes the conceptions of the his Master possible. You labour at prayer and results happen all the time from His standpoint. What an astonishment will it be to find, when the veil is lifted, the souls that have been reaped by you, simply because you had been in the habit of taking your orders from Jesus Christ...end of quote.
One of the many things that Chambers points out here is that an incorrect faith leads to an incorrect motive for praying. We need to be aware then that one of the more spiritually destructive " doctrines" which the enemy, the devil, has placed into the hearts of vulnerable believers, is one in which prayers are offered up so that Christians can become prosperous. The so called " prosperity gospel". It may be quite an attractive proposition, but within it have been sown the seeds, which if left unattended will lead people away from the Cross of Christ with its suffering and shame - and thus make people become traitors to the cross, the ultimate heresy. And the subtlety of the enemy is so dangerous as this kind of mindset finds it way into all kinds of desires and feelings and " prayers" which have nothing to do with the Redemption about which Oswald Chambers emphasizes. And any " faith " which undermines the power and importance of the Cross of Calvary, has no power to rescue anyone or any nation
Our role as faith children of God, and of a correct faith and a certain hope, then, is to pray with great fervor, that the God who sent His Son to die on the Cross for all mankind, even when we were still sinners, according to the living Word of God, will indeed send more laborers into His vineyard, so that through us, the power of the holy Spirit will flow and convict mankind of Sin, Righteousness and Judgment - according to the word of God ( John 16:8-11 NIV ) which is living and active. Then it will not really matter which denomination has the highest number of the faithful. Then will the number of non-believers decline. Then will there be awakened a new social consciousness. Then and only then, will men treat women with the kind of respect and dignity that is due them; then judges will cease accepting bribes; then leaders will eschew taking gifts from their followers; then the rich and powerful will no longer have their own way with the system, or with vulnerable women; then believers will wait upon the Holy One of Israel with a certain hope and a correct faith. Then will the barbarians be routed. Then will my country have peace once more. The will my Lord be given all the honor and praise due to Him.