Sunday, September 22, 2013

Problems abroad and problems a yard: becoming weak and weary in Christ the only answer

I read my Bible to see what men ought to do; and read my newspapers to see what men are doing - John Newton Lord renew thy church beginning with me; Lord renew the church that the church may renew the nation(s) NEWS Yet again humanity and the cause for peace among men received another blow, when just yesterday, news broke about the mass killings in Nairobi, the capital city of Kenya. The news, even as we speak, is that Islamists, reportedly killed 68 people, and are still holding other hostage. So terror continues to raise its ugly head. In Afghanistan, in Pakistan, in India, in Syria, in Egypt. And even here in Jamaica where three persons were shot dead by gunmen yesterday and a major road was cordoned off for a few hours, as security guards and police challenged and chased gunmen who had attempted rob two women coming from the bank, of thousands of dollars. Further, a much embattled junior minister, Richard Azan, who admitted to breaching governance rules, reportedly in pursuit of providing help for his constituents, while receiving no monetary reward, finally resigned. This, after the release of a damning report by the Office of The Contractor General, a discussion on BBC about the matter, a threatened walk out by the Parliamentary Opposition and much agitation by members of he local media. A group with considerable power given their ability to influence public opinion. So in the midst of these local and international challenges the Lord God of Abraham, of Jacob, and of Isaac, issued a Word of Comfort and of Challenge. The first Word is from the well known Isaiah chapter 40. One made famous by the verse which is associated with the movie " Chariots of Fire".....They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles...". And as I was led to read and reflect the words I found so much more that I was led to share it with senior members of the local media, the parliament and leading members of civil society. Finally in this respect, one verse in particular took a hold of my soul this week.....He gives strength to the weary, and increases the power of the weak. Isaiah 40:29. NIV THE FIRST WORD - TUESDAY The mother of a member of my staff has cancer and possibly facing death in the not too distant future. Unless The Lord works a miracle! So yesterday we were talking and her mother's faith in God came up. And in particular the great joy that Isaiah 40:31 KJV has brought to her soul over the years. " Those that wait upon The Lord ..... Then last night it became for me ' a song in the night'.....a Word that The Lord places in your dreams and thoughts as you sleep - as only He can. So this morning, I opened the Bible and went to this very familiar passage and rediscovered the many aspects of, " The correct faith", that the passage reveals, and so I thought about your own lack of understanding of the faith at best, and at worse, your continued rebellion against The Truth. Remember the movie, " For a few good men", and the famous line " you can't handle the truth. Well, God's intention is that we should all know the truth, and the truth shall set us free. So consider carefully the foundation truths that Isaiah 40 offers. 1. Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. (Isaiah 40:1 NIV).....The Word of God always, always brings comfort to His people. But is a stumbling block to the disobedient. 2.A voice of one calling: “In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all people will see it together. For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” (Isaiah 40:1, 3-5 NIV) is the role of every Christian, to help others to come to a full understanding of God and His Son Christ Jesus. In the same way that John the Baptist, about whom the Word speaks, was the forerunner of the Church. 3.A voice says, “Cry out.” And I said, “What shall I cry?” “All people are like grass, and all their faithfulness is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the Lord blows on them. Surely the people are grass. The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.” (Isaiah 40:1, 6-8 NIV)......I know your journalistic juices flow freely when the politics gets hot, and right now Audley and Andrew are providing that excitement, as did Peter and Portia, but remember even though we treasure and pray without ceasing for our leaders, that the people may be peacefully governed, The Truth is that only the Word of God endures forever. So it may be a good idea to pay more attention to The Truth, for your own good and for the health of a nation producing a man who rapes and stabs his own daughter. 4. See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power, and he rules with a mighty arm. See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him. He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young. (Isaiah 40:10, 11 NIV)...yet another prophetic Word about the coming of The Lamb of God ...who taketh away the sins of the world. 5. Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens? Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket, or weighed the mountains on the scales and the hills in a balance? Who can fathom the Spirit of the Lord, or instruct the Lord as his counselor? Whom did the Lord consult to enlighten him, and who taught him the right way? Who was it that taught him knowledge, or showed him the path of understanding? (Isaiah 40:12-14 NIV)...a reminder of who God is and who man is. We should all tremble and fear Him, and follow the words of the song writer and ...fear him with deepest tenderest fears, and worship him with penitential tears. So my friend let us "Be still and know..." 6. Do you not know? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood since the earth was founded? He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers. He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in. He brings princes to naught and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing. No sooner are they planted, no sooner are they sown, no sooner do they take root in the ground, than he blows on them and they wither, and a whirlwind sweeps them away like chaff. (Isaiah 40:21-24 NIV)...another reminder of the greatness of The Holy One of Israel. And of the fact that they who strode across the land like a Colossus...Michael Manley, Forbes Burnham, Mutty Perkins and all other 'stars' will come to the same fate. No matter how great and powerful they once were, and perhaps thought they were. For the Sovereign God alone rules from above, and forever. 7. Why do you complain, Jacob? Why do you say, Israel, “My way is hidden from the Lord; my cause is disregarded by my God”? Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. (Isaiah 40:23, 27-31 NIV)....the final Word of this profound passage of Scripture is a word of comfort to those who are weak and weary of the crime and violence in our country. Weary of the immorality, and of the misplaced values....similar to those who mourn in the Beatitudes. Weary of the corruption and the fact that over the years, our economic situation has so deteriorated and thus we have been reduced to almost penury. Weary on account of our children who have been led astray by the culture of the dance hall and the cable and the lifestyle of " the rich and the famous", and of the " young and restless" with devastating effects on our people. But thank God for Jesus, those who wait upon The Lord will one day see a new Jamaica, even as we look to a new Jerusalem. And that my friend is the Gospel Truth. Join with us then before " the mighty waters rise"..Psalm 32:6. Peace LWJ The second message was sent to senior members of the church in Jamaica including my own Anglican church, and featured a word on the importance of believing God. And acting accordingly. As it is only those who believe, will be granted any power to make a difference in this very challenging world. And a most reassuring word is sent as a reminder that jests is ever praying for those who believe in Him. What a joy! THE SECOND MESSAGE - THURSDAY Lord renew thy church beginning with me; Lord renew the church that the church may renew the nation(s). It all started when I was reminded, based on the words of a song from a service in an inner city on Sunday: [Chorus: x2] I need you You need me We're all a part of God's body Stand with me Agree with me We're all a part of God's body It is his will that every need be supplied You are important to me I need you to survive [x2] [Vamp:] I pray for you You pray for me I love you I need you to survive I won't harm you With words from my mouth I love you I need you to survive[Repeat until director's signals for next part] [Sopranos:] It is his will that every need be supplied You are important to me[All:] I need you to survive .....that Jesus prays for us. A most reassuring reality with profound theological implications: Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. (Hebrews 7:25 NIV) And then this morning: “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’ ” Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid. (Mark 16:6-8 NIV) ........... She went and told those who had been with him and who were mourning and weeping. When they heard that Jesus was alive and that she had seen him, they did not believe it. Afterward Jesus appeared in a different form to two of them while they were walking in the country. These returned and reported it to the rest; but they did not believe them either. Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen. He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.” After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God. Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it. (Mark 16:10-20 NIV) Comment: Not much, as the Word is sufficient in itself. Except to point out, as I was reminded that, one of, if not the greatest challenges facing the church, is this matter of unbelief. A pervasive problem from the very beginning. And not just in the church but in the entire community: " O unbelieving and perverse generation", Jesus replied, before rebuking the evil spirit which had caused the young boy to convulse repeatedly, in the Luke version of the story. A story perhaps better known for the the prayer of the boy's father, " I believe, help thou my unbelief." Even now Jesus is interceding for us, His church, that we may not behave like those described in the Book of Hebrews. " See to it brothers, that none of you has a sinful and unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God". A verse that perhaps demands more attention from us, that hitherto acknowledged. As the 'turning away from the living God" has many manifestations, which may be far more nuanced, and therefore, more dangerous, and widespread than we imagine. With profound implications for how empowered segments of the church may be to fight against the many evils in our society. And indeed in our personal lives. For the last section of the Mark passage, quoted above, ...." and these signs will accompany those who believe", cannot be an insignificant matter for the church. As it speaks about the power of, and protection for, those who believe, in order that we may bring glory to God in a very, very hostile world. And the events, happening daily, if not minutely, in our once fair isle, are clear manifestations of the kind of " demon possessed valley", in which we have been called to witness. And who is up to that challenge unless we believe, "O Jesus draw thou nearer and save our souls from sin". Peace LWJ Sent from my iPad The final Word came under very dramatic circumstances. And has a history which only one person knows about, and so I am not at liberty to discuss that aspect of the Word. But suffice it to say that the same verse which took a hold of my soul all week, provided the framework for the Word. A Word which is essential for the understanding of how God works, how He suffered and died as the Son of Man, how He made Himself weak and weary, and why the Son of man finally triumphed over death and Sin. Forever! The problem is that Christ who is "the Word made flesh in the world", and who died so that we might in Him become victorious, demands, not just expects or leaves it out to us, that we too become weak and weary. So that His grace may indeed be manifestly sufficient for us. Otherwise, we may be tempted on account of our 'resources', like Obama, to believe that we are 'exceptional' and can solve every problem. It is therefore a great moment in the life of any nation, any family, any individual, when the leader truly believes that he or she just cannot manage without God. That's when our crisis, will like a fever begin to break, and healing will begin to appear. And like Holy baptism, we all come to a crisis point in life. Will we accept Christ's free gift of salvation and move on to a better life. Or shall we return to the same old life of pain and misery and temporary enjoyment of the world's best pleasures which are fast fading. THE THIRD MESSAGE - SATURDAY Over the years, I have come to appreciate that when The Lord wakes me up at 4:: am, it's for a special reason. Throughout the night, my 'song in night' has been: "He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak". Isaiah 40:29. NIV Even the question " Why" came into my dreams! And so too the answer. " So that no one may boast before The Lord ". The Gideon story came to mind. Where the Israelites were put through a process whereby a number of fighting men were removed from Gideon's troops preparing to fight the Midianites. And he was left with a very small force. So that when they would have gained the victory, no one would boast that their own strength had caused them to be victorious Further ' instruction' was that, any religion, and any philosophy that is constructed without that basic Truth, may be interesting, but has no power. That had Richard Azan been humble and repentant, he might have had a chance. But he insisted on attempting to 'justify', that which he admitted was a breach of 'the rules of engagement'. Finally, in my 'dreams', the matter of the ' humble' Portia Simpson Miller came up. Not a powerful man! They all ' went to the wall'. Not someone from the 'old school tie'! Despite their vaunted technical knowledge and well documented oratorical skills, Jamaica has become, in part, a " demon possessed valley". Both literally and metaphorically as recent events have shown. The question then, is whether or not, humility, in and by itself, is that which lies at the heart of the Isaiah prophecy? Or is there not a deeper Truth expressed by Mary, the mother of Jesus, and the author of the Magnificat, when her soul rejoiced in the Lord, that " he hath regarded the low estate of his servant.". Thus placing God, and by extension, His Son Jesus at the center of all things. I believe that this early morning message from The Lord is calling us as a people to " take sleep and mark death", for the correct reasons. As the challenge is much more profound than coping with the fact that BBC has given the nation low marks , and an " International black eye", on this matter. As, despite our chagrin, and even embarrassment, when we lift up our eyes, " our help cometh ", not from our former colonial masters, nor our new 'bosses', the IMF, nor from the workings of our own intellect, in and by itself, or themselves, although all have a role to play. But rather our help cometh from the same God who Sam Sharpe trusted. Even in death. And history has shown how important a role he, who was weak and weary, helped to shape the kind of Jamaica of which we all were once proud. And envied by Singapore!. As I write, I recall also that " the song in the night", called my attention to the fact that, this is a matter that transcends the contributions and behavior of our political leaders. As those who would trumpet loudly, that we have " become a Banana Republic", should be equally mindful; that they who provide leadership of the "Fourth Estate" , those who lead Civil Society, and even more importantly those who are called to lead " The manifestation of the Word made flesh in the world", the Church, are called to a life of " waiting upon The Lord". Who alone gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak". So all of us should be very careful to avoid the temptation of projecting self, of believing that we have all the answers, of attempting to separate what God has joined together - personal and private behavior from public utterances. Or in more theological and Biblical language, attempting to separate, the calling correctly for , and even demanding, Justice, from Righteousness. Right living before God, in public and in private. For God is not only concerned about Richard Azan in this "demon possessed valley". This combination then, of Justice and Righteousness is one of the features of the Christian Religion. And the foundation of the faith tells us that only those who are weary of this 'sinful' life, ...a life which by what we have done and left undone promotes injustice.....of this life which causes God and nation, so much 'pain"; and those who too are weak to change their lives, and unable to approach with confidence a Holy God...because of our many, many sinful thoughts and deeds.....will cry out for Jesus. " O Jesus, draw though nearer and shield my soul from Sin", as the hymn writer puts it - in and through Holy Baptism. In Him who suffered, became weak, so that we might become strong, and in Him alone, will we as individuals and as a nation be given, " strength for the weary, and power to the weak". Then and only then will this once fair isle of ours, begin the long journey back to God and to peace. In obedience LWJ