Theme: "Who will stand in the gap for Liberia?" A July 26, 2013 Pastoral Letter to Churches in Liberia
SUB-THEME: “What It Takes To Stand In The Gap!“
Lessons: Ezekiel 22:23-31; Proverb 3:1-12; Matthew 28:19-20; Job 1:9-10
Text: ” Ezekiel 22:30- And I sought for a man among them that should make upthe hedge, and stand in the gap before Mefor the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none.
A. On July 26, 2013, Liberia will be celebrating her one hundred and sixty-sixth independence day. From 1847 to the present, the nation has faced many challenges including a deadly 1980 military coup d’etat and almost 15 years of a brutal and senseless civil war. The war destroyed lives, infrastructures, properties, moral values and much more. Nevertheless, by the power of God and the assistance of ECOWAS and the international community, Liberia was given a second change; elections were held that ushered in our first African female president, Madam Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.
After her first six-year term, she was re-elected to lead for another six more years. To her credit, she has done some good things like being instrumental in dealing with our huge international debts but the problems of the nation are still challenging and growing worse daily. A few examples include but not limited to the decaying educational system, high illiteracy and unemployment, the basic essentials such as lights, quality hospital services, well designed and built roads, coupled with high corruption that runs amok in high and low places; government officials and the legislature are earning fat US dollar salaries while teachers and other civil servants are challenged financially with Liberian dollars and there are mountains of moral and social problems. These concerns and others leave one to wonder where we are we going as a nation.
As we celebrate this July 26, is there a parallel between Liberian and the Children of Israel who kept forgetting to obey God after they were delivered from bondage and oppression but went back to doing the very things that sent them into bondage? When a critical view is taken of Liberia, a nation that went through such a brutal war, and we relate it to the cycle of disobedience, oppressions and despair during the days of the Prophet Ezekiel; there seems to be a mirror image of what is going on in the land of Liberia. God is angry with Liberia and wants a person or persons to “stand in the gap”, but there seems to be a void among the “Churches” or a“Church” in Liberia that is willing to serve as the moral vanguard/watchmanon the tower of justice/peace to make up the “hedges” and to “stand in the gap” as stated in Ezekiel 22:30-31.
I would like for you to ponder over these questions for a minute: What would be the outcome if the “Liberian Church” stood in the gap for God?Is it too late to stand in the gap? I also beg to ask this question. Is Jesus Christ crying for Monrovia as He did for Jerusalem?
B. The primary focus of the ministry of Ezekiel the prophet was exposing sins, immorality, and injustice directed at the people where he lived. If it is worldly recognition or popularity we preachers want, we are in the WRONG business. Today, as preachers and teachers of the Word who cry out against the sins of individuals and government officials, will not have it easy. The prophet Ezekiel proclaimed that the city of Jerusalem was like a city whose walls were gapped up and broken. You see, the Bible teaches us that “Righteousness exalted a nation, and sin is a reproach to any people.” (Ref. Proverbs 14:34). No double, there is reproach in the land even though we may not know when the end will be, but there are rumblingsand warning signs all around us. Just look at the natural disastersthat we are now seeing on the global stage.
Moreover, I invite you to ponder upon this! A nation may have great wealth, but unless there are men and women who are pure in heart and also fear God, the nation’s defense is gapped and the nation is in great danger. Now listen to this! When you read or hear about some of the things that are going on in Liberia, you will discover that there is a vast ocean of indecency, immoralities, gross poverty, tribalism, oppression, senseless crimes and killings abound. All of these practices point to one thing – violation of the Word of God. Many of us, who call ourselves God’s people, allow materialism, corruption, money, sports, sex, and any number of things to put a gap between ourselves and God. We may not like these words in our politically correct society, but God never said for Christians to be politically correct. He wants us to call sin what it is, SIN. As a reminder, we will reap what we sow, for the wages of sin is death.
C. Today there are thousands of substitutes for the true Gospel of the saving grace of Jesus Christ. Over the past 30 years or so, we have seen false teachers who have dupedthe people with teaching of the prosperity gospel, motivational gospel, humanistic philosophies and more as substitute for preaching and teaching of God’s Word. In the past, people went to church for the sole purpose of worshiping the Most High God; but today, the reasons and motives are very different. In fact today,in the midst of our busy daily living in this rat race; so many of us have simply put God right out of our lives. It is now all about what I can amass for myself, instead of standing in the gap for God.
D. Let us dig deeper into our text to gain some insights. First of all, the words were not the word of the Prophet Ezekiel but the Word of God (verse 23). The message was to the people of the land in verse 24 (the children of Israel) who were from exile in Babylon. The message was very specific and clear but also directed to specific people…the classes of society. Firstly…we have the PROPHETS (verses 24/28) who were like roaring lions devouring souls, giving false visions when the Lord had not spoken. Secondly…we have thePRIESTS (verse 26) who were the religious leaders that violated the laws of God and you could not distinguish holy thingsfrom common things. Thirdly…we have PRINCESSES (verse 27) who were the GOVERNMENTAL OFFICIALS; they were like wolvestearing souls apart, killing people to make unjust gains, greed, and gross corruption. Fourthly…we have the PEOPLE (verse 29) who practiced extortion, committed robbery, and oppressedthe poor, the needy as well as mistreated strangers and foreigners. Those were the people and the charges in those days. Today, these same practices are going on with impunity in Liberia and other nations.
E. All of these and more have made the heart of God very heavy and had intended to pour His wrath upon the land; but he desire to save them if He could find someone to stand in the gap like He asked Abraham when the wickedness ran rampant in Sodom and Gomorrah (Ref. Gen 18:16-33). In the case of Jerusalem, God was looking for someone to make up the hedges and stand in the gap but he could not find any (verse 30). You see, a HEDGE is to be a circular shield of protection but when it is broken, there will be a gap and there will no longer be any defense or protection.
In the case of Job, God placed a hedge around him and it was a shield against the Devil(Ref. Job 1:9-10). In the case of Israel, God wanted someone to make-up the hedge and also stand in the gap for the land but there was no one. However, we need to be very clear about what a person who heels to the call to stand in the gap for God can’t do. That person cannot stand on one foot. To stand in the gap, you can’t be lukewarm. To stand in the gap, you can’t put your hand to the plow and look back. To stand in the gap, you certainly can’t be afraid or have fear; for God did not give us a spirit of fear. (Ref. II Tim 1:7). If you will stand in the gap, you must love justice and mercy, be biased towards the poor. Jesus wasn’t as stated in Luke 4:18. Certainly, there are benefits for standing in the gap, and also, there are conditions that must be met before you can reap the benefit as stated in Proverbs 3:1-2.
Let me warn you! There is no short cut to take if you want to reap the benefits of standing in the gap. In fact, no one can stand in your gap for you! You’ve got a gap and so do I. Now, let us first look at the conditions that must be met.
II. LOOKING AT THE CONDITIONS TO BE MET (Proverbs 3:1-12):
A. Don’t Forget The Teachings…(Ref. Prov 3:1a).You see the Word of God never change and should be the source of knowledge and a lamp unto our paths.
B. Keep My Commands…(Ref. Prov 3:1b).You see the Commands of God does not change based on a location or situation and all must be kept…not some or a selected few.
C. Keep Love Bind Around Your Neck…(Ref.Prov 3:3).You see your love should be exhibited and expressed regardless of where you are or who you meet.
D. Trust In The Lord…(Ref. Prov 3:5-11).You see trust in the Lord is to yield to him unconditionally for Him to order your steps and not lean to your own understanding. You also must shut evil and allow God to discipline you.
III. STANDING IN THE GAP BENEFITS (Proverbs 3:1-12):
A. Prolong Life…(Ref. Prov 3:2a).You will get your three scores and ten plus your dash.
B. Have Prosperity…(Ref.Prov 3:2b).You will have the flood gate and windows of heaven open and your blessings and favor will run over.
C. Prolong Life/Favors/Good Name…(Ref. Prov 3:1a/4a).You will get your three scores and ten plus your dash. Besides wining favor, you will have a good name.
D. Straight Path/Good Health/Nourished Bone…(Ref.Prov 3:6a/3:8).You will not have to worry about the curves of life for the path will be straight and you will be in health…have no dry or rotten bones but a merry heart (Ref. Prov 22:17/14:30).
IV. DRIVING THE POINT ABOUT STANDING IN THE GAP:
A. My fellow ministers, I don’t know if God has His eyes on you to stand in the gap but you need to get ready and be available for God to use you. If you call Jesus Christ your Lord and Savior because He died to give you abundant life, you must act as his disciple…a fisher of men. You were commissioned in Matthew 28:19-20 andActs 1:8 to go into all the world and make disciples — starting in your Jerusalem, Samaria, Judea and to the uttermost parts of the world. Just like Jesus called the disciples: James, John, Andrew and Peter who dropped their nets; you are called to win souls for the kingdom. God asked Isaiah the question in Isaiah 6:8, “who will go for us”? And the shaking man said: “Here am I Jehovah send me”; which is a model for “The Call”; with this call comes the response, the job description and duration of the call.
B. Fellow Ministers, hear me clearly! God wants men and women who will not only fill the gap but will make up the hedges. You see, standing– just to be standing will NOT do what we are called to do. Standing without acting, is being passive. We must be proactive by speaking the truth about the WRONGS that is being DONE to God’s children. That is standing and filling the gap. Yes indeed, God wants men and women who will spread righteousness and truth, that will counter act the forces of evil that are running wild in the world today.
Let me be sure to plug this in. There is no way that a person can stand in the gap on their own strength. It will take the strength of the Lord for a person to stand in the gap. When you muster the courage to stand, the unlimited power our God will be there to enable you to take a stand for God in our homes, at our jobs, at our churches and, wherever it may be. Hear me loud and clear! God wants a pair of hand, a pair of feet, a pair of eyes, a pair of ear that will stand in the gap for Him, FOR THE LAND!
C. In this regard, may I ask you the following questions: Where do you stand today? Those of you who are in leadership positions in the church, where do you stand? Are you available to go the extra mile for Jesus? Can your little light shine brighter or you have it hidden under the bushes of apathy and fear that the bush will catch on fire? Regarding your dilemma, you should be reminded that God has his eyes on you, and the hub of the matter is this: are you available to go like Ezekiel, Daniel, Nehemiah, Moses, Mother Theresa, Dr. ML King, Jr., Didwho Twe (D. Twe), Albert Porte, Nelson Mandela and many others? Can you declare on this day saying…Here am I Jehovah send me? If you do, remember the reason to stand in the gap is not for selfish gains, a show or just to be standing. You are to preach the Word in and out of season knowing that the wages of sin is death, and the Gift of God is eternal life.
Finally, fellow ministers, we are to be fishers of men; Ambassadors for Christ and doers and hearers of the Word as well as give praises to God. Can I share this with you as you strive to stand in the gap? God can take you from zero and make you a hero (wbgkh) like He did for Ezekiel. Keep the faith and stop focusing on the negatives. More importantly, in all things, give God the praise for your life and the blessings so that He will continue to shower upon you boldness despite your leaning and sleeping while you strive to stand in the gap. Amen.
Pastor Harris is the Founder & Senior Pastor of the International Christian Fellowship, Inc., (ICF) in Atlanta, Georgia. He hails from Suakoko, Bong County, Liberia, and was ordained in the East Ohio Conference of the United Methodist Church by the late Bishop James S. Thomas. For three years he served as adjunct professor at Beulah Heights Bible College in Atlanta, Georgia. Pastor Harris is a 1973 graduate of Booker Washington Institute (BWI), Liberia, where he received a diploma in Electronics. In 1981, he obtained his BsEE degree in Electrical Engineering from Tuskegee University, and went on to earn his MDiv degree from the ITC of Atlanta University Center (Gammon Theological Seminary) in 1987. In 2012, Pastor Harris earned his Doctor of Ministry from Adamsville Theological Seminary. Pastor Harris worked for 19 years with GEC Marconi Avionic as an Electrical Engineer in the disciplines of Quality Assurance, Reliability, Testing and Logistic Engineering.
Pastor Harris is a published author of over a dozen books. He is very active in the Liberian community and other communities in Georgia. He has been happily married to the former Queeta Tolbert for 33 years. Their union is blessed with 7 children including triplet daughters and two granddaughters. One of their children (son) died in an automobile accident in 2002. Pastor Harris had a successful kidney transplant August 11, 2011. He and his family reside in Buford, Georgia, a suburb of Atlanta. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.