Next Monday, October 30th, 2017, will be Election Day’, in Jamaica. Not a General Election! But in three constituencies voting will take place for bye-elections. The Opposition PNP is heavily favoured to win two, while the third, and more important one, is ‘up for grabs’; with the governing JLP having the edge, according to recent polls. Predictably the accuracy of those polls has been challenged by the PNP.
The question is, after all the excitement and ‘ barefoot in the park’, helicopter rides, pictures, together with full page ads in the newspapers, and frenzied campaigning, by the party leaders, will victory for either side ‘ affect the price of cheese’? Will the results be a ‘ game changer’ for the nation in respect of crime and violence; issues which are causing many to wonder if Jamaica can ever become a civilized country again!
For this week, once again, the premier tourist parish, St. James, was rocked by a series of murders; ’13 dead in six days’, blared the headlines. One on a busy street! Including ‘King Evil’, a reputed gang leader! Thus prompting the business leaders to ‘ cry out for help’. And so our nation is on track to having yet another ‘ bloody year’. Just like the one before. And the one before that! For many years now.
So while many are caught up with the elections, some even ‘ calling it’, for the JLP, Cliff Hughes on Nationwide Radio, not one us knows whether or not we will be alive tomorrow, much less next Monday! Or Christmas! Or for the New Year!
Which of course raises the question of what really is the key function of any government? I would suggest that, despite the many advances we have made as a nation, with government and people working together, since Independence, we have failed, some would argue spectacularly, in keeping our people safe. And if a government, of any political party, cannot come up with policies and programs to prevent over 1000 people dying year after year, in a country with a population of a shade under three million, of what use is it?
Yes, we give thanks for the new highways; yes we give thanks for new life saving equipment at some hospitals; yes we give thanks for the availability of potable water and electricity and the wonderful advances in communications; yes we give thanks for the partnership between church and state in the quality of education provided for our children ( although some might beg to differ) ; and so much more.
But God have mercy, when will our various governments, become as skilled in reducing the horrible murder rate, as they collectively are, in gaining state power!
Perhaps there is a link between this real and present secular issue, and in my view, a matter of far greater importance, the spiritual issue of the critical role of what took place on the Cross of Christ in the advancement of the Kingdom of God, and the spreading of the Gospel
So this week, I was led to write to leaders in my church about a ‘ game changing event’. An event which ultimately gave birth to the Christian Community which is now over 2 Billion strong ( roughly a third of mankind are Christian believers).
I write in obedience to the leading of the Holy Spirit.
Early this morning, about an hour before sunrise, the prayer for the decade of evangelism, which is a foundation prayer for the inspired Internet Ministry, kept on reverberating in my mind. And that something was missing!
So during my #earlymorningdevotions when I arrived at ” Put your Word In my mind” ( The Threefold Morning Watch prayer by Jacob Boehme), in obedience, I opened by Bible randomly and found this passage:
THE WORD OF GOD
Paul looked straight at the Sanhedrin and said, “My brothers, I have fulfilled my duty to God in all good conscience to this day.” At this the high priest Ananias ordered those standing near Paul to strike him on the mouth.
Then Paul said to him, “God will strike you, you whitewashed wall! You sit there to judge me according to the law, yet you yourself violate the law by commanding that I be struck!”
Those who were standing near Paul said, “How dare you insult God’s high priest!” Paul replied, “Brothers, I did not realize that he was the high priest; for it is written: ‘Do not speak evil about the ruler of your people.’ ”
Then Paul, knowing that some of them were Sadducees and the others Pharisees, called out in the Sanhedrin, “My brothers, I am a Pharisee, descended from Pharisees. I stand on trial because of the hope of the resurrection of the dead.”
When he said this, a dispute broke out between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. (The Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, and that there are neither angels nor spirits, but the Pharisees believe all these things.) There was a great uproar, and some of the teachers of the law who were Pharisees stood up and argued vigorously. “We find nothing wrong with this man,” they said. “What if a spirit or an angel has spoken to him?”
The dispute became so violent that the commander was afraid Paul would be torn to pieces by them. He ordered the troops to go down and take him away from them by force and bring him into the barracks. The following night the Lord stood near Paul and said, “Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.”
Acts 23:1-11 NIV
Having read the passage, the following thoughts came into my mind. In addition to others which emerged as I began writing.
1. Are we as Christians, ‘ on trial ‘ for ‘ hope in the Ressurection from the dead?
Is that what we are known for, and thus elicited the opprobrium of Satan? Or have we been guilty of not ‘ ruffling anyone’s feathers’, in spreading the Good News, The Gospel of Christ Jesus.
Have we, as Church, experienced the Lord’s Presence, yesterday’s OT reading, encouraging us to be of good courage, because of opposition to the ‘ Hope of the Ressurection ‘
2. The profoundly important warning from Paul in 2. Cor.
We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.
2 Corinthians 1:8-9 NIV
3. In this context, of ‘ not relying on ourselves, but on God who raises the dead’, how do we view the headlines calling for the Government to ‘ place a focus on family life’; in pursuit of ridding the nation certain social ills. As if Christian values can be taught without placing a focus on Christ and Him Crucified.
4. Do we, as Church, stand accused of St. Paul’s great concern, ‘ less the Cross be emptied of its power ‘.
5. Yesterday, I was led to share from words from the Epistle at St. Clements. That the Gospel did not come to us by Word alone, but with Power and full conviction. I don’t believe that there is any element of coincidence in my being led to write, respectfully, this morning, essentially about where the Power of the Gospel lies; that we should not rely on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. The Hope of the Ressurection!
And who knows, if we consider these things in response to deep prayer about the Renewal of our Church, beginning with me, all of us, so that the Church may renew the nation(s), who knows how the Lord may send times of refreshing on us, and our nation. And the devil send his agents to attack us; but always we are aware of God’s Presence, saying ” Be of good courage, as you have testified in this place, so will you testify elsewhere”.
THE FOLLOW UP LETTER NEXT DAY
Part 11 – lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power
This morning on arriving at :
Never since has there arisen a prophet in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face. He was unequaled for all the signs and wonders that the Lord sent him to perform in the land of Egypt, against Pharaoh and all his servants and his entire land, and for all the mighty deeds and all the terrifying displays of power that Moses performed in the sight of all Israel. (OT reading for this Sunday):
I pondered on this great revelation, and wondered how much, what happened on Calvary, has added to this revelation. Then a hymn, on which I meditate every Sunday morning, before taking Holy Communion, came to mind:
“Here O my Lord I see thee face to face…….”
And so did that teaching passage, on the ‘transition’ from Moses to Jesus and Him Crucified, 2 Cor.
Since, then, we have such a hope, we act with great boldness, not like Moses, who put a veil over his face to keep the people of Israel from gazing at the end of the glory that was being set aside. But their minds were hardened. Indeed, to this very day, when they hear the reading of the old covenant, that same veil is there, since only in Christ is it set aside. Indeed, to this very day, whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their minds; but when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.
Now the Lord is Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And all of us with unveiled faces seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for the comes from the Lord, the Spirit.
2 Cor 3:12-18 NRSV
As I wrote a couple of thoughts entered my mind:
1. Can the church’s ministry in Jamaica be accurately described as ‘acting with great boldness’?
2. If not, why?
I believe, that the Word on which I shared on Sunday, given to us at this time for a reason, words from the Epistle, that the Gospel came not only by word, but with Power and full conviction, has much to teach us, about ” seeing God face to face in Jesus Christ; and thus acting boldly as ministers of justification, vs ministers of condemnation.
Could it be, that we, as church, have not been fully convicted of Sin. That, what transpired on the Cross of Calvary, with great power and love and mercy, has not yet been fully received in our hearts. ” Against you, you only have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight”, said David! The challenge for us as leaders and as teachers, I believe, is to lovingly and humbly lead people to accept, as we have accepted, for as Bishop Herman of blessed memory, said often, ” You can’t give what you don’t have”, that even though we might not have walked the road that David walked, we were “born and shaped in iniquity”, and at one time, according to St. Paul, writing to the church in Ephesus: ” we were without God, and without hope”, until the Gospel came to us Gentiles.
There may be more, but I don’t believe that it is coincidence, that last night, in my bedtime devotions, now going through Luke, I was led to read, again, with some deeper insight, the cry of the common man, vs the prayer of the Pharisee, ” Lord have mercy on me a sinner”.
Perhaps, then and only then, will we really like Moses, in Christ and Him Crucified, be able, ” see God face to face”. And be bold! To the glory of God, and for the renewal of Church and Nation(s). All because, then, we have not have allowed the The Cross to be ” emptied of its power”.
FINALLY A MESSAGE WRITTEN ON FACEBOOK
Headlines in the Gleaner yesterday!
Last night the Lord placed this ‘ headlines’ from thousands of years ago in my soul! And so I woke with great anticipation to read it:
” My people have committed two sins:
They have forsaken me,
the spring of living water,
and have dug their own cisterns,
broken cisterns that cannot hold water”.
We, in the 21st century don’t like to use this kind of language, but for those with ears to hear and eyes to see, it is clear that Judgment is upon the land. For just like the children of Israel, centuries ago, we have turned away from the Living God and turned to idols ( in the entertainment sector #Adi a convicted murderer still very popular with the young people; twice a day on #TVJ #Lotto #Brukouttabrucknesss; our favourite politician….I will follow …til I die; three and four burner lifestyle.. ..a body to die for; scamming has become a way of life and not just a St. James problem; the #prosperitygospel which is no gospel at all; Netflix run tings until the wee hours of morning; our favourite talk show host….dont touch that dial; and worse of all self-love.
Thank God for Jesus, there is a way back to a loving God, for Prodigal People. A Way back as prophesied by the same Jermiah, and sung by our slave forefathers:
There is a balm in Gilead
To make the wounded whole,
There is a balm in Gilead
To heal the sin-sick soul.
Sometimes I feel discouraged,
And think my work’s in vain,
But then the Holy Spirit
Revives my soul again.
If you can’t preach like Peter,
If you can’t pray like Paul,
Just tell the love of Jesus,
And say he died for all.
And an even better song about God’s mercy which lifted my soul, to which I was led, as I began my #Earlymorningdevotions
The message then, for me is crystal clear. For the church to be able to assist this nation in reducing crime and violence, we have to be clear about out priorities.
Can it then be coincidence that in a time of such great need in our nation, when many are zealously feeding the poor, defending human rights, healing the sick, preaching sermons, organizing their denominations, arranging meetings, while ” bloodshed follows bloodshed”, that this week, the legendary theologian Oswald Chambers posed a serious question in a meditation I was led to read:
MY UTMOST FOR HIS HIGHEST
WHAT IS A MISSIONARY
As my Father hath sent Me, even so I send you. John 20:21
A missionary is one sent by Jesus Christ as He was sent by God. The great dominant note is not the needs of men, but the command of Jesus. The source of our inspiration in work for God is behind, not before.
The tendency today is to put the inspiration ahead, to sweep everything in front of us and bring it all out to our conception of success.
In the New Testament the inspiration is put behind us, the Lord Jesus. The ideal is to be true to Him, to carry out His enterprises.
Personal attachment to the Lord Jesus and His point of view is the one thing that must not be overlooked. In missionary enterprise the great danger is that God’s call is effaced by the needs of the people until human sympathy absolutely overwhelms the meaning of being sent by Jesus…..
We forget that the one great reason underneath all missionary enterprise is not first the elevation of the people, nor the education of the people, nor their needs; but first and foremost the command of Jesus Christ – ” Go ye and teach all nations “.
It is a good thing to feed the poor, educate our children and defend the rights of the marginalized. But to do so with the transforming power of the Holy Spirit, one has to be first rightly related to the source of all Power, Jesus Christ and Him Crucified. And the lack, or breakdown, because of shifting priorities (and perhaps, just perhaps to be fair, for pride lurks deep in the human heart, on account of the pressing needs of people) in this life changing relationship with Christ, is the main reason why the Church no longer has the Power to call a nation back to righteousness.
And this is precisely what St. Paul warned about when he declared ” lest the Cross be emptied of its power”.
So two fundamental changes need to take place in Jamaica land we love. First, Christians need to renew their allegiance to the Lamb of God, the Crucified Christ. And not to the needs of the poor and the marginalized; as legitimate a concern as that is for all mankind. A difficult but necessary lesson to learn.
And second, just as Christians need to get their ‘ act together ‘, and reestablish their priorities, lest we be accused of ” forsaking our first love”, so too governments.
For what shall it profit a political party to gain state power, provide a stable macro-economic environment, attend to the infrastructure needs of a nation, and yet be unable to provide a safe environment for its citizens: going to work, to school, to church, hanging out on the corner, sleeping in their beds, having fun in a session, going to look for a girl. By 2030! Or tomorrow.