Whether in Jamaica, The USA, Europe Africa….all are at Rest in Christ

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) – a Prayer for the Decade of Evangelism

THE NEWS

1. In my country, on the third Thursday of each year there is a major national event organized by  the Church – A National Leadership Prayer Breakfast. At this function leaders from Government and Civil Society join the church in prayer and reflection on the state of the nation. This year our Prime Minister and the Leader of the Parliamentary Opposition were invited by the preacher on to the podium for special prayers. An excerpt from a report shared on RJR news online appears below

Jamaica’s leaders were on Thursday morning challenged not to be autocratic or confrontational in these challenging times, but to be courageous and lead by example.

This was a key part of  the message delivered at the National Leadership Prayer Breakfast by guest speaker, Bishop Dr. Delford Davis.

Dr. Davis, who is pastor of Power of  Faith Ministries, called for the nation’s leaders to become collaborative.

“We have had a winner and a loser. As political parties contend for state power, some might argue… that Jamaica has never won, and many have contemplated this question.” This is now high time for Jamaica to win. Jamaica must win for all Jamaicans, and not for a select few.”

That which caught my attention however,  were  the two readings.  OT and NT. And in particular the one from Joshua….Be Bold and very courageous.

2. The second bit of news which, apart from the continued reports about murders, was an egregiously outrageous statement by a sitting member of Parliament. A response to his comments, one of many, including an column written by the Anglican Bishop of Jamaica ….http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Those-who-do-not-count_15802229
appears below:

In a speech characteristic of the bombast that has made him infamous, the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) member of parliament for South West St Catherine espoused a view of politics that could have the unintended consequence of bringing an already wobbling process into further disrepute.

“If you don’t vote, you don’t count, and you can’t ask for government benefits when you refuse to participate in the governance of your country. I don’t know how others perform, how others work, but in South West St Catherine dem have to vote to talk to me, nuh care how yu sick and need it, nuh care how the old lady on the crutch; you didn’t vote without an excuse, you don’t talk to this member of parliament,” he said.

That’s an outrageous perspective for a liberal democracy of the type we have been fashioning for nearly a century and to which I believe most of our political leaders aspire.

GOD’S WORD

This week I was led to write two letters and send out a number of tweets. The first letter, I believe,  was triggered by the state of the nation and the validation, at the National Leadership Prayer Breakfast, of the call ” from the most unlikely source”
( The Minister of National Security who is not known to be a church man) , for ‘Divine Intervention’. It was addressed to national leaders, and makes the point that ‘when the going gets tough, our only recourse is to ask The Lord for help’. And with ‘madman’ Warmington, together with  the equally outrageous behavior of two of our top dancehall female artistes, and the pressing social and economic problems all around,  and a feeling of hopelessness abound,  I thought a perspective from one who had access the minds of men of great power could help at this time.

THE FIRST MESSAGE

Peter Marshall ( 1902 -1949) was a Scottish emigrant to America and served as Chaplain to the United States Senate for two years. After his death his wife Catherine published his biography ” A Man called Peter”, which made his story well known. And even more so when the book was made into a popular film.
The excerpt from a ‘sermon’ to the most powerful legislators in the world in a time of great crisis, the years of WW11, struck me this morning,  as I was led to read them during my devotions.
A message we in Jamaica need, in this our time of crisis,  with  the twin swords of Damocles, spiraling crime and anemic economic growth, hanging around our proverbial necks. For years! And we have no clear idea what to do, despite the apparent ‘ light at the end of the tunnel’ provided by the IMF agreement. Further, who is going to rescue us from D’Angel and Macka Diamond and what their recent behavior represents metaphorically in our society – an issue captured so well by young Daniel Thwaites in brilliant satirical style, in his most recent column. And each one being  inextricably linked to the other. Perhaps we should include in the mix, ” what is to be done about M.P. Warmington” and others like him, and what they represent in the body politic in Jamaica!

FOR GOD’S GRACE IN OUR HELPLESSNESS
Verse Judges 7:2

We know, our Father that at this desperate hour in world affairs, we need thee. We need thy strength, thy guidance, thy wisdom.
There are problems far greater than any wisdom of man can solve. What shall our leaders do in such an hour?
May thy wisdom and thy power come upon the President of these United States, the Senators and Congressmen, to whom have been entrusted leadership. May the responsibility lie heavily on their hearts, until they are ready to acknowledge their helplessness and turn to thee. Give to them the honesty, the courage, and the moral integrity to confess that they don’t know what to do. Only then can they lead us as a nation beyond human wisdom to thee, who alone has the answer.
Lead us to this high adventure. Remind us that a ‘ mighty fortress is our God’- not a hiding place where we can escape for a easy life; but rather an arsenal of courage and strength – the mightiest of all, who will march beside us into battle for righteousness and world brotherhood.
O our God, may we never recover from our feeling of helplessness and our need for of thee! In the strong name of Jesus, our Lord, we pray. Amen
Peter, I am not sure that you understand clearly the ‘seed ‘ that you have sown in this nation. But be of good courage and persevere, in the midst of the criticism from any quarter. For those who follow history closely will recall that the USA was a ” reluctant bride” in WW11. And had to be convinced to enter the struggle to defeat Hitler. Then came the pain of Pearl Harbour. And other issues not well publicized too. The point here is that God moves in mysterious ways always. We just have to trust him now, as  others, like Rev. Peter Marshall,  have urged leaders in the past,  to place all their trust in The Creator of Heaven and Earth. Why?  Despite our apparent wisdom and power, without Him we are helpless. But with Him all things are possible.
Peace.
LWJ

As I finished writing the note during my early morning devotions and went on my knees in prayers, another thought came. And so I wrote. Again!

The key thing about the verse from Judges about Gideon, if you read the story carefully, is that when God grants us the wisdom, the power and the victory, we should not boast as if it is our courage and might and wisdom which has caused us to prevail. But to give him the glory always. To do otherwise is to ignore the lessons taught to us by  Sam Sharpe and others.  And to ignore what was the greatest declaration of victory in human history, spoken by Christ on the Cross of Calvary: ” It is finished”. Which is precisely what we have done. Hence the pain, about which Lewis writes with compassion, humility and deep insight.
All done for today.

This actually came after I had been moved to write that C.S. Lewis’ The PROBLEM OF PAIN ought to made required reading for all who aspire for leadership in Jamaica. And as you know by now, my having written about this book for the past three weeks, it’s all about man rebelling against God  during ‘The Fall’, and hence the introduction of pain in the world.

Please follow me carefully now, as even as I write, I am astounded. This morning, believe it or not, after being awakened by an early morning call, and I rarely leave my cell phone on  at night, I went to sleep and this thought came during my early morning sleep. “It is finished” means that all human beings can be at rest in God, as the great work of bringing us back into  relationship with Him, which is what we were Created to have and to be, is all done. Even the great passage in Acts 17 came during this ‘eventful’ sleep.

” Then Paul stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus. He said, “Men of Athens! I see that you are very religious in every way. As I walked around, I looked carefully at the things you worship. I even found an altar with ~to an unknown god= written on it. Now I am going to tell you about this ‘unknown god’ that you worship. “He is the God who made the world. He also made everything in it. He is the Lord of heaven and earth. He doesn’t live in temples built by hands. He is not served by human hands. He doesn’t need anything. He himself gives life and breath to all people. He also gives them everything else they have. From one man he made all the people of the world. Now they live all over the earth. He decided exactly when they should live. And he decided exactly where they should live. God did this so that people would seek him. Then perhaps they would reach out for him and find him. They would find him even though he is not far from any of us. ‘In him we live and move and exist.’ As some of your own poets have also said, ‘We are his children.’ (Acts 17:22-28 NIRV)

So here is where, on reflection, God’s mighty power was at work in ways that I don’t begin to understand. Yesterday I went to a planning meeting of The Healing Conference; which is an annual event going on for many decades. Where people from varying denominations, but mostly Anglicans,  come together for a weekend of Fellowship, Singing, Teaching and Healing. The Bishop who is our Chairman, Bishop Daniel, as is his accustomed habit, before prayers, read a short meditation.
On the importance and deeper understanding of sabbath rest.  An meditation that took us far deeper than how the SDA treat with the subject, for as the writer explained…the sabbath and rest from work, and the attendant benefits , is not about man but about a gracious God A topic, as I informed him, about which I had that very morning addressed in a letter to a SDA pastor for whom I have great respect. But was led to challenge him to reflect of what God had placed in my heart. So I did so boldly.

THE SECOND MESSAGE

…….This response to our ‘conversation’ last year resumes much later than I had promised and anticipated. But it is always better to wait on the guidance of the Spirit rather than rush ahead.
Actually this message began yesterday, when I was led to read 1 Timothy. And as I read the following words this ‘conversation’ came to mind:
“We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. We also know that the law is not made for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels……and for whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine that conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed God which he entrusted me.” ! Timothy 1:8-11.

How did I get there? I was searching for ” Timothy my son……..some have rejected these and have so shipwrecked their faith”…1:19. Why? Recall that the second reading at the NLBP was taken from Acts 27. A story about a shipwreck; all because the folks involved chose not to listen to Paul’s warning. And so as I was led to reflect on both passages; the one from Joshua…be bold and very courageous; and this one from the Acts of the Apostles, my mind, led by the Spirit went to this Timothy passage.

Then this morning as I awoke and began walking to my study to engage in my early morning devotions, ” I have been crucified in Christ……”,  came into my mind. One of my favorite Bible passages! And so I read, and read, and read all about the futility;and more than that, ” You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you” ( NIV); of being under the law. An argument which climaxes towards to end of Galatians,  with specific reference to circumcision. Followed by the profound and eternal recommendation: ” Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation.”

Therefore I know that the context  revolves around the struggle the early church had in resisting any attempts to seduce the new converts to, ” behave like Jews”, and allow themselves to become circumcised. And thus “avoid being persecuted ( 6:12) for the cross of Christ”. In that context then, and note I am not writing to ask you to explain the ‘keeping of the Sabbath”, as you will appreciate from what I have written that,  ” flesh and blood’ did not teach me these things”; but rather for you as a leader in the SDA church to reflect on them. For the glory of God!…….

And having  been led to  write such a ‘bold’ letter, I was moved to read and write the following:

And then I was led to read and sing and weep in my soul, I suppose given the huge implications of this conversation, the song below:

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 the verse referenced with the hymn in my Classics Devotional Bible, is Jeremiah 8:22.
Is there no balm in Gilead?
Is there no physician there?
Why then is there no healing
for the wound of my people?

Intriguing isn’t it!
LWJ

So what does all of this have to do with MP Warmington’s madness, the issue of bold leadership and Jamaica’s serious problem with Crime and Violence.

Two tweets from  triggered by the sermon that the same Bishop Daniel preached that afternoon at the funeral of a very popular Evangelist, who labored in the ‘vineyards’ at home and abroad, Julius Creary, might help.

@lucienforJesus: Christ is Savior Judge and also intercedes for us.  What a comfort! Bishop Daniel at Julius Creary’s funeral today.# IloveyouJesus #Julius

@lucienforJesus: If you truly love Jesus you are to feed His sheep. That’s what He told Peter. Not look after yourself. Bishop Daniel today. #Jesus @sqyre

The give away here is that ” neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means a thing. What counts is a new creation”.

In that regard then, unlike MP Warmington, who believes that only those who vote ‘count’ in his eyes, the God of Creation, in Christ,  died on the cross of Calvary, while we were still sinners, because ” all whom He created counts”. And He loves all of us dearly; even to death of a Cross. So that our sins may be forgiven. That’s the essence of the ‘good news’, the gospel of Christ. And the matter is ‘finished’. Forever!  What is needed on our part is repentance and to seek God in Christ, and become a ” new creation”. Only that simple ‘ old time religion’ is good enough for the world. That’s the basic message of any Evangelist.  Or ought to be! Lest, as Paul warned, ” The cross be emptied of it’s power”.
Therefore the sabbath rest in Christ, …It is finished…..ought never to be confused with ‘keeping the sabbath’. A horse of a different color all together. And keeping with the metaphor, that’s like trying ‘ride two horses at the same time’. One of grace and mercy in Christ, and the other of trying to ‘keep  the law’ or commands, in  response to grace.

This is indeed the comfort that Bishop spoke about. That we are no longer to be judged by a a law, a system of rules that no one could keep, but by the same one who is our Savior. And not  only Savior but also the One who advocates for us at the right hand of God.  Therefore there is no longer any condemnation, whether you ‘keep the sabbath’ or not! Whether you worship on a Sunday or not! Whether you have an experience  with angels or not! Whether you ” get in the spirit’ or not!  Whether you participate in Holy Communion every week or once a year! All that matters is that you repent of your sins and accept Christ as Lord. And thus become a new creation.

Then comes the true test. If we really love Jesus, because He died for us, and not just because we see Him as a ‘ celestial boops’ …’ ‘im give me everyting me ask ‘im…or a heavenly Santa Claus, then our proper response is to ….feed his sheep. take care of people, in so many different ways. The Politician, the Businessman, the lawyer, the journalist, the  teachers, the doctors, the students.  The lonely. The downtrodden. The helpless! ….those captured and led astray by satan….Franz Fannon’s ‘ wretched of the earth’…those in error like ‘warmington’…those who rob and kill and steal…in fact the whole human race. As that is the kind of boldness and passion we need to rescue Jamaica, America, Syria, Egypt and the all people everywhere. And tell them the story that ” it is finished”. All done. On Calvary

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