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
(1) The mystery of flight MH 370 continued to dominate the news this week. And if you a CNN fan you might have gotten the impression that nothing else was happening in the world. Nonetheless, many people across planet earth have been watching with keen interest, as travelling by air has become so routine and a hugely important method of communicating with one another. Further, many are praying and ‘keeping vigil ‘ with the families and friends of the 239 missing persons.
The latest news which broke today raises more questions and provides few answers about this mystery. And can be seen in the link below.
(2). Of course the fact of my country, Jamaica, having the second highest homicide rate ( at least those attributable to gun crimes) as revealed in a speech given by the Commissioner of Police this week only added to the pathos and the angst about my island home. How did we ever get there, or here? What can be done about it? Who is to provide the help. So much is the pain that I took to Twitter last night and ‘ spread my prayers abroad’, even as I sent them up to the only One who can help.
@lucienforJesus: As the woman begged you to drive out the demon from her daughter,so Lord we beg you to drive out the spirit of violence from our people #God
@lucienforJesus: As she fell on her feet Lord so we fall our knees and beg for mercy,and for your divine intervention in the lives of our young men. #Jesus
@lucienforJesus: O God we pray that thy will and not the will of the enemy be done in Jamaica land we love. O God we cannot take the killing any more. #mercy
@lucienforJesus: O God forgive the foolishness that Keiran King and Muta Baruka others are saying. For we know that we have no help but thine. #thanksbetoGod
@lucienforJesus: In the precious name of Jesus – that name that bids our sorrows cease and calms our fears – we pray. Amen and Amen. #ThankYouJesus
@lucienforJesus: O Jesus you are the balm in Gilead. To make the wounded whole – even Kartel Lord. Lord you are the balm in Gilead to heal the sin-sick soul.
THE WORD OF GOD
In the midst of the mystery of whatever possibly ‘violence’ which occurred in heavens above Malaysia and the Indian Ocean, and the violence that continues to haunt Jamaica, what did The Lord say through His Word and His inspired word this week?
First up was a message sent to journalists and political leaders in my country who can make a difference in ‘how things run’ in Jamaica. The trigger was a Word from my Lenten discipline; and the essence of the message was about God’s salvation history and The life and effects of ‘de werl boss’ Vibz Kartel on my country.
THE FIRST MESSAGE
For part of my Lenten discipline I have been led to read Isaiah. Last night in my reading it figured prominently, and then this morning at the end of the Acts of the Apostles, I saw it again.
” You will ever be hearing……”
They arranged to meet Paul on a certain day, and came in even larger numbers to the place where he was staying. He witnessed to them from morning till evening, explaining about the kingdom of God, and from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets he tried to persuade them about Jesus. Some were convinced by what he said, but others would not believe. They disagreed among themselves and began to leave after Paul had made this final statement: “The Holy Spirit spoke the truth to your ancestors when he said through Isaiah the prophet: “ ‘Go to this people and say,
“You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.” For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.’
“Therefore I want you to know that God’s salvation has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will listen!” (Acts 28:23-28 NIV)
I am no theologian, in the sense of being an expert in explaining the Bible. But I am determined to be obedient to the leading of the Spirit. I was searching for a passage in Acts which speaks to the basic understanding of the Gospel. Jesus Christ descended from David and raised from the dead. The mighty salvation about which the father of John the Baptist spoke, after he regained his speech, in what is known in the church as the Benedictus.
The key point here is the final verse of the passage quoted about from Acts. ” they, ( the Gentiles) will listen, even though the Jews, to whom Jesus and the Apostles were sent by God, refused to listen. Apart from a ‘remnant”! A significant feature of the prophesies and the history of spread of the gospel, the good news about God, from creation, until this day, in my understanding, has been the revelation that the we the ” Gentiles will listen”, where Israel did not.
The question then which came to my mind this morning, given the fact that I been led include members of the media in this Internet Ministry, in addition to other groups, apart from the church, is what is the role, if any, of the media in helping ” the Gentiles to listen”.
I saw where Simon Clarke, with whom I worked on the original committee set up to the Values and Attitudes campaign, launched by former PM P. J. Patterson, recommended in the Gleaner yesterday, that a ‘spiritual aspect’ ought to be included in the development of our children. As we have done well with the basic education, but have not done as well in teaching our children that that there is a higher power, to whom they ought to relate. All of this coming in the wake of the Vibz Kartel issue. Simon was a bit cautious in also warning that he was not advocation doctrinal teaching of any one religion. Too cautious in my view. I read once that ‘you cannot hope to have Christian values without Christianity”.
Yes the church, the body of Christ, has the ultimate responsibility to speak the Word, and live the Word, so that ” the Gentiles” will listen. But what about those journalists who profess Christ. Both at the level of ownership and with those who work for media houses! And even those who are not Christians, but have read and understood the history of the movement of the Word – the Gospel.
And we may start with the media, but the same question could be posed to any other group. Dare we exempt ourselves, opt out of this historical and prophetic movement started by God Almighty Himself? ” That ” God’s salvation has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will listen”.
I shudder to think what would have happened to the gospel had the book of the Acts of the Apostles had been written by journalists intent on ‘satisfying the public interest’ and ‘maintaining a balanced view’. Could they have ever formulated the basic reality, that salvation has come to us, the Gentiles, from One who descended from David, and was raised from the dead. In the midst of all the other things that were happening in Palestine at that time.
And if we are not helping to continue what God started, what is the point of all this reporting? In a country where Kartel and Dudus, are seen by many, far too many, have mercy, as their ‘salvation”. Or PNP, or JLP, or the ‘wisdom of Mutty Perkins.
Could it be that the same accusation leveled against the Jews, can now be said of this generation. If so, we are going backwards and not progressing in the history of the Word. And can that be a good thing! To whom then will God send His Word? And the Word will be sent no matter how we respond. As Kartel and Dudus are discovering. Interesting!
THE SECOND MESSAGE – sent to the same group, develops some more on the issue of our refusal to ‘listen’ to God ‘s Word, and the attendant consequences. Part of which is the revelation by our Commissioner of Police about the high levels of guns crimes occurring in this once peaceful land. All because ‘ we have decided to follow Kartel, and Dudus and our ‘political gods’ rather than Jesus.
The train of thought began yesterday after the message about the role of the media and other groups in helping ” the Gentiles to listen” to the gospel. And was elevated during the course of the day, especially after reading about the terrible fate that the Children of Israel suffered at the hand of God in Psalms 79 & 80 – during my lunch time devotions – and then words in Psalm 81 which remind us of the message from Isaiah and Acts yesterday:
“I removed the burden from their shoulders; their hands were set free from the basket. In your distress you called and I rescued you, I answered you out of a thundercloud; I tested you at the waters of Meribah. Hear me, my people, and I will warn you— if you would only listen to me, Israel! You shall have no foreign god among you; you shall not worship any god other than me. I am the Lord your God, who brought you up out of Egypt. Open wide your mouth and I will fill it. “But my people would not listen to me; Israel would not submit to me. So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts to follow their own devices. “If my people would only listen to me, if Israel would only follow my ways, how quickly I would subdue their enemies and turn my hand against their foes! Those who hate the Lord would cringe before him, and their punishment would last forever. But you would be fed with the finest of wheat; with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.” (Psalm 81:6-16 NIV)
From other parts of the Bible including the Gospel according to Luke when Jesus appeared to some of his disciples on the road to Emmaus, we know that the promise from God about ” them being fed from the finest of wheat and honey from the rock”, is fulfilled in the life, death and resurrection of Christ. The point here again is that disaster had come upon the Jews because they refused to listen.
And so when I got up this morning after listening to the Commissioner speak about crime in Jamaica last night, and that in 2009 we were ranked as the most ‘murderous’ country in the world at 63 homicides/100,000, with:
O Jesus I have promised
to serve thee to the end:
O let me feel thee near me;
the world is ever near;
I see the sights that dazzle,
the tempting sounds I hear;
my foes are ever near me,
around me and within;
but, Jesus, draw thou nearer,
and shield my soul from sin……..
in my head, the train of thought was complete. That as individual Christians, we are reminded that two forces dominate our lives on this planet. A loving God enabling and empowering and calling us to be be transformed by the Spirit of Christ to be like Him in righteousness and holiness ; and an evil force inciting us to rebel against God. In this context then, everything that takes place in our lives can be traced back to these two forces. And the choices we make have eternal consequences. More and more, as I read Scripture I am sure of this point. And the hymn-writer makes it clear also.
The other issue is, if so for individuals, can we say the same about nations. And more specifically about Jamaica. In the sense that are the lives of Kartel and Dudus, in the context of our being the most ‘murderous’ nation on earth in 2009, and now # 2 behind El Salvador, according to the Commissioner, a manifestation of the choices this country has made to ‘ refuse to listen to the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob and the God of Sam Sharpe ( a different one than ‘constructed’ by Miguel Lorne recently on Nationwidenews) and the God of Bogle and Gordon.
The Bible is very clear on this. A resounding yes! In the same way apart from a miscreant, the jury returned a resounding yes to the question of Kartel’s guilt.
For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptised into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered in the wilderness. Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: “The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.” We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did—and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died. We should not test Christ, as some of them did—and were killed by snakes. And do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel. These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come. No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:1, 2, 4-11, 13 NIV)
If there was ever a time when a nation ought to listen to the Word of God, it is now, and it is Jamaica. Our history, if examined closely, and truthfully, is history of gospel being taken to the Gentiles, ‘ because they would listen’. Our grandparents listened and Jamaica became a different place after the ‘terror’ of slavery. Far too many people of this generation have elected not to listen, and thus we have become ‘enslaved’ all over again. With Kartel and Dudus et al, and the et al is significant, as the ‘tempting sounds’ of Carnival are once again in the background in Lent, leading our people like the Pied Piper of old into all kinds of evil – aren’t we ashamed. But still Christ is waiting and available to ‘shield our collective souls from sin”.
I would suggest that this is the kind of conversation that our nation ought to be engaged in, even as we battle the demons of inflation, low productivity, high debt to GDP ratio, anaemic economic growth and other manifestations of our refusal to listen to the Word of God. Yes, report on the trial of Kartel and the fact that ‘Hylton walks’, but for God’s sake place the thing in its proper and rightful context. If not, to what end all this reporting and economic activity.
THE THIRD MESSAGE – has within it one of the foundation teachings of the Christian faith. That God’s grace is sufficient for us on all occasions. Especially when we are undergoing persecution and facing trials and temptations. Also in the message is a focus on one aspect of the Lord’s Prayer which often does not get as much attention as it deserves. ” Thy will be done”.
I woke up this morning after having experienced another ‘song in my heart’ last night. What was it? ” My grace is sufficient for you”. So I went and read the well known passage from 2. Corinthians and reflected on this aspect of it:
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9, 10 NIV)
Then just before that I had picked up the Observer and read:
Then I was led to the following meditation from Chris Tiegreen’s One Year Devotional given to me in 2008 and which I began reading again this Lent.
A Call to Arms.
Verse; Your will be done….
IN WORD……NO when we say “Thy will be done”, it is to be an assault on the gates of hell. It is an offensive march against the evil of this world. There is nothing defensive or ambiguous about it. It calls for God to make his kingdom manifest in this enemy territory, taking ground that the enemy has stolen. It is specific, and assertive, a battle cry against everything that is not His will. It is war.
Observe the Master who gave us this instruction. When did He pray, ” Your will be done”? it was before the ultimate battle against His human nature and the powers of darkness, as He pondered the coming Cross in the garden of Gethsemane ( Luke 22:42)
IN DEED…… This request is not to be a statement of our resignation or the fine print at the bottom of our prayers that takes our will out of the situation. We are right to be suspicious of our own wills and defer to the Father’s. But while the request is an appropriate deferral to His higher plan, it is much more. It is a conscious appeal to bring God’s kingdom into victorious conflict with the hostility and depravity of our world. We are not only saying ” not my will”, we are also saying ” not the enemy’s will”.
Wherever human tendencies or a corrupt world comes into conflict with the revealed word of God, we are to pray, ” Thy will be done.” We know that what His will is with regard to our won hearts, sin, evil and violence, salvation, and much more. Shall we be tentative in these areas? No, Jesus gives us a call to arms: Pray that God’s will be done.
Comment: Could this be coincidence that the church is ‘taking up arms” against the government’s proposed policy of flexi-week on a morning when God is speaking about His people becoming strong in the middle of persecution and trials? Could it be coincidence that The Lord is speaking this morning about His people ‘taking up arms against violence and depravity” when perhaps we are a bit nearer than before to solving the mystery of flight MH370 ? Could it be a coincidence that Christ and Him Crucified is speaking this morning through His Word and His inspired word about ” taking up arms” against the evil forces that Kartel and Dudus represent in this enemy territory?
Pray God that His will be done in this beloved and beleaguered, Jamaica land we love.
Lent is a good time to ponder on these things.
THE FOURTH MESSAGE – is a manifestation of the old french pessimistic observation that ” plus ca change, plus ce la meme chose”…the more things change the more they remain the same. As men and women have fruitlessly spent so much time arguing about the existence of God from time immemorial. And this week in my country, while others were praying to God for mercy and comfort for the occupants of that ill fated place, and the ‘ ongoing disaster in Jamaica’, they were at it again. And so The Lord inspired this message.
Last evening, on the way home from work, I heard a conversation on Nationwidenews FM that disturbed me greatly. I came in late, but from what I understood the topic had to do with the views of people who don’t know the Bible ; whether they see it as fact of fiction. I suppose all of this triggered by the much heralded and very ‘irreverent’ treatment of what many Jamaicans accept as Holy Scriptures, by one of the Gleaner’s new online columnists, Keiran King. Those whose views I heard included, Ian Boyne, a Pastor whose name I did not hear properly, Muta Baruka, Keiran and the host George Davis who ‘run tings’ in the absence of Cliff Hughes on a Friday night.
The part which I heard from the sceptics Muta and King – Davis was neither hot nor cold -focused primarily on the authenticity of the Bible as the infallible word of God, given that Science has shown many previously ‘truths in the Bible’ to be incorrect ( I did not hear any) ; that one does not have to read the Bible to hear or experience God; and that the Bible was written by people who captured the folk lore of others to deal with the anxiety of not knowing what lies ahead in the future, and so invent ‘God’ as a means to an end. Ian mainly tried to use his vast knowledge of those who write for and against the Bible, in pursuit of a ‘polite’ conversation with the skeptics and ended by appealing for humility on their part. For me, the most important contribution by the pastor was the fact that this discussion has been ongoing from time immemorial and to date the Word of God has outlived all its detractors. I thought about calling in, but was prevented.
So I went home with the thought that ” only a fool says there is no God”. And as I opened the Bible later on, guess what appeared:
The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, and their ways are vile; there is no one who does good. God looks down from heaven on all mankind to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. Everyone has turned away, all have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one. (Psalm 53:1-3 NIV)
Then in the early morning, about 3:am I heard a loud sound in my house and went to investigate and found nothing wrong. So I turned to the Word of God before going back to bed. And found in midst of Amos, who prophesied against the children of God on account of how they treated the poor and the needy, an inspired word from Martin Luther King Jnr. A quote from which is sufficient:
” Only an irrelevant religion fails to be concerned about man’s economic well-being. Religion at it’s best realizes that the soul is crushed as long as the body is tortured with hunger pangs and harrowed with the need for shelter”.
This morning I woke with the same thoughts I had last night after hearing the discussion.
One that the entire Bible was written to bring people to Christ, in whom alone we find peace with God. Why? Because as Job said, and as most of the New Testament and the Old too, explains, sinful man cannot approach a Holy God without a mediator. It’s a topic that one of the greatest minds of science, and about which and whom I have written before, Blaise Pascal, addresses in one of the most powerful reflections I have seen. ” Jesus – The Middle Way”, The end of which goes like this:
“The knowledge of God without that of our wretchedness created pride. The knowledge of our wretchedness without that of God creates despair. The knowledge of Jesus Christ is the middle way, because in him we find both God and our wretchedness.”
The thrust of any evangelist, anyone who is given to speak about the Bible and Christ, is to speak to men and women about their wretchedness. For unless we come to understand how ‘wretched’ we are before a Holy God then these kinds of discussions which go nowhere will always take center stage from time to time. The revelation from Scripture is that we are guilty by nature of the sin of Adam, as all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, in two ways. Before God and before our neighbour. The life of Jesus as revealed in Holy Scripture, both in the Old and New Testaments, calls us to repent of this inherent rebellion against God and how we have treated our neighbour. That’s why our Savior went about preaching and doing good works. That’s why the Church pays, or ought to pay equal attention to both preaching and teaching and doing good works. The irony is that both Muta and Keiran have benefited from the good works which the church has done in this country in respect of the abolition of slavery and the provision of a high quality educational foundation, while rejecting the preaching and the teaching. A further irony is, what came to mind last evening, and again this morning; that although many of our ‘intellectuals’ have rejected the Word of God, almost all of them, when they die, the family requests, and by God grace and mercy, they are granted a Christian funeral. Strange isn’t it. Or maybe not so strange given the reality that according to one hymn-writer the life of Christ, full of grace and mercy, is portrayed in this fashion:
Thou dids’t leave thy throne and thy kingly crown
when thou camest to earth for me,
but in Bethlehem’s home was there found no
room for thy holy nativity……..
Thou camest, O Lord, with the living word
that should set thy people free;
but with mocking scorn and with crown of
they bore thee to Calvary.
And then comes the refrain, which is really a prayer, for and by those who are humble enough to believe that they need a mediator to approach God:
O come to my heart, Lord Jesus
there is room in my heart for thee.
So, as Christians, according to the Word, ” Because we fear God, we try to persuade men”. Thank God some have been persuaded. And that’s why our nation is not much entirely in the hands of Kartel and Dudus! I wonder if people really understand this reality.
Lent is a good time to think on these things.
And just when I thought that it was all done, The Lord sent a final message. Perhaps the most important one.
THE FIFTH MESSAGE – VERY SHORT.
My mind is saying that people will not read so much, but The Lord says to write. So I being obedient.
An extract from Chris Tiegen – as I close my devotions for the morning.
A man’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions – Luke 12:15
The many ruins and relics of antiquity testify that earthly empires do not last. Mausoleums and memorials reveal the transience of life. The inability of governments to solve the world’s problems persuades us that politics is not the answer. Volatile markets and monthly statements show us the corruptibility and futility of wealth.
Still, the tendency of mankind is to invest in earthly things. So few people know so little about of the coming kingdom that it becomes an afterthought. Six days a week we plan for life by investing in house and goods – insuring them all – and perhaps give one day’s thought to eternity. We research human answers to human problems and neglect the divine privilege of dependence on a transcendent God. Both as individuals and as societies, we focus on the here and now that we grow so blind to the there and then. While all eternity lies before us, our vision extends but a few decades. But as in Jesus’ parable of the rich fool, human plans can be interrupted in one surprising, moment, and what we have valued most may no longer matter at all…….