I read my Bible to see what men ought to ; 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) – Prayer for the Decade of Evangelism
(1) As announced in the report from the Jamaica Observer below, every year at this time CHAMPS, the largest and arguably the most famous Track and Field meet for high school children takes place in Jamaica. And regardless of whether or not you are a fan of the sport, the ‘hype’ of it all, takes over all conversations in this land of Bolt and Shelly Ann Fraser-Pryce. In fact, the tweet below from the world’s fastest man, really says it all. Hot competition leading to high class and record breaking performances, which sets the stage for future Olympic Champions. In my country, there is no other news that even comes close. Even when the West Indies men and women 20/20 cricket teams are vying for a world title in Bangladesh.
Track & Field Meets in Jamaica
ISSA Boys & Girls Athletics Championships
Date: March 25, 2014 To: March 29, 2014
Location: Jamaica Kingston & St. Andrew
VENUE: National Stadium
@usainbolt: Jamaica’s track future is in good hands..Congrats #JavonFrancis breaking class one 400m record #champs2014 #future #45sec
(2) The missing Malaysian Airline Flight MH370 with 239 presumed dead aboard, continues to be big news across the world. The scenes captured on video, of the reactions of the relatives to the announcement by the Malaysian Government that all hope was now lost, was heartbreaking. I keep wondering about the sheer terror that must have come over those aboard when they realized that the plane was going down in the middle of nowhere. About the observation from one of CNN’s guests, that, given the fact that sophisticated equipment kept transferring fuel from the tanks to the engines, in order for it to have flown for so long and far, suggests strongly that deliberate human action was at play. One inference from which scenario is that evil played a major hand in the loss of all those lives.
(3) This week, not making the headlines, but of some considerable moment to me, was a question raised following a presentation, as noted below, about the vibrancy of the Anglican Church, and I suppose the wider church community, and its ability to fight against the kind of evil represented by aspects of Vibz Kartel’s life. All within the context of how crime and violence, violent lyrics immorality, and other social and moral issues, in our schools and communities, are affecting our nation. And the role of the church, possessed of many and varied gifts, in rescuing a people from evil.
Since Thursday of this week my mind has been ‘troubled’ by:
1. A question posed by Church Army Sister Molly Walton during a Q&A session after her presentation on Thursday evening on :
Using Our Spiritual Gifts and Abilities to Evangelize.
A ‘troubling’ which triggered a message to my church members, to which some have responded. And also triggering the same discussion at another forum. The upshot of which I believe, was a leading of the Holy Spirit to commence reading a book by the late and much revered in Evangelical circles, Rev.John Stott entitled: ” Christian Mission in the Modern World; what the church should be doing now.”
THE WORD OF GOD
So then, what did The Lord, who is God of heaven and earth, and everything that is in it, who sees and knows of evil intent and evil action in the dark blue sea, and in the highest heights, and in the hearts of men and women, what did He point reveal to His people through this medium this week.
First up was a message and a clear warning about the consequences of ‘going against the will of God’, and setting up for ourselves ‘ kings’ that are neither appointed nor anointed by the Lord. Which is what men and women in recent times, and all through history with predictable outcomes, have tried to do in respect of their much revered political leaders, media and entertainment stars, money and what it represents, and the alluring nature of power. What does this have to do with CHAMPS and Flight #MH370? Lots! Think about it. if you are going down in a plane, or if you come face to face with a ‘gunman’, or if a ‘bad man’ turned rapper or dance hall artiste is wreaking havoc on the minds of the young and the old, who are you going to turn to for mercy, and for help and for ‘divine intervention’? Usain Bolt, Javan ‘donkeyman’ Francis, Prime Minister Simpson Miller, the Malaysian or Chinese leader, or as we say in Jamaica ‘ puppa Jesus tek the case’….meaning in proper English, Lord Jesus Christ have mercy.
THE FIRST MESSAGE
Just yesterday I was musing that the Bible should always be read in context. Today’s context! Otherwise only learned scholars could properly interpret the Word, and that could not be what God intended.
Then this morning I turned to the Old Testament reading for next Sunday and found this:
” The Lord said to Samuel, how long must you mourn for Saul since I have rejected him as king over Israel. Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king.” 1 Samuel 16:1 NIV
The background to this profound statement by the Living God, the Creator of heaven and earth, and who chose to reveal Himself to all mankind, initially, in and through the Jews, is to be found in the same Book by Samuel.
” But when you saw that Nahash king of the Ammonites was moving against you, you said to me, No we want a king to rule over us – even though The Lord was your king. ” 1 Samuel 12:12.
Samuel had just recounting how God had rescued his people from slavery in Egypt, with the help of Moses and Aaron who He appointed. And other leaders who God sent when they sinned against Him and God ‘sold them into the hands of Sisera….” And even after all this mercy and compassion from a faithful God ” Great is thy faithfulness….there is no shadow of turning with thee”, they demanded a king – like what the other nations had. So Saul was given to them. But not appointed by God.
Now I ask you, is there not a parallel here when some of our people look to Kartel as ‘de werl boss”? What do you think they are doing? When women march and declare that ” they will die for Dudus”? What do you think they are doing, and quo vadis, from whence cometh this madness. I can still remember the early days of people declaring the same kind of allegiance to Bustamante. The very same kind of adoration we had for Michael ‘ Joshua’ Manley, for ” Eddie”, for ‘de driva’ and now for ‘sista P”. PJ was respected but never attracted that kind of ‘worship’. Neither did Norman Manley, in my recollection which may be faulty, but certainly was the most respected of all.
It is the same kind of blind unquestioning adoration that happened with Mutty Perkins and some people in this country. So too with some of our current ‘media stars’. And if you think about it, so too Cash Plus and other schemes guaranteed to bring us riches – a kind of king – in ‘whom’ many of us foolishly placed on faith. Who can escape this charge? Certainly not elements within the church who perhaps ‘tainted with the sin of the prosperity gospel’ became unwise and foolish. Certainly not elements in the private sector who behave as if ‘ the market is king’, and ‘profits are to be pursued regardless of how it affects other human beings’. Certainly not me who ‘ jumped and pranced’ in my early days in blind allegiance to my ‘ political king’.
But thank God for Jesus, and the prayers of the faithful, at some point in time in one’s life, one comes to realize that we need to cease mourning and longing for another ‘king’, when our ‘kings’ who we have appointed in our lives, show that they have ‘feet of clay”. Because God is ‘sending us ‘ to Jesus, who He has appointed as Lord and Savior. As He alone is faithful and full of compassion and mercy. As all, like the children of Israel have sinned, in one way shape or form, and set up our own kings, within and without, and therefore have fallen short of the glory of God.
Lent is good time to think about these things.
THE SECOND MESSAGE – the conversation continued about how we ought to respond to the high level of crime and violence in my country and the need for all persons to be ‘very careful how they live’.
As I read and share with you, as instructed, a slightly extended version of the New Testament ( The Epistle) reading for Anglicans this Sunday, and reflect on yesterday’s message, we have a better understanding if why people like Keiran King would heap ridicule on the Word of God, the Holy Bible, and by extension God Himself. As he too, is serving another King – this time the prince of darkness himself.
“Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them. For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. This is why it is said: “Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, (Ephesians 5:1-19 NIV)
Can you imagine if our youngsters, and adults, were to learn from early, as they once did, to ‘ be very careful how you live….”, what effect that kind of lifestyle would have on our murder rate. The Commissioner of Police and Minister Bunting would be very happy indeed. Shouldn’t they then be in the vanguard of the struggle to fight against the prince of darkness. And I would suggest so too should their colleagues, and the media and all well thinking Jamaicans, who are praying for the families of Flight MH370. As many multiples of those who perished, die every year in Jamaica. And that fact alone should cause us to ‘wage war’ against the forces of evil, and not ‘big up foolish young men who write nonsense masquerading as enlightenment in the newspapers’. Why have we the children of Sam Sharpe forgotten so quickly? And with such predictable, predicted, if anyone was listening, and devastating consequences! For the days are evil indeed.
Lent is a good time to think about these things.
THE THIRD MESSAGE – places in context the ‘wake up call’ that the case of the missing plane in the Indian Ocean sends about evil in the world. Equally so the devastating effects of the violence in my country. A meditation from a popular religious writer. And as a well written article by a prominent Jamaica theologian and head of a theological seminary, among other things, about the Vibz Kartel mystery, a wake up call for dance hall music in my country.
After reading this article (by Garnett Roper in the Gleaner yesterday )the thought came to me that left to dancehall music Mandela would still be in jail #Kartel – a post, (minus that in parentheses) on twitter and facebook this morning.
For some reason South Africa as in my dreams last night.
For many reasons I hope you found time to read this article. After writing that note yesterday, words from Etana’s song came into my head. ” Lady where you come from people die thee everyday….”
Further, that “If we are not careful, and do not mobilize all the forces of good in this country to fight against the evil of murder, then Jamaica will become one big ‘wrong address’ to those who wish to do business with us”. We therefore need to join the ‘rebellion ‘ against evil in this land. But as the meditation below, March 25, recommends, our weapons in this war are to be quite different.
OUR REBEL LEADER
“Am I leading a rebellion?”
IN WORD The scene is almost ludicrous. Jesus the Prince of Peace, is surrounded by a hostile, armed crowd. He has been walking weaponless throughout the streets of Jerusalem with compassion in his voice and healing in his wings, but compassion and healing are a little too suspicious for powerful people. So they come, burning with anger and betrayal.
The Son of God, apparently knows about sarcasm; ” Am I leading a rebellion….that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me?” But the question is more loaded than the sarcasm on the surface would indicate. He is leading a rebellion. He is leading a rebellion against the human rebellion, which was instigated by the angelic rebellion. He is leading a rebellion against the ways of this world and against the enemies of the kingdom of God. He is leading a rebellion against the culture of hate, anger and enmity and against the culture of lust, greed and idolatry. There is a war behind the scenes of this battle. The commander of this traitorous world is being cast ( John 12:3). Jesus knows exactly who has surrounded Him. On the surface, it looks like spiteful Jews under the authority of spiteful Gentiles. But Jesus has already told His disciples: ” The prince of this world is coming” ( John 14:30). Yes, by all means, this is a rebellion.
IN DEED As descendants of Adam and Eve, we have all been participants in a rebellion. WE have committed treason against the High King of Heaven. We’re not sure what we were thinking at the time, but somewhere back there we joined in. Now we have a golden opportunity to join the quashing of our former uprising. Wherever we see injustice we can right it. Wherever we see pain , we can help them heal. The passing prince of this world is being cast out; the time has come for us to join in. Are you waist-deep in this war, or are you just passively sitting by? Join the battle. Join the rebellion wherever you can.
Final comment: We need to begin to look beyond the headlines, like #BJMIller, and understand that Kartel in and by himself is not the real problem. Nor is Keiran King – can you imagine how, as children of former slaves, we would have fared, if King had been writing in the days of Sam Sharpe. Nor is the current status of dancehall music as observed by Garnett Roper. But rather, these things and arguments and phenomena, are manifestations of the power of the prince of darkness, against who we are joined in battle. To death! And only the grace of God in and through Christ the King can grant us the insight, the discernment, and the power to win the battle for the minds and souls of our people.
As I close I recall that for some unknown reason Teddy Pendergrass’ song about ” Wake up everybody”, has been in my head of late. It does not offer a full theological view of what we are up against, and what we are called to do. but it certainly tries. And comes pretty close. Plus it is just a wonderful song.
Wake up everybody, no more sleepin’ in bed
No more backward thinkin’ time for thinkin’ ahead
The world has changed so very much from what it used to be
So there is so much hatred war an’ poverty
Wake up all the teachers, time to teach a new way
Maybe then they’ll listen to whatcha have to say
‘Cause they’re the ones who’s coming up and the world is in their hands
When you teach the children, teach ’em the very best you can
The world won’t get no better
If we just let it be
The world won’t get no better
We gotta change it, yeah, just you and me
Wake up all the doctors, make the ol’ people well
They’re the ones who suffer an’ who catch all the hell
But they don’t have so very long before the judgment day
So won’tcha make them happy before they pass away?
Wake up all the builders, time to build a new land
I know we can do it if we all lend a hand
The only thing we have to do is put it in our mind
Surely things will work out, they do it every time
The world won’t get no better
If we just let it be
The world won’t get no better
We gotta change it, yeah, just you and me
Yeah, you and me with the help of the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, as revealed in Holy Scripture.
So as we close, what did Rev. Joh Stott have to say about Christian Mission in this Modern, Flight MH 370, Kartel world. Some important things, written in note form for brevity, and to capture what I have distilled from this very profoundly written book. And there is more to come.
– the argument between Evangelical Christians and Ecumenical ( traditional/conservative…my words) ought to be guided by, in my view a profound statement by Stott. ” Life is a pilgrimage of learning, a voyage of discovery, in which our mistaken views are corrected, our distorted notions adjusted, our shallow opinions deepened, and or vast ignorances diminished.
– all Christians everywhere, whatever their cultural background or theological persuasion, must think at some time or another about the relationship between the church and the world………What is a Christian’s responsibility towards his non-Christian relatives, friends and neighbors, and indeed to the whole non-Christian community.
-The Great Commission to spread the gospel and The Great Commandment to Love your neighbour are of equal importance.
– Evangelism and Social Action are equal partners in Mission. Each can stand on its own as they are both guided by Love. And the Holy Spirit gives gifts to enable both to take place. So not everybody is gifted to preach the Word. But to represent Christ wherever The Holy Spirit places us. In the Media, in Politics, in Medicine, in Law……
– As the Father has sent me , so am I sending you…..And God sent Jesus into the world to serve. So must we commit to be servants of others, and to involve ourselves in the lives of people ‘up front and personal ‘ and not ‘shout the gospel at them from afar’.
– Evangelism…to set people free from the alienation from God through ignorance or rejection of the Gospel, when discussed on its own merit, ought to be the ‘greatest challenge to Christian love’…..and therefore be the number one priority for the church in general, especially to those who have not yet heard the Word. But not exclusively so, as others who have heard, need ‘ more and better particulars’.
– Evangelism means to announce the good news about Jesus.
– It is not to be defined in terms of results…yes we would hope that people will respond and seek forgiveness of their sins in and through the shed Blood of Christ. But we are called to preach Jesus and Him Crucified and raised from the dead. And leave the rest to God.
-Evangelism is not to respond to the questions that people are asking about life…however deep those questions may be. But rather the first place of evangelism is the transmission of God’s question to man. And that question is and remains , ‘ whether or not we are willing to accept Jesus Christ as the one and only Lord of life.
– Our role and challenge in the modern world is to ‘communicate’. To be faithful to the Gospel of Jesus, while being contemporary. As without communicating, there is no evangelism, no actual sharing of the good news.
– The entire Old Testament witnesses to the ‘salvation’ offered by the Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. The disciples were witnesses. And so too is the church- to be witnesses to the Gospel of Christ.
So are the churches which are packed and ‘preaching the Word’, because The Holy Spirit rests with them in a special way? And those church which are ‘declining in numbers’ but more concerned about Social Action, out of favor with The Spirit. No says John Stott. Both have their roles according to the gift of the Spirit. The key is whether or not one church or another is producing men and women who are serving as Christ did, and not as men have designed. As the latter cannot help to fight against the evil that was visited upon Flight MH 370, nor that which has come into my country through dance-hall music. Regardless of whether Champs next year is as record breaking as this year’s staging. We need to wake up to that reality.