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 EvangelismNEWS1. Today is Palm Sunday. A day which traditionally marks the start of the most holy period in the Christian calendar, and celebrated by millions across the globe, despite the fact that some denominations do not celebrate Holy Week. According to the Christian doctrine, even though Jesus during relatively short life on earth, accomplished much, at all times His face was ‘set towards Jerusalem’, and His crucifixion – the purpose why he left His heaven throne and came to earth as man.
That news trumps everything else for this week in my book.
2. Other news this week included a revelation from the Commissioner of Police, Owen Ellington shared during an interview with one of Jamaica’s most accomplished journalist – Dionne Jackson-Miller – that jailed entertainer Vibz Kartel’s gang was responsible for more than 100 murders.
3. Also in the news this week, was the report out of Cuba, that a friend and church brother, Professor Norman Girvan, who was the quintessential Caribbean man, died after suffering spinal injuries in an accident in Dominica. Much has since been written about this remarkable Political Economist and ‘integrationist’. My thoughts of him, however, trigger memories of Franz Fanon’s ‘ Wretched of the Earth’; Walter Rodney’s ” How Europe underdeveloped Africa; Eldridge Cleaver’s ‘ Soul on Ice”; Stokely Carmichael, Angella Davis and others who were ‘revolutionaries’, during my formative years. And who, like Norman, dedicated their lives, in most part, to serve the oppressed people of the earth. It is also very clear, that today’s generation, largely bereft of any ‘ grand vision’ of changing the world, at least in the western world, and focused primarily on ‘taking selfies’, and using social media efficiently in pursuit of self-advancement, unlike the generation which produced Norman Girvan, is one reason why our societies are drifting and simply existing, rather than being in the vanguard of change. RIP my friend. Yours was a life of service and shared struggle.
THE WORD OF GOD
So then as The Lord’s Passion approached, and startling news of murder and music broke, and a friend went to glory, what inspiring word, or Word, did the Holy One of Israel lead me to read and contemplate?
THE FIRST MESSAGE
First up was a message to powerful people in my country who can make a difference. And with all kinds of news swirling around. Accusation of a death squad in the police force in a rural town; a soon to start budget debate as the technocrats attempt to resuscitate a ‘gasping’ economy; Carnival time again in Jamaica; accusation of unbelievable behavior by Parents in a rural area, unruly bus drivers, a ‘tongue in cheek reference to a hot button issue by a young columnist, a very apt and succinct commentary of ‘pentecostal fervor’ in the churches! All happening as, a story pregnant with so much meaning, and understanding of the Christian faith, and no doubt a precursor to the events of Passion Week unveils one of the key doctrines of the Christian Church: That in Christ Jesus, all things can be made new. regardless of the desperate nature of the situation.
A message from The Lord as I was moved to start my devotions with this song on youtube. And with the verse below in my heart.
John 11: 25…I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?
Check out this video on YouTube:
No matter what the situation is. A new generation of Cokes! A reality check for a world boss! An economy in need of IMF bitter medicine! Women – and men – who will sell their soul for Kartel or Dudus! RompinShop at nights and Bacchanal in broad daylight! Parents pimping their children! Policemen thinking they are in the killing fields of Cambodia! Little terrorists unleashed in the classroom! Viral videos! Daniel Thwaites’ ‘queens in the parliament’! A whole city of wrong addresses! Out and bad bus drivers! Garnett Roper’s ‘ too much noise in the churches and too few solemn moments”! A nation which has rebelled against the God of Sam Sharpe! The message from the approaching Passion of Christ is the same. I am the Resurrection and the Life!
He is the only One who can breathe new life into Ezekiel’s and Jamaica’s dead bones, into desperate circumstances, into troubled communities, and into a confused nation. The eternal question for Martha and for us in this age is: ” Do you believe this?
That is the only reason why The Mississippi Mass Choir can sing Your Grace and Mercy and thus touch a chord deep in our hearts regardless of ‘ where we come from’. As God in Christ has shown His love for all who have sinned and fallen short of his glory – every one ah we. So we thank God for Jesus and sing Your Gracie and Mercy Day after day! Month after month! Until thy kingdom come.
THE SECOND MESSAGE – sent to the same folks, features one of the challenges of the Christian faith, which, in part, Good Friday exemplifies, that anyone who confesses Christ, will be subject to persecution of one form or another. Further, that in the face of such evil, we are called to be patient and persistent in prayer and faith, and not to conform to the ways of this world. And which subtle but unfortunate ‘bowing to pressure’, constitutes the greatest challenge to the witness of the church in this generation.
I recall a woman mounting a stout defense of Kartel on television one night during the news. At then end, she quoted Garnett Silk’s famous song; ” God a God”. And then confidently intoned that this God would somehow take care of, or vindicate, Kartel.
Then this morning during my devotions, featuring a meditation on Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount:
” Blessed are the poor in sprit….those who mourn….the meek….those who hunger and thirst for righteousness……those who are persecuted”; I came across another and quite different quotation. This time from Benjamin E. Fernando – Persecution is one of the surest signs of the genuineness of our Christianity.
Then I recalled the famous passage in the Book of Hebrews – chap 11 – concerning those saints of yure whose faith led them into all kinds of persecution, and went searching for it. But as I turned the pages, I went beyond Hebrews and ended up in 1 Peter and found this:
Dear friends, do not be astonished that a trial by fire is occurring among you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice in the degree that you have shared in the sufferings of Christ, so that when his glory is revealed you may also rejoice and be glad. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory, who is the Spirit of God, rests on you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or thief or criminal or as a troublemaker. But if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but glorify God that you bear such a name. For it is time for judgment to begin, starting with the house of God. And if it starts with us, what will be the fate of those who are disobedient to the gospel of God? And if the righteous are barely saved, what will become of the ungodly and sinners? So then let those who suffer according to the will of God entrust their souls to a faithful Creator as they do good. (1 Peter 4:12-19 NET).
Then I recalled that , just simply requesting Divine Intervention got someone into all kinds of trouble recently. Therefore, one of the challenges the church faces, and by extension the entire society, including people like Keiron King who revels in writing about things of God, is that this God is not to be mocked. There are consequences awaiting if we continue down that road, whether we believe it or not. The role, or one of many, of a compassionate church, in this scenario is to gently, but firmly and repeatedly, using the Word of God, and our own lives, to help to rid people of error in their understanding of who God is. The reality is however, that the church will always come under attack, be subject to persecution, and be regarded as ” old fashioned” in this struggle for the soul of a nation. What then shall we do in the face of persecution?
According to the meditation by Chris Tiegreen entitled ” Swimming Upstream….” a little conformity here, a little conformity there, and suddenly we are inoffensive Christians in an offensive crowd. I would suggest that the message of Good Friday does violence to any such retreat from the battle and temptation to conform. As God is not just God, but the One who was revealed on the Cross of Calvary, the One who died for the sins of Kartel and all of us, Christ Jesus. And then was raised from the dead with power, so that we too may live a new life. A completely different kind of life, and the same life that Jesus spoke about in the sermon on the Mount. Blessed are the poor in spirit….
THE THIRD MESSAGE – WAS SENT TO ONE OF JAMAICA’S MOST POPULAR JOURNALISTS, ET AL, WHO HAS BEEN ENTERTAINING, IF NOT PROVOKING, A DEBATE ON WHETHER OR NOT THE BIBLE IS A DIVINE TEXT OR ‘MESSY HISTORY BOOK’ – ACCORDING TO ONE OF OUR NEW COLUMNISTS – KEIRAN KING.
Dear Cliff: On the way home this evening I caught a section of the discussion on whether the Bible is a Divine Text or ‘ messy history book’, featuring a Christian Deacon Peter Espeut, and Atheist Kieran King.
As I listened the following thoughts and reminders came into my head. In no particular order!
– that as the Bible explains, ‘the kingdom of God is not about talk, but about power”. And the Bible is all about promoting God’s Kingdom. With power! The final revelation of which Kingdom is the life, death, resurrection, ascension and the promised and prophesied return as Judge, of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. It is amazing that both yourself and King, recipients of a wonderful educational experience at Campion through the Jesuits, and at Excelsior through one of Jamaica’s finest Christian sons, Wesley Powell, all through the power of The Holy Spirit, could fail to be impressed with the power of the Christian God. A demonstration of which power has a long and glorious lineage in the history of mankind. And of recent vintage, the kind of power which allowed most of us, children of slaves, to be free to pursue life and happiness in this age. Which is quite the opposite to what our forebears experienced, until with power, Baptist Deacon Sam Sharpe and others acted.
– That is is a pity, but quite predictable from the perspective of we who understand the ways of Satan, the evil one, that this discussion has been ongoing in Lent, and now on the eve of Passion Week. A Period of time in the country’s history when those who believe in Christ and Him Crucified, the majority of Jamaicans, and most of those who listen to your radio station, find deep meaning and peace in the celebration of the death of Christ for our sins, and His glorious Resurrection through the power of the Holy Spirit.
– that the Bible is not a history book, per se, but a story, given by Divine revelation, of the Gospel. The good news about Christ, and God’s plan for the forgiveness of mankind’s sinful nature; the history of which sinfulness, altered someone in pursuit of creativity, is the story behind the new and exciting movie, Noah. You may benefit from viewing it.
– therefore, as I wrote in the inside cover of my Bible many years ago, by Divine inspiration, the following truths are apposite:
1. That without Jesus, God is an abstraction – John 14:6-7 NIV
2. Without the Holy Spirit, it is not possible to believe that Jesus is God – John 14:26
3. And The Holy Spirit will only enter a humble heart – Psalm 51:17
– that the word of God is indeed living and active; every part of it. All Scripture is God-breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. And whether Fundamentalist or not, over the centuries, the Word of God has been used, with power, to fight against evil, and to promote right living; even as Christians have approached the end of this life.
– therefore it is not our role to convince either the one who ‘provokes the discussion’, or any unbeliever, about the effectiveness and the sufficiency of the Blood of Christ to wash away the sins of mankind. Which is ultimately what the Bible is all about – reconciling sinful man with a Holy God, in and through the death and resurrection of Christ. Our role is to preach the Gospel with power and the Holy Spirit will convict men and women of sin. Even at high noon as He did with Paul ‘on the road to Damascus’. Who to tell when and if both yourself and King will be convicted of Sin, before a Holy God, as we who love The Lord Jesus, have been so convicted? That is God’s business. The most we can say is that ” because we fear God, we try to persuade men”.
– The suggestion from King based on his ‘research’ is that the more ‘educated’…read enlightened…someone is, the less likely he or she is to to become religious, may well be true from his perspective. From the Christian perspective however, the reality is that, the more someone is convicted of Sin, the more that person will love Jesus Christ- the Only One appointed and anointed by God, to save mankind from their sins.
– therefore we read the Bible to learn more about Christ and Him Crucified, as without Him we can never be reconciled to a Holy God. That’s the essence of what the Bible teaches! You and Keiron can chose either to believe or not. With the prophesied consequences always in mind.
– Finally, I came to faith in Christ Jesus, because my parents were believers. That’s the power of the family that trusts in God. That power is available to a nation that trusts in the God of Jacob. To produce a vast army to fight against the kind of evil revealed during Dionne Jackson-Miller’s interview on television with the Commissioner of Police. That’s the kind of choice that Good Friday offers once again next week Friday. To have lively but entirely useless discourse with an atheist, or to join the army of God in pursuit of Righteousness, Justice, in order that our people and our nation may be rescued from the evil of organized crime, and other such evils.
The Christian God, in and through Christ Jesus, as revealed in Holy Scriptures, has a track record of power and mercy in this country! What track record of power do the atheists have?
I pray God, then, with the love of Christ, who takes no pleasure in the death of any sinner, but that all should turn and repent, that both yourself and Kieran, by grace, may come to have a humble heart, and fall down and worship He who died for you. The Holy One of Israel! The God who, in Christ became man, so that we should not perish, but have life everlasting. And that is Bible truth my friend. Chose well this Good Friday.
A ‘response from The Lord ‘ which continued the next day as
THE FOURTH AND FINAL MESSAGE
One of the remarkable things about what some are calling a ‘messy history book’, and what we know as the Word of God, the same Word that became flesh in the Living Word Christ Jesus, is its relevance for all ages. And power to change even the most desperate circumstances.
In this context then, as I was led to read Chris Tiegreen’s meditation for today entitled ” The Meaning of Silence”, and featuring one of the great teaching lessons of God – persistence in asking, persistence in believing even when He is silent when we pray – I was reminded of another teaching passage in the Bible on the virtue of persistent faith- in the face of danger.
I don’t know about anyone else, but on reading the words form the book of Habakkuk, written around 605 BC, I can see reference to the high level of murder in our country and to the strife in our nation ….How long O Lord; to Dudus and Kartel – extortion; to profiteering; to political manipulation of communities for the sake of power…..and to organized crime; to gross immorality and pornography and bacchanal. But most importantly to judgement and to the promised mercy of Christ, even as we await the promised vision and are encouraged to be persistent in our faith as we await the revelation, in the midst of the silence…how long shall I cry. And you do not hear.
As a country, we would do well to wait upon The Lord in faith, rather than be distracted by ‘foolish arguments’, on the one hand, and any thoughts of a ‘silver bullet’ to solve our problems on the other hand. And all of this wisdom and power coming from, not a ‘ messy history book, but from the very mouth of the Living God. With power, because of obedience.
THE WORD OF GOD
Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.” Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.”………. Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment. (Matthew 15:21-23, 28 NIV)
O Lord, how long shall I cry, And You will not hear? Even cry out to You, “Violence!” And You will not save. Why do You show me iniquity, And cause me to see trouble? For plundering and violence are before me; There is strife, and contention arises. Therefore the law is powerless, And justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous; Therefore perverse judgment proceeds. (Habakkuk 1:2-4 NKJV)
I will stand at my watch and station myself on the ramparts; I will look to see what he will say to me, and what answer I am to give to this complaint. Then the Lord replied: “Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it. For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay. “See, the enemy is puffed up; his desires are not upright— but the righteous person will live by his faithfulness —
“Will not all of them taunt him with ridicule and scorn, saying, “ ‘Woe to him who piles up stolen goods and makes himself wealthy by extortion! How long must this go on?’ Will not your creditors suddenly arise? Will they not wake up and make you tremble? Then you will become their prey.
Because you have plundered many nations, the peoples who are left will plunder you. For you have shed human blood; you have destroyed lands and cities and everyone in them. “Woe to him who builds his house by unjust gain, setting his nest on high to escape the clutches of ruin! You have plotted the ruin of many peoples, shaming your own house and forfeiting your life. The stones of the wall will cry out, and the beams of the woodwork will echo it.
“Woe to him who builds a city with bloodshed and establishes a town by injustice! Has not the Lord Almighty determined that the people’s labor is only fuel for the fire, that the nations exhaust themselves for nothing? For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.
“Woe to him who gives drink to his neighbours, pouring it from the wineskin till they are drunk, so that he can gaze on their naked bodies! You will be filled with shame instead of glory. Now it is your turn! Drink and let your nakedness be exposed ! The cup from the Lord ’s right hand is coming around to you, and disgrace will cover your glory.
The Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him. (Habakkuk 2:1-4, 6-16, 20 NIV)
P.S. Norman Girvan, one of the great minds of this modern era, came to faith in Christ Jesus. And so did countless other brilliant minds in the history of mankind, even some of the best known scientists including the remarkable Blaise Pascal. All because of the Word of God as revealed in Holy Scriptures, and with power, in the life and death of the Living Word, Christ Jesus- the fulfilment of the vision about which Habakkuk prophesied.
My prayer is that this week we will all take time out to do some reflection on the state of our beloved country, the entire world in which we live, and our own souls, as we contemplate, once again, why Jesus died. And give thanks that because of His resurrection, all things can be, and have been made new in Christ who is truly the Life and the Resurrection. The question is, do we believe? As all other issues in life pale into insignificance in comparison to this eternal question. Thus is the importance of Passion Week. For me and for you, for Jamaica, and for the entire world.