Hope in Nigeria, Pain in Kingston, and Rest in Christ Jesus

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 of  the Decade of Evangelism.


NEWS

1. Even Michelle  Obama the American First Lady,got into the act – and locally a team of women with Senator Imani Duncan-Pryce involved – as  #BringBackOurGirls became a rallying cry for the International Community this week. Across the globe concerns were raised about the fate of the more than 200 school girls who were abducted in Northern Nigeria….Did you feel the earthquake@8:45 pm….. The latest news from the Governor of Nigeria’s Borno state is that he has information on the whereabouts of the girls. And also out of France came news the French President is organizing a  summit to deal  with the situation. We continue to pray for God’s mercy and deliverance for these youngsters and their families.

http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/nigerian-kidnapped-girls-sighted

The governor of Nigeria’s Borno state says he has information on the whereabouts of about 200 schoolgirls kidnapped by Islamist group Boko Haram.

Governor Kashim Shettima said he had passed reports of the sightings of the girls to the military for verification.

Shettima added that he did not think the girls had been taken across the border to Chad or Cameroon.

Earlier, France’s president offered to host a summit on Boko Haram.

“I suggested, with Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, a meeting of Nigeria’s neighbouring countries” Francois Hollande said.

“If the countries agree, it should take place next Saturday” he added.

2. Back here in Jamaica terror reigned in an inner city area as marauding gunmen snuffed out the lives of five persons over a two day period.

Hell in West Kingston
Five shot dead between Tuesday night and yesterday

http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Hell-in-West-Kingston_16623966


BY KIMMO MATTHEWS Observer staff reporter matthewsk@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, May 08, 2014    113 Comments


  


This placard carries a strong message from residents of West Kingston who say they are tired of violence in their communities.

FIVE people were shot and killed in the Kingston Western Police Division between Tuesday and yesterday evening as gunmen continued their rampage in the city’s west end.

3. Finally this week witnessed the end of a long debate about a controversial Project to provide cheap electricity to the country. The Cabinet, under pressure from Civil Society,  took action and  ‘yanked’ the project from the Minister in charge and appointed a special team to complete the implementation. Again we pray for speedy action and completion.

http://jis.gov.jm/cabinet-appoint-381-megawatt-project-enterprise-team/

Cabinet will be appointing an enterprise team headed by Dr. Vincent Lawrence, to oversee the full implementation of the construction of a 381-megawatt energy plant in Jamaica by 2016.

Minister of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining, Hon. Phillip Paulwell made the announcement, on Tuesday, May 6, as he opened the 2014/15 Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives.

“The enterprise team will report to Prime Minister, the Most Hon Portia Simpson Miller and the Cabinet. The enterprise team will be mandated to have the project implemented by 2016. That timing is sacrosanct,” Mr. Paulwell outlined.


THE WORD OF GOD

In the midst of these troubled times, The Lord send encouraging messages. The first one was about God’s faithfulness. A word we need to hear more and more as violence flares its ugly head; in Nigeria, in Kingston Jamaica, and all over the world. This is a God on Whom we can depend for mercy and for intervention, even when the situation seems hopeless. And so pray and continue to trust that God will work out all things in His own time.

THE FIRST MESSAGE – SENT TO MY CHURCH


Ever wondered about the great cycle of life. Every night we go to bed and then once again wake up the next morning;  and if you sleep well, completely oblivious of what took place during the long hours of the night. Last night the thought crossed my mind. And this morning I woke up with ‘ Great is thy faithfulness ‘ in my mind. And  ‘There is no shadow of turning with thee’.

We are so completely dependent on God’s love and mercy, as many , with His full knowledge and Sovereign grace and power – which we do even begin to comprehend – do not wake up next morning. And then, and then,  ‘ strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow’, as we start the day, and begin the great cycle of life all over again.

Then to tie it all together, last night, for my bedtime reading from Oswald Chambers’ ” My Utmost for His Highest’, perhaps the most well known devotional over the years, I read the following:


Judgment and the Love of God
The time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God . . . -1 Peter 4:17
The Christian servant must never forget that salvation is God’s idea, not man’s; therefore, it has an unfathomable depth. Salvation is the great thought of God, not an experience. Experience is simply the door through which salvation comes into the conscious level of our life so that we are aware of what has taken place on a much deeper level. Never preach the experience- preach the great thought of God behind the experience. When we preach, we are not simply proclaiming how people can be saved from hell and be made moral and pure; we are conveying good news about God.

In the teachings of Jesus Christ the element of judgment is always brought out- it is the sign of the love of God. Never sympathize with someone who finds it difficult to get to God; God is not to blame. It is not for us to figure out the reason for the difficulty, but only to present the truth of God so that the Spirit of God will reveal what is wrong. The greatest test of the quality of our preaching is whether or not it brings everyone to judgment. When the truth is preached, the Spirit of God brings each person face to face with God Himself.

If Jesus ever commanded us to do something that He was unable to equip us to accomplish, He would be a liar. And if we make our own inability a stumbling block or an excuse not to be obedient, it means that we are telling God that there is something which He has not yet taken into account. Every element of our own self-reliance must be put to death by the power of God. The moment we recognize our complete weakness and our dependence upon Him will be the very moment that the Spirit of God will exhibit His power.

Comment: One of the most severe of Christian disciplines that we all have to undergo, is to learn, sometimes very painfully,  that : ” Every element of self-reliance must be put to death by the power of God……..and that we must become ‘ completely weak and totally dependent on Him’, in order for God’s Power to be exhibited in us. Why?
So that no one shall boast  before The Lord, and that He, the Creator and Redeemer shall receive all the praise and the glory. Remember the story of Gideon! 

Only then shall we really understand  ” strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow”. Only then will the people of  God, in this,  ‘ demon possessed land, ‘ with the Power of God,  be able to  ‘set captives free’, ‘ bring back the stray’, ‘search for the lost’, ‘strengthen the weak’, ‘ heal the sick’ and ‘bind up the wounded’. In Jamaica, in Nigeria, in Trinidad, in the USA, in the UK, in Ukraine, in Malaysia, in Korea. As that is our mission……to bring the gospel to the ends of the earth.
But first: ” Lord renew thy church beginning with me; Lord renew thy church that the church may renew the nation(s).
And we wait with confidence as ” Great is thy faithfulness”

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father,
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not
As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.

Refrain

Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided—
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above,
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!


THE SECOND MESSAGE – SENT TO PEOPLE OF INFLUENCE

Triggered by a spasm of violence which has rocked a small area in the capital city of Jamaica; and featuring  the words of a wonderful hymn which has been  in head for some time now. And also instructions from the Word of God about  patience and Whois in charge despite the seemingly hopeless situation – in Kingston or in Nigeria.



Last night on TVJ, I was struck by the bewilderment on the face of MP for Western Kingston Desmond McKenzie. And the tone of the conversation with the intrepid journalist who was conducting the interview bordered on hopelessness. As once again, gunmen  had struck down three persons in the constituency! A situation which represents perhaps the number one problem for most Jamaicans; and I would venture to say that the need for a job is not far behind. Yes the discussion on, and recent revelations about,  the project to provide cheap electricity, will attract attention and comment;  on main stream media and even more so on social media. Yes, the booklist for the new term, and the Goat Island’ issue – which has now ‘gone abroad’ and featured in the National Geographic recently- and yes, the sliding dollar and the stringent terms of the IMF agreement. But people are not losing any sleep over these matters. But crime now is a horse of a different color. Especially for the poor and the marginalized;  Franz Fanon’s and Norman Girvan’s ‘wretched of the earth’. And Jesus’ ‘ the least of my people’. And so the MP is bemused. Perhaps so too the Minister of National Security, the Police Commissioner and most of all the Prime Minster. What is to be done?

I suspect we sang it on  Good Friday at my church, not sure, but last night it became my ‘song in the night’. And so I woke up with it in my head. Right through the early part of my devotions, it came back like a recurrent decimal. So there must be something that The Lord is using it to tell us.

My Spirit Longs for Thee

My spirit longs for thee
Within my troubled breast
Though I unworthy be
Of so divine a guest: 

Of so divine a guest
Unworthy though I be, 
Yet has my heart no rest,
Unless it come from Thee:

Unless it come from Thee,
In vain I look around:
In all that I can see
No rest is to be found:

No rest is to be found,
But in thy blessed love:
O let my wish be crowned,
And send it from above! 
John Byrom

And as I pondered the meaning of this poem and hymn which was reverberating in my head, my mind went to a passage in The Book of Revelations about this ‘ divine guest”. And which passage of Scripture is preceded by some very profound words from John ‘the revelator’.

I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and among the lampstands was someone like a son of man, dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance. When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades. (Revelation 1:9, 12-18 NIV)

I would suggest we need to learn two things from this passage and about life in general and life in Jamaica today. Patience and perspective. In the sense that a large part of the reason why the Christian church has become relatively ineffective, at least in guiding the nation morally, has to do with the misguided notion that the God we serve is a God who fixes everything ‘ right now’. And closely allied to that misconception, at best, and deliberate insertion at worse, is the notion that God’s people ought not to suffer. And that is clearly not what John is teaching in his opening sentence of this passage. A ‘revelation’ that is of huge importance, believe it or not,  in how we conduct public policy, and build up expectations in our nation. As a large part of our problem in this nation, is the mindset of a people who want everything ‘right now’. The  insemination and birth  of which national psyche in the life of our people, has many midwives. Not the least of which is the nature of the kind of politics of ‘ promising the world and his cousin’,  we have practiced in order to gain state power. And many have learnt the lesson of wanting it ‘right now’, very well;  the ‘don’ – and so people die that they may rule –  many unscrupulous business people – and so taxes are evaded and super-profits made so that kith and kin may enjoy riches ‘right now’, both young and old in their relationships, young people in pursuit of the material rewards of life. And worse of all, many Christians in their unapologetic and scandalous  pursuit and expectation of ‘blessings from God’ ‘right now’. And so the ‘chickens are coming home to roost’. So bloodshed follows bloodshed, as Hosea prophesied.

Perspective is realizing that our proper response to the Jesus who died, was raised from the dead, and now sits on the right hand of the Father, is to ‘ fall down at his feet as if we are dead”. In the sense that for too long, we have  ‘formed the fool’, I cannot find a better Jamaican phrase, in how we have treated with ‘ the divine guest’ among us. In our response  now to God’s holy Word, when compared to the reverence with with our forefathers treated the Bible and its application to daily life.
Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it. (Proverbs 22:6 NKJV) is a perfect example of how we have missed an opportunity to  shape the values and morals of our people. As many in the political, intellectual, business and media sectors of our society,  and sadly some within the church,  have conspired actively to undermine the Word of God, and the presence of the ‘divine guest’ in this country to our detriment.
And so the murder and mayhem caused by children who have gone in an entirely different direction from that taught by the ‘divine guest’, now plague a nation and bemuse its leaders.

So what is to be done!

My spirit longs for thee
within my troubled breast…..ought to become a national prayer and a cry for mercy; from a God who is more than willing to have mercy on those who cry out to Him day and night. In faith, without doubt and with a repentant heart. May God have mercy on the people in Western Kingston and all of us. In Jamaica, in Nigeria, in Trinidad and wherever crime and violence rear their ugly head. n that hope we wait with patience and suffer with the ‘wretched of the earth’ and Jesus’ ‘ least of these my people’. For in the end we know that our ‘ redeemer liveth’ and will act to rescue tis nation. For His own glory and in His own time.
Peace.
LWJ

THE THIRD MESSAGE – SENT TO MY CHURCH

The reflection on the hymn continued and resulted in further revelations from The Lord ; about in Whom we find rest and peace, in the midst of trouble. And to Whom we need to turn in the midst of temptations and distractions. In order that our spirits may remain focused on Christ and to be mindful of our mandate to spread the gospel to the whole world – Nigeria, the USA

My spirit longs for thee
Within my troubled breast
Though I unworthy be
Of so divine a guest: 

Of so divine a guest
Unworthy though I be, 
Yet has my heart no rest,
Unless it come from Thee:

Unless it come from Thee,
In vain I look around:
In all that I can see
No rest is to be found:

No rest is to be found,
But in thy blessed love:
O let my wish be crowned

I have spent all week reflecting on this hymn. Singing this hymn in the days. Thinking about it in the evenings.

And this happened:

1. My spirit has become dry because it forgets to feed on you – John of the Cross

Comment:  Validation from  a famous Saint of yure – 16th Century. Author of two great poems. One of which ‘ Dark Night of the Soul’ was quoted recently by the Minister of National Security in his now famous ” Divine Intervention” speech. The other is ‘Spiritual Canticle’

2. Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says: “Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, In the day of trial in the wilderness, Where your fathers tested Me, tried Me, And saw My works forty years. Therefore I was angry with that generation, And said, ‘They always go astray in their heart, And they have not known My ways.’ So I swore in My wrath, ‘They shall not enter My rest.’ ” Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end, while it is said: “Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.” For who, having heard, rebelled? Indeed, was it not all who came out of Egypt, led by Moses? Now with whom was He angry forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose corpses fell in the wilderness? And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief. (Hebrews 3:7-19 NKJV)

Comment: My mind led me to this passage of Scripture for two reasons. One is that it is often used by the SDA church to justify, wrongly in my view, the need to keep the Sabbath. Two is that the whole topic of ‘Rest’  – God our true rest and healing    
http://www.anglicanhealingconference.com  – is the Theme for the Healing Conference this year.

3.Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ. But with most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness. Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted. And do not become idolaters as were some of them. As it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.” Nor let us commit sexual immorality, as some of them did, and in one day twenty-three thousand fell; nor let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed by serpents; nor complain, as some of them also complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer. Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. (I Corinthians 10:1-11 NKJV)

Comment: Immediately on reflecting again on the Hebrew passage, my I was led to this other one. Which really needs little comment. Except to remind us to ‘very careful how we live’, as we have indeed been warned.

4.For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. Now this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I may be partaker of it with you. (I Corinthians 9:19-23 NKJV)

Comment: This passage comes immediately before the # 3, and  I found it particularly challenging. As, the question of how ‘timid’ have we been ‘for the sake of the gospel’, looms large  indeed in this Word. For all of us!

So then my friends in Christ, it is a very serious thing to allow our spirit to become dry, by not ‘feeding on Christ’.  By not inviting the ‘ divine guest, continuously into our hearts; as then ‘no rest is to be found’. 
And the consequences, for that ‘lack of rest’….”For no mater how many promises God has made,  they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the ‘Amen’ is spoken by us, to the glory of God ( 2 Cor. 1:20)…….. are dire for both ourselves and for others who need to hear the gospel. And what makes us prone to forget. Basketball playoffs? World Cup ‘futbol’? Political intrigue? Technology in general, and smart phones in particular, and all the beguiling things on offer? The pleasures of life? The worries of life? Grandchildren in particular, and children and spouses? Church-work? Work? Whatever it is, it is a very dangerous thing.
Peace.
LWJ
May those who have died in Christ,  rest in peace; and those who have been ill and have been the recipients of God’s grace and mercy continue to heal and give thanks. For in Christ all find ‘rest’. Including the SDA congregations.

 

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