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. What at least one prominent lawyer for the defense, is calling a victory over power and evil, characterized the results of a high profile case which came to a conclusion past this week in my country. This case has attracted national attention as the plaintiff in question, Mr. Butch Stewart is one of, if not the most powerful business tycoon in Jamaica. Someone who made his fortune in the hotel industry with the Sandals Brand now an Internationally well known name. And one who on at least one occasion made the Fortune list of billionaires. So this was no small matter when he took three of his former employees to court over an alleged pension fund breech. After a year of court room drama, the judge ruled against Mr. Stewart and the three accused were free to resume their lives unencumbered and unrestricted by prison walls. And so the lawyers for the accused were incensed, as it was their considered opinion that the might and power of Mr. Stewart had had undue influence on the state, and thus a case which had no merit, and which ought never have been allowed to proceed, was allowed to go to court. We will ‘watch this space’ for further developments
Stewart unhappy but accepts magistrate’s decision to free accused
BY DESMOND ALLEN Executive editor – special assignment firstname.lastname@example.org
2. The pronouncements and laments of former Prime Minister again came under the spotlight this week. He, having lamented the state of the Jamaican state after having held the reins of power for an unprecedented three terms. And so the questions
One columnist raises questions, in a piece I read tonight, that many are asking and considering deeply. Is Mr. Patterson for real, and we all agree with him about the fact that morally we are at the very brink of the precipice, or is there reason for cynicism?
The third story featuring ” put some clothes on” Rihanna, needs very little comment. Except to point out that this kind of restlessness, and attention seeking malady, masquerading as high fashion and a free spirit, is precisely the kind of issue which Bishop of Augustine describes so accurately in his famous quote featured in this reflection.
( God) …”You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless, until they can find rest in you.”
THE WORD OF GOD
So in the midst of this conundrum of whether or not there is justice for all, and the Mr. Patterson’s lament about our society, and about which we all agree, but how useful is this intervention so late on the day, in the midst of al of this, was there a Word from The Lord . In fact three messages. The first one sent off on the morning after the judgment against Mr. Stewart was announced. And sent to persons who can make a difference in my country, including the former PM. The essence of the message being the cry of everybody’s favorite Psalm: ” My help cometh from The Lord”. Psalm 121:1 Words immortalized in song by the peerless Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir….
THE FIRST MESSAGE
I was not going to write this morning, as I am determined that I am not going to be a social commentator. Again! In my opinion was a long time ago. That’s how I met Cliff, and Sandrea and others. Then in my devotions I came up on this quote from perhaps the most widely read theologian, both within and without the church, C. S. Lewis:
” Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The one thing it cannot be is moderately important”.
Therein l believe lies the dilemma that former Prime Minister P. J. Patterson and others face. As he, and many, many others, are all in agreement, and lament the declining morals of the Jamaican society; and we can all, in our sleep, recite the litany of problems. Crime and violence, dysfunctional families, increasing abuse of our children, corruption in high places, rampant immorality, an increasingly ill mannered and indisciplined society – at all levels. And the list goes on. The problem is that he, like other political leaders, before and after him, and if truth be told, a significant part of the leadership in business, academia, professionals and other segments of civil society, all believe, and act accordingly, that Christianity is of moderate importance. So we have a situation which another wise person advises is not possible: ” You cannot have Christian morals without Christianity”.
And whether you like or not, and whether you believe it or not, the main reason why the moral fabric of the Jamaican society is vastly different from the ‘good old days’, when a single murder was big news, is that many of us, in high and low places, no longer place all our trust in ” Puppa Jesus and Massa God”. The God of Abraham in whom our parents and grandparents trusted. And so fashioned an ethic and ethos which brought families to their knees at nights. Which guaranteed the ‘saying of grace’, before a meal. Which ensured their attendance at the worship service on a Sunday. Which encouraged them to leave back something on the dinner table in case someone came to visit and was hungry. Which made sure that you did not pass someone on the street without saying good morning. Which promoted an ethic of hard work in the fields, at school…no skylarking…Which encouraged fidelity and marriage or at least a stable common law ‘marriage’. Which make sure that you left home looking ‘spick and span’, even if had no shoes, or did not wear ‘briefs’ until you were going to high school…no, absolutely no, don’t even think about it… panties were absolutely de rigueur.
So what provoked this reflection this morning. Mr. Patterson’s conundrum! No. Mr. Butch Stewart’s reality check…Thank God for Jesus, as Patrick Lynch is a member of my church…No, not even that ‘big news’. Simply the powerful words of a hymn I came upon in my devotions this morning. And which praise and adoration, because He died to forgive us of our many, many sins, and thus set us free from sin and death unto everlasting life, was the glue which kept our society civilized. Until, in our ‘wisdom’, we became disobedient to the God of our parents and grandparents. And now we lament, and cry tears and wonder why, when the answer is staring us in the face. Literally!
Jesu, the very thought of thee
with sweetness fills the breast;
but sweeter far thy face to see,
and in thy presence rest.
No voice can sing, no heart can frame,
nor can the memory find,
a sweeter sound than Jesu’s name,
the savior of mankind.
O hope of every contrite heart,
O joy of all the meek
to those who ask how kind thou art,
how good to those who seek!
But what to those who find? Ah this
nor tongue nor pen can show;
the love of Jesus, what it is
none but his loved ones know.
Jesu, our only joy be thou,
as thou our prize wilt be;
in thee be all our glory now,
and through eternity.
The wonderful news, is that there is hope for our society. As we were encouraged during the Healing Conference over the weekend. Jesus is still calling.
Come to me all who are heavily laden, and I will give you Rest.
Mr. Patterson is a burdened man. And so too many others. He and all of us ought to return to the God of our parents, and then a society will find Rest from our restlessness as manifested in so many, many ills. As Christ and Him crucified, for our sins, is of infinite importance. For the power and influence of Butch Stewart, the might of the editorial pen of the Gleaner, and the received wisdom of the academics at UWI, and:
” All men, are all like grass,
and all their glory is like the flowers of the field;
the grass withers and the flowers fall,
but the word of the Lord stands forever.”
THE SECOND MESSAGE – SENT TO MEMBERS OF MY CHURCH
And features the reality of the Glory and Power to do good, being available to those who trust in God. Regardless of the circumstances. Whether opposed by men of power or fighting against evil of all form. As Our God is awesome indeed. So let us fear not, and proceed with the assurance that the God of Abraham is with us. Forever!
Be still for the presence of the Lord
The Holy One is here
Come bow before Him now
With reverence and fear
In Him no sin is found
We stand on holy ground
Be still for the presence of the Lord
The Holy One is here
Be still for the glory of the Lord
Is shining all around
He burns with holy fire
With splendor He is crowned
How awesome is the sight
Our radiant King of Light
Be still for the glory of the Lord
Is shining all around
Be still for the power of the Lord
Is moving in this place
He comes to cleanse and heal
To minister His grace
No work too hard for Him
In faith receive from Him
Be still for the power of The Lord
Is moving in this place
Ever since I came back from Healing Conference this year, ” My God is awesome”, has been in my head. In my prayers, has me singing on the road, at office, at home, everywhere. Then this morning in my devotions, having spoken about it yesterday in particular at the church office, and elsewhere too, Grace’s rendition of, ” It is well with my soul”, and that which transpired – the tears, the dancing, the ‘getting in the spirit’, the bawling, the felling of the awesome presence of God – was placed in
context by the words of this hymn.
As all weekend the Presence of The Lord had been with us. In the presentations, the singing, the discussions, the testimonies, the prayers, the fellowship. All of this we ‘offered ‘ up to Him in whom no sin was found. Then at the Healing Service, the Glory of The Lord manifested Himself in different ways. One of which being the singing and the reaction which we all experienced and witnessed.
The key thing here now, is not only to ‘bask’ in the goodness of The Lord, but to Be Still and know that the Power of The Lord is with us, even when the Glory is no longer powerfully manifest, as the two disciples who ‘attended’ the Transfiguration were to find out. And He is here with us with Power to Cleanse, to Heal, and to Minister His Grace. Our role is to receive Him in Faith and ‘ streams of living waters, the Holy Spirit will flow from us”. Whether at Pentecost, or on ‘low Sunday’. Whether in church, or in the trenches! Whether in good times are in difficult circumstances. We can rest assured that He is here with us. Which was also the message from Oswald Chambers last night.
God’s Assurance June 5
He Himself has said . . . . So we may boldly say . . . -Hebrews 13:5-6
My assurance is to be built upon God’s assurance to me. God says, “I will never leave you,” so that then I “may boldly say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear’ ” (Hebrews 13:5-6). In other words, I will not be obsessed with apprehension. This does not mean that I will not be tempted to fear, but I will remember God’s words of assurance. I will be full of courage, like a child who strives to reach the standard his father has set for him. The faith of many people begins to falter when apprehensions enter their thinking, and they forget the meaning of God’s assurance- they forget to take a deep spiritual breath. The only way to remove the fear from our lives is to listen to God’s assurance to us.
What are you fearing? Whatever it may be, you are not a coward about it- you are determined to face it, yet you still have a feeling of fear. When it seems that there is nothing and no one to help you, say to yourself, “But ‘The Lord is my helper’ this very moment, even in my present circumstance.” Are you learning to listen to God before you speak, or are you saying things and then trying to make God’s Word fit what you have said? Take hold of the Father’s assurance, and then say with strong courage, “I will not fear.” It does not matter what evil or wrong may be in our way, because “He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you . . . .’ “
Human frailty is another thing that gets between God’s words of assurance and our own words and thoughts. When we realize how feeble we are in facing difficulties, the difficulties become like giants, we become like grasshoppers, and God seems to be nonexistent. But remember God’s assurance to us- “I will never. . . forsake you.” Have we learned to sing after hearing God’s keynote? Are we continually filled with enough courage to say, “The Lord is my helper,” or are we yielding to fear?
I pray God that we will all learn to receive Him in faith, and so have our minds renewed so that we may know and test God’s holy and perfect will. And so, as church, the body of Christ, manifest God’s Power and mercy and love in this restless nation, and in the wider Caribbean and to the ends of the earth.
So with gladness in our hearts we remember Healing Conference 2014, and all others where the Presence of The Lord has been with us. But more than that, with an assurance of His Power we go forth to do His will, day by day.
THE FINAL MESSAGE – AGAIN SENT TO MR. PATTERSON ET AL…ON THE EVE OF THE CELEBRATION OF THE POURING OUT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT AT PENTECOST.
TWO QUESTIONS AND A WARNING WHICH SHOULD CAUSE ALL OF US TO PAUSE CLOSE THIS WEEKS MESSAGE. I PRAY GOD WE WILL ALL LISTEN WELL AND BE OBEDIENT. AS THERE IS NO SHADOW OF TURNING WITH GOD.
SO THE QUESTION REALLY , IS, WHAT IS MAN, THAT WE THINK SO MUCH OF OURSELVES? WHEN COMPARED TO A MIGHTY GOD! AND SO A SOCIETY IS WITHOUT REST UNTIL WE UNDERSTAND WHO WE ARE, FOR WHOM WE WERE MADE, AND IN WHOM WE FIND TRUE REST. WHY DID RIHANNA ” PUT SOME CLOTHES ON”, JUST COME INTO MY MIND!
As I awoke this morning two messages came into my heart. Very clearly. One I sent out to my church…this little light of mine I gonna make it shine…and a question posed by a visitor to the website on which the song was posted ……when last have you shared the Light of Jesus, and the love of Jesus with some one else.
The other one I almost forgot. But as I searched for one of the readings for Pentecost Sunday tomorrow, in the book of Acts,…yes you are all invited; St Andrew Parish Church…8:00am…..I was reminded. And then a companion passage of Scripture came into my head….My God is awesome… from the book of Hebrews. The challenge for those who are leaders in this country as we read the passage from Acts, is to consider whether or not we are reading about a ‘foreign god’, or a familiar story. Then if we are indeed reading about a familiar story, the passage from the book of Hebrews poses an age old problem! Why do we not believe? And even further, the consequences of an unbelieving heart. Of not allowing God’s love and power to flow through us in and through Christ Jesus. And then we lament the decline of moral standards in Jamaica!
But whose fault is that? That’s one of the questions the two passages, when combined pose. But ultimately there is a third question, and not really a question but a warning, which is revealed at the end of the 17th chapter of the Book of the Acts of the Apostles. We may all wish to consider it well.
THE FIRST QUESTION
While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols. So he reasoned in the synagogue with both Jews and God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there. A group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to debate with him. Some of them asked, “What is this babbler trying to say?” Others remarked, “He seems to be advocating foreign gods.” They said this because Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection. (Acts 17:16-18 NIV)
THE SECOND QUESTION AND AN EXPLANATION FOR THE RESTLESSNESS OF THE JAMAICAN SOCIETY AT THIS TIME
So, as the Holy Spirit says: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the wilderness, where your ancestors tested and tried me, though for forty years they saw what I did. That is why I was angry with that generation; I said, ‘Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known my ways.’ So I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest.’ ” See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. As has just been said: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion.” Who were they who heard and rebelled? Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt? And with whom was he angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies perished in the wilderness? And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed? So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief. (Hebrews 3:7-13, 15-19 NIV)
“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’ “Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by human design and skill. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.” (Acts 17:24-29, 31 NIV)
As I was about to press the send button…My God is awesome…a famous quote from one whose writings greatly influenced the Western world’s understanding and practice of Christianity, came into my mind. And then I not only found the actual quote but the context. All of which helps us to appreciate even better the ‘restlessness’ of Mr. Patterson’s Jamaica in 2014.
“You have made us for yourself and our hearts are restless until they can find rest in you”. Augustine of Hippo.
by Dan Graves
“Our hearts are restless, until they can find rest in you.”
Augustine of Hippo (354–430), in Confessions.
Augustine by Sandro Boticelli
OUR HEARTS ARE RESTLESS
Behind Augustine are a succession of desperate searches for fulfillment: excessive pleasures, false religions, philosophy, dissipation and distractions—futilities that left him so weary of himself he could only cry out, “How long, O Lord, how long?” At the very moment when he uttered that cry, circumstances led his eyes to a passage in Romans that showed him he could be freed from sin. Shortly afterward, he was baptized.
Now, a decade since his baptism, after long musing upon the transformation that took place in him when he finally believed, he begins a unique autobiographical and philosophical prayer to God, a book which will become one of the most original and famous works in all of literature, the world’s first psychological “autobiography.” The Confessions will be his testimony of God’s interaction with a soul that has found rest in its Creator.
Heart bursting with the reality of God, he addresses his manuscript directly to the Lord as one long prayer and meditation—a prayer and meditation that will take him five years to complete. He dips his quill and begins, “Great are you, O Lord, and greatly to be praised; great is your power, and your wisdom is infinite.”
In contrast to God, he muses, what is man? Yet there is a connection between the two. Humans, such a small part of creation and short-lived as they are, still find a need to praise God. In spite of sin, each feels the longing to reach out to his Creator. Why is this? He realizes it is the doing of God. “You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless, until they can find rest in you.”
That line summarizes the theme of Augustine’s life and will not be bettered in all the writings that lie ahead of him, in which he will wrestle with the deepest issues of theology.