In times like these World Cup Football is king: In times like these we need a Savior – 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 for the Decade of Evangelism.

NEWS

1. Every four years,  the ‘greatest show on earth, World Cup Football finals, trumps  everything else taking place on planet earth. The Jihadist surge in parts of Iraq, with the imposition of Sharia law, and the plight and flight of Christians; the continuing war in Syria; the loss of life in Ukraine – government troops died in a fireball as an aircraft was shot down; the ongoing vicious attacks by  Boko haram in Nigeria. All such news was almost forgotten as arguably the best player in the world, Lionel Messi, in a moment of sheer magic, sent  his adoring fans into a frenzy, when he scored his first goal against a plucky Bosnian team late Sunday evening. And this after  the Brazilian star  Neymar, and the Flying Dutchman Van Persie had created headlines all across the world after each one had scored a double in their respective opening games. Such is the power of the ‘ beautiful game’.

http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/worldcup/news/Neymar-lights-up-Cup-opener_16881788

2. Meanwhile back home anger is rising, tongues are wagging, and people are lamenting the state of the nation even more than before,  as a male jogger was reportedly raped by a gang of  men this week.

http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/male-jogger-gang-raped_16858870

3. And another story which had been playing out in the media for a few weeks, took a another turn this week.  As news broke that the embattled Professor Brendan Bain had been reinstated in his job by the Supreme Court after he filed an injunction claiming that he had been wrongly dismissed from his post as the Head of the CHART programme, and asked the court to bar his dismissal until the case is tried. He was successful and a date is to be set for the trial

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=53531

THE WORD OF GOD

So in the midst of the excitement f World Cup and other happenings in my country what inspired word did The Lord send this week.

THE FIRST MESSAGE  – SENT TO LEADERS IN MY COUNTRY. AND FEATURED  A LITTLE  KNOWN  STORY IN THE BIBLE WHICH I CANNOT RECALL EVER HAVING READ. BUT TO WHICH I WAS LED THIS WEEK. AND FOR GOOD REASONS AS ALL OF US AND FORMER PM PJ PATTERSON CONTINUE TO LAMENT THE STATE OF AFFAIRS  OF OUR COUNTRY AND PONDER ON THE SOLUTIONS.

THE CAPTION – Leadership does matter, but blessed is the nation whose God is The Lord . Ps. 33:12

It’s a long story about a King, a leader of one section of God’s ‘chosen’ people. Chosen, only  in the sense that  God, in His wisdom, decided  to reveal Himself to them in a special way.  But not special…”for God so loved the world”.

I had  no intention of reading this story of apostasy and rebellion and the attendant and prophesied consequences. But as I opened my Bible this morning there it was.
And the chilling words which caught my attention : ” You will not prosper. Because you have forsaken The Lord he has forsaken you”.
Left to me I would not be so presumptuous to declare in the middle of Half-Way-Tree, that ‘God has forsaken Jamaica”. Never!  But stop and think about our country for a moment in the light of the challenging words which were preceded ..you will not prosper :

” Then the Spirit of The Lord came up on  Zechariah son of Jehoiada the priest. He stood before he people and said: 
This is what God says: Why do you disobey the Lord’s commands? You will  not prosper. Because you have forsaken The Lord, he has forsaken you” 2 Chronicles 20. NIV.

This puts a different spin on this Word from The Lord this morning. Has the church, those filled with the Spirit of God, and who have not ‘bowed down and kissed Baal’,  been warning this nation, for years, about turning away from the God of Sam Sharpe, the God of George William Gordon and the God of Paul Bogle? All leaders who believed in – committed to –  the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who with a mighty hand rescued the nation from slavery!
Is that the reason, or is there another, why for so long we have not prospered as a nation? Was it really just ( IMF)  Michael Manley’s Fault?  Or can we lay the blame at the feet of one Edward George Phillip Seaga; or the long serving  PJ. What role in the current state affairs of our nation did Bruce play, or ‘bitter medicine’ Andrew. And now, no doubt some are asking the same questions about Sister P.

Is it then just the fault of our political leaders why Jamaica’s economy, surrounded by others in the Caribbean, has performed so poorly over such a long period of time resulting in so much poverty and privation?  Can we also blame them for PJ’s lament – carrying us to the brink morally?  The headlines of yesterday’s Observer may move some to believe that we might very well be at the point of no return. No doubt, our political and other leaders – in business, in academia, the professional class, the working class – have contributed to the  sad state in which we find ourselves as a nation.
But the Word of God reveals that there is another reason. One which we ought to consider seriously. As if God is against us, who can help us!  We like King Joash have done wrong. An egregious wrong!  Like him, rooted in history of God being kind to us, we have turned away to ‘false gods’, and to Jeremiah’s ‘broken cistens, that can hold no water”. And thus we flounder as a nation from one crisis to another, and wonder why?
I would beg you to read, as I was led to read this morning – out of the blue – an abridged  version of King Joash’s apostasy. And the consequences thereof. But also with the knowledge that, in Christ, God through the church, is still calling this nation back to Himself. Even as we lament rape, and murder and so many lost opportunities – in the middle of the World Cup fever.

THE WORD OF GOD

Joash was seven years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem forty years. His mother’s name was Zibiah; she was from Beersheba. Joash did what was right in the eyes of the Lord all the years of Jehoiada the priest. Jehoiada chose two wives for him, and he had sons and daughters. ………………….

Now Jehoiada was old and full of years, and he died at the age of a hundred and thirty. He was buried with the kings in the City of David, because of the good he had done in Israel for God and his temple. After the death of Jehoiada, the officials of Judah came and paid homage to the king, and he listened to them. They abandoned the temple of the Lord, the God of their ancestors, and worshiped Asherah poles and idols. 

Because of their guilt, God’s anger came on Judah and Jerusalem. Although the Lord sent prophets to the people to bring them back to him, and though they testified against them, they would not listen. 

Then the Spirit of God came on Zechariah son of Jehoiada the priest. He stood before the people and said, “This is what God says: ‘Why do you disobey the Lord ’s commands? You will not prosper. Because you have forsaken the Lord, he has forsaken you.’ ” But they plotted against him, and by order of the king they stoned him to death in the courtyard of the Lord ’s temple. King Joash did not remember the kindness Zechariah’s father Jehoiada had shown him but killed his son, who said as he lay dying, “May the Lord see this and call you to account.” At the turn of the year, the army of Aram marched against Joash; it invaded Judah and Jerusalem and killed all the leaders of the people. They sent all the plunder to their king in Damascus. Although the Aramean army had come with only a few men, the Lord delivered into their hands a much larger army. Because Judah had forsaken the Lord, the God of their ancestors, judgment was executed on Joash. When the Arameans withdrew, they left Joash severely wounded. His officials conspired against him for murdering the son of Jehoiada the priest, and they killed him in his bed. So he died and was buried in the City of David, but not in the tombs of the kings. (2 Chronicles 24:1-3, 15-25 NIV)

THE SECOND MESSAGE IS REALLY A PART 11 OF THE FORST ONE. SENT TO THE SAME LEADERS WITH THE HOPE THAT THEY WOULD ACT DECISIVELY IN THE BEST INTEREST OF OUR NATION. SO WE CONTINUE TO PRAY.

So Professor Bain and his supporters have  been vindicated by the Supreme Court! Is this the final word on this highly emotive and widely publicized case? No doubt there will be legal, institutional and administrative challenges ahead, so we’ll see what  happens.  This Word from The Lord then,  is not all about Professor Bain vs UWI, but all about a God who redeems; and a God who ‘covers’ sins.

The other Word this week featured a story of a King and a people who had been ‘forsaken’ by God, because they forsook Him. But a careful reading of Holy Scriptures, and which character of God is perfectly manifested on the Cross of Calvary, will reveal that God is a God of compassion and mercy,  who does not abandon people forever, but rather is  anxious to redeem people; if they would but fear Him and obey all His commands.

So Jamaica, even when wicked gunmen, ‘turn back and under instructions’, shoot a defenseless and harmless and non-threatening woman in her head, has not been abandoned by the God who :

This is what God the Lord says— the Creator of the heavens, who stretches them out, who spreads out the earth with all that springs from it, who gives breath to its people, and life to those who walk on it: (Isaiah 42:5 NIV)

This is the lesson we learn from the history of the children of Israel; a rebellious and unruly people who God punished repeatedly, even though, and no doubt, especially because they were his ‘children’. But also a history of a people who God redeemed time and time again.

How did I get to this historical, and yet very contemporary,  truth in Isaiah?
By reflecting on the words of a hymn which has been in mind my mind all of this week.
1.    Be not dismayed whate’er betide, 
  God will take care of you; 
  beneath his wings of love abide, 
  God will take care of you.

Refrain:
  God will take care of you, 
  through every day, o’er all the way; 
  he will take care of you, 
  God will take care of you.

2.    Through days of toil when heart doth fail, 
  God will take care of you; 
  when dangers fierce your path assail, 
  God will take care of you.
  (Refrain)

3.    All you may need he will provide, 
  God will take care of you; 
  nothing you ask will be denied, 
  God will take care of you.
  (Refrain)

4.    No matter what may be the test, 
  God will take care of you;
  lean, weary one, upon his breast, 
  God will take care of you.
  (Refrain)

These are trying times for our nation. We have real and profound and intractable problems. Unlike Spain whose drubbing yesterday by the ‘ Flying Dutchmen’ will soon be but a distant memory! And in times like these we definitely need an anchor; we definitely need a Savior.

And so The Lord sends a Word to us this morning. A Word about a rebellious people who once trusted in God, but who had gone astray and suffered immeasurably. But who God redeemed and restored and blessed. So can we too in Jamaica, be rescued from evil men raping our women and children, and now even our ‘jogging’ men. Rescued from being a nation of so many ganja smokers, and where so many of our young people have literally ‘lost their mind’.  This according to Consultant Psychiatrist Winston De la  Haye speaking on Beyond The Headlines in response to what I consider to be a genuine attempt by Minister Golding to  begin a process to address an issue about which many Jamaicans feel very strongly ; the recreational, religious and medical use of cannabis. Rescued from murder most foul, from music with lyrics that would make a sailor blush, and from the general coarsening of our society.

The same Lord who the song writer promises will takes of us, and who no doubt was inspired by a Word from Isaiah or from another part of Holy Scriptures now  says at at the start:

“For a long time I have kept silent, I have been quiet and held myself back. But now, like a woman in childbirth, I cry out, I gasp and pant. I will lay waste the mountains and hills and dry up all their vegetation; I will turn rivers into islands and dry up the pools. I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them. But those who trust in idols, who say to images, ‘You are our gods,’ will be turned back in utter shame. You have seen many things, but you pay no attention; your ears are open, but you do not listen.” It pleased the Lord for the sake of his righteousness to make his law great and glorious. But this is a people plundered and looted, all of them trapped in pits or hidden away in prisons. They have become plunder, with no one to rescue them; they have been made loot, with no one to say, “Send them back.” Which of you will listen to this or pay close attention in time to come? Who handed Jacob over to become loot, and Israel to the plunderers? Was it not the Lord, against whom we have sinned? For they would not follow his ways; they did not obey his law. So he poured out on them his burning anger, the violence of war. It enveloped them in flames, yet they did not understand; it consumed them, but they did not take it to heart. (Isaiah 42:14-17, 20-25 NIV)

and then gives this promise to ‘take care of Israel’, and Jamaica, and any nation that fears Him and turns back to Him:

But now, this is what the Lord says— he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior; I give Egypt for your ransom, Cush and Seba in your stead. Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you, I will give people in exchange for you, nations in exchange for your life. Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bring your children from the east and gather you from the west. I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’ and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’ Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth— everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” (Isaiah 43:1-7 NIV)

So although we can discern a message to Professor Bain, that ‘when you pass through the fire you will not be burned’, there is a wider, much wider application of this message from The Lord for our nation.
I pray God, then,  that we as a nation would ‘hear and obey’, and  that our people would not continue to suffer and lament over the state of our nation. And, in this context, there is no doubt that if our political, academic, business and leaders in the media were to  set the example, this nation would be blessed by God.  For this is a God who is willing and more than able to take care of us – as He showed on the Cross of Calvary.  All to His glory and praise. Amen
LWJ

So as the Italian star player, Mario Balotelli broke the hearts of the vastly improved English Lions, on and off the field, and as our CONCACAF sister nation Costa Rica drove fear into the hearts of the most optimistic Uruguayan fans with their surprise victory over the weekend, this word from The Lord serves as a reality check. As after all the parties are done when the finals shall have taken place at the giant and iconic Maracana Stadium, in Brazil, people will still need The Lord. Will still need an anchor at all times. Will forever be in need of a Redeemer, for though for the moment there is magic in the feet of Christiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, we know also,  from the Word of God, that  ‘out of the hearts of men come all kinds of evil’. All the time! Until ‘thy kingdom come”. That’s why there is  renewed strife in Iraq of great concern to President Obama, and even more to the Christians worldwide. That’s the reason why gangs rape men and women all over the world. That’s the reason why murder most foul was committed in my country this week, as wicked gunmen cynically and without mercy put a bullet in the head of a defenceless woman. No, God has not ‘given up’ on my people. But many have ‘forgotten about God’. And we are paying a dear price for this apostasy.
I pray God that all of us will repent of this madness, as to whom then will we turn for help? Certainly not to Messi or Neymar. Nor to PJ Patterson!  As they,  like all of us are like dust, and to dust shall we return. But in Christ Jesus, crucified and resurrected, in Him alone we are assured of God’s unfailing love and great compassion. And life eternal!

 

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