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. World Cup Football now about to reach it’s climax in Brazil, continues to be a major, major, news item in my country. To the extent that many people would not even have noticed that the West Indies lost the first 20/20 cricket match to New Zealand this week. Or that both Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Yohan Blake, two of our track stars, turned in sub-par performances this week. For by now the entire world knows that the Brazilian star player Neymar will miss the rest of the tournament on account of a fracture of the spine which he suffered during the match against Chile. And that in the semi-finals starting next Tuesday, it will South America vs Europe, as Brazil will play Germany, and then the following day, Holland will be up against Argentina. Who will win? For me, it’s always Brazil. Win lose or draw. Even in the absence of Neymar and the twice yellow carded Thiago Silva – the captain.
FIFA World Cup News, Results, Fixtures | Sky Sports
Follow the 2014 FIFA World Cup with Sky Sports. … Neymar feared career was over · World Cup section · Fixtures and results · World Cup quarter-finals …
2. The second bit of news about which so many Jamaican are talking is a far more serious matter that World Cup Football. Sudden, very suddenly, this week, the Commissioner of Police resigned. With immediate effect! As he proceeded to go on leave, prior to his departure. The reasons given by him, and repeated by the Minister of National Security, were not plausible, and hence rumors and speculation abound. A very unhealthy situation for nation stretched to the limit, trying desperately to bring under some measure of control, one of the highest murder rates in the entire world. And in this respect, the Commissioner presided over a period of significant reduction in major crimes, including murder. So as the young people would ask; what’s up with the Commissioner? The nation awaits further and better particulars on this matter. And prays for an already beleaguered country.
3. The final news item perhaps had as many people outside our country discussing it, as did so many within. As reportedly 25,000 persons, one of the largest in recent times, attended a mass rally organized by elements in the church in response to recent calls for the anti-buggery law to be repealed, or at lest to be reviewed. And, more importantly, for a message to be sent both the International Community, and local supporters, that Jamaica is strongly opposed to the promotion of same sex marriage.
Thousands rally against tossing out buggery act … – Jamaica Observer
7 days ago – POLICE last night estimated that around 25000 Jamaicans turned out in their black, green and gold to support the Jamaica CAUSE (Churches …
THE WORD OF GOD
What then did The Lord inspire me to read this week, as I cheered on my beloved Brazilian team #maracanadream. And as I agonized over the possibility of yet another troubling moment for my country. All of this happening as the church militant took to the streets.
THE FIRST MESSAGE – sent to leaders in my country, addresses the matter of the compassion of God for a world populated by people ‘beaten and worn down by the wages of sin”. A feature of human life that transcends social class, lifestyle, gender, nationality, and race. And the Only answer to the problem. A life committed to Christ Jesus.
The revelation began with new perspective on the story of the Good Samaritan. Progressed with a Word from Romans, and from John. And culminated on a reflection on the big news of the days.
Edited version of Chris Tiegreen’s Devotion for July 1, 2008.
COMPASSION OF THE NEEDY
Which of these do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers? Luke 10:36
………..But eventually God makes us look deeper at this practical parable and see it as a striking picture of our world. In the big picture, our race has fallen into the hands of robbers; it has been stripped, eaten, and left for half dead. We have all been ravaged by the wages of sin, and we suffer. This parable is not just a lesson on what to do, it is an illustration of what’s been done for us. We stop asking which character we really ought to be and God shows us which character we really are. The answer He reveals is humbling. First and foremost, we are not the priest, the Levite, or the Samaritan. We are the victim.
Everyone who has ever really known Jesus by faith has first known helplessness. We once lay beside he road and hoped someone would stop. He did. He was our good neighbor……The Samaritan in this story looks a lot like Jesus. So should we ( go and do likewise)
THE WORD OF GOD
You see at one time when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners Christ died for us. Romans 5:6-8 NIV
Therefore Jesus said again, I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. i am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.. He will come in and go out, and find passage. The thief comes only to steal and kill and to destroy. I have come that they may have life and have it to the full. John 10:7-10 NIV
COMMENT – Commissioner Ellington’s’ surprising and sudden departure notwithstanding, he leaves with a sense of having accomplished what others have failed to do – preside over a significant reduction in crime in general and murder in particular. But the ‘wages of sin’ in respect of murder remains far too high. So the rising influence of the gay lifestyle! A lifestyle which the church, broadly speaking in Jamaica, though it believes it is sinful, is full of compassion for those so afflicted by the ‘wages of sin’. And is therefore strongly opposed to any attempt to promote homosexuality as an alternate lifestyle and equal to the God ordained heterosexual union. Hence the massive rally on Sunday night.
The problem for all of us, who have been beaten and left for dead by the wages of sin, which we inherited from the first disobedient human, Adam, is that unless and until we feel a sense of helplessness we will not turn to the Only One who can help us. Christ Jesus. So ‘four burner’ heterosexual men, people living together and not married, homosexuals, murders, thieves, and various others sinners, for whom Christ died when we were still sinners, all need Jesus. Anyone, therefore, who is telling them otherwise are representatives of the ‘thief who has come to steal and kill and destroy”. But Jesus offers life and life to the full. So as we wish Commissioner Ellington peace in his retirement, let us commit to ‘ go and do likewise’ what Jesus has done on the Cross. Have mercy on all who are beaten down by the wages of sin! And point them to the Only One who can help. And then and only then will murder go down much more in our country, and so too other sins, including homosexuality, infidelity, irresponsible fathers, broken family life. All of which are contributing to the ‘lament of Mr. Patterson’, and others here and abroad about the state of our dear country.
THE SECOND MESSAGE – Again sent to leaders in my country, was a follow up on the first. And deals with the need to get the balance right. Promoting righteousness on the one hand, as God in Christ has called us to be; and died on the Cross so that we could have a righteousness, ‘ not of our own’! And having compassion on all who we meet, as ” but for the grace of God, goeth I”.
The instruction for us to have compassion for all who we meet, was very clear again this morning. Perhaps even more than yesterday.
Actually the story began last evening. As I drove home, I heard (most of it) Marilyn Facey’s part one of a two part feature story on homeless gay and transgender men living in the gully in New Kingston. And which story was carried on RJR’s flagship evening program ‘Beyond The Headlines’, hosted by Dionne Jackson-Miller.
The section which really challenged me as a Christian Physician, was the discussion about access to health care in general, and at the Comprehensive Clinic on Slipe Road in particular – where a lot of folks go to get treatment for sexually transmitted diseases. A picture was painted of multiple challenges; first the ‘Security’, then the ‘keeper of the dockets’, and finally the medical staff. Questions of confidentially, of hostile behavior to gays, and a of mocking attitude, were raised; all of which resulted oftentimes in a gay person not being able to receive the care for which he, in this instance, sought. Juxtapose all this with ‘ living in a gully’, being a nuisance to the surrounding society in respective of criminal and disruptive behavior, fleeing from persecution at home, society refusing to lease their premises to accommodate their migration from the gully to more comfortable lodgings, even when funds are made available; and we get a picture of suffering. Brought on by their own behavior admittedly, but also certainly to an extent by people who pass them by without any compassion. So what is to be done? The MP for the area, young Julian Robinson spoke about efforts by himself, the church, JFLAG, and other stakeholders, to make a difference. But clearly a lot more help is needed. And the same can be said for many other less ‘high profile’, homeless people in the city.
It is against this background that a Word about holiness before God, addressed to believers, but of relevance to all people regardless, came before me this morning. But also part two of a reflection on the story of the Good Samaritan. And I wondered, yes the rally to send a signal to the world about the Jamaican churches’ commitment to holiness and righteousness was important, but so too the need or an equally important signal for us to have compassion. Which to be fair, has always been the message from most of the churches. But we need to ensure that we get the balance right, as both messages are important.
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)
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, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 5:1-9, 11-20 NIV)
JULY 2, 2008
……..The story of the Good Samaritan is an accurate picture of our world. Most people are missing the mark; few have found true meaning. They are many robbers who plunder, many priests and Levites who are negligent, and many innkeepers who will intervene if they’re paid for it. And, in a sense, every one of these is as miserable as the helpless victims lying by the side of the road. The only person in this story who could possibly have a satisfying life is the Samaritan. The others, in pursuing their goals, miss the ultimate meaning of them all.
Look at the story of the Good Samaritan as a parable of human nature. Do you want to be satisfied in life? Understand the robbers, priests and Levites, innkeepers, and victims; have compassion on them all for the misery they’re in. Above all, be like the Samaritan who shows tangible mercy. Be like Jesus.
A final comment. One: Now I understand why The Lord woke me up at 5:00 am this morning. To read and to pray and to write. Two: For me, Brendan Bain, the one who I know, unless he has changed, is a good example of what it means to a Christian who has compassion on those ‘beaten and left for dead’ by the wages of sin. But, who at the same time, stands up for righteousness. In that sense, and in that sense alone, perhaps those who are in the greatest need of God’s mercy and love, and who need to repent and turn to Jesus, could not have chosen a better person to persecute. After all there are no coincidences in life, as all things are subject to the One who Created man, and in Christ Jesus, showed His great mercy to all of us sinners. And who in all things, and at all times, and in all situations, calls sinful man back to Himself, and has mercy on the ungodly. So, therefore, should we, who claim Christ. As there are two messages that God in Christ sends to the world. Be holy as your God is holy. And be compassionate as God in Christ showed compassion. You cannot call for one without having regard or the other. Whether you are a gay rights activist or a member of the body of Christ, the church.
THE FINAL MESSAGE – WAS A MESSAGE NOT SENT. FEATURING A MEDITATION FROM MARTIN LUTHER KING WHICH I WROTE DOWN YESTERDAY EXPECTING TO FINISH THE MESSAGE, BUT DID NOT. ALSO IN THE MIX WAS A STATEMENT FROM A CIVIL SOCIETY GROUP CALLING FOR TOLERANCE AND CAUTION ON BOTH SIDES OF THE DEBATE – ABOUT THE BUGGERY LAW. AND WHICH STATEMENT ATTRACTED A ENCOURAGING WORD FROM THE EDITORIAL OF THE JAMAICA OBSERVER. ALSO A COMMENT MADE IN A GLEANER EDITORIAL SPECULATING ON THE POLITICAL RAMIFICATIONS OF THE CHURCH RALLY.
In the midst of this, twice today, leaving my church to attend another church in an official capacity, a Word from the book of Romans provided a clear answer to both the Daily Gleaner and the Jamaica Observer editorials.
And further, established a link to the Martin Luther King Jnr reflection on evil. A matter about which I have thinking a lot in recent times. No doubt accounting for a tweet posted this week on Twitter:
@lucienforJesus: We have no apologies to make for offering the light of salvation to a world in darkness. In fact we an apology to the Lord if we do not.
For the challenge for the church, living among unbelievers in a democratic society, and increasing pluralistic world, where ‘ let all ideas contend is the current mantra’, is that, whether they like it or not, whether they accept it, or not, the church militant, and the church obedient, and the church which has a focus on Christ and Him Crucified, represents God Almighty. And therefore our primary purpose is to call sinful mankind back to God in and through Christ Jesus. We, therefore, who are obedient to God, though we are a part of civil society, with as much voting rights as anyone else, are at the core, not a civil society group. And those who ignore our message, and persecute us in whatever form or fashion, are in dire danger of having God’s wrath visited upon them. It is that urgency, then, born out of love for our fellow human beings, including unrepentant and sexually active gays, unrepentant and sexually active people who elect to proceed with their union without the blessing of Holy Matrimony, and all other sins known or even unknown to mankind – but known by God. It is in this context that I advise us to consider well, the Word from Romans, and from MLK Jnr, the distraction from the true calling of the church by the Gleaner, and the ‘missing the big picture’, by the Civil Society Group, as reported by the Observer. For the wages of sin is death, and the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus. And as Omar Khayyam once famously wrote:
“The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.”
THE WORD – the second reading at both ST. Andrew Parish Church, and Saxthorpe Methodist Church this morning.
We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me.
but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin. (Romans 7:14-21, 23-25 NIV)
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God. (Romans 8:1-8 NIV)
MARTIN LUTHER KING JNR
That’s why I just love Brazilian football. Win lose or draw! From the early days of Pele, Pepe, Didi, Garrincha; to Socrates, Tostao, Revilinho, Gerson, Romario; and in recent times, Ronaldo, Ronaldihno and now Neymar and David Luiz. Why? Magic. Sheer magic! As was the case with David Luiz’s fabulous free kick that catapulted Brazil into the semi-finals of the greatest show on earth. Don’t get me wrong. Other teams play well, as evidenced by one of the best ever not to win a world cup – the Dutch team of 1974, featuring,Cryuff, Neeskins and Johnny Rep and company. And this Dutch has a good chance to win. Also, who can also forget the fabulous Spanish Team that won in South Africa four years ago. But magic comes out of ‘Samba-land’, and lifts one’s football spirit to a different level altogether.
But it was not football that was on my mind during my devotions this morning. Rather it was God’s grace and mercy and faithfulness and power in the face of evil, as I was led back to the story of the oppression of the Israelites by the Egyptians. And how God rescued His people by His mighty hand. How with an exhibition of power of a miracle working God, the Red Sea parted. How the Israelites went through unscathed, and how the Egyptian army, who had pursued them relentlessly, all drowned. Thus providing the inspiration for one of the most touching and instructive meditations I have ever read.
THE DEATH OF EVIL
Martin Luther King Jnr.
Verse: Exodus 14: 30 ” That day The Lord saved Israel from the hands of of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the shore.
When the children of Israel were held under the gripping yoke of Egyptian slavery, Egypt symbolized evil in the form of humiliating oppression, ungodly exploitation and crushing crushing domination, and Israel symbolized goodness in the form of devotion and dedication to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Egypt struggled to maintain her oppressive yoke, and Israel struggled to gain freedom. Pharaoh stubbornly refused to respond to the cry of Moses, even when plague after plague threatened his domain. This tells us something about evil that we must never forget, namely that evil is recalcitrant and determined, and never voluntarily relinquishes its hold short of a persistent, almost fanatical resistance.
But there is a checkpoint in the universe: evil cannot permanently organize itself. So after a long and trying struggle, the Israelites, through the providence of God, crossed the Red Sea . But like the old guard that never surrenders, the Egyptians, in a desperate attempt to prevent the Israelites from escaping, had their armies go in the Red Sea after them. As soon as the Egyptians got into the dried-up sea the parted waters swept back upon them, and the turbulence and momentum of the tidal wave soon drowned all of them. When the Israelites looked back, all they could see was here and there a poor drowned body beaten upon the seashore. For the Israelites, this was a great moment. it was the end of a frightful period in their history. it was a joyous daybreak that had come to end the long night of their captivity. The meaning of this story is not found in the drowning of the Egyptian soldiers, for no one should rejoice at the death or defeat of a human being. rather, this story symbolizes the death of evil and of inhuman oppression and unjust exploitation.
The point here is that the evil of Sin, which has left mankind beaten and worn down, that comes along side us, whenever we want to do good, and which feature of human life left St. Paul wondered about who could save him from this wretched man that he was, and who all of us are, has a checkpoint. And that checkpoint is Jesus. But Sin is recalcitrant and determined, and never voluntarily relinquishes its hold on the human race. So unless we live by the Spirit of God, as offered through the life, death and resurrection of Christ, Police Commissioners will resign suddenly and unexpectedly with devastating consequences to a nation. Militant gays and their supporters – wittingly or unwittingly – will continue to push the homosexual agenda, and call for tolerance and understanding. Disobedient and impatient and those who leave out prayer and attention to the Word, Christians, will fall prey to the guile and enchantment of worldly lifestyle, the unscriptural prosperity doctrine…and so any other problems. But thank God, that He is a merciful God, and longs to have compassion on all those who would turn and repent and accept the free offer of His Son’s death on the Cross, and Atonement for Sin. That the wrath of God may no longer be over our heads. And that there shall no longer be any condemnation.
That’s the message that God has given the church, and we dare not keep it to ourselves, and let it reign only in the privacy of our own bedrooms, or only in our own private conversations.