I read my Bible to see what men ought to do ; and read my newspapers to see what men are doing – John Newton ( former slave ship owner turned Anglican Priest.
Lord renew thy church beginning with me; Lord renew the church that the church may renew the nation(s) – Prayer for the Decade of Evangelism
1. THE EBOLA CRISIS IN AFRICA.
A time of good news, and a time of bad news – to misquote Charles Dickens. Good news coming from the USA where the two health care workers who were airlifted to Atlanta, totally isolated from the public, were declared to be well, free of the virus and allowed to return to their daily activities. With no danger to society! In the sense that there is no evidence that Ebola victims will become carriers of the virus, with the dreaded possibility of infected others around them. Further, although they received the experimental drug, the ‘jury is still out’ as to whether or not, they having been treated with the drug, means ipso facto that it is the drug that cured them and not just great supportive treatment. A possibility which could mean that dramatically improving the quality of care in Africa could reap tremendous benefits in containing this awful modern day plague.
Bad news coming out of Africa that the rate of infection is rising fast in Liberia and just recently cases have been identified in DRC. The situation in Liberia has triggered ‘draconian’ measures to stem the spread of the disease. And at the dame time pondering the reality that they ‘exported ‘ disease to Nigeria where at least one doctor has died, and all others taken ill were in contact with the Liberian official who traveled to that country.
2. TRAGEDY IN JAMAICA.
In the ongoing spasm of violence which has bedeviled my country for years, four young people lost their lives suddenly this week. And a picture of a grieving father of one of the men who passed 11CSEC subjects ( Grade 11 exams …5th form) and 3 CAPE ( Grade 13…6th Form) is a portrait of the kind of pain which only the Biblical figure Job ( who lost his entire family) could have understood. #Lord have mercy
Man Loses Only Son Among Four Killed In Linstead
3. EVIL IN IRAG AND SPREAD LIKE A CONTAGION ONLINE.
This week the world responded with shock and horror, and the awakening to the reality of ‘worse than Al Qaeda” , when the American journalist Robert Foley was
executed by beheading, and the video of this dastardly act, released on line by ISIS.
How will the USA and its allies respond to this new threat to West is something that will be answered in due course. So far it would seem that ‘nothing is off the table’, as reports are that even the Syrian government, is apparently anxious to get rid of them and talks of ‘co-operation’ between Syria and America were reported on BBC yesterday
THE WORD OF GOD
THE FIRST MESSAGE – EVERYBODY OUGHT OT KNOW WHO JESUS IS
In the midst of this horror of Biblical proportions, what did The Lord say through His Word and His inspired word this week. Perhaps the message in two sermons I heard this morning summed it all up. ” Everybody ought to know Jesus”! This profound and direct message was inspired by the Gospel reading in Matthew 16:13-20, when Jesus, having asked His disciples who people thought He was, turned to them and posed the same question. ” Who do you say I am “.
And I would venture to say that for, both those inside and outside of the church, this very same question is as relevant today as it was over two thousand years ago.
In this respect I have been very impressed with Oswald Chamber, author of the world famous devotional book, ” My Utmost for His Highest”, and his writings in the more comprehensive, ” The Complete Works of Oswald Chambers”. Heavily influenced by the tragedy of World War 11 and the reaction of his English country men and women Chambers discerned as he pondered on the life of Job, that:
….Misery is an exquisite degree of torture from which there is no relief; it is very rare. Job suffered in this way, and many people are doing so today on account of the war. We all experience these things in a passing mood, but with Job it is no mood, he is facing the real basis of life. That is why the book of Job is included in the Bible. His words are not the expression of the ordinary misery and melancholy, they are the expression of a man face to face with the foundation of human life, which is tragic. Every time Job opens his mouth he proves that the ‘bottom board ‘ of rationalism is gone, there is nothing reasonable about what he is going through.
The war has proved that the basis of things is what it Job discovered it to be – tragic, and men are being driven to realize the need for Redemption. Facing things as they are will reveal the justification of God in Redemption. No amount of sacrifice on the part of man can put the basis if human life right: God has undertaken the responsibility for this, and He does it on redemption lines. Job’s suffering comes from seeing things as they are; and, diseased and wild as Nietzsche was, his madness was probably from the same source. Imagine a man seeing hell without at the same time perceiving salvation through Jesus Christ – his reason must totter. Pseudo-evangelism makes an enormous blunder when insists on conviction of sin as the first step to Jesus Christ. When we have come to the place of seeing Jesus Christ, then He can trust us with the facing of sin.
When dealing with men like Job and the Apostle Paul we must remember that we are dealing with men who God uses to give us an estimate of things which we have never experienced. We cannot interpret Job in the light of our own moods; the problem of the whole world is mirrored for us in Job’s experiences.
Comment – Aspects of this profound reflection by Chambers surface in the next one; in how Christians ought to respond to the challenges of this world. For self and for others!. But we cannot help but see the truth of what Chambers argues in what is taking place across the world today; and this despite the tremendous advance in technology and knowledge. Achievements which one could reasonably argue ought to bring greater peace and security in the world. But no, the tragic nature of life keeping manifesting itself all around. In the face of the grieving father in Jamaica. In the horrific killing of James Foley. In the agonizing suffering of those who die from the Ebola virus. In the intractable war between the Jews and the Palestinians. In the violent reaction to the death of Michael Brown and in the untimely and soul sapping, nation destroying death of Mario Deane in Jamaica. Along with so much more acts of the tragic nature of life.
it is in this context and more, why ” Everybody ought to know who Jesus is”. For outside of Jesus and His Redemption, to whom all are being called, there is no basis for optimism about life as Chambers also wrote:
” Optimism is either a matter of accepted revelation or of temperament; to think unimpeded and remain optimistic is not possible. Let a man face facts as they really are, and pessimism is the only possible conclusion. If there is no tragedy at the back of human life, no gap between God and man, then the Redemption is of Jesus is ” much ado about nothing”. Job is seeing things as they really are. A healthy-minded man bases his life on actual conditions, but let him be hit by bereavement, and when he has got beyond the noisy bit and the blasphemous bit, he will find, as Job did, that despair is the basis of human life unless a man accepts a revelation from God and enters into the kingdom of Jesus Christ.”
So all who are children of God and ‘bought by the Blood of the Lamb”, have a duty to reveal Christ to others. As outside of a life with Christ, life is absolutely tragic. And the first thing is to point to Christ as one who can help in any situation; the more desperate the better. Regardless of whether the person accepts or know about sin or not. leave that part to God. Point people to Christ. In Liberia, in Ferguson USA, in Jamaica, in Israel, in Palestine, in the Ukraine. Everywhere! For all over the place people are hurting and confused and do not know who or where to turn. Whether it is relationships gone sour, finances down the tube, reeling from violence or even death of a loved one, children lost to drugs, or just lost. Tragedy is all around us.
THE SECOND MESSAGE
The second and complimentary word came from Chris Tiegreen’s 2008 One year Devotional.
” Stay here and keep watch”. Mark 14:34
IN WORD Peter, James, and John had surely noticed Jesus’ distress on their walk to the Garden of Gethsemane, but they were blissfully unaware of the nature of the battle raging around them. They see only with their eyes. But Jesus is nearing the conclusion of a long warfare with the enemy, and the unseen war is most intense in this garden. Whether the Cross of Christ will or will not occur hangs in the balance between the bitterness of Jesus’ assignment and His submission to His Father. We know the outcome, of course, and all the suspense is lost on us. But the three disciples in the garden didn’t know suspense was in the air. They slept!
Life can give us the same illusion. We know it has its struggles, and we are distressed on occasions. But we are often blissfully unaware that there is a cosmic warfare going on around us, and it is always intense. We have been told to keep watch, but we keep falling asleep. Like the disciples, we may be thinking only about tomorrow’s issues while the enemy is waging a war over eternal issues. We think we have taken a midnight stroll in the garden; but our Commander has led us into a high-stakes battle. Regardless of our apathy or exhaustion, this is not a time to sleep.
IN DEED Whether we like it or not, when we put our faith in Christ we left civilian life. We try to revert to a peacetime lifestyle whenever we can, but the attacks of the enemy have a way of reminding us where we are. We are on the battlefield, and though we know the outcome already, our opponent, Satan, forestalls his final defeat as long and as vengefully as he can.
That’s why the New Testament emphasizes faith and prayer as much as it does. Faith is our weapon against the enemy, and prayer is our communication with the headquarters from which come all our resources. And until we have been called home to Jesus, His orders for us remain the same-keep watch.
Final Comments: If then, everybody ought to know who Jesus is, because the basis of life is tragic, as Job discovered, and as so many people across the globe are discovering, including the family and friends of James Foley, then Christians are involved in warfare. It’s as simple as that! As the evil one, Satan has no intention of allowing anyone to come to know Jesus. For that marks the end of His influence and capacity to push mankind to do evil – like beheading others in the name of Allah. Like beating Mario Deane to death in Jamaica, or shooting an unarmed man in Ferguson repeatedly!
So unlike the proponents of the prosperity gospel, Our Lord Jesus has shown us the way to humble service to mankind. Via the Cross. Through suffering. Through self sacrifice. Chasing after the American dream will get you the American lifestyle. But not the Kingdom of God! We have to make choices. And if we don’t, then life becomes tragic, and still Jesus will say with arms wide open, ” Come home, come home all who are weary come home”. Even in, and perhaps more so in our most desperate hour.
That’s His message to the people in Liberia suffering from Ebola virus – cry out to me. And who knows how The Lord will respond? Whether directly as a miracle, or through His disciples who He sends to the uttermost part of the world to assist those who cry out to Him. That’s why we as Christians need to keep watch as Satan is like a roaring lion going about seeking whom he will. Whether to encourage suicide, destruction from drugs, sink in the mire of sexual immorality and perversion, yield to the temptation of corruption, get caught up in gangs and drug runnings and murder, or be affected by life threatening diseases. And we are the only ones, despite the bravado and bombast of those who claim not to believe in God, who ultimately can help by leading them to Christ. The Only One who everybody ought to know. So let us stop ‘falling asleep on the job’, and behaving like pagans chasing after things and fame and fortune and rest. But rather, join others in the great struggle, the great warfare, to free mankind from the tragedy that a life lived without Christ.