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) – Anglican Prayer for The Decade of Evangelism
1. Something terrible happened in Jamaica during the week when we were celebrating our fifty second year as an Independent nation. Something really awful happened to ‘ one of us’. A young died while under the care of the state. Arrested for a small amount of marijuana, he was about to given bail when, and from then onwards the stories are conflicting, when it was denied. After that he was taken to hospital for injuries, claimed by the police to have been inflicted by other prisoners, and then later died. His relatives are outraged and incensed. So too his community where road blacks have been mounted. Two ministers of Government have issued statements expressing their regret, alarm and sadness, that such a tragedy could have taken place. Especially when moves are afoot, to eliminate the custodial part of the consequence attached to the smoking of small amounts of Ganja, and to replace it with a simple ticket and fine! Many others are shocked, and the issue triggered a raging debate across the nation about ‘who dun it’. As ‘stuff’ like that has no place in a civilized country. The link to the article below provides more information. And so a dramatic picture in the link to the tweet which I retweeted.
2. Something equally terrible, and on a much larger scale is happening in the mountains of Northern Iraq which triggered a response from the USA this week. A reportedly, well armed, well trained and disciplined Muslim group ISIS, has gained control of strategic areas in the North, and are rounded up men, enslaving women and beheading those who do not convert to Islam. many of these folks, over 40,000 now on Mount Sinjar are Christians fleeing from this persecution. And the terror is heightened by the ‘posting of the victims heads in public places. The USA and Britain has thus taken action to prevent what President Obama in a weekly address this week termed , the link is provided below, this potential genocide.
3. Finally as madness erupted across the world, a man of God, Sir Howard Felix Hanlon Cooke, a former Governor General of Jamaica, and much beloved nation builder, was put to rest. With full national honors!
THE WORD OF GOD
So what message did The Lord send in the midst of this International crisis, and local outrage. Two! One sent to leaders in my country exhorting them to ‘come into the Light’, as this Eternal appeal from none other than our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, is the only solution to the savagery , and ” man’s inhumanity to man’ which is so manifest in the world today. A matter of continued concern in Israel and Gaza, where minutes before another attempt at a 72 hour ceasefire, rockets rained down on Israel and Israeli jets unleashed their full power on Gaza. Who was responsible for the first attack? No one truly knows, but both sides continue to blame each other.
The other written but not sent to anyone, was all about seeking God’s wisdom, and the attendant benefits. For Israel, for the people of Gaza, for the ISIS in Iraq
and Syria, for Jamaicans and for the Americans
THE FIRST MESSAGE
This morning, I turned to Chris Tiegreen’s One year Devotionals, for my early morning meditation. And an expanded reading of the passage of Scripture from which Tigreen drew inspiration led me to this verse:
” This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.” John 3:19-21 NIV.
Then into my mind came thoughts of the funeral of our beloved Sir Howard Cooke. And all the showers of praise which were posthumously heaped on his head. Especially his trust in God! But then, and he would be the first one to tell you, this is what defined this modern day Patriarch, rather than it being another part of his glorious resume. For Sir Howard was a Christian father, a Christian teacher, a Christian insurance salesman, a Christian politician, and a Christian Governor General. Unlike all, save perhaps one who served briefly, our prime Ministers and Premiers – from Manley to present day Simpson Miller. As sadly, in a reportedly Christian country, whose Anthem is a Prayer, and whose National Pledge invokes the power of God, we have not had one Political leader who has confessed Christ, Baptized in His Name, attended Church regularly, led the nation in prayer, and whose life’s journey has been a true manifestation of a disciple of Christ. Perhaps one of the above, maybe even two, but certainly not all.
The question some may pose, in the light of this observation, is who, even in the church, can claim, such righteousness? But then this is where the mercy of God and His grace comes in, as Tiegreen points out. But first, as I was led to reflect having pondered these things and red Tiegreen’s meditation, we have to ” come into the Light”. Repent of our sins, and accept Christ as Lord and Savior, as Sir Howard did; and as King David, the author of Psalm 32, and 51, famously did.
Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord does not count against them and in whose spirit is no deceit. When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy on me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.” And you forgave the guilt of my sin. Therefore let all the faithful pray to you while you may be found; surely the rising of the mighty waters will not reach them. (Psalm 32:1-6 NIV)
LIVING IN THE LIGHT
Whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly what he has done has been done through God. John 3:21
IN WORD Much has been made of the possibility of people in the church bringing discredit to the gospel. The line of reasoning is this: The gospel cleanses us from sin; therefore, when one of us falls into sin, the cleansing power of the gospel is discredited. But is that true? Does a sinning saint damage the gospel’s reputation?
That depends. Someone who claims to be right with God, but who clearly is not, may weaken the witness of the message. But someone who falls, confesses and repents – no matter how great the fall – only confirms the power of the truth. That person has demonstrated the meaning of grace.
Look at it this way: It’s easy to discredit a gospel of legalism; all you have to do is break its laws. But the only way to discredit the gospel of grace is to be perfect. Grace assumes that the laws have been broken by everyone already. Why would we be outraged when we see someone fall into sin? Our message of mercy presupposes that we will. It accounts for the depravity of the human condition. When we see sin and repentance, we don’t see a discredit to the gospel; we see the gospel in action.
IN DEED Jesus said that those who live by the truth will come into the light and their confession will be evidence that God is at work. He does not mean that those who live by the truth are those who never sin. He means that those who live by the truth will deal with their sin. They will bring it into the light and accept God’s forgiveness ( That’s what David did in Psalm 32: 1-6, and 51). That does no harm to the gospel; it affirms it.
Are you hiding your sin? The church unwittingly encourages its members to do so. But that denies the gospel. Bringing it openly to the Cross exposes the sinner as sinful but also exposes the gospel as powerful. may we always know the freedom to live in the light.
Final Comment: Does it really matter if our political leaders, and those in other spheres of national life ‘ come into the Light’; repent of their sin and accept Christ?
O yes, it certainly does. Think of what Sir Howard achieved.! Perhaps none captured his life’s work more succinctly than Boulevard Baptist Pastor, Devon Dick writing in the Daily Gleaner recently, when he made the point that, ” Sir Howard had a wide embrace for all”.
I would suggest that it is this kind of leader, ‘who has come into the Light’, which the country so desperately needs at this time. Someone who, having had his or her sins cleansed by the grace of God, in and through Christ Jesus, can ’embrace all who are doing tremendous harm to our nation’, and bring them into the Light.
Think of what a leader who has ‘come into the Light’, could do to help the members of the JCF, in the light…pun unintended… of recent and past events; and without passing any judgement, young Mario Deanes comes to mind! Think of what a leader with a ‘wide embrace’, could do to bridge the gap between Gays and Christians on the matter of the buggery law and same sex relationships! Think of what a leader who has passed through the ‘valley of political tribalism’, and has come into the Light of the gospel and repented, could do to rid our nation of this terrible scourge – perhaps even more troubling and virulent than the Ebola virus! Think of what a leader who has come into the light, could do to help this country to deal with the immorality in our music, the coarseness in our speech and the ill mannered way in which many of us treat each other; a problem so pervasive that a ‘values and Attitudes campaign ‘, was launched but failed to gain any traction. Finally think of the ripple effects that a leader who has come into the Light of Christ, and confessed his or her sin, and received grace, could have on ordinary men and women in this country, people of good will who are willing to make a difference and fear God.
Sir Howard did! It’s time for others to ‘come into the Light’. Regardless of how some in the church have ‘ misused the grace of God’. As, God’s grace is sufficient for all. But first you have to, like David, a man with many sins, ‘come into the light of the gospel and repent. That’s ( part of) the legacy of the death of Christ – Forgiveness for all who come to the Cross. That’s the true legacy of Sir Howard – a man who came into the Light of the gospel, and had a wide embrace for all
THE SECOND MESSAGE
As the heavens open and God sends rain on a dry and thirsty land on this INDEPENDENCE DAY, I was led back to the book of wisdom. We can well imagine David teaching his son Solomon, these words of wisdom. And he David had ‘gone through the fires of temptation’, and had much to offer his sons. But in this context, of a ‘dry and thirsty land’, where crime and violence, poverty and distress, immorality and corruption, have become the ‘Leitmotif’, of our beleaguered nation, what do we say to our people at a time like this. God provides an answer. For those in our schools! For those ‘sitting on our laps’! For those ‘sucking at the breast’! For those whose daily diet what comes at them via the smart phone, the television, the dance hall lyrics, the ipod! For those whose head ‘ bears the weight of the crown’; whether in Gordon House, in the Business Place, in the Media, in the ‘hallowed halls of Universities, or in the Church. Especially the Church!
I pray God my own children will heed this call. I pray God the many ‘sons and daughters’, that The Lord has blessed me to have will all heed this call. I pray God that those who I place ‘ under my tent daily’ will heed this call. I pray God that all of my people here in this blessed land, that ” there is nothing that is wrong with Jamaica, that what is right with Jamaica cannot fix’, as declared by the GG this morning to much applause, will heed this call.To the glory of God. He who alone sends rain, in His own time and for His own purpose. That man may learn that we cannot not live on ‘ bread ‘ alone, but rather on every Word of Wisdom that comes from the mouth of The Lord. And the greatest Word, made flesh, is Christ The Redeemer. For….In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.
children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:1-3, 5, 9-11, 13, 14 NIV)
And as I end, the rain ends too, but the Word of God lives forever.
THE ANSWER – SEEK GOD’S WISDOM
Listen, my sons, to a father’s instruction; pay attention and gain understanding. I give you sound learning, so do not forsake my teaching. For I too was a son to my father, still tender, and cherished by my mother. Then he taught me, and he said to me, “Take hold of my words with all your heart; keep my commands, and you will live. Get wisdom, get understanding; do not forget my words or turn away from them. Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you. The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding. Cherish her, and she will exalt you; embrace her, and she will honor you. She will give you a garland to grace your head and present you with a glorious crown.” Listen, my son, accept what I say, and the years of your life will be many. I instruct you in the way of wisdom and lead you along straight paths. When you walk, your steps will not be hampered; when you run, you will not stumble. Hold on to instruction, do not let it go; guard it well, for it is your life. Do not set foot on the path of the wicked or walk in the way of evildoers. Avoid it, do not travel on it; turn from it and go on your way. For they cannot rest until they do evil; they are robbed of sleep till they make someone stumble. They eat the bread of wickedness and drink the wine of violence. The path of the righteous is like the morning sun, shining ever brighter till the full light of day. But the way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know what makes them stumble. My son, pay attention to what I say; turn your ear to my words. Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; for they are life to those who find them and health to one’s whole body. Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Keep your mouth free of perversity; keep corrupt talk far from your lips. Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil. (Proverbs 4:1-27 NIV)
THE THIRD MESAGE – Came in the ‘ dead of night ‘ last night. From the book of Jeremiah. And was all about people who continue to ‘love the darkness’ instead of ‘coming into the Light. As one day, for all nations, whether the ISIS in Norther Iraq, the Jews and the IDF, the Palestinians, the Americans or us Jamaicans, all who continue to ‘reject the Word of God’, will suffer the consequences in Judgement.
A passage of Scripture which a single verse captures its essence; and which verse came into my mind a few days ago, but I could neither recall the source nor the context.
” If you have raced with men on foot
and they have worn you out,
how can you compete with horses”.
Jeremiah 12:5 NIV.
A major problem across the world, is that those who live outside zones of conflict, in the comfort of their living rooms, do not understand the ways of God. That, every nation on earth, whether Israel to whom God revealed Himself in a special way, or those nations that He used to ‘punish a rebellious people’, or any nation that has rejected the ‘Redeeming Blood of Jesus, will come to Judgement one day. All people across the Globe. This was the central message from Baptist Minister, Rev. Shuttleworth on TBS FM radio this morning, as I drove home from church. He quoted Jesus’ warning to those who rejected his disciples, that their lot would be worse than Sodom. Matthew 10:5 NIV. Thus making the point that what those who use this story to condemn homosexuality alone, fail to appreciate that the Judgement meted out to Sodom, will not be as great as that which will befall all nations that reject the message from the church about the Son of God.
And so God through Jeremiah warns us that we really don’t understand Who we are up against when we reject the Maker and Creator of Earth. And worse in a frightening Word last night God promised to:
” See I will send venomous snakes among you,
vipers that cannot be charmed, and they will bite you,
declares The Lord.”
GOD’S WORD LAST NIGHT
“If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses? If you stumble in safe country, how will you manage in the thickets by the Jordan? Your relatives, members of your own family— even they have betrayed you; they have raised a loud cry against you. Do not trust them, though they speak well of you. “I will forsake my house, abandon my inheritance; I will give the one I love into the hands of her enemies. My inheritance has become to me like a lion in the forest. She roars at me; therefore I hate her. Has not my inheritance become to me like a speckled bird of prey that other birds of prey surround and attack? Go and gather all the wild beasts; bring them to devour. Many shepherds will ruin my vineyard and trample down my field; they will turn my pleasant field into a desolate wasteland. It will be made a wasteland, parched and desolate before me; the whole land will be laid waste because there is no one who cares. Over all the barren heights in the desert destroyers will swarm, for the sword of the Lord will devour from one end of the land to the other; no one will be safe. They will sow wheat but reap thorns; they will wear themselves out but gain nothing. They will bear the shame of their harvest because of the Lord’s fierce anger.” This is what the Lord says: “As for all my wicked neighbours who seize the inheritance I gave my people Israel, I will uproot them from their lands and I will uproot the people of Judah from among them. But after I uproot them, I will again have compassion and will bring each of them back to their own inheritance and their own country. And if they learn well the ways of my people and swear by my name, saying, ‘As surely as the Lord lives’—even as they once taught my people to swear by Baal—then they will be established among my people. But if any nation does not listen, I will completely uproot and destroy it,” declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 12:5-17 NIV)
Final comment: I pray God that all who read this message, in Jamaica and in far off lands, will ‘come into the Light of Jesus”. As war and savagery, torture and wickedness, further acts of inhumanity to man, rebellion against God with attendant consequences, await those who continue to ‘live in darkness’. A life without Christ!