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 by the Anglican Church.
1. I don’t normally write about road safety issues, as I am deeply involved in that aspect of national life in my country, and really don’t wish to come over as pushing my own agenda. But the death of a mother and her five year child on the way to school this week really shook me up. And sent me to the throne of grace appealing for mercy in a special way. A situation further aggravated by the fact that during a seven day period the police reported twenty road fatalities; the most we have had in Jamaica for a long time. Thus triggering the kind of pain and grief across the nation which can never be fully fathomed, as only God in heaven can help in such a situation.
Mother, 5-y-o daughter killed in Portmore crash
One dead, another injured in hit-and-run accident
2. High drama over the skies in Jamaica unfolded late this week, resulting in the crash of a single engine plane which took off in the USA, and the presumed death of a husband and wife. All of this sent panic waves across the country as we were wondering if this ‘out of control ‘ aircraft would come down in a thickly populated area, and cause much damage to life and property. In addition, jets were scrambled both in the USA and in Cuba to try and ascertain the cause of the malfunctioning aircraft. But when the ‘dust had settled’, what we were left to ponder was the tragedy of three children grieving the sudden death of both of their parents.
3. All of a sudden ISIS ( Islamic State in Syria) is upon us and the western world is literally ‘scrambling’ to find an answer to this new potent, well armed, and well trained terrorist group. In the meanwhile, people are being beheaded publicly, large swathes of land in Northern Irag and Syria are under their control, and huge numbers of ‘infidels’ have been killed or have had to flee for their lives. All of this leaving grief and pain and terror behind, and if the Saudi government is to believed, if we are not careful, further terror spawned by this group, a la Al Qaeda and 9/11, may soon visit western cities.
And as we consider this snapshot of the problems of the world, fully cognizant of the challenges that continue in Ukraine, in the Middle-East, in Ebola affected African nations, and murder most foul in Jamaica – a woman killed in ‘broad daylight’ by her former lover – we ponder the human tragedy and the grief in homes across the world.
THE WORD OF GOD
What Word or inspired word did The Lord point me to consider this week in the midst of so much heartache and grief across the world.
The first message was an unexpected meditation. Unexpected in the sense that I happened upon a July 16 reflection from Chris Tiegreen’s 2008 Devotional Book.
The subject? The sudden storms of life!
MASTER IN THE STORM
” You of little faith, why are you so afraid”.
Matthew 8: 26
IN WORD One of the hindrances to a faithful response to Jesus in the storms of our lives is our acute awareness that He let us get into the storm to begin with. We would rather have a Savior who didn’t sleep in the back of the boat. We would prefer that He navigate us around the storms rather than deliver us in the middle of them. But our God has never guarded His people from storms. He even lets us suffer in them sometimes. Why?
Jesus could have navigated His company around that storm. it blew up without warning, but The Lord of creation isn’t surprised by anything. He knew about this storm. But if He had let the disciples avoid it, they would never have known Him as the Master of the winds and the waves. They would not have asked the question: ” What manner of man is this?” ( vs 27). They would not have known Jesus as their Deliverer that day.
IN DEED Jesus lets us get into the middle of storms so will will know Him. When we avoid the dangerous waters, we avoid the Deliverer. When all is well, our faith only needs a Jesus who is asleep in the boat. While that may be more comfortable to us, it subverts the purpose for which we were created. We were meant to know Him, and whether we like it or not, some of His characteristics can only be discovered in the deep, treacherous waters.
When we think we prefer our comfort to the storms of life – a universal tendency for us humans, by the way – we are actually choosing stagnancy over fulfillment. We must realize that we can’t really know the Deliverer unless we need deliverance. We can’t know our Redeemer unless we need redemption. We can’t know our Refuge unless we experience danger. Do we really seek comfort and ease? No. Deep down we want real faith. We want to know the One who accompanies us – even in storms.
Comment: This is a hard reflection to deal with even if you are mature Christian and sudden death visits your home; and snatches away your partner for life, your only child, or your best friend. No one except God Himself can provide comfort in those situations. And like Job, many wonder why for years. We cannot begin to understand that kind of grief, and should unlike Job’s friends, keep quiet and pray and be there for such persons. But with the full assurance that we serve an awesome God, and a God whose love is unfailing. Why He allows some to live, and some die, both believers and unbelievers, is a mystery that only He can solve?
Why He allows a group like ISIS to both rain and reign terror in the world; why He chooses not rescue a mother and her five year old child from sudden death, and why He did not rescue that husband and wife who died in Jamaican waters, only He knows. But in both those cases, and others which do not result in disaster, a sovereign God is calling people back to Himself; and to know Him in and through Christ Jesus. For in the final analysis, what the world needs to know, whether President Obama with all the might of the American army at his disposal, or the the allies of the USA in the Middle-East and Europe, is that the only Master of the storms of the world is Christ Jesus. And despite all the precautions we take, as we say in Jamaica, ” trouble nuh set like rain”; in the sense that trouble unlike impending inclement weather, does not give any warning, and often ‘blows up like a sudden storm’, in our lives. And the life of a Christian is inevitably full of ‘trouble’, as The Lord wills it. So that we can know Him as Deliverer, Redeemer and Refuge.
This runs contrary to the popular but quire erroneous ‘ prosperity, name it and claim it gospel’, which is causing so much havoc in the life of Christians across the world; and which ultimately has no power to fight against evil in this world. The kind of evil which has spawned ISIS; which has triggered the prolonged high level of murder and violence in my country; and the kind of evil which has militated against peace between the Jews and the Palestinians, and has resulted in so much loss of lives and human misery, for decades. As only in and through those who have come to know Christ through suffering, and being rescued in the storms of life, as Deliverer, Redeemer and Refuge, will the Spirit of God flow like streams of living water and rescue a nation and a region from evil.
THE SECOND MESSAGE – is short and in two parts. One of which I tweeted to folks on my TL this week
The opposite of joy is not sorrow, but unbelief – Leslie Weatherhead ( An English Christian theologian 1893-1976)
This profound quote does not need much discussion. The simple fact, and the weight of Scripture, properly understood recommends it, is that true Joy in life only comes when we place our trust in God, in and through Christ Jesus. ‘ All else is like sinking sand”. And will be revealed, fully, when the storms of life inevitably visit us. Just watch how those who seem to be happy and rejoicing and even denouncing any talk of, and rejecting any thoughts and teaching about, God, respond when ‘trouble arrives”. As it will one fine day. Out of the blue! So even in the midst of the storms, in the midst of pain and grief and sorrow, the true believer can still experience the Joy of knowing that the Sovereign God of Heaven and earth is still in control. Regardless of the circumstances and apparent devastation!
I suppose that’s the reason why The Lord led me to reflect deeply on the words of the Psalmist this week.
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” (Psalm 46:10 NIV)
A Word from The Lord which no doubt inspired the song writer to pen the words of this deeply inspirational song which has serves to shore up the flagging faith of many people across the world in times of trouble.
Be still and know that I am God,
be still and know that I am God,
be still and know that I am God.
I am the Lord that healeth thee,
I am the Lord that healeth thee,
I am the Lord that healeth thee.
In thee, O Lord, I put my trust,
In thee, O Lord, I put my trust,
In thee, O Lord, I put my trust.
Final thoughts: Increasingly, if we believe what the Bible has to say about the ‘end of times’, trouble and violence, a rejection of the Word of God, disobedience to parents and other symbols of authority, and other manifestations of a world ‘ leaning on its own understanding’ together with the brokenness of a world separated from God by Sin, will manifests itself in various ways and forms. And the God who The Anglican Lord Bishop of Jamaica, The Rt Rev. Howard Gregory warned a nation during a sermon to mark the 140th anniversary of one of the oldest newspapers in the Hemisphere – The Daily Gleaner, that we as Christians are called to be ” a watchman”, and suggested the media ought to rise to the same high calling in a nation, expects us to challenge evil wherever it raises its ugly head. And to comfort the dying and rescue the perishing! But we cannot do that on behalf of a people until and unless we are prepared to eschew a life of ease and comfort, and ‘ take up our Cross and follow Christ into battle. Yes, we can even pause for a minute and celebrate with Serena Williams for winning her fifth US Open Tennis final today. Yes we can celebrate with whoever wins the men’s final tomorrow, whether with the Nishikori or Cilic. But such celebrations whether in sports or otherwise, should be a blip in our lives and not the goal. Our goal is to attain what Christ has called to be – holy, as God is holy. To find Joy in self-expenditure and suffering for others. To love God and neighbour as ourselves. To ‘join with Paul in suffering for the gospel”. And to be a watchman for a troubled nation and world. All other ideas about the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is ‘of man’, and not of God.