I read my Bible to see what men ought to do; and read my newspapers to see what men are doing.
Lord renew thy church beginning with me; Lord renew the church that the church may renew the nation(s)
1. Once again, despite the welcome news that murders and down significantly in my country, this week the nation was sent reeling under the brazen attack by gunmen in two communities. At the end of the day…..
4 days ago – GUNMEN have continued to wreak havoc in Bog Walk, St Catherine, killingthree men, among them a 70-year-old, at Pine Apple Lane, …
4 days ago – Police investigators are now at the scene of a multiple shooting in Rockfort, East Kingston where eight people were shot late this evening.
2. News about Ebola continue to be of high interest to Jamaicans, especially after the deadly virus continues to surface in the USA. And the attendant new policy of automatic quarantine for 21 for anyone who has been in contact with an Ebola patient in West Africa is provoking a grand debate.
updated 2:38 AM EDT, Sun October 26, 2014. STORY HIGHLIGHTS … NY & NJ begin mandatory Ebola quarantine. Mayor: NYC prepared to handle Ebola.
3. Not a major news item but one which attracted my attention was a story about the treatment of LGBT persons in Jamaica, and the view of one of the persons who carried out the study, that Jamaica needs to move away from the moral argument, and focus on the human rights issue, if progress is to made on the behalf of the LGBT persons.
THE WORD OF GOD
In the midst of all these life changing events and advocacy about lifestyle changes, what Word of inspired word did the Lord send this week.
THE FIRST SET OF MESSAGES – sent by WhatsApp to a number of my contacts, were meant to encourage us to remain faithful to a Sovereign God who is good, very good, and who is with us always, in times of our deepest trials, once we trust in Him. Words of power and encouragement which would prove of great value to me personally as I eventually fell ill with Chick V this week. A mild attack, thank God. I could walk, but felt weak and lethargic, and only managed to attend church today by God’s grace and mercy.
Take courage ! It is I. Don’t be afraid
God’s sovereign power supervises everything that comes into our lives, no matter how threatening it appears. And He is – in His unchanging nature – very, very good – CHRIS TIEGREEN.
Did I not tell you that if you believed , you would see the glory of God. John 11:40….One of the foundational dynamics of the kingdom of God is this principle: faith, then sight. How often we reverse the order! Our natural inclination – and probably that of Mary in this passage as she mourns the death of her brother Lazarus – is to say we’ll believe when we see the glory of God. But throughout Jesus’ ministry, He’s emphatic that we have it backwards. We’ll see the glory of God when we believe.
THE SECOND SET OF MESSAGES – THREE IN ALL, SENT TO LEADERS IN MY COUNTRY AND ENTITLED ” LOVING YOUR NEIGHBOUR WHO IS DIFFERENT FROM YOU – ONLY IN CHRIST JESUS. WHICH ESSENTIAL WAS A CHRISTIAN RESPONSE TO A SUGGESTION THAT THE MORAL ARGUMENT , VIZ WHAT THE BIBLE STATES, SHOULD HAVE NO BEARING ON HOW WE TREAT OUR LBGT NEIGHBORS.
This message came in stages. First was a conversation on Nationwide News Network I heard this week, where a study carried out by a human rights activist, was the subject. The study looked into the abuses that LGBT persons had reportedly suffered at the hands of family, police, community and at the work place. And during that conversation, the point was made that, for progress to made in respect of reversing the alleged culture of abuse, Jamaica had to move away from the moral arguments and concentrate on the human rights aspect of the problem.
Secondly, as I thought about this potentially far reaching statement, I recalled a philosophical truth that I had read sometime ago, during my preparation for a Lecture given in 1995. The name of the book which emerged from that Lecture was, ” The Jamaican Society: Options for Renewal”. And during the introductory pages, I quoted Plato and Socrates who in their search for meaning in the universe concluded that ‘ a finite point has no meaning unless it has an infinite reference point’. It is very clear to those who studied history and philosophy that, the basis on which we advocate for human rights for all citizens, rests with the ‘infinite reference’ point that God created all men equal and in His own image – imago Dei.
Therefore, it is a very foolish person who would seek to divorce the moral argument from the human rights, in pursuit of a particular agenda – regardless of how compassionate and noble that agenda may be.
So the question arises, if we insist that the moral argument, that Homosexuality, and other sins – adultery, prostitution, pedophilia – is not part of God’s plan for His creation, but rather is a manifestation of the ‘brokenness of the human condition’ which began with the Fall in the Garden of Eden, what should be the Christian response to all of this.
Which question then was answered as I carried our my devotions while thinking about this issue.
As the Gospel reading for this Sunday in my church – we have a Lectionary so the lessons are pre-planned – is Matthew 22:34-40 NIV, in which the two great commandments are identified by Jesus in response to a question from a ‘ learned man”
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbour as yourself. All the Law and Prophets hang on these two commandments”.
The point here, as was made elsewhere in Scripture, is that one cannot claim to love God who we have never seen, and not love our neighbour who we see everyday. And all who have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, are the neighbors of the church. It is therefore a great travesty, for any child of God, to be guilty of abusing any one, least of all the poor and the vulnerable. It is also a great travesty for us to sit back and pretend that such matters do not concern us. It is also a great wrong to forget or conveniently ignore the good works which many Christian churches and Pastors engage in, behind the scenes, on the behalf of the poor and vulnerable in the society.
The great challenge for the society then, is not to attempt to move away from the moral argument, for nothing else has an infinite reference point, and such a policy decision if our law makers were ever to consider it, would ‘let out a genie which we could never control’, but rather seek to agree on which laws and regulations and cultural practices would better reflect our mandate to ‘ love our neighbour as yourself’.
At home recovering from a mild attack of Chik V – I can walk without pain – and so have some time to read and write. For all who have suffered, whether mildly or severely, on account of this terrible illness, if you have not contemplated the great existential question, ‘ what is man’, in utter awe of how such a small insect can cause such devastation in the life of an individual, then I would suggest that a profound lesson has escaped your notice.
It is in this context then that we need to continue to conversation about what ‘ belongs to God, and what belongs to Caesar’. For deep in that long contemplated question of life, lies the answer
to how we deal with people with an ‘ alternate lifestyle’. Or one that flies in the face of the Word of God, but has found favor with the people who make up their own laws, without reference to God of all Creation.
Just now, I read again the terrible story of Achan’s sin. He whose entire family, together with their animals, perished by stoning and burning, because he disobeyed the clear and explicit instructions of the God of Israel. And on account of whose sin, the anger of the Lord ‘burned against Israel’, and caused them to be routed by the enemy, until ‘atonement’ was made for that sin. And as I contemplated this awful scene, thoughts of the mercy of God, shown to the entire human race, in and through the Atoning death of Christ, flooded into my mind. And so after being chastened by God, Israel obeyed the Lord and found favor with Him once more. But after Joshua died, in the book that follows Joshua, Judges, we read these words which which have a timeless application.
” After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up, who knew neither the the Lord nor what he had done for Israel” Judges 2:10 NIV
Now Jamaica is far from being a theocratic state, as was the case of Israel in the time of Joshua. But nonetheless our parents and grandparents feared the Lord. And out of that single feature of the Jamaican life, flowed so much that was good. The discipline and good manners of our people, the love for neighbour and for community, the work ethic of our farmers, teachers, post office workers and other professionals, the sacrifice for children so that they have a better life, the respect for the elderly, the reverence for things of God, and a relatively crime free land.
Now fast forward to this era where people no longer fear the Lord, and are more willing to satisfy self than give to the Lord what belongs to Him – all glory honor praise and obedience.
So why then are we puzzled when thieves made off recently with the wheel chair of disabled person? A heinous crime yes, but that’s the price we pay for creating a ‘ new generation who neither know the Lord nor what he has done for Jamaica’. And the role of the media, our politicians and various aspects of civil society need to be placed under the spotlight as we seek to reverse this madness. The very same of madness that is causing so much pain in Bog Walk, and other small communities across our land. So forgetting about the moral argument and dealing only with the human rights issues of how we treat with our homosexual brothers and sisters! I think not.
THE FINAL ONE
I had no intention of reading C. S. Lewis’, the celebrated Christian Apologist, author and Philosopher, ‘ The Problem of Pain, but it was just there ‘staring at me’ in my library from yesterday. So I took it up and found this very revetting commentary, on, inter alia, religion and the moral argument – the genesis of the writing of this three part message.
” To ask whether the universe as we see it looks more like the work of a wise and good Creator or the work of chance, indifference malevolence, is to omit from the outset all the relevant factors in the religious problem.
Christianity is not the conclusion of a philosophical debate on the origins of the universe: it is a catastrophic historical event following on the long spiritual preparation of humanity which I have described. It is not a system into which we have to fit the awkward fact of pain; it is itself one of the awkward facts which have to be fitted into any system we make. In a sense, it creates, rather than solves, the problem of pain, for pain would be no problem unless, side by side with our daily experience of this painful world, we had received what we think is a good assurance that ultimate reality is righteous and loving.
Why this assurance seems to me good, I have more or less indicated. It does not amount to logical compulsion. At every stage of religious development man may rebel, if not without violence to his own nature, yet without absurdity. He can close his spiritual eyes against the Numinous ( the first strand of religious development about which Lewis writes expansively – the inherent fear or dread of the uncanny, or spiritual world, that all humanity possesses) if he is prepared to part company with half of the great poets and prophets of his race, with his own childhood, with the richness and depth of uninhibited experience. He can regard the moral law ( the second strand) as an illusion, and so cut himself off from the common ground of humanity. He can refuse to identify the Numinous with the righteous – the third strand – and remain a barbarian, worshiping sexuality, or the dead, or the life-force or the future. But the cost is heavy.
And when we come to the last step of all – found only in Christianity – the historical Incarnation, the assurance is the strongest of all.”
So C. S. Lewis reserves particularly strong language for those who would reject the moral argument. And they can either reject it, and deal with the attendant ‘heavy cost’, or accept the truth. But what we, as children of the Resurrection, the dramatic climax of the historical Incarnation, will not do, is deny The Christ who lived and died so that the entire human race, may not worship other gods, but the True and ever Living God. The God of Abraham, of Isaac, of Jacob and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
As only He can, with power rescue , our people from the terror being visited on them in Bog Walk and in Rockfort in east Kingston. And other communities across the land! All manifestations of the ‘heavy cost’ of a nation which has in large part rejected the moral law.
COMMENT: The one thing which courses through these messages is that a nation, an individual, and a world which elects to disobey the ‘moral law’ of loving our neighbour and loving God, will always ‘pay a heavy price’. This is the profound lesson which New Yorkers and indeed the entire USA are paying a ‘heavy price ‘ to learn; that ignoring the plight of poor helpless Liberians and others in West Africa, will only serve to increase the risk of Ebola coming more and more into homes in the USA and other developing countries. It is the same ‘heavy price’ that the Jamaican people are suffering in Bog Walk and elsewhere for ‘ ignoring the moral law’ to fear God. And so for New York and Jamaica, so will anyone who advocates the same for their country in pursuit of ‘human rights ‘ for any group, in the absence of a moral framework.
Another WhatsApp message for this week opens the ears and eyes of those who would listen and see, why the moral framework is such a vital part of human development
Finally, be strong in the Lord and on his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can you take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full arnor of God so that when the day of evil comes you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything to stand. Ephesians 6:10-13 NIV
In this context then, in this Chik V ravaged and Ebola threatened land awash with the blood of poor and vulnerable in Bog Walk and Rockfort, recall the words of Jesus as recorded in John 10:10 as we contemplate the coming of the day of evil.
Comment: So here we have a worldview which offers two choices. The great shame and sadness is that so many, despite warnings, going back centuries, continue accept the thief with wide open arms, and perish. While Jesus the suffering Son of God opens His arms wide to accept those who would reject their right to themselves and follow Him. Why?
On account of Sin. Which Is the subject of the final message for this week ( many but all short and important and beneficial in some way if you persist).
Entitled – Righteousness exalteth a nation, but sin is a reproach to many people – and the genesis of the mayhem in Bog Walk and Rockfort
One of the, ‘lost conversations’, of this post modern, or in less delicate language, ‘ah nuh nutten’ world, is the matter of sin. As I sought the Lord with a particular fervor whilst suffering from Chik V, last night, Oswald Chambers, whose devotional book, My Utmost for His Highest’, is reportedly one of the most widely read books after the Bible, offered some fresh insight. Insights which I would suggest ought to assist those who lead the country in its various spheres of national life, or are waiting in the wings, to a better understanding of the kind of challenges we face in Bog Walk and Rockfort today. And who knows where else tomorrow!
I read my Bible to see what men ought to do; and read my newspapers to see what men are doing.
Lord renew thy church beginning with me; Lord renew the church that the church may renew the nation(s).
1. My country, which does not have the resources to deal with an EVD ( Ebola Virus Disease) outbreak, and even the USA which does, and other countries across the globe, are in a state of panic about this modern day plague. So Ebola continues to be big news, not just locally but Internationally.
Meanwhile the good news is that the Liberian man, Thomas Duncan, who died in a Texas hospital, his girlfriend and others who were quarantined for 21 days, are now free. Free to inhale fresh air. Free to grieve properly. Free to continue their life in church and in community. Further afield, the British Nurse, William Pooley who also survived, is now back in Sierra Leone training other nurses and providing care for patients suffering from EVD. And also the ‘blame game’ continues.
From Obama to the WHO. From African leaders to those who ‘spread the disease’. From the CDC head to the Texas hospital which misdiagnosed the James Duncan’s illness case. All of this contributing to a world in a ‘tizzy’ on account of EVD.
THE WORD OF GOD
So in the midst of the real fears and panic, what message did the lord send through his Word and inspired word this week.
FFIRST MESSAGE(S) – sent to my prayer partners, reflect the state of mind that Christians ought to have when confronted by life’s challenges. Of whatever nature! For in there somewhere is a lesson, or lessons, or an opportunity to have our faith grow and develop, even though the circumstances might seem overwhelming and terrifying. think back to that doctor who survived, only by God’s grace and mercy, the EVD.
For as the Scriptures reminded me this week, in the midst of the Chik V disease,
” It does not depend on man’s efforts or desire, but on God’s mercy”.
http://bible.com/111/jas.1.2-4.niv Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
1 Peter was my ‘ song’ on the night last night. And nestled in the midst of it were these profound words, which are in accordance with a meditation from Brother Lawrence ‘ The Comfort of The Sovereign Physician’……I do not pray that you may be delivered from your pains, but I pray earnestly that he would give you the strength to bear them as long as he pleases….which has impressed me greatly.
Trials are medicines which our gracious and wise physician prescribes because we need them; and he proportions the frequency and weight of them to what the case requires. Let us trust in his skill and thank him for his prescription – John Newton
” Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourself with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin.” 1 Peter 4:1 NIV
THE SECOND MESSAGE – ENTITLED Of Ebola, and other anxieties and seeking The Kingdom of God in and through faith in Christ Jesus. Sent to members of my church, is all about the basis for not succumbing to panic in any situation. As we are children of a God who can indeed, ‘do the impossible’. Further, anxiety about our life ought not to be a primary concern for the child of the One who gave His life so that men could live – even Christ Jesus. A wonderful story told at the end in the letter from Bishop Frade in South Florida
……Then a man named Jairus,a ruler of the synagogue, came and fell at Jesus’ feet, pleading with him to come to his house because his only daughter, a girl of about twelve, was dying. Luke 8:41-42 NIV.
Lord Jesus, the people in Liberia are dying…little Mercy is dying. Lord the people in Sierra Leone are dying. Lord Jesus people in my country are dying in their sins. Lord Jesus the people in my country are suffering so much from the effects of Chik V.
…..When Jesus was still speaking, someone came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue ruler, ” Your daughter is dead,” he said. ” Don’t bother the teacher any more”.
Hearing this, Jesus said to Jairus, ” Don’t be afraid, just believe and she will be healed”.
Comment: Does this mean that Jairus’ daughter’s healing somehow depended on his faith? But then the Word says later that , ” Her parents were astonished….”. It certainly was an act of faith to approach Jesus in the first place…for healing when alive….. but to continue to believe in Jesus, even when, Jairus was told that his daughter was dead, was another matter altogether. What came into my mind just now, as I pondered this question, is what does belief mean in this instance? Belief in Jesus’ power to raise the dead? No, as they were astonished that He did. It can only then mean belief in Jesus Himself; that when He tells us not to worry, not to be afraid, we must trust Him no matter what, and continue to walk with Him.
O Jesus I have promised to serve thee to the end,
Be thou forever near me, my Master and my friend.
I shall not fear the battle, if Thou art by my side,
Nor wander from the pathway if Thou be my guide.
Lord Jesus, the people in Liberia, in Sierra Leone are dying from Ebola……Come Lord and heal. Lord Jesus, the people in Jamaica are suffering from Chik V. Come Lord and heal.
Now to my ‘song in the night ‘ last night.
No doubt triggered by Andrea ChinSee’s very thought provoking sermon on ” The Antidote for Anxiety in The Church”, my title, I am inspired to share with with you a meditation by Bonhoffer – he who paid the ultimate price for remaining faithful to His Lord and Savior when confronted by the evil of the Nazi regime which ruled Germany during World War 11. A meditation which I have read time and time again, and which has changed my life, as I am determined, despite the tremendous difficulties, which God will help us to overcome, in fact only He can, to ‘ seek ye the kingdom of God first’, despite the many and varied temptation to first, look to the ‘all things will be added’. In short to reverse the order of this most important Biblical injunction; and which Satanic temptation has been the cause of much of the dilution of the Christian witness and power in our time.
The second reflection is a letter from Bishop Frade to the Diocese of South Florida: sent in the midst of suffering and pain brought on by health concerns sweeping West Africa, The Caribbean and the USA. All of which conspire to provoke anxiety in our souls, but which reaction should be compared with those of the early Church in times of trouble many years ago – a most amazing story. Sent out on Twitter by Holy Family Church, where Canon Horace Ward, our former curate, is the Rector.
1. THE ESSENCE OF THE GOSPEL
Verse: Philippians 4:6 Do not be anxious about anything…..
Anxiety is characteristic of of the Gentiles, for they rely only on their own strength and work instead of relying on God. They do not know that the Father knows that we have need of these things, and so they try to do for themselves what they do not expect from God. But the disciples know that the rule is ” Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” ( Matthew 6:33).
Anxiety for food and clothing is clearly not the same thing as anxiety for the kingdom of God, however much we should like to persuade ourselves that when we are working for our families and concerning ourselves with bread and houses we are thereby building the kingdom, as though the kingdom could be realized only through worldly cares.
The kingdom of God and his righteousness are sharply distinguished from the gifts of the world which come our way. That kingdom is none other than the righteousness of Matthew5 and 6, the righteousness of the cross and of following Christ beneath that cross. fellowship with Jesus and obedience to his commandment come first, and all else follows.
Worldly cares are not a part of our discipleship, but distinct and subordinate concerns. Before we start taking thought for our life, our food and clothing, our work and families, we must seek the righteousness of Christ…….If we follow Jesus and look only to his righteousness, we are in his hands and under the protection of him and his Father. And if we are in communion with the Father, nought can harm us. We shall always be assured that he can feed his children and will not suffer them to hunger. God will help us in our time of need .
2. @HolyFamily1: Friends,
Please take a moment to read this letter shared to our diocese by Bishop Frade…. http://t.co/Qsj0QXp6r4
THE THIRD MESSAGE – again sent to my prayer partners, is self-explanatory especially in this context, and adds to the kind of conversation we should be having, instead of panicking about Chik V and Ebola
There is no reality without struggling. If you not called to wrestle, it is only because the wrestling is being done for you. Dr. Forsyth
When a man is at his wits’ end it is not a cowardly thing to pray, it is the only way he can get in touch with Reality – Oswald Chambers
There is nothing to be valued more highly than to have people praying for us; God links up His power in answer to their prayers – Chambers
THE FIFTH MESSAGE – SENT TO A FEW PERSONS INCLUDING MY CHILDREN WHO LIVE IN THE USA, IS A STARK REMINDER OF THE HUMAN SIDE OF THE MAJOR PUBLIC HEALTH DISEASE. THAT PEOPLE ARE JUST PEOPLE AND NOT VIRUSES. AS THE VERY DRAMATIC AND TOUCHING VIDEO TELLS US. IN THE MIDST OF THE PANIC!
10/18/14, 4:39 PM
“I am Liberian, not a virus”: Video fights stigma against people from countries battling Ebola on.mash.to/1wUCiDK pic.twitter.com/JSQSBIkTqU
So much pain all around because of Ebola.
Download the official Twitter app here
FINAL MESSAGE – sent to my church, reminds us that God is always on the side of the weak and vulnerable and humble. And so should we who are His children. At all times, and not just in times of great challenge to our very existence. But in the ordinary days of life. In season and out of season.
This morning as I began my devotions, The Benedictus came into my mind…from the old Prayer Book and using the regrettably hardly ever used most, and more wonderful and beautiful tune….and I thanked God for Jesus.
Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, : for he hath visited, and redeemed his people:
And hath raised up a mighty salvation for us: in the house of his servant David…
Then my mind went to that all important Ezekiel passage, Chapter 34, when God promised that, ” I myself will search for the sheep and rescue them”, as the shepherds of Israel had acted so selfishly and corruptly in their stewardship of the people of Israel.
” You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally. So they were scattered because there was no shepherd, and when they were scattered they became food for all kinds of wild animals”
And we all know the charge of selfishness was not limited to the leaders, but was also brought against the flock itself.
“As for you, my flock, this is what the sovereign Lord says: I will judge between the one sheep and another, and between rams and goats. Is it not enough for you to feed on good pasture? Must you also trample the rest of your pasture with your feet? Is it not enough for you to drink clear water? Must you muddy the rest with your feet? Must my flock feed on what you have trampled on and drink what you have muddied with your feet?
The comes the words of comforts for all ages.:
” I will place over them one shepherd, my servant David….
Comment: Although this Word is addressed to the leaders of Israel and the children of Israel, my mind went back to a National Geographic magazine which I read many years ago, and which was chronicled the egregious disparity between the consumption and the waste of the rich countries when compared to the poorer ones. Along with this thought came a Word from 1 Peter 5: 5
“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble”.
So although we are dealing with a specific nation and its problem in the Book of Ezekiel, there is a universal principle evident in all of this of how God deals with all mankind. And this matter of Ebola is central to it . For if truth be told, in general, apart from some visionary and compassionate groups and a few leaders, the rich counties, and even most people in Jamaica, did not pay much attention to the suffering of persons with EVD (Ebola Virus Disease) until it came across the Atlantic to Texas and before that to Spain. And this disregard for what Franz Fanon called ” The Wretched of The Earth”, has been with us from time immemorial. For what those of who are privileged, for the most part, even if it pales into comparison with the really affluent, to have access to the basic needs of life, fail to understand, and frankly don’t really care, is that, many folks in Africa and other poor countries, exist in horrible conditions. And it only when those who live on ‘the muddied waters’ of this world, get ill and pass on viruses to us, or become violent, or destroy themselves, do we in the ‘west’ become concerned. Really concerned! But not necessarily about them, but all about us.
This is the context in which we must read the information contained in the two links posted at the start of this conversation. That 16% of the rich persons in Japan, Europe and the USA, consume 80% of the resources of this planet. And our culture is rooted and grounded more and more in this North American lifestyle. A lifestyle which promotes self, and destroys communities. A lifestyle which isolates rather than integrates. A lifestyle which exalts one and tramples over the other. And the Holy One of Israel, says: ” I oppose the proud and give grace to the humble”.
At the end of the day, one fine day, when it is all over, then the only thing which will matter, is not whether or not Ebola will come to our shores, but whether or not we will live on the ‘hill” of God where on that hill He has promised:
“I will make a covenant of peace with them and rid the land of wild beasts so that they may live in the desert and sleep in forests in safety”. And we know that the Word of God declares that, ‘every promised that God has made is answered ‘Yes’ in Christ Jesus. And then we say the great Amen!’ ( 2 Cor.1:20)
P.S. Clearly there are other very important messages to be gleaned from this passage, some of which are quite germane to this issue of leadership, even in these times, but this is the one which came to me.
I read my Bible to see what men ought to do; and read my newspapers to see what men are doing.
Lord renew thy church beginning with me; Lord renew the church so that the church may renew the nation(s).
1. News about the spread of the Ebola Virus continue to dominate both the local and International media reports. Over 4000 people dead since the start of the now recognized pandemic; a nurse in Spain affected; a nurse in Texas; and a suspected case in Boston. Thus sparking the questions of who next and where next in the minds of persons across the world! And worse, threats of limiting travel out of Africa, or at the very least out of West Africa, are very much a major taking point in the USA and even in my country Jamaica, as panic and fears mount.
@WSJ: The death toll from the #Ebola outbreak has topped 4,000, says WHO. http://t.co/ioQkWkgSad
@YahooNews: Patient isolated at Massachusetts clinic after displaying #Ebola symptoms, according to @BostonGlobe report:http://t.co/9dYhVomarK
2. The terrorist group ISIS continues to capture large swaths of territory in Iraq and Syria, and is now threatening to overrun the main Iraqi airport at Baghdad. The question which looms large in everybody’s mind now seems to be when, not if, the US will have to place ‘boots on the ground’ in order to contain this growing threat to International peace. And Muslims across the world continue to denounce ISIS as non-Islam, and that true Islam does not promote violence against those who do not support their worldview But this is difficult to understand in the wake of Bin Laden and Al qaeda and now ISIS and as panic and fears mount.
3. The Chikungunya Virus continues to ravage my country, with sufficient time having passed so that persons are now going back to work too early and suffering from a relapse in their illness. And also having recurrent and severe arthritis in the affected joints, feeling weak and lethargic, and just generally unwell. Again thus triggering more fear and anger at the authorities.
THE WORD OF GOD
In the midst of this fear and panic worldwide, what Word or inspired word did the Lord send this week.
THE FIRST MESSAGE
First up was a message to a particular journalist and members of his profession, and other leaders in my country entitled, ” O Jamaica, Jamaica……but you were not willing. Which is really a ‘take off’ from a famous line in the Bible uttered by Jesus Himself when He lamented the how His own people had responded to His love and mercy. So in the same way as I received the Word, the Sovereign God was lamenting how our country, once rooted and grounded in the Christian ethic and teachings, has turned away, and is suffering as a result. The proper response to which ought to be repentance and seeking for mercy – the ultimate lesson to be gained from Chik V and Ebola. That, on our own in this world we cannot manage, and literally need to ‘have our Savior with us, for we dare not walk alone’.
The full text of the lament of the caption is; “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing”. Luke 14:34 NIV
I heard him with my own ears. Cliff Hughes on radio this week! …www.nationwidenewsnetwork.com … He was lamenting, again, wrongly or rightly, the government’s response to the Chik V outbreak. And mused aloud about Ebola, for which eventuality, in his opinion, he determined that we ,’ not ready’. Then he concluded, in part one, and advised his listeners, that as a people, we were on our own, as the ( this) government was not working. But part two of his conclusion was what really arrested my attention, as this highly decorated journalist, who I know has little time for the things of God, concluded that ‘ only God can help us’ – in the fight against Ebola. Whether or not this was a turning point in his life is left to be seen, but irregardless of what follows from this in his life, he was speaking a profound truth.
So this morning in my devotions, as I opened the Bible with the intention to read, again Psalm 84, which was my ‘song in the night’ last night, words from the Book of Lamentations spoke to me powerfully about the state of my country. And as I read and reflected on the words of truth from way back in history, which so accurately and poetically describe our journey as a nation from a Godly perspective, thus far, words from one of two repentance Psalms 32 ( the other is 51) came into my mind. As lamenting alone will only get us so far, in terms of understanding why so many of our people ‘ are weeping bitterly at night’; whether from pains associated with Chik V, or the murder of a loved one, or a child or a husband or a boyfriend gone astray, or for financial reasons, or just carrying ‘the weight of a entire nation gone astray’. What is required is repentance. Acknowledgement of our many, many sins before God and man, and then repentance. Then the ‘heavy hand of the Lord” will be removed from this nation, and we will all collectively rejoice in Him, and conclude that ” only God alone can help us. I pray God that we will not continue as a people, to be like the, ‘horse of the mule which have no understanding”, and must forever be chastened by the Lord. But rather turn to Him who is full of compassion and mercy and waiting with open arms, ‘on the cross of Calvary’, to forgive, and forgive, and forgive, ‘for they know not what they do’.
THE WORD OF GOD
How deserted lies the city, once so full of people! How like a widow is she, who once was great among the nations! She who was queen among the provinces has now become a slave. Bitterly she weeps at night, tears are on her cheeks. Among all her lovers there is no one to comfort her. All her friends have betrayed her; they have become her enemies. (Lamentations 1:1-2 NIV)
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. You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance. I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you. Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you. Many are the woes of the wicked, but the Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the one who trusts in him. Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart! (Psalm 32:1-11 NIV)
THE SECOND – SHORT MESSAGE WAS SENT TO LEADERS IN CHURCH.
Essentially making the point that, as Christians, whether in times of fear or panic, or in good times, we have a peculiar mission in this world. And that is to be unified in our efforts to ‘ give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death’. For as frightening as ISIS, or Ebola, or Chik V is, a more terrible fate awaits those who die without being ‘in Christ’. And that ought to concentrate the minds of Christians much more than such knowledge appears to have had on us in recent times. For with or without Ebola, people who reject Christ, are in great danger, physically and spiritually.
Because I live you also will live…..On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you…..John 14:19-20.
Whenever ‘that day’ comes, whether at the Crucifixion, in the upper room, on the day of Pentecost, or in our time, the ultimate goal, in this vineyard, of every child of God, washed in the Blood of Christ, is to realize the level of unity, individually and collectively as church, about which Jesus promised. And for which He later prayed in His High Priestly Prayer….that they may be one as we are one – by the power of the Name – and all that His Name represents – of Jesus.
It ought therefore to be the subject of deep, explicit and recurrent prayer for the church, and a priority in its teaching.
Then the Power of God will be manifest in and through the church in this Nation. A Nation overshadowed by death, and murder, and despair, and panic, and poverty, and immorality.
O Blessed be the Lord God of Israel: for he hath visited and redeemed his people:
And hath raised up a mighty salvation for us: in the house of his servant David……..
That we being delivered out of the hands of our enemies: might serve him without fear:
In holiness and righteousness before him: all the days of our life.
And thou, child shalt be called the Prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways;
To give knowledge of salvation unto his people: for the remission of their sins……
To give light to them that sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death: and to guide our feet into the way of peace…….. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost….
THE FINAL MESSAGE – SENT TO LEADERS IN VARIOUS SPHERES OF LIFE IN MY COUNTRY IS ENTITLED:
” A greater national imperative that preventing Ebola or battling Chik V – Uprooting self-love”.
A statement which is self-explanatory. As Ebola, ISIS and Chik V, will one day, like everything else ” this too will pass”, but the state of the human heart, which infects everything else in this world, will be with us forever, until Christ comes again. So the issue of self-love, properly understood, constitutes one of the greatest challenges to peace in the home, to peace at the workplace, in the community, and especially so in Politics, in the Business arena, in the Media, and sadly even in the church – the body of One who humbled Himself, even to death on a Cross. All because of His love for others, so much more than for Himself. And who ‘Emptied Himself of all but love’ – for others.
THE THIRD MESSAGE
The Bible – Do not take revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbour as yourself. I am the Lord. Leviticus 19:18 NIV
How seldom we weigh our neighbors in the same balance with ourselves – Thomas a Kempis. ( author of the popular devotional – Of The Imitation of Christ 1379-1471)
THE PROBLEM OF SELF LOVE – EXCERPT
Francois Fenelon ( 1651-1715 – An archbishop of Cambrai)
Self love must be uprooted and the love of God take its place in our hearts before we can see ourselves as we are. Then the same principle that enables us to see imperfections will destroy them. When the light of truth has risen within us, then we see clearly what is there. Then we love ourselves without partiality, without flattery, as we love our neighbor………..
It is a sensitive self-love that cannot forgive the self-love of others. The more self-love we have, the more severe are our censures. There is nothing so vexatious as the collisions between one excessive self-love and another more still more violent and sensitive. The passions of others are infinitely ridiculous to those who are the dominion of their own.
The ways of God are very different. He is ever full of kindness for us, he gives us strength, he regards us with pity and condescension, he remembers our weakness, he waits for us. The less we love ourselves, the more considerate we are of others. We wait for providence to give the occasion, and grace to open the hearts to receive it. if you would gather the fruit before its time, you lose it entirely.
Comment: This morning I read a meditation by Christ Tiegreen entitled ” Do you want to get well”, based on John 5:6. The same question confronts us a nation both collectively and individually at a time when we are quite correctly deeply concerned about the possibility of the Ebola Virus arriving on our shores. Do we want to get better? But to recover from what?
The reflections by Fenelon, and the instruction given in Leviticus, together with our experience in Jamaica over the past fifty years, combine to remind us that there is a far greater challenge that the nation faces. We have, in large part, despite what appears on the surface, ceased to love our neighbor, as we used to in days of yure. And more importantly, as the Lord has instructed us.
Perhaps the leaders in national life stand more accused that any other group. Can you imagine if our Political leaders, the leaders in the Private Sector, the Media and the Church, were to manifestly demonstrate this love for others, this understanding of what excessive self-love does to us, and how it affects our thoughts and actions? And learn to forgive, and be patient with one another, as we would hope that others may be patient with us.
How this principle of life would play out in our intercourse with each other: in The Parliament; in the wording of the Headlines in the morning papers, or in the interviews on Radio in the evenings; in the shaping of Public Policy; in the pursuit of Growth and Development as Government and Private Sector and elements of Civil Society work together to plan for a nation; and in the relationship between Church and State as a nation grapples with moral issues; may prove difficult and challenging. But until and unless we find a better formula to forge national unity: the kind of unity of purpose manifested in many, many different ways, that would have significantly reduced the number of persons who got Chik V; that we desperately need to prevent Ebola from taking root here if it arrives; that can help us to reduce the unconscionable gap between the rich and the poor; that can help us to dispense justice to all with out favor; that can bring back our once high regard and respect that we had for our women and children ; that can destroy once and for all the political garrisons in our country; that can help us once again to fear God, then it is high time that we adopt this time honored and Biblical principle of loving our neighbour as we love ourselves, as a matter of priority. With the many and obvious attendant benefits to nation, community and individual homes.
For the root of our problems as a people, is excessive self-love. And Fenelon is quite correct that, self-love must be uprooted before the love of God can find its place in our hearts. Problem is, we cannot by ourselves, achieve that noble goal. That’s why Jesus died on a Cross, and was raised from the dead. So that because He lives, we too may live – a new life of love and peace and patience with and for each other, and self.
I read my Bible to see what men ought to do; and read my newspapers to see what men are doing.
Lord renew thy church beginning with me; Lord renew the church so that the church may renew the nation(s).
1. The first non-American to be treated for the Ebola Virus happened in Texas this past week. Thus triggering all kinds of fears about this dreaded disease in the USA and in my home country Jamaica. It’s particularly worrying for Jamaicans now in the throes of a Chikungunya epidemic, as the fear is that if we could not handle an illness which so far is not known to kill many persons, how would we manage Ebola which has killed over three thousand people in Africa thus far.
More news for ebola deaths
2014 Ebola Outbreak in West Africa | Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever | CDC
The 2014 Ebola epidemic is the largest in history, affecting multiple countries …. Total Case Count: 7470; Total Deaths: 3431; Laboratory Confirmed Cases: 4087 …
Outbreak Distribution Map – Virus Ecology Graphic – Ebola Outbreaks 2000-2014
2. Two very troubling things happened in my country this week. The first story was about a relatively young man, who sought medical attention at a local hospital. And after reportedly waiting over twelve hours for treatment, during which time, he was said to have experienced extreme abdominal pain, to the point where was rolling in agony on the floor, he died in the waiting room of the hospital. I heard his sister talking on radio http://www.nationwide 90FM, and onwww.televisionjamaica.com/ and it was heart rending to imagine that in this day and age someone could die like that in my country.
Death on hospital floor – News – JamaicaObserver.com
4 days ago – JASON Forbes seemingly foresaw his death while lying on the floor of the Spanish Town Hospital Tuesday night, complaining about a pain in …
The second story which grabbed my attention was that of a young girl who went missing after leaving her home for school and was later found dead. Always the question is why, why, despite the welcome decline in the murder rate in my country, our women and children are at such risk in a country not a war.
High school student found dead in Trelawny | Loop Jamaica
4 days ago – The dead body of a young girl was found on Wednesday along a roadway in the Stewart Castle community in Trelawny.
Yes we continue to monitor the ISIS group in Northern Iraq and its continued barbaric acts of publicly beheading its captives to make a point to the Western countries which are intent on degrading its capacity to do evil. yes we follow the strange viruses sweeping across the USA and causing so much illness in that part of the world where many of my people have relatives and friends. yes the outbreak of a haemorrhagic type illness in Venezuela which has caused several deaths came to my attention, but the ones above touched my heart deeply.
THE WORD OF GOD
So in the midst of so much pain and angst in the world, what did the Lord reveal through His Word or inspired word this week.
A Word from the prophet Isaiah which was the one of the readings appointed for my Anglican Church today really spoke to the second news item about the unfortunate death of that patient, and the dreadful killing of that young girl. A Word that ought to cause us to reflect deeply on what part we have played in the growth of crime and violence in my country. And across the entire world:….” I will sing for the one I love a song about his vineyard. My loved one had a vineyard on a fertile hillside…..he dug it up..he built a watchtower over it…then he looked for grapes, but it yielded only bad fruit……The vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are the garden of his delight. And he looked for justice and saw bloodshed; for righteousness, but heard cries of distress. Isaiah 5:1-7 NIV. The question is what is the role of the church, the body of Christ in the New Covenant, playing in a country where there is so much injustice and cries of distress.
Next up was a meditation written by Chris Tiegreen on September 8, for ‘times like these’, that caught my eye. And out of this came several messages to my children other family members, and some of those who have ‘grown up in my hand’.
Quiet! Be still !
IN WORD There is something profoundly comforting about the fact that Jesus can immediately quiet the winds and waves that besiege us. It doesn’t matter whether they are forces of of nature, forces of the underworld, forces of the circumstances that surround us, or forces of our own creation. Whatever is out of control, He can control it.
The unsettling part of this is that he often doesn’t. We, like the disciples on the boat, have fretted over threatening forces and said to Him: ” Don’t you care if we drown” ( vs 38). And while we can certainly assume that He cares, we cannot assume that the winds will die down right away. Sometimes he lets them rage. Perhaps it is to prolong the question of vs 40 – ” Do you still have no faith?” – or to cultivate in us the right answer to that question. Whatever the reason, it is alarming, and we cannot calm it down until we are able to join in the affirmation of vs 41 – ” Even the wind and the waves obey him!”. Only when we are there can we rest.
The assurance we have is that He will bring us there. it is a certainly, just as certain as the disciples’ safety in the boat that day. he was not going to let them drown, no matter how afraid they became. Even when it seemed all else was completely out of control, He wasn’t. There was a purpose in His silence, and there was good timing in His rebuke of the elements. He doesn’t miss a thing.
IN DEED What threatens you Are you feeling out of control? Perhaps the elements have frightened you out of your wits. Don’t worry. he is the absolute authority over everything in your life, if you will trust Him with it. There is perfect timing in His commands, and your storm will not linger a moment too long. recognize who he is – even join in His rest in the back of the boat. Learn that when you are with Him, every threat is a false one.
Comment: …’frightened out of your wits’….That’s what really arrested my attention, and I actually smiled at the thought, as it so accurately describes the state of the psyche in my ‘Ebola worried country”. And no doubt, other situations which are literally ‘ frightening people out of their wits’. To wit, a young lady told me this week that she is afraid to go to America – for medical reasons – just now, because Ebola is there. Seriously! I find this meditation then extremely comforting as it reminds us who is Sovereign in this world. God Almighty in Christ Jesus. No doubt it is this kind of faith that kept hope alive in the riveting story of a doctor in Nigeria who survived after being stricken with the Ebola Virus.
So inspired by this meditation the following messages flowed:
THE FIRST MESSAGE – captioned ” There is no need for two to care, for God and the creature too – Charles Spurgeon ( 1834-1892—a great English Baptist preacher and orator)
A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern sleeping on a cushion. His disciples woke him up and said to him, ” Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” He got up up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ” Quiet! Be still. Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. Mark 4:37-38
Carry this powerful message in your heart today as you face the many storms in your personal life and with the many strange illnesses going around in the USA and other parts of the world.
THE SECOND MESSAGE
A Companion verse to the Mark reading yesterday came as I began my devotions:
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking in anything. James 1:2-4 NIV
Comment: Perseverance really must be allowed to finish its work, for the at the end comes Christian maturity. Which essentially is to know Christ…not lacking in anything.
This brings to mind John’s profound statement in the Book of Revelations:
….I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus…..1:9.
I pray God that He who began a good work in us, will grant us the grace to bear up under the trials of life, so that we will become mature and complete in Christ Jesus. To delight in His Presence and allow ‘streams of living water’ to flow through us, the promised Holy Spirit, in this world where as recorded in Isaiah – the reading for this Sunday – ” God had a vineyard on a fertile hillside…..he looked for a crop of good grapes and it yielded only bad fruit…….And he looked for justice, but saw only bloodshed, for righteousness, but heard cries of distress” 5:1-7 NIV
Then as the Spirit reminded me from my bedtime reading last night with Oswald Chambers:
THE SPHERE OF MINISTRATION
” This kind can come forth by nothing but by prayer and fasting.” Mark 9:29
Why could we not cast him out? The answer lies in a personal relationship to Jesus Christ. This kind can come forth by nothing but by concentration and redoubled concentration on Him. We can ever remain powerless, as were the disciples, by trying to do God’s work not in concentration in His power, but by ideas drawn from our own temperament. We slander God by our own eagerness to work for Him without knowing Him……
Final Comment: Do we now fully understand why we are called to deny self and take up our cross daily, if we wish to follow Him. And to allow His supernatural Power ( Who is this? He commands even the wind and the water,and they obey him…..as recorded in the Luke version of the story featured yesterday) to flow through us. Yesterday at work, whilst mulling over the Mark version of the story, and in the midst of examining a Church of God Pastor, I was moved to observe that, the great challenge of today’s church, compared with the faith of the early church ( silver and gold have I not, but in the name of Jesus get up and walk), is that we really don’t know this Jesus about Whom we profess…” who is this?”. Which is precisely what this meditation I believe, as guided by the Holy Spirit ( I had no intention of reading the book of James this morning, and only arrived there via the words of a hymn; and I resisted at first, as I was determined to start with adoration…but adoration begins with obedience) is revealing to us this morning. We have to know God in Christ before we can seek the ‘righteousness and justice’ , about which Isaiah prophesied; and which desire of God, is so desperately needed today in our nation and across the world. And the only way to really get to know Christ, is by patient endurance in our suffering brought on by our desire to follow Him. There is just no other way! So the world and Christ, await disciples who are willing, and indeed ‘consider it pure joy’, to undergo suffering and patient endurance, so that we may be mature and complete, not lacking in anything, and having thus, ‘shared in His cup”, bring Light to a world in darkness. What a great privilege!
Comment: I cannot stress too much the importance of this foundational understanding of the Christian faith. That without suffering you cannot get to really know the Lord. Blessing may help you to know about Him, but only by ‘taking up one’s Cross can we truly follow Christ”. Especially in these times of ‘ prosperity gospel and ‘ comfortable Christianity’.
THE FINAL MESSAGE – IN THIS SERIES
As I gave thanks for obedience, from the hymn ‘ Hark my soul it is the Lord’, came these words into my mind:
Lord it is my chief complaint
That my love for thee is weak and faint,
But I love thee and adore,
O for grace to love thee more.
ANOTHER MESSAGE – ENTITLED : THE REAL LESSON BEHIND THE CHIK V AND EBOLA VIRUS. SENT TO MEMBERS MY CHURCH FAMILY AND OTHERS
Just being obedient. The first link…somebody ought to praise His Holy Name. The second and third links provide a reason – contextualized in the crisis which which we are currently experiencing with Chik V and the possibility of Ebola. The first message came this morning as I worshiped. The other two came last night as I read Oswald Chambers ‘ Complete Works”.
Peace….I hope someone will really praise His Holy Name, Christ The Deliverer.
FINALLY A MESSAGE ABOUT THE IMPORTANCE OF THE WORD
In the midst of bedtime prayers, this: As the gentle beams of the moon and stars remind us that you word is alive and active even when we can see only dimly…..
And then my mind went to: ‘ you are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you’….
and, ‘ The Spirit gives life, the flesh counts for nothing; these words which I have given to you are spirit and they are life…
and, ” For the word of God is living and active. sharper than a double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow, it judges the thoughts and attitude of the heart”.
Isn’t this all marvellous! That, even as we sleep, and even when we do not fully comprehend things and situations, the Word of God is still active in our lives, changing, judging and making all things new. Praise God indeed, for this further explains in a sense, that ‘ the battle is not ours but the Lord’s. Although clearly we have a huge part to play in being obedient, persistent, and in faith seek to live a holy life.
Take home message: Spending time in the Word is like placing money in the bank – the benefits accrue and multiply more and more with each passing day. All to the glory of God. No wonder the enemy tries to use so many things to distract us from that which is the key to life as a disciple – The Word of God
So the take home message is that we need to learn to ” be quiet and be still”, in the presence of a Sovereign God. In the presence of a God who can do ‘abundantly more than we can ask or imagine”, in the face of Chik V, Ebola or any other crisis in our lives. All because this same God, in love and in Christ Jesus died on the Cross of Calvary, and with mighty Power, was raised from the dead, so that in Him we may have new and supernatural life, and have it more abundantly. So fear not this week, and be of good courage, once you have decided to follow Jesus, and allow Psalm 91 to become as real to you, as it did to that doctor who survived the Ebola Virus. But also be minded that those who dwell in the secret place of the most High God, as the Psalmist promises, will not only be enabled to live a life free of fear, but equally so, God expects us to be part of solution wherever there is injustice or unrighteousness. Whether in a hospital in Jamaica or in the desert fighting against the evil of ISIS, or comforting and caring for those caught up with Ebola or Chik V.