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.