I read my Bible to see what men ought to do: and read my newspapers to see what men are doing.
Because we know what it is to fear the Lord we try to persuade men.
Lord renew thy church beginning with me: Lord renew the church that the church may renew the nation(s).
The news this week in my country was dominated by the controversy surrounding the offer from UK Prime Minister David Cameron, who came visiting. Within a package of grant funding to further the ties between the Caribbean and the UK, was an offer to assist in the building of a modern prison which would meet international human rights standards. The catch was that Jamaica would have to agree to house up to 300 Jamaicans who are currently serving time in prisons in the UK. This did not go down well with the Jamaican populace, as they were expecting an apology for the enslavement of our forebears, accompanied by a significant ‘ reparations’ for this egregious act against humanity. And neither of the expectations was fulfilled!
The other matter which received some attention was a recent rally by sections of the Jamaican Church Community, organized to highlight the need for the preservation of the Biblical understanding of The Family, in the face of mounting pressure from abroad for us to accept ‘same sex marriage’.
THE WORD OF GOD
So, in the midst of all of this controversy what Word or inspired word did the Lord send this week.
As usual message that were received were sent out on WhatsApp. I was particularly struck, and would recommended it highly to all, by the Prayer used by the South Africans as they celebrated freedom from the evil system of Apartheid. ‘Amazing Grace’, in the context in which I received it also touched my heart ; and would recommend it to one of my favorite journalists, Ian Boyne, who in his column in the Daily Gleaner today assumed the literary equivalent of an ‘agent provocateur’ as he appeared to be arguing the case for the ‘removal of hell’ from the Word of God.
Also instructive, in this context, was a quote from a famous preacher:
” Prayer that slavishly follows the day-by-day development of the world news may be quite easily wasted. Most world events are like ping pong balls being batted back and forth. They are lively enough, they make a great deal of attention getting racket, but they lack significance”.
Finally, in terms of what really stayed with me, was the constant reminder, that ” God has a preference for suffering humanity’. In all their various manifestations. Some of which might give us much pause! Eventually.
THE FIRST MESSAGE – addresses up front and very person the issue of God’s preference for ” Suffering Humanity”.
GM: I began ‘ my devotions’ this morning – I’ve added the parenthesis, as it’s not really our devotions, but God speaking to us if we listen carefully – with Be Thou My Vision.
And as I arrived at ‘Be Thou my best thought both day and by night, ‘ suffering humanity’ came into my mind. Then I realized that, to think about, or to invite Jesus into our hearts, is to place an emphasis on the ‘ wretched of the earth’ about whom the Algerian author, Franz Fanon famously wrote many years ago during the struggle for Independence from France.
Then my mind went to Jesus’ famous revelation that:
“….for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me…”
Matthew 25:42-43. NRSV
All of us who journeyed with #ThePopeintheUSA, cannot have missed the agenda of this holy man of God. Skipping lunch with the movers and shakers of the world to have a meal with the poor. Visiting those in prison – the first for a Pope in America. Calling on the United Nations to place a priority on poverty reduction and listing the ills of unbridled capitalism – read greed.
Time and time again speaking about that institution under attack in America viz. The Family – he did not say it explicitly but just think about it, ” from which attack by the evil one in addition to other forces, has come; divorce, abortion by demand, teenage pregnancy, crime and violence and all kinds of social ills. All of which are very familiar to us here in Jamaica.
Original authentic Christianity placed an emphasis on following Christ and taking care of the widows and the orphans. Read carefully James’ definition on the kind of religion God approves:
” Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, to keep oneself unstained by the world “. James 1:27.
We could easily add to this list, ageing parents, grandparents, and suffering children and adults. For all around us ” suffering humanity”; hurting wives and girlfriends; grieving families; communities living in abject poverty and ‘forgotten’ by society; people filled with remorse and aching with pain over unresolved ‘ sins of the past’; people suffering from life threatening and sometimes terminal illnesses; folks with serious mental illnesses; all are crying out for help. For them Jesus came with a message of hope and an offer of eternal life. But just as important, a heart filled with compassion and Mercy.
This is the essence of the faith. Not just to complain about ‘ being tired of the fussing and fighting and desiring to go to heaven’. Not ‘ ruling over others’. Not ‘ seeking to be the first in the kingdom’. Not being satisfied with an assurance of personal salvation.
Perhaps we, all of us, and me first, need to take a second look at the Jesus who we claim to love. And invite into our hearts! For this Jesus came to die. For the sick, and the ‘ wretched of the earth’. The chief one of which is all mankind, held captive by Sin and death. And to make Him Lord – their only desire. ” Be Thou my Vision “.
Therefore He and other desires, no matter how noble they may appear to be, cannot live in peace with each other. One must die. I wonder which one we will choose. Forever!
THE SECOND MESSAGE – poses an existential question. Actually two! ‘ What has brought you thus far in life And what is it about man why God is so interested in Him? I would suggest to all that the answers to both begin with Love, Grace and Mercy, and end with the Great Act of Atonement on the Cross of Calvary by God Incarnate, Christ Jesus.
GM: I was searching for another hymn at the beginning of ‘ my devotions’ this morning, but ended up reading and singing – in my heart – ” Amazing Grace”. And:
” ’tis grace hath brought me safe this far,
and grace will lead me home”…. in particular, ministered to my soul. In the same way Samuel’s naming of the place where had arrived ” Ebenezer”…thus far has the Lord brought me….has also touched my heart on so many occasions.
Then I read the Psalm appointed for reading in my church on Sunday, and just spent time worshiping an awesome and loving God. What is man, indeed, that this God is so mindful of us? And loved us, even to death on a Cross. We who were once so ‘ wretched’ in the presence of a Holy God! Thank you Jesus. Thank you Jesus. O Bless your Holy Name! Alleluia!
Message: Sometimes we just need to
remove ourselves from the hustle and bustle of life, and spent time quietly, worshiping the Lord. And give thanks, that ‘ thus far, with amazing grace, has the Lord brought ‘ me’.
Amazing grace! how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch; like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.
’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed!
The Lord hath promised good to me,
His word my hope secures;
He will my shield and portion be
As long as life endures.
When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we first begun.
THE WORD OF GOD. Psalm 8 NIV
O Lord , our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory
in the heavens.
From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise
because of your enemies,
to silence the foe and the avenger.
When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
the son of man that you care for him? You have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned them with glory and honor.
You made him rulers over the works of your hands;
you put everything under his feet:
all flocks and herds,
and beasts of the field,
the birds in the sky,
and the fish of the sea,
all that swim the paths of the seas.
O Lord , our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
THE THIRD MESSAGE – is probably the most important message for the week for within it is the South African Prayer. Offered after a winter of despair, which is precisely what is current in Jamaica, in so many ways, the words ” Let us agree to disagree with out being enemies”, resonated deep in my soul. For, how much could such a philosopy, an approach to internal and inter party conflicts, to conflicts at home, within the community, between elements of civil society, and even within the Church, could results in deep and lasting peace in my country!
GM: Usually during my lunchtime devotions, I like to delve a bit more into the Word which I read for my early morning devotions.
So yesterday, I went back to Psalm 8. And in my Classics Devotional Bible, discovered a treasure of a mediation inspired by Psalm 9.
The context is the liberation of South Africa from the evil of Apartheid. And a prayer from a Thanksgiving Service is the treasure.
Why? Because it speaks about the possibility, the real possibility, that one day, one fine day, my country Jamaica, beset with some of the very same ills that plagued SA, with the help of God, can experience renewal and healing.
So many of our people, especially the young, and sadly very cynical, will tell you, that there is no hope for Jamaica. And that things are going to get progressively worse. No matter which party is in power! The reasons are all there for those of us who have eyes to see, and ears to hear.
The Crime and Violence fostering a feeling and reality of insecurity; the outrageous behaviour of those who drive on our roads; the growing phenomenon of ,’ unavailable fathers’; the uncouth, coarse and ill mannered behavior of far too many young and old people – uptown and downtown, and who fear neither God nor man; the way we abuse our women and disrespect the elderly; the growth, like ‘ weed’, of extortionists terrorizing trying small business people; the ‘ tun up’ economy ( even if we understand the reason, the reality is very challenging) in which ‘ no dollars nah run’; very few jobs for qualified university graduates; the vulgarity of some of our entertainers and music genres; the corruption in high places in both the public and the private sector, and the perceived lack of compassion for the Poor by those ‘ well off ‘ in the society, have all combined to create an atmosphere of hopelessness and apathy unprecedented in our nation’s history.
Yes, I dare say most Jamaicans are ‘ putting up resistance’ and continue to be gracious, hard working, God fearing, kind, thus making this country in many respects, a joy, and a place that we long to return. But, a growing minority has made us a pariah in the eyes of many outsiders. And we can’t place all the blame on slavery, and what that terrible period of our history did to our psche and our economy. Thus talks of reparation of some form or another are quite in order.
But as Jeremiah warned we cannot:
‘ dress up the wounds my people
as though it were not serious’ ( 8:11)
and expect to have peace, prosperity and happiness one day.
No, for without acceptance of personal and collective responsibility, that at times , recklessness has attended public policy decisions, that wickedness has entered into our hearts – that we no longer even know how to blush – and that Injustice has denied the poor and the voiceless a rightful share in the nation’s growth and development, we will never turn to God, repent, and ask for mercy.
So what shall we do, and to Whom do we turn for Hope? I was greatly inspired and comforted by the words of the prayer of thanksgiving. For it meant that throughout the struggle against the wickedness of Apartheid, the South African people never lost their hope, that Almighty God, would rescue them from evil.
This too, is my hope and prayer: that my people will also call upon the Name of the Lord, without ceasing; and in a sure faith, that one day, one fine day, Jamaica, under God will be rescued. From the evils of Murder, Political Tribalism, Economic Stagnation, Corruption, Wide Spread Immorality in our Schools, Homes and Music and the Consignment of so many of our people to Wrong Addresses, from which so much evil emerges, even with the remarkable good that attends the lives of many others.
A PRAYER OF THANKSGIVING
South Africa, National Service of Thanksgiving. Edited.
Verse: Psalm 9:1
” I will give thanks to the Lord with my
I will tell of your wonderful deeds”.
O God our loving eternal Parent, we praise you with a shout of joy! Your ruling power has provided victorious!
For centuries our land seemed too dark for sunrise, too bloody for healing, too sick for recovery, too hateful for reconciliation.
But you have brought us into the daylight of liberation; you have healed us with new hope; you have stirred us to believe our nation can be reborn; we see the eyes of our sisters and brothers shinning with resolve to build a new South Africa ( Jamaica). Accept our prayers of praise and thanksgiving……
We thank you for the spiritual power which gives us new birth. You have given us the courage to change our minds, to open our hearts, to those who we despised, and to discover we can disagree without being enemies.
We are not winners and losers, but citizens who push and pull together to move the nation forward.
We thank you for the good news that you will always be with us, and will always overcome: that love will conquer hatred; that tolerance will conquer antagonism; that cooperation will conquer conflict; that your Holy Spirit can empower our spirits; through Jesus Christ our Lord
COMMENT: I pray that you will all join me in beseeching the Lord to : ‘ stir us to believe that our nation can be reborn…..and to discover that we can disagree without being enemies’.
In Jesus Name. Amen
THE FOURTH MESSAGE – brings us back to the news. And makes me wonder about the significance, in the context of The Love, Mercy, and Grace of an Amazing God, of these two news items; which continue to make us so ‘not and bothered’.
GM: Two issues have occupied my thoughts, a lot, in the past 24 hours.
And then I was led to read this quote in particular, and have been pondering on Its significance ever since.
“Prayer that slavishly follows the day-by-day development of world news may be quite easily wasted. Most works events are like ping pong balls being batted back and forth”.
So which two issues?
Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron’s, controversial, in the midst of a serious national debate on Reparations for Slavery, offer to assist Jamaica in building a Modern Prison which meets International Human Rights standards.
And a local Television station’s, TVJ Current Affairs Program, All Angles, a couple nights ago, which placed a focus on Same Sex Marriage, and another mass rallly by Church Groups in defense, and importance, of, the Biblical understanding of Family.
One is a response to the growing number of countries which have embraced, and in the case of some, pledged to ‘ export’ , same sex marriage. A complex issue clouded , in one sense, and also aggravated in another sense, by ‘ political action ‘ on both sides. With each side claiming to react to the ‘ uncaring, unreasonable and intolerant’ behavior on the one hand; and the ‘ calculating and socially and morally destructive and disobedient to God’, behavior on the other hand.
At the same time, however, many Christians are quite satisfied just to love and pray for the ‘ sinner’ while acknowledging the Sin, along with the many sins that we all have committed before a Holy God. And that’s why we love Jesus so much. And are anxious to tell everybody about the Gospel of Salvation. But which Good News can easily get lost in the ‘ political action and debate’, and serve to frustrate the command to minister to ‘ these the least of my children’.
The other is presumably an attempt by a former colonial power, to ‘ pressure’ or provide an inducement to one of it’s former colonies, to assist with Britain’s prison problems. While ignoring the call for an apology and Reparations for the gross injustice carried out against huge numbers of our ancestors. An act against humanity which helped to enrich the coffers of Britain and thus made it a Industrialized Country. But which unconscionable action served to ‘ underdevelop Africa and the Caribbean’ . And which history was the subject of highly acclaimed scholarly writing by the late Walter Rodney. Sadly, and the devil is a master at deception and distraction, a noble and just cause, Reparations, could easily get lost in the controversy provoked by a scion of a former slave owner ‘ bearing a gift’ of a Prison. Which, on the face of it, for those who seek to minister to the ‘ least of these my children’, would be a good thing, were it not attended by , in more ways than one, the ‘ political considerations’.
Neither issue will be resolved any time soon. As both require no less than the Wisdom of Solomon to arrive at an amicable solution. And therefore a good and wise God led me last night to reflect on wisdom offered by a famous preacher, inspired by a Word written by Solomon as inspired by God. To reflect on these words in the context of these current issues, and the misuse and misunderstanding of prayer, and to pray alright accordingly.
TOUCHING HEAVEN IN PRAYER
A. W. Tozer ( 1897-1963…A lifelong Pastor in the Christian and Missionary Alliance ….and author of many books…)
Verse: Proverbs 15:8
The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord,
but the prayer of the upright is his delight.
Too many praying persons seek to use prayer to ends that are not wholly pure. Prayer is often conceived to be no more than a technique for self-advancement, a heavenly method of achieving earthly success…..
The Scriptures are very clear about the place of prayer in the economy of God….. ” The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective “, wrote the inspired James…..James 5:16
The same Apostle who affirmed the effectiveness of prayer also admitted that prayer is sometime ineffective. ” You ask and do not receive because you ask wrongly, in order to spend what you get on your pleasures”. James 4:3.
Prayer that slavishly follows the day-by-day development of world news may be quite easily wasted. Most world events are like ping pong balls being batted back and forth – Obama must be feeling the same way after today’s once again mass murder involving the use of guns. They are lively enough, they make a great an attention getting racket, but they lack significance.
Surely the God who presided over history knows how few things matter. But he knows also that what things do matter; and if we are spiritual enough to hear his voice he will lead us to engage in the kind of praying that will be effective.
Comment: Let those who have ears to hear and listen. And take heed. As what really matters, and this ought to be the subject of much prayer, is not our campaigns, of one sort or another, but our desire to grow more and more like Christ; and to represent Christ in our sufferings, and in our dealings with ‘ suffering humanity’.
For God will, one fine day, manifestly delight in the prayers and actions of the righteous, and compassionate, and those who minister to the least of His children; but reject the offerings of the wicked, the uncaring, those who ignore the suffering of His children, the unrepentant, and those who reject the forgiveness offered by the sacrifice of His only Son, Christ Jesus. Lord grant us the grace to know the difference between the two sides of the coin, in all situations.
THE FIFTH AND FINAL MESSAGE – features a wonderful praise Song. Which is what we are called to do at all times. Give God the Glory and Honor and Praise, for He is worthy. As He died for us and for the entire human race on Calvary as Christ Jesus. A great mystery!
The reality is that after worshiping God in this High and Mighty way, as I just did, we have to leave the clouds, the transfiguration with Jesus, and descend with Him from ‘ Heaven’ into the ‘ demon possessed valley’. For in the midst of murder caused by scammimg, in Hanover and the West; in the midst of the debate about same sex marriage; in the midst of the extortionists; in the midst of hand foot and mouth disease ; in the midst of the election madness; in the midst of teaching ‘ bad pickney’ at school, we are called to live and share the Good News that ‘ Jesus Saves. With Power, and Mercy and Compassion! Regardless of whether we can see the way forward clearly or not, down in the valley of Crime and Violence, down in the valley of Spice and Lady Saw……
Which is the mandate the Lord reminded me about last night in two ways. One which I tweeted:
Since then we know what it is to fear the Lord we try to persuade men. #2Cor511 #SameSexMarriage #Adultery #AbsentBabyFather @mikeyabrahams
The other I read and pondered. Greatly!
MY UTMOST FOR HIS HIGHEST
Verse: If thou canst do anything, have compassion on us and help us. Mark 9:22.
After every time of exaltation we are brought down with a sudden rush into things as they are, where it is neither beautiful nor poetic nor thrilling.
The height of the mountain top is measured by the drab drudgery of the valley; but it is in the valley that we have to live for the Glory of God.
We see his glory on the Mount, but we never live for his glory there. It is in the sphere of humiliation that we find our true worth to God, that is where our our faithfulness is revealed.
Most of us can do things if we are always at the heroic pitch because of the natural selfishness of our hearts, but God wants us at the drab commonplace pitch, where we live in the valley according to our personal relationship with him.
Peter thought it would be a fine thing for them to remain on the Mount, but Jesus Christ took the disciples down from the Mount into the valley – the place where the meaning of the visions is explained.
“If Thou canst do any thing…..’ It takes the valley of humiliation to root the scepticism out of us. Look back on your experience, and you will find that until you learned Who Jesus was, you were a cunning sceptic about His Power.
When you were on the Mount, you could believe anything, but what about when you were up against the facts in the valley?
You may be able to give a testimony to sanctification, but what about the thing that is a humiliation to you just now?
The last time you were on the Mount with God you saw all that power in heaven and earth belonged to Jesus – will you be sceptical now in the valley of humiliation?
Peace, as we give thanks for the rain. All to the Glory , the Shekinah, of a Loving and faithful God.