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 convince men.
Lord renew thy Church beginning with me; Lord renew the Church that the Church may renew the nation(s)
The news that three Taxi Drivers had been brutally murdered last week really shook me up. One of the dead men is a relative of someone I know. While another lived and worked in the same town where I work. And so lots of people were talking about his untimely death, as he was a good man. I had no connection with the third one, but just the sheer terror that the other passengers must have experienced when he was shot in the back of his head by a gunman sitting in a rear seat, makes one shiver
The Election Fever has really begun to rise in Jamaica. As is happening in the USA. We call it the ‘silly season’ when parties try to score points with the voting public -a steadily diminishing class in Jamaica – by either making the most grandiose of promises or by attacking the other side at every given opportunity. To put it midly, this kind of season does not lend itself to national unity. Neither in the USA, where Trump of all persons is claiming to be a ” Unifier”; nor in Jamaica where the need for reconciliation among all sections of the society is desperately needed. For while a country with almost 300 million people can survive a deeply polarized political culture, not so a country of Jamaica’s size – 2.5 million – as we need ‘all hands on deck’ to fight against the twin headed monster of Crime and Violence and other national ills. In this context, a ‘blow up’, in of all places, the Upper House in Jamaica, between Senators this week, resulting in one being suspended, was disappointing to say the least.
Frightening! Simply frightening was the reaction to the speed with which Hurricane Patricia developed, and the size and intensity – the biggest and most powerful ever recorded in this hemisphere. Thank God the damage it inflicted in Mexico was far less than expected. But it just goes to show how puny man is, and helpless, when compared to the forces of nature. And that force, God Almighty, who is in ultimate control. And so word from Psalm 46, to which I was drawn that day, became very real to me:
” God is our refuge and strength,
an ever present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and he mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountain quake with their surging.” Psalm 46:1-3 NIV
THE WORD OF GOD
So what other Word did the Lord send this week. Several which I sent out on Whatsapp.
THE FIRST MESSAGE – one of the shortest ones I’ve written. And a bit scary, as I would never dare to write something like that on my own. So it’s a warning to come out of the darkness – where Satan lives and is in control. Definitely not a good place to be. Especially when someone, God Himself died to rescue us from that place. And those who continue to murder and maim and act corruptly and immorally, and do not pursue peace but cause strive, will find one day, that the Lord’s patience, in waiting on them to repent, is not inexhaustible.
LIGHT AND DARKNESS
I am not trying to be dramatic, but this message, which just came into my head, as I prepared to go to bed, has no context. But of course, there is indeed a background to it. Only you and I, however, by ourselves, can discern it.
And it came with a great sadness!
One verse is well known. If fact it is the most popular and well known verse in the Bible.
The others, however, are just as important. I pray God that this message comes as a warning and not as a settled matter.
Clearly it is not something I would dare to write on my own, but I do not intend to be disobedient. So please read carefully, act, ( Psalm 51, which for years was part of my bedtime reading is a good place to start….and I intend to read it prayerfully tonight) and then share as you see fit.
THE WORD OF GOD
For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but have eternal life.
Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
Those who believe in him are not condemned, but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they did not believe in the name of the only Son of God.
And this is the judgement, that the light had come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil.
For all who do evil hate the light and do not come into the light, so that their deeds might be exposed. But they that do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.
John 3:16-21 NRSV
And by way of explanation, the following verse then came into my mind:
” If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin. But now they have no excuse for their sin.”
THE SECOND MESSAGE – does not constitute on the face of it , a warning. But let’s face it, where else, or to whom, are you going to turn to, in times of trouble, if not Jesus, who invites is to come to Him for ‘healing’. To the poets and griots and Heroes of the day – Bob Marley, Marcus Garvey, Rex Nettleford et al. Can any of them offer lasting peace Did any of them die for you and I?
GM: COME UNTO ME ALL ARE WEARY – THE REAL HERO OF ALL MANKIND
As I spend time with the Lord before going off to the official celebrations for National Heroes Day in #Jamaicalandwelove, a conforting Word. A Word which is really a follow up from last night Word which ought to have challenged our souls. And so ‘ Jesus the lover of our souls’ sends a message through His Word, and the glorious hymn of one of the world’s best known hymn writers – Charles Wesley.
It began, strangely, with a hymn I always reflect on before participating in Holy Communion on a Sunday morning.
‘ Here O my Lord I see thee face to face……
And on thee all my weariness lean.’
Then one the most profound Words from Jesus entered my heart.
THE WORD OF GOD – from memory as it entered my heart.
‘ Come unto me all who are weary and heavily burdened and I will give you rest’ . Matthew 11:28
A verse which inspired Augustine of Hippo ( 354-430…the Bishop of the early Church who is credited with establishing the doctrine of the Christian Church… made the Grace of God the theme of theology in the West, and whose Seminal Book The City Of God and other writings had a profound effect on the development of Western Democratic Societies) to pen these words.
‘ I have read in Plato and Cicero sayings that are very wise and very beautiful, but I have never read in either one of them : Come to unto me all who ye that labor and are heavy laden’
And so I spent some time reflecting on the reality that status cannot give your heart weary with the Crime and Violence and the many trials of life in Jamaica and the world, the ‘rest’ it seeks. Nor Money! Nor sex! Only Jesus lover of my soul can.
Then I recalled that there was a hymn with those words.
JESUS LOVER OF MY SOUL
Jesus, lover of my soul, let me to Thy bosom fly,
While the nearer waters roll, while the tempest still is high.
Hide me, O my Savior, hide, till the storm of life is past;
Safe into the haven guide; O receive my soul at last.
Other refuge have I none, hangs my helpless soul on Thee;
Leave, ah! leave me not alone, still support and comfort me.
All my trust on Thee is stayed, all my help from Thee I bring;
Cover my defenseless head with the shadow of Thy wing.
Plenteous grace with Thee is found, grace to cover all my sin;
Let the healing streams abound; make and keep me pure within.
Thou of life the fountain art, freely let me take of Thee;
Spring Thou up within my heart; rise to all eternity. Charles Wesley.
I pray God that, Jesus the lover of our souls, will empower us to ponder deeply on the fact that ‘ Plenteous Grace with Him is found’ ; and that, He alone can grant our weary souls rest in this troubled land. We just have to respond to His gracious invitation to Come unto Him who is The Light of the world.
THE THIRD MESSAGE – clearly the answer to the question posed at the top of the last message will depend on who is your teacher. Who have you let into your mind to influence you. And this is the thrust of this message as Christian values recede in the face of other countercultural values. But with devastating consequences! And the answer is not to try to teach ‘ Christian values’, but to go what the song writer calls the ‘old time religion which was good enough for you’. The question, is how many are listening and willing to repent. In the parliament! In the media! In the corporate world! In civil society! And even in the Church.
GM: WHO IS YOUR TEACHER
In one of the wickedest acts that has happened in the town where I work in #Jamaicalandwelove, they shot and killed a beloved and highly respected taxi man a few days ago. A ‘ big man’! Not some careless young boy mixed up with them. And apparently not satisfied, they burnt his body. Rumour has it that he refused to be involved in the criminals’ ‘ wrong doings’. Who knows the truth? But God does.
That’s our hope, for even if the police or somebody else catches up with the murderers, it will not erase this dastardly act. Another blot on the good name of our country. Another cause for mourning. Another reason to wonder what has become of our once peaceful land.
Two days ago, I was led to read a mediation which asked a probing questions. ‘ Who is your teacher?’
A reflection to be undertaken against the background of the call from every quarter in Jamaica, for us to begin to care for, and even love, each other again. To respect and have high regard for the sanctify of Life. To champion the human rights of all. And for the church to become more involved in the fight against crime and violence and the protection of human rights. All noble ideals. But to whom do we look for guidance? And how seriously would we consider a quote I read recently:
“You can’t have Christian values without Christianity”.
The Reflection below is written for an American readership, but we, like them, with violence so pervasive in both countries, could do well to ‘ listen’ carefully.
A PERSONAL TEACHER – CHRIS TIEGREEN ( An abridged version)
This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit. 1. Corinthians 2:13
In many homes, the television in on more than six hours a day. Statistics have shown that even in faithful, church -attending families, our children will have watched 24,000 hours of TV by the time they are eighteen. By contrast, they will probably have been in church less than 3,000 hours.
The statistics don’t change much for Christian adults, who by some accounts are saturated in media five times more than in Bible study, prayer, and fellowship. The subtle voices of the world have ample time to drown out the voice of the Spirit.
We are in a spiritual war, trying to keep a straight path through a vast array of deceptions. If we’re having trouble doing so, we may want to look at the teachers we expose ourselves to. If we are being fed by the philosophies behind media news and programming – and yes, everything has a philosophy behind it – then it’s harder to be nourished by the Spirit. Like healthy plants we tend to grow towards the closest light.
We need to be careful which light shines on us most directly……
Comment: Wow! Have mercy. And if Christians who are following the One who died for them, Christ Jesus, are having such a difficult navigating through these spiritual landmines, how much more difficult it is for people who have rejected or ignored the faith, to live a civilized life. Especially when you add the influence of the gun and violence laden lyrics in the dancehall, and the ‘ show me your worst behavior’ lyrics of the Soca culture! Coming at you day after day!
A reality further compounded by the complexities and challenges of life in the #wrongaddress. #Liveintheghetto.
No wonder then, over time we have ‘produced’ these heartless killers. In America and in Jamaica!
And only Christian Values can make, and has in many cases made, a difference and rescue us from this madness. But are willing to accept Jesus as our only Teacher and Saviour. For like it or not, and believe it or not, we are engaged in spiritual warfare of one kind or another. Jesus on one side. Satan on the other. Choose well. As for me and my house, with God’s help, by His Grace, we will serve the Lord. What say you to Jesus who is still, to this day, in the midst of the horrific murders, calling to us:
“Come unto me all who are weary and heavily burdened, and I will give you rest “.
I pray God, that day by day, more and more people, will respond to this gracious call from God the Creator of Heaven and Earth, who loves, and loved and loves us. Regardless! And thus help to rescue my country.
THE FOURTH MESSAGE – suffering can be a double edged sword. It can drive you away from the God who in Christ Jesus invites us to ‘ Come unto Him, all who are laden and are heavily burdened…’ Or in many cases it can draw you into a deeper relationship with the One suffered and died so that all of us might find ultimate Peace.
In our context then, more of our Parliamentarians ought to have found a deeper relationship with Christ. So too more of all sectors of our society. Except those who benefit, in the short term, from a life lived without reference to God’s commandments and mercy. Without any constraints in how they behave, and how they live, and how they relate to another person made in God’s image and in need of mercy. Pray God that suffering we are all experiencing will indeed touch more and more hearts, and cause persons to repent and help to rescue Jamaica. And then pray always that Their Savior will be with them at all times. Even Christ Jesus
GM: SUFFERING DRAWS YOU CLOSER TO GOD
With three taxi men brutally, and in two cases, publicly killed, within the past few days; the continued loss of lives on our roads; and the deaths of eighteen high-risk premature babies in a short time, you cannot escape the weight of suffering in our country.
And yet, New York Times Best Selling Author, and Pastor on Manhattan’s Redeemer Presbyterian Church Rev. Timothy Keller, in his book ” Walking with God through Pain and Suffering”, tells us that suffering draws us closer to God.
I share with you excerpts from the first pages.
– I think that taking life seriously means something like this: that whatever man does on this planet has to be done in the lived truth of the terror of creation…..of the rumble of panic underneath everything. Otherwise it is false – Ernest Becker, The Denial of Death
– I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul makes its boast in the Lord; Let the afflicted hear and be glad. O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together. ( Psalm 34: 1-3).
– Suffering is everywhere, unavoidable, and its scope often overwhelms.
-Tens of thousands of people die everyday in unexpected tragedies, and hundreds around them are crushed by grief and shock. The majority of them trigger no headlines because pain and misery is the norm in this world.
– Shakespeare understood this well when he wrote:
Each new morn
New widows howl, new orphans cry,
New sorrows strike heaven on the face.
– Interestingly Jamaica features, as an article written in the NYTimes magazine about the ‘ Beltway Sniper’ is referenced and used to make the point about the randomness of death. And therefore how difficult it is to protect yourself from it.
-Therefore, no matter what precautions we take, no matter how well we have put together a good life, no matter how hard we have worked to be healthy, wealthy, comfortable with friend and family…. something will inevitably ruin it. No amount of money, power, and planning can prevent bereavement, dire illness, relationship betrayal, financial disaster or a host of other troubles from entering into your life. Human life is fatally fragile and subject to forces beyond our power to manage.
Life is tragic.
– We all need support of we are not to succumb to despair. In this book we will argue that inevitably this support must be spiritual.
– But at the same time, I learned that just as many people find God through affliction and suffering.
– Suffering plants the flag of truth within the fortress of a rebel soul.
– Over the years, I also came to realize that adversity did not merely lead people to believe in God’s existence. It pulled those who already believed into a deeper experience of God’s reality, love and grace.
– As C. S. Lewis famously puts it , ” God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain. ”
– As a man who seemed about to lose both his career and his family once said to me, ” I always knew, in principle, that ‘ Jesus is all you need’ to get through. But you don’t really know Jesus is all you need until Jesus is all you have.
Food for thought isn’t it! This matter of Spiritual support in and through Him, Christ Jesus, who suffered and died do that in Him we may find true and lasting Peace
I leave you with the haunting song by the BTC, ” Jesus is more than enough for all you need”.
I wrote this message last night, and early this in my deep sleep, this instruction/ hymn came into my mind. For very obvious reasons, as we indeed dare not walk without our God in this world of ‘ tragedy and suffering’.
I must have the Savior with me,
For I dare not go alone,
I must feel His presence near me,
And His arm around me thrown.
Then my soul shall fear no ill, fear no ill,
Let Him lead me where He will, where He will,
I will go without a murmur,
And His footsteps follow still.
I must have the Savior with me,
For my faith, at best, is weak;
He can whisper words of comfort,
That no other voice can speak.
I must have the Savior with me,
In the onward march of life,
Thro’ the tempest and the sunshine,
Thro’ the battle and the strife.
I must have the Savior with me,
And His eye the way must guide,
Till I reach the vale of Jordan,
Till I cross the rolling tide.