Sunday, December 28, 2008

Obama mania and Christmas

I spent my Christmas in Obama country. Deep in Obama country. Actually it began at the airport in Jamaica where I bought the latest Newsweek magazine featuring Obama. Then in Miami; The Herald, CNN, CBS' feature 60 minutes, all " got into the act". You just could not escape him. Time magazine - special edition. Life magazine - special edition. Ebony - special edition. The inauguration plans; the campaign revisited again and again; Obama revealed - literally, as the press went ballistic over a shot of Obama in his bathing trunks. You really had to try hard and remember that it was Christmas and that Jesus Christ ought to be at the center of all things.
So in the midst of this Obama mania the Lord sent me through friends, His Word, and reflections from a past Saint, reasons why we need to vigilant about maintaining our focus on our Saviour's birth, death and resurrection.

The first one was a message from a friend, young Rev. Michael Elliot, who received a message from another friend. The message? My interpretation. Even with the best will in the world, which Obama admittedly has, only Christ alone satisfies the deepest longing of the human heart. Only Christ alone can raise us up, "When I am down and O my soul is weary; When troubles come and my heart burdened be...."

A Christmas Message from the Baptist World Alliance

What do you do: when you suffer severe loss and the cancer of loneliness gnaws away at the source of your energy,when the beast called malaria destroys the life of many and threatens to wipe out your family,when the dreadful sounds of war still drown out the gentle voices of little children,when your dream of a land to call your own remains stubbornly anchored in the realm of unlikely possibility? Just what do you do?
What do you do: when the economic tsunami that shakes the world rocks the foundations of your material security,when you look into the near future and see your name on the list of those who must be axed if the enterprise in which you work is to survive,when the uncertainty of preserving your ownership of the space in which you live, space you call your own, takes hold of you,when recent challenges to your health serve as undisputed evidence of your mortality? Just what do you do?
What do you do: when the dreams you once cherished retreat into oblivion before the darkness of unexpected misfortune,when the hopes you once embraced skittle from the calendar of the possible in ways that even the blind can see,when the doubts that flow over the contours of your mind take hold of you and threaten to erase the confident faith you once held dear, when the despair dealt out by the tragedies of this life erodes the vibrant hope and abundant joy you once enjoyed? Just what do you do?
You listen to the voice of the messenger who announces the message of Christmas: "Do not be afraid; for see - I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord" (Luke 2:10-11). The message of Christmas is about the coming of one who deals a comprehensive blow to the edifice of the argument serving our fears and erects, in its place, a lovely fountain from which flows endlessly the Good News that makes Christmas the special time it is: Jesus is here! God is here! We can take leave of our fears and find strength and security in the salvation that God makes available to us! May the confident faith that Christ's coming announces be yours throughout this season and in the coming years!
Neville Callam General Secretary Baptist World Alliance

The second one came right out of the Bible. And followed a deep meditation on the well known hymn; " I need thee every hour". Especially the line : " Stay Thou nearby Lord; Temptations lose their power when Thou art near...."

" Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you what the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid"
John 14:27 NIV
The message -which came out of my experience this Christmas. There are very few things that I absolutely need to get in life. I don't absolutely need to get the latest cell phone - the Blackberry Storm ( forget about the Pearl and the Curve). I don't absolutely have to buy those nice silk ties, the lovely dress shirts, the latest " Sketchers shoes", the flat screen HD TV. I can really do without them. I thank God for the gifts, but it is time to learn that that I can live without the " latest stuff". This is the essential point - within a wider context - made by Thomas Friedman in his latest book " Hot Flat and Crowded". The same world famous author who wrote the highly acclaimed, " The World is flat" and who now returns to focus on the America which seems to have lost its way, and highlights one such example, which resonates well with the rampant commercialism which threatens to replace the focus on Christ at Christmas. In the same way that, at this time, Obama threatens to do also.

"In some ways, the subprime mortgage mess and housing crisis are metaphors for what has come over America in recent years. A certain connection between hard work, achievement, and accountability has been broken. We've become a subprime nation that thinks it can borrow its way to prosperity - putting nothing down and and making no payments for two years. Subprime lenders told us that we could have the American dream - a home of our own - without the discipline or sacrifice that home ownership requires"

So yes, we absolutely need to read books, but not a lot of the other " stuff". But more importantly, what we absolutely do need in our lives, is a peace that only Christ can bring.
But what kind of Peace is this that we celebrate at Christmas. Chris Tiegen, to whom the Lord led me after reading the John passage on Peace, has one answer.

"Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.".. Matthew 10: 34

IN WORD Isaiah prophesied about the coming " Prince of Peace". ( 9:6) The angels declared peace on earth in Luke 2:14 as they announced the coming Lord. But Jesus had a different declaration. People will fight about the truth of His words. They will draw swords against each other in heated conflict over His claims. The fact of His cross and resurrection would become history's greatest scandal. When persecution comes, friends and family members will turn each other in. And when judgement comes, He will be the dividing line by which families and nations are split.
Was His prophecy true? History bears it out. There is no more controversial figure in the entire human race than Jesus. He has been blessed as God incarnate and cursed as a man-made delusion. He has changed countless lives even while " scholars" have disputed whether He ever existed.
No, the kind of peace the world seeks is harmony on this planet. Jesus makes it clear that His peace is of a different order. It reconciles God with His traitorous and humanity with its holy God. It puts a new Spirit in a once conflicted heart. It is a peace within and a peace from above, but it is not a universal peace among our race. Many hate Him. It will always be so. Such is the rebellion of man......................

Some of my friends, who are not Christians, but who are part of this Internet Ministry, are often "scandalized" by Jesus' claims and therefore the church's assertion that " Jesus is the only way to the our Father in heaven". It is a point of view widely held in secular America and in particular, the media. So, here in Miami we often hear " Happy Holidays". And many editorials, even in Jamaica, focus on the " good works" aspect of the Christmas story. Sharing with the less fortunate, loving our neighbour and even tolerance of other people's view of God. It is a view which found its way into the Life magazine's special edition on Obama. It is a view which we must gently, but firmly renounce, even with those who are humbly seeking for answers to deep questions, as Obama obviously is . As to countenance any other view would be to do violence to what transpired on the cross of Calvary, and which divine act of Atonement, began, on earth, at Christmas.

' ......He was prepared to bear witness to his faith in God's purposes, discuss the influence of theology on his political philosophies, address the questions he raised in his first book: " How do we transform mere sentiment into love?" On the other hand there was certainly that if faith meant anything, it surely meant a call to action, to help the least among us, to be our brother's keepers. On the other, he was fully prepared to confess his doubts and talk of mystery, of what he didn't fully understand.
At a time when America grows even more diverse, when more than two thirds of people believe that ' many religions can lead to eternal life', Obama rejected " certainty theology" in favor of something more inquiring, more inclusive........'

Therefore as much as we all celebrated, and continue to do so, Obama's famous victory on Nov. 4. And as much as we celebrate Christmas with the exchange of gifts, enjoy the sweet fellowship of family, share with others in need, our greatest priority at this time is the Peace of God that passeth all human understanding. And which Peace only Christ alone offers.

Obama spoke to a particular need among Americans and indeed the entire world on Nov 4.

"If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.

In a sense both Neville Callam earlier, and Chris Tiegen, in the following quotation, echo a similar but profoundly different sentiment, to a different set of questions. And the answers from both, serve to highlight the difference between frail man, Barack Obama, who needs our prayers, and God Almighty who at that first Christmas, became incarnate as Jesus Christ, and who alone is to be worshipped and glorified.

" For everyone who has ever wondered how God sees him or her; for everyone who has ever doubted God's love when a prayer has gone unanswered or a life has become broken; for everyone who has ever cried out to God, " Are you there?" or " Do you care?". Jesus is that answer: He has come to do God's will and His will is very, very good........."

Sunday, December 21, 2008

A Christmas Message: The need for a sense of urgency.

14 dead. 8 women, 5 men and a child. In one single road crash. What a tragedy! That's what happened in the hills of a rural parish in my country this week. And so the entire nation is in mourning. Everyone, related or not, has felt the pain of this awful loss of human life. All of us, especially those with special responsibility in this area, including the Prime Minister, have been moved with a special sense of urgency, that this should never happen again. In a sense, the same feeling pervades the nation in respect of murder - 0ver 1500 for the year already - but which sense of urgency to stop the madness, has been dulled by the chronic nature of the problem, as it has been happening for years.
This same sense of urgency, has been the hallmark, thus far, of the Obama administration, as he has moved swiftly to appoint key members of his cabinet in an effort to calm the fears of big business and small savers, nationally and internationally. And many leaders across the world, including my own country, are similarly seized with this sense of urgency to deal with the fallout from the worldwide financial meltdown. On the social front, many nations are dealing urgently with the consequences of drug abuse, HIV/AIDS infestations, road traffic injuries, teenage pregnancies and a whole host of issues which profoundly affect the quality of human existence on this globe.
In parts of the world, all of the above, even for a short while, take a backseat as we celebrate Christmas with family and friends; sorrel and rice and peas; grandmarket night; special outfits for the season; many Christmas parties; church services; the exchange of gifts; the eating of Christmas pudding; the trips back home. Until the New Years day when the cycle begins all over again.
And the Lord, who is always ahead of us, used the events of this week, which triggered this reflection on the need to cultivate a sense of urgency, to speak clearly about His sense of urgency. The story began with King David writing in the Psalm appointed for this Sunday.

" He swore an oath to the Lord
and made a vow to the Mighty One of Jacob;
I will not enter my house or go to my bed---
I will allow no sleep to my eyes,
no slumber to my eyelids,
till I find a place for the Lord".
Psalm 132: 2-4. NIV

David's priority was to bring honor to the Lord by erecting a house for the Lord to dwell in.
And when the Lord answered David in 2 Samuel 7, and issued a promise that he would " raise up your offspring to succeed you" and that such an child would have a kingdom for ever, there is a hint of the coming of God's Son Jesus - " whose kingdom would reign forever".
The story about the sense of urgency continued with the encounter of Mary with the angel Gabriel where she was told that: " The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you" . One of the most profound questions ever posed by man to God is found in an extended reading of David's desire to build a house for the Lord. After the Lord had promised David that his family would be given such a signal honor, David's answer/proclamation was : " Is this your usual way of dealing with man, O Sovereign Lord?"
2 Samuel 7:19
We could ask the same question about God taking on human flesh, and being born by the power of the Holy Spirit to a simple virgin girl in Nazareth. " Is this your usual way of dealing with man O Sovereign Lord? No, but the lesson from the Cross of Calvary, is that all of mankind was in danger of perishing. There was therefore a sense of urgency, and the priority of God, out of an abundance of love, was and continues to be perishing man, sick man, and man suffering from injustice. Why? All , every single one of us, " have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God". And since God has declared that "the wages of sin is death", God sent His Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
So in the fullness of time Jesus was sent on that first Christmas to heal the sick, rescue the perishing and set the captives free - from teenage pregnancy, from drug abuse, from HIV/AIDS infection, road traffic injuries, murder, greed, and ultimately sin and death.
So if Christ came at Christmas over two thousand years ago, with a sense and message of urgency " Be ye reconciled to God", why are we His disciples, not filled with the same sense of urgency? Why are we, focusing primarily on the "gifts" of Christmas and not the GIFT of the Son of God - Jesus Christ? Why aren't we responding to St Paul's injunction to " Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus"? Why don't we have the same attitude of Christ to be obedient, even to death on the Cross.
The Lord led me this week to reflect on two hymns which we sing in church regularly, to find answers. As unless we are seized with the same mind of the hymn writer and invite Jesus into our hearts on a regular basis, and to appreciate that such an invitation will lead us to share in the suffering of Christ, then we will have neither the sense of urgency nor the power to set the captives free - but will always be relegated to analysing and pontificating and even moved to tears, about the many problems that confront our people.

1.Thou didst leave thy throne and thy kingly crown,
When thou camest to earth for me;
But in Bethlehem's home was there found no room
For thy holy Nativity:

O come to my heart Lord Jesus
There is room in my heart for the thee.......

4.Thou camest O Lord, with the living word
That should set thy people free
But with mocking scorn and with a crown of thorn
They bore thee to Calvary

O come to my heart Lord Jesus
There is room in my heart for thee

I am thine O Lord, I have heard thy voice
And it told thy love to me;
But I long to rise in the arms of faith
And be closer drawn to Thee
Draw me nearer, nearer blessed Lord
To the cross where Thou has died
Draw me nearer, nearer blessed Lord
To thy precious bleeding side

Consecrate me now thy service Lord,
By the power of love divine
Let my soul look up with a steadfast hope
And my will be lost in Thine


O the pure delight of a single hour
That before thy throne I spend
When I kneel in prayer, and with Thee my God
I commune as friend to friend.......


O Blessed God that your people would be moved to brood on the cross constantly,
as without a desire to share in its sorrows and pain, Christianity has no power
to move with a sense of urgency. O God that we would be moved to spend quality time in prayer. O God that we would be moved to invite your Son this Christmas to come into our hearts.

Into my heart. Into my heart. Come into my heart Lord Jesus.
Come into today, come in to stay. Come int0 my heart Lord Jesus..
as our body, the entire Christian church, is now the temple of God.
So David's desire to establish the temple of God has found fulfillment
in the body of Christ - the professing authentic church. And it is through this body, imperfect as it is, that God continues to rescue mankind, once we are repentant,obedient and filled with a deep longing for God's honor, and for the rescuing of our neighbour. That's the real Christmas message. Not the one on CNN or RJR or Nationwide

Merry Christmas to you all, and may the Holy Spirit come upon us, and may the power of the Most High overshadow us, as we seek to respond, in and through Christ Jesus, to the sufferings of humankind with a strong sense of urgency and with power.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Jamaica; USA; The World; The Church: I have something to tell you.

Almost every time I have been led to reflect on this story in the Bible - Luke 7:36-50 - I am moved to tears, as it captures in dramatic form, the very essence of what Christianity is all about. And what the world outside of belonging to and ruled by Christ is all about. The contrast is stark and the choice is clear cut. Accept that we are sinners and in need of the Redemption, forgiveness of sins - Salvation - offered by the death of Christ on Calvary. Believe, mistakenly, with eternal consequences, that we are not so bad, or just ok, and that Christ's death is of no consequence to us. Just something of - dubious - historical value. The story!

Jesus was dinning with some Pharisees, one of whom was named Simon ; " when a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee's house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them"

Simon, the Pharisee, then became angry and wondered in his mind that if Jesus were truly a prophet then he would know that the woman who was touching him was a sinner.

Then came one of the most profound revelations in history. " Jesus answered him, Simon I have something to tell you.......Two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he canceled the debts of both. Now which one will love him more?

Simon gave the correct answer - the one who had the bigger debt canceled.Then Jesus admonished Simon for not washing his feet, not giving him water, but praised the woman who behaved differently and then pronounced forgiveness for her sins - which only God can do.

Because she loved much.

The two great challenges that all Christians face are; one, to accept fully, not halfway, that our sinful nature placed us in debt to God, which we can never pay back. And that Christ's death on Calvary has canceled all debts - and thus we should be forever grateful like the sinful woman.

And thus fully embrace the thoughts of the songwriter who penned these words, on which I was led to reflect this week:

My God how wonderful Thou art........

O how I fear thee , living God,

With deepest, tenderest fears,

And worship thee with trembling heart,

And penitential tears....

And secondly to share with whomsoever we meet on this earth, this profound and life changing truth. This is the " something " that we have to tell the world. But we can only be authentic in our telling if we are first constantly repenting before Almighty God and in tears about our sinful state like that 'woman'.

Whilst walking this week after reading the story, it came home forcibly to me that we have attempted to be too sophisticated in our analysis of what has gone wrong with the world around us, when there is only one problem and one solution to that problem. The problem is lust - the desire to have something, anything right now, regardless of the consequences. I just must have it.

It is lust for money which is at the root of the Governor of Illinois' decision to sell Obama's Senate seat, and which has seriously distracted the President -elect and caused people to question his integrity, even before he has had a chance to take office. The same desire for oil security or even the removal of Saddam so inflammed the minds of George W. Bush and Co. Ltd. which provoked them to invade Iraq with now disastrous consequences. Look back on history and you will find the same story repeated time and time again. It was the unbridled lust for riches and power which caused the colonial powers to rape Africa and rationalise their action by relegating non whites to a subhuman category. The same thing happened in Nazi Germany,

Pol Pot ruled Cambodia, in Bosnia and in Rwanda. Closer home, the same madness caused politicians to give guns to their henchmen in a bid to secure power at all costs, and which seeds sown long ago, are now causing us the reap the whirlwind of gun violence, abductions, rapes and general mayhem in our country. The same virus of lust now affects our body politic, the police force, the business sector, the professionals, the media, the entertainment industry, and is at the root of the HIV epidemic, the breakdown in family life, teenage pregnancy - I just must have it now.

And God have mercy and forgive us, that philosophy has invaded the church for some time now. I just must have God's blessings now. Not in eternity. And this lust, and lack of patience made Cash Plus and Olint, two Ponsi schemes, appear to the unwise, as " blessings" from God, with consequences far exceeding the loss of money. And which " theology" has turned God into a " celestial bellhop" who pours out blessings to those who fast and pray long enough, and who have faith that can move mountains. In short a God made in our own image, and because of which the nation, which badly needs leadership from the authentic church, has suffered immensely.

The solution to the inherent lust in the hearts of all mankind is what Jesus shares with Simon.

The question which asks in essence; " Do you realize how much you have rebelled against the living God and deserve to die - for all men have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God?.

The question is who are we? Simon or the "sinful woman". The Simons of this world, both inside and outside the church have not fallen at the feet of Jesus, because they do not realize how much they are indebted to the God, the Creator of heaven and earth and all mankind, who came down as man in the form of Jesus. They are having a good time either ignoring Jesus or in

" perpetual praise" without time for repentance.

I was led to read another section of Scripture this week, and when the full impact hit me , I was moved to send out the following text message : " In him was life, and that life was the life of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it..... though the world was made through him the world did not recognize him" John 14-5& 10. What a tragedy?"

The problem Obama faces in the USA, and Prime Minster Golding here in Jamaica, is not only the crisis affecting the world economy, but the crisis affecting the entire world. That God, the Creator was , and still is , in the world, through the authentic church, rescuing mankind from its propensity to succumb to lusts of various kind - the kind which led a respected Wall Street Banker to bilk a significant number of " intelligent New Yorkers" of billions of USD - and the world has neither understood Him nor recognized Him. That's the crisis! That's the tragedy.

And as one Baptist preacher observed this morning, as we continue to celebrate Advent - the second coming of the Jesus - if we think we are in crisis now, all of that will be nothing compared to the crisis of the return of Christ as judge.

Maybe that sinful woman recognized something that we have missed, why she loved Jesus so much. Perhaps that story moved the same hymn writer to pen another verse of the story about the " Wonderful God"

Yet I may love the too, O Lord,

Almighty as thou art,

For thou hast stooped to ask of me

The love of my poor heart

No doubt that's why the Lord led me to read the following meditation along with the story.


" My God, my God why have you forsaken me? Mark 15: 34

IN WORD Are you aware that every crack of the whip on Jesus' back, every thorn piercing His scalp, every stroke of the hammer is what God thought about our sin? Have you considered that every time Jesus tried to breathe, cried out in thirst, tried to heave His body up against the pull of gravity, it was punishment deserved. Not by Him, of course. By us.

Does that sound harsh? Surely we aren't all that bad, are we? We' re human, of course and therefore imperfect; but do we really deserve such punishment?

According to the Bible, we do. And if we really think about it, as well intentioned as we assume we are, we can all recall times when we have shunned the personality of the Holy for something that utterly violated it. On purpose. What cosmic treachery! We're foolish to think that it was just an innocent mistake and that God will overlook it. Look at the Cross to see what God thought about it.

Jesus knew the answer to His question in vs 34, even as He asked it. He wasn't seeking the divine reason behind His suffering; He was pointing us to it. The quoted Psalm that begins with this cry of anguish ( Psalm 22) speaks of God's deliverance of all His people. That's the answer. He was forsaken so we wouldn't be.

IN DEED " God has made him who had no sin to be sin for us" ( 2 Corinthians 5:21). Whenever your faith grows apathetic, whenever your sense of His Grace grows dim, whenever your mercy towards others finds its limits, think of that. Contemplate the staggering absurdity of the infinitely Holy suffering the consequences for those who rejected His holiness. Let your cry become; " My god, my God, why haven't You forsaken me?" And be grateful. Let His grace amaze you and prompt your zealous passionate worship.

So who are you going to model? Who I am going to model ? Simon or the " sinful woman". Not only will our fate hang in the balance when Jesus comes again - not for another Christmas, but for judgement - depending on how we answer and live out that choice, but also those to whom God has sent us to spread the gospel. That's the sad reality and for which judgement too will meted out unto us.


Sunday, December 7, 2008

Christmas : All about Peace or does it herald conflict?

It was from a movie that I heard the Lord speak tonight. But it was a movie about God's Word. Moses. The message began a couple days ago, and continued yesterday. As far as I know. But no doubt it had been gathering steam for some days now. I had sent a text message to a friend, for whom I have a lot of respect, as she carries the burden of my country in her heart. I enquired about her health. The response was that she was well, but concerned about the state of the nation - as so many of us are. And then came a text reply which asked how was I doing? My reply was that, I too was concerned, but not hopeless, as Lazarus had been raised from the dead. She then wondered in the next text if we were going to wait for the death and resurrection of Jamaica. I laughed aloud to myself, as I had anticipated that kind of answer, with its implied "accusation", that we Christians - she is not an unbeliever, and like many Jamaicans aware of God's Word, but yet to submit to the Lordship of Christ - were willing to wait and not act until Jamaica, like Lazarus died.
My response was that Jamaica was already spiritually dead. I don't know how many of you watched the very riveting documentary on CNN produced by Christiane Amanpour entitled;" They cried bloody murder". Its a story about about Genocide; in Germany, Cambodia, Rwanda, Darfur and Croatia and the attempts by individuals to warn the rest of the world about the impending disaster. In one section the " Good Samaritan" wondered, in horror, "how could they kill children", with such impunity. Well, we in Jamaica are asking the same question, and there is no Genocide here. Just people who are spiritually dead, carrying our their atrocities, in the midst of others whose souls are equally dead , but whose, equally morally despicable actions do not provoke the same kind of societal outrage. Then the text message conversation came to an end, as my friend asked a very profound question which, as I replied, could not be answered through that medium. "How do we resurrect spiritually without religious conflict"?
I had pondered an answer, especially since we have become such a religiously plural society. And then tonight I was led to watch Moses, and the clear answer, which I knew well already, was that it is not possible.
Resurrection of any individual or nation from spiritual death, from a broken relationship with God, ever since Adam and Eve, has been shown not to be possible without conflict. The conflict began in the Garden of Eden with God's promise that childbirth, the cultivation of the land and Satan's life would be full of conflict and pain. The end of the conflict began in another Garden -Gethsemane when a fateful decision was made. And climaxed on Calvary when that decision was played out in full view of both believers and non-believers. " Surely this man was truly the Son of God", cried the Roman soldier. And although the conflict between good and evil has ended and Christ has gained the Victory, on our behalf, over death and sin, we who believe, will have that conflict played out in our lives until our end comes on this earth.
Internal conflicts resulting from the decisions we make, how we see ourselves, and how others view us as a result of such a changed lifestyle. Conflicts even within our own household, between husband and wife, parents and children, and in-laws, as promised by God's Holy Word, once we have decided to follow Christ. So by extension, conflicts between friends and neighbours, within political parties, in professional groups as the ethics of the Christian faith clash with the ethics of philosophy, the market place and what William Barclay calls " Ethics in a permissive age", or situational ethics. For a really great critique of that kind of ethical practice and its practical implications, read Ian Boyne's article in the Daily Gleaner today
Therefore, for my nation to recover from the killing of babes and sucklings, from the abduction, raping and killing of our women, from the wanton slaughter of our young men, hard decisions , which will inevitably bring all kinds of conflicts, will have to made by believers and non-believers alike, about what kind of rock we stand on. What is the foundation of our hope, our decision making and our understanding of who or whose we are? What moral principles guide us, and from whence came those guideposts. This kind of deep thinking is required for us to have any hope of resurrection of our nation. An exercise which led ancient philosophers from Plato to Sartre in their search for meaning in the universe to conclude that : " a finite point has no meaning unless it has an infinite reference point".
Finally in this brief message are words from a song, on which, led by by our Rector, we meditated this morning at church, as he preached on this very same subject about the meaning of Advent - the season which immediately precedes the Christmas celebration. A season which heralds the second coming of Christ -a time of judgment and not the peace with which we associate the first coming. A time of conflict. And the question is therefore, ' On which Rock shall you stand when Christ comes again'? And that the decisions we make now have eternal consequences. I pray God that all of us, believers and non-believers alike will one day sing this song with conviction, as the story about Moses cannot be told with mention of Israel's " backsliding" in the desert. About them worshiping a Golden Calf when Moses took a long time to come back from his meeting with God on Mount Sinai. About their lack of faith even after God had rescued them with mighty miracles - the passage through the Red Sea was simply stunning tonight as I watched. I almost forgot that it was a movie. So too the Rector bemoaned our lack of faith. Our becoming familiar with Holy Things. Our overly dependence on the superficial and those things that do not last.
" All men are like grass and their glory like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the word of God stands forever" was ( a modern translation of ) part of the Scripture reading for today. But the song really captures the essence of his message as it does
for this Internet message.

In times like these, you need a Savior,
In times like these, you need an anchor;
Be very sure, be very sure,
Your anchor holds and grips the Solid Rock

In times like these, you need the Bible,
In times like these, O be not idle!
Be very sure, be very sure,
Your anchor holds and grips the Solid Rock.

In times like these, I have a Savior,
In times like these, I have an anchor,
I’m very sure, I’m very sure,My anchor holds and grips the Solid Rock.

CHORUS:This Rock is Jesus, Yes, He’s the One,
This Rock is Jesus, The only One!
Be very sure, be very sure,
Your anchor holds,And grips the Solid Rock.

Once we decide that Christ is our Rock. There will be conflict. But to whom else shall we turn.
And who else had the words of eternal life. Let us be very sure. For as I write I am thinking
about a friend of my wife whose son was killed in a plane crash today. A event, whether heralded or unannounced, sooner or later we will all have to face.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Mumbai, Kingston, Washington DC: What a time we live in!

Once again, terrorists this week made the headlines , as the security forces in Mumbai, India, had to do battle with a "suicide attack" force. After the dust had settled, well over one hundred people lay dead, scores more were injured, and an entire world was once again traumatised by this latest orgy of violence. All of this brought into our homes, in living colour, and in real time, by CNN. What a world we live in! Recently, it might have been as close as last week, but I am not sure, we tend to lose track with so many murders, one man was killed. And soon thereafter, in an apparent reprisal attack, four lives were snuffed out. Including two teenagers. The police claim that a lot of this madness has to do with a " Lotto Scam", that earns billions of dollars from gullible foreigners. What a time we live in !

In a direct response to the horrific killings, especially in regard to our women and children, the Jamaican Parliament, in a " Conscience Vote" last week, opted, by a large majority, to retain the death penalty for those convicted of premeditated ( capital) murder. This so, despite the fact that the real problem is our inability to catch the criminals in the first place, let alone convict them. But most Jamaicans are in favor of retaining capital punishment so our legislators voted accordingly? In fact, I am reliably informed that a mob caught some " gunmen" last week in a rural area and took matters into their own hands. The end result? One had his throat cut. The other had his head bashed in. Both died instantly, and the community, by and large, with perhaps a few exceptions, were happy. What a country we live in ?

This is the world which President -elect, Barack Obama and his team, will contemplate, when he takes office on January 20, 2009. This is a country where, we in Jamaica, buffeted by the worse economic climate in many years, and under siege from gunmen, are looking for another "Obama", to steer us through troubled waters. But this is also the season of Advent, in our Anglican tradition it began today, when the first coming of our Lord Jesus Christ on Christmas day is heralded, and also we look forward to His Second coming. It cannot therefore be coincidence, that the Lord spoke through two of His servants to me, and to many others, yesterday and today, in a very special way. On the first occasion yesterday, when a good friend and church brother, Dr. Lascelles Newman was installed as the third President of the Caribbean Graduate School of Theology, a past President of Jamaica Youth for Christ, Gerry Gallimore, preached the sermon.

He took his cue from Esther, that much celebrated Old Testament Heroine, whose faith in God, and obedience to her " mentor" Mordecai, saved the Jews, in that region and in that time, from complete annihilation. Two of the more more famous words from that book include Mordecai's assertion that, " And who knows but that you have come to a royal position for such a time as this". Also her declaration, when she elected to go to the King without an invitation, in order to save her people, knowing full well that the penalty for such an action could result in death, but trusting in her God, said , " If I perish I perish". Esther 4: 12-16 NIV

Although Gerry Gallimore's sermon was directed as Dr. Newman in particular, we Christians, who celebrate the coming of our King Jesus, and through the Holy Spirit, share in this Divine Royalty, we too, like Queen Esther, are called to be in this royal position for a time such a this.

This assertion was the essence of what I heard yesterday and which knowledge has touched my heart, not for the first time, very powerfully. This call to action in a deeply divided world, in a country wracked by violence, despite our own trials and issues of personal safety, is what sets us apart from non-believers. We have been called by the same God, who " in the fullness of time", sent His Son Jesus, for " such a time as this" - not for all night partying, getting drunk and disorderly, sleeping with the boss and driving irresponsibly and increasing road fatalities.

The " time like this" is when the Bible said that we were " without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus, you who were once far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ". ( Ephesians 3: 12-13 NIV) And therefore we who have brought near by the Cross of Christ are here in the world and in Jamaica for a time such as this. A time when people are fast losing hope and wondering where to turn as " everywhere we turn macka juk we".

So the first responsibility as " Esther" people and more importantly, as " Easter" people, we who celebrate the birth, death and resurrection of Christ, is to understand our mission here " at a time such as this", in the world and in Jamaica. And God who is always ahead of his people led me this past week, to ponder deeply on the following meditation which speaks directly to our lack of focus and lack of understanding of why we are here. A meditation which non-believers could well find of benefit



Verse Judges 2:17

Holy God to whose service I long ago dedicated my soul and life, I grieve and lament before thee that i am still so prone to sin and so little inclined to obedience:

So much attached to the pleasures of sense, so negligent of things spiritual:

So prompt to gratify my body, so slow to nourish my soul:

So greedy for present delight, so indifferent to lasting blessedness:

So fond of idleness, so indisposed for labour:

So soon at play, so late at prayer:

So brisk in the service of self, so slack in the service of others:

So eager to get, so reluctant to give:

So lofty in my profession, so low in my practice:

So full of good intentions, so backward to fulfill them:

So severe with my neighbours, so indulgent with myself:

So eager to find fault, so resentful in being found fault with:

So little able for great tasks, so discontented with small ones:

So weak in adversity, so swollen and self-satisfied with in prosperity:

So helpless apart from thee, and yet so little willing to be bound to thee.

O merciful heart of God, grant me yet again thy forgiveness. Hear my sorrowful tale and in thy great mercy blot it out from the book of thy remembrance. Give me faith so to lay hold of thine own holiness and so to rejoice in the righteousness of Christ my Savior that, resting on his merits rather than on my own, I may more and more become conformed to his likeness, my will becoming one with his in obedience to thine. All this I ask for his holy name's sake. Amen

The second responsibility as Esther people who live in time such as this, is to care deeply about our people - both inside and outside the church -, to confess our sins, and to live a holy and committed life. For as the Pastor for the Anglican church in Port Antonio - in the east of the island- Rev. Grace Jervis, declared in an equally powerful sermon this morning, and which John Baillie affirms, if we in the church, we who are called to a royal position, in such a time like this, are broken and hurting, sinful and disobedient, idle and late at prayer, how can we help those with no faith in God in and through Jesus Christ. Thus cut off from God and with no hope and in the very same position that we once held, until God sent His Son for such a time as that. How can we help if we do not care deeply as the prophet Isaiah cared as revealed in chapters 63 and 64. Our preacher took us through the reality of the chosen people of God and who are our forebears. People who knew of the goodness of God - just like us in Jamaica who have been blessed in so many ways. But a people who were always rebelling against God. And so God, in as sense, became their " enemy", and fought not for them , but against them. The question, is, with all the wickedness which abounds in our land, has God " turned against Jamaica? Or rather like the children of Israel, have they turned against themselves?

In response to this rebellion Isaiah called for " revenge.

" Oh , that you would rend the heavens, and come down...and cause the nations to quake before you". 64:1. Is the Jamaican parliament calling for revenge? But instead of " exacting revenge" God called His people to confession.

" All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags". 64:6.

Is there a need for us in the church to confess our sins rather than calling for revenge? Is there a need for our political leaders, present and past, our business leaders, those in the very vigilant press, those in the professions and indeed all who would " hang them high", to confess our sins which might have led this nation into a time such as this?

Finally our preacher pointed out, that Isaiah, who cared deeply for his people was led to recognize God as Father and as potter - our Creator and Sustainer.

" Yet, O Lord, you are our Father

We are the clay, you are the potter;

we are all the work of your hand".

So we who are in the church have been called specially for such a time like this. Not to run away to the safer havens in North America and Europe - unless God has specifically sent us there for a purpose. Not to despair like people who have no hope, and like those whose only understanding of Christmas, is the shopping after Thanksgiving and the celebration on the Day. Not to seek revenge , but to confess our sins, recognize our weaknesses, fast and pray. And go forward with the courage of Esther, and with the attitude that " if I perish I perish ", while trusting in God's ability to protect us, in our unyielding quest to rescue our country from gunmen, corrupt police, grinding poverty, injustice, immorality and cautious political leaders.

But first like Esther and Isaiah, we must care deeply about our people, and follow our Savior's example of loving those who hate us and persecute us, and not only those who love us in return for our love. It's a difficult, if not impossible task, but what with man is impossible, with God's Holy Spirit, all things are possible, even in such a time like this. Amen.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Best of Times: The worst of Times

A friend celebrated his 80th birthday last night and I had the privilege of bringing greetings from one group of his well wishers. I did not say it then, but thought after, that he was, and by extension we all are, living in what Charles Dickens famously described as, " The best of times and the worst of times".
Best because it is good to be alive to witness the first African American about the assume the Presidency of the most powerful nation on earth. Best, because advances in technology allow us to communicate with each other across the world with the "speed of light", thus making us truly, a global village But worst, because, certainly here in Jamaica, murder has reached frightening levels, thus throwing an entire nation into a state of panic. Worst, because the economic fallout of failed alternative schemes at home, the meltdown in the financial markets abroad, and what some in the media are describing as indecisive political leadership, have all combined to produce extreme hardship, the kind of which has not been seen in this country for decades. So despite some of the good things taking place around us, many are fast losing hope and wondering what to do.
And as I listened to the news report about the brutal killing of four people in the western section of the country, whilst traveling to work this week, I reflected on how much and how quickly our nation would change, if only more people were to turn to the Lord Jesus. How quickly things would turn around if many of those very same leaders in the media, and the political and business arena, who are lamenting the high crime rate and the cowardly focus on murdering women and children, oftentimes after sexually abusing them, would seek Christ. But then I realized that they are not willing to give up their pleasures and comforts and their own limited understanding of life, in order to save the nation. So as prophesied by Hosea;

" There is no faithfulness, no love,
no acknowledgment of God in the land.
There is only cursing, lying and murder,
stealing and adultery;
they break all bounds,
and bloodshed follows bloodshed......
my people are destroyed from a lack of knowledge.
Hosea 4:1-6 NIV

But there is yet another problem. We Christians, who are supposed to be the " light to the world". We who are supposed to represent ' The best of times" in and through Christ Jesus
have been guilty of contributing to "The worse of times". In two ways. The first one is a double edged sword. In the sense that some us , both the ordained and the lay members of the church, have not heeded the warnings from Ezekiel :

" 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 the wild animals". Ezekiel 34: 4-5. NIV

Now there is no question that everyone has to take responsibility for his or her actions. And therefore the church cannot be blamed this particular - there have been others - spirit of madness which has overtaken Jamaica, and indeed many other parts of the world. But the reality is, that it is precisely because of the inability of humankind to rid themselves of depraved and wicked behaviour and to stop rebelling against God, why the Sovereign ruler of this Earth, out of deep and tender love, sent His Only Son, to die on a Cross at Calvary. So that " bloodshed may not always follow bloodshed". It is therefore incumbent on us who follow Christ, who are His disciples, out of love for the our brothers and sisters, wherever they are , and whatever they have done as , " all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God", to seek the salvation for their souls. But no, far too often, together with those who do not know better, we have been more than willing accomplices in passing judgement on the stray, the lost, the sick, the weak and the injured. And not just those who suffer from physical ailments , but equally importantly, those who are afflicted spiritually, emotionally, and psychologically - there is difference between the two.
Think about it , do our hearts really reach out to the prostitute, the thief, the rapist, the murderer, the child abuser, the homosexual, those with course manners, the unkempt, the mischief maker, the wife beater, the foul mouthed, the annoying and even violent street boys. The Rastafarian, the Jehovah's witnesses, the Muslims, the Mormons. The fallen politician or tele-evangelist, the disgraced lawyer, the unethical doctor, the embarrassed teacher. Those who have stopped going to church and have become the worse critics. The unapologetic atheist, the rich and famous who feel that they have no need for religion. The young and impressionable who are falling prey to pornography, the don, violent lyrics and the "bling bling " culture. Do we really love them, who like us, have been made in the image of God, despite their wayward behaviour. Or have we forgotten the words of St. Paul:

" Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God. Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters not adulterers, not male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
1 Cor. 6.9-11. NIV

So some of us were murderers....but were washed and sanctified and will see God's face.
So why are we in a hurry to hang them. Some were homosexual offenders ....but were washed and sanctified and rescued from their vile acts. So why are we, even figuratively, " stoning them"? One of the most powerful lines ever written comes from a well known hymn:

Amazing love, how can it be that God my God shouldst die for me. And this is it.

" He left His Father's throne above.
So free, so infinite his grace;
Emptied himself of all but love,
And bled for Adam's helpless race
'Tis mercy all, immense and free;
For, O my God it found out me.

We may very well fail to convince men and women, girls and boys - Adam's helpless race - that it is never too late nor too early to submit their lives to the One who died for them. As ultimately, it is only the Holy Spirit who can convict anyone of Sin. But we must try. But we will only try if we truly love those who persecute us and do not share our faith. We must share the live changing, the game changing, the nation changing gospel, by word an by deed, with all who come into our lives. For as people who have been rescued, washed and sanctified, ultimately, we have no greater purpose on earth but to share the gospel. But is this the reality. No, and that's why it is the worst of times in the nation. People who called themselves Christians but are not prepared to act like Christ, but like Caesar or like Pontius Pilate and wash our hands of our brothers sins. O Lord have mercy on us.
The other part of the two edged sword is :

" 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 also muddy the rest with your feet. Must my flock feed on what you have trampled and drink what you have muddied with your feet....... See I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. because you shove with flank and shoulder, butting all the weak sheep with your horns until you have driven them away, I will save my flock, and they will no longer be plundered. I will judge between one sheep and another. I will place over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he will tend them; he will tend them and be their shepherd. I the Lord will be their God, and my servant David will be prince among them. I the Lord have spoken".
Ezek 34 :17-24 NIV

Clearly there are many ways to interpret that piece of Scripture, but what is on my heart is the way many churches set up roadblocks to prevent people from placing their focus on Christ and Christ alone for their salvation ...muddying the waters. Telling young girls, in particular, that they cannot wear make up to church or jewellery or that " red dress". " Not in my church "!. Really now, what does that have to do with accepting Christ as Lord and Saviour. Or in the case of my Anglican church, how many times have heard that "the Cannons do not permit that action". Now, there no gainsaying the need for rules and regulations and discipline in the life of a Christian, but equally so there no need to go overboard and " drive away the weak sheep".
Telling divorced women, even for unfaithfulness, that they cannot get married again - ruling them harshly and brutally. Demanding that those who fall away - chiefly on account of sexual sins - that they must " sit on the back bench", be "read out" of church, and be required to get
" baptized again". Or even worse, telling people that if they " don't get in the Spirit", then they are not really "Holy Ghost filled". Do we have any idea how many lives have been ruined, and the weak led further into a sinful life on account of this " muddying of the stream". No wonder then, that " bloodshed follows bloodshed in my country.
Finally the issue of sound doctrine. What do we understand? What do we believe? This week, once again, the Lord led me to reflect very deeply on the 6th chapter of 2 Corinthians. I do not claim to understand it fully. But what I do know, is that if we did, then the power which is available through the Holy Spirit, would be much more active in our lives, and bloodshed would not be following bloodshed, almost inevitably in the nation - for a lack of knowledge. For our hope is rooted in our dying so that the life if Christ may be manifest in and through us.

" Since therefore by God's mercy we have this ministry ( the ministry of mankind's reconciliation with God through Christ as stated in Chap 5-6) we do not lose hope.....For we do not preach ourselves but Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake. For God, who said, " Let light shine out of darkness", made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the glory of God in the face of Christ.
But we have this treasures in jars of clay to show that this all-surrounding power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side but not crushed; perplexed, but in despair; persecuted , but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carrying around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Christ may be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus', so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you".

I must tell you that I have found this passage extremely challenging. But also the basis for my hope as Christian in this troubled world. This is indeed the radical Christianity which St. Paul practiced and which we have diluted and shied away from. It demands too much. And hence the weak nature of the church in the 21st century. But let us recall that we are called o follow a suffering Christ - not a triumphalist Christ. Not a " gentle Jesus meek and mild". Not a Jesus who came only to bring " Joy to the world", and " Peace to all mankind " as we will soon sing at Christmas, in a very limited understanding of that Joy and Peace. But appreciating that Someone died for that Peace and Joy. And therefore, if we are faithful, so must we too.
Otherwise bloodshed will always follow bloodshed and at the judgement what will we say to the Lord? Or more importantly what will the Lord say , " Come or Depart".

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Legislation, Crime, Abortion, Gay rights; and Jesus - the end of the law

Where are you in the debate on hanging, abortion, and gay rights? The first two are raging in my country. The other is a major issue in the USA ever since California voted to overturn gay marriages on the day Obama won the presidential elections. Jamaicans are overwhelmingly in favor of retaining the the death penalty on our statutes, and our Parliamentarians are currently debating the issue. And with good reason. Just this week, one of our daily newspapers, in reporting on the murder and sodomising of a young boy, the gang rape of a woman and the murder of three women describes the situation as something, " Out of Hell". Lately citizens, seemingly tired of the security forces inability to curb the crime wave, have taken to " chopping up", gunmen whenever they can. Fighting back, while many others cower in deep fear of being the next abduction, rape, or murder victim. This is not a good place for a nation to be in, and our leaders have no answer to these brazen, wicked and apparently unstoppable gunmen. Therefore, in the view of some, legislation is at least one answer.
On another front, some public health professionals have been seeking to amend the Abortion Act, so that it is no longer a crime to perform such a procedure. They argue that this action would prevent the many deaths now resulting from unsafe abortions. Others also in favor, argue that, this should be a matter of an individual choice by the pregnant mother, especially in cases of rape and where carrying the pregnancy would constitute a grave threat to the mother's life. A position accepted by at least one church denomination. Those in opposition argue that life begins at conception, and therefore, any act to terminate the pregnancy, at any stage, is tantamount to murder. Both sides see the passage of legislation as very significant in going forward on this issue.
Gay marriage would never see the light of day in this " not in my cabinet" country. So it is not an issue. What is definitely an issue here is the retention of the buggery act as one way of ensuring that homosexuals do not " pass their place" in this society. Again legislation is seen as one way, and a significant method, of curbing the unseemly behaviour of these group.
So what did the Lord , who is in front of us, beside us, and behind us, say this week about these " hot button" issues.
The first was a still small voice from within. "Be careful you do not place too much focus on solving the problem of murder and violence that you get distracted and forget to seek to know Me better". I am dead serious. That's what I heard. And so about crime, so about road safety and even this Internet Ministry. "Be careful, lest you get distracted". When? Today. This evening. I went to the 7:30 am service but had to leave early - caught the wonderful sermon by one of our young people -to attend a service at another church on World Remembrance Day for Road Crash Victims. So I missed participating in the Eucharist -Holy Communion. Very badly. Thank God that the evening service, on the third Sunday of the month, is a Communion service. So as I prepared to leave and on my way down the Lord spoke to me about distractions. You would not believe also that my cell phone began vibrating, just at the start of the service. In keeping with God's message of distraction - I should have turned it off anyhow - I ignored it, arguing that any emergency would have to wait until the end of the service. Turned out that the person's phone had triggered the call by 'accident'.
The second was the sermon to a grand total of five members, by a young female priest. I went
there primarily to receive the " body and blood of Christ" - to know Him more, to see Him " face to face", as the song writer famously wrote. But as it turned out, I got more.
" Welcome to news at 10; to nationwide news; to Barbara Gloudon; to Mutty", she intoned gravely". Take your pick. All of them dishing out bad news. Gloom and doom. That's how she began. Her sermon was based on the prophet Zephaniah's warning to the people of Israel, the chosen people of God. That the " Day of the Lord" was coming. And if they did not repent of their wickedness, there would come a time of " gloom and doom" for the nation. Fortunately King Josiah responded and enacted legislation which made the people behave in a more acceptable way. But he soon died, and then they returned to their old wicked ways. So the "day of the Lord" came indeed and the nation suffered greatly.
The message - One, that there is nothing new under the sun. Wickedness and murder and rape and abduction have been around for a long time. The behaviour of humankind has not changed much. Rebellion against the Living God, by both believers and non-believers has not changed much. As the prophets of old, like Zephaniah and others, spoke to Kings and the common man alike. To the chosen people of God and to unbelievers alike. Challenging them to uphold the laws of God. But they all failed. Thus God sent His Son, Christ Jesus, so that in and through a relationship with Him, and not because of the law, lives could be changed - forever.
Therefore the second part of the message, to all five of us, was that, " Legislation is not the answer". " It can help. But it has definitely not been the answer to human problems ever since Creation and the Fall, and it is certainly not the answer in this 21st century Jamaica and the world.
Translation! Hanging, in and by itself, is not going to put a end to crime and violence in Jamaica. Nor will the retention of the current Abortion Act, in and by itself, prevent people from carrying our abortions. Nor will the overturn of the gay marriage act, in and by itself, do anything to change the actions of gays. The challenge to the church is for each of us, to establish a relationship with one person at a time, and share the love of Christ with that individual. So that, over a period time, the Holy Spirit of God will lead that person to a relationship with Christ, who is the only person capable of changing the human heart - if they are willing. And we have to accept the fact, that they may not be willing. Further, that seeds sown today will take time to grow. So do not expect miracles on a regular basis. The problems that we are witnessing in Jamaica today, are the results of seeds, poisonous seeds - my words - sown a long time ago.

I thought about her sermon on the way home, especially in the light of the most significant aspect of Obama's victory - bringing hope to diverse and hurting people by establishing a relationship with them. Young and old. Men and women. Blacks and whites. Latinos and Asians. Gays and Straight. Democrats and Republicans. Americans and the rest of the World tired of the Bush Doctrine. I thought about the gay people in Jamaica whom we, for the most part, have ostracised and made to feel less than human. Are we being fair to them when we know that 'sin' is with all of us? And therefore " there goeth I , but for the grace of God". As no one, for the most part, chooses to be homosexual. No one, for the most part, sets out to be a wife beater. Or a pedophile, or an unfaithful partner, or a murderer, or a common thief, or a persecutor of Christians, or to have sex at 12, or to have a baby at 13, or become a rapist 14, or to have an abortion at 15, or to intentionally rebel against the living God. All of these things result from Sin - a disordered relationship with the God of Abraham, who revealed Himself fully in the person of Jesus Christ. And Sin is not something brought on by the society in which we live, but from the inheritance we have from Adam. Sin is something that has been with us for a very long time and is not a new phenomenon.
Therefore, can the Christ who lives within the heart of every true Christian, through the power of His Holy Spirit, touch the hearts of homosexuals, those who would abort the lives of
" fearfully and wonderfully", made babies in the womb, and those who would kill and maim human beings, made in the image of God, as if they were of no more importance than an insect? Can we who claim Christ cease our dependence on legislation, and seek to establish relationships with all persons, one at a time and so share the Redemptive power and love of Christ with them. Yes we can, as "with man it is impossible, but with God all things are possible". This is the essence of the gospel message.
The third message came directly from Scripture

" Since, then, we know what it is to we fear the Lord, we try to persuade men......For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.......So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come. All this is from God who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sin against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as if God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God...... As God's fellow workers we urge you not to receive God's grace in vain. For he says,
" In the time of my favor I heard you,
and in the day of salvation I helped you."
I tell you, now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation"
2. Cor. 5:11-6:2 NIV

Please do not miss (whether you are an unbeliever or believer, political, business, professional, or religious leader of a country or the ordinary man, of royal blood or the common man) the significance of the opening and closing statements. God is to be feared, and one day according to Zephaniah, the day of the Lord will come and then the judgement. In Christ Jesus, that day is here. ...." now is the day of salvation. So when God's fellow workers seek to establish a loving caring understanding, non-judgemental relationship with you, be careful how you ignore them and continue your " wicked " ways. When the living God warns us about " being distracted", by the many cares and problems of this world, thus leaving less time to spend with Him. Be obedient. When the God of Abraham warns us that we should, " try to persuade men", if we
truly fear Him. Let us be obedient. When He reminds us that Christ's love should " compel us".
Let us be obedient, as today is the day of salvation. Today is the "Day of the Lord".

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Yes we can - Obama: Yes we are - Christianity

A few years ago, I spent a few weeks in Singapore. And one of, if not the most enduring memory I have of that remarkable country, is that of a young girl, all by herself, waiting on the bus in the dark, at 5;30 in the morning - quite unperturbed as we jogged by, or in my case , walked at a fast pace. In that country, at that time, and I believe it remains that way until now, no one would dare to trouble her. Since then, I have always thought to myself, that if ever I had a chance to be in charge of my country, my first priority would be to ensure the safety of our young girls and women.

This week as I listened to, and looked in the eyes of a tear- filled young professional woman, I had reason to ponder that dream. She had just heard the news that, on the night before, gunmen had abducted three women from a popular fast food establishment, and she was terrified out her wits. " I don't want to be raped" she said. She lived alone and was in great fear of being assaulted and then killed. It's the latest in a long list of violent and wicked acts being perpetrated by men who clearly are no longer constrained by any rule of law in this country - just a few days ago they attempted - unsuccessfully thank God - to abduct a young schoolgirl, on a busy street, in "broad daylight", as we say here in Jamaica. So there is widespread panic as the country descends further into mayhem. Not being able to offer her any great human consolation, we prayed together and asked God for mercy and peace - not because we were worthy or deserving, but because He is a merciful God, and has shown this mercy, most profoundly in the death of His Son Jesus Christ

That is one perspective. The other is all about the Obamas . Barack, Michelle - I almost mischievously said and Abendego - Malia and Natasha - aka Sasha. Newspapers have become collector's items, as everything in print is being gobbled up. E-mails are being sent at warp speed. Face Book is all about Obama and so I would imagine are countless blogs.

And in the middle of all of this Obama " madness", a young preacher at my church today, delivered a wonderful sermon with authority and interspersed with moments when his voice cracked as his emotions almost overwhelmed him, and which brought us back to reality and connected us with the Obama victory.

"Yes we can", he declared in true Obama style. Yes we can as Christians, provide the kind of HOPE that the victims of rape and abduction need at this time in the nation's history. Yes we can offer the HOPE to the father and family of young Pia Phillips who died so tragically, as reported in last week's message. Yes we can be the HOPE to those who are at risk to turn to drugs, or a life of crime, and thus may become a rapist in the next generation. How! Help Other People Endure in times of crisis. Every male Christian ought to be mentoring a young person, preferably a young man. All Christians are called upon to sacrifice time at work, at home, in the community, to lend a listening ear to someone who is in need. Someone who is in crisis. Further, that in the spirit of the God who inspired the prophet Amos to pen those stirring lines, often used by Martin Luther King, the acknowledge forerunner of Obama," But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream", we too are called to break down the citadels of injustice, and to live holy lives. Not just on a Sunday morning, but at home, at work, and the community. That is how we are to going to provide HOPE for our people desperately in need of God's love in and through Christ Jesus - and whose body is the church.

But how does that help a nation in crisis, some would argue? How will that deter the wicked, bent on carrying our more spectacular acts of evil day by day? I am not sure, but certainly deep in the words of an old hymn is a message: "What God has done for others , He will do for you...."
It took a long time for change to come to America, but thank God it has. Likewise it took a long time for change to come to South Africa, but thank God it did. It took a long time for the " Berlin Wall" to come down, but thank God it did. It took a long time for slavery to end in my country, but thank God it did. And in every instance where injustice and unrighteousness have been defeated, God's mysterious hand, through His agents of change, has been at work. So change will come one day to Jamaica too, but it all depends on how we as Christians - God's agents of change - respond, as the young preacher declared today, in times of crisis.

And the God who is always ahead of us provided another perspective on this issue of our response in times of crisis, from a meditation from Chris Tiegen.


" Father glorify your name ". John 1218

IN WORD One of the ways we can determine whether we are becoming Christlike is how we act in a crisis. When the pressure is on, what will we do? Or, even deeper, when the pressure is on, what motives will direct us?

Jesus came to hour that He had long predicted. He was clear about His purpose in coming to Jerusalem. He would die there. The disciples couldn't understand it, but He had foretold the Cross and the Resurrection numerous times. And now the hour had come.

It wasn't a pleasant hour. Nothing in human flesh --even that of the divine Son of God --enjoys suffering. Jesus dd not ask God to save Him from this hour in John 12( v 27) but when He gets to the Garden of Gethsemane, He wants to know if it's possible for the cup of suffering to pass Him by ( Matthew 26; Mark 14; Luke 22). Human nature is so very ambivalent; the spirit is willing , but the flesh is very, very weak. Even God, when clothed in human flesh, wanted the less painful way, But -- and here's the measure for us -- in the middle of His crisis, one motive still guided Him: He preferred the glory of God's name over His own self-preservation. God's reputation weighed heavier on His heart than His own comfort and life.

IN DEED Are you becoming Christlike? It is God's plan for you to be conformed to the image of His Son. But how can you know if you're growing toward that goal? Examine your motives, especially in the midst of a crisis. What is your agenda? Do you prefer the glory of God to your own escape? When it really comes down to it, what would you sacrifice for his glory?

Jesus sacrificed a huge following. His school of disciples, His comfort and health, His current reputation, and even His life in order that God's name might be honored. Would you?

Wow!. Would I? ( Thank God for blogs. The power just went, and had it not been for this technology, all of the message would have been lost). The point is that what Jamaica and the world needs now, in this time of crisis all over the globe, are Christians who are willing to sacrifice, not just for themselves, their neighbours and nation, but for God's glory. And according to Amos, His glory is achieved whenever and wherever we usher in Justice and Righteousness in our lives and in the lives of others around us.
And how do we sustain this desire for God's glory? According to the Gospel today about the five wise virgins and the five foolish ones -- by having a little more oil in my lamp to keep it burning, keep it burning 'til the break of day. And as I reflected deeply on the extended version of this wonderful song, I understood very profoundly what God was saying in this Gospel message.
I pray God that all of us who spend the time to listen will come to offer HOPE to our people, in the same way that Obama's victory, in and by itself, has already brought hope to millions across the USA and indeed the world. And I can hear the Pentecostals singing that wonderful up tempo sanke, in respect to Jesus' coming : " Things already better, things already better....."

Give me oil in my lamp, keep me burning.
Give me oil in my lamp I pray. Give me oil in my lamp
keep me burning, keep me burning 'til the break of day

CHO Sing, "Hosanna!" Sing, "Hosanna!"
Sing, " Hosanna!" to the King of Kings.......

Make me a fisher of men
Keep me seeking....

Give me joy in my heart
Keep me singing.....

Give me love in my heart
Keep me serving.....

Give me peace in my soul
Keep me praising.....

Place your faith in my heart
Keep me trusting

Hide your Word in my heart
Keep me learning.....

So it is in the seeking of others to bring them to Christ, in the singing of spiritual songs and hymns, in the serving of others ( providing HOPE), in the praising of God each day ( Bless the Lord O my soul), in the trusting in God in all situations and in the learning from His precious Word, that we will have " oil in our lamps" to be Christlike in the midst of crises of life and seek to bring all honor and glory to our Father. Thus will change come to Jamaica - and the whole world. So let us heed the words of the " community organizer" and begin the process : brick by brick, church by church, community by community, school by school, acts of faith by acts of faith, one day at a time, and trusting in God. Amen

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Yes, we can - Obama: Yes, I Have - Jesus

Today is a new day in the history of mankind. Against all the odds, against the weight of history,
an African American, Barack Hussein Obama - yes we can - is now President elect of the only remaining superpower in the world. In a few short weeks, all authority of the American state will be vested in the hands and mind of this remarkable young man. What will he do with all of this power? How will the American people respond to the challenges he gave them in in his victory speech last night? How will the world respond to the his assurances that those who threaten America will be defeated, and those who offer the hand of peace will find in him, an ally. Will there be any change for us in the Caribbean, and in particular for us here in Jamaica, a nation under siege from "kidnapping and murderous gunmen".
As I watched the tears streaming down the faces of black and white folks alike last night, my mind went back to Harriet Tubman, that great American heroine who organised the " Underground Railway" - piloting slaves from Confederate South to freedom in Union North; back to Martin Luther King - the great civil rights leader, whose oratory and commitment to non -violent change, both combined to produce one of the great human beings of this century; back to Jack and Bobby Kennedy whose flames burned brightly for a while, and who both offered America and indeed the world so much hope. And a now a bright young man, standing on the shoulders of these giants, who embodies the hopes and aspirations of great men and women, now ascends to power in America - the land of the free and the home of the brave. Yes we can indeed.
But as much as I celebrated last night, and shared a special time in history with my son and my wife - can you believe that my daughter fell asleep - and woke to listen to the Lord in the early morning, this is what He said - a sobering message for all of us on the one hand, and yet on the other, yes, a message that we can celebrate, regardless of the times, as long as we seek to carry His agenda. Yes we can.

As you read this meditation, think back on last night and see how much the words relate to many of the scenes we saw played out on television, what Obama said, and what experiences we are all having at this time. And how we as Christians and non-believers are responding - I need to reflect deeply on this mediation as sometimes the angst and the pathos associated with the violence threaten to overwhelm me. Finally, I had no plans to write this morning, as this is Wednesday not Sunday. In particular, I had no plans to read a meditation on June 20th. But the Lord planned it. Did He also raise up Obama for a special purpose? We shall soon see.


" All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me". Matthew 28:18

IN WORD There is no greater authority, not in this world or any other. Our universe is governed by the Son of God, the Ancient of days incarnate, the alpha and the Omega. If being in the presence of rulers and celebrities gives us a thrill, how much more wonderful to know Immanuel - God with us. Whatever impresses us, frightens us, threatens us, embitters us, or thrills us --all that we can imagine and more - is under His reign. He is the ultimate power.
That's great, we might think. But what does it have to do with us? The answer is glorious. This infinite power, ultimate authority and the King above all kings is the very same One who intercedes for us. He is on our side. And if the ultimate Authority intercedes for us, who will overturn His intercession? What request of His will be overruled? The greatest power in all the universe - over all the universe, in fact - is already inclined to us, dedicated to working out our good, and available through our prayers. We might think not notice such support if we are bent on our own agenda, but if we are bent on His, there is no obstacle that can obscure it.

IN DEED Sounds too good to be true? Yes, it does. And it often appears that way. While the ultimate Authority reigns benevolently over us, we have trials and tribulations. Our children may have life-threatening illnesses. Our finances may come to ruin. Our security might be in danger. Our relationships might suffer irreparable conflict. It doesn't always look as if He is exercising His power.
But He is. The world He has placed us in is enemy territory, and we will not pass through it uncontested. When we focus on it, we will be discouraged and depressed. When we absorb its values and goals, we will be disappointed. And that's why Jesus comes to His disciples and says all authority is His. We need to know that - and to live as if we know it.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Closing arguments from Obama, Christ and St. Paul.

This past week, on day before Barack Obama spent over $5.0 million presenting his closing arguments, someone whom I have known since she was one month old, was help up by gunmen. And so terrified was she, as she begged for her life, that she lost control of one of her bodily functions. So what can Obama do for my friend here in Jamaica.? On Tuesday November 4, exactly forty years and seven months after Martin Luther King Jnr. finished his work on this earth, having had a dream that, "my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character", Barack Hussein Obama, by all accounts,will fulfill that dream by becoming the first President of the USA who is an African American. So what can Obama do, not for only black folks but for all the people of American? On January 20th, if he wins, Obama will officially close the deal, and take over the reins of power in the USA - the world's only remaining superpower. And from all accounts, the entire free world is waiting to " exhale" and see what Obama will do for peace, for climate change, for the world economy, for the good name of America.

As I contemplated these issues this week, like many others, my country is caught up with "Obama fever". My wife who has never voted in her entire life, has suddenly become a political expert on American politics, and CNN is almost always on in my house - from the days of the Democratic primaries. But equally so is my country caught up the "fever" of violence and is a nation racked by daily reports of murder, kidnapping of young girls, rape, and just absolute mayhem. And today's news report just about shattered all who heard it.

A young girl with a bright future, on her eighteenth birthday, the head girl of one of our top schools was killed by the gun. Her father's gun. A dad who came to the rescue of his family, who were under threat from marauding gunmen, slipped and fell and the gun went off hitting his daughter who later died. The gunmen escaped. And we cannot begin to understand the pain that this poor man is feeling now. So far no party, no leader, no private sector mogul, no insightful journalist, no policeman has presented any closing arguments to help stem the tide of crimson which is staining the streets of our country.

So this week, I was led to the closing arguments of two persons, whom, if we follow carefully, can help, not only Jamaica, black folks and white folks in America, but the entire world to find the only true peace which is available this side of heaven. The shalom, the peace which my friend who was terrified by the gunmen needs and which that guilt-ridden father needs desperately. Which Obama himself needs if he is to truly bring into being the final element of King's dream - Freedom. Freedom from more than racism and sexism. But also from poverty and persecution. From violence and extortion. From the consequences sexual immorality and moral laxity. From ignorance and fear. From greed and pride.

"When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!" The closing arguments of King's famous " I have a dream " speech

So let us reflect on the closing arguments from who He, who is the only One who can allow to sing:" Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last.

" A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him. Jesus turned and said to them, ' Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children. For the time will come when you will say ' Blessed are the barren women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed.......For if men do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry.

Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. When they came to the place called the Skull, there thy crucified him, along with the criminals - one on his right, the other on his left, Jesus said, " Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing".

Luke 23:26-34

" Later knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, " I am thirsty". A jar of wine vinegar was there , so they soaked a sponge it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, lifted it to Jesus' lips. When he had received the drink, Jesus said, " It is finished". With that he bowed his head and gave up his spirit."

John 19;28-30.

Note that this event took place on an old rugged cross on a hill far away from the "glare of the television cameras". Only Holy Scripture records this kind of detail and places the whole of Christ's life into perspective, and which story is captured so eloquently by verses of two hymns on which I was led to reflect this week.

And can it be that I should gain
An interest in my Saviour's blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain?
For me who him me to death pursued
Amazing love! how can it be
That Thou my God, shouldst die for me

He left His Father's throne above
So free, so infinite His grace
Emptied Himself of all but love
And bled for Adam's helpless race
' Tis mercy all, immense and free;
For O my God, it found out me...

My God I love thee, not because
I hope for heaven thereby
Nor yet because those who love thee not
Are lost eternally

Thou O my Jesus, thou didst me
Upon the Cross embrace
For me didst bear the nails and spears
And manifold disgrace

And griefs and torments numberless
And sweat of agony
Yea, death itself -- and all for me
Who was thine enemy

Then why, O blessed Jesus Christ
Should I not love thee well.......

Not from the hope of gaining aught
Nor seeking a reward
But as thyself hast loved me
O ever-loving Lord...

In a few short words above, the essence of the Christian message is taught. And all of what life is about is shared. That the work of Salvation - Peace, Shalom, wholeness, restoration of sinful man with God the Creator, freedom from sin and death, empowerment with the power of the Holy Spirit - is all finished. That because of love God sent His only begotten Son, and Christ was obedient - emptied Himself of all but love, and died for Adam's helpless race. That all of this is ;''Tis mystery all! The immortal dies. Who can explore His strange designs. So we love Christ, not for gain. Not because we understand everything. Not because He is going to " cut taxes to the middle class", or " redistribute wealth to the poor", or help to " regain Jamaica's good name", or " bring an end to the war in Rema, or Clarendon or St. James. No, we love Christ simply, because he first loved us - even when were sinners. His enemies.

This is the "closing argument" which will set those of us, who trust God, free and enable us to say like Christ to those who persecute us, who ignore our message, who pour scorn on our fixation on " what is unseen rather than what is seen: " Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing". For surely the advice for the women in Jerusalem to weep not for Him but for themselves, holds true in today's world, as we witness one atrocity after another. Tonight there is a report of man, apparently in his right mind, who shot his mother to death, wounded his brother, and only by the grace of God, was he prevented from causing more bloodshed in the household. the rash of kidnapping and raping and killing our women is surely another manifestation of the fact that, those who turned this nation away from the living God, do not know what they have done.

The other " closing arguments" come from St Paul when, near the end of his life, he wrote to his "son" Timothy about, what I consider to be, the most challenging issue facing the church in its quest to be both relevant to the society and faithful to God. And equally so for those who " have an interest in the Saviour's blood", but who either do not understand the faith, or are not prepared to give up anything for Christ, but expect to receive is benefits. The challenge? Sound Doctrine.

" If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, he is conceited and understand nothing. He has an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk,evil suspicions and a constant friction between men of corrupt mind who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain ( A major problem for many denominations). But godliness with contentment is a great gain, For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.........

But you man of God, flee from all of this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness....1 Timothy 6:3-11

" In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will love the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge. Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage - with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them, a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.

For I am already being poured out like a drink offering ad the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is stored up for me the crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous Judge will award to me on that day - and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing"

2 Timothy 4:1-8

So my prayer for Obama as he takes over this awesome task in the affairs of men, is that, not only will he " have an interest in the Saviour's blood", but more importantly, that he may be instructed in sound Doctrine. The lack of which is the main reason why the world suffers so much today, as to much of our energies, as disciples of Christ, are directed at solving the problems of this world, and seeking a reward for doing so, rather than loving Jesus first and foremost - because He first loved us. And instead of preaching the Word in season and out of season, we gather around us a great number of teachers who tell us what our itching ears wish to hear.

Finally, the closing 'chapter' in the day's ( and no doubt the week's too) meditation last night.

And which meditation poses some serious for we who have decided to " follow" Christ, on account of His closing arguments on an old rugged Cross on a hill far a way from CNN.



" Know ye not are not your own?" 1 Cor. 6:19

There is no such thing as a private life -- " a world within the world" -- for a man or woman who is brought into the fellowship with Jesus Christ's sufferings. God breaks up the private life of His saints, and makes it a thoroughfare for the world on the one hand and for Himself on the other. No human being can stand that unless he is identified with Jesus Christ. We are not sanctified for ourselves, we are called into the fellowship of the gospel, and things happen which have nothing to do with us, God is getting into fellowship with Himself. Let Him have His way; if you do not, instead of being the slightest use to God in His Redemptive work in the world, you will be a hindrance and a clog.

The first thing God does with us is to get us based on rugged reality until we do not care what becomes of us individually as long as He gets His way for the purpose of His Redemption. Why shouldn't we go through heartbreaks? Through those doorways God is opening up ways of fellowship with his Son. Most of us fall and collapse at the first grip of pain; we sit down on the threshold of God's purpose and die away of self-pity, and all the so-called Christian sympathy will aid us to our death bed. But God will not. He comes with the grip of the pierced hand of His Son, and says --" Enter into fellowship with Me; arise and shine". If though a broken heart God can bring His purpose to pass in the world, then thank Him for breaking your heart.

As we in the Anglican faith celebrate All Saints day today, and recall our Rector's words:

" Saints are not only the famous ones of history - St Paul, St. Mark -- but those who in the face of suffering and persecution of all sorts, keep the faith." Pray God then, that we may not only get Obama fever, but more importantly be full of zeal for the One who died on the old rugged Cross for all mankind - Jesus Christ our Saviour. And that we may know the faith, live the faith and keep the faith, for Christ's sake and for the Salvation of the world.


Sunday, October 26, 2008

What is your worldview? The viewpoint that informs your perspective on life. Is it based on the temporary or the Eternal?

One minute she was sitting there playing with the children, "getting in the Spirit", in response to the service held by the Itinerant preacher - and she herself was a pastor - and a few minutes later she collapsed and was rushed to the local hospital where she was pronounced dead. It was the second time that morning, within a few minutes, that someone had collapsed in my office. Fortunately the first event had a different result, although at the time I feared the worst. The message for me - all week long? Life, on this side of heaven, is a very tenuous affair indeed, and not to be taken for granted.
So, one day all the hype about the US presidential elections will end. Hopefully Obama will prevail, but his tenure and influence on this world, whatever may be the hopes and aspirations of many, will end one day. So too the most wonderful thing in this world - to be young and in love, or even to be middle aged or old and in love. One day that glorious romance will come to an end. So too, all the great achievements to which one can aspire - a dedicated journalist or lawyer, committed to revealing the truth, defending democracy, fighting injustice, and sharing useful information; a committed social worker; the best teacher in the world; a great mother; a father who is there for his family; the most creative and highly acclaimed artist, a caring physician; a politician who made a difference; a really great artisan; a highly respected and well loved manager; a successful businessperson...... Nothing on this good earth will last forever.

So what did the Lord who not only walks beside, but more importantly, goes ahead of us, each day, reveal to and through his servant during this week, when being ahead of us He would have known about this impending sudden death, and thus prepared us.

First and foremost, before the sudden death of this lady, I was led to reflect on passages from one of the most important books in the Bible - 2 Corinthians. And as I spent time meditating deeply on sections of this profound book, I recalled my former spiritual mentor, of blessed memory, Bishop Herman Spence telling me about an invitation to preach for a week long stint in the Bahamas, and how he decided to spend the time expounding on this book. The verse which first struck me was:

" So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary but what is unseen is eternal". 2 Cor. 6:18 NIV

The point here is that for far too many of us, even we who claim Christ, the joys and sorrows and challenges and aspirations of this life consume our time, energies, money and emotions. As if this life is all that there is. So we get upset easily, get depressed without struggling, set earthly targets for our lives, and spend out time worry about every imaginable thing as if we do not have a Father in heaven and therefore our lives are subject to the "ordinary forces" of this world.
So I spent some time this week asking the Lord to give me the inner strength, to " fix my eyes" on the unseen, the eternal, and not just the visible and and temporary - as important as they may be. And the joy of this approach to life was very liberating indeed - even though it is a struggle as Satan tries to keep you captured by " the tyranny of the immediate".

The second passage was equally profound and even a bit disturbing - and I have been reading this section of the Bible for years without really coming to terms with the deeper meaning, and I am sure there is more to learn.

" We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed". 2 Cor. 6:10 NIV

Two points stayed in my mind. One that, like the lady who died, forever to this life, so are we called, in a spiritual sense, to die to self and live for Christ. That is basic Christianity. And if one is not prepared to undergo that experience, daily, but wishes to hold on to the " temporary and the seen", then there is no power, nothing of the life changing power of Christ in that person's life - no matter how often the church attendance, how much the giving of money, how long the prayers and how diligent the reading of scriptures. The other point is that, we are called to constantly " fix our eyes on the unseen" - only by those who choose not to believe - reality, of the Redemption wrought on the Cross of Calvary. As by, " carrying around", by constantly remembering and drawing on the power of the death of Christ to overcome sin and death, so will the life of Christ, with power, be revealed in our bodies. That is the only source of power to make a difference in this crazy world that believers have.

The final words from this chapter tell us even more about the "unseen power", that we have at work in our bodies, once we believe. I pray God that all of us will believe these things and so drastically alter our lifestyles, so that through us, the lives of unbelievers may be rescued, and even our own lives may be transformed. But there is a price to be paid.

" For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.....though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.
For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen......"
2. Cor. 6: 11-12& 16-17 NIV

Three other revelations/inspirations then followed in this theme of the unseen and eternal:
One was a reminder of a song.

As the deer pants for the water,
So my soul longs after you.
You alone are my heart's desire
And I long to worship You


You alone are my strength, my shield,
To you alone may my spirit yield
You alone are my heart's desire
And I long to worship You

The other a meditation from an old Saint found in the Classic Devotional Bible in which
the words " But thanks be to God, who always leads in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance and the knowledge of him" , appear.
Following which, and long ago I ceased believing in coincidence, I read this passage a couple night ago.



" Now thanks be to God who always causeth us to triumph in Christ"
2. Cor. 2:14

The viewpoint of a worker for God must not be as near the highest as he can get, it must be the highest. Be careful to maintain strenuously God's point of view, it has to be done every day, bit by bit; don't think on the finite ( the temporary - my words). No outside power can touch the viewpoint.
The viewpoint to maintain is that we are here for one purpose only - to be captives in the train of Christ's triumph. We are not in God's showroom, we are here to exhibit one thing - the absolute captivity of our lives to Jesus Christ. How small the other points of view are - I am standing alone battling for Jesus; I have to maintain the cause of Christ and hold this fort for Him. Paul says - I am in the train of a conqueror, and it does not matter what the difficulties are, I am always led in triumph. Is this idea being worked out practically in us? Paul's joy was to be a captive of the Lord, he had no other interest in heaven or in earth. it is a shameful thing for a Christian to talk about getting the victory. The Victor ought to have got us so completely that it is His victory all the time, and we are more than conquerors through Him.
" For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ." We are enwheeled with the odour of Jesus, and where we go we are a wonderful refreshment to God

Finally after reading this passage I was led to reflect on another passage which places the entire message this week into proper perspective and why it is so important for us to spend time listening to what God is revealing to us through events and by His Holy Word, and inspired words.
I even, early this morning , when I read it, send out the message by text to all the pastors in my telephone directory on my cell phone.

" For I am resolved to know nothing while I am with except Jesus Christ and him crucified....My message and preaching were not with wise and persuasive that your faith may not rest on men's wisdom, but on God's power"
1 Cor. 2:2-5 NIV

I pray God that we will all reflect on these things, so that by being determined to know nothing else but " Christ crucified", by carrying around the death of Christ in our bodies, by fixing our eyes on the unseen and eternal, God 's power may flow through us to to others , and bring peace to this mad country of Jamaica, where sudden death from the gun or from motor vehicle crashes, not natural causes, have unleashed untold terror and grief in our communities. And which power to change things does not come from Obama or any wise man, but from God Himself at work in our mortal bodies. Amen