Sunday, September 28, 2008

What good is it for a man to place all his investments on Wall Street and lose not only the money but his soul as well.

The biggest news this week for me was the financial meltdown in the USA. Yes, I watched the debate between Obama and McCain, but nothing new came out. And since I am hoping that Obama will win, I really don't like watching anything to do with McCain. Plus my children, four
of them ( two by birth, and two others by marriage) and my grandchild, all reside in the USA. So the repercussions of the Wall Street 'madness' could affect them too. But apart from the economic woes, what struck me most, was, the "change of mind", the change of philosophy of the American government. Moving from a unapologetic capitalist state, allowing the market free reign, to one which is now behaving, in a sense, like one of the European socialist states, as is manifest in the plan to "bail out", the once famous, but now, struggling banks, insurance companies and investment firms - rather than let the market dictate if they go bankrupt and risk the possibility of shutting down the US economy.
Back here in Jamaica, the polls are showing that, after a short time, the voting population is already having a " change of mind" about the ruling party. And powerful elements within the opposition party, had a "change of mind", about the leader and unsuccessfully challenged her, leading to recriminations which could affect its fortunes at the next elections.
However despite all of these very topical and substantive international and local happenings, unfortunately, there has been no cessation of the violence, no change of heart of the wickedness of our criminals, as just tonight there was a news report that a young teenage girl, who went missing last week, may be the one found dead on a hillside earlier in the day. And later in the news, came a report of an elderly couple, who were killed and then thrown into their home and which house was then torched and the bodies burnt. So our hearts continued to be burdened by the unabated "madness" taking place in our country, and which mayhem is causing so much pain and grief on the one hand, and provoking so much fear on the other.
In the midst of all of this the Lord led me to reflect on a meditation on, ( believe it or not)
" Consider Your Investments", and a sermon on " Repentance; changing your mind from sin to
righteousness in Christ Jesus", based on the gospel reading for today.


" What good is it for a man to gain the whole world yet forfeit his soul". Mark 8:36

IN WORD If someone has a sum of money to invest, he or she will have to make some choices. The money can be put full into one investment, or it can be divided among more than one. Many people chose this latter option in order to hedge their bets. But when one option is considered far superior to to all the others, diversification takes a back seat to opportunism. Attractive investment opportunities draw all of our attention and all of our money for the possibilities they entail. We want to capitalize.
In the economy of God, one investment is clearly superior to all others. it's a sure thing. And Jesus calls us to place all our resources, time and talents there - exclusively. Why? Because He knows the return it will yield, and He knows that we will not be disappointed. But there is often a part of us that wants to diversify. We want to invest some in God's kingdom, certainly, but also some in this world. We're afraid to put our resources only in one place. Whether we put a lot or a little into the temporal, Jesus says, it's bad deal. The world will end in bankruptcy, and the kingdom of God will inherit all wealth. And it's wealth will be everlasting.

IN DEED Human beings pursue comfort and pleasure with an alarming passion. It isn't that comfort and pleasure are wrong.; God created both for us to enjoy. But He never called us to pursue them. He never asked us to focus our attention on our earthly life span in order to make it as easy or profitably as possible. To the contrary, He constantly calls His disciples to take everything they have now and invest it in everything they know about God's eternal kingdom.
" Whoever wants to save his life ( live for the now) will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel( lives for the kingdom) will save it".. Consider your investments well and avoid the pursuits of this world. Whatever you do, do it for the glory of God.
A few months ago we had our our " financial melt down in Jamaica", where many people including Christians, placed all, a major part, or significant sums, with unregulated investment firms. And when they went bust, a lot of people lost their money. " This one option was considered far superior to others and so diversification took a backseat to opportunism".
Many people wished to capitalize on the 120% annual, and more, interest offered on their investment.
At the end of the day, I think the key question ought have been: " Will it bring God glory"?
This week some words of a well known hymn, " restored to life and power and thought", have been on my mind. Especially in the morning. It's from the first verse of:

New every morning is the love
Our wakening and uprising prove;
Through sleep and darkness safely brought,
Restored to life and power and thought.

New mercies, each returning day,
Hover around us while we pray;
New perils past, new sins forgiven,
New thoughts of God, new hopes of heaven.

If on our daily course our mind
Be set to hallow all we find,
New treasures still, of countless price
God will provide for sacrifice.

The trivial round , the common task,
Will furnish all we need to ask,
Room to deny ourselves a road
To bring us daily nearer God.

Only, O Lord, in thy dear love
Fit us for perfect rest above;
And help us this and every day,
To live more nearly as we pray.

The point is that, we owe so much to God - for life itself, day by day. As so many people fail to wake in the morning, and many others are alive but have "no life , no power, or thought". And
therefore our only role in life, the only investment to be made, is to " hallow " all we find.
In the sense of bringing God glory and praise in all that we do - no matter how common place it may seem. The danger to many, and especially to Christians, is the desire to " hedge our bets".
Love God but, " pursue comfort and pleasure", at the same time. Pursue power and fame. Pursue our own dreams. Trust in our own judgements. Fall prey to pursuing " my will" and not God's will. Becoming impatient with God, and taking matters into our own hands. The problem is, that kind of attitude, always , every single time, leads to disaster and ruin, if not in this world, certainly in the eternal kingdom. This attitude is what led to the financial meltdown in the USA - greed conquering prudence. And so in America, so in Jamaica and all over the world.
High expectations and greed holding sway over prudent financial management. Further, this same kind of attitude is the fundamental reason for the madness and mayhem currently destroying my country. As increasingly, my beloved nation is falling prey to the empty and unsustainable philosophy of , " my will" and not "God's will" be done. Pursuing comfort and pleasure at all levels is now the national past time, and therefore no wonder people no longer "fear God", and have no regard for the "things of God". And then " having opened the gates and let in the pirates", we wonder why Jamaica and Jamaicans have become so violent.
The problem is further compounded by the fact, that even within certain parts of the church,
is to be found this unsound and unscriptural theology - pursuing comfort and pleasure.
It is in this context that two sermons this morning - I went to the regular 7:30 and stayed on for the 9:30 for the Baptismal service - challenged me greatly especially considering a reflection
I read this week on, " being near to the kingdom of God", entitled " Close but not quite".
And the quote that stayed with me was, " To be ' not far' from the kingdom of God, is still to be outside of it. Something more is needed"
And that "something more" is Repentance - a change of mind. We in Jamaica have much of which to repent . We in the church have even more about which we need to repent. And I am convinced that when this change of heart takes place, our country will begin to recover.
The story of the gospel was most instructive. The man had two sons. One initially refused to be obedient, but eventually " changed his mind". The other promised to be obedient, but never fulfilled the promise. The quality of our present lives, and our future will be determined by which side of this simple story reflects our attitude. Repentance, a change of mind, or stubbornness born of arrogance and a lack of " fear of God". Our decisions will have eternal consequences.
No wonder that the Lord placed the following prayer in my heart. " Will thou not turn again and quicken us O Lord, that thy people may rejoice in thee". Why? We need to cry to God for a renewing of His Holy Spirit which resides in us, the Baptised people of God, so that thus empowered, we may not only spread the good news, but be the good news to our people, so that all of us may, " change our minds", repent, and ask God for mercy, as He has been , and continues to be our only " Investment option".