Each year round about this time, all the media houses compete with each other to come up with the best " Year in Review". Recently I heard a promo from one local radio station, Nationwidenews, that has stayed with me all week. A mother's wail, coming from deep in her soul was captured on tape. She was begging, beseeching - you could almost see her face awash with tears and distorted with grief - the criminals who had abducted her young daughter to return the child, " even if they had raped her". She just wanted her child back alive even if emotionally scared. I shuddered involuntarily as something in me identified with that distraught woman, as if it were my own child. What a country! What a hell of a country.
This morning on my to church I picked a security guard, it has become a routine now on a Sunday morning, and as usual we got talking about the state of the nation. As I lamented about the continued high murder rate, he recalled, quite animatedly, reading the news about a similar kind of wickedness happening in the USA many years ago. And gave quite a graphic account of one murderer stating that, "He enjoyed seeing the bodies jerking ( in the throes of death) when he fired on his victims". And thus my companion, working class, unlettered but quite knowlegeable and wise about the things of this world, explained that evil was rampant in the world and has been for a long time. Further that, in his experience, many of these young, " shottas", use drugs - marijuana and cocaine and thus are filled with pure evil, Hence the state of our nation. So he concluded, contrary to what many think, Jamaica was not any more blessed than any country, as wickedness and evil abound.
Then tonight on the news we heard about an elderly blind woman, who was found strangled to death, and which event provoked the local member of Parliament to wonder aloud on television, "What kind of person could perform such an heinous crime"? In the middle of all of that, I came home from church this morning and spent a few minutes quietly in my car, reflecting and pondering on the fact that, this kind of madness cannot continue for much longer. Something catastrophic is going to happen soon.
Now murder is one thing. But " daggering " is quite another. All week I have been hearing about this "outrageous" new dance move which, from all accounts is throwing a veritable " dagger" into the moral soul of the nation. Then, today I got an e-mail from a friend and a columnist who sent me her article, published in today's The Sunday Herald, http://www.sunheraldja.com/article/show/2105 which gave great detail about the dance and how it was corrupting the minds of the youth - in particular. What a country. What a hell of a country!
Later, on "All Angles", a television programme hosted by arguably one of our best journalists, I overheard a discussion on the use of " bad words" - expletives. With one proponent pulling the " discriminating against the poor" card, whilst defending their right to use that kind of language in their, " own space", as I understood him . What a country!
While the madness swirled around me this week on the outside, in my soul the Lord spoke comforting, but challenging words which once again reinforcedin my mind how He is always ahead of us preparing the way, if we would but stop to listen. One morning during my devotions, whilst praising God, I was led to an old hymn, again, but this time the words of a particular verse stayed with me all week. So much so that I sent out the following text message, using verse three, to many of my Internet friends who have not yet accepted Jesus as Lord, and Saviour and friend.
Praise to the Lord who doth prosper and defend thee....
What the Almighty can do,
If to the end he befriend thee....
What a friend we have in Jesus.
The first two verses of that hymn are:
Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation;
O my soul, praise him for he is thy health and salvation:
All ye who hear,
Now to his temple draw near,
Joining in glad adoration.
Praise to the Lord, who o'er all things so wondrously reigneth,
Shieldeth thee gently from harm, or where fainting sustaineth:
Hast thou not seen
How thy heart wishes have been granted in what he ordaineth
and the last verse is:
Praise to the Lord! O let all that is in me adore him!
All that has life and breath, come now with praises before him!
Let the Amen
Sound from his people again:
Gladly for ay we adore him.
As I write these words, I am thinking, how different this country would be, if this were the kind of conversation we engaged in day by day. How to bring back praise and honor and glory to a God who created all of us and gave us breath? A fact validated by words from the Old Testament reading appointed for today in my church:
" This is what God the Lord says-
he who created the heavens and stretched them out,
who spread out the earth and all that comes out of it,
who gives breath to its people
and life to those who walk on it......"
Isaiah 42: 5 NIV
Wondering how this nation would benefit from reflection on, and pondering anew, the possibilities for this country, our communities, our families, if God were to truly befriend us - once we place our trust in His Beloved Son Jesus? To talk about how the nation could change overnight if, " The Amen", would sound from God's people again. The problem is that people do not readily see the link between murder, which most will condemn, and " daggering" and the use foul language as part of our " cultural heritage". Why? Because we mistakenly believe that we can let in a little, " sin", that does not bother anyone, (rebellion against God' will and purpose) in one part of the house and contain it there. We can let in a little pornography in the bedroom, a little homosexuality , " between consenting adults in the privacy of their bedroom", a few bad words in the community, according to one's taste - we all agree not on public radio - and allow adults to indulge in daggering in the dance hall, and maybe just once per year, allow a little, " letting down of the hair", during Carnival on the city's streets. But evil, once given access, cannot be confined to one part of the nation. And this evil has spread its wings and threatens to consume the nation in every aspect of its life. And so a woman wails for her daughter, not knowing, and perhaps not even caring, that her plight has been a long time coming. As for years, many of us in the church, aware of our mandate to :
" open the eyes that are blind, to free the captives from prison,
and release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness" Isaiah 42:7 NIV,
have been warning our people about the consequences of what they consider " a little sin", a
" private matter". Who knows perhaps they will soon publicly advocate that " poor people" can praise a mighty God with a powerful and choice expletive, ignoring the fact that His Word say:
" Be holy as I your God am holy".
No, the reality is that despite what " our foolish minds" tell us, God will not befriend a people who are bent on rebellion. Many of the children of Israel, God's "chosen people", perished in the desert, after being rescued so dramatically from the hands of Pharaoh, because of their continued disobedience. Why?, To set an example to others. Thus we ignore these things at our own peril.
The question then arises, " What does one do to rescue a people intent on destroying themselves", and daggering their way into 2009? As far too often in our zeal to find solutions we make seemingly wise decisions, hurriedly, on our own, only to find out later that evil continues unabated. And worse if we are not careful we are somehow affected by it. In the same way that many " false doctrines" are now leading many Christians away from a focus on the Cross, and accordingly leading the nation astray, with their "Prosperity" gospel. Forgetting the prophet Jeremiah's warning to all of us, priests and journalists and protectors of the kind of our '"cultural heritage" which glamorizes the use of expletives:
" Do not listen to what the prophets are prophesying to you;
they fill you with false hopes.
They speak with visions from their own minds.
not from the mouth of the Lord.
They keep saying to those who despise me ,
' The Lord says: you will have peace.
And to all who follow the stubbornness of their hearts
they say, ' No harm will come to you'.
But which one of them has stood in the council of the Lord
to see or to hear his word?
Who listened and heard his word?
Jeremiah 23: 16-18 NIV
The answer came from the words of another old hymn. The message? It takes time to know God's will for us. We have to ask with a deep longing. It is not possible without accepting the example of suffering and sacrifice which Jesus exhibited on the Cross of Calvary. God's will and purpose and power is only revealed to, and shared with, those who admit that:
Nothing in my hand I bring.
Simply to your cross I cling.
Naked come to you for dress .
Helpless look to you for grace.....
The words from the hymn.
Breathe on me, Breath of God.
Fill me with life anew;
That I may love what Thou does love
And do what Thou wouldst do
Breathe on me, Breath of God,
Until my heart is pure;
Until my will is one with Thine
To do and to endure.....
The fact is that we too are filled with all kinds of evil, and it is only when we turn and accept Christ that a merciful God will cleanse us from all sin and empower us to love all His people - even those dagger and curse and murder and wine. It is only the power of the Holy Spirit which can enable us to rescue our people from the " darkness" that pervades the land and that keeps our people in the dungeon of sin, even when they think that they are living the " good life".
Pray God that this year we may spend more time praising the Lord, and asking Him to " Breathe on us". Amen.