It's was very heart breaking. She just lay there on the couch, mumbling , " They killed my son, they killed my son". Her son had been murdered recently. He had gone to visit his children's mother who had many children for him, and so he was well known in the community. But they killed him all the same. Why? Only God knows. Another young mother reported that her daughter had been killed by gunmen. Why? Another gunman for whom they had been searching, in a frantic attempt to save his life, during a chase, held on to her, a complete stranger in the wrong place at the wrong time, as a shield. But they killed both of them anyway. Yet another mother grieved over her child who had been savagely murdered. Why? They were after his brother, not her son, and could not find him, so they killed the next relative. And as I write the news on CNN is about young kids caught up in gang related violence dying on the streets of Chicago. Wow! This is the real world in which we live in Jamaica and in many parts of the world.
So who is to stem the tide of violence, the blood that runs on the streets, literally and metaphorically?
This week through a number of revelations and reminders the Lord led me to reflect on the essence of the Christian life and therefore those who are called to be "light and salt" in this dark and suffering world.
First up, at least in my memory, but not necessarily in the order of importance, were two passage of Scripture, which led me to send them out as two individual text messages to some folks on my phonebook. Actually I was a bit reluctant as the first one was " hard stuff", but the second one explained matters a bit more.
" I know your deeds, you have a reputation of being alive but you are dead" Rev. 3:1.
And the second one:
" He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life"
1 John 5:12 NIV
The Spirit of the Lord was addressing the status of those who seem to be in control of their lives, those who think they have power and influence, but who need to know that they have no power to help themselves much less to assist in rescuing Jamaica from the evil which is destroying our country.
The next Scripture passage which formed the basis for another text message - to different people who the Lord chose - was more palatable but no less demanding. And spoke to the very heart of how a Christian has to respond the crisis that threatens the very existence of our nation
" And without faith it is impossible to please god, because anyone who comes to him, must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him."
Hebrews 11:6 NIV
And as I read and reflected and prayed deeply for the Lord to have mercy on the nation, through His Holy Spirit working in renewed church and by His Holy Angels responding to the cries of His people, the following passages from " The Complete Works of Oswald Chambers"
touched my soul, especially as one meditation added a new dimension to the " The Sower and his Seed" about which I wrote last Sunday:
THE MORAL INDIVIDUAL - 111
The literal meaning of "conversion" is a change of mind after watching certain facts eg. we read in Acts 28 that the barbarians changed their minds about Paul. We are dealing with conversion here not so much on the religious side as the ethical. Beware of making conversion synonymous with regeneration. Conversion is simply the effort of a roused human being; the sign of regeneration is that a man has received something. When a man fails in Christian experience it is nearly always that he has never received anything. There are books which set out to give the psychology of new birth by saying that suddenly something burst up from a man's unconscious personality and alters him: a man is never born again by a subliminal uprush, but only by receiving something that was never there before, viz, the Holy Spirit.
Certain forms of sin exhaust themselves and we may say of a man " Now he is saved," but he may be nothing of the sort. According the New Testament the only evidence of a new birth is not merely that a man Ives a new life, but that the basis of that new life is repentance. The bedrock of the classic experience of the Apostle Paul was not only his enthroning of Christ as Lord, but his enthronement on the basis of a real ringing repentance wrought in him by the Holy Spirit.
A double minded man is unstable in all his ways. James 1:8
Instability is as appalling snare in the natural life, and is disastrous spiritually - " for let not that man think that he will receive anything of the Lord," says James. There may be conversions of heart which are not conversions of the mind; the last thing a man comes to is the conversion of his mind.. Our Lord refers to this His parable of the sower and the seed - they receive the word gladly, but they have no root in themselves - quicksilver Christians. They may have as many conversions as there are days in the year, and at the end of the year they remain the same unreliable emotional people incapable of resting in a stable point of truth, and they become eager adherents of every new interest. The main characteristics of young modern life today is an intense craving to be interested - literature, amusement, all indicate this tendency, and in religion we pander to the demand to be interested; consequently men won't face the rugged facts of the Gospel, because when the Holy Spirit comes in He challenges a man's will, demands a reconstruction of his whole life, and produces a change of mind which will work havoc in his former complacency.......
When people say, "Preach us the simple Gospel", what they mean is, " Preach us the thing we have always heard, the thing that keeps us sound asleep, we don't want to see things differently; the the sooner the Spirit of God sends a thrust through their stagnant minds the better. Continual renewal of mind is the only healthy state for a Christian. Beware of the ban of finality about your present views.
I was struck by the following things in the meditation, especially within the context of how can we as Christians help to rescue our country from the evil of crime and violence.
1. That individuals and churches need to review what they are accepting as Christian conduct and what they are being taught.
2. Further, we need to be especially clear that when someone declares himself or herself, or is declared by someone else converted, or is " saved" it is only a first step. The evidence of that conversion must be a regenerated life. And that only comes about by being born again in Baptism. And if one is truly born again, that person has to receive something - the Holy Spirit and therefore not only lives a different life, but the basis of that new life is repentance.
The reality is that there are any number of Christians out there who are " saved", "converted ", " Baptised" and "Confirmed", but only those who have this issue of repentance deep in their hearts, only those who have received something - the Holy Spirit, have the power to fight against evil in this or any other land. Only those who live by the Spirit and not by the flesh, can please God and live a live of faith. Only those who therefore have the Son of God, through the indwelling of God's Holy Spirit, really have life. As the others, sadly , " have a reputation for being alive, a reputation for being Christians, but have no root, have no life, and fall away at the time of temptation and persecution. And do not produce fruit. Fruit that can help to rescue the land.
And as if those instructions were not enough, the Lord put it in the mind of our Rector write the following words in his weekly newsletter to the church today:
What is expected of a disciple of Jesus is an important question for us to reflect on as Christians in our modern society. All who seek to be a disciple of Christ must first accept the price paid by Jesus Christ on Mount Calvary's cross and make a commitment to a life witness as a servant of God. Through the life of faith in the Father and obedience to the Father's will, Jesus was led to the Cross; through His redemptive suffering, all humanity and creation has been reconciled to the Father ( Romans 5:10; 2 Corinthians 5:19). The indispensable action of God that demands our constant attention and commitment is His redemptive work through Jesus Christ. In Christ we are reconciled to experience a new relationship of fellowship with God and each other; restored forgiven. This is God's mission and our vocation as disciples of Jesus.........
It is the indwelling presence of God through the Holy Spirit that deepens our faith, strengthens our commitment and moves our will to be responsive with our time and talents for the sharing of our our experience and encounter with the risen Christ. This was the central focus and experience of the first Christians of the early church and it impacted the culture of their time and changed lives. The axiom memo dat quot non habit ( one cannot give what one has not first received or possessed) is applicable to us. Our reluctance or resistance to the movement of the Spirit within us to grow in the faith and love of Christ and to share the faith and love of Christ is he litmus test our our commitment as disciples of Jesus. What gives meaning to our lives is our participation in the Mission of God. How are we fulfilling our commitment as disciples of Christ in God's Mission?.........
Rev. ( Major) Sirano Kitson
Finally a paragraph on the Transforming words of Jesus and His very presence.
" Fill the jars with water" John 2:7
.............................IN John's writings, the ministry of Jesus begins with a wedding feast. It also ends with one ( revelation 19:7) The kingdom of God is all about celebration. And it begins when Jesus speaks a transforming word and provides new wine.
So despite the enormity of the task before us in challenging evil in this land, in Chicago and various parts of the world we can still celebrate and be of good faith, full of hope and joy, as wherever the Spirit of the Lord reigns in the human heart wonderful miracles can and do happen. Pray God that a deeper understanding of the faith will lead to repentance, the receiving of the Holy Spirit and a manifestation of the power of God, and in and through a renewed church, for the rescuing of this nation and the nations of the world, all to the glory and honor of God and His Son Jesus Christ. Amen