Monday, August 24, 2009

Joy and Tragedy: Berlin and Reality: Conversations in Heaven and Earth

How can one write about the kind of suffering that Job experienced, and relate it to individuals and a nation, who in the past week have shared in the best ever performance by a Jamaican Athletic team at any International event? Which athlete, having just won a Gold medal at the Berlin games, and thousands of US dollars, can relate to Oswald Chamber's assertion, in analysing, not just the book of Job, but the entire history of man, that " basis of things is tragic, and that the Bible reveals that the only way out is through Redemption ( wrought on the Cross of Calvary by Jesus). So much so that in the midst of the " revelations" by our athletes on the brand new blue track in Berlin, inspired by Chambers, I was moved to send out the following text to "King and commoner" alike.

"For I came not to call the righteous but sinners" said Jesus. When a man has been hard hit and realises his own helplessness he finds that it is not a cowardly thing to turn to Jesus Christ, but the way out that god has made for him."

Perhaps he could write with such " pessimism" as his context was World War One, which up to then, had been the most devastating experience, that modern man had suffered. But is he the only one suffering from pessimism, or having a "reality check". This week, one of our more discerning journalists, Dionne Jackson-Miller on her evening programme on a local Radio Station, RJR on " Beyond the Headlines", expressed the view, shared by many of us, that after the excitement of Berlin, unfortunately, we, as a nation would soon return to our " killing ways". And corrupt ways. And ...... ways.

And in fact, unlike what happened during the Olympics, even in the midst of the Games, murder most foul was taking place in our fair isle.

The problem is that, all this " glitter" that we can see with our eyes, Bolt storming to another world record, the Michelle Obama "High Fashion shorts" controversy; Michael Jackson's Addiction status, the storm over the the release and reception in Libya of the " Lockerbie Bomber"; is distracting us from what is taking place in the Supernatural. Where the natural eyes of man cannot see. So the following conversation, about which I wrote last week, that took place in heaven before Job's troubles started, only comes to us by revelation in Holy Scripture. But, despite the fact that, this and other such conversations are taking place daily, and affecting the lives of millions of people, only those who have " Redeemed by the Blood of the Lamb", have any understanding of these things. And that's tragic.

One day the angels came to present themselves before the Lord and Satan also came with them. The Lord said to Satan, " Where have you come from?"Satan answered the Lord, " From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it"Then the Lord said to Satan, " Have you considered my servant Job? there is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil"." Does Job fear God for nothing?" Satan replied. Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything that he has? You have blessed the works of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face".The Lord said to Satan, " Very well, then, everything he has is in your hands, but on the man himself do not lay a finger". Then Satan went out from the presence of the Lord. Job 1: 6-12

This morning, a report of another conversation, again taking place in the supernatural, struck me most forcibly:

" Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to shift you like wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers". Luke 22: 31-32 NIV

I heard one commentator making the point that the repetition of Simon Peter's name, is a indication, that Jesus was not just speaking about his disciple, but his disciples - the church. But whatever the explanation, what is clear, is that Satan has asked and received limited ( by Jesus' prayer) permission to do what we in Jamaica would term " sort out " Peter - test him to see what his faith would be like under pressure. And all of us, with the full story of the gospel with us, know exactly what then took place. Peter was " sorted out", but then restored in full by the risen Lord. The point here, as in the story of Job, supernatural things are taking place around us, and which can explain much of what is happening in the world. And the nature of those things are tragic, unless we are Redeemed by the blood of Jesus, and have Him forever interceding for us in heaven. So there is a lot " sorting out" of the church and of individual members of congregation happening incessantly, as our faith is tested. Not in the same way that Job or Peter were tested. Those were special situations, from which we are to learn so much. But nonetheless, each one of us need to appreciate that there is much more to this world than what our eyes can see. And that the basis of those things is tragic, and can only be " fixed up", by a relationship with the God of Abraham in and through Christ Jesus. That is why the Scriptures warn us time and time again, in various ways that " Be very careful how use live the times are evil.

Finally, another conversation, which took place, here on earth, but which addressed heavenly things, was the subject of the gospel story in the Anglican church this week, and formed the basis fr a challenging sermon bu a visiting Priest this Sunday. My late father, a public servant for many years and who had the privilege of serving under one of our National Heroes, once told me that the central issue in the passage, the eating of Christ's body and the drinking of His blood, proved a great stumbling block to the acceptance of the Christian faith by this great man. And no doubt so many others who have not understood, nor perhaps persisted in asking for explanation of heavenly things. Perhaps satisfied that a full understanding of earthly matters was sufficient in order to live a good life - a life that is not marked by tragedy! And that is tragic.

" I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you..........Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of him, so the one who feed n me will live because of me. This bread came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever............On hearing it many of his disciples said, " This is a hard saying who can accept it?................From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.

" You do not want to leave too, do you?" Jesus asked the twelve. Simon Peter answered him, " Lord to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life". John 6: 53-68 NIV

The point which Rev. Eddie Jennings, made in his sermon, is that we cannot understand heavenly things unless the Spirit of God reveals it to us. That's why some of the disciples " turned away". And that's tragic. That's why many others have declined God's offer of the Redemption wrought on the Cross, by the Son of Man, Jesus Christ. And that's tragic. That's why our nation, so mighty on the field of Sports and Music, is so beset by murder and corruption and indiscipline and immorality. Because we have failed to understand that the " hard sayings" of Jesus, when explained, if we persist in asking, are no so hard after all, but brings peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. And that's so tragic. That's partly the reason why the church in Jamaica has lost it's influence on the nation, as too many are looking to live by the "easy" miracles of Jesus". The feeding of the five thousand, for example, which has become for too many a sign that Jesus is a " provider" ( of car and house and wife and husband) and does not demand that we " deny self, take up our cross and follow him".

As I listened I was moved in my soul, to sing:

Open the eyes of my heart Lord.

Open the eyes of my heart Lord.

I want to see you.

I want to see you.

To see you high and lifted up Shining in the light of Your glory.

Pour out Your power and love,

As we sing holy, holy, holy.

Open the eyes of my heart......

Pray God that we may have eyes to see God at work in our lives, our nation and the world.

Finally in this context a word from another Saint which speaks to the need for us to ask for the important and heavenly gifts that God has in store for those who realise that the basis of things is tragic and only Jesus can " fix it ".



Everyone who asks receives;he who seeks fins; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.

Matthew. 7:8

IN WORD As much as we hate to admit it, we are never more attuned to God's voice than when we are in desperate need. We search our hearts for obstructive sins; we examine our relationships for hindrances of conflict or bitterness; we diligently dig into God's Word for his promises and assurances and we hang on to any little word of His faithful and unfailing character. We grow during those times more than any other. Most people looking back on their lives will readily admit that the times of need were the times of flourishing in their relationship with God. And God built us exclusively for relationship.

Given this, why would God possibly want to rush us through that process? Why would he hasten to answer our prayers and subvert the purpose of this experience? We often think that His delay is due to some divine indifference, a lack of caring on the part for those he says he loves. But it is just the opposite. his delays are granted us precisely because he cares so much. Immediate answers to fleeting prayers would never bring us this close to Him, no matter how much we try to assure him that they would. He knows how we work. He knows we can learn from Him and be conformed to His image in no other way.

IN DEED We see our need as a desperate situation. God designs it for an opportunity to know Him more intimately. When we are truly needy, we learn of Him as Provider. When we are really sick, we learn of Him either as Healer or Comforted - whichever role He wants to reveal to us. We might think that we are being punished by His silence. We are not. We are being rewarded. He is drawing us closer to Him, saying, " Come nearer, learn from me, know me as your Strength, your Defender, Your Refuge." Keep praying. This is a far greater blessing than an immediate answer.