This week all of the talk in Jamaica, wherever you went, was all about " The President"; the Jamaican high profile " community leader" or Don, who, as the press reported, is wanted by the USA on several counts of criminal activity, and which country is awaiting a response from the Jamaican government. The word of the street is that there will be not only be rioting in the city but across the length and breath of the country, if he is extradited. The way people speak about this individual suggests that he is indeed the President of Jamaica and not the duly elected Prime Minister, as so many people depend on him for their daily living and the government is reportedly not able to match these provisions. And as one woman who spoke on national radio declared, she does not care where all his money comes from as long as she can get some. Such is the trust that some have in this individual.
In the midst if this madness, the Lord woke me up one day this week with St Paul's famous words, " I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven", as found in Acts 26:19. A message about obedience and trusting in God, that began in the Psalm appointed for this Sunday, and which stayed in my heart all week.
" I love the Lord for he heard my voice,
he heard my cry for mercy
Because he turned to me
I will call on him as long as I live.
Psalm 116:1-2 NIV
The Psalmist knew about God's rescue mission that He performed in Egypt and in " rolling back the Mighty Red Sea". He would have also recalled how Saul lost his kingdom on account of disobedience, as is recorded in the book of Samuel. This happened when he was given an explicit command to wipe out an entire tribe and animals who had been hostile to God's people, but brought back the best of the animals to " sacrifice to the Lord". And then he was told in the famous words of Samuel that:
"To obey is better than sacrifice
and to heed is better than the fat of Lambs."
1 Samuel 15:22 NIV
Finally the Lord led me to read again that famous passage in John that all of us and especially the Jehovah's witnesses need to spend some time in meditation:
"Trust in God; trust also in me."
John 14: 1 NIV
Here Jesus is saying to the Jews of that time that, yes they were to place their trust in God, but also that He was the promised Messiah about whom many of the prophets of old wrote, and for whom the children of Israel longed for. In essence that He was equal to God, and that people should place their trust in Him.
The problem that the Jews of that age, and even some of Jesus' disciples faced, and we also have the same problem, is that faith in Jesus is a gift from God. A gift given with divine power when we repent and are baptised and are given the gift of the Holy Spirit, as recorded in Acts 2:38. NIV
" Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."
The problem is further compounded by the fact that there are only two spheres of influence in this world. One is darkness and the other is light. A fact which Jesus Himself reveals in a passage of scripture which I was led to read.
" I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." John 8:12 NIV
Hence the reason why in the famous Benedictus, that we Anglicans and other denominations use in morning prayer, we who have been freed by Jesus, are commanded to seek after those who live in darkness.
" Blessed is the Lord God of Israel for he hath visited and redeemed his people;
And hath raised up a mighty salvation for us; in the house of his servant David.......
that we being delivered out of the hands of our enemies might serve him without fear.......
And thou child shall be called the Prophet of the Highest; for you shall go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways; to give knowledge of salvation unto his people; for the remission of their sins.....
To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death...
Luke 1: 68-79 KJV
So back to " The President" and all who trust him, are obedient to his every command, and all who fear him and what will happen if he is made to face justice in the USA. The reality is that all these people live in spiritual darkness, even though they think that their experience is " reality".
But they can never know of the extent of their darkness unless they are convicted of sin, repent, be baptized and receive the many gifts of God's Holy Spirit. This now, and has always been every since Jesus ascended into heaven, is the challenge for the church, not to be paralysed by the threat of violence, if "The President" is extradited, but to mobilize its members to :
" give life to them that sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death".
So that more and more people might come to :
Trust in God; trust also in me - Jesus Christ
That's why the Cross of Christ is central to the Christian faith. Without it there is no power to convict people of sin. That is why we need to continually meditate and reflect on the messages from the Good Friday and Easter. All preaching, all teaching, however interesting they may be, have no power to effect transformation of individuals, with power, as has happened throughout the centuries, unless it leads to a deeper understanding of the Atonement wrought on the Cross of Calvary.
And so the hymn writer sings with deep emotions:
Alas, and did my Savior bleed,
And did my Sov'reign die?
Would He devote that sacred head
For such a worm as I?
Chorus: At the cross, at the cross
Where I first saw the light,
And the burden of my heart rolled away
It was there by faith I received my sight,
And now I am happy all the day!
2. Was it for crimes that I had done
He groaned upon the tree?
Amazing pity, grace unknown,
And love beyond degree!
Well might the sun in darkness hide,
And shut his glories in,
When Christ the mighty Maker died
For man, the creature's sin.
4. Thus might I hide my blushing face
While Calvary's cross appears,
Dissolve my heart in thankfulness,
And melt mine eyes to tears.
5. But drops of grief can ne'er repay
The debt of love I owe;
Here, Lord, I give myself away,
'Tis all that I can do.
Finally in this message from the Lord, He reminded me that once we are obedient, once we trust in His Son Jesus: " streams of living waters will flow out of us" - the promised Holy Spirit to do God's work in Jamaica and in the entire world.
The problem is that our time horizons are too limited and our knowledge of God even more so. How then can we as a people be more fearful of what this mere mortal, " The President", can cause and have no regard for disobeying the Creator of heaven and earth, who at His rebuke, seas are dried up, people die, nations go into exile, and who when he closes a door, no man can open it. How can we keep on ignoring a God, who says in the person of Jesus Christ, in the gospel lesson appointed for today:
" What shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world but lose his won soul". Mark 8:36KJV
" if anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father's glory with holy angels.
Mark 8:38 NIV
But again all of these things can only be revealed and believed through the power of the Holy Spirit. Hence we, the baptized, who have been empowered by God's Spirit, with our minds fixed on the Cross of Calvary, must seek and reach out to those who sit in darkness, those who only think about tomorrow, and about what man can provide for their physical being and have no regard for the soul which shall live unto eternal life - in darkness without Christ, or with the God of Abraham Isaac, Jacob and the hosts of Saints who now live in glory with Christ who is the light of the world.
And the God who is always ahead of us, led me back to this meditation from earlier in the week.
SPRINGS OF BENIGNITY OSWALD CHAMBERS SEPTEMBER 7
The water I shall give him shall be in him a well of water. John 4: 14
This picture our Lord gives is not that of a channel but a fountain. " Be filled," and the sweetness of vital relationship with to Jesus will flow out of the saint as lavishly as it is imparted to him. If you find your life is not flowing out as it should, you are to blame; something has obstructed the flow. keep right at the Source, and - you will be blessed personally? No, out of you will flow rivers of living water, irrepressible life.
We are to be centers through which Jesus can flow as rivers of living water in blessing to everyone. Some of us are like he Dead Sea, always taking in and never giving out, because we are not rightly related to the Lord Jesus. As surely as we receive from Him, he will pour out through us, and in that measure He is not pouring out, there is a defect in our relationship to Him. Is there anything between you and Jesus Christ? Is there anything that hinders your belief in Him? If not, Jesus says, out of you will flow rivers of living water. It is not a blessing passed on, not an experience stated, but a river continually flowing. keep at the Source, guard well your belief in Jesus Christ and your relationship to Him, and there will be a steady flow for other lives, no dryness and no deadness.
Is it not too extravagant to say that out of an individual believer rivers are going to flow? " I do not see the rivers," you say. Never look at yourself from the standpoint of - Who am I? In the history of God's work you will nearly always find that it has started from the obscure, the unknown, the ignored, but the steadfastly true to Jesus Christ.
So let us begin, as the Pslamist did, by calling upon the mighty name of Jesus, day and night, hourly, minutely, and watch how the God of mercy responds to yet another challenge in our country. A nation that knows well but has forgotten how, with power, "Massa God" and "Puppa Jesus", rescued an enslaved people from darkness into light. And who according to His will and purpose, if we place our whole trust in Him, can with power transform this nation again back to a land of peace and discipline and a people who fear God, not The President, and love Jesus - not only because He is a provider, but more importantly because on the Cross of Calvary, He has rescued us from sin and death unto eternal life. And then poured out His Holy Spirit into us to enable us to live a new life, and to bring knowledge of this life to others.