Monday, December 27, 2010

A Cristmas wish List for the New Year

Arguably one of, if not the best, and certainly the most widely read opinion writer in my country, Ian Boyne shared his vision and hope for a new Jamaica - His Wish List - in The Daily Gleaner the day after Christmas. Boyne wrote:

" I wish we could develop a truly tolerant, open and and diverse - respecting society. I wish we could have a society in which people are not victimized defamed and humiliated because they hold different view, support different political parties and have conflicting ideological lifestyles.........

I wish we had a society which had greater respect for ideas rather than material things. A society less caught up with bling and hedonistic pursuits and one more concerned about the quality of life rather than its quantity; one in which value is not measured by possessions but by intrinsic human worth and moral action.

I wish that we would experience a moral revolution, one which makes it unnecessary to legislate morality.....

I wish we had a society which was more obsessed with excellence - for its own sake, for its sheer value......

I wish we had a commitment to the poor, oppressed and marginalized......

I wish we had a society with more people who were committed to personal integrity over expedience....

I wish I lived in a society where people were more gracious, civil, generous in spirit.......

And as I read this wish list for my country, I recalled how, this past week, the Spirit of God had led me ponder deeply on a meditation based on one of the prayers of St. Paul - his wish for the church, as he wrote to Thessalonian church.

" May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it." 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24.

Very few persons would have a wish list that does not include some of those shared by Ian Boyne, as most of us yearn desperately for society that is more gracious, civil, tolerant of diverse views, and one which pursues excellence in its music and politics rather than choosing the expedient - that which " the people dem want". Regardless of how vulgar, demeaning to our women, on the one hand, and self serving and opportunistic, on the other. Most of us also yearn desperately that our country could experience a moral revolution, where our school children would no longer engage in " no panty days", no longer carry knives to " plunge into the hearts of their adversaries, and no longer reel off a string of expletives when " provoked". Most of us yearn desperately for a society where 30 men led by " a person of interest" - wanted by the police usually for murder most foul - no longer invade homes and kill women and children; where these " persons of interest " no longer wield great power over politicians, businessmen and entertainers", thus creating impregnable empires, which can only be demolished by the army and result in much loss of life.

The reality, however is that such a society, in today's modern, multicultural, diverse and Internet exposed world, will not come into being without fundamental change in the one institution which was inaugurated by the " Word becoming flesh", the Emmanuel - God with us. And whose birth is the reason for the celebration of Christmas, and the subsequent reflection on the possibility of a " New Jamaica " in the New Year. As this God is ," always making everything new" . Thus the body of Christ, is the one institution which has the power and the mandate to reconcile this sinful society to a Holy God, and create the peace, the graciousness, the forgiveness, the justice, and the excellence that most of us hope for.
And so this is my wish for myself and the church and pray God, for my country, in the fullness of time according to God's Holy will and purpose.


George Whitfield Verse 1 Thessalonians 5: 23 NIV

By sanctification I mean a total renovation of the whole man: by the righteousness of Christ, believers come lgally, by

sanctification they are made spiritually, alive; by the one they are entitled to, by the other they are meet for, glory. They are

sanctified, therefore, throughout, in spirit, soul and body.

Their understandings, which were dark before, now become one with the will of God; their affections are not set on things

above; their memory is now filled with divine things; their natural consciences are now enlightened; their members, which

were before instruments of uncleanness, and of iniquity, are now new creatures; " old things are passed away; all things are

now become new " ( 2 Corinthians 5:17,KVJ) in their hearts: sin no longer has any dominion over them; they are freed from the

power, though not the indwelling and being, of it; they are holy both in heart and life, and in all manner of conversation; they

are made partakers of a divine nature, and from Jesus Christ, they receive grace; and every grace that is in Christ, is copied

and transcribed into their souls; they are transformed into his likeness; he s formed within them; they dwell in him, and he in

them; they are led by the Spirit, and bring forth the fruits thereof; they know that Christ is their Emmanuel, God with and in

them; they are living temples of the Holy Ghost. And therefore, being a holy habitation unto the Lord, the whole trinity dwells

and walks in them; even here, they sit together with Christ in heavenly places, and are vitally united to them, their head, by a

living faith; their Redeemer, their Maker, is their husband; they are flesh of his flesh, bone of his bone; they talk, they walk

with him, as a man talketh and walketh with his friend; in short, they are one with Christ, even as Jesus Christ and the Father

are one.


I pray God that even a few of those manifestations of a sanctified life may attend the church in the New Year. And so help to make the prayer sent to me by one of my Bishops come true in my life and the life of the church, and therefore help to renew our society and make some of Ian Boyne's wish list become reality.

" During the Christmas season we often sing a well known and well loved carol inviting the Christ-child to descend to us, to be born in us, and to abide with us. Our special prayer this Holy season is that we will continue in that tend of thinking, and amidst the many activities in which we are likely to be engaged, we will take time to give attention to the project of ultimate significance, that of having Christ formed in us....."

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Word of God and WikiLeaks - the word of man

This week the message from the Lord was extremely clear, no need to even remind myself of what He said to me. It's all about the Word and the importance of making the Word of God a priority in one's life, paying careful attention to the Word of God and being obedient to the Word of God. In the same way that everybody is paying attention to another word - WikiLeaks. The word of man. And the revelations that this word is sharing with the world. We here in Jamaica have not been spared being placed under the spotlight by this word of man, as our Minister of National Security has had to spend valuable time defending Jamaica's honor based on the word of man, which suggested that we were being "soft " drug traffickers. Further, the banner headlines in this mornings newspapers are all about this word of man , and how it has exposed the activities of the Mayor of our capital city Kingston, and the Prime Minister's wife, in their attempts to mediate with officials of the US Embassy in the now famous " Dudus Coke saga". Indeed this word of man, WikiLeaks, has brought into the light of day that which was being whispered in the " dark" all across the world. And who knows what will be the consequences of what this word from WikiLeaks has revealed to the world.

We, however, who remain true to the Word of God, while the world shops and parties, and takes out of the Christmas story as recorded in the Bible, what they wish to understand, are under no illusions of the consequences of this Word which was made flesh on the first Christmas. This Glorious Word which was with God in the beginning, and according to John , " was God", and " through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it....The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us." Then John further asserts that: " We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth". John 1: 1-14 NIV

So the Word to which we are to give priority in our life, is not one which was brought by a mere man who has had to defend himself from accusations of sinful behaviour in Sweden or defend himself in a court of law in London, and whose word is here for a season and then gone forever. But rather, the Word of God, made flesh in Jesus, and who according to the Bible

" stands forever" and "who knew no sin".

"All men are like grass
and all their glory is like the flowers of the field;
the grass withers and the flowers fall,
but the word of God stands forever".
1 Peter 1: 24-25 NIV

That's why, despite the best efforts, the true meaning of Christmas will always shine through the darkness with eternal consequences. As this Word which became flesh on the first Christmas in Bethlehem in Judah, is the same Word made flesh who died on the cross of Calvary - and as I write, in the background on my computer, is playing: " I am lifting up the name of Jesus", by Helen Baylor - one of the most powerful gospel songs ever recorded. Amen. And praise the Lord , into my mind comes the wonderful Word: " But I, when I am lifted from the earth up will draw all men to myself". John 12:32 NIV. This is why the Word of God became flesh and dwelt among us: that all of who who have sinned and fallen short of God 's glory, the same Glory, of the One and Only, that John saw, may receive grace and mercy and forgiveness of sins through that very same Word. This is the message which makes the joy and peace of Christmas become flesh" in our lives. This is the message which makes " Hark the herald Angels sing, become " flesh in our lives". The word of man as WikiLeaks exposes, comes to embarrass and to shame, but the Word of God in Christ Jesus came to " set free the captives, and give sight to the blind". Of those with HIV/AIDS, those burdened with the sin of prostitution, adultery, addictions, lesbianism and male homosexuality. Burdened with the sin of murder, and rape and lying lips. Burdened with uncontrolled rage, anger, promiscuity and greed. Burdened with the Sin of Adam and in constant rebellion against the God of Israel adn who cry out night and day, " Lord have mercy on me a sinner".

So God of Abraham led me to reflect on two meditations from " Saints " of old. And to send them to members of my own church and persons who wield significant power in my country. Then this morning, another message from His Word.


F.B. Meyer. Verse. Deuteronomy 8:3"

"He humbled you causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord".

The Old Testament must be worth our study since it was our Savior's Bible, deeply pondered and often quoted. And the New Testament demands it, since it is so full of what he said and did, not only in his earthly life but through the medium of his holy apostles and prophets.The advantages of a deep knowledge of the Bible are more than can be numbered here. It is the storehouse of the promises. It is the sword of the Spirit before which temptation flees. It is the all-sufficient equipment of Christian usefulness. It is the believer's guidebook and directory of all possible circumstances. Words fail to tell how glad, how strong, how useful shall be the daily life of who can say with the prophet: "Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart". (Jeremiah 15:16 KJV)But there is one thing, which may be said last, because it is the most important and should linger in the memory and the heart, though all other exhortations of this chapter should pass away as a summerbrook. It is this. It is useless to dream of making headway in the knowledge of the Scriptures unless we are prepared to practice each new and clearly-defined duty which looms out before our view.


Having read the Jeremiah passage as mentioned in the meditations, clearly not by coincidence, I was led to another reflection, which made the same point - in a different way.


George Muller Vs. Jeremiah 15:16

The most important thing I had to do was to read the Word of God and to meditate on it. Thus my heart might be comforted, encouraged, warned, reproved, and instructed.Formerly, when I rose, I began to pray as soon as possible. But I often spent a quarter of an hour to an hour on my knees struggling to pray while my mind wandered. Now I rarely have this problem. As my heart is nourished by the truth of the Word, I am brought into true fellowship with God. I speak to my Father and to my Friend ( although I am unworthy) about the things that he has brought before me in his precious Word.It often astonished me that I did not see the importance of meditation upon Scripture earlier in my Christian life. As the outward man is not fit for work for any length of time unless he eats, so it is with the inner man. What is the food for the inner man? Not prayer, but the Word of God- not the simple reading of the Word of God, so that it only passes through our minds, just as water runs through a pipe. No, we must consider what we read, ponder over it, and apply it to our hearts...Meditation on God's Word has given me the help and strength to pass peacefully through deep trials. What a difference there is when the soul is refreshed in fellowship with God early in the morning! Without spiritual preparation, the service, the trials, and the temptations of the day can be overwhelming.


Finally this morning during my devotions came a final Word from 2 Timothy.

"In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge; Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage - with great patience and and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.
But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry."
2. Timothy 4:1-5 NIV

The Lord led me to write a Christmas message today, a bit early, as by the time Sunday comes around we will be looking forward to a New Year, having participated in all the Christmas day activities.
I pray God that His message of the importance of the Word of God that, " became flesh" at Christmas, in the lives of individuals, of a nation, and throughout history, will not be lost in the midst of the excitement and the hype of the season. I pray God that I will enabled to continue to preach the Word in season and out of season, so that the church may be renewed in the Word, and thus help to renew my country, and the countries of the world, which, as the word of man reveals from time to time, through all kinds of media, is desperately in need of renewal.
May the peace of God, as revealed in and through His Word made flesh, even Jesus Christ, attend all our hearts and homes, as we celebrate yet another glorious anniversary of our Lord's birth on Christmas day .

Sunday, December 12, 2010

God's Grace and Mercy at Christmas

God's Grace and Mercy at Christmas
This week my experience with the Lord was all about mercy. And I meditated long and hard on a Word from the book of James.

" ......because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.! James 2: 13 NIV

And then in a Bible that has the Word and the inspired word from Saints of old, I found a profound message.

" Teach me to feel another's woe.
To hide the fault I see;
that mercy to others show
that mercy shown to me".
Alexander Pope

This clear word from the Lord about mercy, then led me to send the two passages above to someone who is a passionate advocate for homosexuals, and with whom I have have had many discussions, not all of them pleasant. So when asked why I had sent this very "encouraging" text message( for a change), my response was that although I had not changed my fundamental position on the issue, clearly God was leading me to feel, and to share in " another person's pain". And not to judge but to reflect the mercy that was shown to all human beings on Calvary. As a result this was the most amicable conversation on this topic that we have had for years, praise God. And who knows what good may emerge!

Then early this morning, on a more personal level, the Lord woke me up to read and to send another note, this time to my pastor, and not from James but from the letter to the Hebrews. Asking forgiveness for any burden which I or other member of the congregation may have caused by our actions.

" Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you."
Hebrews 13:14.

Then I went to church this morning and the Preacher, in an a amazing display of the Holy Spirit at work in the lives of men, took his message from the book of James and a passage appointed for today.

" Don't grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged".

And thus he encouraged the congregation that as we await the Lord's second coming - which is the true meaning of Advent, the period before Christmas - we must be more forgiving of each others " sins", and be less judgmental. Remembering even to bless those who persecute us and to be patient with each others faults, as we are all
" a work in progress".

No doubt this is a timely word for those of us who would " grumble" against our spiritual leaders, for one reason or another. Who might have uncomplimentary things to say, or even harsh things, based on our evaluation of things. And so the church suffers from a lack of unity, and even worse, individuals are at risk for being judged by God, as were those who challenged the authority of Moses in the book of Numbers.

All of this taking place against the background of two reflections included in recent Internet messages, excerpts of which read as follows: severe with my neighbours, so indulgent with myself:
So eager to find fault, so resentful at being found fault with.......

.....When we blame with impatience because we are displeased with the fault, it is a human censure and the disapprobation of God. It is a sensitive self-love that cannot forgive the self-love. The more self-love we have, the more severe are our censures. There is nothing so vexatious as the collisions between one excessive self-love and another still more violent and sensitive. The passions of others are infinitely ridiculous to those who are under the dominion of their own. The ways of God are very different. He is ever full of kindness for us, he gives us strength, he regards us with pity and condescension, he remembers our weaknesses, he waits for us. The less we love ourselves, the more considerate we are of others. We wait for providence to give the occasion, and grace to open hearts to receive it. If you would gather the fruit before its time, you lose it entirely.

Finally, I thought about our Prime Minister who has been the subject of much ridicule, and even anger in recent times over his handling of the Mannatt Phelps Phipps affair and the Dudus Coke Tivoli Gardens debacle. And no doubt well deserved. They have even now labeled him with the inglorious sobriquet - Eli. As one who is a stranger to the truth. But perhaps in this Advent season, as we wait upon the Lord, and ponder the infinite mercies of God wrought on the Cross of Calvary, " even when we were still sinners - all having fallen short of God's glory - we may need to reflect much more on God's mercy and grace. And perhaps not to so judgmental with those who have " wronged us". Whether it be this or any other " imperfect" Chief Servant. And we have had many who have " messed up" and done egregious wrongs, in the midst of doing good things. One of whom is currently promoting successfully a book which reflects his perspective on his legacy to this island. Another became world famous and wrote many a book. Whether it be this or any other pastor, or Bishop or Evangelist. Whether it be icons in the sporting arena, in the professions, in the world of Trade unions, in the Media, in the world of Business. Whether it be our wives or husbands or children, or good friends, or in-laws. As who among us is not in need of God's mercy and grace for having " messed up". And messed up big time in some instances. Praise God for the Gift of Christmas which is a good time to
" have mercy", as this was the sole purpose of Christ's first coming on earth. To reflect the full extent of God's Love and Mercy on His Creation.

So let us resolve to " hush the noise, ye men of strife, and hear the angels sing", this Christmas and remember that " judgment is the Lord's". A song we sang at Carol Service this evening as the Lord continued to speak about His wonderful grace and mercy. And as we continue to reflect that there is much that we don't understand about God's mercy, let us remember His Word.
"Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not on thy own understanding. But in all thy ways acknowledge him and he will will direct thy paths". And I can hear the haunting wonderful sound of the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir singing, " Order my steps your word O Lord, order my steps in your word.
Finally, finally, demonstrating all of this mercy in the midst of provocation and trials, is only possible when Christ lives in our hearts, by faith and then we would have arrived at the destination that God has planned for all mankind. Which is what His Word says in a profound passage I read this week.

" When evening came,his disciples went down to the lake, where they got into a boat and set off across the lake for Capernaum. By now it was dark, and Jesus had not yet joined them. A strong wind was blowing and the waters grew rough. When they had rowed three or three and a half miles, they saw Jesus approaching the boat, walking on the water and they were terrified. But he said to them, " It is I; don't be afraid." Then they were willing to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading".

So this Christmas let us resolve to be willing " to take Jesus into our hearts", for the first time or afresh, and immediately will arrive at our destination, where love and mercy abound.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

This week I was impressed by the fact that the Chairman of an organization over which I have the privilege to exert leadership, and who happens to be Jamaica's chief servant, continues to find the time, in the midst of his busy schedule, to be very " hands on" in his duties. Encouraging and advising on policy and operations in some detail. Thus, this morning whilst in the midst of my devotions, inspired by the Psalmist, I was led to send him the following note.

" May the Lord Almighty, the God of Jacob, who ( alone) is our fortress, be with you, in a special way today. Psalm 44:7,11. NIV ( new International Version.
In the name of Christ, our soon coming King - at Christmas as Lord and Saviour, but at the end of times as a judge."

This week I was also very disturbed by the fact that funding which we badly needed to properly discharge our national responsibilities, was taking a long time for approval. Hence I wrote my staff the following memo:

"One of the many things I have learned recently is that God's Love, Mercy and Honor are only gained when we become totally and completely, dependent upon Him. And further, that God's mighty hand is in the middle of every experience that Saints goes through. You will recall that Gideon was told that he had too many soldiers, and, therefore, if with them he gained success, God would not get the glory. I am beginning to understand that the same eternal principle may be operating with the funding from .....this year- and any other promises outstanding - and the achievement of the ...... objective. Let us therefore resolve to pray more and worry less about the" amount of troops", that we have. Making sure, however, that those He sends are deployed most efficiently.

Then, amazingly tonight, as I pondered what to write, the things about which the Lord had spoken to me this week, I headed for a meditation, on which I have been reflecting for weeks. But on the way found another one which speaks to the profound question of Political Leadership in today's world. A world where there are so many and often intractable problems. Rising unemployment. High levels of poverty. Crime as a threat to personal and often national security. Certainly in my country, profound changes in the way we treat each other - loud and course music blaring at nights, and in taxis and mini-buses, affecting the minds of our young people and preventing others from sleeping at nights; rude and aggressive public officials, and in some cases exhibiting much more serious behaviour; dysfunctional family life resulting often in physical abuse which then flows over into abusive behaviour in the public square. Internationally, leaders are grappling with issues affecting climate change and the very survival of some island states; a world still in the throes of a recession, with former stable economies like Ireland in deep trouble, and even Spain and Portugal threatened with the same fate; the ever present threat of nuclear war; the seemingly endless war against terrorists across many borders; HIV/AIDS still a major issue worldwide; Cholera in Haiti; drug wars in Mexico and Brazil affecting many other nations. How do world leaders respond? Even " no drama " Obama is stumped for answer to America's problems!. And they have to deal with all of these problems even as they equally challenged by leading a political party!

In the midst of this the Lord sends a word to our chief servant.....and as I write, an earthquake rocks my house violently, thank God only for a few seconds.....and other leaders across the world - if anyone has an e-mail for President Obama, let me know - in a meditation from a Saint of old, a former Scottish Priest who migrated to the USA and became the Chaplain to the United States Senate. But as much as there is a message to our leaders, it applies equally to the church.


Verse Judges 7:2 The Lord said to Gideon, you have too many men for me to deliver into their hands. In order that Israel may not boast about me that her own strength has saved her.......

We know, our Father, that in this desperate hour of world affairs, we need thee. We need thy strength, thy guidance, thy wisdom.
May thy wisdom and thy power come upon these United States, the Senators and Congressmen, to whom, have been entrusted leadership. May the responsibility lie heavily on their hearts, until they are ready to acknowledge helplessness and turn to thee. Give to them the honesty, the courage, and the moral integrity to confess that they don't know what to do. Only then can they lead as a nation beyond human wisdom to thee, who alone has the answer.
Lead us to this high adventure. Remind us that " a mighty fortress is our God" ( words of the Psalmist) - not a hiding place where we can escape for an easy life, but rather an arsenal of courage and strength - the mightiest of all, who will march beside us into the battle for righteousness and world brotherhood.
O our God, may we never recover from our feeling of helplessness and our need of thee! In the strong name of Jesus, we pray. Amen.

What a prayer! What instructions for us to heed, both as leaders and disciples of Christ, even if the two are not necessarily the same. The need to be absolutely helpless before God, and then to see His mighty power at work

Finally, the meditation to which I was heading, before being detained by the words of Peter Marshall, contains a message primarily for us in the church : the need to live a repentant life for what we have done and for what we have failed to do as we wait upon the Lord, in this season of Advent. As only then will we be able to live a true Apostolic Life. A life marked by an ability, according to Evelyn Underhill, a former spiritual adviser to many Anglican priests in the nineteen century, " that his supernatural environment is more real and solid to him that his natural environment". As only then can we really make an impact, with power, on a complex and confused world. But again even though the message is for the church, it applies equally too to those who would lead in God's world.


Verse: Judges 2:17 Yet they would not listen to their judges but prostituted themselves to other gods and worshiped them. Unlike their fathers, they quickly turned from the way in which their fathers had walked, the way of obedience to the Lord's commands.

Holy God, to whose service I long ago dedicated my soul and life, I grieve and lament before thee that I am still so prone to sin and so little inclined to obedience.:
So much attached to the pleasures of sense, so neglectful of things spiritual:
So prompt to gratify my body, so slow to nourish my soul:
So greedy for present delight, so indifferent to lasting blessedness:
So fond of idleness, so indisposed for labour:
So soon at play, so late at prayer:
So brisk in the service of self, so slack in the service of others;
So eager to get, so reluctant to give:
So lofty in my profession, so slow in my practice:
So full of good intentions, so backwards to fulfill them:
So severe with my neighbours, so indulgent with myself:
So eager to find fault, so resentful at being found fault with:
So little able for great tasks, so discontented with small ones:
So weak in adversity, so swollen and self-satisfied in prosperity:
So helpless apart from thee, and yet so willing to be bound to thee.
O merciful heart of God, grant me yet again thy forgiveness. Hear my sorrowful tale and in thy great mercy blot it out from the book of thy remembrance. Give me faith to lay hold of of thine own holiness and so to rejoice in the righteousness of Christ my Savior that, resting on his merits rather than on my own, I may more and more become conformed to his likeness, my will becoming one with his in obedience to thine. All this I ask for his holy name sake. Amen

As we identify with these great prayers - and if you don't, then Jesus did not come on earth and die for you, but for us who know that we are helpless and sinful - let us call out to a mighty God who is our fortress, the God of Abraham, of Isaac and of Jacob. That He may hear our sorrowful tale and blot it out from the book of " thy remembrance". And so heal out land and protect us from earthquakes, hurricanes, floods and the evil that abounds so much in our land and in the hearts of humans, and the trials that so many face across the world. And are helpless unless God intervenes, as He did two thousand years ago at the first Christmas.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

God's Love in Christ Jesus in response to the wretchedness of the human heart

Many years ago, as a young "revolutionary" - if you were a child of the 70's and not determined to change the world then something was seriously wrong - I recalled reading a book entitled " The Wretched of the Earth", by Frantz Fanon. Also recalled reading " Soul on Ice " by Eldridge Cleaver, the then famous Black Power revolutionary. This was all in the mix when many in the world were flirting , and if not having a serious "affair ", with Communism and Socialism and various other
" isms". All in an effort to change the circumstances of millions of people oppressed; in the case of Fanon and the Algerians provoked by colonial France; or suffering from the effects of racism in the USA, as was the case of the Black Power movement; or from capitalism which weighed heavily on the working class and spawned the various revolutions and ideological warfares across the globe.

All of these memories entered my head as I read a verse in Scripture which caused me to reflect very deeply on this Advent Season, the start of which, in my church's tradition, we celebrated this past Sunday and will continue each Sunday until Christmas day. The verse is from the Prophet Jeremiah who was encouraging the Children of Israel were living in exile, on account of their repeated rebellion against God, that the "idols" of Babylon had no power.

"Hear what the Lord says to you, O house of Israel, This is what the Lord says:
Do not learn the ways of the nations
or be terrified by the signs in the sky,
though the nations are terrified by them.
For the custom of the people are worthless;
they cut a tree out of the forest,
and a craftsman shapes it with his chisel.
They adorn it with silver and gold;
they fasten it with hammer and nails
so it will not totter
Like a scarecrow in a melon patch,
their idols cannot speak;
they must be carried
be cause they cannot walk.
Do not fear them;
they can do no harm
nor can they do any good."
Jeremiah 10:1-5 NIV

Compare this with Jeremiah's description of the Lord's power.

" But God made the earth by his power;
he founded the world by his wisdom
and stretched out the heavens by his understanding.
When he thunders, the waters in the heavens roar;
he makes the clouds rise from the ends of the earth.
he sends lighting with the rain
and brings out the wind from his storehouses"
Jeremiah 10: 12-13 NIV

The verse points us in two directions. Primarily that, as the Bible indicates, the Kingdom of God which Jesus ushered into being, is about power, and not about talk. Or about the symbols of power that mankind values so much - the car, the house, the clothes - and which are as helpless s scarecrows, as they cannot walk by themselves. That's why since Jesus came on earth, the world has never been the same again. Countless millions of people have died with His Name on their lips and they entered into another world. Handel's Messiah, arguably, one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever written and recorded was inspired by a love for Christ, as so too countless other scores written by the famous and the ordinary alike. The entire foundation of Western Civilization, its values, its democratic ideals rooted in the idea of freedom, many of the great Universities - including arguably the best, Harvard - a lot of its great architecture, the origins of media, and so much more, were all inspired by the Christian Religion. A movement of God on earth which began in a small backwater state of history - Palestine - when a " itinerant" preacher was crucified at Calvary for claiming, not just to be the Son of God, but God Himself.
Secondarily, that although the Socialists, Communists and other revolutionaries were correct in identifying the " wretchedness" of man's environment as a great reason for mobilizing masses of people to rise up against their oppressors, in pursuit of a better life, they missed the fundamental problems. And it for this fundamental reason , missed by the revolutionaries, why Jesus came with great power to " set the captives free" and to " bring good news to the poor". As the basic problem with mankind, why there is so much suffering, why there is so much injustice - economic and social - why there is so much immorality and corruption, is that not only are the circumstances of some persons wretched, but that the heart of all mankind is wretched. This is why we have Advent and Christmas. This is why there is a Christian Religion. This is why God of Abraham, and Isaac and Jacob, against whom the Children of Israel, born of Adam like the rest of us, rebelled time and time again, intervened in the world which He, and no other God, created with power and wisdom. Therefore, unless those, both inside and outside the church, recognize this great truth, and bow down and repent of our naturally rebellious nature, and invite the risen Lord to enter into our souls, and create a " new heart within us , as King David prayed, then we will never have access to the kind of power that has transformed lives and nations throughout history.
It is this kind of power that our Prime Minister needs to effect change in a country with one of the highest murder rates in the world. It is this kind of wisdom that we need to transform the great swaths of inner cities communities into areas where people can live and thrive and achieve their full potential. It is this kind of sacrificial love that brings individuals with their passions and ambitions and transforms them into One Body, the church.
As I considered these things, this very morning, the Lord led me to two meditations, both of which speak to some aspects of the problems of the human heart. One of which I will share this week. The other next time. And which if acted upon, with humility and in obedience, will help in leading us to the " creation of a new heart", which is the only thing that can make a permanent difference in my country and indeed the world today.

Francois Felon
Verse Leviticus 19:18

Self-love must be uprooted, and the love of God take its place in our hearts, before we can see ourselves as we are. Then the same principle that enables us to see imperfections will destroy them. When the light of truth has risen within us, then we see clearly what is there. Then we love ourselves without partiality, without flattery, as we love our neighbour. In the meantime, God spares us by revealing our weaknesses to us just in proportion as our strength to support the view of it increases. We discover our imperfections one by one as we are able to cure them. Without this merciful preparation that adapts out strength to the light within, we should be in despair. Those who corrects others ought to watch the moment when God touches their hearts; they must bear a fault with patience till they perceive his spirit reproaching them within. Then they must follow his providence that gently reproaches them, so that they may feel that it is less God that their own hearts that condemns them. When we blame with impatience because we are displeased with the fault, it is a human censure and the disapprobation of God. It is a sensitive self-love that cannot forgive the self-love. The more self-love we have, the more severe are our censures. There is nothing so vexatious as the collisions between one excessive self-love and another still more violent and sensitive. The passions of others are infinitely ridiculous to those who are under the dominion of their own. The ways of God are very different. He is ever full of kindness for us, he gives us strength, he regards us with pity and condescension, he remembers our weaknesses, he waits for us. The less we love ourselves, the more considerate we are of others. We wait for providence to give the occasion, and grace to open hearts to receive it. If you would gather the fruit before its time, you lose it entirely.

So as we wait in this the Advent period of human history, let us ponder well the story of Jesus - who loved himself less, and was more considerate of others. And did not come to judge but to call sinners to repentance - in His first coming. The Second One will be quite different. Thus issued forth the Power, the Wisdom and the Love of God, all because of the wretchedness of the human heart

Inner City Life, Social Justice and God's Love in Jesus Christ

We woke up this morning in my country, to the news that four persons were brutally murdered the night before. Apparently reprisal killings resulting from the the shooting death of another man, whom it was theorized, was the relative of a " ranking" Don of a gang. So the waste of human life made in the image of God continues unabated. And when one adds the number of persons killed by the police, who allegedly opened fire on them, or acted suspiciously, then the situation becomes even more acute.
But it is not only that persons are dying but also that lives are being sometimes unalterably changed. This week I came face to face with one such set of persons and the experience affected me profoundly. They were skimpily dressed, which was quite inappropriate for my office. I was about to suggest that they should dress differently the next time around, when the conversation very quickly revealed that they were " exotic " dancers. Perhaps it was a good thing that I held my peace, as maybe the conversation would not have been so free flowing and revealing about the " respectable" men who they encountered . All because of poverty, as when the conversation ended, and I had prayed for them, it was clear that there was significant remorse and a desire to " do better".
For some reason, this same week " provoked" by a meditation I had read, I began praying earnestly for all the inner city communities in my country, where huge numbers of persons live, quite often in subhuman conditions, condemned to a life of squalor, privation and injustice by a largely uncaring society. (Lately, with an admixture of seriousness and jest, one of the chaps who sells newspaper at the corner, has been asking me repeatedly, to write him a letter of recommendation to the US embassy, so that he can get a visa, as life in the ghetto is " rough". We both laugh as he and I know that I have no such connections.) And then I wondered what could the church do, to help, based on the words of the prophet Ezekiel,

" You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the stray or searched for the lost. you have ruled them harshly and brutally. So they were scattered because there was no Shepherd, and when scattered they became food for all the wild animals". Ezekiel 34:4-5 NIV.

Yes, people " wonderfully and fearfully" made by God, have become " food for all kinds of wild animals" in my country. Pursued by gunmen, enticed by the lure of money, led astray by the promises of a better life, failed by the education system, unexposed in great measure to basic values of forgiveness, repentance, unrequited love and delayed gratification; used and abused by the modern day shepherds - some politicians and if truth be told even some pastors - aided and abetted by " the respectable ", deceived by their own desires, weighed down by the loss of hope and seemingly without any caring Shepherd. This is the context in my country in which I read the following meditation and was greatly moved and knelt down to repent of the fact that we who serve a Mighty God had " tolerated" this evil in our midst for far too long.


Henry Emerson Fosdick Isaiah 5:7

" The vineyard of the Lord Almighty
is the house of Israel,
and the men of Judah
are the garden of his delight.
And he looked for justice, but saw bloodshed:
for righteousness, but heard cries of distress."

Anyone who cares about character must care about social conditions, for every unfair economic situation, every social evil left to itself to run its course means ruin to character. And the God of the Bible, because he cares supremely for personal life at its best, is zealously in earnest about social justice; his prophets blazed with indignation at all inequity, and his Son made the coming kingdom, when God's will would be done on earth, the center of his message. To fellowship with this earnest purpose of god we are all summoned; God believes in the glorious possibilities of life on earth; he is counting on us to put away the sins that hold the kingdom back and to fight the abuses that crush character in men. To believe in god, therefore - the god who is fighting his way with his children up through ignorance, brutality, and selfishness to a " new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness" -- is no weakly comfortable blessing ( see 2 Peter 3:13). it means joining a moral war; it means devotion, sacrifice' its spirit is the Cross and its motive an undiscourageable faith. And our underlying assurance that this war for a better world can be won is not simply our belief that it can be done, but our faith that God is, and that he believes that it can be done. When we pray we say, " your kingdom come," and we are full of hope about the long , sacrificial struggle, for the purpose behind and through it all is first of God's. Our earnestness is but an echo of his.

The problem with confronting the " evil' of the harsh conditions inner city or ghetto life, and how it serves to ruin people's character is that, first of all many Christians are not convicted of this mission. Secondly, those who are so convicted, hold too " small a view" of God and the infinite possibilities associated with the God who, alone " stretched out the heavens and the earth". Thirdly and finally, those who suffer need to be told that there is a God who is just waiting to act if they would only believe, repent and cry out to Him.

Hopefully the meditation above will jolt a few. In respect of the second point perhaps a brief recounting of the situation in England in the early 18th century might help as recoded in a book by the theologian John Stott writing about the Evangelical Revival led by John Wesley, who started the Methodist church, might help

"Bready describes the deep savagery of much of the 18th century, which was characterized by the wanton torture of animals for sport, the bestial drunkenness of the populace, the inhuman traffic in African Negroes, the mortality of the parish children, the universal gambling obsession, the savagery of the prison system and penal code, the welter of immorality, the prostitution of the theater, the growing prevalence of lawlessness,, the political bribery and corruption, the ecclesiastical arrogance and truculence( church gone bad)....such manifestations suggested that the British people were then deeply degraded and debauched as any people in Christendom.

But then things began to change. And the 19th century slavery and slave trade was abolished, the prison system was humanized, conditions in the factory and mines improved, education became available to the poor, trade unions began.......

Whence, then, this pronounced humanity? ..this passion for social justice and sensitivity to human wrongs. there is but one answer commensurate with stubborn historical truth. It derived from a new social conscience. And if that social conscience, admittedly was the offspring of more than one progenitor, it nonetheless was mothered and nurtured by the Evangelical Revival of vital practical Christianity -- a revival which illumined the central postulates of the new testament ethic, which made real the Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of men, which pointed the priority of of personality over property, and which directed heart, soul and mind, toward the establishment of the Kingdom of Righteousness on earth.
The Evangelical Revival did more to transfigure the moral character of the general populace, than any other movement British history can record. For Wesley was both a preacher of the gospel and a prophet of social righteousness. He was the man who restored to a nation its soul."

In respect of the final point, repentance and crying to God. All of us should take note of the following Word from the Lord. A Word which has greatly helped me to understand what the Lord requires of me at this time in my life. As it is all about God's mercy.

"This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says:
In repentance and rest is your salvation,
in quietness and trust is your strength,
but you would have none of it.
You said, No, we will flee on horses.
Therefore you will flee!
You said we will ride off on swift horses.
Therefore your pursuers will be swift!
A thousand will flee
at the threat of one;
at the threat of five
you will all flee away,
till you are left
like a flagstaff on a mountaintop,
like a banner on a wall.

Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you;
he rises to show you compassion.
For the Lord is a God of justice,
Blessed are all who wait n him"
Isaiah 30:15-18 NIV

I pray God that we will appreciate how deeply the Holy One of Israel cares for personal character and how injustice, and poverty and ignorance helps to ruin it. I pray God that there would arise, through a renewed church, a renewed " social conscience" in my country, and that a nation may have its soul renewed. I pray God that, He who did a " new thing" in Palestine in and through the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, in England through John Wesley, and in Jamaica in the past, through our national heroes Sam Sharpe, Marcus Garvey and others, will do a new thing again as we repent of our sinful ways, of what we have done and left undone, and cry out to Him for help. Amen.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Hurricane Tomas, God the " driva" and God's mercy in Christ Jesus

This week in my country God showed His mercy in a most dramatic way. And if after He, and only an Almighty God could have done this, performed this miracle, people still do not believe in Him, then Scripture is being fulfilled. Tomas, downgraded from a Hurricane to a tropical storm, after wreaking havoc in St. Lucia and Grenada, was headed for Jamaica. And the good Lord knew that we could not take anymore rain after Tropical storm Nicole had resulted in so many deaths, and did so much damage to our road infrastructure. But praying Jamaicans were equally cognizant that, if the storm turned away from Jamaica, it would head straight for Haiti, and they, with over a million people living in tents in Port-Au-Prince after the devastating earthquake earlier this year, were in a far worse position that we were. So we prayed for mercy for both Jamaica and Haiti. And God who is the real " driva", not our Prime Minister, who took on to himself that sobriquet during the run up to the last elections, steered this massive system, right through the passage between Jamaica, Haiti and Cuba. So that, we in Jamaica, hardly got any rain and even less wind, and the people in Port-Au-Prince were spared, even though others suffered somewhat. What a Mighty God we serve!

So if God is this merciful why does He not respond to prayers all the time. Why did He not save the life of a great Jamaican, Professor Barry Chevannes, who not only was an icon at the University of the West Indies, but did great work with fathers in many inner city communities, worked assiduously to reduce violence in these areas and was also a great cultural icon? Why did the Lord not respond to the prayers of the family of Norma Shirley, an internationally acclaimed chef who died suddenly this week, after a brief illness. Why didn't the Lord respond to the prayers of the people of St. Lucia or Grenada? Why did He not respond to the cries of the many families whose loved ones have been cut down by the bullet in my country. Or those who suffered loss in that Cuban airline disaster, or the folks in Indonesia who were killed by the Tsunami? Or my friend, the Baptist Minister who died because of injuries sustained during a crash on the road, and whom we buried just yesterday? Or the Prime Minister of Barbados who was buried this week as the storm threatened Jamaica? Why?

The Lord led me to read again this week, a very profound verse of Scripture, which although revealed in a particular context, provides much food for thought, if not a direct answer, for all these questions.

" And then what shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! For he says to Moses:

I will have mercy on whom I have mercy,
and will have compassion on whom I have compassion.

It does not therefore depend on man's desire or effort, but on God's mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: " I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth. Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden. One of you will say to me; " Then why does God still blame us? For who can resist his will?" But who are you O man to talk back to God?
Romans 9:14-20 NIV

A big part of the problem in Jamaica, and indeed across the world, is that mankind thinks it has every right to " talk back to God", instead of falling on its face, like John who wrote the book of the Revelations, in reverence before the Creator of heaven and earth, the Alpha and the Omega. So we draw cartoons happily suggesting that icons like the late Michael Manley of Jamaica, and the late Forbes Burham of Guyana, both socialists of International repute, gained entrance "through the pearly gates", and are busily reorganizing heaven. Or that another icon, the late Professor Rex Nettleford danced his way into heaven also or even " the cool ruler" Gregory Isaacs had the same " luck". In the same way Presidential hopefuls and those who make it to the White House, regardless of how obedient they are to God's Word, and even here in Jamaica, all of them invoke the blessings of God on the nation.

Later on in that book of Romans, the discourse on mercy - involving the Jews and the Gentiles and indeed all of mankind - ends with a most profound statement:

" God has bound over all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them.

O the depths of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God.
How unsearchable judgments,
and his paths beyond tracing out!
Who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?
Who has ever given to God
that God should repay him?
For from him and through him and to him
are all things.
To him be the glory forever! Amen.

Romans 11:32-36 NIV

The reality is that God's mercy reached its zenith in the death and resurrection of His Son Jesus on the cross of Calvary. And not matter how " well" one lives on this earth, no matter how much "good" you do, if you do not accept God's mercy as offered to all mankind by Christ, then it counts for nothing. This is what happened to the Jews, as " they stumbled over the rock which was Christ". Hence despite " their zeal for God", that zeal was not based on knowledge, as they did not submit to God's righteousness - Christ who is the end of the law. Romans 10:1-4 NIV.

This then is the challenge for my country and its leaders. Not just to come to a full understanding of who the real " driva" is, but to understand the full extent of God's mercy. A mercy that transcends the shifting of hurricanes, and the provision of material comforts in life and even the healing of the body from disease, even to the point of rescuing people from death. But rather, a mercy that brings peace with God, and rescue from sin and death unto everlasting life, by the shed blood of the Lamb. This is the reason why we should love Jesus, not just because He is a provider - as the popular refrain goes - but because like Job in Him we can say: " I know that my Redeemer lives". So its all about Jesus and His sacrifice for us on Calvary, and I read a meditation this week which really captures the full extent of what should be our attitude once we come to this full understanding of God's mercy:


Once it was the blessing, now it is the Lord;
Once it was the feeling, now it is his word;
Once it was the gift I wanted, now the Giver own;
Once I sought for healing, now himself alone.

Once 'twas painful trying, now 'tis perfect trust;
Once a half salvation, now the uttermost;
Once 'twas ceaseless holding, now he holds me fast;
Once 'twas constant drifting, now my anchor's cast.

Once 'twas bust planning, now 'tis trustful prayer;
Once 'twas anxious caring, now he has the care;
Once 'twas what I wanted, now what Jesus says;
Once 'twas constant asking, now 'tis ceaseless praise.

Once I hoped in Jesus, now I know he's mine;
One my lamps were dying, now they brightly shine;
Once for death I waited, now his coming hail;
And my hopes are anchored safe within the veil.

All forever,
Only Christ I'll sing;
Ev'rything is in Christ,
And Christ is ev'rything.

Finally a Word from the Lord which kept my mind free of anxiety this week in particular, and which was given to me many months ago by a child of God, and which I posted on Facebook and sent to my Blackberry contacts as the storm approached. And which verse of scripture formed part of the text for the sermon shared by the Minister at my friends funeral yesterday.

" You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you." Isaiah 26:3 NIV A Word to cure all anxieties, as Tomas and all other storms of life threaten our peace. But the key word is steadfast - a continuous and unwavering looking to god for guidance and being obedient to Him.

I pray God that we will all be steadfast in our desire for Christ and Christ alone.


Sunday, October 31, 2010

There is no more precious a commodity in the world than peace. Everybody is seeking it in one form or another. Right here in my country my Prime Minister would dearly love to have some peace in his life, where journalists and civil society alike aren't hounding him daily about his role in the Dudus affair. Or more recently, his setting up of a commission of enquiry to probe the whole business of Dudus' extradition and other matters, but which has been dogged by accusations of a lack of transparency.
Right now President Obama and his democrats in the USA would love to have some peace from the constant and effective attacks from the " tea party" candidates, who are threatening to wipe out their majority in both houses.Can you beleive how Sarah Palin has bounced back and causing so much political havoc, even within the Republican party? And further afield, the French President is seeking peace in his country, and so too Indonesia after the Tsunami, and Hati after not just the a devastating earthquake but now Cholera too - and ironically probably imported, along with those who came to help
And every Jamaican is now hoping that peace and tranquility will prevail in our country as Hurrican Tomas threatens, even at this extreme end of the hurrican season. Or even more personal and universal, peace in the midst of financial trials; peace in the midst of rampant criminality; peace in the midst of marital trials; peace in the midst of ill health and peace when the death of a loved one occurs.
So where is the universal solution for peace?
This week a meditation from Chris Tiegen and verses from Scripture offer some sobering, on the one hand, and exciting, on the other hand, news.
The first two passages I was moved to send out by text to those whom I thought
urgently needed to be aware of thier plight - and by extension all of us.

THE WARNING - the longer version of the text

" As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world, and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Chilean Miners; God's Hero and rescue mission

This week was dominated by news about the Chilean and miners. What drama! What a rescue! From the bowels of the earth to new life. What a metaphor which could be used to dramatically explain the gospel of Christ, who reached down from the heavens to rescue mankind from darkness, death and sin unto light and new and eternal life. And like the miners and their family and fellow citizens and people from all over the world, who were cheering for them the whole time, what a difference it would make if all mankind came to understand how much they need to rescued by God in and through Christ Jesus!

This week I read a meditation which impacted me greatly, in respect of how we, the Baptized children of God, who have the good news to share but are either reluctant, or do not quite grasp how important it is that we share this incredible story. To the point where I was led to send out an e-mail to some folks who are either journalists or have access to the minds of many people through the media.


We are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved. Hebrews 10: 39

In Word

Hebrews has some terrifying verses in it. This is one of them. Those who shrink back are destroyed. Those who believe are saved. There is no in-between.

After thanking God that we are in the believing category, it soon becomes painfully alarming to us that we know plenty of people who are not. We who count on the promises of God cannot be content to keep them to ourselves. That would be like dinning at a never-ending, everyone's invited buffet, but keeping it a secret from starving people lingering around us. There is a word for those who are content to be well fed while those around starve: selfish.

The Christian life is anything but selfish. The Father who went to great lengths to save us isn't selfish. the Son who commanded His disciples to go into the world with the gospel isn't selfish. The Holy Spirit who lives within us isn't selfish. God did not hand us the ball for us to drop it. He wants us to run with it. he has a plan - a very unselfish plan.

In Deed

Take time regularly to measure your participation in God's plan. Take an inventory of your attitudes and actions. Does the great divide between those headed for destruction and those headed for redemption get under your skin? Or have you grown numb to the reality? Do you pray for, give to, and pursue lost people persistently? Or are they an afterthought? Or in other words do you share your food.

The gospel is about sharing. Always has been, and always will. There is nothing in Scripture about embracing all the gospel except the missions part. No, the gospel is a package deal, and evangelism is in the package. We may not be gifted in the same ways, but we are all called to participate in missions zealously. It's important to God because of the terrifying divide we read about, and if it's important to God, it has to be important to those who love Him. Love compels us to do something about the divide - to share our food.

"Evangelism is one beggar telling another beggar where to get bread". D.T. Niles

Having read this reflection, I went searching for the Corinthian passage which speaks to the fact that we Christians are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are perishing among those who are being saved, but came upon another Word from Ezekiel which is even more arresting. And which was sent out in the e-mail also.

" Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them a warning from me. When I say to the wicked, " O wicked man, you will surely die, and you do not speak out to dissuade him from his ways, that wicked man will die for sin, and I will hold you accountable for his blood. But if you do warn the wicked man to turn from his ways and he does not do so, he will die for his sin, but will have saved yourself." Ezekiel 43:7-9. NIV

So, if you have been cheering for the Chilean miners, and you are a child of God, you have an equal responsibility to be concerned about every living soul who does not know Christ, and is therefore living in " darkness". Worse, if you were unconcerned about the Chilean miners, there is no punishment except for your conscience, but if you are unconcerned about those who sit in "darkness", God will hold you accountable for their destruction. This weekend we in Jamaica celebrate Heroes week, and if the truth be told most people regard it as nothing more than a holiday, and really don't spend much time recalling the work and life of our heroes. However, we who have been " rescued by the blood of Christ", our Hero, our Redeemer, our Lord and Saviour, do not have that option to forget " whose we are". As we who have been " crucified with Christ and no longer live, but Christ lives in us", ( Galatians 2:2) are always on a rescue mission for God. In Chile, in China, in Myanmar, in Nigeria, in Japan, in Bolivia, in the USA, in the UK, in Jamaica, and across the whole wide world.

So this week, send a text, an e-mail, write on facebook, tweet someone, or just plain old fashioned call a friend and tell them about the love of Christ. And even better so live your life that God will have His own way with you and " all shall see Christ only always living in me".


Sunday, September 26, 2010

Buju Banton, Bishop Long and God's new Creation

Thebiggest news that struck me this week was the behaviour of two stars. One, Buju Banton, a Reggae super star with significant international acclaim, and a "conscious" rastaman to boot. The other, one who I had never heard about, as I don''t follow the tele-evangelists, Bishop Eddie Long, apparently a religious super star, the head of one of America's mega-churches with a congregation reportedly in the region of 25,000. Both are accused of involvement in activities which have shocked many who thought highly of both men. Neither one has been found guilty before a court of law. One will know his fate tomorrow. The other has signaled that he would like his day in court. But even if they are cleared of the troubling chrages they have both been extremely foolish. What is a " conscious" rastaman doing tasting cocaine, and talking " garbage " about his desire to traffic the substance! And what business has a man of the cloth, purportedly one of God's servants, doing with a million dollar salary, a Bentley, a five million dollar house and a learjet, as I was reliably informed by a US pastor with whom I spoke today. It's all abut money and image.
No wonder then that words prior to the actual from the Epistle appointed for my church today reads as follows.

" But godliness with contentment is a great gain. For we brought nothing into the world and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men inot ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered away from the faith and pieced themselves with many griefs".

One of the great issues for the church in particular, and for the society as a whole, as so the church goes, so goes the society, is this relatively new " prosperity gospel" which is sweeping the USA and has spread its evil tentacles into our island. A 'gospel' which encourages persons to seek God as a means of personal advancement in their financial status, their health and their social standing. Of course it is not advanced as " vulgar" as that but " by their fruits ye shall know them". The problem is that the proponents of a " gospel", which eschews sacrifice, seeks to avoid persecution and looks only for good times, are being " traitors" to the Cross of Christ, and therefore have no power to " free the captives, give sight to the blind and proclaim the year of the Lord's favor". And worse, offers no protection when the day of trouble comes, as it will for all human beings. We had our own issues with this prosperity gospel here recently when the church got burnt by both CASH PLUS and OLINT. We should learn our lesson well and not get caught up with the hype and the image and the good times which big business masquerading as the
" ecclesia" , the called out of God, is leading people astray in America and elsewhere. People of God have to be manifestly different from the people of this world. And so too those Rastafarian who set themelves high standards. One of the disappointing things in recent times in my country has been the decline in the influence of the " conscious " rastaman. A movement which from day one had a faulty theology, as it based it's existence on a mere man, Emperor Haile Selassie. But at least it encouraged, poor black youths to have a different vision of themselves, at a time when the love of money and power, was leading so many into gangs and political warfare

In fact a meditation I read from one of the old saints speak very clearly to this issue of the Christianity and the world.


Verse Galatians 5:16

The realtion of Christians to the world is that of a soul to the body. As the soul is diffused through every part of the body, so are Christians through all the cities of the world. The soul too, inhabits the body, while at the same time forming no part of it.; and Christian inhabit the world, but they are not part of the world.
The soul , invisible itself, is immured within a visible body; so Christians can be recognizedin the world, but thier Christianity itself remains hidden from eye.
The flesh hates the soul, and wars against her without provocation, because they are opposed to its pleasures. All the same, th soul loves the flesh and all its members. despite their hatred for her, and Christians too, love those who hate them.
The soul shut up inside the body, nevertheless, holds the body together; and though they are confined within the world as in a dungeon, it is the Christian who holds the world together.
The soul, which is immortal, must dwell in a mortal tabernacle, and Christains, as they sojoun for a while in the midst of corruptibility here, look for incorruptibility in the heavens.
Finally, just as to be stinted of food and drink makes for the soul's improvement, so when Christians are every day subjected to ill-treatment, they increase the more in numbers. Such is the high post of duty in which God has placed them, and it their moral duty to not to shrink form it.

And when we shrink from that high post of duty, societies crumble, individuals perish, and God's righteous judgement falls on the church. As it did time and time again in the Old Testament against the children of Israel. And will continue to happen in this present dispensation, unless we remember that " we are not our own", as " we have been bought by the price of Blood" - The precious Blood of the Lamb, even Jesus Christ.

The reality is that we Christians are under tremendous pressure to conform to the ways of the world, and our young ones are particularly vulnerable. To go for the superficial and avoid the deeper life with Christ. Ultimately, what counts in our journey with Christ, is not extent of the praise of worship experience, the amount of social work that we do, our perceived piety in mode of dress and use of language, the day on which we worship or whether we are Evangelicals, Pentecostals or from the established churches, but whether or not we have become " a new creation". That's how God will judge us. If we have " put on Christ" and left the old man behind. That's how we should judge both mega-churches and small churches.
Is the pastor exhibiting the " fruits of the new creation", or is it just the same ole same ole. In the same way, are the members of the congregation exhibiting the " fruits of the Spirit", the love, the faithfulness, the mercy to others, the shunning of the very appearance of evil, at home, in the office and in the public square. Are they being persecuted, and how do they bear up under such trials? Do they fight with "weapons of this world", rage, anger and judgement, or do they love those who persecute them and pray for their souls.
This is what the final meditation speaks to.


What really counts is a new creation. Galatians 6:15

In Word
Pressure. No one likes it; everybody feels it. It can come from deadlines, society at large, TV commercials, or people very close to us. One of the enemy's most effective weapon is to pressure people

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Songs in the nights and the effects on a world around you

Many things happened across the world this week, but none of them in particular caught my attention. But a meditation from whom I am told was one of the great preachers of his time, Charles Spurgeon, certainly did. And then I recalled another one from one of my favourite theologians, Oswald Chambers - I read his highly acclaimed " My Utmost for His Highest" each night before retiring to bed. They both speak to the critically important issue of God's providence being provided during times of testing and trials. Periods which are not very welcome by some Christians schooled in the tradition of what some commentators call " cheap grace". In the sense that too many in some traditions expect to receive God's blessings without having to sacrifice much if anything at all, and which " theology" has no power to rescue a dying world. But which periods of suffering and persecutions and trials, for the early church, for example following Stephens' martyrdom, provided great opportunities for the spreading of the gospel.
Daily we see in my country, and across the world, about which the Pope called attention this week in the UK, the growing power of the secular - non religious, no faith in a transcendent being - thought on life. Often with devastating effects on family life, political life, business ethics, the behaviour of professionals and entertainers and the moral life in general of many nations.
So the power of the gospel to effect change in the world, flows more profoundly when, according to Spurgeon, and Chambers, we hear songs in the night. In the midst of trials.


Job 35:10

Any man can sing in the day. When the cup is full, man draws inspiration from it. When wealth rolls in abundance around him, any man can praise the God who gives a plenteous harvest or sends home a loaded argosy....
It is easy to sing when we can read the notes by daylight, but he who is skillful who sings when there is not a ray of light to read by, who sings from his heart. No man can make a song in the night of himself, he may attempt it, but he will find that a song in the night must be divinely inspired. Let all things go well, I can weave songs fashioning them whenever I go out of the flowers that grow on my path, but put me in a desert, where no green thing grows, and wherewith shall I frame a hymn of praise to God?.....
No, it is not in man's power to sing when all is adverse.......Since our Maker gives songs in the night, let us wait for Him for music....Let us not remain song-less because affliction is upon us, but tune our lips to the melody of thanksgiving.

Powerful stuff, isn't it. Many in the secular world don't know this side of the faith. They have grown up on the controversies, " the hot button issues": the issues surrounding human sexuality and marriage, the abortion issue, the death penalty. Even more sadly, many Christians" rebuke sickness" as if from the Devil. Yes. But not all the time.

Have you ever heard songs in the night? Then tell someone about it, and in doing so the gospel of Christ's love for all mankind, and of His sufficiency for every human and national situation will spread.

Then we can make more sense of St. Paul's ( who heard songs the night) recommendation and assertion in the New Testament reading in my church for today which if followed to the letter, would pave the way for great peace in every country. And my country is so desparately in need of peace at this time.

" I urge, then, first of all, that requests, intercessions and thanksgiving be made for everyone --for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceable and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases the God our Savior, who wants all men to to be saved, and come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men". 1 Timothy 2:1-6

One God! And one mediator between God and man Christ Jesus. You cannot have a more controversial statement than that in today's multi-cultural age and and age of religious pluralism. What about the Muslim God? What about the Buddhists and the Rastas and.......?

Perhaps a meditation from another Saint of old who heard songs in the night might help. Or not. Depends on who you listen to when you undergo trials. When. Not if. For there is trouble for every human being under the sun.


The God of Christians is not a God who is simply the author of mathematical truths, or of the order the elements, as is the god of the pagans and of the Epicureans. Nor is he merely a God who providentially disposes the life and fortunes of men, to crown his worshipers with length of happy years. Such was the portion of the Jews. But the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob, the God of the Christians, is a God of love and consolation, a God fills the souls and hearts of his own, a God who makes them feel their inward-ward wretchedness and his infinite mercy, who unites Himself to their inmost spirit, filling it with humility and joy, with confidence and love, rendering them incapable of any other than himself.
All who seek god apart from Jesus Christ, and who rest in nature, either find no light to satisfy them, or form for them selves a means of knowing God and serving Him without a mediator. Thus they fall either into atheism or into deism, two things which the Christian religion almost equally abhors.

The God of the Christians is a God who makes the soul perceive that he is her only good, that her only rest is in him, her only joy in loving him; who makes her at the same time abhor the obstacles which withhold her from loving him with all her strength. Her two hindrances, self-love and lust, are insupportable to her. This God makes her perceive that the root of self-love destroys her and that he alone can heal.

The knowledge of God without that of our wretchedness creates pride. The knowledge of our wretchedness without that of God creates despair. The knowledge of Jesus Christ is the middle way, because in him we find both God and our wretchedness.

But this kind of understanding only comes when you are prepared to hear songs in the night. Pray God that those who don't know Jesus and therefore are not aware of their wretchedness, or know well and are in despair, may find peace in Him because someone was willing to hear songs in the night - as did our Lord, and St Paul and Peter and all the early Saints, who like Jesus, " for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of God." Hebrews 12:2 NIV. Perhaps we all have the wrong goal, or an insufficient vision, in front of us. May God help us to endure our trials and hear songs in the night so that others may be rescued.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Remembering 9/11: Heeding God's Word about spiritual warfare

Yesterday was another anniversary of 9/11. Where were you when the planes struck the Twin Towers? I recall very clearly that I was on the way to work and had just tuned in to BBC at 8:00 am to listen to the news. When I heard about the first plane it seems a bit unusual, but I had no inclination of what was about to happen next. So when the second plane burst into flames and the reporter and by then the entire world understood that something had gone wrong, horribly wrong, I called my wife, who was still at home, and told her to turn on the television. On the way to work, I tried calling my children who were both in the USA studying, but of course by then, all communications had been shut down. But the time I got to work, everybody was in one state, and for the first time, we all huddled together and prayed, and prayed, and prayed. Tears flowed freely and panic set in, as many of us had relatives in America, and more specifically in New York City.
This was our first experience with " war" so close to home, and the effects of that dastardly act still continue to reverberate across the world, in Pakistan, Iraq, and Afghanistan and how we are allowed to travel. I cannot begin to imagine what must have felt like during World War Two, with the constant bombings of cities in the UK and in Europe. In in our part of the world, the constant terror or " war" that we have to contend with, is the fight against gunmen who have been consitently murdering over 1000 of our people year after year for over ten years.

All of this week, however, I have reading meditations on " spiritual warfare", which is the
" mother of all wars", and from which "war" for the human heart and soul, is the cause of all other wars - from Adam and Satan until this very day. The problem is that, unlike the destruction of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, this is not only an " invisible" war, but one which does not attract the attention of unbelievers, and even some believers are skeptical about its importance, despite the devastating effects that such a war is having on all of us. A war which led me to send out a text message to many folks who I thought needed to see such a message.

" Listen to my cry, for I am in desperate need;
rescue me from those who pursue me, for they are too strong for me.' Psalm 142:6. We live in the middle of a war whether we believe it or not. A loving God in Christ is awaiting your cry for help. The Devil is trying to destroy you."

That's the essence of the struggle for your soul. Cry out to God, in and through the Blood of Jesus for your soul, or face the temptations and destructive powers - allowed by God for the time being - of he who is intent on banishing you to hell. That's why married people need the Lord, as the devil does not like Godly relationships. So it is not just a "male hormone thing" that is affecting so many marriages, but the devil intent on doing his evil work. For the same reason children disobey and even attack their parents, far too many politicians and lawyers and other professionals, are economical with the truth in pursuit of fame and power and wealth. For that same reason some journalists, and media managers ignore their code of ethics and responsibility to be fair and balanced and set the highest standards in their duty to inform the public. We have one such case now in my country where a talk show host, vilified and fired from one station for behaviour unbecoming of a public broadcaster and bringing the profession into disrepute, has been " hailed by another station", and given another opportunity to pour out his diatribe on an all too willing public. For that same reason even in the church " famous" evangelists, too caught up with their own strength, fall prey to Satan and give ammunition to the detractors of the gospel. One such person, who hails from the USA, is to face the courts here in Jamaica, on a charge of carnal abuse.
Just last week, and during the discussions on radio, primarily, this week, the nation was alerted to the diary of a " contract killer", whose writings suggested that he was in a great struggle with his 'badness' until he was gunned down by the police recently. And there have been many others of similar notoriety, or less, who suffered the same fate. And as in murder, so in robbery, corruption in high places, adultery, sexual deviants - pedophiles, lying, cheating, and general wickedness. There are long lists that we can all compile which validate the revelation in the Bible that " out of the heart of mankind comes all kinds of wickedness".
And until we can deal with the reality what the Psalmist David declares, " surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me", then we, as individuals, as nations, and as a world, will always be at " war" one way or another.
This is the reason why, after the great world wars, when men vowed never to allow such atrocities to happen again, we have had " the killing fields in Cambodia"; the war in Vietnam; the many wars in Africa including the struggle against Apartheid in SA, and the Holocaust in Rwanda; the many wars in South America in including the disappearance of many in Pinochet's Chile; the never ending religious wars in the Middle East, and now the portents if not the actuality of war between Muslims and the Christian West. Is there no end to this madness?
Not any time soon, says the Bible. Until Jesus comes to claim the world as His own. So what are we to do? One meditation I read last week offers some sound advice for believers, but those who do not know the Lord should take heed also, as they too are in the middle of the war - and worse without much if any protection, even though they take comfort in their weapons of intellect, power and positive thinking. And the solution begins with our mental attitude.


Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Ephesians 6:10

In Word

The truth we discover soon after becoming Christians is that we are in the middle of a war. if the restoration of all things had come instantly after the Resurrection, there would be no conflict. The whole world would have been been made new, the evil serpent would have been bound and cast into hell, and believers would be living in a perfect environment. But all of those future realities were secured by the Cross and empty tomb, not enforced by them. Not yet. We've set our faith on those promises, but for now, life is a struggle. it is a struggle because we were born into the middle of a war.
We have two options: fight or flee. The option to flee is an illusion -- the war exists whether we want to acknowledge it or not. if we ignore it, we've lost already. But the option is to fight -- that's where we get confused. We charge into battle and then quickly wind up defeated. We forget rule of engagement number one in the spiritual war: be strong in His might power.
That's easy to say, but hard to live out. It isn't complicated, just unnatural. We pray for God's strength and live by faith for a while, and then any success puts us in our default mode: self -reliance. Only after failing in our self-reliance do we learn to relay again on His strength.

In Deed

A battle mentality is essential for the Christian life. We cannot bear spiritual fruit, internally or externally, if we are not alert and equipped for the conflict that inevitably comes. But our alertness is not to lead us into our own strategies and resources; it must lead us to dependence. Faith means casting ourselves unreservedly into the hands of God. We, like Jesus and the apostles, will pray God's authority against evil and live for God's Kingdom, but the power behind the prayers and the life is not ours. It belongs to the Spirit within us. if we aren't vitally related to Him, we will lose. The only way to win -- the only way even to survive --is to be strong in His mighty power.

So let us draw on the experiences of Daniel on the lion's den who was protected because he trusted God - and not himself. Gideon, from whom the Lord removed most of his warriors so that no one could boast that their power had defeated the enemies. And Joshua who was told by God, to be of good courage and not to be afraid because " wither-soever thou goest I am with you".
Let us go forth in the mighty strength of God into the battle, wherever it is: in the home in relationships; in the community; at the workplace; in the inner cities; in the prisons; in the media and throughout the entire world. And be obedient to the words of the prophets of old and " care for the dying and rescue the perishing", "bind up the wounded, strengthen the weak, search for the lost and bring back the strays". This is our job in a dying world, where the god of this age has prevented people from understanding the gospel, and finding freedom from sin and death in Christ Jesus. And so poverty and ignorance prevails, strife and wars ensue, and immorality and wickedness entrap and devour. Let then us never tire of doing good and let us understand that the battle is never ending and pay careful attention to the words of the hymn-writer who no doubt inspired by the sufferings of Christ penned these words which touched my heart this week and made Holy Communion very special this morning:

Oft in danger, oft in woe
Onward, Christians, onward go;
Bear the toil, maintain the strife,
Strengthened with the Bread of Life.

Onward, Christian, onward go,
Join the war, and face the foe
Will ye flee in danger's hour?
Know ye not your Captain's power.

Let not sorrow dim your eye;
Soon shall every tear be dry;
Let not fears your course impede;
Great your strength if great your need.

Let your drooping hearts be glad;
march in heavenly armour clad;
Fight, not think the battle long:
Soon shall victory wake your song.

Onward then in battle move
More than conquerors ye shall prove:
Though opposed by many a foe,
Christian soldiers, onward go

So pray without ceasing, calling on the name of Jesus often, as ye know not when the Devil will strike. Strike others or ourselves. In broad daylight at the World Trade Center or in the middle of the night in the privacy of your home. And God is our only protection. Not our own puny strength or wisdom.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

God is a good God, and an ever present help in times of trouble

That which affected me most profoundly this week was the privilege of sharing in the experience of two older men, who, on recounting their experience of the goodness of God, wept openly. One burst into tears, while the other, a single tear rolled down his face. The former was more passionate, as he had been attacked by a person of unsound mind resulting in a period of of hospitalization for multiple head and neck injuries requiring 42 stitches, and was rejoicing how God in His mercy had kept the lethal weapon, a machete, from severing his neck. His wife, of over fifty years, had not been so fortunate, as she died mercilessly at the hands of the attacker. But yet he was rejoicing and praising God.

Earlier this week, I read a meditation which posed the question , " where do you dwell'? What foundation sustains you, what resources are available to you, and to whom do you turn when serious problems arise in your life? And which reflection led to me wonder, in particular about President Obama, who having been swept into office a couple years with one of the highest approval ratings in modern American history, now faces the possible wrath of an electorate, disappointed, among other things, about the slow rate of recovery of the American economy. To whom does he turn in these challenging times, when in addition to the local issues, the question of the security in Iraq looms large, the war in against Al Qaeda in Afghanistan is not going well, Iran continues to build nuclear material, ostensibly for peaceful purposes, and the much sought after peace in the Middle East continues to elude all his efforts.
Closer home, to whom does my own Prime Minister turn when, having gained political power also a couple years ago, albeit with a less impressive mandate than Obama, now faces the wrath of civil society, up in arms against him for his party's - and sanctioned by him - apparent defense of a known drug Lord and a key political supporter, in response to an extradition request issued by the USA.? To whom does one turn to when, " the going gets rough", or when the " bottom drops out of one's life"? When marital problems arise - the cheating husband, the unfaithful wife, the discovery that a partner is gay. The problems with children - involved in criminality, involved in " doing drugs" specifically or gross immorality. What sustains an individual when sudden illness turns one's life upside down. Or when death so tragically separates a loving couple. When one faces financial ruin, or at least severe challenges. When one has gotten accustomed to power and exerting authority, when one is the subject of much adoration by friends and colleagues, and then suddenly for whatever reason - indiscretions, unwise choices, changing of the guard or philosophical changes - life swings in the opposite direction. Or at another level, to whom does a nation turn when faces with one of the highest homicide rates in the world - resulting in mayhem, grief and increased cost of doing business - a stagnant economy, social upheavals and a people rapidly losing hope in the future.

One answer which has sustained me greatly in recent times is to be found in the Word of God, and which no doubt has fashioned the faith of those two older men I met this week.

" He that dwells in the secret place of the Most High,
shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty". Psalm 91:1 KJV

In the sense that, even when troubles abound, we who have learned to trust that God is indeed a good God, for many reasons, but none more important than the death and resurrection of His Son Jesus, we have a safe anchor - the Almighty God - on which to depend. This knowledge sustains us in the midst of many trials and helps us not to depend on other men like ourselves, or our own common sense and intellect, both of which have failed us so often. But rather to depend on the God who created heaven and earth, and so surely He can manage the many problems of mankind, whom he created for His own purpose. But then that depends on whether or not you dwell in the secret place of the Most High, or you dwell in the " safety " of your own capabilities.
I pray God that the Lord will teach, very gently, those who are so foolish, to repent of such foolishness

Another came home to me from a prayer I read many years ago, written by a former Chaplain of the Senate of the USA - Rev. Peter Marshall

We know, our Father, that at this desperate hour in world affairs, we need Thee. We need thy strength, Thy guidance, Thy wisdom.
There are problems far greater than any wisdom of man can solve. What shall our leaders do in such an hour?
May Thy wisdom and Thy power come upon the President of these United States, the Senators and Congressmen, to whom has been entrusted leadership. may the responsibility lie heavily on their hearts, until they are ready to acknowledge their helplessness and turn to Thee. Give them the honesty, the courage and the moral integrity to confess that they do not know what to do. Only then can they lead us as a nation beyond human wisdom to Thee, who alone hast the answer.
Lead us to this high adventure. remind us that a " mighty fortress is our God" - not a hiding place where we can escape for an easy life, but rather an arsenal of courage and strength - the mightiest of all, who will march beside us into the battle for righteousness and world brotherhood.
O god may we never recover from our feeling of helplessness and our need for Thee! In the strong name of Jesus, our Lord, we pray. Amen

I pray God that our leaders across the world may be convicted of their helplessness in the face of the challenges of poverty, of war and internecine violence, of global warming, of economic stagnation, of homicide, and turn to the Mighty Fortress who is our God - proven at the Red Sea, the River Jordan, Jericho and on the Cross of Calvary. But then again that depends on "where they dwell", and on whom they depend.

A third answer came in the form of the meditation, from which the question of where do you dwell emerged.


" About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other people were listening to them. Acts 16: 25

In Word

What do you do when your hostile environment seems to get the best of you? If you're like most people, you fight back, lament your losses, or just get depressed. Not Paul and Silas. They sat in a dirty Philippian jail in the dark singing hymns to God.
The reason why they were in jail to begin with was that they were obedient to God. They cast out the demon out of the servant girl, but in doing so, they undermined an entire fortune-telling enterprise. Those who had been exploiting the girl's " talent" set them up for false charges - a reaction many people have when losing money. So Silas and Paul sat in a cell with a song in their hearts.
They could worship enthusiastically because they realized that their opponents had only seemed to get the best of them. They knew that circumstances can be misleading. They understood that the enemy's tactics are superficial scare tactics. Satan can create all kinds of situational havoc, but he cannot disturb the Spirit within us. If that's where we dwell - if we are immersed in the Spirit of God - the difference between a five star hotel and a Greek jail is minimal.

In Deed

Where do you dwell? If you are easily swayed by your circumstances, your quality of life will be manipulated by the enemy of god. If you live at a deeper level than that, grounded in the Word of God and filled with His Holy Spirit, your quality of life cannot be shaken. Every situation will be an opportunity to worship, or at least to acknowledge the sovereignty of the Father.
This is a vital principle to grasp if you are going to maintain your sanity in the hostile environment of a fallen world. You cannot live zealously for Jesus while living as a victim of circumstance. You have to read between the lines of your life and recognize both the enemy's surface tactics and the underlying will of God. The spiritual war requires great focus - and the ability to worship in dark places.

Finally a prayer from God's Word, for without prayer little will be achieved in helping those who do not yet " dwell in the secret place of the Most High", and therefore cannot, like those two older men, witness to the goodness of God in all circumstances. And which witness is sorely needed in these desperate times.
It's from St Paul's letter to the Colossians and though addressed to people of faith, may be used to pray for all people who need to know the Lord more and more.

" We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and of the love you have for all the Saints........For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will, through al spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worth of the Lord, and may please him in every way; bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience and joyfully giving thanks to the Father.........."
Colossians 1: 3-12 NIV

So we conclude and testify with those two old men that God is indeed a good God. A merciful God. A faithful God and exult with the hymnwiter that
" there is no shadow of turning with Thee........Great is Thy faithfulness to me. This is the faith of our forefathers, so ably represented by the two old men who came into my life this week, and which faith is under attack by the " modern" life. I pray God that more and more of us will witness to this nation, to our leaders, and to the world, of the goodness of God as demonstrated in particular by the life, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. But also by the way God has intervened in a very personal way in the lives of His people and which moved the songwriter to pen these immortal words which have been a such an inspiration for many over the years:

The King of love my Shepherd is,
Whose goodness faileth never;
I nothing lack if I am his
And he is mine for ever......

Perverse and foolish oft I strayed,
But yet in love he sought me,
And on his shoulders gently laid
And home rejoicing brought me......

In death's dark vale I fear no ill
With thee dear Lord beside me,
Thy rod and staff my comfort still
Thy cross before to guide me.....

And so throughout the length of days
Thy goodness faileth never;
Good Shepherd may I sing thy praise
Within thy house forever.