No doubt about it. The single biggest issue that people are talking about in my country is the fact that Jamaica's good name is being dragged in the dirt. At home and abroad. All because of the continued mayhem, murder, and the " Dudus" extradition issue. Today the Daily Gleaner announced, in a front page message cum editorial, that it had come to the end of phase one of its campaign to galvanise support for a significant reduction of crime and violence in the country. The message noted that when the campaign started Sunday April 4, the murder count was 417 in 93 days. Today the number murdered is 574 in 127 days.
This week the Police on Toronto arrested a number of the infamous " shower posse " members and there is speculation that many may be deported to Jamaica in a short time. Recently with the death by natural causes of one the leaders of this shower posse - a man so well known that his death and life attracted a commentary by one of America's most respected publications, our name has been dragged in the dirt allover the world. And back home people in all walks of life are thoroughly fed up with the current state of affairs, and anger is building up steadily as they blame the politicians on both sides - but the present administration is being criticized even more harshly because of their puzzling stance on the " Dudus" issue. What were they thinking when they elected to defend this well known " Don " man and openly defy the USA state department. So the talk on the ground is how long will the Americans, who seem to know everybody's secrets, allow them to govern. And therefore rumours of all sorts abound as people speculate, and many are thinking about, and actually putting plans in place to leave, as this is no place in which to bring up children and live a decent life. Meanwhile in one tough inner city neighbourhood, visitors have been told not to come unless they get specific permission from the local Don! And people discuss Dudus and his stranglehold on the society as he were some kind of god - which he appears to be to those who benefit from his largesse. Amazing
All of this is really disappointing for a once proud people and a sovereign nation. Really really disappointing for an electorate that a couple years ago had high hopes for a different kind of politics, a different approach to nation building, and a dream of living in a civilized society once again. But sadly our name is dirt, perceived far too often as a bunch of ganja smoking, violent and aggressive people who glorify in gun lyrics and slackness in our music. To the extent that some Caribbean government officials, our own neighbours, have expressed reservations about some of our entertainers coming to perform there. To the extent where people in some parts of the country are afraid even to exercise in the morning for fear of being attacked by gunmen. To the extent that many Jamaicans abroad are afraid to return home. To the extent that many feel that our situation is hopeless.
But thank God for Jesus,as in the midst of this angst and pathos about my country, the Lord reminded me in some instances and in others revealed that He is concerned about His Name and His Glory and His Creation. The implication of this is that we are not on our own. We are not without hope. We are not without a Saviour. And we have definitely not lost the war with evil men who have been terrorising us for so long. And the we is not just Jamaicans, but those suffering in Iraq, Iran, Russia, Nigeria, Palestine, Jerusalem - anywhere injustice and terror rear their ugly head. I'll tell you as I heard it and not necessarily in that order. First what seems at first blush to be a simple text but which turns out to be a profound commentary on how this world is progressing and how it will end.
" For in him we live and move and have our being. As some of your poets have said, ' We are his offspring'.
Therefore since we are God's offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone - an image made by man's design and skill. In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead." Acts 18:28-31 NIV
So Jesus' death and resurrection takes on another meaning. A sign from God that one day the entire world will be judged for their actions - whether done in apparent secrecy in he dead of night or with impunity in " broad" daylight. Whether in the confines of the inner city where
" informer fi dead", or in other places where secrets are hid from all eyes and ears.
I have trying to recall, to date without success, the Scripture which tells most pointedly that God's prophets can see " even into the very bedrooms of those in whom they have an interest", but was instead led to read:
" Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord,
the people he chose for his inheritance.
From heaven the Lord looks down
and sees all mankind;
from his dwelling place he watches
all who live on the earth--
he who forms the hearts of all,
who considers everything they do
No king is saved by the size his army;
no warrior escapes by his great strength.
A horse is a vain hope for deliverance;
despite all its great strength it cannot save.
but the eyes of the Lord are upon those that fear him,
on those whose hope is in his unfailing love,
to deliver them from death
and keep them alive in famine."
Psalm 33:12-19 NIV
So the Lord God of Israel has an interest in the lives of those that fear him, knows the hearts of all people and responds to those that trust in his unfailing love. And we have come to know all of this because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. But there is more, as in the book of Isaiah the whole earth is mentioned as under God's loving care:
" Listen to me, my people
hear me, my nation
The law will go out from me;
my justice will become a light to the nations.
The islands will look to me
and wait in hope for my arm........
I even I, am he who comforts you.
Who are you that you fear mortal men,
the sons of men who are grass,
that you forgot the Lord your maker;
who stretched out the heavens
and laid the foundations of the earth,
that you live in constant terror every day
because of the wrath of the oppressor,
who is bent on destruction?
For where is the wrath of the oppressor?
The cowering prisoner will soon be set free.
Isaiah 51: 4-5 and 12-14 NIV
One of the points, if not the main one that our preacher at church made this morning, is that we should never allow past experiences to colour how God will act in the future, as God is always
" doing a new thing". So we who believe should not be so afraid, as the Word of God is living and active, and at the appointed hour, those who terrorise our nation, and those who offer them succor will be judged by the Lord God himself. Why? God is concerned about His Creation, " the foundations of the earth which He laid ". We are not on auto-pilot.
Finally God is not only concerned about His Name but His Glory as this was one of the reasons why Jesus came to earth - to bring God Glory by rescuing His Creation. We humans being who were held captive to Sin and death by the Evil one. So the rule of evil in the world is finite and will one day be totally overcome, as the process began with Jesus' death on Calvary - according to God's Holy Word.
" After Jesus had said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed.
Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life; that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began."
John 17:1-5 NIV
So God's glory and God's Creation are intimately bound, one will not be gained without the other. This is a theme which is expanded on in the closing meditation by Christ Tiegen - the connection between God's Glory and His Creation. That is why we are very bold and should not be held captive by the seeming pervasive power of Dons, sundry criminals and terrorists, despite the havoc they wreak on our nation and the world, because they have already been overcome, and their time is running out. So thanks why we thank God for Jesus in whom and through whom all these revelations have come to us to enable us to live by God's grace and mercy in the midst of the storms of life.
SHARED GLORY MAY 5, CHRIS TIEGEN
I am the Lord; that is my name! I will not give my glory to another or my praise to idols.
God's glory has no true rivals. Sinful human beings have developed rivals in our own hearts, but none are legitimate threats to His glory. As Isaiah prophesied the coming of the Messiah across a landscape of idolatry, he voiced God's extreme hatred of false worship and His utter insistence of His own glory. Isaiah's picture tells us that as Jesus' reign spreads, idols are exposed as futile. In other words, God's glory comes out very clearly visible. As John said when Jesus came, " We have seen his glory". (John 1:14)
But that's not the end of the glory story. When Jesus prayed at the end of His earthly ministry, He made an amazing request of His Father: " I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one. " ( John 17:22). When we become one with Jesus, we are no longer rivals to God's glory. We are participants in it. He shares it with us as a husband shares everything with his wife. God gives His glory to no rival; He does however give it freely to members of His own family........
What does that mean for us? It means that every blessing that God has in His heart is available to those who love Him. It means that His generosity is no longer limited by the gap between sinful humanity and a holy God. It means that every prayer you utter is well received by the head of the family. And it means that God has irrevocably bound Himself to you - once we are obedient to Christ Jesus ( my words).
So my brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus across the world and particularly in Jamaica, let us abide in the secret place of the Almighty, so that we may dwell in His shadow. Let us offer ourselves to God - and not to the culture of fear and idolatry around us. Let us count ourselves dead to sin by alive to God in Christ Jesus. Let us be vigilant for the name and glory of the Lord - so that it may not suffer loss by our actions. Let the name of our Father be Hallowed in all we do, and in all situations. Let us remember that God is indeed doing a new thing across the world in and through Jesus Christ, and not be fearful of what man can do, but instead continue to manifest God 's love and freedom from fear to all whom we meet - at home, at the workplace, in school, over the Internet, in the inner cities and in the highest place of authority in the land as we are reminded by the hymn writer on this day when we celebrate the goodness of mothers:
Hark my soul! it is the Lord........
Can a woman's tender care
cease towards the child she bear?
Yes, she may forgetful be,
Yet will I remember thee
Mine is an unchanging love,
Higher than the heights above,
Deeper than the depths beneath
Free and faithful, strong as death.
Let us then this week and the weeks ahead see how ," God is doing a new thing". How His love for us is so strong and that he will never leave not forsake His people and His Glory and His name. In Jamaica and across the world.