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.
FOR GOD'S GRACE IN OUR HELPLESSNESS PETER MARSHALL
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.
A PERSONAL PRAYER FOR OBEDIENCE JOHN BAILLE
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.