Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Word of God in good times and in bad times

Haiti continues to a big topic in my country. Will they come here, their closest neighbour, in droves and overwhelm our social services? Can we afford, in the time of their greatest need, not to grant them solace and an opportunity to start a new life? Is France and to a certain extent the USA, morally responsible to build back Haiti given France's history of extracting her " pound of flesh" from the Haitians - now worth an estimated 21 Billion USD - after the revolution and America's complicity in that dastardly deed? Another big topic is the government's determination to reduce the interest payments on 700billion JA. dollars and hence save the country an estimated 40B Ja. dollars annually, hopefully then to free up money for the adequate development of the nation's human and physical resources. So far most people seem willing to take the " hit" in the national interest but it is not yet a done deal and the debate rages.
Crime and violence is still the number one national problem as gunmen continue to wreak havoc on the society with over 10,000 persons having been murdered over the last ten years.

And yet life continues as many are planning to take in the annual Jazz Festival next weekend, whilst others are planning for the next Carnival. Beyonce and Shaggy, and JLow and Beenieman still send people, especially the young into a frenzy, and Avatar and other high tech movies rack up mill lions for their distributors. USA and Western Europe still rule the world economically whilst China is reportedly close to overtaking them. People are flying on American Airlines into Kingston at nights despite the recent scare - breaking news tonight is that an Ethiopian jet crashed off the coast of Lebanon and an estimated 85 persons are feared dead - and folks still fill up the bars and nightclubs whilst others continue to steal electricity and pay little or not taxes despite all that is going on around them.

That's one reality. The other and more dependable reality - as while the glory of men fade like flowers and wither like grass, the word of God stands forever - God's word, both the living, Jesus Christ, and the written, the Bible, are to our beacon in this world. This was the message this morning at church and, for me , the essence of what God revealed to me this week.

First of all, and he has not done this for a while, the Lord woke me up at a very early hour this week with a clearly heard message to read Psalm 61. A psalm where the David cries out to God from " the ends of the earth"; and when his heart is overwhelmed ( with despair) he David is led to the rock ( Jesus Christ) which is higher than I. So all week long spurred by God's Word I have been crying to God for mercy. Mercy for my country ravaged by gunmen. Mercy for my country as shocks and after shocks in the Caribbean and South America warned of some kind of impending disaster. Mercy for the Haitians as they seek to rebuild their lives. Mercy for myself, family and those close to me, as I lay down at nights, crying out for protection from harm and sudden death by God's angels.

Secondly, actually on reflection, this message came before the one above, God reminded me about His mercy from a meditation by Chris Tiegen


" God who is rich in mercy, made us alive in Christ even when we were dead in our transgressions". Ephesians 2:4-5

IN WORD Understanding God's love and mercy is the foundation of the Christian life. If we don't have that down, we are not going to get the rest of it right. Even so, this love and mercy are often things we distort most easily. We simply can't believe that God would love us so much, because we know that we are not worthy of that love. And yet that's what mercy is all about ---undeserved love. We find that the most critical truth of Christianity is the hardest to sink in.......

IN DEED If we do let his mercy sink in, however - if we ever can let it be the unshakable foundation of our lives -- it has incredible power to transform us. it makes us secure enough to extend love to offensive people, it keeps us from the tendency to act out of guilt, and it connects us with the heart of God who is really there, not the God we think we imagine.
Do not try to build a Christian life on anything but this. Every motivation, every impulse, every attitude ought to spring from an awareness that we are irrevocably loved and forgiven by a magnanimous merciful God. that foundation is the only one that can calm our fears, relieve our worries, and allow us to live life in perfect joy and peace.

This message of peace in and with God through Jesus Christ, regardless of the changing times and situations around us, was echoed in a sermon delivered by a friend and church brother, at this week's National Leadership Prayer Breakfast. An event to which the political, business, community and church leaders are invited each year and which this time around celebrated its 30th year in existence. So the Prime Minister read one Bible lesson, the leader of the Parliamentary Opposition another, the Governor General brought greetings and then Dr. Las Newman delivered God's word. Las drew inspiration from Habakkuk, and in particular the Prophet's declaration that:
" Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vine,
though the olive crops fail
and the fields produce no food.......
yet I will rejoice in the Lord.

And so Dr. Newman invited the nation's leaders to place their trust in the God who has proved Himself faithful as the God of Israel and the God who in Christ has proven Himself merciful. This is no doubt the Word that has kept hope alive in the Haitian people and allowed them to worship God in the midst of their pain. So, equally though we are surrounded by gunmen, and going down the wrong road to moral social and financial ruin, we can still trust in God, repent and not despair.
In the midst of these messages came two others. One every short. Just a reminder that we serve a " sovereign" God. The other, two verses from one of the most instructive hymns ever penned:
"Hark my soul it is the Lord"; and the verses:

I delivered you when bound
And when wounded healed thy wounds;
Sought thee wandering, set thee right
Turned thy darkness into light.

Can a woman's tender care
Cease towards the child she bear?
Yes she may forgetful be
Yet will I remember thee.

All of this wonderful news hinge very much on our appreciation of what Chris Tiegen wrote about the foundation of the Christian faith, based on God's word to the Ephesian church - God's mercy towards us as demonstrated on the Cross of Calvary. That's why even going to the grave, whether from Cancer, earthquake, or the gunman's bullet, we the Baptised of God can rejoice as teh Sovereign and merciful God will never forget us. That's why even under the most severe circumstance of life, drought, famine, disease, loneliness, the loss of a loved one, the loss of a job, we who have been rescued from sin and death by Christ can rejoice.

Finally a powerful word from God tonight at the beginning of the 50th anniversary of the Kingston Kessick convention. A sobering word to both the church and secular society, from another friend, Dr. Sam Vassell, who is now ministering in Bronx New York and who will be the guest speaker for the week. A word from the book from the book of Daniel, that the "kingdoms" of this world will become the Kingdom of God. That the Kingdom of God which is being ushering in by Christ and His church is, in the end, the only lasting reality. So USA and China may be the Kingpins now. But before them were many other "kingdoms". So what, or who, may seem to be so important now, will in a relatively short time be of no consequence. Whether it be the Golding administration in Jamaica or Obama's in the USA. Whether it be Capitalism or resurgent Socialism. As God's Kingdom is breaking in and neither the will of men, nor the forces of evil can stop it. So gunmen who cause terror today will not always rule. Nor will corrupt policemen and corrupt officials. And by extension, so too the dancehall stars and the Jazz festivals and the Carnivals. Yes Christians need to understand the sufficiency of the Blood of Christ and the Atonement, but equally so we need to remember that we are part of God's plan, through the power of the Holy Spirit, to establish His Kingdom - of holiness righteousness and joy - here on earth as it is in heaven. Finally he, Dr. Vassell, posed the question , as to who then would be willing to seek holiness, by surrendering all to Jesus, and make ourselves available to God for His use in ushering in His kingdom. As this is the central call on the lives of all who claim Christ, to give up all other loves - jazz, carnival, political allegiance, denominational ritual, friendships, possessions - once they compete with serving God and the building up of His Kingdom.
So which reality will we heed this week. The one heralded by TV ads, the movies, the newspapers, the Internet, our own desires and lusts, or the one heralded by the unchanging Word of God. Choose well as Dr. Newman warned, inspired by God's word, this week; "you cannot have it both ways".