This past week the discussion in Jamaica was all about the Commission of Enquiry into the Mannatt Phelps Phillips affair. Dudus Coke, that famous alleged criminal is now in custody in Miami awaiting trial. Not much has been heard about this man whose extradiction request plunged my country into open warfare bertween his supporters and the armed forces. But the accompanying issue of the lawyers contracted by the ruling Labour Party, and not the government - there is a distinction - to help them to prevent Coke from being sent away, is a very live issue. And it's live on Television and so everybody is talking about it. Especially about witnesses who have been giving evidence which appears to contradict the statements of the Prime Minister and the Minister of Justice. What will become of it, only time will tell, but it's always going to be difficult for those who come after the public's appetite for condemnation has been whetted. So we will see when the time comes for the PM and his key Minister to tell their story.
But whatever happens this is not a good time for my country, as more and more people are becoming cynical about all out leaders. We pray God that things will not reach a boiling point as it did in Egypt, this past week - the other news that dominated public discussion. Finally on radio, during a week when Bob would have celebrated another birthday I listened carefully to those who would make Bob Marley a National Hero. In fact some are saying that he is already the people's hero and there is no need to formalize it. All of this based on his music and life which helped to liberate minds in captivity all over the world, nations in Africa in captivity and place Jamaica's name on the world stage.
In the midst of this, the Almighty God, the God of Jacob, who the Word declares, "is our fortress", spoke to me about the power of God. That " the Kingdom of God is not about talk, but about power. And my understanding is that all this talk about who has power in Jamaica, which human being liberates whom, and who has power in Egypt, pales into insignificance when compared to the Power that God demonstrates day after day, and especially what transpired on the Cross of Calvary.
The first Word was from a meditation on the Power of Jesus which came at the right time in my life. The key question here is who would you rather have in your corner when " real trouble comes at you"? A battery of high priced, high performing lawyers; people power as exhibited in Egypt recently ; icons like Bob Marley or God in Christ Jesus - the master of storms?
MASTER OF THE STORMS CHRIST TIEGEN
Verse Matthew 8:6 " You of little faith, why are you afraid".
IN WORD One of the hindrances to a faithful response to Jesus in the storms of our lives is our acute awareness that he let us get into the storm to begin with. We would rather have a Savior who didn't sleep in the back of the boat. We would prefer that He navigate us around the storms rather than deliver us from the middle. But our God has never guarded His people from storms. He even lets suffer in them sometimes. Why?
Jesus could have navigated His company around the storm. It blew up without warning, but the Lord of Creation isn't surprised by anything. he knew about the Cross ahead of time, and he knew about this storm. But if he had let the disciples avoid it, they would never have known Him as the Master of the winds and the waves. They would not have asked the question: " What kind of man is this?" ( vs 27). They would not have known Jesus as their Deliverer that day.
IN DEED Jesus lets us get into the middle of storms so we will know Him. When we avoid the dangerous waters, we avoid the Deliverer. When all is well, our faith only needs a Jesus who is asleep in the boat. While that may be more comfortable to us, it subverts the purpose for which we were created. We were made to know Him, and whether we like it or not, some of His characteristics can only be discovered in the deep, treacherous waters.
When we think we prefer our comfort to the storms of life - a universal tendency for us humans, by the way - we are actually choosing stagnancy over fulfillment. We must realize that we can't really know the Deliverer unless we need deliverance. We can't know our Deliverer unless we need redemption. WE can't know our Refuge unless we experience danger. Do we really seek comfort and ease? No. Deep down, we want real faith. We want to know the One who accompanies us - even in the storms.
This week I went to visit with a friend who experienced the ultimate storm of life - the death of his dear wife. His response? God's will be done. Her cry when she was at her last, helped him and comforted him greatly. " Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy". But not all storms end in death. Many cause great discouragement. I believe that's why I was led to read the story of Nehemiah this week and the story how he began to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, after the Jews had been exiled in Babylon. And how Sanballat and Tobiah tried to discourage him. His response is a classic lesson of the power of God available to those who trust in His unfailing love. " But I prayed, ' Now strengthen my hand'. Nehemiah 6: 1-9. But even the attempts to discourage cannot compare with persecution and God's love and mercy is not only equal to that trial, but very much available and promised to those who trust in Him.
This is what I was led to read this week in respect of God's power:
" Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers." Luke 22:31 NIV.
The reality is that, spiritual forces of wickedness are very active in this world, and manifest themselves in many of the trials and persecutions that we face as believers. And non-believers. My country, in large measure, has elected, of their own free will, unlike the decision of our forebears, to place their trust in the strength and wisdom of man, and not in God. And thus we are reaping the fruits of this madness. For when the Sanballats of this world, and the evil one himself come knocking on our doors, and attacks our families and our bodies, only the Word of God can prevail against such powerful forces - in Tivoli Gardens, in Jamaica House, in the corridors of 'power' in the business world, in the Music and entertainment industry. Bob Marley accepted Christ in his final days.
That's why the Word of God declares that:
" For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written:
" I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate."
Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and he weakness of God is stronger than man's strength." 1 Cor. 1: 18-25 NIV
That's why when " real trouble" comes at us, Christians over the years have reached for the Word of God and have been protected and strengthened by:
" The Lord is my light and my salvation -
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life -
of whom shall I be afraid?
When evil men advance against me
to devour my flesh,
when my enemies and my foes attack me,
they will stumble and fall.
Though an army besiege me,
my heart will not fear;
though war break out against me,
even them will I be confident.
One thing I ask of the Lord,
this is what I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life........
for in the day of trouble
he will keep me safe in his dwelling.
Psalm 27:1-5 NIV
I pray God that we may invite Christ into our lives each day afresh, and witness His protection from the storms of life - whether they come in a Commission of Enquiry, or in the daily trials of life, or when persecution comes - real trouble. Then when God has strengthened our faith like he did with Nehemiah, or with Simon Peter, we may heed the words of this wonderful poem and hymn to which I was led this week.
LORD SPEAK TO ME, THAT I MAY SPEAK
Francis Ridley Havergal (1836-1879) An English woman, Havergal who wrote many remarkable religious poems and hymns, one of which is “Take My Life and Let it be". Her most enduring collection is called Ministry of Song, published in 1870.
Verse Isaiah 6:8 “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" And I said, “here am I. Send me!"
Lord speak to me, that I may speak
In living echoes of thy tone;
As thou hast sought, so let me seek
Thy erring children lost and lone
O teach me, Lord, that I may teach
The precious things thou dost impart;
And wing my words, that they may reach
The hidden depths of many a heart.
O fill me with thy fullness, Lord,
Until my very heart o'erflow
In kindling thought and growing word,
Thy love to tell, thy praise to show.
O use me, Lord, use even me,
Just as thou wilt, and when and where,
Until thy blessed face I see,
Thy rest, thy joy, thy glory share.
I pray God that these words may find their way into the hearts of thy " erring children lost and lone" so that my country, and people all over the world, in Egypt, in South Africa, in japan, in China, in Nigeria in Russia and elsewhere, may experience the peace that we all so desperately need, in the midst of so many storms of life. And which peace comes only from a belief and trust in the One who said. " Trust in God.; trust also in me....... I am the way and the truth and the life". No one comes to the father except through me." Christ our crucified Saviour, risen, ascended, now glorified and who ever lives to intercede for those who trust in Him. Praise God.