While the world, and folks in Jamaica in particular, were discussing Rhianna's latest video, " Man Down", a major section of the church celebrated its birthday today. While the world discussed the latest sex scandal in America, and in Europe - for an intriguing article on this subject, " America: One nation under Sex", written by one of our most well respected and well read journalists, Ian Boyne check the website : http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20110612/focus/focus1.html - in our church today we celebrated the day of Pentecost when The Holy Spirit of God was poured out on the early church as they were all together in one place, according to the book of Acts. The fact that this highly celebrated American spawned singer, but born in Barbados, chose to make this controversial video in Jamaica, and is steeped in violence, has angered many Jamaicans who are already sick of the violence in our country. " We don't need this now", I heard many of them declare on a popular evening news programme, " Beyond The Headlines", hosted by another of our top journalists, Dionne Jackson-Miller on RJR. That does not, however, mean that many do not empathize with her very public experience of domestic violence, but perhaps she could have been more creative in the video and not have the violence be so explicit. Perhaps the one she did with Eminem " I love the way you lie" ( I am being educated as I really don't follow these things) would have been more acceptable. The reality is , however, that as long as mankind chooses to ignore God and be forever disobedient to His commands, as given by the His Son, Jesus, then we will always have these problems. In this respect, I was amazed to learn from Boyne's article of the " carrying on" of no less a person than that American icon, Abraham Lincoln. And others too.
So this week, the Spirit of God led me to read, and reflect on words written by that much celebrated theologian, and author the set of Movies which have done so well at the box office, " The Chronicles of Narnia":
" We are half-hearted creatures, fooling around with sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us. We are far too easily pleased". This quotation was juxtaposed to a meditation by Chris Tiegen, which is what really grabbed my attention.
THE HEART"S CONTENTMENT CHRIS TIEGEN
Verse: " Love the Lord your god with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment." Matthew 22:37-38
IN WORD Despite our extraordinary calling - to experience God' love and to love Him in return - we fill our lives with idols. Given the greatest invitation in the universe, we treat it as an obligation that we might be able to squeeze in around our other interests. Could anything be more ludicrous? The infinite, holy, jealous, merciful, mighty Ancient of Days makes a straight path for us into His heart of passion, and our response is so often to say, " we'll see; I've got some other things I'd like to do, too". The angels must be astonished at the squandering of such an opportunity.
The idols of our hearts grip us tightly. We are afraid to let go of them. We are, in imagery provided by C. S. Lewis, like children content to make mud pies in a slum because we can't imagine what is meant by the offer of a vacation at the beach. We hang on to what we know - our idols - because fellowship with God is too incredible for us to grasp. Our idols are essentially one -night stands. They provide a moment of empty pleasure, but there is no lasting joy in them. They string us along with the offer of contentment, but contentment never comes. They rob us of something far more valuable - an intimacy of infinite depth with a Lover whose love has not limits.
IN DEED The passions that draw us away from God can be intense. Jesus does not ask us to rid ourselves of passion, but to turn that passion to towards God. When we realize this and break ourselves free from the illusions - or delusions - that make us think that we can find fulfillment in anything other than Him, our lives begin to resemble watered, fruitful oases where there was once a desert. Determine to pursue God in love as a response to His loving pursuit of you. Leave everything else behind.
When you read Boyne's article, you will notice the kinds of excuses offered up in explanation for the sordid behaviour of these American politicians. That " they are men who have come to experience power and that such power increases their sexual desires"; that "sexting" is not on par with other sexually explicit crimes". And speak about idols being essentially "one -night stands", and in many cases literally so, as prominent American politicians have been caught " going with" prostitutes. how Lincoln suffered from depression and how one President pined after his lost " male" partner, and how many of them had " love children" and led adulterous lives! Perhaps most egregious of all is the argument that they should be under less scrutiny, as after all, they are human, and perhaps the way the Europeans handle their politicians who " indulge', or perhaps as Boyne suggested the how we Jamaicans treat those kind of "sins', and named one prominent former leader, might offer a way forward - clearly a bit of tongue- in- cheek suggestion.
For many, especially our young people, stars like Rhianna, and "J Lo", and Eminem and Mavado and Assasin ( what a name) and Kartel are literally " idols" who are 'worshiped' and on whose lifestyle, their lives are closely patterned. The trouble is that increasingly so, many of the mothers and grandmothers, and fathers and grandfathers (whose influence on the children are less than the females) are caught up with their own idols of drink, sex, money, power and entertainment in general, and therefore have little time for things spiritual until and except when the crises of life intervene, all too suddenly, and sometimes, unfortunately, fatally.
And it should not come as surprise, or like a thief in the night, as the Word of God, to which I was drawn this week, is very clear about those who elect to ignore the God who is merciful and full of compassion, and just waiting on us to come to Him.
" Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourself with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin. As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God. For you have spent enough time doing what pagans choose to do - living in debauchery, lust , drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. They think it strange that that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of disspation, and they heal abuse on you. But they will have to give an account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged according to men in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit. The end of all things is near. Therefore, be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray." 1 Peter 4: 1-7 NIV
One of the great challenges in a modern society for Christians is to recognize when the, now ubiquitous, television set has become an idol in our lives. Or the computer, or the Blackberry, or your choice of cell phone. Or anything, or anyone, be they your significant other, wife, husband, child, grandchild or friend or relative, that is proving to be a distraction from loving The Lord Jesus with all our heart. A God who, in Christ Jesus, died for all mankind, to rescue us from that which Rhianna sings about, or that which Ian Boynes writes. Or the corruption in government which is always topical, or the violence in our schools, or the many trials which are " knocking down" families across the land. The other great challenge which the birthday of the Lord reminds us about, and which was the topic of an excellent sermon by a young female preacher today, is the need for us to get past the " speaking in tongues", debate, and focus on being " all together in one place", so that we who have been filled with the Spirit of God, can more effectively proclaim the gospel and the works of Jesus to a world pre-occupied with sex, violence, alcohol, cocaine, power, money and the Rhianna's of this world. As we are filled with the Spirit of a God who is full of mercy and compassion towards all He has made, and is ready to forgive, and forgive and forgive, all who would turn and repent. But also we represent a God who will judge the world one day. And that will include we who have a mandate and hence an awesome responsibility, to search for the lost, to bind up the wounded and to bring back those who have strayed. Even and especially the " vilest offender".