Sunday, April 17, 2011

The old rugged, the clansman gang and The Passion of Christ on Good Friday

Thank God I live in a country where, at least for most Christians, this week, we can and we will, celebrate the most momentous week in the history of mankind. It's a time to place all things, events, and concerns in their proper perspective. Last week, for example, during an interview on a popular news programme, Beyond The Headlines, hosted by RJR's Dionne Jackson-Miller, our Commissioner of Police, Owen Ellington, spoke candidly about the tremendous amount of murders attributable to one particular criminal gang over the years - The Clansman gang. And whose infamous leader was killed in a shoot-out with the security forces a few years ago, and now recently, another leader, accused of causing much mayhem, was sentenced to fifteen years in jail much to the relief of many Jamaicans and people who live in the old capital where this gang has its headquarters. This interview was shared within the context of a reported 40% fall in the murder rate so far for this year. Many Jamaicans, however, attribute this welcome news, to the dismantling of the operations of "Dudus" Coke's Tivoli empire during the incursion into that area last May, consequent on the attempt to have hm extradited to the USA. All of this, in my view points to the reality of how the extraordinary wickedness of a few highly influential and organized criminals can wreak havoc in a society, thus undermining our ability to grow economically, live morally uplifting lives and raise our children in peace and harmony. In other words, people are forced to live in bondage, almost in slavery - hence the need for women and children to demonstrate on their behalf or face " punitive" action - to the whims and fancies and dictates of these criminals. Why? Why Lord, many cry out. Why have you abandoned us to these agents of Satan - interestingly, the very name (alias) of one of the gang members killed in a shoot-out with the police recently. In the same way many have cried out, why Lord, why have you abandoned us to the injustice of poor schooling, or injustice in our community, poor roads, disease, uncaring " capitalists" and corrupt government officials, dysfunctional families, HIV/AIDS, drug abuse, evil desires in our hearts, many anxieties, and worse of all death. Why Lord? Why!
Two thousand years, on a hill far away, stood an old rugged cross. And on that Cross, God in Christ, answered, forever, every cry of the human heart, even to the depths of hell itself. That's why we celebrate Good Friday, and then the glorious Resurrection of Easter, when with incomparable power, Jesus was raised from the dead, and with him the entire suffering human race, to a new life where righteousness, justice and truth abounds. But first, as the meditation I read this week, reveals, to benefit from and accept this gift of ( new) eternal life, one has to be in a covenant relationship with God. And that begins with believing in the Name ( death, resurrection and commands - according to Oswald Chambers) of Jesus.

Verse: 2 Samuel 7:28.

It is the will of God that human beings should get into a right standing with him, and his covenants are designed for this purpose. Why doesn't God save me? He has accomplished and provided for my salvation, but I have not yet entered into a relationship with him. Why doesn't God do everything we ask? he has done it. The point is -- will I step into that covenant relationship? All the great blessings of God are finished and complete, bu they are not mine until I enter a relationship with him on the basis of his covenant.
Waiting for God to act is fleshly unbelief. It means that I have no faith in him. I wait for him to do something in me so I may trust in that. But God won't do it, because that's not the basis of the God-and-man relationship. Man must go beyond the physical body and feelings to his covenant with god, just as God goes beyond Himself in reaching out with His covenant to man. It is a question of faith in God - a very rare thing. We only have faith in our feelings. I don't believe God until he puts something tangible in my hand, so that I know that i have it. Then I say, " Now I believe." There is no faith exhibited in that. God says, " look to me and be saved........" ( Isaiah 45: 22).
When I have really transacted business with God on the basis of his covenant, letting everything else go, there is no sense of personal achievement - no human ingredient in it at all. Instead, there is a complete overwhelming sense of having being brought into union with God, and my life is transformed and radiates peace and joy.

The sad reality is that once again, this week, when this precious gift is once again celebrated and offered, many will find it interesting, even intriguing, but few will trust and obey, and enter into this wonderful relationship with an Almighty God, who, out of love for all mankind, died on the cross so that all who suffer and are in need, may find peace. What a different place my country would be if only we would trust in the God of Jacob, the God of Samuel, the God of Daniel and the God of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is the message the songwriter left in my head this week as I reflected on the following hymn.

When we walk with the Lord
In the light of His Word ,
What a glory he sheds on our way!
He abides with us still,
And with all would trust and obey!

Trust and obey!
For there is no other way
To be happy in Jesus,
But to trust and obey.

Not a shadow can rise,
Not a cloud in the skies,
But His smile quickly drives it away;
Not a doubt not a fear,
Not a sigh nor a tear,
Can abide while we trust and obey!


Trust and obey.....

Not a burden we bear,
Not a sorrow we share,
But our toil he doth richly repay;
Not a grief nor a loss,
Not a frown nor a cross,
But is blessed if we trust and obey!


But we never can prove
The delights of His love
Until all on the altar we lay;
For the favour He shows,
And the joy he bestows,
Are for those who will trust and obey


Then in fellowship sweet
We will sit at His feet,
Or we'll walk by His side in the way;
What he says we will do,
Where He sends we will go,
Never fear, only trust and obey!

Finally, the Lord led me to a meditation by Chris Tiegen on The Cross, and to a proper perspective on Sin. The only basis on which we can understand the mystery of the Christ's death. And which mystery led the songwriter to exult:

'Tis mystery all! The immortal dies:
Who can explore His strange design?
In vain the first-born seraph tries
To sound the depths of love divine!
'Tis mercy all! Let earth adore,
Let angels minds inquire no more......


" This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured for many for the forgiveness of sins." Matthew 26:28

IN WORD God's response to our sin pulls no punches. It is a graver assessment than we have thought! The righteous God of Israel, who spent thousands of years of Old testament history condemning disobedience and idolatry, finally unleashes His full wrath for the human rebellion - on His perfect Son. The observers in the hevenlies - angels, demons, and anyone else who sees god more clearly than we do - must have staggered at the sight. the enemy had tirelessly worked for centuries corrupting the creation, and the creation willfully went along with his treason. All the while, God stored up His anger. Yet when God's judgment came, He had already sent an innocent Deliverer to stand in front of the Judge's fury.
The Cross is God's wrath made plain. It is also God's love made plain. NO man-made religion can claim such a God. All other deities are either so angry that they can't be appeased, or so innocuous that they are meaningless. Nowhere else in the universe - even in fertile imaginations - have justice and grace been reconciled so completely.

IN DEED No Human being could have come up with this plan. No human religion could have laid down a centuries-old sacrificial system to so perfectly foreshadow what would be fulfilled in one individual - the same individual who also happened to deliver the most profound teachings that the world has ever heard. No, the blood of the covenant poured out at the Cross comes from the hand of God - in judgment and love.
Meditate on the judgment of God. It was harsh and heavy. it is a true assessment of our offense. Meditate also on the grace of God. It is a love far above our understanding that pays so high a price for so unworthy a purchase. meditate and marvel at the staggering plan of God.

I pray God, that as the Christian church celebrates the death and resurrection of Jesus this week, it may serve to lift Him up, and so release the power of the Holy Spirit, who alone can convict people of sin. Who alone can set captives free. Who alone can bring peace to the souls of suffering humanity. And who alone can turn even the most vicious killer, the most corrupt individual, the most deadly disease and all the fear of death, into children of God and into opportunities to celebrate and to give thanks. All because of that rugged cross on a hill far away. Amen