This week, once again, I had the privilege of attending the swearing-in-ceremony of our new Prime Minister. On account of the swiftly changing political fortunes of the incumbents, it was my fourth in five years. The speeches have all been inspiring, promising hope for a nation badly in need of "salvation". What with our high murder rate, low levels of economic growth over the years, high levels of poverty and even greater levels of inequality in the distribution of the nation's resources across the population. So, once again, I listened intently and like many others who were there, came away with a renewed hope that this time, things might go well for the nation. But I well recall listening to President Obama's wonderful speeches, during the campaign...who can forget the one after Iowa, and even more so after the win in New Hampshire..and that famous one in Chicago when he won, almost four years ago. And yet, he too is struggling to fulfill the promises he made with such eloquence and passion...." Yes we can"! So who knows what the future holds for my country!
Well actually, someone does, and this is what I heard from listening to the divine whispers of the Almighty God.
" In the council of the holy ones God is greatly feared;
he is more awesome than all who surround him".
Psalm 89:7...an extended reading of the Psalm appointed for this Sunday in my church.
No doubt a reflection on the mighty power of this Almighty God, and due consideration of the state of my country and the frequent changes of the leaders, led to a reading a the following passage of Scripture which I passed on to two of the former leaders and cabinet ministers.
As one who has been privileged, not only to work with Prime Ministers and Ministers, but also to bring the word of God to them, and have been equally privileged to attend several swearing-in-ceremonies, including the most recent one, and hear the plans of man ( and woman), this word below, received during my early morning meditations this morning, struck a chord in my heart. Hopefully it will resonate with you and instruct you as you assume a different role in the life of this nation.
" All men are like grass
and all their glory is like the flowers of the field;
the grass withers and the flowers fall,
but the word of the Lord stands forever."
1 Peter 1:24. NIV
Further, one day week this week, I awoke with a song in my heart, and went and read the words with some excitement, as only God can do those things. The first three verses are :
All to Jesus I surrender,
all to him I freely give;
I will ever love and trust him,
in his presence daily live.
I surrender all,I surrender all,
all to thee, my blessed Savior,
I surrender all.
All to Jesus I surrender,
humbly at his feet I bow;
worldly pleasures all forsaken,
take me, Jesus, take me now.
All to Jesus I surrender,
make me, Savior wholly thine;
let me feel the Holy Spirit,
truly know that thou art mine
The one thing that all of who who occupy this planet earth, whether live in Kingston, Moscow, Tokyo, Lagos, Montevideo, Washington or London really need to understand, is that there is only one God. And the only way to find Him and to know His ways, and to find peace, and exert real and lasting power which will enable mankind to live peaceful lives, is to surrender fully and totally to His Son Jesus. Why? Because,
" All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God". It is only then, in Christ Jesus, the crucified One, that we can claim any righteousness. It is also only in and through the power of this same crucified Christ that we can exert any power to rescue mankind from poverty, from murder, from economic stagnation and from injustice of any kind. This is the essence of the promise given centuries ago through the prophet Isaiah in the Old Testament appointed for today, and which is known to us long in advance so that we can read and prepare:
" This is what God the Lord says -
he who created the heavens and
stretched hem out,
who spread out the earth and all
that comes out of it,
who gives breath to its people, and life to those who walk on it:
I, the Lord, have called you in
I will keep you and will make you
to be a covenant for the people
and a light for the gentiles,
to open the eyes that are blind,
to free the captives from prison
and to release from the dungeon
those who sit in darkness."
Isaiah 42:5-7 NIV
While the above passage is clearly a prophetic word on the role that Christ would play in the great rescue mission on which He was sent by His Father....those who sit in darkness .....often have no clue of their dire situation. No clue of how powerless they are to exert any real power, even for good. As indeed was the case with all of us who now believe that " all men are like grass....but the word of God stands forever". And that Christ is indeed the Living Word of God. That's why for centuries, the fortunes of men and women have waxed and waned in this great cycle of life. That's why we have earthquakes in Japan, and hurricanes in New Orleans; that why we have wars in Iraq and famine in Somalia. That's why every so often this broken world throws up an Adolf Hitler, or a Mussolini, or a Stalin, or a Kim Jung Il. And even though at a lower scale of importance, that's why in my country 12 people have perished on our roads and why 30 others have been murdered, and the year only eight days old! Unless you are in Christ then, you are in darkness. It's as simple as that, or as profound. There is no middle ground or spiritual third way, as proposed in political terms by Tony Blair et al some years ago. Or as the bible puts it:
"He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the the Son of God does not have life". 1 John 5:12 NIV
Therefore if one does not have life and, " sits in the darkness", terrible things can happen to that person, whether in this life or the next. And worse, terrible things can happen because of that person. No matter how secure, sophisticated, learned and liberated, they may think they are. Terrible things can and have happened to children of God, but either in this life or the next, unlike those who sit in darkness, we have a blessed assurance that God will " heal all our diseases and forgive all our sins" Psalm 103.
The challenge then for those of us who have died to our old way of life in Christ Jesus, and have therefore assumed a new identity, which then calls us to go on the same mission for which Christ was sent, and for which He died on the Cross of Calvary, is how to convince people that the words of the Bible are true. That Christ is the only way to God. That judgment is real. That a nation that does not have this vision of Christ will flounder, either morally or economically or socially. That Prime Ministers and Presidents who do not carry out the will of God, will be removed. Some sooner than others according to God's mysterious plan.
In this respect the following four things struck me forcibly this week.
1. "But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself". John 12: 32 NIV...so then the battle is not ours but the Lord's. Our responsibility is to lift Him up with out life, our words and in our hearts. And paradoxically, we lift Him best by surrendering all...all to Jesus I surrender.
2. ....Bible facts are either revelation facts or nonsense. It depends on me which they are to me. God does not thunder his truth into our ears, our attitude of mind must be submissive to revelation facts. Each one of us brings certain prejudices, civilized pre-judgments, which great hinder our understanding of revelation facts.
Our attitude to the Bible is a stupid one; we come to the Bible for proof of God's existence, but the Bible has no meaning for us until we know that God does exists. The Bible states and affirms facts for the benefit of those who believe in God; those who don't believe in God can tear it to bits of they choose.
People can dispute the words of the Bible as they like, but get a soul in whom the craving for God has come, and the words of the Bible create the new life in him " ...being born again....by the word of God" ( 1 Peter 1: 23).... quotation from Oswald Chambers, one of the great Bible teachers of all time.
3. A word from the Lord sent to my church this week, which affirms the importance of discussing the things of God, and then He will reveal himself to us as we talk and lie down and walk. Not as we dispute His word, and refuse to surrender to His Son. But instead surrender to the beguiling temptation of this world: our own in-born sinful desires, the devil and the temptations of the world around us. As there is surrendering by all. The only question is to Whom or to what!...to the iPad...the iPod...the smart phone....the home movie theater....our own intelligence....our political party...our race.....the power of our money....the wisdom of others....the influence of advertising.....the pervasive influence of the Talk Show Hosts... it's unbelievable how much power Oprah Winfrey and CNN have.....our own idea of religion and worldview....our sexual appetites, many and varied.....the needs of our family...whatever
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one. Love the Lord with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, and when you lie down and when you get up........ Deuteronomy 6:4-7 NIV
Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked with each other and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked with them: ............Luke 24:13-15 NIV
There is a connection between the " talking with each other" abut the things of God, as we are doing now, and " Jesus coming up and walking with us".
I pray God that we will engage in this " talking with each other" much more, ( whether in prayer, corporate worship or in other forms of communication) rather than being distracted by " others in this world talking to us", and so allow us to be aware of the Lord Jesus "coming", to His church and speak to us more and more.
4. Finally a recurrent word that we, who serve Christ, on behalf of those who " sit in darkness" are in a war. A Word that I have learned to pray often. So we have to learn engage in spiritual warfare. To protect our own souls and to rescue others.
" For though we live in this world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of this world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets up itself against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought and make it to make it obedient to Christ". 2 Corinthians 10: 4-5 NIV
I pray God then, that as we enter into a new political dispensation here in Jamaica, and await the results of the one in the USA later this year, and indeed in other places, we may surrender ourselves completely to Christ, lift Him up, talk about Him as we sit down and lie down, believe in the written and Living Word of God, and engage in spiritual warfare so that those who sit in darkness and who are in the shadow of death, will not perish but rather be welcomed into the safe and eternal kingdom of God.