All around the world, educators face a huge problem. How to deal with the reality of young people who are sexually active, and are therefore at risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases, especially HIV/AIDS. This week, in my country, hopefully in pursuit of that trying to solve that problem, although there are suspicions of another agenda, a very misguided, culturally inappropriate, and morally unacceptable family life education manual came to light in the full glare of the media. Have you ever had anal sex without a condom? How many sexual partners have you had? These and others, were some of the questions posed in the offending book, crafted for grade 7-9 students - first to third form. Predictably parents in particular, and the entire society in general, were " up in arms" and livid, that their children could have been exposed, if some had their way, to that kind of material. What were they thinking, and who was responsible, were some of the questions that people wanted answered. The present Minister of Education very promptly " pulled" the manual and issued a directive for the entire matter to be reviewed, while the former Minister bemoaned the fact that, during his tenure, he had had to make the same decision as this matter had surfaced before. So what is really going on here! Is there a " hidden hand" with a not so hidden agenda trying to force the Jamaican people to accept something which is completely foreign to us. This story was huge this week, even overshadowing, to an extent, the annual conference of the governing party, this weekend, during which the Prime Minister was expected to answer some of the critics who were of the opinion that she had been too silent, and not sufficiently specific, on her plans to deal with the critical issue of the economy. Even the discussion about the high murder rate, a constant feature of our life here in Jamaica, for a brief moment, took a back seat as people's emotions were riled up about this issue. There is another, not unrelated, as least in my view, matter which caught my attention, and that too is a problem worldwide. What is the Jamaican music culture? I listened this week, very carefully on radio , to a discussion between someone with a Phd and another pursuing a masters degree discussing this issue in the context of controversial lyrics by an up and coming dance hall artist, Tommie Lee, who is said, I don't listen to him, to be " glorifying", or " bigging up " demons in some of his songs. And further, that other well known international artistes, including Lady Gaga, are " into" this kind of association with demons and the dark side, and that many Jamaicans apparently appreciate this kind of music. So really, what is now our culture? There is supposed to be a part two on Beyond The Headlines with DJ Miller, on Radio-Jamaica ( RJR). Hopefully I will catch it. The closest I have come to that kind of discussion with one of " many sons" whose fingernails were painted black, and who in a response to my questioning, shared that it was the " Gothic Style". That conversation too, will continue.
So in the midst of this madness in my country, very clear madness, which overshadowed serious political and social issues, what did the Creator of Heaven and Earth, the One who the Psalmist declares:
" From heaven the Lord looks down
and sees all mankind;
from his dwelling place he watches all who live on earth -
he who forms the hearts of all
who considers everything they do. ( Psalm 33:13. NIV)
what did He say this week?
The central message from the Lord this week is addressed to men in our society. To women also, but primarily to men. And the reason for this comes out in the first message below which was sent to three men in a church in the central part of my country, and copied to senior members of the church - man and women. The message came one morning as I was led to spend time reflecting on one of the all time great hymns of the church...Search me O God. Words which speak to the essence of our faith in God in and through Christ Jesus, as enunciated in the first line of the message. Why? The story is to long to be included here, but I would encourage everyone to read Numbers chapter 16, in where the main reason why Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil and avert the wrath of God can be found. And which works of the evil one is still very present in my country both in the declared and hidden reasons why the offending manual was introduced into my country, and why this dangerous pre-occupation with demonic forces is emerging in our music. No wonder one of the founding fathers of the church Augustine of Hippo observed that: " in the old ( testament) the new ( testament) lies hidden and in the new the old is laid bare.
A MESSAGE TO MEN ( AND WOMEN)
There are several messages in this powerful hymn.
1. Search me O God.....as you are a Holy God and I cannot stand before you unless all my wickedness is removed.
2. Out of the heart of men flow all kinds of evil......The most dangerous aspect of our lives which need searching, cleansing and redeeming is that which flows out of or own hearts - our thoughts, desires, and ambitions.
3. A desire for cleansing begins and depends on God's Word - Christ The Living Word and The Written Word of Holy Scripture ......fulfill thy word and make me pure within. A desire to know God's Word must become paramount in our lives.
4. Even the sins of the past need cleansing.....fill me with fire where once I burned with shame
5. Absolute surrender, total obedience....my passion, self and pride.... to God should be our desire each day.
6. A Revival in the church and in the nation will only come with the absolute reign of the Holy Spirit in the lives and work of the men in our congregation. For far too long the women, for the most part, have been totally focused, without apology, on loving the Lord Jesus. We men need to join with them and then this nation will be truly blessed.
A message for me, which I share with you. Please, as you are moved, as leaders in your church, share with other men in need. Whether in your congregation or in another.
Search me, O God,And know my heart today;Try me, O Savior,Know my thoughts, I pray.See if there beSome wicked way in me;Cleanse me from every sinAnd set me free.
I praise Thee, Lord,For cleansing me from sin;Fulfill Thy Word,And make me pure within.Fill me with fireWhere once I burned with shame;Grant my desireTo magnify Thy Name.
Lord, take my life,And make it wholly Thine;Fill my poor heartWith Thy great love divine.Take all my will,My passion, self and pride;I now surrender, Lord
In me abide.
O Holy Ghost,Revival comes from Thee;Send a revival,Start the work in me.Thy Word declaresThou wilt supply our need;For blessings now,O Lord, I humbly plead.
In respect of the second message below, when you do read the story of Kohath, Dathan and Abiram, who " rebelled against God", and how when they and their entire families perished, the whole assembly of Israel came under judgment, as they joined in the " grumbling against Moses", and how an " atonement" had to quickly made to stop the resultant plagued, we will get an idea of the kind of danger that hovers over my country. For the reality is that is that if we persist in " rebelling" against the Lord, culturally in our music, morally in what we teach our children, and socially in how we murder one another, then God will indeed " give us our to our own desires". And trust me, you don't want for that to happen to a nation, as the story of Sodom and Gomorrah is not fiction. So who will stand up for our nation in the midst of the madness. This is the question which the second message addressed.
THE SECOND MESSAGE - O FOR A FEW GOOD ( RIGHTEOUS) MEN
I usually read God's Word before my devotions at night after which I retire to bed. Tonight, I felt an urge to read again Charles Stanley's, " How To Listen To God". The first reference in the introductory chapter to the Bible was Psalm 81, and the following passage is underlined in my NIV Bible:
" But my people would not listen to me;
Israel would not listen to me;
So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts to follow the their own devices".
Now this is a most dangerous state of affairs, as the very same phrase is used in Roman 1, when God " gave over" people to their own lusts and we all know the end of that story. If you don't read the chapter carefully. But that led me to mourn for my country and to wonder if God would really "give Jamaica over to our own devices", forever. Because, we, like the children of Israel, " would not listen to Him". And thus we would have no hope. Immediately, without any thought on my part, the Spirit of God reminded me of Abraham's call for mercy on Sodom and Gomorrah ....for the sake of a few righteous men. As recorded in Genesis 18.
It cannot be coincidence that this morning I was moved to send " A Message for Men( and Women) to a few men in St Gabriel's church in May Pen and then to members of my church. Essentially, based on the hymn " Search me O God...." to say to men that revival in Jamaica will only come when men decide to repent our own sins, and love the Lord Jesus Christ as women do, for the most part. And then, tonight, this message from the Lord comes so clearly. And so O my God, I pray that the men of this nation will stand up and be counted, so that our nation will not always be " given over to our own devices" by the Lord. But rather that the promised " times of refreshing " will come if we repent. And this " refreshing" is none other than that One Righteous Man Christ Himself, because of Whose sacrifice on the Cross of Calvary, the whole world is spared the wrath of God. That's why we love Him so...in the Name of Jesus, in the Name of Jesus, we shall have the victory....in the Name of Jesus. But we have to believe and be obedient to our Redeemer, and then our nation will have peace. Not before.
Sent from my iPad
The third and final message to my church and other members of the wider church in Jamaica, took me back to the Sodom and Gomorrah story, and in particular how Abraham begged God, for the sake of a few righteous me, to spare the cities. Well, we all knew what happened! But the more important lesson, much more than the destruction of those two ancient cities, is that in fact, there was One Righteous Man who God sent, to avert His wrath for All mankind, And that God-man was and is Jesus. And this God-man who called unto Himself disciples and sent them out into the world to spread the good news ( the Gospel) of repentance and forgiveness of Sins, is still calling a " few righteous ( good) men to spread the very same good news in Jamaica, as He has not forgotten us, and our many challenges. Some of which surfaced in my country this week, publicly and privately. As I was moved to text this quote to one of my many " daughters" as a result of a private conversation, after being led to read John 1: 5-7 NIV.
Sin will keep you from this book. This book will keep you from Sin. - Dwight I. Moody.
" This is message we have heard from him and declare to you: god is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to to have fellowship with him, yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, e have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
THE THIRD MESSAGE....O FOR A FEW RIGHTEOUS ( GOOD) MEN CONTD.
".......So when God destroyed the cities of the plain, he remembered Abraham, and brought Lot out of the catastrophe that overthrew the cities where Lot had lived.
And so I prayed:
" Good Lord remember your Son Jesus and protect this nation from your wrath for we have done so much wrong. Good Lord remember the faithful in your church, the body of your Son and have mercy on this nation, as we know that the evil we have done is so grievous and the "outcry" against us has reached up to you. O God of mercy remember the remnant in your nation, even the few righteous men and women who are faithful to you, and have mercy on this nation."
As I prayed the words of this most profound hymn, which we, in the Anglican Church, sing before or during Holy Communion( Lord's Supper) came into my mind.
And now, O Father, mindful of the love,
that brought us, once for all, on Calvary's tree,
and having with him that pleads above,
we here present, we here spread forth to thee t
hat only offering perfect in thine eyes,
the one true, pure, immortal sacrifice.
Look, Father, look on his anointed face,
and only look on us as found in him;
look not on the misusings of thy grace,
our prayers so languid, and our faith so dim;
for lo! Between our sins and their reward
we set the passion of thy Son our Lord.
And then for those our dearest and our best( Lot was Abraham's nephew)
by this prevailing presence we appeal;
O fold them closer to thy mercy's breast,
O do thine utmost for their soul's true weal;
from tainting mischief keep them white and clear,
and crown thy gifts with strength to persevere.
O God, if we could really see our fellow Jamaicans, all of them regardless of their actions, as " one of our own", ...our dearest and our best......then we would pray more often for this nation. And God would hear our cry in and through Christ Jesus. And who knows that the God of justice would remember Jamaica and save us from catastrophe. What a challenge for the church!
Sent from my iPad
No doubt tomorrow's headlines will feature some aspect of the Prime Minister's speech, depending on the " agenda" of the particular news room. And the issue of what almost happened in our schools will once again take a " back seat" to the pressing economic an social agenda. The reality is however, that the kind of danger that confronts my country, and its citizens, as a consequent of its continued rebellion against the Lord, is far greater than the very real and challenging issues of poverty, a huge debt, weak economic growth and a high murder rate. And in fact is The Problem, although many cannot make the connection, why these " pressing issues" continue to " plague" our country. And I use the word deliberately in the context of Number 16. The one redeeming thing that we have going for us, is that which the Word of God reveals:
" My children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense - Jesus Christ, the Righteous one. " 1 John 2:1
The challenge for the church is not to isolate itself from the society, from the likes of Tommy Lee or he ill advised proponents of that controversial manual, in anger, or bitterness or in frustration. But to more and more accept that God has placed " a few Righteous men and women" in this nation, to serve and to call people back to God in and through Christ our Lord. Because they too are made in His image and likeness and God loves them all. And to accept that to suffer for the good of others, even though they may not understand it, nor appreciate it, is our lot to bear, even in the midst of the madness. A kind of madness that is well over two thousand years old, and for which at that time, He whose name we bear, Christ Jesus, died for a world that neither knew Him nor accepted him.