The early reports informed us that it was a young girl. A mere wisp of a girl about 12 or 13 years. Now we are being told that she was in fact older and pregnant too. But does it matter. The fact is that once again a nation was rocked with the news of a young woman, raped, probably strangled and burnt to death. And so we mourn for our troubled land. This weekend I was privileged to address a group of Lay magistrates ( they perform an important function in the justice system, attesting to persons identities and doing petty sessions) and inter alia, I recalled a noted Professor of Education and well respected historian, Errol Miller, suggesting in a speech, delivered many years ago, that, " the barbarians were no longer at the gates of the city, but were in fact right here with us". A reference no doubt to the state of Rome before that famous city was " sacked" by barbarians - people of uncouth and uncivilized nature. The question which arises in our minds , as we continue in this country to live with these acts of terror and barbarism, is no longer whether or not the barbarians are sharing space with us in the city, but rather, how will we rescue a nation from the hands of evil and wicked men.
And as we contemplate this issue, of violence against our women and children in particular and the broader society in general, which is the most pressing problem confronting the nation, the recently concluded national census makes for interesting reading. The main line ( once prominent churches.....Anglicans, Roman Catholic, Methodist, and Moravian.....have suffered significant declines in their membership. The more Evangelical and recent churches....Adventists, Church of God and Pentecostals...have the lion share of those who identify themselves with a church. While the number of persons who do not claim any affiliation is also steadily climbing. Food for a lot of thought within religious circles, and beyond.
This week then as I read and listened to the news to see what men are doing and read my Bible to see what men ought to do, the following passages of Scripture and words of inspiration struck me.
A prayer by St Francis of Assisi - the famous preacher, mystic and founder of many monasteries and a great " father of the early church, who is probably most famous in recent times as the author of the much quoted poem, "Lord make me an instrument of your peace, where there is hatred let me sow love....
" Most high, glorious God, enlighten the darkness of my heart and give me, Lord, a correct faith, a certain hope, a perfect charity, sense and knowledge, so that I may carry out your holy and true command"
The implication of this prayer by St. Francis is there is in fact an incorrect faith. An incorrect understanding of the gospel. An incorrect understanding of who Christ is, what He came to do, and therefore an incorrect doctrine. The further and very profound implication of this prayer is that an incorrect faith and doctrine and belief, regardless of the numbers of people who are attracted to that doctrine, has no power to rescue Jamaica or any other nation, or anyone from the power of Sin, which is at the root of all the problems we have here in my troubled country. So whether most Americans or Jamaicans are Religious, and whether or not most of them are of the Christain faith, is really of little moment in respect of the power which flows out of the church to heal the sick, to rescue those who are held captive to " liberal views", and to bring good news to the poor. What really matters in the final analysis, is one's relationship with God in and through Christ Jesus. As it is only when one is " in Christ" that the promised Holy Spirit will flow out of that person and through the church to be "salt" in a nation and "light" for the world.
A word from the prophet Micah -
"What misery is mine!
I am like one who gathers summer fruit
at the gleaning of the vineyard;
there is no cluster of grapes to eat,
none of the early figs that I crave.
The godly have been swept from the land;
not one upright man remains.
All men lie in wait to shed blood;
each hunts his brother with a net.
Both hands are skilled at doing evil;
the ruler demands gifts,
the judge accepts bribes,
the powerful dictate what they desire-
they all conspire together.........
But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord,
I wait for God my Savior;
my God will hear me."
One of the things that the word of God teaches us, is that wickedness and barbarians have been in existence forever. Godly men have been swept from " the land " before. There is a long a and sad history of bloodshed in the land...remember Cain and Abel. Judges perverting the course of justice or corruption among leaders is not a new thing. And the socially disruptive and patently unfair practice of the powerful dictating what they desire is as " old as the hills. Thank God, that the prophet Micah, remembered and declared that God is a faithful God who never leaves His people without hope.
That is why, despite the murder and the rape, and the "enlightened" columnists, like Mark Wignall writing in the Jamaica Observer today http://www.jamaicanobserver.com/ ( one the popular ones in my country) who mock the value of prayer to an Almighty God, the popular song which we sang at the small inner city church where I was privileged to preach this morning, shares a different perspective.
In times like these you need a Savior
In times like these you need an anchor;
Be very sure, be very sure
Your anchor holds and grip the solid Rock.
This Rock is Jesus, Yes He's the One;
This Rock is Jesus, the only One!
Be very sure, be very sure
Your anchor holds and grips the solid Rock
In times like these you need the Bible,
In times like these O be not idle......
The Word of God - This morning in my church, the Epistle appointed for this Sunday is one of the most profound passages of Scripture, which offers a full and sufficient account of the power of the Word of God.
" For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any two edged sword. It penetrates even to diving soul and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give an account". Hebrews 4: 12-13 NIV
The reality, based on the inerrant word of God, as Jesus said " Scripture cannot be broken", is that " nothing in creation is hidden from God". Not the barbaric killings in my country. Not the judges who are " taking a bribe"! Not the corrupt rulers who are taking " gifts". Not the rich and powerful who " force their will" on the weak, vulnerable and and unsuspecting. One day every man woman and child will have to give an account to God. There is no getting away from this reality, however much we may seek to "hide behind our lofty rhetoric", and " much vaunted intellect". As the Bible says, " it is appointed to every man once to die and then the judgment".
Therefore one day, one day all who knowingly and willingly partake in the rebellion against the Holy One of Israel; all who kill and main and rape our women and children; all who use their power to keep people in subjection; all who, though responsible for protecting and promoting justice, but instead seek to pervert the course of justice; all leaders who " sell their souls" for personal gain, will have to give an account to God Almighty.
An inspired word from Oswald Chambers ( the author of " My Utmost for His Highest"...probably the most popular book outside of the Bible)
GREATER WORKS OCTOBER 17
"And greater works than these shall he do; because I go to My Father".
Prayer does not fit us for the greater works: prayer is the greater work. We think of prayer as a common-sense exercise of our higher powers in order to prepare us for God's work. In the teaching of Jesus Christ, prayer is the working of the miracle of Redemption in me which produces the miracle of Redemption in others by the power of God. The way fruit remains is by prayer, but remember it is prayer based on the agony of the Redemption, not on my agony. Only a child gets prayers answered; a wise man does not.
Prayer is the battle; it is a matter of indifference where you are. Whichever God engineers circumstances, the duty is to pray. never allow the thought -- " I am of no use where I am": because you can certainly be of no use where you are not. Wherever God has dumped you down in circumstances pray, ejaculate to him all the time. " Whatsoever ye ask in My name, that will I do". We won't pray unless we get thrills, that is the most intense form of spiritual selfishness. We have to labor along the line of God's direction, and He says pray. " Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth laborers into His harvest.".
There is nothing thrilling about a laboring man's work, but it is the laboring man who makes the conceptions of the his Master possible. You labour at prayer and results happen all the time from His standpoint. What an astonishment will it be to find, when the veil is lifted, the souls that have been reaped by you, simply because you had been in the habit of taking your orders from Jesus Christ...end of quote.
One of the many things that Chambers points out here is that an incorrect faith leads to an incorrect motive for praying. We need to be aware then that one of the more spiritually destructive " doctrines" which the enemy, the devil, has placed into the hearts of vulnerable believers, is one in which prayers are offered up so that Christians can become prosperous. The so called " prosperity gospel". It may be quite an attractive proposition, but within it have been sown the seeds, which if left unattended will lead people away from the Cross of Christ with its suffering and shame - and thus make people become traitors to the cross, the ultimate heresy. And the subtlety of the enemy is so dangerous as this kind of mindset finds it way into all kinds of desires and feelings and " prayers" which have nothing to do with the Redemption about which Oswald Chambers emphasizes. And any " faith " which undermines the power and importance of the Cross of Calvary, has no power to rescue anyone or any nation
Our role as faith children of God, and of a correct faith and a certain hope, then, is to pray with great fervor, that the God who sent His Son to die on the Cross for all mankind, even when we were still sinners, according to the living Word of God, will indeed send more laborers into His vineyard, so that through us, the power of the holy Spirit will flow and convict mankind of Sin, Righteousness and Judgment - according to the word of God ( John 16:8-11 NIV ) which is living and active. Then it will not really matter which denomination has the highest number of the faithful. Then will the number of non-believers decline. Then will there be awakened a new social consciousness. Then and only then, will men treat women with the kind of respect and dignity that is due them; then judges will cease accepting bribes; then leaders will eschew taking gifts from their followers; then the rich and powerful will no longer have their own way with the system, or with vulnerable women; then believers will wait upon the Holy One of Israel with a certain hope and a correct faith. Then will the barbarians be routed. Then will my country have peace once more. The will my Lord be given all the honor and praise due to Him.