It was almost unbelievable. The rows and rows of destroyed homes on New Jersey's waterfront, looked like something more like Hiroshima after the explosion of the first Atomic Bomb and which brought Japan to these knees in World War 11. Then the stories broke of the long lines of persons waiting on gas to " tank up" their generators. Some waiting from the night before. The flooding of the train-lines in Manhattan, the mass evacuation of hospitals, "the bucket brigade" of soldiers carrying gas up many flights of stairs to feed the voracious appetite of the standby generators for the hospital - 900 gallons per hour. The numbing cold, the flooded basements, the army of people walking to and from work, the unfortunate deaths from falling tress. All of this taking place in the United States of America, the world's only superpower. Amazing what the forces of nature can do. So sad that so many suffered, and continue to suffer. We here in Jamaica, a small poor underdeveloped country despite our problems, have much for which to give thanks. Some in the capital city Kingston are still without light. many in the eastern end of the country are trying to put the pieces of their lives together. But we did not suffer the same kind of devastation that hit the New York/ New Jersey area of America.
And yet we continue with the madness, as just tonight, the local television station reported that two women had been murdered. Before that, yet another pregnant woman was killed - allegedly by her boyfriend. Who was then set up on by an angry mob, and had to be rescued by the police. In the midst of all of that, news broke of two security guards beating a young male student who was allegedly caught in an " uncompromising position in the bathroom with another male"! The two guards were fired immediately and have since been arrested by the police. Their actions were also condemned by members of civil society locally, and no doubt internationally, as the video of the beatings were reportedly posted , at least for a while on you-tube. Of course most Jamaicans along with the rest of the International community, have a great interest in the elections to be held in the USA on November 6, to see whether or not Barack Obama will be given a second term.
As I considered these things happening around me, and no doubt my own personal struggles, the word from the Lord this week was as follows:
Thursday Nov 1,...sent to some people who have authority in my church
Last night while reading the story of the transfiguration of Jesus in the Luke account, I was very struck by the fact that the narrative recorded the fact that Peter and his companions were " very sleepy", at the time when Jesus' full glory was being revealed. Immediately I recalled also the same sleepiness, this time on account of their great sorrow, on the part of the disciples when Jesus faced His greatest trial in Gethsemane. And Jesus' warning them to pray without ceasing less they fall into temptation.
Clearly the Spirit of God was saying something important. For my part, I made sure not to allow any sleepiness to overcome me, as happens sometimes during my bedtime devotions and even while praying before falling asleep and the Lord protected me from much suffering on account of it.
Then tonight as I thought about writing, I recalled the five wise and five foolish virgins and how they all fell asleep waiting on the bridegroom.
All of this preceding a revelation during my early morning devotions that the Kingdom of God is not a place but rather a person. And wherever Christ reigns there the kingdom of God is......and which revelation came after reading the gospel for this week when Jesus told the man that he was " not far from the Kingdom", for having answered so wisely. Then the Lord led me through several passages in John including......, " you diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life".
Our role then is make sure that we submit to to the authority of Jesus in our lives...then the kingdom of God will spread more and more in this country. But first we have to learn to "wait upon the Lord", and not fall asleep....cease to be vigilant. So my lesson this week on submitting to authority was for a specific purpose and very timely indeed.
One of the things we have to learn as a discipline in life, as people of God, is to be vigilant. Personal trials may just a heartbeat away, or they may come another day, or week. But come they will. Problems for a church, for a community, and for a nation quite often do not announce themselves long in advance, so that one can prepare. In my country there is a wise old saying which captures it perfectly, " trouble don't set like rain". And the one thing the enemy, the devil, wishes to achieve, is for us to lose focus, to be so overwhelmed by our circumstances, to be distracted, so that when the Lord speaks to us in a special way, or reveals Himself in a special manner, or warns us of impending trouble, we
"are sleepy, tired and act foolishly". No wonder then that the Scriptures advise us to " keep our eyes fixed on the author and perfecter of our faith" - the Lord Jesus Christ. I was watching a program on local television TVJ entitled " Profile" hosted by Ian Boyne, locally and Internationally acclaimed journalist for some of his interviews. His guest was Shelly-Ann Frazer-Pryce, the famous Jamaican female sprinter who won the 100m gold medal at the recently concluded Olympic Games in London. As good interviewers are wont to do, he pressed Shelly -Ann to reveal what were some of her motivating factors that had made her so successful. And what kept her going during her ( inevitable) " down times". One of the things she revealed which brought joy to my heart, coming from, not just a young woman, but a young and now rich and famous one, who could easily have attributed, as others have done, her success to hard work only. Yes she did that too, but made special note that she spoke to God a lot. This story, in my mind cements the need for all of us to get into the discipline of speaking to God " a lot". As according to the Word, He is a God who can do " abundantly more than what we can ask or imagine". And not just because of what He can do, but as our pastor reminded us in a " teaching sermon" this morning at church, because of Who God is. A God who loved us long before we loved Him. A God who delights in our company. A God who demonstrated the full extent of His " Agape" ...self-sacrificing...love for us, on the Cross of Calvary, even " while we were still sinners". So then, this is a God who according to the young people we need to " get next to". To be vigilant in speaking to, and listening to, and most importantly in being obedient to Him. Yes the storms of life will come, but we have a God who is " a very present help in times of trouble".
Friday November 2.......send to a journalist who hosted a discussion on the beating of the male ( homosexual) student by the security guards.
Oh, that their hearts would be inclined to fear me and keep all my commands always, so that it may go well with them and their children forever. Deut. 5:29. Heard you this evening. This cry from the Lord offers a better solution to social decay than what you discussed. Indeed the only permanent solution.
Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless device from LIME.
One of the things that an influential member of civil society who appeared on the program on Nationwide FM 90 ( A revolution in media) bemoaned, was the fact of the rise in intolerance in the society at large, to people who were " the other". And she cited terrible atrocities which she had personally witnessed being meted out to " persons of unsound mind", to " street people", and to the " physically challenged, as examples of this kind of mindset in our nation. And which action against the male student was to be seen in that larger context. Others have pointed to the rise in mob behaviour in general in our country, as also part of the social decay in our land. One of the ironies in this particular situation, is that some, not all, of the critics are blaming the church for essentially for " fanning the flames of intolerance" by preaching that homosexuality is a Sin. Which in my understanding of the Scriptures it certainly is. But what they fail to point out is that, certainly in the Jamaican context, the mores and values which shaped our society and made it once peaceful and stable, the breakdown of which many are now lamenting without : of love for God and neighbour, compassion for the helpless and needy, forgiveness for those who sin against you and even persecute you; were the direct products of the kind of teaching and preaching as found in Deuteronomy 5:29. And in large measure if truth be told, within the limits of an imperfect world, " things did go very well for them and their children for a while". As that was the kind of society in which I was privileged have my upbringing. one that " feared God". Now people fear neither God nor man, and do whatever they are " big and bad enough" to do. With impunity!
And the point I was, therefore, making to one of Jamaica's most respected journalists, who to be fair, in recent times, is being more nuanced in his approach to this "vexed", issue, is that, what we once had, can be regained, but only if we are once again prepared as a society, to submit to the authority of God in Christ Jesus. Otherwise we will be forever lamenting the many and varied ills of our nation. As persons who submit to Christ, do not submit to mob rule, on the one hand, but rather act in love an compassion. Nor do they, on the other hand, rebel openly and publicly, or for that matter in privacy of their homes as if God does not see them there too, against their Creator, who made them to be holy, as He God is holy. As a people of God then we have to be vigilant, and not " fall asleep" in our sharing of the love of God to all persons, regardless of colour, creed, sexual orientation, status in society, perceived antagonism to the things of God, or even openly disrespectful and dismissive, as we continue to " lift up the name of Christ". And He will then " draw all men unto himself". What then applies to Jamaica, is also equally important for the USA, in respect of the need for the leaders of that country, and its people, if they wish that " it may go well with them and their children forever", is to submit to the authority of the written Word of God, the Holy Bible, and the living Word, Christ Jesus. How this will play out on Tuesday night , as we say here in Jamaica "only God He knows."
Saturday November 3,...sent to the same journalist and to others in the profession
Then he said to Thomas, Put you finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.
Thomas said to him, My Lord and my God. John 20:28 NIV
Christianity, if false, is of no importance. And, if true, of infinite importance. The one thing it cannot be is moderately important. - C.S. Lewis ( who before he became one of the best known Christian writers and apologetic was an atheist).
New every morning is the love,
Our wakening and uprising prove,
Through sleep and darkness safely brought,
Restored to life and power and thought.......
Thank God for Jesus. Thank God for life. Thank God for a new day.
Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless device from LIME.
This message does not need much comment from me. The critical issue here is captured by C. S. Lewis, a favourite of many who do not even profess Christ, but who appreciate his candor and clarity. So then, is Christianity of moderate importance to you? And if that option is not available, do you go against the whole grain of history of the Jamaican and American and indeed world history, and " throw it out the window". Or do you like Thomas declare, to Jesus...and then submit to His authority....as not everyone who says Lord, Lord will enter the kingdom of God...... " My Lord and my God.
That's an even more profound choice that than between Obama and Romney. As one will determine the future of America for another four years, or even perhaps a few more, but the other will determine your future, not just for life here on earth, but for infinity.
Saturday November 3....sent to my church leaders
Hark my soul! It is the Lord; 'tis thy Saviour, hear his word; Jesus speaks, and speaks to thee, 'say poor sinner, lovest thou me? " When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, Simon son of John do you truly love me more than these. Yes Lord, he sad, you know that I love you. Jesus said, Feed my lambs. Again Jesus said, Simon son of John, do you truly love me? He answered, Yes, Lord you know that I love you. Jesus said, Take care of my sheep............... John 21:15-16 NIV " It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be build up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. The we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching................" Ephesians 4:11-14 NIV " As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with each other in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit - just as you were called to one hope when you were called - one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all. who is over all and through all and in all. But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it says: When he ascended on high he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men. Ephesians 4:1-8 NIV This Word came at a time when I was taught, and accepted, a lesson about submission to authority, and the diversity of the body of Christ. And so I repented. PeaceLWJ Sent from my iPad
The final word for this week was a reminder about unity in the light of the findings of the recent Census in Jamaica which revealed that the mainline churches were losing ground to the more charismatic churches in terms of the number of persons who claimed an affiliation with a particular denomination. Much has been written about this phenomenon, and much equally, has been spoken about it on radio and television. In the context of this discussion about being vigilant as people of God, this final word from the Lord this week, tells us that what is of importance as church, is our commitment to preserving the unity of the church, and respect for the diverse gifts within the body of Christ. Those who do otherwise, and " ridicule the efforts and witness of other churches", are not acting in love and with an understanding of who is the giver of all gifts and for what purpose. A careful reading of the Ephesian passage, and to which I was led to read in the middle of the night, will reveal that our main purpose as church is to become " mature in Christ". And which maturity will ensure than we will not be " blown here and there by every wind of teaching". If truth be told maturity is not a common feature of today's church, so heavily influenced by the world around us; so easily led astray by the temptations of our time; so easily falling asleep when the challenges of life threaten our faith. No wonder the Luke passage about the Sower of the Seed says that " and we do not mature".
Mature Christians do not become less vigilant in defending the faith even in the face of " mighty powers" Mature Christians do not " run with the crowd" and cause the name of Christ to be dishonored. Mature Christians depend on the Rock that is Christ when the storms of life come blowing. Mature Christians seek to maintain the unity of the body of Christ. Mature Christians talk and listen to God a lot, and obey Him always, that it " may go well with them and their children and their neighbours and their country forever. Amen