Sunday, February 12, 2012

Whitney Houston's anthems and an Anthem for Jesus Christ

I had heard Whitney Houston songs for years but never watched her videos. So tonight I went on YouTube and they had a special set of videos for this world famous superstar who really died too soon at age 48 years, yesterday. As I watched and listened, the lyrics of one song in particular were almost strangely prophetic. To the beat of very haunting music she sang," If tomorrow is judgment day and I'm standing on the front line and the Lord asks me what I did with my life, I'll say that spent it with you...your love is my love and my love is your love...if I lose my fame and fortune and I am the street and I sleeping in Grand Central Station, it's ok if you're sleeping with me......if I should die...don't cry for me....and no matter what the people say I'll be waiting for you on judgment day. Wow! So did Michael " gone too soon" Jackson die at a similar age and perhaps under the same circumstances. And many others have trod the same path at a relatively young age. As a child music was my life, followed by football, athletics and perhaps church in that order. Many songs became " anthems" for my friends and and I. So we knew all the words, and can remember some even at this age. The Drifters, Ben E King, Dionne Warwick - Whitney's aunt - Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Nat King Cole, Sam Cook, The Supremes, The Jackson Five. And then later on we listened to and appreciated the music of many of the contemporary singers, although by then other more important priorities had overcome my love for popular music, as my love for Christ grew and eventually became supreme. Sadly, there are many folks, not just youngsters as I was then, those I can understand, but more mature persons like myself, in the world in general, and in my country in particular, who still " worship" these superstars and spend so much of their time with iPods, watching videos, and attending the latest stage shows locally and abroad. Being forever young! So when judgment day comes as Whitney sang in " Your Love is my love", what are we really going to say to the Lord? That we had a good time on earth! That we wore the sexiest dress as I saw Rhianna wearing - outrageously revealing - as I came home and saw her being interviewed on TV prior to performing at the Grammys! That we went to Carnival in Trinidad every year, even at eighty and about to go into a wheel chair! Really now! That we were there when Celine Dion delivered a blockbuster performance at the now highly rated Jazz Festival on Jamaica's famous Northcoast. So when we die as Whitney sang, do we really think that our superstars and our beloved will be waiting in heaven for us on judgment day. In fact do we really think there is going to be a judgment day at all! And how does all this help a nation gripped with one of the highest murder rate in the world, and stifling by years of anemic, at best , economic growth. Which has left so many of our people in poverty and in desperate circumstances whilst many live as if there is no tomorrow. Perhaps the suddenness of Whitney's death will cause a few to pause and think. Maybe! In the midst of all of this the Lord led me, again, to reflect on the words of what I believe should be the " Anthem " for the church. A song which has influenced greatly this Sunday night Internet Ministry which is ongoing now for over four years, and to which lyrics I have been led back to time and time again. But this is the first time that He has put it into my head to advocate for it to be an Anthem. Coincidence? I think not! My God, I love thee; not because I hope for heaven thereby, nor yet because those who love thee not are lost eternally. Thou, O my Jesus, thou didst me upon the cross embrace; for me didst bear the nails and spear, and manifold disgrace. and griefs and torments numberless, and sweat of agony; yea, death itself - and all for me who was thine enemy. Then why, O Blessed Jesus Christ, should I not love thee well? Not for the sake of winning heaven, nor of escaping hell; not from the hope of gaining aught, not seeking a reward; but as thyself hast loved me, O ever-loving Lord. So would I love thee, dearest Lord, and in thy praise will sing; solely because thou art my God, and my most loving King. Perhaps Whitney, and Michael, and other less known folks who died recently in my country including a popular talk show host Wilmot Perkins who once " flirted " with Christianity", came at some point near their death to love Jesus. I don't know, and it is not my business to judge. Only God can, and should. The point is that anyone who comes to appreciate the love of Christ, and in turn loves the Lord Jesus equally, in this profound way as the writer of this hymn did, then there is no limit to God can and will do through him or her in this nation and in the world abroad. That's why it should be an " anthem ' for the church so that everybody will know and reflect deeply on the words. Words which are radically opposed to the " prosperity gospel" - a doctrine which encourages people to love God for what He can do for them in a material way, rather than loving Jesus...only because He suffered and died for us...who were His enemies! Words which reflect the call of Jesus to " Love the Lord thy God with all thine heart.......". Truth which calls for a return to the radical gospel of sin and grace, the muting of which in parts of the world, according to the Rev. Timothy Keller may explain the shift of the center Christianity from the North to the South. A point which I raised with some of the leaders of the of my church and some media persons in a note today: "Something to think about as the church grapples with this issue of the gay and lesbian lifestyle. I am currently reading a book by the NY Times best selling author Rev. Timothy Keller. His fame came from " The Reason for God: Belief in an age of Skepticism". The name of his latest book is " Kings" Cross: The Story of the World in the Life of Jesus". In a chapter entitled ' The Trap", he quotes from Andrew Wallis " a distinguished historian of world Christianity", who makes the point that wherever other great religions began, that is still their center today. Islam; Middle East. Buddhism: Far East. Hinduism: India. Not so Christianity - moving from Jerusalem to the Hellenistic Mediterranean world to Northern Europe and North America over centuries. In the past decade a major corner was turned: " More than 50 percent of Christians now live in the southern hemisphere." In the year 1900 Wallis points out, Africa was only 1 percent Christian. Now Christians make up nearly half the African the turn of this century USA had 2.4 m Episcopalians and other Anglicans......whilst Nigeria had 17m and Uganda 8m. Why this constant shift? Wallis argues that " One must conclude, I think, that there is a certain vulnerability, a fragility, at the heart of Christianity. You might say that this is the vulnerability of the Cross"...the heart of the gospel is the cross, and the cross is all about giving up power, pouring our resources and serving. Wallis hinted that when Christianity is in a place of power and wealth for a long period, the radical message of sin and grace can become muted or even lost. Then Christianity starts to transmute into a nice, safe religion, one that's for respectable people who try to be good. And eventually it becomes virtually dormant in those places and the center moves somewhere else........." A call to return to the radical gospel of sin, the proper understanding of which, according to Bonhoeffer - the German Pastor and theologian who paid the supreme sacrifice for opposing Hitler during World War Two - in a meditation which affected my greatly this week, can be the only basis for discipleship. A TRUE RELATIONSHIP WITH CHRIST - DIETRICH BONHOEFFER VERSE MATTHEW 9: 9 Excerpt ...Discipleship mean an adherence to Christ, and, because Christ is the object of that adherence, it must take the form of discipleship....with an abstract idea it is possible enter into a relationship of formal knowledge, to become enthusiastic about it, and perhaps even put it into practice, but it can never be followed in personal obedience. Christianity without the living Christ is inevitably Christianity without discipleship, and Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ. It remains an abstract idea, a myth which has a place for the Fatherhood of God, but omits Christ as the living Son. And Christianity of that kind is nothing more or les than the end of discipleship. In such a religion there is trust in God, but no following of Christ. Because the Son of God became man, because he is the mediator, for that reason alone the only true relation we can have with him is to follow him. Discipleship is bound to Christ as the mediator, and where it is deeply understood, it necessarily implies faith in the Son of God as the mediator. only the mediator, the God-man, can call men to follow him. The point is that, unless and until we properly appreciate the, " nails and the spear and the manifold disgrace", that happened on the cross, " yea death itself and all for me", then we will never have the need for a mediator between us sinners and a Holy God. And so we have many in our society who flirt with Christianity, but " run away" when called upon to be disciples. Because being a disciple means that you just cannot go around listening to Whitney Houston, Bob Marley and Michael Jackson all day long. Discipleship means that Christ has to be your first and only love - solely because He died for you, and not because you wish to go to heaven or escape hell or " grow your business" or find a lover, or keep him or her, or win the Lotto, or win the elections. Many have a place for " Father God" in their hearts but no place for sacrificing as a disciple. And there is no such Christianity, and people need to know how far they are from " doing the will of God" - which is to believe in His Son whom He sent to die on a cross for us Only a total surrender then, to Christ as a disciple will enable the love of Christ, and the power of God through the Holy Spirit, to flow like the promised streams of living water to rescue people from the worshiping of idols of money, sex, drugs, guns, their political heroes, their favourite talk show hosts and favourite artistes, the act of which collectively, is devastating the lives of so many, young and old. In Jamaica and in Whitney Houston's home, the USA. And causing them not only to die too soon, but worse to perish. And Jesus came because God so loved the world....that people should not perish. I pray God that people will indeed use this song as an anthem so that they not perish and help others not to perish. Amen