Monday, March 12, 2012
Last week, a member of the Royal house of Windsor, Prince Henry ( always known as Prince Harry), the grandson of the Queen of England, paid a visit to my country and caused quite a stir. Winning a race ( illegally) with world the reigning Olympic 100 meters champion Usain Bolt, by false starting and refusing to stop; confirming his fame as a marksman by scoring maximum points at a shooting range at the local army's headquarters; wearing high fashion, as yet available, Russell and Bromley high fashion desert shoes; and displaying his good manners and also perhaps a bit of youthful exuberance by penning a gracious note on his departure by starting with " wow", expressing his thanks for having made good friends and having had a wonderful time, and ended by requesting that we organize a "round two" for him. And that was it. Apart from the inevitable post event discussion on whether or not we got value for the 3 million Ja. dollar spent - a bit over 30,000 USD - that was it. Great fun was had by all who had a chance to meet him and watch the events on TV. And then he left for other shores. But his visit heralded more than just the celebration of sixty years of his grandmother's coronation as Queen, as in an inner city, on that very same day, police in an alleged shoot out with allegedly armed gunmen, killed six persons. Including a 13 year old child. Thus setting off a very public firestorm of protests, charges and counter-charges of the abuse of power and the over dependence of the police on the use of deadly force. This against the background of ten persons killed in one day earlier this year and a significant increase in the amount of police killings. The huge challenge that my country faces is that armed gangs are rampant in many of these inner city communities. They command huge resources because of their criminal activities, including extortion, and thus exert tremendous influence in both the upper and lower echelons of the society. The now notorious Christopher Coke, better known as Dudus, currently languishing in a jail in the USA, is a case in point. And they are not afraid to engage the security forces with deadly force themselves. Therein lies the dilemma! How do policemen, who put their very lives on the line, every-time they leave their homes and families, walk the difficult line of having respect for the human rights of every individual, which every civilized society has to demand, whilst protecting their own lives. But there were more challenges this week. How does Barack Obama respond, on the one hand to a saber-rattling Israeli Prime Minister, perhaps legitimately concerned about the threat of nuclear weapons in Iran, but apparently unconcerned about the possible firestorm that could attend such action; and on the other to the Republican party front runners, Rommney and Santorum, who apparently wish to give Israel a " blank cheque " to engage in a Bush style preemptive strike? How does my Prime Minister in a poor third world country, recently elected to office with a mandate to " balance people's lives whilst balancing the books", engage the International power brokers in a discussion on that subject, without getting caught up in a firestorm about a " Greek style bail -out , whilst awaiting the results of her Finance Minister's negotiation with the IMF? How does a church respond with compassion to one its own accused of a sexually related crime whilst seeking to influence " sinners"? How does a society respond to the headlines, on two separate occasions this week, in the most popular Daily Newspaper - the Daily Gleaner - which featured the growing challenge of, not just Lesbian, but aggressive lesbian behaviour, in some of its high schools. There are no easy and simple answers to this challenges. And Prince Henry ( always known as Prince Harry) cannot help us one bit in this regard. But there is a member of another House of Royalty, of the House of David, Jesus Christ of Nazareth, who according to the hymnwriter, left his throne and his kingly crown in heaven, over thousand years ago, and came to earth - and the world has never been the same since. The same Christ whom they crucified, is now risen and ascended and seated at the right hand of God the Father, left behind witnesses to His Glory and power. And these disciples, guided by the Spirit of Christ, wrote a a book - New Testament. Which together with the experience of Jesus' forefathers, the Jews who also guided by the same Spirit of God, and wrote an earlier book - the Old Testament, constitute the Bible, and in which we have answers to all of life's challenges. Last week I wrote about the late John Stott, who was the chaplain to the same Queen whose grandson visited with us, and whose book, " Decisive Issues facing Christians Today" , I've been reading as part of my Lenten disciplines. And which message ended by a discussion of the importance of having the mind of Christ - the only way that we will be able to think straight in these complex times and through these complex issues. In summary at the end of the second chapter, Stott makes the point that for our encouragement, so that we neither oversimplify the issues, nor be overwhelmed by them, God has given us four gifts. 1. A mind to think - God has made us rational intelligent creatures 2. He has given us the Bible - and its witness to Christ, so that we can direct and control our thinking by grasping the fourfold framework and great themes of Christianity: Creation, The Fall, Redemption and The end. 3. He has given us the gift of The Holy Spirit - the Spirit of Truth, who opens up Scriptures to us and illumines our minds so that we can understand and apply them. 4. God has given us the gift of the Christian community - as the context in which we do our thinking. Stott claims that its rich hetrogenicity is the best safeguard against blinkered visions.......with rich insights contributing to the interpretation of Scripture from different backgrounds, it will be hard to maintain our prejudices. So this week, on two separate occasions, The Spirit of Christ of the House of David, guided hand and my mind to open the Bible and read the following passages of Scripture. And which revelation I then sent to other members of my home church. THE FIRST MESSAGE Therefore, O house of Israel, I will judge you, each according to his ways, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent! Turn away from all offenses; then sin will not be your downfall. Rid yourself of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent and live! Ezekiel 18:30-32 Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers. Luke 22:31-32 NIV I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours...........I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name - the name you gave me - so that they may be one as we are one. John 17:9-11 NIV . ......but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore, he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. Hebrews 7:24-25 NIV And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ - to the glory and praise of God. Philippians 1:9-11 NIV Lord renew thy church beginning with me, Lord renew thy church that the church may renew the nation(s). Amen I cannot begin to explain the reassurance and the power that the knowledge of the fact that, not only did my Lord pray for all those who believed in His Kingship, and all those who would come to believe also, but the awesome reality that, Jesus always lives to intercede for me. Many years ago I heard a preacher, make the point during a radio broadcast, that whenever in Scripture a name is repeated, the warning is not just for the individual, but also for the church. So when Jesus warns Simon( Peter) and calls his name twice, and says that Satan has asked to " sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you", our Lord was also issuing a prophetic word about the church. So all of us who have had Satan " raise up in our very faces" this week and before, can take very great comfort, that Jesus has, and ever lives to pray for us. What a comfort! What power to fight against evil! What joy in the midst of trials! For both church and individuals. I pray that all members of the security forces could " have this knowledge and depth of insight", so that they may " remain blameless until the day of Christ's coming". That as they do what is right and just, and commit their lives to Him, Jesus will indeed pray for their protection from evil. I pray that they might appreciate , despite great provocation, that the God and Father of Jesus, born of Mary, but descended from David, " takes no pleasure in the death of anyone, but that they should repent and live". THE SECOND MESSAGE - WAS SENT IN TWO PARTS. THE FIRST PART ACTUALLY FOLLOWS ON THE SECOND IN TIME Sent to the church this morning - just being obedient. Didn't think about it but the recent news and headlines in yesterday's Gleaner must have contributed to it. As well as Israel's saber-rattling about Iran, and the GOP's, well Rommney and Santorum, almost unqualified support about a preemptive strike, and an early reading of John Stott's chapter on Nuclear War last night. The times are indeed evil. And only the mind of Christ can "penetrate" it, in the words of the boys on the street. LWJ It does not, therefore, depend on man's desire or effort, but on God's mercy. Romans 9:16 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God - this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:1-2 NIV The nature and the extent of the promise in this passage is staggering - to know God's good, pleasing and perfect will. Can we imagine what effect this knowledge, accompanied with obedience, would have on our personal lives, on the witness of our church, and on the life of this nation? But first we must ask ourselves, what is it that is leading us in the opposite direction - to conform to the pattern of this world. Lent is a good time for this kind of " searching". And then to repent and ask for forgiveness, and then to " offer our bodies, including and especially our minds, as living sacrifices. And if the truth be told, the answers to the " searching" cannot be many, as they are literally staring us in the face. In times like these....we need a Saviour....we need a Bible....we need an Anchor. Finally read the intervening chapters 9-12 and pray without ceasing for Israel. Peace LWJ I pray that President Obama may indeed " have the mind of Christ", as he contemplates matters of great complexity and of profound seriousness to the entire world - especially as recent events have shown in Afghanistan, that not all soldiers are rational. And certainly not all leaders. I pray that my own leader may indeed " have the mind of Christ", as she proceeds resolutely to rescue the poor and the helpless in our society from the ravages of the " mindless market place". I pray that all of us who are " salt and light" to a nation mired in the darkness of immorality, may not succumb to the temptations of this world, but rather have our minds " renewed and transformed by God's Holy Spirit. Then, and only then will we live in a world and in a nation where there shall be less abuse of people's human rights ; more protection from the forces of evil; more equity in how we deal with one another as nations and economies; and a greater reliance of the only true King that this world needs. Jesus, descended from David, born of Mary, risen from the dead and who ever lives to intercede for those who believe in His Deity. Amen.