Monday, March 19, 2012

Trouble in Syria; Trials in Somalia and Hope in Christ Jesus

There must be very few persons in the world who are not concerned about the situation in Syria. I've lost track of the body count. Is it 60,000 or more, who have died at the hands of the Assad regime? I don't get a chance to watch much television, but my iPad came with a CNN app already downloaded, so at my convenience I get to watch videos and read about the terrible human suffering taking place in the city of Homs. And was particularly moved by the story of American journalists, this time seen on CNN, who left the safety of their homes and exposed themselves to harm in order to bring the wider world the story of a young girl delivering a child without any medication. Alone, as her husband had left for supplies and had been prevented by the violence from returning. Doctors working without equipment. Shelling which begins precisely at daylight and goes on all day. The kind of madness which makes our own 'troubles" seem almost minor. The financial woes that many are experiencing in Jamaica, in the USA and in Greece. The " hue and cry" over the sentencing of the once feared and notorious Jamaican Don and gangster, " Dudus" Christopher Coke, of whom it is being said, rather belated and quite inconsequentially, by his fans and relatives, that he is a " bible man". Assuming that it means that in addition to carrying our heinous crimes, he also reads his bible. Prince Harry's inability, so far, to find a girlfriend willing to stand beside him in carrying out his royal duties. Poor chap! But it is not only in Syria where people are suffering. Who can comfort the many parents whose children died in that terrible crash in Switzerland last week. The many who continue to suffer in Somalia, as highlighted by the, brave visit of actor and activist George Clooney last week, and who later met with President Obama for talks on that issue. Who can comfort the relatives of a woman who was allegedly killed by " collateral damage", as police reportedly traded bullets with gunmen in a poor inner city community. Thus further fueling the already intense debate in my country about the excessive use of deadly force. The frightening report of the Chilean diplomat whose daughter was killed by apparently " trigger happy " police in Venezuela. Thank God his son who was driving the ill fated car did not suffer the same fate. In the midst of all this human suffering, I heard a glorious old and well known hymn, just this morning in church, the words of which, though they spoke directly to my situation and my needs, at that precise moment, speaks eloquently also about the God of all compassion who cares for all whom He has created. Whether in Homs in Syria, in Afghanistan where so many people were brutally murdered allegedly by one crazed soldier, in Somalia, in war torn parts of Eritrea in Africa or in the inner cities of Kingston Jamaica. It may seem hard to believe at this time, but history has shown that good always conquers evil, and though God may from our understanding, takes a long time to show His compassion, He always does. That's the existential message which we will celebrate in a few days, as Lent will come to an abrupt and dramatic climax on Good Friday. That God so loved the the killing fields of Cambodia, in the horrors of Nazi Germany, in the infamy of Croatian war, in the genocide committed in Stalin's Russia, in the inhumanity visited upon the people of colour by European colonizers........that He gave His only begottten Son, that whosoever would believe on Him should not perish but have everlasting life. That Jesus so loved his brothers and sisters of the human race that He was prepared to suffer and to die for them, in obedience to His Father's will and purpose. So death is not the worse thing that can happen to us. But to perish, O what a tribulation! And so the songwriter out of the depths of his experience writes and assures us that: Be not dismayed whate'er betide, God will take care of you; beneath his wings of love abide, God will take care of you Refrain: God will take care of you, through every day, o'er all the way; he will take care of you, God will take care of you. Through days of toil when the heart doth fail, God will take care of you; when dangers fierce your path assail, God will take care of you. Refrain:....... All you may need he will provide, God will take care of you; nothing you ask will be denied, God will take care of you. Refrain: ..... No matter what will be the test, God will take care of you; lean, weary on, upon his breast, God will take care of you. The challenge that we face as people of God, and ambassadors of Christ Jesus, is how to share this good news with people who are suffering and see no end to their trials. That God will take care of them. if they just believe on the Lord Jesus for salvation. And one of the things that left a great impact on me this week was an " observation/instruction" that the Lord, in His infinite wisdom, led me to read. " On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lighting stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, " Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen." Luke 23:24 One of the things that has stuck in my mind, among many other profound revelations by our Lord, is His assurance that if we "lift Him up", He will will draw all men to Himself. Which is consistent with the message in the Old Testament that, " it is not by might nor by power but by my Spirit " says the Lord. In the sense that sometimes we forget that how we spread the gospel and how people receive it is all a mystery, but God is a supernatural God, and can do " immeasurable more than we can ask or imagine". So the Jesus about whom we testify with words and deeds, is a risen Lord. He is not confined and constrained by circumstance and geography and extent of suffering. So let us no longer look to " dead solutions", to mere mankind and his limited understanding, who is after all dust and to dust he shall return, for relief from suffering and pain. Personally or nationally. But rather look to the Almighty God, who not only fed the five thousand miraculously, but even more miraculously, provided an eternal sacrifice for the sins of mankind, and with power raised His Son from the dead. It is in this context then that I was moved to send out the following message to some persons who are need of this assurance during this week. Now who would wish to continue to live like that, as we all did, when better, so much better, is offered as a free gift. And then, only then can we do the "good works' which He has prepared in advance for us to do. Otherwise, who knows for whom we are working! " As for you, were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the the ways of this world and the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God who is rich in mercy, made us alive in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace that you have been saved, through faith - and this is not from yourselves, it is a gift from God - not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." Ephesians 2:1-10 NIV Sent from my iPad The question which arises is how many times will the Lord send His Word to those whom He created in His own image, and for who He died on Calvary? How long will the Lord persist in the face of the disobedience? How long will he put up with people who reject the gift of Christ's redemptive act on the cross of Calvary. Will this Good Friday, once again have little or no meaning for millions across the world, in the USA, in Europe and in the Caribbean and Latin America who have been exposed to the gospel A meditation I read this week suggests that disobedience and rebellion are not good things. GOD'S GREAT DELIGHT Matthew Henry Verse 1 Samuel 15: 22 Here we are plainly told....... that humble, sincere, and conscientious obedience to the will of God is more pleasing to him than all burnt offerings and sacrifices. A careful conformity to moral precepts recommends us to God more than all ceremonial observances ( see Micah 6:6-8; Hosea 6:6). Obedience was the law of innocency, but sacrifice supposes sin come into the world and is but a feeble attempt to take away which obedience would have prevented. It is much easier to bring a bullock or a lamb to be burnt upon the altar than to bring every high thought into obedience to God and the will subject to his will. Nothing is so provoking to God as disobedience, setting up our wills in competition with his. This here is called rebellion and stubbornness, and is said to be as bad as witchcraft and idolatry ( v. 23 KJV). It is as bad to set up other gods as to live in disobedience to the true God.....Those are unfit and unworthy to rule over men who are not willing that god should rule over them. But the story of disobedience gets worse. This week I was led to read, in the book of Revelations how terrible things have been prophesied to happen to all mankind on account of Sin and evil. And the passage ends with these awful words: " The rest of mankind that were not killed by these plagues still did not repent of the works of their hands; they did not stop worshiping demons, and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood - idols that cannot see or hear or walk. Nor did they repent of their murders, their magic arts, their sexual immorality or their thefts". Rev. 9:20-21. NIV Just this morning in the Jamaica Obserer headlines revealed how a young gunman was once given instructions to kill someone who is now, and was at the time, an even more senior member of Government. The former Minister of Finance and now Minister of Transport and Housing, Hon Omar Davies. This gunman who confessed, according to the article of killing more than person, refused to carry out the order, and as a result, almost lost his own life. For disobeying the " Don". I don't know if the Minister is a believer, but God who " makes the rain fall on the just and on the unjust", was " taking care', or both gunman and Minister in that moment. This young man, formerly a member of the " fatherless crew", is now a Christian having repented of his sins, and obeyed the call to serve Christ. As is the case of many other former gang members. And hopes one day to return as priest to serve his former community. This week also I sent the following message to some members of my church: My prayer is that we may influence a suffering world through the prayers of a believing and obedience heart. A heart that believes in a Risen Lord Jesus. A heart that believes in the power of an Almighty God to raise the dead. A heart that loves God and neighbour, in Homs, in Eritrea, in Moscow, in the Sudan, in Afghanistan and in the inner cities of Kingston Jamaica - and is less concerned about denominational affiliation or national identity but revels in the joy and suffering of being a worldwide ambassador of Christ. A heart that believes that the God who sent His only Son to die on the Cross of Calvary will take care of us, wherever we live and whatever our situation. As only His power can bind the principalities of evil and set people free from sin and death and suffering. Amen.