Yes I was happy that Serena Williams won the USA Open this evening. Although to be honest I have a lot of respect for Victoria Azarenka and was hoping for a real match and so the three set final was just right. Yes, we welcomed back home Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce this week, and last night the " Golden " one Usain Bolt slipped quietly back into the island. To cap it all, against all the odds our Reggae Boyz stunned the might USA with a hard fought 2:1 win in a world cup qualifying match this week. But, O my God, despite all the joy that our sportsmen and women continue to bring us, the killings, the senseless loss of precious human life, regardless of the alleged circumstances, went on unabated. And in the midst of the murders, two more pregnant women together with children yet unborn lost their lives.
How can a nation then celebrate, when so much madness, so much grief, so much despondency surrounds us. Further, when one considers the ongoing tragedy in Syria, the 60 odd person who died in Iraq today, you wonder when is it all going to end. The consistent message that the Lord sent to me this week, as we struggled to deal with this recent upsurge in violence, was " Do not dress up the wound of my people". Time and time again I was led to consider the story of the children of Israel as recorded in the book of Jeremiah, how they rebelled against the Lord and how they suffered as a consequence. The narrative is compelling, as the Lord asks searching questions repeatedly such as:
" When men fall down, do they not get up?
When a man turns away, does he not return?
Why then have these people turned away?
Why does Jerusalem always turn away?
They cling to deceit; they refuse to return.
The same question has been thrown out to the people of Jamaica, time and time again by the church. Why will we not listen? Why will we not return to the Lord? We cling on to worthless idols and look to man for a solution to deeply spiritual problems. The latest thing now that some foolish people are asking for, in the light of the "police killing of the pregnant woman last week", is the resignation of the Commissioner of Police. As if a " better " one, could help us to stop the madness! How sad, how sad, would my Pastor say. what sin, what a sin, when we have the Almighty God waiting, yes waiting to help. So just last night, when my " cup overflowed" the Lord led me to write this prayer to leaders of my church and in the wider society.
LAST NIGHT'S MESSAGE
The news tonight on the television, following the news for the entire week, triggered this.
Since my people are crushed, I am crushed.
I mourn and horror or grips me.
Is there no balm in Gilead?
Is there no physician there.
Why then is there no healing for the wound my people?
Almighty God your Word encourages us to to cry out to you and you will show us great and wonderful things of which we know not. And so Lord mindful of your unfailing love, we cry out to you for mercy, for the wound of our people is great and very serious. We cry out to you for the rebellion which our people have carried out against you, and which has led to so much bloodshed in our country. And Lord you know how much " bloodshed follows bloodshed". O God we pray that you may turn the hearts of your people back to you, that we may repent as a nation, and that times of refreshing may fall on our people. For Lord, as they are crushed, as they are murdered, mothers, fathers, young men, old men, even pregnant mothers, we mourn and we too are crushed and horror grips us O God. O God do not be silent. Lord, according to the words of the Psalmist, O God be not quiet, be not still, for you see how your enemies are astir, how your foes rear their heads. O God your Word says that,
" In repentance and rest is your salvation;
in quietness and trust is your strength,
but you would have none of it.............
Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you;
he rises to show you compassion.
For the Lord is a God of justice.
Blessed are all who wait upon him".
O God hear the prayers of your people tonight, and forgive our people, for because we would " have none of it", because we have chosen to disobey you, and decided to flee, our pursuers have been swift and we cannot manage. Therefore our souls are distressed because of the continuing shedding of blood in our country. O God we look to you for mercy. O God we ask you for help, not because we are worthy O God, but because we, the remnant, trust in the Name of your Son Jesus Christ, who alone is the Balm that this country needs. We trust in your graciousness, your justice and your compassion. So as we go to bed this night O Lord, we pray according to the Word of the Psalmist, that you may satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love that we may rejoice in you. In Christ's mighty Name we pray.
Sent from my iPad
The one thing with which I struggle with, as a believer whose faith has been honed in the crucible of personal trials and challenges, is how can we as church, convince our fellow countrymen and women, that they really have no other option in life but to trust in the God of Abraham, the God of Issac and the God of Jacob. As there is no other god. No other power to which they can appeal in times of trouble. And according to God's holy Word, there will be trouble for every human being in the world. This God has chosen by grace, " what is man that you should be mindful of him", to reveal Himself through His written Word and and moreso through the Word made flesh in Jesus Christ. How can we convince our people, as Job came to understand, that there is a different conversation, there is another reality around us, over which we have no control, and about which we cannot learn from Twitter, CNN, or On The Ground News. Only by accepting the free gift of God's mercy in the Atonement wrought on the Cross of Calvary by the same Christ.
This is why the prophet called his people back to a God who " longs to be gracious unto us, and who rises ( from the dead) to show us compassion. This issue is dealt with in a powerful way in another letter to my church this week.
ANOTHER MESSAGE TO THE CHURCH AND STATE THIS WEEK
They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious.
Jeremiah 8:11 NIV
" if you were blind; you would not be guilty of sin;
but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.
Amazing grace.........that saved a wretch like me .....was blind but now I see.
" You say, ' I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.
But you do not realize that you are wretched;
pitiful, poor, blind and naked.
I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire,
so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.
Those I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent.
Rev. 3: 17-19
The wounds of my people are serious....in the USA, Canada and in Jamaica. Tell them so. Do not dress up their wounds. The only context in which the gospel can be authentically presented, is when people realize that they cannot manage. That they are helpless. That they are blind. That they are in a desperate condition. Otherwise we are being traitors to Him who died for the Blind, the Naked, the Poor. the Pitiful, and the Wretched.....as this is what we once were, but thank God for Jesus. O my God there is indeed a Balm in Gilead.....to heal my sin-sick soul
Sent from my iPaD
If my struggle to understand how my people continue to leave God out of the equation, is profound, even more serious is the struggle to understand why the church of the living God is not demonstrating the kind of power which ought to accompany those in whom Christ lives. Why aren't we being more effective in our witness? Why aren't we doing the " much more" that Christ promised for those who live by the Spirit? Why aren't we exhibiting the kind of power which would " turn the hearts" of our people back to God.
Is it the emphasis on " talking in tongues" rather than doing mighty works in the Name of Jesus? It is the "madness " of people being baptized, time and time again, when the Word speaks clearly about , " One faith, one Baptism, one Lord"? Are thee things weakening our power? Is it the " dressing up of the wound of my people", the unholy practice of " watering down sin" in the church, when immorality, greed and malice rear their ugly head? Is it the imported, or locally manufactured, doctrine of associating growth in the Christian faith with material wealth, and hence the desire of many is for the blessings of God, and not for God Himself. A teaching that has no place for suffering and obedience and faithfulness to Christ and Christ alone. No wonder then that the Lord sent this message.
THE THIRD MESSAGE FROM THE LORD THIS WEEK
In the morning I read this:
" I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your heart through faith."
Ephesians 3:16-17 NIV
And tonight I just read this:
" But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you: and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.
Acts 1:8 NIV
Then I recalled this passage: " For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power." 1 Cor. 4:20
Comment: if as a church we are not demonstrating this power, in some way, then something is wrong. Terribly wrong!
Sent from my iPad
Finally, as I prepared myself for worship this morning, the Spirit of God led me to write to a young man who is under severe temptation from the evil one. In the same way that my countrymen and women are under attack by the devil and his " wicked ones". And this was the message:
Jesus, the very thought of thee
With sweetness fills the breast;
But sweeter still thy face to see
And in thy presence rest.
No Voice can sing,
no heart can frame,
Nor can the memory find,
A sweeter sound than Jesus' name,
The Savior of mankind.
O hope of every contrite heart,
O joy of all the meek,
To those who fall, how kind thou art.
How good to those who seek!
But what to those who find?
Ah, this. Nor tongue nor pen can show,
The love of Jesus, what is it,
None but whom love him know,
Jesus, our only joy be thou
As thou our prize wilt be;
In thee be all our glory now,
And throughout eternity.
There is a popular gospel artiste, Carlene Davis, who wrote a song many years ago, and which lyrics speak well and profoundly but simply to what Jamaica needs now. This island needs Jesus....the hope of every contrite heart, the joy of all the meek. I pray God that we as a nation may come to understand, soon and once and for all, that the Word of God, which is living and active, is more precious and beneficial to us than any human wisdom, any joy, any material possession and any human relationship. As there is only One God, the Holy One of Israel, and He made the heaven and earth, and the sea and all that there is in it. And He created mankind for His own purpose, for His praise and glory. Our hearts will therefore always wander, make other gods out of idols , kill and destroy each other, until our hearts find rest in Him. It is not a mystery what is happening in my country and in the world, but entirely predictable and predicted. Hopefully we will find that rest in this world, as although God is eternally merciful, the opportunities to find Him elsewhere are extremely limited, and then the choice is not ours to make. So the Psalmist is correct: Therefore let everyone who is godly pray to you while you may be found. Psalm 32:6 NIV And God in His mercy, Rises in Christ to show us compassion, even now in the midst of the madness. Let us make that choice to follow Jesus now.