This has been quite a week in my country. It began when " news broke", in the informal media, in a rural community that two young boys who had died by drowning, had been "reportedly" raped before death. There was no corroboration of the story, only a rather vague report from the police that the boys had been
" injured". Following which members of the community attacked the home of the " suspected" individual, killing his uncle, severely injuring the daughter of the deceased and burning the house to the ground. " All hell had apparently broken loose". But there was worse to come, as news began to filter out, and the following day the headlines screamed, " Five Women Raped", including an eight year old, who was so badly injured she had to be taken to the hospital for emergency surgery. Then just yesterday, news broke about a driver who, attempting to go around a long line of traffic, triggered by the hit-and-run death of a man of unsound mind, hit down three other persons. The result? No one died, but the driver was was pulled from the vehicle by the members of the angry crowd and stabbed to death. And so the madness continued with other news of atrocities and murder just tonight on the Prime Time News.
Many were left confused how we could, as a people sink to such a nadir, in our relationships with each other. What kind of socialization process allowed such " animals" to emerge in our society. And perhaps most elusive of all, what was the remedy. The immediate reaction was to call for a march against violence against women and children and for all to wear black in solidarity. So we all, well most of us, wore black last Friday. The bigger issue now is what next? The urgent passing of more and better legislation; the need to break the code of silence which encourages evil to flourish, knowing full well that out of fear for their lives, no one will dare to say a word; the re-ordering our values and attitudes; quicker response from the police; a more attitude within the community...the list goes on.
My reaction? Pain! A deep seated pain in the depths of my soul, as I know that my country never had to descend to this level of barbarity. Many years ago, I had the privilege of spending just a little over a month in Singapore attending a Leadership Conference on Evangelism - in fact this Internet Ministry was started as direct result of that visit, and has been ongoing now every Sunday night for more than four years and sent to men and women in virtually every sector of our society, including powerful persons who can make a difference - at one level. What left a great impression on me, was not just the legendary cleanliness of the place, and the obvious prosperity, but the order. A feature brought into very sharp focus by my seeing a young school girl alone at a bus stop one morning, whilst doing my early morning exercises. It was still dark, so I inquired how come she was so brave - or in my Jamaican experience, so foolish. The answer was that no one would dare to, or even think about, harming her, and therefore she was perfectly safe. Since then it has been my dream, that such peace and protection could be the norm for the women and children in my country. Not riches. Not even better education, as important as that is in any society. But just that our women and child might be safe. And over the years we have watched almost helplessly, as more and more, society in its worse form, has sytematically, through the media - cable television, locally and Internationally produced movies and videos - advertisements and in particular the music, has occasioned a " sea change" in how we regard these precious ones among us. We have warned, we have cajoled, we have protested, we have begged. But it has all fallen on deaf ears. Who is the we? Primarily the church, in its best form, but also many other conscious groups within civil society. So now we have come to the edge of the precipice of chaos and anarchy and madness and who will pull us back from the brink of disaster.
The answer is to be found in the following messages which the Lord Almighty inspired me to write to leaders in our society, at the highest level in politics, church and the media, as I cried out to Him for help in this " time of trouble'.
Tuesday September 25th - The First Message
Actually I was searching for the Prayer by Peter Marshall, which is included in this meditation written, as you would discern, from last year. Why? The Spirit of the Lord led me back to it as I did my devotions this morning, and amazingly the Prayer for Obedience also. So I decided to send the entire message and not just the prayer by Marshall.
The Context? A discussion on radio last night about the mob killing in Trelawny. Dionne Jackson-Miller invited Carolyn Gomes to comment on this horrific act. And so she did. Two points struck me. One, while DJM kept repeating that we do not know that the boys had been " injured", when I came home, On The Ground News was confirming on their site, that the two boys had indeed been raped. There are many lessons to learn from that reality. Two, as Carolyn Gomes expressed her horror that " having not found Quako," we descended to the low level of killing his relative, and injuring the daughter. And I thought, we have been doing the very same thing for years, as that is the reason for a lot of the " mass killings" in the inner cities.
So back to Peter Marshall. The reason why I thought about the prayer, as you will see, is that we have no idea, about the kind of evil forces abroad in our nation, at every level, just waiting, to be unleashed in another such horrific act. Only God can help us. We need to admit that we are helpless in this respect. Which is the thrust of the meditation below, written months ago - as a warning to this nation. And which position of helplessness is what ought to drive mankind to seek God - the foundation message of the Christian faith
Finally, in that context, of the need to come together as a nation before God the issue of a coalition government, came into my mind. Perhaps it's time. For several reasons - The state of the Economy; The Political Climate; The deterioration in our Values and Attitudes.; The Crime and Violence......
N. B. This meditation would have been sent out before some of you came on board ( In fact the message was written way back in 2010)
This week I was impressed by the fact that the Chairman of an organization over which I have the privilege to exert leadership, and who happens to be Jamaica's chief servant, continues to find the time, in the midst of his busy schedule, to be very " hands on" in his duties. Encouraging and advising on policy and operations in some detail. Thus, this morning whilst in the midst of my devotions, inspired by the Psalmist, I was led to send him the following note.
" May the Lord Almighty, the God of Jacob, who ( alone) is our fortress, be with you, in a special way today. Psalm 44:7,11. NIV ( new International Version.
In the name of Christ, our soon coming King - at Christmas as Lord and Saviour, but at the end of times as a judge."
This week I was also very disturbed by the fact that funding which we badly needed to properly discharge our national responsibilities, was taking a long time for approval. Hence I wrote my staff the following memo:
"One of the many things I have learned recently is that God's Love, Mercy and Honor are only gained when we become totally and completely, dependent upon Him. And further, that God's mighty hand is in the middle of every experience that Saints goes through. You will recall that Gideon was told that he had too many soldiers, and, therefore, if with them he gained success, God would not get the glory. I am beginning to understand that the same eternal principle may be operating with the funding from .....this year- and any other promises outstanding - and the achievement of the ...... objective. Let us therefore resolve to pray more and worry less about the" amount of troops", that we have. Making sure, however, that those He sends are deployed most efficiently.
Then, amazingly tonight, as I pondered what to write, the things about which the Lord had spoken to me this week, I headed for a meditation, on which I have been reflecting for weeks. But on the way found another one which speaks to the profound question of Political Leadership in today's world. A world where there are so many and often intractable problems. Rising unemployment. High levels of poverty. Crime as a threat to personal and often national security. Certainly in my country, profound changes in the way we treat each other - loud and course music blaring at nights, and in taxis and mini-buses, affecting the minds of our young people and preventing others from sleeping at nights; rude and aggressive public officials, and in some cases exhibiting much more serious behaviour; dysfunctional family life resulting often in physical abuse which then flows over into abusive behaviour in the public square. Internationally, leaders are grappling with issues affecting climate change and the very survival of some island states; a world still in the throes of a recession, with former stable economies like Ireland in deep trouble, and even Spain and Portugal threatened with the same fate; the ever present threat of nuclear war; the seemingly endless war against terrorists across many borders; HIV/AIDS still a major issue worldwide; Cholera in Haiti; drug wars in Mexico and Brazil affecting many other nations. How do world leaders respond? Even " no drama " Obama is stumped for answer to America's problems!. And they have to deal with all of these problems even as they equally challenged by leading a political party!
In the midst of this the Lord sends a word to our chief servant.....and as I write, an earthquake rocks my house violently, thank God only for a few seconds.....and other leaders across the world - if anyone has an e-mail for President Obama, let me know - in a meditation from a Saint of old, a former Scottish Priest who migrated to the USA and became the Chaplain to the United States Senate. But as much as there is a message to our leaders, it applies equally to the church.
FOR GOD'S GRACE IN OUR HELPLESSNESS PETER MARSHALL
Verse Judges 7:2 The Lord said to Gideon, you have too many men for me to deliver into their hands. In order that Israel may not boast about me that her own strength has saved her.......
We know, our Father, that in this desperate hour of world affairs, we need thee. We need thy strength, thy guidance, thy wisdom.
May thy wisdom and thy power come upon these United States, the Senators and Congressmen, to whom, have been entrusted leadership. May the responsibility lie heavily on their hearts, until they are ready to acknowledge helplessness and turn to thee. Give to them the honesty, the courage, and the moral integrity to confess that they don't know what to do. Only then can they lead as a nation beyond human wisdom to thee, who alone has the answer.
Lead us to this high adventure. Remind us that " a mighty fortress is our God" ( words of the Psalmist) - not a hiding place where we can escape for an easy life, but rather an arsenal of courage and strength - the mightiest of all, who will march beside us into the battle for righteousness and world brotherhood.
O our God, may we never recover from our feeling of helplessness and our need of thee! In the strong name of Jesus, we pray. Amen.
What a prayer! What instructions for us to heed, both as leaders and disciples of Christ, even if the two are not necessarily the same. The need to be absolutely helpless before God, and then to see His mighty power at work
Finally, the meditation to which I was heading, before being detained by the words of Peter Marshall, contains a message primarily for us in the church : the need to live a repentant life for what we have done and for what we have failed to do as we wait upon the Lord, in this season of Advent. As only then will we be able to live a true Apostolic Life. A life marked by an ability, according to Evelyn Underhill, a former spiritual adviser to many Anglican priests in the nineteen century, " that his supernatural environment is more real and solid to him that his natural environment". As only then can we really make an impact, with power, on a complex and confused world. But again even though the message is for the church, it applies equally too to those who would lead in God's world.
A PERSONAL PRAYER FOR OBEDIENCE JOHN BAILLE
Verse: Judges 2:17 Yet they would not listen to their judges but prostituted themselves to other gods and worshiped them. Unlike their fathers, they quickly turned from the way in which their fathers had walked, the way of obedience to the Lord's commands.
Holy God, to whose service I long ago dedicated my soul and life, I grieve and lament before thee that I am still so prone to sin and so little inclined to obedience.:
So much attached to the pleasures of sense, so neglectful of things spiritual:
So prompt to gratify my body, so slow to nourish my soul:
So greedy for present delight, so indifferent to lasting blessedness:
So fond of idleness, so indisposed for labour:
So soon at play, so late at prayer:
So brisk in the service of self, so slack in the service of others;
So eager to get, so reluctant to give:
So lofty in my profession, so slow in my practice:
So full of good intentions, so backwards to fulfill them:
So severe with my neighbours, so indulgent with myself:
So eager to find fault, so resentful at being found fault with:
So little able for great tasks, so discontented with small ones:
So weak in adversity, so swollen and self-satisfied in prosperity:
So helpless apart from thee, and yet so willing to be bound to thee.
O merciful heart of God, grant me yet again thy forgiveness. Hear my sorrowful tale and in thy great mercy blot it out from the book of thy remembrance. Give me faith to lay hold of of thine own holiness and so to rejoice in the righteousness of Christ my Savior that, resting on his merits rather than on my own, I may more and more become conformed to his likeness, my will becoming one with his in obedience to thine. All this I ask for his holy name sake. Amen
As we identify with these great prayers - and if you don't, then Jesus did not come on earth and die for you, but for us who know that we are helpless and sinful - let us call out to a mighty God who is our fortress, the God of Abraham, of Isaac and of Jacob. That He may hear our sorrowful tale and blot it out from the book of " thy remembrance". And so heal out land and protect us from earthquakes, hurricanes, floods and the evil that abounds so much in our land and in the hearts of humans, and the trials that so many face across the world. And are helpless unless God intervenes, as He did two thousand years ago at the first Christmas.
The second message was written the following morning as news broke about the savage rape in the Western part of my country...and was entitled " Desperate times part two'
Wednesday September 26th
As I read the headlines in both newspapers this morning, and started my devotions with a heavy heart, the Spirit of the Lord led me back to Psalm 81. And then to Malachi. And finally to Jeremiah.
" If my people would but listen to me,
If Israel would follow my ways,
how quickly would I subdue their enemies
and turn my hand against their foes". Verses 13-14
" Test me in this, says the Lord Almighty, and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it." Malachi 3:10 NIV
A BALM IN GILEAD
African - American Spiritual
Verse Jeremiah 8:21-22 NIV
"Since my people are crushed, I am crushed;
I mourn, and horror grips me.
Is there no balm in Gilead?
Is there no physician there?
Why then is there no healing
for the wound of my people"
There is a balm in Gilead
To make the wounded whole,
There is a balm in Gilead
To heal the sin-sick soul
Sometimes I feel discouraged,
And think my work's in vain,
But then the Holy Spirit
Revives my soul again.
If you can't preach like Peter,
If you can't pray like Paul,
Just tell the love of Jesus
And say he died for all.
So the question is, when our " women and children are raped, when they crushed, are we crushed? And will our only response continue to be, exclamations of horror, condemnation, and a promises to unleash the full force of the law on the perpetrators.
The Lord Almighty, The Creator of heaven and earth, the sea and all that is in it, thousands of years ago, warned the children of Israel, that there is another response. That there is a balm available to heal the sin-sick souls of rapists and mob killers. A balm available to heal the wounded suffering victims of rape and other acts of violence in our land. And that solution is not a much desirable new IMF deal. Or the power gained by winning an election. But rather an acceptance of the fact that Jesus died for all - the foundation of the Christian faith.
So even though the Word from Malachi is contextualized in Israel's robbing God of tithings, the message is still very relevant, as if we were to " follow the ways of the Lord", as the Psalmist wrote, then God will indeed fulfill His promise to throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out a blessing on us. And in fact He has already done so, but the blessing is not a material one, primarily, but the precious Blood of the Lamb, Jesus Christ. And whose Blood alone can heal the sin-sick souls of this nation.
We need, as leaders, therefore to repent of our rebellion against the living God, and our dependence on the foreign gods, mentioned in Psalm 81. A National Service of Repentance at a Baptist Church, the church of Sam Sharpe (there is a big one on the Boulevard) with a prophet like Burchell Taylor preaching, would be a good start. As the IMF, the police, a values and attitudes campaign, more exports, better productivity, better passes at CXEC, less corruption, all have a role to play in rescuing this nation. But the fundamental problem is sin. And the only balm for that is an acceptance that Jesus died for all -as sung by our African forebears many years ago. We would do well to listen.
LWJ Sent from my iPad
The point being made here is that for centuries, the Lord God Almighty, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, has been sending a message to all mankind, that we just cannot manage without Him. And that all we have to do is to " test Him in this ", as the prophet Malachi warned, and " Open our mouths wide", and the Psalmist declared, and God will " Fill it" and protect us from all our enemies. That is why there is so much pain in my heart, as if we had just trusted the God who " parted the Red Sea", and freed the children of Israel from the hands of the Egyptians who rescued us a people enslaved by the colonial powers; and who set us free from Sin and death by the life, death, and resurrection of His Son Christ Jesus, then Jamaica would have been a better place. A place of peace, and a people of faith, that Sam Sharpe who was a Baptist Minister, gave his life for. And a mighty race, as envisioned by Marcus Garvey. Not a people who have sold their soul to foreign gods...the unbridled lust for sex which has destroyed family life.....the unbridled lust for money...which has destroyed family life...and the unbridled lust for power which has occasioned, among ohter evils, the importation and use of the gun which has been used as tool of intimidation, robbery and murder and brought our nation to the brink of chaos and anarchy. So, yes let us condemn, let us work together, but more importantly, let us turn and repent of our rebellion against the Almighty God. A tried and proven God. And a God who is still a very present help in times of trouble. As in Him and through Him by the Power of the Holy Spirit, the Balm for all nations, Jesus Christ, is waiting for this nation to come to its senses and realize that we cannot manage without Him. I pray God that, daily, slowly, men and women will hear this message and act accordingly. To the glory of God and for the rescuing of my people.