The re-election of Barack Hussein Obama as President of the United States of America was by far the biggest news story this week. In Jamaica, where very few people had a vote, many stayed up late to watch the final results.
I know of responsible professionals like teachers, who had to go to work the following day, staying up until 2-3 o'clock Wednesday morning. My own wife who has never voted in her entire life stayed up until after 1:00 am. And of course the faithful in that now famous park in Chicago, stayed right to the very end to hear his acceptance speech and to see his wonderful family on stage again - as they did four years ago. Me? I went to bed early - partly because I was confident that the Lord would not allow a warmonger like Romney to win and partly because I had to function well at work the next day - and watched the entire speech at my convenience on YouTube on Wednesday night.
So what provoked this love for and devotion to this man? A man who would under normal circumstances would be voted least likely to become president of the USA, much less to be re-elected at a time when the economy was in bad shape. A man with no power base, no money to speak of, and a man starting off with a huge disadvantage as a black man in, what is in large part, although changing rapidly, a white man's country. I believe, as I said in a sermon today that I was privileged to share with my congregation, that in part the answer to that question lies with Obama's emotional and political maturity, and the fact that, as the exit polls revealed, people believed that he cared more about their problems.
In fact the same exit polls revealed data that pose(s) a real challenge to the Christian community both in the USA and in Jamaica. As while most Jamaican Christians were rooting for Obama, even though we had some challenges with his stance on abortions and same sex marriages, the data showed that most people in the USA who claimed to be regular church goers voted for Romney. Do they know something that we don't"? Do we know something that they don't? Could we be so unaware of, or acted in defiance to the Holy Spirit's guidance, because we were blinded by our love for someone of African descent? Or is it that we just do not wish to have Romney and his aggressive Bush-like behaviour get anywhere near to the White House - the seat of power for the only super power in the world? Could they have been so blinded to the movement of the Holy Spirit by their revulsion of having a black man retain power in their country, or are their more concerned about the direction which the country under his leadership is heading?
Whatever the answer is, the reality is that this Obama is no ordinary man. " The best that the black community has to offer - well educated, clean living and possessed of an absolutely wonderful family - and yet not good enough for them, amazing ", according to my daughter who lives in the USA. We can all recall his fortuitous victory in Chicago in the early days of his political life, when the his more powerful opponent self-destructed; the amazing fortune of being in the right place at the right time to deliver his now famous speech endorsing while endorsing a losing Presidential candidate John Kerry; and to cap it all beating the formidable Hillary Clinton in the primaries. As they say “the rest is history". Clearly a power greater than we can comprehend has catapulted him into this most influential position in the history of mankind. What awaits him only God he knows?
So what then did the Lord reveal to His servant this week as the world went “mad “about Obama? Some Republicans, from their uttering, quite literally so, whilst the rest of us were either simply ecstatic or just plain relieved.
Monday Nov, 5...the day before the election
This matter of “falling asleep" in the presence of Jesus is no ordinary one. I was led to include the e-mail...part 1.... below in last night's Internet message. Then this morning, on going to one section of the Bible, I "found", this very thought provoking passage from Martin Luther. A bit truncated, as it is too long to send this morning, but I will send the entire thing later.
THE TERRIFYING OF THE CONSCIENCE AND THE PREACHING OF THE LAW
Vs: 2 Chronicles 34:21....the story of Josiah, the finding of Book of the Law from Moses and obedience because they feared the Lord.
We must preach the law for the sake of the evil and wicked, but for the most part it lights upon the good and godly who although they need it not, except so far as may concern the old Adam, yet accept it.............The ungodly suck only a fleshly liberty out of the gospel, and become worse thereby; therefore not the gospel but the law belongs to them............
The gospel is like a fresh, mild, and cool air in the extreme heat of summer, a solace and comfort in the anguish of the conscience. But as this heat proceeds from the rays of the sun, so likewise the terrifying of the conscience must proceed from the preaching of the law, to the end that we may know we have offended against the laws of God.
Now when the mind is refreshed and quickened again by the cool air of the gospel, we must not then be idle, or " LIE DOWN AND SLEEP" ( my emphasis). That is, when our consciences are settled in peace, quieted and comforted through God's Spirit, we must prove our faith by such good works as God has commanded us. But so far as we live in this vale of misery, we shall be plagued and vexed with flies, with beetles, and with vermin, that is, with the devil, the world, and our own flesh. Yet we must press through, and not suffer ourselves to recoil.
Sent from my iPad
Comment - The reflection above is a continuation of a discussion which began in the last message about the need to the children of God to be eternally. And the additional point here, as argued by Martin Luther…one of the most famous fathers of the early church …is that the law is to be preached to the unbelievers, so that they may fear God. And then when the gospel is preached and our anguish relieved, then we are encouraged not to “fall asleep”, not to become distracted, but again be vigilant.
The theme which undergirded my sermon today was the need for Christian maturity. And one of the passages to which the Holy Spirit led me was the story of “The Parable of the Sower (of Seeds), as recoded in Luke. The focus was on the seed that fell among thorns and got choked. The explanation which Jesus gave to his disciples ended with the warning….and they did not mature.
So clearly this issue of maturity was, and continues to be an important issue on God’s agenda for His church. So why did the “seed not mature”? Because they are “choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures”. The problem then is twofold. Many unbelievers have heard the gospel, but either because they do not fear God or have, according to Luther “sucked a fleshly liberty out of it”, have not benefited from it. In the sense that their interpretation of God’s mercy, God’s grace which cost His Son Jesus His life, is to forget about the cost of this grace, make it cheap, and accept the Christian faith on their “ liberal terms”. Hence we have the phenomenon of persons re-interpreting the gospel or re-writing it in such a way that there is no “fear of God’s wrath”, in order to justify or validate their lifestyle.
The other problem, of equal concern, is the many Christians who have failed to mature and help to be Light in this dark world, because their faith has been wrecked by anxiety, fear, an unwillingness to sacrifice which has spawned an unhealthy love of pleasures, and the unbridled love of riches.
Thursday Nov 7… two days post election
After I read and reflected on the words of the hymn below this morning, during my devotions (which was the hymn send by a friend to me when I was in Singapore and witnessed men crying spontaneously during a early morning worship service out of a deep love for Jesus, and which experience affected me in a most profound way......and which correspondence gave birth to the weekly Internet Ministry) one passage of Scripture came to my mind. And which one led to a reflection on another. Both of which were in shared in an earlier response to a discussion we had on “the correct faith”.
For Christ's love compels us - 2. Corinthians 5:14: Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men - vs 11.
The point is that the purpose of the entire Bible is to teach us both to fear God and to love Him and to be reconciled to Him in and through Christ Jesus - Eternal Life. And the point of the words of the hymn below is to teach us that He first loved us....revelation coming from both the Old Testament and the New. And so when we come to love God in Christ for " the correct reason", then Christ's love compels us....to be obedient....to try to persuade others....to love our neighbour....to love justice...to love righteousness....to have a special love for the poor and the needy....to be humble.........to persevere in the face of opposition, trials and persecution.
So where does Barack Obama, for whose victory I cried out to the Lord....primarily because Romney is a " warmonger".....and yes the African-American factor was huge...... despite my opposition to some of his policies, fit into all of this? Interesting question. As in all things a love for Christ first, will help to understand all else.
My God, I love thee; not because I hope for heaven thereby,
nor yet because 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,
nor seeking 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.
Now, who with a “correct understanding of the faith “could fail to love and be obedient to such a God. So then, the love for same Christ Jesus compels me to write to you and others and to continue to pray for Barack Obama as I continue to pray for my own soul. And yours.
Sent from my iPad
Comment - The issue of having “a fear of God” as taught by the preaching of the law continues in this reflection above, which was sent to some senior journalists in my country as part of an ongoing discussion about the “correct faith”. An issue, the correct faith, which we all hope President Obama will come to terms with one day soon. An issue which demands our constant prayers for the American Christians who voted for Romney. An issue which requires our eternal vigilance for those of us who “voted “for Obama despite our misgivings about some of his policies. As at the end of the day our allegiance must lie only with the One who died on the Cross of Calvary for all mankind
Saturday Nov 10…the final bit of communication as I prepared the sermon for today
Finally recalling the story of the Good Samaritan and the question Jesus posed at the end, which one of these three men was a neigbour to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers. The expert in the law replied, The one who had mercy on him. Jesus told him, Go and do likewise. So too the greatest manifestation of mature Christianity is for us to have mercy on our neighours. For this is precisely what Jesus did on the Cross of Calvary. In the same way that 1 Corinthians 13, reminds us that if we can speak in tongues of men and angels and have not love we have nothing, so too if we are not merciful to those around us we have not matured. We have to be prepared to show love and mercy to those who are different from us, to those who oppose our faith, and even to those who persecute us, as God is merciful to the wicked and the ungrateful. No doubt this is the reason why early Saturday morning the Lord woke me up with the words of the hymn on my mind:
Nothing in my hand I bring
Simply to your Cross I cling
Naked come to you for dress
Helpless, look to you for grace
Foul I to the fountain fly,
Wash me Saviour, lest I die.
My friends we all need to come to the point, and reflect deeply on it, that were it not for God's grace and mercy we would all be still subject to His wrath, and be without hope, and without God in the world according to the Scriptures.
So this call for a maturing of our faith and a revelation that God ultimately is a God of love, compassion and mercy comes at critical time in the history of our country.
How this understanding of the Christian faith plays out as we grapple with the hot button issues of homosexuality and gay marriage will determine what kind of society we bequeath to our children. How this understanding of the faith plays out in how we elect our political leaders and support them will in large measure determine how relevant the church will be to the young, the irreverent, and the cynical. How this understanding of the faith plays out will determine how we deal with the burning social challenges of crime and violence, the gross immorality, the rampant greed and grinding poverty in our country.
At all times we must preserve the fundamentals of our faith; no forgiveness without an acknowledgement of the shedding of the Blood of Christ, and that all of sinned and fallen short of God's glory. But at all times we must seek to have Christ live within us and through us, so that steams of living waters, the promised Holy Spirit will bring times of refreshing to our country. As in the final analysis the hope of all mankind does not depend on the fortunes of Barack Hussein Obama, but rather as the Psalmist says in the word appointed for today:
Do not put your trust in princes,
in mortal men who cannot save.
When their spirit departs, they return to the ground;
on that very day their plans come to nothing.
Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord his God.
The Maker of heaven and earth
the sea and everything in them -
the Lord remains who remains faithful forever. Psalm 146:3-6 NIV
So let us support President Obama, as he is a good man
a man of peace, but reserve all glory and honor for the God-man
even Jesus Christ who died for our sins on Calvary and lives in our hearts
by the power of the Holy Spirit and by grace and faith.
Comment – So we have come full circle. At the core of His being, this God who is Spirit, and took the form of Man in Jesus Christ, became incarnate, and suffered and died on the Cross of Calvary, in order that our sins may be forgiven, and His wrath removed, is therefore a God of mercy and compassion. Could it be then, like the rest of us, despite his many faults and sins, Obama sought to show the kind of mercy to all his constituents, despite being “theologically incorrect”. Could it be the reason why the divine hand has been with him, protecting him from wild living in his youth, keeping him focused in his studies, shielding him from the love of riches and directing him to work with the poor and needy in Chicago. Do we then, either in the USA or in Jamaica or anywhere else in the world, who claim to love the Lord and correctly interpret the Scriptures and yet are lacking in mercy “closer to the Kingdom” than he is? And what does mercy entail? To deny the reality of sin? No! But rather, to remember that we too are “naked and helpless” and so be kind to the “wicked and the ungrateful”, as God in Christ continues to be. And to put our trust, not in “ princes”, like Obama, or any other leader, but to trust only in the God of Jacob and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.