Tuesday, August 6, 2013

An Independence Message: Wilberforce and men in the barbershop point to Repentance

I read my Bible to see what men ought to do; and my newspapers to see what men are doing -John Newton

Lord  renew the church beginning with me.

Lord renew the church, the church may renew the nation(s)

For the first time in years, I missed my self-imposed deadline for writing this weekly Internet message on a Sunday night. Having spent three glorious weeks in Miami with children,  and more importantly grandchildren, I retuned home on Sunday  night and hence the delay. So on this day when we, in the land of my birth and my beloved  country Jamaica , celebrates  its 51 st anniversary as a sovereign nation,  I find some time to write, and am doing so also within the context that,  last week Thursday on August 1, we celebrated our emancipation from slavery, and gave thanks for that great act of freedom.  So this time in the life of this island in the sun, this ' little rock',  is very special indeed. What kind of world then are we celebrating these two important milestones in the life of  our nation, and what is our vision going forward?

In this context then, The Lord led me to read  and reflect on some important issues during this past week. Perhaps, none, from a secular point of view, more disturbing and deeply insightful than the following except from a weekly commentary from a very engaging columnist, Robert Lalah;

By Robert Lalah

The conversation at my barber shop turned to some serious matters during my visit last week. It was this whole business of celebrating Jamaica's Independence that got those involved most worked up.

To be clear, this was only after more popular topics, like the latest trends in bedroom bullyism, the pros and cons of drinking rum before noon, and advances in automobile design had all been exhausted. It was a well-rounded gathering, you see.

Whenever a debate on Indepen-dence takes place, you can pretty much predict the major avenues down which the arguments will go. 'What's there to celebrate? Whad'ya mean what's there to celebrate? Imagine having to always answer to Britain. But we still have to answer to Britain - and the United States - today.'

At its core, though, are issues that really get a lot of people worked up. Did we do all we could in 51 years? Shouldn't we have achieved more? What would a colonized Jamaica be like in 2013? Would its residents be happier than they are now?

independence wasted

It seems there are many who feel that the fight for independence was much ado about nothing since those who have been given the task of running independent Jamaica have largely disappointed and have failed to capitalize on the potential this nation showed 51 years ago.

One opinionated fellow at the barber shop suggested that we've become too complacent over these years and that we believe our athletic abilities and creativity in music make us special in some way.

"We feel like seh because we run fast and sing reggae music, the whole world want to be like we," he said. "Dem don't want to be like we, 'cause we bruk and killing off each other down here. Dem like watch when we run and listen when we sing, but that don't mean dem want to be like we.

"We only put on show fi di world, and when it come on to serious tings, we don't have no clue what we doing."

It was a stinging statement that did the impossible. It silenced the room. Whether the others agreed with his assessment is unclear, but they did appear to be reflecting on the idea.

The fact is that the past 51 years are already gone. What we did with them, though an important issue to consider, is far less significant than what we do with the years ahead of us. We might decide to write off the past half-century as a complete waste, or we could look at it as a great start to build on.

Robert Lalah is features editor and author of 'Roving with Lalah'. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and robert.lalah@gleanerjm.com.

The second commentary/sermon which  grabbed my attention  is the one as noted below where The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Reverend Justin Welby spoke to a group of Anglicans in the UK and which link was sent to me by a friend

http://www.anglicannews.org/news/2013/08/people-pay-attention-when-the-church-is-real-abp-welby.aspx :  

A world as described by the worldwide leader of the Anglican Church Archbishop...this week in an address to a  charismatic church group call " New Wine". And where he shared  the perspective that the Church of Jesus Christ has,  time and time again,  played an important  role  in rescuing Western Civilization, as we now know it from the " dark ages". From " Benedict" whose  leadership led to the  establishment of Universities  and Hospitals at time when " darkness" ruled over much of Europe. To St Francis of Assisi who perform the dame task later on. And all of this hugely important  change taking place because  of the  deep prayers of small groups of persons who believed in Christ Jesus. But sadly a world which, in the name of 'enlightenment' has turned  away from the  strong moral foundation  undergirding the building of a progressive civilization  which the Christian ethic facilitated.

Last week also witnessed the 'revelations', as some would have in, by another leader, this time the Roman Catholic Pope who ' raised eyebrows' and perhaps the hopes of some, when he famously declared, " who am I to judge anyone"?   In   response to  questions posed by traveling journalists on his views on  the homosexual lifestyle. One person writing me during the week, in response to the  message last Sunday, suggested that " even the Pope is hedging" ( on this issue).
And as I read Eric Metaxas' Book " 7 men" I could not help but paying close attention to the following excerpt in his Introduction and which was preceded by a discussion on manhood and what makes a man great. And so Metaxas having placed in context, the reason for writing about 7 men and  how historically " having role  models and heroes was a vital way of helping a  new generation know what it should be aiming at, he goes on to observe that something has changed in recent years. And then this comment:

" Part of what happened is that - since roughly the late 1960's - we've  adopted  the idea that no one is really in a position to say what's right or wrong. So we're loath to point to anyone as a good role model. " Who am I to judge anyone"?, has become the mantra of our age"

Finally, just last night I read about the second character in Metaxas' Book - William Wilberforce. And although I thought I knew something about him, having  studied both  European and West Indian history in high school, and read otherwise, this account was an 'eye opener'. I did not know that when Wilberforce, on the advice of John Newton, the reformed slave ship owner now turned Pastor, " vowed that he would take his faith into the world of politics and serve God there with his gifts",  Metaxas  tells the story as follows:

" But how exactly should he go about it? How would it work out?  To what major political objects should Wilberforce turn his attention? That remained to be seen. But Wilberforce prayed about it and knew that God would lead him.
Less than tow years after this historically important decision, Wilberforce wrote twenty words in his diary that would direct  the course of the rest of his life-time, would have consequences so far-reaching that they would end in genuinely altering the course of Western Civilization. " God Almighty", he wrote, " has set before me two great Objects: the suppression of the Slave Trade and the reformation of Manners".

Metaxas then goes on to explain " Manners" in the context of the reformation of the morality or culture. And that culture included child labour - as young as five and six working 12 hour days often in dangerous conditions; widespread alcoholism - including drunk MP's and the upper class; the sexual trafficking of women - up to 25% of of all single women in London were prostitutes! And the average age was 16;  extreme cruelty to animals and public hangings for simple matters;  and the fact that 'goodness' was not fashionable - no rich person gave to the poor. Philanthropy as we now know and accept as the norm did not exist in the minds of people at that time. And so in addition to The Abolition of the Slave Trade, it is Wilberforce who is credited with  making " doing good to your neighbour,  a Biblical  command, " fashionable". it just did not exist before, in any real sense.

There is a lot more about this remarkable man.  A  true man of God and  a genuine Hero whose exploits  changed the course of history, with help from his friends in the " Clapham Sect", and of course with divine intervention  to whom Him appealed, and the extent of his dependence is best exemplified by the following letter he received from the great  evangelist John Wesley, who also helped to shape the course of Britain's history,  a few days before  equally remarkable human being died.

Dear Sir,
                          Unless the divine power has raised you up to be as Athanasius ( he defended the doctrine of the Holy Trinity in the early church when it was attacked by forces within the church - my words)  contra mundum ( against the world - Metaxas), I see not how you can go through your glorious enterprise in opposing the that execrable villainy, which is the scandal of religion, of England, and of human nature. Unless god has raised you up for this very thing, you will be worn out by the opposition of men and devils.

But if God be for you, who can be against you? Are all  of them together stronger than  God? O be not weary of well doing. Go on, in the name of God and in the power of His might and, till even American slavery ( the vilest that ever saw the sun) shall  vanish away before it.

Reading this morning a tract written by a poor African, I was particularly struck by that circumstance, that a man who has a black skin, being wronged by or outraged by a white man, can have no redress; it being a law in all our Colonies that the oath of a black against the white goes for nothing. What villainy is this!

That he who guided you from youth up may continue to strengthen you in allof this and all things is  the prayer of, dear sir,
Your affectionate servant
John Wesley

So in the midst of all of this what did the Holy One of Israel reveal through His Word and  inspired word, as  this tiny island which has given to the world Bob Marley's music, Marcus Garvey's philosophy, and  world records at the Olympic Games.  And  so much more, even as we contemplate the words of the  'savant' in Robert Lalah's  Barbershop. This country which has witnessed the Mighty Power of God in rescuing us from  Slavery and which people like the children of Israel, have forgotten about  ' Puppa Jesus' and Massa God", as we term them in  our  colloquial and colorful  dialect.

I  sent a message to a group of Church leaders about the Pope's  statements, which I felt at the very least were " incomplete" in respect of the issue of judging. I also shared my thoughts on the views expressed in that wonderful sermon by the Arch-Bishop of Canterbury, but I believe that the  following message captures the essence of what  I believe The Lord said to me this week.
As we, as a people, and all peoples, are not just in need of Independence from physical bondage, and from economic  challenges, but more importantly , spiritual freedom. And which alone can  really set a people free. Which is what the Psalm appointed in the Anglican Church worldwide this week addresses.

" The Lord foils the plans of the nations;
he thwarts the purposes of the peoples.
But the plans of The Lord stand firm forever,
the purposes of his heart through all generations.
Blessed is the nation whose God is The Lord.
Psalm 33: 10-12.

So let us like John Wesley advised Wilberforce, " let us be not be weary of doing  good". For of such perseverance is born the wealth and prosperity and good name of a nation under God.  We pray that all who may read this, sinner and believer, Prime Minister and working class man, doctor and patient, journalists and listeners, all people may heed the  warning of one of the most important passages of Scripture which came into my mind as I was walking and contemplating this message this morning.
"  For  God has bound  all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all".  Romans 11:32.
As until we come to the point where we realize that we are " wretches" before God, as John Newton, who wrote Amazing Grace discovered, the same one who was close to Wilberforce, then the message below will not  mean anything, and spiritual bondage will continue to our lot. And Independence will, like the barbershop  philosopher, of little moment in the life of a nation. Any Nation. I pray that my grandchildren will have a different experience, and will live in a land freed of sin and death in and through Christ Jesus, and which life begins with repentance. Of Nation and of self.

Dwight Moody
Verse: Hosea 14:4 "...I will heal their waywardness and love them freely, for my anger has turned away from them. "  Read this in the context of the Scripture explains all Scriptures....For no matter how many promises God has made, there are " Yes",  in Christ, And , so through him the " Amen" is spoken to us to the glory of God. Now it God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He has anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts and as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. ( 2 Cor. 1:20 22).

  The Backslider came into the inquiry room night before last, and I was trying to tell him God loved him. He would hardly believe me. He thought  because he had not kept up his love and faithfulness to God, and to his own vows, that God had stopped loving him.

Now, it says in John 13:1 (KJV) , " He loved them unto the end", that is, his love was unchangeable. You might have forgotten him and betrayed him and denied him, but nonetheless, he loves you: he loves the backslider. There is not a man here who has wandered from God and betrayed him but what The Lord Jesus loves him and wants him to come back.

Now in Hosea 14:4, God says that he will heal every backslider. " I will....love them freely", So The Lord tells the backsliders, " if you would only come back to me, I will forgive you." It was thus with Peter who denied  his  Lord. The Savior forgave him and sent him to preach his glorious gospel on the day of Pentecost when 3,000 were won to Christ under one sermon of a backslider ( see John 18:25-27; 21:15-19; Acts 2:14-39).

Don't let a backslider go out of this hall this evening with such hard talk about The Lord. No backslider can say that God has left him. he may think so, but it is one of the devil's lies. The Lord has never left a man yet.

Comment: If I may say so myself, as this reflection has nothing to do with my wisdom, I  was only led to read and share, what an amazing revelation. " The Lord has never left a man yet". And it is true. What is even more amazing is the fact that " we all get the same wages", no matter at which point we accept Christ, turn back to Him with a repentant heart, and help to share this  Good News with other.  My only lament is that,  if  we were to do so early, then we would have for a much longer time,  been part of the rescue mission of God to "reconcile the world to Him and to each other", in and through Christ Jesus. But who am I to speak, having been a wretch, who God rescued.
Finally I have long had the greatest respect for the Word that says: "  Say to them, ' As surely as I live,' declares the Sovereign Lord, I take  no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their wicked ways and live. Turn! Turn from your from your evil ways! Why will you die, O house of Israel? "  Ezekiel 33: 11 NIV

In that context then, it is  the role of the church is to be the " watchman", who God called Ezekiel to be, and warned him to speak to his countrymen and tell them to turn and repent. And if he did not do so, " their blood " would be on his head. But if he did, and they refused to repent, then "their blood would be on their own heads".

So my friend even though The Lord has called me to speak to you this morning, the greater message, is that our country which is celebrating Emancipendence, needs  to listen carefully to what the present day Ezekiel, the church, is saying, and turn back to the God who rescued them  from slavery. Back to Him who loves the backslider, and has not left them. Then and only then, will people like Vibes Kartel, no longer rule over our children, people will not be mobbed and killed in the dancehall or in the community,  a nation will no longer suffer the burden of debt like an albatross around  our necks, gunmen will no longer terrify  a people, and  politicians will no longer sow divisive seeds in our  land,  but come together under God,  so that healing may  happen. In short,  emancipation from spiritual bondage will take place, and we will truly be independent of, and freed from,  the plans and machinations of the devil who loves not, but only plans to  kill and to destroy. But Jesus has come that we have life, and have it more abundantly.

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