I read my Bible to see what men ought to do; and read my newspapers to see what men are doing - John Newton
Lord renew the thy church, beginning with me; Lord renew the church that the church may renew the nation(s) - a prayer for the Decade of Evangelism in the Anglican Church many years ago.
This week the big news in my country that had just about everyone talking, cussing, agonizing, calling for action, 'spinning' and seeking answers, was the letter written by former Executive Director of the Jamaica Anti-Doping Commission (JADCO) Anne Shirley. In what some described as a, ' bombshell', Ms. Shirley shared with the prestigious sports magazine Sports Illustrated and thus with the entire world, her version of the facts, that Jamaica's anti-doping campaign was sadly lacking in its ability to adequately police the sport. And carelessly , in the view of many, argued that prior to the London Olympics, only one out of competition testing had been done on the Jamaican athletes, when it is well known that the World Anti-doping Agency, WADA, independently tested the Jamaicans, especially the elite ones. All of this of course taking place in the context of the huge success that the Jamaican elite athletes, in, particular, had achieved in sweeping the sprint gold medals. To the extent, that some suggested that Usain Bolt's and Shell-Ann's performances had 'rescued' the IAAF World Championships from hum drum and mediocrity. JADCO and various officials have since responded, arguing that though not fully achieving " best practices" the agency was well on its way to dealing with the historic problems. And more importantly, in no way should the performances of the elite athletes be sullied either by malice, ignorance of the facts or falsehood, as they were tested repeatedly, and found to be 'clean' by WADA. The debate continues to be a major talking point in my country.
Almost predictably, the other 'flashpoint' was the action taken by an overseas Jamaican gay and lesbian group, who successfully lobbied the promoters in Canada to drop the highly touted conscious reggae artist Queen Ifrica, from a stage show on which she was billed to perform. All of this coming from comments she is alleged to have made during her performance at the Grand Gala in Jamaica on Independence Day. And in the process spouting lyrics, which apparently angered the LGBT community and triggered their action. And thus so many, including the beleaguered artiste, are wondering what are the rights of heterosexuals? Do they no longer have a right to publicly endorse the heterosexual lifestyle and make their feelings known about a lifestyle which according to Bible is unacceptable. And worse an abomination! And even if they do not go that far, where is the line to be drawn in this " human rights" issue as the gays have framed it?
So then in this midst of all of this controversy, what did the God who created heaven and earth, and all that is within it, reveal to to His people who were listening, as Samuel did, and said, " Speak Lord for thy servant is hearing"?
First up, , what the french describe as a cri de coeur - a cry from the heart. About my country within the context of what might very well have " an assault" on the the good name of Jamaica, and in particular our elite athletes, even if the 'revelations' by Anne Shirley proved to be a ' wake up' call in a sense for us to better police the sports. As one has to be very careful that, in attempt to genuinely make the sport better, one does not " throw out the baby' with the proverbial bath water. Because, at the end of the day, sports in general, and track and field in particular, plays a vital role, not only in terms of economics, but in the formation of psyche of our people. And which mental and spiritual is ' under pressure' as we say in Jamaica. And so I wrote a message to political, sports and to the leadership of the press in my country.
THE FIRST MESSAGE
I heard the interview featuring Dr. Wright on BTH this week. Also the interview with the de facto Minster of Sports. And that with Professor Davidson on Nationwide. Consequently I have been led to write guided by the following perspective.
Over the past couple of days, I have been led to write a series of messages which ended with the final one being written this morning. And which climaxed by speaking about the restoration of the soul of a nation. This matter of the restoration of the soul of a nation is one which is engaging the minds of so many Jamaicans, even if they use other terms to describe their concerns. Right now we do not have much going for us. We used to, but unfortunately we have squandered our " cultural capital", and heritage which was once the envy of the world, and helped to made us a distinctive and highly esteemed nation.
It began with the corruption of the body politic, which is in my view, and a view shared by many, the major reason for the alarmingly high level of crime and violence, on the one hand, and the dire economic circumstances, on the other, in our country today. This plague on " both of our houses" , then segued into the corruption of the music...most aspects of dance hall music has nothing good to recommend it...in my view, unlike the conscious lyrics of the rock steady and ska era; which then to led the corruption of the manners and mores of our people and the shocking and outrageous behavior featured every so often on public media, of our school children in particular. And now in recent times, the thoroughly unscriptural and equally unholy " prosperity gospel" has served to corrupt the purity and power of gospel, which together with the pernicious influence of the secular agenda, has led to the diminution of the role of the church in the lives of our people. And a people without religion will (and have) cast off all restraint. All of the above attended by disastrous consequences for the social and moral life of a nation, on which it's 'soul' is built.
In the midst of this egregious wrong, the spectacular performances, on a amazingly sustained basis, of our track and field athletes, have been the dominant aspect of our culture which has served to enhance our national reputation worldwide, and lift the psyche of a beleaguered people. And thus help to keep our soul together. In this context then, we must, collectively do all we can to protect and enhance the viability of the sport, and thus the recent revelations by Ann Shirley on CNN and in Sports Illustrated is no small matter.
One expert has told me that the essence of the problem lies with JADCO not being able to test regularly, in and out of competition, urine and blood, those athletes who fall in the second tier of excellence in Jamaica. As the top athletes in each category( 100 M, 100 M, 200 M, 200 W etc...in fact the top 25 in the world in each category) will and have been tested in and out of competition by WADA. So Shelly-Ann and Usain Bolt are tested regularly by WADA and done so without prior warning. The key role that JADCO plays then, if the above information is correct, and I have every reason to believe it, is to monitor the activities of those athletes who have not yet appeared on the "radar of WADA". In addition to augmenting the role that WADA plays in monitoring the top tier athletes.
My suggestion then, in respect of making JADCO more efficient is, given the amount of money that the athletes earn internationally, why don't we use the taxes which we collect from them, to augment or finance completely the financial and management needs of JADCO. In addition to adhering to the recommendations of WADA in respect of the issue of transparency. The taxes that Bolt alone pays could so this I would imagine. And thus allow it to function efficiently and so help to protect the sport and ultimately the soul of a nation.
The second message comes within the context of the Queen Ifrica experience and what we need to learn from it. I had given it no more thought and had not intended to write on it. But when The Lord speaks, as he clearly did, who am I to remain silent? The reality is that this whole campaign by the LGBT community is no ordinary matter. Nor is it a new thing, as people have been intent on being disobedient to God for centuries, with the exact same consequences. We will just have to wait and see how The Lord acts in this century. But make no mistake about it, he will act decisively one day. Our role then, is to be compassionate as possible, for the observation " but for the grace of God there goest I" , is very real.
THE SECOND MESSAGE - sent to local leaders in all spheres of Jamaican life, and to some of those who do not share my worldview on the matter
I am currently going through Mark's gospel as part of my bedtime devotions. And tonight I came upon this:
" For Herod himself had given orders to have John arrested, and he had him put in prison. He did this because of Herodias, his brother Phillip's wife, whom he had married. For John had been saying to Herod, It is not lawful for you to have your brother's wife. So Herodias nursed a grudge against John and wanted to kill him. " Mark 6:17-19
Then I thought about current events where the church and most Jamaicans have opposed 'unlawful acts' and how much pressure is being brought to bear on those who oppose those unlawful acts.
Then I thought, and recalled that " the word of God is living and active", and therefore whenever we read it, God Himself is speaking to us. So we dare not take that which " is sharper than any two edged sword, and penetrates even to diving soul and spirit", lightly.
Then the passage of Scripture came into my mind, but I cannot recollect where from, that " it is not you they are against, but God Himself. So Herodias was not simply wishing the death of John, but was in opposition to the God of John who opposed her wrong doing.
So I went in search of the scripture, opened my other Bible and found this right before me. Amazing!
" Unlawful Sexual Relations"....which is the caption of Leviticus 18. And no to sex with close relatives, no to sex during a woman's menstrual period, no to sex with the neighbour, no child sacrifice, no to sex with animals, no to sex with a man as how a man may have sex with a woman. All because these things defile the land, and that is how those God was going to drive out of the before the children of Israel, behaved.
Finally this is how the chapter begins:
" The Lord said to Moses, Speak to the Israelites and say to them, I am The Lord your God. You must not do as they do in Egypt, where you used to live, and you must not do as they do in the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you. Do not follow their practices." Leviticus 18:1-3.
And if The Lord, the Creator of heaven and earth and all that is within it, told His people to refrain from certain activities, it means that they had a choice to obey or disobey.
So there was I going to my bed, when The Lord spoke. What then am I supposed to do, but be obedient and write. As it is not a good thing to be disobedient to The Living God.
I pray God we will think on these things and let those who have ears to hear listen well. And not follow the practice of Herod or Herodias, regardless of what man can or may do in retaliation.
The Lord, having spoken to me at 10:38 pm, and given me the second message, on the following morning at 7:38, I wrote the third and final message. The point in all of this controversy, is that death provides the final answer to all issues. Whether controversial or seemingly settled! As what happens after that terminal event, is all that matters in life. Judgement! Where the actions and thoughts and aspirations of all mankind will finally be evaluated. Which is the essence of the sermon preached today at my church based on the Gospel reading where Jesus in responding to the existential question in Luke's Gospel, concerning how many people were going to be saved, rather than getting embroiled in the controversy a la the Jehovah's witnesses, taught the people to :
" make every effort to enter through the narrow door". And that " narrow door" or gate is nothing else but Christ Himself. As there is no other way to enter the Kingdom of God. ( Foundation Christianity). So my advice to Queen Ifrica, is to fear less those who ban you from performing in Canada, or in the US or in Europe, and fear more Him, who Alone can get you into the Kingdom of God, which is eternity. And to Anne Shirley, make sure that although you stand by your numbers and your research, make sure that when the curtain call comes on life, your actions, how you have treated your fellow man or woman, how you have been faithful to the truth, will ensure that you receive the " well done good and faithful servant " from Him alone who knows the thoughts of your hearts and the motive of your soul.
THE THIRD MESSAGE and final message.
As I began my early morning devotions thanking God for another day, the thought, not of my making, came into my head, that I am no under God's wrath. The implication being that in the same way we celebrate a new day of life, we should also celebrate daily, that we are free from condemnation.
So I went to the famous passage in the Book of Romans which speaks to that issue. And the link with last night, is that, it is not only Herodias and Herod who were opposed to God's law. The children of Israel, God''s " treasured possession", again and again, acted in opposition to God's law. Which is part of the lesson imparted to us in the Book of Judges. They did evil in the eyes of the Lord and when they cried out to God, He sent them a Judge to help. Gideon, Othneil, Deborah. But everytime The Lord helped them, they went back to their evil ways. It was as if they could not help themselves. And this inability to " keep God's law", which is the heritage of all born of Adam, is highlighted in the same Book of Romans, and is one of the foundations of the Christian faith.
" All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God" . Romans 3:23 - the essence of the story of the first 7 chapters of the Book of Romans. Hence the message last night was not one only for those who commit the Sin of Leviticus chap 18, but rather for the whole human race, as we were all under the wrath of God until Christ came. And so to the glorious news, the essence of the Gospel, The Good News:
" Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do, in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.
Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires, but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of the sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God's law. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God." Romans 8: 1-8 NIV
Comment: A couple of things, as Dionne would say. Herodias' hostility to God's law, which resulted in her asking for, and receiving, " the head of John the Baptist", is but a metaphor, a leif motif, for the current debate raging across the world in respect of the children of the "Enlightenment", and the children of Light, who trust in the Holy One of Israel. And all other strands of the debate, including ", Good Bye God", which was the recent headlines of the Daily Gleaner, flow from that central theme. So the reality is that the Spirit of Herodias is alive and well in the 21st century. She still wants the " head of John the Baptist on a platter". That, is for the church to go away, for God to go away and leave her to continue her unlawful acts. This is the larger context in which many gay and lesbian people people have been 'sucked ' into, without any understanding of the deeper issue happening around them. Not so the the gay rights advocates, as they have, in many cases the same agenda. Go away God. We want the head of John the Baptist. How dare you oppose our life style. We will boycott you. We will make you a pariah in the eyes of those who control your future!
In the midst of all of this struggle between God's goodness and evil, there are conscience ridden folks trying to work out their salvation, as deep in their hearts, deep in our hearts, we know that we continue to oppose God's law day by day. And so there is great rejoicing, and should be, for all who read God's Word, The Greatest Word of Tolerance in the History of mankind, ever since Romans 8 was ushered into our consciousness, by the Atonement wrought by Christ on Calvary.
Comments: I pray God that you who receive, analyze and disseminate news all day long, you who govern, you who teach, you who rally the troops of civil society, may come to appreciate, and I too, who sometimes get caught up with " news " too much, may understand what is the real News in this world. The Gospel of Christ, in whom and through we have freedom from the wrath of the God. Forever! Whether our sin be that described in Leviticus, Numbers, Genesis, Judges, Exodus, Psalms, Jonah, Amos, Daniel. As the young people say, " It is so done". But only in Christ Jesus.
That's why we can rejoice and sing. This is the day, this is the day that The Lord has made. We will rejoice, we will rejoice and be glad in it....I so wish that I could sing. Like the Fiddler on the Roof, I would climb right up there and sing. Praises to the God who loves me and all mankind so much, that of His own free will He suffered and died, so that we may not perish but have life, and life more abundantly. Now you tell me what news from Moscow or Berlin or London is better than that.
Sent from my iPad