Sunday, February 17, 2013

Trusting in and appealing to flesh: trusting in and appealing to God

The Minister of Finance in my country, The Hon. Peter Phillips, is caught between a rock and a hard place. Accepting  the demands of the IMF - and which 'conditionalities' make sense in the long run - on the one hand, and catering to the expectations of the various interest groups in his native land Jamaica. And which groups collectively or individually, have the power to make life very difficult for him, and even to cause the administration, of which he is a part, to become a one term government.
He has angered many people by agreeing to a new debt exchange programme, designed to reduce our debt to GDP ration from 140% down to 95% over the next few years. This means a sharp reduction in the interest that would have been paid to holders of Jamaican bonds. Money earned for doing nothing in some cases! Fictitious wealth created without any production! Money " borrowed" to pay for government services! Money used to keep the exchange rate stable! Jamaican tax payers money which has been a significant source of income for those who control money in this country! Clearly it is high time that people began to earn money by production rather than by  " holding the government to economic ransom". Or is there something that I don't understand about economics.

The other aspect, the new  measures designed reap $16 Billion in new taxes will prove onerous and will affect all classes. That one  will be difficult to bear. And so the opposition says it might appeal to the courts. The moneyed classes claim they were " not kept in the loop", and to whom they are appealing, only God He knows. While the word on the streets is that " Portia tun up de ting". A take off  on a campaign song used effectively by the past administration.

Meanwhile Barack Obama is still battling with Congress and other powerful forces to push through his agenda of reform of gun control; new immigration laws; and trying to bring some equity in the paying of taxes. And so he appeals to the masses, even holding   campaign type meetings across the USA. Almost in a similar fashion to a former Prime Minister of Jamaica, the late Michael Manley, who was famous for " appealing to the people" when he had difficulties getting his own way, even within his own party.

And so in the midst of this conundrum, the Lord led me this week, on one of those 4:00 am episodes to read His Word about a prophet who was in trouble and appealed to the One true and Almighty God. The Only One who could help Jeremiah. The Only One who can help Obama! And the Only One who can help Minister Phillips and by extension the people of Jamaica.

" Cursed is the one who trusts in man,
who depend on flesh for his strength
and whose heart turns away from the Lord.
He will be like a bush in the wastelands;
he will not see prosperity when it comes.
He will dwell in the parched places of the desert,
in a salt land where no one lives.
But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in him.
He will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.

The heart is deceitful above all things
and beyond cure.
Who can understand it?

I the Lord search the heart
and examine the mind,
to reward a man according to his conduct,
according to what his deeds deserve. 

Like a partridge that hatches eggs it did not lay, 
is the man who gains riches by unjust means. 
When half his life is gone, they will desert him,
 and in the end he will prove to be a fool. 

Heal me Lord and I will be healed; 
save me and I will be saved,
 for you are the one I praise. 
They keep saying to me,
 " where is the word of the Lord? 
Let it be now fulfilled!" 

I have not run away from being your shepherd;
 you know that I have not desired the day of despair.
 What passes my lips is open before you.
 Do not be a terror are my refuge in the day of disaster. 
Let my persecutors be out to shame, 
but keep me from terror. Bring on them the day of disaster;
 destroy them with double destruction. 

Comment: There is clearly a ' searching of the collective heart" of a nation going on here in the midst of the economic woes that we face! There is clearly a " searching of the heart" of some of our capitalist in respect of how they have earned money, in one particular respect in this country. Will be continue " not to see prosperity when it comes"? That depends solely on whether we continue to " trust in man and on flesh"; or whether or not we begin to " trust in God...and therefore have no worries in a year of drought". 

This week also I was lead to write to a journalist and other leaders in my country about a man who trusted in God and was rewarded in due course, even though, like Jamaica , he suffered much, but for different reasons. And because he was faithful to the end, even though others tried to lead him astray, His Redeemer rescued him.

The Message

Dear .....I heard you giving Oscar Pistorius good advice yesterday, concerning what he ought to have been doing at 3:00 am on Valentines day, rather than what he is alleged to have done.
I read my Bible this morning and the Lord gave me good advice, concerning what men ought to do, rather than what they are doing.
It's the story about Job. A story most Jamaicans would have some knowledge of, if not the deep theological lessons. A man who the Lord praised, as being " blameless and upright, who fears God and shuns evil". Yet it was the will of God to " put everything that Job had, except his life,  into the hands of Satan". And so Job suffered immeasurably, and as far as he was concerned, without any justification. So he " questioned God". All kinds of questions!  But in the midst of questioning, he gave one of the great assurances that has given all who trust in God hope over the ages: " I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth". Job 19:25. A message of hope immortalized in song by Handel.
A most prophetic statement, coming from the lips of one who, " was rejected by men and suffered", long before the birth of the Crucified One, Christ Jesus Himself, the One mediator between God and man.
And with that assurance of faith, Job longed for the day when he  would be able to defend himself before God,  In whom he had placed his complete trust to vindicate him. " Though he slay, yet will I hope in him. I will surely defend my ways to his face". Job 13:15.
 But God did not answer Job as he wished. At least not then.

Most of us are also aware of the great debate between Job and his three friends. All of 
whom were very critical of his position  that he was blameless before God.
What the Lord led me to read this morning, was the testimony of a young man, whose story is not well known, in fact I had almost forgotten him, until the Lord reminded me of him.
His was not critical, but still he questioned whether Job really understood with whom he was arguing. To my amazement, and his comments are the  final ones before God answers Job, almost like a John the Baptist preparing for the Lord's coming, his questions mirror the questions which God posed to Job. You can read it for yourself. My favourite is " Have you ever  given orders to the morning ( God speaking) ? But I digress, as that the not the reason why I was led to write to you this morning. No! Read carefully the following passage.
Elihu is speaking. And I dare say God is speaking to you, and me, and others.

" Why do you complain to him that he answers none of man's words? Fo God does speak - now one way, now another - though man may not perceive it. In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls on men as they slumber in their beds, he may speak in their ears and terrify them with warnings, to turn man  from wrongdoing and keep him from pride, to preserve his soul from the pit, his life from perishing by the sword. Or a man may be chastened  on  a bed of pain with constant distress in his bones......his soul draws near to the pit, and his life to the messengers of death.
Yet if there is an angel on his side as a mediator, one out of a thousand, to tell a man what is right for him, to be gracious to him and say, ' Spare him from going down to the pit; I have found a ransom for him - then his flesh is renewed like a child's; it is restored to it is restored as in the days of his youth.
He prays to God and finds favor with him, he sees God's face and shouts for joy; he is restored by God to his righteous state.
Then he comes to men and says , " I have sinned, and perverted what was right, but I did not get what I deserved. He redeemed my soul from going down to the pit, and I will live to enjoy the light.
God does all of these things to a man - twice, even three times - to turn back his soul from the pit, that the light of life may shine on him.
Job 33:13-30. NIV

There is a lot that I could comment on, but all I am  simply moved to advise you my friend, that it is now Lent. A time given to the nation(s) by God, for serious introspection and to repent.

As God does all these things to a man ( send him messages)  twice, even three times - to rescue his soul. And the ultimate message we will all celebrate, once again at the end of Lent, on Good Friday and on that Glorious Easter morning. All because God loves us, and it was His will, that the One Mediator, the Redeemer of all mankind, His only Son, should be " despised, rejected and suffer", so you and I may see God's face one day, and hear His voice, as Job did.
Let all who have ears to hear, listen well.

Sent from my iPad

As we go through this period of Lent, of repentance and appealing to God for mercy, for self, church and nation, we need to begin to really appreciate that ultimately, we do not have two options when trouble comes. Only one! And the IMF is not the ultimate answer. Nor Congress in the USA. Nor the courts of the land. Nor public  opinion.  Only God. When the world comes to that conclusion, we will begin to rest safely in the arms of our Redeemer God, Christ Jesus Himself. And which God-man is still calling to us: " Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and you will learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden light". Matthew 11: 28-30 NIV.

This advice holds true whether our burden is the IMF conditionalities; the harsh economic realities which we have brought upon ourselves and upon others; the result of Portia ( our PM)  "tun up the ting" ( harsh economic policies); our own sinful state! Whatever! All that Jesus asks is that we place our trust in Him and be obedient. And then faith will follow. But we must take the first step. Just like Peter did, when he bid his master call him to walk on water. And then we must keep our eyes fixed on Him, and He will grant us faith, so that we do not sink. Whether in the deep waters of the seas, or in the quagmire of economic woes, or in the pitfalls of a quirky American political system. The reality is also that, like Job, God allows these things to happen for His own purposes. So He sends all kinds of messages, in and through various circumstances to warn a people and to warn nations. To rescue our souls! We will once again celebrate, at the end of Lent, on Good Friday and on Easter, His ultimate message of love writ large in the Blood of Jesus. Will we heed that call, or await the judgement, and the terror, that comes upon those who continue to be disobedient to the Sovereign God!