Sunday, May 26, 2013

When an individual or a people have come to their wit's end - God is a very present help

The news in my country this week included a look back on two major events which rocked the nation in recent times. One, the Armadale fire, where  seven girls who were part of a group of sixty two  wards of the state, perished in a fire  which gutted a state run facility in the a rural area of Jamaica on May 22 1009. So outraged by this seemingly preventable disaster, many Jamaicans called for a Commission of Enquiry. The recommendations of which and other related matters was the subject of a well received and highly commendable  documentary written by journalist Marilyn Facey and broadcast on Beyond The Headlines on Radio Jamaica this week - 

The other a flashback on the Tivoli Incursion by members of the security forces of Jamaica on May 24 2010,  with assistance , we now know, from the USA, in  pursuit of  Christopher " Dudus" Coke, who was wanted in the USA for gun and drug related crimes, and which series of events was broadcast on Cliff Hughes' Nationwide Radio - . During the raid on Tivoli, a political stronghold of the then ruling party, some 70 Jamaican were alleged to have died, a member of the security forces killed,  women raped and bodied burnt. Following a recommendation of the Public Defender, a Commission of Enquiry is to be held. Many are now arguing about the terms of reference, with one eminent public commentator, Martin Henry,  speaking on " That's  a Rap", today on Radio Jamaica public affairs programme, suggesting  that three issues should be properly ventilated. The role of the security forces; The role of the illegal paramilitary forces in " garrisons"; and the conditions which provide fertile ground for the attendant criminality in such areas. No doubt a  reminder, as was the case in a recent editorial by the Jamaica Observer, that prior to the Incursion, gunmen openly defied the state, burning down a police station, killing policemen;  and women marched defending Dudus, and openly declaring that just how Jesus died, so too were they prepared to die for Dudus - a remarkable performance, and almost unbelievable but for the fact that it came on public television

Finally tonight I watched the news on TVJ, our most popular television station and wondered how members of the Jamaica Teachers Association, the highly respected and influential  trade union representing teachers, could have stooped to such a low - describing the present Minister of Education, The Hon Ronald Thwaites, with whom they have a disagreement,  and ascribing to him actions, of the most demeaning and disgraceful sort. And then, and the juxtaposition is not deliberate, but  chronologically correct, a story about the alleged rape and murder of a 75 year old woman.

 Clearly, one has to wonder how much further can my country descend into the nadir in which we now find ourselves. An irresponsible and seemingly uncaring state; the rule of gunmen defying the rule of law in an entire community; irresponsible members of the JTA replacing civil discourse with plain old " cuss out"; and madness at large in a community resulting in death and rape of a senior citizen. Is there any hope for my country?

Yes there is, was the certain and clear answer I got this week from the Lord. I had been praying for a friend. In the same way I pray for my country with regularity. And the Lord sent this answer in a dramatic way.  With words from Psalm 20 and then from Isaiah.


May the Lord answer you when you are in distress;
 may the name of the God of Jacob protect you.
 May he send you help from the sanctuary
 and grant you support from Zion......
 Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
 but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.
 They are brought to their knees and fall,
 but we rise up and stand firm.
 O Lord save the king!
 Answer us when we call! Psalm 20: 1-2 &7-8 NIV
 Then just now, the Lord woke me up, in an unusual way. Over the years I have grown accustomed to his 4 :00 am messages from the Word. But this one was different. This time He called me by name.  So I got up and began reading the Bible. And found this Word and was led to write to you.
 In repentance and rest is your salvation,
 in quietness and trust is your strength,
 but you would have none of it.
 You said, ' No we will flee on horses.'
 Therefore you will flee!
 A thousand will flee
 at the threat of one;
 at the threat of five
 you will all flee away,
 till you are left like a flagstaff on a mountaintop
 like a banner on a hill."
 Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you;
 he rises to show you compassion.
 For the Lord is a God of justice.
 Blessed are  those who wait for him.
 Isaiah 30:15-18 NIV
 Its a message to " The Obstinate Nation". And this passage is preceded by frightening words.
 .....Because you have rejected this message,
 relied on oppression
 and depended on deceit,
 this sin will become for you
 like a high wall, cracked and bulging,
 that collapses suddenly in an instant.
 It will break-in pieces like pottery,
 shattered so mercilessly
 that among its pieces not a fragment will be found
 for taking coals from a hearth
 or scooping water out of a cistern .
 My friend, there are two messages in this early morning  Word from the Lord.
 The key one is that Lord longs to be gracious to you. But first you need to repent!.
 I beg you, the circumstances surrounding this message from the Lord were very dramatic. A 'chance" meeting. A pleading Word at night. A very specific  answering  Word in the early morning. So my friend, 'Today if you hear the Lord calling do not harden your heart'. I beg of you, as He longs to show you compassion and not judgement.
 Your friend  Lucien

Comment : I believe with all my heart, that in the same way that , despite the many, many sins that the children of Israel committed, and were punished beyond measure - mothers resorted to eating their own offspring - God declared though his prophet Isaiah that,  " He longed to be gracious to them; in the very same way, though we in Jamaica have in large measure abandoned the God who created us, we too, if we repent can become once again a great nation. How long must we continue to be numbed and sickened by the news on television at nights; by the headlines in the Newspapers in the morning; and by the radio broadcasts in the evening. How long will we continued to be outraged by children murdering one another in the schools, in the communities and  in public places? How much longer before we all call for mercy because we just cannot manage?  This matter of God allowing us to reach a point where we realize that only He can help, was the subject of a  note that I was moved to write to my prayer partners this week. It's a personal note, and  therefore  edited,  but the central lesson is for all mankind, and especially for my country at this time. 


The last thing I do before kneeling at my bed and praying at bedtime is read the meditation from Oswald Chambers for that day. Last night's reflection was guided by the verse:

" But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness ; and all these things will be added unto you". Matthew 6:33.

Now this is a prayer that I have been praying in recent times so my heart was " filled". And, on reflection, it is the central message which the Lord has been trying to teach me for years, perhaps even for a lifetime. And the entire church!  But the message has been more forceful in recent times. As I have come to understand through many and varied struggles including......, that it is in the midst of those challenges that we are called to focus on the building God's kingdom, and not solely on relief from peril and trials. Even as they press on us.

Why am I writing this this morning?  As I began my devotions and was praising and thanking God for mercy,  my mind was directed to Mary's question, " how can this be". ( Mary was responding to the angels prophetic message that she had found favor with God and would soon give birth to a Son, Jesus Christ) and the answer, in my mind, as I have not yet reached the passage, " With man it is impossible, but with God all things are possible"...or words to that effect.
But what I did read,  was Paul's wonderful words of comfort,  in 2 Corinthians chap 1... which then triggered a message to a friend, and then to these words.

" We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead." chap 1: 8-9.

Comment: Apart from the obvious reference to the cross, the essence of what I gleaned from this meditation led by the Spirit, is that much more than, healing from sickness, and providing relief from financial and other material needs, which we all experience, and yearn for relief,  ultimately, in building His Kingdom, God's intention is to impart to us the life of His Son - a constant theme in the writings of Chambers. And as Mary was told, only God can do that. And throughout our journey as Christians, it is God's intention to so discipline us in various ways, as He did with Paul, that we come to this understanding ( see Hebrews 12). We cannot rely on ourselves to live a Christian life. We cannot have the life of Christ imparted to us by our own efforts, no matter how hard we pray, or how deep are our reflections or how much we delve into the Word, or how much good we do to the least of our brothers. Only God can raise us from the dead, and corrupt way of this life, unto eternal life. And until we are desperate for Him and Him alone, and not only healing and relief from earthly trials, the life of Christ, God ruling over every aspect of our life, will not be formed in us.  But O my God this lesson is so hard to learn and to live consistently, as the battle is hot. That's why we need the prayers of each others:  " O for grace to love him ( to trust him) more.
I pray God that we will continue to lift up the Name of Jesus, that He will indeed " draw all men to himself";  and  pray without ceasing  for each other so that our own sinful nature, the world and the devil will not  tempt us to give up in the midst of the battle for our souls. And the soul of this nation.
Sent from my iPad

Maybe, just maybe, out of evil will indeed come good. That as  nation, desperate for civility again in the public square; desperate for peace again in our communities; desperate for children once again to be brought up with love and affection and groomed to be  the next generation of civilized persons; desperate for the mercy and grace of God, we may cry out, like the Minister of National Security, and like the children of Israel, for divine intervention. No doubt, that is why the Lord send the final message for this week. A message of such hope, that I sent it out  on Twitter this week, as great news.
" For men are not cast off by the Lord forever. Though he brings grief, he will show compassion". Lamentations 3: 31-32 NIV
This is indeed the Good News of the Old Testament and the Gospel of the New Testament. That God, in a mysterious way, beyond our ability to comprehend, despite our wickedness, does not " cast us off forever", but though he does bring judgement and grief, He will show compassion. And the supreme example of that compassion was the death of Jesus on the Cross. For Dudus and those who wished to die for him; for the uncaring officials whose actions or in-actions resulted in the death of those seven girls; for the man or men who raped and  killed that old lady; for  people who lose self-control and utter disgraceful things on public television; for me and for you and for all who have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. But first we need to acknowledge our sins and repent. Publicly and or privately, before God.
Is the report so well documented in today's Daily Gleaner by Ian Boyne, that Africa is no longer a " basket case" economically, something for us in Jamaica to examine carefully?  Even as we celebrate with them - the 50th anniversary of the  OAU -  as our Prime Minister and members of her entourage left our shores for Ethiopia,  did this week. Is this an example of what can happen to a nation and indeed an entire continent when we do what is right in the eyes of God - perhaps in so many varied and complex ways that we don't fully understand, except that Righteousness and Justice must be at the heart of it. As one cannot meaningfully exist before God without the other. I pray God that as we continue to search for solutions for self, nation and a world we may indeed come to the understanding that God is a God of love and mercy. And will forgive all who seek Him in times of trouble. Especially in desperate time. As long as we do so with humility and trust.