Sunday, August 11, 2013

Whether excitement in Moscow or trouble at home, God is our only Savior

I read my Bible to see what men ought to do; and read the newspapers to see what men are doing - Newton
Lord renew the church beginning with me; Lord renew the church that the church may renew the nation(s) - prayer

What else could  have dominated the news for any Jamaica but the excitement and buzz of the World Games in Moscow where our athletes are expected, and have already began, to do well. So, the great man himself, Usain Bolt, duly obliged and won the Men's 100M  this afternoon, our time, in fine style on a wet track. And  pulled along three other Jamaicans in his wake, with Justin Gatlin spoiling the 1-2-3-4 party. So the Russian invasion is well and truly on with "pocket rocket", Queen Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce expected to perform as well tomorrow,  although a 'Blessing' looms large in the picture. What a country?Have mercy!

But that the good side. Already in this the 51st year of Independence, many continue to question what  is the buzz all about as we have not done well as a nation generally. And specifically in the area of  our economy, on which we depend to provide a  reasonable life for our citizens, the story is  is not good. So much I heard a well respected Pastor from the Tarrant Baptist Church on radio as I was coming home from church asking the question. " how can we celebrate when for 45 of our 51 years as an Independent nation we have operated  a fiscal deficit; for the past 40 years the  average growth in our economy has been a measly and anemic 1%; we have the worse record in the Americas for growth in the economy over the past 10 years! Even hurricane wrecked and earthquake devastated Haiti came in above us.

At another level,  there is raging debate over comments made by one of our more conscious female reggae artistes who chose to highlight the need, in her view, for Jamaica to make marijuna legal,  and  not join with those who are promoting same sex marriages, during a nationally televised performance on Independence day. Questions of freedom of expression, appropriateness, contractual agreements and timing,  have emerged, with many folks split down the middle on this one. Especially in the light of the mob killing of a  cross-dresser, who reportedly attended a dance dressed a woman, was allegedly dancing with a male, and when 'discovered',  was set upon and murdered. Triggering another debate about the need for  tolerance towards those who have a different lifestyle from the majority; wisdom in how one exercises that 'freedom'; the 'barbaric' nature of our  culture and the aggressiveness of the gay lobby.

So what did The Lord say to His people in the midst of all this controversy, this national soul searching, and the celebrations of Sovereignty and  world class performance of our Athletes?

I was led to write two messages this week. One to a set of national leaders, the other to leaders in my church. And as I wrote and read this week, and reflected on the increasing level of plurality of views held  by so many people, it came home to me most powerfully, how as a Christian one really and truly needs to be in constant touch with God so that our will is His will. Otherwise  we  too will contribute to the madness and chaos around us. And so a the words of a short hymn which is really a prayer grabbed my attention and 'lifted me up' this week.

God be in my head, and in my understanding;
God be in my eyes, and in my looking;
God be in my mouth, and in my speaking;
God be in my heart, and in my thinking;
God be at my end, and at my departing.

And so  I pleaded  with The Lord to be in my understanding, as who can fathom the depth of human depravity; who can find a way to make the Jamaican economy 'hum along' like that in Singapore, China and India. For Him to be my looking, as the temptations in life are myriad, subtle, beguiling on the one hand, and ' in your face' on the other. And we just cannot manage on our own. For Him to be in my speaking, as O God how we wish we could take back some harsh words, some ill thought out words - one of our senior Journalists  Dionne Jackson-Miller, on her programme Beyond The Headlines on    wondered aloud if Queen Ifrica  really contemplated what her  very public stance could  cost her if the Gay lobby 'took her on'. For God to be in our thinking, as only  God He knows how far off the mark we can get in our thinking and especially in regards to what is His will.
And finally that on my departing God will welcome me as one who 'fought the good fight", and persevered to the end.

It is in this  context then,  of  wanting to do God's will, despite the  expected persecutions that we will face in this world, and resolving to be part of the 'rescue mission' to help my country to emerge from economic doldrums, moral confusion, and social anarchy, that  I believe I was led to write the first of the two messages

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Martin Luther

Verse: Psalm 73: 23..."Yet I am always with you; you hold me with your right hand"

If for the sake of God's Word hardship, sorrow, and persecution come to us, all of which follow in the train of the holy cross, the following thoughts should, with God's help comfort and console us, and should make us determine to be of good cheer, full of courage and confidence, and lead us to surrender the cause trustfully into God's gracious and fatherly will.

First, that our cause is in the hands of him who says so clearly, " No man shall pluck them from my hand" ( see John 10:28). It would not be wise to to take our cause into our own hands, for we could and shall lose it by our own loose ways. Likewise all the comfortable words are true and and do not lie, which say, " God is our refuge and strength" (  Psalm 46:1). Has any man who puts his trust in God ever been put to shame? All who trust in God will be saved, and again, " Thou Lord has not forsaken them that seek thee" ( Psalm 9:10 KJV). Thus it is really true that God gave his only-begotten Son for our salvation. If God gave his own Son for us, how could he bring himself to desert in small things.

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Comment: I do not believe we can ever begin  to understand the kind of privations and suffering and persecutions that the early church fathers had to contend with, on account of the Word. We, however, get a glimpse into their lives through meditations like these. So we who are experiencing hard times in life in this era, whether individually or collectively as church, must take comfort from the fact that we have "a large cloud of witnesses", with whom we have in part,  even a small part, a shared experience. And thus these opening  observations of the writer to the Book of Hebrews Chapter 12, ought to lead us to consider  verses 1-12 carefully lest we suffer the fate of those described in Hebrews 10: 35-39, by  throwing away our confidence.
Please pray for me, as I pray for you,  that "we will not shrink back, but live by faith".
And so as we are enabled to believe, the promised " streams of living waters", The Holy Spirit, will flow out from us, and help to heal this nation, and nations abroad, as only the power of God can rescue this land, or any land. Which is the essence of John Wesley's final and famous letter to William Wilberforce, sent in the height of the struggle to abolish slavery, and about which I wrote yesterday.
NB. Please pass this on to someone who you know is struggling with their faith in the midst of trials, as I get the sense that this reflection was sent for others at this time.

The second message was triggered by my watching a television programme hosted by the same journalist mentioned above - she is a busy girl, and an Anglican like me also, and no, I am not partial, or biased,  as I listen to Cliff Hughes also,  a popular and award winning journalist, and who  neither shares my faith nor my views on  same-sex marriages. The subject was all about independence. And again in the middle of all of this the Word of God from the OT reading appointed for my church this Sunday ' lifted me up' in a powerful  way.
" Do not be afraid,  Abram.
I am your shield,
your very great reward".
Genesis 15: 1 NIV
n the sense that this Word reassured me that God Himself was my rock and my salvation, and He alone should I 'desire' in all this world.
Which then made words of  the refrain, in particular and the hymn itself,  of that a  wonderful hymn hymn I was led to reflect on, so real and alive and meaningful.

As the deer pants for the water,
So my soul longs after You.
You alone are my heart's desire
And I long to worship You.


You alone are my strength and shield,
To You alone may my spirit yield.
You alone are my heart's desire
And I long to worship You.

2. I want You more than gold or  silver ( a challenge to sing  when watching Bolt or Shelly-Ann fact we forget about wanting  God alone then and only pray for Him to make them
Only You can satisfy  ( A challenge for young married couples..and older ones too)
You alone are the real joy-giver ( despite the many and varied 'talents' of the latest  smart phone)
And the apple of my eye ( for us grandparents to ponder....and young parents too)

3. You're my Friend and You are my brother
Even though You are a King.
I love You more than any other,
So much more than anything.

The point here is that the only way we are going to make a difference in anybody's world, be it strife torn Syria, or politically unstable  Egypt,
' enlightened' America and Europe, or economically blighted but proudly 'Independent'  Jamaica, is to place our complete trust in the God who made " heaven and earth", and  holds the solution to the problems of this world in His strong right hand. To seek Him alone first, and all other things will be added on.
This reality of God's power came home to me most vividly as I pondered ' How such a great God could really live in me, and me in Him. Which is the essence of our hope in Christ Jesus?" How could this great God who made the heaven and earth live in insignificant humans and thus enable and empower us to do great things.  How can this be? The Word of God provided an answer as I was reminded of the experience of Mary.

" The angel went to her and said, " Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you."
Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, " Do not be afraid, mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will  never end.
" How will this be," Mary asked the angel, " since I am a virgin?"
The angel answered, " The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most high will overshadow you. So the  holy one to be born  will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, as she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God."
" I am the Lord's servant, " Mary answered. " May it be to me as you have said."
Then the angel left her.
Luke 1: 28-38 NIV

Therefore the single greatest fact  can teach our people, whether in good times or in challenging times; whether in Moscow or in Berlin whilst conquering the world in the field of athletics; whether at the National Stadium on Independence Day or in a television studio discussing Independence; whether in America or in Europe  or in our own country, facing opposition to, and because of, the Word of God, is that  " nothing is impossible with God". So we are not to be afraid or concerned, or be disconsolate about the state of our nation and indeed the world but proceed in faith, and teach our people to love God and to seek Him alone ultimately.
That I believe is the context in which I was led to write the second message to  leaders in my country,  and now to a  wider audience, to encourage all peoples to  cast off all spiritual bondage and seek God and God alone. And not just fame in Moscow, or salvation in and through music. Or envy those who " are rich and famous and appear to be doing well economically' while Bob Marley's prophetic words may well apply to them, " You think you are heaven but you living in hell". It is indeed time for people to wake up and see the Light, as too many are living in darkness, and know not what they are doing. Or like in  the great city of Nineveh in Jonah's time, " do not know their right hand from their left".


It's not a matter of blowing trumpets, but rather the leading of the Holy Spirit. Last night, I 'happened' upon All Angles whilst searching for news before preparing for a number of meetings this morning;  including one to deal with the upsurge in fatal crashes on our roads. And, again and again, the question of education emerged as one of the solutions to help to rescue this country from economic doldrums, and the many social maladies about which we are all concerned. All of this being discussed within the context of celebrating Independence.
This morning, as I awoke, I recalled the section of the Grace Kennedy Lecture I had been privileged to deliver in 1995, and went and looked at it. The following is an excerpt from that part of the book entitled, " The Jamaican Society: Options for Renewal".  All of which was written from a Christian perspective. And as I searched for my copy on the bookshelf I came across another lecture shared by Prof. Errol  Miller in 2001, entitled " Jamaica in the 21st Century: Contending Choices.


Education which will encourage the most noble aspirations of human endeavour must be pursued. Education of our population, then, must transcend the pragmatic need to produce a more highly trained literate and,numerate population to meet the demands of the technological age, or to make us into another Singapore. It must seek to do more than provide a vehicle for social mobility and therefore assist in reversing historical trends. it must aim for an even higher target than allowing people to make informed choices. Education must,  instead, ultimately seek to produce good men and women who understand themselves and their role in the community, and therefore are better able to relate to neighbour, the environment and to God.

Such a purpose demands fundamental changes in the approach to education. The kind of mental slavery to which we have been subjected is not readily appreciated. Further it has enured to the benefit of powerful interest groups and has been aggravated by extremely potent forces in the media. The most powerful of these is the television and the most far reaching is the music, paradoxically, is the result of of the natural quest for freedom. Unhappily this quest is often unaccompanied by any sense of responsibility. History will surely record the profound irony of a country whose people were, for the most part, born in slavery of one kind and who, after centuries of struggle to escape its effects, have found themselves the victims of slavery of another kind.

The change has to take place at two levels. One is the process and messages which are sent to our people. The other is the sustained mobilization of leaders to be involved in the process at all levels of society. Both must work in tandem.......

Certainly not by coincidence, some of the issues identified in the short excerpt, were raised in the last blog/mailout which I wrote on Independence Day. And interestingly the Singapore model, the merits and appropriateness for Jamaica is being debated publicly at this time; as is, with much spiritedness, the role of dancehall music, in particular, on our society.  What does this all mean? I am not sure, but just being obedient to the leading of the same Spirit Who has guided my writings for the past many years, and Who,  I am sure,  was at work some 18 years ago. Have a read of the entire book, as  there may well be something there to help our country a a time like this.


Final comments - by the time some of you will get to read this, great things or disappointment may  have happened in Moscow. But regardless of what takes place, God is faithful, and there is no shadow of turning with Him, and He always honors those who honor Him. A promise Eric Liddell well knew when he elected  not to run  the 100 M on Sunday, his Sabbath, in his pet event, but rather try for the 400 M on the following day. An event he was not expected to win. But God honored him and he won.  ( 7 Men : And The Secret of Their Greatness by Eric Metaxas) Thus spawning  the great story and movie " Chariots of Fire". Let us  therefore pledge to  be faithful to the supernatural God and watch Him do all kinds of miracles in our lives and in our nation(s) in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. Amen.

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