Wednesday, 28 August 2013

The Burden of Freedom

Today the United States of America and many around the world will reflect on the famous “I Have a Dream” speech given by Martin Luther King (MLK) Jr. 50 years ago.

This speech came at time when the suppression of minorities was an institutionalized norm in the US that had the support of law.  Until his death in 1968 MLK Jr. was the most formidable civil rights activist in America; he fought (spoke/marched) for the right of minorities to enjoy freedoms enjoyed by their more dominant white counterparts.  In the prophetic language he hinted at, what turned out to be a fact that.

Although a wonderful token of that struggle exists in the person of Barak Obama, president of the United States of America, his position of privilege is not somehow experienced by a significant percentage blacks in the US today.  Why?

Is Barak Obama president because his mother is white?  Let’s say yes.  That would mean that the only qualification you require is that your mother be white and you can become president of the USA.  So much for satisfying such criteria as being at least 35 years old and a permanent resident for at least 14 consecutive years.  Incidentally, that’s all that is required to become president – of course you’ll have to convince the electorate that you are worthy of their vote, and that’s where it gets a little complicated.  President Obama, a black man did that; not once, but twice.
It is to be noted that not everyone likes Obama.  Some hate the fact that he is black, and if they had their way (possibly for that reason alone) he wouldn’t be president.  But… he is Barak Obama, President of the United States of America.

President Obama could have chosen not to go to school.  He could have chosen not to pay attention in his English Language classes.  Obama could have sought to hide behind the fact that his father is a black man from Africa.  He could have gone the route of becoming a drug addict, or an individual who lived outside of the law and thus qualifying for permanent residence in a state penitentiary. 
But he did none of that (as far as common knowledge goes).  Instead, he used the freedom he enjoys as a black man in America to go to school, focus in his classes, establish a career and is now president in his second term.  

If the presidency of Obama does nothing else, it seems to take away any excuse that minority citizens would make about a suppressive system that does not afford them the opportunity to excel.  Incidentally, the circumstances of Oprah Winfrey and Dr Benjamin Carson, and myriads of other people of colour help to remove those excuses as well.

Does racism still exist in America today?  Yes.  So then MLK Jr.’s dream hasn’t yet come true.  No, it has - as far as formalized suppression is concerned.  But as far as individuals taking full advantage and kicking down doors is concerned - not quite there yet.  The problem is that there seems an unpreparedness to deal with being responsible for ones own destiny.  You see, freedom gives you choices.  Choices make you responsible for your own destiny.  You become whomever you choose to become.

Incidentally, this freedom for which MLK Jr. struggled is grounded in the freedom of choice that God invested our original parents with.  They had to choose whether to obey or disobey God; whether they'd live or die.  And although we would have inherited the fate of their choice the sacrifice of Jesus Christ puts back into our own hands the responsibility to determine our individual destinies.  And once we do that we have no one else to blame.  Freedom is a good thing, and with it comes the burden of great responsibilities.  And whether we like it or not, our destinies... yeah God will hold us to account for how we use this God-given resource called FREEDOM.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Putting our Monies Where our Mouths are

"May He remember all your offerings, and accept your burnt sacrifice." Ps 20: 3

In the recent history of the Caribbean and the United States we've had a series of incidences where individuals have lost the protection and security of their life's savings; they trusted people with their quasi-schemes and were let down.

The private security industry has experienced a major boom in the last few years with security expenses counting as the single most significant recurring cost for businesses as well in people's private homes. This is often a back-breaking item that drives many out of business as it appears that they are in a sense working for security companies.

So clearly we see that where we tend to "trust in chariots and horses," (verse 7) we're destined for disaster and disappointment. The way out...?

The way out, as I'm getting from the text, is to direct our offerings and sacrifices to God; support the work of the Gospel. Isn't it time we put our monies where our mouths are? If God is real (and we say He is), and if His promises are true (and we say they are) then instead of directing our resources, as we do, to these financial institutions and private security firms wouldn't it be better to invest in God's work? This is an issue surrounding giving to God sacrificially.  After all, isn't it the case that, "Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain?" Ps 127: 1.  Or is this idea only good as the subject of a sermon – but of no practical use?

Is it money or God that makes food grow? Is it money or God that brings healing to an ailing body? Is it money or God that affords us a loving family? I believe it is time God's people took His word at face value and trust Him instead of people/schemes/systems who'd only have "Made-Off" with their monies anyway; don't you?

Father in Heaven, You are our God, our Refuge, our Strength, our Protection. In You and You alone do we desire to put our trust - and may our monies and other means be placed where our hearts are (right where You are), we pray, in Jesus' name, amen.

Here's a beautiful song with the most awesome photo-shots,

This reading is based on Psalm 20.  To read and/or listen to Psalm 20 and read other related blogs please go here.

Monday, 26 August 2013

Revelation’s Duo

Different nations of the world may use different words to describe the sun (el sol-Spanish, sonne-German, etc.). Barring some temperature differences and frequency with which some parts of the world actually sees the sun, we all feel and see it, and we all can compare notes on how it impacts us. In the sun, as in everything in nature God has special messages for us. Sin has interrupted the communication lines through nature and leaves us with a lot of uncertainty, which uncertainty the Word of God explains. In Psalm 19 David affirms that between nature and the Word of God a sufficient knowledge of God may be ascertained. How does that work?

You know what they say, "The proof is in the tasting of the pudding." It is interesting to observe how this dueting of nature and revelation came full circle in the story recorded in Acts 17:

In Athens Paul discovers an altar dedicated to the "UNKNOWN GOD," (verse 23). Of all the gods there were they somehow knew that a certain detail was missing; there must be another source... being... God somewhere.... So when Paul came and declared the Word of God, something clicked inside for many of them. Granted, some when the heard of the resurrection mocked; but there were those whose interests were piqued and they wanted to hear more (verse 32). And, praise the Lord, some needed no further discussion, but readily accepted, "Howbeit certain men clave unto him, and believed: among the which was Dionysius the Areopagite, and a woman named Damaris, and others with them," (verse 34).

Our loving Father in Heaven, thank you for Your Words, and for the great lesson book of nature that convey to us the precious knowledge of the You, "Whom to know is life eternal." Today we rejoice and pledge to "Let the words of our mouths and the meditation of our hearts be acceptable in Your sight, for You are our strength and our Redeemer," (paraphrased). Amen.

This reading is based on Psalm 19.  To read and/or listen to Psalm 19 and to read other related blogs, please click here.

Sunday, 25 August 2013

My Unrestrained Faculties

While there may be those who don't see me as a friend and have it out for me, as I now sit, I'm not aware. What I'm aware of however is that my biggest enemy/obstacle so far has been myself; my unrestrained faculties.
"You have delivered me from the strivings of the people; You have made me the head of the nations; A people I have not known shall serve me." Ps. 18: 43

As I read what David here writes I'm imagining dominating/ruling all my faculties and have them all satisfy my most basic desire to serve God:
·         My Heart would love God supremely
·         My Eyes would only dwell upon things that are wholesome
·         My Feet would only take me to places where I serve God and my neighbours
·         My Hands would only be lifted in praise to God or to bear up a falling brother or sister
·         My Mouth would only utter kind words of truth
·         My Ears would listen only to the voice of God as He speaks through a bird, a rippling brook, or a fellow human servant of His
So let's say that in addition to myself I do have other known enemies. The point is still the same; I'm only as vulnerable to my enemies as I lack control of my faculties. If I abide under the shadow of God's law, and my faculties do only His biddings, I'm always protected, "He is a shield to all who trust in Him (willingly do His bidding)." Ps 18: 30.
The abuse or misuse of these faculties is more threatening to my well-being than any plot an enemy would set for me; I am my worst enemy. "O wretched man that I am; who will deliver me from the body of this death?" Rom. 7: 24. But thank God Paul found the answer to this crisis of no mean order, "I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God." Rom. 7: 25.

This reading is based on Psalm 18.  To read and/or listen to Psalm 18, and read other related blogs please click here.

Friday, 23 August 2013

In His Presence

"In Your presence there's fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore." Ps 16: 11

I'm reflecting on Jesus' ministry on earth and how His presence must have brought such joy and pleasure and a few other emotions.

Relief and Delight
His first recorded miracle was at the wedding in Cana (John 2: 1-3, 11). If weddings were anything then as they are now, in terms of how worried persons would be if a main element of the ceremony were to run short (the wine) then we can surely imagine how relieved and delighted everyone would have been with that first miracle of our Lord. Jesus brings relief and delight

The Joy of Forgiveness and Life
2. She was mercilessly dragged along the street, probably hardly afforded the dignity of being properly covered; these devil-possessed men wanted the evidence to be incontrovertible, for Jesus must not find a way out of this one. They laid their charges and called for the full extent of the law to be applied. She knew enough of the traditions to know what that meant; her chosen path that made her an easy pawn in the hands of these beastly men. She wished she had made other choices; wished she attended the Synagogue more often; wished she had listened to the council of her parents and older siblings. It's too late now; she's going to die. She squeezes her eyes tight and waited for the first blow. The first stone hits the ground, and she braces for its impact as she expected it to ricochet off the ground... nothing. Another stone falls... and still nothing. And with increased frequency stones began to fall all around her like hail in a hail storm, but alas none touched her. Then everything was quiet. She dared not look - fearing to discover that her hope of escape would be instantly dashed. Would she survive; would she not die today, she wondered as she heard the last few pounds of departing feet. There was deafening silence. She listens with keener attention, "is everyone actually gone? No, wait, there's a shuffle, someone is still here." Then the sweetest voice she had ever heard/would ever hear spoke to her, "'Woman, where are those thine accusers; hath no man condemned thee?' She said, 'No man Lord.' And Jesus said unto her, 'Neither do I condemn thee, go, and sin no more.'" John 8: 10, 11. Her tears continued to flow, but no longer out of fear of death, but for the joy of life. In the presence of Jesus is the joy of forgiveness and life.

Although they had seen many storms at sea, this one was different. The winds blew with diabolical intelligence and intention. It was as if the demons moved in the threatening waves; their howls and shrieks could be heard in the wind. With every passing minute, each of which felt like an eternity, these seasoned seamen slid deeper into the dark despair of death; and there was nothing they could do to help themselves. "Master, carest thou not that we perish?" Mark 4: 38. Was their cry to Jesus prompted by the usual expectation that in a crisis of this nature it's "all hands on deck," or was it a cry of faith and expectation; knowing they were in the presence of the Omnipotent one? It doesn't really matter. What matters is that Jesus heard their cry, arose and commanded the winds (demons really) "Peace be still." Mark 4: 39. And in that very instance, all was quiet... peaceful. In the presence of Jesus there is peace. "Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid." John 14: 27.

Be blessed by this beautiful song,

This reading is based on Psalm 16.  To read and/or listen to Psalm 16 and read other related blogs please click here.