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That is the question that the apostle Paul asks in 1 Corinthians 2:16, paraphrasing the prophet Isaiah who concluded that the thoughts of God are so amazing that they are beyond our comprehension (Isa 40:12-13).

While admitting that it’s impossible for anyone to understand God’s decisions and methods (Rom. 11:33), Paul declares that God has given us access to God’s “secret wisdom” or “secret plan,” and allowed us to know what the Lord is thinking—for we have the mind of Christ! (1 Cor. 2:16)

In letters to both the Corinthian and Ephesian churches, Paul explains that the secret wisdom or secret plan of God was made before the world began, and was hidden from mankind throughout human history until it was revealed at the right time—first to Paul and later to the other apostles and prophets. (1 Cor. 2:7; Eph. 3:3-5)

God’s secret plan was to save all people from sin and eternal death, not just people from the nation of Israel as the Jews believed. It was to be a salvation through the virgin birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ who would save all people who believe in him. Jesus has power over sin and death, a power that he offers to all who believe in him. (Jn. 3:16; Rom. 16:25-26; 1 Tim. 2:3-7)

This revelation, Paul says, came through the Holy Spirit who searches out everything and shows us even God’s deepest secrets, so that we can know the wonderful things God has freely given us. (1 Cor. 2:10, 12)

Acknowledging that there are many skeptics to these truths, Paul adds:

“But people who aren’t Christians can’t understand these truths from God’s Spirit. It all sounds foolish to them because only those who have the Spirit can understand what the Spirit means. We who have the Spirit understand these things, but others can’t understand us at all.” (1 Cor. 2:14-15, NLT)

While Paul and the apostles, led by the Holy Spirit, used their preaching, teaching, and writing to reveal the good news that all sinners can find forgiveness and have a new and abundant life in Jesus Christ, those of us who follow Jesus also have the privilege and responsibility in sharing this good news of God’s love and salvation to our generation.

And since we, too, have the Holy Spirit living with us—from the very moment that we believed in Christ as our savior—we have been given access to the mind of Christ through the Spirit who leads us to all truth (Jn. 14:17), never leaves us (Jn. 14:16), teaches us (Jn. 14:26), reminds us of Jesus’ words (Jn. 14:26; 15:26), quickens our conscience regarding sin and righteousness (Jn. 16:8), gives us insight into future events (Jn. 16:13), and glorifies Christ by revealing to us what the Spirit receives from Christ (Jn. 16:14).

The Holy Spirit has not only given us access to the mind of Christ for our personal spiritual development and enrichment, but has endowed each of us with various spiritual gifts with which to serve our Christian brothers and sisters in the church, and to take the Gospel to the rest of the world.

So, as we seek to live in tune with the mind of Jesus Christ, may the following advice from Paul to the Colossian church inspire and encourage us:

“Let the words of Christ, in all their richness, live in your hearts and make you wise. Use his words to teach and counsel each other. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. And whatever you do or say, let it be as a representative of the Lord Jesus, all the while giving thanks through him to God the Father.” (Col. 3:16-17, NLT)

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As a young American Muslim, Dr. Nabeel Qureshi was very knowledgeable about the Quran and was trained to defend the Islam religion against Christians. Yet, in his search to know God more personally and deeply, he went on a search to critique both the Christian Bible and the Quran. The result was that he became disillusioned about what he found in the Quran and Islam, and became convinced that the claims of Christianity and the Bible were true.

In this interview, he tells how a college friend and a series of dreams from God became the major influences in his conversion to Jesus Christ, and how his conversion cost him the loss of his family:

In this next video, which was recorded at Biola University were he was teaching a course on Christian apologetics and Islam, Nabeel goes more in depth about his journey from Islam to Christianity, especially the differences between Islam and Christianity, and how to communicate correctly, confidently, and respectfully the Christian Gospel to Muslims.

In I Peter 3:15, Peter admonishes us to always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks us to give the reason for the hope that we have in Christ. However, Nabeel found that very few Christians could give a reasonable and informed response in defense of their Christian faith. Can you?

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Dear brothers and sisters,

You are not forgotten. We see the horrible, graphic pictures on the Internet of those among your ranks who have been slaughtered because they chose to follow Jesus as their Lord and Savior. And we know that you, who remain in areas controlled by Islamist extremists, live under daily threat of being beheaded or raped. Even your little children are victims of these horrors.

I write to remind you of Jesus’ encouragement to all who would follow him:

Don’t be afraid, but be glad and rejoice

“Don’t be afraid of those who want to kill you. They can only kill your body; they cannot touch your soul. Fear only God who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matt. 10:28)

So when your persecutors demand that you renounce Jesus Christ or you die, remember that your physical death pales in significance to the eternal consequence of denying Christ in this life (Matt. 10:32-33). If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give it up for Christ, you will find it (Matt. 10:39).

Jesus assures you that even in the midst of danger and in death, your Father in heaven is aware of you and everything that is happening to you. So don’t be afraid, you are more valuable to him than even a single sparrow that dies in his care (Matt. 10:31).

Moreover, Jesus encourages you to be glad and rejoice in the midst of your persecution, for not only is he blessing you with his blissful presence that fills you with joy and peace as you face your persecutors, he assures you that your reward will be great in heaven. So, yes, rejoice! God’s kingdom is yours—now in this life and in eternity! (Matt. 5:10-12)

Be wary and wise as snakes and harmless as doves

In this current climate of Islamist terrorists of a variety of stripes—ISIS, IS, ISIL, Boko Haram, Al-Qaeda, and others—you are as vulnerable as lambs in the midst of wolves (Matt. 10:16a), so Jesus offers you these specific ways of conducting yourselves:

• Be wary and wise as snakes (Matt. 10:16b)—Be alert and observant about what is happening around you, and don’t be impulsive and gullible. Avoid premature martyrdom, and flee to safety when possible. Don’t be afraid to speak in defense of your faith in Christ, for the Spirit of the Lord will tell you what to speak. (Matt: 10:19, 20, 23).

• Be harmless as doves (Matt. 10:16c)—Like Jesus, you are to be nonviolent, peaceful, and harmless. It is Jesus’ deliberate will for us to live in weakness so that we might flourish in his strength (2 Cor. 12:9-10).

While Jesus does not forbid his followers from having weapons, presumably for defense (Luke 22:36), in almost every other instance he tells us not to resist when persecuted. For example, when Peter used a sword to defend Jesus, Jesus told him, “Put away your sword. Those who use the sword will be killed by the sword.” (Matt. 26:52; Luke 22:47-51; John 18:10-11)

So when they bomb your churches, you are not to bomb their mosques; when they invade your homes and chop off the heads of your children, do not attack their homes to do likewise to their children, nor should you render evil for evil. Vengeance belongs to God alone (Rom. 12:19).

Love your persecutors and pray for them

You have heard that the law of Moses says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you. In that way you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven.” (Matt. 5:43-45, NLT)

Loving your enemies, especially those who seek to harm and kill you, is not something that is a natural human ability, but Jesus gives you the divine ability to love your enemies, even your persecutors. How?

By praying for them—As followers of Jesus, you are instructed to seek the welfare of your enemies through prayer and forgiveness. Follow the examples of Jesus and Stephen who, as they were being killed, prayed that God would forgive their killers (Luke 23:34; Acts 7:59-60).

By blessing them—If people persecute you because you are a Christian, don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them (Rom. 12:14).

By heeding the warning about forgiveness in the Lord’s Prayer—Jesus taught us that when we ask our heavenly Father to forgive our sins, we must also forgive those who sin against us, and if we refuse to forgive others, God will not forgive our sins (Matt. 6:14-15).

Take heart, Jesus has overcome the world

The mission of Islamist terrorists is to use hate, violence, fear, and murder to intimidate peoples and nations into submission, and make the entire world into an Islamic State. However, God will not allow this to happen.

When Jesus was about to return to heaven, he told his disciples to expect hardship, trials, and persecution because of their allegiance to him, but he assured them that he has already won the ultimate victory over those who would oppose him:

“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33, NLT)

“Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean that he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or are hungry or cold or in danger or threatened with death? (Even the Scriptures say, ‘For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.’) No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.” (Rom. 8:36-37, NLT)

From Genesis to Revelation, our Scriptures tell us that Jesus, the perfect Lamb of God who died to take away our sins, will return as the Conquering Lion of God and defeat Satan and his evil forces.

So brothers and sisters in Christ, you who are being persecuted because of your faith in Jesus Christ, take courage and be strengthened in the knowledge that God is about to destroy ISIS and the myriads of similar Satanic forces that seek to persecute the body of Christ. Their days are numbered, and God will defeat and destroy them as surely as he destroyed Hitler’s murderous Nazi regime and other tyrannical forces throughout history.

May you be encouraged in the knowledge that millions of Christian believers throughout our planet are praying for you that, whether you live or die, your faith and witness remain strong and unmovable, and that the Lord will be pleased with your life of worship, praise, and sacrifice.

And may our Father’s grace, love, and peace bless and sustain you. Amen.

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In my last post, I reported that Meriam Yehya Ibrahim, a pregnant 27-year-old Christian Sudanese mother, is awaiting execution because she has steadfastly refused to deny her faith in Jesus Christ.

But Meriam is not alone in her willingness to remain faithful to Jesus Christ, even if it means being killed. Recently I saw gruesome online videos showing Muslim extremists slaughtering men who had left the Muslim religion to follow Jesus Christ—scenes captured succinctly by Hebrews 11:35b-37a:

But others trusted God and were tortured, preferring to die rather than turn from God and be free. They placed their hope in the resurrection to a better life. Some were mocked and their backs were cut open with whips. Others were chained in dungeons. Some died by stoning, and some were sawed in half; others were killed by the sword.” (NLT)

How do we account for the fact that these former Muslims—living in “closed” countries where the Christian Gospel is forbidden and not known—are willing to die for Jesus Christ?

As I reported in a previous post (http://wp.me/p1fMZH-dI), Jesus has been appearing to many of these Muslim men and women in dreams and visions in such undeniable and powerful ways that once they accept him as their Savior, their faith in him becomes unshakeable—for they experience him as real, living, and encouraging amidst the persecution.

Would you and I—we who live in “open” and free societies where the Christian Gospel is preached and followed—deny our allegiance to Jesus in order to save our lives?

It is easy for us to say that we’d never deny our Lord, but until we are faced with the actual threat of death, we really don’t know how we would respond.

While the vast majority of us will never face such extreme situations and life-or-death decisions, are we denying Jesus in other ways?

Are we denying him by hiding our Christian faith at work…at school…from people…or in the way we operate our businesses?

Are we denying him by giving more importance to people and things over him—to our love of money and material things…to building financial security…to seeking popularity and fame…to getting ahead in our careers…to putting our families before him…and to chasing our dreams at all cost?

While our faith in Jesus Christ has not been tested so far by the threat of death as have our Christian brothers and sisters in Muslim societies, many of us take our faith lightly or for granted, and we chip away at that faith in countless, seemingly benign ways through compromises here and there.

Is our faith genuine? Has it taken root in the good soil mentioned in Jesus’ parable of the four soils (Matthew 13:1-23)?

Or is it rooted in the rocky soil that “represents those who hear the message and receive it with joy. But like young plants in such soil, their roots don’t go very deep. At first they get along fine, but they wilt as soon as they have problems or are persecuted because they believe the word.”? (13:20-21)

Or is it in the thorny ground that “represents those who hear and accept the Good News, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the cares of this life and the lure of wealth, so no crop is produced.”? (13:22)

I pray that none of us will ever be forced to make a life-or-death decision over our allegiance to Jesus Christ. But if we find ourselves in such a position, I pray that we will trust him to sustain and empower us to remain faithful in life and in death.

In the meantime, may we remember our Christian sisters and brothers around the world, some of them at this very moment offering the ultimate gift—their lives—to express their allegiance to Jesus their Lord.

Pray for them daily, especially for Meriam who gave birth to a baby girl in a Khartoum prison hospital wing on May 29.

And thanks to those of you who are among the more than 849,000 who have so far signed the petition to the Sudanese Government to free Meriam.

Grace and peace.

 

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Mariam Yehia Ibrahim and husband Daniel Wani

Meriam Yehya Ibrahim and husband Daniel Wani


Meriam Yehya Ibrahim, a pregnant 27-year-old Sudanese mother, doctor, and Christian, has been sentenced to 100 lashes and death unless she renounces her Christian faith. Her 20-month-old son is in jail with her.

She was born to a Christian mother and a Muslim father, but after her father abandoned the family when she was six years old, her mother raised her as a Christian.

Meriam later married Daniel Wani, an American Christian from South Sudan. However, under Muslim law in Sudan, she is considered to be a Muslim, based on her father’s religion, and is therefore considered guilty of forsaking her religion of birth. The penalty for such apostasy is execution. And the penalty for a Muslim woman marrying a Christian man is flogging.

So, under Sharia law, she was arrested and put in jail with her 20-month-old son last week on Mother’s Day, and is scheduled, upon the birth of her second baby in about a month, to be flogged with 100 lashes, then hung.

Please join me and over 120,000 other people so far in petitioning the government of Sudan to respect the right to freedom of religion and to release Meriam! Please follow this link to sign the petition started by Emily Clarke.

And pray for Meriam and the untold numbers of others all over the world who are daily being persecuted and killed for their faith in Jesus Christ. May they have the boldness to remain faithful to their Lord and Savior.

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He was a king who united and ruled his nation effectively for forty years under difficult conditions, including numerous rebellions and attempts on his life.  He was a great poet, musician, composer, organizer, and military leader who inspired and motivated his fighting forces in repelling and conquering numerous invading foreign armies. And, as a man after God’s own heart, King David ruled his people justly.

Yet, his leadership in his family was weak and ineffective, and his secret sin of adultery and murder had disastrous consequences on his children and his household:

• His first marriage to Michal, Saul’s daughter, was bitter and childless. Though she loved David at first, he did not return her affection and later had her five nephews killed in retaliation for Saul and his family murdering the Gibeonites. (I Sam. 18:20-28; 19:10-18; 25:44; 2 Sam. 3:12-16; 6:20-23; 21:1-9)

• David had at least eight wives (1 Sam. 18:27; 25:42; 1 Chron. 3) and ten concubines (2 Sam. 15:16; 16:22; 20:3) with whom he had twenty known sons (2 Sam. 3:2-5; 1 Chron. 3:1-4; 14:4-7) and unknown number of daughters—an ideal recipe for explosive family conflicts.

• Because of his adultery with Bathsheba and her subsequent pregnancy, David had her husband killed in battle, after which he married her. (2 Sam. 11)

• The prophet Nathan confronted David about his sins of adultery and murder, and although David repented and was forgiven, God caused the newborn from that adulterous union to die after seven days. As a result of David’s sins, God declared that turmoil and rebellion would plague his household throughout his life. (2 Sam. 12:1-23)

• Amnon, David’s eldest son, raped his half-sister Tamar, but David did nothing to confront or discipline him. (2 Sam. 13:1-22)

• Absalom, third son of David and brother of Tamar, waited two years before he murdered Amnon in revenge for the rape. Absalom then fled and took refuge in his grandfather’s home for three years. David mourned Amnon’s death and pined for Absalom’s return, but did nothing to punish him. (2 Sam. 13:23-39)

• Absalom returned to Jerusalem, reconciled with David, but spent the next four years secretly planning to overthrow David. He finally led a rebellion against David, proclaimed himself king, and publicly raped David’s ten concubines to demonstrate his dominance over his father. (2 Sam 15 and 16)

• David escaped from Jerusalem with his household and some of his faithful warriors. He eventually took decisive action and ordered his commanders to attack Absalom’s army. Absalom was killed and the rebellion squashed. (2 Sam. 18:1-18)

• Absalom’s death so devastated David that he mourned inconsolably, weeping and crying, “O my son, Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I could have died instead of you! O my son Absalom, my son, my son.” (2 Sam. 18:24-33)

• David’s mourning stunned and insulted his troops who had risked their lives to save him and his kingship. His response turned their victory to shame and defeat. Joab, the commander who killed Absalom, sternly rebuked David and forced him out of his self-pity and back before his troops to publicly thank them for their support and victory. (2 Sam. 19:1-8)

• As David neared the end of his long life, his fourth son, Adonijah, tried to set himself up as king in an effort to beat his younger half-brother, Solomon, to the throne. But Bathsheba, Solomon’s mother, fearing that Adonijah would kill her and Solomon if Adonijah became king, persuaded David to declare Solomon king. Despite Adonijah’ treachery, Solomon spared Adonijah’s life as long as David was alive. (I King 1)

• After David’s death, Adonijah, with the help of Joab, asked Bathsheba to influence Solomon to give him the virgin Abishag as his wife. Since Abishag was part of David’s harem, Solomon saw this as Adonijah’s attempt to claim the throne, so he ordered the execution of both Adonijah and Joab. (1 Kings 2:1-34)

• Solomon followed God and ruled wisely the united kingdom of Israel and Judah for most of his life. But because of the influences of his 700 wives and 300 concubines, he forsook God and increasingly worshiped their numerous false gods in later life. This allegiance to pagan gods by Solomon and succeeding kings led to the downfall of the kingdom.

Although David repented and received forgiveness from God (2 Sam. 12:13; Psa. 51), this did not change the consequences of his sins upon his family, for as God declared to Israel centuries before:

I am the Lord, I am the Lord, the merciful and gracious God. I am slow to anger and rich in unfailing love and faithfulness. I show this unfailing love to many thousands by forgiving every kind of sin and rebellion. Even so I do not leave sin unpunished, but I punish the children for the sins of their parents to the third and fourth generations.” (Ex. 34:6,7)

It’s a theme that is echoed in the New Testament where we are warned in Gal. 6:7,8:

Don’t be misled. Remember that you can’t ignore God and get away with it. You will always reap what you sow. Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful desires will harvest the consequences of decay and death.

And even though 1 John 1:9 assures us that “If we confess our sins, he [God] is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness,” this forgiveness may still involve consequences, including God’s discipline:

My child, don’t ignore it when the Lord disciplines you, and don’t be discouraged when he corrects you. For the Lord disciplines those he loves, and punishes those he accepts as his children.” (Heb. 12:6,7)

However, there is good news—we don’t have to repeat the cycle of our parents’ sins! We can break the cycle by following the Lord, for we are assured that:

The child will not be punished for the parent’s sins, and the parent will not be punished for the child’s sin. Righteous people will be rewarded for their own goodness, and wicked people will be punished for their own wickedness.” (Ezek. 18:20)

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Cor. 5:17, English Standard Version)

So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. For the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you through Christ Jesus from the power of sin that leads to death.” (Rom. 8:1, 2)

May we always earnestly confess our sins, seek God’s mercy and forgiveness, crave the restoration of the joy of God’s salvation, patiently accept God’s discipline, and live in the life-changing power, grace, and freedom of Jesus, our Lord.

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Pictured above: A panel on the great bronze front door of La Madeleine Church, Paris, in which the prophet Nathan confronts David and Bathsheba over their adultery and David’s murder of her husband Uriah.

All Bible verses are from the New Living Translation, except those otherwise noted.

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On August 6, Jamaica celebrated fifty years of independence from Britain.

As one of the more than 1.5 million Jamaicans and our descendants living outside of the island, I join them in wishing our 2.7 million fellow Jamaicans at home a joyous anniversary celebration.

In 1962 I participated in the inaugural independence ceremonies in Kingston’s National Stadium, so it is with some sadness that I am unable to be in the island to share in the festivities.

Whether we now make our adoptive home in the United States, Canada, England, Europe, Australia or elsewhere around the world, we of the Jamaican Diaspora think fondly of our island and send our best wishes and congratulations to our island nation.

Although I left Jamaica in 1969 and now I live in Los Angeles, I try to keep abreast of what is happening in the island and around the Diaspora through my online news site “A Jamaican’s Journey Daily.”

We’ve followed the country’s peaks and valleys in politics, economics, culture, sports, and entertainment over the past five decades, and while there are many major challenges facing the people and leaders, they have tended to face circumstances with optimism and hope, as expressed in the common expression “irie” – no worries, every thing is all right.

And it is that spirit of “irie” that the nation not only celebrates its independence this week, but also its 2012 Olympic men and women athletes in London.

As I watch the 2012 Olympics and cheer on both the American and Jamaican athletes, I’ll be celebrating our independence in spirit and feeling very nostalgic as I remember that night in the National Stadium in 1962.

In my nostalgia I’ve been humming two long-forgotten songs from my childhood and teen years—Harry Belafonte’s “Jamaica Farewell” and “Island in the Sun,” both of which bring tears to my eyes and a longing to walk the hills and shores of Jamaica once again.

Finally, in a week when the Jamaican anthem is being played both in Jamaica and in the Olympics, I would like to remind my fellow Jamaicans that the anthem is actually a prayer:

Eternal Father, bless our land,
Guide us with thy mighty hand,
Keep us free from evil powers,
Be our light through countless hours.
To our leaders, Great Defender,
Grant true wisdom from above.
Justice, truth be ours forever,
Jamaica, land we love.
Jamaica, Jamaica, Jamaica land we love.

Teach us true respect for all,
Stir response to duty’s call,
Strengthen us the weak to cherish,
Give us vision lest we perish.
Knowledge send us Heavenly Father,
Grant true wisdom from above.
Justice, truth be ours forever,
Jamaica, land we love.
Jamaica, Jamaica, Jamaica, land we love.

May that be our sincere prayer.

Now, please click the following links to hear a new rendition of the national anthem by the Canada-based Jamaican band, Ibadan, and a new musical tribute to Jamaica by Bunny Rugs of one of my favorite bands, Third World. I hope that you’ll enjoy listening to them.

Grace and peace

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In my memoir, A Jamaican’s Journey to Time and Patience, I reflect on my personal odyssey to discover and fulfill God’s call in my life, heal family wounds, and share Christ’s message of redeeming grace and love. Set against the historical background of 470 years of Spanish and British rule (1492-1962) over Jamaica, the memoir portrays my family whose African, Chinese, and European roots merged in Jamaica during the 1800s, then scattered across the globe in the 1900s. This post is the fourth in a series that will reflect on my Jamaican heritage and how it has shaped my Christian journey.

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In 1960, when I was 16, my mother left me behind in Jamaica and returned with our family to Hong Kong where my stepfather was a linguist at the University of Hong Kong.

She had had enough of my juvenile delinquency and bad grades in Hong Kong, and she accused me of being the cause of her shaky marriage with my stepfather. She also made it clear that they would only support me for one more year of high school in Jamaica until I took the school-leaving General Certificate of Education (Ordinary- or O-Level) exam for fifth-year students.

They would not provide any financial support for me to go on for two more years of advanced (A-Level) studies in preparation for entrance to a university, because to them, I was not university material.

A year later while waiting for the results of my O-Levels, I was faced with either dropping out of school to find a job, or returning to Ardenne High School to pursue Advanced Level (A-Level) studies.

I missed the first week of school for A-level students as I hunted for a job, but Miss Mary Olson, principal of Ardenne, contacted me to find out why I wasn’t in school. When I told her about my parents’ unwillingness to support me beyond the O-Level exams, she said, “Derrick, I will pay for your tuition for the next two years. You get yourself back in school and make the most of these two years. You show too much potential to stop your education now. God has a plan for your life, and I believe that he wants you to be prepared academically for the doors that he will open for you.”

Her generosity and her belief in me surprised and deeply moved me, especially since she saw something in me that my parents didn’t, nor had I seen in myself. Yet, I should not have been surprised, for she and her parents had dedicated their lives to helping the people of Jamaica develop their God-given potential.

Her parents, George and Nellie Olson, were Church of God missionaries from Anderson, Indiana, and had come to the island to establish congregations soon after the 1907 earthquake devastated the city of Kingston. Rev. Olson went on to plant over sixty congregations by the early 1960s and, with Nellie, co-founded Ardenne High School and a Bible institute with the purpose of developing indigenous Christian leaders in Jamaica. Nellie was the first principal of Ardenne High and turned that post over to Mary in 1944.

Could I accept Miss Olson’s offer? Did I have the ability to successfully complete two years of Advanced level studies, and go on to study at a college or university? In the end it was a desire to prove my mother wrong, along with Miss Olson’s generous offer and belief in me, that inspired me to meet the challenge.

So I thankfully accepted Miss Olson’s offer to pay for my tuition. I returned to school the following week to begin A-level studies. I passed both the O- and A-Level exams, and went on to graduate from theological seminary and earn bachelor and masters degrees at universities in the U.S.

Although George and Nellie Olson were born in America, they lived most of their adult lives in Jamaica, and considered themselves Jamaicans, so much so that they chose to be buried there. Mary Olson was born in Jamaica in 1913 and studied at Wolmer’s Girls School before transferring to Ardenne High when it was founded.

Other Jamaicans who influenced me were:

•     Barbara Beckles, an Ardenne student who stood before the class and shared how Christ had changed her life. Her testimony touched me deeply and caused me to yearn for that life of peace and joy that she found in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

•     John Harrison, another Ardenne student, invited me to Constant Spring Church of God a week after Barbara’s testimony. It was there that I committed my life to Jesus Christ during my first visit.

•      Mrs. Lilly Brown and Mr. Beckles were two Ardenne teachers who opened up the treasures of the New Testament teachings for me as a young believer and instilled in me a love for the Scriptures.

•      Rev. Cleve Grant was the pastor of Constant Spring Church of God, under whose preaching I matured and was inspired to become a minister.

•      John and Lena Fisher opened their home and cared for me for three years after my parents left me.

•      The elders of Constant Spring Church of God provided me with a stipend during four years of studies at the Jamaica School of Theology from which I graduated and became a pastor.

•      Mrs. Vidal Smith and Mr. Noel Dexter trained and mentored me in choral singing, and it is because of them that I have continued in music ministry for over five decades.

I am thankful to these individuals and to God for the ways in which they touched my life during the nine years I spent in Jamaica before immigrating to the United States to pursue further studies.

And I have sought over the years to be used by God to touch the lives of people through my roles as a former pastor, businessman, filmmaker, educator, mentor, and writer.

As a volunteer mentor to at-risk teens and as an educator to the high school students who came through my classrooms during my years of teaching, I have especially been vigilant in helping them to believe in themselves and develop their potential, echoing for them the words of Mary Olson:

“God has a plan for your lives, and he wants you to be prepared academically and spiritually for the doors that he will open for you.”

May God grant abundant fruit from the seeds that Mary Olson and others planted in me and through me. Blessed to be a blessing.

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George W. Olson &  Nellie Olson; all three pictures of the Olsons are courtesy of the Outreach Ministries of the Church of God, Anderson, Indiana.

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In my memoir, A Jamaican’s Journey to Time and Patience, I reflect on my personal odyssey to discover and fulfill God’s call in my life, heal family wounds, and share Christ’s message of redeeming grace and love. Set against the historical background of 470 years of Spanish and British rule (1492-1962) over Jamaica, the memoir portrays my family whose African, Chinese, and European roots merged in Jamaica during the 1800s, then scattered across the globe in the 1900s. This post is third in a series that will reflect on my Jamaican heritage and how it has shaped my Christian journey.

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 In 1960, I returned to Jamaica from Hong Kong in time to experience the tail-end of a style of music known as “ska,” and the birth of two new styles called “rocksteady” and “reggae”—all three coming out of Trench Town, a slum section of Kingston.

I often rode my bicycle into Trench Town to visit my high school sweetheart and future wife, Joetta, whose father had a home and business in that part of town. She and I would sit on her verandah and talk of marriage, children, and my becoming a pastor.

And it was on that verandah on Friday and Saturday nights that I first heard the sounds of the deep, thumping bass lines from ska music being played on gigantic sound systems at nearby dance halls. The music was raw, fresh, and all together different from the usual American music played over the Jamaican radio stations.

Music and vocals were being created daily by the local youth of Trench town, their words reflecting the patois of the mean streets and harsh poverty of the unemployed and unemployable. They sang of romance, of sex, of oppression and injustice, and, if they were Rastafarians, of their devotion to their god, Haile Selassie, emperor of Ethiopia.

The rhythm of Ska soon shifted to rocksteady, which in turn evolved to a new form known as reggae, exploding out of the dance halls and onto local radio before gaining international popularity by the ’80s and ’90s.

The story of the musicians behind all three styles is captured in the documentary, “The History of Jamaican Music,” which I have included in the music video section of this blog. The most famous of these musicians was a young man I once met before he became famous—Bob Marley.

Although reggae is more readily identified with Bob Marley and a host of musicians usually associated with the Rastafarian movement, there is another music movement coming out of Jamaica—and it’s called “reggae gospel.”

REGGAE GOSPEL

The driving force behind reggae gospel are musicians and singers who grew up loving reggae, but experienced the life-transforming power of Jesus Christ.

And just as Jesus Christ forgave their sins and called them to a life of holy service in his Kingdom, so, they feel, he has called them to commit their musical instruments, voices, and talents to him and in service for his Kingdom—to proclaim his gospel and sing his praises.

These are the men and women who, with Paul, now proclaim:

“My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20, New living Translation, NLT)

They are also inspired by Scriptural passages such as:

“Sing to Him a new song; Play skillfully with a shout of joy.” (Psalm 33:3, New American Standard Bible, © 1995)

Sing your praise to the Lord with the harp, with the harp and melodious song, with trumpets and the sound of the ram’s horn. Make a joyful symphony before the Lord, the King!” (Psalm 98:5-6, NLT)

“He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what he has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the Lord.” Psalm 40:3, New Living Translation)

The following is a sample of some of these reggae gospel musicians. I hope that you’ll enjoy and be inspired by their music. Please click to view and listen:







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