Sunday, January 5, 2014

A New year's message: Of trusting in God regardless of the Times

I read my Bible to see what men ought to do; and read my newspapers to see what men are doing - John Newton Lord renew thy church beginning with me; Lord renew the church that the church may renew the nation(s) - A prayer for the Decade of Evangelism NEWS The start of a new year and the endless possibilities ahead and the memories and lessons experienced and learnt, trumps everything; at least in my book. Notwithstanding the suicide bombs in Russia, the extreme cold weather causing havoc with flights and lives in North America, Violence in Iran, #Teamshaggynfriends4kids fever in Jamaica as the winner of The Voice Tessanne, teams up with Internationally acclaimed performer Shaggy and friends for a charity event to earn millions of dollars for a local Pediatric Hospital. Absolutely, everything else pales in comparison with the awesomeness of a new year. THE WORD OF GOD So what did The Lord say to His children through his medium at the beginning of 2014? This week I was moved to write four , very short, messages. All to do with the need to keep our focus on God, and God alone in the midst of the trials and temptations of this life. THE FIRST ONE - TO INFLUENTIAL PERSONS WHO HAVE THE POWER TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN MY COUNTRY, INCLUDING POLITICIANS AND JOURNALISTS. ALL BECAUSE A YOUNG PASTOR LISTENED VERY CAREFULLY TO THE LORD AND WAS OBEDIENT. 1. Be not dismayed whate'er betide, God will take care of you; beneath his wings of love abide, God will take care of you. Refrain: God will take care of you, through every day, o'er all the way; he will take care of you, God will take care of you. 2. Through days of toil when heart doth fail, God will take care of you; when dangers fierce your path assail, God will take care of you. (Refrain) 3. All you may need he will provide, God will take care of you; nothing you ask will be denied, God will take care of you. (Refrain) 4. No matter what may be the test, God will take care of you; lean, weary one, upon his breast, God will take care of you. (Refrain) The referencing of the words of the Hymn above, was one of the highlights of a powerful sermon, preached by a young Pastor, Rev. Larius Lewis, last night at the Watch-night service at St. Andrew Parish Church....IN KINGSTON JAMAICA All in the context of the invitation issued to the Shepherds by the angels to go and see baby Jesus. Then he made the historical observation, hitherto unknown by me, and I would dare say most of the congregation, that Shepherds then, were not good people. In fact, they were part of the worst aspects of Jewish society. They would ill treat the sheep, kill them and sell the meat, and then tell the owners that wild animals had attacked them. But it was this kind of 'lost people' that God first invited to see the Savior of the world. The question the young preacher then posed, rang in our ears, ' would you invite a gang of criminals to see your new baby or grandchild?. But God by His grace and mercy was from then, calling the lost and helpless, as He is now, (in 2014...my words but the implication is clear) calling all who are lost to 'see Jesus'. And on reflection is makes sense, as if we cast our minds back to the well known verse, " I am the Good Shepherd", made by Jesus, it stand to reason that they were some, well, 'god awful' ones. Further, if one reads the entire chapter of John 10, the point is made even more dramatically, although Jesus was speaking metaphorically, in the one of His most famous sayings: "The thief comes only to steal and kill and to destroy; but I have come that they ( the harassed and lost and unprotected sheep...for a full explanation we have go back to Ezekiel 34..an important chapter in the Bible) may have life and have to the full....or 'more abundantly'..KJV.. The second point he made about the shepherds was that, it took a great deal of faith, to believe that God had sent the promised Savior in the form of a baby lying in swaddling clothes in a manger with animals, and lying in a feeding trough. From there he went to question if we would trusted God in that situation! Another point he made, by way of a true story, of how while he was teaching for two years before entering Ministry, he overheard a conversation between two teachers, lamenting the state of the profession, which went like this. " What a way teaching gone to the dogs"! And then came the rejoinder. " No, teaching has not gone to the dogs, but the dogs have come into teaching." In that context then, he observed that we now live in a society, where like the 'fall from grace' of the shepherds in Jewish society in the time of Jesus, many of our professionals, people once held in high esteem in the society - the politicians, the teachers, 'men of the cloth'...are now behaving in a way which has betrayed the good name of the profession and has made people cynical. But this is the world into which Jesus came and issued the invitation, that He had not come for the 'healthy', but to call sinners to repentance. The implication being that all who are lost, as we all are in one way shape or form, in the presence of a Holy God, have been called by God, invited, to share in the life of Jesus, and to find peace and wholeness. Finally, he made the point that we must trust God in all situations; as whenever Jesus is in any situation, we can be assured that God will take care of us. Like the woman with the issue of blood; like the woman at the well who had many husbands and none of then belonging to her, who after Jesus had entered her situation, went and told the town, "come see a man'; like the woman the young priest went to see in ICU, who responded to his song for her " God will take care of you", by responding in song, ' God will take care of me'. Thus showing the kind of faith which we all need to attain, even in the midst of her dire situation. Then in a gesture that moved all our souls, he sang the song made famous by The GRACE THRILLERS... " can't even walk without you holding my hand. All of this was his way of saying, as inspired by The Spirit of God, that in 2014 we should: " Turn our eyes upon Jesus Look full into His wonderful face And the things of this world...like all the trials and temptations Will look strangely dim In the light of his glory and grace. My prayer for you, my wish for you, my gift to you, as we journey together in this 'demon possessed valley' where .... BIG BRIDGE, Westmoreland — The reputed leader of the feared Alma Gang, 29-year-old Torneal Haughton, also called 'Malta', was shot and killed during a reported shoot-out with the police here yesterday afternoon....lived; where Tessanne lives; where the good, the bad, and the indifferent live, is this simple message. That we may trust God, and turn our eyes on Jesus , the Savior of the world, in 2014. And be patient and confident, as the Shepherds who were invited to see baby Jesus, had to wait, according to the young preacher, 33 years for that prophesy to be manifest. May the God of Jacob be with all of us in this New Year. And may we trust in Him to take care of us, what 'er betide in this New Year. Amen. Comment: As we go into the new year it is imperative that, despite the crime wave, here in Jamaica, and in other countries across the world, we remember that the God who sent His Son to die for us on the Cross, will take care of those who believe that Christ is the Savior of the world. Regardless of how seemingly hopeless it may appear. In Jamaica, in Syria, in The Sudan, in Iran and in inner city Chicago. THE SECOND MESSAGE - A BIT MORE PERSONAL. SENT TO THOSE WHO THROUGH MY PROFESSION, HAVE BECOME ' MY CHILDREN'....ONLY SOME OF THEM. IN ADDITION TO THE TWO AND FOUR GRANDS THAT GOD GAVE TO MY WIFE AND MYSELF. BUT THE ADVICE SHARED BASED ON THE WORD, WILL, IAM CERTAIN, WILL RESONATE WITH OTHERS NOT SO CLOSE, AND WITH THOSE WHO PRAY WITHOUT CEASING FOR THEIR OWN LOVED ONES IN THE 'TOPSY TURVY' WORLD. THERE IS ALSO A SUBLIMINAL SUB-TEXT; THAT READING GOOD BOOKS OUGHT TO BECOME A PRIORITY, EVEN, MORE SO, IN THIS SMART PHONE ERA Many years ago, I read this quote from C.S. Lewis ( one of the most widely read, not just theologian, but wise persons, in the history of the church..and in fact even in secular society). It left an indelible impression on my then young mind. This morning I had reason to recall it as The Lord led me to reflect on His Glory - the Shekinah...Hebrew term. As I read the word of holy Scriptures, the glory of Tessanne's victory came to mind; so did Usain Bolt's many victories, with his signature 'to de worl' pose; so did the feeling we had when Obama was sworn in as the first black President of the USA; and latterly Mandela's famous speech in the dock..." I have fought against white domination, I have fought against black domination....and then the majestic closing words which must have brought a lump to many a throat......but if needs be it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die. But compare all of this glory to : " O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!. You have set your glory above the heavens.......Psalm 8:1 The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the works. of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.....Psalm 19:1-3 ( if you recall this is a verse quoted in the Internet ministry last week) Then consider the glory of God as manifested in the heavens, and the glory is ours in Christ. " What is man, that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings ( angels KJV) and crowned him with glory and honor....." Psalm 4-5 " Now if we are children, then we are heirs - heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may share in his glory". Romans 8:17 Why am I being led to write to you young people who I love, to whom the God who makes no mistakes, and with whom there is no issue of chance, has brought us together? For perspective in life ! As you mature and enjoy, or aspire to share in, the wonderful gifts of marriage, of sex, of children, of professional life, of the various pleasures that life has to offer: all of which God by His grace has given to us to enjoy within the context of marriage; remember always that self-control, discipline, patience, denial of self in material things, at the very least; and if it God's will and purpose, persecution and suffering, are part of the journey to that glory. This is what, as Christians, we have 'signed up for'. So be self controlled and alert, as the devil is like a roaring lion, telling you otherwise, in so many ways, and via different sources and distractions. If you keep this perspective, the vast difference between earthly pleasures and glory, and the promised glory to be had in Christ Jesus, now and eternally, even, and especially through suffering of some sort, you will not fall into the trap that many have. With the attendant trials to family life and health. And worse of all trouble in your soul. May the God of Jacob, whose Word has be given to keep us from trouble and sin, guide and keep you safe in Christ Jesus in 2014 and beyond. LWJ THE THIRD MESSAGE - SENT TO MY ANGLICAN CHURCH LEADERS. TRIGGERED BY A DISCUSSION WITH ONE OF JAMAICA'S LEADING THEOLOGIANS AND HIGHLY RESPECTED PREACHER, BAPTIST MINISTER BURCHELL TAYLOR. AGAIN C.S.LEWIS FEATURES IN THE DSICUSSION. An encounter with Rev. Burchell Taylor, a reflection on words from C. L. Lewis' " The Problem of Pain, and meditation on a song in my heart as I awoke this morning led me to 1 Peter. And to this Word in particular along with others. But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. (1 Peter 2:9-12 NIVUK) Lewis asserted that there was an a priori acceptance of wrong and right in the society into the early church was formed. And thus the Apostles preached to persons who understood that they were sinners. But in the time of Lewis, that had changed. For many reasons as he with his brilliant mind together with philosophical and historical training, discerned!. As we were discussing yesterday, at Rev. Brown's funeral outside during the long tributes, the situation in Jamaica is far worse. So Burchell reflected that we as Christians, must not only challenge people with the Word to convict them of Sin, but must more importantly, in this society, become the embodiment of the Word, in how we live. The Word above then reflects this truth, in a profound way. But also reminds us of who we are in Christ, and who we were B.C. And our true and only calling. To glorify God! No doubt in 2014 we need to take these fundamental truths on board as we seek to minister to an increasingly secular and lawless society. With tragic effects and manifestations on the roads, in the communities, in the homes, in the schools, at the workplace, in the media and 'entertainment'...with a 'sting'.. sector. Happy New Year LWJ THE FINAL WORD - WRITTEN BUT NOT SENT, AS GMAIL WAS ACTING UP. UNTIL THIS MORNING WHEN, AT LEAST MY SERVICE RESUMED. ORIGINALLY MEANT FOR THE SAME GROUP OF POWERFUL PERSONS WRITTEN TO IN THE FIRST MESSAGE. C.S. LEWIS AGAIN FEATURES ; THIS TIME WITH AN ADDITIONAL INSIGHT INTO HUMAN BEHAVIOR AND THE PLAN OF THE EVIL ONE. A PERSPECTIVE WE NEED TO KEEP IN MIND , CONSTANTLY, AS WE GO THROUGH THE YEAR. Two profound thoughts occupied my mind this week. One from the Bible. The other from C. S. Lewis. The first one from the Bible answers a lot of questions, not all, about the response of some people, throughout history of mankind, to the Gospel. The second, from C. S.Lewis' " The Problem of Pain', offers a perspective on why contemporary man is so 'lukewarm' to the Gospel. ( and into my mind comes the thought- which is rooted in Scripture - thank God for the remnant.) THE FIRST PASSAGE Then he told them many things in parables, saying: ‘A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up........ when anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. (Matthew 13:3, 4, 19 NIVUK) The implication on this passage is crystal clear. When we share the gospel, make sure that people understand what we are saying. Otherwise Satan will come and 'take it away from them'. Their lives will be no better, as they will not be moved to repent; and the question then arises of our stewardship of the Word. The flip side of this argument however , is that if people understand and yet reject the 'good news', then their 'blood is on their own heads'. THE SECOND PASSAGE -WHICH I TWEETED LAST NIGHT @lucienforJesus: A recovery of the old sense of sin is essential to the Christian life. Christ takes it for granted that men are bad.#CSLewis #Jesuscameforme The Biblical teaching which no doubt inspired this profound observation by Lewis is to be found - one of several - in the passage below. THE BIBLE As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. ‘Follow me,’ he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him. While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, ‘Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ On hearing this, Jesus said, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but those who are ill. But go and learn what this means: “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.’ (Matthew 9:9-13 NIVUK) I shared this last observation with my church leaders yesterday. Pondered on it last night, and hence the Tweet. This morning, I awoke and another Lewis observation, this time from Screwtape Letters came back into my head; having read the passage many years ago and having been arrested by its truth from that time. It offers an example of how the devil trains his minions to tempt people to move away from the basic Christian doctrine of sin. SCREWTAPE - WRITING TO WORMWOOD, HIS NEPHEW AND JUNIOR DEVIL IN TRAINING ABOUT THE VIRTUES OF ENCOURAGING PEOPLE TO BELIEVE IN A 'HISTORICAL' JESUS WHO CHANGES WITH EACH PASSING GENERATION "........... The earliest converts were converted by a single historical fact ( the Resurrection) and a single theological doctrine( the Redemption) operating on a sense of sin which they already had - and sin, not against some fancy-dress law produced as a novelty by a ' great man', but against the old, platitudinous, universal moral law which they had been taught by their nurses and mothers. The 'Gospels' come later, and were written, not to make Christians, but to edify Christians already made. The ' historical' Jesus, then, however dangerous he may seem to be to us at some particular point, is to be encouraged. About the general connection between Christianity and politics, our position is more delicate. Certainly we do not want men to allow their Christianity to flow over into their Christian life, for the establishment of anything like a really just society would be a major disaster. On the other hand we do want and want very much, to make men treat Christianity as a means; preferably, of course, as a means to their advancement, but failing that, as a means to anything - even to social justice. The thing to do is to get a man first to value social justice as a thing which the Enemy demands, and then work him on to the stage at which he values Christianity because it may produce social justice. For the Enemy will not be used as a convenience. Men or nations who think that they can revive the Faith in order to make a good society might just as well think they can use the stairs of Heaven as a short cut to the nearest chemist's shop ( in today's world the analogy would be quite different - to a big house, a fancy car, good job, a good man or woman...my words. Fortunately, it is quite easy to coax humans round this corner. Only today I have found a passage in a Christian writer where he recommends his own version of Christianity on the grounds that ' only such a faith can outlast the death of old cultures and the birth of new civilizations.' You see the little rift? ' Believe this, not because it is true, but for some other reason.' That's the game. Your affectionate uncle. SCREWTAPE. Comment: No wonder Jesus called the devil a 'liar'. As he has done so much damage over the years, and continues to woo away the unsuspecting, even in the church, from the central doctrine of Redemption built on the historical fact of The Resurrection. I believe this extract from Lewis' Screwtape letters, written as an 'instruction manual' to young devils in training, explains a great deal about the misunderstanding by politicians, journalists and many others in the society, including, sadly, very sadly, church members, of the Word of God. Our role then, as enlightened Christians, is to ensure that persons understand the central thrust of the Faith- to call people to repentance, by The Word and how we live. I pray God that I have helped to make someone understand the Faith a little better and by God's grace and mercy, will be empowered to continue to do so in 2014. Peace. LWJ

Monday, December 16, 2013

Do you hear what I hear from the News and The Word of God about Christmas?

Do you hear what I hear, A song, a song, high above the trees.....a verse from a Christmas Carol. I read my Bible to see what men ought to do; and read my newspapers to see what men are doing - John Newton. Lord renew thy church beginning with me; Lord renew thy church that the church may renew the nation(s) - a Prayer. THE NEWS What did I hear this week - from the 'newspapers'. (1). That Pope Francis is Time Magazine's Man of The Year. For the following reasons as posted on their online webpage: "He took the name of a humble saint and then called for a church of healing. The first non-European pope in 1,200 years is poised to transform a place that measures change by the century Read more: Person of the Year | TIME picks the person who most influenced the news each year...." (2).That Crime and Violence continues to be a major problem for my country Jamaica Adrian Frater, News Editor The Daily Gleaner www.go-jamaica Western Bureau: Montego Bay, St James, is on the edge again. Residents cower in the wake of the latest violence, which is reminding them of several similar periods of bloodletting they had to endure in the past decade. Twelve persons' lives have been snuffed out by ruthless criminals in several incidents, including a triple murder and two double murders in the past week. In the latest incident, a 36-year-old woman, Monique Watson of Rose Heights in St James, was shot and killed by a gunman who reportedly walked into her hairdressing parlour and shot her at point-blank range. (3) That one does not have to profess Christianity to be magnanimous and compassionate... contextualized in a column written by our award winning journalist Ian Boyne, writing in the In Focus section of the Daily Gleaner today ......One of the striking things about Mandela is his appeal to every shade of the ideological spectrum. I have read right-wing extremist publications which have praised him since his death, forced to agree that he turned his back on an easy path of recrimination and revenge. There was nothing inevitable about his path of forgiveness and peace which he took. It was the road less travelled. Even Marxists who have pointed to the many problems which beset capitalist South Africa still concede that Mandela was an extraordinary leader. A SPIRITUAL MAN Interestingly and incidentally, Mandela did not profess Christianity. Indeed, he seemed quite indifferent to any religion at all. But he clearly was a spiritual person. His life proves that one need not be a Christian to be magnanimous, compassionate, loving and forgiving. One does not have to be a Christian to be a good person. Nor does one have to be religious to be touched by humanitarian values. It is noteworthy that many politicians who have professed Christianity have been hateful, vengeful, bitter and oppressive, while a humanitarian like Mandela, who was not even certain about an afterlife, could have lived so selflessly and so compassionately....... (4) Tessanne Chin is " trending' right now in Jamaica, as the finals for NBC's The Voice comes up tomorrow Monday December 16th. The entire country, and the extended family in the diaspora is just waiting to exhale. The mobilization to have everybody with a Jamaican connection in the USA voted ten times and download her songs on iTunes, in the words of the young people, has been 'amazing'. so we wait with bated breath. THE WORD OF GOD What did I hear from reading God's Word this week, as I contemplated Mandela's Memorial service, his Funeral, and the countdown to Tessanne's appearance in the finals of The Voice. A call for repentance, as we acknowledge the high profile nature of personalities in the news this week, but note that the Christmas message trumps everything else, every time, everywhere. For while the exploits of Mandela and Tessanne chin gladdens our hearts, the message of the Christ child causes us to pause. As the Christmas message is essentially a call to bow down before the Almighty 'made flesh', and repent and be baptized. THE FIRST MESSAGE SENT LEADERS IN CIVIL SOCIETY IN MY COUNTRY As I was led from one section of Holy Bible to another, without any thought on my part, one thing struck me in both passages: The Sovereign God who, with His " great power and outstretched arm made the heaven and earth and its people", " handed over" to wicked men, under the Old Covenant, His Chosen people, and in the New Covenant, His Son Christ Jesus. In the Old Covenant, those who refused to be subject to the 'yoke' of the Babylonians, were promised punishment. Further, God warned His people, not to listen to the foolishness of the 'prophets' of the day. And now under the New Covenant, which He made with all men, with the death of Christ on the Cross, all who subject themselves to the 'yoke' of Christ, repent and be baptized, will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. On the one hand, refusal to submit resulted in punishment, and obedience led to peace; on the other hand, obedience to the yoke of the Son leads to peace, and disobedience to everlasting punishment. And so once again, as God did in under the Old Covenant, He has placed before us life and death. We must chose life in Christ Jesus. And in order to fully submit, and find life, in Christ Jesus, we must leave behind our own ambitions, our own desires, our own understanding of life, our own passions, what others claim is 'wisdom', but in fact is pure foolishness in the sight of God; in fact our very own selves. What does all of this have to do with TessAnne and Mandela? The lives of both are " trending " now in Jamaica. But across the entire world, only Mandela is " trending". Why? I listened to TessAnne last night and was blown away by her rendition of " Bridge over troubles waters". And tweeted about it, and was retweeted. She put her whole soul into that song. And we enjoyed it and felt 'lifted up'. But Mandela gave his life for others. Sacrificed his marriage, his family life, his physical being, his all for others. And thus we praise him and salute him today and for the rest of the week. And 'lift him up'. How much more then, shall we love and adore, praise and lift up the Name, bow down and submit to Him, Jesus the Christ, who suffered and died for me and for you, so that we may not perish, but have life, and life more abundantly. # ILOVEYOUJESUS. LWJ I pray God that you too will lift Him up as you read the very Word of God, from Jeremiah and from the Acts of The Apostles, and find the peace that invaded my soul yesterday as I read; " But the eyes of The Lord are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love. to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine". Psalm 33:18-19 NIV THE WORD - JEREMIAH Early in the reign of Zedekiah son of Josiah king of Judah, this word came to Jeremiah from the Lord : this is what the Lord said to me: ‘Make a yoke out of straps and crossbars and put it on your neck. Then send word to the kings of Edom, Moab, Ammon, Tyre and Sidon through the envoys who have come to Jerusalem to Zedekiah king of Judah. Give them a message for their masters and say, “This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: ‘Tell this to your masters: with my great power and outstretched arm I made the earth and its people and the animals that are on it, and I give it to anyone I please. Now I will give all your countries into the hands of my servant Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon; I will make even the wild animals subject to him. All nations will serve him and his son and his grandson until the time for his land comes; then many nations and great kings will subjugate him. ‘“‘If, however, any nation or kingdom will not serve Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon or bow its neck under his yoke, I will punish that nation with the sword, famine and plague, declares the Lord, until I destroy it by his hand. So do not listen to your prophets, your diviners, your interpreters of dreams, your mediums or your sorcerers who tell you, “You will not serve the king of Babylon.” They prophesy lies to you that will only serve to remove you far from your lands; I will banish you and you will perish. But if any nation will bow its neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon and serve him, I will let that nation remain in its own land to till it and to live there, declares the Lord.’”’ (Jeremiah 27:1-11 NIVUK) THE WORD - ACTS OF THE APOSTLES ‘Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him........ ‘Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.’ When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’ Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptised, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off – for all whom the Lord our God will call.’ With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, ‘Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.’ Those who accepted his message were baptised, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2:22-24, 36-47 NIVUK) THE SECOND LESSON ALSO SENT TO LEADERS IN MY COUNTRY - IS ALL ABOUT HOW GOD'S WORD TRUMPS EVERY OTHER WORD. EVERY OTHER PHILOSOPHY, VERY OTHER IDEOLOGY EVER TO BE CRAFTED BY MAN On my way to work, for some reason I turned on the radio - very unusual for me of late - and tuned in to BBC to listen to commentary on Mandela's Memorial service. I heard, and heard about, Obama's very special tribute to Madiba. Once again, I was very impressed, and almost got goose bumps listening to him, as I very much did during his speech after his victory in the Iowa and New Hampshire primaries way back in the early days. But there was a jarring note as I listened to him quoting the words of the poem which Mandela used to inspired him during the, " long dark night of the soul", on Robben Island. "I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul." It really disturbed my soul as the whole concept of one being the captain of one's soul runs contrary to my understanding of the Christian faith. And as listened to the commentary on RJRFM and NationwidenewsFM on the way home, I thought about it even more. Last night then, as I was led to read a section of St. Augustine's "Confessions" ( that Bishop of the early church and he who has been credited with having had a profound influence the mind of all of us in the Western world) , I was led to the passage of Scripture from St Paul's letter to the Colossians as set out below. And then this morning to the passage from the book of Corinthians. A lot of thoughts came into my head as I contemplated this revelation. However I am constrained only to make the following comments. I quite understand why Mandela and others would have been drawn to the profound words in the poem. I quite understand why President Obama, an orator of no mean order, and a man who has an acute sense of history, forged in the crucible of his life experiences, would be drawn to it also. But as children of God, " washed in the Blood of the Lamb", we have to be eternally vigilant, to proclaim at all times, to Whom we look, and from Whom, our salvation comes. So, with the Colossians passage in mind, examine the poem, as Augustine examined Circero's ( the celebrated Greek, or was it Roman, Poet) Hortensius, and was led to understand that wisdom comes only from God. As Job found out also.....the beginning of wisdom is to shun evil. Let anyone should boast before this Almighty God.! As we do so, perhaps, just perhaps, we might find that, in the same way the American people, and we too in Jamaica, are discovering that within us, in Tessanne, was a pearl of great price undiscovered, so too, in these Scriptures, I pray God that we may discover pearls of inestimable value. For the ages!. Peace LWJ THE WORD OF GOD - COLOSSIANS See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ. (Colossians 2:8 NIVUK) THE WORD OF MAN - INVICTUS BY WILLIAM ERNEST HENLEY Out of the night that covers me, Black as the Pit from pole to pole, I thank whatever gods may be For my unconquerable soul. In the fell clutch of circumstance I have not winced nor cried aloud. Under the bludgeoning of chance My head is bloody, but unbowed. Beyond this place of wrath and tears Looms but the Horror of the shade, And yet the menace of the years Finds, and shall find, me unafraid. It matters not how strait the gate, How charged with punishments the scroll. I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul. THE WORD OF GOD - ACTS OF THE APOSTLES Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: ‘People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship – and this is what I am going to proclaim to you. ‘The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. “For in him we live and move and have our being.” As some of your own poets have said, “We are his offspring.” ‘Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone – an image made by human design and skill. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.’ (Acts 17:22-29, 31 NIVUK) THE WORD OF GOD - 1ST CORINTHIANS For Christ did not send me to baptise, but to preach the gospel – not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.’ Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling-block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things – and the things that are not – to nullify the things that are, It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God – that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: ‘Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.’ (1 Corinthians 1:17-28, 30, 31 NIVUK) THE THIRD MESSAGE - AGIN SENT TO LEADERS IN MY CHURCH. I have long ceased believing in coincidence. So when I read a word one night and an even more important Word in the morning, and think of those who are in error as far as the Truth is concerned, I am led to write accordingly. I pray God for mercy for my many, many sins without ceasing. I pray God also for mercy for those who do not know the correct faith, or who have turned away or continue to ignore the Truth. For the consequence of both my sin and the error of others is the same. Death! THIS MORNING. THE WORD OF GOD FROM THE BOOK OF JAMES " My brothers, if anyone of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from his way will save him from death and cover a multitude of sins." James 5:19-29 NIV A COUPLE NIGHTS AGO EXCERPT FROM AUGUSTINE'S CONFESSIONS ".....But while I would not let this man offer sacrifice for me to his devils, all the time I was offering myself as a sacrifice to them because of my false beliefs. For if we ' play shepherd to the wind', we find pasture for the devil, because by straying from the truth we give them food for laughter and fill their cups with pleasure." Book 1V, page 72, the final paragraph. Final Comment: I would humbly suggest to you then my friend(s) that this is no ordinary conversation about the correct faith. This is no exercise in theological reasoning or a philosophical debate, but rather a desperate appeal for you to turn to the living God. To The One who handed over His Son to die for you and for me. To The One who offered Himself as a sacrifice for all mankind on Calvary, so that we should live and not perish. And save your soul. Peace THE FOURTH MESSAGE - SENT TO PEOPLE OF INFLUENCE IN MY COUNTRY. I HOPE IT MAKES YOU AS UNCOMFORTABLE AS I DID AS I WROTE AND CONTEMPLATED WHAT THE LORD WAS SAYING. WHICH IS A THOUGHT TRIGGERED BY A SERMON BY A YOUNG PRIEST TODAY IN MY CHURCH. THE EXCERPT BELOW IS WHAT ISENT TO MY CHURCH FAMILY AS I DISCUSSED THE WORD FROM THE LORD. ......And I took pictures and heard a great sermon. Almost full length. And on a subject that people need to hear. Even if it makes them uncomfortable, as one of Rev. Larius' former tutors suggested that sermons should accomplish...I agree ....perhaps not all the time, but certainly sometimes.... Things are changing. For the better! At least from a non-regular 6:30 person. SERMON - BY REV. LARIUS Came to him as he meditated on the gospel reading about John the Baptist and Jesus. Firstly, that the people of God must always speak up and speak out for the truth. No matter what is cost! John was executed by King Herod because he accused the monarch of committing immorality. And then he expanded on that theme for a while. Secondly that John, while in prison, had doubts about who Jesus really was....."are you the one, or is there someone else to come". Jesus answered him by pointing to the evidence, evidence and not with words....the deaf hear...the blind see...captives are set free...and the good news is preached to the poor. So must we rely on the evidence of God's goodness and faithfulness in our lives, not if, but when we lest expect it.... trials, illnesses, and pain and even the death of loves ones come. At that time rather than grieve, or give up as some have done, in the face of great trials...bring to mind, look again at the evidence at when god in former times, demonstrated His faithfulness. And the One who was faithful then, will remain faithful always, even when you cannot understand why. THE MESSAGE - AGAIN SENT TO PEOPLE OF INFLUENCE IN MY CHURCH With all the talk in Jamaica and indeed across the entire globe, about Homosexuality and Christianity, and no doubt the Pope's " enlightened/compassionate views" on the matter which inter alia contributed to him being named, Time Magazine's Man of The Year, this Word of God struck a chord in my heart this morning. I came upon it as I did an extended reading of the Gospel appointed for the third Sunday in Advent in my church, Matthew 11:2-11. Then Jesus began to denounce the towns in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not repent. ‘Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted to the heavens? No, you will go down to Hades. For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.’ (Matthew 11:20-24 NIVUK) Comment: The important point that Jesus was making was that all who witnessed His miracle had no excuse, if they kept on living a sinful life. And therefore they would be judged more severely at the end of the age when He would come again not as Savior but as Judge of " the living and the dead". Now, what do we read into this as we approach Christmas in Jamaica as 2013 draws to a close. At a time when violent crime continues to the number one concern for our people. At a time when the economic situation has never been worse, and " no dollars nah run", and everybody is feeling the pinch. At a time when homosexuality continues to be a 'hot button" issue in Jamaica. The following thoughts came into my mind. 1. The main reason why Sam Sharpe is my favorite Nation Hero is that he taught black people, that because Christ died for them, no man had any right to enslave them. The most liberating message that mankind has ever heard. That all men under God are equal. So we in Jamaica, have no excuse, and for others who have not had this " miraculous experience", it will be more bearable for them than for Jamaicans at the time of Judgement. The same thing applies to John Wesley's UK, and those European nations, to whom the Gospel was preached, after the fall of the Roman Empire. Also the USA where the Pilgrims went, fleeing from religious persecution elsewhere. Are we in Jamaica suffering any more than Barbados or Trinidad on account of our disobedience to the Word as preached by sam Sharpe? I have no idea, but if we do not repent we are in trouble. 2. All who sin, all who do wrong, and who have been exposed to the ' cleansing' Word of God, whether through this forum, on radio, or other electronic media, and ignore it, should take heed. Whether they are homosexuals, heterosexuals 'living in sin', Doctor's acting in collusion with others to commit fraud, Politicians acting corruptly or breaking the rules with impunity, Dancehall artistes promoting gun lyrics, journalist's willfully defaming others, Businessmen taking advantage of the poor, those who rape young schoolgirls...... But then another Word struck me last night. From the same Gospel account by Matthew. " As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. ‘Follow me,’ he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him. While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, ‘Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ On hearing this, Jesus said, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but those who are ill. But go and learn what this means: “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.’ (Matthew 9:9-13 NIVUK) So with whom might Jesus be " having dinner", if He were here this Christmas. I would suggest that the following might be considered: with the homosexuals living on the streets in New Kingston , those heterosexuals who have " gal in a bundle", perhaps with Kartel( a top dance hall artiste injail on a charge of murder), maybe even Dudus ( currently serving time in the USA and one of the nation's most famous gang leader) , dare I say Azan ( a junior Minister who lost his job and was recently reinstated after being accused of, at the very least, breaking the rules and regulations established by the government), the " shotta bus drivas" ( bus drivers who drive extremely fast and oftentimes carelessly...hopefully with " me and my house" who have sinned in what we have done and in what we have left undone." This issue of mercy is not an easy one. By no means.! The key thing at the end of the day, is to accept that Jesus came for you, and for all who have sinned. If you claim to have no sin, despite being exposed to the Word of God, day after day, then it will be more bearable for Sodom, in the time of Judgement than for you. As then you would have rejected the mercy offered to you by the suffering and death of Jesus, the Son of God. And according to the Word, God Himself! What a tragedy! What madness! To so trample on the precious Blood of the Lamb. Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy! Peace LWJ As I close, this issue of Mandela, not confessing Christianity, at least not publicly, yet being the embodiment of the evidence which Jesus pointed to, when asked by John if he ( Jesus) was the one to come or should he look for another person, as was discussed in the sermon this morning, is bothering me deeply. Very deeply! We need to consider these things as we wait for Christ to come again into our homes and hearts this Christmas. For if there is no evidence of the Christ living in and through us, what's the point of saying " Lord, Lord". Apart from the fact that Jesus had a challenging answer for that question, How will my country be rescued from the high levels of violence so pervasive in our communities, and which is retarding our development as a nation, and causing untold grief in the hearts of loved ones? How will our young people be set free from the levels of immorality which is so common place in our schools; and which will blight the future of these individuals and the nation if left unchecked? How will my countrymen and women be set free from false beliefs about life and about the nature and person of God; the result of which incorrect understanding of life, as St Augustine points out, is to ' give the great pleasure to the devil"? How will all of this happen if there is no evidence of the Christ in us in this nation. So is there no John the Baptist in Jamaica? Is there really no Balm in this Gilead? What a challenge for me and for you and for the church as we celebrate Christmas! Peace LWJ

Sunday, December 1, 2013

A Gaza me seh! Go deh Tessanne! I must have my savior with me for I dare not walk alone. Choose one

Translation. I choose to belong to the Gaza crew. We are behind you Tessanne all the way. I read my Bible to see what men ought to do, and read my newspapers to see what men are doing - John Newton Lord renew thy church beginning with me; Lord renew the church that the church may renew the nation(s) - A prayer. NEWS (1) As we approach what is shaping up to be a joyless Christmas season, with murder and mayhem the order of the day, Jamaicans have found one thing to cheer them up. It is Tessanne Chin's voice. Editorial of the Daily Gleaner Saturday November 29th, 2013. (2) Erica Virtue, Senior Gleaner Writer The vexed issue of access and availability of condoms to the most vulnerable age cohort in Jamaica is again placed on the front burner as Jamaica marks World AIDS Day today. The on-again, off-again debate seems to be off again, at least locally. However, the release of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) 2013 Stocktaking Report on Children and AIDS could reignite the discussion. In its report released last Friday, UNICEF raised alarm about the rate of HIV/AIDS in adolescents and called for increased global and national efforts to address this vulnerable age group. According to UNICEF: "AIDS-related deaths among adolescents between the ages of 10 and 19 increased by 50 per cent between 2005 and 2012, rising from 71,000 to 110,000, in stark contrast to progress made in preventing mother-to-child transmission." (3) Vybz Kartel is on trial for the alleged murder of Clive “Lizard” Williams. If convicted the dancehall star could be sent to prison for up to 25 years. Last week the prosecution’s main witness, Lamar Chow, took the witness stand and gave a damning testimony against Vybz Kartel, real name Adidja Palmer, and his four co-accused which includes protege Shawn “Storm” Campbell, Kahira Jones, AndrĂ© St John, and Shane Williams. The three news items as chronicled above, were the ones which caused me to pause and reflect this week. Among the many others, including continued acts of murder most foul and political intrigue. Comments: Vibz Kartel, is arguably, the biggest name in music in Jamaica. He weals tremendous influence on the young, especially young men who live in the inner city communities in Kingston Jamaica. So much so that there is an ongoing rivalry with another dance hall artiste who controls a faction known as ' Gully", while Kartel controls the " Gaza Crew". A rivalry which has spawned violence in schools and communities. And even the hallowed Halls of the University of the West Indies, has not escaped his sphere of influence. Much has been written about the incredibly outrageous aspects of some of lyrics of his songs; but equally so is the reality that in some quarters he remains hugely popular. His trial has therefore generated enormous public interest. Tessanne Chin is the latest " Jamaican Star", by virtue of her strong performance on NBC's The Voice, and had gained, not just local plaudits but International fame. But is she the only reason for hope in a " joyless Christmas"? And who says that despite our many and varied problems, Jamaicans remain without joy?. Whether at Christmas or at other times! And award winning journalist Erica Virtue raises an age old question in an informative piece in the Gleaner on HIV/AIDS and young children, " Does the ends justify the means". In the sense that, is it ok to ignore moral questions and arguments, in pursuit of "saving lives"? So in the midst of all of this angst about the state of my country and the " Pied Pipers" who would lead us astray, the beginning of the Advent season comes as a joy for me and many others. A time when some Christian denominations, set aside a period of reflection and preparation for the coming of The Lord; not just at Christmas, but at the end of all times. In this context then, I believe that Lord spoke and provided some answers that the news items above pose. Perhaps none more important than why we should have joy in this Kartel influenced society, regardless of how well Tessanne Chin performs on the Voice, or how badly our children have been affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic. THE WORD OF GOD. THE FIRST MESSAGE - SENT TO MEMBERS OF MY CHURCH FAMILY. THE INTRODUCTORY SECTION PLACES THE MESSAGE IN CONTEXT AND HIGHLIGHTS THE IMPORTANCE OF THE CHILDREN OF GOD HAVING A WIDER TIME HORIZON THAN WHAT THE NEWS OF THE WORLD WOULD HAVE US CONSTRUCT. AS WE ARE PEOPLE WHO LOOK NOT ONLY AT TEMPORARY ISSUES, BUT THE ETERNAL. A KEY POINT WHICH DISTINGUISHES THE RELIGIOUS FROM THE SECULAR. ALTHOUGH BOTH ARE INTIMATELY INVOLVED IN SEEKING SOLUTIONS FOR THE IMMEDIATE. I woke up in the middle of the night last night and the story of Rich Young Ruler came into my head. In particular the verse which is highlighted. Then during my devotions I read the story again, and the second passage from 2 Corinthians came into my head. I suppose all Scripture is interconnected, but I had no idea, before now, that there is a connection between the two highlighted verses. But I suppose if you stop to think of it, it follows theologically. For, to give up everything and follow Jesus, which is what the rich young ruler was asked by Jesus to do, and by extension all of us who are " Baptized into Him", translates into our carrying around His death, so that the life of Jesus in us may be revealed. Revealed to all with whom we come in contact! What a revelation! What an awesome responsibility! What a challenge, and what indwelling power, for the church to ( be able to ) witness to a nation reeling from the constant death by the gun, of so many of its citizens. Daily! Why? The last verse of the Corinthian passage provides the answer. We fix our eyes not on the seen but on what is unseen, that which is eternal, and not that which is temporary - the news of the day, and the agenda set by this world, as discussed in the powerful sermon shared by Bishop Howard on Sunday. Peace. LWJ A certain ruler asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.’ ” When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (Luke 18:18-20, 22 NIV) But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you. It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.” Since we have that same spirit of faith, we also believe and therefore speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself. All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God. Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:7-18 NIV) Sent from my iPad THE SECOND LESSON - SHARED WITH MY CHURCH FAMILY. AND FOR ME THE KEY ISSUE HERE IS THAT WE, ALL OF US, BOTH THE RELIGIOUS AND THE SECULAR, SEEM TO HAVE FORGOTTEN WHO IS THE GOD WE SERVE AND TALK ABOUT. FOR AROUND HIM " A TEMPEST RAGES AND BEFORE HIM A FIRE DEVOURS EVERYTHING". AND ONLY BY THE BLOOD OF JESUS CAN WE BE SPARED FROM HIS WRATH. A REALITY WHICH BRINGS INTO SHARP FOCUS THE CONSEQUENCES OF DISOBEDIENCE FOR A NATION AND FOR INDIVIDUALS. Last night the preacher spoke about honoring God, and worshiping God. This morning The Lord reminds us, lest we forget, lest we forget and become complacent ,and become casual, as if we don't worship Him, then the very rocks will cry out. For our privilege to approach a Mighty God with confidence, rests, always and solely on the Atonement wrought by Jesus on the Cross of Calvary. Lest we forget indeed! A reading of the Psalm appointed for next Sunday, triggered all of this. As our God is indeed a " consuming fire". So we thank God for Jesus, in whom and through whom we can approach Him. With Confidence! As Christ has become our Righteousness. The Mighty One, God, the Lord, speaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to where it sets. From Zion, perfect in beauty, God shines forth. Our God comes and will not be silent; a fire devours before him, and around him a tempest rages. He summons the heavens above, and the earth, that he may judge his people: “Gather to me this consecrated people, who made a covenant with me by sacrifice.” And the heavens proclaim his righteousness, for he is a God of justice. (Psalm 50:1-6 NIV) You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm; to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them, because they could not bear what was commanded: “If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned to death.” The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, “I am trembling with fear.” But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven? At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” The words “once more” indicate the removing of what can be shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire.” (Hebrews 12:18-29 NIV) For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4:12-16 NIV) Peace LWJ THE THIRD AND FINAL MESSAGE - SENT TO PEOPLE OF INFLUENCE IN MY COUNTRY. AND WHILE IT IS NOT GOSPEL, NOT THE WORD OF GOD, IT IS THE SUMMARY OF THE ARGUMENTS OF ONE OF THE WORLDS BEST LOVED AND INFLUENTIAL WRITERS, FOR THE EXISTENCE OF GOD. AND THE CONSEQUENCES FOR A NATION WHICH ELECTS TO IGNORE THAT REALITY. IN A PHRASE...." THE COST IS HEAVY". I am particularly impressed with C. S. Lewis's observation ," that the cost", of ignoring religion in general and Christianity in particular, is heavy. Perhaps that explains the phenomenon of a Kartel, or a Dudus; both of whom, together or individually, represent the worst aspects of the Jamaican reality - the egregious violence and the outrageous behavior. And no doubt contribute to the kind of heavy burden which Jamaica has endured on account of it's recent history of moving away from the Christian ethic which guided our forebears. So, perhaps JFJ and others, may wish to explore their horizons a bit more, in pursuit of arriving at a more informed basis for their recommended prescription for solving Jamaica's crime problem. Equally so, those responsible for policy formulation and for execution of strategies to counteract the criminals, may also wish to "plug these observations by Lewis into the computer". All of which, by the way are available in a proper understanding of God's Holy Word. C. S. LEWIS "At every stage of religious development man may rebel, if not without violence to his own nature, yet without absurdity. He can close his spiritual eyes against the Numinous, if he is prepared to part company with half the great poets and prophets of his race, with his own childhood, with the richness and depth of uninhibited experience. He can regard the moral law as an illusion, and so cut himself off from the common ground of humanity. He can refuse to identify the Numinous with the righteous, and remain a barbarian, worshiping sexuality, or the dead, or the life-force, or the future. But the cost is heavy. And when we come to the last step of all, the historical Incarnation, the assurance is the strongest of all. The story is strangely like many myths which have haunted religion from the first, and yet it is not like them. It is not transparent to the reason: we could not have invented it ourselves".... An except from C.S. Lewis', The problem of Pain, chap one. What is this Numinous? It is one of four steps which Lewis identifies which aid in our understanding why humankind, beginning with early civilizations and continuing into the 21st century, has embraced religion in general, and Christianity, in particular. 1st Stage. The Numinous...the sense of dread and awe...of spirits in the Universe...cannot be logically deduced from the environment and physical experiences of the man who undergoes them 2nd Stage. A sense of guilt triggered by a moral law, once approved and disobeyed, and which says, " I ought" or " I ought not"...and which again cannot be logically deduced from the environment. 3rd Stage. When the Numinous Power of which they feel awe is made the guardian of the morality to which they feel obligation...again something quite unnatural...as many sections of humanity refused to accept it as non-moral religion, and non-religious morality existed and still exists. 4th Stage. The historical event...a man born among the Jews who claimed to be, or to be the son of, or to be " one with", the Something which is at one the awful haunter of nature and the giver of the moral law. The claim is so shocking - a paradox, and even a horror, which we may easily be lulled into taking too lightly - that only two views of this man are possible. Either he was a raving lunatic of an unusually abominably type, or else He was, and is, precisely what He said. There is no middle way. if the records make the first hypothesis unacceptable, you must submit to the second. And if you say that, all else that is claimed by the Christians becomes credible - that this Man, having been killed, was yet alive, and that His death, in some manner incomprehensible to human thought, has effected a real change in our relations to the " awful", and " righteous" Lord and a change in our favor. To ask whether the universe as we see it looks more like the work of a wise and good Creator or the work of chance, indifference, or malevolence, is to omit from the outset all the relevant factors in the religious problem. Christianity is not the conclusion of a philosophical debate on the origins of of the universe: it is a catastrophic historical event following on the long spiritual preparation of humanity which I have described....Lewis Into this context then, Lewis explores the problem of pain. In this context then we contemplate the coming of our Lord again at Christmas, by giving thanks for, and using carefully, the church's season of preparation ( Advent) for this seminal historical event about which Lewis wrote, and which we call Christmas. Final Comments: So, should we in Jamaica, or any other part of the world be justified in having a joyless Christmas? Even in Syria, or Iran, or Israel, or The Philippines! Should we depend on our cultural icons to provide hope for us? Should we be so pre-occupied and so heavily influenced by our icons in music, in sport, in politics, regardless of their behavior or how much they lead us astray? Should we give up hope that by adhering to the Word of God, people, children can be rescued from HIVAIDs or any other major public health disease? Should we ( continue to ) ignore the warnings from Lewis and pay the heavy cost? I would suggest that, if God so loved the world to send His Son to rescue it, and us, we should pay more attention to Christmas, what that event signifies, and less to the news of the day. As one has eternal portents while the other shifts from day to day, and follows no pattern, nor provides any lasting solutions. Peace. LWJ

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Haiyan in The Phillipines, Many Rivers to Cross in Jamaica, and The Name of Jesus

10:00 pm Sunday November 10th,2013. Lord renew thy church beginning with me; Lord renew the church that the church may renew the nation(s). A Prayer. I read my Bible to see what men ought to do; and read my newspapers to see what men are doing - John Newton NEWS BBC News - Typhoon Haiyan: Thousands feared dead in Philippines www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-24887337 1 hour ago - Officials say up to 10000 people may have died on Leyte island, which bore the brunt of the devastation of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. Vietnam heads to shelter as Typhoon Haiyan makes landfall Herald Sun ‎- 36 minutes ago MORE than 600000 people have been evacuated amid fears of flooding and damaging winds as a weakened Typhoon Haiyan makes landfall ... The two reports above reveal the extent to which this monster typhoon has wreaked devastation in South East Asia, and more damage is expected. All of this occurring in an area where 20 such storms have already affected the region for this year. The road ahead will be long and hard and bleak for this part of the world. And the pictures on television of fathers and mothers having had children snatched out of their hands by the storm surge was heart breaking. Such was the effect of news on me this weekend. Also in the news for the past couple of months was the leadership race in one of our two major political parties. The Jamaica Labour Party ( JLP). Well it is all done now. Or as the young people say "so done". The incumbent and younger man - an issue raised during the hustings - Andrew Holness, is still the leader of the Parliamentary Opposition in Jamaica. And the older more experienced challenger Audley Shaw, lost. The road ahead for the party will be long and difficult, as the struggle was bruising and divisive. But time is a great healer of things, especially when the prize is state power; and politics does indeed make for some strange bedfellows. This week also local singing maestro Tessanne Chin 'made the cut' , reached the final 12. The report below says it all: Tessanne Chin: You're Going To Win 'The Voice' - Hollywood Life hollywoodlife.com/2013/11/05/tessanne-chin-the-voice-win/ 5 days ago - Tessanne Chin, when you closed the Nov. 4 episode of The Voice with a powerful rendition of Jimmy Cliff's “Many Rivers To Cross,” you shed ... And a huge chunk of the Jamaican population have been following her progress as if she were a 'national heroine', ever since she entered the competition. The road ahead looks bright for her. THE WORD OF GOD In the midst of the pain and suffering which invaded my soul via the television, and in the midst of the excitement generated by the JLP leadership race and the singing sensation Tessanne Chin, words from a hymn by Charles Wesley invaded my soul. And spawned text messages, inspired prayer and led to a message written to leaders of my country. The link with the news of the day is threefold. One, that, like the message from the book of Job, where calamity struck a family and a man ' who did not deserve to suffer so much", we don't understand why, in this case the people of the Philippines suffered so much. And the same observation could be made for countless millions who have suffered inexplicably over the centuries. But as we reminded in a riveting sermon by Rev. Dr. David Kuck, on the book of Job at my church today, we know that " our Redeemer liveth". And those who hope in Jesus Christ will find peace and comfort in Him. Whether in this life or the next! So the road ahead is bright regardless of the circumstances. Two, that despite the value and role, present and historical, politics and politicians, have and play in the development of a nation, by far, and by a wide margin, is the greater value that a nation ought to place on trusting the God of Abraham and of Moses and of Christ Jesus and of children of the slaves from Africa and indentured laborers from Asia. Thirdly, whilst music is no doubt one of God's greatest gifts to mankind, and we are privileged to enjoy it, the ultimate role of all of such endeavors is to give glory to God. I am sure that it is in that context that Charles Wesley's hymn, " O For a Thousand tongues to sing my dear Redeemer's praise", literally invaded my soul. And one thing led to another, all in praise of God, and is Son Christ our Redeemer. On this journey with Christ. THE MESSAGE - SATURDAY MORNING Two great events in history capture entirely the wonders of the grace and mercy of God. One resulted in the birth of a nation, called out from Egypt and set free from evil. The other the birth of of God's holy people, called out from the bondage of Sin and set free from evil. Martin Luther King Jnr. in a profound commentary on the first event, termed it " The Death of Evil". And observed that "evil is recalcitrant and determined and never voluntarily relinquishes its hold short of a persistent, almost fanatical resistance. But that there is a checkpoint in the Universe , as evil cannot permanently organize itself". That checkpoint we now now know, even though He was active in the liberation of the Children of Israel thousands of years before, as the One who said, " Before Abraham was I am ", to be Jesus Christ and His Atonement for Sin on Calvary. One event triggered a famous song written by Moses and Miriam. Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the Lord : “I will sing to the Lord, for he is highly exalted. Both horse and driver he has hurled into the sea. “The Lord is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him. The Lord is a warrior; the Lord is his name. Pharaoh’s chariots and his army he has hurled into the sea. The best of Pharaoh’s officers are drowned in the Red Sea. The deep waters have covered them; they sank to the depths like a stone. Your right hand, Lord, was majestic in power. Your right hand, Lord, shattered the enemy. (Exodus 15:1-6 NIV) The other event, triggered many songs and hymns, the words of one of which invaded my soul yesterday. All day long! O FOR A THOUSAND VOICES TO SING Charles Wesley Verse: Psalm 91 O for a thousand tongues to sing My dear Redeemer's praise, The glories of my God and King, The triumphs of his grace. My gracious Master and my God, Assist me to proclaim And spread through all the earth abroad The honors of thy name. Jesus! the name that charms our fears And bids our sorrows cease; 'Tis music in the sinners ears, 'Tis life and health and peace. Last night at the usual hour, minutes to 4 o'clock,with some urgency The Lord woke me up to read: When you have entered the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance and have taken possession of it and settled in it, take some of the firstfruits of all that you produce from the soil of the land the Lord your God is giving you and put them in a basket. Then go to the place the Lord your God will choose as a dwelling for his Name and say to the priest in office at the time, “I declare today to the Lord your God that I have come to the land the Lord swore to our ancestors to give us.” The priest shall take the basket from your hands and set it down in front of the altar of the Lord your God. Then you shall declare before the Lord your God: “My father was a wandering Aramean, and he went down into Egypt with a few people and lived there and became a great nation, powerful and numerous. But the Egyptians mistreated us and made us suffer, subjecting us to harsh labor. Then we cried out to the Lord, the God of our ancestors, and the Lord heard our voice and saw our misery, toil and oppression. So the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with great terror and with signs and wonders. And now I bring the firstfruits of the soil that you, Lord, have given me.” Place the basket before the Lord your God and bow down before him. Then you and the Levites and the foreigners residing among you shall rejoice in all the good things the Lord your God has given to you and your household. (Deuteronomy 26:1-8, 10, 11 NIV) A passage of Scripture in addition to being entirely in keeping with the thought which The Lord inspired above, also triggered in my mind thoughts of the words of a verse of " Hark my soul it is The Lord ". “I delivered thee when bound, And, when bleeding, healed thy wound; Sought thee wandering, set thee right, Turned thy darkness into light. And also a song which represents the deep struggles of our forefathers as they battled with the injustices of slavery, from which evil, God with a strong right hand, would eventually set them and us , free. Nobody knows the trouble I've seen Nobody knows but Jesus Nobody knows the trouble I've seen Glory hallelujah! So, here is the conclusion as I have heard it from The Lord. That we in the Caribbean and descendants of slaves brought to the the New World, by our Colonial Masters, whether in the USA, South America or elsewhere, are 'called out people of God". That God with a strong right hand has rescued us from the evil of slavery and Sin. Therefore as a people, and especially as the 'ecclesia', the church leading the way, our role is to call out to God for mercy for our country night and day. For our Caribbean people; for the recipients of God's mercy on enslaved people everywhere; and for the recipients of the providential mercy of God on Calvary - the whole human race. That we should offer without ceasing, thanksgiving to God, with 'living sacrifices' - our will, our hopes, our aspirations, our dreams, our goals, our vision. And so we should rejoice in all things, and worship God at all times, and pray without ceasing for the rescuing of our nations. The problem is the distractions, the obstacles, the temptations from within and without. All of which keep us from being thankful, from the worship of a faithful God, and from prayer - the great work that God has given to us. The sum total of which is probably best captured by the words of one of the verses of the great hymn," O Jesus I have promised"; O let me feel thee near me: the world is ever near; I see the sights that dazzle, the tempting sounds I hear; my foes are ever near me, around me and within; but, Jesus, draw thou near me, and shield my soul from sin. And so I end appropriately by going full circle back to the hymn of praise that Wesley wrote about one of the two, and the most important, of the great events of history. Jesus! the name that charms our fears And bids our sorrows cease; 'Tis music in the sinners ears, 'Tis life and health and peace. In that Name, and the constant calling of that Name, we find space and power to be thankful, to worship and to pray. Without ceasing, in a land of twitter, of facebook, of texting, of cable, of dance-hall music, of hip hop Milly Cyrus type music, of talk radio, of video games of British, Spanish, and Italian Football, of NBA, of Tiger Woods Golf, of Serena Williams Tennis, of Usain Bolt Athletics, of Political intrigue at home and abroad, of daily scandals of financial challenges, of family responsibilities, and even of Church related activities. All of which if we are not careful keep us from, in some cases temporarily in other permanently, from carrying out that which God has ordained for all mankind. And especially for those who have accepted His offer of grace and mercy! To give thanks; to worship; and to pray. All three of which translate into living a life for Justice and for Righteousness, so that we can help to rescue others from the bondage of Sin and Injustice. As we have been rescued. And the combination of which is the cause for so much of the ills that beset Jamaica, and the cause of much human suffering across the world. Peace. LWJ Finally, a message not written, but indelibly imprinted on my heart. This Word of God from 2 Kings also invaded my soul and led to much prayer. When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. “Oh no, my lord! What shall we do?” the servant asked. “Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” And Elisha prayed, “Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. (2 Kings 6:15-17 NIV) Especially the prayer that God will open the eyes of my heart and those with whom I come in contact. For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. (Ephesians 1:15-21 NIV) I pray God that he will assist us to call on the Name of Jesus often; that He will open our eyes that we can see that there are more who are with us than those against us; and that we will be constantly aware of His great power available to us in Christ Jesus. Whether we are facing calamity; whether change in life beckons or whether joy and peace and happiness are with us for while. Amen! Peace LWJ Sent from my iPad

Sunday, November 3, 2013

A Video gone viral, a Country gone mad, and Salvation awaits. Patiently! In Christ Jesus

I read my Bible to see what men ought to do; and read my newspaper to see what men are doing - John Newton ( the former slave ship owner turned Pastor and co-author of the lyrics for Amazing Grace). Lord renew thy church beginning with me; Lord renew thy church that the church may renew the nation(s). A prayer. NEWS A Video featuring schoolchildren from a high school in rural Jamaica, and recorded two years ago, surfaced this week, and promptly went 'viral' in its circulation. Thus triggering, along with other similar type if not the exact replica, a national debate on the whether or not the nation's children are becoming 'lost'. I elected not to watch the video, as based on the graphic descriptions of the 'daggering' one could afford in this instance to accept the opinion of others that it was very ' out of order' indeed. Also this week, the nation continued to grapple with yet another egregious act of violence ; on this occasion the victim was girl child not yet two years old. And the accused, her granduncle, is now in police custody while she lies dead in the mortuary. From all reports he battered her to death, and for reasons yet undermined. But regardless of the motive, once again a nation is in mourning on account of the pervasive violence in our this state of " Denmark", in which we all agree something has gone wrong. Dreadfully wrong! Then just today, in my church, our Rector, inspired by the Gospel story of Zacchaeus - the tax collector to whose house Jesus invited Himself - and referencing the 'Video', preached a wonderful sermon about the need for forgiveness and mercy. THE WORD OF GOD So in the midst of all of this madness, The Lord led me to read, to listen, to reflect and to write. To journalists and members of civil society; to my own church and to senior members of the church in Jamaica. THE FIRST MESSAGE - TO THE CHURCH, THAT ALL IS NOT LOST DESPITE THE SERIOUSNESS OF THE TIMES. WE HAVE A HOPE IN A GOOD AND FAITHFUL GOD AND WE MUST WAIT UPON HIM AND BE FAITHFUL IN THE MIDST OF THE MADNESS. PEOPLE ARE DEPENDING ON US EVEN THOUGH THEY ARE ACTING AS THE CHURCH IS RELIC OF THE PAST ON TODAY'S BUSY AND MULTI-CULTUAL WORLD. For no apparent reason, after worshiping The Lord according to the words of the hymn: O worship The Lord in the beauty of holiness, bow down before him, his glory proclaim; with gold of obedience and incense of lowliness, kneel and adore him, The Lord is his name ; a hymn which I found on opening my hymn book, I was led to the book of Judges, and a serious conversation with The Lord . After Joshua died! THE WORD: After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up, who knew neither The Lord nor what he had done for Israel. Then the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and served the Baals; and they forsook the Lord God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt; and they followed other gods from among the gods of the people who were all around them, and they bowed down to them; and they provoked the Lord to anger. And the anger of the Lord was hot against Israel. So He delivered them into the hands of plunderers who despoiled them; and He sold them into the hands of their enemies all around, so that they could no longer stand before their enemies. Wherever they went out, the hand of the Lord was against them for calamity, as the Lord had said, and as the Lord had sworn to them. And they were greatly distressed. Yet they would not listen to their judges, but they played the harlot with other gods, and bowed down to them. They turned quickly from the way in which their fathers walked, in obeying the commandments of the Lord; they did not do so. And when the Lord raised up judges for them, the Lord was with the judge and delivered them out of the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge; for the Lord was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who oppressed them and harassed them. (Judges 2:10-12, 14, 15, 17, 18 NKJV) MY THOUGHTS: Is this not the Jamaican experience? The God who freed us from the bonds of slavery has now been abandoned and we have sought our salvation in Isaiah's ..." broken cisterns that can bold no water". A whole generation of people have grown up who fear nether man nor God. Whether they be uptown or downtown, city dwellers of country folk. But I mused at that time " who are the present day judges"? And got not no answer. Then came Othniel and the left handed Ehud. And I thought perhaps the Governor General could play the role of the ' Judge of Israel". Then came Deborah and the song written by herself and Barak, where she is described thus: THE WORD :Life in the villages of Israel stopped. It stopped until I, Deborah, came. I came as a mother in Israel. (Judges 5:7 NIRV) Life in the villages of Israel stopped. It stopped until I, Deborah, came. I came as a mother in Israel. 'Wake up, Deborah! Wake up!' they said. 'Wake up! Wake up! Begin to sing! Barak, get up! Son of Abinoam, capture your prisoners!' (Judges 5:7, 12 NIRV) MY THOUGHTS: Should Portia, the 'self acclaimed' mother of the land, wake up and sing about the goodness of God. Then came Gideon, and the end of this short but profound conversation. THE WORD:When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.” “Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about when they said, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.” The Lord turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?” “Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.” The Lord answered, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive.” (Judges 6:12-16 NIV) MY THOUGHTS: I should have known. The church, " the least in the family", in the eyes of this nation in this age, has been chosen by God to rescue this nation, as Judge. We are to go in the strength that we have. Which is really saying, " My grace is sufficient for you, as when you are weak then I am strong". The challenge for us as church is to accept God's discipline to be weak, as Gideon did, " so that no one may boast before The Lord. " And thus far we have not done well, hence the lack of power in many instances, to make a difference in the life of the nation. But all is not lost, as if we ask, God Himself will teach us how to be weak, so that He may be strong. In this the " land of Midian"! Then I made the connection with the Word which invaded my soul yesterday. And the thoughts of a friend on facebook last night. Especially the opening verse. So we will wait patiently for deliverance, and rejoice with confidence, even though we cannot see any light ahead. Why? THE WORD : For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay. (Habakkuk 2:3 NIV) I heard and my heart pounded, my lips quivered at the sound; decay crept into my bones, and my legs trembled. Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity to come on the nation invading us. Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. (Habakkuk 3:16-18 NIV) Peace. LWJ cc. The GG. Sent from my iPad THE SECOND MESSAGE - TO CIVIL SCIETY MEMBERS. AND WHICH WORD IS ABOUT THE MORAL LAW OF GOD, FROM WHICH SPRINGS ALL SOURCE OF GOODNESS. AND WITHOUT AN ADHERENCE TO TO THAT MORAL LAW IS THE CAUSE OF ALL THE MAYHEM IN OUR SOCIETY. WRITTEN THE SAME THAT THE NEWS SURFACED ABOUT THE LITTLE GIRL WHO WAS BEATEN SEVERELY BY HER GRAND-UNCLE, BUT HAD NOT YET DIED. As we consider the pervasive levels of violence in our country, and the egregiously wicked act committed in St. Mary, as reported on TVJ tonight ; as we consider the " Maggoty case", and as we consider the death of innocence worldwide, Oswald Chambers, of the world famous devotional book, " MY UTMOST FOR HIS HIGHEST", HAS A WORD FOR US: THE MORAL LAW - EXCERPTS FROM OSWALD CHAMBERS " THE COMPLETE WORKS". It has been a favorite belief in all ages that if only men were taught what good is, everyone would choose it; but history and human existence prove that it is not so. To know what is good is not to be good.......... Why are men not worse off than they are? The reason is the existence of the moral law of God which restraints men in spite of the impulse towards wrong......... If you want to know how far wrong the world has got you learn it, not in a hospital, but at the Cross. We learn by what it cost God to redeem the world how out of moral order the universe has got......... If a man is not holy he is immoral. It does not matter how good he seems, immorality is at the basis of the whole thing. It may not show itself as immoral physically, but it will show itself as immoral in the sight of God ( see Luke 16:15). Comment: The question is what do we take away from these, not so self-evident truths? Increased cynicism about organized religion, and the role of Christianity in today's society; or a glimpse into the inner workings of the mind of man. Who is eternally restless until he finds peace in God! And that manifestation of " restlessness", takes many, varied, and destructive forms. Some of which are played out on television night after night. Locally and Internationally! Ultimately only to be rescued by a " Damascus road experience". Peace. LWJ THE THIRD MESSAGE - WRITTEN TO JOURNALISTS POLICY MAKERS AND MEMBERS CIVIL SOCIETY. ABOUT HOW ONE RADIO TALK SHOW HOST TRIGGERED A PROFOUND DISCUSSION ON THIS ISSUE OF THE BEHAVIOR OF OUR CHILDREN. AND THE ULTIMATE SOLUTION TO THE PROBLEM. As I exited the car, having arrived home, the conversation on Nationwidenews between host George Davis and " friends" continued. At that point, a former Permanent Secretary had just shared his perspective on the issue of whether or not " our children were lost"; this discussion taking place against the background of the expose on the behavior of school children at the bus park at HWT, the video of the former Maggotty High School students plus one, and the 'romping shop' heavily tinted buses which the police had recently targeted. As I recalled, the essence of his input was that " if we wish to escape being poor, we have to cease being so prone to violence and so wild and out of order,". This coming against the background of the contribution of a " dance hall specialist academic" and another professional, both of whom were of the view the our present day children were merely exhibiting aspects of the dance hall culture, to which they are exposed daily, and which 'culture', in their view, is what ' run tings' in Jamaica today . A view against which the single pastor, inveighed against heavily; characterizing the behavior of the 'children as ' unacceptable. And further that this ' alleged dominant culture' was not a view shared by him. Then at dinner I caught up with the newspapers for the day, and read carefully Hon Barbara Gloudon's take on the matter - in a phrase , " what madness is this?"; and later on DJMiller's latest blog on the subject. She attempted to present a balanced and nuanced view on a hot topic, calling for less condemnation, and greater appreciation of the challenges of being a teenager in any age, whilst characterizing their behavior as not only unacceptable, but perhaps more so, careless, in light of what may befall them later on in life consequent on this ill-advised action. Then I recalled a passage of Scripture which 'invaded my soul' yesterday. And led me to appreciate seriously that every encounter that a Christian has with another soul, whether face to face, through the media, on the telephone, every discussion that we have in this world is to be understood in the light of the fact that people with whom we are engaging are either being saved or perishing. But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life. And who is equal to such a task? Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, as those sent from God. (2 Corinthians 2:14-17 NIV) Sent from my iPad So the more profound question is not whether or not our young people, or old people are lost socially; or whether their behavior combined with violent crime is perpetuating poverty in this country; or whether or not dance hall 'run tings'; or whether or not we should be more nuanced in our reaction to the " Maggoty children", all of which is worthy of debate and discussion as a growing society; but rather whether or not this kind of behavior is acceptable before The Lord God Almighty. To whom we will all have to give an account one day. And the Scriptures have some very specific things to say about those who ' lead little children astray'. A final word for the church, and all of us who claim the heritage of being a child of God. This is what I read as I began my devotions with my mind filled with pain about those who are perishing in my country, on account of the 'madness' about which Miss G wrote in the Observer yesterday. And the role of the church in rescuing people from this madness. “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. (Revelation 3:14-16 NIV) Christians cannot therefore afford to be 'wavering' on topical issues. Madness must be called for what it is. Madness! And then let the erstwhile sociologists and psychologists and anthropologists and social commentators and Policy makers have their day in court. With God Almighty! Our role is to be as compassionate and understanding as DJMiller, but equally to be forthright and without equivocating as Miss G; not to condemn, but to present the Word of God to all with whom we come in contact. As such persons who The Lord has sent our way, are either ' being saved or are perishing". And we are to them and to God, " the aroma of Christ". What an awesome responsibility! I am sure George Davis did not see himself as being an agent of The Lord in this matter, nor did others in times gone by, but God in His mercy, can use any opportunity, anywhere to bring Him glory and to send a Word to the lost. As did Jesus with Zacchaeus, the little short man, the 'sinner' who wanted to see Jesus. And salvation came to that lost son of Abraham that day. So too salvation is available for our children. Whether they are lost in the dance hall, in carnival, on videos, in the rompin shop buses or in HWT. In and through Jesus Christ, the Word of God made flesh. I pray that those who have ears to hear will listen. Peace LWJ Sent from my iPad FINALLY A MESSAGE AFTER A SERMON BY MY RECTOR THIS MORNING - ESSENTIALLY CALLING FOR THE CHURCH TO SEEK OUT THE LOST AND ERRING CHILDREN, AS CHRIST SOUGHT OUT ZACCHAEUS, THE LOST ONE IN EARLY PALESTINE You should have been there. Also George Davis of Nationwidenews who hosted a panel last Friday evening dealing with the issue of our children's behavior. A hot topic across the nation in recent times! Referencing the Magotty Video and the bugging of the cell phone of the German Chancellor by the USA, both issues dealing with immoral and unethical behavior, Father Kitson placed the story of Zacchaeus in that context. A tax collector, a dishonestly rich man, employed by a foreign state, the Romans to collect taxes from the Jews living in Palestine in that era. He would have been guilty of collecting more than necessary and pocketing the balance, and therefore reviled by the ordinary people, and branded a traitor by the Jewish Religious leaders. He would have been unwelcome in the synagogue and ostracized. He was therefore a rank 'outsider'. And to this man who no one was willing to lift a hand to help, no one was willing to offer him any forgiveness, because he wished to see Jesus, had an intention to do better, Jesus and salvation came to his house. A lost son of Abraham. The lesson: We who are the recipients of God's grace and mercy, we who are beggars telling another beggar where to get bread; we who have been saved by grace, need to show the same compassion to the lost and the lonely and those who are ' outsiders' and lead them to Christ. We cannot afford only to curse the darkness; only to profile the wayward young people as miscreants, and label their behavior as unacceptable, and leave it there. We must search for the lost, and seek out the wayward, and evangelize them; be bold and present them with the good news of the gospel that salvation is available in God's house for them today. It was one of the most powerful sermons we have heard preached at STAPC for a long time, especially in the context of our times. A sermon for all seasons, as unredeemed and unbaptized persons will always 'act up' and do what is wrong in the sight of God. But, God in Christ who sacrificed His very life for the lost and wayward, is calling us to 'lay down our very lives', die to self, so that the Spirit of Christ may live in us and help to rescue this country. The key to the story though is that while salvation is freely available to everyone and to this nation, like Zacchaeus, people must want to see Jesus. That's the challenge for us as Christians, to so live our lives reaching out to everyone with whom we come in contact, so that they like us, will want to see Jesus. And the only way that people will want to see Jesus is when they are convicted of sin, when they come to realize that their relationship with God Almighty has been disturbed in one form or another by their own actions, or inactions. And know that only He can help to restore that relationship. AMEN. Sent from my iPad R

Sunday, October 27, 2013

To live is sex; to live is security: To live is Christ. Those who have no life vs those who have eternal life and life more abundantly

I read my Bible to see what men ought to do; and read my newspapers to see what men are doing - John Newton Lord renew thy church beginning with me; Lord renew the church that the church may renew the nation(s) - A prayer for this ministry. NEWS FROM THE LEAD STORY IN ONE OF OUR DAILY NEWSPAPERS TODAY "A chance encounter in a barber shop in downtown Kingston last week sparked a major probe by The Sunday Gleaner that has unearthed a dangerous and possibly deadly practice. Schoolboys, some as young as 15, and young men are buying erectile-dysfunction drugs, including Viagra, Cialis and other so-called sexual enhancers, including Black Stone - a potent desensitiser that stops premature ejaculation. A thriving underground market for pills, estimated to value millions of dollars, has mushroomed in the heart of the city. From rum bars to corner shops and deep inside some lanes, these drugs and sexual enhancers are available for prices ranging from $500 to $1,800. Stimulated by a perceived need to improve their sexual performance, an increasing number of young males - some little more than boys - are penetrating the underworld in search of the so-called sex boosters. Asked why he was using Viagra at such a tender age, one teenager said: "We are not satisfied that we are able to satisfy our girls. Lovemaking is war," he chuckled. "If you don't perform they (the girls) will diss you ... so when me done wid har, she can't chat to me." Added the young man: "When we take de things dem and put it on them (females), them haffi bawl." Also this week I attended the funeral of another unsung hero in Jamaica. The late Rev. Dr. Alpheus Chambers, who was the founder of the Mercliffe Place Baptist church in a rural town in Jamaica. But whose " tour of duty" extended to New York, and then to Ocala in Florida, where he died last month. Finally this week, the talk of the " International town" is the shock and surprise of the German leader, Angela Merkel over the bugging of her cell phone by the Americans, thus triggering this story by ABC news minutes ago. My wife and I discussed it, and we both came to the conclusion that Obama , probably knew noting about it. Well based on the story below, who knows what is the truth in all of this. Barack Obama knew US spies were targeting Germany's Angela Merkel: reports By North America correspondent Michael Vincent, wires Updated 5 minutes ago PHOTO: Ms Merkel has said that spying among friends is 'not acceptable'. (AFP Photo: Christopher Furlong, file image) RELATED STORY: German spy chiefs to travel to US over phone-tapping scandalRELATED STORY: US monitored calls of 35 world leaders: reportRELATED STORY: Germany summons US ambassador over spying claimsRELATED STORY: Merkel calls Obama over claims US spied on her phone MAP: United States The spying row between Germany and America is deepening, with fresh reports that United States president Barack Obama knew his country was monitoring the German chancellor's phone calls. Germany received information last week that American spies had bugged Angela Merkel's mobile phone, prompting Berlin to summon the US ambassador, a move unprecedented in post-war relations between the close allies. German magazine Der Spiegel is now reporting the US had been spying on Ms Merkel's phone calls since 2002, and that Mr Obama was told about the operation in 2010 but failed to stop it. However, America's National Security Agency (NSA) denies Mr Obama knew about the spying. "[NSA chief General Keith Alexander] did not discuss with president Obama in 2010 an alleged foreign intelligence operation involving German chancellor Merkel, nor has he ever discussed alleged operations involving chancellor Merkel," spokeswoman Vanee' Vines said. White House spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden declined to comment and reiterated the standard policy line that the United States gathers foreign intelligence of the type gathered by all nations. THE WORD OF GOD THE FIRST MESSAGE While all of this was happening, a young man who heads up the Baptist Seminary in Toronto, and who is the Pastor of the Baptist Church in downtown Toronto, and who was 'handpicked ' by the late Rev. Chambers to deliver the sermon at his funeral, had this to say. " To live is Christ, and to die is gain". A text taken from the book of Philippians chap 1, and verse 21. In order to understand the context, one has to read the passage below, taken from the YOUVERSION ; a Bible app available on the iPad. It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. For If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me. (Philippians 1:15-26 NIV) I listened keenly, and took some notes, and when I arrived home I sent the following text message which was retweeted and favourited by several persons. " @lucienforJesus: Christ should be our goal; our ultimate prize and our peerless pattern. Which means living a sacrificial life for the benefit of others. But the summary does not do justice to the real message of the sermon. The essence of the message was captured in an intriguing question he posed to the congregation. " if you were to complete the statement; To live is..... What would your answer be? Perhaps if he had read the newspapers this morning he would agree with me that for some persons, and an ever increasing group of persons, both male and female, gay and straight, the answer would be : " To live is sex, good and satisfying sex". This is the crossroads at which human kind has arrived. To live the good life, is all about satisfying ones sexual urges. Satisfying self and satisfying ones sexual partner. Almost everything else happens in pursuit of that ultimate prize. For many! Hence the phenomenal growth in the pornographic industry which is wreaking so much havoc on the minds and lives of the young and the not so young. Hence the rise in the number of movies which feature the unholy combination of gratuitous violence and unfettered sexual activities. It is difficult, very difficult, except in animated movies, and one wonders for how long, to find a really wholesome family movie in today's world. And then we lament the rise in teenage pregnancies, STD's, and the attendant challenges for any society. Well some of us do, while for others, it's business as usual, in order to satisfy, or at least not offend their 'readers, or listeners, or clients'. It's is not an ordinary issue, this matter of " to live is sex" as it goes to the heart of the debate on the homosexual life style; right to the heart of the debate on abortions; and right to the heart of the debate on the usefulness of marriage as an institution. But there is another matter, of International moment. Especially for the Americans. For some of whom, " To live is personal and collective security'. Especially after 9/11. And even more so, for the Jews, especially after The Holocaust. And which position has triggered a chain reaction in the Arab world, especially after the Partition of Palestine into a Jewish State and an Arab State, by a vote by the UN General Assembly in 1947. In fact this pre-occupation with security is what drives many people in both the western and eastern worlds. What with the memory of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, the Nazis in Germany, the genocide in Rwanda, and the many acts unspeakable violence suffered by many across the world, still fresh in their minds. In fact in Jamaica this morning, there was a debate on public radio, " That's a Wrap" on RJRFM, on the issue of how does one treat with the murder of a pregnant woman. This, on account of one of the most brutal murders committed in my country in recent times, when a woman, 7 months pregnant, was this past week, pulled from under bed and shot two or three times in the abdomen, thus killing both mother and unborn child. In all of this the young pastor asserted that, the message that the Christian ought to live and demonstrate to the world, to unbelievers, is that for us, " To live is Christ....". In the sense that we must make the goal of having Christ manifest in our lives our central theme ; our ultimate prize, and our pattern of life. Then we will be able to live sacrificially, like Christ did, and not yearn to go to heaven, just yet, and to be with him, which is better by far, but to stay to preach the gospel. To those whose goals cannot satisfy their deepest longings; nor remove their deepest fears. And he quoted the famous line from one of the great thinkers of the church - Augustine of Hippo: “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.” ― Augustine of Hippo, The Confessions of Saint Augustine THE SECOND MESSAGE Also this week, in fact just yesterday, prior to leaving the house to attend my friend's funeral, I was inspired to send out the following message to my church members who are online as a follow up to a series on " Renewal". To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 18:9-14 NIV) If tomorrow were not were Harvest Sunday, the gospel reading would be from Luke 18:9-14. As I read it this morning the following thoughts came into my mind. And such inspirations can only be from The Lord . All of us have to make a choice which of the two persons we identify with. Honestly!. As that will decide whether or not we say, or we pray fervently the familiar prayer: ......Cleanse the thoughts of my heart by the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit that I may perfectly love thee and worthily magnify thy holy name. And if we pray earnestly that prayer, and identify with the tax collector, and come to church with the prayer, " Have mercy on me a sinner", on our minds, then our attitude to worship will change. Our attitude to each other will change. Our attitude to Intercessionary prayers will change. Our attitude to other denominations will change. Our attitude to suffering humanity in this nation will change. And God will bring a Revival to His church. A soul searching, sin convicting, soul repenting, nation cleansing Revival. About which revival in those words, a dear friend, a patient and a Baptist Pastor, Rev. Al Chambers, wrote to me in 2007 and which inspired thoughts I will include in my tribute to him at his funeral today. Peace. LWJ Sent from my iPad The point here is that where we have arrived as mankind, cannot be reversed except by the supernatural power of the Living God who created us for His own purpose and in His own image. Therefore, whether we accept it or not, it is only the church, the body of Christ, and a renewed church, for which my friend the late Rev. Dr. Alpheus Chambers prayed, for a revival, can make a difference. And such a church revival as envisioned by him, would not be led by, in his own words, in a letter written to me, in 2007 and the contents of which I read at his funeral yesterday: "Not noise making, body moving, tongues speaking, hip swinging revival, but “heart searching, sin convicting, soul repenting, nation cleansing revival by the power of God." And that kind of revival will only begin when we see ourselves as the tax collector did: " have mercy on me a sinner". For the problem is, and I would say the greater problem than that written about in the headlines of the Daily Gleaner, or on ABC, as what unredeemed people do will always shock us, is the behavior of modern day Christians. As for many of us " To live is blessings". "To live is prosperity". "To live is excitement". Christ, and Him crucified is no where in the picture! And that kind of Christianity, which paradoxically is focused on self, and not self-sacrifice, cannot help those misguided young men; nor a international community gripped with, and held hostage, by fear. We as a church have to reach the point as suggested by the young preacher, and directed by the experience of St.Paul, that Christ must be our ultimate goal, prize and pattern. On earth and in heaven. And wherever God places us, we live according to the example set by Christ and as recorded in the book of Philippians: " In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:5-8 NIV) So too must we become obedient. Not to death of a cross! A life that only Jesus was called to live. But to death to selfish and self-centered desires and fears. And to become alive in Christ, for the benefit of others; for the renewal of the church, and for the rescuing of nations and peoples everywhere. Young and old. Rich and powerful. In Jamaica and in the US. In Europe and in the Middle East . Amen