Sunday, September 15, 2013

Celebrations on earth by man and his friends: Rejoicing in heaven by God and His angels

So "diplomacy on the fly", far more effectively than  a carefully negotiated settlement, has brought about, at least for the time being, a halt in the beating of drums of war by the US. This happened,  according to more than report that I read, because of an ' off the cuff response by Secretary of State John Kerry, to the question of whether or not the US would back off if Syria agreed to demolish or turn over their capacity to make chemical weapons, resulted in a Russian initiative which now has themselves and the Americans discussing how to ensure that the Syrians comply, rather than the consequences of a unilaterally taken strike by the US. And no doubt Obama is breathing a sigh of relief for the postponement of a decision which would have occasioned the breaching of an   International Law, in order to punish Syria for  violating an International code of conduct. A serious dilemma indeed! So no celebrations just yet, but the champagne is cooling.

Back home in Jamaica just over an hour ago, in an high anticipated speech, Audley Fitz-Albert Shaw announced that he will challenge the current leader, Andrew Holness, for the leadership of the Jamaica Labour Party ( now in opposition to the Portia Simpson Miller led PNP's Government. An excerpt of his speech posted on the Jamaica Observer website is as follows:

"I have heard the calls. I have listened to your appeals. I have consulted with and received the blessing and support of my family. I have prayed to God for Guidance. I have now come to the decision that I will allow my name to be entered into nomination for the post of Leader of this great 70 year -old movement, the Jamaica Labour Party that was formed by the Right Excellent Sir William Alexander Bustamante,” said Shaw.

So now the battle is well and truly joined. At the end of which, in a few short weeks, there will be one winner. One man will either retain the leadership of the second most powerful institution in Jamaica, thus triggering an all night celebration. Or another will wrest power from him, and possibly, some day, if things go his way,  finally achieve his lifelong ambition of being Prime Minister of Jamaica. Then no doubt the celebrations will continue all week.

The third issue which captured my attention this week, was the ongoing discussions about the use of a protected area for use as a major development project by a  Chinese firm. A project which would see 1.5 Billion USD being pumped into the Jamaican economy. No small matter indeed. But certainly a red flag so far to many locals, including those committed to preserving the environment, and achieving what they call ' sustainable development'. The Government will have a to  make a decision soon. What will it be? Can they satisfy both the developers, and the need to earn desperately needed foreign exchange,  and the environmentalists, at the same time?  Or will there be celebrations for one group and deep disappointment for the other.


In the midst of these stories came a wonderful Word from the refreshing sweetness of the Gospel. That " there  will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents, than  over ninety-nine righteous persons  who do not need to repent".
A deep reflection of which triggered the following 'conversations' with a senior journalist, other senior members of the profession, Ministers of Government, and senior members of the Opposition, businessmen, members of  the intelligentsia and senior Pastors.
The first one features a command from The Lord God Almighty that the only response of those who were created from dust, and whose earthly form will go back to dust, is to fear God. And on that commands hangs all the power to avoid the use of chemical weapons, to stop all wars study war no more....and to avoid the beguiling temptations of the world's best pleasures...which are at best fading, and nothing to compare with the solid joys and lasting treasures that " Zion's children know".


'Oh dear, oh dear"!  I heard you lamenting last night after Peter Espeut et al, made the 'startling revelation', from their perspective, that the  information  being sought in TOR for the study to be carried out on  the behalf of the GOJ, by Conrad Douglas in respect of the Portland Bight protected area, was already available on various government websites. And so they wondered what's the point of paying good money for information that is freely available. The implications of which 'revelation' could,  according to what they expressed during the interview, open the door to suspicion and lead people to question the motives of the GOJ.

As I read the following passage of Scripture this morning, to which I was led as I thought and prayed about fearing God, raises the very same question. But in a different and far more profound context. Why are we lamenting the state of our nation:  why are we setting up so many commissions to study crime and violence; why are we  struggling  so much to understand why kids will not conform to school rules, and desperately trying  resurrect family life;  why are we talking so much about the need for ethics in the media, integrity in the Parliament, and ethics in various professions, and in the business class, and to  stamp out the dreaded payola in the entertainment industry; why have  we reduced ourselves to such penury that our dollar is worth less than one cent USD, and falling, when the answer to our problem can be  ' downloaded' and is freely available on so many websites, and is to be found in the most widely circulated book on all the earth. The Holy Bible in which our Creator sets out the TOR for a happy life in one of the most dramatic, and far reaching  statements of all history.

" Oh, that their hearts would be inclined to fear me and keep all my commands always, so that it may go well with them and their children forever".  Deuteronomy 5:29 NIV.

Sadly, very sadly, God's 'chosen' people opted to disobey Him, with terrible and  predictable,  consequences. In the same way, we to whom the gospel has been preached day and night, have elected to be disobedient. With terrible and entirely predictable consequences. Which is the gravamen of the message from the Word of God I was led to write to you this morning.

Hebrews 12:14-29 NIRV
"Try your best to live in peace with everyone. Try to be holy. Without holiness no one will see the Lord. Be sure that no one misses God's grace. See to it that a bitter plant doesn't grow up. If it does, it will cause trouble. And it will pollute many people. See to it that no one commits sexual sins. See to it that no one is godless like Esau. He sold the rights to what he would receive as the oldest son. He sold them for a single meal. As you know, after that he wanted to receive his father's blessing. But he was turned away. With tears he tried to get the blessing. But he couldn't get his father to change his mind. You haven't come to a mountain that can be touched. You haven't come to a mountain that is burning with fire. You haven't come to darkness, gloom and storm. You haven't come to a blast from God's trumpet. You haven't come to a voice speaking to you. When people heard that voice long ago, they begged it not to say anything more to them. What God commanded was too much for them. He said, "If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be killed with stones." (Exodus 19:12,13) The sight was terrifying. Moses said, "I am trembling with fear." (Deuteronomy 9:19) But you have come to Mount Zion. You have come to the Jerusalem in heaven. It is the city of the living God. You have come to a joyful gathering of angels. There are thousands and thousands of them. You have come to the church of God's people. God's first and only Son is over all things. God's people share in what belongs to his Son. Their names are written in heaven. You have come to God. He is the judge of all people. You have come to the spirits of godly people who have been made perfect. You have come to Jesus. He is the go-between of a new covenant. You have come to the sprinkled blood. It promises better things than the blood of Abel. Be sure that you don't say no to the One who speaks. People did not escape when they said no to the One who warned them on earth. And what if we turn away from the One who warns us from heaven? How much less will we escape! At that time his voice shook the earth. But now he has promised, "Once more I will shake the earth. I will also shake the heavens." (Haggai 2:6) The words "once more" point out that what can be shaken can be taken away. I'm talking about created things. Then what can't be shaken will remain. We are receiving a kingdom that can't be shaken. So let us be thankful. Then we can worship God in a way that pleases him. We will worship him with deep respect and wonder. Our "God is like a fire that burns everything up." (Deuteronomy 4:24)"

Finally, and it cannot be by coincidence, words from a hymn which has been reverberating in my head all week.
 " Glorious things of thee are spoken,
Zion, city of our God..........

Fading is the world's best pleasure,
all its boasted pomp and show;
solid joys and lasting treasure
none but Zion's children know.
See it at


The second message features a Scriptural guidebook to a deep understanding of why people do not fear God, why they are so disobedient in the face of clear instructions from The Lord , why they do not listen and ultimately why the Jews were intent on killing our Lord. Which is in a sense why the Christian church is being ignored at best in this age, and in many instances overtly or very subtly being persecuted. Things really do not change as the French well know and have expressed most forcibly in this famous  observation. Plus ca change, plus ce la meme  chose...the more things change the more they remain the same. Except, as we suggest, that one is in Christ. Then and only then all things are possible for He not only claimed to be God, but is very God from very God, begotten and not the Nicene  Creed observes.


I was about to make some comments and then recalled what happened to Moses in the desert when God told him to strike the rock. This  Word of God is self explanatory and requires no embellishment or comment, only obedience which ought to lead to repentance.

John 10:23-33 NIRV
"Jesus was in the temple area walking in Solomon's Porch. The Jews gathered around him. They said, "How long will you keep us waiting? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly." Jesus answered, "I did tell you. But you do not believe. The kinds of things I do in my Father's name speak for me. But you do not believe, because you are not my sheep. "My sheep listen to my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never die. No one can steal them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than anyone. No one can steal them out of my Father's hand. I and the Father are one." Again the Jews picked up stones to kill him. But Jesus said to them, "I have shown you many miracles from the Father. Which one of these are you throwing stones at me for?" "We are not throwing stones at you for any of these," replied the Jews. "We are stoning you for saying a very evil thing. You are only a man. But you claim to be God.""
See it at

2 Corinthians 4:4-6 NIRV
"The god of this world has blinded the minds of those who don't believe. They can't see the light of the good news of Christ's glory. He is the likeness of God. We do not preach about ourselves. We preach about Jesus Christ. We say that he is Lord. And we serve you because of him. God said, "Let light shine out of darkness." (Genesis 1:3) He made his light shine in our hearts. It shows us the light of God's glory in the face of Christ."
See it at

Ephesians 2:1-10 NIRV
"You were living in your sins and lawless ways. But in fact you were dead. You used to live as sinners when you followed the ways of this world. You served the one who rules over the spiritual forces of evil. He is the spirit who is now at work in those who don't obey God. At one time we all lived among them. We tried to satisfy what our sinful nature wanted to do. We followed its longings and thoughts. God was angry with us and everyone else because of the kind of people we were. But God loves us deeply. He is full of mercy. So he gave us new life because of what Christ has done. He gave us life even when we were dead in sin. God's grace has saved you. God raised us up with Christ. He has seated us with him in his heavenly kingdom because we belong to Christ Jesus. He has done it to show the riches of his grace for all time to come. His grace can't be compared with anything else. He has shown it by being kind to us because of what Christ Jesus has done. God's grace has saved you because of your faith in Christ. Your salvation doesn't come from anything you do. It is God's gift. It is not based on anything you have done. No one can brag about earning it. God made us. He created us to belong to Christ Jesus. Now we can do good things. Long ago God prepared them for us to do."
See it at

The third message is the climax of this week's reflections. A rejoicing in heaven. A seeking out of the lost, the disobedient, the 'sinners' of this world. This is the kind of celebration that the world cannot begin  to understand or appreciate unless we realize how much ' a wretch ' we are. And which message constitutes the final conversation, in music form and in the form of a quotation from Bonhoeffer.


A reading of one of two repentance Psalms, 51, led to this note which is entirely in sync with yesterday's message. Both of which are from passages of Scripture appointed in my church for tomorrow's service.

" Create in me a pure heart, O God.......then I will teach transgressors your way, and sinners will turn back to you." Psalm 51 (10).  And by now you would realize that a pure heart is only possible if one is in Christ Jesus - the only, not just the ultimate, goal of a child of God.
It is therefore the duty of all Christians to seek out the unbeliever and the skeptic, and the atheist, and the rebellious, and the disobedient. Why?

Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. (Luke 15:1, 2, 4-7 NIV).

I pray God that one day soon if not Today ( if you hear his voice do not harden your heart.....Hebrews 3:7-11), there will be great rejoicing in heaven because you and many others in this group, who have now seen the light, and therefore cry out as David did after committing adultery and murder most foul, " Have mercy  on me, O God......".   Much more rejoicing than for the winner of a "Cook Out". Or when when a baby father decides to marry his baby mother who has placed him on "life support" for failing to give her child support - beyond the music with DJM in case you missed it. That' a bit closer as there is indeed a turning around of one's life.....which is the essence of repentance.....metanoia.
Finally, from a personal point of view, it may be instructive to know that this is one of the Psalms I read and pray about every night before I place myself in the hands of The Lord for a peaceful sleep.

For a glimpse, only a glimpse, of the kind of celebration in heaven when a sinner repents. If you have not yet seen it.


Bonhoeffer wrote, "It's much easier for me to imagine a praying murderer, a praying prostitute, than a vain person praying. Nothing is so at odds with prayer as vanity."  Do you agree with this statement? Why or why not?