I read my newspapers to see what men are doing; and read my Bible to see what men ought to do – Saint of yore
This week in Jamaica an infamous gunman, Christopher Linton a.k.a “ Dog Paw”, who spent time in prison and was recently released after a judiciary review, died. Cut down in a hail of bullets by the police, after he reportedly alighted from a car in which he was traveling, and which vehicle was stopped by the lawmen, with a gun in his hand. Few tears were shed! Many rejoiced. But not everybody. Some in the community he lived, as reported by the newspapers, claimed he was a “ protector”. Chasing out intruders with evil intent who came to prey on the community. And a lady who I know fairly well, amidst the “ celebrations”, revealed that she and her friends had been benefactors for Christopher Linton, before he morphed into DoG Paw. Helped he and his three brothers to attend a fairly prominent prep school; after which Christopher spent a year at one of Jamaica’s most famous high schools, Jamaica College.
A school which has produced, among others, three prime Ministers and a Leader of the Parliamentary Opposition. So what went wrong, has been a subject of great discussion in some circles in Jamaica. Whilst others are not only rejoicing but mocking those who were associated with this ‘celebrated gunman’. And the daughter of a very prominent Jamaican who has a child for Dog Paw, came in for particularly aggressive and even outrageous attack, “in song and in dance”.
The this morning the front page of one of our newspapers heralded the pain and grief of parents searching for a nine year girl child, reportedly abducted by a known criminal. No one slept last night we are told!
Are the two stories related? Absolutely! For Jamaica land we love, which was once a “ city on a hill”, has become for too many, a place where your worst nightmare becomes real. Almost akin to Chaucer’s ‘Paradise Lost’ !And thus goes up the cry, day after day, and night after night, in a highly religious society, “ God have mercy”. As Dog Paw and others like him wreak havoc on the nation. What can be done, is the national cry?
And so I turned to what the Bible says men ought to do. And wrote to church and others:
EMAIL TO MY CHURCH ABOUT SPENDING TIME WITH GOD – MONDAY
So I received this gift this morning, so I share it. Not only for the glory of God, but for the cause of suffering mankind. As God does not really need us to glorify him, as he is Glory in Himself; although he delights in our adoration. But all our love and mercy and grace received as a gift, from the One who “ thou didst leave thy throne and thy kingly crown when thou camest to earth for me” ( sinful and suffering mankind), should be placed at His feet, to rescue suffering mankind. ….”Emptied himself of all but love”.
I was not even looking for this meditation, but en route to my early morning prayers in my Classic Devotional Bible, it popped up. And note I have long ceased believing in coincidence. So in obedience:
CONTINUE IN HIS PRESENCE
Brother Lawrence ( 1605- 1691)…..Nicholas Herman .. a Frenchman ….at age 40 founded the Carmelite order…although a Roman Catholic his orthodox mystical spirituality has been received more widely in Protestant churches than in his church….his writings, some of them, were published in English as The Practice of the Presence of God.
Verse : Proverbs 8:30 “ Then I was the craftsman at his side. I was filled with delight day after day, rejoicing always in his presence…….
Passage : Proverbs 8:27- 31
There is no sweeter manner of living in the world than continuous communion with God….
If I were a preacher, I would preach nothing but practicing the presence of God. If I were to be responsible for guiding souls in the right direction, I would urge everyone to be aware of God’s continuous presence, if for no other reason than because his presence is a delight to our souls and spirits.
It is however, also necessary. If we only knew how much we need God’s grace, we would never lose touch with him. Believe me. Make a commitment never to deliberately stray from, to live the rest of your life in his holy presence. Don’t do this in expectation of receiving heavenly comforts simply do it it of love for him.
Put your hand to the task! If you do it right, you will soon see the results.
Then this came to mind:
“And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.”
1 Corinthians 2:1-2 NIV
Peace, and in obedience.
May the God of Jacob rest and remain with you, and in you, and renew his church beginning with you who abide in Him, and he in you; may this God of our slave forebears renew the church so that the church may renew the nation(s) where a 5 year old child is killed in her bed, and a 10 year left battling for life, as evil stalks our land. Almost unfettered!
EMAIL TO MY CHURCH – TUESDAY. THE MORNING AFTER DOG PAW WAS KILLED
The Lord woke me up, at minutes to four this morning, and led me through a fair section of Psalm 119. About the importance, nay, the life giving nature of His statutes and law written in the Word of God, the Holy Scriptures.
And then to Paul’s famous treatise, in the book of Romans, on attaining Righteousness by faith, in Christ Jesus. And yet we uphold the law!
So starting at chapter 2, which has two captions in my Classics Devotional Bible., “ God’s Righteous Judgement” and “ The Jews and the Law. I was then led through chapter 3, captioned “ God’s Faithfulness” and “Righteousness Through Faith”. And then chap 4, captioned Abraham Justified by Faith”, then finally the first part of chapter 5 captioned “ Peace and Joy”.
What was the take home message?
Part of one verse:
.”……….He ( Abraham) is our father in the sight of God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were”. Romans 4: 17b
A verse which was validated by the Spirit who brought to mind 2 Corinthians 2: 9:
“ Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God who, who raises the dead.”
The God who raises the dead, then ought to be the foundation of our faith. For the One who raised Jesus from the dead is a miracle working God. A God who calls into being things which are not as though they are.
A God who according to the same Paul, empowered him so that “ Christ, (the Risen Lord) may be formed in us”. The reality expressed in the Word that says, “ Christ in you, the hope of glory”.
How then do we receive this Word in this dispensation? On a morning after a famous gunman was slain by the police, and people worry about retaliation. In a year when already close to 1000 people have been murdered. Yet again! And there is no end in sight. Not for the mother who lost her 5 year child recently. Not for the family of the three men slain in Montego- Bay recently, regardless of whether or not they were involved in a gang.
How do we receive this Word at a time when I just got a call from a relatively young man, aged 50, who I had to send for admission to hospital yesterday because he has Covid, and was having difficulty breathing. He is now on Oxygen in an isolation ward. I gave him my number to allow him to keep in touch with me. A story told a hundred times over across a nation which has so far lost over 2000 persons to this dreaded disease.
Receive it with the same faith that Abraham received the promise from the God, who according to the Word in Hebrews 11, the famous chapter on faith, “ Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive back Isaac from death”. 11: 19 NIV
I pray God that we all receive it with the faith that God can change Jamaica, and rescue us from this “ culture of death”. And from the “ valley of the shadow of death” that is for too many persons, their experience with Covid. Literally and metaphorically- in the month when we celebrate the importance of mental health, which has been so badly affected by all that Covid has brought.
Then this morning this song came to mind and this verse:
Praise to the Lord, who o’er all things so wondrously reigneth,
shielded thee gently from harm, or when fainting sustaineth:
hast though not seen
how thy heart’s wishes have been
granted in what he ordaineth?
This inspired word from the Lord meant so much to me, and I hope to you also. As the God who reigns in our lives, is a God who is faithful, and ever present and active in our lives, once we are obedient. Not for ourselves alone, but for the rescuing of suffering mankind. From evil! We only need to believe that He can do the impossible and wait upon Him to act.
A message in this video which just came to mind:
May this God who can do the impossible renew His church beginning with those who trust in his unshakable promises in his Word; may this God of Abraham and of Isaac and of Jacob and of Sam Sharpe, renew the church with power, so that the nation(s) may be renewed and rescued from evil and pestilence and disobedience and faithlessness.
Peace and in obedience.
UPDATE: The police are reporting that a woman has been detained for questioning following the fatal shooting of reputed gangster Christopher ‘Dog Paw’ Linton. The woman was driving the car from which Linton reportedly alighted and opened fire at cops who had intercepted it.
EMAIL TO A FRIEND ABOUT CHRISTOPHER LINTON – WEDNESDAY
Job 38:1-7, (34-41)
The Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind:
“Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?
Gird up your loins like a man,
I will question you, and you shall declare to me.
“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell me, if you have understanding.
Who determined its measurements—surely you know!
Or who stretched the line upon it?
On what were its bases sunk,
or who laid its cornerstone
when the morning stars sang together
and all the heavenly beings shouted for joy?
James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to Jesus and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” And he said to them, “What is it you want me to do for you?” And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” They replied, “We are able.” Then Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.”
When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John. So Jesus called them and said to them, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”
I heard you on Nationwide yesterday. I heard the pain and the angst and the frustration which caused you to think, and express on public radio that, the system had failed, and that you and others had, ultimately, failed Christopher Linton a.k.a. “ Dog Paw”. Now deceased!
First of all, let me, as blasé as it may sound in the midst of the grief and introspection, commend you, for caring. And for deciding to serve another human being who needed your help. As it turned out, according to your story, not one but four brothers, living with a single mom.
I thought about writing you before I read the Old Testament and the Gospel reading for my church on Sunday, but I was persuaded against it.
The readings are familiar ones which even though I know you are not a believer, you might, as a Jamaican growing up in a highly religious society, heard about suffering Job, who was, ultimately challenged by the God he served, to an intellectual joust which turned out to be a very humbling experience, and ultimately ‘redemption’, with a common R. And of course the presumptuous James and John who too were led to humility, by the same God, yesterday today and forevermore, in Christ Jesus.
The lesson here of course, in this context, is the elevation of your desire to serve Christopher, or another child not of your own, to not just a human desire, but the will of the Sovereign God who according to Holy Scriptures, “ laid the foundation of the earth”, and who in Christ Jesus, the same God, a great mystery, “ emptied Himself of all but love, and came to serve, and not to be served.
So it is God who placed this desire to serve in your heart! And the reason why you admitted that, your efforts were not enough, as having served Christopher by day, other forces, outside your control, were messing with his head in the community.
Does it mean that religion, even the Christian religion, as taught by many pastors, provides in all cases protection for children against evil, in the inner city; and many have been helped by good people like you? My own experience of working as a Christian volunteer in my church in an inner city community for virtually all my professional life, tells me otherwise. Some have survived, whilst others have not. And fallen prey to evil forces just like Christopher Linton.
The difference I believe from my experience has been parents, sometimes mothers, sometimes fathers, sometime both – rare – who are determined and with the help of the church and other forces of good in the community, to shield their children from what they know is evil. And thus we have seen many young girls and boys, escape from the “ ghetto” and go on to become productive citizens. And I cannot help but to add, because it is true, with the help of God. The God who sends people into the inner city to help. To stay close to those they serve, and help the parents to persevere with the children under attack. Have there been failures? Oh without a doubt. Tragic ones. But the key is persevering, for the time being, and hopefully one day we can change the community itself. The ultimate goal, but for the time being, it is what it is!
I leave you with an exchange I had with another good person I know. They call him Peter. He was born into the Figueroa clan. Definitely not a Christian and we have differing views on many issues, but have remained friends for years. And not just colleagues as I have great regard for the work he does as a public health specialist. Serving suffering humanity !
We both attended the virtual memorial of arguably, and I came to this knowledge late, one of Jamaica’s finest intellectuals, the late Professor of Philosophy Charles Mills. Peter grew with him on campus; sons of two university professors. They both became members of the famous or infamous WPJ. I had the privilege of attending Jamaica College with this extremely bright young man with whom I lost contact until his untimely death recently. So Peter spoke and delivered up of himself this brief soliloquy:
POSTED ON THE JAMAICA COLLEGE PAST STUDENTS CHAT
⁃ THE SAME COLLEGE WHERE CHRISTOPHER LINTON ATTENDED BRIEFLY
Attending as I write a memorial zoo meeting for the late great Professor Charles Mills. And following a contribution from Professor Peter Figueroa a personal friend of Charles Mills, and my own friend also, about an incomplete discussion that he and Charles had, I sent him the following note in the chat. Perhaps quite appropriate in this time when we are celebrating life; and death also, in a sense:
“Morality without a faith based foundation. Interesting question Peter my friend. Maybe there is a reason why that discussion was incomplete. From a Christian. Smile. To a friend for life – Professor Peter Figueroa.”
‘Bonhoeffer, the famous German theologian once wrote in his celebrated book on ethics, that “ Christian ethics stands so completely alone that it becomes questionable whether there is any purpose in speaking about Christian ethics at all. But if one does so notwithstanding, that can only mean that Christian ethics claims to discuss the origin of the whole problem of ethics, and thus professes to be a critique of all ethics simply as ethics”. One day we need to continue the unfinished discussion”
Also before I had inserted this into the chat:
Had the privilege of attending high school with him at Jamaica College. He was in the very bright class 1A. I was in the average group. 1C . Recall him well writing an essay on “ Going to the movies”. For which he received 10/10 from an excellent English teacher. Never knew that he achieved all of this fame and glory until he died. A pity! But he was always destined for greatness. From the very beginning. May his soul Rest In Peace with the God of his forefathers and our slave forebears.
The challenge Diana, and although I mentioned the late Errol Zaidie in the article yesterday, you too played your part in the early days of the NRSC, and hence this long term association, is that a life unattended by the life giving and life altering gift of not just Christian ethics, but the author of all that is good and wholesome, Christ Himself, will never be able, in and by him or herself, withstand the forces of evil let loose, not just in inner cities, but everywhere. Some do better than others. At least publicly! But the danger is always there. Do all Christians escape? No! But at the very least they know like Job did, “ that their redeemer lives”. And can turn to Him for grace and mercy in times of trouble. Otherwise they too will suffer the same fate, in different ways maybe, of Dog Paw. As ultimately it doesn’t matter if your life ends with a hail of bullets or in a comfortable bed in Tony Thwaites Wing of the UHWI. For it is not the manner of your death that counts, but who is your “ redeemer” when you die. Christ or no one. Which is in essence what Peter was struggling with when he and Charles had that truncated discussion about morality without a redeemer.
Peace, and keep up the good work. For who knows the God who sees and knows what you do, might in His mercy, touch your heart so that you take the next step and serve others in and through His Son, Christ the Redeemer and only Mediator between God and sinful mankind. Whether Christopher Linton or any other Jamaica College student including myself. And the late Charles Mills !
Your friend Lucien
EMAIL TO A GROUP OF CHRISTIANS ABOUT CHRISTOPHER LINTON TURNED DOG PAW
Woke up with this hymn below in my heart. Well, at least some of the verses. Not all! So in obedience for my early morning devotions I spent some quality time with the hymn. And this happened:
My God how wonderful thou art,
thy majesty how bright,
how beautiful thy mercy seat,
in depth of burning light.
Comment : What came to me as I read the verse was the experience the children of Israel had with God appearing on the mountain with fire and the sound of thunder. So terrified were they that they begged Moses for quiet. For mercy! The story as told, or repeated or explained in the book of Hebrews is sobering:
“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.””
Hebrews 12:18-21 NIV
The challenge for mankind, sinful mankind, is that this is where, as the hymn writer conjures up the image, “ mercy” is located. In depth of burning light! We need to recall the other another verse in the same book of Hebrews which encourages us to “ approach the throne of grace and find mercy in time of trouble”, in and though the blood of Jesus:
“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 4:14-16 NIV
A reminder of the central role of Christ and him crucified, in our faith journey with this “ wonderful God”. And the debate about Christopher Linton turned Dog Paw, is a powerful reminder of our need for grace and mercy throughout the land, as young boys, and girls, are drafted into evil, by “powers and principalities”, and not simply by flesh and blood. Which is no doubt why our crime stats continue to be a source of fear and embarrassment to this Jamaica land we love. And non-Christians, and even Christians who forget the only source of their help, with every good intention in their hearts, end up, when things go awfully wrong, as in the case of Christopher Linton and countless others, who have been assisted in some measure, wondering what happened. The issue here is that too many of us in Jamaica underestimate the power and scope of evil, which has attended the human heart in association with sin. At the Fall. Which is why, in the fullness of time, God sent his only Son. To redeem the world from Sin, and to reconcile us with Himself, in and though Christ Jesus. We dare not forget our history and former identity:
“Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”
1 Corinthians 6:9-11 NIV
And therefore the ultimate challenge is not simply, or even profoundly, to rescue the likes of Christopher Linton, and facilitate their escape from turning into a Dog Paw, as commendable as that goal is. But ultimately to guide people to Christ and him crucified so that they may, with us, I pray God, inherit the kingdom of God.
So yes, “ pray for the Lord for the city for if it prospers, you too will prosper”, as Jeremiah declared then. But recall that the prophet also said, “ I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to destroy you”. On a mountain with fire and thunder! In the place where you are not allowed to go and warn your brothers. The chasm is too great!
But not destroy you, but prosper you! Ultimately in the mercy seat. Where we can ascend only in Christ Jesus. With others in need and in faith!
In obedience. Actually I had in mind to comment on the all the verses. But not today!
Lord renew thy church with those who ascend to your mercy seat in Christ and him crucified; Lord renew thy church that the church may renew the nation(s) where many Christopher Lintons are being transformed into Dog Paws