Trials in Jamaica, trials in the USA, trials in the Middle East; and Peace in and through Christ Jesus

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) – Prayer for a  Decade of Evangelism  a long time ago.

Challenge: God never gives us discernment in order that we may criticize, but that we may intercede – Oswald Chambers. 

NEWS 

This week the news in my country, about which people are talking , is the issue of  the access of the journalists to the current Prime Minister, following on an incident where one media worker, in an effort to get a reaction from the PM, was accused of being disrespectful. And a video clip of the incident raised questions of whether or not, members of the security detail had been over zealous in preventing the journalist from placing his microphone before the Prime Minister. This incident triggered a heated debate about the style of this PM vs that of former leaders, in terms of her policy of engagement of the media and by extension the wider Jamaican society ; and when should a journalist stop trying to get a reaction from a public official when that official is unwilling, for whatever reason, to engage the journalist.

Also continuing in the news was the firestorm which broke over the handling by  the Leader of the Opposition, of Senators appointed by him who had not been in ‘ his corner’ during the recent leadership contest in his party.  Charges and counter charges, of arrogance and of ‘ disrespect of the leader’ continued this week. Further, an injunction was taken out in the courts seeking to bar the Opposition leader from appointing any new Senators until the matter s resolved. A ruling is expected early this week.

In the meanwhile, the rate of homicides, and clear up of those murders by the police, continue to be unacceptably high in the former instance, and far too low, in the latter. A situation which had led to at least one prominent group calling for the resignation of the Commissioner of Police, and the influential Daily Gleaner, publicly asking the PM, whether or not both the head of the Police and the Minister of National Security, still enjoy her confidence.

Then in the midst of all of this national angst over the state of our politics in Jamaica,  the most popular and highly influential dance hall artiste in recent times,  and one whose  x-rated and violence promoting  type lyrics, for which he has been studiously unapologetic, has led countless youngsters astray,  Adejah Palmer aka, Vibes Kartel, along with  a number of his co-accused friends went on trial for the  murder of  a young male this week. 

Then late this evening news broke about a deal brokered  by the USA with Iran in connection with their  uranium enrichment programme; a project  which has attracted severe and internationally applied sanctions. The result of which deal  was hailed by the parties as historic. But not by the Israelis who termed it an historic mistake. Ominous sounds indeed, given their track record of preemptive strikes against nations who in their estimation have the capability to attack them.

 
Tragically also this week a young man died. In his forties! And his young wife cried. Both are children of God. And no doubt serious questions will be put to God. But it will change his status, as he is now assured of hope stored for him in heaven, that can ‘ neither spoil nor fade”.

THE WORD OF GOD

So God who is faithful in all that He does, in my relationship with Him, through early morning devotions and the reading of His Word,  provided messages of clear instructions about how one should conduct one’s self in this world. Whether we be national leaders or the ordinary  man on the street. As the day of trouble comes sooner or later for every jack man and woman. Whether it is for Obama in the USA over Obamacare or other yet to arrive political or social challenges; for the President of Iran over the  ‘enrichment of Uranium” for purposes of war on Israel as the Israelis are ominously unhappy with the deal struck with the USA this weekend,  for ‘ red hot’ dance hall artistes or for those of other genres of music who continue to like the Pied Piper, lead  youngsters into trouble and trials. Or for children of God who face the wrath of Satan on account of their faith in Christ Jesus
As the day of trouble comes when we least expect it.

THE FIRST MESSAGE –  To my own children and some of those ” under my tent”, whose lives have been closely intertwined with mine.

Find comfort then in Psalm 35 today.

” May those who seek my life
be disgraced and put to shame,
may those who plot my ruin
be turned back in dismay.
May they be like chaff before the wind,
with the angel of The Lord driving them away.”
Psalm 35:4-5 NIV

Remember also that it is in this way that you ” put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood….” Ephesians 6:11-12. It is in this context that we see God at work in every situation, every circumstance; and  whether it appears to be happenstance, or by human engineering, so too we often find the devil at work – not in all situations, as he has limits. But in many. And we must constantly be discerning and not fretting, or worrying, as that’s the work of evil. But rather like Jeremiah, constantly crying out to God, ” And I will show you great and wonderful things of which you know not”. 
Or like the Psalmist:

” One thing I ask of The Lord,
this is what I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of The Lord 
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of The Lord 
and so seek him in his temple.
For in the day of trouble
he will keep me safe in his dwelling;
he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle
and set me high upon a rock.
Then my head will be exalted
above the enemies who surround me,
at his tabernacle will I sacrifice with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make music t The Lord .
Psalm 27: 4-6 NIV

This is the same Psalmist who declares:

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me.
all the days of my  life,
and I will dwell in the house of The Lord
forever.
So we thank God for Jesus without ceasing, as only by His Blood which purifies us from all sins, can we approach a holy God, and live constantly in His presence.
Amen.

Sent from my iPad

THE SECOND MESSAGE  – again sent to folks ‘ under my tent” on the same day as a follow up, as The Lord directed.

A follow up to the earlier message today from the Word of God.

” The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet” Romans 16:20. 

That is,  whatever troubles you are currently going through,  on account of the enemy, once you trust God, and persevere, The Almighty God will soon remove Satan from that situation, and set you free. It will not mean the end of all your troubles, but that, in this case,  you will soon have release. So be patient and trusting under great trials, and you will soon see the mighty hand of God working in your life. A key point to remember in all of this, is that for God, and His Son Christ Jesus, the end is not His goal. It may be our goal – oh to be free of trials – but it is certainly not His.  But rather the deepening of your relationship with Him, your trust in Him, your love for Him, your commitment to Him and to no other, in the midst of the fire. So if there was no fire, there would be no great desire and apparent need  for Him. And which great tragedy is part of the human experience which The Lord will, over time,  remove from our souls, in and through trials and suffering.  And so bring us to the point where we can identify  with the words of the hymn-writer:
My goal is God Himself….
At any cost, dear Lord, by any road.

Peace.

THE THIRD MESSAGE

This is the third and final part of this series of messages. Fittingly it culminates in a recommendation from one of the great mystics of the church – Brother Lawrence ( 1605-1691) a Roman Catholic whose writings were more widely received in the Protestant church than in his own. I have down loaded his famous book: The Practice of the Presence of God the Best Rule of a Holy Life,  into my ibooks on the ipad. The section which is featured in my Classic Devotional Bible is preceded by an introduction which you may also find useful

“I received this day two books and a letter from Sister ——, who is preparing to make her profession, and upon that account desires the prayers of your holy society, and yours in particular. I perceive that she reckons much upon them; pray do not disappoint her. Beg of GOD that she may make her sacrifice in the view of His love alone, and with a firm resolution to be wholly devoted to Him. I will send you one of these books which treat of the presence of GOD; a subject which, in my opinion, contains the whole spiritual life; and it seems to me that whoever duly practices it will soon become spiritual.”
“ The heart must be empty of all other things; because GOD will possess the heart alone; and as He cannot possess it alone without emptying it of all besides, so neither can He act there, and do in it what He pleases, unless it be left vacant to Him.

CONTINUE IN HIS PRESENCE

Brother Lawrence
Verse: Proverbs 8:30

There is not in the world a kind of life more sweet and delightful than that of a continual conversation with GOD. Those only can comprehend it who practice and experience it; yet I do not advise you to do it from that motive. It is not pleasure which we ought to seek in this exercise; but let us do it from a principle of love, and because GOD would have us.

Were I a preacher, I should, above all other things, preach the practice of the presence of GOD; and, were I a director, I should advise all the world to do it, so necessary do I think it, and so easy too.

Ah! knew we but the want we have of the grace and assistance of GOD, we should never lose sight of Him, no, not for a moment. Believe me; make immediately a holy and firm resolution never[…]”
Put your hand to the task! If you do it right, you will soon see the results.

Excerpt From: of the Resurrection Lawrence. “” iBooks. 
This material may be protected by copyright.

Check out this book on the iBooks Store: https://itunes.apple.com/jm/book/practice-presence-god-best/id508675065?mt=11

Peace.
LWJ
Sent from my iPad

Finally The Lord led me to reflect on one of the great passages in the Bible which transcends time and status. A deep understanding of which ought to place life in its proper perspective. As at the end of it all, whether you are President of  the USA –  a superpower, the Prime Minister of Israel – a country which possesses nuclear power, or the President of Iran – a nation aspiring to be a power broker in the Middle East, the Jamaican Prime Minister or Leader of the Parliamentary Opposition – a country of no consequence in the wider International scheme of things,  they all will meet the same fate as :

“All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord endures forever.” And this is the word that was preached to you. (1 Peter 1:24, 25 NIV)

It is only when all people everywhere  accept that, in a flash,  circumstances change, and that the only relentlessly unchangeable thing in life is God’s Word, that we will humble ourselves before this Almighty God and find peace in this world.  Real, lasting and,  life and nation transforming peace. As one day The Lord will indeed crush Satan who is the cause of so much crime and violence in my country and across the world. Whether in my time or not, it will happen according to God’s unchangeable Word.  In that assurance then, we continue to pray without ceasing for my country Jamaica, and for world peace and peace in the Middle East .
Amen!
LWJ

Bolt and Shelly-Ann, PNP and JLP, living in the darkness vs. living in the Light – Christ Jesus

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.

NEWS

News broke this weekend that Usain Bolt and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, our two International Athletic superstars,  had  copped the male and female IAAF male and female athlete of the year award. What a great personal achievement for both athletes!  What an achievement for ‘little’ Jamaica! What a vindication in the face of hostile and persistent forces, residing  locally  and internationally, whose utterances in respect of the problem ridden JADCO – tasked with ensuring that our athletes are drug free –  might have led to the opinion, incorrectly so,  that our elite athletes had not been as rigorously tested as they ought to have been! What a rejoicing here in Jamaica!.

During the week the ghost of  ” Prince Michaevelli”, whose name has become synonymous with political machinations of the highest quality and intrigue, was manifest in some of the actions taken by the newly elected head of the Jamaica Labour Party, Andrew Holness. A letter of resignation, according to the reports, which was signed over a year ago, by all Senators, as part of a strategy to ensure compliance with the JLP’s position on one issue, was used without mercy, to remove  two Senators, who did not back the leader in the recent elections. And who were resisting attempts to have them removed from the Upper House.  Some claimed vindictiveness, whilst others suggested that it was a brilliantly executed political plan.
Meanwhile, and perhaps whilst the Opposition was ‘ distracted’, the ruling People’s National Party, reinstated a former Minister of State, who had been, effectively, removed by the Prime Minister, following tremendous local, and even International pressure. What led to his downfall?  Ignoring well established procedures and guidelines, reportedly in order to satisfy the pressings needs of some of his constituents. The case was referred to the  Office of the Contractor General (OCG)  – A Parliamentary Body mandated  to ensure transparency, efficiency, impartiality and integrity in the awarding of government contracts, licences, permits and other concessions . And which published  report accused the Minister of  engaging in political corruption;  and so the OCG referred the case to the  Office of the  Director  of  Public Prosecutions DPP, and which office  has the power to initiate, authorize, take over and terminate prosecutions in all the courts in the island. The Office of the DPP  then concluded that the Minister was not guilty doing anything for which he was criminally liable. However, whilst accepting that the Minister had not benefited personally from his actions, the bar of public opinion in the country, if one listens only to the talk show programmes,  and the news, in general, found him guilty of,  at the very least, exercising bad judgement and of setting a wrong example for others in the society.  Against this background the Prime Minister acted to reinstate the Minister and so the country was  plunged into a heated debate over the issue. Some backing the Minister, others were outraged that he was back.

THE WORD OF GOD

As I contemplated the happenings in my country, and in my own life during the week, the first message from The Lord came into my mind during my early morning devotions on Thursday.  The point in the message sent to my church family, as a word of encouragement, is that only if we are truly ‘ in Christ’ can we hope to make a difference in this nation where murder  most foul, and other social ills,  continue to haunt us.  And the  most important first step, is appreciate that, on account of our many, many sins, 

 ” we come with nothing “,  before a Holy God,  except a desperate need for Christ and Him Crucified. And His Blood that purified us from all Sin.

THE MESSAGE

All of us come to church on a Sunday morning, or evening, carrying different loads, bearing different burdens, experiencing different joys, viewing life from different perspectives. The one thing that ought to unite us is our love for ” that man from Galilee”. (Chorus: Oh, I love that Man of Galilee Who has done so very much for me. He’s forgiven all my sins, put the love of God within. Oh, I love that Man of Galilee.  Even Christ Jesus!.

This morning whilst praising The Lord using Hymn ” Praise to  The Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation” as inspiration, I was led to that most wonderful passage about unity in Philippians.

“Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: (Philippians 2:1-5 NIV)”

The question is how can we, coming from so many different backgrounds, have the “same mind that was in Christ Jesus”?
For His own purpose, the  Lord placed words from two hymns in my heart. One yesterday. Another this morning even as I was reading the passage above. If we come to Christ with the same attitude, with the same mindset, I believe with all my heart that our church will be renewed. And this nation will be renewed.

YESTERDAY – from Rock of Ages

Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to the cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for dress;
Helpless look to Thee for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly;
Wash me, Savior, or I die.

TODAY – from the hymn of the same name.

Just as I am, without one plea
but that thy blood was shed for me,
and that thou bidst me come to thee,
O Lamb of God, I come.

The other verses offer additional nuggets of the faith for us to consider . But that is for another time. I pray God that all of us, beginning with myself, will heed this call, the only call, that can truly unite us. And make us one in the Spirit. Who knows then, how this Almighty God in His mercy will effect change, in this nation, in our homes, in our  various communities, in our different situations,  through a church which is truly ” in Christ”.

Praise to The Lord, the Almighty indeed.
Amen.

LWJ

The second message was sent to leaders in politics on both sides of the divide, and to members of the press and civil society. The key point here is that is that people who live in the darkness, i.e. without Christ, are liable to make choices to suit their best interests, even when such decisions demonstrate in the minds of some, elements of moral confusion. But in order to take the high moral road on such issues, one has to be very careful, that we who so accuse others, are not also walking in the same dakness.  A morally confused place  out of which flow many of the ills of a modern society, including crime and violence and other such wickedness. Against which  society has only one option – to come into the Light of the Gospel of Christ, repent and be reconciled to God.

THE SECOND MESSAGE – EARLY SATURDAY MORNING

It cannot be coincidence that the following passages of Scripture came into my mind this morning during my devotions. At the end of week when so many persons are contemplating (and reacting with support or with objection),  the recent actions by the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Parliamentary Opposition. A debate which, despite the out of context scriptural references, in the final analysis, is triggered by a secular society trying to figure out how to champion the felt need  for morality and  justice, without necessarily relying on the Word of God. 

And in the midst of this debate, the undebatable Word of God, inserts itself. By calling attention to the most famous passage in the Bible: ” For God so loved the world………….”. And then more, much more, all of which have serious implications for those accused, the accusers,  and  perhaps most importantly for us who would offer that Word as the infinite reference point, without which, famous philosophers from Satre to Plato, have observed, that a finite point ( the law, rules, norms, conscience)  has no meaning. 

The Word comes in two inter-related parts.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God. (John 3:16-21 NIV)

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us. (1 John 1:5-10 NIV)

One of the challenges that any society faces is the question of who watches over those who watch over others. Who, or which institutions, is or  are responsible for being the checks and balances in a society. The Westminster type political  arrangement with the Parliamentary Opposition assuming that role!  Is it ultimately the Judiciary?  What part does civil society play, however it  organizes itself in galvanizing public opinion. Do we rely on “The fourth Estate”, the Media? And  what role is there for the church? And does it matter to a nation that, really, at the end of the day, despite this current debate, others which have ” gathered legs” in the past and dominated the news, and those which  will inevitably surface in the future, the only thing that matters, according to the Word of God,  is whether or not we have ” believed in the name of God’s one and only Son!  And that if we claim to believe in Him, and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth.
Can we categorize some of the recent happenings as ” coming from the darkness”? Respectfully,  I would suggest that elements of the darkness are manifest in aspects of these decisions. The problem is that many of those who by their statements would also agree ( and other players in the news) , are, up to this point, themselves, ” refusing to come into the Light”. So then what really is the point of challenging your fellows partners in the journey without Light? When what is needed is for all of us to come into the Light. And then pregnant women like Sasha- Gaye would not be so brutally murdered. Nor the Grandmother in St. Ann. For unless we make the connection to these heinous crimes, we really don’t understand what it means to ” walk in the darkness”. It is not a good place to be!  And someone died to make that point. God Himself in human form! Which is what John 3:16 is all about.

 
Finally a Word that should challenge all of us, regardless of where God has placed us; in ‘little’ Jamaica, in Nigeria, in Pakistan, in Israel, in the USA, in the UK or in the far east:
 
” Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord,we try to persuade men.”  ( 2 Corinthians 5:11 NIV).  I pray God then that someone’s heart may be touched by this message. Beginning with me and then the church and then the rest of the society and nations across the world. As whether we accept is or not, we are all demonstrably, by our actions, Superstar or Prime Minister, Opposition Leader or DPP, Contractor General or Journalist/Talk Show Host, out of favor or reinstated politician, ordinary citizen or church leader desperately in need of the grace of God in and through Christ Jesus. Amen!
Peace.
LWJ