Lord renew thy church beginning with me; Lord renew the church that the church may renew the nation(s) – a prayer
Whilst spending time with family in the USA, one story that grabbed my attention was the reinstatement of the Duck Dynasty reality show on the television network AE. Some of the pundits were surprised at the speed of the ‘kiss and make up’, but were however fully aware that eventually, 14 million viewers who supported the show would force the network to capitulate; or what we term ‘bow’ in Jamaica. As in this case ‘money, not just spoke, but shouted loudly’.
Many of us recalled how the leader of the group quoted the Bible, in fact the Book of Romans, as he inveighed heavily against the immoral behavior of homosexual; and used pretty graphic language to make his point. It was in that context that I sent out a text musing about the fate of our local International DJ’s, Buju Banton and Beenie Man, occasioned by their anti-homosexual stance; and wondered if on account of the promotion of violence why their stance met with prolonged and resolute resistance. What also struck me was the unusually fairly common recognition, that ” Christians too”, were entitled to freedom of speech, and thus the Duck Dynasty leader was well within his rights to express his views as part of the community of believers.
The other story which struck me was the unfortunate and horrific death of that young girl visiting from New York, and who was brutally slain, the day after she arrived in Jamaica, along with her cousin. This coupled with news coming from my church, that a female Anglican Priest. and a friend who served at my church in Kingston Jamaica, was, for reasons yet to be confirmed, severely beaten and left for dead. From all reports, when found she was pulseless, and but for the mercy of God, wold have become yet another statistic in my country. So, in the midst of a time of peace and goodwill to all men, and women, many Jamaicans mourned privately, and collectively, for our beloved country; one that is virtually under siege because of so many egregious acts of violence, perpetrated by men who have apparently lost their souls, and are willing and able to take another person’s life without any regret whatsoever.
THE WORD OF GOD
So what did The Lord God of Israel, the Creator of heaven and earth, who sent His Son Jesus, ” to save us from our sins”, on the first Christmas, lead me to read at this time. As you journey with me, note the message of God’s mercy and grace coursing through the entire week’s leading by The Lord . As this issue of God’s unfathomable compassion, given full expression in the life, death and resurrection of ” The Christ child”, is what I was led to understand in a very profound way this Christmas. And our response as ‘sinful persons’ before a righteous God is to repent and turn and accept Christ is Lord and Savior.
THE FIRST MESSAGE – SENT TO THE PERSONS AS NOTED BELOW AND SPEAKS TO THE COMMAND FROM GOD THAT ALL MEN NEED TO REPENT AND TURN TO HIM AND AWAY FROM WORTHLESS IDOLS. AND GOD’S MERCY. ALSO NOTE THE ROLE OF THE CHURCH, ESTABLISHED BY ‘THE CHRIST CHILD’, IN THIS GREAT ACT OF RECONCILIATION BETWEEN LOST AND SINFUL MANKIND AND A MERCIFUL GOD.
I just sent this message to journalists politicians and other members of civil society as part of an ongoing discussion of ” the correct faith”, and was told to send it to my church also. With the same warning. ” Share the gift with others, otherwise remember the fate of Jonah”.
Between yesterday and this morning, The Lord led me through two completely different readings of His Word, in order to reveal the full extent of His compassion and mercy. Attributes of God which are manifest in the Birth, Death and Resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ, whose birth we will celebrate tomorrow.
The first one is from the book of Jonah. Which is not really all about Jonah, but about God’s mercy towards the ” great city of Nineveh”, which had ‘more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well’.
There are two passages in the book that stood out in my mind. One, when Jonah was in the belly of the fish, with his life ebbing away, he cried out to God in prayer:
” Those who cling to worthless idols
forfeit the grace that could be theirs”. 2:8
For Jonah as a Hebrew, knew the Living God, Yahweh, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob. He knew that God was a God of grace and mercy and that idols were worthless, regardless of how impressive they may look, or how people worshiped them.
The good thing is that, the pagan city of Nineveh, which did not serve the Living God of the Jews, had heard about Him. And so when the call to repentance came, the King, the leader, by decree, called his people to repentance through fasting and prayer.
” Do not let any man or beast, herd or flock, taste anything; do not let them eat and drink……Let everyone call urgently upon God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn fro his fierce anger so that we will not perish”
And when God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, He had compassion on them, and did not bring upon the city, the destruction He had threatened.
Jonah 3: 7-10 NIV
The question is, who in Jamaica will call our people to repentance? Who in this great city of Miami, in this great country of America, where the “Duck Dynasty” controversy has revealed, among other things, that many people ” don’t know their right hand from their left”; have no understanding of Sin, and of God’s Sovereign will for mankind, of God’s compassion and mercy in Christ Jesus; who will call this people to repentance?
The second reading gives a clear answer and more. As The Lord led me through the Book of Ephesians this morning, the following revelations jumped out at me.
1. That we cannot fully understand Christmas, Sin and God’s mercy unless we appreciate the history of Salvation. A History that began with the Jews.
“…..remember that at that time, you were separate from Christ, excluded from the citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who were once far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ”. Ephesians 2: 12-13
I have read this passage many times, but never with this understanding, and in the context of Christmas. We really need to remember our history and give thanks to God in Christ Jesus, as at one time, all persons apart from the Jews, were without hope and without God. And more profoundly, before God in His mercy revealed Himself to the Jews, for His own reasons, which did not have anything to do with them – contrary to the belief of some Zionists – the entire human race was ” in Adam’ without hope and without God. Have mercy!
2. ” This mystery is that through the gospel the gentiles are heirs together with Israel…..I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. Although I am less than the least of all God’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make it plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which was for ages past was kept hidden in God who created all things. His intent was that now through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to the his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. In him and through him we may approach God in confidence.” 3: -12
Now, if anyone who any doubts about the role of the church in any society, this message from The Lord should disabuse the ignorant and doubters of any foolish notions; and more importantly reinforce in the minds of believer the high calling in Jesus Christ to which they have, and dare not shirk from it. For then who else will call the great country of Jamaica to repentance, and the great country of America to repentance! Otherwise, what will we say to The Lord on the day of Judgment when He certainly will ask, as Jesus in the parable did, ” what have you done with the gifts I gave you”. And more specifically, the gift of the Christ child at Christmas.
There is more anon. But until then Merry Christmas to you all.
From the great city of Miami.
THE SECOND MESSAGE – ADDRESSES THE NEED FOR PRAYER WITHOUT CEASING, AND OBEDIENCE TO THE WORD, BY THOSE WHO CHRIST HAS APPOINTED A WATCHMEN IN ANY SOCIETY.
As I read an extended version of the OT lesson appointed for Sunday in the online Lectionary this morning, a verse early in Isaiah 61, jumped out at me; and I thought about my country and the mourning and grieving that many are experiencing on account of murder, and road crashes. Of course I also thought about Viviette, who I gather by God’s wonderful grace and mercy, is improving and recognizing people:
…to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion. 2b-3a.
Then my mind went back to my night time journey with Matthew, and last night’s question posed by John the Baptist to Jesus ( about which young Rev. Larius preached recently. ” Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect another?” ( Matt.11:3) And the answer which Jesus gave originated from the prophetic Word from the opening verses of chap 61. Amazing!
The Spirit of The Sovereign Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor……”
The perspective which came into my mind on Christmas night, concerns us, the body of Christ, who have been ” anointed” to call people to repentance. Are we demonstrating by our lives, to the powers and authorities, and evil forces who keep people captive, and according to the Word, ” lead them astray”, that we are the ones sent by God, or are they others to come? Are we the ones to bring comfort to those who mourn in Jamaica today?
Then on reading further on in chapter 62: 6 -7, the kind of lives we who have been anointed to bring good news to the poor, ….proclaim freedom for the captives…bind up the broken hearted…is revealed.
” I have posted watchmen on your walls, O Jerusalem;
they will never be silent day or night.
You who call upon The Lord ,
give yourselves no rest till he establishes Jerusalem
and makes her the praise of his glory”.
No doubt Simeon, the righteous and devout man in Jerusalem ( Luke 2: 25) and others who waited patiently for the coming of the Messiah, who was to fulfill these and other prophesies, ‘ called upon The Lord day and night”; and therefore was able to exult when he took Jesus in his arms:
“Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said, Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.” (Luke 2:28-32 KJV)
As I write, I recall my experiences with my Pentecostal patients, some of whom have told me about all night praying services in their church, waiting upon The Lord. They have a special name for it, but I have forgotten. That however, is not our tradition, but I mention it to make the point, to which the Scriptures have led me this morning, and coming from last night:
That the rescuing of my country depends on the prayer life, the fervent prayer life of those whose righteousness is in Christ and Him crucified. And which prayers will avail much, if we ” give The Lord no rest” , until He establishes peace in our land. Whether in our time or not! For once it was the time of the prophets, and then the early church. Now it’s our turn to be faithful in prayer according to the Word in Isaiah, and then to be obedient according to the Word in James.
” Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” 4:22. A verse which invaded my soul a few days ago.
All of us are guilty of not ” calling upon The Lord and giving Him no rest”, and I am one of the chief offenders with all the distractions and trials of life around us. So we pray God for the grace for His anointed ones, so that we may be able to get pass merely listening to the Word, and be obedient. it is in this way that the captives will be set free, people will no longer mourn, and Viviette and others will be protected from evil. Amen
P.S. Hope you all had a wonderful day of peace and joy with family yesterday, as we did here in rainy, but thank God, not freezing cold, Miami, as is the unfortunate experience of those further north.
THE THIRD MESSAGE – SENT TO TWO PERSONS IN PARTICULAR, BUT OTHERS TOO, WHO HAVE THE POWER TO POINT PERSONS IN MY COUNTRY IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION.
This morning I sent the message below, as the latest episode of a conversation with my church family on prayer. As this time is a down time for both journalists and politicians, I figured you would have some time for reflection on transcendental issues. And therefore I thought about you and the need for a better understanding of the faith. The victim mentioned is a friend and an Anglican female Priest who was savagely beaten and left for dead early Christmas morning. But thank God, by grace she is recovering. May the Lord’s grace and mercy attend you and your family and this nation as you read and hopefully accept the prayer for you to be enabled by God to know Jesus. As there is no other way to know the Savior and help with the rescue mission as part of #TeamJamaica.
Friday, December 27, 2013 9:04 AM, Lucien Jones <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
Last night as I read the meditation set out below by Chambers, my mind went immediately, praise God, to the words highlighted in one of my favourite hymns. This morning on awakening, I began my devotions with a reflection on the many glorious truths and challenges…misusings of thy grace…. of that hymn. And wondered how can we really escape the trap of languid prayers and dim faith…and wondered about those who really do not understand what Sin is all about, as according to Chambers and the Word….no one really knows what sin is until he is born again.
In this context then, in my night time journey with Matthew, I came upon this intriguing Word last night.
” No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whose the Son choses to reveal him” Matt. 11:27. Which is the same revelation found in John. ” ” No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him………” It is written in the Prophets: They will all be taught by God. Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me”…..’For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. he went on to say, This is why I told you that no one can come to the me unless the Father has enabled him. verses found in John 6.
What do I make of all of this? That we have to give God no rest in prayer! For ourselves….for the misusings of his grace; for our dearest and our best……from tainting mischief keep them white and clean; and perhaps more importantly, for all unbelievers, all who ‘ the god of this age has blinded their minds ( 2 Cor. 4:4), that ” the Father may enable them to come to know Jesus”. Those who murder, those who steal, those who the evil one moves them to beat helpless women to death. That the same grace that rescued Viviette, may rescue them too, and all of us who misuse this grace. That one day all of us may stand in the Light and because of the Blood of Jesus, nothing may be found in us for God to censure.
“Walk in the Light”
If we walk in the light as He is in the light . . . the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin -1 John 1:7
To mistake freedom from sin only on the conscious level of our lives for complete deliverance from sin by the atonement through the Cross of Christ is a great error. No one fully knows what sin is until he is born again. Sin is what Jesus Christ faced at Calvary. The evidence that I have been delivered from sin is that I know the real nature of sin in me. For a person to really know what sin is requires the full work and deep touch of the atonement of Jesus Christ, that is, the imparting of His absolute perfection.
The Holy Spirit applies or administers the work of the atonement to us in the deep unconscious realm as well as in the conscious realm. And it is not until we truly perceive the unrivaled power of the Spirit in us that we understand the meaning of 1 John 1:7 , which says, “. . . the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” This verse does not refer only to conscious sin, but also to the tremendously profound understanding of sin which only the Holy Spirit in me can accomplish.
I must “walk in the light as He is in the light . . .”- not in the light of my own conscience, but in God’s light. If I will walk there, with nothing held back or hidden, then this amazing truth is revealed to me: “. . . the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses [me] from all sin” so that God Almighty can see nothing to rebuke in me.
On the conscious level it produces a keen, sorrowful knowledge of what sin really is. The love of God working in me causes me to hate, with the Holy Spirit’s hatred for sin, anything that is not in keeping with God’s holiness. To “walk in the light” means that everything that is of the darkness actually drives me closer to the center of the light.
1 And now, O Father, mindful of the love
That bought us, once for all, on Calvary’s tree,
And having with us Him that pleads above,
We here present, we here spread forth to Thee,
That only offering perfect in Thine eyes,
The one true, pure, immortal sacrifice.
2 Look, Father, look on His anointed face,
And only look on us as found in Him;
Look not on our misusings of Thy grace
Our prayer so languid, and our faith so dim;
For lo! between our sins and their reward,
We set the Passion of Thy Son our Lord.
3 And then for those, our dearest and our best,
By this prevailing presence we appeal;
Oh, fold them closer to Thy mercy’s breast!
Oh, do Thine utmost for their souls’ true weal!
From tainting mischief keep them white and clear,
And crown Thy gifts with strength to persevere.
4 And so we come; Oh, draw us to Thy feet,
Most patient Savior, Who canst love us still!
And by this Food, so awful and so sweet,
Deliver us from every touch of ill:
In Thine own service make us glad and free,
And grant us nevermore to part with Thee.
The Hymnal: revised and enlarged as adopted by the General Convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America in the year of our Lord 1892 Amen.
THE FINAL TWO MESSAGES- SENT AGAIN TO PERSONS OF INFLUENCE WHO NEEED TO HAVE A BETTER UNDERSTAND OF THE CHRISTIAN FAITH AND SHARES A PROFOUND WORD ABOUT THE MERCY OF GOD
My night time journey with Matthew continues….” If you had known what these words mean, I desire mercy, not sacrifice you would have not condemned the innocent”. Matthew 12:7-8
As I read these words tonight, just now, my mind went to the James passage about mercy.
” Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment”. James 2:12-13 NIV
Later on James, in my Bible is a reference to mercy by Alexander Pope…
” Teach me to feel another’s woe,
To hide the fault I see;
That mercy I to others show,
that mercy shown to me”.
The context in both passages of Scripture has to do with The Sabbath and The Law. One, a part of the other, and which consideration/debate still continues to divide the church family until this day, The most visible manifestation of which is the “keeping of the Sabbath”, by the SDA church and others. And they, hopefully will come to a deeper understanding of grace and mercy one day.
We can, however, learn much about mercy from this passage, as was revealed to me tonight.
1. That the promotion , and sanction, of violence towards any group of persons, whether or not they are disobedient to God’s Word, is not of God, but of the devil. In this context then, Buju Banton and Beenie Man, or any other artiste, are to be condemned to the extent that they are guilty of any such practice. And this may explain, in part, the rapid reinstatement of the Duck Dynasty show on AE; although many concede that money played a huge role in that situation.
2. That Bishop Tutu’s assertion that he could never believe in a God who hated homosexuals, must be understood in this context. As the God we serve is a merciful and forgiving God, who is full of compassion towards all He has created in His own image, And therefore, as His Word says, vengeance, or the ” bringing down of His wrath” on anyone, is His decision alone. As who are we therefore, as grateful recipients of God’s mercy towards all mankind, in and through Christ Jesus, to judge others.
3. Which is what I hear Pope Francis trying to say, in the midst of the ‘noise’ that accompanies the discussion of ” hot button ” issues. Not that he is condoning wrong, but his understanding of mercy is at the forefront of his utterances. The very point that was made in the message sent yesterday.
May the Lord’s peace with you all, as we continue to learn more about the Word of God, and apply it to life in Jamaica and beyond, as part of #TeamJamaica; on a mission to rescue our beloved and beleaguered country from crime and violence, immorality and ignorance about God’s truth.
THE FINAL WORD – ABOUT THE CONSEQUENCES OF REJECTING CHRIST THE STONE THAT CAUSES MEN TO STUMBLE
Early this morning, we have been sleeping late the entire time, as the mornings are dark in Miami, The Lord woke me up to read 1 Peter. And to share with you this Word; in this context that, ultimately, ” God judges each man’s work impartially”. Therefore, we should be careful how we focus on ” the rescuing of Jamaica”, and more on our own souls. As Jamaica will not be judged, but each one of us before God, when He comes again. Clearly, however, the more we believe and obey the Word as individuals, ‘Be holy, because I am holy”, and “love our neighbour as we love ourselves”, with Justice and Mercy, the more we will receive from God, the peace and the prosperity that has eluded us thus far. Unfortunately, the converse is also true; the more we continue, individually to ” reject the living stone”, to that extent, collectively, as a nation, we will continue to ” stumble”. Which is what the death of that young 19 year old visitor from NY, along with her relative, is teaching us. I pray God we be more discerning and obedient in 2014.
As you come to him, the living Stone – rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him – you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For in Scripture it says: ‘See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.’ Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, ‘The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,’ and, ‘A stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.’ They stumble because they disobey the message – which is also what they were destined for. 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 2:4-12 NIVUK
I pray that we who have been appointed by God to bear witness to the Light who is Christ and Him crucified will ‘step up to the plate’ and be obedient to the Word in 2014.
O for a thousand songs 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 sinner’s ears, ‘Tis life and health and peace.
Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/people-power-voice-article-1.1555495#ixzz2oJqLjGPm
THE WORD OF GOD
The reason for this delayed mail out of the usual Sunday message has to do with a celebration of a significant event in the life of my family. I am currently in the USA with my children and grandchildren, and my wife and myself were ‘taken on the town’ until fairly late last night. So in the midst of all of this celebration, spending time with the grandchildren, and being overwhelmed by ” American News” on Television – I barely got a chance to see Tessanne’s homecoming on a video posted on line – what did The Lord say to me this past week.
First of all in an e- mail I sent to folks back home this week, I made the point that, while we were all overjoyed as members of #TeamTeassanne, to witness her historic win on The Voice, we are all sobered by the reality of murder most foul rearing its ugly head, once again, in Montego-Bay and its environs. And as noted in the report of Tessanne’s victory in the New York Daily News, many of us wonder, and perhaps even dream, if the same energy which mobilized Jamaicans abroad to unite with Jamaicans at home, could also be use to galvanize us as # TeamJamaica to fight against crime and violence ‘killing’ our country. But in order to do that we would have to face the reality that, as a people we have rebelled against the Living God and forgotten His Word, and thus we are reaping the consequences. The hope is that as in the Book of Jonah, like the great city of Nineveh, Jamaica too will repent, and find favor with God once again.
THE FIRST MESSAGE – written and sent the day before TessAnne’s victory, to influential members of civil society.
You can almost write the script! Whether Tessanne wins or not, and it would be a travesty if she did not after last night’s performance, and the week before, she will move on with her life. Perhaps Adam will continue to feature in some way shape of form as her career takes off. And then again maybe not. Who knows! But she will become an Internationally acclaimed star. And people across the globe, will continue to download her songs on iTunes, long after # Teamtessanne parties are all over. Piers Morgan shall long be remembered for his dramatic tweet last night and Deika will forever be in Tessanne’s heart. But her life will move on. Not so the other main story featured by Dionne Jakson-Miller on BTH last evening. 14 dead in one week! A story also featured in the Daily Gleaner, “St. James under siege.” A story which features the chronic problem of crime and violence which continues to bedevil our country, and for which no lasting solution has been found in decades. During the interview, both the Policeman and the Politician, Dr. Horace Chang, correctly pointed out that although ” hard policing” has a role, social intervention is the key to the long term solution. This morning, I was led to The WORD OF GOD which points to a spiritual solution.
This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: ‘In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it. You said, “No, we will flee on horses.” Therefore you will flee! You said, “We will ride off on swift horses.” Therefore your pursuers will be swift! A thousand will flee at the threat of one; at the threat of five you will all flee away, till you are left like a flagstaff on a mountaintop, like a banner on a hill. ’ Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him! (Isaiah 30:15-18 NIVUK)
This Word needs no explanation. The point is very clear for those who have eyes to see. What is remarkable, is the similarity with another Word in Deuteronomy which has long bothered me. Words from the song of Moses as he prepared to exit this life after the promised land was in sight and Joshua was about to take over. He predicted the rebellion that would take place. Read carefully how it begins, and continues in the following except:
Listen, you heavens, and I will speak; hear, you earth, the words of my mouth. Let my teaching fall like rain and my words descend like dew, like showers on new grass, like abundant rain on tender plants. I will proclaim the name of the Lord. Oh, praise the greatness of our God! He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he. They are corrupt and not his children; to their shame they are a warped and crooked generation. Is this the way you repay the Lord, you foolish and unwise people? Is he not your Father, your Creator, who made you and formed you? Remember the days of old; consider the generations long past. Ask your father and he will tell you, your elders, and they will explain to you. In a desert land he found him, in a barren and howling waste. He shielded him and cared for him; he guarded him as the apple of his eye, The Lord alone led him; no foreign god was with him. He made him ride on the heights of the land and fed him with the fruit of the fields. He nourished him with honey from the rock, and with oil from the flinty crag, Jeshurun grew fat and kicked; filled with food, they became heavy and sleek. They abandoned the God who made them and rejected the Rock their Saviour. They made him jealous with their foreign gods and angered him with their detestable idols. They sacrificed to false gods, which are not God – gods they had not known, gods that recently appeared, gods your ancestors did not fear. You deserted the Rock, who fathered you; you forgot the God who gave you birth. The Lord saw this and rejected them because he was angered by his sons and daughters. ‘I will hide my face from them,’ he said, ‘and see what their end will be; for they are a perverse generation, children who are unfaithful. ‘I will heap calamities on them and expend my arrows against them. I will send wasting famine against them, consuming pestilence and deadly plague; I will send against them the fangs of wild beasts, the venom of vipers that glide in the dust. They are a nation without sense, there is no discernment in them. If only they were wise and would understand this and discern what their end will be! How could one man chase a thousand, or two put ten thousand to flight, unless their Rock had sold them, unless the Lord had given them up? (Deuteronomy 32:1-7, 10, 12, 13, 15-20, 23, 24, 28-30 NIVUK)
Throughout the Bible the evidence is that God does not give up on anyone. Rather, it is mankind that makes the choice, the foolish choice, to cease depending on God. And suffers the inevitable consequences.
So, will we, after being warned, and confronted with the Word, respond like the obstinate people in Isaiah:
They say to the seers, ‘See no more visions!’ and to the prophets, ‘Give us no more visions of what is right! Tell us pleasant things, prophesy illusions. Leave this way, get off this path, and stop confronting us with the Holy One of Israel!’ (Isaiah 30:10, 11 NIVUK) and suffer the consequence of continually being “chased a thousand or two thousand gunmen”, putting an entire nation to flight.
Or will we as a people repent, like the great city of Nineveh, and find peace with The Lord who longs to be gracious to Jamaica. And whose love is unfailing, and the evidence is there for all to see on Calvary! That decision lies in our hands, unlike Tessanne, whose chances of winning The Voice, are in the hands of unpredictable voters. Peace. LWJ
THE SECOND MESSAGE – SENT TO MY PASTOR AND MEMBERS OF MY CHURCH, SPEAKS TO BURNING AND TOPICAL QUESTION OF OBEDIENCE. AND HOW IT IS POSSIBLE FOR US TO LEARN TO BE OBEDIENT, IN THE SAME WAY THAT JESUS DID. THIS ISSUE OF OBEDIENCE TO GOD REGARDLESS OF OUR CIRCUMSTANCES AND POSSIBLE EXPERIENCE OF SUFFERING, LIES AT THE HEART OF ANY POSSIBLE RESCUE OF MY COUNTRY FROM THIS TERRIBLE SCOURGE OF CRIME AND VIOLENCE
THE MESSAGE …..for before the boy knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, the land of the two kings you dread will be laid waste. (Isaiah 7:16 NIVUK)
Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him (Hebrews 5:8, 9 NIVUK)
As I read the OT reading this morning on line in Miami ( came up yesterday) and was led to reflect on the message which followed it, as set out above, I recall a very interesting conversation we had in the vestry before service one morning, based on the Hebrew passage.
Again the confirmation that Jesus choose to do what was right, despite being fully man, ( and fully God, what a profound mystery! ) and therefore subject to the temptation that all fallen mankind face. To do what is wrong.! To rebel against God’s holy and perfect will.
And as you correctly pointed out, we too can choose to do what is right, because of Jesus, and the power of the Holy Spirit which comes to us at Baptism. Then we spend our lives learning to be obedient to the Spirit. What a journey!
I am currently re-reading Augustine’s Confessions ( in a sense as I don’t think I finished it) . And didn’t he go on such a journey, and how the world has been a spiritually richer place for it. So too must we accept the various disciplines and trials that our Heavenly Father sends our ways, in order that we too may leave this place a bit better that how we found it; and also more importantly, share in His holiness, which is the ultimate goal of the journey.
I hope all of us will learn to accept the circumstances in which God has placed us, ( and in my experience, it oftentimes requires great discernment to distinguish His will, from persecution – about which we need to pray without ceasing for deliverance) as in so doing, the view of one of those who went before us, is that, in such a fashion we learn to crucify self. And it is only by the slow death of self, that Christ will reign in our hearts, and then we will do what is right – God’s holy and perfect will. Merry Christmas to you my Rector and your family, and your staff, when it comes, as you have helped us along the way. Lucien
P.S. In respect of trusting God during trials, and suffering, I found Isaiah 7:9 very instructive:
” If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all”. All of this in context of God’s assurance to the House of David, that those who plotted their downfall would not succeed. ” it will not take place, it will not happen…verse 7. And the prophecy, about the coming of Jesus , was a sign of God’s faithfulness in the midst of trials, shared before the promised deliverance. So too must we rejoice before our deliverance, as the evidence is there, as Rev. Larius pointed out in that wonderful sermon on Sunday at 6:30.
THE FINAL MESSAGE – AGAIN SENT TO MY RECTOR AND CHURCH MEMBERS IS REMARKABLE IN THE WAY THE REVELATION UNFOLDED. AND SPEAKS TO THE NEED TO BE CONSTANTLY IMMERSED IN GOD’S WORD. THE NEWS ITEM ABOUT THE DUCK DYNASTY IS ALSO TREATED IN THIS MESSAGE, BUT ONLY IN PASSING, AS THE KEY MESSAGE IS THE IMPORTANCE OF CHRIST AND HIM CRUCIFIED, AND THAT WITHOUT AN APPRECIATION OF THE REALITY OF SIN, CELEBRATING CHRISTMAS IS ONLY ENGAGING IN ‘AMIABLE’ RELIGIOSITY. WHICH IS WHAT THE FORCES OF EVIL WOULD LIKE TO PERPETUATE.
This is how the message from yesterday continued. Last night while continuing my journey with Matthew, I came up on two verses in particular, which, on the one hand, lifted me spiritually, and also validated, once again, the importance of this ministry. And so I sent both of them by text to persons as directed by The Lord.
” So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. Matthew 10:31. What is whispered in your ear proclaim it from the roofs. vs 27. Thank God for divine whispers.
Then last night, in my dreams, The Lord spoke very clearly about St. Paul’s exhortation that we proclaim ” Christ and him crucified”. This after reading Oswald Chambers meditation as my final bed time reading discipline. As you read the profound message below, substitute the final sentence in the second paragraph with ” The great note today is amiable religiosity”, which is how it appears in my book vs. the on line edition. A far more powerful and apt description of how many persons, within ( very sadly) and without the church, regard Christianity in this age. Thus provoking one sage of old, Dorothy Sayers to pen these words: ” I believe it to be a grave mistake to present Christianity as something charming and popular with no offense in it. A quote I found buried in the words in my Classics Devotional Bible, of St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. Which is where the verse about ” Christ and him crucified” is to be found. 1 Cor. chap 1-2.
OSWALD CHAMBERS – DECEMBER 20TH And I, if I am lifted up . . . will draw all peoples to Myself -John 12:32
Very few of us have any understanding of the reason why Jesus Christ died. If sympathy is all that human beings need, then the Cross of Christ is an absurdity and there is absolutely no need for it. What the world needs is not “a little bit of love,” but major surgery.
When you find yourself face to face with a person who is spiritually lost, remind yourself of Jesus Christ on the cross. If that person can get to God in any other way, then the Cross of Christ is unnecessary. If you think you are helping lost people with your sympathy and understanding, you are a traitor to Jesus Christ. You must have a right-standing relationship with Him yourself, and pour your life out in helping others in His way- not in a human way that ignores God. The theme of the world’s religion today is to serve in a pleasant, non-confrontational manner.
But our only priority must be to present Jesus Christ crucified- to lift Him up all the time (see 1 Corinthians 2:2). Every belief that is not firmly rooted in the Cross of Christ will lead people astray. If the worker himself believes in Jesus Christ and is trusting in the reality of redemption, his words will be compelling to others. What is extremely important is for the worker’s simple relationship with Jesus Christ to be strong and growing. His usefulness to God depends on that, and that alone.
The calling of a New Testament worker is to expose sin and to reveal Jesus Christ as Savior. Consequently, he cannot always be charming and friendly, but must be willing to be stern to accomplish major surgery. We are sent by God to lift up Jesus Christ, not to give wonderfully beautiful speeches. We must be willing to examine others as deeply as God has examined us. We must also be sharply intent on sensing those Scripture passages that will drive the truth home, and then not be afraid to apply them.
But the trigger for the continuation of yesterday’s message came early in chap 1: ” Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gifts as you eagerly await for our Lord Jesus to be revealed”…vs 7.
Having read it I felt a powerful urge to find another chapter where the Bible exhorts us to seek the right gifts. So I turned to Galatians and found this:
” So I say live by the Spirit……” 5:16.
And St Paul goes on to describe the fruit of the Spirit and the fruit of the sinful nature. Which is precisely what the message yesterday was all about. Choosing to be obedient to the Spirit. That’s what Jesus did. And that’s what we are empowered to do by the same Holy Spirit. Otherwise we will commit “acts of the sinful nature”, which are ” contrary to the Spirit”. This is what I heard last night, and again this morning, that unless one understands Sin, and the acts of the sinful nature, one can never truly understand Christmas. This lack, then, is precisely why Christmas, in the minds of some, is just about amiable religiosity, with no offense in it. And if we are not careful, we too will be guilty of this terrible charge, and thus as St Paul warns, in another context, become ” traitors to the cross”.
You must have heard by now the controversy brewing in the USA over the comments of a actor in a popular reality show, aired on AE channel. And for which comments the show has been suspended. Yesterday CNN gave it top billing…before the Obama press conference. At the heart of the discussion, in my view, despite the theological mistakes made by the actor who has been labeled as a conservative right wing Christian, is the unwillingness or ignorance of those who perhaps represent a huge section of the American public, to accept the concept of Sin. This is the most serious challenge that we face in this world. But fear not, as the Epistle to Diognetus, one of the most important letters preserved from the early church, tells us, this problem has always challenged the church.
CHARACTERISTICS OF THE CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY
Epistle to Diognetus Verse: Galatians 5:16
CHAPTER VI — THE RELATION OF CHRISTIANS TO THE WORLD.
To sum up all in one word–what the soul is in the body, that are Christians in the world. The soul is dispersed through all the members of the body, and Christians are scattered through all the cities of the world. The soul dwells in the body, yet is not of the body; and Christians dwell in the world, yet are not of the world. The invisible soul is guarded by the visible body, and Christians are known indeed to be in the world, but their godliness remains invisible. The flesh hates the soul, and wars against it, though itself suffering no injury, because it is prevented from enjoying pleasures; the world also hates the Christians, though in nowise injured, because they abjure pleasures. The soul loves the flesh that hates it, and [loves also] the members; Christians likewise love those that hate them. The soul is imprisoned in the body, yet preserves that very body; and Christians are confined in the world as in a prison, and yet they are the preservers of the world. The immortal soul dwells in a mortal tabernacle; and Christians dwell as sojourners in corruptible [bodies], looking for an incorruptible dwelling in the heavens. The soul, when but ill-provided with food and drink, becomes better; in like manner, the Christians, though subjected day by day to punishment, increase the more in number. God has assigned them this illustrious position, which it were unlawful for them to forsake.The Right kind of help
The modern translation begins with:
The relation of the Christian to the world is that of a soul to the body. As the soul is dispersed……..
and ends with a higher sounding call……Such is the high post of duty in which God has placed them, and it is their moral duty not to shrink from it.
Then as I went for my morning walk, The Lord reminded me that although the letter deal with Sin, and the call to Christians to ” fight valiantly against evil ” which is our Baptismal pledge, we are not to limit ourselves to moral sins. As it is sinful for some to be rich while others starve. And so Christians are also called to engage in the struggle for Justice, wherever injustice rears its ugly head….” In as much as you have done it unto one of the least of these, you have done it unto me. The conversation also turned to the wiles of Satan. In the sense that the most common way that people describe Christmas, is that it is the season of giving, and of good will to all men. Without the necessary emphasis on the fact that, it is the ” self-giving” of God in Christ Jesus which is the hallmark of the season. And that the good will, about which many speak so glibly, is the beginning of the process of rescuing mankind from Son and death, so that they may not perish, all because of God’s unfailing love, which was ultimately manifested on the Cross of Calvary. That is why, for the child of God, ” Christ and him Crucified”, must always be in our minds and on our lips. At Christmas. On Boxing Day. On New Year’s Day. And every single day all year round. So we thank God for ‘ Divine Whispers’ as we continue to celebrate Christmas. And may the God of Jacob protect us from’ Amiable religiosity’, now and forevermore.
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.
What did I hear this week – from the ‘newspapers’.
(1). That Pope Benedict 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 http://www.go-jamaica
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.
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!.
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!
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.
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!
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!