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

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