Merry Christmas in Jamaica and in the USA

I  read my Bible to see what men ought to do; and read my newspapers to see what men are doing. -John Newton.
O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing Charles Wesley
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.
THE NEWS 1. An impressive demonstration of talent — and people power — climaxed last week when “The Voice” contestant Tessanne Chin won the finals of the NBC-TV music reality show. Chin — who hails from Jamaica — won a record deal, $100,000 and immeasurable international and Internet popularity. Across the U.S., an amazing grassroots, small business and corporate initiative was created in Caribbean diaspora communities to help support Chin through the competition. Tessanne won, but so did the people power movement, which could conceivably be marshaled to aid the Caribbean people in the U.S. and the region.
Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/people-power-voice-article-1.1555495#ixzz2oJqLjGPm
2. Conservative “Duck Dynasty” patriarch Phil Robertson was caught flapping his gums in an anti-gay tirade three years before his suspension for similar remarks. A video captured the gray-bearded reality show icon clutching a Bible in his right hand while roundly condemning homosexuality at a 2010 Pennsylvania church dinner. “Gross sexual immorality,” he declared loudly during his lengthy address at the “Wild Game Supper” in the Berean Baptist Church (seen at 17:30 in the video below). “They will dishonor their bodies with one another, degrade each other,” continues Robertson. “Is that going on in the United States of America? Look around. … Boy, is there some immorality going on around here.”….New York Daily News Monday December 23,2013.
@lucienforJesus: …..I have not come to bring peace but a sword.Mat 10:34. And in the midst of Christmas, at a time of peace, there is  ‘war’ #duckdynasty.    A tweet I sent out as inspired by  God’s  Word 

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.

THE MESSAGE

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.

THE MESSAGE

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.

Peace. And Merry Christmas
LWJ
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