Grief in Korea, Murder in Southern Sudan, Racism in the USA, Taxes in Jamaica and Christ is Risen

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 for the Decade of Evangelism

NEWS

(1) The ongoing search for the  victims of that Korean boat disaster had many persons praying for the families this week. Especially after the revelation that 48 girls all wearing  life-jackets were found trapped in a single cabin. All of which led this week to the resignation of the Prime Minister as Korea faced its worse catastrophe in many years, amidst accusations that the response of the government was too slow.

South Korean prime minister resigns over ferry disaster response

http://edition.cnn.com/2014/04/27/world/asia/south-korea-ship-sinking/

(2) Over the past couple of days two stories  about racism in America hit the news.
The one which attracted my attention more than the other was the story in the headlines in the LA Times below and the link to the report. Basketball is big news in the USA and all over the world. Almost generating the same level of excitement as the BPL football in the UK; especially during the play-offs. And to think that a mixed Mexican/ Black young lady could find herself linked to such a racist, as a mistress – the man is married – is simply amazing, and deeply deeply distressing. Almost,  in my view, sinking to the same level of reprehensibility triggered by the racist comments. What was she thinking? Just money! As vulgar as that? Have mercy!

Clippers owner Donald Sterling in firestorm over alleged racist remarks

http://www.latimes.com/sports/la-sp-nba-sterling-clippers-20140427,0,5276359.story#axzz308krValS

(3) The third story which grabbed my attention was the report of ‘genocide’, or near to it,  in Southern Sudan. Happening in a relatively new country which both itself and the International  community had very hopes that good things were in store for this nation. All after the horrors of Darfur! But it would appear that such hopes have been dashed and there are real fears of another Rwanda. Such pain all over the world.

South Sudan conflict: Bentiu ‘ethnic slaughter’ condemned
BBC News ‎- 6 days ago
Hundreds of people were killed because of their ethnicity after South Sudan rebels seized the oil hub of Bentiu last week, the UN has said.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-27102643

(4) Of course the trouble  that happened abroad did not leave Jamaica unscathed as much public protest erupted after the Government announced a new tax on all bank withdrawals, in an effort to close the gap in the budget. All of this taking place right in the midst of the most holy period  in the Christian calendar; and so rather than spending time reflecting on God’s grace and mercy, the country was caught up in a firestorm of debate and protest over this new tax. Further the dreadful loss of life by the gun continued to haunt the lives of all of us, with the murder of two men delivering bread being the latest in a series of murders.

THE WORD OF GOD

So what word of inspiration or Word from The Lord came into my head this week, as I contemplated the various events around the world and in my own country.

THE FIRST MESSAGE – sent to people of influence in my country. Entitled: Of Taxes, Of Carnival, of a nation whose values are in crisis, and of Holy Week”.
The essence of the message being the absolute need for our country to adopt Christian values; but facing the reality that such values don’t come on their own, but with an acceptance of the Good Friday and Easter message.

I came up on something which I believe goes right to heart of of the struggle we are going through here in Jamaica. Can’t recall right now who said it,  but this is what a wise person once wrote;  “You can’t have Christian values without Christianity”.
Think about it for a minute! This is a land that has a prayer for a national anthem, but yet the traditional day of worship, rooted deeply in our history, Sunday,  a day of rest and peace and time for family – the same institution about which many are deeply concerned – is under attack from officialdom and the common man alike. And the steady  erosion of what that day represents finds expression in how we treat the most holy period of the Christian Church. Holy Week, Good Friday and Easter Sunday. So, instead of allowing our people, and encouraging them to use the period for inner reflection on self, family, community and nation, we announce on Maunday Thursday, a tax on banks/individuals, every time we withdraw money,  which is causing a fire-storm of discussion in the nation. Why? Was there no better time? Did they not expect the reaction?  
Further, so many of our people, even within the church, either ignore this Holy Period or use the ‘holiday’ for ‘chillin’, drinking the ‘Wray’, or as one ad promoting carnival suggests,” Let the spirit take control’  or words to that effect.
Therefore rather than a nation mired deeply in the Sin of murder and violence, of abuse of our children; reeling from evil people  hijacking our music of protest, useful  social commentary and having a good time, and  replacing it with gun lyrics and violent and sexually explicit lyric; a nation guilty of the Sin of ignoring  the plight of huge areas of country populated by people from the ‘wrong address’;  rather than contemplating what Good Friday and Easter reveal about Sin, and Redemption, we were once again ‘distracted’. And left to ponder on things which do not go to the heart of our struggle as nation, despite the obvious importance of the state of our economy and how we have collectively lived above  our means for far too long. Or the need for relaxation and having fun.
The same issue of trying to have Christian values without Christianity finds expression in how we ask Father God to bless every and anything we do publicly or privately, officially or ‘ on the street’;  while having no intention of honoring that God, by attending church and committing to following the Son of Father God, Christ Jesus. I could go on! But the essence of Sin as the Bible reveals is ‘rebellion against the God who created heaven and earth, the sea and everything that is in’. This was the Sin of Adam, and all of us human beings, ‘children of Adam, have inherited this disposition to ‘ rebel against the living God’.

Therefore what Good Friday and Easter  reveal,  can be summed up in the words of a song which featured in many churches  over the weekend: ” Because He lives I can face tomorrow”. Regardless of what life has to throw at us! As we serve a Sovereign God, who ultimately has control of our lives! Not the Minister of Finance! Not the ‘disciples of Dudus and  Kartel! Not the various temptations, including pornography, of a decadent western world! 

The key then to understanding and serving this Sovereign God is understanding Sin. Otherwise we will, in an attempt to have Christian values inculcated in our people, fail miserably to renew our nation, as people only truly turn to God in Christ when they are ‘sick  and tired’ of  Sin ruling their lives.
In this context then,  the passage I was inspired to read this morning in my devotions, and again one that featured during Holy Week,  explains all about Sin and Redemption. For individuals  first, and by extension a society. All ‘ Because Jesus lives”.

THE WORD OF GOD

What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace. (Romans 6:1-14 NIV)

Two final comments. One that this passage, perhaps more than any other in the Bible offers a clear explanation of what Baptism is all about. Thus the practice of many churches who ” baptise people every time they Sin, usually of a sexual nature, like having a baby out of wedlock, ‘ the fallen sister’, is not only without merit from a Biblical standpoint, but aids and abets the widespread cynicism about the faith. Two that, this passage of Scripture explains fully that anyone who has died, in Christ, has been set free from sin. What we need to do henceforth is to claim this victory more and more by our faithfulness in Bible Study, worship, doing good to those in need, and in this way a nation will indeed begin to have, not just Christian values, but the life of the Living God imparted to us  as a people, all because Jesus Lives.
Peace.
LWJ

THE SECOND MESSAGE –  sent members of my church after an intense period of worship, prayer and reflection during Holy Week.  I believe that there are elements within this message, especially the sermon by Pastor Rick Warren, which could be of tremendous benefit to the suffering people of Korea, Southern Sudan, and to Donald Sterling, his mixed race girlfriend, and the wife who is now suing the young lady for money given to her by the Clippers owner.  As there is so much of the ‘confusion and hopelessness’ that Rick Warren suggests that Holy Saturday brings, in those stories. Further there is so much that people need to know about themselves which is the essence of the message in the first of two songs that ‘got into my head’. That ‘ there is a fountain of blood drawn from Emmanuel’s veins; and sinners who plunge beneath that flood, lose all their guilty stains. ” Because out of  hearts of men ( and women)  come all kinds of evil”.

THE MESSAGE

The words of the first verses of the two hymns below have been in my head since the end of Holy Week. One was referenced by Rev. Larius, the other by Father Kitson. So much so that I found myself singing or humming the songs. Even at work! And yesterday one of my patients, who sings professionally, and is now a gospel artist, sang for, and with me, the first two verses of the two songs, both of which  are well known in Pentecostal circles. Can you imagine me singing! 
Then last night on Twitter I came across a  service conducted by Rick Warren – Senior pastor of Saddleback Church and who gained International fame for his book ‘ The Purpose Driven Life’.

https://twitter.com/rickwarren/status/459875022459248641

The sermon comes after a praise and worship session, and it is a Good Friday/Easter sermon about :
– days of pain and grief —Fridays
– days of confusion and doubt —Saturdays
– days of joy and hope – Easter
All shared within the context of the grief that he and his family suffered right after Easter last year when one of his son’s committed suicide.

The songs did not move me much. And certainly would not ‘get into my head’ like ‘blood drawn from Emanuel’s veins,  or ‘ all fears are gone’. But if you do watch the video you cannot escape the intensity and passion and the effect that the music has on the congregation. And the question of why, on a regular basis, we don’t have that experience in our Anglican churches, as it would do wonders for our worship and ministry, came into my head. Again! And so we pray, and pray and pray for renewal.
The sermon was ‘augmented’ by the use of visuals. But for me the key thing was the message to suffering people that God’s promises are real and there are over 7000 of them in the Bible.
Not our kind of service, but it is useful, I think,  to see how other traditions conduct worship. And to discover, what we have known, for a long time, that ‘small groups’ are the foundation of this huge church – 8,000, or was it 80..whatever…plenty people…..  involved in these groups on a regular basis.
Peace and remember this week and forever that ” Because He lives I ( we) can face tomorrow’, and that ‘sinners plunged beneath that flood, lose all their guilty stains’: even ‘dog puss and rat’….smile…thank God for Jesus.
LWJ 

1.    There is a fountain filled with blood 
  drawn from Emmanuel’s veins; 
  and sinners plunged beneath that flood 
  lose all their guilty stains. 
  Lose all their guilty stains, 
  lose all their guilty stains; 
  and sinners plunged beneath that flood 
  lose all their guilty stains. 

God sent His Son, they called Him Jesus
He came to love, heal and forgive
He lived and died, to buy my pardon
An empty grave is there to prove my Savior lives

Refrain

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow
Because He lives, all fear is gone
Because I know He holds the future
And life is worth the living just because He lives

THE THIRD MESSAGE

Finally as the Synod of my church met to discuss, and pray and worship and plan for the upcoming year, I was moved to send two prayers triggered by inspired writings, a ‘gift’ from an old man whose wife was killed in a vicious attack on both of them; but by the grace of God he survived, and ever lives to praise the name of the Lord. And the Word of God. All of which point to the need for us consider that the ultimate purpose of all mankind is to bring honor and glory to God. And the work of the church is to facilitate that process – in all its many and varied forms.

PART 1
YESTERDAY – A verse given to me by an old man as he was going through the door. He turned back and said that this was what he had for me

Psalm 31:19-20 NIV

How abundant are the good things that you have stored up for those who fear you, that you bestow in the sight of all, on those who take refuge in you. In the shelter of your presence you hide them from all human intrigues; you keep them safe in your dwelling from accusing tongues.

LAST NIGHT

Praising God is the ultimate end and aim of all we go through. ” Whoso offereth praise glorifieth Me”. What does it  matter whether you are well or ill whether you have money or none! It is all a matter of indifference, but one thing that is not a matter of indifference, and that is that we are pleasing to the ears of God – Oswald Chambers.
Peace.

THIS MORNING – verse of the day on the online Bible

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 his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.

John 17:1-5 NIV

After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed:  “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you.  For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him.  Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.  I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do.  And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.

May the work of this synod bring glory to God as you seek let the manifold wisdom of God be known in this land and in heavenly places. For God has good things stored up for those who fear Him. His Name is Jesus, the fulfilment of the promise of the good things to come. He is the One therefore who we are to make known to our people; so that they may have eternal life. He must therefore increase and we like John the Baptist must decrease; as what does it matter what happens to us as long as the Name of Jesus is praised and glorified in and through us.
Peace
LWJ

PART 11
THIS MORNING
God sent his Son, they call him Jesus…..

John 17:11 NIV

I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of  your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one.

WHICH THEN LED TO

Philippians 2:1-5 NIV

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

One of the purposes of a church, is to enable people through the power of The Holy Spirit,  to have ” the same mind that was in Christ Jesus’. That is one of the reasons why Jesus prayed for protection for his disciples, and also for us who would believe because of their witness. The other was protection from the evil one: and both prayers are related. As it is the plan of the devil to distract us from the eternal purpose of God – that we may be one in Christ Jesus. And he has many arrows in his quiver.
Peace 
LWJ

Final Comments: As the world continues to go through so many spasms  of violence and ‘accidents’; as it continues be affected by evil within and without the heart of mankind; as it continues to suffer from economic and moral turmoil, increasingly the church, the body of Christ needs to be that voice of compassion and care. Calling people to repentance of their sins and a new life in Christ Jesus; providing the moral compass for a world drifting from one crisis to another; and being there for suffering humanity. In the same way that Jesus did. But such a church will only grow from strength when it is empowered by The Holy Spirit, in the same way that the disciples were so empowered. And the Holy Spirit will only come into an obedient heart, and a heart of a sinner who plunges beneath the flood of blood consistently and finds that all his or her guilty stain has been removed. And therefore can ‘face tomorrow’, face tragedy, face humiliation, because ‘He, Jesus, lives”. In season and out of season. During Holy Week and for-evermore. In Korea, in Southern Sudan, in the hearts and minds of  the LA Clippers, and in my  over taxed, murderous, but yet still, blessed country.
Peace.
LWJ

 

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Because He lives I can face tomorrow – in Korea, in Malaysia, in Alberta, and in Jamaica: A Good Friday and Easter Message

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 for the Decade of Evangelism.

NEWS

During this past week my mind was entirely focused on the two events to come  over the weekend. Good Friday and Easter Sunday. But yet other news caught my attention. In general news of suffering and pain.

1.South Korea ferry disaster: Families’ anger erupts

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-27092751

After more than three days, divers have now finally entered the ferry, retrieving 26 bodies and bringing the death toll to 58.

However, another 244 people are still missing from the Sewol ferry, which sank on Wednesday.

Some 174 passengers were rescued.

The link and the quote from the BBC newsfeed tells the story of pain and suffering. What it omits is the fact that the VP of the school from which so many of students came, committed suicide. What a tragedy!

2.Calgary cop’s son charged in mass killing 

http://www.calgarysun.com/2014/04/15/five-dead-in-stabbing-at-house-party-in-northwest-calgary

In the worst mass killing in Calgary’s history, five young adults were stabbed to death during a Brentwood house party.

The accused, the son of a senior Calgary Police Service officer still in hospital as of Tuesday night over concerns of his mental state, has been charged with five counts of first-degree murder.

“The scene was horrific,” said a visibly shaken police chief Rick Hanson at a press conference, adding each victim was stabbed several times.

The killings happened at a house party celebrating Bermuda Shorts Day at the University of Calgary, and the accused in custody is the son of a senior police officer, Insp. Doug de Grood, a 33-year veteran.

The accused is 23-year-old Matt de Grood.

The last entry on his Facebook account read: “Dread and the fugitive mind- the world needs a hero” apparently referencing two Megadeth songs.

Yet another tragedy that happened during Holy Week. And we know in Jamaica how the ‘devil let loose’ during Lent, and therefore how much more active he would be as Good Friday approached.

3. Nearer to  that which occupies a lot of my time and energy was another heart breaking event which happened this week. This time in California.

10 Killed in Bus Crash; Southern California High School Students Aboard
http://www.nbclosangeles.com/news/local/tour-bus-fedex-crash-northern-california-los-angeles-students-254835921.html

Investigators are trying to determine what went wrong on a Northern California highway Thursday night, when a delivery truck crossed into oncoming traffic and slammed into a bus carrying prospective college students from Southern California, leaving 10 people dead.

California Highway Patrol officials and other public safety personnel said at a news conference Friday morning that nine people died at the scene of Thursday’s crash and a 10th victim died at a hospital. Those killed included five students and five adults who were traveling to Humboldt State University for a campus visit. Thirty-one victims were hospitalized after the crash.

THE WORD OF GOD

So what inspired word or Word did The Lord  lead me to read and reflect on and write about this week, as we approached the most holy period in the calendar of the  Christian Church.
Well, first of all I did not write anything until Maunday Thursday. I mostly listened to what was going on around me; in the spiritual realm as well as in the secular. An approach to life that one of my favorite theologians, the late Rev. John Stott, recommends in one of his many books. The so called ” Double Listening”.
And I only wrote late in the evening before the traditional ” wash foot’ service which, in our tradition,  begins at 7:00 am, and signals the Vigil we keep until Sunday Morning, because of a request. I have posted the link below which appeared in the online edition of the Daily Gleaner, and also subsequently  posted on FaceBook and  Twitter. The Topic?  A Christian Perspective on Good Friday.

THE FIRST MESSAGE

Good Friday changed the world forever – Lead Stories – Jamaica …
2 days ago … Good Friday, a most intriguing name for a day of suffering and shame, according to the Christian faith, is the most Holy Day of the year for …
jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20140418/lead/lead8.html

THE SECOND MESSAGE – sent to my children who live abroad in a land where there are no public holidays to facilitate the kind of intense worship that we are privileged to have in Jamaica. A Message which came during my devotions.Bookmarked by a challenging Word of God and a reassuring hymn, the word of which share a promise which only the events of Good Friday and Easter could possibly validate. About  the words of a song which came into my head and which I had not seen not heard for a while. And another one which we sing in Jamaica regularly ‘ in season and out of season’. 


THE MESSAGE

Sent for your reflections on a day when you may not have that much time to worship.
Dad

Then everyone deserted him and fled. (Mark 14:50 NIV)…last night

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28 NIV)…this morning
I have read in Plato and Cicero sayings that are very wise and very beautiful, but I have never read in either of them; ” Come unto me all that labour and are heavy laden”. – Augustine

YOUR ONLY SON, NO SIN TO HIDE
BUT YOU HAVE SENT HIM
FROM YOUR SIDE
TO WALK UPON THIS GUILTY SOD
AND TO BECOME THE LAMB OF GOD

YOUR GIFT OF LOVE THEY CRUCIFIED
THEY LAUGHED AND SCORNED HIM
AS HE DIED
THE HUMBLE KING THEY NAMED A FRAUD
AND SACRIFICED THE LAMB OF GOD

O LAMB OF GOD SWEET LAMB OF GOD
I LOVE THE HOLY LAMB OF GOD
O WASH ME IN YOUR PRECIOUS BLOOD
MY JESUS CHRIST THE LAMB OF GOD

I WAS SO LOST I SHOULD HAVE DIED
BUT YOU HAVE BROUGHT ME TO
YOUR SIDE
TO BE LEAD BY YOUR STAFF AND ROD
AND TO BE CALLED A LAMB OF GOD

O LAMB OF GOD SWEET LAMB OF GOD
I LOVE THE HOLY LAMB OF GOD
O WASH ME IN YOUR PRECIOUS BLOOD
TILL I AM JUST A LAMB OF GOD

What can wash away my sin?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Refrain

Oh! precious is the flow
That makes me white as snow;
No other fount I know,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

What a Friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.

Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged; take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness; take it to the Lord in prayer.

Are we weak and heavy laden, cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge, take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do your friends despise, forsake you? Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In His arms He’ll take and shield you; you will find a solace there.

THE THIRD MESSAGE

The next substantive message was one sent to members of my church after some words shared during a sermon on Good Friday stayed in my head, and  triggered this response.

THE MESSAGE

This wonderful hymn was referenced by young Rev. Larius Lewis during ” The Seven Words of the Cross” today.  And during which sermon on ” Today you shall be with me in Paradise”, he suggested that if the thief on the cross could be assured of entering Paradise with Jesus, because he repented, unlike the other one, and believed that Jesus was the Son of God, then anyone can get to heaven…..” and as they say in the country, even dog, puss and rat”. And therefore we must be careful of ‘writing off ” people because we think that we are good and they are  evil. 

Off course we are always mindful of the issue of cheap grace, and Bonhoeffer speaks a word about it in the link below which I placed on my facebook page during this ‘conversation’.
https://www.facebook.com/lucien.jones.9/posts/10152783012369129

622. There Is a Fountain Filled with Blood

Text: William Cowper, 1731-1800 
Music: 19th cent. USA campmeeting melody (CWH attrib. to Lowell Mason) 
Tune: CLEANSING FOUNTAIN, Meter: CMD
1.    There is a fountain filled with blood 
  drawn from Emmanuel’s veins; 
  and sinners plunged beneath that flood 
  lose all their guilty stains. 
  Lose all their guilty stains, 
  lose all their guilty stains; 
  and sinners plunged beneath that flood 
  lose all their guilty stains. 

2.    The dying thief rejoiced to see 
  that fountain in his day; 
  and there may I, though vile as he, 
  wash all my sins away.
  Wash all my sins away, 
  wash all my sins away; 
  and there may I, though vile as he, 
  wash all my sins away. 

3.    Dear dying Lamb, thy precious blood 
  shall never lose its power 
  till all the ransomed church of God 
  be saved, to sin no more. 
  Be saved, to sin no more, 
  be saved, to sin no more; 
  till all the ransomed church of God 
  be saved, to sin no more. 

4.    E’er since, by faith, I saw the stream 
  thy flowing wounds supply, 
  redeeming love has been my theme, 
  and shall be till I die. 
  And shall be till I die, 
  and shall be till I die; 
  redeeming love has been my theme, 
  and shall be till I die. 

5.    Then in a nobler, sweeter song, 
  I’ll sing thy power to save, 
  when this poor lisping, stammering tongue 
  lies silent in the grave. 
  Lies silent in the grave, 
  lies silent in the grave; 
  when this poor lisping, stammering tongue 
  lies silent in the grave.
Peace as we continue the weekend vigil with Christ.
LWJ

THE FOURTH MESSAGE – this time  sent to people of power in my country. And  which prayer was blogged and  triggered a posting on Twitter, and hence sent all over the world,  by a friend, Christian sister, and Blogger, Jean Lowrie-Chin. The results of which collaborative efforts only God will determine. And we do not need to know or concern ourselves with it either.

http://lowrie-chin.blogspot.com/2014/04/easter-vigil-prayer-for-jamaica.html?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter&m=1

Message and Prayer from Dr Lucien Jones:
As we continue this vigil, the words of the Psalm for today 130, encourage us to be vigilant in prayer for ourselves and for our nation and the world; at all times, but even more so as we await the celebration of the glorious resurrection of our Lord.
In this context then I recall, again young Rev. Larius Lewis, posing the question yesterday during the Three hour service, how long will those who have power keep it? Forever?! No, as even though those looking on and hearing Jesus promising the thief that he would be with him Today, in Paradise, thought that because they had the power over Jesus, all what He was saying was pure foolishness. Until, only until, the temple was destroyed, dead men got up and walked and were seen in Jerusalem. So these men of ‘power’, in that situation, only had a few hours before, they lost all power before the Almighty God.
So then my friends in Christ Jesus, as the Psalmist declares that:
” I wait for The Lord, my soul waits,
and in his word I put my hope.
My soul waits for The Lord 
more than watchmen wait for the morning,
more than watchmen wait for the morning” Ps.130:5-6
Let us prevail upon the promise of God. And wait upon Him who declares that:
God is our refuge and strength
an ever present help in times of trouble”.
Therefore we wait upon The Lord in faith and hope and pray with certainty that:
– the pall of death hanging over our nation, like a sword of Damocles, because of the action of wicked men with the power of the gun will not last forever.
– that the state of economy weakened by years of living above our collective means, together with other reasons, and which has occasioned the need for the GOJ of Jamaica to ‘pick our pockets’, every time we withdraw money from the bank will not last forever.
– we pray O Lord that those men and women of Power who hold sway over our economy, who control the value of our exchange rate by virtue of their control of the invisible hand of the Market, and who, when they make decisions to benefit their own selfish gains rather than the collective good of the people, as others do, that such a situation may not last forever O Lord.
– that the ‘wretched of the earth’, the poor and the helpless, who suffer immeasurably when there is a water shortage, that this situation will not last forever.
– that those who prey upon our children, abuse our young girls and increasingly sodomize our young boys, many of which wicked men are men of power and substance in our nation, that we pray O God with certainly, that this situation will not last forever.
– that our schoolchildren O God, who are being raised in broken homes, and possessed of little training in righteousness, and go to school and terrorize others – teachers and fellow students -, that this situation, O God, will not last forever.
– that men and women made in your image but marginalized by ‘powers and principalities’, and by what we have done and left undone, and who live in substandard housing, in privation, in inner cities prone to violence and disease, that O God, that situation may not last forever.
– that the spirit of the air, and the spirit of disobedience which has caused so many people to rebel against your precious Word, O God, and thus resulting in serious moral decay in the nation, outrageous displays of nakedness, increasing attraction to pornography, and the circulation of explicit sexual acts captured on video, declining numbers of people who live in Holy Matrimony, all encouraged by men and women with power, that this situation will not last forever.
– that people will no longer ‘dress up the wounds of your people’, and label what is Sin and an abomination in your eyes, alternate lifestyles and the choice women make about their bodies. O God, we pray and believe that this situation will not last forever.
– that your church may no longer continue to ‘forget our first love’, Christ Jesus and Him Crucified, and His Grace which is sufficient for all situations, and descend into controversies, error , heresy and turn to gods, which our forefathers did not know.
– Finally, in the words of the hymn writer ( And now O Father…571) we present before you ‘ our dearest and our best’, and ourselves Lord, that you may not look on us, ‘ and our misusings of thy grace’, but on , ” the only offering perfect in thine eyes, the one true pure eternal sacrifice’, of the Blood of the Lamb, Christ Jesus
O God we are praying and waiting, as we wait for the celebration of your blessed resurrection tomorrow. We are praying and waiting as the watchman waits for the morning. We are praying and waiting for you to put new life into all things, even as, with power you raised your Son Christ Jesus to new life with you and the Holy Spirit, One God. So dear God, breathe new life into the dead bones of your church, and make it become a vast army in this country; breathe new life into our nation Jamaica, and make it become a vast army to spread your word abroad. Breathe new life into the situation in Palestine, where Jews and Muslims have been at war for decades; into Syria; into decadent America and struggling South America and Africa; breathe O God, the new life of Christ Jesus into the Far East, in an area of the world where, for the most part, your Word is neither obeyed nor believed; and new life into Europe which was once the cradle of Christianity but now sadly in large numbers has turned away.
These and other mercies, we ask, as we wait upon you O Lord, in the precious Name of Christ Jesus – our Lord and Saviour. Amen.

Final Comment: I share two thoughts I heard today. One by Rev.  Dr. Garnett Roper a theologian who heads up the Jamaica Theological Seminary, and for his ‘sins’ is also the Chairman of  the Public Transport Body in Jamaica, the JUTC. He shared the view during a radio broadcast this morning on RadioJamaica 94FM, that without (the assurances of new birth and promises of eternal life….my words)  the worldview that Christianity offers, without Jesus Christ and Him  Crucified and raised from the dead, life does not make any sense. And he then referenced the continued and heart breaking story of Flight 370, and that all evidence so far points to fact that  239 persons are most like dead and on their remains lie at the bottom of the Indian Ocean, to add weight to his point. How do the families of these  dead souls, cope if not for the assurances that Christianity offers? And I thought further, that if the Vice Principal of the school in Korea where so many of his students died, has really understood Jesus’ offer as posed in the earlier message, ” “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest”, he would be alive today.
Because he who offers rest for the weary, can and has brought new life into all things; all because of Good Friday and Easter. And the same offer is available for those families that lost loved ones in the fiery crash in California, and in Calgary. As the extended message from the prayer offered up to God over the weekend is that, even death will not have power  over us forever. All because Jesus rose from the empty Tomb on that first Easter.

The second one comes from the sermon shared this morning  at my church, by Canon. Major Sirano Kitson. He was speaking about Easter, and in Whom we are to place our trust, because of the Risen Christ. So therefore, even when we are tempted to be distraught because the Minister of Finance has decided to place a  tax on any money withdrawn from the bank, we are to remember the One who is faithful to us in all situations and circumstances.  The he shared the words of hymn with us, which we sang together, and hopefully will pledge to keep the assurances before us each and every day, ‘ in season and out of season’, long after Good Friday and Easter would have passed. All because Jesus lives!

God sent His son, they called Him, Jesus;
He came to love, heal and forgive;
He lived and died to buy my pardon,
An empty grave is there to prove my Savior lives! 

Chorus
Because He lives, I can face tomorrow,
Because He lives, all fear is gone;
Because I know He holds the future,
And life is worth the living,
Just because He lives!

How sweet to hold a newborn baby,
And feel the pride and joy he gives;
But greater still the calm assurance:
This child can face uncertain days because He Lives! 

Chorus
Because He lives, I can face tomorrow,
Because He lives, all fear is gone;
Because I know He holds the future,
And life is worth the living,
Just because He lives!

And then one day, I’ll cross the river,
I’ll fight life’s final war with pain;
And then, as death gives way to vict’ry,
I’ll see the lights of glory and I’ll know He lives! 

Chorus
Because He lives, I can face tomorrow,
Because He lives, all fear is gone;
Because I know He holds the future,
And life is worth the living,
Just because He lives!

Amen.

Norman Girvan, Murder and Music and a Palm Sunday Message

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 for the Decade of EvangelismNEWS1. Today is Palm Sunday. A day which traditionally marks the start of the most holy period in the Christian calendar, and celebrated by millions across the globe, despite the fact that some denominations do not celebrate Holy Week. According to the Christian doctrine, even though Jesus during relatively short life on earth, accomplished much, at all times His face was ‘set towards Jerusalem’, and His crucifixion – the purpose why he left His heaven throne and  came to earth as man.
That news trumps everything else for this week in my book.

2. Other news this week included a revelation from the Commissioner of Police, Owen Ellington shared during an interview with one of Jamaica’s most accomplished journalist – Dionne Jackson-Miller – that jailed entertainer Vibz Kartel’s gang was responsible for more than 100 murders.

http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/kartels-gang-responsible-for-more-than-100-murders-commissioner-ellington

3. Also in the news this week, was the report out of Cuba, that a friend and church brother, Professor Norman Girvan, who was  the quintessential Caribbean man,  died after suffering spinal injuries in an accident in Dominica. Much has since been written about this remarkable Political Economist and ‘integrationist’. My thoughts of him, however,  trigger memories of  Franz Fanon’s ‘ Wretched of the Earth’; Walter Rodney’s  ” How Europe underdeveloped Africa; Eldridge Cleaver’s ‘ Soul on Ice”; Stokely Carmichael, Angella Davis and others who were ‘revolutionaries’, during my formative years. And who, like Norman, dedicated their lives, in most part,  to serve the oppressed people of the earth. It is also very clear, that today’s generation, largely bereft of  any ‘ grand vision’ of changing the world, at least in the western world,  and focused primarily on ‘taking selfies’, and  using social media efficiently in pursuit of self-advancement,  unlike the generation which produced Norman Girvan, is one reason why our societies are drifting and simply existing, rather than being in the vanguard of change. RIP my friend. Yours was a life of service and shared struggle.

THE WORD OF GOD

So then as The Lord’s Passion approached, and startling news of murder and music broke, and a friend went to glory, what inspiring word, or Word, did the Holy One of Israel lead me to read and contemplate?

THE FIRST MESSAGE

First up was a message to powerful people in my country who can make a difference. And with all kinds of news swirling around. Accusation of a death squad in the police force in a rural town; a soon to start budget debate as the technocrats attempt to resuscitate a ‘gasping’ economy; Carnival time again in Jamaica; accusation of unbelievable behavior by Parents in a rural area, unruly bus drivers, a ‘tongue in cheek reference to a hot button issue by a young columnist, a very apt and succinct commentary of ‘pentecostal fervor’ in the churches! All happening as, a story pregnant with so much meaning,  and understanding of the Christian faith, and no doubt a precursor to the events of Passion Week unveils one of the key doctrines of the Christian Church: That in Christ Jesus, all things can be  made new. regardless of the desperate nature of the situation.

THE MESSAGE

A message from The Lord as I was moved to start my devotions with this song on youtube. And with the verse below in my heart.

John 11: 25…I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?

Check out this video on YouTube:

http://youtu.be/JQ55x7Oba-M

No matter what the situation is. A new generation of Cokes!  A reality check for a world boss! An economy in need of IMF bitter medicine! Women – and men – who will sell their soul for Kartel or Dudus! RompinShop at nights and Bacchanal in broad daylight! Parents pimping their children! Policemen thinking they are in the killing fields of Cambodia! Little terrorists unleashed in the classroom! Viral videos! Daniel Thwaites’ ‘queens in the parliament’! A whole city of wrong addresses! Out and bad bus drivers! Garnett Roper’s ‘ too much noise in the churches and too few solemn moments”! A nation which has rebelled against the God of Sam Sharpe!  The message from the approaching Passion of Christ is the same. I am the Resurrection and the Life!
He is the only One who can breathe new life into Ezekiel’s and Jamaica’s dead bones, into desperate circumstances, into troubled communities, and into a confused nation. The eternal question for Martha and for us in this age is: ” Do you believe this?
That is the only reason why The Mississippi Mass Choir can sing Your Grace and Mercy and thus touch a chord deep in our hearts regardless of ‘ where we come from’. As God in Christ has shown His love for all who have sinned and fallen short of his glory – every one ah we. So we thank God for Jesus and sing Your Gracie and Mercy Day after day! Month after month! Until thy kingdom come.
Peace
LWJ

THE SECOND MESSAGE – sent to the same folks, features one of the challenges of the Christian faith, which, in part, Good Friday exemplifies, that anyone who confesses Christ, will be subject to persecution of one form or another. Further, that in the face of such evil, we are called to be patient and persistent in prayer and faith, and not to conform to the ways of this world. And which subtle but unfortunate ‘bowing to pressure’, constitutes the greatest challenge to the witness of the church in this generation.

I recall a woman mounting a stout defense of Kartel on  television one night during the news. At then end,  she quoted Garnett Silk’s famous song;  ” God a God”.  And then confidently intoned that this God would somehow take care of, or vindicate,  Kartel.
Then this morning during my devotions, featuring a meditation on Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount:
” Blessed are the poor in sprit….those who mourn….the meek….those who hunger and thirst for righteousness……those who are persecuted”; I came across another and quite different quotation. This time from Benjamin E. Fernando – Persecution is one of the surest signs of the genuineness  of our Christianity.
Then I recalled the famous passage in the Book of  Hebrews  – chap 11 – concerning those saints of yure whose faith led them into all kinds of persecution, and went searching for it. But as I turned the pages, I went beyond Hebrews and ended up in 1 Peter and found this:

Dear friends, do not be astonished that a trial by fire is occurring among you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice in the degree that you have shared in the sufferings of Christ, so that when his glory is revealed you may also rejoice and be glad. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory, who is the Spirit of God, rests on you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or thief or criminal or as a troublemaker. But if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but glorify God that you bear such a name. For it is time for judgment to begin, starting with the house of God. And if it starts with us, what will be the fate of those who are disobedient to the gospel of God? And if the righteous are barely saved, what will become of the ungodly and sinners? So then let those who suffer according to the will of God entrust their souls to a faithful Creator as they do good. (1 Peter 4:12-19 NET).

Then I recalled that , just simply requesting Divine Intervention got someone into all kinds of trouble recently. Therefore, one of the challenges the church faces, and by extension the entire society, including people like Keiron King who revels in writing about things of God, is that this God is not to be mocked. There are consequences awaiting if we continue down that road, whether we believe it or not. The role, or one of many,  of a compassionate church, in this scenario is to gently, but firmly and repeatedly, using the Word of God, and our own lives, to help to rid people of error in their understanding of who God is. The reality is however, that the church will always come under attack, be subject to persecution, and be regarded as ” old fashioned” in this struggle for the soul of a nation. What then shall we do in the face of persecution?
According to the meditation by  Chris Tiegreen entitled ” Swimming Upstream….” a little conformity here, a little conformity there, and suddenly we are inoffensive Christians in an offensive crowd.  I would suggest that the  message of Good Friday does violence to any such retreat from the battle and temptation to conform. As God is not just God, but the One who was revealed on the Cross of Calvary, the One who died for the sins of Kartel and all of us, Christ Jesus. And then was raised from the dead with power, so that we too may live a new life. A completely different kind of life, and the same life that Jesus spoke about in the sermon on the Mount. Blessed are the poor in spirit….
Peace.
LWJ

THE THIRD MESSAGE  – WAS SENT TO ONE OF JAMAICA’S MOST POPULAR JOURNALISTS, ET AL, WHO HAS BEEN ENTERTAINING, IF NOT PROVOKING,  A DEBATE ON WHETHER OR NOT THE BIBLE IS A DIVINE TEXT OR ‘MESSY HISTORY BOOK’ – ACCORDING TO ONE OF OUR NEW COLUMNISTS – KEIRAN KING.

Dear Cliff: On the way home this evening I caught a section of the discussion on whether the Bible is a Divine Text or  ‘ messy history book’, featuring a  Christian Deacon Peter Espeut, and Atheist Kieran King.
As I listened the following thoughts and reminders came into my head. In no particular order!

– that as the Bible explains, ‘the kingdom of God is not about talk, but about power”. And the Bible is all about promoting God’s Kingdom.  With power! The final revelation of which Kingdom is the life, death, resurrection, ascension and the promised and prophesied return as Judge,  of Jesus Christ of Nazareth.  It is amazing that both yourself and King, recipients of a wonderful educational experience at Campion through the Jesuits, and at Excelsior through one of Jamaica’s finest Christian sons, Wesley Powell, all through the power of The Holy Spirit, could fail to be impressed with the power of the Christian God. A demonstration of which power has a long and glorious lineage in the history of mankind. And of recent vintage, the kind of power which allowed most of us, children of slaves, to be free to pursue life and happiness in this age. Which is quite the opposite to what our forebears experienced, until with power,  Baptist Deacon Sam Sharpe and others acted.
– That is is a pity, but quite predictable from the perspective of we who understand the ways of Satan, the evil one, that this discussion has been ongoing in Lent, and now on the eve of Passion Week. A Period of time in the country’s history when those who believe in Christ and Him Crucified, the majority of Jamaicans, and most of those who listen to your radio station, find  deep meaning and peace in the celebration of the death of Christ for our sins, and His glorious Resurrection through the power of the Holy Spirit.
– that the Bible is not a history book, per se, but a story, given by Divine revelation, of the Gospel. The good news about Christ,  and God’s plan for the forgiveness of mankind’s sinful nature; the history of which sinfulness, altered someone in pursuit of creativity, is the story behind the new and exciting movie, Noah. You may benefit from viewing it.
– therefore, as I wrote in the inside cover of my Bible many years ago, by Divine inspiration, the following truths are apposite:
1. That without Jesus, God is an abstraction – John 14:6-7 NIV
2. Without the Holy Spirit, it is not possible to believe that Jesus is God – John 14:26
3. And The Holy Spirit will only enter a humble heart – Psalm 51:17

– that the word of God is indeed living and active; every part of it.  All Scripture is God-breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. And whether Fundamentalist or not, over the centuries, the Word of God has been used, with power, to fight against evil, and to promote right living; even as Christians have approached the end of this life.
– therefore it is not our role to convince either the one who ‘provokes the discussion’, or any unbeliever, about the effectiveness and the sufficiency of the Blood of Christ to wash away the sins of mankind. Which is ultimately what the Bible is all about – reconciling sinful man with a Holy God,  in and through the death and resurrection of Christ. Our role is to preach the Gospel with power and the Holy Spirit will convict men and women of sin. Even at high noon as He did with Paul ‘on the road to Damascus’. Who to tell when and if both yourself and King will be convicted of Sin, before a Holy God, as we who love The Lord Jesus, have been so convicted? That is God’s business. The most we can say is that ” because we fear God, we try to persuade men”.
– The suggestion from King based on his ‘research’ is that the more ‘educated’…read enlightened…someone is, the less likely he or she is to to become religious, may well be true from his perspective. From the Christian perspective however, the reality is that, the more someone is convicted of Sin, the more that person will  love Jesus Christ- the Only One appointed and anointed by God, to save mankind from their sins.
– therefore we read the Bible to learn more about Christ and Him Crucified, as without Him we can never be reconciled to a Holy God. That’s the essence of what the Bible teaches! You and Keiron can  chose  either to believe or not. With the prophesied consequences always in mind.

– Finally, I came to faith in Christ Jesus,  because  my parents were believers. That’s the power of the family that trusts in God. That power is available to a nation that trusts in the God of Jacob. To produce a vast army to fight against the kind of evil revealed during  Dionne Jackson-Miller’s interview on television with the Commissioner of Police. That’s the kind of choice that Good Friday offers once again next week Friday. To have lively but entirely useless discourse with an atheist, or to join the army of God in pursuit of Righteousness, Justice, in order that our people and our nation may be rescued from the evil of organized crime, and other such evils.

The Christian God, in and through Christ Jesus,  as revealed in Holy Scriptures, has a track record of power and mercy in this country! What track record of power do the atheists have?

I pray God, then, with the love of Christ, who takes no pleasure in the death of any sinner, but that all should turn and repent, that both yourself and Kieran, by grace, may come to have a humble heart, and fall down and worship He who died for you. The Holy One of Israel! The God who, in Christ became man, so that we should not  perish, but have life everlasting. And that is Bible truth my friend. Chose well this Good Friday.
Peace.
Lucien

A ‘response from The Lord ‘ which continued the next day as
THE FOURTH AND FINAL MESSAGE

One of the remarkable things about what some are calling a ‘messy history book’, and what we know as the Word of God, the same Word that became flesh in the Living Word Christ Jesus, is its relevance for all ages. And power to change even the most desperate circumstances.
In this context then, as I was led to read Chris Tiegreen’s meditation for today entitled ” The Meaning of Silence”, and featuring one of the great teaching lessons of God – persistence in asking, persistence in believing even when He is silent when we pray – I was reminded of another teaching passage in the Bible on the virtue of persistent faith- in the face of danger.

I don’t know about anyone else, but on reading the words form the book of Habakkuk, written around 605 BC, I can see reference to the high level of murder in our country and to the strife in our nation ….How long O Lord; to  Dudus and Kartel – extortion; to profiteering; to political manipulation of communities for the sake of power…..and to organized crime; to gross immorality and pornography and bacchanal. But most importantly to judgement and to the promised mercy of Christ, even as we await the promised vision and are encouraged to be persistent in our faith as we await the revelation, in the midst of the silence…how long shall I cry. And you do not hear.
As a country, we would do well to wait upon The Lord in faith, rather than be distracted by ‘foolish arguments’, on the one hand, and any thoughts of a ‘silver bullet’ to solve our problems on the other hand. And all of this wisdom and power coming  from, not a ‘ messy history book, but from the very mouth of the Living God. With power, because of obedience.

THE WORD OF GOD

Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.” Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.”………. Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment. (Matthew 15:21-23, 28 NIV)

O Lord, how long shall I cry, And You will not hear? Even cry out to You, “Violence!” And You will not save. Why do You show me iniquity, And cause me to see trouble? For plundering and violence are before me; There is strife, and contention arises. Therefore the law is powerless, And justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous; Therefore perverse judgment proceeds. (Habakkuk 1:2-4 NKJV)

I will stand at my watch and station myself on the ramparts; I will look to see what he will say to me, and what answer I am to give to this complaint. Then the Lord replied: “Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it. For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay. “See, the enemy is puffed up; his desires are not upright— but the righteous person will live by his faithfulness —

“Will not all of them taunt him with ridicule and scorn, saying, “ ‘Woe to him who piles up stolen goods and makes himself wealthy by extortion! How long must this go on?’ Will not your creditors suddenly arise? Will they not wake up and make you tremble? Then you will become their prey.

Because you have plundered many nations, the peoples who are left will plunder you. For you have shed human blood; you have destroyed lands and cities and everyone in them. “Woe to him who builds his house by unjust gain, setting his nest on high to escape the clutches of ruin! You have plotted the ruin of many peoples, shaming your own house and forfeiting your life. The stones of the wall will cry out, and the beams of the woodwork will echo it.

“Woe to him who builds a city with bloodshed and establishes a town by injustice! Has not the Lord Almighty determined that the people’s labor is only fuel for the fire, that the nations exhaust themselves for nothing? For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.

“Woe to him who gives drink to his neighbours, pouring it from the wineskin till they are drunk, so that he can gaze on their naked bodies! You will be filled with shame instead of glory. Now it is your turn! Drink and let your nakedness be exposed ! The cup from the Lord ’s right hand is coming around to you, and disgrace will cover your glory.

The Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him. (Habakkuk 2:1-4, 6-16, 20 NIV)

Peace.
LWJ

P.S. Norman Girvan, one of the great minds of this modern era, came to faith in Christ Jesus. And so did countless other brilliant minds in the history of mankind, even some of the best known scientists including the remarkable Blaise Pascal. All because of the Word of God as revealed in Holy Scriptures, and with power,  in the life and death of the Living Word, Christ Jesus- the fulfilment of the vision about which Habakkuk prophesied.

My prayer is that this week we will all take time out to do some reflection  on the state of our beloved country, the entire world in which we live, and our own souls, as we contemplate, once again, why Jesus died. And give thanks that because of His resurrection, all things can be, and have been made new in Christ who is truly the Life and the Resurrection. The question is, do we believe?  As all other issues in life pale into insignificance in comparison to this eternal question. Thus is the importance of Passion Week. For me and for you, for Jamaica, and for the entire world.

 

Reckless Bus Drivers, the downfall of Vibz Kartel and how Christ’s death grants new life to individuals, and to a nation

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 – Prayer for The Decade of Evangelism in the Anglican Church.

NEWS

1. The biggest news this week in Jamaica, even eclipsing the start of the Budget Debate, was that Vibz ‘ world boss’ Kartel  will spent 35 years at hard labour in jail for the killing of Clive ‘Lizard’ Williams,  unless his planned appeal is successful. And as noted by the headlines below from the Jamaica Gleaner online, and the link to the BBC, this news  was worthy of note by one of the premier news gathering media houses in the world. 

Vybz Kartel Sentenced To Life In Prison, To Serve 35 Years Before Parole

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=52072

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b03yn10s

We in Jamaica are trying to come to terms with this phenomenon and the effect of his music and his behavior on the inner city youth in particular, and the on the wider society in general. Especially within the context of a shameful and unacceptable  murder  rate, accompanied  by a sharp decline in the moral behavior of our people.

2. Killer Cops – INDECOM: Alleged Police Fatal Shootings Initially Blamed On Civilian Gunmen
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20140401/lead/lead1.html
The other news which triggered much public debate, and which caught my attention, especially since the allegations  were about a situation in the parish in which I work, was the arrest of policemen reportedly involved in a ‘death squad’; and carrying our extra-judicial killings. We await further and better particulars of this case. Suffice it to say, however, if the allegations prove to be accurate, senior members of the JCF will have some serious questions to answer in respect of their knowledge or otherwise of such unlawful behavior, being carried our ‘under their noses’. A matter which would only serve to add to the growing cynicism about the state of my country.

3.  ‘Out and Bad”.. A term I first heard whilst involved in a discussion last Friday night on CVMTV’sLive@7 Discussion program,  on the Driving Exploits of Public Passenger Vehicle Drivers in Jamaica. As I understand it, the term is used to describe actions taken by these ‘ shotta drivers’ – those who are known to drive extremely recklessly – to get around a long line of traffic, at the behest of, and for payment by, commuters who are ‘anxious’ to reach their destination quickly and without  ‘let’, or by the ‘shackle’ of the law. Wow!

4. The final bit of news is heartbreaking, as reported below. And part of the reason why many Jamaicans – I don’t happen to agree with them though I understand – no longer watch local news.

Another Mother Mourns – Twelve-Year-Old Boy The Eighth Child To Be Killed In Denham Town Since 2012

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20140406/lead/lead3.html

I don’t know how many mother will have to continue to mourn their young in this ‘Out and Bad’ country, but God knows it is already far too many. The Police Commissioner – and the Minister of National Security must both be having a massive headache – has issued a directive to the gunmen that, they the police know who they are. And that they should turn themselves in as they, the gunmen,  will not be handled ‘delicately’. Strong message! But how does one police effectively in this ‘out and bad’ country. How does the state protect its citizens when the list of names of the persons allegedly involved, include, Coke..Coke…Coke…Coke; all presumably related to ” The President”, and another ‘world boss’ at one time, Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke; now serving time in the USA, after being extradited during one of the darkest periods of the nation’s history. The upshot of which is the establishment of a Commission of Enquiry into the Tivoli Incursion, during which it is reported that upwards  of 70 Jamaicans died.


THE WORD OF GOD

So to what word of Scripture, or inspired word, did The Lord lead me during this tumultuous week in my country. And in the wider world of ‘pings in the Indian Ocean ‘, as hopefully the search for Flight MH307 draws to a close.

First up was a note to powerful people in my country who can make a collective and  individual difference in the struggle against the kind of madness which the Kartel phenomenon exemplifies. The message is all about an upcoming event, PASSION WEEK, the climax of which is the glorious Easter re-enacting the Resurrection of Christ Jesus from a cruel death of Good Friday. An event which is at the heart of the Christian Gospel, the Good News. And which news far eclipses the day to day news reported by the various media houses, regardless of their impact on a society.

THE FIRST MESSAGE
…..As Passion Week beckons and Lent draws near to its dramatic climax once again. Far eclipsing the news about Kartel, the IMF, Champs, Schools Challenge Quiz, The Mystery of Flight MH370 and errant policemen. And even the ‘March madness’ of road fatalities!

Jesus sought me when a stranger
wandering from the fold of God;
he to rescue me from danger,
interposed his precious blood.

Oh, to grace how great a debtor
daily I’m constrained to be!
Let thy goodness, like a fetter,
bind my wandering heart to thee;
prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
prone to leave The Lord I love;
here’s my heart, oh take and seal it,
seal it for thy courts above…….part of verse 2 and verse 3 of a hymn on which I was led to reflect and share.

The context: An extract from  a meditation from A. Z. Tozer entitled ” Touching Heaven  with Prayer”.

“……Prayer that slavishly follows the day-by-day development of of world news may quite easily be wasted. Most world events as reported by various media ( Tozer 1897-1963 ) are like ping-pong balls being batted back and forth. They are lively enough, they make  an attention -getting racket, but they lack significance.
Surely the God who presides over history knows how few things matter. But he knows also  what things do matter; and if we are spiritual enough to hear his voice  he will lead us to engage in the kind of prayer that will be effective.

Comment: The words of the hymn represent the essence of the Christian Gospel message – The Good News.  A reality from which we as a nation have become ‘prone to wander’, on account of what we consider to be other more ‘pressing problems’ which Tozer attempts to place in perspective.
The challenge for this nation, as  Good Friday comes once again, is to reflect deeply on what really matters in life, in the long run. The immediate or the eternal!  Breaking News or Good News. And to make it more challenging, and instructive, in how we conduct ourselves  in this life, Jesus reminds us that the eternal begins right here on earth, immediately we accept Him as Lord and Savior. So that we may wage war  successfully and give Him the glory;  against injustice, poverty, immorality, evil and other pressing matters, about which the various media report faithfully every day. Sometimes even as breaking news!
So what should we pray and consider on more as individuals and a nation.  Breaking news, or really, really Good News. Hopefully we will follow the example of Joshua……choose ye this day who ye will follow,…..but as for me and my house we will serve The Lord –  Jesus the Good News. Yesterday, today and forevermore.
Peace
LWJ

THE SECOND MESSAGE – is really about the futility and recklessness of being ” Out and Bad’. Whether you are a bus driver, a Kartel, a Kartel ‘disciple’, an errant policeman or woman taking justice into your hands, a member of the New Generation Gang, a politician whose ‘hands are dirty, a businessman who cares only about profit, or a mother, as we heard this week, guilty of ‘pimping ‘ your daughter, defying all moral sensitivity by simulating sex in the ‘middle of the road in broad daylight’ during Carnival, or ‘getting down’ in the romping shop in the dance hall at nights.  For as Kartel  et al, found out this week, Judgement – and Sin and Righteousness – are not just words in the Bible. But rather as assertion from God in Christ that since He came and dwelt among men, and warned us, ‘men are now without excuse’. And since as Kartel et al, have found out, and no doubt soon the New Generation, despite the havoc and mayhem and grief that they cause, and so too,  if those responsible for the death of the passengers of Flight MH307 acted under the control of evil,  that  ‘ all men are truly like grass’ in the presence of an Almighty God. And therefore one day they will come to Judgement, by this same Christ. Whether they believe or not, or ‘thumb their noses’ in defiance,  metaphorically or otherwise,  at the system, as Kartel is reported to have done, is of no consequence.

THE MESSAGE
It started last evening in a Lenten devotional service, when young Father Michael Allen spoke about Sin, Righteousness and Judgement – words that are not often used in conversations by today’s modern man and woman.
It developed last night as I thought about the judgement Kartel received and the reactions by some.
And it resurfaced  this morning during my early morning devotions. Two related passages of Scriptures which teach us much about Sin, and a clear warning about the attendant and inevitable consequences. The most important lesson of which is that, men are without any excuse, because Christ came and taught and with power demonstrated that He was from God.
The third passage is as complete an explanation and historical account of the Gospel as you can read anywhere in the Bible. And from which we learn, if we did not appreciate before, that all men and women, no matter how powerful they may appear to be in the sight of man, are like ‘grass before an Almighty God’. And only His Word, the living Word, and those who accept the free gift on being ‘in Christ’, and reconciled to God, ‘stands forever’. That’s the essence of what Lent seeks to teach all men. That’s the lesson that all of us need to learn from the Kartel experience- that Sin untreated, denied and encouraged, will in the long run, one  day, if not ‘washed and cleansed by the Blood of Jesus’, surely lead to judgement. And, therefore, the judgement handed down by the learned human judge, is, if he does not repent, the least of his problems. That’s why we write, and pray and beseech, and do our best to live what we preach, lest we too be found wanting. That’s the Gospel truth, and the message of Good Friday and Easter. 
Peace.
LWJ




If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. If I had not done among them the works no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. As it is, they have seen, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: ‘They hated me without reason.’ (John 15:22, 24, 25 NIV)

But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because people do not believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned. (John 16:7-11 NIV)


Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear. For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God. Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart. For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. For, “All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord endures forever.” And this is the word that was preached to you. (1 Peter 1:17, 18, 20-25 NIV)

Final Comment: It cannot be coincidence, that today I was privileged to preach in an inner city community on a Bible Passage which describes in very dramatic fashion, how the children of Israel, to whom God revealed Himself in a special way, became ” Out and Bad”. And so the same Lord God caused them to go into exile in Babylon, as recorded in the book of Ezekiel. But this same God Yahweh, in his mercy, through a prophetic message from Ezekiel, promised to ” breathe new Life into the dry bones of Israel” in and through His Spirit. And make them a vast army. Correspondingly, the God whose promises in all of Scripture are fulfilled in Christ Jesus, declared in the story of Lazarus and his ‘resurrection’, that:
John 11: 25…I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?
So no matter how ‘out and bad’ people may be, in Christ Jesus, they can have new life in the One who is the Resurrection and The Life; regardless of how spiritually dead they are. Such is the nature of the love of God in Christ Jesus for all who have sinned and fallen short of His glory – as Kartel et al, and indeed the entire human race has been pronounced guilty by the One and Only Judge of mankind. And this same God,has justified us – declared that we are pardoned of  Sin –  in and through  the Blood of Christ. So tell me, which is the real  breaking news!  Good Friday and Easter or the news of the day. Something to think about in as Lent draws to a close.
Peace.
LWJ