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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
I read my Bible to see what men ought to do; and read my newspapers to see what men are doing – John Newton