Beyond Christmas and beyond Pain and Suffering lies the Cross of Calvary

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

Lord renew thy church beginning with me; Lord renew the church that the church may renew the nation(s)

THE NEWS

1. On the day before I retuned home, having spent a most enjoyable time with friends and family in Miami, I opened my phone to read of the tragedy that took place in my country Jamaica on Christmas Day. One online newspaper reported that five person had been murdered on that day of Peace and Goodwill towards men.

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=57439

What untold sadness and grief and pain must have overcome the families of those five persons. Especially on this the most popular of al holidays in my country! if truth be told however, jamaica is not peculiar in that respect; experiencing tragedy around Christmas time. One well recalls the horror, the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami which killed over 300, 000 person; and the ten year anniversary of which event made the news in the USA this past week

2. The Christmas story continues to dominate the news both in Jamaica and in the USA, even as the Day of celebrations and attendant events recede into the background.

Yes the breaking news of the plane missing over Indonesia, and the continued story of the two slain policemen and the protests over police brutality in the USA held my attention. But the major news for me were the two stories above.

Both of which issue raised in my mind, as I spent time in the richest country in the world, the question of how to minister to people in a materialistic age, when it appears they that really do not need God; on the one hand. While on the other, how do you minister to people in the midst of their suffering and pain; and worse, to those who are the architects of such misery. Perhaps an early quote from a book mentioned later ought to exercise our minds. As it certainly did for me as I read and reflected on it it on the flight back home tonight.

” A man who seemed about to lose both his career and his family once said to me, ” I always knew, in principle, that ‘ Jesus is all you need’, to get through. But you don’t really know Jesus is all you need until Jesus is all you have”.

THE WORD OF GOD

So, in the midst of human suffering, and the story of how the God-Man – a man of sorrows and suffering – unfolded, what Word of word of inspiration did the Lord send?

THE FIRST MESSAGE – Sent out on WhatsApp, speaks directly to the dilution of the Christmas message, which seems to be the ‘big story’ of this materialistic age. A ‘minimalist’, appreciation of the suffering of Christ, and His Resurrection, which according to The Rev. Timothy in his new book ” Walking with God through Pain and Suffering’, is at the root of the inability of Western Societies to handle suffering. And hence rage at God, ” Why me”, or ” Why would a loving God permit this”, when trouble strikes. This, according to Keller, comes about because so many live a lukewarm Christian life. A point he develops in this fascinating book, as Jamaica’s tragedy on Christmas day, and so that which occurred ten years ago in the Indian Ocean, cry out for answers. And which is the point Jesus is making, all because we do not, or to be more accurate, no longer in the Western world, appreciate how sinful we are before a Holy God, and how The fall of Mankind in the Garden of Eden, has brought untold suffering to the world. The only answer to which is the Savior of both Creation and all mankind, The Christ-child; who would later become The Savior of the World, in and through Suffering and Pain, as ordained by God.

THE MESSAGE

BEYOND CHRISTMAS
Jesus says lukewarm love for Him, part time love for Him, is useless, and even dangerous. We have to die to ourselves, our desires, ambitions and love only Him…..because we are wretched in our sins. That’s why He came to die for us. All of us

THE WORD OF GOD
These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. I know your deeds, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish you were either one or the other. So because you are lukewarm – neither neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say ‘ I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing’. But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so that you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can covet your shameful nakedness, and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. ( O Jesus have mercy on my soul for that is how I am seen by a Holy God).
Those who I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent ( of all our presumptuous and pride). Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door ( today if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts…Hebrews 1) I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. Revelations 3: 14-20. NIV
Probably one of the most important messages I have ever written. Why? Because too often we have separated Christmas from Good Friday and Easter. And that was never God’s intention. For what God has joined together let no man, no society, no civilization, set apart.
How did I arrive at this passage. During a reflection on praise song? Praise to the Lord the Almighty, the King of creation……..shieldeth thee gently from harm, or when fainting sustaineth.
May the God of Jacob continue to shield us from spiritual harm and error, and sustain us in a spiritually hostile world. Amen

THE SECOND MESSAGE – sent out on WhatsApp also, features the Salvation story as recoded in Isaiah, many many years before the first Christmas. A history Salvation promised to a people who had rejected “their maker”, The Holy One of Israel. And so His wrath was stored up against them. The same wrath which hangs over the head of ‘all who have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God’. But who , thank God, are saved from this terrible wrath of God, only in and through accepting the gift of forgiveness of sins, wrought by The Christ-child on the Cross of Calvary. Every other narrative, whether told at Christmas or otherwise, is either false or ‘lukewarm’ Christianity – useless and dangerous.

THE MESSAGE

CHRISTMAS – THE COMING OF THE EMMANUEL, GOD IS WITH US – IS THE SALVATION PROMISED TO CHILDREN OF ISRAEL
In that day you will say: I will praise you, O, Lord.
Although you were angry with me, your anger has turned away and you have comforted me.
Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid.
The Lord, the Lord is my strength and song; he has become my salvation.
With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. Isaiah 12:1-3

WHY WAS GOD ANGRY?

1.Because these people have rejected the gently flowing waters of Siloah and rejoices over Resin the son of Remaliah, therefore the Lord is about to bring against them…..

2. When men tell you to consult the mediums and spiritists who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living? To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn.

3. Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from my people….. What will you do on the day or reckoning child…..
SO TO WHOM WAS THE CHILD JESUS WAS PROMISED
The people walking on darkness have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned….
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given…..
AND WHO IS THIS CHILD JESUS
And he shall be called Wonderful Counselor. Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

THE TAKE HOME MESSAGE FOR ME AS I WAS AWAKENED TO READ ISAIAH 7-12 EARLY THIS MORNING?
That those to whom Salvation, Jesus Christ, was promised, and therefore we too in this age, were is serious trouble with God, and subject to His wrath. In fact they had been banished to Assyria on account of their repeated rebellion. And eventually only a remnant was allowed to return to Jerusalem. Consequently they were living in darkness and in the shadow of death. But thank God for Jesus the offer of Salvation, reconciliation with God by grace, came to them. But they had to draw it – accept and receive it. Sadly only a remnant, a small group of people, relatively speaking, in this age also, recognize their desperate state before a Holy God, and are prepared to ‘ draw from the well of salvation. Pray God all of us will realize that we are #BlindPitifulNakedPoorWretched and accept the only Christmas Gift that matters. #ChristourSavior

THE THIRD MESSAGE – again a WhatApp message, set me thinking a lot about my own life, and how I have reflected this necessary and ‘about turn’ in my Christian witnesses. Lest I too be accused of being ‘lukewarm’ and diluting the Christian message, in an era when materialism is proving to the downfall of so many human beings, who are in imminent danger of ‘perishing’. And for whom we need to travail in prayer and in Christian witness. ” For they know not what they do”!

THE MESSAGE
Something to think about. As when Christ comes into our lives, He comes to disturb us. If no profound change takes place, then I question if you have met the Crucified Christ. And so would Tolstoy and all of the early Saints of the Church.

GOOD AND EVIL CHANGED PLACES

LEO TOLSTOY – ONE OF THE GREAT RUSSIAN AUTHORS WHO WROTE ‘ WAR AND PEACE’. CONSIDERED ONE
THE BEST NOVELS EVER WRITTEN. AND ALSO THE CLASSIC ‘ ANNA KARENINA. A MUST READ IF YOU HAVE NOT YET SEEN IT. A CHRISTIAN TO WHOM IS ACCREDITED THE FAMOUS QUOTE: I BELIEVE THAT THE WILL OF GOD IS MOST INTELLIGIBLE EXPRESSED IN THE TEACHINGS OF THE MAN JESUS

VERSE: LUKE 23:43….Jesus answered him, I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.

Five years ago I came to believe in Christ’s teachings, and my life suddenly changed ; I ceased to desire what I had previously desired, and began to desire what I formerly did not want. What had previously seemed good to me seemed evil, and what had seemed evil seemed good.
It happened to me as happens to a man who goes out on some business and on the way suddenly decides that the business is unnecessary and returns home. All that was on his right is now on his left; his former wish to get as far as possible from home has changed into a wish to be as near as possible to it. The direction if my life and my desires became different, and good and evil changed places……

THE FOURTH AND FINAL MESSAGE – sent yesterday, features an introduction to a book, and an early discussion on one of life’s greatest questions. The Problem of Pain and Suffering! Whether #BlackLivesMatter or #AllLivesMatter; Whether in The Indian Ocean or in Jamaica; Whether in #HorrorinPesharar or #Remembering9/11; whether a plane lost over Indonesian waters today or over Malaysian territory last year. And as I continued to read this remarkable book, during the flight home tonight, after having, ‘posted a message’, to senior leaders in all spheres of life in my country yesterday, two other issues resonated with me in these additional excepts;

” Over the years, I also came to realize that adversity did not merely lead people to believe in God’s existence. It pulled those who already believed into a deeper experience of God’s reality, love and grace. One of the main ways in which we move from abstract knowledge about God to a personal encounter with him as a living reality is through the the furnace of affliction. As C.S. Lewis famously puts it, ” God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain”.
THE RISE OF THE IMMANENT FRAME’
In the early modern era, Christianity was ascendant in Europe and in the New World colonies as well. But over the next five hundred years, things changed. As philosopher Charles Taylor asked, ” Why was it virtually impossible not to believe in God in, say, 1500 in our Western society, while in 2000 many of us find this not only easy, but even inescapable” Over the past five centuries, the original faith-filled and religious societies of the West have slowly become more secular…..Belief in God is allowed but regularly challenged as problematic and seen as just one option for life among many others…….Because there is no transcendent, supernatural order, outside of me – which gives rise to the term ” the immanent frame” – it is I who determine what i am and who I will be…… The shift to this new sense of self, Taylor argued, required an enormous new growth in ” confidence in our powers of moral ordering”. In older times, there was a much greater humility about our ability to understand the universe…..
THE MESSAGE
If you are looking for a good book to read: for a better understanding of God; for a deeper relationship with Him; or just tired of the standard answers that do not explain your pain or your circumstance, Rev. Timothy Keller’s new book might be a revelation.
This New York Times best seller of several books, most of which I have read, has an extensive ministry in Manhattan, and which ministry is spreading across the USA. Mainly because he dedicated time after the worship service to listen and respond to the questions of the doubters and skeptics, about which experience he shared in the book that brought him fame; The Reason For God: Belief in an age of Skepticism.
The title of his new book, which I just bought and began reading is : Walking With God Through Pain And Suffering.
Excepts ….
INTRODUCTION
The Rumble of Panic beneath Everything
I think that taking life seriously means something like this: that whatever man does on this planet had to be done in the lived truth of the terror of creation….. of the rumble of panic underneath everything. Otherwise it is false…..
Suffering is everywhere, unavoidable, and its scope often overwhelms. If you spend one hour reading this book, more than five children throughout the world will have died from abuse and violence during that time…. Thousands die from traffic accidents or cancer every hour, and hundreds of thousands learn that their loved ones are suddenly gone…..comparable to the population of a small city being swept away every day…
Shakespeare understood this when he wrote:
Each new morn
New widows howl, new orphans cry
New sorrows strike heaven on the face.
…….Therefore, no matter what precautions we take, no matter how well we have put together a good life, no matter how hard we have worked to be healthy, wealthy, comfortable with friends and family, and success with our career – something will eventually ruin it. No amount of money, power, and planning can prevent bereavement, dire illness, relationship betrayal, financial disaster, or a host of other troubles from entering in your life. Human life is fatally fragile and subject to forces beyond our power to manage. Life is tragic.
……We all need support if we are not to succumb to despair. In this book we will argue that inevitably this support must be spiritual.
LET THE AFFLICTED HEAR AND BE GLAD
…..But at the same time I learned that just as many people find God through affliction and suffering. They find that affliction moves them towards God than away. Troubled times awaken them out of their haunted sleep of spiritual self-sufficiency into a serious search for the divine. Suffering, ” plants the flag of truth within the fortress of a rebel soul”
Comment: Having suffered during very trying times, and survived only by the grace and mercy of God, I can attest to how much those experiences have drawn me closer to God. And thus I write. And write! For at the end of the day, everything is but a passing mist unless you belong to Christ. Regardless of how well you have lived and where! As the same judgement awaits all.
Peace, and in that context I wish for you a New Year in Christ Jesus.
LWJ

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A Christmas Message of Hope for a Troubled World

I read my Bible to see what men ought to do; and read my newspapers to see what men are doing

Lord renew thy church beginning with me; Lord renew the church that the church may renew the nation(s)

NEWS

1. Two Policemen killed in New York….with the attendant grief and pain for the families. But also the potential to derail some of the gains made by the #BlackLivesMatter protest movement, as already there has been some backlash from the NYPD and others, given the comments made by the killer before committing this heinous crime.

http://nypost.com/2014/12/20/2-nypd-cops-shot-execution-style-in-brooklyn/

2. Massacre in Peshawar, Pakistan – Horrible crime against humanity, as 148 children perish in an attack on a school by The Taliban in Pakistan. Regardless of whose children, it takes an especially warped and sick mind to target children, and randomly kill them. This will certainly go down as one of the worse acts of violence for 2014
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-30529135

3. Murder and kidnapping in Nigeria, as the terrorist group Boko Haram strikes yet again
http://www.newsweek.com/boko-haram-suspected-kidnapping-172-women-children-nigeria-293358

4. Despite the above mentioned news item, all worthy of serious considerations, the bigs news all across the world, trumping everything else, is that in a few days time, it will be Christmas day. And yet again Peace and Goodwill to all men will be proclaimed across the globe. An event which changed the entire world, to the extent that history is now divided into clearly defined periods. Before Christ – BC, and After Christ – AD…Ano Domini. And the central message sent by God to the world through His Son, properly understood is that, after Sin entered the world through rebellion by Adam, and all of us have inherited this tendency, in Christ we have a second chance to achieve the holiness and perfection which God intends for His Creation. Truly a message of Hope at a time when there is so much violence in the world. So much unrighteousness in the world. So much injustice. And so much sickness and disasters happening across the entire globe. So,yes, families get together to celebrate! Yes, people are busy buying gifts! Yes, others are busy having the best parties for the whole year. Yes, people will go to church on Christmas day. But most importantly, thank God, yes, since that first Christmas and that first Good Friday and Easter, mankind has been a feee and unmerited gift, grace, to enter and new relationship with our Creator God.

THE WORD OF GOD

So what Word did the Lord send, or inspired word, in the midst of this spasm of violence across the world as we prepare to celebrate, once again the birth of His Son, Jesus our Savior.

One of the great challenges of our times, and a matter addressed by the ArchBishop of Canterbury, the ‘spiritual” leader of the worldwide Anglican church – he has no administrative nor ecclesiastical authority outside of the UK, unlike the Roman Catholic Pope – is the hot button issue of human sexuality and the Church. Or to be more precise, how does God view the lifestyle of LBGT persons, given the growing acceptance of this ‘different from heterosexual’ lifestyle, within some societies and even within some churches, including the Anglican church.
Archbishop Justin Welby On Anglican Communion: ‘There Is A Possibility That We Will Not Hold Together’

https://mail-attachment.googleusercontent.com/attachment/u/0/s/?view=14a46bd195b25254&attid=0.1&disp=attd&realattid=1487431744416189344-local0&safe=1&zw&saduie=AG9B_P8lvQ1cMzfLmPLik9OIFNJS&sadet=1419212796573&sads=xqZQIQOZAZvwmPQUdRe6Lg6xrz8
It is not a traditional Christmas topic, but reflections on this matter features prominently in this weekly message. No doubt, given the fact that I am spending the Christmas in the USA with family, and have to deal with fact that my grandchildren go to school with kids who have two fathers, and two mothers. And in one instance, that kind of ‘different family, also attend church where they go! No doubt the matter is further explored, as it is a very hot topical issue in my country at this time

THE FIRST MESSAGE – sent out on WhatsApp features a song which really ‘got into my head’, this week. A Repentance Song. But an appropriate song for the Christmas, as this is what Jesus came to do- call people to repentance from their sins, and turn to God.
THE MESSAGE

Just before taking Holy Communion in out church, we sing or say the Agnus Dei; an ancient rite of the church coming from the days of Ambrose, one of the early church fathers.

Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world have mercy on us….repeated twice. And then the third time ….grant us thy peace.

Of late we have’ jazzed’ it up with a reggae/rasta beat. And the song has just gotten into my head. I keep singing the first part time and time again. This morning I woke up with the song in my heart. Try it. It should be easy. And it will get ‘ into your head’, as it’s a repentance song which is appropriate as we celebrate the first coming of Jesus as Savior. And not as Judge, which is a different matter altogether. Then the world will come to an end, and all those who only understand Christmas as time of Peace, and Goodwill towards all men, and ignore the call to Repentance will have a time of reckoning.

O Lamb of God.,..bum bum….you take away the sins of the world… bum bum….have mercy on my soul… grant us thy Peace

My wife and I leave for Miami to spend time with our children and grands. I will be back in a week. May the Lord’s Peace, the presence of the Risen Christ, be with all of us in a special way, this Christmas.

THE SECOND MESSAGE again sent out on WhatsApp reflects on the supernatural nature of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is one of the central messages of Christmas – that The Almighty God can come and live in us by faith, and by the Power of The Holy Spirit. And change our lives forever. A humanly impossible task. But with God ‘nothing is impossible’.

The essence of the Christmas story is revealed in Mary’s experience with The Angel Gabriel when she was told that she would ‘ with child’. And she questioned, ‘ how will this be?’

Then she was told about the power of The Holy Spirit and that
‘ For with God nothing is impossible’.
It’s a message of tremendous hope as we celebrate this Christmas amidst harsh economic times, a reduction in the murder rate, the washing of the feet of persons who some believe cannot change and therefore by extension do not need to repent of the sin of homosexuality, governance issues, Barack Obama’s brave moves in recent times, police brutality in the USA #BlackLivesMatter, madness in Pakistan, and in Nigeria, personal challenges with relationships illness and finances, greed, pride, anxiety, anger, envy and lust; madness in Australia; all of which ills and challenges God can change with the same Power that Mary experienced, and which caused Jesus to Rise from the dead. That’s the real message of Christmas from Jesus The Savior of all mankind.
Peace.

THE THIRD AND FOURTH MESSAGES – were sent to senior members of my church and other Priests, as a follow up to the action taken by one of our Priests to ‘wash the feet’, of LGBT persons inside a church, and social media discussions on this issuE. But the message transcends the homosexual issue and goes to the heart of the Christmas message – that as God did not have any sympathy for Sin, but rather sent His Son to die because of it, so too, we the Baptized, must never tolerate or sympathize nor excuse Sin. The sinner yes. But not the sin. As, ultimately, God calls us to a life of holiness. And which life of holiness is only possible in and through Christ Jesus

THE THIRD MESSAGE

In defense of The Full Gospel of Christ against ill informed ” Human Rights activists”
I arrived in Miami this morning to spend the Christmas with family. Took us two hours to clear immigration and customs. Long lines! Seems a lot of people had the same idea. Picked up by my daughter and her two boys. Went for lunch. Tagged along for the obligatory shopping. Taken home with the boys and the ladies went back out.
So I am here with the boys, and, surprise surpise, video games trump the intial excitement of seeing grandpa. So grandpa turns to the Bible to read the Christmas story in Luke’s gospel. And what do I find:

” I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God…and now you will be silent until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words”. Luke 1: 19-20 NIV…..addressing Zechariah after the priest had questioned God’s ability to give him a child – John the Baptist – in his old age.

Immediately, I thought about Jesus, who is God Himself, and who told the woman caught in adultery, after encouraging her rather than condemning her, to ” go ye and sin no more”. This same Jesus who warned another person He healed to, ” stop sinning or something worse may happen to you”. This same Jesus who told us that if He had not come and spoken, “they would not be guilty of sin”, but now because He came on earth people have not ‘excuse’.
So even if we do not fully understand the reasons why some persons are sexually attracted to (” have feelings for”) others of the same sex ( and who can really fully explain sin), Paul, a man anointed, and appointed by our Lord – stood in His presence – to teach us the essence of the Christian faith clearly, includes this attraction, along with a hosts of others sins, in the fundamental Christian doctrine that ” all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”.

Very clearly then, the sin of homosexuality, properly understood according to Paul, is part of the fallen nature of mankind. Regardless of the controversy over its origins!

Why then this defense of Paul tonight, and who like Gabriel, ‘stood in the presence of God”? Because there is circulating in social media, an ‘apology’ of the homosexual lifestyle, by human rights activists, that argues that, ‘because persons feel that way from an early age, and have no control over their ‘different from heterosexual ‘ desires, such behavior is not sinful. Further, that Christians who have a contrary view, are guilty of not being compassionate and caring, and even in one case cited recently, may very well be guilty of, or in some way contribute to, causing such an individual to commit sucide. In the midst of this we have persons writing ‘authoritatively’, about the faith, with litttle or no knowledge of the foundations of the faith: Creation, Fall, Redemption and final Judgement; persons, without any compassion, mocking individuals who are ‘anti-gay’ and then are found in a moment of passion and revelation to be ‘closet gays’; persons, who in anger, write that anyone who is lacking in compassion and not in support of LGBT persons, after concluding that Jesus would support them unconditiionally, recommend that such persons ought to find another religion.

Really outrageous comments which lack any understanding and honest appreciation of the long standing, but not very public knowledge of so many Christians who have struggled with homosexuals and other marginalized individuals, like prostitutes, in respect of their lifestyle and felt needs. In camera! Far away from the ‘ maddening crowd’! Not seekiing any approval nor recognition from man. Only from the God they served, and continue to serve, without accusing anyone else of being lacking in compassion.

No doubt that’s why I was drawn to a meditation by Oswald Chambers this week who reflected on the revelation that Jesus did not come to bring peace but a sword. That the sword is to deal with anything that does not accord with what Jesus taught about Himself. Which essentially is that ‘only in Him can we become the new creation’. And only Christ and Him Crucified, is the Peace that we all need. Not some diluted version of Christmas story – which ignores the Easter Vigil, and which version would have us believe that ” peace and goodwill towards all men”, can be achieved without recognition of Sin, rejection of Sin, and repentance of Sin.
If I sound passionate and distressed, it is because I am. And have been for a few days. Until tonight when the Lord, in His wisdom, and for the glory of His Son, and for the renewal of the church, led me to write.
May we all experience the Peace, this Christmas, that only The Crucified, Risen and Ascended Christ, the full gospel of Christ, can bring, and Who was sent to us from the very presence of God, on that first Christmas day, over 2000 years ago.
LWJ

THE FOURTH MESSAGE

Oswald Chambers writes in this vein as I go to my bed. after having written with no thought of what Chambers had in mind. can this really be coincidence? or a validation of a message from the Lord. You decide.
Peace.

LWJ

The Right Kind of Help
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.

Concluding comment – I pray then that all of us, whether in Jamaica, in New York City, or any where else, may experience, this Christmas, the true and sustained Peace, which only Jesus can give.

Amen

LWJ

An Anglican Priest washes rhe feet of LGBT persons and provokes controversy: Jesus dies for everyone on the Cross and calls for Repentance

I read my Bible to see what men ought to do; and read my newspapers to see what men are doing

Lord renew thy church beginning with me; Lord renew the church, that the church may renew the nation(s)

THE NEWS.

1. The Anglican church in Jamaica was in the news this week. For the wrong reasons. At least from my perspective as a faithful member of that church for over fifty years.
First up was a very controversial action by a Priest which hit the headlines in Jamaica’s oldest, biggest and most influential newspaper, The Daily Gleaner. Twice in one week.

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20141208/lead/lead1.html
The essence of the story, which emerged from the Gleaner report, a probing, but very fair and balanced interview on rjrfm94 by one of Jamaica’s top journalist, who is a member of the church in questions, and remarks on social media are as follows.
The Priest, Father Sean Major-Campbell, who is also a friend and brother in Christ, elected to welcome gays and transgender individuals into his church during a service to mark International Day of Human Rights. Further, he engaged in an ancient rite, washing their feet, normally reserved for the night before Good Friday, Maunday Thursday. All of this, he argued, was to initiate a conversation in his church, about LGBT persons and their rights as fellow human beings. And whose human rights have been and continue to be, trampled on in our society. Further, that the church ought to be much more involved in the promotion of their human rights, and more accepting and welcoming in the church.

2. The second one was worse. Far worse! An accusation of fraudulent conduct by another Anglican Priest, involving millions of dollars, and one who is also a friend. Consequently Father Everton Cunningham was arrested and given bail this week, and the story hit the media. He has since reportedly pleaded not guilty to, at least some, of the charges.
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/anglican-priest-charged-with-fraud

Yes, the West Kingston Enquiry continued with some riveting testimonies this week. Yes gruesome acts of murder still continue to plague our native land. Yes, folks continue to march in New York and other cities across the USA insisting that #BlackLivesMatter.
But for me personally, and as a member of the Anglican Church Community in Jamaica, these two news items showed how much, unless proven otherwise, we have, as Bible based Christians, in these two instances, which may be symptoms of a deeper problem, gone off track.

THE WORD OF GOD
So what Word of inspired word did the Lord send in the midst of this personal and collective pain. In a word – Repentance. In both the messages sent out on WhatsApp and those sent to Father Major-Campbell and senior members of my church. For, as I listened to the Lord, and to what Father Major-Campbell said, and to the interviews he gave, I formed the opinion that he had erred badly in not consulting his church members in general, before taking such a controversial action. Also that in his desire to protect the human rights of LGBT persons, in this context, he might well have given thee impression, that some sinners need only to have their ‘feet washed’, rather than to turn to God in repentance. But perhaps, the most serious issue is whether or not he regards homosexual acts as a sin. Finally, as happens in many instances whenever this troublesome issue is discussed, many take a hard position; that if one is not in agreement with the homosexual lifestyle, then it is not possible to have compassion on our fellow human beings, and seek also to protect their human rights, but not their right to engage in sin. And that is so far from the truth. So as the Lord spoke to me, I wrote to my friend.

First Letter

Dear Sean:

A 4:am early morning revelation – with a heavy hand

From Miletus, Paul sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church. When they arrived, he said to them: “You know how I lived the whole time I was with you, from the first day I came into the province of Asia. I served the Lord with great humility and with tears and in the midst of severe testing by the plots of my Jewish opponents. You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house. I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus. “And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace. “Now I know that none of you among whom I have gone about preaching the kingdom will ever see me again. Therefore, I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of any of you. For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God. Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears. (‭Acts‬ ‭20‬:‭17-31‬ NIV)

When I had finished reading, the following points, in particular, reverberated in my head.

1. The foundation Christian message of the call to repentance – ‘to turn to God and have faith in Christ’

2. The central aim of the life of the Apostle – to testify about the good news of the grace of God
3. The warning – with tears – to keep watch over yourself and all the flock; against the prophesied marauding wolves that would come and distort the truth and lead people astray – even from within.

4. That Paul declared that he was innocent of the blood of everyone whom he met, as he had never failed to preach the whole will of God.
As I read the last point, my mind went to John’s revelation that , the work of God is to believe in the one who He sent – The Bread of Life. And having read that famous passage, which concludes in an exposition on Holy Communion, I went to my bed. But not before, as I walked along the passage way, hearing very clearly, : He must increase and I must decrease.

Then this morning, as I prepared for my early morning devotions came this …praise the Lord, praise the Lord, let the earth hear… And try and as might I could not recall the name of the hymn. So I went to Google and found a familiar hymn: To God be the glory.
Then I wondered what was the message The Lord had for me in this hymn. And as I read, these ‘revelations’ struck me.
…who yielded his life an atonement for sin,
and opened the life gate that all may go in

..the vilest offender who truly believes
that moment from Jesus a pardon receives

This is the message to me about this controversial issue in which you have played the central role. But no doubt the Lord has spoken to your heart on this difficult matter also. I will write about it on Sunday, will expand further on what I understand from this Word, will include other messages, that I received and shared during this week, and pray God, more to come, if it is His will. I pray God that you will listen to all who share with you, and to the God who you serve, on this very difficult issue. For although a call to repentance, and to turn to a loving Creator and Redeemer God, is the foundation of the Christian message, so too is the call to minister to the ‘least of these’ in every society, and to seek after the lost, the stray, the wounded, and those who persecute us, as ‘God is merciful to the wicked and the ungrateful’.
I pray God that He whose Word declares that ” I wisdom dwells with prudence”, may grant you, and the wider church, His wisdom and to guide us in times like these.
My love to Janet.
In obedience
LWJ

The Second Letter

Although I have a board meeting this morning, I did not plan to be up so early. When I looked at the time. it was 5:30am. And just before I awoke this came into my mind:

“He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, ‘ Lord, are you going to wash my feet?’
Jesus replied, ‘ You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.
‘ No,’ said Peter, ‘ you will never wash my feet’.
Jesus answered, ‘ Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.’
‘Then, Lord, said Simon Peter replied, ‘not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!’
Jesus answered, ‘ A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet, his whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you…..”
John13:6-10

I suppose there are other messages for us in this age, and at this time, in words which appear both before and after this passage. But this is what came into my head – this section. Also that, Jesus washed His disciples’ feet, after three years of teaching, and journeying with him. At the end! Not at the beginning. And so he was able to respond to Peter’s desire for a ” body wash”, with an assurance that he Peter, was already clean. What does that mean in the context of the looming Cross is something on which to ponder deeply. Perhaps John 6:61, to which I was led, offers an insight: ” The Spirit gives life, the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit, and they are life”. Whatever the answer, the reality is that these were disciples, who had journeyed with Him for a long time. And not the uninitiated!
The problem we face Sean, as a Christian community, is that, without context, without preparation, regardless of your motives, people who learn about this action from the press, may receive a wrong impression of the Christian faith. That those who sin, all they need, is to have their feet washed; by a compassionate and caring priest, who is concerned about their humanity. When what is required is repentance, and the washing away of their sins by The Blood of The Lamb.
I am not sure who coined the phrase, and I speak about it with great humility, or where I came upon it – A traitor to the Cross – whether it was Oswald Chambers, John Stott, or Paul himself in the Bible. I am not sure. But this warning, I think, is the essence of this early morning message. And one, who has been saved by grace, clearly cannot guard him or herself too carefully aginst being thus accused. In this age, or in the age to come! As, ultimately, this constant thought, of knowing only Christ and Him crucified, and by extension being faithful to promote, and to lift up His Name, the Crucified One, was the goal of the Apostle who, by the power of the Holy Spirit, taught us about Christ. Such a desire should occupy pride of place in our hearts. Thus we ought to guard it carefully, less other worthy, but nontheless, secondary matters, such as the pursuit of human rights, replace ‘our first love’. And as church, we do not want to be accused of ‘forsaking your first love’. Whether in Ephesus or in Kingston.
Peace
LWJ
N. B. As I went to write…At the cross, at the cross, where I first saw the light, and the burden of my sins fell away……came into my mind.

My friend acknowledged my letters and thanked me for them.

THE SECOND SET OF MESSAGES sent out on WhatsApp.

The first one addresses the Tivoli excursion, a matter which is placed, I believe in its correct perspective by Ian Boyne writing in todays Daily Gleaner.

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20141214/focus/focus4.html

The First Message

As we agonize over the pain of the people of Tivoli Gardens, and the pain which people like Dudus and Jim Brown and others have caused across our land, and so much more pain and agony in our personal lives, and wonder about our country and our God:

WORDS FROM A HYMN

LIFT EVERY VOICE AND SING
3RD VERSE

God of our weary years, God of our silent tears,
thou who hast brought us thus far on the way;
keep us forever in the path, we pray.
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we first met thee;
lest our hearts, drunk with the wine of the world, we forget thee;
shadowed beneath thy hand, may we ever stand,
true to our God, true to our native land.

The Second Message – really speaks to the need for us to ‘dwell in the house of the Lord’, at all times lest we falter under the inevitable attacks of the evil one who is intent on destroying the church and all those who do God’s work. Whether it be willful sins or to be guilty of ‘taking our eyes off the Cross of Christ”.

A WORD FOR THOSE WHO PUT THEIR TRUST IN GOD IN TIMES LIKE THESE IN OUR NATION AND IN OUR PERSONAL LIVES

The second one came as I knelt to pray before going to bed last night. Then the accompanying Psalm came this morning as I prepared to start writing.
The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid?
When evil men advance against me to devour my flesh ( remember that in the New Testament the church is the body of Christ),
when my enemies and my foes attack me, they will stumble and fall.
Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear,
though war break out against me, even then will I be confident.
One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and seek him in his dwelling.
For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling……
Psalm 27

The Final Message – contains as assurance that sustained and believing prayer will, not just can, destroy every stronghold that sets itself up against the knowledge of God.
Thus fully armed let us go forward in faith and pray that the ‘divine power ‘ will protect our brothers and sisters from error and temptations, and rescue us, our church and nation from the evil one. But with the full knowledge that everything begins with repentance and a turning away from Sin, and to God in and through faith in the Atonement wrought by Jesus on Cross of Calvary. A gift from God to the entire human race. Whether we be gay or straight, Ordained or Lay, High Official or ordinary citizen!
Peace
LWJ

Trouble in New York City, trials in Tivoli in Jamaica and Peace only in Christ Jesus

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

Lord renew thy church, beginning with me; Lord renew thy church that the church may renew the nation(s)

THE NEWS

1. The cruel and entirely unnecessary death of Eric Garner which spawned hash tags sponsored stories, #EricGarner #ICan’tBreathe #BlackLivesMatter # ChokeHold dominated the press in the USA and in social media in particular in Jamaica, and no doubt across the world. Why? Because apparently Black Lives do not matter to many Police Officers in the USA. And the recent decision by the Grand Jury to absolve one of New York’s ‘finest’, of any criminal responsibility for what the autopsy report describes as a homicide, and for the death of Eric Gaynor, the video footage of which went viral, has triggered one of the largest nationwide protests in the USA in recent times. Everyone is asking, especial after, in recent times # Michael Brown in Ferguson,and many others, what’s up with racial violence in the USA, and in particular the police force. And why is the Justice system seemed to be condoning such actions. A matter which must be terribly embarrassing for the nation’s first black President Barack Obama.

http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/video/2014/dec/04/i-cant-breathe-eric-garner-chokehold-death-video

http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/eric-garner-chokehold-death-a-grand-jury-blind-to-the-evidence-before-it-9908352.html

The question may very be posed of whether, among developed countries, the situation in the USA is similar to other countries. And the answer is a resounding ‘No’. Have a look at the data in the link below.

Over 400 per year in the USA compared to one in the UKOn average, at least one person is killed by a cop every day in the U.S. In contrast, not a single one was killed in Britain last year, where police fired their guns a grand total of three times, according to The Economist. In 2011, when the FBI reported 404 justifiable law enforcement homicides in the U.S., police killed six people in Australia, two in England,

http://edition.cnn.com/2014/12/01/opinion/ghitis-police-shootings/

2.[PDF]
TERMS OF REFERENCE FOR THE COMMISSION OF ENQUIRY 1 …
jis.gov.jm/media/TOR-for-West-Kingston-COE-2014.pdf
(d) the conduct of operations by the security forces of Jamaica in Tivoli Gardens and related areas during the said State of Emergency in the month of May 2010;.

#TivoliEnquiry #WitnessesNotCredible #LawyersHarassingWitnessesWhoWishToTellTheirStory #DaguilarKickedOutOfTheCommission ……..

dominated the news in Jamaica this week. But the establishment of the Commission itself opens up the nation to many challenges. Recall that the event under review took place in May 2010. One of the most traumatic, emotionally and physically, period in the nation’s recent history. The background was the extradition request sent by the US government for what they described as a major International Criminal dealing in drugs. The person in question, Christopher ” Dudus ” Coke, was the reputed ‘area leader’ for Tivoli Gardens, the political stronghold of the sitting member of Parliament, who was also the Prime Minister of Jamaica. Members of community, mostly women and children, led a march in the capital city protesting the extradition of Mr. Coke, and pledging their ‘undying’ allegiance to him. Even to the point of, based on one placard, comparing Mr. Coke to Jesus. So too did the Prime Minister, based on what he assumed, and perhaps still continues to hold that view, was good legal ground. The upshot of all of this was that, after dramatic debates in the parliament and in the society, after much violence around the community, and no doubt unrelenting pressure from the USa, eventually the PM capitulated to their demand for Coke’s extradition, and members of the security forces were sent in to a barricaded and reportedly fiercely defended by armed gunmen, to capture Mr. Coke.

The PM subsequently resigned. In the process of the Tivoli Incursion, a great tragedy ensued, as when the dust had cleared, over 70 Jamaicans lay dead, and Mr. Coke had escaped. He was later captured, and flown to the USA where he is now serving a long jail sentence. And in the wake of all of this a part of the Jamaican family suffered immensely. But not them alone! Yes, they alone bore the brunt of whatever unlawful acts were committed by the security forces, and which breech of human rights constitutes one of the terms of reference of the Commission. But the country has suffered much from the activities of Mr. Coke; and whose ‘reign’ in Tivoli Gardens had the public, and perhaps indeed to some extent the private, support of the community.
For this man was was no ordinary criminal. His influence, reportedly extended way beyond the narrow confines of Tivoli Gardens, and many Jamaicans, if the truth be told, are convinced that this ‘ President’, as head of a major drug ring, was a significant reason, at least in recent times, for a lot of the violent crimes committed in our country.

And therefore the nation breathed a collective sigh of relief when he left for prison elsewhere.
That is the context in which an enquiry is being carried out in respect of the deaths of part of the Jamaican family in Tivoli. Hopefully the truth will emerge, healing will take place, justice will carried out and measures will be put in place that will prevent the ‘ capturing’ of any other community, by anyone else or group of persons.

Yes, the PM of Jamaica answered questions on the still very topical Outameni NHT issue, and the Daily Gleaner posted a very useful Editorial on the matter :

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20141207/cleisure/cleisure1.html

and the USA’s brave but failed attempt to rescue two persons held hostage by the terrorist group Al qaeda in Yemen caught my attention. But the main news, from my perspective was all about Eric #ChokeHold Garner. And America, not just Black America, were in a rage. So too the news about the Tivoli enquiry, as the witnesses complained about being harassed, and are enraged that they who suffered are not being allowed to tell their story.

THE WORD OF GOD

So what Word, or inspired word did the Lord sent in the midst of this madness in the USA, and memories of madness in Kingston Jamaica. Again this week I wrote mostly on WhatsApp. And the first message was about a hymn, the words of which in the USA; black and white, police and citizens, Democrats and Republicans, angry black men and a black President, all need to reflect on the message of God’s love and mercy, in this time of rage, of grief, and of bewilderment. So too the people of Tivoli Gardens and the wider Jamaican family. For when the protesters are all gone home, when the media leaves to cover another more exciting story, when the high rhetoric of concerned persons has all gone silent, when the Commission of Enquiry is all over, the family of Eric Garner will have to pick up the pieces of their lives and move on. So too, the families of those who suffered loss, and bereavement in Tivoli, and the wider Jamaican family who suffered because of Mr. Coke. And only God can help them to do that. As many who have suffered in the same way across the world can attest. From injustice and gross wickedness!

THE MESSAGE
A HYMN FOR HOLY COMMUNION WHICH CAPTURES THE ESSENCE OF THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST
For in His Broken Body and Poured out Blood, we have forgiveness of sins. In Him alone we find Peace for our weary souls. And in regular participation in This Holy Sacrament we, ‘ see him face to face’. Finally we are reminded that we have no help but Him, and His Grace and Power are sufficient. Join with me in prayer as my church celebrates 350 years of Christian witness today.

THE HYMN
Here, O my Lord, I see thee face to face;
here faith would touch and handle things unseen;
here grasp with firmer hand the eternal grace,
and all my weariness upon thee lean.
Here would I feed upon the bread of God;
here drink with thee the royal wine of heaven;
here would I lay aside each earthly load;
here taste afresh the calm of sin forgiven.
I have no other help but thine: nor do I need
another arm save thine to lean upon:
it is enough, my Lord, enough indeed,
my strength is in thy might, thy might alone.

THE SECOND MESSAGE – speaks to one of the greatest comforts that God, who created heaven and earth, the sea and everything in it, has to offer a troubled soul, or a troubled nation. That His grace is sufficient for our every need and trial in life. No matter how challenging the circumstances are! For in the midst of the apparent weakness and trials of His embattled children, His mighty strength is waiting to be unleashed. A fact that we can all attest to in Jesus’ death and suffering on the Cross of Calvary in the the mighty Act of Atonement ; the forgiveness of the Sins of the entire world. For who knows what great pursuit of Justice, for all Americans, and not just for Black America, may result from the horrific death of Eric Garner, and the Tivoli gardens incursion.
And it is not just a Word for ‘huge issues’, but for everyday happenings, when the trials of life just seem insurmountable and we wonder what to do, viz, the light bill, school fees, the mortgage, the ‘out of order’ child, the ‘ unfaithful ‘ husband, the many health issues…and so much more. But be assured that God’s grace and mercy, are always sufficient for the day. And he bids us not to worry about tomorrow.

THE MESSAGE

HYMN

WORDS TO BEGIN THE DAY

1. Master, speak! Thy servant heareth,
waiting for thy gracious word,
longing for the voice that cheereth;
Master, let it now be heard,
I am listening, Lord, for thee;
what has thou to say to me……
THE WORD WHICH THE LORD SPOKE TO ME AND TOLD ME TO SEND TO YOU.
….” My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness….. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Cor. 12:9-10.NIV

Rev. Peter Marshall – former chaplain to the US Senate (1902-1949) God is sufficient for all our needs, for every problem, and for every broken heart, and for all human sorrow.

THE THIRD MESSAGE

One of, if not the key thing, that a child of God, or any aspiring Christian needs to practice, is to have the presence of God always with him or her. There is no greater discipline, and hence tremendous reward – having the Creator of Earth and Heaven with you at every step of the way – than this. For this practice will lead to great joy and peace in the midst of all trials and tribulations that will inevitably come our way in this life. A point made by Chris Tiegreen in a wonderful meditation that I was led to read on awakening this morning – perhaps part of the reason for the delay in sending out this weekly ministry

A CERTAIN PEACE

VS: John 14:27…” Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid’

We live in an unsettling world. There is no such thing as security here. Thieves break in, accidents happen, illness strikes, terror assaults (In Yemen, on the streets in New York and in Tivoli Gardens), and death comes to all – no one is immune. No human institution can guarantee our safety. The locks on our doors, the airbags in our cars, the medicines on our shelves – they may help us, but they do not come with promises. We walk on shaky ground.
On the night before he was betrayed, Jesus reminds His disciples of this certain truth. Even He, the Son of God, will experience the uncompromising danger of a fallen world.. But He leaves them with a promise: peace. They may breathe a sigh of relief. There is a sure foundation for security, not in this place, but in the One who transcends it. They need never be troubled if they rest secure in Him.

Comment: the reality is that even though the nation breathed a collective sigh of relief when Coke was extradited, trouble in the form of gun related violence still plagued the nation, and continues to do so. Despite the fact that hopefully we are on track to have one of the lowest rates of homicide in many years. And the reality is that long after the justice system is fixed in America, both Black and Whites and Hispanics and others wil experience trouble of various forms. As according to Alexander MacLaren:

” Peace comes not from the absence of trouble, but from the presence of God.

THE MESSAGE

THE WORD OF GOD Luke 24:13-35 ( recommend that you read the entire passage and not just the verses used below)

” Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked with them, but they were kept from recognizing them, but they were kept from recognizing him…..
He said to them, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken. Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory. And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself….
When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it, and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, Were not our hearts burning within us as he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?

COMMENT

If you talk about Jesus, when you wake up, and when you lie down, if you trust in Him, He will walk with you, even if you don’t see Him…..we walk by faith and not by sight….and He will reveal Himself through The Holy Scriptures: and more so whenever by faith, we receive The Blessed Sacrament of Holy Communion. Even in the midst, and perhaps, more so, of your pain and confusion and tribulations.
Song: words that came into my heart as I write…Reach out and touch the Lord as He passes by…He is passing by this moment…Praise God.

THE FOURTH MESSAGE

… is a message from a prayer to the God who rules over us, who alone can forgive our sins, and who alone in Christ Jesus can renew our souls.

WALKING WITH JESUS
JACOB BOEHME
VERSE 24:15

AT EVENING

I thank you O God, for your care and protection this day, keeping me from physical harm and spiritual corruption. I now place the work of the day into your hands, trusting that you will redeem my errors and turn my achievements to your glory. And I now ask you to work within me, trusting that you will use the hours of rest to create in me a new heart and a new soul. Let my mind, which through the day has been directed to my work, through the evening be wholly directed at you.

Finally, a revelation! Not from the Bible, but from some persons ” bible”. The New York Times! And in the form of a vey penetrating article written by OP ED writer David Brooks. An evaluation of one aspect of Capitalism – the dominant economic philosophy of our age – and the spiritual pitfalls. I suspect if one looks deep into this article, from such an unlikely place, just maybe we can find an answer, in part only, to the madness played on the streets of New York City and in Tivoli Gardens. I tweeted and sent this article by e-mail to some leaders in my country.

In 1976, Daniel Bell published a book called “The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism.” Bell argued that capitalism undermines itself because it nurtures a population of ever more self-gratifying consumers. These people may start out as industrious, but they soon get addicted to affluence, spending, credit and pleasure and stop being the sort of hard workers capitalism requires.

Bell was right that there’s a contradiction at the heart of capitalism, but he got its nature slightly wrong. Affluent, consumerist capitalists still work hard. Just look around.

The real contradiction of capitalism is that it arouses enormous ambition, but it doesn’t help you define where you should focus it. It doesn’t define an end to which you should devote your life. It nurtures the illusion that career and economic success can lead to fulfillment, which is the central illusion of our time.

David Brooks
Politics, culture and the social sciences.
Why Elders SmileDEC 4
Class Prejudice ResurgentDEC 1
The Unifying LeaderNOV 24
Love and GravityNOV 20
Obama in WinterNOV 17
See More »

Capitalism on its own breeds people who are vaguely aware that they are not living the spiritually richest life, who are ill-equipped to know how they might do so, who don’t have the time to do so, and who, when they go off to find fulfillment, end up devoting themselves to scattershot causes and light religions.

To survive, capitalism needs to be embedded in a moral culture that sits in tension with it, and provides a scale of values based on moral and not monetary grounds. Capitalism, though, is voracious. The personal ambition it arouses is always threatening to blot out the counterculture it requires.

Modern China is an extreme example of this phenomenon, as eloquently described by Evan Osnos in his book, “Age of Ambition,” which just won the National Book Award for nonfiction.

As Osnos describes it, the capitalist reforms of Deng Xiaoping raised the ambition levels of an entire society. A people that had been raised under Mao to be a “rustless screw in the revolutionary machine” had the chance, in the course of one generation, to achieve rags-to-riches wealth. This led, Osnos writes, to a hunger for new sensations, a ravenous desire to make new fortunes.

Peace.

LWJ

As Ferguson in the USA burns with anger, and Jamaica remains a troubled land, Jesus invites us to ” A Closer Walk with Him”; beginning at Calvary

I read my Bible to see what men ought to do; and read my newspapers to see what men are doing

Lord renew thy church beginning with me: Lord renew the church that the church may renew the nation(s).

THE NEWS

1.The news about the NHT purchase of the all of or some of the Outameni Tourist attraction continues to the ‘talk of the town’ in my country. The basic principle fueling the debate is whether or not tax dollars, earmarked for building affordable homes for contributors – all salaried persons – ought to have been used to buy a property, which in the minds of many people, does not have anything to do with housing. The cabinet has supported the purchase, and the PM is to answer further questions tomorrow in the Parliament. In the meanwhile the debate continues unabated. And in fact protests have been organized, both online and in the public space, triggered by a comment by a senior government minister and Party Chairman Robert Pickergill that Twitter users – used as an example of the general dissatisfaction in the society over the the purchase by a ‘pesky’ journalist – are a ‘articulate minority’, and do not in fact represent ‘ordinary’ Jamaicans.

2. Predictable, and predicted, the ‘Grand Jury’ which adjudicated on the “Brown vs the Police Office Darren Wilson”, who shot and killed the teenager in Ferguson USA, returned a verdict that the officer did not have a case to answer. And so predictably, and as predicted, Ferguson burned. This despite a public appeal from President Obama for calm. Many commentators have lamented the fact that once more, a young unarmed black male, was killed by a white male, this time an officer, and no one was found criminally responsible. And so the rage, and fear continues to grip Black Americans, not just in Ferguson, but all over the country

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2844491/Ferguson-Missouri-Police-officer-Darren-Wilson-NOT-face-charges-shooting-unarmed-black-teen-Michael-Brown.html

3. http://www.orlandosentinel.com/sports/football/os-ray-rice-george-diaz-1201-20141130-column.html
The above link features an article on Ray Rice, the NFL Football player, made famous for beating his wife in a New Jersey elevation, for which he was suspended from playing. For a while! And now he has been reinstated and cleared to play. Question is, who will employ him given the negative publicity that will still stick to him over his domestic violence rap. His wife, puzzling for many, has stuck with him, and yet is now a crusader against domestic violence. Question is, does he deserve another chance, or once one has committed such a dastardly act, the penalty is ‘life” ?

THE WORD OF GOD.

Of late the Lord the Lord has led me to write more on WhatsApp, a medium which people, from all reports, use more than straight texting or answering the phone. So this week, three relatively short messages were sent. The first one deals with the issue of persistent asking. This message coming in a week when I was led to reflect deeply again, on Ephesians 1:15-23 NIV

For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way. (‭Ephesians‬ ‭1‬:‭15-23‬ NIV)

All of this happening when so many people are struggling to deal with Post Chik V symptoms which are as bad, if not worse than the initial presentation. And perhaps worse to come in the form of Ebla! A time when people are having a hard time meeting their financial responsibilities – bills, loans, supermarket purchases. A time when getting increasingly disillusioned by our political leaders – no better herring, no better barrel – is how one retired woman, who is no fan of the Opposition Party, declared. A time when, despite the welcome news about the reduction in violent crime, the wickedness of these gunmen, still drives fear into the hearts of many people. A time when, even elements within the church seem to have lost their way; a view argued by popular and highly respected journalist and Pastor Ian Boyne in his regular column in the Daily Gleaner today entitled, ” Can the Church be Saved”.
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20141130/focus/focus1.html

Although I don’t agree with his apparent pessimism and alarm about what is taking place in some aspects of the church. As this ‘body of Christ’ has never been a ‘success’ story in the way that the world defines success. For as the Scriptures tell us, wide is the road that leads to destruction, but narrow is the road that leads to eternal life. And therefore what is happening in today’s world, lured by ‘ all that glitters and is not gold’, is that people are choosing what Moses from antiquity warned against. ” Death and curses over Life and blessings”. Only because what they think are worthwhile pursuits; fame, power, earthly wisdom, riches, pleasure without ceasing, are in effect, “death” in the long run. And they will only know when they come before the ‘judge of all men’. A God is who is patient and merciful, and waiting and waiting and waiting for them to ‘come to their senses’ and repent.

Therefore in this context, a message of ” Persistent Prayer”, is very timely. About every aspect of one’s life. Be bold! Do not place limits on your prayers and our God is an awesome God.

THE FIRST MESSAGE

KEEP ON ASKING
CHRIS TIEGREEN
Ask and it will be given to you.
Luke 11:9
………If you are like most people, you pray about a matter for a while . Then, having not heard from God, you give up , assuming it wasn’t His will to answer. But nowhere in the Bible are we told that God’s silence means ” no”. In fact, Jesus demonstrates to a Canaanite woman that His silence means “keep on asking” ( Matthew 15:22-28).
Scripture never gives us permission to drop a request because we got no immediate answer. We are to have a no-ceasing attitude to our prayers ( 1 Thessalonians 5:17). If God wants to show us that our prayers are unscriptural or out of line with His will, He will show us. If He wants to say ” no”, He will actually say it. Silence is not “no”……..

And as I began praying asking The Lord to renew the church in faith in He who only can raise the dead, I was reminded of this wonderful song which I listen and watch on a regular basis. Praise God indeed.
Watch “NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE ( the brooklyn tabernacle c…” on YouTube – NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE ( the brooklyn tabernacle c…: http://youtu.be/VxKuDu2Vu1k

THE SECOND MESSAGE
Today, at St. Andrew Anglican Parish Church in Kingston Jamaica, we celebrated 350 years of Christian witness to the community. And one of the charges given to us, during a very insightful sermon delivered by the ArchBishop of The West Indies, Rev. John W. D. Holder, a Barbadian, was a call to denounce the ‘drawing up of lists’ of those who we think are going to hell, as others are wont to do, and those who will go to heaven. For the Anglican understanding of God, is that He is merciful and patient, full of compassion, and willing to wait, and wait, and wait on all whom He has created.
This is the context then in which the second message is to be read.

GOD LOVES THE BACKSLIDER
DWIGHT L. MOODY ( 1837-1899)

Verse: Hosea 14:4

A backslider cane into the inquiry room night before last, and I was trying to tell him God loved him. He would hardly believe me. He thought because he had not kept up his faithfulness to God, and to his own vows, that God had stopped loving him……..
Now in Hosea 14: 4, God says that he will heal every backslider. ” I will……love them freely.” So the Lord tells the backsliders, ” If you will only come back to me, I will forgive you.” It was thus with Peter who denied his Lord. The Savior forgave him and sent him to preach his glorious gospel on the day of Pentecost when 3000 were won to Christ under one sermon of a backslider ( see John 18:25-27; 21:15-19; Acts 2:14-39 ).
Don’t let a backslider go out of this hall this evening with such hard talk about the Lord. No backslider can say that God has left him. He may think so, but it is one of the devil’s lies. The Lord had never left a man yet.
P.S. I am not sure why the Lord led me to this meditation this morning. Only He knows. But I can testify to this truth of the ‘ unfailing’ love of God. As I too, at one point in my life, had drifted away from the Lord. Praise God then for grace and mercy.GOD LOVES THE BACKSLIDER

P.S. I am not sure why the Lord led me to this meditation this morning. Only He knows. But I can testify to this truth of the ‘ unfailing’ love of God. As I too, at one point in my life, had drifted away from the Lord. Praise God then for grace and mercy.

THE FINAL MESSAGE – sent to my church yesterday, inspired by The Lord on the occasion of our 350th anniversary is self explanatory. Both the content and the final comment. The ‘take home message ‘ for Ian Boyne, and all of us who ponder on the challenges the church faces in ministering to people in these times is – focus and brood on the Cross of Calvary, as therein lies the Power of Gospel. And the answer to the ‘feebleness of today’s church’.

THE MESSAGE

I was actually looking for the hymn, ” Just a closer walk with thee”, to start my devotions this morning when I, ‘happened upon this hymn’; and was reminded of the instructions that greeted me on awakening this morning – to write about the importance of the Cross as we approach our and celebrate our 350th Anniversary.
Note how the selected words of the hymn flow into the two meditations from Oswald Chambers, writing at the beginning of World War 1, and to which reflections I was led this week.

One final revelation before I start. This week, after reflecting on Psalm 121 every night for years, before retiring to bed, I was struck by the following thought.
That captured in the declaration of the Psalmist:

” I lift up my eyes to the hill –
where does my help come from ?
My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth ( and the sea and all that is in it…another Psalm)

…is the Psalmist’s understanding, and the revelation by God, of all the majesty and power, and mercy, and glory of The Holy One of Israel. But this is Old Testament revelation, and more and better was to come. I believe that the verse that Chambers uses, and which inspired the profound reflections, and there are others, capture the glory of the new promise, the full extent of the mercy of God, the genesis of the new creation and the final revelation from God, as the writer to the Hebrews declares:

“In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days ( which is the context in which we celebrate 350th years of witness, and every Sunday morning at the Eucharist) he has spoke to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe” – my help cometh from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth

THE WORDS OF THE HYMN – COME, THOU FOUNT OF EVERY BLESSING

…..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 God I love;
here’s my heart, oh, take and seal it,seal it for thy courts above.

OSWALD CHAMBERS

The Secret of Spiritual Consistency
God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ . . . -Galatians 6:14
When a person is newly born again, he seems inconsistent due to his unrelated emotions and the state of the external things or circumstances in his life. The apostle Paul had a strong and steady underlying consistency in his life. Consequently, he could let his external life change without internal distress because he was rooted and grounded in God. Most of us are not consistent spiritually because we are more concerned about being consistent externally. In the external expression of things, Paul lived in the basement, while his critics lived on the upper level. And these two levels do not begin to touch each other. But Paul’s consistency was down deep in the fundamentals. The great basis of his consistency was the agony of God in the redemption of the world, namely, the Cross of Christ.
State your beliefs to yourself again. Get back to the foundation of the Cross of Christ, doing away with any belief not based on it. In secular history the Cross is an infinitesimally small thing, but from the biblical perspective it is of more importance than all the empires of the world. If we get away from dwelling on the tragedy of God on the Cross in our preaching, our preaching produces nothing. It will not transmit the energy of God to man; it may be interesting, but it will have no power. However, when we preach the Cross, the energy of God is released. “. . . it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. . . . we preach Christ crucified . . .” (1 Corinthians 1:21, 23).

The Focal Point of Spiritual Power
. . . except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ . . . -Galatians 6:14
If you want to know the power of God (that is, the resurrection life of Jesus) in your human flesh, you must dwell on the tragedy of God. Break away from your personal concern over your own spiritual condition, and with a completely open spirit consider the tragedy of God. Instantly the power of God will be in you. “Look to Me. . .” (Isaiah 45:22). Pay attention to the external Source and the internal power will be there. We lose power because we don’t focus on the right thing. The effect of the Cross is salvation, sanctification, healing, etc., but we are not to preach any of these. We are to preach “Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). The proclaiming of Jesus will do its own work. Concentrate on God’s focal point in your preaching, and even if your listeners seem to pay it no attention, they will never be the same again. If I share my own words, they are of no more importance than your words are to me. But if we share the truth of God with one another, we will encounter it again and again. We have to focus on the great point of spiritual power- the Cross. If we stay in contact with that center of power, its energy is released in our lives. In holiness movements and spiritual experience meetings, the focus tends to be put not on the Cross of Christ but on the effects of the Cross.
The feebleness of the church is being criticized today, and the criticism is justified. One reason for the feebleness is that there has not been this focus on the true center of spiritual power. We have not dwelt enough on the tragedy of Calvary or on the meaning of redemption.

Final comment: This matter of the power of the witness and preaching of the church lies at the heart of this meditation. For ultimately, the work and ministry of the church, is the same as the declared ministry of Christ: To preach the good news to the poor ( in heart and in body) …and to set the prisoners free. Many of the current and past political, social, and moral issues of the day cry out for the intervention of the church of Jesus Christ – born of David and raised from the dead. I pray God that, as church, we will heed the call to ‘return to our first and only true love’; Christ and him Crucified. And from Whom only, will flow the promised power of ” streams of living water’, to rescue the perishing, care for the dying, seek the lost, go after the stray, and bind up the wounded, and pursue justice on behalf of the weak and vulnerable and voiceless. Whether they are in ISIS controlled Syria, Ebola ridden West Africa, troubled Ferguson, USA, poverty stricken, Chik V disabled, fearful of gunmen and politically disillusioned Jamaica.
Peace.
LWJ
Then not a message but a prayer, completes this ministry this week.

The message from yesterday, and the day before, both point us to this glorious hymn/prayer- without ceasing.
JUST A CLOSER WALK WITH THEE
1. I am weak but thou art strong;
Jesus, keep me from all wrong:
I’ll be satisfied as long
as I walk, let me walk close to thee.
Refrain
Just a closer walk with thee,
grant it, Jesus, is my plea,
daily walking close to thee,
let it be, dear Lord, let it be.
2. Throughout this world of toil and snares,
If I falter, Lord, who cares?
Who will me my burden shares?
None but there, dear Lord, none but thee.
Refrain.
Just a closer walk with thee…..
3. When my feeble life is o’er,
time for me will be no more;
guide me gently, safely o’er
to thy kingdom short, to thy shore.
Refrain
Just a closer walk with thee……