GermanWings Crash, World Cup Cricket, High School Athletics in Jamaica ( CHAMPS) and Palm Sunday

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. Like so many others across the world, especially those of us for whom traveling by plane has become a way of life, the news that another aircraft had gone down sent shock waves across the globe. But there was worse to come as we were soon informed that the loss of over 150 precious lives, was as a result of a’deliberate act’, by an apparently mentally ill co-pilot. As I write, investigators are still trying to come to terms with this possible reason, whilst not excluding any other possibilities. In the meanwhile so many families and friends are left to mourn their dead. Once again! In a world where so much evil seems to abound.
Germanwings plane crash: Co-pilot acted deliberately – CNN.com

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Germanwings plane crash: Co-pilot acted deliberately – C…
Germanwings Flight 9525 co-pilot Andreas Lubitz deliberately crashed the plane, killing all 150 people on board, officials said.
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2. Like so many others across the world, I had hoped for a New Zealand victory – just tired of Australia winning all the time – over the Aussies in the One Cricket World Cup finals. But this was not to be as the Kiwis lost. Badly! I am happy then that I did not lose too much sleep. But sad that Brendan McCallum’s team which had played such entertaining cricket in the preliminary matches missed out.

Australia crush NZ to win World Cup

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Australia crush NZ to win World Cup
Australia beat New Zealand by seven wickets to win the World Cup for a fifth time at a packed Melbourne Cricket Ground.
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3. Like so many others across the world, that is really true, Champs – the greatest event of its kind featuring world class performances and titanic struggles between competing high school track and field stars – held my attention for most of this week. And all of Saturday evening. One youngster ran the second fastest time over the 400M for the year on planet earth! While another one served notice, that he will be a force to reckon with over the 400 M in the not too distant future by breaking the old record.And so the Track and Field ‘beat goes on’ in Jamaica, as both the boys and girls demonstrated why we are ‘world class’ in this sport.
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/sports/20150328/calabar-boys-edwin-allen-girls-retain-champs-titles

4. Today is Palm Sunday in Jamaica; a day which is also celebrated in many Commonwealth countries. A day which marks, ending of Lent, and the beginning of Passion Week which climaxes in Good Friday and Easter Sunday.
Guardian Australia (@GuardianAus) | Twitter

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Guardian Australia (@GuardianAus) | Twitter
The latest Tweets from Guardian Australia (@GuardianAus). Latest news from Guardian Australia. Australia
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THE WORD OF GOD

So in the midst of a terrible plane crash, with the attendant now very familiar mourning, suffering and pain, what Word or inspired word did the Lord send? And was this Word ‘drowned out’ by the celebration of top class sporting activities in two very different parts of the world? And where does Good Friday and Easter fit into all of this. I believe that the word perspective is the key to all of what took place this week. And the central point of the story of Good Friday is the victory of Good over Evil. Where the Atoning suffering and death of God’s only Son, Christ Jesus, Redeemed ‘Adam’s sinful race’ from the ‘thief’ , the evil one, whose has come to ‘ steal, and kill and to destroy’. AS opposed to the ‘ Good Shepherd – the Lamb of God- who came to give life and life more abundantly.
This is the perspective, the worldview and the Truth that the Christian faith offers, in a world where high class entertainment and the pleasures of life, can easily become a distraction, even in the face of the kind of evil which sent those folks aboard the GermanWings airline to an untimely death.
And so the following messages were sent out on WhatsApp.

THE FIRST MESSAGE – a word that reinforces the Truth as told in the Word of God that ‘ the heart of man is desperately wicked’, and therefore ‘evil ‘ can, and has manifested itself in various ways throughout history. Causing much pain and devastation.On a grand scale as in the The World wars, and many other smaller wars. And on a smaller scale like what happened in the Swiss Alps last week. Thank God therefore for the mercy, and new life, that the Lord offers in the death and resurrection of Christ.

ALL ABOUT GOOD FRIDAY

LAST NIGHT
God does not ask us to be good men and women, He asks us to understand that we are not good; and to believe that ” none is good save one, even God”, and that the grace of God was manifest in the Redemption that it might cover the incompleteness of man – Oswald Chambers

THIS MORNING
1.
At the cross, at the cross where I first saw the light,
and the burden of my heart rolled away,
it was there by faith I received my sight,
and now I am happy all the day – refrain from ‘ Alas! and did my Saviour bleed.
2.
Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to the cross I cling; naked, come to thee for dress; helpless, look to thee for grace; foul, I to the fountain fly; wash me, Savior, or I die – third verse of ‘ Rock of ages, cleft for me’.
Lent is a good time think on the grace and mercy of a God whose amazing love could move Him to die for ‘ a wretch like me’.

THE SECOND MESSAGE – sent again on WhatsApp features one of the tenets of the Christian faith; ‘that the righteous shall walk by faith”. A Word which springs from one fo the most important books in the Bible, where God makes it clear that faith in Him is strengthened, not when ‘the good times roll’, but rather when we can see no way out. Which is what is facing our nation at this time in our history! Which is what many are faced with in their personal lives! Even the horrible death of loved ones. Wherever! So while other religions and world views proffer promises which have no basis, our God asks us simply to ‘ trust in Him who rolled back the Rea Sea’; that is the Living God who performed a great miracle in the early life of His people. And even more so, by raising Jesus from the dead on Easter morning, He has proven once again that He is a God in Whom we can place our trust

ALL ABOUT GOOD FRIDAY
This morning I was led through a hymn, ‘ Praise my soul the King of Heaven’, to the book of Habakkuk. And specifically to:

THE WORD OF GOD

” Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no cattle in the stalls,
yet will I rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.
Habakkuk 3:17-18 NIV

Contained within these few words is the essence of the Christian faith. Even better expressed in chap 2:4

” The righteous will live by faith “.

So even though we may be going through the ‘ worst of times’ in our personal lives, and certainly as a nation – morally and socially with the death of Kayalecia Simpson, and economically with the IMF ‘ necessary bitter medecine’, we have hope and trust, and even rejoice in God. Long before He rescues us. Why? Because we serve a God who ‘ raises the dead’. Who does the impossible!
That’s the eternal lesson from Good Friday. And the Blessed Resurrection at Easter. Whether it is our private and deeply personal affairs, or a disturbing national problem like crime and violence; or even an International crisis which ISIS represents. One day, ‘ and if the vision tarries wait, for it will not prove false’ ( 2:3), God will act.
So let us dry our tears, and banish all fears, leave behind the foolishness about Easter and bun and cheese, and take up the tambourine and cymbals and sing:

How Great Is Our God
How great is our God
How great is His name
How great is our God
Forever the same
He rolled back the waters
Of the mighty Red Sea
And He said, “I’ll never leave you,
Put your trust in Me
Amen

Lent is a good time to think on these things.

THE THIRD MESSAGE – again on WhatsApp, features a song which explains the basics of the faith, and a Word which validates it. That the Lamb of God, Christ Jesus, died for the sins of all mankind. That’s the Gospel in a nutshell. Nothing more, nothing less. A Gospel which all mankind needs to hear. In Germany. In Jamaica. In New Zealand. In Australia. And across the entire world. For nothing is as important as that to sinful man. Not The Olympics. Not World Cup Football. Not The Super Bowl. Not the mecca of Tennis World, Wimbledon. And definitely not the Cricket World Cup, nor Champs.

ALL ABOUT GOOD FRIDAY
Tomorrow will be Palm Sunday; a day in the Christian Calendar that marks the beginning of our Lord Jesus Christ’s week of Passion.
With this reality deep in my soul, as we have journeyed through Lent together, the Lord placed the song below in my heart as I awoke this morning. Words which encourage us to worship and praise, give thanks for, and lift up the Name of the Precious Lamb of God, and about whom the Book of The Revelations records:

” Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain…….And they sang a new song:
You are worthy to take the scroll
and open its seals,
because you were slain
and with your blood you purchased men for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation “. Rev. 5:6&9 NIV
O praise the Lord.

I’ve also uploaded a version of the song from YouTube. The Kirk Franklyn version is more dynamic, but I found this one very haunting to my soul.

Lent is a good time to think on these things, and not just to give up chocolates or ice cream, or whatever.
O precious Lamb of God You are indeed Worthy to be celebrated as The One who comes in The Name of The Lord on Palm Sunday, with festal boughs and palm branches. For they who acclaimed you on that day were the same ones who crucified You on Good Friday. And O my God ‘ I was there when they crucified my Lord’; as my sins ‘ carried Him to Calvary’.
Lamb of God

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

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

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

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

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

And written on the same day was a word about really ‘who killed’ or caused Jesus to die? For whether or not you were in church this morning, recovering from Champs in Jamaica, or from Cricket at the MCG in Australia, we were all there ‘when they crucified my Lord”. For my sins and your sins placed Him there.

ALL ABOUT GOOD FRIDAY CONTD.
You know we serve an amazing God. Amen! So the same God who inspired me to write and ask, ‘ were you there when they crucified my Lord’, directed my thoughts to this song on YouTube. And if this does not touch your very soul, something is wrong. For as the singer herself admitted, ‘ I can’t take too much of this song’.
Why? For it takes us right to the foot of the Cross, along with the Roman soldiers, the Chief Priests, The Scribes, Herod, Pontius Pilate, Judas etc, etc. All whose sins, for whom our precious Savior died. O Jesus! Have mercy on my soul!
Marion Williams — Were You There When They Crucified My Lord: https://youtu.be/xu_GW2osRVA

And still the Lord was not yet done. For he inspired this ‘final message’ for that day. One of obedience! As we can spend all the time reading His Word, and His inspired word, if one day we do not commit to being totally obedient to the Lord, then evil awaits us.

THE ESSENCE OF LENT AND THE CHRIST FAITH ARE LOCATED IN THESE FEW WORDS APPOINTED TO BE READ IN MY CHURCH TOMORROW ON PALM SUNDAY. ONCE AGAIN.
” But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought our peace was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5 NIV
If we understand these things, there is not great deal more to learn about the Christian faith. For it’s not about the right denomination, or the correct doctrine, the brilliant preacher or the right prayers; but all about Christ and Him Crucified. So that all of us may be rescued from sin and death, and enter in Eternal Life – the gift of God in Christ Jesus.

All that’s left then, really, is to be obedient to the One who is always calling us to Himself. In so many different ways, and through so many people and circumstances. But principally through His Word. Written and ‘ made flesh’ – Incarnate. In and through Christ our Lord.
We pray then for discernment of, and obedience to, The still small voice of The Holy Spirit of God, as we enter into The Week of The Passion of Christ our Lord and Savior. Final word for today.

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Sermon: Murder and Child Abuse in Jamaica, King David’s affair with Bathsheba, and God’s Judgement of Sin on the Cross

PRAYER

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

THE SERMON – The text for today is taken from Psalm 51:10. Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me

Perhaps one of the finest pieces of literature ever written, Charles Dickens’, ” A tale of Two cities”, begins with these dramatic and very profound words.
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. It was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness.”

Today as we come together to worship on this the Fifth Sunday in Lent, with our Lord’s Passion, His walk on the Via Dolorosa, the events of Good Friday, and the glorious Resurrection at Easter in mind, and consider the state of our souls, the church and Jamaica land we love, we have much reason to recall these words. For though we have much to celebrate as individuals, church and state, recent events have demonstrated that there is something deeply disturbing, and indeed very rotten, not in Shakespeare’s ‘state of Denmark, but right here in our blessed country Jamaica. How else can we characterize the brutal killing of 14 year old Kayalecia Simpson, and her unborn child, but that something has gone very badly wrong in our nation. How else can we characterize the shocking news that broke last week of a 12 year old girl, raped by two men, one age 52, and now seven months pregnant, but that we are now living in the worst of times in Jamaica. How else are we to regard the news that the man who raped 5 women last year, one a young girl, was recently sentenced to forty years in prison; and the recent act of madness in Westmoreland this week, resulting in the death of an eight year old child and three adults. This my friends is a not a good time to live in our country, and indeed the entire world as the Talliban demonstrated last week in Pakistan, when they engineered the cruel deaths of many Christians by planting bombs in churches. And before them ISIS have beheading Christians for weeks and months.
And so the world, and our people look for solutions. From President Obama to ‘rain down bombs on the wicked’. From the police to enforce the law that post-scribes sexual intercourse with minors – underage girls and boys. From the family, to supervise their children and watch over them more carefully. And from the young ones to be more careful and obedient. All good things, but quietly, and persistently, even against the background noise of fifty shades of grey, as young Amanda observed last Sunday we heard the comforting words of the hymn writer;

In times like these, we need a Savior
In times like these, we need an anchor
Be very sure, be very sure
Your anchor holds and grips the Solid Rock
This Rock is Jesus, Yes, He’s the one
This Rock is Jesus, The only One
Be very sure, be very sure
Your anchor holds and grips the Solid Rock
Yes my friends, this island needs Jesus, as He is the only One who can rescue us from the individual and collective madness which has descended on our land. Because the raging fires and attendant smoke from the Riverton Dump, as bad as it was last Friday, and continues to be in some communities, in the wider context of of a nation gone astray, is but a symbol and sign of the raging fire of wickedness which has captured the hearts of too many Jamaicans. And which evil ultimately, only the Blood of Jesus can extinguish and grant us peace
The challenge, however, for the wisdom of this age, and for us who study God’s Word, is to understand, that however despicable we may regard these acts, and however strongly we may condemn them, the reality is that, such behaviour is the lot of unredeemed souls. For as the Word of God informs us, ‘ the heart of mankind, is not just wicked, but desperately wicked’. This is our inheritance since the first man, Adam sinned, and since then, ‘ all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God’.
My friends this is why the text for today is such an important one, for this lesson of the level of wickedness which has invaded the human heart, is one that David, Israel’s most famous King, and a man about whom it was written, that he was a ‘man after God’s own heart’ had to learn the hard way. For in a moment of temptation, David lusted after Bathsheba, a married woman. Then used his power to seduce her. Got her pregnant, and the only way the story diverts from the tragic end of young Kayalecia, is that rather than killing the pregnant woman, he orchestrated the death of her husband. And only after attempting to ‘give the husband a jacket’.

Then when confronted by the prophet Nathan about his heinous crime, we arrive at the text for today. A text located in one of the most important passages in the Bible. One of two repentance Psalms 51 &32. At the beginning of Psalm 51, David recognizing what he had done, first cries out for mercy:

“Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions………
…against you, you only have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight

and then mid way through the Psalm, having repented of his egregious sin, David now asks a good and merciful God to :
Create in me a pure heart,
and renew a right spirit within me.

This text appealed to me for three reasons.

The First is that the focus on repentance before God, goes to the heart of the Christian faith, the foundations of which are Creation; where God made everything very good, and made us human beings in his likeness and glory; The Fall – that terrible event in human history where Adam, and from then all mankind rebelled against God, and thus our likeness to God was marred and we became separated from a Holy God, who cannot countenance Sin; Redemption – the great act of Atonement for Sin wrought on the Cross of Calvary by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ; and Judgement – when this same Jesus who with God’s mighty power was raised from the dead, and Ascended into heaven, shall come again to judge the living and the dead.

In this context then, the reason why it is of great importance to place a focus on this text , is that repentance before God, opens the door to the gift of The Redemption of our sins which is what salvation is all about. And as David declared later,
” a broken and contrite heart” flings the door open even wider. As this act of humility, which recognizes how sinful the heart of mankind has become since the Fall, and which leads us cry out for a new heart and a renewal of a right spirit, is the right attitude which facilitates the development of our love for Jesus, the only mediator between sinful man and a Holy God. For unless and until we understand the nature of our fallen sinful state before a holy God, we can never fully love our Lord Jesus. The need for money will create a dependence on Jesus, but not deep and abiding love. The desire for companionship, for a wife, for a husband, for children, for protection from evil, for relief from illness, will drive us to our knees before God. But only a deep understanding like the song writer, who declares that ” I once was lost, but now I am found’, and of the amazing grace that saved a wretch like me, will move us to love the Lord Jesus with an abiding love. And the words of another wonderful hymn explains this love even better.

My God I love thee; not because
I hope for heaven thereby,
nor yet because who love thee not
are lost eternally.

Thou, O my Jesus, thou didst me
upon the cross embrace;
for me didst bear the nails and spear,
and manifold disgrace.

and griefs and torments numberless,
and sweat of agony;
yea, death itself – all all for me
who was thine enemy.

Then why, O blessed Jesu Christ,
should I not love thee well?
Not for the sake of winning heaven
nor of escaping hell

not from the hope of gaining aught,
not seeking a reward;
but as thyself has loved me
O ever-loving Lord

The Second reason why this text, ‘ create in me a pure heart and renew a right spirit within me’, is important, is that within it are the early signs of God’s promise to make all things new. And if we listen carefully, this is the same message that the Prophet Jeremiah brought to his people years later. The context is the same, as Israel had repeatedly rebelled against the Living God. But this loving God, after disciplining His children, declared through Jeremiah, that just as He watched over them to uproot and to tear down, and to overthrow, destroy and bring disaster, so He would watch over them to build and to plant,…and further on the Lord declared through Jeremiah that:

The time was coming..when He would make a new covenant with His people, and that He would put His law in their minds and write it in their hearts. And that this covenant therefore would be quite different from that which He made with His people when He brought them out Egypt…and finally that He would forgive their wickedness and remember their sins nor more.
Now my friends we don’t have to be a highly trained theologian to understand that such a promise was ultimately fulfilled in Christ Jesus on the Cross of Calvary. Especially when we recall St. Paul’s assertion that, ” If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away; behold all things are become new”, as recorded in the KJV of 2 Cor. 5:17 . For the cry from King David was not just for forgiveness of his Sin, for a pure heart, as important as that is, but that God would create a new spirit within him. And as we learned later, the revelation in the New Covenant that we need to live by the Sprit and not by the flesh, which is one of the fundamental doctrines of the church.

The Third reason why it is important to spend time in this text, is that ultimately, this desire for a new heart and a renewed spirit, although it is a free gift from God, and it is not something that good works can purchase, there is a cost. We must die to self, and live only for and depend on God, and God alone. This reality is the same one that those who in the gospel reading for today ‘wanted to see Jesus’, faced. Listen carefully to part of the answer that Jesus gave Andrew and Philip who took their request to Jesus: “The hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified. I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it, for eternal life. A careful reading of the entire gospel, and other passages of scripture reveal then, that in order for us to truly follow Christ, self , the old man of sin in us, must die. And in fact must be crucified. There is no other way, as ‘flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God’. We must be born again of The Sprit of God. Which was the essence of David’s prayer, and an example to us thousands of years later. A point which Paul’s famous statement validates . ” I am crucified in Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I but Christ who lives in me” Galatians 2: 20. Further, for years I have been struggling with another of Paul’s ‘must read’ statements as recorded in Philippians 3;10, and only recently, including the time spent in preparing for this sermon, began to full appreciate its implications.
“” I want to know Christ, and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so somehow to attain to resurrection from the dead”. What this means is that we have to go through much suffering ourselves, and take up our own individual crosses, when we decide to follow Jesus.

So as we consider again the state of our nation and the spate of child abuse and murder, what are the lessons, what comfort, what instructions we can carry home from this worship service this morning?

Number one is that there may be no ‘practical implications’, at all. As one of the dangers of a heart which is anxious to fight against evil, and rescue the perishing, is that, unless we truly know Christ and are lifting Him up in our lives, no good may come of our self-appointed rather than a God anointed mandate. As the battle is the Lord’s and not ours. For it is the message and power of Jesus and Him Crucified Who then ‘draws all men to Himself’, that can ultimately rescue Jamaica from this madness. And not in and by themselves, ‘excitable Christians workers’, wise leaders, and certainly not powerful and compassionate policemen and women acting alone. For Lent I would suggest, is a time for spiritual stocktaking. Time to quiet our souls before God, and seek a closer walk with Him, as Father Kitson, intimated during his sermon on Ash Wednesday. And then as Father Larius preached many months ago, we should, like the CVM jingle says, ” Looking in, looking out, looking better”, leave church quite different from the way we came in. So in this context, we should ensure that having observed a holy Lent, at the end we ought to become more mature Christians and produce much fruit

The second lesson is that, the root of the problem which ultimately manifests itself in crime and violence and immorality and corruption, all three of which are plaguing the country, are restless hearts. And one of the most profound observations made on this subject came from the mind of perhaps the most influential Bishop of the early Church. B Augustine of Hippo as recorded in his autobiography ” Confessions”.
Here I quote. ” You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless unless they can find rest in you”.

And all people who are not redeemed, who have not accepted the Redemption offered by Christ, are possessed of restless hearts. In the sense that, all their strivings, all their desires, all their passions, yes Amanda is correct, including fifty shades of grey, all the demons that haunt their souls including those facilitated by the use of crack/cocaine, the abuse of alcohol, the excessive use of marijuana and other mind altering drugs, the exposure to and in some cases, addiction to pornography, the abuse of power in high places, including the church and state, the unfathomable predilection to commit acts of egregious violence, and the willingness to hurt, are all driven by restless hearts seeking fulfilment and satisfaction in what can never fully quench their thirst. This was the problem that confronted King David. A roving eye and a restless heart. A dangerous if not lethal combination! What was God’s solution? Use the prophet Nathan to challenge David’s Sin. And what was David’s response: Confession. Against you, you only have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight….and in verse 5 we read….surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. In this context then it is useful to note that, just this week I was moved to send out the following Tweet, after having been struck by an observation by the great Bible teacher Oswald Chambers
‘ Am I becoming more and more in love with a Holy God, or with the conception of an amiable being who says, oh well sin doesn’t matter any more’.
I would suggest to all who have ears to hear, that the great problem that we face in this 21st century Jamaica, and indeed in the entire world, is a deliberate and well orchestrated and well executed plan by the evil one to dilute the importance of Sin. Before man! Not before a God who in Christ Jesus, in love and by grace, died on the Cross for the sins of the whole world. Not in the shinning light of The Word of God which declared, that the thing which David had done displeased the Lord. Not in the face of the fact that the son born of the sinful act committed by David and Bathsheba died. And because we have accommodated, and hugged up, as the young people say, sin, in high places and in the ordinary every day scene, for years, and let the proverbial genie out of the bottle, we are now scampering around trying to rescue our children and adults.

This is neither the time nor the place to give chapter and verse on this subject, for we are all guilty. But some are more guilty than others. For may God have mercy of those who introduced gun related violence in the western part of the Kingston, and unleashed a monster that has spread across the entire island. May God have mercy on those who exposed our children to wanton immorality, the consequences of which is the source of much concern and lament. May God have mercy on those who have corrupted our music, introduced slackness and violent lyrics which have largely drowned out the rebel music and protest music for which we became Internationally famous. But the point is that there is a remedy. Collective acknowledgement and collective repentance. So this is not a time for public finger pointing, and for being holier than thou, but a time to ask forgiveness, as David did when confronted with his Sin. For the Word of God as recorded in 2 Chronicles 7:14 reminds us that,

” If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land”. The context then, thousands of years ago, was the same as now. For the chosen people, the children of Israel, and descendants of Abraham had rebelled against the Living God, as they did time and time again, until at last there was no remedy, and God exiled them into Babylon. But always there was the promise of forgiveness from a gracious and compassionate God.
And so even though we may seem to live in the worst of times, if we repent of our sins, as David did, and seek to have a closer walk with God in and through Christ Jesus, by the Power of The Holy Spirit, our best days as a nation and as a people may yet be ahead of us. So the take home message for us this morning, as we ponder on the state of our nation, is twofold. To repent of our sins, and to challenge sin, as Nathan did, wherever we meet this terrible scourge on mankind. At home, in the community, at our workplace, at school, in our politics, in the media, and most of all in the church of a Holy God. For as David was well aware, the wages of sin is death, and thank God for Jesus, the gift of God is Eternal Life in Christ Jesus.

I close with words from the first two verses of a hymn we sang a couple weeks ago, and which lament touched my soul deeply. To the point where I found myself singing the hymn sometimes all through the day. And which words sum up the right spirit which we need to have before a merciful and holy God. A God who David knew well. And a God who we know even better in and through Christ Jesus. And only with this kind of attitude can we ask God for mercy and help for our troubled nation in times like these when we truly need a saviour.

My spirit longs for thee
within my troubled breast.
though I unworthy be
of so divine a guest

Of so divine a guest
though I unworthy be
my heart will have no rest
unless it comes from thee.

Murder in Pakistan, Rape in Jamaica, and The Son of god cries out, ” Forgive them Father”.

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

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

THE NEWS

1. After the news last week of the death of young 14 year old Kayalecia Simpson, who was found to be pregnant after an autopsy was performed, the headlines of The Daily Gleaner this morning, ‘broke our heart’. ” My Baby’s baby !”, a mother lamented, as she learned that her 11 year old girl child had been raped by two older men and left pregnant.

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/lead-stories/20150315/my-babys-baby-eleven-year-old-pregnant-after-sexually-assaulted-two

2. One of the worse fires, among many over the years, occurred at an area where garbage is disposed of in the capital city of Jamaica. The attendant smoke from the fire blanketed most of entire city, triggering, asthmatic attacks, and other respiratory illnesses, and panic attacks, among the city’s children and adults. Thus causing schools to be closed, businesses to lock up shop early, drivers to be cautioned, and influential persons calling for ‘heads to roll’ at the agency responsible for managing the Riverton City Dump.
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/news/20150315/riverton-landfill-smoke-could-force-closure-more–tomorrow

3. Then news brike today, that the Taliban in Pakistan was responsible for the deaths of at least ten Christians, and 70 wounded, during two deadly blasts which targeted Sunday worshiper in Lahore.
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-31894708

THE WORD OF GOD

So in the midst of all this wickedness, at home and abroad, what Word or inspired word did the Lord send this week. Basically all them spoke to the fact that we are now in the season of Lent, and that this period in the Christian calendar climaxes in Good Friday and Easter. Further, that this is a time for serious reflection about personal and national issues which affect us deeply. And from which ‘sins’, we need to repent.

THE FIRST MESSAGE – sent out on WhatsApp shares a perspective on a Life With Christ written by an Evangelical Anglican theologian who has been a great influence on my journey with the Lord – the late Rev. John Stott. The importance of which Life ‘hidden’ with Christ is that manifest change must take place viz. New standards, new Ambitions, and new Relationships. All of which we bring to bear to try and change a society beset with violence and immorality.

ALL ABOUT LENT

Last night the second aspect of The Practical Consequences of a life united with Christ came into my mind during my sleep. It’s part of a message which I wrote to my church recently. So I share an edited version with you. As you read, bear in mind the Gleaner headlines today, concerning the safety of our children who leave home for school in the dark. And clearly also what happened to young Kayalecia. And how ‘ pornography’ has captured our popular music, movies, television shows with devastating consequences for our people. Lent is a good time to think on these things and for a nation to repent as nothing should allowed to ‘ dislodge God from His throne’ , in our lives.

UNITED WITH CHRIST

1. First, ‘we died with Christ’…there is no more dramatic way of describing the end of something than by referring to its ‘death’…….Our former life was one of bondage to sin, self, fear and guilt, and to the unseen powers of evil which, because of our estrangement from God, had enslaved us……

2. Secondly, ‘ we have been raised with Christ’. Not only have we died to the old life, but we have been raised to a new one. Not only has the old life of sin, guilt and bondage come to an end, but the new life of forgiveness, power and freedom has begun. For we are ‘with Christ’ in his resurrection and well as in his death…..

3. Thirdly, ‘our life is hidden with Christ’. Having died and been raised from death, Jesus Christ was then exalted to heaven and enthroned at God’s right hand, the position symbolic of his universal authority. This third event in his saving career his people have also shared with him. For having raised us with Christ, God has ‘ seated us with him in the heavenly realms’, so that our life is now ‘hidden with Christ…….Christians have a hidden life. Visibly they live on earth, invisibly in heaven. They are despised, persecuted, battered, even apparently defeated and trodden under foot, yet in reality they are reigning with Christ.

4. Fourthly, ‘we shall appear with Christ’. One day the Jesus who died, rose and reigns will return……..And when he appears, we shall appear ‘ with him’.
So then, the death, resurrection, exaltation and return of Jesus are for Christians much more than historical events. They are personal events, in which we have either participated, or do so, or will participate. Personally united to Jesus Christ, one with him as his people, we have died and been raised with him in the past, our present life is hidden with him, and one day in the future we shall appear with him. This is the primary sense in which the New Testament affirms that Christians are ‘with Christ’.

SOME PRACTICAL CONSEQUENCES

1. We have new ambitions………’set our minds on things above. not on earthly things’ ( Colossians 3:1)…..things that belong to old and self-centered life………’sexual immorality, impurity, lust, , evil desires and greed which is idolatry…..seek first God’s kingdom and righteousness.

2. We set new standards. Having died and risen with Christ, it is inconceivable that we should continue to live the same old life in the same old way. To illustrate his point, Paul singles out sexual immorality, as we have seen, not because it is the only sin or worst sin, not because Christians have a morbid obsession with sex, but because immorality is a conspicuous example of ‘covetousness’, which is idolatry’. It is ‘covetous’ because it involves the gratification of self at the expense of others, and ‘idolatrous’ because it is an imperious passion which dislodges God from his throne. Paul does not mince his words. God’s wrath will fall on those who give themselves up to such covetous idolatry. In such practices, he adds, his readers once lived ( Colossians 3:5-7). But now they have new standards. Instead of covetousness there is self-control and service, instead of idolatry worship.

3. Thirdly, we have new relationships. It is not only the covetous idolatry of an immoral life that we are to renounce. We are to ‘put away’, as dirty rags all the following as well: ‘anger, rage, malice, slander and filthy language, together with lying’ ( Colossians 3:8-9). In their place we are to ‘put on’ as the bright new clothes of a Christian, ‘compassion,, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience………

The essence of our Christian identity is that we are ‘with Christ’ at each stage of his saving career. No truth has greater power to transform us. When we grasp it, the radical discontinuity between the past and the present is glaringly evident. We can neither fall back, not even stand still. We must go forward ‘with Christ’.

THE SECOND MESSAGE – sent out on WhatsApp, features a frightening reality. That at one point in the history of the Israelites, a history characterized by repeated rebellion against The Living God, there appeared to be ‘no remedy’ for their apostasy. And so God acted. They were sent into exile, but not before many perished, both young and old, by the sword. The reality is that last Friday could have been a day of a terrible disaster for the over 1 million persons who reside in the nation’s capital, had the smog which covered the city, contained any kind of poisonous material. Thank God, this was not the case. But we need to bear in mind that, ‘ unless the Lord watches over a city, the watchmen stand guard in vain’. Psalm 127:1. And that one day there will be a judgement for those who persist in being disobedient to he who died for the sins of all mankind on that first Good Friday. So we who are the present ‘children of God’, need to spread the gospel of Christ, and His love for all mankind, with a sense of urgency.

ALL ABOUT LENT

As I read the Old Testament reading appointed for my church for next Sunday, the words, ‘ no remedy’, arrested my thought. And kept reverberating in my head.
One of the great lessons we need to understand, reflect on deeply and repent of in Lent, as a nation, and as individuals, is that without the Blood of Jesus, ‘ there is no remedy’, for sin, and death and evil. So we can lament all we want, and we surely need to mourn when our young girls are impregnated and then murdered, but the reality is that, without Christ, it will surely happen again. And again! Whether in Jamaica, or elsewhere in the world! And manifest in various ways, this kind of evil. Publicly or privately! For disobedience to The Living God as revealed in The Written Word and The Word made flesh, Jesus Christ, is not a good thing. Never has, and never will.

2 Chronicles 36:15-17 NIV

The Lord , the God of their ancestors, sent word to them through his messengers again and again, because he had pity on his people and on his dwelling place. But they mocked God’s messengers, despised his words and scoffed at his prophets until the wrath of the Lord was aroused against his people and there was no remedy. He brought up against them the king of the Babylonians, who killed their young men with the sword in the sanctuary, and did not spare young men or young women, the elderly or the infirm. God gave them all into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar.
So what’s the solution? Found in another Word that has been ‘ in my head’ for a while now. The Body of Christ, The Church, has work to do. To spread the Gospel of Christ. And urgently. And watching TV – for hours – and seeking prosperity for self, is not part of the program. Lent is a good time to think on these things.

2 Corinthians 2:15-17 NIV

For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life. And who is equal to such a task? Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, as those sent from God.

THE THIRD MESSAGE – again sent out on WhatsApp addresses the Christian understanding of Life; before and after Christ. And there is a world of difference between the two. Literally and metaphorically. Morally and Spiritually. Now and for eternnity.

ALL ABOUT LENT

Lent is a good time to remember our ‘ former life’ without Christ; where people we know still live; and where, if we are not vigilant Satan will lead us to again. A temptation we face daily, and everybody’s temptation is different – but disobedience to Almighty God is always at the heart of it – until ‘ death do us part’. So we thank God for Jesus, that all of us who believe, and even ‘ the vilest offender’ who believes in Him, have access to the free gift of the Grace and Mercy of God. This is the message from The Word of God appointed to be read at my Church on Sunday; and a wonderful hymn, both of which I was led to reflect on this morning. And share with you. Praise the Lord

THE WORD OF GOD

Ephesians 2:1-5 NIV

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.

THE HYMN

To God be the glory, great things he hath done!
So loved he the world that he gave us his Son,
who yielded his life an atonement for sin,
and opened the lifegate that all may go in.

Refrain: Praise the Lord, praise the Lord,
let the earth hear his voice!
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord,
let the people rejoice!
O come to the Father through Jesus the Son,
and give him the glory,
great things he hath done!

2. O perfect redemption, the purchase of blood,
to every believer the promise of God;
the vilest offender who truly believes,
that moment from Jesus a pardon receives.

(Refrain)

3. Great things he hath taught us,
great things he hath done,
and great our rejoicing thru Jesus the Son;
but purer, and higher, and greater will be our wonder,
our transport, when Jesus we see.
(Refrain)

THE FOURTH MESSAGE – is a word of encouragement and wisdom for this age. Especially when Christians are being persecuted in various parts of the world, and in different ways. At times like these we need to draw strength from enduring Word of God, and learn to ‘ look under every leaf’.

ALL ABOUT LENT

Yesterday the Lord sent two Words. One a warning which was of great benefit to me. And I pray will serve you well also. The other, profound advice.
Therefore, if we have not trusted God for deliverance in every situation we face, you and I, and if we have not spent much time with His Word, ‘ looking under every leaf’, because of other ‘ distractions’; whether they may be our fears, or our pleasures, you and I, Lent is a good time to think about, and repent of these things.
Because at the end of the day, it will not matter what kind of ‘ empire’ you and I have built, or how others – family or friends or history – will think of us. But rather how much we have been obedient to The Living Word of God – Christ Jesus. Who cannot be separated from the written Word. For what God has ‘ joined together, let no man put asunder’.
For, “In the beginning was the Word. And the Word was with God, and the Word was God……The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” John 1:1-2 & 14. NIV

THE WORD OF GOD

“Be strong and very courageous.”
“Be strong and courageous.
Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
Joshua 1:7 & 9 NIV

THE ADVICE

Martin Luther – the great reformer.
I study my Bible as I gather apples. First I shake the whole tree that the ripest might fall. Then I shake each limb, and when I have shaken each limb, I shake each branch and every twig. Then I look under every leaf.

THE FINAL MESSAGE – sent just this evening addresses the dilemma mankind faces. And why! For we are are unworthy of God, to live within us. But, we are created with a built in need for Him. And many try to fill that need, that desire with many other things. But they never satisfy tis human need. Thus triggering all kinds of evil to flourish within the hearts of mankind and manifest itself in stories which horrify a nation. Thank God for Jesus, as only he can fill this need. And reconcile us to the Creator God. Which is precisely what Good Friday is all about, and Easter is the ‘announcement’. That Jesus Christ is ‘Risen’. And so we too can live a ‘new life’ in Him, and find Peace in our souls. Which is precisely what Jamaica, and the entire world needs now; whether it be Pakistan, Northern Nigeria or Ferguson in the USA.

ALL ABOUT LENT

This morning, the words of a hymn, which I had heard many times before, ‘ penetrated deep in my soul. And when combined with one the most profound observations of the human conditions, written by one Christianity’s greatest thinkers, Bishop Augustine of Hippo ( 3rd Century..354-430) we get a better understanding of the news of the day. Whether it be, ” My Baby “, as the mother of the 11 year old girl child in the Gleaner Headlines, lamented who two men raped her daughter and left her pregnant. Or the death of Kayalecia Simpson under similar circumstances. Or those who are addicted to Cocaine, or have their minds controlled by pleasures, money, power or wickedness. They all suffer from the same ailment. ‘Restless hearts’, that can only find peace in God. Which is the central message of Good Friday. And that is why we maintain, that this island needs Jesus. Lent is a good time to think on these things, as we all suffer from ‘ restless hearts’. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. And no wife, no husband, no partner, no amount of money or personal achievement, and certainly no kind of pleasure can fill that ‘ restless hunger’, in our souls except God in Christ Jesus

AUGUSTINE
(God). “You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless, until they can find rest in you.

THE HYMN
My spirit longs for thee
within my troubled breast,
though I unworthy be
of so divine a guest .

Of so divine a guest
unworthy though I be,
yet had my heart no rest
unless it comes from thee.

Unless it comes from thee,
in vain I look around;
in all that I can see
no rest is to be found.

No rest is to be found
but in thy blessed love:
O let my wish be crowned,
and send it from above!

I pray God that our, ‘ breasts’, may be troubled by our own sins and that of the world in which we live. And though unworthy we be, if we repent and invite Him in, Jesus will come into our hearts, and that of our ‘ neighbors’ and set this country free from madness.

Death of a young 14 year old girl in Jamaica, Lent and Christ The only Balm in Gilead

 

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 big news  this week in my country was bed. Very bad! And the follow up even worse. For a family, a community and nation mourned this week when news broke of the gruesome murder of a 14 year old girl, who was hacked to death, in the early morning before daybreak, and near to her home. Days later we were informed that young Kayalecia Simpson had been pregnant at the time of her death.





2. The Lenten discipline continued, as we await the climax of Lent – Good Friday and Easter.

Yes there were other newsworthy stories, but none touched mu soul as those listed. Not even President Obama’s, widely hailed ” We ” speech on the anniversary of Selma. Nor the Israeli Prime Minister,  Benjamin Natenyahu’s, controversial speech to the US Senate. Nor the news of Boko Haran linking up with ISIS,  and yet more mayhem and murder in my country.

THE WORD OF GOD

So in the midst of the almost palpable pain coarsing through the nation;  and grief enveloping the family and community, what Word or inspired word did The Lord send as ‘ the devil was let loose in Lent’ in my country? A few sent out on WhatsApp, and an important one which I received during my lunch time reading this week, but which I did not have the time to share. In that context then, what is clear to me, despite the many recommendations, from ‘high and from low’, seeking better protection of the safety of our women and girls, that ‘ unless the Lord build the house, we labor in vain’. For my people, I don’t know about anywhere else, will never change unless they come to fear The Living God. And right now many of them neither fear God nor man! Neither the Priest or the house of God, or the Policeman! Here then is the passage I was led to read this week.

Jehoshaphat his son succeeded him as king and strengthened himself against Israel. He stationed troops in all the fortified cities of Judah and put garrisons in Judah and in the towns of Ephraim that his father Asa had captured. The Lord was with Jehoshaphat because he followed the ways of his father David before him. He did not consult the Baals but sought the God of his father and followed his commands rather than the practices of Israel. The Lord established the kingdom under his control; and all Judah brought gifts to Jehoshaphat, so that he had great wealth and honor. His heart was devoted to the ways of the Lord; furthermore, he removed the high places and the Asherah poles from Judah. In the third year of his reign he sent his officials Ben-Hail, Obadiah, Zechariah, Nethanel and Micaiah to teach in the towns of Judah. With them were certain Levites—Shemaiah, Nethaniah, Zebadiah, Asahel, Shemiramoth, Jehonathan, Adonijah, Tobijah and Tob-Adonijah—and the priests Elishama and Jehoram. They taught throughout Judah, taking with them the Book of the Law of the Lord; they went around to all the towns of Judah and taught the people. The fear of the Lord fell on all the kingdoms of the lands surrounding Judah, so that they did not go to war against Jehoshaphat. Some Philistines brought Jehoshaphat gifts and silver as tribute, and the Arabs brought him flocks: seven thousand seven hundred rams and seven thousand seven hundred goats.
http://bible.com/111/2ch.17.1-11.niv

So what the Lord is saying here, my people, is use the opportunity of Lent to repent. And help to spread the Word of God, which is ‘ sharper than any two-edged sword’, and thus cause people to fear the Lord once again in this country. As they did in the early post emancipation days, when Sam Sharpe, Paul Bogle, George William Gordon and others helped to shape the lives of former slaves and their children, as inspired by The Word of God. For the reality is that people in high and exalted positions, and also within the ‘masses’, having forgotten their history, have ‘rebelled’ against The Living God; on radio, on Television, in our music and in our homes. With devastating consequences! Releasing the kind of evil which destroyed the life of young Kayalecia, and others before her also; and against which they have no idea how to fight, and ironically,  have turned their backs on the only Power which can overcome evil. Pray God that as Passion Week comes again once more this year, we might heed the Lord’s  call to repent of our collective madness.

THE FIRST MESSAGE – in it the Lord reminds us that He is a faithful God. Even when we are unfaithful.



Death in our communities. Death in our families. Sudden death on our roads. Disappointments in life. Trouble knocking on our doors. Challenges awaiting us today. And yet we serve a faithful God, ‘ there is no shadow of turning with Him’.

This morning I woke up with Luciano’s, ” Lord give me strength to face another day”. But just could not find the right video. Came across Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir’s ‘ Nothing is impossible with God’. Good but not ‘ in my soul’  this morning. Then began my devotions with JACOB 

BOEHME’ s Morning Watch.

Living Lord, you have watched over me, and put your hand on my head through the long dark hours of night. Your holy angels have protected me from all harm and pain. Continue to watch over me and bless me during the hours of day.
And while thanking God for mercy, this song came into my heart. Praise God. 

“Great is Thy faithfulness,” O God my Father,
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not
As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be. 

CHO

“Great is Thy faithfulness!” “Great is Thy faithfulness!”
  Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided—
    “Great is Thy faithfulness,” Lord, unto me!
2
Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above,
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.

Chorus

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!

Chorus


THE SECOND MESSAGE – O, how I wish that this song from the Lord, could replace the slackness of the dance hall lyrics, and also those which are ‘trotted out’ at Carnival, and really get into the heads of our youngsters, and old ones too. Thus releasing the power of God to help spread abroad the ‘ holy fear of God’ in  our communities. And then enable us to see God’s Glory in Jesus Christ, as first revealed on the Cross of Calvary and validated by The Resurrection on Easter morning.


THE GLORY OF GOD

Sometimes trouble or the good life combine to make us forget The Glory of the God we serve. This morning as I began to praise God, just because He is worthy of praise, this song came into my heart. And then a powerful reminder of the image in the Bible of God and His Son who are both worthy. As you sing the song/prayer, remember the three songs which glorify The Father and The Son in heaven. Even as we battle with trials here on earth

THE SONG
Open the eyes of my heart, Lord
Open the eyes of my heart
I want to see You
I want to see You

Open the eyes of my heart, Lord
Open the eyes of my heart
I want to see You
I want to see You

To see You high and lifted up
Shinin’ in the light of Your glory
Pour out Your power and love
As we sing holy, holy, holy


THE WORD OF GOD – THREE SONGS IN HEAVEN

Revelation 4:2 NIV
At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it.

Revelation 4:8 NIV

Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under its wings. Day and night they never stop saying:
“ ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,’  who was, and is, and is to come.”

Revelation 5:8-9 NIV

And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people. And they sang a new song, saying:
“You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.

Revelation 5:13 NIV

Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying:
“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!”


Let us therefore sing a new song on earth, regardless of our circumstances, as our God is always worthy to be praised. ” Open the eyes of my heart Lord, I want to see you……..”

THE THIRD MESSAGE – One of the ‘popular’ ways of gaining attention in my country now, is to write unvarnished rubbish that ” God is dead”. Or ‘God is something or someone who Christians made up’. And so many ‘fools have tread where angels do not dare to go’! Thus, my God, The Living God, sends a reminder in song, that He is very real indeed. Further, that one day, there will be a ‘verdict’ passed against those who refuse to come into The Light of Christ, The Incarnate Word of God. No wonder then that  wickedness often flourishes in the ‘dark”.


GOD  IS VERY REAL

God is made very real in the Life, Death, Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus. And so I awoke with song in my heart this morning. One which I had not sung for a long time. Amazing !
Then at the end of my Bible readings for this Sunday, came a Verdict for those who do not believe that God is real.

THE WORD OF GOD

John 3:19-21 NIV

This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

THE SONG
There are some things
I may not know
There are some places
Oh Lord, I cannot go
But I am sure
Of this one thing
That God is real
For I can feel
Him in my soul

Yes, God is real
Oh, He’s real in my soul
Yes, God is real
For He has a washed
And made me whole

His love for me
Is just like pure gold, oh Lord
My God is real
For I can feel
Him in my soul
Yes, God is real

Oh yes, God is real in my soul
Yes, God is real
For He has washed
And made me whole


Please do not make, ‘ ghost fool you’, as we say in Jamaica. For God is very real. That’s why Lent climaxes in Good Friday and the Blessed Resurrection – Easter. 
Lent is a good time to escape from the darkness, and avoid the ‘ Verdict’.

THE FOURTH MESSAGE –  of all the messages this one, more than any other touched the hearts of those who are on my WhatsApp contact list. I hope it gets deep in your soul also, as it has been in mine over the years, every time I read it. For herein lies a great truth. We have not really loved The Living God as much as we should. Whether within or without the church! And so our land mourns.For God requires all  our love and worship. Not just in times of trouble, or for ceremonial purposes!


Many years ago, my spiritual father, the late Bishop Herman Spence,  of blessed memory, who was then my Rector, invited a priest to conduct a mission in the church. I think it was for the period of Lent. The lasting memory of that mission,  is a prayer he shared with us. One which has ‘ haunted’ my soul over the years. I have been led by the Lord to  share it with you. That it may ‘ haunt’ your soul also. And move all of us to seek the Lord more diligently. As Lent is a time to think on these things.

THE PRAYER

O God, we have loved thee but not enough;
We have sought thee but not diligently. 
We have seen but not perceived. We have heard but not understood. 
We have hoped for things heavenly but we have clung to the things of this earth and our hearts are far from thee the Holy One. 
Draw us now in thy mercy, unto thyself, O God, that the time to come my not be as the past, but that seeing, perceiving,  understanding and loving Thee, Thy Kingdom may come, and we may find joy in thy service; Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


Perhaps a Word which  has ‘ haunted’ my soul this week, will help us understand better the message in the prayer. With God, ‘it’s all or nothing’. Which in a very real sense is the Good Friday message – the beginning of the climax of Lent.

THE WORD
” In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple”. Luke 14:33 NIV

THE FINAL MESSAGE – this one offers the simplest and yet most profound understanding of the Gospel message. That unless we are in Christ, terror awaits us. Eternally!  On the day of Judgment. And God so loves us, that He sent His Son, His only Son to die on an old wooden Cross, so that we may not be eternally separated from Him – which is the correct interpretation of hell. Further, no one can ‘cross over’ to come and help when that happens. So the time to listen is now. To the words in the Old Testament, and even better, to the Incarnate Word, who with Power, rose from the dead, on that first Easter morning, over two thousand years ago. For if we fail to listen, there is no remedy. And life here is but a short period of time, despite the bling and the hype and the trappings of power;  only a fleeting moment when compared to eternity



ALL ABOUT LENT

I had already turned off the phone when I read the story of  The Rich Man ( Dives) and Lazarus as my bedtime reading last night. That’s the only reason why I did not share it at that time. But then I would not have known that the 14 year young lady Kayalecia, who so brutally murdered, was four months pregnant. But does it really matter as murder is still wickedness regardless of the motive? True! But now there are two messages. Thou shalt not kill. And thou shalt not ‘ interfere with people’s girl children’. No doubt there are other messages to be considered – the wider context of the consequences of immorality. And ‘ greed’ and lust. But we shall not dwell on those more difficult ones at a time like this when a family is mourning, and indeed a community and an entire nation. The question which arises though, which Easter and Good Friday, the climax of Lent, poses, and the Word of God, is ‘ will we listen when God speaks’?
THE WORD OF GOD

Luke 16:27-31 NIV

“He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family,  for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’     “Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’     “ ‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’     “He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’ ”

And what is the essential message that ‘ the God-man Jesus who rose from the dead’ brought to us. Two Words. John 3:16 the most widely Bible verse 
” For God so loved the world….. .”

And another : ” All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Romans 3:23. And: The wages of sin is death but the  gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus. Romans 6:23

The Opposition leader in Jamaica under fire; Four die suddenly on our roads; and All about Lent as Good Friday and Easter beckon

I read my Bible to see when 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 embattled leader of the Opposition Party, JLP, Andrew Holness, continues to make the headlines in Jamaica. For mostly the wrong reasons! Such a great pity for a young man who has, or had, lots of potential. Will he sink or swim? Only time will tell. As many leaders have risen from the ‘ the political ash heap’ and gone on to new heights.
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/More-heat-on-Holness_18486501

2. Sudden death on the roads in Jamaica. News came this afternoon of a terrible crash in the north of Jamaica, Trelawny, where four persons travelling in a car died on the spot after colliding with a trailer. All were foreigners. One from Spain, the others from The Dominican Republic.
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Four-killed-in-Trelawny-crash

Yes, there were other items in the news which came to my attention. But if truth be told, during lent my mind gets very focused on trying to draw closer to God. Therefore other matters really do not attract my attention as before. So World Cup cricket is interesting, especially when New Zealand bowled out the Aussies cheaply. Only for the men who proudly wear the ‘ baggy green cap’ to come roaring back and almost snatch victory at the end. And IS continues to give trouble all over the world; triggering a comment about how we in the Caribbean may be quite vulnerable to an attack. Murder continues to be problem in Jamaica. But in all of this Lent trumps everything.

THE WORD OF GOD

So what Word, or inspiring word, did the Lord send this week. Mostly ” All About Lent”. About a forgiving and compassionate God. And one dramatic warning to our Political Leaders to be careful about the health of their soul; in the same way that they are concerned about the ‘ big issues’ in our country.

THE FIRST MESSAGE – sent out on WhatsApp. I am reading a book for Lent. Written by perhaps the most famous Anglican Evangelical Theologian whose, The Cross of Christ, ought to be a must-read for anyone who has a serious interest in learning about the fundamentals of the faith. And in the same way the party faithfuls are deeply committed to their leader and party, so much more so must we,who believe in The Atoning death of Christ, ‘abide in’, and ‘cling to’ and ‘stick fast to Jesus’, in order to bear fruit, and overcome evil. The kind of evil which leading so many of our young people astray, and into murder and other types of violent crime, about which this country needs to repent. Deeply!

ALL ABOUT LENT
Ultimately, Lent is not just about, giving up, or taking on, but about drawing closer to God in and through Christ Jesus. That’s why it climaxes in Good Friday and The Blessed Resurrection – Easter.

So last night this Word from John Stott – one of my favourite theologians.

LIFE IN CHRIST – JOHN STOTT

….If we are in Christ, personally and organically linked to him, God blesses us with enormous blessings – a new status ( we are put right with him), a new life ( we are renewed by the Holy Spirit) and a new community ( we are members of God’s family).
But how does this happen? We have to come in penitence and faith to Jesus Christ, and commit ourselves to him. It is thus that God unites us in Christ. And this union with him is publicly dramatized in baptism, for to be baptised, Paul writes, is to be ‘baptised’ into Christ. ( Galatians 3:27)
Union with Christ is a living and growing experience, however. Hence Paul can write both of’ infants in Christ, and of ‘adults in Christ ( mature in Christ). So the question now is : how do we grow in our relationship to Christ? The question brings us back to the words of Jesus:
‘ Remain in me, and I will remain in you….If a man remains in me, and I in him, he will bear much fruit ( John 15:4-5). We notice now that Jesus’ allegory of the vine and the branches illustrates a reciprocal relationship between him and his people.

If Christ is to ‘ remain in’, or ‘abide’ in us, we must allow him to do so. Our responsibility here is more passive than active. We have to yield daily, freshly to his control of our lives. We must seek to live moment by moment in total openness to him, so that his life and power flow into us as the sap rises in the tree at spring time.

But if we are to remain or abide in Christ, there are certain active steps that we must take. ..’Abide in me. Cling to me, stick fast to me. Live the life of close and intimate communion with me. Get nearer and nearer to me. Roll every burden on me. cast your whole weight on me. Never let go your hold on me for a moment’.

The command to remain or abide in Christ portrays a tireless, relentless pursuit of him. It is the spirit of Jacob who cried to the Lord who was wrestling with him, ‘ I will not let you go unless you bless me’. ( Genesis 32:26). In particular, we need to be diligent in our use of ‘ the means of grace’, to spend time each day seeking Christ through prayer and Bible reading, and come each Sunday to worship and regularly to the Lord’s Table. It is in these ways that we actively pursue Christ and learn to abide in him. The more disciplined we are in our set times of devotion, the more easy it becomes to live the rest of our time ‘in Christ’, united with him, enjoying his presence, and drawing on his life forever.

THE SECOND MESSAGE – sent out on WhatsApp after posting the complete message in an e-mail to my church. A message in which we can all locate ourselves. Repeatedly! For disobedience, to God, is the most problematic issue for all mankind. Whether we are baptised or not! Whether we are mature Christians or still ‘drinking milk’. O Jesus draw Thou nearer, and shield my soul from sin.

ALL ABOUT LENT

This morning, having read the OT reading in Church for this Sunday, The story of Abraham and Isaac, I was inspired to write to my church. Part of which I share with you. As this powerful lesson on obedience, which resulted in the wonderful promises of blessedness for the ‘ children of Abraham’, and in which who are obedient to Christ, ought to encourage us to use the ‘ opportunity’ provided by Lent, to repent of our disobedience. Starting with myself!

A PERSONAL PRAYER FOR OBEDIENCE

JOHN BAILLE ( 1886-1960…..A SCOTTISH THEOLOGIAN, EDUCATOR AND ECUMENICAL LEADER…ONCE PRESIDENT OF WCC….AUTHOR OF ” A

DIARY OF PRIVATE PRAYER)

Verse: Judges 2: 17 yet they would not listen to to their judges but prostituted themselves to other gods and worshiped them. Unlike their fathers, they quickly turned from the way in which their fathers had walked, the way of obedience to God’s commands.

Holy God, to whose service I long ago dedicated my soul and life; I grieve and lament before thee that I am still so prone to sin and so little inclined to obedience.:
So much attached to the pleasures of sense, so negligent of things spiritual:
So prompt to gratify my body, so slow to nourish my soul:
So greedy for present delight, so indifferent to lasting blessedness:
So fond of idleness, so indisposed for labor:
So soon at play, so late at prayer:
So brisk in the service of self, so slack in the service of others:
So eager to get, so reluctant to give:
So lofty in my profession, so low in my practice:
So full of good intentions, so backward to fulfill them:
So severe with my neighbors, so indulgent with myself:
So eager to find fault, so resentful at being found fault:
So little able for great tasks, so discontented with small ones:
So weak in adversity, so swollen and self-satisfied with in prosperity:
So helpless apart from thee, and yet so little willing to be bound to thee:
O merciful heart of God, grant me yet again thy forgiveness. hear my sorrowful tale and in thy great mercy blot it out from the book of thy remembrance. Give me faith to so lay hold of thine own holiness and so rejoice in the righteousness of Christ my Savior that, resting on his merits rather than on my own, I may more and more become conformed to his likeness, my will becoming one with his on obedience to thine. All this I ask for his holy name sake.

THE THIRD MESSAGE – sent out on WhatsApp. One of the eternal lessons that all mankind is learning, most times the hard way, is that, whether we like it or not, whether we accept it or not, our future is in the hands of the Lord. And so The Lord send this affirmation in the words of a very familiar and well loved song. As who knows when the sudden death will separate us from our loved ones. Forever! And bring them suddenly, and hopefully not unprepared, to Judgement. Who can predict with great accuracy, and finality, the fortunes of any political leader. For as we know, ‘ a week in politics is a long time”. We only pray that all leaders, and all of God’s children, come to understand that , ‘we are called to service in this land’. And not to be served!

ALL ABOUT LENT
The message from yesterday continues in a different form today, as I was led, in a most remarkable way – moving from one hymn to another – to spend quality time reflecting on the words below. Called to service in this land, that is ‘ just aching for Jesus’, we need Him to, ‘ keep walking beside us every night, every day’. The words of this well known song touched my heart this morning, as I contemplated my own desperate need for Jesus – that was the first hymn, ‘ I need thee every hour’ – and the state of my blessed country Jamaica land we love. And pray for without ceasing. Hope it touches your soul too. For we all have a lot to repent of in this country which has wandered far from the commands of God to Love Him with all our hearts, and mind, and strength.

You have all our future in Your hands, in Your hands
We bid you take over all our live, Lord –
Our dreams, aspirations, all our best Jesus Christ.
Our all, we place in Your Hands

Chorus:

In your hands, Lord, we place today, tomorrow.
In your hands, Lord we surrender all.
In your hands, we commit our joys, our sorrows
In your hands, Lord we surrender all.

Keep walking beside us every night, every day
And giving us courage for the fray, Lord.
We need You to guide us every step of the way;
forsake us not, O Lord we pray.

Chorus

You place many duties in our hands, in our hands;
And shaping our future is our task, Lord
On You we depend, Lord on for the power; this we ask;
That all makes sense in Your hands.

Chorus

You call us to service in this land, in this land,
whose soul is just aching for your touch Lord;
and we to are reaching for your hand Lord.
Redeem us as we take out stand

Chorus

So Lord we are trusting everything to Your hands,
And then we keep praying for our land, Lord.
To labour with the others for the best, Jesus, Lord,
Our all we place in Your hands.

Chorus

THE FOURTH MESSAGE – sent out on WhatsApp. The last message spoke about our being ‘called to service’. This one is very specific about to whom we are called to serve. And to seek to achieve the balance between, ” cultivating the faithful”, and ‘seeking the lost and broken’.

ALL ABOUT LENT
At a time when Homosexuality, Corruption in Politics, Business and the Police Force, Murder and Rape, Slackness in the Dance Hall and in Carnival and among Schoolers, are hot topics, I opened my Devotional Guide this morning and found this challenging word.

CHRIS TIEGREEN

HIS MISSION AND OURS

The Son of Man came to seek and save what was lost. Luke 19:10
Think of the odd assortment of people to whom people were drawn. In this passage, it’s a dishonest tax collector. Elsewhere, it’s a prostitute; a raging, demon possessed lunatic; an adulteress; beggars; lepers; and just about everyone else who had no legitimate case to make about their own righteousness and well being. His harshest words were reserved for the self-righteous, those who thought they needed nothing more than what they already had. They were just as lost, but could not know it unless they were directly confronted. They overt sinners , though, knew it already. They needed help.

If Christ was drawn to sinners, why isn’t the body of Christ equally drawn? Many of us can hardly say we live to seek and save what is lost. We often act as if we affirm and support what is superior. We tend to avoid the unseemly and cultivate the faithful. Cultivating the faithful is good, as Jesus spent three years doing so with His disciples. But His search for that which was lost and broken was zealous and relentless. Is ours?
If any of us cannot answer yes to this great question, and I am in that category, then Lent is a good time to repent of mainly cultivating the faithful, and avoiding the the ‘ lost and broken’ in our society.

FINAL MESSAGE – sent out by e-mail to leaders on ‘ both sides of the house’ this morning. One that needs very little comment. In fact none at all. But only to say that it is a message for all people at all times. And only the Lord he knows why our politicians, in particular, came into my mind asI read this very well known passage before going to church to worship the God who ” gives grace to the humble”.

THE MESSAGE

Just yesterday, a 90 plus year old, blind woman held my hands as she blessed me and told me how The Lord had called my name. And that was why she was in my office.
Well this morning, just now, as I read the Gospel reading for today’s worship at my church, St. Andrew Anglican Parish Church, The Lord called your names, collectively, as a group of leaders committed to provide and pursue “A Vision”- the big picture – for my country. And told me to share, perhaps remind you, is more accurate, about this profound Word.
” What good it is for a man to gain the whole world, and yet forfeit his soul “.
Lent is a good time to think about this Word.
In obedience.
LWJ

Four killed in a Road Crash in Jamaica

The NRSC notes with deep regret and sadness the news of the terrible tragedy which occurred in the early hours of March 1st. At a time when the nation is already struggling to deal with the rising number of road fatalities, the sudden death of four persons on the Braco road in Trelawny is a disaster of no mean order. And one that ought to galvanize the entire nation to take the issue of road safety much more seriously, at all levels of our society, than has hitherto been the case. For despite recurrent events like what happened this morning, leaving families and loved ones to mourn,  sometimes for years, and oftentimes with an attendant dire financial burden, we have tended, as  a people, to continue to use the roads with less care and responsibility than is required.
Our prayers and condolences go out to families of those who died. And we pledge our continued commitment to work tirelessly, with government agencies and Ministers whose portfolio responsibilities impact on road safety, and with the private sector to promote safety on the nation’s roads.
In this context we urge the nation to take note of the fact that the United Nations Global Road Safety Week will be celebrated from May 4-10, 2015. An event for which the NRSC  has already began to plan. And although the focus will be on child safety, 
#SaveKidsLives, it is our hope that all lives will be spared from death and injury on account of the planned activities.

LWJ

Dr. Lucien W Jones
Vice Chairman
NRSC