Quadruple Murder in Jamaica: Forgiveness of Murder on 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

The big and only news for this week, from my perspective, was a quadruple murder event resulting in the death of three teenage boys and an adult male. They were all shot to death by a single bullet, lying down on their faces in a professional execution style.
In all my life, and I have lived in a country where murder most foul has become unfortunately a way of life, I have never been so badly affected and emotionally and spiritually traumatized, as was the case with this event.

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/lead-stories/20150417/quadruple-murder-leaves-peaceful-community-shock

THE WORD OF GOD

So what Word or inspired word did the Lord send in this, one of the darkest moments in my life as a Jamaican? Lots. First of all the Lord prepared the way by sending a word about ‘ tracing the rainbow through the pain’, viz, resting on the blessed hope, that in the midst of the pain, God is at work; even when we cannot see the way clearly. So our role is to pray to ‘see Jesus in all situations’.

THE FIRST MESSAGE
ALL ABOUT JESUS
Last night as was falling asleep the words, the first verse, of this hymn came into my mind.

O Love that wilt not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in thee:
I give thee back the life I owe,
that in thine ocean depth its flow
may brighter, fairer be

Then this morning as I prepared to worship the Lord, at one service, and then preach in an inner city community, at another service, the words of the third verse, explained why the Lord placed it in my heart.

O joy that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to thee:
I trace the rainbow through the pain,
and feel the promise that is not vain
that morn shall tearless be.

Why? I am preaching on Mary Magdalene words to the disciples after the Resurrection of Jesus.

” I have seen the Lord “.

Remember now that this the same lady ” out of whom had been cast out seven demons”. Thus she was the first to see the empty tomb. And having searched for her Lord she was the first to ” see Him”.

Why? Has Jesus delivered you, the Love that wilt not let you go, from demons of anger, fear, doubt, unfaithfulness, greed, envy, immoral living, a superficial Christian life, a life that did not need Him?
For if not, if all Jesus has ‘done for you’, is provided you with material blessings, then you will never, lead a Resurrected life in Him. For only a life which can trace the rainbow through the rain, that longs for the morn that shall tearless be, in short a life that is desperate for salvation, will seek to
” see Jesus”. And find Him!

Sadly the converse is also true. Remember the story of another man who was delivered from demons, and then they came back and found ” the house swept clean “. And Scripture records that” after they returned, the man’s condition was worse than before “. I pray God that all of us will be convicted of our many, many sins, so that we may, with tears repent, and seek to find Jesus, like Mary did. Otherwise, who knows what our final condition may become, as Satan is like a roaring Lion seeking whom he will.

Finally, yesterday as I wrote out the sermon as the Lord directed, He placed this song in my heart

Open the eyes of my heart Lord
Open the eyes of my heart Lord.
I want to see you

Let this song/prayer abide in our souls this day. As we want to see Jesus high and lifted up. The Resurrected Christ Himself.

And as I am about to press SEND news broke of a three year old child ‘ accidentally ‘ shot his mother dead with his father’s firearm, and a Jamaican teenager reportedly trying to fly to link up with ISIS

THE SECOND MESSAGE – Looking back now, it is almost uncanny, how the Lord was ‘preparing the way’ for the disaster that was ahead of us, when we had not idea, that a ‘terrible storm was looming’. Sadly, this is the case as long as we live in this ‘broken’ world, that ‘trouble’ is, literally, and not just figuratively, always ‘just around the corner’. And it is only the mercy of a supernatural God, who can then help us to have mercy on others, who can help in all situations. A point a very discerning Priest would make after the disaster in a a very timely sermon preached today. But more anon

ALL ABOUT EASTER

Obama’s visit, and the issues being discussed in the wake of this historic event, to a certain extent, if we are not careful, can be a distraction to a child of God. And so too many other issues of the day, if not understood in the light of Christ’s suffering and death on Calvary.
For what Good Friday teaches us, is that the basis of life is Tragic, Wild, and Beyond our understanding. But thank God for Easter, we can, as Psalm 98 ( appointed for next Sunday’s service) teaches, ‘ Sing to the Lord a new song’, even in the midst of the madness of a 3 year old child allegedly being responsible for the shooting death of his mother. The madness of ‘ Wild Gilbert’ or Katrina! The epitome of Evil which ISIS represents and how that evil is spreading it’s tentacles abroad! The devastating news of an incurable Cancer or life threatening illness! News of a loved one killed on our roads. And the pain and devastation that unfaithfulness, manifest in the birth of an ‘ outside child’ or not, and abuse, whether emotional or physical, brings to a previously happy relationship.

Why then can we , ‘ sing a new song’ to the Lord, even in the midst of pain?
Read carefully the passage to which I was led this morning and the words of the hymn with which I began my devotions. For the Blood of Jesus, washes away our sins, and His Resurrection gives us ‘ new life’, and allows us, sinful mankind, to enter into the very presence of a Holy God. And ask for mercy and help in times of trouble. And worship Him, and serve others humbly with our lives, through the Power of the Holy Spirit, in Spirit and in Truth

THE WORD OF GOD
Hebrews 10:19-23 NIV

Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.

THE HYMN

What a friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer!

O what peace we often forfeit!
O what needless pain we bear!
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer

Have we troubles and temptations!
Is there trouble anywhere…..

The reality is that ‘ trouble’ in this world, for which Jesus died, and rose from the dead, is always ‘ just around the corner’.
The tragedy is that those who have ‘ rejected the chief capstone’ have no Almighty Savior to whom they can turn in the midst of madness. And even then The Father is still waiting with His Hands wide open on the Cross of Calvary. And He has called us to bear witness to someone Today, that ‘ softly and tenderly, Jesus is calling’ – all of us to share in The Peace that only a Friend like Him can provide. In the midst of Pain. For God is faithful, and full compassion and mercy.

THE THIRD MESSAGE – is a kind of second phase of the preparation process. And at the end comes the shocking news of the week. For the reality is that The Verdict of God hangs over everyone who has rejected the offer of The Lord to “Come into the Light, Jesus Christ, and escape from the darkness. For it is men of the darkness who carry out all these atrocities.

ALL ABOUT JESUS

Last night as I read God’s Word before bedtime prayers, this passage from John, which I had read countless times before, hit me like a thunderbolt, as I recalled Oswald Chambers, the great Bible teacher expounding on this same passage

THE WORD OF GOD

This is the verdict. Light has come into the world, but men 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 his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he had done has been done through God. John 3:19-21.

The truth is my friends, in a real sense, too many of us, including myself, in the past, have become distracted. And such distraction only comes from the master of deceit , Satan.
For the truth is that it does not really matter if someone is gay or straight, Muslim or Buddhist, President or Chronnix, Rasta or bald head, follower of the teachings of Marcus Garvey or a lover of Bob Marley’s music, PNP or Labourite, smoke weed and ‘ bun fire’ for Babylon or a nice ‘ christian yute, lives in Tivoli or Norbrook, drives a deportee or a ‘Bimmer’, is The Girl dem Sugar or a faithful One Burner man, have a Coco Cola body that can ‘ stop’ traffic or a lady who would not get a second look, if you have not committed yourself to The Light of the World, Christ Crucified on Calvary, you are under God’s condemnation. Not, man’s! That’s the Verdict in the Word of God.

So our role as children of the Light of God, and the Body of Christ Crucified, is not to spend too much time arguing with people and trying to, with our wisdom, teach them the truth. Our role rather is to present The Truth to others, who alone has the Power to convict people of Sin, as ‘ the battle is the Lord’s’ and not ours.
Then this morning I awoke with ‘ He lives within my heart’, in my heart.
And as I reflected on just the first verse, thoughts of mercy, an assurance of His Presence with us, and most importantly, the question of whether or not we are demonstrating to others that The Risen Savior lives in us, came into my heart. Everyday, and not just in Lent, is a good time to think on these things. Who do others see when they look at us? Jesus at work in our lives or someone else? And have we come into the Light, or are we still living in the darkness with the Verdict of God hanging over our heads? Further, have received the promised salvation, which is the only question The Judge of all the Earth is going to ask us one day. “For it is appointed for all men once to die, and then face the judgment “.
Let us choose well today my friends, and encourage all who we meet, to come into the Light, whatever their beliefs, for ‘ there is no other name given to men by which we must be saved’, except Jesus Christ, the Light of the world. And no one knoweth when the Son of Man shall come again. Neither the day nor the hour.

I pray God then that Christ may truly live in my heart, and yours Today. As we do battle against the evil one who is always , ‘ like a roaring lion’ , seeking to distract people from concentrating on Jesus and Him Crucified: The Truth, and The Light.
Peace.

I serve a risen Savior
He’s in the world today.
I know that He is living,
Whatever men may say.
I see His hand of mercy;
I hear His voice of cheer;
And just the time I need Him
He’s always near.

He lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today!
He walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way.
He lives, He lives, salvation to impart!
You ask me how I know He lives?
He lives within my heart.

And as I opened the WhatsApp to send this message, I see this message. May God protect us from evil. As only He can. Nobody else.
Jamaica Gleaner: UPDATE: Three students, one man killed execution-style in Clarendon shooting.

THE FOURTH MESSAGE – and so having heard the full details, I poured out my heart before the Lord and asked for mercy for my embattled nation. And I know that the Eternal God has already began to answer my prayers. And the prayers of countless others. For mercy!

A PRAYER FOR MERCY

NEWS

Fourteen-year-old Ricardo Briscoe, 14-year-old Raymond Givans, 15-year-old Alex Turner and 35-year-old Marquis Hamilton, all of Clarendon addresses, were murdered execution-style.
O God tonight our hearts are troubled. Tonight as a people we are filled with grief and pain. And Lord if we, so far removed from the scene, though very much there in spirit, are so distraught and perplexed, O God, how much more so the families, friends, and teachers of those three young boys and one adult who were so brutally murdered last night.
And O God you know that as a nation, we have been down this road before. O God so many, many times. We are tired of it Lord. We are worn out grieving for our nation. Young girls, old people, babies; no one is safe O God.
But we are still trusting in you O God. For your Word, which cannot be broken tells us that : ” God confides in those that fear him”. So Lord, in the midst of this madness, in the midst of the pain, O Blessed Redeemer God, we are begging you; tell us how to counter this evil that has taken root in our land. Because we fear you and believe in your Son Jesus Christ.
O God forgive us that as a people we have ” opened the gates and let in the pirates “. In many, many ways. Whether in our Music, our Culture, our Politics, and in the spreading of a ‘ prosperity gospel’, that has no power.
Forgive us O Lord that we no longer give high priority to your Word, in our homes, our schools, in our communities, and so O God far too many of our people fear neither man nor you, O Almighty God. And so evil abounds in our land, and we just cannot manage.

So Father God, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ of Nazareth, hear our cry tonight, send your Spirit to empower us, and revive us again O God, that the dawn of this long dark night might soon appear. That wickedness may not rule over us any longer, and snatch away our children.
O God we remember your warning in the Book of Deuteronomy that you gave to the children of Israel, and tonight we offer it up as a prayer. So that being obedient to your Word in and through Christ Jesus and Him Crucified, by the Power of the Holy Spirit, you may grant us mercy. And times of refreshing may come upon this land. For we are desperately and urgently in need of your mercy

” Oh, that their hearts would be inclined to fear me and keep all my commands always, so that it may go well with they and their children forever “.

THE FIFTH MESSAGE – and the following morning the plea continued.

A PRAYER FOR MERCY CONTD
Although a version of this Psalm has become a popular song in the Carnival/Soca culture, ” Lord forgive them for they know not what they do”, in the midst of the pain last night, the King James Version brought peace in my heart ; as I was reminded that My God ‘ has been a shelter and a strong tower against the enemy’.

PSALM 61: 1-3 KJV

Hear my cry, O God; attend to my prayer.
From the end of the earth will I cry to You, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
For you have been a shelter for me, and a strong tower from the enemy”.

And if you listen carefully you will hear the Spirit saying:

This Rock is Jesus, and:
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

In times like these oh be not idle
In times like these we need the bible
Be very sure, be very sure
Your anchor holds and grips the Solid Rock

That Rock is Jesus, Yes, He’s the one
That Rock is Jesus, The only One
Be very sure, oh you’ve gotta be sure
That your anchor holds, and it grips the Solid Rock
Your anchor it holds, and it grips the Solid Rock

In times like these, I have a Savior
In times like these, I have an anchor
I’m very sure, I’m very sure
My anchor holds and grips the Solid Rock

That Rock is Jesus, Yes, He’s the one
That Rock is Jesus, The only One
Be very sure, oh you’ve gotta be sure
That your anchor it holds, and it grips the Solid Rock

I pray God that in times like these we will cry out to God, and return to the Only One Who can help. The same one on whom Sam Sharpe and our grandparents depended. Puppa Jesus and Massa God.
O God have mercy on our souls for we have committed the very same sin about which Jeremiah warned the children of Israel, thousands of years ago ( the more things change…… remain the same: unless you have been made new in Christ Jesus):

” My people have committed two sins:
They have forsaken me, the spring of living water,
and have dug their own cisterns,
broken cisterns that can hold no water. Jeremiah 2:13.

Hear our prayer this sad day, O God, and let our cry come unto thee. Amen

THE FINAL MESSAGE – Which captured the views of a well known Anthropologist. And whose research I respect. So in combination with the Truth, the message makes a powerful argument to line up the secular and spiritual on this matter, as they point in the same direction. The need for Justice and Mercy. And the need for us to remember the God who has served us a nation well over the years. Lest we forget! Lest we forget!

ALL ABOUT GRACE AND MERCY

Yesterday morning as I was led back to the passage from Jeremiah in which there is a lament about how God’s ‘ chosen ‘ people had rebelled against Him, time and time again, one question captured the enormity of the ‘ sin’. And that question applies to us, a people, whose forefathers, for the most part, were rescued from slavery by the Power of the Gospel. Hence the strength of the Church, and the relatively peaceful ( very few murders) in a society where people feared God, respected their elders, and loved their neighbours – treating their children with the same love as their own. Then in the late 60’s and early 70’s ‘ all hell broke loose’.

THE WORD OF GOD
What fault did your fathers find in me,
that they strayed so far from me?
Jeremiah 2:5 NIV

This verse had been ‘ in my head’ from yesterday and during my sleep last night. For make no mistake, the wickedness which is being visited upon our once quiet and peaceful country has a history. It did not just happen overnight. And that history had two parents. One secular, the other spiritual. Both are interrelated!
On the Secular side – Parenteral neglect of their children; chiefly fathers. And grossly uneven distribution of state resources resulting in extreme poverty. The combination of which, fatherless children and social decay, produce men who become our ‘worse nightmares’. This according to University Professor of Anthropology, Dr. Herbert Gayle speaking on Nationwide news yesterday.
In the Spiritual realm – a verse which came into heart last night, captures the the reverse side of the equation.
Jesus, speaking with His disciples on the night before He died on the cross of Calvary, at the end, before praying and heading off to complete His Mission on earth, left them with this assurance.

” I have told you these things, so that on me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart I have overcome the world. “.
John 16:33 NIV

A verse which affirms the fact that all those who do not belong to Christ cannot truly find peace in this troubled world. And that in the midst of pain and suffering and temptation we can find peace in Him. Further that those who are ‘ unredeemed’ have great difficulty overcoming the evil influences to which they are subjected, by all kinds individuals – in high places and those in their communities.
So, here is the link between the two challenges the nation faces – rebellion against the Only One who can truly provide ultimate peace, and injustice – Jesus died that we who enjoy a ‘ new life’ in Him, are empowered both to call people to repentance, and also to fight against injustice everywhere.
Then amazingly, in the dead of night, the words ‘ It is well with my soul,’ came into my head. And the first three verses of this glorious hymn, which I googled this morning, as it is not in my hymnbook, speak a comforting word to the grieving relatives of that quadruple murder scene, and to a confused and troubled nation. Although it makes this message a bit longer, I believe the context in which it was written will help also.

IT IS WELL WITH MY SOUL

This hymn was writ­ten af­ter two ma­jor trau­mas in Spaf­ford’s life. The first was the great Chi­ca­go Fire of Oc­to­ber 1871, which ru­ined him fi­nan­cial­ly (he had been a weal­thy bus­i­ness­man). Short­ly af­ter, while cross­ing the At­lan­tic, all four of Spaf­ford’s daugh­ters died in a col­li­sion with an­o­ther ship. Spaf­ford’s wife Anna sur­vived and sent him the now fa­mous tel­e­gram, “Saved alone.” Sev­er­al weeks lat­er, as Spaf­ford’s own ship passed near the spot where his daugh­ters died, the Ho­ly Spir­it in­spired these words. They speak to the eter­nal hope that all be­liev­ers have, no mat­ter what pain and grief be­fall them on earth.

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Refrain

It is well, with my soul,
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

Refrain

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

Refrain

A Sermon delivered by The Venerable Archdeacon Patrick Cunning at a Service at my church today in commemoration of the 40,000 murder victims since 1970 provides a ‘bookend’ to this terrible week of terror. It’s in summary form. But the essence of it, is the essence of the Christian message. ” Forgive them Father for they know not what they do”. So too we are called to forgive our enemies, and them that hate us.

SERMON TWO – BY THE VENERABLE ARCHDEACON PATRICK CUNNINGHAM

Drawing from his Text, Micah 6:8:

“He has shown you, O man, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you
To act justly and to love mercy ( tenderly)
and to walk humbly with your God”:

ArchDeacon made the following points.
1. In a nation that has witnessed the murder of over 40,000 persons since 1970, with one third of the total cases ‘gone cold’, and 50% unsolved for last year, and with a 13% increase in child murders for this year, we need to find a way to move on. And that requires ” Divine Intervention. For only God gives life, and for us to walk humbly with God we have to remember that reality always. Walking humbly with God allows us, as difficult, as extremely difficult, as it is, to see providence in the midst of Life. In the midst of Tragedy. For in that way, and in that way alone, we find healing by having a personal relationship with Him. For The Resurrection of Christ gives us the hope that our loved ones will be raised with God. All because Jesus lives, we can face tomorrow.

Yes there will always be the hard questions we have to ask the Lord. How could He allow such evil to happen to good and innocent people…..here he referenced the four persons brutally murdered last week, and other such savagery. Where is a good and compassionate God in the midst of this? The answer is that some have used their free will to do evil…and since the hearts of men are desperately wicked, such tragedies will inevitably take place in this ‘broken’ world. But we have to recall the famous Word from God, that ” If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves…..” God will one day heal this land. So our role is to learn to walk humbly with the Lord.

2. How do you respond to a man who kills your child? Robs you of your most precious gift? The ‘natural’ reaction is to seek revenge. And at the very least, if we cry, ” we want justice”: that justice it is retributive justice. If we are going to ‘love tenderly’ then we have to give up this natural desire for revenge, this hate, and ‘ with great difficulty’ seek to forgive. Because we have two choices. Life with hate and being miserable, and life with forgiveness and freedom. We are called to love, as difficult as it is. On the Cross Jesus called for Forgiveness i.e. ” Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do. The greatest need that murderers have , as paradoxical as it sounds, is for someone to love them. For in the darkest and most wicked of hearts is a core of decency…..data shows that most murderers lack love from parents, have often been abused and seen many murders. And therefore only love can create the kind of environment and unearth that core of decency and lead to repentance and restoration.

3. Retributive and restorative Justice. Interestingly, the latter is more common in tribal primitive communities than in the modern communities. God is more interested in creating ‘new life’, in restoring people to their former and even better life, than retribution. The problem is that failure to capture the criminals affects the pursuit of Restorative Justice, and no closure can be found for communities and individuals.

The question posed by the ArchDeacon ought to spread abroad wide and far in this country: ” Can we find it in our hearts, as difficult as it is , to not only forgive the murderer, but to find a way to restore him into the community in order that there may be complete healing? Is it possible to demonstrate this kind of love. In the same way Christ loved us and died for us – calling sinners to repentance, not the good people – and to the restoration of our relationship with God our Father. Otherwise reprisal killings will continue and Jamaica will continue to have blood flowing on our streets and in our homes. So every day we must attempt to make the highest choice that God offers.

And what does the Lord require – To act justly, to love tenderly and walk humbly with your God.

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