The Pope in America: Christ on the Cross

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. All about #ThePopeinAmerica. CNN apparently, whenever I turned on my TV, carried the entire visit, live. A most amazing thing to watch on prime time TV, Evening prayer, Mass, speeches, the singing, O Blessed God the hymns of praise and thanksgiving, and just the presence of the Word of God constantly on the most powerful medium in the world today. What a joy! What a refreshing difference from the standard fare of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, of ISIS and Syria, of problems and challenges all over the world. Food for the soul which can encourage, empower and inspire us to go and ‘ do good in this troubled world’. pray to God that all of the events surrounding #ThePopeinNYC and elsewhere touched hearts, even within CNN itself.

Pope of the people, and the politics, in historic U.S. visit

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Pope of the people, and the politics, in historic U.S. v…
Pope Francis dove into some of the United States’ thorniest political debates during his historic visit by urging the world’s wealthiest nation to welcome i…
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THE WORD OF GOD

So what Word or inspired word did the Lord send in the midst of the excitement, the debates, the analysis and the call to follow Christ, all of which attended Papa Francis’ visit to the USA.

The First Message – on WhatsApp. A word about prayer, about the need to listen to God carefully, and a word about the evidence of God’s speech all over the world. All of which ought to have prepared America for Papa Francis’ visit

GM: Last night I went to bed with thoughts about an approach to prayer, shared by Charles Swindoll in his book on Abraham. ‘ What happens when we pray’? All of what followed was guided by first, an initial introduction to prayer from his mother – words with which we can all identify, at least those of us who grew up in the age of corporal punishment .
” God help you if you if you ever do that again “.
But then he ‘ learnt a better way to pray’, from the Word of God.
” You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with the wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.”. James 4:3-4. ESV and NASB respectively.
From which experience he learnt the following principles about prayer.

1. God can say yes to our petition but no to our motives. So be careful what you ask for, as you may receive more that what you requested – God’s wrath for ungratefulness as did the newly freed children of Israel when they grumbled about manna, and asked for meat, which they had plenty of in captivity.

2. God can say no to out petition, but yes to our motive. Abraham prayed that the ‘ wicked ‘ city of Sodom might be spared on account of the ‘ righteous’, read Lot and his family. But Lot and his family were spared but the city destroyed.

3. God can say yes to our petition and yes to our motive….which is pure joy. Read the story about Elijah and his ‘ duel’ with the false prophets of Baal and how God rained down fire Elijah’s request so that the King and Queen who worshiped Baal the storm god, might know who was the Living God.

4. God can say no to our petition and no to our motive….usually because of unresolved Sin.
So I went bed praying about Crime and Violence, about which I have a deep interest but no official responsibility: The carnage on the roads, for which I have official national and International responsibility : and other matters.

Then last night the first few lines of this answer from God came into my mind as I slept peacefully – falling asleep and the next thing I knew it was daylight. The key lesson for me is that we have to spend time with our Lord if we are to hear Him speak to us. Time away from the many, many ‘distractions’, including even ‘ church work’ that can prevent us from hearing his voice – the ultimate goal of every, not just child of God, but every human being.
For how much President Obama and other World Leaders, need to hear God’s voice as they confront the challenge that ISIS, the Middle East, the Refugees in Europe, Poverty in Africa, sabre-rattling in Iran and the International Drug trade with his many and tragic consequences, present to a free world. Even the guest list of who will meet the Pope at a reception at the White House, which is already the subject of controversy, needs a word from the Lord.
For how much the Minister of National Security, The Police Commissioner and the Prime Minister need to hear the voice of God as we, as nation, grapple with the twin headed monster of Crime and Violence in general, and of Murder in particular, in our country. Perhaps the Cabinet needs to go on a retreat with nothing on the agenda except to listen and reflect on the words of this song. And Charles Swindoll principles of ” What happens when we pray “?
Peace. Even better Shalom.

THE SONG

Master, speak! Thy servant heareth,
Waiting for Thy gracious word,
Longing for Thy voice that cheereth;
Master! let it now be heard.
I am listening, Lord, for Thee:
What hast Thou to say to me?

Speak to me by name, O Master,
Let me know it is to me;
Speak, that I may follow faster,
With a step more firm and free,
Where the Shepherd leads the flock,
In the shadow of the rock.

Master, speak! Though least and lowest,
Let me not unheard depart;
Master, speak! For O, Thou knowest
All the yearning of my heart,
Knowest all its truest need:
Speak! and make me blest indeed.

Master, speak! and make me ready,
When Thy voice is truly heard,
With obedience glad and steady
Still to follow every word.
I am listening, Lord, for Thee:
Master, speak! O, speak to me!

Finally, this morning as I read the Psalm appointed for Sunday at my church, the end of which was quoted by the Prime Minister, at the beginning of her address to the PNP’s Annual Conference, yesterday, I understood further how much more the Lord speaks to us each day. Whether we pray or not.

THE WORD OF GOD.

The heavens declare the Glory of God,
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they display knowledge.
There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out into the all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world….
Psalm 19:1-4 NIV

So there is no excuse that we cannot hear the Lord. For all we need to do, is look up in the skies and listen. And then look to the Cross on Calvary and believe.

The Second Message – really a short prayer for wisdom. But the kind of wisdom which comes only when we recognize that we are helpless in the face of overwhelming trouble. Which is exactly whenre the world is now with climate change, the refugee issue, extreme poverty in vast areas of the earth, unending wars……

GM: A long time ago I ceased believing in coincidence, and accepted that the Lord’s hand is somewhere involved in all that happens to me. Big things or small matters.
This morning as I spent some time reflecting and praying about one line in the hymn ‘ Be thou my vision’….Be thou ever with me, and I with you Lord….from the second verse….my mind went to a mediation which is a great Word for our times. And so I took up my phone to write.
But a voice in my head urged me to read the OT reading for Sunday, which was my original plan anyway, and not even to write.
And would you believe, that the passage in Numbers is the same Word which Charles Swindoll referenced in yesterday’s message in respect of God saying yes to the petition and no to the motive. The story of Israel’s ungratefulness in demanding meat, like what they had in captivity, instead of the ‘same old’.. my words… manner, that they were being fed day after day in freedom.
Clearly there is a message there for us in Jamaicalandwelove. A nation, for the most part peopled by descendants of slaves. And who God with a mighty hand, rescued and granted freedom and eventually Independence. A nation also peopled by former indentured labourers from India; by folks from China, Lebanon and Syria, seeking a better life. And peopled by descendants of former slave owners, who were also set free from their own desires to enslave other human beings, by the Gospel of Christ.
A nation that in far too many ways has turned its back on worshiping God Almighty, and sought ‘ salvation’ in political leaders and the spoils of victory of their party at the polls; in enforcers, Dons, like ‘Dudus’: in the ‘ Almighty Dollar’; and in their own intellect, their capacity to ‘ work it out’ and which has become their ‘ god’.
And having replaced the God of Abraham as our deity, many see the gun and what it can bring them, how it can protect them, as the solution to their problems. So we have a virtual epidemic of murder in our country, and no one knows how to solve this terrible blight on our nation.
In the midst of all this madness the Lord sends a word. A word originally meant for the American Leaders, and people, and God knows that with the rising popularity of DonaldTrumpIllegalMigrantsareRapists and other issues which have dominated the news recently #SCOTUS, #illegalimmigrants, #Refugees, #ISIS, they desperately need to be reminded. But so do we in Jamaicalandwelove. Desperately!

FOR GOD’S GRACE IN OUR HELPLESSNESS

Peter Marshall ( 1902-1949…a Scottish immigrant to America who served as Chaplain to the United States Senate for two years.

Verse: Judges 7:2.The Lord said to Gideon ” You have too many men for me to deliver Midian into their hands. In order that Israel may not boast against me that her own strength has saved her.

We know, our Father, that at this desperate hour in world affairs, we need thee. We need thy strength, thy guidance, thy wisdom.
There are problems far greater than any wisdom of man can solve. What shall our leaders do in this hour?
May thy wisdom and power come upon the President of these United States, the Senators and Congressmen, to whom have been entrusted leadership. May the responsibility lie heavily on their hearts, until they are ready to acknowledge their helplessness and turn to thee. Give them the honesty, the courage, and the moral integrity to confess that they don’t know to do. Only then can they lead us as a nation beyond human wisdom to thee, who alone had the answer.
Lead us to this high adventure. Remind us that a ” mighty fortress is our God “- not a hiding place where we can escape for an easy life, but rather an arsenal of courage and strength – the mightiest of all, who will march beside us into the battle for righteousness and world brotherhood.
O our God, may we never recover from our feeling of helplessness and our need for thee! In the strong name of Jesus , our Lord, we pray. Amen.

The Third Message – again a short prayer for protection from evil. And God knows that evil lurks at every corner in our lives. Alone or in a multitude! Gunmen; pride; fear and unbelief; temptations within and without; fits of anger; lust for money and power……

GM: It’s a dangerous thing to go to bed at night without asking God for protection from evil. For, as one of my favorite gospel songs, ” Order my steps in your Word”, reminds us, ‘ Satan is busy, but God is real’.
And isn’t he busy in the dark. In the broad daylight too, but he who is the epitome of darkness, works best at night.
These thoughts came to mind as I reflected on the meditation below, which is associated with one of the all time great comforting verses in all of history.

” Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff they comfort me”.
A final thought as we receive this inspired Word from the Lord this morning. It came from St. Paul last night, as I am now reading 1 Corinthians for my bedtime devotions.

” My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of God’s power so that your faith ( and mine) might not rest on men’s wisdom but on God’s power”. 1. Cor. 2:4.

So, someone, somewhere, needs to hear this Word this morning. At this time. Or whenever it is read. To the Glory of God, as we give thanks for another day, and seek protection from the evil one. For nation, for community, for family and for self.
As we continue to walk literally or metaphorically through this ‘ valley of death and darkness’.

I ARISE TODAY

Patrick of Ireland (390-461…born to a Roman Magistrate, become a Christian, enslaved, escaped and ended up in Ireland where for 30 years he shared the Good News).

Verse: Psalm 23: 4.

I arise today
Through God’s strength to pilot me;
God’s might to uphold me,
God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s eye to look before me,
God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to speak for me,
God’s hand to guide me
God’s way to lie before me
God’s shield to protect me,
God’s hosts to save me
From the snares of the devil,
From temptations and vices,
From every one who desires me ill,
Afar or anear,
Alone or in a multitude.
In Jesus’ Name.
Amen.
,
The Fourth Message…Actually a Two Part message. One received early in the morning. The other as I awoke again.

Part 1….one of the things which I hope the Pope’s visit to America along with the extended coverage, is to allow us to ” Search our hearts deeply”. And see how much we have strayed from the path that a Creator God has laid out for us. With disastrous consequences! But such a revelation can n only be received if we are willing to look at the big picture of life. And not just whether or not Lisa ( Hanna…a local politician and member of the cabinet) prevailed over her challenger; or whether of not Sanders has a fighting chance against Hillary Clinton! Interesting, but in the broad scheme of things, of little moment.

GM: The Kingdom of God, that which the authentic Christian life seeks to build, is, according to the Holy Scriptures, not a matter of talk, but of power. 1. Corinthians 4:26.

And so the Lord with Sovereign power woke me up at minutes to 3:00. To read and then to share.
The context? Who knows for sure, but three experiences, two of which gave me pause, serious pause, come to mind.

The first was triggered by a Word about which the Lord reminded me, after a discussion at Bible study, on ‘ living by the flesh and living by the Spirit. My recollection of it comes from the KJV.

” I have been crucified with Christ. Nevertheless I live. Yet not I but Christ who lives in me.”. Galatians 2:20.

And then the great existential question arises. If Christ is really and truly living in me, Why? Why do so many of us still continue to do so much evil which would appear to contradict the claim if the indwelling of Christ in us. Cheating, lying, stealing, ‘ involved in the Lotto Scam’ ….breaking news, unable to escape from the ‘ addiction of pornography’, obsessed with sex, filled with greed, given to fits of extreme anger, faithless and cynical…..just like the rest of the world. The list goes on.
I got an answer, but that’s for another message.

The second was an awful experience. In the heart of the ghetto, a woman whose son was abducted and found murdered, showed me a picture on her phone. I looked for a nanosecond, and had to quickly avert my eyes. God have mercy! Christ have mercy!

The final one is #ThePopeintheUSA. #ThePopeinNYC. Among the excitement, words of wisdom, recognition of his humility, sombre moments, and masses of people turning out almost as if the greet Royalty, came a caution. That God called us Christians to be holy!

And so the Lord led me from Jeremiah…’ that they may know me’…those in exile…in one chapter.. to ….’ then you will find me when you seek me with all your heart’…..to Isaiah…’ that the fire will not burn you when you pass through it’…to Romans..that ‘ those who live by the flesh cannot please God’…to Hebrews… that the Lord disciplines those he loves.

And finally to this Word.

” Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one missed the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.
See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son.
Afterwards, as you know, when he wanted to to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. He could bring about no change of mind, though he sought the blessing with tears. ” Hebrews 12:14-17 NIV.
As I read and reflected on this experience in the dead of night with the Lord, the following thoughts cane to mind.

1. From a cosmic perspective, we are all, since The Fall, the Sin of Adam, exiles. Living a life as sinners, rather than the ‘ immortal life ‘ that we were created to live, before the devil intervened.

2. So too were all the Twelve Disciples who ‘ abandoned’, ran away from, Jesus when He was arrested. And even earlier, so too many of his other ‘ disciples’, who found His Words about Holy Communion ‘ too hard’…eating his flesh and drinking his blood.

3. Therefore, all of humanity in the Cosmic narrative, are exiles seeking to return to a relationship with the Creator God. A fact of life which inspired Augustine of Hippo, one of the early Bishops of the Church to pen one of the profound quotes of all of history:
‘You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”
Sadly some find temporary rest in other gods, and find no lasting peace; for that which they really seek is The Living God. Who Only can grant Peace. Hence we have the socially destructive reality of people seeking to find rest and ultimate joy in sex, whether homo or heterosexual; in the acquisition of material things….retail therapy; in seeking to have power over other human beings; in violence and murder; in Cocaine, Heroin, Marijuana… blow your mind; in Music…. let the music take you higher.
And so family life suffers, economies stagnate, nations are in crisis and throughout history civilizations self-destruct.

4. Thank God that some seek God and find rest in Him through Jesus’ Act of Atonement for Sin on the Cross.
But then comes the prophesied ‘ discipline’, the purpose of which is to lead us to holiness. Not for our own personal salvation alone. No! But that we may with the help of the Holy Spirit, having over time, ‘ crucified’ the sinful nature, help to rescue a nation from having gruesome pictures of murder most foul on a cell phone; having too many people living in #WrongAddrresses. With the predictable and observed consequences.

5. But too many of us ‘ choose to run away’, because the discipline and suffering is ‘ too hard’. And that’s why so many ‘ Christians’ continue to ‘ live by the Flesh and not by the Spirit’. So a nation suffers, as the behavior of some brothers and sisters bring the Church into disrepute and people turn away from God. With tragic results!
I pray God that we may all, as sinners, seek forgiveness from the One Who Scripture declares ‘ is merciful to the wicked and the ungrateful’, as we prayerfully reflect on the words of this hymn to which God, with Power led me yesterday. For God knows that what we need is more than a visit from a Pope, a Holy and humble man of God, but a Revival of the Spirit of Jesus Christ in our restless hearts.

THE HYMN

Search me, O God, and know my heart today,
Try me, O Savior, know my thoughts, I pray;
See if there be some wicked way in me;
Cleanse me from every sin, and set me free.

I praise Thee, Lord, for cleansing me from sin;
Fulfill Thy word and make me pure within;
Fill me with fire, where once I burned with shame;
Grant my desire to magnify Thy name.

Lord, take my life, and make it wholly Thine;
Fill my poor heart with Thy great love divine;
Take all my will, my passion, self and pride;
I now surrender, Lord, in me abide.

O Holy Ghost, revival comes from Thee;
Send a revival, start the work in me;
Thy Word declares Thou wilt supply our need;
For blessings now, O Lord, I humbly plead.
Amen.

PART TWO …closes this meditation by posing the question: What kind of anchor supports your life? Not whether or not Papa Francis’ words founf favour with you. but whether you trust in the only One who can support us in times of trouble. Christ the soon coming King

As I woke again. This! Actually last night began in Ezekiel and then to Jeremiah.
And spoke about God’s mercy along with His wrath…

” I will bring you from the nations and gather you from the countries where you have been scattered – with a mighty hand and with out-poured wrath….. then you will know that I am God “. Ezekiel 20:34-38.

For the fact is that you cannot truly know God unless you experience both His wrath and His love.
As what took place on the Cross of Calvary is the full manifestation of God bringing back to Himself, all mankind created in His likeness and image’. Which according to Swindoll is the reason, ‘ made in God’s image and likeness’, why we treat people fairly and with Justice; and not because mankind possesses ‘ unalienable rights ‘. In fact he points out that, ‘ in Sin we are held captive’, and only in Christ do we really enjoy have freedom. Food for thought.

The Gospel Truth is that, on the Cross, both God’s love for mankind and His wrath on account of Sin, were fully shown. That’s why Jesus cried out ” My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me”, as the full wrath of God on sinful man ‘ weighed on His sinless soul’, and separated Jesus for the only time in His life from the Father He loved. And obeyed, even to death on a Cross.

No wonder then a wise Saint of yure once stated:

” I believe it to be a grave mistake to present Christianity as something charming with no offense in it”. – Dorothy L. Sawyers.

Which is the trap New York Governor Cuomo fell in, and if truth be told others have been similarly affected, on #CNN when asked for his reaction to the ‘ phenomenon’ of #ThePopeinNYC. And so in response he ‘ gushed’ that Papa Francis’ humility and authenticity, which drew millions of people to him, shows that if we could just love as Jesus did, humanity would be much better off.
Close but no cigars! And a naive and uninitiated, and incomplete understanding of Jesus’ Mission of earth. Because it omits the doctrine of, and profound effect that, Sin has had on mankind. Made us exiles, separated us from a loving Creator God in the first place. Caused women in inner cities and elsewhere to grieve. ‘ Lady where you come from, people die there everyday’. #Etana
For yes, God so loved the world, that in love He sent His only begotten Son. But…..so that mankind would not perish. Please never ever forget that part. For Christ died, Christ is risen, but Christ will come again as Judge.
And then no tears will bring about any change for those who are now Godless, and have ‘ sold their birthright, as children created in God’s image, for that which the world longs for. Sex and drink, success and fame, power and money!
All because The Word of God which called for self-denial, the crucifixion of self- centeredness, to ‘ let go and let God’, was ‘ too hard.
I close with the words of a hymn, strains of which came into my mind, shortly before the Lord woke me up. Instructive words. Challenging words. Words we forget at our peril and that of our family, friends and nation.
We Have an Anchor

1 Will your anchor hold in the storms of life,
when the clouds unfold their wings of strife?
When the strong tides lift, and the cables strain,
will your anchor drift, or firm remain?

[Refrain:]

We have an anchor that keeps the soul
steadfast and sure while the billows roll;
fastened to the Rock which cannot move,
grounded firm and deep in the Saviour’s love!

2 Will your anchor hold in the straits of fear,
when the breakers roar and the reef is near?
While the surges rave, and the wild winds blow,
shall the angry waves then your bark o’erflow? [Refrain]

3 Will your anchor hold in the floods of death,
when the waters cold chill your latest breath?
On the rising tide you can never fail,
while your anchor holds within the veil. [Refrain]

4 Will your eyes behold through the morning light
the city of gold and the harbour bright?
Will you anchor safe by the heavenly shore,
when life’s storms are past for evermore? [Refrain]

The Pope arrives in Cuba; Murder lives on in Jamaica; Jesus continues to seek the heart of all mankind

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. The #1 problem that disturbed my soul this week was the revelation on local television #TVJ @televisionjam that over 800 persons have been murdered in my country so far this year. And later the Police Commissioner in a press conference called to launch the ” Get the Guns” campaign, spoke of the horrifying statistic that over 10,00 persons had been murdered in Jamaica in the past ten years! This is really not news, to most of us, so I don’t know why at this time it shocked me. but it certainly did/ to the extent that I posted the following comment on FaceBook, which attracted a lot of attention.

“I am still trying to wrap my head around over 800 people murdered for this year so far as announced on TVJ last night. Suppose we were to line them up side by side on Washington Boulevard, would the entire country come to a halt? Why then is there not a great outcry! Have mercy on us Lord as we have sinned greatly as a people.”

Illegal guns claim 10,300 lives over last 10 years

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Illegal guns claim 10,300 lives over last 10 years
With the gun being the weapon of choice in the killing of 10,300 Jamaicans over the 10-year period 2005 to 2015, the Police High Command yesterday la…
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2. The other bit of news which caught my attention – on CNN – was the arrival of the Pope in that country. And the enthusiasm with which the Roman Catholic Pontiff was welcome by the head of a Communist party Raul Castro. He has also been reported to have declared that ‘if the Pope continues like this – assisting the detente between Cuba and the USA – he would go back to attending church and saying prayers. What a revelation!

Pope Francis, Arriving in Cuba, Seeks to Revive Church

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Pope Francis, Arriving in Cuba, Seeks to Revive Church
Francis arrived in Havana on Saturday for the first stop of a nine-day papal trip that includes the United States. The first Latin American pope must now try …
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3. Finally both the Republican debate and the plight of the refugees vied for my attention as news this week. How the one will affect the other will no doubt play out in due course as we continue to follow both stories. Suffice it to say that the world is changing quickly, and if the GOP wishes to remain relevant, in both the USA and he wider world community, it will necessarily have to rethink some of it’s hard positions on immigration. And climate change, especially with a popular Pontiff taking on ‘political issues’ without fear.

THE WORD OF GOD.

so what Word or inspired word did the Lord send this week in the midst of my angst over the amount of people dying ‘every day’ in my country; the excitement of change in Cuba, our nearest neighbour, and American politics heating up.
Always, always, words from hymns and other inspired writings which provide an alternate to the narrative written for the world by CNN et al. Thus bringing hope to a cynical world, a Biblical perspective to world and national affairs, and a challenge to ‘let go and let God’. Always!

THE FIRST MESSAGE – sent out on WhatsaApp….speaks about the benefits of waiting. And waiting confidently on God’s timing. For inevitably when we leave god out of the picture,as we have done in Jamaica in recent times, hurrying to rectify every perceived social wrong, as is the case with Obama in the USA, then inevitably trouble comes. And sometimes very quickly!

GM: Thank you Jesus. Why? This message is ‘ tailor made’ for me in particular. All about patience and waiting on the Lord. For a reason!
However this morning, it also struck me, that this ‘ running ahead of God’ and worse, paying ‘ lip service’ to God, while ignoring Him completely in how we govern, and how we conduct our politics, has not just personal, but national implications. For who know what calamities have overtaken Jamaica and the USA, even though we hear the words ‘ God bless America’ and ‘ God bless Jamaica’ very often. But God knows.
So back to the story.
This summer, as usual, my wife and I went up to Miami to ‘ see the kids’. And after the now – formerly we would head for the mall before even going home – accustomed habit of spending time with the grandchildren first, I headed for the nearest Barnes and Nobles to find a good book to read.
On Friday night, having read a part of it in Miami, and returned home for close to two weeks, my eyes alighted, in a almost compelling manner, seriously, on Charles Swindoll’s ‘ Abraham: One Nomad’s Amazing Journey of Faith.
So I picked it up and began to read. And out of the first chapter I read came yesterday’s message, at least in part.
Last evening then, while waiting to play Kalooki, we play every Saturday night, and thank God having been ‘ delivered’ from going into depression whenever Serena loses, I was able read the next chapter in peace. And thanked God for what He chose to teach me at this point in my life.
Swindoll had now arrived at the point where Sarai, Abram’s wife, decided, having waited on the Lord for the Promised son, to take matters ‘ into her own hands’. Remember when Abram did the same thing earlier on, and rather than tell the truth, falsely declared to the Pharaoh’s officials , that Sarai was His ‘ sister’. Well to ‘ cut a long story short’, Hegar, now Sarai’s servant, was one of the ‘ gifts’ Abram received from the Pharoah, in the hope that Sarai, would become his wife. ( And a faithful God rescued them)

So now, further ‘mischief’, is about to take place ; as the same Hegar is now ‘ offered’ to Abram, so that he may have ‘ sexual relations’ with her and produce the Promised heir. Well, Swindoll’s description of what follows in the ‘ Queen’s English ‘ does not do justice to the scenario. As we in Jamaica would say ‘ hell and powderhouse let loose’. For the pregnant servant now begins to ‘ Dis’ her Mistress; who then complains to Abram. At at the end of the day, the very pregnant Hegar is banished into the wilderness. Alone! Until God in His mercy rescues her through an angel.
There is a lot more to this story. Including the awesome reality, that, a man, and a couple, who were accustomed to speaking with The Sovereign God regularly, then inexplicably, without consulting Him, without Prayer, decided to make such an important decision. But more anon. Perhaps! Who knows.
For now, however, we return to a section in the book, entitled, ‘ Running Ahead’.
……Abram and Sarai tried to rush God, attempting to get the Lord on their timetable, but they did not receive their blessing for another fourteen long years. Our running ahead does not pressure God to hurry His agenda.
When we try to coerce the Lord into giving us what we want, when we want it, He responds, in effect, ” You’re not ready. This blessing isn’t good for you right now. You have so much more to learn…..do trust Me. And don’t expect Me to explain Myself “.
…..WaIting is difficult, and you want progress, so the great temptation when the Lord doesn’t appear to be doing anything is to get things going yourself…… If that describes you ( or if it doesn’t now, it will soon!) I have a four-letter word for you: wait. That word forms an acrostic of four imperatives that you may find helpful.

1. (W)alk a little slower. When you feel the need to hurry God along or to make something happen to advance God’s agenda for your life, apply the brakes. It’s time to slow your pace, step away from the situation, and devote yourself to a time of solitude and prayer – and perhaps even fasting.

2. (A)sk God for increased patience, wisdom and self-control. No doubt you have already prayed for this, but the very fact that you’re agitated and itching for action says that need to continue asking. Your best decisions occur when you spirit is calm, when confidence in God’s sovereign control has displaced your worry, when you’re tuned in to the gentle promoting of the Holy Spirit.

3. (I)magine the worst-case scenario that might happen if you waited. When a situation truly demands action, this question can bring good ideas to the surface. Most often however the answer is disappointedly dull. In the case of Abram and Sarai, the worst possible outcome for waiting on pregnancy was more of the status quo.

4. (T)hink of others who will be impacted by your decision ( Including the Lord.. my words). Running ahead of God’s timing always causes collateral damage. You hurt yourself, which is bad enough. But you also cause harm to innocent bystanders…. Moving your family for the wrong reasons…. choosing to marry for the wrong reasons….
……The discipline of delay is written large in the life of God’s people, as we could observe in Abraham’s long waiting for the Son of promise
……it is usually in waiting that God does His best work in us. In that crucible of frustrated longings, the Holy Spirit confronts our darkest lusts, our most selfish cravings, bringing them out if the shadows and then releasing us from slavery to hidden idols.

When we are forced to wait, the Lord helps us to acquire an appetite for the blessing to come. Meanwhile, He builds our maturity so that when the fulfilment finally arrives, we are prepared to enjoy His blessing to the fullest.
Comment: As I wrote the final few words, especially about waiting facilitates our ‘ release from slavery to hidden idols’, the very epitome of what Sin does, words from a wonderful hymn come to mind.
‘ I delivered you when bound’. A line from another of my favorite hymns.

Hymn written by William Cowper

Hark, my soul! It is the Lord,
‘Tis thy Saviour, hear His word;
Jesus speaks, and speaks to thee –
“Say, poor sinner, lov’st thou Me?

“I delivered thee when bound,
And when wounded, healed thy wound;
Sought thee wand’ring, set thee right,
Turned thy darkness into light.

“Can a woman’s tender care
Cease towards the child she bare?
Yes, she may forgetful be,
Yet will I remember thee.

“Mine is an unchanging love,
Higher than the heights above;
Deeper than the depths beneath,
Free and faithful, strong as death.

“Thou shalt see My glory soon,
When the work of grace is done,
Partner of My throne shalt be;
Say, poor sinner, lov’st thou Me?”

Lord, it is my chief complaint
That my love is weak and faint;
Yet I love Thee, and adore,
Oh, for grace to love Thee more!
O God, O for grace to wait upon you, to ‘ walk with you’, and not run ahead. In Jesus Name. Amen.

THE SECOND MESSAGE…..again on WhatsApp features a report of the experience of my church in an inner city where God’s love and mercy are desperately needed. As is the case all over the world, even though persons do not accept it. Our role as Christians then is to spend the gift of life given to us by God to help others understand and experience God’s love. In Cuba, in the USA, in Syria, and in Europe

GM: Words from our Internationally acclaimed recording artiste Etana’s #WrongAddress, came into my mind this morning.
‘ We don’t want no trouble: lady where you come from, people die there everyday’. And in that very disturbing, yet inspiring video, a young woman is denied an opportunity, denied access to a job, because she lives in a place like Majesty Gardens.
A story which could describe much of what takes place in the ghettos, the inner cities of the USA, and which experience is so hauntingly heard in Candi Staton’s classic ‘ In the Ghetto’. Where on a cold a grey Chicago morning a child is born, and his mamma cries.

Last Sunday my Church, St. Andrew Parish Church celebrated 50 years of Mission in Majesty Gardens; located in the heart of our capital’s, Kingston, infamous inner cities. Where despite the harsh and brutish conditions where people live; where garbage is collected monthly, if they are fortunate; where young girls are routinely impregnated by age 14-15; where everyone has a relative who had been murdered or is in prison, some of the most beautiful children of God reside. And rise up out of ‘ back to’, neglected by society, and become useful citizens.
These things, these images, kept on playing in my mind as I listened to a challenging sermon by the Anglican Bishop of Kingston, Robert Thompson and former Rector of our Church. Two things, among many, in particular stuck in my mind as he posed the same question, posed by Christ to His disciples 2000 years ago.

‘ Who do you say I am’? In other words, what is Christianity all about?
1. It’s not about ‘ what is in it for me’.
2. Life is a gift, that we must spend and not keep.

Then yesterday, as I opened my Bible, Isaiah 5, ‘stared at me’. And in particular the verses 1-7. You cannot read verse 7 and escape the profound commentary, and warning about the consequences which follow in the rest of the chapter, on how as a society we have neglected the poor and the powerless. Not just society, but those Christians who are guided by ‘ what is in it for me’, and do not understand that new life has been given to us, by The Resurrection of Christ, as a gift. So that we may spend and not keep!
Serve others, and not seek to fulfil our own desires. In other words, ‘ take up our Cross daily, and follow Christ.
Otherwise Isaiah’s prophetic words may condemn us Christians. And not just some politicians, who will have much to answer to God on the day of Judgement.

The Word of God…. abbreviated . Isaiah 5:1-7

I will sing for the one I love
a song about his vineyard:
My loved one had a vineyard
on a fertile hillside.
He dug it up and cleared it of stones
and planted it with choicest vines.
…….
Then he looked for a crop of good grapes,
but it yielded only bad fruit.
Now you dwellers in Jerusalem and men of Judah,
judge between me and my vineyard.
What more could have been done for my vineyard
than I have done for it?
…..
Now I tell you what I am going to do to my vineyard:
I will take away it’s hedge, and it will be destroyed…..
The vineyard of the Lord Almighty
is the house of Israel,
and the men of Judah
are the garden of his delight.
And he looked for justice,
but saw bloodshed,
for righteousness,
but heard cries of distress.

The reality is that ‘ The Church, the body of Christ’, bought with His precious Blood, is the present-day ‘ vineyard of the Lord. Why then is the Lord Almighty hearing ‘ cries of distress’, in places like Majesty Gardens. And ‘ bloodshed’ in Tivoli Gardens! When He expects to see Justice and Righteousness.

My friends these are serious questions posed by the Word of God, and Etana, and Bishop Thompson, as we ponder on the state of Jamaica, and what is Christianity all about. Getting something from God, or following Christ to Calvary.

Finally as we ponder on what is described as Incarnational theology, how we can represent God to others, rather than be focused on our own needs, words of a hymn came into my mind this morning.
The first and fifth verses say it all.

Thou didst leave thy crown and thy kingly crown,
When thou camest to earth for me;
But in Bethlehem’s home was there found no room
For thy holy Nativity:
O come to my heart, Lord Jesus;
There is room in my heart for thee.

Thou camest, O Lord, with the living word
That should set thy people free;
But with moving scorn and a crown of thorn
They bore thee to Calvary
O come to my heart Lord Jesus
There is room in my heart for thee.

In the name of Jesus, who gave up His life, freely; so that we might have new life, and spend it on others.
Amen

THE THIRD MESSAGE … again on WhatsApp is a ‘surprise message ‘ with an emphasis on spiritual growth. For immature Christians cannot manage the kind of spiritual warfare needed to ‘ rescue the perishing and care for the dying’ in this world filled with evil. Which is manifest in Jamaica, in Syria and other parts of the world.

GM: This is not supposed to happen this morning, or so I thought, as I have to leave very early today.
But, but, last night on retiring to bed, following a lovely lively discussion at Bible Study on ‘ worship forms’, and Jesus’ call to ‘ worship God in Spirit and in truth – with our whole heart –
this song came into my mind.
The Hymn
1
I’m pressing on the upward way,
New heights I’m gaining every day;
Still praying as I onward bound,
“Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.”
Lord, lift me up, and let me stand
By faith on Canaan’s tableland;
A higher plane than I have found,
Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.
2
My heart has no desire to stay
Where doubts arise and fears dismay;
Though some may dwell where these abound,
My prayer, my aim, is higher ground.
3
I want to live above the world,
Though Satan’s darts at me are hurled;
For faith has caught the joyful sound,
The song of saints on higher ground.
4
I want to scale the utmost height
And catch a gleam of glory bright;
But still I’ll pray till rest I’ve found,
“Lord, lead me on to higher ground.”
As I began my devotions with these words this morning, immediately, like very immediately, I recalled reading a mediation, several times, on this matter of ‘ higher ground’.
The question is truly whether or not we are ‘ gaining new heights ever day,’
or just very comfortable to remain at the same level. Is the day really coming as Jesus prophesied, when we will worship Him with our whole heart, regardless of what denomination or what worship form we use at Church.
Let’s listen to what Tozer, one of the great Bible teachers, had to say from way back in the early part of this century.
And it is not just a theoretical discussion, for if we as Christians, are going to ‘ set the captives free’, and ‘ give sight to the blind’, search for the lost, bind up the wounded and ‘ bring back the stray’, and fight against evil powers, we really have to ‘ plant our feet on higher around’. And ‘ pant after God’.
PANTING AFTER GOD.
A.W. Tozer ( 1897-1963)
Verse: Psalm 42:1
As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, O God.
Within the hearts of a growing number of Evangelicals in recent days, has risen a new yearning after an above average spiritual experience.
Yet the greater number of still shy away from it and raise objections that evidence misunderstanding or fear or plain unbelief. They point to the neurotic, the psychotic, the pseudo-Christian cultist and intemperate fanatic, and lump them all together without discrimination as followers of the ‘ deeper life’.
While that is of course completely preposterous, the fact that such confusion exists obliges those who advocate the Spirit-filled life to define their terms and explain their position. Just what , then, do we mean? What are we advocating?
For myself, I am reverently concerned that I teach nothing but Christ crucified. For me to accept teaching or even an emphasis, I must be persuaded that it is scriptural and altogether apostolic in spirit and in temper. And it must be in full harmony with the best in the historic church and in the tradition marked by the finest devotional works, the sweetest and most radiant hymnody and the loftiest experience revealed in Christian biography.
To speak of the ‘ deeper life’ is……to insist that believers explore the depth of the Christian evangel for those riches it surely contains but which we are surely missing. The ‘ deeper life ‘ is deeper only because the average Christian life is tragically shallow….
O Lord, I pray that you would plant all our feet, help us to pant after you, on higher ground. Not seeking any personal reward, but so that we may, in you, help to ‘ set the captives free’, from Sin, and Death. From injustice and unrighteousness. Amen

THE FOURTH MESSAGE …again sent on whatsApp, takes us back to the constant call from God for us to ” Be Still, Be obedient, be trusting” and along Him the Sovereign God to exert his mighty Power on this world. For those who do not believe are constantly in frenzied activity trying to find solutions for Sin, and its effects on the world. And there is none save and except the ‘shed Blood of Jesus Christ”. And His mighty Resurrection by the Power of the Holy Spirit. Who is the same Spirit who empowers us to do the work of God in this world. And who ‘quieted the soul of a slave ship owner, and made him to be a blessing to so many

Wednesday night, as I was preparing for bed and praying a bedtime prayer, one of three written years ago by Jacob Boheme, part of which says:

‘ Guide me to find my rightful place and in your creation, that in some small way I may add to the beauty of your handiwork’ :

the words of the hymn below came flooding into my mind. And I spent some time praying and meditating on the first two verses in particular.

THE HYMN

Breathe on me, breath of God,
Fill me with life anew,
That I may love what Thou dost love,
And do what Thou wouldst do.

Breathe on me, breath of God,
Until my heart is pure,
Until with Thee I will one will,
To do and to endure.

Breathe on me, breath of God,
Blend all my soul with Thine,
Until this earthly part of me
Glows with Thy fire divine.

Breathe on me, breath of God,
So shall I never die,
But live with Thee the perfect life
Of Thine eternity.

Then yesterday I awoke, for very good reasons, with ‘ Be still and know that I am God’ in my head. A most haunting and arresting hymn; in the sense that it leaves no room to wonder what the Lord is saying. Be still. Quiet your troubled soul, for I am the One who healeth, and I am the One whom you can trust.
And, ‘ trust me’, as we in #Jamaicalandwelove like to say, there are many trials and troubles around to disturb out souls. Financial issues, relationship issues, workplace issues, health issues, security issues – I am still trying to ‘ wrap my head around over 800 people murdered in my country so far this year as reported on national television tonight #mindboggling – and International issues, as I watched the Republican Party Debate on CNN last night #DonaldTrumpIllegalMigrantsareRapists.
‘ Be Still’, then, really got deep in my soul, and I asked the Lord to forgive me for not trusting Him all the time, and allowing worry to provoke my soul. For as we read the Word of God further down in this message, The Blood of Jesus opens a new way into the very Presence of God, and therefore we have no reason or excuse not to trust the God of Abraham who is a miracle working God. But first and foremost, we must ‘ pant after Him’, seek Him first with all our heart, and allow Him to ‘ breathe on us’ the mighty transforming Power of His Holy Spirit. So that we may ‘ rescue the perishing’ and ‘ care for the dying’, and ‘ set captives free from Injustice, Sin, Death’ and all suffering under the evil power of Satan. For if we seek for personal advancement and the satisfaction of our pleasures first, then that is proof that ‘ our hearts need to be still and know who God is’.
The One who in Christ Jesus, suffered and died, so that we may be set free from self-centeredness, selfishness, and from enthroning idols on our hearts, the very essence of Sin, which ultimately leads to death. But thank God for the Resurrection of Christ, for in Him, we have Life anew and Life abundantly. To spend on behalf of others and to the Glory of God.

THE HYMN

Be still and know that I am God,
be still and know that I am God,
be still and know that I am God.

I am the Lord that healeth thee,
I am the Lord that healeth thee,
I am the Lord that healeth thee.

In thee, O Lord, I put my trust,
In thee, O Lord, I put my trust,
In thee, O Lord, I put my trust.

Finally, and trust me, by myself, I would not have recalled it, the Lord reminded me of very special meditation, which has been a great source of encouragement in some of the most challenging times in my life.
I share it with you in the hope that you too will remember your ‘ Ebenezer’ moment – thus far has the Lord carried me – with thanksgiving.

BE STILL, MY HEART!
John Newton ( 1725 – 1807 a former slave ship owner turned Christian, in a dramatic experience during storm, is the author of ‘ Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound’

THE WORD OF GOD

Verse Hebrews 10:22 expanded

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. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

THE REFLECTION

Be still my heart! these anxious cares
To thee are burdens, thorns and snares;
They cast dishonor on the Lord,
And contradict hid gracious word

Brought safely by His hand thus far,
Why wilt thou now give place to fear!
How canst thou want if he provide,
Or lose thy way with such a guide.

When first before his mercy sear
Thou didst to him thine all commit,
He gave thee warrant from that hour
To trust his wisdom, love and power.

Did ever trouble yet befall,
And he refuse to hear thy call?
And has he not his promise passed,
That thou shalt overcome at last?

He who had helped you hitherto
Will help me all my journey through,
And give me daily cause to raise
New Ebenezers to his praise.

Though rough and thorny be the road,
It leads thee on, apace to God,
Then count thy present trials small,
For God will make amends for all

As I close this wonderful assurance of the faithfulness of a loving God, BTC’s
‘ How many times must I show you how much I love you’ comes into mind. Forgive us Lord, as we have loved you, but not enough, trusted you, but not completely. So breathe on us O breath of God, that so empowered, we may truly love what thou dost love, and do what thou wouldst do.
In Jesus’ precious Name we pray.

THE FINAL MESSAGE …again on whatsapp. A word of wisdom to the wise to entertain and the words of a wonderful hymn on which to meditate.

GM: Did you know that man was created to be immortal, and it is because of the devil why death intervened. That’s what the Old Testament lesson for this Sunday , an extended readings, reveals.

THE WORD OF GOD

http://bible.com/546/wis.2.23-24.KJVA For God created man to be immortal, and made him to be an image of his own eternity. Nevertheless through envy of the devil came death into the world: and they that do hold of his side do find it.

Two points to note. Or one really! Despite all the conventions, even at the highest level at the UN, the think tanks, the weight of jurisprudence across the world, the many well trained advisers, the high quality research which often informs policy decisions, ultimately true Wisdom comes only from God. The Creator of Heaven and Earth; the Sea and all that is in it.
And therefore our deep angst, and terrible shame and disgust, frustration even, at the level of Crime and Violence in our nation – over 800 murdered to date for this year, and over 10,000 in the past 10 years – and our inability, collectively, to make a significant and lasting difference, tells us, or ought to, that we desperately need the Wisdom of God. To solve this and many other intractable social, political, economic and moral, with which we have struggled unsuccessfully over the past 50 years as an Independent Nation!
The other and related point is that, those who ignore the Wisdom of God,
and ‘ hold of the side of the devil’ are essentially ‘ embracing death’; whether they accept it or not. With profound consequences for a nation!

Another day I will share with you of the ‘ wisdom’ that the life of Abraham offers, about which I read last night in Charles Swindoll’s ‘ Abraham: One Nomad’s Amazing Journey of Faith.

Until then, reflect with me, on the words of a hymn which flooded into my mind as I awoke this morning. And before I read the passage from the Wisdom of Solomon, found in the Apocrypha – a seldom read part of the Bible in my church. For me, ‘ among other things’, inter alia, as the lawyers write, the ‘ new thoughts of God’ resonated with my soul. For in Him resides all Wisdom as revealed in the Life, Death, Resurrection and Ascension of His Son Christ Jesus.

THE HYMN

New every morning is the love
our wakening and uprising prove;
through sleep and darkness safely brought,
restored to life and power and thought.

New mercies, each returning day,
hover around us while we pray;
new perils past, new sins forgiven,
new thoughts of God, new hopes of heaven.

If on our daily course our mind
be set to hallow all we find,
new treasures still, of countless price,
God will provide for sacrifice

The trivial round, the common task,
will furnish all we ought to ask:
room to deny ourselves; a road
to bring us daily nearer God.

Only, O Lord, in thy dear love,
fit us for perfect rest above;
and help us, this and every day,
to live more nearly as we pray.
Words: John Keble, 1822

I pray God that in the midst of this Crisis of Bloodshed in our land, we may, each new day, more and more, seek the Wisdom of God in and through Christ Jesus.

God’s Mercy is not to be debated but revealed by Christ and His Church – in Europe, in the USA and in Jamaica

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.One very newsworthy item, at least in my opinion, will not be carried in the mainstream media. As there were no reporters, and definitely no television cameras on hand to record the celebration of 50 years of service to an inner city community, by the Anglican Church in Jamaica this afternoon on Sunday September 13th 2015.The community is Majesty Gardens, located in the Prime Minister’s constituency. And for the last 50 years, St. Andrew Parish church, aided by many partners, has sought to make a difference in the lives of people living in this densely populated area,which usually makes the headlines only when someone is murdered, or some terrible social malady is uncovered. And in a very soul searching sermon delivered by the Rt.Rev. Robert Thompson, The Anglican Bishop of Kingston, advanced the call for the understanding of a Christianity, which does not have a ‘ what is in it for me’, plan. Which unfortunately, in the words of the Bishop, is what is being preached in many pulpits, and attracting the crowds. But rather, one that invites us to follow Christ, as one who serves; as one who loses His life on the Cross of Calvary, so that we may gain a new and resurrected life; and one that accepts that life is a gift, given so that we may spend it – in service to others. And that is only such a Christianity will inspire people, over the long haul, to sacrifice our own aspirations and desires , so that the poor and needy can feel the presence of God, in their midst. The picture below captures The Bishop making a point at this evening’s service

CSC_0016.JPG

2.The second matter which attracted my attention, was the amount of column inches which the newspapers have given to responses to an online column written by Dr. Michael Abrahams, questioning the Christian understanding, and the accuracy of the Biblical revelation, that the God of the Bible is merciful.In fact one of our most senior, and highly respected jounalists, Ian Boyne, dedicated his column in the widely read Sunday Gleaner today, to a response to Michael Abrahams’ claims. A situation which confirms what the ‘doc’, knows, as he writes in this ‘sensationalist’ vein regularly, irreverently critiquing the church and God, that in today’s increasingly pluralistic society, compared to a once solidly Christian country, anything written negatively about God, is sure to be published and attract attention. But at the end of the day, the age old question of what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose his soul, still stands.

Is God really merciful?

image

Is God really merciful?
Michael Abrahams has set off another firestorm of controversy and outrage over his online Monday Gleaner column, ‘The God of the Bible is not merciful’, …
View on jamaica-gleaner.com
Preview by Yahoo

THE WORD OF GOD

So in the midst of this debate about the ‘ lack of mercy’ of the Christian God, and the celebration of the role of the church in one community, where ‘mercy’ has operated for the past 50 years, what Word or inspired word did the Lord send?
Essentially words of encouragement, hymns of instruction, and words which help us to a deeper understanding of the faith.And which is precisely what an experienced old hand, Ian Boyne is recommending to young Dr. Abrahams, who is so sure that he has plumbed the depths of the Bible and of this “unmerciful God”.

THE FIRST MESSAGE – sent out on Whatsapp, peripherally addresses Dr. Abrahams assertions. But more importantly, suggests strongly that we have Christ, and Christ alone as our ” vision in life’. Even as we contemplate elections, here and abroad.

GM: As I woke up this morning and went to get my early morning tea, before starting my devotions, this wonderful, wonderful song came into my heart. At least the tune, as it took some time for me to remember the words. Amazingly, I have not sung this hymn, one of my all time favorites, for a while.
The question is why would the Lord place it my heart at this time? Whatever the reason, the reality is that this hymn, like many others, is a prayer, a cry to God for help. For grace, for the Holy Spirit, to enable us to have God and God alone, in Christ Jesus to be ‘ Our only Vision’.
Our only goal in life. Our ‘ true wisdom’. ‘
I would suggest that we all take some time, in fact ‘make some time’, to think deeply on these inspired words written many years ago, but brought to our attention at a time like this.

And what ‘ time’ is it? Election time! In Trinidad, in #Jamaicalandwelove, in The USA. A time when men and women seek our votes and present their ‘ vision’ for a nation’s future.

What ‘ time’ is it? Jail time for some Christians who dare to oppose the Gay political lobby. Time to ‘ campaign against homosexuality’ for other Christians, when we all have our own sins to contend with, ‘ for all have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God’.
What ‘time’ is it? A time of temptation to make money, success, the pleasures of life, praise from others, and power our ‘vision’.
What ‘time’ is it? A time when Satan is leading people away from God, telling them that there is no God, to stop going to church and worship at home, that the concept of Sin and Judgement is not compatible with a God of Love. Have Mercy! And that when you die, there is nothing more to come.
What time is it? A time of great uncertainty and change as people fleeing persecution and poverty, seek a better life elsewhere, within and without their country. And tensions inevitable arise; and some would ‘ build walls’ whilst others ‘ build fences’. Whilst Christians are called to ‘ build bridges’.

So into this confused, confusing and dangerous world, ‘ For God so loved the world’, God sent His Son, to die for our Sins, and to be Raised from the dead with Power, so that He alone may become Our Vision, Our Wisdom and Our Strong Tower against the Enemy of our Souls. And therefore be our ‘ best thought by day and by night,’
Thank God for Jesus indeed. Keep Him close to you today by ‘ dwelling in the secret place of the Most High’. At all times. Psalm 91.

Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart

Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart,
be all else but naught to me, save that thou art;
be thou my best thought in the day and the night,
both waking and sleeping, thy presence my light.

Be thou my wisdom, be thou my true word,
be thou ever with me, and I with thee Lord;
be thou my great Father, and I thy true son;
be thou in me dwelling, and I with thee one.

Be thou my breastplate, my sword for the fight;
be thou my whole armor, be thou my true might;
be thou my soul’s shelter, be thou my strong tower:
O raise thou me heavenward, great Power of my power.

Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise:
be thou mine inheritance now and always;
be thou and thou only the first in my heart;
O Sovereign of heaven, my treasure thou art.

High King of heaven, thou heaven’s bright sun,
O grant me its joys after victory is won;
great Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
still be thou my vision, O Ruler of all.

Words: Ancient Irish hymn;
trans. Mary Byrne, 1905,

THE SECOND MESSAGE – again sent out on WhatsApp, offers a different narrative to what Dr. Abrahams used to understand the God who we know is full of mercy and compassion. And which mercy finds it full expression in Christ, God Incarnate, on Calvary.
and hopefully, as Bishop Thompson, expressed this evening, wherever the true Christian lives and works. Whether in Majesty Gardens or in Seaview Gardens, or….

GM: At the principal service on a Sunday morning at my church, there are four readings of God’s Word. And then the Sermon. The OT reading, The Psalm, The NT reading and the The Gospel.
And the reader of the Gospel, intones….the continuation of the Gospel according to ….Mark or John…or.

So this morning the Gospel Message continues, as God’s Word never really ends.

As I prayed at the end of my devotions yesterday, the following points ‘ came into my head’.
One that, the important thing, as mentioned in the history of how ‘ I am so glad that Jesus loves me’, was written, is that Jesus loves us. And not only that we love Jesus, as important as that is.
And so, though Peter loved Jesus, he denied him three times. In the end, however, it was Jesus’ love for Peter that mattered, and caused Jesus to restore him to the position of disciple, and then Apostle.
In the same way although Saul, in the name of God, persecuted the followers of Christ, what mattered was that Jesus loved him. And after blinding him at ‘ High Noon’, called him to Himself as Paul. This same St. Paul who became the Apostle to the Gentiles, and wrote most of the New Testament.

Two, that this love, this unmerited, unearned and undeserved love, which we know as Grace, has a history.
A history about which I was moved to post on Facebook yesterday #lunchtimereflectiond, in response to an Ill informed, and perhaps meant to be provocative, article written by a colleague, Dr. Michael Abrahams, well known for his irreverent writings about God. ( I don’t think he is malicious. Just uninformed, and who knows perhaps searching).

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/commentary/20150907/god-bible-not-merciful

The fact is that, in complete contrast to how most people understand world history viz. World Wars, The ‘ Dark Ages, The Byzantine Era, Alexander the Great and Napoleon, The Roman and Greek Empires, The influence of Confucius, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, Slavery and The New World, Prehistoric man, The Stone age, The Ice Age; The History of Mankind according to the Bible has had, and will have only four periods.
Creation. The Fall. Redemption. Judgement.

And the two threads that feature in all four periods are The Holiness, Love, Justice and Mercy of God: and the Sin of Mankind.
Therefore, in order to appreciate the Grace of a Holy God, manifested Supremely in the Life, Death, Resurrection, and Ascension of Jesus Christ, we need to spend time pondering on one of the ‘foundation’ passages of Scripture.

THE WORD OF GOD – GENESIS 6:5-13 NIV

The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled. So the Lord said, “I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created—and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground—for I regret that I have made them.” But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord . This is the account of Noah and his family. Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God. Noah had three sons: Shem, Ham and Japheth. Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence. God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways. So God said to Noah, “I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth…
To be continued…. Until then I share with you the experience, that another hymn, a favorite of my former ‘ spiritual mentor’, the late Bishop Herman Spence, came into my mind as I gave thanks, ‘ that Jesus loves me’. The first verse says it all

Blessed assurance Jesus is mine:
O what a foretaste of glory Divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God:
born of his Spirit, washed in his blood

Refrain:

This is my story, this is my song,
praising my Saviour all day long;
this is my story, this is my song,
praising my Saviour all the day long .

So this is my story that I share daily. One that never ends, whether or not The ReggaeBoyz win, or not; whether or not Governments are voted out, or voted in; whether Hurricanes strike or we are spared; and whether at a time that people die, or children are born, ‘ for everybody ought to know, The Good News, The Gospel message, that Jesus loves you, and me. Even to death on an old wooden Cross.

Peace.

THE THIRD MESSAGE – again sent out on WhatsApp. One of the challenges that prevent many persons, even those who are genuinely searching for an understanding of the Truth about Life, is that an appreciation of Sin, eludes them. Or they shy away from this reality. For no one can understand what Sin has done to a perfectly Created World, and God’s solution manifested in the Life, Death and Resurrection of Christ, can ever question whether or not He is indeed merciful. This message is dedicated to a full appreciation of Sin. And ends with a reflection on one of the all time great Christian hymns which invites to consider deeply, not only the mercy of God, but His faithfulness

GM: It was not my intention for the Gospel message to continue in this forum this morning, as I have several meetings today.
But as I woke up praising God for the gift of another day, the words of a very special hymn came into my mind: ‘
Great is thy faithfulness….’ and in particular, ‘ thy own ( dear) presence to cheer and to guide’.
So as I began my devotion with that hymn, the ‘ revelation’ that Summer, and Winter, the sun moon and stars. ‘ join with all nature to witness to God’s faithfulness, mercy and love’ led me to continue, but not to conclude, yesterday’s message about the History of God’s Grace and Mercy

I never liked the Book of Romans as a young Christian. Found it very ‘ heavy’ and difficult to understand. But now that I have matured in the faith, and led to become an Evangelist, I’ve found that much of the foundations of my faith in God came from Romans.
So here am I at this point in my life reading Romans as part of my bedtime devotions. And what did I discover one night about Grace? Follow this Word carefully.

PART ONE – RELATED TO VERSE TWO OF GREAT IS THY FAITHFULNESS. AND PROVIDES THE CONTEXT

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

PART TWO – THE CONSEQUENCES OF HAVING NO ‘ EXCUSE’ FOR OUR BEHAVIOUR

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.

PART THREE – ONE MANIFESTATION OF GOD’S WRATH

Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.

PART FOUR – ANOTHER MANIFESTATION OF GOD’S WRATH

Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.

PART FIVE – THE FINAL MANIFESTATION OF GOD’S WRATH

Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.

COMMENTS

I am not sure if the next time I am led to share, this message about Grace will conclude. But already we ought to be asking ourselves some key questions. Am I located now, or at some time in the past, in this passage? Does a full understanding of this passage, which applies to so many sins, give me any spiritual mandate to be involved in a campaign against any one particular sin?
Are we beginning to understand the enormity of the sinful state of the heart of mankind unredeemed by the Blood of Jesus? And can we then begin to appreciate why, ‘ something has gone very wrong in the state of Denmark’, to quote Shakespeare?
The USA, Jamaica and the whole world!
There is more, but until then we continue to give thanks for a faithful God. For Mercy, and bright hope for tomorrow in Christ Jesus. In the USA, and in #Jamaicalandwelove.

THE HYMN

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 will be.

Refrain:

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!

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. Refrain

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth
thy own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside! Refrain

THE FINAL MESSAGE – again on WhatsApp first. Advances the debate about God, and takes us further than the question of mercy. The focus here is Friendship with this merciful and faithful God, and what that means in a modern society. All of which qualities of God, help us ultimately to become better servants. In Jamaica, in the USA. Wherever!

GM: Last night the Gospel story continued with my reading a chapter from Charles Swindoll’s Abraham: One Nomad’s amazing journey of Faith.
A chapter which offers details and an analysis of what ‘ Friendship with God means!
Perhaps it’s a good thing that Serena #Thebestwomensplayerinhistory lost her semifinal match at the U.S. Open. And so I didn’t just pass time waiting for them to show it again on TV.
Or that Federer #thebestmensplayerinhistory demolished his fellow Swissman in less than ninety minutes. So that I did get caught up waiting for the end!

Now recall that the last two messages had to do with the The Grace of God and its history. And how the wrath of God against those who rebelled against Him, the whole world, had manifested itself. How mankind, on account of Noah’s Righteousness, and God’s mercy, had been given a ‘ Second Chance’ to live right, after the story of The Ark. And then how St. Paul, early in letter to the Romans, developed the now famous Truth, found later on in the Book, ‘that all have sinned, and fallen short of the glory of God.’

The Good News, the Gospel, is that,
‘ while we were still sinners, Christ died for us’. And further, ‘ Since we have been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from Gods wrath through him. For if when we were God’s enemies we were reconciled to him, through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life’ . Romans 5:8-10 NIV.

The key point, here, which provides the backdrop for a discussion on Friendship with God, is that because of the shed Blood of Christ Jesus, we, formerly all terrible sinners, can be transformed by the Power of The Holy Spirit. And become Friends with a Holy God!
That’s Grace! That’s Mercy!
And not the yearning for a Benz, for a whole lot of money, or even a helicopter in which we travel to do ‘ God’s work’.
And so Charles Swindoll uses Romans 5:1, which is what caused me to write last night, to introduce this concept of Friendship with God.
‘ Since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God, because of what Jesus our Lord has done for us:
And according to Swindoll, the benefits of this friendship, in the context of the story of Abraham, who Scripture declared was ‘ a friend of God’, on account of his faith, are:

1. God, our Friend, calms our fears.
– Earlier on God told Abram: ‘ Do not be afraid, Abram, for I will protect you, and your reward will be great’

2. God, our Friend, knows when to bless and when to delay.
– The timing of God’s blessings for us perfect …..for our good and for His glory
– As our Friend, God wants to give us blessings, but He knows good things
given at the wrong time can cause more harm than good.
– Abram waited nearly 25 years for use first sign of a pregnancy in his wife

3. God, our Friend, wants us to trust Him.
– Friendships have trust as their foundation
– The issue is so important to God that when Abram believed, He reckoned his faith to him as righteousness.

4. God, our Friend, wants us to live without fear.
– while situations change continually, God does not. It is never dark where God is. He is Light.

5. God, our Friend, has plans for our good, and not for our destruction.
– Furthermore, our future is as clear to God, as our past is to us.
– You may have to endure some growing pains as you complete the life He has prepared for you. But don’t think you have to endure the waiting and the anxiousness alone….

Finally, as we ponder on God’s unchanging Word, two days ago, I was moved in worship to post this Video on Facebook. And have been singing the song all day ever since then.
Satan is busy ( leading people astray) but God is real…. Order my steps in your Word O God

Peace

And early this morning, as I woke up:
‘What a friend we have in Jesus’, came into my mind.

THE FIRST VERSE
What a friend we have in Jesus,
all out 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…

Dead on a beach fleeing from death; jailed for objecting to Sin; dead on a cross on account of Sin

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. The big news that caught my attention this week was the plight of refugees, fleeing war torn Syria and other countries, ‘struggling’ to find compassion in Europe. And which concern was eventually shown after millions of people saw that picture of a little two year old boy, dead from drowning, and lying face down in shallow water on a beach in Turkey. of course this raises the question of the fate of the many Africans who have drowned, and or suffered immensely, whilst trying to flee from a life of poverty and hardship in their country.

Shocking images of drowned Syrian boy show tragic plight of refugees

image

Shocking images of drowned Syrian boy show tragic plight…
Young boy found lying face-down on a beach near Turkish resort of Bodrum was one of at least 12 Syrians who drowned attempting to reach Greece• War…
View on http://www.theguardian.com
Preview by Yahoo

2. The other news that stuck with me was the revelation of the clerk in Kentucky who, on account of her religious/Christian beliefs, refused to sign marriage certificates for gay couple, as mandated by law. And thus found herself in prison, having herself violated the law. An action which has brought the whole divisive and often vitriolic debate on gay marriages, to a new level. Clearly, this story will ‘gather legs’, and we await to see what will happen next.

Jailed Ky. Clerk Offers ‘Remedy’ in Marriage License Battle

image

Jailed Ky. Clerk Offers ‘Remedy’ in Marriage License Bat…
Kim Davis thinks she has a solution to her problem.
View on abcnews.go.com
Preview by Yahoo

THE WORD OF GOD

So what Word, or inspired word, did the Lord send this week in the midst of such controversy and human suffering? Essentially the messages for this week centered around the need for the deeper understanding of what to expect, and what is means to be a Christian. And one who believes in the reality and goodness of God in an age when many are, at least, attempting to ‘flee from the reality of history and revelation about God”

THE FIRST MESSAGE – all sent on whatsapp, deals with what happens when Sin is omitted from the conversation about life: and about Christianity. Which raises the controversial question, in this context,of whether or not homosexuality is a sin. And also whether or not it is ‘sinful’ to treat human beings, refugees or not, as ‘animals’. Which is an accusation that some of the refugees raised in respect of how they were treated in the camps in Hungary. My own position is very clear on both issues, and I am being led to treat with one of them during the coming week. Not in a campaign, but actually, as part of a wider discussion on Sin.

GM: Are you, or do you know anyone struggling to understand the authentic Christian faith. My best advice to you would be buy and read carefully Review. Timothy Keller’s ‘ The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism.
In the interim, I was just reminded by the good Lord to share with you, excerpts from Chapter Ten in the Book entitled, ‘ The Problem of Sin,’
Remarkable truths express in fairly simple language which really touched my heart.

EXCERPTS
– According to Christianity, our biggest problem is sin. Yet the concept of ‘sin’ is offensive or ludicrous to many. This is often because we do not understand what Christians mean by this term
– The Christian doctrine of sin, properly understood, can be a great source of human hope, but what is that doctrine?.
– Sin is the despairing refusal to find your deepest identify on your relationship and service to God. Sin is seeking to become one-self, to get an identify, apart from Him.
– What does this mean? Everyone gets their identity, their sense of being distinct from somewhere or something. Kierkegaard – a Danish Philosopher. – asserts that human beings were made not only to believe in God in some general way, but to love him supremely, center their lives on him above anything else, and build their very identities on him. Anything other than this is sin.
– Most people think of sin primarily as ‘ breaking divine rules’, but Kierkegaard knows that the very first of the Ten Commandments is to ‘have no other gods before me’. So according to the Bible, the primary way to define sin, is not just the doing of bad things, but the making of good things into ‘ ultimate things’.
It is seeking to establish a sense of self by making something else more central to your significance, purpose, and happiness than your relationship to God.
– Defining Sin this way, we can see several ways that Sin destroys us personally. Identify apart from God is inherently unstable. Without God our sense of worth may seem solid on the surface, buy it never is – it can desert you in a moment.
– Theologian Thomas Oden writes:
suppose my god is sex, or my physical health or the Democratic Party ( or PNP or JLP). If I feel any of these under genuine threat, I feel myself shaken to the depths.
– If anything threatens your identify you will not just be anxious but paralyzed with fear…… Only if your identify is built on God and his love, says Kierkegaard, can you have a self that can venture anything, or face anything.
– Any identify not based on God also leads inevitably to deep forms of addiction. Whenever we turn good things into ultimate things, we are, as it were, spiritually addicted.
– If we take our meaning in life from our family, out work, as cause or some achievement other than God, they enslave us…..St. Augustine said that ‘ our loves are not rightly ordered’.
He famously said to God: , ‘ Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in thee’. The good things that enslave us are good things that deserve to be loved. But when our heart loves become inordinate, then we fall into patterns of life that are not unlike substance addiction. As in all addictions we are in denial about the degree to which we are controlled by our god-substitutes.
There is more. The Social Consequences of Sin. The Cosmic Consequences of Sin. What can put it all Right. And as I am led I will write. But right now the Lord knows that someone else apart from me needs to read this. So I give thanks for these reflections and share them with you. For there is not only disobedience out there but ignorance of the authentic meaning of the faith. Both inside and outside the Church! With devastating consequences for our #QuadrupleMurder #TeenAbuse #OutofOrder society, the reality of which, will remain with us long after the cherished memories of #TeamJamaicaBeijing2015 have faded. Peace.

For at the very heart of the Gospel is the reality that God’s Power is made Perfect in out weakness. When we accept that our sinful nature, our in born tendency to ‘ find our identity in something else apart from God, and only turn to Him, temporarily, in times of trouble, only to ‘ scoot off again’ when we are delivered, in the long run, is unsustainable.
Hence the need to be ‘ born again’ to become completely new in Christ. To become totally dependent on the Power of the Holy Spirit. And which Holy Spirit, as promised, will flow from those who ‘ believe in’ Christ. As only the Holy Spirit can fight against the spiritual forces of evil which lead men to ‘ chop up people fine, fine’; to entice teenage girls to become ‘ baby maddas’; to encourage political tribes to ‘war’ against each other; to provoke the kind of greed which causes corruption in high places; to cause men to ignore the plight of the poor thus fostering ‘ WrongAddress’ all over Jamaica with devastating social and moral consequences.
For The Kingdom of God is truly not about talk, but about power. To conquer evil. Which is, thank God for Jesus, what really and truly happened on Calvary. That’s the Gospel Truth.
Peace.

THE SECOND MESSAGE – delves into the whole matter of Sin and whom we trust. Princes or The Living God. An existential question, the answer to which, is being played out in events in Europe and in American ‘politics’

GM: So Donald Trump wishes to make America great again. Perhaps in the same way George Bush wanted to create a ‘ kinder and more gentle society’; at least at home while launching preemptive strikes elsewhere. We can all remember Michael Manley a.k.a. ‘ Joshua’ whose goal was to ‘ level the playing field’ and fashion a more egalitarian society at home. And a New International Order globally!
Also well known and well intentioned was another leader Edward Phillip George Seaga; who raging against the
phenomenon of the ‘ haves and the have nots’ tried to combine a social conscience with a vision of Development undergirded by high levels of Economic Growth.

A Word which comes from the Psalm appointed for reading in my Church this Sunday, which has ‘ gotten into my head’, during my early morning and lunchtime devotions, explains why even the most well intentioned of men fail. And will continue to do despite their best efforts!

THE WORD OF GOD. PSALM 146:3-9 NIV

” Do not put your trust in princes,
or in mortal men, who cannot save.
When their spirit departs, they return to the ground;
on that very day their plans come to nothing.

Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord his God,
the market of heaven and earth,
the sea and everything in them –
the Lord who remains faithful forever.

He upholds the cause of the oppressed
and gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets the prisoners free,
the Lord gives sight to the blind,
the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down, the Lord loves the righteous.

The Lord watched over the alien
and sustains the fatherless and the widow,
but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.

Can you see anything in God’s Word which agrees with how Trump proposes to ‘ deal with the alien…..mass deportation or building a wall.
Can you see anything in God’s Word that countenances the treatment of ‘ aliens’ who are trying to make a better life for themselves and families in Western Europe…. barbed wire in Hungary.
Is there any justification in God’s Word for the creation of ‘ safe political enclaves in our inner cities’ where most people ‘ are forced or obliged to’ vote for one Party. Election after election with no change! The so- called ‘ Garrison Constituencies’; and the cause of much of the politically motivated violence over the years. And which ‘ crime and violence’ with different triggers, has spread across the island like a cancer, eating away at the very soul of a nation. Arguably one of the worst ‘ legacy projects ‘ of our political history

The problem for most if not all visionaries, minor or even major ones, self-appointed or even by acclaim, is that they did not reckon with this thing called Sin. Neither in others, which was foolish; nor more importantly, in themselves which was most unwise.
For this condition of the human heart, affected by the Sin of Adam, as pointed out in the last message, the tendency to elevate even the good things of life above the worship of the God of Jacob, changes the whole game of life. The unbridled lust for money, for raw power over the life of another human being, for sex, for various other desires and pleasures corrupts the soul and ‘ spits out ‘ broken and or unhappy marriages and families: creates masses of poor and forgotten who are forced to live in # WrongAddresses a k.a inner cities, where ‘ people die there everyday’:spawns ‘ aliens’, a .k.a. migrants, both legal and illegal, seeking a better ‘ address’; and many of whom are dying on the high seas, or blocked out of late by barbed wires, and the fashioning of a religion by man, which wicked men then use as the reason for ‘ using aircraft as bombs’ to destroy the ‘ enemy’ or ‘ behead the ‘ infidel’.

All through the history of mankind, dreams and hopes and aspirations based on human plans and reasoning have been rudely shattered.
In recent times, after The Enlightenment, when Atheists and liberal minded folks heralded a new era of peace based ‘ freedom of the mind from the religious dark ages’ viz there is no God, then came Hitler. And one of the greatest ‘ betrayals’ of the hope for a more ‘ civilized ‘ world.
After the ‘ fall of the Berlin Wall’, marking the end, or more accurately, the beginning of the end of Communism and The Cold War between East and West and proxy wars, and hope for peace, came 9/11.
And the world had never been the same again.

You could never have told us, pre- independence born youngsters who grew up in a relatively peaceful society in the late 60’s and early 70’s that in our lifetime we would witness the phenomenon of #QuadrupleMurder Jamaica. With over 1000 murders year after year.
So what’s the answer to all this barbarity, injustice, corruption and wickedness being perpetrated against God’s children.
In this respect, especially to a nation like Jamaica which owes so much to the God of Jacob who rescued us from the wickedness of slavery, and which nation has turned away from this God, despite ‘ arguments in the Parliament about Bible verses, the words of the Psalmist is instructive.
So too for America populated largely, after the decimation of the Indians, by ‘aliens’ , in the first instance, fleeing persecution for trusting in the God of Jacob. And now look what is happening there!
God’s Word declares that ‘ The Lord remains faithful. Forever”!

We can trust Him with all our cares, whether we are ‘ broken hearted, oppressed, blind, enslaved, even fatherless. And ultimately with our many, many sins since His Son Jesus died on the Cross of Calvary. For the Atonement of the Sin of all mankind.
There is no need , in fact it is extremely dangerous, to place our ultimate ‘ trust in princes’, in any leader, in our own abilities and systems of government. For they will all fail us. And sometimes spectacularly and tragically so.

I pray God we do not, as individuals and as a nation, as we gear up for election in Jamaicalandwelove, and in the USA with DonaldTrumpIllegalMigrantsareRapists, leading the Republican contenders, we do not continue to make the same mistake, commit the same cardinal Sin that others have – place our ultimate trust in our political leaders, in philosophies and ideas and visions of the future. But rather to put our trust in a faithful God. The God of Abraham, The God of Isaac, The God of Jacob and The Father of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ of Nazareth.
Peace.

THE THIRD MESSAGE – treats with the matter of ‘God is dead’, and which issue is spawning so much of mankind’s problems. For as is pointed out in the final message, ‘ if God is indeed dead, then anything is permissible’. in Europe and in America

GM: Having the right perspective about life, is not just a useful thing. It is everything.

So because smart phones have made the world, truly a global village, through WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram and other apps, there is reason to believe that mankind has made great progress. Right?
Because Google Maps, aided an abetted by satellite imagery, can guide you, with pinpoint accuracy to virtually any address in the world, and in the fastest time, bypassing bad weather and traffic jams, we feel that mankind has made great strides. Right?
Because modern scientists can unravel the DNA of many cancers in hours, target and kill cancer cells with great efficiency, and add many years and hope to those who in former years had very little hope, we feel that we are living in an age of almost invincibility. Right?

No, says T. S. Eliot, ‘ arguably one of the most influential English writers of the 20th Century’ and a Nobel Laureate.
Writing in ‘ The Four Quarters ‘ (1934-43, ‘at the apex of his poetic strength’) this wonderfully gifted Christian writer, expressed his amazement at the turn of events in modern history.

My own interpretation of this seminal bit of writing is as follows : With great drama, clearly drawing inspiration from the majestic opening words of John’s Gospel,

” In beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…. and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us”, T.S. Lewis begins this part of the poem with the birth of Christ – ‘ in a moment of time.
A moment which was outside of time as we know it. For Jesus came into the world and created time itself. B.C. …AD. Time to repent. Time for New and Eternal Life. Resurrection Time. . Time for Judgement.

Then he continued with a beautifully constructed, and deeply insightful, account of mankind’s struggle throughout history to trust and believe in the God who is Christ Jesus.

Finally and for him, incredulously, way back in 1940’s, he perceives, and offers a perspective, that something dramatic had overtaken mankind. That modern civilization, in turning away from God, to no God, at all, had reversed the entire course of history.
With devastating consequences! For at no time in the previous history of mankind was there any deep rooted thought that there was no ‘ higher authority’ than man himself.

All the writings of ancient history attested to the fact that mankind believed in a higher ‘ being’ who was in some way in charge of his life.
In fact writing in his often quoted by me seminal book Timothy Keller had this to say about Christianity and Africa.
Sanneh argues that Secularism with its anti-supernaturalism ..is more destructive of African-ness than Christianity #TheReasonforGod
And therefore, instead of advancing, mankind was actually going backwards. And then came the climax – a call to engage in the only thing that can reverse this madness. Cry out to God in prayer.

Oftentimes it takes a wonderfully creative and gifted mind, trusting in God, to awaken us to our folly and error. And offer us a very Real Perspective: quite different from what CNN, Fox News, BBC or RJRFM94 offer day after day.
For truly ‘ not everything that glitters is gold’. So not because it is now possible for some to enjoy formerly, unbelievable, and unattainable lifestyles, does it mean that mankind is progressing. For the age old existential question still persists in this #iPhone #Googled World:
What does is benefit a man to gain the whole world and yet lose his soul.

No doubt that’s why the Lord placed in my heart, a song, which, at the heart of it, is a question posed, with almost incredulity, by the Creator of Heaven and Earth, the Sea and everything in it, before I was led to spend time with Thomas Strearns Eliot.
‘ How can we linger when the God who created Heaven and Earth is calling’?
Especially when we are so ‘weary’ of #ChildAbuse, #QuadrupleMurder, #PoliceSuicide and #BadCops about whom The Commissioner of Police promises swift action to root them out. And who could look at that picture of the two year old Syrian refuge, lying face down on the sea, without feeling pain. A little child dead! And so too, we heard, his mother and brother had died by drowning while seeking a better life away from war torn Syria.

THE SONG

1. Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling,
calling for you and for me;
see, on the portals he’s waiting and watching,
watching for you and for me.
Refrain:
Come home, come home;
ye who are weary come home;
earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling,
calling, O sinner, come home!

2. Why should we tarry when Jesus is pleading,
pleading for you and for me?
Why should we linger and heed not his mercies,
mercies for you and for me?
(Refrain)

3. Time is now fleeting, the moments are passing,
passing from you and from me;
shadows are gathering, deathbeds are coming,
coming for you and for me.
(Refrain)

4. O for the wonderful love he has promised,
promised for you and for me!
Though we have sinned, he has mercy and pardon,
pardon for you and for me.
(Refrain)

THE MOMENT OF MEANING
T.S. Eliot

Verse: Zephaniah 1:14

Then came, at a predetermined moment, a moment in time and of time,
A moment not out of time, but in time, in what we call history: transecting, bisecting the world of time,
a moment in time but not like a moment of time.
A moment in time but time was made through that moment; for without the meaning there is no time, and that moment of time gave the meaning.

Then it seemed as if men must proceed from light to light, in the light of the Word.
Through the passion and sacrifice saved instead in spite of their negative being:
Bestial as ever before, carnal, self-seeking as always before, selfish and purblind as ever before,
Yet always struggling, always reaffirming, always resuming their march on the way that was lit by the light;
Often halting, loitering, straying, delaying, returning, yet following no other way.

But it seems that something has happened that has never happened before: though we know not just when, or why, or where.
Men have left God not for other gods, they say, but for no god; and this had never happened before
That men both deny gods and worship gods, professing first reason,
And then money, and power, and what they call life, or race, or dialectic.

The church disowned, the tower overthrown, the bells upturned, what have we to do
But stand with empty hands and palms turned upwards
In an age which advances progressively backwards.

And as I proceeded to work, into my heart came a haunting song, making me wish I could sing. But also instructing me how to live in this world which is ‘ going progressively backwards’, despite the illusion of progress.
‘ Order my steps in your Word O Lord…..’

Finally as I prepared to send you this message the following thoughts came in by my mind. Given the time period during which T. S. Eliot wrote this poem 1934-43 he must have been influenced by the October Revolution in The then Soviet Union which heralded the emergence of ‘ godless’ Communism. And despite pretentious to the contrary, also ‘godless’ Nazi rule in Germany. Both of ‘ godless’ philosophies were associated with a level of wickedness and inhumanity which shocked the entire world. And yet as we know, evil continued to ‘ reveal its ugly head’ with unspeakable horrors, even genocide taking place later in Biafra, Cambodia, South Africa, Viet Nam and Rwanda. And now ISIS threatens.

But despite this sobering reality, also entering my mind is the Revelation passage about ‘ lukewarm’ Christianity: and the personal, and collective consequences, if read carefully, as this was a message to a Church.
So is there a link, a message in all of this? That, at the very least, we who know that Christ died for the sins of all mankind, whether Hitler, Stalin or anyone else, and was raised from the dead with Power, so that in Him, we may have eternal Life, have become too comfortable. Too disobedient. No longer ‘ filled with fire for the Lord’, and on Mission to ‘ rescue the perishing’ and ‘ care for the dying’. With awful consequences for ourselves, our Church, our Nation and the World. Who knows! We don’t. But God does. And is calling us back to Him, softly and tenderly! Come home, come home, all who are weary. Come home to Jesus.

THE FINAL MESSAGE – Again challenges us in a profound yet simple’ conversation’ constructed by one of Russia’s great writers, to see the bigger picture, in small matters, when we act without any reference to God. That is basing all our actions on common sense viz. making our own wisdom our god. Which is precisely what is taking place, not only in Europe and America, but equally so in my country.

GM: The Lord does indeed work in very mysterious ways. Having been led by the Him , to share with you a message inspired by the writings of a supremely gifted Englishman, yesterday, in my lunchtime devotions, the questions, this time of a very gifted Russian author, touched my heart.
Why?

Way back in 1821-1882, the former atheist socialist, turned Christian, and who became one of Russia’s most prolific and gifted writers, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, struggled with the justice of God, ‘ and the ‘idea if God does not exist, then everything is permitted’.

An issue raised, in part, in yesterday’s message, triggered by T.S. Eliot’s very profound perspective on life.
Note that, as with all great writers, many of the ‘issues of the day, and still relevant even today’ are dealt with very creatively.
And as we hark back to that haunting song yesterday, The Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir’s version is what I can find, ‘ Order my Steps in your Word’, note that the most instructive comment comes from the Verse, God’s Word, associated with the Reflection.
Habakkuk 1: 11. ” Then they sweep past like the wind and go on –
guilty men whose own strength is their god’.

I beseech you my friends, please, if you know of anyone who is foolish enough to be led astray by the ‘ ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is at work in those who are disobedient’ ( Ephesians 2:2 NIV) and believe that there is no God, to repent. And come to their senses! Perhaps these two reflections, back to back might help. For God is full of mercy and forgiveness. And Dostoyevsky makes a good argument against those ‘ whose own strength is their god’. Men who The Living God sent to punish those who perverted the ways of Justice in the time of the Prophet Habakkuk. For any kind of Sin, including the denial of the existence of God is a ‘ reproach to a Nation’.
We in Jamaicalandwelove once ‘ flirted’, at least certain elements in the intelligentsia did, with ‘ godless’ Communism. Thank God for Jesus, such madness never flourished. The Real and Present Danger however remains. Mankind’s attraction to the Idea that he can manage without God. Even if He, God does exist. And such a worldview manifests itself in various forms. Not the least of which is the idea, ‘ birthed in heart of the Atheist movement’ – that public policy formulation ought to be protected from Religious, read Christian, contributions. An idea which, if left unchallenged, could undermine much of what the Christian Ethic has achieved in our Moral, Social Political, and Legal arrangements.

So while Dostoyevsky argues against such adventurism, the Gospel goes a step further and warns that ‘ Unless the Lord builds the house, we labour in vain’.
And yet the Word of God can and will become even more challenging for those who would ignore or deny the existence of God. But that is for the next message which the Lord has already laid on my heart. For now let’s listen in on Dostoyevsky’s conversation with Ivan. Shh!

IVAN HAS NO GOD. HE HAS AN IDEA.
Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Verse: Habakkuk 1:11

You see, I never had any of these doubts before, but it was all hidden away in me. It was perhaps just because I did not understand these ideas surging up in me that I used to drink and fight and rage.
It was to stifle them in myself, to still them, to smother them.

There is an idea in Ivan; he is not Rakitin. But Ivan is a sphinx and is silent, he’s always silent. It’s God that is worrying me. What if he doesn’t exist? What if Rakitin is right – that it’s an idea made up by men? Then, if he doesn’t exist, man is the chief of the earth, of the Universe. Magnificent! Only how is he going to be good without God? That’s the question. I always come back to that. For whom is man going to love then? To whom will he be thankful? To whom will he sing the hymn?

Rakitin laughs, Rakitin says that one can love humanity without God. Well, only a sniveling idiot can maintain that. I can’t understand it. Life is easy for Rakitin – ” You’d better think about the extension of civic rights, ” he says, ” or even of keeping down the price of meat. You will show your love for humanity more simply and directly by that than by philosophy.”

I answered him, ” Well, but you without a God, are more likely to raise the price of meat if it suits you and make a rouble on every kopeck.”.
He lost his temper. ” But after all, what is goodness? Answer me Alexey. Goodness is one thing with me and another with a Chinaman, so it’s a relative thing. Or isn’t it? Is it not relative?

A treacherous question! You won’t laugh if I tell you it’s kept me up awake two nights. I wonder how people can live and think nothing about it. Vanity! Ivan has no God. He has an idea.

Comments: So if we are not grappling with serious questions about life, like ‘ what is goodness’, and can you be good without God, what issues occupy your mind? By day or by night!
Jamaica’s ReggaeBoyz shock defeat last night to Nicaragua! The plight of the lower level athletes, and the desire for all of them to make money out of the sport: and the news that our Bronze medalist in the 400M in Beijing, Sherica Jackson may run for an oil rich country soon! Who will win the next elections in Jamaicalandwelove, USA or in Trinidad? Back to school woes. Our own personal ambitions and pleasures. Our family’s future? Should I migrate to America, or Canada?

Or as Jesus answered the Sadducees in a Word I just read this morning, in response to the question , ‘what is the greatest commandment?’
“Love the Lord thy God with all the thy heart, with all you soul and with all your mind”. Matthew 22:37
Which is precisely what Dostoyevsky is saying in this brilliant extract from Brothers Karmanov, if you read it carefully. For when you put anyone or anything else first in your life, the problem of who will you worship arises. With serious consequences for how you relate to your fellowman.
For if as the Word of God warns, ‘ your own strength is your god’, who knows what you will do to others! ‘ Raise the price of bread without any conscience’, at one level, or ‘ commit #QuadrupleMurder at another level.
No wonder Jesus added :
” This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it. Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments “.

So here we have the answer to the questions with which both Alexey and Ivan were struggling; and I would suggest the entire human race needs to answer. What is goodness? And if there is no God how will mankind be good? For only God in Christ is good, and in that ‘ goodness’ we learn to, not just treat our neighbor fairly, but love him or her with the same love that God who made them His own image and likeness, loves them. Even to death on a Cross.

O my God, please, ‘ Order my steps in your Word’. Forever!
Peace.