Of Murder on a bus in Jamaica, Moral Confusion in the US Elections and Obedience to God 

​MURDERED JC STUDENT NICHOLAS FRANCIS :  A DEFINING MOMENT  

A life gone way too soon #NicholasFrancis #RIP @Jamaica_College @MyJCOBA savagery must end ! https://t.co/8iMgkUDejR
I went that school. Jamaica College! I took the bus, for many years, at the same bus spot where #HisNameisNicholasFrancis was stabbed, thrown out of the bus, and left to die. 
At no time did we ever feel threatened on,  ” Jolly Joseph “; the name given to the friendly bus service in those times. Boys fought at school. All boys fight! But at that time only  with fists. Such was the nature of the times. The 1960’s!
Then at the Lecture I gave recently, Healthy Church: Healthy Nation, in the section ‘ Decisive Issues facing Christians Today, I  shared an extended version of this data. Data which chronicled the dramatic change after I left ” Fervet”.
1970 – 152  died from homicide in Jamaica 
1980 – 899
1990 – 543
2000 – 887
2010 – 1447  ( 2009 – 1683 the worst year on record)
This kind of data paints a graphic  picture of the kind of society in which Nicholas lived and died. Way too soon!
On Monday I was led to share a message about Christian leadership in ‘ times like these ‘. 
Then last night, I was awakened, not at the usual hour, but in the same manner, to read words in my Bible which had been highlighted many years ago. At a time of great distress in my life when only the Word of God could calm my soul.
” Stop trusting in man, who has but a breath in his nostrils. Of what account is he”. Isaiah 2: 22.
” Hear, O heavens! Listen, O earth!

For the Lord has spoken:

I reared children and brought them up,

but they have rebelled against me.”

Isaiah 1:2
Hear that uproar from the city, hear that noise from the temple! It is the sound of the Lord repaying his enemies all they deserve.
  “Before she goes into labor, she gives birth; before the pains come upon her, she delivers a son. 
 Who has ever heard of such things? Who has ever seen things like this? Can a country be born in a day or a nation be brought forth in a moment? Yet no sooner is Zion in labor than she gives birth to her children.
  Do I bring to the moment of birth and not give delivery?” says the Lord . “Do I close up the womb when I bring to delivery?” says your God. 
 “Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad for her, all you who love her; rejoice greatly with her, all you who mourn over her.  For you will nurse and be satisfied at her comforting breasts; you will drink deeply and delight in her overflowing abundance.”
  For this is what the Lord says: “I will extend peace to her like a river, and the wealth of nations like a flooding stream; you will nurse and be carried on her arm and dandled on her knees.  As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you; and you will be comforted over Jerusalem.”

Isaiah 66:6‭-‬13 NIV

http://bible.com/111/isa.66.6-13.NIV
And finally this morning as I woke this Word entered my mind. A Word I read a few weeks ago and which reading ‘ troubled my soul’.
” Elijah then came near to all the people, and said, ” How long will you go limping with two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.”

1 Kings 18: 21.

In the Lecture I quoted a famous theologian and unapologetic Evangelical Anglican Priest John Stott, that ” whenever a society goes bad, it is not the fault of the society, but  we Christians  who are called to be ‘ salt and light’.
You may or may not agree with the statement, but what is undeniable, based on these Words from the Lord, is that we who have been rescued by the Blood of the Lamb, have to make a choice. Serve the Lord God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ completely, or serve the Devil!
And based on these Words from the Lord, we need to look deeply into our souls and determine whether we have been faithful to the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? Or whether we  stand accused by The Almighty God – not our thoughts on the matter – of being guilty of ‘ limping along with two different opinions’.
Each child of God, not born of human flesh, but born of ‘ the promise given to Abraham ‘ – which section of Romans I was led to read last night – will have to prayerfully reflect on this transcendental question. Whether we have been guilty of placing our trust in ‘ mere man who has but breath in his lungs’, which includes ourselves,   or whichever leader of whatever sort,  in whom we have entrusted our destiny,  and future,  as individuals,  or as a nation!

 

A very pertinent question for the Americans in these times who are,  essentially grappling with voting for the lesser of two evils. And a  dilemma which has spawned,  rightly or wrongly, accusations  of #LyingHillary and  #BigotedDonaldTrump. Especially bearing in mind the recent revelations about emails and sexual predatory behavior!
Or whether we will truly decide to ” Trust in the Lord with all our heart and lean not on our understanding” – wisdom from the book of Proverbs. 
For to truly trust in God whose Kingdom is  built on ” Righteous and Justice in the Holy Spirit”, means that allegiance to a  political party, or leader  cannot come first. Whether Democrat or Republican, PNP or JLP. Similarly,  allegiance to family, or Denomination or Nation cannot come first. Nor self interest! For in Christ we are called,  as another famous theologian, Bonhoeff,  tells us ” to die to self”. 
So that children like Nicholas can live. For in obedience to God, is ‘ a nation born in a day’, as Isaiah prophesied, heralding the mighty Salvation for all mankind wrought by Jesus on tre Cross of Calvary.
So like Joshua, children of God, in America and Jamaica,   need to ” chose ye this day whom we shall serve “. God or man! 

And then, in Christ,  we will no longer, like Habakkuk,  cry out to God:
” O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not listen?

Or cry out to you ” Violence”! and you will not save.” 1:2.
Yes , marches and demonstrations,  and policy initiatives,  and police actions, and interventions by Civil Society, and prayers by the Church, even fasting have sessions,  all have a role to play in rescuing our country. 
But ultimately it all depends on our obedience to the God whose Word I read last night:
” It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s  mercy.” Romans 9:16
I pray God that all who have been the recipients of God’s mercy in the Atonement wrought by the Blood of Christ,  will  this day choose well. As the future of Jamaica,  and America, and the entire world,  depends on our obedience. For only God can,  in Christ,  ” extend peace to us like a river”, in a broken and troubled world in which #NicholasFrancisRIP lived and died. Way too soon!
Peace

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#X6murdertrial, Donald Trump and the Christian Response 

Five years ago, in my country,  and that fact tells another story, a teenager was shot and killed during an act of road rage. This week,  the accused man was set free, as the only other person in the car in which the young man died, claimed he ‘ saw nothing’. And the entire country is up in arms about this miscarriage of justice in the #x6murdertrial.

Further north, the Donald Trump phenomenon provoked a question from one of my patients yesterday, and which mystery is baffling many; ‘ How did he get  so far ( in the race for the Presidency)’. How did a man who is so bigoted, bombastic and a sexual predator come so close to even being considered worthy of being elected leader of the free world!
Then yesterday we heard of two other murders. Both by being stabbed to death. One a schoolboy on a bus going home, reportedly on account of his  refusing to hand over a cell phone. The other, young doctor, found in a pool of blood at his home.
So what reaction ought Christians have in the face of this continued madness across the world?
In a book written by a famous theologian and avowed Anglican Evangelical, the late Rev. John Stott, Decisive Facing Christians Today: your influence is vital in today’s troubled world, Stott calls for Christian leadership. And not just hand wringing and a promise to pray! A commitment which may be sincere but which if not attended by action may justify us being accused of insensitivity , by the writer of a poem quoted by Stott.
Poem by a homeless woman whose Pastor promised to pray for her. A lesson for all of us who claim Christ 
I was hungry, and  you formed a humanities group  to discuss my hunger.

I was imprisoned, and you crept off quietly to your chapel and prayed for my release.

I was naked, and in your mind your debated the morality of my appearance.

I was sick, and you knelt and thanked God for your health.

I was homeless  and you preached to me of  the spiritual shelter of the love of Christ.

I was lonely and you left me alone to pray for me.

You seem so, holy, so close to God,but I am still very hungry – and lonely – and cold.
Stott closes this fascinating book from which I quoted liberally in the section on Mission in my Lecture,  by detailing his understanding of Leadership in general, and Christian Leadership in particular. 
FIVE MAIN INGREDIENTS 

1. CLEAR VISION 

2. HARD WORK 

3.DOGGED PERSEVERANCE 

4.HUMBLE SERVICE 

5. IRON DISCIPLINE 
Them he calls for the Church to repent of two ‘particular horrid sins’.

 

1. Pessimism …which is dishonoring to God and incompatible with the Christian faith…… While we are aware of the fallenless and depravity of human beings….we are not so foolish to believe that society will become perfect before Christ comes, and aware of the pervasiveness of evil…..Nonetheless we also believe in the power of God- in the power of God’s gospel to change individuals and in the power of God’s people ( working like salt and light) to change society…..need to renounce both  naive optimism and cynical pessimism and replace them with the sober but confident realism of the Bible. 
2. Mediocrity…and the acceptance of it….don’t settle for anything less than your God given potential! Be ambitious and adventurous for God……God made you a unique person and gifted you….God has a leadership role of some degree and kind for all of us….need to seek his will with all our hearts…cry out your Him to give us a vision of what He is calling us to do…..
And it cannot be by coincidence that during the preparation for the Lecture I was led to read this famous Isaiah passage.
” Enlarge the place of your tent

stretch your tent curtain wide,

do not hold back;

lengthen your cords,

strengthen your stakes.

For you will spread out to the right and to the left;

your descendants will dispossess nations and settle in their desolate cities.” Isaiah 54: 2-3.
And that a line from the  OT reading for my Church this :
Then the Lord answered me and said: Write down the vision;  Make it plain upon tablets, so that the one who reads it may run. For the vision is a witness for the appointed time, a testimony to the end; it will not disappoint. If it delays, wait for it, it will surely come, it will not be late.

Hb 2:2‭-‬3 NABRE

http://bible.com/463/hab.2.2-3.NABRE
Peace

Waiting on #HurricaneMatthew and Praying

GM: PRAYER, HURRICANE MATTHEW AND GOD’S PLANS FOR US IN CHRIST JESUS 

Last night, perhaps in response to conversation with some of my non believing and even atheist friends, I posted this on my Facebook page.

As long as we are not at the last place, not facing our problems at all, but simply pleased to be in existence, pleased to be healthy and happy, we will never find God, we so not see any need for Him – Oswald Chambers.

One of the main things that, so far, has emerged out of our preliminary experience with #HurricaneMatthew, is that a lot of people have praying for mercy. On Twitter, on Facebook, on Radio, on WhatsApp and privately. Why?
Because this is no ordinary storm. Because this is a monster of a system, packing winds which at Cat 5 can destroy concrete buildings. And carry rainfall which can devastate a nation.

So even people who don’t normally pray much or are even religious, accept, at least in their head, the need for #DivineIntervention.
But true Faith, which believes that God can do what seems impossible, and help us to be resolute and steadfast in the face of danger, and which leads us to protect the vulnerable and the disadvantaged, is a Gift from a Merciful and Loving God. And which spiritual truth was the thrust of a wonderful sermon delivered by the head of the Anglican Church in Jamaica, Bishop Howard Gregory, yesterday at my church.
And a truth which was ‘ my song in the night’, last night as I recalled our Bishop quoting St. Paul that we are to:

” Eagerly desire the greater gifts”.

Faith, Hope and Love.

Then this morning as I read the famous Jeremiah passage, the OT reading for Sunday ( at least one option), where the children of Israel, in exile, with their, ‘ backs against the wall’, and metaphorically facing their own #HurricaneMatthew, were given these words of comfort:

http://bible.com/111/jer.29.11-14.NIV For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord , “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord , “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord , “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”

And we all know the Truth, that sinful human beings can only find God in and through the shed Blood of Christ our Savior. Therefore our only response to danger of any sort, lest like the Facebook post we become too comfortable, is to seek to know Christ, the only mediator between God and sinful mankind. And not just pray for mercy from the ravages of Hurricanes, although that’s a good first step.

And then in Devotional Bible I encountered this meditation ( which is really what inspired me to write.)

YOU WILL SEEK ME AND FIND ME ( Edited)
Mozarabic Sacramentary – 3rd century liturgy used by believers in parts of the Iberian peninsula….Spain and Portugal

As you read, remember the Anthem: My Hope, My Faith, My Love all gifts from God, are built on nothing less than Jesus’ Blood and Righteousness.

FOR HOPE
Lord, when we think only of our own wants and desires, we are impatient to have them satisfied, yet in our hearts we know that such satisfaction will crumble to dust. Give us that spirit of hope which can enable us to want what you want, and to wait patiently on your time, in the knowledge that in you alone comes true and lasting pleasure.
FOR LOVE
O Lord, you have brought all your faithful people into a single, universal family, stretching across the heaven and earth. Bind us together with a spiritual love which is stronger than any human love, that in serving one another we may neither count the cost nor seek any reward, but think only of the common good.

FOR PEACE
O God, through the death of your Son, you reconciled us to one another, drawing us together in the bond of peace. In times of trouble and adversity, may your peace sustain us, calming our fretful and anxious hearts, and saving us from all hateful and violent activities.

FOR MERCY
O God, in revealing to us the perfect spiritual beauty of your Son, you have shown the grotesque ugliness of our depravity, and so filled us with remorse. We beg you, Lord, to reach down to us in your mercy, re-creating is us the image of your Son, that we may be fit to live with him in your heavenly kingdom.

Amen.
Comment: All prayers to a merciful God, in and through Christ and Him Crucified, ought then to have an element of repentance in them. So that as Solomon prayed: Lord hear and forgive, we too may pray for forgiveness and mercy.
In such a manner then we seek for the higher Gifts, and for Mercy, at all times, not presuming that we are any ‘ prayer warriors ‘ who know how to pray, and who ‘advertise’, that God hears our prayers. But rather acknowledging that ‘ we are miserable sinners’ seeking forgiveness and mercy. For ourselves and the people in Haiti and Cuba, and wherever danger exists. 

All because our Hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ Blood and Righteousness. And not on any merit of ours!
Peace, then as we continue to watch and pray. Without ceasing! In good times and in bad times.

Understanding and Preparing for Hurricane Matthew 

​GM: A WORD FROM THE LORD IN THE MIDST OF THE STORM
As I woke up this morning, with the rain falling and thunder rolling, and checked the latest update on Hurricane Matthew ( now down to a Cat 4 thank God),  I sought a Word from the Lord. 
This,  while contemplating my song in the night last night,  ” Nothing but the Blood of Jesus”. And a reminder of a Psalm I was inspired to quote this week:

Do not fret – it leads only to evil. 37:8
So I began with my ‘ Anthem ‘:
My hope is built on nothing less

than Jesus’ Blood and Righteousness….
And when I pondered on verse two:
In every wild and stormy gale

my anchor holds and will not fail…..
my mind went to Psalm 19. I am not sure why, and it certainly does not necessarily mean that God is in every Hurricane causing death and destruction. But it gave me pause!
For there is no questioning the fact that :
” The heavens declare the glory of God”, as St. Paul used this reality as the basis for declaring in Romans that, because of ‘ what has been made ( the heavens) God’s invisible qualities ( His Eternal Power and Divine nature) have been revealed, and so ‘ men are without excuse’ – in suppressing the truth about God.
The question is, what is the Lord saying to us through this Psalm, as we face as a nation, not an existential threat, but a power of nature whose destructive forces we cannot even begin to imagine?
As I reflected on this, I considered  in my own puny mind, that sometimes God has to remind rebellious and arrogant mankind, really how small, weak and helpless we are, compared to His Almighty Power. And a Category Five Hurricane is but a mere glimpse of the kind of Power that God has! 
Interestingly, however, the Psalm is not all about God revealing Himself through Nature, but through His Word, the Law….. and ” By them your servant is warned….as who can discern his errors? Forgive my hidden faults.
What does this mean in the light of ‘ the more and better particulars’ of Christ, who is ‘ The end of the Law’?
The answer, which came into my mind, as I wrote, lies in the Words of Jesus Himself that, ‘ unless He came men would not be guilty of Sin’.
So the ( Life and Death…..)  Blood of Jesus serves both as an eternal warning as well as an Atonement for Sin. 

So that men are without excuse! 
O Jesus, may we then regard this imminent danger as a warning to a Nation hell bent, literally and metaphorically, on self -destruction. In how we conduct our politics – divided our people into warring camps; economically,  how we have set up, what Bob Marley calls ‘ Vampire systems….sucking the blood of the poor, moving from ‘ a village caring for a child’, to a totally capitalist society about Bernie Sanders ‘ burned with anger;  in how we have destroyed the protest  and message music of the 70’s and embraced ‘ bruk out ‘ Dancehall and Soca music…a yah so nice and ….tempted to touch…O Jesus; how we have aided and abetted the creation of wicked gunmen, ‘ by what we have done, and by what we have left undone’, who are able to create the kind of mayhem in Montego Bay about which we are still lamenting;  in how we, a former enslaved people rescued by the Power of a merciful God, have now in  ‘ follow fashion ‘ style,   joined up with powerful evil forces in questioning the very existence of God,  and whether or not His Son died for our Sins; and how some Church Leaders and followers, who apparently don’t fear the Living God, have caused the innocent and the cynical to question the role of His Church in our society. O good Lord, hear and forgive.
Then Psalm 20, immediately following 19, brought a Word of comfort. Regardless of what happens in the next couple of days!
” May the Lord answer you when you are in distress; 

may the name of the God of Jacob protect you.

May he send you help from the sanctuary and grant you support from Zion…..
Some trust in chariots and some in horses,

but we trust in the name of the Lord.
May God indeed, by the precious Blood of the Lamb, even Christ Jesus, send us help from His Sanctuary. In the midst of all the storms of life. 

So let us not fret, but pray for mercy, even as we prepare. 

Peace