While America grapples with mass murder in schools, and Jamaica with murder every day, Good Friday and Easter cometh. Hope in Christ Jesus!

How does one cope, when you live in a small country, Jamaica, where, year after year, for many years now, quoting popular singer Etana’s Wrong Address, ” people die there every day”. And where so far over 200 persons have been brutally murdered. Mostly by the gun!

How do people in devastated Syria cope? With aircraft raining weapons of death on innocent people, including children, day after day. Or when ISIS was active, how do you cope with relatives being beheaded, or with acts of mass raping of your women. How!

How will children in the richest and technologically most advanced country in the world, America, cope with continued and heart wrenching episodes of mass murder in their schools? How will that society respond?

How do people cope with the devastating news of the sudden death of a loved one? Or ” bad news” about cancer, or HIV or a broken relationship? How! And why!

One Perspective about Life

Isn’t life not supposed to one where boy meets girl, fall in love, dance to the music of Drifters, Temptations, Bob Marley and Skatalites in one era. Or Chronixx, Protege, Rihanna Beyonce and Adele in another era.
Get married, or shack up if that’s your thing or a visiting relationship, have children, work hard, love neighbor, vote in or vote out governments. Stay home and build a nation or go abroad and send money back home ” as you quint the money reach “. Send for your family or go back home and apply for the post of Commissioner of Police, or start a business and make some other contribution to nation building. Watch TV, enjoy Carnival, or Dancehall music, hang with friends in a club or at the local bar. Eat roast yam, jerk chicken or pork, go to the beach on a Sunday while others worship God, or watch Messi play for Barcelona, cuss Arsenal’s coach, live for Basketball, play dominoes and try don’t ” colt de game. Dig yam hills, carry your tomatoes and lettuce to ” Curry” or the local market to sell. Run the ” One Order” hoodlums, or pay the ” tax”. Beg the taximan or Coaster bus driva to slow down.
Send your children to a good school and pray that they will come out to something good, don’t disgrace you, and look after you when you get old.
Then retire early, call Hotline regularly, capture your children’s children, grow them up too, or refuse because you have a life to live. Grow old with your partner, serve God, when you are old and have nothing else to do, or start when you are young in obedience to your mother’s teaching. Or continue to wonder who God is. Die and go to one place or another. Or doesn’t everybody get to go to heaven! Or don’t we all turn to dust, and that’s it.
Isn’t that the story of life!

I have been reading, again, a book which I started before Lent, entitled ” Walking with God through Pain and Suffering by New York Times best selling author Rev. Timothy Keller. And he paints an entirely different picture about life. And argues, in my view, successfully, that Christianity alone of all the world’s religions, and ideologies and philosophies, best prepares us for the inevitable suffering and pain which are natural parts of human life and existence.

Keller’s opening statements in his book:

Introduction

The Rumble of Panic beneath Everything

I think that taking life seriously means something like this: that whatever man does on this planet has to be done in the lived truth of the terror of creation….of the rumble of panic underneath everything. Otherwise it is false.
– Ernest Becker, The Denial of Evil

I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul makes its boast in the LORD; let the afflicted hear and be glad. O magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together. ( Psalm 34:1-3).

Suffering is everywhere, unavoidable, and its scope often overwhelming. If you spend one hour reading this book, more than five children throughout the world will have died from abuse and violence during that time. If you give the entire day to reading, more than one hundred children will have died violently…..thousands die from traffic accidents ( crashes) or cancer every hour, and hundreds of thousands learn that their loved are suddenly gone…..

Shakespeare understood this when he wrote:

Each new morn
New widows howl, new orphans cry,
New sorrows strike heaven on the face.
….. and Becker expose the common ways in which we try to deny the rumble of panic. This book is an effort to do what they urge – to take life seriously. I want to help readers live life well and even joyfully against the background of these terrible realities. The loss of loved ones, debilitating and fatal illness, personal betrayals, financial reversals, and moral failures – all of these will eventually come upon you if you live out a normal life span. No one is immune.

Therefore no matter what precautions we take, no matter what how well we have put together a goid life, no matter how hard we have worked to be healthy, wealthy, comfortable, with friends and family, and successful with our career – something will inevitably ruin it.

No amount of money, power, and planning can prevent bereavement, dire illness, …..human life is fatally fragile and subject to forces beyond our power to manage. Life is tragic.
We all know this intuitively, and those who face the challenges of suffering and pain learn all too well that it is impossible to do using only our own resources. We all need support if we are not to succumb to despair. In this book we will argue that inevitably this support must be spiritual.

Final comment: I am preaching, in part, tomorrow at my church, St. Andrew Anglican Parish Church, on familiar words from the Gospel about suffering. Pray for discernment and revelation. And to speak boldly!

Some of my friends are going through a challenging time dealing with life threatening ilnesses. We need to pray without ceasing for each other. For mercy and comfort!

We have to be very careful and be willing to be nuanced in our understanding of the Gospel. Which is why I posted this message from Keller’s book on Twitter last night.

So suffering is at the very heart of the Christian faith. It is not only the way Christ became like and redeemed us, but it is one of the main ways we become like him and experience his redemption – #TimothyKeller #WalkingwithGodthroughPainandSuffering

Nuance! However, ” I don’t want to celebrate suffering, prescribe it for everyone, or minimize the moral imperative to to reduce it where we can. I don’t want to ignore the pain that ripples out from each diagnosis of cancer…God is grieved at our grief – Keller https://t.co/oTBvMHrJaY

Hope at the end of Lent

#Parkland shooting and #100murdersin20days, as well as other tragic events across the world continue to pose serious questions about what is life all about. But as we journey through Lent to Good Friday and Easter we are assured that God not only cares, but He cares even to death on a Cross. And He is still sovereign. And is willing through the Ressurection of His Son Jesus to offer those who believe, new and unending life.
Peace

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Chose ye this day who you shall serve today: The Eternal God or the Wisdom of this Age

I lived through, and worked in a hospital in a volatile area (Kingston Public Hospital ) in the build up to, the violence in 1980; largely due to the tension between the two major political parties approaching the general elections

At the end of which year, 899 Jamaicans, not PNP or JLP, but persons made in the image and likeness of God, lay dead

Jamaica murder rate over the years:

Year # of Murders
1970 152
1971 145
1972 170
1973 227
1974 195
1975 266
1976 367
1977 409
1978 381
1979 351
1980 899
1981 490
1982 405
1983 424
1984 484
1986 449
1987 442
1988 414
1989 439
1990 543
1991 561
1992 629
1994 690
1995 780
1998 953
1999 849
2000 887
2002 1045
2003 975
2004 1471
2005 1674
2006 1340
2007 1574
2008 1601
2009 1680
2010 1428
2011 1125
2012 1097
2013 1200
2014 1005
2015 1192
2016 1350
2017 1608

There was great fear in the society, at that time. But the general feeling was that if you did not venture into certain areas the violence, for the most part, it was unlikely that you would be affected.

The mood now, and has been for a while, is quite different; as the murderous rampages and other violent crimes, have become so random, so unpredictable, so heinous, so brazen. Broad daylight no longer offers any protection. Being a woman, even pregnant, or a child, is no longer a “safe zone” with the current lot of criminals. A church or the pastor is no longer ” off limits” to the #wicked. As they fear neither man nor God. Much less #ZOSO or #StateofEmergency!

And so a pall of fear hangs heavily over my beloved country. Affecting ordinary citizens and even a pastor I met recently. I’ve never seen it like this!

The Response of The Church

How does the Church respond in a time like this. For those who lay dead, all 1608 last year and #100murdersin20days at the start of 2018, are not just scammers, or goat thieves, or gang members “fighting for turf”, or victims of reprisals or contract killings, or….. but persons, Jamaicans ( and a few from abroad) made in the image and likeness of God.

Suffering

And so a nation suffers. Loudly sometimes! Otherwise quietly in the ” sanctity” of their homes. Praying to God for mercy. Some! While others invoke the name of feared crime fighter #RenetoAdams. And more, sign a petition, requesting that he become the next Commissioner of Police. A man widely viewed, and remembered, as one who was not a strong opponent of the use of extrajudicial executions as a crime fighting tool.

So as brazen and unafraid gunmen continued to place my country under siege, I turned to Timothy Keller, to find some comfort in the midst of the madness and suffering. And was led to post this message on Facebook.

FACEBOOK

Theism without certainty of salvation or resurrection is far more disillusioning in the midst of pain than is atheism. When suffering, believing in God thinly, or in the abstract, is worse than not believing in God at all – Rev. Timothy Keller #WalkingwithGodthroughPainandSuffering
#Jamaicableeding

Why? Robust, distinctive Christian beliefs offer comforts that secularists cannot give:
1. Belief in a personal, wise, infinite God who is Sovereign over all the universe vs fickle fate and random chance.
2. In Jesus Christ, God came to earth and suffered with and for us sacrificially.
3. In Jesus Christ and Him Crucified we have an assurance of Salvation vs karma

4. Assurance of a bodily resurrection just like Jesus.. one of the great desires of the human heart is love without parting…..in the Ressurection of Jesus we have more than consolation; life is restored vs nothingness and an impersonal spiritual substance.

Thank God for Jesus indeed vs “The Immanent Frame” ( The view that the world is a completely natural order without any supernatural). A shift which did not remove all belief in God but altered it……Deism – God created the world for our benefit, and now it operates on its own, without any His constant or direct involvement. More anon!

” If one does not find consolation in these Christian doctrines ( beliefs), then I think total disbelief in God is better preparation for tragedy than the thinned-out, secularized belief in God that is so common in our Western world. Many people today believe in God, and may go to church, but if you ask them whether they are certain of their salvation…….Jesus’ sacrificial death on a cross…..bodily resurrection of Jesus and believers……..”

Comment: I believe I was led to share this post as the big question that we face as a nation is not who to appoint as the next Commissioner of Police, or whether or not, given recent events, there ought to be a review of the constitutional provisions for the appointment of the Chief Justice, or how do we achieve economic growth or tame the crime monster, but whether or not as a people we will trust in the God of Jacob.

The same God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ in whom our slave forebears trusted. And based on this choice fashioned, in large measure, a once relatively peaceful society.
The very same question posed by the Jewish leader Joshua thousands of years ago: Chose ye this day who you shall serve…..as for me and my house we will serve the Lord.

I believe, if we listen carefully, we can hear the same question as we consider the gun lyrics #bountykiller #Adi. As we listen and dance to the beguiling music of #Carnival #Temptedtotouch #Followtheleda As we spend quality time watching #Netflix. As we place allegiance to party, green or orange, over God. As we quote the words of our favourite talk show host #MuttyPerkins and discount the Word of God. As we, in the Church, ” seek first all other things #prosperity #popularity before the kingdom of God and His Righgeouesness ( who is Christ and Him Crucified).

No wonder that I was led to post this other and closely related, message from a Saint of yure.

For sadly, the reality is that the Church, we who are to be ” Light and Salt” in a dark and confusing world, have, in too many cases, become indistinguishable from the world in which we are called to be witnesses – the final post.

FACEBOOK

A Warning and a Blessed Assurance #bedtimedevotions:

Francis Schaeffer ( 1912-1984). Presbyterian minister who together with his wife Edith founded a international study and ministry community in Switzerland: L’Abri. Wrote 23 books. Including ” The God who is there “: how modern thought has forsaken the idea of truth ….and the tragic consequences of this abandonment.

WHY CHRISTIANS LOSE REALITY
Acts 17: 29

An important issue to consider as the Church offers Hope to a nation in crisis, #Jamaicableeding and some are looking ( back) to #RenetoAdams. While others believe we can fix it ourselves.

“Our generation is overwhelmingly naturalistic. There is an almost complete commitment to the concept of the uniformity of natural causes as a closed system.
This is the distinguishing mark. If we are not careful, even though we say we are Biblical Christians and supernaturalists, nevertheless the naturalism of our generation tends to come in upon us.

It may infiltrate our thinking without our recognizing its coming, like a fog creeping through a window open only half an inch. As soon as this happens, Christians begin to lose the reality of their Christian lives…..All too often the reality is lost because the ” ceiling ” is down too close upon our heads. It is too low. And the ” ceiling ” which closes us in, is the naturalistic thinking.

Now the Christian spirituality……does not stand alone. It is related to the Bible’s view of the universe. This means that we must understand – intellectually, with the windows open – that the universe is not what our generation says it is, seeing only a naturalistic universe…..For example, we have said that we love God enough to say, ” Thank you “, even for difficult things. We must immediately understand, as we say this, that this has no meaning whatsoever unless we live in a personal universe in which there is a personal God who objectively exists…..

We have also considered Christ’s redemptive death, which has no meaning whatsoever outside the relationship of a supernatural world.
The only reason the words ” redemptive death ” have any meaning is that there is a personal God who exists and more than that, has a character. He is not morally neutral. When man sins against that character, which is the law of the universe, He is guilty, and God will judge that man on the basis of true moral guilt.
In such a setting, the words, ” the redemptive death of Christ ” has meaning, otherwise they cannot.”

Renato Adams

Therefore, to think #RenetoAdams as ” Savior “, is to allow the naturalistic fog to come in through the window. Let us be patient, in prayer and in action, and wait upon the supernatural power of God in and through Jesus Christ. For our God is not morally neutral. And will judge. One day. In the meanwhile ” He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak…..of those who wait upon Him”. Isaiah 40

Comment: And so the final post on Facebook this week places a bookend on the message from the Lord. At a time of great confusion in my country. Confusion in the Police Force. Confusion in the Political Directorate. Confusion in the Judiciary. Confusion in the Church. And palpable fear and suffering in the land.

FACEBOOK

#earlymorningdevotions

THE CASE FOR JESUS
Acts 1:8 ” You will be my witnesses”

“Jesus’ disciples had been asking about the Kingdom of God – when was it going to be established and when was Israel going to be restored to its former glory” – Chris Tiegreen

The Bible – He replied, ” It us not for you to know the the times or the periods that the Father has set by His own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses…..

My thoughts…projecting the thoughts of the disciples into our age : ” Lord, when will you rescue Jamaica and restore our nation to its former glory”.

Chris Tiegreen – It wasn’t the right question to ask apparently, as Jesus answered in the way that He often did; indirectly.
They weren’t to be preoccupied with the Kingdom. They were to be preoccupied with the King.

Then the words of this wonderful song by BTC . A song I had not heard for a long time. So I searched in YouTube ” Lord I want to be your witness” and what a blessing in the early morning it was. Praise God. On a morning when all of us are praying for a New Jamaica. To be returned to its former days of peace!

Pray God that we will be occupied with thoughts and direction from following King Jesus, as we deny self, take up our cross and become witnesses for Him. In #Wrongaddress #Etana #Tivoli . In #BloodyStJames #Clarendonbleeding In #GordonHouse At #BelmontRoad At #HopeRoad In the #boardroom. On #Radio #OnTV In the #Starheadlines #JDF #JDF #Twitter #Instagram #Facebook to the ends of the earth