Hear the Children Cry: Turn Your Eyes upon Jesus.

The best introduction to this week’s message comes from Deacon Peter Espeut’s column in The Daily Gleaner. Remember these names, and weep, but not like those who have no hope, for Jamaica land we love, as you continue to read.

Shanoya Wray
Yetanya Francis
Khyhymn Campbell
Raven Wilson

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/commentary/20181026/peter-espeut-jamaica-we-have-problem

A friend once asked me how we are going to stop the killing of our children; a problem I would imagine is giving the PM sleepless night. And perhaps a few grey hairs!

But more poignantly, making those mothers who have suffered loss, ” hold on to their belly bottom “. And wail! A metaphor for what a nation, sickened by the kind of wickedness and unfettered evil which stalks our land, seemingly at will, is experiencing. Day after day! As ” bloodshed follows bloodshed “.

This morning as I woke, one of my favourite songs/Scripture passages came to mind. And so I sang :

Blessed be the Lord God of Israel: for he hath visited and redeemed his people. And hath raised up a mighty salvation for us, in the house of his servant David….

Words which emerged from the mouth and soul of the Father of John the Baptist, when he regained his voice, as prophesied, at the birth of his son.

Words which liturgical churches like mine, Anglican, have put to song – The Benedictus – and used during morning prayer worship service.

Then two other passages of Scripture came to mind. One, thanking God for awakening me:

I lie down and sleep;
I wake again, for the Lord sustains me”. Psalm 3:5.

One of several which I use for bedtime devotions, one per night, as the Spirit moves.

The other, an answer to my friend’s question. From the book of reminders, to which I have been led to read again, recently. And a verse which over the years has seared itself into my heart; one of many which are highlighted in my NIV Bible.

” Oh, that their hearts would be inclined to fear me and keep all my commands always, so that it might go well with them and their children”. Deuteronomy 5:28.

Then I recalled, last night as I returned to Deuteronomy reading this very profound, and contextually, so very relevant, passage:

Do not be terrified by them, for the Lord your God, who is among you, is a great and awesome God”.
Deuteronomy 7:21.

One of, if not the greatest challenges that we face as Christians, in particular, and Jamaicans in general, is that like Sarah ( the one who laughed) ,
we do not truly believe, we don’t have to understand, for that’s a mystery, that our God is awesome.
We sing the songs. We say the words, but our actions, and lack of faith betray us. We turn away so easily from our Almighty God, and put our trust in self, systems, and mere man. And so our children are dying!

What’s to be done? A meditation from Peter Marshall, introduced to me by another dear friend, after my mentor and friend, Bishop Spence died, in fact his wife June, came to mind.

I offer it to our leaders in Church and State for our collective consideration. This as we grapple with the big issues of our time,
NIDS, whither SOE and ZOSO, corruption in high places, growing our economy, providing the best education for our students, domestic abuse, human rights, abortions, same sex marriage, HIV/AIDS, human trafficking, how to respond to Trump, lapping up on public transport, how to deal with squatters….a permanent solution to a long standing national disgrace, closely aligned to poverty alleviation if not elimination, the highjacking of our culture to promote death and slackness, how to deal with political tribalism and its many children, including garrison communities, and prioritorising infrastructure development. And the killing of our children ! ( Can I add humbly, Road Traffic Injuries….and of course NCD’s).

The meditation was written for American leaders, at a time of great ( 1902 – 1949) concern in the history of mankind, but the words apply to almost every country under the sun. And could well be applied to the current American context.

FOR GOD’S GRACE IN OUR HELPLESSNESS

Peter Marshall – Former Chaplain to the United States Senate.

Verse: Judges 7:2

We know, our Father, that at this desperate hour in world ( Jamaican) 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 such an hour?

May thy wisdom and power come upon the President of these United States ( the Prime Minister of Jamaica), the Senators and Congress ( Members of Parliament and the Senate), to whom have been entrusted leadership.

May the responsibilities 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 what to do. Only then can they lead us as a nation beyond human wisdom to thee, who alone hast 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 strength – the mightiest of all, who will march beside us into battle for righteousness and world brotherhood.

O our God, may we never recover from our feeling of helplessness and our need of thee! In the strong name of Jesus, our Lord, we pray. Amen.
In obedience
LWJ

THE HYMN

A mighty Fortress is our God,
A Bulwark never failing;
Our Helper He amid the flood
Of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient foe
Doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and power are great,
And, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.

2
Did we in our own strength confide,
Our striving would be losing;
Were not the right Man on our side,
The Man of God’s own choosing:
Dost ask who that may be?
Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabaoth His Name,
From age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.

3
And though this world, with devils filled,
Should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed
His truth to triumph through us:
The Prince of Darkness grim,
We tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure,
For lo! his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.

4
That word above all earthly powers,
No thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours
Through Him who with us sideth:
Let goods and kindred go,
This mortal life also;
The body they may kill:
God’s truth abideth still,
His Kingdom is forever.

Then early Friday morning the Lord woke me up at 4: 00 am to write another message. To the Church! That not only should we confess that we cannot manage, and ask God for help, but that lukewarm Christians are of no use to Him. So we need to repent earnestly!
For as my friend and church brother, Deacon Peter Espeut wrote in the Gleaner this week, mindful of the trouble that had beset one of America’s spacecrafts, and the response of one the ground crew that became famous #Houstonwehaveaproblem,
” Jamaica! We have a Problem”. They are killing off our children!
And the message is that, only God and His children can turn this country around.

https://sermons964306149.wordpress.com/2018/10/27/lukewarm-christians-are-of-no-use-to-either-god-or-man-spewed/

The Best of Times – Reggae Girls. The Worst of Times – Leon Bailey. Thank God for the Gift of The Holy Spirit.

The hype surrounding the two big football stories in #Jamaicalandwelove this week reminds me of the dramatic and contrasting opening lines of one of the great books of all time:

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness….” From The Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens.

For surely the Reggae Girls, about whom I wrote in an earlier blog #Nowaggonist #Strikehard, qualifying for the World Cup in France, must count as one of the “best of times”, in Jamaica’s sporting history. Now we hope for further glory for team and country. Will be tough, as the six nil drubbing at the feet of the US revealed. But hopefully, with local and diaspora support we can be much better prepared for the ” big girls”.

Quite a contrast to the debacle, embarrassment, hubris and unfettered nonsense surrounding the Leon Bailey affair. As this obviously talented player, has clearly been led astray by his manager and adopted father. For how else can we explain the bizarre attempt to dictate to the JFF, under what conditions he, Bailey, would be willing to play for the national team.

Almost as if he and his brother are joined at the hip. Seriously! Somebody needs to ” get a grip” and face reality. That ultimate glory comes from playing well for one’s country. Just ask the maestro, Lionel Messi.
Otherwise even his club place in Germany might be in jeopardy. Which would a shame for such a talent!

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/lead-stories/20181018/wonder-women-reggae-girlz-secure-historic-world-cup-qualification

https://www.sportsmax.tv/index.php/football/international/item/21221-leon-bailey-jamaica-impasse-angers-leverkusen-boss-report

So glory and unwisdom played out themselves in the full glare of public spotlight in Jamaica this week. The best of times and the worst of times!

But at another level, far from ” the maddening crowd, and #BeyondTheHeadlines, at least that which fascinates mankind, a different story was playing out itself.

This email sent to a few brothers and sisters in Christ, highlights the importance of giving glory to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, One God, if we are truly to enjoy the ” best of times”. Living as One in Christ, as He Christ was One with the Father. And in this age a special emphasis must be placed on living by the Holy Spirit; as Jesus is no longer present with us in the flesh, bu thank God, He has not left us as ” orphans ”

Consequently we need to spend quality time “listening” to the Word of God. And learning ” more and more”, according to Paul, about The Holy Spirit.

In the same way we pay so much attention to CNN, RJR, Nationwide, Irie FM, Love FM, TVJ, CVM, The Daily Gleaner and The Jamaica Observer. To Dionne Jackson Miller, Cliff Hughes and Emily, Emily, Emily ( a story about Ninjaman and an interview with one of Hotline’s hosts which I just heard about….apparently he used an endearing term repeatedly…and when reminded of her real name, repeatedly….he, I suppose good naturedly….semi apologetically….repeated her real name….several times) ! And live, some folks, for Facebook, Twitter, IG ( If you are not familiar with the initials ask a millennial lol….from me a dinosaur….what a ‘liberty’) and Telegram.

THE EMAIL

From a #lunchtimedevotions to an #earlymorningdevotions the promises of John 14: 15-31 have stayed with me this week. And this morning verse 26 was especially intriguing…..” But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you”.

Clearly the second promise is made only to the disciples….remind you. The question is, does the first promise….will teach you everything….belong to us ? #StandingonthepromisesofGod

Then my mind, provoked by a discussion I had with a Seventh Day Adventist friend yesterday….we were discussing Jehovah’s Witnesses and their unbelief in the Holy Trinity….went to John 17.

And verse 20, in particular.

” I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me”

Then the thought came into my mind, that something is missing in our teaching. Not compared with anywhere else, nor in a utilitarian sense…improve our numbers….but just missing.

Why? Not sure, but our people, many, including some of us…..me….others.. have not fully grasped the importance of being one….so that…the world may believe.

I am crucified in Christ. Nevertheless I live: yet not I, but Christ who lives in me.

I believe this declaration that Paul gave us in Galations 2, bears deep consideration. A verse I am grappling with, and so too my Adventist friend with whom I shared the passage this week.

And as I grappled, this came….Come Holy Spirit!

Then this morning:
THE FIRST VERSE OF A WONDERFUL TEACHING 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….

#Somethingismissing.

All of this happening as I was moved to read one of the great teaching passages in the Bible.

THE WORD OF GOD

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever.

This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you. “I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you.

In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”

Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will reveal yourself to us, and not to the world?” Jesus answered him,

“Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me. “I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I am coming to you.’ If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe. I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming.

He has no power over me; but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us be on our way.
John 14:15‭-‬31 NRSV
https://bible.com/bible/2016/jhn.14.15-31.NRSV

Then, the message just kept on developing, during my #lunchtimedevotions on Friday, this! From Scripture Union’s Daily Bread. And it was not even the meditation for the day. I just ” happened on it”.

DAILY BREAD

Drink Deep ( vs #Strikehard)

John 7:25-44

The Festival of Tabernacles involved a water ceremony celebrating the provision of water in the desert and recalling God’s promise through Isaiah to satisfy thrist ( Isaiah 55:1 and 12:3 which were sung during that ceremony).
Jesus uses this as an opportunity to speak about the reviving work of the Holy Spirit.

Without the Holy Spirit it’s impossible for us to come to faith or pursue holiness. He is God’s ‘ power in action’ in our lives.
He’s a seal of God’s ownership of us and a deposit of eternal hope within ( 2 Corinthians 1:22). He brings freedom and leads into all truth; helps us resist sin and makes what we do in service to God authoritative and abundantly impactful.

He gives us gifts to build the church effectively, helps us to pray fervently in line with God’s will and unlocks spiritual chains when we tell others about Jesus.

What has your experience of the Holy Spirit been? Has he been like a river bursting out of you? Ephesians 5:18, usually translated ‘ be filled with the Spirit’, is a command to us to seek an ongoing overflow of God’s presence! For a river to flow powerfully takes a lot of water, but we’ll never exhaust God’s supply

Comment: After a profoundly important description of the role that the Holy Spirit plays in the life of a Bible based and converted child of God, the most important question, and perhaps the ” missing link”, that I felt in my soul, as I penned the email, is located in the final question, viz., what has been your experience with the Holy Spirit?

For if we try to ” hug up” the Holy Spirit for personal gain, or even denominational glorification, and thus somehow leverage God’s abundance, heaven forbid, we miss the mark altogether. As the whole point of this gift is captured in a The Message version of the Bible, in a later verse from John:

” Rivers of living water will brim and spill out of the depths of anyone who believes in me….John 7:38.

Folks, we might not discern it, but one of the great poets of all times, T S. Eliot, captures the mood and philosophy of this age, in words he penned many years ago. But still relevant now.

An age which might very well be part of Charles Dickens descriptive, and accusatory, opening lines….an age of foolishness….the worst of times.

T. S. Eliot – The Moment of Meaning…abridged. And it just came into my head as the story developed

” ….. But it seems that something has happened that has never happened before: though we 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 has 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?

Final comments: Wow! Even as I write in obedience, the words of this prophetic poem #Strikehard. And are so profoundly true. For truly an age where people have been taught to ignore trancendal issues, ignore the shed Blood of Jesus for the Redemption of all mankind, and ignore the wonderful and liberating gift of the Holy Spirit of God, must be an age of foolishness.
No wonder crime and violence, and wanton criminality, and other evils, real and being contemplated…..read my lips… and pay attention to events in the Parliament.. have been let loose in our country. And across the world.

Perhaps then the foolishness of a Leon Bailey is just a metaphor for the madness that has overtaken large swathes of Western Civilization where ” the church is disowned, and the bells upturned”. At least apparently so….for the Bible teaches that …. the gates of hell shall not prevail.

We thank God, therefore, that the best of times, as demonstrated by the Reggae Girls giving thanks by singing the National Anthem, is also a signal lesson for Jamaica and the world: To trust in the Eternal Father who is indeed our refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms of love and mercy and peace. In and through His Son, and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. In whom we have access through the Power of the Holy Spirit. Peace!