Naomi Osaka, Bruce Golding and P.J. Patterson’ Values and Attitudes and the Grace of God

I got up this morning with a popular verse of the gospel singer Sinach in my head:

” Way -maker, miracle-worker, promise-keeper, Light in the darkness; My God that’s Who You Are”

And then watched the video:

And truly “God is here working in this place, and we ought to worship him”.

I also got up in time to witness the changing of the guard in women’s Tennis. As 21 year old, clearly the future of women’s Tennis, Naomi Osaka, of Japanese and Haitian parents, defeated a worthy opponent Kvitova of the Czech Republic in the Australian Open.

I am a serious Serena Williams fan(atic), but class is just class, and perhaps, but never count out Serena, according to former PM Portia Simpson Miller ” time come”.

This week, and I got up thinking about it, there was a call to return to the former Values and Attitudes program.

A call made by two former Prime Ministers! I couldn’t agree with them more. For like up North, there is a crisis in how our values as a people has gone ” south”. Where videos of young girls, in particular, performing all kinds of vulgarities, is the ” talk of the town”! Where the value of a human life, to gunmen and too many others, including some who drive on our roads, is worth no more than that of a cockroach! And where one’s word is no longer your bond, within and without the hallowed halls of the Church and State!

A word of caution however, from one of my favourite theologians, Oswald Chambers: ” You can’t have Christian Values without Christianity “. Just putting it out there for consideration!

Let us consider what Bruce Golding and P. J. Patterson advanced:

http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/unity-of-purpose-golding-patterson-urge-revival-of-values-and-attitudes-programme-led-by-four-former-prime-ministers_155512?profile=1

“I don’t know about the other countries in the Caribbean, but I know in Jamaica there are serious disagreements about what is right and what is wrong…..”

We need to get to a stage where people come to expect certain things and where people will instinctively refuse to accept other things. [I am] talking about a culture of integrity,” he explained.

“What I’m talking about is beyond the bounds of legislation. No one can draft that into codified law. I’m talking about a situation where something might not be illegal, but it is just plain wrong and the society accepts that it is wrong,” he continued. Golding was speaking on the topic: ‘Governance, Transparency and Ethics: Developing lasting values across the region’.

Twenty-five years ago, Patterson put forward the idea to enter into a national conversation on the institution of social programmes that would teach discipline, good manners and respect for self and country, sharpen communication skills, as well as develop mediation skills by using peaceful conflict resolution.

Despite the best intentions, the Values and Attitudes Programme, as it was called, did not gain the traction which had been hoped for and, in time, it became a ‘political football’. The programme eventually came to an end but was relaunched in 2003.
“I’ve heard Prime Minister [Andrew] Holness make a number of statements that are almost indistinguishable from what PJ had put forward 25 years ago, and I’m just wondering whether the former prime ministers shouldn’t make ourselves ready to lend support to get the discussion going,” Golding said to applause.

“Let us see what are the things that will define our values and our thinking of right and wrong,” he added.
In sharing similar sentiments, Patterson noted that he had also suggested at a Rotary Club meeting in Hanover last year that the four former prime ministers play a lead role in revamping the campaign.
“As Bruce said, every pronouncement that is made, however it is articulated, comes out with the central things. We need to change our patterns of behaviour. It is time we move from talking about it, now that we seem to be saying the same thing, to acting on it,” Patterson reasoned.

“The message to go forth from this conference [is] that there is a suggestion that the political leaders should seek to invoke the help and support of those of us who have retired. We are prepared to get on board and put this thing at a level where the whole nation accepts. This is not an orange or green business, this is a matter of where we are as a nation,” he said.

Orange is the colour used by the Opposition People’s National Party while green is the governing Jamaica Labour Party’s.

And consider also a ‘ response ‘, not sure a direct response to Golding and Paterrson, but a useful response to consider:

The nation’s values and attitudes need to be reset and the Church has a crucial role to play in bringing this about, according to a senior official in the Ministry of National Security.
Acting Chief Technical Director Shauna Trowers told a research conference, hosted recently by the School of Religion and Theology at Mandeville-based Northern Caribbean University (NCU) that the Church was one of the most powerful agents of socialisation.

“It is through religion that we will assist in fixing the (deviant) mind, and through love and hope from the word of God,” said Trowers, who has responsibility for research, rehabilitation and diversion policy at the national security ministry.
“Government cannot provide religious instructions, it cannot build character, it cannot invoke those moral attitudes and self-control upon which the balance of the social structure must rest,” Trowers told the conference , which was being held under the theme – ‘Religion and Crime Prevention – A Focus on Jamaica’.

Can’t be a coincidence then, that this week I was inspired to write to members of my church about the importance of Justice and the origin of the Human Rights Story.
A message sent out on Martin Luther King jr Day! For if as a ” Christian ” Nation we haven’t grasped the importance of both Righteousness ( discussed in the final message) and Justice, no amount of calls for different values and attitudes is going to make a difference.

THE MESSAGE

Still reading a book by New York Times award winning author, Rev. Timothy Keller. Reading and rereading. And praying and now writing – in contrast, though an excellent read, so loved the drama of the engagement, finished Michelle Obama’s book very quickly.

Title – The Prodigal Prophet: Jonah and the Mystery of God’s Mercy. The ( essential ) message – God loves all people. Not just the children of Israel! And God, in Christ Jesus, shows how much loves all people when He died on Calvary – while we were still sinners. His enemies!

An extract provides ‘resources’, which can help us to see the world as MLK jnr did; in need of both Justice and Righteousness. At the same time! Especially in this millennial and modern age, where so many consider God irrelevant. At best! And non-existent. At worst!
Perhaps the most telling quote of the book which has geo-political, philosophical and theological ramifications is : “ Jonah refused God’s mission largely because he did not want to extend mercy to pagans…he was too closely aligned to Israel’s national security interests”

PART ONE –

The book of Jonah shows not only that justice was important to God but also the preaching of repentance and God’s wrath. How, practically speaking, can we combine evangelism and doing justice?

One proposal is to see these two things as “ two wings on an airplane.” While that analogy conveys the necessity of both,it does not describe how integral they are, how one leads to the other.
Another model sees helping the needy as a mere means to an end. We give people things so that they may turn to Christ. That does not fit with Jesus’ teachings that we should give without expecting in return ( Luke 6:32-35…you will be sons of the Most High,because he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful) and we should serve the needs of our neighbors even if he or she does not share our faith) Luke 10:25 -37……Good Samaritan.

A third mistake is to insist that doing justice is all we need to do to declare God’s good news, as if helping the marginalized were evangelism. Nor should we treat justice as optional work that we may get to if we have the time or money. All of these very common common formulations lack biblical nuance.

We must realize that since all our social problems stem from our alienation from God (Genesis 3:1-17), the most radical and loving thing you can do for a person is to see him or her reconciled to God.

Yet while preaching repentance is fundamental, doing justice must be inseparably attached to it. The Old Testament prophets regularly declared that while you may be religious and fast and pray, if you don’t do justice, your religion is a sham ( Isaiah 58:1-7). Isaiah said that if we don’t care for the poor ( Isaiah 29:21), then we may seem to honor God with our lips but our hearts are far from from him ( Isaiah 29:13).

The New Testament is no different. Like the prophets, Jesus condemns people who make lengthy prayers but exploit the poor ( Mark 12: 38,40). And both 1 John 3:17-18 and James 2:14-17 likewise state that if you say you have faith in Jesus but see someone “ without clothes and daily food” and do nothing for “ physical needs”, such faith is “dead”. All this to say that compassion for the poor is an inevitable sign of a living relationship with God and an experience of God’s grace. Those who truly know they have eternal life only because of the free, charitable grace of God, will be charitable.

So preaching repentance is fundamental, but doing justice must be inseparably connected to it. This combination of doing justice and preaching judgment – and therefore offering grace – goes together not only theologically and philosophically but also practically.

When the world sees the church doing evangelism, making converts, it only sees us increasing our tribe, adding to our numbers and increasing our power. When it sees us sacrificially serving the needs of our neighbors whether they believe as we do or not, then it may begin to see that believers are motivated more by love than by the desire to accrue power.

In Christian theology our belief in the God of judgment and grace is the basis for doing justice in our society. In the eyes of those outside the church, it is Christians doing justice that makes belief in the gospel plausible. Doing justice for our neighbors, whether they believe in Christ or not is, paradoxically, one of the best recommendations for the faith. Like Jesus, we must be mighty in both word and deed ( Luke 24:19).

PART TWO –

They also go together philosophically: Our Western culture is secular, so it is widely believed that moral values are socially constructed rather than God given. As is commonly asserted, “ No one has the right to tell anyone else what is right or wrong for him or for her”. It is a cultural given that every person determines his or her moral values. Nevertheless, it is just as strongly held that all people are obligated to support equal rights, justice for all, and care for the poor.

This is one of the great contradictions of our society today. It insists that all morality is relative and then it demands moral behavior. What if someone has the temerity to ask, “Why should I sacrifice my time and money for people far off who are starving? Why do I have any obligations to embrace people of other races and beliefs? Why should I be unselfish?’

The culture can manage only two answers, both inadequate. The first answer is that to do so serves your own self-interests. Many thinkers have pointed out the foolishness of basing self-sacrificial behavior on pragmatic self-interest. The other answer is that these values are simply self-evident, but for many people in the world they are not.

These modern beliefs – that we must all be committed to equal rights and justice but that there are no God-given absolutes – undermine each other. Modern secular education teaches every child that they must be true to themselves, that they must identify their deepest desires and dreams and pursue them, not letting family, community,tradition, or religion stand in their way. Then it calls for justice, reconciliation, and benevolence, all of which are basic forms of self-denial, even as it encourages self-assertion. It teaches relativism and calls people to be ethical. It encourages self-seeking and calls people to be sacrificial…..

Christians can make a major contribution here. The Philosopher Charles Taylor, in his book Sources of the Self: The Making of the Modern Identity, points out that modern society is “ on the deepest level incoherent”, with Reagan’s to morality. Our culture demands impartial benevolence towards all people, social justice for every oppressed class, and the reduction of hunger, disease,and suffering everywhere in the world, “ while ( at the same time) in principle defying that any such moral value is other than an arbitrary, subjective preference “.

One reviewer of Sources of Self, himself an atheist, admits that Taylor’s thesis makes him very uncomfortable. He writes:

“ Perseverance in virtue will……require self-sacrifice. And self-sacrifice seems to require some transcendental justification or motivation, of which the most common, and perhaps the most logical, is belief in the existence of God. Or so Taylor argues, circumspectly. Since modern freedom entails the rejection of transcendence, modern virtue is wholly contingent. Can we be good for long without God? Taylor’s doubts are daunting”.

Christians, of course, share all those moral commitments – to human rights,equal human dignity,universal benevolence, and the interests of the poor. Indeed it is widely and well argued that those values were imported by secular, modern society from the Bible. Christians have the resources for “ perseverance in virtue” and self-sacrifice. They come not just from belief in God and the afterlife in general but from every feature of the Christian gospel – the incarnation of Christ, his atoning death on the cross, and the hope of the resurrection. The more Christians draw on these resources and love their neighbors, the stronger society can get.

And the final message which those who would seek the help of the way-maker, miracle-worker, promise-keeper God, Who Only can shine His Light in the darkness of our culture and teach us, not only right from wrong, but Who is The Truth, Christ Jesus, ought to consider well.

THE FINAL MESSAGE

Unless we understand the Grace of God, we will not make much progress in fighting the evil which has beset so many of our people. From top to bottom!

As I continued my #latenightdevotions,a passage,a companion passage, that I’d read before starting my devotions came to mind.

From Keller’s Book: ” The Prodigal Prophet; Jonah and The Mystery of God’s Mercy.

CHAP 12 – OUR RELATIONSHIPTO GOD’S GRACE

RUNNING FROM GOD ( JONAH 2:1-10)

One of the messages of this book, is that anyone, even a successful prophet ( or preacher), can be in the dark about grace. Jonah’s fears, prejudices, and emotional breakdown all stem from his blindness to the reality of grace.

In chap 1 he runs away because he finds God’s grace and mercy an inexplicable mystery. In Chapter 2, in the belly of the fish, we find him wrestling with that same mystery. It is only when he has a breakthrough in his understanding about grace that he is released. Only then can he become a fearless preacher. The main purpose of the book of Jonah is to get us to understand grace.

If Jonah failed to understand the mystery of God’s grace, it is most certainly possible for us. Ignorance of the depth of God’s grace causes our most severe problems. Until we understand it, we are, like Jonah, just a shadow of what we could be and should be. The doctrine of the grace of God is that which sets Christians apart from all other faiths. It is the central message, the ‘ gospel ‘. “ The gospel is bearing fruit throughout the whole world – just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood God’s grace” ( Colossians 1:6)

It is an understanding of god’s grace that makes a person a Christian and not merely a moral person or a religious person or a nice person. This is a truth that, when it is grasped, is electrifying. When Martin Luther finally understood it, he went from being an anxious, guilt-ridden seminary professor to a lion ready to take on the world by Himself……

In obedience

Peace

LWJ

The National Leadership Prayer Breakfast and The Peace Management Initiative under God

This week I attended the 39th staging of The National Leadership Prayer Breakfast in Kingston Jamaica.

An annual event organized by the church to bring together Leaders from many areas of national life, before the Almighty God at the beginning of the year.

To come other in unity to hear God’s Word read and proclaimed, to fellowship, to pray for the nation together; and this year, in particular, to #IPledge to work together for the best interest of the Jamaican Society. #IPledge, was the Theme of the event and accordingly the message from Rev. Karen Kirlew: President, Jamaica Baptist Union.
And so I tweeted. About the Sermon!

#IPledge binding nature, not for self but others; communal in nature; covenant with each other; God and His covenant. Let you yes be yes, and no be no. James 5. A warning. Community will be tempted to dilute their moral standards. #IPledge material or moral pledge

Let us pledge to work together for Jamaica’s best interest – Rev. Karen Kirlew. President of the Jamaica Baptist Union. Guest speaker. #NLPB @Petchary @JLowrieChin @jovan when truly check it out nowhere nuh better than yard. To God be the glory @LasNewman

But, in the context of the madness, the mayhem, the pathos, the agony, occasioned by gun violence in my country – last year over 1600 people were murdered – I tweeted about the many projects that the NLPB has supported over the years.

@lucienforJesus

50% of funds collected at the National Leadership Prayer Breakfast 1986 – 2018 donated to projects involving children; the other half given to the destitute and poor – Rev. Stanley Clarke, Chairman #NLPB
@JLowrieChin

And this year in particular, the work of the Peace Management Initiative.I implore you,please watch the videos and read the blog. For deep in my heart, they have inspired me, and I know they will inspire you, to #Ipledge to work together, even more, for the best interest of the Jamaican Society
@lucienforJesus

#PMI has has helped to reduce crime in Kingston Central Police division by over 60%

Violence is a disease; the gun is so addictive; chose music; crime only have two things to offer; death and prison; I would rather die than go back in prison; I love working with #PMI ; community development the answer; voices from a Peace Management Video #NLPB @Petchary

Rasheed is another role model. Aged just 12 his father was murdered in Hannah Town, yet he took a cool-headed, mature decision not to take revenge. Today he’s a @PMIPeace Violence Interruptor serving the same community.

https://blogs.unicef.org/jamaica/fathers-murder-inspired-build-peace-community/

But as interesting, informative and inspiring, were the videos and the sermon, what struck me most, was the message from the two readings- Joshua and Luke.

And so I tweeted:

Choose ye this day whom you will serve. But as for me and my house we will serve the Lord. Joshua 24: 15 #NLPB read by @AndrewHolnessJM

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me for he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. Luke 4:18. Read by @PDPhillipsJa #NLPB #Unity

Predictably, unlike the ones about PMI, which elicited quite a few responses, this one has no such attendance. But, for me, the Word, in particular from Joshua, is the central message for our times: “

Choose ye this day whom you will serve”.

Further, the Word from Luke, poses a serious question:

Do we accept that as baptized people, born again through the Holy Spirit, we, the church, are ‘anointed to bring good news to the poor, and to set the captives free’?

For the reality is that, unless and until, the Leadership of the church, inspiring its members, accept that, people who choose to serve the Lord, ought to be in the vanguard of the struggle, like the folks from the PMI – and I’m sure many Christians are in that group – to set our people free from the wickedness and enslavement that gun violence and, communities ruled by Dons, imposes on our people, this country will not thrive. Just survive!

For, the culture of murder and violence and badness and plain ‘out of order livity, which, like a sword of Damocles, has descended on my country, collectively, constitutes the single greatest threat to democracy, peace, economic growth and our desire to serve God.

#Ipledge then, ought to be on the lips and prayers of the church, as well as other members of our society, if we are going to, together, find a way out of this madness, and provoke the emergence of a counterculture to this evil.

However, the words of Joshua 24: 13-18, to the children of Israel, the covenant people of Yahweh, the God of Abraham, after they had decided to serve God, and not the gods ‘ Beyond the River’, – money, fame, greed, covetousness, pagan practices, unbelief in a Sovereign God, things that the flesh loves – ought to give us pause:

You cannot serve the Lord, for he is a holy God”.

A prophetic message about the need for Salvation – to be found only in the Blood of Jesus shed on Calvary for the sins of all mankind.

For all have sinned, Jews, Dons, Politicians, Church Leaders, PMI members, Preachers, Business men and women, members of the diplomatic corps and members of the Media. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, and cannot truly serve Him, except in and through Christ Jesus.

So, yes, we ought to partner with PMI to ‘do good’ in Wareika Hills and Jungle. Yes, we as church ought to partner with Food for the Poor to provide better housing solutions for people living in very poor homes. Yes, we ought to partner with those who promote human rights. But the matter of greatest priority is to preach the undiluted Word of God,as people charged with the Message and Ministry of Reconciliation:

that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them”. 2 Cor. 5:19

For, only the Spirit of the God of Jacob can sustain the struggle to fight against the kind of evil and injustice which abound in Jamaica land we love.

Otherwise, we will forever be captivated by well meaning but strangers to the mind and purpose of our Lord Jesus Christ, like Buju Banton singing that, ‘ only Rastafari can set our people free ( over hills and valleys).

Captivated by promises from well meaning but unrealistic politicians about Prosperity and Progress in a land beset by selfishness and a sense of entitlement by the rich and famous.

Captivated by, perhaps well meaning, but foolish people, atheists and others, touting the power of the human mind to analyze The Creator of Heaven and Earth. And pronounce that He is not merciful or does not exist, while He who if He withdraws His breath of life from us, we all fall dead in a second.

I close with two thoughts . Ones that came into my head after reading the Word from Joshua earlier in the week, before the Prayer Breakfast brought it to my attention again!

First Thought

That God does not despise the ‘wicked gunmen’! But is in a struggle to death, to defeat the evil, Satan, who entice people to do evil. And in Christ, the Victory over Satan, has already been achieved. And will be consummated on the Day of Judgement!

Why is this important to bear in mind as we #IPledge to rescue our our young men in particular from gun crimes as is the part of the remit of PMI and bring peace to communities.? Several reasons!

Theological – “ For I the Lord do not take any pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that they turn and repent of their wicked ways. – Ezekiel. So those who are being killed, and those who are doing the killing, belong to the same family. Created by God in His image and likeness! And God ‘ mourns for them”. And, in Christ, died for them. A God of Mercy!

Sociological – The fact that many murders are committed because of gang violence, reprisals, scamming etc i.e. “ the wicked killing off each other”, does not absolve us of the moral duty to put an end to the killings. For is it not a matter of ‘duty criminals’, killing off each other, but of someone’s son, someone’s father, meeting an untimely death. On account of badness.Yes! But still a member of our Jamaican family.

Historical : Garrison communities, poverty stricken inner city communities, from where Dons and wickedness have emerged, in the manner in which we know them now, was not a part of the Jamaica I grew up in during the 1950’s – 1960’s. My formative years! Communities, which, in the midst of the madness, have produced so much that is good and wholesome and commendable. Therefore, somebody or group of persons, are responsible for creating, or facilitating the creation, by design or by neglect, of communities which are marked by extreme poverty and criminality. People who will be held accountable on the Day of Judgment

We all have a responsibility therefore to ‘fix it”. From Bull Bay to Six Miles! In Kingston. And the same applies to other areas beset by the ills of Chronixx’s “ Capture Land”.

PMI is out there doing good work. The people of God need to step up, in greater numbers, and help to “ set the captives free”. Otherwise, we cannot claim, in front of a God of Justice and Righteousness, a Holy God, to be serving Him. Whether at the National Leadership Prayer Breakfast, or doing the “ trivial round or common task”,as identified by the songwriter of that wonderful hymn:

SONG

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.

Second Thought

We ought not to, despite the urgency and poignancy of the young men dying in our inner city communities, deflect us from the more urgent #IPledge:

” To know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow to attain to the resurrection from the dead”. Philippians 3:10

” To always carry around in our body the death of Christ, so that the life of Christ may also be revealed in our body”. 2. Cor. 4:10.

For unless we catch the vision of serving a suffering Christ, of dying to self and being raised to a new life in Christ, in the same way He was raised from the dead, we can’t help our people to be ‘ set free” from the captivity that is Sin in its many and varied forms.

I pray God, that like me, writing this blog, which has brought new thoughts of God into my soul, you too will benefit from these thoughts also. And that we will #IPledge to follow Christ as first priority, from Negril to Morant point. And then work with PMI more effectively with the supernatural power of a Loving and Merciful God, attending our efforts. And in fact, ‘ fighting for us’, against evil!

Shalom

Etana, Chronixx and Carlene Davis and This Island Needs Jesus

Usually I write on a Saturday morning. But yesterday it just did not happen ; never ‘kip’ according to the young people! Then went to a meeting and the devotions ( regular thing at Healing Conference Committee Meetings) shared by Bishop Harold Daniels , underscored the importance of Listening to God. If we are going to really do His will!

So, “Behold! I stand at the door and knock”, can be translated into “ Listen! I am standing at the door knocking” – Jesus, speaking to the church in Philadelphia in the Book of Revelation.

What happened then, what did I hear today, which I did not hear yesterday why this message was delayed?
A reminder about Etana, and Chronixx, and ( Rev) Carlene Davis!

Etana – Wrong Address. Listened to her music on my way to work on Friday morning. Just came into my head! Don’t normally play music. Just drive and listen. Quiet time.

Question is, in church this morning, listening to a good sermon about Baptized people standing up and speaking out for the vulnerable, “ How long are we going to put up with ‘wrong addresses’ in our society”?

Why should it be the lot of some people to live in inner city communities with all the challenges that exist there; poor housing, infrequent garbage collection, poverty, crime, teenage pregnancies, while others live in , if not in luxury, but at the very least in comfortable circumstances”? Is there no end to this inequity!

Chronixx – Capture Land. Heard about it last Sunday, and listened. Perhaps that’s the reason why he sang about capture land and that so many places in Jamaica belong to people who ‘capture’ it from the original owners. And he’s not talking about squatting! But the history of Jamaica!

Carlene Davis – This Island needs Jesus. listened also on Friday morning. Not about sea and shore and sun…..this island needs Jesus. In our hearts! So much sin! So much crime! So much injustice! So much raping and killing! So much immorality! So much corruption! So much political tribalism! Yes! We have much for which to give thanks, thank God. But God knows that the negative influences are destroying the good name of our country and causing us to live in fear and in some cases, subhuman conditions.

Where’s the help going to come from? From deep in my soul emerged a song, an answer. Which I posted on facebook during the week. But first these other posts inspired by The Collect – the collective prayer for the week.

THE COLLECT

Father in heaven, who at the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan proclaimed him your beloved Son and anointed him with the Holy Spirit: Grant that all who are baptized into his Name may keep the covenant they have made, and boldly confess him as Lord and Savior; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting.Amen.

And one word in particular triggered these posts – boldly.

FACEBOOK

And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 2. Cor. 4:3-4 NRSV.

O Jesus have mercy and set the captives free by your Word!
#Earlymorningdevotions

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
thine own presence to cheer and to guide,
strength for today, and bright hope for tomorrow….

And when I think that God, his Son not sparing,
sent him to die – I scare can take it in:
that on the cross, my burden gladly bearing,
he bled and died to take away my sin…
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God to thee…

#Earlymorningpraise

FACEBOOK

And thou, child, shall be called the Prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways.. .

To give light to them that sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death
#earlymorninginstructions

What’s the central message of the Bible? And of life! “ …In Jesus Christ there is resurrection of the dead”. Peter -Acts 3:2. What does that mean? Good question! 5000 believed #Peterarrested #Alifetimeoflearning #Suffering #earlymorningdevotions

New every morning is the love …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 #earlymorningdevotions.

And now, Lord, #arrested look at their threats, and grant to your servants to speak your word with all boldness,while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus #Roomshaken #HolySpirit Act 4:29-31

I wish I could sing! As I knelt and prayed for God to stretch out His hand to heal this beleaguered nation and perform signs and wonders in the Name of Jesus, this wonderful song and answer from the Lord emerged from deep in my soul….

THE SONG

There is a balm in Gilead
To make the wounded whole,
There is a balm in Gilead
To heal the sin-sick soul.

Sometimes I feel discouraged,
And think my work’s in vain,
But then the Holy Spirit
Revives my soul again.

If you can’t preach live Peter,
If you can’t pray like Paul,
Just tell the love of Jesus
And say he died for all.

YESTERDAY

So here’s the link with yesterday. Jonah, about whom I wrote, and who did not know about Jesus. About God’s mercy in and through Christ Jesus. For the whole world. Not just for the Jews. But for the Arabs as well. And everyone else and as well. A feature of a good God, mercy, which does not ignore the national security interests and economic interests of any state, and certainly the security of Israel continues to be a concern of God and all Christians. But not to the exclusion of the security interests and economic needs of the Palestinians and other Arab states. Or any other state!

My journey with the Lord this week was an interesting one. A message I tweeted and posted on Facebook is a good starting point.

Jonah fled from God rather (than) seeking the spiritual good of a city he despised. He had allowed himself to become too aligned politically and emotionally with the national security interests of Israel. @timkellernyc hmmm! From ” The Prodigal Prophet ”

Most of us will recall the Bible story, that Jonah had no interest in saving the wicked city of Nineveh. No interest in extending mercy to Assyrians, the mortal enemy of his native land Israel. Because, as we are told by an unusually gifted writer, New York Times award winning author the Rev. Timothy Keller ( I would, like Helen Baylor, “ highly recommend”, that you read whatever book he writes) Jonah did not understand that the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob, was a God of mercy. Hence the title of the book: “ The Prodigal Prophet: Jonah and the Mystery of God”. For Jonah’s primary concern about was about ‘his people’

An assertion, ‘that Jonah was too closely aligned with the national security interests of Israel’, and therefore blind to the needs and lived reality of others, raises all kinds of questions in this age. The most controversial of which, is, are Christians too closely aligned to Israel’s national security interests in the intractable disputes between Israel and Palestine and the West Bank; and Gaza and Syria and Jordan.

A question very pertinent to ‘ Christian ‘ America, whose foreign policy is very closely aligned to Israel national security interests in the Middle-East. Closer to home, the same question arises ; did Jamaica’s policy position bear too close a resemblance to Jonah’s, when it gave tacit support to Israel and the USA, and ignored the ‘overwhelming majority of the UN Member states’, when it abstained from voting on the UN Resolution concerning Israel’s decision to make Jerusalem its capital.

https://news.un.org/en/

“By an overwhelming majority, Member States in the United Nations General Assembly on Thursday “demanded” that all countries comply with Security Council resolutions regarding the status of Jerusalem, following an earlier decision by the United States to recognize the Holy City as the capital of Israel.”

These are questions which provoke raging debates all over the world. Further, in respect of the policies and statements and tweets of current president of the USA, there is a subtext to this debate of Christians being aligned to country’s national security interests ; and in the instant case, a President’s or political party’s policies. For as we all know the Evangelicals in America, especially by the liberals, and to be fair, ‘ anyone with eyes to see and ears to hear’, have been accused of being unwilling to criticize Donald Trump – and by extension the Republican Party, on any matter. The most egregiously outrageous of these response was famously given recently by well known televangelist Gerry Falwell! “ Nothing to declare “.

To be fair, some evangelicals have sought to distance themselves from this perfidy and have asserted that it is the ‘ white evangelical extremists’ who are guilty and not the entire movement.

Further, in respect of Jamaica’s non -vote, in the context of threatening ‘ letters ‘ from the USA, warning that any country that ‘ voted against the USA’, would be targeted for reprisals ( read no economic assistance ), some would argue, with some degree of truth, that the non-vote had nothing to do with the Jonah syndrome – unmindful of the plight of the Palestinian people – was not a philosophical or theological or ideological issue, but just Real Politics. Pragmatism in the face of trouble! As what did “ David” Michael Manley do for Jamaica when he sought to “do battle “ with the “ Goliath”, the mighty USA. Was the ensuing ‘war’ between the two countries, in Jamaica’s national economic and even security interests? And what would we gain from going down that road again.

These geopolitical challenges, which many Christians, and to this day, some, if not most, Jews, who believe that Israel was specially loved by God, versus the rest of mankind, are the result of a misguided theology. For God never declared His love for the children of Israel because they were any more special than the rest of His creation. But simply because He chose to reveal Himself to them in a special way, so that through them the world would know of His glory and mercy. For reasons best known to Himself!

In the same way there is nothing exceptional about the USA, or its people. It was never greater in the eyes of God than Mexico. Nor any African country! Likewise, there is nothing exceptional about any race or class in Jamaica why they should rule and be prosperous while the rest of people, according to Chronixx, live on “ Capture Land”. And forever be ‘ hewers of wood and carriers of water’; a phrase which had currency in the days of socialism.

No! The Truth is that the Lord longs to have mercy on all mankind, and live in a covenant relationship with us. Which is why, in His Mercy, and in His Love, He sent His only Son, so that, we, all who have sinned and were subject to God’s wrath, and judgement, may be ‘saved’ in through the Blood of Christ, and be reconciled to Him. Everybody. Jews and Arabs. Venezuelans and Jamaicans. Americans and Mexicans. Black soccer players and racist European football fans. Russians and Democrats. Even Man U fans and Liverpool fans. PNP and JLP.

I close with a reflection from one of my favorite theologians – Oswald Chambers, whose Devotional Guide “ My Utmost For His Highest”, I read each night before going to bed. One of his reflections this week places a bookend on this message.

Started with a concern for the poor and vulnerable. Closes with ‘those whose eyes have been opened “, deliberately giving up our tight to self in Christ Jesus and commits to living a life of ministry, God’s ministry, to others.
Otherwise, if our lives as people of the God of Mecharacterised characterized by ministry to the poor and needy, we have only been converted, and not saved nor sanctified. Have not died to self, and live for God in His ministry to others. Which ultimately was His intention in the Life, Death and Resurrection of Hs Only Son Jesus Christ. But Jonah didn’t accept this ministry. And ran away! From people in Majesty Gardens, Callaloo Mews,Tel Aviv and Jungle, at one level. And Cherry Gardens, Norbrook and Long Lane, at another level. For all have sinned, Wherever!

OSWALD CHAMBERS

JANUARY 10

The Opened Sight

I now send you, to open their eyes…that they may receive forgiveness of sins…

ACTS 26:17-18
This verse is the greatest example of the true essence of the message of a disciple of Jesus Christ in all of the New Testament.

God’s first sovereign work of grace is summed up in the words, “…that they may receive forgiveness of sins….” When a person fails in his personal Christian life, it is usually because he has never received anything. The only sign that a person is saved is that he has received something from Jesus Christ. Our job as workers for God is to open people’s eyes so that they may turn themselves from darkness to light.

But that is not salvation; it is conversion— only the effort of an awakened human being. I do not think it is too broad a statement to say that the majority of so-called Christians are like this. Their eyes are open, but they have received nothing. Conversion is not regeneration. This is a neglected fact in our preaching today. When a person is born again, he knows that it is because he has received something as a gift from Almighty God and not because of his own decision.

People may make vows and promises, and may be determined to follow through, but none of this is salvation. Salvation means that we are brought to the place where we are able to receive something from God on the authority of Jesus Christ, namely, forgiveness of sins.

This is followed by God’s second mighty work of grace: “…an inheritance among those who are sanctified….” In sanctification, the one who has been born again deliberately gives up his right to himself to Jesus Christ, and identifies himself entirely with God’s ministry to others.

A Mother and a Nation cries: A Good God answers in Christ Jesus

The Gospel

Matthew 2:1-12

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:

`And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,

are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;

for from you shall come a ruler

who is to shepherd my people Israel.'”……

Part of the Gospel reading for the worldwide Anglican Church for tomorrow’s worship service. And we know how the story ends. Herod, the wicked king, makes a request of the wise men to tell him where Jesus was born so that he could kill him. But these, pagan, men were warned in a dream to not to tell Herod. So after paying homage to Jesus, they went back to their homeland., using a different route.

The reason why I am sharing this well known story, is that over the Christmas, I was privileged to hear a sermon preached by the Pastor of Old Cutler Presbyterian church in South Miami, which referenced this passage of Scripture.

The key point he made was, “ why did pagan men from the East seek to find Jesus, while the chief priests and scribes, the religious rulers, and the theologians, of the day, persons who were able to quote the prophetic passage from Micah, to King Herod, why didn’t they, like the wise men, seek to find Jesus’?

The simple answer he gave was that, “ only people with a need seek Jesus”. Only broken people need Jesus! Self-sufficient people don’t need Jesus! Only sick people need a doctor!

This recollection of part of my Christmas journey, came into my head this morning, the day after  the funeral service for a colleague’s daughter.  The fact that this brilliant child, a medical doctor who had made a name for herself at one of America’s top University, Johns Hopkins, was not what touched my  heart. Not the reality that I have something to do with road safety in Jamaica; the young doctor died as a result of a crash!  But the pain and the finality and the eternal cry of “ Why of God, why”, coming from the broken heart of every parent who is confronted by the sudden and completely ( and this case completely preventable ) death of a child. And when we consider how this scenario is repeated times a 1000 or more times, year after year, in this crime infested, almost murder capital of the world, we begin to understand why people really need the comfort of the Only One Who can truly comfort a mother and a father, and other relatives and friends in the midst of the madness. The challenging nature, at a different level, of life’s other  challenges: the pain of a divorce or breaking up of a relationship; the insidious challenge to mind body and soul that accompanies poverty; the anger and outrage that injustice provokes in the soul on any human being; the inability to resist and overcome that which we know is wrong and sinful; and yes, death, not sudden, not completely preventable, but still death, of  loved one, and the eternal,forever and ever Amen, separation…until thy kingdom come. All of these challenges in life lead to brokenness and many, but not all to Jesus. The healer of broken hearts.

The reason why the song written penned this verse of a song we sing in church before Holy Communion: 

“ Here O my Lord I see thee face to face….

I have no help but thine; not do I need

Another arm save thine to lean upon:

It is enough,my Lord, enough indeed,

My strength is in thy might,thy might alone.

The reason why the late Martin Luther king jnr,could write these profound words to which I was drawn this week. To ponder and pray! For the dawn to arise and shine in my ‘midnight’ Violent and murder infested country

HE WHO TURNS BLACKNESS INTO DAWN

Midnight, is a confusing hour when it is difficult to be faithful.  The most inspiring word that the church may speak is that no midnight lasts forever…..Our eternal message of hope is that the dawn will come…..

Faith in the dawn arises from the faith that God is good and just. When one believes this, he or she knows that the contradictions of life are neither final nor ultimate. We can walk through the dark night with the radiant conviction that all thins work together for good for those that love God. Even the most starless midnight may herald the dawn of something good.

Which leads me to the central message  a very important, for church and unbelievers alike, book I’m currently reading: The Prodigal Prophet; Jonah and the Mystery of God’s Mercy, by the New York Times award winning author, rev. Timothy Keller.  Founder and former Pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City – now with a congregation of 6000 strong. No hype. No excitement. Just faithfully preaching the Word of God to people from a very skeptical area in America.

              TIMOTHY KELLER

“ Jonah mistrusted God and ran way from him”.

“ Adam and Eve did not say, “ Let’s be evil. Let’s ruin our own lives and everyone else’s too!” Rather they thought, “ We just want to be happy. But his commands don’t look like they will give us the things that we need to thrive. We will have to take matters into our own hands – we cant trust him.”

Jonah is doing the same thing. He is recapitulating the history of the human race and showing us how our own hearts operate every single day. Seldom do human beings lie, twist the truth, cheat, exploit,manipulate, act selfishly, break promises,destroy relationships, or burn with resentment motivated by a simple desire to do evil.

Although we may have been taught that we shouldn’t lie or be unfaithful to our spouses, people find themselves at a crossroads where they say, “If I obey God I’ll miss out out! I need to be happy.” That’s the justification. Sin always begins with the character assassination of God. We believe that God has put us in a world with delights but has determined that he will not give them to us if we obey him. That’s the lie of the serpent, the original temptation of satan to Adam  and Eve that brought about the Fall ( Genesis 3:4-5).

The serpent told the human race that disobeying God was the only way to realize their fullest happiness  and potential, and that this delusion has sound deep into every human heart.

One of the main reason that we trust God too little is because we trust our own wisdom too much. We think we know far better than God how our lives should go and what will make us happy…..

Therefore, because of our deep distrust of God’s goodness and Word, we do everything we can to get our from under his hand. This is really the most fundamental temptation that there has ever been in the world, and the original sin. Specific details may vary, but the deep heart song of “ I have to look out for myself “,is always there.

Comment : No doubt this lack of trust in God, was the main reason why I was moved to post this message on Facebook earlier in the week. One which considers Christ and Him crucified why we can trust the Gd who died for us on a cross.

                                 Facebook 

Woke up, late, after attending watch-night service at St. Andrew Anglican Parish Church, last night. But woke with the the words of one of the most wonderful hymns of all time, in my heart. 

“ Great is thy faithfulness”; and the eternal take home message, “ there is no shadow of turning with thee”.  A thought which is expressed Scripturally in Hebrews: Jesus is the same, yesterday, today – in this New Year – and forevermore. In other words, God is a God who can be trusted; in every situation and in every year.

Then found this validation in a book that I am reading: The Prodigal Prophet; Jonah and the Mystery of God’s Mercy, by famed New York Times award winning author, Rev. Timothy Keller.

“ As we saw previously, Jonah’s whole problem was the same as our ours: a conviction that if we fully surrender our will to God, he will not be committed to our good and joy. But here is the ultimate proof that this deeply rooted belief is a lie. 

A God who substitutes himself for us and suffers that we may go free is a God you can trust.

Jonah mistrusted the goodness of God, but he didn’t know about the cross. What is our excuse?

#earlymorningnewyearsdevotions

It is this context that God is a God who we can trust,and we know that by what happened on Calvary, that  I wish for all a Happy New Year. This as we carry everything, as a nation, to God in prayer, in and through Jesus Christ, the only mediator between God and man.

Finally the headlines in the Daily Gleaner brings into very sharp context the reason why,  as a people we need to place our trust in God. Every day,and not only when tragedy strikes.

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/lead-stories/20190105/difficult-manage-political-parties-say-mud-slinging-social-media-hard

For in this story is the story about a people who have placed their trust in their favorite politicians and favored political party.  Rather than in a God who died for their sins on the Cross of Calvary. Perhaps, in some respects, the story of how Jamaica became such a violent society! For, it is only people who are unaware of their of their, what the sanke  says “ many many sins..which Jesus took them all away”, who are so quick to denounce their political opponents on social media. Or worse, point guns at them in real life and commit murder. In the name of their favorite politician! And  having gotten accustomed to this culture of death, introduced many believe by the political culture of the ‘70’s, it is no big thing for someone to pay a money to ‘ wipe out’ a witness. Or someone who ‘ diss his mother or girlfriend’.  Or to follow the orders of the Don and ‘wipe out’ an entire family!

The sad story  writ large of a people who once feared Massa God and Puppa Jesus, but now have ‘grown up’ and fear neither God nor man. And so a people perish for lack of knowledge. Lack of knowledge in Jungle and Cherry Gardens, lack of knowledge in St. James and Clarendon, that we are all broken and needy sinners! In need of God’s grace and mercy that comes only through faith in Jesus Christ and Him Crucified and resurrected. That’s why we all need to seek to find Jesus,just like the three wise men. And not behave like the leaders and seemingly knowledgeable men who stayed in Jerusalem and didn’t go not the country to find their salvation.

People who think they can find the solution to life’s problems in  Gordon House. Or on Hotline! Or on Beyond the headlines! Or on Nationwide or CVM or TVJ. And even worse on CNN and Fox.

All of this happening as the church, through which according to the book of Ephesians, “ His intent ( God) was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God, should be made known to the rulers and authorities in heavenly places, according to his eternal purposes which he accomplished in Chris Jesus. In him and though faith in him,  we may approach God with freedom and confidence”.

 A good God! A God of mercy! A God who Jonah did not understand why he would wish to have mercy of  wicked Nineveh. So he ran away. The only true God, who by his dying for us on Calvary, and offering everlasting life, offers the only comfort that can bring peace in the heart of a mother crying for her dead child. The only comfort to all who all broken and in need. The only comfort for those who run away from Him for different reasons like Jonah. The only comfort Who can bring the Dawn in a starless night, midnight, to a country weeping for its dead. And for it’s former years. 

Peace!