Paradise Lost: In Virginia, in Jamaica and Barcelona. Redeemable only in Christ Jesus

The lowest number of gold medals won at the two premier track and field competitions, The Olympics and the World Games, since Beijing 2008, by Jamaica is four.

Twice we got seven. And on one occasion, in respect of gold medals, we were in joint first place with Kenya. Relegating the mighty USA to third place!

How then did the mighty fall in #London2017 when we won one “degeh degeh”, gold medal ! Two responses have invaded my mind since. One a straightforward issue which emerged elsewhere from many other observers, who instead of ‘ tekkin bed’, took to social media and ‘ exhaled ‘.

And so I wrote these two posts:

FACEBOOK

All good things come to an end #UsainBolt #FinalBolt #London2017. Still a proud Jamaican

Thing is that we have been on a Gold medal binge #UsainBolt #realshellyann #FastElaine #OmarMcleod for a long time. While other much richer and more populous countries were experiencing drought. We just need to get used to not winning all the time. Hard! Especially #FastElainelosing But c’est la vie.

Non controversial. Nothing most people would find objectionable. But there is another deeper philosophical, and more so, theological ” challenging to the soul”, issue, which has haunted me since then. Related to the post above , but has it’s genesis in the reality of #Jamaicableeding about which a senior journalist #EricaVirtue commented on tonight as I write.

Her ‘ beef’ is the role political parties have played in two specific centres of violence in city Kingston. The current flare up in msyhem murder in Rockfort in Eastern Kingston. And Tivoli in Western Kingston.

She uncompromisingly assigns parenthood of Rockfort to the opposition PNP and of Tivoli to the ruling party, the JLP. Paradise Lost.

This week, data shared through the media, revealed that over 900, I repeat, 900 persons have been murdered to date, in my beloved country. A disaster. A national crisis.

And though murder most foul is a terrible thing. Final and irreconcilable. Yet many women who have been violated, raped, and scarred for life, feel as if something has died within. Paradise Lost indeed! Tragedy in an irrational world. A world we cannot comprehend and plumb the depths of its brokenness.

And so for a long time, one of my favourite theologians Oswald Chambers, has been telling me, and this week in my #bedtimedevotions, reminded me, again, that ” the basis of this world is not rational, but tragic”. It does not discount the beauty of God’s handiwork which we celebrate daily. But asserts that Paradise has indeed been lost.

So, when disaster struck in London, first with Bolt in 100 metres Men, then #FastElaine in 100 Women, and then the 4 x 400 men’s relay, then the 4 x 100 mens relay and finally the 4 × 400 women’s relay, we now understand why. Tragedy strikes often in life and it is inevitable. There is no getting away from it. There is no absolute predictability about life.

What happened in #Beijing2008, did not mean, ipso facto that the same thing would happen in #London2017. Or #Tokyo2020 for that matter!

It may be cataclysmic; in the form of a Category Five Hurricane like Katrina, a Tsunami like the one which caused such devastation on South East Asia many years ago, or a 8 or 9 Ritcher scale Earthquake which killed hundreds in Tibet recently. Until now, the word is that folks in ” Katrina country “, have still not recovered.

It may be the ” C” word. Cancer which suddenly strikes a relative. And if not treatable, ( Thank God many are) treated properly, proceeds to devastate mind and body, and finances too in many instances.

It may be the betrayal of the greatest trust a woman can place in a husband or partner. Her life. Her body. Her dreams for the future. Only to be crushed in a moment of madness. Or lust if you prefer. Or wickedness if there is no remorse. Tragedy strikes! Sometimes accompanied by an unwanted and untreatable virus. Sometimes the roles are reversed but not often. But such statistics are of little moment to a hurting and confused and inconsolable soul. Tragedy of immeasurable proportion shatters a family. And to what end. For what purpose! And some cry, where is God!

Paradise Lost by the internationally acclaimed poet, John Milton, was a popular book, almost required reading in my day. It’s all about man’s disobedience and the consequences thereof. It’s the poetic interpretation of the theological assertion that we live in a broken world. Because of Sin! Disobedience which created a world of tragedy.

A world of smallpox, thankfully now eradicated. Of poliomyeliyis. Of HIV/AIDS. Of strains of the sexually transmitted disease Gonorrhea, which are proving very difficult treat.

A world of Genocide. Biafra. Rwanda. Cambodia. Hitler. Stalin. The trade of African Slaves. Of ISIS.

A world of sudden death from a heart attack, a Stroke, blood clot in the Lungs, motor vehicle crashes.

A world of Racism raising its ugly head in ‘ Confederate ‘ minds in the land of the free and home of the brave. A world where increasingly created beings are triumphantly declaring that there is no God. Shaking their fist at him!

And in the midst of this comes a crucial Word from the Lord. In fact two Words. From memory:

” I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart I have overcome the world “.

The final verses of John 16. Just before, on the night that He was betrayed, Jesus, in His High Priestley Prayer in chap 17, prayed for His disciples.

“Come into me all who are burdened and heavily laden and I will refresh you”. Luke.

The challenge for us in this world is to ” abide”, remain in Jesus. For in Him alone do we will find peace in a broken world. Even when the forces of evil attack us!. Even when the Lord allows, or sends, misfortune to overtake us. And through abiding in Him we will bear much fruit for the Lord. Fruit that will last.

In this context, one of the things we must vigilantly guard against is worshiping man. No matter what He or She has done for us. And there is a very, very, thin line between celebrating our heroes and heroines and worshiping them. I believe in some cases, certainly with Usain Bolt, we crossed that line. Perhaps the British press even more than us. Hence the devastation in #London2017 caused some to ‘ tek bed’, or ‘tek on’ Gatlin. And that’s tragic and carries with it consequences if we allow our love for, and appreciate of, Bolt and company, or anyone else or thing, to dethrone God from the center of our lives.

One day this week, and I posted it on Facebook, whilst doing my morning exercise walk, I heard a voice, as clear as day, saying:

Are you washed, are you washed, are you washed in the Blood of the Lamb. Are your garments spotless, are they white as snow, are you washed in the Blood of the Lamb.”

For this ‘ Lamb of God’, The Crucified and Risen and Ascended Christ Jesus came, not to condemn, but to rescue us from this broken North Korean madman world. This casually kill another human being and walk away, captured on security camera world. This White supremacist ” Go back to Africa ” world. This #Barcelona13 world. This Paradise Lost which cannot be fixed world.

So be very sure, be very sure, your anchor holds and grips the solid Rock. This Rock is Jesus. And by His Stripes we are healed. And protected from evil. That’s why Peter said to the cripple:

Silver and gold have I none, but on the name of Jesus get up and walk.

So even if we only win one bronze, or none at all in #Tokyo2020, we can still rejoice, if our garments are spotless and we are washed in the precious Blood of the Lamb.

I leave you with one of the most important ‘ conversations ” in the Bible. And there are many! One that I have been led to read and reflect on. Repeatedly! And which experience by St. Paul both validates and and inserts Christ and Him Crucified, into this issue of Paradise Lost. ‘Listen’ carefully:

” We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such deadly peril, and he will continue to deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us as you help us with your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many”.

2 Corinthians 1: 8-12 NIV.

This is the key to understanding life and its many mysteries. Tragedy and Joys. Despair and Hope. Paradise Lost and Eternal Life. ” Not to rely on ourselves but on God who raises the dead “.

So because God, with mighty power raised Christ from ” the dead”, everything in life, every desperate and seemingly hopeless situation can be ” Redeemed “. Even death.

And Rockfort, with it’s thousands of rounds and huge cache of automatic weapons and murdered citizens! So too Tivoli. And Micholle Moulton’s ” Zimbabwe “. So too Zionist Israel and belligerent Palestine. Even Syria and ISIS. Virginia and other areas, filled with White Supremacists, ‘armed to the teeth’, and ready to rumble with Blacks and Jews.

No midnight is too dark for God to act. In our personal lives, with relationships, our finances, our health, wayward children, drug addicted relatives and difficult neighbours.

But we must learn to rely on God and not ourselves, our leaders, past and present, even Marcus Mosiah Garve, whose birthday we celebrated this week. Thus triggering, once again, the debate of whether or not we ought ‘ teach Garvey ‘ in our schools. By all means yes, and celebrate Bolt too.

But be ever mindful of the songwriter who penned these words of eternal Truth and Hope. About Paradise Lost. A special, very special, hymn which came to mind as I wrote this morning.

HYMN

What a Friend we have in Jesus, All our sins and griefs to bear! What a privilege to carry Everything to God in prayer! O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear, All because we do not carry Everything to God in prayer!

2 Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere? We should never be discouraged, Take it to the Lord in prayer. Can we find a friend so faithful Who will all our sorrows share? Jesus knows our every weakness, Take it to the Lord in prayer.

3 Are we weak and heavy-laden, Cumbered with a load of care? Precious Savior, still our refuge— Take it to the Lord in prayer; Do thy friends despise, forsake thee? Take it to the Lord in prayer; In His arms He’ll take and shield thee, Thou wilt find a solace there. Amen.

Sermon on Independence, Family Life and Christianity by Dr. Las Newman

St Andrew Parish Church Sermon of Sunday August 13, 2017

  1. Text: Genesis 37:12-28/ Romans 9:1-5;10: 5-15

Introduction

Over the last few days we have celebrated 55 years as an Independent and sovereign nation, amidst some level of fanfare. One of the questions that confronted us as we marked this 55th anniversary, was this: should we be proud or angry over what has become of Jamaica in the five decades since the achievement of Independence, and as we have traveled along the road to full freedom, self-government, and nation-building?

On the one hand, we look at and recognize and acknowledge the plusses/improvements in the condition of our country, in almost every sector of the society – in health, in education, in agriculture, in physical infrastructure, and in the relative prosperity of our people.

On the other hand, the negatives stare us in the face- the rampant evil, the murders, the violent crimes, the selfishness, the breakdown in law and order, and the phenomenal rise in the number of criminal gangs across all the parishes.

And we ask why? What has led to this?

• What has led Jamaica to this level of decadence that no right-thinking Jamaican can be proud of? As some bravely continue the fight for a better Jamaica, others are feeling a sense of hopelessness and despair over the condition of our people.

• They ask, can Jamaica solve the problem of increasing gang warfare and corruption, and the growing culture of death that surrounds us? I know of no other city in the world where there is a monument erected in memory of children killed under tragic and violent circumstances than in my city, the city of Kingston, where over 1600 children and youth from age 0-18 have been murdered over the last decade. I often call attention to the monument erected in 2008 at the intersection of Church and Tower streets, right there in Justice Square in downtown Kingston, opposite the Supreme Court and the municipal offices of the Kingston and St Andrew Corporation.

It is a monument of shame and a sad reflection on the kind of people we have become over the five decades of Independence.

THE OLD TESTAMENT READING

The Old Testament reading for today, Genesis 37, is a story that reminds us of the way in which the old selfish and evil motives of jealousy, greed, bad-mindedness, and personal feelings of hatred and wickedness in the human heart, can undermine family life and lead to domestic violence and tragedy.

It is a story that illustrates the way in which these negatives attitudes can affect our striving for better family life, a better community, and a better country. As they say, ‘Fix the family and we can fix the nation’. A lot of problems stem from very, very bad family life.

The story of Joseph and his family in Genesis 37 is a sad story about the effects of bad family life on a nation. We read:

Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his children, because he was the son of his old age; and he had made him a long robe with sleeves. But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably to him’. (Gen. 37:3-4) And so, Joseph’s brothers planned to eliminate him.

They came up with a scheme to get rid of him. They decided to grab him and throw him into a pit and leave him to die. But later, on reflection, they decided to do something else. They decided to trade him to strangers for twenty pieces of silver.

‘….Then Judah said to his brothers, “What profit is it if we kill our brother and conceal his blood? Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and not lay our hands on him, for he is our brother, our own flesh.”

And his brothers agreed. When some Midianite traders passed by, they drew Joseph up, lifting him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver. And they took Joseph to Egypt. (Gen. 37: 23-28).

Can you imagine selling your own blood brother for money, because of jealousy and envy! What a sad state of affairs! And yet, isn’t this what is happening to some of our people in some sections of Jamaica? We read reports of women selling their children for cash, for a piece of land, for anything that they think can help them out of their material poverty, and reports of young girls from our schools caught in the web of human trafficking. Where are we going as a country?

THE NEW TESTAMENT READING

In the New Testament, we read of St Paul’s mental anguish as he reflected on his own heritage, and the life of his own people. He writes about this in his letter to the Roman, chapters 9-11.

‘ I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying, my conscience confirms it through the Holy Spirit—

I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart.

For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people, those of my own race, the people of Israel.

Theirs is the adoption to sonship; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises.

Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of the Messiah, who is God over all, forever praised![a]Amen. (Rom 9:1-5)

What was Paul lamenting over? He was lamenting over Israel’s rejection of the special relationship and the privileges they had with Yahweh. He was lamenting over the abandonment of the spiritual heritage they had received as a people.

He says, ‘theirs was the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises.

5 Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of the Messiah”. (Rm. 9:4-5)

What a heritage! All that heritage was given up in the search for self-governance and independence. And what was his response? He wished he could disassociate from them- be ‘cut off’.

He was angry. He regretted the actions, the behavior, the character of his people. He was disappointed and disillusioned by the choices, the behaviors, the action they made.

What is the lesson for us in Jamaica, at this time? What can we learn? The lesson Is that:

Firstly, WE HAVE TO PAY ATTENTION TO THE SIGNS OF DECAY AND SIGNS OF RADICAL DEPARTURE FROM OUR SPIRITUAL ROOTS AND OUR SPIRITUAL  HERITAGE?

When you see the deep divisions and destructive tendencies in family life in Jamaica, when you see the behavior of our people on the streets, in the communities, at the scene of a road accident, you ask yourself, why are our people behaving in such shameful and cruel ways?

How can we expect to have a better society? How does this help to build up our nation? Isn’t this kind of thing standing in the way of our true progress and development?

DECLINE IN APPRECIATING OUR CHRISTIAN HERITAGE

Today, there are noticeable signs of decline in recognizing and appreciating the Christian heritage of our country, Jamaica, Land we Love. As we move along the journey in yet another year of marking milestones of our Independence, those things which have been profoundly significant in the life of the people, and establishing the foundation of this nation, seem to be in danger of being forgotten and relegated to a place of less importance.

On August 16, 2013, four years ago, the lead story in The Gleaner carried the headline: “Goodbye, God? Irish Scientist Predicts Atheism Will Overtake Religion in Jamaica”.

The story was that an Irish scientist, Dr. Nigel Barber, predicted that by the year 2041, that is 24 years from now, the majority of Jamaicans will not believe in the existence of God. This prediction, it is claimed, is part of a global trend that suggests that as societies develop and become more affluent, the less need they have of religion. As more and more development takes place, gradually religious beliefs will disappear.

This prediction takes place at a time when the church in Jamaica is being challenged on many fronts and from all directions. It comes at a time when the church is engaged in a battle to save its own integrity and defend the true Gospel of Jesus Christ, against hostile attacks. It come at a time of weakness when in some churches attendance and membership are steadily in decline.

The last census in 2011 indicates that church attendance in some denominations is on the decline and membership is weakening. The Anglican Church in Jamaica, for example, has declined by 76% over the last fifty years, while the Roman Catholic has declined by 49% over the same period. On the other hand, the local Pentecostal Churches have grown by almost 2,000 % over the past 50 years (since Independence) and the Seventh Day Adventists have grown by over 300%. [Sunday Gleaner, October 21, 2012].

We must pay attention to the signs of decay and departure from our spiritual roots and our spiritual heritage? What are some of these signs?

Among the signs are the phenomenal rise in Biblical illiteracy, the displacement of biblical values, the relativisation of morality–what is right for me is my business, what is right for you is your business, and the deepening secularization of society, including devaluation of human life. Human life is not held as sacred anymore. As one professional in the health sectors reflecting on the slaughtering of our own people, said recently, ‘human life in Jamaica today is cheap’.

Given our strong Christian heritage and foundation in Jamaica, the question is, are we in danger of losing this heritage? Are we weakening the foundation on which the nation was built? Has the church become significantly weaker in its influence on society, and is now being marginalized?

If the answer is, yes, how did we get here? What should we do? How should we respond?

A Second lesson we can learn from the biblical story in today’s readings is that,

 

WE HAVE TO HOLD ON THE TRUTHS THAT GOD HAS GIVEN US.

It is up to the church to hold on to and defend the truth and integrity of the Gospel of Christ and the integrity of Scripture. As St Paul says, this Gospel is universally open to all and available to all, without distinction, without discrimination. However, the Gospel is not cheap. It is costly. It is very demanding.

In his letter to Romans St Paul said four things about the Gospel and what he has discovered about it.

 

(i) He says he is obligated because of it. ‘I am obligated”, he says. He owes something to it.

(ii). He is not ashamed of it. He is not embarrassed by it.

(iii) He is eager to proclaim it. He can’t wait to get to Rome to preach the good news.

(iv) Those who deliver it are wonderful foot-soldiers of it- ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’ (Romans 10: 15), quoting the Prophet Isaiah (52:7).

This is the character of the true Gospel that we must defend. We sang passionately, the hymn:

How lovely on the mountains are the feet of Him Who brings good news, good news Proclaiming peace, announcing news of happiness.

Our God reigns, our God reigns Our God reigns, our God reigns Our God reigns, our God reigns

Waste places of Jerusalem break forth with joy;

We are redeemed, redeemed.

The Lord has saved and comforted His people

Your God reigns, your God reigns!

 

We hear lots of voices calling out to us to go this way and that way. How do we distinguish between the false prophets, on the one hand, and the voice of God, on the other? How do we know which is the right way we should go? Do we follow our feelings and our rational ideas, or do we find out what God wants? What shall we do?

 

Our response must be to remain resolute and steadfast in the defense of our faith? We must stand guard against those who would lead us astray. We must hold on confidently to the fact that our God reigns over nations and over the entire universe, despite the rebelliousness and defiance of his human creation. In the end, he will triumph victoriously and reign over all evil.

 

Today, sadly, we have some young Jamaicans among us, the new generation, who are flirting with the alien philosophies of Agnosticism and Atheism. They write learned and influential articles in the newspapers. They argue that as a secular democracy Jamaica should not be influenced by religion. And even as a pluralistic society, Christianity should have no more influence on society than any other religion.

 

They openly challenge the church on its belief in God as Father, the Almighty, the Maker of heaven and earth. They question, how do we know for sure that God exists? It is not enough for them to hear Christians sing, “don’t tell me that God is dead, He woke me up this morning”. Instead, they demand rational and credible answers to their questions. And when the church is unable to answer effectively they ridicule and challenge its message. How can we have some many churches, they ask, and as a country we have so many problems?

How do we respond effectively to this challenge?

 

A Third lesson for us is that, WE MUST NEVER GIVE UP HOPE FOR JAMAICA. WE HAVE TO DEFEND THE LIBERTIES WE HAVE ACHIEVED AND STAND UP FOR WHAT WE BELIEVE.

 

St Paul made it clear that despite his lamentation over the misguided and degenerate ways in which his fellow lived, despite their heritage and the privileges they had received, he will not give up hope.

As he says in the 10th chapter of Romans, ‘Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. 2 For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. 3 Since they did not know the righteousness of God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. 4 Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes. (Rom. 10:1-4)

 

There are those who see the marked decline in the influence of the church in Jamaica since Independence and are in deep despair over the future of our nation. Like the disciples in the Gospel who were challenged by the contrary winds on the sea which threatened their boat, and their life, they need the reassuring words of the Master, ‘Take Courage’, ‘Don’t be afraid’.

They see, for example, articles of influence in our news media, such as one in our newspaper in November 2011, that focused on what was the paper titled, ‘The vanishing institution of Christian marriages in Europe’. One person responded and commented that not only in Europe but also in Jamaica he wishes to see all things Christian disappear.

 

We are being challenged and in response, we must hold on to and affirm the strong Christian heritage we have in Jamaica. It is indisputable that in the past, every Jamaicans was taught in the home, at school, and in the wider community, to acknowledge God. We used to have a strong Christian heritage of respect for the church. From the contribution of Christian missionaries in the 18th century to the collapse of the slave society in the 19th century, over 179 years ago, the Christian Faith has been strongly proclaimed in Jamaica. Even before the abolition of the deeply entrenched system of slavery in 1833, and the amazing achievement of full freedom at emancipation in 1838, and political independence and national sovereignty in 1962, over the past five decades, the church has been well planted all over the country, in every town and village.

 

We grew up to respect the church, to care for it, to support it and to affirm its value to society, a value and role we appreciated in education (schools/colleges/universities), in health care (hospitals/health centers etc.), agriculture (the JAS), finance and commerce (mutual societies, credit unions, etc). The church was there ensuring a quality of life that restored and reflected the dignity of black African slaves and all human beings created in the image of God. We sing the hymn “We love thy Church, O God, wherein thine honor dwells, the joy of thine abode, all earthly joy excels”.

 

As we sing such hymns, let us be mindful of the fact that increasingly, more and more of our people are singing a different tune, some totally disrespecting the church. As the nation struggles to moves forward, more and more Jamaicans are apparently losing respect for the church. Like other institutions that helped us on our way to where we are today, the church is being subjected to abuse and neglect and dismissed as being irrelevant and an obstacle to progress. We must reject these attacks. We must stand up for what we believe and reaffirm our strong commitment to the spiritual heritage of respect for the church in the society, and respect for strong family values.

 

As long as the church continues to be on the side of those who are foot soldiers of the Gospel – fighting for and defending the fearless and unfettered proclamation of the Gospel of peace, the Gospel of hope, and reconciliation, it will prevail and continue to be a strong influence for good in the society. Jesus said,  –

 

‘I will build my church and gates of hades will not prevail against it’. (Mat. 16:18) -AMEN-

 

AMEN-

Murder in Jamaica, Disappointment in #London2017 and Comfort in Christ Jesus

As death approached last night, and suffering, laboured breathing, caused tears to flow, I reached for ‘ Walking with God through Pain and Suffering’, by New York Times best selling author Rev. Timothy Keller.

Then the news came, from my cousin, a physician, able but not allowed, ” Its all over”. My aunt, who was like my second mother, I spent years with her, a gentle soul, was no more. Gone to glory. Just like my mother, and all the saints who went ahead of her.

So what did Keller share which touched my soul! And not just for me and my cousin and family, but words for a nation ‘ familiar with suffering’.

1980: 889 murders, and a terrifying record it was. First seven months of 2017: 893 murders. A tweet from one of Jamaica’s very senior and very insightful journalist, Earl Moxam

http://jamaica-star.com/article/news/20170809/youth-leaders-want-action-following-micholle-moultons-murder

For if truth be told, like so many other Jamaicans, the continued barbarity and vulgarity of the ” death of innocence”, literally and metaphorically, has occasioned great pain and anger and bewilderment in our society. More than the death of my aunt. More so than the fifth place of #FastElaine or #UsainBolt third place, at #London2017. And trust me, if you are on social media as much as I am, you will understand that, to say the least, as a people we are not, apart from a few wise ones urging #Perspective, handling this thing well at all. And I gather it got worse this morning, with the news coming of our failure to reach the 4×400 Mens Relay Finals. Once a #SureMedalEvent.

So the wickedness, and the attendant rumours, which resulted in the shooting death of Micholle, and injury to her sister, was like a dagger in the heart of an already traumatized nation. ‘ Mi caan tek this no more’, was the collective cry of a hurting people.

Into this vortex of pain and suffering Keller inserts thoughts about the inevitability of death and of suffering in this world. Starting with a quote from Ernest Becker – the denial of death:

“I think that taking life seriously means something like this: that whatever man does on this planet has to be done in the lived reality of the terror of creation…..of the rumble of panic underneath everything. Otherwise it is false.”

And one from Shakespeare: ” Each new morn New widows howl, new orphans cry, New sorrows strike heaven on the face”

” When we hear of a tragedy, there is a deep-seated psychological defense mechanism that goes to work. We think to ourselves that such things happen to other people, to poor people, or to people who do not take precautions. Or we tell ourselves that if only we get the right people into office and get our social systems right, nothing like this will happen again. ( Maybe he has Jamaican friends) But Becker believed such thinking fails to ” take life seriously “, or to admit the ” lived truth of the terror of creation…..of the rumble of panic underneath everything”. That panic comes from death. Death is irreducibly unpredictable and inexorable.”

And finally: ” ……No one is immune. Therefore, no matter what precautions we take, no matter how well we have put together a good life, no matter how hard we have worked to be healthy, wealthy, and comfortable with friends and family, and successful with our careers – something will inevitable ruin it. No amount of money, power, and planning can prevent bereavement, dire illness ( Aunt Monica had severe Alzheimer’s disease, and to a lesser extent so did my mom), relationship betrayal, financial disaster, or a host of other troubles from entering your life. 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 your 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.”

Then this morning I awoke and was led to this Word by the Holy Spirit:

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name.

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and do not forget all his benefits – who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the Pit…….

For he knows how we were made; he remembers that we are dust.

As for mortals, their days are like grass; they flourish like a flower of the field; for the wind passes over it, and it is gone by and its place knows it no more. But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to to children’s children, to those who keep his covenant and remember to do his commandments. Psalm 103.

Only the God whose Son Jesus Christ suffered and died on an old wooden cross, so that in Him, we may be reconciled to the Father, can comfort us in times of trouble. Can comfort my cousin. Can comfort Micholle’s mom. Can comfort a hurting and confused nation.

Not man! Not PM Holness as much he tries. Not the joy of winning any more medals, of whatever colour – desperation has set in- at #London2017. Not Police Commissioner Quallo. Certainly not President Trump in the face of pure evil in North Korea. Not the weatherman in the midst of the hurricane season. Not even the best doctors when real trouble comes knocking at our doorsteps. Only God.

And His ways are beyond ours. But because we know that in Christ He is ” familiar with suffering “, we trust Him. For Peace. And Justice. Even in death. Aunt Monica’s and Micholle’s.

For truth be told, as the songwriter puts it:

” I have no help but thine; nor do I need another arm save thine to lean upon:

it is enough, my Lord, enough indeed, my strength is in thy might, the might alone.”

A final word of caution to those who continue to reject God’s offer of grace and mercy in this troubled world:

Keller – ” ….as a man who seemed to about to lose both his career and his family once told me, ” I always knew, in principle, that ‘ Jesus is all you need’, to get through. But you don’t really know Jesus is all you need until Jesus is all you have.” Peace.

An Indepence message from a Jamaican Christian

There is literally a world of difference between the expectations of Christians and non-believers in through what prism, what kind of glasses, we view Independence, and how we can make a difference. At least there ought to be!

For all Jamaicans at home and abroad, believers and non-believers, the single greatest challenge we face as a nation, after 55 years of being a sovereign nation, is the existential reality of #Jamaicableeding. #Trelawnybleeding #Hanoverbleeding #StJamesbleeding

The horrific level of homicide which has already claimed over 700 precious lives, and made our nation infamous in the eyes of the International community.

Yes, thank God, and thanks to the efforts of leaders in many spheres of life, we have made progress. In infrastructure ; roads, houses, airports telecommunications, electricity, and provision of potable water!

Yes, we have made some progress in how we conduct our politics, especially elections. Our democracy thus remains robust. Aided by a fairly vigilant and effective press. A thriving and very vocal human rights community and a justice system which is creaking but nonetheless functional. A police force and to a lesser degree the army, greatly in need of renewal, and reform,  but still a bulwark against the forces of evil on our society.  And a very active and multilayered civil society. Including trade unions, professional bodies and other non-governmental organizations.

Yes, there have been advances in public health, in agriculture – in particular diversification. Yes we have made progress in Industry and Commerce. In education. And always our sportsmen and women have continued to carry the flag high and make us the envy of much richer and more populous nations. #London2017 So too, our cultural icons in art, music, poetry and dance.

But we have failed miserably as a society in how we have handled our economy. How we have treated with the ever widening gap between the rich and the poor. And the huge numbers of ‘ unplanned settlements’, is a direct consequence of this failure. How we have failed to create jobs for our graduates; thus migration to greener, even though much colder, pastures continues to drain our country of its human resources , despite the benefits of ” as you blink the money come”.

We have failed spectacularly in how we have treated family life, and our values and attitudes. Shocking! When compared to life in the 60’s. Thus contributing significantly to distressingly crude, vulgar and violent way, which far too often, has become the ‘ new normal ‘ in how we relate to each other in Jamaica. My God, almost as if we conspired to export ” The Mooch ” to America.

So how do we fix Jamaica. Two ways! Combined national effort, and requesting Divine Intervention. And Christians are expected to be involved in both activities!

” Pray for city, for if the  city prospers, you too will prosper “, Jeremiah declared.

The former requires the kind of political and organisational skills, along with patience, determination and the shaping of a collective vision, hitherto unknown and unachieved in modern Jamaica. For there is no way that we can tame the Crime monster and achieve Singaporean type growth rates with the present political arrangement. There is no way we can reset the default settings of our nation’s values and attitudes with the present social arrangement. So someone and some group of people who believe in the future of our nation, need to, accepting that this is an Herculean task, begin to work together to rescue this nation.

Requesting Divine Intervention is far more simple. But far more important, for we know that:

” Unless the Lord builds the house those who build it labour in vain.” Psalm 127.

So two things, one of which was my, ‘ song in the night last night’, and the other I found nestled beside the Word of God which I read prior to retiring to bed last night, I recommend. The first one directs us as believers to request that our Lord ‘ search’ our hearts. For there is much about which we as believers need to repent of, if any ” revival “, any ” streams of refreshing ‘ is going to come from a holy and just God.

THE SONG IN THE NIGHT

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

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

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

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

The second one is just as simple yet just as profound:

I firmly believe a great many prayers are not answered because we are not willing to forgive – Dwight Moodie, one of the greatest American evangelists.

Found beside this Word:

Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your father in heaven may also forgive you of your trespasses “. Mark 11: 25.

O God, would that in every place, in the homes, in the communities, at the workplace, on the radio and TV, in the Parliament, in the boardroom, in the classroom, in the police force and the army,  on the roads, in the buses, on the soccer field, O God in the church, and between believers and nonbelievers – especially on social media, there would arise a spirit of forgiveness in this nation.

Finally I would recommend that we consider seriously advice from a theologian who has greatly influenced my understanding of Who God is and what it means to be a disciple of Christ; the late Rev. John Stott.

” When a society goes bad, it is not the fault of the society, but the Christians within, who are meant to be ‘ salt and light ‘.

Controversial, no doubt, but only advanced, I believe , for us Christians, to understand the high calling we have in any society. Independent or still a colony of some great power. For we are the Ambassadors of The Most High God. Creator of Heaven and Earth. And in Christ, the Redeemer of all mankind and soon coming Judge of the Living and the dead. And not just onlookers wringing our hands in distress, and wondering what has become of our beloved nation.

So let us build together, forgive each other, ask God to forgive us and pray for mercy and wisdom. So that Jamaica under God, may prosper materially and spiritually. For man does not live by bread alone, my Word from the Lord this morning, but from every Word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.

Happy Independence.

The Buggery Law in Jamaica and Grace and Mercy in Christ Jesus

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/letters/20170727/letter-day-bishop-gregory-being-disingenuous

I must admit, both as an Anglican and as member of the wider Christian community I have been struggling with my Bishop inserting his personal views into, what is ultimately a political debate; the removal of the buggery law. And not just a moral issue vis a vis a legal problem as advanced by Rev. Garnett Roper. Both of whom have gained my trust and confidence on theological matters over many years of listening to them.

The letter then, written to the editor of the Daily Gleaner which appears at the beginning, apart from accusing Bishop Gregory of being disingenuous, for that’s not the person I know, comes closest to my understanding of the issue. For if one reads widely what is posted on both mainstream and social media, you cannot ignore the reality of the political agenda of some sections of the LBGT community.

Those members of the community that I know professionally, for the most part, just want to get along with their lives without abuse and discrimination. And be loved by others! And accept that their lifestyle is not compatible with Christianity. In that regard, they display more honesty than many who are baptized yet blatantly engage in fornication.

Then they are others who we read about, make the headlines, who do not accept that homosexuality activity is ‘ sinful ‘, and are intent on ‘ revising the scriptures ‘ to accommodate their theology. And in many countries they have been successful in lobbying for the passing of laws that permit same sex marriages. This, with the help and stamp of approval of ‘ the church ‘. All of which activity is pursued within the context of ‘ human right’s, the new ‘ holy grail’ of the ‘ enlightened ‘ society’.

But the political wing of the LGBT community is not satisfied with argument and debate, and so they have successfully inserted the concept of ‘ hate speech’ into the struggle for ‘ human rights’. A label which has been very adhesively applied to anyone, especially Christians, who cite the Scriptures and declare homosexual activity to be sinful.

Further, and this is perhaps one of the reasons why the very Liberal Democrats lost the last Presidential election in the USA, they have successfully lobbied to persecute Christians who choose not to take pictures at ‘ same sex weddings ‘, or to cater for such affairs. A matter which the award winning journalist Ian Boyne has written about extensively.

So although my Bishop’s motive and reason for calling for the removal of the buggery law, may be appear, on the face of it, but to make sense, for the law is difficult to enforce, and in addition his actions appear to show Christian compassion for a hurting group of people, one cannot ignore the political reality, and possible consequence of such a move. Which is the gravamen of the arguments advanced by the letter writer and others!

Then in the middle of this conundrum a Word in the middle of the night this morning. First Samson and His wife. And the Philistines! He comits arson on a grand scale. Why? He is mad, because ‘ they gave away his wife ‘. But the Lord was with him, as one of Israel’s judges. At least until he became disobedient! So The Power of The Holy Spirit was with him to defeat the Philistines. In battle! Fast forward then from the OT story, led to read as I randomly opened my Bible last night, to the new way of waging war.

THE WORD OF GOD

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:3‭-‬5 NIV http://bible.com/111/2co.10.3-5.NIV

And as we consider the profound message in Word from the Lord, there is one more issue to be considered in this ‘ human rights being the new holy grail’ issue. For the challenge and context is far more dangerous and much wider than the political wing of the LGBT community. Yesterday I ” happened ” up on this article and posted it on Facebook.

It’s time for the UK to legalise some form of assisted dying. The experience and legal rules in the Benelux countries should form the basis for the discussion on reform. It is time to give people who are suffering – and not just terminally ill – the fundamental human right to control life and how to end it.”

Excerpt from a Tweet. This is part of what I mean when I quote Haggai ‘ where there is no vision the people cast off all restraint’. Just read it in a tweet sent out by the AG Marlene Malahoo. Someone is arguing that the UK should join other countries and pass laws that allow for assisted dying. And the basis for interfering with God’s Created order is the new holy grail – human rights.

The challenge for Christians is how do we respond without ‘ cutting off Malchus’ ears.

How do we wage war against immorality. Against corruption. Against Crime and Violence – the major problem in our nation. Against domestic abuse. Against political tribalism. Against poverty. Against Bernie Sanders ‘ Wall Street’ domination where the rich get richer and poor get poorer.

Here is where Bishop Gregory is on good ground. For although we ought not to be naive to the ways of Satan, and the evil powers of this world, the ultimate power behind the desire for sex between two men and two women, and the elevation of ‘ human rights’ over the Word of God, we will not win the battle with laws and traditions and defending morality. No! Evil can only be defeated by prayer which has the power to ‘ destroy strongholds’. Can only be destroyed by love and compassion and mercy. For the Word of God which came to me also this week was that:

” God has given over all men to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them.” Romans 11:32

But only the kind of prayer which flows from a relationship with Christ the Crucified One. For power to defeat evil, and rescue the captives – to homosexual activity , to murder, to corruption, to pastors having sex with the sisters – comes only from preaching Redemption and the miracle of the Resurrection. Peter, the impetuous one, drew his sword when they came to arrest Jesus.

And Jesus, very dramatically, taught him and us, a profound lesson by healing the injury to Malchus caused by Peter’s rash action. You cannot fight fire with fire. But Jesus also taught us to be wise. Not foolish. And not to be unaware of the devil’s schemes.

A final warning in this reflection. Writing about The Trap caused by the love of money, Rev. Timothy Keller the New York Times best selling author of The Reason For God, in his book Jesus The King, he had this to say:

TIMOTHY KELLER

Wherever the other great religions began, that is still their center today. …..Christianity is the exception. Jerusalem to Hellinistic Alexandra to Northern Europe and North America. In recent times the growth of the church in Latin America, Asia and Africa has been growing up to ten times the population growth rate. Compared to North America where it is barely keeping up with the growth rate and Europe where it receeded. …..In the next 50 – 70 years it is predicted that the center of Christianity will shift away from Nothr America and Europe. Why?

At the center of Christianity is the Cross….all about giving up power, pouring out resources and serving. …when Christianity is in a place of power and wealth for too long, the radical message of Sin and grace and the Cross can become muted and even lost. Then Christianity starts to transmute into a nice, safe religion, one that’s for respectable people who try to be good. And eventually it becomes virtually dormant in those places and the center moved elsewhere.”

Part of our problem in Jamaica, where Christianity still flourishes, is the infiltration of the prosperity gospel from the USA, on the one hand, and the infiltration of the ‘ age of enlightenment ‘, on the other hand. Both highly toxic to soul and nation.

May we be acutely aware of the dangers of both evils , and remain faithful to the foundations of our faith, viz, The Redemption wrought on Calvary by Christ the Crucified One. And the miracle of the Resurrection of Jesus.

The one to grant us forgiveness of our Sins. The other to grant us the power to love and forgive our enemies, to promote Justice and Righteousness, with power to preach the message of reconciliation and to grant us new and unending life with a holy God.

Otherwise we too in Jamaica may witness the loss of the vital radical message of Sin and grace, which is the ultimate goal of those pushing ” human rights ” as a god, and the aim of the political wing of the LGBT community.

Pray God that He will continue to Order our steps in His Word. Music from the Brooklyn Tabernacle choir which haunted my soul this week.

https://youtu.be/A3FXgRHOXfE .

Miss Lou and Ishawna,Crime and Violence, Humility and Pride and God

A vacation is a great time to reconnect with family. Especially when only my wife and I live in Jamaica. But it’s also a great time to spend with the Lord. Listening!

So, far from the ‘maddening crowd’, where the headlines scream ‘murder’, day after day, where a nation grapples with unattached youths who value the gun more than a job, where a hard core dancehall female artiste stoked, probably deliberately, controversy by taking liberty with a cultural icon, and in a land where there is speculation that President Trump may turn the Christian doctrine of Redemption on its head, and forgive himself, I spent some time, listening to the Lord this week. And ‘heard’ this message entitled, ” The End of Religion”.

An except from New York Times best selling author Rev. Timothy Keller’s Jesus The King: Understanding The Life and Death of the Son of God. But before you read these verses of Scripture come to mind:

“Now I know that none of you among whom I have gone about preaching the kingdom will ever see me again. Therefore, I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of any of you. For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God. Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears. Acts 20:25‭-‬31 NIV http://bible.com/111/act.20.25-31.NIV

Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” John 20:11‭-‬13 NIV http://bible.com/111/jhn.20.11-13.NIV

Timothy Keller:

” At the end of this Sabbath encounter with the religious leaders Mark records a remarkable sentence that suns up one of the main themes of the New Testament,

” Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus.” The Herodians were the supporters of King Herod, the nastiest of the corrupt kings who ruled Israel, representing the Roman occupying power and its political system. Oen any country that the Romans conquered, they set up rulers. And wherever the Romans went, they brought with along with them the culture of Greece – Greek philosophy, the Greek approach yo sex and the body, the Greek approach to truth.

Conquered societies like Israel felt assaulted by these immoral, cosmopolitan, pagan values. Inntgese countries there were cultural resistance movements ; and in Israel that was the Pharisees.

They put all their emphasis on living by the teachings of the Hebrew Scriptures and putting up big hedges around themselves to prevent contamination by the pagans. So what was going on? The Herodians were moving with the times, while the Pharisees upheld traditional virtues.

The Pharisees believed their society was being overwhelmed with pluralism and paganism, and they were calling for a return to traditional moral values.

These two groups had been longtime enemies of each other – but now they agree. ” They have to get rid of Jesus.” These two groups were not used to cooperating, but now they do. In fact, the Pharisees, the religious people, take the lead in doing so. That’s why I said this sentence hints at one the main themes of the New Testament.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is an offense to both religion and irreligion. It cannot be co-opted by either moralism or relativism. The ” traditional values ” approach to life is moral conformity – the approach taken by the Pharisees. It is that you must lead a very, very good life. The progressive approach, embodied in the Herodians, is self-discovery – you have to decide what is right or wrong for you. And according to the Bible, both of these are ways of being your own savior and lord. Both are hostile to message of Jesus.

And not only that, both lead to self- righteousness. The moralist says, ‘ The good people are in and the bad people are out – and of course we’re the good ones.’

The self- discovery person says, ‘ Oh no, the progressive open minded people are in and the judgmental bigots are out – and of course we’re the open-minded ones’.

In western cosmopolitan culture there’s an enormous amount of self-righteousness about self-righteousness …..we disdain those religious, moralistic types who look down on others.

Do you see the irony, how the way of self-discovery leads to as much superiority as religion does. The Gospel does not say, ” the good are in and the bad are out,” nor ” the open-minded are in and the judgmental are out”. The gospel says the humble are in and the proud are out.

The gospel says the people who know they’re not better, not more open-minded, not more moral than anyone else, are in, and the people who think they are on right side of the divide are most in danger. Jesus himself said this to the Pharisees…..” It’s not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.…. Jesus is teaching that he has come to call sinners: those who know that they are morally and spiritually unable to save themselves.

Because the Lord of the Sabbath said, ‘ It is finished ‘, we can rest from religion – forever.

Comment: That’s why the early Christians were converted to Christ, convicted of Sin, by the Doctrine of Redemption and the Miracle of the Resurrection. Viz, the need for forgiveness of Sin wrought by the Crucifixion of Christ on Calvary. They were humble enough to understand that they needed Jesus.

And the assurance that in the same way that Christ was raised from the dead to a new life, in Him, we too may live a holy and eternal life.

That’s why there will always be a song in the heart of a child of God. A wretch saved by Amazing Grace.

https://youtu.be/XFPNTY2Qp4c

So what does all of this have to do with Crime and Violence, Ishawna and Miss Lou, in Jamaica and President Trump in America?

A final ‘Word’ to which I have led repeatedly in recent times says it all:

Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labour in vain. Unless the Lord Lord guards the city, the guard keeps watch in vain…. Psalm 127.

God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. 1 Peter 5:5.

And the humble are those who know that they cannot manage with God. That we all need the Redemption that the Crucified Christ offers. Amen.

The God of The Jews in Egypt is the same God of #Jamaicableeding 

​Fell ill this week. Flu like symptoms. Had to leave work early on Tuesday and Wednesday. Felt weird. No energy. Listless. Didn’t sleep well for the two nights. Had not been sick like this  for years. Then,  thank God, felt better yesterday after resting up, for the most part, on Thursday.

Lesson learnt! There is always a lesson. Life is about disciplines. Healing is not only in the physical realm. But more importantly in the spiritual. A reality I know  deep in my soul after many experiences.

So on both occasions when I struggled to sleep, I got up, opened my Bible. Read God’s Word. Went back to bed. And slept! An experience which always makes sunrise special. Very special. Praise God.

More importantly though, is that illness  drove me back to spending more time in God’s Word. Away from the ‘ maddening crowd ‘ of Social Media and Television. Not even Wimbledon  could  get me to reach for the remote.
https://goo.gl/photos/HepH9mjeCDFdP8PVA

And I didn’t have to wonder where to start. As on the night before I fell ill, again and again, very clearly in my deep sleep, I heard:


The Eternal God is your  refuge,  and underneath are the everlasting arms. Deuteronomy 33:27

Clearly both blessed  assurance and divine  instruction! 

So I spent time with Moses and his ‘ stiffnecked ‘ people! With a faithful God who reminded his ‘ chosen people ‘, whom He rescued  out of the hands the Egyptians with an  outstretched hand and with great signs and wonders, not to forget their past experiences with Him.

Reading a narrative which reminded the children of Israel time and time again that ‘ they were called to be holy’. And that they  should drive out evil from amongst them. And not take on the evil practices – child sacrifice – of the nations who the Lord would drive out before them.

Being reminded by Moses that ‘ it is the Lord that goes before you in battle ‘. It is the Lord that provides for you! All you have to do is to be obedient. And love the Lord your God with all your soul and and strength!

Almost frightened by the description of God appearing to the people on the mountain ‘ with fire and smoke ‘. And whose voice was so awesome that the people begged Moses to tell Him to speak to them no more lest they die.

And yet,  shortly thereafter, they were busy ‘ building a detestable idol’. Thus provoking this same God ‘ who is a consuming fire ‘ to wrath. But Moses begged for them. On his knees for forty days and forty nights! And God relented from destroying them.

Then I returned to #Jamaicableeding. And wrote on Facebook each time!

FACEBOOK ONE

On  Sunday I was moved to write about one of my heroes – The Hon. Mike Fennell. Why? Because he did well. And has retired.
This morning I am led to write about my Savior – Jesus Christ. Why? This report in the Daily Gleaner:

“Law enforcement sources say Kala and her brother were playing with the 14-year-old inside the family’s home.
According to reports, the teen brandished a firearm asked Kala’s brother if he would tell anyone if he shot her.
Police sources say before the boy could answer, the 14-year-old fired one shot, killing Kala on the spot.
Commanding officer for the Police Area One, Assistant Commissioner Warren Clarke says preliminary investigations have revealed that the firearm is owned by someone who resides at the house where the killing occurred.
He described Kala’s death as a most unfortunate incident”.

Unfortunate is one way to describe this national tragedy. Another more instructive term is ” Neglect”. For both Kala and the teenage girl “Angel” from #FleetStreetNightmare died because a nation has become ‘ accustomed to murder by the gun”.  And we have not only lost the deep sense of outrage but have conspired to develop a ” gun culture”. Where having a 9 and a 16, and shoes and laces has become part of the Jamaican culture. Thus providing the  inspiration for the celebration of  agents of death as art #AlkalineVideos. 

And while we debate, Rome burns,  and Kala dies.

So into this mix the Prime Minister, in addition to other measures, throws in ” Using or asking Faith based institutions aka The Church, The Body of my Saviour,  to help in the fight against Crime. And no doubt they will respond, and will continue, as they have been doing for centuries to promote social justice.

But there is a catch. And about which the peerless Christian  writer C.S. Lewis warned many years ago in his famous book ” The  Screwtape Letters “. 
And to which I was led in my #earlymorningdevotions 
Screwtape you may recall, is the accomplished devil.  And he writes to his apprentice about their sworn enemy  – God. They discuss in general, strategy to defeat the Enemy. In diabolical ways. 

So we listen in to the conversation that the PM needs to hear.  Actually many years ago I sent the same quote to Peter David Phillips.  No doubt Sean Major-Campbell and his friends also need to listen carefully. Not gospel, but certainly wisdom acquired over the years of being close to God. 

C. S. Lewis

Quote from Screwtape Letters 
“…… About the general connection between Christianity and politics, our position is more delicate. Certainly we do not want men to allow their Christianity to flow into their political life, #KeepChurch  for the establishment of anything like a truly just society would be a major disaster.  

On the other hand we do want, and want very much, to make men treat Christianity as a means; preferably, of course, as  a means to their advancement #ProsperiryGospel but, failing that, as a means to anything – even to social justice.
The thing to do is to get a man at first to value social justice as a thing which the Enemy demands, and then work on Him to the stage at which he values Christianity because it may  produce social justice.

For the Enemy will not be used as a convenience. Men or nations who think they can revive the Faith in order to make a good society might just as well think they can use the stairs  of Heaven as a short cut to the nearest chemists shop ( pharmacy ).
Fortunately it is quite easy to coax human beings round this little corner…..”

The challenge from time immemorial for mankind is that God, the Enemy of the devil, is to be obeyed and worshiped. Not to be used even with the most lofty ideals in mind.

And so I write about my Savior. Why? Because  a large part the reason why, as a people,  we have gotten ‘ accustomed to murder ‘, lost the deep sense outrage about the ‘ the sanctity of human life’,  being treated so casually, is that we have ceased to be obedient to, and worship, the  Lord Jesus Christ. 

Listen in therefore,  to the conversation He started,  and then the hymn which His Atomenment for disobedience, mine and yours, inspired. Both of which if taken seriously would be of a far greater benefit to our nation than #AlkalineVideos And to which I was led to reflect on in my #earlymorningdevotions 

Oh, that their hearts would be inclined to fear me and keep all my commands always, so that it may go well with them and their children forever”.…..including Kala.  Deuteronomy 5:29 NIV

Then because ” all have sinned”, Jesus came and died. And inspired this hymn.

To God be the glory! Great things he hath done;

So loved he the world that he gave us his Son;

who yielded his life an atonement for Sin,

And opened the life gate that all may go in…….
O perfect redemption, the purchase of blood!

To every believer the promise of God;

The vilest offender ( all of us, me first)  who truly believes,

that moment from Jesus a pardon receives. 
And then we rejoice:
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord!

Let the earth hear his voice………let the people rejoice:

O come to the Father,

through Jesus the Son

And give him the glory;

great things he hath done.
That’ s why I write about my Saviour. Hon. Mike Fennell, and others,  have done well. But my Saviour, great things he hath done. And will do. There  is no retirement. No shadow of turning with Him.   We just need to fear Him and be obedient to His Word. Then Kala would have lived. In peace.

FACEBOOK TWO

Old  Testament and then New Testament.  New and better particulars. But both riveting revelations. #Nighttimereading

OLD TESTAMENT 

In the future when your son asks you, ‘ what is the meaning of the stipulations, decrees and laws, the Lord our God has commanded you?’, him:
We were slaves of Pharoah in Egypt, but the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. Before our eyes the Lord sent miraculous signs and wonders – great and terrible – upon Egypt and Pharoah and his whole household.
But he brought us out from there to bring us in and give us the land that he promised on oath to our forefathers. The Lord commanded us to obey all these decrees and to fear the Lord our God, so that we might always prosper and be kept alive, as is the case today. And if we are careful to obey all this law before the Lord our God, as he has commanded us, that will be our righteousness “
 Deuteronomy 6: 20 – 25. NOV

NEW TESTAMENT EQUIVALENT AND UPDATE

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 
All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. 
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 
And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.
 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Ephesians 2:1‭-‬10 NIV

http://bible.com/111/eph.2.1-10.NIV

In the OT, righteousness and holiness came by obedience. While in the New Testament Christ is our righteousness and through Him we become Holy. 
The challenge for the Church, in this time of #Jamaicableeding, is that if we are not careful,  we forget,  that ultimately, a nation is rescued by obedience to the Christ. Who Alone by the power of the Holy Spirit can convict men of Sin. And call them to be holy:
Do not murder.
Do not commit adultery.
Do not steal 

But yet all sinned and fell short of the glory of God. Hence the reason why Christ died, and rose from the dead, with the mighty Power of God. And by that same power,  we too, in Christ are raised to new and unending life in the New Jerusalem. 

So, yes, work hard to rescue the city from crime and wickedness , ” lusting after your neighbor’s gardner”. Pray also for the city. For if the city prospers, you too will prosper….Jeremiah.

But always remember that the final act of our rescue by God,  is not what happened at the Red Sea. But what took place on the Cross of Calvary – Redemption!

That’s why Neflix, Television,  social media and music – dancehall, Soca and other genres  – are potentially dangerous. Why? They pose a great threat to one of the most important commandments in all of Scripture:

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.
These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. 

Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road  ( Put away the iPad when driving….at least for a while).

Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Write them on the doorframes of  your houses and on your gates.

Deuteronomy 6: 4-9. NIV
Thank God for Jesus, The Crucified One, through the Holy Spirit, these things are now firmly in our hearts. Or ought to be, if we are obedient.

If not #Jamaicableeding  #USAbleeding #Canadableeding #UKbleeding 

FACEBOOK THREE

This morning #earlymorningdevotions  I read about  the Lord’s Discipline in Hebrews 12:

My son,  do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and punishes everyone he accepts as a son.
Endure hardship as a discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father………Our fathers disciplined us for a for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness.
No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. Make level paths for your feet, so that the lane may not be disabled, but rather healed
.

Compare this ‘ new and better particulars ‘ with this Old Testament reading to which I was  led to read just now.

Be careful to follow every command I am giving  you today, so that you may live and increase  and may  enter and possess the land that the Lord your God promised on oath to your forefathers.
Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the desert  these forty years, to humble you and  test you  in order to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commands.
He humbled you causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but from every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.

Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during those forty years. 

Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the Lord disciplines you.

Deuteronomy 8: 1-5 NIV 

Further last night the Psalmist reminded me that :

Your Name and your Word O Lord you have exalted about all things.

So do our children need to do better in maths and computer science for us to have a more productive society! Do we need more liberal,  open minded and clear thinkers to construct a kinder and gentler society! Do we need more billionaires  to  engage in philanthropy so that the poor and disadvantaged may be given a chance to share in the spoils of life! Do we need  earlier and more  targeted  interventions to reduce the rising numbers of divorces, the scary numbers of middle class American kids who are using heroin, and the  whole heap a yard kids ‘ digging out dem handmiddle all day long! 

Do we need more homeland security to protect our borders in the USA, or to establish  special zones to reduce Crime in Jamaica!
No! We just need to stop being ashamed of the gospel which is the salvation from God for all those who believe. 
Think about it. Life is clearly becoming one big long discipline. Despite the veneer of excitement which Dancehall and Soca brings seasonally or nightly.   Or the distractions  of Social media, Television, Netflix, along with ” hype funerals “.  And we are not doing well. From  North Korea to the Philippines – unstable leaders.

From Washington to London – unpredictable leaders.

From Syria to Venezuela  – chaos.
Israel and the Palestinians – Tribal war inna Babylon #BobMarley
Throw in #Jamaicableeding 5 deaths per day is no ordinary matter.   #ParisAttack  #Tsunamis  #Hurricanes  #Cancer  the constant threat of Ebola,  the threat of another 9/11. Extreme poverty. Rape. Human rights abuses…….. and we are right back in the desert with the children of Israel  being tested. For us to learn that fly high or fly low, ” if you have the Son you have life; if you have not the Son of God – The purpose and aim of God’s discipline  – you have no life.

As this world is a dangerous place filled with disease and war and evil.  It is wild, according to Oswald Chambers.  And although bad things happen to good people, murder, cancer, as well as to the wicked, a great mystery that God alone can explain, behind it all is a pathway leading to total and complete dependence on The Holy One of Israel. 

For just as Jacob’s  children were being led to the Promised Land, we too are on a journey to the New Jerusalem. For neither  Kingston Jamaica nor Atlanta Georgia nor Jo’berg in South Africa is not  our final destination as redeemed children of God.

For we were not created to try and manage without a Loving and Almighty  and Forgiving Creator. And the Creator’s will is that we should all become Holy, like Him,  in Christ. Or live forever without a relationship with Him – perish.  You think  you’re in heaven but you’ re living in hell ##BobMarley.  That reality is in the DNA of our civilizations. Past and present.   A suh de ting set. Like it or not.
Even if you are on #pagetwo every week.  Have nuff money in the bank account to be scammed. Or nuff credit.  Or fly First Class on Emirates and shower  in mid flight. Feature on e –  prime. Counted as an Uptown man with ‘ accessories ‘. Can send out  ‘angels of death’  from prison. Or have the driver waiting on you with the A/C running. 
That’s the #GospelTruth. All else is #Fakenews 

FACEBOOK FOUR

Do you want to know the real reason why KPH is under Pressure. #Gleaner and #Observer headlines on account of #Jamaicableeding?

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/lead-stories/20170707/kph-bleeding-hospital-crisis-gunshot-stabbing-victims-pressure
Let us #Keepchurch this morning and read a part of the New Testament reading in the Anglican Church worldwide for Sunday:

ROMANS 7: 21-25

So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!



Yes #HerbertGayle and others whose research point to the vulnerability  – to the inducements of the gang leaders – of young men without fathers,  or a father influence,  are on the right path. So too those who point out the  link between crime and teenage pregnancy,  between poverty and crime, and in some cases,  that between politics in #garrisonconstituencies and crime.

Yes, the availability of guns is a problem and the lack of policing of both our borders and from whence they come – including the USA #EarlMoxam.  Yes, we need to grow the economy – whether 4 in 5, or even 10 in 5…whatever. Yes, young people who pass through secondary and tertiary education are less likely to respond violently in certain situations. Yes, corruption in the police force, and to a lesser extent the JDF,  is a allegedly a huge problem – those who reportedly sell bullets, are involved in trafficking stuff, and have established links with the criminal underworld. And more too! Yes, we need  more ‘ boots on the ground’…in Sav and other towns. Yes, we need bipartisan support on efforts to fight crime. Yes…..

But at the heart of it all, is this thing, this thing that will not go away despite all attempts to  call it ‘ hate speech’. Sin! An issue  with which even the great evangelist Paul struggled.  The challenge for modern man in the 21st century is that we would prefer to attach a more manageable label on the problem – one that we can fix. Rather than call upon the only Name, Jesus Christ The Crucified One,  Who has the Power and the willingness – slow to anger and full of mercy – to rescue us from this body of death, caused by Sin. 

For like those who work in this great Hospital, we need to get the diagnosis right. Otherwise the prescription won’t work. And next year the lament will still be the same. For God knows, we’ve been lamenting #Jamaicableeding for a long time. And not only bleeding physically but morally ‘ lusting after your neighbor’s gardener …really ..was it Flair Magazine, socially and spiritually – both inside and outside the church. 

O Jesus have mercy on me a sinner! And #Destra and #Alkaline. For we are all in need of your Amazing Grace …to save a wretch like me. Have mercy on Jamaica. Land we love.
Yet I may love thee too, O Lord,

Almighty as thou art,

For thou hast stooped to ask of me

The love of my poor heart

FACEBOOK FIVE

Driving home late this evening after a long day. Times into #Nationwide94FM with #AbkaFitzHenley. Heard a ‘ man who lives in the streets ‘ reporting that this crime ting caan stop right now. Cause the ‘ de crimer dem ‘ a tek  it to de police. Have bigger gun. Have more ammunition. And is pure poor people a kill off poor people. So when dem kill off one aneder den a rich people aggo dead.

Then I reached home. Stopped to give thanks. Opened my Bible. Randomly! And found this other report: 

It’s good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to your name, O Most High.
to declare your steadfast love in the morning, and your faithfulness by night….  
How great are  your works, O Lord!

Your thoughts are very deep!

The dullard cannot know, the stupid cannot understand this:
though the wicked sprout like grass and all evildoers flourish, they are doomed to destruction forever….. Psalm 92: 1-2 & 5-7.



Now whose report shall  I believe……we shall believe the report of the Lord.
” Yet I could love thee too O Lord,

Almighty as thou art.

For thou hast stooped to ask of me,

the love of my poor heart”

Final Comment 
‘ Every nigga is a star’ in today’s world. Everybody is telling a story. Competing for your time. And your mind. And your money. And your children’s understand of ‘ how the world turns’. On Instagram. On Facebook. On Whatsapp. On traditional media. And on #Fakenews.

The challenge,  as vividly outlined on Facebook Five, is ‘ whose story will you believe’.
Sadly, but that’s reality, sometimes the choice is only made when illness strikes. But unless you have been listening carefully,  ‘ I am listening Lord, what do you have to say to me, you may very well not hear then. Even when you discover that ” Jesus is all you have”.

Which is what happened to the children of Israel. Thank God for Jesus! In whom we meet a God, who yet still  being a ‘ consuming fire ‘, is still  ‘ slow to anger’ and full of compassion. Fully manifest on the Cross of Calvary!
And lovingly taught about in this wonderful hymn which ‘ haunted my soul’ this week.

HYMN
1 My God, how wonderful you are;

your majesty, how bright!

How beautiful your mercy seat

in depths of burning light!
2 How wonderful, how beautiful

the sight of you must be,

your endless wisdom, boundless power,

and awesome purity!
3 O how I fear you, living God,

with deepest, tenderest fears,

and worship you with trembling hope

and penitential tears!
4 Yet I may love you too, O Lord,

almighty as you are,

for you have stooped to ask of me

the love of my poor heart.
5 No earthly father loves like you,

no mother half so mild

bears and forbears as you have done

with me, your sinful child.
6 Father of Jesus, love’s reward!

What rapture will it be,

prostrate before thy throne to lie,

and gaze and gaze on thee.

#BetterthanSinach  #IhavebeentoldwhoGodis

#Thesame #YesterdayTodayandForevermore