#HealingConference2018 and Murder in May Pen and Montego Bay

The parish of Clarendon, in general, and the capital ( town, not yet a city), May Pen, where I work, is ‘under the gun’. Literally and metaphorically! As crime and violence is a major problem in that part of central Jamaica.

I left there last evening and headed over to the western, tourist area, Montego Bay in St. James. And was greeted on the outskirts by a joint police military checkpoint! Why? This part of my country is under a State of Public Emergency consequent on the mayhem caused by gunmen.

This is the context in which I am led to write, the Lord having woken me up early this Saturday morning, about The Annual Anglican #HealingConference2018. #HealingandDiscipleship
For my #CryTheBelovedCountry is desperately in need of healing.

On Labour Day, Wednesday 23rd, ” The Church ” invaded Clarendon, with Prayer and Fasting, and stormed the home of the ” Strongman”. This according to the discussion I heard on #TBCFM as I drove to work yesterday. And released the parish from the stronghold of forces which had held the minds of the people captive. The main reason for the shedding of so much blood in the parish. So declared a Bishop who was the main force behind this move.

Check out @tbcradio885’s Tweet: https://twitter.com/tbcradio885/status/999019752260554753?s=09

Fast forward to last night at #HealingConference2018 where Internationally acclaimed Gospel Artiste Jermaine Edwards along with half of the famous Ity and Fancy Cat performed to the glory of God. As ” The Church ” invaded St. James with Prayer and Fasting and Teaching and Worship and Fellowship.

https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=10157676096019129&id=521649128

And shortly before I woke up this morning this Scrpiture was ‘ leading the prayers’ in my sleep:

“Love mercy, act justly and walk humbly with thy God. From the book of Micah. Prefaced by a question: And what does the Lord require of thee?

And in my sleep I recalled hearing on TBCFM a pastor declaring thst the reason why the Lord did not allow his angels to remove Lot and his family the same night, was because of Mercy. For the Lord was giving the city another chance to repent. Such is the mercy of God.

Then, because I am now going through the book of Romans, ” For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God “, came to mind. In my sleep! And that, therefore, we miss the real message of mercy in the Sodom and Gomorrah story.
Recall the conversation between Abraham ( Lot’s uncle) andvGod.

If I find ten righteous men in the city I will not destroy it”.

Go back then to the awesome revelation of Romans: ” There is none righteous. Not one “. Except in Christ Jesus! Thank God.

Same story in Genesis. God had in mind to destroy all humanity on account of wickedness. Sin. But for Noah. A righteous man.

So the real story and warning of S&G is that but for the mercy of God, in Christ Jesus, destruction can come ” like a thief in the night”.
In Clarendon. In Montego Bay.
For the judgement of the wicked like #Kartel is not just that he is in prison, but what an extended reading of the Gospel for Sunday declares:

THE WORD OF GOD

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.

This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.

Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.
John 3:16‭-‬21 NIV
https://bible.com/bible/111/jhn.3.16-21.NIV

It means that ‘ judgment’ has already been pronounced on those who fueled the violence in May Pen and in Montego Bay. And on all who have rejected the offer of salvation from God’s only Son.

It therefore means that we, the baptised people of God, have an awesome responsibility to share the Good News with a ” dying world”. And thus according to the words of the Benedictus, ” sit in the shadow of death.”

And the ‘ blood of the disobedient’ will be on our heads, according to the prophet Ezekiel and St. Paul, if we fail to warn all those we know, and call on them to repent.

Ultimately then, to be, and to announce the mercy of God in Jesus Christ, is what #HealingandDiscipleship is all about. The Message and Ministry of Reconciliation.

Pouring out what God has poured into us in and through Jesus Christ. Restoring our souls. Inviting us to be part of God’s Kingdom. So that, together, in Clarendon and Montego Bay, we can declare, like St. Paul, that we were not, “ disobedient to the heavenly vision”.

I pray that God’s mercy may flow into and out of this place, and not only into the lives of those who attend, and those for whom we are praying. But also for the surrounding community of St. James ” Under the Gun “. And into May Pen where wickedness abounds.
This as, more and more, we grow in Christ to “ love mercy, act justly and walk humbly with our Lord”. Amen.

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A Royal Wedding and the God of Creation

Because I write a weekly message, by God’s grace, on a Saturday morning, I wasn’t planning to watch Meghan and Harry’s wedding. At least, not live. But I decided to take a ‘ peep’ when my wife got up and turned on the TV, which I could hear in my study.

And that was it! So a couple hours later, here I am writing and reflecting how, were it not for providence, we would not have witnessed, together, such a beautiful act of love and charm, flowing from the source of all love, Almighty God. The main point made by the homilist, The Primate of the USA, Bishop Curry. The only kind of love that can rescue this ‘ old world ‘, and set it afire again.

https://edition.cnn.com/videos/world/2018/05/19/bishop-michael-curry-full-remarks-royal-wedding.cnn?utm_term=link&utm_content=2018-05-19T12%3A03%3A50&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twCNN

I would have missed hearing, together, a revised and so beautifully performed, and energetically directed, version of Ben.E. King’s ” Stand By Me”. A signature tune of our era, and one to which we used to ‘ dance the night away’,  as the soulful culture of Black America invaded the hallowed halls of The Church of England’s most famous Chapel.

Check out @keithboykin’s Tweet: https://twitter.com/keithboykin/status/997806027532840962?s=09

And I would have missed, watching together, as two baptised children of God, listening to the Name of Jesus being lifted up, as millions from across the world tuned in, to a Christian wedding. Where ” every knee “, Royal and ‘Commoner’, bowed literally and metaphorically, to the precious Name of my God and my Redeemer.

What a joy! What a reason to celebrate in a world where so many have become so ‘ wise and powerful’,  that they have elected to ‘ do their own thing ‘, and ignore the will of the Creator of Heaven and Earth. The One who gives life, and takes life; Blessed by the Name of the Lord.

But if in the highly controversial issue of Abortion, a very topical issue in my country, they would ignore the Word of God, contrary to the acceptance and public recommendation of it by Harry and Meghan, it would be bad. But to add insult to injury, some have become so inflamed and aggrieved by those with a contrary and ‘ religious’, viewpoint, that, they not only heap derision on the ‘ offending ‘ party, but, in my view, descend into the gutter by adding expletives. Censored and uncensored! In a rage, especially provoked, they claim, by insensitive religious zealots who suggest that, even in the case of rape, abortion is ‘ murder’.

Such was my experience on Facebook this week, as I attempted to ‘ temper’ the rage of a colleague who is very popular on Social Media. And having drawn his ire, some of those who follow him, employed the most foul and  completely uncensored language to describe the Lord Jesus.

The point is that, were it not for my faith in a Creator and Redeemer God, it would be difficult to mount a credible defense against a deeply held view that, ‘ It is the right of a woman’, to carry or not carry an unborn child to term. And in fact, in my early developing years as a physician and Christian, I referred several women to a ‘ specialist ‘ for abortion after ‘ careful ‘ consideration of their circumstances. Mea culpa. Mea culpa. Mea maxima culpa! But thank God for Jesus, and the gift of the Holy Spirit who, as promised, leads us into all Truth, my position gradually shifted. To a point where I do not refer anyone for abortion, even after the most careful and compassionate time of listening and counselling.

Do I believe in Therapeutic abortions? Yes. In principle! What about rape? That one is a serious challenge? And the fact that I have seen more than one woman who elected to carry that child to term, does not make it easy. Nor that so many ‘ brownings’ are products of violation of slave women by their ‘ Masters ‘. Nor the famous story in the Bible about Joseph, ” You meant it for evil, but God used it for good”. To save Israel from starvation! For the truth is that the great majority of victims cannot bear the thought of carrying such a public and permanent manifestation of wickedness being visited upon them. And God in His Mercy will decide how to deal with them. And those who facilitate their desire for an abortion. Not me! But since I did not create life, only God, even in the midst of evil, at this time in my walk with God, though sensitive to the situation that these ladies, I cannot recommend death for that which I did not create. Nor begin to understand the mind of the Creator. Except what He reveals through the Holy Spirit; the giver of all Truth. And whose coming on all the Baptised, we will celebrate tomorrow on the Day of Pentecost. And wear the #FireRed about which Bishop preached.

REV. JOHN STOTT

 

As I contemplated these issues last night, my eyes caught hold of a book written many years ago by one of my favorite theologians. John Stott!

I share with you his opening,  and very profound comments,  on this issue. Words that challenge us to ” come off the fence”, to stop ‘ drinking tepid lukewarm tea”,  as in the famous movie ” The War Room”,  and join the battle.

 

DECISIVE ISSUES FACING CHRISTIANS TODAY : THE ABORTION DILEMMA

The debate over abortion is admittedly complex. It has medical, legal, theological, ethical, social and personal aspects. It is also a highly emotional subject, for it touches on the mysteries of human sexuality and reproduction, and often involves acutely painful dilemmas.

Yet Christians cannot opt out of personal decision-making or public discussion regarding this topic merely because of its complexity. Instead, two factors should bring it to the top of our agenda.

First, what is involved in the abortion issue is nothing less than our Christian doctrines of both God and humanity, or, more precisely, the Sovereignty of God and the sanctity of human life. All Christian people believe that Almighty God is the only, giver, sustainer and taker-away of life. On the one hand ” he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else “, and ” in him we live and move and have our being”.

On the other, as the Psalmist says to God, ” When you take away their breath, they die and return to the dust”…...To the Christian then, both life-giving and life-taking are divine prerogatives………

Hence Mother Teresa’s strong feeling about the evil of abortion:

……only God can decide life or death…..That is why abortion is such a terrible sin. You are not only killing life, but putting ( your) self before before God; yet people decide who has to live and who has to die. They want to take the power of God into their hands. They want to say, ” I can do without God. I can decide.” That is the most devilish thing that a human can do…..

Later in the chapter Stott shared this experience:

“…….a group of women started chanting – Not the Church, not the State, Let a woman decide her fate.

I went over to talk to them, and quietly remonstrated that it was not the woman’s fate we were concerned about in our rally and march, so much as her unborn child’s. Their only reply was to shout unprintable obscenities at me, and make the point that I would not be able to give birth to a child on a million years. I am not saying that they were wholly wrong. For I recognize abortion is more a woman’s issue than a man’s. It is she who has been made pregnant, perhaps without her consent…

It is all too easy for men to forget these facts. But we should remember them. …….Once she has conceived, her child has independent rights both before and after birth, and it was those rights which those young women in Whitehall ( the seat of British government) did not acknowledge”.

Final Comment: As with Stott and his experience in 1984, so too the Christian experience with those who would elevate the ” rights of women” over the Sovereignty of Almighty God. So this very emotional charges issue, which provokes even seemingly civilised people to wrath and the use of gutter language to defend women’s rights, is never going to solved in my lifetime. Nor I would suggest in the next century. For the Holy Spirit of God, sent by the Risen and Ascended and Glorified Christ, and whose coming we will celebrate tomorrow, has already warned us in Holy Scriptures that : ” If they hate me ( Jesus) they will hate you too”.

Therefore the vitriol and abuse which is being directed at the Church in general, because we take a stand for the Almighty God, and really provide the only resistance to those who would place self above God, as observed by Mother Teresa has to be met with love and mercy and peace.

It’s a challenge to the World and its culture that the late Ian Boyne warned about regularly. And the World will never accept that God in Christ is Sovereign. As Harry and Meghan publicly declared today as they got married according to the commands of a loving and faithful God who loves the World in Christ and Him Crucified. The challenge for the Christian community is to continue to preach Christ and Him Crucified through the power of the Holy Spirit. And He will as promised convict the World of Sin, Righteousness and Judgement. And lead us, and the Royal family and all people into all Truth. That in all things, whether life or death, God is Sovereign and full of mercy and love to all He has made. And this we know in and through Jesus Christ.

Judgement or Mercy in Jamaica and the World.

Many Jamaicans believe that our country is so far gone, that the level of indiscipline is so embedded in national psyche, ” this ship has sailed”, offered one cynic on Twitter, that we will never return to any semblance of civility and public order.

Others hold a different view! that, if we toss overboard our political differences, overcome our class distinctions, promote human rights, and let go of our religiosity, ‘ too much talk about God and prayer’, we can become a peaceful and progressive and democratic country.

The Christian ‘fundamentalists’ agree with my Twitter cynic. But that’s where it ends. As, in their view, we are now living in ” end times”. And Bible prophecy says that ” people’s hearts will grow more wicked “. So no amount of #ZOSO or #SOE or improving parenting skills or growing the economy, or beefing up the Police Force, is going to help! For Judgement is close!

Perhaps ” Judgement ” , in the form of the new Road Traffic Act, which the Senate passed yesterday, is really at hand for those motorists who break the law with such impunity. Overtaking a long line of traffic. Regularly! Creating a third lane, and ‘undertaking’, the other motorists, patiently waiting. Regularly! Going right through the Red, Red, Stop Light. Regularly! Breaking the speed limit ( flying low). Regularly!

Perhaps ” Judgement “, has already arrived for those men who are ” three and four burners”, and have a ” trailer load of girls”. And who, having reached middle and old age, can find no peace. As wife, girlfriend, matey, deputy, baby mother and children, are no longer in their lives. Only kully kully rum, better located in a more graphic turn of phrase, cigarettes and distant memories. With the celebration of Mother’s Day a painful reminder of what could have been!

Perhaps ” Judgement ” has already arrived for those who have been scamming ‘ little old ladies ” for years. Who have used their ill gotten and filthy lucre to finance a hype and bling life. To finance the purchasing of weapons of death and mayhem! But, who now find themselves, or are found by others, in prison, at best, or lying on the ground dead, at worst, having confronted the security forces. For the last time!

Perhaps ” Judgement ” has already arrived for politicians et al, who have fostered and instigated the distribution of guns, ” A wha dat “, into the hands of ” unattached youths “. Thus opening a Pandora’ s box of murder and chaos and mayhem, hitherto never experienced in this fair isle. And all the king’s horses and all the king’s cannot put Jamaica together again. Who knows what torment is afflicting the souls and hearts of men and women, who are guilty of this egregious act of wickedness.

Perhaps ” Judgement ” has already arrived for the high and mighty and well heeled. Including members of the Security Forces. Those who swear to protect the society and uphold the Law. Those whose connections have allowed them to flout, and escape, the long arm of the law. Repeatedly! But inevitably now find themselves in a ” spot of bother “. In prison! Or in the full glare of public scrutiny. With more to come!

Perhaps ” Judgement ” is arriving for those who have used the privilege of being entertainers, columnists and journalists and talk show hosts, along with those possessed of creative skills, and shapers of public opinion to fashion a culture of crassness, low moral standards, anything goes, popularity, and profit, is what counts, and ‘ to hell’ with anyone who objects. As in the case of one female Gleaner columnist writing in a ‘family newspaper ‘, the Daily Gleaner, and, ‘sailing way past the wind’ of linguistic ” indecent exposure “, my ( but clearly not in the editor’s) view, countered with ‘ the children are seeing it on google anyhow ‘. Or words to that effect.

But though ” Judgement ” in various forms, may be attending those who have lived carelessly and without ‘ the fear of God’, thank God for Jesus. That for both individuals, societies, nations and civilizations, judgement, destruction and condemnation, abandonment and destruction are part of God’s Plan B.

And not the Sovereign preference of the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Who so loved the entire world, that He sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the Cross of Calvary, that whosoever believes in Him, turns and repents and become baptized and receives the transforming power of the Holy Spirit, should not perish but have eternal life. Plan A.

A God of love and mercy and compassion who has the power to make all things new!

This aspect of God, making all things new, is what I was led to read , opened Chris Tiegreen’s ‘ The Wonder of The Cross’, Devotional book randomly, this week. And offer it to a ‘ dying world’.

HOPE

Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth. Isaiah 65:17

Many religions aim at improving this world. Others aim at escaping it. Christianity does neither. A fallen world enslaved by corruption cannot be ‘improved’; it needs a re-creation.

And a world created ” very good” by a God with a strong sense of purpose cannot be abandoned. In between both extremes is the truth. God’s plan is create new heavens and a new earth. The rebellion’ s effects will be burned up, and the original purposes will be fulfilled. God makes all things new.

Isn’t that exciting? Every time you find yourself dreading the to-do-list of the day or lamenting the futility of the world around you, think about what it will be like to live in new heavens and earth. In this new creation there will be no frustrations, no unsatisfied desires, no aimlessness, no corruption, no personal insults, no tedious tasks, no wondering if it is worth all the trouble.

In The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis describes the curse as ” always winter and never Christmas.”. In the new heavens and new earth, it will be always spring and never Good Friday. Mourning will be a thing of the past, and celebration will be the cultural norm.

Comment: As I read the meditation, one verse of Scripture in particular came to mind:

If any man be in Christ he is a new creation. The old has passed away. And behold all things are made new.

It’s time, in fact way past time, for the children of God, to recapture the Joy that God in Christ is doing a new thing in this world. And be of (very) good courage!

Spreading the Good News that there is Hope for all who have sinned. Hope in the love and mercy of God in and through Jesus Christ and Him Crucified. Even though the news of the day, and the ‘ wisdom of the age’, conspire to paint a different picture. That wickedness and infamy and rebellion against previously held moral values are the new norm. So we ought to ‘ get over it’. And ‘ get with the program ‘. For we ‘ run tings’. Not God.

So they think. Until real Judgement comes. Destruction! And not just death, or imprisonment or loneliness or torment. Plan B. All because we ignored Plan A. Christ our Redeemer! The full and complete manifestation of the love of the Sovereign God for all mankind and all creation!

War ( in the west) and Peace ( in Christ Jesus)

O for a thousand tongues to sing
My dear Redeemer’s praise,
The glories of my God and King,
The triumphs of his grace!

My gracious Master and my God,
Assist me to proclaim
And spread through all the earth abroad
The honors of the name

Jesus! the name that charms our fears
And bids our sorrows cease;
‘Tis music in the sinner’s ears,
‘Tis life and health and peace.

No matter which headline you read, whether the Daily Gleaner:

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/news/20180502/update-schools-closed-due-murderous-rampage-westmoreland

Or The Jamaica Observer ;

http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/front-page/massacre-seven-dead-10-wounded-in-westmoreland-attacks_132160

after murder most foul was caŕried out by men with evil in their hearts, this week in my #CryTheBelovedCountry #Jamaica we can come to only one conclusion; #ThisIslandneedsJesus. Like so badly. Like right now dear God!

And so I tweeted:

A State of Emergency can only stop evil hearts from carrying out wicked acts in one area. But ‘all the king’s horses and all the king’s men’ cannot cure evil #ThisIslandneedsJesus @AndrewHolnessJM
@PDPhillipsJa #sykes
@GGSirPAllen @The_PSOJ @BishopRobertKgn
https://t.co/sxkkn9gUxs

Then after the madness in Westmoreland, there was further madness in Kingston, as an liscened firearm holder ” select him gun”, fired at a windscreen street cleaner, missed the intended target, and hit an innocent bystander.

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/news/20180503/woman-accidentally-shot-licensed-firearm-holder-liguanea

And a few days earlier I was moved to post this message on:

FACEBOOK

Mohammed couldn’t do it….Buddha couldn’t do it….Marijuna couldn’t do it ….Cocaine couldn’t do it. Do what? Grant me peace, sings Helen Baylor. And hopefully Bill Cosby now realizes that profound Truth.
State of Public Emergency can’t do it…..My favourite Politician #Followdeleader can’t do it…..My Denomination ( Sabbath or Sunday) can’t do it. Only Jesus!
So declares the hymnwriter…..the essence of the Gospel in a few verses

” Jesus sought me when a stranger
wandering from the fold of God;
he, to rescue me from danger,
interposed his precious blood.
Oh, to grace how great a debtor
daily I’m constrained to be!
Let the goodness, like a fetter,
bind my wandering heart to thee”

Turn up the volume and help Helen Baylor to ” Lift up the Name of Jesus”.
#Earlymorningdevotions

But ” Lifting up the name of Jesus ” in this challenging world of murder, and scamming, and gang feuds, and political tribalism, and widespread poverty and human rights abuses, and human trafficking and poor parenting skills and absent fathers and teenage mothers, and child abuse and domestic abuse, is no ” walk in the park”. Preparation and understanding is key.

Listen again to what the Word of God said to us last week. Or perhaps the week before:

If you abide in me, and my word abides in you, then you shall ask what you will, and it shall be given unto you. John 15.

The challenge therefore is to allow God’s Word to abide in our hearts. Not lyrics from #Kartel or even #Chronixx as conscious as he is: not the words of our politicians #Followdeleader however well meaning they may be, at best…. : not the advice of the most celebrated philosopher, whether Socrates, Plato or Aristotle: and certainly not the words of our favourite talk show host, however useful they may be, at best ……for at another level, like the one that comes to mind readily, they sometimes come pretty close to the infamous ” Pied Piper” leading us over the precipice….like sheep.

So what did the Word of God say to me this week:

” I myself will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name”.

Acts 9:16 – After Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus, Jesus spoke these words to Annanias.

A reminder to all who would seek to rid this island of madness of various forms, whether crime and violence or road traffic injuries, that first we are called to suffer for Christ’s sake. As we follow the path of the ” Suffering Servant ” of God, who Himself first suffered on Calvary.

Further, as it is not only a matter of suffering, but daily dying to self, the ultimate goal, and living by the Spirit, Galatians 2:20 awaits us.

” I have been crucified with Christ. Nevertheless I live. Yet not I, but Christ who lives in me”.

And nestled among these an other important messages in my Classics Devotional Bible is this very useful quote and explanation:

” It is through accepting the circumstances that come to us in life that self is crucified ” – Hannah Hurnard.

A position which ought to accepted only after critical review, as somethings are to be resisted. But the point is that the God who allowed them to come our way – excluding those which arrive because of disobedience – sends them for a reason. So that we may be truly ” Crucified in Christ”, and allow Him alone to become our Lord and Savior.

Finally, in this journey of dying to self through hardship, it is hard to match any other word of scripture with the one that came to me yesterday during my #Earlymorningdevotions. This as I pondered how to make a difference in Westmoreland and elsewhere.

THE WORD OF GOD

.or because of these surpassingly great revelations. Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.
Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me,

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 12:7‭-‬10 NIV
https://bible.com/bible/111/2co.12.7-10.NIV

Then, and only then, and not by ” sowing seeds “, and preaching a #Prosperitygospel which is no Gospel at all, will we have peace and be able to collectively smile like these children in caught by the photographer of the Daily Gleaner. In this life and the next! As when we are weak we are strong in and through Christ who lives in the weak and of no account on this ” hype world”.

http://images.jamaica-gleaner.com/sites/default/files/styles/jg_article_image/public/media/article_images/2015/05/15/JamaicaDayD20150515RM.jpg?itok=2EgBJiIT

Cry the beloved Country: Jamaica and America. Thank God for Jesus there is Hope

As I began this message last night, Alan Paton’s classic book on South Africa, ” Cry the beloved Country“, came flooding into my mind?

Why? My soul wept for my country this week. No, not because the Parliament descended into chaos and confusion; amidst talk of #Holdhimback, #meetmeoutside, #middlefingersigns, apologies, and Prime Ministerial silence.

And no, not because as soon as there was a reduction in the numbers of the security forces in Denham Town ( an inner city community under siege by criminals toting high powered guns) the deadly violence flared up.

But all because of what triggered a post on:

FACEBOOK ( with some material added for the blog)

While it is important to find out ” How did we get here” at Cornwall Regional Hospital, of far greater importance is, ” How did we get here” in respect of murder. And murder most foul!

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/news/20180425/pregnant-mother-and-her-two-children-killed-hanover-alleged-attacker-custody

And the reading of that heinous act is made even more graphic by the video of the news story on #TVJNEWS

#Earlymorningdevotions verse which ” came into my mind” gives us a clue…..as to how we got to this point where, the father of two lovely, precious girl children, can ‘chop them up’ . And then turn and carry out the same wickedness on the pregnant, reportedly eight months with child, mother of his children.
‘ Whispers’ of ‘jacket’….not his child, have surfaced. Suggestions that perhaps he was not in his right mind have emergered. Whatever! As the young people would say. This is no ordinary matter, but a manifestation of the kind of evil which has been let loose in country. And like the proverbial genie, it is the living hell to put it back in the bottle!

THE WORD OF GOD

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. Deuteronomy 5:29.

And we know from the Bible that neither the children of Israel nor anyone in history has ever been without the sin of disobedience.

” For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God “.

That’s why Jesus died. And was raised from the dead. So that in Him we might have a new beginning.

So Carlene Davis is right; This island needs Jesus. Ultimately!

#ZOSO and #StateofEmergency And Parenting and rescuing our at risk boys are all part of the solution #TVJALLANGLES but ultimately the problem we face is Disobedience to the Word of The Living God.

And promotion of Human Rights Economic growth and protecting our borders all good things, will not reap a harvest of peace if we continue to be Disobedient.

Did anyone hear Al Dawes crying out for help last night on #Nationwide Westmoreland is under siege from gunmen firing bullets that are meant to cause maximum damage to human flesh!

Comment: For the fact is that for far too long, as a nation we have allowed, and in some cases, facilitated, people to ” fly de gates” and ” let in the pirates” of sin and disobedience and wickedness.

Labeling some dancehall lyrics art, and culture and people’s reality, rather than condemning the gun lyrics and plain out of order lyrics, and calling it out. Lyrics, new lyrics, lyrics that carry us down and not lift us up. Lyrics that our fathers never knew. And lyrics which have competed, in some measure, who knows how much, successfully, with the message music of reggae.
Thankfully Chronixx and others have started a new thing. While Etana and others have kept ‘ the thing ‘ at a certain level, even ‘ up top’, the sky is the limit….streetalk.

Labeling some of the worst aspects of Carnival, culture, and Caribbean expressions and diversity in the music. Get on baad music, which ‘ tempt people to touch’, and jam what don’t belong to them, and which under ordinary circumstances ‘ would not be available ‘. Music which has, in some measure, replaced the biting social commentary, though not for Sunday School, of Sparrow’s Calypso genre.

Failing to call out those who have been responsible for introducing guns into the hands of poor and vulnerable youths; thus starting a fire which has brought the living hell into this country. And all the ‘ firefighting ‘ has failed to extinguish this cauldron of death which has been unleashed on our people.

Failing to deal with institutional corruption in both government and the private sector; which has ravaged the good name of our country abroad and devastated our economy at home.

Failing to manage the affairs of our country over the years; placing political and ideological considerations above the national interest. Causing us a people, too many people, to be living in the kind abject poverty, which often result in previously held high moral values to be ‘ sold for a pound of sugar’. Or one bag juice !

But most egregiously, ” creating cisterns, broken cistern, that can hold no water “. Within and without the Church. #ProperityGospel #Brukoutofbruckness #Lotto #Followdeleader

And in the process ignoring the Word of the Living God which was the foundation of life for our forebears. A life built around the fear of God, and love for ” Puppa Jesus! The removal of which foundation has occasioned the change in our society from a relatively violence free one, to this present age, where, ” Cry the Beloved Country ” is now a national lament.

But even though we lament and ” Cry the beloved Country “, we don’t behave as if we have no hope. For we are Easter people; children of the Most High God, who in Christ, on Calvary, and the Resurrection from the dead, offers us new life. Even in the midst of this madness!

One message of Hope came from the Gospel reading for the worldwide Anglican Church this Sunday.

If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, then you shall ask what you will, and it shall be given unto you”. John 15:7

So how can we abide in Christ? And have his words abide in us! So that, we can ask, in prayer, for the release of our ‘ beloved country’. From the evils of murder and slackness, and corruption, and disobedience to God’s Word. Which have all descended like darkness over our land? Stygian darkness!

The key word is abide. And to abide in Christ is to follow him. The theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who paid the ultimate price for his resistance to evil during Hitler’s reign of terror in Germany, says this: ” When Christ calls a man or woman to follow him, he calls him to die” ( To self).

The challenge for leaders in the Church, with dire consequences for our society, which ought to be served by ‘ the salt and the light ‘, that is the church, is that too many, ‘ Easter’ people don’t understand that Good Friday came before Easter.

That the same Peter and Paul, who uttered the famous words: ” Silver and gold have I none, but in the Name of Jesus, get up and walk“, who previously ‘ denied’ and ‘ persecuted’, Christ, died to self. Under the cross, and at ‘ high noon’!

Perhaps then, as a reminder to live under the Cross, before we begin each day, we should all sing and pray and reflect deeply, on the words of this powerful hymn:

I am thine, O Lord, I have heard thy voice,
and it told thy love to me;
but I long to rise in the arms of faith
and be closer drawn to thee.
Refrain:

Draw me nearer, nearer, blessed Lord,
to the cross where thou hast died.
Draw me nearer, nearer, nearer, blessed Lord,
to thy precious, bleeding side.

2. Consecrate me now to thy service, Lord,
by the power of grace divine;
let my soul look up with a steadfast hope,
and my will be lost in thine.

(Refrain)

Then, and only then, we will not be tempted to touch what does not belong to us. And not just touch, but rape, and not just rape, serial rape. Like Bill Cosby ‘ America’s Dad’! What a shame. For in America too, many ” Cry the beloved country”.

And kill those we love. A gift from God and what ultimately does not belong to us. Life! Like what that wicked man did to those children. What a tragedy.

All because we have preferred ‘ hype over substance ‘. Preferred Excitement and Material things over the very Word of God, Jesus and him Crucified? Thank God the door for repentance is still open. But for how long we don’t know!

Not in my Cabinet, and All are welcome in the Kingdom of God, if you repent and believe the Gospel

I begin most days with a set of prayers. Thanksgiving, for Righteousness and for Wisdom. Unless the Lord intervenes and ‘ stirs up things ‘! As I reflected on what I am about to write, two parts of the prayers from A Saint of old, Jacob Boeheme, touched my soul. Again!

” Rule over me this day, O God, leading me on the path of righteousness. Put your Word in my mind and your truth in my heart, that this day I neither think nor feel anything except what is good and honest…….

Give me, dear Lord, a pure heart and a wise mind, that I may carry out my work according to your will……
Above all, remind me constantly, that I have nothing except what you give me, and can do nothing except what you enable me to do”.

Why? This matter of homosexuality; whether or not the Bible says it is a sin, and whether or not Jamaica ought to join the ‘ civilized ‘ world and repeal the buggery law, was a huge topic of discussion this week.

What sparked this controversy?
Do you remember the famous, or infamous, depending on your perspective ” Not in my cabinet” statement, by former Prime Minister Bruce Golding? When asked by the host of a popular UK TV programme ” Hard Talk“, if gays would be allowed to sit in his cabinet! The context being Jamaica’s refusal to ‘ bow’ to International pressure and remove the offending buggery law from its books.

This week PM Andrew Holness offered up a different answer when quizzed while on official duties in Brussels. I found a video online and the also the report by the Gleaner.

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/lead-stories/20180417/no-problem-gays-my-cabinet-holness

The video seems to in sync with what the Gleaner reported and offered a bit more information – A projection for the future. Also it places the issue in its historical context. Don’t know anything about the producer. Not in support of his ideals. Just did a Google search and found it.

What was my reaction? I understood what the PM was trying to achieve; to assure the international community that, and rightly so, Jamaica, as a state, was not in the business of ‘persecuting’ gays. And that a honest conversation was taking place on the issue of the repealing of the buggery law. What was a bit surprising, was his view that the ‘ church ‘, in Jamaica, elsewhere yes, had ‘ multiple positions’ on the matter of homosexuality. And that we were becoming more ” liberal “!

I am not sure how he arrived at that position. A view which appeared, more to be his wish, than reality.

The writer of the Gleaner Editorial also weighed in on this matter. As a Bible based Christian I found one aspect in particular, ” archaic index of morality “, more provocative than helpful, in trying to arrive at some kind of national consensus on this matter. Otherwise it provided useful information albeit biased in its support of ‘ normalizing homosexuality ‘.

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/commentary/20180417/editorial-jamaica-next-battlefront-against-gay-discrimination

Then I posted this ‘ alternative view’ by well Christian lawyer Shirley Richards, all of which views I did not necessarily agree with, but which were topical, on my Facebook page which sparked a long, heated and at times, an acrimonious, discussion, with 99 comments to date.

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/commentary/20180418/shirley-richards-gay-mad-britain-has-lost-its-soul

At the end of which discussion, having been reminded by the Lord, that one needs the wisdom of Solomon to resolve this issue, I posted this comment.

FACEBOOK

It would seem to be the commonsense approach ( having more important things to do than going around snooping in people’s bedrooms). But is that what the Lord is saying? Listening carefully to what I was led to read last night while …. was faithfully doing battle with ‘ giants ‘.

” There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death”. Proverbs 16:23.

How did I get there? Proverbs 14:34, came into my mind as …… persisted in asking how does the buggery law affect marriage….as asserted by Shirley Richards.

” Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people”.

Sounds like the good Lord has heard this conversation before. As this whole thing turns on whether or not we believe God’s Word that homosexuality is a sin. And I don’t necessarily expect a non-believer like…..to agree, but certainly those of us who believe, that, “ the Word of God is living and active…..it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart”. Hebrews 4:12.

So the question is whether this particular sin ought to attract the attention of the law in any society? My ( perhaps limited) understanding of the Bible leads me to say no. But then the wisdom of Solomon comes into the picture. And so I am listening to what the Lord is saying when, in Christ, He died, to ‘ remove the disgrace ‘ and more, to forgive, and more, enable us to live a new life, rather than,
elevate sin, and call it ‘ right’ in our commonsense understanding of ‘ how the world turns’.

Which is why the other post from Oswald Chambers about ‘ the supernatural ‘ is not a coincidence. There is more, but I plan by the grace of God to write about it tomorrow. Meanwhile Rockstone, be of good courage.

The post about the supernatural is as follows:

Do we make room in our faith for the impossible along the lines of the supernatural? Or have we reduced our religion to such commonsense platitudes that there is no need for Jesus to have lived at all – Oswald Chambers.

So, having listened to what others had to say on this ‘ weighty ‘ matter, what was the Lord’s answer to the signature declaration of this weekly, formerly email alone, but now whatsapp has been added, ministry for many years now:

I read my Bible to see what men ought to do; and read my newspapers to see what men are doing.

Firstly, a week before all of this controversy erupted, yet again, out of the blue, I was led to read the first part of the prophet Ezekiel. And received the message as part of God’s Church. And as an Ambassador of Christ.

THE WORD OF GOD

He said: “Son of man, I am sending you to the Israelites, to a rebellious nation that has rebelled against me; they and their ancestors have been in revolt against me to this very day. The people to whom I am sending you are obstinate and stubborn. Say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says.’ And whether they listen or fail to listen—for they are a rebellious people—they will know that a prophet has been among them. And you, son of man, do not be afraid of them or their words. Do not be afraid, though briers and thorns are all around you and you live among scorpions. Do not be afraid of what they say or be terrified by them, though they are a rebellious people. You must speak my words to them, whether they listen or fail to listen, for they are rebellious. But you, son of man, listen to what I say to you. Do not rebel like that rebellious people; open your mouth and eat what I give you.” Then I looked, and I saw a hand stretched out to me. In it was a scroll, which he unrolled before me. On both sides of it were written words of lament and mourning and woe.

Ezekiel 2:3‭-‬10 NIV
https://bible.com/bible/111/ezk.2.3-10.NIV

Secondly a Word from Ezra, which came as the battle raged. And this in particular:

O my God, I am too ashamed and disgraced to lift up my face to you O God, because our sins are higher than our heads and our guilt has reached to the heavens. From the days of our forefathers until now, our guilt has been great. Because of our sins, we and our kings have been subjected to the sword and captivity…..” 9:6-7

Sin is a very dangerous thing to “hug up”.

Thank God for Jesus: ” But now, for a brief moment, the Lord our God, has been gracious in leaving us a remnant. .…vs 8.

Finally an offer of God’s mercy, in the midst of the storms of life. Whether concerning homosexuality, crime and violence, Sick buildings and calls for a Commission of enquiry, the situation in Syria and even the investigations into the alleged interference of the American elections by the Russians. For ultimately Christians are to be reconcilers !

A RECONCILING MISSION – CHRIS TIEGREEN

All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation. 2. Cor.5:18

The world is fragmented. That wasn’t the case in Eden, where creation was new and complete. But sin has far reaching effects…..

A RECONCILING VIEW

From now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. 2 Cor. 5:16

You size people up. We all do. We make snap judgments about people’s attitudes and personalities based on what they wear, the expression on their faces, the look in their eyes, the social group they come from, or any other criteria we can get a handle on .

Most of our efforts are aimed at putting people in categories we can easily understand. There is no shame in that ; that’s how our mind works. The problem is that our categories are not God’s. When we use our own judgments, we end up associating with people who are a lot like us in terms of skin color, economic status, political opinions, religious views, etc. We are most comfortable with similar people because we are most familiar with their characteristics. We have a lot in common with them – at least on the surface.

But such associations don’t spring exclusively from the love of Christ. They don’t take us on an adventure with reconciliation. They don’t always lead us where God wants us to go. They see people in terms of the kingdom of this world, and not in terms of the kingdom of God.

According to God, there are two kinds of people in the world: those who are in Christ and those who are not. Those who are in Christ are one with us – no distinctions of language, economy, race, gender, or heritage. We are united in a common Savior. Those who are not in Christ are sought by God. And if they are sought by God, they ought to be sought by God’s ministers of reconciliation…..

Final comments

The primary challenge for us as God’s ministers, I would suggest, is not to mount a defense of the buggery law, but how do we seek reconciliation with members of the LGBT community, without labeling them as Gays, but seeing them as people who God loves.

It may mean that the buggery  law ought to be left alone. Or repealed! I dont know. But I continue to listen. For such a mission absolutely needs the wisdom of Solomon. And the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit, given to those who believe in the New Testament account of the Life, Death, Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. For always, there is a balance between God’s Justice and His Mercy.
Peace.

I need thee, O I need thee, every hour I need thee…..

#GoldCoast2018, Jamaican #GoldRush, #SCHOOLCHALLENGEQUIZ and Christian Warfare

Taking a break from the Battle

Jamaicans are a sports loving people. And so it’s ” pure excitement ” up here, as the #GoldRush is on, ‘down under’, at the Commonwealth Games in #GoldCoast2018 Australia. And as of the time of writing this Saturday morning, based on a points system ( awarding points for 1st to 8th) little Jamaica, with 7 Gold Medals, is third. Just behind mighty Australia first, and England ( with less Gold medals) second, in the Track and Field Section.

And the ‘ picture of the day’ says it all: poetry in motion, as Gold Medalist Kimberly Williams ‘ flies’ during her Triple Jump performance.

This week also saw ” pure excitement ” in Jamaica as the eagerly awaited Schools Challenge Quiz Final between ‘ up town’ Campion College and ‘ country school’ St. Jago took place. And only in Jamaica could there be such ‘ hype’ over an event like this. The match lived up to its expectations and Campion won, for the first time, in an exciting match. St. Jago, however, were worthy opponents. And having won the competition four times previously, went home, ‘ holding their heads high’.

But all this ” pure excitement ” is only a break for Christians. As a message I posted on Facebook after having read a powerful and challenging meditation this week says it all:

Christianity is not a playground but a battleground!

The Battle for Souls

And as I thought about the other events which took place during the week, renewed calls to change the Abortion Law in Jamaica, and the landmark repealing of Buggery Law Trinidad and Tobago, and then last night the announcement of a once off military strike by the combined forces of USA, Britain and France, to ‘ degrade’ the capacity of Syria to launch anymore chemical weapons against civilians, The Cross came to mind.

As without the Victory won on the Cross of Calvary, Christianity might still be attractive, interesting and even a profoundly important religion, but would lack the supernatural power to not just change, but transform, the lives of those who have faith in the power of the Risen Christ. Those who have repented, accepted the forgiveness of sins, and are ‘ born again ‘ into a new and unending life. And further, that without Christianity, properly understood, human life, properly understood, a life without God in Christ, can contribute much to humanity and self, but at the end disaster awaits. Patiently and inexorably!

” For what shall it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul”.

To win a ‘ bag of gold medals’, to find the cure for cancer, to climb the highest mountain peak, to accumulate vast amounts of wealth, to have a ‘ trailer load of girls’, to be able dance like the legendary Michael Jackson or Bogle ( the late dancehall star), to be to able to sway a ‘ crowd of people ‘ like Barack Obama, to be popular on Facebook or ‘ The Gram’ ( Instagram for the uninitiated…thanks to Yendi  and DJMiller) and yet lose your soul. For eternity!

For who without the assurance of Victory on the Cross can withstand the pressure, real pressure, to abort a child, when a woman gets pregnant, for whatever reason, and faces serious social, financial and emotional challenges. Often alone!

Who, without the assurance of Victory on the Cross of Calvary, can deal with the very real and live issue of being attracted to someone of the same sex.

Both of which human tragedies and controversial issues, ‘ when does life begin’, ‘ whose decision is it anyhow ‘, ‘ many women who seek unsafe abortions die’, ‘ what’s wrong with loving another person of the same sex, ‘ Is it really a sin’, ‘ the state has no business in people’s bedrooms’, and ‘does the Bible really condemn homosexuality’? ….only Almighty God can sort out. Not man! Hence the need for Christian soldiers to be aware and alert.

So what’s the nature of the Battle?

The meditation below explains better than I can:

ALWAYS AWARE – Chris Tiegreen

Let us be alert and self-controlled. 1 Thessalonians 5:6

Imagine soldiers at the front lines sitting around playing cards and laughing. Is it appropriate? It depends, doesn’t it? If there is no engagement with the enemy at the moment and if guards are are posted, it might not be an inappropriate scene. If, however, the bullets are flying, the shells are exploding, and the injured ate being brought out constantly ( in Syria, off Maxfield Ave, and in Palestine) , a friendly card game would be the last thing you’d see.

But that’s how many Christians live. The darkness of this world isn’t a silent shroud; its chaos. The bullets are flying, and the shells are exploding. There’s a war on – and while there are times when we can take a break and disengage from the action ( and cheer on Aisha Praught-Leer and others) – God doesn’t want us to be constantly stressed, after all – we must always be alert. A soldier who isn’t alert is a soldier who is endangering his life and the life of others.

If that is true, we can be awfully cavalier about the dangers we face. We forget the life-and-death nature of the spiritual battles we face. We have a hard time remembering that a little lack of self-control isn’t just a character flaw, it’s an opportunity for the enemy to cash in on our weakness. We need to be reminded, as St. Paul reminds the Thessalonians, that lifestyle matters to the Kingdom of God and to its citizens. Our prayers, our work, the condition of our hearts, and the degree to which we live in the Spirit are critical. Eternally critical.

…….The Christian life is not a playground but a battleground – Warren Wiersbe.