Many years ago, I had the distinct privilege of accompanying then Prime Minister, The Most Honourable Portia Simpson -Miller to the United Nations General Assembly, where she gave a major speech supporting the call for Road Safety to be included in the Sustainable Development Goals. And at a side-meeting, before the going to the UN, Shelly Ann Fraser Pryce, and Nelson Mandela’s grand-daughter Zoleka, and other dignitaries, issued a clarion call for road safety to be taken seriously internationally.

One of the highlights of the trip to NY was going to see Alecia Keys performing live in Central Park. Got two tickets from a friend at the UN, for a colleague and I, and so off we went. And walked miles, and miles, as it seemed like all the young people in New York had the same plan. Finally we got to the actual venue, only to hear “ standing room only”. That was too much for me, at my age then. So facing the prospects of standing for hours after walking for hours, we, well mostly me, decided to call it a day and head back to the hotel. That’s the closest I came to hearing this fabulous singer on stage. Well this week, the whole wide world got a glimpse of the prodigious talent, and great heart of this multiple Grammy Award winning artiste, as her new song and video were shown live on CNN this week. I watched the interview and listened carefully and then posted this on social media:

https://youtu.be/N63tvQBwSSw. It’s amazing that the words of the song were not inspired by the present Corona Virus crisis. But how appropriate, even prophetic they are! And the new video, just released, shot for the song now dedicated to those who were doing #AGoodJob, is just simply amazing. Thank you Alicia Keys. Good Job. Thank God for the inspiration coming deep out of the bowels of slavery, and sent to those who have risked their lives for others.

youtu.be/N63tvQBwSSw. The new video of the fabulous song by @aliciakeys #GoodJob Thank you #AliciaKeys Thank you Lord for this gift to humankind all over the world 🌍 Transcending race, ethnicity, religion and gender. Just simply wonderful

Alicia Keys – Good Job (Lyrics) youtu.be/J_5VC4E__F0 via @YouTube Last night I quoted the famous English poet Shelly : poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world. Tonight as I watched and listened to @aliciakeys on @CNN doing a #GoodJob for the Heroes in NY #Sotrue

In this song @aliciakeys is to #NewYork and #BlackandBrownPeople what #BobMarley is to the world. Just time for great compassionate America to value African Americans who are dying disproportionately in this #COVID19 Pandemic

This week also, I watched two movies about the life of a lesser known International figure, but no less a giant who demonstrated bravery and commitment to the God of all mankind when he joined with other people of conscience, in plotting the downfall of Adolph Hitler. He died a martyr’s death and the memories of his ministry lives on in his many books, Ethics and others, which have deepened the faith and helped many on their journey with the Lord.

All of this made me understand, even ore deeply, that we are, the whole world, in this thing together. Before COVID-19! And will be long after the Virus has gone. So the challenge, especially for people who place their trust in Jesus, Christians, in He who died for the whole wide world…for God so loved the world…I would suggest, is for us to learn to think Globally even as we act Locally in our particular context. For it is only in this fashion, that the great problems of : Climate Change; World Poverty; Pandemics; North South inequities …triggering mass migration rural to urban, and south to north; Institutional Racism; hegemonic ambitions…triggering the strains of of Bob Marley’s ‘war in the east, war in the west, war up north, war down south.

And for the Christian the great challenge of the 10/40 window

http://home.snu.edu/~hculbert/1040.htm

How many in the world have never heard the gospel?

Most of the people groups still very much unreached by the gospel live in places stretching across the maps of northern Africa and Asia. Christian missions strategist Luis Bush started calling this rectangular area or band”the 10/40 window.” He used that easy-to-remember name because it lies across Africa and Asia from 10 degrees latitude north of the equator to 40 degrees latitude north of the equator.

This week also, I was led to write letters to my church. Three of them ( not long) are included in this weekend blog. The first one reflects our need to think and act locally.

The second and third, progressively, reflect the other message of a global concern; surely one of key the take way messages from this terrible pestilence.

FIRST EMAIL

The First Lesson

Acts 2:14a,36-41

Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd, “Let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.”

Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?” Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.” And he testified with many other arguments and exhorted them, saying, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added.

Comment:

The context is not the same, although in a sense it is, for although Jamaica is not “ the entire house of Israel”, it is a people whose grandparents and great-grandparents, for the most part slaves and descendants of slaves, who trusted God and chose Jesus over Barabbas, and now this generation has made Kartel and Spice and Bacchanal and their Political Leaders, more important in their lives than Jesus.

So, therefore, if you, “ with the eleven standing with you”, the called out people of God of this age, had an opportunity to speak to the nation in these COVID-19 times, or any other time, to a people who far too many have chosen Barabbas over Jesus, what would we say? Would we say things which would “ cut to the heart”, or would we gloss over the sins of the nation. A people who don’t even now how to blush! What “ arguments” would we put in the public sphere? Would we “ exhort a nation to save themselves from this corrupt generation”? Would we have the moral authority to do so? Or have we too, despite the external trappings, and even vestments, said to Jesus “ This is a hard teaching, who can accept it”? And turned away in our hearts and private lives, but still maintain in public, a veneer, a form, of godliness, but denying its power

Or on the other hand, having ‘denied Jesus three times’, and having wept bitterly, when Jesus “looked straight at us”, we have not yet responded to the eternal question that Jesus still poses “ Do you love me”….feed my sheep! For feeding the sheep, seeking Ezekiel’s lost, and stray, and vulnerable, and Lukes’ “ the least of those my brethren “, is a good and necessary thing. But Jesus still died for all of these people. And for Spice and Kartel, and “ I was once a good girl but now I loose”, and “ follow de leader”.

Good Friday is not a distant memory. Ask Rev. Kuck, who preached a sermon once on Easter, I remember well and reminded him recently, that “ after Easter we go back to Good Friday”. It, Good Friday, is in fact with us day after day. And who knows, that Good Friday has a message, an existential message in these COVID-19 unusual times. What then is the prophetic Word from the Church at this time?

I believe Bishop Howard had this in mind when at the end of his Easter sermon, which was viewed by some 8.7K people on the church’s Facebook site ( vs Spice and Minister Tufton on Instagram discussing COVID-19 which pulled in 227 K…hmmm), he warned the nation, that dependence on what our leaders said, and what the scientists predicted, cannot be the sole basis on which we can confidently say that “ we will get over COVID-19” one day. But rather depend on the the Power of the Risen Christ to infuse new life into us by His Spirit…in the same way God in the time of Ezekiel “ gave new life to the, ‘ can these bones live’….or words to that effect.

The existential reality though, is that the Spirit of God only comes to those who accept “ the hard teaching”. That in essence calls for repentance and to save oneself from this “ corrupt generation”. Which takes us right back to Peter and his first sermon. The First Reading for next Sunday! So what is our response? Lovely sermon! Or the essence of preaching. I am reminded of John Stott’s assertion in his seminal book “ The Cross of Christ”, at the end, that “ Preaching the Gospel is preaching the Cross.”

The only thing that can save us from this corrupt generation that continues to “ choose Barabbas over Jesus “.

For who knows, that this is the reason why COVID-19 is in the world. For as Oswald Chambers famously said: “ The Holy Spirit is often a Disturber before He is a Comforter”. A sentiment echoed by Rev. Jennings yesterday, I hope you will still find the time to watch, at lest the sermon, when he said, that Jesus often makes us feel badly before he makes us feel good.

In obedience.

Peace.

LWJ

SECOND EMAIL

A verse of Scripture which has “ kept me sane”, in the midst of the madness around me, in recent times, is, “ if you believe you will see the glory of God”. Which was Jesus’ response to Mary, before he raised Lazarus from the dead! This happening while Mary was concerned that her brother had been dead for days, and his body, in her mind, would ‘smell’.

It came to mind, as I ‘happened’ ( on my way to my early morning prayers in my Classic Devotional Bible) up another verse which speaks volumes to the lack of trust in the God who has proved Himself faithful on so many occasions. For us personally, and for this nation! As I had no intention of reading this challenging meditation by God’s evangelist, Missionary, to the China, James Hudson Taylor – perhaps there is a message there too, in this COVID-19 context.

Actually the Classic Devotional Bible assigned another powerful verse to the meditation, but for me this one, in these times, is the more contextually challenging one;

“ Elijah then came near to all the people, and said, “ How long will you go limping with two different opinions? if the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him”. 1 Kings 18:21 NRSV

Clearly this verse presents a challenge for all of us who are terrified of COVID-19. And if we are honest, all of us are, in some way, and at some time, “ filled with fear”. Even as we practice safe hygiene and social distancing! But my mind, and the mediation below validates this view, is on Spice, and others, who on the one hand, sing and behave in the most outrageous manner ( don’t even know how to blush); and then I suppose “ in the national interest”, sing gospel songs during an interview with the Minister, trying to get people to “ tan a yu yard”.

And Spice is but one example of many leaders, and people outside and inside the church ( talk de truth) who try to, ‘go limping along with two different opinions’. Like those who leave church, or don’t bother to come at all, and join the Bacchanal! Like those who have brought our country to it’s knees, in respect of the introduction of gun violence in to this “once fair and peaceful land”, and then at the end of a political speech, exhort God to “ bless Jamaica “!

Like those who, without repentance, in flagrant disobedience to the Living God, commit all kind of perversions and immorality, and then head straight to church. Metaphorically. And who knows, perhaps even literally!

For those of us then, who have been troubled about the state of our nation, and the state of God’s Church, and the state of our own faith, and why COVID-19 “won’t just go away”, I believe this meditation is a Godsend this morning. From deep within the heart of one who trusted in the faithfulness of God, and in faith and in single minded obedience, planted a seed in China, the Christian Church which has now grown into a Mulberry Tree.And is under constant persecution!

THE COURAGE OF OBEDIENCE

James Hudson Taylor ( 1832 – 1905).

Verse: 1Kings 18:24

Want of trust is at the root of almost all our sins and all our weaknesses; and how shall we escape it but by looking at him and observing his faithfulness?

The man who holds God’s faithfulness will not be foolhardy or reckless, but he will be ready for every emergency. The man who holds God’s faithfulness will dare to obey him, however impolitic it may appear. Abraham held God’s faithfulness and offered up Isaac, “ accounting that God was able to raise him…from the dead” ( Hebrews 11.19 KJV).

Moses held God’s faithfulness and led the millions of Israel into the waste, howling wilderness.

“ And what shall I more say? For the same would fail me to tell” of those who, holding, God’s faithfulness, had faith, and by it, “ subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises…and out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens ( 11: 33-34)

Satan, too, has his creed: Doubt God’s faithfulness. “ Hath God said ? Are you not mistaken as to his commands? He could not really mean just that. You take an extreme view, give too literal a meaning to the words “ (O Jesus have mercy on us…my words).

How constantly, and alas, how successfully are such arguments used to prevent wholehearted trust in God, wholehearted consecration to God!

How many estimate difficulties in the light of their own resources,and thus attempt little and often fail in the little they attempt!

All God’s giants have been weak men, who did great things for God because they reckoned on his being with them.

In obedience.

Peace.

Lord renew thy church beginning with me; Lord renew the church that the church may renew the nation(s)…that go limping along with two different opinions.

THIRD EMAIL

The Epistle

1 Peter 1:17-23

…………..Now that you have purified your souls by your obedience to the truth so that you have genuine mutual love, love one another deeply from the heart. You have been born anew, not of perishable but of imperishable seed, through the living and enduring word of God.

Comment: The words at the end of the Epistle for next Sunday struck me most forcibly this morning as read it during my early morning devotions. And the old adage” Absence makes the heart grow fonder ( and the schoolboy mischief in me recalls the response of the cynic “ fonder of someone else”) came to mind. The point is that one of, if not the most important fruits of the Spirit is to have “ genuine mutual, and to love one anoter deeply from the heart”.

I can’t tell you how saitisfying it been for us, and I can speak for the others, as a Fellowship Group, to meet on Zoom. To see each other, to hear about the struggles and fears and joys and all the emotions that COVID-19 brings. And all aspects of life that goes on regardless of the Pandemic. What a Joy. But that is only a small group. How we all miss seeing each other at church. No wonder the joy that emerges each time we have a chance to worship together in the live streaming services; and ‘hail up’ each other on the Facebook comments. I haven’t seen Afeef Lazarus for years, and it was heartwarming to be able to see him joining in the chat on Facebook during the service.

One of the lessons that we surely must take away from this terrible pandemic, is that we must never take for granted again the sharing of Peace with each other on a Sunday morning. The short time we spend greeting each other after service. The hugs. The kisses. The pleasant exchanges. The Joy of Easter worship with a packed church and, being lifted up together by the “ Sound of Music” which greets the Risen Lord. But the ‘mutual love’ we have for one another ought not to end with loving each other. But just start. For ultimately, the love we have for one another, must find expression in how we treat the vulnerable, the Tuesday Charity folks, the chidren in Majestic Gardens, the lonely in St. Clements, the wards of the state in the Girls Home. The stranger, the widow and the orphans in our society, who Jesus loved and died for. Just like you and I.

I miss taking pictures, and posting them on Sunday Camera. And I still get to share some, courtesy of the technology, with my Fellowship Group. But most of all, I miss seing my church family. I miss going to Majesty Gardens. And even the small congregation at St. Clements – we really need to try and find a way to renew that Ministry. But is that the genuine love that we ought to have for each other? Is that the kind of love that Christ showed by ‘washing the feet of His dsiciples’? Is that the kind of love that He showed when He restored Peter, the broken and contrite Peter, to fellowship with Him. Pure grace! Is that the kind of love that ultimately drove Him to Calvary – not just Judas, or Pilate, or the Jews?

What then, or how does Christ’ love look like in COVID-19 times? When not only our country, but the whole wide world is experiencing extreme suffering; and even world hunger is being predicted. People unable to bury their dead. People being re-infected a second and even a third time with the Novel Corona Mystery Virus. Perhaps, just maybe there is a lesson here right in front of us,

For God so loved the world………..

Question then is, do we have a big enough love, or is our love parochial and selective? Do we hunger and thirst for redemption for the Jews, as St. Paul did. Or for the peple of China, over 1.4 Billion of them, as James Hudson Taylor did?

Do we hunger and thirst for the Muslims to accept the Good News that Christ died, and was raised from the dead for them too. And for all peoples of the earth regardless of which “ unknown god”, they serve, and as St. Paul did in Athens, and tell them about the God of all Creation who died for them – their sins – and was raised from the dead. Even if some of them reject you.

Do we hunger and thirst for the great America, and the almost now atheistic England, and France and Spain and Italy, from where Christainity ‘travelled ‘ to the New World? I am reading again, first about the life of William Wilberforce, the great Abolitionist in 18th Century UK, and now his partner ( the relatively unknown) Hannah More, in Eric Metaxas 7 Men, and then the companion book 7 Women. Both of whom had on their hearts, two great things from God Almighty: The Abolition of Slavery and the Reformation of Manners – the abolition of other social ills of that day. And the judgement of at least some historians, is that their actions, working together with many others, “saved England”, from the horrors of the French Revolution.

The point is, our love for humanity, our genuine love for one another must transcend, like Jesus on the Cross, the love of a Parish Church, a Denomination, a Region, a Religion, and embrace the whole wide world. Then and only then, will we be able to truly love one another at St. Andrew Parish Church, as Jesus loved us.

Lord renew thy church beginning with me: Lord renew thy church that the church may renew the worldwide nations.

Peace.

In obedience.

LWJ

The picture above, the Headlines in the Daily Gleaner for today, worth more than a thousand words, tells a tale of a nation, with its Minister of Health, and his team of health professionals, at the forefront, struggling desperately to contain the COVID-19 Virus now ravaging the entire world.

Based on the experience of other countries we were doing reasonably well with the number of positive cases, until this week when, largely on account of a controversial sequence of events in the BPO ( Business Process Outsourcing ) centres, the numbers spiked from just over 70 to now 163

Thus spawning further drastic action, and the inevitable lampooning of the government’s efforts, above, which to be fair, were hitherto, very commendable; attracting kudos from “ foreign’ , including the World Health Organization.

One of the ‘silver linings’ which has emerged during this otherwise ‘ill wind’, is the joined-up approach to fighting this crisis, as shown above with the Minister of Culture and her team, and the Jamaican entertainers, ‘stepping up to the plate’, and raising funds to purchase PPE’s ( protection) for the health care workers and others in the frontline like the police and the army. Add to Minister Grange, the hard working Attorney-General ( a lady who is not for turning ) the redoubtable Minster of Local Government, the affable Minister of Foreign Affairs, with the ‘man-in-charge’, the Prime Minister leading the team. And of course in the center of it all, the very cool under pressure, Minister of Health.

This team approach has been impressive at the many press conferences held to inform the pubic about the latest developments. Makes one wonder, and even dare to hope, if such an approach to dealing with other national crises, like the spiraling out of control homicide rate, and the ( interest declared ) other source of violence death -road crashes, along with other social ills -urgently needed urban renewal – in Kingston from #BullBayto SixMiles – and poverty reduction, couldn’t benefit from such a sense of urgency. Especially if you add members of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition; if they are willing, and the Government wise enough to offer them a role, even temporarily, in order that as a nation we may together, find the will and resources to help us, escape from the moral and social abyss, now being revealed in the glaring light of COVID-19, into which we have fallen. As some of us fear nether God nor COVID-19, and are prepared to carry out their evil deeds regardless of the circumstances. And fleeing one lockdown parish to another, thus helping to spread the Virus, is but one of them:

The Denham Town Police are probing the deaths of three males and the injuring of a woman in two incidents today.

They report that about 2:30 a.m., a team was called to Torrington Park, Kingston 5 after residents heard explosions.

On arrival, a house was reportedly seen ablaze.

Members of the Jamaica Fire Brigade were summoned and the blaze extinguished.

According to the police, the bodies of 30-year-old Romario Raymond and 20-year-old Clifton Grant, both of Torrington Park addresses, were found inside the house and were subsequently removed to the morgue.

Hours later, 16-year-old Dave Tyrell of Drummond Street, Kingston 14 was shot dead and a woman injured by an unknown assailant about 9:45 a.m. on Bond Street.

The police report that Tyrell was standing along the roadway when he was approached by a gunman who opened fire hitting him.

The woman, who was in the vicinity, was shot and injured during the incident.

WHERE DO WE LOCATE GOD IN THE STRUGGLE? AT THE PERIPHERY OR LEADING THE TEAM

For me, however, and I would imagine for many other children of God who are praying without ceasing for the rescue of this nation, long before the advent of COVID-19, despite the Team Approach exhibited by the GOJ in bringing a sense of urgency to the almost existential threat which is COVID-19, insufficient attention has been paid to the Eternal Father, bless our land. Yes, the now almost de rigueur call for Prayer and Prayer Vigils have been made, but Jesus, our Saviour has not been placed, by a desperate nation, at the center of the battle. And this is a war. For anything bug that can kill so many people across the world, and bring the entire world to its knees, in three months, with the potential to make mankind extinct, cannot be something ordinary. But in fact extraordinary! And for that kind of struggle we need supernatural resources.

So what do we do as the “ called out “ people of the Living God. The Creator of Heaven and Earth and al that is within it! The Church mandates to be Salt and Light to a dying world, A Fallen World because of Sin. Which is the genesis ultimately of all that despoils the earth, all that leads to inequity among men, all that spawns homicide and road deaths, all that produces greed and envy and pride and immorality and disobedience to God’s commands to love Him with all our heart, and to love our neighbor as ourselves.

LIFTING UP THE NAME OF JESUS

The first and most important action that the Word of God points us to is to Lift Up the Name of Jesus. For that Name has Power in Itself. The essence of a Message posted on Facebook this week:

FACEBOOK

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in times of trouble. Ps 37:1 #COVID-19 surge. So let us lift up the Name of Jesus, yes hand washing and physical distance and masks, but now more than ever, lift of the Name of Jesus. For at His Name every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. In every circumstance. To the glory of God.

The second, and seemingly simple, but very profound message that I was inspired to write about this week was the effect of Prayer. Which according to the Word of God, “can move mountains”. A message about it was posted on facebook and also sent to my church:

PRAYER TO A SUPERNATURAL GOD

After the “ Great Rumour” about #Lockdown in Kingston yesterday, which resulted in a run on the supermarkets, and untold stress, we need to fill our hearts with prayers, and “ bid the unruly throng “ of fear and panic and selfishness and irresponsibility that attends #COVID-19, ‘depart’. Along with “ a thievish swarm” that we know well. Perhaps! Or, on the other hand, don’t fully appreciate their danger; and for which our Savior died. This wonderful poem by the famous Englishman William Cowper, which touched my heart, again, last night, will help:

THE HOUSE OF PRAYER

Verse: Matthew 21:13

Thy mansion is the Christian’s heart,

O Lord, thy dwelling-place secure!

Bid the unruly thong depart,

And leave the consecrated door.

Devoted as it is to thee,

A thievish swarm frequents the place;

They steal away my joys from me,

And rob the Savior of his praise

There too a sharp designing trade

Sin,Satan, and the world maintain;

Nor cease to press me, and persuade,

To part with ease and purchase pain.

I know them, and hate their din,

Am weary of the bustling crowd,

But while their voice is heard within,

I cannot serve thee as I would. ( this, perhaps the take home message from this wonderful poem)

Oh! for the joy thy presence gives,

What peace shall reign when thou art here! ( Thank you Jesus…and the doors were locked for fear of the Jews, and Jesus came and said “ Peace be with you”).

Thy presence makes this den of thieves,

A calm delightful house of prayer.

And if thou make thy temple shine,

Yet, self-abased, will I adore;

The silver and the gold are not mine,

I give thee what was thine before.

PREACHING THE CROSS

Finally, last night, this: To preach effectively is to preach about the Cross of Calvary and what took place there. Which is in effect the Gospel. The Good news. Otherwise we are seeking popularity with no power to make a difference in this dying COVID-19 stricken world. Despite what may appear to be a form of godliness, but has no power to fight against evil:

PREACHING ABOUT THE CROSS

Stott – According to Galatians 5:11, Paul is being persecuted because he preaches the cross; according to 6:12 the false preachers are avoiding persecution by preaching circumcision instead of the cross. So the alternative for Christian evangelists, pastors and teachers is to preach either circumcision or the cross. To preach circumcision is to preach salvation by the law, that is, by human achievement . Such a message removes the offense of the cross, which is that we cannot earn our salvation; it therefore exempts us from persecution. To ‘preach the cross’ is to preach salvation by God’s grace alone. Such a message is a stumbling block, because it is grievously offensive to human pride. It therefore exposes us to persecution……

There are of course no Judaizers in this world today, preaching the necessity of circumcision. But there are plenty of false teachers, inside as well as outsider the church, who preach the false gospel ( which is not a gospel) of salvation by good works. To preach salvation by good works is to flatter people and so avoid opposition. …….All Christian preachers have to face this issue. Either we preach that human beings are rebels against God, under his just judgment and ( if left to themselves) lost, and that Christ crucified who bore their sin and curse is the only available Saviour. Or we emphasize human potential and human ability, with Christ brought in only to boost them, and with no necessity for the cross except to exhibit God’s love and so inspire us to greater endeavour.

The former way is to be faithful, the latter the way to be popular. It is not possible to be faithful and popular simultaneously. We need to hear again the warning of Jesus: “ Woe to you when all men speak well of you “ ( Luke 6:26).

Some thoughts as we ponder what next after COVID-19. What are the real lessons to be learnt and what is of little account! For the focus of our attention nationally, after COVID-19, ought not be only to assess what went wrong logistically, politically, and socially. But also spiritually! In the sense of what great harm has been occasioned in this country, and to our national development, by false teachers , spewing words that are popular, but have no power to fundamentally change how people love one another; inspired by a deep and abiding love for, and fear of, a God who died for our sins on a Cross. Until then, with the thing now on the loose, and you only get one chance with COVID-19, may this God, who in holy love died “ to bid the unruly throng of Sin, Satan and the world depart’, have mercy on us. And come what may, according to God’s will and purpose, we thank God for those who remain faithful to the cross.

FINAL COMMENT:

The plan of God, is, and always has been, to make men holy. To dwell in us, as His Temple, by the Power of the Holy Spirit ; a gift from the Crucified and Risen Christ to a Fallen and sinful world. The Eternal Life which begins here on earth. So, yes, death from COVID-19 is a terrible thing. Especially for those who die alone, and for the relatives who in many instances are unable to comfort and then to carry out a proper funeral. But it is not the worse thing that can happen to our souls.

The Word of God has a final statement on that matter:

“ Now this is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil”. John 3:19. Not far from John 3:16 – the most well known and loved verse in Holy Scriptures.

We forget, or omit, verse 19 , at our peril. A peril much worse than COVID-19.

Let us then reorganize our Team, place God at the Centre, and use COVID-19 to “ take sleep and mark death”.

New York is not my favorite city. That’s my wife’s city. Not mine. I prefer the peace that Toronto offers, the tranquility, the unhurried pace of the city, the pristine nature of the city.

I also prefer the history and the grandeur of London. But at the end of the day nothing beats Kingston on the rock, and eating fish and festival at Hellshire. Well once upon a time!
But this morning, like the with of the famous song, I am in a New York frame of mind. It was the place I touched down on my first trip on a plane; on Air Jamaica with delicious meals and fashion shows, but now sadly a distant memory. I still recall, however, the lights, the whole place was alive with lights, as we arrived in New York, just after dark. I recall leaving for parties at midnight with my cousins who were night owls, returning home in Brooklyn, at daylight, and then sleeping until mid-afternoon. And the cycle would start all over again.

Recalled also the spontaneous jamming in Central Park, when on passing through one , a gentleman took out his sax and began playing the most wonderful music you could imagine. This in the days of Marvin Gaye singing his then signature tune “ What’s going on”; about sharing love and not engaging in war. Looking back now perhaps a prophetic word, as what’s going on in New York in these COVID-19 times is unimaginable.

I recall also the tours; the Circle Island tour; the Empire State Building; the de rigueur shopping in downtown Manhattan on Fifth Ave; or for those of us who didn’t have deep pockets, Delancey St, was just fine. Those were the early days. Later I would return with my family, driving over from D.C. where my daughter was studying, to visit my Aunt Monica in the Bronx, now gone to glory, and her husband Foggy Burrowes of Kingston College fame, who predeceased her.

Sydney Ignatius (Foggy) and Monica Burrowes

Visiting my brother-in-law who lived there before moving to Florida. And just checking in, as they say in the big apple, with lots of relatives and friends. Walking on Nostrand Ave, or Flatbush Ave, and being reminded of Spanish Town Road or Half-Way-Tree with the open vending on the sidewalk. All kinds of memories. Including my good friend, closer than a brother, and now no longer here, Patrick Virtue, arriving back from the Big Apple one year, and turning up at Champs, bedecked in a green shirt, green pants, and a green Apple Cap, can you remember those, on his head. And the the next day a purple outfit reigned!

The late Patrick Virtue, and still alive , wife Valerie

But now the city that once did not sleep, this city that produced so much music , and so much stuff that would make a sailor blush, in Times Square, is as quiet as a mouse. I gather you can hear the birds chirping now. And the effects of the Corona Virus Pandemic is felt everywhere. My heart pains whenever I watch the news and hear how many New Yorkers and Americans died that day. Now over 10,000 deaths. It’s unreal. Almost surreal. Like you are watching a horror movie and hoping the intermission and the solid reality of Popcorn, will come soon. But the death count keeps rising day by day. What’s going folks? What’s going on in London, in Paris, in Madrid, in Berlin, in Lombardy Italy? What’s going on all over the world?

HOLY WEEK

And then, and it cannot be by coincidence, no way, in the midst of all this pain and grief and unanswered questions, that we awoke, or were awakened, this morning to find ourselves, those of us who had that privilege, as many didn’t in this COVID-19 times, deep into Holy Week.

Friday is here, but Sunday is coming”, is a song we need to sing, as taught and written about by a discerning Baptist Minister yesterday. Can is be then that the central Christian message, that once was heard loud and clear, in the cradle of Christianity, during the Middle Ages, viz., Europe and the UK, and later spread to the New World including the USA, that “ it is not about the invincibility of mankind, but his total dependence of Almighty God for mercy”, which matters. Or as the one who wrote the famous words from Rock of Ages recommends in more desperate language:

Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to your Cross I cling;
Naked, come to you for dress;
Helpless, look to you for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly;
Wash me, Saviour, or I die

This is the message from Good Friday which we all, across the entire world, whether we are Muslim or Jew, Buddist or Hindu, New Age or Mormon, Atheist or one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, need to consider. That all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. And that the wages of Sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus.

To the extent that many persons across the globe reject this message, then this same Crucified and Risen Christ has become “ a stumbling block’ , over which many have tripped and fallen. Fallen, like the Fallen World, which according to the Word of God, is the cause of all the grief and pain which haunt our existence on this globe; all because of Sin. The Sin of Adam which resulted in the intrusion of imperfection into a perfect and very good world, created by a loving God. And so according to the Word of God, Hurricanes, Earthquakes and Pestilence or Plagues like COVID-19, all of which has caused so much devastation over the centuries and loss of life, all have their genesis in the Sin of Adam, which led to a Fallen World. And which Fall can only be restored by the Blood of the Lamb of God, Christ and Him Crucified and Risen.

My wife and I listened carefully to a searching CNN anchor Anderson Cooper, one night this week at a Virtual Town Hall meeting, as he posed the now familiar and expected and existential question to Saddleback Church leader Pastor Rick Warren, “ where was God is all of this COVID-19 devastation of the USA?
And my wife it was who reacted first to his answer. She was unhappy with the superficial response; that God was there in the midst with those who were helping to comfort the dying and sick. Close but not the whole truth.

For the truth is that God has been appealing to mankind to turn to Him and find peace in Him, and Him alone in this Fallen World. Reconciling sinful mankind to himself in Christ Crucified. The central message from Good Friday. That we live in a broken world on account of Sin, and so evil and death reign all over the world. And so stuff will happen. And worst may come our way in the future. Prompting us to repeat Marvin Gaye’s existential question, “ What’s going on”. Or to employ the New York vernacular, “ What’s going down’!
Now a life in Christ does not guarantee that we will not get sick and die from Cancer. Or COVID-19! Or not perish in an earthquake, or by the sword, or by fire as many Christians did during the days of persecution in the early days in the Roman Empire. And which ‘flames of persecutions”, in more sophisticated forms, threatened Christian objectors to being a part of the same sex marriage development. Right there in the USA !

But what this new and ending life, starting right here on earth, and announced on Easter Sunday, after being offered in the Gift that is Good Friday, is peace with God in the midst of the storms of life. Knowing confidently that “ neither death nor life, …..nor anything in this world, not COVID-19, not HIV/AIDS, not cancer, not unbelief let loose on social media, and in the movies and in the present day music and culture, can separate us fo the love of God in Christ Jesus. For in Christ we have an inheritance set apart for us in heaven, that can neither perish nor fade ( 1 Peter 1). And therefore this world with all its pain and grief and contradictions and conniving and injustice and murder, and murder most foul, is not our home. But we live here for a time and do our best, with the help of the Holy Spirit to spread abroad the love of God, so that, somehow, men and women may come to know Christ, repent, be baptized and be assured of eternal life.

So I return in closing to my New York frame of mind. What’s the best thing that New Yorkers can do to rise again from the COVID-19 nightmare? A question not for just New York but for London, for Madrid, for Lombardy, and for right here in Kingston Jamaica.
More ventilators! More social or physical distancing! Better health care facilities and equipment for frontline workers! Health Insurance for all? More testing! Better planning in the future. Better leadership! Perhaps all of the above!

But for all who are aware of Good Friday and the death of Jesus on an old wooden cross some two thousand years ago, for the Christians in New York and other cities, people who are “called out “, by God to be “ salt and light “ in the nations and in communities, this Prayer for Obedience might start to light a fire. And who knows, may result in helping the world to understand their need for Jesus in all times. Whether in good times in Central Park or in COVID-19 times in the heart of the Bronx, where so many African-Americans, poor and vulnerable are dying. Alone!

A PERSONAL PRAYER FOR OBEDIENCE
JOHN BAILLIE

Verse : Judges 2.17 “ Yet they did not listen, even to their judges; for they listed after other gods and bowed down to them. They soon turned aside from the way in which their ancestors had walked, who had obeyed the commandments of the Lord, they did not follow their example.

Holy God, to whose service I long ago dedicated my soul and my life. I grieve and lament before thee that I am still so prone to sin and so little inclined to obedience:

So much attached to the pleasures of sense and, so negligent of things spiritual ( Netflix and what it entails, is a potential dangerous ally of the devil in this regard):

So prompt to gratify my body, so slow to nourish my soul ( do not do what they do, not fear what they fear, says the Lord God of Israel):

So greedy for present delight, so indifferent to lasting blessedness ( the essential, and existential too, challenge of the cross to this post Christian generation):

So fond of idleness, so indisposed for labor ( increasingly a challenge for all societies in this age where we try to keep the Christian ethic but jettison overboard the Christian teachings. Impossible!):

So soon at play, so late at prayer ( O Jesus have mercy):

So brisk in the service to self, so slack in the service of others ( COVID- 19 is about to change all of that, as we are all in this thing together, whether we like it or not, we had better start thinking about the health of our brothers and sister in Rema and Jungle):

So eager to get, so reluctant to give :

So lofty in my profession, so slow in my practice:

So full of good intentions, so backward to fulfill them:

So severe with my neighbors, so indulgent with myself ( all of us have this Virus):

So eager to find fault, so resentful of being found fault with ( one for both husbands and wives, and as a man, perhaps……I’d better not say it as my wife reads these messages too…especially in these quarantine times) :

So little able for great tasks, so discontented with small ones:

So weak in adversity, so swollen and self-satisfied in in prosperity :

So helpless apart from thee, and yet so little willing to be bound to thee ( part of the narrative of the Good Friday story):

O merciful heart of God, grant me yet again thy forgiveness.
hear my sorrowful tale and in thy great mercy not it out from the book of thy remembrance. Give me faith so to lay hold of thine own holiness and so to rejoice in the righteousness of Christ my Savior that, resting on his merits rather than on my own, I may more and more become conformed to his likeness, my will becoming one with his in obedience to thine. All this I ask for his holy name’s sake. Amen

New York Governor: Cuomo

The devastation, in terms of loss of human lives – shared above in the link to the video, showng the inevitable reality that the poor have been hit the hardests – and in terms of the dramatic and profound change in the quality of human life, that the COVID-19 Virus has caused in cities like New York, and countries like Italy and France and Spain is unparalleled in recent history. For to lose your loved ones, and to have them in hospital is one thing, and under normal circumstances both of those are inevitably part of human existence, but to be denied the opportuity to comfort and care for them, and to have a proper funeral, no doubt has left deep emotional scars, and a void which will be forever difficult to overcome. Life as we once knew it, going to bed and waking up next morning with nary a thought in the world about this kind of drama, will never be the same again. This kind of cataclysmic shift in life which poses almost an existential threat to mankind is no ordinary matter. And how mankind responds to this, and seemingly inevitably given the progression of the Virus from animals to humans, any such future challenge, will be to put it midly, very interesting.

But there is another event, unparalled in human existence, whether recent or historical, which the greek word hapax, once and for all, captures very accurately. A event of existential importance, far more than COVD-19, celebrated by Christians – like the Virus, now spread all over the world and over 2 Billion strong – during Passion Week which begins tomorrow on Palm Sunday. And at the end of the week, Good Friday and then glorious Easter, mark the celebration of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the World. Events which, unlike the planned celebration of the release from prison, having been locked up for the past six years on a charge of murder, of the world famous dancehall artiste, and known amng his fans as the, “ “world boss” , Vibz Kartel, “ there is no shadow of turning” with them. As they change not, regardless of the opposition to them by unbelievers and those opposed to the central Truth of Christianity that, “ (Jesus) Christ has died, Christ is Risen, Christ will come again”.

So what else ocupied my mind his week, apart from news about COVID-19 and to a far lesser extent, Kartel and his failed appeal ; “ massive news “ to quote popular Talk show host Emily Shields, as she broke the news dramatically, in real time, on Hotiline on RJR-FM 94 in Jamaica yesterday. For many years now, I have had the privilege of being inspired to write to my church during the week on matters that the Lord present befor em for my attention. And one of the things I had to ponder on this week, was the reality, as observed by the famous theologian and prolific writer the late Rev. John Stott, is that “ the Holy Spirit is often a disturber, before He is a Comforter. An observation by one who deveoted his life to God and was inspired to share God’s Word all over the world, adn who work continues in the Langham Ministry, that perhaps ought to the take home message from the events occasioned by the COVID-19 Virus. For clearly this existental threat to mankind cannot have happened without the “permission “, and I put it no higher than that, of a God who is Sovereign over the affairs of the world which He created. So why is the world being disturbed by the Holy Spirit?

I would suggest that the emails to my church and posts on Facebook offer a glimpse, not the whole story by any means, but just a glimpse. I would suggest also that as we read these thoughts inspired by the Lord, that we see a journey towards Good Friday and Easter clearly marked out for us and not just a series of unrelated emails and facebook posts. A journey that disturbs our souls, or ought to, and then provides comfort by the Only One who can – The Crucified and Risen Christ. Which is the central message from the Lord, yesterday – in past crises, today – in the present crisis, and forever – in all future crises, and crises will happen again and again in human life. The good news is that in all things, those who trust in the Crucified and Risen Christ, are “ shielded by the power of God” (1 Peter 1:5 which kept me safe last night) whether in COVID-19 Life or in Death. Praise God.

(re) Convicted Murderer Vibz Kartel
Easter – a depiction

Comment : Remember “ He is disturber before He is comforter” as we journey with the Lord through last night and early this morning, in Lent and in COVID-19. A prophetic word in these #COVID-19 times. Now reading John Stott’s “ The Message of the Sermon on the Mount”……The Holy Spirit is the disturber before he is the comforter. This after watching Karl Henlin sermon last night on the same subject “ Kingdom Living”.

THE FIRST EMAIL – MONDAY MORNING

At 36 COVID-19, cases and five in one day, we may be starting a surge, pray God that we are not, but hang on tight to Him as this might be a rough ride ahead.
In the midst of this, Lent continues, and so last night, I was led to read another of John Stott’s books: The Message of The Sermon on the Mount. Long story how I got there, didn’t even remember that I had the book, but here we are.
So having started last night, I was inspired to post these messages on Facebook:

Stott contd …far too often what they ( the young people searching peace, meaning and love) see in the church is not counter-culture but conformism, not a new society which embodies their ideals but another version of the old society which they have renounced, not life but death ….You have the name of being alive, and you are dead -Jesus. Lord have mercy on us. #Renewal

Comment: The background to this is the observation by Stott, after the horrors of World War 11 in Europe, how people, and in particular, your people began searching for peace and love and real meaning in life – counter culture. After the having suffered much disillusionment after the War, with the philosophers and influencers of that age who promoted the age of science, the essential goodness of man liberated from ignorance and the turning away from religion – the post Christian age.

No comment could be more hurtful to the Christian than the words “ But you are no different from anyone else”……John Stott. Is this a disturbing feature of these #COVID-19 times? In that are we just as fearful as others, and hopefully not as disobedient to the directive to practice safe physical, not social, nor worse spiritual, distancing.

Comment: Are we at St. Andrew Parish Church a standout Church demonstrating and witnessing to the goodness of God and His grace and mercy which flow through Christ and Him Crucified and Risen? Or are we “ no different”, in our impact on the society, from those who walk past our church day after without even stopping to pray for a while.

Stott – ..”they ( the called out people of God) mingled with nations and learnt to do as they did”…they demanded a king to govern them “ like all other nations”…essential background knowledge to the Sermon on the Mount ..portrays the repentance ( metanoia the complete change of mind) and the righteousness that belongs to the kingdom…describes what human life and community looks like when they come under the rule of God. Different!

Comment: Is this the case with the church in general in Jamaica and perhaps we too are guilty in our local church?

Stott Sermon on The Mount cont’d: A Christian’s relationships. Matthew 7: 1-20. “ …Thus we are not to judge our brother but to serve him ( 1-5). We are to avoid offering the gospel to those who have decisively rejected it (6), to keep praying to our Heavenly Father (7-12) and to beware of false prophets who hinder people from finding the narrow gate and the hard way (13-20)

Comment: This one stayed with me, since I write a lot on Facebook, basically encouraging the faithful, teaching non Christians about the love of God in Christ Jesus – many of them are rooted on OT theology about the – in their view – prominence of the wrath of God, and to repent and commit to Christ. And a few, and their followers, have flatly and repeatedly rejected the gospel and verbally abused those of us who try.

Been thinking! Why The Sermon on the Mount in these #COVID-19 times. “ Blessed are the poor in spirit for they shall inherit the kingdom of God”. Stott gives a clue : to be “poor in spirit” is to acknowledge our
spiritual poverty before God. “ Nothing in my hand I bring, Simply to the Cross I cling”. Is this crisis an opportunity, a reminder even, to really appreciate that we cannot manage but for the grace of God. Only God knows!

Comment: Before I went to bed last night I prayed about the reality of, and asked the Lord to reinforce it in my mind and to help those close to me to come to understand this fundamental truth about the Christian Life:

“ Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to your cross I cling….and it continues as most of us well know:
Naked, come to thee for dress;
Helpless, look to thee for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly;
Wash me, Saviour, or I die…….from Rock of Ages.

Then two more messages came early this morning:

THE WORD OF GOD

““To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.””
‭‭Revelation‬ ‭3:14-22‬ ‭NIV‬‬
https://www.bible.com/111/rev.3.14-22.niv

Comment : I don’t think in view of John Stott’s introductory comments on the The Sermon on the Mount, and his explanation of the first Beatitude that I need to make any comments. What we need to do is heed the Word of the Crucified One, worship Him, and repent of our lukewarm attitude to the One who died for us on Calvary. For what COVID-19 ought to teach us, is that Jesus, in the midst of our lukewarm state, stands knocking at the door of our lives, and is the only One who is the Rock, that when the storms come – the last section of Matthews’s account and Luke’s also, of the Sermon – the solid Rock, that can withstand the storms of life. Lest we have forgotten in our ‘ mingling with the culture of the day”. For we are guilty of having “ mingled”. All of us. “ Do not fear what they fear”. “Do not do what they do!”. I won’t even begin to chronicle how we have mingled, and gotten mixed up, not keeping our “ spiritual distance”, from the culture of this #unruly age”. May God have mercy on our souls.

THE WORD OF GOD

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort. We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received 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 a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by 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 ‭1:3-11‬ ‭NIV‬‬
https://www.bible.com/111/2co.1.3-11.n
iv

COMMENT : Recall that I made mention of “ He ( The Holy Spirit ) is a disturber before He is a Comforter. So now that all of us have been disturbed by Words of Holy Scripture – and I hope we have, otherwise the evil pride of the Pharisees who thought they were rich, so rich in merit that they thanked God for their attainment …John Stott…has overtaken us – we find Comfort in these words.

  1. That God comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others.
  2. Suffering in Christ and comfort from Christ are equal parts of the journey with Him.
  3. It is God who “ raises the dead”, who does, and will do, all the rescuing – not in and by itself, although God uses then all, more ventilators, more testing, more sanitizing, and more containment measures – from this COVID-19 Virus ; and Murder and Injustice and Immorality. So we must not rely on our own efforts alone, nor listen to our fears and imaginations. Be careful yes, but realize that ultimately our Hope is in God. The One who alone “ raises the dead”.
  4. Then many will give thank for God’s mercy and grace granted to us in answer to the prayers of many. And so our prayers for others, and the prayers of others for us, are to be deeply appreciated and done without ceasing. As they do avail much!

In obedience.
Lord renew thy church in and through these perilous times with your Word, and with your Living Word, even Christ Jesus. The Crucified and Risen One! And Lord we look forward to the Blessed Easter, with the Hope of your unfailing love and mercy. In the Name of Jesus we pray. Amen.
O Glory!

To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
Be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever! Amen.
From early this morning. Words on the next page from the message of Jesus to the church at Laodicea.

Peace.
LWJ

Interestingly, that was the only email sent to my church this week. The others, far shorter, were the additonal – to those in the first email – ones posted on FaceBook.

MONDAY NIGHT

Those who mourn – John Stott: This is the second stage of spiritual blessing. it is one thing to be spiritually poor….; it is another thing to grieve and mourn over it….Confession is one thing contrition is another…..Was Crammer exaggerating when in his 1662 Holy Communion service he said : “ We acknowledge and bewail over manifold sins and wickedness.”…or Paul, “ Wretched man that am I ! Who will deliver me from this body of death

WEDNESDAY NIGHT

Jesus said to him, “Truly I tell you, this very night, before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.” Peter said to him, “Even though I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And so said all the disciples. #PsalmSundayReading Are you a backslider? Have you ever “denied Jesus”? We are in good company. All the disciples did. But they were all restored to grace by a God of mercy. Passion Week is a good time to reflect on the mercy of God. And #Repent

WEDNESDAY NIGHT

Then he came to the disciples and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, “So, could you not stay awake with me one hour? Stay awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Are you depending on your ‘your faith’ to keep you safe in this time of #COVID-19 trial! If so you are going to fall asleep -lose focus and panic. Keep your eyes on Jesus. #WalkintheSpirit #PassionWeek

WEDNESDAY NIGHT

Then Jesus cried again with a loud voice and breathed his last. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised. After his resurrection they came out of the tombs and entered the holy city and appeared to many. Now when the centurion and those with him, who were keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were terrified and said, “Truly this man was God’s Son!”#PalmSundayReading. The Roman soldiers, non-believers, were convinced, at last, that Jesus was truly the Son of God. What say you in this age, as we approach #PassionWeek in this #COVID-19 times #Resurrection

THURSDAY NIGHT

I am told that the cynics are asking, “ Why has God not responded to the many prayers going up about COVID-19”? Last night Stott con’d, The Sermon on the Mount: The Peacemakers – the peace of God is not peace at any price. He made peace with us at immense cost, even the price of the life-blood of his only Son. To proclaim ‘Peace, peace’ when there is no peace, is the work of the false prophet, not the Christian witness.

FRIDAY MORNING

Funny old world isn’t it, how times have changed. So dramatically! For in times like these, when you truly need a Savior, when the ordinary human being just needs help, and protection from the ravages of #COVID-19, but “ the stone the builders rejected has become the capstone”.

In the sense that, all of a sudden, “don’t”, there is no longer any talk of “ same sex marriage”, or “ pro choice “, or persecuting Christians who talk about Sin, only “help me please” – ventilators, social distancing, more testing, and “mercy God, mercy”.
And the God of mercy, thank God for Jesus, who makes the rain to fall on the just and the unjust, is still sending His angels in the form of health workers, whether Christian or not, we need to ponder on that reality for a moment, willing to sacrifice self, in order to help others. In New York. In Italy. In Jamaica.

Sadly, we know that, right after this epidemic has passed, the narrative will again shift, and the God of grace will no longer be needed, so they think, and this funny old world will go right back to rejecting the stone “ that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall”.
O may God have mercy on our wretched souls! And thank God that He has, as we approach Good Friday and the Blessed Easter in times like these when we truly need a Savior. The God man whose blood washes away our sins, and whose resurrection offers the gift of, “ If any man is in Christ he is a new creation”. The old has truly passed, our wretched souls so accustomed to rejecting and being disobedient to our Savior. And behold, all things are being made new. A second chance. O Jesus, a second chance in life.

For in the midst of COVID-19, we can still hear, if we listen carefully, and stop watching CNN and all the videos circulating for just a while, “ Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling, calling for you and for me……why should you linger when Jesus is calling, come home, come home, all ye who are weary come home”. The question is in this COVID-19 very stressful times, is “ are you weary”, or are you confident of “ beating COVID-19”, and getting back to the same funny old world. Until…?
In obedience.

earlymorningdevotions

Missed this last night. But not tonight. Nor should you. The key to the Christian Life as we approach Passion Week; Jesus Christ and Him Crucified. And Raised from the dead.

OSWALD CHAMBERS
APRIL 2

The Glory That’s Unsurpassed

…the Lord Jesus…has sent me that you may receive your sight…
ACTS 9:17
When Paul received his sight, he also received spiritual insight into the Person of Jesus Christ. His entire life and preaching from that point on were totally consumed with nothing but Jesus Christ— “For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). Paul never again allowed anything to attract and hold the attention of his mind and soul except the face of Jesus Christ.

We must learn to maintain a strong degree of character in our lives, even to the level that has been revealed in our vision of Jesus Christ.

The lasting characteristic of a spiritual man is the ability to understand correctly the meaning of the Lord Jesus Christ in his life, and the ability to explain the purposes of God to others. The overruling passion of his life is Jesus Christ. Whenever you see this quality in a person, you get the feeling that he is truly a man after God’s own heart (see Acts 13:22).

Never allow anything to divert you from your insight into Jesus Christ. It is the true test of whether you are spiritual or not. To be unspiritual means that other things have a growing fascination for you.

Since mine eyes have looked on Jesus,
I’ve lost sight of all beside,
So enchained my spirit’s vision
Gazing on the crucified

A photo has been shared thousands of times in multiple Facebook posts alongside the claim that it shows Italy’s prime minister crying over the toll of the novel coronavirus epidemic. The claim is false; the photo shows Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro getting emotional during a Thanksgiving speech.
“Italian prime minister cry as he tell the press, we are overwhelmed with the coronavirus,” reads text accompanying a photo that has been shared more than 6,100 times since it was posted here on Facebook on March 22, 2020.

This fake news caught me this week. Until I went to google to include it in the story for this week. I was so impressed by this leader’s piety in the face of the onslaught of COVID-19 in is country. While this story as posted on Social Media, a double edged sword, is fake news, what is real is that things are bad, and getting worse, not just in Italy, but worldwide.

Jamaicans, just last night were told that we have four more cases of COVID-19 infections. While in America, the cases have surged so much, that, that country now has the most cases in the entire world. More than China and more than Italy!
And the short video below, real this time, tells the story of what is happening to people all over the world. They are crying inside and are absolutely terrified.

These are unprecedented times indeed for all of us who never experienced the horrors of World War 11. Or when poliomyelitis ravaged our our country. Yes SARS was frightening, and MERS too, but nothing like COVID-19. Not even close. And with the warning from the PM that Jamaica would be “locked down” if tings get considerably worse, there could be very unusual times ahead to put it mildly.
So what is to be done? Who will come to our aid at this time? Will a vaccine be made available son? Is there some wonder drug soon to be to be revealed, or is it here already but we are not willing to accept it? Or is this really the end of times? What is real and what is fake news?
This week, in my journey with the Lord, at least one of those questions were answered. And who knows, if we understand the central story of the Bible we might experience the kind complete healing which the world desperately needs now. My story is revealed in these letters to my church this week:

MONDAY
Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and varied ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son….Hebrews 1:1-2
A conversation which began yesterday. And continued
on the way to work this morning.

Focus on what Jesus is saying in these times and not so much on Old Testament prophecy. And in Him you will find peace in this COVID-19 times.

“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.”
John 16:33 NIV
‪https://john.bible/john-16-33‬

What things?  John 13 – 16. The Last Supper to the High Priestly Prayer which is John 17.
Spend quality time reading about these things that lead us to be  ” in Christ”,  and therefore find peace in these times. Whether over or under age 75. All can find this peace which Jesus offers. Instead of fear, and panic, and uncertainty.
Leave Netflix and general TV and the urge to respond to every WhatsApp message, for another time. Even later.
“ Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me”. John 14:1
In obedience.
Lord renew thy church beginning  with me; Lord renew the church that the church may renew the nation(s)….the whole world.
LWJ

COMMENT

A plea for us to focus on what God is saying to us in and though Jesus Christ in these times, rather than focus too much, although useful background knowledge, on what God of revealed of Himself – for more and better particulars were to come in Jesus – through Moses and Isaiah and Jeremiah and Elijah at that time in history.

TUESDAY

The conversation – about the OT and the NT – continued early this morning. Why “ There is, on the one hand, an abrogation of an earlier  commandment because it  was weak and ineffectual ( for the law made nothing perfect); there is on the other hand, the introduction of a better hope, through which we can approach God.” Hebrews 7;18-19 NRSV.

So the only way to really rescue this nation from evil, whether it be #COVID-19, or murder, or immorality or….is to depend on “ this better hope, though which we approach God”. 

For if truth be told, too many in the wider church community are “ an Old Testament “ believing people. And have influenced those who are not church people,  but in a sense “ have a form of godliness”, while denying the power of Christ, calling on “ Father God”, or even mimicking the Christians, calling on  “ the blood of  Jesus Christ”. And therefore the nation has become a judgmental people, and too often lacking in mercy. As well as a disobedience and  unruly people.

And if truth be told, many of us, including myself, have in some way been influenced by this kind of doctrine. The Seventh Day Adventists have taken it to another level, for they have made this Old Testament theology, almost an entry point to Christ, rather than appreciating the the gift that it is – the first and early revelation of God – now being superseded ( for the earlier commandment was weak and ineffectual)  by “ a better hope, Jesus Christ and Him Crucified and Raised from the dead, and ascended to the right hand of God, through whom, and Him only, we approach God.  “ I am the way the truth and the life; no one cometh to the Father except through me”.

And this is not “  De Cordova Adams type semantics”, as the power of prayer is the most potent weapon we have to fight against evil at anytime in the Christian journey…it availeth much. And Christ Himself said that ‘ if you abide in me, and my word abide in you, then you shall ask what you will, and it shall be given unto you”. John 15:7

And to approach a holy God,  and confidently ask for mercy for this nation, and for ourselves, we need to abide in Christ. And His Word!
‘It is the spirit that  gives life,; the flesh is useless ( counts for nothing). These words I have spoken to you are spirit and are life”.  John 6;63 NRSV.
The challenge for us is that the Holy Spirit, which Christ promised to send to us, to “ guide us into all truth’, will not abide in a heart set on disobedience to God’s Word – which is spirit and life – and continue to be led by the flesh – which counts for nothing. Useless! In time of trouble.

This is where the Old Testament experience can help us as we recall Joshua “ Chose ye whom you shall serve today…as for me and my house, we shall serve the Lord”. In that sense the eternal struggle, of the early church, the children of Israel, and now the body of Christ, is to understand that, as Joshua warned, they having said “ yes” we will serve the Lord, that without help we cannot indeed obey God.
Thank God for Jesus, and Him Crucified and raised from the dead, with mighty power, that, that help, to serve God, and to approach Him, with confidence in times of trouble, and Corona is serious trouble, is with us, and in us, in Christ Jesus. 
And to access that help, the door is opened by repentance; “ a broken and contrite heart you will not despise’. Psalm 51. Which is why Lent, which by the way, we are still observing, despite the frenzy about hand washing and physical ( not social) distancing, is divinely appointed. 

“ In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries, to the one who able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.’ Hebrews 5: 7 NSRV

Therefore this is not the  time for occasional and standard prayers, “ languid prayers and dim faith ….And now O Father mindful of thy love…second verse”, if there ever was such a time, but for bawling out before God for mercy. 
“ For lo! Between our sins and their reward we set the passion of our Lord.

May God hear and have mercy on our nation!
Lord renew thy church beginning with me, and all of us; Lord renew the church that the church may renew the nation(s). Now and after Corona Virus.
Peace,  and in obedience, for flesh and blood, nor my own imaginations,  have not taught me these things.
LWJ

COMMENT

I have many Seventh Day Adventist patients, and friends, lots of then both patient and friend after many years of journeying together in Christ. And I love them dearly and know that they love the Lord Jesus Christ with all their heart. But at some time, and sooner than later, I would suggest that they follow the advice of Elijah, and “ cease limping along with two opinions”. For the struggle to restore the soul of this nation, and not just to fight against COVID-19, will require that all Christians acknowledge the “ better hope “ Who is Christ, and though Him, and Him alone, and not through the keeping of the Ten Commandments – which neither we nor the SDA can keep – we can approach God and ask for mercy for this country. An attempt to merge the two can’t work.
The same, or even greater, challenge applies to those who promote the “ prosperity gospel’, which is no gospel at all. For to look to God for “ blessings “ as if He is a celestial ATM, and not be prepared to suffer with Christ, undergo trials, and even persecutions, and to “ rebuke Diabetes, or any other malady, in the name of Jesus” , is to fashion a new gospel. And one which has no power to rescue this country. Finally in this context, and by far the wore ‘sin’ of all, misunderstanding the essence of the gospel story, the better Hope in Christ Crucified and Risen, is one thing, but it is a horse of an entirely color to be persistently and unrepentantly disobedient to the Word of God. Which is the case of far too many who “ take Holy Communion every Sunday”, and who know, the correct Theology of the Truth about Christ.

WEDNESDAY

The conversation about OT and the New Covenant -which began on Sunday – continued again this morning. With an additional context!
I don’t know how many of you listened to Beyond the Headlines with Dionne jackson-Miller about ‪6:30‬ last evening, but she interviewed someone from a new ‘church’. And the essence of their suggestion, and which irked DJM in this time of COVID-19 when people are being laid off, was that, God is calling on people to sow a seed offering to ‘appease’…my word… Him to end the epidemic. She called them scammers. But I don’t believe they are diabolical, as their spokesperson is someone I know, but they are seriously mistaken. And she, the spokeswoman,  quoted a passage from Ezra to validate her arguments. But DJM was having none of it and dismissed her summarily. 

So early this morning the Lord led me to read  a familiar passage, but one which I had never really understood the depth of the meaning. I had some idea, as many, very many, of my patients are Adventists, so I had thought about them whenever I read the passage. But not like this. For to be led to read it now, in the context of the COVID-19 Virus, cannot be just a coincidence. 

“But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life. And who is equal to such a task? Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, as those sent from God.”
‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭‪2:14-17‬‬ ‭NIV‬‬
‪https://www.bible.com/111/2co.2.14-17.niv‬

“Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, like some people, letters of recommendation to you or from you? You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.”
‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭3:1-3‬ ‭NIV‬‬
‪https://www.bible.com/111/2co.3.1-3.niv‬

Not written on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts – really grabbed my attention. Question is how many of us understand that we are “ a letter from Christ”, as a result of the ministry of the Apostles, not just Paul. Which leads us back to Jesus’ High Prayer in John 17:

““My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”
‭‭John‬ ‭‪17:20-21‬‬ ‭NIV‬‬
‪https://www.bible.com/111/jhn.17.20-21.niv‬

Therefore our growth and development in Christ, is not something that started with the Apostles, nor I did it depend on our teachers and preachers, but comes from the very heart of God. Who in Christ Jesus prayed that we may not only believe in His Son, but maybe one, with each other, in the same way that Jesus was one with the Father. O Jesus have mercy on our souls! 
And may be one with each other, so that ( read John 17 again), praise God:

“that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”
‭‭John‬ ‭‪17:21-23‬‬ ‭NIV‬‬
‪https://www.bible.com/111/jhn.17.21-23.niv‬

What does this mean? What is says! That Evangelism will not succeed, unless with are one with each other. That this #Popcaanunrulynation will not be rescued from Murder and Strife and Corruption and false doctrine unless, not just us at STAPC, but we can begin there, are one with each other. For unlike the movie, or song “ Every Nigger is a Star”, the body of Christ has no Lone Rangers. For even John Wesley had a serious support base in his mother, and I am sure many others praying for him. Night and day!

Back to the letter to the Corinthians :

“Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, transitory though it was, will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? If the ministry that brought condemnation was glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness! 

For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory. And if what was transitory came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts! Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to prevent the Israelites from seeing the end of what was passing away. But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”
‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭3:7-18‬ ‭NIV‬‬
‪https://www.bible.com/111/2co.3.7-18.niv‬

What struck me, in addition to the revelations about that which accompanies the “ ministry of the Spirit” in Christ Jesus, is that “ since we have such a hope, we are very bold”. And if ever there was a time to bold in our ministry it is now in these COVID-19 times. Praise God.

One more thing before I close. My mind ran not on the Adventists alone,  but on the Jews, the forerunners of the present Church.  They who are still awaiting the Messiah, and locked in OT Theology, and still therefore have their minds covered by a veil. And to Romans chapters 9-11.
I was led to read Romans 9. And found this:

“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! Amen. It is not as though God’s word had failed. 

For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham’s children. On the contrary, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” In other words, it is not the children by physical descent who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring. For this was how the promise was stated: “At the appointed time I will return, and Sarah will have a son.” Not only that, but Rebekah’s children were conceived at the same time by our father Isaac. Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that God’s purpose in election might stand: not by works but by him who calls—she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” 

What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.”
‭‭Romans‬ ‭9:1-16‬ ‭NIV‬‬
‪https://www.bible.com/111/rom.9.1-16.niv‬

So two things came to me from this passage. That we must never forget to pray for the salvation of the Jews. And that our mercy, our rescue from COVID-19, does not depend on human effort, to sow a seed or not, but on God’s mercy. So let us pray without ceasing for God’s mercy, with boldness. But we ought not to expect any mercy , although He may still be gracious,  who knows the mind of God, if we continue to ignore His Word, at best, and at worse, if we are disobedient without shame and without repentance.

Peace.
In obedience 

Lord renew thy church, beginning  with me, that we may be one; Lord renew the church that the church may renew the nation(s) – and rescue us from error.
LWJ

Sent from my iPad

COMMENT

Beware of “ Greeks who come bringing gifts” of salvation by “silver and gold”, at this time. Or any time. Scammers or mistaken. God will judge. But let us be in our guard against magic. And trust in the God who died for us on Calvary. So that ultimately we may become one with Him in Christ Jesus. His plan also for the forerunner of the church in this present age – the children of Israel. Please remember them in your prayers.

YESTERDAY

This morning the Lord woke me up at exactly 4:am to “ listen to Him”.
But before that,  yesterday this Word came to mind, and I posted the following messages on Facebook,  and sent the original one, about Elijah, to some of my patients on a WhatsApp group.

Elijah went before the people and said, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.” But the people said nothing.

Despite the good things that Elijah and Isaiah and Ezekiel and others spoke when they heard from God, in this age the Lord says: ” Listen to him”. Jesus Crucified and Risen. “

Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. Let us listen to Him in this #COVID19 times. And not our own imaginations.

For if truth be told, going to work in this COVID-19 times has been very stressful. For many reasons. Within and without out!  So I have been crying out to God for mercy. Not for me alone but for the entire Jamaica. Even yesterday, I went to church and the door was locked. And O Jesus what a disappointment, but I stood outside the door and prayed with all my heart. And left in peace!.

But a more important truth,  is that following a conversation with a dear Christian sister on Sunday, about which I have been reporting, the Lord has taught me the importance of “ Listening to his Son Jesus “,  whenever I read the Bible, and it has has made a profound difference in my understanding of Holy Scriptures. Especially in these times. For now, even when I open the Bible randomly, as I did last night, and arrived at Psalm 107, a wonderful Psalm, I was “ listening to what Jesus was saying”. And so a reading of this Psalm led me to the well known passage about faith: Hebrews 11. 

O blessed Jesus, and O what a revelation it was to read this account of the faith of the “ ancients”, in COVID-19 times. And  a blessed assurance of God’s everlasting and unchanging love and mercy. So now, this morning come what may, and good things await those who trust God, not evil, my heart is light and my soul is at peace. And even if fear were to return, as Satan is always like a roaring lion, the words of a wonderful meditation in my Classics Devotional come to mind:

‪MAY 13, 1657 ( I wonder what’s the significance of that date)‬

Anne Bradstreet: 
Verse : Psalm 84:6

As spring the winter doth succeed 
And leaves the naked tress do dress,
The earth all black is clothed with green.
At sunshine each their joys express.

My sun’s returned with healing wings,
My soul and body doth rejoice,
My heart exults and praises sings
To him who heard my wailing voice.

My winters’s is past, my storms are gone,
And former clouds seem now fled,
But if they must eclipse again,
I’ll run where I was succored.

I have a shelter from the storm,
A shadow from the fainting heat,
I have access unto his throne,
Who is a God so wondrous great……I’ll share the other two else’s one day.

So back to Hebrews 11. And 12. They are umbilically and forever linked.
These Words stayed in my heart and brought fresh revelation about the need for this kind of faith in COVID-19 times.

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.”
‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭11:1-2‬ ‭NIV‬‬
‪https://www.bible.com/111/heb.11.1-2.niv‬

“By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that is in keeping with faith.”
‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭11:7‬ ‭NIV‬‬
‪https://www.bible.com/111/heb.11.7.niv‬

“By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.

For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.”
‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭11:8, 10‬ ‭NIV‬‬
‪https://www.bible.com/111/heb.11.8,10.niv‬

“All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth.”
‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭‪11:13‬‬ ‭NIV‬‬
‪https://www.bible.com/111/heb.11.13.niv‬

“By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son,

Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.”
‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭‪11:17‬, 19‬ ‭NIV‬‬
‪https://www.bible.com/111/heb.11.17,19.niv‬

Faith has to be, and will be tested, even long after COVID-19. And we must rest in the blessed assurance and promise that no situation is too desperate for God’s rescue plan and action and power.

“By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter.

He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.”
‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭‪11:24‬, 26‬ ‭NIV‬‬
‪https://www.bible.com/111/heb.11.24,26.niv‬

This verse has so much to it. Deep thoughts of God. It even explains “ Before Abraham ( and Moses) was,  I am”. For the truth is that, as Christ taught the disciples on the Road to Emmaus, the Blessed Savior has been active in the affairs of man, as part of the Triune God, ever since the creation of the world. And the world then, and now,  has elected not to “ Listen to Him”. But Moses did! He made a choice. And so must we, especially after the threat of COVID-19 has passed, not to enjoy the “pleasures of being the son of Pharaoh’s daughter”, viz., the pleasures and the beguiling things that this world offers which would lead us away from trusting in God, and “ taking up our cross” and following Jesus.

“And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground. These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.”
‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭11:32-40‬ ‭NIV‬‬
‪https://www.bible.com/111/heb.11.32-40.niv‬

COVID-19 ought not to be the only thing that concerns us as people of God. Read again the list of things that the faithful suffered for the sake of Christ. Read again the list  of accomplishments that the people of faith achieved, in the midst of storms of various kinds. But read again the highlighted part of the passage – none of them received what was promised. For only in Christ, a privilege we enjoy, as a gift, with us, they would :

Chap 12: 

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭12:1-3‬ ‭NIV‬‬
‪https://www.bible.com/111/heb.12.1-3.niv‬

“And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says, “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.” 

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order 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 lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.”
‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭12:5-13‬ ‭NIV‬‬
‪https://www.bible.com/111/heb.12.5-13.niv‬

There is a lot to digest in this passage. And indeed in this entire message. But persevere as God will make all things “ visible” for the faithful. For you and I.
But never forget the most important thing. God is leading us though all of this in Christ Jesus, as He did with the ancients, that we may,   one day,  “ share in his holiness”.  And on that journey, if we are faithful, He will work through us, to share His glory with the world. 

A world that is desperately in need of redemption and reconciliation. A world that may never be the same agin after COVID-19. For now we know that “ the path is not greener in the USA”, nor in Europe. But only in God wherever He places us. For there He will be with us, forever, in Christ Jesus our Lord and  Savior. Let us then commit to listen to Him much more often, through His Word; in Prayer;  yes in fasting too if that is your calling; in responding to the the cries of the poor and needy and the stranger ….St. Andrew Settlement and hence Majesty Gardens is desperately in need of help; and even in our trials and persecutions and troubles. But Listen we should,  and not be disobedient and unfaithful. Let us then cease being of two opinions and trust the God who we have come to know in and though the Crucified, Risen and Ascended and never forget, soon coming Jesus Christ. 
Peace.

Lord renew thy church beginning with me; Lord renew the church that the church may renew the nation(s)…that continue to limp along with two different opinions. 
In obedience.
LWJ

COMMENT

In all of this COVID-19 times, let us never forget the call to love one another and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. For we cannot calm to love and trust in God, who we cannot see, if we do not love our neighbors who we see everyday – Holy Scriptures. So this is not a time for spiritual distancing, Physical distancing yes. But let us do whatever we can for the poor and the needy and he vulnerable in those time, for with such things God is well pleased.

As strong faith and a thoughts of a better hope, will come to an end one day. But love will live on forever, And ever. For God is love and whosever lives in Christ, lives in love. This is the central message that has come our way though our history, when, in love, it is the Christian, who remained with the afflicted in their time of need, ministered to them, and died with them, and thus when “ COVID-19” was over, the number of people who joined the church and believed in Christ, grew exponentially.

The “ tale of the COVID-19 tape” in Jamaica as of today March 21, 2020.

  • Coronavirus
  • Population

COVID-19 CORONAVIRUS OUTBREAK
Last updated: March 21, 2020, 12:25 GMT
Case Graphs – Death Graphs – Countries – Death Rate – Incubation – Age – Symptoms – News
Coronavirus Cases:
284,712
view by country
Deaths:
11,842
Recovered:
93,576

ACTIVE CASES
179,294
Currently Infected Patients
171,185 (95%)
in Mild Condition

8,109 (5%)
Serious or Critical

WORLD DATA AS OF MARCH 2O, 2020

As the Corona Virus pandemic worsens worldwide and more importantly in Jamaica, the Andrew Holness led government has taken the tough, but in my view very sensible decision, even if a bit late – but that was a difficult judgment call – to close our airports to people coming into Jamaica.

Why. Not my call, and I have no influence, but read a couple of tweets I posted recently:

TWEETS

We need to immediately quarantine everybody, symptomatic or not, who arrives from a country with local spread of #COVID19. The death of the gentleman who flew in from New York, and was undetected until too late changes everything. @christufton @MalahooForteQC @Petchary

People are still going to their family doc asking for a check up after flying in from USA and Canada. Completely ignoring the instructions in the flyer given out after being scanned at the airport and found not to have an elevated temp. Even when they have no symptoms

LockItDown closing our airports is a very sensible even if delayed move. @christufton @MalahooForteQC #Italy looms large in our minds. Can’t even manage to track down much more than 19. Very painful decision for lots of Jamaicans. But what’s the alternative #COVID

COMMENT: For the fearsome reality is that unless we find a way to stop the importation of the Corona Virus, the epidemic in Jamaica will spiral out of control, and that we cannot manage as there are not enough ICU beds to treat the critically ill. And not even enough hospital beds to treat the very ill patients if the numbers continue to climb. And therefore lots of people will die. Both the vulnerable elderly and as we are now learning from the USA, even young women are at risk.

So the government is to be commended for the bold moves it has made so far, but what has been happening at our airports and in our homes could not continue. For our people, in case we don’t realize, our people have become a #Popocaanunruly people – see Elephant-man and another #weakfence now apologizing. Too late. For what they did could have “ opened the door and let in the pirate #COVID-19”.

But our unruliness is much more than disobeying the order of the authorities to stay home if you have recently travelled from a country where local spread of the Virus had taken place. Much more. For further and better particulars, I would invite to read what I was led to read early this morning, as I opened my Bible, the Word of God, randomly after being awakening by the Lord.

THE VERY WORD OF GOD

“For learning about wisdom and instruction, for understanding words of insight, for gaining instruction in wise dealing, righteousness, justice, and equity; to teach shrewdness to the simple, knowledge and prudence to the young— Let the wise also hear and gain in learning, and the discerning acquire skill, to understand a proverb and a figure, the words of the wise and their riddles. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.”
‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭1:2-7‬ ‭NRSV‬‬
https://www.bible.com/2016/pro.1.2-7.nrsv

The challenge we face as a nation, and indeed as globally connected people, is that people no longer “ fear the Lord”.

Indeed the Scriptures make much of this issue:

“You must understand this, that in the last days distressing times will come. For people will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, inhuman, implacable, slanderers, profligates, brutes, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to the outward form of godliness but denying its power. Avoid them!”
‭‭2 Timothy‬ ‭3:1-5‬ ‭NRSV‬‬
https://www.bible.com/2016/2ti.3.1-5.nrsv

For many who are now calling on the name of the Lord, if truth be told, their lives have manifested “ an outward form of godliness but denying its power”.
Which is in essence, displaying a thin veneer of Christianity “ God bless Jamaica “, calling on “ Father God”, but denying the power of the Crucified and Risen Christ to change lives.

I would suggest this this unholy living, this attempt to link Christianity with Obeah, syncretism, this propagation of the so called “ Prosperity gospel” …refusing to suffer with Christ…refusing to deny self and take up one’s Cross…but always looking for blessings…..which is no gospel at all, this rampant immorality in the land – a land of many “ deputies”…wonder how they are managing now in this #CoronaVirus times… and worse in some churches “ do you not fear God”, is in some way responsible for the wickedness which has descended upon this fair land.
A land where the cry from #BujuBanton of “Murderer
Blood is on your shoulders
Kill I today you cannot kill I tomorrow …

….Is a daily – and sometimes 6-8 times daily – cry. How long then do you think we can get away with so much blood on the streets and wickedness in our hearts without the God who sees and knows everything, acts, and acts decisively.

So back to the Wisdom of God as revealed this morning:

“Wisdom cries out in the street; in the squares she raises her voice. At the busiest corner she cries out; at the entrance of the city gates she speaks: “How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple? How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge?

Give heed to my reproof; I will pour out my thoughts to you; I will make my words known to you. Because I have called and you refused, have stretched out my hand and no one heeded, and because you have ignored all my counsel and would have none of my reproof, I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when panic strikes you, when panic strikes you like a storm, and your calamity comes like a whirlwind, when distress and anguish come upon you.

Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently, but will not find me. Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the Lord, would have none of my counsel, and despised all my reproof, therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way and be sated with their own devices.

For waywardness kills the simple, and the complacency of fools destroys them; but those who listen to me will be secure and will live at ease, without dread of disaster.””
‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭1:20-33‬ ‭NRSV‬‬
https://www.bible.com/2016/pro.1.20-33.nrsv

As I read and wrote just now, “ O Jesus have mercy upon us”, came not my mind. For this is not what we expect to hear in our time of disaster from a loving merciful God. But we forget that this same God of mercy is also a God of wrath; a feature of the God of Jacob which has been sadly neglected in the teachings of the church in recent times. And not only in the church but in Seminaries and what the liberal media holds on to. And is it this wrath of God, on account of Sin, why Jesus in obedience to his Father and filed with love for all mankind, suffered and died on Calvary. So that all who believe may not perish but have eternal life. We forget these things at our peril. That without Christ, without the fear of God, people can and will perish – from all sorts of evil things.

If truth be told the Lord has been calling Jamaica to repentance for along time now. Yes, the rest of the world , including Europe and the USA, but this is where we live, do business, and raise families and hope to find peace. So let’s concentrate on Jamaica. But rather than listen to Him, the Creator God, we have busied ourselves, and buried ourselves in Netflix, in DanceHall lyrics – even now in a time of grave crisis, people are tuning in to online parties, and having Corona parties in the USA. Seriously!
We have aligned ourselves to political parties with the kind of fervor and allegiance that only God deserves. We have committed ourselves to watching every Football game, every Cricket match, every Basketball game, every Track and Field event, and hero worshiping Juve’s Ronaldo, PSG’s Neymar, and Barca’s Lionel Messi. But try and get people to come to a church service, or a Bible study meeting or anything to do with church, and you get all kinds of excuses.
So to whom do we turn for help in this time of extreme and existential crisis?
Hand washing? Social distancing? The wisdom of Andrew Holness and Chris Tufton to guide us through difficult waters? The guidelines of the WHO ?

The final Word from Proverbs, the book of Wisdom, offers an answer. One that has in it familiar words which many Jamaicans have committed to memory “ Thy word have I stored u in my heart that I am at sin against thee”.

“My child, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments; for length of days and years of life and abundant welfare they will give you. Do not let loyalty and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good repute in the sight of God and of people.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. It will be a healing for your flesh and a refreshment for your body.”
‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭3:1-8‬ ‭NRSV‬‬
https://www.bible.com/2016/pro.3.1-8.nrsv

The PM yesterday, made bold to say that “ this is not the end of time”. That science and technology has advanced so much, that he is confident that one day a vaccine will be found, and that we will all pull through this thing together, if we heed the advice given by the authorities. He may well be right. But he may be quite wrong – and in any case for all of those who have died, this is in fact the end of the world for them’
I know, I get it, that as the Political leader of the nation, he has a duty to try and calm the fears of the people and exude the confidence that is so necessary at this time. But if all we learn from this crisis ( and the old adage says it is a shame to waste a crisis) is that we should all learn to pull together in a time of national disaster, and depend on our leaders in politics and science and technology to guide us, then we would have made a grave mistake. In this context, I admit that I am aware of the Time fo Prayer called by the Governor General, and the various references that officials have made for the need for prayers. But this “ broken and contrite heart O God you will not despise “ kind of proclamation from the highest authorities in the land has not been a major feature of press Conferences nor Press Briefings nor Digital Town Hall meetings.

For the single greatest challenge we face as a nation, this “Janet Deen” nation, and indeed as a world, is not born of a Virus, but born of Sin. The Sin that so many people who no longer fear the God who made us in His own Image, and sent His Son in the fullness of time, to die on an old wooden Cross, so that people may not perish – suffer everlasting separation from God, a far worse prospect that what the Corona Virus presents, may turn from those wicked ways. And with wisdom and fear, repent and return to the Only One who can save us from our sins and offer us eternal life. Even Christ Jesus. May this God, the God of Jacob, have mercy on our souls during this and any other national crisis that may descend on us in this land or indeed the world.
Peace

LWJ

It’s an ill wind that blows no good. Something to “think on these things”, as we, in Jamaica, and so many other parts of the world, go through through this #CoronaVirusPandemic. A point made by one of the early Saints in the church – Brother Lawrence – in a meditation I ‘found’ on opening my Bible this morning:

He ( the Lord) often sends diseases of the body to cure the those of the soul”.

Can the Corona Virus be passed on by people who are infected but are not showing any systems? How soon, after being infected, can the Virus be detected by testing? Do we have the capacity to do, and is it recommended, mass testing in Jamaica? How long will this thing last? How come children are not as at risk as the elderly? Do we need to #lockitdown as China has, and now Italy? And when do you #lockitdown? Early, long before the thing has bolted, or only when …what? Should the Americans be placed on the banned list also? Just like the Brits! Should everybody just stay home…for the next six weeks…to peak infection, or three months…when the Virus would have passed through, and left like a Hurricane? Should we have Church if we cannot ensure the recommended social distancing….I heard one popular Pastor ( whose teachings are otherwise quite sounds and even prophetic ) declaring on radio that the government would have to lock him up if any such move was made to prevent the people of God from gathering to worship. His argument was that, anyone who came with the Virus would be healed….and the discerning people of God would know who had it…and would pray for that person…or put them in a special room……not quoting him verbatim, but that was the general thrust of his argument. What is the Lord saying in all of this?

Should doctors stay home, as they in particular, are at risk…one of my patients, who I have been privileged to care for, and her family and friends, for many years, called to express very gracious thoughts about her doctor. And fears! And wondered if I should place myself at risk.
Where can I get hand sanitizer ..or bleach…or TP….the new speak for Toilet Paper? Will food run out…how much should I buy…for how long….am I panicking…and taking what I don’t really need and thus preventing others from getting their share?

What should I, or a family member do, if I think I have the Virus? Especially if grandma is having shortness of breath? Rush to the doctors office. Or call him or her? If I am a clinic patient what do I do? As there is no number to call the doctor? Call the hotline 1-888-….LOVE. Suppose it’s not working? If I have to rush to the hospital and I don’t have a car, will the taxman…or bike taxi carry me…especially in the country where there is no JUTC…and what about the social distancing in that case…do I place everybody in the taxi at risk…or should I just stay home and hope for the best? Will the hospital have the necessary equipment to treat my case, or should I ( try and) fly out to New York in my private jet…or on Jet Blue…..as is my accustomed habit?

Questions, question, question. Some already answered. Some left hanging in the air. Some soon to be answered. Some never be to be answered. The one question which is clear, is that perhaps for the first time for a long time, we are all in this thing together. For there is no place to hide…maybe Alaska.
And Jamaicans, always, always ‘tek serious ting and meek joke:

So in the midst of this Global Pandemic what and so many questions, what did the Lord lead me to write this week? And as you read remember in all of this, that it’s the season of Lent, when according to an old friend, now “gone to glory”, is a time when the devil let loose:

FIRST MESSAGE – not necessarily in chronological order. Perhaps with all the time we may have at home, it’s a good time to dig deeper into the nature of the only One Who can save us from this #CoronaVirus, and answer all questions. God Almighty as revealed in and though Jesus Christ and His body, the Christian Church.

Just posted this on facebook:

If you’re looking for a good read for Lent, and for that matter, anytime at all, I recommend you read one of Christianity’s all time classic books.
Chap One begins thus:
” In the beginning God. The first four words of the Bible are more than a way of launching the story of creation or introducing thr book of Genesis. They supply the key that opens our understanding to the Bible as a whole. They tell us that the religion of the Bible is a religion in which God takes the initiative.

The point is that we can never take God by surprise. We can never anticipate him. He always makes the first move. He is always there ‘ in the beginning’. Before we existed, God took action. Before we decided to look for God, God had already been looking for us. The Bible isn’t about people trying to discover God but about God reaching out to find us… ..

God has created. God has spoken. God has acted……. It is with the second and third that we shall be concerned in this book, because basic Christianity by definition begins with the historical figure of Jesus Christ. If God has spoken, his last and word to the world is Jesus Christ. If God has acted, his noblest act is the redemption of the world through Jesus Christ…..
More anon as I read this book. Again!

Note that the point highlighted came out strongly in the sermon today by the Professor – God is looking for us long before we look for Him. “ You did not chose me, I choose you “ – Jesus. Useful sermon, but I have reached a point in my spiritual journey where unless I hear about Christ and Him Crucified for me, and being made a “ new creation”, which is what Jesus was essentially saying to Nicodemus in the gospel reading for today, and therefore only able to really remain in a close relationship with God in Christ, by grace, which was mentioned, but not, in my view sufficiently developed ( am I allowed to critique a Professor’s sermon ), then unless this grace which allows me to enter into the very presence of God by the blood of Christ, is highlighted and made the central theme, then I am left a little unsettled. For as Stott reports, Basic Christianity is more than Jesus and Him Crucified, but it starts there. And then:

AN EXTRACT FROM THE PREFACE

Basic Christianity is not just about what we believe, it’s also about how we behave. Our intellectual beliefs may be beyond criticism, but we have to put our beliefs into practice.
What then must we do? We must commit ourselves, heart and mind , soul and will, home and life, personally and unreservedly to Jesus Christ. We must humble ourselves before him. We must trust in him as our Savior and submit to him as our Lord, and then go on to take our place as loyal members of the church and responsible citizens in the community. This is basic Christianity……

And then :

Basic Christianity cont’d (1):

Human beings are insatiably inquisitive creatures. Our minds cannot rest. We are always prying into the unknown. We pursue knowledge with restless energy. Our lives are a voyage of discovery. We are always asking questions, exploring, investigating, researching. We never grow out of the child’s constant cry of “ Why”?

Basic Christianity cont’d (2):
When our minds begin to think about God, however, they are bewildered. We grope around in the dark. We flounder hopelessly out of our depth. But this should come as no surprise. For surely God, whatever or whoever he may be, is infinite, while we are finite creatures….Therefore our minds wonderfully effective instruments though they are when it comes to scientific investigation, cannot immediately help

Basic Christianity cont’d (3) :
And that is how it would have stayed had not God taken the initiative to help us. We would have remained forever agnostic, asking – just like Pontius Pilate at the trial of Jesus – “ What is truth? But never staying for an answer, never daring to hope that we would receive one. We would have ( without the revelation of Jesus Christ) ..worshiping like the one the Apostle found in Athens,an unknown God.

SECOND MESSAGE – sent to leaders of my church, after writing to leaders in the Ministry of health.

EMAIL TO THE HEALTH AUTHORITIES

Trisha Greenhalgh (@trishgreenhalgh) tweeted at 2:55 PM on Wed, Mar 11, 2020:
This is the best article I’ve read on #COVID19.

“Countries that are prepared will see a fatality rate of 0.5-0.9%. Countries that are overwhelmed will have a fatality rate of 3-5%”.

Let’s act to flatten the curve.

https://t.co/r9dJTgxude
(https://twitter.com/trishgreenhalgh/status/1237829557752860679?s=03)

Get the official Twitter app at https://twitter.com/download?s=13 

If this perspective/analysis is anywhere near correct, then a pre-emptive lockdown of at least parts of the country, maybe the KMTR, is not just justified, but absolutely necessary. If we wish to save lives.
LWJ

EMAIL TO CHURCH LEADERS

I woke  this morning with the corona virus and the possible devastation of my country, on my mind. And though about last’s nights’s message. My sheep hear ( listen to) my voice. So I searched my Bible app  for it in , and found it in John 10, and began reading. And found one of the most instructive verses in Holy Scripture. One that I have reflected on deeply before. One that I have been led to incorporate into earlier messages over the years. But one which has been under my radar for a while. So I paused for a while and worshipped the Living God: 

“ The thief comes only to steal, and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it more abundantly.” 10: 10 NRSV

Then came flooding, without  any thought,  memory of a Word from,  I think from  Ezekiel,  about the warning that those who refused to go into exile would suffer much.

But it all began when I thought abut what I was led to do yesterday. Opened my Bible on my desk at Psalm 91. Which is what I did when confronted with storm Dennis at 34,000 ft up in the air recently,  on approaching London from Kingston. And as the plane went though extreme turbulence, the Word of God kept me sane.
“ He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High shall abide in the shadow of the Almighty….I am quoting the KJV from memory although it was the NRSV which was with me:
And so I read yesterday while seeing patients and consulting with the public health folks:

“ You who live in the shelter of the Most High ……you will not fear the terror of the night, or the arrow that flies by day or he pestilence that stalks in  the darkness, or the destruction that wastes at noonday…………No evil shall befall you, no scourge shall come near your tent.
For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone ( this kept me sane as the plane began to land amidst extremely strong winds, especially approaching the airport in Sweden, and before which,  the airport had been locked down because of the winds..so I was told by the Uber driver after landing safely).

So this Psalm was on my mind after yesterday when I went work and my first patient was a gentleman with a high fever and having difficulty breathing …the exact symptoms of the Corona Virus). So I donned my mask and gloves and proceeded to look after him and send him to the hospital, and then did the Lysol thing to everything I had in the room. Called the public health people who were very blasé about the whole thing. That because he was not from the Bull Bay Area he did not meet the ( magical) case definition and was unlikely to be a Corona case. Really! In this day of out and bad taxi-men. And that this too will pass! Good people and highly trained but a bit too confident. 

So what’s the Word from the Lord. Do not fear but be very careful and vigilant; one of the messages from what I was led to share in quotes from John Stott’s Basic Christianity on Facebook recently “ be loyal to the church and be responsible to the community”.
Time to lock this thing down. Better to be safe than to be sorry. For those who are telling us otherwise are thieves and bandits….planning to destroy.
Lord renew the church beginning with me; Lord renew the church that the church may renew the nation(s) in these Corona Virus times.
LWJ

THE THIRD MESSAGE – after a very useful Lenten Devotional Service. Sent to my church brothers and sisters at St. Andrew Anglican Parish Church in Kingston Jamaica.

I went to bed last night with the song above from YouTube, in my head….” I bless your name”. And also the challenges issued by Pastor McKoy last night at the Lenten Devotion – are we following Jesus or the trade ones of the Anglican or Church of God, or. Catholic or….traditions, into which we were born and have never questioned whether or not this is what Jesus would have us do? For there might be a difference between the two. Is everything in how we conduct our worship service ( and by extension I would imagine our lives), based on what Jesus would have wanted? Does it accord with Holy Scripture or our traditions – what we born come see?

Using the well known verse in Acts, “ And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved”, he questioned if our worship, our actions, compared with the how the early church conducted itself, are resulting in “ daily people who are being saved”, not just attracted to the Anglican Church traditions, but to God ( and there is a difference), being added to our church? And after more of the same challenging words he invited us to “ think on these things”.

Then I woke up in the dead of night with a post nasa drip! And, immediately, the devil went to work. At his malevolent best! I don’t even need to tell you the story. You have a fever. You have Corona. You can’t go to work tomorrow.

So I did what I have been led to do when evil, or temptation, or trials of any sort come. Read the Word of God. My Bible is never far from me. And “ Thy word O Lord have I stored up in my heart that I may not sin against thee”, is not far from my thoughts.
Opened my Bible then, and found a meditation on Psalm, 23 – and I am looking for it now and can’t locate it. But it is captioned, “ I Arise Today”.
So I began reading Psalm 23. No, it was not, “ the valley of the shadow of death” that arrested me, but The Lord is my Shepherd. Then the passage about the Good Shepherd came to mind from John 10, and I went there. Again the unexpected happened, for I was prompted to read the context…the passages before. And before that too! And found this welcome assurance for my soul. And for you soul too!

THE WORD OF THE LIVING GOD

“As he was saying these things, many believed in him. Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” They answered him, “We are descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean by saying, ‘You will be made free’?” Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not have a permanent place in the household; the son has a place there forever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed………

Your ancestor Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day; he saw it and was glad.” Then the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, before Abraham was, I am.””
‭‭John‬ ‭8:30-36, 56-58‬ ‭NRSV‬‬
https://www.bible.com/2016/jhn.8.30-36,56-58.nrsv

COMMENT: Having read the verses these thoughts came to mind.

  1. That discipleship is all about “ continuing….holding fast” to the Word of God.
  2. That this same Word will lead us to He who is “ The (only) Truth, the (only) Life and the (only) Way”.
  3. And that this Truth, Christ and Him Crucified will “ set us free from Sin. Of first importance. But from all evil, all that this fallen world and fallen humanity, brings with it. A Word validated in next few verses: “ If the Son….who alone has permanent residence in the household….and not us who are slaves to sin….makes you free ( from sin) we will be free indeed. And remember the Word that says, “ those who are free from sin will ( do) not fear…..anything. Including #COVID-19 or 20 or 21.
  4. Finally the Most Blessed Assurance of all. He who Is, before Abraham Was, lives in us by grace and by faith. He and His Father, and Our Father. So how in heaven’s name, literally, can we be so afraid, Unless we don’t believe these things.

I pray God, that all of us, will come to believe these things though grace. “ Lord I believe, help thou mine unbelief”.

We bless your name O Jesus, we bless your Name. Hallelujah!

Lord renew thy church beginning with me; Lord renew the church that the church may renew the nation(s)…Now with 6 confirmed and at least 1 locally transmitted, cases of the #CoronaVirus.
In obedience.
LWJ

FINAL COMMENT:

It’s ill wind that blows no good. God often sends diseases of the body to cure diseases of the soul. One of the good things that has already come out of this Pandemic, at least here in Jamaica, is that people are calling on the name of the Lord for mercy. More and more.

FACEBOOK

I have never heard so many people talking about God since Coronavirus. You all need to know that my God is not a farm worker. He is present at our table always. And just like the days of Noah, and Sodom, its that same God. If Coronavirus is going to kill you, make sure your soul find rest in the arms of Jesus. Repent. Repent. Repent. It is not too late. Today if anyone hears my voice, accept Jesus. …..Erica Virtue ……a journalist who fears nobody. Only God.

And murders have dropped significantly. Will this continue after #COVID-19. Who knows! But one thing I know, people will begin to understand that man ought not to live by bread alone, or as Clovis implies, sex alone, or can we fight this Virus with hand sanitizer and washing with water, plenty water, alone ( as important as that recommendation is) but hopefully come to the realization that, ultimately, we are not in control of our lives. Only God! Perhaps that’s the central message that we should all take away from this Pandemic, and find peace for our souls in God alone. Not in Trump. Nor in Andrew or Nigel or in Peter One. Not in the NBA. Not in the Olympics. Not in Champs. Not in Carnival. For at the end of the day, or six weeks, or three months, what is really important in this life is what what I was led to post on Facebook last night as I continued my Lenten discipline…in the midst of the madness…by reading what I recommended …Basic Christianity:

Sin is an unpopular subject, and Christians are often criticized for going on about it too much. But they only do so because they are realists. Sin is not a convenient invention of church ministers to keep them their job; it is a fact of human experience – Basic Christianity by John Stott.

And all evil, all diseases, all troubles, all temptation, arise because of Sin. Thus the only help we need is:

Peace.
LWJ

I spent some time last night listening to this beautiful rendition of “ Love is the most excellent way”. Again and again I listened to it. It’s a haunting song that gets into your vey soul. And challenging too; “ love is not easily angered”.

I would suggest that you listen to the song before reading about the 2019 model, hence COVID -19, of an old Virus, SARS COV -2003 and MERS COV -2012

Why? Because at the end of the day, one of the things, in fact the existential lesson that we ought to learn from this almost global pandemic, and probably other challenges to human existence, is that ultimately only the love of Jesus is constant. Unchanging in this life and in the one to come. For despite what we think, enabled, empowered and encouraged by recent development in technology, we are not in control of our lives. Ancient man had no such illusions, as many children never made to adulthood in the Middle Ages; especially in Europe. And our African brothers and sisters knew that there were gods on whom they depended for life and fortune; at least they were humble enough to believe in some higher power than themselves).

So off I went to the Seminar specially organized by the Department of Medicine at the UWI, and chaired by the Dean himself – Professor Tomlin Paul

And heard the latest medical, economic and social facts, not fake news, about this novel Corona Virus or COVID-19, and the latest – March 5, 2020 – data about it.

The issues that stuck in my mind were as follows. Wearing a mask as a well person, in what would be otherwise be normal conditions, is not a useful thing to practice. In fact because one would tend to touch one’s face often, unconsciously and with confidence, we might even facilitate the virus entering the through the eyes; which is how one patient presented to the health authorities in China – with conjunctivitis. And which point serves to underscore another point; that not all patients will present with respiratory symptoms and a fever. Some might just have diarrhea or abdominal pain or conjunctivitis. But most will have respiratory symptoms if they have any symptoms at all, as the most important thing, for the time being, is the travel history.
Therefore hand washing, of the most scrupulous and consistent kind, with lots of running water and soap, is one of the most important things to begin to practice from now.
It’s not a matter of if, but when will the virus arrive in Jamaica. That’s the view of the experts and we ought to pay attention. I’ll come back to that point in a while.
There is no silver bullet to treat this Virus. No medications that will cure. But some, including two used to treat HIV patients are under trial. And one which has been used to treat influenza is being tested with some success, along with an old drug used to treat malaria. There is no vaccine available as yet; although work by at least three companies are in train and they have already mapped the entire genome of the virus; they know about all the genes and where they occur, and the mutations that have occurred – so far such mutations have not made the Virus any more dangerous. Or less so!


The COVID-19 virus affects primarily people over age 50, with deaths peaking in the 80 plus age groups and those with underlying illnesses.
So far children have been largely spared from being infected by the Virus.
So far, and it is yet early days, the death rate from the 1019 version of the Virus, is far less than the previous two. Between 1.5-3% compared with rates as high as 40% of those infected by the 2003 and 2012 versions. However, this one, so far, has spread to many more countries than the first two, and affected much lager numbers. In fact, the projection of the Ministry of Health experts is that in Jamaica, at the end of the day, some 1-1.5 Million of us will be infected. But again with only, to date, 23% likely to have any significant symptoms and a relatively low, relatively speaking, but what would be for us, a devastating if not catastrophic number of people dying. For even 1% of one million is staggering, as 10% is 100,000. You can continue to do the maths for 1%. We cannot manage this kind devastation and associated panic.
Other issues came to mind, but I need to move on to the love of Jesus after discussing the numbers. Very sobering!

So how did I get to the song in the video above? Yesterday the Lord flipped my early morning devotions, and reminded me that it is not really mine – in the sense of following a well known script …Jacob Boehme -prayers/worship…..The Word/Chris Tiegreen…and prayer.
So the Lord led me to read 1 Corinthians 13, after I somehow ‘chanced upon’ a meditation on the love of Jesus by an old Saint Hilary of Poitiers.
Actually before all of this , an old hymn, a hymn for Good Friday – to which event we are heading as we journey through Lent – ‘ presented itself’. The words of which changed my life forever, in respect of a deeper understanding of why I ought to love Jesus with all my heart. And not just when disaster, like COVID-19 looms, or any other challenge in life:

THE HYMN

MY God, I love thee; not because
I hope for heaven thereby,
Nor yet because who love thee not
Are lost eternally.

Thou, O my Jesus, thou didst me
Upon the Cross embrace;
For me didst bear the nails and spear,
And manifold disgrace,

And griefs and torments numberless,
And sweat of agony;
Yea, death itself; and all for one
Who was thine enemy.

Then why, O blessed Jesu Christ,
Should I not love thee well,
Not for the sake of winning heaven,
Or of escaping hell;

Not from the hope of gaining aught,
Not seeking a reward;
But as thyself hast loved me,
O ever-loving Lord!

 So would  I love thee, dearest Lord,
And in thy praise will sing,
Solely because thou art my God,
And my most loving  King. (St. Francis Xavier)

THE MEDITATION

SATURATED WITH HIS SPIRIT

Hosting my Sails

Acts ‪20:24‬

The chief service I owe you, I God, is that every thought and word of mine should speak of you. The power of speech which you have bestowed on me can give me no greater pleasure than to serve you by preaching your gospel.

But in saying this, I am merely expressing what I  want to do. If I am actually to use this gift, I must ask you for your help – ask you to fill the sails I have hoisted for you with the wind of your Holy Spirit, inspiring my mind and my voice…..

Saturated in His Love

Although I am dust and ashes, Lord, I am tied to you by bonds of love. Therefore I feel I can speak freely to you. Before I came to know you, I was nothing. I did not know the meaning of life, and I had no understanding of myself…  

But then you decided that I should hear the words of your Son, Jesus Christ. And as I heard his words, you enabled his love to penetrate my heart. Now I am completely saturated in his love and faith, and there is no remedy. Now, Lord, I cannot change my attitude to my faith; I can only die for it.

Comment: So having read and having been challenged, and inspired, again, by the hymn and the meditation I went to read Chris Tigreen’s reflection for the day, and found the well known passage about Love.

LOVE ALWAYS
We know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.
1 Corinthians 13:9-10

Knowing, prophesying, giving to the poor, moving mountains by faith, practicing ministry, and all the other good works we as Christians will one day cease. Love won’t. It’s different. It is part of who we are, and not what we do. When Jesus comes again and rewards us according to what we have done or not done, the good works of the kingdom on earth will essentially be over. But love? It’s part of who we are, and it lasts. It’s eternally in the character of God and, by design, in the character of His people.

That’s why, as important as ministry and good works are, love is more important than all. Faith is about what is unseen, and what is unseen will eventually be completely revealed. Hope is about what will come, Nd what will come, will also be revealed. But love is about who we are forever. There will never be a time, in this age or the next, in the kingdoms of this world or in the Kingdom of God, when love doesn’t count.

That’s why St.Paul tells us to make it count today. It’s a “ forever “ principle, unlike almost everything else the New Testament encourages us to practice. The fellowship of believers is going to last as long as the Kingdom lasts; that alone should convince us to major in the quality of the fellowship. And the quality of the fellowship depends almost entirely on love. It’s extremely important.

Does your life reflect the importance of love? Have you mistakenly made other aspects of your character a priority ? Examine yourself well, and ask God t help you focus on love. The practice it always.
Have faith and maintain hope. Increase your knowledge and aim to prophesy – to understand God’s truth and put it into practice. Do good works of ministry and charity, telling others about Jesus and reconciling the world to God. But do it all in love. Without that, none of it is right.

Our Lord does not care so much for the importance of our works as for the love with which they are done – Teresa of Avila.

So we close where we started. About the Love of God in and through Jesus Christ. For what shall it profit a man or woman or child to seek to escape COVID – 19 and lose his or her very soul. What shall it profit those who are baptized and speak in tongues, and people are slain in the spirit, and congregations are held captive by our preaching, and folks are held in high esteem and wear gowns and garments, and yet have no love. What shall it profit us to do good works, to rescue the perishing and care for the dying, seek to right wrongs, and look after the stranger and the widow and the orphan, and yet the love of Jesus is not manifestly obvious in how we treat others elsewhere.
I pray God that I, and all who read these things will be challenged by the “ outrageous” love of God, who in love – for the entire world, sent His only Son, Jesus Christ and Him Crucified, to suffer and die on an old wooden cross, for my sins and yours. So that we may have new life, and new power to help others. Suffering from COVID-19, from HIV/AIDS, from Intimate partner violence, extreme poverty, cynicism about Christianity, ignorance about the important issues of life, and those held captive by the evil one – Satan.
Peace.
LWJ

Ash Wednesday
February 26, 2020

Our reflection will be guided by excerpts from Oscar Romero – the former Roman Catholic archbishop of El Salvador.
Oscar Romero lived in his native El Salvador. When he was young, he told his family that he wanted to become a priest instead of entering the family trade. He was trained and ordained. He was a moderate – preaching good sermons that upset no one. He was considered a good candidate when the time came to choose a new archbishop – because it was expected that he would continue to ‘not rock the boat.’
Romero was shaken out of his safe outlook with the death of his friend Fr. Rutilio Grande. Romero could no longer keep silent. He engaged the local community and realized the level of injustice and oppression that they faced. Fr. Grande had been agitating against these issues. Romero used his weekly radio broadcast to tell the stories of the local people who were being murdered and to advocate for justice.
In 1980 while celebrating a mass in honour of the mother of a friend, Romero was shot and killed as he stood behind the altar. Days before his murder, he said:
“All conversion, all change began with the heart: with God drawing people to him to shape them into a community of love. And this community could and must include those who had formerly been enemies.” (Pg 10, The Scandal of Redemption)

The Lenten season has become marked by particular observances. Give alms, pray, fast, and we seek out encounters with God rather than material goods
We attend Bible Studies, and we make Lenten Resolutions about what we will give up and, in some cases, take on.
It is our hope that at the end of these 40 days, we would have through our rituals be transformed and prepared to receive Christ anew at Easter.
Our minds are already prepared to face the temptation of the goods that we have sworn to give up. Sometimes we become so obsessed with the abstentions that they become ends rather than the signs to draw us into deeper prayer.
We have come to receive our mark of ash.
We do not come for today’s encounter in a vacuum. We have come from our varying lives, peculiar situations, our own stories of life.
We live in a real-world where there are a variety of events and crises that mark each day.
In today’s lesson from the book of Joel, we enter the lives of the Jewish people as they faced a time of crisis.
According to Birch et al., the book of Joel tells of either a locust plague described as a war or a war described as a locust plague. In either case, the land was being devastated.
There was a crisis in Jerusalem. The crisis occurred because the conditions were right for it. A swarm of locusts or soldiers was devouring the food that people needed to survive. It was dire
The story of locusts –
Locusts are related to your garden grasshopper.
For the Desert Locust, favourable conditions for breeding are (1) moist sandy or sand/clay soil to depths of 10-15 cm below the surface, (2) some bare areas for egg-laying, and (3) green vegetation for hopper development. Up to 1,000 egg pods have been found in one square metre. There can be at least 40 million and sometimes as many as 80 million locust adults in each square kilometre of a swarm. (FAO)

What are the conditions
As Desert Locusts increase in number and become more crowded, they change their behavior from that of acting as an individual (solitarious) insect to that as acting as part of a group (gregarious).
How bad are they?
A very small part of an average swarm (or about one tonne of locusts) eats the same amount of food in one day as about 10 elephants or 25 camels or 2,500 people. Currently, there is a swarm of locusts affecting Kenya, Uganda, Somalia, and as of yesterday, Congo.

If the conditions are right!

The creation of a gangster:
A young boy with little guidance and support at home goes down the road and finds acceptance. If the conditions are right – a new gang member is formed

The creation of a homeless person:
A family determined to live as God desires, to work hard, and to look after their children may find that the local area leader wishes to enter their family through either their son or their daughter. They resist that move, and their home is torched. They find few persons are willing to assist them. If the conditions are right, another family becomes homeless is Jamaica.

The creation of an uneducated boy in a rural community
A young man in a rural community goes to the local primary school. He continues to grade 3 or 4 but is expected to leave school and work the land. This back-breaking work is too much for his sister, so she is encouraged and supported in her education. She will leave the community, board, with families, and go on to have a career, while her brother will continue as a semi-literate man working the land, barely making a living. If the conditions are right.

The creation of the mayhem on the roads – focus on Taxi-men
An individual would have been encouraged to buy a car and to hire someone to drive it for them as a taxi. They tell the driver how much they must receive at the end of each week. The driver must fufill that requirement and work the extra for themselves, so they drive crazily on the road in search of the next fare. If the conditions are right, we see the mayhem on our roadways.

The conditions were right – and it happened.

Our nation and our world seem to move from one crisis to the next. We have created the conditions for the formation of crises by our behavior.
Crime, inappropriate behavior in the nation (corruption, children and teachers being disrespected & disrespectful)
All the life-destroying events, structures, systems. They take away our hope. They leave behind destruction and death.
It is called sin.

An analogy – Crime affects everything around. It destroys lives, families; it takes away our sense of humanity. It strips away all that is living and leaves everything desolate.
We, looking on at the devastation, wonder how this thing came from out of nowhere – and destroyed so quickly.

But like locusts – the right conditions were gathering. We stopped caring for our brothers and sisters. We watched as the weak among us were trampled by the strong. We told ourselves that this was the way of the world – only the strong survive.

Oscar Romero: “Personal sin is at the base of the great social sin. We must keep this in mind because today it is very easy for us to be like those who witnessed the woman caught in adultery; we point it out and demand justice, but we look very little into our consciences. How easy we find it to condemn structural injustice, institutional violence, and social sin! All that is quite real, but where are the sources of that social sin? They are in the hearts of every person. Modern-day society is an anonymous society in which nobody accepts blame, but everybody is responsible. All of us are responsible for what happens, but the sin remains anonymous. We are all sinners, and we have all contributed our grain of sand to this mountain of crime and violence in our country.” (53-54 The Scandal of Redemption)

Yet Joel says – there is still hope – gather together!
Joel’s call is urgent – sound the alarm! – call all the people! – leave everything and come!

God sent Joel as a prophet to call God’s people back to God.
To face the crisis, the people were being called to observe a season of penitence, fasting, and self-examination.
Everyone, not just the religious leaders, were to gather.
Joel admonished them in proper behavior regarding ritual and religious matters.
As they looked at the hopelessness of the local situation – Joel called them all back to the hope that is in God. That through prayer and fasting, God would respond to their plight.

But prayer is viewed as our last resort – the act of the truly desperate. When we cannot think of any other solution, we hand our crises over to God! As thinking people, we craft our own solutions – until we run out of them – then we pray for a miracle.

Romero: Those who do not pray because they kneel down before the God of materialism- be it money or politics or anything else – have not understood the true greatness of being a human person. To pray is to understand that this mystery of my existence as a man or a woman has limits, but precisely at those limits begins the infinite essence of the One with whom I am able to dialogue. This is prayer, the ability of human beings to understand that they have been made by someone powerful, but that they have been elevated to be interlocutors with their Creator. (page113, The Scandal of Redemption)

We fast when we want something really badly.

But Isaiah would correct us. We are called not to fast for our own gain but to fast from oppressing others, and from ignoring the poor and dispossessed.
We are being called to fast as God desires:
to loose the bonds of injustice,
to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free
and to break every yoke?
To share our bread with the hungry,
and bring the homeless poor into our house;
when we see the naked, to cover them,
and not to hide ourselves from our own kin?

Oscar Romero: “There can be no freedom as long as there is sin in the heart. What’s the use of changing structures? What’s the use of violence and armed force if the motivation is hatred, and the purpose is to buttress those in power or else to overthrow them and then create new tyrannies? What we seek in Christ is true freedom, the freedom that transforms the heart, the freedom that the risen Christ announces to us today – Seek what is above.” (Page 70, The Scandal of Redemption)

We are called to be genuine. To serve to give glory to God and not seek human commendation.
The treasure that Jesus calls us to seek concerns primarily the righteousness (relationships made right) that is the focus of so much of Jesus’ sermon. Righteousness (or justice) is not a matter of spiritual or religious practice alone, but something that permeates the whole of life every day, including our relationships with other people, with the things of this world and with God.
The goods we treasure, whether material goods, financial security, worldly power, or mercy and relationships made right – reveal where our heart is, the core of our identity.

God is ready to transform the crises in our lives – but we must be prepared to humble ourselves and to approach God in prayer. To use the Lenten season to reconcile ourselves with God, our family, our neighbours, and ourselves as we seek God’s goodness for everyone’s life.
We pray that God will continue to raise up prophets who will direct our eyes above the storm and crises and on to God – not in escapism but in genuine faith.
Romero:
If we have imbued our work with a sense of great faith, love of God, and hope for humanity, then all our endeavours will lead to the splendid crown that is the sure reward for the work of sowing truth, justice, love, and goodness on earth. Our work does not remain here; it is gathered and purified by the Spirit of God and returned to us as a reward. Amen.

Mi wi call down God pon you”. This was the last resort that one of my patients who is a teacher, told me she exercised when confronted by a threatening student recently. The student, from another class, for reasons only known by him, had on several occasions, opened her classroom door, and closed it with a bang. Thus disrupting the her class. However, despite his annoying behaviour she, knowing exactly what he was up to, and having experienced this kind of behaviour from other students, elected to ignore him. Until one day while they passing each other in the school compound, she challenged, and asked why was he intend on disturbing her class. Whereupon he began to address her in a very aggressive voice, wondering why teachers took set on him. That’s when she decided to put the fear of God in his soul. And it worked, as he left her company immediately, and confided in another teacher, that “ mi fraid a da women dey, and mi no waan God fe bun me up”.

So “ deputy Minister Samuda”, has his work cut out for him:

Samuda Warns Of Harsh Measures As School Violence Surges

Recommend105

Published:Friday | February 21, 2020 | 12:08 AMPaul Clarke and André Williams/Staff Reporters

File

Samuda

Karl Samuda, the minister with responsibility for the education portfolio, has warned of “harsh measures” to come as the ministry grapples with frequent acts of violence in the nation’s schools.

He declined, however, to give details of the type of stringent measures that would be introduced.

“I can assure you that we are going to take all necessary measures to put a stop to this. The measures that will have to be implemented will be harsh, but it’s something that we cannot compromise on because what is happening today is totally unacceptable,” Samuda said yesterday.

He said that the staff at the Ministry of Education was working to ensure that schools were safe places for children and teachers to operate in.

Further, he said that before the decisions were made, he would first meet with ministry officials to properly brief Cabinet on the incidents of violence in schools.

And so too, the “ real” Minister of Education, and Prime Minister of Jamaica, Andrew Holness:

Jamaica PM threatens law to nab parents of misbehaving kids

<img width=400 height=450 src=https://s1.stabroeknews.com/images/2020/02/Holness.jpg class=”attachment-extralarge size-extralarge wp-post-image” alt=”Andrew Holness” srcset=”https://s1.stabroeknews.com/images/2020/02/Holness.jpg 400w, https://s1.stabroeknews.com/images/2020/02/Holness-89×100.jpg 89w” sizes=”(max-width: 400px) 100vw, 400px”>

Andrew Holness

By Stabroek News February 25, 2020

(Jamaica Observer) LUCEA, Hanover — Prime Minister Andrew Holness yesterday warned parents of wayward children that, if necessary, the Government will introduce legislation to have them pay for their children’s bad behaviour.

“As the person who holds the portfolio now once again, along with minister Samuda who manages it day to day, we will be reviewing the methodologies and practices within the school system that are used to manage behaviour and, where necessary, we may very well have to introduce new legislation to hold parents to account,” warned Holness, which elicited applause.

Comment – The challenge for teachers and administrators alike, and even more so for the PM, is that, the behaviour of wayward, abusive and even violent children, is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg of societal fragmentation and moral confusion in a nation that has lost its way. For in the very same school, the teacher told me, the ancillary staff complain bitterly how “ they are tired of picking condoms in the classroom”. For the reality is that, it is not just “ sex in the city”, to quote a the name of much discussed movie, but “ sex in the classroom”, which ‘ a kip’, very much so in the schools. And not just sex, but a grand conspiracy with ‘lookouts’, posted at the classroom door, to warn the ‘lovers’, if a teacher is approaching. Apparently all inhibitions of privacy and thoughts of common decent , have been banished from their minds, in this “new normal”.

And when you add this reality to the soldier and the “ bun” culture, a topic which is generating so much discussion in the society,

and insert the stories of corruption in high places:

Ruel Had To Go – Holness Says Former Education Minister Would Have Damaged Government

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Published:Wednesday | February 26, 2020 | 12:24 AMLivern Barrett/Senior Staff Reporter

Gladstone Taylor/Multimedia Photo Editor

Prime Minister Andrew Holness gestures during an interview at Jamaica House yesterday.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness says not accepting the resignation of Ruel Reid as education minister would have compromised the integrity of Jamaica’s “entire system of government”.

Now, almost one year after Reid’s resignation, Holness believes that his decision was justified.

“Once I had knowledge of the allegations that were made [against Reid], I had no choice obviously but to bring the minister before me and have a conversation about the issues that are now public knowledge,” said Holness;

And Murder:

Murders shoot past 200 – Jamaica Observer

WITH 55 days gone in the year, Jamaica’s murder total has shot past the 200 mark at a rate of just under four killings each day.

Official crime statistics from the police show 198 murders across the island up to last Saturday, which is 10 per cent above the 180 recorded for the same period last year. However, four more killings on Sunday pushed the tally past 200 as the orgy of violence continued” :

And “ groan”, try to negotiate your way through the mayhem and confusion on the road caused by some of the transport operators who are determined to ignore basic laws:

You begin to get a picture of the level to which our society has descended, and is desperately in need of healing.

ASH WEDNESDAY

Ash Wednesday , the beginning of Lent, is then is a good time for a nation on this Public ( holy) Holiday to begin to think about the state of or our nation, and how it can be rescued. So what were my experiences this week that would help us along in this national effort:

THE WORD OF GOD – which came to me in the middle of the night last night, in the now, very familiar way that the Lord uses to speak His Word.

So I got up and opened my Bible randomly and this appeared:

“Woe to the obstinate children,” declares the Lord, “to those who carry out plans that are not mine, forming an alliance, but not by my Spirit, heaping sin upon sin; who go down to Egypt without consulting me; who look for help to Pharaoh’s protection, to Egypt’s shade for refuge. But Pharaoh’s protection will be to your shame, Egypt’s shade will bring you disgrace. Though they have officials in Zoan and their envoys have arrived in Hanes, everyone will be put to shame because of a people useless to them, who bring neither help nor advantage, but only shame and disgrace.””
Isaiah 30:1-5 NIV
https://www.bible.com/111/isa.30.1-5.niv
For the truth is that, as a nation we have become disobedient to the Word of God, to helped to set us free from the shackles of slavery on the “August morn”. A sought help, and imbibed their culture, from nations who no longer fear God.
So :
“Therefore this is what the Holy One of Israel says: “Because you have rejected this message, relied on oppression and depended on deceit, this sin will become for you like a high wall, cracked and bulging, that collapses suddenly, in an instant. It will break in pieces like pottery, shattered so mercilessly that among its pieces not a fragment will be found for taking coals from a hearth or scooping water out of a cistern.” This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it. You said, ‘No, we will flee on horses.’ Therefore you will flee! You said, ‘We will ride off on swift horses.’ Therefore your pursuers will be swift! A thousand will flee at the threat of one; at the threat of five you will all flee away, till you are left like a flagstaff on a mountaintop, like a banner on a hill.””
Isaiah 30:12-17 NIV
https://www.bible.com/111/isa.30.12-17.niv
And then the Spirit of the Lord reminded me about a similar passage, which I been led to read often, and which also was underlined in Bible, For is it not true that those who are determined to destroy our nations are not great in numbers, but we have become fearful and impotent to fight against them, not because the Lord has given us up, but rather that we have moved away from the Only True and Living God, who alone can help us:
“They are a nation without sense, there is no discernment in them. If only they were wise and would understand this and discern what their end will be! How could one man chase a thousand, or two put ten thousand to flight, unless their Rock had sold them, unless the Lord had given them up? For their rock is not like our Rock, as even our enemies concede. Their vine comes from the vine of Sodom and from the fields of Gomorrah. Their grapes are filled with poison, and their clusters with bitterness. Their wine is the venom of serpents, the deadly poison of cobras.”
Deuteronomy 32:28-33 NIV
https://www.bible.com/111/deu.32.28-33.niv

SERMON

The a young female preacher thundered forth this wonderful sermon today. Extract:
“ The conditions are right! ( Just like in the day of Joel when locusts, in their millions attacked the children of Israel on account of their disobedience. The conditions were right then for judgement, and now)
For the creation of a gangster. the creation of a homeless person. The creation of an unemployed man/ uneducated boy in a rural community. The creation of an unethical individual/disrespectful person/Taxi.
The conditions were right – and it happened. Our nation and our world seem to move from one crisis to the next. We have created the conditions for the formation of crises by our behaviour. Crime, inappropriate behaviour in the nation ( corruption, children and teachers being disrespected and disrespectful)
All the life-destroying events, structures , system. It takes away our hope. It leaves behind destruction and death. It is called sin.
An analogy – Crime affects everything around it. It destroys lives, families, it takes a way our sense of humanity. It strips away all that is living, and leaves everything desolate. We are looking on at the devastation, wondering how could this thing just came out of nowhere – and destroy so quickly.
While we gather for worship.
But like the locusts – the right conditions were gathering. We stopped caring for our brothers and sisters. We watched as the weak among us were trampled by the strong – we told ourselves that this was the way of the world – only the strong survive. But if people are left in conditions that destroy their peace – they will become like locusts – a super uncontrollable group that leave destruction in their wake.
Oscar Romero: “ Personal sin is at the base of the great social sin. We must keep this in mind, because today it is very easy for us to be like those who witnessed the woman caught in adultery; we pointing out and demand justice but we look very little into our own consciences. How easy we find it to condemn structural injustice, institutional violence, and social sin! All that is quite real, but where are the sources of that societal sin? They are in the hearts of every person. Modern-day society is an anonymous society in which nobody accepts blame but everybody is responsible. We are all sinners, and we have all contributed our grain of sand to this mountain of crime and violence in our country..
Yet Joel says – there is still hope – gather together. Joel’s call is urgent – sound the alarm – call all the people – leave everything and come……..
Oscar Romero : “ There can be no freedom as long as there is sin in the heart…….What we seek in Christ is true freedom, the freedom that transform the heart, the freedom that the Risen Christ announces for us today – Seek what is above …….
God is ready to transform the crises in our lives – but we must be prepared to humble ourselves and to approach God in prayer. To use the Lenten season to reconcile ourselves with God, out family, our neighbours and ourselves as we seek God’s goodness for everyone’s life.
We pray that God will continue to raise up prophets who will direct our eyes above the the storm and crises and on to God – not in escapism but in genuine faith.

Comment : I really cannot add much to this extract from a wonderful and searching sermon by young Rev. Natalie Blake. Save and except to say that the death and resurrection of Jesus the Son of God, proves beyond measure the one of the foundation passages of the Christian faith: That God does not desire the death of the sinner, but that he turn and repent and be obedient to God his creator. For because of that compassionate heart of God, slow to anger and swift to bless, God sent His son to die “ so that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish but have everlasting life. So there is still Hope for Jamaica : in the classroom, “ for it is not His desire to bun up anyone”, in high places, on the roads, and in our communities where murder most foul has become a new norm.

Thank God for Jesus . And thank God for the gift of Lent and Ash Wednesday.

Peace.

LWJ