Christians live in A War Zone – And Christ says ” I know where you live”. Thank God for Jesus.

I carried a Word in my heart all day yesterday. A Word which headlined a meditation I read during my #earlymorningdevotions. And shared it with many people: ” I know where you live – where Satan has his throne i.e. a broken world. Said Jesus through John in Revelation 2:3 to the church in Perganum.

Fast forward from AD 81 -96 to the present age, and the profound words of comfort, and promise, and don’t leave out the warning ( do not compromise). And hear Jesus speaking to our real struggles.

Politics and Christianity

I know where you live – where there is a ‘ sick’ building at Cornwall Regional Hospital. And while Health Minister Dr. ( Phd) Christopher Tufton, and Opposition spokesman on Health, Dr. (MD) Dayton Campbell, engage in a very public discussion about a difficult policy decision, ” to close or not to close” the hospital, poor and marginalized people living in a broken world of sickness, caused by one thing or another, anxiously await the ‘ resuscitation ‘ of this important institution. While questions of benign neglect or blatant mismanagement hang over the head of successive admistrations! And whether or not if such a situation had impacted the lives of the rich and the famous, would it have been allowed to ‘fester’ like this? A challenge for all politicians, especially Christians, as how does one serve effectively in an organization, which has the power if elected, to profoundly impact the lives of Franz Fannon’s ‘ the wretched of the earth’. And be faithful to the God of Jacob!

Righteousness and Justice

I know where you live – where young boys and girls are being sexually abused. Leaving them emotionally and physically scarred for life. And where a passionate young, self-confessed Christian legislator, Lisa Hanna, recently married, and herself a mother, is calling for ‘ parity’ in how the law treats with the act of buggery – ten years imprisonment, and the act of rape – 15 years to life. And her solution, and that of the human rights lobbyists, is to change the law and categorize both abuses as rape. In direct opposition to the Christian group of lawyers well versed in matters like this, and whose views I respect, vis a vis, those who would label them ” fringe and ultraconservative”. And whose long standing and well documented position, is that any such action by the Parliament would open the gates for the repeal of the buggery law. An extremely contentious issue in Jamaica, and internationally, where ‘ pressure ‘ is being applied to equate the Biblical sin of homosexuality with God of the Jacob’s anointing of ‘ male and female ‘ relationships. MP Hanna et al, are apparently unimpressed with any such arguments and have tried to frame the issues in black and white, while ‘ Kodak’ issues abound. And with the Biblical call for Righteousness and Justice to cohabit, have parity, in the lives and hearts of all who claim Christ! Hopefully, she and all of us, who are on a journey with Him who died on the Cross to conquer Sin, and Death and Evil, will find the right balance between seeking Righteousness and promoting Justice on this very ‘ live’ issue.

Justice and Righteousness

I know where you live – where according to the Anglican Bishop of Jamaica and the Cayman islands, giving his annual Synod charge, was quoted in the Daily Gleaner calling for Justice for Workers in the prevailing climate. Contextualized within the call for all Anglicans to become ” Intentional Disciples of Christ”, and how that call plays out in a time when ” love for mammom” trumps everything.

When we think of the breakdown of morality in the society, we tend to be very selective in who and what we identify as typifying such moral failure. It does not only reside in the lower echelons of society, but it sits at the top of our society where we can find philosophical and economic reasons to justify such actions, and so our most profitable institutions can cease to employ persons who can enjoy basic terms and securities which have characterized civilised society as we have become prisoners of mammon. So employees must be on renewable contracts with no health insurance, no pension benefits, no leave facility, and no job security while profits soar, management makes excessive salaries and shareholders enjoy bumper dividends. “

A Bishop who is clearly cognizant that in the ‘ economy ‘ of the God of Jacob, Righteousness, and Justice ‘ kiss’ each other. As declared by the Prophet Isaiah, and exemplified in the life of the late Martin Luther king Jr.

The challenge we face as Christians, is not the Road March which will take place in city Kingston tomorrow, as the revellers ” get on baad again “, but the more fundamental issue, that we, the children of God, are in a great battle with the forces of evil. And many are blissfully unaware!

Perhaps this is why I was inspired to post this challenging message from noted theologian John Stott this week.

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Theologian John Stott writing in 1984:
Decisive Issues Facing Christians Today.

” If the house is dark when night falls, there is no point in blaming the house, for that is what happens when the sun goes down.

The question is ” Where is the light”?
If the meat goes bad and becomes inedible, there is no point in blaming the meat, for that happens when bacteria are left alone to breed.

The question to ask is, ” Where is the salt?”.
Just so, if society deteriorates and its standards decline, till it becomes like dark night or stinking fish, there is no sense in blaming society, for that it what happens when fallen men and women are left to themselves, and human selfishness is unchecked.

The question to ask is ” Where is the church?”. Why are the salt and light of Jesus Christ not permeating and changing our society?
It is sheer hypocrisy on our part to raise our eyebrows and shrug our shoulders or wring our hands. The Lord Jesus told us to be the world’s salt and light. If therefore darkness and rottenness abound, it is our fault and we must accept the blame.”

Finally, the first two paragraphs of the meditation sum up our dilemma, and challenge and warning, living in a broken world. And provides a bookend to this message.

NO COMPROMISE – Chris Tiegreen. ” The One Year Wonder of The Cross Devotional book “.

I know where you live – where Satan has his throne. Revelation 2:3

Jesus’ words to the church at Perganum could have been spoken to any one of us. We may not live where ‘ Satan’s throne’ is, but we live in territory that is heavily under his influence. No matter how many churches we have on the street corners of our communities, our culture is saturated with the philosophies of this world and the deceptions of our enemy. Until we are in heaven, we are living in a war zone.

It’s comforting to know that Jesus is aware of where we are ( that was the key message I held on to yesterday as I considered the plight of friends battling cancer, and grieving over the loss of loved ones, patients dealing with problem children, and the reasons for #ZOSO and #StateofEmergency) and that He will affirm us for remaining true to His name, as He did with the believers in Perganum.

It isn’t easy to stubbornly insist on our identity in Him when the culture is trying to pull us in every other direction. We find pretty quickly that
we can’t live the Christian life on cruise control; it’s a constant choice and constant focus on who we are in Him. It requires a certain degree of stubbornness to swim upstream…..”

No wonder we are told that after Easter comes, not Mother’s Day, not Labour Day, not Independence, but Good Friday. All over again! For in this life, we are called to ‘ deny self, take up our cross daily, and follow Christ’. Into battle against Satan! Wherever he raises his ugly head: Trampling down Justice, and throwing Righteousness through the window!

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Journeying with Christ on Holy Saturday: A message from the grave

As we continue to journey with Christ, today on Holy Saturday, the day after Good Friday, I feel like I am writing from the grave!

The Journey

Beginning with Passion Sunday, riding on a donkey, ” Blessed is he whom comes in the name of the Lord”. And then to Maunday Thursday, with the traditional ” washing of the feet“, and the Institution of the Lord’s Supper, we continued to journey. Leaving the church in silence. Blocking out all the ” news of the day”! Concentrating on Christ and his Passion.

Returning to Church on Good Friday, I heard a deeply moving sermon from my Pastor Canon Sirrano Kitson.

” What am I living for”? What are you living for! For your own narrow self-interest, absorbed in self, family and ambitions! Or are you living for God? Is the fulfillment of God’s will your overpowering desire?
For this was the mind of Christ when he willingly subjected himself to the Father’s will, and died to save the world. For the essence of the message of Good Friday according to my Pastor, is that ” Christ died to rescue us from self-interest, so that we might serve others”.
Then in the midst of the sermon he posed the deeply moving and deeply challenging question offered by the songwriter: ” Were you there when they crucified my Lord ” ….Sometimes I feel like trembling, trembling !

A message that I will take to my grave!
A counterculture message! For all of us, at some time or another, are guilty. Guilty of focusing on self and not God’s will. Thank God for Good Friday that Christ did not.

Later, after leaving the church in silence, and after my wife and I ‘ stood at the foot of the cross’, said a prayer and inserted a nail ( into the hands and feet of Christ, symbolizing the fact that He died for our sins too; so we too were there when they crucified my Lord) I returned for the three hour service at noon.
And had the privilege of being part of the team that preached on the Seven Words of Jesus Christ on the Cross. ” It is finished”, was my Word.
I offer it in humility and obedience as Satan attached me most viciously, good thing I had prayed for ” boldness to preach the Word”, in the pulpit.

https://sermons964306149.wordpress.com/2018/03/31/the-sixth-word-of-jesus-christ-on-the-cross-of-calvary/

Finally I went home, began, and completely typing out a commentary of the controversial and complex book of Revelation, by John Stott. I had delved into John Stott’s classic ” The Cross of Christ “, in preparation for the three hour sermon, as there is an entire chapter on ” Conquering Evil “. And whilst reading I ” happened” upon this commentary which is at the end of the chapter. And I was led to share, plenty reading but it’s a long weekend, this profoundly important message ‘ from the grave ‘ this morning.

https://historicalimperatives.wordpress.com/

For like the three hour sermon, its all about the Victory of Christ over Satan. A cosmic battle, ‘ beyond the headlines’, but which explains all of what happens in the world.
So the take home message from the Cross, from the grave, and which will be announced tomorrow on that glorious Easter morning, it that ” It is finished “. Christ the Victor has overcome Sin, and Death and Evil. And in Him, we too, the Baptised, are overcomers. So do not be afraid, but ‘ resist the devil, and he will flee from you’, in the name of Jesus Christ the Crucified One.

When you proclaim Christ! When you meet upon evil and those who resist Christ! When fear and doubt enter your mind! When the flesh, and the values of the world, both of which have been crucified by the Christ living in us, tempt us to do or think evil! And focus only on self!

And when, in love, and in name of Christ, we seek justice for others, and provide solace and comfort for the widow, the stranger, the alien, and the least of Christ’s children.

Budget Debate, Martin Luther king Jr and Good Friday.

#GoodFriday and #Easter cometh. Next weekend! This right after the Budget debate, where the Andrew Holness led government, and the Peter Phillips led parliamentary opposition, presented their vision and plans for the nation. One of the most anticipated events on the national calender!

Politics and loving our Neighbor

Many Jamaicans, and many Christians among that group, perhaps for different reasons, pay little attention to anything to do with politics. Except when one of these high profile persons does or says something outrageous, and is exposed by the media.

They, especially those who plan to go to church on Good Friday, should be careful. For that holy day, though about Righteousness and forgiveness of sin, is also about justice and loving our neighbors.

And a lot of our neighbors are affected by the actions and policies of our political leaders. Good or bad! That is, if we define our neighbor as Christ did, in the story of the Good Samaritan; anyone whom we meet along the journey of life who is in need, and whose best interest we are to seek. As opposed to allowing self-interest to rule over our thoughts and actions. A Take away message ( about who is our neighbor) from a Lenten Devotion at St. Andrew Anglican Parish Church, led by Rev. Norbert Stephens, a United Church Pastor.

So unless we wish to be accused of practicing an ‘ irrelevant religion ‘, by no other than the late Martin Luther king Jr, we, in the church ought to be more intentional, in how we engage, participating or critiquing, the political process. This, among other things, is what I gained from reading the following reflection to which I was led this week. Once again! As #GoodFriday cometh.

MARTIN LUTHER KING JR

Amos 8:4 ” Hear this, you that trample on the needy, and bring to ruin the poor of the land.

THE ENDS ARE SWALLOWED IN THE MEANS

Only an irrelevant religion fails to be concerned about man’s economic well-being. Religion at its best realizes that the soul is crushed as long as the body is tortured with hunger pangs and jarrowed with the need for shelter.
Jesus realized that we need food, clothing, shelter, and economic security. He said in clear and concise terms:
” Your Father knows knows what you need”. Matthew 6:8.

But Jesus knew that man was more than a dog to be satisfied with a few economic bones. He realized that the internal of a man’s life is as significant as the external. So he added, ” Strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well“. Vs 33.

The tragedy of the rich man was that he sought the means first, and in the process the ends were swallowed in the means.

GETTING THE BALANCE RIGHT – TO THE GLORY OF GOD.

Comment: Good Friday reveals that we need to get the balance right. In our politics. And in life. And in Church.

THE POLITICIANS

Those who dedicate their lives, thus rejecting the temptation to put self first, to seeking the highest good of the poor and marginalized are to be commended. And honored appropriately by a grateful nation if needs be. Without controversy if at all possible!

But those who ‘ seek first the kingdom of God ‘, and by doing so, are ‘ empowered ‘, to seek the highest good of the rejected and the unpopular, the ‘ least of these , and the suffering mass of people, do better. In fact do best! And will be ‘ honored ‘ by our Father in heaven. Definitely without controversy! For they were not, like St. Paul, ” disobedient to the heavenly vision”.

A vision where God in Christ and Him Crucified on #GoodFriday, and raised from the dead on #Easter, rules in the hearts and affairs of mankind.

Would to God that our Politicians were to get the balance right. Especially those who claim Christ!

Then what popular talk show host and journalist Emily Shields, speaking of #RJRFM94’s Hotline, calls a ‘ culture of pursuing political self-interest’, of which both parties are equally guilty, in her considered view, would not prevail. This, in response to recent and past statements, of a highly partisan nature, which have been the subject of much public comment. And which ‘political self-interest ‘, was properly rejected by the PM.

Then, getting the balance right, in pursuit of establishing first the kingdom of God, Jamaica, under this same God, would prosper and increase. To the glory of God who died on the Cross of Calvary on #GoodFriday.

THE CHURCH

Would to God that we in the Church would get the balance right. And thus in seeking to establish the Kingdom of God, we remember that this same God, emptied Himself, of all but love, left heaven, became like a man, and died on Calvary.
So that, ” Justice, properly understood – seeking the other person’s highest good – according to Rev. Stephens, manifest in the revelation that, ‘while we were still sinners’ ( and enemies of God) Jesus died for us, according to the Bible, this Justice, rolls down like waters, and Righteousness – be ye holy as I am holy – like a never ending stream.

Then Jamaica under the God of #GoodFriday and #Easter would be blessed by the same God. In the morning and at night! To the glory of this same ever loving God of the Jews and of the Gentiles. Of Israel and of Palestine. Of those who live in Tivoli and those who live in Norbrook. Of those in the PNP and those in the JLP: and those not attached to any “P”.
So that we may not be accused of being promoting an ‘ irrelevant religion’. Or a polity that ignores the divine command to ” seek ye first the kingdom of God”.
Peace.

Trump and The Rocket Man, No New Taxes, and A Fuller Doctrine of Salvation in Christ Jesus

TRUMP AND THE ROCKET MAN

So President is going to actually sit down and talk with the ” little Rocket man” from North Korea. This after trading insults for the past couple of months. Does that provide hope for a world increasingly concerned about nuclear missiles under the control of highly unstable leaders?

NO NEW TAXES

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/sites/default/files/styles/jg_article_image/public/media/article_images/2018/03/08/NoNewTaxA20180308C.jpg?itok=WdJ_Vgkb

So the there will be no new taxes in the budget for this financial year in Jamaica. The government, and in particular the Finance Minister, was very pleased to make this announcement this week.

And perhaps so they should! This after years of tax packages which have devastated the purchasing power of the average man in the street. But will this provide hope in a nation where murder, and murder most foul, a little boy died recently after receiving multiple gunshots, is, by far, the number one concern.

PETER’S FAUX PAS

So Peter Bunting, a powerful shadow minister in the Parliamentary Opposition, and one who aspires to be leader one day, is singularly unimpressed with the achievements of Dr. Nigel Clarke. A man who competed against Peter’s grass roots candidate for the PNP, and which PNP candidate, as would be expected, he thought would provide better representation for what could be described as lower middle class area. And won ‘hands down’.

It came across in a widely viewed video on social media, that it was Peter’s view that this high achiever, and a recipient of an British Education was ‘ elitist ‘. A view which provoked the ire of many on both Social and the Established media. Mr. Bunting claims he was misunderstood. Perhaps he was. But why give people ammunition to label you as being ‘ out of touch with reality ‘. Especially at a time when ordinary citizens are looking to both political parties to provide hope in troubled times. Was that among the best of the policy prescriptions that a nation needs to hear. Or just a distraction! And perhaps a costly one.

DOG BITES MAN vs MAN BITES DOG 

So a group of Christians, led by The Maranatha Ministries, and labelled ” The Church “, by elements in the media, is planning to march as a counterfoil to the ‘ sins ‘ of Carnival.
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/lead-stories/20180309/church-planning-massive-parade-counteract-carnival.

This event that is being planned for October, made the headlines in one of our most respected media houses, The Daily Gleaner. And was also the topic of a discussion, last night, on Nationwide News Network – a popular radio station.

The question may be asked however, is this really worthy of being ‘ headlined ‘. In a nation where so many churches are busy, ” rescuing the perishing, caring for the dying, and providing for the needs of Jesus’ least of these my people”, with nary a mention in the news. And worse, does it not give credence to the #fakenews, repeated often for maximum effect, by intellectually lazy, at best, social commentators, that the church is only concerned about personal sin and not about injustice and abuse of children and women #Metoo.
A misrepresentation of the role and focus of the authentic Church in Jamaica, which if believed, would not provide the hope in the promises of God, fully met in the Resurrection of Christ, that the church heralds. In a nation and a world, desperately in need of Hope.
Not the hope for a better life, but the Hope that God in Jesus Christ is Sovereign, even in our darkest hour!

No doubt that’s why I was inspired to post this message on Facebook this week. About the Revealed Truth of the Cosmic Reality, the big picture of what Christ achieved for us on the Cross of Calvary.

FACEBOOK

21st century people, especially millennials don’t like reading anything too long. But this passage of Scripture, to which I was led just now in my #Earlymorningdevotions, if we reflect on it deeply, this Truth, this Big Picture could change our attitudes to Christ, and commitment to the God of Jacob. Forever!

For within it, is the solution to the Israeli Arab conflict, the explanation of the so called ‘ arrogance’ of the Christian claim to different from, yet inclusive of, all other religions. In this passage is The Reason for Hope in World where Trouble and Disaster and Pain, are always just waiting to happen.

Where people live in #Wrongaddress and ‘ people die there every day’. In it is better news than #notaxincrease and a higher discourse than #blackenglishman. Within this Truth is better news than Rastafari #Repatriation and the call for #CompensationforSlavery.

Within this revealed Truth all claims, by some, that my denomination reflects the correct understanding of God’s Word is refuted.
Within this revealed Truth is ‘Tale of Two Cities’. One living under the Covenant of God. The other ‘ without hope and without God in the world’.

Thank God for Jesus, and Him Crucified, that now, the Two have made One. Whether Christians can pull a bigger crowd in October vs Carnival after Easter. Whether you can speak in tongues or not. Whether you worship on a Sabbath or Sunday. Whether your calling is to defend human rights or to sweep the streets to the glory of God. Whether you are a Jew or an Arab, ( I would not even elevate the PNP JLP conflict or the Democrats and Republicans conflict to this level, but perhaps I should) Straight or Gay, Black or White, a gate has been opened for us to be One. But only in Christ Jesus. And it’s a narrow gate. But all are invited.

ONE IN CHRIST

Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands)— remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations.

His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.

He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord.

And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.
Ephesians 2:11‭-‬22 NIV
https://bible.com/bible/111/eph.2.11-22.NIV

JOHN STOTT

One of the charges leveled against the Church in Jamaica, which to a certain extent is a fair comment, is that we ought to be more involved in ‘ doing good works’ vis a vis ‘ evangelizing ‘…..having crusades etc. An issue which inspired this comment by one of my favourite theologians, the late Rev. John Stott, who was a Evangelical Anglican

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The Evangelical Revival, which stirred both continents, is not to be thought of only in terms of the preaching of the Gospel and the converting of sinners to Christ; it also led to widespread philantrophy, and profoundly affected society on both sides of the Atlantic.
John Wesley remains the the most striking instance. He is probably remembered as the itinerant evangelist and open air preacher. And he was. But the Gospel he preached inspired people to take up social causes in the name of Christ. Historians have attributed to Wesley’s influence rather than any other the fact that Britain was spared the horrors of a bloody revolution like France’s – Rev. John Stott. ” Decisive Issues facing Christians today.

A challenge for all Christians in this world of Pain and Grief and Suffering

#ReadingagoodbookforLent

#Earlymorningdevotions

Then early this morning, in another 4:am encounter ( did not actually get up until 4:20 trying to convince myself that it was my imagination) the Lord woke me up to randomly open my Bible and read about St. Paul’s defense of the Gospel to Roman authorities. The core message of which was captured by this verse:

” It is about the resurrection of the dead why I am that I am on trial before you today “. Acts 24:21.

Then the Spirit of the Lord led me to the book of Hebrews to read about New Covenant that the Blood of the Lamb of God introduced to mankind. And this passage that captures the essence of it all. And why as as Christians we have Hope in Christ Jesus:

A CALL TO PERSEVERE

Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Hebrews 10:19‭-‬25 NIV
https://bible.com/bible/111/heb.10.19-25.NIV

The challenge for the Church and for the society on which Jesus has called us to spread tge Good news of Salvation in Christ Jesus is to develop what John Stott terms ‘ A Fuller Doctrine of Salvation “.

JOHN STOTT

” There is a constant tendency in the church to trivialize the nature of salvation, as if it meant no more than than a self-reformation, or the forgiveness of our sins, or a personal passport to paradise, or a private mystical experience without social or moral consequences. It is urgent that we rescue salvation from these caricatures and recover the doctrine in its biblical fullness.

For salvation is a radical transformation in three phases, beginning at our conversion, continuing throughout our earthly life and brought to perfection when Christ comes. In particular we must overcome the temptation to separate truths which belong together.
1. We must not separate salvation from the Kingdom of God…..the Kingdom of God is God’s dynamic rule, breaking into human history through Jesus, confronting, combating and overcoming evil, spreading the wholeness of personal and communal wellbeing. ..
2. We must not separate Jesus the Saviour from Jesus the Lord….accepting Him without surrendering to Him.
3. We must not separate faith from love….grace central….but faith cannot remain alone. If it is living and authentic, it will inevitably issue forth in good works, and if it does not, it is spurious…..Our attitude to him, he said, will be revealed, by our good works of love to the least of our brothers and sisters.

Stott also called for A FullerDoctrine of Christ, of Human Beings and of God.

Finally, one of the legacies of the late Ian Boyne, was his constant call for a nuanced approach to understanding difficult and complex subjects. It’s a call that I believe this reflection is echoing. For, as a nation, we face many and varied challenges. We are not in good place, economically, socially, politically, and more importantly, morally. Just look and see!

How then do we offer hope to young people who see a visa to the USA as ‘ salvation ‘. Or the youth on the corner, who sees a gun as ‘ salvation ‘. Or a young girl struggling to make ends meet, who sees an older and more often than not, either married or in a relationship, as her ‘ salvation ‘.

Presenting Jesus as the only Hope, to these and all troubled members of our nation, is not easy. Buy we are not at liberty to ” construct a new Gospel of Human compassion and mercy “. It may be tempting. But that way does not promote the establishing of God’s Kingdom. And is therefore unsustainable in the face of the reality of evil.
Only a Fuller picture of Salvation in Christ Jesus and Him Crucified. We need to be nuanced in our understanding of this Big Picture. If we really love our neighbors!

Good and Evil: The Big Picture shown on The Cross of Calvary

This week, with Charles Dickens famous opening lines of A Tale of Two Cities, ” It was the best of times: It was the worst of times “, echoing in my head, and pain in my heart about the state of my country, amidst some joy, I posted this message on Twitter:

Is this the best of times in Jamaica #Jamaicacollegeroboticsteam #GibsonMcCookRelays2018. Hope for the future. Or the worst of times #FalmouthHospital #Policebrutalityallegations #Outrageous #Despair #Dickens God have mercy!

All of this after the joy of boys from my alma mater Jamaica College, making a nation proud by winning a section in the Robotics competition held recently in the USA.

The Best of times

Congrats again to the #JamaicaCollege Robotics team of which Jr Councillor at the @ksamcorp Javaughn Thompson is a member on winning the First Tech Challenge Competition in New York over the weekend. The entire KSAMC is proud. #StillBelieving https://t.co/V6n8B2d4zl

The Worst of times

But then this joy had to be shared with the shame of #FalmouthHospital

UPDATE: Entrance to Falmouth Hospital Accident and Emergency Department pelted with stones today by angry supporters of an alleged area leader who reportedly died at the hospital from injuries he sustained during a motor vehicle accident. https://t.co/zVY85zaQU5

These same thoughts came to mind as I woke up this morning write the weekly inspired message. Why! The performance of our outstanding female athlete at the World in Door Games in Britain.

The Best of times

http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/sports/thomas-dodd-lands-historic-silver-medal-in-shot-put_126792?profile=1499

The Worst of times

And the wickedness captured on tape, during an interview between ace journalist Cliff Hughes on Nationwide News Network, and a young woman who had been abducted and robbed by rogues posing as taxi drivers and passengers. Including another young woman!

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1CiJVb5wt_0mTwkMYmXqTOtI7MOWIxGFz/view?usp=drivesdk

A Dickens like scenario which brought into very sharp focus an ongoing discussion I have been privileged ( to be fair sometimes it doesn’t quite feel that way) to share, with very articulate, and well read, atheists and other unbelievers, on Facebook.

For what Religion in general, and Christianity in particular, facilitates, is a vision of the big picture.

THE BIG PICTURE

And the big picture in the World is Sin, and Redemption for Sin on the Cross of Calvary, by God in Christ Jesus. That’s it! Everything else is infected on the one hand, and redeemed on the other hand, by A Tale of Two Forces: Good and Evil. And which inspired thoughts triggered this post on:

Facebook

Michael Abrahams ( The chief apostle online who poses searching questions about religion in general with a particular focus on Christianity) you and your friends have been posing, inter alia, some important questions about the Christian Faith.

For example, why does a Sovereign God allow so much suffering in the world? With the implied question about the origins of evil.

Questions which have exercised the minds of both Christian and non Christian thinkers alike over the centuries. Searching for what the scholars term a Theodicy – an explanation for God’ actions. Vis a vis Theology – an understanding of God.

And based on my reading of Keller’s ” Walking with God through Pain and Suffering “, those explanations which have been offered do not answer all the questions, eg Free Will – promoted by Augustine, and Soul Making – by Iraneus. Except the Fall – where sin in general entered the world and caused disease and death and natural disasters. And even with that explanation people still have questions.

Which leads to the obvious conclusion which is offered in the Epistle for the worldwide Anglican Church this week, and captured in this quote from Keller – arguing that suffering can lead to a deeper relationship with God, with prior preparation, as during the crisis, if one is not firmly rooted in the faith, doubts may arise and even ‘ blaming God’.

” Surprise can be dealt with if we do some theological reflection. We may have an unexamined feeling that God will not let really bad things happen to good people. But Jesus Christ himself ( that’s why we must always live under the cross – my words) disproves that. If God allowed a perfect man to suffer terribly ( but for an ultimate good), why should we think that something like that could never happen to us ?
…..because of Gods infinite majesty and wisdom we expect not to understand all His ways. It wouldn’t make sense that everything he does would make sense”.

Might I suggest Michael, and your friends, a bit facetiously, with tongue in cheek, but with great humility and love, perhaps you should give up trying to reason out God by yourself for Lent. And stop ” kicking against the pricks” and trust Jesus. About Whom God said, ” This is my beloved Son, of whom I am well pleased, listen to him”. And who knows what could happen, if you with your God given talents, like Paul, could have a Damascus Road experience. Peace.

The Epistle
1 Corinthians 1:18-25
The message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written,
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”
Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.

Advice, which triggered, what turned out to be, this humorous, so he said, thus provoking quite a discussion, response:

Lucien Jones why don’t you give up religion for lent, and give me a break from this psychobabble?

The challenge we face as a nation and as Christians, is to continuously, without ceasing, like prayer, keep this big picture in mind.
Otherwise we get, distracted in a sense, or perhaps more accurately, become over confident, in solutions which ” promise “, short term gain, in the fight against evil, but which measures are only a ” temporary fix “.
Like #ZOSO and #StateofEmergency and banning corporal punishment in homes as one method of improving parental skills.

So the big picture for Christians is living under the power and benefits and discipline of the Cross of Calvary.

A message which triggered this post on Facebook

The Cross of Calvary

I’ve been reading this book, The Cross of Christ by John Stott, particularly during Lent, for years. And I’m yet to finish it or plumb its depths. This morning during my #earlymorningdevotions having reflected of the Gospel reading for Sunday coming, and these words in particular, ” After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed in the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.”

Then I remembered the book, went to my bookshelf, found it, opened it and was struck by these words

” Moved by the perfection of his holy love, God in Christ substituted himself for us sinners. That is the heart of the Cross of Christ. ……Why did God take out place and bear our sin? What did he accomplish by His self-sacrifice, his self-substitution?

The New Testament gives three main answers to these questions, which may be summed up in the words, ‘ salvation ‘, ‘ revelation’, and ‘ conquest ‘.

What God in Christ has done through the cross is to rescue us, disclose himself and overcome evil.
Truly when, when Christ died and was raised from death, a new day dawned, a new age began”.

Hence A.D. Anno Domini. The central message of Christianity and not the peripheral arguments which provoke a lot of the discussions on Facebook. So Michael would like me to ‘ give up ‘ religion for Lent, or be brave enough to leave my faith aside, what would I ‘ take on ‘ and survive. For a minute! In this dark and broken world where #Etana’s #peoplediehereeveryday

All of this coming after I woke up with this glorious song in my heart:.

O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder…..

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

Refrain

Then sings my soul, my Saviour God to thee,
how great thou art! How great thou art!
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God to thee,
how great thou art! How great thou art.

I really believe that if Michael and his friends could be exposed more and more to the glory of God on Calvary, they would not focus so much of their attention on the failures of Christians, and Christian leaders. And find the peace that only the Crucified Christ can provide in a broken world. #Parkland #Jamaicableeding
Peace

Finally, I was led read a meditation on a A New Nature, by Chris Tiegreen this week; to be included in the  next message. Suffice it say however, that the reason why we have hope in this broken world of Sin and Death and Evil, is that in a mysterious way, we who trust in Christ and Him Crucified, have put on a New Nature. A supernatural event! And unless we believe and act accordingly, Jamaica and the entire world will continue to be “A Tale of Two Cities. Good and Evil.

While America grapples with mass murder in schools, and Jamaica with murder every day, Good Friday and Easter cometh. Hope in Christ Jesus!

How does one cope, when you live in a small country, Jamaica, where, year after year, for many years now, quoting popular singer Etana’s Wrong Address, ” people die there every day”. And where so far over 200 persons have been brutally murdered. Mostly by the gun!

How do people in devastated Syria cope? With aircraft raining weapons of death on innocent people, including children, day after day. Or when ISIS was active, how do you cope with relatives being beheaded, or with acts of mass raping of your women. How!

How will children in the richest and technologically most advanced country in the world, America, cope with continued and heart wrenching episodes of mass murder in their schools? How will that society respond?

How do people cope with the devastating news of the sudden death of a loved one? Or ” bad news” about cancer, or HIV or a broken relationship? How! And why!

One Perspective about Life

Isn’t life not supposed to one where boy meets girl, fall in love, dance to the music of Drifters, Temptations, Bob Marley and Skatalites in one era. Or Chronixx, Protege, Rihanna Beyonce and Adele in another era.
Get married, or shack up if that’s your thing or a visiting relationship, have children, work hard, love neighbor, vote in or vote out governments. Stay home and build a nation or go abroad and send money back home ” as you quint the money reach “. Send for your family or go back home and apply for the post of Commissioner of Police, or start a business and make some other contribution to nation building. Watch TV, enjoy Carnival, or Dancehall music, hang with friends in a club or at the local bar. Eat roast yam, jerk chicken or pork, go to the beach on a Sunday while others worship God, or watch Messi play for Barcelona, cuss Arsenal’s coach, live for Basketball, play dominoes and try don’t ” colt de game. Dig yam hills, carry your tomatoes and lettuce to ” Curry” or the local market to sell. Run the ” One Order” hoodlums, or pay the ” tax”. Beg the taximan or Coaster bus driva to slow down.
Send your children to a good school and pray that they will come out to something good, don’t disgrace you, and look after you when you get old.
Then retire early, call Hotline regularly, capture your children’s children, grow them up too, or refuse because you have a life to live. Grow old with your partner, serve God, when you are old and have nothing else to do, or start when you are young in obedience to your mother’s teaching. Or continue to wonder who God is. Die and go to one place or another. Or doesn’t everybody get to go to heaven! Or don’t we all turn to dust, and that’s it.
Isn’t that the story of life!

I have been reading, again, a book which I started before Lent, entitled ” Walking with God through Pain and Suffering by New York Times best selling author Rev. Timothy Keller. And he paints an entirely different picture about life. And argues, in my view, successfully, that Christianity alone of all the world’s religions, and ideologies and philosophies, best prepares us for the inevitable suffering and pain which are natural parts of human life and existence.

Keller’s opening statements in his book:

Introduction

The Rumble of Panic beneath Everything

I think that taking life seriously means something like this: that whatever man does on this planet has to be done in the lived truth of the terror of creation….of the rumble of panic underneath everything. Otherwise it is false.
– Ernest Becker, The Denial of Evil

I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul makes its boast in the LORD; let the afflicted hear and be glad. O magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together. ( Psalm 34:1-3).

Suffering is everywhere, unavoidable, and its scope often overwhelming. If you spend one hour reading this book, more than five children throughout the world will have died from abuse and violence during that time. If you give the entire day to reading, more than one hundred children will have died violently…..thousands die from traffic accidents ( crashes) or cancer every hour, and hundreds of thousands learn that their loved are suddenly gone…..

Shakespeare understood this when he wrote:

Each new morn
New widows howl, new orphans cry,
New sorrows strike heaven on the face.
….. and Becker expose the common ways in which we try to deny the rumble of panic. This book is an effort to do what they urge – to take life seriously. I want to help readers live life well and even joyfully against the background of these terrible realities. The loss of loved ones, debilitating and fatal illness, personal betrayals, financial reversals, and moral failures – all of these will eventually come upon you if you live out a normal life span. No one is immune.

Therefore no matter what precautions we take, no matter what how well we have put together a goid life, no matter how hard we have worked to be healthy, wealthy, comfortable, with friends and family, and successful with our career – something will inevitably ruin it.

No amount of money, power, and planning can prevent bereavement, dire illness, …..human life is fatally fragile and subject to forces beyond our power to manage. Life is tragic.
We all know this intuitively, and those who face the challenges of suffering and pain learn all too well that it is impossible to do using only our own resources. We all need support if we are not to succumb to despair. In this book we will argue that inevitably this support must be spiritual.

Final comment: I am preaching, in part, tomorrow at my church, St. Andrew Anglican Parish Church, on familiar words from the Gospel about suffering. Pray for discernment and revelation. And to speak boldly!

Some of my friends are going through a challenging time dealing with life threatening ilnesses. We need to pray without ceasing for each other. For mercy and comfort!

We have to be very careful and be willing to be nuanced in our understanding of the Gospel. Which is why I posted this message from Keller’s book on Twitter last night.

So suffering is at the very heart of the Christian faith. It is not only the way Christ became like and redeemed us, but it is one of the main ways we become like him and experience his redemption – #TimothyKeller #WalkingwithGodthroughPainandSuffering

Nuance! However, ” I don’t want to celebrate suffering, prescribe it for everyone, or minimize the moral imperative to to reduce it where we can. I don’t want to ignore the pain that ripples out from each diagnosis of cancer…God is grieved at our grief – Keller https://t.co/oTBvMHrJaY

Hope at the end of Lent

#Parkland shooting and #100murdersin20days, as well as other tragic events across the world continue to pose serious questions about what is life all about. But as we journey through Lent to Good Friday and Easter we are assured that God not only cares, but He cares even to death on a Cross. And He is still sovereign. And is willing through the Ressurection of His Son Jesus to offer those who believe, new and unending life.
Peace

Chose ye this day who you shall serve today: The Eternal God or the Wisdom of this Age

I lived through, and worked in a hospital in a volatile area (Kingston Public Hospital ) in the build up to, the violence in 1980; largely due to the tension between the two major political parties approaching the general elections

At the end of which year, 899 Jamaicans, not PNP or JLP, but persons made in the image and likeness of God, lay dead

Jamaica murder rate over the years:

Year # of Murders
1970 152
1971 145
1972 170
1973 227
1974 195
1975 266
1976 367
1977 409
1978 381
1979 351
1980 899
1981 490
1982 405
1983 424
1984 484
1986 449
1987 442
1988 414
1989 439
1990 543
1991 561
1992 629
1994 690
1995 780
1998 953
1999 849
2000 887
2002 1045
2003 975
2004 1471
2005 1674
2006 1340
2007 1574
2008 1601
2009 1680
2010 1428
2011 1125
2012 1097
2013 1200
2014 1005
2015 1192
2016 1350
2017 1608

There was great fear in the society, at that time. But the general feeling was that if you did not venture into certain areas the violence, for the most part, it was unlikely that you would be affected.

The mood now, and has been for a while, is quite different; as the murderous rampages and other violent crimes, have become so random, so unpredictable, so heinous, so brazen. Broad daylight no longer offers any protection. Being a woman, even pregnant, or a child, is no longer a “safe zone” with the current lot of criminals. A church or the pastor is no longer ” off limits” to the #wicked. As they fear neither man nor God. Much less #ZOSO or #StateofEmergency!

And so a pall of fear hangs heavily over my beloved country. Affecting ordinary citizens and even a pastor I met recently. I’ve never seen it like this!

The Response of The Church

How does the Church respond in a time like this. For those who lay dead, all 1608 last year and #100murdersin20days at the start of 2018, are not just scammers, or goat thieves, or gang members “fighting for turf”, or victims of reprisals or contract killings, or….. but persons, Jamaicans ( and a few from abroad) made in the image and likeness of God.

Suffering

And so a nation suffers. Loudly sometimes! Otherwise quietly in the ” sanctity” of their homes. Praying to God for mercy. Some! While others invoke the name of feared crime fighter #RenetoAdams. And more, sign a petition, requesting that he become the next Commissioner of Police. A man widely viewed, and remembered, as one who was not a strong opponent of the use of extrajudicial executions as a crime fighting tool.

So as brazen and unafraid gunmen continued to place my country under siege, I turned to Timothy Keller, to find some comfort in the midst of the madness and suffering. And was led to post this message on Facebook.

FACEBOOK

Theism without certainty of salvation or resurrection is far more disillusioning in the midst of pain than is atheism. When suffering, believing in God thinly, or in the abstract, is worse than not believing in God at all – Rev. Timothy Keller #WalkingwithGodthroughPainandSuffering
#Jamaicableeding

Why? Robust, distinctive Christian beliefs offer comforts that secularists cannot give:
1. Belief in a personal, wise, infinite God who is Sovereign over all the universe vs fickle fate and random chance.
2. In Jesus Christ, God came to earth and suffered with and for us sacrificially.
3. In Jesus Christ and Him Crucified we have an assurance of Salvation vs karma

4. Assurance of a bodily resurrection just like Jesus.. one of the great desires of the human heart is love without parting…..in the Ressurection of Jesus we have more than consolation; life is restored vs nothingness and an impersonal spiritual substance.

Thank God for Jesus indeed vs “The Immanent Frame” ( The view that the world is a completely natural order without any supernatural). A shift which did not remove all belief in God but altered it……Deism – God created the world for our benefit, and now it operates on its own, without any His constant or direct involvement. More anon!

” If one does not find consolation in these Christian doctrines ( beliefs), then I think total disbelief in God is better preparation for tragedy than the thinned-out, secularized belief in God that is so common in our Western world. Many people today believe in God, and may go to church, but if you ask them whether they are certain of their salvation…….Jesus’ sacrificial death on a cross…..bodily resurrection of Jesus and believers……..”

Comment: I believe I was led to share this post as the big question that we face as a nation is not who to appoint as the next Commissioner of Police, or whether or not, given recent events, there ought to be a review of the constitutional provisions for the appointment of the Chief Justice, or how do we achieve economic growth or tame the crime monster, but whether or not as a people we will trust in the God of Jacob.

The same God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ in whom our slave forebears trusted. And based on this choice fashioned, in large measure, a once relatively peaceful society.
The very same question posed by the Jewish leader Joshua thousands of years ago: Chose ye this day who you shall serve…..as for me and my house we will serve the Lord.

I believe, if we listen carefully, we can hear the same question as we consider the gun lyrics #bountykiller #Adi. As we listen and dance to the beguiling music of #Carnival #Temptedtotouch #Followtheleda As we spend quality time watching #Netflix. As we place allegiance to party, green or orange, over God. As we quote the words of our favourite talk show host #MuttyPerkins and discount the Word of God. As we, in the Church, ” seek first all other things #prosperity #popularity before the kingdom of God and His Righgeouesness ( who is Christ and Him Crucified).

No wonder that I was led to post this other and closely related, message from a Saint of yure.

For sadly, the reality is that the Church, we who are to be ” Light and Salt” in a dark and confusing world, have, in too many cases, become indistinguishable from the world in which we are called to be witnesses – the final post.

FACEBOOK

A Warning and a Blessed Assurance #bedtimedevotions:

Francis Schaeffer ( 1912-1984). Presbyterian minister who together with his wife Edith founded a international study and ministry community in Switzerland: L’Abri. Wrote 23 books. Including ” The God who is there “: how modern thought has forsaken the idea of truth ….and the tragic consequences of this abandonment.

WHY CHRISTIANS LOSE REALITY
Acts 17: 29

An important issue to consider as the Church offers Hope to a nation in crisis, #Jamaicableeding and some are looking ( back) to #RenetoAdams. While others believe we can fix it ourselves.

“Our generation is overwhelmingly naturalistic. There is an almost complete commitment to the concept of the uniformity of natural causes as a closed system.
This is the distinguishing mark. If we are not careful, even though we say we are Biblical Christians and supernaturalists, nevertheless the naturalism of our generation tends to come in upon us.

It may infiltrate our thinking without our recognizing its coming, like a fog creeping through a window open only half an inch. As soon as this happens, Christians begin to lose the reality of their Christian lives…..All too often the reality is lost because the ” ceiling ” is down too close upon our heads. It is too low. And the ” ceiling ” which closes us in, is the naturalistic thinking.

Now the Christian spirituality……does not stand alone. It is related to the Bible’s view of the universe. This means that we must understand – intellectually, with the windows open – that the universe is not what our generation says it is, seeing only a naturalistic universe…..For example, we have said that we love God enough to say, ” Thank you “, even for difficult things. We must immediately understand, as we say this, that this has no meaning whatsoever unless we live in a personal universe in which there is a personal God who objectively exists…..

We have also considered Christ’s redemptive death, which has no meaning whatsoever outside the relationship of a supernatural world.
The only reason the words ” redemptive death ” have any meaning is that there is a personal God who exists and more than that, has a character. He is not morally neutral. When man sins against that character, which is the law of the universe, He is guilty, and God will judge that man on the basis of true moral guilt.
In such a setting, the words, ” the redemptive death of Christ ” has meaning, otherwise they cannot.”

Renato Adams

Therefore, to think #RenetoAdams as ” Savior “, is to allow the naturalistic fog to come in through the window. Let us be patient, in prayer and in action, and wait upon the supernatural power of God in and through Jesus Christ. For our God is not morally neutral. And will judge. One day. In the meanwhile ” He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak…..of those who wait upon Him”. Isaiah 40

Comment: And so the final post on Facebook this week places a bookend on the message from the Lord. At a time of great confusion in my country. Confusion in the Police Force. Confusion in the Political Directorate. Confusion in the Judiciary. Confusion in the Church. And palpable fear and suffering in the land.

FACEBOOK

#earlymorningdevotions

THE CASE FOR JESUS
Acts 1:8 ” You will be my witnesses”

“Jesus’ disciples had been asking about the Kingdom of God – when was it going to be established and when was Israel going to be restored to its former glory” – Chris Tiegreen

The Bible – He replied, ” It us not for you to know the the times or the periods that the Father has set by His own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses…..

My thoughts…projecting the thoughts of the disciples into our age : ” Lord, when will you rescue Jamaica and restore our nation to its former glory”.

Chris Tiegreen – It wasn’t the right question to ask apparently, as Jesus answered in the way that He often did; indirectly.
They weren’t to be preoccupied with the Kingdom. They were to be preoccupied with the King.

Then the words of this wonderful song by BTC . A song I had not heard for a long time. So I searched in YouTube ” Lord I want to be your witness” and what a blessing in the early morning it was. Praise God. On a morning when all of us are praying for a New Jamaica. To be returned to its former days of peace!

Pray God that we will be occupied with thoughts and direction from following King Jesus, as we deny self, take up our cross and become witnesses for Him. In #Wrongaddress #Etana #Tivoli . In #BloodyStJames #Clarendonbleeding In #GordonHouse At #BelmontRoad At #HopeRoad In the #boardroom. On #Radio #OnTV In the #Starheadlines #JDF #JDF #Twitter #Instagram #Facebook to the ends of the earth