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No more go-betweens!

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Jeremiah 31:33,34 “‘This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,’ declares the Lord. ‘I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,’ declares the Lord. ‘For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.’”

     What covenant? After what time?  And With what people. – only Israel?

     Matthew Henry answers these questions succinctly; “The people of God shall become numerous and prosperous. In Hebrews 8:8,9 , this place is quoted as the sum of the covenant of grace made with believers in Jesus Christ. Not, I will give them a new law; for Christ came not to destroy the law, but to fulfil it; but the law shall be written in their hearts by the finger of the Spirit, as formerly written in the tables of stone. The Lord will, by his grace, make his people willing people in the day of his power. All shall know the Lord; all shall be welcome to the knowledge of God, and shall have the means of that knowledge. There shall be an outpouring of the Holy Spirit, at the time the gospel is published. No man shall finally perish, but for his own sins; none, who is willing to accept of Christ’s salvation”

   The new covenant is Jesus.  This covenant was established when His work on the cross was finished.  His people are believers who accept His rule and all know the Lord personally.  There won’t be any further need for ‘go-betweens’.  Every person will be taught by the Holy Spirit and God’s mark will be on our hearts!  But how exactly did we become part of this great covenant?

     How did we become part of God’s great covenant with Israel?  The apostle Paul explains it to us; ” I am talking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I take pride in my ministry in the hope that I may somehow arouse my own people to envy and save some of them. For if their rejection brought reconciliation to the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? If the part of the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, then the whole batch is holy; if the root is holy, so are the branches. If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, do not consider yourself to be superior to those other branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you. You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in. Granted. But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but tremble.  For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either.” (Romans 11:13-21)

     An in-grafted branch doesn’t replace the root.  It is nourished by the root which is why the Old Testament speaks to us with such Holy Spirit power.  We aren’t special but the nourishment that now courses through our spiritual body is precious beyond all the riches in the world, transforming us and our fruit.  Unbelief is the killer of the ‘broken off branches’ and potentially for us should be become prideful  or casual about our ‘new status’.  Jesus said; “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)

     John Wesley says our natures have changed; “With – That is, with those who are Jews inwardly. And write it – The prophet’s design is here to express the difference betwixt the law and the gospel. The first shews duty, the latter brings the grace of regeneration, by which the heart is changed, and enabled for duty. All under the time of the law that came to salvation, were saved by this new covenant; but this was not evidently exhibited; neither was the regenerating grace of God so common under the time of the law, as it hath been under the gospel.”   John Wesley could read the sign of the times in his day and ours.  When hierarchy, duty and works are emphasized in any assembly, those caught up in it are under the law.  When grace, new life and real change are celebrated in any assembly, those caught up in it are under the rule of Jesus Christ.

     According to John Wesley, the regenerating grace of God is a telling mark of the New Covenant gospel.  The apostle Paul confirms; “The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 5:20,21) The old covenant required the law and lots of priests to police it.  The New Covenant is perfect and only requires Jesus; “But in fact the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, since the new covenant is established on better promises. For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another.” (Hebrews 8:6,7)

     Why then do we hang on to the trappings of the old covenant.  Scripture tells us clearly; “Now the point in what we are saying is this: We have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, a minister in the holy places, in the true tent that the Lord set up, not man. For every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices; thus it is necessary for this priest also to have something to offer. Now if he were on earth, he would not be a priest at all, since there are priests who offer gifts according to the law. They serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things. For when Moses was about to erect the tent, he was instructed by God, saying, ‘See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain.’” (Hebrews 8:1-6)

     All believers have a ministry calling direct from God in heaven.  Scripture tells us; “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (1 Peter 2:9-10)   Jesus’ great commission was given to His disciples – those that actually decided to follow Him; “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19,20)  This commission came with a promise that He would be with us.

     Sadly we cling to shadows of the past where we leave the preaching to others and many like it that way.  It takes the ‘pressure’ of the people in the pews and elevates the priests in the pulpit.  Go-betweens make for a lot of ‘buck passing’ and avoidance of real issues by those in the pews and in the pulpit.  And in the push and shove, Jesus all too often gets squeezed out by other more ‘pressing concerns’ like budgets and membership.

     Church organization built on the shadow of what God actually ordains has created a terrible problem.  Ed Stetzer says; “My fear is that we have created a class system in the body of Christ comprised of the ‘called’ and the ‘not so much called.’ Nothing could be further from the truth.” Stetzer comes to a shocking conclusion; “The clergy-laity caste system is killing churches and hindering the mission of God. Let’s kill it. Next time I will talk about why some pastors should resign and become full-time Christians, but in the mean time, how is your church empowering ALL God’s people ‘for the training of the saints in the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ'” (Eph 4:12 HCSB)?”

     Actually there is something potentially far more shocking.  As Christians we never want to hear it;  “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” (Matthew 7:21-23)

     Jesus, have mercy on us all!
   
   

Can’t stop speaking His Word!

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Jeremiah 20: 9 “But if I say, ‘I will not mention his word or speak anymore in his name,’ his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.”

     Jeremiah was in a bad way.  He had taken a lot of punishment for speaking God’s Word to his people and was sick and tired of it.  He had just been beaten and put in stocks for prophesying on the orders of a popular false prophet.  Jeremiah cried out to God in anger and discouragement; “You deceived me, Lord, and I was deceived;you overpowered me and prevailed. I am ridiculed all day long; everyone mocks me. Whenever I speak, I cry out proclaiming violence and destruction. So the word of the Lord has brought me insult and reproach all day long” (Jeremiah 20:7,8)

     Jeremiah was a perceived to be a  ‘Negative Ned‘ by those in power and those who followed the popular prophets of his day.  To make matters worse for Jeremiah – he couldn’t shut up.  He tried and God’s Word would burn in his heart like a fire.  The conventional wisdom, ‘If you can’t say anything nice don’t say anything at all‘, just wouldn’t work for poor Jeremiah.  He just couldn’t shut up.  This is just as  big a problem for Christians today as it was for Jeremiah in his day.

     The Gospel message is one of repentance, hope and redemption. It isn’t popular.  It isn’t well liked because it upsets people.  Individually a persons prideful view of himself or herself has to be deflated for repentance to work.  Collectively our society believes that we are our own masters – our bodies belong to ourselves, we have a fundamental right to do as we please and be happy.  We hope for the wrong things and demand the freedom to pursue useless dreams of plenty and luxury.  As a society of affluence we want no redemption from our condition.  Nobody likes Negative Neds and Nellies who call for repentance to people who are successful and lack nothing.

     Peter and John were put in a similar position when they were brought before the Sanhedrin for preaching the Gospel message;  “Jesus is the stone you builders rejected,which has become the cornerstone. Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:11,12)  The religious establishment, keen to preserve the ‘status quo’ and their place in it deliberated; “‘What are we going to do with these men?’ they asked. ‘Everyone living in Jerusalem knows they have performed a notable sign, and we cannot deny it. But to stop this thing from spreading any further among the people, we must warn them to speak no longer to anyone in this name.’” (Acts 4:16, 17)

     Peter gave the only response possible for a people of God; “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:19,20)  They were not beaten for saying this; not because the Sanhedrin saw the light but because they were undecided as to what punishment to mete out because of the miraculous healing that no one could deny.(v. 21,22)  Later, filled with jealousy the Sanhedrin imprisoned the Apostles for their preaching and work in God’s Name (Acts 5:17,18)  Again God worked miracles (Acts 5:19,20)

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     Why don’t people see the miracles?  Why didn’t the Sanhedrin see the miracles?  They were to busy looking out for their own interests.  Selfishness is a world class blindness!  Why don’t we see the miracles of repentance, hope and redemption today?  We’re too busy watching TV, playing video games and paying down on the new car, the mortgage and our last luxury cruise in the Caribbean. All the Negative Ned’s just cramp our style, drive people from our churches and always have to be contrary.  Why can’t they just SHUT UP!

     Jesus said; “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:11,12)

     Come Lord Jesus!

 

Bitter correction – it’s your choice

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Jeremiah 2: 19 “Your own wickedness will correct you, And your backslidings will rebuke you. Know therefore and see that it is an evil and bitter thing that you have forsaken the Lord your God, and the fear of Me is not in you,”

     The field of economics tells us that market corrections occur when a ‘bubble’ bursts.  Economic bubbles develop slowly over time and build to fantastic proportions. Asset prices rise far above their true value and consumers overextend themselves by borrowing money in order to buy these over inflated assets.  This debt can in turn be repackaged and resold to investors greedy to join in the frenzy. Eventually people begin to default on their debt and a cascade of financial failure ensues.  So it is in the spiritual realm too.
 

 The Bible tells us that pride and greed are the driving forces behind these bubbles which always burst; “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.” (1 John 2:16,17)  Indeed, Scripture tells not just how to avoid being caught up in worldly bubbles, be they economic or spiritual, but how to survive them – by doing the will of God!

     The world will pass away.  All the bubbles we build in our world are built by the forces of ‘idolatry’.  There are economic bubbles and there are moral as well as spiritual ‘bubbles’.  The greatest most bitter spiritual bubble of all is as old as time and based on a lie like all bubbles; “The serpent said to the woman, ‘You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.'” (Genesis 3:4,5)  And we fell for it!

     How then do we avoid our desire to be part of destructive worldly bubbles of wickedness?  Jeremiah tells us – It starts with the ‘fear of the Lord’.  Scripture tells us; “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.” (Proverb 9:10)  Accepting instruction and correction from the Lord is key to living safe from idolatry; “My son, do not reject the discipline of the LORD Or loathe His reproof, For whom the LORD loves He reproves, Even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights.” (Proverbs 3:11,12)

     ,How blessed we are today because we don’t have to pay thousands of dollars to enrol in a prestigious university to learn this discipline and correction from the Lord.  We don’t have to travel to the Himalayan mountains and sit at the feet of some eastern guru to be given this wisdom.  We can go to any second hand book store or thrift shop and buy it ‘dirt cheap’.  The Lord’s Wisdom comes in a profound yet often ignored book called the Holy Bible. Many laugh at it or consider it stupid and outdated – they prefer bright shiny bubbles.

     The apostle Paul tells us; “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16,17)  And here we have our choice (again it’s not a new choice – it’s as old as time)  we can choose to fear God and follow Him or go our own way unencumbered by all His ‘old fashioned’ ideas.  Sadly many people prefer their own way; “Like a dog that returns to its vomit is a fool who repeats his folly. Do you see a man wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.” (Proverbs 26:11,12)

     Jeremiah tells us; “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope is the Lord. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river, and will not fear when heat comes; But its leaf will be green, and will not be anxious in the year of drought, nor will cease from yielding fruit.” (Jeremiah 17:7,8)  This is true stability in good times and lean times.

     Jesus tells us not to worry about getting everything the world offers; “For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”  (Matthew 6:32,33)  Only by following Jesus can we keep our priorities straight.

     Come Lord Jesus!

   
   

   

A true fast!

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Isaiah 58:6,7 “Is this not the fast that I have chosen: To loose the bonds of wickedness, To undo the heavy burdens, To let the oppressed go free, And that you break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, And that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; When you see the naked, that you cover him, And not hide yourself from your own flesh?”

     Fasting for the wrong reasons does more harm than good to a person’s spiritual health.  If you’re looking to score holy points with others or seeking  blessings for yourself by fasting then you’re out of God’s Will.  God isn’t impressed with what you keep out of your mouth if you do it for self-interest.
   
Isaiah 58:6,7  provides a clear standard by which to evaluate statements about the ‘benefits’ of fasting; “What is the secret to deeper intimacy with the Lord? How can I know God’s perfect will? How can I release the anointing, favor and blessing of God in my life?  For me, fasting has been the answer to these and other deep questions—the key for obtaining open doors, miraculous provision, favor and the tender touch of God upon my life. I was on a three-day fast when God called me to preach. I was on a 21-day fast when our ministry received its first $1 million gift.” (Jentezen Franklin)

     Jesus tells us to keep fasting to ourselves; “Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.” (Matthew 6:16-18)  The reward we get for fasting is the reward our heart deserves.  Merchandising fasting paraphernalia and extolling what fasting can do for you is hardly in keeping with Jesus’ teachings.

     Mike Bennett tells us: “Like anything, the spiritual tool of fasting can be misused. The proper use of fasting will humble us (Psalm 35:13), but Jesus Christ warned us against using fasting to feed our pride—to make other people think more highly of us. ‘Wow, he’s fasting again—he must be very righteous and close to God!’ is the kind of reaction these hypocrites wanted.”

     What are the benefits of fasting the way God desires?  God’s Word tells us: ““If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on My holy day, And call the Sabbath a delight, The holy day of the Lord honorable,  And shall honor Him, not doing your own ways, Nor finding your own pleasure, Nor speaking your own words, Then you shall delight yourself in the Lord; And I will cause you to ride on the high hills of the earth, And feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father. The mouth of the Lord has spoken.” (Isaiah 58:13,14)

     The words of Isaiah pierce my heart; ‘And [do] not hide yourself from your own flesh . . . .’  The truth is, my flesh is  hungry for what the world can give me!   Jesus tells us that when we fast  giving up the desire and appetite for this world’s rewards for our own flesh, we will be blessed by His provision; “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.” (Matthew 5:6)

     Oh Lord, help me to fast in this way!

     Come Lord Jesus!

Half a step is just a smaller step!

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Neil Armstrong, the first human to walk on the moon, upon setting foot on the lunar surface said; “That’s one small step for a man, a giant leap for mankind.”  History need not be made in full strides nor is history always magnificent.  Sometimes mankind makes small shuffling half-steps that continue a chronicle of  miserable exploitation and injustice.

Canada’s Bill C-36  which is based on the Nordic Model approach to  the ‘sex trade’  is an example of a ‘half step’ to a continuation of misery.

Some, like Meghan Murphy,  champion Bill C-36;

This law constitutes an enormous step in working towards gender equality in Canada. By criminalizing the pimps and johns, the new legislation directly targets male power and male violence against women. . . . By criminalizing the exploiters and perpetrators of violence, and by decriminalizing those who must resort to selling sex (which continues to be primarily women), we challenge men’s sense of entitlement to female bodies and an institutionalized misogyny that turns women and girls into commodities.

Bill C-36 passes senate, receives Royal Assent, will become law in 30 days BY MEGHAN MURPHY, NOVEMBER 6, 2014, rabble.ca

Setting aside the feminist rhetoric and looking at the issue of prostitution from a common sense perspective we can ask; How can one-sided injustice be remedied by ignoring the supply side and focusing on the demand side? Buying sex is wrong and being in a situation where you have to ‘resort to selling sex’ is wrong.  Is the buying of sex  a greater evil than being forced to sell sex? Common sense should tell you that choosing the lessor of two evils – still leaves you with evil.  Also one wrong can’t be cancelled out with another wrong.  Bill C-36 is a half step away from decriminalizing prostitution in Canada and even if this is a half step it is just a smaller step in the wrong direction.

Chris Hedges in his article; The Whoredom of the Left, makes a compelling argument that any step, even a half step, to legalizing prostitution will yield the very results all seek to redress;

If we accept prostitution as legal, as Germany has done, as permissible in a civil society, we will take one more collective step toward the global plantation being built by the powerful. The fight against prostitution is the fight against a dehumanizing neoliberalism that begins, but will not end, with the subjugation of impoverished girls and women.

The Whoredom of the Left, truthdig, Posted on Mar 8, 2015

Chris Hedges compares the results of two legislative models dealing with prostitution – one for full  and the other for partial legalization;

Sweden in 1999 criminalized the purchasing of sex. Norway and Iceland have done the same. The two responses—the German model and the so-called Nordic model—have had dramatically different effects. The German and Dutch approach normalizes and expands human trafficking and prostitution. The Nordic approach contains it. Sweden has cut street prostitution by half and freed many women from sexual slavery.

What about the remaining half of the women who are still in some form of sexual wage slavery?  The actual results of Nordic model type legislation is still terrible exploitation and suffering.  Chris Hedges cites many stark realities of ‘normalized’ prostitution.

“Third World women are used in the developed world for domestic labor, the care of the old and the undisciplined sexuality of the men,” Lakeman said. “Our liberty as women cannot rest on this deal.”

Many indigenous women on the streets in the Downtown Eastside have been severely beaten, tortured or murdered or have disappeared. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police in May 2014 issued a report that said that 1,017 indigenous women and girls in Canada were murdered between 1980 and 2012, a figure aboriginal women’s groups contend is too conservative. As prostitution and pornography become normalized, so does male violence against women.

“When some women are bought and sold,” said Hilla Kerner, an Israeli who has worked at the shelter for 10 years, “all women can be bought and sold. When some women are objectified, all women are objectified.”

What are the root causes of sexual exploitation (or any exploitation)?

For Chris Hedges the root cause is capitalism gone pathological and  out of control;

Prostitution is the quintessential expression of global capitalism. Our corporate masters are pimps. We are all being debased and degraded, rendered impoverished and powerless, to service the cruel and lascivious demands of the corporate elite. And when they tire of us, or when we are no longer of use, we are discarded as human refuse.

As a simple vegetable gardener I know some roots run deep.  Toxic capitalism may be the root but where does it get its nourishment from – what draws the root ever deeper into the dark?  What dark subterranean sludge draws societies and individuals to sink roots deep into its embrace?  I believe it is a cavernous selfishness and indifference to others that the Bible describes.  I call it the spirit of Cain which led to the first murder recorded in Scriptures;

So the Lord said to Cain,”Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.” Now Cain talked with Abel his brother and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him. Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4:6-9)

Am I my brother’s keeper?  Am I my sister’s keeper?  What about you?

How can we even ask?

The Power of Thy Word

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Isaiah 55:11 “So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.”

     There are many invisible forces and agencies operating in our world.  Can you see gravity? Yet, its influence is present everywhere. Sir Issac Newton described gravity as a universal force.  Einstein conceptualized gravity as a warp in the very fabric of space and time.  For many gravity is  invisible and unnoticeable because it is so pervasive.   Of course, that doesn’t mean gravity doesn’t exist.   People take gravity for granted because they can’t see it and only notice its effect during terrible catastrophes.  Then they curse their fall.  So it is with God’s Word.

     God’s Word is the mightiest force operating in the universe.  God’s Word created the universe and upholds it; “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power . . . ” (Hebrews 1:1-3)

     Some people say there is no God working in the world?  People jeer; ‘We can’t see Him working.  There is no evidence,  no proof of God!  No one can see Him or His Word working!’  The Bible tells us to expect this kind of rapacious blindness; “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good. The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Have all the workers of iniquity no knowledge? Who eat up my people as they eat bread, and call not upon the Lord.” (Psalm 14:1-4)  Willful  blindness eats up the faith of many.

     God’s Word will accomplish what He desires; “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.” (John 3:16,17)   God’s Word existed  before  creation; “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” (John 1:1-5)

     And so it is.  Today, God’s Word goes forth into the world carried by His true church – a church abiding in His Word; “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” (Colossians 3:16)  His Holy Spirit is the agency of change that pervades the entire world; “. . . He will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because people do not believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.” (John 16:8 – 10) The Holy Spirit works in all, and through His church, over all the world.

     His will be done.

     Come Lord Jesus!

The milk of human kindness soured!

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Every once in a while I read an article that saddens me.  The comments on Jesse Whitlock’s story in the National Post did it to me today.  What people forget is that every ‘thug’ has a mother and some kind of family.  Every convict, dope addict and street person has a history that doesn’t start with; “My dream has always to be a failure and now I am.”  We are all born a helpless child.  As we go from infancy to adulthood things can go wrong, poor decisions are made and for some the consequences put you in jail or the gutter.  Sometimes you end up in jail or the gutter through no fault of your own.  The point is everybody deserves compassion.

Gary Dimmock, reports:

Ottawa lawyer John Hale was quick on his feet in Court Room No. 2 on Friday, and as always, had his eye on the ball.

Upset that he wasn’t credited more for time spent in custody, his client, an Ottawa thief who lost his left eye to cancer while at the Innes Road jail, removed his ocular prosthetic and threw it at the lawyer, who caught it after a single bounce off the counsel desk.

“That’s the thing about this business, there’s always something new that happens,” said Hale, who joked that it was a “new form of retainer.” Told it was a good catch, he said modestly, “I could see it coming.”

His client, a thief who steals to feed a drug habit, was sentenced Friday to 18 months. He served about 102 days in pre-trial custody and was credited for 153. He thought he deserved more but he was confused about the process.

Jesse Whitlock, 32, is going back to jail. The lawyer gave the fake eyeball to a police guard for fear his client, who has mental-health issues, would flush it down a toilet in protest.

Gary Dimmock, Postmedia News | March 6, 2015

Jesse has an addiction, mental health issues and lost his eye to cancer.  He broke the law and deserves the consequences but does that give anybody the right to dehumanize him by making jokes about his lost eye and calling him a ‘plague on the community’.

Here are some samples of the ‘milk of human (un)kindness’ from the comments;

I couldn’t figure out what it was, kept getting bigger, then it hit me! It’s his eye piece….

“They wouldn’t have had to take my eye if they had taken the matter more seriously. Sounds like they took the matter more seriously than Whitlock takes our laws. Give him 20 years for being a plague on the community.

Eye see blind justice.

And

Exactly I work in a jail lock up a place before they get transferred to prison or a remand centre . This is the number one thing all new Prisoners say. ” I did not do anything ! I am innocent >>> this is generally followed by >>> I know my rights ! So when I hear this the comment I KNOW MY RIGHTS ! Once in awhile I response to them saying ; Knowing your rights is a good thing, but more importantly learning the rights of the other people and especially in your case it would be more important because that’s what could make the difference in where you could spend many years of your life in the future !

This last comment is very telling in that the author of it generalizes by claiming that all new prisoners without exception insist they are innocent.  Some of them are telling the truth.  There is good evidence to believe that some are wrongfully convicted.  Myles Frederick Mclellan’s book review in the Canadian Criminal Justice Association website points out;

. . . a best estimate basis concludes that one percent of all convictions are wrongful.  These include cases that do not distinguish between personal and property offences or between violent and non-violent crimes.  To apply this estimate to Canada, in 2010, there were 87,214 cases that resulted in a sentence of incarceration. Using the assumption that one per cent of those imprisoned were innocent, the data suggest that there were 872 individuals wrongfully convicted in that year.  There is every reason to believe that as rates of incarceration increase yearly as a function of the current Canadian government’s crime control agenda, that number should continue to rise.

Book Review – Justice Miscarried: Inside Wrongful Convictions in Canada, By Hélèna Katz Toronto, ON: Dundern Press. 2011

When you start dehumanizing people by making jokes about their misfortune and consigning them to the trash it becomes very easy to think that everybody gets what they deserve.  You get to the point where the common mindset is that anyone in trouble deserves nothing but contempt and  the presumption of innocence is trashed.  What about  those who are innocent or wrongfully convicted.  What lessons can they teach us about the infallibility of any justice system?

Black and white thinking takes over.  If you’re in jail your bad.  If you’re not in jail your good.  Sometimes truth and justice gets drawn out of the simplistic picture.

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