Wednesday, August 28, 2013
Friday, August 24, 2012
Monday, August 22, 2011
The first half of this year has been a busy one. Preparing for the National Baptist Congress of Christian Education, attending the District and State Conventions, teaching the Union District’s COPP specialized course, along with other responsibilities has taken its toll on me. And I find myself guilty of what I used to accuse my children of and that is “Not Listening.” You see, I used to give my children specific commands to do something and it was as if I had said nothing. For example, I would tell my boys to get up from watching television and take out the trash. And they would continue watching as if I had said nothing. So in my frustration, I would accuse them of not listening. Oh, yes, they heard the command but it was obvious they weren’t listening because if they had been they would have immediately complied. After all, I was supplying them with everything they needed, so why wouldn’t they comply.
Like so, it is important for us to understand the spirit behind the commandments of the Bible. When the Old Testament urges us to “obey” God, the first meaning of the Hebrew and Greek words is often “to listen” or “to give attention to.” For instance, the Hebrew word that frequently shows up as “obey” in the English Bible is translated “hear” as in the famous Shema where he says, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.” (Deut. 6:4)
In the New Testament, the Greek word translated “obey” means to be persuaded. According to Vine’s Dictionary, the emphasis is not on submission to authority, but on action resulting from being convinced by reason and truth. That is, letting ourselves be persuaded by the truth is the idea of the author of Hebrews in communication when he says, “Obey those who rule over you, and be submission, for they watch out for your soul.” (Heb. 13:17)
Would it make a difference if, instead of saying “Obey me,” Jesus said, “Listen to me.” “I want your attention; I don’t just want your compliance; I want you to do it willingly because you love me and I love you.” For example, picture the husband and wife who keep talking at each other with growing frustration. He says to her, “Just tell me what you want me to do and I’ll do it. Be specific. Don’t make me keep guessing about what you want.” And her response is, “I’ve already told you and obviously, you weren’t listening. Plus, I don’t want you complying because I told you. I want you to do it because you want to.”
That’s the kind of talk that drives some of us crazy. But it is sometimes needed. Even God Himself doesn’t tell us exactly how to show our patience, self-control, and love for Him in the specific moments of our lives. He shows us how much He loves us, gives us principles, and then asks us to respond to His heart with our own.
So what would a life of listening look like? What can we do to hear more rather than less of God? Do we need to ask Him to help us hear more? Often we should stop talking long enough to hear Him whisper, “Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10) We would do better. What if, while trying to get His help and favor, we began to listen, really listen, to one another, to our spiritual and political enemies, and even to our own hearts? It would be more likely to hear Jesus saying, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me”. (John 10:27)
This kind of following is so different from being forced to keep a demand. When we listen carefully to His voice in Scripture, we don’t hear someone consumed by authority and control. Instead, we hear a love that says, “Come to me, all ye who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. My yoke is easy and my burdens are light”. (Matt. 11:28-30)
Even though Jesus has every right to demand our immediate obedience, He approaches us gently, appealing not only to our will but to our minds and hearts. He is still saying to His stubborn and distracted children, “Behold I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with me”. (Rev. 3:20)
Are you listening?
Saturday, March 5, 2011
We have hit the ground running trying to help make better lives for those who have little or no hope. It seems there are not enough hours in a day to deal with all the issues that come across my desk. For example, when I have to minister to those who have fallen gravely ill, and to the families of those who have succumbed to death weigh heavily upon my heart. I know that God never, ever does anything wrong, but because He knows we will become weary, He gives us consolation in John 14:1. "Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God believe also in me." In other words, we must keep our faith and trust in Christ Jesus.
Further, I wish to encourage our congregation and others who have the desire to get involved in some type of ministry, within or outside of the church. There is a secular saying that "if you don't stand for something, you will fall for anything." While there may be some truth associated with this saying, satan must never make us lose our focus. Christians, when we stand, we should know for what and for whom we are standing. We must keep our eyes on the cross. Jesus has given us another year, another day, another month to get our house in order. This year, as with previous years, will cause some to step up to the plate; others will challenge my vision and revert back to the status quo. Nevertheless, there is no turning back.
"I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase." (I Cor. 3:6). Paul planted the seed of God's Word in people's hearts. He brought the message of salvation. Apollos' role was to water - to help the believers grow stronger in their faith. Paul founded the Church in Corinth, and Apollos built on that foundation. The preacher's work was completed, but God kept on and keeps on making Christians grow. Our leaders should be respected, but we should never place them on pedestals that create barriers between people or as a substitute for our devotion to Christ. Having said that, we should guard our hearts for ministry, but in so doing, when the Church takes it rightful place in society, it must weed out unproductive ministries that usurp the authority of those in leadership. We see all the adversity being brought against God's children where men, women, and children are dying senseless deaths everyday. We are to pray, protect, teach God's Word of Salvation, and offer God's peace that passes all understanding which only He can give.
Finally, my brethren and sisters, the visibility of the fruits of our labor for 2011 has been ushered in. We have moved from "I Can" to "I Will"; from "A Fresh Start and a New Beginning" to "Embarking upon a Kingdom Culture for Ministry". This Kingdom Culture can be accomplished harmoniously through five specific areas: (1) The Spirit of Unity is where we work together toward a shared purpose and vision; (2) The Spirit of Integrity is being committed to biblical truth; (3) The Spirit of Excellence means to work as unto the Lord with the highest degree of professionalism, productivity, and skill; (4) The Spirit of support encourages us to give courageously and favorably; and (5) The Spirit of Giving supports giving generously through tithes, offerings, gifts, and/or pledges. These values are essential for kingdom building, and every member must make a commitment to God.
Stand firm on your faith, and remember that the darkest of nights are followed by the brightest of days. With God, ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE!
Friday, October 1, 2010
Barna Research Group conducted a survey among various religious congregations of people from ages 16-29, specifically to whether many people within this age bracket didn’t go to church or left church because of hypocrisy. The results showed overwhelmingly that it was a lack of being allowed to participate that caused them to not go or to leave because “the folks were hypocrites. The Barna Group’s survey also revealed that most people never actually left a congregation because of hypocrisy. The results showed that most people in the targeted age group left because the congregation was too insensitive, didn’t have enough activities for kids, had differing theology, or there was a small issue that was brushed aside and never addressed.
Now don’t get me wrong, hypocrisy is alive and well. It is an issue in almost every congregation. Jesus himself addressed the issue. I noticed, however, the only time Jesus hurled the charge of hypocrisy was when people were doing something deliberately to appear outwardly different from what they were inwardly. For example, He spoke about people who gave to charity “…so that they may be praised by others.” (Matthew 6:2) Likewise, He spoke against those who “…love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corner, so that they may be seen by others.” (v. 5) He also scolded the scribes and Pharisees for putting on the appearance, saying, “ For you are like whitewashed tombs, which on the outside looks beautiful, but inside they are full of the bones of the dead and all kinds of filth.” (Matthew 23:27). Jesus called all of those people hypocrites, and the Greek word that is translated “hypocrites” actually means “actor” or “stage player.”
How many people do you think get up on Sunday morning and think, “I’m going to church so I can pretend to be righteous and appear to be holy?” Not many. When church people admit to being hypocrites, we aren’t usually confessing to playacting. But more often, we mean that we have failed to follow through on our good intentions or that we still see the gap between the people we feel called to be, and the people we actually are. But most of us are not intentionally trying to deceive anyone; we’re seeing where we still need to work to bring our behavior up to the level of what we really believe.
The great challenge of the church is to give all people a place in their congregations. We must strive to make everyone feel a part and have everyone know their ideas are heard and, at least, considered. And if someone complains about hypocrites in church, the response should be, “there is always room for one more.”
Saturday, July 17, 2010
In reading the words from Ephesians, I discovered we all go through a dramatic series of events. We go from being condemned orphans with no hope to being adopted children with no fear. How does it happen? Well, first we come before the judgment seat of God full of rebellion and mistakes. Because of His justice He cannot dismiss our sin, but because of His love, He cannot dismiss us. So, in an action -- which I think stunned even the heavens -- He punished Himself on a cross for our sins. Think about it, God’s justice and love are equally honored. And we, God’s creation, are forgiven. But the story doesn’t end with God’s forgiveness.
It would be enough if God just cleansed our name, but He does more. He gives us His name. It would be enough if God just set us free, but He does more. He takes us home. And adoptive parents understand this concept more than anyone. They know what it means to fill and empty space inside. They know what it means to set out on a mission, and take responsibility for a child with a spotted past and uncertain future. Yet God has adopted us. God sought us, found us, signed papers, and took us home.
And you really thought God adopted you because you were good looking. You thought He needed your money or your wisdom. I’m sorry to burst your bubble. God adopted you simply because He wanted to. You were in His good will and pleasure, knowing fully well the trouble you would be and the price He would pay; yet He signed His name next to yours and changed your name to His and took you home.
I think you and I both know that an adoption is not something we earn; it’s something we receive. To be adopted into a family is not something that one achieves, but rather a gift one accepts. The parents are the active ones. Adoption agencies don’t train children to recruit parents; they seek parents to adopt children. The parents make the call and fill out the paper and endure the interviews and pay the fees and wait and wait. Can you imagine prospective parents saying, “We’d like to adopt Tracy, but first we want to know a few things? Does he have a house to live in? Does he have money for tuition? Does he have a ride to school each morning and clothes to wear every day? Can he prepare his own meals and mend his own clothes?”
No agency would stand for such talk. Its representative would lift their hand and say, “Wait a minute. You don’t understand. You don’t adopt Tracy because of what he has, you adopt him because of what he needs; and he needs a home.”
The same is true with God. He doesn’t adopt us because of what we have. He doesn’t give us His name because of our wit, or wallet, or good attitude. God is not a fair-weather Father, one that owns me only when I’m doing good, I can count on Him to be in my corner no matter how I perform.
Long ago, even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. His unchanging plan has always been to adopt us unto His own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. And this gave him great pleasure (Eph. 1:3-5 NLT).
I’m delight to be adopted into His family as one of His sons.
What about you?
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
I have discovered there are generational blessings in my family that have been passed down when it comes to motherhood. Passing these qualities down from one woman to the next has been the mandate of cherishing this important role. It was preached or taught in such a way that it became somewhat natural for each new generation to understand the privilege and importance of parenting. It was not a responsibility I saw being taken lightly.
What I observed, and from the stories I heard from others in our family, there was a sense of nurturing. This nurturing really is a privilege given to all life-givers whether they accept the responsibility or not. Every mother should be emotionally charged with the job of taking care of their children – of loving them; educating them; imparting words of light, words of healing, and words of well-being to their offspring. All should do this. But unfortunately, all do not. And this is the tragedy whose impact can be seen in years that follow.
When we look at many young mothers today, we can see they don’t have a clue as to the importance of their role. As a result, often grandmothers or others are left with the responsibility of trying to raise their daughter’s child with the challenges of this 21st century staring them in the face. The foundation for motherhood somehow didn’t get passed and is wrecking our society today.
The bible points to Timothy as being an example of the teaching of generational mothering. The apostle Paul admonishes Timothy to stir up the gift or gifts that are within him from the nurturing of his mother Eunice and grandmother Lois. These women planted in Timothy the principles necessary to impart in him good morals and Christian character. Through their parenting, Timothy was strong in faith and understood that challenges in life were not insurmountable.
If you have been given the unique opportunity to form and create the life of another human being, take seriously your charge and get on with the business at hand. You have much work to do, with great rewards to follow. Give of yourself and your love, that you may nurture a life of love. As with all important work, what you put into this priceless task is what you’ll get out of it.
Henry Beecher says, “What a mother sings to the cradle goes all the way to the coffin.”