An Address To Black And White American Christians

To say that; ‘the church is not what it used to be’ is a great understatement in regard to the condition of much of the Black Church and the White Church in America! For those who may be offended by the terms; “Black Church” and “White Church” let me remind you that historically, in America, the divided came into existence because White people did not want to worship with Black people! In fact, during those days, there was much debate as to whether Black people were even ‘human-people’ and consequently capable of being Christians at all! So it was not a case where Black Christians wanted to be separate, but more of a case where White Christians refused to be united! Apparently many White Christians didn’t give much credence to the Apostle Paul’s statement in Galatians 3:28, where he said: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal. 3:28 ESV) And even today, after all these years, the eleven o’clock worship hour is still the most segregated hour of the week in America!

Therefore, I am writing this address to Black and White Christians because, until we can authentically, honestly and truthfully address and biblically deal with the racial (cancer) divide in the church, the world has no reason to listen to anything the church has to say about Jesus! In his high priestly prayer in the garden, prior to his passion, Jesus prayed: “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” (John 17:20-23 ESV) According to what Jesus prayed, the reason the world does not believe, is not because the Gospel is not being preached, but because the ones who claim to follow Jesus are NOT UNITED AS ONE! It is the unity of believers that will cause the world to believe!

But why is unity so hard? Because of sin and selfishness! Sin and selfishness is the root of all racism! Racism in any form is sin and evil! We (the church) will never have any credibility as authentic witnesses of the faith until we repent of our evil ways! I am sickened by all of the hypocrisy and foolishness that is occurring in the church today! In places where there is some semblance of racial togetherness, most so-called Black and White Christians are not united in Christ, they are united in profit: They are united in seeking blessings and prosperity! But in the real issues, they are divided as ever! For instance, just a few years ago, a White church in Mississippi refused to host the wedding of an interracial couple! Just recently, I just read of a small Christian school in Georgia that has cancelled all association with Nike because of their association with Colin Kaepernick. Many White Christian churches and pastors are all in an uproar because of Kaepernick’s protests during the National Anthem. What seems to be (purposely) getting lost in all of this is the reason for the protests! First of all, Kaepernick has stated over and over again, that the protest is not about the flag or the national anthem, but rather he chose to respectfully kneel to bring attention to the plight of Black people being unjustly treated by the police and the justice system in America! The protest is not about the flag or the military! But people have made it about those things in order to divert attention away from the real issues! People are protesting to highlight the fact that Black lives matter! On one hand, some Whites are upset because they think by saying Black lives matter, Black people are saying other lives don’t matter! But that’s not the case at all! The Black Lives Matter movement, Kaepernick’s protest started in response to an American justice system has historically operated in a manner that makes a distinction between White lives and Black lives! That is a historical and verifiable fact!

By the way, the attention and disgust many so-called Christians have shown toward Kaepernick seems to imply that they have made idols out of the flag and America! According to the Bible, the believers’ first and primary allegiance should be to his God, not his country! And if the primary allegiance is to God, than by virtue of that fact, the primary concern should also be the concerns of God! The primary concerns of God are the Kingdom of God, justice, and righteousness; not a flag or any country! For a Christian to be more concern and have more respect for a flag than for a person or a group of people (created in the image of God) is simply nonsensical, unbiblical, and idolatrous! Real Christians are motivated by love! Even if you don’t agree, your Christian faith demands you treat your adversary with dignity and respect! You can’t be ‘hateful’ and Christian at the same time! You can’t be a Black racist or a White racist,  or a White supremist and a Christian at the same time; one term negates the other!

The questions all of us, who claim to be believers or Christians must truthfully answer are: Is my political association more important to me than my faith? In other words, does my politics dictate my Christian faith or does my Christian faith dictate my politics? Am I a Christian who happens to be Black or White, or am more Black or White than Christian?

But all of this has served to separate the saints from the ‘aints.’ The true people of God are not the ones who say they are, but rather the ones who prove they are by their consistent actions, as the Bible says: “A tree is known by the fruit it bears!”

There was a song written several years ago that said: “There will never be any peace until God is seated at the conference table!” In the same way, there will never be any racial equality and justice in America until all those who claim to be Christians, churches, pastors, bishops, prophets, or whatever are more Christian than they are anything else!
We are divided in this country by race, politics, ethnicity and many other things, but we can only be truly one in Christ when we are truly one with one another! It’s not a matter of one group giving up their agenda or rights for another, but rather of all groups giving up their agendas and rights for HIM!

Eternal Life

What is eternal life? Well, the Greek word that is translated as ‘eternal’ in the New Testament is a word that means: “1) without beginning and end, that which always has been and always will be 2) without beginning 3) without end, never to cease, everlasting.” Using those definitions, we can readily see that number one and two apply to God and definition number three is applicable to eternal life as it refers to the prospective fate of saved humanity. But as we read the Bible, we discover that definition is not so cut and dried as it seems. For instance, in the book of Revelation, there is a descriptive scene in which the devil, the false prophet, and all those whose names were not found in the Book of Life, will be cast into the lake of fire and tormented forever. Now, the last time I checked; forever and everlasting were terms that meant basically the same thing! Hence there must be more to eternal life than just living forever, because, according to the Bible, everyone; the saved and the lost, will live forever! The question is where?

Another wrinkle in the equation comes from the revelation in the Bible that eternal life is not something that believers get when they die! The Bible teaches; eternal life is a present-possession of the believer! Jesus said, in John 5:24:  “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” (ESV) Note the use of the past-tense; ‘has eternal life’ and ‘has passed from death to life.’ The beloved Apostle John wrote in 1 John 3:14-15: “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. (ESV) Again, note the verb tense; eternal life is not something that is awarded to the believer at death, eternal life is a present-possession!

Therefore, since there is more to eternal life than just living forever and eternal life is something that believers presently possess, then apparently eternal life must also have something to do with the ‘quality’ of life! Jesus gave an insightful definition of eternal life in John 17:3. In his high priestly prayer in Gethsemane, on the eve of his passion, Jesus said to the Father: “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” (ESV) According to Jesus, eternal life is knowing the only true God and knowing Jesus Christ who was sent by the only true God!

Now, this ‘knowing’ the only true God and ‘knowing’ Jesus Christ, who was sent by the only true God, is more than just an intellectual knowing. In the Bible, the terms; ‘know’ and ‘knowing’ are often used as euphemisms for intimate sexual relations. In the Genesis 4:1, we read: “Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have gotten a man with the help of the LORD.” (ESV) It is obvious from the context, that the birth of Cain did not happen simply by Adam finding out all he could about Eve! No! The phrase; “Now Adam knew Eve his wife” meant Adam had ‘carnal knowledge,’ Adam had sexual intercourse with Eve and as a result; Cain was produced! In John 17:3, of course sexual intercourse is not in view, but rather an intimate spiritual relationship is suggested! Eternal life is an intimate spiritual relationship with the only true God and an intimate spiritual relationship with Jesus Christ, who was sent by the only true God!

Of course, the primary way to facilitate this spiritual relationship, from the human stance is to begin with intellectual knowledge. But, isn’t that how all relationships begin? People who are married, and even those who aren’t, didn’t become sexually intimate at first sight! (At least, they shouldn’t have, but it’s a different world these days!) No! Usually couples get to know one another first! And how do they get to know one another? They do so by the exchanging of ideas and thoughts through verbal and written communication. They talk to one another and they write notes and letters to one another! Well, in the same way, God speaks and communicates to humanity through His love letter; the Bible! In the Bible, we can read about what God is like, what God likes and what God dislikes! In the Bible we discover God’s character and attributes. As we respond to what we read in God’s love-letter to us, we follow God’s instructions and dictates and begin to communicate (pray) with Him. As we comply with God’s terms of the relationship as expressed in God’s love-letter, God gives us His Spirit to live within us and the relationship deepens to the level of spiritual intercourse through worship. Just as you can’t really make love (you can only have sex with) to a person you don’t know; we can only praise and worship God as we get to know Him. The acts of praise and worship (including prayer and the various other spiritual disciplines) strengthen and intensify the spiritual relationship that promotes and fosters, what Jesus called: eternal life!

As a result of eternal life, the believer lives a life that is qualitatively different and superior to the unbeliever who does not have eternal life. This eternal life is characterized by love, peace, joy, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23) The believer consistently experiences, from day to day, God’s supernatural favor and grace in ways that cannot be rationally explained! Eternal life is not just a ‘retirement plan’ for life in Heaven nor just ‘fire insurance’ to insure against life in Hell; eternal life is the Kingdom life God originally intended and created man to have on earth, as outlined in Genesis 1:26-28. Because of sin, death (the physical separation of the body from the spirit/soul)  is the experience of all men! However, eternal life provides the means and assurance of victorious living in the present and in the future; eternal life is now and later!

Some Thoughts About My 58th Birthday!

On August 8, 2018 (two days from the writing of this post) I will be 58 years old! Now, that might not be such a big deal to you, but it means the world to me! I always make a big deal of my birthday! Why? Because every birthday reminds me of just how precious the gift of life is! Now, some might wonder, since my birthday is on the 8th, why am I writing this post today? Well, since tomorrow is not promised, I will not take for granted that I will be around two days from hence, and also since I’m having these thoughts now, I will share them now because I might be inspired to share something else (or not) Wednesday!

At the church I serve, I always (in jest) make a big deal of my birthday! I usually tell the membership on the Sunday before the historic day, that I will be available after church to give them written excuses to miss work on my birthday, which is an unofficial national holiday. (I offer to write them an excuse, with no guarantee their employers will accept it nor any offer to compensate for any lost wages; LOL!) Just this past Sunday (yesterday) one of the members said that I should wait until the day of my birthday to collect gifts, to which I replied: “No! I’ll collect any gifts offered or given today, to save people the trouble of trying to locate me on Wednesday!

But, in all seriousness, we should all be excited, not just about birthdays, but about every day! Life is such a wonderful and precious gift! You may be going through a rough patch right now and life might not be treating you very well; but you still have reasons to celebrate life! Why? Because the rough patches in life, whether they are self-inflicted or unjustly caused, are tools that can be used to teach some valuable lessons or weights to help build character and endurance. Whatever life brings your way, the important thing is your response! Life can make you better or bitter; but which, depends on how you respond!

I made up my mind, some years ago, that I would always look for the good in every situation! Many years ago, I read a book entitled: “Happiness Is A Choice.” Every since then, I constantly make a conscious decision to be happy! As I contemplate upon reaching 58 in a couple of days, I am happy because there were some friends I grew up with and some people I went to school with; some younger and some older, who have died, but I’m still here! I realize I am here, not because I was better or more deserving, but rather, only because of God’s grace and providence! Some years ago, when I reached 50, I realized, with all things being equal, I would probably not live another 50 years! I realized that I had already lived longer than I would live! Therefore, I decided then, more so than at any other point prior to that point, that I would no longer allow frivolous pursuits or people to monopolize my time! Life is too short to waste! People who kill or waste time should be arrested and because time is so precious, wasting and/or killing it should be a crime! Sadly, most people madly pursue the paper (money) while neglecting to respect and honor life’s most precious commodity; time!

Now, I realize I’m not the only person who will have a birthday in August 8, in fact, every day is somebody’s birthday! But, I just wanted to share with you my excitement about my birthday to encourage you to celebrate, not only your birthday but every day of your life! Even if you don’t feel like celebrating or you don’t see what’s worth celebrating; life really is good! No matter how bad things appear; just remind yourself they just look that way; usually things are much better than they appear! And even if things really are that bad; look for the silver lining, because; there really is a bright side somewhere!

Have a “good day” today!, As for myself; I am definitely going to have a ‘happy’ birthday; Wednesday! But just in case I don’t make it to Wednesday, that will be alright, because every day is a day worth celebrating!

Cycles

Cycle:

1)   An interval of time during which a sequence of a recurring succession of events or phenomena is completed.

2)   A course or series of events or operations that recur regularly and usually lead back to the starting point.

3)   A circular or spiral arrangement.

 

Well, it’s August 1, 2018 and yesterday was July 31, 2018. Today is the first day of a new month and yesterday was the last day of an old month! Where I live, yesterday was the last day of summer vacation for students and today is the first day of a new school year! All of this reminds me of the fact that life is lived in cycles; and that’s a good thing!

Have you ever thought about what life would be like if there were no cycles? What if a day never ended and there was no night for rest? What if the night was enduring and there was no morning to look forward to? What if the seasons never changed and it was always winter, summer, spring, or fall? We often take it for granted, but every day, we should take time to pause and be thankful for the cycles of life.

The cycles of life provide opportunities for new beginnings. Every morning when I awake and find myself not dead, I am thankful because I understand that to be one of God’s ways of granting me forgiveness for the mistakes and failures I made the day before. Every new day is a new opportunity to ‘get it right!’ Every month is a new cycle! Every year is a new cycle!

But, the problem with many people is that they fail to take advantage of the cycles of life. Instead of taking the opportunity to have a new beginning at a new cycle, they drag the old into the new and make the new just like the old! As they do this, they guarantee their tomorrow will be just as miserable as their today, which was just as miserable as their yesterday! People who do this are stuck in a rut, and I heard someone describing a rut as nothing but a grave with sides but no ends!

I don’t know where you are in your life, I don’t know what you are going through, but I want to encourage you to let this first day of the month remind you of the cycles of life. If you’re in a depressed situation right now, just remember, it’s just part of the cycle! If you’re down, surely and eventually, you will rise again! If you’re in an elevated position right now, be thankful and enjoy it, but also remember to make provisions and plans for the down-time, for the old saying is true: “What goes up, must come down!”

It is the cycles of life that make life interesting and provide opportunities for change, growth, and progress! Life would be boring and monotonous indeed if it were not for the cycles. So, don’t fight the cycles; don’t fight the changes, but rather embrace them and use them to your advantage! Use the cycles to refresh and rejuvenate! Use the cycles to re-evaluate and re-tool! Don’t wait until January 1 to start a new cycle, you can start a new cycle at any time! At the beginning of a new month, at the beginning of a new day, at the beginning of a new hour, and yes, even at the beginning of a new moment! There is an old saying that says we only live one day at a time, but actually, that is not true! We can’t even live a day at a time; we can only live one moment at a time! Thus, even our breathing is part of a cycle; with every breath we take, we have the opportunity to start over again!

Good for Goose and Gander; One and All?

There is an old proverb that says: “What’s good for the goose is good for the gander! The meaning is: ‘What is good for a woman is equally good for a man.’ The principle is: What is good for one type is equally good for another type, despite any irrelevant differences between the types. Well, we live in a culture and society wherein it seems the rights of the individual are being promoted and respected over the good of the group, even if those rights are detrimental to the group of which the individual is a member.

I’ve been thinking about something that I am trying to ‘flesh-out’ to see if it is a universally applicable principle in view of the insistence of individuals to demand the right to express themselves, even if their expressions are contrary and harmful to the group. Here’s the principle I’ve been investigating: ‘If it is good or right for one or some; it should be good or right for all!’ Now, let’s see how that works with some of the issues that are being debated in our society today.

Let’s start with racism. If it is good or right for one or some people to be racist; it should be good or right for all people to be racist! But, what kind of world would it be if everybody was a racist? Would it be a world that anyone would want to live in? I don’t think so! I think it would be Hell! If everybody thought and acted like they were better or more privileged than everybody else, we would have the recipe for a chaotic and dangerous society!

And speaking of danger: What would society look like if it was good and right for everyone to own and carry guns? Well, we really don’t have to imagine what it would look like; we’ve already been there and done that: It was the era of the wild, wild west! You can see milder versions of what that was like by looking at old episodes of Gun-smoke, Rifleman, and Bonanza! As I am typing this post, I am recalling news reports of shoot-outs between gang members and law enforcement that rival and surpass the famous gun fight at the OK Corral!

At the risk of being labelled hateful and insensitive, I dare bring up the issue of homosexuality! If it is good and right for one or some people to be homosexual; it should be good and right for everybody to be homosexual. But what would our world look like if everyone was a practicing homosexual? In fact, perhaps an even greater question is: Would there be a world at all? It takes a man and a woman to have a baby. Would we really be at ease and satisfied with a generation of test-tube babies; all produced by artificial insemination? I don’t think we would!

What about criminal activity? If it is right and good for one or some people to be crooks, then it is good and right for all people to be crooks! But what kind of world would it be if everybody was a crook? If everyone was a liar, a thief, a deceiver, a devious person, a pervert, or whatever? Do you see my point?

The point is this: Whether we like it or not, there are moral principles and guidelines that have been instituted by a Higher Power! Man, in his arrogance, likes to think of himself as being his own god! But, if everybody was their own god; society would break down into chaos! (By the way; since we have thrown off the yoke of the true God, this is exactly where we are headed!) Just because you may not like or agree with these moral principles, that doesn’t exempt you from their jurisdiction! People think it is OK to break God’s laws, but in the final analysis; they really don’t just break the law; the law breaks them! Our world is filled with people who are broken, disconnected and lost because of their attempt to be their own god! In the final analysis: What’s good for the goose may or may not be good for the gander, but it is not the right of the goose or the gander to decide what that ‘good’ is! That right is reserved only for the Creator of the goose and the gander! The Creator of the goose and the gander knows that there are some things that are good for the goose and the gander, but there are also some things that are good for the goose but not for the gander!

Fifty Years Later

I remember the day and I remember it well! I came home from school that Thursday afternoon to discover gospel music playing on the radio and my mother crying. I knew something was amiss because the local radio station that my mother listened to, would normally only play gospel music until noon. After the noon hour, the station would change to a rhythm and blues musical format. As for my mother crying, I had only seen her cry once before that time. It was one year earlier; February 14, 1967, the day the only grandfather I knew (her father) died. I asked my mother what was wrong, to which she replied: “King is dead!” At the time, I was a naïve seven-year-old with no clue as to what she was talking about and so I asked: “King who?” At that point, my mother sat me down and explained to me who Dr. King was and what was going on in America.

Fast-forward to fifty years later. My mother has been gone for 19 years and that naïve little seven-year-old is now a fifty-seven-year-old preacher and pastor. America, although much progress has been made, is still a nation wherein people are judged by the color of their skin more-so than the content of their character! It seems as if, for the most part, the only time some people talk about Dr. King, his dream and what happened is during Black History celebrations in February and on April 4; the anniversary of his assassination.

Tremendous progress has been made! We’ve even had a two-term Black President, but America is still a nation, wounded, handicapped, and scarred by racial prejudice and racial hatred. It’s 2018, and there are still people in this country today who still think “white is right” and “black and brown shouldn’t be around!” The nation has opted to elect a president who shows no apparent respect for the truth, the poor or the disenfranchised. Because of the climate this administration has allowed (encouraged?) closet racists have come out of their closets, boldly speaking with their lips dripping with the saliva of hatred and contempt for people who are not like them! Is this the America of Dr. King’s dream? In 1968, there was confrontation with the police and law enforcement in protest of the war in Vietnam. Today, there still seems to be a systemic problem and disparity between the treatment of Black and White suspects! Black suspects are more likely to be labelled as thugs, shot and killed ,while White suspects are more likely to be labelled as mentally ill, treated with respect and even given burger and fries before going to jail! Is this the America of Dr. King’s dream? Even in Black communities, it seems as if Black lives only really matter when they are taken by the police; otherwise, it seems to be acceptable for Blacks to kill one another over drug, family, or personal disputes! Is this the Black America of Dr. King’s dream? Even many in the church, who are supposed to be setting the moral climate of justice, righteousness and equality for the community have forsaken the path and succumbed to the lures of fame, prosperity, and money! Is this the church of Dr. King’s dream or even the church that Jesus established?

It is fifty years later! We’ve come a long way; but we have such a long way to go! Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was a man in and for his own time. We must quit looking and waiting for ‘another King’ and be kings and queens in our own right in our own generation. We don’t have to go to Washington, we can be agents of change, sources of inspiration and hope, right where we are! It is past time for our actions to be limited to reminiscing about what others have done in the past. We can’t get full off of yesterday’s lunch; we must cook and eat for today! Deep down inside all of us is everything needed to make an impactful difference in the world today. It’s fifty years later; the question is not whether or not the dream is still alive because it has been alive for ages! It didn’t start with Dr. King because it was alive in the hearts of the ancient prophets who spoke of a God who desired justice to roll down like waters and righteousness as a mighty stream!

It is fifty years later! Dr. King lived and was killed for what he believed in! What about you and I today? Are we willing to take the necessary risks to stand up for justice and righteousness or will we be content to settle for the comfort of our own private prosperity as long as we are not directly impacted by the injustices and ills that still plague our society? Will we be content to just ‘talk about it’ or will we rise up and ‘be about it?’ I’ve heard all my life an old axiom that says: ‘Prayer changes things!’ But, the older I get and the more I study ‘the Book,’ I am convinced that is not entirely accurate. Prayer is not designed to change things; prayer is designed to change people so that people might change things!

It is fifty years later: Thank you Dr. King for allowing prayer to change you so that you were inspired to be an agent of change in your generation! Hopefully, we will eventually understand that you didn’t live and die for us to just remember and talk about you, but rather so that things would be easier for us to make changes in our own generation.

The Right Rearview Mirror

In the 1940s many roads were unpaved and had only two lanes, one in each direction. Drivers had to be aware only of traffic on their side and directly behind them (rear view). Due to this, most passenger vehicles with an internal rear-view mirror until the late 1960s had the passenger-side mirror only as an optional addition, as it was considered a luxury. But as more lanes were added, the passenger-side mirror or the right rearview mirror became a necessity for safe driving. However, because of the distance from the driver’s eye to the passenger side mirror, a useful field of view can be achieved only with a convex or aspheric mirror. However, the convexity also minifies the objects shown. Since such objects seem farther away than they actually are, a driver might make a maneuver such as a lane change assuming an adjacent vehicle is a safe distance behind, when in fact it is quite a bit closer. In the United States, Canada, India, Korea and Australia, non-planar mirrors are etched or printed with the warning legend; objects in the mirror are closer than they appear.

I was driving on the highway a few days ago in the inside left lane and as I was about to merge back into the right lane, I looked in my rearview mirror and then into my right rearview mirror and that’s when I noticed it like I had never noticed it before! The warning is true: Objects in the mirror (really) are closer than they appear! At that point, I began to think about the way we sometimes look at life. Sometimes, instead of looking at life the way it really is; through the windshield, or even the driver-side or internal rearview mirror, we purposely choose to view life through the right rearview mirror! When we do this, we attempt to fool ourselves into thinking we have more time than we actually have.

The project is almost due, but we have not even started because we’ve been looking in the right rearview mirror, refusing to believe the objects in the mirror are closer than they appear! Retirement is right around the corner, but we have made no real plans because we’ve been looking at life through the right rearview mirror, refusing to accept the fact that the objects in the mirror are closer than they appear. In both of these examples, we actually see the object in view, but instead of accepting the fact that the mirror has made the object appear farther away than it actually is, we choose to accept what we see in the mirror as reality!

I have noticed as of late that there are more people who seem to insist upon looking at death through the right rearview mirror! They really don’t plan for dying! Therefore, they refuse to even think about life insurance or pre-planning for their funeral. They are so busy living that they fail to prepare for dying! They are going through life, looking in the right rearview mirror, refusing to accept the fact that the object (death) in the mirror is closer than it appears!

How about you today? Are you looking at life through the right rearview mirror! Are you forgetting or ignoring the fact that the objects in the right rearview mirror are closer than they appear? One last point: If you go through life, looking through the right rearview mirror and you suffer a setback or a mishap because things were closer than you thought, don’t get upset with the mirror! The purpose of the right rearview mirror is not to show you how things really are, its purpose is just to show you that things are! Its purpose is to show you things that you might not otherwise see of because of blind spots. Instead of going through life blinded, the right rearview mirror affords you the opportunity to at least see, although somewhat distorted, what you might not otherwise see at all! But the mirror does not in any way attempt to deceive because etched in the mirror in plain view are the words: “Objects in mirror are closer than they appear.”