Before I start, let me just say; I am not a fan of hip-hop or rap music! It is not that I am opposed to that music genre; I’m just not a fan. But I write this article in response to the recent murder of rap-artist; Nipsey Hussle. Now, since I am not a fan of that type of music, I did not even know who Nipsey Hussle was until Nipsey Hussle was not! But from what I have read since his untimely and tragic death, it would seem he represented a positive force in his community and our world, which is why I felt compelled to write this post.
Hussle, whose real name was Ermias Asghedom, was shot multiple times outside
his South Los Angeles apparel store, The Marathon Clothing, around 3:20 p.m.
PDT Sunday; March 31, 2019 and was pronounced dead at the hospital. As I am
writing this post, the police have named a suspect who has yet to be
apprehended. Hussle, a former gang member, was involved in community building
and investment in local businesses, public schools, and in young adults
learning coding and other tech skills. He provided shoes for children in schools
and heavily invested in his local community by owning a clothing store and
other business ventures.
It is the
classic story of a young Black man who, because of his environment and the cards
he was dealt, made choices that caused him to turn to gangs, drugs and violence.
However, he survived, got out and thrived! In acts of redemption, he gave back
to his community and used his influence and money in an effort to pull others
out and up. But his efforts were violently cut short by the bullets of an assassin,
ironically, just a day before a meeting he had requested with the Los Angeles
Police Commission on how to stop gang violence!
Now by now, you are wondering about MWS. MWS is an acronym for: Mad World Syndrome. We are suffering from extreme cases of madness (craziness; insanity) in our world today! It’s crazy for a person to be murdered who was doing all the positive things Hussle was doing to help people and stop murders! It’s crazy for people to be so insensitive, cold, and heartless toward other people. We are living in a time and culture now, wherein people cannot disagree and be civil in their disagreements. There once was a time, when people disagreed, they still maintained a level of mutual respect. But today, disagreeing parties feel compelled to dishonor, disrespect and dehumanize by name-calling and inflicting violence. We have even redefined the idea of tolerance. There once was a time when tolerance meant; I don’t agree with you, but I respect your viewpoint, therefore, I respect your right to be wrong! But today, tolerance has been redefined to suggest that if a person disagrees with another person, that person is hateful and mean! Such an idea is ludicrous and crazy! That’s a symptom of MWS (Mad World Syndrome)!
MWS is further illustrated in our country’s (USA) political world. The Congress and the President seemingly have forgotten about what is best for the country and are more focused on what is best for their particular political party and the special interest groups that financially support their campaigns. They propagate obvious lies with the belief that if they speak their lies often enough, loud enough, and forcefully enough, people will eventually accept their lies as truth! The crazy thing about it is; it works; that’s MWS!
I could go on and on, but the only way to contain MWS is by reaching one person at a time! There is no cure for the madness except a radical transformation within the human spirit and soul! We all must come to the realization that whether we like it or not, we’re all in this together! The killing of Nipsey Hussle reminds me of the craziness of a person shooting at another person on an airplane traveling at 30,000 feet in the air! Such an act could possibly hit the intended target, but the consequences do not justify the risk! For one thing, if the other person is indeed killed, the aggressors passion is satisfied, but his freedom is jeopardized because, in such a confined space, there is nowhere to run and hide! Secondly, the intended target might be missed and innocent lives (people who have nothing to do with the situation) could be lost! Thirdly, as my Daddy used to say; “A bullet don’t have no steering wheel!” Therefore a stray bullet could strike the hull of the plane, causing the cabin to depressurize and cause the plane to crash, killing all on board! Any way you look at it; such an attempt would be madness!
Now you might
say that I just gave an extreme example, but similar scenarios are playing out
everyday in our culture! The Nipsy Hussle incident is a prime example! Whether
it was a gang-killing, or the result of a personal dispute; the results are the
same. A young man, who had redeemed himself and was lifting up his fellowman is
dead! The person who shot him will, be killed or lose their freedom in prison.
Hussle lost his life! The assailant will lose his freedom or life! The families
of both the victim and the assailant suffer loss! The community loses! The world
loses! We all lose! That’s MWS!
When you ask God for an apple, don’t be so disappointed or surprised when He gives you a seed! But why would God give a seed instead of the fruit? Because the blessings of God are usually delivered in seed-form. Why? Because the fruit is the end-result. The fruit is mature and cannot grow or expand anymore. It is the nature of any fully ripe fruit to be perishable and if not soon consumed, will soon began to decay!
On the other hand, a seed has unlimited potential and an almost unlimited self-life! You can count the seeds in an apple, but you can’t count the apples in a seed! A fully ripe apple will only last for a limited amount of time before it starts to decay. But an apple seed has a much longer life span and unlimited potential.
If God only gave us what we ask for, our lives would be so limited. But, in God’s infinite wisdom, God knows we really don’t know what to ask for, so He does exceedingly, abundantly above all we ask or think (Ephesians 3:20). However, we often fail to recognize, appreciate, or appropriate the exceeding, abundant, above supply of God because it is usually delivered in the form of a seed. So, the next blessing you receive and you think it is not enough, it’s probably not a fruit for you to eat, but rather a seed for you to plant!
Well, as I am writing this post, it is January 2, the day after New Year’s Day. And as I am writing, I am wondering how many people are suffering from what I call; the Reversed Cinderella Complex. Do you remember what happened at the stroke of midnight in the story of Cinderella? The Fairy God-mother had already told Cinderella that she had to be back home before the stroke of midnight because, at midnight, the magic spell would wear off and everything, including her beautiful gown and the golden chariot would turn back into what they were before the spell was cast. Well, you know the story, Cindy was having such a good time at the ball, that she lost track of time! She was barely out before the stroke of midnight, when her beautiful gown turned back into rags and her grand chariot reverted back into a pumpkin!
The Reversed Cinderella Complex is the opposite of the Cinderella story. For some strange reasons, many people believe something magical happens at the stroke of midnight at the beginning of the New Year. They are energized with new resolve and new determination! They think there will be a substantial (almost magical) change in their situation when December 31 turns into January 1. But alas, after the midnight balls and the midnight church services, even as early as January 2, reality sets in! They discover there was no magical or miraculous change, their dream-gown is still a regular dress and their grand chariot in their dreams is still the same old pumpkin they drive every day! Yes! For most people, the only change that occurs between the last day of December and the first day of January is the change on the calendar!
As much as we like to believe in the Cinderella fairy tale, the truth is; real change is not magical, real change is work! As I’m writing this post, my social media feeds are still flooded with wishes of a Happy New Year. But, I understand that the New Year will not be happy just because of ‘wishes’ for it to be so! The New Year will not even be ‘new’ if there is no effort to make it new! Neither will the New Year be happy if that happiness is only determined by what happens! My point is, there is really nothing magical about the New Year! If we want the New Year to be ‘happy’ and ‘new,’ then we must, in the words of Captain Picard of Star Trek; “Make it so!”
Changes do not magically or mysteriously happen! Changes do not occur by themselves; changes do not make themselves, we must make them! Do you really want a Happy New Year? If you do, then you must work to make it so! You must change to make it so! Perhaps, one of the reasons we often fail so quickly in our New Year resolutions of change, is because we try to do too much at once! We try to tackle more than we can handle at one time. Let me show you what I’m talking about! Some years ago, I made a startling discovery that transformed the way I look at life! I discovered the fact that life can only be lived one moment at a time! There is a gospel song in which the singer asks the Lord to teach them to live one day at a time, but I discovered, that is impossible! We don’t live one day at a time! We don’t live one hour at a time! We don’t even live one minute at a time! We only live; one moment at a time! Therefore, instead of focusing on the year, it would be more practical and beneficial to focus on the moment! Instead being overwhelmed with what we can do this year, focus on what changes we can make in the present moment. The old proverb says the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step! Ask yourself: “What changes can I make right now?” “What can I do differently, in this present moment?”
If we consistently make the effort to change our moments, we will change our minutes! Those moments and minutes, will change hours and days! The changed hours and days, will transform weeks and months! The transformed weeks and months will translate into a transformed year! No! It’s not magic; it’s work! Are you willing to put in the work to actually ‘make’ the New Year a ‘new’ year? You can do it; one moment at a time!
“And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. . . . .”
Revelation 21:5 KJV
As we approach another new year, I am sure many are already talking and speculating about what their New Year resolutions are going to be. But, if the truth is to be told; many who are doing this now were doing the same thing at this time last year and much of what they proposed to accomplish then did not come to pass! In most cases, resolutions for the new year lose their resolve in just a matter of weeks! So, what can be done to make the promises we make to ourselves and to others more resolute and definite?
Well, I was looking at this text the other day and I saw something that might be helpful to us in our quest to make things new. You might have noticed, that while the text says: “And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. . . ,” the title of this discourse is not about making ‘all’ things new, but rather just making things new. I did that because; only the LORD GOD can make ‘all’ things new! However, because we are made in His image and in His likeness, coupled with the fact that we were given the Dominion Mandate, I believe if we look at how He that sat upon the throne makes ‘all’ things new, we can discover a blueprint, a pattern, or a guide to how we can make ‘some’ things new!
Now, it is interesting to note, as we look at the text, that God did not say He was making all ‘new’ things; He said He was making all things new! The two Greek words most commonly translated as; ‘new’ in the NT are ‘neos’ and ‘kainos.’ The word; ‘neos’ primarily denotes something that is recent in time; or something that was not there before. Whereas ‘kainos’ refers primarily to quality; something that is of a better quality and nature than the old. Neos is new in time; kainos is new in nature. ‘Kainos’ is the term used in the text. The text is not saying that God will make ‘new’ things which did not exist before, but rather that God will refurbish, renew, or make better the quality and nature of all things that already exist! The New Heaven and the New Earth will be the ultimate make-over job!
Isn’t that what we seek to do when we make our new year resolutions? We seek to make our lives and things better than they were the year before! But alas! Most of the time, the new year ends up being a repeat of the year before! Why does this happen? Why is it that our new year resolutions rarely stick? Well, I think the primary reason is because most of us don’t understand how we are programmed to function! Let me show you what I’m talking about: By nature, we are creatures of habits! We learn by repetition; doing things a certain way; over and over again. Do you remember how hard it was when you first learn how to tie your shoe laces or how to write? You had to concentrate and focus and it took time and much repetition to master those new skills. But now, you can tie our shoe laces and write your name in a matter of seconds, without much thought or effort! Why? Because you programmed yourself through repetition to the extent that tying your shoe laces and writing your name are automatic-habitual skills! Most of us can do them with our eyes closed without any thought at all!
Well, just like we learned how to tie our shoe laces and write our names, we learned every other skill and function in our lives. And just as we now tie our shoe laces and write our names without any effort or thought, so do we perform every other skill and function in our lives! Most of us, when we got dressed this morning, we stepped into one particular pants leg before the other and we put on one particular shoe before we put on the other! We don’t really think about it, but chances are, we step into the same pants leg first and put on the same shoe first every time we put on our pants and shoes! Now, as an experiment to illustrate the principle I’m talking about, the next time you get dressed, make a mental note of which pants leg you step into first and which shoe you put on first. Then the next time you get dressed, consciously make an effort to step into the opposite pants leg and put on the opposite shoe first! First, you will have to stop and think to even remember to do this exercise. Then, if you succeed in remembering, you will experience some awkwardness or even difficulty in making the attempt! Now, here’s the kicker: Chances are, you will try this experiment only once or twice, if at all. And if you try it at all, most likely, you will revert back to putting on the same pants leg and same shoe that you’ve always put on first! Why? Because you are not willing to continually go through the awkwardness and difficulty of doing the opposite of what you’ve always done! But here’s the super-kicker; should you continue with the experiment, in a matter of time, the opposite pants leg and shoe will become your automatic choice and easy and the choice that was once automatic and easy will become the difficult one! That’s how we are programmed to function and that’s how life works! Most of our new year resolutions fail because we are not willing to go through the awkwardness of remembering and the difficulty of learning to put our leg through and put on the opposite pants leg and opposite shoe first! When we don’t persist with a conscious effort to endure the initial awkwardness of doing things differently, we automatically revert back to the comfort and ease of doing things the way we’ve always done them!
But in the text, the One who sat upon the throne says: “Behold, I make all things new. . .” All things will not automatically be new, in order for all things to be new, the Lord will have to ‘make’ them new! The word ‘make’ implies effort and work! Now if the Lord will have to put forth an effort and work to make ‘all’ things new, then how much more should we be expected to put forth effort and work to make some things new? But that’s our fundamental flaw; we want a maximum return with minimal effort! We want something for nothing! We want a ‘new year,’ but most of us a not willing to put forth the necessary effort and work to ‘make’ the year new!
If we were to look at the verse that just precedes our text, we can gleam another principle in making things new. The last phrase says: “for the former things are passed away.” There it is: In making all things new, it was necessary for the ‘former’ things; the things that were before, to pass away; to cease to be. It’s impossible for the former things and the all things new to co-exist! In looking again at our experiment; we might have missed the fact that it’s impossible for anyone to put both legs through and put on both shoes at the same time! No! One leg and one foot always goes before the other; both cannot be first! Therefore, in order for the experiment to work; the one that used to be first, must pass away from being first and the one the used to be last, must be made new into being first! As we said earlier, that will not automatically happen, because the former thing was automatic; the new thing must be made new! That’s the way it is with anything in life! The things we desire to be new or different in our lives will not be new or different just because we want them to be new and different; they will only be new and different if and when we ‘make’ them new and different! Changes do not make themselves; changes must be made by us! I know we say it all the time, but is it really true? We always say: “Prayer changes things,” but is really prayer that actually changes things? I would like to suggest that in most cases; prayer doesn’t and isn’t designed to change things, but rather prayer actually changes us, and is designed to empower and motivate us to change things! I’ve noticed, as a pastor down through the years; particularly with church folks; when people don’t want to do something, they often veil their obstinacy and resistance with prayer. They say things like: “Pastor, we should pray about it!” But when they really want to do something, they don’t even mention prayer; they just go ahead and do it! In most cases, they pray about and refuse to do the things they should do, while they don’t pray and do the things they shouldn’t do!
Well, I’m just about through now, but there are a few more ideas I want to share with you about making things new, and then I will leave you alone. Notice in the text, the position of the One who said; I make all things new! According to the text, He sat upon the throne! The throne is the seat of authority and power. While some would suggest ‘authority’ and ‘power’ are synonymous terms; actually, they are not! Authority denotes legal right and privilege, whereas power denotes ability and might! In the world, there are some who have authority, but they don’t have ability and might, while there are others who have ability and might but don’t have authority! But He who sits on the throne in the text has both; authority and might!
Well, the good news this morning is that the offspring of the One who sat upon the throne have been given authority and might as well! In Genesis 1:26-28, we read: “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.” When God said, “Let them have dominion” that was the authority! When God blessed them, and said, “Be fruitful and multiply” that was the power! Now, I hear you! You’re saying: “Yes pastor, but that was before the Fall!” Yes it was, but Jesus came to fix up what Adam messed up! The authority and power that Adam lost in the Fall has been reclaimed and regained in the Last Adam; Jesus the Christ! Therefore, the Apostle Paul says: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” The Greek word translated as ‘new’ in the Apostle Paul’s statement is the same Greek word that is translated as ‘new’ in our text! Only ‘new’ people can really make things new!
How can we make things new for the new year? By changing our thoughts! The Bible says: As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” If you really think you can; you can, but if you really think you can’t; you never will! Don’t worry about what others think; what you think is much more important! Train your thoughts, look at the list in Philippians 4:8 and make a habit to only think on those things! And then, we must watch our words! We must train ourselves to only speak life, for the power of life and death is in the tongue. What we say to and about ourselves is much more powerful and effective than what anyone else says to or about us! And finally, we must understand that we can’t live our lives a year, a month, a day, or even an hour at a time! We can only live our lives; one moment at a time! Therefore, we shouldn’t worry so much about making the year new; but rather, just focus on the making the present and next moment new!
Snippets from the sermon: “Decision: The Power of Choice” Text: Deuteronomy 30:19. This sermon was the 6th of a 7-sermon series on “Dealing With the D’s.” Preached at the New Hope Baptist Church / Covington, GA. December 9, 2018.
We all have the God-given authority and right to make choices and decisions. This is one of the distinctive qualities of humanity that separates us from the animal kingdom; animals live instinctively, humans live by choices and decisions.
Our choices and decisions determine our direction and destiny.
We are where we are today because of the choices and decisions we made yesterday. Where we will be tomorrow is being determined by the choices and decisions we are making today!
“I don’t have a choice!” is a fallacy: That is erroneous thinking! It’s not a matter of not having a choice; it’s a matter of not liking the available choices!
Many people do not exercise the power of choice and allow life, circumstances, and other people to make choices and decisions for them.
To strengthen your decision-making muscles:
a. When confronted with a choice, never default by saying; “It doesn’t matter.” Make a decision; make the choice between grits or hash browns, coffee or tea, etc. Resolve to be proactive in making decisions in even the smaller things that might not matter as much.
b. When you make it a practice to consciously make a decision with little things that don’t matter as much, you will be better able to make better decisions with the big things that matter more.
c. Count the cost of your decisions ; weight consequences and options. All choices and decisions cost something: time, energy, finances, emotional investments, etc.
We literally make thousands of choices and decisions everyday. What to wear, eat, drive, who to see, to answer or not, etc. Therefore, we don’t need help to make choices and decisions, we need help in making better or good choices and decisions.
Even if we refuse to make a choice or a decision, that is a choice and a decision! To choose not to choose is a choice! To decide not to decide is a decision!
The greatest choice and decision we must make is: “What are we going to do about God’s call to salvation? What are we going to do with Jesus?