Do You Love Me More Than These?

This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead. When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.”

(John 21:14-17 ESV)

If most (not necessarily all) Americans who claim to be Christian, were more devoted to actually practicing Christian principles than defending and practicing their cultural heritage, political ideology, or personal interests, most of the current issues plaguing American society such as racial divisions, politics, police brutality, and even gun violence would not exist.

So, the question for every American, who claims to follow Christ, is the same question Jesus posed to Peter: “Do you love me more than these?” (John 21:15) Do you love God more than your guns? Do you love the Lord more than your cultural heritage or racial identity? Do you love God more than your political party affiliations or platforms?

If the so-called Christians, really loved God the way they say they do, then that love would supersede racial and ethnic differences and Black and White Christians would stand together to protest and eliminate the systemic police brutality and racial injustice that is so prevalent in America today!

The bottom line is this: Unless the confessing Christian’s faith controls his or her politics instead of that Christian allowing politics to taint and distort their faith; any claim to Christian authenticity is suspect at best, if not just simply a farce in reality! Until practice is consistent with statements of faith, those who don’t believe have no credible tangible evidence that the Christian’s faith is actually real!

Our nation is severely divided along racial lines today because many people have confused real Christianity with politics! A real Christian is not the one who is on the political or social Left or Right! The identity of the real Christian is not determined by political affiliations. The real Christian is the one who follows Christ!

My prayer is that all who claim to love the Lord would actually love Him more than their own personal agendas! Then, and only then, will there be healing in the land!

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Have We (the Church) Truly Repented?

Some years ago, I did a word-study of the Greek word that is translated as “repent” in our English Bibles. As I result of this study, I came to a shocking conclusion: Most of us who call ourselves Christians, have NOT truly repented at all! This is mostly in part because of a mis-interpretation which has led to a misunderstanding, and therefore a misapplication the biblical concept of repentance.

Let me show you what I am talking about. When I was first introduced to the concept of repentance as a young Christian, I was taught that to repent means to be ‘godly sorrow for your sins.’ However, I would discover later on, that this definition is based on a faulty interpretation and misunderstanding of what the Apostle Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 7:9-10. The apostle wrote: “Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing. For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.” (KJV) Here are the same verses in one of the more recent versions; the ESV: “As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.” Now, here’s the thing that most people have missed about what Paul said. Paul DID NOT SAY godly sorrow or godly grief ‘was’ repentance. He said godly sorrow or godly grief ‘works’ or ‘produces’ repentance! Godly sorrow/grief and repentance are two different concepts; they are not synonymous! They are not the same!

So, to feel sorry for your sins is not the same as repenting, it’s just feeling sorry for your sins! But, feeling sorry for your sins ought to produce repentance! Feeling sorry for your sins ought to lead you to the act of repenting. So, that brings us to the question: If being godly sorrow for your sins is not the same as repentance, then, what does it actually mean to repent? Well, the Greek word that is translated as ‘repent’ has as its primary meaning; to change one’s mind or the way one thinks. Therefore, to repent is to change your mind or to change your thought process; repentance is a change of mind! True repentance is a change in ‘what’ and ‘how’ one thinks! This change of mind will invariably lead to a change in action, behavior and life.

Jesus’ first recorded public declaration is found in Matthew 4:17: “From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (ESV) The Jewish people at that time were anxiously waiting for and anticipating the coming of the Kingdom of God (the rule, reign, and authority of God among his people on earth). What Jesus was essentially saying was this: “Quit thinking about the Kingdom of God in the future-tense and understand and live in view of the fact that the Kingdom of God has now arrived!” The message of Jesus for us today is for us to quit thinking of the Kingdom of God only as a place called Heaven in the future and start thinking of the Kingdom of God as a present reality!

Therefore, in view of what Jesus said, even most people who call themselves Christians still need to repent! Why? Because most Christians think of the Kingdom of God only as a place called Heaven, in the sweet by and by! But the message of Jesus is that the Kingdom of God is also a present reality on earth in the sour here and now! The message is: Repent! Quit thinking religion and start thinking Kingdom! We’ve got our hearts set on ‘going to Heaven,’ but Jesus told us to pray: “Thy Kingdom come!” We’re want to leave here and go there, but Jesus wants us to stay here, working and praying that the ‘there’ will come here! He prayed to his Father in the garden on the eve of his passion, concerning his disciples and us: “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.” (Jn. 17:15 NIV) We need to repent, because we’ve been praying to the Father to get us out, while Jesus prayed to the Father to keep us in! We need to repent! We need to change our minds; we need to change our thought process! We’ve been thinking religion; but Jesus wasn’t about religion, Jesus was about the Kingdom! Jesus never told us to seek first religion; he told us to seek first the Kingdom! Religion is always about the past and the future ‘over there,’ but the Kingdom is primarily about in the present here! Religion allows evil to win in the present because of a faith in a future victory, but the Kingdom defeats the power of the enemy in the present and will ultimately destroy the enemy in the future! That’s why the enemy doesn’t mind us ‘having religion,’ because religion blinds us to the present reality of the Kingdom! The message to the church today is the same as the message Jesus proclaimed centuries ago: “Repent! For the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!” The Kingdom of God is not just pie-in-the-shy-when-you-die-by-and-by; the Kingdom is the present power and reality of God in the world right now! The Kingdom of God is not just later; the Kingdom of God is NOW AND LATER!

Another Love TKO

Having a spirit of unforgiveness is detrimental to our spiritual, mental, and physical health. When we don’t forgive and insist on holding grudges, we don’t hurt the person we don’t forgive or the one we’re holding a grudge against; we’re hurting our own selves.

Unforgiveness is detrimental to us spiritually because Jesus said, if we don’t forgive others; the Father will not forgive us! Think about it! There is no wrong anyone can do to us that is greater than the wrong we have already done to God! But those who are in right relationship with God have been forgiven of their sins and are forgiven by God on a daily basis! Therefore, when we refuse to forgive others, we are, in a sense, making ourselves to be greater than God!

Being unforgiving hinders our faith and prevents God from hearing our prayers! In Mark 11:22-26, Jesus makes the connection between moving mountains, receiving the things we desire when we pray and forgiveness.

Being unforgiving is detrimental to us mentally because strife, resentment, and other negative emotions that come with being unforgiving actually weaken and disempower us! They make us restless and angry, thereby inhibiting our ability to think positively and productively. When we refuse to forgive, we re-live the hurt over and over again in our minds; not allowing ourselves to emotionally heal.

Being unforgiving is detrimental to us physically because the doctors have discovered that our physical well-being is directly connected to our spiritual and mental health! When we are unforgiving for long periods of time, the resentment can manifest physically in the form of chronic high blood pressure, heart problems, cancers, and other health issues.

The bottom line is this; refusing to forgive is spiritual, emotional, and physical suicide! We don’t hurt the person we don’t forgive; but we are killing ourselves.

When someone has done us wrong, we’ve got to learn to forgive easily and quickly. Doing so doesn’t mean the person has taken advantage of us or walked over us; it means we are spiritually and emotionally mature and not spiritually and emotionally stupid! We would do well with a slight adaptation of the words of the late “Rev” Teddy Pendergrass: “We just need to let it go; it’s just another love T. K. O!”

 

 

 

A Bag of M & M’s

In the 1994 film: Forrest Gump, the lead character Forrest Gump (played by Tom Hanks) says: “My momma always said life was like a box of chocolate. You never know what you’re going to get.” Well, that may very well be true, but have you ever thought about the fact that the issues of race and skin color are like a bag of M & M’s?

I grew up, eating M & M’s and even today, I will occasionally indulge myself with a small bag. Now, the interesting thing about M & M’s is that they come in all different colors and two main types. You can get the ones with peanuts on the inside (my favorite) or the ones that are just chocolate on the inside. But whether they are just plain chocolate or peanuts, they come with a candy coating of reds, blues, greens, yellows, and other different colors. But here is the real interesting thing about M & M’s: No matter what color they are on the outside, they are all the same on the inside! In fact, even with the different coloring of the outside, they all taste the same! You can’t taste the difference between the reds and the blues or the greens and the browns! In fact, you could have a bag of M & M’s, all the same color and if you were blind-folded, you couldn’t taste the difference between that bag and a bag with assorted colors! Why? Because there is no difference! All M & M’s are exactly the same! The chocolate on the inside taste exactly the same and the candy-coating on the outside taste exactly the same! The only difference in M & M’s is the color on the outside, which, as far as taste, makes no difference at all!

Well, differences between the various races of people are like the differences between the M & M’s! We come in various different colors on the outside, but we all are exactly the same on the inside! We live in an age of advance medical technology. Organ transplants occur on a daily basis! Medical technology has demonstrated, too many times to deny that there is no structural or any other type of difference between the heart of a Black person and the heart of a White, Latino, Asian or person of any other ethnic group! All of our internal organs are the same! All of our blood-types are the same! The only difference is the color of our skin, the texture of our hair, the slant of our eyes, the structure of our cheek-bones, and some other minute details that really don’t matter.

So, what’s the big deal? Why is race and skin-color such an issue? When we boil it down to the essence and peel away all of the artificial excuses and fallacies, the real issue is fear. As humans, we naturally tend to fear what we perceive to be different and is unknown to us. But, the fear can be alleviated by knowledge.

When it is all said and done, we all are just like a bag of M & M’s! We have different coloring on the outside, but we are exactly the same on the inside! We have different skin-coloring, but we all have red blood! Our internal organs are the exactly the same! That’s why doctors can transplant the heart or lungs of a Black person into a White person or the liver and kidneys of a White person into a Black person! We are all the same physically, mentally and spiritually! When we all are ready to acknowledge that, the racial issues in this country will dissipate to a great degree. Most of the racial problems in America today are fueled by ignorance and fear. There is a connection between the two; ignorance breeds fear and fear impedes the acquisition of the knowledge which would eliminate the fear.

There is also a lot of historical baggage that we must sort out! But that’s another post for another day! I just wanted us, for this post, to look at a bag of M & M’s and learn from them! Can you imagine what it would be like to go to the store and all the M & M’s were bagged according to their colors? All the greens in one bag, all the reds in one bag and all the yellows in one bag. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t like that! I like all those different colors bunch together in one bag! I know it’s just psychological because, like I said earlier, they all taste the same! Even in the candy coating on the outside, there is no difference in the taste between the red coating and the yellow coating! But it’s just more pleasing to the eyes to have that variety of colors! A bag of all green M & M’s or all red M & M’s would be a boring bag! Perhaps that is what our Creator was thinking when the various races and ethnic groups were created. Variety is the spice of life! Just like a bag of all red M & M’s or all green M & M’s, life would be boring and dull if we all were exactly the same on the outside!

Please! Don’t Take Me With You!

I am deeply disturbed by the recent rash of murder-suicides happening all around the country with couples. I am trying to wrap my head around it. The whole situation is senseless!

I mean, if you kill that person in a fit of jealous rage, that only proves that you really didn’t love them in the first place and that the relationship was all about you, because real love doesn’t hurt!

So, you kill them, cause untold grief and despair for everyone involved, ruin your life and then go to jail, just to prove you are not to be played? That doesn’t seem very smart to me! Especially when you consider how many other people there are in the world; surely there is someone else you could find happiness with.

And then there are those who kill their lover and then turn around and kill themselves! I mean; what’s the point? If you killed them because you couldn’t stand the idea of them being with someone else, why not just kill yourself first? That would serve the same purpose.

Now before anybody thinks that I am suggesting murder or that people should commit suicide before they murder someone, I am not! I’m just thinking out loud, trying to make sense out of a senseless situation.

But, I will say this: If you are troubled and contemplating such irrational actions as I have just described, find someone to talk to! I can assure you that murder and suicide are never viable options! If you are angry and upset that they left you or cheated on you, your best revenge is to go on with your life and be happy! Whatever you’re going through, remember that you’re just going through; it won’t last! It’s only temporary! That is why murder and suicide are so tragic; murder and suicide are permanent solutions to temporary problems

In times like these, we need to be there for one another! If someone comes to you with a situation, most of the time, they already know what they need to do, they just need someone to listen. Please be a good listener and a good friend. Don’t betray their trust in you and don’t abuse their confidence in you.

Let’s look out for one another! Murder and suicide are never viable options; but love always is! 

 

Daddy! Daddy! There Are Butts In My Face!

I recently attended a revival service at the Bethlehem Baptist Church in Covington, Ga. The Evangelist was Pastor Charles E. Nesbitt, Jr., of the Providence Baptist Church of College Park, Ga.

During his sermon, Pastor Nesbitt shared this illustration about worship. He told the story about how he was invited to preach at a service for a friend in Ohio and his hotel room was on the 10th floor. When his ride arrived downstairs to pick him up for the service, he got on the elevator to go downstairs. Whereas, it was only he and another family on the elevator when he initially got on, on the 10th floor, the elevator stopped at nearly every floor so that by the time he reached the lobby, the elevator was packed.

In the midst of all those people getting on the elevator, the family, along with him, were forced to the back of the elevator as more people got on. In this family was a little girl about 3 or 4 years old. Because of her small size and short statue, by the time the elevator was full, all she could see was people’s butts in her face! That was a view she didn’t like very well. So, she pulled on her father’s coat-tail and raised up her arms for her father to pick her up. The father looked down at her, smiled, but ignored her gesture and continued his conversation with her mother. The girl tugged again, but got the same results. Finally, for the third time, the child tugged more vigorously than ever at her father’s coat-tails. This time, he stopped, looked down at her and her raised out-stretched arms and finally picked her up! He finally realized that her view; facing all those butts, must not have been a good experience for her. So, he picked her up into his arms and the girl was happy because, 1) she was in her father’s arms and 2) in her father’s arm, she had a nicer view and a better perspective.

Pastor Nesbitt said, that is the function of worship! When we go to church to worship and praise God, the experience lifts us up into the Father’s arms and enables us to see the world from God’s perspective, thereby, giving us a better perspective and a nicer view! Without the elevating experience of worship, without the Father lifting us up into His arms, all we have is the depressing view of all the “butts” in the world.

Thank you Pastor Nesbitt, for such a profound illustration and prolific sermon!

I posted this for all those who feel depressed and intimidated by all that is going on in the world today. Worship will not change the world, but it will change you! It will give you a different and higher perspective. It will enable you to see the world from God’s point of view! And when we look at the world from God’s point of view, we can rest in the knowledge that all things are working together for the good to them that love the Lord; the called according to His purpose. Although it looks out of control from our limited perspective, worship elevates us to the realization that God is still in control.

Oh! Father, I stretch my hands to Thee, no other help I know! Lord, lift me up, and I shall stand, by faith on heaven’s table land. A higher plane than I have found, Lord, plant my feet on higher ground!

The Way, the Truth, and the Life

“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”  (John 14:6 ESV)

“Wow, Jesus! Why did you have to say those words? Now, following you puts me in a pickle! It puts me at odds with my coworkers and friends because your statement is just not politically correct or socially sensitive!” If we are to be honest with ourselves, that’s the statement that many Christians today would like to tell our Lord! In a world that insists upon moral inclusiveness and religious plurality, Jesus calls us to exclusiveness and singularity! He didn’t say he was ‘a’ way! He didn’t say he was ‘a’ truth! And he didn’t say he was ‘a’ life! The articles are not indefinite; they are definite! Jesus made the claim and if we are to truly follow him, we must echo the claim of his exclusive and unique status.

Now logically speaking, if Jesus is indeed, just a way and there are indeed other ways to get to the Father, then his suffering on the Cross was not necessary! If there are indeed, other ways, then his life, suffering, death, and resurrection were pointless! When I was young and one of my siblings would try to exercise parental authority over the rest of us, we would ask them: “Who died and left you in charge?” That’s the question the world is asking of Jesus! As the Pharisees asked him: “Who gave you this authority?” Well, the Apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 2:6-11: “Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (KJV) On the day of Pentecost, the Apostle Peter preached in Acts 2:36: “Therefore, let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.” (KJV) It’s uncomfortable and it puts us at odds with the current consciousness, but if we are to be true to our Lord, then we must be willing to, as the Hebrew writer says, “. . . go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach.” (Heb. 13:13 KJV) We must remember, Jesus said: “Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:38 KJV) If we are ashamed of him now before the world, he will be ashamed of us before the Heavenly Father.

Now there is another aspect of this statement of Jesus that I don’t think many of us have really thought about! Look at the metaphors Jesus used. First of all, he said “I am the way!” What is the way? The way is the means of access! The way is the route, road, or the pathway! The way is not the destination; the way is the means to get to the destination! Many of us have made Jesus the destination, but in his owns words, Jesus said: “I’m not the destination you’re trying to reach! I am the means. I am the access. I am the way to get you to your destination!” And what is the destination? The Father God! Jesus came, lived, died, and was resurrected so that we might have a means of access to God!  

When we really look at this, the meaning is profound! Jesus was saying to us: “Don’t stop at me! Keep going! I’m just the way! I’m just the access!” He said to his disciples in John 16:23, “In that day (the day when the Holy Spirit comes to take permanent residence within you) you will ask me nothing, but whatsoever you ask the Father in my name and He will give it to you!” Now that is profound! Jesus was saying that, through me, you have the same access to God the Father that I have!

That is, I believe, one of the greatest statements in all of Scripture! Jesus didn’t come to bring men a new religion; men already had plenty of religion! Jesus came to renew the way, the means, the access, the truth and the life that leads to the Father that had been broken and destroyed by sin at the Fall in the Garden of Eden! We look at the life of Jesus as a means of salvation; and it is! But more importantly, the life of Jesus was and is a model for us to study and imitate! Everything he did was an example for us! Most theologians and commentators say that when Jesus calmed the storm, by saying; “Peace be still,” he was using his divine power. That might have been so, but I believe that when Jesus was on earth in the flesh, he didn’t function primarily as Son of God, but rather as son of man! In other words, I believe that when Jesus was on earth, he did not use any of his Divine prerogatives or attributes, but rather functioned as a man fully empowered and led by the Holy Spirit! For if Jesus functioned on earth as Son of God, then the statement recorded in John 14:12 makes no sense. There, he said; “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.” (KJV) Therefore, I believe that when Jesus calmed the stormed, he wasn’t displaying his divinity, but rather he was showing his disciples and us, through parabolic action, how to calm the storms in our lives!

The bottom line is that when Jesus made the statement: “I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes unto the Father but by me.” Not only was he saying that he was the only way to the Father, he was encouraging us to see him, not as the end, but rather as the means to the end! He did not come to glorify himself; he came to glorify the Father! Therefore, by looking at and using his life as example, a model, or a blueprint and by being empowered by the same Spirit that was in him and having the mind of Christ, we can also fulfill the specific purpose for which we were created. Most people, even so-called Christians, think that life is all about them, but it’s not! Humanity was created to be the physical, visible and practical expression of the Spiritual God in the material world! Whatever God does in this world, God does it through human agency! Man was created to glorify God! And how do we glorify God? Perhaps the answer is found in high priestly prayer Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane on the eve of his passion. Jesus said: “I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.” (John 17:4 ESV) We bring glory to God by completing our assignment! Our assignment is our life’s purpose; our reason for being! Jesus had a specific assignment and so do you and I and every person in the world! Whether it’s preaching the Gospel, or helping people discover their talents, gifts, and potential, or working at the bank, every work is a divine endeavor! Every work is a means by which God seeks expression through our human personality!

Yes! In the statement, Jesus was saying he was the only way to get to the Father, but he was also saying that he was the way, his teaching was the truth, and his life was the example of how we might truly live the abundant life here and now on earth!