Earning Wings?

As I write this, first of all, I don’t want to come across as being flippant, disrespectful, or insensitive to those who have died or to those they left behind. My aim is not to agitate but rather to educate. With that being said, let me get into what stimulated me to write this post.

I was perusing my Facebook page the other day when I ran across this post of someone commenting about a person who had recently died. I was particularly arrested by their suggestion that the person who had died had; ‘earned their wings!’ Now, this was not the first time I had seen that comment, for across the years, I had read it too many times for me to count! Perhaps, this time for me was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back! At any rate, I felt the need to write this post to address this erroneous idea.

There are basically three errors that are inherent in the notion that when a person dies they have ‘earned their wings.’ First of all, the idea of ‘earning’ is completely opposite of biblical teaching. The Bible teaches that salvation cannot be earned, but rather is the result of God’s unmerited divine favor, known as grace! The Apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesian church; “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” (Eph. 2:8-9 NKJ) Therefore, there is nothing we can ‘earn’ because everything we receive from God is by God’s grace! The Old Testament Prophet Isaiah wrote: “But we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags. .”  (Isa. 64:6 NKJ) [in the Hebrew text, ‘filthy rags’ is a reference to a woman’s menstrual cloth!] The best we have to offer in regard to earning merit with God is utterly repugnant!

Secondly, where did this idea that we will get ‘wings’ when we die come from? (I wrote about this false notion more extensively in another post: Forever Human). Perhaps it comes from a misunderstanding of a statement Jesus made to the Sadducees in regard to marriage after death. Jesus said: “For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven.” (Matt. 22:30 NKJ) Men will be ‘like angel’ in that there will be no marriages, not like angel as in being of the same class of being as angels. And where did we get the idea that angels have wings? The only biblical reference to angelic creatures having wings is in Isaiah 6. If you read carefully, you will note that these creatures were not ordinary angels, but are specifically named as: Serephim. There is no record in the Bible of ordinary angels having wings! In addition to that, a careful and correct reading of the Bible will reveal that the function of angels is to minister to the heirs of salvation. (Hebrews 1:13-14) Therefore, for humans to become angels at death is a demotion rather than a promotion! In God’s hierarchy, angels are beneath us, not above us!

Lastly, I also talked about this more extensively in another post (All Dogs ‘Don’t’ Go To Heaven), but it does not matter how much suffering a person went through on earth, that does not qualify them for Heaven! I know we would like to think that all of our loved-ones and friends are at peace in Heaven, but the biblical truth of the matter is all of them are not! Everybody who has died is not resting in peace! The only thing that qualifies a person for Heaven is a correct relationship with God through Jesus Christ!

I know we say things like this in an effort to comfort the bereaved, but I think it does more harm than good when the comfort is based on false hope! Therefore, as we seek to comfort those who are bereaved, let us be careful to give them real comfort from the Word of God and not false comfort from worldly ideas or Facebook theology!

Conflict Sources and Resolution Principles

At the risk of sounding like Captain Obvious, I must say that our world is filled with conflict! But conflict is nothing new to the human experience. In the Bible, the Apostle James presents an interesting point about the source of conflicts in James 4:1-3. James writes: “Where do the conflicts and where do the quarrels among you come from? Is it not from this, from your passions that battle inside you? You desire and you do not have; you murder and envy and you cannot obtain; you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask; you ask and do not receive because you ask wrongly, so you can spend it on your passions.” (NET: New English Translation)

James suggests (and I agree!) that the source of many conflicts and disputes are internal! In other words, many of the problems that people have with other people stem from problems they have within themselves! Now, if a person is conflicted within themselves, they will naturally have conflicts with other people. If a person can’t get along with themselves; they certainly won’t be able to get along with others! James suggests a big problem is that people ask (God), but they do not receive because they ask with the wrong motivation. That is the one of the main issues I have with the proponents and followers of the so-called ‘prosperity-gospel.’ It seems to me that the main reasons and motivations for faith, prayer, blessings, and prosperity for those who espouse the prosperity gospel is for personal consumption and comfort; not so that the will of God might be done! But at any rate, I digress, let me get back to my main point: conflict sources and resolution principles.

In addition to what the Apostle James says, conflicts are also caused by ‘false beliefs.’ Two of the main false beliefs that cause conflicts are the belief in limitation and the belief in separateness. The belief in limitation is the belief that there is not enough to go around or that there is not enough for everybody. Ironically in some cases, it is the belief in limitation that causes limitations! When people believe there is not enough, they will hoard and stockpile resources, which may in some cases, limits other people’s access to those resources. In turn, the other people, who feel unjustly deprived, might be motivated to rob, steal, or otherwise, get those resources away from the hoarders!

But the truth of the matter is; there really are no limitations, excepts for the limitations we entertain in our own minds! My wife and I recently took a trip to the mountains. As we looked at the vast display of God’s glory in nature, we were amazed by the fact that with so many people in the world, there is still an abundance of open space and land practically untouched by man! We observed an abundance of trees, water, air, and nature! There truly is enough to go around! In fact, there is more than enough! But limitations occur because of the false belief in limitation, which in turn, causes people to hoard resources, which in turn, causes some people to seek to rob, steal, kill, and otherwise take what others have because they think others having is the reason they don’t have! The false belief of limitations sponsors the idea that life is a competition for resources. Therefore, we all are competing, and in all competition, there are winners and losers! Consequently, in order for me to win in life, it is necessary that you lose or vice versa! The results of this false belief is naturally; conflict!

The other false belief that is a main source of conflict is the belief in separateness. Simply put, this is the belief that every person is ‘distinctly separate’ from every other individual. Now in a sense, there is a certain degree of separateness, that’s why we are called; ‘individuals.’ But at the core of our existence; we are all ‘one!’ When all the racial, ethnic, cultural, social, and skin-color layers are removed; we are all one! We all came from the same Source!

Racial conflicts stem from the false belief of separateness! But biologically and spiritually, every human is one with every other human! Doctors will confirm that blood and other essential body parts from African-Americans are easily transplantable into a compatible Anglo-Saxon Caucasian recipient! I wonder how many avowed White racists would refuse a heart transplant and die just because the donor was a Black person?

In the Bible, in Jeremiah 13:23, the proverbial questions are asked: “Can the Cushite change his skin, or a leopard his spots?” Of course, the answer to both questions is; ‘no!” But then other questions arise: Why should or why would the Cushite and the leopard want to change their skin and their spots? It is foolish to discriminate against people because of the color of their skin on several fronts! Number one: No person has any control over the color of their skin! No one chooses their racial ethnicity. Therefore, no person can rightfully boast or be ashamed of their racial ethnicity! Secondly, as the Temptations (the singing group) sang years ago: “Beauty is only skin-deep!” The color of a person’s skin says nothing about their character or personality! Therefore, when all of the layers are removed, we are all the same and to mistreat one another is to mistreat ourselves! Not only that, but to mistreat one another is to mistreat the Source from whence we all came! Or, as the Apostle John put it in the Bible: “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.” (1 Jn. 4:20-5:1 KJV) We are all brothers in a sense because we all came from God!

The greatest resolution principle of all time is the Golden Rule! Jesus said: “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12 NASB: New American Standard Bible) It’s so simple! Most conflicts can be resolved by just simply treating other people the way you want to be treated! It you don’t want to be abused; don’t abuse! If you don’t want to be discriminated against; don’t discriminate! If you don’t want to be killed; don’t kill! If you don’t want to be taken advantage of; don’t take advantage of others! Nothing overtly religious or even holy or spiritual about it! It’s just common sense and human decency! Most conflicts would be resolved or even avoided by simply following the Golden Rule!

Pride and Respect: More Valuable Than Life?

Just in a matter of hours before writing this post, I read of a young man who was killed in an argument with a group of five other individuals. This occurred only days after the tragic and senseless killing of rapper; Nipsey Hussle. It’s the same old story repeated and multiplied across the country: Someone is involved in an argument or a personal dispute, but their pride and the need to be respected will not allow them to just walk away! There must be some type of retaliation! After all, they don’t want to be perceived as being ‘soft’ or being a ‘doormat.’ And so, they retaliate! It is at that point that the situation escalates because usually the force of the retaliation is much greater than the initial perceived wrong!

There was an Old Testament biblical ruling that stipulated an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth! The purpose of that law was to maintain an equal and even level of retaliation. In other words, it was designed to prevent much of what we are seeing today! Jesus would come along later and say: “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” (Matthew 5:38-39 ESV) But not only have we gotten to the point that it is seemingly impossible for most people today to ‘turn the other cheek,’ most people today cannot even abide by the old ‘eye for an eye’ standard! Instead of an eye for an eye, it seems that many have sunk to the standard of ‘a life for an eye! I can’t tell you the number of cases I have heard of people killed or shot, simply because the shooter ‘felt’ disrespected or wronged in some way! It seems as though, now-days; pride and respect are more important to some people than life itself! This attitude is utterly senseless and ridiculous! But what can we do?

When I was in school, I learned Math, Science, English, and some other subjects. But, the one thing I was not taught in school was conflict resolution! Whether it is taught in the schools or made a requirement before people can have children, we must find a way to re-instill the proper respect for the sanctity of human life within our culture and society! Too many of our young men and women are dying too soon! Too many mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, and children are crying at the graves of the victims of senseless violence! It’s not the wall at the Mexican border! It’s not even health-care or any of the other political ‘hot-potatoes’ most politicians are talking about! The epidemic of violence and senseless death is the American national emergency!

But the politicians are too busy trying to get reelected! Many of the churches are too busy preaching prosperity and running after blessings! Dads are too busy trying to close the deal at the office or playing golf at the club! Moms are too busy, trying to be like Stella and get their grooves back! But in the words of the late Marvin Gaye; “There’s got to be a way, to get some unity here today! What’s going on?”

There is no use in waiting for the politicians to pass new laws! There is something all of us can do right now! Quit looking for others to start a new initiative! It has to start with you! It has to start with me! If we, that is, just you and I, resolve within ourselves that we are going to be part of the solution we seek; the resolution will not be far away! We must stop pointing the finger and blaming others and do what we can to be part of the solution and not part of the problem!

What can we do? The next time we are offended or wronged, count to ten before any type of response! Take a deep breath and ask questions: Is the response justified in light of the offense? In other words; ‘Am I about to shoot a fly with a shotgun?’ What will be the consequence of my response when the dust settles? In other words; If I shoot the fly with the shotgun, I may or may not kill the fly, but who’s going to fix the wall? Is my pride and need for respect causing me to write a check that I cannot afford to be cashed? Is it really worth it?

There is an old ancient proverb that says: “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step!” Will you join me in taking a step today? Will you join me in doing whatever can be done to be a positive influence on those around us? It seems a bit overwhelming! The negativity and the violence seem enormous and gigantic! But it’s really no different than the journey of a thousand miles! The journey will only be completed and the senseless violence and death that has engulfed our culture will only subside to the light of life and sanity, one step and one person at a time!

Nipsey Hussle and MWS


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.

Nipsey 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!

The Armorbearer?

About six years ago, I posted a guest-post by H. B. Charles, Jr., entitled: Armorbearer is NOT a Biblical Church Office. In that article, Pastor Charles relates an encounter he had with a pastor’s chief armorbearer. He also stated his thoughts about the concept of armorbearers in the church. Well, I hadn’t given much additional thought to the subject until recently. Not long ago, I declined an invitation to teach in a seminar at a church. The reason I declined was because the seminar was about: “Equipping Armorbearers for Service in the Local Church.” Not long after that, I happened to overhear a conversation between two people where one proudly boasted of the fact that he had been his pastor’s armorbearer for over six years! And then, more recently, a guest pastor, visiting where I serve, was escorted by another gentlemen, whom I had previously known to be a deacon. As we sat chatting in the study, me with my naïve self, said to the brother; “Hey man, I didn’t know you were preaching now! When did this happen?” To which he replied, “Oh no! I’m not a preacher; I am the pastor’s armorbearer!”

I’m sorry! Maybe I’m just too old-school! But I can remember, up until about 20 years ago, there were NO ‘armorbearers’ in Black churches, especially Black Baptist churches! (There were no bishops in Black Baptist churches either, but that’s a discussion for another post!) Where did this ‘armorbearer’ concept come from? Well, after I declined to teach at the ‘armorbearer’s seminar,’ and after re-reading Dr. Charles’ post, I decided to take another more in-depth look at what the Bible says about the subject.

The ancient Hebrew armorbearer was a man (I would assume preferable young and strong, since he literally carried the king’s or general’s metal armor, along with his own sword and shield) who would accompany the one he served (a king, general, or superior army officer) into battle. The term; ‘armourbearer’ is found 18 times in the KJV; all in the context of a war battle and all in the Old Testament. Now, I can see where there may be applicable parallels. The preacher/pastor can, in a sense, be styled as a general, leading the forces (church) of the Lord into battle against sin and Satan, with the Bible being his sword. The Apostle Paul did say, in Ephesians 6:11: “Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” (KJV) He says in verse 17: “And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (KJV) Okay! I see the armor and I see the sword and the shield! But wait a minute! Paul was talking to every believer, not just the preacher! And Paul said for ‘us to put on’ the whole armor of God, he didn’t say anything about someone carrying it for us!

But even more than that, think about the character of the One we claim to follow. Paul writes in Philippians 2:5-7: “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: 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.” (KJV) After a dispute among his disciples as to which one of them should be accounted the greatest, we read: “And Jesus called them to him and said to them, ‘You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:42-45 ESV) It would seem to me that, in view of the words and character of Jesus, the idea of a pastor having a personal valet, butler, personal attendant, chauffer, Bible- handkerchief-carrier-sweat-wiper is totally contrary to the spirit of Jesus! I’m sorry, but I just can’t envision the Jesus I read about in the Gospel having an armorbearer!

I recognize that some might suggest the position of armorbearer as a means of teaching submission and honor, but it seems, as it is practiced by most I encounter, to be demeaning for the armorbearer and ego-inflating for the pastor/preacher! We would better serve the church and her Lord by teaching people, not to particularly serve the pastor, (Who by Jesus’ definition, is the servant of all! Many pastors these days got it twisted: The pastor is called to serve, not to be served!), but rather to serve the Lord by serving one another!

Now, I realize there are many who will not agree with my position (they will mostly be the ones who have armorbearers or who serve as armorbearers), but my conscience dictates I speak what I perceive to be biblical truth. My aim is not to offend or upset, but rather to encourage a focus on what’s really important! Although I declined the invitation to teach in the ‘armorbearer’s’ seminar, I would have gladly accepted an invitation to not only teach, but even to just participate in a discipleship training seminar! That’s more in line with what Jesus actually told us to do: “And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20 ESV)