Moses’ rod and Shamgar’s oxgoad, when dedicated to God, became mighty tools. This helps us see that God can use what little we have, when surrendered to Him, to do great things. God is not looking for people with great abilities, but for those who are dedicated to following and obeying Him. If you use what little you may have To serve the Lord with all your heart You will find that He can do great things When you begin to do your part.
Month: September 2014
I like to distinguish between a “goal mindset” and a “growth mindset.” A church leader with a “goal mindset” has very tangible, numerical goals to achieve over a specific period of time. Nothing is wrong with clearly defined goals, but there’s a better way of thinking that I call a “growth mindset.” A growth mindset recognizes goals on the journey, but only as part of a process—not as the end results.
Leaders of successful churches are tempted to stop working on themselves, but when the pastor doesn’t grow, the people don’t grow. It’s the Law of the Lid: a stagnant church leader stunts the growth of the church. I hope these thoughts on leadership will inspire you to maintain this “growth mindset,” for your personal benefit and for the benefit of those you lead.
A Function, Not a Title
Elders, deacons, pastors and even evangelists, prophets and apostles were all meant to be functions within the church, whether they are performed in an official capacity or not. They were never intended to be titles. Yes, some of the early apostles did travel between the early churches and ordained elders (Tit 1:5), yet the function of those who lead or govern within the church is listed as a gift in the Bible:
And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. (1 Cor 12:28-emphasis added). This means that leadership is just as much a gift of the Spirit as healing. Conversely in the modern day church however, most people become leaders after completing some Bible College course or after they have jumped through their institution’s hoops long enough.
Information Transfer versus Relational leadership development
Jesus took risks on leaders the church wouldn’t invite into leadership
- It’s true that charisma can make a person stand out for a moment, but character sets a person apart for a lifetime.
- You build trust with others each time you choose integrity over image, truth over convenience, or honor over personal gain.
- Character makes trust possible, and trust is the foundation of leadership.
- Character creates consistency, and if your people know what they can expect from you, they will continue to look to you for leadership.
- Over time, is it easier or harder to sustain your influence within your organization? With charisma alone, influence becomes increasingly more difficult to sustain. With character, as time passes, influence builds and requires less work to sustain.
- Great communication depends on two simple skills—context, which attunes a leader to the same frequency as his or her audience, and delivery, which allows a leader to phrase messages in a language the audience can understand.
- Earn the right to be heard by listening to others. Seek to understand a situation before making judgments about it.
- Take the emotional temperature of those listening to you. Facial expressions, voice inflection and posture give clues to a person’s mood and attitude.
- Persuasive communication involves enthusiasm, animation, audience participation, authenticity and spontaneity.
- Credibility is a leader’s currency. With it, he or she is solvent; without it, he or she is bankrupt.
- Speak the truth. Transparency breeds legitimacy.
- Don’t hide bad news. With multiple information channels available, bad news always becomes known. Be candid right from the start.
- A highly credible leader under-promises and over-delivers.
- Diligent follow-up and follow-through will set you apart from the crowd and communicate excellence.
- A trustworthy leader goes the extra mile to remedy strained relationships, even when it doesn’t appear to be required.Failure
- “Failing forward” is the ability to get back up after you’ve been knocked down, learn from your mistake, and move forward in a better direction.
- Don’t buy into the notion that mistakes can somehow be avoided. They can’t be.
- Failure is not a one-time event; it’s how you deal with life along the way. Until you breathe your last breath, you’re still in the process, and there is still time to turn things around for the better.
- You are the only person who can label what you do a failure. Failure is subjective.
- Don’t allow the fire of adversity to make you a skeptic. Allow it to purify you.
- Generally speaking, there are two kinds of learning: experience, which is gained from your own mistakes, and wisdom, which is learned from the mistakes of others.
- Seek advice, but make sure it’s from someone who has successfully handled mistakes or adversities.
- When to quit: (1) Quit something you don’t do well to start something you do well. (2) Quit something you’re not passionate about to do something that fills you with passion. (3) Quit something that doesn’t make a difference to do something that does.
- People change when they hurt enough that they have to, learn enough that they want to, or receive enough that they are able to.
- More than anything else, followers want to believe that their leaders are ethical and honest.
- When your people see that you are not only competent to lead but also have a track record of successes, they will have confidence in following you, even when they don’t understand all the details.
- As a leader, it’s your job to get your people excited about what their work will accomplish; it’s a natural motivator.
Why do you think the way you do? Are the choices you make truly your own, or do influences beyond your control unduly sway your opinions?
Besieged by a cacophony of sights, sounds, impressions, images and emotions—all competing for our time, attention and thoughts—our minds are daily exposed to far more information than we can consciously process. Even in sleep we integrate people, places and events into partly real, sometimes frightful and at other times wildly whimsical dreams. The sheer volume of ideas and information incessantly bombarding our minds creates for us an information crisis, a battle for control over what we think and believe.
The battle for your mind is a reality that you cannot afford to ignore. Believe it or not, you are the focus of relentless efforts to alter your beliefs, and some of the subtle skills meant to shape the way you think are astonishingly powerful and effective.
Commercial advertising is a widely recognized example. Marketing efforts thrive on shaping public habits and influencing choices.
Honest and legitimate advertising is a benefit to consumers and a valuable information source in any modern economy. Yet not all advertising honestly represents the facts, as illustrated by the old saying “Let the buyer beware.”
Beguiling and seductive schemes are so sophisticated and pervasive that America’s NBC Nightly News telecast with Tom Brokaw includes a regular feature called “The Fleecing of America.” Like it or not, you are the target in a never-ending struggle for control over the way you think—and behave.
Right and wrong influences
Under the right circumstances, the influence of others on our lives can be beneficial. People who positively affect our thinking expand our understanding and knowledge. They stimulate our minds and expand our horizons, increasing the excitement and challenge of life itself. From them we learn and grow. Emotionally, we benefit immensely from their nurturing influence. Our fellow human beings contribute enormously to our personal development.
But not all who seek to shape our views are constructive. This is especially true of the massive efforts at work to eradicate society’s standards and values. The previously mentioned adage “Let the buyer beware” is just as applicable to this intellectual and spiritual domain as it is to the marketplace.
In general, irrational ideas foster irrational behavior. How you think controls the way you live and how you relate to other people. Your thoughts will influence your decisions and thus your actions. Ultimately, in this sense, you are what you think.
Consider these questions: Who exerts the greatest influence on your personal opinions? What are the external pulls that sway your thinking the most? What are the sources that affect the standards for your behavior? If you address these questions honestly, you’ll find their answers disturbing as well as profound.
Let’s examine some commonly recognized influences that shape the choices millions of people make every day, noticing the colossal impact those influences have on the behavioral standards of society. Then let’s look at some of the direct and concerted endeavors to modify—and in some cases abolish—almost all standards and values. Finally, let’s squarely face another momentous question: Who should have the greatest influence on how we think and the choices we make, and what is our personal responsibility?
Influence of television and movies
Television is the most powerful medium ever invented for conveying ideas and information to large numbers of people. Remarkably effective and influential, television is drastically altering our society’s thinking and behavioral patterns, even encouraging so-called alternative lifestyles.
Film critic Michael Medved describes the profound impact of the TV and movie business on society. The power of the entertainment business “to influence our actions flows from its ability to redefine what constitutes normal behavior in this society,” he writes. Entertainers have “assumed a dominant role in establishing social conventions. The fantasy figures who entertain us on our TV and movie screens, or who croon to us constantly from our radios and CD players, take the lead in determining what is considered hip, and what will be viewed as hopelessly weird” ( Hollywood vs. America , Harper-Collins Publishers, New York, 1992, p. 261, emphasis added throughout).
Mr. Medved notes that society’s standards and values are incrementally but constantly altered by the entertainment media: “According to all available research on the subject, the most significant aspects of influence are gradual and cumulative, not immediate, and they occur only after extended exposure . . . What this means is that the full impact of today’s media messages will only be felt some years in the future” (Medved, p. 260).
“Hollywood no longer reflects—or even respects—the values of most American families. On many of the important issues in contemporary life, popular entertainment seems to go out of its way to challenge conventional notions of decency” (Medved, p. 10).
Music to whose ears?
All too often popular music represents the cutting edge of a philosophy that influences its adherents to seek to undermine all established conventions. Combining catchy tunes with sometimes blatantly antisocial lyrics, popular music exerts a near-incessant influence on many young people. Most adolescents can easily and flawlessly recite the words to today’s most-played tunes, yet they stumble over memorization work at school. Even adults can recall lyrics that were popular decades ago, but they flounder over names and phone numbers of friends.
Music’s influence is profound and pervasive. It is one of the most effective tools to alter the attitudes and outlook of those hearing it, both positively and negatively. It reaches emotions and reasoning simultaneously, ensuring a lasting impact.
For those immersed in the cynical hostility that has characterized much of popular music in recent decades, the consequences can be devastating. Consider the rationale behind the promotion of some music-industry artists:
“Those in the rock business understood very well that the music’s subversion of authority was a large part of its appeal to the young. An impresario who developed one star after another was asked how he did it. He said, ‘I look for someone their parents will hate’ ” (Robert H. Bork, Slouching Toward Gomorrah , Regan Books, 1996, p. 23, emphasis added).
Tragically, however, all too many parents find themselves inadequately equipped to explain right from wrong. A recent survey of American adults by the Barna Research Group reveals that 71 percent of Americans still believe in right and wrong, that such a thing as sin exists. But the survey also found that most adults simply grasp no clear concept of right vs. wrong.
An article that accompanied the survey observed that “77 percent of non-Christians said, ‘There are no absolute standards for morals and ethics.’ Yet, shockingly, the majority of born-again Christians—64 percent—agreed with the secular culture that morality is relative. No wonder our lives are indistinguishable from the surrounding culture . . . The church has ‘tons of teachers’ yet it ‘doesn’t seem to be making a difference’ ” ( Southern California Christian Times , June 1996).
Who should set your standards?
Intelligent moral standards serve simply as practical rules for considerate conduct. They establish our ethics, ideals and values. They allow society to function in peace and safety for the benefit of all. Proper moral standards should be carefully thought-out principles for distinguishing right from wrong. Without them, we retain no guidelines for the way we live.
Who holds the prerogative to set absolute standards for the way we think and behave? Some among the academic elite do well to tell us that human traditions are not reliable sources; they are too often contradictory and parochially biased. But they are wrong to tell us that absolute standards of right and wrong do not exist. There most certainly is a source for absolute standards for humanity. The Almighty God, He who created mankind, reveals to us how we should live.
“The distortions and insults about organized religion [in movies and television],” writes Mr. Medved, “will continue unabated as long as our popular culture continues its overall campaign against judgment and values. A war against standards leads logically and inevitably to hostility to religion because it is religious faith that provides the ultimate basis for all standards” (Medved, p. 89).
Only the God who created us can define perfect and reliable guidelines for human conduct. He reveals them to us through the Holy Scriptures. Make no mistake: God’s Word is not of human origin. It carries the highest authority possible.
God cares how you think
How we think—our ideals and beliefs—are important to God. Yet our normal way of thinking is quite different from His. Through the prophet Isaiah, God describes the scope of our universal human problem: “‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ says the Lord. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts’ ” (Isaiah:55:8-9, emphasis added throughout).
The apostle Paul explains the reason for the gulf between the values of God and most humans: People tend simply to tune out God’s instruction. “Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made. So they are without excuse; for though they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their senseless minds were darkened” (Romans:1:20-21, New Revised Standard Version).
How wrong thinking began
The rejection of God’s guidance is nothing new. It began as far back as the Garden of Eden. There “that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan,” began an influence and distortion of human thinking that still grips humanity (Revelation:12:9).
Essentially, Satan’s line to Eve was: “Don’t believe God and trust His words. Trust yourself. Eat the forbidden fruit. Then you will have all the wisdom you need to determine good and evil” (Genesis:3:1-5). Eve was impressed. The devil kindled in her the desire to decide right and wrong for herself.
Eve eagerly fell for Satan’s seductive pitch. Then she persuaded Adam that the two of them were capable of deciding such matters for themselves. They chose to disobey God. They lost their inheritance in Eden and began a life of toil and hardship, all because they allowed their thinking to be swayed by Satan, the archadversary of God (verses 6, 17-19). Satan won this early battle for the human mind. With relatively few exceptions, he has continued to win ever since.
God wants you to think like Him. He wants the principles expressed in His laws to live in your heart and mind (Hebrews:10:16), to form the foundation for your convictions, your thoughts and the way you choose to live your life. He wants to establish in your mind appropriate standards for human behavior—a clear understanding of right and wrong (1 John:3:4).
The apostle Peter expresses God’s concern for the way you think. “Dear friends, this is now my second letter to you. I have written both of them as reminders to stimulate you to wholesome thinking” (2 Peter:3:1-3). New International Version).
Learning to think clearly
Paul goes further, giving timeless guidelines for what we should allow to enter our minds: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Philippians 4:8, NIV). Wholesome thinking flows from honesty and truth, from a knowledge of what is right, pure and admirable.
Paul describes the results of behavior based on thinking that rejects God’s standards: “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians:5:19-21, NIV).
An outstanding model of clear, level-headed thinking is recorded for our benefit: the personal example of Jesus Christ. “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus,” wrote Paul (Philippians 2:5). He admonished: “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others” (verses 2:3-4).
Clear, wholesome thinking puts concern for others as a priority—equal to concern for oneself. It is founded on genuine love for others.
A matter of choice
We live in a society that prides itself on its new ways of thinking, many of which have really been around as long as mankind has existed. Because of the sheer force of these ideas, we are confronted with a personal battle for control of our thoughts and values in the face of almost overwhelming opposition.
God will never force us to think like Him. Even to ancient Israel He said, “. . . I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life . . .” (Deuteronomy:30:19). God provides the guidance, but the choice to heed or ignore it is always ours.
Those who would abolish standards of conduct often imply that acceptance of values defined by anyone besides yourself—whether God or man—is an abdication of choice.
To blindly accept the ideas of others would, of course, be abdicating personal responsibility. However, to carefully examine, comprehend and adopt the wisdom of God is the mark of one who makes informed and intelligent choices. Acting only on feelings and emotion shows neither discretion nor intelligence.
Corrupting power behind the scene
What is the real source of our society’s rejection of godly values? The apostle Paul explained that his God-given mission to earth’s inhabitants was “to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God . . .” (Acts:26:18).
The Bible reveals Satan as a powerful unseen force influencing humanity. He is described as “the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient,” a being influencing men and women to lead a life of “gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts” (Ephesians:2:2-3, NIV).
Satan’s influence is so pervasive that it affects every area of life in every society. How great is his power over humanity? He “deceives the whole world”! (Revelation:12:9).
Through thousands of years of deceiving people, he has become the “god of this world [who] has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel . . .” (2 Corinthians:4:4, NRSV). The influence of Satan and his demons is such that they can sway even the opinions and decisions of world leaders (Revelation:16:14).
Surprising to many, Satan has succeeded in influencing religious beliefs and institutions. He manages to disguise his own ostensibly Christian ministry and religious assemblies (2 Corinthians:11:3-4, 13-15; Revelation:3:9).
He does not present his ways as the greedy, self-centered, vain practices they really are. Nor does he show their destructive, painful end, leading inexorably to suffering and death (Proverbs:14:12; 16:25). On the contrary, he masquerades his thoughts and way of life as enlightenment, fulfillment and satisfaction. God’s Word warns us that “Satan disguises himself as an angel of light” (2 Corinthians:11:14, NRSV).
Besides religion, Satan’s ideas invade such arenas as business, education, philosophy, government and science. No human interest or endeavor escapes his intrusion. Indeed, we read that “the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one” (1 John:5:19).
Does Satan influence your mind?
The consequences of Satan’s influence on mankind’s thought processes have proved devastating. Seldom has the world seen peace; 150 million people have died in wars in just this century. In the same time, more than 100 million have died from diseases, pandemics and natural disasters. Humanity possesses the ability to erase human life from earth many times over.
In spite of constant attempts to improve our lot, thousands live on the verge of starvation, and millions go to sleep hungry every night. A fourth of earth’s population lives under totalitarian regimes with little control over basic decisions that affect their lives.
Under Satan’s influence, human thinking has become so absorbed with self-gratification that “the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law—indeed it cannot” (Romans:8:7-8, NRSV).
The prophet Jeremiah recognized that people are blinded by the deceit of their own evil intents. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” (Jeremiah:17:9).
Satan has succeeded at turning humanity away from God. The apostle Paul describes the inevitable, tragic results of rejecting God and His way of life:
“Furthermore, since they did not think it worth while to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them” (Romans:1:28-32, NIV).
Who will win?
God calls some out of this immoral, ungodly, Satan-dominated world. He calls them to fight the influences around them, to resist the tendencies and desires of their own minds. This deeply personal battle, however, is not the sort of conflict we often envision. This battle “is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against . . . the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians:6:12, NRSV).
This struggle pits us against the ingrained, self-centered habits and ways of thinking that have influenced us from birth, as well as a personal foe determined to separate us from God: “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith . . .” (1 Peter:5:8-9, NIV).
Who will determine your values? Who will win the battle for your mind? Will you allow the influences of Satan on society to control and corrupt your personal beliefs and convictions? Or will it be “God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure”? (Philippians 2:13).
A godly victory is possible only by establishing righteous standards as your values. That will require you to make difficult choices.
The apostle Paul expressed it so well in these words: “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds [on our minds]. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians:10:3-5, NIV).
Who you allow to exert the greatest influence on your life is your choice. Will you permit God, by seeking His knowledge and assistance, to win the battle for your mind?
Isn’t it fun to sit around and fantasize about what you could do if you had someone else’s circumstances or resources? If only I had their money…if only I had his staff…if only I won the lottery…if only she worked for me…if only I grew up in that family. Playing the “if only” game leads to inertia, paralysis, and failure. I believe that God created every person with a certain set of skills and experiences so that we worship him and bring glory to his name. If I work with what I have been given for God’s purpose I have everything I need to succeed.
You shall take this rod in your hand, with which you shall do the signs. —Exodus 4:17
Conventional wisdom questions how much can be accomplished with little. We tend to believe that a lot more can be done if we have large financial resources, talented manpower, and innovative ideas. But these things don’t matter to God. Consider just a couple of examples:
In Judges 3:31, a relatively unknown man named Shamgar delivered Israel from the Philistines single-handedly. How? He won a great victory by killing 600 Philistines with nothing more than an oxgoad (a stick sharpened on one end to drive slow-moving animals).
In Exodus, when God asked Moses to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt, Moses was afraid the people wouldn’t listen to him or follow him. So God said, “What is that in your hand?” (4:2). Moses replied, “A rod.” God went on to use that rod in Moses’ hand to convince the people to follow him, to turn the Nile River into blood, to bring great plagues on Egypt, to part the Red Sea, and to perform miracles in the wilderness.
The surprising truth about living in the strength of weakness
What do you think makes someone a winner in life? Is it wealth, education, prominence, or fame? This world’s standards are quite different from the Lord’s: our culture esteems the self-made man, but God’s scale for success measures by dependence, not strength. Instead of looking for strong, independent people, He seeks those who know they’re weak and inadequate.
The apostle Paul was a man who knew how to live victoriously. As he neared death, he summed up his life with these words: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Tim. 4:7-8). He expressed no hint of disappointment or regret but, rather, bold confidence that he had fulfilled God’s purpose.
That’s how the Lord wants all of us to live. No Christian wants to come to the end of life and feel remorse over wasted opportunities to live for Christ. Today is the day to evaluate whether you’re following the apostle’s example.
• Paul fought the good fight. When you trusted Christ as your Savior, you entered a battleground. Satan lost your soul, but he’s not about to give up. He’ll do anything to make you useless for the kingdom of God. The bad news is that you are no match for the Devil—it’s impossible for you to win this fight in your own strength. But Christ has given you His armor and the sword of His Word so you can stand firm (Eph. 6:10-17).
• He finished the course. Paul likened the Christian life to a marathon. God has designed a specific path for each of us and has bestowed gifts and abilities to enable us to fulfill His purposes and finish the course. This race is long and filled with distracting obstacles, but Christ hasn’t left us to struggle on our own. His Holy Spirit guides and strengthens us along the way.
• And he kept the faith. After revealing Himself to Paul on the road to Damascus, Jesus entrusted him with a priceless treasure: the gospel. The word keep means “to guard,” and that’s what Paul did as he preached and defended the faith—whether to Gentile skeptics or religious Jews.
When we compare our life to Paul’s, we may feel discouraged and defeated. After all, who could possibly live up to his example? Although we tend to think of the apostle as a “super Christian,” he would be the last one to claim the glory for a well-lived life. He had learned the secret: “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13).
The principle of dependence
Man is inadequate to fulfill God’s purposes, but Jesus provides everything we need. In his letters, Paul used the term “in Christ” to describe this dependent relationship. To live “in Christ” means we are walking around in human bodies that are overflowing with the very life of Jesus. He dwells within us through the Holy Spirit, making us capable of achieving whatever He directs us to do.
Jesus used the analogy of a vine and branches to describe this relationship. The only way a branch can bear fruit is by abiding in the vine so the sap can flow through it. In the same way, a Christian must maintain a connection with Jesus in order to become and do what He desires. In fact, Jesus said, “Apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
Do you really believe this? Before you respond, think back over the last week. What kinds of situations did you face on the job, at home, or in church? Did you depend on Christ for wisdom, courage, and strength, or did you rely on yourself?
The problem of pride
One of the greatest obstacles to a dependent life is our own foolish pride. We forget that God is our Creator and Sustainer, and we are all totally dependent upon Him, even if we don’t realize it. Without the Lord, we couldn’t take our next breath or have any hope of eternal life. We’re totally unable to save ourselves; no one can come to Jesus unless the Father draws him (John 6:44). Those who live in pride have simply closed their eyes to the reality of their condition.
The potential of a dependent life
Although many people can boast of impressive accomplishments, anything they’ve achieved in their own strength will have zero eternal value. The only way to realize our full potential is to be rightly related to God through His Son, living in submission and reliance upon Him. With the almighty presence of the Holy Spirit within us, we tap into supernatural strength to accomplish what we can’t humanly do.
Yet despite God’s abundant power, many Christians are still living in defeat. When asked to serve the Lord in a challenging way, they claim, “Oh, I couldn’t possibly do that!” The real problem is unbelief. They aren’t seeing the situation from God’s perspective. He’s promised to strengthen us to do all things within the parameters of His will, but we’re afraid of failure. Fear draws a line around our life and limits God’s work in and through us. Self-made boundaries always hinder us from becoming the people He wants us to be. If we automatically say no to a God-given challenge, we are not living in our full potential. The Lord wants to do so much more in us than we generally let Him.
But our potential in Christ doesn’t just refer to accomplishments and service. It also applies to our attitudes. Paul talked about learning to be content in every circumstance, whether in need and hardship or comfort and abundance (Phil. 4:11-13). We see this same attitude demonstrated in his life when he suffered from “a thorn in the flesh” (2 Cor. 12:7-10). Christ told him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Paul’s response shows that he had truly learned the value of a dependent life: “Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” If you and I could learn this lesson, we would be more like Paul because we’d recognize that Christ in us is sufficient for every heartache, burden, and sorrow we experience.
The practice of dependence
Now, the big question is, How do you move into a life of total dependence upon Christ? The first step is to acknowledge that you are completely inadequate to be and do what God desires. Your only hope of living a victorious life is to develop the mindset of Galatians 2:20: “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.” If you’ll begin each morning with this attitude and let it shape your decisions throughout the day, you’ll begin to glimpse what He is able to do in and through you. The more you surrender to His plans and obey by relying on His strength, the more you’ll live in your full potential.
The Third Command–“and stay there.” Next, he heard “and stay (yashab, “live, dwell”) there.” He might have thought, “This really takes the cake.” And, as if these were not enough, he then heard something even more strange that had to be a tremendous challenge to his commitment, trust and vision as a man of God who was seeking to serve the Lord.
The Promise–“behold, I have commanded a widow there to provide for you.” Note the very next word, “behold.” This is the Hebrew hinneh, a demonstrative particle used to arrest the attention or to focus the reader’s (or hearer’s) attention on something important. The Lord was dramatically pointing out the reason for going to Zarephath. “I have commanded a widow there to provide for you.” Elijah’s provision would come by human hands, but they were the most unlikely hands he could have imagined. Everything about this was a test for Elijah. Please note the following:
“I have commanded a widow” is an interesting statement. Had the Lord spoken to this Gentile widow? Was she waiting for Elijah to come? I think the content of the text suggests this was not the case. I don’t think she was aware at all of her role in God’s plan. Rather, I believe this expresses the divine will of God. It shows that God commands or wills things to take place and they do. He uses the conditions and dispositions of men and women and brings things to pass.
Let’s say you need a job. When you find a job, it will be because God commanded it. Your new employer may not be aware of it unless he or she is a believer, but it will be because God willed it so. “He sits in the heavens, He does what He pleases” (cf. Isa. 10:5-6 with vs. 7, and Gen. 50:19-21).
“Provide” is the Hebrew word, kul. In Aramaic and Arabic this word means “measure, measure out.” The basic meaning is “calculate,” or “contain” as does a vessel. For instance in Isaiah 40:12 the prophet writes, “who hath calculated or contained the dust of the earth by a measure?” Mainly this verb is used in a causative stem and means “to cause to contain, supply.” It came to be used in the sense of “support, sustain, provide for” (cf. Ps. 55:22; Gen. 50:21; Neh. 9:21). While the Hebrew word used is different, I am reminded of one of the Names of the Lord, “Jehovah Jireh” or “Yahweh Yireh,” meaning “the Lord will provide” (Gen. 22:8 and 14). It comes from the Hebrew ra`ah, “to see” as the Lord foresees and thus provides.
THE LORD’S SUPPLY–PROVISION
First, God would provide for Elijah through a woman. While women in Israel had a higher position and status than among their Gentile neighbors, this was highly irregular, for it was the man’s place to provide for women. Second, this was a Gentile woman, a woman outside the circle of God’s own people. In fact, she was from the pagan nation of the Sidonians (or Phoenicians) who, at that time, represented the forces arrayed against God’s kingdom. Third, she was a poor, destitute, depressed widow facing starvation. She wasn’t exactly the kind of person you would go to for support, but she was the person whom God had chosen to be Elijah’s support and the instrument of God’s glory. He didn’t know her plight as yet, but he would soon find out and his response is remarkable.
Note several principles of application:
(1) Remember what God said through Isaiah (Isa. 55:8f, God’s ways are not ours)? We might also remember 1 Corinthians 1:27-29, “but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised, God has chosen, the things that are not, that He might nullify the things that are, that no man should boast before God.” God uses sources and instruments we would never choose, but in His wisdom He chooses them to accomplish His own purposes and to do exceeding abundantly beyond all we could ask or think (Eph. 3:20). We should not be surprised then with the tools God sometimes uses. What would we choose? We would choose a hero kind of figure, a well-known athlete, a rich man or a king, but the Lord chose a destitute widow. We would choose someone brilliant, powerful, perhaps someone in the king’s palace. But God chose a woman from Zarephath of the land of Jezebel. Sure, sometimes God uses the powerful and wealthy as he did with Nehemiah (Neh. 2), or Joseph in the latter chapters of Genesis. The question is, what is our response when He chooses to use the poor and the weak in our lives? Do we despise them? Are we disappointed? Or do we thank Him for what He is doing?
(2) The sources God chooses to use often test our submission and faith. How could God possibly supply through this destitute woman? The how is not important. God would show that in time. God only wants us to trust Him regardless of how things look to us. I remember a story my grandfather used to tell about a dear old lady who truly believed God. One day he said to her, “Mary, I believe if God told you to jump through the wall, you would jump.” She replied, “Yes sir, I would. If God told me to jump, it would be my job to jump and His to make a hole.” How can we rest in God’s supply in situations like this? We need to remember a simple but profound concept. Who would supply Elijah’s need, the woman or the Lord? The Lord, of course! The woman was only an instrument.
Never get your eyes on the instrument or the conditions. Look beyond the instrument to the real source of supply–the Lord. Read again the story of Abraham in Genesis 22. He saw beyond the immediate problem to the Lord’s supply.
Often God either chooses the despised and the small, or He reduces our resources to teach us He is really the One who supplies. See Judges 7 for the illustration of Gideon and God’s instruction to him. Lest Israel boast and trust in their own power, the number of men to go up against the Midianites was reduced from 32,000 to 10,000 and finally to 300.
(3) The Lord uses His sources of supply to humble us. Doesn’t He really know how to take the starch of self-dependence and pride totally out of our spiritual shirts in order to bring us to a place where we will really trust Him? Here Elijah was receiving aid at the hands of a destitute widow of the enemies of Israel. How humbling! But also, what an opportunity for the manifestation of God’s grace, love, and power.
(4) Finally, this teaches us God can use any of us. He can take whatever we have and multiply it many times over just as He did with the meager resources of the widow or as the Savior did when feeding the five thousand.
What was Elijah’s response in verse 10? We read, “So he arose and went . . .” No questions, no arguments, no complaints–just obedience. Undoubtedly, it was in the joy and expectation of not only what the Lord would do for him, but through him. Elijah realized he would be there not simply to be ministered to, but to minister.
By way of application:
- Are you in a spiritual condition where you can hear God’s instructions? (Mark 6:30f.)
- What are you facing in your life right now that needs God’s supply? Are you resting in Him for your needs?
- Where is your focus? Are you focused on the problem rather than the Lord? Are you seeing the agents of supply in your life as totally inadequate with the result you are questioning what God can do?
- Does your present condition look impossible? Does it look like there is no way God can meet your needs through what He has brought about into your life?
- Have you considered that before God meets your need, or that in meeting your need, He wants to use you to meet the need of someone else?
Now we turn to another scene in the life of Elijah. Again, God is preparing him for what is to come. But the story also involves what God is doing in the life of His people, the nation of Israel. Let’s not lose sight of the nationalistic interest here. The story deals with more than simply Elijah or his destiny. It also deals with what God was seeking to do in the northern kingdom. It deals with what the northern kingdom was experiencing because of its idolatry. The nation had turned away from the Lord and His Word to the substitutes of the world.
Elijah forms a model for us. We can learn from Elijah about God and about ourselves–our needs, responsibilities in society, and our tendencies under the pressure of the conflict. On the other hand, Israel forms an example of what happens in a society when it ignores God–it goes down hill fast and becomes morally corrupt.
With this in mind, let’s ask a question. Why did God send the Prophet into the land of the Sidonians and to this widow as His source of supply when there were many widows in Israel with just as great a need? Apart from God’s mercy, His use of this in the life of Elijah and the lessons it has for us in that way, there is another very important lesson here that I would like to address. The answer is found for us in the remarks made by the Lord in Luke 4:23-27. Not only was the nation facing drought and famine in the land, but they were also facing a famine of the Word of God. Because of their indifference, idolatry, and unbelief, God sent Elijah out of the land and to a Gentile widow. This was a form of judgment and has a two-fold significance for us:
This was somewhat prophetic of the church age when, because of Israel’s unbelief, God would turn from Israel as a nation and offer the gospel to the Gentile world. Remnants of Israel would still come to Christ, but from the standpoint of the nation and her promised blessings, she would be temporarily set aside (cf. Rom. 11:6-32). Sending Elijah to the widow reminds us of our responsibility to carry the gospel to all men.
This also teaches us we should never take our blessings for granted. Privilege never guarantees success (1 Cor. 10:1-13). It provides the basis for success, but we need to take heed how we use those blessings. When a nation or individuals ignore the Word and turn to the substitutes of the world, they eventually experience the judgment of God. God may finally turn them over to the futility of their own solutions or strategies for life (Rom. 1:18f; Amos 8:11; 2 Tim. 4:3; 2 Thess. 2:10-11).
The Response of Elijah
Both in 1 Kings 17:5 and 17:10, we see how the prophet moved only when he had a word from the Lord. Even though the brook was drying up, he remained by the brook until word came from God. Isaiah 28:16 says, “he that believeth will not make haste” (KJV). The RSV has, “he who believes will not make haste,” and the NASB has “he who believes in it (the cornerstone) will not be disturbed.”
Interestingly, this statement of Isaiah 28:16 is made following a reference to lsrael’s deceptive trusts–her dependence on her own human solutions. Rather than waiting on the Lord, Israel was running ahead to solve her problems and fears through her own strategies. But Elijah waited on the Lord and help arrived. But in what manner? He was commanded to go on a long and toilsome journey through wild and barren country. Further, with so many widows in the land, how was he to find the right one? Isn’t this a natural question? It appears he didn’t know who the widow was, but he knew the Lord who did and that was more than ample.
Elijah was operating by the principle of Proverbs 4:18, “But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn that shines brighter and brighter until the full day.” While this verse refers primarily to the moral rectitude of those who walk with the Lord, it may also illustrate how the Lord directs our paths making His will plain as we walk in His righteousness by faith. The righteous live by faith. Day-by-day, step-by-step as we walk in fellowship with the Lord, He leads and directs the path of the righteous (Hab. 2:4; Rom. 1:17).
Again, being consistent in faith, Elijah did not argue with the Lord, whine, complain, nor run away. Instead, we read, “So he arose and went.” No questions, no arguments, no complaints, just obedience and undoubtedly, in the joy and expectation of what the Lord would do not only in him and for him, but through him. Why? Because, like the Lord Jesus, he would be there not simply to be ministered to, but to minister. I expect also he understood why he was not being sent to the widows of Israel. Also, it was God’s way of removing Elijah from Jezebel’s reach.
The Relief to the Widow
When you and I measure what God is doing, we tend to measure it by what we see and think according to the natural man. We tend to measure God’s supply, or our confidence and hope in God’s supply, by what we see. When we do this, we are walking by sight rather than by faith. The question we need to ask ourselves is: “Do I tend to look at human conditions as a basis for my confidence or do I see through them to the Savior?”
Obviously, we need to know human conditions. We need to know the facts. For this reason, God allowed the spies to go into the land, but what they saw was not to become the basis of their confidence in what God could do nor for what they should do. That was to be found in God’s person, promises, and commands to go in.
Let’s note Elijah’s response: Our text tells us, “and when he came to the gate of the city, behold, a widow was there gathering sticks.” Again, we have the word “behold,” that little demonstrative particle, hinneh, which is designed to arrest attention. We find Elijah at the gate of the city of Zarephath, but the Lord, who was there before him, had arranged it all. The widow was by the gate gathering sticks by the providence of God. Remember, He leads us step-by-step. He never leaves us, indeed, He goes before us.
If Elijah was looking for something to encourage him from the human standpoint of the widow, like a well-dressed woman living in a luxurious house with a well-stocked pantry, his hopes were soon dispelled. “Gathering sticks,” was a sign of poverty. This woman was so poor she had no fuel, and in order to cook even a meager meal, she had to get out and round up a few sticks. Until now Elijah knew only that his source of supply was a widow. Now he knew she was a poor widow.
By human measurement, how reasonable was it that the man of God could expect sustenance under her roof? It was no more reasonable than Noah should build an ark before he had ever seen rain, much less a flood, or for Joshua to command the people to walk around Jericho and expect the walls to fall down. But the path of obedience is the path of faith that looks to God and not to circumstances both before and after the will of God is clear.
Elijah’s response is the issue. Remember that the brook was a preparation for him. The God who commanded the ravens and supplied through them, was the same God who had commanded the widow and would supply through her. The principle is the Lord is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Circumstances change, but the Lord never changes. Our circumstances do not diminish the character and power of God. They can in no way change His faithfulness or omnipotence.
Elijah responded in faith. But how did faith manifest itself? Like Abraham on Mount Moriah who looked to God for the supply of a lamb, so Elijah saw beyond the woman’s condition to Yahweh Yireh–Lord who provides. He did not judge according to sight, but according to God’s character and divine essence. Elijah trusted in the promises of God. He didn’t throw up his hands and say, “I don’t believe this! You mean this poor soul is my supply for food? How in thunder can she help me?” He responded to God rather than reacting. Elijah acted in faith with his eyes on the Lord. In verses 10 and 11, he asked the widow for a jar of water and a piece of bread. Was he believing the promise of God and acting on it, or was he looking for confirmation by her response that she had been expecting him and had plenty to eat? I think he was believing the promise of God because Elijah knew she was poor by the fact she was gathering sticks.
In verse 12 we see the widow’s response. Elijah’s request opened afresh the wounds and pain of her heart. She could conceal her pain no longer. Her words showed she was not only poor but severely depressed. She had given up and was ready to die. This was their last meal and after that they would simply starve. It also appears she was without any real knowledge of the Lord and without faith. Still her heart was ready and had been prepared for God’s Word and the ministry of Elijah.
Note her words in verse 12, “as the Lord your God lives.” This suggests she must have recognized Elijah as a prophet of Israel, perhaps by his dress (cf. 2 Kings 1:8). But Yahweh was not her God and she wasn’t all that sure about the honesty of Elijah or the reality of his God (cf. vs. 17:24). She needed to see the testimony of Elijah’s life as well as the power of God.
What was Elijah to do now? Was he mistaken? What gave Elijah the courage to act like he did instead of throwing in the towel? Remember, as a man thinketh, so is he! Elijah’s response in verses 13 and 14 were words of faith, compassion, and vision.
As a man of God, he undoubtedly felt compassion for this poor woman but he knew his solutions or strategies for meeting his or her needs were not sufficient. He knew she was poor, yet God’s source of supply was no accident or mistake. Elijah knew God was faithful, powerful, and purposeful and that his needs were God’s concern and that they were met in the Lord. He also knew God was aware of his longings to preach in Israel and this would need to be tabled for now and turned over to the Lord and His timing. This meant he must be available to serve others and trust the Lord for his needs.
For us today, Elijah’s words to the woman in verses 13 and 14 are equivalent to two things: (a) Giving others the promises of God’s love, concern, and care such as the promises of Philippians 4:19; 1 Peter 5:7; Psalm 55:22; and John 10:10. Please note the first half of John 10:10. We often fail to connect the two. (b) Acting as the Good Samaritan; sharing our blessings with others, knowing that our giving will not be our lack (Phil 4:19).
The woman listened to Elijah’s instruction and it was just as he had promised according to the Word of the Lord. She saw the power of God–the widow, her son, and Elijah were all sustained.
What lessons can we learn from this passage?
(1) Look beyond the circumstances to the Lord as Yahweh Yireh–the Lord who supplies.
(2) Never judge or measure God’s supply by what you can see. He is the One who does exceeding abundantly beyond all we can ask or think.
(3) Ask God for the vision needed to see the opportunity for ministry lying, perhaps, right under your nose.
(4) Ask God for the compassion and love needed to reach out to others with His power and love.
(5) Know that the Lord is aware of your longings and turn them over to Him.
(6) Know also that your basic needs have been met in Christ. Knowing that, commit yourself to fulfilling God’s purposes in your life.
God sent Elijah out of the land because the people were indifferent–indeed, rebellious to the Word of God. No man or nation can neglect God’s truth without dire consequences. It can mean a famine, not just for bread and water, but for hearing the Word. This is not just a matter of what God does to us, but what we do to ourselves, of what happens within mankind that hardens us and causes us to ignore and turn away from God.
Far too often today when people look for a church they choose one like they would a country club or a shopping mall, on the basis of consumerism rather than on the teaching of the Word of God and the ministry of its people to one another. Many times the basis of their choice is not the solid teaching of the Word, but programs, music, the number of youth, the activities, and other similar consumer-like issues. Our nation is filled with steeples, but there is a famine in our land. Not a famine of food and water but of the proclamation of the Word of the Lord.
After they were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithyma: but the Spirit suffered them not (Acts 16:7).
What a strange prohibition! These men were going into Bithynia just to do Christ’s work, and the door is shut against them by Christ’s own Spirit.
I, too, have experienced this in certain moments. I have sometimes found myself interrupted in what seemed to me a career of usefulness. Opposition came and forced me to go back, or sickness came and compelled me to retire into a desert apart.
It was hard at such times to leave my work undone when I believed that work to be the service of the Spirit. But I came to remember that the Spirit has not only a service of work, but a service of waiting. I came to see that in the Kingdom of Christ there are not only times for action, but times in which to forbear acting. I came to learn that the desert place apart is often the most useful spot in the varied life of man–more rich in harvest than the seasons in which the corn and wine abounded. I have been taught to thank the blessed Spirit that many a darling Bithynia had to be left unvisited by me.
And so, Thou Divine Spirit, would I still be led by Thee. Still there come to me disappointed prospects of usefulness. Today the door seems to open into life and work for Thee; tomorrow it closes before me just as I am about to enter. Teach me to see another door in the very inaction of the hour. Help me to find in the very prohibition thus to serve Thee, a new opening into Thy service. Inspire me with the knowledge that a man may at times be called to do his duty by doing nothing, to work by keeping still, to serve by waiting. When I remember the power of the “still small voice,” I shall not murmur that sometimes the Spirit suffers me not to go.
“When I cannot understand my Father’s leading,
And it seems to be but hard and cruel fate,
I Still I hear that gentle whisper ever
pleading,God is working, God is faithful, ONLY WAIT.”
In today’s United States, is being black determined by the color of your skin, by your family, by what society says or something else?
Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.
Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all.
What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light not our darkness that frightens us. We ask ourselves ‘who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous?’
Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.
It’s not just in some of us; its in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
What is black? Race. Culture. Consciousness. History. Heritage.
A shade darker than brown? The opposite of white?
Who is black? In America, being black has meant having African ancestry.
But not everyone fits neatly into a prototypical model of “blackness.”
Scholar Yaba Blay explores the nuances of racial identity and the influences of skin color in a project called (1)ne Drop, named after a rule in the United States that once mandated that any person with “one drop of Negro blood” was black. Based on assumptions of white purity, it reflects a history of slavery and Jim Crow segregation.
In its colloquial definition, the rule meant that a person with a black relative from five generations ago was also considered black.
One drop was codified in the 1920 Census and became pervasive as courts ruled on it as a principle of law. It was not deemed unconstitutional until 1967.
Blay, a dark-skinned daughter of Ghanian immigrants, had always been able to clearly communicate her racial identity. But she was intrigued by those whose identity was not always apparent. Her project focuses on a diverse group of people – many of whom are mixed race – who claim blackness as their identity.
That identity is expanding in America every day. Blay’s intent was to spark dialogue and see the idea of being black through a whole new lens.
“What’s interesting is that for so long, the need to define blackness has originated from people who were not themselves black, and their need to define it stemmed from their need to control it,” says Blay.
Blackness, she says, isn’t so easily defined by words. What is blackness for one person may not necessarily be that for another.
“And that’s fine,” Blay says. “Personally, my blackness is reflective of my ancestry, my culture and my inheritance.”
“Black,” in reference to people and identity, she says, is worthy of capitalization. Otherwise, black is just another color in the box of crayons. (CNN, like other news organizations, does not capitalize black or white.)
Black and white
Kathleen Cross: Black as a descriptor of color makes her identity hard to accept.
California author Kathleen Cross, 50, remembers taking a public bus ride with her father when she was 8. Her father was noticeably uncomfortable that black kids in the back were acting rowdy. He muttered under his breath: “Making us look bad.”
She understood her father was ashamed of those black kids, that he fancied himself not one of them.
“My father was escaping blackness,” she says. “He didn’t like for me to have dark-skinned friends. He never said it. But I know.”
She asked him once if she had ancestors from Africa. He got quiet. Then, he said: “Maybe, Northern Africa.”
“He wasn’t proud of being black,” she says.
Cross’ black father and her white mother never married. Fair-skinned, blue-eyed Cross was raised in a diverse community.
Later, she found herself in situations where she felt shunned by black people. Even light-skinned black people thought she was white.
“Those who relate to the term ‘black’ as a descriptor of color are unlikely to accept me as black,” she says. “If they relate to the term ‘black’ as a descriptor of culture, history and ancestry, they have no difficulty seeing me as black.”
At one time in her life, she wished she were darker – she might have even swallowed a pill to give her instant pigment if there were such a thing. She even wrote about being “trapped in the body of a white woman.” She didn’t want to “represent the oppressor.”
She no longer thinks that way.
She doesn’t like to check the multiracial box. “It erases everything,” she says.
She doesn’t like biracial, either. Or mixed. It’s not her identity.
“There’s only one race,” she says, “and that’s the human race.”
“I am a descendant of a stolen African and Irish and English immigrants. That makes me black – and white – in America.
Blackness and culture?
Biany Perez, 31, loves Michael Jackson but she doesn’t know the Jackson Five. She didn’t know that “Good Times” was a television show about a black family struggling to survive in south Chicago. Nor was she able to pick up certain colloquialisms in the English spoken by the black kids in the Bronx, where she grew up the daughter of Dominican parents.
Some people questioned Perez’s blackness because she didn’t fit into their definition of black.
She spoke only Spanish at home. She watched Telemundo and listened to Puerto Rican boy band Menudo.
She wasn’t black enough because she was Latina and not Latina enough because she was black.
“The way I look shakes the image of Latina,” says Perez, a program manager at a nonprofit in Philadelphia. “As I started getting older, I felt more comfortable in my skin.”
Now, she calls herself Afro-Domincan.
“I think black is a broader definition I also embrace,” she says. “Black is more than just saying that I am an African in America. It’s political.
“It’s about me connecting myself to my ancestors.”
For Perez, black is about empowerment.
Biany Perez: Too Latina to be black, too black to be Latina?
Kristina Robinson calls herself black over Creole.
Creole identity is a complicated thing in Louisiana, says Kristina Robinson, 29, of New Orleans.
It’s an ethnicity, a cultural designation for people descended from colonial settlers in Louisiana, mainly of French and Latin lineage.
The term Creole was claimed by the French and Spanish settlers in colonial times but it also referred to Africans and people who were a mixture of races. Those mixed-race descendants became a unique racial group and sometimes even included Native American heritage.
But in popular representation, Robinson says Creole has come to be defined as skin color.
She doesn’t want to deny the rich Creole history but she doesn’t identify as such if it means moving away from her blackness.
Black people think that her embrace of Creole means a rejection of being black.
“I never wanted to distance myself from my black ancestors,” says the creative writing graduate student at Dillard University.
“They are the ones who claim me.”
In her light skin, Robinson understands the insidious ways of colorism, a system in which light skin is valued more than dark skin.
“Colorism is a major problem within the Creole community and the black community,” she says. “It’s underdiscussed. It’s perplexing and vexing how to work out this idea. I can see how the one drop rule is why we have so much colorism in our society.
“One drop is a lie,” she says. “Black plus white doesn’t equal black or it doesn’t equal white. It equals black plus white.”
She calls herself black. But other people think she is from India or the Middle East, especially in her academic work environment, where she does not have black colleagues.
“The assumption is I am not black,” she says.
Ultimately, she believes environment plays a big role in identity.
Few people, she says, think that of her sister. One reason may be that her sister has more of a button nose. But another reason is that she works in a field with more black people, whereas Robinson finds herself in academic settings where she is the sole black woman.
Robinson acknowledges her lighter skin gives her privilege in a color-conscious society.
“But in those situations where you have to identify yourself and you choose to identify yourself as white – there’s a big denial going on there.
“I do think it’s troublesome when someone who is of mixed race chooses to deny that part of them that was oppressed,” she says.
Race equals identity, or not?
Race is a social construct; identity is personal.
That’s how James Bartlett, 31, views it.
“I’m black, I’m biracial,” he says of his black father and Irish mother, who met and married in Louisville, Kentucky, just a few years after a 1967 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that made anti-miscegenation laws unconstitutional.
He was raised in an all-black neighborhood; his mother was the only white person on the block.
“I interchanged between saying I am biracial and I am black,” he says. “The culture I live in is black. I felt black because black people considered me black. That was because of the one drop rule.”
But later, when he went to Ghana, the locals thought he was from Lebanon. Kids called him “Oburoni,” the word for a white man.
Bartlett felt as though he were being told he was not who he really was even before he could interact with them, as though they were taking away his black identity.
“It put me on the complete opposite side of the coin,” Bartlett says. “The first reaction was to put me in a box.”
In America, people thought of him as a lot of things but not usually straight-up white.
“It’s difficult for me to separate race and identity,” says Bartlett, the newly named executive director of the Museum of Contemporary Diasporan African Arts in Brooklyn.
He is black, he says, because he didn’t grow up with white privilege. What is that? The freedom, he replies, to not have to address race.
“I definitely didn’t grow up with that,” he says.
Being white in America is also knowing that people who look like you are always representing your interests in institutions of power.
“That is the essence of white privilege,” he says. “Regardless of changing (demographic) percentages and numbers, racial representation is going to remain out of balance for quite some time.”
In some ways, Bartlett says, he has been more attuned to race as a light-skinned black man than he would have been had he been darker.
Bartlett feels white people in America are threatened by the tide of color across the nation and that it will give rise to an us against them” mentality.
“I think blackness will change, too,” he says. “The biggest change in the near future will be the end of blackness as a diametric opposite to whiteness.”
Here and abroad
Charles Benjamin Cloud, 63, remembers a time when he was angry at all white people. That was in the time of the white water fountain and the black water fountain.
“They had their side of town; we had ours,” he says of his childhood in New Bern, North Carolina.
As the son of a Cherokee man and a part-Cherokee, part-black woman, Cloud could have passed for something other than black.
“If I had decided to tell everyone I was Puerto Rican or Mexican, people probably wouldn’t have known a difference,” he says.
But he didn’t.
“I never wanted to identify as white,” he says.
“Blackness is a state of mind more so than a physical experience. But back then, physical appearance was much more of a black identity than it is now.”
Cloud joined the Air Force and traveled the world. His light, ruddy complexion threw people off. The Turks thought he was Turkish; the Iranians thought he was from Iran. He even passed for Greek.
But back home, he chose not just to be American. He was black.
What happens when you lose your color as is Sembene McFarland, a 35-year-old emergency room nurse in Newark, New Jersey?
She has a condition known as vitiligo and is losing the pigmentation of her skin. The disorder affects people of all races but is most prominent in those with darker complexions.
McFarland describes herself as “garden-variety black” but once her vitiligo became noticeable, she found herself the target of outlandish comments.
When McFarland was working at a cash register job at a Barnes and Noble, a customer told her, “If you got rid of the rest of the color, you would be a really pretty Asian girl.”
“Thank you very much,” McFarland told the woman. “Have a nice day.”
Now, she can’t relay the story without laughing out loud.
Others have wondered: Were you white first or black first?
“That blew my mind,” she says.
Her skin condition shows how people think of being black so literally, she says.
“When I think black, I don’t think a particular shade,” she says.
McFarland was 16 when she first learned she had vitiligo. It was tough. At that young age, no one wants to stand out.
Later she laughed. In high school in Mississippi, her classmates always joked she wanted to be white. She spoke like a white person. Some people said she sat like a white person – all proper.
Now here she was, turning white.
In the end, McFarland says, it’s not about black or white. It’s all the shades of gray that make people uncomfortable.
Unique but certain
Brandon Stanford’s parents met in school in New Jersey. His mom’s Irish family rejected her for dating a black man.
They’ve been married 37 years.
In that time, a lot has changed about being a child of an interracial marriage. For one, the man who occupies the White House is the son of a Kenyan man and a white American woman. Many Americans think being mixed is “cool.”
Stanford, 29, has his own take.
“I wouldn’t say that being mixed race is either cool or not cool,” he says.
“I’d say it’s a reality that one can choose to embrace by seeing the beauty of a world where the possibilities of transcending the limitations of race and racism exists if one is able to recognize the oneness of humanity. Is this not what our democracy is supposed to represent?”
Stanford, a graduate student in African-American studies at Philadelphia’s Temple University, has had his identity questioned by both whites and blacks. That makes being mixed race difficult for some.
Some times white people speak about black people in front of Stanford, assuming he is white. He lets them go on for a while and then says: “By the way, I am one of them.”
“I have a unique position in the world based upon what my complexion is,” Stanford says. “I always have an opportunity to unsettle people’s minds.”
But Stanford has never wavered on his identity.
“My complexion is not black, yet I am black,” he says.
Stanford doesn’t deny his Irish ancestry. The Irish, he points out, were thought of as inferior by the English. They, too, faced discrimination in the United States. Black people were often called the “dark Irish,” he says.
But the Irish in America distanced themselves from the anti-slavery movement in the interest of joining the white mainstream, Stanford says. That’s where his connection to the Irish stops.
“I identify myself as African-American because of the history of the culture,” he says.
The past in the present
That’s how Kaneesha Parsard, 23, grew up. She was the daughter of parents who immigrated to the United States from Jamaica in the 1980s.
She didn’t understand what her father’s ancestry – her grandfather was Indian – had to do with her.
“I took the one drop rule pretty seriously,” says Parsard, a graduate student in African-American studies at Yale University.
Parsard’s father was born in British-ruled Jamaica. He was raised with Indian people but identified as black because, she says, of how exclusionary Indian communities can be in Jamaica.
She began to think about her own identity when roti and chicken curry appeared at the Thanksgiving table.
“What I have come to realize is that … people’s history is intertwined, that being mixed race is not at odds with being black,” she says.
“When we think about blackness, it’s usually along a black-white context,” she says. “But there are many histories, interesting histories of resistance.”
For Parsard, blackness stems from a moment in time in 1492, with the discovery of a new land and a history of brutality that followed.
Appearance is a primary factor for many Americans in determining race and identity. For Parsard and others in Yaba Blay’s project, it’s not.
“A man without a vision is a man without a future. A man without a future will always return to his past.” (P.K. Bernard)
“A knife cuts because it has a narrow focus” (Cleddie Keith)
“A coward dies a thousand deaths, but a brave man dies only once”(Roman soldiers)
“When God predetermined our destiny, He factored in our stupidity. Therefore there’s always enough time to finish?” (Larry Randolph)
The level of sacrifice that an environment requires will determine the size of people that will follow” (Kris Vallotton)
A progressive revelation of an ageless revival for our generation is growing in our hearts. It is for those who went before us and for those who are yet to be born. Yet, the question of how the vision is to be implemented remains.
One famous Proverb says:
Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained, but happy is he who keeps the law – Proverbs 29:18
Vision is the bridge between the present and the future. Without it we perish or go “unrestrained,” as the New American Standard Bible puts it. Vision gives pain a purpose. Those without vision spend their lives taking the path of least resistance as they try to avoid discomfort. The level of sacrifice that a vision requires will determine the size of people who follow. Sacrifice separates the small from the great.
Consider the example of a young man who has just graduated from high school and joins the military. As soon as he steps off the boot camp bus, the sergeant starts yelling at him. He has to march over to the barbershop and get his head shaved. Then he is up early in the morning to exercise with someone screaming at him and talking about his mother. Just a month before, he was in high school. He would have never put up with any of this nonsense from his teachers or classmates. But somehow his whole mindset has changed. Why? He is enduring the “cross” so to speak, because of the joy on the other side of it. He realizes that boot camp is preparing him for a greater destiny. His vision of the future is giving his present physical discomfort meaning and purpose.
So many of us go through life not understanding the purposes of our trials. We spend our days walking a crooked path, believing that every obstacle in the road is a problem and something to be avoided.
The second part of this Proverb says, “But happy is he who keeps the Law.” The law isn’t just something God gave to Moses. It is also the restraint, boundaries and disciplines we develop around our life to direct us through obstacles instead of around them. These obstacles become baptisms of fire that forge our character so we can attain and maintain a life of greatness.
WHAT IS VISION?
Vision is what we see, but it is also the way in which we see. Vision is the lens that interprets the events of our life, the way we view people and our concept of God. If we have a scratch on our glasses, it may seem like everybody around us has scratches too, but the problem actually lies with us because our vision is impaired. Jesus said that our eyes are the windows of our heart. Paul prayed that the eyes of our heart would be enlightened. In other words, we perceive with our eyes but we see with our hearts. Our minds receive images from our eyes but our heart interprets these images. If our heart becomes bitter, jealous, hurt or in someway infected, the lens of our heart is distorted. What we perceive is happening and what is really going on could be two completely different things. Jesus said, “You will know the truth and the truth will make you free” (John 8:32). The word truth used here is not referring to the Bible itself, (although all truth is rooted in the Bible) but here the word truth means reality. Jesus is saying, you will understand what is real and that will free you. So many of us live in a virtual reality. The way we view life can feel and look real, or make perfect sense, but still not be real at all. Have you ever watched a good movie and gotten totally into it? You experience all the emotions of real life. You may even leave the theater still “feeling” the movie, but it was just a movie? it was never real. The truth is: we see what we believe to be true. Another way to put it is, if you have the wrong pretext you will misunderstand the context. Having a revelation of what is real will deliver us from a life of torment that virtual reality often causes.
ESTABLISHING CORE VALUES
Therefore, the things we believe to be true determine the way in which we interpret life. These “things” are called “core values.” Core values are the lens or eyes of our heart. It is important for us to realize the incongruence between what our core values presently are and what we really want them to be. Often, the things we say we believe and the things we actually believe are not the same. We must understand that it is not the truths that we believe in our head that are our core values, but rather the ones we believe in our heart. The things we perceive to be true determine the way we respond to the world around us and to God who lives within us.
These core values also help define the part of the flock that we find ourselves called and attracted to. The children of Israel experienced this principle when they came into the Promised Land. Joshua assigned land to them according to their tribes and divisions (Joshua 18:10). In other words, they received land according to their diverse visions. For instance, if they had a vision for farming, they probably did not go with Caleb to the mountain country but instead were given land that best facilitated their vision. Therefore the land they were given and their vision was congruent. From this perspective, it is not very hard to see how some church splits happen. Sometimes pastors, in their zeal to build their churches, attract people that have a vision for things that their churches or “land” (metaphorically speaking) will not sustain. This dual vision eventually ends up in di-vision.
FORESIGHT, INSIGHT & OVERSIGHT
True Godly vision consists of foresight, insight and oversight that come from His sight. Foresight is like looking at life through a telescope. This outlook allows us to know what is ahead as it connects us to our future. Foresight is the element of vision that helps life make sense and gives us the motivation that we described earlier.
Insight is like viewing life through a microscope. This perception gives us an understanding of why things happen in life. It also helps determine the underlying motivations of the heart.
Oversight puts life into context. It is like flying over our house in a helicopter. There is a perspective that we can only receive from this vista that helps us understand where we are with respect to where everything else is. The sons of Issachar are great examples of this kind of vision. The book of I Chronicles says that these men understood the times and had knowledge of what Israel should do (12:32). People that are blessed with this type of vision often have great wisdom concerning the seasons of life.
His sight assures us that the vision we have is from God. A vision from the Lord creates a mission from heaven. This is illustrated in the life of Moses when he went up on the mountain, received a vision of the tabernacle, and was told to construct it according to the pattern that he had received. (Exodus 24:16-28:43) Visions like this are just “pipe dreams” without some sort of administrative plan to complete them. A lot of people have lofty ideas about things they would like to accomplish for God but they seem to have no sense of how to see the dream fulfilled. There are entire books dedicated to this subject, therefore, I will just give an overview of how to accomplish a vision.
The first part of accomplishing any vision is to take it from the unseen world and bring it into the natural realm. This can be accomplished by simply writing down the vision. Articulating the vision on paper pulls the dream that is in your spirit (that no one can see but you) into the visible world so that others can capture it in their own hearts. Tools that help to visualize the mission such as architectural drawings, models, testimonies of others who have accomplished similar dreams, or visits to places that have a common purpose are all helpful in capturing and defining the vision for both yourself and others who will come alongside and help.
Then the LORD answered me and said, ‘Record the vision and inscribe it on tablets, that the one who reads it may run. For the vision is yet for the appointed time; it hastens toward the goal and it will not fail. Though it tarries, wait for it; for it will certainly come, it will not delay – Habakkuk 2:2-3
There is an old story about three bricklayers that helps illustrate what it looks like when people receive motivation from taking ownership of a vision:
There were three bricklayers working beside each other on a wall. Someone came up to the first one and said, “What are you doing” “What;’s it look like I am doing?” he replied sarcastically, “I am laying bricks!” The man asked the next guy on the wall what he was doing. He said,”Can’t you see what I am doing? I am building a wall.” Then the last man was asked what he was doing. He exclaimed, “I am building a great cathedral for God!”
Who do you think will do the best quality work and be the hardest worker? Vision causes people to love their work because they can see the big picture. Someone once said, “If you want to build a great ship, you can go out and find some talented craftsman or you can find a person who loves the sea.” Imparting God’s vision to the team around us is the single most important factor in seeing the mission accomplished.
The next step is to create a plan to accomplish the mission. The Bible says:
Without consultation, plans are frustrated, but with many counselors they succeed; the plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the LORD – Proverbs 15:22 & 16:1
From these two verses we see that although the vision must be from God Himself, men are to help develop the plan that brings about the fulfillment of the vision. Notice how Solomon highlights the fact that developing plans in a vacuum, (without the expertise and insight of others who have different gifts and perspectives than we do), will ultimately end in frustration.
It’s important for administrative people to understand that they are there to administrate the mission. The word administrate means, “add-to-the-mission,” not change the mission. Visionaries often do not like to work with administrators because by nature administrators are refiners and finishers. Sometimes administrators do not understand that they are being brought in to help visionaries determine how something should be accomplished, not what should be accomplished. If the vision is so large that it requires the help of Heaven (which it often does when it really is from God), it will be important that the visionary impart the vision and the faith to see it accomplished to the team. First Timothy 1:4 says that the administration of God is “by faith.”
FEAR COUNTERACTS FAITH
People often disguise their fear as wisdom when they enter into a supernatural mission that can only be accomplished with the help of God. Moses had this problem when he sent the twelve spies in to the Promised Land to determine where they should enter. Ten of the spies misunderstood their mission and somehow thought they were being asked whether or not they should take the land at all.
This type of misunderstanding of the roles people are invited to play in the mission has caused the demise of so many would-be miracles, paralyzing the church of the living God. For years, the people of God have often settled for what can be accomplished by human effort and ability, because we have allowed the opinion of faithless people to determine what we will achieve, instead of being faithful (faith-filled) to the vision we saw “on the mountain”. This is a perversion of the gospel of the kingdom. We should never settle for anything less than what God told us to do.
After the plan is established, goals must be set. The Bible says:
I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus – Philippians 3:14
Goals are simply the vision broken down into smaller pieces that are measurable in time and space. In other words, they are specified parts of the mission that we will accomplish by a predetermined date. Many people don’t like to set goals because they think that if they are not able to accomplish them on time, they have failed. The truth of the matter is that, “If you fail to plan you plan to fail.” Great leaders know that setting goals is what gives the mission a sense of urgency. Urgency is a friend to managers as it sets the pace for those who are carrying out the mission. If wisdom is used in goal setting, very little management is needed to motivate the workers since urgency manages them. However, be careful not to give your workers more to do than they have the faith to accomplish in a given time period. If it is too much, they will not even try, just like trying to catch a bus when it is already a block ahead. You probably won’t even run after it, as there is so little possibility of you catching up to it. On the other hand, if the bus just starts to pull away from the curb when you get there, you will probably move out of your comfort zone to try to catch it. Yet, setting goals too low will not create a sense of urgency at all. People will not be very motivated and it will result in a lot more work for the managers.
The final stage of seeing the mission accomplished is establishing your steps. Proverbs says, “The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps” (16:9). Psalms says, “The steps of a man are established by the Lord, and He delights in his way. When he falls, he will not be hurled headlong, because the Lord is the one who holds his hand” (37:23-24). Steps are your day-in, day-out walk with God: the step-by-step, moment-by-moment, hour-by-hour decisions you make and the things you do that take up your time and use up your life. When your vision is honestly birthed by God Himself, He will be delighted to direct your steps. The most important thing to remember about your steps is that they should be found somewhere in your mission. Go back through your planner from the previous month and retrace your steps. Does it look like they are directly attached to your mission? If not, either redefine your mission or redirect your steps. Remember, history is at stake.
Please check out our vision God’s gift to us. We feel like Noah sometimes, people are laughing and this is non-sense but I know It’s real and it will come to pass though it tarries we will wait.
“I call on the young men of America who must make a choice today to take a stand on this issue. Tomorrow may be too late. The book may close. And don’t let anybody make you think that God chose America as his divine, messianic force to be a sort of policeman of the whole world. God has a way of standing before the nations with judgment, and it seems that I can hear God saying to America, “You’re too arrogant! And if you don’t change your ways, I will rise up and break the backbone of your power, and I’ll place it in the hands of a nation that doesn’t even know my name. Be still and know that I’m God.” “
Thirteen years ago today, the U.S. suffered a terrorist attack the likes of which it had never seen before. The incident set off a series of aftershocks with deep and far-reaching implications. Although the U.S. has struggled mightily to extricate itself from the tangles of terrorism, that prospect has become increasingly bleak with the rise of the Islamic State, a turn of events that has left the U.S. with no choice but to refocus its attention upon Iraq. In my opinion , there remain three major problems that have yet to be resolved over these past 13 years, the sum of which has exacerbated the situation even as the U.S. redoubles its efforts to fight terrorism.
Now, let me make it clear in the beginning, that I see this war as an unjust, evil, and futile war. I speak to you today on the war in the Middle East because my conscience leaves me with no other choice. The time has come for America to hear the truth about this tragic war. In international conflicts, the truth is hard to come by because most nations are deceived about themselves. Rationalizations and the incessant search for scapegoats are the psychological cataracts that blind us to our sins. But the day has passed for superficial patriotism. He who lives with untruth lives in spiritual slavery. Freedom is still the bonus we receive for knowing the truth. “Ye shall know the truth,” says Jesus, “and the truth shall set you free.” Now, I’ve chosen to speak about the war in Middle East because I agree with Dante, that the hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in a period of moral crisis maintain their neutrality. There comes a time when silence becomes betrayal.
First, there exist certain peculiarities behind why al-Qaida attacked the U.S. These qualities point to egregious flaws in Washington’s Middle Eastern policy and remain an area that the U.S. refuses to address.
The U.S. made the decision to provide financial and material aid to jihadi organizations such as al-Qaida. At the time, the U.S. needed these fighters to disrupt the Soviets in Afghanistan, and as jihadi embraced the idea that “all [Muslims] under heaven are one family,” they were naturally loathe to permit the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan at the expense of their Muslim brethren. In this way, as the U.S. propped up al-Qaida, it was simultaneously grooming its own future adversary. After the Soviet withdrawal, the choice was simple for al-Qaida to fix its sights on the U.S. as its next target due to the Western power’s rejection of the establishment of a Palestinian state in favor of Israel, an agenda that runs directly counter to the interests of Palestinian Muslims.
And so despite U.S. claims that it opposes all forms of terrorism, the measures that it adopts have often only bred further terrorist activity, as the U.S. is unwilling to thoroughly digest and understand the factors underlying the terrorist mindset, and therefore cannot properly eradicate the root causes of this disease.
Second, why were U.S. policymaking mechanisms unable to prevent the Iraq War? The U.S. touts itself as a democratic nation in possession of the most sophisticated and scientific policymaking systems on the planet. Iraq was not party to the 9/11 attacks, and when the U.S. launched its “pre-emptive” strike on Iraq in the spring of 2003, it found that the Middle Eastern state had not even developed weapons of mass destruction. Yet while obviously lacking evidence, the U.S. still decided to launch the Iraq War. The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency’s shortcuts in its intelligence operations resulted in an inexcusable error on the weighty question of whether to go to war.
When the U.S. Senate voted upon the declaration of war, then-Senators Hillary Clinton, John Kerry and John McCain all made grave mistakes by giving their support. The three were all eventually to fail in their separate bids for the presidency, but setting the U.S. military on the path to invasion was an act of grievous irresponsibility to other countries, as well as to the U.S. itself. Regardless of whether a product of flawed judgment or pandering to the electorate, they all proved themselves unworthy of becoming president. Instead, it would be a state senator from Illinois who would go on to assume that mantle. That person, Barack Obama, opposed the Iraq War, was later elected to the U.S. Senate, and finally ended the war in his capacity as president.
Third, why has the U.S. not offered an apology for the damage done to Iraq? Although the U.S. military has since withdrawn, the war cost Iraqis dearly in personnel and property, as well as triggering a severe societal and economic crisis within the country. Despite this, the U.S. has yet to issue an apology for the invasion, hold to account those responsible for launching the war, or make recompense. The Iraq War not only backfired upon the U.S., but plunged the Middle East into chaos and shattered the stability of the region. Now, the Islamic State has proclaimed the establishment of a state in Iraq and Syria, fomented a widespread humanitarian crisis and forced the U.S. to take military action because of its violent inertia, all of which are inextricably linked to the initial U.S. war against terrorism. But is the feigned nonchalance with which the U.S. has responded the mark of a responsible power?
Thirteen years have passed since the attacks of 9/11, but the U.S. is still unwilling to reflect upon the reasons it was targeted or apologize to and compensate the nations it has harmed, a fact that will ensure the bitter lessons of that day go entirely wasted.
The truth of these words is beyond doubt, but the mission to which they call us is a most difficult one. Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government’s policy, especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one’s own bosom and in the surrounding world. Moreover, when the issues at hand seem as perplexing, as they often do in the case of this dreadful conflict, we’re always on the verge of being mesmerized by uncertainty. But we must move on. Some of us who have already begun to break the silence of the night have found that the calling to speak is often a vocation of agony. But we must speak. We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak. And we must rejoice as well, for in all our history there has never been such a monumental dissent during a war, by the American people.
Polls reveal that almost 68% Americans explicitly oppose the war in Middle East. Additional millions cannot bring themselves around to support it. And even those millions who do support the war [are] half-hearted, confused, and doubt-ridden. This reveals that millions have chosen to move beyond the prophesying of smooth patriotism, to the high grounds of firm dissent, based upon the mandates of conscience and the reading of history. Now, of course, one of the difficulties in speaking out today grows the fact that there are those who are seeking to equate dissent with disloyalty. It’s a dark day in our nation when high-level authorities will seek to use every method to silence dissent. But something is happening, and people are not going to be silenced. The truth must be told, and I say that those who are seeking to make it appear that anyone who opposes the war against ISIS is a fool or a traitor or an enemy of our soldiers is a person that has taken a stand against the best in our tradition.
I have seen the damage these wars can cause first hand. I am still trying to get compensated for the scars I came home with that aren’t visible to the naked eye. I have escorted hundreds of soldiers home in these coffins and some of them I heard their last words. They went something like this “Can we really trust that our death will make a difference”? or “Can we “TRUST” in our leaders back in Washington?
Now, since I am a preacher by calling, I suppose it is not surprising that I have three major reasons for bringing the Middle East and 9/11 into the field of my moral vision. There is…a very obvious and almost facile connection between the war in the Middle East and the struggle I and others have been waging in America. A few years ago there was a shining moment in that struggle. It seemed that there was a real promise of hope for the poor, the disenfranchised both black and white, through the Poverty Program. There were experiments, hopes, and new beginnings. Then came the build-up in the Middle East. And I watched the program broken as if it was some idle political plaything of a society gone mad on war. And I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like ISIS continued to draw men and skills and money, like some demonic, destructive suction tube. And you may not know it, my friends, but it is estimated that we spend $500,000 to kill each enemy soldier, while we spend only fifty-three dollars for each person classified as poor, and much of that fifty-three dollars goes for salaries to people that are not poor. So I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor, and speak on it it as such.
Societies in failure mode because of American wars of genocide to control oil resources and any other political nonsense they can use to mis-inform it’s citizens. Oh, my friends, if there is any one thing that we must see today is that these are revolutionary times. All over the globe men are revolting against old systems of exploitation and oppression, and out of the wounds of a frail world, new systems of justice and equality are being born. The shirtless and barefoot people of the land are rising up as never before. The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light. They are saying, unconsciously, as we say in one of our freedom songs, “Ain’t gonna let nobody turn me around!” It is a sad fact that because of comfort, complacency, a morbid fear of communism, our proneness to adjust to injustice, the Western nations that initiated so much of the revolutionary spirit of the modern world have now become the arch anti-revolutionaries. This has driven many to feel that only Marxism has a revolutionary spirit. Therefore, communism is a judgment against our failure to make democracy real and follow through on the revolutions that we initiated. Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism. With this powerful commitment we shall boldly challenge the status quo, we shall boldly challenge unjust mores, and thereby speed up the day when “every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the rough places shall be made plain, and the crooked places straight. And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.”
A genuine revolution of values means in the final analysis that our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies. This call for a worldwide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one’s tribe, race, class, and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing, unconditional love for all men. This oft misunderstood and misinterpreted concept, so readily dismissed by the Nietzsches of the world as a weak and cowardly force, has now become an absolute necessity for the survival of mankind. And when I speak of love I’m not speaking of some sentimental and weak response. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality. This Hindu-Muslim-Christian-Jewish-Buddhist belief about ultimate reality is beautifully summed up in the first epistle of John: “Let us love one another, for God is love. And every one that loveth is born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God, for God is love. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us and his love is perfected in us.”
In James 5, James defines and describes the deep and intimate connection that should exist between Christian brothers and sisters. Confession (5:16) requires deep openness and revealing of that which we would rather hide—our sins. But James says that confession of sin is to be met with prayer, not judgment. He goes on to say that the healing mentioned in verse 16 is related to the covering of sins in verse 20. Confession must be coupled with a change of action. Without change, confession is merely a response to guilt feelings. Godly sorrow for sin leads to a different direction in life. When we hear others’ confessions, we help each other to continue on the path of righteousness.
One of the most difficult inner conflicts we have is our desire to be known versus our fear of being known. As beings created in the image of God we are made to be known—known by God and also by others. Yet due to our fallen nature, all of us have sins and weaknesses that we don’t want others to know about. We use the phrase “dark side” to refer to aspects of our lives that we keep hidden. And we use slogans like “put your best foot forward” to encourage others to show their best side.
One reason we are unwilling to risk being known is that we fear rejection and ridicule. But when we discover that God knows us, loves us, and is willing to forgive even the worst thing we have done, our fear of being known by God begins to fade away. And when we find a community of believers who understands the dynamic relationship between forgiveness and confession, we feel safe confessing our sins to one another (James 5:16).
The life of faith is not about showing only our good side. It’s about exposing our dark side to the light of Christ through confession to God and also to others. In this way we can receive healing and live in the freedom of forgiveness.
Those secret wrongs that lurk within;
I would confess them all to Thee;
Transparent I would always be. —D. DeHaan
I am in rage myself about the plight of humanity. When I look at the spiritual forecast unfolding before my eyes I weep. Our black athletes self destructing and our kids of the future being exploited I ponder my inner man’s ability to sustain my faith and hope to deliver us from this body of sin. I am convicted because of the delusion I often find my faith suffering. My personal battles and desires that I thirst to engage this war of harassing thoughts of defeat pertaining to the condition of our existence as people of color is weighing me down beyond measure.
I desire so bad to be a vessel of peace and love and honor. I desire so bad to find my purpose within God’s will for my life. I want to be a man who is driving change in my utopia, but all I find is doubt and doors closing at every attempt to make a difference in the lives of disenfranchised people. This sermon has assisted me to press onward.
WE wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,—
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
And mouth with myriad subtleties.
Why should the world be over-wise,
In counting all our tears and sighs?
Nay, let them only see us, while
We wear the mask.
We wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,—
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
And mouth with myriad subtleties.
Why should the world be over-wise,
In counting all our tears and sighs?
Nay, let them only see us,while
We wear the mask.
We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries
To thee from tortured souls arise.
We sing, but oh the clay is vile
Beneath our feet, and long the mile;
But let the world dream otherwise,
We wear the mask!
Everyone – pantheist, atheist, skeptic, and polytheist – has to answer these questions: ‘Where did I come from? What is life’s meaning? How do I define right from wrong and what happens to me when I die?’ Those are the fulcrum points of our existence.
A few months ago I was reading an article about King Tut (his full name was Tutankhamun). The ancient Egyptian pharaoh, and artifacts from his tomb, were making a tour and would be stopping in at Chicago to be displayed at one of the museums there. As I read the article I became intrigued by a couple of things.
Back in 1922, archeologist Howard Carter led a team that unearthed the tomb of King Tut. Shortly after the tomb was opened, Carter’s canary was bitten by a Cobra A year later Lord Cameron – the man who financed the expedition – died of an infection he got while shaving. Add the rumor that King Tut’s tomb held a curse for any who would open his grave… and the media had a field day.
By 1935, they claimed there were 21 victims of the Mummy’s curse.
Now, they really had to stretch to get that number (only 6 of the 22 people present when the tomb was opened actually died over the next 12 years or so… not a dramatic number), but because of the supposed Mummy’s curse and the interest it aroused in the general public, Hollywood took notice. From that day until this, there have been over 500 movies featuring dead Pharaohs, wrapped in burial cloth, wreaking their wrath on foolish mortals who dared to disturb their tombs.
APPLY: The story of the curse of King Tut is interesting to me.
And the reason its interesting is because there really was a curse associated with his family.
But the curse didn’t affect the people who opened his tomb.
And it didn’t effect King Tut.
If I’m right, it effected his father, his uncle and his grandfather.
Tut’s mother was Nefertiti (one of the famed beauties of ancient Egypt) and his father was a Pharaoh named Amenhotep IV.
Amenhotep was not quite as famous as King Tut, but he caused quite a stir in his day because he made a major change in Egypt’s worship. Amenhotep took what had been a worship many gods (called polytheism)… and forced Egypt to worship only ONE god (monotheism)
Scholars are divided as to why Tut’s father made this dramatic change but you can be assured it wasn’t real popular at the time. People didn’t like changes in their worship back then any more than they do now. In fact, Amenhotep’s decision was so unpopular that once King Tut took the throne he immediately changed Egypt back to the many gods that everybody seemed to want.
Amenhotep IV (King Tut’s father) was the heretic King of Egypt.
He wanted Egypt to worship only one god.
That alone was worth my interest.
But even more intriguing was the fact Amenhotep IV wasn’t actually supposed to be Pharaoh. That title should have gone to his older brother – Thutmose.
Thutmose was the 1st born of his family… and he died mysteriously. No one seems to know why. (Aldred, Cyril. Akhenaten: King of Egypt. New York: Thames and Hudson Inc. 1988)
To my way of thinking this family sounds a lot like one that might have suffered from a curse. A curse known as the 10th plague of God upon Egypt.
God told Moses say to Pharaoh, ‘This is what the LORD says: Israel is my firstborn son, and I told you, “Let my son go, so he may worship me.” But you refused to let him go; so I will kill your firstborn son.’” Exodus 4:22-23
Now, I could be wrong, but…
Since King Tut’s father (Amenhotep IV) was the 2nd born, and became Pharaoh because his elder brother, the 1st born, had died of unknown causes. And since he decided – once he became Pharaoh – to abandon the many gods of his family for ONE god…
My guess is: Amenhotep was probably the 2nd born son of the Pharaoh that defied God in Exodus.
I can visualize what transpired:
Amenhotep IV would have seen the failure of Egypt’s many gods. And he would have known 1st hand that his family’s gods couldn’t save his family. And in bitterness he would have abandoned them for a more powerful god.
If one God were good enough for Moses – then one god (albeit not the God of Scripture) would be good enough for him.
If that’s true, that would make King Tut’s grandfather – Amenhotep III – the Pharaoh of Egypt during the Exodus.
Now don’t get lost here.
Amenhotep the IV was son of Amenhotep III.
And Amenhotep III was a powerful ruler who ruled Egypt for nearly 40 years. His reign was one of the most prosperous and stable periods of Egypt’s history
But Amenhotep III suffered from the curse.
His son – his 1st born son – died mysteriously.
So let’s review:
King Tut’s grandfather (Amenhotep III) would have been the Pharaoh during the Exodus. Tut’s father (Amenhotep IV) would have become the next Pharaoh sometime after Israel went on their Exodus. And King Tut himself would have restored the ancient practice of polytheism once his father died.
Ok, but we still have one Pharaoh we haven’t identified.
Who would have been the “new king who didn’t know Joseph” in Exodus 1?
Moses returned to Egypt at the age of 80, so the Pharaoh who ruled when he was born had long since died. So, who was THIS first Pharaoh mentioned in Exodus?
If my math is right that might have been Tut’s great, great, grandfather – Thutmose III.
Thutmose III loved to build things… great monuments, temples, and cities (According to Wikipedia, he built over 50 temples, including what is now the great ruins of Karnak).
That kind of building would have required a lot of labor… slave labor… slaves like maybe Israelite slaves.
In addition – Thutmose also hated people that weren’t like his people – the Egyptians.
Years before Thutmose became king, Egypt had been taken over by foreign people called Hyksos. The Hyksos ruled for about 110 years
But the Egyptian people never warmed to these new rulers.
They didn’t fit in. They weren’t “like” the Egyptians.
They lived different, ate different, and worshipped different.
And eventually the Egyptians overthrew these foreign Kings
When Thutmose became king he decided to completely remove any remaining threat of the Hyksos and he mounted 23 campaigns to finally destroy what power they still had. He was a mighty warrior that some have called the Napoleon of Egypt.
And like I said – he hated people who weren’t like his people.
Like the Hyksos.
And (perhaps) like the Israelites – because they weren’t like the Egyptians either.
· They lived different
· Ate different
· And they worshipped different than Egyptians did.
Many conservative scholars believe Joseph came to Egypt during the reign of the Hyksos. Thus Israel would have been identified as being part of the hated rule of those foreigners and thus Thutmose III would have sought to destroy Israel because he saw them as posing the same threat the Hyksos had had over his beloved nation.
So THIS is how it would have all played out (according to my way of thinking)
Thutmosis III – was the New King who didn’t know Joseph (Exodus 1:8)
Amenhotep III – (Thutmosis’ great grandson) was the Pharaoh during the Exodus (chapters 3 – 14)
Amenhotep IV – was the 2nd born son who became Pharaoh due to his brother’s death and who forced Egypt to worship only one God.
And King Tut was the king who brought Egypt back to worshipping its many false gods
Now that’s nice but YOU MIGHT ASK “what difference does that make?”
I’m glad you asked
It makes a difference because there are many “scholars” out there who would like you to think that the Bible is unreliable.
They’d like you to think you can’t trust it
That it’s historically inaccurate
That its authors borrowed from other cultures to arrive at its theology.
For example they’d like us to think that Moses didn’t come on the scene of Egypt until nearly 200 years later… and thus learned his theology about there being only “one God” from Amenhotep IV rather than the other way around (first suggested by Sigmund Freud)
Why would these skeptics believe this?
They believe it because they don’t believe in the God of the Bible.
And since they don’t believe in Him they need to explain how the Israelites could have lived in such a polytheistic world… and still ended up worshipping only ONE God. Religion evolved (say these “scholars”) and that evolution progressed from polytheism to monotheism. Thus, to their way of thinking, since there is no REAL God – then men had to make Him up.
But there is a REAL God and His Bible makes no errors in its telling of history. Archeologists have used the Bible for more than a century as a road map to find cities and civilizations that have been long buried by the sands of time.
There is no other religious book capable of that kind of accuracy!
God didn’t give us the Bible as a history book… but it IS historically accurate.
You CAN depend on it to be correct even in the smallest details.
And I believe God didn’t do that just with the Bible.
I think He left a little “trail of crumbs” in history-crumbs of evidence pointing back to His Word… evidence like the lives of King Tut and his father Amenhotep IV
Now… I want to shift gears a little here.
The curse of the Mummy was the curse of God’s judgment upon Pharaoh’s house.
Ever since the days of Thutmose III (this new king that didn’t know Joseph) God had been at war with Egypt. The Pharaoh had arranged to kill the babies of the Israelites and so God would not only free His people from their slavery but would bring judgment upon all of Egypt…and especially on the house of Pharaoh.
When the confrontation in Exodus 5 takes place Moses came into Amenhotep III’s throne room and asked permission to take Israel away. And Pharaoh declared: “Who is the LORD that I should obey him and let Israel go? I do not know the LORD and I will not let Israel go.” Exodus 5:2
Well… over the next weeks God showed this Pharaoh just WHO He was and why he should let Israel go. He brought 10 terrible plagues upon Egypt… and the last of those plagues was the death of the firstborn (except in the homes of those who had applied the blood of innocent lamb on their doorposts).
Now, what I found interesting in this part of the story was Pharaoh’s comment:
“Who is the LORD that I should obey Him?”
As I pondered on that phrase, it occurred to me that this was exactly the same attitude Satan had toward God.
Satan had declared in his heart – “Who is the LORD that I should obey Him.”
In Isaiah 14:13 we’re told that Satan had said in his heart
“I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain.”
WHO IS this supposed God that I should bow down to Him (Satan was saying) I’ll take Him down from His throne… and then I’ll be God!
Then it occurred to me that Pharaoh was a “Type” of Satan.
Pharaoh was to Israel what Satan is to us.
· held God’s people in slavery
· he was known for his cruelty
· pain, punishment and death were in his hands
· And he owned Israel (Moses had to ask his permission)
In the same way – before we became Christians – Satan
· held us in slavery
· he was known for his cruelty
· pain, punishment and death were in his hands
· And because of our sins – he OWNED us
· BUT Jesus bought us back.
Now, follow me here:
Colossians 1:18 tells us that in His death, burial and resurrection, Jesus was “… the firstborn from the dead” (repeat this for emphasis)
By His resurrection, Jesus opened the gates of hell and freed us from death’s power.
Thus… just as the death of the firstborn heralded the freedom of Israel
So also, the death of only begotten Son of God – His “firstborn” – heralded our freedom
In His death and resurrection He bought us our freedom
Every time we see someone accept Jesus by being buried in the waters of baptism and risen up to live a new life we should be reminded of this great truth. In their baptism they are re-enacting the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus and declaring that it was by His action that they were freed from sin.
One last thought.
There has always been one troubling aspect of Israel’s relationship with Pharaoh that has always puzzled me. Once they crossed the Red Sea – and for the next 40 years – whenever Israel ran into difficulties and hardships… guess where they wanted to go back to?
That’s right. They’d always talk about going back to Egypt.
In Numbers 11 we’re told that Israel began to be bored with their diet. They wanted more variety, more meat. And so they said: “We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost— also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic.” Numbers 11:5
they’d forgotten the bitterness of their slavery when life didn’t go their way and they were tempted to return to their old way of life.
That happens to some new Christians as well.
They become bored with Christianity.
Or they face troubles that shake their faith
And they long for how life had been before they were saved.
And some even return to Egypt.
And because they turn back… they embrace the curse.
CLOSE: Michael P Green (Illustrations For Biblical Preaching – with a few changes)
When Howard Carter and his associates found the tomb of King Tutankhamen they opened up his casket and guess what they found? They found another within it covered with gold leaf.
Then they opened this 2nd casket and guess what they found? They found a third.
Inside the third casket – guess what – there was a fourth made of pure gold.
And the pharaoh’s body was in the fourth, wrapped in gold cloth with a gold face mask.
But when the body was unwrapped, it was leathery and shriveled.
No matter how elaborate the caskets.
No matter how beautiful the wrappings
What lay within was death
And no matter how they tried to preserve their bodies the Pharaohs couldn’t escape that final curse.
The curse of death.
But through Jesus we have escaped
Hebrews 2 tells us “Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death— that is, the devil— and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. Hebrews 2:14-15
Jesus died, was buried and rose from the dead to free us from the curse.
And that’s why we offer an invitation at the end of every service for all who would be willing to die to their sins, be buried in the waters of Christian baptism and rise up to a new life.
* Ramses (or Ramesses) II is considered by many to be Pharaoh of Exodus. However, the more conservative timetable for the Exodus (around the 1400’s) predates Ramses by over a hundred years.
* An intriguing website to check out: http://www.heptune.com/akhen.html
Wherever my story takes me, however dark and difficult the theme, there is always some hope and redemption, not because readers like happy endings, but because I am an optimist at heart. I know the sun will rise in the morning, that there is a light at the end of every tunnel.
I don’t know how to write about this tonight because I am in so much pain for the family that lost their child as I have also. My lost of children go further than one child. I lost Demir from Sickle Cell Anemia at the age of two while serving my country. I lost Audrey on her 21 st birthday and I lost Leander to a life sentence in California while Parris is lost in Maryland. I am fighting the good fight tonight not to lose myself from all this reliving of all these loses. I lost time and talents and the use of so many skills and education. As I press toward this vision to become victorious with the vision of Second Chance Alliance I am overwhelmed with grief from several paradigms within this life I now live. My passion to perform ministry and be an instrument of good for God is a daily fight. The thoughts of not being good enough because of all the blood on my hands from trusting my country and myself. I am rambling I know, It’s because of the pain, please forgive me.
REFLECTIONS OF MY SOUL
When nightmares persist,
and dreams seem too real;
When fear attacks,
and the mask is no longer steel;
When desire seems unquenchable,
and the eyes of others mirror what I truly feel;
REFLECTIONS OF MY SOUL
When life has no meaning, and the world is at a standstill;
When words have nothing to convey,
and laughter is the irony of the day;
and tomorrow’s serenity seem so far away;
REFLECTIONS OF MY SOUL
When music causes my body to sway,
and the expectations of falling in love
encourage me to face another day;
When a welcomed touch
radiate a warmth greater than heat, and a simple hug
brings about an overwhelming feeling of peace;
REFLECTIONS OF MY SOUL
When a child’s anger turns to rage,
and a mother’s tears fall because of pain;
When a father’s absence is provoked by shame,
and a friend’s life stolen by the cruelty of the game;
All you see…is reflections of me…
reflections of my soul.
A MAN’S FEAR
A man’s fear –
Lives in the center of his existence.
It sharpens and crushes his emotions.
It shelters him from his enemies.
It trashes and destroys his joys.
Powerful as it is,
A man’s fear doesn’t let him live in peaceful awakening…
All the talk,
All the writing,
Won’t save a man from his own fear.
This fear has become
The very source of his life.
Only a man himself
Can cast away this monster out of his house.
It doesn’t matter
How much it is said…
Or the endless time spent in prayer.
The fear of a man
Is as stubborn and instinctive
As the lion’s fury.
It fills him with doubt.
It mocks his pretentious
Sense of stability.
I am a man!
I know what I’m talking about.
I’ve mated with this beast.
It now has become the host
And I, a guest to its domains…
Painful mourning –
Morning shouts –
Child’s sorrows –
Madness of the mind –
Anguish of the soul –
It encompasses all.
It is alive
And capriciously ahead
Of each step a man takes.
Fooling and tearing him apart
Manifesting his weakness
Any time he feels threatened.
A man’s fear
Is so rigidly
Rooted in his spine
That it has no origin
Nor an end.
It is undone,
It breathes life
But kills him inside.
A man’s fear
Dwells in his mind.
I lost communication with little Aaron and it pains my heart as well that I have a child out there somewhere that doesn’t believe I love him.
When do we know that the Holy Spirit or God has spoken to our heart? How do we know we are doing God’s will and not our will?
These two questions are common and not so easily answered in a specific manner. There are, however, general principles by which we can know we hear the Holy Spirit. I offer the following guidelines not as a formula and not as a guarantee but as a means to help people understand and recognize when the Holy Spirit is speaking to and through them.
- Become a Christian
- John 1:12, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.”
- It should go without saying that we should be Christians before we seek to hear from the Holy Spirit. Though there are many non-Christian groups such as the Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses and aberrant Christian groups like Roman Catholics, the necessary first step is that we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God through receiving Christ as Lord and Savior. This can only occur if a person is saved from God’s judgment by trusting, through faith alone, in the work of Christ alone. Of course, this means that we must understand and know that Jesus Christ is God in flesh, the only begotten Son of the Father, that he died for our sins, and that he was physically risen from the dead.
- Therefore, you must be indwelt by God before you can hear from him.
- Therefore, in order to hear from the Holy Spirit, you must first be saved.
- Read the Bible to know how to pray and recognize false impressions
- 2 Tim. 3:16-17, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”
- We cannot claim to be in the will of God, and thereby hearing the Holy Spirit if we are believing or acting in a manner contrary to the revealed Word of God. We need to study the Bible. It is God’s inspired word, and it guides us so that we might know how to pray and also so that we can discern whether what we think we hear from God really is or is not true.
- Take for example the Mormons. They pray about the Book of Mormon and believe that the Holy Spirit tells them that Mormonism is true. However, Mormonism clearly contradicts the Bible since it teaches there are many gods, people can become gods, there is a goddess mother in heaven, etc. What they think they are hearing from God the Holy Spirit really is not from him at all.
- Therefore, by reading God’s Word we can at least eliminate any suspected communication from the Holy Spirit should it prove contrary to the Bible.
- Pray in accordance to God’s will
- 1 John 5:14, “And this is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.”
- We discover the will of God by conforming our lives, our thoughts, and our actions to the words of Christ and the apostles as taught in the New Testament. But, it is in prayer that we enter into the presence of God and seek to hear from him.
- Therefore, we need to hear from God’s Word, and we need to be in prayer for God’s will.
- Confess your sins
- Psalm 66:18, “If I regard wickedness in my heart, the Lord will not hear.”
- We cannot claim to walk with God and yet abide in unrepentant sin. If you want to be in the will of God and hear the Holy Spirit work in your heart and life, you must confess your sins and repent of them. You cannot hear from the Lord if you are willfully living in a manner contrary to the holiness of God.
- Therefore, if there are sins in your life from which you have not turned, then you need to confess them before the Lord and be cleansed.
- Wait upon the Lord.
- Psalm 40:1, “I waited patiently for the Lord; and He inclined to me, and heard my cry.”
- Sometimes the answer to prayer takes longer than we expect. This is why hearing from the Holy Spirit requires that we be patient. When we ask of God and when we seek his will, we can know instantly what his will is in many cases by reading the Bible. But in those areas where the Bible is not specific and we ask God something about life’s direction, who to marry, what job to take, etc., we must wait in order to hear from the Holy Spirit.
- Oftentimes, we can discern the will of the Holy Spirit by the becoming aware of an increase or decrease of desire in our hearts as we repeatedly pray and wait on him. In other words, God often puts a desire into our hearts that increases over time as we pray about something. If that desire is in agreement with scripture, then it is most probably from the Lord. If the desire in your heart decreases, it may be that the Lord is not speaking to you on that topic. Look at it this way. Pray and ask the Lord to increase desires in your heart that are from him and decrease those that are not. And, always make sure your desires are in accordance with the Bible.
- Therefore, be patient and give the Lord the opportunity to answer you–to speak to your heart.
In these principles, you can find how to hear the Holy Spirit–how to recognize his work in you. Be filled with the Spirit in salvation. Study what the Bible says so you might recognize truth. Pray for his will. Confess your sins and be patient. The Lord answers, but sometimes he has to prepare the groundwork before the answer can come to fruition.
You would think that after promoting and cheer-leading for the Iraq War and the politicians who pushed that failed policy, that conservatives would have found some humility or honesty about the topic along the way. You would be wrong.
The conservative movement and the Republican Party are still lying to themselves and everyone else about the Iraq War: The reasons we went to war, the support for the war, and what role the war played in American history.
As Americans we deal with the war on skin color and mass incarceration and a failed VA system, the Government now is asking for more human life to be trusted in the hands of politicians who haven’t cared for me and many other veterans of the Iraq wars. I came home a mess from nine campaigns only to find out in 2013 “why” I behaved as I did to become a terrorist in my own country. A homeless Veteran equals a disenfranchised individual that more often than not becomes a felon and poly substance abuser which is a person who has a co-occurring disorders like me.
U.S. policy in Syria: “Senate Democratic leaders today prepared legislation to expressly authorize the United States military to train Syrian rebels to help battle the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, and House Republicans appeared ready to follow their lead.” I am appalled at the level of trust America puts in these so called good rebels, who for all we know sold the American Journalist to Isis. I ran, jumped and served in these same areas with the same questions plaguing my peace then as now. What are we doing and why are we doing it for real?
Dysfunctional Congress Prepares to Claim Another Victim: Injured Veterans
“If we don’t extend it, veterans…across the country will be ejected from the care they’re going to be getting, which would constitute, in my mind, a premature discharge,” said Susan Connors, the president of the Brain Injury Association of America. “Families feel like this has been a lifeline.”
Now the VA has halted new patient admissions and informed health-care providers that it plans to discharge veterans by September 15, Connors said.
The program currently is offering more than 100 veterans the opportunity to receive treatment for traumatic brain injuries in assisted living facilities, where they get therapy for their memory, movement, speech, and community reintegration. They also relearn simple tasks, such as how to cook, make a bed, and go to the grocery store. About half of these veterans were involved in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, while the rest are from previous generations. Eighty-four vets already have transitioned successfully through the program.
“With traumatic brain injury, many of them are struggling to do the basics,” said Joy Ilem, deputy national legislative director of Disabled American Veterans. “The pilot [program] seemed to really offer them the type of environment that worked on a number of things they might have struggled with.”
The Iraq War was one of the worst foreign policy ideas ever put forth in American history. The war was a war of choice, completely and wholly unnecessary. In engaging in the Iraq War, thousands of lives were lost unnecessarily – American soldiers and innocent Iraqis.
There were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Saddam Hussein did not have the capability to produce such weapons, nor was he hiding any such weapons. The assertions that he had this power were false.
Hussein was contained. Hussein was a thuggish dictator who posed no threat to anyone in the region besides his own people, and even then his powers were limited. The no-fly zone prevented him from having any tactical edge, while combined with international sanctions, limited his ability to do harm. His neighbors in the region faced no threat from him – not Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, or Israel.
Invading Iraq opened Pandora ’s Box in the region, and much of the chaos we see today is a result of those actions.
Military veterans experience “excessive wait time” for medical care, leading to higher incidences of preventable hospitalizations and death, according to a scientific research council.
Drawing on the findings of recent government and scholarly studies, a report issued this week by the Institute of Medicine paints a picture of a healthcare system that is understaffed, under trained, and inaccessible.
For instance, veterans seeking mental-health care at one site had to wait, on average, 86 days to see a psychiatrist, according to the report. And veterans living in rural areas may not have access to any psychiatrists at all, the report said.
The Institute of Medicine’s report comes a couple of weeks after the Government Accountability Office that Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) employees manipulated records to understate the wait times for medical appointments. In once clinic, for example, employees made it appear as though there was no wait time when, in reality, veterans experienced six- to eight-week delays for appointments, the GAO said.
Congress commissioned the study by the Institute of Medicine, which is part of the National Academies. The National Academies is a non-profit organization that often provides advice to Congress on scientific and technical issues.
While the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), the healthcare arm of the VA, requires that veterans seeking mental-health care be able to get a doctor’s appointment within 24 hours, the VHA has no “reliable and accurate method” to make that happen, the report said, citing findings from the VA Office of the Inspector General.
In my case the VHA has denied me services for 14 years. I came home seeking help and still seeking help. I am a classic case of how a veteran can become a terrorist in his own country because of being denied services after being a patriot that became a FELON and now is a TERRORIST because of a felony and substances abuse issues that came about due to trying to suppress pain and ill behavior behind anger and depression.