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Month: May 2015

~Honor In God Verses The World’s Version of Honor~

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It was my duty to shoot the enemy, and I don’t regret it. My regrets are for the people I couldn’t save: Marines, soldiers, buddies. I’m not naive, and I don’t romanticize war. The worst moments of my life have come as a SEAL. But I can stand before God with a clear conscience about doing my job.

Chris Kyle

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This is the day that the Lord has made and also a day that we who served in the United States Military Armed Forces were honored at Kansas Avenue SDA Church for our service and dedication to our country. Today was a day that I watched along with many others, my husband Chief Petty Officer Aaron Dejohn Pratt be honored with a standing ovation from the entire congregation for his service as a Navy SEAL, a POW and as a Mighty Man of God. I can truly say that I have never been as proud as I was today to see the love and respect of others who never knew that Aaron was “more” than a Man of God, but also a dedicated soldier who served his country with all that he had, even as a POW.

I would like to thank Colonel Bill Howe for including me and my husband in today’s celebration of freedom and liberty, and for his steadfastness in honoring my husband as a Navy SEAL.

Loyalty to Country, Team and Teammate
• Serve with Honor and Integrity On and Off the Battlefield
• Ready to Lead, Ready to Follow, Never Quit
• Take responsibility for your actions and the actions of your teammates
• Excel as Warriors through Discipline and Innovation
• Train for War, Fight to Win, Defeat our Nation’s Enemies
• Earn your Trident everyday

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May and I are always excited about going to the house of worship on Sunday, Saturday or mid week. We are doubly honored when Crown of Life Ministries and Pastor Jones and his wife Sandra allow us to be incorporated within the functions of that church as well. We have been in hot pursuit of opening our dream business “Second Chance Alliance” and in performing the work required we have been side by side with several City and State officials, but never the chief of Police of Riverside County and two Councilmen of 7th District and 2nd District of Riverside. May was throw a back for real when she was given the opportunity to take this photo with one of the original Tuskegee Airmen.

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Sometimes a little book can make a big difference in how people think about right and wrong.

Harriet Beecher Stowe’s 1852 novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, profoundly affected the way white Americans perceived slavery. Ten years later and across the Atlantic, Henry Dunant published another revolutionary book, A Memory of Solferino: his eyewitness account of the aftermath of one of Europe’s bloodiest battles.

Dunant’s book is rarely read today. But if you are outraged when bombs, rockets, or artillery shells fall on hospitals, schools, and places of worship, you can trace that presumption—that these should be safe places—to Dunant.

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Across cultures and time, honor and manliness have been inextricably tied together. In many cases, they were synonymous. Honor lost was manhood lost. Because honor was such a central aspect of a man’s masculine identity, men would go to great lengths to win honor and prevent its loss.

If we take even a cursory look at history, honor pops up over and over again as a central theme in literature and life. The epic poems of Homer are primarily about honor and man’s quest to achieve and maintain it. If you read Shakespeare’s plays with a close eye, you’ll find that honor and manhood take center stage as reoccurring themes. During the 17th and all the way into the early 20th century, upperclass men in Europe and the United States regularly engaged in duels on “fields of honor” to defend their manhood. When signing the Declaration of Independence, the American Founding Fathers “mutually pledged to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.”

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But what exactly is honor?

We throw the word around quite a bit in our modern lexicon and give it a lot of lip service, but if you were to ask someone, “What is honor?” you’ll likely be answered with furrowed brows and head scratches. We think we know what it is, but often find it difficult to articulate when pressed. If you’re lucky enough to get an answer out of someone, they’ll likely say that honor means being true to a set of personal ideals, or being a man of integrity.

Honor=integrity is the point to which the definition of honor has evolved and what it generally means in our society today. Honor as I understand it is defined in a book called, The Art of Manliness Manvotionals

That definition of honor, while correct in our modern use of the word, doesn’t really capture the concept of honor that Homer wrote about, that countless duelists died for, and that our Founding Fathers swore upon. Except for a few pockets of society like the military, fire departments, and criminal gangs, honor, as millions of men from the past understood it, barely exists in the modern West. When folks in the mainstream do bring up this type of honor, it’s usually done in jest. (See Man Code or Bro Code).

And while there are certainly some very troubling aspects of honor as it was understood in the past , I believe that part of the decline of manhood in America and other Western countries can be traced in part to a lack of a positive notion and healthy appreciation of the kind of classic honor that compelled (and checked) our manly ancestors.

Question: “What does the Bible say about honor?”

Answer:As a noun,honor in the Bible means “esteem, value, or great respect.” To honor someone is to value him highly or bestow value upon him. The Bible exhorts us to express honor and esteem toward certain people: our parents, the aged, and those in authority (Ephesians 6:2;Leviticus 19:32;Romans 13:1). But we must understand that all authority and honor belong to God alone (1 Chronicles 29:11;1 Timothy 1:17;Revelation 5:13). Though He can delegate His authority to others, it still belongs to Him (Ephesians 4:11-12).

Peter tells us to “honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king” (1 Peter 2:17). The idea of honoring others, especially those in authority (the king), comes from the fact that they represent God’s ultimate authority. A classic example is the command to “submit to the governing authorities because they have been established by God” (Romans 13:1-6). Therefore, “he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves” (Romans 13:2). This means it is incumbent upon Christians to honor those whom God has placed over us through our obedience and demonstration of respect. To do otherwise is to dishonor God.

The Bible speaks of another noteworthy group of people who are deserving of “double honor,” the leadership of the church, called elders: “Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching” (1 Timothy 5:17). In the first-century church, some elders labored in word and doctrine by devoting their time to preaching and teaching, while others did so privately. However, all elders gave attention to the interests of the church and the welfare of its members. These men were entitled to double honor of both respect and deference for their position, as well as material or monetary support. This was especially significant because the New Testament was not yet available.

The Bible also gives us the command to honor one another in our employer/employee relationships (1 Timothy 3:17;6:1;Ephesians 6:5-9), as well as in the marriage relationship with the husband and wife being in submission to and honoring one another (Hebrews 13:4;Ephesians 5:23-33). Interestingly enough, of all the commands to honor one another, the most oft-repeated pertains to that of honoring one’s father and mother (Exodus 20:12;Matthew 15:4). This command was so important to God that if anyone cursed or struck his parent, he was to be put to death (Exodus 21:7).

The wordloveis also sometimes synonymous for honor. Paul commands us to “be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves” (Romans 12:10). Honoring others, however, goes against our natural instinct, which is to honor and value ourselves. It is only by being imbued with humility by the power of the Holy Spirit that we can esteem and honor our fellow man more than ourselves (Romans 12:3;Philippians 2:3).

The book of Proverbs illustrates the association of a one’s behavior with its resulting honor. For example, “He who pursues righteousness and love finds life, prosperity and honor” (Proverbs 21:21; see alsoProverbs 22:4;29:23). Often, honor is conferred upon those of wisdom and intelligence, thereby earning praise and adoration (1 Kings 10:6-7). Another kind of honor pertains to those who have great wealth or fame (Joshua 6:27). Correspondingly, we also know that such worldly honor, fame and wealth, in the end, is meaningless and short-lived (Ecclesiastes 1:14;James 4:14).

Honor as taught in the Scriptures is far different from the type of honor sought after by the world. Honor and awards are heaped upon those with wealth, political clout, worldly power, and celebrity status. Those who thrive on this world’s fleeting honor and stature are unmindful that “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5; see alsoProverbs 16:5;Isaiah 13:11). Such were the Pharisees of Jesus’ time, who sought honor and accolades from men. But in truth, Jesus rejected them. He said, “Everything they do is done for men to see” (Matthew 23:5). He not only labeled them as hypocrites, but “snakes” and “vipers,” essentially condemning them to hell (Matthew 23:29-33).

The point to be made here is that the world in which we reside is corrupt (Deuteronomy 32:5;Philippians 2:15) because it does not give to God the honor He deserves. The one who honors the world and the things of it makes himself an enemy of God (James 4:4). The apostle Paul wrote, “For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened” (Romans 1:21). The Bible teaches that honor is found in God and His Son and in our being like Him (John 15:8). We are to give obeisance to Him through the fruits of our labors (Proverbs 3:9;1 Corinthians 10:31), as well as through the care and nurture of our bodies (1 Corinthians 6:19). To esteem God as first in our lives (Matthew 22:37-38) is thereby expressed in both the total commitment of our lives and devotion of our possessions to His service and glory (Colossians 3:17). Though we are in this world, we are not of this world (John 15:18-21). This means, as we honor God through our godly character, we will reap dishonor from those of the world. In fact, the Bible teaches us that “everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12).

After all is said and done, we do know this: as the heavens and all therein raise their voices in honor and praise to God, we are to do likewise: “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for You created all things, and by Your will they were created and have their being” (Revelation 4:11). There has never been, nor will there ever be, anyone in any position of power or worldly influence who can claim such an honor (1 Timothy 6:16). God alone is the Creator and sustainer of all the heavens and the earth (Revelation 14:7).

All true believers are to honor God and His Son, Jesus Christ, through our acknowledgement and confession that He is the one and only God (Exodus 20:3;John 14:6;Romans 10:9). We are to honor God in our recognition that the gift of life eternal and the very salvation of our souls come through Jesus Christ and Him alone (John 11:25;Acts 4:12;1 Timothy 2:5). Knowing this, we give honor and obeisance to our Savior through our humble adoration and obedience to His will (John 14:23-24;1 John 2:6). As such, He will honor us when He seats us on His throne in heaven (Revelation 3:21).

~Happy Birthday Grateful~

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“Gratitude gladdens the heart. It is not sentimental, nor jealous, nor judgmental. As gratitude grows, it gives rise to joy. We experience the courage to rejoice in our own good fortune and in the good fortune of  others. Joy is natural to an open heart. In it, we are not afraid of pleasure. We do not mistakenly believe it is disloyal to the suffering of the world to honor the happiness we have been given. Like gratitude, joy gladdens the heart. We can be joyful for people we love, for moments of goodness, for sunlight and trees and for the breath within our breast. And as our joy grows, we finally discover a happiness without cause. Like an innocent child who does not have to do anything to be happy, we can rejoice in life itself, in being alive.” 

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As I hope to celebrate my birthday tomorrow, I am immediately overwhelmed by feelings of gratitude to The Almighty. Over the last year there have been many major changes that have happened in my life. Some good, some not so good. But, they have brought me to a place where I yearn for simplicity. I have always been a simplistic soul in the making…I just didnt know how awesome it would feel when I actually simplified EVERYTHING!

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To be simple and thankful together, is a sure shot recipe for inner happiness. I have simplified not only my outside world, but also my inside world. My thoughts and feelings, my hopes and dreams, my life purpose and my goals….have been drastically simplified. From wanting to write a book for fame to now writing a book for the sheer joy of helping, from wanting a massive house to now living in a cosy apartment with my wife, to feeling overwhelmed by wants to being happy with my simple needs being met…..everything has been simplified and the process has made me so thankful for every little second to millisecond of my life.unnamed

I’ve simplified my writings, my blog and my ways….and am so so thankful for all the appreciative readers here on Fresh Oil, Ironically my simplified ways are appealing to more hearts than my complicated past layers…just goes to show what really touches hearts. right?!?!

I practice gratitude because gratitude re-shifts the focus from what I may have lose to what I may have. Even if I lose something in the process, I’m grateful for anything I got, because being grateful will enforce those parts and send the loss in the shadow. It’s not always easy, but when I’m able to do it with my entire heart, I am reborn. It helped me see that, even if I am made of dark and light, like any other human being, I can control the percentage of light and dark in my being. Fellowship has kept me grateful and these events last year and this year up unto tomorrow have made me glad and thankful. Enjoy and pray for us as we pray for the world……

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~There’s a piece of heaven next to you in the church~

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We live in a day when there’s more Bible teaching than you could ever consume available through radio, television, and the Internet etc, why should it matter where and how you’re taking in God’s truth? What’s wrong with virtual, web-based congregations for the digital-age church? Why wouldn’t you want your iPod to be your worship leader, your IPAD tablet be your pastor, and your Facebook friends your fellowship and accountability?

The answer is simple: that’s not the way God designed it.

I thank God for the technology we have available to us. Yet there is no substitute for interacting with actual people. I appreciate that if you are house bound due to illness for example this technology can be a lifeline.

The New Testament repeatedly emphasizes the importance of the local church. It was the pattern of Paul’s ministry to establish local congregations in the cities where he preached the gospel. Hebrews 10:24-25 commands every believer to be a part of such a local body and reveals why this is necessary:

‘Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.’

I attended a memorial service in honor of a “Great Man Of God” yesterday and as I was being bathed in the word and soothed by the worship I looked beside me and all of a sudden I saw “A piece of Heaven” sitting next to me on that pew. My spirit was so enlighten. There are many reasons for my love of the church, but the main one is that “He” lives and we have His deposit within us that leads, comforts and reveals His love that has been shed abroad in our hearts.

Another reason from Scripture why I love the church is that it is like heaven on earth. I don’t mean that the church is perfect, or that it offers some kind of utopian escape from the realities of a sinful world. But I mean that the church is the one place where all that occurs in heaven can also occur on earth.

Christ instructed us to pray, “Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10). In what sphere is that most likely to occur? Is it likely to occur in the House of Parliament or House of Lords? Unlikely. In the Law courts? Unlikely. In the Universities? Unlikely. Town Hall – local council? Unlikely. Where is God’s will done on earth as it is in heaven? It is not that we don’t want it to happen in these places, we would dearly love for it to be so.

 But surely the place it is most likely to happen is in the church.

Let me pose a question. If all the activities of heaven were to be brought to earth, what activities would dominate?

First of all, worship. In every biblical description where people of God had visions of heaven, the one thing that stands out most is worship. Praise, adoration, thanksgiving, and devotion are constantly being offered to God in heaven. We see it in Isaiah 6:1-3, and we can read more about it in Revelation 4:8-11. In other words, every creature in heaven is continually engaged in worship.

Worship is also one of the main activities of the church. In 1 Corinthians 14:26, Paul describes what took place in a typical meeting in the early church:

“When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.”

There he describes activities whose design is both to worship God and to edify the worshipers. And if an unbeliever came into the meeting, this was the desired response:

“The secrets of his heart are disclosed; and so he will fall on his face and worship God, declaring that God is certainly among you”. (v. 25)

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A second activity of heaven is the adoration of Christ. Having finished His earthly work, Christ is now seated at the Father’s right in glory in pure exaltation (Acts 5:31). God Himself has exalted His Son, and given Him a name above every name (Phil. 2:9). Christ is “exalted above the heavens” (Heb. 7:27). And throughout all eternity we will be occupied exalting His name (Rev. 5:11-14). The church is the one sphere on earth where Christ’s name is truly and genuinely exalted.

A third activity that takes place in heaven is the maintenance of purity and holiness. Heaven is a holy place. Revelation 22:14-15 underscores the perfect purity of heaven’s inhabitants:

“Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs and the sorcerers and the immoral persons and the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying.”

No one is admitted to heaven who is not holy (Heb. 12:14). The church on earth is charged with preserving purity within her own midst. Matthew 18:15-20  lays out a process of discipline by which the church is to keep herself pure, if necessary through putting people out of fellowship. It’s not necessary in this context to outline the whole discipline process, but take note of the promise Christ makes in verse 18:

“Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.”

Binding and loosing were rabbinical expressions that spoke of dealing with people’s guilt. An unrepentant person was said to be bound to his sin, and a repentant person was loosed. Here Jesus suggests that when a church on earth follows the proper procedure for discipline, they in effect mediate heaven’s verdict in the earthly church. Heaven is in agreement with their decision. When the church on earth puts out of fellowship an unrepentant member, the elders of that church are simply declaring what heaven has already said.

 Church discipline is therefore an earthly expression of heaven’s holiness.

Another activity of heaven that occurs in the church is the fellowship of the saints. Our fellowship in the church on earth is a foretaste of the perfect communion we will enjoy in heaven. The church, then, is like an earthly expression of heaven. That might be hard for us to grasp or even except.

 The church is the closest we can get to heaven on earth.

There’s a lot of talk these days about ‘user-friendly’ churches. Church growth experts counsel church leaders to try to provide an atmosphere in which ‘unchurched’ people can feel comfortable and at home. That strikes me a little odd, whilst I appreciate their approach we should want ‘unchurched’ people who come into our fellowship to leave saying to themselves, ‘I have never seen anything like this on earth!’ We want them to experience the love of God and yet dare I say be convicted of their need of Christ. When people come to our services or spend time with us it should be like they are experiencing a little bit of heaven.

I read an article about a large mega church in Texas where they invest tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of dollars each year in promoting seeker friendly services. The article reviewed their attempt and concluded that they were very successful in being seeker friendly, but that they failed dramatically in making disciples.

More than any other institution on earth, the church is where the truth of God is upheld. The church is called to proclaim the truth and hold it high. (1 Tim. 3:15). Employing the truth as a weapon, we are to smash the ideological fortresses of Satan’s lies (2 Cor. 10:3-5). And it is in the pursuit of that goal that the church will ultimately realize her greatest triumph.

 What if the Church is an earthly expression of Heaven?

~O’ MY Lord; Is there a balm in Gilead?~

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For I am my mother’s daughter, and the drums of Africa still beat in my heart. They will not let me rest while there is a single Negro boy or girl without a chance to prove his worth.

Mary McLeod Bethune

This painting represents the struggles and injustices of African Americans throughout slavery. The eyes in this painting shows the bondage, oppression and slayings that was given at the hands of their oppressors. The tears in this painting shows the inner hurts and pains of slavery and bloodshed. The eyes are the gateway to the soul and it magnifies what’s on the inside. God has given us a new hope which is in his Son Jesus Christ. Not only as a person and race, but also as a people united under God.

 

Laugh, and the world laughs with you. Cry, and you are probably reading the book of Jeremiah. This gloomy prophecy about the conquering and exile of Israel is enough to send anyone searching for some spiritual Prozac. Jeremiah is torn between two great loves. He loves God and serves God as a prophet with great passion. He loves the people of Israel and he is terribly sorry to see what they will have to go through. Questioning God, Jeremiah asks, “Is the Lord not in Zion? Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no Physician there?” – In other words: “God, aren’t you here anymore?”

It seems a good question for Jeremiah and for us as well when we look at a world at war, countries in crisis from disease, drought and oppression, religion that chooses legalism over compassion and dogma over discernment, and humanity lost in materialism and chronic self-absorption. It is not hard for us to see Iraq, AIDS, Darfur, church crisis and the latest celebrity obsession and say, “God, aren’t you here anymore?”

The Poet T.S. Eliot looked at the state of culture and society when he wrote “The Rock” in 1934 which said:

All our knowledge brings us nearer to our ignorance,
All our ignorance brings us nearer to death,
But nearness to death no nearer to God.
Where is the Life we have lost in living?
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?

T. S. Eliot seems to re-order Jeremiah’s question. The problem is not that God isn’t with us anymore – but that we are no longer near God. We have changed the life transforming power of Christianity to a set of rules and rituals. We have given up the wisdom of diplomacy and listening for a culture of war and force. We have traded having a knowing relationship with God and others for memorizing scripture, and relying on demographics.

Now, now – I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, – “wow – Aaron’s sure in a gloomy mood – he’s been reading that Jeremiah book a little too long! Maybe a nice psalm or some proverbs would cheer him up…” but have no fear. I have a great joy and hope today and so can you – because the New Testament reminds us we are blessed when we weep – for we shall be comforted. We need only look at history to see our future.

There is a Balm in Gilead

A balm is a healing ointment. Jeremiah is asking about the famous healing lotion made from the commiphora tree of Palestine, the resinous gum we know as Myrrh. (you know the Christmas story – Gold, Frankenstein and Myrrh…er…..Frankincense and myrrh…). Jeremiah is making a spiritual reference to the healing power of God. In the New Testament, baby Jesus will be given this balm to show healing does exist with him. That’s the good news.

Before 1865, African-American spirituals and slave-songs were sung throughout the south. These songs told the gospel and conveyed scripture to people who couldn’t read, and were used for everything from teaching English and counting to new arrivals, to keeping time in a threshing house, to communicating news about the underground railroad (“The Train is Bound for Glory”, and “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” were both underground railroad songs). One of the great old hymns to come out of that era was “There is a Balm in Gilead”. An oppressed people who, like Israel, had been captured, enslaved, and ill-used were answering Jeremiah’s question with the New Testament assurance that healing was here to stay. How can we find that assurance today? Let’s look at the song:

Sometimes I feel discouraged and think my work’s in vain,
But then the Holy Spirit revives my soul again.
There is a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole;
There is a balm in Gilead to heal the sin sick soul.

First – look to the Holy Spirit for revitalization and renewal. When we feel like the plans for peace we have offered bounced right off the clouds of heaven, or the life work we have given our talent toward has produced mediocre results at best – we need to pray for ourselves and the revival of our mission and our call. Every Christian is called of God. Whether you are called to be a mechanic, a teacher, or a listening friend working on an assembly line – you are called to be there (or to move). Don’t let the joy be leeched from you by those around you with bad attitudes or the determination to be self-absorbed pessimists. Allow God’s Holy Spirit to work in you and make the life you are living a worthy pursuit of hope and healing.

If you cannot preach like Peter, if you cannot pray like Paul,
You can tell the love of Jesus and say, “He died for all.”
There is a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole;
There is a balm in Gilead to heal the sin sick soul.

Second – People of faith need to stop relying on the messengers and start living the message. I know that sounds strange coming from a member of the clergy, but I find it a key issue for our times. Clergy have specific roles we fulfill, but it s not our call to be the community. That’s your job. We need to stop letting other people (leaders, theologians, popular authors) read for us, think for us, determine our beliefs and be the witness for us. We need to take responsibility in our relationship with God and learn to use resources as guides, not crutches. I heard at a ministry conference two years ago that the M.Div. will soon be the “minimum standard” for all clergy, but a doctorate is required for “adequate Christian leadership”. Why do you need a doctorate to live as Christ taught a bunch of fishermen, peasants and tax collectors? Christ didn’t come to make us a collection of sheep led by the educated elite. Christ came to make us a community, lead by a vibrant, personal relationship with our Creator. You don’t have to be Peter, M.Div or Dr. Paul (or even Dr. Phil – thank goodness!) – Be you, use your brain and the resources God places around you, and share the gospel where you are.

Don’t ever feel discouraged, for Jesus is your friend;

And if you lack for knowledge, He’ll never refuse to lend.
There is a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole;
There is a balm in Gilead to heal the sin sick soul.

Third – seek God’s wisdom and will. Don’t interpret point number two as meaning Christian leaders should not be college educated. There’s nothing wrong with education – it’s a worthy pursuit. However, our trust should not be in our own intelligence, experiences or credentials. Our trust should be in God’s wisdom, and God has placed that wisdom all over creation. Many Christians have cut off a plethora of God’s knowledge because it isn’t in the Bible or sold at the Christian Bookstore. There is a whole world of God out there – in the knowledge of farmers, through the power of indigenous cultures, in the arena of mathematics and physics (how better to understand how God made the world to turn?), in the mystical algorithm of language and music, and in the instinctual habits of nature. Stop discounting the steady stream of God in the world around you and start listening and learning all that God can have you know.

We need not to succumb to the gloom and doom of Jeremiah, because we know that healing of God is here. We need not reflect the cultural despair of T.S. Eliot because we know how to be near God. We can be people of Gilead with a life witness worth shining for the entire world to see. Then, the healing can begin.

~ A Black American~

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God and Nature first made us what we are, and then out of our own created genius we make ourselves what we want to be. Follow always that great law. Let the sky and God be our limit and Eternity our measurement.

Marcus Garvey

“A Black American”
by Smokey Robinson

“I love being Black. I love being called Black. I love being an American.
I love being a Black American, but as a Black man in this country I think it’s a shame
That every few years we get a change of name.

Since those first ships arrived here from Africa that came across the sea
There were already Black men in this country who were free.
And as for those that came over here on those terrible boats,
They were called niggah and slave
And told what to do and how to behave.

And then master started trippin’ and doing his midnight tippin’,
Down to the slave shacks where he forced he and Great-Great Grandma to
be together,
And if Great-Great Grandpa protested, he got tarred and feathered.

And at the same time, the Black men in the country who were free,
Were mating with the tribes like the Apache and the Cherokee.
And as a result of all that, we’re a parade of every shade.
And as in this late day and age, you can be sure,
They ain’t too many of us in this country whose bloodline is pure.

But, according to a geological, geographical, genealogy study published
in Time Magazine,
The Black African people were the first on the scene,
So for what it’s worth, the Black African people were the first on earth

And through migration, our characteristics started to change, and rearrange,
To adapt to whatever climate we migrated to.
And that’s how I became me, and you became you.

So, if we gonna go back, let’s go all the way back,
And if Adam was Black and Eve was Black,
Then that kind of makes it a natural fact that everybody in America is an African American.

Everybody in Europe is an African European; everybody in the Orient is an African Asian
And so on and so on,
That is, if the origin of man is what we’re gonna go on.
And if one drop of Black blood makes you Black like they say,
Then everybody’s Black anyway.

So quit trying to change my identity.
I’m already who I was meant to be
I’m a Black American, born and raised.
And brother James Brown wrote a wonderful phrase,
“Say it loud, I’m Black and I’m proud! Say it loud, I’m Black and I’m proud!”

Cause I’m proud to be Black and I ain’t never lived in Africa,
And ’cause my Great-Great Granddaddy on my Daddy’s side did, don’t mean I want to go back.
Now I have nothing against Africa,
It’s where some of the most beautiful places and people in the world are found.
But I’ve been blessed to go a lot of places in this world,
And if you ask me where I choose to live, I pick America, hands down.

Now, by and by, we were called Negroes, and after while, that name has vanished.
Anyway, Negro is just how you say “black” in Spanish.
Then, we were called colored, but ****, everybody’s one color or another,
And I think it’s a shame that we hold that against each other.

And it seems like we reverted back to a time when being called Black was an insult,
Even if it was another Black man who said it, a fight would result,
Cause we’ve been so brainwashed that Black was wrong,
So that even the yellow niggahs and black niggahs couldn’t get along.

But then, came the 1960s when we struggled and died to be called equal and Black,
And we walked with pride with our heads held high and our shoulders pushed back,
And Black was beautiful.

But, I guess that wasn’t good enough,
Cause now here they come with some other stuff.
Who comes up with this **** anyway?
Was it one, or a group of niggahs sitting around one day?

Feelin’ a little insecure again about being called Black
And decided that African American sounded a little more exotic.
Well, I think you were being a little more neurotic.

It’s that same mentality that got “Amos and Andy” put off the air,
Cause’ they were embarrassed about the way the character’s spoke.
And as a result of that action, a lot of wonderful Black actors ended up broke.
When we were just laughin’ and have fun about ourselves.
So I say, “**** you if you can’t take a joke.”
You didn’t see the “Beverly Hillbilly’s” being protested by white folks.

And if you think, that cause you think that being called African American set all Black people’s mind at ease…..

Since we affectionately call each other “niggah”,

I affectionately say to you, “niggah Please”.

How come I didn’t get the chance to vote on who I’d like to be?
Who gave you the right to make that decision for me?
I ain’t under your rule or in your dominion
And I am entitled to my own opinion.

Now there are some African Americans here,
But they recently moved here from places like Kenya, Ethiopia, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Zaire.
But, now the brother who’s family has lived in the country for generations,
Occupying space in all the locations
New York, Miami, L.A., Detroit, Chicago-
Even if he’s wearing a dashiki and sporting an afro.

And, if you go to Africa in search of your race,
You’ll find out quick you’re not an African American,
You’re just a Black American in Africa takin’ up space.

Why you keep trying to attach yourself to a continent,
Where if you got the chance and you went,
Most people there would even claim you as one of them; as a pure bread daughter or son of them.
Your heritage is right here now, no matter what you call yourself or what you say
And a lot of people died to make it that way.
And if you think America is a leader on inequality and suffering and grievin’
How come there so many people comin’ and so few leavin’?

Rather than all this ‘find fault with America’ **** you promotin’,
If you want to change something, use your privilege, get to the polls!
Commence to votin’!

God knows we’ve earned the right to be called American Americans and be free at last.
And rather than you movin’ forward progress, you dwelling in the past.
We’ve struggled too long; we’ve come too far.
Instead of focusing on who we were, let’s be proud of who we are.

We are the only people whose name is always a trend.
When is this **** gonna end?
Look at all the different colors of our skin-
Black is not our color. It’s our core.
It’s what we been livin’ and fightin’ and dyin’ for.

But if you choose to be called African American and that’s your preference
Then I ‘ll give you that reference

But I know on this issue I don’t stand alone on my own and if I do, then let me be me
And I’d appreciate it if when you see me, you’d say, “there goes a man who says it loud I’m Black. I’m Black. I’m a Black American, and I’m proud

Cause I love being an American. And I love being Black. I love being
called Black.

Yeah, I said it, and I don’t take it back.”

Smokey Robinson

~Invest in obedience rather than sacrifice~ Pt:3

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In addition, Israel’s sacrificial system recognized that not everyone could make the same kind of offering. If someone could not afford the cost of a young bull, a male goat or lamb, they were able instead to offer two doves or young pigeons. It they could not even afford that, Leviticus 5:11 allowed them to bring some fine flour as an offering. It is not the amount that is given which is important; it is the spirit in which we make our offering. We should give in proportion to how we’ve been blessed. The New Testament echoes this principle in 1 Corinthians 16 and 2 Corinthians 8-9.

5. It was sacrificial. They were to bring to God’s house the “first fruits” of their crops “and of every fruit tree.” (35) To offer the first of their crops was to declare that God was the giver of all things, that everything belongs to Him, and that He is worthy of the best we can offer Him. Here’s a helpful principle to remember: while not everyone can give the same amount, everyone can make the same sacrifice. Not equal giving, but equal sacrifice. It was Mother Teresa who said, “If you give what you do not need, it isn’t giving.” And, C.S. Lewis put it this way, “I don’t believe one can settle how much we ought to give. I’m afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare.”

6. It was comprehensive. They were to not only bring their crops and their money; they were to also bring their first-born sons and their animals to the Lord in verse 36. God is not just interested in our money, He wants our hearts. Actually, He wants everything.

7. It was prescribed. They were not only to bring their “first,” but also a “tithe” of their crops to the Lord in verse 37. Giving a tenth of their produce or income to the Lord has a long and dignified history among believers and is an appropriate guide for Christian giving. As someone has said, “the tithe is a great place to start.” I’m convinced that the tithe is the minimum we should be giving to further the Lord’s work.

Tithing can be a great blessing, and I practice it and recommend it highly, but there are at least three dangers:

It’s easy to give with the wrong motives. We can give out of a sense of duty or fear, or even greed (“If I tithe, God must prosper me!”)
Thinking that we can do whatever we want with the 90% that remains.
Giving only the tithe and failing to give love offerings to the Lord.
Someone has said that we make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give. Jesus put it this way in Matthew 6:21: “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Let’s determine to be like the believers in Nehemiah 10:39: “We will not neglect the house of our God.”

When it comes to giving, we can do it for at least three reasons:

Because we have to ­ that’s law
Because we ought to ­ that’s obligation
Because we want to ­ that’s grace
I don’t know about you, but I want to give to the Lord. I came across a list of 10 reasons to give 10% or more to the Lord’s work. A guy from the great state of Wisconsin (not me) put these together (Brian Kluth, Dimensions, Vol. 20, Fall 1997, pp. 1-2).

1. It is a tried and true pattern of giving (Malachi 3:7-15).

2. It will help you revere God more in your life (Deuteronomy 14:23).

3. It will help you harness the dragon of materialism (1 Timothy 6:6-10).

4. It will serve as a practical reminder that God is the Owner of everything (Haggai 2:8).

5. It will allow you to experience God’s provisions in incredible ways (Luke 6:38).

6. It will encourage you to trust in God (Proverbs 3:5-6).

7. It will ensure you of treasure in heaven (Matthew 6:19-20).

8. It will strengthen the ministry and outreach of your local church (2 Corinthians 9:12).

9. It will support church staff and missionaries (Galatians 6:6).

10. It will help accomplish needed building projects (1 Chronicles 29:2-10).

Are You On the Wrong Runway?
I’m sure you heard the tragic news this week about the Singapore Airlines jumbo jet that crashed on take-off, killing at least 81 people. Investigators have now determined that the jet was on the wrong runway when it tried to leave for Los Angeles. The pilot realized at the last moment that he was on a strip closed for repairs and plowed into some heavy construction equipment.

Seconds before the jetliner crashed, caught fire and broke into three sections, the pilot swore and screamed out, “Something there.” Apparently the pilot knew what runway he was supposed to be on and was not misdirected by the control tower. However, the officials have admitted that there was no barrier set up to block planes from going onto the closed runway. In addition, the lights on this runway were turned on because of the bad weather.

I’m wondering this morning if any one here is on the wrong runway. It might look like everything is going ok in your life, but you actually might be headed for a crash. The Bible is clear ­ if you do things your way, you’re going to have a collision. God wants you and me to make investments that last by:

• Submitting to God ­ that answers the question, “Who’s the pilot of your life?”

• Separating from the world ­ that covers who we spend time with

• Practicing a Sabbath rest ­ that deals with how we spend our time

• Supporting God’s work ­ which involves how we spend our money

If you’re submitted to God, and He has “all of you,” then you’re cleared for take-off in your relationships, with your time, and with your finances.

Here’s another way to look at it. If you could look at a person’s friendships, their calendar, and their checkbook, you could determine whether or not they are fully submitted to God and completely committed to His cause.

~~Invest in obedience rather than sacrifice~ Pt-2

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Vow #1: Submission to God’s Word
As a result of hearing God’s Word, the Israelites made four decisions. The first one is found in 10:29: “All these now join their brothers the nobles, and bind themselves with a curse and an oath to follow the Law of God given through Moses the servant of God and to obey carefully all the commands, regulations and decrees of the Lord our God.”

This is vow #1: Submission to God’s Word. They were totally serious in their desire to devote themselves to everything that is spelled out in the Bible. This week I went back and re-read my very first sermon here at PBC. This is what I said then, and it bears repeating today:

Who does God use to make an impact? Super saints? Heroes? Pious religious people? No. Listen to the words of 1 Chronicles 16:9, “For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him.” The key is devotion. We need to remember that the depth of our devotion determines our impact. God is not looking all over the earth for strong people, for great people, for perfect people, or even for religious people. This morning, as He scans the congregation at PBC, He’s looking for devoted disciples, for men and women, and boys and girls who are fully committed to Him. He’s looking for a regular person who He can pour His strength out on. In order for that to happen, we need to be completely committed and dangerously devoted.”

William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army was once asked what his secret was to his incredible ministry. This is what he said, “God has had all that there was of me. There have been men with greater brains than I…but from the day I got the poor of London on my heart and caught a vision of what Jesus Christ could do with me and them, on that day I made up my mind that God should have all of William Booth that there was.”

In Nehemiah 10, the people are saying that they are so seriously submitted to God and His Word that they are willing for the curses of God to fall on them if they do not carefully obey what He says. I wonder if we have that same submission and dangerous devotion today? Does God have all of you?

Vow #2: Separation From the World
After submitting themselves to God and His Word, the believers make a second vow to be separate from the world in verses 28 and 30: “We promise to not give our daughters in marriage to the peoples around us or to take their daughters for our sons.” When you think about it, separation is simply total devotion to God, no matter what the cost. When a man and woman get married, they separate themselves from all other possible mates and give themselves completely to each other. We separate from others to the one who is our life mate. The Israelites separated from the peoples around them and to God and His Word.

This was not about ethnic pride or a sense that the Israelite gene pool was superior to that of other peoples. Rather it had to do with how they worshipped God and honored Him. Wrong relationships can nullify a believer’s distinctive witness. God wanted his followers to be a missionary people and so it was vital that their message not be corrupted. In declaring this prohibition, the Lord was concerned about both the purity of their faith and the holiness of their lives. They had been entrusted with the most wonderful message in the world and nothing was to be allowed to corrupt it.

There were at least two reasons why marriages with pagan people were disastrous.

First, there were clear biblical warnings. When two people in the ancient world made a marriage agreement, they normally confirmed their commitment in the presence of their gods and gave each other’s idols a prominent place in their new home. Joshua 23:13 says that heathen spouses would become “snares and traps for you, whips on your backs and thorns in your eyes…”

Secondly, there was abundant historical evidence that unequally yoked marriages led to a decline in Israel’s spiritual and moral life. Nehemiah 13:26 asks the question, “Was it not because of marriages like these that Solomon king of Israel sinned? Among the many nations there was no king like him. He was loved by His God, and God made him king over all Israel, but even he was led into sin by foreign women.”

We are more influenced by other people than most of us care to admit. Mixed marriages were a danger then, and they’re a danger now. God’s concern is that when a believer marries a non-believer the stage is set for conflict, compromise and at times outright conformity.

2 Corinthians 6:14 very clearly states: “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?”

Let me be clear. I know some of you are married to an unsaved spouse. I respect and applaud your commitment to Christ and your determination to live out the teaching of 1 Peter 3:1-6. The New Living Translation puts verses 2 and 3 this way: “Your godly lives will speak to them better than any words. They will be won over by watching your pure, godly behavior.”

I want to address those of you who are not married yet. Perhaps you’re dating someone who is not a believer. It may seem harmless to date a non-Christian, especially if you’re a teenager, but watch out. God cares about your spiritual life and He cares about your ability to be a clear witness to Him. On the authority of God’s Word, don’t deliberately disobey God in this area. The question is not, “Will this relationship work out?” but, “Will this relationship enjoy God’s best blessing and fulfill God’s will?” I know this is not easy for some of you to hear but if you are truly submitted to God and His Word, you will honor Him in all your relationships as well. If you put Him first, don’t enter a marriage relationship with someone who does not also put the Lord first.

Vow #3: Sabbath for God’s People
After pledging themselves to submit to the Word of God and to live separated lives, the believers renew the covenant with a third vow: the Sabbath for God’s people in verse 31: “When the neighboring peoples bring merchandise or grain to sell on the Sabbath, we will not buy from them on the Sabbath or any holy day. Every seventh year we will forgo working the land and will cancel all debts.” In Nehemiah’s time, it was necessary for God’s law about the Sabbath to be clearly understood.

First of all, this day was set aside to honor God. It was distinctive from other days and given to God so that they might offer their worship to Him without being distracted by the demands of everyday life.

Secondly, it was a day of rest. Relaxation is a vital ingredient in effective living. God set the pattern for this in Exodus 20:11: “He rested on the seventh day.” The Israelites worked with no breaks in their weekly schedule when they were slaves in Egypt ­ God did not ever want this repeated again.

One man challenged another to an all-day wood chopping contest. The challenger worked very hard, stopping only for a brief lunch break. The other man ate a leisurely lunch and took several breaks throughout the day. At the end of the day, the challenger was surprised and annoyed to find that the other guy had chopped a lot more wood than he had. “I don’t get it,” he said. “Every time I checked, you were taking a rest, yet you chopped more wood than I did.” To which the winning woodsman responded, “Didn’t you notice? I was sharpening my ax when I sat down to rest.” If you’re feeling a bit dull today, perhaps you need to schedule some rest into your schedule so that you can get ‘sharp’ again.

Thirdly, it was a day to help others. Israelite employees had a compulsory rest day automatically written into their employment contracts. This helped others enjoy the blessings of rest.

Fourthly, the Sabbath was a day to declare truth. It was a silent witness to God’s supremacy and gave the Israelites multiple witnessing opportunities. To their unbelieving neighbors it proclaimed, in very practical terms, the truth that God comes first.

This is an important paradigm or model for us today. From the very beginning of the church, Christians made the Lord’s Day their appointed day for worship, rest, service, and witness. While avoiding the legalism that the Pharisees fell into, most of us can do a much better job of looking for ways to keep Sunday special.

The Israelites also promised to observe the “Sabbatical Year.” Every seventh year, they were to let the land lie idle so that it might restore itself. To obey God in this way, they certainly needed to trust Him with their needs during the seventh year. It seems to me that obedience to God always involves trust. We cannot always see what’s coming up, but if we are doing what God says, He will never disappoint us. Their commitment to commemorate the Sabbatical Year was a great step of faith and is a beautiful illustration of Matthew 6:33: “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

Notice that they also canceled all debts in verse 31. They promised that every seven years, they would live out a renewed scale of values that people matter more than money. The keeping of the Sabbath and Sabbatical Years were ways of saying “no” to a life of maximum acquisition. My highest goal is not to make the most I can and then spend my life trying to keep everything that I have.

Vow #4: Support For God’s Work
That leads to their fourth pledge: support for God’s work in verses 32-39. The phrase “house of our God” is used nine times in this section and refers to the restored temple. The people were promising to follow God’s priorities by submitting to Him, by separating from the world, by keeping the Sabbath, and by supporting the work of God. Verse 39 sums up their commitment: “We will not neglect the house of our God.”

The temple in Jerusalem stood at the heart of the country’s religious, moral and spiritual life. In symbolic terms it proclaimed the presence and power of God among His people and the centrality of spiritual matters.

This passage covers an impressive series of promises to support God’s work in a variety of different ways and gives us 7 insights into how our giving can support God’s work today.

1. It was responsible giving. Look at verse 32 and verse 35 where the people say that “they assume responsibility…” They owned it and gave what they owned because they saw it as their privilege and their responsibility.

2. It was obedient giving. They didn’t practice “impulse giving” but instead gave as an expression of practical obedience. Those who love Him will do what He says. They were “carrying out the commands to give” (32), as it “is written in the Law” (34, 36). God had been good to His people, and generosity was expected from them. There was nothing remotely optional about the support of God’s work. Everyone was required to give in one form or another. This was yet another way to demonstrate that God came first in their lives.

3. It was systematic. There was nothing haphazard about their giving. Verse 32 says that they were to bring a third of a silver shekel each year. Verse 34 states that lots were drawn to determine when families were to bring a contribution of wood at set times each year. Verse 35 tells us that first fruits were brought each year. There was an orderliness about these offerings and a system that was followed. The people knew precisely what was expected of them. The New Testament teaches systematic giving as well in 1 Corinthians 16:2: “On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income…”

4. It was proportionate. The reference to the wood offering suggests that many poor people in Israel had an opportunity to make a gift to the Lord that would demand time rather than money. The temple needed a regular supply of firewood to keep the sacrificial fires burning. Everyone, regardless of income, could gather wood and take it to the temple.

~Invest in obedience rather than sacrifice~ Pt-1

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Making Investments That Last
I heard about this man who bought a parrot. It was a beautiful parrot but he had a really bad mouth. He could swear for five minutes straight without repeating himself. The man was embarrassed because the bird was driving him crazy in front of people.

He tried to appeal to the bird by asking him to clean up his language. The parrot promised to change but nothing happened. In fact, his swearing increased in both volume and frequency.

It finally got to be too much, so the guy grabbed the bird by the throat and started shaking him and yelled, “Quit it!” But this just made the parrot angry and he swore more than ever.

Then the guy got really mad and locked him in a kitchen cabinet. That really aggravated the bird and he started clawing and scratching and making all kinds of racket. When the guy finally let him out, the parrot let loose with a stream of swear words that made the man blush.

At that point, the guy was so ticked off that he threw him into the freezer. For the first few seconds the bird squawked and screamed and thrashed around. And then there was silence.

At first the guy just waited, but then he started to wonder if the bird was hurt. After a couple minutes of not hearing anything, he was so worried that he opened the freezer door. The bird calmly climbed onto the man’s outstretched arm and said, “I’m really sorry about all the trouble I’ve been giving you. I make a solemn promise and vow to clean up my language from now on.”

The man was astounded. He couldn’t believe the transformation that had come over the parrot as a result of being in the freezer for only a couple minutes. The parrot then turned to the man and said, “I just have one question…what did the chicken do?”

Vow Making
This morning we’re going to learn about 4 vows, or promises, that the people of God made in Nehemiah 10. We’ll tackle these in Part 2 of the message a little later on. While God’s people weren’t thrown in the freezer, they did feel the sting of God’s spoken Word in chapters 8 and 9. After hearing what God wanted from them, and owning their own persistent rebellion, verse 38 of chapter 9 says that the people made a “binding agreement” to follow the Lord wholeheartedly. They put it in writing and sealed it. Putting a seal on a document is a serious matter because it meant taking a solemn oath before the Lord. Those who agreed to this covenant are listed in 10:1-27.

The law governing oaths and vows is found in Numbers 30:2: “When a man makes a vow to the Lord or takes an oath to obligate himself by a pledge, he must not break his word but must do everything he said.” Ecclesiastes 5:4 says, “When you make a vow to God, do not delay in fulfilling it. He has no pleasure in fools; fulfill your vow.” Since an oath involved the name and possible judgment of God, it was not to be taken lightly. Jesus also warned against using empty oaths in Matthew 5:33-37.

Examples of people making vows and covenants with God, only to break them later on. InExodus 24, the Israelites promise to do “everything the Lord has said.” But in less than six weeks, these same people construct a golden calf and bow down in worship before it. InMark 14:29, Peter promises Jesus, “Even if all fall away, I will not.” Hours later, Peter responds to a servant girl’s questions by swearing in verse 71: “He began to call down curses on himself, and he swore to them, ‘I don’t know this man you’re talking about.’”

That leads to a question. Are vows of any use today? I think they are for at least two reasons. First, they help us focus. When you make a vow, you are saying that you are going to do something specific. We can say, “Lord, I need to witness more” or we can say, “I’m going to invite my neighbor to the Christmas cantata and I’m going to give a book to him so that I can open up a conversation with him.”

Second, vows allow us to express our love. That’s why couples make vows during a marriage ceremony. They’re the language of love. Love is more than just a feeling, it’s a commitment or promise to be married until death do us part.

God is a covenant-keeping God, even when we don’t keep our end of the deal. You may have made some promises to God in the past that you haven’t kept. You may have broken some vows. If you have, you’re not alone. Jeremiah 31:32 says that God’s people broke the covenant on a regular basis. Verse 33 says that He will one day make a new covenant in which he says, “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.”

Jesus inaugurated this new covenant. Listen to what He said in Mark 14:24: “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.” In the Old Covenant, we are expected to live up to our end completely ­ everything comes from us. In the New Covenant, nothing comes from us, and everything comes from Jesus. Because of His grace, we can surrender, submit and obey out of love, not fear.

While it may be helpful to make a vow or an oath to God today, remember this: We don’t succeed as Christians because we make promises to God, but because we believe the promises of God and act upon them.

Having said that, many of us never come to the point of getting serious in our walk with God simply because we never get specific with Him. We hear sermons and sense the Spirit’s tug at our heart, but until we decide to be completely committed to Him, we won’t be. As we celebrate communion this morning, I invite you to use this time to think through any decisions the Lord wants you to make. Perhaps you’ve been challenged or convicted by the Lord during this series. Listen to Him and decide right now to put into practice what you know you need to do. If you’ve broken some promises with Him or with others, confess it right now. 1 Corinthians 11:28 tells us to examine ourselves before we eat the bread and drink the cup of communion.

~ Pastor Elisee Bastien You made a difference in my life~

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A tribute to the symbolic presence of dignity and strength.
“One man can make a difference.”
– Robert Kennedy

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“The definition of success:
To laugh much; to win respect of intelligent persons and the affections of children; to earn the approbation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty

; to find the best in others; to give one’s self; to leave the world a little better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition.; to have played and laughed with enthusiasm, and sung with exultation; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived…
this is to have succeeded.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Deep within us there is a flame that burns, and that flame is the spark of God. In some it burns brightly, in others it is barely distinguishable; but always it burns…and with love and acceptance the flame gets higher and brighter. We can help others to kindle this flame by seeing the good in them, even if they don’t see it themselves.”

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Memories!  They are powerful forces that often guide us in ways we do not often consider.  Can you remember back to your first bike?  Or those family vacations in the back of the car looking out the window at the night sky?  Memories that send you back a few years and make you feel nostalgic, remembering a time that seems so long ago.  I can see a certain picture or hear a particular song on the radio and instantly I am propelled back to a different age.  Memories are powerful!

Yesterday I spent the day reflecting about Pastor Elisee Bastien who went on to his eternal reward.  I have such fond memories of Pastor Elisee Bastien that came flooding back into my mind when I heard the news. May and I began to thank God for the time He allowed us to share with this wonderful man. We really experienced great growth from his marriage and ministry of compassion. This family didn’t find us insignificant within the corporate body of believers. This dynamic Man of God joined the list of great mentors and gifts that God had intended for May and I to glean from while positioning us within Kansas Ave. His lovely wife shared words of wisdom and life experience with May that I still reap the benefits of today and vice versa for May. Elisee Bastien would call out of the blue to encourage me when life was upon me to stay faithful in my investment of faith, he would reassure me that God will be faithful to return to me a eternal reward should I stay my course.

Pastor Elisee Bastien became such an integral part of our lives and made a huge impact on me as I tried to find comfort in knowing that I still had ministry responsibilities . He was a godly man of wisdom and integrity but most of all he truly cared for people. I remember when May and I finally were ready to move into our little humble sanctuary in Hemet, Pastor Bastien phoned and asked when were we going to invite him and his wife over for fellowship. I responded soon. I could hear that bright smile of eloquence through the phone and wisdom said through that smile maybe this coming weekend, I immediately agreed. I felt somewhat inadequate due to our having been to their lovely home for fellowship. WOW!!! how his wife, my sister in Christ can cook..But the food wasn’t the only thing that was good. This Man of God knew how to empower your spirit man with grace and love. We spoke about everything openly without having a condemning spirit. He explained to me that my only job in this life is to live it unto God by His design laid out in the Bible. When they graced us with visitation to our home they came with a card and a beautiful plant that  we still have today. Your lovely wife inspired May all the more to continue her pursuits in higher learning because she went on to blaze a trial of how it looks to work and be a wife and a student and mother. We are so blessed to be within a ministry that empowers and lives unto loving it’s congregation. Everything in our home has significant value “Uncle David James” blessed us with needed articles to start life over, He is resting in the Lord today, Paul Arceneaux has a place in this home that has forged great memories. We are seeing that leaving a legacy of honor is to be of the highest pursuits in life due to being planted by God at this great church.Displaying 20150518_095631.jpg

He had a hand in so many peoples ministries! I don’t think he realized what an impact he had on people! Love him so much! – Aaron Pratt

He was so kind to me… always had such a sweet spirit to him. I always think back to the many conversations with him when he not only was the pastor but another father figure to so many of us.- May Pratt

Flooded by many great memories. So thankful for the influence Pastor Bastien and family had on my life. Praying for the family during this time. – Loved ones of the church…

He was a great Pastor, leader and great man of God. he will always hold a special place in my heart. I learned a lot through his ministry and teachings and also learned through his kind, generous, and loving spirit. I will miss him greatly.Aaron Pratt

I have never had a Pastor like Pastor Bastien, He was a Titan in my eyes. He could teach, preach, and counsel. He was the same all the time. He was genuine, down to earth, and just plain real. A high standard for sure.Maymie Pratt

As is evident by the many tributes and memories of this great man, it caused me to think about the legacy and memories each of us leave as we go through life.  What will we be remembered for?  What impact are we making in the lives of those around us?  Are we having a positive or negative impact on others?

I pray that each of us could take a moment on this day in the year of 2015 and look back over our lives to see the legacy we are leaving behind.  I trust we can look at the example of those that have gone on before us and determine to leave such a legacy that it will last for years to come.

Thank you Pastor Bastien for being the “Man” God called you to be.  Thank you for impacting so many lives.  Thank you for running the race the way you did.

Our prayers are with the family during this time.  You were blessed to have this great man in your life.

PS.  If Pastor Bastien impacted your life or you have a special memory of him you would like to share, please leave us a comment below.  Thanks!

~I need a word from my Lord today~

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Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.

Carl Jung

This day is the most difficult day of the year for me (Mother’s Day). I imagine Father’s Day will take it’s toll on my peace as well, but I fell a sleep in so much pain last night that when I finally found rest I remember some key incidents that occurred while sleeping, I began to dream. My dream started off with desiring a word from above. The need for a word from God was pressing on my mind so heavily that I quoted every scripture my inner man could remember. All of a sudden I was at the grave-site of my mom. while I was meandering about what to say and in full suspense about this portion of the dream I saw my son Demir arise above the head stone of my mom’s grave and shortly after that I saw Audrey my daughter appear and then my brother Christopher appeared and no one said a word. My whole thought before falling asleep was that I needed to hear from my God about issues that are causing me great pain, I need a word……..

“I sat down utterly baffled” (Ezra 9:3, Living Bible)

empty-church-pewsWhen Ezra learned that the leaders had defaulted to the pagan mindset of the surrounding nations, and had by their example permitted the people to believe and behave in manners that were directly opposed to God’s Word – “he sat down utterly baffled.”

As indeed he should have. For they were in the midst of a historic move of God; a great revival of epic proportions. And now, their indifference to the ways of God threatened the entire thing!

Have you ever been faced with a situation that left you utterly baffled? I have; many times over the course of my life.

In times like these I go to the only source of life and love I know to be sure and unchanging — I go to the Lord. And I seek from Him a word that will enlighten my darkness, and empower me through the difficulty of any situation. And God is faithful — He speaks, and the entrance of His words bring light and hope.

I thought it would be of benefit to you for me to tell you the steps I take when ever I need a word from God.

First, I get quiet. By shutting out all other voices, I can zero in on the one Voice that truly matters.

Then, I get alone. Often the distractions of familiar things can preoccupy my thoughts and prevent me from actually listening for the still, small voice of the Lord.

Next, I open the Bible. It is the Great Lexicon of God’s language, a complete panorama of His astounding Vocabulary. Somewhere in these worn and proven pages there awaits for my searching eye a life-impacting word from the Lord.

Then I open my heart. God speaks to our heart far more clearly than He speaks to our heads. It is not knowledge that I am seeking; it is revelation. And that can only happen when the eyes of my heart are opened.

The next thing: I look and listen as I read. I am in no hurry, and I take in all the sights as I stroll through the passage of Scripture. I pay close attention to every word, pondering both its obvious and deeper meaning; ever waiting for that flash that comes when the Lord turns on the lights.

Then, I write what I see and hear. This is important; for the Lord may indeed have much to say to me, and if I trust all to my feeble memory I will do a great dis-service to my soul.

Afterwards, I reflect upon it. I mull it over and over in my mind; and as I do so, each pass seems to unpack even more insights than I at first had gleaned.

And then I tell it to others. This is one of the great secret of the Kingdom — if you want to keep something that the Lord has given to you, give it away to others! For by doing so you not only bless them with fresh bread from heaven, but you solidify the word in the depths of your own soul as well.

Get quiet and get alone. Open your Bible, and open your heart. Look and listen as you read, and write what you see and hear. Reflect upon it, and tell it to others. That’s it. This process has served me well now for over forty years of following Jesus. I encourage you to try it for yourself, and you will find that it works for you also!

~Yep,I’m Black: Colorism~

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Black has never been more beautiful, witnessed by this collection featuring accomplished dark skinned-women from all walks of life. In ‘Dark Girls, ‘ celebrities such as Lupita Nyong’o, Pauletta Washington, Cicely Tyson, Judge Mablean, Brandi and Karli Harvey, and 20 other outstanding women share intimate insights into what their dark skin means to them.

Dark Girls - Duke, Bill, and Moses, Shelia

Colorism is a persistent problem for people of color in the USA. Colorism, or skin color stratification, is a process that privileges light-skinned people of color over dark in areas such as income, education, housing, and the marriage market. This post describes the experiences of African Americans, Latinos, and Asian Americans with regard to skin color. Research demonstrates that light-skinned people have clear advantages in these areas, even when controlling for other background variables. However, dark-skinned people of color are typically regarded as more ethnically authentic or legitimate than light-skinned people. Colorism is directly related to the larger system of racism in the USA and around the world. The color complex is also exported around the globe, in part through US media images, and helps to sustain the multibillion-dollar skin bleaching and cosmetic surgery industries

Racial discrimination is a pervasive problem in the USA. African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, and other people of color are routinely denied access to resources and fair competition for jobs and schooling. Despite this pattern of exclusion, people of color have made great progress in combating persistent discrimination in housing, the labor market, and education. However, hidden within the process of racial discrimination is the often overlooked issue of colorism. Colorism is the process of discrimination that privileges light-skinned people of color over their dark-skinned counterparts (Hunter 2005). Colorism is concerned with actual skin tone, as opposed to racial or ethnic identity. This is an important distinction because race is a social concept, not significantly tied to biology (Hirschman 2004). Lighter-skinned people of color enjoy substantial privileges that are still unattainable to their darker-skinned brothers and sisters. In fact, light-skinned people earn more money, complete more years of schooling, live in better neighborhoods, and marry higher-status people than darker-skinned people of the same race or ethnicity.

How does colorism operate? Systems of racial discrimination operate on at least two levels: race and color. The first system of discrimination is the level of racial category, (i.e. black, Asian, Latino, etc.). Regardless of physical appearance, African Americans of all skin tones are subject to certain kinds of discrimination, denigration, and second-class citizenship, simply because they are African American. Racism in this form is systemic and has both ideological and material consequences. The second system of discrimination, what I am calling colorism, is at the level of skin tone: darker skin or lighter skin. Although all blacks experience discrimination as blacks, the intensity of that discrimination, the frequency, and the outcomes of that discrimination will differ dramatically by skin tone. Darker-skinned African Americans may earn less money that lighter-skinned African Americans, although both earn less than whites. These two systems of discrimination (race and color) work in concert. The two systems are distinct, but inextricably connected. For example, a light-skinned Mexican American may still experience racism, despite her light skin, and a dark-skinned Mexican American may experience racism and colorism simultaneously. Racism is a larger, systemic, social process and colorism is one manifestation of it. Although many people believe that colorism is strictly a ‘black or Latino problem’, colorism is actually practiced by whites and people of color alike. Given the opportunity, many people will hire a light-skinned person before a dark-skinned person of the same race, or choose to marry a lighter-skinned woman rather than a darker-skinned woman.  Many people are unaware of their preferences for lighter skin because that dominant aesthetic is so deeply ingrained in our culture. In the USA, for example, we are bombarded with images of white and light skin and Anglo facial features. White beauty is the standard and the idea.

Historical origins of colorism Colorism has roots in the European colonial project (Jordan 1968), plantation life for enslaved African Americans (Stevenson 1996), and the early class hierarchies of Asia. Despite its disparate roots, today, colorism in the USA is broadly maintained by a system of white racism.  The maintenance of white supremacy (aesthetic, ideological, and material) is predicated on the notion that dark skin represents savagery, irrationality, ugliness, and inferiority. White skin, and, thus, whiteness itself, is defined by the opposite: civility, rationality, beauty, and superiority. These contrasting definitions are the foundation for colorism. Colorism for Latinos and African Americans has its roots in European colonialism and slavery in the Americas. Both systems operated as forms of white domination that rewarded those who emulated whiteness culturally, ideologically, economically, and even aesthetically. Light-skinned people received privileges and resources that were otherwise unattainable to their darker-skinned counterparts. White elites ruling the colonies maintained white superiority and domination by enlisting the assistance of the ‘colonial elite’, often a small light-skinned class of colonized people (Fanon 1967). Although Mexico experienced a high degree of racial miscegenation, the color-caste system was firmly in place. Light-skinned Spaniards culled the most power and resources, while darker-skinned Indians were routinely oppressed, dispossessed of their land, and rendered powerless in the early colony. Vestiges of this history are still visible today in Mexico’s color-class system.

There is more in comparison to the various race of people, but for the sake of starting this conversation I will post again in a two to three part series.

~A vision taught by way of adversity~ (Phillip Buchanon shares drawbacks of new found wealth)

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My wife and I were in a pickle two years ago, in a very negative environment and it was very toxic. Our number one goal was to get out of that mind-set and place. We are now ready to heal and get on with our life, to start anew. Yet there are no positives just yet to build on. It takes tenacity and strength to move past a negative stage in life, and we’ve successfully done so. And we are very proud about ourselves. :) 

Where does one begin with nothing at all? A common question many of us ask ourselves is this – How do I get from where I am to where I want to be if there is nothing to build on in the first place?

For example, you want to start a business, but you have no experience in business development. You want to shift to a different career field, but you don’t have knowledge in the area. You want to be the top in what you do but you have no know-how. You want to let go of your past and start on a new journey, but there is nothing for you to start off with. It’s like a catch 22 situation. Like a potter who needs his tools and clay, you can’t create something if there is nothing. And if you can’t create something, you can’t get anything.

Everyone Starts From Nothing

The first thing I want to point out is that everyone starts from nothing. Rich people, poor people, successful people, non-successful people, top achievers, non-achievers – all these people start from a place where they had nothing. Forget about family background, because these aren’t determinants of success – there are as many successful people in this world from poor families as there are from rich families. Let’s focus on one’s personal achievements and knowledge, because these are arguably what one uses to build future success. Let’s take a look at Phillip Buchanon.

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Phillip Buchanon is sharing what it’s truly like to become rich — and targeted — in the NFL.

I don’t want to do anything and everything. I want to be a brand that, every time I leverage my name, I want people to feel sure that it’s going to be something good – so whether it be my movies, my perfume, my restaurant, my musical, it’ll be good work, good food and good everything.

Shilpa Shetty

Buchanon, a former first-round NFL Draft pick of the Oakland Raiders, played nine years in the NFL and experienced it all; family turning on him, friends stealing from him, and even a robbery that nearly took his life.

But Buchanon survived, and decided that he wants to help the next NFL rookies, who will hopefully avoid all the pitfalls.

This week, Buchanon released his first book, “New Money: Staying Rich“, an in-depth, and at times very scary account of what it’s like to be a professional athlete. Buchanon discusses everything that comes with life in the NFL, and most importantly, what it’s like dealing with the pressures of family members and friends who think that just because you made it big, they did, too.

“When I got to the NFL, I was all dollars and no sense,” “I want to make sure the next generation of athletes doesn’t make the same mistakes.”

The book is the latest venture for Buchanon, who also wrote a comic book on the same subject, and who is continuing to do whatever he can to educate a younger generation. As a matter of fact, he thinks more people in similar situations should also write books.

“I encourage everyone to do stuff like this,” he said. “More people who’ve had success in all fields should be writing these kinds of books.”

Here is Buchanon, discussing how his relationship changed with his mother, once he made it big:

Soon after the draft, she told me that I owed her a million dollars for raising me for the past 18 years. Well, that was news to me. If my mother taught me anything, it’s that this is the most desperate demand that a parent can make on a child. The covenant of having a child is simply that you give your child everything possible, and they owe you nothing beyond a normal amount of love and respect. There is no financial arrangement. If you get old and infirm, and your kids are around to help you out at that point, then you’re lucky. It’s not written in the social contract. The mothers and fathers of the world have been rearing their kids for generations — in every culture imaginable — and it’s a one-way street when it comes to money. If they pay you back someday, and you really are going through hard times, then that’s just a bonus, a gratuity for being a great mother or father.

My mother had said my debt to her was a million dollars before, but this time she was more serious than ever. If you do the math, one million dollars divided by 18 years of raising me was approximately $55,555.55 a year in restitution. Except, at age 17 I decided to move out of my mom’s house, choosing to live with a close friend and his father because I no longer felt secure in my own home. Why, you ask? Because my mother let people come in and out of our house and take what they wanted. So technically, even if we went by her logic, I only owed her $944,444.44 for her services over 17 years.

Is it petty that I’m knocking a year off her calculation? The fact that I have written this paragraph enrages me, merely because I’m entertaining the thought that her argument had any logic at all. Maybe if I had become super rich, I could have written the check and been done with it. But, like blackmail, there is never any end, is there?

Please do not think I’m being ungrateful or cheap. I had already followed the unwritten rule of any NFL New Money Millionaire: I bought my mother a house. I also advised her to sell the old one I grew up in when I put a new roof over her head, but my mother had other plans. Instead of selling my childhood home, she decided to rent it to my aunt. So I had to finance my mother, the budding landlord. Only this wasn’t an investment. It was an encumbrance, because I didn’t share in my mother’s profit-making scheme. For the next seven years, I continued to make mortgage and maintenance payments on both homes.

I learned from this expensive lesson that big-ticket purchases for family members, such as houses and cars, should be evaluated with the following questions in mind: If you were unable to make payments for these purchases, would that particular family member be able to make the payments? Twenty years from now, who will be paying the upkeep on the house? You or your family member?

hen there’s the respect part of the equation. Are these family members respecting the gifts you give? For years, my mother left the lights on in the house without a thought as to how much I paid for electricity. This is a corollary of an old cliche that I’ve heard many times, that your kids won’t turn out the lights when leaving a room until they grow up and have to pay their own utility bills. It used to refer to kids, but in my case it fit right in as applicable to my family of Adult Abusers.

Anger built up inside me as my mother collected rent from our old house and never offered a cent to offset the expenses. It got to a point that I had to kick her boyfriend out. She accused me of messing up her life. What she didn’t see was that her boyfriend was pimping her and me out. He wasn’t bringing anything to the table, just taking.

When I told my mother she would have to take care of the maintenance after I paid off the mortgage on her house, she told me she would not be able to afford the upkeep on a house that big. In fact, she made it seem like it was my fault for picking out a house that big. In part, she was right. I bought her a house with my luxury taste and no real wisdom behind it. It was an uneducated purchase. Many NFL players choose a wiser route: they buy a reasonably sized home, pay for it in cash, keep it in their name, but gift it to their mother.

I tried giving my mother that option the second time around. I offered to buy her a comfortable house in my name for her to live in. This way she wouldn’t have to take out any loans or put my little sister and brothers in a situation where the roof over their heads could be taken away. She’d move out of the house that was too big for her and into this new one. Instead, she opted for $15,000 cash. She told me that if the new house didn’t have space for two living room sets, she didn’t want it.

Here’s what she really meant: She did not want to be embarrassed by downsizing from the home I’d originally bought for her. She was stubborn (a trait I get from her) and decided to take the cash despite my advice. I told her that if I gave her the $15,000, not to come calling when she got into trouble. Needless to say, she ended up calling. And, what’s worse, she lost the house.

I found it ironic that my mother thought she could manage my finances better than I could, yet she could not provide proof of making any money from the schemes she had set up. One day I let my anger get the better of me and asked her, “If you’re so smart, why haven’t you put together a plan to make money off of the money that you are saving from the expenses you aren’t paying?” The year I became a New Money Millionaire, I took every expense off of her hands except for food and fun money. This led her to challenge me to a money-making contest. “Oh, so you think you Phillip f*****g Buchanon? Since you think you’re smarter than your mother, we’re going to have a competition,” she said. “You give me a certain amount of money and you budget yourself a certain amount, and we will see who makes the most money from it.” I laughed, giving her credit for another attempt (a creative one at that), but she tried to fool me again. She even played upon my weaknesses because she knew that I rarely turned down a competition. Of course, I never went for this little scheme because I knew there was no way I could win. My mother would never win either because she’d simply go through the cash in a hurry. Then she’d need another clever idea to get another check. I wasn’t going to make the same mistake again.

I eventually learned how to deal with the numerous “family emergencies.” Early on, I found myself in too many situations where some relative would come to me and claim they needed something fixed. So I’d write them a check; of course, the problem never got fixed. The check, however, always got cashed. By trying to fix a problem, I created an additional one for myself.

I finally learned how to cope with this type of request. I paid the bills directly to the company or handyman doing the work. It was amazing to see how my family responded when I told them I would take care of it. They tried to lay the heaviest guilt number on me. I can still hear their muttering tones with tinges of disgust: “Nah, man, I’m cool. Forget about it.” This response meant they knew I was on to what they were up to. I had caught them red-handed, committing an act of adult abuse.

It took hundreds of thousands of dollars, far more than the cost of an Ivy League education, to learn this lesson. I can at least attribute it to my mother. It’s true; mothers have a way of making you learn the most important lessons in life.

~Nobody Issues: Who are we and what is our purpose?~

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To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.

e. e. cummings

The price one pays for pursuing any profession, or calling, is an intimate knowledge of its ugly side.
—James Baldwin, Afro-American novelist and essayist

It is not light that we need, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder.  We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake.
—Frederick

The following is a scene from a famous movie scene, can you name the movie? “I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am.” Comes from the classic film On the Waterfront (1954) when Terry Malloy, the character played by Marlon Brando, complains to his brother over a fight he was asked to throw so the local union boss played by Lee J. Cobb could win more money. Terry had been a promising young boxer but that night ended his dream and set the course for his whole life. Nobody wants to be a nobody. We all want to feel that our lives matter, that we are important to someone, that we can make a difference. In Jesus, God expresses ultimate love and concern for us, and God’s affirmation makes life worth living. Nobody is a nobody! One way of summarizing and emphasizing the powerful, life-changing meaning and message of Jesus is just this – Nobody is a nobody! In this well-known and powerful passage in John 3 we see and hear Jesus unpacking His own selfunderstanding of what it meant and means for Jesus to be human and live among us and for us. Jesus tells us very, very clearly that His purpose, was not – repeat – was not, to scare us into compliance with the divine will. Instead, Jesus describes His coming in which all are offered the joy, the wonder, the hope within which God wants all Creation to dwell. Jesus came to say and show that God does not want us to continue to hurt each other and the rest of creation, and that when we turn from our own ways, abundant life will overflow for us. God’s goal in the coming of Jesus was not to denounce and condemn the world, not to repeat the Flood, something God promised never to repeat. God’s goal is all about God loving, and saving the world. Amidst all our imperfections and sin, even among the best of us, Jesus still speaks of God as loving the world, not hating or destroying. God came in the flesh to save us not by taking us out of our flesh, but by teaching us to live in our flesh. God came in the flesh not to make us other than human, but to teach us how to be human – bearing in our living the image of God, the image in which we are made.

The God we meet in Jesus Christ is not the disinterested, dispassionate god of Greek speculation. The God we meet in Jesus is a lover, the divine lover. This God, this Jesus-God is a passionate, committed, faithful, devoted, tireless, reckless, shameless, wanton lover, who loves and accepts even the unlovely. God’s love is freely offered and as it is freely accepted, by people like you and I, this love, this God, given and received love, starts to change us, bringing about in us, God’s new birth. Being born again, being born from above, is not something we do for ourselves. Instead, being born anew, born from above, being born again, is all about what God brings about in us as we receive God’s love, we are changed by God’s Love and forgiveness. This rebirth is not only relevant to the afterlife, it is all about changing us and bringing us hope and describing how we are to live in this life.

In some comments on this meeting between Jesus and Nicodemus, preacher and author, Will Willimon, wrote: “There are some churches, I hope not ours, that seem to be able to be with Jesus only in the light, never in the night. I tell you, sometimes, there is nothing worse than that bright, “happy church.” Do you know what I’m talking about? Some churches are just so happy, so full of praise and celebration, that they make you feel guilty if you happen to come in with a bit of shadow in your soul. To be someone who is going through a time of darkness or pain and to enter a “happy church” – with grinning clergy, and smiling ushers, and everything so positive, so upbeat, glorious, and grand – can be terribly depressing!” Yes, I think I understand what he is describing… Sure, we never want church to be boring, there is no merit in lack of beauty, joy, or interest, but neither is church only for those who have it all together. Church is not a self-help club with a special divine additive. Church is community, the community of the loved sinners, the redeemed broken ones. As such we are all involved encountering and sharing in the hard, difficult things that people and families endure. Church includes but is not limited to the cheery prospect of, “Welcome to MOES” or “Come inside the Disney Store”. Church is the community of Jesus Christ accepting each other especially in the reality of our need and pain! Church is the community of Jesus Christ stepping outside of our own needs and wishes to stand with and for others who need our support. Church is the community of Jesus Christ together praying, working, serving the least and the lost and the last! I thought the following story was fascinating, and as a story might free us to live more fully and openly: “A few years ago, a young man was discovered hiding in a large church. A maintenance worker discovered him one day. He had been lurking in the church, living in the attic, spending his day in darkness, only venturing forth during the night to prowl about the church, feeding on leftovers from church suppers, moving about in the building only at night, listening in on the daily activities of the congregation. From his secret hideaway in the attic he heard the counseling in the pastor’s office, the discussion at Bible Study, the cries from the nursery, the motions moved and seconded at the Church Board meeting, he even heard the things members were “whispering” about in the hallway!” Do you know anyone who is hiding in this church? Are you or is someone you know, hiding here amongst us? Do you know someone who is present, but not really, someone on the boundary, at the edge? Maybe some who is uninvolved, under-involved, even overinvolved, fearful that if people really knew them that they would be excluded? Someone whose pain is so great that they long to be accepted but fear being encountered? Do you feel like you are a nobody? Do you know someone else who believes or is tempted to imagine that they are a nobody? And if so, what would it take for you, what would it take for that person to come out of the dark into the light? It is my aim, to live as well as possible and to let my struggles be the proving ground that shows how well the God, and Son and Holy Spirit can help us overcome this nobody existence. You know how I know He/they are real? because I am still standing from having this emotion swell up in my inner existence from time to time and I call His name and He heals, strengthens and embraces me with His loving presence.

Blog notice

~Goodbye Ministry~

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“I do not consecrate myself to be a missionary or a preacher. I consecrate myself to God to do His will where I am, be it in school, office, or kitchen, or wherever He may, in His wisdom, send me.”
Watchman Nee, The Normal Christian Life

As I sit here, I see the irony of my situation. I’m supposed to be writing about how it can be difficult for us to control our thoughts, but my mind is distracted and unwilling to cooperate. I just had breakfast, and the act of digesting carbs is contributing to a foggy mind. And if I’m honest, I’m probably a little anxious about doing a good job, so that emotion is lurking somewhere in the back of my mind, regularly threatening to jump to the forefront. A group of coworkers is chatting down the hall, so I put on my headphones and turn up the volume of the rhythmic background music. Then—oh, hey, look, I just got an email…

Managing our concentration can be challenging, not only on the task level but on a spiritual level as well. It can be difficult to maintain our focus on God and His Word when there are so many other people and circumstances vying for our attention.

You might expect that, as Christians, our default setting would be tuned to “Jesus.” But it’s not that simple. Life shows up and our thoughts get cloudy from all the clamoring from the outside world. “Some were called and some were sent, and some just got up and went!” A hard-nosed, angry woman, a member of a local congregation whose long-term pastor had run off the tracks and was forcibly removed from ordained ministry, used those old lines to spout her opinion.

“… Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?’” John 21:15a (NIV) 

Do you ever wish God would appear in the flesh and tell you exactly what He wants you to do in a situation? I do.

Sometimes I wish He’d hand me a piece of paper with clear, step-by-step instructions written out and personalized for my specific circumstance. And then He’d stay for a little Q&A session where He’d tenderly answer all my questions with deep reassurances.

I guess some people would say that demonstrates my lack of faith. And maybe it does. Or maybe my heart just feels incredibly vulnerable with some decisions I have to make, and I desperately want to get it right.

I love the Lord so much.

I want to honor Him with my life.

But sometimes I feel Him stirring me to do something that’s terrifyingly opposite of what I want to do. Left to my own choosing, I want to take the safe, certain and comfortable route. And then Scriptures march right up to my limited perspective and challenge me to walk a path I’d never choose on my own.

This question forces my eyes to glance toward that path: More than anything else, do you want to follow God and live His message?

Or even more deeply: Do you love Jesus and want Him more than anything else?

It’s this question the resurrected Jesus asked Peter at a crucial crossroads in Peter’s life. And gracious, do I ever relate to Peter.

He’d been following Jesus for years.

Then things got hard, just like Jesus told the disciples they would. Jesus gave them the clear hope to hold onto:

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world,” (John 16:33, NIV).

But isn’t it hard when what you see with your physical eyes seems contrary to what you believe in your heart?

Problems beg us to forget God’s promises.

Peter denied Jesus because he feared the cost of following Him.

Then circumstances got really hard. Jesus was crucified and Peter took his eyes off that hard path of continuing in ministry. He went back to what felt safe, certain and comfortable … fishing.

Then Peter got one of those visits from Jesus I wish I could have. Resurrected Jesus appeared in the flesh and could not have made it any clearer what He wanted Peter to ponder. With one question, He ruined Peter’s justifications to stay safe.

“… Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?’” (John 21:15).

Do you love me more than these?

We’ve all got our own “these.”

They are anything that makes us look away from the less chosen path of following God with everything we’ve got.

So, back to my decision.

Today, I am quitting ministry because of the difficulties I have encountered within the many bodies I have tried to gain alignment with. The lack of urgency I have viewed from those who are titled, LEADERS. The lack of buy-in from the people who desire to control you as a vessel because they see your financial needs as it relates to ministry and life. The attitude I witness when it comes to growth of God’s kingdom versus the desire for the individual agenda’s to grow no matter how many people have to suffer. I can’t perform ministry under this type of leadership. Suddenly I feel enormous pressure that I am not smart enough, capable enough or resourced enough to lead this ministry nor pursue my vision to be the hands of re-entry in Riverside County.

Everything seems bigger, which made me feel like everything was scarier.

The staffing needs.

The budget.

The worries.

The attitudes.

The actors.

The one foot in one foot out mask.

Gathering up my fears, I presented a strong case to the Lord to give this assignment to someone else and let me quietly slip away. I set my sights on what felt more comfortable and safe and certain.

But Jesus’ question ruined all my quitting plans: “Do you love me more than these … more than your fears … more than your desire to do something easier and less scary?”

So, here I stand, a man with trembling hands wearing boots dusty from that uncommon path. I stand and proclaim, “Yes, Jesus, I love You more than these. I will live out the charge presented in Your Holy Word to, “Proclaim the message; persist in it whether convenient or not; rebuke, correct, and encourage with great patience and teaching,” (2 Timothy 4:2,). I am going to take a lengthily sabbatical to get in touch with my inner man and to get clear directions from God on how to finish what He began in me 3.5 years ago with this ministry called Second Chance Alliance and the church. While in this posture, I will be looking at these issues as well.

What lies are you tempted to believe in ministry?”

Over the past several months, I’ve asked this question to dozens of pastors and Christian leaders. It’s a question that often goes unasked in religious leadership circles, but the resulting conversations have been honest, vulnerable, and revealing. Here are some of the common answers:

I have a small church, which makes me a bad and ineffective pastor.

My addiction has no effect on my congregation.

More speaking opportunities at ministry conferences mean I’m a legitimate pastor.

The size of our buildings, budget, and attendance are the only viable way ministry success can be measured.

If I pastor better, God will love me more.

I can please everyone and be faithful to my calling.

If I preach better, my church will grow.

My physical health and well-being are not spiritual matters.

I don’t need help.

I don’t have time to rest.

God’s grace is big, but it’s not big enough to cover what I’ve done.

My personal identity is directly related to my ministry performance.

These answers reveal the dark crawlspaces of the psyche of a pastor. They’re not surprising to me, though — in almost a dozen years of vocational ministry, I’ve been tempted to believe these things, too.

Why do we believe them? Because in our time, the definition of ministry “success” has been professionalized to the point that it mirrors mainstream American culture’s definition of success. We celebrate and perpetuate metrics of success borrowed from the pages of business management textbooks. And these metrics of success are chewing up and spitting out pastors at an alarming rate.

The pastoral vocation today is a sea of dead bodies. Consider these stats, which I’ve pulled from various surveys:

1,500 pastors leave the ministry for good each month, citing burnout or contention in their churches.

80 percent of pastors (and 84 percent of pastors’ spouses) are discouraged in their roles.

Almost half of all pastors have seriously considered leaving ministry for good in the past three months.

For every 20 pastors who go into ministry, only one retires from the ministry.

50 percent of pastors say they are unable to meet the demands of their job and are so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if they could, but have no other way of making a living.

When I share these statistics with pastors, they slowly, knowingly nod their heads.

Yet when I share these statistics with non-clergy, they are shocked: “How can this be? I had no idea!” A widespread Super Pastor mentality has led us to believe that pastors never struggle, never doubt, never get discouraged, and never wrestle with feelings of failure — just because they’re pastors.

But pastors are people, too. Ministry is a significant calling and it involves broken, sinful, and scandalously ordinary people God calls and uses to shepherd souls. These broken ordinaries are called pastors. Live well My Beloved and pray for my strength to return and pray for me to be very intimate and sensitive to His voice in this time of seeking His plans for my life. Thanks for the time you took to read anything on this website……

~ “Got Jesus?”~

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James 4:7King James Version (KJV)

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

“The reason why many are still troubled, still seeking, still making little forward progress is because they haven’t yet come to the end of themselves. We’re still trying to give orders, and interfering with God’s work within us. ”
A.W. Tozer

Life shows up in many facets and arrays. Life deals us some very challenging dilemmas to fight through, but God knows all about them. He has assured me that everything I trust into His hands will be for my good if I would just repent, surrender and remember what He has brought me through as an addict , a fornicator,a greedy person and yes a prideful individual. God has seen me through death and my sinful anxiety and dark thoughts with this very scripture always burning within my spirit. I quoted this scripture behind a many prison walls and laying face up in a hospital bed not knowing if tomorrow was coming to claim my life or give me another chance to serve Him with honor.

In the annals of US advertising history, one of the most efficient slogans ever is the California milk producers’ two-word question, “Got milk?” With that phrase, the group captured almost everyone’s attention. In surveys, the slogan was recognized by more than 90 percent of the people polled.

If “Got milk?” is so good at reminding people to drink “cow juice,” perhaps we can create some two-word slogans to remind ourselves to live more godly lives. Let’s turn to James 4 and try it. This passage gives four specific guidelines.

1. Give in! Verse 7 tells us to submit to God. Our sovereign God loves us, so why not let Him run the show? Submission helps us resist the devil. 2. Get close! Verse 8 reminds us of the value of drawing near to God. It’s up to us to close the gap between us and God. 3. Clean up!Verse 8 also reminds us to make sure our hearts are clean. That happens through confessing our sins to God. 4. Get down! James says we need to be humble before God (v.10). That includes viewing our sin as something to weep over.

Give in! Get close! Clean up! Get down! These pairs of words may not look as good on a T-shirt as “Got milk?” But they sure will look good on us.

  Lord, help me live a godly life Of faith and love and purity So those who watch my life will see Reflections of Your work in me. —Sper
  The most powerful testimony is a godly life.  

~Civic Inclusion or Capitalism of Blacks and Latinos~

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Incarceration Trends in America

  • From 1980 to 2008, the number of people incarcerated in America quadrupled-from roughly 500,000 to 2.3 million people
  • Today, the US is 5% of the World population and has 25% of world prisoners.
  • Combining the number of people in prison and jail with those under parole or probation supervision, 1 in ever y 31 adults, or 3.2 percent of the population is under some form of correctional control

Racial Disparities in Incarceration

  • African Americans now constitute nearly 1 million of the total 2.3 million incarcerated population
  • African Americans are incarcerated at nearly six times the rate of whites
  • Together, African American and Hispanics comprised 58% of all prisoners in 2008, even though African Americans and Hispanics make up approximately one quarter of the US population
  • According to Unlocking America, if African American and Hispanics were incarcerated at the same rates of whites, today’s prison and jail populations would decline by approximately 50%
  • One in six black men had been incarcerated as of 2001. If current trends continue, one in three black males born today can expect to spend time in prison during his lifetime
  • 1 in 100 African American women are in prison
  • Nationwide, African-Americans represent 26% of juvenile arrests, 44% of youth who are detained, 46% of the youth who are judicially waived to criminal court, and 58% of the youth admitted to state prisons (Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice).

Drug Sentencing Disparities

  • About 14 million Whites and 2.6 million African Americans report using an illicit drug
  • 5 times as many Whites are using drugs as African Americans, yet African Americans are sent to prison for drug offenses at 10 times the rate of Whites
  • African Americans represent 12% of the total population of drug users, but 38% of those arrested for drug offenses, and 59% of those in state prison for a drug offense.
  • African Americans serve virtually as much time in prison for a drug offense (58.7 months) as whites do for a violent offense (61.7 months). (Sentencing Project)

Contributing Factors

  • Inner city crime prompted by social and economic isolation
  • Crime/drug arrest rates: African Americans represent 12% of monthly drug users, but comprise 32% of persons arrested for drug possession
  • “Get tough on crime” and “war on drugs” policies
  • Mandatory minimum sentencing, especially disparities in sentencing for crack and powder cocaine possession
  • In 2002, blacks constituted more than 80% of the people sentenced under the federal crack cocaine laws and served substantially more time in prison for drug offenses than did whites, despite that fact that more than 2/3 of crack cocaine users in the U.S. are white or Hispanic
  • “Three Strikes”/habitual offender policies
  • Zero Tolerance policies as a result of perceived problems of school violence; adverse affect on black children.
  • 35% of black children grades 7-12 have been suspended or expelled at some point in their school careers compared to 20% of Hispanics and 15% of whites

Effects of Incarceration

  • Jail reduces work time of young people over the next decade by 25-30 percent when compared with arrested youths who were not incarcerated
  • Jails and prisons are recognized as settings where society’s infectious diseases are highly concentrated
  • Prison has not been proven as a rehabilitation for behavior, as two-thirds of prisoners will reoffend

Exorbitant Cost of Incarceration: Is it Worth It?

  • About $70 billion dollars are spent on corrections yearly
  • Prisons and jails consume a growing portion of the nearly $200 billion we spend annually on public safety

Second Chance Alliance will be a Building Capacity for and Reducing Barriers to the Inclusion of Underserved Black Youth and Families in Behavioral and Mental Health Patient-Centered Outcomes. Second Chance Alliance will be a faith-based mental health promotion network and Re-entry facility focused on African-American mental health and the reduction of disparities. Our team will build and engage a network of faith community leaders, caregivers, stakeholders, university researchers, providers, and patients. Our specific team-building tasks include hosting monthly meetings focused on 1) developing our partnership, 2) identifying the specific behavioral and mental health needs of our youth, and 3) developing a strategic plan to address the stated needs via submission of a Tier II award. Based on individual efforts to date, our local communities trust that we care. Our compassion has opened up dialogue, especially among teens, who feel comfortable asking questions about life outside their circumstances, inspiring hope for creating a healthier environment.

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~Quotes by Malcolm X (Author of The Autobiography of Malcolm X)-Be a village, not a hood~

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https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/17435.Malcolm_X

If we as a people would police ourselves and our family members and assist our communities in becoming a village again, we will see drastic change in how we as a people could change these circumstances.
If I had half the money I once had, I would clean my community up by buying all the open real a state and then infuse it with my own bank then do as the Korean and Phillipino population in certain parts of California, build my own commercial, civic base that would allow us to vote officials and public office Servants that would be pro – life for all human beings that would exude what we lack in all of this and that’s love…..

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