Posted on Leave a comment

Kingdom of Heaven (ACAD: Matthew 23)

Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them. They do all their deeds to be seen by others; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long. They love to have the place of honor at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have people call them rabbi. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all students. And call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father—the one in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Messiah. The greatest among you will be your servant. All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.

“But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you lock people out of the kingdom of heaven. For you do not go in yourselves, and when others are going in, you stop them. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cross sea and land to make a single convert, and you make the new convert twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.

“Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘Whoever swears by the sanctuary is bound by nothing, but whoever swears by the gold of the sanctuary is bound by the oath.’ You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the sanctuary that has made the gold sacred? And you say, ‘Whoever swears by the altar is bound by nothing, but whoever swears by the gift that is on the altar is bound by the oath.’ How blind you are! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred? So whoever swears by the altar, swears by it and by everything on it; and whoever swears by the sanctuary, swears by it and by the one who dwells in it; and whoever swears by heaven, swears by the throne of God and by the one who is seated upon it. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill, and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. It is these you ought to have practiced without neglecting the others. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel!

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup, so that the outside also may become clean.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which on the outside look beautiful, but inside they are full of the bones of the dead and of all kinds of filth. So you also on the outside look righteous to others, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous, and you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ Thus you testify against yourselves that you are descendants of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your ancestors. You snakes, you brood of vipers! How can you escape being sentenced to hell? Therefore I send you prophets, sages, and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town, so that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. Truly I tell you, all this will come upon this generation.

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you, desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.’”


Matthew 23:1-13,15-39 – https://www.biblegateway.com/passage?search=Matthew%2023:1-13,15-39&version=NRSV

Posted on Leave a comment

Video MR 2.1: Divorce, Truth & Love

Video part 2.1 of the Marriage & Relationship series is the first part of the first recorded discussion. Though we don’t get into discussing the focus couples during this portion, a question about divorce leads to a mini sermon on love after truth is alleged to be the greater relationship building block. Take a listen. Share your thoughts in the comments.

Posted on Leave a comment

Stork Delivery, Part 3: A Tree & Its Fruit

A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will know them by their fruits.   ~ Matthew 7:18-20

I ruminated on Youngin’s words and actions for perhaps a month after her departure. I thought about the two sit-down conversations I had initiated to clarify expectations and understandings for both of us during her four weeks in my home. After our second sit-down, I couldn’t stop thinking how much she is like her grandmother, who is the hateful aunt from my youth. Fortunately for me, I remember my lessons well. I learned how to deal with my aunt by marriage as a child. I remember how she claimed to be such a good friend of my mother’s (their husbands were brothers). I remember how my mother saw her as a friend and sister. Yet when I saw that “aunt” for the first time in a decade months after my mother died, all she did was desecrate my mother’s memory, her beauty and her marriage. Before I completely lost my cool, I reminded her that my mother loved her like a sister and had never spoke an ill word against her – even when she spoke ill to me. As I got up to leave, I said, “I’m not going to sit here and listen to you disrespect my mother whom I just buried.” I may have made reference to her own abusive marriage and how she was projecting her flaws onto my mother. In fact, I’m sure I did. She called me out my name and it was pretty much about to go down from there. Lucky for her, her sister stepped in and kicked me out.

My grief over losing my mother  had weakened and overwhelmed me to the point that I had foolishly accepted an invitation from Big Cuz to move to Arizona to be close to her family for emotional support. Big Cuz had come to Milwaukee, where I lived at the time, in an effort to provide moral support. She couldn’t handle the cold and couldn’t manage life without her super large extended family in close proximity. Her effort for me made me want to make an effort for her. So I packed up and moved across the country ill-prepared. With the intention of depending on people who had only ever been destructive towards me.

In hindsight, I see the aunt’s attack as a targeted attack. I was already doing well in life… for my roots. I was twenty-one with no children, was working on my bachelor’s degree and supporting myself as an assistant restaurant manager. That wasn’t supposed to be my life. I was the no-good, too-black, too-ugly, too-skinny, too-stupid, can’t-talk-right niece that would never amount to anything. Nothing like her perfect, light skinned, beautiful, well-formed, super smart daughter, Big Cuz, who had dropped out of high school and had two kids by this time, no steady employment and was only focused on men, drinking and the next party.

Without any spiritual understanding at the time, this aunt provided my first spiritual lesson on the power of our words. As a teen I would reference her as a person who only spoke evil into me, yet every word she spoke against me manifested in her daughter’s life. That’s probably the main reason I have compassion for my cousin. Big Cuz has lived her mother’s words, self-hatred, and repression all her life and perhaps remain unaware of how profoundly she’s been impacted by her mother’s bitterness. This is also why I do my best not to speak ill of anyone. I have no desire for my words to ricochet off of them and enter the generations that birth from me. The one thing I have been the most purposeful about has been breaking the chains of bondage, or generational curses, attached to my bloodline and life. There are things that occur in families that people assume are natural or just the way things are. I’ve looked at thought patterns, actions and behaviors within my family networks and sourced them to symptoms, root causes and conditioning.

Everything begins with the way we think. Yet it is not practical to attack other people’s thoughts. However, we can confront and attack our own way of thinking. In that way we can prune our own lives at the root. Our thinking projects our reality and from that we perceive what is possible for us in our lives. We can cultivate fantastic lives just by cultivating our thoughts.

We can hold our thoughts up to a greater truth. For me today, that Truth is the Word of God. In my youth, that truth was what I thought of myself – or who I knew myself to be.

The way I began changing my life was by holding the painful destructive things up to who I know I am and who I saw myself becoming. If someone’s words about me did not align with what I knew to be true about me, I rejected it. When I began to study the Bible in my thirties, I dove deeper and began pulling up things festering under the surface of self. The things I pulled up where held up to the light and sat next to the things the Word of God said about me. Everything I pulled from the darkness inside me burned up in the light. There was no substance to it. No truth. The footholds began to fall away from my life.

On the surface, the interactions I had with Youngin’ may appear to be small and inconsequential, however, the test is always in the spirit.

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.  ~ Ephesians 6:12-13

What I know to be true of myself and where I was in the moment Youngin’ arrived on my doorstep, was a downward spiral of deepening apathy. I was over everything. Nothing held any interest for me. I was tired of living alone and tired of being alone. Completely exhausted and discouraged with my solitary existence. Yet I was channeling all my remaining energy into changing my whole life so I could be better positioned to receive a partner and a family. Life transformation is a slow moving wheel. My accumulated disappointments fermented into depression. I had stopped nurturing my job. I no longer enjoyed my home in New York City. Traveling, the longest most constant love of my life, had become a boring chore. How did that happen? Everything that had been a source of passion and excitement in my life had dried up. My thinking began to change. I can’t pinpoint any particular thought moment, but going to church was no longer a priority. Listening to sermons I missed no longer interested me. I stopped checking on the people who stopped checking on me. I stopped caring about things I had no control over or was not impacted by. I didn’t want to want anything. Life had become a big blah and I felt like a wisp floating on the wind waiting to land in my final resting spot. Can’t I be done now, Father? I’m so over all of this.

Then a 22 year old relative catapulted into my life and sparked all the dormant instincts and urges I had come to believe would disappear from the earth with no one benefiting from them. The most prominent was my need to love. Instantly, even as I protested the no-warning drop-in, I thanked God for finally sending me someone to love. I had been telling Him for years that I would welcome whomever He sent to my door. The table He provided for me would be their table. That prayer began in 2013 when I bought my apartment and purchased the largest dining table I could fit in the space with very comfortable seating. At the time, my prayer was for a husband and Bible study group to share the space with. A few years later, a disrespectful young relative showed up. I was ready to embrace her flaws and all. I was willing to wrestle with her and nurture her into the light.

Until I noticed how she was actually inching me further away from the bit of light I was clinging to. Oddly, one of her regular complaints about me was that I kept challenging her. An interesting word choice since she was the adversary in my home opposing my life. Perhaps what she really wanted to know was, “Why was I resisting her?”

During our first sit-down conversation to discuss expectations and understanding, I decided I had to be vocal about the love I have for myself, my God and the work He has performed in my life. I had to actively protect my blessings and declare them off limits for encroachment. From the seat of my truth, I could see how Youngin’ was running from wisdom and the Word when she avoided me and attacked my character. It was clear she was not interested in building or having a relationship with me. She vehemently and viciously took advantage of, then rejected, me, my love, my hospitality and my lifestyle.

This realization did not hurt. The act of dealing with Youngin’ shocked me into revival. But when confronted with her departure, my shoulders gently shrugged upwards and eased down again. I let go – mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

Trying to hold on to her while she was holding on to everything I’ve already let go of, would’ve kept all that baggage in my life. I’ve come too far to turn back now. I will not risk my true life for someone who doesn’t know enough to recognize love when she’s sitting in the midst of it.

Youngin’, like her grandmother, was one of the best and most effective haters in my life. The lessons they provided on the nature of people and the spirit in the world are not things that can be fully appreciated via Bible text. They are best received as on-the-job-training. For being such excellent trainers throughout my spiritual journey, I remain grateful to them both.

Posted on Leave a comment

Devotional: Prayer for His People

Prayer for His People: John 17:6-19
Read

“During my time here, I protected them by the power of the name you gave me. I guarded them so that not one was lost, except the one headed for destruction, as the Scriptures foretold.” “Now I am coming to you. I told them many things while I was with them in this world so they would be filled with my joy. I have given them your word. And the world hates them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one. They do not belong to this world any more than I do. Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth. Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world. And I give myself as a holy sacrifice for them so they can be made holy by your truth.” (John 17:12-19)

 
Reflect

The world hates Christians because Christians’ values differ from those of the world. Because Christ’s followers don’t cooperate with the world by joining in their sin, they are living accusations against the world’s immorality. The world follows Satan’s agenda, and Satan is the avowed enemy of Jesus and his people. Jesus didn’t ask God to take believers out of the world but instead to use them in the world. Because Jesus sends us into the world, we should not try to escape from the world, nor should we avoid all relationships with non-Christians. We are called to be salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16), and we are to do the work that God sent us to do. A follower of Christ becomes set apart through believing and obeying the Word of God (Hebrews 4:12). He or she has already accepted forgiveness through Christ’s sacrificial death (Hebrews 7:26-27). But daily application of God’s Word has a purifying effect on our minds and hearts. Scripture points out sin, motivates us to confess, renews our relationship with Christ, and guides us back to the right path.

 
Respond

Jesus prayed, “Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth” (John 17:17). You can pray that prayer for yourself or someone else. In what ways has God already revealed his truth through his Word? How has his Word helped shape your priorities and purpose?

 
Source: Life Application Study Bible, October 26, 2016

2016 © Tyndale House Publishers 351 Executive Drive • Carol Stream, Illinois 60188, US

TYNDALE and Tyndale’s quill logo are registered trademarks of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

 
Posted on Leave a comment

ACAD – Rejected: Numbers 14

The People Rebel

Then all the congregation raised a loud cry, and the people wept that night. And all the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron; the whole congregation said to them, “Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness! Why is the Lord bringing us into this land to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become booty; would it not be better for us to go back to Egypt?” So they said to one another, “Let us choose a captain, and go back to Egypt.”

Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before all the assembly of the congregation of the Israelites. And Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes  and said to all the congregation of the Israelites, “The land that we went through as spies is an exceedingly good land. If the Lord is pleased with us, he will bring us into this land and give it to us, a land that flows with milk and honey. Only, do not rebel against the Lord; and do not fear the people of the land, for they are no more than bread for us; their protection is removed from them, and the Lord is with us; do not fear them.” But the whole congregation threatened to stone them.

Then the glory of the Lord appeared at the tent of meeting to all the Israelites. And the Lord said to Moses, “How long will this people despise me? And how long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the signs that I have done among them? I will strike them with pestilence and disinherit them, and I will make of you a nation greater and mightier than they.”

Moses Intercedes for the People

But Moses said to the Lord, “Then the Egyptians will hear of it, for in your might you brought up this people from among them, and they will tell the inhabitants of this land. They have heard that you, O Lord, are in the midst of this people; for you, O Lord, are seen face to face, and your cloud stands over them and you go in front of them, in a pillar of cloud by day and in a pillar of fire by night. Now if you kill this people all at one time, then the nations who have heard about you will say, ‘It is because the Lord was not able to bring this people into the land he swore to give them that he has slaughtered them in the wilderness.’ And now, therefore, let the power of the Lord be great in the way that you promised when you spoke, saying,

‘The Lord is slow to anger,
and abounding in steadfast love,
forgiving iniquity and transgression,
but by no means clearing the guilty,
visiting the iniquity of the parents
upon the children
to the third and the fourth generation.’

Forgive the iniquity of this people according to the greatness of your steadfast love, just as you have pardoned this people, from Egypt even until now.”

Then the Lord said, “I do forgive, just as you have asked; nevertheless — as I live, and as all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord — none of the people who have seen my glory and the signs that I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and yet have tested me these ten times and have not obeyed my voice, shall see the land that I swore to give to their ancestors; none of those who despised me shall see it. But my servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit and has followed me wholeheartedly, I will bring into the land into which he went, and his descendants shall possess it. Now, since the Amalekites and the Canaanites live in the valleys, turn tomorrow and set out for the wilderness by the way to the Red Sea.”[a]

An Attempted Invasion is Repulsed

And the Lord spoke to Moses and to Aaron, saying: How long shall this wicked congregation complain against me? I have heard the complaints of the Israelites, which they complain against me. Say to them, “As I live,” says the Lord, “I will do to you the very things I heard you say: your dead bodies shall fall in this very wilderness; and of all your number, included in the census, from twenty years old and upward, who have complained against me, not one of you shall come into the land in which I swore to settle you, except Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun. And your children shall be shepherds in the wilderness for forty years, and shall suffer for your faithlessness, until the last of your dead bodies lies in the wilderness. According to the number of the days in which you spied out the land, forty days, for every day a year, you shall bear your iniquity, forty years, and you shall know my displeasure.” I the Lord have spoken; surely I will do thus to all this wicked congregation gathered together against me: in this wilderness they shall come to a full end, and there they shall die.

And the men whom Moses sent to spy out the land, who returned and made all the congregation complain against him by bringing a bad report about the land— the men who brought an unfavorable report about the land died by a plague before the Lord. But Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh alone remained alive, of those men who went to spy out the land.

When Moses told these words to all the Israelites, the people mourned greatly. They rose early in the morning and went up to the heights of the hill country, saying, “Here we are. We will go up to the place that the Lord has promised, for we have sinned.” But Moses said, “Why do you continue to transgress the command of the Lord? That will not succeed. Do not go up, for the Lord is not with you; do not let yourselves be struck down before your enemies. For the Amalekites and the Canaanites will confront you there, and you shall fall by the sword; because you have turned back from following the Lord, the Lord will not be with you.” But they presumed to go up to the heights of the hill country, even though the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and Moses, had not left the camp.Then the Amalekites and the Canaanites who lived in that hill country came down and defeated them, pursuing them as far as Hormah.


Footnotes:

  1. Numbers 14:25 Or Sea of Reeds


New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Posted on Leave a comment

Quote: It’s a crime, the lie that has been told to generations of black men and white men both.

It’s a crime, the lie that has been told to generations of black men and white men both. Little innocent black children, born of parents who believed that their race had no history. Little black children seeing, before they could talk, that their parents considered themselves inferior. Innocent black children growing up, living out their lives, dying of old age-and all of their lives ashamed of being black. But the truth is pouring out of the bag now. …

You have to be careful, very careful, introducing the truth to the black man who has never previously heard the truth about himself, his own kind, and the white man. My brother Reginald had told me that all Muslims experienced this in their recruiting for Mr. Muhammad. The black brother is so brainwashed that he may even be repelled when he first hears the truth had to be dropped only a little at a time. And you had to wait a while to let it sink in before advancing to the next step. I began first telling my black brother inmates about the glorious history of the black man-things they never had dreamed. I told them the horrible slavery-trade truths that they never knew. I would watch their faces when I told them about that, because the white man had completely erased the slaves’ past, a Negro in America can never know his true family name, or even what tribe he was descended from: the Mandingos, the Wolof, the Serer, the Fula, the Fanti, the Ashanti, or others. I told them that some slaves brought from Africa spoke Arabic, and were Islamic in their religion. A lot of these black convicts still wouldn’t believe it unless they could see that a white man had said it. So, often, I would read to these brothers selected passages from white men’s books. I’d explain to them that the real truth was known to some white men, the scholars; but there had been a conspiracy down through the generations to keep the truth from black men.

~ Malcolm X, The Autobiography of Malcolm X

Posted on Leave a comment

You speak either truth or falsehood.

Either all of your words are true or your whole statement is false.

If you want me to believe you, don’t use false words because I am aware that subtle deception led to the fall of mankind.

Someone who is fiercely opposed to my views regarding the innateness of human dignity and equality of every human being, no matter what our skin looks like or what faith someone claims, tagged me to a video last week. The video was of Marcus Rogers, a black male member of the United States Army who is stationed in South Korea (the link was via the Tea Party). He was talking about how all our trust needs to be in God… and nothing should be done on our own behalf because God will do it all (paraphrased). To support his premise, he equated Black Lives Matter to ISIS. When he stated that people fighting for the right of human beings to live, simply to live, and the right to live without the threat of state-sanctioned physical abuse or murder to a group of people whose primary agenda is to destroy human life and culture wherever they go, everything else he said was tainted and suspect and I was unable to agree with anything he said.

God says that He will fight our battles, but He also calls us to be present for the battles. We have to physically prepare. He does not send us into battle unprepared which means we will have many skirmishes. We have to show up. We can’t fight if we aren’t present. We have to believe – have faith – that He will deliver us as victors in the battles He has placed us in. Without faith it is impossible to please God, ergo to do anything for Him (Hebrews 11:6).  If we choose not to show up, not to prepare, not to believe, then we have removed ourselves from the battle and from the possibility of victory.

The difference in the two above statements is why it’s important to know your Bible. It’s important to know what God’s instructions are. His instructions inform us of His expectations for us. If people who yearn for freedom only sit home and wait for God to free them, they will never become free. They will forever be trapped in their own cage of inactivity and faithlessness.

For illustration, I point you to shepherd David (1 Samuel 17) and shepherd Moses (Exodus 14). David went into battle, with no military experience, with his sling, five stones, his shepherd’s staff and his faith in God. His declaration to Goliath is one of my favorite in the Bible, it was also paraphrased by Bree Newsome when she removed the Confederate flag at the South Carolina State House on June 27, 2015: “You come against me with hatred and oppression and violence. I come against you in the name of God. This flag comes down today!”

David said:

Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you and take your head from you. And this day I will give the carcasses of the camp of the Philistines to the birds of the air and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. Then all this assembly shall know that the Lord does not save with sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s, and He will give you into our hands.”  ~ 1 Samuel 17:45-47

During the Exodus, Moses instructed the people to stand still and watch God save them. God corrected him immediately – “Tell the people to keep going!”

And Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.”

And the Lord said to Moses, “Why do you cry to Me? Tell the children of Israel to go forward. But lift up your rod, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it. And the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea. And I indeed will harden the hearts of the Egyptians, and they shall follow them. So I will gain honor over Pharaoh and over all his army, his chariots, and his horsemen. Then the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I have gained honor for Myself over Pharaoh, his chariots, and his horsemen.”  ~ Exodus 14:13-18

The person who tagged me to the incredibly offensive video and instructed me to listen to it with my “spiritual ears” also instructed me to stay home when many in my city took to the streets to protest the non-indictments of police officers who had killed people in the public view, i.e. on camera and in front of witnesses. I don’t live any part of my life without my faith, so everything I hear is filtered in the presence of the Spirit who envelops me. May this also be true for you.

Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.”

Then he added, “Pay close attention to what you hear. The closer you listen, the more understanding you will be given —and you will receive even more. To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given. But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them.”  ~ Mark 4:23-25

just America Andy_Marlette_Ferguson_Cartoon

Posted on Leave a comment

Quote: …starless midnight of racism…

I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality… I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.  ~ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.