It seems we are better at keeping “thanks” in Thanksgiving than we are at keeping “Christ” in Christmas. As a matter of fact we are pretty good at keeping the essential elements of most things. We don’t try to take the carbon out of diamonds, the matter out of physics or numbers out of mathematics. We know by taking the hydrogen from water it can no longer be called water, yet we seem to treat Christ as some optional part of the Christ + Mas formula. To remove Christ from Christmas is to remove him from his own birth, which would mean he wasn’t born, and of course he couldn’t have lived and couldn’t have died so then the Bible, would have no New Testament and we would all be trapped in our sins. Clearly Christ belongs in Christmas. Have you ever thought of the irony that we still want to sing, “Joy to the world”, “The First Noel” and “O Come all Ye Faithful” but then still endeavor to remove Christ? Our society has embraced this season as one of merchandising and parties. We tend to spend money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like in the hopes of getting something in return that we probably don’t need or won’t use. I am not quarreling over how you spend your Christmas but would rather like to give you some pointers on how to keep Christ in it.
Get a nativity scene. Mangers or nativity scenes can now be purchased very inexpensively. By placing one in a prominent area of your home or workspace like the middle of your dining room table, mantle or corner of your desk it is a reminder of the real meaning of this holiday.
Highlight Jesus. You could do this either by gift-wrapping Baby Jesus in the manger scene you just bought and having the family unwrap Jesus first because after all without Jesus there is no other gift that ultimately matters. Also, you could hide Jesus somewhere in your home and allow your first activity to be “seeking Jesus.” Either really reinforces the meaning of this holiday.
Limit gift giving. The tradition of purchasing gifts is supported by the wise men bringing gifts to Jesus. However, they did not bring multiple gifts to Jesus. They brought very thoughtful, meaningful gifts – gold, frankincense and myrrh. We spoil the sacredness and the thoughtfulness when it becomes more about the quantity of gifts and not the quality. Making and personalizing gifts is also a great way to give more meaningful gifts.
Give yourself. The greatest gift of Christmas is of course, Christ himself. When God determined to love us so much as to give his only begotten son, he was actually choosing to give himself. Things should never replace people. This is why even those who are financially struggling can have a glorious holiday because they always have the ability to still give themselves. Spending time as a family is one of the most precious experiences we have at Christmas. Last year it was actually December 26 that was one of our best days simply because we didn’t leave our home. We kept our PJ’s on ALL day and simply enjoyed each other.
Get a birthday cake. Why not? We are celebrating a birth. Sing happy birthday (I prefer the Stevie Wonder version) and let that be dessert.
Start something new. When Jesus was born it set in motion the means for us to become “new creations.” In my family, each year, we endeavor to come up with some “new thing.” One year we all received new PJ’s that we could open on Christmas eve. One year we all got the same book so we could read it as a family. One year we instituted a “stay at home” day. It could be something small and simple but do something new every year for Christmas.
Do something unexpected. Sometimes I wish that Christmas didn’t come every year. I know that makes me sound like a Scrooge, but there are moments when Christmas seems all too predictable. Christmas music in the Malls and stores sound all the same to me. The radio and TV commercials are so familiar. It’s not just the music and commercials that are predictable, but we behave in predictable ways as well. There are the usual office parties, concerts, school and church programs. Some of us could replace this month’s calendar with last year’s December schedule and it would be pretty much the same. The first Christmas was nothing like this. The first Christmas was a huge surprise. Everything about the first Christmas was totally unfamiliar, unexpected and for many people simply unbelievable. To really honor Christmas our focus should not be on tradition only but rather on something new, different and creative. Typically experiences are our greatest possessions.
Go to church. Say what? Every year we hold an actual worship service on Christmas day. I am certainly not anti Christmas eve services but I think most of us prefer celebrating our birthday on the actual day and not the day before. Why would we do less for Christ than we do ourselves? This has become one of the most prized activities of my life, my family and my Pastorate. You will be amazed how attending a worship service on Christmas day adds real meaning and real value to this season.
In what ways will you keep Christ in Christmas? I welcome your responses.
Admittedly, I am not a huge football fan although I do like the game. My point is I don’t like it enough to write a blog about it as I am far from an expert and certainly not a sports columnist. However, something occurred in professional football this past Monday night and I felt compelled to write about it. The irony is what occurred was probably more about what happened in the stadium than on the field.
As the Seattle Seahawks went about an easy defeat of the New Orleans Saints a sound was heard from the 68,000+ fans in the stadium. This sound was so loud it actually registered the equivalent of a 1 or 2-magnitude earthquake. The University of Washington operates a seismometer near the stadium that was able to register the stomping of the crowd as an actual earthquake. It reportedly was so loud in that stadium that another 12 more decibels would have resulted in ear drums beginning to rupture. This is the power of the twelfth man.
In a football game, each team is allowed eleven players on the field. When the fans in the stadium begin to harness their energy in the form of cheering, clapping and stomping, it results in the effect of an additional player being on the field, thus the term “twelfth man.” It teaches us that the presence of fans can have a profound impact on performance. It got me to thinking how much more productive our lives might be with the presence of people or several people who were there to encourage us, inspire us and motivate us. Too few of us have a cheering squad or a fan base to help keep us energized. Too often the activity on the sidelines of life can be that of criticism, cynicism and complaint. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.” I am convinced that most people are just a single step or decision away from significant life change, yet just prior to taking the step they get discouraged. It is the presence of the twelfth man, that encourager, which will make the difference. Encouragement is so necessary that not even God leaves His will, anointing and his favor alone without it. I know that this is a possibly highly controversial statement but the Book of Acts proves this point. Barnabas was called the “son of encouragement” and he played a critical role in motivating others during the formation of the early church.
Consider these techniques to become that force of encouragement for someone or said another way, the playbook for the twelfth man:
Point. Point out what people are doing right and not just what they are doing wrong. Too often we are slow to speak when something is right but quick to speak when something is wrong. As you witness a person growing, making good choices or even their attitude improving, it is a motivator when you point it out to them. Words are very impactful. A kind and encouraging word can take a person far on their journey while a harsh word could be the proverbial nail in their coffin.
Pray. We can’t always be present with the people we desire to inspire nor can we always get them on the phone so when these times of physical distance are present, pray for them. I am learning that prayer transcends both place and time. A prayer that is whispered to God today may stay suspended in the atmosphere for years until God is ready to move on it. This means prayer is never a wasted activity. I do caution you to be honest regarding whom you are praying for. If you tell someone that you are praying for them, then please be praying for them. It is encouraging to know that others are sharing their personal God moments with us.
Purge. Take something off of someone. Discouragement is often a result of workload, fatigue and failure. Too often we stand idle gazing at the juggling act while never offering to take one of the balls up in the air ourselves. In similar fashion purging is about being careful what we add to the plate of other people. I am certain we can all think of many examples when someone else could have been asked and not the person we see who is already overloaded and burdened down.
I am convinced that many people who had great potential, promise and purpose never fully evolved into all that was possible because they were missing one thing – the twelfth man. The game changes when the encourager is missing.
Who has been your twelfth man and who are you the twelfth man for?
This past week I was asked to participate in, “A Night out with the Homeless.” To say this experience was eye opening is an understatement. Amongst other significant facts, I learned that there are 1,000 homeless people in the city I pastor in, Rocky Mount, NC. Even more alarming for me was learning that nearly 600 school-aged children arrive in classrooms each day in our local school systems that are homeless.
By its very nature, homelessness is impossible to measure with 100% accuracy. Studies suggest anywhere from one million to six million people are homeless in America with a large percentage of these being children. More important than knowing the precise number of people who experience homelessness is our progress in ending it.
As I conducted interviews alongside a local businesswoman, Jean Kitchin (Almand’s Drugs) and another Pastor, Bishop Shelton Daniel (Greater Joy Baptist Church), of the homeless that were present that evening I could not help but to be convicted as to how we as Christians don’t seem to feel the weight of caring for the people Jesus called, “the least of these.” It seems to me that we all have a responsibility to be better educated on the conditions, circumstances and plight of those both locally and globally who live in poverty. I was reminded how caring for the poor in our neighborhoods is an essential mission of the local church.
Each year, one week before Thanksgiving, National Coalition for the Homeless and the National Student Campaign Against Hunger and Homelessness co-sponsor National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week. During this week, a number of schools, communities and cities take part in a nationwide effort to bring greater awareness to the problems of hunger and homelessness. Locally, United Community Ministries and the Bassett Center under the leadership of Chris Battle brought this issue and this opportunity to us.
With the economic downturn, more and more people who do not fit the stereotype of homelessness are losing their homes. With the decrease in affordable housing and minimum wage not paralleling inflation, more people are fighting to survive and finding themselves below the poverty line. I know of no better way to fight poverty than with knowledge. Consider these facts:
- 1 in 6 people in America face hunger.
- Households with children reported a significantly higher food insecurity rate than households without children.
- Food insecurity exists in every county in America. In 2011, 17.9 million households were food insecure.
- 50.1 million Americans struggle to put food on the table.
- In the US, hunger isn’t caused by a lack of food, but rather the continued prevalence of poverty.
- More than 1 in 5 children is at risk of hunger (Among African-Americans and Latinos, it’s 1 in 3)
- 40 percent of food is thrown out in the US every year, or about $165 billion worth. All of this uneaten food could feed 25 million Americans.
These seven states have statistically higher food insecurity rates than the US national average (14.7%):
North Carolina (17.1%)
Admittedly, I am not an expert on hunger, homelessness or poverty. I do seek to help begin a meaningful dialogue around how we fix these issues. I recognize there are many reasons for a person being hungry or homeless. Statistically, we are told homelessness is, in fact, caused by tragic life occurrences like the loss of loved ones, job loss, domestic violence, divorce and family disputes. Other impairments such as depression, untreated mental illness, posttraumatic stress disorder, and physical disabilities are also responsible for a large portion of the homeless. So, clearly this is a broad and complicated issue. Here are some of my thoughts on how we can help.
Educate. Business owners and elected officials can meet with the leadership of your local homeless shelter to become better educated on this issue and how you can specifically help.
Accommodate. Make low-income housing available. According to the United States Conference on Mayors the most commonly cited cause of homelessness for persons in families were lack of affordable housing.
Participate. When food drives and food challenges are given in your community make a food donation. Most of us have extra food in our freezers, cupboards and pantries. When your coupon allows you to buy one and get one free, give the “free” item to a person or family in need.
Cooperate. Financially give support to shelters. Churches can do this with a special offering or individuals can just privately donate or donate through the mission fund of your local congregation.
Communicate. Discuss this with your family. Too often our conversations around the dinner table lack depth. For many families, conversation has been replaced with television watching or texting. Once per month, identify a pertinent issue to discuss. Generally the calendar will make it easy as most social issues in our society now have a week or a month of national focus. Let a part of that conversation be a family resolution on what you specifically will do.
These thanksgivings as we indulge at home, take a moment to remember that not everyone will have food or shelter. Many people in your city will have their name placed on a waiting list to eat a hot meal or sleep in a warm and safe place. Could they be waiting on you?
What are your thoughts on the issue of homelessness and hunger?
The slogan, “A Mind is a Terrible Thing To Waste,” has remained unchanged for more than three decades. Launched in 1972 to encourage Americans to support the United Negro College Fund, this campaign has helped raise billions of dollars and has helped to graduate more than 350,000 minority students from college. One of my former mentors, now deceased Pastor, Congressman and UNCF President, William “Bill” Gray probably did more to champion these efforts than anyone in history. Now this slogan has become part of the American vernacular and the one that I blog about today.
In this writing I would like to encourage us to be diligent and intentional about not wasting our mind.
The mind is complex. Nerves reach from your brain to your face, ears, eyes, nose, and spinal cord… and from the spinal cord to the rest of your body. Sensory nerves gather information from the environment around you; send that information to the spinal cord, which then speeds the message to the brain. The brain then makes sense of that message and fires off a response. Motor neurons deliver the instructions from the brain to the rest of your body. The spinal cord, made of a bundle of nerves running up and down the spine, is similar to a superhighway, speeding messages to and from the brain at every second. In any given second there could be an accident on this “neurological superhighway.” Since the traffic is already heavy, it would be smart to be selective around what you allow to enter onto this highway.
The Bible is clear in it’s teaching that how a man thinks determines what manner of man he really is. Proverbs 23:7 tells us, “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he…“
John Milton, the famed 17th century English writer of Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained, wrote – “The mind is it’s own place and in the mind we can make heaven of Hell or hell from Heaven.”
The mind is very important! Whatever a person focuses his mind upon is what that person reproduces in his life! We need to monitor what’s on our mind.
Our thinking affects how we feel. In you are experiencing frequent emotional ups and downs, your feelings reveal where your mind is focused. Not only does our thinking affect how we feel, it determines our final destiny. How is this possible? Thoughts become words. Words become actions. Actions become habits. Habits determine character. Character drives your destiny. In a very real way our thoughts become self- fulfilled prophesies so we must guard what we think about. Here are three “mind wasters” to be aware of:
Indifference is a waste of your mind
This happens when we refuse to think about anything. Our minds are muscles that must be exercised. As I travel nationally there seems to be an increase of people that simply don’t desire to build their mind. I am learning that we must “do the hard work” of not being idle in the mind. With the rise of social media, videos and television it is so easy to find us attracted to entertaining people who are also empty people. When I leave the home each day I put some effort into how I look. In the same way there should be effort put into what’s in and on our minds. If my shoes are filled with feet, my shirt filled with a chest, arms and a neck and my pants with a waste and hips and legs then shouldn’t my head be filled with a fully formed and functioning mind? Care about what’s on your mind.
Ignorance is a waste of your mind
I don’t know if there is a more fertile place for negativity and failure to incubate than in ignorance. My personal definition for ignorance is a “dark place in my mind.” It is difficult to make good, healthy choices if we are stumbling around in darkness. Yet, the moment light is introduced it changes my entire landscape. It is important that we develop our minds both wide and deep. There should be some areas of interest that we possess detailed information (deep) and there should be many areas that we know something about – enough to hold an intelligent conversation or at least ask a relevant question (wide). What little do you know a lot about and what a lot do you know a little about?
Inundation is a waste of your mind
To be inundated is to be overwhelmed or flooded by things or people to be dealt with. When the activity of our mind is more about what I am thinking about then it is about what I am doing with my thoughts then I have arrived at an unhealthy state of mind. Too often we get so absorbed and taken over by our thought patterns that it leaves us incapacitated and incapable of moving forward. Healthy thoughts don’t keep us in the bed feeling sorry for ourselves but rather motivate us to get out the bed and to do something significant with this life we have been given. The lowest form of our thinking is about people followed by events. The highest form of our thinking is around concepts and opportunities. Be careful when your thought life has you so preoccupied with individuals that there is no room for ideas.
Perhaps you can identify an activity or characteristic of a wasted mind. What are you doing to keep from wasting your mind? Please share in the comments area of my blog and thank you for reading.
October is National Clergy Appreciation Month. As we come to the end of October I wanted to share my reflections on this awesome calling and the Pastors God has used to influence my life.
Peter Drucker, the late leadership guru, said that the four hardest jobs in America (and not necessarily in order) are:
- The President of the United States
- A university President
- A CEO of a hospital and
- A Pastor
Well, let the church say, “Amen.” As a pastor let me tell you all I can say is, “I know that’s right.” Don’t get me wrong, I love the people and the community that I pastor in but the daily doses of rejection, criticism, loneliness, betrayal, weariness, frustration and disappointments can be overwhelming, as you must fight daily to maintain your self-image and to keep a smile on your face. Most people think pastors work just one day a week when in reality they are lucky to get one day off per week. The various roles played by your pastor in just a single day would astound you – Bible teacher, motivational speaker, counselor, community and political activist, mentor, accountant, strategist, social worker, tutor, job counselor, etc. Pastors need to be humble, but also confident. They need to be both meek and bold.
It has taken me years (and I am still learning) to develop a tough skin but keep a soft heart as almost everyone in your life is there because of what you do and not who you are while you have been called to develop who they are and not embrace what they do. It is the great paradox of this life.
Most pastors have very few or no friends. How can they? They are working when most other people are off and they are off when most people are working. Friends are generally church members who may leave the church at any time and the friendship becomes temporary. They and their families live in a fish bowl while the community watches as they “swim” around life narrowly escaping the traps of depression, burnout or codependency. This says nothing of the pastor’s family who is expected to share him or her with church-members and when tragedy strikes pastors are expected to counsel their congregation, even if it means missing their children’s basketball games or school plays. Despite all these challenges God still manages to place a call of conviction upon men and women who will say, “Here I am. Send me.”
It is these called people we lovingly refer to as “Pastor.” They pray for us and over us. They teach us the Bible. They perform our weddings, bless our babies and conduct the funerals of our loved ones. They defend the weak and provide a voice for the voiceless. They advise us on matters most important to us. They convincingly tell us, “everything will be alright.” They speak in classrooms, mastermind programs and develop communities. They fight for justice and insist on equality. They correct us when we are wrong and celebrate us when we are right. They preside at events and are a face in the crowd. They spend time with our children and instruct us on being better parents. They arrange for tutoring and mentoring and still find the time to be at what seems the most insignificant event. They hear our confessions and are exposed to our weaknesses while lovingly restoring us and not condemning us. And after all of this they still have a “word” on Sunday morning that changes lives. This is my Pastor.
Over the years I have been blessed with some wonderful men in my life. From each of them I have learned valuable lessons:
The Pastor: Reverend Ashton Rudolph Allen, Gethsemane United Methodist Church (deceased)
The Lesson: Not everyone will agree with what you have to say but project your voice in a way where they can all say they heard you.
The Pastor: Dr. William Kennedy, Tioga United Methodist Church (deceased)
The Lesson: God is looking for surgeons and not butchers.
The Pastor: Reverend Leon Sullivan, Zion Baptist Church (deceased)
The Lesson: The church, when properly mobilized, can be the economic engine that drives a community.
The Pastor: Dr. Gus Roman, Canaan Baptist Church (retired)
The Lesson: Interact with people in such a way that they feel as if they are the only one in the room.
The Pastor: Reverend Dr. James Samuel Hall, Jr. Triumph Baptist Church (actively serving since 1969)
The Lesson: Never let it be said of you that you can’t preach or that you won’t preach.
Together, these five men pastored me from childhood through adulthood. Today, I pause to celebrate their lives and their faithfulness to the things of God. Their collective influence in my life helped make me into the man that I am today. They modeled before me the importance of learning, a willingness to lean on God, a legitimate love of people and an honest desire to leave a legacy to the next generation. Thank God for my Pastor(s) may they know despite the pain and difficulty of the call that they at least impacted one person.
Who is your Pastor?
What is the single biggest lesson you have learned from them?
How have you said, “thank you” to them this month?
Reality television is at it again with the Oxygen network show, “Preachers of LA.” I personally know most of the Pastors who are featured and I am not commenting on any of them personally but rather on this circus act that in no way properly represents the “Man of God.” The calling God has placed upon our lives is one of hiding behind the cross and decreasing so that God can be seen more clearly.
If I had only two words to describe reality television I would say, “not real” or maybe “cheap drama” would work. This is not to say there aren’t some elements of what is aired that is real but the vast majority of what you see is not real. But, it’s cheap drama for sure as this is super inexpensive television. There are no high dollar actors who need to be cast. Clearly given the poor subject verb agreement and sentence syntax, no screenwriters are being hired and there are no sets to construct. It’s cheap. An interesting word, as the one thing our faith is not is cheap.
Dietrich Boenhoeffer the German Lutheran Pastor and Theologian who wrote, “The Cost of Discipleship” said, “Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession…. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.” Something that I personally appreciated when Mel Gibson released his movie, The Passion of the Christ was that it was expensive to produce. Grace is expensive and what we have on television is cheap and it may represent man but it does not represent God.
The show does give us a reminder that Pastors are not perfect and I personally appreciate that. After all the Bible doesn’t say the pastor must be perfect; it says he must be blameless. There is a difference! The requirement of being blameless also does not mean that the pastor must fit everyone’s idea of what a pastor should be. That would be as impossible as attaining sinless perfection!
I know from personal experience that you will never please everyone and believe you me almost everyone has an opinion on how a pastor should look, what he should drive, where he should live, regarding his wife, children, how much he should earn, what entertainment he should experience and the list goes on and on. Clearly, it is impossible for a pastor to be blameless by human standards, but that is not what God requires. He must be blameless by the standards that are set forth in the Scriptures. This leads me to my biggest issue with the show.
We must heed the caution that the greater your natural gifts and abilities, the more susceptible you are to entrapment by the world. It is clear that these men have great natural gifts. Men and women, with charismatic personalities and a commanding presence can operate too easily in the power of the flesh and not the Spirit. They can be deceived into believing their own press and the accolades showered on them by adoring followers. This gets even easier with a television camera and your own show. If they are not careful, they can begin to believe they have the right to operate by a different standard. My prayer is that our nation is not duped into missing God because we were so focused on man. It is also my prayer that we never fall victim to the illusion that a Pastor is held to a lesser standard. He is not.
Additionally, there is no place in the church for spiritual superstars, who, like proud Diotrephes, love to have the preeminence (3 John 9). Preeminence is rightfully reserved for only one and his name is Jesus (Colossians 1:18). I do not want us to lose sight of the fact that we are sinners saved by grace, or of who really matters and that is Jesus.
On a final note as we watch the show may we be reminded that this is not the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is the fruit of the Gospel of Prosperity. How do you know the difference? There are at least three distinguishing marks of the real gospel.
It can be preached everywhere
A gospel that can’t be preached everywhere should not be preached anywhere. Bentleys, Rolexes, Mansions and bling do not translate in the poorest countries and communities in the world. When you are in Laos, Taiwan, Niger, Benin, Ethiopia or Yemen your status and lifestyle doesn’t communicate.
It is consistent with the entire scriptures
First Timothy 6:6-10 specifically tells us of the danger and abomination of living with a craving and a desire for things. We are told specifically to be content as a result of godliness and not possessions. No, I am not anti-success nor am I anti-things. It’s when you preach to live and not live to preach that I have the concern.
Jesus is the hero
Not James Gailliard. Not your Pastor. And certainly not Noel, Clarence, Wayne, Deitrick, Ron or Jay.
Do you watch the show? What thoughts do you have?
The 2013 Forbes 400, highlighting the wealthiest people in the world is out. Although there is much that can be noted in the publication there seems to be nothing more noteworthy than how the wealthiest people are getting wealthier, the poorest are getting poorer and the gap between the two is widening. Why is this? Is it because rich people are smart and poor people are stupid? Of course not. Is it because poor people don’t have a work ethic, of course not? Then why? It is partly because we have strayed from the fundamental concepts of American Capitalism – The Common Good. In this blog I bring us back to our roots.
Adam Smith, a Scottish political economist and philosopher, wrote The Wealth of Nations in 1776. This landmark book, fully titled An Inquiry Into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, was written during the years of strife between Britain and its colonies and published the same year as the American “Declaration of Independence.” The Wealth of Nations became the foremost manifesto on American capitalism.
Smith was appointed professor of logic at Glasgow University in 1751 where he became chair of moral philosophy in 1752. During his years at the school, Smith lectured in ethics, rhetoric, jurisprudence and political economy. In 1759, he published Theory of Moral Sentiments, which is often considered the psychological foundation of The Wealth of Nations. In this work, Smith explained that human beings are driven by passion, but at the same time, regulated by reason. From this observation, he concluded that human involvement in economics is “led by an invisible hand…without knowing it, to advance the interest of the society.” In other words the foundation of American Capitalism was not founded upon personal greed or gain but rather upon societal advances, i.e. the common good. Whenever a select group of people feels entitled to make choices around their own comfort, convenience and preferences that have an adverse effect on the masses, that decision has become un-American.
Here in Eastern North Carolina and around our nation we are faced with a very important decision regarding investing modestly for the common good or selfishly protecting the benefit of a few. Our community failed this test recently by running off a large employer prepared to make infrastructure investment and provide jobs because a select group of individuals were more concerned about self than community. This concept of the common good does not just happen, like keeping a park free from litter depends on each user picking up after him. The common good is as old as the writings of Plato and Cicero.
G.K. Chesterton said it well in 1909 when he stated, “The first principle of democracy is this: that the things common to all men are more important than the things peculiar to any man.”
John Adams, a Founding Father and the second President of the United States, wrote in 1776, “Government is instituted for the common good, for the protection, safety, prosperity and happiness of the people; and not for the profit, honor, or private interest of any one man, family, or class of men…”
Despite the propaganda of conservative and fundamental pundits, politician and talk show hosts, when the wealthiest invest in the communities of the poorest, it is not Socialism or Marxism nor some sick take from the wealthy but give to the poor scheme but rather it is defending the foundation of capitalism and increasing the scope and span of free enterprise.
I am a Pastor. My business is people and my business is God. We are the largest church in our city and as such have more resources than many other churches. We fund the start up of new churches called Church planting. This is the same concept as company “A” funding the start up of company “B.” This is good for our individual church because it enlarges the base of churches. The larger the base of churches the more resources we control. The more resources we control the more influential we are. The more influential we are the more financial, social and political clout we have. When a company invests in housing, construction and infrastructure they are enlarging the base of business and as a result reducing the influence of government.
Giving promotes capitalism while withholding supports socialism. By giving we spawn new enterprise. By withholding we promote an undercapitalized market place and force people onto government programs, subsidies and a government controlled system.
Until the wealthiest people put “skin in the game” by investing in the poorest most marginalized communities in our nation America will forever be only a fraction of what she was founded to be. I welcome your feedback and thoughts.
The older I get and I suppose the wiser I become I see that much of the wisdom of my youth was flawed and stifling to my growth. Incessantly it was drilled into my young mind that, “quitters never win” or “nobody likes a quitter.” It seemed sound advice but I have learned that the opposite is true. You need to be a quitter to win. And so I confess to the world and hope you will also that, “I’m a quitter.”
The kind of quitting I am talking about isn’t about weakness but rather about strength. It isn’t about defeat but rather victory. It isn’t about giving up but rather finding a way to continue on. I had no idea I was living a life of such disillusionment. I was really living in a world of pretend perfection and every time I discovered something wasn’t really perfect, and after all what is, I was ready to give up that thing rather than to just quit believing my own illusions. So when we discover that our child, spouse, mate, church, Pastor, parent or career isn’t perfect we don’t quit the relationship but instead we quit having the illusion of perfection.
I can’t begin to tell you how often I prayed for God to give me strength and to be totally transparent often I did not feel like He did and I could never understand why. Now, I know it was because God never strengthens us in support of the wrong things only the right things. Let me illustrate this point. In the Gospel of Luke chapter 22 Jesus goes to the Mount of Olives to pray. When he arrives he prays “this cup pass from me.” Meaning I want to quit doing my assignment. Then when he announces he instead will quit desiring his own will we are told that an angel comes to strengthen him. He is not strengthened to quit the assignment he is only strengthened when he quits to the thing that is holding him back. The problem wasn’t his assignment of the cross. His problem was his own will. Only when we die to the right things can we live for the right things.
Such is the case in our lives. We also will go through seasons of wanting to walk away which means we will come to the point of recognizing the only way to move forward is to quit. The problem surfaces when we don’t spend the additional time being clear what exactly we should be quitting. So when these moments of quitting come, I should not quit the marriage, the relationship, the church or the ministry. Instead I should quit listening to gossip, quit being arrogant, quit being sensitive, quit being judgmental, quit having a critical spirit, quit being defensive, quit lying, quit looking for my worth apart from God. This one simple yet profound strategy can and will save you from years of heartache. Have you ever notice how often the same emotions and challenges occur even though the relationship or the church or the job is different? This is because the real issue wasn’t what you were in. The real issues were those things surrounding it that was stealing the life from it. Here are four thoughts to help you die to the right things.
- Know yourself. We all know what gives us life. We know what wears us out and what excites us. Retain that which gives you life and remove that which doesn’t. For example, does your church give you life? Probably, yes! Does the gossip you hear in the church give you life? Probably, not! Then quit! Quit gossip but not church. You can go through this same exercise with every other relationship and activity in your life.
- Don’t be arrogant. We exercise certain arrogance when we have convinced ourselves that we don’t need to experience any suffering, pain or loss. Think about the advice we get, “you don’t need to go through that.” Well, maybe what I should be dying to be not this temporary feeling of pain but this permanent attitude I have developed that life is only beautiful and never hard. Remember, there is a season for everything.
- It’s okay to be vulnerable. We have a need to be powerful, strong and self-reliant. When we are controlled by this attitude of always being against something and having to always stand up for ourselves and something then we miss the opportunity to show those that matter in our lives that we are safe and approachable.
- It’s okay to be wrong. Many of us will win the argument and the debate but it will cost us the relationship. Instead of dying to the relationship perhaps we could die to our need to always be right.
I’m a quitter. I quit letting anger, fear, bitterness, resentment and sin introduce me, make decisions for me and represent me to others. Too many of us are not known apart from these emotions. When you finally quit you will not lose your self but rather you will finally have a self. We are the sum total of all we allow to live in our lives. It’s time to die to the right things.
What are you going to quit? I welcome your feedback.
This blog or I should say this type of blog has been a long time coming – or maybe not. You have probably noted that I have to date remained silent on controversial issues. That was somewhat deliberate in that I was hoping to gain the confidence of my readership before weighing in on the tough issues. Moving forward I am instituting a new segment of my blog called, “Coming Out of The Closet.” Whenever you see that heading you know I am about to deal with something controversial. Today, I am coming out of the closet about Syria. Let me begin by dealing with the obvious.
If it is indeed true that a head of state, namely Bashar al-Assad has used chemical weapons against innocent citizens then an international response is appropriate. The challenge is determining what that response should be. Something is wrong when we play politics with people. It seems there is never a time in American life and history when we are not. Every pundit has a “political” opinion about this, which is a big part of the problem. While we are debating war we are also rather silent on the bigger picture. We are silent on the bigger picture because once again we show forth this fake concern for people when in actuality it once again is about the politics. Republicans who are quick any other time to play bang bang shoot them up are largely in opposition and Democrats who consistently oppose military action are in support because after all I need to support “my president.” It’s all sickening. It’s sickening to watch Democrats (especially black Democrats) stay on the Barack Obama band wagon because he is black and Republicans (especially white Republicans) never support him because clearly the ice of a black man is just not as cold as a white man’s.
It’s all sickening to watch us play politics with people. While we are talking about war there are now two million Syrian refugees yet where is the discourse regarding humanitarian efforts for them? There isn’t any because there isn’t enough political attention given to helping only hurting. Why would I bandage a wound when I could bomb a city and get press coverage and political points? This is politics and this is not new for us. Our country stood on the sidelines while genocide took place in Rwanda because the politics of intervention were not expedient. The same Bill Clinton that refused to act in Rwanda suddenly has conscience regarding Syria and is offering support to our President.
War is not the answer.
War is not the answer because war has never cured terrorism and chemical warfare against your own people is terrorism.
War is not the answer because it forces other nations to take sides, which causes greater threat to nation-to-nation relationships.
War is not the answer because every war has an element of innocent casualties and enough innocent people have already been victimized.
War is not the answer because even a successful attack against Assad would likely mean another terrorist group would simply take his place since these are the groups that oppose his regime.
War is not the answer because it is an act of pride. Who is the United States to suddenly wave the banner of moral superiority? What then would stop China or Russia or some other world power looking at us and citing the notable injustices against African Americans as their reason to wage war against the United States? Have we forgotten our acts of war against our own? Children make up 24 percent of our population but account for 36 percent of the poor. 16 million children live in poverty in this country. The United States has the highest per capita incarceration rate in the world (1.6 million people incarcerated) with sentencing practices that include disproportionately long prison terms, mandatory sentencing without parole and treating youth offenders as adults. And yet, a silent President and Congress on these issues actually have the hubris to hold hearings on Syria? How about we begin holding hearings on ourselves?
Despite what entities like the Heritage Foundation suggests our policies cannot and should not be driven by U.S. interests alone. In case we have forgotten we aren’t the only ones here people and our track record regarding our own isn’t that great.
Clearly I read a different King James Bible then our President and our congress whom claim to be Christians and who took their oath on. I guess in their Bible when Jesus calls us to be peacemakers that passage was omitted. I too am morally outraged as any caring person should be. But, a moral compass must direct our moral outrage. Pope Francis was amongst the first to denounce the Syrian President while also reminding us “violence begets violence.”
Conflict can either be viewed through a lens of opposition or through a lens of opportunity. The conflict in Syria provides an international platform to rethink an “international standard of humanity.” This crisis provides a platform for diplomacy and allows us to proactively deploy developmental aid. Rather than responding to international tragedies we must further develop the reach of the United Nations and NATO as the gatekeepers of an “International Standard of humanity.” Our efforts as Americans should not be war but developing better intelligence so we can begin responding earlier and promoting preventive actions. I’m out the closet. What’s your opinion?
Thank you so much for helping me. I love you. Girl, you are fine. I am so proud of you. You’re important to me. I don’t know how I would live without you. You are wearing that dress. Will you marry me? We are having a baby.
I hate you. You’re just like your father. You will never amount to anything. I wish I were dead. You make me sick. I want a divorce. Just leave me alone.
Words have power don’t they? So we must be careful both what we choose to say and what we choose to hear. Since we know degraded speech diminishes us and others we must work hard not to engage in it and not to allow anger or even truth be the permission or excuse to say something that causes pain to someone else.
This is particularly important because we live in a word-saturated, word-celebrating and word-wary culture. In the book of Genesis, in the pages of the creation account, God speaks the world into existence. So, it seems that words have the potential to form worlds. Words are indeed powerful.
Words can build up or destroy, hurt or heal, join or sever, placate or incite. In nursery school we learned the playground rhyme “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” There’s not an ounce of truth in that.
This week I spoke hurtful words and this week I received hurtful words. Well, every week I receive hurtful words but some weeks are worse than others. Although I apologized I realize that there are some things that simply cannot be returned like a missed opportunity or a shot arrow, our words cannot be returned once they are released.
Careers and marriages and friendships can be ruined when those arrows are shot. People can be driven to illness or suicide when they face the reality that the loss of their reputations can never be compensated. The Book of Proverbs sums it all up, I think without much exaggeration: “Life and death are in the power of the tongue.”
I am incessantly criticized for my transparency but I view amongst other things this blog as a type of catharsis. As I experience both the good and not so good in this life I know it can only help self and others that I share the learning. So, here are three considerations regarding our words that I am freshly reminded of.
- My words should reveal what I truly desire. Starting today what we desire for others and ourselves and what we think about them should be communicated by what comes out of our mouth. Even when this means a failure to satisfy. But remember, if you don’t want it then don’t speak it.
- My words should provide the direction for where I am going. Our words can build people up or they can absolutely tear them to shreds. With one word of hope or encouragement we can speak truth into a person’s heart calling them back to life so they might reach their full potential. If you want joy or peace or hope directed in your life then speak that and not negativity, criticism or cynicism.
- My words should often delight the hearer. People should want to hear you speak because your words are helpful, hopeful, inspiring, life giving and encouraging. This doesn’t mean I have to be full of compliments but it does mean I must speak in a way that leaves the hearer with a sense of dignity, empowerment and self-confidence.
What is coming out of your mouth? How would the people who know you best describe the words that come from your mouth? Our words reveal our hearts and we cannot avoid what’s true of our hearts. There is no masquerading or hiding from our words. They really do speak for themselves.
What are words creating in your life? Your tongue or someone else’s tongue will steer the course of your life. Control your tongue and control the tongues you let around you. Once your mouth is in control, your life will begin to be in control.
It doesn’t take much to get you off course. Simple phrases like, “I feel like I’m about to die,” can be harmful. A small flame can become a great fire. Remember that negative statements amplify your problems. The words you conceive in your heart and speak out of your mouth release a spiritual force like dynamite. Your words can rearrange and change things.
If like me you’ve spoken negative words, make a course correction. Repent, and begin making positive confessions.
Dear Lord, I realize that there is power in the words that I speak. I pray that my words will build up not tear down, bless rather than curse, encourage not discourage. Let my mouth be filled with good. I pray that the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart will be acceptable in your sight.