Category: Race

Properly Defining “Pro-Life”

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The Declaration of Independence makes a bold and complicated value statement – “… with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

 Life then becomes a matter of quality of living and not only the presence of a beating heart. Take a moment and Google the phrase “Pro-Life.” As you scroll through the images you will discover the images are almost entirely a “womb” issue and never a “world” issue. In other words, an entire segment of our society has been convinced that life only matters if I am a fetus in a womb and not a person in the world. Both define us as “Pro-Life.”

 I am a 10-point Pro-Life Progressive. I wish there were more of us. Most Pro-Life people are actually only 1-point Pro-Life Conservatives. I don’t think that warrants you enough points to pass the Pro-Life test. I have yet to come across a classroom in America where students with a 1 in 10 score (10%) ever received a passing grade.

 Unfortunately the vocabulary of morality and ethics can be taken hostage by a denomination, race, political party, or ideology and only released when the terms of a single issue are satisfied. In our day, “Pro-Life” is that single issue.  The problem is that single issue comprises far more than the hostage takers have been honest about.  At a minimum, life should be inclusive and not exclusive.  I find it hard to believe any of us would think that God is more or less concerned about one life over another.  Yet, there seems to be a sentiment in our nation that some lives matter while others do not.  Pro-Life is at a minimum a ten-point issue. Before you put the label on, let’s assess whether the label is indeed true.  Here is the list:

  1.  Pro-Life people support a livable wage.  Wages received should enable the employee to meet their needs and the employer to make respectful profit. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are 10 million people classified as the working poor.  These are men and women unable to meet basic human needs while working a minimum of 27 hours per week. This has resulted in a shrinking middle class as 1% of the population owns 90% of the wealth. No wonder over 15 million children live in poverty in our nation. In recent years in North Carolina, all income growth accrued to the top 1% of wage earners.
  2. Pro-Life people support policies that are not oppressive to any people group. According to the Vera Institute of Justice, it costs on average $31,000 per year to house an inmate within our Justice System. Many programs have been proven to lower recidivism, yet our State Legislatures consistently fail to fund programs aimed at expungement and fresh start opportunities for those who have criminal records. These programs cost on average $12-$13,000 annually.  In North Carolina, there are 37,000 people in prison and 87,000 on probation.  By funding programs to prevent prison re-entry, taxpayers would save nearly $2 million annually for every 100 participants.  It hardly seems “fiscally conservative” to spend an extra $18,000 per year to incarcerate someone when funding programs aimed at re-entry prevention would prevent them from returning to prison.
  3.  Pro-Life people support gender equality.  Women still earned considerably less than men for performance of the same job with the same education, background, and training.  Most estimates suggest that it will take at minimum until 2059 for this to change.  Really?  Another forty years? Considering that 40% of all homes with children under 18 years of age are headed by women as the primary breadwinner, it is not hard to see why this is a “Life issue.”  If you take issue with this, then consider how well you would be able to provide for your family with only 56-70% of your current income.
  4.  Pro-Life people support immigration reform.  Almost every major economic study suggests that the U.S. economy grows faster as a result of immigration and whether we want to admit it or not, even undocumented immigrants improve our economy.  But beyond the numbers, is it not against good sense to prohibit a pathway to citizenship?  Allow me to remind my fellow Christians that we worship a Jesus that was an undocumented immigrant whose family fled to Egypt seeking asylum from the mass genocide of male children.  When people of the world are fleeing poverty, violence, and oppression or just seeking a better life, it is anti-American and anti-Bible to deny them opportunity.  Fortunately for us, we serve a God who was pro immigration and allowed Jesus to escape King Herod so that one day he might die on a cross and be raised with all power to justify us.
  5. Pro-Life people support universal access to healthcare.  This is a complicated issue.  But it is simply un-American to have life expectancy dictated by zip code and not genetic code.  At the very least, there must be access and affordability for all people. 
  6. Pro-Life people can say, “Black Lives Matter.”  Why?  Well, because they do.  I find myself perplexed that anyone has made this statement into meaning that other lives don’t matter.  Not even the lack of organization of the movement and the delayed timing of its inception warrants ignoring the message. When Evangelical churches sponsor “Sanctity of Life Sunday”, it doesn’t mean they are anti-Senior Citizens.  It simply means there are those that are hurting, victimized, and voiceless that deserve protecting. If any other group of people had the skewed statistics regarding police brutality and violence, I would be advocating for that group of people also. May we never forget the words of Pastor Martin Niemoller – “First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out – Because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out – Because I wasn’t a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out – Because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me.”
  7. Pro-Life people support increased funding to public and higher education. Studies have consistently shown a direct link between poverty and education. There is no more effective method of social and economic mobility and advancement than education.  In my opinion, there may be no greater long term investment in the lives of our children than a comprehensive Pre-School system to ensure every child be given a fair start.
  8. Pro-Life people are Anti-Abortion.  I don’t know that I have ever met anyone who claimed to be “Pro-Abortion.”  I am unapologetically, Anti-Abortion. Every year in America, nearly 1 million babies are reported aborted.  The issue becomes how we do a better job at prevention.  I do not think the answer lies in overturning Roe vs. Wade.  The precedent standard in Constitutional Law makes this unlikely.  The “Pro-Choice” side of the argument is equally disingenuous.  Life begins at conception.  A fetus is a life.  You make your position weaker when you aren’t honest about this.  If the law saved, there would be no murder.  Theologically and doctrinally, we know the law cannot save us. God has always been and will always be a God of choice. He doesn’t make us do anything.  He has a preferred will and a permitted will. Yes, the preference is for life but he permits us to make our own choices. Deuteronomy 30:19 places “life” and “choice” in the same verse – I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life”.  The answer lies in the promotion of marriage, adoption services, the reduction in teenage pregnancy and greater education regarding abstinence, and the link between poverty and single parenting. While we may disagree on the legality of abortion, it is likely we agree that abortion is not something any of us would like to see.  Perhaps we should all work together to reduce it.
  9. Pro-Life people aren’t scared of the National Rifle Association (NRA).  The presence of military grade weapons and assault rifles in our communities is criminal. This was never the intent of the 2nd Amendment. Our unwillingness as a nation to challenge the lobbyists and activists on this issue shows a fundamental cowardice, lack of integrity, and no regard for life.  It is a fear tactic to suggest there is a movement to take gun ownership from the hands of law-abiding people.  There is not.  However, owning them with no oversight and accountability is equally irresponsible.  Any weapon, in any home, should be licensed, registered, and titled.  This simple step would help track the movement of weapons in our country.
  10. Pro-Life people have problems with capital punishment.  Admittedly, I struggle with knowing that violent, heinous, and ruthless predators get to live while family and friends mourn their victims for a lifetime.  But any district attorney, defense attorney, or prosecuting attorney would be forced to confess that our capital punishment system lacks any consistency regarding how this highest penalty is metered out.  Statistics prove the death penalty is clearly biased against poor people and people of color.  The last time I checked, being poor or of color was not a crime in our nation.  May we never forget that not everyone who dies by execution was guilty – Jesus is proof.

Are you Pro-Life or do you just wear the label?

 

My Editorial on the Threat to our Local Schools in Rocky Mount, NC

 

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This blog is an independent, informational, and intellectual view of the current threat to the Nash Rocky Mount Public School system. As a politically unaffiliated, bi-racial pastor to over 3,000 people (including 1,100 K-12 children active in Nash Rocky Mount Public Schools), I am quite vested in this issue. As is the case with most political decisions, it is easy for the emotion of any subject to veer us away from sound decisions that are in the best interest of all involved.

 Taxes and The Common Good

Everyday as Americans and North Carolinians, our property, sales and utility taxes are used to fund programs, services, institutions, and infrastructure that we either benefit from directly or indirectly. Nash County residents may not directly benefit from the funding formula that supplements the education of children living in Edgecombe County, but do benefit indirectly as there is a link between education and job creation for a region.

  • I have yet to make a call to 911 or to use ambulance services since I have lived here, as I am certain many of you reading this also have not, yet millions of tax dollars are earmarked for these vital emergency services.
  • Most of my books are electronic, so I never go to the public library, yet taxes are used for this critical public institution.
  • There are many residents of Nash County who have never used the highways or buildings their taxes help build.
  • There are retirees who have never had a child in the school system, yet a portion of their taxes and utilities are used to supplement the funding of our school system.

I doubt the Nash County Commissioners who are aggressively asking for a “fairness of funding” want to establish a precedent of an “al-a-carte” taxation system where we all get to direct our taxes only to the services from which we directly benefit and away from those which we indirectly benefit.

It seems that a reminder of our origin as a nation is appropriate. The manifesto on American Capitalism is Adam Smith’s “The Wealth of Nations”, where he explained that human involvement in economics is to “advance the interests of the society.” To follow this new ideology being espoused by the Nash County Commissioners would mean the GI Bill that enabled 10 million Americans to receive housing and education benefits would have never been funded. Anything that is good and necessary for a civilized society to thrive, like public education, is good for us all.

Collateral Damage

The removal of 1,800 children from the Nash Rocky Mount Public School system has a potential consequence for which none of us, particularly the Nash County Commissioners, are prepared. Eighteen hundred children equates to over 10% of the current NRMPS system. Any businessperson will tell you that reducing any institutional capacity by 10+ % results in a ripple effect and like throwing a pebble in the water you never know how many ripples will be created. Here are some potential ripples:

  • Reduction of Title I, II, and III Federal Funding. It has been wrongly communicated by the Nash County Commissioners, “the funding will follow the students.” This is only partially true. The funding is both volume and percent weighted. Funding will follow, but it will be much smaller funding. There will also be a delay in this smaller funding as it is awarded in blocks of 24 – 30 months, so services will need to be offered to children without any funding being immediately available. This funding effects direct services of children as well as professional development of teachers. The anticipated loss to the remaining NRMPS system could be as high as $10 million annually. This is a classic example of voting against one’s own interests as all the remaining children will live in Nash County and this will create a net loss to the very system they claim to represent.
  • Loss of Existing Jobs. Reducing the capacity of NRMPS will require re-organization and the inevitable loss of jobs to teachers and support staff. In laymen’s terms, every 10 students create a job. The simple math of the impending legislation by Representative Jeff Collins (at the request of the Nash County Commissioners) could easily result in the loss of 180 jobs. It seems our elected officials could better use their time creating jobs and not removing jobs. The argument that those teachers would simply move to the Edgecombe County School System is implausible as there are still over 50 licensed teacher vacancies within that system and for many teachers living in Spring Hope, Middlesex, and Bailey, it would be just as close to drive to a school in Wake County as it would some schools within Edgecombe County.
  • Loss of Support to Teachers and Staff. Aside from being a pastor I do not know of a more difficult profession than teaching. We as a community should be actively advocating for our teachers in the classroom and the principals and staff that support this vital public institution. Instead, our Commissioners are deliberately creating an environment that is filled with contention and division rather than support and encouragement. Everyone cares about job security and high morale and our teachers deserve no less.
  • Loss of New Jobs. Education along with Transportation, Health, Leisure, Quality of Life, Taxes, and Housing remain major recruitment tools for new companies and emerging economies. Dismantling our school system will greatly harm our efforts in attracting new companies and in establishing the “twin counties” as a “bedroom” community for those working in Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill. This inability to bring new companies and firms to our community will hinder our ability to expand our tax base and to produce an even greater economic impact to our region.
  • Re-classification of Athletic Programs. Rocky Mount Senior High alone will likely lose 400-450 students. This loss to the ADM (Average Daily Membership) will result in less competitive athletics and a loss of college scholarships for countless young people for whom sports remain a viable opportunity for a secure future due to a potential change in division status.
  • School Closing. There has been no study conducted by the Nash County Commissioners ensuring there would be no school closings as elected officials are not generally trained in the logistics and technicalities in the actual running of a school system. Conventional wisdom at least forces us to consider that by reducing the NRMPS by 1,800 students, it may not be financially feasible to continue operations at the same level. This is particularly the case since the NRMPS system is experiencing a five-year decline in enrollment with a proven history that reduced capacity results in school closings. An educated guess based upon school size and location would deduce that Northern Nash High School could possibly close due to this legislation.
  • The Children. It is said that often we leave the best for last. Who is advocating for our children? Yes, as North Carolinians, ALL the children are OUR children. We are a community. We are a region. When I moved here from Philadelphia 11 years ago, I was introduced to the “twin counties.” What a way to treat your twin! 1,800 children moving out of NRMPS is more children than Alleghany, Camden, Gates, Graham, Clay, and Washington County Schools have enrollment. This is equivalent to an entirely new and different school system being created with no plan, no structure, and no infrastructure. It is setting ALL of OUR kids up to fail as the remaining NRMPS kids will be faced with the sobering reality that it was their parents who stripped down the ability of the NRMPS system to meet the categorical needs of the children in programs like IB, AP, AIG and ESL. The education of our children should be a collective concern. We must endeavor to provide every child in our region and our state with every opportunity to advance and to actively contribute back to society.

I invite all of us to use our heart and our brain as we make decisions. My heart is for ALL of our children and my brain tells me the loss of 180 jobs, the net loss of millions of dollars to our school system, the potential closing of a school, and the loss of college athletic scholarships is hardly worth the savings we as Nash County residents will realize. It is my hope an agreement will be reached but despite the outcome, we should all agree that no group of people should be allowed to play politics with our children.

As always, I welcome your feedback.

Christmas and Racial Reconciliation

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Race has always been a part of all our lives. For that reason if no other it will remain both highly debated and widely misunderstood. It will always be an emotional issue. It’s near impossible to celebrate Christmas and not consider race. The Christmas saga is widely racial as it is the story of the birth of the mixed racial Savior of the world. A read through the genealogy of Jesus would reveal within his bloodline are Canaanites, Sodomites, Hittites and Jews. No wonder Paul writes to the church in Galatia that in Christ there is no distinction between race, class or sex. Yet, our nation and our communities are re-segregating around issues of race, class and sex… while the evangelical faith community is largely silent.

Silence is dangerous because it opens a window of opportunity for those with an agenda and in need of a platform to facilitate the conversation and further widen the distance between us. The church cannot be silent during this hour.

Recent stories spanning, Missouri, New York City and Cleveland have sparked a national conversation. What is alarming is these stories have proven we do not live in a post racist America. Most whites view the problem as circumstance while blacks view it as systemic. The difference in our views is simply a matter of experience. Whites and blacks have different experiences with law enforcement. Pragmatically speaking both whites and blacks must share in a healthy exchange of listening to one another. White people must stop defending the systems that protect and serve them while ignoring that many of those systems have a racial bias. To say, “I am not a racist” while ignoring systemic racial bias is a contradiction. Much of this bias comes from our white pulpits and community leaders that seem incapable of admitting selling unlicensed cigarettes while posing no threat hardly qualifies for the death sentence. Likewise, Black people have a role to play. Blacks must stop “cherry-picking” crimes against the black community. To boycott whites for KKK behavior and ignore blacks who shoot up their own communities, call each other “nigga” and perpetuate stereotypes hardly creates public trust and credibility. In similar fashion to white America, much of this perspective is facilitated amongst community and faith leaders. To show no interest in a city or a community until it creates a big enough platform to warrant involvement does not exude effective leadership.

  • To celebrate the birth of Jesus who dies that the demands of justice might be met (for the wages of sin is death) yet ignore the scales of injustice is not Christmas.
  • To celebrate the birth of Jesus who would live to shed his blood that we might be reconciled to a Holy and loving God as the ultimate act of grace and we not exhibit grace is not Christmas.
  • To celebrate the birth of Jesus who survived a government policy of male genocide while ignoring the fact that black males are far more likely to be sentenced, convicted, executed and murdered than white males is not Christmas.
  • To celebrate the birth of Jesus who would later proclaim, “I have come that you might have life” and we not desire all people of every background have a chance at life is not Christmas.
  • To celebrate the birth of Jesus who we are to be crucified with so that we no longer live but Christ in us and still allow the labels of Black, White, Democrat, Republican, Conservative or Liberal to be our primary identity is not Christmas.

America once again is reminded that at the heart of our skin problem is a sin problem. This is good news during this holiday season because we know the answer to the sin problem  is Jesus Christ. As we celebrate the birth of Jesus may we not misrepresent His birth in the eyes of a world that desperately need him.

Only under the Lordship of Jesus Christ can the cultural and contextual cloudy lenses of class, sex and race by which the tragedies of Ferguson and Long Island are viewed can be brought into its clearest focus.

What are your thoughts on the issue of racial reconciliation during this Christmas season and beyond?

A Pastor’s perspective on Ferguson, Missouri

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Heartbroken and hopeless characterizes the emotions I have sat with these past few weeks as once again I am called to witness along with the entire world yet another example of apparent injustice and systemic racism. The real issue before us is really not Michael Brown, an unarmed African-American teenager nor is it Darren Wilson, a white police officer who did the shooting. Just as Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman were not the real issue. You see, in both situations we were forced to confront symptoms and not disease.

The issues that are most critical to us as a nation are not individual situations but rather institutional systems.

In our nation we have systematically determined some lives to be less valuable than others. This week we were faced with the image of James Foley, an American photojournalist being beheaded by the militant Al Qaeda splinter group, ISIS yet media outlets and commentators seem more compassionate and sensitive in their reporting over the death of James Foley then that of Michael Brown. As a bi-racial man leading a predominantly African-American congregation I find myself talking to myself incessantly over the issues of race, poverty and injustice. These themes are emotional for each of us but for different reasons. But, as a pastor where my calling is to carefully yet courageously lead the sheep I am mindful that perhaps my two most powerful tools are love and truth. Both love and truth are potentially problematic commitments.

Love becomes powerful and transformational when we choose to love all and to love unconditionally. As Christians are we not called to love each other equally? We simply cannot love a white life more than a black life. For some reason we seem to love the life of an unborn child more than the life of a born teenager. Life must be equally valuable. Martin Luther King, Jr. in a Testament of Hope said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

Truth in my opinion is even more elusive which is why we have a tendency to argue it away rather than to embrace it. Do you remember the days when t-shirt manufacturers had actual labels in the backs of their product? Today those labels have been replaced with what are called “tag less” labels. I for one am grateful because before I could comfortably where my t-shirts I would have to rip the labels out. This is exactly how truth works. In order to wear it you must take the labels off. As a pastor I am called to proclaim the truth of the Holy Bible. In order for our members to embrace the truths I share they must remove their labels first. Truth does not originate from our political parties, our educational systems, our not for profits, races or balance sheets. Truth originates from God. Not enough of us are willing to take off our labels of Black, White, Republican, Democrat, Conservative, Liberal, Educated, Uneducated, Poor, Wealthy, Suburban, Urban, Public, Private, Male and Female. Perhaps my favorite children’s author, Shel Silverstein in his book, Falling Up said, “Tell me I’m clever, 
Tell me I’m kind, 
Tell me I’m talented, 
Tell me I’m cute, 
Tell me I’m sensitive, 
Graceful and Wise, Tell me I’m perfect–
But tell me the TRUTH.” We simply cannot approach our systemic issues from our labels. We must approach them truthfully and allow that truth to then govern our perspective. This one change would begin an instant reversal of much of what is plaguing our nation and our communities.

There are over 2 million people incarcerated. One of three black men between the ages of 18-30 are in jail, parole, in prison, or probation. In larger cities and urban communities like Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Washington, Chicago that number increases to over one half. Our “system” has been distorted around race and around poverty. In our country we treat people that are guilty but wealthy better than those that are innocent and poor.

For those of you who are love and truth resistant perhaps common sense would be a more effective strategy to reach you. The United States is the only country in the world that sentences children to die in prison. We have life imprisonment for children in our country because our “system” provides judges the ability to place them on trial as an adult. But they aren’t adults. In other words our “system” allow us to make the child into an adult. What wealthy person who could afford the best legal counsel would want to be tried as a poor person with a public defender? What if the Judge just made them into a poor person for the sake of trial or what if we just made a white person into a black person for the sake of trial? Currently one in nine people on death row are found to be innocent and eventually exonerated of their crimes. In other words we know that for every nine times we do something one time it is wrong. That’s a pretty high error rate. Would you get on a plane if you knew for certain one out of nine was going to crash? Would you send your child to a school where every day one out of nine kids were gunned down? Would you buy a car if you were certain one in nine would catch fire and kill the driver? Of course not! You would change the system first. We have a systemic problem and we, as Christians must model a behavior of love and truth. We cannot insulate ourselves from the problems of people that don’t look like us. In my estimation the life of a white photojournalist is just as valuable as a black teenager. The life of the death row inmate is as valuable as the unborn fetus in a womb. The pastor in me just won’t allow me to love bi-racial people more than I love anyone else. Actually that’s not even the pastor in me I think that’s the Jesus in me. In the final analysis we will be judged not based on innovation or technology but loving our neighbor as ourselves. Only by love and truth can we model reconciliation as the body of Christ. This is perhaps our greatest mandate in this hour of turmoil and division. Paul writes in Galatians 3:27 – “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.”

What are your thoughts?

 

The Scandal of the Pulpit

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Let me begin by apologizing for luring you here with such a seductive title. This blog is not about a hot steamy affair between a clergyman and a temptress nor is it about the use of church offerings to pay for exotic cars, vacation villas and European clothing. No, the greatest scandal OF the pulpit actually occurs IN the pulpit.

Preaching without preparation is scandalous.

Preaching your word and not God’s word is scandalous.

Referencing your text and not taking the time to read the text is scandalous.

Making programs more important than preaching is scandalous.

Those in the pew sanction such behavior by choosing churches based on secondary or even tertiary considerations like music, prominence and location and not primarily over whether the Word is properly being proclaimed.

I have often said that the greatest recurrences of malpractice aren’t in hospitals or law offices but rather in the pulpit on Sunday morning. If the biblical task before the preacher is to surgically divide the word then butchering it is indeed malpractice. A lot is being written about regarding preaching. I can hardly keep up with the latest definition or trendy angle on what preaching is. This is particularly the case with expository preaching. I am not scholarly enough to pontificate with these experts. I do however pastor a large congregation that most would even term a mega-church – although that terminology wasn’t really mainstreamed when I began the pastorate. That church has largely grown on biblical exposition. I share these thoughts as I head to Dallas for my annual pilgrimage to the E.K. Bailey Conference on Expository Preaching. Allow me to give you six thoughts that shape my preaching and why it should matter to those who sit in the pews:

Stay in a Series

Who gets in a car with a driver that admits they have no idea where they are headed? Too many pastors are just driving around the Bible with no real destination in mind. Series preaching gives direction to your driving. Pastors must drive with a destination in mind and members need to stop hitchhiking their way thru church and life.

Book by Book

I can never recall a time where I read a sentence out of a secular book whether it was fiction or non-fiction and without reading the entire book could clearly understand the intent of the author. The Bible is a book of books with a single theme. When I open my Bible I do not see a list of themes, topics or subjects but rather books. For that reason I preach thru books of the Bible to gain the meaning of that book to ensure the authors intent is being communicated to the people. It is only then we can make it relevant for today. Any biblical sermon, even topical ones should take into account the intent of the author.

 Holiness not Hype

We are not called to be spiritual hype men for God. Sunday morning is when we are going over the playbook. Sunday morning is when the instruction occurs. Too often we are exciting people to believe something that God just didn’t say. The message of the cross is also a message of personal responsibility. The danger of a “tell your neighbor…” gospel is we have no idea if our neighbor has done the preparation necessary to receive the blessing that is being preached about. It is unkind and irresponsible to promise something that God never said. Yes, I enjoy a good shout like everyone else and I love the emotion attached to the church but the Spirit of God taking the Word of God and showing people the Son of God should drive that euphoria and not a Hammond B-3.

Christ over Charisma

The preaching in our churches must be more about Jesus then the personality of the preacher. Too often, the preacher is the hero and not God. I pray before I preach for Jesus to be seen and then once He is seen that He would heal, deliver and save. When that Samaritan woman left Jacob’s well declaring, “Come see a man” she was not talking about us preachers.

Scriptural Synergy

The Godhead hits a ceiling at three. God the Father as author, God the Son as agent and God the Holy Spirit as administrator. No one else gets a vote. I am amazed how the Sunday message can change based on what is currently happening in our world. We must not allow the local newspaper editor or some hot news cycle to drive what we preach. I recall during the last presidential election how many pastors were “led” to preach on Israel, abortion and same sex marriage. Similarly, many pastors preached on violence, racism and injustice when Trayvon Martin was killed. Now let me be clear all of these issues MUST be addressed from our pulpits. But they cannot be addressed on our timetable but God’s. Yes, I too preached in a hoody but only because the text gave me permission to address the issues of violence and injustice. This is “scriptural synergy.” It is when the current series or sermon lines up with what is going on in the community or world and you then have free clearance from the Holy Spirit to speak to it with Godly authority. We must not be schizophrenic pastors who when it is convenient tells the government to stay out of the church but then use CNN, MSNBC or FOX News as an “assistant Holy Ghost” at the church to direct our preaching.

Don’t Taint the Text

If not careful, we can make muddy what should be a clear word from God. This happens when we use the pulpit for our own personal sounding board and we allow how we feel, what people are saying about us or what is going on in our lives to drive the Sunday sermon. Order matters. Scripture first not situations first! The wrong time to preach a stewardship sermon is when the offering decreases. The preacher already has an emotional bias as he approaches the text. Rather, the stewardship series should have already been on the preaching schedule.

Whatever your preaching style, let’s resolve to be faithful to the text and to the God who has called us. Whatever church you attend be more concerned about the preaching than anything else.

 

What concerns do you have regarding the preaching in today’s pulpits? I welcome your feedback.

The Common Good and The Wealthiest People

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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.

Coming Out Of The Closet: Syria

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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?

Welcome to my Blog

ImageGet ready for a riot to be started in your heart and head. This blog will produce on its promise to give insight on a range of topics, namely politics, personal & business development, race & religion, leadership, family & marriage and church growth.  These insights will encourage, excite and instigate a fire in you to do something, think something and feel something.

 Although there are thousands of blogs on the internet I write from what I call “down the middle.” Most bloggers write from a predetermined angle – black, white, conservative, liberal, republican, democratic, evangelical, charismatic. And eventually they are going to give you the “company line” and you will immediately know this is not their conviction but the safe way to keep endorsements, please advertisers, keep people ignorant and keep from doing their own research. I allow each issue to stand on it’s own merit and to speak for itself. I do this in four ways:

  1. Inspirational. This blog will provoke the best in you to come forward.
  2. Independent. This blog is from a pure direction because left and right are too far from the truth on any issue.
  3. Informational. I will write on issues that matter and not to impress with pointless data and statistics.
  4. Intellectual. I will assume you have a brain and you like using it for yourself and don’t need anyone else to do your thinking for you.

You will find that I like symbols so the “I4” symbol is the best way of giving a graphic to this process. So get ready for insight that incites so that we might start a riot. In the months ahead paraphernalia will be available with our brand and mottos.

Every week I will write one blog to summarize what I preached that week at the church I pastor in Rocky Mount, NC. I am grateful to share truth with the members of Word Tabernacle Church every week and now with you.

Additionally I will write each week at least one additional blog on some subject of interest to you and the people in your inner circle. I will provide you with book and movie reviews, commentary on historical and current events, interviews with national personalities and a listing of resources to meet a variety of interests.

I will write from the perspective of a bi-racial Christian father with strong convictions and a vested interest in seeing lives improved. I understand something about God’s grace and believe in second chances. I am a veracious reader and host a call in radio program that deals specifically with the issues facing us today.

I welcome your feedback on anything I write and thank you in advance for sharing my thoughts with others and perhaps these thoughts might become yours. Enjoy the blog.