America Is Our Neighborhood

“I press towards the mark for the prize….” Philippians 3:14-15

As a newly elected co-chair of the Anti-Racism Committee (ARC) I knew that this was not to be taken lightly. Particularly in the past five or six years up to and including this very moment much has happened that requires our constant attention to the social fiction of race and race relations, which all too often goes unnoticed by the average eyes in our society. This past weekend is no exception. I think constantly about the Christian mark both physically and spiritually and am reminded continually that if I am not pressing on then I am not making any headway. Giving up is not an option. Complacency is not an option and certainly, for the ARC and my own personal relationship with God, pressing on towards the mark of justice and equality is the only option.

As Sunday turned to Monday, the news was already out about the protest in Charlottesville, VA, but I hadn’t yet heard all of the story. I’d only heard about two groups, one protesting and the other counter-protesting over the removal of a statue. But we’ve heard this kind of thing before except this time someone decided to drive a car into a crowd of people and before it was all over three people were dead. By the time I had some down time in my day, I and the rest of the world are waiting for our President of these United States to say something – anything to condemn the actions of the identified white supremacy, neo-nazi group that made a decision to march like militia on the move through a somewhat progressive town and neighborhood of Charlottesville, Virginia. Okay, I for one can certainly understand needing some time to gather one’s thoughts – but ultimately the reality at least for me is that hatred, bigotry, and deep-seeded racism can sometimes go hand in hand with violence when it is met with any kind of opposition. And at times – opposition is exactly what is needed. After all, what would any of us have done, had our relatively quiet neighborhood was suddenly invaded by a scene of marching torches? This is no time for blame. We have only to look at the actions, the horrible things that were aimed towards, Hispanics, Jewish and African American people. Try to understand the frustration and anger of a community that is trying to grapple with its past and do the right thing so that everyone understands that we should not be glorifying the treason acts of this nation’s past but begin to move towards the mark of a society which actually reflects the justice of which this country’s constitution was written to uphold.

We get to that mark by not standing idly by, while those who trample on justice, equality and truth stomp boldly and brazenly through the neighborhood that is America. Slow to speak is one thing, but quick to ignorance is usually destructive to self and to others. If we are to get to that mark of justice, equality and truth we can no longer be complacent with any acts of racism. It is incumbent upon us to get at the depth of understanding this country’s history and privileged ignorance towards a disintegrating physical and spiritual health of humanity particularly among minority communities and the poor. These of course are not interchangeable. All minority communities are not poor and – all poor people are not minorities. If we are to get to that mark of justice, equality and truth we must oppose and call out those cowardly hiding behind the selectively applied second amendment. Our inaction is equal to complicity, which helps to perpetuate the lies that give strength to these hate groups and continues to oppress the mark of justice that this nation has set, albeit far after the Civil War. Electing our first Black President is a baby step trying to find balance that is easily plummeted if we don’t rise as a community to oppose racism, bigotry and white supremacy. It’s events like the one in Charlottesville, not the violence but rather the response to the invasion that gives some light to the systemic imbalance of justice of which that community was trying to right. If we are to get to that mark of justice, equality and truth we must name racism, white supremacy, privilege and bigotry for what it is at every moment, take action to oppose every revelation of it and protect every neighborhood from itself and others in order that everyone can fearlessly experience this seemingly elusive right of justice, equality and truth.

Too many people miss the mark, forgetting that true justice and true equality is not achieved solely on dollars and cents but rather with compassion, community and love. We must eat live, breathe, celebrate and suffer with the neighborhoods. Each of us is closer to Charlottesville than we realize. Every neighborhood in America is our neighborhood and what happened to the fine people of Charlottesville could happen anywhere. Charlottesville’s protests and counter-demonstrations cost us three lives and we are losing thousands daily to poisonous ideologies of severely broken systems in this country. Acts of racism, bigotry and white supremacy are dramatic and will always get the headlines. Unfortunately, this kind of drama typically trumps thorough, systemic, environmental and comprehensive inspection and action. If we continue to refuse to see the true impact of these acts, as the next drama plays out, you can be assured that racism – its deadly, destructive, divisive, and diminishing poison – will be coming to a neighborhood near you.

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Sister’s Keeper

Where is your brother Abel?  Genesis 4:1-16  It was a rhetorical question, not meant to elicit a specific answer but rather to make a point. God already knew that the voice of Abel had been crying out from the ground but he was giving Cain an opportunity to come clean. We all have feelings of anger, frustration and jealously, but the Psalmist reminds us that happy are they whose way is undefiled (119:1-24). The way involves our thoughts followed by our actions. Let’s face it! Our thoughts aren’t always directed towards God! However, through Christ we are afforded the same opportunity as Cain, whose response made clear that he had gotten the message but chose not to accept it. We too have a choice. Are we our sister and brother’s keeper? 

Following The Call

And when he was twelve years old…the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it.  After three days they found him in the temple… Luke 2:41-52  I’ve known several people who have consciously felt called in to the presence of the divine at very early ages. Why some and not others – who knows? What’s important is getting to the point of understanding that divine spirit does exist. Divine presence leads to truth about who we really are and to whom we really belong. Up until that point however we often go through struggles concerning obedience. To whom do we listen and follow? This passage however brings up a question for me to which I wrestle with its implications. At the age of 12 does Jesus dishonor his parents by not remaining with them or was he honoring God by remaining in the Temple?

Touched

The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of a teacher, that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word. Morning by morning he wakens – wakens my ear to listen… (Isaiah 50:4)  A power scripture to begin the month for those touched by God on the journey that seeks truth. To live is to die, but to die is to gain more of what the spiritual life in Christ has to offer. For like the prophets God touches the mouth and like the disciples God touches the hands that reach out towards the anointed hearts yearning to hear what the Spirit is saying to its own and we – we must listen like the one who is taught and set our face as one already redeemed, reconciled and vindicated. In spite of everything along the path God is steadfast in his promises.

The Lord God has opened my ear,
and I was not rebellious,
I did not turn backwards.
I gave my back to those who struck me,
and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard;
I did not hide my face
from insult and spitting. 


The Lord God helps me;
therefore I have not been disgraced;
therefore I have set my face like flint,
and I know that I shall not be put to shame;
he who vindicates me is near.
Who will contend with me?
Let us stand up together.
Who are my adversaries?
Let them confront me.
It is the Lord God who helps me;
who will declare me guilty?
All of them will wear out like a garment;
the moth will eat them up.  
(Isaiah 50:5-10)

Discerning The Challenge

The good news about John’s message is that it prevails today and no testing, has overtaken us that is not common to everyone (1 Corinthians 10:13). However, our repentance during that test is the work of God’s grace and mercy manifesting in our lives. It also enables the process of discerning the physical from the spiritual. Herod could have acknowledged and repented to what he had done as wrong according to Jewish law, if in fact he was committed to it. Historically we know that he was not (Flavius Josephus: Antiquities of the Jews). By his actions, Herod was committed to himself. While there are times when we should be committed to our selves, for example our health, a Herod’s dilemma, isn’t one of those times. When we are committed only to ourselves we often have a tendency to believe that the laws or rules therein do not apply to us, we make our own rule for life and go our own way. John’s message is given that we may prepare our selves to be committed to the Spirit of God so that when the challenge of our commitment is tested, our response will honor God (from the heart) and not our selves (according to other peoples’ perceptions). History tells us that this is not always an easy thing to do and if we continue to look through the eyes of others we only see what other people see and respond the way other people respond. When we learn to look through the eyes of Christ we begin to see what God sees and learn to respond through Christ.

Ephesians 1:3,7 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places… In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses,

Did I Say That?

Perhaps we should take some responsibility for what was about to happen. We’ve always tried to emphasize the importance of telling the truth. While the policeman is taking the accident report, my son faithfully offers; “I didn’t look both ways”. What! You just admitted to fault!  I suppose we could chalk it up to inexperience on his part, but the number one unwritten rule in an auto accident is never admit to fault particularly, if you believe you’ve broken a written rule (in his case, at the stop sign, after making a full and complete stop, look both ways!) Let the insurance company figure it all out.

We’ve all been there. Sometimes we say things which we later wish we hadn’t said because the consequence or the price to be paid is too high or worse, we find our selves in a position of having to make a decision that challenges our integrity. Having to separate  our feelings (who we believe our selves to be) from our image (how others perceive us) in order to “save face” can be very painful and sometimes damaging to the self. Soon enough we find that there is little room for falsehoods or grandiose facades. There will always be a time when we have to “put up or shut up.” King Herod, found himself in such a situation, desperately needing to be more important (perhaps than he really was) and in control of everything, everybody and every situation. However, when your integrity is on the line (that’s all the time) we should be more careful about making promises we don’t really want to keep (this is different from promises you make every effort to keep). At any rate, what’s a King with a foot in his mouth suppose to do?

Mark 6:23 …and he (King Herod) solemnly swore to her, “Whatever of ask me, I will give you, even half my kingdom.”

Light And True Love

Lent: Day 14 – The measure you give will be the measure you receive. We often expect more of God than what we put in to our relationship with him. Somehow that seems right to us. After all scripture speaks of abundance quite often (Ex. 34:6; 1Tim. 1:14; John. 10:10; Eph. 3:20, etc.). The “measure” I believe Christ speaks of in this gospel however is about time both consciously and physically. Some like to add money to the equation but I believe money is really a byproduct in the sense that what is given financially is as a result of the love that is connected to that relationship. We give financially to those things for which we have a great passion. The time we spend in our relationship with God is not unlike any amount of time we spend on any other relationship, which causes us to want to do more because the love has become so deep. Deep wisdom and knowledge comes with time. Without that time, what little wisdom and knowledge we have soon gives way to other thoughts and desires of the heart that often leads us in directions away from experiencing God’s abundant love within us. The more time you spend with God the more wisdom and knowledge you will receive. The more wisdom and knowledge you receive the more you want to share it with others. Who among us finds “true” love and doesn’t want to tell somebody about it. In the same way, I believe God wants us to get to know his true love, wisdom and knowledge just like that, with the same abundance, the same passion!

Mark 4:21-34 ‘Is a lamp brought in to be put under the bushel basket, or under the bed, and not on the lampstand?And he said to them, ‘Pay attention to what you hear; the measure you give will be the measure you get, and still more will be given you. For to those who have, more will be given; and from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.’

God’s Favor Alone

When Jacob left Laban, God instructed him to do so. No longer did Laban favor Jacob, namely because Jacob’s wealth was amassed through God’s favor and subsequently as a result of Laban’s selfishness. What did Jacob owe to Laban? Nothing. Jacob belongs to God not to Laban. There are many people who will favor us because of what they believe they can gain from us. They enter into God’s favor and into God’s presence with us by pretending to be on our side or traveling this journey with the same goal and purpose of a life redeemed and reconciled through Christ. In reality their motive is skewed and eventually they come out of their sheep’s clothing. When this happens we may find our selves in a place we don’t necessarily want to be. That’s okay! God knows his sheep and his sheep know him. The sheep always have favor with God! Keep listening, stay alert, return to his Word and believe in his truth. Eventually, like Jacob, God will call you out and lead you in his favor, to where he wants you to be.

God saw my affliction and the labor of my hands… Genesis 31:25-50

‘Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit…I know my own and my own know me… John 10:1-18

I write to you, …because you know the Father…because you know him who is from the beginning…because you are strong and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one. 1 John 2:12-17

The Lighted Path

Is it not true that God knows the heart of those who seek after him? For many claim to seek God but their motives are selfish and have no resemblance to his commandment to love our neighbor. Now we have all been there. None of us has worshipped perfectly, but the heart that cares nothing about the welfare of others will suffer the most not at the hands of humans but at the hands of God. Remember Jacob and Laban and trust God’s vengeance. Is it not true that God has no respect of person (Romans 2:11, Acts 10:34)? For many who claim to know him still today blindly judge according to their own perceived status. Yet people will first remember how someone responded to their presence of being before they remember any particular act on their behalf? Is it not true that God sent his son to be the advocate for everyone whether they believe or not? Yet many claim to believe, and advocate only for themselves and not other people. The ground at the foot of the cross is level ground and only the atoning sacrifice of Christ himself is perfect for all people. Thus, the tangled web of life is easily reconciled by the heart, which seeks, confesses, believes and knows, that God gives the true light that shows the way to go.

Deception; God’s Avenges; Blind Authority; One True Advocate One True Light

The Masquerade Of Life

Physically, we are all born into this world blind to it’s customs; blind to its effects; blind to its consequences. In that respect the darkness of this world has a foot hole in our lives from the very beginning and affects the self to the point of masquerading the spirit within, which seeks the light of true knowledge of the self. That light of true knowledge is to walk in fellowship with the creator of life itself. Every live physical birth has within it a spirit. The beginning of understanding true knowledge is the rebirth of the spirit within. Although the journey of the spirit seemingly has a disadvantage, because of the time spent interacting with the physical world, all things physical eventually passes away. The supreme advantage of the spirit is that of its steadfast and everlasting nature. Unfortunately, some never get to true knowledge. The rest of us get there at various times in our lives and when we do the battle to stay within the spirit can be difficult. Just remember the supreme advantage and know that walking in the light of true knowledge always over comes the darkness.

Born Blind; Walking in Light; Struggle; Supreme Advantage