Monday, June 19, 2017

Follow My Lead

On June 18, 2017 I had the priviledge of preaching at Heritage Baptist Church in Wake Forest, NC. This is the church that ordained me on May 15, 2011. Below please find the message I brought.


I want to read a letter to you from God.

            “Good morning my children. It’s good to have this time to talk with you. I know it has been many thousands of years since I have written but I felt given the circumstances of our world a letter was needed. I am writing to you from a place of concern and discouragement. When I look at the world I see violence every way. At the root of this violence is a deep seated hate people have for one another. This hate manifests in many ways; ISIS, gangs, and white supremacy, or alt right as some may call it. When I look upon this world I created I see a lack of civility, divisiveness and disrespect everywhere. If I get specific to the problem in America I have to say the individualism has become a barrier to the spread of the Gospel. Individualism can breed selfishness and greed. When these two dominate we see racial inequality, groups treated as 2nd class citizens. We see hunger, poverty and people not being educated. In a nutshell we are quick to hold people accountable to the law rather than extend grace to them. We are quicker to judge rather than forgive. More people hate others rather than loving one’s neighbor. People exclude rather than include. You ignore one another rather than engage. You hold on to more things than you share with others. You are quick to reject someone, for whatever reaction rather than accept them as one created in my image. And lastly but not least, you walk away from others too quickly rather than welcome them into your life, home and church. My prayer for you dear children is that you learn to live by grace rather than by the law.
            So how you do this? I know reading the bible in its entirety can be a daunting task so I want to take this time to highlight what I call the attributes of me, your creator.

First, I want to remind you that I am your Mother. In Genesis 1 I made mankind in my image, male and female, I made them in my image. Regardless of ones gender all bear my image. As a mother, I will comfort my people as a mother comforts her child. Just as a mother would never forget her nursing child I will never forget you my children. I am also like a mother eagle who hovers over her young to protect them as they grow. And just as a housekeeper will search for a lost coin I will search the ends of the earth to find all my children. I am also like a midwife. Just as a midwife cares for the child she delivered I will care for you. And like a mother bear will release her furry when she is robbed of her cubs, so shall I release my fury until my children are found. Lastly, I am like a mother hen who desires to have all her chicks under her wings. As your mother I will never stop looking for all my children.
             I am your Father.  My own son, Jesus, knew this and taught you how to pray with this knowledge. As your Father and Creator of the universe I care for each one of you. I am also Jehovah-M’Kaddesh. Meaning I am “the God who sanctifies.” I am separate from all that is evil and require that the people who follow me be cleansed from all evil. I am good. I am the embodiment of what is good, and is kind, benevolent, and full of good will toward all creation. I am love also. My love is so great that I gave My only Son to bring you into fellowship with Him. My love not only encompasses the world, but embraces each of you personally and intimately. I am Jehovah-jireh. I am “the God who provides.” I am Jehovah-shalom. I am “the God of peace.” You are meant to know the fullness of my perfect peace, my “shalom.”  I am also just. I am righteous and holy, fair and equitable in all things. You can trust me to always do what is right. I am Jehovah-rophe. I am the “God who heals.” I alone provide the remedy for mankind’s brokenness through my son, Jesus Christ. The Gospel is the physical, moral, and spiritual remedy for all people. I am merciful. My merciful compassion is infinite and inexhaustible. I am faithful. Out of my faithfulness I will honor my covenants and fulfill my promises. I am full of grace. Grace is my good pleasure that moves me to grant merit where it is undeserved and to forgive debt that cannot be repaid. Lastly, I am your Comforter. My son called the Holy Spirit the “Comforter,” and the apostle Paul wrote that the Lord is “the God of all comfort.” —2 Corinthians 1:3,4
.           My son, is like me, for he is me. He lived in humble service by washing the feet of his disciples. He also lived a holy life. He lived a life of righteousness by doing what was right. Just as my son is pure, you who place hope in him will be purified. Jesus is love because he laid down his life that we might have eternal life. Through my son’s death you have been forgiven and so should you forgive others. In the same way my son has shown you compassion please show compassion to others. By considering himself not equal to me, Jesus humbled himself. He assumed to the role of servant and I need you to do the same. Consider yourselves less than and let me move through you to transform the lives of people you encounter.
            So why do I remind you of who I am? I do so to show you how I want you to live with others. In the same way I care for you I need you to care for others. Like a mother, I need to care for and protect those who are abused, mistreated, hunger and fight to stay alive. I need you, like a mother bear, to be angry at injustice in our world and seek justice for those who have been wrongly treated or convicted. As the body of Christ I need you to have a passion to seek out my children who are lost and bring them back into the fold as mother hen works to gather her babies. Just as I am there as a midwife when a child comes into this world I need to be there for these children throughout their lives. Ensure they are cared for physically, mentally and spiritually. Like a Father, be good to all you meet. Love not only those who do good to you but love also your enemies. Provide for those who lack so they will not be in need. Promote peace with what you say and how you treat others. Act justly by being fair and equitable in all your dealings. Bust most importantly, do the work of my son and bringing healing to all. This world is broken and in need of healing.
            Lastly, let me share with you about one of my children. You know him as Paul, but he wasn’t born Paul. His original name was Saul. When he was Saul he was an enemy to my people, you might say he was a terrorist to the growing Christian Community. But I knew what he could become, and like a mother and a father I could not leave him to his own devices. I had to rid him of the evil that consumes him. And you know what? He became one of the biggest voices for the cause of Christ. Lest you forget. You know the gospel because of his missionary work to the gentiles. It took time for Paul to grow into who I called him to be but in the end he got it. Please hear these words from Paul.

Philippians 2:1 - 8 

Imitating Christ’s Humility

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any            comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and   compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
                5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
                6 Who, being in very nature[a] God,
            did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
                7 rather, he made himself nothing
            by taking the very nature[
b] of a servant,
             being made in human likeness.
                8 And being found in appearance as a man,
            he humbled himself
             by becoming obedient to death—
            even death on a cross!


I stated in the beginning of my letter that America’s Individualism is a barrier to the gospel going out. If we look closely at the words of Paul he encourages us to embrace humility, obedience and servanthood. You live in a time now where if you are to fully live out the Gospel you will live contrary to the ways of the world. I know what this can bring. It can bring difficulty, suffering and persecution, but please remember that I am with you always, even unto the end of the age. Dear children, I pray you will imprint these words upon your heart and go out into this world to change the direction it is going. Live so that others know the love of God and the peace that passes all understanding. I love you my children. Love, your Creator God.”


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Why I marched again.

Unlike three years ago I give you the words of a Raleigh, NC pastor as to why I marched again this weekend and on January 21.


 
not just life that agrees with us,

not just life that aligns on every issue,





 

To read the post in its entirety please click here.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

W.W.J.D.........H.W.L.F



In the 1990's the WWJD term became highly popular among Christians, What would Jesus Do? There was never a solid answer but it was a reminder to Christians to love as Jesus loved.

The other day a friend posted the following picture:




He would love first.

This is the answer to the WWJD question by a young man.


I don't know about you but when I look at our country right now I see a lot of people living in fear, including our President and administration. 2 Timothy 1:7 says, For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. It is very tempting to fear strangers due to the violent world we live in but God has called us to love not fear. Even in Psalm 27 we read, 

The Lord is my light and my salvation—
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life—
of whom shall I be afraid?

Now more than ever, we need Christian ready to love all whom we encounter. It is the only answer to our problems. I close with the words of my friend Kheresa Harmon.


I am thankful for the ones who see through the eyes of love. Through the eyes of love, they see beauty and potential in lives around them. Those who see through the eyes of love tend quietly and lovingly to the needs of those around them. They are the unnoticed ones who bear life.
Those who see through the eyes of love are not bound by fear, suspicion, prejudice, and hate. Those who see through the eyes of love see the face of God in the hopeful and fearful faces of immigrants, refugees, and the marginalized.

Those who see through the eyes of love have hearts that are open wide to the possibility that maybe, just maybe, the other (either by virtue of religion, nationality, gender, sexuality, education, or socio-economic status) is not unlike them at all. Those who see through the eyes of love open their hearts and open doors of hospitality. The do not shut the other into a box of misunderstanding.
Those who see through the eyes of love are the hands and feet of Jesus. They get their hands and feet dirty serving God's people. We may have much to learn from them. We have much to learn from God, who welcomed us, when we were yet strangers, to God's own self.



Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The challenge of deeply engaging with others....having REAL relationships

Before the inauguration of the 45th President, Donald J. Trump, my friend made the following post on facebook on January 16, 2017.

"Forgiveness is a costly matter because it aims at reconciliation, or the restoring of relationships, and this requires an acceptance of the experience of another into oneself that is nothing less than a journey of painful discovery." (Paul Fiddes) 


Then Yesterday I came across a podcast interview of another friend.

In the podcast Amy Butler, Senior Pastor at Riverside Baptist Church in New York City, shared the questions she has been asking about the role of Christians and the church since November 8. At the heart of it she says it is about relationships. That for the Kingdom of God to be made known on earth we have to work on our relationships. It runs for 48 minutes but it us worth your time to listen. You can click on podcast above or here to listen.

I will be the first to tell you that relationships are hard. Let's face it, we all want to put ourselves first and get what we want to some degree or another. We have a hard time being the servants Christ has called us to be. This has never been more real for me than in the past 4 days. The quote above prompted me to call a friend about getting together for a meal. We had breakfast Saturday morning and knowing she was a Trump supporter I wanted to understand why she voted that way. I must be honest and say that I am not happy. Truthfully and I am one of those #notmypresident people. But I wanted to find common ground because she is a great friend, a wonderful sister in Christ and I wasn't about to let my confusion and anger about our countries politics ruin this friendship. She answered my questions from her biblical world view as I did mine and we are still friends. I like to believe that we know what is most important and that is our desire to see those we love in a relationship with Jesus and us working together to bring his kingdom here on earth. We have agreed to have breakfast regularly.

That same day I met a co-worker at the Women's March in Roanoke to march in solidarity with so many others I knew marching in DC that day. I, of course, took to facebook to post my pics, state why I marched and enjoy the camaraderie of my fellow brothers and sisters around the world who marched with me, That's when things got real. A friend and I had disagreements over some issues and if I am honest I was surprised and hurt. Things got real as usually life does. That's when we have to ask ourselves, do we retreat or do we engage?

I retreated for a few days to attend to my wounds but then I heard the podcast yesterday. A good pastor knows how to stick to you when you need it. How can I preach love and reconciliation if I am not willing to do the work? I called my friend last night to see if we could meet over tea. I heard from her this morning and tea is set for Friday. She is my friend and we share a lot in common but we have differences.

My question to my readers is this. Are we going to let our differences continue to drive us apart or are we going to be intentional in engaging with our friends and doing the messy work so we can forgive and reconcile one another to God?

It is within us to heal this land. Will you join me?




Thursday, January 5, 2017

Time to speak up!

In my Christmas sermon I spoke that even people with disabilities face persecution in our society today. Sadly we have an example of that. If you want to read more about it click here. If you have not heard a mentally disabled man was held against his will, bound, gagged and intimidated with a knife by four people. Thankfully the 4 people have been arrested and the man has been given medical treatment.

Within 1 month of the  November 8 election the Southern Poverty Law Center has recorded 1,094 bias related incidents.

I don't know about you but I am tired of standing by and just watching hate happen all because someone is different. This cannot be what America has become. Those of us who believe that love is greater than hate and that love can conquer all things must start speaking up with crimes like this are committed against people whether for their religion, gender, race, orientation, nationality or ability. To much division has driven some people to vilify and demonize others who are different. Let us choose a better way. let us commit to seeing the humanity in each person and love them for the creation they are. A person created in the image of God. Let love overflow our lives and onto others. This is the only way.


FOR LOVE
by Dorothy Oger

I shall stand for love,
even with a broken soul,
even with a heavy heart.

I shall stand for love,
for the world is wounded.
Not just my little piece of land,
where I am mostly safe,
where I am mostly well,
but our world, everywhere.
Every day.

I shall stand for love,
because we need more light,
not more deaths,
not more power,
not more bombs.

I shall stand for love,
so that our children are safe,
so that our friends are sheltered,
so that our borders are open.

I shall stand for love,
even with a broken soul,
even with a heavy heart.


Wednesday, December 21, 2016

What is the Greatest Gift?


“I hate religion and I hate most Christians

This was a facebook post by a former HopeTree resident. My heart sunk and I wondered if I was among those she hated. I walked into uncharted territory and asked. She said, “No Ms. Adele, Not you.” I inquired further to see what was behind the statements. She gave me permission to share the following with you. I pray you have ears to hear for the Lord has something to teach us tonight. “They don’t accept people and they think only they are right and no one else can be.”  She suggests we open your minds before our mouth.” If you read between the lines you will see the problem is, we do not love. God has made me uncomfortable since that day in November and HopeTree employees should be uncomfortable too. We pride ourselves on being a Christian organization and yet we failed this young lady by not following Jesus’ command. We can give her food, clothes, a roof over her head, education, a job, and support, but if we fail to love as Jesus taught us then we have really done nothing. If all we do is love her then we have done everything. Let us pray.

“Lord God, we thank you for your love. Love that does not discriminate, that never ends and has no conditions tied to it. Lord forgive us when our love for others has fallen short. Please send your Holy Spirit and pour out your love onto us this evening. Amen.

The Unforgivable Sin.  Every culture, race, religion has one. Even in the time of Mary and Joseph there was one. Too bad for her, that sin was to be pregnant out of wedlock.  Here she finds herself pregnant by the Holy Spirit and not yet married to Joseph. It was within Joseph’s right to publicly shame and have her stoned.  He could even throw the first one. But in our passage from Matthew we see him do something different. He was going to divorce her quietly. He chose to love her rather than to shame her. But then the angel had a different plan, a better plan. The angel explained to Joseph who this baby was and that he should remain with Mary and name their son Jesus.  Even before Jesus is born we are shown what love looks like. Love is an embrace not a shaming. Joseph chose to embrace Mary rather than shun her. What is this kind of love? Please oblige me and allow me to read from 1 Corinthians 13:1 – 13

If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.  If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part,  but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears.  When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.  For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

I want to look at two of the nine characteristics of love. The first is Kindness. This is an active word. When you are kind you are doing something for another. As Christians it is important to remember that God is love and where love is God is. As Christians one characteristic of us should be the desire to grow closer to God. When we grow closer to God we live out of love. Being one with God is to continually live in love for others. There should never be a moment that we do not desire happiness for others. In desiring happiness for others we are driven to be kind to them. What does this kindness look like?
A man who lives in Texas noticed a family of 4 leaving the grocery store with their arms filled with groceries. He noticed them cross one side of the street then wait at the median before crossing. He decided to approach them and inquire if they needed a ride. In talking with them he learned they lived 5 miles from the grocery store. This family had already walked five miles to get their groceries and were prepared to walk back five more. The man helped them load their groceries in his car, during the ride he learned they had just resettled in Texas from Africa. They had fled their war-torn country in hopes to give their children a better life here in the US.
This is kindness, going out of our way to help someone with a need. It means sacrifice, whether that be time, money or physical labor. Sacrifice is important to remember because Jesus tells us we are to love as he has loved us. And his love for us led him to sacrifice his life for us. We must ask ourselves, are we in a place where we are willing to sacrifice for others? In order to love others then we need to be open and willing to sacrifice.
The second characteristic of love is courtesy. This is Love in Society, Phrased by scripture as, “Doth not behave unseemly or Love does not dishonor others.” According to Drummond, one does not need smarts to behave in a courtesy manner. It is simply an outpouring of someone who loves everyone. Did you catch that? It’s not something we learn or teach others, courtesy comes from being filled with the love of God.

So why would we withhold the love of God from others? Why do we as a society, refrain from showing courtesy from others? Why do we dishonor other people? I ask these question because as a nation I have seen very little honoring of life and people lacking courtesy towards others. Do you know who Lizzie Velasquez is? 

Lizzie is a 27 year old motivational speaker with a rare genetic disorder. This disorder prevents her from gaining any weight. As a result of her looks she has been the victim of bullying her whole life and has used it as motivation to encourage others to fight against bullying and achieve their dreams. Lizzie is for me a symbol of the lack of love I see in our society. Women are held to ridiculous beauty standards in our society and if you don’t meet them then you are constantly reminded of that through bullying, harassment and sometimes sadly, assault. Women aren’t the only ones who face harsh treatment, receiving less than the courtesy scripture says we are worthy of. Many in the gay community face bullying and harassment, transgendered people face the same harsh treatment. But it doesn’t stop there. You can be shamed and ridiculed for not being white, for being Muslim, Jewish, atheist and so on, basically because you are not Christian. I am not saying all Christian do this but all should speaking up and calling out and proclaiming LOVE for all. People with disabilities are not immune either. We are so quick to dishonor anyone who is not ‘acceptable’ in our eye. The funny thing is scripture tell us our job is to love. There is no mention of differences. In fact, scripture tells us in Christ we are all the same, the labels disappear. So why do we succumb to the divisive labels? These labels we have for those who are different are nothing more than a tool of the enemy. If God calls us to love then Satan will introduce something into our lives to sabotage that love. This Christmas let’s accept God’s gift of Love then turn around and share that love with everyone we meet. To HopeTree employees, let's decide tonight to let love be the motivating factor behind our work with our clients. They deserve nothing less. Every person we encounter deserves nothing less than kindness and courtesy, both attributes of the love we are called to live in scripture. We never know when a person we encounter may be a prodigal child. Drummond asks the question, “How many prodigals are kept out of the Kingdom of heaven by the unlovely character of those who profess to be inside.” God wants all his children to come home to him but he chooses to use us to make that happen. Will we be the agents of love that bring lost souls to Christ or will we be the hindrance that keeps them away from their creator?
It seems like an impossible task but I believe that we can love all as Christ has called us to love. See, another truth I know is that we are all created int the image of God. That means, we all, despite labels, are a reflection of the Divine. And if we are a reflection of the Divine then the love God has for us resides in us. We have all we need to love others. 
Even if you disagree with the gay lifestyle you can still love the LGBTQ community.
Even if you don't understand the transgendered person, you can still love them.
Even if you believe Christ is the answer you can still love people of other faiths.
Even if you are an abled body person you can still love the disabled.
Before I end, I have a message for our residents, young and old, If O or any HopeTree Employee has ever failed to love you I am sorry, will you please forgive us. I now have two requests. If your reasoning for not coming to Christ is because of our behavior I want you to give God a chance, God is not us. God loves you and created you. He has a plan for you that includes a future, a future with hope and promise. 
My last request, if we as adults fail to love you, choose love. You set the example we need for how we are to live with one another.



Thursday, November 10, 2016

Please Listen!

Matthew 26:36-46New American Standard Bible (NASB)

The Garden of Gethsemane

36 Then Jesus *came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and *said to His disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37 And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and distressed. 38 Then He *said to them, My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me.”
39 And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.” 40 And He *came to the disciples and *found them sleeping, and *said to Peter, “So, you men could not keep watch with Me for one hour? 41 Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
42 He went away again a second time and prayed, saying, “My Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Your will be done.” 43 Again He came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. 44 And He left them again, and went away and prayed a third time, saying the same thing once more. 45 Then He *came to the disciples and *said to them, [a]Are you still sleeping and resting? Behold, the hour is at hand and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46 Get up, let us be going; behold, the one who betrays Me is at hand!”

Whenever a person gets angry, regardless of age, I get nervous and uncomfortable. I become fearful that the angry person will become violent because I have seen anger turn into violence. This is a feature of my PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). My tendency is to get them to calm down by getting them to be quiet. The problem with that is it dismisses what they are feeling and sends a silent message that their current life experience has no value. As a chaplain I know and have been taught that I need to allow space for someone to feel their emotions, however they manifest. The most powerful thing I can do for that person is to listen. In listening I validate them and their life experiences and they feel heard, and subsequently they calm down on their own.

Right now, more than ever, we need listeners in America. As of today Donald J. Trump is our President Elect despite the fact that Hillary Rodham Clinton won the popular vote.

Popular Vote
Clinton - 59,861,516
Trumo - 59,639,462

Electoral Vote
Clinton - 232
Trump - 306
This data was pulled from here.

I am not disputing the results and I accept the outcome as this is how the election system is set up. Why I point this out to you is to show you that Millions of people are not happy with the outcome of this election. These people have real concerns and fears about their personal lives and the future of our country. The last thing we need to do is to dimiss their feelings by telling them to 'calm down' and 'get over it', or 'just accept it.'

Latinos who are American citizens are afraid of being deported because of the color of their skin
Muslims who are American citizens are afraid to travel for fear they won't be let back into America, their country
Blacks are afriad that violence against them will escalate
Women are afraid they will continue to be victims of sexual assault
People with disabilities are afraid they won't be fully included in society
Women are also afraid that they will lose their right to make personal and private healthcare decisions with their doctors.
Children adopted from other countries are afraid they will be taken from their parents.
Children of color are afraid to go to school for fear of being bullied because of their skin color.
LGBTQ people are afraid they will lose their newly found freedoms and continue to face discrimination.

People have real fears and we need to listen to them and stop dismissing them and their life experiences.

If we want true unity in this country then we need to be uncomfortable and start listening to the different stories around us.

Matthew 21:12-13New International Version (NIV)

Jesus at the Temple

12 Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buyingand selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. 13 “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’[a] but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’[b]

You are proabably wondering why I included these two passages that center around Jesus. I include them to show that Jesus had feelings too. 
To my Christian readers, if you can accept these passages as part of your Saviors story then please give room for others to express their feelings as well.