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.