Trouble in my way…is it me ?

Our small group has just started going through the Gospels, on Sunday evening. This day was my first presentation, after reading and questioning Matthew chapter’s one through three for over a week now. The following is a summation of a spirited and inspirational class.

  • Matthew Chapter 1: There are imperfect people in the genealogy—a flawed King in the person of David and the mention of a Harlot named Rehab. The birth of Jesus occurs in scandalous fashion—Joseph is calculating the most appropriate method to put Mary away without a big ruckus, because she is with Child and he knows he was not the one.
  • Chapter 2: There’s Murder about…Trouble in the homes and hearts of so many mothers. Herod searches out Jesus and tries to stamp him out of existence, by killing many babies.
  • Chapter 3: There is separation in the life of John. He wears camel hairs and eats wild honey and locust; he’s not integrated into society and culture but his life is symbolic. Symbolic of the disciple consecrated to God in every way; he has no time for anything, but the mission. No time to hang out or to own a bunch of stuff, raise a family, or see Egypt and Rome etc. He has a hard life; a life as a herald to the present society and in such fashion, has no time to just live a so called normal life.
  • The imperfect people; the scandal surrounding Jesus’ birth, the murder of babies and the separation of John from society to be consecrated as a herald…all these things matter ; all will be worked out for Good, because of one greatly important reason….Christ is in the story.

As Christians we have to make sure whenever there is scandal about us, or troubles in various forms and fashion, we should try our best to see that the cause of the trouble is not we ourselves. In other words, if Christ was not in the picture painted from Matthew 1-3, there’s no hope or divine will for something better; there’s only scandal, murder and a hard life. So as Christians, we will suffer persecutions, but Christ will guide us to safety; we will suffer In general ways also, because this is a fallen world and bad things happen to all peoples, but let us not be the source of our troubles, let us not be the source of scandals, spiritual murders, backbiting and separating from the family of God for the things of this world. If Christ is not in our stories, we have no hope, no mission and no strength in times of weakness.


A Gospel of Accomodation you say ?

As i mentally survey the memories of childhood, I remember Sunday school and all the Biblical characters we learned about, through song and scripture memorization. Every Sunday morning we had better arrive with the memory verse down pat, or else it would be curtains….well, not curtains but a compassionate look of disappointment and such stares. These activities helped me to gather spiritual material for a good foundation, upon which I have been building for the past few years.

When High school and College years came (both at home and abroad), I found myself comparing and contrasting the allurements of the world, with the story of scripture, inclusive of the demands of God. Every time I did something I knew I shouldn’t have done, I felt the bite of a conscience defined by years upon years of listening and speaking scripture, rehearsing the stories constantly, until they were woven into the story of my life, informing my actions and guiding my decisions for school, for dating, for relationships on a whole and for my life’s work.

I say all this in response to what I see in many places (Churches) today. Because of the multiplicity of personalities within cultural systems, many churches offer a “Gospel of accommodation”…a Gospel that does not involve knowing about Faith to grow and mature, neither calling others to sit, study, consider and decide how they respond to the God of the universe. In the old testament, the word was on the door post, on the lentil and everywhere in the house, that as the Children of Israel rose up in the morning and laid down at night, they saw Gods word, internalized it and allowed the transformation to begin.

Today, in so many places, we have philosophical discussions ; we read endless self help books and substitute the experiences of the writer, for the word of God that is quick and powerful, sharper than any two eged sword, able to pierce us to the core, cutting away the selfishness of sin and allowing us to walk in righteousness. Today, people can get away with not bringing their bibles; they can get away with not being prepared to hear the demands of God proclaimed; they are easy going because the grace and love of God has no references, to serve as a constant reminder of our mission in the world. More shows, more drama, more videos and books about the spiritual journeys of individuals and less of pure, scripture, line by line, precept upon precept. So the question for the day is…. Now that we have gotten 2 Timothy 2: 15 out of the way, how may we accommodate you?


Apologetics Part 2 : Who was Jesus…Really?

In response to the endeavors of the so called Jesus Seminar, I want to revisit the person of Jesus as scripture presents. It’s amazing how some renowned scholars (inclusive of some unpublished, less qualified fame riders so to speak), can venture to  investigate the New Testament and conclude that Jesus did and said about 18% of what was actually recorded historically. To add insult to injury, their inaugural statements are laced with bias- how does someone seek to give the conclusion of a research project, before they actually get down to researching is a conundrum to me. And to think that Jesus’ sayings are labeled red beads, pink beads, grey beads and black beads, all sequentially representing the things that Jesus absolutely said, to the things he might have said, unto those he really did not say.

A big deal is made of reshaping the Jesus narrative to give people some fresh Jesus portrait. This quest betrays everything we know and hold as fact, according to historical writers re: Church tradition, doctrine and practice. How could PhD’s in the field of Religion now abandon the Historians and Church Fathers who have cemented the veracity of the Canon of scripture, to pursue so called truth within fanciful documents such as the Gospel of Thomas et al, in hopes of determining a “real” picture of Jesus. In other words, they will attempt to use documents that were written centuries after the events of first century Jerusalem, instead of documents written as early as 50-60 yrs after the resurrection (Gospel of John being one of the earliest c. 125-160). It just goes to show that for one, there is some foolishness to the Gospel; a nature that is so profound that it envelopes years upon years of scholarly inquest and research, yet still gives the average person all they need for life and Godliness. Secondly, it  illustrates  the point that when one approaches Jesus, they need to come simple, as a child with pure hearts and intentions, less they become deluded with their brilliance and intellectual savvy—classic case of the creatures becoming so self- sufficient that they even challenge the origin and nature of the creator …..What a scary thought.

So who was Jesus?  Everyone says he’s a good man, including the Jesus seminar folks. Yet the Liar, Lunatic or Lord propositions come crashing through this flawed construct. I am not even going to reference what Jesus said about himself, nor what his disciples had to say. Instead, I want to point to what the Pharisees and rulers (numero uno antagonists of Christ) said and did. Their responses to him make a powerful and undeniable point about who He was as  God in the flesh.

Please consider the following:

Luke 4:16-30. Jesus goes to Nazareth and enters the synagogue on the Sabbath day. He reads an excerpt from the book of Isaiah .  He continues with “gracious” words as the NKJV says and people  marveled at what he said. As he goes on to make application, they get filled with wrath and try to push him off a cliff (v.28-30). The scribes, Pharisees and others gathered loved his words, and then tried to kill him..Not because he spoke lies, but because the Truth offended them. HE SPOKE TRUTH.

 

Mark 3: 20-27. The Pharisees confirm that Jesus actually cast out demons in such a tremendous way that couldn’t be denied. Of course they said he was casting demons out by Beelzebub (Satan), but they agreed that  HE CAST OUT DEMONS.

Mark 2: 1-12 The scribes heard Jesus say to the paralytic : “son your sins are forgiven you”. They argue that God alone could forgive sins. Challenging their point Jesus asks if it is easier to forgive sins (just saying it), or for him to heal the man (an undeniable miracle). Right then he healed the paralytic. In response, Mark reports that they were “all” amazed and glorified Gods saying they never saw anything like it.  HE FORGAVE SINS AND DID MIRACLES.

Mark 3: 1-6 Jesus enters the synagogue and the scribes and Pharisees are watching him closely, to see whether he would heal on the Sabbath day. As soon as he does, the Pharisees run to the Herodians to plot as to how they’d destroy Jesus. HE HEALED INSTANTLY AND REDEFINED HOLY DAYS.

John 12: 42-43.  Rulers of the day who Believed in Jesus, yet they confessed him not, because if they did, the Pharisees would have expelled them from the synagogue and they loved the praise of man. HE SPOKE WITH AUTHORITY WITHOUT COMPROMISE, PARTIALITY OR FEAR.

 

  So in conclusion, even if we didn’t consider what Jesus said about himself; even if we didn’t import what the disciples said about him, we still have a mountain of evidence from his greatest enemies, that upon reading the aforementioned scriptures could be summed up as the following:

The scribes, Pharisees and rulers were not asking whether Jesus’ miracles and authority was real; they were not asking whether he had a divine presence about him or whether he could drive out demons; they were not asking did he really walk on water, fed 4-5000 people with a couple of bread and fish; they were not asking if his predictions came true. In fact, they were not asking none of the questions skeptics or even some believers ask today. On the contrary, they were asking why is he so good and perfect; why can’t people love us the way they love and pursue him;Why does he have to be so right all the time and why is he making us look bad; why is he giving light to see and freedom to live when we’ve given darkness so long to the people for our gain and selfish motives.

So people today are asking who is Jesus and who did he think he was…well, aside from him saying he was God (I AM), his enemies thought he was one like no other. Not just a good man, but one who would change the system for justice, mercy and salvation to reign…and they hated him for it. When we say He was just a good man, we resort to lying to our very souls just to dismiss his discipleship and categorize him with all the unproven Johnny come lately,  unmerited foundation-less sages,  unholy imposters and pagan religious leaders. If he’s not Lord, he’s a liar or a lunatic. You pick, knowing full well (according to historical evidence), that he will have his day to pick as well.

 


Apologetics Part 1: Jesus is God?

One of the harder concepts to understand I guess, especially with our finite minds calculating and figuring out the mysteries of the universe—or at least that’s what some Scientists, Atheists and Agnostics express relentlessly: either that God is Dead, far away or just a figment of our imagination. The lesser radicals approach an infinite being with human emotion and limited understanding. In this series of talks I want to bring to light the idea of Jesus being God, as the Bible so poignantly expresses; I want to open up the book of skepticism and begin to rip the thin and fragile pages one by one, as we underscore the facts revealed to us from the mind of God, through the pages of the inspired word.

Rule one: don’t approach God who created all that we see (us included), trying to make sense of him with our deluded concepts. How could the creature dare question not only the existence but the nature of the creator?  What does the revealed word; the history of the God man within human Culture reveal to us concerning his nature and the nature of God?

I begin to make three of the most very powerful points, beginning with What God said about Christ and finishing with what Christ said about himself.

Firstly Hebrews Chapter 1: God speaks

1 God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, 2 has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; 3 who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power
5 For to which of the angels did He ever say:

“You are My Son,
Today I have begotten you”?

And again:
“I will be to Him a Father,
And He shall be to Me a Son

6 But when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says:

7 And of the angels He says:

“Who makes His angels spirits
And His ministers a flame of fire.

8 But to the Son He says:

“Your throne, O God, is forever and ever;
A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom.

God says:

  • Jesus is Heir of all things—everything belongs to him (that which he had in the beginning) (v.2)
  • God made the world through  him(v.2)
  • His is the exact (express) image of God(v.3)
  • Begotten here means born from above: not created, but already existing and brought forth.(v.5)
  • God expresses that he would reveal himself in a father /son relationship to fulfill the function of salvation and not to express that one is of a lesser substance or existence(v.5)
  • Christ was the firstborn, brought into the world—first and last of his kind—not birthed of earthly parents ; not created from nothing or anything  ; existing already yet later revealed (v.6)
  • Christ was far more than a created Angel (v.7)
  • God refers to the Christ as “God”(v.8)

Secondly, we parallel Ezekiel 34:1-16 and John 10:1-11

In the account of the Good shepherd in Ezekiel, God reveals himself as the one who would do more justly that the rogue shepherds.  When we get to John 10:1-11, we see Jesus using the same metaphor and emphatically stating that he was the Good shepherd, the people he spoke to would have immediately understood the deep and powerful meaning it conveyed. Being a culture marked by shepherding and a largely agrarian way of life, they were living the metaphor that God used in Ezekiel and that Christ stated later in John 10: for one, it would’ve meant more to them than us and they would have no trouble putting Jesus and God on the same plain

We now get to John 18: 1-7.

So the soldiers come to look for Christ; it is dark because of the hour they approach and they cannot readily see faces to discern who Christ might be. They announce the object of their quest as Christ asks the question “who do you seek”. They are looking for Jesus of Nazareth. The key to this whole proof is in the reply Jesus Gives and the following reactions . When he states I am (removing the italicized “he” the editors put in for grammatical purposes), the soldiers (not devoted disciples, but Roman soldiers) draw back and fell to the Ground. Even they understood that this was an announcement made by God during Old Testament time; thus the reason for their surprise and nervous reactions. Christ then says “I AM” again, and allows them to take him to crucifixion.

As we conclude our brief questionnaire of the scriptures with regard to the idea of God and Jesus being one, we are left with these three statements:

  • God calls Jesus God
  • The New Testament audience of John 18 saw Jesus and God as “The Good Shepherd” —singular
  • Jesus declared he was God and stated so emphatically

The object of this study was not to exhaust the terms, but to look at a few and have folks consider the evidence that truly demands verdicts. blessings to all until part 2


Is the Black Church Dead ?

So i just got done reading this article which recently posted at politicsdaily.com, entitled   “is the black church dead ?”  This was a very insightful document with regard to the beginnings of generations of black Christians who expressed their frustrations and need for social justice and change in a society which was by far and wide segregated and divided even among religious lines. The Author brought in several other writers’ perspectives: in their view, many Black churches have forgotten about the principles and causes for which the black Church stood within the civil rights movement wherein preachers like Dr. king spoke on issues affecting the black community and rallying folks to stand up for what was just and true.

Some of the most interesting points that I found are as follows:

With regard to the black mega churches, some writers argue that some preach a money-centered “prosperity gospel” that traditional African American clergy consider betrayal of their faith’s legacy of sacrifice and social justice…

During similar discussions on this topic, participants lamented that they had found growing conservatism and anti-intellectualism in the black church…

And lastly, Eddie Glaude, Jr., a young  African American Professor of religion at Princeton states: “upwardly mobile blacks are continuing the process of assimilation and are therefore attending traditionally white churches, while African –Americans of all classes are drawn to mega churches led by white pastors such as Joel Osteen and Rick Warren. Entrepreneurial black clergy including bishop long and creflo dollar are also trying to create their own mega church phenomena, and are building on the legacy of flash-and-cash African American pastors of the past like reverend Ike and Prophet Jones”

I want to review the stated information in light of the Church of Christ as we know it today. The whole black church and white church seems to be getting better in terms of the number of mixed congregations we have—this should go without saying, because Christ died for the Church as a whole, and so we should be able to worship together as a whole—I understand that sometimes cultures are variant and folks might feel comfortable in going to a predominantly white or black Church, however, that should be the exception to the rule(based on culture) and not the rule itself (that is to have a white or a black church) .

Secondly, I believe that there is still a sort of anti-intellectualism encouraged within our churches (black or white).  Instead of seeking to build on knowledge, many seek to attain preaching school Certificates, to preach the same old sermons and continue the same old methods of evangelism, when our world has changed and is changing so very rapidly. In some cases, we have developed an attitude that says, we have the Truth, so we want the world to come to us and if they don’t, we will shake off the dust from our feet. Many in the Church see no need for apologetics; if they encounter atheists or folks’ who don’t believe in the Bible, some have actually said they won’t waste their time to try to minister to them or teach them the truth.

With regard to black Churches of Christ, I still see the struggle with regard to leadership modules. Many think they own the Church or should be the sole leader; you see many downplay the need for Elders or more transparency within the leadership itself. It’s not that they have mega churches in reality, but intellectually some retain the mega church mentality. they want to be “the minister” and rule “their ministry”. as a reaction against many white churches having elders, they see their role as African american preachers necessitating power, which should not be quenched by elders who employ docile preachers to operate through a contractual agreement. These are my considerations and thoughts thus far. Feel free to engage with this discussion…