Mosaix Blogs Full Mosaix Blogs Full Respective post owners and feed distributors Wed, 11 Sep 2019 10:51:13 -0500 Feed Informer The Last Days – Part One David D Ireland, Ph.D. urn:uuid:4b3239ab-d8a2-0e35-f6ce-d4e01b403d25 Fri, 21 Jan 2022 20:36:39 -0600 (watch part one of this series by clicking play on the video below)  Everyone&#8217;s curious about the end times and what the Bible says about that. They want to know... <p><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">(watch part one of this series by clicking play on the video below) </span></i></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Everyone&#8217;s curious about the end times and what the Bible says about that. They want to know how it will all end, and the Bible answers that question. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">History moves and progresses. When you read the Old Testament, you see the moving of God into the New Testament, even up to our day. Isaiah 46:10 says, “From the beginning, I told you what would happen in the end. A long time ago, I told you things that have not yet happened. When I plan something, it happens. What I want to do, I will do.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">God is infinitely involved in history. He plans things. He does things. He acts. He moves. History is not about just coming to some never, neverland. That&#8217;s not how it ends. Specific actions, signs, and indicators unfold in history that indicate the end is coming. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In fact, we see that the disciples of Jesus were very curious about how the world would end. They asked Jesus several times about apocalyptic events and the future. Matthew 24:3 says, “Later, as Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, His disciples came to Him in private and asked, ‘When will this happen </span><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">(referencing the demolishing of the temple)</span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;">? What will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the world?’ ” </span></p> <h3><strong>There are two big things when studying the end times that we need to wrap our minds around. </strong></h3> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">One: What are the signs, the indicators of the second coming of Christ? (this will be the topic of the next blog post)</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Two: What are the signs and indicators of the world in terms of the last days? </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">This is a very complex topic, with a lot of moving parts. You can study the issue of the last days, the second return of Christ for the entirety of your life. You can study it every single day for hours and hours and hours, and still, after decades, have a lot of questions. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Whenever I come across complex topics and want to delve into them, I ask myself simple questions. </span></p> <h3><b>So my first simple question is this: What should I know?</b><span style="font-weight: 400;"> </span></h3> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The Bible gives us a lot of information and specific information about what we should know. The Bible becomes clear on this because God wants us to have a level of confidence that He has everything under control. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Luke 21:8-10, “Jesus said, ‘Be careful, so you&#8217;re not fooled. Many people will come in My name, saying, “I am the One” and, “The time has come!” But don&#8217;t follow them. When you hear about wars and riots, don&#8217;t be afraid, because these things must happen first, but the end will come later.’ Then He said to them, ‘Nations will fight against other nations, and kingdoms against other kingdoms.’ ”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Jesus is forewarning us of what we should know. He says don&#8217;t be fooled by speculations, teachings, philosophies, or actions of misguided leaders who try to tell us they have a handle on how the future will be and that they are the Messiah. Jesus tells us that we should know that there are going to be wars between nations in the last days. There will be riots, and Jesus tells us not to be afraid when we see these things. These atrocities are last days’ activities.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Jesus says that these are indicators of what we should know regarding the last days. Jesus said in Luke 21:1, “In various places there will be great earthquakes, sicknesses, and a lack of food. Fearful events and great signs will come from heaven.” Jesus tells us when you see this preponderance of earthquakes, sickness, and mass starvation globally, these are indicators that we&#8217;re indeed living in the last days.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In 2020, eight earthquakes globally were of magnitude 7 or above on the Richter scale. There were 115 quakes between 6 and 7. There were 690 earthquakes between 5 and 6 on the Richter scale. There were 12,720 earthquakes between 4 and 5 on the Richter scale. The point is, we&#8217;re in the last days. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Another sign of the last days is a lack of food, and climate change has had a devastating effect on food shortage.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The food shortages and the unrest that&#8217;s taking place among nations have caused a global migration of people trying to find someplace else to live, where they can get food or think they can have peace. In fact, as of November 11, 2021, the United Nations refugee agency reported that 84 million people started migrating from where they&#8217;ve been living to go and live somewhere else. Why? Because they&#8217;re going through starvation, lack of food, and lack of peace. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">I don&#8217;t want you to be fear-driven. I just want you to know that Jesus says this is, in fact, the last days in which we&#8217;re living in.  </span></p> <h3><b>The next question I ask myself is: What should I believe?</b></h3> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">When studying the last days, what should I believe? What should I believe theologically? What should I believe philosophically? What should I believe when I see all these global catastrophes? Should I just run amuck, throw off all kinds of caution and live in a wild, undisciplined way? What should I believe?</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Peter says in 2 Peter 3:3-4, “It is most important for you to understand what will happen in the last days. People will laugh at you. They will live doing the evil things they want to do. They will say, ‘Jesus promised to come again. Where is he? Our fathers have died, but the world continues the way it has been since it was made.’ ”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Peter stressed the importance of what we should believe in, in the last days. He says when you&#8217;re living for Jesus, people are going to laugh at you, and they&#8217;re going to laugh at the paradox of you being calm, cool, and collected when all this catastrophe is going on, and you are having a sense of hope when they have no hope. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">And so Peter says, when this happens, don&#8217;t be alarmed. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Peter is helping us understand that we should not allow ourselves to believe all kinds of weird, paradoxical, unbiblical, and untheological views. There&#8217;s an anchor that comes into your soul when you trust in the validity, authority, and accuracy of the word of God. Jesus went on to say in Matthew 24:9-13, “You&#8217;ll be arrested, punished, and even killed. Because of me, you&#8217;ll be hated by people of all nations. Many will give up and will betray and hate each other. Many false prophets will come and fool a lot of people. Evil will spread and cause many people to stop loving others. But if you keep on being faithful right to the end, you&#8217;ll be saved.” </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Jesus is telling us. Don&#8217;t throw away your moral boundaries. Don&#8217;t throw away your ethical disciplines. Don&#8217;t throw away your theological views steeped in Scripture that shows you how to love and how to live. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Jesus said in John 6:39, “And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but to raise them up at the last day.”</span></p> <h3><b>My third simple question is this: What should I do? </b></h3> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">What deliberate action should I take? What can I control, even though so many things are beyond my control? Jesus answered the question in Matthew 24:14, when He said, “When the good news about the kingdom has been preached all over the world and told to all nations, the end will come.” Jesus declares that we have some input in how the world and history conclude. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Jesus says, here&#8217;s what you must do. Preach the gospel locally and globally. That means getting the word out. Share Christ with your friends. Share Christ with the family you have. You have to see there&#8217;s an urgency for people to come to know Christ. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">We should create expectations that the Holy Spirit is up to something big. Jude 17-18 says, “But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. They said to you, ‘In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their ungodly desires. These are the people who divide you, who follow mere instincts and do not have the Spirit.’ ” </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">When scoffers try to divide us, we should study the word and become well-rooted and grounded in Scripture. And you can refute all the scoffers and those trying to dissuade and mislead you.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Jude 20-21 says, “But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in God&#8217;s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Jude tells us, to pray in the Holy Spirit. What does that mean? Pray in alignment with the Holy Spirit. Pray in symmetry with the Holy Spirit. Pray the very words of Scripture that the Holy Spirit says we should pray. And it also means praying your heavenly prayer language. If you&#8217;ve been baptized in the Holy Spirit and receive the gift of diverse kinds of different kinds of tongues, pray in your heavenly language. And when you do that, that&#8217;s praying and praying with the Holy Spirit and praying in harmony with the Holy Spirit. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Jesus says I want you to know that as you go through these last days and experience suffering and even the pain of not having answers to deal with all of the major atrocities, rest assured when you&#8217;re in my arms in heaven, the pain of the last days will be forgotten because of the beauty of the glory that awaits you.</span></p> <p><iframe title="YouTube video player" src="" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe></p> We Go On The Front Porch urn:uuid:64f1c884-015e-8de9-9b53-5b3e94d729f4 Fri, 21 Jan 2022 08:06:08 -0600 <p>The Front Porch Podcast · We Go On</p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="">We Go On</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="">The Front Porch</a>.</p> <p><iframe loading="lazy" width="100%" height="166" scrolling="no" frameborder="no" allow="autoplay" src=";color=%23ff5500&#038;auto_play=false&#038;hide_related=false&#038;show_comments=true&#038;show_user=true&#038;show_reposts=false&#038;show_teaser=true"></iframe></p> <div style="font-size: 10px; color: #cccccc;line-break: anywhere;word-break: normal;overflow: hidden;white-space: nowrap;text-overflow: ellipsis; font-family: Interstate,Lucida Grande,Lucida Sans Unicode,Lucida Sans,Garuda,Verdana,Tahoma,sans-serif;font-weight: 100;"><a href="" title="The Front Porch Podcast" target="_blank" style="color: #cccccc; text-decoration: none;" rel="noopener">The Front Porch Podcast</a> · <a href="" title="We Go On" target="_blank" style="color: #cccccc; text-decoration: none;" rel="noopener">We Go On</a></div> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="">We Go On</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="">The Front Porch</a>.</p> This Present Apostasy The Front Porch urn:uuid:235ef7f9-de02-38bb-5cf6-aa03b21220c6 Wed, 19 Jan 2022 10:54:02 -0600 <p>Apostasy truly happens. Real people, once professing Christians, truly fall away from the faith. For many younger, more inexperienced Christians, apostasy seems like an ancient situation that rarely happens today....</p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="">This Present Apostasy</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="">The Front Porch</a>.</p> <p>Apostasy truly happens. Real people, once professing Christians, truly fall away from the faith.</p> <p>For many younger, more inexperienced Christians, apostasy seems like an ancient situation that rarely happens today. We see it in the New Testament. The Apostle writes in 2 Tim. 4:10, <em>&#8220;Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica.&#8221;</em> Even during our Lord&#8217;s earthly ministry, we read in the Gospels of disciples who &#8220;turned back and no longer followed Him&#8221; (John 6:66). Of course, there are stern warnings against falling away or apostasy throughout the New Testament (for ex, Heb. 6:4-8; 10:26-31; Matt. 13:20-21; Gal. 1:6-9; 1 Tim. 4:1; 2 Tim. 4:3-4; and 2 Pet. 2).</p> <p>But this is not merely an ancient problem. It is a contemporary problem as well. It happens in our day and it upsets the faith of some. In the last couple of years we&#8217;ve witnessed former pastors like Joshua Harris and former Christian hip hop artists like Eshon Burgundy and now Phanatik of Cross Movement fame leave the faith. There are many more, both known and unknown. Their particular circumstances and stories vary, but their departures are real.</p> <p>I tremble to say we are living in an era of apostasy. We may well wake up from the sleep of the pandemic to find our churches and Christian friendships significantly depleted because many are leaving or have left the faith.</p> <p>I am particularly concerned for Black Christians disoriented and discouraged by their sojourn in predominantly-white evangelical and fundamental spaces. Many are discovering that their long years disconnected from their native faith communities has left them unrooted. They may over-identify the Christian faith with white Christianity. After nearly a decade of disappointment and even opposition from some white Christians, they struggle to find their way home&#8211;not necessarily to the Black church but to Jesus, the Bible, and a more authentic faith. I&#8217;m not here talking about folks engaged in various forms of &#8220;deconstruction.&#8221; I&#8217;m talking about a more specific group of people who really are apostasizing.</p> <p><strong>The Reasons</strong></p> <p>The reasons for apostasy are many. No two cases are alike. So this isn&#8217;t to say that all of these things happen for any of the persons we know. But these are among the reasons I see in various cases.</p> <p style="padding-left: 40px;"><em><strong>1. No Roots in Trouble (Mark 4:17)</strong></em></p> <p>This reason comes from the Lord in the parable of the sower. He tells a story about seed (the word of God) being spread into different soils (the hearts of men) and producing different results. The Lord describes one result like this: <em>&#8220;<span id="en-ESV-24336" class="text Mark-4-16"><span class="woj">these are the ones sown on rocky ground: the ones who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy.</span></span></em><span id="en-ESV-24337" class="text Mark-4-17"><span class="woj"><em><sup class="versenum"> </sup>And they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away&#8221;</em> (Mark 4:16-17). Some people begin well but then turn away because of suffering for the word. </span></span></p> <p style="padding-left: 40px;"><em><strong>2. Choking on Worldliness (Mark 4:18-19)</strong></em></p> <p>In the same parable, our Lord tells of another apostate hearer. These are the stony ground hearers: <em>&#8220;<span id="en-ESV-24338" class="text Mark-4-18"><span class="woj">And others are the ones sown among thorns. They are those who hear the word,</span></span></em><span id="en-ESV-24339" class="text Mark-4-19"><span class="woj"><em><sup class="versenum"> </sup>but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful&#8221;</em> (Mark 4:18-19). It&#8217;s not suffering that trips up these professors; it&#8217;s wealth and ease. They desire riches and that desire chokes out the word. The word is unfruitful or ineffective in their lives and they turn away.</span></span></p> <p style="padding-left: 40px;"><em><strong>3. Professing Wisdom on the Way to Foolishness (Rom. 1:21-23; Ps 14:1; 1 Cor. 1:20-25).</strong></em></p> <p>Worldly wisdom causes others to turn away. They become deceived by the ideas of the world&#8217;s fallen system and are enticed from the truth. Paul warns of this several times. For example, Romans 1:21-23 says, &#8220;<span id="en-ESV-27936" class="text Rom-1-21">For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.</span><span id="en-ESV-27937" class="text Rom-1-22"><sup class="versenum"> </sup>Claiming to be wise, they became fools,</span><span id="en-ESV-27938" class="text Rom-1-23"><sup class="versenum"> </sup>and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.&#8221; Paul is describing Gentile unbelievers in this passage, but the same process of trusting worldly wisdom and becoming apostate or idolatrous fools with darkened hearts can be seen in apostate Christians. Consider 1 Cor. 1:20-25:</span></p> <blockquote> <p class="first-line-none top-1"><em><span id="en-ESV-28367" class="text 1Cor-1-20"><sup class="versenum">20 </sup>Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?</span> <span id="en-ESV-28368" class="text 1Cor-1-21"><sup class="versenum">21 </sup>For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.</span> <span id="en-ESV-28369" class="text 1Cor-1-22"><sup class="versenum">22 </sup>For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom,</span> <span id="en-ESV-28370" class="text 1Cor-1-23"><sup class="versenum">23 </sup>but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles,</span> <span id="en-ESV-28371" class="text 1Cor-1-24"><sup class="versenum">24 </sup>but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.</span> <span id="en-ESV-28372" class="text 1Cor-1-25"><sup class="versenum">25 </sup>For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.</span></em></p> </blockquote> <p>Here, Paul writes to a Christian church with some members really smitten by Greek wisdom. But such wisdom was the antithesis of God&#8217;s wisdom, seen most fully in the cross of Jesus Christ. That&#8217;s why he writes in Colossians 2:8, <em>&#8220;</em><span id="en-ESV-29486" class="text Col-2-8"><em>See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.&#8221;</em> Jesus Christ is the Christian&#8217;s wisdom and we are to &#8220;see to it&#8221; that we walk &#8220;rooted and built up&#8221; in Him (Col. 2:6). For worldly philosophy and wisdom sometimes pulls people out of the Church and into the world. Such persons end up joining the fools of Psalm 14:1 who say in their hearts, &#8220;There is no God.&#8221;</span></p> <p style="padding-left: 40px;"><em><strong>4. Disappointing Heroes and Communities </strong></em></p> <p>Disappointment tempts others to leave the faith. The disappointment may come from the actions or inactions of faith heroes. Perhaps they hear a John MacArthur or a Wayne Grudem wax nonsensical about oppression and justice and supporting Trump, and the wonder how can someone I&#8217;ve learned so much from be so devastatingly wrong and indifferent on matters that effect me so deeply. Or, maybe it&#8217;s been the opposite problem. They have a pastor that&#8217;s remained silent about justice and righteousness. They longed for the trumpet to make a clear sound, but it never did. Then there are those who have encountered outright opposition whenever they attempt to address race and justice. They are labeled all kinds of things, increasing their marginalization and disappointment. They have been disheartened to the point that leaving the faith seems not only feasible but right.</p> <p style="padding-left: 40px;"><em><strong>5. Deciding It’s Too Hard (John 6:60, 66).</strong></em></p> <p>In the midst of the things above and many others, some professing Christians decide that following Jesus is too hard. The requirements of faith exceed their willingness to follow the Lord. We have a memorable example of this in John 6. Our Lord just taught his disciples that He is the Bread of Life and that they must feed on Him by faith if they are going to have eternal life. John 6:60 records the response of some: <em>&#8220;When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?”</em> Just pressed in harder. In verses 66-67 we read, <em>&#8220;<span id="en-ESV-26312" class="text John-6-66">After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.</span></em><span id="en-ESV-26313" class="text John-6-67"><em><sup class="versenum"> </sup>So Jesus said to the twelve, &#8216;</em><span class="woj"><em>Do you want to go away as well?'&#8221;</em> The difference between the apostates and true disciples is the apostates &#8220;turned back and no longer walked with him&#8221; while the disciples, like Peter, answer, &#8220;Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the word of eternal life.&#8221; Some find following too hard and turn back. </span></span></p> <p style="padding-left: 40px;"><em><strong>7. Overconfidence (Mark 14:29).</strong></em></p> <p>Still others remain overconfident when it comes to the cost of discipleship. The Lord Jesus predicted that even the 12 would abandon him in the hour of his suffering and rejection. But, Peter boasted he would never do that even if everybody else did. The rooster crowed on ol&#8217; Peter and then he knew. With tears he knew that he, too, had abandoned the Lord. Sometimes temptation&#8211;even the temptation to apostasy&#8211;overcomes us because of our sinful overconfidence.</p> <p style="padding-left: 40px;"><em><strong>8. Returning to the law (Gal. 5:1-7).</strong></em></p> <p>We&#8217;re seeing in our community some people returning to the Law. That&#8217;s particularly the case for those drawn away by various Hebrew Israelite cults. But it&#8217;s a problem as old as the first letters in the New Testament, like Galatians. In Galatia, the principle issue was circumcision. In our communities, the principle issue is identity. But in either case, returning to the Law is not a solution but a falling. Paul writes to those who go back to the Law, &#8220;<span id="en-ESV-29150" class="text Gal-5-4"><em>You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.&#8221;</em> Severed from Christ. Fallen away from grace. </span></p> <p style="padding-left: 40px;"><em><strong>9. Unbelief (Heb. 3:12).</strong></em></p> <p>Last, the Bible points to unbelief as an underlying issue causing apostasy. <em>&#8220;Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God&#8221;</em> (Heb. 3:12). Unbelief never leads to spiritual success. The Bible regards unbelief as an evil and hard heart. The end result is apostasy, falling away from Jesus Christ and the salvation He gives through faith alone.</p> <p><strong>Why We Have the Bible</strong></p> <p>What&#8217;s striking to me about a number of cases of apostasy is that some of the persons leaving the faith attempt to strike a posture of intellectual enlightenment. They speak humbly enough in tone. But they almost always cast dispersions on faith and faithful followers of Jesus, and they almost always invite believers to a conversation with them about truth.</p> <p>The Bible never treats apostasy as an intellectually legitimate or reasonable stand. We need to be careful that we don&#8217;t assign credibility to a spiritual condition and posture that the Bible outright rejects as hard-hearted, evil, unbelieving, worldly, and foolish. And we need to be careful that we don&#8217;t forget that one of the main reasons Jesus came to teach us and one of the main reasons we have the Bible is <em>so that we would not fall away</em>. The Lord says in John 16:1, <strong><em>“I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away.&#8221;</em></strong></p> <p>It’s no wonder that apostasy usually begins with some kind of departure from the scriptures. A Christian without a Bible intake is a Christian without food. A malnourished Christian is too weak to withstand the assaults from without and the temptations from within. Some will fall away.</p> <p><strong>Why We Need a Local Church</strong></p> <p>We need each other in our local churches to finish this race. We need each other to open the word to one another so that the goal of the word (keep us from falling away) is fulfilled. Here&#8217;s how the writer to the Hebrews put it:</p> <blockquote><p><span id="en-ESV-29991" class="text Heb-3-12">Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, <em>leading you to fall away</em> from the living God.</span><span id="en-ESV-29992" class="text Heb-3-13"><sup class="versenum"> </sup>But <em>exhort one another every day</em>, as long as it is called “today,” <em>that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin</em>. <span id="en-ESV-29993" class="text Heb-3-14">For we have come to share in Christ, <em>if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.</em></span> (Heb. 3:12-14)</span></p></blockquote> <p>It&#8217;s no wonder that, for some, apostasy also begins with falling away from the fellowship of the local church. Who will exhort us every day and help keep us from the deceitfulness sin if we abandon the fellowship of God&#8217;s people? The world won&#8217;t. We must persevere until the end in order to receive the reward of Christ. Persevering is a team sport, beloved. We need each other.</p> <p><strong>Why We Need to Be Sober-Minded</strong></p> <p>Finally, we need to keep in mind how serious all of this is. Hebrews 6:14-16 tells us:</p> <blockquote><p><span id="en-ESV-30032" class="text Heb-6-4">For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit,</span> <span id="en-ESV-30033" class="text Heb-6-5">and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come,</span> <span id="en-ESV-30034" class="text Heb-6-6">and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.</span></p></blockquote> <p>Apostasy&#8211;genuine falling away&#8211;is fatal. It&#8217;s not something a person can recover from simply because they wish. The writer of Hebrews describes this as &#8220;impossible&#8230; to restore them again to repentance&#8221; and as a &#8220;crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.&#8221; As cordial and even reasonable as an apostate may sound, do not be deceived. They are expressing contempt for the Son of God and crucifying him to their own harm. Be sober-minded about that.</p> <p>But it doesn’t have to be this way. Apostasy doesn&#8217;t have to win. We don&#8217;t have to be victims of the present falling away. Beloved, stay at Christ’s feet. Believe Jesus more than you believe yourself. Believe the Bible more than you believe your doubts. Believe the wisdom of the word more than you believe the “wisdom” of the world.</p> <p><strong>Conclusion</strong></p> <p>Let me end with 1 John 2:18-25 as a kind of benediction.</p> <blockquote><p><span class="text 1John-2-18"><sup class="versenum">18 </sup>Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour.</span> <span id="en-ESV-30553" class="text 1John-2-19"><sup class="versenum">19 </sup>They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.</span> <span id="en-ESV-30554" class="text 1John-2-20"><sup class="versenum">20 </sup>But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge.</span> <span id="en-ESV-30555" class="text 1John-2-21"><sup class="versenum">21 </sup>I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and because no lie is of the truth.</span> <span id="en-ESV-30556" class="text 1John-2-22"><sup class="versenum">22 </sup>Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son.</span> <span id="en-ESV-30557" class="text 1John-2-23"><sup class="versenum">23 </sup>No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also.</span> <span id="en-ESV-30558" class="text 1John-2-24"><sup class="versenum">24 </sup>Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father.</span> <span id="en-ESV-30559" class="text 1John-2-25"><sup class="versenum">25 </sup>And this is the promise that he made to us—eternal life.</span></p></blockquote> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="">This Present Apostasy</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="">The Front Porch</a>.</p> What Now? The Front Porch urn:uuid:2eece9be-ed79-f9aa-6cb5-36209d74e21d Tue, 18 Jan 2022 08:59:39 -0600 <p>Yesterday, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, thirty-five saints gathered on Zoom to read and discuss the &#8220;Letter from a Birmingham Jail.&#8221; We were brothers and sisters of various ages, female...</p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="">What Now?</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="">The Front Porch</a>.</p> <p>Yesterday, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, thirty-five saints gathered on Zoom to read and discuss the &#8220;Letter from a Birmingham Jail.&#8221; We were brothers and sisters of various ages, female and male, representing different ethnicities and socio-economic status. There were college professors, security guards, campus workers, stay-at-home moms, IT types, retirees, and entry-level folks. For 2.5 hours we read a section of the letter then shared our reactions and questions.</p> <p>Of all the rich things shared, one question continues dancing in my mind. It surfaced at a couple of points during our discussion, asked with different words each time. The question is this: What now?</p> <p>It&#8217;s a question Dr. King himself dealt with in his own way in his work, <a href=""><em>Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?</em></a> His answers, over 50 years old, need reply from our own time and leaders.</p> <p>We live in the aftermath of the classic Civil Rights Movement. That means we live in the wake of its successes. African Americans&#8211;and many other groups&#8211;enjoy many more civil liberties than any of our forebears at any point in history. We may own property&#8211;and own it in any neighborhood. We may vote. We may walk down the street without bowing our heads and white people who pass by. We can directly and publicly challenge white Americans without fear of death, Klan raids, burning crosses, or lynchings. We can marry whomever we desire. We can attend public educational institutions or frequent public accommodations. All of these things and many more come to us as a result of the Civil Rights Movement and the work of leaders and foot soldiers like Dr. King.</p> <p>And yet, none of those opportunities are guaranteed or perfectly extended. Many of them are tenuous. We still face discrimination in real estate practices. Voting rights are currently under assault. Reactionary and racist sentiment, leading to mass shootings and other confrontations, is at a high in the post-Trump and post-Obama era. Police brutality was a fact of life during the Civil Rights era and it continues to be a problem today. The laws that opened access to public educational institutions are being rolled back in some cases. We live in the awkward and fragile tension of enjoying Civil Rights successes and having to maintain them.</p> <p>At the same time, our community is more diverse, dispersed, and disagreeing than the Civil Rights generation. This, too, is a blessing and a curse. The segregation and racism of the 19560s and earlier forced nearly all Black people into the same existential condition. Being marginalized almost without exception and through law meant we all simultaneously faced the same problems and perils. There was no way to be Black that did not involve negotiating the daily stultifying realities of Jim Crow. But nearly 40 years post the fall of Jim Crow, we no longer have (or feel ourselves to have) the same existential condition. Gone are the &#8220;whites only&#8221; and &#8220;colored&#8221; signs that quite literally signified the battle. Gone, in most places, are the variety of &#8220;tests&#8221; that took away the right the vote. Gone, too, are a lot of Black communities that were home to teachers, bankers, sanitation workers, riff raff, juke joint proprietors, doctors, lawyers, and the like. A lot of us now live in exclusive gated communities, suburbs, exurbs, and city neighborhoods&#8211;most of them integrated and predominantly white.</p> <p>Success in an individualistic capitalist society tends toward more individualism and less collective concern. So, now, the question &#8220;What now?&#8221; becomes quite difficult to answer.</p> <p>But answer it we must if we would be faithful stewards of the gains Dr. King&#8217;s generation produced. We must attain the same kind of strategic clarity they possessed. We must figure out the moral and symbolic issues that harness and focus our energies. We must rally together in meaningful and substantive ways and sustain a collective consciousness that reminds us that we &gt; me.</p> <p>Answering &#8220;what now&#8221; certainly can&#8217;t be done by one man doing something as banal as writing a blog post. It must be birthed by the community, the people affected. It must originate with our shared sense of need and fragility, hope and opportunity. It must have moral and symbolic resonance; it must be authentic to who we are and what we face <em>now</em>. It needs to be, if possible, an answer that has as much legitimacy with the brother on the block as the sister in the boardroom.</p> <p>And it need not be entirely about what White people did or do to Black people. Perhaps the next iteration of the Black struggle must take more seriously what Black people do to Black people&#8211;not in a way that denies any ongoing tensions between Black and White (or the State), but in a way that accepts responsibility for those problems that are our own making. We need an agenda that comes from <a href="">talking to each other</a> about <a href="">things that matter to us</a>.</p> <p>We need an agenda that can be seen and felt <em>locally</em>. So much of our discourse today centers on national events and Federal legislation. That has its place, of course. But it strikes me that there was something very local about the work of the SCLC and other Civil Rights groups. They were <em>in</em> Birmingham. They were <em>in</em> Memphis. They were <em>in</em> Chicago. They found those places and others to be very different places, with their own actors, with their own histories and events, and with their own strategies. We, on the other hand, live and serve in a much more disembodied culture of national news, social media, and &#8220;platform building.&#8221; The more disembodied we are, the more abstract and lacking in the earthiness of local color our agendas tend to be. Abstraction rarely produces traction.</p> <p>So, on the day following the MLK holiday, I&#8217;m left asking &#8220;What next?&#8221; I&#8217;m left wondering if we have enough of a sense of community and connectedness to be able to forge an agenda that heals, helps, and holds us together. I&#8217;m wondering if that agenda can be concrete enough locally to matter but compelling enough morally to move us nationally. I know there are better minds than my own thinking about these things. I pray today that their thoughts bear fruit in a new iteration of the struggle.</p> <p>So, what next? What now, beloved?</p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="">What Now?</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="">The Front Porch</a>.</p> Resurrecting with a Burning Yellow Fire (Part 2) The Front Porch urn:uuid:b607ce9a-15b2-35c9-ab30-cd0165e1ae80 Tue, 11 Jan 2022 05:55:00 -0600 <p>In Hybrida, Brooklyn Poet Laureate Tina Chang writes, “I’ve come to terms with the fact that I never truly confronted the full spectrum of race in my past, at least...</p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="">Resurrecting with a Burning Yellow Fire (Part 2)</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="">The Front Porch</a>.</p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In </span><a href=";keywords=hybrida&amp;qid=1641589479&amp;s=books&amp;sprefix=hybrida%2Cstripbooks%2C108&amp;sr=1-1"><span style="font-weight: 400;">Hybrida</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, Brooklyn Poet Laureate Tina Chang writes, “I’ve come to terms with the fact that I never truly confronted the full spectrum of race in my past, at least not enough. Race was never a vessel but a land that bled into the tide. It surged, carried me, and then I arrived at my body.”</span></p> <p><b>Awakening</b></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">After suffering the worst of the racial trauma and spiritual abuse of my time in white evangelicalism, I increased my own confrontation of race and struggled for flourishing for myself and my brothers and sisters. One of the ways I worked for this was by pushing for more equitable practices and inclusivity of people of color in leadership within the organization. The result was the formation of a “diversity team” along with a Black male colleague and a South Asian female colleague.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">There were warning signs from the beginning. After our first meeting, two white senior told me they had issues with how my Black colleague had said some things in the meeting and pressured me to tell him that he needed to change his tone in order to be “trusted” or just not be on the team.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">To be clear, </span><a href=",inclusion%20must%20understand%20how%20tone"><span style="font-weight: 400;">tone policing</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> like this is a function of white supremacy. Further, by going through me for communication, they made me the spokesperson for their anti-Blackness. With deep regret in hindsight, I gave in to their pressure in that situation. It hurt both me and my Black teammate. We repaired our relationship and worked extremely well together after that, but I don’t want to pass by how deeply ingrained anti-Blackness is in much of the Asian American community and how crucial it is for us to resist it. </span><a href=""><span style="font-weight: 400;">Frank H. Wu is right</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">: “If the integration of Asian Americans is not to further the segregation of African Americans, our abundance cannot be used to excuse their absence.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">This was a clear manifestation of the way white supremacy has formed racial hierarchy in the United States. Grace Ji-Sun Kim captures the history of this development well in </span><a href=";qid=1641589876&amp;sprefix=invisible+theolog%2Caps%2C115&amp;sr=8-1"><span style="font-weight: 400;">Invisible: Theology and the Experience of Asian American Women</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> when she says, “From the seventeenth century, American white supremacists (imported from the English, Spanish, French, and Dutch) viewed race as biologically determined rather than socially constructed. Race was based on skin color differences. Asians were labeled </span><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">yellow</span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;"> in the nineteenth century by the West. The color yellow was a racial marker that had been imbued with new meaning in relation to the white norm. Whites were at the top and Blacks were at the bottom of a fabricated, yet enforced, racial hierarchy.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">There is a long history of how this has perpetuated a deep wedge between the Black and Asian American communities, perhaps most famously in the </span><a href=""><span style="font-weight: 400;">LA riots of 1992</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> in the aftermath of the unbelievable acquittal of the 4 white LAPD officers who had </span><a href=""><span style="font-weight: 400;">brutally beaten Rodney King</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> as well as the </span><a href=""><span style="font-weight: 400;">shooting of 15-year old Latasha Harlins</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> by a Korean store owner. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">There is also a beautiful history of </span><a href=""><span style="font-weight: 400;">solidarity between Asian and Black Americans</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, but for our “diversity team,” the way our white leaders acted was a small microcosm of the white supremacist racial hierarchy of US society. Over 2 years, we submitted five formal proposals, an organization-wide survey on attitudes towards diversity, and had countless meetings, yet our senior white leaders had done nothing substantial, only speaking of their good intentions and trying to use me as a spokesperson to appease my Black and Brown teammates.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Then the </span><a href=""><span style="font-weight: 400;">massacre of Asian women</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> in Atlanta on March 16, 2021 happened. Even though I</span><span style="font-weight: 400;">—</span><span style="font-weight: 400;">and several other Asian American staff members</span><span style="font-weight: 400;">—</span><span style="font-weight: 400;">spoke up about how deeply the tragedy had impacted us, nothing was done or said by any senior white leader. I had finally had enough. As Tina Chang writes, “I’ve untied myself, uncuffed the arms and neck. I didn’t know I was hurt like that. I didn’t know there was a force pulling me downward toward bedrock, lulling me to sleep.” Soon afterwards, I began my exit.</span></p> <p><b>Ambition</b></p> <p><a href=""><span style="font-weight: 400;">Antony Alumkal</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, Associate Professor of Sociology of Religion at the Iliff School of Theology, describes and laments the complacency of Asian American evangelicals when he says in </span><a href=";sid=googleScholar&amp;v=2.1&amp;it=r&amp;linkaccess=abs&amp;issn=0095571X&amp;p=AONE&amp;sw=w&amp;userGroupName=anon%7Ec3745580"><span style="font-weight: 400;">a challenging essay</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> that “many second-generation Asian American Christians do not appear to be interested in developing their own contributions to Christian theology.” Instead, the fruit of our assimilation is that we prefer to utilize theologies articulated by white American evangelicals. Even now, many Asian American Christians continue trying to earn social acceptance through assimilation to whiteness by living under the </span><a href=""><span style="font-weight: 400;">white gaze</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, making white pastors and theologians their primary teachers, and attending majority-white evangelical churches that do not adequately address the systems and structures that perpetuate racial injustice.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Alumkal continues: “Creating a distinctly Asian American evangelical theology would require Asian Americans to step out of the comfortable certainty that the contemporary evangelical subculture promotes.” In other words, there needs to be an unassimilation that happens. There needs to be a death — to the “model minority” — so that we would resurrect with a burning </span><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">Yellow</span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;"> fire that means joining in the struggle towards collective liberation from the bonds of white supremacy.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">I want to acknowledge that there is certainly controversy in thinking about reclaiming “yellow” as something that describes Asian Americans. </span><a href=""><span style="font-weight: 400;">In a thought-provoking article</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, Kat Chow says, “</span><span style="font-weight: 400;">‘Yellow’ has long been considered noxious. To some, it&#8217;s on par with Chink, gook, nip or Chinaman. And yet. And </span><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">yet</span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;">. I sort of love yellow. The idea of calling myself yellow stirs in the pit of my stomach, the same place where bellyaches and excitement form. It feels at once radical and specific. Though it&#8217;s a slur — in fact, </span><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">because</span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;"> it&#8217;s a slur </span><span style="font-weight: 400;">–– I believe “</span><span style="font-weight: 400;">it&#8217;s the type of word that could force people to face its long, storied history of racism and resistance directly, every time they hear it.” </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Kat Chow calls back to the 1960s when </span><a href=""><span style="font-weight: 400;">“Asian American” was coined as a term of political advocacy</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, which is also a period often referred to as the “Yellow Power Movement” while also acknowledging how “Yellow” is a term that does not solve how Asian Americans are flattened in some way. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">However, she still says, </span><span style="font-weight: 400;">“In the pinnacle of the civil rights era, activists used yellow as a term of empowerment — a term they chose for themselves. In some ways, I&#8217;m still seeing that today&#8230;I don&#8217;t know if I&#8217;ll walk around in the world calling myself yellow — maybe to people who have similar experiences to mine; certainly not around people who&#8217;ve flung slurs at me.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Even so, having different words to choose from is itself a comfort. Having yellow in my arsenal makes me feel like my identity doesn&#8217;t hinge on just one thing — one phrase, one history or one experience.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">So whether it is expanding our vocabulary of empowerment to include “yellow” or intentionally identifying as “Asian American” with its original purpose of political advocacy and solidarity, increasingly more Asian Americans ought to consider these </span><a href=",of%20a%20more%20just%20society.&amp;text=Book%20recommendations%2C%20author%20interviews%2C%20editors'%20picks%2C%20and%20more."><span style="font-weight: 400;">words from Mari Matsuda</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">: “If white, historically, is the top of the racial hierarchy in America, and black, historically, is the bottom, will yellow assume the place of the racial middle? The role of the racial middle is a critical one. It can reinforce white supremacy if the middle deludes itself into thinking it can be just like white if it tries hard enough. Conversely, the middle can dismantle white supremacy if it refuses to be the middle, if it refuses to buy into racial hierarchy, if it refuses to abandon communities of Black and Brown people, choosing instead to form alliances with them.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In taking up Matsuda’s call to resist being the middle of the racial hierarchy, our collective ambition must be to put to death the dream of assimilation and the idol of being the “model minority”. However, the beauty of resurrection is seeing that the God of abundance wants us to join in the beautiful symphony of the collective cry for the flourishing of all peoples and ethnicities. It means divesting from “whiteness” and daring to make our own contributions to Christianity in a prophetic manner.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">For Asian American Christians, the irony of no longer centering white evangelicalism is that we find an even larger, global community that has already done the same, including Asian peoples in our countries of origin. Muriel Orevillo-Montenegro unpacks this in </span><a href=";keywords=the+jesus+of+asian+women&amp;qid=1641591910&amp;sprefix=the+jesus+of+asian+women%2Caps%2C106&amp;sr=8-1"><span style="font-weight: 400;">The Jesus of Asian Women</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, declaring that “Christology should not endorse the oppressive structures in culture, religion, and society by being silent and by hiding behind metaphysical concepts while the broad masses of Asian peoples, mostly adherents of Asian religions, suffer poverty, exploitation, and marginalization under the imperial powers of this world.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Tina Chang was right in saying, “Race was never a vessel but a land that bled into the tide. It surged, carried me, and then I arrived at my body.” Our resurrection is, in some ways, a return to the courageous and imaginative spirit of our immigrant ancestors.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">May more of our brothers and sisters be empowered to live into this spirit, captured well by </span><span style="font-weight: 400;">Đỗ Nguyên Mai</span><span style="font-weight: 400;"> in her poem entitled &#8220;Chinatown&#8221;:</span></p> <blockquote><p><span style="font-weight: 400;">We are the stars,</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">longing</span></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">to become signs illuminating</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">our way across every street. Our feet</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">pound red pins into cement cracks,</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">lay down pillars to a home –</span></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">we are the map</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">coloring</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">itself.</span></p></blockquote> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="">Resurrecting with a Burning Yellow Fire (Part 2)</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="">The Front Porch</a>.</p> Holier Than Thou: How God’s Holiness Helps Us Trust Him The Front Porch urn:uuid:f20d4aae-eb33-f165-b97b-31e4fd5d759c Mon, 10 Jan 2022 16:13:00 -0600 <p>In her timely new book, Holier Than Thou, Jackie Hill Perry points readers back to the grandeur and beauty of God in all of HIs Holiness. Louis and Clarence discuss the importance of her work for today's 21st century christian. </p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="">Holier Than Thou: How God&#8217;s Holiness Helps Us Trust Him</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="">The Front Porch</a>.</p> <p><iframe loading="lazy" width="100%" height="166" scrolling="no" frameborder="no" allow="autoplay" src=";color=%23ff5500&#038;auto_play=false&#038;hide_related=false&#038;show_comments=true&#038;show_user=true&#038;show_reposts=false&#038;show_teaser=true"></iframe></p> <div style="font-size: 10px; color: #cccccc;line-break: anywhere;word-break: normal;overflow: hidden;white-space: nowrap;text-overflow: ellipsis; font-family: Interstate,Lucida Grande,Lucida Sans Unicode,Lucida Sans,Garuda,Verdana,Tahoma,sans-serif;font-weight: 100;"><a href="" title="The Front Porch Podcast" target="_blank" style="color: #cccccc; text-decoration: none;" rel="noopener">The Front Porch Podcast</a> · <a href="" title="Holier Than Thou: How God&#x27;s Holiness Helps Us Trust Him" target="_blank" style="color: #cccccc; text-decoration: none;" rel="noopener">Holier Than Thou: How God&#x27;s Holiness Helps Us Trust Him</a></div> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="">Holier Than Thou: How God&#8217;s Holiness Helps Us Trust Him</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="">The Front Porch</a>.</p> Resurrecting with a Burning Yellow Fire (Part 1) The Front Porch urn:uuid:b16ae6e9-de76-e016-946f-05fa1e670209 Mon, 10 Jan 2022 06:53:53 -0600 <p>My mom and dad are bickering about who should order our dinner at the Wendy’s drive-thru. After working long hours at the post office, neither wants to deal with the...</p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="">Resurrecting with a Burning Yellow Fire (Part 1)</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="">The Front Porch</a>.</p> <p><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">My mom and dad are bickering about who should order our dinner at the Wendy’s drive-thru. After working long hours at the post office, neither wants to deal with the micro-aggression of their English being misunderstood. My dad is driving, so he ends up being the one who orders. From my view behind my mom in the passenger seat, I stare at his hand massaging the steering wheel like it is a stress ball, as if it is a lifeline to avoiding humiliation. With each squeeze of his hand, the memory of his discomfort embeds itself deeper into my memory.</span></i></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">I reflect on this memory from my childhood often, thinking about both the beautiful and terrible reality that was life for my parents as 1st-generation immigrants in this country. Looking back now, I see how courageous my dad was to do little things for our family in a different language, different country, and different culture that nobody else would see and that none of the white kids I grew up with would even understand.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">But that’s what I see now when I look back. At the time, what I learned was a racial self-hatred. In her book</span> <a href=""><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">Minor Feelings</span></i></a><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">,</span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;"> Cathy Park Hong describes racial self-hatred as “seeing yourself the way whites see you, which turns you into your own worst enemy.” I internalized shame–that it was somehow my parents’ fault that they didn’t have good enough English to be understood clearly–and I vowed that I was going to successfully fit in, no matter the cost.</span></p> <p><b>Assimilation</b></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">When I began working in 2014 for a majority-white organization that partners with local churches to train future missionaries, I was excited. Experiences of racial self-hatred had littered my life–from being told in school that Japanese Issei and Nisei deserved to be in incarceration camps after Pearl Harbor, to white peers using caricatures of Asian accents as humor, to basketball teammates reinforcing stereotypes that Asians aren’t athletic–so I thought I was finally going to have a way to fit in.</span></p> <p><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">“Finally,” </span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;">I thought,</span><i><span style="font-weight: 400;"> “I’ll finally be accepted and the pain I feel from anti-Asian racism will go away. Surely, if this is possible, it will be among other Christians, right? </span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;">Instead, I began to awaken to how white evangelicalism has perpetuated the racialization of Asian American Christians.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">I learned that to be accepted, I had to conform to the </span><a href=""><span style="font-weight: 400;">white expectation for East Asians</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> as subservient, hardworking, and emotionless. In terms of career development, I saw that the white evangelical church displayed a similar pattern to the corporate sector </span><a href=""><span style="font-weight: 400;">regarding the lack of Asian Americans in leadership positions</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">. And when I rejected their expectations, I was accused of having “poor character.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">To survive, I learned to tolerate colorblindness and allowed my coworkers to value my usefulness to their ministry instead of valuing </span><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">me</span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;">.</span><span style="font-weight: 400;"> However, </span><span style="font-weight: 400;">the consequences of this started to show up soon after.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">As Hong says, “The privilege of assimilation is that you are left alone. But assimilation must not be mistaken for power, because once you have acquired power, you are exposed, and your model minority qualifications that helped you in the past can be used against you, since you are no longer invisible.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Like a sheep being led to the slaughter, I would soon enter into environments and ways of thinking that left me vulnerable to spiritual abuse.</span></p> <p><b>Abuse</b></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In 2015, my white leaders approached me and said that because of my leadership potential, they wanted me to train potential missionaries at a white evangelical SBC megachurch in Dallas, boasting 15,000 people on an average Sunday. I voiced the strong hesitations I had about going into that kind of environment as a 23-year-old Asian American.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">That caused the same leaders to quickly reverse their story from talking about leadership potential to how I needed to submit to authority. According to them, </span><span style="font-weight: 400;">I needed to believe that they knew what was best and should just go along with the plan that they had for my life. They tried to back up that reasoning with Bible </span><span style="font-weight: 400;">verses including Romans 13:1, 1 Peter 2:13-14, and Hebrews 13:17. The problem isn’t relying on Scripture to guide our daily actions. That’s a good thing. The problem is using Scripture to make me out to be the problem for raising concerns about my wellbeing and dismissing those concerns in order to further the organization’s goals.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">To be clear, this was the beginning of spiritual abuse. I was not being antagonistic. I was not yelling. I was not cursing. I was simply asking questions about the environment they wanted to send me into, one of the primary reasons being who I am as an Asian American. They dismissed my concerns, said I was being difficult to lead, and used sacred words to coerce me into “submission.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">What I didn’t realize then was that this groomed me for further spiritual abuse. As Kyle J. Howard explains in a </span><a href=""><span style="font-weight: 400;">Twitter thread</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, “</span><span style="font-weight: 400;">the goal of ‘grooming’ is to cultivate a form of psychological &amp; emotional dependency on the part of their target. They want their target to depend solely on them &amp; see them as messianic. They want to isolate [their] target as much as possible so they can prey unencumbered.” </span><span style="font-weight: 400;">Though the term “grooming” is more commonly associated with sexual abuse, I was still being groomed for spiritual abuse by being formed into a theology where submission meant acquiescence and humility meant self-deprecation. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">During my time at that SBC megachurch in Dallas from 2015-2019, I experienced overtly racist situations like the </span><a href=""><span style="font-weight: 400;">white Christian nationalism</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> on full display during the 2016 national election where leaders and church members alike used the </span><a href=""><span style="font-weight: 400;">thinly veiled racist language</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> of “keeping out the criminal, illegal aliens who want to take our jobs.” For Asian Americans, this echoes the </span><a href=""><span style="font-weight: 400;">concept of the “yellow peril”</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> that led to horrific injustices against our community, such as </span><a href=""><span style="font-weight: 400;">the Chinese massacre of 1871</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, the </span><a href=""><span style="font-weight: 400;">incarceration of people of Japanese descent</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">—</span><span style="font-weight: 400;">including many U.S. citizens</span><span style="font-weight: 400;">—</span><span style="font-weight: 400;">during World War II, and the </span><a href=""><span style="font-weight: 400;">murder of Vincent Chin in 1982</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">When I brought these concerns about the church to my white leaders with my missions organization, their advice was always, “Just put your head down and work. Don’t cause trouble and don’t say anything.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The next church I served at from 2019-2020 was even worse. When I pointed out a typographical error regarding a calendar date in a department meeting, my white supervisor</span><span style="font-weight: 400;">—</span><span style="font-weight: 400;">a spiritual abuser</span><span style="font-weight: 400;">—</span><span style="font-weight: 400;">at the church made me out to be someone “trying to bend the church to my will” and “lacking the fruits of the Spirit” for pointing out that typo. I was mandated to go through months of biblical counseling with the care pastor at the church, which my abuser and the care pastor predetermined to be about correcting my “prideful” attitude.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">My spiritual abuser took it upon himself to spread the story of my “pride” and “insubordination” to the rest of the pastors and elders at the church as well as the white leaders with the missions organization I worked for. I had been successfully isolated from anyone who would have potentially been an advocate. The irony is that each leader that was told the story according to my spiritual abuser had the reaction, “That’s not the Roy that I know and have worked with,” yet their advice to me was still always, “Just don’t talk about it. It won’t go well for you. Just don’t say anything and don’t cause trouble.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">They didn’t defend me or stick up for me. They left me to the wolves for the sake of the organization’s reputation. My emotional and mental health slowly deteriorated, suffering from </span><a href=""><span style="font-weight: 400;">“death by a thousand cuts.”</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> I was left confused and anxious, wondering if there was anyone I could trust. It was as if I had suddenly taken the place of my dad massaging the steering wheel, desperate for something, anything, to be a lifeline.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">That this lifeline was offered to me in the form of Wade Mullen’s work in </span><a href=";qid=&amp;sr="><span style="font-weight: 400;">Something’s Not Right</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, Diane Langberg in </span><a href=";qid=1641588270&amp;sr=1-1"><span style="font-weight: 400;">Redeeming Power</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, and the voices of people of color, especially those of the Black community. In a time where my heart felt deadened and my soul felt betrayed, it was the voices of James Cone, James Baldwin, and bell hooks that breathed life back into me.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In hindsight, this juncture of my story is when I started to wonder if there was a better way for Black, Indigenous, and other people of color outside of white evangelicalism. For Asian Americans in particular, David L. Eng &amp; Shinhee Han write in </span><a href=";qid=1641588710&amp;sr=1-1"><span style="font-weight: 400;">Racial Melancholia, Racial Dissociation</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> that the “loss and depression attendant to social and psychic processes of immigration, assimilation, and racialization” lead to a collective psychic condition of unresolved grief for Asian Americans. It was from within this grief that I resolved to get free. Relating to the words of James Baldwin, this was the moment “I had abandoned the ministry in order not to betray myself by betraying the ministry.” A death had happened in me, but resurrection was just beginning.</span></p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="">Resurrecting with a Burning Yellow Fire (Part 1)</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="">The Front Porch</a>.</p> Building Intentional Solidarity The Front Porch urn:uuid:3e31a10e-b13c-bd9a-57a8-849b14925b0a Thu, 06 Jan 2022 06:59:15 -0600 <p>The recognition of our mutual worth and value has historically been what has galvanized the Black community towards collective action, even when those involved had major differences between them.</p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="">Building Intentional Solidarity</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="">The Front Porch</a>.</p> <div class="page" title="Page 9"> <div class="section"> <div class="layoutArea"> <div class="column"> <p><em><strong>Editor’s Note:</strong></em> <em>This is the final in a four-part series exploring</em> <em>“the seductive nature of white supremacy” and Black Christian identity and faith. You can find the other entries at the following links: part 1, “<a href="">The Hound of Hell;</a>” part 2, “<a href="">Breaking White Supremacy’s Grip;</a>” and part 3, &#8220;<a href="">Black Freedom in Christ</a>.&#8221; </em></p> <hr /> <blockquote><p><em>“Heal before you help. When you’re healed, you tell the story differently.”</em></p> <p>&#8211; Lisa Fields, Jude 3 Project</p></blockquote> <p>I had been to many other church conferences before this one. You likely know these conferences well. They would be hosted by a popular parachurch ministry at a large predominantly White megachurch or convention center, hosted by a team of White church leaders, made up of mostly White speakers, and attended by mostly White churchgoers. You’d walk in amongst a crowd of eager attendees excited to hear their favorite White pastor-theologian preach and their favorite Black Christian Hip-Hop artist perform. A sea of booths setup by predominantly White organizations, colleges, and seminaries would usually greet you in the lobby with free pamphlets, free books, free pens, and stickers, and notepads, and whatever else might entice you to visit their table. Most likely there would be a makeshift bookstore with a plethora of books written by a favorite celebrity pastor or on the latest controversy in the church. A few Black faces may be scattered throughout. There may be a Black host who kept you entertained in-between speakers, or a Black singer to help lead worship. There may be a Black organization set up here or there or a few Black authors scattered throughout the bookstore. The one Black speaker—if there is one— may even be speaking on a topic unrelated to race if they are able to make it to the main stage rather than relegated to a breakout session. While I often enjoyed the booths, the worship, the preaching, the breakouts, and marked down books—especially the marked down books— it was always as if I was doing the work to find something to take back with me. I felt like Denzel at the Oscars: “I’m leaving here with something!” Very rarely would I attend a conference like this and ever get the slightest impression that it was for me.</p> <p>I hadn’t yet moved to Chicago when I attended a conference in the city’s historic southside neighborhood of Hyde Park. I remember the excitement I had knowing, even before I got there, that I was attending a Christian conference for me. It was organized by a Black-led organization and would have a predominantly Black audience. I would be able to listen to preaching from Black men and Black women and hear songs lead by Black worship leaders. We didn’t meet in a grand church or convention center, but a historic Black church in a historic Black neighborhood. It meant more that way. When you entered the old doors, you felt the floors creek beneath your feet. You could see and smell in the walls and the carpet the evidence of a time-tested local church. And almost immediately, rather than feeling alone, you felt loved. You felt like you were right where you were supposed to be and that your presence was valued. You heard and saw your presence celebrated in the laughter and embraces of the people around you. Here, you didn’t have to worry about what you were going to take back with you. No, the people and preaching and singing and whooping would grab you. I know it did me. It filled me with joy and led me to praise. Just being in the room made me clap and made me sway. But even still there was something more than just good worship and good preaching to be found. There was a Spirit at work; the Spirit of the Black church. It was the Spirit that comforted me in my sorrow and released all the bottled-up tension in my body. It was the Spirit that grabbed me and shoved a word in my mind and in my heart to take with me. It was a place where, only a few minutes away from my family’s apartment now, I felt like home. I felt free.</p> <p><strong>Centering Our Community</strong></p> <p>2019 was an important year for our community. For those of us who found ourselves wondering in the wilderness after coming to terms with— or just being plain tired of the insufficient witness of their predominantly White Christian community, there were finally opportunities to escape. In May, The Front Porch hosted the Just Gospel conference under the theme “Reconcile Us, O Lord.” That summer, the Jude 3 Project held “Courageous Conversations,” a conference that hosts discussions between Black Christians from both conservative and progressive backgrounds. And in October, The Witness: A Black Christian Collective hosted its national conference which celebrated Black “Joy and Justice&#8221; 400 years after 1619. Without the need for our explanation, these sacred spaces recognized our mutual worth and value. They understood that our solidarity needed cultivation in collaboration and relationship with one another. They provided us with a communal balm and escape; an intentional solidarity with other Black Christians, regardless of the context of their worship. They were testaments, in real-time, that we truly are more than a reaction to White presence. And they reminded us now of the possibility of our collective flourishing when we value those who share our wounds. We gathered not knowing the explosion of hatred that was to come. And we left not knowing it would be our last time together for some time. As I reflect on our collective experiences we’ve had and the work we must do to rebuild the basis of our dignity on the love of Christ, I am increasingly thankful for the community of Black Christians that is being expanded around us. I am reminded of the importance of cultivating intentional solidarity. But I am also reminded that such solidarity will take real work. It will take more courageous conversations, more celebration, more joy and more justice as we seek to participate in the reconciling of God&#8217;s people here on earth.</p> <p>In doing so, we must take heed of Howard Thurman&#8217;s words and be careful that our hatred does not become the foundation on which we rebuild the basis for our own sense of dignity. In our hatred, we can be quick to justify in ourselves that which we would normally condemn in others– what Thurman calls “disciplined hatred.” Disciplined hatred keeps us from recognizing our own moral responsibility. To avoid developing a disciplined hatred in our own lives, we must exercise the love ethic of Jesus to our neighbors. And not only towards the neighbors who are the sources of our injury and in positions of strength in White Christian spaces, as is often the preferred focus of flawed racial reconciliation rhetoric, but towards those who share our wounds and our racial trauma. In doing this we will find, as Thurman calls it, a “life-affirming” posture towards other Black Christians that recognizes their mutual worth and value and refuses to demonize them based on the communities they’re associated with. After all, the recognition of our mutual worth and value has historically been what has galvanized the Black community towards collective action, even when those involved had major differences between them. Historic examples of justice minded solidarity within the Black community include the organizations formed in the face of racial terror and injustice. Whether it be the American Negro Academy, the NAACP, and the Niagara Movement of the early 1900’s or SNCC, CORE, and the SCLC during the Black Freedom Struggle, Black people have long produced imaginative organizations when we most need them. And in the last decade, the imaginative organizations produced within the Black Christian community are no different.</p> <p>Through platforms like The Front Porch, Jude 3 Project, The Witness, Truths Table, The Institute for Cross Cultural Mission, the Black Christian Experience Resource Center, Be The Bridge, United? We Pray, and The Call &amp; Response Conference, among others, the spiritual health and collective flourishing of Black people is centered. As we move forward, we must continue to focus our resourcefulness on the intentional solidarity being built in these spaces so that our creative expressions can flourish into great ideas for the betterment of Black people everywhere. This solidarity, however, is not an end in and of itself. It is a pathway towards something greater— redemption. And God willing, as we journey along the pathway of solidarity, we will find healing, restoration, and freedom from White supremacy’s grip. In <em>Race Matters</em>, Dr. Cornel West writes, “that which fundamentally motivates one still dictates the terms of what one thinks and does.” As we reflect on the seductive nature of White supremacy, and seek to establish an intentional solidarity with other Black Christians, we must ask ourselves what motivates us? Are we motivated by hatred, or by our freedom in Christ?</p> </div> </div> </div> </div> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="">Building Intentional Solidarity</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="">The Front Porch</a>.</p> Black Freedom in Christ The Front Porch urn:uuid:d6d7dd74-e7fa-2434-dd09-9d3ed5e48c48 Wed, 05 Jan 2022 09:52:32 -0600 <p>To avoid succumbing to a spirit of hatred, we must submit our hearts to the freedom we’ve been given in Christ.</p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="">Black Freedom in Christ</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="">The Front Porch</a>.</p> <div class="page" title="Page 6"> <div class="section"> <div class="layoutArea"> <div class="column"> <p><em><strong>Editor’s Note:</strong></em> <em>This is the third in a four-part series exploring</em> <em>“the seductive nature of white supremacy” and Black Christian identity and faith. Part 1, “<a href="">The Hound of Hell</a>,” asks: How, then, do Black Christians currently in, or coming out of, White Christian spaces maintain our hope in the face of a coercive self-hatred and of bitterness, hostility, and despair? We take up part of the answer now. Part 2, &#8220;<a href="">Breaking White Supremacy&#8217;s Grip</a>,&#8221; calls the Black Christian to resistance against White supremacy. </em></p> <hr /> <p><strong>INTRODUCTION</strong></p> <blockquote><p>Anger is not inherently destructive. My anger can be a source for good. My anger can be creative and imaginative, seeing a better world that doesn&#8217;t yet exist. It can fuel a righteous movement towards justice and freedom.</p> <p>&#8211; Austin Channing Brown, <em>I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness</em></p></blockquote> <p>Conversations about race in the church oftentimes suffer from an unwillingness to fully renounce the entire legacy of White supremacy. Meaning, they often center the benefits of reconciliation and forgiveness for the majority while hardly ever discussing benefits and potential pitfalls for the marginalized. What I deeply appreciate about Howard Thurman’s insight is its clear application beyond such majority-centering talk. He speaks directly to the disinherited, offering instruction for all those who find themselves in a weakened state. Thurman posits that the deadly and bitter fruit hatred bears is “blind and nondiscriminating.” While hatred begins by focusing on those responsible for the offense, Thurman makes it clear, “once hatred is released it cannot be confined to the offenders alone.” This reality has important implications for Black Christians.</p> <p>One danger of a hatred-informed fight against the insufficient witness of White Christian spaces is the repeated centering of White institutions. Focusing our efforts on reforming particular institutions may pose as advocacy, but such efforts can sometimes fail to speak to the Black Christians most directly affected by an insufficient institutional witness. And, sometimes, a hatred towards White institutions boils over into the demonization of Black actors in them. On the other hand, one danger of a hatred-informed posture towards the Black Christian expression is an elevation of Whiteness that demonizes the diverse streams of the Black Christian expression, of Black theology, and of Black-led social movements. In either scenario, the centering of Whiteness is evident. And neither bodes well for an intentional Black solidarity that aims to see Black people thrive. To avoid succumbing to a spirit of hatred, we must submit our hearts to the freedom we’ve been given in Christ.</p> <p><strong>Freedom and Hatred</strong></p> </div> </div> </div> </div> <div class="page" title="Page 7"> <div class="section"> <div class="layoutArea"> <div class="column"> <p>Our freedom in Christ frees us from being captive to a spirit of hatred. We see the dangers that such a captivity to sin presents for us in Galatians 5:7-9. With reference to Hebrews 12:15 and Deuteronomy 29:18— where both persons and doctrines produce bitter fruit— we are reminded of the poisonous nature of desires rooted in our flesh and their tendency to influence our immediate community. Such toxicity blinds us from recognizing the necessity of being watchful over our faith so that we may faithfully pursue the holiness of God both individually and communally. Thurman knew this, and for the disinherited who’ve been delivered from the chains of hatred by the blood of Jesus, he saw forgiveness as the key to exercising the love of God.</p> <blockquote>[The disinherited are] penalized for what [they are] in the eyes and standards of another. Somehow, [they] must free [themselves] of the will to retaliation that keeps alive [their] hatred. &#8230;It is clear that before love can operate, there is a necessity for forgiveness of injury perpetuated against a person by a group.</p></blockquote> <p>The forgiveness of our sins through Christ’s death and resurrection frees us from our captivity in sin. And this forgiveness demands that we forgive others (Matthew 18:21-35). We go from being a slave to sin to being called to a righteousness that “leads to sanctification and its end eternal life” (Romans 6:17-18). We are called from a life that gratifies the desires of the flesh to walk by the Spirit of God, marked by a particular fruit of which love is a portion (Gal. 5: 13-26).</p> <p><strong>Freedom and Forgiveness</strong></p> <p>Freedom in Christ, then, provides the Black Christian with the capacity to forgive injury in White Christian spaces. This forgiveness certainly does not nullify accountability. It does, however, submit to the justice of God. Recall Jesus&#8217; act of forgiveness in Luke 23. In that moment, Jesus’ forgiveness “does not rule out justice,” as Dr. Esau McCaulley says in <em>Reading While Black</em>, “it speaks to what happens afterward.” The “afterward” McCaulley references is the resurrection— where death is defeated and the Christian finds hope. Jesus’ act of forgiveness on the cross prior to his coming resurrection gives us reason for hope, and, thus, the capacity to forgive. And when we struggle with this reality of forgiveness, or find ourselves in a discouraged state, Thurman provides us with an exhortation:</p> <blockquote><p>At the moment of injury or in the slow burning fires of resentment this may be poor comfort. This is the ultimate ground in which a profound, unrelieved injury is absorbed. When all other means have been exhausted, each in his own tongue whispers, ‘There is forgiveness with God.’</p></blockquote> </div> </div> </div> </div> <div class="page" title="Page 8"> <div class="section"> <div class="layoutArea"> <div class="column"> <p>In fact, the freedom that comes from the path towards forgiveness drastically changes our advocacy for Black people in our pursuit of racial justice and racial unity. When the posture of our heart is bent towards walking in the Spirit, we begin to see our circumstances through a different lens. This transformed transcendence helps us see the pitfalls of a hatred-filled advocacy and redeems our response to racial trauma (i.e., repeated and untreated–personal or second hand–incidents of racism).[1] As the scars from Jesus&#8217; crucifixion remained with him after the resurrection, the wounds we have from our racial trauma remain with us forever. But these wounds serve a purpose. They remind us of what we have suffered, and they act as a testament— to ourselves and others— of the healing power of God.</p> <p>This transformation, however, does not guarantee for us an instant or permanent healing here on earth. When we have been traumatized by the evils of racism and White supremacy— when we witness injustice or begin advocating for our fellow man— it is almost inevitable that we will remember our own trauma. I was recently reminded of the all too painful reality of such protracted trauma— trauma that has a long term impact— by Dr. Waltrina Middleton. Middleton, who has provided insightful <a href="">pushback</a> against mainstream rhetoric on forgiveness, speaks of a narrative that describes many White Christian spaces&#8217; approach to forgiveness.[2] From her own experience, she shared of being silenced, pitted against another victim of violent trauma, marginalized in her suffering, having her personal narrative suppressed, and being rushed into forgiveness as an act of being a “good Christian.” Far too many Black people in White Christian spaces have been subjected to this violent and sinful practice. In an <a href="">interview</a> with <em>Faithfully Magazine</em> following the Charleston church massacre, Middleton posed a question vital for all Black Christians who have suffered from racial trauma in White Christian spaces:</p> </div> </div> <div class="layoutArea"> <div class="column"> <blockquote><p>How do we get to a place of healing when we’re not even granted permission to lament and even take ownership of our own narrative?</p></blockquote> <p><strong>Freedom to Heal</strong></p> <p>Whether we leave or stay, maintaining ownership of our narrative is essential to finding healing from the wounds of racial trauma. This means we are not required to rush past our lament towards some pseudo-healing that is based on others comfort and expectations. In our own healing process, it is our own wounds that help to inform our love for other Black people who experience racial trauma. Through our own wounds we are equipped to serve others in love as we follow our respective paths towards restoration— lamenting with one another along the way.</p> <div class="page" title="Page 9"> <div class="section"> <div class="layoutArea"> <div class="column"> <p>Freedom in Christ does not mean that we will not boil with anger in response to the sin of injustice. As Natasha Sistrunk Robinson writes, “anger is an appropriate response to sin because sin makes God angry. The wrestling within our souls is what to do with our righteous anger.&#8221; Through the Spirit of God we find the strength to resist walking in bitterness and hostility. This freedom makes room for forgiveness so that we may walk in the fullness of God&#8217;s love. For it is in forgiveness, as Thurman writes, that we “learn how to destroy [hatred in order to] to render [ourselves] immune to its domination.” The Spirit of God redirects our anger away from hatred and towards a righteous indignation.</p> <hr /> <p><strong>Notes</strong></p> </div> </div> </div> </div> [1] Sheila Wise Rowe, <a href=""><em>Healing Racial Trauma</em></a> (Downer&#8217;s Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press; 2020).</p> [2] &#8220;<a href="">Black &amp; Asian Christians United Against Racism</a>.&#8221; A panel discussion hosted by the Asian American Christian Collaborative.</p> </div> </div> </div> </div> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="">Black Freedom in Christ</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="">The Front Porch</a>.</p> What Y’all Talking ‘Bout? The Front Porch urn:uuid:24da229d-3cd3-6f2c-5404-0ab0eaf8cdcc Tue, 04 Jan 2022 13:16:20 -0600 <p>We need to talk talk so we can heal our brokenness with the resources of a new identity and a new heart in the gospel. We need to talk talk because we got work we need to do that absolutely no other community is willing to do for us or can do for us.</p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="">What Y&#8217;all Talking &#8216;Bout?</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="">The Front Porch</a>.</p> <p>&#8220;What y&#8217;all talkin&#8217; &#8217;bout?&#8221;</p> <p>It&#8217;s another one of those comments that might get you shut down in a Black home. Children are <em>never</em> to ask this of adults. The reply comes swiftly: &#8220;This grown folks talking. Go outside and play somewhere.&#8221; I always chuckled at the use of &#8220;<em>somewhere</em>&#8221; in that sentence. It suggests <em>any</em> place will do even though we know full well that going <em>some</em> places would get your butt whupped for a whole different reason. Kids are never to be &#8220;all up in grown folks&#8217; faces&#8221; when grown folks are talking.</p> <p>But even between adults, the question isn&#8217;t always welcomed. Asking &#8220;what y&#8217;all talking &#8217;bout&#8221; proves you&#8217;re nosey. You dibblin&#8217; and dabblin&#8217; in other folks&#8217; business. &#8220;A&#8221; and &#8220;B&#8221; were having a conversation and you&#8217;re trying to &#8220;C&#8221; your way in. The answer is always, &#8220;C your way <em>out</em>.&#8221; Some conversations are private, intramural. They don&#8217;t need observers and eavesdroppers. As Adam and Eve learned in the garden, forbidden knowledge actually exists and consequences of being in other people&#8217;s business can be devastating.</p> <p>Defining the limits of knowledge and inclusion happens at a group level, too. There are things groups of people need to talk about <em>as groups of people</em>. It&#8217;s <em>their</em> business. Intruders aren&#8217;t welcome&#8211;necessarily so, because outside groups show a remarkable ability to miss the point, inject themselves, and piss everybody off.</p> <p>But what happens when it&#8217;s not outsiders trying to join the conversation but other members of the group, yet &#8220;see your way out&#8221; remains the response? How does the community process its pains, discuss its disagreements, or plan its future when some members of the community are forbidden access? How can we not only figure out what others <em>are</em> talking about but also what we all <em>need</em> to talk about but aren&#8217;t if most of our conversations are actually clique-based chatter?</p> <p>And how can we have much-needed conversations if we don&#8217;t have a meeting place&#8211;virtual or real&#8211;where we gather to discuss? Is there a Mars Hill, an Areopagus, or a hall of Tyrannus where we can daily reason together? If we are clear on <a href="">who we are talking to</a>, we still need a <em>place</em> where we can talk. Beyond our cliques. Outside our silos. Yet within our people. Where is that for Black folks <em>en masse</em>? I&#8217;ve been casually trying to discover this place for the last several years without success. Do y&#8217;all know? And if so, what y&#8217;all talking about over there?</p> <p>Because, beloved, we need to talk. Real talk. Not the Twitter length hot take. Not the semi-coherent thread fired off in response to the latest pop culture incident. Not the subtweet that manages to stir the pot without adding any ingredients. We need to <em>talk</em> talk. About serious things. About things that cause us so much pain we barely want to mention it to each other much less in mixed company. About the things we would rather revoke a person&#8217;s &#8220;Black card&#8221; over than actually listen, learn, and risk the in-group &#8220;other&#8221; might be right about. At least in part. We need to talk because we become too good at <em>not</em> talking.</p> <p>For example, we need to <em>talk</em> talk about violence in our communities. To narrow the focus a little, let&#8217;s just talk about gun violence in our community. Gunfire in my neighborhood happens about as often as you go to the gas station to fill up your car. I know that&#8217;s not true in every Black community, but it is true in too many Black communities. According to the violence prevention organization <a href="">Everytown</a>, compared to White Americans, African Americans experience 10 times the gun homicides, 18 times the gun assault injuries, and nearly 3 times the fatal police shootings. In large cities like mine, African Americans make up 68% of homicide victims. Let&#8217;s put this in raw numbers, actual lives. <em>Every day</em>, 26 brothers and sisters are killed by guns. Every day. And <em>every day</em> 104 brothers and sisters experience non-fatal shooting injuries. Every. Day.</p> <p>Now, when this subject comes up, the political lines and perspectives get drawn pretty quickly. Some people will focus almost entirely on the incidents of police mistreatment, brutality and killing. You can&#8217;t talk to that group until you concede all these points or points about large scale systemic issues that contribute to violence in certain neighborhoods. Others will zero in on the so-called &#8220;black on black&#8221; rates of violence. They will point to what they see as personal and cultural pathologies that lead to such high numbers of intra-group violence. As with the first group, you can&#8217;t get a hearing from this group until you concede that everything comes down to individual responsibility. This polarity exists <em>within</em> the Black community not just in Black-White dialogue.</p> <p>These are tired lines of demarcation. They do more to stop real talk than to help it. We know the talking points already. We know when this &#8220;debate&#8221; will cease to be civil; we can feel it in our bones. We also know something else. We aren&#8217;t talking to each other and we aren&#8217;t listening. And for that reason, we also aren&#8217;t honest.</p> <p>If we were going to be honest, we&#8217;d have to admit that the disease of gun violence is a peculiarly American disease. No other country has such a love affair with guns and a repeatedly proven willingness to shrug at the carnage that happens with every mass shooting, school shooting, and intimate partner violence shooting. Americans, in too high a number, love their guns more than they love their neighbors.</p> <p>And if we are going to <em>talk</em> talk, we have to admit that African Americans <em>are Americans</em>. We are not exempt from this disease, this self-poisoning love of guns. We glamorize guns as much as Americans at large. Guns <em>star</em> in our movies, our music, and our imaginations about conflict. For all of our decrying of America and its self-destructive attachment to these weapons of mass destruction, <em>we are America</em>.</p> <p>And if are going to <em>talk</em> talk, we need to admit that when it comes to gun violence something in us is very broken. Here, I need you to forget for a moment that some white people might be reading this post. We ain&#8217;t talking to them. We ain&#8217;t seeking their approval. Their opinion doesn&#8217;t matter. This is <em>us</em> talking. <em>&#8220;C&#8221; your way in, brothers and sisters</em>. We are broken broken. Broken by this country? Yes. Broken by poverty and policy? Yes. Broken in some cases by generations of struggle and trauma? Yes. Yes. Those things need to be given their full and just accounting, otherwise we would be broken <em>and lost</em>. I&#8217;m here for those discussions and I think that analysis is absolutely vital. But our brokenness is <em>deeper</em> than the circumstances and accidents of history that brought us here.</p> <p>I don&#8217;t mean that only Black people are broken. All people&#8211;individuals and groups&#8211;are broken. But when we say that everyone is broken, have we said much? Have we given ourselves a chance to do anything useful when we only acknowledge the general condition to be true? No. We need to go on to describe the particular form brokenness takes in an individual or a group of people. We must delve deep enough into the patterns and tendencies the brokenness takes if we ever hope to see healing. We need to talk about our specific tragedies, our particular traumas, our unique brokenness so that we can offer specific remedies, particular analysis, and unique solutions.</p> <p>Beloved, we are so broken that <em>some</em> of us don&#8217;t recognize some others of us as human. We are so broken that we comply with our own extermination. We are so broken that our hatred for what happens <em>to</em> us has been turned into hatred <em>toward</em> us. Too many of us have imbibed the anti-Black cocktail that defines so much of America. Intoxicated with that moonshine we are shooting each other at alarming rates. Too few even care because in these last days the love of many has grown cold (Matt. 24:12). We need to talk about the demonically-inspired levels of self-hatred that result in some of our youngest people taking the lives of other young people seemingly without qualm. We need to talk about the demonically-inspired levels of self-hatred that result in Black men taking the lives of Black women, their intimate partners, as if those women were mere things to be thrown away. We need to explore, unearth, and by God&#8217;s grace <em>heal</em> this deep brokenness in us. Until we do, gun violence and gun deaths will be a feature of Black life in America. Most of the time it will be Black hands holding the gun even if it was a White supremacist anti-Black ideology directing it.</p> <p>Can we talk about the need for churches that will commit themselves to the intentional constructive repair of Black minds, hearts, and identities? We need churches that do soul work, deep soul work that heals the other-inflicted and self-inflicted wounds of a fundamentally anti-Black world. We need them desperately. We need churches involved in this work because no other institution has a mandate to do so. No other institution has the belief that the problem is that deep.</p> <p>What y&#8217;all talking about wherever you gather to talk? Are you talking about the same old issues in the same old ways? Or have you found a place and a people with whom you can <em>talk</em> talk? We need to <em>talk</em> talk so we can heal that brokenness with the resources of a new identity and a new heart in the gospel. We need to <em>talk</em> talk because we got work we need to do that absolutely no other community is willing to do for us or can do for us. Gun violence is but one thing we need to talk about. There are many others.</p> <p>I don&#8217;t mind if you ask me what I&#8217;m talking about. I got some things on my mind and heart. We need a place where we can talk. That&#8217;s what The Front Porch is for.</p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="">What Y&#8217;all Talking &#8216;Bout?</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="">The Front Porch</a>.</p> Breaking White Supremacy’s Grip The Front Porch urn:uuid:b3e6331b-3560-8660-98f3-00fc064477cf Tue, 04 Jan 2022 07:30:35 -0600 <p>Breaking free from the grip of White supremacy requires our resistance. It means unlearning the harmful legacy of White Christian communities that would have you believe the Black church and Black theology are inferior. </p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="">Breaking White Supremacy’s Grip</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="">The Front Porch</a>.</p> <div class="page" title="Page 4"> <div class="section"> <div class="layoutArea"> <div class="column"> <p><em><strong>Editor&#8217;s Note:</strong></em> <em>This is the second in a four-part series exploring</em> <em>“the seductive nature of white supremacy” and Black Christian identity and faith. Part 1, &#8220;<a href="">The Hound of Hell</a>,&#8221; asks: How, then, do Black Christians currently in, or coming out of, White Christian spaces maintain our hope in the face of a coercive self-hatred and of bitterness, hostility, and despair? We take up part of the answer now.</em></p> <hr /> </div> </div> </div> </div> <div class="page" title="Page 6"> <div class="section"> <div class="layoutArea"> <div class="column"> <p><em>“Bitterness is a beast. It warps us. Stay soft, friends.”</em> &#8211; Ekemini Uwan</p> <p>In recent years, movements for Black lives and manifestations of White supremacy have acted as catalysts for conversations about the collective experiences of racial and ethnic minorities in White Christian spaces. In response to the apathetic postures of White Christian spaces, many Black Christians are understandably responding by personally deciding, or actively promoting others, to leave White churches and organizations. Yet for others, leaving is not the only option. There are those who choose to stay.</p> <p>Whether we leave or stay, we all can cycle through what is described as the “encounter” stage in our racial identity development–a scale authored in part by William E. Cross to measure an individual’s attitudes about their racial identity. Initially referred to as the psychology of “nigrescense” (i.e. “to become black”), this scale maps the attitudes Black people may have about their Black identity across five stages.<a href="#_ftn1" name="_ftnref1"><sup>[1]</sup></a> The first two stages, however, are especially relevant for us as we engage the theme of hatred. In the first stage, the pre-encounter stage, it is common for Black people to hold one of two types of attitudes—either explicit negative attitudes about being Black (i.e. self-hatred) or an assimilatory posture towards being American that considers one’s Black identity of little importance.<a href="#_ftn2" name="_ftnref2"><sup>[2]</sup></a> <a href="#_ftn3" name="_ftnref3"><sup>[3]</sup></a> In either case, as Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum says, “stereotypes, omissions, and distortions are breathed in” by Black people.<a href="#_ftn4" name="_ftnref4"><sup>[4]</sup></a></p> <p>The second stage is the encounter stage. In this stage, an event or series of events force Black people to acknowledge the reality of racism in our immediate context. This acknowledgement causes us to reassess our relationship with our social group—the Black community. The challenge in the encounter and post-encounter stages is to break the grip of the pre-encounter stage (characterized by a desire to assimilate to majority culture) and move on to develop healthy attitudes toward our own racial identity and a part in the shared community of other Black persons. Breaking the grip of the pre-encounter stage includes breaking free from the grip of White supremacy—the lie that White people and their culture are superior to that of Black people and Black culture. It is a vital step for us as Black Christians if we are to reimagine our place in the broader Christian community and America at large.</p> <p>The difficulty often lies in what this resistance looks like practically for the Black Christian. What does it look like to live a life free from the grip of White supremacy? In <em>Begin Again</em><a href="#_ftn5" name="_ftnref5"><sup>[5]</sup></a>, author Eddie Glaude Jr. shares what such freedom looked like for James Baldwin. In his work, Baldwin used Black America’s past to envision a path towards a different America— one characterized by “the transcendence of the realities of color.” Glaude writes of Baldwin’s vision:</p> <blockquote><p><em>The point [of such transcendence] wasn’t to declare ourselves colorblind. We would have to fight it out in order to finally rid ourselves of the assumptions about who was valued more than others. That may have to involve black people celebrating their blackness, because it shatters their interior agreement with the lie [of White supremacy]. In this sense, one can only transcend color by passing through it, and uprooting the lie along the way.</em></p></blockquote> <p>Through Glaude, Baldwin’s writings offer what I believe can be an exhortation of sorts for all Black Christians: the celebration of our Blackness is a personal and communal act of resistance against the lie that Black people are inferior. And just as the point of transcending color is not colorblindness, the point of celebrating Blackness is not racial idolatry. When we downplay our racial identity and condemn it’s celebration for fear of idolization, we center the sinful legacy of White supremacy that idolizes a man-made social construct rather than celebrating Gods creation. As we (re)encounter our racial identity, we must simultaneously do the work to rid the lie of White supremacy from our understanding of it. Baldwin adds to this line of thought in his book <em>No Name in the Street</em>.<a href="#_ftn6" name="_ftnref6"><sup>[6]</sup></a> “To be liberated from the stigma of blackness by embracing it,” he says, “is to seize, forever, one&#8217;s interior agreement and collaboration with the authors of one’s degradation.” Baldwin reminds us that freedom from the grip of White supremacy begins <em>within</em>. It begins with a transformation of the ways we see ourselves and each other– the recognition that our Black identity is God’s design, not a mark of inferiority. Seeing in one’s Blackness God’s image is a form of resistance taken up by Black Christians across every generation. It’s what inspired Martin to shout “I’m Black and I’m beautiful,” why Jesse urged us to declare “I am somebody,” and what lies at the foundation of our cry that “Black lives matter.”</p> <p>Breaking free from the grip of White supremacy requires our resistance. We must resist the inferior value ascribed to our blackness, but we must also resist conforming to the communities which perpetuate notions of Black inferiority. This form of resistance requires a more external work. As mentioned in &#8220;<a href="">A Hound of Hell</a>,&#8221; a part of the expected behavior of Black Christians in White Christian spaces is a rejection of the theological, cultural, and social beliefs and practices often associated with one’s Black ethno-racial identity. Because of these expectations many of us are, or have been at one time, detached from the deep well that is the Black Christian expression. Maybe you’ve never read <em>Jesus and the Disinherited</em> because you’ve been warned, like I was, to stay away from “mystics” like Howard Thurman. Or maybe you’ve never engaged the work of Anna Julia Cooper, James Cone, Toni Morrison, or bell hooks. Perhaps you’ve rarely, if at all, heard the Bible preached from the lips of a Black preacher or witnessed the Black social gospel in action as you submit yourself under Black leadership as a member of a Black church. Breaking the grip of White supremacy means unlearning the harmful legacy of White Christian communities that would have you believe the Black church and Black theology are inferior. It means reading Black authors to learn from them rather than refute them. And listening to Black preaching to become a better Christian, rather than be entertained. But most importantly, breaking the grip of White supremacy means planting yourself in the shared community of Black people. It requires the breaking of bread and the brushing of bodies.</p> <p>The stages of our racial identity development are certainly not linear, but in our cyclical movement between them we often find ourselves wrestling between conformity and self-realization— between assimilation to White spaces and immersion in our own cultural community. It is here where the temptation to hatred is often its strongest, and where our resistance efforts must be focused. Resisting the temptation to turn to hatred means turning the love ethic of Jesus inward as Black Christians, towards each other, stirring up one another to remember our freedom in Christ.</p> <hr /> <p><strong>Notes:</strong></p> <p><a href="#_ftnref1" name="_ftn1"><sup>[1]</sup></a>Vandiver, B. J., Cross, W. E., Jr., Worrell, F. C., &amp; Fhagen-Smith, P. (2002). Validating the cross racial identity scale.<em> Journal of Counseling Psychology, 49</em>(1), 71-85. <a href=""></a></p> <p><a href="#_ftnref2" name="_ftn2"><sup>[2]</sup></a>Vandiver, B. J., Cross, W. E., Jr., Worrell, F. C., &amp; Fhagen-Smith, P. (2002). Validating the cross racial identity scale.<em> Journal of Counseling Psychology, 49</em>(1), 71-85. <a href=""></a></p> <p><a href="#_ftnref3" name="_ftn3"><sup>[3]</sup></a>Vandiver, B.J., Fhagen-Smith, P.E., Cokley, K.O., Cross, W.E., Jr. and Worrell, F.C. (2001), Cross&#8217;s Nigrescence Model: From Theory to Scale to Theory. Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development, 29: 174-200. <a href=""></a></p> <p><a href="#_ftnref4" name="_ftn4"><sup>[4]</sup></a><em>Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? </em>by Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref5" name="_ftn5"><sup>[5]</sup></a><em> Begin Again</em> by Eddie S. Glaude Jr. &#8211; <a href="">Penguin Random House</a></p> <p><a href="#_ftnref6" name="_ftn6"><sup>[6]</sup></a> <em>No Name in the Street</em> by James Baldwin &#8211; <a href="">Penguin Random House</a></p> </div> </div> </div> </div> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="">Breaking White Supremacy’s Grip</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="">The Front Porch</a>.</p> A Hound of Hell The Front Porch urn:uuid:9d2a11b3-df2f-4a09-14fc-f0b796eeb55b Mon, 03 Jan 2022 09:43:57 -0600 <p>How, then, do Black Christians currently in, or coming out of, White Christian spaces maintain our hope in the face of a coercive self-hatred and of bitterness, hostility, and despair?</p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="">A Hound of Hell</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="">The Front Porch</a>.</p> <p><em><strong>Editor&#8217;s Note</strong></em>: <em>This is the first in a four-part series exploring &#8220;the seductive nature of white supremacy&#8221; and Black Christian identity and faith.</em></p> <hr /> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Like a drowned man, Floyd’s lungs were filled with fluid. That was the obvious reason he couldn’t breathe.”</p> <p>“I don’t think people are going to like the verdict this is heading towards.”</p> <p>“If they overcharge the case the guy will get off and it won&#8217;t be the ‘system’ [at fault].”</p> <p>“Take the win by charging the guy with manslaughter. Justice will have been<br /> served.”</p> <p>Still organizing from a recent move, I managed to put together a makeshift desk in what is now my daughter&#8217;s nursery. The “desk”– assembled using storage boxes– was to be my workstation as I prepared for the start of my graduate program. Instead of transporting furniture across the country, my wife and I chose to furnish our home upon arrival. Until then, we would have to make it work, sleeping on the floor on a newly bought mattress with our belongings scattered across the room. During the day I could be found with a coffee mug and book in hand. I carried our only piece of furniture across our apartment– a lawn chair I had bought for a family beach vacation– in hopes of completing another book on my ever elusive summer reading list. Maybe I would even find that perfect reading nook to position the brown leather chair I dreamed of buying, I thought. Eventually, among that scattered mess, I managed to find a place I could rest. In the corner of our living room I escaped, and the words on the pages of my book were like a balm to my soul.</p> <p>On that late summer day, the unsettled state of our messy apartment unit was somewhat reflective of the state of my mind and emotions. Around that time, the body cam footage of George Floyd’s murder was released and the charges were officially announced. I was desperately searching for an escape. For weeks my phone was flooded with texts and posts from those attempting to process what they were witnessing. Some responded by expressing anger, others grief, with many still trying to process what they were feeling in the midst of a summer filled with protest and debate. There were those who were refusing to watch the footage again in hopes that they might protect what peace they had and what productivity they could muster. Still some, by the grace of God, were able to publicly process all of these emotions in a manner that was collectively therapeutic for a community of Black Christians struggling to make sense of it all. As for me, I quickly realized I would find no peace. Nor would I be able to muster much productivity. Instead, I found myself trapped in a virtual space where the above statements were uttered by White Christians in such a manner that could be described as a collective sigh of relief. I say relief, because in many ways, the suspicions they had long had about what happened on May 25th had been confirmed when they watched the footage. To them, any charge or ruling that did not affirm those suspicions would be labeled the real injustice.</p> <p>Internally, I was at war with my emotions. In my mind, I thought up a response to their callousness and arrogance. I began typing, ready to go to battle for the truth I knew was absent at that moment. As I was moving to press send, however, something came over me. I froze. My attention suddenly shifted, and the emotion I was expressing through my response was redirected. Instead of pressing send, I deleted the message and closed out the app. At that moment, I was reminded of the scripture I had been meditating on that summer. “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere”, I thought to myself, reflecting on the teaching found in James 3:17. By the grace of God, the alluring distraction of White Supremacy– the temptation to fixate my creative thoughts on White spaces that were sure to produce a bitter fruit in my heart– was resisted. I chose, at least in that moment, to protect what peace I had and focus my energy on the work God had called me to do. I chose to believe, as Toni Morrison believed, that we are more than a reaction to White presence.[1] That moment, and the more common moments where I failed to resist the temptation, serve as valuable lessons to me. The seductive nature of White supremacy convinces us that focusing our time and energy on spaces tightly gripped by spiritual strongholds is a better use of our time than building up the people marginalized by them. If we are not careful, we can be particularly vulnerable to this seduction— not only when we are motivated by a well-meaning desire for church unity— but when we are motivated by hatred.</p> <p><strong>A Hound of Hell</strong></p> <p style="padding-left: 40px;">“&#8230;hatred tends to dry up the springs of creative thought in the life of the hater&#8230;” &#8211; Howard Thurman, <em>Jesus and the Disinherited</em></p> <p>One cannot overstate the extent to which fighting racism and White supremacy is a battle of the spirit as much as it is a battle of and against ideologies, systems, and institutions. When the beliefs and practices of racism and White supremacy become ingrained in a society and are replicated by individuals, organizations, and institutions, the consequences are far and wide. One consequence of the replication of racism and White supremacy is its tendency to entrap Black persons in a kind of captive state where hatred breeds an enslaving spirit of bitterness and hostility. In Jesus and the Disinherited, Howard Thurman names hatred as a “hound of Hell”[2] — the inception and full evolution of which takes place across a series of phases. For Thurman, hatred begins where there is an “abundance of sentimentality masquerading under the cloak of fellowship.” At this phase, contact is absent of genuine communion. This type of contact expresses an understanding that is “strikingly unsympathetic &#8230;without the healing and reinforcement of personality” (i.e humanity). At this phase, understanding is characterized by a lack of affection or apathy. Once an unsympathetic understanding is present, hatred grows into an “active functioning of ill-will” towards others that permeates the life of the individual.</p> <p>This evolution of hatred describes much of the inter-ethnic contact within White Christian environments. The temptation to give into hatred is likely a part of the testimony of many Black Christians who have navigated White Christian spaces. When we reckon with their historic and insufficient witness, we are often burdened to be a prophetic voice. Many of us make the decision to devote our time in these spaces to challenging the institution in order to advocate for those who look like us. We carry with us a zeal to prove that the pursuit of racial justice and unity are integral to lives transformed by the Gospel; that the fruit of disciplines such as psychology, history, legal studies, and sociology can be gifts of common grace to the benefit of God’s people on earth.</p> <p>However, for every small, half-measured step towards the breakthrough we envision comes what seems like giant leaps backwards. They come in the form of reminders that many of these spaces have little to no intention to reckon, uninterrupted, with their insufficient witness. They refuse to address the systemic and spiritual battle against racism and White supremacy. Crushing reminders of the insufficient witness of White Christianity serve as heavy burdens, stacked one by one onto our souls, and can blind us from our God-given zeal by obstructing our hope with hatred. But the replication of racism and White supremacy does not only conjure up bitterness and hostility in the hearts of Black Christians towards predominantly White Christian spaces. It attacks one of the most vital instruments we have for survival in and outside of these spaces: Black solidarity.</p> <p>A part of the expected behavior of Black Christians in White Christian spaces is a rejection of the theological, cultural, and social beliefs and practices often associated with one&#8217;s Black ethno-racial identity. Oftentimes, Black Christians are given the opportunity to degrade Black theology and Black theologians, or pressured to call the Black church a sin due to their racially homogenous composition. Opportunities for such rejection— otherwise known as race-tests— are used to determine whether Black Christians are “willing to serve the interests of Whites in the space” or whether we must be “coerced into leaving the space.”[3] Race-tests reinforce a choice, as has been said to me, to be alone and be Black or to conform. Unfortunately, for varying reasons, the choice many are forced to make in order to be accepted is to suppress their ethno-racial identity. The often intended result of such cultural colonization[4] is the Black Christian rejecting their Black identity, and sometimes, rejecting the Black Christian expression[5] altogether. This rejection is most notably embodied by a rejection of Black churches, of Black theology, of Black-led social movements, and many times, of the Black Christians who are proponents of any one of them. As a result, a portion of the population of Black Christians are coerced into self-hatred and cut off from a vital lifeline for their flourishing: the shared community that exists throughout the diverse streams of the Black church.</p> <p>When we fall victim to hatred, as Thurman says, our springs of creative thought— the springs to see Black people flourish— run dry. How, then, do Black Christians currently in, or coming out of, White Christian spaces maintain our hope in the face of a coercive self-hatred and of bitterness, hostility, and despair? We must break the grip of White supremacy and cling to the freedom we have in Christ. We turn to those themes in parts 2 and 3 of this series.</p> <hr /> <p><strong>Notes</strong>:</p> <div>[1] Portland State University; &#8220;Black Studies Center public dialogue. Pt. 2&#8221; (1975)</div> <div>[2] Howard Thurman, <em>Jesus and the Disinherited</em> (New York: Penguin Random House).</div> <div>[3] Dr. Glenn Bracey, &#8220;Race Tests: Racial Boundary Maintenance in White Evangelical Churches.&#8221;</div> <div>[4] Dr. Jarvis Williams, &#8220;Why Racism Might Defeat American Evangelicalism: Part 1&#8221;</div> <div> [5] Thabiti Anyabwile, &#8220;<a href="">Black and White Churches: Two Christian Expressions, One Family</a>&#8221;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> </div> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="">A Hound of Hell</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="">The Front Porch</a>.</p> Who You Talking To? The Front Porch urn:uuid:889b07d6-4f6c-3dd9-8885-1fa383601a15 Sat, 01 Jan 2022 11:13:15 -0600 <p>If your mama&#8217;s black, you&#8217;ve probably been asked the question, &#8220;Who you talking to?&#8221; Forgive me if it triggers you because usually that question comes before some kind of correction....</p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="">Who You Talking To?</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="">The Front Porch</a>.</p> <p>If your mama&#8217;s black, you&#8217;ve probably been asked the question, &#8220;Who you talking to?&#8221; Forgive me if it triggers you because usually that question comes before some kind of correction. &#8220;Who you talking to? I ain&#8217;t one of your little friends.&#8221; Or maybe it was, &#8220;Who you talking to,&#8221; followed by a whuppin. The tone of the question was key; it let you know just how much reorientation you were about to receive.</p> <p>Like so much of Black parenting, this question was designed to help us navigate a dangerous world with a proper perspective. In this case, it was a call to remember our audience and to remember we were not on equal footing with our parents. It taught us that &#8220;forgetting ourselves&#8221; or our place could have significant consequences, while rightly remembering our audience could helpfully define us. It could at least keep us from getting our tails whupped. </p> <p>For the past couple of years, I&#8217;ve been pondering the question, &#8220;Thabiti, who are you talking to?&#8221; It&#8217;s a question about audience, goal, and direction in life. For much of my ministry and writing life, I&#8217;ve been talking to a predominantly evangelical audience. Not exclusively white but predominantly so. Narrower still, I&#8217;ve been in the conservative and soteriologically Reformed side of the theological pool. For much of that time, it was talking to that audience about important but rather commonplace ministry themes&#8211;ecclesiology, preaching, shepherding, etc. From time to time, usually in private but on occasion in public, there&#8217;d be conversations about race or racism. Overall, it had been a period of <em>detente</em>, a period defined by a kind of racial agnosticism and political dissimulation presenting as &#8220;gospel&#8221; optimism and unity.</p> <p>But around 2014, that came crashing down. It became crystal clear that I was talking to the wrong audience. Or, put another way, it was crystal clear that that audience did not share my goals and the direction I thought the Lord was leading me. I knew myself to be called back to a predominantly African-American community and faith setting. In moving me from the Cayman Islands back to the United States, I knew the Lord was moving me back into a country with a very different racial script and history. And coming back to the States one month prior to the killing of Mike Brown and the eruption of protests in Ferguson, MO, I knew also the Lord was calling me back with my own self-conscious point-of-view. All of that meant answering the question, &#8220;Who are you talking to?&#8221;, and understanding that the &#8220;to&#8221; needed to change. It meant trying to re-orient myself after 15 years of serving in international and predominantly white contexts to reconnect with the community of my birth and formation. It meant recognizing that talking <em>for</em> Black folks in some sense in those contexts is not the same as talking <em>to</em> them. </p> <p>Turning around is hard. You turn <em>to</em> some people to whom you&#8217;ve felt distant, even foreign, because you&#8217;ve been in circles dominated by others. You&#8217;re not necessarily denied, but you&#8217;re not necessarily owned either. There&#8217;s a lot of trust to build, actions to explain, and work to do. While you&#8217;re turning to one group, you&#8217;re turning <em>away</em> from another. At least in the general sense if not always in the particular sense of individual friendships. And some in that group feel betrayed or deceived. They grow angry and caustic, protecting their own goals, agendas, alliances, and directions. For a while, you find yourself on an island.</p> <p>But I&#8217;ve grown used to island living. The introvert in me likes the seclusion, the slower pace, the abundant peace and ease. But alone on an island won&#8217;t suffice. The answer to &#8220;who you talking to&#8221; can&#8217;t always be &#8220;myself.&#8221; That gets you weird looks. And worse, you develop weird social habits. So you have to come off the island and dwell among a people.</p> <p>There&#8217;s a necessary conversation about Jesus, faith, discipleship, the churches, mission, justice, hope, sanctification, perseverance, joy, resistance, reconciliation, peace, solidarity, independence, friendship, renewal, and cross-carrying that needs to happen. Among Black folks. Brown folks. Yellow folks. And White folks. And between us, too. That conversation, influenced by so many histories and counter-histories, perspectives and counter-perspectives, expertise and ignorance, requires a lot of hard turning around. Turning to and turning from. Turning back again and from again. Until turning and answering &#8220;who&#8221; becomes a discipline, a habit, an act of faith and longing.</p> <p>So, who <em>are</em> you talking to?</p> <p>I am trying to talk to and with Black folks. Narrower still, black Christian folks. That diverse panoply of humming, moaning, singing, swaying, shouting, preaching, marching, sitting, weeping, rejoicing, angry, broken, hopeful, tired, loud worshipers of Jesus who have so few tables where we talk to each other. I am trying to talk with Black folks without reference to white folks. Without the overly-determining, overbearing white gaze. Without the overly insistent, over-confident self-importance of white priorities that demand the rest of us respond to it, prioritize it, find it <em>most</em> important while sidelining our own concerns with parochializing adjectives like &#8220;ethnic&#8221; or &#8220;special&#8221; or &#8220;limited&#8221; or even &#8220;Black.&#8221; Without falling for the conceit that there&#8217;s anything universal about &#8220;whiteness&#8221; or any other -ness that needs attending before one can talk to himself or to others like him. Without in any way centering the often-fragile and sometimes just plain prideful feelings of individuals from other groups who don&#8217;t really care about the conversation <em>we</em> need to have, but care about the conversation they&#8217;re having in their own heads. I&#8217;m trying to talk to Black folks who are just trying to be Black folks without necessary reference to anyone else. The way we talk when we&#8217;re at the barber shop, or the beauty parlor, or the cookout, or the wake, or watching the game. Free. Present. Un-anxious. Unselfconscious. Unburdened. And I&#8217;m trying to talk that way knowing others watch, but not tucking in my shirt tail or combing my hair or code-switching to manage their impression. Not caring and just being us.</p> <p>Because we need to talk to each other. We need to plan with each other. We need to build with each other. And we don&#8217;t need to explain that to anyone else or have our conversation distorted. We&#8217;ll know we&#8217;re free when we don&#8217;t feel the need or pull to keep commenting on what &#8220;they&#8221; are talking about, because as long as we feel that need then &#8220;they&#8221; are still determining that part of our lives.</p> <p>I&#8217;m going to try returning to blogging this year. But I want you to know who I am trying to talk <em>to</em>. Now, if I am not talking to you, you&#8217;re still welcome to listen. But listen like you&#8217;re on a subway car overhearing a conversation between garrulous friends. Don&#8217;t interrupt if you&#8217;re not invited. Don&#8217;t act as if their conversation is in any way about you. Don&#8217;t try to correct them. Chuckle at what you think is funny. Smile to yourself and shyly look away when you think they might have noticed you. Wait to be invited in. And if you&#8217;re not invited in, don&#8217;t fret. Remember, it wasn&#8217;t about you anyway. And if you are disturbed by the noise, switch seats or subway cars. There are other conversations going on elsewhere, some of which are intended for you.</p> <p>Black folks, this is The Front Porch. Let&#8217; talk to each other. Let&#8217;s talk that talk we talk when it&#8217;s just us. Let&#8217;s forget about the gaze of other groups and trust that, actually, what we talk about both stands on its own and contributes to others who might accept it. But whether it blesses others or not, let&#8217;s have enough self-love to bless each other by offering the gift of unfeigned conversation. We are worth that to each other and we need that from one another.</p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="">Who You Talking To?</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="">The Front Porch</a>.</p> How to Pray Effectively David D Ireland, Ph.D. urn:uuid:fce5b701-41dc-3a79-69b9-ef84e6b8d117 Tue, 28 Dec 2021 20:04:31 -0600 (view this full teaching by scrolling to the bottom of the page) What kind of praying is considered to be effective?  How can you become more effective in prayer?  James... <p><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">(view this full teaching by scrolling to the bottom of the page)</span></em></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">What kind of praying is considered to be effective? </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">How can you become more effective in prayer? </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">James 5:16 says, “Therefore, confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” The Bible teaches that there are certain kinds of prayers that are ineffective. But we want to focus on the kind of praying that is EFFECTIVE. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">There are some synonymous terms to effective praying. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">For example, there&#8217;s fervent praying. This speaks of fiery praying, which is intense and passionate. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">We also see the phrase prevailing prayer. This type of prayer is about you overcoming and getting a breakthrough when you pray. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Then there is intercessory prayer, which is effective and involves bringing someone else&#8217;s needs before God. It’s you praying for them before the Lord. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Then there is effectual prayer, which simply means you&#8217;re striving, pressing, and working to be effective.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Finally, there is the fifth kind of prayer; it&#8217;s called travailing prayer. Travailing prayer is a painful experience of emotions as you’re pressing into God in prayer.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">These five kinds of prayers are not different prayers. They&#8217;re just additional terms for the same kind of prayer. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The life of Jacob, in the book of Genesis, is an example of effective prayer.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Jacob had lived with Laban, his father-in-law for 20 years. During those 20 years, he worked for Laban. Laban was a very sneaky, deceptive man, and he changed Jacob&#8217;s wages 10 times over the 20 years. At the end of the 20th year, God speaks to Jacob, and tells Jacob to return home to the land of promise. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Now, mind you, 20 years earlier, when Jacob had left Canaan, he went under the shroud of all kinds of scandal against his brother, Esau. He had deceived his brother twice in regards to his birthright and their father&#8217;s blessings. And so now God tells Jacob to go back home. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">As Jacob and his wives and his children, and all of the cattle and animals and servants that he has acquired over the 20 years, are migrating back home to Canaan, Jacob sends many messengers ahead of him to tell Esau that he’s coming back home. He wants to know if everything is well between the two of them. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">When Esau finds out, he&#8217;s livid because he remembered what Jacob had done 20 years earlier. He then gets 400 men, and they start going towards where Jacob is. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">It’s at this point, Jacob has to learn how to breakthrough in prayer and be effective in praying. As we look at Jacob, we&#8217;ll see that effective praying secures God&#8217;s approval. The Scripture says prayers offered by those who have God&#8217;s approval are effective. </span></p> <p><strong>So, let me ask you this question: Do you have God&#8217;s approval? </strong></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">How do you gain it? </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">To gain God&#8217;s approval, you have to have a right relationship with God. You must deal with any kind of sin or disobedience in your life. Sin muffles and mutes our voice before the throne room of heaven. It makes our prayers impotent and powerless to affect change. It&#8217;s almost like kryptonite to Superman, which renders him powerless. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Sin renders your prayer lives ineffective and powerless. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Let me show it to you in the Scriptures. Psalm 66:18-19, tells us, “If I had not confessed the sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened. But God did listen! He paid attention to my prayer.” </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The psalmist is making it plain to us. He&#8217;s saying I&#8217;ve learned from experience that when I don&#8217;t confess the sins in my heart, God doesn&#8217;t listen. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">How do you confess your sins? You say, God, I&#8217;ve sinned against you, and you name the sin specifically, whatever it may be. And you say, God, would you forgive me? Wash my heart so that it may be pure and clean. Help me always walk in a way that honors you and think in a way that honors you. I ask you this in Christ&#8217;s name. </span></p> <p><strong>And now that you&#8217;ve repented, you forsake…you walk away, and you leave it like that. </strong></p> <p><strong>Now the line between you and God is open. The gap between you and God has been closed. </strong></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Let’s look at how Jacob modeled effective praying by securing God&#8217;s approval. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Genesis 32:9-12 reads, “Then Jacob prayed, ‘O God of my father, Abraham, God of my father Isaac, Lord, you who said to me, ‘Go back to your country and your relatives, and I will make you prosper.’ I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness you have shown your servant. I had only my staff when I crossed this Jordan, but now I have become two camps. Save me, I pray, from the hand of my brother, Esau, for I am afraid he will come and attack me, and also the mothers with their children. But you have said, ‘I will surely make you prosper and will make your descendants like the sand of the sea, which cannot be counted.’ ” </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Jacob secured God&#8217;s approval in this instance. He already dealt with his sin issue, but he secured God&#8217;s approval by chasing after God&#8217;s promises. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Every time we pursue God&#8217;s promises, it causes alignment in our lives, it causes a shift of perspective, values and priorities. When we seek God&#8217;s promises wholeheartedly and with great fervency and intensity, we find ourselves lining up with what God wants us to do and to be. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">There are times God wants us to hold before Him the things he&#8217;s promised us. Why? Because it shows God how we value the very things He has in store for us.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">There are times that God wants to do things for us, and we could care less. Just like a parent may want to do good things for their son or their daughter, and they can care less. When that devaluing occurs, the parents don&#8217;t place a significant priority on what the kids want because they&#8217;ve not demonstrated that they align themselves with the parents’ wants. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In this instance, Jacob secured God&#8217;s approval by bringing before God the very things that God had promised him. God had promised his grandfather, Abraham, that he was going to be a father of many nations. And that promise was handed down to Isaac, Jacob&#8217;s dad, and Jacob knew what was at stake when he was praying that day. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">What God promised Isaac years ago was jeopardized. Jacob knew that he’d better get a breakthrough that day when he prayed. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;"><strong>Effective praying focuses on specific objects</strong>. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">When you&#8217;re dealing with resistance to the will of God and difficult things are now causing you emotional pain and anguish, you need effective, fervent, intercessory, prevailing, and travailing prayer. And you must focus on one or two objects at the most. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In Genesis 32:11, Jacob says, “Save me, I pray, from my brother Esau. I am afraid—afraid that he is coming to attack us and destroy us all, even the women and children.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Jacob didn&#8217;t throw a bunch of things on his prayer list. It was just one single prayer request.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">So, how do you pray effectively if you just focus on one or two objects? Ask yourself, what bothers you the most? What bothers you most when you wake up in the morning and go to bed at night, that&#8217;s the subject of prayer. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">I love the fact that God says I will give you the desires of your heart. God puts a desire in our hearts that we can&#8217;t shake. That&#8217;s the subject and the focus.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Now, just because God told you to do something, doesn&#8217;t mean you&#8217;ll be exempt from a trial in the walking out of that thing. And just because you&#8217;re going through a trial, it&#8217;s not an indicator that you&#8217;re not in the will of God. Oftentimes, being in the will of God attracts crisis. </span></p> <p><strong>So crises don&#8217;t mean that you&#8217;re out of the will of God. Crises may verify that you&#8217;re in the will of God. </strong></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">You can’t just be someone that knows how to talk and sing, you must be someone who has power on bended knees. Jacob had power on bended knees because effective prayer lays hold. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">What is the single object that you need to talk to God about? Effective praying focuses on specific things. What&#8217;s your specific thing? Stay focused. </span></p> <p><strong>Effective praying secures God&#8217;s blessings. </strong></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Genesis 32:24-27 says, “So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob&#8217;s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Then the man said, ‘Let me go, for it is daybreak.’ But Jacob replied, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me.’ The man asked him, ‘What is your name?’ ‘Jacob,’ he answered. Then the man said, ‘Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.’ ”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">This is one of the most challenging passages in the Old Testament. The man who wrestled with Jacob is referred to as a theophany. It means an appearance of God in human form. In other words, God showed up and wrestled with Jacob.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Wrestling is just a metaphor in this area for effective, intense, fervent prayer. Imagine wrestling all night with the Lord. Jacob has one prayer request. One focus that he&#8217;s praying about. He&#8217;s crying out to God. This is the focus and crux of effective praying. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Effective praying is when you say I&#8217;ve stopped praying on other matters, but not this one. I&#8217;ve given up before, but not this one. I&#8217;ve quit praying at different times, but not now. God, I don&#8217;t care whatever is going to go on. I&#8217;m not going to let you go. God, you promised me. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">God, I need you to show up. I&#8217;m not going to stop until I get a breakthrough. And when you&#8217;re praying like that, there comes a time in that prayer where you feel something break. It&#8217;s almost like a balloon when the air is let out and the pressure is gone. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">When that break takes place, you know that you have prayed through. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">I have experienced that many times in my life over these years. I&#8217;ve walked with Jesus, and I want you to recognize that you have to learn how to do that. You cannot be a weakling when it comes to prayer. Most of us were very weak. We prayed a 30-second prayer. We pray when we&#8217;re driving to work, and that&#8217;s the extent of our prayer life. And I&#8217;m challenging you. You can&#8217;t become a powerful soldier if that&#8217;s the extent of how you pray. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Will you learn to pray through? </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">What must you do to get some time alone? </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Maintain a fervent perspective to say, “God, I&#8217;m hungry for you to accomplish this.”</span></p> <p><strong>You can become a powerhouse in prayer.</strong></p> <p><iframe title="YouTube video player" src="" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe></p> The Essentials of Prayer David D Ireland, Ph.D. urn:uuid:00f7b34e-aa79-a20a-8789-3050b0868726 Fri, 17 Dec 2021 15:36:10 -0600 (watch this teaching by scrolling to the bottom of this page) Many times, we don&#8217;t even recognize we have all these weird ideas when it comes to prayer. It&#8217;s like... <p><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">(watch this teaching by scrolling to the bottom of this page)</span></em></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Many times, we don&#8217;t even recognize we have all these weird ideas when it comes to prayer. It&#8217;s like when you ask someone about the weather, marriage, money or ask them about whatever, everybody has an opinion. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The challenge is that we think that having an opinion and being an expert are synonymous. They are two separate and entirely different things. There are a lot of myths that we have surrounding prayer that need to be deconstructed and debunked so we can really understand the essence of what prayer is all about. </span></p> <p><b>Why? Because we want to pray and we want God to answer our prayers. </b></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">We begin to discover the essentials of prayer in Luke 11:1, where it says, “One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When He finished, one of His disciples said to Him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.’ ”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">This disciple, who was questioning Jesus about prayer, recognized that he was lacking something that Jesus had when it came to prayer. And he wanted to be able to talk to God in such a way that he would have the confidence that God was hearing him. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Put yourself in the position of this same disciple as he said, “Lord, teach us to pray.” This tells us that prayer can be taught. And learning how to be powerful on bended knees can be taught. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Let’s look at three essentials of prayer.</span></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h3><b>PRAYER REQUIRES A RELATIONSHIP</b></h3> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Jesus taught that before you ask God for anything, you need to acknowledge that you indeed have a relationship with Him. Remember Luke 11 where the disciples said, “Lord, teach us to pray.” </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Jesus said to them, “When you pray, say, ‘Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread.’ ” Notice the order. The requests for daily bread, the meeting of your needs, is secondary. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">What&#8217;s primary is a relationship. When you pray, you must be able to say, Father. Jesus isn’t saying that in terms of religious jargon. Jesus is saying that you frame a request not based on you asking a request, but you first acknowledge a relationship with God.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The word “father” is a Greek word “patéras,” which means one whom has begotten you by whom you have been begotten. When you have become begotten of God, born of God, you have a relationship with God that gives you the right, the responsibility, the legal basis to go and ask God for whatever it is that&#8217;s on your heart. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">John 1:12-13 says, “But to all who did accept Him and believe in Him He gave the right to become children of God. They did not become His children in any human way—by any human parents or human desire. They were born of God.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The Bible is making a distinction between God&#8217;s creation and God&#8217;s children. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">When you are a child of God, it means that you&#8217;ve believed in Christ. You have </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">accepted Christ as your savior. And by believing in Christ and accepting Christ as your </span><span style="font-weight: 400;">savior, </span><b>you then become categorized as being born of God.</b><span style="font-weight: 400;"> </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">When I accepted Christ as my savior, I was born of God, which moved me from being God&#8217;s creation into becoming God&#8217;s child. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Let me ask you the question, are you a child of God? Or are you merely His creation? When you&#8217;re a child of God, you&#8217;re a creation of God, but you have another status, a higher status. </span><b>You&#8217;re a child of God.</b></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Jesus says that when you pray, prayer doesn&#8217;t begin by making a request. Prayer doesn&#8217;t begin with religious jargon. Prayer begins with a relationship with God. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">When you&#8217;re a child of God, you can go to your heavenly Father, and layout your </span><span style="font-weight: 400;">requests. And your heavenly Father doesn’t look at you as transactional. If you’re not a child of God, any request is transactional and just based on the kindness of God. God has no obligation towards you. But when you&#8217;re a child of God, that puts you in a whole ’nother category. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Think about it this way.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, is arguably the richest man in the world. He became </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">the first centibillionaire, meaning $100 billion. It&#8217;s a lot of money, a lot of shekels. Imagine Jeff Bezos walking on a city street and some kids come up to Mr. Bezos and ask for a hundred bucks. A hundred bucks is nothing to a centibillionaire. Do you think for a moment that Jeff Bezos will go into his pocket and give those children a $100 bill or even a dollar bill?</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">He has no obligation towards them other than the kindness of his heart, which is not obligatory. But what if any of his four children approached him and said, “Dad, we want to go to the mall. Can you give us some money?” He would go into his pocket and pull out some money. Why? Because those four young people are his children. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">I want you to see the difference. Jesus is making it plain that the beginning part of prayer is not your request, rather, it is your relationship. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">God wants you to become His child. He&#8217;s totally committed to helping you transition from being one of his creation, to becoming one of his children. If you make that jump, then you have all the bases in the world to pray to God and experience God&#8217;s big heart towards you. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">If you stay in the category of merely being His creation, you&#8217;ll get angry at God. You&#8217;ll get upset because prayers are not answered. You&#8217;ll get upset because you say God doesn&#8217;t care. You&#8217;ll get upset because you will say God is disinterested and you look at prayer like a lottery that maybe you’ll pray the winning prayer and get the answer. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">You don&#8217;t have to look at life in that kind of broken way. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Make the switch and become not just a creation of God, but a child of God.</span></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h3><b>PRAYER MAKES A REQUEST</b></h3> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">It&#8217;s not prayer if there&#8217;s no request. It&#8217;s not prayer, if there&#8217;s no ask. It&#8217;s not prayer if there&#8217;s no need that you have. Jesus taught us that praying is asking God for our daily bread. Think about it. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The disciples approached Jesus in Luke 11:1 and said, “Lord, teach us to pray.” </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Then Jesus unpacks His answer more fully in Luke 11:9-10. He says, “So I say to you: Ask, and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who ask receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Jesus is telling us that when we pray, we ought to have confidence. But when you take a step back from these verses, what you see is there&#8217;s nuances to prayer, levels of prayer. It&#8217;s oftentimes like human conversations. Our conversation varies based on the level of maturity of the person that we&#8217;re conversing with. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Think about when we talk with children. My kids are adults now, but when they were toddlers, I would not know anything about their needs unless they would either point, cry or make gargling sounds. I had to decipher their cry and decipher their gargling, because they weren’t able to speak. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">But as a father, my heart is so big and full of concern for my children that I&#8217;m not concerned about their ability to articulate their requests or even frame the request in a right way or in a way that maybe even pleased me. I&#8217;m so concerned with meeting their needs that when they ask, they receive. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Jesus is giving us three levels of how we make requests that is based on our </span><span style="font-weight: 400;">maturity and on our understanding of prayer. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">When you&#8217;re a spiritual babe, you ask. And it&#8217;s almost as if, as you&#8217;re asking, that it’s happening. Through that, God&#8217;s building your confidence, God&#8217;s building your faith, God&#8217;s building your trust in Him. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">But watch now. Just like with human conversation, that toddler becomes a teenager. If my children, when they were teenagers came to me and gargled, I would think they&#8217;re crazy. If they came to me and cried, I&#8217;m not going to be moved by that. Because I want them to mature and grow up so they can articulate their concerns. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">My children were very shy growing up, and when my wife and I and our two daughters would go to the restaurant, they would look to us to place their order for them because they didn’t even want to talk to the waitress or waiter. And it got to the point where we said, we&#8217;re not going to place any orders for you. If you don&#8217;t speak for yourself, you&#8217;ll just sit there hungry. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The next time we went out, we sat down with our daughters and they looked at the menu and figured out what they wanted. The waitress came around and I placed my order after Marlinda, my wife, placed hers. Then it came to Jessica, one of our daughters, and it was her turn. She looked at me and I looked down to ignore her. She looked at her mother and she looked down. And then Jessica was forced to articulate her request in a way that made it plain. And if she missed certain things, she had to correct it. So the same thing with Danielle, our other daughter. We had to do that in order to help them mature when it comes to prayer. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">God doesn&#8217;t want little squeaky kids running around not knowing how to pray. You have to understand prayer requires you to move from just understanding how to ask, and at times, knowing how to seek. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">When my children were teenagers, I gave them $50 to go to the mall. That was a lot back then, 50 bucks is like $5 nowadays. If they misused it, the pockets are closed, I would say to them. When they come to me, and asked for more money, I would say, it looks like you have a problem. What are you going to do? </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">My job is to train my children up in a way that when they become adults, they can be self-sufficient and live within their means. That’s my job.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">And so I want you to see when it comes to prayer, God wants you to be able to function in such a way that when you&#8217;re praying and you ask, and there is no response, you move it to another level which is seeking, which requires discovery. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">It requires searching out just like what has to happen when you&#8217;re a young adult. You&#8217;re searching out, you&#8217;re investigating, you&#8217;re questioning and you&#8217;re looking for an answer.  </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">You have to recognize that sometimes God is not answering you as quickly and straightforwardly as you&#8217;d want Him to. He&#8217;s answering you by giving you wisdom, by giving you strategy, by giving you insight, by giving you the issue to understand long-suffering patience and discipline. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">There are many ways that God&#8217;s answering our prayers, but it requires maturity to understand. Jesus says, ask and you shall receive. And if you don&#8217;t receive, when you ask, move it to level two. Seek and you shall find. And when you seek, it means that you&#8217;re looking in an investigatory way. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Jeremiah spoke to this. He says in Jeremiah 29:12-13, “When you call out to me and come to me in prayer, I will hear your prayers. When you seek me in prayer and worship, you will find me available to you if you seek me with all your heart and all your soul.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Level one, praying, I ask. Almost like a toddler, almost like someone who is </span><span style="font-weight: 400;">immature and God answers.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Level two, I seek. If God wants me to pursue Him in order to find an answer in </span><span style="font-weight: 400;">prayer, I can’t argue the structure of prayer or the principle of prayer, or the </span><span style="font-weight: 400;">methodology of prayer. My job is not to argue with how it was designed. </span><span style="font-weight: 400;">God designed. </span>My job is to recognize that I need to seek God and then seek Him with all my heart.</p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;"> </span><span style="font-weight: 400;">How do you seek God with all your heart? I make sure that I&#8217;m not distracted. I turn off </span><span style="font-weight: 400;">the television, I turn off my noise-making devices. I turn those devices off. I give my full </span><span style="font-weight: 400;">attention to God. And when I&#8217;m seeking God in prayer and worship, I&#8217;m asking God for insight and strategy as to what I need in order to be able to see the Lord answer prayer.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Then there&#8217;s level three of prayer.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Knock and the door shall be open to you. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Jesus is telling us, in essence, that there might be some resistance, there might be something blocking and hindering your prayer. It&#8217;s almost as if Jesus is framing this third level of prayer as if there is spiritual warfare going on. And when you have sought God, but not received an answer, you must turn up the heat, so to speak, and go into this spiritual warfare mode where it may require fasting. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">It may require extended time periods of praying. It may require those kinds of things. Why? Because what you need is spiritual fighting and hitting at this thing every day until it breaks. </span></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h3><b>PRAYER GAINS A REWARD</b></h3> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">God gets no glory out of an unanswered prayer. Could you imagine God strutting around heaven and saying, “Today, I didn&#8217;t answer five billion prayers”? There&#8217;s no glory that God gets out of unanswered prayers. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Jesus said this in Matthew 6:6, “But when you pray, go to your room. Close the door. And pray to your Father who is unseen. And your Father, who sees what you do in private will reward you.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">There it is. Prayer gains a reward. Jesus promised it to us. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">He&#8217;s saying, don&#8217;t let prayer be something where you&#8217;re looking to gain attention or looking to have public notoriety. He points to the private side of prayer, the side of prayer that speaks of authenticity. The side of prayer that speaks of someone having a devotional life with God and who is in a relationship with God in private. God sees you and he will reward you. I want you to recognize how prayer gains a reward. </span></p> <p><b>I want you to see prayer gains a reward. </b></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">That&#8217;s why I&#8217;m asking you to establish a relationship with God and then make your request. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">James 5:16 says, “The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.” </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">What are the results that you need, that you have sought and you&#8217;re seeking God for? Be confident. We serve a God that says your prayers move me. Your prayers have </span><span style="font-weight: 400;">authority in My throne room. Your prayers can move Me to do things and make a way </span><span style="font-weight: 400;">that nothing else can do. </span></p> <p><b>I want you to be so assured in this reality.</b></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">God calls you and me to move Him through prayer. And the essentials of prayer are </span><span style="font-weight: 400;">simply this:</span></p> <p><strong>Prayer requires a relationship. </strong></p> <p><strong>Prayer makes a request. </strong></p> <p><strong>Prayer gains a reward.</strong></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">May you become a champion on your knees and seek the face of God in prayer.</span></p> <p><iframe title="YouTube video player" src="" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe></p> The Gospel and Miracles David D Ireland, Ph.D. urn:uuid:f8951a9a-c18d-a6a1-c82e-84e33fdb9402 Thu, 09 Dec 2021 07:08:08 -0600 (watch this message by clicking play below) The Bible has a lot to say about miracles. Oftentimes, sadly, our perspectives, attitudes and actions are not influenced by the Bible when... <p><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">(watch this message by clicking play below)</span></i></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The Bible has a lot to say about miracles. Oftentimes, sadly, our perspectives, attitudes and actions are not influenced by the Bible when it comes to this topic, but by myths, fables, opinions of people and the environment in which we&#8217;re in. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Our theology matures as we mature. When you were a child, you thought like a child, you understood like a child. But Paul tells us when you become a man, a woman, you put away childish things. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The greatest miracle that we can agree on is this: it&#8217;s when the light of God&#8217;s forgiveness and salvation penetrates a darkened, sin-filled heart and that person becomes born again. When that takes place, that miracle is the greatest miracle that can ever exist. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Mark 6:7 says, “Calling the Twelve to him, he began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over impure spirits.” The language of impure spirits means demons. Now, this teaching is not entirely on demonology, but I want you to see that Jesus speaks to the reality of demons and demon spirits.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Note what he did when he sent his disciples out two by two. They were charged not just to preach or proclaim; they were charged to use power. In fact, Mark 6:12-13 says, “They went out and preached that people should repent. They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The gospel message is not pretty words. It&#8217;s not philosophy and wise statements. The gospel message is not religious jargon. It is not a philosophical worldview that&#8217;s just wrapped around Jesus. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The gospel message is a two-fold dynamic. There is proclamation, a calling of people to repent, turn their hearts, change their minds from how they used to live and to live for God. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">That&#8217;s one part. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The second part is that there must be a companion demonstration of the power of the Holy Spirit. It&#8217;s not the gospel if it&#8217;s simply just the word, it&#8217;s the gospel when the word is supported by the demonstration and the power of the Holy Spirit. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The word alone does not complete the gospel message. The word must be joined together with the power of the Holy Spirit. This is a controversial topic but it is possible to understand it. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Let’s start to understand it by asking some questions.</span></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h3><b>Question One: WHAT should I believe?</b></h3> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Look again at Mark 6:12, it says, “They went out and preached that people should repent. They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">I should believe the gospel requires both Word ministry, which is calling people to repentance, and power ministry, so that the gospel is very transformative when it is confronted or confronts someone.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">My beliefs are dictated by my attitude and actions regarding miracles. So if, for example, I don&#8217;t believe in miracles, it&#8217;s going to affect my attitude and my actions regarding every Bible passage that talks about miracles. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">If I don&#8217;t believe in the reality of miracles, that means I&#8217;m also going to say, though not verbally, that everyone I come into contact with, can never expect God to use me to help them when their case calls for some type of supernatural encounter from God. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Why? Because I don&#8217;t believe in miracles, so what I believe affects everything. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">I will admit this, there are a lot of things I don&#8217;t understand about God, about healing, about miracles, about deliverance or helping people get set free from the bondage of Satan. But there&#8217;s one thing I do understand, and that&#8217;s this: God has called each of his children to follow Christ&#8217;s example. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Jesus provides another example in Acts 10:38. It says, “Then Jesus arrived from Nazareth, anointed by God with the Holy Spirit, ready for action. He went through the country helping people and healing everyone who was beaten down by the Devil. He was able to do all this because God was with him.” </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">So remember my question, what should I believe? I don&#8217;t understand everything but I do believe and understand I have a moral, social, spiritual and relational responsibility to help people become unburdened from the powers of darkness. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">If that is my responsibility, I need to then figure out a way to tap into God&#8217;s power, though I don&#8217;t understand everything. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">But I want you to understand this fact. I have a moral, ethical, social, spiritual and relational obligation to help people become unburdened from the powers of darkness.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In 1 Corinthians 2:1-5, Paul says, “And so it is with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit&#8217;s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God&#8217;s power.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Paul believed that the gospel has a companion power that distinguishes it from vain philosophies and even wisdom. The gospel is more than just wisdom. The gospel is the wisdom of God and the power of God. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">It not only shatters the heart of the irreligious and people that are bound in unbelief and sin, but the gospel also is the uplift. It is the social uplift that means God picks you up out of a downtrodden life. He brings you out of burdens and passivity brought on by the hellish hordes of Satan and his impish friends, demons. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The gospel picks you up to cause your life to flourish. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">We, Westerners, struggle big time with this because our intellect gets in the way. We try to rationalize and use Aristotelian thinking, the five senses to gather information. We must guard against letting our intellect get in the way or become a hindrance to Holy Spirit activity. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">And so I want you to recognize the gospel has to have both. It is the proclamation, the word and the power of the Spirit that makes the gospel. So the question I&#8217;m asking is this, what should I believe? Your beliefs make all the difference in the world. And so I believe that God wants to use me to help people get set free. And I want you to believe the same thing, though you&#8217;ll still have lots of questions. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Let me give you a second question that helps us to frame our worldview when it comes to faith in miracles. </span></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h3><b>Question Two: WHY believe?</b></h3> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Why believe in the reality of healing and the validity of miracles? Why believe in God&#8217;s power? Why believe that God can use you to get people set free? And the answer is, your beliefs dictate the quality of life people under your influence will experience.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">I love what St. Augustine had to say on the topic. He says, “I never have any difficulty believing in miracles since I experienced the miracle of a change in my own heart.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">I don&#8217;t have any difficulty in believing that because I recognize what I used to be, and I recognize the change that took place in me. And so, if the greatest miracle of salvation is so evident in front of us through changed lives, why struggle for God to do a lesser miracle by healing someone physically or setting someone free spiritually? </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">My belief also impacts me. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Look at Mark 6:1-6, it says, “He went away from there and came into His own country. And His disciples followed Him. When the Sabbath came, He began to teach in the synagogue. And many hearing Him were astonished, saying, ‘Where did this man get this? What is this wisdom that is given Him that even miracles are done by His hands? Is this not the carpenter, the son of Mary and the brother of James and Joseph and Judas and Simon? Are not His sisters here with us?’ And they took offense at Him. Jesus said to them, ‘A prophet is not without honor, except in his own country, and among his own relatives, and in his own house.’ He could not do any miracles there, except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them. And He was amazed because of their unbelief.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Why couldn’t these individuals in Bethany, Jesus&#8217; hometown, experience the power of God operating in their midst? It wasn’t because God was unwilling or unable. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">It was simply because they dishonored Jesus. Dishonor connects with faith. And dishonor eroded away faith when they no longer saw Jesus as a man of God. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">They saw Jesus as an ordinary person. They said, “Isn&#8217;t this the carpenter? Don&#8217;t we know his sisters, his brothers? Who does he think he is?”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">That same perspective can carry over into how we see others. We can fall into the same kind of trap and say and believe things like, that&#8217;s just pastor so-and-so, that&#8217;s just a life group leader, that&#8217;s just one of the deacons in the church or that&#8217;s one of the ministers. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Maybe we find ourselves saying, that&#8217;s just my mom, that&#8217;s my dad or that&#8217;s just my kid. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">When you have that kind of perspective over people that are God&#8217;s children, you will never have an expectation for God to use them to help facilitate your healing, deliverance or breakthrough. Why? Because dishonor creates unbelief. Dishonor erodes faith. Dishonor is like kryptonite to expectation, like kryptonite to Superman, it makes him just a mere mortal. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">When you have dishonor, familiarity, no expectation, and say they&#8217;re just they&#8217;re so and so, you&#8217;ll never see the power of God working through that person to minister to you.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Some time ago I was involved in a conference. There were a bunch of us ministering to people, laying hands on the sick, seeing people getting healed and speaking prophetic words over them. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">I was marveled by how God was using one of the other ministers and then he said something to me that was odd, but very telling. He said, “David, every time I go out and travel outside of my home church, God uses me powerfully in the gifts of the Spirit, and miracles and healings take place, but when I&#8217;m at home in my home church, God never uses me that way.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">And when he said that, I said, “Let me tell you what the answer is. The answer is your congregation dishonors you but not in this negative sense where you&#8217;re nothing. I said, you have probably created a kind of rapport and a relationship with your congregation that you are so familiar to them because of how you carry yourself that they don&#8217;t expect anything supernatural to come through you. If you change the culture, you&#8217;ll start seeing God use you at home.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said, “Miracles are not meant to be understood they are meant to be believed.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">We don&#8217;t have all the answers and these learned scholars that I&#8217;m quoting, don&#8217;t have all the answers.</span> <span style="font-weight: 400;">But what they do have is a perspective that says despite my lack of knowledge about the supernatural, I still believe in God to use me in the supernatural. </span></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h3><b>Question Three: HOW do I practice what I believe?</b></h3> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">I believe that God still heals today. I believe that God still saves today. I believe that God still unburdens those who are demonized. I still believe that God works miracles today. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">So, how do I practice that?</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Luke 9:1-2 says, “When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Again, you see the twin demonstration of the gospel, power and proclamation. You need the word and demonstration of the Holy Spirit together, it&#8217;s the gospel.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">So the question is, how do I practice what I believe? </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Answer. See yourself as someone who has already been given power and authority by God. The Greek word for power is “dunamis” and it means ability, strength and might. You don&#8217;t need to go get it. You need to use it. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">You have to have an orientation, a perspective, a paradigm that says I&#8217;ve been given power now. You&#8217;ve been given power and you&#8217;ve been given authority. Authority is the legal right to exercise God&#8217;s power. It&#8217;s the legal right to act on God&#8217;s behalf. It&#8217;s the legal right to represent Jesus on the Earth. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Now it has nothing to do with loudness. When you&#8217;re praying for someone that is sick, you don&#8217;t have to scream it. When you&#8217;re praying for someone who&#8217;s demonized for them to get free, it&#8217;s not yelling. That&#8217;s not authority. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">When you see a state trooper pull someone over because they&#8217;re speeding, the state trooper comes up to your window and they say softly, “May I see your driver&#8217;s license, your insurance and your registration, please?” </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">When they speak to you, it&#8217;s not about loudness and it&#8217;s not even about the force of their personality, because they&#8217;re speaking to you as a delegated authorized person to represent the state and they have the legal right to hold you accountable. The second answer is that God has called you to be used that way. Expect him to use you. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Here&#8217;s another answer. Give yourself over to reading and studying it. Read books by qualified authors that have had experiences with God and give you a chapter and verse and point to it in the Bible. Read the Bible. Read through the Book of Acts, you&#8217;ll be fascinated. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Three simple questions we must ask ourselves.</span></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>What should I believe? </strong></p> <p><strong>Why believe?</strong></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;"><strong>How do I practice what I believe?</strong> </span></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">May God use you mightily as you become a conduit, a facilitator of Holy Spirit activities. Expect him to use you and he&#8217;ll use you. </span></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><iframe title="YouTube video player" src="" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe></p> A Faster Way to Setup a Nonprofit urn:uuid:98deeacb-a358-ab33-d1ee-e30fc7e59963 Thu, 02 Dec 2021 18:26:36 -0600 Would you believe there’s a way to start a nonprofit initiative and receive tax-deductible donations in less than a week? For reals! What a great nonprofit hack! <p><a href="" rel="nofollow">Source</a></p> Answering The Call To Serve David D Ireland, Ph.D. urn:uuid:53d2ecfa-aa7b-52fc-a7a0-8b78e369d02e Wed, 01 Dec 2021 21:21:37 -0600 (watch this message by clicking play below) ​​Can you remember the last time you experienced good service? The kind of service at a restaurant or perhaps in someone&#8217;s home, where... <p><span style="color: #000000;"><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">(watch this message by clicking play below)</span></i></span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">​​Can you remember the last time you experienced good service? The kind of service at a restaurant or perhaps in someone&#8217;s home, where you felt really cared for? </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">The Bible is very emphatic on the role of serving. In fact, the King James Version mentions that we&#8217;ve been called and told to serve over 300 times. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">In John chapter 13, we find Jesus teaching His disciples about what it means to answer the call to serve. It was the night before Jesus was to go to the cross and die for our sins. It was actually the night that He was going to be betrayed. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">John 13:2-9  says, “The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, ‘Lord, are you going to wash my feet?’ Jesus replied, ‘You do not realize now what I&#8217;m doing, but later you will understand.’ ‘No,’ said Peter, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, ‘Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.’ ‘Then, Lord,’ Simon Peter replied, ‘not just my feet but my hands and my head as well.’ ” </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">They&#8217;d just taken a walk from Bethany to miles away, and they&#8217;ve now come to Jerusalem. Their feet are all dirty. They wore sandals. The roads didn&#8217;t have asphalt. Most of the roads did not have cobblestone, so they kicked up a lot of dust and dirt. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">It was a customary practice that when you arrive at a home, the host will ensure that the servant would come and wash each guest&#8217;s feet. But they were borrowing the use of the house for this private dinner. There was no host and no servant to wash their feet. But, by the door was a towel, a basin and a pitcher of water. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">Everyone came right in and began to recline at the table, but Jesus began to wash his disciples’ feet. Why did he do that? To understand that we need to answer the question, how do you answer the call to serve? </span></p> <h3></h3> <h3><span style="color: #000000;"><b>Serving starts in the HEART.</b></span></h3> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">That&#8217;s where it begins. It begins in the heart because our actions and our attitudes stem from the heart. The soil of the heart produces it. And our heart can produce good, tasty, and admirable fruit, or it can produce rotten, nasty, and objectionable fruit.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">It all depends on what is in the heart. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">So, here they all are. They have walked two miles to Jerusalem from Bethany. They went up the steps, are all reclined around the table and they&#8217;re starting to eat. Even though it was not the custom or the norm, Jesus gets up. You can imagine all eyes are watching, and they are wondering where is he going? He walks over by the door and grabs a towel. He takes off his outer garment, puts the towel around him, grabs the pitcher of water and the basin, and begins to wash the disciples’ feet. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">Jesus was moved in his heart because he saw a need. Their feet were dirty and dusty so Jesus washed their feet. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">Foot washing was something that Hebrew slaves, when they were owned by other Hebrews, were banned from doing. Only gentile slaves washed feet. Wives often washed the feet of their husbands, and sometimes the children would wash the feet of their fathers.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">Jesus didn&#8217;t fit any of those categories. Yet here we are seeing that Jesus is washing the feet of his disciples. Jesus was modeling for us that serving starts in the heart. It&#8217;s in the attitude of how you see yourself. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">Let me ask you a question. Do you look to serve? Or do you look to be served?</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">The question is a critical one because it shows the role and the value you place on being humble or walking in humility. Humble means you must take and make yourself low. I love the fact that Jesus did not think himself too good, too holy, too anointed, too spiritual, to serve others. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">Jesus was modeling for us what Mark 10:45 says, “the son of man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">Jesus was modeling for us that he did not think of himself as too busy, too important, too famous, too great, too powerful to serve others. Jesus recognizes that serving begins and starts in the heart.</span></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h3><span style="color: #000000;"><b>Serving involves DOING. </b></span></h3> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">Jesus was not spewing out rhetoric. He was not reciting some theological position. He was not verbalizing some wonderful doctrinal treatise. Jesus recognized that serving was not something that simply is just a positional thing. Jesus was telling us that serving must move away from the theoretical into the practical. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">Serving involves doing.</span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><span style="font-weight: 400;">John 13:12 says, </span><span style="font-weight: 400;">“</span><span style="font-weight: 400;">After washing their feet, he put on his robe again and sat down and asked, ‘Do you understand what I was doing? You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you&#8217;re right, because that&#8217;s what I am. And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other&#8217;s feet. I have given you an example to follow. Do as I&#8217;ve done to you.’ ”</span></span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">Jesus was teaching them. He was showing them, if you are really going to be a follower of me, do what you&#8217;ve seen me model. In other words, answer the call to serve and recognize that serving involves doing. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">Serving is critical to having a healthy local church, the same way serving is so critical to having a healthy family.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">There&#8217;s a whole host of benefits associated with serving. It&#8217;s an act of love. It&#8217;s an act of kindness. There have actually been lots of academic research to investigate the actual benefits of serving and volunteering? </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">Volunteering is when you give your time to a person, a group, a cause. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">Nations like Canada, Germany, Israel, Spain, Taiwan, the United Kingdom, the United States, have gone through many academic studies to understand what the benefits are. And many of these studies have focused on the health benefits associated with volunteering and serving. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">In fact, there&#8217;s a reduction in mortality and an increase in physical function. Your health improves. There&#8217;s an increase in muscular strength. There&#8217;s a reduction in depression. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">Why? </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">Because you take your eyes and mind off your own issues and you start serving others and the depression you may have felt initially, it dissipates because serving is therapeutic. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">Serving even reduces pain, and it increases life satisfaction. In other words, there&#8217;s a whole host of benefits associated with serving.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">Serving is about coming alongside someone else and meeting their most precious need. Serving starts in the heart. Serving involves doing.</span></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h3><span style="color: #000000;"><b>Serving is a CHOICE</b></span></h3> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">Matthew 20:25-28 says, “But Jesus called them together and said, ‘You know that the rulers in this world lord it over people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. For even the Son of man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.&#8217; ”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">Jesus taught that it is your choice to serve. You must intentionally and willfully decide you want to serve and help people. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">Something happens when your heart gets changed, where you can serve the needs of others. Foot washing modeled that. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">Serving starts in the heart and involves doing.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">But at the end of the day, serving is a choice that you must make.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">We can shake this generation for Christ because the Kingdom of God calls us to be servants. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">Will you answer the call to serve?</span></p> <p><iframe title="YouTube video player" src="" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe></p> The Power of Gratitude David D Ireland, Ph.D. urn:uuid:b70594c9-435b-5825-23bf-c646bdd9c447 Wed, 24 Nov 2021 05:00:59 -0600 (watch this message by clicking play below) Gratitude is a very important biblical principle. In fact, we have been charged by Scripture when we wake up, every day, to be... <p><span style="color: #000000;"><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">(watch this message by clicking play below)</span></i></span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">Gratitude is a very important biblical principle. In fact, we have been charged by Scripture when we wake up, every day, to be able to have a heart filled with gratitude. Gratitude really is like medicine to our soul. It helps us to provide care for our mental health. </span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><b>It is a way we establish wellness. </b></span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">In Psalm 103:1-5, David said, “With all my heart, I praise the Lord, and with all that I am, I praise his holy name! With all my heart I praise the Lord! I will never forget how kind he has been. The Lord forgives our sins, heals us when we are sick, and protects us from death. His kindness and love are a crown on our heads. Each day that we live, he provides for our needs and gives us the strength of a young eagle.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">David was acknowledging how kind and caring God had been to him. He has gratitude, just oozing out of his pores as he just lavished thankfulness and appreciation to God, not only for forgiving his sins but for forgiving our sins. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">In 2 Timothy 3:1-2, Paul says to Timothy, “You can be certain that in the last days there will be some very hard times. People will love only themselves and money. They will be proud, stuck-up, rude, and disobedient to their parents. They will also be ungrateful.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">If we&#8217;re not living in the last times, I don&#8217;t know when we&#8217;re living and the season that we&#8217;re living. If it was the last times in Paul&#8217;s days, 2000 years ago, how much more so today.</span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><span style="font-weight: 400;">Paul says I want you to be mindful of what you observed to be an indicator you&#8217;re in the last days. And he tells us that people are going to be rude, proud, stuck-up and disobedient. But then he throws down this interesting perspective as an indicator of the last days, </span><b>people will be ungrateful</b><span style="font-weight: 400;">.</span></span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">I have a friend who is a pastor in the Bronx. They have a soup kitchen and they were giving out hotdogs to homeless people. One homeless guy asked, “Do you guys have any sauerkraut?” And unfortunately, they didn&#8217;t. He got so angry that he got into a fistfight with the individuals giving out free food. He had no money. He had no food. He had no place to live and they&#8217;re giving him hot dogs. And what is he doing? Because he didn&#8217;t get sauerkraut, he starts a fight. Talk about ungratefulness. It&#8217;s everywhere. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">But ungratefulness is not just in those big issues like that man getting into a fistfight. Ungratefulness takes place when we find ourselves complaining, when we find ourselves envious or jealous, or hitting a place of discontentment. Those are signs that we may be ungrateful. </span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><b>Gratitude makes a huge impact on our hearts. </b></span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">Gratitude creates optimism.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">Ingratitude creates pessimism. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">Gratitude attracts people because people want to be around people that are grateful. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">Ingratitude repels people.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">Gratitude cultivates humility.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">Ingratitude cultivates pride.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">Gratitude promotes happiness.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">Ingratitude promotes unhappiness.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">Happiness medicates the soul and lets you know it&#8217;s not all bad.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">Ingratitude poisons the soul. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">We must fight against ingratitude because it&#8217;s poisonous, it&#8217;s infectious and it&#8217;s deadly. </span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><b>So, how do you unleash the power of gratitude in your life?</b></span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">It starts with three questions.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">Why show gratitude? </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">How do I express gratitude?</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">How do I cultivate gratitude? </span></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h3><span style="color: #000000;"><b>ONE: Why show gratitude? </b></span></h3> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">The word gratitude means the quality or feeling of being grateful or thankful. Something goes on inside of you that says I am thankful, I am grateful. It is an emotion that speaks of pleasantness and then we have to act it out or follow through on it to convey what&#8217;s on the inside. </span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><b>Gratitude is internal, but we have to be thankful so the gratitude that’s experienced internally is expressed externally. </b></span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">In Colossians 2:6-7, Paul says, “You have accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord. Now keep on following him. Plant your roots in Christ and let him be the foundation for your life. Be strong in your faith, just as you were taught. And be grateful.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">Paul is telling us there’s a command to be grateful. And he&#8217;s telling us that in essence, there are lots of benefits associated with you not only having gratitude but showing gratitude. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">Researchers weighed in on the benefits of showing gratitude. UCLA and the Gallup Poll have documented powerful benefits in showing gratitude. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">There are physical health benefits associated with showing gratitude:</span></p> <ul> <li style="font-weight: 400;" aria-level="1"><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">Faster recovery from heart problems </span></li> <li style="font-weight: 400;" aria-level="1"><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">Reduced risk of mortality from sickness and disease </span></li> <li style="font-weight: 400;" aria-level="1"><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">Improved cancer survival rate</span></li> </ul> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">There are relational health benefits associated with showing gratitude, like saying thanks:</span></p> <ul> <li style="font-weight: 400;" aria-level="1"><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">It improves relationships </span></li> <li style="font-weight: 400;" aria-level="1"><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">Cultivates goodwill in relationships</span></li> <li style="font-weight: 400;" aria-level="1"><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">It allows for more positive actions, relationally</span></li> </ul> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">Research also indicates that showing gratitude increases satisfaction when it comes to the idea of happiness as a mental health benefit:</span></p> <ul> <li style="font-weight: 400;" aria-level="1"><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">Greater happiness is a result</span></li> <li style="font-weight: 400;" aria-level="1"><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">Greater sense of increased satisfaction </span></li> <li style="font-weight: 400;" aria-level="1"><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">Lowered level of stress </span></li> </ul> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">When was the last time you said to someone that did something good for you, thank you?</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">When was the last time you said to God for what He&#8217;s done for you, thank you?</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">When was the last time you said to your supervisor, employer or teacher, thank you? </span></p> <h3><span style="color: #000000;"><b>TWO: How do I express gratitude? </b></span></h3> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">Gratitude is a positive emotion that you express because of the kindness that has been shown to you. You&#8217;ve been a recipient of someone&#8217;s favor. Gratitude is saying, I see what you&#8217;ve done for me. I see how you&#8217;ve treated me. I see that it&#8217;s undeserved. And so let me express gratitude to you. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">In 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, Paul gives us ways to express gratitude. He says, “Always be joyful and never stop praying. Whatever happens, keep thanking God because of Jesus Christ. This is what God wants you to do.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">\Paul says to be joyous because that&#8217;s a way you express gratitude. </span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><b>Gratitude means thankfulness, appreciation and kindness. So when Paul says, display a joyous attitude, he’s saying it’s not all as bad as you&#8217;re thinking. </b></span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">Don&#8217;t let discontentment fill your heart and block out God&#8217;s goodness to you. Paul says to retain a prayerful attitude and not to always have this gloomy, hopeless, lackluster attitude. He says show prayerfulness which is a sign of appreciation and gratitude.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">Gratitude changes everything on the inside. It changes your perspective. So it&#8217;s no longer negative and difficult, it becomes positive and opportunistic. In other words, the problem that you&#8217;re facing right now, did you ever think about thanking God for the problem?</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">It doesn&#8217;t mean that you&#8217;re becoming a pessimist. When you do that, you’re thinking in a warped way. It&#8217;s simply acknowledging that maybe there&#8217;s a kernel of benefit that I will gain out of this problem. If I change my perspective to one of gratitude, then my eyes will be opened. The sight of my soul will be illuminated and I will not look at life this way. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">Reframe the problem with an element of gratitude, reframe the difficult circumstances from a perspective of gratitude, rather than complaining and bellyaching and moaning about what&#8217;s going on. When you start doing that, it is amazing how light comes into your soul. Illumination comes to your mind and you&#8217;re able to see and understand things you never would&#8217;ve seen before. Why? Because you recognize the value of being able to express gratitude.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">Identifying the benefits you get from the good things in your life provides a positive impact on the way you think and feel about yourself, others, and even your challenges.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">The only place the seeds of discouragement are impotent is in a heart filled with gratitude. If you fill up your heart with gratitude, give thanks to God, and show appreciation to others, Satan can&#8217;t discourage you. This is why it&#8217;s so important to release the power of gratitude in your life.</span></p> <h3><span style="color: #000000;"><b>THREE: How do I cultivate gratitude?</b></span></h3> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">How do you get a heart filled with gratitude? How do you cultivate it? </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">Colossians 3:15-17 gives us some answers to the question. It says, “Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the word of Christ—The Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.”</span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><b>Paul is saying you have to value what God&#8217;s done in your life, showing appreciation and thankfulness. </b></span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">Think about the kind acts that have been done for you throughout your life. You didn&#8217;t arrive at where you are right now by yourself. The success you have achieved and presently enjoy, you didn&#8217;t get here by yourself. There was a whole host of people along the way that did good things for you. There were kind words when you wanted to quit. When you wanted to walk away, do you remember those words? Do you remember the encouragement? </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">You cultivate the sense of gratitude by not only remembering each person along the way, but by expressing thankfulness to them. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">And what about those hard conversations? Someone that confronted you when everybody else just let you meander around when you might have been going down the wrong path. Someone confronted you strongly and firmly and told you you&#8217;re wrong. You&#8217;re dead wrong. Your perspective&#8217;s wrong. Your heart&#8217;s wrong. Your motives are wrong. Your motivations are wrong. They read you the riot act and it stung at first. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">But when you look back, you must be thankful because their counsel, although maybe not presented in the best way, saved you a lot of money, a lot of heartache, a lot of time. Have you told them thanks?</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">The idea of cultivating gratitude in our hearts is something we all need to do. I want to give you a little homework assignment. Over the next 24 hours, can you connect with three people, just three, that have done something positive, favorable, trustworthy, valuable for you over the last 30 days and convey to them in your own way, THANK YOU. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">And then begin to help your children and others around you to cultivate this sense of gratitude in their own lives. I guarantee you that you&#8217;ll have a more mentally healthy family. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">And if you yourself would work at having prayers of thanksgiving and not just prayers of requests, but prayers that offer thanks, you will see the power of gratitude released into your life.</span></p> <p><iframe title="YouTube video player" src="" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe><span style="color: #000000;"> </span></p> Origin Story: Parable of the Three Bricklayers urn:uuid:81e87f2b-0e8a-1744-03c6-ed01adc9e614 Tue, 23 Nov 2021 14:45:48 -0600 While many versions of this story circulate over the internet and is retold in various talks and books, its original source has been traced back to a book by Bruce Barton, &#8220;What Can A Man Believe,&#8221; published in 1927. Here&#46;&#46;&#46; <p><a href="" rel="nofollow">Source</a></p> The Mentally Healthy Family David D Ireland, Ph.D. urn:uuid:02653e51-7a23-dbf2-70e6-587974c35a5f Thu, 18 Nov 2021 20:44:51 -0600 (watch this message by clicking play below) Mental health is a delicate topic, but it’s one we can’t afford to ignore and not understand. The mental health collapse of people... <p><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">(watch this message by clicking play below)</span></i></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Mental health is a delicate topic, but it’s one we can’t afford to ignore and not understand. The mental health collapse of people makes the headlines almost every day and it’s why you need to see and hear what the Bible has to say about that. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Your mental health is of profound impact and value, not only to you and to your family, but also to the broader society. And to the kingdom of God. In Mark 6:31, Jesus had just finished a series of meetings. Amazing signs, wonders, miracles occurred. Thousands were impacted by the power of the Holy Spirit through His life.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Mark 6:31 says, “Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, He said to them, ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’ ”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The disciples were not the principal speaker or the primary leader but they were still giving out emotionally and engaged in the work of ministering to people. Though you may not be clergy or you may not even work in one of the service professions, whether a physician, a nurse, or someone in the restaurant industry, I want you to understand, you give out emotional energy.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Jesus was very concerned about the spiritual and mental health of His disciples. He was telling them you can’t just soldier on after you&#8217;ve gone through a series of work or extended time of ministry. Your mental health requires care. There must be a sense of resilience where you bounce back by renewing yourself and recharging yourself. You have to do the things that are preventative so that you can experience wellness so that your life and ministry are sustainable.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting and less scary. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Jesus gave His disciples three tips to help them really have a mentally healthy lifestyle. </span></p> <h3><b>TIP NUMBER ONE: SET LIMITS</b></h3> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In Mark 6:31 it says, they didn&#8217;t even have a chance to eat. You need to establish limits or boundaries that ensure that you&#8217;re not always in performance mode, work mode, school mode, that you&#8217;re not always in the doing mode.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">It&#8217;s almost like you put a wall in place. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">It’s like a therapeutic wall that says I can&#8217;t take another patient. I can&#8217;t see another person. I can&#8217;t respond to another email. I can&#8217;t have another meeting. Not right now. I&#8217;m not in the right place mentally. I&#8217;m setting limits. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Jesus was saying to his disciples, I don&#8217;t want you to just soldier on. I want you to stop because if you&#8217;re not able to eat, sleep, exercise and you’re always on, it means you haven’t set limits. And that means you have a problem.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">There must be limits in your life where you are able to say that your workday has come to a close and you can recharge. Jesus was telling His disciples, there&#8217;s always going to be people that are needy. There&#8217;s always going to be another miracle that must be worked. There&#8217;s always going to be another person that&#8217;s in need of prayer. There&#8217;s always going to be another person that&#8217;s in need of wisdom and insight because they&#8217;re going through a complex time in their lives. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Jesus was not trying to simplify, reduce or devalue the needs of people. He was just simply telling His disciples, make sure you build into the structure of your life, limits that you set, as if it were a line you draw and say, that&#8217;s a line, that&#8217;s a boundary I&#8217;m drawing. And that boundary says, I don&#8217;t want to go past it, and I don&#8217;t want anyone else to pass it. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Pay attention to the interior part of your life, the fuel that you need in your soul. It&#8217;s so important. </span></p> <p><em><strong>Jesus was teaching His disciples to avoid burnout. </strong></em></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Don&#8217;t let your mental health be compromised to the point where you are not the best you, the real you, the one that God has called to help people. You will not be that if you don&#8217;t avoid burnout.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Burnout means physical or mental collapse caused by overwork or stress. In other words, you&#8217;re listless. You&#8217;re not who you are supposed to be. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Pay attention because there are signs of burnout. There are things that increase inside of you while other things decrease inside of you. There are indicators that you&#8217;re on the verge of burnout. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">For example, there&#8217;s an increase in cynicism. You&#8217;ll develop a sarcastic, jaded, cynical, skeptical perspective and you see it by your words. If you are becoming more and more cynical, you’re on the verge of burnout.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">There’s a decrease in creativity. You&#8217;re emotionally exhausted and sapped of your creative energy. You&#8217;re not losing your touch. You just need to stop and set limits so you can recharge. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">There&#8217;s an increase in exhaustion. You feel tired all the time. This can be felt in the areas of mental, emotional and spiritual exhaustion. Sometimes it&#8217;s the anxiety level. Sometimes you&#8217;re watching too much news and overwhelmed with negativity. You wake up after a full night&#8217;s sleep and you&#8217;re still exhausted. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">There&#8217;s a decrease in empathy. You stop having the same level of compassion and care like you once did. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">There&#8217;s an increase of mistakes on your job and in your schoolwork, attention to detail has slipped. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">There&#8217;s a decrease in motivation. You don&#8217;t have the same enthusiasm as you did before. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Jesus tells us to set limits. Do you have these boundaries in your life that are very clear and defined? Are you able to say, I&#8217;m guarding my mental health?</span></p> <h3><b>TIP NUMBER TWO: TAKE BREAKS</b></h3> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Jesus said to His disciples, come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest. He was saying, take breaks. When you take breaks, you recognize the sacred rhythm of God, that there&#8217;s a work and rest cycle. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Jesus was teaching His disciples that they must take a rest, don’t violate the sacred rhythm of God.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Rest has to be a cycle. Work, rest, work, rest. That rhythm must be there. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">If you have a job or if you&#8217;re a student, you have schoolwork and you have to produce results, there&#8217;s a constant expectation. In other words, what did you do for me lately? Where&#8217;s the work output. Let me see your grades. Let me see your performance.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">This whole idea of the work/rest cycle is very important. Your life should not be totally just about work. You may say, I enjoy my work, but you&#8217;re still violating God&#8217;s sacred rhythm. It may sound good right now, but it’s not sustainable and won’t continue for long. You may get all the people in your family angry at you because you&#8217;re always there in front of your screen and always absorbed at work. You&#8217;re sitting at the dining room table and instead of eating dinner and having family conversations, you&#8217;re checking your cellphone. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Why not consider having a basket and all the cellphones go into the basket or all the cellphones go into another room and they are turned off, or on vibrate, and you can sit and just enjoy family.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Jesus was trying to teach His disciples that there&#8217;s a sacred rhythm: work, rest, work rest. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">You need to recognize the rest part of the cycle. The rest cycle allows you to take breaks and rejuvenate. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">What do you do during the rest cycle? You get away. That&#8217;s what you do. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Change your physical surroundings. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">That&#8217;s what Jesus was saying. Come with me, listen to your heart, and ask yourself questions. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Who am I? </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Who am I becoming? </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Who do I want to become? </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">These are penetrating questions and reflective questions that happen when you take a break. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Jesus was telling us to get away and rest, and He was also telling us to get alone. Go to a quiet place. He said, when you&#8217;re alone, it gives you a chance to listen. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">But, what are you listening for? </span></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>You&#8217;re listening for God&#8217;s heart. </strong></p> <p><strong>You&#8217;re listening for what God is saying. </strong></p> <p><strong>You’re listening for what God is saying to you. </strong></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Let me ask you a question. When was the last time you took a break and got away to get together with others? </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">That&#8217;s the other critical piece when you deal with the issue of rest. Jesus said to His disciples come with me by yourselves. Part of rejuvenation, part of rest, is the social connections of people.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">You get away with others who are not asking you questions or trying to pick your brain. They&#8217;re not looking to be mentored by you. They&#8217;re not looking to be tutored. They are your peers, your contemporaries. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">And Jesus said to His disciples, come with me by yourselves and get some rest. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In other words, the work, rest, work, rest cycle must be something that you put in place. </span></p> <h3><b>TIP NUMBER THREE: RECHARGE SPIRITUALLY</b></h3> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The presence of God is rejuvenating. When you&#8217;re exhausted and you go into the presence of God in worship, in prayer, in church service and in fellowship with your brothers and sisters, it rejuvenates you. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">When you get into reading the Word and you&#8217;re sitting there, and you’re not in a hurry, you get recharged. Moses did that. When he came down from the mountain, being there for 40 days, he was recharged. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">When you’re in the presence of God, you&#8217;re reminded why you&#8217;re doing what you&#8217;re doing. Why you’re serving your family the way you. Why you&#8217;re caring for your kids, the way you are. You are reminded why you&#8217;re so thoughtful about your job. You are reminded why you&#8217;re so concerned about your spiritual life and your church and the advancement of the kingdom of God.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">When you&#8217;re in the presence of God, you&#8217;re reminded as to why you fell in love with Jesus. In the presence of God you say, God help me to fall in love with you all over again. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">I&#8217;ve learned that there are different ways you access the manifest presence of God. Certainly, God is omnipresent. He&#8217;s everywhere at once. But the Bible teaches the manifest presence of God is equally real. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">God shows up at a specific place among a specific people at a specific time. And you sense His presence there. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">What brings the manifest presence of God into your life? </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Maybe it&#8217;s worship. That&#8217;s what it did for Elisha. In 2 Kings chapter three, Elisha was angry when certain Kings approached him and he said, bring me a minstrel, a harpist, someone anointed to cry out to God. When the harpists played, the presence of God came upon Elisha and he prophesied. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Maybe you are like Elijah. For Elijah, it was this sense of brutal honesty. In 1 Kings 19:10, Elijah was overwhelmed. He was suicidal. He was saying, God, kill me. I&#8217;m the only one left. And when he said that, the honesty of where he was, the spirit of God showed up, the manifest presence of God showed up.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">You need to get into the presence of God. And I&#8217;m not just talking about your daily devotional time. You may need to have a special time on a specific day where for an hour you say, God, I just want to get with you.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Everything I’ve talked about above applies to children and adults—it applies to everybody. You must set limits, take breaks and recharge spiritually. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Take a moment right now, close your eyes, block out the world around you.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">And I want to ask you this very pointed question. What is it that you&#8217;ve been wanting to say to the Lord, but you&#8217;ve been too busy and you have not had a chance to say it? </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Let me ask you a second question. What is it that the Lord has been wanting to say to you but you&#8217;ve been too distracted to hear Him say it? </span></p> <p><strong>Talk to Him and listen to what He’s saying to you.</strong></p> <p><iframe title="YouTube video player" src="" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe></p> Next Year’s Harvest David D Ireland, Ph.D. urn:uuid:a4451e5a-e509-aeee-2770-5a88f8ed4449 Sat, 06 Nov 2021 08:01:09 -0500 (scroll to the bottom to watch the full teaching) There was a knock on the door of the hut occupied by a missionary in the Philippines. Answering, the missionary found... <p><em>(scroll to the bottom to watch the full teaching)</em></p> <p>There was a knock on the door of the hut occupied by a missionary in the Philippines. Answering, the missionary found one of the native boys holding a large fish in his hands.</p> <p>The boy said: “Pastor, you taught us what sowing and reaping is, so here—I’ve brought you a seed-faith offering.” As the missionary gratefully took the fish, he questioned the kid, “If this is your seed-faith offering, what is your family going to eat tonight?”</p> <p>At this, the boy beamed and said: “Oh, I’m going to catch them now. The harvest is back in the river.”</p> <p>This little boy was onto something. He knew that once he’s sown his seed, he had the right to expect a harvest. How do you decide the size of your financial seed? Let me share the four-step process I take when preparing to sow a financial seed.</p> <h3>Step 1: CONNECT with God.</h3> <p>Sowing a financial seed is a spiritual process. According to Paul, “And God, who supplies seed for the sower and bread to eat, will also supply you with all the seed you need and will make it grow and produce a rich harvest from your generosity” (2 Corinthians 9:10, GNT). He wasn’t talking about agricultural seeds. He was speaking about money.</p> <p>Since God is the supplier of seed and the harvest planting is a spiritual activity, connecting with Him is wise. I usually bathe the planting opportunity in prayer, sometimes adding fasting. This is done over several days. I don’t want my decision to simply be a financial one.</p> <p>Prayer helps to overcome the confusion that planting a financial seed is merely giving money away. In reality, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Although the gift will go towards a worthy cause or the work of ministry, God views my gift as seed. And it’s not just a seed. It’s my seed that He’ll make grow to produce a rich harvest. Therefore, I connect with God to ensure my giving is genuine and heartfelt versus insincere or obligatory.</p> <h3>Step 2: COMMUNICATE with family and friends.</h3> <p>Most people nowadays are far removed from the farm. By default, the principle of sowing and reaping also becomes far removed from our lives. It’s never that way with farmers. Not in Bible days, nor in our day. The farmer in a very special sense is made to see his dependence upon God each season. From the time he sows the seed to the day he sees the corn in the ear, he’s dependent upon the Lord.</p> <p>He’s dependent for sunshine and showers in every season so the grains can ripen for harvest. The farmer must look up, for where else can he look? He must leave his business in the Lord&#8217;s hands, for who else can be his helper?</p> <p>What would happen if you communicated your newfound knowledge about sowing and reaping with friends and relatives? Who knows, God may use you to help change their destiny.</p> <h3>Step 3: CONSIDER your giving potential.</h3> <p>Immediately after a pastor made an appeal in church for a great and worthy cause, a member of the church approached him with a check for $50, asking at the same time if her gift was satisfactory. The pastor instantly replied, “If it represents you.”</p> <p>There was a moment of soul-searching by the woman and she asked to have the check back. A day or two later she returned, handing the pastor a check for $5,000 and again asked the same question, “Is my gift satisfactory?” The pastor gave the same answer as before, “If it represents you?” As before, a truth seemed to be driving deeply in her heart. After a few moments of hesitation, she took back the check and left.</p> <p>Later in the week she came again with a check. This time it was for $50,000. As she placed it in the pastor’s hand, she said, “After earnest, prayerful thought, I have come to the conclusion that this gift does represent me and I am happy to give it.”</p> <p>Since sowing is a spiritual process, strive to develop your giving potential. After all, you must grow in every area of life. This includes your financial life.</p> <h3>Step 4: COMMIT to practicing generosity.</h3> <p>God encourages generosity. When Jesus said, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only…” (John 3:16, italics mine), this selfless act modeled the greatest act of generosity. Generosity is not the amount of your financial gift. Generosity has to do with the value of that gift to you.</p> <p>Paul weighs in when he told the Corinthians, “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:6-7, NIV).</p> <p>Commit to practicing generosity—because this year’s seed determines next year’s harvest!</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><iframe title="YouTube video player" src="" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe></p> Contextual Study: Witness in Beroea perSpectives 12 urn:uuid:09bbc9fb-15d3-642b-1d68-f6cc1c2b2d15 Fri, 05 Nov 2021 14:12:18 -0500 Jan Paron, PhD &#124; November 5, 2021 During Paul’s second missionary trip from 49 AD to 52 AD, he journeyed &#8230;<p><a href="">Continue reading <span class="meta-nav">&#8594;</span></a></p> <p>Jan Paron, PhD | November 5, 2021</p> <p>During Paul’s second missionary trip from 49 AD to 52 AD, he journeyed the eastern corridor of the Aegean Sea<a href="//C9172211-D2BB-4578-9C7A-C08B77348832#_ftn1"><sup>[1]</sup></a>&nbsp;down Via&nbsp;Egnatia&nbsp;making his way through the provinces of Syria (Acts 15:36-40), Cilicia (15:41), Galatia (16:6), Macedonia (17), and Achaia (18).<a href="//C9172211-D2BB-4578-9C7A-C08B77348832#_ftn2"><sup>[2]</sup></a>&nbsp;As he traveled,&nbsp;Paul&nbsp;delivered the Council of Jerusalem decrees to new believers (16:4). Additionally, the apostle carried the message of the Good News with him to the Jews and carved out a new mission to the Gentiles.<a href="//C9172211-D2BB-4578-9C7A-C08B77348832#_ftn3"><sup>[3]</sup></a><strong>&nbsp;</strong>From a contextualization aspect, perhaps, the center point of this journey lies in his ministry in Thessalonica (17:1-9),&nbsp;Beroea (or Berea)&nbsp;(vv. 10-15), and Athens (vv. 16-34). There, one sees the diversity of his communication strategies that he adapted to culture for the purpose of bridging the salvific message as part of his Macedonian Call.<strong>&nbsp;</strong>Keeping in mind the varied populace Paul encountered, this writing specifically focuses on the apostle’s Beroean ministry to examine elements of the city inhabitant’s historical, cultural, and social backgrounds that influenced his contextualization methodology in a cross-cultural setting. The study analyzes ethnic Jews, prominent Greek women, and Greek men who comprised his audiences (vv. 11-12). Why look back at Paul’s evangelistic adaptations in the early church’s inception?&nbsp;In its ageless truths, Scripture provides lessons for the believer with methods for contemporary mission through examination of Paul’s communicative approaches to the uniqueness of wide-ranging people groups.</p> <p><img loading="lazy" data-attachment-id="6052" data-permalink="" data-orig-file="" data-orig-size="480,360" data-comments-opened="1" data-image-meta="{&quot;aperture&quot;:&quot;0&quot;,&quot;credit&quot;:&quot;&quot;,&quot;camera&quot;:&quot;&quot;,&quot;caption&quot;:&quot;&quot;,&quot;created_timestamp&quot;:&quot;0&quot;,&quot;copyright&quot;:&quot;&quot;,&quot;focal_length&quot;:&quot;0&quot;,&quot;iso&quot;:&quot;0&quot;,&quot;shutter_speed&quot;:&quot;0&quot;,&quot;title&quot;:&quot;&quot;,&quot;orientation&quot;:&quot;0&quot;}" data-image-title="9C26FCD5-4BFF-4DAE-BB3E-C759D77BA9DC_4_5005_c" data-image-description="" data-image-caption="" data-medium-file="" data-large-file="" class="wp-image-6052 aligncenter" src="" alt="9C26FCD5-4BFF-4DAE-BB3E-C759D77BA9DC_4_5005_c" width="335" height="251" srcset=";h=251 335w,;h=113 150w,;h=225 300w, 480w" sizes="(max-width: 335px) 100vw, 335px"></p> <p class="has-text-align-center"></p> <p>To understand Paul’s contextualization techniques in his&nbsp;Beroean&nbsp;ministry, one first needs to delve briefly into the historical aspects of the Jerusalem Council within the scope of his Macedonian Call backdropping Paul’s second missionary trip. Paul began his journey on the back of the resolved conflict from the Jerusalem Council based on contextualization issues that arose from the influx of Gentile Christians into the young church. The Council of Jerusalem holds an integral piece to understanding God’s redemptive plan for both Jews and Gentiles as it approaches a pivotal moment for the Church in terms of expanding outward from Jerusalem to the nations. Further, it addressed several cultural issues pertaining to the Gentiles. Must the Gentiles become Jews first embracing the lifestyle of the law? Or could they retain their culture taking on membership in the community of believers? Further would the Jerusalem church approve of unhindered outreach to the Gentiles?”<a href="//C9172211-D2BB-4578-9C7A-C08B77348832#_ftn4"><sup>[4]</sup></a>&nbsp;Contention arose over Gentiles being circumcised and keeping the law of Moses to determine salvation (15:1, 5). The apostle and elders resolved it, noting God did not distinguish between the Jews and Gentiles purifying their hearts all the same (vv. 7-9). The council chose Paul, Barnabas, Judas Barsabas, and Silas to deliver the message to Gentile believers (v. 22). Later, Paul separated from Barnabas and traveled with Silas to strengthen the churches. Yet, Paul faced these same culturally-based issues that created liminal boundaries to cross with intentional strategies in mission. His methodologies involved contextualization. Strong defined contextualization as the “relationship of the Christian faith to its cultural context.”<a href="//C9172211-D2BB-4578-9C7A-C08B77348832#_ftn5"><sup>[5]</sup></a>&nbsp;As Paul obeyed the Spirit’s Macedonian Call resulting from a vision at Troas (16:9-10), he encountered diverse people groups of which to adapt the method of delivering the good news.</p> <h3 class="has-text-align-center has-vivid-red-color has-text-color" id="ethnic-jews"><strong>Ethnic Jews</strong></h3> <p>Heeding the Macedonian Call posed challenges for Paul. He did not persuade many of the Jews resulting in agitators stirring up the city and his departure. His Thessalonian ministry followed suit likewise. After fleeing Thessalonica under the cover of darkness from angry Jews, Paul left for Beroea (v. 10). Locationally,&nbsp;Beroea&nbsp;lies 60 miles south of Thessalonica, also part of Macedonia (v.10).<a href="//C9172211-D2BB-4578-9C7A-C08B77348832#_ftn6"><sup>[6]</sup></a>&nbsp;Thus, he traveled the&nbsp;Via Egnatia or the Roman Road once again<a href="//C9172211-D2BB-4578-9C7A-C08B77348832#_ftn7"><sup>[7]</sup></a>&nbsp;<a href="//C9172211-D2BB-4578-9C7A-C08B77348832#_ftn8"><sup>[8]</sup></a>&nbsp;Paul probably arrived around 51 AD, during his second missionary trip but before the fall of the second temple in 70 AD.&nbsp;By the time of Paul’s visit,&nbsp;Beroea had grown to a prosperous city with a large Jewish colony (v. 10)<a href="//C9172211-D2BB-4578-9C7A-C08B77348832#_ftn9"><sup>[9]</sup></a>The Jews in Beroea either settled there from people exiled previously from the Northern or Southern Kingdoms. The Roman Empire protected the Jewish religion at this time.<a href="//C9172211-D2BB-4578-9C7A-C08B77348832#_ftn10"><sup>[10]</sup></a>&nbsp;Nonetheless,&nbsp;Paul addressed three groups with the message of salvation: Berean Jews, prominent women, and Greek men (Acts 17:12).</p> <p>While Luke did not say whether Paul stopped immediately at the synagogue, the narrator highlighted it as his first stop.&nbsp;Acts 17:10 notes that Paul and Silas went to the synagogue upon arrival.” Luke specifically qualified it as the synagogue of the Jews. The Beroeans were Judean Jews. The synagogue served as a place of Torah study or worship. Malina described a synagogue of the Jews as a gathering or assembly, meeting place, or men’s community center for Judeans.&nbsp;When ten or more Jewish male adults meet, the group can call it a synagogue, even in someone&#8217;s residence.&nbsp;As the assembly’s membership grows, they would put up a dedicated building with its size reflecting the economic side of the community.<a href="//C9172211-D2BB-4578-9C7A-C08B77348832#_ftn11"><sup>[11]</sup></a>&nbsp;The fact that Beroea had its own synagogue reflects the number of ethnic Jews in the community and their wealth. Greek Israelites had their own separate synagogue.<a href="//C9172211-D2BB-4578-9C7A-C08B77348832#_ftn12"><sup>[12]</sup></a>&nbsp;Therefore, one might surmise that Paul only witnessed to Israelite Judeans in the synagogue rather than Hellenistic. Further, while the term Judean characterized both devout Judeans and assimilated Israelite Greeks, culturally speaking, Hellenistic Israelites from Cyrene, Alexandria, Cilicia, and Asia went to a separate synagogue called the &#8220;synagogue of the Freedmen.&#8221; Acts 6:9 cited one in Jerusalem.<a href="//C9172211-D2BB-4578-9C7A-C08B77348832#_ftn13"><sup>[13]</sup></a>&nbsp;The Greek Israelites were less informed about traditions, while more assimilated to the Mediterranean behaviors and values from non-Israelites. Whether Berea had a separate synagogue for Hellenistic converts, Luke did not specify.<a href="//C9172211-D2BB-4578-9C7A-C08B77348832#_ftn14"><sup>[14]</sup></a></p> <p>Perhaps, Paul intentionally stopped there because it had a sizable population of Jews.&nbsp;Ramsey supported this theory believing Paul went to Berea because of the Jewish settlers there. The synagogue provided a place for his gospel witness.<a href="//C9172211-D2BB-4578-9C7A-C08B77348832#_ftn15"><sup>[15]</sup></a>&nbsp;Nevertheless, Paul stopped in the synagogues upon visiting a town as was his custom (17:2). It additionally may have been habitual insofar as remaining true to his identity&nbsp;as a Jew educated at the feet of Gamaliel (22:3). Scripture does note&nbsp;Paul went to the synagogue of the Jews as customary to him and evangelized to them (13:5; 14:1; 17:1, 2, 10). Nonetheless, it provided him with a ready audience for testimony. Scriptural reference to Paul’s took advantage of a ready audience by going to the synagogue of the Jews in Berea.&nbsp;Berea had grown to a prosperous city in Roman times with a large Jewish community.<a href="//C9172211-D2BB-4578-9C7A-C08B77348832#_ftn16"><sup>[16]</sup></a>&nbsp;Thus, he met where they already had congregated.</p> <p>In contrast to<em>&nbsp;</em>the Thessalonians, Luke describes the Bereans as&nbsp;<em>eugenes&nbsp;</em>meaning well born.&nbsp;Luke contrasted Bereans to Thessalonians of which the former showed a character of nobleness, while the latter one of rabble rouser. Thus, Berean character influenced the setting’s culture. According to Johnson, nobleness means well born (Greek:&nbsp;<em>eugenes</em>)<a href="//C9172211-D2BB-4578-9C7A-C08B77348832#_ftn17"><sup>[17]</sup></a>&nbsp;First Cor 1:26 and Luke 19:12 implies&nbsp;<em>eugenes</em>&nbsp;describes a person of higher standing with a social status in the world. In the context of the verse, however, it would seem to mean more gracious and open minded. Upholding this supposition, the NKJV describes&nbsp;<em>eugenes</em>&nbsp;as fair-minded and NLT as open-minded. Acts 17:11 illustrates their open-mindedness to Scripture with three verbs, received, searched, and find.<a href="//C9172211-D2BB-4578-9C7A-C08B77348832#_ftn18"><sup>[18]</sup></a>&nbsp;Thus,&nbsp;the Bereans received what Paul had to say. The group examined the Scripture daily with eagerness to confirm what he had said (Acts 17:11). The word examine in Greek can indicate a legal examination of witnesses (4:9; 12:19; 24:8; 28:18). Malina saw this as suitable since Paul’s testimony utilized Israelite traditions.<a href="//C9172211-D2BB-4578-9C7A-C08B77348832#_ftn19"><sup>[19]</sup></a>&nbsp;Acts 17:11b notes the Bereans “searched the Scriptures daily to find outwhether these things were so.” This alludes to a written form of either the Torah and/or prophetic documents. Perhaps, Paul crafted his teaching in testimony fashion, knowing the Bereans would confirm it in Scripture as their touchstone of truth.<a href="//C9172211-D2BB-4578-9C7A-C08B77348832#_ftn20"><sup>[20]</sup></a></p> <h3 class="has-text-align-center has-vivid-red-color has-text-color" id="prominent-greek-women"><strong>Prominent Greek Women&nbsp;</strong><strong></strong></h3> <p>Like Thessalonica, Paul’s audience in Beroea also had a Greek character. Aside from the ethnic Jews who received the word of God, a number of prominent Greek women (Greek:&nbsp;<em>euschémón</em>; εὐσχήμων, ον)&nbsp;also believed it (v. 12). Luke indicates their presence in reverse order than the Thessalonian account listing prominent Greek first in Beroea (v. 4). Within the cultural and social framework of Acts, the narrator highlights the role of women in the early church’s formation as all one in Christ. Ashley added that women, too, acted as recipients of God&#8217;s favor. Throughout Acts and the Pauline epistles, women became full members of Jesus’ faith community and later took on roles as leaders.<a href="//C9172211-D2BB-4578-9C7A-C08B77348832#_ftn21"><sup>[21]</sup></a></p> <p>At the time of Paul’s ministry, Beroea had been the seat of the provincial assembly of Macedonia. The high priest of the imperial cult headed it.<a href="//C9172211-D2BB-4578-9C7A-C08B77348832#_ftn22"><sup>[22]</sup></a>&nbsp;While an established city under Roman rule, Greek women had few rights as opposed to men. Jeffers stated married women had to abide by established household duties. Even upper-class women had to remain inside the home except when participating in important events. Notwithstanding, male relatives had to accompany them outside the home.<a href="//C9172211-D2BB-4578-9C7A-C08B77348832#_ftn23"><sup>[23]</sup></a>&nbsp;Working under these social regulations, prominent women either heard Paul in the company of their husbands or another male relative. Conceivably, the wife believed, but the husband did not. Lydia, a Macedonian, contrasts to general Hellenist gender limitations established during the classical period. Bruce explained that Macedonian women characteristically conducted themselves independently from men. Further, he said that the Roman law governing the colony allowed for different privileges for freeborn women with three children and freedwomen with four children. Their privileges included rights to make legal transactions on their own.<a href="//C9172211-D2BB-4578-9C7A-C08B77348832#_ftn24"><sup>[24]</sup></a>&nbsp;Thus, prominent women in Beroea may have had more freedom than women in other cities that Paul visited.&nbsp;Further, the fact that Luke mentioned prominent women first, may indicate that these same women who received the word of God may have played a major role later in the formation of the early church.&nbsp;</p> <h3 class="has-text-align-center has-vivid-red-color has-text-color" id="greek-men"><strong>Greek Men</strong></h3> <p>Luke mentioned Greek men among the believers as well as the prominent women in Beroea. In 17:12, he did not describe the Beroean men (Greek:&nbsp;andrōn; ἀνδρῶν) who believed further. However, he referred to the Thessalonian men as devout (Greek:&nbsp;<em>sebomenōn</em>;&nbsp;σεβομένων; 17:4).&nbsp;His reference leaves the reader wondering whether Paul evangelized to God-fearers, proselytes, or pagans&nbsp;(cf. 1 Thes1:5–2:16 for Paul’s account of the church’s founding). It additionally gives rise to the location where the Greek men heard Paul teach. Luke did not specify where. Luke made it clear that Paul evangelized to both Jews and Gentiles in the synagogue during the apostle’s travels to Antioch (Acts 13:16; 43, 48), Iconium (14:1-2), Thessalonica (17:1-4); and Corinth (18:4).</p> <p>In Acts 10:2, Luke describes Cornelius as a God-fearer. He prayed to God continually and did many works of charity for the people. In essence, Cornelius had familiarity with the God of Israel and probably encountered Jewish people. Kraabel notes from&nbsp;<em>Pauly-Wissowa,&nbsp;</em>that<em>&nbsp;</em>God-fearers (Greek:&nbsp;<em>sebomenoi&nbsp;</em>or&nbsp;<em>phoboumenoi ton theon)</em>&nbsp;frequented synagogue services, held scriptural, monotheistic beliefs, and participated in some ceremonial traditions of the Law, but did not convert fully through circumcision.”<a href="//C9172211-D2BB-4578-9C7A-C08B77348832#_ftn25"><sup><sup>[25]</sup></sup></a>&nbsp;Acts 10:2 uses the adjective&nbsp;<em>phobeō</em>&nbsp;(cf. Acts 17:4&nbsp;<em>sebō</em>). Paul did not describe the Greek men in Beroea as either&nbsp;<em>sebomenoi&nbsp;</em>or&nbsp;<em>phoboumenoi ton theon.</em>&nbsp;Having been assimilated to Mediterranean values and cultures, the Greeks in Beroea probably had shown favor toward the Jews, perhaps in offering financial support for a local synagogue.<a href="//C9172211-D2BB-4578-9C7A-C08B77348832#_ftn26"><sup>[26]</sup></a>&nbsp;In contrast, Gentile proselytes became full members of the Jewish community by full adherence to the letter of the law and its traditions, including circumcision. They also went through purity rites via baptism.<a href="//C9172211-D2BB-4578-9C7A-C08B77348832#_ftn27"><sup>[27]</sup></a>&nbsp;Few Greek men went that far. Some of the converts could have been Gentile pagans, worshippers of multiple gods. Esler believed most Gentiles mentioned in Lucan writings had converted to Christianity from idolatry; however, they previously had been associated with the Jewish synagogues.<a href="//C9172211-D2BB-4578-9C7A-C08B77348832#_ftn28"><sup>[28]</sup></a>&nbsp;From a cultural standpoint, ancient Macedonians during the Hellenistic periods had distinct ethnic characteristics from Greeks. Thus, pagan converts formerly held polytheistic views, but their gods did not include those from Greece.<a href="//C9172211-D2BB-4578-9C7A-C08B77348832#_ftn29"><sup>[29]</sup></a>&nbsp;Stefov noted Macedonians may have looked toward the philosophical and theological theories associated with a single divine being&#8211;a God in heaven.<a href="//C9172211-D2BB-4578-9C7A-C08B77348832#_ftn30"><sup>[30]</sup></a>Notwithstanding, whether a God-fearer, Jewish proselyte, or pagan, Paul had the opportunity to minister in a field ready for harvest.</p> <p>Presumably, Paul would have presented Christ to the Gentile Beroeans with different nomenclature and language. The Macedonians spoke koine Greek. The passage does not mention translators, so Paul must have had knowledge of Greek to communicate with them. God-fearers, proselytes, and pagans more than likely would not have had the same familiarity with Scripture as the ethnic Jews. With this presumption, Paul would have made adaptations to the way he presented Christ to the Gentile Beroeans so they would understand the gospel.&nbsp;</p> <p>In a larger scope of Paul’s contact with Gentiles, he may have interacted with them in multiple areas like the synagogue, marketplace, or trade guilds of tentmaking. Scripture highlights the presence of God-fearers in the synagogue (ie., 14:1; 17:1-4). For example, in the synagogue at Pisidian Antioch, Paul addressed the assembly as “Men of Israel, and you who fear God,” (13:16).&nbsp;A great multitude of devout Greeks in the Thessalonica synagogue believed Jesus is the Christ (17:4).&nbsp;Another possibility of Gentile witness existed through mixed table-fellowship in which Paul spoke to Jews and Greeks who had attended synagogue. Nevertheless, Paul’s message of salvation went to the Jews first (cf. 13:46). Since Scripture does not specify it, one only can draw hypothetical conclusions through a historical reconstruction of Luke and Paul&#8217;s letters analyzing his patterns of witness. With surety, Paul preached to the Diaspora Jews and Greek men in bringing both into the community of believers.</p> <h3 class="has-text-align-center has-vivid-red-color has-text-color" id="paul-s-contextualization-strategies"><strong>Paul’s Contextualization Strategies&nbsp;</strong></h3> <p><strong>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</strong>Paul’s contextualization strategies in Acts 17:10-15 encompass location, rhetorical technique, culture, and gender. As customary for Paul, he would witness in the synagogue (13:5; 14:1; 17:1, 2, 10). Location played an important role in this passage as Paul brought the word there. In addition to the ethnic Jews, he may have interacted with prominent Greek men and Greek men there (17:12). Paul adapted his rhetorical technique to the Beroean Jews in the synagogue.&nbsp;Malina saw Paul’s manner of teaching as a testimony utilizing Israelite traditions.<a href="//C9172211-D2BB-4578-9C7A-C08B77348832#_ftn31"><sup>[31]</sup></a>&nbsp;It worked well with the open-minded Beroeans&nbsp;who responded to Paul by receiving, searching, and finding scriptural evidence to confirm his message to them (v. 11).<a href="//C9172211-D2BB-4578-9C7A-C08B77348832#_ftn32"><sup>[32]</sup></a>&nbsp;The word examine (NIV) in Greek can indicate a legal examination of witnesses (4:9; 12:19; 24:8; 28:18).&nbsp;</p> <p>One key point to take away from Paul’s witnessing strategies comes with his ability to bring the gospel message to the cultures associated with ethnic Jews, Gentiles, and women. He reached across diverse cultures that traversed ethnicity and gender. The fact that his reach encompassed multiple people groups, ensured a greater chance that new converts would pass along what they learned to others within their own cultures of a collectivist society. Insofar as Gentiles, they would witness the gospel to the dominant culture of other Macedonians or Roman citizens in Beroea. When Paul left Berea because of Thessalonian agitators, Silas and Timothy stayed behind. They have done so to calm the grounds, but additionally to establish a church there. It would seem Redemptive Kingdom Diversity, An Interview with Jarvis Williams The Front Porch urn:uuid:ff1217f6-4d86-0d09-0237-4692cc64d366 Tue, 02 Nov 2021 12:22:46 -0500 <p>In this episode, Louis and Jarvis talk about his new book Redemptive Kingdom Diversity. A great conversation about an excellent book. </p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="">Redemptive Kingdom Diversity, An Interview with Jarvis Williams</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="">The Front Porch</a>.</p> <p><iframe loading="lazy" title="Redemption Kingdom Diversity by The Front Porch Podcast" width="1080" height="400" scrolling="no" frameborder="no" src=";;show_artwork=true&#038;maxheight=1000&#038;maxwidth=1080"></iframe></p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="">Redemptive Kingdom Diversity, An Interview with Jarvis Williams</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="">The Front Porch</a>.</p> The Law of the Harvest David D Ireland, Ph.D. urn:uuid:7f2d8d6b-99ad-3389-afdf-f372d83c023e Sun, 31 Oct 2021 09:42:31 -0500 One day in July, a farmer sat in front of his shack, smoking his corncob pipe. Along came a stranger who asked, “How’s your cotton coming?” “Ain’t got none,” was... <p>One day in July, a farmer sat in front of his shack, smoking his corncob pipe. Along came a stranger who asked, “How’s your cotton coming?”</p> <p>“Ain’t got none,” was the answer. “Didn’t plant none. ‘Fraid of the boll weevil.”</p> <p>The stranger then asked, “Well, how’s your corn?”</p> <p>“Didn’t plant none. ‘Fraid o’ drouth,” the farmer replied.</p> <p>Next, the stranger asked, “How about your potatoes?”</p> <p>“Ain’t got none. Scairt o’ tater bugs,” the farmer retorted.</p> <p>The stranger finally asked, “Well, what did you plant?”</p> <p>“Nothin,” answered the farmer. “I just played it safe.”</p> <p>If you know the Law of the Harvest, you won’t play it safe. Reaping is not magical. You must first plant. Why? Like gravity, the Law of the Harvest always works irrespective of the user. Four principles, when followed, constitute the Law of the Harvest.</p> <h3>Principle #1: You reap what you sow.</h3> <p>I don’t know any farmer who plants apple seeds hoping to reap tomatoes. Apple seeds produce apple trees that bear apples. Tomato seeds produce tomatoes. You reap what you sow. The Bible was written in an agrarian society. God’s ancient people easily connected the biblical metaphors to their daily lives.</p> <p>Paul declared, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows” (Galatians 6:7, NIV). Although Paul was speaking to an issue broader than the farm, he was warning the Galatians not to turn up their nose in the air by scorning God. You mock God by not realizing: Your lifestyle is the harvest of the seeds of your behavior. Similarly, when you plant financially you reap financially. This includes all aspects of resources.</p> <p>A seed cannot remain a seed forever. You reap what you sow.</p> <h3>Principle #2: You prepare before you sow.</h3> <p>My opening story showed a fearful farmer. He’d convinced himself that every difficulty was lurking around the proverbial corner. So he was not prepared to plant any seeds. This paralysis can easily happen to anyone of us. Solomon cautioned, “If you worry about the weather and don’t plant seeds, you won’t harvest a crop” (Ecclesiastes 11:4, CEV).</p> <p>Preparation is a precursor to sowing. You have to engage your faith to dismantle doubt, unbelief, and fear in order to apply the principles that lead to God’s promises. By fixing your eyes on Jesus, your faith is engaged. Reviewing your past victories also activates faith.</p> <p>Preparing to sow may require you to sell some stuff on eBay, eat out less frequently, or finally establishing a budget. In other words, to prepare for sowing you must be intentional.</p> <h3>Principle #3: You reap later than you sow.</h3> <p>The next day after planting sunflower seeds I was angry. I was only 10 years old. I thought the garden center ripped me off. There were no sunflower plants much less sunflowers. My disappointment was quickly reversed in a few months. The six-foot-tall sunflowers beautifully adorned my little garden.</p> <p>A critical lesson was learned: You reap later than you sow. Paul said, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9, NIV). Once sown, there is a gestation period to your financial seeds. Everything has a gestation period. Elephants carry their offspring for 22 months while opossums typically emerge from the womb in 12 days.</p> <p>While there is no exact timeline as to how long it takes to reap after you sow, what we are aware of is this: God is keeping watch. The seed that leaves your hand never leaves your life. It goes into your future and there produces a harvest. Be patient! You reap later than you sow.</p> <h3>Principle #4: You reap more than you sow.</h3> <p>Are you familiar with corn math? One kernel (or seed) of corn typically produces two large ears on one corn plant. The number of kernels per ear is about 1,000. Using corn math, the seeds from two ears of corn (or 2,000 kernels) would yield 4,000 large ears of corn (or 4 million kernels). That’s incredible. That’s corn math. Whether you choose to sow corn, compassion, or cash, the principle is irrefutable: You reap more than you sow.</p> <p>Jesus puts it this way, “Still other seed fell on fertile soil, and they sprouted, grew, and produced a crop that was thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted” (Mark 4:8, NLT)! If you’re expecting a harvest, remember: You reap more than you sow.</p> <p>To predict a future blessing: Remember the Law of the Harvest.</p>