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Pastor Jay's Blog
Saturday, January 21 2012
Day 15: God Embraces us in our Brokenness (Psalm 51; 1 John 1:9; Psalm 103:12)
Summary: One objective of the discipline of fasting is to humble us. Spiritually (and to some extent physically), fasting weakens our willfulness so that God can get us past our facades, veneers and other protective layers. (Every one of us has them.) It is then that we can see and admit the sins that we often try to “pretty up” by rehearsing all of the excuses for our thoughts and behaviors. But God loves it when a person cries out for His mercy, and fully acknowledges their need for God’s forgiveness. It is the heart that comes to God honestly and openly seeks God’s cleansing, admitting all brokenness, guilt and failure, that God will restore and ultimately use to declare His praise.
Action Step: Come to God humbly today and ask God to show you any unacknowledged area of your life that is not pleasing to God. Ask God to purify your motives and behaviors so that you can worship God in Spirit and in Truth.
Day 16: Fears Handled (Psalm 27)
Summary: All of us have things in our lives that seem overwhelming, intimidating, and daunting. We have goals that we have to reach, problems that we have to solve, people that we have to confront, and things that we have to do that we have no idea how they will get done. The intimidation leads to procrastination and avoidance, which only causes the issue to get bigger and become more of a crisis. When David was overwhelmed by the opposition in his life, he didn’t get wrapped up in it, but rather focused his attention on God. He gathered all of his hopes, aspirations and aims and pointed them toward ONE THING – getting into God’s presence. When we focus on getting into the presence of God and not on our problem, the obstacles and opposition lose their power to overwhelm. When we’ve been with the GOD of the universe, of whom shall we be afraid?
Action Step: Write down one thing (situation, challenge, etc.) that you have been avoiding or dreading. Identify a Bible verse that addresses your fear in that area. Pray and tell God that you are giving it to Him. Then check it off and write the word “handled” next to it, and place it in a place where you will be reminded. Praise God in advance for your victory, and go forward with confidence.
Day 17: NOT Everybody’s Doing It (Daniel 3; Romans 12:2)
Summary: There are times when we have to face consequences for not doing what is popular. Our young people are constantly assaulted with peer pressure to get involved in things that they shouldn’t (illicit sex, drugs, violence) and adults are tempted to condone things that society says are okay. But God has called believers not to conform to trends just because everybody else accepts them. If we are to be “the head and not the tail”, it means we are to be trend setters, not trend followers. We have to stop letting styles, the media, and people around us dictate to us what is right for us. We are to get our instruction from God’s Word. When you take a stand, people will try to make it uncomfortable for you, but often at the end of the story, these are the ones that will come to YOU for help and advice. Know that God will stand with you even in the fire, if you stand up for what’s right.
Action Step: Is there an area of your life in which you are compromising what you know to be right? Determine today to do the right thing, even if it gets uncomfortable. Know that God will be with you in whatever “fire” you have to go through, and will bring you out victorious.
Day 18: Look for Restoration and Revival (Joel 2:12-32)
Summary: When God’s people turn to God with all their hearts through repentance and fasting, results happen. God would intervene in many of the problems that plaque us (sickness, poverty, crime) if God’s people would get serious about prayer. There has been so much that the enemy has stolen and that has rotted away (as Joel says, “that the locusts have eaten”) because of our self-reliance and inattention to prayer (disintegrating dreams, crumbling ambitions, stolen opportunities). God says through the prophet that if we take this call back to consecration seriously, we will begin to see restoration of the hope that God has promised His children. Not only this, but God has promised to send an outpouring of His Spirit that will spill out to and bless every segment of the family of God, causing more people to turn to the Lord. Are there people in your life that you want to see come to the Lord? Is there change in your family or your community or in the church that you know is needed? It will only happen if WE return to the Lord with all of our hearts.
Action Step: Commit yourself to some focused prayer time for the things that you believe that the enemy has stolen. Ask God to forgive you for your inattention to covering them with prayer. Give God praise IN ADVANCE for God’s restoration.
Day 19: No Place Like Home (Psalm 84)
Summary: In numerous places in the Psalms, we see David and the other Psalmists proclaiming the benefits and blessings of dwelling in God’s house (the tabernacle), the place dedicated to encounters with God. There are certain places and spaces that are set apart for people to have these encounters. Even though God is everywhere at the same time (omnipresent) and an encounter with God can happen anywhere (even Solomon acknowledged that the Temple he had built could not contain God), and even though under the New Covenant through the blood of Jesus WE are now the Temple of God (God’s Spirit lives inside US), God’s presence is still felt especially powerfully in places set apart (consecrated) for Christians to meet together. We ought to THIRST for that presence, because the manifest presence of God is what brings healing, deliverance, and transformation. We ought to LONG to come together with God’s people in the Lord’s house (the church) whenever the doors are open (Worship, Bible Study, ministry meetings, etc.) because we know those that occupy God’s house are BLESSED. The enemy’s tents may look inviting, but there’s no place home. In spite of it s imperfections, God shows up there!
Action Step: Write down three things that you LOVE about coming to church. Commit to sharing them with someone today. Pray that God will use it to inspire them.
Day 20: Devotion that Works (Zechariah 7)
Summary: Consecration and sacrifice to God mean nothing if they are “all about us.” Sometimes we think that we impress God with faithfulness to our disciplines, rituals and traditions, as if they in and of themselves were the goal of our devotional lives. We need to continually be reminded, even during this consecration fast, that the objective of everything we do is that God will get more glory out of our lives, and that more people will be liberated from Satan’s captivity. Rituals, traditions and personal disciplines like fasting are ways in which we consistently seek God, but they are “means to an end”, that “end” being that we expose ourselves to the presence of The One who is living and active. God is pleased with our expressions of devotion, but what really pleases God is how the encounter transforms our thinking, our behavior, our obedience, and how we treat people when we rise off of our knees.
Action Step: Take a moment to write down something that you intend to DO differently going forward to be a blessing to others as a result of your encounters with God during this consecration.
Day 21: Time for an Outpouring (Ezekiel 47:1-12)
Summary: God has empowered the church to impact the world. It was never God’s intention for God’s people to be containers of God’s divine power, but rather conduits and distributors. Ezekiel’s vision of the river flowing FROM the Temple reminds us that blessing and healing should flow OUT from the house of God. The key to initiating the flow is the prayer of God’s people. God promised Solomon that God would “heal the land” if God’s people would humble themselves and pray. God wants to bring revival, not just in the church, but also in our neighborhoods, schools, and our city. It’s time for us to “pour out” from our comfortable pews into the community and help someone else encounter God. Our presence should “freshen up” someone’s salty existence.
Action Step: God has been gradually pouring God’s anointing into us during this 21 day season of consecration! Make it your business to refresh someone today with a word of encouragement. Pray about new ways that our church can open its doors and pour out God’s refreshing presence into our neighborhood and the city. As we pour out, God will pour into us more than we can even contain!
Sunday, January 15 2012
Day 8: Expect Awesome Worship (Psalm 100)
Summary: David exhorted worshippers to rejoice as they prepared to enter into God’s house. For Christians, Sunday morning is a time when believers should awaken with a sense of expectation even before leaving home. All too often, we allow the enemy to turn Sunday into a “routine”, devoid of any sense of awe or wonder. The ultimate agenda for Sunday should be WORSHIP. When all of us come to church ALREADY prepared to praise and worship our God, God works MIRACLES in our midst!
Action Step: Determine in your heart to believe that God is going to do something AMAZING when we come together in God’s house on Sunday. Begin to praise and thank God IN ADVANCE! God will do it!
Day 9: Give Yourself First (Romans 12)
Summary: The word “consecrate” means to set apart or devote for sacred use. Consecrating ourselves means reserving ourselves (mind, body, spirit) for God’s use. While it is appropriate to make a sacrifice by setting apart our possessions or resources for God, the sacrifice that God REALLY wants is for US to be consecrated first. When God has your heart, then God can work your gifts, and God’s love can emit from you.
Action Step: Verbally tell God that EVERY part of you belongs to God. Ask God to use your ears hear people’s cries, to use your eyes to see people’s needs, to use your mouth to encourage people’s souls, to use your heart to give love and compassion, and to use your hands to help someone today. Then watch God move and celebrate it!
Day 10: Resistance Gives Clarity and Strength (Luke 4)
Summary: As God did with Jesus, the Spirit of The Lord has led us into a season of sacrifice and testing. By now, the enemy has probably made all kinds of “offers” to you to sidetrack you from your spiritual focus (Food in front of your face, invitations to do other things during quiet time, etc.). However, when Jesus stayed focused and resisted, God clarified his mission and anointed his ministry. Similarly, as we stay focused during this 21 day journey, we can expect increased clarity on what God wants us to do, and a greater anointing for effectiveness in serving God. We may face rejection from some of those around us, but others will be blessed by the change.
Action Step: When Satan tries to get you off course (through negativity, appetites, distractions, etc.), resist him by keeping in mind that you have a better offer from God. Each time you successfully resist, give God a praise. Each time you resist will make you stronger.
Day 11: Getting Answers (James 1:5-8)
Summary: God wants to answer our prayers and give us direction. If you are seeking direction from God during this consecration, God WILL provide it. However, we should not come to God half heartedly, thinking God MIGHT answer if God gets around to it. You have to BELIEVE that God will speak to you and provide insight and direction. You might think that if you’ve sinned or made a mistake that God will stop speaking to you. But if you (a) acknowledge your mistakes before God, (b) ask God for wisdom, and (c) refuse to doubt that God will respond, God will show you what you need to know when you need to know it, without finding fault. God WANTS to show you His will (and not confuse you) so you can bring God glory.
Action Step: Write down a question that you want God to answer and begin seeking God diligently for a response. Believe God to give you the answer right when you need it.
Day 12: Stress Relief (2 Corinthians 1:3-11)
Summary: Modern life is full of hassles, deadlines, frustrations, and demands. For many people, stress is so commonplace that it has become a way of life. Constant stress can be a cause of significant mental, emotional, and physical damage to a person. But the Spirit of our God, known as The Comforter, provides us with a shelter from the stresses and strains of life. The assurance that God, who is our deliverer, will see us through the things that we cannot see the answers to now, keeps the trials and stresses of life from becoming overwhelming. Our task is to learn to rest in that assurance.
Action Step: List five things that cause you to feel stressed on a piece of paper. Fold the paper in half and place it under your Bible. Place your hand on your Bible and say “covered”. Begin to praise God for dissipating your stress and delivering you from your stressful situations.
Day 13: House Cleaning (1 Peter 2:1-2, Philippians 4:8)
Summary: There are things in our spiritual lives that need to be removed so that we can grow spiritually. There are times that we wonder why we don’t experience the kind of peace, breakthroughs, or revelation that we seek from God. Sometimes the problem is that there is too much other clutter in our spirits that is keeping us from experiencing God’s power. Consecration is a time for getting rid of the garbage that “crowds out” the Holy Spirit’s fullness that could be ours. Things like jealousy, refusal to forgive, dishonesty (small or great), or unyielding resentment of people limit the anointing on your life and keep God from using you the way God could. Rid yourself of it by replacing the negative talk in your head with God’s Word. Make it your business to meditate on God’s promises in the Bible rather than negativity.
Action Step: This week, as you empty the trash in your home, use the occasion to consider whether there is any “garbage” in your spirit that needs to be removed. Write it down on a piece of paper and throw it in the trash. Then read Psalm 19:14 aloud.
Day 14: You Make A Difference (2 Corinthians 4:7, Matthew 5:13-14)
Summary: Your presence as a believer makes a difference. When you become a believer in Christ, The Holy Spirit comes to live inside of you. Within you then is the most valuable treasure that exists. You may not feel like it, but that which is in you is something that people around you desperately need. Jesus describes us as “salt” and “light”. Salt (in this context) is a preservative that keeps things fresh, and a seasoning that gives flavor. Light gives direction and guidance that leads to safety. These need to be shared. Don’t let fears or a focus on your own inadequacies and problems keep you from sharing a word from God with someone that could refresh them, give them insight or direction, or perhaps even lead someone to salvation. Regardless of how little influence you think that you can have, your word might just be the thing gives somebody in despair a reason to carry on another day. You may feel insignificant next to someone that’s “big or important”, but you plus God make a majority.
Action Step: Commit yourself to encourage at least one person with a promise from God’s Word today. Regardless of how they receive it, when you get by yourself, praise God for allowing you to plant a seed. You made a difference!
Sunday, January 08 2012
Day 1: Engaging the Spirit Realm (Daniel 10)
Summary: This period of consecration will open your eyes to spiritual things that are not knowable in the natural. Spiritual allies will be fighting for you to release blessings in answer to your prayers. Your body may feel weak for a time, but God will give you strength through the reassurance that you are deeply loved by God.
Action step: Set aside DAILY time for prayer and Bible Study. Believe that God is operating on your behalf, releasing blessings in the heavenly realm. Determine to trust God for the answers to prayer, no matter how long it takes for them to manifest.
Day 2: An Earnest Plea (1 Chronicles 21:18-27)
Summary: David went in obedience to the Lord to worship, and was willing to make a sacrifice to purchase something to be dedicated to God, even when he could have used his influence to get it for free. When God saw David’s sacrifice, God removed the judgment to be executed against his people. Obedience and sacrifice are the keys to victory in your life. We can plead to God with our lips, but obedience and sacrifice demonstrate our sincerity. They can change the course of negative consequences and evoke God’s grace and mercy.
Action Step: If there is something in your life that you are seeking God’s forgiveness for, ask for that forgiveness, but also commit to obeying God’s Word and answering God’s call to sacrifice during this period of consecration. It may cost you something, but it will gain you everything.
Day 3: Expect the End to be Better! (Daniel 1)
Summary: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah committed themselves to eating only water and vegetables for ten days, and asked to be tested at the end. At the conclusion of this period they ended up looking and feeling BETTER than those who had the king’s rich diet. They were also given special spiritual graces of knowledge and wisdom. Committing yourself to God during this time we should EXPECT to be both physically better and spiritually more in tune that we would otherwise.
Action Step: Today take some time to write out some expectations for the end of your consecration. What are you looking for at the end. Begin giving God thanks NOW for it.
Day 4: Focus on God’s Word (Psalm 119)
Summary: David’s extended statement on the power of God’s Word details how important it is to make The Bible the central driving force in our lives. Often we rely more on our own instincts, experience, and senses to determine our course rather than God’s Word. But if we hide God’s Word in our heart (vl 1), let it order our steps (vl33), establish our short and long term direction (vl05), God will give us more strength and wisdom than we’ve ever had.
Action Step: Determine to write out a scripture from this passage that speaks to you. Repeat it eight to ten times during the course of the day and try to commit it to memory. Praise God for giving your spirit new strength.
Day 5: The Three Pillars (Matthew 6; 1-18)
Summary: Jesus focuses on three pillars of spiritual life in this passage: giving, prayer and fasting. He emphasizes that we aren’t to do any of these in order to get respect from others, but rather to please God and enhance our relationship with God. Giving, praying, and fasting are spiritual sacrifices that we do primarily for God’s pleasure, not to gain approval from anyone.
Action Step: Ask God to weed out any attention getting motives from our fast. Tell God that you are doing it for God and God alone.
Day 6: Connect it With Justice (Isaiah 58)
Summary: Fasting is useless if it is not accompanied by self examination. Isaiah points out that God’s people were doing the spiritual discipline of fasting, but at the same time exploiting people and participating in injustice. Similarly, we must ensure that our fast is not so inwardly focused that we are not working to make a difference for those who are experiencing oppression around us. Fasting and prayer can be powerful in destroying yokes of oppression and bondage around us if we commit ourselves to not close a blind eye to what is going on around us.
Action Step: Identify a social justice cause that you are concerned about (poverty, violence, education, etc.). Begin praying for social change and identify one way in which you can participate in making a difference.
Day 7: How to be a Spiritual Warrior (Matthew 11:12; Ephesians 6:10-18)
Summary: We believers must realize that we are at war, and that our choices are a matter of life and death. In order to survive we must (a) Get right with God (repent of unconfessed sin), (b) Declare War on Satan (determine that he WILL NOT rule your house), (c) Pray DAILY, and (d) Exercise our faith - believe God for a godly goal which seems unattainable.
Action Step: Talk yourself through putting on the armor of God before you meet your day (Ephesians 6:10-18)
Sunday, January 08 2012
January 8 - January 29, 2012
In Matthew 6, Jesus addressed three specific pillars of a Christian life, Giving, Praying and Fasting. “When you give”, “When you pray”, and “When you fast ”
Ecclesiastes 4:12 — a threefold cord is not easily broken
Fasting, Praying and Giving
For these next three weeks we are setting ourselves apart to focus our attention on God
Corporate Objectives (Why is our church doing this?)
• To break strongholds that limit our church from progress and growth
• To overcome unhealthy behaviors
o Personal- Addictions, habits, unhealthy life practices , unbiblical behaviors
o Collective - Traditions and practices that are ineffective, irrelevant, or detrimental to progress
• To develop a more of a hunger and thirst for learning about God, God’s will and the application of God’s Word in our congregation,
• To empower our people to take our faith OUTSIDE of the church, in order to:
o Lead people to Christ
o Address community issues with the resurrection power of the gospel
Praying & Studying
• Prayer is the cornerstone of any effort to get closer to God. (Focused communication)
• Set aside daily time to seek the Lord.
• Make a special effort to attend Church School AND either Evening Prayer Meeting/Bible Study or Hour of Power during the period (Heb 10:24,25)
• Scripture readings: Matthew 6:5-15, Ephesians 6:18, 1 Thessalonians 5:17-18, James 5:16
• Making a sacrifice from your substance is integral to any program of consecration. God has always required sacrifices from the belongings of God’s people as part of their worship. In the Old Testament, worshippers had to always bring some form of sacrifice unto the Lord, regardless of their level of means
• God expressed His love for us through GIVING (John 3:16)
• GIVE YOURSELF FIRST. Then give of your substance. (God wants your heart)
• Determine a level of sacrifice that you will commit to during the period (1 Cor. 16:2)
• Scripture readings: Matthew 6:1-5, 2 Corinthians 9:7, Ephesians 5:2; Romans 12:1,2
• Biblical fasting is refraining from food for a spiritual purpose. The point of fasting is to apply the time and attention that you would give to eating to activities that will make your relationship with God more intimate (i.e., prayer, Bible Study, meditation, Spirit led service).
• Fasting is a way to conquer the physical and open the door to the supernatural in your life.
• Scripture readings: Esther 4:16, Daniel 10:3, Jonah 3:5, Matthew 4:2 (Jesus fasted), Matthew 6:16-18
Types of Fasts
• Total Fast-No food or drink
• Full Fast
- Drink only liquids
• Daniel Fast
- Eat no meat, no sweets, no bread; Drink water and 100% juice; Eat fruits, vegetables and lentils. (Daniel 1). Our corporate fast will be a Daniel fast.
• Partial Fast - From 6 am to 3 pm or from sun-up to sundown
• Fast of Sacrifice - Giving up television or anything that would be a personal sacrifice.
Scripture References for Corporate Fasting
• 1 Samuel 7:5-6; Ezra 8:21-23; Nehemiah 9:1-3; Joel 2:15-16; Jonah 3:5-10; Acts 27:33-37
• The church is promoting the DANIEL FAST for 18 days and a FULL FAST (liquids only) for the last 3 days
. However, if you cannot fast according to these guidelines, please choose another type of fast (see above). BOTTOM LINE: WE WANT YOU TO PARTICIPATE!!! (Youth, adults, seniors, EVERYONE)
• Start with a clear personal goal, such as a need for direction, healing, financial breakthrough, and/or restoration of relationship. Commit to the church’s collective goals. Prepare spiritually by confessing your sins to God and asking forgiveness
• Pray as often as you can; get away from the normal distractions and keep your heart and mind set on seeking God’s face
• Do not be too legalistic! The point is not to show how strong or dedicated you are, but to increase your dependence on God and to give you a way to prioritize God in your life. If you blow it, just continue where you left off and keep trying! Conquering the flesh is difficult, but God will give you the strength if you faint not!!
Food Guideline for a Daniel Fast
Foods You May Eat
Whole Grains: Brown Rice, Oats, Barley
Legumes: Dried Beans, Pinto Beans, Split Peas, Lentils, Black Eyed Peas
Fruits: Apples, Apricots, Bananas, Blackberries, Blueberries, Boysenberries, Cantaloupe, Cherries, Cranberries, Oats, Figs, Grapefruit, Grapes, Guava, Honeydew Melon, Kiwi, Lemons, Limes, Mangoes, Nectarines, Papayas, Peaches, Pears, Pineapples, Plums, Prunes, Raisins, Raspberries, Strawberries, Tangelos, Tangerines, Watermelon
Vegetables: Artichokes, Asparagus, Beets, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage, Carrots, Cauliflower, Celery, Chili Peppers, Com, Cucumbers, Eggplant, Garlic, Gingerroot, Kale, Leeks, Lettuce, Mushrooms, Mustard Greens, Okra, Onions, Parsley, Potatoes, Radishes, Rutabagas, Scallions, Spinach, Sprouts, Squashes, Sweet Potatoes, Tomatoes, Turnips, Watercress, Yams, Zucchini, veggie burgers are an option if you not allergic to soy.
Liquids: Spring Water, Distilled Water, 100% All-Natural Fruit Juices, 100% All Natural Vegetable Juices. You may also drink protein drinks.
Others: Seeds, Nuts, Sprouts
Foods to Avoid
Meat, White Rice, Fried Foods, Caffeine, Carbonated Beverages, Foods Containing Preservatives or Additives, Refined Sugar, Sugar Substitutes, White Flour and All Products Using It, Margarine, Shortening, High Fat Products
Sunday, May 22 2011
To Bishop Richard Franklin Norris, Mother Mary Ann Norris, Presiding Elders, Pastors, Clergy, Laity and the members of the 195th Session of the Philadelphia Annual Conference – I greet you in the joy of Jesus Christ! First Lady Ingrid and I consider ourselves to be tremendously blessed to be counted worthy to serve God’s wonderful people at The Place of Vision, the Mighty Mount Pisgah African Methodist Episcopal Church of Philadelphia, for this our sixth year. Our theme for this year was “We’re Thinking BIG” (Believing in God’s Greater Glory), taken from Haggai 2:9: “The Glory of this latter house will be greater than that of the former, saith the Lord of hosts: and in this place will I give peace, saith the Lord of hosts.” God declared in 2010 that if we believed, God would show us greater glory than we have ever experienced. (click here for more...
Wednesday, December 01 2010
On the tail end of Black Friday and Cyber Monday we “suddenly” see appearing the symbols of the Holiday Season in every store window and throughout virtually every neighborhood. Christmas trees, lights and ornaments, nativity scenes, Hanukah menorahs, and Kwanzaa kinaras light up the season with beauty. This season means many things to many people, and the season’s symbols are varied and diverse. Some people choose to merely enjoy their aesthetic beauty. The “season of lights
” brings many images that are pleasing to the eye. Others see the various symbols of the season only as reminders of the onslaught of stress associated with gift buying, decorating, and entertaining. Still others reject the symbols altogether as outmoded and irrelevant. (click here for more...
Monday, November 01 2010
Beloved of God:
As a former techie, (my background is in computer science) I am particularly aware that there is a fine line between electronic media being a friend and being a foe. The proliferation of laptops, smart phones, tablet PCs, IPods and electronic book readers has literally brought the world to our fingertips. People have unprecedented access to news, information, music, entertainment, and people through these tools that are supposed to make our lives easier and more efficient. Everyone is connecting and status checking on Facebook, LinkedIn and MySpace, and putting out “tweets” to be followed on Twitter, so there is no reason for anyone to ever lose touch with anyone. Everyone is “Googling” to their hearts content, so there is no longer any excuse for not having an immediate answer to any question. Books can be downloaded and read on electronic screens, and excerpted though “cutting and pasting” so that no one need clutter their homes with bookshelves, and note cards are obsolete.
I believe that these tools should be embraced for all that they are worth and used for all of the benefits that they provide. As Christians, our resistance to change both organizationally and technologically tends to keep us in the dark ages. However, this was not always so. Use of the prevailing technologies of the day is quite biblical. The New Testament church in Acts took advantage of the latest innovations of the day for the advance of the church’s mission almost from its inception. In the early days of the Roman Empire, the Roman road system was an innovation developed to enhance the movement of armies, goods, and information to and from the far reaches of the Empire. When the church was born, God positioned Peter, Paul and the other apostles to co-opt the use of that system. The roads became a network of travel routes for the spreading of the gospel. Even the “scattering” of the disciples during persecution, and the consequent use of those roads as roads of escape, led to more people hearing the good news of Jesus. The early apostles redeemed what was created for one set of purposes and used it for God’s purposes.
Why then, should we not use our “statuses” on social networking sites as a platform for telling of God’s goodness, and encouraging one another? Why should we not have people follow us on Twitter as we follow Christ? Why should we not be “blogging” our testimonies, and situating our churches on search engines so that people who are looking for a church can “Google” us? These things are merely tools, and God can take any tool in the hands of the right person and use it for His Glory.
Of course, there are two inherent dangers in the use of tools such as these. The first is that while they enable good to be done more efficiently, they can increase the boldness of sin and its impact as well. The harm of a thoughtless status message is multiplied when it is broadcasted to the entire online world. The value of the availability of endless worthwhile information is sometimes counterbalanced by the amount of information that is at best unsubstantiated and erroneous (i.e., every website is not telling you the truth), and at worst garbage and smut. The ability to make new connections online is a plus, but the “anonymity” makes it easier for shady people and predators to take advantage of the unsuspecting. While the tool of technology can be a wonder, it can also be a horror if being operated by wronghanded people with twisted hearts.
The second danger is that, like anything created to enhance our lives, technological tools can become the focus of our lives. Our lives are spent conversing via screens and keyboards (or smart phones) rather than learning to talk to people. Eyes glued to a screen can be both dangerous and addicting (there is a reason why the term “Crack-berry” was coined). We waste hours awaiting the next “status update,” the next generation in communication (5G), or the newest, fastest version of our favorite device or application. When our relationship with THINGS becomes more important to us than our relationships with people, or even more importantly than our relationship with God, we are bordering on techidolatry and missing out on the experience of real relationships.
God said to Israel in Habakkuk 2, “How foolish to trust in something made by your own hands!” The principle is clear. We ought to love people, and use things, and not the other way around! Use things, but don’t let things use you! And of course, we ought to love God above ALL things. If we can keep these things in perspective, our techie toys and tools can greatly enhance our service to God and humanity.
The Force is already with you. His name is JESUS!!
Friday, October 01 2010
Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
One of my favorite stories in scripture is the story of Jacob’s “wrestling match” with a heavenly being in Genesis 32. In this story, circumstances required that Jacob return to his homeland where his brother lived, whom he had wronged. Jacob had come to a place in his life where he was forced to face up to a past that he was ashamed of, and not run from it anymore. He had to stop and deal with it. Out of fear, Jacob did everything possible to put it off (including sending his family ahead of him), but facing it was inevitable.
Many of us have things from our past that we would rather not stop and deal with. We would rather stay busy, keep preoccupied, and drown out the thoughts of it with life’s “noise.” Sooner or later, however, God brings us to a point in life where we have to face up to it, either because the ramifications from it begin to affect our present, or because someone else has been affected by it. These “things” may not be “deep dark secrets”, but perhaps unresolved conflicts, or unsettled matters that are still in our spirits that God is telling us it’s time to deal with. Like Jacob, we may try to put it off, but often our procrastination in dealing with such matters can adversely affect those close to us.
Before Jacob encountered the issue that he knew he had to face, however, Jacob had another encounter. The Bible says it wasn’t a comfortable encounter – it was a wrestling match. Interestingly enough, it’s not clear until after the fact exactly who Jacob is wrestling with, or why. They just began struggling.
Sometimes we feel like we’re in a wrestling match that seems to come out of the blue. There’s a struggle going on, and but we’re not quite sure with whom we are struggling. Is it Satan on the attack? Is it God who I’m struggling with? Is it me who I’m struggling with? We are struggling with questions, wrestling with issues, grappling with decisions. We feel like they have us in a head lock and we’re not sure why.
In the midst of the struggle, something inside Jacob tells him that there’s something special about this wrestling match. This is not just a random attack. Something on the inside tells him that he Needs to wrestle with this! He’s at one of the most vulnerable points of his life, alone, away from his family, and fearing for his life, and all of the sudden, he’s under attack, but something tells him that if he holds on to this man, if he keeps on wrestling, if he doesn’t let go, somehow there’s a blessing in store for him. If he aborts the struggle and lets it overcome him, somehow he’s going to miss out on an opportunity. Jacob made up his mind to hold on through the struggle, and God transformed Jacob into Israel. Israel then could then deal with the issues of Jacob’s past with a different spirit from a new perspective.
Sometimes THE BLESSING IS IN THE WRESTLING! You might not understand what you’re going through or why you’re going through it, (children acting up, spouse acting crazy, household in disarray, and you’re wrestling) but I want to encourage you to hold on to God through the wrestling. Don’t let go. If you hold on through the wrestling, God can and will use it to transform you, and “a transformed you” will be much better able to face and address the unresolved issues of your past.
Your Brother in the Struggle,
Friday, September 10 2010
This is a statement from the Bishop of our Second Episcopal District regarding the proposed Qur’an burning by Pastor Terry Jones.
I for one stand in complete agreement with Bishop Richardson’s condemnation of this unnecessary act of intolerance.
TCR BREAKING NEWS: Bishop Adam J. Richardson Statement about proposed burning of the Qur’an
Let me mince no words by saying at the outset that I adamantly object to the proposed Quran burning by Pastor Terry Jones of the Dove Global Outreach Center Church of Gainesville, Florida. The proposed burning of the Qur’an falls far beyond the pale of what is both civil and spiritual. Even if it did not put undue security risks upon our military personnel, putting our troops in greater danger, as President Obama and General Petraeus have insisted, it would still be totally unacceptable.
The burning of books, like the banning of books, has always seemed to be an exercise in futility. The effect is generally the opposite of the draconian and drastic action being taken. The logic seems to follow along these lines: If the book is worth burning or banning, it must also be worth reading. It always seems to raise greater interest in the questions why, and a greater appeal for the ideas and principles contained in them. We owe it to our Muslim neighbors (and global neighbors) to respect the sacred text of Islam, as sign and symbol of the reasonableness of our own faith commitment as Christians (or not), as well as the value we place upon the Constitution and what it means to be an American. I expect no less respect for the value that I place upon the Holy Bible.
It is not necessary for us to be in agreement about the contents of the books we profess and allege to be holy; it is only necessary that we be respectful. Not only is this a civil response to the spiritual sensibilities of others, it is basic to almost all religions: “regard for others.” While I am certain that Pastor Jones’ intent is to be loyal to the Christian Scriptures and to uphold the claims of the Christian faith, he has forgotten one valuable verse, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” From our own sacred text (the Sermon on the Mount), Jesus says that this “sums up the Law and the prophets.” No wonder it is a rule called “Golden.”
Adam J. Richardson, Jr., Bishop
Second Episcopal District
African Methodist Episcopal Church
Wednesday, September 01 2010
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
As did many parents, I recently received a correspondence from my daughter’s school itemizing the supplies that she will need for the upcoming school year. After reviewing this multi-page missive and picking my jaw up from the floor, I began to think about how important it is for our children to be equipped with what they need to get a good start on the year. Without the necessary items, they enter the classroom at a distinct disadvantage. Children with access to the proper tools can focus on learning, rather than spending precious time scrambling and trying to find what they need. Of course, the weight on parents in providing such items can be tremendous; for many parents it’s a sacrifice to give their children what they need to compete.
Children however are not the only ones needing school supplies. As God’s children, we all must be equipped to receive the learning that life provides. Regardless of whether we are enrolled in an academic institution, we are always in the classroom, complete with assignments, quizzes, tests, and grades that will test our knowledge, wisdom, and self-discipline. Our experiences in life (relationship dynamics, health situations, financial challenges, etc.) are classes that are designed to teach us. Some of us are in “Something Out of Nothing 101,” trying to figure out how to make money for “one thing” stretch to last for “ten things.” Others of us are in “Family Drama 202,” trying to navigate relationships with difficult people. There is an entire syllabus of classes we find ourselves “enrolled in” that we need to find a way to pass. The question for us is whether we have acquired the proper tools with which to process those experiences, or if we are wasting precious time scrambling trying to merely survive through the exams of life without really learning the lessons that they teach. We need to be properly equipped in order to learn effectively.
To be successful in the classroom of life, we first need to know that God has made the ultimate sacrifice to equip us to compete. At the cross, Jesus provided the tools required to pass the tests of life. We also have been given the ultimate tutor, the Holy Spirit, who by indwelling and infilling us can teach us to apply the principles that God has laid out in God’s Word when we are tested on them. Finally, God has placed us in the fellowship of believers, a learning community in which we can put lessons into practice in a supportive environment. (At times, the fellowship serves as a “test laboratory” in which “pop quizzes” are given to test a person’s maturity at applying the principles before they are used elsewhere in a person’s life.) All of these – salvation, the infilling of The Holy Spirit, a knowledge of God’s Word, and a church family, are needed in order for a person thrive in life’s classroom, and not merely make it through to the end. God is patient enough to allow lessons to be re-taught that we fail to learn the first time, until such time we finally “get it.”
I continue to be concerned when God’s people go out into life’s classroom ill-equipped, either not having or not utilizing the tools for success that God has provided. When we don’t pick up these tools, we end up “copying off of the world’s exam paper,” using our own wits or our own strength, or compromising our ideals in order to manage what comes at us. God will not bless these efforts. God wants us to learn His lessons, not our own. God wants us to learn to see things His way, not the world’s way. God’s principles applied can help us to get an “A” in classes such as “Forgiving the Offender”, or “Traveling Stormy Waters.” God will help us, but we need to be equipped!
One thing that I notice about school supplies is that there is a big push to sell them from about the middle of the summer through mid-September, when things are offered at discounted prices. As soon as the push is over, things go back to their regular price. In life’s classroom, however, it is never too late to stock up. God has a never-ending supply, and it can be accessed even in the middle of a test. The Spirit of God will step in to help us figure things out, and even turn a definite “F” around at the end of the semester! God’s supplies can fix any seemingly impossible situation, and help us to learn lessons that we can use to encourage others. So get equipped, and be encouraged!
Keep Living and Learning!