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Putting Rest on the Calendar

May 26, 2020
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This pandemic has caused an epidemic everywhere. In your home. On your job. Out in these streets. Upward mentally. Downward physically. And so on. I can’t speak for everyone else, but I’ve suffered insomnia to great levels since covid-19 to the point where I’ve considered seeking professional help.

One friend of mine offered me a piece of advice that made an immediate impact: go outside and get that vitamin D for about 10-15 minutes a day. I tried it and it worked beyond my wildest imagination.

Then he hit me – rest has taken on a morphed shape since mid March. I feel like this is the case for all humans. Our calendars haven’t changed much, and that’s something we ought to reconsider. There’s something inherent in putting rest into our calendars that provides us cycles of health on many levels.

In the West, our presumed calendar is five + two. 40 hours used to be commendable. Now folks are busy-shaming others for not working doubly hard in addition to gaining some extra hobby that affords you profit and/or phame. Then take two days to focus more on that hobby and then some Netflix/Hulu/Prime and chill.

The Jewish calendar approach is six + one. The idea is to be literally tied to what God did when He created this world. So they work hard creating and cultivating things for six days, and then rest up on that one day (because you’re gonna need it).

I’m not here to tell you which calendar to adapt for your life and family etc. I just want to raise the appropriate question of where does rest fit in. The Christian calendar is a complete reversal of what we might consider common sense: it’s a one + six format. The rest is placed on the front end followed by six days of work.

Admittedly, this calendar format is incredibly hard for me. For one, I tend to not see Sundays as the beginning of the week for me. Sundays means rest and worship. But here’s the other part that is a game changer. I begin my week resting in the work that God completed. (See Jewish calendar). I don’t heap on more and more back-breaking work to my plate, aka shoulders, for the week. I don’t do that because I know all that was needed for me to accomplish what I’m employed to do was done by God, therefore, I rest in that mental safety net. Sure I have goals and weekly tasks….who doesn’t. But my approach is one of thankfulness for what my creator did for me. I’m not the alpha and omega of all good things happening in my department, project, team, or company. That’s a great feeling.

This approach has offered me moments where I “woosah” throughout the week. Sometimes I’m able to do that the same way Marcus and Mike did it if you get what I’m saying. And I’m able to get some vitamin D outside even during this pandemic, which continues to provide me blessings on blessings on blessings. Whatever your calendar regimen is, I do hope you desire to fit rest in as much as you want success, gym, games, or being around people to be in there.


Frankl Ethic

May 18, 2020
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In the Church, “to whom much is given, much will be required” says Saint Luke in chapter 12.

In the West, “to whom much is given, much is tested” says Saint Kanye of Chicago.

In the eye of ethics, balance freedom and responsibility.

There’s not much as piercing to people as the teeter-totter slide when it comes to justice. Judgement has gotten a bad wrap. Decision-making has attained a high value. Standards are forever subjective. And justice has suffered under this weight.

While I prefer just treatment and fair shots, I’m under zero obligation to give that to others. I’m the objective beholder of ethical behavior. I know my worth. I’m all about positive energy. I will not stand in the shadows just so you can feel better about yourself adjusting the spotlight. And all that other jazz….

Covid and lockdown and shelter-in-place has unearthed the realities that were already present. Nobody’s concerned about the freedom spoken of within the Constitution. No one is striving after being responsible in several spheres of influence. In other words, ethics has gone the way of the do-do bird. Balance is not what the Western world is truly after.

Don’t be mistaken, we want both freedom and responsibility. And when do we want it – as soon as it’ll get us off the hook. Perhaps Saint Luke was onto something in chapter 12. The very things we crave to be given come with a high dose of reciprocity. The requirement of attaining don’t mesh with the tendency to withhold. It’s a give and take situation.

Viktor Frankl proposed a thought as deep as the ocean: keep the statue of liberty in the East and put the statue of responsibility in the West. So as the sun rises and then sets, the proverbial American cannot forget the shadows of freedom and responsibility. It’s basic ethics 101.

Unfortunately, the community of Jesus-followers tend to resemble the community of anti-Jesus followers when ethics is on the menu. Both communities would do well to listen to Saint Luke.


Continual Identity

April 6, 2020
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Covid-19 has been like a mirror to the entire world. Lots of different faces are being reflected. The things people hold near and dear to their heart are closer than they appear. What used to be just subjectively surface and not much of a big deal has now become objectively root level deep and real. In other words, YOLO and “you do you” are no longer acceptable lenses to view life in this world.

Chaos tends to do that. Give a new set of lens to view life. Especially to the ones who are having immense trouble with the pandemic mirror reality. If people are unsure about their identity before a crisis hits, then that lack of surety is magnified hundredfold once it hits. Who am I now that this crisis has hit? Who am I now that my life has been turned upside down? And then comes the next question that we all have to wrestle with: who am I to be for and towards others now that life has been turned upside down?

This is where this particular blog finds a silver lining of hope.

For the nonbelievers, there’s hope in being a good human. It almost sounds patriotic. It’s definitely chalked up to being American. What the world needs now is a lump sum of good humans being good humans for and towards others. It’s a system built off happenstance fed by guilt and fear. Guilt of not being the best you that you can be; fear of making things worse as a result of not being a good human. There’s a lot of common sense in this system. Good and practical mores to adhere.

For the believers, there’s hope in being what God said you were a long time ago. Peter the apostle wrote his first letter to a group of exiles for the purpose of encouragement: “Therefore, get your minds ready for action by being fully sober, and set your hope completely on the grace that will be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed.” Then in 1 Peter chapter 2, God sets a designation on all believers who are being built by him as a spiritual house to be a priesthood of believers. That’s our lens.

This lens isn’t new for the believer. This lens isn’t a crisis produced identity. This lens has the benefit of being an ongoing one. For the believer, the lens which we look through is none other than the identity God gave us that Peter the apostle wrote about in his first letter. We are priests. We stand in the gap for people. We listen to those happy and hurting. We value all people. We seek to be a vehicle for provision for people. We go to God on behalf of people. We are messengers of good news. We are messengers of bad news. We empathize with the lowly and the arrogant.

The way we view this present world under much chaos ought to be the same way we did before this invisible killer was lurking. We may even risk our lives for those unwilling to save theirs. We may even risk our lives for loved ones and neighbors with whom we’re not familiar. We may even risk our lives to help bring rest to someone else. We do that because we know we’ve set our hope in the divine human being known as Jesus, and we believe he’s coming back at which point his glorious deity will be revealed to all. So we act in wisdom. A priesthood of believers is our continual identity.

Much like the group to whom Peter wrote 2 letters, we know ourselves to be exiles here in this world and its kingdoms. This isn’t our final home, and yet we are citizens left here to be the hands, mouths, and feet of Jesus to others. May that mark our continued presence here under the reality of a priesthood.


Consistent Principle

April 1, 2020
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“There’s no such thing as situational ethics.” I once heard this statement expressed and affirmed many times over. As the heads nodded, I asked a simple question: “in what situation is ethics always consistent?”

Much to my chagrin an answer was not offered. You see, I found a silver lining in that proposed question. God. In order for there to be ethics, then there has to be an ethical standard that is worthy of setting that standard. However, such an ethical standard must be applied situationally as problems arise.

In other words, ethical standards have a way of posing a consistent principle in every situation. Situation #1 – In the Pentateuch, as Israel was set to enter their rest in the Promised Land, Moses was given a message for Israel in Deuteronomy 10.12-22. Situation #2 – In the Minor Prophets, the prophet Micah is given a prophetic message for Samaria and Jerusalem under the reign of Judah kings about the Lord’s remnant and the Lord’s rule in Micah 6.8. Situation #3 – In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus’ enemies, Pharisees and Sadducees, teamed up together to quiz him about what God’s word had to say about the greatest commandment in Matthew 22.34-38.

The consistent principle in every situation above is this: God requires that his people love him with all their heart and mind by obeying his commandments, namely to promote justice, be faithful, and live humbly.

God is consistent and gives commandments for every situation. Sure, some are harder to decipher than others. Yet the principle remains the same. The requirement is the same. God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. His standards have never changed. And they never will.

So when someone says there is no such thing as situational ethics, you can make better sense of what’s really being said under the surface.


Creativity in the Crisis

March 29, 2020
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Friends,

I’m thinking mainly of those who will read this blog and maybe pass it on to their friends. How would you measure your level of creativity?

There are challenges all around us. Opportunities are endless. This is a gift, people.

The question is, do you see this as a gift or not?

Curiosity has some funny ways of presenting itself to us. Some times we have to be forced to slow down in order to activate that brain muscle. And this is a perfect time to do just that.

Personally I’m working on my martial art. Movement is key during a time where sitting down is often the go-to for us. Working on kinetic energy is helpful for the mind and body.

What are you working on? What ways can you take up a new challenge or opportunity out of curiosity?

Don’t waste this time.


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Labels and Likes for Lent

March 6, 2020
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Anything good goes up on social media. What a person is eating and drinking to where a person is going to when a person is going to make something major happen; it all goes on social media. Ironically, the time period where this is suspended is Lent.

Just a few weeks ago, I saw photos boasting of Ash Wednesday. Amazing to see it plastered on platforms. Hey guys, I’m giving up something for a period of 40 days, but before I go, check out this cool looking forehead cross. For the record, I am not hating. I just find it hilarious. It strikes me as odd that so many folks posting about their dedication to Lent are doing it for likes and labels. The likes of friends celebrating their coolness. The labels of hip, different, countercultural, or believer being attached to their person with the hope that it won’t fade away once the 40 days is over.

I would love to challenge the religious and spiritual folks to give up likes and labels for Lent. Having symbolically manifested one’s grief for all the things done wrong via a forehead cross, there’s something heavily missing. If the person choosing to engage in the 40 days craze is not a believer in the God of Ash Wednesday, there is not enough recompense that can be made to bridge the chasm of shame of division from an imperfect person to a perfect God.

This is not an easy statement to read and digest. But it is true. The only remedy that bridges that chasm is the one who took on flesh to lift up humanity to God – Jesus. So if this person is giving up things without placing their confidence in him, then their shame has gone nowhere.

If the person choosing to engage in the 40 days craze is a believer in the God of Ash Wednesday, then I would actually challenge the person’s reasoning for taking a break from something. Again, I have no problem in a believer joining in on this long standing tradition. However, it is key to note that belief in the one who took on flesh to lift up humanity to God is what bridged that chasm. He’s the only mediator between God and man whereby the two can be reconciled.

So labels like belief in God’s son is something that ought to never be given up for Lent. And likes for the work that God’s son has done in ultimate completion is something that ought to never be given up for Lent. All the other labels and likes are up for grabs in my opinion.

So pray, fast, and give as you see fit. Encourage others who have signed up for this tradition. Think through the person and work of God’s son while doing all three. And I can only hope that after 40 days, belief and trust in Jesus is the result.


When Morality Leads Us

February 24, 2020
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In recent news, morality in this world has reared its head. Unfortunately, it has been done as a zero sum game. More morality for you means less morality for me. Or, the colloquial phrase uttered by Jay-Z, “what you eat don’t make me shhh!” Blogs and social media posts are being written with the aim of making distinctive and discerning steps between right and wrong landing spots, and good and bad behavior. Morality is rampant and is becoming more of a cool thing to see advocated. In fact, it has gotten to a point of no return.

When They See Us was a great Netflix series to remind people how to not overlook others who are not in the same position that we are in. Grown-ish is a new cool tv show that broaches topics that are affecting teens, and subsequently their families, in our society today.  Right after Grown-ish is the tv show Everything’s Gonna Be Okay that highlights the aftermath of a family that lost their father and is now left in the hands of the oldest child, Nicholas, who is navigating life as a gay man raising two sisters. I mention these shows because they tend to face little to no morality policing.

Why? I’m not sure, but I hope it’s because everybody is ready to admit that we’re all moral people hoping that others morals tend to agree with ours.

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere! This quote from MLK needs to be remembered, revisited, and reapplied to our moral problem. You see, sometimes folks like to state that what one family does with their child or children has absolutely nothing to do with another family’s well-being etc. The nerve of some folks, huh? This is hilarious to me because this society has taken a few folks to task under this same auspice. Does anyone remember Rachel Dolezal? Once it was revealed that she was in fact a white lady, no longer was she allowed to call herself a black woman nor could she continue to lead the NAACP. Out the window went the moral grandstanding that’s highly inconsistent. Another example would be the boy who felt like a woman and decided to run track. Immediate outrage spewed forth in media outlets because this athlete kept winning everything. “That’s not fair!” “That’s still a boy winning all those races.” 

This same confusion on one side and a cry for acceptance and mind-your-business on the other side has availed itself over the Dwayne Wade and Gabrielle Union decision to call Zion by her preferred name, Zaya. The calls by some LGBTQ community spokespeople center around parents being free to love and raise their children how they see fit. But as a society we have highly inconsistent in our insistence for morality. How do I know? Kaitlyn Jenner has suffered ridicule on several layers and supported somewhat by her new community.

As a Christian, I am confused by a society that wants moral standards which include respecting human beings and showing human decency, while not wanting standards. Where are these standards coming from? Which set of moral standards are we as a society to follow?

Anarchy is bound to happen. If what’s good for you is good for you, and I’m not allowed to have a say in it, then anarchy happens. This isn’t a far-fetched reality. I’ve worked two different jobs with teenager habilitation companies. Within this facility, there are three groups: gang members, drug addicts, and the molested-molester units. I’d be willing to bet everything that I own that no one wants to allow any of these units to continue living how they see fit without a call for change! Nor would anyone decide to let racist teens or teens with murderous ways/personalities continue in their ways without demanding they follow a different set of moral standards. Different means better and less destructive.

Indeed Americans want flourishing, and often push for legal help to see something equivalent to an ideal come to pass. But what was and what has been legal has not always pushed for the flourishing of everyone. Morality hasn’t meant much since the early 1600s.

 


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What Sanctity of Life Has To Do With MLK Holiday

January 20, 2020
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Some of my readers may be shocked to know that the 3rd Sunday of January was not always deemed sacred by Protestants. In fact, Evangelicals used to wholly turn a blind eye to the ways of Planned Parenthood. In the last two decades or so, PP has garnered much negative attention from the Christian conservatives that served as a ferry to the Sanctity of Life Sunday service.

The irony of picking the 3rd Sunday for Evangelicals has seemed to fall deaf on many ears over the years. Before there ever was a sacrilegious label being dolled out, there was this 3rd Sunday before the MLK holiday. Businesses, banks, and schools profited from this holiday. Most of the church attendees benefited or even traveled thanks to this holiday. However, not a peep was made from the pulpits of Evangelicals.

In other words what society-at-large celebrated on Monday had zero bearing the day before in churches across America. The ideals which brought about the need to recognize the man connected to the holiday were fully ignored and perhaps thought to be disconnected from the teachings of Scripture. Ironic. The once Baptist preacher who wrote and fought for human dignity and economic equality had no merit in the eyes of Evangelicals. His life and his legacy were far from scared, much like the target population of Planned Parenthood from its origin. And yet, Evangelicals finally decided to ‘assign’ human dignity to babies being aborted within the very Planned Parenthoods that were being built in black and brown neighborhoods all over the world. I mean . . . have you ever seen a PP in a white neighborhood before?

Laughter is what comes to mind when considering how a majority group can choose to ignore a God given sense of value, dignity, and significance until it has found ample evidence and so-called logical reasoning to once and for all attribute time, money, attention, and sermons to the least, the lost, and the last. This atrocity is akin to the welfare narrative in America. A governmental system erected to extend aid to a precious group of individuals deemed worthy of handouts and social programs that went completely unnoticed. Thanks to one president and his desire to ‘get to the bottom of this’ attitude did a black woman become the dictionary definition of welfare queen. Whites were then and quite possibly still are the majority group being aided by the welfare system, but you’d never know if you believe everything the media broadcasts.

Hopefully the present day Evangelicals will begin to see their hypocrisy in their own lens brought to their attention by their allies and insiders, and then maybe a change will come. Then maybe people will be judged by the content of their character and obvious extended periods of lapse judgement, rather than the color of their skin. Then maybe Evangelicals will be able to proactively utter the all lives matter phrase knowing that MLK and others they once shunned also valued life before their politically – driven group did.

What does sanctity of life have to do with the MLK holiday? Besides being a day late and a dollar short . . . these two ought to be combined more and more on Sunday mornings by preachers. Tell how men cherished life of all before the label was slapped on church bulletins. Tell how many chose not to value life despite the pleas and spilled blood that cried out. Tell how there’s a way forward to join arms with those inside and outside the church to do every bit to remove the majority of Planned Parenthood buildings from minority stomping grounds while acknowledging the good that Planned Parenthood actually does offer to communities. Tell the truth on both sides. Tell how Margaret Sanger was accepted within the evangelicals of her day. Tell how God has a pair of scales that weigh out justice and injustice. Tell how God is impartial. Tell how God can forgive. Tell how God sent his son Jesus to die a sacrificial death for all the valued babies, adults, elderly, veterans etc that place their faith in him as Lord and Savior.

It goes without saying that MLK’s I Have a Dream Speech spoke to the sanctity of life before Evangelicals did . . . but I wanted to make sure you knew it explicitly.


Christmas Story

December 25, 2019
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But Jesus was not sent to Earth to die as an infant. Think about that for a second. Reread it if you have to. Jesus was not sent to die as an infant. Nor was he spoken into existence as a full grown man like Adam.


Christian Personality Talk

September 14, 2019
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Well, what do ya know? A new way of talking Christian has hit churches and social media platforms hard. It’s cool. It’s new. It’s sometimes required. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, it’s highly likely that you (and your church) are not that cool. It’s changed the way people talk to each other.

In a ministry team huddle, one person raises their hands to talk about their week and the struggles of being a faithful Christian. Another person listening belts out, “are you a 7?” Some of the not-so-cool people in the room are puzzled by the question. Those of us “in the know” are awaiting the answer.

Unable to stomach it much longer, I interject into the conversation. “You know that the Enneagram will give you different results based on your mood every time you take the test, right? You know that the Enneagram tells you what you’re like and not what you’re supposed to be, right?” And right there I’m labeled the killjoy. Welp, that’s fine.

The thought process goes something like this — if you want to understand the type of person you will do ministry with or “do life” with in a certain setting, then have everyone take a test. This test will reveal to the takers what their Christian personality is based on their assigned 4 digit number. The first number describes the normal you; the second number describes your best life; the third number describes you at your weakest point; and the fourth number rarely ever gets mentioned.

I’ve had people tell me that since landing on their main number they have wondered how to live life under the Enneagram label. It’s rather hilarious initially. Then I was hit with a sad piece of news. This same person wondering how to live took this question to a pastor. Of course, this pastor answered the question with the Word of God, right? Sadly no. Instead the pastor gives one of the most derelict answers by pointing to another Enneagram book that would help not only solve the question, but dig even deeper.

Here’s the main takeaway I’d like to offer: repent. If you find yourself to be an 8 with a wing 9 and then a 2, wonderful. Go read the results to understand why you were given those particular numbers. Then go read your Bible to determine if you’re any more like Jesus because of this test. I’m willing to bet because I’ve seen this with my very own eyes that far too many Christians have found their newest WWJD in the form of Enneagram, and yet refuse to repent of their lack of holiness and cling to Jesus. Now this may sound harsh, but many folks have bragged about this test and their results while never bringing up how any of this makes them more like Jesus. Instead it helps to create cliques. Imagine only 5s wanting to hangout because they really get each other. I’m just waiting for someone to hypothetically ask, ‘I wonder what Jesus’s Enneagram score would’ve been?’

Again, let’s not forget that all things are lawful, but not all things are useful. If these slew of personality tests don’t call us to repent and believe, then our attitudes are wrong. If these personality tests don’t remind us to not be conformed to the world but be transformed, then our attitudes are misguided on this thing.


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