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Can We Say That?

October 13, 2016
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I had a sweet sister in the Lord the other day ask me if the Church is distorting the gospel by telling everybody, kids and adults, that Jesus loves them. The question kind of shook me upon hearing it initially.

I gave her a knee jerk response but felt the need to weigh in more. On one hand I do think the gospel has been watered down a bit all the way from the children’s ministry up. Then on the other hand, the gradations of biblical love aren’t taught far enough all the way from the children’s ministry up.

This got me to thinking….can we say that? I mean honestly, can we tell children that God loves them differently? Both the parents and ministry teachers?

The love that the Godhead shares is not the same kind of love God shares with the redeemed, which is the same kind of love God shares with his creation. In fact, these gradations of love aren’t even close to each other. Much like the love between a married couple isn’t the same kind of love between parents and their children, which isn’t the same kind of love between parents and grandchildren.

Now the real question for us to ponder is do we have space for this gradation in our gospel message. Can we tell people that Jesus loves them AND explain to them the differences in his love?

A better question is can we tell people that Jesus died for them….


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A Disciple to the Demographics

October 13, 2016
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Compassion boiling over best describes my emotions as I write this blog post. And for good reason. The Spirit put it there.

I am what some could call a statistic. I have an average income; am part of an average age; live in an average neighborhood; display the average characteristics of a Black man and so on. I fit into several demographics. The type of demographics that are used to identify people groups that need all sorts of help and less sympathy.

The flip side of the coin is that I am what some could call a Christian. I have through the rhetoric of evangelicals over the last 4 years realized one key thing. Christians avoid the sinners in the margins of demographics.

Folks in churches talk all the time about believing and obeying Jesus. It sounds really good. Here’s what Jesus talked about – “I did not come to call the righteous, but the sinners” (Matt 9:13). Yet it seems as if the safe and righteous people are the ones Christians flock to. Leaving the sinners in the margins left to their own devices.

Let’s be honest for a second. If we are afraid to talk to demographics that don’t benefit us, then we really don’t believe and obey Jesus. Cause if we did, we’d announce to our friends that we were sent to go not to the righteous or safe or beneficial, but to the sinners in the margins of the demographics.


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Newmanity and Gospel Balance

September 3, 2016
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In the Orthodox tradition, the gospel that’s been proclaimed consist of a personal salvation and reconciliation with God. This personal relationship language has hovered over the waters of Western Christianity for 2 centuries at least. Some could argue longer and I just might agree. The logic goes like this – sinners can have a personal relationship with God because Jesus died for your sins.

It sounds great and fair and honest and biblical. But that really depends on who you’re reading and listening to. Nowadays in the orthodox protestant lineage, the starting point seems to be Martin Luther and his 95 theses. Usually that’s an okay starting point depending on the subject. But what has gone unnoticed from the traditional gospel message is the lone ranger problem in the church that either resides inside the community on Sundays or inside their homes.

Paul gives a great description of the gospel he preached in 1 Corinthians 15. But that’s not the only place he describes the gospel he was faithful to give. He tells the other side in Galatians 2, Ephesians 2:1-22, and Ephesians 3:6. These passages help to give us a gospel balance. Atonement and reconciliation make up the gospel message. Yes the Son of God died for the sins of the world and yes the Son of Man reconciled the creatures and earth to God.

This is a big change from those who call for us to always go back to the Protestant Reformation where supposedly everything that was wrong was made right. Not so. Sorry reformation friends. Many things were wrong then and remained wrong after the movement swept through Europe. In my humble estimation the biggest wrong that remained was the fact that reconciliation happened vertically and horizontally due the substitutionary atonement.

Why is this a big deal now? As long as folks are getting saved by this traditional message, why try to fix what doesn’t appear to be broken? To that I say this, sinners who became saints at an honest confession and repentance have failed to live out the biblical reality the Bible speaks to about their entire lives. I truly believe that this imbalanced gospel has led to churches dividing over age, ethnicity, and culture. But knowing that we’re all reconciled to each other makes us see other believers as insiders of the same family instead of disconnected members of some other family of God solely because they attend a different church.

It’s time for the newmanity gospel folks to act like Jesus atoned and reconciled more than just us and our preferences.


My Starting Transcultural Point

July 27, 2016
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Most times I feel like even mentioning the term “transcultural” I’ll spend so much time trying to explain the term, I’ve used up the mental capacity to be curious beyond that point. Over time I’ve had to learn this. So I’ve developed a new starting point to arouse the intellect of questioners as well as those on the outside listening in.

Anybody remember the Jewish temple setup? Now I admit this sounds awfully odd to start with one main dominant group in order to explain transculturalism, but indulge me a bit here. So, this temple was a massive structure divided off by walls. On these walls, there were signs of warning to the group able to read them. The outer section contained all the Gentiles, male and female. The next section contained Jewish women and children. The closest section to the insides contained Jewish men who were respected, educated, and religious. But the main section that mattered was the holy of Holies where the Jewish priests got to enter into.

From these divisions we find racism, classism, economic elitism, and the like. These were well-known to all in the society. Folks knew their place and didn’t seek to step outside their bounds.

Let me describe it a bit differently. Whenever discussing Whites in America, it’s automatic to speak of the rich class, middle class, lower class, redneck class, and trailer park class. From these labeled division, we find the same issues from the Jewish temple breakdown. Inheritant in both examples are what transculturalism seeks to eradicate in order to wholly erect in a more powerful, beautiful manner.

On the cross, Jesus by dying tore that temple down destroying all of its societally enforced demarcations. And ever since then, his actions have been ignored, questioned, or played down as not important. But this is where I choose to begin because it shows how in this 21st century we deal with variations of the same 1st century societal ills. However, one life-changing part gets left out the equation far too often. The Son of Man died to destroy the demarcations of man while saving the same men affected by it and the men effecting it.

Reread that last sentence until it begins to make sense.

Just maybe you’ll get insight into why I start here, and why I think you should too if you care to fight and risk for the very thing that Jesus died for.


Can You Hear Me Now?

July 12, 2016
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Since these recent deaths in Baton Rouge, St. Paul, and Dallas, there’s plenty of social media action to take up any data plan that isn’t unlimited. And it’s got me wondering…are we listening to each other?

There are times we should weep. Times we should cry out. Times we gather together to pray. Times we repeat the gospel and all of its promises that are yes in Jesus to ourselves.

Then there’s times we listen. Listen without waiting for the urge to rebuttal. This is that James 2 type of listening. It takes humility and a keen awareness that we’re not always right nor righteousness. It takes understanding that truth lies in the person of Jesus. It takes realizing that sin prevents us from hearing one another.

This post is a short one as I write from our own errors and desires. Waiting to hear someone affirm me and what I think, or what I would like to hear, doesn’t help solve the issue. It’s not about me getting my way in a two-way communicational flow. It’s about me valuing the other person.

So can you hear me now can also be stated as am I listening to the other person. This art is stressed in marriages often, but rarely in relationships that deal with different ethnic groups. But I want to start it and encourage my readers to do the same. Because we can’t all be right about everything just because we’re emotional. And we can’t all disagree with others just because they’re not agreeing with us. The truth of the matter is there can be several right ways to view and handle this situation.

Can you hear me now?


Wrath and Results

June 21, 2016
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This title is admittedly a weird way to think about evangelism. I get it. Most Christian guilt trips towards obedience never work, and if they do, it’s temporary. The ones that sustain are Spirit-wretched works that produce love and understanding. And yet, there’s this other side of the coin that often goes about extremely silent and hidden in the corner. “Nobody puts baby in the corner.”

What exactly does this silent side of the coin reveal?

It reveals wrath and results.

John 3:36 says He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him;

Isaiah 55:11 says So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; it will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.

These two verses have everything to do with God’s sovereignty, man’s responsibility, the state of man that doesn’t believe, the work of the Word of God, and salvation.

The word of God accomplishes what God sets it out to accomplish. This is good news because we no longer have to worry about the results. God has already taken care of that. As it is shared with folks from all walks of life, whatever God desires for it to accomplish that time it will do just that! These are results that we cannot manufacture. No longer is the burden on us. There’s freedom in the gospel and now there’s freedom when we share the gospel.

The other connecting part to this is the wrath of God. All of those who do not believe in or obey the Son continue to deal with the wrath that remains on them. In other words, none of us come out the womb believing and obeying the Son, therefore, we are covered with the wrath of God. Looking dapper and suave and smooth every day of the week, and twice on Sundays, yet wrapped up in wrath. So all the millions of people who don’t believe in the Son are in this condition.

So this leaves us back at where we started in this blog. Evangelism is never to be about guilt, but about God. See God plans things out, who needs to hear it, and who will be the one to tell them with what Scripture. This condition that millions are in is the same condition Christians used to be in, and even God used these same means to accomplish what he desired for us which happened to be salvation. So may we not fret any longer about which exact words to use, the right verses, having the right arguments etc. None of that saves anyway. The word of God is what’s sharper than any two-edged sword! Not our cleverly polished well thought out words.

Therefore, believer, does the wrath of God remaining on folks you know and don’t know concern you? Does the fact that the results are in the hands of God sound like music to your ears? Does the point that God wants to accomplish changed lives through salvation draw you into obedience? If none of this compelling believer, then what will be?

Press on.


Luke 15 is Much More

June 18, 2016
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This is not a frustrated blog. It’s more of let’s see this chapter from a biblical theological whole Scripture view.

Genesis 3, I believe, helps us understand Luke 15 better. In Genesis 3, God comes walking in the cool of the day looking for Adam and Eve. This is no small thing though I fear it’s read so casually. The creator of the universe came looking for his creatures. From this account we already see there is no high horse that our God sits on that he has to get off. There is no nose up in the air God that is described in the scriptures.

In Luke 15, Jesus is talking to the high horse, nose up in the air folk alongside the common folk with no philosophical nose to turn up in the air. But what’s bigger than these 3 parables is the bigger picture here. I have heard this chapter preached more times than I count, and a lot of them were great sermons. I have never heard the chapter preached in one sermon. And not that it’s a necessity; I just fear bigger things are missed that don’t help us get a sense of awe of God.

“This man receives sinners and eats with them” is a great depiction of the character of God. God is a missionary God in the sense that He’s always going after people. Jesus is giving these two groups of people a description of Yahweh that they ought to know from Genesis 3. He’s walking in the cool of the day doing stuff that isn’t considered respectable to these hearers. And why is God doing this? To receive sinners and eat with them. Jesus was charged with this by the nose up in the air folks, yet they didn’t know Jesus was doing what God has done and wants him to do. Receive sinners (those not deemed respectable) and eat with them! This is what followers of Christ are to do as they imitate Jesus.

Back to the story.

Jesus continues to describe Yahweh as the type of God that goes after disrespectful, lost, strong willed, desiring to be independent, selfish, broken, embarrassing, and unwilling to seek repentance individuals. This describes what God did in Genesis 3. This describes what God has been doing ever since the garden. God goes after those types of people. He always has and will until the end of time.

Luke 15 is about the God who goes after people to receive sinners and eat with them. This is a salvific and eschatological phrase. God saves sinners and will eat with them at the heavenly supper and for eternity. Yes, it’s been preached in the past about God. And yes it’s theologically correct. However, the parables are about the purpose of this missionary God going after unworthy sinners.

May we see this chapter in light of Genesis 3 from now.


Don’t Pigeon-Hole

June 5, 2016
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As often as I talk newmanity, transcultural communities, racial reconciliation, social justice, the both/and perspectives to life as citizen and Christian, I am reminded of one great fear. The fear of being pigeon-holed. It’s happened to vast amounts of people throughout the history of this country and the world. Whatever they’ve become famous or infamous for is the thing they’re asked to speak about the most. And only that. And that’s where the fear sets in.

It’s ok to have an expertise and be a go-to person in regards to certain topics. But if you’re only asked to speak about one specific thing, I personally fear that one thing becomes your only thing. So whenever you’re asked to speak, folks who’ve already heard you no longer care to come with open minds and ears. And folks who’ve never heard you get to experience it and label you irrelevant.

Labels are often thrown at people without the boomerang affect. Once it sticks, you’re tagged once and for all. And while I understand the danger of being a mile wide and an inch deep, I also believe there’s unknown danger in being a mile deep and an inch wide. Therefore, I strive to bring up topics with the same folks that haven’t been introduced before in our talks. I await moments when I can stretch them in their mental capacities in considering other points of views that neither of typically share. And I encourage you to do the same.

Here’s why.

The good news of Jesus Christ finds its way into the way we as humans look at each other, view marriage, act in parenting, seek for equality, work our jobs, care for the widows and orphans, love on the poor and hurting, talk about government officials, treat those unjustly wronged and convicted, surrender to authority, show concern for the disabled, and spend money. There is no pigeon-holing the gospel. Neither should the people of the gospel be. Our ability to have our minds and hands into many pots doesn’t render us ineffective, but rather mindful of the far-reaching implications Jesus ought to have in societies, countries, homes, businesses, schools, and social clubs.

But this doesn’t come naturally. It must be fought for. And we believers must do the fighting. One of the greatest ways to fight this is in how we stop pigeon-holing others. Do you get it? The less we try to limit folks to one thing they do well, the more freedom we give them, the more freedom we’re given. And there’s freedom in the gospel that must be maintained and allowed. Assimilation and conformity are ploys of the prince of the air, not the prince of peace. So Christian, fight against the temptation to pigeon-hole first, and watch (and feel) the freedom opened up to you from others.


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Newmanity and Strongholds

June 2, 2016
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Ever ask yourself what is a stronghold? Ever been asked?

I find it best to start with definitions so that our time isn’t spent wondering just exactly what this big 5 dollar word means. A stronghold is best described as a person placing greater value, thoughts, or desires on some thing or someone more than God.

In reality, every person in this world has at least one stronghold. For the nonbeliever, it’s fully expected. Some want nothing to do with God, so what they crave and value will always come before the creator. Some want to have a comfortable affixed relationship with God in order that their conscience will feel better. Some just don’t want to pay the cost of following Jesus for the rest of their lives. Any way you look at it, they’ve got the type of strongholds they can’t get relief from.

Believers on the other hand are in a different boat as expected. Having been nonbelievers for any length of time, they come into Christianity with a specific set of strongholds. Depending on the type of home and local church environment, there comes another set of strongholds. And there’s this pesky thing called self-righteousness that every Christian struggles with.

In Galatians 5, Paul lays out a concrete framework for the believers to understand that Jesus died on the cross to set them free. Then in verse 16, he commands them to go live in the Spirit. But there’s a vital part missing in this link. Those Galatian believers were at one point bound in chains before being given freedom in a spiritual, emotional, physical, and mental sense. Talk about radical change. And now they’re supposed to go live controlled by the Spirit. But how?

What a person thinks controls them. Do you believe that? Go ahead of think back to the last few things that you really wanted more than life itself, and all the steps you took to get it. Those were strongholds you encountered that most likely led you to sin because you were controlled by the fleshly desires. And some of our desires can be good, but they become over-desires that take the place of God in our lives. In other words, we take good things and make them into God-like things that we believe deserve our ultimate allegiance until it’s acquired.

Paul isn’t done. “Live (controlled) by the Spirit and you won’t gratify the desires of the sinful flesh.” First question is, do you believe this sentence? Does this inspired verse hit home in your heart and mind? I sure hope so

Second question, do you read this sentence and automatically jump to this – well I’m not perfect; I’m a work in progress? I sure hope not. Paul isn’t commanding perfection. He’s stating a simple truth. Live controlled by the Spirit and you won’t gratify your fleshly desires. On the flip side, gratify your fleshly desires and it’s proof you’re not being controlled by the Spirit.

Third question, does this sentence encourage you to fight through your strongholds? I sure hope so. If you can rightly place your fleshly desires where they go, you can conquer your stronghold so that you won’t sin.

Be encouraged believers and nonbelievers. Strongholds are defeated by the same power that raised Jesus from the grave. The Holy Spirit is key to your powerful living in the freedom that you’ve been given, believers. Trust him.


Light Vs. Love

April 27, 2016
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I must admit that what I’m about to say is going to ruffle many Christian feathers and could soothe many non-Christian feathers. For that I won’t apologize, but I do think it’s a necessary evil (excuse the pun) in this case. Let me explain (sorry Kev Hart, I had to borrow this phrase).

Often when a law is passed or a big event happens, church folk tend to pendulum swing to the desperate cry to be “the light of the world” and “the salt of the earth.” Some may read that and ask, so what’s the problem? Well as I see it, Jesus in Matthew 5 doesn’t command church folk to be this, he tells them that they are. This is better known as an indicative. Since Jesus points to what we are, swinging over to that posture in my estimation seems to be counter to what Jesus said. This swing is an emotional one, not a biblical one.

In those cases, I see it as church folks feeling like they must make a decision once-for-all where they stand, and that decision is if they’ll stand on the side of being a light set on the hill for all the wicked and wayward to see or if they’ll stand on the side of loving the wicked and wayward. It’s definitely not a tough decision to make when the bigger picture has been lost as one narrows in on the big headline in our society. I fear there’s grave danger (is there any other kind? Sorry Nicholson) in church folk who operate this way. Let me explain.

If you are a believer, Jesus calls you light and salt. Since you are light and salt, Jesus commands you to go make disciples amongst your society with the same powerful, life-altering word that changed you. That’s the gospel. So you were once just like the wicked and wayward, but the gospel changed you. Since it could change you, then we ought to assume that it has the power to change others. “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

Love is the single and biggest command church folk are called to do. Why? Because we tend to not love anybody but ourselves. “Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two.” That takes a loving, Spirit-empowered ability. That’s how the world will know that church folk are believers…that we love another.

As things continue to change in our society, and our cultural norms get threatened, and our comfort zones get smaller, it’s best to remember we are called to love, not run to the other side where we stand away from those not in our circles and stop loving them. I fear that the good news of the gospel and the power of the gospel gets lost when we encounter these things. Don’t run from folks who are gay or transgendered. Run to them with love and the good news. Don’t run from folks who are Trump supporters. Run to them with love and an open ear to listen to their supportive reasoning.

Let the gospel and the command to love reign in our minds as we stop and think of what we shall do. Love the other church folk who seem stubborn and stuck in their ways. Listen to folks who are welcoming with open arms others into your bathroom. Don’t spread fear; spread the gospel. Don’t overreact with gossip; react with the words of Jesus.


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