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From Promise to Prophecy to Prize

June 13, 2017
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“Build your hopes on things e-ternal
Hold to God’s unchanging hand”

This gospel song rings throughout history in Black churches compact with truth everywhere. The beauty of the covenant-keeping God is proclaimed. The grace of God is sung. The progressive prize that God gave is revealed.

Promise

Here is the historic promise that God gave to his creation from the outset:

And I will put enmity
    between you and the woman,
    and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
    and you will strike his heel (Gen 3:15)

After the first parents sinned, God promised to remedy the defacing of creation by having the seed of the woman crush the head of the serpent! This crushing entailed a putting to end of the serpent in a peculiar way. The serpent would not be able to continue doing what it had done there in the garden of Eden.

Prophecy

The way one read Genesis 3 and formulates how it will play out is not in fact how it plays out. According to Isaiah 53, God through the prophet tells of the way he will carry out Genesis 3.

But he was pierced for our transgressions,
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him

and

Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
    and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin

The covenant-keeping God who promised to crush the head of the serpent has revealed his means of doing so through the prophet Isaiah by crushing the true seed of the woman through suffering as an offering for the sins of God’s people.

Prize

Jesus, the true seed, suffered on the cross in an active and passive obedient way that pleased God, accomplished redemption, and continues to reconcile sinners to God and others. Jesus is the true prize of mankind. What he did and provided for us is the greatest gift known to man. And yet it still hasn’t all been comprehended. What amazing depths of glory.

This is something to build your hopes on. God made a promise; kept his promise; and now the image bearers of creation get the prize. To God be the glory.

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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?


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.


Newmanity and Trembling

April 9, 2016
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The apostle Paul exhorted the Christians in Philippi to work out their salvation with fear and trembling. He commanded them to figure this out. That’s what an exhortation means. Take your objective justification and figure it out subjectively. Sounds easy right?

So, are you believers finding yourself more and more comfortable on a day to day basis with how you’re living? I dare say that if your daily Christian walk is one of ease and comfort for the most part, you are guilty of disobeying Paul’s command. As well as Jesus’s command – take up your cross daily and follow me.

To follow Jesus in your life on a day to day basis means you on day to day basis seek to live and act and speak how Jesus would. Now if you find this to be easy, then you must not know who Jesus was. Jesus did all kinds of things that went against the grain. His life on a daily basis wasn’t easy. Far too often he held his tongue, spoke the truth in tough situations, and cared for folks who couldn’t care for him.

Far too often folks will respond that they are completely unaware of what it looks like to live like Jesus. To that I say, love God with all of you and love every person the exact same way you love yourself. Oh, and do that every single day. Does that bring fear and trembling to your minds? Does it make you feel completely incapable? If so, then good.

His yoke is easy and his burden is light, and his commands aren’t optional. So workout your salvation and take up your cross daily. Remind yourself that you are made new. That the Spirit of God lives within you. You have power beyond all imagination that can enable you to do beyond all you could ask or think.

Trust Jesus and obey him. He made you new for a reason.

 

 


Newmanity and Voting

February 13, 2016
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Evangelicalism seems to bleed the same color. Seems to think with the same mind. Seems to vote with the same heart. Evangelicalism also seems to uphold and believe the ‘love one another’ banner.

Evangelicalism still is and has been a much needed presence in cities and communities all over the world. At times it seems their presence grows leaps and bounds, while at other times it diminishes if not altogether disappears. With elections ramping up, it seems all of evangelicalism is speaking out after every Republican and Democrat debate. It’s become disconcerting to say the least.

After about 16 years of this one has to shake his head and ask, are we really trying to love our neighbors? In other words, can Christians truly be one-issue voters and biblically claim to love others? Most of evangelicalism has abortion as their only issue. Some have taken up sex trafficking. It’s rare to find evangelicals who tend to look beyond those two. Yet I wonder where evangelicalism got their narrow focused lenses from…cause Jesus surely isn’t the source.

Jesus uplifted women who were often overlooked and mistreated. Jesus spent time with social outcasts, even having meals with them. Jesus hung out with uneducated men who were racists. Jesus told stories about unpopular guys in his society that were heroes. Jesus went looking for guys who were the equivalent of pimps. That is how we are to love our neighbors.

The beauty of the new humanity created in Christ Jesus called the church is that we are able to love others who are so different from us in ways that are so different. We don’t have one way methods that forces folks to fit into. We adjust to their situations seeking to love them the best way we can. So we deal with abortion, domestic abuse, welfare, sex trafficking, drug abuse, immigration, single parenting, police brutality, high crime rates, and other hosts of social justice issues that plague our countries.

It is impossible and dare I say borderline unbiblical and unwise to be a one-issue voter. In both testaments, God’s people are taught to consider others before ourselves and ways to minister to them in whatever shape and fashioned package they come in. That’s not any different from today. Jesus never counseled his disciples to be one issue followers. Instead, he sent his followers the Spirit to teach them, help them heal and work miracles, and build up the body, amongst other things. Let’s not make our voting something it was never called to be – the hobby horse of our Christianity.


Where Faith Meets Reality

February 26, 2015
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This past Sunday was a doozy to say the least. I woke up to my daughter right next to me in my bed looking at me. She had the look of ‘what took you so long to wake up, daddy!’ I could do nothing to smirk as her pretty face set me on a great track.

Immediately my son runs into the room, not knowing that I’m awake, with my cell phone in his hand and hands it to me. My phone is kept on silent at night so as not to wake these two while they sleep, so I thought someone was calling. Upon further notice, I realize I have a text message and voice mail. I forgot to point out that this happened at 8 am. There’s no logical reason to have these two things on my phone on a Sunday morning. But then my memory was jogged.

The day before while I waited at the barbershop, I was informed via Facebook that my oldest cousin had a massive stroke and was in the hospital. That led me to prayer and patience since he lived in Washington DC. There was no way to get instant gratification of information concerning his health being that far away knowing there was still much medical work and procedures to be done. I made calls hours later that Saturday, but got no answers. Left voice mails, and that meant that someone decided to return my call and leave me a message. Soon I found my heart beating quickly in my bed.

Wanting to take in something much easier I opted to read my text message first. Little did I know that an immense weight were about to be dropped on my lap (and mind) upon reading it. It was from my senior pastor. He was asking me to preach that morning because he was sick and unable to preach through a sermon without immense coughing and discomfort. I was shocked and exasperated almost immediately. What? Why me? Where’s the other elder? Why now – I haven’t preached since November of last year? It’s 8 already and I have 2 hours max to get something together as well as get myself together and at the church. Why me Lord! Definitely not the ‘something much easier’ I thought I was opting for.

Still not wanting to face the music left for me in the voice mail, I ran from it and chose the quicker information highway that is Facebook. As soon as I clicked on my app, I saw that post. The post that read that my cousin had passed away. Immediately I felt hurt and disbelief. Everything stilled in the room where my wife and kids were while looking at me and one another. I hadn’t uttered a sound. I just closed my eyes.

I jumped out of the bed saying I have to preach and my cousin died this morning. I was mentally baffled. Didn’t know how to feel or how long I could possibly meddle on him being gone and the sudden impact this had on my East Coast family. And yet facing me was a deadline to gather a sermon together out of the thin blue sky.

My pastor called thanking me and saying that he’d pray for me. I kept my composure during the call not wanting to come across as frantic, but on the inside I was a mess. This is where faith met reality. I was fearful. I was hurt. I wasn’t focused. And yet I have been called to be ready ‘in season and out of season’ to teach God’s people. I had a great task ahead of me that warranted some quiet time in prayer and a search for a text that was gripping my heart just enough to teach on.

Friends, I have no shame admitting to you that I felt so unworthy that morning that it gave me the greatest freedom I’ve ever felt before preaching the Word. Having little time to prepare taught me something I hope to communicate to you – we are weaker than we think we are and that’s a hard truth to swallow, and yet it’s so freeing to do so because then we can wholly lean on God for EVERYTHING.

I was able to preach on a subject dear to my heart out of the desire to give the people hope, and I do feel that God did that for both me and them. And I was able to give hope and love to my family concerning our loss. It’s been a rough start to a week, but I wouldn’t dare pray for a different start. I don’t believe I’ve ever began a week on my knees begging God the way I did last Sunday. I invite all of you who are believers to try it. For those of you who aren’t, I beg of you on behalf of Christ to be reconciled to God and forgiven of your sins.

 


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The Special-ness of the Lord’s Supper

May 17, 2014
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Several Sunday nights ago I had the pleasure of leading my local church through communion, or Lord’s Supper. The lead pastor called me that afternoon after worship service and asked if I’d be willing to lead though it was a short notice. I obliged with a smile, not just because I love that man and he’s got a lot on his plate, but I also had a vision (sorry my cessationists brethren) the night before that I’d be leading the Lord’s Supper. What’s funny is I never told anybody beforehand because I felt as if I’d be bragging about the vision instead of telling the possible awe of God.

But I digress.

My pastor asks and he receives. I get off the phone and begin to think just what I was saying in the vision I had. No luck there. I just envisioned me leading it and encouraging faces hearing me. Then I began to think of just how to encourage them in such a way that communion brings smile and light-bulb moments to the faces of my brothers and sisters listening to me. I had a quasi-counseling phone call with a good buddy of mine living on the East Coast, and before I got off the call with him I asked him if he had a verse or passage in mind, he had nothing.

Then as I began to think about what it was that I wanted to encourage them, I gravitated towards Romans 8:1. But that verse has absolutely nothing to do with the Lord’s Supper I thought immediately. I mean in the context of chapters 6 where the mind and the Spirit are engaging in war, and in chapter 7 Paul’s laying out for us how that plays out practically where the things you don’t want to do you end up doing from a believer’s point in view, in my opinion. Then comes the best news we can read – “there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus!” And then I had my light-bulb moment.

When we come to the Lord’s Supper, some come with heavy hearts, some with wondering minds, some without a care in the world, and some without a prepared posture for the biblical rite they’re about to partake in. So there’s a lot to speak to when leading. In my church context, we have a meal first. Conversations are being had all over the spectrum, and praise God for it. Then if there are announcements or some business to bring up, we try to transition to those from the meal. (I do wonder at times if we’re preparing the hearts of the people present for a celebration before jumping right into communion.)

So I stood up ready to encourage the believers present, and it dawned on me just how to do it. Before you partake of the bread and drink, Paul (and hopefully the person leading it) calls believers to examine their hearts and reflect upon their past several days to seek forgiveness through repentance. And for the longest time I always divorced that from what the bread and drink represented along with its implications. Let me explain. I’m standing up telling blood-washed believers that upon reflecting on your sins and sinful hearts and motives, keep in mind that there’s no condemnation for you. Sounds risky to say because of the possibility that somebody may in fact not be saved there, but it’s so hard to tell at that instance unless the Lord makes it abundantly clear. So I’m trying to convey to the family of God that we think about our sin in light of what we’re about to celebrate, namely the death of Christ and the defeat of Satan, sin, and the grave. To say it another way, we come together to celebrate through remembrance how Christ took upon himself all of our sins on that cross while also defeating Satan, sin, and the grave, so therefore reflect upon your past sins and be encouraged by Christ because his actions on the cross means there’s never condemnation for those whom Christ died.

I then shared with them a quick story of a brother from another church in another state that upon reflecting on his sins refused to take communion. I quickly explained to them that this brother hadn’t realized what he was celebrating. He was so hung up on his sins and unwillingness to forgive that he saw the Lord’s Supper as no longer obligatory but optional. May we never see the Lord’s Supper that way. Realizing that Jesus forgave us, we forgive others. We eat the bread and drink encouraged because Jesus paid it all. Why? As believers we are in Christ Jesus, and based on what Paul says in Romans 8:1, there’s NO condemnation for us since Jesus took our condemnation upon himself.

We celebrate the work of Jesus and his defeat of Satan, sin, and the grave as we eat and drink encouraged in Christ alone. We can all say amen Lord, let it be so.


Dare To Be Different

March 31, 2014
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I, as a Christian, sometimes dare myself to be different from the majority of Christians that I know. Now that can be taken many different ways, so please allow me to clarify.

I do go out of my way to be loving to folks who look and act really different and off-putting to church folks. Why? Because I want these people to know that I see them as someone made in God’s image even though I don’t dress how they dress or act how they act. Just because the world acts like all believers are hypocrites and judgmental doesn’t mean I need to give them any extra reason to believe such nonsense. Nor do I need to follow suit with their unreasonable expectations from believers that they’ve seen and heard time after time after time.

I love my fellow believers more than I love those in the world. That’s not even a question. But I love constantly considering something Matthew recorded Jesus saying in chapter 25 that rocks my world. Initially, I would read that text and ignore it out of ignorance thinking I was better than the lost having forgot how wretched I used to be. However, I’ve come to the realization that this text needs to be taught and re-taught to believers in the pews in efforts that they too dare to be different.

31 “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.33 He will put the sheep on His right and the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.

35 For I was hungry
and you gave Me something to eat;
I was thirsty
and you gave Me something to drink;
I was a stranger and you took Me in;
36 I was naked and you clothed Me;
I was sick and you took care of Me;
I was in prison and you visited Me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You something to drink? 38 When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or without clothes and clothe You? 39 When did we see You sick, or in prison, and visit You?’

40 “And the King will answer them, ‘I assure you: Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.’ (Matt 25)

May the Lord bless you and pierce your heart with these verses


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