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Archive for the ‘America’ Category

Read Plato’s Republic or Walden by Henry David Thoreau and you can get a worldly view on politics and its citizenry.  That may not go well with the Bible.  In fact, it may not match at all.  However, there are some key things that Christians can learn by observing the current political race for presidency.

  1. You have to announce that you are running in the race.  Christians should not act like they have the best-kept secret in town.  The gospel is translated as “good news.” You share good news.  You don’t keep it to yourself.  We have to announce it to the world that we are in the race.
  2. You have to make an effort to reach people one way or another.  The Obama Campaign of 2008 incorporated all sorts of means and mediums to involve every type of potential voter around the country.  We have to reach people with our message with the same fervor that candidates push their agendas and campaign slogans online and in print, even through the media and public appearances.
  3. You have to let people know where you stand on the issues that matter to them.  Politicians will constantly talk about taxes, public assistance programs, business development and employment, even education and health care.  They may step into controversial areas like birth control, abortion and same sex marriage, even illegal immigration.  We have to know what matters to people and share where we stand with people.  We lose any opportunity to win souls like we should when we fail to share what the Good Book says about this life and eternity.  Look at Luis Palau, James Dobson and Chuck Colson for examples of how to evangelize with hope and a firm standing on the issues of today.
  4. You have to keep your cool and your composure in the heat of the debate.  Political jousting is nothing new.  It is as old as politics itself.  However, as Christians, we have to be able to maintain our cool when our beliefs are attacked.  We cannot get on the defensive, taking it personal, and become arrogant or abusive with our attackers.  The Bible tells us that our spiritual warfare is not fought against flesh and blood (Ephesians 6:10-18).  After all, even as Jesus hung on the cross, He did not call upon the armies of angels to rescue Him as He endured the fatal punishment of the storied execution style of the Romans and the cruel mistreatment of His own people.  We, too, must endure the attacks of slander and assumptions regarding our beliefs.
  5. You have to carry yourself as a winner.  No candidate enters the race with the hopes of being a loser.  No, political candidates go for broke with a winning attitude.  They are confident in their own abilities.  We do not have to get conceited or cocky.  We just have to go forward in faith, with full belief in the Lord’s ability to provide for us and protect us.  We have to take Paul’s words to heart, believing: “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”

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“Don’t ask what the world needs.
Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it.
Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
Howard Thurman (Christian clergyman, author, and activist)

Analyze where the Christian church stands today.  Take an honest look at the standing of one of the most treasured institutions of society.  Make an earnest appraisal of the modern church.  See where the church stands today.

For far too long, in the eyes of many, the church has remained in isolation.  In the opinion of some, the church has appeared inactive, almost docile, dormant and dulled, if not deadened.  Others have said that the church has simply dwindled into a state of sheer ineffectiveness.

George Barna has studied and evaluated the church for years.  Henry Blackaby has shared some insights and findings as well.  John Maxwell has offered multiple volumes on Christian leadership.  Rick Warren weighed in with The Purpose Driven Church.  There is no shortage of Christian perspectives of what the church is not and where the church has fallen short.

Don’t disregard the Reformation or the Great Awakening.  Don’t toss aside the Progressives or the Abolitionists.  Do not forsake the social activism of Prohibition and the Salvation Army, YMCA, and YWCA.  Don’t forget how Christians fought Darwinism and the teaching of evolutionism in the U.S. school system.  Forget not Azusa Street and the likes of Oral Roberts or Billy Graham.  Do not frown upon the church’s role in the Civil Rights Movement, the anti-war protests, and the pro-life debates.  Consider all of the church’s storied past.

Recall that the church has been called to be more than a building.  The church has a calling as the body of Christ.  Look at Luis Palau, Chuck Colson and Prison Fellowship, and the countless missionaries and ministries that exist today.  See how many are fed, clothed, sheltered and ministered to through street ministries and storefronts alike.  See the church playing an active role in society.

Do not grapple with public opinion.  Do not spend hour upon hour debating with the church’s critics.  Stand proudly and boldly to be counted among the many who diligently serve the Lord by doing all that they can with what little they have for “the least of these.”



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For Herod himself had sent men who arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because Herod had married her. For John had been telling Herod, ‘It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.’ And Herodias had a grudge against him, and wanted to kill him. But she could not, for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he protected him. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed; and yet he liked to listen to him.
-Mark 6:17-20 (NRSV)

Pastors have a long history of political involvement.  That is in contrast to the popular sentiment in America that tosses out the separation of church and state oftentimes during election years and controversial debates on issues like Planned Parenthood, stem cell research and gay marriage.  Regardless of the platform, pastors have a history of braving the foray of politics through political involvement.

Adam Clayton Powell stands out as a pastor who turned to a life of politics for many years.  Prior to ever campaigning for a political office, Powell spent much of his time outside of the pulpit pressuring New York’s city hall for policy changes. Powell demonstrates one manner by which pastors stood out in the political spectrum.

Jerry Falwell was involved in politics.  Falwell led an evangelical Christian movement to bring morality back into the mainstream of American life.  The Moral Majority pushed and pulled on all sorts of matters in the political arena from indecency and pornography to issues like prayer in schools.

Today’s pastors find themselves under fire when congregants and others share that they only want to hear the gospel message from the pastor.  Many will argue for pastors to stay in the pulpit and stay out of politics.

The case can be made for pastors to go beyond many of their predecessors, though.  Look at the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street.  There is an element of unrest in America today.  Jesus could view a plasma TV screen today or an iPad and look on compassionately, seeing plenty of sheep without a shepherd in this plentiful harvest. 

The fact is that we need more pastors involved in politics through advocacy and activism.  We need them to stand in the midst of the mayhem like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. took a nonviolent stance for civil rights and the poor.  We need them to push the agenda with local and national politicians.  We need them to testify the depths of disparity that exist on the streets and in our communities that extend beyond the homeless to the working poor and shrinking middle class of America.

In essence, we need more pastors who can deliver stirring words outside of the pulpit as much as we need them to handle the Word of God within the pulpit.

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Election day is upon us again.

In California, we don’t know if it’ll be Meg  or Jerry .  We’re certain that Arnold is done, though.  Could Barbara Boxer  be unseated after all of these years? Who knows but God? That’s about all that we are certain of in this election.

There are numerous laws and ordinances that prohibit many actions at the polls.  These make certain acts illegal.  Some sit and wait, watching to see who will slip up and break one of these sacred political rules.  These political watch dogs usually straddle one side of the fence or the other, rather simply leaning to the left or the right.

Yet, the Christian still has an alternative that outweighs man’s laws and remains legal.*

Pray at the polls today.

You don’t have to walk up and ask anyone for their prayer request.  You don’t have to ask the neighborhood poll captain or the registar of voters can you pray a short prayer.  Simply pray at the polls without disturbing anyone or distracting anyone.  Truly, God knows your heart.

Pray individually or collectively.  Pray by yourself or with others.  Pray all alone or altogether.  Pray.

Pray for our nation.  Pray for Congress, the Senate and the House, even the Speaker of the HousePray for the government as a whole, state and local government, even down to the propositions on the ballot.  Pray for the Democrats, the Republicans, the write-ins, the independents, and all candidates.  Pray for the Tea Party and other conservatives as well as the League of Women Voters and other advocates and activists.  Pray for the voters.  Pray for all involved in the political process.

Pray prior to going to polls.  Pray while in line at the polls.  Pray when you receive and read over your ballot.  Pray prior to submitting your ballot.  Say a little prayer when you get handed that patriotic “I Voted” sticker that they give out as you walk away from the polls.  Pray at the polls.

Pray openly.
Pray privately.
Pray out loud.
Pray silently.
Pray long.
Pray short.
Pray.
Pray at the polls.
Pray about the polls.
Pray about the results.
Pray about each and every election and its impact from that day forward.

Pray for change.
Pray for integrity.
Pray for democracy.
Pray about our freedoms.
Pray for America.

Don’t proposition.
Don’t petition.
Don’t protest.
Just pray.
Simply pray.
All that I ask of you, as a Christian brother or sister today, is to pray.

Pray about the elections.
Pray for the elections.
Pray for safety at the polls.
Pray for those serving at the polls.
Pray for all of those involved.
Pray for all of those who will be impacted by every vote.
Pray that the elections make a difference in the way that we all live in America…
The Land of the free. . .
The Home of the brave. . .

Pray to God.
Pray today.
Pray with all of your heart.
Pray.
Pray.
Pray.
Again, I say, pray.

*This is still legal until someone decides that prayer, even in its simplicity and serenity, is so offensive that they rally and petition enough others to shut down the freedom to pray openly and publicly just in case that it may unduly influence or impact someone who doesn’t have the ability to resist the power of prayer.  Then, when that time comes, we must still pray as Daniel did three times a day, even with his window opened towards Jerusalem while in captivity.  God’s decrees are not constrained by man’s laws.

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There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.- Galatians 3:28 (NLT)
There are some who consider their congregations “open,” but their reality is something entirely different.  However, some of the churches that come out of a background of putting the protest in Protestant find it difficult to include all others when those others support gay marriage, abortion or legalized marijuana.  These churches are open in the name of Jesus, but they must remain mindful to stick to the way of Jesus.

I used to live near a Methodist church that prominently posted this slogan on its marquee and advertisements.   Open Hearts… Open Minds… Open Doors… Open what? I keep wondering just how “open” they are.  Are there doors more open than their hearts and minds? I should hope not, seeing as how I know some well-meaning Methodists and Wesleyans.

Our churches need to intensify their inclusion.  America has its first African-American president in Barak Obama.  Now, as we go forward in faith, let us open up and crank up our inclusion of others. 

Let us become:

  • More Intense with Inclusion
  • More Intentional with Inclusion
  • More Inclusive with Inclusion

Does your church invest in supporting underserved community members with necessary programs? Is your church campus a safe haven for at-risk youth and abused women and their families? Can those in recovery walk into your church without the shadow of shame? Can those returning from prison and jail enter your congregation without being judged and condemned all over again?

I love the story of Rick Warren and Saddleback Church’s origin as told in the Purpose Driven Church.  Warren shares that the ministries at Saddleback were developed based upon the needs of the people who came to the church.  He developed ministries that helped meeting the needs of people who came to them and who lived around them. 

As you help others get better and to live differently, they become the spokespeople for what is possible within your church.  Ex-addicts go back and share the Word with other addicts who struggle with addiction.  Former gang members and drug dealers spread the word on the streets of what your church has done for them since they met Jesus at your church’s altar.  Your job? Keep intensifying your inclusion.  Touch lives like never before.  Make a difference in the lives of people who attend your worship services and who live around and near your church.  Remain open to innovative and inventive ways to invite and include people to be part of the family since we are all one in Christ Jesus.

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I wrote Words from the Underground in order to speak out and give a literary voice to the stories that lie hidden within the inner city streets of urban America.  I’ve been out there over the years.  Back in the day, I craved the allure of the street life that promised easy riches and high times.  I discovered that nothing is easy out in the streets, especially when you throw in drugs and money.  Fast forward several years.  I found myself on the streets as I sought to stir up community involvement through urban faith-based and community-based programs.  Later, once a minister of the gospel, I was doing “street ministry,” sharing through the Word and good works.  It was a complete turn around.

 I use my creative expressions through writing and seek to shed light on the darkness that exists and seems hidden from the eyes of most of America.  They do not know the pain of the people.  They fail to see the people on the streets as real people.  To me, it is more than a book.  It’s poetry mixed with social commentary and advocacy.  Perhaps, someone will read this and gain a deeper and clearer understanding of what goes on out there.  Someone else may read this and feel like someone has finally put into words what had been pulsating within them for so many years.  Finally, this may truly move someone to do something.  Maybe someone will develop a program to help others within their city.  Maybe someone else will start speaking out and advocating for the people who live in these inhumane conditions.  Truthfully, I would be satisfied if someone just read my words and started treating people like people, never truly knowing what someone else’s story may be beneath the mask they wear day in and day out.  Maybe so.

Enter into a world unknown to many… the Underground.

Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.

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 A while back, maybe a year or two, I started working on some poems that told the story about life in the inner city and the urban streets.  I began to conjure up poems and vignettes about the streets in the fashion and style of an Iceberg Slim or Donald Goines.  I started crafting urban sorrow songs like those penned by Rick James and Marvin Gaye.  I wrote “Words from the Underground” which will be released tomorrow at www.lulu.com/lifepath/ .  Here is ‘Lessons from the Streets’ as a sample  of the works contained in this new publication.

The lessons on the street

Can leave you bruised for life.

They can leave some permanent scars.

I’ve seen folks take it like a joke

And then come up lame.

This ain’t no game for kids.

It’s the real thing out here.

Bullets tear flesh

And make holes in domes

It’s a war zone 24-7 out here

With the enemy at every turn

Even when they say they riding with you.

Can’t trust a soul when the game’s like this.

You got to choose your battles

Before someone sets sights on you.

Make a move

Even if it ain’t the first move

But God help you make one.

Whatever you do,

You better make it quick.

That’s all that’s to it

And it’s true.

I saw a man lose his life

Because he didn’t make a move.

He could be here today

But he didn’t make his move.

It’s just another lesson.

Another one to learn.

The lessons in the streets will mess with you

Then get in your head real bad

And leave you so sick

That life will lose its meaning

And even its value.

Learn it one way

Or learn it another,

But the streets will teach you

How to survive or die

Just by being out there.

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Thank God that the kingdom of God is not divided into areas for big, important
people and areas for little, unimportant people.
– A.W. Tozer

We have come a long way since Jesus ascended into heaven, leaving His disciples to await the coming of the Helper, the Holy Spirit of God. Yet, we seem to have splintered away from the Way. The early church was rooted in its actions and interactions with each other and the outside world. In fact, it was a known fact among the people that many respected the believers of that time. Nowadays, we have many denominations that it can be hard to keep up with who is doing what and what is going on with whom. Nevertheless, we seize the opportunity to possibly bridge some of the divide that men have created and build bonds on what Christ has established as the head of the church.

We need see Christ as the focus. Our agreement should be on the main thing, and the main thing should be Christ. If we can’t agree on baptism, the Lord’s Supper or the gifts of the Spirit, let us at least agree by faith that Christ is the main thing that we should focus upon.

We can agree that there are works to be done. We may not agree on how they should be done. We may not agree on whether they add to our salvation or not, but we certainly can agree that there are works that need to be done.

There is an enemy. He may take many forms. He do many things within this world. Our particular theology may see him as one thing as opposed to what other brothers and sisters may think, but we can agree that we have a common enemy who seeks to kill and destroy us.

Our nature is sinful. We may not be able to recite the whole five-point Calvinism and various “ministries” of the church based on our particular doctrine with agreement. Yet, we can admit that we need the pure and righteous sacrifice of the Lamb of God to take care of our sinfulness. We should be able to agree upon that much.

In doing so, we will find plenty of work to do based upon our common ground. We should find much to pray about based upon what we have accepted as true and agreeable. We can at least agree that we need to pray, even if we don’t agree on how to pray. Amen.

 

 

 

 

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For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. . . Mark 14:39 (ESV)

Things are out of balance. The poor seem to continue to get poorer. Look at what the government is telling us about our national deficit and bailouts as well as restructuring organizations such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.  Even Ben Bernanke can’t seem to explain what is going on.  Don’t seek any insights from Steve Jobs or Warren Buffet either.  Look at what the Lord says.

The poor will be in our midst always.  Jesus put in real simple terms for us: “…whenever you want, you can do good for them…” That’s what we have to focus on today.  Those of us who can make a difference will need to step up and make a difference as the Lord directs us.  It came about in the days of Micah, men doing whatever they pleased while their neighbors suffered and struggled.   Haggai preached against such selfishness.  Many of the prophets spoke against it.  Let us do what we can based upon God’s leading and directing us.  Let us live like vessels that He pours into with His Spirit and pours out upon those in need of a spiritual uplift as we seek to meet their needs.

No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good,
and this is what he requires of you:
to do what is right, to love mercy,
and to walk humbly with your God.
Micah 6:8 (NLT)

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Imagination is more important than knowledge.- Albert Einstein

 Use your imagination.  Picture the perfect community.  Yes, take a deep and refreshing breath before you do so, but let your mind wander beyond the demands of the day and what you see on the streets day after day.  Just allow your imagination run wild for a moment and think totally outside of the box, picturing the perfect community.  Get a visual view of what your neighborhood and community would be like if you could repaint and even restructure things just the way you would like to see them in the future.

Now that you have visualized it.  Draw it.  Use a flip chart, sketch pad, notebook paper or whatever.  Just sketch out what you’ve already imagined.  Make it your own map towards a brighter future.  Put what you have imagined on paper so that others can get a glimpse of what you have dreamed up for your community’s future. Draw it and share it.  Share it proudly and boldly, but you must share it with someone.  Share it so that you may pursue it.  Pursue these picture perfect visions.  Reclaim hope again within your community.

Our communites lay in waste because many of us have committed imaginative suicide.  We’ve allowed dream-killers, naysayers, and other negative-thinking people to cloud our vision with their pessimistic perspectives and pity party invitations.  End the wrath of these de facto and delusional ghetto Gestapo leaders who seek to keep slum lords in power and pimped-out politicians in office.  Offer the world a different vision.  Snatch the power out of the hands of those who retain a stranglehold on the streets of America.  Make your vision a reality before others make a mockery of what you have pictured and pursued.

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