First Sunday of Lent 2018

And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me. (JOHN 12:32)

One cause of the attractiveness of Christianity is that Christians are not asked to believe anything which is not reasonable. Jesus said, 'Let us reason together; though your sins be as scarlet they shall be as white as snow, though they be red like crimson they shall be as wool. Another cause or reason for the attractiveness of Christianity is the compassion of God. The many gods of other religions do not have the power or desire to help. Our God is alive. He does not give us a religion and then leaves us to fend for ourselves. We will have trials and tribulations in this life; however, our God is our helper. We are taught in His Word that God is with us always even unto the end. In Christianity we have hope. By the way of the Cross we journey to the crown. The cross is a foolishness to the Greek and the Muslim and to the Jew a stumbling block. However, to us Christians who seek Salvation through Faith, it is the wisdom and the power of the only True Living God!

Second Day of Lent Season 2018

My prayer for today this second day of Lent is to kill those things of my flesh that prevent me from knowing my God better. I want to realize the Resurrection Power that has been bestowed upon me to do the things that are pleasing to my God.  Thank you, LORD, for loving me so much that you provided your Son as a perfect Sacrifice for the Redemption of my sins. Thank you, Jesus, for your obedience and desire to please Holy Father. If you thought enough of me to offer your Son as a perfect Sacrifice to Redeem me, I should think enough of myself to carry myself as someone that is a child of the Most High God, El Elyon!

If ye Love Me

If ye love me keep my commandments John 14:15 (kjv). If you have spent any time in a Christian Sunday school or Baptist Training Union (I am really telling my age now) you have probably heard this simple verse many times. It is a very simple verse but not too easy to understand when you consider the deep-rooted implications.  I love my mother and father; however, I did not always keep their commandments and precepts.  I did not always honor my parents with my behavior. The Scripture states that if ye love me keep my commandments and the implication from that is that your obedience provides honor.  If your disobedience cause harm and dishonors the one you say you love: what kind of love is that?  What is the reason for your disobedience?  Do you disobey the things you know is right (apostasy) simply because you want to satisfy your selfish desires?  What can of love is that?  At the very least, be truthful if you can handle the truth (I got that from the movie).  How can an individual habitually hurt and dishonor the one they love.  If you love your parents, obey their commandments.  Honor thy mother and thy father!

Milk to Meat 1

Praise the LORD Saints,

In my last pastoral note I introduced the concept and biblical requirement of Spiritual growth and maturity.  Well let us have some meat.  Christianity is not ritualistic or sacramental.  To be ritualistic or sacramental is to say that your salvation is based on the performance of certain rituals.  Churches that are sacramental believe in performing those rituals they are safe.  Faith is not a requirement to be saved in a sacramental or ritualistic religion. In Christianity, Faith is a requirement.  The Christian church has two ordinances instituted by the leader of the Christian church, Jesus the Christ. The first is Baptism in water. Baptism does not save you. In Christianity we don’t use Baptism as a ritual. Jesus Christ’s Cruxificion and Resurrection is where we get our Redemption and Salvation.  Baptism is an outward symbol of death to an old way of life and our acceptance of a new life in Christ.  Baptism is your personal statement to the world that you are a new creature in Jesus Christ.  The word baptism comes from the Greek word baptizo which means ‘plunge under’.  Therefore, we accept the teachings in the Scriptures of full immersion of the body in water in performing the Baptism ceremony.  The second ordinance instituted by the head of the church, Jesu Christ, is Holy Communion or The Lord’s Supper.  Holy Communion consists of two elements, bread and fruit of the vine. Holy Communion is the ceremony that expresses our sharing the divine nature of our Lord Jesus the Christ (2 Peter 1:4), a memorial of His suffering and death (1 Corinthian 11:26), and a prophecy of His second coming (1 Corinthian 11:26), and is enjoined on all believers till He come.  You may have heard me used the term Holy Eucharist in referring to the Lord’ Supper.  The word Eucharist comes from the Greek word eucharistic (1 Cor 10:16) which means thanksgiving.  The Lord’s Supper is a ceremony of Thanksgiving of three values: commemorative, instructive, and inspirational.  For commemorative, Jesus said ‘Do this in remembrance of me’ (Luke 22:19). We use the Lord’s Supper to deeply consider what Jesus did for us. For instruction, it instructs us on the incarnation of Christ and the Atonement for our sins.  When Jesus said, ‘This is my body and this cup is the new Covenant in my blood, He means that that the bread is His body given in death and the juice His blood poured out on that Cross on Calvary.  Finally, the Lord’s Supper is inspirational. By partaking in the Lord’s Supper we are identifying with Jesus Christ and are reminded that He died and rose again so that we might have victory over sin and avoid every kind of evil (1 Thess. 5:22).  At the beginning of this pastoral note I stated that the church has two ordinances.  What is the church?  In the Greek, the word used for church is ekklesia which means assembly or in todays vernacular I could say community.  The church (ekkelesia, assembly, community) is the Spiritual family of God , a Fellowship created by the Holy Spirit, based on Faith in the atoning work of Christ.  The Christian church is not a building.  The church can be a localized assembly or it may refer to a worldwide community of believers.  There are no Black churches or White churches or Hispanic churches or Korean churches.  For Christianity there is just ekkelesia.  

Now let me bring it home and make what I have been saying real for you.  Take a look at our name; Agios Baptist Community of Faith.  Agios means holy, sanctified, consecrated which means to set apart.  Baptist means we believe in the practice of baptizo. Community means ekkelesia. Faith means we acknowledge that Christianity requires faith in the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus.  We are Agios!   

Next Sunday we will celebrate the Holy Eucharist.  We will use that occasion to give Thanks for the Atoning work of our Lord and Savior.  Come celebrate with us and invite a friend.

Much love to you all,

Pastor Nicely

Three White Ladies

On this past Wednesday (16 Sept) when I got off from work it seemed like a normal time.  I left work. Walk the block to the rail station, took the escalator down to the rail, waited for the blue train, got on the train, found a seat, sat down and tried to take a nap. Normal. But there was something that was not normal for this train ride home. There were three grey hair elderly white ladies with large luggage talking about the great time they had the past couple of days. Disturbing my naptime.  These lades were so energetic that it was weird. These three white ladies spoke about how they had spent a night in a Synagogue sleeping in a large room on cots with complete strangers from all over this nation of various ethnicities, religions, and economic status.  The purpose of the three white ladies for making this trip, walking for American justice.  They were so excited because they had just participated in walk to commemorate 50 years since the Civil Rights march from Selma to Montgomery.  I asked one lady where she was from.  She told me she was from Oregon but had grown up in segregated Alabama so she has witness racism first hand throughout her life.  She also told me she had three Black grandkids.  She mentioned that they had participated in the American Journey for Equality fighting for civil rights for all. She was so excited to have met so many wonderful people over the past few days and to be a part of history.  She had on a blue tee shirt with gold writing. The writing on the front of the tee shirt was, ‘Eugene/Springfield NACCP’. Then she started to talk about all the great things her NACCP was doing in Oregon.  I took mental note that she said her NAACP. 

Then I started to think.  I don’t have a NACCP. I am leaving work from a job that if not for those civil rights workers fifty years ago, I would not have that job.  If not for those civil right workers, like these three elderly white ladies, I would not be able to enjoy the education that was made available for me and my children.  If not for these three elderly white ladies, my children would face limited opportunities to pursue the wonderful ideals expressed in our Declaration of Independence that all men are created equal, endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights: life liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Thank God for these three white ladies.

I No Longer Celebrate Easter

When I was a kid there was two Christian holidays I would go buck wild over: Christmas and Easter. I remember the days leading up to Christmas looking at the sky trying to determine and hoping that we would have a white Christmas. I remember the days leading up to Christmas looking around the house to determine where Santa Claus had hid my toys. I reasoned Santa had to bring my brother and sisters stuff a little early because we didn’t have a chimney for him to climb down on Christmas Eve. On Christmas day my brother and sisters would get early to go downstairs to the Christmas tree to unwrap our gifts. Oh what a joy unwrapping Christmas gifts with mu brother and sisters was! I never knew a disappointing Christmas. I would hurry to get dressed just to go outside and find my neighborhood friends to tell and show them how good Santa had been to me this year. On the days leading up to Easter, the next big holiday for me, my mother would tell my father the kids needed new Easter outfits. I remember my father complaining about money, maybe that is why I complain about money when my wife asks me, but my mother would always get the money she needed to take us shopping. Going Easter shopping for new outfits with my mother was a joy for me. I felt like a big shot, like I was somebody important. I would get a fancy bright new suit, shirt and tie that matches in color scheme and print, colorful socks and more often than not new shiny black shoes. Come Easter morning we would dress in our new outfits and the runway type fashion show was on. We walked around the church like peacocks in our new and bright outfits. I was always amazed of the number of people that came to church on Easter but we would not see them the following Sunday. But Easter would not be Easter without Easter Monday. That was the day of the Easter egg hunt where the adults placed colorful dyed boiled eggs around the church grounds for the kids to find. After tearing up the church’s lawn and flowerbeds looking for boiled eggs, we would go inside for chocolate candy. Did I forget the Easter basket? Oh yeah, the colorful Easter basket filled with colorful eggs and chocolate candy. During Easter morning service the kids would recite memorized Scriptures to the delight of the mothers of the church. I always had the most difficult Scripture to remember. All the mothers of the church would come to me afterwards to commend me and give me a sloppy wet kiss on the cheeks for doing a fine job. Yuck! I have nothing but fond memories of my young days in the church and with my family during Christmas and Easter. I was always safe, well-fed, amply clothed, warm in the winter, cool in the summer, dry, mentored with love, encouraged to excel, and loved as a son.

 

Now let’s fast forward to 2015, I am no longer a child. I am now a preacher/teacher of the Gospel of Jesus Christ so let me teach. Easter is named for a Saxon goddess who was known by the names Oestre and Eastre. Oestre and Eastre are also known as Ostara. Oestre, Eastre, and Ostara are fertility goddesses. The female drug estrogen is derived from the name Eastre. Myth has it that the fertility goddess will help plants (farmer’s crops), the birth of babies both animal and human. In an agricultural society these goddess’ represented wealth and prosperity. The rabbit, known for its propensity to reproduce was the sacred animal of Ostara. As a man prospered in crops he was able to feed his family and sell excess crops to satisfy other family wants and needs. More sons represented free labor to help out on the farm. Daughters represented not only free labor during their youth but potential dowry when they were of age to marry. Another fertility goddess of note is Ishtar. Spring celebration of the goddess Ishtar was through Easter eggs and the Easter bunny.

 

I no longer celebrate Easter. Why? When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, and I made plans like a child. When I became a man, I stopped those childish ways (1 Corinthians 13:11). I now celebrate Resurrection Sunday, the holiest of holy days for Christians. It is because of what Jesus did for you and me that we have a chance for Eternal life. An Easter bunny has nothing to do with my Salvation. Stop celebrating Easter. Rejoice in the knowledge that it was the love of Jesus that kept him on that Cross: not the nails. It was Jesus’ trust in His Holy Father that raised Him from the dead early on the Third Day with all Power in His hands. I celebrate that trust, as I know with all certainty that I can trust Holy Father as well. I celebrate the Resurrection Power, as I know that I have that same Power to overcome the wiles of satan. I celebrate the Resurrection because it is because of that Resurrection I will not experience the second death. I am made alive through Christ Jesus!

Ash Wednesday

Today was an awesome Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. In this time of introspection that Lent lends itself, I want to reflect on my Black history. Especially since this is Black History month. I am the son of John and Irene Nicely and the grandson of Jeffrey and Irene Thornton. I was born in Alexandria, VA where we lived in an old house on Payne St. At ten years old we moved to a second house on Earl St. where we lived until adulthood. My grandmother, father, and mother passed away in that house. When I look at those formative years, I remember going to school at St Joseph with my brother and sisters: Precinda, John, Jr., and Betty. We went to school no matter what. I remember during winter snowstorms wearing rubber boots over my black uniform shoes, hat with earmuffs, coat, gloves and scarf in snow up to my knees (there or about). I remember studying the Bible in school and going to Catholic mass every Monday. I remember my father fixing a breakfast of biscuits with syrup and bacon on Sundays before going to Sunday school at 9:30. After Sunday school we had 11:00 am morning Worship service. After morning Worship we would go home for Sunday dinner of fried chicken and mash potatoes and gravy. After Sunday dinner we would have to go back to church for the evening service that started at about 3:00 pm. After evening service we had BTU (Baptist Training Union) that started around 6:00 pm. We would then go home to watch a little TV before bed. We watched whatever my father wanted to watch. Hopefully, black and white westerns. I remember the school being so small that there were two grades in each classroom. I remember learning my times table and reading books everyday. I remember Sister Guadalupe, with her fine self, my fourth grade teacher. I remember at summer time my mother driving my brother, sisters, and myself to Metcalfe, MS to spend time with my grandmother. I remember using the outhouse. I remember taking a bath in the back yard in a metal tub. I remember bathing with some kind of soap that my grandmother would make. I remember when it rained we had to come in the house, turn off the TV and radio to listen to grandma tell Bible stories. When I asked my grandma why we had to turn off the TV, she said because God was working. I remember never being hungry. I remember never feeling unloved or unwanted. I remember my father a man with little education, telling me over and over how important an education was to a man. I remember my grandmother telling me that I had to be three times as good as my competition because that is what we do. I remember my first sermon. I was really bad. I remember looking at the congregation and noting in their faces that I would just shut up and sit down. I remember looking to my left and seeing my mother. She was clapping and shouting as if she was listening to Dr. King. I remember my mother telling me I can be anything I wanted to be. I thank my God for all that He placed in my life to nurture me. I thank God that He listened to the intercessory prayers of my mother and grandmother. I thank God for making me in His image! I thank God for Blessing me!

Lent 2015

Praise the Lord Saints

In respect to the Christian calendar, we as Baptists are about to enter the Most Holiest time for a Christian. As Baptists, we are allowed to determine how we organize and govern our church and we believe in Baptism by full immersion by water to signify a transformation of our lives from a former life of sin and despair to a life of Salvation and Discipleship with Christ. As Christians, we are about to enter the Lent Season. Lent Season begins on Ash Wednesday. In 2015, Ash Wednesday is February 18th. The Lent Season is forty weekdays preceding Resurrection Sunday (not counting Sundays). The Lent Season is a time of personal reflection, penance, and abstinence through fasting. There is no theological commandment to observe Lent. We observe Lent as a way to prepare ourselves for the Most Holiest of Christian days, Resurrection Sunday. It is a personal choice to observe Lent. I am suggesting that each of you make a personal decision to observe Lent by taking an introspective look at how you can individually help to move forward in God’s Kingdom building efforts. As you take this introspective look, I suggest that you consider fasting for forty days (not including Sundays) beginning on Ash Wednesday until Resurrection Sunday. Remove one thing from your diet as a part of your fast. You can remove salt, sugar, no TV after 7:00 pm, sodas, or some other thing that you normally enjoy and indulge. As you make a personal decision to observe Lent, pray that your Holy Father in Heaven will speak to you and give you guidance, strength, courage, prosperity, and increase your talents to help His Kingdom move forward. Individually and collectively we of Agios need prayer. During the Lent season and as part of your personal fast, pray for your family, yourself, and for Agios. We are Agios! The Saints!

Consider the Ways of the Ant

There are readers of this blog that will consider and describe themselves as Christians. So what is a Christian? A very good investigative scientific technique in trying to define an object is to define what it is not. A Christian is not a believer in the Living God. A Christian is not a believer that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. A Christian is not a believer in the Crucifixion. A Christian is not a believer in the Resurrection of Jesus by His Holy Father. To be a believer is not a Christian. It is a fact that satan (I do not capitalize the ‘s’ on satan as that gives him too much respect) is a believer in the Living God. In fact without doubt satan and his followers know that God exists and that Jesus the Christ is His only Begotten Son. To say that you are a believer is not saying much more that what satan, his minions, lackeys, toadies, and sycophants would say. The two-dollar definition of a Christian is a disciple of Jesus. A disciple is a follower in the teachings of the Teacher. In summary, a Christian is a follower in the teachings of Jesus Christ--our Teacher.

This is very good. We now understand what it means to describe ourselves as a Christian. Let us now try to make this teaching more practical. In our personal lives and even in our church lives; does the teachings of Jesus that is eternally documented in the Scriptures teach us how we should act when dealing with each other in the church, in our professional and personal relationships, with our families. I know about the teachings about love but if we are not careful we can be so nonchalant or flippant in applying the teachings of love. I am looking for something more practical. Well, just for a second let us go back to our scientific method—defining what something is not in trying to define what it is. Our relationships should not be like crabs. These crab creatures are extremely strong and capable of climbing great distances. Crabs are definitely capable of climbing out of a simple crab basket with no lid. However, I have never seen a crab basket filled with live capable crabs with a lid to keep the crabs in the basket. Crabs keep other crabs in the crab basket by pulling them back down as a crab reaches the top. Crabs do this continuously without discrimination. Crabs pull other crabs down because they are crabs. As Christians, do we find ourselves or our churches in the proverbial crab basket? Is there so much discord in our churches that we are unable to honor and glorify God with our actions—by acting like crabs. Is there so much discord in our churches that we are unable to help each other climb out of the proverbial crab basket? Do we find ourselves in this predicament in spite of the fact that our God has bestowed upon us enormous individual talents that when used collectively would allow us to remove ourselves and our families from the perpetual crab basket?

I think our Teacher, Jesus, has provided us with a practical lesson. In Proverbs 6:6 you will find theses words: “Go to the ant thou sluggard, consider her ways, and be wise.” Our God has provided each of us with skills and abilities that when used individually and collectively will allow us to accomplish great things in the name of Jesus. To be sluggard is to be lazy. We must be careful not to be lazy in developing and using the skills and abilities our God has provided us. Maybe we should watch less TV. Maybe we should read and study more. Maybe we should rise early to get started on our way so we are available to take advantage of opportunities. How many hours of TV do you watch per day? Would you prefer to watch your TV than spend time reading with your child, talking with your spouse, meditating with the Holy Spirit? And now find yourself in the proverbial crab basket in the relationship with your spouse, find your child in the proverbial crab basket by under performing in academics, under performing professionally that is having a detrimental economic impact on your family? While at the same time, you do not have time to take your child to the library during the week and even on Saturday to try to instill in them a love for learning and stimulate their learning. Is the TV the baby sitter for your children on Saturday? Then after 18 years of watching TV all day on Saturday and numerous hours during the week, we are concerned because Johnnie is not doing well on his SOLs. Johnnie has skills and abilities. But because we are sluggard, in our duties, Johnnie does not develop to his full potential and we find our children in the proverbial crab basket. What about the church? Is Sunday your day of the LORD’s Day? Your church will never reach it’s full potential unless you stop being a sluggard and consider the ways of the ant and be wise. An ant is always busy doing their assigned job to the best of their abilities. As a result, the ant colony never is without shelter and food. Why is it that God’s Kingdom is not providing Him with the Glory as He intended in spite that Christians have enormous resources, skills, and abilities? I will suggest we are being sluggard. I will suggest that we as Christians, disciples of Jesus the Christ, follow His teachings--consider the ways of the ant and be wise!

Adoption

What does it mean to be adopted? When a child hears that they were adopted and that one or both of their parents are not their biological parents, the child may feel somewhat disappointed or dejected. I can understand that feeling and wonder how I might address that situation - especially when I consider that I am the benefactor of an adoption. Ideally, we want the family life that mirrors the radio and TV hit comedy show, ‘Father Knows Best.’ In reality, life is not a half hour comedy. A person has absolutely no control over the circumstances of their birth. We are, or should be, thankful that someone decided to go through the pain of childbirth to have us regardless of particular circumstances. As an adopted child, someone made the decision to accept you just as you are - that person could have said no. Your environment has a lot to do with the type of person you are. Your environment determines your moral fiber that in term determines your moral compass. Your environment determines your feelings of self-worth that in term will determine how you interact with the people in your life that you have relationships with. Your environment determines your work ethic. When it comes down to it, your environment has more to do with who you are than other factors such as DNA. Of course, DNA is important. DNA determines things such as hair color and hair texture, but my hair is not wholly who I am. There is no acceptance or rejection of DNA. I do have a choice and decision to accept or reject the teachings and instructions of my father. Using my self as an example, my moral compass was determined by my father. I feel good about myself because my father taught me to respect myself and earn the respect of others. I remember simple things my father taught me like never making fun of my elders that happen to be less fortunate than me. When walking with my father if we happen to come across a man that was homeless, my father made me treat that man with respect because he was my elder in spite of his economic condition. My father never allowed me to use the ‘N’ word. I understand that is not important in today’s world to not use the ‘N’ word; however, for me I never use the word to address myself or any other human being. It was not my DNA that taught me to respect myself and others by not using the ‘N’ word - but the environment in which I grew up in established and lead by my father. As I consider my life, I eventually think about Jesus. The earthly father of Jesus had to make a decision to accept the circumstances of Jesus’ birth as well as say yes to adopt Jesus as his son. That was Joseph’s choice. When you consider the lowest common denominator of your situation, someone accepted you and chose to adopt you - to love you as their child. My situation and most probably your situation are just like Jesus’ situation.  I try to be the man my father would be proud of because that is how he taught me. I choose to accept the teachings of my father. I am my father’s son. My name is Leon Nicely, the son of John Nicely and Irene Nicely. 

God did you make a mistake?

I wonder if some of us feel that God make mistakes. I, like most of us know and understand that God loves us. We believe that God gave His only Begotten Son to die a horrible death nailed on that old wood by rugged nails. We believe and understand that it was not the nails that kept Jesus on that wood but His Agape love for us. We understand that God is all-powerful. But although we believe these facts when we take a look at our lives, when we take a look in the mirror and see our coarse hair, limp hair, skin tone, lips that are either too thick or not thick enough, nose and other facial characteristics: do you ever think that God has made a mistake. When we look at our social economic status including our prospects on the job, do we some times wonder if God made a mistake? When we look at our bank accounts or the cars we drive and compare our bank accounts to the electric bill do we have the tendency to think that God is playing a trick on us? Did God make a mistake? I want to believe that God made me just the way He wanted me.  That is what I want to believe but sometimes life circumstances make it difficult to translate my beliefs to applicability in my life. To help me understand I went to the only place I could think of: the Holy Scriptures.

The first thing I looked at was the family of Jesus. I noticed that His mother was an unwed teen-age girl from a hard working family of no substantial means. In Jesus’ family tree there was liars, thieves, prostitutes, and people of just bad reputation. Interestingly, Jesus’ family was not perfect just as my family is not perfect. Interestingly, the situation of Jesus’ birth was not the most ideal situation. A claim that many of us can relate to and even experienced. When I look at my family and life's situation, it is not much different from Jesus’ situation. Is it possible that Almighty God is using the earthly life of Jesus as an example for us? To help me understand I continued to search the Scriptures.

For some reason I ended up in Revelations. I thought that this was an odd Book to search for the answers I was looking for. In spite of my hesitation, I continued. I read about John’s vision. I read about the ‘Thousand Years.’ I read about the ‘Defeat of satan.’ I read about the ‘Judgment Before the Great Throne.’ I got to the end of Revelations and thought I must have missed something. Prayerfully, I started at the beginning of Revelation and the Holy Spirit led me to Rev 2:7. There you will find an interesting concept, overcoming or depending upon the translation conquering. In this verse it states the to the one who overcomes God will grant to eat of the 'Tree of Life' which is in the midst of the paradise of God. What a powerful Scripture? I think I am on track so I continued with the concept of overcoming.  This led me to 2:11 that states the he who overcomes will not experience the second death. In 2:11 the Scripture teaches that the man that overcomes will get a new name, in 2:17 God provides manna for the overcomer, and in 2:26 he is given authority over all nations. The overcomer is provided with white garments in 3:12 and Jesus promises never to blot out his name from the Book of Life and promises to defend him before His Holy Father. I am getting a Spiritual high right about now and feel like I have my answer, but I continue. In 3:21, the overcomer is promise a seat on the Throne with Jesus. There is a promise to the overcomer in 21:7. In this verse God promises to the overcomer to be His God and the overcomer will be His people.

Now I get it. Yes we will have trials and tribulations in this life. However, God expects us to overcome these things. It is obvious to me that God does not make mistakes but He does love overcomes! Be an overcomer and be blessed!

God's First Commandment

When I was a kid growing up in the church my mother and father taught us to observe the Sabbath Day. On the Sabbath there was no other activities allowed other than church activities. That was the Lord’s Day. For my siblings and I our Lord’s Day was Sunday School at 0930, Morning Worship at 1100, Evening Service at 1500 and BTU (Baptist Training Union) at 1800. It was at one of those BTU sessions when I learned the story of Moses and the Ten Commandments. I remember having to get up in front of the congregation and recite the Ten Commandments. I remember being told that we must always obey the Ten Commandments and if we did God will be pleased with us. As a kid I remember thinking that some of those Commandments did not apply to me like; do not murder (Sixth Commandment), or commit adultery (Seventh Commandment), or false witness against your neighbor (Ninth Commandment) and covetous (Tenth Commandment). OK, to keep it real I had a little trouble with numbers 9 and 10 even at age 10. But I had number 7 down pat.

God’s First Commandment is; Thou shall have no other gods before me. At an elementary level I think I got this one as well but I am no longer a kid so I think this First Commandment deserves a closer examination. The Commandment mentions gods so there must be multiple little ‘g’ gods that I must not place above the True God as that would be a sin. But what are these little ‘g’ gods that I should be mindful of?

You probably know of some things but let’s take this discussion to another level. When we worship the creation instead of the Creator, that’s breaking the First Commandment. Worshipping creation is things like mountain worship; sun worship, animal worship and the list just go on and on. Worshipping creation instead of the Creator is called Gaia Worship. Gaia Worship thinks of the earth as a deity as the actual mother of all things. This makes God the actual Creator of all things secondary and that is a sin. I love sunshine. The heat makes my bones feel good. My spirits are higher and I appear more motivated and enthused when the sun is shining. However, how do I feel when it rains? My grandmother taught us that when it rains, that is God doing his work and we should honor God. At my grandmother’s house when it rained we had to turn off the TV to sit around the living room to talk to each other or play games or read the Bible. But I have since grown up from the time when I sat in my grandmother’s living room. Now when it rains, I complain!

I think the First Commandment is teaching us that we should love God for everything that God does. We should honor God for His infinite wisdom. If the sun is shining, we should honor God. Our bodies are made up mostly of water and without water there would be no life.  So when it rains, we should honor God. I don’t think I honor God for who He is enough. I don’t have an altar at my house to pray. I just pray wherever I am. I think it is good to be able to pray wherever you are; however, I want to take my honoring God to another level. I want to honor God above the level I was at over fifty years ago. If you look at the Buddhist religion they have a small altar mounted on the wall outside the front door of their home as well as have some form of altar in their home to acknowledge their god. If my God is greater than their god, why do I not honor him with an altar in my home for prayer? I think I am going to make some form of an altar in my home to pray. Nothing too fancy but just a little something where I can go to get down on my knees to say thank you Lord for loving me. Thank you Lord for blessing me with rain and sunshine. Thank you Lord for the troubles in my life. Thank you Lord for the strength to deal with those troubles. Thank you Lord for my family, my wife, my children and children’s children. Thank you Lord for a reasonable measure of good health. Thank you Lord for being an awesome God!

Symbolism

Symbolism:

 

Two days ago I had to go to the post office to send some business correspondence by priority mail. During my lunch break I went to the post office near my job in a small town called Buckeystown, MD. I like driving to Buckeystown because it is a small rural farming town. I love the scenery of acres of farmland and barns. Buckeystown reminds you of Mayberry but Mayberry is actually probably bigger than Buckeystown. As I drove down the streets of the town I looked to the side and noticed the vast farmland and animals grazing in the fields. I looked down a side street and noticed the stick houses (that’s what I call them). The houses are very narrow, long, and one story that sits on four blocks of concrete. I said to myself it must be nice to live a simple life in a simple town. Suddenly I noticed about half way down the block on the left hand side there were two big red confederate flags. The flags were blowing lightly in the wind and seemed larger than the house. I thought about the confederate symbol on the flags and wondered if my children or I could live in peace in this simple town. I didn’t see in any persons that suggested or projected any ill thoughts towards me. Matter of fact, whenever I met people in Buckeystown they have always treated me with respect. It was the symbol of the confederacy that gave me paused. So I started to think: what does symbols say about us? What is the meaning of various symbols?  I thought about the raised black fist accompanied by the word ‘Black Power.’ What does that symbol of a raised black fist say to a person of Hispanic ethnicity? What does it say to a person of the Caucasian persuasion? What about the Nazi symbol?  What does the Nazi symbol say to persons of color? Eventually, I thought about the symbol of the Christian Cross? What is the meaning of the Christian Cross? First, let me say that the meaning of the Cross is constant to all that view it. It’s meaning will not change due to your ethnic group membership or any other earthly quality. The Christian Cross is a symbol of God’s love for you and me. God’s love cannot be earned. It is freely given to us by God is spite of all of our shortcomings. We fail to understand the meaning of the Christian Cross. If we understood its meaning we would not hesitate to follow God’s plan for our lives. If we understood the meaning of the Christian Cross we would not delay giving our lives to God. Some of us delay in submitting to God because we feel unworthy. Some of us delay in submitting to God because we feel we need to correct some things in our life before we come to Christ. We want to come to Christ but we smell like smoke so we delay. You need to understand what the symbol of the Cross means. The Cross represents God’s love for you. You can’t earn God’s love. You can’t buy God’s love. You can’t do good deeds to be awarded God’s love. You have God’s love regardless of your skin tone, manner of speech, sexual orientation, political persuasion, regardless of your guilt for any sins, or ethnic heritage. God loves you and that will not change! The symbol of the Christian Cross means love!

What Manner of Faith

I have been a Christian all my life. I was raised as a preacher’s kid where the Sabbath was a Sacred Day. My Sundays including having breakfast of biscuits with syrup, eggs, and sausage prepared by my father. In Sunday school by 0930. I was in morning Worship Service at 1100. Home for supper then back for the evening service at 1500 and then Baptist Training Union (BTU) at 1800. My mother, Minister Irene Nicely, was in charge of BTU so there was no skipping out.  I have studied at seminary. I am a third generation preacher and have actually been a preacher for over ten years. I consider myself a mature Christian. However, I have a weakness in my Spiritual walk. I think I am lacking in Faith. I believe, trust, and love Holy Father the only true Living God. I believe that the Anointed Savior died on that Old Rugged Cross and trusted His Father to raise Him from the dead early on that Third Day with all power in His hands. I believe that the same power that the Resurrected Christ has resides with us in the form of the Holy Spirit. Yet, I still feel like my Faith is not strong enough. When things in my life are going well, I don’t need Faith. But when I don’t get the promotion that I am qualified for, or the job I applied for, or the doctor is reviewing my blood tests during my semi-annual physical: I find my Faith lacking. When my ministry is not progressing as fast as I think it should: I find my Faith lacking. I know the Faith roll call probably better than most. I know the story of Abraham and his Faith. Yet, the story does not seem to alleviate my weakness or make me stronger. I go outside and sit on the front porch to watch the sun come up hoping that some revelation is about to happen. I watch helpless birds land on the grass to get their food. These birds do not possess the skills to hunt for themselves to feed themselves or their young but yet God provides for them. They lack in nothing. I listened to the birds sing in a beautiful harmony that only a bird can do. I don’t understand the lyrics but I can only imagine the birds are singing songs of Praise and Thanksgiving. I watch the trees bow in the wind and am reminded of the Scripture that when the trees bow in the wind, they are praising God. I say a short prayer of thanks and admiration of the works of God but yet I feel my Faith is lacking. Maybe I am doing too much analysis. Maybe I should do the simple things in my life. I could stop procrastinating on things. I could stop being so lazy. I could find time to pray more earnestly and not simply out of habit.  Maybe my prayers should be more like the singing of the birds: a Prayer of praise and Thanksgiving. Yes, I could do that. My harmony will not be as good as the birds but maybe I should not worry about my harmony. Maybe I should not worry about how strong my Faith but use whatever manner of Faith I have to the maximum extent possible according to my God given abilities. Maybe I should rely on The Holy Spirit to provide the increase that my finite abilities are unable to provide. Maybe that is what Faith is all about.

How can I say thank you?

Before my mother passed a few years ago my family would all gather each year at momma’s house for Thanksgiving Dinner. Before we ate we would all gather around in a big circle and each family member would have an opportunity to say what they were thankful for before we prayed. My mom would always tell a story, you could hear the groans from my family as momma got started with her story. Momma would tell how when I was a baby she had to walk in the snow carrying me to the hospital because I had a fever. Every year when momma told that story the snow was higher, the wind colder, and I was a little heavier. I don’t know the actual facts. This is what I do know. I was sick and could not take care of myself. I know that it was cold and that snow was on the ground. I know mom carried me to the hospital and I know how far the old Alexandria hospital on Duke Street was from our house on N. Payne Street. I know that my mom loved me simply because I was her son. I know my mom would suffer to make me better. I want to say thank you momma. I don’t want to say thank you because there is a day called Mother’s Day. I want to say thank you because you loved and cared for me. You loved me before I could love or care for myself. Regardless of the circumstances of your birth, your mother loved you enough to give you life. For that, you should say thank you. Well, your relationship with your parents is a parallel to your relationship with the living God. Our God loves us in spite of our unwillingness to serve and honor Him on His terms and conditions. Our God gave us life and instruct us to honor our parents so that our days will be long. Honoring your mother is paramount to honoring God. You can give your mother flowers or candy on Mother's Day and that is very nice. But find time in your life to honor your mother every day of your life because without your mother’s love to give you birth, you would not have a life. Honor the true living God by honoring your mother, each and every day for the rest of your life.

OH What A Beautiful Day

Yesterday was a beautiful day for me on so many levels. The weather was awesome. The skies were a beautiful blue that only God can make happen. The sun shine brightly and the temperatures were mild with light winds. Thursday was just a beautiful day. I looked at foliage and noticed how the bulbs were starting to bloom and turning greener by the day. I noticed the creeks are full flowing strong and fast. But what really made my day a great day was spending time with my nephew. He’s a Trojan alumnus with a degree in accounting. He’s an entrepreneur with great expectations for the future. My nephew and I talked about marriage. We talked about leadership: political, military, personal, and business leadership. We talked about being an uncle. We talked about the importance of an uncle to ensure nephews and nieces are secure and are able to grow up confident. We talked about books. Simba gave him a book titled ‘Heaven is Real.’ I mentioned that a friend at work has turned me on to a book titled ‘The Gift of Being Yourself.’ As you can clearly see my day was great. My nephew and I talked about Kingdom Building. We talked about how important it is for you to live a life that brings Glory to God. We talked about how that concept has been lost among the older generation. And because it is lost among the older generation, how can the younger generation learn a better way? We talked about how satan has fooled us into believing that family is not important. We talked about how satan has convinced us that we should satisfy every whim of fleeting happiness that our feeble minds can imagine. We talked about how satan has fooled us into believing that political is more correct than Holiness. I am proud of my nephew and love him dearly. It is refreshing to have such a deep intellectual conversation with a young man. I have confidence that our young will save our younger ones even in spite of the older generations foolish belief in the father of lies, the master deceiver: satan.

(For the record I do not capitalize the ‘s’ on satan. That is giving him too much respect)

Funeral to Birth

I don’t know about you but I love music and dance. I especially like ballet and modern dance. It has often been said that basketball players are the best athletes in the world. I disagree with that assessment. I think dancers are the best athletes. I am amazed at how dancers are able to move with such grace and strength. I like all kinds of music. I like some rock and roll. I like some country and western. I like old school soul. Don’t you remember Frankie Beverly and Maze. I will always move with a groove when I hear Silky Soul or Southern Girl. Yeah man! I like old school rap. I remember the Chilites when they would sing ‘Oh Girl or when they would rap to the song ‘Have you Seen her’. The rap for Have You Seen Her go something like this. ‘One month ago today I was as happy as a lark but now I go for walks to the movies maybe to the park. And have a seat on the same old bench to watch the children play. You know tomorrow is their future but for me just another day. They al gather around me. They seem to know my name. We laugh tell a few jokes but it still doesn’t ease my pain. I know I can’t hide from the pain though day after day I tried. I keep saying she be back but today again I lied’. That’s rapping! I do not like hip hop rap. I have a mother and grandmother. I have five sisters. I have three daughters and two granddaughters. How can I like music that is mainly nothing but cussing and degrading to women?  I have heard the argument that hip hop rap is more about the beat and not the words. I don’t believe that. There is an evil message in hip hop rap. I do like Christian rap. Some older Christians do not like Christian rap because of the beat. Some younger Christians only like it because of the beat. I like Christian rap because of the message. The beat is nice and if you are not careful you may think you are listening to hip hop. But then you miss the rap. There is a message in Christian rap that is powerful. Lately, I have been listening to a Christian rapper named Flame. As he tells it he hails from the slums of St. Louis. I don’t like the word slum to describe where you live. It is only a slum if the people living there treat it as such. Let’s just say he hails from an economically disadvantage neighborhood in St. Louis. Flame raps a song called ‘Funeral to Birthday.’ I loved the beat but did not fully understand the rap. Without understanding the rap, I was missing the message. So to understand the rap, I asked my son. He was actually the one that turned me on the Christian rap. My son explained to me that Flame in the rap Funeral to Birthday, Flame was rapping about his death to his old life before he accepted Jesus as his Lord and Savior and his rebirth in Christ! I went WOW! I get it! Don’t you get it! When you truly find Jesus your old self dies and you become a new creature in Christ! We often think that at a person’s funeral we remark that the person has gone on to a better place. This is a true statement. It is also true that when you truly find Jesus, you have a better place right here on earth, your funeral to birthday. In the teachings of Jesus He taught us in John 3:3 ‘Jesus answered him, truly, truly, I say to you unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.’ Commit to a life of honoring Jesus in everything you do! Commit to a life of Holiness! Be born again! From funeral to birthday! Happy birthday to you all! Hallelujah!

Worrying too much

After Holy Father in heaven raised His only Begotten Son from the dead on Resurrection Sunday, Jesus spent the next 40 days on earth. During these 40 days, Jesus appeared before His disciples several times to instruct them on how to carry out His teachings. Ascension Day is on Thursday, May 29, 2014. Today, there are not many celebrations or acknowledgement during the 40 days after Jesus’ Resurrection. On Ascension Day, Jesus took His disciples to the Mount of Olives where they watched Him ascend into heaven. So what now? I think we should be mindful of this period and maybe renew our focus on the teachings on Jesus. Maybe we should do just as Jesus did with His disciples. We should concentrate on His teachings. During this time I think we should do a men’s retreat to try to commit ourselves to the teachings on Jesus. I will provide more on the men’s retreat later. I remember when my cousin use to work for the railroad as a brakeman. That was a good job for him. He made big bucks and got to travel all over the country. He tired to explain to me the responsibilities of the brakeman. One of his responsibilities was to monitor the track for debris. He told me that he hated to travel at night when the moon was full. I thought that was weird and asked him why. My cousin explained to me that when it was dark there were no shadows across the tracks. But when there was a full moon, trees and other things not on the track would cast a shadow on the track and make him think that there was something on the track to fear. These were only shadows but they caused great fear for my cousin. We spend a lot of energy fighting and being afraid of shadows. I wonder if any of you can think of any reasons why fret and worry are sinful? I can think of a few. Fret and worry waste valuable time. It is somewhat amazing how we worry about things that never happen and while in this frenzy over worry; how can we be prepared to serve in any serous Kingdom building efforts. We can’t because we are concerned only about our perceived problems. Fret and worry is wrong because it gives pain to your family and friends. Your worrying spoils relationship building time with your children, significant others, siblings, children, and the list just go on and on. I have one final reason why fret and worry is wrong; it is painful to our Heavenly Father. It is written that ‘As the days so shall thy strength be’, My Grace is sufficient for thee’. (Deut 33:25; II Cor 12:9). Use the power of the Resurrection to do good and to honor our Lord and Savior. Fret and worry does not honor our Savior and it focuses on us too much.

WATCH

There is a story of ancient mythology about Ulysses and the Winds. In this mythical story, Ulysses departed from the Aeolian Islands. Upon his departure Ulysses given by the god Aeolus, the god of winds, all the adverse and stormy tempest and winds that might adversely affect him. These winds and storms were all tied up in a bag that Ulysses guarded every moment. Ulysses boarded a ship to sail home. The sailors noticed how Ulysses closely guarded the bag. This led the sailors to think that Ulysses was guarding valuable treasure. When Ulysses fell asleep one day, the sailors took the bag from under his head and opened it. Immediately out rushed all the winds and storms creating a mighty tempest for the ship, its crew, and passengers. Although the ship had been in sight of home, the mighty tempest beat the ship back to its starting point. The folly of foolish curiosity is foolish. There are some tied up bags in our lives that should remain tied up. Opening those bags will not aid you in your quest to arrive at the destination that God has in store for you but will just create a mighty tempest that sets you back. It is our duty to be watchful. Being a Christian does not mean that you should be engaged in foolish things. As Christians, we have the duty of watchfulness against evil. We all have some bags with winds and storms inside of them. Releasing those winds and storms will open up the possibilities of evil. This evilness will beat us back from our goals. No excuses! Don’t be careless! Do not forget to watch! Do not fall asleep on the bag of winds! What I say unto you I say unto you all, watch (Mark 13:37).

Resurrection Sunday

Happy Resurrection Sunday!

Early on the third day, Holy Father in heaven raised His only begotten Son from the dead. Upon raising Jesus from the dead, He placed all power in His hand. The same power that Holy Father gave Jesus upon His Resurrection, you have also. You have the power to overcome all the adversities encountered in this life. To deny the Resurrection is to deny the awesome power that exists for your use. Do not be despaired by this life. Do not live in fear. Do not waste time complaining about things you have no control over. Use the power that Holy Father has given you on things in which you have some control. Conduct yourself with the assurance that Jesus is alive and well. Be confident in the fact that you have in Jesus an intercessory providing a bridge directly to Holy Father to provide you with all the tools you need to accomplish great things in this life. Boldly go forward and do well. You have the power!