IT’S WHAT COMES OUT
Text: Mark 7:1; 14-15
Let me rephrase that last verse. Nothing that you take in to your body can corrupt you. It is that which comes out that corrupts. The information age has brought us an explosion of available one touch information. There are bookstores within walking distance of almost every community. The World Wide Web is available in every household and on many mobile devices. Newspapers, magazines, blogs, email, talk radio, tapes, DVDs. …… You get the picture. We can access information from many sources without too much trouble and without too much expense. A lot of this information that is available to us is considered by many to be negative. Whether it is the blood and gore reported on the nightly news, or the headlines of the newspaper reporting on the latest government waste or abuse of citizens…..or maybe it’s the book, DVD or magazine that explicitedly shows well endowed men and women posing without clothing or engaged in acts that are, in our society meant for the privacy of the marriage bed. Perhaps it’s the video game that adults and children play on their handheld device or in their houses. All of this information, games and activity is available to us and we take it into our bodies and into our minds. Can there be any way that as we take all of this in, that our bodies and minds do not become corrupt and as a result, evil and sin flows from our mouths and our actions are always therefore sinful? I think not.
Our text today concerns a story as told by Saint Mark. We see Jesus before a crowd. He is now well into his ministry. The people of the day are aware that Jesus has performed many miracles, healed many of their afflictions, raised the dead and restored sight to the blind. Now He has come to a rural place. A place outside the city. The people along with his disciples are gathering to hear from Him. Since many people had begun to listen and follow Him, word of His ministry has reached the highest levels in the capital city of Jerusalem. People at the top, Pharisees and Scribes, those who were experts in the laws and customs as given by Moses, and the prophets, these Pharisees and Scribes have also come to hear Him. The difference is that they were suspicious of him. They’ve traveled from Jerusalem to investigate for themselves. What was it about this man, Jesus, that had all of the people stirred up. They were there to demonstrate to the people that this man was a fraud. In their eyes, Jesus was not being a good Jew. He was not doing what was right. Have you been there? Have you ever been busily working your heart out, doing the best that you can and all you get in return is criticism and ridicule? Why is it that when you are trying to do something positive there are always someone who shows up to let you know that you will not succeed, that you’re not smart enough, that you are incompetent and not prepared.
As our biblical story continues, Jesus and His Disciples were preparing to minister to the people. But first they needed to eat. The Disciples had bread and began to eat it without first washing their hands. Washing of hands before eating was a custom/law observed by the Jewish faith at that time. The Pharisees and Scribes seized on this apparent oversight. What they did not know was that this so called oversight was exactly what Jesus needed to get a point across to the people.
Now get this picture. The Pharisees and Scribes have traveled from the city to get this young upstart Jesus straight. They have seen how he does not teach or practice what they as experts know to be the laws of the faith. “Tell us Rabbi, they say, why do you allow your followers to not wash their hands before eating.” Jesus’ response essentially says, now all of you come real close, because I want you to pay very close attention to what I am about to say. When I say it, I want you to understand. Garbage in does not necessarily mean garbage out. Just because you were raised in a godless household does not mean you will be condemned; just because you live in a bootleggers house, you don’t have to be a drunk, just because you associate with drug dealers you don’t have to be an addict, just because you were born by the sin of your parents, you do not have to remain in sin. It’s not what goes in to you that counts. It’s what comes out. See, what Jesus was saying was that It does not matter if you watch porn, it does not matter if you drink alcohol, it does not matter if you fantasize about winning the lottery. What matters is what your actions are, what matters is how you behave once you have taken something in. Come out of that godless household into the light of salvation; show that bootlegger, that drug dealer, these wayward parents that though I am surrounded by sin and iniquity, I see it when I go to bed, I see it when I arise, I take all of it in, I see it and yet I can live above it and love and joy will flow from me. It’s not what goes in to me that I am concerned with, it’s what comes out that will make me whole. AMEN
January ’13: New Starts
Luke 13: 11-12. “And behold, there was a woman which had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bowed together, and could in no wise lift up herself. And when Jesus saw her, He called her to Him and said unto her, woman thou art loosed from thine infirmity.”
At this time of the year, many people have made resolutions on what they will do differently in the coming year. Some will say I am going to start dieting and lose weight, others say I am going to exercise more, perhaps play more golf, or join a gym. Still others may say I am going to start a new savings program or buy a new car, new clothes. The point is that as the New Year comes, we often take time to consider new starts.
One of the characteristics of a new start is the freshness that one feels at the beginning of a new start. Think back in your life about some of your new starts. Perhaps it was when you left home to attend college. For the first time in your life you were moving away from your parents and beginning to live at another place. During the first few days everything was a new experience, a new way of doing things……there was a freshness to each experience. After a while, what was new is suddenly old and you began to look for a new start at something other than the experience of being away from home. For some of us getting a new car brings on a new start. If you are a parent, you announce new rules, no eating or drinking in the car, no toys, no crayons and wipe your feet before entering. There is freshness in this new car that gives us the chance to have a new start in how we behaved in the old car. In other words, there is a change in behavior. Our intent is that we are not going to permit this new thing to get in the sad shape that the old thing was in. We are beginning a new start. Sadly as the days go by, the freshness wears off and memories of the new start are but a part of the past.
Unfortunately, in our personal relationships we experience new starts that too often end up as just memories and sometimes not even memories. Remember when you met your first love? That was a new start. Perhaps it was this girl we saw in college that caused feelings that were not only pleasing and fresh but were constant and stirring. Some of us were lucky enough to act on our feelings and approach that girl and find that she was even more wonderful than we even imagined. And what was even more remarkable, she felt the same as you. After time passes this once wonderful girl becomes just another part of our immediate scenery. Most of our new starts end up the same way. We go on from day to day just accepting as routine, new starts in different phases of our lives and never giving any of them a second thought.
In today’s text we find that the writer of Luke is describing Jesus as He teaches through the use of parables. On this particular day He was teaching in a synagogue and it was on the Sabbath. Just to set the stage, we know that Jesus must have been teaching Jews since non Jews were not permitted inside the synagogue. Another important fact was that this teaching was taking place on the day that the law said that there could be no work done. As Jesus was teaching He sees this woman who had been affirmed for 18 years. He heals her. She was given a new start. Now it is also important to note that instead of focusing on the wonderful thing that Jesus had done and the fact that this woman had been given a new start, the Jews in the synagogue were concerned about what the law said. They could not see that Jesus was also there to give them a new start. They missed the lesson. As Jesus rebuked them, they were ashamed and realized the glorious thing that Jesus had done. What I want us to focus on in this lesson is that God constantly gives us a new start. We cannot afford to miss the significance of this new start. The freshness of our new start is that we get a chance to get it right this time. When we accept Jesus as our personal savior and profess our faith and when we are baptized, we have a new start. But just like we have previously described, as time passes our new start becomes just a routine part of our lives. As our lives progresses, we sometimes take our Christian faith for granted. It is a routine part of our existence. We fail to study the Word, we fail to nurture our faith by attending church, we don’t love our neighbors, we fail to repent and on and on we go. What I am suggesting to you today is that we should call on the name of the Lord frequently. He is faithful to hear us and just as He gives us a new day when we awake from our nightly slumber, He will give us a new start each day. Many of us will look upon our Christianity as something that we can use when the trials of life become very hard to bare. While that is true, that’s not all it is. When we pray, whether it is just for thanksgiving or if it is for petition, when we arise from that prayer, we are given a new start. When we overcome an obstacle, a setback, a challenge, we are given a new start. The question that I am giving you today is, what are we going to do with our new start. We must not let our new start lose it freshness. We must not allow our new start to become just a routine part of our scenery; we must not treat our new start as what was new has now become old. Jesus teaches us to take advantage of what we have today, yesterday is gone and tomorrow is not promised, so we need to make the best of the new start that we have today. We need to love one another today; we need to love God today. We must treat each other as we wish to be treated today, we must ask for forgiveness today, we must seek the kingdom of God today. Take advantage of your new start today. AMEN
October 2012: ATONEMENT
Scripture: Leviticus 23: 26-28….. “And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, also on the tenth day of this seventh month there shall be a day of atonement: It shall be a holy convocation unto you; and ye shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire unto the Lord.
Jewish people recently celebrated their day of atonement, one of the most holy days on the Jewish calendar. In the Bible, the book of Leviticus is not only the third book in the Christian Bible, but it is also called the third book of Moses and is considered a sequel to Exodus. One of the central themes of the book of Leviticus is the role of sacrifice. (For the purposes of this discussion, sacrifice means to kill something to win back God’s favor.) We know that the New Testament Book of Hebrews (9: 22) says that “almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.” In our vernacular that means only through the shedding of blood can we receive the remission or forgiveness for our sins. Wow! This is a whole other area that I hope to cover with you at another time. However today the topic is atonement. Wikipedia says that the English word atonement originally meant “at one ment” or being at one. A common definition that most can accept is that atonement means being reconciled with God…to be at one with Him.
As we get into this topic, I want you to remember the following: Atonement to Christians has four separate theories of what it is about. All generally accept that Jesus Christ died to atone for our sins. However they cannot come to complete agreement as to what that sacrifice meant. The four theories are, moral change, ransom/liberation, satisfaction, and penal substitution. Some say that Jesus atonement created a moral change for man, some say His death was as a ransom for our liberation from sin, others say that His death was as a perfect sacrifice to satisfy God’s displeasure with us and still others say that Jesus died instead of us, in other words, He was a substitute. You can pick which of the theologian’s views you agree with.
As we seek to understand the concept of atonement we need to realize that the concept itself came from God. When Adam sinned, man fell from being in harmony with God. Beginning in Genesis chapter 12 we see that God began the process of calling a people and thus laying the ground work for redemption and reconciling the relationship between man and Himself. One of the things that we get from the study of the scriptures is that God often takes us through a process in order to get us where He wants us to be. So in seeking to provide for reconciliation, God began the process through providing the Law of Moses. As God spoke to Moses in Leviticus, He designed a process for reconciliation. We know that today Jewish people observe this process as Yom Kipper, the Day of Atonement. It is a time for confession and forgiveness. Now you may ask why all of this is necessary. Why does God require us to atone? A reference book of mine entitled “Exploring the Christian Faith” asks the question, “If God is utterly holy, is it possible for sinful people to have any dealings with Him?” The Old Testament answer is yes. The New Testament’s answer is that Christ died so that we can have direct dealings with God. Now if we as Christians can accept the fact that Jesus’ death was the culmination of the process that God began back in Leviticus, We really don’t need to struggle with the differences between the theories of why or what atonement really represents. To again quote my reference book, “the Bible teaches us that God’s moral law calls for sin to be punished, the wages of sin is death- the spiritual death of separation from God. But our sin and guilt is expiated as God, Himself intervenes, through His Son, stepping into our place and dying for sinners. The perfect sacrifice that we could not offer for ourselves, Christ offered for us in His death: In the work of humanity’s salvation the initiative is taken by God Himself. The New Testament will not allow any distinction between God and Christ in what happened on the cross. Reconciliation is seen all along as something that begins from God”. That means that through the atonement that occurred on the cross our salvation was made possible. Through the resurrection, God assures us that He accepts the sacrifice and that the atonement process is complete and our debt for sin has been paid in full.
As I close keep these thoughts in mind concerning atonement and salvation:
Hallelujah!! Thanks be to God, our Lord, our Savior, our Redeemer. Thank you God for your perfect sacrifice, thank you for saving us, thank you for your grace and mercy. AMEN
September 2012: ARE YOU IN LOVE
In January of last year, my inspirational message was about love. In that message we discussed the love that God has for us. That He loved us so much that He took on mortality to provide us the free gift of salvation. That’s real love. Today I want to take a different approach but with the same theme. Are you in love?
One of my fond memories about being a college student was the life we enjoyed on the campus. To be honest, it was the first time in my life that I had almost complete freedom. This was also the time where personal relationships were begun. None of these personal relationships were more important than the ones we developed with members of the opposite sex. Many of my friends met their wives at that time. As strange as it seems, none of us males wanted to be dubbed as having our nose opened by our girlfriends. If someone was referred to as having his nose open, it meant that he was in love and being led around like a little puppy by the object of his affection. Now in reality, in most of these relationships, we were being led around by our nose…..or was it another part of our anatomy? So none of us wanted to be labeled as being in love and yet many were. Later in life after having secured a means of supporting yourself and acquiring a few material things, most guys will gladly proclaim that he loves that same girl he had back on that college campus. Actually most of us discover that it is not really a big deal to proclaim your love for someone other than yourself. In fact, my belief is that being in love is a good thing.
Now if you are with me, stay with me because I want to know if you are in love tonight……not with your wife, girlfriend or whomever, but are you in love? Well what do you mean Brother Lucas? Glad you asked. Paul described love as long suffering, kindness, no envy, without vainness and not boastful. Paul also said love does not behave unseemly, does not seek to justify oneself, love is not easily provoked and thinketh no evil. Love rejoices in truth, not evil. Love never fails. Are you in love tonight?
Listen to conversations and most times you will hear the words love used in a variety of ways. “I love that shirt you have on.” “I love this chicken.” Or how about” love you too.” My question is are you really in love?
Okay, here is how you will know. If you look to the classical definition of love, you will see that it means intense affection. Synonyms are adore and cherish. Now those descriptions don’t do it for me. Now the question is does it apply to how you think about love? Let’ go to the scriptures….First John chapter 4 verses 7&8 says “Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God; and everyone that loveth is born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.” Now my revelation from this scripture is that if I know God, I can really love. In other words, if I say I love without knowing God, I am expressing an empty emotion. Love without God is not enduring and is unsatisfying. Real love can only come from God. Let’s go a little deeper. For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten son. Remember that phrase? Do you know what it means? Let’s break it down….are you a father? Would you sacrifice your only son so that your neighbor could live? No, you would not. In reality God does not ask us to do that. But he does as us to love sacrificially. That’s the kind of love that expects nothing in return. That means that I will do for you even at my inconvenience or perhaps even at my detriment. Remember the love that I am talking about does not justify itself. See, God loves us even when we do wrong. Therefore He wants us to love one another even when we hate the sin that they do. When I ask, are you in love? I am really asking are you in God? If you are in God, then God is in you. Consequently, the love you show is not frivolous or superficial, nor is it temporary or conditional. True love is from God and is God. Our job is to strive to have this true love. Are you in love? If not seek God, He will give it to you. AMEN
February 2012 THE REAL MEANING
There are a couple of ways to interpret this scripture. On the one hand we can say that if you determine what your life is meant to be, you are doomed. Another way to look at it is that if you let God guide your life you will gain a good life. What I am trying to tell you with this verse is that often there is a deeper meaning than what just appears on the surface. Often we are guilty of taking things people say or what they do as the essence of what they are about. In other words we judge. Sometimes there is a story behind words or actions that give a positive message even when the messenger or the message appears negative. Consider the story of Ruth. If you will recall, Naomi was Ruth’s mother in law. Once Ruth’s husband died, Naomi found herself a widow with two daughters in law, who were also widows and with no means of support. One daughter in law went back to her own family, but Ruth had compassion for Naomi and decided to stay with her. Naomi knew that the only way for she and Ruth to make it was for them to go back to her family in Bethlehem. Now if you are familiar with this story, you know that Naomi knew that her kinsman, Boaz was rich. She knew that he had fields of grain, that he had servants harvesting the grain and she also knew that the custom of the day was that grain was left behind for the poor once the day’s harvest was gathered. Naomi also knew that Boaz was single and that he liked pretty women. Ruth was pretty. So, Naomi thought that if I can get Ruth before Boaz our worries are over. Well you know what happens next, Boaz saw Ruth, he liked Ruth, he married Ruth and they lived happily ever after. Now, is this a story of how Naomi used Ruth to get a leg up or a hand out?, or is this a story with a much deeper meaning? Many of you who attend Sunday School or Bible Study know that this union of Boaz and Ruth led to the birth of David and ultimately to the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus. Ah, but there is more. Jesus was a jew but he was also a gentile. You see, Ruth was a gentile. So you see God was at work in this story and when He chose to begin the lineage for His only begotten son, he began it with a jew and a gentile. That tells me that He was saying even then, that He is God of all people not just the God of Israel.
Now my point is that each day we can look at situations that face us and find meaning that are not always as they seem on the surface. Depending on our mood, we can interpret them based upon what we hear and see on the surface or we can look for a deeper meaning. You see, we can look at the story of Ruth and say that it is a story of an old lady who schemes to use her daughter in law’s beauty to better their lot in life or we can say that God used Naomi and Ruth to fulfill His plan to save humanity. Well the truth is that we should look for the deeper meaning of things. I have suggestions. First, we should pray without ceasing. That means pray in the morning, at noon, in the evening and at night. Secondly, when we pray, we should ask for wisdom. Ask God to open our eyes, give us understanding and reveal His will to us. Finally, pray that once the truth is revealed that God will give us the strength and intestinal fortitude to act accordingly. AMEN.
January 2012: LOVE
What is LOVE? We all speak about it. Most of us profess it toward someone or something. But what is it. Well some might say, it is an emotion, a feeling, something more than a high regard, adulation, a down in the gut reaction to someone or something. Webster says it is an intense affection; a feeling of attraction resulting from sexual desire, enthusiasm or fondness or to enjoy enthusiastically, adore, cherish. Does that just about get it? I think among those definitions, there is one that catches it for all of us. LOVE. We use that word when we are please with something or someone. From a purely secular view, I suppose, when we use the word we all really mean what we say. Do we really love our wives? Do we love our children? Our parents? Do we love one another? What about our fraternity? What about God? Do we love God? Most Christians will answer in the affirmative. Let’s examine this word love a little closer. I can proclaim that I love my wife to all that care to listen. But what if I come home one day and she is in my bed with another guy, in my house, oh and the guy just happens to be my brother. Do I love my wife then? How about my brother? What about my children? We all love our children. But what happens if one day our child cusses us out, steals the car, sets fire to the house and physically attacks his mother. Do we still love him or her? What about God? When disaster strikes, all the money is gone, there is no job, no house, no car, no friend, nothing. Do we still love God. Now for those of you expecting me to somehow give an answer to the previous questions, don’t be disappointed because I am not going to do that. Rather, I ask that you ponder on these questions of love. Betrayal, hard times, disobedience, those are the things that these questions describe. Can we love in spite of all these things. Well the answer is yes but in reality our love would cease and some other type emotion would take its place. And yet while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. God’s love for us endures. We have betrayed Him, we have disobeyed Him. Yet He loves us still. Let me prove that to you. If you were the most powerful person in the world and if you had everything you ever wanted and your every desire was met. Would you give it all up for love? God, our God, who spoke the world into existence, god, our God, who created all that there is, God, our God, who lives outside of the realm of time, decided one day to give it all up and step into time, enter the world through a woman and as a mortal human, allow Himself to be hated, talked about, abused, crucified, killed and buried. Our God humbled Himself and became human because he loved us. He gave up everything for a while to bring salvation to the world. Want to know what love is? Ponder on what God has done for us. It is really remarkable when you consider that He did not have to do it. Consider if He spoke the world into existence, one word and it could all be gone. But this divine love He has for us is more than an emotion. It is what defines Him for He is love. I submit to you that we all need to try to have for our fellowman the kind of love that God has shown toward us. Love that is not built on physical appearance, love that is not based upon circumstances, love that is not based upon economic status, love that is not based upon the situation. Pure love transcends all of these things. Love endures, it is kind, it is not based on jealousy, it does not require recognition not is it looking for reciprocation. As Lionel Richie says, love will conquer all. The kind of love I am talking about will prevail through thick and thin. That my brothers is what love really is. AMEN.
CPAC 2011 CHRISTMAS INSPIRATIONAL MESSAGE
THE PERFECT GIFT
When we take a quick review of the Bible, we see that in Genesis that God created man and woman, placed them in the Garden. God gave man the breath of life and that was the first gift. The Lord God gave man everything that he needed to survive. Man was given dominion over all that God had created. That was the second gift. Unfortunately, man decided to disobey God and therefore had to suffer the consequences of this disobedience…..death.
As we move on down through Biblical history, we know that God promise to raise a great nation from Abraham. Not only did God prosper Abraham and his progeny, but He heard their cry and delivered them from their enemies…..in other words God continued to give gifts to mankind. Once again, disobedience became widespread and as a consequence, God allowed them to be taken into slavery. After a time of calling for God to deliver them, their prayers were answered and god gave them another gift in the form of a deliverer, Moses. After leading the people of God out of slavery into the wilderness, Moses was given the law to give to the people. I suppose this was God’s way of saying, let me give you something that can guide your daily life, some rules to go by, things that will save your soul, yeah, you know, canons, laws, indisputable commandments directly from God. Before Moses could get back from receiving the commandments, the people began to disobey. Not only had they began to disrespect the God that had delivered them but they began to reach out to the idol gods that their former oppressors had back in Egypt. Once again God gave them the gift of forgiveness but required that they suffer the consequences of their sin…..none of them were allowed to enter the promise land.
Once the people of God entered the promise land, they began to prosper. There were several challenges along the way. First they wanted judges to govern their actions. God gave them judges. Then they asked for a king. God gave them kings. The people prosper but as they did, they began to forget about the God that had sustained them. God caused them to be enslaved again. A great silence ensued following the lamentations and prophesying of several men of God crying for the people to turn back to the God of their fathers.
Finally the time was fully come that God would provide a way for the people to gain access to Him and be able to always have a present intercessor for committed sin and a reminder when temptation presents itself. A virgin birth occurred and thus the only perfect gift from God arrived. This perfect gift hears and answers our prayers, He provides comfort when we are pained, He gives rest when we are weary, encouragement when we are depressed, healing when we are wounded. Whatever it is we need this perfect gift, is able and willing to provide.
As we celebrate the Christmas season in 2011, let us remember the perfect gift; take time to thank our God for this most precious gift. Thanks Him that we have the capacity to provide for our families, our communities, our fraternity and our country. The perfect gift, Christ the Lord. Hallelujah. AMEN
A GOOD MAN
The Bible attributes to David the phrase”surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life”. That is a prayer for the ages. In fact it is something that each of us should desire. But what is goodness? Is it just being nice? Is goodness something that can be turned on and off depending on the circumstances? Is goodness a requirement for successful living? Or is goodness a never achievable quality that only comes around once and a while? Or is goodness that quality that is almost indescribable in its entirety but you know it when you see it or experience it? That’s what I think of when I think about our recently departed brother, Ben Cummings.
Holman Edmund described our brother, Ben, as being a “good man”. As I struggled with trying to figure out what I could say about Ben and what he meant to me and to you, I kept coming back to that statement “Ben was a good man”.
A quote from Charles Kingsley may express Ben’s goodness better than most, he says “did it ever strike you that goodness is not merely a beautiful thing, but by far the most beautiful thing in the whole world? So that nothing is to be compared for value with goodness; that riches, honor, power, pleasure, learning, the whole world and all in it, are not worth having in comparison with being good; and the utterly best thing for a man is to be good, even though he were never to be rewarded for it.”
A popular phrase these days is “leading from behind”. Some have used it derisively to mock the President, some have used it triumphantly to explain a diplomatic success. When I think of Ben’s influence on me, leading from behind is very appropriate in what he did for me. See, I know little about Ben’s accomplishments at Ben Hill, HUD or at Herman Russell. I do know first hand about his devotion to Tuskegee and to Kappa Alpha Psi. Ben often led from behind. Whether it was quietly counseling one of the elected officers of the chapter, or a whisper to a member to calm down or maybe it was a phone call to heal a rift. Ben did not seek the spotlight in these efforts, but rather he wanted to make sure that the right thing was being done for the right reasons. My observation was that his voice of reason was always listened to and respected. I recognized from watching Ben that you could lead with your service, with your voice of reason, with words of encouragement, with patience, with instruction, you can lead with your presence, you can lead with your dedication. Being in the spotlight is great for some but sometimes more can be accomplished behind the scenes than with that spotlight shining in your face. The text talks about a man’s ways…….Ben’s ways were effective, they were respectful and most of all they were right. What I know is that you can learn a lot from books and schools on how to act and treat people, but true goodness comes from God. That’s where Ben got his. Ben was a good man…enough said.
Lord knows that I will miss Ben’s counsel, his calming influence and his passionate determination for getting the job done the right way. God Bless the soul of Ben Cummings and may he rest in peace. Amen.
A CULT….GOD’S BUSINESS
Recently the pastor of a large church in Dallas Texas proclaimed that Mormonism was a cult. What is a cult? Webster says a cult is a system of religious worship; the obsessive and faddish devotion to a principle or person. Rhetorical question, ……is Christianity a cult. I am often amazed at people who proclaim to be followers of Christ and yet they completely ignore or disregard His teaching. Keep that point in mind; we will come back to it. Here is my theology on the subject of criticizing someone’s beliefs.
Let me quote a reference book that I have. “It is a mistake to think that only some are called. The Bible tells us that the Good News is for everyone and not for a chosen few; God does not bypass the vast majority of human beings. The nature of God’s love is that He is merciful to us. God’s love is never less than genuine. If God so loved the world that Jesus died for everyone, then His call is to all people. It is never the will of God that anyone should perish”. Now if you accept that as being true, you can accept that perhaps He called Mormons, Baptists, Jews, Catholics etc, etc. Let’s go deeper.
Remember the promise to Abraham? By way of review, God tells Abraham in Genesis 12 “I will make of you a great nation”, in chapter 17, God says to Abraham, “you shall be the father of a multitude of nations”. Now remember, at this time the Bible does not tell us that there was a chosen people. In fact the inference is that there were many who knew about God as well as other gods. Abraham was different, he was a servant of Jehovah, Yahweh…the living God. That’s one reason God chose him to be the father of many nations. How many sons did Abraham have? If you said two you are wrong. If you said only Isaac and Ishmael that is incorrect. He had many sons and daughters after Ishmael and Isaac were grown men. What do you think happened to these sons and daughters? Were they also blessed? Where did their descendents go? Where are they now? Just what do you believe about the descendents of Abraham?
Let’s fast forward to Jesus. I think you would agree with me that much of what Jesus did during His 33 years was teach. Remember the teaching that is in the text about judging? Suppose I look at my neighbor and say “that guy is going to hell, he cheats at everything, lies about everything, beats his wife and kids, and is generally untrustworthy. Now some of that may be facts but some is judgment. Christians are commanded to refrain from judging lest we be judged by the same standard. That same chapter of Matthew goes on to say that if we are busy cleaning up our own mess, we will not have time to advise others about their mess. Judging someone’s beliefs is not a Christian’s job. My point is that it is God who will judge what is in our hearts and what we have believed. In other words, whether someone is in a religion or cult or not is God’s call not ours. After all, we cannot save anyone, nor can we condemn. Instead we are asked to love.
See, when God blessed Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, He also blessed Ishmael and Esau. How do we know what He told Ishmael and Esau? See I believe that God can do anything. The great thing about His ability to do anything is that He does not have to consult us. If He decided to raise other nations and provide them with rules for living that’s His business, not ours. How do you know that Mr. Smith didn’t see an angel and then produced the Book of Mormon as a result? One thing is for sure, none of us will have to answer to God for Mr. Smith.
Our job is to bear witness of Jesus Christ, the only begotten son. He has asked us to love Him and to love our neighbor. He has asked for our reasonable service, to not seek vengeance but to do all things in love. What I am saying is that as Christians, if we did all that we are supposed to do, there would be little time for trying to figure out whether someone is in a cult. Remember, God invites all to open their hearts to His love. If we do that, it does not matter if we call ourselves Mormon, Catholic, Baptist, Methodist or whatever. He will call us His child. And what could be better than that. AMEN.
What do you believe? Some of us in our worship service recite the Apostle’s or Nicene Creed. Many of you know the words…I believe in God the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth……you know the rest, if not look it up. Do you believe all of those words that are in these recitations? Is this a fair expression of your faith? Have you ever thought about it? What do you really believe? Is your belief based upon experience? what others believe?, what you read or heard?, or is it based upon facts, academic research?, or is it based upon what you see? Is it simply just based upon faith? What do you believe?
Do you believe in the Bible? Do you believe it is the Word of God?, or do you believe it is the inspired Word of God? What do you believe? One writer has stated “ It is often the case that people who hold passionate belief about the nature of the Bible are surprisingly unfamiliar with its content.” He goes on to say “ To claim that the Bible is inspired or revealed is to inevitably to claim authority for it.” In fact, the debate among theologians is that the Bible may not be infallible. Do you believe that? Why do you believe it? If not, why not? Let’s bring this closer to home. Last year, the National Chaplain of our great Fraternity wrote on the subject, Can we be both Greek and Christian. Apparently there have been brothers who have renounced their membership because they believe that as Greeks, we worship pagan gods. They believe that this conflicts with their religious beliefs. Why? What is it these brothers believe? Think back to your initiation ritual. If you cannot remember that far back, or if you have forgotten, remember that there are references to symbols of Greek Mythology. The key word here is mythology. Is there any confusion here? What do you believe? Why do you believe it? Remember our founding brothers were men of faith. Brothers who think we worship idols need to listen to words from every ceremony in our ritual and they would realize that there is no conflict and we remain men of faith. Our revered Founder, Brother Diggs stated in the first edition of the Journal “Kappa Alpha Nu is an organization composed of professional and business men , doctors, lawyers, ministers, teachers, druggists, architects, electricians, farmers, merchants and mechanics who have no superiors in this country. That we are true Helenians and that the chaotic world of apathy, barbarity and strife lies far beyond us in the great unknown. High ideals are our solace and true friendship our might.
Study, ask questions, and know what you stand for and why. Do you believe in God? Do you know why? Do you believe in Kappa? Do you know why? So here is the bottom line. If you believe something, be able to articulate why. Know what it means to subscribe to the meaning of Phi Nu Pi and then practice it. Know what it means to be a Christian. What are your guiding principles? Paul advises to study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not be ashamed rightly dividing the word of truth. When you study, you may not always understand or interpret everything, but it will give you questions to ask. And when you get an answer, analyze it and see how it fits with your core beliefs. Know what you know but also know what you don’t know….then find the answer. AMEN
USE IT OR LOSE IT
Text: The 25th Chapter of Matthew
There are 46 verses in the 25th Chapter of the Gospel recorded by Matthew. This whole Chapter is concerned with two parables as told by Jesus. Now to get us all on the same thought process, let’s all understand that a parable is a story that illustrates a moral lesson. A lot of Jesus’ teaching was done with the use of parables. The first parable in the Chapter was about the 10 virgins and their lamps. Though that parable is related to the second, it is the second that I want us to look at. The second parable is about talents or as some would say money or perhaps riches. Let me by way of review, tell you a version of the story. A man of means who had several employees called them together to give them a bonus; to one he gave 10 times what he gave to another, and twice as much still to another but to each employee he gave according to their ability. In other words, he gave to each according to what they could handle. The one with the greatest amount invested his and so did the one with half as much. The one with the least decided to hide his so that he would not lose it. In the parable, those who invested their talent/money were rewarded in the end. But the one who hid or safeguarded his money was punished. In a nutshell, that is the parable in Lucas’ words. Recently, when I thought about these verses and this parable, it occurred to me that this may have not been about money at all. Suppose it is about a job, or a house, or a family, maybe it’s about kids, or maybe land, perhaps the story is about brainpower….pick one. What if God gives each of us those things we need or want based upon our ability to handle them? Is that fair?
Some of us are better at some things than others, so in the real world the smart people would always win. Well that is the wrong way to look at this parable. My theology is that this parable is about being good stewards. Now a cynic might say “it’s easy to safeguard something when you’ve got a lot”. Again that’s the wrong way to look at what the Bible is teaching. Let me give you a parable from my life that perhaps will get my point across. When I was growing up, my fraternal Grandmother one day had fried chicken for dinner. I always liked the drumstick in those days. When I was having my dinner, I quickly ate the big lean part of the drumstick. Since I knew my Grandmother had at least one more drumstick, I didn’t bother to eat the meat at the bottom of the bone. I was anxious to get another piece of chicken. When I asked for another piece, my grandmother said that I could have another piece as soon as I finished the piece that I had. That lesson was about more than that chicken. First of all, use what you have got or said in another way, finish the job at hand, or said another way, maximize what you have already been given before you ask for more, still better, don’t waste what you already have in anticipation of the potential for more. You see, God gives us all a measure of what we need whether it is stuff, or faith. Our choice is to either bury it or develop it. If we take what we have and just sit on it, nothing will change, in fact, someone may come along and take it away, or we may lose it all. But if we work on what we have, if we develop it, God will be faithful to add to what we have. What have you been given? What are you doing with it? AMEN