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Sunday, June 18, 2017

JUST LIKE DADDY

To understand what fatherhood really is and really should be we go back to the original father, I mean the ORIGINAL original. 

The title of the message is JUST LIKE DADDY.

Please comment.


Listen well.

If you can’t get the audio on your device, visit the main podcast page at http://revandersongraves.podomatic.com/

---Anderson T. Graves II   is a writer, community organizer and consultant for education, ministry, and rural leadership development.

Rev. Anderson T. Graves II is pastor of Miles Chapel CME Church in Fairfield, Alabama;  executive director of the Substance Abuse Youth Networking Organization (SAYNO);  and director of rural leadership development for the National Institute for Human Development (NIHD).

Subscribe to my personal blog  www.andersontgraves.blogspot.com .

Email atgravestwo2@aol.com
Follow me on twitter @AndersonTGraves 

Click here to support this ministry with a donation.  Or go to andersontgraves.blogspot.com and click on the DONATE button on the right-hand sidebar.

Support by check or money order may be mailed to 
Miles Chapel CME Church
P O Box 132
Fairfield, Al 35064

Friday, June 16, 2017

IT'S COMPLICATED (Genesis 20)

Genesis 20.


It easy with cartoons.  The heroes are good guys who only do good things, and the villains are bad guys who only do bad things.   Reality is more complicated.  Sometimes the “hero” does something bad, something absolutely and deliberately morally wrong when he had the option to do good but he just didn’t.  Sometimes the “villain” is more ethical and honorable than the hero.  In the real world, people are complicated.

Unfortunately, we tend to read the Bible like it isn’t about the real world.  We oversimplify the actions and character of Biblical figures so that they neatly fit into our images of good guys and bad guys.  That may be how we read Scripture, but that isn’t how it’s written.  The Bible speaks reality, and reality ---- is complicated.


For example, Genesis 20 is a story of lies, enticements to sexual sin, and fraud at the highest levels.  It’s also the story of how God took extreme steps to preserve the integrity of an honorable king.

The main figures in Genesis 20 are Abraham, Sarah, and Abimelech.  Abraham and Sarah were the ancestors of the promised line of the Jews out of which would come Moses, and David, the prophets, and Jesus.  Obviously, they’re the heroes.  Abimelech was the pagan king of the early Philistines, a founding father of Goliath’s homeland; he’s the obvious villain.

But.  (If you’ve been following my blog, you had to know there was a but.)

But all the crimes and sins in Genesis 20 were committed by Abraham and Sarah, and the only ethically correct person was the biggest Philistine in the country.  Cause when you tell the truth, the whole truth about the real world ---- it’s complicated.

See what had happened was: Abraham moved his family into the territory of the Philistine city-state Gerar. There, Abraham and Sarah reverted to an old con-game they’d been playing for decades.  Sarah pretended to be Abraham’s sister and not his wife.  Which was half-true but totally a lie.  It’s complicated. (Read the post Crime Doesn’t Pay but it Does Collect Interest to learn more about Abraham’s and Sarah’s crime spree.)  


Sarah was pushing 90, but she was still an extraordinarily beautiful woman, so Abimelech did what kings did in those time ----- he took the beautiful woman to be his wife with, I must add, the full permission of the male head of her household, her older “brother” Abraham the Hebrew. 

But Abimelech never consummated the marriage.  He couldn’t.

Let me explain. 

While Sarah was in Abimelech’s home, the house of Abimelech experienced 100% infertility.    Prior to the advent of modern medical knowledge of the reproductive process, infertility was attributed to women.  e.g., the Lord had closed up all the wombs of the house of Abimelech (Genesis 20:18); but, verse 17 says that the plague of infertility ended when God healed the women in Abimelech’s harem and when God healed Abimelech himself. 

In a dream, God told the king of the Philistines that I also withheld you from sinning against Me; therefore I did not let you touch her (verse 6).

Now how did God keep Abimelech from touching Sarah?  Why did Abimelech need healing, too?

O.K., I’m just going to be blunt.  God made it so Abimelech couldn’t get it up. 

But not to punish the king of the pagan city.  To protect his honor, because Abraham and Sarah had tricked Abimelech.  The Philistine hadn’t done anything wrong. As the Lord him, Yes, I know that you did this in the integrity of your heart” (Genesis 20:6).

When God corrected, Abimelech the pagan immediately took Sarah back to Abraham and made things right.   Now, think about all the times that Abraham and Sarah didn’t stick to God’s plan.  If you need help, remember that Hagar and Ishmael were in Abraham’s camp watching the whole lying scene.

Abraham had lied to his host, deceived the government of the nation of his residency, caused a plague, and basically pimped out his wife.  But, his reasons kinda made sense.  Abraham has a large, rich household including thousands of livestock and  hundreds of armed men (Genesis 14:14).  It was reasonable to worry that the Philistines might take the presence of a beautiful woman as an excuse to kill Abraham’s people and take his stuff, or they might take the offer of a beautiful woman as the perfect offering of peace.  He couldn’t give them Hagar because there was the son who looked like both of them.  For the good of the entire household, Abraham and Sarah agreed to leave Sarah vulnerable to the men of Philistia.  Or out of cowardice.  Or out of faith that God would protect her somehow because God had promised them a child together.  Or some combination of all the above.

It was complicated.

Abimelech wholeheartedly believed in the existence and power of God (Yahweh/Jehovah).  He talked with God, and the Lord regarded him as a man of integrity, a “good” man.  Abimelech pursued righteousness (verse 9) and exercised mercy.  Instead of imprisoning, enslaving, torturing, and or executing Abraham, Sarah, and everyone they knew and loved, Abimelech paid a self-imposed fine for keeping Sarah away from her husband (verse 16), showered Abraham with other gifts, and gave them permanent access to the pastures and campgrounds of Philistia.  Because Abimelech recognized that Abraham was a prophet.  And because Abraham’s God was  a supernatural weapon of mass destruction Who could penetrate Gerar’s security apparatus and infect Abimelech’s people with the biological agent of His choice.  So, Abraham wouldn’t be punished for his crimes.  He would be rewarded.  The king perverted justice, but only because it was in his people’s national interest.   


It was complicated. 

God scared the Philistines, but He didn’t do them any lasting harm.  No one died, and their populations soon resumed it’s natural progression.   While population growth was at zero, the Lord gave Abraham and time to repent and come clean.  When they didn’t God used the good villain to reunite the family of the lying heroes ---- not because Abraham and Sarah deserved the promises God had made, but because God had made them.

God had given Abraham His Word that he and Sarah would have a son.  The word wasn’t that Sarah and Abimelech would have a son.
 
So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it (Isaiah 55:11).

The complications people create are undependable.  God is complicated, but He is consistent.  That’s why we can trust the Lord. 

For I am the Lord, I do not change; Therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob. (Malachi 3:6)


The Bible is deep, complex, life-directing, and God-affirming.  If we would accept the complexity of its truth, Christian scholars wouldn’t have to make so many excuses.  You don’t have to manufacture arguments against God’s judgment to have faith in God’s love.  You don’t have to censor verses and chapters to construct a narrative that satisfies a selfish, simple taste for one dimensional characterizations.  You don’t have to embrace atheism or ignore contradictory actions and statements.  Those contradictions aren’t errors or clues to a 3rd century editorial conspiracy.  Those so-called contradictions are evidence that the Bible is the truth and nothing but the truth. 

Because when you tell the truth about human beings, it’s always complicated. 

But when God is part of the story, even the complications make sense.  


---Anderson T. Graves II   is a writer, community organizer and consultant for education, ministry, and rural leadership development.

Rev. Anderson T. Graves II is pastor of Miles Chapel CME Church in Fairfield, Alabama;  executive director of the Substance Abuse Youth Networking Organization (SAYNO);  and director of rural leadership development for the National Institute for Human Development (NIHD).

Subscribe to my personal blog  www.andersontgraves.blogspot.com .

Email atgravestwo2@aol.com
Follow me on twitter @AndersonTGraves 

Click here to support this ministry with a donation.  Or go to andersontgraves.blogspot.com and click on the DONATE button on the right-hand sidebar.

Support by check or money order may be mailed to 
Miles Chapel CME Church
P O Box 132
Fairfield, Al 35064


Sunday, June 11, 2017

GOD MAKES A DIFFERENCE

Between if and then is a chance to change everything, but only if you want things to change.  Find out how God injects His power into human history so that the way it has been doesn’t become the way it will always be.

Continuing our walk through the book of Exodus, the title of the message from chapters 9 & 10 is GOD MAKES A DIFFERENCE.

Please comment.


Listen well.
If you can’t get the audio on your device, visit the main podcast page at http://revandersongraves.podomatic.com/

---Anderson T. Graves II   is a writer, community organizer and consultant for education, ministry, and rural leadership development.

Rev. Anderson T. Graves II is pastor of Miles Chapel CME Church in Fairfield, Alabama;  executive director of the Substance Abuse Youth Networking Organization (SAYNO);  and director of rural leadership development for the National Institute for Human Development (NIHD).

Subscribe to my personal blog  www.andersontgraves.blogspot.com .

Email atgravestwo2@aol.com
Follow me on twitter @AndersonTGraves 

Click here to support this ministry with a donation or go to andersontgraves.blogspot.com and click on the DONATE button on the right-hand sidebar.

Support by check or money order may be mailed to 
Miles Chapel CME Church
P O Box 132
Fairfield, Al 35064



Wednesday, June 7, 2017

DATE RAPE, INCEST, AND THE BIRTH OF A BROKEN NATION


Genesis 19:30 - 38




Lot and his two adult daughters were the only survivors of Sodom and Gomorrah.  Unwilling to camp inside the charred walls of Zoar next to the ashen remains of their wife/ mother, the three refugees from the valley moved up the mountains into a cave.


Genesis 19:31 says that the family, or at least the young women, thought that the whole world had been destroyed. 

Now, before you smirk at the poor, dumb, panicky ancient women overreacting, think about how many times some local calamity has happened somewhere in the world and modern, educated, globally-informed Christians have declared, “The world is coming to an end.”  Or, imagine you witnessed a nuclear destroy a city just over the horizon.  Would you think the destruction was only in that city?   


The sisters thought they and their dad were the last 3 people on Earth, but they had an idea.

Come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we may preserve the lineage of our father.” (Genesis 19:32)

And they did.  On successive nights, the recently widowed daughters of Lot got their father so drunk he did not know when she lay down or when she arose (Genesis 19: 33, 35).

There’s no other way to categorize this.   Lot was date-raped by his daughters.

And this is where they start questioning the victim.


Victim blamers say:  He should have known what they were planning.
Logic responds:   Really?  He should have suspected that his own daughters planned to have non-consensual sex with him?  That’s a thought a father should have had?  No.

Victim blamers say:  He shouldn’t have been so drunk.
Good sense replies:   (1)  He wasn’t driving.  (2) His daughters gave him the liquor.  His world was ashes, and the angels were gone, and his own daughters said, “You need a drink.”  And (3), He’d just watched everything he’d worked for his entire life be incinerated, including his wife who was burned into a towering pile of salty ash literally right before his eyes, and now they live in a cave. 
In that situation, you can’t be mad at the guy for breaking the seal on the mini-bar.

Victim blamers say:  He should’ve said, “No.”
People with brains say:   Uh, uh.  Wrong expectation.  Consent doesn’t mean someone doesn’t say, “No.”  CONSENT means someone gives an uncoerced, fully informed, “Yes.”   Lot couldn’t say, “Yes,” because AGAIN, HE’D BEEN  DRUGGED.   Alcohol is a drug.  He was drugged.


The sick-er twist of the story is the predators who sexually assaulted Lot were family, his own biological daughters.  They had to know that what they planned was wrong or they wouldn’t have drugged their daddy.    

When and how could their moral sensibilities have gotten so twisted that raping their father seemed like a reasonable response to . . . . Oh.  Yeah.  Sodom.  They’d embraced the culture and ethics of Sodom.

In Sodom, sexual assault was a normalized community activity.  (I wrote about it in “Why Sodom Fell”.) Cultural values devalued family.  Lot’s daughters had heard their father offer to let them be gang-raped to preserve those 2 “angels.”  And, the city that had just been destroyed, that was their hometown, maybe the only home they’d ever known.  That lady who’d been burned  into a pillar of salty ash, that was their mother.  And, the daughter probably thought, it was all Lot’s fault. 

Corrupted and grieving, Lot’s children did a terrible, terrible thing to the person closest to them and most blamed for their pain. 

I’m not excusing or justifying their sexual assault.  I’m only pointing out that this story isn’t a fable or a fairy tale with simple heroes whose every decision is pure and good or simple villains whose motivations are dismissively evil for evil’s sake.  The Bible tells stories of people who  are contradictory and complex because the Bible tells the truth and people are complex and contradictory.

Stories like Lot and his daughters are preserved in Scripture  so we know that our sins and social dysfunctions, though no less terrible are by no means original to the human experience.    We’re repeating history, so the outcomes are predictable, predictive ---- prophetic.

Lot’s daughter got pregnant by their father, as they had planned.

37 The firstborn bore a son and called his name Moab; he is the father of the Moabites to this day. 38 And the younger, she also bore a son and called his name Ben-Ammi; he is the father of the people of Ammon to this day. (Genesis 19:36-38)

The Moabites and the Ammonites.    

The legacy of a family that was morally and sexually corrupted by Sodom’s sexually and morally unrestrained culture was the birth of nations   whose societies  became synonyms for idolatry, evil, and opposition to God’s will.

Now look at us.   Us Western civilization.  Us Americans.  Us post-christianity Christians.   

Of course, there are reasons for our new moral perspective.  Absolutely, there’s justification in our extreme response to the trauma inflicted on us by the sexual mores of the “righteous.”  But do our reasons make it right?  Do our sins make it better?

What are we doing to the moral sensibilities of future mothers and fathers?  What kind of future nations are we, are our children conceiving?  

Remember Lot’s wife.  But don’t forget about what happened to the rest of the family.

---Anderson T. Graves II   is a writer, community organizer and consultant for education, ministry, and rural leadership development.

Rev. Anderson T. Graves II is pastor of Miles Chapel CME Church in Fairfield, Alabama;  executive director of the Substance Abuse Youth Networking Organization (SAYNO);  and director of rural leadership development for the National Institute for Human Development (NIHD).

Subscribe to my personal blog  www.andersontgraves.blogspot.com .

Email atgravestwo2@aol.com
Follow me on twitter @AndersonTGraves 

Click here to support this ministry with a donation.  Or go to andersontgraves.blogspot.com and click on the DONATE button on the right-hand sidebar.

Support by check or money order may be mailed to 
Miles Chapel CME Church
P O Box 132
Fairfield, Al 35064



Monday, June 5, 2017

WHY SODOM FELL (Blogging Genesis 19:1-28)

  

Then Abraham said, “Let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak but once more: Suppose ten should be found there?”
And the Lord said, “I will not destroy it for the sake of ten.” So the Lord went His way as soon as He had finished speaking with Abraham; and Abraham returned to his place.
Now the two angels came to Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them, and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground. (Genesis 18:32 - 19:1)

Like his uncle Abraham, Lot was spiritually sensitive enough to recognize a pair of angels in human form, walking along in the Bronze Age, so he paid his respects and offered them hospitality for the night.    But the angels, if you recall from chapter 18, weren’t in town to rest.  They were charged with assessing the sinfulness of the population by seeing if there were  10 righteous men in Sodom.  So far, they’d met one.  So they said, “No, but we will spend the night in the open square,” because the central city square was an ideal vantage point for observing the citizenry.

But Lot wouldn’t hear of angels sleeping outside when he had a warm home.  He convinced them to come to his house, where he hurriedly put together a grand dinner.  He didn’t have time to wait for the bread to rise, so it was served unleavened.  Still, it was probably a good meal.

As the evening wore down and the family started preparing for bed, a crowd assembled outside Lot’s house. According to verse 4, the crowd was representative of the men of Sodom, including all ages and neighborhoods, and since neighborhoods were included, all socioeconomic classes were represented.  For the angels’ purposes, this was an awfully convenient chance to assess the moral qualities of the city's populace as a whole.  Convenient.   Awful.

The men --- all ages, areas, and classes --- had seen the angels, and they wanted to rape them (verse 5).

No.  You need to let that point marinate for a moment.

The culture of the city, across every male demographic, was so totally and violently perverted that their unanimous response to overnight guests was gang-rape. 

The angels had seen all they needed to see.  They didn’t have to wait until morning and search the city for 10 good men.  There weren’t 10 good men.  The whole town was as bad as they’d thought.  God’s death warrant was in effective.

Lot was a righteous man; he really was, so he faced the mob and tried to protect his angelic guests. But, genuinely good people can be wrong and short-sighted about the depth and complexity of the brokenness around them.  Sometimes good, God-fearing folks get so focused on the one sin that others commit they can’t see the other sins they are enabling and normalizing. 














Homosexuality is a sin, but it's not the only sin. Righteous Lot thought that homosexuality was the only sin in Sodom.  If  only men didn’t want to have sex with men, then everything would be alright.  That’s why Lot, the legit most righteous man in the valley, begged the gang of rapists to assault his daughters instead.  He even lied to sweeten the deal, claiming that his daughters were still virgins (Genesis 19:8).

Fortunately for the young women, the angels intervened.  They blinded the would-be attackers and told Lot to get anybody he liked out of town, because this place was done.

“Have you anyone else here? Son-in-law, your sons, your daughters, and whomever you have in the city—take them out of this place!” (Genesis 19:12)

But no one else would come.  Even Lot’s sons-in-law laughed at the frenzied old man when he told them a story about angels and “God” destroying the greatest city in the valley (verse 14). 
 Image result for "there is no hell"
Cause when you’ve normalized sin,  talk of judgment sound crazy.

At dawn, Lot, his wife, and their 2 soon-to-be-widowed daughters fled.  As the sun rose  they reached the city of Zoar.  Once inside the walls,  the sky grew dark and bright at the same time.  The ground and air shook with shock waves. Sodom, Gomorrah, and the cities of the valley were dying. 

That was their home. Those were their friends, their in-laws for God’s sake.  She had to see if anything was left.  So she looked over the wall, and in a wave of heat, she was gone, her flesh burned away.  The ashes were salty in her husband’s open, screaming mouth (Genesis 19:26).


Far away, Abraham knew that the angels had not found 10 good men.

 And Abraham went early in the morning to the place where he had stood before the Lord. Then he looked toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and toward all the land of the plain; and he saw, and behold, the smoke of the land which went up like the smoke of a furnace (Genesis 19: 27, 28).


How many people are left in your community, congregation, or home who don’t think sin is O.K.?  How many are left who don’t think THEIR sin is O.K.?   What sins have we normalized for ourselves, both old and young, all the people from every quarter

Unlike Lot and his fellow Sodomites, we have the New Testament, in which Peter assures us that Lot was a righteous man (2 Peter 2:2).  And if we believe his assessment of Lot, we must also accept Peter’s assessment of us. 

For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? (1 Peter 4:17)
Image result for speck brothers eye

We know the grace of God more perfectly than Lot did because we have the gospel of Jesus Christ. Lot was a righteous man, but his righteousness was imperfect and short-sighted.   Jesus is perfectly righteous in every way, and Jesus told us to be better than the self-righteous religious group of the day.

For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:20)

Jesus who, unlike Lot, was perfectly righteous said we should stop normalizing sin.

Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:19)

Jesus said we should stop first stop normalizing OUR sins.

And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?  Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye?  Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:3-5)

Sodom fell because there weren't 10 people who looked at their own sin honestly enough to change themselves so they could change their culture.  Because there weren't 10 righteous men?  Nah, actually, Sodom was destroyed for lack of 10 REPENTANT men.

Like those old school preacher say, “I wish I could get 10 people to believe!”
 
---Anderson T. Graves II   is a writer, community organizer and consultant for education, ministry, and rural leadership development.

Rev. Anderson T. Graves II is pastor of Miles Chapel CME Church in Fairfield, Alabama;  executive director of the Substance Abuse Youth Networking Organization (SAYNO);  and director of rural leadership development for the National Institute for Human Development (NIHD).

Subscribe to my personal blog  www.andersontgraves.blogspot.com .

Email atgravestwo2@aol.com
Follow me on twitter @AndersonTGraves 

Click here to support this ministry with a donation.  Or go to andersontgraves.blogspot.com and click on the DONATE button on the right-hand sidebar.

Support by check or money order may be mailed to 
Miles Chapel CME Church
P O Box 132
Fairfield, Al 35064

Sunday, June 4, 2017

IF YOU CAN’T BEAT THEM, GET THEM TO JOIN YOU (audio post)

Continuing our walk through the book of Exodus, the title of the message is IF YOU CAN’T BEAT THEM, GET THEM TO JOIN YOU.

Please comment.


Listen well.

If you can’t get the audio on your device, visit the main podcast page at http://revandersongraves.podomatic.com/

---Anderson T. Graves II   is a writer, community organizer and consultant for education, ministry, and rural leadership development.

Rev. Anderson T. Graves II is pastor of Miles Chapel CME Church in Fairfield, Alabama;  executive director of the Substance Abuse Youth Networking Organization (SAYNO);  and director of rural leadership development for the National Institute for Human Development (NIHD).

Subscribe to my personal blog  www.andersontgraves.blogspot.com .

Email atgravestwo2@aol.com
Follow me on twitter @AndersonTGraves 

Click here to support this ministry with a donation.  Or go to andersontgraves.blogspot.com and click on the DONATE button on the right-hand sidebar.

Support by check or money order may be mailed to 
Miles Chapel CME Church
P O Box 132
Fairfield, Al 35064