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Sunday, January 26, 2014

HOW TO BE A SCRIPT FLIPPING CHURCH

Jesus and His disciples didn’t have grand buildings, extravagant salaries, or powerful political party affiliations.  Yet, the church they formed had such an impact that they were called, “These who have turned the world upside down.”

The early church changed everything.  It flipped the script.

Can we be that again?  How?

The answer is in the Book, in the record of the earliest days of Jesus’ earthly ministry, the beginnings of the beginning of the church. 

Learn what it takes to be a church that delivers real change to the world.  Learn how to once again be a SCRIPT-FLIPPING CHURCH.


Listen well.

---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 Hall Memorial CME Church and the executive director of SAYNO (Substance Abuse Youth Networking Organization) in Montgomery, Alabama.

Call  334-288-0577
Email
atgravestwo2@aol.com
Friend me at
www.facebook.com/rev.a.t.graves

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

If you enjoy our work, please help support our work in the community. Send a donation of any amount by check or money order.
Mail all contributions to:
Hall Memorial CME Church
541 Seibles Road
Montgomery, AL 36116


MODIFIED TO FIT YOUR SCREN



When a Hollywood movie is played on tv, they post a disclaimer: "This film has been modified for television, for your screen, and to run in the time allotted.

In other words, the tv version isn't the full story.  Sometimes they leave out key scenes to make the story fit.

It's sad, but that's what we do with Bible stories.  We trim and edit and unnecessarily simplify Biblical events and principles so to run in the allotted time or to fit what we assume is the screening capacity of our children and even our adults.

For example, the traditional Bible story is that the first time Jesus saw Peter and Andrew, Jesus said, "Follow Me," and the brothers dropped everything and followed Jesus.  It's a beautiful story, clear, simple, easy to present in a short skit. 

Problem is that it's not the whole except that this story has been modified and a key scene is missing. 
John 1: 40-42  tells us that John the Baptist referred Andrew to Jesus.  Jesus met Andrew.  Andrew brought Peter to meet Jesus, and then Peter and Andrew went back to fishing.  While a few other disciples trailed Jesus into Nazareth and Galilee.

In Luke 5: 1-11, Jesus shrewdly commandeered Peter’s boat to use as a floating pulpit, forcing Peter to spend hours literally sitting under Jesus as He preached.  Then Jesus showed His power to be greater than Peter’s professional expertise by providing  a miraculous catch of fish.  Only then did Jesus ask Peter and the other fishing disciples to “Follow Me” an become “fishers of men.”

The difference isn’t that big a deal unless a young Christian first encounters the difference at the hands of an atheist or a heretic who throws out the missing scene as an example of contradictions within the Bible.

It’s not a contradiction.  It’s not a conspiratorial King James mistranslation.  It’s just a missing scene left out to make the story fit in the space allotted.

But it matters. 

Even worse, some people like the tv version better so they fight to make it the official version. 

In Luke 4, Jesus recounted the stories of Elijah and the widow of Zarephath (from 1 Kings 17) and of Elisha and Naaman (2 Kings 5).   The traditional version of these stories moralizes that poor church members who pay the preacher with their last dime are guaranteed prosperity and rich church members who do exactly what the preacher says will be healed.  

Jesus, however, pointed out that the full story leaves all the people in the “right” religion out of the blessing and shows God giving favor to pagans who weren’t even members in good standing. (Luke 4: 24-27)

The congregation’s response to Jesus was to drag Him out of town and try to throw Him off a cliff. (Luke 4: 28, 29)

The truth, the whole Biblical truth, does not always make for comfortable clich├ęs or poetic choruses in the mass choir, but we still need to teach the whole truth.

The whole truth will make us some enemies among our own congregations.

But we still have to tell the truth. 

Cause the truth is, the tv version of the gospel is killing the church

---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 Hall Memorial CME Church in Montgomery, 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).

To hear sermons, read devotions, and learn more about the ministry at Hall Memorial CME Church, visit www.hallmemorialcme.blogspot.com .

If this message helps or touches you, please help support this ministry. Send a donation of any amount by check or money order.
Mail all contributions to :
Hall Memorial CME Church
541 Seibles Road
Montgomery, AL 36116

Friday, January 24, 2014

THE REAL REASON WHY WE DON'T TRUST THE BIBLE ANYMORE

One day, my father sent me to town to pick up a load of lumber and other supplies for a shed we were building.  Everything Pops wanted was on a written list that he gave me.

 I drove into the lumber yard, handed the list to the warehouse manager, and said, “Buford sent me to get this stuff for the shed we’re building.”  
The manager read the list silently and barked instructions to his crew.  All loaded up, the manager read Pops’s list back to me, pointing to the items on the truck.  It was all there, just like he read it. 

When I got home, Pops met me outside. He looked into the bed of the truck and went off!  I don’t remember which part of the order was wrong, but something was not what he’d asked for. 

I quickly----very quickly---- explained how this fiasco could not possibly be my fault since I had handed his list to the warehouse manager who confirmed every item on the list before I left the lumberyard.

Pops led me into the house.  I stood sweating in the center of the living room while he called the lumberyard, got the manager and interrogated him.  Through the pounding of my pulse in my ears, all I made out clearly was, “I don’t care how YOU would build a shed.  It’s not your shed I’m building.  I know what I want for my own shed.  Next time just send what I put on the damn paper!”

Pops hung up the phone, and then he went off on me.

After a long, long, long profanity-laden lecture/tirade/verbal whooping, Pops
looked at me and growled, “This time.  When you get out there, you read my list for yourself.  Don’t let them change my instructions and don’t you bring back anything less, anything more, or anything other than what I.  WROTE.  DOWN.”

God sent us written instructions  by the prophets and apostles.   But we the Church, the earthly managers of His kingdom, have gotten into the habit of looking at God’s written instructions and saying, “That’s not how I would build a world.  That’s not what I’d prohibit in a democratic society.  That’s not what I would require of people if I were the head of the body.”
So, even though we can plainly see what’s written on the paper, we change the directions. 

We reform and revise Biblical truth because deep down we don’t think that God really knows what He’s doing.

God says, “Keep these 10 commandments.” 
We say, “You only need 3 or 4 of those.”

God say, “Jesus is the only way to salvation.”
We say, “There are many paths to Heaven.”

God says, “Be holy.”
We say, “Sin responsibly.”

We change up the truth because we think that our plans make more sense than His.

And that’s the real problem.  The reason why so many Christians (including an increasing number of Christian clergy and theologians) reject the inerrancy or reliability of the Bible is that deep down, in a place they don’t talk about or admit exists, a lot of Christians are afraid that the canonized Bible actually IS the Word of God.   We’re afraid that Scripture accurately relates the words that God breathed into the ears of His chosen prophets and apostles because the instructions God sent are not the way WE would build a world.

We’re afraid that the Bible is accurate and God is wrong.

We’re idiots. 

It really doesn’t matter how you or I would construct a plan of salvation.  The Bible does not describe OUR plan. 

It really doesn’t matter if you or I think charity, forgiveness, humility, hospitality, service, self-sacrifice, and personal holiness are all necessary for being part of a church.  It’s not OUR church.  It’s God’s church and God put those items on His list.

Matthew 25: 44     “Then they also will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ 45     Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’

Mark 11: 25      “And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. 26     But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.”

James 1: 27     Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.

Our job as Christians is not to load up the church with the stuff we think ought to be on God’s list. Our job is to thoughtfully read the instructions for ourselves and make sure that we do what’s on the paper!

The manager in the lumberyard had intentionally misread the instructions.  That was his fault.  But, I was at fault, too.

I had access to the same written words as the manager, but I didn’t read them for myself.   Even though the manager had the training and the title, I was supposed to check behind him based on my father’s list.

I was supposed to say, “Pastor, that was a wonderful sermon, but you said something that didn’t sound quite right.  Would you sit down with me and explain from the Bible why you said ________?”

I was supposed to say, “Reverend, I read something in the Bible that I don’t agree with.  I know that it’s true because it’s in God’s Word, but I’m still conflicted about it.  Will you show me the other scriptures that talk about this and help me study and pray to a place of understanding?”

The leader of the house and I were supposed to have dialogue the way the Apostle Philip had dialogue with an Ethiopian visitor in Acts chapter 8.

Acts 8: 30     So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?”
31     And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he asked Philip to come up and sit with him.

At the lumberyard, it was easier and faster for me to just let the manager do all the work and then take his word for what my father’s words were.   
It’s always easier and simpler to just believe whatever the nearest or most comforting preacher tells you.  But if he/she loads you up with the wrong stuff, YOU are still the one who has to bring your wrong life back to your Father.

And yes, some of our Father’s instructions are hard sayings.  Sometimes we wonder Who can understand it? (John 6: 60)

Doesn’t change your responsibility one bit.    We are each responsible for our individual handling, mishandling, or neglect of God’s Word. 

The Apostle Peter said that his beloved brother Paul had written some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.  (2 Peter 3: 16)

Didn’t change the church’s responsibility to engage those difficult passages and ask the difficult questions.

The first questions we have to ask is not whether or not we trust the Bible.   The question is:  Do we trust God?

When the Word of God says what we would not have said, do we conclude that God made a mistake?

Or, do we accept that God knows what the crap He’s doing, and we ought to just do what’s on the paper?

If we answer that question correctly, then we can engage every other question about Scripture with a sense of hope. 

The Bible is valid and reliable, because God is valid and reliable.  We trust that Scripture has come down to us with integrity because God has watched over the transmission of Scripture through the ages and delivered it to us the way He wants it to be delivered. 

How is that possible when human beings are so fallible and prone to mistranslation? 

Because we trust that God is smarter than we are.  

And if you don’t believe that, then that’s why you can’t believe the Bible.

Isaiah 55: 8     “For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord.
9     “For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways,
And My thoughts than your thoughts.

---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 Hall Memorial CME Church in Montgomery, 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).

To hear sermons, read devotions, and learn more about the ministry at Hall Memorial CME Church, visit www.hallmemorialcme.blogspot.com .


If this message helps or touches you, please help support this ministry. Send a donation of any amount by check or money order.
Mail all contributions to :
Hall Memorial CME Church
541 Seibles Road
Montgomery, AL 36116

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

CONSIDER THE BIRDS OF THE AIR

The video is of a flock of starlings, called a murmuration.

Notice how they swoop and turn, rising falling, speeding and slowing not just along a single flight path to safety or food or shelter, but for reason unknown.  They move in groups and pieces without every crashing into one another as though dancing to the directions of an invisible choreographer.



The following is from an article in Wired.com, a very much not religious online publication:
What makes possible the uncanny coordination of these murmurations, as starling flocks are so beautifully known? Until recently, it was hard to say. Scientists had to wait for the tools of high-powered video analysis and computational modeling. And when these were finally applied to starlings, they revealed patterns known less from biology than cutting-edge physics.
Starling flocks, it turns out, are best described with equations of “critical transitions” — systems that are poised to tip, to be almost instantly and completely transformed, like metals becoming magnetized or liquid turning to gas. Each starling in a flock is connected to every other. When a flock turns in unison, it’s a phase transition.
…. What’s complicated, or at least unknown, is how criticality is created and maintained.
It’s easy for a starling to turn when its neighbor turns — but what physiological mechanisms allow it to happen almost simultaneously in two birds separated by hundreds of feet and hundreds of other birds? That remains to be discovered, and the implications extend beyond birds. Starlings may simply be the most visible and beautiful example of a biological criticality that also seems to operate in proteins and neurons, hinting at universal principles yet to be understood.
---- from The Startling Science of a Starling Murmuration BY BRANDON KEIM, writer on wired.com (http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2011/11/starling-flock/ )

Universal principle, huh?

A universal principle applied to the actions of avalanches, the formation of crystals, the magnetizing of metals, the evaporation of liquids, the operation of proteins and neurons----- and the flight of certain species of birds.
“.....hinting at universal principles yet to be understood....”  

Maybe Somebody already understands them.

Psalm 104: 24     O Lord, how manifold are Your works!
In wisdom You have made them ALL.
The earth is full of Your possessions

---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 Hall Memorial CME Church in Montgomery, 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).

To hear sermons, read devotions, and learn more about the ministry at Hall Memorial CME Church, visit www.hallmemorialcme.blogspot.com .

If this message helps or touches you, please help support this ministry. Send a donation of any amount by check or money order.
Mail all contributions to :
Hall Memorial CME Church
541 Seibles Road
Montgomery, AL 36116




Monday, January 20, 2014

GODLY WEIRDNESS

This is a sermon about two really weird guys.  Their strangeness earned them a lot of strange looks from people, including their own families.  They totally disregarded the traditional paths to social success, even when those paths were paved with acceptance and ease.

Some people called them crazy.  Everybody questioned their motives and methods.  But, through their weirdness, these two crazy guys changed the world.
Their strange ways provoke us to re-examine our obsession with conformity.  Why do we work so hard and spend so much to look like, sound like, talk like, and sin like everybody else?  And what is the true price of ordinary-average-culturally-conformedness?

Find out in a message about the necessity of GODLY WEIRDNESS.

Oh, and those two weird guys were cousins.  Their names are John the Baptist and Jesus the Christ.


Listen well.

---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 Hall Memorial CME Church and the executive director of SAYNO (Substance Abuse Youth Networking Organization) in Montgomery, Alabama.

Call  334-288-0577
Email
atgravestwo2@aol.com
Friend me at
www.facebook.com/rev.a.t.graves

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


If you enjoy our work, please help support our work in the community. Send a donation of any amount by check or money order.
Mail all contributions to:
Hall Memorial CME Church
541 Seibles Road
Montgomery, AL 36116

Saturday, January 18, 2014

YOU KEEP USING THAT WORD...


I was talking to a teen earlier today who asked me what "matrimony" means.  She thought that it meant "peace," as in a couple marrying into a state of holy peace.
I was surprised because I know that this particular teen is very intelligent and very active in her church.
The conversation reminded me that just because people hear a term all the time doesn't mean that it means to them what it really means.
I get into these debates with people over Christian doctrines and they say, “No.  I’m a Christian.   I believe in Jesus Christ.   I just don’t think that you have to take the whole idea that Jesus was the literal Son of God literally.  I don’t think you have to believe that Jesus really physically rose from the dead for God to accept you into Heaven.”
I hear stuff like that--- ALL THE TIME, and all I can think is:  You use the word “Christian.”  I don’t think it means what you think it means.
You keep using the phrase “believe in Jesus Christ.”  I do not think it means what you think it means.

Cause I read things like 1 Corinthians 15: 13-17:
But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen.
And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty.
Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up—if in fact the dead do not rise.
For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen.
And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!  (1 Corinthians 15: 13-17)

I read stuff like Mark 14: 61, 62:
Again the high priest asked Him, saying to Him, “Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?”
 Jesus said, “I am.” (Mark 14: 61, 62)

And that perhaps is the root of our problems.  We’re reading from the same Bible but using different dictionaries to define what we read.
We need to bring all our dictionaries out from our laps and lay them on the public table.  We need to be honest with our congregations about what writings we regard as authoritative.
And if the Bible isn’t at the top of your list of authoritative publications, you need to be honest about that.
If Plato trumps Paul for you, say so.
If you believe Nietzsche over Nahum, admit it.
If you hold Marx in higher esteem than Mark, tell the people.

That way we don’t just know what we say, we actually understand what everybody means.

---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 Hall Memorial CME Church in Montgomery, 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).

To hear sermons, read devotions, and learn more about the ministry at Hall Memorial CME Church, visit www.hallmemorialcme.blogspot.com .


If this message helps or touches you, please help support this ministry. Send a donation of any amount by check or money order.
Mail all contributions to :
Hall Memorial CME Church
541 Seibles Road
Montgomery, AL 36116

BIBLICAL RELIABILITY & THE MYTH OF SHAKESPEARE

On the bookshelf in my home office is a book titled The Complete Works of William Shakespeare.  This book claims to contain the word of a 16th century British author.  However, the copyright date makes it abundantly clear that this book was published in 1980.  On top of that, further analysis shows that the book is the 3rd edition, clearly a copy of a copy copied by an earlier scribe.

If my house was the main site of research into this alleged “Shakespeare,” and the third edition of his Complete Works was the only copy found in excavations, would we still believe in Shakespeare?

Would we conclude that since the oldest surviving copy was printed in 1980 then obviously its quotations were unreliable?    
Would professors of the Shakespearean mythos profess that our belief in Shakespeare as an author is far too literal since multiple editors writing hundreds of years after Shakespeare’s death had obviously added their own words to his plays?  
Would experts argue that the same man could not have written of honest witches in the book of Macbeth and of a peacemaking priest in the book of Romeo & Juliet? 
Would scholars applying critical literary analysis conclude that Shakespeare was a myth, that no one could have written that many plays in a time before laptops? 

Nah. 

Because obviously the copyright date doesn’t give the original date that a text was written.  It only tells when a particular company pressed another set of books.  Obviously finding a copy of an author’s words doesn’t tell us when his words were originally written down.  Obviously, finding copies made 100 years after the fact only proves that 100 years after the fact people were STILL making copies.  Obviously, a circa 1980 copy of Shakespeare’s words doesn’t mean that Shakespeare didn’t live and speak in the 1600’s.  It just proves that what he wrote was important enough for people to preserve it over hundreds of years as opposed to all the other things written during the same time period that have been ignored and lost to time.

Obviously.

Obviously?

Then why isn’t it obvious that the date of a copy of the gospels only tells you the date the previous copy was copied down?  It doesn’t tell us the date of the original eyewitness’s narrative.

Why isn’t it obvious that finding a 2nd century copy of a copy of Jesus’ words doesn’t prove that Jesus was misquoted?  It just proves that Jesus’ words were important enough to keep repeating and sharing via the only printing method available----- hand scribed copies.

It’s obvious that only fool or a rabid conspiracy theorist would use my 1980 copy of Shakespeare to question the authenticity of the Bard of Avon?

However, if you use a single scrap of a single page which doesn’t even claim to be the original manuscript and just happened to not get lost with the millions of other undiscovered 1st century scrolls  to claim that you know when the Bible was ORIGINALLY written down, you’re not a fool.  You’re not a rabid conspiracy theorist.   You’re a scholar and a theologian.

Obviously.

---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 Hall Memorial CME Church in Montgomery, 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).

To hear sermons, read devotions, and learn more about the ministry at Hall Memorial CME Church, visit www.hallmemorialcme.blogspot.com .


If this message helps or touches you, please help support this ministry. Send a donation of any amount by check or money order.
Mail all contributions to :
Hall Memorial CME Church
541 Seibles Road
Montgomery, AL 36116

Friday, January 17, 2014

THE FIRST NAIL

Brother Tony Ares reviewed the Navy Seals movie "Lone Survivor" on his blog, A Fresh Word .  In one paragraph, Tony compared the Seals' willingness to push through pain to the calling of Christians in the church. 
Tony wrote, "What if Jesus had quit after the first nail?"

WHAT IF JESUS HAD QUIT AFTER THE FIRST NAIL?

The “FIRST nail” meant that the worst thing that had ever happened to Him was going to get WORSE.

It does seem to just get worse and worse, doesn't it? 
The more you forgive them the more the hurt you, huh?
You try so hard to do right, but you can't catch a break. 
Every fool and form of foolishness known to Earth seems to find its way to your doorstep.
Well, guess what?

It's probably going to get even worse than this.

You may have only felt the FIRST nail.

I’m sorry.  That wasn’t the Word of comfort you were looking for, was it?  That wasn’t the declare-and-decree-that-your-haters-can’t-touch-you message you wanted, was it?

Scripture promises victory to the faithful. But Scripture does not promise easy victory.  God does NOT promises that you won’t be wounded, that you won’t suffer.

The weapons formed against you won’t prosper, but they will be formed against you (Isaiah 54: 17).  You have a shield of faith to quench the fiery darts of the devil, which means that the missiles will be launched after you (Ephesians 6: 16).   You will be restored, but restoration necessarily first requires LOSS (Joel 2).

Jesus promised that if we sacrificed for His sake we would receive a hundredfold now in this time—houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions—and in the age to come, eternal life.
The middle of that promise includes an nonnegotiable condition: WITH PERSECUTIONS.

PLURAL. Persecutions.

There will be more than one nail.

But what if Jesus had quit after the first nail?

There would be no empty tomb, no Resurrection Sunday, no glorious Ascension, no Holy Spirit on Pentecost, and no hope of salvation except by living absolutely perfectly according to a law that not even God had been able to fulfill.

What if you quit before the final nail?

You’ll miss your blessing, your breakthrough, your “getting’ up mo’nin’.” 

The nails are not mistakes, they are the marks of your coming glory.  The necessary pain you must go THROUGH to get TO what God wants to make of you.

Don’t quit. 

There’ll be another nail.  But don’t quit.

You may have to hang there for a while.  Don’t give up on God’s plan.

Push through the pain, soldier.  

Pray.  Minister to those who need you.   Prepare others to lead and serve. Forgive them because they know not what they do.  And commit your spirit to the hands of God.

He will raise you up.

And when He does, your nail prints will be a witness to many, and a treasure that Heaven counts as worthy.
That’s how you survive.  That’s how you win.

---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 Hall Memorial CME Church in Montgomery, 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).

To hear sermons, read devotions, and learn more about the ministry at Hall Memorial CME Church, visit www.hallmemorialcme.blogspot.com .


If this message helps or touches you, please help support this ministry. Send a donation of any amount by check or money order.
Mail all contributions to :
Hall Memorial CME Church
541 Seibles Road
Montgomery, AL 36116

Thursday, January 16, 2014

UNTIDY TRUTHS

Many stories in the Bible do not end  the way we want them to end.  I recently preached from one of those passages:  1 Kings chapters 13.   The people you want to get in trouble in this passage don't, and the one guy you’re rooting for through the entire chapter ends up dead on the side of the road. 

Why would the Bible relate such an----- untidy story?  Why not tell the story with the bad guys immediately getting what they have coming and the good guy riding off into the sunset with treasures and glory?

Because the Bible is not a book of tidy fairy tales.  The Bible is the book of Truth.  The Bible is NOT a collection of fictions invented for a desired, predetermined effect.  The Bible is the record of reality as it is---- not as we or the prophets wished it were.    And the reality is that because of sin, our world is a mess.

We can trust the Bible and the God of the Bible because He tells it like it is.  God speaks through His Word with integrity. 

People ask, “How can we trust a God who would allow millions of refugees to be displaced by corrupt leaders waging unjust campaigns of death?”
Didn’t this loving God honestly tell us that Joseph, Mary, and Jesus were refugees to Egypt fleeing genocidal persecution at the hands of King Herod? (Matthew 2: 13-18)

Corrupt and murderous leaders are the product of our human corruption.  We are those leaders.  These problems come from us, and God is honest with us about how such situations work in our corrupt world.

That’s truth in an untidy world.  That’s integrity.
We trust God because we know His integrity.

God is true. God is Truth.  God  is also loving.  God is Love.

His truth tells it like it is.  His love offers redemption in the midst of this untidy reality.

As Christians, professed followers of the Way of Jesus, we are obligated to reflect that simultaneity of Truth and Love even when the results are----- untidy.

But speaking the truth in love, [we] may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ (Ephesians 4: 15)

The untidy truth is that no life and no lifestyle is beyond the reach of God’s redemptive grace, but that doesn’t mean that every lifestyle is good and acceptable and endorsed by God.

The untidy truth is that God loves us when we’re wrong without excusing our wrong just because He loves us.

The untidy truth is that forgiveness requires repentance, and finding peace with our personal sins is not the same as repenting of them.

The untidy truth is that God has a plan of redemption and eternal glory, AND that same God has a simultaneous plan of judgment and eternal darkness.

How can a good loving God condemn people just because of what they do or  what they believe or how they live?

How can God be good and loving and not tell us the truth, the untidy truth about how this all works?   Wouldn’t He be less than good and less than loving if He had his prophets tell us only cute stories that say what we want to hear while ignoring how things in the world we manage actually are? 

But God is not unjust.  God is not unfair.  God is not dishonest.

He tells us the truth BECAUSE He does love us.

The problem is not with the integrity of God’s Word.  The problem is that we don’t want to accept the Truth of God’s Word.

Because the truth is untidy.

---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 Hall Memorial CME Church in Montgomery, 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).

To hear sermons, read devotions, and learn more about the ministry at Hall Memorial CME Church, visit www.hallmemorialcme.blogspot.com .


If this message helps or touches you, please help support this ministry. Send a donation of any amount by check or money order.
Mail all contributions to :
Hall Memorial CME Church
541 Seibles Road
Montgomery, AL 36116

Monday, January 13, 2014

WATCH WHERE YOU PUT YOUR HANDS

Do not lay hands on anyone hastily, nor share in other people’s sins; keep yourself pure. (1 Timothy 5: 22)

When Paul refers to "laying hands on" he is talking about blessing, anointing, “speaking into the life of…”, “ prophesying over...” and whatever else we call it today.

Paul did not prohibit the practice or tell Timothy, young pastor born four or more generations after Jesus’ Earthly ministry, that “We don’t lay hands on people anymore.”  Paul did warn Pastor Timothy not to just run around declaring and decreeing over people randomly or upon request.

The act of laying on hands and blessing someone imparts a connection that flows in both directions:  from God through the blessor to the blessee and his/her life; and from the blessee’s life  to the blessor and before the eyes of God. 

When a preacher lays hands on people to ordain them or to bless them into a particular season of life, the preacher is vouching for that person before God. 
That’s not a light thing to be doing.

Yes, each of us is judged for our individual actions.  No, you can’t control what someone does when they’re not under your direct supervision. 

But.

We are each also responsible to God for the quality of what we set before Him, and that includes the quality of WHO we set before Him.

When God sent the prophet Samuel to anoint a son of Jesse to be the next king, Samuel saw the eldest son and immediately started to lay hands on him.
Samuel  looked at Eliab and said, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is before Him!”
But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”  (1 Samuel 16: 6-7)

You can’t possibly know what’s in someone’s heart except when you know what’s in someone’s heart because you know what in that person’s life. 
Do not lay hands on anyone hastily.

Lay hands, bless, anoint, prophesy where the Lord tells you.  But are you sure that the Lord told you to speak that over EVERY body who came down to the altar?
Or were you looking on the physical appearance of people who LOOKED like they wanted a Word from the Lord?
And by the way, when did what individuals want from the Lord start deciding what preachers do more than what the Lord wants for those individuals?

When they come to you to be blessed and exalted, and God wants them to be convicted and humble because of their sin, but you bless and exalt them anyway----- you connect yourself to their sin.  You walk them into God’s presence and say, “I’m good with what’s going on with them.”
Are you sure about that?

In Acts 8: 9-24, Simon ,an ex-sorcerer and new Christian, asked Peter to ordain him as a bringer of the Holy Spirit.  He even offered to “sow a financial seed to the man of God” for his time.
But Peter said to him, “Your money perish with you, because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money! You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God.  (Acts 8: 20-21)


It’s not your job to anoint people.  It’s your job to obey God.   And from time to time, if you are following God, not just fulfilling human expectations, you will have to say “No” to somebody who expects you to speak great things over their life.

No, it’s not for you to judge the quality of another’s soul.  No, it’s not for you to judge what God can or can’t do in someone’s life.  No, it’s not for you to say who’s worthy of a calling that only God can give.
That’s not your job.
It is your job to obey God rather than men or women or yourself. 
There’s more at stake than your popularity.

Do not lay hands on anyone hastily, nor share in other people’s sins; keep yourself pure. (1 Timothy 5: 22)
---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 Hall Memorial CME Church in Montgomery, 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).

To hear sermons, read devotions, and learn more about the ministry at Hall Memorial CME Church, visit www.hallmemorialcme.blogspot.com .
You can read more on Pastor Graves's personal blog at www.andersontgraves.blogspot.com  .

If this message helps or touches you, please help support this ministry. Send a donation of any amount by check or money order.

Mail all contributions to :
Hall Memorial CME Church
541 Seibles Road
Montgomery, AL 36116

WATCH WHERE YOU PUT YOUR HANDS

Do not lay hands on anyone hastily, nor share in other people’s sins; keep yourself pure. (1 Timothy 5: 22)

When Paul refers to "laying hands on" he is talking about blessing, anointing, “speaking into the life of…”, “ prophesying over...” and whatever else we call it today.

Paul did not prohibit the practice or tell Timothy, young pastor born four or more generations after Jesus’ Earthly ministry, that “We don’t lay hands on people anymore.”  Paul did warn Pastor Timothy not to just run around declaring and decreeing over people randomly or upon request.

The act of laying on hands and blessing someone imparts a connection that flows in both directions:  from God through the blessor to the blessee and his/her life; and from the blessee’s life  to the blessor and before the eyes of God. 

When a preacher lays hands on people to ordain them or to bless them into a particular season of life, the preacher is vouching for that person before God. 
That’s not a light thing to be doing.

Yes, each of us is judged for our individual actions.  No, you can’t control what someone does when they’re not under your direct supervision. 

But.

We are each also responsible to God for the quality of what we set before Him, and that includes the quality of WHO we set before Him.

When God sent the prophet Samuel to anoint a son of Jesse to be the next king, Samuel saw the eldest son and immediately started to lay hands on him.
Samuel  looked at Eliab and said, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is before Him!”
But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”  (1 Samuel 16: 6-7)

You can’t possibly know what’s in someone’s heart except when you know what’s in someone’s heart because you know what in that person’s life. 
Do not lay hands on anyone hastily.

Lay hands, bless, anoint, prophesy where the Lord tells you.  But are you sure that the Lord told you to speak that over EVERY body who came down to the altar?
Or were you looking on the physical appearance of people who LOOKED like they wanted a Word from the Lord?
And by the way, when did what individuals want from the Lord start deciding what preachers do more than what the Lord wants for those individuals?

When they come to you to be blessed and exalted, and God wants them to be convicted and humble because of their sin, but you bless and exalt them anyway----- you connect yourself to their sin.  You walk them into God’s presence and say, “I’m good with what’s going on with them.”
Are you sure about that?

In Acts 8: 9-24, Simon ,an ex-sorcerer and new Christian, asked Peter to ordain him as a bringer of the Holy Spirit.  He even offered to “sow a financial seed to the man of God” for his time.
But Peter said to him, “Your money perish with you, because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money! You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God.  (Acts 8: 20-21)


It’s not your job to anoint people.  It’s your job to obey God.   And from time to time, if you are following God, not just fulfilling human expectations, you will have to say “No” to somebody who expects you to speak great things over their life.

No, it’s not for you to judge the quality of another’s soul.  No, it’s not for you to judge what God can or can’t do in someone’s life.  No, it’s not for you to say who’s worthy of a calling that only God can give.
That’s not your job.
It is your job to obey God rather than men or women or yourself. 
There’s more at stake than your popularity.

Do not lay hands on anyone hastily, nor share in other people’s sins; keep yourself pure. (1 Timothy 5: 22)


---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 Hall Memorial CME Church in Montgomery, 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).
To hear sermons, read devotions, and learn more about the ministry at Hall Memorial CME Church, visit www.hallmemorialcme.blogspot.com .
You can read more on Pastor Graves's personal blog at www.andersontgraves.blogspot.com  .

If this message helps or touches you, please help support this ministry. Send a donation of any amount by check or money order.
Mail all contributions to :
Hall Memorial CME Church
541 Seibles Road
Montgomery, AL 36116

Sunday, January 12, 2014

FROM POTENTIAL TO POWER

There are so many great things that the church could be, but isn’t.  How do we become all that God has called us to be?  The answers are crucial for all Christians collectively and individually.   The answers can be found in the life of an Old Testament leader named Joshua.

Hear the answers in the life of Joshua in a message delivered at Williamson Chapel in Nashville, TN. The sermon is called: MOVING FROM POTENTIAL TO POWER

Listen well.


Listen well.

---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 Hall Memorial CME Church and the executive director of SAYNO (Substance Abuse Youth Networking Organization) in Montgomery, Alabama.

Call  334-288-0577
Email
atgravestwo2@aol.com
Friend me at
www.facebook.com/rev.a.t.graves

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

If you enjoy our work, please help support our work in the community. Send a donation of any amount by check or money order.
Mail all contributions to:
Hall Memorial CME Church
541 Seibles Road
Montgomery, AL 36116

Thursday, January 2, 2014

THE UNINTENDED STATE OF RELIGION

Jeroboam, 1st king of the divided northern kingdom of Israel, created a new system of Judaism centered at altars he erected in Bethel and in Dan. 
The king gave an official public statement for why he was building a new system of churches and ordaining a new set of priests.
He said: It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Here are your gods, O Israel, which brought you up from the land of Egypt!  (1 Kings 12: 28)
His statement had 2 main points:   (1) “I’m doing this to improve your lives.”  (2) “This is your true heritage.”
That was the official statement.   But the official statement was not the real reason. 

The real reason was Jeroboam’s desire for power.

Jeroboam said in his heart, “Now the kingdom may return to the house of David:   If these people go up to offer sacrifices in the house of the Lord at Jerusalem, then the heart of this people will turn back to their lord, Rehoboam king of Judah, and they will kill me and go back to Rehoboam king of Judah.”  (1 Kings 12: 26-27)

Translation: “If I let these people just go on worshipping God without interferene, they’ll eventually get back to the way God had originally set things up.  And then, they won’t need or want me anymore.”   

Thus King Jeroboam created a new system under the guise of
(1)    Breaking with the old, irrelevant traditions (Liberalism) ; and
(2)    Taking the nation back to its true original roots (Conservatism).

By the time of Jeroboam II and the prophet Amos, the religious leaders in Israel no longer saw a difference between their faith and the king’s political agenda.    In fact, they would modify their religious declarations to fit the king’s political platform. 
What’s worse, they would attack any believer who stood up to question their political platform, even when the dissenter was speaking exactly God’s truth.

So, when God sent the prophet Amos with a message of rebuke and condemnation, the politicians didn’t have to pressure the church to silence Amos.  The established authority of the church initiated the attacks on behalf of the beloved political agenda they were trying to protect.

Then Amaziah the priest of Bethel sent to Jeroboam king of Israel, saying, “Amos has conspired against you in the midst of the house of Israel. The land is not able to bear all his words.   For thus Amos has said: ‘Jeroboam shall die by the sword, And Israel shall surely be led away captive From their own land.’ ”
Then Amaziah said to Amos: “Go, you seer! Flee to the land of Judah. There eat bread, And there prophesy.  But never again prophesy at Bethel, For it is the king’s sanctuary, And it is the royal residence.” ( Amos 7:10-13)

Not the people’s sanctuary---- the KING’S sanctuary.  Not the place where the Lord resides---- the king’s residence.

Bethel was the place established (supposedly) for the people to worship God, but the priest isn’t trying to protect the sanctity of Bethel scripture.  The priest is trying to protect the sanctity of Bethel’s politics.

By the time Jesus walked the lands in which Amos had preached, the people there had thoroughly lost their identity.  So much so that Jesus told a woman of the lands,  “You don’t even know what you worship.” (John 4: 22)

They weren’t even Jews anymore.  They were Samaritans.

Politicians cannot and should not tell us what it means to be a Christian.  When the words “conservative” and  “liberal” mean the exact same thing in a church as they do in Congress then something is very, very wrong with the church. 

The church and the people of the church should be involved in politics, but we must never be defined by it.

If we are, if we are a faith-based extension of any political platform; then we are enroute to losing ourselves; and one day, the Lord will look at us and say,  “You don’t even know what you’re worshipping, do you?”

---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 Hall Memorial CME Church in Montgomery, Alabama.
Call  334-288-0577
Email atgravestwo2@aol.com
Friend me at www.facebook.com/rev.a.t.graves
To hear sermons, read devotions, and learn more about the ministry at Hall Memorial CME Church, visit www.hallmemorialcme.blogspot.com .

If you enjoy our work, please help support our work in the community. Send a donation of any amount by check or money order.
Mail all contributions to :
Hall Memorial CME Church
541 Seibles Road
Montgomery, AL 36116