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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

DON STERLING & UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES

There's a part of me that feels avenged by the NBA's actions against Donald Sterling.  He represents a particularly odious class of racists--- the plantation patriarchs.

Plantation patriarchs see me and everyone else outside of their circle of the White and wealthy as children---lazy children who should be grateful that "Massah" is so kind and good to us.  Sterling saw the men who worked for him--- “WORKED,” I said---- as recipients of his charity.  Sterling paid these employees the way slaveowners used to give sweets to the "cute little nigger babies" while prompting to them praise Massah for his generosity. 

By the time those babies turned 8 they were experienced field hands with whip scarred backs.  But, no matter how hard those children worked, no matter how long they labored, no matter the place of respect they grew into in  their families and communities, regardless how much money they made for the patriarch of the plantation, Massah still saw them as children who should be grateful for how sweet and merciful he was in LETTING them work on his team and only whipping them sometimes.

Such is the heritage of Donald Sterling and those who share his mentality.    And my heritage is tied to those on the other end of the lash.  So a part of me feels avenged that the NBA took Donald Sterling’s plantation away.

But.

 There’s this other part that thinks that in this single dispute among entertainers and entertainment franchise owners, we---- we the society----- have wronged Donald Sterling and stumbled our collective selves over a line we’re going to regret crossing.

Donald Sterling is losing his team, a business he acquired honestly, because he’s a racist jerk.  Is that the way we want things to happen?

Are we sure?

See, a private industry, like the NBA,  is legally obligated to apply its rules fairly and consistently.  So, the penalty for Sterling’s offensive speech is more than an act of social vengeance.  It’s the precedent for all future responses to offensive speech in the NBA.   

And more, our satisfaction with the NBA’s penalty is establishing a cultural precedent for how the nation responds to prejudiced speech. 

But precedents inevitably end up applied in ways no one intended.

For me, a racist jerk is someone like Donald Sterling, and I want my fellow citizens to avenge me and my ancestors against such men.

But how will the new cultural precedent be applied on behalf of those who feel prejudice differently than I do?

When the lady who owns an IHOP and goes on a rant about Muslims and atheists and Scientologists and other such “heathens”?  Will we rise up and demand that she lose her restaurant?

When Lebron James gets taped rattling off a racist spiel about White people, will the NBA ban him from playing ----- for life?

When a pastor preaches against homosexuality is the community going to light their torches and sharpen their pitchforks?

I’ve little sympathy for the bigoted billionaire, but I’ve enough sense to wonder and worry exactly where this is going to take us.

Oh, and there's this.
Despite the euphoric sense of righteous indignation and vindication you or I feel over the NBA's decision , at the end of the day Mr. Sterling is going to make a whole lot of money on his "punishment."  He bought the Clippers for $12 million.  Today, the franchise is worth over $575 million.  In that context, the NBA's 2.5 million fine against Sterling comes out more like a really, really small commission.

Massah's crying all the way to the offshore bank.

---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).

Email atgravestwo2@aol.com
To listen to sermons and learn more about the ministry at Hall Memorial CME Church, visit www.hallmemorialcme.blogspot.com .

You can help support this ministry by clicking the DONATE button on the right-hand sidebar.

Support by check or money order may be mailed to
Hall Memorial CME Church
541 Seibles Road
Montgomery, AL 36116

Sunday, April 27, 2014

THERE IS MORE TO IT THAN THAT

Remember the alphabet song A-B-C-D-E-F-G-H-I-J-K- Ellamenopee…. 
The rhythm was so familiar that we just ran parts of it together and missed the real meaning.

Unfortunately, that’s what we do with the time between Jesus’ resurrection and ascension.  We lump it all together and miss the deep truths that Jesus revealed in the 40 days between Jesus’ resurrection and His ascension into the throneroom of Heaven.

In this message, Rev. Graves reveals how we have reduced the post-resurrection story to a blur and shows why THERE IS MORE TO IT THAN THAT.
(I've put an outline of Scripture references at the bottom of this post.)

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 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).

Email atgravestwo2@aol.com
To listen to sermons and learn more about the ministry at Hall Memorial CME Church, visit www.hallmemorialcme.blogspot.com .

You can help support this ministry by clicking the DONATE button on the right-hand sidebar.

Support by check or money order may be mailed to
Hall Memorial CME Church
541 Seibles Road
Montgomery, AL 36116

"There's More to it Than That"  SCRIPTURE OUTLINEJesus’ Appearance to 2 disciples,
Emmaus Road,
Resurrection Sunday afternoon
1.      Luke 24: 13-34

1st Appearance to the Eleven (minus Thomas),
Jerusalem,
Resurrection Sunday evening
2.      Luke 24: 35-48

3.      John 20: 19-24

? Mark 16: 14-18  (Uncertain timing)

? Mark 16: 19, 20  (Uncertain timing)

2nd Appearance to the Eleven (with Thomas),
in Galilee,
8 days after the Resurrection
4.      John 20: 24-31

3rd Appearance to the Disciples,
in Galilee
5.      John 21: 1-17

6.      Matthew 28: 16-19

In various Places,
During the 40 days after the Resurrection
7.      Acts 1: 1-3

8.      1 Corinthians 15: 6, 7

The Ascension,
Between the Mount of Olives and Bethany,
40 days after the Resurrection
9.      Acts 1: 4-12

10.  Luke 24: 48-53

? Mark 16: 19, 20

BLESSED ARE THE DOUBTERS


Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said to him, “We have seen the Lord.”
So he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”
 And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them.
Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, “Peace to you!” Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.”
And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20: 24-28)

http://andersontgraves.blogspot.com/2014/04/blessed-are-doubters.html 
On Resurrection Sunday evening, Thomas was off doing his own thing while all the other disciples where holed up in a locked room afraid that the either the Temple guards or the Romans were going to come get them, too.

When the other disciples finally found Thomas and told him about Jesus appearing to them, Thomas said, “Yeah, right.”

And Peter was probably like, “Nah, Thomas.  For real.  I saw Him with my own eyes.  I touched His hands where the nail prints where.  Andrew put his hand in the spear wound in His side.  At first we thought it was a ghost or something. But He ate food right in front of us.
 You gotta believe us. 
It was Jesus, alive and in the flesh.”

And Thomas said, “I ain’t gotta believe YOU.  I’m not just gonna take your word for something like this. “

Thomas had questions.  Thomas had doubts.   Thomas wanted answers and assurances that didn’t depend on his grief-crazed friends who had collectively betrayed, denied, and abandoned Jesus, AND called the female disciples crazy when they came Sunday morning with the first story about a resurrection.

It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them, who told these things to the apostles. And their words seemed to them like idle tales, and they did not believe them. (Luke 24: 10, 11)

We fault Thomas for his doubts.

I think we need to cut Thomas some slack.

Because John 20: 26 says that 8 days later Thomas was with the other apostles in Galilee when Jesus showed up again.

A week later, why was Thomas with a bunch of guys he didn’t believe.

Thomas wasn’t with the disciples despite his doubts. 
Thomas was with the other disciples BECAUSE OF his doubts.

Thomas spent the next week with the other apostles because Thomas was seeking answers to his questions about the resurrection.  

Thomas walked from Jerusalem to a rallying point in Galilee because Thomas had doubts was seeking certainty.  Thomas

Thomas was a skeptic who was willing to be convinced IF his believing friends could lead him to a place where he would encounter Jesus for himself.

I appreciate Thomas.

I like Thomas.

I was Thomas.

I didn’t come to Jesus in a church.  I wasn’t led to salvation by a preacher. 

I repented of my sins and received Jesus as my Lord and Savior because two of my peers listened to my skeptical questions and acknowledged my agnostic doubts.  They didn’t just shove clich├ęs down my throat and order me to “have faith.”  They opened the scripture to me and led me to where I could find the answers for myself.  They walked with me and let me walk with them as they walked in the way of Christ.

And all of the spiritually empty years I’d spent in church, that was all I’d wanted----- I’d been asking but no one had answered.  I’d been seeking but no one had been willing to help me find.  I’d been knocking and every one had told me to stop making so much noise.

They said, “You don’t question God.”

I replied, “I’m not.  I’m questioning you.”

“ I need to touch Him for myself.  Until then, there’s no way I’m just going to take YOUR word for it.”

Thomas went a whole week and many miles out of his way.  He went everywhere his believing friends went---- because the skeptic in church is in church to lose his skepticism. 

But he/ she isn’t just going to take your word for it.

Take time to listen, hear, and answer the doubters who keep coming to you with questions.

Walk holy before the doubters and invite them to walk with you to church, to Bible study, and to a coffee shop where you can just talk about whatever.

Study.  Prepare.  Pray.  And LISTEN.

You might just lead a Thomas (or an Anderson) to the place where he can encounter Jesus for himself.

Truth is---- that’s what they really want.

---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).

Email atgravestwo2@aol.com
To listen to sermons and learn more about the ministry at Hall Memorial CME Church, visit www.hallmemorialcme.blogspot.com .

You can help support this ministry by clicking the DONATE button on the right-hand sidebar.

Support by check or money order may be mailed to
Hall Memorial CME Church
541 Seibles Road

Montgomery, AL 36116

Thursday, April 24, 2014

BLOGGING THE LORD’S PRAYER: STRAIGHT TO THE TOP

Matthew 6: 13      …For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.

My father taught me to go straight to the top when I need something done.  Buford Graves said, “There’s always somebody who can say ‘No’ when everyone else has said, ‘Yes’ and ‘Yes’ when everyone else has said ‘No.’  That’s the person you talk to.”

Jesus gave the same advice when He taught the disciples how to pray.

Jesus taught the disciples to praise God for His holiness, to seek God’s coming kingdom, to desire God’s will in every plane of existence,  to ask God to provide what they need, to ask God to forgive and to make them forgiving, to seek God’s preventive and redemptive protection, and His rescue from the evil one. 
Jesus taught His disciples to do all of that For (meaning Because)  Yours  is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.

We acknowledge that angelic authorities, powers, principalities exist and affect us; but
when we really need to get something done we go past angels and straight to the top.

Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels (Colossians 2: 18)

We recognize and respect the status of human authorities.  We deal with bosses, managers, gatekeepers, and colleagues, rendering to Caesar what Caesar is due; but when we really need something, we go past people and straight to the top.

Do not put your trust in princes,
Nor in a son of man, in whom there is no help.
His spirit departs, he returns to his earth;
In that very day his plans perish.  (Psalm 146: 3-4)

Why? 
[Because] Yours  is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.

David was the greatest king in the Old Testament, and David said: “Blessed are You, Lord God of Israel, our Father, forever and ever.
11     Yours, O Lord, is the greatness,
The power and the glory,
The victory and the majesty;
For all that is in heaven and in earth is Yours;
Yours is the kingdom, O Lord,
And You are exalted as head over all.” (1 Chronicles 29: 10, 11)

David was at the top of the political game, but he understood that he wasn’t at the very top. 

And when we need something, we go straight to the very top.

God loves us.  This we know because the Bible tells us so.  But we don’t pray to God just because He loves us. 

Mama loves you.  Your pet dog, cat, parrot, iguana, or rock loves you.  But you don’t pray to those. 

(You don’t, do you?)

Despite the love, you don’t (I hope you don’t) pray to those because their power to answer your prayers is limited.

If God loved us as much as He does, but He was limited as other entities are, then it wouldn’t be feasible to pray to God.   It would be like praying to mama, or your pet rock, or to an angel. 

But God is far beyond your pets, your guardian angel, and even your mom.

Those have some power.  Those possess some glory.  Those, like King David, operate in authority over certain territories or kingdoms.

But God----- God has THE power, THE glory, and THE kingdom.

That is to say:  God has ALL power, ALL glory, and ALL kingdoms.

And God the Father has manifest His Son Jesus Christ far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come.
 And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church (Ephesians 1: 21- 22)

That’s Jesus---for through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father. (Ephesians 2: 18)

Why would we give our worship to peons when we know Who’s at the top?

Why would we bow our hearts to the people of this world who say “No” when we know Who has the ultimate “Yes”?

Why would we submit our lives to the cultural influence that tempt us with “Yes” when we have heard God’s ultimate “No”?

Why would we yield the fate of our souls to those who like us are mortal and created, when we can appeal directly to the infinite and eternal Creator?

Why wouldn’t you bow to the One to Whom every other power, glory, and kingdom ultimately submits?

So Jesus said to them, “When you pray, say… For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen

---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).

Email atgravestwo2@aol.com
To listen to sermons and learn more about the ministry at Hall Memorial CME Church, visit www.hallmemorialcme.blogspot.com .

You can help support my ministry. 

Support by check or money order may be mailed to
Hall Memorial CME Church
541 Seibles Road

Montgomery, AL 36116

Sunday, April 20, 2014

DO YOU GET IT, NOW?

Over and over all the way to the cross itself, Jesus told and taught, explained and exemplified His Messiahship, His mission, and His method for bringing forth the plan of salvation.
Over and over, all the way to the cross , the people with and around Jesus didn’t get it.

As Holy Week comes to a close and we consider the lessons of the season, the fundamental question for us is the same question the those with around Jesus had to answer in the aftermath of the Resurrection:  DO YOU GET IT, NOW?

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


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

You can help support this Rev. Graves’ work by visiting his personal blog and clicking the DONATEbutton on the right-hand sidebar.

Or send a donation of any amount by check or money order. 

Mail should be addressed to:
Hall Memorial CME Church
541 Seibles Road
Montgomery, AL 36116

PETER'S SWORD --- AND YOURS

When they came to arrest Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant’s name was Malchus.  (John 18: 10, 11)

Jesus healed the wounded servant, and prohibited the disciples from using violence in His defense.

Without His sword, Peter sat silent outside the trial of Jesus before the Sanhedrin.  Peter didn’t offer himself as a witness.  He didn’t throw himself before the judges and say, “If you kill Jesus, then you have to kill me, too.”

No.  Peter acted like he didn’t even know no Jesus. 

Then he began to curse and swear, saying, “I do not know the Man!”
Immediately a rooster crowed. And Peter remembered the word of Jesus who had said to him, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” So he went out and wept bitterly.  (Matthew 26: 69-72)

In our country today, some Christians go on and on about the shift in the culture, about the rising antagonism toward Biblical Christianity, about the seeds of persecution----- and they’re right.

Many of those same brothers and sisters are stockpiling guns and ammo, preparing to fight in the name of Jesus.

Is that ALL you’re prepared to do?

Are you also prepared NOT to fight?

Are you prepared to listen to what Jesus wants you to do?
And if He wants you to put away your sword, are you prepared to do that?

Are you brave enough to stand up for Jesus ---- unarmed?

Are you brave enough to witness for him in the midst of servants to the culture and power structure----- if you have to do so unarmed?

Or, are you such a butt-hole without your guns that your words and actions effectively deny the very Jesus you’re so anxious to “defend” with violence?

Jesus said you can own your weapons. 
So the disciples said, “Lord, look, here are two swords.” And Jesus said to them, “It is enough.”  (Luke 22:38)

But as a Christian, the weapons aren’t  supposed to dictate your response; Jesus is supposed to dictate your response.

And Jesus has been known to command His disciples NOT to fight with physical arms.  Jesus has been known to tell His soldiers to wage witness and not to wage war.

But Jesus said to him, “Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.  (Matthew 26: 52)

Are you brave enough to do that?

For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ,  and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled. (2 Corinthians 10: 4-6)

---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).

Email atgravestwo2@aol.com
To listen to sermons and learn more about the ministry at Hall Memorial CME Church, visit www.hallmemorialcme.blogspot.com .

You can help support this ministry by clicking the DONATE button on the right-hand sidebar.

Support by check or money order may be mailed to
Hall Memorial CME Church
541 Seibles Road
Montgomery, AL 36116


Saturday, April 19, 2014

BETTER THAN TRADITION

 When people argue that explicitly stated Biblical doctrines are no longer valid because the world has changed, they often reference Jesus’ disdain for tradition.

But that’s not what Jesus meant when He used the word “tradition.”

To Jesus, modes of worship were “tradition.”

To Jesus, locations for worship were “tradition.”

The Samaritan woman said to Jesus, “Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.”
Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father.  (John 4: 20, 21)

To Jesus, dress codes and titles, pomp and circumstance were “tradition.”

“Beware of the scribes, who desire to go around in long robes, love greetings in the marketplaces, the best seats in the synagogues, and the best places at feasts, who devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. These will receive greater condemnation.” (Luke 20: 46-47)

To Jesus, preferences for when and how thing got done were “tradition.”
“Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.”
Jesus answered and said to them, “Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition? (Matthew 15: 2-3)

Jesus attacked the traditions of His day because the traditions deviated from the words of Scripture.

He didn't attack the words of scripture because scripture deviated from the traditions of His day.

Jesus kicked over tables in the Temple, but He based His Messiahship on the law and the prophets.

The Scriptures themselves, the law and the prophets, the Word of God, the Bible------Jesus didn’t call that “tradition.” 

Jesus called that TRUTH.
Sanctify them by Your truth. Your WORD is truth.  (John 17:17)

When you attack the reliability and relevance of the Bible, you are not siding with Jesus against modern Pharisees.  You are actually siding with the scribes and Pharisees against Jesus.

Jesus said to them, “All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition. (Mark 7: 9)

Rejecting God’s Word is not a sign of a sophisticated or enlightened mind.  It is (in most cases) just blindly and uncritically following whatever’s trending among the current crop of elites.

We're supposed to judge all things by the Word of God, not the other way around.

 If there arises among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and he gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes to pass, of which he spoke to you, saying, “Let us go after other gods’—which you have not known—‘and let us serve them,’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the Lord your God is testing you to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.
You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear Him, and keep His commandments and obey His voice; you shall serve Him and hold fast to Him.  (Deuteronomy 13: 1-4)

The opinions and preferences of our human teachers and leaders are NOT the standard by which we choose our truth.  We are to judge by a higher standard, an EXCEEDingly high standard.

He said, 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.
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: 19, 20)

Jesus wants us to be better than the fashion, the culture, and the intellectual trends of the day.

Jesus wants us to transcend OUR TRADITIONS and come back to His Word.

---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).

Email atgravestwo2@aol.com
To listen to sermons and learn more about the ministry at Hall Memorial CME Church, visit www.hallmemorialcme.blogspot.com .

You can help support this ministry by clicking the DONATE button on the right-hand sidebar.

Support by check or money order may be mailed to
Hall Memorial CME Church
541 Seibles Road
Montgomery, AL 36116


Thursday, April 17, 2014

A TALE OF TWO STORIES

There is a story of the hard-working single mother who pursued an education, built a career, and is doing everything she can to raise a good young man.  All she asks for is the help of mentors to offset the missing father who refused to honor his responsibilities.

There is a story of the unemployed, never-employed single mother with a toddler in tow, an infant on her hip, and another on the way---- all by different men.  She is doing nothing for herself and has no plans to do so, but she expects everyone else to help her and rescue her from each new self-inflicted crisis.

Both stories are true. 

I know each of these women personally.  They call on me in the same week, sometimes on the same day.  They were the same age during their first pregnancy.  They grew up in the same cities.  They come out of the same neighborhoods.  On the way to school, the walked past the same churches.  They ride past the same community centers on the way to the same Walmart.

An honest reading of statistics prove that these sisters simultaneously exist.

But statistics do not move people to action.  STORIES move people to action.  

The steps you take or don’t, the policies you support and oppose, the way you look at every single parent or the way you avert your eyes from them are all based on which of these 2 sisters’ stories you choose to represent every other woman with a child and no husband.

Both stories are true, but most of you will choose to believe only one.

Which one?

Doesn’t matter because no matter which story you choose, you’ll be wrong.

It’s not as simple as one story.  The truth is more than one story, and an honest reading of the statistics proves that both stories and a multitude of other stories are all simultaneously true.

But we still choose just ONE STORY.  

Some people actually get mad when they’re faced with a different story than the one they chose to believe. 
“That’s not true.”
“Your survey was biased.”
“Your math is fuzzy.”
“Well you’re just one.  Nobody else is like that.”
“Well, well, I.  I just don’t believe that.”

But the stories are all true.

It was true that the Samaritan woman at the well in John chapter 4 was shacking with man #5 (Or was it man #6 after husband #5?). It was simultaneously true that she was the one God arranged to be the first Samaritan to hear the gospel----one on one, directly from Jesus----and to be the original Samaritan evangelist.

It was true that the woman whom the Pharisees dragged before Jesus in John chapter 8 was co-guilty of adultery.  It was simultaneously true that her accusers were guilty of stuff equally bad or worse.  It was true that she needed to stop sinning.  It was simultaneously true that she didn’t need to be condemned and killed.

And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” (John 8: 1)

Year after year, our churches, our government, our schools,  and all our various efforts FAIL to solve the same problems because we apply ONE STORY solutions.

It’s easier.  Pre-packaged, “research based” programs are basically one-story solutions. 

It’s reasonable.  No human approach can possibly anticipate every variation of the story.

But it’s dishonest.  Pretending that the best practice in every case has to come from your chosen story is an exercise in self-deception. 

If I reply to the second sister I talked about from the same script I use with the first sister, or vice versa--- I’m going to achieve nothing good.  Even less if I insist that the 1st sister is really the same person as the 2nd, or vice versa, and ought to stop pretending and “keep it real.”

Both stories are true.

Think about which story you believe.  Not just which story of a single mother, but which story you believe about “those people” (whomever those people are).   You’ve heard the other stories.  Yes, you have; but you haven’t believed them.

Why?

I know it’s easier.
I know it’s reasonable.

But is it honest?

Don’t reduce an entire demographic to ONE STORY.

Jesus didn’t. 

---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).

Email atgravestwo2@aol.com
To listen to sermons and learn more about the ministry at Hall Memorial CME Church, visit www.hallmemorialcme.blogspot.com .

You can help support this ministry by clicking the DONATE button on the right-hand sidebar.

Support by check or money order may be mailed to
Hall Memorial CME Church
541 Seibles Road
Montgomery, AL 36116

Monday, April 14, 2014

Are You Asking or Telling?

“I can have this candy,” said my son.

But there was something about the way he said it:  arm extended over the candy bar, fingers already closing around the wrapper.

It wasn’t just the imprecise grammar of a toddler.  My son sounded------ casual.

Presumptive.

It affected me.

My head tilted.  My face tightened.  My eyebrows rose.  As I leaned toward him I could feel the rumble in the back of my throat riding out on the words.

I growled, “Boy!  Are you asking me, or telling me?”

My son paused.  At 3 years old he seemed to understand. 

This was the most important and dangerous question he’d ever been asked.

The toddler understood, but apparently the church doesn’t.

The other day, I heard a preacher tell his congregation to “Tell the Holy Spirit that you need a right now blessing!”

Tell?  And right now?

"This is what the LORD says-- the Holy One of Israel, and its Maker:
Concerning things to come, do you question Me about my children, or give Me orders about the work of my hands? (Isaiah 45: 11, NIV)

God our Father wants to know:  Are we asking Him or telling Him?

How do we approach God when we want something from Him?   
Jesus said to them, “Have faith in God.
For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says.
Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them. (Mark 11: 22-24)

But somehow, at some point, we took a sharp, wrong turn with the concepts of believing and asking in faith.  We started acting like God’s promises to us had made God subordinate to us and we could make God do what we want Him to do.

We forgot basic protocol in the child-Father relationship.

…whatever things you ASK when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.

Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ASK the Father in My name He will give you.  (John 16:23)

ASK, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. (Matthew 7: 7)

Children ask their Father.  They don’t tell Him.

We the children of God pray to our Father.  We don’t command Him.

I know.  I know. 

“But the Bible says that I can have WHATEVER I ask.”

Don’t forget to stomp your foot when you throw that tantrum.

Believer can have whatever they ask IN JESUS’ NAME.

That doesn’t mean that we simplistically say the magic words, ”in Jesus’ name” when we ask for foolishness and God has to give it to us.

God is not a genie locked in a bottle that you rub with prayer “in the name of Jesus.”
The Holy Ghost is not a familiar spirit summoned by your praise and held for your pleasure in a circle drawn by your will.

God is GOD!

“In Jesus’ name” means under Jesus’ authority.

We ask under Jesus’ authority because our requests are subject to His authority, meaning that our requests are subject to His “yes” and to His “no.”

Yes, all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us. (2 Corinthians 1: 20)

But what has God promised?

He has promised to give us what we ask---- subject to His authority (and approval). 

He has promised to never give us more than we can bear/ handle.  (1 Corinthians 10: 13)

So, Would God withhold your request if He knows that you aren’t really spiritually ready to deal with getting it? 
Yes.

He has promised not to tempt us to sin. (James 1: 13)

So, you mean that even if I believe and pray “in the name of Jesus” God won’t give something that will lead me away from Him.
Let the church say, “Amen.”

The promises of God do not override the sovereignty of God.

If I promise my son that I’ll get him whatever he wants for his birthday, I’m still not going to get him a flamethrower or a box of rat poison no matter how fervently he asks for it.

What man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent?
If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him! (Mathew 7: 9-11)

Daddy can say, “No,” if He wants to.

And if we were honest, we’d testify about all the times that God has told us, ”No.”  Because honestly, for each time you claimed it and received it there were a dozen when you claimed it and got----- nothing.

 You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. (James 4: 3)

Daddy can say, “No,” if He wants to.

Today, some Christians talk about getting stuff out of God as though God has no choice in the matter.  As though, when one of us puny humans knows the right scriptures, we take away God’s control over Himself.

They’ve forgotten that God has free will, too.

They’ve forgotten that though Christians have authority in/ under Jesus name; Jesus has ALL authority and power in Himself. 

We’ve accepted the popular dysfunctionality of families in the larger culture and transferred that dysfunction onto our relationship with God.   The church thinks it can use the same disrespectful tone with God that church members allow their children to use with them.

Ya’ll forgot Whose house this is.

The Lord says:
I have made the earth,
And created man on it.
IMy hands—stretched out the heavens,
And all their host I have commanded.
I have raised him up in righteousness,
And I will direct all his ways;
He shall build My city … (Isaiah 45: 12, 13)

He is the Dadddy.  We are the children. 

Doubtless You are our Father, Though Abraham was ignorant of us, And Israel does not acknowledge us. You, O Lord, are our Father; Our Redeemer from Everlasting is Your name. (Isaiah 63: 16)

When you speak to that demon, remember your authority and  COMMAND IT to come out. (Mark 3: 14, 15)

When you speak to that mountain, remember who you are and TELL IT to be uprooted and cast into the sea. (Mark 11: 23)

But when you speak to your Father in Heaven, also remember who you are----Ask Him.  Don’t tell.

For thus says the Lord,
Who created the heavens,
Who is God,
Who formed the earth and made it,
Who has established it,
Who did not create it in vain,
Who formed it to be inhabited:
“I am the Lord, and there is no other. (Isaiah 45: 18)

---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).

Email atgravestwo2@aol.com
To listen to sermons and learn more about the ministry at Hall Memorial CME Church, visit www.hallmemorialcme.blogspot.com .

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Hall Memorial CME Church
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Montgomery, AL 36116

SAVE ME, LORD, BUT NOT FROM THAT

What does dating a “not good” girl have in common with Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday?

Lots.

The Palm Sunday message was called: SAVE ME, LORD, BUT NOT FROM THAT!

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


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