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Monday, October 31, 2016

PUSH

Imagine you know you have less than 24 hours to live.  You gather your best friends around you and tell them, but they don’t believe you. They say you’re too calm, too peaceful, to healthy to die. How can you explain? How can you make them understand and at the same time, give them the words to guide them through grief and loss and into peace and strength?

In the text for Sunday’s sermon, Jesus was in exactly that situation. The Lord answered His friends with a metaphor about . . . childbirth.  Yes, childbirth.

Turn to the closing half of John 16.  The title of sermon is PUSH.


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  #Awordtothewise 

You can help support this ministry with a donation to Miles Chapel CME Church.

You can help support Rev. Graves’ work by visiting his personal blog and clicking 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

mourning, joy, peace

Friday, October 28, 2016

FAMILY HISTORY

Blogging Genesis chapters 5-6

When I was a kid in Sunday school, I learned that Adam and Eve had 3 children: Cain, Abel, and Seth.  I learned that because Cain murdered Abel all of Cain’s descendants were evil, but all of Seth’s children were good.  I learned that God chose Noah and his family to survive the Great Flood and restart humanity because Noah was a righteous man and the Lord wanted to preserve the good side of Adam’s family.   

Noah and Cain's grandson from the movie "Noah"
I learned a clean, easy to follow, simple story of Biblical family history.

I learned wrong.

Ten years later I learned that I had relatives I didn’t know were related to me because their connection to the family was a secret.  I learned that all of the families I’d grown up with had similar secrets.  It kinda broke me for a minute.

People prefer the clean, overly-simplified, incorrect version of our family histories.  We need the truth.

Young me, present me, and current you all need the truth about the first family so we can process the truth about our families.  So let me tell you three things my Sunday school teachers didn’t tell me.

#1.  Adam and Eve had more than 3 children.

After he begot Seth, the days of Adam were eight hundred years; and he had sons and daughters. So all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years; and he died. (Genesis 5:4)

Adam lived 800 years more AFTER Seth was born.  He and Eve had plenty of time for ---- you know what they had time for.

P.S. Nobody’s family tree is as straight and narrow as our public histories imply.  Every family  (Yes. Yours, too.) has secret marriages, forgotten divorces, unclaimed children, and other secret side branches that didn’t make into the back of grandma’s Bible.

#2.  Cain’s side of the family wasn’t the only side with issues.

Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. (Genesis 6:5)

Genesis chapter 5 traces Adam’s biological line through Seth.  Chapter 6 doesn’t mention a shift from that side of the family.  Chapter 6 also doesn’t mention Cain or his descendants.  So, if Cain’s descendants at that time were part of humanity’s widespread wickedness, they were only part of it.  Noah’s brothers and sisters were descendants of Seth the good, but God didn’t invite them onto the ark.  So, Seth’s other descendants were equally involved in the sinful culture of the pre-Flood world.

P.S. Tell the truth.  Everyone at your Thanksgiving dinner table doesn’t have a clean record either.  I mean they might not have been convicted, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t guilty.


#3.  Cultural or ethnic dominance does not equal moral or spiritual superiority.

There were giants on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown. (Genesis 6:4)

The giants were the most famous, most powerful, and (probably) most admired people in Noah’s time.  In God’s eyes, they were also the embodiment of everything that was wrong with human culture.

Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. (Genesis 6:5-6)

P.S.  The household with the biggest house may not be the happiest family.  The ones in the trailer with the raggedy shed out back may be the most emotionally and spiritually healthy unit at the family reunion. 
Image result for simpsonsDon’t judge any person by their prosperity, appearance, or genealogical pedigree.  Not even yourself.    Our parents, upbringings, our history as a people---- they shape us and affect us, but they must not fully define us.

Who are we as a nation when our founding fathers turn out to be hypocrites, heretics, and opportunists?

Who are we as racial and cultural groups when our honored ancestors turn out to be not as universally honorable as we had thought? 

Who are we as children when the ancestors we revered turn out to be at least as much sinner as they were saints?

Who are we when ancestral villains turn out to be as heroic as the heroes, and our genealogical heroes turn out to be as sinful as the villains?

Who are we? Who are you?  The book of Genesis tells you.

The beginning of Scripture show us that no matter what family history produced you, God created you.  God created YOU, specifically YOU, in His image.  Claim that ancestry.  Define yourself by that genesis. 

Your genealogy describes you, but only God can define 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 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  #Awordtothewise 

You can help support this ministry with a donation to Miles Chapel CME Church.

You can help support Rev. Graves’ work by visiting his personal blog and clicking 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, October 24, 2016

THE BIRTH OF A RELIGION


25 And Adam knew his wife again, and she bore a son and named him Seth, “For God has appointed another seed for me instead of Abel, whom Cain killed.”
26 And as for Seth, to him also a son was born; and he named him Enosh.  Then men began to call on the name of the Lord. (Genesis 4:25-26)     


Three generations after Eden (6, if you count from Cain’s side of the family), people began to call on the name of the Lord.  During Enosh’s generation, humanity created organized religion.

Wait, now.  Don’t confuse the beginning of organized religion with the beginning of religion. 

The basic elements of religion are prayer, worship, and theology.    Prayer is dialogue with God, and people were already talking to God before this.  Adam, Eve, and Cain, and their descendants regularly talked to and about God (Genesis 3:9,10; 13; 4:9, 24) .   

The conflict between Cain and Abel started when they simultaneously offered public sacrifices to God (Genesis 4:3-5).  In the Old Testament public sacrifice was the central act of worship.  People were worshipping long before Genesis 4:26.

The dispute between Cain, Abel, and God over what constituted an acceptable sacrifice; and Lamech’s theory about how God would respond to him killing a guy --- those are both theological controversies.

In Genesis 4:26, people got together to decide how they would call on the name of the Lord, what name they would call the Lord by, what day and time they would all simultaneously gather at the designated location to call on God in the communally approved manner.  People began to consciously design their own religious experiences. 

Humans systematized and professionalized religion.  We formalized methods and rituals for calling on the name of the Lord.  But --- and this is a critical truth ----  we did not create religion and we did not invent the idea of God.


In 325, the Nicean Council formalized a statement (creed) on the nature of God, particularly the divinity of Jesus .  In   The Council organized those beliefs, but they didn’t invent them.  They didn’t create the God they described.

A century before the Nicean Council, Tertullian (c. 155 – c. 240 AD) began to call on the Lord using the term Trinity.  He didn’t invent the Trinity.  He organized the concept of Father Son and Holy Spirit into a single name we could call.

True doctrine describes religion; it doesn’t define religion.  The church’s faith existed long before the church’s traditions.

Decades after Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension, the apostles wrote about Him, His grace, His sacrifice, and His coming judgment.  They didn’t invent Jesus, but they organized His story and His teachings.

Moses taught the Hebrew people how to make acceptable sacrifices and keep themselves ritually clean.  Moses didn’t invent the sacrificial system. He received from God a set of Laws to organize the religion that Adam and Eve and Cain and Abel practiced 2-5 generations before people started organizing religion for ourselves.

Organized religion is fallible because people, no matter how well organized tend to fail.  More importantly we tend to fall.  Be a healthy skeptic about the promises and processes in any religious institution.  Jesus was. 

Jesus confronted the organizers of His religious tradition.  “Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition?” (Matthew 15:3)

But religion isn’t a manufactured concept.  Religion is the primal, transcendent attraction to One who created us and first taught us to pray, worship, and think on His Word. 

Jesus confronted religious tradition but He endorsed religion.  Jesus words in Matthew 15 affirm that God has given commandments.  Which means that there is a God, a God who speaks and expects us to listen.  To listen and to obey.

Organized religion is man’s invention.  Religion is God’s gift.

---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  #Awordtothewise 

You can help support this ministry with a donation to Miles Chapel CME Church.

You can help support Rev. Graves’ work by visiting his personal blog and clicking 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, October 23, 2016

SOMEBODY OUGHT TO TESTIFY

A hurting woman whose pain and place in the congregation had rendered her silent.
A lesson in healing and the importance of every story. 


The title of message is SOMEBODY OUGHT TO TESTIFY.

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  #Awordtothewise 

You can help support this ministry with a donation to Miles Chapel CME Church.

You can help support Rev. Graves’ work by visiting his personal blog and clicking 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, October 21, 2016

NAME THE DEMON


 On the far side of the sea of Galilee, someone (or something) was waiting for Jesus. 

The man ran around naked.  He slept outside in the graveyard.  They had arrested him, but he snapped the cuffs and escaped.  He’d been institutionalized, but he broke out.  Day and night he ran through the village and the countryside screaming unintelligibly.  No one could contain him, and everyone was afraid of him.

In the Middle East of the first century, there was no Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.   The entire Biblical vocabulary for mental illness is versions of  mad, lunatic, demoniac, and possessed.  Using the terminology of the day, Mark observed that the man who greeted Jesus was clearly afflicted “with an unclean spirit” (Mark 5:3), which was the 1st century version of “That dude is crazy.”

This was neither the first nor the last demon-possessed person Jesus encountered (Mark 1:34, Mark 1:39, Mark 7:26, Mark 16:9, etc.).  But, in this case, Jesus did something unusual.   

Initially, Jesus simply commanded the demon to come out of the man, but the unclean spirit protested.  The Lord responded by asking the demon for information about itself.

Jesus  asked him, “What is your name?”
And the possessed man answered, saying, “My name is Legion; for we are many.”  (Mark 5:9)

Jesus then sent the demon out of the man and into a nearby herd of pigs.

Jesus demonstrated that generic techniques don’t work in every case.  Sometimes, to fix the crazy, you have to name the demon.

I know married couples who spent years in vicious conflict over insignificant household issues.  Neither understood why the other couldn’t understand how insane their position is.  The angry call and response of their marital strife seemed directed toward divorce until somebody named the demon.

What actually  WAS wrong? Why WAS this such a big deal?  What anxiety, neurosis, or memory did this trigger; and what was behind that?  Once the couple knew the cause and how it operated, they were able to confront and exorcise craziness that was tearing apart their  home.

As my friend Tony Ares says, “Hurt people hurt people,” and sometimes they can’t stop because they haven’t told the people around them the truth about who damaged them and how.  They can’t heal until they name their demon.

People with addictions and mental illnesses get worse until they get treatment, and generic treatments for “people with problems” won’t help folks with serious conditions.  Somebody has to assess each client and give an accurate diagnosis.  Somebody has to engage and find out every demon’s name.

Communities plagued by generations of crime, disintegrating families, and impotent church culture display the collective symptoms of a special kind of crazy.  Arrests don’t fix it.  Imprisonment doesn’t deter it.  It screams through the streets.  It cries out in the night.  People destroy others and themselves.  They can’t tame it, and everyone is afraid.   The downward spiral will continue and accelerate until each community correctly identifies the problem.  I mean problems.

“My name is Legion; for we are many.”

There might be multiple related and independent traumas.  A person may have co-occurring conditions.  A distressed community must confront multiple systemic sources of oppression and degradation.  They, you, and ya’ll are probably many different kinds of crazy at the same time.

Name it.
However ugly it was, name it.
However guilty you feel about it, name it.
Even if it’s partly what you did to yourselves, name it.

And accept the help God makes available to deal with it.

The man infested by a Legion of problem didn’t wait until he was having a good day to run to Jesus.  He didn’t wait for a properly trained advocate or a democratically representative to make an appointment on his behalf.    Don’t wait for a right time or the right moment.  Run to help now. 

---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  #Awordtothewise 

You can help support this ministry with a donation to Miles Chapel CME Church.

You can help support Rev. Graves’ work by visiting his personal blog and clicking 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

AUDACIOUS EXPECTATIONS

This is the final message in the 3-part series from the Biblical story of “The Rich Young Ruler.”  I preached this series for revival at Ferguson Chapel CME Church (Opelika, AL).

Message #3 is called: AUDACIOUS EXPECTATIONS.


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  #Awordtothewise 

You can help support this ministry with a donation to Miles Chapel CME Church.

You can help support Rev. Graves’ work by visiting his personal blog and clicking 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