Ode to Clergy


     October, yes this month is set aside as “Clergy Appreciation Month” so I can think of no better time to express thanksgiving and appreciation to those clergymen who have played a part in my life.

     To start, it was about fifty years ago that I came into this world. While I have no express remembrance of the day I can say of a certainty that the day was great and wonderful. You see I was named after my maternal grandfather, the late Reverend William James Smith. Yes, this naming of me set the stage for whom and what I am to be. This Baptist pastor gave me a clergyman to look up to. And why not, I bore his name and it appears that name has propelled me into the profession we share. Yes, it was a day that is written in the annals of time that started…

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The Real American Dream

In light of some of the problems that plague the United States many have either forgotten or have never know what the “American dream” is really about. There is a considerable lack of understanding of why our founding fathers fled the oppressive hand of one, King George. Well, there is little sense in rewriting the history books. However, it serves great purpose to examine two points of interest in respect to the founding of the United States as it relates to the American dream.

Item one – The matter of religious freedom under King George was much less than a misnomer. One had to essentially celebrate his way or no way. This is to say that King George preferred a State religion. It was, in a manner of speaking, a type of the bondage held by the Romans over the Jews. The Israelites were not allowed to worship God as they desired. They had to worship predicated upon the desires of the ruling authority. This was the problem between King George and those that sought freedom.

The real American dream had much to do with religious freedom. The preamble of the Constitution of the United States points to our Creator. It is our Creator that affords us the freedoms outlined in the Bill of Rights. The chief freedom is that of religion (or Christianity) as seen by our founding fathers. The 1st Amendment says in part that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…” Hence, part of the American dream is one that allows the free worship of God without interference from Government. Note, the Amendment says nothing about freedom from religion, as some purport. Instead, the Christian need not hide or celebrate in private. He has every right to worship God publically without fear of governmental retaliation.

Still, there are those that seek to destroy Christianity. Christians are the only group of people wherein it is politically correct to offend and attack. Christians are the only ones forced to acquiesce to things contrary to the teachings of Scripture. Moreover, when Christians stand for godly virtues they are called everything but the children of God. Well, this is not what the founding fathers had in mind and this is not pleasing to God. The question, then, is where is the American dream for Christians desiring only to please God?

Item two – Article One, Section Eight of the Constitution discusses taxation. This is important because King George had no trouble imposing high taxes on the people. Among the taxes imposed on the young Colonies were the Tea, Quartering and Stamp taxes. None of these taxes did anything to aid America (not yet the United States) but served only to bolster the British desire. This was, in essence, theft of labour. This is why taxation, as outlined in the Constitution, was designed to be limited in scope and for the specific purpose of defending the homeland. The exact verbiage in part is, “The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States.”

Now, some argue that taxes should be high. Some even seek to biblical reason for such actions. While it is good and wonderful for the people to be generous and give of their labour it is not encumbered upon the Government to force such generosity. This is tantamount to slavery. Instead, part of the American dream is a dream to work and be successful. Some will fail and others will not. This really does not matter; the pursuit of happiness means there will be a struggle and that struggle comes in many forms. Financial stability, without an oppressive tax system, goes a long way to securing the American dream.

Many things can be addressed and the Constitution can be juxtaposed with Scripture on many fronts. And that is the point – freedom and the real American dream is a dream of worshipping God, even with our money, away from the oppressive hand of King George and the like.


The Frailty of Humanity

Working in a maximum security prison with hardened inmates I get to see a lot of things. One of the things I see regularly is men walking around with walls so thick that it would take bulldozers to penetrate those walls. Yet, when I bring those same men in my office to speak with them the frailties begin to shine through. The walls are really a front because in the prison setting showing any sign of weakness could mean life or death.

My point is that while many put on strong fronts mankind is extremely frail. We are frail because we need to realize that we exist because of the strength of God that resides in those of us that rely and trust on the Lord of our Salvation. Despite this there are some who see themselves as strong and that they should be strong for those around them. This idea seems strange because it suggests that one should live outside what he is in order to present as something he is not.  Let me explain.

My work as chaplain means that I have to deal with people in all stages of life. One stage is sickness. You see, very recently a young man, not yet in his thirties, suffered a stroke while on the unit. This young man was rushed to a local hospital and I was notified. I quickly notified the family of the disease ridden young man. From there I determined I would visit him in the hospital and find a way to authorize a family visit. The warden was quick to approve the family visit and my plans to visit were being finalized.

At the appointed time I went to the hospital. Family members were there before I was. The young man, while conscious, was not very responsive. Family members and friends were apparently broken as they saw the helplessness of the young man and their own weaknesses. Out of well meaning one family friend advised the mother to be strong for the young man. This, in my view, is the problem. The mother had no ability to be strong. Her young son was lying in a hospital bed with no sure prognosis. He was moving yet not communicating. A young man who might have been thought strong was quite frail and frail indeed.

The mother could not contain herself. She was unable to stay in the room. He son was not only a ward of the state but also a ward to the trouble that rests in his body. She would not be comforted. She could not be comforted. Her human frailty began to break forth the more she considered the dire state of the son she loved. It was not within her to be strong. It was only within her to weep and morn. Her weakness allowed her to be human.

When we consider biblical characters Paul might be said to be amongst the strongest. His evangelical tours proved to be more than undetermined weak people could consider. The strength of Paul was enough to move him forward. The weakness of Paul allowed him to trust God. This idea of the weakness of Paul is amplified in II Corinthians chapter twelve. Paul’s continued reliance on God caused him to realize just how weak he was. It was also opportunity for the strength of God to be realized in frail man.

With this, I would encourage all to lay aside the idea that we should be strong on every count. As I left that hospital room and headed back to the prison my weakness began to come forth. It was all I could do not to cry. This was coupled with the fact that the day before I attended the funeral of a family member of a co-worker. Yes there are times when we must reach down in order to pull some who have given in to weakness. Even so, we are only able to pull because of the strength of God that resides in us. Do not be ashamed of the frailty of humanity. Instead, in frailty allow the strength of God to pour in and through you.


If Black Lives Really Matter


The continuing mantra of “Black lives matter” has been raised to a deafening decibel. It seems that no matter where one goes or what happens there are those that come out of the woodwork to declare the importance of Black lives. The deafening sound has been once again raised as a young Black male died while in police custody last week in Baltimore. Many of the facts of the case have yet been made public; yet masses of people have taken to the streets of Baltimore declaring the absolute importance of Black lives.

It is doubtful that the Baltimore police set out to target Mr. Gray because of his skin tone. The fact is that Mr. Gray, the reason for this latest uprising, was in an area of West Baltimore where drug sales and usage are prevalent. He was a know drug dealer and may have been caught in the…

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Diametrically Opposed


There are just some things that have to be taken personally. For instance, when one goes on to marry another it is not for the benefit of the population at large rather marriage is a matter that is personally relative to those involved. Marriage is a matter of personal relationship and dedication between one man and one woman. It is a matter of personal choice to which both parties should be diametrically opposed to interference from any and all other forces. This is much like the relationship between Christ and the Church.

     The relationship between Christ and the Church becomes even more personal considering the relationship between Christ and the individuals that make up the Church. It is a choice made by the individuals and Christ. It is a matter of personal choice. Yet there seems to be many that would like to intrude on the relational aspects enjoyed…

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Relenting is Not an Option


I have to say that it is really getting personal now. The attacks on Christians and Christianity are an unbearable truth. Christians in countries highly influenced by Islamic terrorists are being killed as though they are bugs on the floor. They are being beheaded merely because they are Christians. College students are also being attacked by those seeking to please Allah. They are shown no mercy only because they have chosen to worship and serve the One and only God. All this is going on while other Christians are forced to denounce the Holy One or suffer dire consequences.

As if this were not sad enough activities in the United States are not much better. Consider the Indiana and Arkansas laws which are but a mirror of Federal law instituted about twenty years ago. The laws have nothing to do with discrimination and all to do with the enforcement of…

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