Yet Another Vote

Yes, it is true. Today I went and took advantage of early voting in Texas. There is no surprise that once again my vote was for freedom. Honesty must prevail when I say that I did not recognize all the names on the list. It was a rather extensive list. That only goes to show that I perhaps should have done a bit more homework. Be that as it may, I did enough research to know that freedom was my ultimate motive for voting. Freedom is an issue that I chose not to overlook and is a matter that I made paramount as I pulled the lever. Freedom is a matter that deserves one vote and then another.

It is for this reason that voting should be done in more than one way. Yes, one can go to the polling place and carefully select issues that are important to him. This is part of what is called the democratic process. However, it is not enough to simply pull the electoral lever in favour of freedom. Freedom must be lived no matter where the voter is. This means that one action must be in line with the vote he made. Let me explain.

As a minister of the Gospel I implore people to live a life complimentary of scriptural teaching. This is a vote not so much in the proclamation of Christian virtues as it is in living out those virtues. The same is true when one casts his vote for freedom. One cannot simply say that his vote is for freedom. He must have a lifestyle emblematic of that freedom. He must know when to evoke such freedoms and know when not to evoke them. The fact is there is more than one way to vote and one such way is in action.

Some might recall the time I left Baltimore a couple years ago. The State of Maryland has proven to be oppressive and not wanting to adhere to the Constitution. I had had enough. So, when the opportunity presented itself I decided to vote with my feet. And, vote I did. I voted for freedom on a number of fronts. I did not use the ballot box; I used another freedom. I am free to live in any State in this union so I decided to vote with my feet. I used actions that afforded me the ability to live as a free man should. I made yet another vote.

Those calling themselves Christians also have opportunity to vote. The votes, though, are not made under the watchful eyes of state election judges. Instead, this vote is looked upon by a Holy and Righteous God. You see, there are many that make votes on Sunday mornings. They vote to let Jesus into their lives while they choose to lay aside the sin that separated them from God. They realize that “He who the Son has set free is free indeed (John 8:36). There is a longing for the freedom and words of repentance are made to that end.

Unfortunately many choose not to vote for that freedom by reason of their lifestyles. Some try to live a double life, secret service saints, as it were. There is a tendency to Christianity on Sunday mornings and one for hedonism during the rest of the week.  The true vote is not for the freedom provided by Christ. The vote is for diabolical celebrations proving only to widen the way of destruction. This is a dangerous double standard which only pulls from freedom.

Yes, in these United States we are in the midst of a heated presidential election. There is fighting on every side. Some are fighting for freedom while others seek forms of certain slavery. Yet, there is another vote. That vote has more to do with our lifestyles. This vote has to do with how we choose to live our lives. If we live for Christ and His standards then our vote is freedom. If we cave in to the sultry, seductive world of what feels good for the moment then our vote is for bondage. Choose you this day whom you will serve. As for me, I and my house will serve the Lord. We have cast our vote and we will live in such a way as to please the Lord.

Tied Hands

There has been much talk against the police here of late. They have been attacked on every level and especially politically. The President of the United States believes that the attire of the police is too intimidating. Even more local politicians have basically all but blamed police officers for things that have gone wrong in communities across the country. Consider, for instance, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake who told the police to stand down during the Freddy Gray riots. She then suggested that the police were not doing their jobs when the fact is their hands were tied behind their backs by the mayor.

Since those tragic riots the murder rate in Baltimore has sky-rocketed. Officers are concerned about doing their jobs because they don’t want false charges brought upon them. Now, it has yet to be made public what actually caused the death of Mr. Gray. This, however, has not stopped the mayor and others from coming down on the officers with the full force of their offices. The police have been maligned to such an extent that if they do their jobs they are wrong and if they don’t they are just as wrong. Well, who can work under such circumstances as that? No wonder murder has gone up! And, still citizens say the police are in the way too much and when criminals take over they are called upon them to return. But, why would they with tied hands?

People being moved by false emotions are no new thing. I recall working as a substitute teacher in Fort Smith, Arkansas. There, at the time, was much talk about the use of red pens to grade papers. Even more the idea of telling a child he provided a wrong answer was gaining ground among some. This, as it were, caused the child to have his feelings hurt or was feeling intimidated upon by reason of the red pen marks or bad grades. By extension the teachers’ hands, in some cases, were tied because they were not allowed to properly assess the progress of the students which inevitably led to failure of the one whose feelings were hurt. Hence, when the hands of authority figures are tied then comes the failure of those who should heed the sage advice of those authority figures.

Tied hands not only cause problems in the public sphere but also in the church. We have come to a time when preachers are not “allowed” to preach the Gospel. To call sin sin is to be a bigot in this day and age. There is now a “feel good” gospel this is permeating the thoughts of some while others simply want their Sunday fix without being told how to live outside the church. This has resulted in the preachers’ hands being tied. Some want the full churches and want people to feel comfortable in church so there is often no cry against sin. This has created a double standard in the church which has poured into the streets where right is wrong and wrong has become right.

This is how the “hands” of Christ have been tied. All too often there is no standard of holiness presented by those who are to lead the way. Also, the way many “Christians” dress pulls away from the standards of holiness. Even so, the preaching of Christ has nearly been nullified to the extent that many see no need to have Christ as Lord and Saviour. They see no reason to bow to the One who can give them eternal life because insofar as they are concerned life is this fading time on earth. Therefore, when one sees no reason to honour the Holy One the redemptive hands of the Redeemer are tied so that He cannot pull sinners from darkness.

Romans 8:34 reads, “Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.” This intercession is not for those who choose not Christ rather it is for those that love Him and His appearing. When this happens our enemy makes accusations for us. However, because Christ makes intercession, much like an attorney for his clients, He can only represent those that have “hired” Him. Those who do not fall under the redemptive arm of Christ have tied the hands of Christ so that there is no defense for them. There is no salvation because deliverance has not been sought. The only end that can be had is death and destruction much like what is taking place in Baltimore. When the hands of authority are tied there can be no good end.

Do you have the hands of Christ tied? Are you willing to let Christ in so that he can plead your case or will you continue to live a destructive life wherein death is the only clear outcome? Please make a decision to untie the hands of Christ so that you can live a life of total victory.

Appearances, Appearances

There has been much talking here of late about appearances. Specifically much of that talk has been around President Obama and some of the latest optics of his administration. One such was the sending of three White House representatives to the funeral of Michel Brown who would have gone unknown except for the fact that he robbed a store and at minimal challenged a police officer. Unfortunately no representatives were sent to New York where two offices were killed as they sat in their car. Now there is much discussion about the recent show of solidarity against Islamic terrorism in France wherein at least forty Heads-of-State joined arms yet no one from the United States was sent to stand with the world standing against a common enemy.

There are hosts of other optics that can be pointed out such as this administration’s refusal to call Islamic terrorism Islamic terrorism. This goes to the point that appearances mean everything. For instance, if one were to go to the “block’ in downtown Baltimore around midnight and he sees a young lady scantily clad going into a strip joint (or out of one for that matter) he might deduce that the lady might be at least a dancer. Such is the case within Christianity. Appearances mean not just a temporary opinion or view but rather appearances mean everything. What one dresses like, acts like and who he associates with speaks volumes about who that person is.

For instance if a married “Christian” man were found in the same area of Baltimore without his wife and he was just a bit inebriated with young ladies on either arm it might be said that Christianity might not be his chief practice. The fact is that appearances make all the difference in the world. This is why the Christian is called to holiness. Holiness is not merely a state of mind rather it is the way of life of the Christian. This is why Christians stand in the face of that which is unrighteous and unholy. This is why preachers preach and teach against succumbing to the pull of that which turns against God. Appearances is why Christians walk and talk far differently from non-Christians.

With this Christians need to walk arm-in-arm in solidarity against the things that God calls sin and unite with the love of Christ. There are neither big sins nor little sins so that lies are just as dangerous as homosexuality. Stealing is not worse than reveling while drunkenness and the lack of a sober mind can be synonymous. These are matters in which Christians can rally together and be examples for all that choose not to celebrate the God of our salvation. Christians need to present the optics of solidarity from one house to the next so that our common enemy cannot penetrate the wall of togetherness.

It is very true that together we stand and divided we fall so Christians, I beg of you, let us stand together and present a picture of holiness which will serve only to please the Father as we continue to lock arms for the standards of holiness and against unrighteousness.

Some of My Story

Here of late there has been much rhetoric against police departments. It has been said in various ways that the police have certain animus against a particular people group and that they seek to find ways to kill those for which they have no love. Often overlooked is the crime in certain areas and that crime is blamed on ideas such as unemployment and lack of education. Well, I dare say that the police are not the enemies of any community and that unemployment and lack of education are not synonymous with crime.

I know; I can already hear some naysayers debunking just the few words that show above. However in order to make my points clear I must discuss some of my story. You see I was born during a time in when Jim Crow was coming to an end. The part of Baltimore wherein I was raised was far from the best place in town and after a short marriage my parents divorced when I was in early elementary school. Yet somehow I did not fall to the pull of crime. I have no children save those from my wife and all of whom were conceived during marital bliss. Still somehow I have not been reduced to the level of a criminal and have never had a negative experience with law enforcement.

The fact of the matter is that if one does not do anything to draw the attention there is a very good chance they will not be stopped by the police. I can say this of a certainty not only personally but also professionally. I can count on one had the number of times I have been stopped by police and, surprisingly, none of those two times was in Baltimore. I was not disrespected and neither did I disrespect the police. After a couple minutes conversation the police learned that I was not a problem child and they went about their way. Moreover I can say that as a police dispatcher in Baltimore and Chesapeake, Virginia that the police are usually so busy handling calls for service that there is simply no time to pick on people merely because of skin colour.

Now, I have not always enjoyed the academic success I have. This lack of college education did not cause me to fall to crime and to raise a voice against law enforcement. Instead when the opportunity arose I found reason to better myself and to work diligently in order to obtain the education needed in order to be a success. Even more I never took a job so that I would not turn to crime nor did I study for years in academia to lift a voice of hate. Instead I worked and continue to work to pull me and mine from what could be dismal failure. This is not to say that I have had an easy life and that I enjoy a life of luxury now. Neither is the case. Yet my background does not lend reason for me to lash out against those who protect not me alone but also all those that have need of protection.

My point is that I am tired of the police bashing that has been going on in this nation. Scripture teaches that we should honour those that deserving of honour. Police officers deserve absolute honour in that they do a job that most do not want to do. They work in the face of sudden danger and death yet they uphold their oaths defending not only the defenseless but also upholding the Constitution. If the powers that be will not call for peace with the police then I will. I will stand with them because they stand for law and order. I will raise the banner of unity because a divided nation will only fall. I will say thank you to those police who work daily to prevent the chaos of an unlawful mob.
It is important to note that I have been on a number of police ride-a-longs. Some were by choice and others job related. I have seen people hurt by the hands of criminals and police work to bring some healing. And while it is true that the police are not social workers and most certainly not members of the clergy they are human beings with a love for fellow man. The era of Jim Crow is over so it is time we came out of the past. The Klu Klux Klan is no longer serving as the enforcement arm of the Democratic Party and if any members are in our police departments they are well hidden. So let us lay down the destructive banner of hate and raise the restorative banner of love in order to bridge a divide created by lies and false narratives.

Love, this is why so many work at an often thankless job in law enforcement. Love is what causes so many to put their lives on the line for the sake of other lives. Love is why Christ became incarnate in order to reconcile broken man with a loving Father. It is this love that can reconcile man with man in order to present a type of the relationship we should enjoy with our Father. With that I urge some to look at some of my story and see that there is truly no reason to bemoan those that work hard to protect us and stand with them that stand daily in harm’s way just to make sure we are not harmed.

This new year let us not allow the broken rhetoric of a few determine the fate of many. Let us bridge the gap and work side-by-side with those that work with us.

Happy New Year!

On Role Models

There is no big secret concerning the fact that I am not a fan of sports. In fact many that know me will quickly let you know that if I never saw another football, baseball, basketball or anything of the like my life would not be moved one way or the other. This is not to say that I am not concerned about some issues that surround sports and the athletes that make sports so popular. One thing that is ever present is the idea that sports figures serve as role models for much of the country. While there is little doubt that many of these athletes are wonderful and upstanding people I am not certain that I would hold any of them to the level of role model for me or those that I so care about.

I recall not long ago I was invited to an event in Baltimore. While I was not among the honoured guest it was an honour to be part of this event. One special person at the event was Baltimore football player Ray Rice. I remember there was much ado made about him before he entered the room. Frankly before he came I could not understand the uproar about this man that was to come. Still, I sat with some that I had worked with while eating some crabs (you must have some Baltimore crabs) and enjoying light conversation. Before long the announcement was made that Mr. Rice was about to enter and enter he did. Well, I expected a seven foot tall nearly four hundred pound man to break threshold as his massive being made it into the room. That was not to be as his body guards were larger than he was. And, being not more than five feet from him I dare say that impressed was not among the ideas that crossed my mind.

Now fast forwarding to events that Ray Rice wherein recently involved in presents the idea of an abusive man with a short temper. The fact is most of us know little about what happened that day in the elevator. One this is sure that Mr. Rice knocked out his then fiancé. That very act does little to promote the idea of what a good positive role model should be presenting to those looking up to him. And while I take issue with the idea that a sports figure is a role model simply by reason of him be a sports figure some see athletes as role models just because they are in the public view and play sports. Well, I have a different idea on what role models truly are.

I remember growing up in Baltimore having two step-grandfathers. Deacon Leroy Singletary (now deceased) was a hard working man from what I could tell and was a strong man on a number of fronts. I spent many hours with him and dare say that a bit of him has rubbed off on me. My maternal grandfather, the late Rev. William James Smith, is the person after whom I have been named. He was the pastor of a small Baptist church and one that I looked up to from as early as I can remember. Undoubtedly parts of him also rest in me and more than that name I am more than proud to bear. These two stately gentlemen were among the best role models of my childhood and have impacted me to the extent that I can and never will forget them.

Then the time came for me to enter the United States Marine Corps. To say that it was a challenge is to put kind niceties on things that were not always so kind. Early in my career I had the good pleasure of running into Master Gunnery Sergeant Thomas Witt. This giant of a man was not only a Marine’s Marine but also was a gentleman and a servant of God. He left this earth way too soon yet he impacted my life in ways that I cannot begin to spill in this forum. Suffice it to say that Tom was a man, a friend and a role model to make even the best step back and take a look of a man with tremendous stature and dignity.
Then there was my pastor in Hawaii. Dr. Wayne E. Anderson is a man that taught me the truth of Christendom. There were a number of things I would not have learned when I did except that this preaching, teaching, God loving man was found in my way. I can say with absolute certainty that the years I spent with this man were years of growing and learning. Yes, attending his church was much like attending book camp. There was much to learn and growing to be done. The good doctor was there for and with me through some good times and some bad times. Without him I would not have the Christian foundation I have today. Yes, Dr. Anderson served as another giant of men and a role model cannot be found in a better man.

My list of role models can go on and on yet I cannot ignore my current Bishop, Johnny C. Carrington, Sr. He is one of those old school preachers that grew up in the streets of Baltimore just blocks from where I grew up. So I had more growing to do when I returned to Baltimore and Bishop Carrington was there and remains there for me. He was there as I endured more difficult times and well as good times. Without him I could not have completed college. Without him I would not even be a member of the clergy. He is another man that stands tall and has pulled me alongside him. What a role model!

And there is another role model I simply cannot ignore. That is the Son of God, the Man Jesus Christ. Here is one that died for me and presented an example for me that points only to victory. My other role models have been wonderful and will be remembered until my last breath yet Jesus is the reason for my breath. Jesus was not with me just during portions of my life as those noted above rather He was and remains with me throughout my life. Jesus is in fact the pinnacle of role models. It is my hope that my examples to my children are enough for them to call me their role model as Christ is to me.

With this is becomes increasingly difficult for me to call people such as Ray Rice role models. It is not because of the negative incidents in their lives rather it is because of the lack of personal relationship. In order for one to be an effective positive role model the underlying characteristic must be relationship. Without relationship there is no one to look up to. If there is no one to look up to there is no role model.

Have Some Confidence

There is much talk today about faith. People are starting groups entitled “Faith” and others suggest that their faith in God is immovable. Preachers are slamming their fists on pulpits to make the point of the necessity of faith. Yet many people still have no idea what faith really is nor are they sure how to employ it. Despite this the matter of faith is a rather simple one and one that even a baby can employ in his life.

The fact is that faith, at its simplest level, is nothing more than absolute assurance that God is true to His Word. It is the realization that God cannot and will not lie to the extent that the Word of God has never failed. Faith is knowing that no matter how long and difficult the journey God will bring it to a successful end. He has to because God has promised man that He would never leave nor forsake him. And If God will never leave man then His Word is true and has to stand on its own.

This being the case why do so many Christians live defeated lives? Why is there not only discouragement on a large scale but many Christians seem not to understand the very fundamentals of faith as laid out here? Perhaps the answer is found in Romans 14:23, “And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” Hereby we see the problem, doubt which sin is. But the question must be answered as to what doubt is. Specific to Romans 14:23 doubt is “to be at variance with one’s self, hesitate, doubt.”[1]

The picture of doubt here is an internal struggle. The fight is whether or not to trust God. And if God is trusted is it feasible to depend on Him? And if there is a dependency on God will He do what He says? Is what God says for me? And the questions go on and on. It is for this reason that doubt becomes strong thereby eradicating faith. The fact is that doubt is sin and God cannot operate where there is sin. This is the reason when doubt raises its head God is forced to withdraw His hand. Even so the tables can just as easily be turned.

Let not faith be a word of convenience rather it should be part of the Christian lifestyle. Faith recognizes that God is faithful that promised (Hebrews 10:23) and will do just what He says. So don’t waver because the winds blow. Instead pull your coat closer, bow your head toward the wind in prayer and continue to move toward the promise. It is there and waiting for you. Just don’t doubt. No, don’t give in and let God pull from you because of the sin of doubt. No, hold on to the promise of God and let God bring it to pass.


[1] Blue Letter Bible. “Dictionary and Word Search for diakrinō (Strong’s 1252)“. Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2012. 28 Nov 2012. < http:// www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G1252&t=KJV

Much Ado

These past few days the Baltimore area has been inundated with much noise about Hurricane Sandy which caused some turmoil in the Atlantic Ocean as well as the coast line of the eastern United States. Sandy did considerable damage and even caused some death. But the entire time I made comments that those in the Baltimore area were making much ado about a storm that would have little impact on the Baltimore area. Of course I do not know what I am talking about in that Baltimore did receive a full day’s rain; while not heavy rain it was rain that inundated the area. And the winds, there were there but nothing of any great concern.

Yes, much ado was made of this now downsized storm. Not only did the officials close schools but they stopped all the trains and buses were brought to a halt and the city basically closed down. The fact is that the storm, in the Baltimore area, was more of an inconvenience than anything else. Yes the media and officials made much ado about a storm that had little impact on the area. Now, don’t misunderstand, to some Sandy was devastating, but in Baltimore a little wind, rain and chill was the most of the trouble.

In the same vein for years preachers have been proclaiming the return of Christ. They, myself included, have been making much ado about this return. People have been warned about the impending storm to take place once Christ returns to snatch up His people. Many will heed the warnings while many others will make ado about other insignificant matters. Yet the return of Christ will not be a storm but will cause many types of storms the world over. Spouses will be laying in bed and one will be taken and the other left. Some will be working in the field while some will be taken and others left. Some that drive will be snatched away and the passengers will be left without a driver even while some pilots will leave the captain’s chair empty leaving the co-pilot alone.

The difference is that the coming of Christ will not be hyperbole but events that will have an impact on the world for all eternity. Christ’s return has been preached for over two thousand years and been made light of for just as long. Yet I would argue that ado is to be made about anything then it should be made about this one event; the return of Christ.

 

This aside is being added a day later than the original post lest anyone think I did not take the storm seriously. I know that many were harmed, some killed and others homeless. My point in the message is not reflective of those suffering from Hurricane Sandy, just an analogy as it appeared to me in the Baltimore area.