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Los Angeles, California, United States

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Where Were You On 9/11?

On this day in 2001, 19 terrorists hijacked four jet airliners and flew two of them into the World Trade Center, one into the Pentagon while the fourth was commandeered by brave citizens who sacrificed their lives and crashed it into a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. I remember September 11, 2001 in great detail (as I am sure many do)... I remember exactly what I was doing when I got a call from a friend, telling me to turn on the TV. A plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. I remember my shock and horror at seeing the smoke billowing from the building and how stunned I was to see the second plane hit the second tower. I couldn't believe that this was happening on American soil. This was the kind of thing that happened in war- torn countries... “over there” somewhere, then I came to myself and I knew exactly what I needed to do.

I got dressed as quickly as possible, got in my car and drove straight to church... to intercessory prayer, where I knew I could be of the greatest service to all those who were hurting in New York and D.C. As I walked in the door and stood before the intercessory prayer leader, the first words out of my mouth were, “reporting for duty”... which really shocked me because I had never served in the military and the whole idea seemed foreign to me, but I knew it was real, I knew I meant it and I knew I was there to “throw down”. I knew that this wasn't just a physical battle, but a spiritual one and I was there to “war in the spirit”... for the protection of my country, for the solace of the families who lost loved ones and for those whose lives were hanging in the balance... that they would live and not die. That was a very intense prayer session. I spent several hours there praying, crying, travailing... by the time I left, I was spent... but I knew I had to do something more.

As the days progressed and more news came forward, I found myself watching TBN. Paul Crouch was interviewing a pastor from a church at ground zero. The pastor talked about how ministries from all over the world were coming to “help” in New York, but few took the time to find out what the ministries already there were in need of... and it was not very helpful to the ministries who were already there... who knew the people and the lay of the land. The number for this pastor's church flashed on the lower part of the screen and thought... “I'll call. Maybe I can leave a message for the pastor, get an address to send them something... anything”. I dialed the number and to my amazement, the associate pastor answered. I was so shocked to hear an actual human being on the other end, it took a second before I could speak. The associate pastor and I had a brief but very nice conversation and it was surprisingly joyful. He and his congregation had been through a lot and were definitely in need, but what they needed most was prayer and it was so good to speak with a fellow laborer and to know he was o.k., that his spirits were high and to encourage one another. At that moment, I decided it was time I got to know more of the body.

I spent the next couple of months visiting other ministries... doing street evangelism with Dream Center here in Los Angeles, visiting Dyan Cannon's ministry, “God's Party”, I even found the Quaker House at USC and tried to make contact with them (we were never able to connect). We increased street evangelism at my home church and at the church were my mother pastored. I made a special effort at her church to highlight how special this country is to God, how important the people in this minority, urban community are to God and how they should celebrate God's love for them and rejoice in being an American, because I know due to bad treatment, that is something some minorities have a hard time doing. I wanted that community to know that no matter what anyone may have said to them or about them, God wanted them here, God loves them and to walk in full ownership of the rights, privileges and responsibilities of being an American... and above all, to defend it.

That 4th of July, I along with a group from my mother's little church (about 6 of us... and that was probably a third of the church) stood on the corner of Crenshaw and Hyde Park in South Los Angeles, sparklers and little flags in hand, and sang the Star Spangle Banner and “Battle Hymn of the Republic” at the top of our lungs, waving little flags, waving at cars and praying for people as they walked down the street.... people who needed prayer... people who gave a nod or words of support... people who wanted to join in, and some did. Passing drivers honked their horns and waved. It was a good 4th of July, one of the best in my life and I was proud to be an American. Proud to be born in a place where these words were true “We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness...”

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Monday, September 3, 2012

The Mystery of the Seven Churches



I've always believed that the way Christianity is expressed should reflect the people practicing it. Like the seven churches discussed in the book of Revelation (1:20), each church had a different character and a different angel over it and different strengths and weaknesses with Christ as the head, but they were all "the Church"... and it's no different today.

The above Huffington Post article by Dr. Randy S. Woodley is a deplorable example of what happens when we don't adhere to the teachings of Christ when sharing the Gospel.  He tells of atrocities committed on Native Americans by so-called "Christian" missionaries and pastors, who were more interested in promoting their culture than the teachings of Jesus.   As an African American with Native American ancestry, I am the product of two cultures that have suffer these atrocities by people who never intended to be "living epistles read of men" and I know that if our faith... the Christian faith... is going to continue, the atrocities must stop.  The world is fed up with it and more importantly, I believe God is too.  It is His responsibility to separate the wheat from the tares (Matt. 13:24-30), and practicing a eurocentric Christianity does not ensure that you are the wheat.

Whether we practice a more eurocentric Christianity (and even that's not all the same) or an ethnocentric Christianity (Christianity as interpreted by different cultures), what's most important is that we respect the Christ that's in each of us as believers, and give each other the room to grow in our faith... and learn from one another. If we are to truly be a body "fitly joined together, joint supplying joint", instead of the the self mutilating body we've become, we are going to have to live out Jesus' commandment... to love God with all our being, and to love our neighbor, each other, as our selves.

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Saturday, September 1, 2012

We Are The Church


I found the above Huffington Post, Mark Sandlin article, "Back To Church Again" really interesting, but I can't say that I agree with the writer at all.  I don't believe, if you are a believer, you can ever leave the church because you ARE the church.  The church is not brick or mortar or stone, it's the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit and if you've received Jesus in your heart, that dwelling place is YOU.  No matter where you are, nothing can separate us from Him or His love... we are His home.  "For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom. 8:38-39).

Maybe the writer needed to leave his little Presbyterian church in order to grow as an individual, and I can relate to that. I've had to leave a couple of churches in order to grow myself, but I know we're supposed to do that.  Romans 1:17 says that would are supposed to go "from faith to faith, for it is written; the just shall live by faith".  If we don't leave where we're at, we can never move on to where we're supposed to be... and let's face it, nothing living remains the same.

So my hope for the writer is that he be prayerful about his decision to return to his old church and seriously consider the reasons he left.  I'm not saying that he shouldn't return, but I know I never could.  The experiences I've had and the closeness of my walk with Christ now is something that's been hard won, at great cost and I value it too much to turn back to a place that wouldn't necessarily be supportive of it.  I am grateful for what I've learned in each of the churches I left, but I know that I must "press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus" and for me, that means moving on.  I'm not sure where this will take me, but I know I am ready for the journey.
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