People often misinterpret the term “The Church”. We liken it to physical buildings or a specific meeting place, where folks congregate to talk about all things related God. However, the Lord never intended for the church to be a stationary building. His intention was to make His following body of believers the church. Each of us who proclaim the name of Jesus, and follow His commandments are a part of the body of Christ; we are the church.
A lawyer once challenged Jesus by asking, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” Matthew 22:37 records, “Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’” To this he added, “And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” These commandments model the mission of the New Testament believer.
Everywhere we go; everything we do; every time we go in, and come out, we represent Christ. You see there is a fundamental difference in the behavior of a person who really recognizes this fact, versus someone who simply visits a building on Sunday, and then returns to “normal life” after the service is over. When we see ourselves as the living embodiment of Christ’s church, we recognize the power of every move we make. Remember this: we are called to influence others (non-believers) with the truth we believe in. That doesn’t limit us to sharing the gospel with other believers in a building or assembly. It gives us the mission assignment to share the gospel everywhere we go, no matter the crowd.
The Apostle Paul told his protégé Timothy to, “Preach the word; be ready in season or out of season,” meaning we must be ready to share our faith outside of the religious buildings and assemblies. We should never be ashamed to share the gospel with those who need to hear it. This is what the church looks like. This is the way in which the church behaves. The church is alive and in motion, not an inanimate object that only comes alive once or twice a week. We are called to represent our Lord and Savior, and introduce His message to those who have yet to believe.
I am the church.
I am called to represent Christ & influence others.
Let me tell you a dirty little secret within the humanity of many Christians. The late Dr. Stephen Hawking infuriated scores of believers with his scientific views and theories. For many of us, we find comfort in our faith. Believing whole-heartedly in the one true God who created the universe, through the Lord Jesus Christ, is a blessing for the believer. But place a microphone into the hands (as it were) of a brilliant scientist, give him a platform and let him speak candidly on his mathematical discoveries of how the earth came to be, and you will soon find out just how many Christians still battle against the sin of judgment.
I know because for years, I was one of them. His theories angered me, because (in my mind) they seemed totally bent on proving the nonexistence of God. In hindsight, my problem was not with Dr. Hawking personally. No. My problem was in my own faith. Did I actually believe in the God of the Bible or not; because, if the scriptures were true—make no mistake, they are—then the LORD is eternal, omnipotent and omnipresent. He is the beginning and the end. No one or nothing will ever change or silence Him. If I can truly believe in that fact, then I would have nothing to fear from man who was created by God in the first place. Science will never disprove the existence of God.
Dr. Hawking was gifted with a brilliant mind. Despite his debilitating disease (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), he used that gift to study gravity and its affects within black holes, among many other things. His scientific discoveries paved the way and opened the door up for new possibilities within the scientific community. Perhaps someday, his theories will reshape the very ways we travel from point “A” to point “B”.
As daunting and sophisticated as his discoveries were, one fact remains: Dr. Hawking was just a man created by God. His brilliance was a gift from God. His theories and discoveries were postulated, calculated and argued through a mind that ultimately was knit together by Yahweh. In reality, he posed no real threat to Christianity. I believe at the core of his heart, Dr. Hawking wanted to better mankind, and used his mind to try to accomplish this.
We Christians need to pray for the family of the late Dr. Stephen Hawking. His children have lost a father. His disdain for religion and God (in particular) is widely known and will be the continued subject of great debate. I once heard a self-proclaimed Christian boisterously spout, “Stephen Hawking was stricken with that disease, because he spit in the face of God”. That’s not the attitude or heart of true believers, friends. Despite his beliefs against God, he was a man gifted with intelligence and a family. His family is now grieving. They could really use our prayers.
My prayer for Dr. Hawking is that, in his final moments, he found and came to be at peace with the Lord.
Just to be clear, I come from an extremely talented family. The Smiths of native Ecorse, Michigan are musicians, authors, DJs, scholars, exceptional soldiers and political pioneers to name a few of our accolades. My baby sister is no exception. Ayana D. King (Smith) is as passionate about her writing as she is about her culture and her gender. You try telling my sister that women are inferior if you want to; just wait until I leave the room. I’d rather not stick around for the ensuing carnage.
For Black History month, Ayana wrote a phenomenal article on Mary McLeod Bethune for a supposed respectable Christian magazine, that shall not be named. Initially, she was informed by the magazine’s editor that her article had been chosen and “green-lit” for February’s showcase. Then…the principles read the article. It was immediately rejected.
Today, my sister makes a guest appearance on my blog. Well done young lady.
Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune: Put some respect on her name.
It may only be February, but I think it’s safe to say black women are WINNING in 2018. Whispers of California Senator Kamala Harris’ run for the White House in 2020 are already being met with hallelujahs, black actresses, writers, directors and producers are forcing Hollywood to confront its role in the degradation of black women in film; and let’s not forget about how black women swooped in and saved Alabama from Roy Moore. Like I said – winning. But here’s the thing – black women have been winning for a LONG time. Before Shirley Chisolm, Rosa Parks, Hattie McDaniel, Oprah, and so many other black (s)heroes, there was Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune, one of the most influential African American women in U.S. history.
Bethune was born in Mayesville, South Carolina in 1875. She was the fifteenth of 17 children; imagine that! Her parents had been enslaved and Bethune’s father, in order to marry her mother, had to purchase her from a nearby plantation. Bethune was the first in her family to be born free. She was also the first in her family to attend school at seven years old. Don’t let that statement miss you. You have to remember the times Mary and her family were living in. This was on the heels of the Reconstruction period (1865-1877) and although black folks had technically been emancipated, they certainly weren’t free. In fact, both Bethune’s mother and father continued to work for their former owners after the Civil War ended. Many white southerners were bitter about having to forfeit their property, (i.e., living, breathing, human beings) and weren’t eager to see black folks educated. The vast majority of slaves were illiterate. See, many slave owners forbid the enslaved to read, and learning in secret could easily cost them their lives. So, when a mission school was established in Mayesville by a black educator (Emma Wilson) in 1882, it was a big deal Mary’s parents had allowed her to attend.
Even as a little girl, Mary was smart and determined. She made the five-mile trek to the mission school for four years, bringing everything she’d learned back to her parents and siblings. Bethune excelled academically, and eventually went on to attend Moody Theological Institute, in Chicago. After graduation, she’d had high hopes of travelling to Africa as a missionary, but black women couldn’t just be missionaries in the 1900’s – not in America. She was disappointed, and no doubt angry, but she reasoned Americans needed Jesus just as badly as Africans did. So, in 1904 with a $1.50 and a whole lot of faith, Bethune opened the Daytona Normal and Industrial Institute for Negro Girls, a parochial, nondenominational boarding school, which would later become Bethune-Cookman University, in Daytona Beach Florida. Bethune’s was the only school for black girls in the area and it quickly became apparent she’d need to expand if she was to continue to educate her people. She was a resourceful business woman and although her coins were scarce, she had friends with money, power and influence. Among her supporters were James Gamble (Proctor & Gamble Family), John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie and Madam C.J. Walker. Of course, not everyone was excited about black folks being educated, advancing in society and teaching their youth about the many accomplishments of black people world-wide. Of course not. But when the Ku Klux Klan began making threats on her life, Mary was not deterred. In fact, she seemed more determined than ever to fight for equality.
Bethune wasn’t only an educator, she was also a social activist, bent on disrupting a prevailing system of inequality and blatant disregard for black lives. Understand, the fight for equality, for dignity and respect, had been going on long before Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 – true story. Mary was tired, like many black folks in the South, of being treated like she was still on the plantation, bound by laws which kept her people subservient, while at the same time providing protection for whites, who routinely harassed, beat, maimed and even killed black men, women and children over any number of offenses. Hadn’t she been born free? Hadn’t her parents purchased all fourteen of her older siblings? In 1920, after women had just won the right to vote, Bethune organized a voter registration campaign–a “Rock the Vote” of her era, if you will–which helped Daytona Beach open its first public high school for black students. She didn’t stop there. Bethune went on to lobby for anti-lynching laws, prison reform and equal rights under the constitution. She was marching for civil rights more than a quarter century before the bus boycotts of Alabama.
Bethune was a natural leader. She’d been the founder and president of a number of organizations, aimed at uplifting and educating black women, and established the National Council of Negro Women (still in existence today), in 1935. The council’s goal was to unify various groups and ensure their opinions, values and ideals were consistent. That same year, she was appointed by Franklin D. Roosevelt to oversee the National Youth Administration, an agency established under Roosevelt’s New Deal, designed to help young people in the black community find employment through relief work and job-training programs. Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune was the first black woman to oversee a federal agency.
We hear a lot about “influencers” these days and we usually associate them with social media. You know them by their pages; they usually have tons of followers, and a million comments on even the most mundane posts. But in the early 1900’s, who would have dreamed we’d have the ability to reach people around the globe, sharing our thoughts while impacting theirs? Yet, that’s exactly what Mary did over the span of her lifetime. She mastered the art of persuasion and changed the course of history for generations of black folks in the process. In 1927, Pope Pius XI hosted her at the Vatican; in 1949, the people of Haiti awarded Bethune the Medal of Honor and Merit, Haiti’s highest distinction; she was given unprecedented access to the White House, advising on race relations under Presidents Calvin Coolidge, Harry Truman, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Herbert Hoover; and she wrote for the Washington Post. That’s influence. We can also thank Bethune for the work she did with Planned Parenthood, the American Red Cross, the N.A.A.C.P, and Tuskegee Institute, where she was instrumental in establishing the famed aviation program for black pilots during WWII. Her effect spread far and wide. After Bethune’s death, May 18, 1955, there were so many people who came to pay their respects, Daytona Beach officials, for the first time, ignored laws banning blacks and whites from lodging in the same location, and integrated hotels for out-of-towners in attendance.
February is Black History Month. But let’s not limit our learning about African American achievements to the shortest month of the year. Instead, let’s honor Bethune’s legacy by educating ourselves and others, remembering nearly every modern accomplishment made by African-Americans can be linked to the work she did on our behalf. You may not learn these lessons in the classroom – be encouraged to seek them out anyhow. Dr. Bethune’s faith, and her many contributions to society, have made America better.
We are officially 35 days into the year 2018. The new year always brings about a revived sense of commitment to resolutions, many of which fall by the wayside three months into the year. I know this personally. It’s a vicious cycle I experience. But, I really want this year to be different, so I decided to trim the fat on my usual list of New Year resolutions. I wanted to concentrate on a single target that just might encompass everything else I’ve historically tried to attack on an individual basis. This year, I want to know what my vision is.
Do you know what vision is? I don’t mean do you have a pretty good idea of what it is. No, I mean do you, dear reader, have a clear understanding of what “Vision” means to you personally. Before you can seek something, you have to have an acute understanding of the thing. So I “Googled” it. Here’s what I discovered:
the faculty or state of being able to see. “she had defective vision”
an experience of seeing someone or something in a dream or trance, or as a supernatural apparition. “the idea came to him in a vision”
If I apply these (3) separate definitions to my life, and condense them into a singular idea, I’d say vision pertains to the way in which I see my future; the way in which I imagine my life should progress. As a Christian man, the second definition intrigues me. The Bible is chalked full of accounts of people receiving divine instruction through visions. I’d like to know what God has planned for my future.
I recently wrote about the revelation I had on my birthday. It wasn’t a supernatural experience; rather it was reflection on where my life is after 44 years of life. My big question is what does God have in store for the second half of my life? I need to grab hold of the vision. But the catch is, I do not want the vision to be about my wants and selfish desires. This year, I truly want to know what God has planned for my life. That’s the vision I’m seeking.
How do we get God’s attention and have him give us what we want? While that might be a tough question to answer, honestly I don’t think we need to get His attention to give us an answer on our vision. That’s exactly what God wants to give us anyway, so there is no spiritual manipulation or soft coercion necessary. The reality is, you can’t strong-arm God anyway. He wants to give us vision so that we might know the purpose of our individual lives. I think all we need to do…well…let me back up a bit. There are a few things we need to do.
We have to make a decision (a commitment) to seeking the vision. This can’t be something we decide haphazardly. We have to be intentional.
We’ve got to ask God to give us vision, and expect it to come in His time.
We have to trust in the vision when it comes, even when others think you’re crazy. Remember, “Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others.”
These days, I’m reading my Word like never before. I’m trying something new this year that is actually making me spend more time in my Bible everyday: I’m following a Chronological Yearly Read plan. I’ve never read the Bible cover to cover before, let alone read it in chronological order. So I’m accomplishing it this year, in hopes (and prayers) that God will reveal His vision for my life as I spend time studying. That’s the acute vision. The broader, personal vision is taking the reading plan one day at a time, and accomplishing each day’s reading assignment. I have to admit, it gets tough at times because everyday life throws challenges into the routine. But so far, I haven’t failed to read each day. I’m expecting God to show me something new and interesting each day.
Have you seen your vision for 2018 yet? Are you seeking it? Do you understand what the vision for your life is? Let me encourage you for a moment: the year is still new. Seek the vision for your life, and take steps toward attaining it, one day at a time.
Time is precious. Don’t waste it: not a second. Not a minute. Not an hour. Not a day. You may look up and find years gone, while you stand still.
If you love him, tell him so. Don’t worry about what he might say in return.
If you appreciate her, she needs to know now. We’re not promised a single day.
If you owe your son an apology, do it now while he still thinks the world of you.
If you haven’t spent time with your daughter, do so today. It’s not too late.
Whatever your dream was, chase it today. I think the greatest tragedy a person may face is looking back on a life of simple existence knowing you never dared to dream; knowing you should have lived, but chose not to. Life isn’t supposed to be simply existing. We’re meant to live it out loud until we’ve got nothing left.
I’m 45 years old, watching as the patriarchs of my family die off one by one. As I grow older, I’m becoming more aware of the importance of time. It’s truly precious. I don’t want to waste what’s left. Tomorrow’s not promised.
What would you do with your life, if you knew exactly how much time you had left? Where would you go? What would you finish? What would you say?