Latest Issue




13 Five Fine-Tuning Tips for Your Finances
by Ruthven Philip /
Everyday course corrections and strategies to protect your bottom line.

14 Awkward Bedfellows
by C. Wesley Knight /
Why the Church must get cozy with human sexuality for our own good.

17 Who do men say that I AM?
by Dion and Dilyn Henry /
Fluid gender identity and sexual identity confuse the faithful. Here’s how to respond.

20 What does it mean when god doesn’t intervene?
by Claudia Marion Allen /
A woman from Bethlehem whose story causes us to ask that really hard question.

22 When Church Unfriended me
by Kimberly Bulgin /
Three ways to reconnect a powerless worship experience.

28 The best book you’ve never read
by Donald L. McPhaull /
Give the Bible a second look, a first read!


by Phillip McGuire Wesley /
Media That Takes You Higher

by Carmela Monk Crawford /
a choice in the matter

by Carl McRoy /
2018 conscience calendar

by Donna Green Goodman /
revolutionize your diet

by Willie and Elaine Oliver /
it’s our turn now

by Kim Login-Nowlin /
Shattered ministry

by Carlton P. Byrd /

by Ellen G. White /

by Rashad Burden /

by Oral Semple /

Subscribe Now


A Choice in the Matter

When comedian Bill Cosby went away for three years media played up the meal for his first night in the Collegeville, Pennsylvania SCI Phoenix. With great interest we learned that the man America once considered its favorite dad was served mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, meatballs and rice for dinner. Make no mistake. One of the richest and celebrated men in the world, didn’t order from a menu. He had no choice.

The Cos taught us so much about family, responsibility, success and achievement. Yet he apparently missed the transcendent value and moral absolute of choice. For that, a stint in a place with no choices, is more than appropriate.

The overarching and underpinning critical value of personal choice, and the ability to determine one’s destiny is a spiritual non-negotiable. God respects our choices. Why shouldn’t we?

As painful as it was to watch and hear, respect for personal choice is why now Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s background and experience had to be examined. No family name, prep school access, or stellar performance should cancel out disrespect for personal choice.

This is why a 30 year-old accusation of attempted and unwanted sexual contact was relevant. Any credible account would place him at fatal odds with claims of loyalty and adherence to the moral law. It even goes against the American value of self-determination that cries defiantly “Don’t tread on me!”

This would provide an attack on “a woman’s choice” in more ways than one.

Question authority when you find that your choice, your choices, are curtailed in the name of morality and goodness.

Closer to home, we read, with great disappointment of a loved and trusted church school teacher, who made a devastating choice to start a sexual relationship with his teenaged student. In his case, what appeared as a consensual (albeit ill-advised and adulterous) liaison will be forbidden by law. That’s called statutory rape. The law provides protection for people, who can’t really choose. Whether because of a mental disability, or because of youth, the overmastering influence of a teacher, a priest, or a family friend (as examples), would be too much to resist. We, therefore, deem them unable to give consent. They cannot, by law, make that choice.

While it is not my intent to create a treatise entry here for the concept of consent and choice, I do want to highlight a spiritual dimension we should examine. Bible believers remember that God thought so much of choice, that even in the face of devastation, He made provision for it.

The Eden account shows an Omniscient God creating perfection, harmony, beauty and communion with Him. Yet, this same Omniscient God, left the window open, the back door ajar. Humanity could, and did, walk right through it (Genesis 3:2-6). We’ve had to pay the price ever since.

Since, Jesus died on the cross that is. But, read how Jesus honored choice in His death. “One of you is going to betray Me,” He said while dining with His closest companions. Some were introspective. One, Judas, determined to make his choice anyway, and was left to his own devices (Matthew 26:25).

Then, look at what Jesus did while hanging upon the cross. He, who was at the fulcrum of faith and destiny, in the crosshairs of Satan’s devising, when offered the comfort of a sip of sour wine, small as it was, refused it (Matthew 27:34). His capacity to choose and His ultimate destiny could not be compromised.

Knowing that He endured this torture, with a clear head, to make a way for me to choose Him and choose life makes my heart beat. It sends a life-syncing probe into the richness of His supply where I am filled with His love and security. That is my choice.

Red flags have to go up when people minimize personal consent, or such violations because of one’s record, standing, or religious orientation. We didn’t do it for Cosby. It won’t happen for that church school teacher. When a NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist Poll reported that forty-eight percent of the white evangelical Christians polled thought that Kavanaugh should be confirmed, even if the allegations against him were true, we remembered another interest at play, however. The longstanding desire to overturn Roe v. Wade, and the ability of a woman to choose an abortion, tipped the scale. Kavanaugh would presumably vote to do so. How much were we willing to compromise? Ironically, many would be willing to negate the critical value of personal consent to overturn “choice.” It’s consistent, at least.

We challenge believers to critically examine their positions of morality. Question authority when you find that your choice, your choices, are curtailed in the name of morality and goodness. Seems to me, to choose is Divine, and a place with no choice is hell.

This article is part of our 2018 November/December
Subscribe –>







Giving Tuesday – Hope for the Forgotten

Giving Tuesday-Hope For The Forgotten

Giving Tuesday and our Hope For The Forgotten campaign for people who are incarcerated and their families. Together when can share something of lasting value, a message of ultimate mercy and justice. #GivingTuesday #messagemag

Posted by Message Magazine on Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Giving Tuesday: Hope For the Forgotten

You’ve heard of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but have you ever participated in Giving Tuesday?

What’s Giving Tuesday? Excellent question! In the midst of the holiday season, where so much of the activities in our society centers around material possessions, Giving Tuesday is a day to shift our focus onto how we can help others.

Giving Tuesday is an opportunity to donate towards a specific organization or fund that serves the community. Here at Message, we’re focusing our Giving Tuesday efforts on maxing out the campaign to send subscriptions to 100,000 incarcerated people or their families. This will help us reach the oft forgotten with the light of the gospel.

So far this year, we’ve helped thousands through this fund and have the goal of serving more. Go to and help us reach our goal! God will bless you for it, and He’ll bless the reader!

2018 September/October Issue




13 Payday Loans and the Fight for Economic Justice
by Ruthven Philip /
Welcome to the cycle of hell where ends don’t meet.

14 Separating Children at the Border: What’s at Stake
by Alva James-Johnson /
They quoted scripture, yet the Bible clearly provides for “people on the move.”

16 Flipping the System
by Patti Thomas Conwell /
Meet Madeline McClenny-Sadler, an advocate for Restorative Justice.

18 Putting Up Guardrails: Keep our kids out of jail
by Patti Thomas Conwell /
Focus on these techniques to hold them safe and close.

20 Five Teachings Your Family Needs for Spiritual Preparedness
by Sonya and Derrick McCollum /
Start here. Start now. Reach your own family for Christ.

22 Got Guilt?
by David Defoe /
It’s been too many years, and you’ve shed too many tears. Time to live free.

28 No Counterfeits in Glory
by Donald L. McPhaull /
How many of us came to be duped by the greatest scheme in history.


by Phillip McGuire Wesley /
Media That Takes You Higher

by Carmela Monk Crawford /
When They Come for the Children

by Edward Woods, III /
Changing the Narrative

by Donna Green Goodman /

by Willie and Elaine Oliver /
He’s Always Late!

by Kim Login-Nowlin /

by Carlton P. Byrd /
Jesus’ Promised Coming in Revelation

by Ellen G. White /

by Rashad Burden /

by Eugene Anthony /
God Will Never Leave You!

Subscribe Now


When They Come for the Children

When the Trump Administration enforced a zero-tolerance policy for all undocumented crossings at the United States’ southern border this past spring, we faced a moral crisis. The immigration policy—not law—had the effect of separating parents from their children so that the adults could be detained for prosecution.

Of the approximately 2,500 children seized and placed in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services custody since April 2018, most have been reunited with their families according to The Washington Post fact-checkers. Approximately one quarter of the children, remain in shelters or with foster families at the time of this writing. (Washington Post, August 10, 2018)

Breaching, Not Preaching the Word of God

What made zero-tolerance, the high rate of child detentions, and the heartbreak of the families worse, was the invocation of the Word of God as cover for the humanitarian crisis created. 

“Persons who violate the law of our nation are subject to prosecution” said United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions. “I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13 to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained them for the purpose of order.”

What would happen if my time with my children got cut short?

We’ve Been Here Before

I’m reminded that this is not the first time that our government has permitted the creation of an orphaned people through involuntary separation. American slave trade permitted that all the time.

Henry “Skip” Gates has investigated hundreds of documents detailing the state of families under the slave trade in America. One such story is told of wealthy Charleston, South Carolina plantation owner and human trader Elias Bell. Bell’s records indicated a penchant for investing in “young negroes”—ages 10, 11, 12. He purchased six of them from the slave ship Hare in 1756.

“If any of the children had parents on board, they never saw them again,” wrote Gates in The African Americans (Gates, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., The African Americans Many Rivers to Cross, Smiley Books, 2013).

Of course, scripture tracks some of its most prominent personalities in similar scenarios. The baby Moses escaped ethnic cleansing in a home-made basket, only to be picked up by Pharaoh’s family, yet providentially nursed by his own mother. Joseph’s brothers sold him into bondage, and he was trafficked into Egypt, never to see his mother again. Young men such as Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego became symbols of conquest in the hands of haughty rulers, away from their homeland, family and childhood religious practices. Samuel, though voluntarily surrendered to the Lord’s service by his mother Hannah, was just a mere tot.

When They Come for Mine

What would happen if my time with my children got cut short? How would any child discern the loving concern of a Heavenly Father in the midst of the chaos and cruelty performed in the name of His righteousness?

Prolific and inspired writer Ellen G. White often examined the role of parents in what she viewed as momentous and sobering times. Daily deposits of parental love, she said, and godly counsel secure children in crisis, even in the absence of their parents.

Joseph learned from his father: “The early impressions made upon his mind garrisoned his heart in the hour of fierce temptations and led him to exclaim, “How can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” (White, Ellen, G. Child Guidance, Southern Publishing Association, 1954, p. 197.)

Moses learned from his mother: “Knowing that her child must soon pass beyond her care, to the guardianship of those who knew not God, she the more earnestly endeavored to link his soul with heaven. She sought to implant in his heart love and loyalty to God. And faithfully was the work accomplished. Those principles of truth that were the burden of his mother’s teaching and the lesson of her life, no after influence could induce Moses to renounce.” (White, Ellen G. Education, 1903)

Our mission, as parents is to prepare our children: “Have you taught your children from their babyhood to keep the commandments of God?…You are to teach them to form characters after the divine similitude, that Christ may reveal Himself to them. He is willing to reveal Himself to children.” (Child Guidance 489.6)


Not Normal

sinister side-effect of sexual assault is the corruption of an individual’s very essence. Their soul, their core, their being. I’m not being theological with the terms here. I’m reaching for the words that describe what it means to be a human being at our crux. That’s where the wounds of sexual violence fester, and the prospect of complete waste and devastation hardens.

Last year’s self-reported, sexual abuse declaration of survival, #MeToo, spread around the globe with lightning speed. One study sought to measure the “me toos” and discovered the rates of even sexual harassment were breathtaking. The rates of unwanted sexual contact are so pervasive, one could argue it is normal. It is in and out of churches, affects men and women and children, seniors, and at a shocking rate—the disabled—people who are vulnerable to caregivers, people who have little voice, and people for whom society at large pays little attention. 

According to, Stop Street Harassment’s survey released in February 2018, disclosed that 81% of women have been sexually harassed, while 43% of men report being sexually harassed at some point in their lives. Gay and bisexual men report higher rates of sexual harassment than straight men.

Further “normalizing” the problem is the heterogeneous nature of the perpetrators. Rarely, strangers, they are often trusted family members or friends. They are seemingly well-adjusted, fully functioning members of society who find it normal, and simply rationalize their violent behaviors away. According to the University of Michigan, Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center, the risks come at any time of the day, and the perpetrators are operating under any number of rape myths, erroneous ideas about sexual roles, beliefs, or they are operating under the sanction of all-male peer groups, or they are operating under an often correct assumption that they will not face sanctions. Normal.

“[M]ost men who violate women’s spaces, rights and bodies sexually would not meet clinical diagnostic criteria as either sociopaths or sexual deviants,” wrote Noam Shpancer, Ph.D., author of the novel The Good Psychologist in a Psychology Today blog. “Most violence against women is committed by normative people—around campus, at work, or on the base. This raises the possibility that the violence they perpetrate appears, in context, normative to them.”

Balance that “normative violation” with the spectrum of effects for victims. The anxiety, depression, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and the enduring sense of worthlessness and self-blame cling to the inner core of each sufferer. Of interest to us, moreover, is the spiritual distortion taught and indelibly received by the sexual invasion.

Most of all, their question is, who is God, and where was He when this happened to me?

The spiritual dimension is very much affected, according to Sue Mcgrath, author of Healing the Ravaged Soul: Tending the Spiritual Wound of Child Sexual Abuse. During her 14 year counseling and then subsequent spiritual guidance career, Mcgrath’s clients who suffered sexual abuse questioned everything from their own personhood, their capacity to be saved, and the availability of God’s grace, faith, goodness and holiness. They wondered, “where is the justice in the world?” “Where are the consequences in this world?” Most of all, their question is, who is God, and where was He when this happened to me?

This is where we can step in, to answer questions and model God’s attentiveness. Not to take matters into our own hands, things are too far gone for trying to mete out mob justice or adopt some system of honor violence. After all, today’s predator very likely may have been yesterday’s prey. Today’s evil perpetrator, may have been yesterday’s innocent sufferer. And, ironically, honor violence can target the one who was violated.

No, we must start at the point of education. Educate families, churches, schools, neighborhoods, said Houston based marriage and family counselor Wilma Kirk Lee. Make sure the bathrooms at church are stocked with abuse hotline numbers, she said. Then make sure we encourage the “victims” to seek therapeutic intervention. “Our churches, the black community [in general, doesn’t] do therapists because we’re not crazy,” said Kirk Lee. “Spiritual people will tell you, ‘all you need to do is pray,’ but not so. You need some help. You need to know it’s not your fault. You can’t learn that on your own.”

I hope that in the process—we can reintroduce to people a God who understands their context, knows how to—and will indeed—mete out lasting justice, and indeed, His heart is wrapped up in theirs.

MESSAGE Power Weekend in Dallas

Please join us if you can at the MESSAGE MAGAZINE Power weekend for powerful worship, testimonies, wonderful fellowship, food and music.


Click to Download this flyer

First Evangelistic Methodist Church,
7575 South Hampton Road, Dallas, TX

Friday, September 7, 2017, 7 to 9 p.m.
Millennial Café


  • Featuring spoken word, music, liturgical dance, mime, etc.
    (local talent)
  • 7:30 p.m.
  • Buffet-prepared by local hospitality team. Our menu
    usually involves veggie meatballs, veggie plate, crackers,
    beverage, cookies.

Sabbath, September 8, 2017
9:30 a.m. Sabbath School Workshops
Open with prayer, music and spoken word. Introduction of the weekend. Attendee instructions, greetings, etc.

  • Andrea Trusty King, “Queen Within”
  • Ronnie Vanderhorst, “Man School”
  • Milton Coronado, “Tagged, a Testimony”

12 p.m. Worship Service-Prayer Power

Message Magazine Giveaway/Rally

  • Dr. Jesse Wilson,
  • Local church teams on program throughout regular
    worship service. (Your Praise team, choir, program
    participants, etc.)
  • Message Magazine spotlight, commitments.

1 p.m. Sabbath Dinner

  • Hosted by local hospitality team.
  • Maybe, Donna Green Goodman to supply desert?

Sabbath Afternoon Workshops

  • 3 p.m. Seven Things You Can Do No to Feel Better Tomorrow! Donna Green Goodman and Edward Goodman
  • 4:30 p.m. Sexual Choices in the New Millennium, Dion and Dylin Henry
  • 6 p.m. Comedienne

Hood Proud Introduces “Sermonic Flow.” Take a Listen

What would it sound like if your preacher could rap? What would it sound like if a rapper could preach? Take a listen to Hood Proud, and you will know.


Bradley Tramel and Orlando Boyd form the nucleus of the Hood Proud, a sermonizing, rap group from the Washington D.C. area. Tramel, is a Program Analyst for the United States Department of Energy, while Boyd works as a professional landscaper. Their jobs don’t stand in the way of what they know to be a Spirit-led ministry. They believe the Holy Spirit led them to each other and continues to inspire and move in them.

“Truth is our group is composed of men and women that the Holy Spirit chose based on His unique knowledge of everyone’s heart and mindset towards doing ministry,” Tramel told Message.

Hear how they flow here:

Grace and Mercy


Tramel also believes in the Spirit-led, hand-picked collaboration with the rest of the group, including members Lamar Parker, Nathaniel Douglas, Nicole Jacques, and Damon Hill. And, they all credit the divine influence on their friend Frank Dent who, in 2014, shared the idea God gave him. “God gave him [the vision] of the organization doing both outreach and ministry for the youth and impoverished communities worldwide.

What is It?

Hood Proud: Bradley Tramel and Orlando Boyd hope to always move by the Spirit and inspire a generation of young people worldwide.

“Sermonic Flow” encompasses rap, spoken word, and poetry, said Tramel.  “We’ll hear the beat and the Spirit will move as to which form of communication will be used. We flow with the Spirit, hence Sermonic Flow.”

Tramel hunts beats on Soundcloud, and can sense its fit for specific members of the group, including himself.

“I’ll send them the track and the Holy Spirit gives them what to say just as He does with me,” Tramel said.

Until recently, they were working with “a very generic form” of software and equipment. Tramel engineers the track and lyrics by the insights the Holy Spirit gives him.  Recently, they recorded in a studio and Hood Proud is working on a release.

“By Yah’s grace that will continue.”

Hood Proud has enjoyed a positive reception, and have started to receive requests for CDs and live performances. Neither Tramel and Boyd had performance ambitions before this, and they still feel a little sheepish at the prospect, but, in the spirit of ministry, if someone receives a blessing through the Sermonic Flow, they are happy to be used.

New releases of the groups tracks can be found online for free, because members believe the ministry should be free for all. While they know they will encounter costs, realistically, “[W]e leave that in Yah’s hands as He will provide all of our needs.”

You can find Hood Proud on Soundcloud.  


The Holy Hour

As the 62nd Chaplain of the United States Senate, Barry C. Black embodies the poetic progression of providence. Reared in urban Baltimore during the 50s and 60s, his mother, a domestic worker, once brought home goodies from work. His prize was an old record album of the 57th Senate Chaplain Peter Marshall. Inspired by Marshall’s “melodious sermons” Black memorized them and tried them out on his neighborhood friends, Scottish accent and all. Black never dreamed he would one day stand in that place as one of its longest serving chaplains, the first African American and the first Seventh-day Adventist.


The former Navy Chief of Chaplains now conducts a robust spiritual program for diverse members of the Senate, their staffers and their families. This includes four weekly Bible studies and prayer breakfasts. His central duty, however, that of opening Senate sessions with prayer, is a cornerstone of U.S. history, and one proposed by Benjamin Franklin in 1787:

I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth: that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings, that ‘except the Lord build the House they labour in vain that build it.’ I firmly believe this. . . I therefore beg leave to move— that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business …

Black’s blunt prayers during a government shutdown garnered media notice, and even a 2013 Saturday Night Live spoof. However, the power in his prayers put him in the spotlight, and “Making Your Voice Heard in Heaven” was the title of his address to the 2017 National Prayer Breakfast, and the title of his fourth book (Tyndale). Black’s inspired impressions find their way into his books and sermons he preaches almost every weekend. Though he speaks without notes, he tosses one of his many ever-ready and evergreen three-ring binders full of “unpreached” sermon material into his bag when he leaves his office.

Black’s three earned master’s degrees and two earned doctorate degrees, and extensive grasp on philosophy, literature and the Word of God betray his youthful, “dapper” appearance. In what has to be a most coveted of the historic offices in the Capitol overlooking the National Mall, he insists, he is not Daniel. “I’m Barry.”

MESSAGE: In today’s political climate, with all the tensions we see on the news, do you find it more difficult to relate to people across parties, ideologies, beliefs?

BLACK: I don’t find it difficult. First of all, because my position, as you know, is non-partisan and non-sectarian, so, I don’t have to take sides. Moreover, this not taking sides does not mean I have to put my brain in neutral. I just taught a Bible study to senators at a prayer breakfast where only senators are involved. And, when they ask me about my perspective on a particular issue, I can share in a very transparent way what I think, usually using theological or philosophical principles to make my case. So, I just don’t have to publicize, where I’m coming from in terms of my political position, and I actually enjoy that because it makes it easier to work with a diverse group.

MESSAGE: What’s a good Bible study that you get together and people really get engaged in?

Black: Today we had a Bible study called “Receiving Guidance All the Way Home.” It was basically on the gift of the Holy Spirit. We talked about that fact that Jesus said in John 16:7, It’s better for you that I go away. If I don’t go away, I cannot send to you this amazing gift called the Holy Spirit. He will teach you all things. He will even tell you the future, John 13:16, alright? He will pray for you. Romans 8:26: You don’t know how to pray, or for what to pray, but the Spirit will pray for you. So, this amazing gift that God has given to the body of Christ will testify of Christ, even as Jesus testified of the Father. He said to Phillip in John 14:9 “You have seen Me; you have seen the Father.” The Holy Spirit testifies of Christ. He’s always with us.

This amazing gift, and that’s what we talked about for an hour with our lawmakers. And that’s exciting.

MESSAGE: Is there ever an Adventist—in the generic sense—thing that comes up, such as a mention that these are the last days? That the things going on right now are unprecedented?

Black: I think there are many Protestant denominations who are aware of the Second Coming of Christ, and are anticipating the Second Coming of Christ. “I go to prepare a place for you . . .” [John 14:2, 3]. That’s why even in the Apostles’ Creed it says: “From thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead.” That’s 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18.

Yes, there are people who know that there will be a second coming. Some of them are premillennialist—1000 years will come before His coming; some of them are post-millennialists—the Lord will come, and then the millennium; some are amillennialists.

Basically, they believe Jesus is coming again.

MESSAGE: I guess my question relates more to what is happening. You seem to display an extreme sense of calm right now, considering the news, the brinksmanship and different things like that.

Black: I think [of] the guidance in scripture, Philippians 4:6, 7, “have no anxiety about anything, but pray about everything, with thanksgiving. And the peace of God, that passes understanding, will guard your heart and mind, in Christ Jesus.”

And, I think that understanding, [should be] coupled with living in day-tight compartments—Matthew 6:34 says “Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

So, I don’t borrow from yesterday and pile it on to today. I don’t reach into the future, and pile that on to today. That’s more than I can handle. But, I can get through a day. I can get through a day very easily.

MESSAGE: That said, there are some things going on now that we haven’t seen. There’s a president who talks differently, to put that mildly. There’s probably a sense of camaraderie here that you probably see better than the rest of us. But has there ever been a time where you see something going on, a debate or a conflict, that you said to yourself, ‘I’m going to go back and pray on this?’

Black: That’s just not my style.

I’m fascinated by history. There was a time, 1857, the Supreme Court [in Dred Scott v. Sandford] said I was 3/5 human. There was a time, 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson, when Jim Crow was institutionalized for over half a century. We had two World Wars, and the second, it is estimated that between 60 and 80 million people, mostly civilians, died. We had a civil war where six to seven hundred thousand people lost their lives. Yes, these are challenging times, but hey, God has brought us through much worse than this.

I always think of James Weldon Johnson’s “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” the stanza that describes the African American experience: “Stony the road we trod, bitter the chast’ning rod, felt in the days,” and here it is, “when hope, unborn, had died.”

How do you abort hope? How do you kill hope in the womb? “When hope unborn had died,” that’s what we’ve gone through.

“Yet with a steady beat have not our weary feet, come to the place to which our forebears sighed.”

If someone had told me that I would have lived to see an African American President, let alone have him as a personal friend . . . [He showed me a small framed picture of the President Obama shaking his hand after a State of the Union address]. Here he’s speaking. Here I am, and it is obvious that we are [friends]. If someone would have told me that I would have lunch with Coretta. If someone would have told me that I would offer the prayer when Rosa Parks was lying in honor in the Capitol Rotunda. If someone would tell me—this is just one of seven of the Christmas pictures that I have [he showed me a picture of him and his wife Brenda with President Barack and First Lady Michelle Obama]—you can always tell because the first lady has on a different gown.

Dickens may have had it right in the beginning of Tale of Two Cities, this is the best of times, this is the worst of times. But we need to keep things in perspective because God is still on His throne. And that old song, “This Is My Father’s World”, reminds us that “though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet.”

MESSAGE: What do you think about the notion that this is a Christian nation? And this very office is set up now to have prayer, and you have Bible studies, and these foundational books, whether the Bible or other religious books? Does that bother you as a Seventh-day Adventist, who is sensitive, as are many other people, to religious liberty?

Black: I believe that many of the framers, would probably, though appreciating the fact that Christianity is the dominant religion, would say that they came to this land looking for religious freedom, which means insuring that people have an opportunity to worship, according to the dictates of their consciences.

The senate chaplaincy, the legislative chaplaincy, was established in 1789, predates the Establishment Cause to the First Amendment, which states that Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of a religion or prohibiting the exercise thereof. To state that this is a Christian nation would be a breach of the Establishment Clause, I believe. And so, you know, it does not prohibit people from being Christian. We do not have a “Church of England.” We do not have a state-run church or organization.

You can see in this picture the Dali Lama who is certainly not a Christian, as a guest chaplain. I have had a Hindu priest come in as a guest chaplain. I’ve had Rabbis come in for Torah studies for Jewish staffers. Imams who come in for Ramadan and other Islamic Holy Days. So, I facilitate, and that’s the diversity that I alluded to earlier, for non-Christian staffers, as well as for Christian staffers. I call it cooperating without compromise. I don’t have to compromise who I am in order to make sure the spiritual needs of other folk are met.

So, the very act that the framers desired a spiritual dimension to government, one of the first acts was to establish a chaplaincy in the legislative branch. It does not mean that they did not want a separation of church and state. They didn’t want a separation of God and state, and there’s a distinction.

MESSAGE: Does the Spirit push you to say, something in particular?

Black: I think for a minister, you feed people what you are discovering is good nourishment for yourself. The Apostle Paul said to the church in Corinth, “for I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered to you,” [1 Corinthians 11:23].

When you’re flying and the flight attendants give instructions, and they say in the event of turbulence, the oxygen masks will drop. Put the mask on yourself first before putting it on someone else. So, I put the mask on myself first, and the way I do that is to spend what I call the “Holy Hour.” I spend an hour a day, praying the scriptures.

My theory is that there are three kinds of prayer: lip prayer, head prayer, and heart prayer.

Lip prayer is a prayer you pray by rote: “Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep.” That’s a lip prayer. “God is great, God is good. Let us thank Him for our food.” That’s a lip prayer.

Head prayer is when you pray the scriptures, because you give God the courtesy of starting the conversation. So, what I do is, I pray before I open the Bible, and the things that stop and inspire me, I talk to God about for at least an hour every day.

Heart prayer is when out of the dialogue with God from praying the Scriptures, you come up with something you just can’t shake, like a jingle, and you nurse that thing, sometimes. Well, I’ve been working on one for about nine days, now, and you say it, like probably 25, 30, 40 times a day, like a mantra, because it’s inspirational and so describes the desires of your heart.

So, you do that an hour a day, and then the overflow, the results of that, you never run out of material to teach or preach.

MESSAGE: How do you keep your spiritual fervor alive?

Black: John 17:17 says: “sanctify them through thy truth, thy word is truth”, so that kind of quality exposure to the Word of God, will almost guarantee sanctification. David said in Psalm 119:99, “I have more wisdom than all of my teachers.” That robust devotional life is critical to staying connected to the Vine. The Lord said, “I am the Vine, ye are the branches” John 15:5. You sever the branch from the Vine and there is no flow of life.

Matthew 4:4, “[We] do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes out of the mouth of God.” I find that it gives you strength through temptation. Again, the 119th Psalm, verse 11, “Thy word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against You.” It’s just a wonderful way of staying spiritually fit.

I think it’s also critical to remember that truth is progressive. So, He doesn’t drop a load on us. He said in John 16:12, “I have many things to tell you, but you can’t bear them now.” And so, we have Proverbs 4:18, “the path to justice is a shining light,” and so, that’s the way I roll, as the young people say.

During my holy hour, I preach my sermons to the Lord. There’s nothing that helps you see where the duds are, than to speak them to the Lord in prayer when you’re praying Scriptures.