Monifa Edwards

A Devotional on Finishing the Job

NPR’s Code Switch podcast recently featured a powerful two part series from School Colors, a podcast about how race, class and power shape American cities and schools. Featured on the podcast was 64 year-old Monifa Edwards. She was asked to read aloud, for only the second time in her life, the speech she gave at age fourteen. This speech was delivered when she graduated as valedictorian of Junior High School 271 in Brooklyn, NY. Here is an excerpt:

[aesop_quote type=”pull” background=”#5283ff” text=”#ffffff” align=”left” size=”1″ quote=”Our ancestors were brutally forced to an unknown land to be enslaved and looked down upon as animals by the white man. They were separated from their tribes and unable to speak to their own people because of language barriers. Forced to speak the language of their oppressors, they have since that time been struggling from what was considered the lowest of worldly creatures, slaves in bondage, to achieve a respected place in the world. Today, black people are still technically in bondage…We students have a responsibility to our people. We are the might and the strength of our race. We of young blood set the pace. We are the hopes, the dreams, the future that must be fulfilled.” parallax=”off” direction=”left” revealfx=”off”]

The community that gave birth to such a gifted young lady is a story well worth learning. However, it is the final sentences of her speech and her reflection on it 50 years later that I believe calls to us all. She writes,

[aesop_quote type=”pull” background=”#4379f2″ text=”#ffffff” align=”left” size=”1″ quote=”Black and Puerto Rican students must go on to high school and finish, go to college and finish and come back to our communities and finish the job that has been left unfinished for over 400 years. Be black, be beautiful, be brilliant and be yourself.” parallax=”off” direction=”left” revealfx=”off”]

When the podcast interviewer asked her how she felt reading her speech 50 years later, she replied, “It feels very odd. I hear a lot of this being said again today. It’s like certain things were not resolved in all these years. As I read it now, it seems youthful, naive, optimistic. And I thought that by now, that work would be done…” Fourteen year-old Monifa told her classmates they must “finish the job.” 64 year-old Monifa thought “that the work would be done.” 

Nehemiah Finished the Job

Nehemiah had a similar concern. While he was in Persia serving as the King’s cupbearer, Nehemiah learned that his people, who had survived years of exile, were in Jerusalem living in the physical and psychological destruction their oppressors created. It weighed so heavily on him that King Artexeres noticed and discerned that Nehemiah was suffering from “sorrow of the heart.” When asked what was wrong, Nehemiah replied, “…How can I not be sad? For the city where my ancestors are buried is in ruins, and the gates have been destroyed by fire” (Nehemiah 2:3). Bravely, Nehemiah asks and receives permission and provision from the King to return to Jerusalem to attend to his people and repair what was broken. Nehemiah finished the job amidst threats and attempts of sabotage by those who were displeased that “someone had come to seek the welfare of the Israelites” (Nehemiah 2:10). 

Barriers to Finishing the Job

Many of us know his experience all too well. There are those who are displeased that we seek out the welfare of our own people. The blatant opposition of those from outside of our community is alive and well, yet so many of us continue working unashamedly on behalf of our people! Sadly, at the same time, there is even reluctance from among us to intervene and advocate for rebuilding our ruins. The truth is, there are many reasons why people fail to get involved civically (i.e. voting), interpersonally (i.e. mentoring), or socially (i.e. strategic advocacy) on behalf of their own people (too many reasons to outline, but many of them rooted in religious legalism, colonized mindsets and internalized racism). But there is something that should bring us hope and assure us that the job will be finished. This hope is rooted in what I call The Mordecai Theory. 

The Mordecai Theory

The book of Esther tells of how Haman influenced King Ahasuerus to authorize the genocide of the Jews living under his rule. When Queen Esther, a Jew herself, was asked by her cousin Mordecai to plead with the king on their behalf, her response was one of reluctance because there was a chance she could be killed for approaching the king uninvited – for challenging the status quo, for speaking truth to power. After she expressed her reluctance, Mordecai gave Esther a blunt response (Esther 4:12-14), which she took to heart and which offers relevant commentary for us today. 

The Mordecai Theory is as such: 

1) You are not the exception. You are not exempt from oppression, no matter your status. 

2) Your reluctance to be involved in the cause will not stop the cause from succeeding. 

3) Your wellbeing is connected to the wellbeing of the community. 

4) You are called to a specific work and the community needs you to carry it out.

Whether you are resolved like Nehemiah or reluctant like Esther, you are still called to finish the job that our people began. Not just the job of demanding the righting of the wrongs against us, but also the job of living fully in your God given purpose through whatever passion, giftedness, and skill He has given to you. Study Micah 6:8, Ephesians 2:10, Isaiah 58 and pray for guidance. When Yeshua Ha Mashiach returns, may he greet you with “Well Done”  for finishing your part of the job.




Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley

A Devotional on Being Seen

She has probably, unbeknownst to us, always been one of the “adored ones.” On special assignment in the United States Congress, she exudes the graceful and tactical fighting skills of the famed Dora Milaje warriors by serving as 1/4th of The Squad, maintaining a consistent, progressive voting record, and putting forward the The People’s Justice Guarantee. This initiative is “a comprehensive, resolution devoted to dismantling the injustices within the criminal legal system so that it is smaller, safer, less punitive, and more humane.” And now, her aesthetic resembles that of the famed, female guards: bald and beautiful. But while the Dora Milaje of Wakanda wear a bald cut by choice, she has embraced hers because of alopecia

Ayanna Pressley is the first African American woman elected to represent Massachusetts in Congress, and her recent courage in revealing her diagnoses with alopecia adds to the growing list of reasons she is living black history, black power, black excellence and black girl magic.

Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley 

Many of us have only seen Congresswoman Pressley with Senegalese twists, a kinky curly wig or now, a smooth bald head. But imagine with me this same woman with hair straightened, still maintaining its luscious fullness, cropped just above her shoulders and feathered with bangs sweeping to the right. This is a picture of her before her Congresswoman days when she served as Boston City Councilor At-large making her the first woman of color to serve in the role in the 100 year history of the Boston City Council.

While delivering a riveting talk at TEDxRoxburyWomen, she told the story of growing up in church where the saints would share their testimonies “seeking comfort and strength from their church family.” Then, she inserted a poignant revelation about the act of testifying saying, “But as an adult, in hindsight, something greater than that was at work. They were exerting themselves in their testimonies saying ‘See me! Hear me!’ Acknowledge not just my struggle, but my very existence…To testify is to bear witness to, to proclaim oneself as an intrinsic part of the world. In their testimony they were saying ‘I am here.’” Think for a moment. How familiar and personal is the cry of “See me! Hear me! I am here!” I imagine it is a very familiar sentiment to many of us individually and as a people.

The God Who Sees

There was a woman in the Bible for whom this exclamation was also very personal. In Genesis 16, Hagar became pregnant by Abram at his wife Sarai’s suggestion. This suggestion soon became the cause of strife between the two women. Hagar, pregnant outside of her own choice began feeling privileged above Sarai, and Sarai began feeling belittled by Hagar’s pregnancy and started to mistreat her.

Hagar subsequently left the household and while journeying through the wilderness was met by an angel of the Lord who asked her where she came from and where she was headed. She replied that she was running away from her mistress. In response, the angel said that the Lord had heard of her misery and told her what the future of her son would be. At this moment, “She gave this name [El Roi] to the Lord who spoke to her: ‘You are the God who sees me,’ for she said, ‘I have now seen the One who sees me'” (Genesis 16:13).

Strength in Being Seen

Perhaps Hagar felt uplifted because in the midst of her struggle her existence was validated. She knew she was more than her current struggle, that her cares were complex and valid and that her response was the best she could muster up at the time. But it didn’t seem like anyone else in Abram’s household could see that. Yet, out there in the desert God saw her as more than current situation. He saw her as the woman who gave birth to not just a son, but a great nation. Ishamel literally testifies that “God hears.” After this encounter, Hagar is strong enough to return to the household. And one can’t help but see that her new strength is rooted in how God sees her and therefore how she now sees herself. What a gift, to be fully seen.

The Gift of Being Seen

I believe we see ourselves most clearly in the company of those who truly love us, those who are honest with us about where we need to grow and develop, but who also remind us of the greatness in us that we cannot see or from which we shy away. There is something positively life changing about being seen for more than our struggles. 

It is what Hagar experienced during her time of distress in the desert, it is the plea that Congresswoman Pressley heard in the testimonies of her church family, it is the courtesy, yea even the gift that we should extend to others. And I thank God, it is life changing gift that Jesus Christ gave us through His life, death and resurrection. He saw us healthy. He saw us happy. He saw us fruitful. He saw us as an “intrinsic part of the world.” We are seen.

Sources

Exclusive: Rep. Ayanna Pressley Reveals Beautiful Bald Head and Discusses Alopecia for the First Time

Dare to be yourself, tell YOUR story: Ayanna Pressley at TEDxRoxburyWomen




Amelia Boynton Robinson

A Devotional About Preparedness

In the acclaimed movie “Selma”, directed by the extraordinary Ava Duverney, the gifted actress, Lorraine Toussaint, portrays the unshakable civil rights pioneer, Amelia Boynton Robinson having a conversation with the brave Betty Shabazz (and yes, I used many superlatives, because they are well deserved!). In the movie, Boynton Robinson is portrayed as saying, “I know that we are descendants of a mighty people, who gave civilization to the world. People who survived the hulls of slave ships across vast oceans. People who innovate and create and love despite pressures and tortures unimaginable. They are in our bloodstream. Pumping our hearts every second. They’ve prepared you. You are already prepared.” The concept of preparedness is one that daily lingers in my reflections and observations. So when I read a familiar passage from Exodus, the idea of preparedness caught me, yet again.

Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel out of Egypt.” But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt? He said, “But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain” (Exodus 3: 9-12 ESV).

A Lesson in “But”

The English Language Arts educator in me first noticed two sentences that began with the contraction “but.” This word sometimes negating the words spoken or written before it signals to readers or listeners that the important part of the sentence is coming up on the other side of the “but.” God told Moses he would send him on a successful mission. Moses negated what God said with his more important question of “Who am I?” God then returns the volley with a “but” of His own, negating Moses’ negation (you’re following me, yes?) and giving us all a lesson in preparedness. I’ve read this passage several times, but it wasn’t until a second or third reading that I noticed that God’s response of “But I will be with you…” didn’t quite answer Moses’ question.  I started to think of all the responses He could’ve given Moses instead:

  • Moses, you were the baby preserved from death for this very time. You were born for this. Literally. It’s your destiny!
  • Moses, you are the man who was raised in the courts of the country I am sending you to topple. You know it inside and out! You are like special ops.
  • Moses, you are the one whose zeal for swift justice is well known. You know I saw you handle that Egyptian who was beating the Hebrew? I need a swashbuckler like you to get this job done. You in?

Instead, Yahweh, in so many words, said, “But Moses, you are a man who I am with.” Now, I can’t articulate for sure Moses’ intentions in asking “Who am I that I should go…” but I can tap into my humanity and surmise that Moses could have been seeking validation for why he was needed or called upon. However, Yahweh’s idea of preparedness turned Moses’ question on its head. Instead of validating why He needed Moses, Yahweh needed Moses to validate his need for Yahweh.

The Truth About Validation

I sometimes seek validation of myself when I should be validating the One who seeks after me! I sometimes muse about my preparedness when I should be meditating on the One who prepares me. I am not suggesting we be willfully unprepared for life’s assignments. I am suggesting that we remember who has assigned us to this life.

God, why have you chosen me? 

God says, “I am with you.”

God, why do you think I can carry out this task? 

God says, “I will be with you.”

God, why are you not answering my questions? 

God says, “My presence is an answer.”

And might I add, that God is not being flippant at all! Whatever He tasks us to do for Him, it is He who fulfills the purpose (Psalm 57:2) and it is He who gives us the energy (Colossians 1:29) to live and love for him day after day. In fact, one of the names of God, Adonai, actually describes God as our loving master who not only gives us tasks but also equips us for them! 

We Are Already Prepared

Amelia Boynton Robinson was already prepared for the life of fearless activism that she would lead. She became the first African American woman to run for Congress in the state of Alabama in 1964. She spearheaded and organized the 1965 march in Selma across the Pettus bridge where she suffered a brutal beating, yet she survived and continued to walk in her activist calling. In fact, Boynton Robinson recalls of her childhood that, “We felt like we had to be leaders, because this is what the community expected.” The expectations held of her as a child was a part of her preparation. The expectation Yahweh has of us is a part of our preparation. He expects you to “Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; He’s the one who will keep you on track.” (Proverbs 3:5-6 MSG). Emmanuel, God with us, is our preparation. We are already prepared.

 

Sources

Amelia Boynton




Miss Mary Hamilton

A Devotional About Names

Names mean so much within the cultures of the African Diaspora. Our names may be “monikers that have a history that forever may be a mystery” as Poet Sha’Condria ‘iCon’ Sibley describes about the name Tynishia in her poem “To All the Little Black Girls With Big Names (Dedicated to Quvenzhane’ Wallis). She continues writing,

If those who assume ever stop to think that maybe…

Transatlantic submerged native tongues

have reemerged in the form of ghetto monikers.

Sounds a lot like Tinashe

a name from the Shona tribe meaning “God is with us”

because when her mother died, He was all she had. 

Our names, when spoken or read, convey sturdiness and whimsy, tradition and originality, assimilation and uprising. It is not only what our names convey that signify our culture, but also the nuances of how we relate to names. I know it wasn’t only my Grandma (whose dazzling name was Goldie Amelia Patterson) who, when trying to get my attention, would call me by each of my cousin’s names before she got to mine. Expecting me to respond immediately as if I knew telepathically that it was me for whom she was calling, she’d declare, “KiaKarenJamarEricShalisha…Porsche, you know I’m talking to you!”

Or how about that story you told just the other day about “whatshisname” whose name you nor any of the folk listening to your story could remember, yet they all confidently said “Oh yeah yeah, whatshisname! We know who you talkin’ bout!” There is so much diversity and nuance associated with names in our culture, but there are also expectations. 

Honorifics

One expectation about names that upends others is the use of the honorific –  a word that expresses respect, confers honor, appreciation or affection. You know honorifics well. Mrs. Pauletta Washington. Auntie Maxine Waters. First Lady Michelle Obama. The Mrs., Auntie and First Lady all ascribe an intention and describe a relationship towards each woman that would otherwise be lost if the honorific was omitted. This is exactly what Miss Mary Hamilton knew, and because she knew it she chose to do something for the culture regarding names; something that we still benefit from today.

Miss Mary Hamilton

Miss Mary Hamilton was a teacher, a Freedom Rider and the first female field organizer in the South for the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). While testifying as a witness in a case in Alabama, the prosecutor called Miss Hamilton by her first name only, which was par for the course of how African Americans were addressed in 1963 courtrooms. Mary Hamilton refused to answer the question, stating instead, “My name is Miss Hamilton. Please address me correctly.” Twice the prosecutor repeated his use of only her first name. And twice Mary Hamilton replied that she would not respond unless she was addressed correctly. She was never addressed correctly, thus she never responded. Subsequently, she was held in contempt of court, fined $50, and jailed for 5 days.

The story doesn’t end here for I believe you already get the feeling that Miss Mary didn’t take no stuff. In fact, she took her case all the way to the United States Supreme Court whose landmark ruling, HAMILTON v. ALABAMA, 376 U.S. 650 (1964) “established that people of color are entitled to the same courtesies and honorifics as whites.”

What’s My Name?

Now that you know or have been reminded of what Miss Hamilton did on our behalf, will you, if involved in a legal proceeding, ever willfully ask to be called only by your first name? Will you reason that, despite what happened in 1963, you’d be fine with however someone chooses to address you in 2020? I doubt it, for it would be an affront to Miss Hamilton and to the culture! 

In the same way I proudly accept what Miss Hamilton won for us, I accept what Yeshua Hamashiach has won for us. He has made it possible for us to be addressed as valuable (Matt. 6.26), loved (John 3:16) and specially made (Psalm 139:13).  These and other descriptors all ascribe an intention and describe the relationship He wants with us. And because of these honorifics, we are empowered to do good works (Ephesians 2:10), restore communities (Isaiah 58:12), say the right thing at the right time to people (Isaiah 50:4) all while living healthy, prosperous lives (3 John 1:2)! He most definitely did something for the culture – for every culture under the sun regarding names – that all people benefit from today.

 

Sources

To All the Little Black Girls With Big Names (Dedicated to Quvenzhane’ Wallis)

Mary Hamilton 

Mary Hamilton, The Woman Who Put The ‘Miss’ In Court

When ‘Miss’ Meant So Much More: How One Woman Fought Alabama — And Won




How Partnerships Help Us Prevail in Purpose

You cannot accomplish the purpose of God unless you partner with His posse.

In Exodus 17:1-13 the writer tells of how the Israelites journeyed out of the Wilderness of Sin and came to a city called Rephidim. A Hebrew word meaning “rest or stay,” the Israelites believed Rephidim was a place they could set up camp and rest from their long journey out of Egypt. To their surprise there was absolutely no water in Rephidim. Disgruntled the Israelites complained to Moses saying, “Why is it you have brought us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?” (v.3) The children of Israel were frustrated with their condition because their current location seemed to be a contradiction. Rephidim meant rest or stay, yet it lacked the very resources necessary to foster such activity.

I don’t know about you, but I get frustrated when I’m in a particular country, restaurant, or facility and what I expect is not available. For example, I can’t stand going to express fast food places in the airport. These establishments annoy me because they do not carry all the options found in the restaurant outside the airport. It’s frustrating to be somewhere whose very name means what you need, yet it lacks the actual resource. The children of Israel are frustrated because they’ve camped in a city whose very name promises an environment that is conducive to their rest and stay, yet it lacks the very thing they need in order to rest and stay – water.

Quench Your Thirst

Physically and emotionally weary from travel and leadership, Moses cries out to God asking what he should do. God gives Moses the most awesome response ever! He says, “Go on before the people, and take with you some of the elders of Israel. Also take in your hand your rod with which you struck the river, and go. Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock in Horeb; and you shall strike the rock, and water will come out of it, that the people may drink” (v. 5,6). In these couple of verses we see that God does not simply provide the children of Israel with water. Instead He is the water from which the children of Israel drink.

Look at the text again! In verse 6 God is standing in front of the rock. Moses is not striking the rock, but he is striking God Himself! What we learn here is that God is the first and most important alliance you will ever have because He will position Himself in front of the very barriers that are keeping you from having life and having it more abundantly. In that position, God will even allow you to go so far as to strike Him to get what you need.

God will allow your location, your environment, or your resources to fail you so that you learn there is only one entity that is inherently capable of not simply meeting, but also being all you need.

So, the first and most important alliance you need when you’re in a place that seems as like it doesn’t have the resources you need is an alliance with God. He will not simply give you what you need. He will be what you need.

Battle Grounds

Rephidim failed at being a place of stay because it lacked water. But it quickly failed at being a place of rest because it became the place where the Israelites had to fight their first battle.

In verse 8 the writer tells us that the Israelites fought the Amalekites in Rephidim. This leads me to believe that the Israelites initial experience with God as water was paramount. The Israelites needed to learn total dependence upon God for their livelihood in order to have faith strong enough to totally depend upon God in battle. This is of the utmost importance because we are victorious in battle when we fight with God, and not simply for God. What’s the difference Claudia? When you fight for God you’re attempting to do what He asked you to do in your own strength. But when you fight with God you’re doing what He asked you to do in His strength.

But the battles God often calls us to also require armies. And in order to fight with God and be victorious we need to partner with godly men and women. In other words, you need a “Godly Alliance.” Now, a Godly Alliance is a small group of people who hold you up while the power of God works through you so that you can prevail in within purpose.

Godly Alliances vs. Ungodly Alliances

Come with me to verses 10 through 13. The Bible says, that when Moses’s hands were up the Israelites started to win the battle. But when Moses became tired and his hands began to fall the body count quickly went in the other direction. Moses’s brother Aaron and his friend and colleague in ministry, Hur, were up on the mountain with Moses. (Side note: You can’t take everyone to the mountaintop, but you gotta take someone. Choose wisely). Watching Moses and the battle Aaron and Hur noticed a pattern in the power of God. Seeing how the Israelites would win when Moses’s hands were up and they’d begin to lose when his hands fell down, Moses and Hur grabbed a stone for Moses to sit on. Then they got on either side of Moses and held up his arms until the Israelites successfully defeated the Amalekites.

 

Aaron and Hur were a Godly Alliance because they had the spiritual discernment to see how God’s power was operating through Moses. They then took it upon themselves to position their friend in such a way that he would be successful in the assignment that God had given him. Furthermore, they positioned themselves at his sides as support. They did not encourage Moses to rest. No, his Godly Alliance positioned him, and themselves, in such a way that Moses could prevail in purpose. They did this because

Godly Alliances care more about you being victorious in the battles that God has purposed for you to fight than you being comfortable and rested; even in places where comfort and rest are expected.

Ungodly alliances, on the other hand, encourage you to take breaks. They see your fatigue, observe how drained your purpose has made you, and not recognizing God’s flow of power in the situation encourage you to rest. This is because

Ungodly Alliances care more about your present comfort than your long-term victory.

They encourage you to make decisions based on your present feelings and desires not thinking how those decisions could lead to defeat. Not a Godly Alliance! A Godly Alliance encourages you to resist what you want to do in present so that you can live victoriously in your future. I encourage you to find two people you trust. Two people who when your mind, body, and spirit are failing and all you want to do is rest, they go out of their way to change your environment on your behalf. Find an Aaron and Hur who are willing to help place you in the best position to prevail in purpose. But who also place themselves in the best position to support you.

God has given each and every one of us a purpose. In 2020, there will be times where we will find ourselves frustrated, drained, and just flat out failing. The question is, who do you have around you? Do you have a Godly Alliance, or an Ungodly Alliance? Do you have people to hold you up? I encourage each and every one of you to ask yourself

Who are my Aaron and Hur?




The closer I get to You

If you are reading this there is a good chance that you want to get closer to God. The question is how do you do that? Should you wake up before the sun comes up everyday? Maybe going to the book store to buy the latest devotional will kick start your spiritual life? No matter what you’ve tried, you have tried to get closer to God. What if I told you that the way you get closer to God has been right in front your face. Join us as we seek to redefine our devotional lives and see what happens the closer we get to God.


1 Read Exodus 3:1-3

Moses has run away to the desert so that Pharaoh wouldn’t kill him. He has gone from the palace to the prairie. He has no human companion with him as he watches the flock of his father in-law Jethro. Little did he know that where he is currently is the exact place that he would spend a significant portion of his life. I don’t believe it was coincidence that Moses spent time in the place that God would eventually use him. Are you in a place in your life where you’re not sure if God is with you? Read Deuteronomy 31:1-6 and see what God said to the man who would take over after Moses.

2 Read 1 Samuel 16:7-11

David is watching his father’s sheep and has no idea that the prophet Samuel is in his home. David is a writer, musician, and warrior. For some reason when we are first introduced to him, he is simply watching sheep. This doesn’t seem like the place that a writer, musician, and warrior should be. Have you ever felt that you are not in a place that is utilizing what you are gifted to do? Have you considered there is a reason you are there that is beyond your understanding? Read about Joseph in Genesis 39:20-23 and let us know what you think about his situation on social media using #MessageMag

3 Read Luke 5:14-16

Jesus has called his disciples to follow him and change the world. He is healing people left and right. His ministry is growing in popularity so much so that crowds of people show up wherever He goes. Why then, did Jesus intentionally withdraw to lonely places? Isn’t lonely one of the things that everyone tries to avoid? There must have been a reason that Jesus would try to get alone. Do you ever try to get alone? Why? Do you hate being alone? Why? Take some time to think and maybe even write down your thoughts.

4

Moses found himself in a desert before he led the people of God through the wilderness. David tended to sheep before he put the crown on his head as king of Israel. Jesus who is the king of the universe that calls His creation to loving relationship, secluded himself purposely on a regular basis. These people got something special from their time of seclusion that you can learn from. Take some time to contemplate this question: In your youth, where were you when God did the most life changing work on you?

5

I wish to challenge you to change how you think about having devotional time with God. Have you tried a Bible reading plan and struggled to stick to it? Have you tried to pray at a certain time each day, and found it more of a burden than a blessing? There is nothing wrong with either of these things but maybe they are not for you. Maybe the way everyone else does devotion isn’t the way God has cultivated you to experience Him to the fullest. How did you grow in God when no one told you how?

6 Read Exodus 33:7; Psalm 124

It isn’t random that Moses decided to walk away from the camp where all the people were to set up his own tent to meet with God. God had forged the core of who Moses was in a place where he was often alone. Moses was conditioned to meet God in a far-off place. When David became king, he continued writing, singing, and dancing as he had done when he watched sheep. Many of us may be trying to meet with God in a way that has worked for someone else but isn’t authentic to our experience with Him. Are you meeting with God in the best way possible? Is your devotional life thriving? Tell us about it on Social Media using #MessageMag

7 Read Matthew 7:7

Meeting God in a way that is authentic to your experience with him will make devotion natural. There may be those who meet with God alone on a basketball court. Others may have their most edifying times with God while they are helping or serving people. There may be those who need to read to get their minds pointed towards the Most High. Don’t allow what has worked for someone else be the barrier between you and God getting closer. Remember where and how He’s worked on you and be authentic with yourself, so that you can be authentic in His presence. I believe it is then that we will be able to be changed as we get closer to Him.

…......……………………………………………………………….

Rashad Burden is the pastor of the Mount Olive and Shiloh Seventh-day Adventist Churches in Southern Alabama.


This article is part of our 2019 November / December Issue
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“The apostles returned to Jesus from their ministry tour and told him all they had done and taught. Then Jesus said, “Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.” He said this because there were so many people coming and going that Jesus and his apostles didn’t even have time to eat. So they left by boat for a quiet place, where they could be alone.”

Mark 6:30-32*

Believe: He Will Come Back

From Ellen G. White’s The Desire of Ages, the chapter entitled “To My Father, and Your Father.”*

Christ’s words of compassion are spoken to His workers today just as surely as they were spoken to His disciples. “Come ye yourselves apart, … and rest awhile,” He says to those who are worn and weary. It is not wise to be always under the strain of work and excitement, even in ministering to men’s spiritual needs; for in this way personal piety is neglected, and the powers of mind and soul and body are overtaxed. Self-denial is required of the disciples of Christ, and sacrifices must be made; but care must also be exercised lest through their overzeal Satan take advantage of the weakness of humanity, and the work of God be marred.

In the estimation of the rabbis it was the sum of religion to be always in a bustle of activity. They depended upon some outward performance to show their superior piety. Thus they separated their souls from God, and built themselves up in self-sufficiency. The same dangers still exist. As activity increases and men become successful in doing any work for God, there is danger of trusting to human plans and methods. There is a tendency to pray less, and to have less faith. Like the disciples, we are in danger of losing sight of our dependence on God, and seeking to make a savior of our activity. We need to look constantly to Jesus, realizing that it is His power which does the work. While we are to labor earnestly for the salvation of the lost, we must also take time for meditation, for prayer, and for the study of the word of God. Only the work accomplished with much prayer, and sanctified by the merit of Christ, will in the end prove to have been efficient for good.

In a life wholly devoted to the good of others, the Saviour found it necessary to withdraw from the thoroughfares of travel and from the throng that followed Him day after day. He must turn aside from a life of ceaseless activity and contact with human needs, to seek retirement and unbroken communion with His Father. As one with us, a sharer in our needs and weaknesses, He was wholly dependent upon God, and in the secret place of prayer He sought divine strength, that He might go forth braced for duty and trial. In a world of sin Jesus endured struggles and torture of soul. In communion with God He could unburden the sorrows that were crushing Him. Here He found comfort and joy.

…......……………………………………………………………………………….


This article is part of our 2019 November / December Issue
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ELLEN G. WHITE (1827-1915), one of the most published authors in the world, named one of the “100 Most Significant Americans of All Time” by the Smithsonian Institution in 2014, was a co-founder of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

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*You can read The Desire of Ages in its entirety online at www.whiteestate.org/onlinebooks.





Come Away with Me

“The apostles returned to Jesus from their ministry tour and told him all they had done and taught. Then Jesus said, “Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.” He said this because there were so many people coming and going that Jesus and his apostles didn’t even have time to eat. So they left by boat for a quiet place, where they could be alone.”

Mark 6:30-32*


From Ellen G. White’s The Desire of Ages, the chapter entitled “To My Father, and Your Father.”*

Christ’s words of compassion are spoken to His workers today just as surely as they were spoken to His disciples. “Come ye yourselves apart, … and rest awhile,” He says to those who are worn and weary. It is not wise to be always under the strain of work and excitement, even in ministering to men’s spiritual needs; for in this way personal piety is neglected, and the powers of mind and soul and body are overtaxed. Self-denial is required of the disciples of Christ, and sacrifices must be made; but care must also be exercised lest through their overzeal Satan take advantage of the weakness of humanity, and the work of God be marred.

In the estimation of the rabbis it was the sum of religion to be always in a bustle of activity. They depended upon some outward performance to show their superior piety. Thus they separated their souls from God, and built themselves up in self-sufficiency. The same dangers still exist. As activity increases and men become successful in doing any work for God, there is danger of trusting to human plans and methods. There is a tendency to pray less, and to have less faith. Like the disciples, we are in danger of losing sight of our dependence on God, and seeking to make a savior of our activity. We need to look constantly to Jesus, realizing that it is His power which does the work. While we are to labor earnestly for the salvation of the lost, we must also take time for meditation, for prayer, and for the study of the word of God. Only the work accomplished with much prayer, and sanctified by the merit of Christ, will in the end prove to have been efficient for good.

 In a life wholly devoted to the good of others, the Saviour found it necessary to withdraw from the thoroughfares of travel and from the throng that followed Him day after day. He must turn aside from a life of ceaseless activity and contact with human needs, to seek retirement and unbroken communion with His Father. As one with us, a sharer in our needs and weaknesses, He was wholly dependent upon God, and in the secret place of prayer He sought divine strength, that He might go forth braced for duty and trial. In a world of sin Jesus endured struggles and torture of soul. In communion with God He could unburden the sorrows that were crushing Him. Here He found comfort and joy.

…......………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

ELLEN G. WHITE (1827-1915), one of the most published authors in the world, named one of the “100 Most Significant Americans of All Time” by the Smithsonian Institution in 2014, was a co-founder of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

*You can read The Desire of Ages in its entirety online at www.whiteestate.org/onlinebooks.


This article is part of our 2019 November / December Issue
Subscribe –>

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1 Read Exodus 3:1-3

Moses has run away to the desert so that Pharaoh wouldn’t kill him. He has gone from the palace to the prairie. He has no human companion with him as he watches the flock of his father in-law Jethro. Little did he know that where he is currently is the exact place that he would spend a significant portion of his life. I don’t believe it was coincidence that Moses spent time in the place that God would eventually use him. Are you in a place in your life where you’re not sure if God is with you? Read Deuteronomy 31:1-6 and see what God said to the man who would take over after Moses.

2 Read 1 Samuel 16:7-11

David is watching his father’s sheep and has no idea that the prophet Samuel is in his home. David is a writer, musician, and warrior. For some reason when we are first introduced to him, he is simply watching sheep. This doesn’t seem like the place that a writer, musician, and warrior should be. Have you ever felt that you are not in a place that is utilizing what you are gifted to do? Have you considered there is a reason you are there that is beyond your understanding? Read about Joseph in Genesis 39:20-23 and let us know what you think about his situation on social media using #MessageMag

3 Read Luke 5:14-16

Jesus has called his disciples to follow him and change the world. He is healing people left and right. His ministry is growing in popularity so much so that crowds of people show up wherever He goes. Why then, did Jesus intentionally withdraw to lonely places? Isn’t lonely one of the things that everyone tries to avoid? There must have been a reason that Jesus would try to get alone. Do you ever try to get alone? Why? Do you hate being alone? Why? Take some time to think and maybe even write down your thoughts.

4

Moses found himself in a desert before he led the people of God through the wilderness. David tended to sheep before he put the crown on his head as king of Israel. Jesus who is the king of the universe that calls His creation to loving relationship, secluded himself purposely on a regular basis. These people got something special from their time of seclusion that you can learn from. Take some time to contemplate this question: In your youth, where were you when God did the most life changing work on you?

5

I wish to challenge you to change how you think about having devotional time with God. Have you tried a Bible reading plan and struggled to stick to it? Have you tried to pray at a certain time each day, and found it more of a burden than a blessing? There is nothing wrong with either of these things but maybe they are not for you. Maybe the way everyone else does devotion isn’t the way God has cultivated you to experience Him to the fullest. How did you grow in God when no one told you how?

6 Read Exodus 33:7; Psalm 124

It isn’t random that Moses decided to walk away from the camp where all the people were to set up his own tent to meet with God. God had forged the core of who Moses was in a place where he was often alone. Moses was conditioned to meet God in a far-off place. When David became king, he continued writing, singing, and dancing as he had done when he watched sheep. Many of us may be trying to meet with God in a way that has worked for someone else but isn’t authentic to our experience with Him. Are you meeting with God in the best way possible? Is your devotional life thriving? Tell us about it on Social Media using #MessageMag

5 Read Matthew 7:7

Meeting God in a way that is authentic to your experience with him will make devotion natural. There may be those who meet with God alone on a basketball court. Others may have their most edifying times with God while they are helping or serving people. There may be those who need to read to get their minds pointed towards the Most High. Don’t allow what has worked for someone else be the barrier between you and God getting closer. Remember where and how He’s worked on you and be authentic with yourself, so that you can be authentic in His presence. I believe it is then that we will be able to be changed as we get closer to Him.

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Rashad Burden is the pastor of the Mount Olive and Shiloh Seventh-day Adventist Churches in Southern Alabama.


This article is part of our 2019 November / December Issue
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Finally Free

From the moment that the deceptive scheme began to form in his mind, Satan has sought to defraud and enslave all of God’s creation. Since the fall of our fore parents, Adam and Eve, Satan has laid claim to Earth as the base of his kingdom.

When talking to God in the book of Job, Satan spoke as though it was his prerogative to roam the Earth as he pleased (Job 2:1, 2). Even Jesus referred to Satan as the “prince of this world”; but in the same breath, Jesus pronounced that Satan had no power over Him (John 14:30). Just think, Satan must really have a stranglehold on planet Earth if even God in the flesh acknowledged Satan’s authority. And although Revelation 12 teaches that his authority could never eclipse that of the Son of God, the fact is, Satan gained dominion over the earth when Adam and Eve fell under his lies.

After Adam and Eve sinned, each subsequent generation has borne the burden of a sinful nature and a mortal soul. Disobedience to God made the human race susceptible to Satan’s schemes, sickness, disease, and ultimately death. No matter how hard we fight, we have the limiting force and denigrating influence of thousands of years of sin and death. Death and sin is the way of all mankind. We need to be made free.

Enter Jesus, our Freedom Fighter. He would be raised from the earth to die on the cross. And, He would be raised in the resurrection from the dead. So not only would humanity be attracted to His matchless love, but also His matchless power. In His resurrection, He wields the keys to hell and the grave. Jesus, is our Freedom Fighter.

In every generation, humanity has sought to defy aging, cheat death, and lengthen their days on earth. The good news is that Christ’s resurrection was evidence that death and the grave are no match for His limitless power! But that’s not all.

Christ would be raised up from the earth on Calvary’s cross. This signaled His matchless love for humanity. He would then be raised from the dead, and this would signal His matchless power over death and the grave. Then He would be raised and ascend to heaven to intercede for us in the heavenly sanctuary and to reign with His Father in heaven. (See Hebrews 8:1-2, 6 and Revelation 5:5-8.) With this, the death and subsequent resurrection of Christ is the catalyst to liberate us from the clutches of Satan.

Death and sin is the way of all mankind. We need to be made free.

John spoke assuredly saying, “But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God,” (John 1:12). Now, in a cursory glance we risk missing the deeper meaning of this verse. John promises that God gives power to all who believe to become children of God. And although the word power could refer to ability or strength, Satan wants to use this definition as a trap. Specifically, Satan wants us to believe that by our own strength we can live according to the mandates of God. Satan well knows this will only result in our frustration and failure. Power, here, actually suggests legal authority. This means God gives us strength, and He also gives us rights. These rights are a legal claim that will hold up in the heavenly court of law.

You can rest assured that if you stand in the courtroom of the Almighty God, with the proper legal documentation—signed by the precious blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ—you have your freedom!

Friend, you don’t simply want physical or even spiritual strength. You also want legal rights that provide evidence that you belong to God. In Jesus’ life, death, burial, and resurrection, God gave us heavenly freedom papers! That’s what you call freedom! And one day soon, God will say, “Enter into the joy of thy Lord!”

On that great and wonderful day, we will enter into the limitless joy of eternity!

And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful,” (Revelation 21:3-5).

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CARLTON P. BYRD, D.MIN., is Senior Pastor of the Oakwood University Church in Huntsville, Alabama and the speaker and director for Breath of Life Television Ministries.

_________________

1 John Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible, 1746 – 1763.


This article is part of our 2019 November / December Issue
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Message Daily: Holiday Break

Message Daily is our daily devotional podcast hosted by Pastor L. David Harris. Because of Pastor Harris’ diligence and consistency we’ve published 108 devotionals to you since we began in August. Wow! I’m so excited that we’ve reach OVER 100 Episodes in 3 months!

This most recent series entitled, “Power!” has truly been a blessing. It is season 2 of the podcast and has 84 life changing episodes. God has truly blessed and has shown up in really powerful ways in each and every episode. We know many of you have been tremendously blessed by each 15 minute segment, and we are grateful for your support.

This update is to let you know that Message Daily will be on a break until the new year. And we are excited about starting season 3 in January bringing you a whole new series for the new year. We know you’re going to be blessed.

But until then, please keep Message and all of us here in your prayers as we continue to curate and create new content for you for 2020. Also, please rate the podcast. The more people that rate the podcast the easier it is to find and promote. So rate! Share! Comment!

I encourage you to spend the holidays catching up on many of these awesome episodes. They’ve been so transformative in my own life and I know they will be for you as well. Take this time to reflect on God’s love and how He is dedicated to enacting His power in our lives.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Claudia M. Allen




Learning to Have Righteous Rage

“BLACK LIVES MATTER”, “ALL LIVES MATTER”, “ME TOO”

These are the shouts from those who have not been heard, who have been mistreated or felt forgotten. Injustice plagues our society, our countries and has always been a part of the human culture for centuries! So now what?! Will we continue to cry out, is there no end in sight, no solution, no restoration?! What is God saying or showing us through the life of Christ that will push us past social justice and into the realm of restorative Justice?

As Christians, do we follow our own knowledge and understanding rather than look to God and his examples? There is countless social justice paired with restorative justice narratives that God has outlined in his word. The answer to “Now what?” is there! Here is a glimpse of one of the devotionals in our new book, The Book of EL: A 31-day Devotional for Love and Justice.

Righteous Rage

Get mad! When we get angry at injustice we connect our hearts with the heart of God. We learn to “be angry and sin not” as we are filled with righteous indignation. Being complacent in the face of injustice is being complicit with the wrongs in your community. Too many of us dismiss inequities because they do not seem to directly affect us. Lost in our own world, we are aloof to the suffering of those on the other side of the tracks. We think that what we don’t know won’t hurt us. But truthfully, we are lost in lala land fighting over rubbish while people are dying, unjust laws are passed, and our own liberties are being removed.

Deceptive Distractions

We have sat in too many church meetings that entertain pointless conversations that have nothing to with the real life issues of people in the pews and neighborhood. We’ve seen too many people whose conversation is always about self.

The truth of the matter is this: when we fail to observe our world through the lenses of Christ, we miss opportunities. We love to hide behind the walls of the church, our homes, careers, or relationships instead of opening our eyes to the world around us. Jesus needs your talents, your gifts to do your part in weaving the fabric of love this world desperately craves. But oftentimes, the world’s problems seem too big and we opt to focus on our own comfort and self-interest. These pursuits are often entangled with the devil’s plan to keep us from engaging in the war against sin and keep us from fulfilling our purpose. We must learn to get angry.

”Be Angry and Sin Not”

 

Anger is not always bad. God has given us this emotion for good.  We often use it for our own desires, revenge and outbursts.  But if we lean into the emotion of anger we will begin to hate what God hates. We will begin to love what God loves.  We will burn with passion to move into action and transform His world. Righteous anger fuels the engine of God’s justice. So reflect for a minute and allow the Spirit to consume your desires.  Where is the Holy Spirit leading you?  What disturbs you?  What is he asking you to help change? Allow His anger to fuel your life’s purpose.

Reflection

Take a moment now and think about the questions above. Answer them if you can and accept the challenge this year by starting with the month of January to seek out injustice and create a space of restoration through out your communities.

The book of El magnifies the Bible’s narratives of Jesus restoring the least, the last, the lost and the left out. The 31-day devotional helps you to process and put into action small or big steps that you can do individually or with a group to infiltrate communities and answer the question of “Now what?”

Through prayer and reflection, you will be challenged to seek his face, hear his voice and actively engage your community with simple steps of restorative justice. Join us starting January 1st and every month after in 2020 to “Act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with your God!” (Micah 6:8) Let’s live Micah 6:8 every day of 2020!!