Don’t Miss the Miracle

It was Bryan Stevenson who said, “There is power in proximity. We have to get close to people and the communities who are at risk—and stay close.” When I reflect upon this statement and consider the current challenges our society faces, I surmise that our inability to solve problems is not because we don’t have good ideas, but rather because we don’t get close enough to them to engage in a way that makes a meaningful and lasting impact.

The Bible records in Matthew 14 that Jesus had just received the terrible news of the untimely death of his cousin and forerunner, John the Baptist. Our Savior wanted to spend some time alone to contemplate and grieve the loss of his fellow minister of the Gospel. He boarded a boat, likely on the edge of the Sea of Galilee, and sailed away from the shore. Because the people heard that He was leaving, they tracked His course, and by the time He reached the other side of the lake, they had already assembled en masse to have Him speak to them, care for them and heal their sick loved ones.

Jesus wasted no time and busied Himself in the work of healing and nurturing the people. And sure enough, Jesus, the Great Physician, spoke with each one and healed them all.

By the time Jesus had finished caring for all of the people, no one wanted to leave. After all, it was a perfect day already and there was no other place they’d rather be. Moreover, the time had simply drifted away, and no one had thought about food. They were either waiting or working in Jesus’ one-day “pop-up” clinic. The disciples came to Him and urged Him to send the people away so they could purchase meals in the neighboring towns. Yet, Jesus would hear none of it, and responded with a simple challenge, “No, give them something to eat,” (See Matthew 14:16).

This challenge was incredibly impractical and totally implausible, given their location, the size of the crowd, and the resources on hand. “We only have five loaves of bread and two fish,” they replied. Jesus must have thought to Himself, “Well then, that will have to do.”

He petitioned His Heavenly Father, likely with a prayer of supplication for provision and exponential favor, and no sooner than He prayed, His request was answered and granted. The disciples watched in amazement as Jesus seemed to be breaking bread over and over again in His Hands. As He began to divide the fish and the loaves, His hands were becoming more and more full until they were overflowing.

The disciples stood in astonishment, but there was no time for spectating. They needed to shift from being caregivers, grab some aprons, and become servers. They scurried quickly to gather baskets to catch the food that fell from the Master’s overflowing hands. Requiring the people to sit down in groups of fifty, the disciples delivered this miraculous makeshift meal to the grateful throng. When the disciples finished serving, everyone had eaten until they were satisfied, but there were still twelve extra baskets of food left!

After the disciples had finished serving, they tallied the number of individuals served, and to their surprise, they counted “about 5,000 men, plus women and children,” Matthew 14:21. But that’s not the greatest miracle here!

The greatest miracle was that in the mind-blowing moment, the disciples are once again being transformed into a faith-filled mission task-force! They go from expecting that they would bear no responsibility in the feeding of the multitude to engaging and participating in the act of the miracle themselves! When God works a miracle through you, you will never be the same again!

God wants to work a miracle through us today. He’s not expecting that someone else will take on the impossible mission. He has said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible,” Matthew 19:26. Nothing is impossible with God. He wants to use you to do the impossible. He wants to use you to carry out His mission. He wants to use you to be His hands and feet. He wants to use you to change the world. Don’t miss the miracle! He’s going to perform it through you!

…......………………………………………………………………………

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.

_________________


This article is part of our 2020 May / June  Issue
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Social Distance – Who dares to cross the line?

“Large crowds followed Jesus as he came down the mountainside. Suddenly, a man with leprosy approached him and knelt before him. “Lord,” the man said, “if you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean.” Jesus reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” he said. “Be healed!” And instantly the leprosy disappeared. Then Jesus said to him, “Don’t tell anyone about this. Instead, go to the priest and let him examine you. Take along the offering required in the law of Moses for those who have been healed of leprosy. This will be a public testimony that you have been cleansed.” 

Matthew 8:1-4 (NLT)


A Reflection

From Ellen G. White’s The Desire of Ages, the chapter entitled “Thou Canst Make Me Clean”, p. 262*

Away from his friends and his kindred, the leper must bear the curse of his malady. He was obliged to publish his own calamity, to rend his garments, and sound the alarm, warning all to flee from his contaminating presence. The cry, “Unclean! unclean!” coming in mournful tones from the lonely exile, was a signal heard with fear and abhorrence.

In the region of Christ’s ministry, there were many of these sufferers, and the news of His work reached them, kindling a gleam of hope. But since the days of Elisha the prophet, such a thing had never been known as the cleansing of one upon whom this disease had fastened. They dared not expect Jesus to do for them what He had never done for any man. There was one, however, in whose heart faith began to spring up. Yet the man knew not how to reach Jesus. Debarred as he was from contact with his fellow men, how could he present himself to the Healer?

And he questioned if Christ would heal him. Would He stoop to notice one believed to be suffering under the judgment of God? Would He not, like the Pharisees, and even the physicians, pronounce a curse upon him, and warn him to flee from the haunts of men?

He thought of all that had been told him of Jesus. Not one who had sought His help had been turned away. The wretched man determined to find the Saviour. Though shut out from the cities, it might be that he could cross His path in some byway along the mountain roads, or find Him as He was teaching outside the towns. The difficulties were great, but this was his only hope.”

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

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.

2020 May June cover
This article is part of our 2020 May / June Issue
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…......…………………………………………..


When you finally decide to give your life to Jesus it is a beautiful thing: the hope of things finally changing for the good. It’s an opportunity to become a new creature; the ability to say goodbye to the old you, and hello to the new you. What a wonderful experience, and what if Jesus wants to do more than clean up your life? Does making us “white as snow” mean what we think it means to God?

 

1) Read Matthew 8:1; James 1:22;
James 2:26

In Matthew chapters 5-7 Jesus recaps in practical terms what the law is about and how to live a godly life. Some consider it the greatest sermon ever recorded. After He concludes His sermon Jesus then comes down from the mountain and encounters someone in need. Have you ever noticed that after you’ve done or experienced something amazing about God that a test challenges? If so, share your experience with us on social media using #MessageMag.

2) Read Matthew 8:1-2; James 1:3-4

The person that Jesus encounters isn’t given a name. His condition names him and frames him. As a leper, his condition weighed on his life like death sentence. Leprosy relegated people to the outskirts of society. Hypothetically speaking, Jesus left church and runs into someone whose physical problems distance him—emotionally and socially—from society. Often, following Jesus puts His followers in community with people whose lives are in shambles. Is this your experience? Is your life in shambles and surrounded by people just like you? Share if you would on social media using #MessageMag.

3) Read Matthew 8:2-3

The request the man has is to be made clean. He is also wondering if Jesus is willing. Why is he questioning Jesus’ willingness? Maybe he thinks that what is wrong with him somehow affects Jesus’ willingness. Do you find it difficult to believe that God will do good things for you when there is still bad in your life? Take some time to pray and meditate on this.

4) Read Matthew 8:2-3

What the man with leprosy asked for is worth looking at also. Notice that he didn’t ask to be healed. He asked to be made clean. This suggests that he was Jewish and wasn’t just looking for just the leprosy to be removed, but he wanted to return to society. He was tired of his outward challenges affecting his inward desires. Can you relate to this? Have you ever wanted to get back to who you once were? What is it that you desire to get back to? Share with us here on social media using #MessageMag.

5) Read Matthew 8:3; Psalm 34:1

Jesus is willing. Take a moment and get a pen and paper. At the top of the paper write “What God was willing to do.” Then write a list of experiences where you now know that God was willing to do something on your behalf. Mine would start off with something like “God was willing to protect my family when I wasn’t around.” This is a list praises of what God was willing to do.

6) Read Matthew 8:3-4; Philippians 4:6

Jesus doesn’t ask for the Father to heal this man. Instead He commands the man to “be clean.” The Bible says that the man was cleansed at that moment. We live in world of people that often don’t allow for others to grow beyond their challenges or mistakes of yesterday. Jesus on the other hand, specializes in instantaneous transformation. The struggle is often accepting the change that He has promised in His word.

7) Read Isaiah 1:18; 1 John 1:9;
Psalm 103:12

The man is able to go and be declared clean. All because he ran into Jesus. People can talk about what he once was, but when they look at him, he is his own testimony of change. When Jesus washes you white as snow you can live a life where you don’t have to defend your past because God has mapped out your future.   

…......……………………………………………………………….

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

2020 May June cover
This article is part of our 2020 May / June Issue
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White as Snow

When you finally decide to give your life to Jesus it is a beautiful thing: the hope of things finally changing for the good. It’s an opportunity to become a new creature; the ability to say goodbye to the old you, and hello to the new you. What a wonderful experience, and what if Jesus wants to do more than clean up your life? Does making us “white as snow” mean what we think it means to God?


1) Read Matthew 8:1; James 1:22; James 2:26

In Matthew chapters 5-7 Jesus recaps in practical terms what the law is about and how to live a godly life. Some consider it the greatest sermon ever recorded. After He concludes His sermon Jesus then comes down from the mountain and encounters someone in need. Have you ever noticed that after you’ve done or experienced something amazing about God that a test challenges? If so, share your experience with us on social media using #MessageMag.

2) Read Matthew 8:1-2; James 1:3-4

The person that Jesus encounters isn’t given a name. His condition names him and frames him. As a leper, his condition weighed on his life like death sentence. Leprosy relegated people to the outskirts of society. Hypothetically speaking, Jesus left church and runs into someone whose physical problems distance him—emotionally and socially—from society. Often, following Jesus puts His followers in community with people whose lives are in shambles. Is this your experience? Is your life in shambles and surrounded by people just like you? Share if you would on social media using #MessageMag.

3) Read Matthew 8:2-3

The request the man has is to be made clean. He is also wondering if Jesus is willing. Why is he questioning Jesus’ willingness? Maybe he thinks that what is wrong with him somehow affects Jesus’ willingness. Do you find it difficult to believe that God will do good things for you when there is still bad in your life? Take some time to pray and meditate on this.

4) Read Matthew 8:2-3

What the man with leprosy asked for is worth looking at also. Notice that he didn’t ask to be healed. He asked to be made clean. This suggests that he was Jewish and wasn’t just looking for just the leprosy to be removed, but he wanted to return to society. He was tired of his outward challenges affecting his inward desires. Can you relate to this? Have you ever wanted to get back to who you once were? What is it that you desire to get back to? Share with us here on social media using #MessageMag.

5) Read Matthew 8:3; Psalm 34:1

Jesus is willing. Take a moment and get a pen and paper. At the top of the paper write “What God was willing to do.” Then write a list of experiences where you now know that God was willing to do something on your behalf. Mine would start off with something like “God was willing to protect my family when I wasn’t around.” This is a list praises of what God was willing to do.

6) Read Matthew 8:3-4; Philippians 4:6

Jesus doesn’t ask for the Father to heal this man. Instead He commands the man to “be clean.” The Bible says that the man was cleansed at that moment. We live in world of people that often don’t allow for others to grow beyond their challenges or mistakes of yesterday. Jesus on the other hand, specializes in instantaneous transformation. The struggle is often accepting the change that He has promised in His word.

7) Read Isaiah 1:18; 1 John 1:9; Psalm 103:12

The man is able to go and be declared clean. All because he ran into Jesus. People can talk about what he once was, but when they look at him, he is his own testimony of change. When Jesus washes you white as snow you can live a life where you don’t have to defend your past because God has mapped out your future.

…......……………………………………………………………….

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

2020 May June cover
This article is part of our 2020 May / June Issue
Subscribe –>


“Large crowds followed Jesus as he came down the mountainside. Suddenly, a man with leprosy approached him and knelt before him. “Lord,” the man said, “if you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean.” Jesus reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” he said. “Be healed!” And instantly the leprosy disappeared. Then Jesus said to him, “Don’t tell anyone about this. Instead, go to the priest and let him examine you. Take along the offering required in the law of Moses for those who have been healed of leprosy. This will be a public testimony that you have been cleansed.” 

Matthew 8:1-4 (NLT)

Social Distance – Who dares to cross the line?

A Reflection

From Ellen G. White’s The Desire of Ages, the chapter entitled “Thou Canst Make Me Clean”, p. 262*

Away from his friends and his kindred, the leper must bear the curse of his malady. He was obliged to publish his own calamity, to rend his garments, and sound the alarm, warning all to flee from his contaminating presence. The cry, “Unclean! unclean!” coming in mournful tones from the lonely exile, was a signal heard with fear and abhorrence.

In the region of Christ’s ministry, there were many of these sufferers, and the news of His work reached them, kindling a gleam of hope. But since the days of Elisha the prophet, such a thing had never been known as the cleansing of one upon whom this disease had fastened. They dared not expect Jesus to do for them what He had never done for any man. There was one, however, in whose heart faith began to spring up. Yet the man knew not how to reach Jesus. Debarred as he was from contact with his fellow men, how could he present himself to the Healer?

And he questioned if Christ would heal him. Would He stoop to notice one believed to be suffering under the judgment of God? Would He not, like the Pharisees, and even the physicians, pronounce a curse upon him, and warn him to flee from the haunts of men?

He thought of all that had been told him of Jesus. Not one who had sought His help had been turned away. The wretched man determined to find the Saviour. Though shut out from the cities, it might be that he could cross His path in some byway along the mountain roads, or find Him as He was teaching outside the towns. The difficulties were great, but this was his only hope.”

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

2020 May June cover
This article is part of our 2020 May / June Issue
Subscribe –>

…......…………………………………………..

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.





#Lamentations with Larry & Sandy Feldman

Pray

In the Jewish tradition, Tikkun Olam – repairing the world – is a fundamental responsibility. Today, our world is badly in need of repair.

Our hearts are breaking over the most recent in a long line of senseless killings of African-American men, women, and children by police officers. We pray for a clear understanding of what we can do to change this terrible reality and we pray for the strength to persevere in our efforts to bring about urgently needed social change.

Racism has been deeply embedded in the fabric of our nation for hundreds of years. Slavery, lynchings, segregation, prejudice, and discrimination have all taken a toll on people of color. Institutional and individual racism continue to have a devastating impact on Black and Brown America. Police brutality is one manifestation of the enduring legacy of racism in these “United” States.

Jewish theologian Martin Buber taught us that the Divine can be experienced through “I-Thou” relationships. When we recognize “the other” as a person created in the image of God, as an individual deserving of recognition, respect, and caring, we can feel the presence of the Divine. But when the “I-Thou” relationship is distorted by stereotypes and prejudice, “Thou” becomes “It” and “the other” is stripped of his or her humanity. When we enter into “I-It” relationships, terrible things can happen – exclusion, exploitation, discrimination, aggression, murder, genocide. Dr. King often cited the link between experiencing “the other” as an “It” and systemic racism.

In our prayers today, we ask for divine guidance to help us reject the kind of thinking that leads to “I-It” interactions, and to help us commit to recognizing the “Thou” in our relationships with our brothers and sisters.

Fast

In the Jewish faith, our most significant experience of fasting is during the High Holy Day of Yom Kippur. We abstain from eating and drinking from sunset the night before until the sun sets on the day itself. Fasting frees our mind to focus on introspection, on taking a spiritual inventory of how we’ve lived our lives in the year that just concluded. It also allows us to experience in a limited way the feelings of deprivation that are constant companions in the lives of marginalized people.

For all of us today, may our fasting help us to let go of our more superficial concerns and make room for a deep dive into the world of those whose lives are impacted by racism. May our fasting help us to honestly face our own implicit and explicit biases and to acknowledge institutional racism in every aspect of our society. May our fasting help us to make a strong and lasting commitment to do everything we can to eliminate racism in ourselves and in our institutions.

Act

Consider the words of Rabbi Hillel: “If I am not for myself, who will be for me. If I am only for myself, what am I? If not now, when?”

What can we do today to help repair this broken world? We suggest the following possibilities:

  • When injustice occurs, speak out against it, loudly and persistently, privately and publicly, in our homes, our neighborhoods, our houses of worship, our work environments, and in the public square.
  • Insist on better pre-hiring evaluations, more effective training, and greater transparency for all police officers.
  • Join organizations that are committed to creating a more equitable and just world. Stay involved and stay active, commit for the long haul.
  • Work for the election of governmental officials, at every level, who are strong advocates for the elimination of racial injustice.
  • Communicate with your elected representatives and demand that they take action against injustice.

Systemic racism has plagued our nation for much too long. The time for Tikkun Olam, for repairing ourselves and our society, is now! Together, we can and must make this happen.




#Lamentations with Rev. Gayle Fisher-Stewart

“Then the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and about his teaching. Jesus answered, ‘I have spoken openly to the world; I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all the Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret. Why do you ask me? Ask those who heard what I said to them; they know what I said.’ When he had said this, one of the police standing nearby struck Jesus on the face, saying, ‘Is that how you answer the high priest?’ Jesus answered, ‘If I have spoken wrongly, testify to the wrong. But if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?'”

John 18:19-23

PRAY

The world is being turned right side up which is what Jesus came to do. People across the globe are protesting for the right of black people to be seen as human beings who reflect the image of God. The question is how do we keep it going; how do we make this a Church priority; that the church joins Jesus in this confrontation of the powers that deny rights to which everyone is entitled? But, before we ask the church, we must ask ourselves, is this what we want for God’s sun-kissed people? Is this a priority for us? If it is, we must pray, pray that we have the strength to challenge the church to make it a priority and pray for ourselves for the strength to commit to the fight, to the struggle, for the long-haul. This is not a sprint; it is a marathon.

FAST

Then we fast; fast from negativity because advocating for equal rights is tiring and there are those who call themselves people of faith who deny Jesus by their actions. There are those who will tell us to “go slow” or that there has been enough change, after all, we’ve had a black man in the White House. Isn’t that enough?  Well, no. We also fast from arguments because those whose minds are made up; those who want to maintain the status quo; who want to maintain what is considered normal; we will just have to leave them to God. We must also fast from prejudice because it is easy to prejudge those who might not agree with us.

ACT

Finally, we act. But act how? As we’ve seen, millions have taken to the streets calling for change in policing. Others are behind the scenes, meeting with governmental officials and legislators. Still others are creating programs where the police and the community can learn together. And then there are those who preach; who take the fight to their pulpits and risk everything to bring about God’s kingdom here, right now for those who have been marginalized, for those who have lamented, “How long, Lord; how long?” There are those who are marshalling resources so every one who can vote, will vote. If you’re going to follow Jesus, you must be political because is about the decision making process that allocates resources to people and since those resources are all part of God’s creation, those who follow Jesus must be involved in the decision making process of getting what is God’s to God’s people. Scripture says, “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:14-18). If we follow Jesus, our faith will be an active faith; one that shows the world that a better life can be had by all. This is a Kairos moment. It is full of chaos and opportunity. God creates out of chaos. Do not let this opportunity pass by. We cannot afford to let it pass by. If we do, the church, I’m afraid, will become an irrelevant social club. Keep the faith and keep it active.




#Lamentations with Ty Gibson

Knowing what prayer is, and what it’s not, motivates me to pray.

Jesus explained prayer as the intersection between at least four free agents:

“Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren” (Luke 22:31-32).

A convergence of four persons is on display here: Simon, Satan, God the Father, and Jesus. Satan is asking God for access to Simon (aka Peter), to destroy him. Jesus is countering Satan’s ask by praying for Peter. A spiritual war is underway over Peter’s soul. He is the target of satanic attack. But on the premise of his prayer for Peter, Jesus fully anticipates a significant effect to be had upon Peter. Peter will deny His Master, but he will return to Jesus.

When I have a clear mental image of what happens when the words of my prayers leave my lips or ascend from my heart, I cannot help but want to pray. It ceases to be a formal religious ritual and becomes a vital interaction between myself and all of the free will activity taking place around me.

Prayer is Not Pagan Magic

Blaise Pascal, the French mathematician and philosopher, said, “God instituted prayer in order to lend to His creatures the dignity of causality.”

Prayer is not pagan magic. God is not a heavenly vending machine. Rather, prayer is part of the science of free will. When I pray, I am leveraging the victory of Christ over the kingdom of darkness, taking back territory that rightfully belongs to Christ. Prayer is an intelligent and strategic exercise of my moral freedom on the battlefield of the great controversy between good and evil. Prayer is an act of war against the systems and structures of evil that compose the demonic empire.

During this present time of massive social upheaval in our nation and in our world, one of the most impactful things we can do to arrest the powers of evil and open access to the powers of good, is to pray out the realities we want our protest against racial injustice to produce.

What I’m Praying For

Today I am specifically praying for strategic conversations between myself and my white brothers and sisters who are operating in their opinions in a vacuum of knowledge and empathy. God help me to articulate the truth of the situation persuasively and open their hearts to feel your heart coming through my words.

What I’m Fasting From

Today I’ll be fasting from all solid foods, and keeping my energy level up with two green protein smoothies, one in the morning, and one in the late afternoon.

What I’m Doing and Encouraging You To Do

Today I will be reaching out to three specific white persons of influence in an effort to open the racial justice conversation with them and ask them to become vocal allies in the vital cause.




#Lamentations with Dr. Jaime Kowlessar

The urban scholar and poetic genius of the pavement Tupac Shakur, so eloquently said, “I suffered through the years, and shed so many tears Lord, I lost so many peers, and shed so many tears.” The reality for many of us is that we have shed a lot of tears because we’ve lost so many peers. From Covid-19 to the recent untimely deaths of our brothers and sisters at the hands of law enforcement, it appears to be turning for the worse everyday. Just like Tupac, Jeremiah shed some tears as well. In the book of Lamentations 3:20 says, “I will never forget this awful time, as I grieve over my loss.”

When we lament, pray, and fast we are not only acknowledging pain and suffering, we are also saying that we believe that God can fix it.  

Fast

Today we are asking you to fast. We are asking for all believers go ask God to give us the power to “Loose the Bands of Wickedness.”  Isa. 58:6 says, “Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?”( KJV)

Pray

In America there are many in our country who are wrongly imprisoned. We arrest and warehouse more bodies in prisons than any other developed country. Our justice system is not equal. Today, I want you to pray for the end of mass incarceration. As we fast and pray that the bands of wickedness be released, I encourage you to call on God to remove the systemic structures and policies that hold black people back from living a full life. We are praying for just housing policies, community investment, change to infrastructure, and better funding for our schools.  

Act

After we have prayed and lamented, now it’s the time to act. There are so many ways that we can express our faith through charity and activism. We are asking you to joining a local nonprofit organization that shares your common interests and that is already fighting for systemic change. You can show up at your local city council meetings, and meet your elected representatives and ask them what they are doing for your community. Last, but definitely not least you can set up a courageous conversation with a group of friends and talk about the ways that God wants to use you to advocate for change.   




Lamentations with Pastor Victor Bartley




Lamentations: A Call to Action

An Interfaith Call for Prayer, Fasting, and Protest

When the first group of Africans were brought to the shores of Jamestown, Virginia in August of 1619 our nation’s greatest values and pursuits were eclipsed by white America’s intentional, violent, and systematic dehumanization of African people. Such trauma has only persisted and evolved resulting in the continual destruction of the descendants of African slaves for over 400 years. Blacks have thus committed themselves, even from the very beginning, to asserting and fighting for their freedom, their right to exist with dignity, and ultimately be recognized as a human being. Such violence and oppression has stained American soil with the blood of innocent black men, women and children. 

Today is no different. The descendants of African slaves continue to cry out that #BlackLivesMatter and demand acknowledgement for their humanity. This statement has reached even greater significance as for the last few months blacks have watched helplessly as vigilante thugs in blue uniforms knelt on the neck of George Floyd in Minneapolis, MN; shot Sean Reed on Facebook Live in Indianapolis, IN; burst into Breonna Taylor’s home killing her dead in Louisville, KY;  and attacked and killed Ahmaud Arbery while jogging in Glynn County, GA. In addition to vigilante and state sanctioned violence, black people have had to deal with the burden of unemployment, the responsibility of being an essential worker, and the reality of COVID-19’s potent efficacy in taking black lives. Whether due to white violence or this recent coronavirus, blacks find themselves in a perpetual state of grief with no end in sight. In the midst of all these tragedies we need to find time to weep and lament.  

Lament

Soon-Chan Rah in his book, Prophetic Lament says, Lament is the language of God. “Lament in the Bible is a liturgical response to the reality of suffering and engages God in the context of pain and trouble. The hope of lament is that God would respond to human suffering [in a way] that is wholeheartedly communicated through lament. Unfortunately, lament is often missing from the narrative of the American church.”  In spite of the fullness of sin’s destruction on the Earth and on humanity, we have forgotten how to lament before God about our pain and concerns. Our Christianity has divested itself of the hope and glory of weeping with God about the brokenness of our world. 

This aversion to lament is contrary to Scripture as more than half of the Psalms in the Bible are laments unto God. In fact, the book of Lamentations is an entire book about the destruction of Israel and how God and the prophet lamented over that destruction. Lamentations 1:8 says:

Jerusalem sinned greatly,

Therefore she has become an unclean thing.

All who honored her despise her

Because they have seen her nakedness;

Even she herself groans and turns away.

In other words, when we see destruction it should cause us to groan, even turn away from looking at it. Scripture reveals that lament is the language of prayer. Lament is the kind of language God expects of our prayers in regards to the destruction caused by racism, xenophobia, and every kind of injustice produced by sin.

The Invitation

As ministers of God, Pastor Victor Bartley, Pastor Michael Kelly, MESSAGE Magazine and Raise Your Voice are asking leaders of all faiths and races to join them in a collective action of lament. The nation has recently lamented over the hundreds of thousands whose lives were lost to coronavirus COVID-19. In this spirit of such a beautiful act of outcry, we invite our nation to lament with us over the hundreds of thousands of black lives lost to white supremacy, domestic terrorism, and police brutality.

We will begin this journey of lament on June 6th being led through 7 days of fasting, prayer, and protest by leaders and clergy of various faith traditions. On the MESSAGE Magazine website you will find daily devotional videos along with instructions on what to pray for, what to fast from, and how to protest. This week of fasting, prayer, and protest will culminate on Saturday, June 13th with a National Day of Lament. We ask that you join us in a virtual reading of the following litany led by Pastor Michael Kelly at the Mt. Rubidoux SDA Church and Dr. Jaime Kowlessar of the City Temple SDA Church. 

Prayer of Lament

Let us pray together:

God of  justice, we are outraged,

as violence in our country begets violence.

We are outraged at the murder of African American life.

We are outraged at police violence sanctioned by the State.

We are outraged by the idea that guns make us safe.

We acknowledge our complicity by not challenging racism, our country’s original sin.

We acknowledge our complicity in not recognizing the power imbalance between State violence and the violence of those who are oppressed.

We lament the loss of life,  

We lament the deaths of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Ahmad Arbery and every other whose life was taken prematurely.

We lament families torn apart and communities shattered.

We lament the history of violence in this country against people of color.

We lament that this violence continues today.

We pray God, for Your liberation to come.

We pray God, for Your comfort to fill the hearts of all who mourn.

We pray God, for Your strength as we seek to embody the deeds of love and justice.

God, hear our prayer.

 

A Call to Action

In addition, we ask that pastors, leaders, and content creators use their own platforms on June 13th to preach, teach, and speak about the power of lament and their moral and spiritual responsibility to cry out against racism and police brutality. If possible, we encourage you to lead your own congregations and spiritual gatherings in a reading of this litany on your respective day of worship. 

To conclude our national lament, on June 19th we want to celebrate the historical advancement of African Americans in Tulsa, Oklahoma for the building of Black Wall Street. In honor of our ancestors we are encouraging everyone to invest in black businesses for 8 days. The New Wall Street initiative led out by Pastor Michael Kelly and the Mt. Rubidoux SDA Church is encouraging us, as much as possible, to exclusively buy black. To assist with this action, a list of vendors and stores will be distributed on social media to direct you where to patronize for various goods.

 

The Dallas Black Clergy has put together an economic campaign and plan for economic revival in our communities. If you are looking for a template, or idea for your context then I would encourage you to visit DallasBlackClergy.com for ideas, tools, and recommendations.  

We believe that we must shift the social and spiritual atmosphere with lament through prayer and fasting. But we also believe in shifting the social and political climate with direct action, protest, and economic strategy. It’s time we stop looking for a hero, and become the heroes we seek. 

 

Signed,

Dr. Jaime Kowlessar, RAISE YOUR VOICE (Dallas, TX)

Pastor Michael B. Kelly, Mt. Rubidoux SDA Church (Riverside, CA)

Pastor Victor K. Bartley, Baldwin’s Chapel SDA Church (High Point, NC); New Life SDA Church (Lexington, NC)

MESSAGE Magazine




Shelter in Place

“Shelter: to protect or shield from something harmful” (Oxford Dictionary)

Never has the term, ‘shelter’ been used as commonly as we’ve seen recently with the onset of COVID-19. For weeks we have been asked, even ordered in some areas, by our local governments to “shelter in place.” These three words simply mean we must remain in a protected area until we’ve been given the ‘all clear’ signal.

Before the creation of this world, God and his son, Jesus Christ, provided the shelter humanity needed to live on this evil planet called earth. We know that this shelter or protection, also known as the plan of salvation, was conceived by God, not after the first sin, as so many believe, but prior to even Creation. According to Paul in Ephesians 3:8-13, he writes, ‘’I was chosen to explain to everyone this mysterious plan that God, the Creator of all things, had kept secret from the beginning. God’s purpose in all this was to use the church to display his wisdom in its rich variety to all the unseen rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was his eternal plan, which he carried out through Christ Jesus our Lord.” Eph 3:8-13 NLT.

The Shelter of Salvation

The mystery referenced in this text is the gospel or the plan of salvation. Salvation, at one time, was hidden in God, but now it is openly presented as our shelter in a time of storm. Yes, even before our current time of the Covid-19 virus and the violence of white supremacy, our lives were in danger. Essentially, Satan hates God and anyone who sincerely works to serve God. It is his plan to misrepresent their character at all cost. But not only does Satan desire to misrepresent the character of God, He also desires to steal, kill, and destroy humanity, according to the Gospel of John. I Peter 5:8 speaks of this danger admonishing us to, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.”

Ephesians 6:12 also warns us of the need to take shelter in Jesus against the devil: “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” This storm sin and all the ways it manifests itself truly requires that we shelter, not in ‘place’ but in God. There is no other way to avoid Satan’s plan for our eternal death.

The Shelter of God’s Grace

As noted in John 3:16, God desires that all be saved. 2 Peter 3:9 says, “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” Our God, who made plans to shelter us long before we were born, has no intention of allowing his enemy to snatch us away as is evident in Zechariah 3:2 and Revelation 12:5. And so available to us is a number of recommendations in the Bible on how to remain protected or sheltered in Him. I encourage you to reflect on texts like: Exodus 20:3-17, James 4:7, Ephesians 6:10-20, Deuteronomy 8:3, Acts 16:31, and Ecclesiastes 12:13.

The Shelter of God’s Sanctuary

This means that God will bring us through all of Satan’s sicknesses and diseases, as well as shelter us from Satan’s eternal death (Deuteronomy 7:15, Exodus 15:26, Isaiah 40:31, Psalms 41:3). Furthermore, God promises that if we follow His life principles and claim His Biblical promises, He is able to keep us from falling away from the truth and will bring us with great joy into his glorious presence without a single fault (Jude 24). This promise of humanity standing before God’s presence through Christ’s cloak of righteousness is the epitome of the plan of Salvation and the truest essence of sheltering. God, let me live forever in Your sanctuary, safe underneath the shelter of your wings (Joel 3:16 NIV).

Let us all remain sheltered beneath His wings until we get the ‘all clear’ signal waiting for that glorious day recorded in I Thessalonians 4:16 where the author writes, For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God…”