2015 March/April

SELMA – After Richard Bland marched with Martin Luther King, Jr.,
50 years ago, he quietly packed his memories away. Ferguson and Staten Island made him open them back up.


SELMA – After Richard Bland marched with Martin Luther King, Jr.,
50 years ago, he quietly packed his memories away. Ferguson and Staten Island made him open them back up.

13  WHAT ANCHORS YOU?
by Buford Griffith, Jr. / No one can take away your personal encounter with God.

14  DOES GOD TALK?
by Alicia Jones / Determine the source of the “word” in your spirit.

16  ETERNAL LOVE
by Alva Johnson / Bonds of sisterhood brought her back to mental health.

18  HARD TIMES MEAN HURTING PEOPLE
by Jude Boyer-Patrick / Jude Boyer-Patrick’s psychiatry practice ministers to the mind of the weary.

20  BEHIND CLOSED DOORS
by Sandra Hawkins / Left for dead, Joan Brown lived to tell the story of miraculous healing and peace.

22  FINDING GOD IN A BUSY SCHEDULE
by Michael Polite / Put away the busyness and rest in Him.

30  TRUST GOD IN TIMES OF TRIAL
by Eugene Anthony / Parting words of hope.

32  SELMA
by Carmela Monk Crawford / The March Remembered.

4  ELEVATION
by Phillip McGuire Wesley/ MEDIA THAT TAKES YOU HIGHER

5  EDITORIAL
by Carmela Monk Crawford / IN MY RIGHT MIND

6  EYE ON THE TIMES
FACES IN THE FIGHT FOR RELIGIOUS FREEDOM AND WEALTH INEQUALITY

8  OPTIMAL HEALTH
by Donna Green Goodman/ THE TABLE IS SPREAD
by Paul Musson / BRAIN CHANGE

12  RELATIONSHIP Rx
by Willie and Elaine Oliver / FAILURE TO LAUNCH

24  FUTURECAST
by Carlton P. Byrd / IS EBOLA A PLAGUE OF THE LAST DAYS?

26  THE EXPERIENCE—DON’T WAIT YOUR TURN
by Chanda Nunes / WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU ARE
DESPERATE AND IMPATIENT FOR CHANGE, AND HEALING.
 THE EXPERIENCE STUDY
by Rashad Burden / A RARE RESPONSE

29  MYTH BUSTERS
by Donald McPhaull / FASTS, FEAST DAYS, AND CELEBRATIONS

   

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A Celebration to Die For

An October 2014 press release from one Christian denomination announced that its membership will follow the example of the early Christian church and begin celebrating the Jewish Festival of Tabernacles.
Because the Bible says that, “Jesus taught in the temple during the ancient Hebrew Festival of Tabernacles (see John 7),” members of this denomination planned to gather at 40 festival sites around the world, to launch eight days of celebration for the coming kingdom of God.
All of this raises the question: Does God require Christians to keep the feasts and festivals that were observed by the Hebrews? The Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible reminds us that the Hebrew nation regularly celebrated those occasions in which God had manifested His power on their behalf.  Each celebration was indicated on Jewish calendars by either of the interchangeable terms, feast or festival.  These festivals kept the Hebrews mindful of the power and greatness of the Almighty.  Their faith in His ability to provide for all their needs, particularly in hard times, was reinforced by their systematic reflections on God’s help in the past.   Knowing that He was present strengthened them.
The Hebrew calendar designated three annual feasts to commemorate the power and provisions of God.  We can identify these three primary feasts as: the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Passover), the Feast of Harvest (Pentecost), and the Feast of Ingathering (Tabernacles). We find these feasts introduced and explained in Exodus 23:14-17 and Deuteronomy 16:16.

Passover
The importance of the Passover to Israel can never be overstated. It represents God’s amazing intervention in the deliverance of His children from Egyptian bondage.    Passover is celebrated on the fourteenth of Nisan, first month of the Hebrew year (March/April on modern calendars).  The Passover celebration reminded Israel that their security was in God’s hands. Likewise, it helped them to recall God’s willingness to meet the needs of His faithful and obedient people.
Lamb
Pentecost
The second great annual feast, the feast of weeks or Pentecost, was a harvest celebration occurring during May/June.  It symbolized the end of the grain harvest, and
celebrated the great harvest effected by God when He delivered Israel from Pharaoh’s oppression.  As a result, Jews were perpetually reminded that their material wealth was owed entirely to God (Exodus 23:16; 34:22; Numbers 28:26).

Feast of Tabernacles
The third great annual feast for the Jews was the Feast of Ingathering, also known as the Feast of Booths or the Feast of Tabernacles.  Beginning on the fifteenth day of the seventh Jewish month of Tishri, corresponding to the months of September/October, the Feast of Tabernacles provided assurance to the Jewish nation of God’s imminent return to abide with His people. It was a celebration that prefigured the incarnation of the Lamb of God.
Highly symbolic, the feasts and festivals of Judaism help to find the connection between the faith of God’s chosen people, literal Israel, and that of His redeemed people, spiritual Israel. Whether spiritual Israel—Christians—observes the Jewish feasts again points out once again the importance of becoming acquainted with the sanctuary service. The sanctuary offered the shadow of what was to come.  Jesus is the fulfillment of the shadow.
Are Christians required to observe the feast days of Israel?  No.
The Pulpit Commentary on Leviticus (pp. 360-372) helps us understand the feasts for what they were, shadows of the coming Messiah.2 As yet, the realization of the equivalent to the Feast of Tabernacles (or Ingathering) has yet to occur, and it will not until the redeemed are gathered on the glorious day when “the Lord Himself will descend from heaven. . .” (I Thessalonians 4:16).
The Feast of Tabernacles was not pointing to the establishment of an earthly kingdom in Jerusalem.  Rather, it symbolized the resurrection of the redeemed.  When at last we celebrate the fulfillment of the Feast of Tabernacles, it will be our declaration that the journey on the road of redemption, with all of its challenges and sorrows, has been completed.
For now, we labor to build the kingdom as we disciple others.  Our grand celebration will take place on resurrection morning, and as celebrations go, it’s one to die for.

………………………………………….

1W. A. Elwell, and B. J.Beitzel, in Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible. (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1988).
2Spence, H.D.M. & Exell, J.S., Editors (1985). The Pulpit Commentary.  New York, NY: Funk and Wagnalls




Don’t Wait Your Turn

Our Bible study this year recalls the details of some life-changing, biblical personal encounters with Jesus. Feel free to post your thoughts and reactions to things you have read and experienced in the study, #messagemagazine. Above all, it is our prayer that you get to know Jesus and experience His life-changing power for yourself.


So a few years ago I ventured out into the wild unknown for a dangerous hunting trip—Black Friday. I camped out the night before to secure my spot in line. I had my eye on a digital camera that was on sale. I had to have it. After I waited what seemed like an eternity, the doors opened, and I was pushed and shoved aside by others who wanted the camera too, but were too impatient to wait their turn. It still bothers me that they got the deal  and I did not, all because they did not wait their turn.

But those hijackers had something in common with the mother in Matthew 15:21-28. She was after something, and  what she was in search of was so important to her that she was willing to go to great lengths to get it. In fact, the best word to describe her situation is desperate.

Her daughter was oppressed by a demon—by something bigger and stronger than they could ever dream of fighting off—and this was breaking the heart of this mother. There is nothing harder for us than to watch someone we love suffer, and feel helpless because there is nothing we can say or do in the moment to make things better. But truth be told, if we could we would go to any lengths to fix it.

We could imagine that this mother had tried all of the things that were at her disposal (visiting top professionals, trying the home remedies her friends recommended) with the great hope of resolve, but still nothing. And just when she was at her breaking point, Jesus came to her town.

Yes! she must have thought. Here is where the good news starts, healing happens, problems get fixed, and we all get happy, right? Jesus is in her town. But when she cried out to Jesus (verse 22), He ignored her (verse 23).  Rather than flinch at His rejection, however, she kept on pressing Him so much that the disciples asked Jesus to tell her to knock it off.

What happens next is quite shocking.

Says Jesus: “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (verse 24). Say what now, Jesus? It appears that even though He came to pay the penalty for the sins of the world, He had a special mission to the people of Israel first. And while that may seem difficult to read, He was fulfilling the assignment on which He was sent.  His disciples would be dispatched later to minister to those outside of the nation of Israel. Jesus was not being exclusive here, but focused.

He had focused His earthly ministry on reviving within Israel an understanding of God and His mission for them. Jesus told His disciples in Matthew 10:6 when He sent them out,  “go. . . to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Jesus prioritized His mission to Israel so that He could send them out to everyone to carry this good news!
So here Jesus tells this mother who is in a desperate situation that He was not sent to her people—in other words, Jesus was saying to her, “Woman, wait your turn!”
What would you have done? Would you have gone home and taken your pager with you so that you would have something to alert you to your turn?
Not this mother. Her desperation releases a faith that will not be denied: “Lord, help me!” (verse 25). Clearly, she was not leaving Jesus’ presence without the blessing she sought.

Jesus said, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs” (verse 26).
Say what now, Jesus? Did you
just compare me to a dog?” she must
have thought.

Growing up, my best friend had a dog. She loved that dog, and I did too. We played with him and enjoyed his company, and when she got married, he made an appearance in the bridal party. I had always noticed that when I stayed for meals, he always ate when we ate—in fact, we would toss food to him. He was part of the family.

Was Jesus priming the woman’s faith somehow? Was He hinting at something? Was He hoping to signal something such as “You’re a part of the family”?
Her response? “Jesus, if all I can get are the crumbs, I’ll take it!” (see verse 27).

This mother’s desperation released a faith that caused her to be persistent, to not wait her turn, and to see even the crumbs of Jesus’ blessing as more than enough! She affirmed Jesus’ power. If all He gave her were crumbs, that would be more than enough. Jesus was so impressed, that He rewarded her faith and healed her daughter.

Are you desperate enough for God’s blessing in your life that you are willing to not wait your turn? Can you imagine how our lives would be affected if we exercised faith like this mother, persistent pressing into the presence of God until something happens?

I read somewhere that “well-behaved women rarely make history,” and I think that this could be translated: “to be world-changers, we must have faith to not wait our turn!”

What situations in your life are telling you to be passive, to wait and just accept things as they are? Do you have a family member who has hurt you, made a shipwreck of their lives, and you sit by and watch them while harboring the pain inside? Maybe God is challenging you to not listen to the whispers of life that are saying, “Wait until they come around.” This may be your time to cut to the front of the line and exercise desperation, and cry out to God for Him to deliver, and not leave until you hear from God.

What issues internally are you struggling with that you have told yourself, “I’ll grow out of this; time will make me lose my appetite for it”? What if God wants you to recognize your desperation, refuse to wait your turn, and consistently and persistently seek Him for the power to overcome now?

What assurance of God’s salvation in your life are you hoping to experience later in life, and feel as if it cannot be yours now? You think you have to wait until Jesus returns to feel the peace of knowing you are covered by Him. And maybe God is saying, Do not listen to your own internal dialogue. You do not have to wait to experience the joy of salvation. You can have it now!

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Chanda Nunes is a pastor and evangelist from Kansas City, Kansas.

 

CONFRONTATIONAL CHRIST

Many of us know that God speaks, but how many of us have experienced Him responding? Have our prayer monologues turned into conversations? Most can testify that God hears, but what happens when our encounters with Him necessitate a response? These are all questions that I believe His word can address. Join us as we investigate an encounter a woman in a dire situation had with the Savior of the World.

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Day 1 - Read Mark 7:24, 25

Today it is very important to know that God is real. Sometimes He can seem far, and the stories of Him can be perceived as dated, making it feel as if there is a chasm between the Jesus of the Bible and the one we can talk to daily. That is why the description Mark gives of Him is worth noting. Have you ever not wanted to be bothered, or just wanted some time to yourself? Jesus, the very personification of love, appears to want a breather. Have you seen a side of God that was very real to you? We’d love to hear about it here at Message. Send us your thoughts.


Day 2 -Read Matthew 15:21-23

I have a tough question to pose. Has God ever come across as rude in His dealing with you? Was there a time you wondered if He was giving you the cold shoulder? In these verses we see Jesus do something that we do not see Jesus do very often. See if you can spot it. Let us know if you see it, and tell us your thoughts on it.

Let us know your responses: #messagemagazine.


Day 3 - Read Matthew 15:23

Have you ever been introduced to the Jesus who will ignore you? If you notice, the woman who comes to Him is not dealing with what we would call a small issue. Her daughter is dealing with demonic possession, yet Jesus seems unconcerned. Have you been through a stressful or worrisome situation and felt that God did not respond to it with the same passion and expedience that you would have liked?

Do you mind sharing it with us? Make
a short video, if you can, and upload it to our website.

 

Day 4 - Read Matthew 15:24


While growing up in the church I would often hear people say, “God is not a man.” Jesus’ response to the disciples when they insisted that the woman be sent away is a perfect example of this. Though He did not initially respond to the woman, He said to the disciples, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel,” suggesting that He was not sent to people such as the woman in the passage. Is it possible that Jesus was trying to teach the disciples something through the actions of this “heathen” woman? Has God ever used an unlikely method to teach you something? We would love to hear your story.


Day 5 - Read Romans 8:28

It may not seem like a verse that is connected to our story of study, but I ask that you take notice of something. Here is the verse in the King James Version:  “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”
It dawned on me a while ago that I have a tendency to interpret the Bible in a selfish way. I like to apply verses like this to myself and not as they really are. Yes, I believe that God will work out things for my good, but that is not what is really being said here. Instead, things will work together for the good of “them.” “Them” may or may not be “me.” Something may happen to me that is for the good of someone else, and vice versa. This woman was “ignored” by Jesus so that the disciples could see an example of real faith.

 


What happens in these verses is profound. It is of note that this woman is a Syro-Phoenician. Syro-Phoenician people tended to be Baal worshippers. Jewish people in those days would not customarily speak to them, much less women from that region. Finally, it was traditional for females from that area to be called “dogs” by Jews. The faith of this woman gave her the victory over being treated the way her god had more than likely treated her. It gave her victory over being treated and talked to like every other woman from her region had been by Jewish men. To top it off, this was coming from the Lily of the Valley, Jesus the Christ. No wonder Jesus was enthralled by how she responded.

Day 7 - Wrap Up

I invite you to pray and examine how you respond to the things that God allows you to encounter in your life. Is your response one of rare faith that warrants the attention of Heaven?
Will you cause God to smile because of the special faith deposit now working inside of you? I look forward to hearing your “rare response” to God’s unexpected revelations in your life.


 

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*Scriptures quotations credited to NIV are from the Holy Bible, New International Version. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Rashad Burden is the associate pastor of the Progression church, in Atlanta, Georgia.

 


 




Ebola’s Last Hope

Before the news headlines of the past two or three months, the majority of us had never heard of Ebola. Cable news networks, local television networks, newspapers, magazines, the Internet, and social media sites alike have all informed us about Ebola. For a period of time it seemed like every day we heard something about Ebola. Not AIDS, not cancer, not tuberculosis, not high blood pressure, but Ebola.

While many Americans have been alarmed by this illness (given the media coverage it has received), three West African nations, Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, have been the hardest hit. As of this writing, more than 8,000 individuals have died from Ebola globally. Yet according to the World Health Organization the Ebola epidemic is probably much worse than the world realizes, with health centers on the front lines warning that the actual numbers of deaths and illnesses are significantly higher than the official estimates.

One health worker for Doctors Without Borders cited on the World Health Organization Web site said, “The Ebola outbreak has turned parts of western Africa into a ‘medical war zone,’ with response teams not even able to document all
the cases erupting.”

Medical scientists working to develop a vaccine as significant research is being conducted note that the disease has a high mortality rate, killing 50 to 90 percent of those Ebola’s Last Hope pestilences? Is this the beginning of the end? After all, it was Jesus who said in Matthew 24:7, 8 that in the last days such calamities would occur, for “nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.”*

Despite the frequency and emerging regularity of major catastrophes and calamities, we must be careful to avoid assertions or pass judgment regarding the source or reasons for such deadly infected. So to those who are infected, it is almost like a death sentence. Hence, Ebola patients, coupled with persons suspected to have been in the company of Ebola patients, have to be quarantined.

Quarantine

The worldwide fears, the rising death toll, the lack of effective treatment, and the highly contagious nature of Ebola have led some to wonder whether there’s a spiritual angle to this scourge. Could this be a modern-day plague? Is this an example of God’s wrath being poured out in the final days of earth’s history? Is this one of earth’s eschatological scourges as Ebola. Advanced science notwithstanding, expert biblical knowledge notwithstanding, our limited discernment cannot sort through the loss of innocent lives or the specific spiritual implications tied to these dramatic events.

One thing is certain, however: as with many other illnesses, Ebola is a consequence of the overall dreadful pestilence of sin. Ebola is in this world because of sin. We are
therefore vulnerable, because we are in this world. As a result, sin left unchecked, has brought a death sentence to every human being.

Fortunately, sin is not unchecked. Humanity has received an opportunity for reprieve from the deadly scourge of sin and all of its fearful symptoms. Despite the hysteria that
Ebola has caused, and while we should take precaution, let us be reminded that it is not time to be afraid. Followers of Christ have been called not to timidity or fearfulness, but to vigilance. “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). This power, as manifested through God’s Spirit, should be expressed by telling a dying world that Jesus saves! (Matthew
28:18-20; John 3:16; 2 Corinthians 5:21).

Ebola, and every other pestilence of this dying world, has an antidote. We do have a vaccine. This vaccine was not developed in a laboratory, research center, or hospital, but it was procured 2,000 years ago on a hill called Calvary! So for every death sentence that has been carried out by sin, the precious blood of Jesus Christ is the vaccine that can eradicate it (John 1:29; 1 John 1:9)!

The day is fast approaching when Jesus will return to this earth, and He will save us from sin and its effects, including Ebola! “Even so, come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20).




In My Right Mind

I met a senior woman last summer who told me over lunch how she plans to avoid dementia and stay sane in a world of trouble. “The Bible says ‘thou will keep him
in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee,’” she quoted Isaiah 26:3 to the best of her recollection.

I winced, a little embarrassed at her reliance upon the scriptures to answer the very complex issues of mental health and wellness. African Americans have been tagged
with the reputation for dodging professional intervention, opting instead to pray over everything. (See the articles beginning on p. 16) Believers sing “I woke up this morning
with my mind stayed on Jesus” and routinely testify that “I am clothed and in my right mind.”

For me the tension is one of balance and application. I believe God is able to heal my mind just as surely as He is willing and able to heal my body. Certainly medical
intervention is needed, however, when believers suffer with mental illnesses such as clinical depression or unmanaged bi-polar disorder. We all see how delusions and distress can disrupt a productive and satisfying life. Suicide is the gravest example of that.

Failing to discuss, disclose, or treat the illness is no virtue.

Balance should also be applied when citing negative statistics regarding African American mental wellness. The rates of mental illness are similar to that of other groups, but African Americans are more likely to suffer alone. For every three mentally ill African American, only one receives treatment according to the American Psychiatric Association. And, it is true that the same population is more likely to discontinue treatment early and forgo followup care.

Could there be justifiable reasons why African American discontinue mental health treatment and care? Is there something about that care that may unnerve some would-be consumers of therapy? The answer to this issue was made clear to me after

Dr Gina Duncan
Dr Gina Duncan

talking to Gina Duncan, a psychiatrist, associate dean of admissions for Georgia Regents University Medical School, and a leading voice in cultural competency,
spirituality and mental health.

For example, Blacks are more likely to be misdiagnosed. Black and White patients who present with similar symptoms often come away with very different diagnoses: the White patient is diagnosed with a mood disorder or depression while the Black patient is diagnosed with a serious psychosis such as schizophrenia. Exhibiting too much anger, mistrust, and anxiety because of a life experience rife with social injustice
and racism, is to walk away with a diagnosis of paranoia.

Further mental illness still carries a measure of stigmatization in the Black community. No member of a community that has already been stigmatized wants more of that, said Duncan.

On balance, the collective strength of the African American culture has proven to be a healing balm to sociological pain, mental stress, and illness. Researchers have long identified characteristics common among African-Americans that promote wellness and defy sociological stressors. These strengths can be adopted by anyone. Take special note of which ones top the list:

• Pervasive religious commitment
• Belief in the efficacy of prayer
• Practice of confronting problems rather than shrinking from them
• Leaning on the counsel and support of the community for help
• Resistance to stereotypical labels from outside, and credence given to voices within the culture and community
• A sense of “collective identity” with many “collectively defined interests.”
“Such psychological and social frameworks have enabled many African-Americans to overcome adversity and sustain a high degree of mental health.” according to the African American Outreach Resource Manual, Chapter 3.

There is an intersection of spiritual and mental health, said Duncan, and she considers it part of her calling to educatepractitioners and patients alike. Spiritual problems can lead to mental health problems, she acknowledged. Effectively assessing one’s spiritual status can help prevent and help improve mental health problems so they do not become a major disorder.

Competent practitioners evaluate patients globally, taking into account biological, mental and psycho-social aspects of the patient’s life. A less life threatening diagnosis can be treated with psychotherapy in accordance with a patient’s wishes, taking into account his or her special needs.

Perhaps the senior citizen I met that day for lunch had an objectively reliable mental health plan. There is nothing wrong with engaging the Creator to heal us body, mind, and soul.