2016 March/April Issue


Bottled-Up Frustration For The Poor and Voiceless

Trouble: The Water. Good People Can Help Restore The Flow Of Confidence

by Edward Woods III / Good people can restore the flow of confidence.

by Sheryl Hawkins / Is there a racial component to effective mental health service?

by Faith Johnson Crumbly / Junior Vargas’s vitiligo propelled himto ministry.

by Lewis Eakins / Do you run, hide, or stand your ground? The biblicalperspective on maintaining one’s personal safety.

by Alva James Johnson / How one woman escaped the clutches ofthe most dangerous illicit drug.

by Buford Griffith / A relational test of loyalty



by Donna Green Goodman / BEST START OF THE DAY

by Willie and Elaine Oliver / THE FATHERLESS CHILD

by Carlton Byrd / LET GOD BE GOD

by Rashad Burden / TOO GOOD FOR GOD




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Three Dangers for Atheists

There are no atheists in foxholes.” It’s one of those quotes that Christians love to repeat. And, often we share it as if it offered needed validation to our own experience with Jesus. Attributed to President Dwight D. Eisenhower, the phrase suggests a clear inference, one in which Christians might take some comfort. What it says to the faithful is, when the going gets tough, even atheists turn to God. But is it true that when given sufficient hardships, those professing not to believe in God seek His help in times of trouble?
Atheism is on the increase in the United States. Between 2007 and 2014 the number of atheists in the country nearly doubled. A report from the Pew Research Center indicates that of the slightly more than 326.4 million citizens in the nation, 3.1% of those living among us, roughly 10.1 million, claim to be atheists.
Most dictionaries define an atheist as someone who does not believe in the existence of God. This leads us into a compound conundrum in our consideration of the response of atheists to life’s problems. The Pew report shares that 8 percent of professed atheists have also expressed a belief in God. Further complicating the picture is data indicating that 9 percent of Americans today deny that God exists, even as they shun the atheist label. Meanwhile, a significant number of Protestants, Catholics, and Jews are reported to have indicated that they do not believe God exists. Clearly, it is not an issue that can be neatly packaged.
Troubling Responses
The Pew research is very telling when it comes to the viewpoints of atheists. Ninety percent of atheists say that religion holds no importance in their lives. Very nearly all atheists (97%) say that “seldom” and “never” are two words that describe their prayer life. And, fully two-thirds of professed atheists report that very rarely, and almost never, do they share their opinions regarding religion with religious people. Not too surprising is the finding that when faced with questions of morality (right vs. wrong), 99 percent of atheists say they do not seek guidance from religion. On questions of right and wrong, nearly one third of atheists said science is their primary source of guidance. Meanwhile, the primary sources of direction on ethical matters for 44 percent of atheists were “practical experience and common sense.” Based on the findings of the Pew Research Center, there may indeed be atheists in foxholes. But, so what? Why should that matter?

For those called out of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9), there is the matter of a responsibility before God of fulfilling the “Great Commission.” Having been delivered from the bondage to sin, the redeemed have an obligation to help others become liberated, too. So, concern for atheists is fueled by Christian love. Such concern is anchored in three clear dangers for atheists:

  1. The danger of trying to live life without learning and doing the will of God. Psalm 14:1 tells us, “The fool has said in his heart there is no God.” A lack of belief in God leads to a total disregard for God’s Word, the Bible, where we find the revealed will of God which offers instruction for victorious living.
  2. The danger of not believing God exists. Hebrews 11:6 informs us that “Anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists.” Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17). Where there is no belief in God, there will be no faith. Where there is no faith, one will not know God.
  3. The danger of shutting God out of our thoughts. Psalm 10:4 offers this admonition: “The wicked in his proud countenance does not seek God; God is in none of his thoughts.” Atheism through its rejection of the reality of God will rely upon the sciences of men, or worse yet, personal experience and common sense to guide in matters of morals, ethics, and ultimately salvation. Lord help us all when this becomes the case.

Life’s trials may never drive an atheist into the proverbial foxhole, where at last they will call upon the Lord. That’s why Christians have been commissioned as witnesses of the mercies and grace of God. To tell others of God’s faithfulness is the responsibility of every born-again child of God. Even in those relationships where others declare they don’t want to hear about God, the Lord Himself will provide opportunities for us to testify of His goodness to us.
Atheists believe their course of action is correct. However, it’s imperative that counsels of the wise man be remembered from Proverbs 14:12: “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.”
Those who deny the reality of God walk among us, and with us. And, while their praise of God may be silent, because our desire, like His, is to see them in the kingdom, our testimonies of Him must not be silent.

You Will Like Me When I’m Angry

Our Bible study this year recalls the details of the days leading up to the trial, death and resurrection of Jesus. In meditating upon His sacrifice for us in this “thoughtful hour”, we pray that you will sense your connection with all of heaven. Feel free to post your thoughts and reactions to things you have read and experienced in the study, #messagemag. Above all, it is our prayer that you get to know Jesus and experience His life-changing power for yourself.

I loved watching the popular television show, “The Incredible Hulk.” The mild mannered Dr. David Banner has a condition that causes him to change into a huge, menacing, green, rampaging character—the Hulk. The Hulk would then go about righting wrongs and dishing out vigilante justice.
One line Banner would use to caution people who took his calm demeanor as a license to take advantage of him was, “You don’t want to make me angry. You won’t like me when I’m angry.”
As I read Matthew 21:12, I see a different side of Jesus than the one we are accustomed to seeing. The verse says: “Then Jesus went into the temple of God and drove out all those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves.”
This is not the “gentle Jesus meek and mild” that some of us recited in our prayers as children. This Jesus is turning over tables and chasing people out, and breaking up stuff. Tables flying everywhere. People clearing out. This is not a polite display of asking permission. Jesus acts first and talks later.
This Jesus seems angry. Why?
Jesus? Angry?  
Angry man with reeds in fistThe reason Jesus seems angry is because Jesus is angry. I know the picture we sometimes cling to is that of the Savior who was void of human emotions, such as anger. This passage indicates that there is nothing wrong with anger; Jesus was angry. There is nothing wrong with being angry about the right things, and in the right way.
So what was Jesus angry about? Well we do not have to guess. He tells us in verse 13: “And He said to them, ‘It is written, My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a ‘den of thieves.’ ” Jesus quoted a popular verse that day from Isaiah 56:7 with which they were familiar. He said, essentially, you have taken this place that was intended for one thing and turned it into another. A place that should have been a house of prayer has become a den of thieves.
In a poignant and powerful symbol to address sin, God established a system that required the sacrifice of an animal. For those who did not have such an animal, well, they were conveniently sold on the premises. And, as with any system that is created, we human beings have the potential to corrupt it and use it for our benefit.
Recognizing they had a captive audience, the animal brokers by the temple gate jacked up the prices. Because of this, poorer folks could not afford to buy the animals so they were kept away from the temple. They were kept away from the house of God. They were kept away from the place where the grace of God was being ministered.
Isaiah 56:7, 8, the passage Jesus cited, helps us see the power of what made Him so angry.

“Even them I will bring to My holy mountain,
And make them joyful in My house of prayer.
Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices
Will be accepted on My altar;
For My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.”
The Lord God, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, says,
‘Yet I will gather to him
Others besides those who are gathered to him.”

The word that sticks out is all! God’s house was to be a house of prayer, and it was to be for all people. No one was to be excluded because of anything they did not have or even their ethnic group or disabilities. And Jesus got angry because people were being denied access to God. I think He still gets angry when people are denied access to God because of socio-economic reasons or their disabilities, or even their hang-ups and issues.
Jesus was so angry about what was happening in the temple that day that He did something about it. He cleared out the system standing in the way. And the next verses show the results. It says “Then the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them.”
Wait, Jesus just flexes his muscle and throws His weight around and the blind and lame come to Him? They are not afraid of Him? Even the children sing Hosanna in the temple and are drawn to Him. They are joyful because finally they had access to the temple to be able to connect with God in a way that they could not before. And they loved this Jesus who got angry, because He did something about the things that kept them away from God.
I am glad that Jesus saw another system keeping us away from God. It was one that we brought on ourselves as humans. One called sin. And He came down to earth and did something about it. He took it on, head on. He took it on and destroyed the system that kept us out from the grace of God. But it cost Him His life to do it.
Today Jesus will not let anything or anyone keep you away from Him. Anything that tries to, He gets angry about it and does something about it. And you will love Him for it.

KYMONE HINDS, his wife, and their three energetic children live in Memphis, Tennessee. He pastors the Overton Park and Journey Fellowship Seventh-day Adventist churches. He also speaks and blogs regularly on different life issues. You can connect with Kymone via twitter@kymonehinds, or on his blog at comejourney.org.


What does Jesus want out of our relationship with Him? Love? Commitment? Service? I’m sure you have wondered if your relationship with Jesus is what it should and could be. Do I pray and have devotion enough? Am I in my Bible the way I should be? We’ve all had those questions. I wish to submit to you that unknowingly we are trying to be too good for God.


Day 1 - Read Mark 11:7-11

Many of us know what it’s like to have someone smile in our face one moment only to stab us in the back the next. What do you think is going through Jesus’ mind as He is entering into Jerusalem? We want to know your thoughts here at Message. Share on Social Media using the #MessageMag.

Day 2 - Read Mark 11:12-14

Have you ever experienced God do something that didn’t make sense. Why would Jesus curse the fig tree that was out of season? What has God allowed to happen to you that you have felt has been out of season? Share it with us on social media using the #MessageMag.

Day 3 - Read Mark 11:13

Notice that the Bible says the fig tree was in leaf. When a fig tree is in leaf it is supposed to have fruit. Therefore this fig tree looked like it was being fruitful but was just putting on a show. Is it possible to look like you have everything together and really be nothing but show? Do you know anyone like that? Are you like that? Don’t share it with us. In your time with God I invite you to pray about the places in your life that may just be show.


Day 4 - Read Luke 7:40-46

There is another side to the coin. Some people see it as disruptive when other people go after God in the way they feel inspired to. This is how Simon responded. Because the woman went to Jesus in a way in which he and others did not approve, he spoke condescendingly about her. Be honest now: Can you think of a time when you were being a Pharisee, looking down on someone for something you did not like? Share it with us using the #messagemag.

In preparation for the next section I invite you to listen to “Intercession” by Kirk Franklin. Allow your mind to drift to your need for Christ.

Day 5 - Read Mark 11:15-17

Jesus seems to be out of character in this portion of the Bible. Irate and enraged is the Lamb of God who is usually meek and mild. What caused Him to act this way? If we pay close attention to the personality of Jesus, nothing sets Him off more than people being mistreated. The church had gotten so bad that the place used to connect with God is now being used to take people’s money and resources. The thing is, aren’t we supposed to help people connect with God, but sometimes we drain or get drained by people who were supposed to help us get closer to Him? Have you experienced this? Tell us about it on social media using the #MessageMag

Day 6 - Read Mark 11:19-20

I once thought the stories of the fig tree and Jesus flipping tables were disconnected. But when I took into account the detail of the tree having withered from the roots I realized Jesus was being very intentional with His perceived discontent. God is turned off by those who act like they’re connected when they are nothing but show. The fig tree didn’t have fruit because the roots weren’t connected to anything of substance. Jesus kicked the people out the temple because they were hindering connection to God. Take time to evaluate your connection to God and if your life facilitates other people making connection to God.


Day 7 - Read Mark 11:22-26

Jesus is simply emphasizing prayer. Some of us are so focused on acting right and behaving correctly that we neglect our connection to God that truly makes us productive. Let us be mindful and prayerful that we don’t focus on acting so good that we are too good for God and the people He’s truly trying to connect with.


Rashad Burden is the pastor of the Shiloh Seventh-day
Adventist Church in Ozark, Alabama. He also pastors the Mt. Olive Seventh-day Adventist Church in Dothan, Alabama.


Let God Be God

Uncertainty, trepidation, and insecurity are becoming commonplace in our world today. With the proliferation of terrorist attacks, ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) threats, and civil unrest, global security and public safety have become popular “watchwords” in our postmodern society.
Although Jesus foretold in Matthew 24 that our present-day calamities, namely “wars and rumors of wars,” would characterize the imminence of His return, the veracity of such eschatological events has required Christians to acknowledge and accept the reality that we are living in the final days of earth’s history. Moreover, even non-Christians and those of no religious belief system at all have been compelled to concede that something of cosmic significance is fast approaching.
To combat people’s fears, Bible preachers, teachers, and evangelists remind us that God still has everything in control.2 We’re admonished to have faith in God, to believe what we don’t see. Hebrews 11:1 defines faith as “the substance of things hoped; the evidence of things not seen.”3 And “without faith, it is impossible to please God.”
Despite these pronouncements and declarations of faith, however, we are still a people of logic, reason, and rationale. For many it has to “make sense.” One plus one must equal two. A comes first, then B. Like a game of chess, one move determines the next. So while we have the most comprehensive intelligence technologies and powerful military machines in history, we are still called upon to have faith, to believe without seeing when fear and anxiety are rampant among the masses.
But some still ask, “Why all the strife? Why all the conflict? Why all the unrest? Why would a loving God permit the senseless killings we are witnessing and reading about? Why?” We can all come up with varying answers to these the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.”
This is where our faith and trust in God have to be exercised. We cannot explain why these things happen or why they’re permitted to happen, but we must trust God. Remember, “We have nothing to fear for the future, except as we shall forget the way the Lord has led us, and His teaching in our past history.”6 For me, this statement affirms the simple truism, “Let God be God.”
Yes, we have more information now than ever before. Yes, our communication tools allow us to connect with anybody anywhere at anytime. Yes, we’ve even sent a man to the moon. But at the end of the day, we must let God be God and put our faith and trust in Him. “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.”

The Foul-Smelling Flood of INDIFFERENCE

The wake of the Flint, Michigan water crisis highlights the vulnerability of the people. Not only
did releasing the plentiful flow of dangerous water to an unsuspecting population put their health at risk, it
deprived them of their basic right to human dignity. Flint’s dangerous waters came not from a storm
surge, but right out of the tap. In order to save $5 million, clear and pleasant-tasting water from Lake Huron was exchanged for cloudy, corrosive, foul-smelling water from the Flint River, with its visible contaminates. This was to be a temporary measure until a new pipeline to Lake Huron could be installed. But, from April 2014 to October 2015, the flow of untreated and corrosive water took its toll.

Official test results indicated the water was safe to drink and bathe in, while residents held up small
children covered in rashes—with high levels of lead in their systems—as evidence to the contrary. Finally,
someone believed them when the researchers from Virginia Tech tested and found that the water contained
as much as 5,000 times the amount of lead that is safe to ingest. When General Motors found that the same water corroded the engine parts on its assembly lines, it was afforded an opportunity to switch back. Residents of Flint, 42% of whom live in poverty, could effect no such change on their own behalf.

Wading through the currents of political rhetoric these days, the safety of the shore seems so far away. I
remember, however, the moment when I stuck my toes in with so much hope thinking, “maybe just maybe there is hope for us after all.” During a 2007 democratic primary debate then Senators Hilary Clinton, Joseph Biden, John Edwards, Barack Obama, and several others proffered their ideas about health care, wage inequality, and the criminal justice system. Hurricane Katrina had ravaged our gulf coast two years earlier sending storm surge
right through old levees, right into the neighborhoods of vulnerable New Orleanians, killing approximately 1,577 and leaving many sweltering on rooftops in the aftermath.

On the debate stage, Obama engaged my heart and mind with this simple statement regarding the deafness of
government to the plight of the people in Katrina’s path:

[P]art of the reason that we had such a tragedy was the assumption that everybody could jump in their SUVs, load up with some sparkling water and check into the nearest hotel.

The idea that elected leaders would be proactive in planning and responsive to the vulnerable was refreshing.
The thought that someone could and would see that the disadvantages of the disenfranchised are compounded
because of their disenfranchisement was attractive. A champion for the underserved called us into the deep.

Fast forward to our friends in Flint, and we observe not just deafness to the cries of concerned residents,
but a new low in leadership. There was the decision not to spend $100 a day for three months to prevent lead
from leaching from the pipes into the water. There was the refusal to validate the views of residents—many of
whom are black, many, although not necessarily the same population, live below the poverty line. There was
the slow response of governor Rick Snyder because, as he told CNN, “[t]hese are very technical issues.
But the lead came to my attention in October, end of September, early October of 2015.” And, the governor’s
office slammed area ministers for speaking the truth of the masses to the power in office. One pastor, head
of the Concerned Clergy Of Flint, visibly confronted the government about the lack of progress in dealing
with the water crisis. He seemed to have been denied a government appointment to serve on the Receivership
Transition Advisory Board because of it.

In 2010 the United Nations General Assembly recognized the human right to water and sanitation. Clean drinking water and sanitation are “essential to the realization of all human rights.” Our bodies are approximately
60 percent water. Clean, fresh water is critical to all bodily functions, and ease of access to it promotes
productivity. As a participating state within the UN, the United States, along with many non-governmental
organizations, help fund safe water infrastructure globally. Because populations are dependent upon it for
life, any government that supplies it does so knowing that it holds in its hands critical building block to life.

Helpless, dismissed, powerless. The Flint water crisis is more than a public health issue. It transcends the
political stage. No, this is a failure to recognize the worth and human dignity of one’s neighbors.