How to Play The Conscience Card

I totally get it. Faithful and God-fearing means one has to stand up for the cause of God in the face of encroaching evil. Students of the Bible do more than wait as human conflicts increase and environmental breakdown intensifies. In the unseen clash between rulers of darkness and angels of light and right, we are participants.

Participant may be too lazy a word here. When it comes to the influence now being waged by some of America’s evangelical groups, they’re working with a vengeance to bring Christian values to the forefront of world morality. It is vengeance because, as one conservative author and commentator writes, when they helped elect Donald Trump as president, they vowed to “hit back twice as hard” because they believe they had to take a backseat in the era of Barack Obama.

Obama, a professed Christian, increasingly sought to uphold the Constitutional principle of the separation of church and state. The White House began to neutralize the language that traditionally recognized Christians. Federal agencies and funding recipients were expected to offer their services with neutral and thus inclusive treatment. Further, Obama created an atmosphere that was inclusive of a diversity of people, religious beliefs and practices. He included Muslims and members of LGBTQ+ communities into official White House ceremony and tradition.

With Trump’s election, largely credited to the support of Evangelical Christians, the power of the church, at the invitation of the state, is just warming up. From a cabinet with eight active and vocal Christians, to the quick and unobstructed appointment of pro-life judges on the federal bench, Make America Great Again, means Christians are back in style.

The Netflix documentary “The Family” traced the underground influence Christian leaders leveraged among elected leaders in the U.S. and globally. The National Prayer Breakfast, according to the film, has been more than a time for prayer, reflection, and direction. Rather, it is a chance for well-connected, yet religious activists to gain access to world leaders in order to influence their policy and governance. So much for the separation of church and state.

Evangelicals, so sure that they are on the right side of the Bible and history, claim Trump is the most “biblically friendly” president the U.S. has ever seen. They are so sure on this that when Trump surprised his own cabinet and intelligence personnel with an abrupt change in Syria, Evangelical pundit and pastor Pat Robertson said Trump was in danger of “losing the mandate of heaven.”

Whether you consider yourself Christian and care about the unborn or the incarcerated, the rule of law or police abuse, there has to be a balancing analysis and maybe synthesis. Matthew 25’s mandate to reach the poor, the oppressed, and the incarcerated in mercy for Christ is clear. It is clear, also, that the Bible invites each believer to cast his or her whole being squarely on the Lord’s side—believing and doing the work of the kingdom (Matthew 7:21; Matthew 10:32, 33; Matthew 12:50; James 2:17, as just some example texts). For Christians who cherish liberty of conscience, there is a critical question: how much of God’s kingdom comes to this world, when Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world”?

If there were a playbook, I would think some of these ideas would be central operating principles for the Christian seeking to affect her world:

The end does not justify the means. Consider the tragic story of Judas, who for 30 pieces of silver, sold away the Messiah to be crucified. This illustrates the idea that even though the plan of God to redeem the world meant His son would shed His blood and die, God didn’t endorse the betrayal, the conspiracy, the blood money. “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood” Judas cried, on his way to a guilt-ridden suicide.

Hollow participation to gain position and power likewise damages the unity, commitment and the witness of the body of Christ. The Spirit exposed the hypocrisy of Ananias and Sapphira, and their final, lying words condemned them.

Love covers a multitude of sins, but don’t use love as your cover-up. Maybe David, a man after God’s own heart, was too secure in his prosperity, power and poetry. He completely blanked when tempted to wield his power to get what he wanted, and again, to what end? The shedding of innocent blood.

Finally, we can never fool ourselves into thinking whatever fundamentalist mission and vision we’re on need not pass the test of the light of scripture, and wise counsel. God sees all. (Revisit the scenes in Ezekiel 8 in which spiritual leaders betrayed God’s trust behind closed doors.) Sure, there will come a time when the masses will not endure sound doctrine, and true believers will suffer. In the meantime, the prospect of public scrutiny should lead us to act with transparency and accountability before God and people.


This article is part of our 2019 November / December Issue
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2019 September/October

Managing the Millennial Family


Humble travelers Earl and Thomia Campbell, offer a few points on this thing called life.

FEATURES

11 More Than Money
by Ruthven Phillip /
Five ways you can build a lasting legacy for your family.

12 The Skeptic and The Theologian
by Carmel Monk Crawford /
How college buddies hit upon a ministry for the millennium.

14 Pregnancy-Related Death Rates for African Americans Remain High
by Violet Larry /
Information and advocacy protect black women and their unborn.

16 Mom’s Bond
by Lena Caesar /
Your sweet whispers create more than a bond with baby.

18 Leadership: 25 seeds of greatness
by D. Robert Kennedy /v Leadership potential starts with these conversations.

20 The Gift of Mental Health
by Tiffany Llewellyn /
Secrets in the family tree, once discovered, can avert crisis.

22 Managing The Millennial Family
by Earl and Thomia Campbell /
Two earners, two professions, two babies and no time. Life lessons in balance.

28 Dead to the World
by Omar Miranda /
Disney World Day shows that death isn’t so hard to understand.

FAVORITES

4 ELEVATION
by Phillip McGuire Wesley /
Media That Takes You Higher

5 EDITORIAL
by Carmela Monk Crawford /
It’s a trap, I’m telling you

6 EYE ON THE TIME
by Jackson Doggette /
HYPNOTIC Hyper-Hypocrisy
by Robert Norwood / THE JESUS PARADOX

8 OPTIMAL HEALTH
by Donna Green Goodman /
KITCHEN GEAR

10 RELATIONSHIP Rx
by Willie and Elaine Oliver /
My child is same-sex attracted

24 FUTURECAST
by Carlton P. Byrd /
Revelations of Paybackion

26 THE EXPERIENCE
by Ellen G. White /
Believe

27 THE EXPERIENCE BIBLE STUDY
by Rashad Burden /
BREAKING BREAD.

30 POWER PLAY
by Eddie Hypolite /
Giant killers




The Theologian and the Skeptic

Portland, Oregon based The Bible Project has posted more than 140 Bible videos and podcasts on platforms including YouTube that have been viewed more than 100 million times in the five years since its inception.

Storyteller and “architect of ideas” John Collins, who with a slim build, modest attire and long hair looks like a modern day disciple, is the engine behind the Bible Project. He spent several years producing industrial videos for the likes of multinational corporations with complicated logistics and distribution systems, such as Sysco. Recognizing his God-given ability to make complex topics approachable, Collins teamed up with his buddy from Multnomah College. Together with his friend, Tim Mackie now a theologian with a PhD., the duo hit upon a ministry for the millennium: explainer videos for the Bible.

The Bible Project is to the church school flannel graph, what the iPad is to textbooks. Instead of a flat, pretty picture, arranged by the teacher, the multi-dimensional storytelling explores life’s ugly questions and chaotic experiences using dynamic animations. And, it can be accessed from all over the globe.

Bible Project’s team includes 33 mostly young, mostly white, mostly introspective (if not religious) technicians—animators to artists, social media managers to non-profit executives. Crowdfunded by viewers, and seeking to be free from interpreter’s bias or institutional agendas, the Project freely releases each new season on YouTube.

Executive Director Steve Atkinson, a former marketing and non-profit executive himself, was sold the first time he heard the idea, because, hey, who doesn’t have questions? One podcast exchange between Collins and Mackie sticks in Atkinson’s mind because of its relatable skepticism toward the Bible’s story of the Garden of Eden and its tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

“If we weren’t supposed to eat from the tree,” asked Collins, “why did He put it right in the middle of the garden? Why didn’t he put it over in the corner of the garden and put some thorny bushes around it, put it under lock and key? Why did he put it there?”

It was the soft answer, the humble answer, from brainy Mackie that Atkinson says makes this kind of biblical experience meaningful. Atkinson admits that as a lifelong Christian, he didn’t always feel comfortable asking questions.

   “Tim, just so softly says, ‘Oh yeah, that’s a great question.” Mackie then related how in the middle of what had to be one of the best dinners—ever—at home with his wife and two boys, one kid decided to spew rice from his cheeks all over the table. “That’s how it is,” Mackie summed it up. “The tree is right at the center of every one of our lives, we’re just one decision away from blowing things up.”

The real question is, knowing how close we have come or have even crossed over, where is the hope? Just as the prospect of failure is ever imminent, so is the hope and the solution of Jesus woven into every part of scripture said Atkinson.

“I truly believe the gospel is Genesis through Revelation,” said Atkinson, who says the company’s mission is to show the Bible as a unified story that leads to Jesus.

“[E]very story whispers His name, that you can see this thread throughout.”


This article is part of our 2019 September / October Issue
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Breaking Bread

Jesus is coming again. Your parents said it. Their parents said it. I’m sure the parents before them said the same thing. For what seems like ages we’ve been told, and talked about the soon coming of Jesus Christ. Living in a time when so much takes up the space in our minds how often do we think about this life we’re living being only a portion of what God has for us? Join us as we take on the challenge of being ready for the return of Jesus.


1) Read Acts 1:4-11; Isaiah 40:31

They had to have been astonished. The disciples just saw their teacher, leader, and friend float into the sky and then vanish from sight. To make matters more challenging, they had just been told to wait for the Holy Spirit. Doesn’t it seem like a lot of your relationship with God involves waiting? What have you had to wait on in your walk with Him? Tell us on Social Media using  #MessageMag

2) Read Acts 1:4-11; John 14:1-3

While the disciples are standing there staring into the nothingness, two men in white appear and tell them that the same way they saw Jesus go, is the same way He will return. Maybe you think it would have been easier to believe that He was coming back a few days, months, or years later. What about a couple thousand years? Is it harder for you to believe living in 2019? Is it harder to be ready in 2019? Tell us on Social Media using  #MessageMag

3) Read Acts 2:1-4, 22-24

After the disciples waited as instructed, they receive the Holy Spirit. Eventually Peter begins to preach about who Jesus was and what He did. That is what each of them did for the rest of their lives. Is that true for each follower of Jesus? Sharing the gospel and living in compromising situations? Is “fun” out of the question? What about the dreams I’m perusing? How can I be ready for Jesus while still dealing with the life in front of me? Have you ever asked any of these questions? Do you have any answers? Please Share on Social Media using #MessageMag

4) Read 1 Thess. 5:1-6; Romans 14:17-19

Chronologically speaking, Thessalonians is Paul’s first letter, and Romans is his last. Isn’t it interesting that the tone with which Paul talks about the life of a follower of Jesus changes from “get ready” to “do your best to be at peace with those around you”? The way the Apostle Paul talks about the second coming transitions from how soon Jesus is coming to how sure Jesus’ coming is. Maybe there is a difference in how one lives when something is “soon” in comparison to when it’s “sure.”  Tell us what you think on Social Media using #MessageMag 

5) Read Acts 2:40-42; Matt. Chapters 5-7

The Holy Spirit enabled Peter to preach and thousands of people were baptized. Thousands of people now looked forward to the return of Jesus. As the story goes, they didn’t just sit around, but they learned from the apostles. The apostles did the best they could to pass on what Jesus had passed to them. He taught them who they were and how they were to live the life God gave them. Can we be ready for his return by simply showing people a better way to live life? Is that enough? Share your thoughts with us using #MessageMag on FaceBook, Instagram or Twitter. 

6) Read Acts 2:40-42

It is interesting that Luke decided to include the fact that a part of the initiation into the faith was breaking bread, or eating together on a regular basis, with familiar and new faces. When we think about being ready for the coming of Jesus does being surrounded by strangers register as a prerequisite? It makes sense though because the same Jesus they saw ascend into heaven was always surrounded by strangers, doing the best He could to improve their lives.

7)

It has been said, “don’t be so heavenly minded, that you are of no earthly good.” In being ready for the second coming of Jesus we must be heavenly minded and earthly good. God pours into your life and simply desires you to do the same for the rest of His children. He knows that care for others will whittle away the hard parts of your heart and strengthen your faith. Nothing causes more friction than our interaction with people who are different than we are. God knew, to get to the welcome table in Heaven, He had to call us to break bread at tables down here. 

…......……………………………………………………………….

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 September / October
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“And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.” 

Acts 1:9-11.

Believe: He Will Come Back

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

“C

hrist had ascended to heaven in the form of humanity. The disciples had beheld the cloud receive Him. The same Jesus who had walked and talked and prayed with them; who had broken bread with them; who had been with them in their boats on the lake; and who had that very day toiled with them up the ascent of Olivet,—the same Jesus had now gone to share His Father’s throne. And the angels had assured them that the very One whom they had seen go up into heaven, would come again even as He had ascended.

He will come “with clouds; and every eye shall see Him.” “The Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the Archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise.” “The Son of man shall come in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then shall He sit upon the throne of His glory.” Revelation 1:7; 1 Thessalonians 4:16; Matthew 25:31. Thus will be fulfilled the Lord’s own promise to His disciples: “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” John 14:3. Well might the disciples rejoice in the hope of their Lord’s return.

When the disciples went back to Jerusalem, the people looked upon them with amazement. After the trial and crucifixion of Christ, it had been thought that they would appear downcast and ashamed. Their enemies expected to see upon their faces an expression of sorrow and defeat. Instead of this there was only gladness and triumph. Their faces were aglow with a happiness not born of earth. They did not mourn over disappointed hopes, but were full of praise and thanksgiving to God. With rejoicing they told the wonderful story of Christ’s resurrection and His ascension to heaven, and their testimony was received by many.

The disciples no longer had any distrust of the future. They knew that Jesus was in heaven, and that His sympathies were with them still. They knew that they had a friend at the throne of God, and they were eager to present their requests to the Father in the name of Jesus. In solemn awe they bowed in prayer, repeating the assurance, “Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in My name, He will give it you. Hitherto have ye asked nothing in My name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.” John 16:23, 24. They extended the hand of faith higher and higher, with the mighty argument, “It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.” Romans 8:34. And Pentecost brought them fullness of joy in the presence of the Comforter, even as Christ had promised.”

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


This article is part of our 2019 September / October
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.





Believe: He Will Come Back

“And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.” 

Acts 1:9-11


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

Christ had ascended to heaven in the form of humanity. The disciples had beheld the cloud receive Him. The same Jesus who had walked and talked and prayed with them; who had broken bread with them; who had been with them in their boats on the lake; and who had that very day toiled with them up the ascent of Olivet,—the same Jesus had now gone to share His Father’s throne. And the angels had assured them that the very One whom they had seen go up into heaven, would come again even as He had ascended.

He will come “with clouds; and every eye shall see Him.” “The Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the Archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise.” “The Son of man shall come in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then shall He sit upon the throne of His glory.” Revelation 1:7; 1 Thessalonians 4:16; Matthew 25:31. Thus will be fulfilled the Lord’s own promise to His disciples: “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” John 14:3. Well might the disciples rejoice in the hope of their Lord’s return.

When the disciples went back to Jerusalem, the people looked upon them with amazement. After the trial and crucifixion of Christ, it had been thought that they would appear downcast and ashamed. Their enemies expected to see upon their faces an expression of sorrow and defeat. Instead of this there was only gladness and triumph. Their faces were aglow with a happiness not born of earth. They did not mourn over disappointed hopes, but were full of praise and thanksgiving to God. With rejoicing they told the wonderful story of Christ’s resurrection and His ascension to heaven, and their testimony was received by many.

The disciples no longer had any distrust of the future. They knew that Jesus was in heaven, and that His sympathies were with them still. They knew that they had a friend at the throne of God, and they were eager to present their requests to the Father in the name of Jesus. In solemn awe they bowed in prayer, repeating the assurance, “Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in My name, He will give it you. Hitherto have ye asked nothing in My name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.” John 16:23, 24. They extended the hand of faith higher and higher, with the mighty argument, “It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.” Romans 8:34. And Pentecost brought them fullness of joy in the presence of the Comforter, even as Christ had promised.”

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

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 September / October Issue
Subscribe –>

…......…………………………………………..


Jesus is coming again. Your parents said it. Their parents said it. I’m sure the parents before them said the same thing. For what seems like ages we’ve been told, and talked about the soon coming of Jesus Christ. Living in a time when so much takes up the space in our minds how often do we think about this life we’re living being only a portion of what God has for us? Join us as we take on the challenge of being ready for the return of Jesus.

1 Read Acts 1:4-11; Isaiah 40:31

They had to have been astonished. The disciples just saw their teacher, leader, and friend float into the sky and then vanish from sight. To make matters more challenging, they had just been told to wait for the Holy Spirit. Doesn’t it seem like a lot of your relationship with God involves waiting? What have you had to wait on in your walk with Him? Tell us on Social Media using  #MessageMag

2 Read Acts 1:4-11; John 14:1-3

While the disciples are standing there staring into the nothingness, two men in white appear and tell them that the same way they saw Jesus go, is the same way He will return. Maybe you think it would have been easier to believe that He was coming back a few days, months, or years later. What about a couple thousand years? Is it harder for you to believe living in 2019? Is it harder to be ready in 2019? Tell us on Social Media using  #MessageMag

3 Read Acts 2:1-4, 22-24

After the disciples waited as instructed, they receive the Holy Spirit. Eventually Peter begins to preach about who Jesus was and what He did. That is what each of them did for the rest of their lives. Is that true for each follower of Jesus? Sharing the gospel and living in compromising situations? Is “fun” out of the question? What about the dreams I’m perusing? How can I be ready for Jesus while still dealing with the life in front of me? Have you ever asked any of these questions? Do you have any answers? Please Share on Social Media using #MessageMag

4 Read 1 Thess. 5:1-6; Romans 14:17-19

Chronologically speaking, Thessalonians is Paul’s first letter, and Romans is his last. Isn’t it interesting that the tone with which Paul talks about the life of a follower of Jesus changes from “get ready” to “do your best to be at peace with those around you”? The way the Apostle Paul talks about the second coming transitions from how soon Jesus is coming to how sure Jesus’ coming is. Maybe there is a difference in how one lives when something is “soon” in comparison to when it’s “sure.”  Tell us what you think on Social Media using #MessageMag 

5 Read Acts 2:40-42; Matt. Chapters 5-7

The Holy Spirit enabled Peter to preach and thousands of people were baptized. Thousands of people now looked forward to the return of Jesus. As the story goes, they didn’t just sit around, but they learned from the apostles. The apostles did the best they could to pass on what Jesus had passed to them. He taught them who they were and how they were to live the life God gave them. Can we be ready for his return by simply showing people a better way to live life? Is that enough? Share your thoughts with us using #MessageMag on FaceBook, Instagram or Twitter. 

6 Read Acts 2:40-42

It is interesting that Luke decided to include the fact that a part of the initiation into the faith was breaking bread, or eating together on a regular basis, with familiar and new faces. When we think about being ready for the coming of Jesus does being surrounded by strangers register as a prerequisite? It makes sense though because the same Jesus they saw ascend into heaven was always surrounded by strangers, doing the best He could to improve their lives.

7

It has been said, “don’t be so heavenly minded, that you are of no earthly good.” In being ready for the second coming of Jesus we must be heavenly minded and earthly good. God pours into your life and simply desires you to do the same for the rest of His children. He knows that care for others will whittle away the hard parts of your heart and strengthen your faith. Nothing causes more friction than our interaction with people who are different than we are. God knew, to get to the welcome table in Heaven, He had to call us to break bread at tables down here. 

…......……………………………………………………………….

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 September / October Issue
Subscribe –>





When the Tables Are Turned

Revelations of Payback

You may have heard—or used–these clichés ultimately bear the same meaning:

  • “What goes around, comes around.”
  • “You do dirt, you get dirt.”
  • “Live by the gun, die by the gun.”

These and other similar formulations are meant to represent what many people call “karma.” Now while karma is not a biblical term, many might be surprised that at its core, its concept is actually biblical. It was the apostle Paul who said, “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” (Galatians 6:7). Even Jesus said, “they that take the sword shall perish with the sword” (Matthew 26:52).

Herein is a principle that our Creator has interwoven into the fabric of the universe. It is akin to the law of gravity, the second law of thermodynamics, the law of relativity, and the like. I refer to it as “the law of sowing and reaping.” No farmer has ever reported a harvest of apples from his orange tree or figs from a grapevine. Yet, whatever you plant, in considerable time much more will come back to you.

Revelations and Real Reaping

The book of Revelation is, in many ways, harvest time. This concept is expressed on several different occasions through a myriad of ways within the book. As a matter of fact, Revelation ends with an example of the idea. In Revelation 22:12, Jesus announces, “Behold I come quickly and my reward is with me to give to every man according as his work shall be.” I could write an entire book about the rewards outlined in Revelation. Nevertheless, I’d like to focus on a couple of the significant examples of the law of sowing and reaping.

These examples appear to transpire in successive progression as the further you progress throughout the book, the plagues and punishments get worse. In Revelation 16 the wicked receive the seven last plagues. In this chapter, they tell of seven angels who are handed seven bowls. The bowls are described as golden bowls that contain “the wrath of God” which are reserved to be delivered to the earth; particularly upon those who rebel against God.

Then, just as the seven plagues are being completed, the harvest of destruction continues. One of the angels, who helps to deliver the seven plagues escorts John the Revelator to a far away place to witness the destruction of an evil woman (Revelation 17:1). This woman represents the wicked confederation of rebellion against God in the form of deceptive religious leadership. Supporting her are an array of global, political, economic, and commercial institutions that help her maintain power, control, and terror over the innocent people of the earth (Revelation 17:2, 18; 18:3,9). Nevertheless, God ensures that her just reward will be meted out.

“For her sins are piled up to heaven, and God has remembered her crimes. Give back to her as she has given; pay her back double for what she has done”(Revelations 18:5,6). “The beast and the ten horns you saw will hate the prostitute. They will bring her to ruin and leave her naked; they will eat her flesh and burn her with fire” (Revelation 17:16).

Thousand-Year Earthbound Sentence

In Revelation 20, another angel appears to deliver punishment to the arch-enemy of all humanity. This angel descends from heaven with the tools of confinement.

“Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven with the key to the bottomless pit and a heavy chain in his hand. He seized the dragon—that old serpent, who is the devil, Satan—and bound him in chains for thousand years. The angel threw him into the bottomless pit, which he then shut and locked so Satan could not deceive the nations anymore until the thousand years were finished. Afterward he must be released for a little while” (Revelations 20:1-3, NLT).

There is no firing squad, no electric chair, no lethal injection, but a prison of loneliness, in the strictest of solitary confinement. Since he was cast from heaven, Satan’s existence has focused on deception and destruction of earth’s inhabitants. Now in Revelation 20, everything has already been destroyed and there is no one left to be deceived. The enemies of God have been vanquished and God has rescued His saints, (See Revelation 19). Suddenly, Satan is not the oppressor, but the oppressed. In this moment, the great “slavedriver” of sin and sorrow shall suffer under the weight of the finality of his deceptive work.

End of The Line for Satan And His Followers

After the 1,000 years are finished, Satan makes one last attempt to marshal the forces of evil and take the Kingdom of God by force (Revelation 20:7, 8). It’s not clear how he does this. Perhaps he musters all of his dark and evil magic for one last great push. Who knows? What we do know, however, is that according to the scriptures, this last effort is allowed only for a very short moment. In conclusion, fire comes down from heaven to consume the evil insurrectionists (Revelation 20:9). This is the very end of the line for Satan and his agents. After fire falls from heaven this time, there will be no remaining mark of Satan’s rebellion.

Yes, in the here and now, the powerful seem to find new kinds of oppression with which to victimize powerless people. One day, however, the tables will be turned. The evil forces will soon become the recipients of the very same devastation they dished out upon planet Earth. The divine principle of sowing and reaping will finally need to be settled. We have waited, and God has promised, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back. In due time their feet will slip. Their day of disaster will arrive, and their destiny will overtake them” (Deuteronomy 32:25, NLT).

…......………………………………………………………………………

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.

_________________

Holy Bible, New Living Translation (NLT), copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.


This article is part of our 2019 September / October Issue
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It’s a Trap, I’m Telling You!

The prospect of a sunny day at an Orlando water park to cap off summer vacation managed to raise an eyebrow among our emerging adult children. With one in college, one a senior in high school, and one in eighth grade, we were lucky they wanted to be with us at all.

We trailed our kids up at least 150 steps to the top of Volcano Bay’s Ko’okiri, anxious for the fun to begin. Breathless on the top deck I was stunned as my children each climbed into the door of a clear capsule then vanished down the chute.

Wait, wuh?

I hadn’t researched the new Ko’okiri. I didn’t know it is reportedly the world’s tallest body slide, with the highest plunge, a fall at a 70 degree angle and 125 feet of sheer terror. I didn’t know about the trap door. If you think this is about quality experiences to cement relationships, you’re getting way

Volcano Bay

ahead of me. No, I’m using this as a metaphor for the dramatic and quick decline of the spiritual interests and practices of our millennials and the teens after them, the Generation Zers, or “screenagers.”

Have you seen the numbers in Gen Z The Culture Beliefs and Motivation Shaping The Next Generation? (Barna, 2018) More agnostics, atheists and “nones,” more ambivalence about the relevance of Christianity, and pillars of faith. As a Christian, this feels like a breathless ride into the abyss.

Without question, we believe the task to keep the legacy going falls to Christian parents: “And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up” Deuteronomy 6:4-7.

So, people of faith want their children to have a living faith, a faith that allows them to navigate a secular, if not hostile society (p. 80). But, if a vibrant Christian life is what we want for them, researchers studying this younger cohort wonder at the dichotomy in modeling and teaching in parents. Parents bubble-wrap their children’s lives to protect them, yet, leave them unprepared for spiritual challenge.

Parents wait in cars for the school bus with their children to avoid the stranger danger. Yet, the empty streets after school, hide the fact that there are plenty of children in the area; they’re just spending their time inside, isolated, and unsupervised with uncritical access to a hazardous universe of media at their fingertips.

“[I]n an age of social media, ubiquitous porn, self-harm, cyberbullying and sexting,” said James Emery White (Gen Z p. 35, Barna, 2018), “children need greater protection than ever before—not less. Thanks to their parents, however, Gen Z is growing up too fast, and childhood has slowly evaporated in the name of independence and freedom.”

I am convinced that relationships are the most powerful shaping influences during the teenage years.

Strangely also, the unintended message Gen Z catches from watching the professional pursuits of their parents is the idea that financial success is the highest goal. Parents are role models, alright, for what they supply. Gen Zers are missing the underlying source of drive: purpose and life-meaning. It is no wonder that as a group, they are not in a hurry to engage in the the lifework of an adult.

Similarly, we seem surprised at what appears to be ambivalence on the part of our young people when it comes to “lifestyle” choices. We have taught them love, tolerance, compassion, appreciation for differences, talents, and gifts, cultures, races and peoples. Now, in the face of exploding exposure to diversity in gender, race and culture, and religion, instead of being threatened, our young people seem non-committal. It is logical, and not as frightening as one may think, according to Fikre Prince, an Associate Pastor, Evangel Ministries.

“When we make it seem as though God is against youth or their friends, of course they want to find ways to rationalize or explain away that idea. A lot of what comes across as ambivalence is really kids trying to make sense of what they hear, what they see, what they know of truth and love” said Prince. (p.67) We can help them by giving them a way to understand and explain their own beliefs (1 Peter 3:15, 16), but have to respect the way their compassion and empathy, and capacity for inclusiveness get tested every day.

Fortunately, we can both teach and learn by coming alongside the twenty-somethings and “screenagers” among us. “Gen Z increasingly feels isolated and alone, but they hunger for real relationships,” writes Jonathan Morrow, Director of Cultural Engagement at Impact 360 Institute. “I am convinced that relationships are the most powerful shaping influence during the teenage years.”

The teenager operating Ko’orkiri wouldn’t even look me in the eye. I watched her chat with a co-worker while she worked her buttons when the sudden clang of the trap door at my feet let me know she pushed my button. Free-falling and drowning at the same time, I thought “This might really be the end.”

As my husband and I washed ashore the concrete beach at the bottom, nose and sinuses stinging, pulling swimsuits from the crevices in which they hide, I realized one kid’s thrill ride, is another woman’s near death experience.


This article is part of our 2019 September / October Issue
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Exchanging the Truth for a Lie in These Perilous Times

Black women are growing increasingly skeptical of mainline Christianity

At 13 I innocently became a catalyst for change in the Seventh-day Adventist church when I applied for admission at Mount Vernon Academy, a boarding school in Ohio, 56 miles away from my home in Columbus. The rejection letter came with directions to the historically black Pine Forge Academy in Pennsylvania, 442 miles from my home. Rejection letters from other boarding schools in closer, bordering states, cited policies against accepting students from outside their conference territories, and quota systems that had already been filled for the next ten years.

This led my father Frank W. Hale, Jr, and two friends who were brothers in the faith and fight, Mylas Martin and Burrell Scott to create the Laymen’s Leadership Conference.  That organization became a movement of black Adventists from coast to coast. Its demands for change to the entire church structure, its policies and practices came to a head at the church’s 1962 world session in San Francisco, California.

Though the church conceded—at least on paper during that meeting—my subsequent experience at the two academies I attended  indicated that underlying beliefs and attitudes remained largely unchanged.  The most telling evidence is the fact that I have no high school diploma despite having completed all the requirements in less than three years. That was the “problem,” since no white student had ever done so at that institution.

So later, when I was invited to a meeting of the All African Peoples’ Revolutionary Party, organized by Kwame Ture (Stokely Carmichael) who ignited the Black Power movement, to promote Pan Africanism for the total liberation and unification of Africa under scientific socialism, all I could say is “Where do I sign?”

My favorite bumper sticker reads, “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention,” and with activism being part of my DNA, the disparities and inequities in the church, the nation and the world could neither be ignored or just fodder for discussion.

For some of today’s young, black, Christian women, the discussion has gone on too long, and they’re re-evaluating everything: from assertions that black Christians are stalling black liberation; that spirituality, not religion, is critical to black women’s well-being; that more young black people are trading in church for African spirituality; that Christian redemption for black women is a myth; that black women’s faith and flourishing is rooted in womanist theology, to exploring the proclamations of black witches in Baltimore.

One could easily conclude that the church is in danger of losing the most reliably Christian people in the world – black women.

Back to the Book for Answers?

During the 1960s Malcolm X angrily challenged that “Christianity is the white man’s religion.” However, many black religious movements have urged African American people to, as the late American theologian James H. Cone wrote, “adopt a perspective on God that was derived from their own cultural history.” Black theology, liberation theology, feminist theology, Latin American liberation theology, and womanist theology, to name a few, have answered that call.

Black Theology

According to Cone, “black theology is primarily a theology of and for black people who share the common belief that racism will be destroyed only when black people decide to say in word and deed to the white racist: ‘we ain’t gonna stand any more of this,’” (Black Theology and Black Power, 1969). Further he states that “the task of Black Theology, then, is to analyze the black man’s condition in the light of God’s revelation in Jesus Christ with the purpose of creating a new understanding of black dignity among black people, and providing the necessary soul in that people, to destroy white racism.”

Unfortunately, Cone also declares that “Black Theology knows no authority more binding than the experience of oppression itself. This alone must be the ultimate authority in religious matters.”

Liberation Theology

In his 1977 work Farewell to Innocence: A Socio-Ethical Study on Black Theology and Power, Allen Boesak refined the idea of Liberation Theology. It is one that “reclaims the Christian heritage and reinterprets the gospel to place it within its authentic perspective, namely, that of liberation. In doing so, it questions the historical role of the Christian church, the alliances of the church with ‘the powers that be’ and insists on a true church, i.e., a church that proclaims and lives by the liberating gospel of Jesus Christ. . . Liberation theology seeks a church that ministers to the poor not merely with compassion but with a sense of justice.”

Feminist Theology

Phyllis Trible, professor of Old Testament at Union Theological Seminary and prolific author, states that “the uniqueness of feminist theology is its use of women’s experience to expose male-centered bias of classical theology and articulate a faith that incorporates full humanity” (Trible 1983).

Latin Liberation Theology

Guerrilla/revolutionary theologian Camilo Torres and the book, “Notes for a Theology of Liberation, by Peruvian philosopher and priest Gustavo Gutierrez, immediately comes to mind when the subject of Latin American liberation theology is discussed. This religious movement arose in late 20th century Catholicism and sought to apply religious faith by aiding the poor and oppressed through involvement in political and civic affairs.

Womanist Theology

Black women, then, so long disenfranchised due to race, gender and class, have had to look for affirmation and ways to find identity, meaning and purpose. While feminism and feminist theology are generally understood as relating to the issues and voices of middle-class white women, womanism and womanist theology speak to the unmuting of African American female voices and the empowerment of the underclass.

Unfortunately, the church, not Christ, has often been, and is currently guilty of promoting the antithesis of Christianity in policy and practice. This creates a vulnerability to anything that appears to counter oppression successfully.

In her article, Church Makes Me Sick, Dr. Roni Dean-Burren cites very specific and valid reasons why black people are leaving the church including the manner in which it fails to take a hard enough stance against physical, emotional or sexual abuse and the degree to which it either ignores mental illness or tries to pray it away.

While there is definitely a growing overall distrust for mainline Christianity, there is more specifically an exodus of black women from the Christian Church. While black men are turning to the Hebrew Israelite movement, black women are embracing nature-based, ancestral religions. For example, The Atlantic published a revolutionary piece documenting the transition of young black women into modern-day witchcraft. This article and many others cite how young black women, former Christians, use artifacts and rituals like yoga, crystals, masks, mantras, chanting, and the burning of sage. All of these practices have their roots in Hinduism, Buddhism, and the many variations of West African Yoruba (Cuban Santeria, Brazilian Candomblé, Haitian Vodou), a set of religious traditions focused on reverence for ancestors and worship of deities known as orishas.

Iyawo Orisa Omitola Founder of the Black Witch Convention stated at their 2018 conference in Baltimore, “one thing I know from studying African religions is, I have never seen one subservient goddess. So why are we sitting here thinking we have to be subservient?” Yomi Adegoke in her article “‘Jesus Hasn’t Saved Us’: The Young Black Women Returning to Ancestral Religions” begins her article with the testimony of a young black girl named Michelle Yaa, a former Seventh-day Adventist who believes she did not convert to Comfa but instead “calls it an awakening. It’s just waking up.” These beliefs along with a dissatisfaction with unanswered questions, gender based discrimination, and the silencing of sexual and physical abuse victims has many black women like Yaa resonating with the words of Omitola. But it is womanist theology that holds the greatest appeal for unsuspecting black women.

 

The concept of “womanist” is presented in Alice Walker’s In Search of Our Mother’s Gardens. Many women in church and society have appropriated it as a way of affirming themselves as black while simultaneously owning their connection with feminism and with the African American community, male and female, according to an article by Mariam Williams called “Being Black, Feminist and Christian: An Ongoing Struggle.” Womanist theology allows women to reclaim their roots in black history, Christianity and culture.

Roots and Fruits

It is essential to critical thinking and mandatory for all who would be not only informed and enlightened, but safe and saved, to examine “roots” and understand “fruits” here.  Womanist theology stems from an author who embraces the belief in the salvation of all souls, which contradicts scripture.  Her revisionist views of God, clearly expressed in her writings, also contradict Old and New Testament representations of Deity.

Despite this conscious decentering of the black church in womanist theology, many black women believe it possible to be a Christian womanist. Void of a Christ-centered interpretation of the Bible however, womanist theology is dangerous and deadly, albeit attractive in its offerings of freedom from theological and ecclesiastical domination.

Thinking black women seeking to be faithful to Christianity that has historically and contemporaneously been, in the words of bell hooks, “imperialist, white supremacist, capitalist and patriarchal” admit to an ongoing struggle.”

Black Women’s Faith in the Midst of Struggle

In recent years, polls, such as the one conducted by The Washington Post continue to show “black women among [the] country’s most religious groups.” Yet, the number of faithful practicing Christians have ebbed among millennial women. The numbers do not indicate the large shift in Christian practice among women who incorporate traditional rites into their Christian walk. (See sidebar) It is true, however, that the future of black Christianity, and women who profess it, will be a recognition of how God has led in the past.

“The gift of black faith was wrought out of the distinctive way God was revealed to pre-colonial Africa and it was shaped, for five hundred years, by the experience of suffering and struggle related to oppression. Its lasting contribution will be its demonstration of what it takes for a people to survive and achieve inner and external liberation under the strange circumstances of being downtrodden under the heel of Christian racists.

The joyous testimony of the men and women whose tortured footsteps we have followed through the history of America has been to “keep on keeping on,” as Fannie Lou Hamer used to say, “down the freedom road” – to continue, in other words, the struggle which refuses to settle for anything less than total liberation for the total creation. That has been black folks’ answer to that mysterious question of Jesus in Luke 18:8 – “Nevertheless, when the Son of man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” (Wilmore 1989)

Full Circle

I am acutely sensitive to the yearning of African people on the continent and in the diaspora for justice. Aligned with liberation movements around the world, the Party provided the means to study and work in many political contexts towards these ends.  During my time with the Party, I was completely alienated from the church, but eventually I came to realize how pathetic any human attempt to eradicate the fruit of our problems (poverty, racism, sexism, classism, ageism, colonialism, capitalism, colorism, egotism and all the rest) is without the eradication of the root of our problems – sin.

In the meantime – the in-between time before the Parousia when all that is at odds with peace and justice will meets it end – we are benefited from a parable Jesus told His disciples, about how to occupy themselves while He was away, having entrusted them with what was needed.  Luke 19:13 (NASB) reads, “Do business with this until I come back.”  Given the many resources with which Christians are blessed by God to have at our disposal, financial, legislative and practical support of such organizations and movements as “END IT NOW” and the “EQUAL JUSTICE INITIATIVE” are two of many investments to consider.

Enditnow is a global initiative to raise awareness and advocate for the end of violence around the world.  It aims to mobilize Seventh-day Adventists around the world and invites other community groups to join in to resolve this worldwide issue.

The Equal Justice Initiative is a private, nonprofit organization that challenges poverty and racial injustice, advocates for equal treatment in the criminal justice system and creates hope for marginalized communities.

So, today, as an African American female who left but has returned to the church with all its challenges, involvement and participation in the efforts of these two endeavors are ways in which I attempt to be a faithful servant and “do business with this until [Jesus] comes back,” all the while realizing that “my hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.” Amen.




Getting to Know the Hebrew Israelites

How the “problem of the color line” spawned today’s black nationalist religious practices.

“The problem of the twentieth century is the color line.” This is the poignant refrain in W. E. B. DuBois’ classic sociological analysis of the United States of America, simply titled, The Souls of Black Folk. Writing at the beginning of the twentieth century, I’m not sure if Dr. DuBois would have imagined that his prophetic challenge was also a chilling prediction for the twenty-first century.

The “color line” problem garnered headline attention earlier this year after a complex racialized incident at the nation’s capital. The incident was initially reported as a confrontation between a Native American elder, Nathan Phillips, and MAGA-cap wearing high school students from the Covington Catholic High school in Kentucky. As the details emerged, it was revealed that the elder had positioned himself as a barrier of peace between the young Trump supporters and a small group of men who identified as Hebrew Israelites.

In the aftermath, journalists rushed to define the Hebrew Israelites to the public. Unfortunately, most have presented a simplistic explanation that tends to view the various groups through a uniform lens. However, while the term “Hebrew Israelites” can be utilized to describe black people who claim genealogical affinity to the biblical Israelites, it should not be used as a catchall category for a specific religious orientation. From an organizational perspective, black people who identify with Israel can be divided into two general categories.

“Traditional” Congregations

The first category includes those groups that are organized along commonly identifiable religious structures. The oldest appears to be Frank Cherry’s Church of the Living God, the Pillar Ground of Truth for All Nations. Purportedly established in 1886, this Chattanooga, Tennessee based collective eventually moved to Philadelphia and apparently dissipated after Cherry’s death in 1963.[i]

Then there is The Church of God and Saints of Christ. Founded in 1896 in Lawrence, Kansas by William Saunders Crowdy, this self-identified “Judaic Christian” denomination currently has churches in North America, Africa and the Caribbean.[ii]

The third “traditional” congregation was founded in Harlem, New York, by Wentworth Arthur Matthew in 1919. Known as The Commandment Keepers Ethiopian Hebrew Congregation, members claim direct lineage to the ancient Israelites and follow a pattern of worship similar to Jewish synagogues. Their sanctuaries are mostly in New York and New Jersey.[iii]

Missionary Movements

The second category of Hebrew Israelites includes movements that are more mission-minded. Their task is to call black people back to their original faith. The first emerged in 1966 at the Abeta Hebrew Israel Cultural Center in Chicago. The leader, who assumed the name, Ben Ami Ben Israel, claimed to have received a vision from the angel Gabriel commanding him to lead the black Children of Israel to the land of promise. By 1970, he and forty-eight families had settled in Israel after a brief stay in Liberia. The Israeli government granted them residency in 1990 and they currently reside in the city of Dimona.[i]

The second movement also encouraged repatriation to Israel, but established its headquarters in Miami, Florida. Founded in 1979 by Yahweh ben Yahweh, The Nation of Yahweh was a philosophical counterpart to The Nation of Islam. The city of Miami publicly commended them for their community service and business initiatives. Following Ben Yahweh’s death, the organizational headquarters was moved to Texas.[ii]

The final “movement” is comprised of several loosely related groups that are collectively referred to as “One West.”[iii] This movement was founded in the late 1960s by Ebner ben Yomin who had been a member of Matthew’s aforementioned Commandment Keepers congregation. Adopting the name Israeli School of Universal Practical Knowledge, the leaders taught that Christ would return in the year 2000. One prominent group operates under the revised name Israelite School of Universal Practical Knowledge, and another embraces the militant label, Sicarii. Collectively, these teach that all non-European people who reside in the Americas are the true descendants of Israel and see it as their duty to recruit them to the faith.

The Real People of God

While each of these groups has distinct doctrines, people are attracted to them for some of the same reasons. Although an estimated 79% of African Americans identify as Christian, there are some who feel that conventional Christianity has been used as a tool of white supremacy. Most who reject Christianity for racial reasons align themselves with one of the two major black Islamic movements. However, a smaller number have found a home in one of the groups that fall under the Hebrew Israelite banner.

Looking for Liberation

Interestingly, like the Nation of Islam, Hebrew Israelites have not totally severed themselves from the teachings of the Bible but have appropriated its teachings for the sociological empowerment of black people. Jesus plays a central role in their theology and many of their doctrines are based on creative interpretations of New Testament passages. Young people, especially, probably view the movement as a branch of Christianity that has been liberated from imperial oppression.

As long as the dominant narrative in Christianity parrots the Eurocentric distortions that shift the biblical world from the African continent to Europe, black nationalist movements like the Hebrew Israelites will continue to attract African-Americans who are on a quest for a spiritual identity that resonates with their history and culture. If it is to remain relevant, the black church has a responsibility to lead the effort to recover the African roots of scripture.

[i] For an informative documentary on this movement, see Nicholas Philipides and Ben Schuder, directors, Village of Peace (Affinity Vision Entertainment, 2014). Available on Amazon Prime.

[ii] For a critical assessment of Yahweh ben Yahweh and his movement, see Sydney P. Freedberg, Brother Love: Murder, Money and a Messiah (New York, NY: Pantheon, 1994).

[iii] Their name is derived from One West 125th Street in Harlem, New York.

[i] For a brief orientation to Cherry’s group, see Anthony B. Pinn, “Church of the Living God, Pillar of Truth for All Nations,” pp. 166-169 in Anthony B. Pinn, ed., African American Religious Cultures (Santa Barnbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2009).

[ii] For a comprehensive study see Elly M. Wynia, The Church of God and Saints of Christ: The Rise of Black Jews (New York, NY: Garland Publishing, 1994).

[iii] See Janice W. Fernheimer, “The Commandment Keepers of Harlem,” pp. 169-174 in Anthony B. Pinn, ed., African American Religious Cultures (Santa Barnbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2009).




2019 July / August Issue

CHILD OF AFRICA


What 400 Years Has Done to Our Faith

FEATURES

11 Managing Your Debt
by Ruthven Phillip /
Part four in our series of six to stabilize shaky finances.

12 Exchanging The Truth For A Lie In These Perilous Times
by Ifeoma Kwesi /
Will Womanism and ancestral rites restore the visibility and power of black women?

14 Getting to Know The Hebrew Israelites
by Keith A. Burton /
How the “problem of the color line” spawned today’s black nationalist religious practices.

18 What Good Is A White Privilege Conference?
by Gary Collins /
The truth discovered may surprise you.

20 Round Trip: Going Back to Find Your Destiny
by Anthonye Perkins /
This coming of age program seeks to reconnect urban youth with their destiny.

22 Your Personal PR Toolkit
by Douglas Morgan /
What to do when there’s mud on your name. Prepare for your comeback.

28 The Gold Standard
by Donald L. McPhaull /
Inconsistent application of the law of love finds no place in scripture.

FAVORITES

4 ELEVATION
by Phillip McGuire Wesley /
Media That Takes You Higher

5 EDITORIAL
by Carmela Monk Crawford /
legacy, privilege and the wealth gap

6 EYE ON THE TIMES
by Jackson Doggette /
Politics of Prayer • Reparations; • Religious Bias

8 OPTIMAL HEALTH
by Donna Green Goodman /
But, I’m Allergic!

10 RELATIONSHIP Rx
by Willie and Elaine Oliver /
Keeping up with them

24 FUTURECAST
by Carlton P. Byrd /
Carrying someone else’s curseion

26 THE EXPERIENCE
by Ellen G. White /
Jesus Respected and Responded to People Not in His “Circle”

27 THE EXPERIENCE BIBLE STUDY
by Rashad Burden /
Wrong Place. Wrong Time. Wrong People.

30 POWER PLAY
by Danielle Barnard /
Hagar: The Woman Who “named” God