The Risk of Discovering Your Purpose

When a man thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. Galatians 6:3

Being religious means asking passionately the question of the meaning of our existence and being willing to receive answers, even if the answers hurt. Paul Tillich

Recently I had several restless and sleepless nights that I surmised to be simply nothing more than my body clock was off because of some excessive ministry related activities. A dear friend of mine challenged me to seek the Lord regarding this unusual restlessness. I of course did not because I didn’t believe it was anything more than just me needing to get back on my sleep schedule. I was wrong. I began to seek God rather awkwardly because I was so sure that I didn’t really need to. I mean after all, everyone has a few sleepless nights sometimes.

Well I eventually got some very good sleep the following night, but it was accompanied by an overwhelming sense of guilt and shame from sin. I was confronted by the Holy Spirit to remember that although I had believed I was ok and didn’t really need God at that moment, I was actually sinning against Him and grieving Him.

The two quotes above summarize my experience. First, I didn’t think I needed to pray. Scripture is clear that man should always pray and faint not (Luke 18:1). It doesn’t matter what you pray about, you should always be talking to Abba because in Him you live, move, and have your being (Acts 17:28). I believed I was just capable of handling my own affairs without truly trusting God for help.

The second quote by Tillich really is the driving force of this post. As a pastor, it is my job and purpose to empower believers to become stronger and better in their walk of faith. This takes courage. It takes the courage to actually let go of the fear of being unable to do so. When I reluctantly prayed, I realized that I had a great fear-Fear of Failing God by trying to be something or someone I wasn’t. That may be what many of you are experiencing at this moment. You may believe that if you pray too much, read and study scripture too much, that you may get puffed up and fall from grace. The reality is that you’ve already fallen as far as you can go, and God has still kept you. Proverbs 24:16 says that a righteous man will fall seven times but gets up again. God also promises to keep you from falling and excitedly present you before Himself as someone who has no faults (Jude 24).

That beloved is the risk of discovering your purpose. You step and walk by faith and not by sight (II Corinthians 5:7). The walking is your’s but the direction and leadership is the Lord’s. Take the risk and make the mistakes, ask for forgiveness, but keep walking, praying, singing, and especially trusting and you will discover your courage to be your authentic self in Christ.

Discovering the Courage to Be: Your Authentic Self

Self discovery is centered in the courage to being authentic to one’s self. The greatest obstacle is the encountering of the emotional self. This includes the emotions of anger, pain, sorrow, grief, fear, and despair. There may be others that are not listed that one may encounter. These emotions are strong and rooted in the pathos of life experience. The process of self authentication should lead to those emotions. There is no way around that. However the key is expressing those emotions positively, allowing the emotions to help you become a communion within oneself, one must experience emptiness and chaos before experiencing
authentic self. To borrow from the world of aesthetics, it is what Friedrich Schiller calls the Sublime Pathos. It is embracing and acknowledging those emotions so that one becomes authentic. It is not simply acknowledging them and masking them as most do. It is engaging them and owning them leading to an empowerment like nothing else one can experience.

When a person begins the process of communion with the self for authentication, they
begin the process of what Paul Tillich writes as discovering their courage to be. It’s this courage that then is expressed in the selfless acts of love towards God and others. One is no longer bound by the cares and concerns of one’s own pathologies but is given away to the liberation of God’s Spirit and empowered to live abundantly. Faithful is the God who gives life, and so He will also be faithful to make your life a fruitful one. The courage to be
begins with the courage to live God’s life or purposeful death. It is the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, the bearing of one’s cross, the suffering of the saints leading to the redemption of the soul. To become one’s authentic self means learning to die while living.

Remember to live is Christ, but to die is Gain.

The CBC and the Admission of Guilt

While speaking at a town hall meeting at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan on Tuesday, US Representative Maxine Waters of California admitted that she along with other members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) are tired of defending President Obama while he continues to neglect the needs and state of Black Americans. The “For the People” Jobs Initiative Tour is being sponsored by the CBC and includes US Reps Waters, Emmanuel Cleaver, the CBC president. Waters stated “Let me tell you why. We don‘t put pressure on the president because ya’ll love the president. You love the president. You’re very proud…to have a black man [in the White House] …First time in the history of the United States of America. If we go after the president too hard, you’re going after us.” Her remarks were mixed with cheers and jeers from the largely black audience at the job fair and town hall meeting hosted by the CBC. Mark Hicks of the Detroit News reported that the meeting turned heated at times as some residents debated government spending, bank lending, bipartisan bickering and the disproportionate effects of the economy on minorities.  She added that she couldn’t understand why Obama’s Midwest tour does not include any black communities. The unemployment rate for Blacks is just over 16% far above the national rate of just over 9%. This is even more difficult to accept as Obama will take another 10 day vacation in Martha’s Vineyard. It is sending a clear message that President Obama is not in touch with the people no matter how much the media tries to spin it.

From this reaction in Detroit, it is clear that many Black Americans are suffering from post Obama election syndrome. They were promised change, and they are receiving the change that only liberals in government can give. These people were looking for an administration that presented itself as one that had the interest of the people at heart but are now realizing that the Obama administration is only interested in maintaining the status quo of government entitlements and keeping people in more oppression than in previous presidential administrations. What they have received however are more disaffection, higher unemployment, and a greater disenfranchisement from the very politicians they continue to elect to serve them a better deal or handout.

Rep. Waters’ admission sheds light on two major things. The first is that the CBC has realized that even with a person of color in office, they are still left out of the major political game. They have spent the last three decades attempting to assimilate into a government that really does not want their full participation unless they compromise their integrity and values to draw votes for a partisan agenda. I know that may come across as harsh but it is the truth. I don’t want to slight what individual CBC members are doing for their constituents but overall, it is nothing more than a shell game for the Democrats. It is an admission that the CBC is guilty of being the real “Uncle Toms” and forfeiting the needs and concerns of the people for the votes and favors of the DNC. The CBC as an entity is guilty of being the real sell outs to their communities and their people.

The second thing is that black people are more educated about what’s really happening in the country politically than the Democratic party wants to admit. The DNC and CBC can no longer spew nonsensical rhetoric through black media outlets as they once could. Blacks are actually listening to conservative black voices like Thomas Sowell, Michelle Malkin and organizations like the Frederick Douglass Foundation. The CBC is guilty of going with the spin of a pro-Obama media that neglects the authenticity of counter thoughts among Black Americans. They are guilty of being cover-ups for the reality that is plaguing Black America. This cover up and defending of progressives and liberal lies is what has Maxine Waters and others like her tired. They are running out of excuses for Obama and his policies. They can no longer hold their frustration because they realize that
their livelihood is also at stake.

What is the conclusion to the matter? It is simply this. Black Americans must once again find their voice to speak gainst the oppression this administration is continuing. While Obama and his eam of media hype men attempt to promote a message of stability and rogressive change for Americans, Blacks must read through it and see the eality of a President carrying out a progressive liberal agenda that is not ully inclusive for people of color. The real change must occur in the polls as lacks turn their frustrations into votes. These votes cannot be for the same eople they must be for authentic change for Black Americans.
From The Detroit News: http://detnews.com/article/20110817/METRO01/108170367/Thousands-connect-with-employers-at-Detroit-fair#ixzz1VK98cn9r

Personal Mission Statement

As a pastor and an individual, I am all about self and community empowerment. In the more recent history, I’ve been learning that just knowing scripture isn’t enough to accomplish purpose. I know for some that is a terrible thing to say. Life is full of more than just what we read in the scriptures, but all of those are enhanced and grounded through and by scripture.  I learned one thing from studying and analyzing successful businesses: They have a mission statement that everyone knows and can carry out. This means that everyone in the business from the janitors to the CEO knows that the success or failure of that company rests in how internalized the mission statement is.

When I started my doctoral coursework earlier this year, one of the first things we had to do was write a personal and professional mission statement. Some think this should be a breeze for a pastor,  but I found it a difficult task. I spent time in prayer, meditation and reflection and an acronymn coined by my college BSU director came to my mind..my mission statement is to be R.E.A.L.

My mission is to be Relational, Encouraging, Authentic, and Loving. That sums up the entirety of my ministry and my professional career desires. I realize that is what every individual desires from themselves, God, and others. I’m so sold on this that I’ve even included it in the vision statement for the church I pastor.

Being REAL is a lofty mission goal with the added expense of death to selfish service and disenchanted destinies. If we earnestly desire our father’s goodness to mercifully accept us as we are, then we will do our best to present ourselves REAL to him and others we encounter throughout our life’s journey.

After May 21, then what?

If you have not heard or seen yet, Harold Camping, founder of Family Radio has been promoting may 21, 2011 as God’s Day of Judgment when the true Christian believers will be raptured away and the wrath of the Lord’s tribulation period will begin ultimately culminating in the Earth’s destruction by fire on October 21, 2011. To many this is a sure event; one that will usher in the glory of Christ’s New Millennium  kingdom. For others, it is nothing more than a sincere but fanatical preacher ignoring the fallacies and failures of past end time prediction prophets. Camping has managed to incite the hopes and fears of sincere yet Biblically ignorant people to the point of  extreme excesses such as quitting jobs, leaving families, and criss-crossing the  country spreading the word of Earth’s last day. Where does Camping’s prediction  rank amidst the more recognized and well received predictions of the ancient Mayans, Nostradamus and other cultures regarding December, 21 2012 as Earth’s last days? Another more pressing question for me is “How will this prediction, if proven false, affect the Christian view of end times and the authority and authenticity of the Christian faith and Gospel message?

Camping, 89, said of the rapture in a May 11 interview with New York magazine, “The Bible has every word in the original language – it was written by God. Incidentally, no churches believe that at all, they don’t hold the Bible in the high respect that it ought to  be.” He went on to say, “When we get to May 21 on the calendar in any city or country in the world, and the clock says about – this is based on other verses in the Bible –  when the clock says about 6 p.m., there’s going to be this tremendous earthquake that’s going to make the last earthquake in Japan seem like nothing in comparison. And the whole world will be alerted that Judgment Day has begun.” This of course implies that only those who are in the know regarding his calculated and articulated view or  revelation of this significant event are eligible for salvation, rapture, or whatever you want to call it.

There is no shortage of rebuttals to Camping’s claims with and without scriptural support. Tim LaHaye, author of the popular “Left Behind” book series recently on his website wrote a letter to the public advising them not to buy into Harold Camping’s prediction that May 21 is the beginning of the end of the world. He remarked that it “is not only wrong but dangerous.” He also said the claim that God will destroy the world on October 21 “is not only bizarre but 100% wrong!”

According to Jason Boyett, Christian author of Pocket Guide to the Apocalypse and speaker on End Times, writing in the Washington Posts’ On Faith Page, “Camping’s faith will survive the impending disappointment, as will his ministry and radio empire. He’ll make excuses and set another date. I don’t worry about him; I worry about his
followers and their families.”

There are some within Camping’s own organization, Family Radio, who have not succumbed to the irrationality of his prediction. Many like Anthony Hernandez, a frequent speaker on Camping’s Family Radio, are acknowledging the fears, doubts, and concerns of their families and friends but still clinging to the assurance that the event will happen just as Camping predicted. What Hernandez and others are experiencing is what social psychologists call cognitive disequilibrium/cognitive dissonance: when experiences clash with expectations. A relevant example of this is found in the book When Prophecy Fails by Leon Festinger, Henry Riecken, and Stanley Schachter. The authors infiltrated a group that was expecting the imminent end of the world on a certain date. When that prediction failed, the movement did not disintegrate, but grew instead. By sharing cult beliefs with others, they gained acceptance and thus reduced their own dissonance.

This is clearly what may happen after May 21 comes and goes. It is sure to put the  eschatological aspect of the Christian faith to the back of the average church goers mind. It may contribute to an already decline in attendance and financial contributions for mainline and evangelical Christian churches. I only hope that does not delineate the authentic Gospel message to continue to be preached and heard by all persons and nations. As Christ himself said “Let him who has ears to hear, hear.”

Bin Laden’s Dead:Now What?

Millions of Americans watched Sunday night as President Obama addressed the nation with the news that Usama Bin Laden, the master mind of terror attacks around the world was killed during a US Special Forces covert operation at his million dollar compound in Pakistan. First, credit and congratulations are in order for President Obama’s decision as Commander in Chief, the military and CIA Intelligence leaders who spent months planning the operation. This is truly the epitome of the mourning, unity, and action following the terrorist acts of September 11, 2oo1. How Bin Laden evaded capture as long as he did while living in open secrecy for the past six years is a question that has many pundits, politiicians, and people wondering and waiting for more answers. While President George W. Bush began the action, President Obama has brought it to a close.

The question still remains-Now What?

We have been witness to civil unrest throughout the Middle East and the Muslim world for the past four months. We have watched as presumably horrible regimes have been outsted (with the exception of Libya’s Qaddafi). We are seeing countries such as Syria, Yemen, and Bahrain’s leaders recoup with violence on their own people. We are increased tension between Israel and Palestine. All of this unrest in the Middle East is pointing towards something that we must all be cognizant of. That something could be the end of the world as we know it.

The End or the Beginning?

We are witnessing a global crisis that has not been experienced since the beginning of the Second World War. Those familiar with history know that at the end of both World Wars, there was the establishment of a global united government movement. Post WWI was the League of Nations championed by President Woodrow Wilson. Post WWII was the establishment of the United Nations championed by President Franklin D Roosevelt. Neither of those men lived to see either organization to its full fruition, but the seeds they planted have deep roots in the world’s governance, military, economy, and diplomacy today. I am of the belief that in the upcoming future, we will see an even greater world government come into power that will exceed the expectations of both of its forerunners. This united world government will be something that most will rejoice to see, but could also lead to the decimation of the sovereignty of nations as we know it. It would literally be the end of the world as we know it.

How then should we prepare for this? Scripture shares much of what should be expected in the last days. Paul, addressing first century believers about the imminent return of Christ writes: “But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. You are all sons of light and sons of the day. You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. (1 Thessalonians 5: 1-5) [NKJV] It is clear that he as others expected universal turmoil as a sign of preparation for Christ’s return. It is no different for believers today. We are witnessing a great shifting in the world-economically, governmentally, militarily, and in many other ways. We should be preparing to hear the words of peace that will beckon all to celebrate. It is when we hear these words or discern these signs that we should know that the time is drawing near and that Christ’s return is at hand.

Two millenia have passed since the world last saw the remnants of Christ’s promised return. The words of Jesus entreating his disciples of the last days are even more pertinent to those of us who are believers today: “Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming. But know this that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into”. (Matthew 24:42-43) [NKJV]

DC Mayor Protests to Keep Money to Kill Babies

DC Mayor protests to keep money to kill babies
Washington DC is not short of a lively political atmosphere. It’s the seat of our nation’s government. It’s where all the movers and shakers gather to decide policy for we the people. It’s also a city that reeked with high crime and low educational performance. On Tuesday, April 12, 2011, DC’s mayor Vincent Gray and councilmen along with 41 others took to the streets to protest in from of the US Capitol. The city’s mayor and fellow protestors were all arrested for the protest but released later that day. Even though it may appear that they were protesting against continued infringment on city government, the reality is that it is all about the power to determine who should and should not live.

The major argument according to  Mayor Gray and others regards the recent budget proposal approved by Congress, in which DC would lose more of its autonomy but more particularly, lose funds used to pay for abortions for low income women, needle exchange program for drug addicts, and a school voucher program to assist students attend schools of their choice. According to an Associated Press article on Tuesday, “the city’s ability to spend money on abortions for low-income women has seesawed over the last two decades. When Democrats have controlled both houses of Congress and the presidency, in 1993 and 1994 and again in 2009 and 2010, the city has been able to spend its own money to pay for abortions for women on Medicaid.”  The average abortion in the DC area can cost between $300 and $500. While there is a hot debate in Congress regarding defunding programs like Planned Parenthood, DC’s city leaders are more concerned about keeping money to kill babies, than focusing on creating and supporting programs to empower women and all of its citizens to live an abundant and fulfilling life. They are showing what happens when values are displaced and replaced with shallow ideals and fiscal desires that continue to promote a sense of dependency on discretionary spending on unnecessary things.

While the group’s protest was noble, it also presents what’s wrong with our government. I am a strong pro-life advocate but even if I were not, I would not support any effort to use government funds for abortions of any kind. The fact that they are targeting low income women (mostly minorities) says that the DC city government has little to no concern for the life of the unborn. It is the belief that this very insistence on funding for abortions helps ensure that a woman’s right to an abortion is being upheld. That’s a lie from the pit of hell! Women should feel empowered when they give birth (despite how it was conceived) and should be able to choose to allow that life to continue and prosper. Throughout all of this, many also expressed great disappointment that President Obama is not stepping in and supporting their cause but is continuing to remain unengaged in their struggle.
Churches and Pastors in DC should stand up in protest. They should take the lead in demanding that DC’s leadership not seek any funds for abortion assistance. The citizens of Washington, DC should rise up in protest against their city leadership. The city’s leadership is demonstrating the very thing that is keeping its citizens in a bondage that is worse than slavery, Jim Crow, or any other system that oppressed people.

Rediscover the art of rhetorical criticism

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Throughout the day, we encounter signs, symbols, and sounds that engage us and cause us take actions and communicate our thoughts and opinions on certain matters. Each time we participate in this process, we are participating in a skill that has all but gone extinct. It is the ancient skill of understanding and effectively communicating the symbols, signs, and sounds
around us.  This skill is called rhetorical criticism. When the average person hears the word rhetoric, most automatically assume that it means, talking in pompous, bombastic, and seemingly irrelevant words to evade answering questions or just simply sound like a know it all. In reality, rhetoric is simply communication and has been used for centuries as a means of persuasion. In the philosophical world, rhetoric is a way of teaching through communicating. In politics, rhetoric is the persuasion of potential voters to a particular point of view. In religion,
rhetoric is the symbolic actions of believers as they profess their religious beliefs through sacraments, liturgies, and devotions. Every living human being is engaged in rhetoric and as a result, also engaged in rhetorical criticism.

We live in a world where information is transmitted so quickly through 60 second sound bites that there is little to no chance of fully understanding authentic knowledge as it presented. Symbols and signs that once meant something positive are being usurped and their meaning and message changed to convey new thoughts and messages that may directly or indirectly
counter the original meaning or message. The question then becomes why should we be aware of this rhetorical criticism thing and how can we use it to better communicate? The answer is because our world is more interconnected than before and understanding how and what is being communicated empowers the person to control the knowledge they receive and share. This is a much needed powerful skill to have because more individuals have access to the means of delivering and sharing rhetoric (blogs, twitter, social networks, news media, and cell phones) and it is almost impossible to control the content of that rhetoric (unless you live in China or other places where the government controls content).  When we use rhetorical criticism, we become better at investigating, understanding, and explaining our responses to the symbols around us.

Rhetorical criticism isn’t a hard skill to learn and master. It involves two main processes: 1) asking a question, and 2) analyzing something that relates to the question we have asked. Each time we ask a question about anything, we have begun the process of rhetorical criticism. The
question does not have to be anything deep or fantastical, it can be something as simple as why did a band choose a particular logo design, or why a certain color of lipstick looks better than another color. This sets in motion the second process. It is the action (either actual or symbolic or a combination) that we do following the question we ask. It is here that we examine something related to the question we asked. We formulate hypotheses around it and attempt
to understand it better. There are several ways to accomplish this, but the most common is through the written form (email, text message, academic writing, blog, etc). Once we have completed this, we communicate it with those around us. This is done in several ways also. The entire act results in the full communication of our response to the initial symbol that led to the rhetorical criticism.

When practiced regularly, rhetorical criticism can be a way of empowering people to influence in their world. It can be a way of countering what a person believes to be the wrong messages sent out by the wrong people. It can be a way of helping others to be proactive and engaged in all the symbols, signs, and sounds around them.

SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY IS EVERYBODY’S RESPONSIBILITY

I came across this article in the Christian Recorder Online Magazine and decided to share it here. Blessings

YPD CORNER: SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY IS EVERYBODY’S RESPONSIBILITY:

*Miacia F. Porter

Something about this year pushed and urged me to change my career goals. I didn’t want to be a journalist anymore, so I just stopped trying. I had lost all my drive to write, so I forced writer’s block upon myself. I neglected my pen and pad as if it was a century old building, whose frame and foundation had given way to the hardships of life. There was nothing left for me to say; at least not in print. I was mute, not in thought, but in sharing it.

I don’t know what caused this. I am not sure if it was the pressure of knowing that I was overworked, and stressed-out for a degree that might never hold any significant value to anyone outside of my family. Or, if it was the realization that I was 9 months away from another major milestone without a clear idea of what the future held? I am not sure if it was either, or; it possibly was a combination of both. Whatever it was, caused me to freeze right in the middle of time and I was immensely satisfied with my empty pages.

Then it hit me…I had used the fact that I no longer desired to be a journalist, to be a scapegoat to free me from something that had nothing to do with my career choice. Truth is I don’t want to be a journalist. However, the greater truth is I stopped writing because I no longer wanted the burden of social responsibility for the things I wrote.

So what is social responsibility? Wikipedia provided a great definition. According to this site, “social responsibility” is an ethical ideology or theory that an entity, be it an organization or individual, has an obligation to act or benefit the society at large. This responsibility can be passive, by avoiding engaging in socially harmful acts, or active by performing activities that directly advance social goals.

W. E. B. DuBois was a major activist for social responsibility, and as an individual greatly influenced by his work, I immediately reckoned with this concept. I wanted to be socially responsible for the welfare of my race and others. I knew this want and desire was wedded to my calling. I was eager to start life with this new belief, but somewhere along my journey I lost my zeal. I began to feel like it was becoming more and more challenging to believe, push, and motivate people; our people, who refuse the to see the light at the end  of the tunnel. Pessimism started to weigh down my optimism when I was trying to persuade others that they could achieve goals, and all they seem to decode was they could not.

Playing tug of war with ignorance, laziness, and the lack of drive can pushed me down, so much so, that even my own tears couldn’t convince me that the fatigue and mental anguish was worth the fight. And I am sure I am not the only one that has been at this point. I’m pretty sure this need to free ourselves from social responsibility is an attitude or desire that plagues our churches. I am certain of this because I am sure the church does not preach and teach like we use to because we don’t want the burden of social responsibility. We don’t witness and share because the responsibility of doing it, is just too demanding. Doing the right thing and going the extra mile just seems like too much responsibility in a world that does not demand that we go an extra mile. But it’s necessary for me to go the extra mile … I picked up my pen and pad again, not because I am a flawless wireless writer, but because I reckoned with the fact that the message is greater than the struggle. There is life embedded in the truths I speak, and I will not rob myself,  or anyone else from being inspired.

The same is true for our churches. There is so much life in our AME lineage. We are a life-line to our black community and we need to make sure this “breath of life” falls on every man, woman, boy, and girl in our communities. I had to write again and now I challenge preachers to preach again, Church School teachers to teach again, parishioners to witness again, all of us to share and love again, even in the mist of all of the dysfunction and economic problems because there is something we have been called to say that can free us all again.

*Miacia F. Porter is an Intern for The Christian Recorder and is a senior at Middle Tennessee State University