And They Call Themselves Christian


Yes, they are out there, millions of people that call themselves Christians. There is no doubt that you have heard them and seen them. They have all the right moves and say all the right words. These people are very convincing if you only consider the very surface of what they say and see the feigned mannerisms of what Christians are thought to be in a society that expects Christians to be the all-accepting, all understanding standing on nothing group of weak-kneed people that Christians are supposed to be. The problem is that these people that see Christians in this light are usually not Christians even though they may call themselves Christians for the sake of expediency.

Christians, by definition, are those that follow the tenets and teachings of Christ. This means that the Christian is one who has adopted a lifestyle of living according to the Word of God. Yet there some that choose lifestyles far from what is provided by God with excuses such as “God knows my heart” and “only God can judge me.” Well, with that being the case it becomes more than evident that those that choose to shack up rather than marry not only ignore the Word of God but also count God and His Word irrelevant and not a standard of morality for the day. Nonetheless Ephesians 5:3 addresses the matter of fornication among other things that were common then and now. The words, “but fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not once be named among you, as becometh saints” paint a clear picture of things not condoned by God yet are common practice for some that call themselves Christians.

And the discussions of sexual sins are rightfully abundant among Christian circles yet there are other discussions that need to take place that are not often heard. Consider for a moment some that choose to fight with the people of God. The fight need not be physical yet harm can be brought to the people of God in words and in deed. This is a very dangerous place to be in if you are the one that chooses to not only fight with but also to antagonize the servants of God. With this the principle found in I Chronicles 16:22 remains applicable today in that the text urges that the anointed of God be not touched and that the prophets of God be not harmed. Now, the anointed here is specific to those that God has placed in kingly authority such as David. The prophets are those that present the Word of God by preaching, teaching and prophesying. To harm any of these in any way can prove detrimental to the offender. Consider the account of Elisha in II Kings 2:23-25.

The list of issues that purported Christians bring to the table is certainly enough to fill a book. Many have forgotten that to be a Christian takes much more than a casual statement of belief in God. The fact of the matter is that mere belief in God is not the same as a Christian life. James states this clearly in James 2:19. The fact is that belief in God should be more than head knowledge rather the entire life of the Christian should be congruent with the teachings of Christ. This lifestyle includes not just what is done but also what is said. There are many that call themselves Christians that have no control over their tongues. James also addresses this matter by showing that “If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain” (James 1:26). The Carter Translation (this writer) would say that if any pretend to worship God and will not cease from cursing and profanities then there is really no worship of God.

The fact is there are hosts of people that hold their hands high during Sunday morning worship services yet their lives during the rest of the week is somewhat lacking. Scripture provides no recourse for lack of dedication to the Word of God. Instead Christians are called to holiness. Holiness is not the negative attribute of being better than others with uplifted noses rather holiness is the state whereby one’s lifestyle is wholly different than non-Christians. Christianity is not a popular movement backed by the mantra of political correctness. Instead Christianity is a way of life that exemplifies the incarnate Christ. With that if one does not adhere to the standards of the Word of God while calling himself a Christian it might well be suggested that this man’s religion is vain.

On Role Models


There is no big secret concerning the fact that I am not a fan of sports. In fact many that know me will quickly let you know that if I never saw another football, baseball, basketball or anything of the like my life would not be moved one way or the other. This is not to say that I am not concerned about some issues that surround sports and the athletes that make sports so popular. One thing that is ever present is the idea that sports figures serve as role models for much of the country. While there is little doubt that many of these athletes are wonderful and upstanding people I am not certain that I would hold any of them to the level of role model for me or those that I so care about.

I recall not long ago I was invited to an event in Baltimore. While I was not among the honoured guest it was an honour to be part of this event. One special person at the event was Baltimore football player Ray Rice. I remember there was much ado made about him before he entered the room. Frankly before he came I could not understand the uproar about this man that was to come. Still, I sat with some that I had worked with while eating some crabs (you must have some Baltimore crabs) and enjoying light conversation. Before long the announcement was made that Mr. Rice was about to enter and enter he did. Well, I expected a seven foot tall nearly four hundred pound man to break threshold as his massive being made it into the room. That was not to be as his body guards were larger than he was. And, being not more than five feet from him I dare say that impressed was not among the ideas that crossed my mind.

Now fast forwarding to events that Ray Rice wherein recently involved in presents the idea of an abusive man with a short temper. The fact is most of us know little about what happened that day in the elevator. One this is sure that Mr. Rice knocked out his then fiancé. That very act does little to promote the idea of what a good positive role model should be presenting to those looking up to him. And while I take issue with the idea that a sports figure is a role model simply by reason of him be a sports figure some see athletes as role models just because they are in the public view and play sports. Well, I have a different idea on what role models truly are.

I remember growing up in Baltimore having two step-grandfathers. Deacon Leroy Singletary (now deceased) was a hard working man from what I could tell and was a strong man on a number of fronts. I spent many hours with him and dare say that a bit of him has rubbed off on me. My maternal grandfather, the late Rev. William James Smith, is the person after whom I have been named. He was the pastor of a small Baptist church and one that I looked up to from as early as I can remember. Undoubtedly parts of him also rest in me and more than that name I am more than proud to bear. These two stately gentlemen were among the best role models of my childhood and have impacted me to the extent that I can and never will forget them.

Then the time came for me to enter the United States Marine Corps. To say that it was a challenge is to put kind niceties on things that were not always so kind. Early in my career I had the good pleasure of running into Master Gunnery Sergeant Thomas Witt. This giant of a man was not only a Marine’s Marine but also was a gentleman and a servant of God. He left this earth way too soon yet he impacted my life in ways that I cannot begin to spill in this forum. Suffice it to say that Tom was a man, a friend and a role model to make even the best step back and take a look of a man with tremendous stature and dignity.
Then there was my pastor in Hawaii. Dr. Wayne E. Anderson is a man that taught me the truth of Christendom. There were a number of things I would not have learned when I did except that this preaching, teaching, God loving man was found in my way. I can say with absolute certainty that the years I spent with this man were years of growing and learning. Yes, attending his church was much like attending book camp. There was much to learn and growing to be done. The good doctor was there for and with me through some good times and some bad times. Without him I would not have the Christian foundation I have today. Yes, Dr. Anderson served as another giant of men and a role model cannot be found in a better man.

My list of role models can go on and on yet I cannot ignore my current Bishop, Johnny C. Carrington, Sr. He is one of those old school preachers that grew up in the streets of Baltimore just blocks from where I grew up. So I had more growing to do when I returned to Baltimore and Bishop Carrington was there and remains there for me. He was there as I endured more difficult times and well as good times. Without him I could not have completed college. Without him I would not even be a member of the clergy. He is another man that stands tall and has pulled me alongside him. What a role model!

And there is another role model I simply cannot ignore. That is the Son of God, the Man Jesus Christ. Here is one that died for me and presented an example for me that points only to victory. My other role models have been wonderful and will be remembered until my last breath yet Jesus is the reason for my breath. Jesus was not with me just during portions of my life as those noted above rather He was and remains with me throughout my life. Jesus is in fact the pinnacle of role models. It is my hope that my examples to my children are enough for them to call me their role model as Christ is to me.

With this is becomes increasingly difficult for me to call people such as Ray Rice role models. It is not because of the negative incidents in their lives rather it is because of the lack of personal relationship. In order for one to be an effective positive role model the underlying characteristic must be relationship. Without relationship there is no one to look up to. If there is no one to look up to there is no role model.

1 Corinthinans 13…Remixed For Today


Originally posted on sevennotesofgrace:

Thanks go to the folks at Blazing Center for this insightful application of 1 Corinthians 13:

If I status update with such insight, hilarity, godliness, or profundity, that I get a thousand retweets and likes, yet have not love, I’m a cellphone that won’t stop ringing, or a car alarm at 2 AM.

If I understand every nuance of every complicated doctrine, including eschatology and predestination, and am a constant defender of orthodoxy, and if I am renowned for my ability to communicate truth with passion, but have not love, I’m nothing more than a first grader in the kingdom of God.

If I am a fantastic worship leader, able to lead hundreds of people in passionate worship of God, yet have not love, my skills are worth jack.

If I am a blog warrior, constantly on the attack against those who would distort the faith, yet have not love…

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The Unadulterated Truth


There are some who absolutely declare that all religious roads lead to the same end. For these people the celebration of God comes in many ways and many forms. These conclusions are despite the fact that Christian foundations are quite different than the founding of other organizations and thoughts. However the difference in these sects is more than obvious especially when you consider the way that many of the organizations were started. For instance cultic organizations such as Buddhism and Islam were started by individuals said to have matured to the level of deity while in Christianity its founder is part of the Triune Godhead.

John 3:16 clearly shows that “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not parish, but have everlasting life.” Academically and theologically terms such as “hypostatic union” can be used to show the relationship between God and His Son. The idea of “kenosis” can also be employed to show how Christ emptied somewhat of His attributes in order to walk with man. However the point of this essay is to call attention to the clear truth that there are stark differences between the God of love which is the Christian God and the purported god of peace which is the Islamic god. You see the God of love seeks only to reconcile man by way of acts of love such as the love Christ showed as he laid aside some of His attributes in order to live as man lives. Herein begins the juxtaposing of Christianity and Islam.

Love is the founding factor of Christianity. God loved and so He sent His Son. Christ so loved the world that He was in full agreement with the Father (I John 5:7) to the extent that He humbled himself unto death, even the death of the cross. This was not out of hatred or disdain for mankind rather love became the hallmark of the ministry of Christ not to condemn the world but rather that the world through Him might be saved. This is not the case with the founder of Islam. Islam (by many accounts) was born out of its founder’s disdain for Christianity. This disdain was a great reason for the Crusades in the 12th and 13th centuries wherein it could be argued that Islam sought to overtake the world by ridding it of Christianity. It is doubtful that the Crusades were born out of love.

The practice of Christianity is to love fellow man. It is not to harm him rather the practice of Christianity is to embrace individuals while hating the sin. With this in mind compassion coupled with love creates for the Christian a life of showing the love of the Father by expressing love even to those that reject Christ. On the other hand millions have had blood spilled because of Islam and those that purport that terrorism is the act of a “religion of peace.” Love did not crash into the World Trade Center more than a decade ago. Love had nothing to do with imprisoning a pastor only because he was a pastor. Love was not shown when three men were beheaded only because they were not Islamic. Additionally acts of love do not seek to force submission rather love allows choices such as Christians choose to serve the One and only God.

The truth of the matter is that many Muslims seek to force their view on “infidels” or they will suffer dire consequences. Christians seek to compel through the Love of Christ. Herein is the difference between Christendom and Islam; the former prefers love while the latter seeks conformity by force and even death. There are no true Christians that seek harm of anyone; not even Muslims. Yet there are some Muslims who cling to the idea that the only good Christian is a dead Christian. In this is the unadulterated truth concerning those that choose Christ and those that prefer Islam; the one works with the idea of love bringing forth reconciliation while the other prefers destruction in the hopes of gaining seventy-two virgins. So, the question must be asked; who will you serve? The One true and living God or the god of this world? I must say as the prophet of old once declared and say that as for me and my house we will serve the Lord.

Week Ten of the CPE Journey: The Audacity of Completion


August 22, 2014 is a day that will not soon be forgotten by me. It was the last day of my training as required by the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education (ACPE). The four hundred hours of clinical and academic work was among the most intense four hundred hours of work of I have had in quite some time. The intensity was met with me being honoured to present the last worship service of the unit. As I began to prepare the homily I found it difficult to put on paper words that would adequately present the intensity of completion that was accomplished not by me alone but also my peers as we all traveled the CPE journey.

Despite my inability to properly pen proper words for the homily on that last day of CPE I could not help but think of Paul when he was winding up his ministry as he sought to encourage Timothy. In his charge to Timothy in II Timothy chapter four Paul says in part that he fought a good fight and kept the faith. This is to say that Paul endured many things during his ministry. He had to lay aside some of his own views in order to be effective in preaching the Gospel. This led him to journey down difficult roads which included Paul being shipwrecked, snake-bitten, imprisoned and other difficulties. Interestingly none of these things deterred Paul from meeting the task at hand. Paul completed what was required of him so that he could confidently declare that he had fought a good fight.

My peers and I have also endured a number of things in order to accomplish the mission at hand. While we were not shipwrecked or snake-bitten the trouble we endured was not for the faint of heart. We had the temerity to set our sights on completing CPE and would not relent despite the troubles that came our way. There were obstacles to be met both within and without the program. Some of us disclosed some of the trouble and yet there were many obstacles that were not mentioned but either me or my peers. Yet there was an absolute necessity to complete the task at hand. And so we labored tirelessly as we journeyed through the challenge of Clinical Pastoral Education.

I certainly can speak with no authority as to the totality of the obstacles of my peers yet I can say that looking over my life some might have counted me out many years ago. You see I was told my entire childhood that I was no good that that I would amount to nothing. I was the one in school that had few friends and was often the brunt of many jokes and the skinny kid that was the natural target of not just being bullied but also being beat up on multiple occasions. Certainly people such as my first grade teacher saw much good in me yet very few took time out to aid in positively molding this stuttering, quiet kid that just did not fit in any crowd. Even so it would seem that a tenacious attitude was being built for many years in the young loner that I was.

One might not have thought that a young skinny kid would do well in the United States Marine Corps. Unexpectedly this strong-willed young man became a strong young Marine and there was certainly no stopping from this point on. No, it was not easy even in the military but then there was no promise of an easy life. There was no suggestion that being a Marine would put to rest all of the worlds ills. In fact the contrary was the case as I was being molded not just to a Marine but also a man of character; a man of destiny and a man of audacity. I did not and would quit in boot camp and could not and would not quit on whatever else life had to offer. No, quitting was not an option and neither was holding to the idea that the quiet young boy would amount to nothing but nothingness.

There is no intent here to discuss my biography. That would take much more than an essay of around a thousand words. The intent here is to show that audacity is a necessary tool used to bring the best from all of us. You see there were some that said that I was not chaplain material. That would not stop me from walking toward that pull of ministry that is deeply imbedded in me. Yes, there were some that encouraged me to move forward but as in my childhood the idea of not pursuing was the drumbeat of others. There was even one peer who told me at least twice that I did not belong in the CPE program. Nonetheless my tenacious audacity would not allow me to march away from that which I knew was part of the work I had been working toward for a number of years. No, I could not listen to the dissenters rather I had to heed the call which is so much part of my life.

In heeding the call I walked through certain aspects of academia. More importantly my CPE journey led me to many people; some in beds and others sitting in chairs. I have talked with staffers including doctors, nurses and housekeepers. I have been on the bedsides of the dying and the crying. Some of those with whom I have ministered have been hurt physically while others were in emotional turmoil. Some just needed someone to talk to and others just needed the feeling of belonging. I have had the opportunity to minister to many while some have ministered to me. It has been a journey and a journey well worth taking.

No journey comes without bumps in the road. This is perhaps a point that Paul was making to Timothy. Undoubtedly Paul endured obstacles which may have seemed insurmountable. It is certain that many sought to discourage as well as ridicule Paul as he journeyed the road of pointing men to the Saviour. The tenacity of Paul serves as an example of all that have a need to persevere despite certain opposition. Giving up was an option Paul could not enjoy and I am certain that it is an option that the children of God cannot entertain. Determination is sometimes confused for stubbornness yet without determined audacity nothing will ever be accomplished.

No worthwhile journey comes with ease. Nothing is accomplished without some blood, sweat and tears. Yes there are sweet victories along the road of success and there are also bitter failures. Yet the failures are not reason enough to end a journey rather the failures make successes all the more sweet. So, as I have said in times past do not quit and don’t give in. Let God complete the work He has begun in you as you use that deep-seated audacity of completion to do the unique work that is for you and you alone.

Remembering grace – specifically!


Originally posted on sevennotesofgrace:

prayer2No matter who we are or what circumstances and concerns we have, all of us have to deal with trouble in our lives. This post comes from Paul David Tripp with some great advice for turning our troubles into a time when we can be thankful, when we can remember God’s grace to us in a very specific way – quite a challenge!

“When trouble comes, it’s vital that you talk to yourself. . . no one is more influential in your life than you are because no one talks to you as much as you do. What you say to you in moments of trouble will impact the way you respond.

David was a man well acquainted with trouble. Poor David; if you read the Psalms, he always seems to be in trouble! But in these moments, David was always talking to himself. We saw this in Psalm 27

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Week Nine of the CPE Journey: Sidestepping


Over the past several weeks I have purposely and intentionally not addressed contemporary issues greatly because of the magnitude of work as a chaplain intern. That work has put me in touch with people across the human spectrum. I have enjoyed working with Blacks, Whites, British, Columbian, Chinese and all types of people groups. I have found this to be greatly rewarding as I have learned many years ago that people are people are people and to suggest anything different is simply asinine.

I bring this up because of the present turmoil in Ferguson, MO. Here is a town riddled with cries of racism born out of false emotive responses to a police involved shooting wherein few facts have been made public. Thugs (many from other towns) continue to break into stores and steal from those who had nothing to do with the shooting. Vulgarity has run amuck to the extent that some “protestors” have used their fingers to indicate a false disdain for injustice. Obvious facts are ignored in the face of some flaming the fires of racism only to meet personal or political points that have done nothing other than bolster feigned outrage. This bolstering continues to be by political leaders, the media at least in some part and so-called civil rights leaders.

There are certain matters I have considered I as have watched this unrest unfold. For instance I have wondered why President Obama has once again injected himself in the middle of a local matter while he seems to pay no attention to the burning world around him? Why have Jessie Jackson and Al Sharpton gone running to a situation in order to promote justice when the investigative process had not the chance to begin? Moreover why have they not gone to Chicago, Baltimore, Los Angeles, Dallas and other cities where Blacks routinely kill other Blacks? Are not those Blacks important too? Do they not deserve the same treatment? Also, why are these so-called protestors rioting in the streets? Can they not find a better way to vent their points of view? More importantly it seems to me that injustice has yet to occur. What about waiting for the completion of the several investigations before making crass judgments?

Now, there is no intent here to make little of the death of Michael Brown. The death is absolutely tragic no matter the circumstances leading up to it. However that does not mean that tragedy needs to be met with tragedy. There is no good reason for citizens to turn to crime in order to make points. Bad can only make bad worse so that my sidestepping from CPE discussions is truly highlighting and celebrating the diversity of those with whom and I serve and to those I serve. If the rebel rousers in Ferguson would but lay down their weapons of destruction perhaps there would be room in their hands for the tools of reconciliation.

To further this point a bit more it needs to be noted that some have suggested that the actions of the criminals here is the result of a so-called “Black plight.” It should also be noted that, well, I am counted as a Black person. I was raised in a neighborhood in Baltimore wherein the best chose not to go. In the neighborhood were Blacks, Whites and other people groups nearby. The thing is we got alone just fine. Yes, my parents were divorced when I was very young and there were definite family problems. Moreover there were social problems going on as well. Still the problems of the day did not lend to the idea of “Black plight” at least not in my mind.

And still I did not let my situation hold me back from who I am and my progress in life. Without presenting a biography of myself suffice it to say that I have had a successful life. I served in the military, have owned businesses, worked in law enforcement and have accomplished academic success that most will never. Pointing these things out is not to toot my own horn (all though I have also played a number of woodwind instruments) rather to show that one’s ethnicity has nothing to do with success or failure. It has more to do with the decisions and choices made. It is certain that there will be positive outcomes as well as negative ones. Yet one’s choices tend to lead to individual “plight” rather than that of an entire people group.

With that I would encourage all to lay aside senseless idiosyncrasies and pick up the tools of reconciliation. Perhaps when preconceived notions of wrong predicated upon no facts can be thrown out then the notions of wrong can be replaced with true justice which leads to peace.

Why rage?


Originally posted on Singing in Babylon:

Psalms decorative
Why do the nations rage

    and the peoples plot in vain? Psalm 2:1 ESV

Well, they plot and rage in vain because they plot and rage against the LORD and against his anointed; but they and we plot and rage at all because we are angry about the bonds and cords (Psalm 2:3) that limit our personal power in the world; because we are selfish sinners.

That ‘he who sits in the heavens’ laughs at our rages and our plots against him only infuriates us more, like any child who tests his will against his parents and, if he is lucky, finds them immovable in their insistence on what is right. Even our tantrums can become parables.

Of course, like Captain Ahab, we might give in to our anger, wasting our life in a futile and ultimately fatal struggle to overcome the One it is beyond us, wounded or…

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Week Eight of the CPE Journey: Sojourning


When this unit first started my supervisor gave my peers and me a word that has stuck with me even until now. That word was “presence.” Presence presents the idea of being with someone in the good times as well as the bad. It is a concept that God instilled with Adam in the garden and is a concept that has been a continuum throughout humanity and even until this moment by way of the Holy Spirit. A way to further the idea of presence is with the practice of sojourning. Sojourning, what an idea to bring about intimacy in mankind from one soul to another.

Last week I had the good pleasure of meeting with a gentleman who called out to me from his room in the emergency department of Huguley Hospital. This gentleman was not in emotional turmoil like many that I have met but rather this kind one simply needed to have someone walk a short distance with him. So I stood by his bedside and listened, responded and simply came along beside this gentle soul. The visit ended up with not only me ministry to this gentleman but also him ministering to me. I had taken the time to sojourn with him which resulted in the two of us being all the better for it.

The point is that there are some in this life that think that they need no one but Jesus. Yes, we absolutely need Jesus with us in this life. Without Him our lives would be complete and utter failures. Yet man was created to enjoy companionship. That companionship can only come with someone who walks alongside and with another. It is not only knowing the sentiments of our neighbors but also feeling and experiencing the sentiments whether those sentiments are good or bad. Sojourning is part of the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Recall how that Jesus promised to send “another Comforter.” Now it is true that the term “paracletus” has legal definitions it comely presents the idea of one called alongside to help.

When the Holy Spirit walks with us in day-to-day activities He is sojourning with us. We, too, are called to walk alongside our fellow man. This sojourning means that we go through what our partner goes through. If they cry we cry. If they rejoice we rejoice. And when this is done intimacy is developed to the extent that when our sojourning friends have a need the call will not go unheeded because of the compassion developed during the steady gradation and journey toward oneness in Christ.

Hence I am convinced that, like chaplains, Christians at large would do well to walk with one another thereby strengthening and carrying the burdens of those too weak to carry. The matter of sojourning, then, has much to do with the relational aspect of Christendom rather than the prescriptive methodology many seek to practice. Yet I dare say sojourning does far better than any prescription.

On ‘pumped-up’ prayer…


sevennotesofgrace:

For some encouragement to pray….

Originally posted on sermons and soda water:

Spurgeon“Therefore let everyone who is godly
offer prayer to you at a time
when you may be found.”
   Psalm 32:6 ESV

Completing a trilogy of posts to do with prayer is this brief passage from Charles Spurgeon’s sermon, ‘Prayer, the Proof of Godliness’ from 1887. Spurgeon suggests that genuine prayer, pleasing to God, is ‘a natural emanation from the renewed heart’. As for what he calls ‘pumped-up’ prayer, well that’s altogether something else!

From Charles Spurgeon …

‘Once more, beloved Friends, prayer is natural to the godly man.
I do think that it is a good thing to have set times for prayer, but I am sure that it would be a dreadful thing to confine prayer to any time or season, for to the godly man prayer comes to be like breathing, like sighing, like crying.
You have, perhaps, heard of the preacher who used to put…

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