Saturday, July 23, 2016

“Can you really vote for Hillary?”

I recently received the following message from a friend and dear sister in Christ:

“I understand what you are saying, but can you really vote for Hillary?  I believe that God will put the one HE wants in office for what reasons.  We as a nation have walked away from the Lord and He will judge us.  I can’t with a clear mind vote for her.”

This was my response (slightly edited and updated):

Thank you for the note.  I don’t mind your question at all; it’s a reasonable one.

Before I answer, let me say that, based on Romans 1:18-32, I believe our nation is already under the judgment of God.  Of course, it's not THE Judgment, as in the final Day of Judgment, but it is judgment from God, nevertheless.  Everything described in that first chapter of Romans is happening in American society today.  We’re not in a good place spiritually, and I think that’s the greatest problem in our nation, and the root cause of a whole multitude of other problems.

Now, I should make clear I don't believe the United States has ever been a “Christian” nation—I don’t believe there is such a thing—but, we ARE a Christianized nation.  America has been widely exposed to the gospel.  We Americans can’t claim ignorance.  So, in the sense that America has been exposed to the gospel, and because the Christian church has been planted in nearly every neighborhood and town, we as a nation HAVE walked away from the Lord.  To put it in scriptural terms, “since [we Americans] did not see fit to acknowledge God, God [has given us] up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done” (Rom. 1:28).

As far as this year’s presidential campaign, on the Republican side, we have Donald Trump.  I personally would have preferred Rand Paul or, maybe, Marco Rubio, but the majority of Republican voters chose Mr. Trump.  I cannot support Trump at all.  He has repeatedly and consistently demonstrated that he is an habitual liar, an egomaniac, excessively thin-skinned, that he will not take responsibility for any of his or his campaign organization’s wrong actions, that he will attack any and all who dare criticize him, that he will childishly call people names, that he will belittle and bully—really, Trump displays all the characteristics of someone with Narcissistic Personality Disorder.  Besides these obvious psychological and character flaws, Trump also has a history of demeaning women, fomenting gossip and conspiracy theories (e.g., accusing the President of not being an American, insinuating that Ted Cruz's father was an accomplice to Lee Harvey Oswald, feeding 9/11 conspiracy theories), and feeding anti-Mexican/anti-Muslim xenophobia.  Then, of course, there is the fact that Mr. Trump is twice-divorced and on his 3rd marriage, and has openly boasted of his sexual conquests.  Besides all this, Mr. Trump has absolutely no experience in elective office.  In my opinion, the Presidency is not an “entry-level” position, therefore Mr. Trump, based on his lack of experience, is not qualified to serve in such a vitally important position. 

Taking all these things into account, it seems to me to be sheer lunacy for Republican voters to put Donald Trump into position as their nominee for President of the United States.  From what I’ve seen, read and heard—and from what I saw of at this week’s Republican Convention—Trump has been carried to the Republican nomination largely on a wave of Republican fear and hatred—fear and hatred of Clinton-Obama, liberals-progressives, immigrants, “Black Lives Matter,” Muslims, terrorism, etc.  Trump’s campaign is basically a campaign of fear and hatred.  Present-day Republicans speak of their opponents in utterly hateful terms.  Even one of their own—Sen. Ted Cruz—got booed off the convention stage because he did not endorse Trump.  It’s a movement I want no part of.

As a Christian, I believe sexual relations are reserved for marriage between one man and one woman.  I oppose abortion in all cases, except when the mother’s life is in imminent danger.  Also, as a Christian, I consider homosexuality sinful.  Therefore, I oppose so-called “gay marriage.”  My Christian faith, therefore, puts me at odds with key parts of the social agenda of the Democratic Party.

It is because of my faith, and because the Republican Party claimed to be pro-life, pro-marriage and pro-family that I voted Republican in every Presidential election from 1988-2004.  However, by the Presidency of George W. Bush, I noticed something: though the Republicans talked pro-life, pro-marriage, pro-family, and gave lip-service to “Judeo-Christian values,” abortion still hadn’t been turned back, families were still breaking up through divorce (even among pro-life Christians), and homosexual activists still were advancing their agenda.  I also noticed some Republican politicians wives claimed to be “pro-choice,” in direct contradiction to their husbands’ stated campaign position.  Then, it came out that Vice-President Dick Cheney had a lesbian daughter, and that he and his wife supported her same-sex relationship.  And, then, we began this “War On Terror,” launched, ostensibly, to find “weapons of mass destruction” which, as it turned out, never existed.  So, we were lied to!  I came to see that putting my vote and support behind Republican candidates had done nothing to advance a moral and godly agenda in our nation because many of these Republican politicians did not personally believe, practice or support a moral and godly agenda.  In other words, evangelical Christians were being played for fools by the Republican Party.  Every 4 years, Republican candidate trotted out the same pro-life, pro-family speeches, but once they got our vote, it was back to business as usual.

So, during George W. Bush’s terms in office, I began to see that the Republican Party was not really the party of Christian values.  They talked a good talk—especially at election time—but really did not walk their talk.  And let’s not forget the hypocrisy of the Republican Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich, being involved in sexual affairs even as he encouraged the impeachment of President Clinton for lying about his sexual affair.  And it’s worth noting Gingrich followed Speaker-elect Bob Livingston, who resigned before he ever assumed the Speakership, because of his own sexual affair.  And Gingrich was followed by Dennis Hastert, who was recently convicted and sentenced for engaging in homosexual sexual abuse when he was a high school teacher many years ago.  My point: the Republican Party has used talk of moral values to win the evangelical vote, but they really aren’t any more moral than the Democrats they oppose.  Not at all.

Now, on the other side, I’ve long been turned off by the Democratic Party’s warm embrace of abortion and homosexual rights—specifically since the presidential election of 1988 (GHW Bush vs Dukakis).  It was primarily because of Democratic support of liberal social issues that I chose to vote Republican in presidential elections (in city/village, county, and state elections back in Illinois, I always voted for candidates from both parties, voting for individuals, not parties).  However, ever since I’ve been voting in national elections (since 1984), I’ve always struggled with the fact that, in my lifetime, the strongest voices in support of issues of concern in the black community—especially among the working class and underserved black populace—has always been the Democratic Party.  That’s the sad reality.  Historically, we can see why, of course.  In the 1960s, the racial segregationists switched sides.  President Johnson’s signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, combined with President Nixon’s wooing of disaffected southerners through his “southern strategy” in the election of 1968, effectively drove the southern segregationists out of the Democratic Party into the Republican Party.  This is why, by the way, it’s disingenuous for present-day Republicans to point to the pivotal role they used to play in obtaining rights for black citizens, beginning with their founding in 1854 to the passage of civil right’s legislation in the 1960s, as proof of their racial openness today.  They know good and well (or should know!) that the Republican Party largely abandoned the fight for civil rights at about the same time Nixon laid out the welcome mat for those opposed to civil rights legislation to join the Republican Party.  Now, I don’t know if Richard Nixon was a racist, but he was certainly an opportunist who took advantage of that opportunity to bring more voters over to the Republican Party.

Anyway, it’s because of the Republican Party’s post-1968 failure to actively address the needs of the black community that, in 1984, I voted for Democrat Walter Mondale, rather than Republican Ronald Reagan.  I did not feel then (and do not feel today) that President Reagan was concerned at all about the black community.  I felt he was oblivious.  But, by 1988, abortion rights had become more of a key focus in the presidential election and, so, became more of a deciding factor in my presidential election choices (also, by 1988—eight years after my converson—my understanding of what abortion is and why it is immoral had grown).  However, I have always felt conflicted, having to choose between Republican presidential candidates who speak to my religious faith but ignore me as a black man, and Democratic candidates who acknowledge me as a black man but offend my Christian faith.

In 2000, George W. Bush appealed to me because he not only spoke to my Christian values, but he also spoke about “Compassionate Conservatism” and made real efforts to reach out to the black and Hispanic communities (remember that?).  Unfortunately, with the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001, “Compassionate Conservatism” began to take a back seat to the “War On Terror.”  Nevertheless, I voted for Bush because he struck me as being sincere about his desire to expand the Republican tent to include more people of color.

However, as I’ve mentioned above, I became aware during the Bush years that the Republican Party was merely using evangelical voters.  I couldn’t help but notice that, after all those years since the rise of Jerry Falwell’s “Moral Majority,” abortion was still legal, homosexual rights were ever expanding, and many Republicans privately were “pro-choice,” supported homosexual rights, and were involved in their own sexual scandals and such.  Then, as I already mentioned, there was the whole lie about “weapons of mass destruction,” which was our excuse for invading Iraq in the first place, creating all the turmoil that exists there to this day.

Then came the election of 2008.  An African-American man, Barack Obama, was the Democratic candidate.  I admit, I was drawn to Obama because of the ethnic bond we share.  He’s a black man like I am.  Yet, as a Democrat, Obama was also pro-abortion.  That bothered me.  However, Mr. Obama at that time said he believed marriage should be for a man and woman, not for same-sex couples.  Being a resident of Illinois at that time, I had known of Barack Obama since he was an Illinois state senator.  I also knew of his church and pastor, Dr. Jeremiah Wright, long-time pastor of the Trinity United Church of Christ—a very well-known church in the black community in Chicago (at that time, I was regularly watching their weekly TV broadcasts, and occasionally listening to their weekly radio broadcast, too). 

On the other side was Sen. John McCain.  I felt McCain was too old (my opinion is that, because of the great physical and mental demands of the job, presidential candidates ideally should be 45-60 years old—obviously that doesn’t apply this year!), and I was greatly turned off by the fact that he abandoned his first wife.  McCain was definitely not my choice.  Then, McCain chose Sarah Palin as his running mate.  Almost as soon as she started talking, she turned me off.  The straw that broke the camels back was when she dismissed Barack Obama as an elitist because he had degrees from Columbia and Harvard Law School.  It was then that I was through with her and through with McCain.  For black people, whose recent forbears were often prevented from obtaining even a high school education, it is a praiseworthy achievement to go to college and university and obtain a degree.  That Mr. Obama had obtained degrees from prestigious schools like Columbia and Harvard was a testimony to how far black people have come in this country.  His education was and is a great mark in his favor, but Palin felt it was a negative.  Her comments were ignorant, ill-informed, culturally and racially-insensitive, petty, and smacked of  racism and envy (given that, after attending 5 different schools--a semester here, a semester there--she has only a bachelor degree).  My opinion of Sarah Palin has not changed since then (in fact, it has probably gone down). 

In my opinion, the worst thing John McCain ever did as a politician was to bring Sarah Palin into the national spotlight.  Her ignorance and racial insensitivity (and the fact that many Republicans thought her gift of spewing ignorance was an asset) convinced me to vote for Barack Obama in 2008.  Republicans were already unresponsive to the needs of the black community.  With the ascension of Palin (and the Tea Party), now they were insulting the black community. 

In my opinion, the Moral Majority—and the Christian Right which was birthed out of that political movement—were probably among the more foolish moves by American Evangelicalism in the modern era.  The desire to see moral reform in the country was/is not wrong, but it was/is wrong to rely on the instrument of politics to do what only the Spirit of God, working through the word of God, can do.  This was the error of the Civil Rights Movement of the 50s & 60s.  Don’t misunderstand: I think the Civil Right Movement was a good thing and accomplished much good for this country, but it couldn’t change the human heart.  We created laws to make white folks treat blacks and other minorities equally but, as we witness in the news daily, our nation still struggles with racism and inequality, because hearts cannot be changed by laws.  The laws simply forced racism to morph, take on different forms, and became more subtle and shrewd.  But white racism still thrives.  Much of the Black Church, buoyed by the political successes of the Civil Rights Movement, took up political and social action as their prime mission, so we have the weak or non-existent gospel witness we see today in too many churches in the black community.  And, powerless to change human hearts, many evangelicals, since the days of the Moral Majority, have turned to Republican politics to try to force a Christian agenda on the nation.  After 40 years, it still hasn’t worked.  And it’s not going to work.

So, how did I reconcile my voting for Barack Obama in 2008, in spite of his support for abortion rights?  I turned to biblical theology.  First of all, I believe if we’re going to see abortions ended in this country, it won’t happen by political and legal means.  The Bible teaches me this change will only come as people are born again of the Spirit, their minds renewed through the word of God, and they are brought to see the value of every human life, from conception to the grave.  The Lord can accomplish all this without the benefit of overturning Roe v Wade, without packing the Supreme Court with conservative justices, and with or without the Republican Party—all by His Spirit working through His word.

Second, the Bible teaches me that fetuses have souls, and if they die—whether through miscarriage or induced abortion—their souls go to be with the Lord.  On the other hand, babies born into this world and allowed to grow up without the benefit of hearing the gospel, without the nurture and witness of godly people in their life, if they die they will go to hell eternally.  Everyone knows how up-in-arms most evangelicals are over abortion.  Abortion, in the opinion of many evangelicals, is the greatest evil in our nation.  We’re quick to bring up the statistics of how many black babies are killed by abortion each year.  But, how many evangelicals cared about Trayvon Martin being killed?  Or Michael Brown?  Or Tamir Rice?  Or Walter Scott?  Or the countless number of young blacks and Hispanics who are gunned down every weekend in cities all across our nation?  Those aborted black fetuses evangelicals care so much about went to heaven.  But, it’s very likely that most of those young people of color being shot and killed every week went to hell.  Evangelicals care about black babies who were never born, but 12 or more years after they’re born, most evangelicals couldn’t care less.

So, I came to these conclusions:

1) If true Christians—if the true church—did its job (see Matt. 5:13-16; 28:19-20), abortions would decrease, with or without pro-life politicians, with or without conservative jurists, with or without the Republican Party.  [I do not mean to imply Christians should not be concerned with the social views of their politicians and courts.  But I do mean to suggest society cannot be transformed by politicians and courts.  The error is in thinking that if we can just get the certain people into positions of political and legal authority everything will then be all right.]

2) Aborted fetuses are with the Lord.  Therefore, they are doing all right.  What concerns me most are the conditions of those already born.  Somebody needs to see about them.  Therefore, when I vote, I want to know which politicians care most about the people who are already born, especially those who are most needy.

3) I will not support a politician who claims he/she shares my faith but doesn’t demonstrate that he/she cares about me as a black American.  By the grace of God, I grew up in a 2-parent household, grew up in church, and was exposed to the Bible early.  But that doesn’t mean I don’t identify with those black kids from broken homes, living in under-privileged and under-resourced communities, that “law and order” folks like Trump want to put in line and lock up in jail, black males that some police officers seem all-too-willing to shoot and kill.  If a politician communicates to me that he/she doesn’t care about them, he/she doesn’t care about me, either.

It was for these reasons I voted for pro-abortion Democrats Obama-Biden, and voted against pro-life Republicans McCain-Palin, in 2008.

In 2012, I did not vote for a Presidential candidate at all.  During his first term, President Obama had announced that his thinking had “evolved” and he was now in support of same-sex marriage.  It may or may not be the case, but I felt he deceived voters back in 2008 when he said he did not support same-sex marriage, and did it so that he could get in office and come out in support of it later.  Because of my Christian beliefs, I strongly opposed that move and felt I could not support him.  But neither did I want to vote for Republican Mitt Romney, a follower of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints—a Mormon.  Measured by the Bible, the LDS church is not Christian at all.  President Obama was at least a professing Christian (not a Muslim, as the oft-repeated lie maintains).  So, rather than vote for a candidate I did not support, I did not vote at all in the presidential race.  I was comfortable with that decision because it didn’t matter to me who won, I felt either candidate was equally capable, competent and qualified and would ably discharge the duties of the office.

The situation this year is far different than in 2012.  Compared to Barack Obama or Mitt Romney—or any other Democrat or Republican who has run for the presidency in my lifetime—Donald Trump is in no way, by any measure, capable, competent or qualified for the office of President.  As I said earlier, Trump gives every indication that he has Narcissistic Personality Disorder.  I suspect he very likely is a sociopath.  At any rate, Trump is a fraud and a charlatan who is totally unfit by character and temperament to be President of the United States.  It would be foolhardy in the extreme to entrust power to this man.

Hillary Clinton, by contrast, is clearly qualified by education, experience and temperament.  Do I think she is the best possible candidate?  No.  Do I think she has been completely honest?  No.  But I do not think she is nearly as bad as her detractors and haters claim.  She’s never been convicted of any crimes, though her many detractors have tried diligently for over 20 years or more.  I accept the recent report of the FBI director concerning Mrs. Clinton’s email scandal, and have no reason to second-guess his report.  Why?  Because I’m not privy to the emails the FBI reviewed, and neither is anyone else I know.

So, with the goal of keeping Donald Trump out of the White House, the Lord willing, in November I will be voting for Hillary Clinton.  (I don’t vote for 3rd-party candidates.  No 3rd-party candidate has ever won the presidency of the United States, and I don’t want to waste my vote.)

I’m sorry this reply has been so lengthy, but I wanted to explain exactly how I’ve come to land on my position.  So, thank you for asking the question.  Really, I don’t consider myself to have an allegiance to any party.  Neither do I fit completely under a certain political label.  I’m not looking to nor depending upon Republicans and conservatives (or Democrats and liberals) to do what only the Spirit of God can do.  (Notice, I never mentioned government spending, the deficit, the Affordable Care Act [AKA, “Obamacare”], Israel, global warming, oil, or any other host of issues that I heard this week from the Republican National Convention.  Those aren’t my chief concerns.  I have opinions about some of these things, but what I’m mostly concerned about is Christians looking to a party and politicians to do what only God can do.)  And, until the Republican Party is ready to honestly face up to and deal with the racism, xenophobia, and hatred that is rife in its own ranks, it is in no position to help the country.  Evangelicals right now have an unholy alliance with the Republican Party.  The Republican Party is clearly NOT a Christian party.  Neither is the Democratic Party (but at least they don’t claim to be).  The fear and hatred I saw on TV this week from the Republican National Convention was very disconcerting (demonic comes to mind).  Therefore, I have absolutely no qualms about voting against their chosen candidate, Donald Trump, and voting for Democrat Hillary Clinton, instead.

Thursday, February 04, 2016

God is not weak

The following was written in response to something I heard on “Christian radio” this morning that really troubled me.  It is written for the benefit of Christians.  I hope it helps somebody.


Every human being who is saved—who is a believer in Christ, regenerated/born again, made a new creation in Christ, eternally saved from the holy wrath of a just God—is a miracle!  Absolutely no one is saved because they chose to be saved.  No sinner chooses to be saved, because no sinner WANTS to be saved!  None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.  All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one” (Romans 3:10-12).

And no non-Christian can blame his/her lostness on someone else, saying “I would be a Christian if it weren’t for (fill-in-the-blank).”  Mohandas Gandhi famously said, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians.  Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”  And, supposedly—or so the story goes—Gandhi rejected Christianity because of the behavior and attitude of Christians.  In other words, it was Christians who kept Gandhi away from Christianity.

Modern Evangelicalism, in large part, is responsible for this mischaracterization of salvation.  It has created a God who is weak, who can only save if given permission, and can only reach sinners if flawed, fallible and sinful Christians don’t get in the way.  (Liberal, apostate “Christianity,” on the other hand, doesn’t believe there is any need for salvation, having eliminated any concepts of God’s wrath, Judgment or hell.)

But this idea of a God who unable to save unless given permission—and, then, only if people don’t get in His way—is totally wrong.  If you are not a Christian—if you are not a follower of Christ, if you are lost—it is because you are a sinner, because your sins have separated you from God, and in your heart you are in a state of rebellion against the Holy One.  Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear; but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear” (Isaiah 59:1-2).  And people don’t come to Christ because, in their lostness, they are blinded by the devil.  If our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing.  In their case the god of this world [i.e., the devil] has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Corinthians 4:3-4).

My point: Stop lying on God, and stop lying to people!  Stop making God impotent and making human “free” will omnipotent.  Let God be true though every one were a liar” (Romans 3:4).  In other words, stop listening to lost people (Gandhi and others), and start listening to God (if lost people really knew so much and had so much insight, they wouldn’t be lost!).

Salvation is a miracle, only made possible by the supernatural intervention of God.  Human are powerless to save themselves or others.  Therefore being raised in church won’t make anyone a Christian.  Being raised in a Christian home will not guarantee that one will be a Christian.  Taking your kids out of public school and putting them in Christian schools (or homeschooling them) won’t guarantee they’ll grow up to be Christians.  Using certain evangelistic techniques won’t save anyone (nor will failing to use the right technique cause anyone to remain lost).  None of us can raise the dead or give sight to the blind, and that’s exactly the state of every unbeliever—spiritually dead and blind.  We need God!  He must raise the spiritually dead to life, He must give sight to the spiritually blind.  Salvation belongs to the Lord!” (Jonah 2:9).  If people are to be saved, God must save them.

When we truly believe this—believe what the Bible says about the lost—it will change how we pray, how we preach, how we share the gospel, how we evangelize.  If people are to be saved, GOD must do it.  But, because God is truly omnipotent, everyone He intends to save WILL be saved!  As I heard one preacher say: “If God goes out for you, He’s coming back with you!”  So, Christian, let’s pray for specific people, that God will save them.  And, as God gives opportunity, let’s share the gospel—the good news about Christ Jesus—knowing that the gospel “is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16).  The gospel has power because GOD has power.

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Why I don’t get excited about the 4th of July

To me, the United States of America is the greatest country on earth.  This is my home, my native land, and I know nowhere else in the world I would rather live—and I’ve visited other countries (Austria, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, China).  Yet, yesterday—the 4th of July—Independence Day—I had two recurring thoughts:

First, I thought of the hypocrisy inherent in these words of the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal”—words written and endorsed by men who held black people like me as slaves, as mere chattel.  Historically, the United States has so often practiced and endorsed various forms of injustice towards blacks, Native Americans and a host of other people groups, as to make a mockery of these noble words found in the Declaration of Independence.
Secondly, I thought of how sinfully proud we are as a nation.  Americans, generally, are full of a sense of our own self-importance as a nation.  And we don’t think we need God.  This is evident by how much and how often we Americans simply ignore God’s word and do what we want to do, and legalize what we want to legalize, with absolutely no regard for what God has said.  Just a casual glance at Scripture tells me our nation is headed for big trouble—trouble from God Himself.  Consider:
“Let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12).
“Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18).
“Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people” (Proverbs 14:34).
“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20).
“Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap” (Galatians 6:7).
But, we don’t have any fear of repercussions from our individual and national unrighteousness because we don’t really believe God’s word.  We’re clearly told, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31), but somehow we imagine our nation is special in the eyes of God and is, therefore, exempt from God’s wrath.  But God shows no partiality (e.g., Acts 10:34; Romans 2:11; Galatians 2:6; Ephesians 6:9).  Therefore, the United States of America is no more special to God than other nation, nor are we exempt from His laws.  The unrighteousness that America practices and endorses will ultimately be her downfall.  The wrath of God is coming, and we don’t see it, and we don’t care.
That’s why I, generally, just can’t get excited about the 4th of July.  All is not well in “the land of the free and the home of the brave.”

Monday, March 17, 2014

The best is yet to come

Left to right: Me, Grandma, Aunt Willie, and my cousin, Gabriel (1970-2014), probably late summer 1971.

It’s not over until God says it’s over. Sometimes your last years can be your best years. For examples, I need not look any further than my great-grandmother, Minnie Duncan Gray (1896-1986), and her sister, Wylodine Duncan Alexander (1898-1998). The year I was born, Grandma turned 67 years old, and Aunt Willie turned 65. In my opinion, their greatest usefulness for Christ was in their senior years.

First of all, they knew Jesus, having both professed faith in Christ on the same night—September 19, 1913—during a “revival” meeting at Oak Grove A.M.E. Church in Florence, Alabama. All the time I knew them, they lived consistent Christian lives, and were the same people at home as they were in church on Sunday. I believe it was because of their faith that they were probably two of the wisest people—wise in terms of godly wisdom—that I’ve ever known.

Interestingly, they both had the spiritual gift of teaching—teaching the word of God. Aunt Willie taught the Bible both in her home, with friends, and at church, for the adult Sunday School class. Aunt Willie became involved in the start of a new church when she was 74. In this new church, she organized and taught the adult Sunday School class, organized and taught a Wednesday night Bible class, and organized and directed the choir (for which she drafted me as the musician at age 9), as well as served as church treasurer and one of the church trustees. When Aunt Willie left our church to become a part of this new church, Grandma stepped up to teach the adult Sunday School class at our church. Grandma taught this class for 11 years, “retiring” when she was 87. Over the years, countless people told me what a blessing Grandma and Aunt Willie were to them, both as Bible teachers and godly examples. Even during the last 3 years of her very long life, paralyzed and blind in the nursing home, Aunt Willie was a blessing to many as she demonstrated patient and cheerful endurance in the midst of her obvious physical suffering.

Most significant to me is that Aunt Willie and Grandma taught me the Bible. They taught me, not only by precept, but by their faithful examples, to believe, honor and obey the Bible as the very word of God. It’s no exaggeration to say that in my pre-adult years I learned more about the Bible from Aunt Willie and Grandma than I ever did at church, and my view of the Bible was shaped more by them than by the church or its preachers. And, these women prayed for me (in fact, near the end of her life, Aunt Willie told me she specifically prayed for me twice a day). I am convinced that I am saved today in answer to their prayers. And by God’s providence, it was through Aunt Willie, in 1980, that I received the gospel message which the Holy Spirit used to bring me to saving faith in Jesus Christ.

I was led to reflect on all this as I thought about all the Lord has done in and through me these past 33 years (He has brought me such a long way), and as I thought about what He may yet have in store for me and my family during this next chapter of life in Washington, D.C. As far as effectiveness for Christ, I believe Grandma and Aunt Willie’s last years were their best years. I pray that, in whatever time the Lord gives me, these next years would be the best years in my service for Christ.