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.

Friday, February 28, 2014

“No turning back…”

Years ago, we used to sing this old chorus:

“I have decided to follow Jesus.
I have decided to follow Jesus.
I have decided to follow Jesus.
No turning back, no turning back.”

Another verse was,

“The world behind me, the cross before me…

Then, there was this verse:

“Though none go with me, still I will follow…”

I remember—and this had to be at least 30 years ago—how these words so perfectly expressed my desire and longing to follow Christ Jesus my Lord.  Do not misunderstand: I wanted others to go with me on this Christian journey.  I have always loved people.  And though I tend to be an introvert, and enjoy “alone time,” I don’t enjoy being left alone or lonely.  I long deeply for others to join me in following Christ, especially family members.  Nevertheless, I determined many years ago that if I had to go it alone, for the sake of Christ I was prepared to go alone.  I still feel the same way.

“No turning back, no turning back.”