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June 6, 2016, 12:00 AM

Removing Idols from Our Hearts


 

God often gets out attention through adversity!  Through these experiences one can learn much about his own heart, faith, and, most importantly, God!  What I have learned over and over again is that he is Faithful and true to His promises!  

Adversity can reveal idols that we may have in our hearts! (Idols are anything, person, or desire that has taken God’s place in our hearts).  More often than not, these idols are unconscious even to us but clearly known to the All-Knowing God! Since He is a “jealous God” who knows no rival and demands and deserves our allegiance, He will point out and challenge these “other gods” in our hearts! 

The process of removing the idols from our hearts can be painful, because very often we have depended on these idols for our sense of well-being.  So, when it appears that we may lose them or have to put them in a different place in our hearts, we can become anxious or fearful!  We then must learn to trust God to provide what we had been relying on idols to provide!  Trusting and obeying God is absolutely necessary!

Sometimes, if we are not careful, as the process begins we may find ourselves tempted to take some actions to keep the idols rather than trusting in God.  Often, God will say to us “Be still and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth” (Psalm 46:10).  “Be still”---let your hands hang down; keep your hands out of it; stop wringing your hands; stop throwing your hands up in exasperation”!  “Be Still and know that I AM GOD”! 

Trusting and obeying leads eventually to the discovery that God is faithful, loving, kind, all-wise, all-loving, and powerful!  This is not simply intellectual assent or knowledge; we come to know this in our hearts, as God proves once again that He is God and that He is with us and for us! Thanks be to God who gives us the victory!

 

 

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June 6, 2016, 12:00 AM

Thinking Out Loud--Church, Politics & Race


Pastor's Blog

Dr. Jerome Symonette

I guess what I’m doing is “Thinking Out Loud”! I have been wrestling with a few thoughts lately concerning the Church, denomination, political parties, and racial ideology. 

Within the ranks of many Churches, many key leaders and members do not engage in personal soul-winning, although they verbally embrace the notion and necessity of evangelism (sharing the gospel with the lost).  Unfortunately, this abdication of responsibility is found even among some pastors.  Many would readily affirm the need to “Preach the Word” (2 Timothy 4:2) but then ignore the biblical admonition given by the same person in the same book and chapter to “do the work of an evangelist” (2 Timothy 4:5). 

Another thought with which I have been wrestling is concerning some denominational groups.  Among many of them the bi-vocational or small-membership Church pastor are celebrated as a hero and the very backbone of the denomination.  Yet, during the course of the State and National meetings, rarely are these pastors slated to speak to these gatherings or lifted as an example.  (It is reserved for the mega-church pastor who is capable of giving hundreds of thousands of dollars to Convention causes or whose congregation may be experiencing hundreds of baptisms yearly).   We say that a “successful church” is not measured by “bodies, budgets, and buildings”. Yet, programming and schedules subliminally convey another message in these settings.

During every news report about politics or new election campaign cycle, I become greatly disturbed by the awareness that none of the parties or their political associates really represent much of my biblical or Christian worldview, morality, or ethical positions.  The Republican Party seems to be focused on supporting big banks, industrialists, and the military-industrial complex instead of the poor or those who are experiencing racial and class injustices.  The Democratic Party, on the other hand, often support policies and programs to assist the poor and disenfranchised but support platforms that included such morally repugnant issues such as abortions, cloning, and same-sex marriages.   Both parties squabble over common-sense solutions and could not come to any agreement, because of their political polarization.  This was much to the chagrin of the larger population. 

My next thought has been concerning many of our leaders in the African-American community, particularly concerning the race narrative or racial prism through which the Black experience is viewed.  I had felt for a long time, particularly if you are biblically or intellectually honest, that African-Americans in America have blamed too many of their problems on racism.  There is absolutely no doubt that slavery, Jim Crowism, personal, systemic, and institutionalized racism have and continues to be a problem and have caused many of the negative plights concerning African-Americans.  Notwithstanding, in my view, the “victim card” is played too often as the reason for the sinful actions and reactions of African-Americans in the United States.  When a Black boy shoots and kills another Black youth, the immediate explanation should not be that racism and its resultant hopelessness are the causes.  Even when a White police officer shoots a Black man, our automatic explanation should not be that the White police officer was racist! (Although many times in the history of the United States, Blacks have been and continue to be subjected to racial injustice). The problem with the first example is that it does not hold the Black youth accountable for his own actions.  What if, for example, a Black person throws trash from a car window as he or she is riding down the street?  Do we blame the White man or hold the littering Black person responsible?   No doubt, racism should be one of many causative factors examined; however, it should not be the sole explanation or knee-jerk response for every negative issue encountered or depicted in the Black community! 

A better criteria for assessment would be right vs. wrong or truth vs. falsity.  These categories help us to more clearly see what is important, who is responsible, and what can be done concerning the issues of life!  Therefore, I’m espousing the poles of right vs. wrong rather than Black vs. White!  I am promoting the “Whole Counsel of God” and not just a few selected biblical verses, which supports our already settled opinions or particular political ideology.  I espousing God’s truth, God’s kingdom and righteousness.  Then, and only then, will we be able to see clearly and act comprehensively and definitively! 

I am seeking first (continuously, constantly) the Gospel of the Kingdom of God and His righteousness!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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January 14, 2016, 1:10 PM

GOD or a Genie!


What we think about God is often revealed in the manner in which we approach Him and what we expect from Him.  Sometimes, our image of God is often unconscious even to us.  This is true, particularly in the areas of prayer and worship!

Recently, when reading Stuart Scott’s book, The Exemplary Husband, I was struck by his description of four (4) popular views about God.  Scott wrote that God is often viewed as “A Kindly Old Grandpa or a Cosmic Santa Claus”.  In this case, God is seen as one who cannot bring Himself to really hold us responsible for our actions.  Instead, this god tends to overlook or ignore our sin.  If He is more like a Santa Claus, he is going to come through for us and give us what we want or what we think we need. 

Another view of God that Scott relays is one of a “Spiritual Psychotherapist”.  Those who hold this view live as though God only exist to merely help them feel better, function better and get more out of life.  He doesn’t give any directions or disciplines, because that would hurt one’s self-esteem.  This God is only an encourager!

For others, Scott writes, God is like a “Distant Orge”.  This view of God holds that God is someone who enjoys inflicting hardship on His children.  God is a reluctant and distant provider who is ready to punish those who step out of line. 

A final view of God (and one that had been on my mind and heart prior to reading Scott) is that God is some kind of “Domesticated Genie”.  Many people believe that God is obligated to grant their wishes. They will often use the name of God as some kind of magical incantation akin to “abracadabra”!  Scott writes, that “Man, in his own pride, thinks that if he is “good” or uses the name of God, he will be granted what he desires in life—maybe even be assured of heaven.  In this case, God is merely a means to one’s own end”.

Remember, God is the Sovereign Ruler of heaven and earth!  He is all-together Holy, Majestic, and Glorious! He has created us for His service and glory.  We are to submit to His will rather than attempt to impose or place our wills above His will!  God is just but yet God is merciful and gracious.  When we are in His presence, we should respond with the keen awareness of who He is.   A stark awareness of the other-ness of God ought to pervade our entire being—mind, body, and spirit! Anguish over our sinfulness, cries for forgiveness, humble and intense worship and loving obedience should emerge as a torrential flood!  The God of heaven and earth is not a genie whose primary focus is to grant us our wishes!  He’s GOD—we are here to be and do what He wishes! 

 

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January 5, 2016, 12:00 AM

Mother's Day, Motherhood & Murder


Honoring our mothers is an absolutely appropriate and desirable action!  God Himself commands us to do it (Exodus 20:12; Ephesians 6:1)! For most people, it is easy to show honor for the person who was the vessel through whom we entered the world and has provided a lifetime of loving care.  For these reasons alone, I honor my mother, along with countless others on Mother’s Day and throughout the year.

Yet, even as we celebrate Mother’s Day, we recognize that it is a difficult time for some people who have experienced the death of a mother or have never had the blessing of a loving mother.  This pain also often includes those women who are unable to have children, for whatever reason.  For many, including men, Mother’s Day and the notion of motherhood is fraught with painful emotions and memories!

Mother’s Day and motherhood bring to my mind thoughts of murder---the murder of millions of babies through the often selfish and sinful act of abortion! Each year, particularly in the United States, thousands of babies are aborted.  For many mothers (and fathers alike) this is done as a matter of convenience.  The inconvenience of having a child weighs more heavily than the reality that the unborn fetus is an innocent child—a human person worthy of the preservation of his or her life!  

Some argue that the child is not yet a person, because they have not been born or reach some point (age) of viability.  Because the child is not able to live on his or her own without the connection to an umbilical cord, he or she is not deserving of protection or life.  Biblically, this argument cannot stand!  Since God recognizes personhood “even before we are in our mother’s womb” (Jeremiah 1:5), it is apparent that He would affirm personhood in the mother’s womb.  The Psalmist declares that [God] formed our inward parts and knitted us together in our mother’s womb (Psalmist 139:13).  

Others would say that potential physical or mental challenges would be sufficient justification for the killing of a baby in the womb.  I find this argument to be problematic on at least two (2) levels. First, it does not account for the sovereignty of God.  God points to His sovereignty even over that which is often called a disability.  He asked Moses, “Who makes [humans] mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? (Exodus 4:11).  Not only does this argument not concede authority to God over disabilities, it also takes authority from God and gives it to those who support the killing of a baby in the womb!  

Others argue for the taking of a human life, in the case of rape or incest!  Yet, even in this obviously heart-wrenching and extremely soul-damaging experience, the question remains: "Does it justify the killing of an innocent baby. As it often stated, “Two wrongs don’t make one right”! Does the sin of an evil, wretched man justify the killing of an innocent baby, even if that baby's life is the result of his sin!  If this issue is only from an emotional point of view or from the righteous anger directed at the man perpetrating the rape or incest, then a baby’s life will be required as payment for someone else sins!

The bottom line is that God, and God alone, determines the limitations of our abilities and humanity. He alone determines the circumstances under which any life may be taken.  He alone determines who and what bring glory to His name. The taking of any human life, particularly a child in the womb, must be done within the parameters of God's Will and not ours!  God alone is the All Wise, All-Loving, All Wise, and All-Powerful, All-Knowing, Righteous One! 

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October 1, 2015, 12:04 PM

Surprised by Sick People in a Hospital?


On a recent Facebook post, I asked a question similar to this:  “If the church is a “hospital” and Jesus is the Great Physician, why are we so surprised and critical when we find sick people within the ranks of the Church?"   The sick (the sinful) are those who need Jesus, the Great Physician!  Indeed, Jesus Himself declares this truth: “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick” (Matthew 9:12, ESV).  

The surprise and criticism may come from Christians and non-Christians alike.  It is, perhaps, understandable coming from the ranks of the unchurched. When it emerges from the ranks of the churched, however, it is often troubling.  The truth is that many of those persons in the “hospital” (church) are at various stages of spiritual disease and healing!  Yet, they are in the best place to receive healing (salvation) and seeking the best Physician (Jesus Christ)!  An interesting and note-worthy truth is that Jesus is the only One who has never been sick.  “He was tempted (vulnerable to sins and sickness) in all points as we were, yet [He] without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). He alone provides the only remedy for our sins and our sicknesses—Himself—His substitutionary death on the cross for our sins!  Jesus is the Doctor who writes the prescription and offers the only effective Remedy for our sins and our sicknesses!  

Interestingly, these critics, whether Christians or non-Christians (saved or unsaved) missed the fact that they too are sick and are in need of Christ, the Great Physician and the Church (the hospital for sick people).   The greatest sickness of humankind is not physical; it is spiritual!  Nevertheless, Jesus is the Only Solution for the problem.  The sin-sick sinner must come to Him, acknowledging their sins, and making a commitment to turn to Christ and accept His death on the Cross, as the payment and only remedy for our sins, and make a commitment to live for Christ. 
 
After accepting Christ, the possibility of being infested with the disease of sin is still a reality.  Yet, Jesus again is the Prescription and Medicine! He gives us the grace (enablement) to be sanctified, to be made holy, to be conformed into His image!  Whether we need a remedy for our salvation or sanctification, the “sick” must come to the Great Physician, Jesus Christ.  They should come to the “hospital”—the Church (Hebrews 10:24-25)!

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