Standing For Something and Not Falling for Anything

Over the last few weeks (really my entire life), I have heard a plethora of negative comments about Christianity as well as seen too few people taking a positive stand for Christianity within the mainstream media (although a few prominent people in the media like Kathy Lee Gifford (click here_____) have made bold and powerful statements). Christians are often misunderstood and, therefore, mocked. Christians espousing morality are often afraid to share their faith because of potential ridicule. Within the media, Christians are sometimes disdained and misrepresented.  In the September 3, 2016 edition of the New York Times, Nicholas Kristof (I disclose that I regularly read his column which most often is about helping out the needy and disadvantaged people of the world) respectfully writes an article, “What Religion Would Jesus Belong To?” (For article Click here_.) He comments on Brian D. McLaren’s new book, The Great Spiritual Migration. (I have not yet read the book). Kristof, says that founders of religion “Are typically bold and charismatic visionaries who inspire with their moral imagination, while their teachings sometimes evolve into ingrown, risk -averse bureaucracies obsessed with money and power.” He says that tension between the two is most “pronounced with Christianity.” McLaren, a former pastor says that Jesus “Often comes across as anti-poor, anti-gay, anti-intellectual, anti-immigrant and anti-science.” Kristof also sites Stephen Prothero’s Religious Literacy,” in which he says that only half of American Christians can name the four gospels and only forty-one percent are familiar with Job. McLaren, ultimately, according to Kristof, asks if Christians could “Migrate from defining their faith as a system of beliefs to expressing it as a loving way of life?” Kristof does acknowledge the altruistic attributes of many Christians, and that some “Pompous hypocrites get the headlines and often shape public attitudes about religion.” We should be measuring a person’s Christianity by what he does, not by what he says. Christianity should never be about wealth and power. A Christian should be measured against biblical beliefs, yet knowing that God is continually perfecting His people (Philippians 1: 6).

Essential Tenets of Christianity

  • Belief that Jesus is the Messiah (the second part of the Trinity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit);
  • Jesus was crucified and on the third day He rose;
  • If you accept Jesus as your savior, you will have eternal life;
  • Everyone will have to give an account of their actions when Jesus returns;
  • Those who have not accepted Christ will be condemned to the Lake of Fire;
  • Jesus lives within the hearts of His people;
  • Christians are commanded to love everyone as Christ loves the church;
  • Christians are commanded to look after the unfortunate (the poor, the needy, orphans, widows, etc);
  • Practice the Golden Rule (Do unto others what you would have them do unto you.);
  • Study the Word of God;
  • Pray in Jesus’ name and
  • Get baptized

Christian Character

Within Christianity there are carnal Christians and Christians who have a relationship with Christ. Carnal Christians focus more on worldly matters (wealth and the pride of life) instead of on Christ. They operate more from their flesh than from Christ’s spirit. Christianity is much more than a set of rules; it’s about having a relationship with Jesus Christ. It’s not about judging people; it’s about spreading the good news of Jesus Christ (Acts 1:7 and John 28:18-20). The Bible is a Christian’s lifeline. Christians pray and love! Sometimes our message gets clouded in  anti-abortion and anti-gay rhetoric, but love should be our strongest message. We should never hate anyone! We ourselves were once in a perpetual lifestyle of sin. Unfortunately, some of us still are sinning  perpetually because we have not fully yielded our lives to Christ (it is a process).

Many Christians do focus on moral imperatives; however, we should love everyone as Christ loves the church (believers in Christ). There should be a balance of speaking against immorality, while still loving the sinner. Christ loves everyone, yet He points out our wrongdoing. Within Christianity there are hypocrites; they, however, should never speak for the whole. Yes, there are Christians speaking out against the very sin in which they are entangled. Nevertheless, Christianity is about the Spirit of Christ. It is about ministering to sinners, to the sick, and to the needy. Jesus pointed out their sin while still loving them.

There are plenty of Christian organizations that embody Christ’s values of helping out those in need while promoting the Gospel of Jesus Christ. One of the most prominent is Samaritan’s Purse, run by Franklin Graham. His organization helps meet the needs of people all over the world (James 2:14). Their organization epitomizes faith in action. No where in the Bible does it say to migrate away from our doctrine and focus solely on love. We are taught to show our faith through our love-filled actions. We are taught to lay aside besetting sins and to love our neighbors as ourselves.

We are commanded to present the gospel to the uttermost parts of the earth so that others can receive salvation (Acts 1:7). We are to give an answer (with gentleness and respect) to anyone who asks for the reason for the hope that lies within us (1 Peter 3:15-16). The gospel should be presented with love. No one should accept Christ out of fear of Hell, but out of love. Jesus says perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18). No one is born into Christianity. Each person must accept Christ for himself. Christian influence is not enough. A Christian must believe that Christ is Lord! Christianity loves! Read the Bible; it’s the template for matters of the heart!

For further reflection and encouragement, read the Gospel of John and the book of James.

Hiding in the Light: A Review

Rifqa Bary’s memoir Hiding in the Light (a New York Times Bestseller) chronicles her teenage conversion to Christianity from Islam. It’s a poignant tribute to the power of God and to the power of Christian testimony. Bary, as a young child, emigrated from Sri Lanka to the United States with her family. Before leaving Sri Lanka, Bary suffered a permanent loss of vision in one eye. Furthermore, in her memoir she details the impact of sexual abuse from a relative. After losing her vision and her “honor” because of the sexual abuse, she felt little love from her family. When she and her family moved to New York City, she developed a curiosity about Christian prayer and the use of the word “Amen.” From a young age, she sensed the presence of God in her life, knowing that He was always there. After 9/11, practicing Islam was not easy in New York City. Her family then located to Ohio, near Columbus. While in middle school, she was introduced to Christianity. She began to have a relationship  with Jesus Christ, later accepting Him as her savior. She was baptized years later, unbeknownst to her family. After hiding her conversion for many years, her family was informed of her Christian activities. Bary states that her father threatened to kill her (“honor killing”) if she did not renounce Christianity. Renunciation was not an option. While running away during the night, Bary with the help of Christian acquaintances absconded to Florida. Weeks later, a media frenzy surrounded her escape as the alleged threat to kill her became known. Her dependency/ criminal case (it’s against the law for a minor to run away) as well as her illegal immigration status received international coverage that pitted Christians against Muslims. Bary, seventeen years of age, was placed in foster care and moved from home to home for security reasons. In the end,  when Bary turned eighteen, she was allowed to become free from her parents. She received her Green Card, allowing her to legally stay in the United States (she is currently on the path to citizenship by her twenty-third birthday next month). At no time did Bary’s family admit any of the allegations against them.

Bary’s courage in the face of both adversity and danger is deeply moving. Although she was afraid, fear did not immobilize her. Bary desired to know the love of God and His providence in spite of the danger of turning toward Christianity. Through every step of her relationship with Christ, God led her to safety. Meeting all the God ordained people helped Bary survive crisis after crisis. She never lost her faith in Jesus. Prayer  and Bible study became the most effective tools to get her through all of the difficulties that lay ahead. The hand of God was upon her from the beginning of her questioning of Islam and throughout her conversion and later ordeal. She realized that the Lord orders the steps of a righteous man or woman (Psalm 37:23). Moreover, God did not give her a spirit of fear, but of love, power, and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7).image

This memoir is respectful to Muslims and it appears to be authentic. Bary never maligns Muslims; she, however, boldly states her position about the potency of Christ. From my own personal relationship with the Lord, I know that God works everything out according to the counsel of His own will ( Ephesians 1:11). Some agnostics or atheists may question the authenticity of this memoir, but my visceral response says it’s true. God loves His children, and he sometimes takes us to the brink before deliverance comes. Why would someone risk her life for a lie? Why would someone give up her family and her culture for a lie?

This memoir brought tears to my eyes. Seeing a steadfast Christian woman who made a life changing decision knowing the longterm consequences of family alienation makes me have a stronger commitment to Christ. Many of us come from a country in which we have religious freedom. We suffer little if any Christian persecution, yet we are afraid to share our faith. Most of us never will endure trauma and adversity like that of Bary’s. This memoir makes me desire a greater prayer life, and to be used to a greater degree.

Currently, Bary is in hiding, and has no contact with her biological family. She has forgiven her family, and continues to allow God to use her. God has restored her in manifold ways. She truly knows no weapon formed against her shall prosper (Isaiah 54:17). I pray that you read her book, and that it will have an impact on your life. Amen!!

For Personal Study: Read Romans 10. God bless you.

Reflections on A Prayer Journal by Flannery O’Connor

imageFlannery O’Connor was an American writer of the twentieth century. A writer who was mainly known for her short stories, O’Connor was a devout Roman Catholic whose personal journal titled A Prayer Journal was published posthumously two years ago. She died from lupus at the age of thirty-nine, nine years later than what the doctors expected. God gave her fourteen years to live after the initial diagnosis (I cannot help but think that like Hezekiah in the Bible, she was given more years to do the Lord’s work). During her young adult life, O’Connor penned some poignant words to God. Intimacy is what O’Connor desired most and it was evident in her writing. Knowing that apart from God, she could do nothing, she desired a closer walk with God. She said, “Dear God, I cannot love Thee the way I want to. You are the slim crescent of a moon that I see and my self is the earth’s shadow that keeps me from seeing all the moon…” O’Connor continues writing,”I do not know you God because I am in the way. Please help me to push myself aside…”image

Over two years ago I read O’Connor’s journal and her words impacted me greatly. The sincerity of her heart blew me away. As a Christian writer, O’Connor wanted her beliefs to permeate her writing. She worried about losing her faith, about “intellectual quackery” swaying her mind. She realized that the fear of Hell is no valid reason to become a Christian. Loving God, she believed, should be the primary reason for coming to Jesus. O’Connor recognized that “Prayers should be composed…of adoration, contrition, thanksgiving, and supplication.” Never viewing her vocation separately from her faith in Jesus, she wanted God to help her with every aspect of her life. She could not have fathomed that more than fifty years after her death, her words would continue to reverberate throughout the world.

In the spirit of Christ exemplified by O’Connor, let’s pray. Jesus, forgive me for my recent sins. Search me and know my heart. Try me and know my anxieties, and if there is any wicked may in me, lead me in the way everlasting ( Psalm 139:23).  Lord Jesus, help me to put all of my trust in you. Help me to draw near to you and recognize your greatness. Help me to lay aside every weight that keeps me from serving you. Give me the grace and mercy to carry out your will and to spend time everyday reading your word, talking to you, and listening to your instructions that are specific to my life. Help me to praise your name, and to tell others about you. Help me to be humble, and to  recognize that everything I have (my health, my intellect, my possessions, etc.) comes from you. You are the “Rock of my Salvation” and you cover me with your love. I praise you with my entire being, and I thank you for all the grace and mercy that you have bestowed upon me. For there is no other God, but you. I thank you for hearing and answering my prayers. I thank you that your spirit is drawing me closer to you and that You will have the preeminence in my life. I thank you that you will help me to not be too busy for you. I thank you that your Holy Spirit will continuously fill me and refresh me. Have your way in me. I ask all of these blessings in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Please read A Prayer Journal. You will be blessed and inspired to seek God’s face, and have Him use you in everything that you do. You might have a lasting impact on many lives to come. Take heed!

For further reflection and encouragement, read Colossians 1 and Psalm 139.

Remembering the Rwandan Genocide: A Review of Left to Tell

imageTwenty-two years ago this month, one of the worst ethnic crises occurred during three months in Rwanda. This tragedy has been documented in many forms (Sixty Minutes, Hotel Rwanda, Sometimes in April, etc). Last summer, however, I read Immaculee Ilibagiza’s memoir of the Rwandan genocide, Left to Tell. In her memoir, she chronicles, with specificity, the impact that the Rwandan genocide had on her, her family, the Rwandan community, and even the world. She grew up in a devout Catholic family where she learned to have faith in Jesus through prayer. In 1994, her country experienced the genocide of approximately one million Tutsis in response to an ethnic war with the Hutus. Her family raised her to not value others based on artificial classifications, but on their actions. Unknowledgeable about her own cultural classification for many years, when she did come to learn about the classification system, she experienced discrimation to a high degree. Highly regarded in their community, her parents taught her that faith in God and service to others were the answers to life’s problems. Never did she fathom, however, that her faith would be tested and subsequently sharpened. Given the opportunity to attend college away, Ilibagiza did not hesitate to take advantage of an excellent opportunity. While attending college, there was an exacerbation of the conflict in Kigali, the Rwandan capital. Not realizing the conflict’s severity, she came home to celebrate Easter with her family. While home, the death of Rwanda’s Hutu president ignited a machete driven slaughter of Tutsis for the next three months. Ilibagiza lost her entire family except for one brother who was away from home at the time. Thanks to a Hutu pastor who covertly hid Ilibagiza and seven other women for ninety-one days in a tiny bathroom (hidden and unknown to most), she survived. During this time they experienced the following harrowing conditions: limited food, limited toilet use, no contact with the outside world, anger, and no bathing (they could not run the water because visitors would hear the water or the toilet flush). They also experienced severe emaciation, dehydration, and despair as they heard of the death of loved ones.image

Throughout this time, however, Ilibagiza learned to call upon the name of the Lord. She prayed, without ceasing, that God would deliver her and the others during this crisis. At the time, she did not imagine that God would take ninety-one days to deliver them. Day by day, her faith grew. God sustained her and developed her faith to the extent that He could use her to minister to hurting people everywhere, and to teach reconciliation to the Hutus and the Tutsis. The entire time, God’s hand was upon her and the others. After her rescue and learning of the deaths of family members, God began restoring her manifold, although the process was not easy. The horrors of the conflict and the conditions under which she lived during those three months and after  would likely cripple most, but God revealed himself to her and strengthened her faith. Her life was spared and now she is left to tell the world about how God “delivered her out of the mouth of the lion’s den.” Reconciliation through forgiveness for most Rwandans has been difficult, but Ilibagiza is committed to putting a fractured people together. She travels throughout the world giving people hope from sorrow and encouraging forgiveness. Several years ago, she appeared on Sixty Minutes. That is when I first heard her story. Her message of faith is timeless. As difficult as her experience was, the Bible tells us in Romans 8:28, that all things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to his purpose.

Most of us might never be in such horrific situations similar to Ilibagiza’s; nevertheless, our God is waiting on us to call upon his name. Sometimes it takes a mountain to realize who God is. God uses life’s situations to urge us to seek his face. He is waiting for us to pray, to ask him to meet our needs and to deliver us from situations; however, it is through these situations that we learn true faith. Many of us have difficult situations that rob us of joy and weigh us down. All we have to do is relinquish control, and give God the situation. If we ask anything in God’s name, we know he hears us and will grant our petition ( John 15:7). Furthermore, the Bible tells us that our weapons of warfare are not carnal but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds (2 Corinthians 10:4,). God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him (Hebrews 11:6). And, eyes have not seen, nor ears heard, what God has in store for those who love him (1 Corinthians 2:9). God has great things in store for us. Let him use us in a great capacity.

I encourage you to read Left to Tell. Giving hope in the midst of life’s difficulties, is a major benefit to reading this memoir. It will strengthen your faith. I pray that God’s purpose in your life will be revealed to you and that your faith in him will increase. Let’s remember to be fishers of men.

For personal growth and development, read: John 15; Colossians 1.

In His Presence

Keep me in your perfect holy will
Show me how to walk and yet be still
Let me drink in your living waters
‘Cause I’m one of your lovely daughters
Help me to meditate on your word
As I ask others if they have not heard
That you provide rest for the weary soul
There is no other note worthy goal
But to seek your face and be bold
To tell others you’re the lamb to behold
As my time in your presence never ends
Help me to reflect proudly and say Amen!

Deirdre M. DeLoatch

Key Verses: John 1; Matthew 11; Acts 28; Ephesians 3

Personal Note: Please respect my copyright. Thanks and may God give you an abundant life in his presence.

 

Circling Each Other in Prayer

imageMark Batterson’s (also New York Times bestselling author of The Circle Maker) Draw the Circle is a forty day prayer challenge to labor in prayer. I, along with nine other women from my church, committed to pray (forty days, but it’s not just for forty days. It’s a lifestyle) for one person in our group as well as to pray for our own personal needs and concerns. Nearing the end of the forty days, I decided to encourage others, by writing about it, to commit to a similar undertaking. Each day there is a specific reading that relates to faith and prayer. The end result is to deepen our faith, to submit our will to that of the Lord Jesus Christ, to keep a prayer journal, to commit to prayer as a way of life, and to memorize and meditate on the Word daily. We are scheduled to come together over dinner to discuss what God has done. I began interceding for one woman in the group. Although I do not know her well, I asked the Holy Spirit to lead me. I prayed for her, for her family, for her finances, and for her committment to Jesus Christ. I know that God heard my prayers, and I look forward to hearing about the great things that Christ has done and will continue to do in her life. As we circle each other in prayer, we need to make sure someone is circling us in prayer. It is essential that we have someone interceding for us, because sometimes it is hard to pray during difficult times. In James 5: 16, we are told to confess our sins to each other so that we may be healed, for the fervent effectual prayer of a righteous man or woman availeth much. Moreover, the Bible tells us in Philippians 4:6 to be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving to make our requests known to God, and the peace of God which passes all understanding will guide our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. As a result of prayer, I know that God is in the midst of my life, and that he is working everything out in my life for my good and for his glory.

I began putting some prayers (some may seem trivial, but they are important to me, and therefore important to the Lord) before the Lord. I am including a sample of the list so that I can publicly share with my friends and family when the prayers are answered.  We are overcome by the blood of the lamb and by the word of our testimony (Revelation 12:11). Here is a sample of the list of requests:

*Healing for Latoya;

*Healing for my sister;

*Emotional healing and language development for my niece;

*Salvation/ renewed committment for my siblings, nieces, nephews,  in-laws, friends, and Children;

*Great performances (Shakespeare and Poetry) from my students st BAM, CSC, and at Shakespeare festival;

* Successful year end BBQ (good sunny weather)for students;

*Complementary tickets for King and Country gala;

*Great time management;

*Improved hair care/ growth;

*Great health and to live to one hundred;

*Establish an orphanage and a school

*Protection for my students and colleagues and

*Succesful Black Male Achievement Program implemented by BAM

Spending time in prayer is a way of life and we must not give up! God said that His house shall be called a house of prayer (Isaiah 56:7). God tells us in Habbakuk 2:2-3 to write the vision on the tablet, and though it tarries, it shall not tarry long, for the vision is yet for an appointed time. And, the just shall live by his faith. Sometimes Christ delays our answer to strengthen our faith. Sometimes he says no! We must ask in faith and thank God in advance for answering our request that is prayed in accordance with His will. Furthermore, let’s be in a continual attitude of prayer. The Bible says to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). Pray when in the shower and pray while walking. Get a prayer partner, and rise early to pray together. If we commit to prayer, unseen blessings will follow. It’s time to pray.

For both edification and encouragement read: 2 Kings 20; Isaiah 38

To submit a prayer request go to brooklyntabernacle.org and scroll down to where there is an icon to submit a prayer request.