Husband, Father, Friend, Pastor/Coach

Month: February 2021

Stand Up for what is Right

This is being written on the Feast of Purim.

The Feast of Purim is a day that celebrates Esther; the Jewish woman who became a queen of a gentile king. She stood up to a king and saved her people.

Today is also the nearing of the end of Black History Month in America. Who comes to mind in the black community when you think of the heroism of Esther? Harriet Tubman? Sojourner Truth? There are many to draw from.

Stand up for what is right is always a value that we should embrace. When one considers the incredible odds of what it took for Esther to do what she did, it only increases the value of the conviction.

Jesus most likely celebrated the feast when he was on earth. John 5 reads that “there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.” What happens next reflects the value of the conviction; Jesus finds someone who can’t stand up for himself.

When those of us who have opportunity and power do not use our opportunity and power to stand up for what is right, we are not people of conviction. Esther was a queen, not because she had aspirations of becoming one, but because she was thrust into a harem! Today we call that “sexual exploitation” or “human trafficking.”

Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth (her pseudonym) had delegated power when they learned to read, and then learned to lead. They were both enslaved persons, (not even considered a full human, by legal definition). They were breaking the law!

All three of them were women.

But they recognized that they had been given opportunity and power. Listen to Esther’s uncle told her, “for if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place; but you and your father’s house will perish…” (Esther 4:14a). Wow. He throws down the gauntlet! Then he encourages her, “…Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”

So, let us recapitulate the situation: 1.through no plans of their own, these women were thrust into a situation – a horrific situation, 2. escaping seemed like a good idea, (self preservation), but the call to STAND UP was obvious 3. they had been give opportunity and power. 4. they took action.

Jesus says to a crippled man, “do you want to get well?” Kind of an insulting question, seeing as the man is hanging out where all kinds of people were essentially “lotterying” to get healed. The crippled man replied, “I have no one to help me.”

Jesus took a stand, on the day to celebrate a woman who took a stand, and he did so by helping the man get back on his feet.

The implications of this episode are overwhelming.

Today, irrespective of your situation, you can Stand Up for what is Right.

Are We There Yet?

My son Christos was quick as a child. He went to sleep quickly, he got up and got dressed quickly… he was an on-the-go kid. We would be at a stop light, and as soon as the light turned green, he’d say, “dad, let’s go.” On a trip, he mastered the art of the question every child asks, “are we there yet?”

In our walk with the Lord, we are not there, yet. The word teaches us that we haven’t arrived or already been made perfect. (Philippians 3:11-14). When the Apostle Paul wrote those words, he used the imagery of a runner in a race. He used words like “press on” and “toward the prize.” Therefore, we can conclude that there are two phases of “getting there.”

We are going to get “there” both in our maturity in Christ and our final destination.

Piano virtuosos don’t stop practicing to become better skilled, athletes don’t stop practicing to become better skilled, doctors don’t stop studying to become better skilled; and the child of God continues to “press on” in becoming more formed into the image of Christ.

God didn’t call us into salvation to sit and wait “until we get there.” Peter urges the follower of Christ to “give diligence” to our walk with the Lord, to cultivate virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love; in order that we may be more fruitful in Christ, (2 Peter 2:4-8).

Finally, God does indeed have a future home prepared for us! Hebrews 11 teaches us that there is a better place to be, and compared it to Abraham sojourning in the land of promise.

We’ll talk about that next time… after all, we’re not there yet!

What My Parents Taught Me

My parents are struggling almost all of the time these days. At the time of this writing, my mom is suffering with shingles, among other things. My dad is in a rehab nursing home; unable to walk yet, because he fell on the ice and broke his foot.

Days like today remind me of what my parents taught me.

My parents lived in Cleveland, Tennessee for about ten years. Most of their friends thought they were a retired ministry couple, because who else moves to Cleveland, Tennessee in their retirement years? (Cleveland, TN is “headquarters” for many ministries, including my tribe, the Church of God, Cleveland, TN)

Their friends thought they were retired ministers because: 1. they attended Sunday School, 2. they attended morning and evening worship services 3. they attended Wednesday night Bible study 4. they joined church / ministry related groups; early morning devotions with a man named Max Morris. You may not know who he is, but for my parents he is a legend. Years ago, he sang a little song for my brother Joel, who was a baby at the time. Things like this stay in one’s mind. Mom was in a women’s circle group, and also a church group of red hatters. 5. They attended every church related event possible, not because they were retired preachers, but because they considered this the normal life.

My dad was a postman, and my mom a “stay at home” mom, as we call it today. That tag is quite inaccurate, because my mom was very active; hosting Bible studies for the neighborhood women who wanted to know “more about the Holy Spirit.”

Here’s what you need to know about my mom. She dropped out of high school when her family moved from the coal mines of Kentucky to Detroit. Mom went to work, instead of finishing high school. After marrying in 1957, and having three boys, mom graduated “night school” in 1968. (I loved to tell friends that my mom graduated in 1968, because I was born in 1962!) My mom’s essay, one of her graduating requirements, was about the Church of God. She still has that cherished paper in her cedar chest.

My mom sat my older brother and I on the couch and taught us the scriptures. My mom walked through the house, praying; mostly in English, but often in a heavenly language. She often sits at the piano and sings, (she plays by ear). Ironically, mom, to this day, thinks that she isn’t very smart.

My high school friends would often talk about where they were going to attend college, and what they were going to do in life. Most of them said that this is what their parents wanted them to do.

One day when I was in high school, my dad picked me up from school after work. I was probably at wrestling practice, or drama club. When we pulled up into our garage, I asked my dad, “what is it that you want me to do?” Without hesitation, my dad said, “that’s not for me to decide. You’ve got to do whatever God wants you to do.”

Maybe some would conclude that my dad took the easy way out. I think not. At that moment in my life, my dad had just released me to hear the voice of God above every other voice in my life.

My parents led me to Jesus. That’s what my parents taught me.

Running Over a Skunk

For the second half of my child I lived in the country. Life in the country meant, like the Green Acres theme song sings, “farm livin’ is the life for me…” Country living meant a greater appreciation for wild life. We had pheasants in the field, cows in the pasture, horses in the stalls, and skunks in the street.

If you’ve never run over a skunk, you haven’t lived life the fullest! Our neighbor, Mr. Wilson, would say, “I felt a skunk this morning.” Eew.

Mr. Wilson was from Scotland. He had an unusual way of saying things. When he “felt” a skunk, it meant that he had smelled a freshly deceased skunk.

Skunk stink is a penetrated smell. Even if you weren’t the car that hit the skunk, just running over it lingers in your car. Like Mr. Wilson says, you can feel the skunk.

Sin is like the skunk. Its a penetrating stink in our lives. When we hang around sin, even if we don’t personally participate, we can feel its effects. We can see and feel the effects of the stink of sin in our homes, our schools, our neighborhood, our government…and yes, even the church.

We would rather not think about sin. What we often do is gloss it over, or deny that it even exists. Jesus minced no words when it came to the rotten stinking work of sin. In the same passage in John, that contains the most famous verse ever, Jesus says this: “whoever believes in the Son has eternal life but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them,” John3:36

Someone said, “sin will take you further than you wanted to go, keep you longer than you wanted to stay, and keep you longer than you wanted to pay.” Sin is stinky and costly. Worst of all, the only presence of God that abides in the life of the unrepentant is the wrath of God.

The word “sin” means to “miss the mark.” The word sin is a archery term. The shooter would take bow & arrow into hand, and the marker would stand downrange. When the archer didn’t hit the bullseye, the marker would shout “sin!” The archer would adjust the shot until he got it right.

Unlike the archer, we always miss the mark, because God’s standard is perfection and holiness. Only God is holy, so where does that leave us? Are we subject to hearing “SIN SIN SIN” without remedy?

There is a remedy.

Mr. Wilson showed us how to get rid of the stink we felt. Tomato juice would wash away the stink.

What an image! The blood of Jesus washes away all of my falling short, all of my stink, all of my imperfection. Jesus becomes the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

Jesus cleans me, Jesus keeps me clean. I John teaches us that “if we confess our sin, He is faithful and just to forgive our sin, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” What a promise! God’s wrath will no longer remain upon me, the the feeling stink of a skunk, but when I Acknowledge, Believe, and Confess in the effective work of Christ on the cross; when I turn away from that, and turn to Him… I am then a cleansed child of God.

Running over the skunks of our life is unavoidable. Like Mr. Wilson, when we feel a skunk, let’s run to cleansing.

Grace for Everyone… except

Social media posts are flooded with victims and accusers. From the White House to the Out House, someone is aggravated, angry, victimized, vilified, denied justice, and demanding something.

At the core of our outcry, there seems to be a common thread: self righteousness. The assumption in many tweets, texts, posts and articles is that the one writing the information, or pointing out the flaws in others is flawless.

Sin, and the consequences of it are common in every human being. Every human being. Yes, every human being.

One day a group approaches Jesus and essentially tattle tells on some Galileans who were in cahoots with Pilate, and ending up dying because of their alliance. (Luke 13). Jesus asks a probing question, “do you think these Galileans were worse sinners because they suffered this way?”

That’s a rhetorical question. Jesus asks the same question about a local tragedy in the text. His answer is “unless you repent, you will perish the same way.”

Jesus is telling us that we are all equal opportunity sinners and all equally have the opportunity to repent.

Murderers, rapists, racists, liars, cheaters, super-nice guy, super-mean woman, town drunk, city attorney, fortune 500 business owner, activist, soldier, pacifist,… ALL sinners in need of repentance. All in need of the grace of God.

Our wonderful, holy and awesome God who never sins, and hates sin, says this when an unrepentant person dies: ” I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked…” Ezekiel 33:11. The verse goes on to say, “…but rather that they would turn from their ways and live.”

When we are happy that someone goes to prison, or dies we are not being like Jesus. We’re acting like the devil. When we are happy that our political rivals lose and get in trouble with the law, we are not being like Jesus. We’re being like the devil. When we are happy and snarky that we won an intellectual argument; we’re not being like Jesus, we’re being like the devil.

Grace for everyone but… is not a verse in the bible. Grace is for the worst of sinners, because we are all worst sinners.

Poking Your Elbow in Your Eye

Before you read on, go ahead and attempt to poke your elbow in your eye.

Were you successful? I’m not going to say that it is impossible, because I don’t personally know 7.5 billion persons. There is, no doubt, someone limber enough to accomplish this feat.

For the overwhelming majority of us, it is impossible to touch every portion of our body. I know that no one needs someone to poke them in the eye, but we might need someone to assist viewing an area of our body that we have concerns with.

A pain inside might need an xray.

A blemish back of our head might need someone else to view.

Our countenance might be down, and we are unaware.

We are meant to live in community. The community is made of family, friends, and even sometimes strangers that God brings into our lives for a season.

The community that I live in is called “the church.” The bible word for “church” is the same word that the Roman and Greek community used for a political gathering; an assembly for a specific purpose.

In modern American Christianity, we have departed from community. We have adopted the idea of Jesus’ being our personal savior to the degree that the majority of those who identify as Christians are not members of a local assembly. More specifically, the majority of America (in other words, more than 50%) identify as Christian, but less than 20% of Americans are connected to a local assembly.

In the garden of Eden, God said, “it isn’t good that man should be alone.” Specifically, He was referring to Adam, the man; in the wholistic sense, He was referring to mankind. In the history of the world, God formed a family, then through Abraham God formed a people, and then through Jesus the Son of God, God formed a forever family; the church.

Church life isn’t just about attendance, giving offerings, and pot luck suppers, (but all three are necessary… I really miss potlucks!). Church life involves life together. Church life involves us speaking into one another, and holding one another accountable.

Paul writes to the Corinthian church about a horrible situation. Read I Corinthians 5. A man in the church is having an adulterous affair with his step mother. The church is rejoicing about it, rather than taking action. Paul minces no words: “…you must throw the man out and hand him over to satan so that his sinful nature will be destroyed and he himself will be saved on the day the Lord returns.” I Corinthians 5:5

Later, in Paul’s next letter, he addresses restoring the man back into the fellowship of believers. This could not have happened if the church didn’t hold one another accountable.

It seems that now, on a regular basis, ministers of the gospel are being exposed for gross sin. Many of them have no accountability, or what they have is a group of “yes men” that don’t ask the hard questions.

Most people, when confronted with sin deny, deflect, and defend. This is not the pathway to righteousness; its the pathway to destruction.

When I was in the Army, I HAD to depend upon my battle buddies to ensure my uniform was “dress right dress.” As a matter of fact, we inspected everything on a regular basis; uniform, personal appearance, equipment check, vehicle safety inspection. The answer is obvious: we wanted to be battle ready.

We should welcome others that love and care for us to see the areas of our life that are blindspots. We all have them! We can’t poke our elbow into our eye.

One of the most misunderstood and misapplied scriptures is the “speck in your eye” scripture. People often refer to it in more of a “people that live in glass houses” fashion. Let’s read it together: “Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye,” (Matthew 7:5 NLT).

Notice, both log eye guy and speck eye guy have issues! Let’s keep our way clear, not so that we never address the faults and sins of others, but so that we can see our way clear enough to help one another.

Judgment isn’t rejection; its our salvation!

Valentine Got Pulled from the Calendar

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, and most of us have relatively little information about the day of whom the day is named. Valentine was a bishop from the third century, who while he still remains a saint in the church of Rome, he was pulled from the official church calendar.

The Catholic Church decided a few years ago that there wasn’t enough reliable information on Valentine to keep marking the day. So, society adopted / coopted the day.

Valentine wasn’t known for: mini hearts candy, chocolate, cupid, or lingerie. He actually wasn’t even known for romantic intentions. There are varying accounts of his life; that he rescued children, laid hands on the sick and they were healed, and that he performed marriages in opposition to the emperor’s command, (this is no doubt where the romance part came from).

What would is be like for you, if there were a day set aside in your honor, and hardly anyone knew who you were, or celebrated in a way that had almost nothing to do with you?

If there were a Darius Walden day, it wouldn’t be odd if no one knew who I was, or even that the day existed. It would be odd that if I were no longer around, and that millions of dollars were spent on things connected to my name, that had nothing to do with me.

I hope you see where I’m going with this.

Jesus walks into the temple one day, and He gets angry. He even gets a whip out, and drives people out of the temple. He says, (probably at least loud enough for a few people to hear him), “…my house shall be called the house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves.” (Matthew 21:13)

Did Jesus not want people to be at the house of prayer? Not at all. The very next verse in Matthew 21 reads “and the blind and lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them.” Clearly, the first audience could observe: 1. God’s house (the place where God’s people meet) is to be a place of prayer for everyone. 2. People who are greedy for money will exclude those who cannot come otherwise, (particularly, the poor and rejected). Furthermore, they will do these things under the name of God and attribute what they are doing as God’s activity. 3. What really matters is ministry to people; and God will see to it that His name is not attached to anything that doesn’t honor His name, and heal others.

Let’s keep Jesus the center of attention, and honor his ministry, his house, and his name .

by the way, don’t forget to get some flowers for your sweetheart.

Front Toward the Enemy

When I was in the Army, we had to learn how to “shoot, move, and communicate.” In Basic Training, the recruit is trained to march, march, march; trained to shoot downrange, to throw the grenade away from the bunker, and how to use a Claymore Mine.

Everything in the Army is idiot proof. The Claymore Mine is a personal land mine, that a solider can post front of the fighting position. When deployed, it has a effective radius, meant to kill or deter the enemy from taking over the area.

The Claymore Mine has these words engraved on the front: “Front Toward the Enemy.” One would think it wouldn’t be necessary to put this message on the land mine.

It is necessary.

There are two obvious reasons why this step of caution is so necessary: 1. so that the land mine doesn’t kill one’s comrades, and 2. so that the land mine will effectively harm the enemy.

The Apostle Paul writes, “But if you are always biting and devouring one another, watch out! Beware of destroying one another.” Galatians 5:15. Christian cannibalism. Self inflicting wounds. The church is doing a masterful job of biting and devouring one another.

Paul’s admonishing words are spoken in the context of spiritual freedom. The apostle discusses that even though followers of Christ have freedom, we are not given freedom to be abusive, unforgiving, or unloving. “The whole law can be summed up in this one command: ‘love your neighbor as yourself.'” Galatians 5:14 NLT

Paul writes in Ephesians 6 that our battle is not with one another! Why? because the weapons that God has given to the church are to be directed “toward the enemy.” Like the Army, God has made the weapons that we have to be idiot proof: 1. don’t harm one another, 2. do harm to the enemy.

Let’s love one another, and fight together – not with one another.

Let’s the keep the weapon “front toward the enemy.”

Super Bowl Eve

My wife invented a holiday; “Mother’s Day Eve.” On MDE, it is expected that families will be gathered in anticipation for the great day to follow, Mother’s Day. Over the years, this means that if there are other activities that conflict with the day before Mother’s Day, these are 1.not be scheduled and 2.if activities are scheduled, to be rescheduled or canceled altogether. After all, it is the day before Mother’s Day.

Therefore, I feel that it is fitting that there be a day of equal importance; the day before the Super Bowl, known thenceforth at Super Bowl Eve. On this day, the faithful will prepare for the big day. There is much preparatory work for the big day.

This year, (2021), Super Bowl gatherings won’t be so super. Due to the pandemic, the crowd gathered in Tampa will be smaller, the television revenue will be less, and the faithful will gather ’round the screen in more intimate numbers.

There is a big day coming. It might be today. I hope that it is. It is called among followers of Christ, “the second coming.” Like football fans disagree over the Super Bowl, followers of Christ disagree as to the particulars of the Lord’s return to earth.

I think the higher priority should be Second Coming Eve.

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