PCC Scroll: Word of the Quarter

Here is an article I wrote for the latest issue of my church newsletter. Crazy that we are in the 16th year!

Word of the Quarter, PCC Scroll, Volume XVI Issue II

Get in the Fight

In this issue of the Scroll, we are continuing the overarching theme of “How Do We Arm Ourselves without Giving into and Operating Out of Fear.” The overarching theme began in the fall issue with the theme of “Changing Our Viewpoint.” In the winter issue, we continued with the theme of “Where is the Real Battle?” In this spring issue, the theme is “Get in the Fight.”

 

When the editing team met to write the “Word of Quarter,” we talked about how there were different ways to get in the fight. Getting in the battle didn’t always mean engaging in hand-to-hand combat on the frontline.

 

Look at the military. Before engaging, they understand the territory they are entering. They understand the language, culture, and customs. During war (and peace), there are different roles that people perform. There are those on the frontline. There are those who are strategist. There are those who work from home. All have roles. Some are soldiers. Some are generals. Some are in medical units. Some are suppliers. Some are far from the warzone, working at home in industry.

 

The Bible tells us that we are in a spiritual battle. What is the church’s response or role? A call to action or battle may be intimidating to some. But the call to battle looks different for everyone. Your call to battle could be an internal ministry of the church or an external ministry. Your call to battle could be facilitating a conversation at your church. Your call to battle could be encouraging others. Your call to battle could be equipping others through teaching or preaching. You can’t, however, sit on the sideline and complain. You are called to act. We all have a part to play.

 

There are things that prevent us from getting in the fight. It could be fear/intimidation, lack of education, or not knowing what language/lingo to use. It could also be a fear of change because we are uncomfortable with change. It could be that we are so focused on internal comfort that we ignore external circumstances. Being a bystander is not our call.

 

In our spiritual battle, it is important to hear from God. In the Bible, there are times when God’s people were told to be still and know He was God. Though it is important to know that one can be proactively still. Then there are times when God’s people were told to pursue and recover all.

 

There are certain areas that God is clear that we need to focus on. There are countless scriptures that deal with caring for the widows and the orphans. We are to fight for the people and fight against injustice. We are to advocate for people. This means we need to build relationships and hear people. We are not to damage people and create refugees in our wake.

 

We encourage you to know your position and get in the fight.

 

PCC Scroll, Editor’s Corner

Here is an article I wrote for the latest issue of my church newsletter. Crazy that we are in the 16th year!

Editor’s Corner, PCC Scroll, Volume XVI Issue II

It’s not about Me

There are times when it is very tempting to disengage from what is going on around me. There is this constant bombardment of information, be it from social media or the news. It is tempting to completely unplug, but I don’t have that luxury. In the end, my call is to help and minister to those who are marginalized and oppressed.

 

I invite you to read the following scriptures: James 1:27, Isaiah 1:17, Psalm 146:9, Deuteronomy 14:29, Isaiah 1:23, Psalm 82:3, Proverbs 31:9, and Jeremiah 22:3. This fight for social justice is not new, nor is it for ourselves. It is for those who society tends to forget about and those who society targets as scapegoats.

 

What strikes me is the strong level of selfishness and denial in our society. In fairness, this is not new either. People don’t want to hear truths that make them uncomfortable, but as a woman of color, I can tell you sexism and racism do exist. And if it makes you uncomfortable to hear about my experience, imagine how it feels to experience it.

 

People are willing to go along with social injustice when it doesn’t impact them. To some, because they don’t experience sexism and racism firsthand, they couldn’t possibly exist. This period reminds me of Protestant pastor Martin Niemoller’s poem “First They Came for the Socialists.”

 

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Socialist.

 

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

 

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Jew.

 

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

 

What strikes me about the poem is that we continually go down the same path. We say, “Never again,” yet we find ourselves at the same crossroad over and over again. And many people, including people in the church, are willing to sit back in complacency because they are not impacted. I am a Christian not a Muslim, but I will fight against a Muslim registry. I will fight against any and all targeted racial and religious laws and bans.

 

And to be quite frank, as a person of color, I look at some people who I have considered friends and realize they won’t fight for me when “they” come for me. People are fine with not speaking out because they are enjoying their privilege and will continue to do so as long as events don’t impact them.

 

My mind moves to the parable of the Good Samaritan. It asked the question of who is your neighbor (I would add friend). The person who looks like you or is from the same place as you but can’t be bothered to help when you are in need, or the stranger/foreigner who comes to your aid.

 

It is time to get in the fight and speak against social injustice. Although there are many political “leaders” who I am not fans of, I have to remind myself that I am not fighting against them. I am fighting against a system created that thrives on injustice. I am fighting against this seemingly need to create “other” and “hierarchy.” I am fighting.

 

PCC Scroll: Men of the Bible

Here is an article I wrote for the latest issue of my church newsletter. Crazy that we are in the 16th year!

Men of the Bible, PCC Scroll, Volume XVI Issue II

Gideon

Name: Gideon

Meaning: Cutter or hewer

His Character: Gideon was a hard worker, who worked passionately when aligned with his task.

His Sorrow: Gideon’s faith was tested.

His Triumph: Gideon overcame his doubts and fears and led the Israelites to victory over the Midianites.

Key Scriptures: Judges 6 – 8

Gideon was the fifth of 12 judges to rule Israel. He started as a farmer from the tribe of Manasseh (Manasseh was the eldest son of Joseph and Aseneth, who was an Egyptian.) to become a warrior for God. Gideon was a judge of Israel for 40 peaceful years.

 

Gideon’s story is told in Judges. In chapter six, we learn that Israel had done evil in the sight of God, so God delivered them into the hands of the Midianites, who were a nomadic tribe who would raid in the Canaan area. The children of Israel lived in fear and were emotionally defeated. A greatly impoverished Israel cried out to God for help.

 

Gideon’s life was constantly challenged by the Midianites invaders. He was working on his father’s farm when an angel spoke to him. Gideon questioned the messenger. If God was with them, why were horrible things happening? Where were the wonders their forefathers experienced? Why had God abandoned them?

 

Gideon had been selected to show the people that their struggles were due to their having turned their back from God to worship idols. Gideon was hesitant. He was fearful and wondered why God was allowing Israel to suffer. He worried about his family. He doubted his call, and he doubted his ability and adequacy to complete the task. Once he was convinced, he wholeheartedly went for it.

 

Gideon was instructed to destroy a temple that had been built by his father for the pagan god Baal in the city of Ophrah. Because he feared the people, Gideon secretly destroyed the temple at night. The people, upon realizing it was Gideon, threatened him with death, but his father intervened.

 

After that, Gideon led the campaign against the Midianites. Because of doubt, he asked God for a sign of victory. Upon receiving the sign, he still did not believe, so he asked for another one, which was given. To test his faith, God had Gideon reduce the size of the army to 300 men (the army they faced was thousands) so that all would know the victory came from God, not the strength of men. Gideon and the men surrounded the Midianite camp at night and used trumpets and the breaking of pottery jars to cause confusion and the enemy fled.

 

The people wanted Gideon to be king, but he instead took gold, which he fashioned after an ephod, which is a pagan image. The people began worshipping this image, which is exactly what Gideon was supposed to turn the people from.

 

In Gideon’s example, we see the importance of relying on God despite seemingly unwinnable circumstances. Even though he showed a lack of faith, he is listed in the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11. Gideon, like many of us, focused on his own limitations and was concerned God could not work through him. But God uses our gifts and abilities despite our failures and fears.

 

God is constantly preparing us today for our tomorrow. We just need to have faith that God will equip and prepare us for our assignment. Like Gideon, we must look beyond the status quo of our lives. We need to set aside our vision for our lives and embrace God’s. When the angel of God spoke to Gideon, the angel called Gideon “mighty warrior.” At that time, Gideon didn’t even know he would be a warrior. God’s vision for us is greater than our vision for ourselves.

 

PCC Scroll: Your Money Matters

Here is an article I wrote for the latest issue of my church newsletter. Crazy that we are in the 16th year!

Your Money Matters, PCC Scroll, Volume XVI Issue II.

Baby Steps

Getting your personal finances in order can be a long journey, so the journey needs to be taken step by step. This can be done with baby steps. The most important thing is to just start.

 

I have mentioned in the past that I am a huge fan of Dave Ramsey. Many of his philosophies about money management resonated with me, so I started his 7 Baby Steps to financial freedom years back. Each time I have completed a step, it has felt great.

 

I would encourage you to visit his website, daveramsey.com, and read some of his articles. Here are his 7 Baby Steps to financial freedom:

  1. Baby Step 1 – $1,000 to Start an Emergency Fund
  2. Baby Step 2 – Pay Off All Debt but the House
  3. Baby Step 3 – 3 to 6 Months of Expenses in Savings
  4. Baby Step 4 – Invest 15% of Household Income Into Retirement
  5. Baby Step 5 – College Funding for Children
  6. Baby Step 6 – Pay Off Home Early
  7. Baby Step 7 – Build Wealth and Give

 

Baby Step 1 – Emergency Fund

Step 1 is building an emergency fund. This small stash is meant to give you a small buffer as you pay off debt. That way if a plumbing issue happens, you have the money in the bank to pay for it instead of using a credit card. If you wanted to save $1,000 but could only afford to put away $100 a month, it would take 10 months to reach the goal. If you could only afford $50 a month, it would take a little under two years. And that does sound like a long time, but I would encourage you to start.

 

Baby Step 2 – Pay Off All Debt (not including mortgage)

Step two is paying off all debt (not including your mortgage). According to a recent Bloomberg article, the average American credit card balance per consumer is around $5,437. The process to pay the money back could occur over a couple of years, all along adding interest dollars to the debt.

 

Ramsey recommends starting with the smallest balance (credit card, student loan, car loan, etc.). You continue paying all debt, but you add extra to the smallest balance. This gives you a win sooner, and you begin the snowball effect. You take the money you were using to pay the now paid off debt and apply it to the next balance.

 

Etc.

Finishing Baby Step 2 is very liberating, and it opens you up to really start saving, beginning with your three to six months savings and then to retirement savings. In Baby Step 3, you build up your emergency fund to hopefully keep you out of debt. When emergencies happen, you have a safety net. If you need to use the money, replenish it. In Step 4, you invest 15% of your income toward retirement. We have no way of knowing where Social Security will be when we retire, so we have to plan. And so on in the steps.

 

In the end, the financial journey is about taking baby steps. Little by little the nest egg grows, and you are able to reach your goal. The process requires sacrifice in the here and now, but in the end, the sacrifice will be worth it. Set goals and continue using your budget.

 

If you need help setting up a budget, let me know. I would be happy to help. I use a very simple Excel spreadsheet for categories and manually track my balance in each category each month. If you would be interested in speaking with a financial advisor, please let me know. I have one who I work with and wholeheartedly recommend.

 

Editor’s Corner

The following is an article I wrote for the “Editor’s Corner” section of the January 2017 issue of the Scroll. It is titled “Where is the Real Battle?”

Editor’s Corner – Where is the Real Battle?

2 Corinthian 10:5 reads, “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.

As a person who tends to overthink and over analyze, I can easily say that most of my battles take place in my mind. If I allow my thoughts to go unchecked, they can veer in strange directions. In some ways, it seems like my mind analyzes the worst case scenario so I can be prepared for the worst. The problem is that these apocalyptic, end-of-the-world scenarios never happen. Yet I have wasted energy and have had mental and physical reactions to the doom-and-gloom scenarios.

Now part of my process of casting down imaginations/thoughts is to challenge them. And a huge part of that is learning to communicate and ask questions. The clarity and understanding eliminates the need to go in circles in my mind with wondering. Otherwise, I am reacting out of misinformation, fear, and doubt.

I believe that part of knowing where the real battle is involves knowing who the real enemy is. Who exactly are we fighting? My conclusion is that many people, including people in the Church, are battling the wrong enemy. There is a spirit of fear that is so evident in our world. There are two areas that the manifestation of this fear stand out to me.

One is the fear that people seem to have of black and brown people, especially black and brown men. I see the manifestation clearly in the shootings of unarmed black and brown people by police. And it stands out because armed assailants who are white seem to end up living. So the full circle is that it breeds fear and mistrust against the police in people in black and brown bodies. There was a period when I refused to even make eye contact with people in uniform, even when it seemed like they were making an effort to engage with me.

The other example is the results of the U.S. election as well as the UK Brexit votes. I see a correlation in these results with the rise of the far right and nationalism worldwide. Part of the appeal the far right has had globally over the last years is that it created an enemy for people who felt marginalized and left out. The message: The reason you are struggling is because of “these people.” The messaging reminds me of pre-World War II Germany. So we see results that are based on the fear that has taken hold in the hearts of people: The fear of other.

Yet we have a real battle and a real enemy. Unfortunately, most of our energy is being spent fighting communities that are already marginalized and oppressed. Communities we should be ministering to and offering the loving hand of God.

If you are going to battle, look at the fight plan. If you are going to engage an enemy, be sure you are fighting the right soldier.

 

Word of the Quarter – Where is the Real Battle

The following is an article I wrote for the “Word of the Quarter” section of the January 2017 issue of the Scroll. It is titled “Where is the Real Battle?” This section is a collection of the thoughts of the three editors written in one voice.

Word of the Quarter – Where is the Real Battle?

When the editing team met to discuss the “Word of the Quarter,” we were still in a little shock over the results of the presidential election. It seems as if the results of this election were based on a few things: trust and fear.

Leading up to the election, it was clear that many Christians (based on the high percentage of (white) evangelical Christians who supported Trump) had put their faith and trust in man, when our faith and trust should be in God. In fact, if you listened to some “Christian leaders,” you would have believed that there would be no hope without a Trump victory. They turned Trump into an idol and (mis)placed their trust in him and not God.

Trump spoke into the fear many had (the fear of other), and people gave more energy to their fear. When we give energy to fear, we go into conflict and act out of it. This is based on feeling the need for self-preservation.

And the single issue of abortion coupled with an open Supreme Court justice seat led many Christians to turn a blind eye to the many issues that many Christians of color saw in Trump: racism, sexism, xenophobia, etc.

As Sunday continues to be a day of segregation of white, black, Asian, Latino, etc. churches, how can the church play a role in racial reconciliation, especially with all the fear of “other” that was part of Trump’s campaign? The world only has to look at segregated churches to call out further hypocrisy in the church.

And it brings to light the question: What is the role and responsibility of the church? You just need to turn to God’s Word to see it. From there, we can find out who Jesus was and how He saw and treated “others.” It is only by learning for ourselves that we can battle improper teaching and incomplete views of Christ. It is from the Word that we find our own wholeness, and part of our wholeness is in our neighbors being whole.

The bottom line is that the church has made the government responsible for doing what the church is supposed to do. Instead of sitting down, the church should be serving. It shouldn’t matter who the president is. Services should stem from the church. Areas where the church can minister to the community have been turned over into bureaucracies. And while the bureaucracies can help, it is up to the church to minister.

We still have our call. In the response to issues of social welfare and abortion, the church has missed an opportunity. We have missed openings to minister the undying love of Christ by displaying hate and ridicule. Jesus first dealt with the basic needs of the people. When Jesus met the woman at the well, He did not condemn her. He ministered. He created a safe place.

We see the results of this election as a call for us to be reminded of who we are supposed to be. A call to return to who God has called us to be: a church that ministers to the oppressed and marginalized and are not scared to get our hands “dirty.” We are not a victim, and we are not to live in fear. We must take control of our own communities.

As we move forward in 2017, we ask the church (of the living God): Where is your hope? If you are rooted in God, you will not be overcome by fear. Regardless of the media hype (especially unfounded conspiracy theory media outlets) and the many voices (you must drown out all of that noise), you must put your faith and trust in God.

 

Men of the Bible – Peter

The following is an article I wrote for the “Men of the Bible” section of the January 2017 issue of the Scroll. It features Peter.

Men of the Bible – Peter

Name: (Simon) Peter

Meaning: Rock

His Work: Before becoming a disciple of Christ, Peter was a fisherman on the Sea of Galilee.

His Character: Peter could be described as brash and impulsive, but he possessed a strong faith.

His Sorrow: Peter’s greatest sorrow was that he denied Jesus three times.

His Triumph: Peter was one of the leaders of the disciples and one of the inner circle of Christ. Because of his faith in Christ, he had a name change.

Key Scriptures: Gospels; Acts; 1st and 2nd Peter

Simon, who would later be called Peter, was one of the first disciples of Christ. Peter was residing in Capernaum when his brother, Andrew, introduced him to Jesus. Peter followed Jesus closely. He saw firsthand the miracles that Jesus performed during His ministry. But Peter saw more than that. He was part of the inner circle of disciples (with James and John) that were closest to Jesus.

He was one of the three disciples who witnessed Jarius’ daughter being raised from the dead, saw the transfiguration of Christ on the high mountain, and saw Jesus’ sorrow in the Garden of Gethsemane. From that viewpoint, he had a clearer understanding of who Jesus was than most. Perhaps this is why Peter had the insight to proclaim that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the Living God.

Peter was bold and blunt. When Jesus explained his death to the disciples, Peter cried out (what was probably in all their hearts) in denial. Peter walked on water with Christ. Peter, who at first refused to have his feet washed by Christ, corrected his error and asked to have his hands and head washed as well. On the night Jesus was arrested, Peter cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant.

Peter’s walk with God was not always stable. His faith was solid, yet at the same he was shaken by adversity. He confessed to be committed to Jesus, yet he denied Christ three times. He boldly taught the Good News to Jews, but he struggled with accepting Gentile Christians as equals. And perhaps that paradox in nature makes him relatable as we struggle with duplicity in our own natures.

From the beginning of their relationship to the end, Christ’s direction to Peter was simple: follow me. And Peter did just that. He wasn’t perfect in his path, but he stayed his course. When Jesus calls us to follow Him, He isn’t looking for perfection from us. He knows that we will fall. What we learn from Peter is that with all of our flaws and imperfections, we can be transformed by Christ.

Peter is credited as the author of two epistles, 1st and 2nd Peter. In the first letter, he admonishes believers to continue in their faith during suffering and persecution. Peter knew about suffering for the Gospel’s sake. He was beaten and jailed. In the second letter (believed to have been written three years after the first letter), he warns believers about false teachers and cautions against division in the church.

In the end, Peter followed Jesus into martyrdom. It is believed that he was martyred under the rule of the Roman Emperor Nero. It is believed that Peter was also crucified, but he requested to be crucified upside down.