Racism, Fatigue & Perseverance….

alachurchbomblittlegirlsI’m not sure who coined the term black fatigue, but I have it.  What I mean by that term is this – I am tired of the minimization, apathy or outright dismissal of present and historical racism toward blacks by whites. I am tired of trying to lovingly have conversations with my white friends with the hope that they’ll get it.  I am tired of having to explain why we collectively suffer when we see another black man, woman or child treated cruelly, and even in a sub-human manner whether guilty of a crime or the suspicion of a crime.  I am tired of trying to explain the injustice experienced by blacks everyday in many ways. I’m just tired. I am tired of the way the church is slow to address this issue inside and outside the church. But I also am a Christian and that is hugely significant.

In late February, I was asked to be part of a ethnic reconciliation panel at a church in my city. I’ve had the privilege of preaching at this church a couple of years ago, so there was some familiarity. However, upon the invitation, my immediate thought was, “No. I’m tired of this conversation because nothing is happening.” I’ve poured out my heart too many times on social media, taken part in a panel at my own church, written articles, read others’ articles, read books, had many conversations with my white brothers and sisters (some fruitful, others more problematic) and I have vented to my wife too many times to count and it just seemed pointless.  Frankly, I was just done with the conversation. I resigned myself to just pray and do the work myself organically with those closest to me at my church. But part of me still wanted people to get it and empathize with this sinful narrative. So after I told my wife about the invitation and about my thoughts, she understood my perspective, but she encouraged me to do it. I was still against the idea, but the LORD overcame my resistance and changed my heart about it. My wife had the right idea and perspective.

As I spoke to the pastor who invited me (he pastors a predominantly white Southern Baptist church), he told me that he had been affected by all of the shootings of blacks last summer (2016) and he became more concerned that the church ought to be doing something about it. Down the street, literally 300 yards, from his church is an African American Missionary Baptist church with whom they have almost no relationship.  I was told that there had been attempts by the African American church to establish a relationship with this predominantly white church, but there was no reciprocation by the previous pastor.  In fact, I was told that this was the first time that his church (the predominantly white church), to their shame, has ever addressed racism in the church’s history and he wasn’t sure how things would go.  I was encouraged by his genuineness to address this topic, which could have easily caused an uproar in his church, and by his transparency about the church’s failure in the past. This was a historical event for his church.

By God’s grace, the panel event turned out very well. It was well attended by members of both churches. An assistant pastor moderated the event, each of the pastors gave a 20 minute talk about their experiences concerning racism, and there was a 45 minute panel discussion where the three of us answered questions from the congregation.  Several of my white brothers and sisters approached me afterward and told me how helpful and encouraging I was to them. Praise the LORD!  Some of the things that I desired for my brothers and sisters to know and understand were:

  • The doctrine of the imago dei (image of God) must shape how we view people. Seeing people as image bearers of God is one of the foundational truths that needs to shape us.
  • Racism is both individual and systemic.
  • Racism is a sin issue and is only remedied by the gospel (Ephesians 2).
  • African-American people, like all people, are not monolithic. Therefore, generalizations and stereotypes need to be avoided.
  • Seek to understand the perspective of blacks and how we corporately suffer when we’re victimized by racism.
  • Weep with those who weep.
  • Be educated on the history of black-white relations in America (e.g. slavery, civil war, reconstruction, the black codes, Jim Crow and the Civil Rights Movement).
  • Talk to African-Americans about these issues. Do not be afraid.
  • Befriend African-American brothers and sisters. Have them over for dinner, etc.
  • To fellow African-Americans, let the gospel shape how you see whites.

onenewmanAs a first step toward visibly demonstrating the power of the gospel across ethnic lines, I pray more fruit abounds between these two churches as time goes by.  This, I believe, will be one of the strongest arguments for the Lordship of Christ and the credibility of the church.  Jesus told his disciples in John 13, “34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”   

Yet, by this same measure of love, our profession of faith is validated or invalidated.  The Apostle John said this in 1 John:

  • By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother. (1 John 3:10)
  • If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. (1 John 4:20-21)

For me, I must persevere in fighting racism like I do any other sin. The LORD knows I’m tired! However, if I truly believe the gospel, and I do, I must strive, by the power of the Spirit, to walk worthy of the gospel, do good to all, especially the household of faith, and not grow weary in well-doing.

d.

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Joy to the World – Pt. 3

joy-to-the-world.jpgThe third verse of this hymn, like all of the other verses, is rich with important biblical truth that we cannot afford to miss.  As Christians, we’re called to delight in God’s truth and understanding the content of verse 3 should cause us to delight in God.  Verse three says –

No more let sins and sorrows grow,

Nor thorns infest the ground;

He comes to make His blessings flow

Far as the curse is found,

Far as the curse is found,

Far as, far as, the curse is found.

Sins, Sorrows, Thorns and a Curse

This verse is describing what redemption looks like. Much like what Part 2 discussed, the world is presently under a curse because of Adam and Eve’s rebellion. Part of the curse, pronounced to Adam in Genesis 3 says-

17And to Adam he said,“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it, cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life, 18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you and you shall eat the plants of the field. 19 By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken, for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

After mankind’s rebellion, part of the curse described is creation working against man. No longer would Adam’s work as a cultivator of the ground be easy and bear plentiful produce. His labor would be painfully hard and the harmony between man and the rest of creation would be strenuous.  Like Adam, we live in a world where our work is often riddled with proverbial thorns, not often enjoyed nor yielding the “fruit” we desire.  In addition, the very ground that Adam was supposed to rule would ultimately consume him. That is our lot without a redeemer.  We are born into this life under God’s curse for Adam’s sin with death and eternal condemnation as our lot (Rom. 5:12,18-19). As stated in previous writings, all of creation is under a curse longing for a liberator.

Cosmic Redemption & Everlasting Joy

That liberator is Jesus.  During Christ’s earthly ministry He often stated that the kingdom of God had arrived, yet it wasn’t always understood nor was it fully actualized. His ministry not only consisted of teaching His Father’s truths, but He also demonstrated authority over creation (Mk. 4:35-41), over disease (Matt. 8:1-3, Mk. 5:21-34)  and over death (Mk. 5:35-43, Jhn 11:1-44). His ministry was to demonstrate the in-breaking of the kingdom of God and provide glimpses of victory over Satan and the effects of sin – especially on man. In essence, Christ’s victory in His death and resurrection reversed the curse pronounced in Genesis 3.

At the second coming of Christ, which will bring judgment for the unrepentant, also brings salvation for His people. No more will the effects of sin rule and dominate the earth nor His people. His redemption will be consummate as far as the curse is found.  God and man will be reconciled. Man and man will be in unity in Christ. The new heavens and new earth will be in perfect harmony with man. God’s dwelling place with be forever be with man on the earth where there will be everlasting joy (Rev. 21:3-4). Sin and sorrows will grow no more as they will be non-existent.

Why This Matters at Christmas

While this season looks back at the birth of Christ, it is imperative that we understand why looking back is crucial to what lies ahead. If there was no birth, there could be no death. No death of a redeemer means we’re still in bondage to sin, under God’s curse and fit for His eternal wrath.  Christ came to die for His people that they might live forever in peace and joy with God! His second coming will complete God’s plan of redemption that was planned from before the foundation of the world! 

Merry Christmas!

The Faithfulness of God

When was the last time you pondered the faithfulness of God in your life? If you haven’t I suggest you take inventory and praise Him. Might I even suggest that you ask the LORD to give you the eyes to see His grace in your life. You will be joyfully surprised.

Here’s one of my stories….

Part I
About two and a half years ago, I walked into a store to buy some jeans. As I was looking around, a very outspoken young lady asked me if I needed any help. She was very gregarious and bubbly. I told her I was just looking and if I had any questions I’d ask her. After I found the jeans I was looking for, I stood at the counter ready to make my purchase. Unbeknownst to me, she was the manager and she completed my purchase transaction. Since she was so bubbly, I decided to see if I could get a chance to talk with her with the intention of sharing the gospel.

After the transaction, the conversation continued and I got a chance to share the gospel with her and one of her friends who was also in the store. She asked me what church I attended and I told her. The very next Sunday, I saw her and her friend at church. We spoke for a few minutes about their experience and parted ways.

A few weeks later I was at the same mall and I ran into the young lady while on her lunch break. She told me that she had been convicted of some things we’d spoken about and from the sermon she heard. We went to the food court to discuss those things and also about God’s grace in Christ. She started crying. She told me that she finally understood the gospel, but it just seemed too good to be true. (She had attended a church back in her home town in another state, but never heard the gospel.) I encouraged her to read Romans and Galatians and she said she would.

She eventually started coming on a pretty regular basis, was baptized, joined a small group and is making friends and being transparent with other members of our church.

Part II
Soon after the LORD saved me in 1998, I began praying for a wife. He answered that prayer in 2012 when I was 37 years old. (Don’t worry, I look 26…lol) However, I first met my now wife, originally from Texas, in 2007 in Philadelphia, PA and a church function. When we met then, there were no sparks on either end, but we were cordial and polite to one another. She moved back to Texas in 2010 and we began chatting on Facebook and on the phone and by April 2012 we were engaged. You can read more about our story on her blogsite, A Learning Wife.

We often reminisce how the LORD brought us together and see how the LORD was faithful to answer specific prayers of ours concerning what we wanted in a spouse. Little did we know that when we met in 2007 in North Philadelphia, that we’d be married! While neither of us is perfect in all that we desire to be, there are evidences of those things and by God’s grace we will continue to love each other and mature in Christlikeness bearing fruit to the Father’s glory.

Tying It Together
Today I dropped off my wife and another sister at church so they could attend the annual women’s retreat. That other sister is the young lady mentioned in Part I. It is her first women’s retreat and she was very excited. She and my wife will be carpooling with another sister for an hour drive to the retreat site.

God is faithful isn’t He?!?

I am amazed and in awe to know that God has ordained the proclamation of His gospel by flawed human beings to those dead in sin causing them to be alive spiritually by the Spirit’s power. (Matt. 28:18-20, Acts 13, 18:9-10, Rom. 10:14-16, 1 Cor. 1:18-25)

I am also amazed that the God of the universe delights in the prayers of His people and answers them for His glory and our good! (Prov. 15:8, Matt. 6:5-15, Lk. 11, Jam. 5:16b)

I will sing of the steadfast love of the Lord, forever; with my mouth I will make known your faithfulness to all generations. For I said, “Steadfast love will be built up forever; in the heavens you will establish your faithfulness.”

(Ps 89:1, 2 ESV)

Grace & Peace,

d.

Progressive Redemption

On September 23, 2008, Ambassador will release his 3rd solo album, The Chop Chop : From Milk to Meat. His focus is to challenge the believer to go on to maturity in their faith as the author of Hebrews exhorted in Hebrews 6:1-3.

But let me back up a few years. . .

(Time : 1999)

After listening to House of Representatives I remember being completely blown away. I was literally at a loss of words because of the way doctrine was didactically communicated in rhyme form without the arrogance commonly associated with hip hop. In addition to the spiritual nutrition of the lyrics, this album was relevant sonically and culturally.

Ah, what a relief it is to be in Jesus // I fooled you with the FUBU and baggies without the creases

(from “Cypha: The Next Day”)

The more I carefully listened to this album, I began noticing the comprehensiveness of the Christian faith.  A worldview was being communicated in my tongue. Not only did this album boldly claim the historic Christian truths, but it did so in a very reasonable way. By reasonable I mean it was logical. It also forced the listener to put his/her thinking caps on if they were unfamiliar with the humanistic, cosmological and ontological arguments addressed in Superstars.

Naturally, I wanted to know more about these urban theologians, so I read the CD insert and discovered they had some contact information.  So, I decided to e-mail them just to let them know how much of a blessing they were to this young convert.  I didn’t say much, but whatever I said must’ve resonated with them.  I remember getting an e-mail first from The Tonic and then from The Ambassador.  They basically thanked me for supporting their ministry and being a blessing. I was amazed that they took the time to respond.

Then Christology : In Laymen’s Terms dropped! Bangin’! Again, I couldn’t contain myself.  So instead of e-mailing them, I just posted another “round of thanks” on their message boad.  A few days later I got an e-mail from Ambassador again. It read:

Yo David Robinson

As I peeped your shoutout on our site, I was blessed to see how you are moved by theocentricity (God-centered-ness).  We have a common bond here because that is my steelo as well.  I too get rocked off of “I Love You Jesus” and I wanted God to use the song this way.  You have blessed my soul.  I just wanted to acknowledge you and thank you for testifying.  We need that.

You continue to pour out honor and glory to our worthy Savior.  Jesus Christ can not get enough of our praise, especially since that is not the popular thing today among the hip hop type.  So continue my friend in the most holy faith, and you will not fail to receive you crown which you will be able to cast a His feet on that Day when we shower Him with our rewards.  It is all His grace and power anyway.

Much Love,

His Servant—The Ambassador (Cross Movement Ministry)

(Written December 6, 1999)

(Time : 2000)

A few months later, I would eventually meet Ambassador when Crossmovement came to Austin, TX in the spring of 2000. But this story is worth sharing because this is when I saw their faith in a practical way.  Before the concert, they were doing a cd/poster signing at a local Christian bookstore and I decided to go just to get a chance to tell them again how blessed I was by their music.

As I walk in the store, I see Enock, Phanatik, Ambassador and Cruz Cordero. My heart is racing at this point. Ambassador is sitting down bobbing his head to some imaginary tune in his head and extends his hand and says,

“What up! I’m Duce!”

I said, “I know who you are.” He kinda laughed embarrassingly.

And then he got up from the table and said, “Bet! What’s your name?”

I said, “David Robinson. We’ve exchanged a fe…”

His eyes got big and he says, “YO!! From the e-mail and message board joint??”

He yelled to Phanatik “Yo B, this is David Robinson. You know, from the message boards. Remember?”

Phanatik said, “Yeah, Yeah! What’s up brother!” and he came over and gave me a pound.

Ambassador said, “David Robinson! Yo, it’s good to meet you! I was hoping you’d make it! Yo, you hungry. You want some of this?”

There was a nice tray of edibles for the artists, but I really wasn’t fond of carrots and celery sticks.

“Nah, no thanks!”

Aight, but if you change your mind, let me know.”

I was buggin’ because they knew who I was or at least remembered some posts on their message board that I wrote. Later, I realized it was just the joy of the Lord present when there’s fellowship of the Spirit.

(Time : The Present)

Over the years, we’ve kept in touch and I’ve been to Philadelphia a couple of times to visit him and his family and his church, Epiphany Fellowship. Honestly, what blesses me the most is seeing “the man behind the music”. I know that sounds cliché, but to know someone you admire and see the evidence of God’s grace working in his and his family’s lives, is a blessing. Having spent a few days with him, his immediate family and his church family, showed me his passionate pursuit of God as well as his undone-ness. More than the music, he’s passionate about being a godly husband and father and it is evident by how his family responds to him.

The Chop Chop : From Milk to Meat is another tool in God’s unfolding redemptive plan to reach His sheep within the hip-hop fold.  No doubt The Chop Chop will be to someone what House of Representatives was to me nine years ago.

What I love about this whole situation is that it reveals how God intricately loves and is concerned with His children. The Lord used and continues to use Ambassador to help me (and many, many others) see past religiosity or churchianity, and see Christianity exhibited in an urban context, my context.  I used to wrestle with ideas of what a Christian should look like and act like based on some of the cultural and religious trappings I’d been exposed to growing up. I was completely blind to the beauty of the diversity of His plan. I should’ve at least taken notes from creation itself, right?

As the Grand Weaver in this tapestry, He is intricately designing a beautiful diverse masterpiece which we will one day rejoice in and be part of.  But even in the complexity and variance of the details of His process, there is joy upon joy as we take notice of His outworkings.

Have you noticed? Are you noticing?

Grace & Peace,

d.