Christ

Christ’s Perfect Example of Love

Jesus Love on the Cross

(Photo Credit: CNN)

Christ is the highest expression and embodiment of love.

Suffering the most barbarous and mortifying sacrificial death one can ever witness or imagine—all to proffer an invitation for eternal union and fellowship with Him—Christ loved everyone even before anyone ever loved Him.

Giving those willing to believe in Him and His redemptive work on Calvary’s Cross as the final atonement for all sins, Jesus offers an everlasting love, a love that never leaves, never forsakes, never separates.  

Faithful to us when we’re unfaithful to Him, Jesus loves unconditionally because He is love.

To know love, therefore, is to know Him.

Dr. Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

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Pop-Up Sermon: Jesus is the Answer to Poverty

Poverty

(Photo Credit: New York Daily News)

Jesus is the answer to poverty: “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich” (II Corinthians 8:9). What Jesus accomplished at the Cross—at Calvary—provided every believer with access to experience victory over poverty in every area of his or her life—not just in the area of finance. Each day, believe that you have already received freedom from poverty in every area of your life. Mark 11:24 states, “Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.” This verse, therefore, informs you that to possess this liberation from the bondage of poverty one has to receive it by faith. Begin each day with this confession of faith: “Jesus, I receive the victory from poverty in every area of my life that your shed blood on the Cross has made available to me. Thank you, Lord, for giving me this precious free gift.”

According to II Corinthians 8:9, Jesus loves you so much that He took upon His own body the viciousness, ugliness, heaviness, and bondage of poverty for you. The most brutal beating in human history that Christ suffered empowers you to triumph over poverty. Without the Finished Work of the Cross, you would have had to bear the tremendous burden of poverty. Christ has such a great love for you that He does not want you to be dominated by poverty, for He desires for you to enjoy everyday life (John 10:10).

True believers have an intimate knowledge and understanding about how the grace of Jesus Christ has already supplied them with everything they need for this life: “According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue” (II Peter 1:3). How does one receive this blessing of Christ? II Peter 1:4 divulges the precise answer to this query: “Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” One must, therefore, “partake” of this blessing that has already been made available to him or her. How does one “partake” of this blessing? Each day, declare and believe you have everything II Peter 1:3-4 reveal that you have.

When you believe something, you will open your mouth and confirm it—and keep confirming it.

#PopUpSermon

Dr. Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

God is More than Enough by Tony Evans: A Review

God is More Than Enough

In God is More than Enough (2004), Tony Evans, president of The Urban Alternative and Senior Pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas, Texas, offers readers a powerful explication of Psalm 23.  The book is published by WaterBrook Multnomah Publishers.  Although the book is only 90 pages, it unpacks Psalm 23 in such a sophisticated manner while still being able to be easily understood by the average reader.  Many readers will be fascinated at how much meaning is packed into the six verses that compose Psalm 23, and one is sure to gain a new appreciation for it or reaffirm its significance to the Christian’s spiritual walk with Jesus.  In the troubling times in which we live, this book extends to the reader comfort and hope to face these disquieting times.

In the Introduction, Tony Evans does not waste time in evincing how he conceptualizes Psalm 23: he sees it as an “attack.”  He writes, “Beautiful as it is, this psalm is an attack.  It’s an attack on our debilitating lack of trust in God and the great trauma of insecurity that’s brought on by such doubts and disbelief.  Most Christians do not actually believe that God is more than enough” (8).  By reading Psalm 23 through the lens of an “attack,” Evans makes a valuable contribution to the discourse about Psalm 23.  Psalm 23 has not been traditionally viewed as an “attack.”  The author contends that the psalm had to be penned to respond to our proclivity to look for our needs and wants from everybody and everything except Christ.  The book aims to have Christians to eradicate their desire for and reliance on self-sufficiency.  This longing and dependency on self-sufficiency removes the believer away from his or her responsibility to trust God for everything.  Evans wants to remind the reader God is the source of everything we need and want—everything we have, need and desire comes from Him, and we should not look to ourselves for these things but only to God.

If I were writing the book, I would not have selected the word “attack” and would not have interpreted Psalm 23 as an “attack.”  Do not allow this to prevent you from reading and purchasing the book, however.  This particular lens enables you to see Psalm 23 in a new light and to understand the totality of what Christ can for do for you—no matter what problems you face.  The author gives excellent personal experiences, examples, and relevant scriptures to buttress the reader’s understanding of each verse of the psalm.

I highly recommend that you purchase this book.  Your comprehension and interpretation of Psalm 23 will be ameliorated after reading this book.  It can be purchased here: God is More Than Enough.  WaterBrook Multnomah Publishers provided this book to me for free to compose this review.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

You Don’t Have to Live Like a Nun or Monk to be a True Christian

Far too many people, especially young people, are being turned off by Christianity because too many preachers are making it seem like they have to live like a nun or monk to be a true Christian.  Before you listen to what a preacher has to say about how to live a true Christian life, begin to read your bible for yourself.  There are a number of translations of the bible available for you—pick the translation or translations that work for you.  Don’t simply read your bible but study it.  Purchase biblical study aids that will enrich your study and give you deeper understandings of God’s word.  Read and study your bible for yourself!

Now, I’m not suggesting at all that you should not go to church and listen to the teaching and preaching of a man of God.  You should go to church and listen to the teaching and preaching of a man of God to accompany your reading and studying of the bible.  Just don’t let the teaching and preaching the man of God does be your only engagement with the bible.  In fact, God commands each person to study His word to “show thyself approved.”

Many young people feel like being a true Christian is simply too difficult because preachers make it seem almost like they cannot do anything, especially anything that’s fun.  I want to let young people know that you can have fun and still be a true Christian.  Of course, there are clear things that the bible point out that you cannot do, but there is so much more that you can do while you enjoy a personal relationship with God.

Although many preachers believe that it’s a sin to listen to non-Gospel music, such as rap and pop music, I want you to challenge them to give you some substantive teaching about how this is a sin.  Don’t simply let them rap one, two, or three scriptures to you—challenge them to give you some true and deep biblical teaching about this subject.  What you will discover is they will not be able to offer you much bible-based teaching about this subject.  However, I want you to be on high alert for them to attempt to present their personal opinions and preferences as if they are grounded in the scriptures and biblical principles.  You don’t want to be living your life based on someone’s opinions—live your life based on what God’s word truly says.  Don’t let preachers shame you out of listening to non-Gospel music by telling you that non-Gospel music is “the Devil’s music.”  “The Devil’s music”?  Really?  Some Gospel songs can be far more depressing and damaging than many non-Gospel songs.

When preachers tell you that you cannot go to the movies, I want you to challenge them on this subject in the same way I have discussed about challenging them on their opposition to you listening to non-Gospel music.  You can be a true Christian and go to the movies.

Now, if you do want to be a nun or monk, I applaud you for wanting to live a life of this type.  However, for those who don’t want to be a nun or monk, I want you to know that you can live a victorious and saved life in this present world and have tons of fun!  You don’t have to be a “bible thumper” to go to Heaven and you don’t have to talk about God every second in order to make it into Heaven.

Don’t miss out on the full life that you can be living simply because you failed to read and study your bible and only listened to what your pastor had to say about the bible.  At the end of the day, your pastors are men of God but they are still human beings, and, as we all know, all human beings are not perfect and do make mistakes.  Being a Christian means that you are a personal follower of Christ.  Your pastor cannot live your walk with God for you—you have to live your walk with Christ for yourself.

In no way should this article be perceived as an attack on any preacher, but it’s more of a call for people to realize that they need to experience God for themselves, and one of the most intimate and meaningful ways to experience God for yourself is to read and study His word for yourself.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Easter’s Rebirth and Death Messages

Easter is a holiday widely celebrated not only in America but across the globe. It’s a holiday that honors the resurrection of Jesus. God sacrificed his son’s life to atone for the sins of the world.  Jesus died so that we can live again. I do not want to offer you a traditional Easter speech or sermon, however.

There are meaningful messages in the narrative about Jesus being reborn after dying that can be useful for anyone, even for atheists. If we would simply look at Easter’s messages of rebirth and death, we would all be able to make significant strides toward immense self-improvement. Although human beings are not able to physically die and return to life again here on Earth, we need to experience many metaphorical deaths and rebirths. There are many areas in your life where you have things that you need to bury and experience Christ-like rebirth of those things in your life. By Christ-like rebirth, I mean doing away with things that are not productive in your life and replacing those things with things that are going to promote eternal growth in your life.

Thinking about rebirth and death can be quite unsettling for many people. Many people don’t want to even consider thinking about death. Although thinking about your literal death can be a vexing psychic exercise, many will find metaphorical deaths to be just as difficult to contemplate as literal deaths.

When you have to think about giving up some of the habits that you cannot break that are destroying you, this can be very unnerving. You need to realize when you have some habits that need to be buried and replaced with some more productive habits. For instance, if you think that you have to smoke marijuana every day, then you need to bury this habit and replace it with a habit that will lead you to a healthier treatment of your body. You cannot expect to keep smoking marijuana all of your life and then anticipate positive health outcomes. Smoking marijuana each day is simply moving you closer to death. Instead of smoking weed each day, bury the marijuana and let your body experience a rebirth by working out nearly every day. Can you even imagine how better you will feel when you eliminate marijuana from your life and replace it with working out?

While you may say that you don’t have any problems with marijuana, what about those problems you have with low expectations and negative thoughts? What about those problems you have with believing in yourself to be able to do great things? What about your willingness to succumb to doubt too easily? What about your problems with becoming so easily frustrated? If you have any of those aforementioned problems, then it’s time for you to bury these negative things. Experience a rebirth in your thinking. Cast out negative thoughts, doubts, and low expectations. Have a willingness to dream about what you want in your life that others simply think is impossible. Bury those relationships with people who don’t believe in your dreams and your potential. When you are around negative people, they won’t do anything for you but bring you down. They will have an unwillingness to believe in your ability to do anything that is not within their limited vision of what they think is possible for you.

It’s time for you to bury silly economic practices that have you flooded with debt. If you know that you cannot afford to go out to the club and buy drinks every weekend, then why would you keep doing this? At some point you have to face the fact that what you are doing is simply stupid! Begin to invest your money in things that are going to yield significant returns. Start saving more of your money. Your finances need to benefit from an economic revival. You’re not going to witness an economic revival if you are spending every dime that you have. It can be quite beneficial for you to sit back and think about how what you spend your money on says about who you are.

For those who pretend that they have salvation but know that they are not living a holy and separated life from this present world, then it’s time for you to bury your sins and make a solemn and renewed commitment to God.  Your spiritual life needs a rebirth if you find that you’re saved today, unsaved tomorrow, saved the next day, and unsaved the day after that. Be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you can experience the fullness of God and live a truly victorious life through Jesus Christ.

You have many things about yourself that need to be buried. You have to be willing to muster the courage to bury those things in your life. While you can get help with burying some of the things in your life that need burying, many of the things you are going to have to bury on your own. If you are a Christian, God can give you the strength that you need to do some essential burying of things in your life. When Christ comes into your life, He helps you to bury many of the unclean things in your life.

Take the necessary time to get rid of all of the trash in your life and experience a rebirth of a more refined you.

On this Easter Sunday, I want us to think about the need to experience many metaphorical deaths and metaphorical rebirths in our lives. This juxtaposition of rebirth and death can make us better human beings who live much more fulfilling and productive lives. Let’s learn how to die so that we might have a chance to be reborn!

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

The Queer Contradictions of the Black Church

Black Church

Although I am a strong supporter of the Black Church, it is important to think about and discuss some of the most vexing contradictions of it. First, I want to make it clear that I am a Christian, a member of the Black Church, a member of Paradise Church of God in Christ in Forest Park, Georgia, heterosexual, and an African-American. I love the Black Church, especially my church, Paradise Church of God in Christ in Forest Park, Georgia. I love my pastor, Bishop Paul L. Fortson, and my first lady, Evangelist Carolyn C. Fortson. Let’s be clear—this article is not about the church that I attend and my Pastor and First Lady.  This article has a larger purpose: to critique the contradictions in the way the Black Church treats homosexuality.

In the Black Church, especially in the Church of God in Christ, I often hear about how God despises homosexuality and I agree with this position because it is very much supported by Scriptures. My problem with how homosexuality is discussed in the Black Church, especially in the Church of God in Christ, is that it often comes off as being very hateful and/or insensitive. You can tell people that they need to change their ways without being so exploitative in the way in which you refer to them. For example, I have often heard in sermons in the Church of God in Christ homosexuals being referred to as “sissies,” “faggots,” and “dikes.” Now, this use of language is unnecessary to inform your audience that homosexuality is not supported by the Scriptures. This use of language seems to be tremendously mean-spirited. The role of the preacher and Church is to help to drive people to Christ—not to run them away. It seems that this use of language emerges from laziness and the failure of Black preachers in the Black Church to employ effective persuasion to change people’s homosexual ways, so they use a simplistic strategy: name-calling. Name-calling is for children—preachers are supposed to be adults, so act like it.

In Democracy Matters: Winning the Fight Against Imperialism, Cornel West (2004) writes, “For Emerson, to be a democratic individual is to speak out on uncomfortable truths; to be an active player in public discourse is to be thrown into life’s contingency and fragility with the heavy baggage of history and tradition, baggage like the American legacies of race and empire” (p. 74). As a person with a commitment to Socratic inquiry and bearing prophetic witness to Truth, I have to speak those “uncomfortable truths” that Cornel West states that Ralph Waldo Emerson talked about. If the Black Church was so serious about homosexuality, then it would not take homosexuals’ money during offering time. During offering time, I want to hear these preachers say, “We don’t want your gay money.” I want to hear them say, “Sissies and dikes stay in your seats because we don’t want your nasty money.”

The Black Church seems to be tremendously dishonest when offering time comes: Preachers become everyone’s friend when offering time comes because they want everyone’s money. I would just like them to remember how harsh they are to homosexuals during their sermons, so be consistent and honest and tell them you don’t want their money. If you can speak to them in such disparaging ways during your sermons, then use the same rhetoric when you are passing that collection plate around. How’s that for transparency? Have I unsettled you yet? If not, maybe I will now. In many Black churches, people are gaining salvation while many homosexuals are singing and playing the music that they are shouting and dancing too. Hmm…Now, when will these preachers remove the homosexuals from their choirs and music departments if they are so serious about homosexuality?

The Black Church’s love of money exposes its contradictions on the issue of homosexuality. With all of the sins the Bible speaks about, it seems that the Black Church wants to focus on the most divisive sins in the Bible. The reason why I see that preachers are wanting to focus on the more divisive sins is they gain them much more attention—just like controversy breeds cash in the media, controversy breeds cash in churches. Some preachers have even gained their fame by how harsh they speak about homosexuality, but where is the love of Christ in this harsh language you use about homosexuals? Did Christ say love and respect everyone except homosexuals? No!

While I very much contend that the Scriptures speak against homosexuality, I argue that the Scriptures also tell you to talk about homosexuality with love and compassion. Now, how can you say that you are treating people with love and compassion when you are calling them “sissies,” “faggots,” and “dikes.” I already know I’m going to receive a significant amount of criticism for this article, but what I have said in this article needs to be said. People think it is so funny when preachers in the Black Church try to get the audience’s attention by using derogatory language to refer to homosexuals, but what if more derogatory language was used to expose your lying, fornication, profanity, watching and viewing of pornography, intoxication, gossiping, and etc.? It may not be so funny to you anymore. Hmm…I’m just saying.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison