Losing sight of TRUE LIFE

When someone foolishly holds up a sign that says “I am Cecil” to protest the killing of a lion, or insanely puts on a placard “#catlivesmatter” like it is somehow linked to #blacklivesmatter, it’s time for someone to yell, “Let’s just back the crazy truck up a bit!”

We are truly a world gone crazy. A villager from Zimbabwe wrote a piece that made it to the New York Times that reveals our craziness as Americans. He talked about how shallow we were to care more for a lion than the villagers in Zimbabwe.

TRUTH.

We’ve lost sight of HUMAN value. In a quest to protect species or save the planet, we have traded off HUMAN value. We’ve made it an either/or proposition instead of both/and.. and we look stupid doing it.

It also exposes our extreme laziness. It’s so much easier to put something dumb on a cardboard sign or build a hashtag movement than to GO to Africa. We feel better, then retreat into our comfortable lives again.

There is a deep call, a deep stirring in my spirit, for MORE. To go beyond the hashtags and fake protests. To value ALL life, but I will be honest… HUMAN life matters. And when #blacklivesmatter gets diminished by #catlivesmatter, I am REALLY angry. When #catlivesmatter overtakes the tragedy of abortion and only highlights our disdain for the truly voiceless in humanity, I am truly enraged. My youth pastor said it best, “I am Old Testament angry.”

Friends, let us wake up. Let us see what insanity was have brought on ourselves!

It’s a hashtag, but it’s also my constant prayer these days:
#GodHelpUs

Black lives still matter

Let’s get this out of the way: Yes… ALL lives matter. Absolutely, positively, every one. 

But each of us know when there are those neglected and there is a sense of, “Does MY life matter? Is anyone seeing?”

That is why, from time to time, we lift up a particular part of society to try and emphasize, YES… YOU matter!

This study really crushed me when it was released this week.

And let’s get THIS out of the way as well: It’s from the ACLU, which will automatically cause polarization. Conservatives will just dismiss it. Liberals will call it gospel. Everything has some hidden agenda, but this really goes to my point overall: when we SEE something, we label. Dear friends, it is my contention that we alone have the power to make that stop. 

The trouble is… we don’t want to.

So, conservatives will dismiss this study because of who put it out.

Liberals will treat it as gospel and really spin up harsh attitudes toward police.

This is my contention: BOTH knee jerk responses are wrong.

I have grown up conservative. Generally, I am not a fan of the ACLU. But there are times I need to carefully work through something and face some facts.

But we need to NOT hate police as well. Minneapolis is not doing well in their policing in general. While blacks see that in aces, I see it as well. Not just over harassment. I see it generally. I just simply think they could do a better job. Even as an average white, they are not a very responsive department.

We had a murder a block from my house a couple of years ago and we never received any information other than, “This was a crime committed by people who knew each other. The general public is not at risk.” That’s not good enough. I want updates. I want to know you went out and FOUND the offender. There was absolutely no communication.

Generally, in Minneapolis, I just think policing could be better. But I don’t hate police. One of my close friends is a police chief. He works hard. He does community policing. He himself is a volunteer Big Brother and has his officers follow his lead. He hires officers to represent the community and went through an arduous process to hire a Somali and Ethiopian when he had two vacancies. I don’t hate police. They work hard as well. There are good cops.

But there is still an attitude that persists in our community. And WHITES need to do some owning up. THIS article has some hard introspection as well.

There are times I’ve just not done… well… anything. And I’m sorry.

So, I won’t ignore a study because it’s done by the devil… I mean the ACLU.

And I won’t hate all cops.

I have worked to reach out in some ways to some community leaders. That hasn’t really gone extremely well, but that’s okay. I keep trying.

We still have work to do. Work that is GOOD. Work that is RIGHT.

Let us work together to BLESS… not curse.

Help us, O God.

Let’s Get This Done

From my message today:

Race divided the Pentecostal church. From the beginning. What was powerful at Azusa Street was ripped away by the racism of America. The Assemblies of God became white. Church of God in Christ became black.

The A/G had policies in place through the 1960s and even the 1970s in some places that would not allow blacks to be ordained in the A/G. We “encouraged” them to go to COGIC. For all the hollering I’ve watched some A/G pastors do in social media about Dr. Wood bowing to cultural pressure, it is not Dr. Wood who has bowed. It was the A/G for decades that bowed to white privilege pressure. WE were the ones in sin.

Why I join in the effort to pray this Sunday for #BlackLivesMatter

This Sunday has been a day set aside for prayer. The request has come from two significant places that affect my own ministry: the Church of God in Christ and then the General Council of the Assemblies of God. Together they are asking for churches to pray this Sunday for racial reconciliation and justice.

We will pray for justice. We will pray for peace. In our city, we will pray for the cultural diversity and for our law enforcement because both work hard to keep our city moving forward.

It has been heart breaking to read some comments from other ministers who think focusing on African American issues for one Sunday is “divisive.” In my view, there are times when someone hurts in the body of Christ… and we all hurt. I feel that hurt from my brothers and sisters in the Church of God in Christ, so as they hurt I hurt. 

After 9/11 some of my first contacts in the days following were with my Muslim friends because I needed them to know their lives mattered. I wasn’t blaming them for 9/11. I wanted to know they were safe.

In the past two weeks the racial injustices of our culture have come to a head once again and there are friends who hurt. As I am asked to pray from my friends, I will join in that effort.

This is a moment for the Church to step up once again and lead the way. I am going to need to ignore a lot of voices who want to simply say “Don’t all lives matter?” for a time as I try to show that the CHURCH should be leading the way in reconciliation.

This was Dr. George Wood’s statement:

Great strides have been made in civil rights and racial reconciliation over the past century, of course, but America still experiences racial divisions. If Spirit-filled Christians cannot find a way to work together to heal these divisions, what hope is there for the rest of the country?

I want to be a part of moving forward. It is my prayer those reading, and those joining us for worship on Sunday, will help with moving forward as well. I will be wearing black in some way this Sunday, as the Church of God in Christ leadership has asked. Perhaps you will join me.

I wish to weep with those who weep. I also wish to carry forward the conversation. I am praying we can do so in my city.

#BlackLivesMatter

Statement of Assemblies of God General Superintendent George O. Wood Encouraging Participation with Church of God in Christ in Observing Black Lives Matter Sunday

Bishop Charles E. Blake Sr. of the Church of God in Christ has asked COGIC churches to observe Black Lives Matter Sunday this coming Sunday, December 14, 2014. As Bishop Blake’s friend and counterpart in the Assemblies of God, I ask that all AG churches do the same. I have two reasons for doing so.

First and foremost, black lives matter. The lives of all people are precious to God, of course, but at the present moment, many of our black brothers and sisters in COGIC and the AG feel that their lives are not highly valued by many in white America. As examples, they point to the recent controversial decisions of grand juries in St. Louis County, Missouri, and Staten Island, New York, not to return bills of indictment against white police officers in the deaths of two black males, Michael Brown and Eric Garner.

Whatever your opinion of those controversial decisions, can we stand with our brothers and sisters and affirm the value of black lives generally and of their lives specifically? Scripture teaches that God does not take pleasure in the death of people, not even the death of the wicked (Ezekiel 33:11). If so, then whatever the circumstances, we can be certain that God did not take pleasure in the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. Therefore, neither should we. Can we affirm, then, the grief our black brothers and sisters feel about these men’s deaths? Think of it this way: If the families and friends of Michael Brown and Eric Garner attended your church, how would you minister to them in their sorrow?

Scripture teaches us to “mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:15). Black Lives Matter Sunday is a way for all Assemblies of God churches to do that with our black brothers and sisters in the Church of God in Christ, our ownNational Black Fellowship, and the many multicultural churches in the Assemblies of God. Scripture teaches, “If one part [of the body of Christ] suffers, every part suffers with it” (1 Corinthians 12:26). Let us suffer with our brothers and sisters in their time of mourning.

Second, America is racially divided and needs the Church to heal its divisions. The Pentecostal movement, to which both COGIC and the AG belong, traces a large portion of its spiritual genealogy to the Azusa Street Revival in Los Angeles, California, at the start of the twentieth century. In that revival, led by a godly black man named William J. Seymour, the Spirit of Jesus Christ powerfully knit together the hearts of people who attended, regardless of race and ethnicity. For a shining moment at Azusa Street, when the surrounding culture was segregated by color, “the color line was washed away in the Blood,” as Frank Bartleman famously put it. Unfortunately, the forces of segregation reasserted themselves among white Pentecostals, and for many decades thereafter, they allowed the spirit of Jim Crow into their churches.

Great strides have been made in civil rights and racial reconciliation over the past century, of course, but America still experiences racial divisions. If Spirit-filled Christians cannot find a way to work together to heal these divisions, what hope is there for the rest of the country? The Church of God in Christ and the Assemblies of God share a like, precious faith, including our belief in and experience of the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ has already united us in doctrine and experience, in other words. If we cannot unite at this hour, how can we expect America to be united, when it has no spiritual foundation for unity?

Because black lives matter, and because America needs the Church to heal its lingering racial divisions, I ask that Assemblies of God churches join the Church of God in Christ on Sunday, December 14, 2014, and pray for the following things:

  • Pray during the service that God would bless the ministries of the Church of God in Christ, our own National Black Fellowship, and the many AG multicultural churches, enlarging their territory through Spirit-guided influence on the communities where they minister.
  • Pray that God would unite the hearts of all Spirit-filled believers, but especially COGIC and the AG, so that together, we would become a “Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings” (Isaiah 58:12) in our nation.
  • Pray for law enforcement and judicial officers, especially Spirit-filled believers among them, that they would be servants of justice, reconciliation, and peace in the communities they serve.

I recognize that some of you may find my request to observe Black Lives Matter Sunday controversial because of deep disagreement over the Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases. I do not wish to be controversial or to bring further division within the Church or within America. We have enough of that already.

Rather, I wish for us to find points of unity and cooperation across racial lines. We can take steps together in that direction by affirming the value of black lives and by praying for unity in our churches and our society this Sunday, December 14. I hope you will join me in observing Black Lives Matter Sunday with our brothers and sisters in the Church of God in Christ. Finally, at this Christmas season, may we take to heart once again the glorious announcement of the angel that the birth of Jesus is “good news that will cause great joy for all the people” (Luke 2:10, emphasis added)!