Donald Sterling and the Human Race

I am writing today from my beautifully multi-cultural church in the Tampa Bay area.

I am writing today from my beautifully multi-cultural church in the Tampa Bay area.

Donald Sterling’s phone call has brought back some memories.

The spring of 2003 found me driving from my Fort Worth home to see my sister in Tennessee. I stopped for the night in Monroe, Louisiana. The next morning I stopped at a Krispy Kreme doughnut shop in Vicksburg, Mississippi. As I walked in, all eyes were glued to me, and were staring me down. I checked my zipper. Everything seemed to be okay. I walked up to the counter and smiled at the lady at the cash register, but she only glared back at me. I wiped my face. I must not have rinsed well after shaving.  I cheerfully ordered my two chocolate cream filled doughnuts just like I did back home. I love Krispy Kreme’s  cream filled doughnuts. Its actually cream, like all doughnut shops used when I was a kid, instead of that yellow junk they call cream now.  Only a few of you will even know what I am talking about. But I digress. My cheerful order was not met with a cheerful smile. The lady very matter of factly gave me my donuts, made change and glared at me as I smiled back and said “Thank you!”

As I turned around, I saw all the customers were still glaring at me. I smiled back at them and they only glared back at me. That is when I finally noticed something I had not noticed before. I was the only white person in the store. Everyone else was black. My first reaction to that realization was, “You’ve got to be kidding me! This is so 1964! It’s 2003 people!” I came within an eyelash of making a grand speech but thought better of it. My church back in Fort Worth was a multi cultural church with several different nationalities. (Notice I did not say races and I will tell you later why.) Not only at church, but also at UPS where I worked, I have black friends, white friends, Hispanic friends, and everything in between. And I don’t know if Donald Sterling would approve or not, but I took a black friend to several Dallas Maverick basketball games. Wait, or did he take me? I don’t remember. All I remember is we would go and have a great time, eating at the Spaghetti Warehouse in the West End and then making our way a few blocks down to Reunion arena to see the game.  One time we were watching warm-ups and I noticed a new guy I did not recognize. He had his warm-up suit on so I could not see his number. I had no other way to identify him, so I asked my black friend, “Hey who is the white guy?” My friend replied, “That is Scott Brooks. He just joined the team.” Then my friend laughed and said, “Wow I have never heard anyone say “who is the white guy before?”

So there I stood being stared down by the black customers and workers at Krispy Kreme, in Vicksburg Mississippi. As I said earlier, I came within an eyelash of stopping and announcing to them that “It is not 1964 anymore. It is 2003, and back in Fort Worth Texas we are all friends now,  and we can all be friends here too if you want.” However I would have been very willing to be friends with them back in 1964 too! Well, wait a minute. I was not born until 1965. But you get my point.

A friend explained to me later how deep the pain of racism goes with the black people in the south. After all, Mississippi is where you had terrible things happen to Emmitt Till and others. This is what divides the blacks from the whites. Well I have something that is just going to blow your mind then. While Emmit Till was black and I am white, I am the same race as Emmitt Till! That’s right! I am the same race as Emmit Till. That is why I can relate and identify with him and his pain. This is why his story crushes my heart and makes me angry! I am the same race as Emmitt Till. Emmitt was a member of the human race and so am I. The Bible only recognizes one race, the human race. We may have different colors and different cultures but we are all one race. What happened to Emmitt Till was not a crime against black people, it was a crime against humanity.  I share Emmitt’s humanity and I share his pain.

I have watched documentaries on the History Channel about white supremacist groups that have split up because the members could not get along with each other. So in the end, they did not hate just black people. They hated everybody. Their issue was racial alright. Their issue was with the entire human race.  Hate is just as unconditional as love. You can learn to love everyone or you can learn to hate everyone. I choose love. Its a lot more fun.

Two thousand years ago God took on flesh. See John 1:14. He did not just take on Jewish flesh. He took on human flesh. Jesus represented the entire human race when He went to the cross to crucify human flesh.

 He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. Romans 8:3 NLT

Christ represented the entire human race. ‘Red and yellow black and white all are precious in His sight.”

 For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus.  And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. There is no longer Jew or Gentile….. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:26-28 NLT

Yep so there you have it. When I heard Donald Sterling say, “Don’t bring that black guy to my games” What I heard was “Don’t bring that human being to my games.” If you don’t want humans going to your games then what do you want? If I separate myself by race from black people then I am separating myself from the human race, and even more fatal, I am separating myself from Jesus!

If I have it my way, we can all ( red, yellow black and white) go to Krispy Kreme together, and basketball games together.  Oh, and lets all go to heaven together too! I think our only Father would love that!

And hey Darwin, I know you are busy after moving your practice from Dallas to Orlando, but give me a call. I would love to take you to a Mavericks game in Orlando and hang out again. I know we are far now from the West End in Dallas, but Chuys will work just fine.

You may study this week’s SS lesson here. 

Its 2013 And Jesus is Breaking Out The New Wine!

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I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Every creation of Jesus is better than His creation before.

Bruce Springsteen sings a song called “Glory Days.” In the song he talks about running into old friends and talking about glory days gone by, when they were much younger. I can relate. When I was young I loved to play basketball. However, about a year ago, after teaching an evangelism class at the nearby church school, I walked into the gym and saw a basketball. I picked it up and started shooting baskets. No, truth is, I tried shooting baskets. I could not make a basket to save my life. As I walked out of the gym I told myself, this must be why old men like me play golf. We just can’t do what we did when were young anymore.

This morning I picked up my Bible started reading the book of John, as I am reading through the New Testament. I read in chapter 2, where after Jesus turned the water into the wine, the host of the party accuses the servants of saving the best wine till last. I thought to myself, that is how it is with Jesus! God’s plan is not for us to grow old and talk about glory days gone by. The best is always yet to come! Jesus has created a new year, and like the new wine, every creation is better than before.

A couple weeks ago at a home game, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had a ceremony remembering their super bowl championship 10 years ago. Some friends of mine and I kind of laughed to ourselves, that you know things are pretty sad for the team when you have to go back ten years to find something to celebrate. This is not how God has designed life to be. In Psalms 23:6 David declares, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.” David did not serve a God of glory days gone by.  He served a God ready to bless and prosper Him every day. After years of captivity, when Israel was tempted to long for their glory days gone by, Jeremiah reminded them that the best days were yet to come! “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11 NKJV

As I enter 2013, I am not looking to make it like the good ole days. No, I am looking for it to be better than ever!  When the Israelites entered Canaan they were to take all of the land. However Judges 1 tells us, “And the LORD was with Judah; and he drave out the inhabitants of the mountain; but could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley, because they had chariots of iron.” Really? Those chariots of iron were just too much for God, huh? I don’t think so. That was no excuse, and God knew it.

Earlier in Joshua 17:18 God Commanded, “for thou shalt drive out the Canaanites, though they have iron chariots, and though they be strong.” So what was the problem? Zephaniah wrote about the church, “And it shall come to pass at that time, that I will search Jerusalem with candles, and punish the men that are settled on their lees.” Those who are settled on their lees, are riding on their past experience. I imagine this was true of the Israelites when they entered Canaan. They had crossed through the Red Sea and the Jordan River. God had seen them through a lot. Let’s stop now and just rest. Why go further? The iron chariots were just the excuse they used to stop where they were, content to rest. They became a bunch of has-beens, relying on past experiences.

When I was in my early 20s I drove out to a little town in Western Oklahoma to preach one Sabbath. I went downstairs into the basement where the drinking fountain was and I saw several nice large children’s Sabbath School rooms- all empty! During lunch after church, an old patriarch told me those rooms used to be filled with children, and I could tell by the way they looked, that he was telling me the truth. He explained how those children have all grown up and moved away and started families elsewhere. Logical explanation, and I am sure a lot of children had grown up and just moved away. Even so, even as a young Bible Worker at the time, I had enough experience to know that if you gave me a church directory from a few years ago, I could still find a lot of them right there in town. I will never forget the feeling I had, standing alone in that empty hallway on Sabbath morning, peering into all those empty classrooms, imagining what they looked like full, back in their day. Back in their day? That is a term God does not even know! He is the Great I AM! Not the Great has been!

Friends I can guarantee you, God never would have given us 2013 if He did not think it would be better than any year before! There are fresh victories to be gained. We may even have to change our ways and try something new. When I was a kid I tossed the basketball around and never thought about golf. Today I stand in tee boxes facing fairways I have never seen before, or even thought about when I was younger. I’m not a kid anymore. Life is moving on and my God is moving along with me, taking me to new challenges and victories. I remember when my late grandmother went into a nursing home for a while. Many would have seen that as the end, but my grandmother made new friends!

In 2013 we will meet new people, new opportunities and new victories! Let the Tampa Bay Buccaneers celebrate their super bowl of ten years ago- while I celebrate new victories each and every day in 2013. By God’s grace, instead of looking at how vibrant my church was in days gone by, I will be looking at it in 2013 and think, wow! I have never seen such life before. Sorry Bruce. I can’t sing that song of glory days gone by with you. I am still experiencing God’s glory today!

It’s 2013 and I can see Jesus breaking out the new wine!

You may study this week’s SS lesson here.

Adrian’s Baptism

Several months ago Pastor Claudette told me her son, Adrian wanted to study the Bible with me. We studied the “In Light of The Cross” Bible study guides, and over the course of the studies, Adrian told me he wanted to be baptized. Adrian was very committed to his Bible study time. Adrian is a big basketball fan. One evening he invited me to stay and watch a basketball game after our Bible study. We had finished the lesson and the game had already begun, but Adrian still had a lot of questions, so we continued our study for quite a while before finally watching the game. The fact that Adrian was a big basketball fan, but wanted to keep talking about God and the Bible instead of just stopping the Bible study to watch the game said a lot to me about his priorities and interest in God. In the picture above, Adrian and I are studying by his pool, where one day we took advantage of the beautiful Florida weather.

I went over the baptism vows with Adrian during our studies, and then Pastor Brad went over them with Adrian before the Tampa 1st Church family this morning.

“I’ve been wanting to get baptized for a long time now. I thought you had to be perfect but none of us are, and the Bible says to start a brand new life and that’s what I’m doing today.” -Adrian

I felt very honored when Pastor Claudette and her husband Rene, asked me to study with Adrian. Pastor Claudette served as a Bible Worker and now has an excellent youth ministry. However, Pastor Claudette and Rene wanted Adrian to have a variety of teachers, as they believe it takes a village to raise a child. I appreciated them asking me to study with Adrian, and we had a great time studying the Bible together.

“Today was one of the most exciting days of my life and ministry.  To baptize my son was truly an amazing experience.  I praise the Lord for Adrian’s decision to follow Him.  I thank God for his Sabbath School and Pathfinder teachers, and specially for William, who gave him Bible studies.  So, in conclusion today I rejoice with the angels as they celebrated Adrian’s baptism.” -Pastor Claudette

For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And with him you were raised to new life because you trusted the mighty power of God, who raised Christ from the dead. Colossians 2:12

You may watch the video of Adrian’s baptism here.

Adrian’s church family and friends congratulated and welcomed him to the church family.

Please don’t let the sun set on your life before you give your life to Jesus. He gave all of His life for you. Will you give your life to Him? I would love to hear from you if you would like to give your heart to God. You may contact me at LayPastor@TampaAdventist.net

Acts 14;Preaching Among The Heathen

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Acts of the Apostles Chapter 18.

This chapter is based on Acts 14:1-26.

But the chief priests consulted that they might put Lazarus also to death; Because that by reason of him many of the Jews went away, and believed on Jesus. John 12:10-11.

 

I remember as a young boy going to see the Harlem Globtrotters. No matter how hard their arch rivals the Washington Generals tried to beat them they never could. The globtrotters won over 12,000 straight games against them. It’s the same with the Jesus and the devil. No matter how hard Satan tries he just can’t win for losing. For example Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead which was a big blow to Satan’s campaign. So what does he do? He tries to get the leaders to kill Lazarus now. Really? Like Jesus isn’t going to just turn around and raise him to life again and make an even more amazing miracle.

In Romans 8:28 Paul says, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to [his] purpose.” Christians can’t lose!

Those who stand on the side of truth can only win. For we can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth.  2 Corinthians 13:8

 

The chapter Preaching Among the Heathen, talks about the victories of God’s people amidst great opposition.

From Antioch in Pisidia, Paul and Barnabas went to Iconium. In this place, as at Antioch, they began their labors in the synagogue of their own people. They met with marked success; “a great multitude both of the Jews and also of the Greeks believed.” But in Iconium, as in other places where the apostles labored, “the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles, and made their minds evil affected against the brethren.”  {AA 177.1} 

     The apostles, however, were not turned aside from their mission, for many were accepting the gospel of Christ. In the face of opposition, envy, and prejudice they went on with their work, “speaking boldly in the Lord,” and God “gave testimony unto the word of His grace, and granted signs and wonders to be done by their hands.” These evidences of divine approval had a powerful influence on those whose minds were open to conviction, and converts to the gospel multiplied.

The increasing popularity of the message borne by the apostles, filled the unbelieving Jews with envy and hatred, and they determined to stop the labors of Paul and Barnabas at once. By means of false and exaggerated reports they led the authorities to fear that the entire city was in danger of being incited to insurrection. They declared that large numbers were attaching themselves to the apostles and suggested that it was for secret and dangerous designs.  {AA 178.1} 

     In consequence of these charges the disciples were repeatedly brought before the authorities; but their defense was so clear and sensible, and their statement of what they were teaching so calm and comprehensive, that a strong influence was exerted in their favor. Although the magistrates were prejudiced against them by the false statements they had heard, they dared not condemn them. They could but acknowledge that the teachings of Paul and Barnabas tended to make men virtuous, law-abiding citizens, and that the morals and order of the city would improve if the truths taught by the apostles were accepted.  {AA 178.2} 

 

  In every age and in every land, God’s messengers have been called upon to meet bitter opposition from those who deliberately chose to reject the light of heaven. Often, by misrepresentation and falsehood, the enemies of the gospel have seemingly triumphed, closing the doors by which God’s messengers might gain access to the people. But these doors cannot remain forever closed, and often, as God’s servants have returned after a time to resume their labors, the Lord has wrought mightily in their behalf, enabling them to establish memorials to the glory of His name.  {AA 179.2} 

 

The labors of Paul and Barnabas at Lystra were suddenly checked by the malice of “certain Jews from Antioch and Iconium,” who, upon learning of the success of the apostles’ work among the Lycaonians, had determined to follow them and persecute them. On arriving at Lystra, these Jews soon succeeded in inspiring the people with the same bitterness of spirit that actuated their own minds. By words of misrepresentation and calumny those who had recently regarded Paul and Barnabas as divine beings were persuaded that in reality the apostles were worse than murderers and were deserving of death.  {AA 183.1} 

     The disappointment that the Lystrians had suffered in being refused the privilege of offering sacrifice to the apostles, prepared them to turn against Paul and Barnabas with an enthusiasm approaching that with which they had hailed them as gods. Incited by the Jews, they planned to attack the apostles by force. The Jews charged them not to allow Paul an opportunity to speak, alleging that if they were to grant him this privilege, he would bewitch the people.  {AA 183.2} 

 

You may find more studies and devotionals at In Light of The Cross.