Faith and Finances

Growing up, it seemed like everything I wanted required an amount of money I didn’t have. From shoes to clothes and hanging out with friends—it all cost something! My understanding of money stemmed from not having it and not having money caused me to want it more than anything else. 

 

When I was a little boy, I stole ten dollars out of my mother’s purse. I’ll never forget that day. It was Friday. My school was selling pickles and popcorn and she wouldn’t give me money for it. On that Friday, I bought my cousins and I pickles and popcorn and we ate it before we arrived home. When I got home, I got a nice whooping for my behavior. As a child, raised by a single mother, I had no idea how my stealing impacted her finances. After that day, I knew money had to be earned-not stolen. 

 

Fast forward to teenage years. I started working at the age of thirteen. I couldn’t wait to earn my own money because I knew it gave me access to what I wanted. At this job, I was making three hundred dollars every two weeks. My mother set up a bank account for me and having my own money was everything I imagined. When I got paid, I bought what I wanted. I never saved and I ran out of money the week I got paid. Anxiously, I waited for my next check to have money again. The wait was painful!  My mind was filled with thoughts of what I would do next with the money. I spent until I had no more.

 

Money was important to me. I literally loved it. I loved all that I could do with it. Therefore, I worked as much as I could to obtain money. I’ve been in the workforce for 19 years and I’m only 32!

 

For the first quarter of my life, I thought the money was the source of life. I didn’t understand money as a resource given by God. However, when I started my journey with God, the Bible gave me a new perspective on money. I learned three valuable lessons I would like to share:

 

1. God is the Source of Life 
2. What You Spend Your Money on–Shows Where Your Heart is 
3. Giving is an Act of Worship unto God 

 

God is the Source of Life

 

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Genesis‬ ‭1:1‬ ‭NIV‬‬

 

“The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it;”

‭‭Psalms‬ ‭24:1‬ ‭NIV‬‬

 

After reading scripture, I learned that God is the creator of the heavens and the earth and everything in it (Genesis 1). This fact alone changed my mindset. If God created me; then, my livelihood is reliant on Him not money. Without God, I can’t work—let alone breathe. Therefore, God is the source of life. Without God, money wouldn’t mean anything.

 

What You Spend Your Money on, Shows Where Your Heart is 

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew‬ ‭6:21‬ ‭NIV

 

When I reflect on my past and what I spent my money on, I can see my heart desires. I desired to be accepted by others. Everything I bought was to cope with my brokenness and rejection. Majority of my life, I spent my money on new clothes and shoes, food, and entertainment. I spent it to make me feel good and to make people like me. Every time I gave, I expected something in return. I used money to create a life different than the life I truly had and I never made enough to do that.

 

 

Giving is an Act of Worship Unto God

 

I had no idea that money could be given without getting something back. Before this revelation, I viewed money as power to purchase. I never saw it the way God meant it to be. Once I allowed God into my life, I discovered I was a steward of the money I earned. As an act of worship to God, I can use my money to help people. I started to view money as a way to sustain my life and bless others. Now, I give as an act of worship to God. I give to people in need, my local church and other places I feel led to give. In conclusion, I learned that money is only a resource God gave us to do His will on earth. We have to give our finances to God and spend money in a way that honors and brings Him glory. That looks different for everyone.

Reclaiming Christ: Abandoning White Jesus

Growing up, I remember hearing someone say, “White is right.” According to them, this meant White people were able to fix anything and make everything right. Upon hearing this, it seemed as though they were telling the truth. On television, Whites were always depicted as problem solvers, leaders and heroes. Majority of what I’d seen and heard growing up reinforced that statement. Even Jesus Christ, the Savior of the World, was depicted as a White man. While America was comprised of many ethnic groups, including Blacks, it frequently highlighted the goodness of Whites. Often, Blacks were and still are depicted as criminals, disruptive, problematic and evil in media. Especially Black men.

In “Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority”, Tom Burell writes, “Negative media reinforcements not only influence how cops, judges, employers, and others view black males, they affect how young blacks view themselves.”

As a black male, I grew up thinking I had to mimic White behavior to be good or right. I had no idea I was being brainwashed by propaganda and there was a big system of racism controlling how I viewed myself. Not only did I adopt negative views about myself, these incorrect thoughts came into my faith and view of God.

Before reading about Jesus in the Bible and seeking to understand my faith in-depth, I’d seen an image of Him. It was an image of a White man with blue eyes and long wavy brown hair. For years, this image came into my mind as I lifted my hands and worshiped God. Since I could remember, every historical figure in the Bible was depicted as White. From the movie “ The Passion of Christ” to “Jesus Christ Superstar,” America took the image of a White Jesus and made him known to the world. Now that I am older and understand scripture, it is clear that Jesus Christ is of Jewish descent. Jesus’ real ethnicity did not reflect the image that was ingrained in my mind. Trying to imagine a Palestine Jew as Christ literally disgruntled my thoughts and made me curious at the same time. I wanted to know Jesus in the Bible versus the White Jesus I’d seen on television and hanging up on church walls.

When I read “Jesus and the Disinherited” by Howard Thurman, I realized the United States of America established and centered its union around an idol instead of the God in the Bible. Thurman explains how a group of powerful and influential White Americans replaced the true historical Palestinian Jew Jesus with a false Anglo-Saxon (White) Jesus. Sadly, this replacement and improper depiction of Jesus; brainwashed, controlled, and oppressed people for centuries.

From antebellum south slavery to modern day freedom, some Americans have misused the sacred biblical scripture for power and control over Blacks and other races. Insomuch, Black Americans were forced to bow down to the White Jesus instead of the Palestinian Jew Jesus. In America, the Protestant Church was built on the White Jesus image and cultivated it from generation to generation. This White Jesus impacted the black christian experience; however, it didn’t hinder Blacks from a relationship with God. Outwardly, we lived under the scrutiny of White superiority empowered by a White Jesus; but, inwardly we had hope in the real Jesus Christ. When reflecting on the plight of Blacks in America, I could relate to the real Jesus. His journey in the Roman Empire was like ours in America. He suffered; He was abused and oppressed; He was crucified like we were lynched. We are genuine partakers in the sufferings of Christ. In some ways we’re still trapped between the White Jesus and the real Jesus. Today, Blacks have the freedom to choose which Jesus we will serve.

Theologian, Howard Thurman said, “Living in a climate of deep insecurity, Jesus, faced with so narrow a margin of civil guarantees, had to find some other basis upon which to establish a sense of well-being. He knew that the goals of religion as he understood them could never be worked out within the then-established order. Deep from within that order he projected a dream, the logic of which would give to all the needful security. There would be room for all, and no man would be a threat to his brother. “The kingdom of God is within.” “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor.” After reading this quote, I ask myself do I follow this Jesus? I believe I do, along with other believers which include some White Americans.

In order for Blacks to reclaim Christ, in America, we must access “the Kingdom within” as Thurman described. For Whites, in America, they will have to give up white superiority in order to access “the Kingdom within” Thurman describes. Lastly, James Cone said it best, “For [Martin Luther] King nonviolence was more than a strategy; it was the way of life defined by love for others—the only way to heal broken humanity.” In order for America to reclaim Christ, we must love others and remain a follower of the Real Jesus.

Homosexuality, the Church and God

It takes sex between a man and woman to procreate; but, does it take sexuality? There are many debates about sexuality; such as, what is a sexual sin and what is acceptable to God? Should a person have only one sexual partner? Should a person be married before having sex? Is sex only permitted between a man and woman?

It’s important to note that sex was created by God, which means that it is in no way inherently bad. Sex is good! Concurrently, we must note that God’s construct of sex came with boundaries. However, in my opinion, mankind have deviated and ventured outside the boundaries of God’s perfect intention of sex. In this blog, I want to explore homosexuality, the church and God—to examine questions; such as, is homosexuality a sin? What role does the church play, and how does God view it?

Homosexuality is a romantic attraction, sexual attraction or sexual behavior between members of the same sex or gender. Though thoughts and considerations may be new or changing, homosexuality is not a new sexuality. There are many historical theories about homosexuality. According to Psychology Today,  in 1968, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) classified homosexuality as a mental disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM). However, years later, that diagnosis was nullified by the conclusion that practicing homosexuality does not hinder a person’s livelihood— although it brings a set of challenges. Despite these “challenges,” the APA considers homosexuality a “normal variant of human sexuality”. 

In this debate on the morality of homosexuality, our greatest dilemma will be law vs morals. Our laws may change, but if they are no longer moral, we must keep our morals and endure the punishment of breaking unjust laws.

Over the years, many nations developed sets of morals and laws surrounding sexuality. Those morals and laws were derived from many sources; such as, philosophy, science, Deity (God), etc.. Some nations have permitted homosexual activities without consequence, while others exiled whoever participated in such behavior. To this very day there are still 70 of the worlds 195 countries that still in someway ban or outlaw acts of homosexuality. Though America thinks herself “progressive,” there were still laws prohibiting homosexual acts on the books as recently as 2003. Yet, today in America, we face a historic moment in which our nation is at the tipping point of a new belief system regarding homosexuality. Now, more than ever, people want to understand homosexuality and rather or not it’s wrong. The current debate is attempting to nullify biblical laws that have governed America and guided the morality of western civilization for centuries. 

America adopted some of its laws and morals from those given by God to the chosen nation of Israel. In the book of Genesis, it is written that God created man and woman to “be fruitful and multiply (procreate).” Later on, God, gave laws to shape the culture of His chosen nation to model His desires for humanity in the earth. In the book of Leviticus in the Bible, God expressed who can have sex with who and who couldn’t have sex with who (Leviticus 18). The purpose was to separate God’s people by  their actions and behaviors from the rest of the people in the land. Before he ever reaches the subject of homosexuality there are 12 verses simply explaining why we shouldn’t have relations with close family members. This was out of love and protection of his people. His laws did not permit homosexual activity; therefore, making it an enmity against God-if committed. Which means, it is morally wrong—which makes it a sin. Consequently, if the laws are broken, the people are punished by God. This is the inception of punitive activity towards civil disobedience. Therefore, in my theological opinion, Homosexuality is a sinful act. 

Times have changed and people are fighting to have homosexuality morally acceptable with society and God. Unlike the psychiatric argument, biblical authority concerning this topic has not been nullified.  The New Testament declares it sexually immoral, but scholars debate that Mankind states that because homosexual isn’t an Aramaic term. Scholars are debating on scriptures and exegetical interpretations of God’s documented words and if He approves or disapproves. Scholars also state that it’s deemed immoral from the standpoint of evil practices within the practice. For example, murder is immoral if you just kill people; but, it’s moral if you’re protecting your country. This debate is being applied to the discourse surrounding homosexuality. History is being created as I type this blog. Change is among us. In this contemporary age, we stand at a crossroads.  Churches are cautiously or haphazardly declaring their stance. For homosexuals this is the final obstacle towards complete permission to practice homosexuality without social or spiritual condemnation. 

As a Christian and someone who has been converted from homosexuality, I believe God’s original words concerning sexual relations remain true today. I believe the Holy Spirit confirms it within our mind and emotions. After accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and receiving salvation, I believe the Holy Spirit resets us and aligns us with God’s original desire for our lives. Man and woman, marriage, procreation, and family. I believe church serves as a community to cultivate God’s desire and intention for humanity. However, I’m afraid for the church, because the agenda to nullify God’s logic for humanity and intention for sexual relations is being challenged at the core. The army of those who support homosexual activity is large and strong. We are at the crossroads of a new morality. The question is, how will the church cultivate God’s intention for humanity without being deemed judgmental and hateful. How will churches embrace people who have found comfort and their identity in homosexual activity? In my opinion, all of this must be addressed through preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ, with love, and pointing everyone towards Jesus Christ and baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. I believe the Holy Spirit will align everyone who believes mind with God’s original intention for humanity. Therefore, in church, we must accurately exegete scripture to bring understanding to God’s intention for humanity.

In closing, I will share my encounter with God after writing this blog. After I did my research, wrote, and revised- I paused and prayed. Alone, in silence, I asked God “what is your view on this?” After asking, I felt God’s  presence all around me. As tears welled up in my eyes, a small still voice said, “I’m waiting.” God is waiting. As a patient parent, He is waiting for all of us to find our way back to him. It is written in 2 Peter 3:9 of the Bible, “The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.” God is waiting for humanity to make its way back to Him. 

Part One: Father Hunger

As any young man, there was a need for my father.

But like so many others, mine was not there.

Robert McGee, author of “Father Hunger,” describes this book-entitled condition as an individual having a deep need for love and affection of their father. Because this need is unfulfilled, they feel empty, which oftentimes evolves into bitterness, fear, and pain. I know for a fact I suffered from this and to be honest, I’m still processing some of the effects.

My father hunger would spark great reflection upon my relationship with God. Did my father’s absence hinder my understanding of God’s word? Did my father’s absence limit my ability to comprehend God and His purpose for mankind–specifically, His purpose for men? To answer these questions, some studying was required, and I was moved to start with the book of Genesis in the Bible.

Genesis starts with the creation story of man, Adam and from Adam, God creates a woman, Eve. What’s so crucial about this is God creates man in His image, but the Bible does not say God is Adam’s father.

A couple questions arise for me: was Adam fatherless? Or was God his father? If God is Adam’s father, how did he raise him? In my opinion, God proves great fatherhood here—Adam inherits everything God creates. This proves God believes in legacy. Also, God instructs Adam to name what He has created—this is teaching Adam responsibility, the power of his words, and also what is mine is yours. Furthermore, Adam overall has direct access to God. In order for any father/son relationship to work, there must be honest, open, transparent communication.

With that being said, we only have a rather short narrative of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. God gives Adam and Eve instructions and they disobey. As a result, they were punished by God. Thus, Adam is the first father on earth.

From Adam, many fathers are born. However, God is not pleased with mankind. As punishment, He floods the earth but spares Noah and his family. God starts over with Noah–establishes a new covenant and he then becomes the first father of the new world. Throughout the Old Testament, after Noah, we see an incredible lineage that is God-focused but also, we see a great covenant with God. The father establishes a relationship with God and teaches his son to have one. In his death, his son(s) will continue on and fulfill the work of God.

God’s covenant was first threatened by the systemic prosecution of sons in Egypt. In the book of Exodus, Pharaoh attempts to destroy God’s covenant by killing the Hebrew sons (God’s chosen people). Moses would then become the first example of being fatherless but chosen to fulfill God’s work.

Moses’s mother sent him away to protect him from persecution. Moses was adopted by the daughter of Pharaoh and was raised within the empire as an Egyptian. However, it was not until he connected to his father-in-law, Jethro, that he has a mind-blowing encounter with God and discovers the purpose of his life. From a biblical standpoint, it is evident fatherhood is essential to God’s mission.

This intentional obstruction of God’s covenant and destructive mentality is relevant today–the war on the Black family. Young Black men are not legally being killed, but you see the attack on them through police brutality, discrimination, and racial bias. But these are remnants of the oldest system of oppression: slavery–a tragic era where Blacks were handled as property and most importantly, their family structure didn’t matter. Therefore, in order to keep the property in compliance with the overarching goal, the family was separated. The father was removed and sold to another owner or worst, killed. Now, 72 percent of Black children are born without fathers according to the US Census Bureau. This then inspired reflection on my father’s absence from a systemic perspective and raises a couple more questions: if this is God’s covenant, where do I fit in God’s mission as a fatherless man? Am I qualified to be used by God without being raised by a father?

Although my father was absent, I understand now it wasn’t his fault–completely. As a black man in this country, I have discovered my father and I exist within a system designed not only to impede upon and sever our dynamic but also, ensure this cycle continues through generation to generation. In 1987, my father was 19 years old when I was conceived. He was a Black boy who made an adult decision. He didn’t have the resources or knowledge to raise me. I’m confident there wasn’t a father figure in his life to steer or lead him in the direction he should go. Nor was he my mother’s husband. He was a byproduct of a system that forces Black men to abandon their greatest commitments–their families, and/or also, self-destruct. Yes, I grew up fatherless, but all hope was not lost. In part two, I will explain how I satisfied my father hunger. In the meantime, let’s reflect on this post. In one word, drop how you feel in the comments.

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