Friday, 22 December 2017
Emmanuel, God is with Us: Celebrating the Birth of Christ
I count it a privilege and a joy to see individuals, couples and families celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ throughout the world during the month of December. As certain corporations unashamedly and aggressively emphasize the commercialization of Christmas by promoting products to enhance profits with no reference to the one people called the Messiah, as an increasingly secularized culture promotes reindeer and snowmen and mistletoe with little reference to the Light of the World (e.g., Jesus the Christ), as political discourse dominates the news and leaves us with an uncertainly about a challenging but hopeful tomorrow still influenced by God, it is a blessing to see many people embracing the true meaning of Christmas. Jesus is still the reason for the season.
Jesus’ birth was announced by the prophet Isaiah thousands of years before his arrival (see Isaiah 9:6). References to the birth of Christ are also mentioned in the first four books of the New Testament. In reference to the birth of Jesus in book of Matthew 1:23, we read: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Emmanuel, which means ‘God with us.’” We are indeed indebted to those who had the courage to talk about the arrival of Jesus at a time when one could be punished for mentioning his very name.
One may rightful ask: “What does it mean that God is with us during a time in which there appears to be little evidence of or respect for God at all.” Immanuel means that those who are still willing to take a chance with God by accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior will be blessed with eternal life (see John 3:16). Immanuel means that the life of Jesus will always be our point of departure for helping people; therefore, we will diligently seek justice for the disempowered, the despised, the disenfranchised and the disrespected people of this world. Immanuel means that our hope in creating the beloved community, our faith in God and our love for God’s children called humanity will continue to occupy our life’s agenda (see 1 Corinthians 13:13).” Immanuel means that we serve a transcendent God who sits high and looks low, but we also serve an immanent God (Jesus the Christ) who will never leave us or forsake us (see Matthew 28:20). Emmanuel, which is another name for Jesus means “God is with us.” Indeed, the prayer embedded in the song titled “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” by Josh Wilson still stands true: “O come, Desire of nations, bind in one the hearts of all mankind; Bid thou our sad divisions cease, and be thyself our King of peace, Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel.”
Posted on 12/22/2017 12:09 PM by Dean Jason Curry
Tuesday, 19 December 2017
When the Fire Has No Power: Divine Deliverance with God
I’ve lived in several cities throughout the past three decades, and I’ve lived the African-American community, by choice, in most of them. I continue to find value in the meaningful relationships that exist within my immediate community, and I celebrate the achievements earned and made by individuals and groups (e.g., congregations) within these communities as they exist throughout the nation. There was a period in my life, however, in which I as well as several young black men in my community fell victim to what has now be characterized by psychologists and sociologists as “self-hated.” For example, we would call each other names which did not reflect the brilliance of our ancestors. We would fight or prepare to seriously harm one another over petty issues which did not reflect the visions of generations of African-American leaders who to sought to effectuate a positive change among black people. As teenage black men, we did not recognize our commonalities (e.g., we enjoyed the same social-economic status and we were often lived in single parent households). Instead, we focused on our differences (e.g., our particular streets or schools) and we were prepared to die over these differences. I will be forever indebted to the church, an HBCU (Morehouse College), my family, mentors and close friends who helped to deliver me from self-hated. I received the call to preach while in college, and I’m glad to report that the self-hated was an intense fire that did not consume.
When we read the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in Daniel 3, we may also learn about a raging fire that had no power. These three individuals refused to worship an idol of King Nebuchadnezzar; therefore, they were put in a furnace. The guards who put them in the furnace were consumed by the fire; however, the three of them were not harmed. In fact, Daniel 3:25 states that there were four people in the flames. Theologians believe that this fourth person was God or Jesus the Christ. In short, three people were delivered by God from these flames which should have consumed them. The king eventually acknowledged the God that they served.
It is no secret what God can do. What God has done for others, God will do for you. If you happen to find yourself engulfed or about to be engulfed in flames (e.g., political flames, financial flames, familial flames, flames of self-hatred, flames related to your job), I invite you to invite someone in the flames with you (e.g., God or Jesus Christ). I am a witness that there is divine deliverance in the flames. You may be in a fire, but with God, it is a fire that shall not consume.
Posted on 12/19/2017 3:12 PM by Dean Jason Curry
Tuesday, 12 December 2017
Seeking Humility before being Humbled: Lessons from King Nebuchadnezzar
Approximately ten years ago, I was asked a very interesting question. The person asked: “Are you humble?” I wasn’t sure, and I’m still not sure, if the person was being sincere or attempting to “prove” that I wasn’t humble with his question. Humility has been defined as the act of demonstrating modesty; therefore, if I said “Yes, I’m humble,” he would have said “No, you aren’t based on your answer.” If I answered “No, I am not humble,” he would have said: “I’ve proven my point!” My answer to his question was: “I’m trying to be.” For those of us who are seeking to be proactive and assertive in our efforts to promote the gospel of Jesus Christ, to serve as leaders in our homes and communities and to create innovative ways to minister to people in need, the act or process of displaying humility can be a real challenge. However, as followers of Jesus Christ, we must embrace the fact that the Christian message calls us to be humble and to serve with humility. Peter, a disciple of Jesus Christ, said: “Humble yourselves, then under God’s mighty hand, so that He will lift you up in His own good time (1 Peter 5:6).” In Colossians 3:12, the Apostle Paul stated: “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” Humility is a quality that we must continue to strive to embrace as we are called to love God and our neighbors as ourselves (see Mark 12:30-31).
Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ said: “For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted (Luke 14:11).” Jesus’ words suggest that it is possible to be humbled by God if we absolutely refuse to seek and embrace humility. In the Old Testament, we are fortunate to read about the life of a powerful king named Nebuchadnezzar who initially refused to display humility. He bragged about his power (Daniel 4:30), and it was taken away from him (4:31). When Nebuchadnezzar humbled himself and acknowledged God’s presence in his life, his power was restored (4:36-37). Also, I’ve seen many instances in which arrogant people were humble by other people. They believed that they were the most powerful person, as indicated by their physical strength, clothing, money or influence, at the time. The act of finding out that their personal, political, economic or social influence was extremely limited, was very humbling experience for them.
My understanding of the Gospel suggests that we should be humble before we are humbled. Humility is a value embraced by Jesus Christ. It is an attribute which truly bring us closer to God.
Posted on 12/12/2017 11:51 AM by Dean Jason Curry