Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Church

For generations, the Black church has unified, inspired and empowered African-Americans. And as I think about what my faith has meant in my own life and in the lives of so many in the African-American community, one treasured Bible verse comes to mind: “Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your God in heaven.” During my decades in the pulpit, I quoted or heard someone else quote this verse more times than I can count. It is a worthy approach to moral living and has been so for more than 2,000 years.

Following the release of a report about the plight of the financially underserved families in our local community, state and nation, this Bible verse serves as a reminder that all of us have an opportunity to light the way for others and help them join the financial mainstream. Shining a light on financial education and technology offers us an opportunity to do just that.

According to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), more than 32 percent of households in the Norfolk area are either unbanked or underbanked, meaning they have no or only limited access to traditional banking services. Instead, these families often rely on costly, and sometimes predatory, alternative services like check cashiers, pawn shops and payday lenders to conduct basic financial transactions.

While an improvement from the last report released two years ago, there is still work to be done. The FDIC’s report sheds light on the challenges facing the more than 213,000 households here in our region that exist on the financial margins of society. And the FDIC also notes that these challenges disproportionately affect minority households. It makes me think of the opportunities that exist to help these families better access their money in today’s increasingly cashless economy. Increased financial education is important, but it must be combined with solutions that can make a real difference. That’s why the Baptist General Convention of Virginia joined forces with Master Your Card (MYC), a community empowerment program that helps to bring to light opportunities for education and information about electronic payment technologies to those who need it most.

For instance, technologies like payroll and prepaid cards open the door to greater financial access. These cards operate much like debit cards, but do not require a bank account. Cardholders can pay bills and bargain shop online, and even receive their wages through direct deposit. And many of these cards are compatible with smartphone apps, offering the ability to make mobile payments, and create and track a budget.

In addition to helping consumers better access their money, electronic payments offer opportunities for churches to manage their funds and budgets more efficiently. By adopting these technologies for both payments and collections, churches can be even better stewards of the money they are entrusted to use wisely.

That’s why, working with MYC, the Baptist General Convention of Virginia hosted a workshop at its annual conference on how electronic payment technologies help churches to streamline bookkeeping and even increase parishioner giving.

I am proud of the work being carried out within churches and communities to make a difference in the lives of others.

For more information on this community empowerment program, visit www.masteryourcardusa.org

The Reverend David L. Chapman is a retired pastor, interim executive minister of the Baptist General Convention of Virginia and a member of the Master Your Card African-American Advisory Board.

NORFOLK
The Word Singers of Norfolk held their annual Resurrection Day Gospel Concert Sunday (April 16) at First Baptist Lamberts Point. The concert was packed and local gospel radio personality Brother Donald Eason and gospel comedian Steven Alexander served as the MC’s.

The spiritual praise and worship-filled concert featured Daryl Harris and the Original Vocalairs, Elder Ronnie Harper and the Harmonizing Echos, the Farrow Sisters, Ricky White’s Fully Committed, the Hurdle Brothers, the Gospel Sensations, the God Boys, the Gospel Harmoneers of Ivor, Val Spence & the Familaires, Tommy Mitchell & the Mitchell Singers, Men & Women of Faith, Evangelist Pickett & the Pickett Gospel Singers, Sister Linda Roundtree, and Claude Riddick & the Gospel Angels.

The Word Singers thanked the New Journal and Guide for covering their Easter celebration. They also thanked the gospel community of Hampton Roads for supporting their musical ministry over the years.

By Randy Singleton
Community Affairs Correspondent

Christ’s act of kindness to save mankind is the ultimate gift of love and sacrifice. There is nothing we can do to deserve that sacrificial love, but there are many things we can do to show our appreciation. We can demonstrate that we love Christ by making a conscious effort to get to know Him better and work toward building a deeper, more personal relationship with Him. This starts with reading His Word, praying to Him and obeying His Word.

We also have a myriad of opportunities to demonstrate Christ’s love for us, to others – if we take advantage of them. We can pray for others, encourage others, support and help one another, with no ulterior motive or expectation of receiving anything in return. Sacrifice doesn’t always have to mean giving up something monumental, but it may require giving up something that we value – for example, our time, our attention or our service and resources to others.

Unfortunately, we live in a world where time is at a premium. Many of us try to squeeze so much into one day that we have little or nothing left to give – to others or ourselves. With this in mind, we should get off life’s treadmill and ask ourselves if we are doing God’s will or just going through the motions of life. There are times when we are so busy being like ‘Martha,’ that we don’t take enough time to be still and sit at Jesus’ feet, as Mary did (Luke 10:38-42).

In an earlier segment, I mentioned the random act of kindness at a Starbucks drive-thru that snowballed into more than 400 customers paying it forward. Christ’s act of kindness was not random; it was deliberate. Moreover, unlike most of us, Christ is more interested in relationship than recognition. His agenda was simply to save mankind.

As Christ-followers we should strive to have a heart like Christ. We should strive to treat others with the same love, joy and patience that Christ shows toward us. That’s not always easy to do when someone cuts off in traffic or a customer service representative nonchalantly is rude or less than helpful. However, one of the marks of our spiritual maturity is when we refuse to allow others to make us react in a manner contrary to the person we are striving to become. Sometimes, that’s easier said than done, but with God’s grace and the indwelt Holy Spirit, it is possible to show Christ’s love and kindness in every circumstance.
”Peace and power.

© Dr. Melvin O. Marriner,
Grove Church
April 2017

Following a horrible accident, one of the victims who was in critical condition was medevaced to the emergency department of a hospital in a large metropolitan city. As the staff was removing his shirt, they noticed the name “Jesus” tattooed across his chest in large red letters. Quite amazed the ER nurse said to the attending physician, “From the way he looks and how he’s dressed and his lack of cleanliness, I would assume that the name ‘Jesus’ on his chest is only skin deep.”

If we who are Christ’s disciples are to be worthwhile witnesses of God’s Message, His name on us must be more than skin deep. It must be heart deep. Not only is His name to be on our lips but penetrate every area of our lives. Not only should it come out of our mouths, but it should be obvious in everything we do. The psalmist said, “But they would flatter Him with their mouths, lying to Him with their tongues, their hearts were not loyal to His covenant.”

Perhaps we can understand what the psalmist was talking about when we think of those who sing, “I Love to Tell the Story” but never witness to anyone. Or, someone who sings, “Have Thine Own Way Lord” with everyone but me. Or, “Take My Life and Let It Be” – yes, let it be right where it is –please don’t bother me. I’m too busy.

Unfortunately, the church has far too many members who say one thing with their mouths and another thing with their lives.

We need to “transplant” our hearts with His heart.

Visit us at: SowerMinistries.org

By Dr. Glenn Mollette

Easter is almost here and we need it bad.  
People throughout the world celebrate Easter differently just like people celebrate Christmas differently. When I was a little boy I remember Easter egg hunts at my Grandma and Grandpa Hinkle’s place. They had lots of yard and egg hiding places and a lot of grandchildren to look for them. I was lucky if I found one or two eggs with all the competition. People still hunt for Easter eggs and look forward to an Easter basket. There are a couple of chocolate factories in our town and it’s a home run week for them filling up Easter baskets.

Easter is the Sunday when most churches have to bring out the folding chairs and park on the side of the road, the grass or down the way. By and large more Christians will dress up a bit more for church on Easter.  Some people will have a new dress or suit or kids will have a new Easter outfit to wear. Or, if they don’t always dress up for church some will make an effort to dress just a bit better than usual because it’s Easter. Please do remember though if it’s a good church they are glad you are there regardless of how you can afford to dress!
Christian people around the planet stake their lives and eternal destinies on the message of Easter – the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The New Testament time and time again reiterates this part of the Bible story, “He is risen!”

There is so much sadness already in the world today. The world is hurting all over. There is horror in Syria and growing tensions between Russia, Iran, North Korea and the United States.   Fifty million plus Americans struggle every day in poverty. The hospitals and nursing homes are filled with people battling for their health and a little more life.

The world is filled with worry. We worry about tomorrow. We worry how will we exist and we worry about our families and loved ones. We fret over a lot of stuff and often it is stuff we can’t change or never fix. We carry too much baggage with us and often we cannot remember what is in the baggage. One of the richest people in the United States is in the storage unit business. Everywhere I travel today I see more and more storage units popping up because we prize our junk so much. We store it up and someone else will often have to throw it away when we die.

Easter is about hope. Easter is about peace. Easter is about a new life and a second chance. Easter is about bringing focus and meaning to this life and this world.

The Bible in John chapter 20 reports that Mary Magdalene saw Jesus on the first day of the week after his resurrection outside the entrance to the garden tomb. She ran to the disciples reporting, “I have seen the Lord!” Later that evening Jesus appeared to his disciples and said to them, “Peace be with you.” He then showed them his hands and his side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.  For the second time Jesus said, “Peace be with you.” 

The early followers of Jesus were filled with such peace and internal strength that their lives would never be the same again. They were so convicted internally about Jesus they would literally suffer and in many cases die for their faith.

America and really our world truly need a song to sing, a bell to ring and a hero to follow. Great people stand and fall and we all come and go. The message of Easter and a living Jesus continues to give hope, peace and strength to people around the world. This year not much has changed as once again, we need it really bad. 

Glenn Mollette is a syndicated columnist and author of eleven books.  He is read in all 50 states.  Visit www.glennmollette.com 

Contact him at GMollette@aol.com.   Like his facebook page at www.facebook.com/glennmollette

As we reflect on Christ’s act of kindness this month, we also celebrate the resurrection and ultimate sacrifice that Christ made to save mankind; a sacrifice of which none of us is worthy. During this time of reflection and commemoration, perhaps we should evaluate ourselves, our relationship with others, and particularly our relationship with Christ.

Not only do we not show our love to the One who made this ultimate sacrifice, but lately there appears to be a spirit of hate and rancor hovering over our communities across the nation, and we see it manifested daily in negative behaviors that are becoming increasingly overt. We see it on social media, television and hear about it in our neighborhoods. We’ve all seen the images of chaos of people running out of Jewish Community Centers because of bomb threats. Heinous crimes are being committed in neighborhoods and cities – right next to us. And, daily, people are doing hateful and hurtful things to one another.

Thankfully, we also notice those among us who are determined to model Christ’s act of kindness. We see it play out in the innocence of youth – like little, six-year old Armani Crews who gave up her birthday party so she could feed the homeless. Or, we witness students in Loudoun County, VA who volunteered their time to repair and help restore an old, historic African-American schoolhouse after another group of youth marred it with hate messages. We hear about communities coming together to surprise disabled veterans by making their homes handicap accessible. We also see it in our churches, where members secretly and quietly slip a few dollars in the hands of struggling college students; men volunteer to spend time mentoring young boys, or individuals stay after worship services to help clean up the church. These acts of kindness occur daily among individuals who have a desire and heart to emulate Christ.

Acts of kindness can be simple, effective, and a great way to demonstrate Christ’s love for us, to others. Most times true acts of kindness are clandestine – not for show – and carried out in genuine love and care for another. In other words, there is nothing to gain. Or, is there? Ephesians 4:32 (ESV), tells us to “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” And in Luke 6:38 (ESV), we read, “Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”
”Peace and power.

© Dr. Melvin O. Marriner,
Grove Church
April 2017

A while back, there was a news story about how some 400 people who visited a Starbucks’ drive-thru were shown acts of kindness thanks to one stranger who paid for another’s caramel macchiato at 7 a.m. According to the news report, this one random act of kindness kick-started a pay-it-forward chain that lasted until 6 p.m. that day – with each driver paying for the order of the person in the car behind them.

We’ve all heard of similar stories – people ‘paying it forward’ after someone displays an act of kindness toward them. And, whether it’s done out of guilt or a sense of obligation, the recipient typically regards it as an act of kindness.

Jesus’ entire ministry was an act of love and kindness, and the greatest act of kindness was the sacrifice He made on the cross to save mankind. He came to earth, became human, and subjected Himself to painful humiliation, suffering and death for us. This was the ultimate act of love and sacrifice! In return, He simply asks that we ‘pay it forward’ by loving God and others. In Mark 12: 29-31, Jesus said, “… love the Lord God with all your passion, prayer, intelligence and energy.’ And ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’

Why, then, do we find it so difficult to love others? Why is it that when we engage in an act of kindness we expect something in return – recognition, a ‘thank you,’ money, mention, or some show of appreciation? Why do we become irritated when we allow a car to go ahead of us and they don’t give us the ‘obligatory wave of appreciation?’ When we hold a door open for someone and the person doesn’t acknowledge it with a ‘thank you,’ why are we offended? We expect our simple, insignificant acts of kindness to be rewarded with gratitude, appreciation and sometimes fanfare, yet we take Christ’s sacrifice – His act of kindness of saving mankind – for granted.

As we emerge from this season of Lent, in preparation of the celebration and commemoration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, this is a great time to reflect upon Christ’s Act of kindness – Saving Mankind! It’s also a great time for us to take stock of ourselves, our lives and our walk with Christ, so that we can honor and reverence Him, while showing appreciation for His sacrifice.

”Peace and power.

© Dr. Melvin O. Marriner,
Grove Church
April 2017

Making a difference matters. When we hear about the world’s challenges, making a difference can appear to be a lofty and unachievable goal, but it’s not.

For too long, too many of us have ‘played church.’ It’s time now to BE THE CHURCH. We must not just say we love God, but show that we love Him. We can do this in a myriad of ways – supporting and encouraging one another, standing up for what’s right, getting involved in our schools and communities, helping those who are less fortunate, loving those we deem as unlovable. We must pray for ourselves and others, our nation and, yes, even our leaders. There is power in prayer. If we believe that, we must practice it!

Living a godly life is not about preaching to others or trying to convince them to change their ways; it’s about demonstrating – through our actions – the love of Christ, in such a way that others want what we have. None of us is perfect, but as we grow in our relationship with Christ, the transformation that takes place in us, should translate to application. In other words, we must find ways to apply the knowledge that we have about Christ, to real life issues and situations.

We must speak truth to power! We must take up the challenge and charge to make a positive difference in our homes, on our block, and in our churches, community and our country. We must exercise the power of one. In Ezekiel 22:30 God says, “I looked for someone who might rebuild the wall of righteousness that guards the land. I searched for someone to stand in the gap in the wall so I wouldn’t have to destroy the land, but I found no one” (NLT). God is looking for one who can make his or her mark; who will stand up for righteousness, and who can make a difference. Be the ONE!

Peace and power.

© Dr. Melvin O. Marriner,
Grove Church
March 2017

“Can God really clean up the mess in my life? Am I so important to Him that He would hear my voice above all the other voices that call on Him every day? Do I make a difference to Him when so many others seem to have more significant issues than I? Should I really bother Him if I don’t really have much faith? Can God do a few miracles for me? If I don’t have money to give will He still hear me?”

We often hear of God’s power but question whether or not He can do what He says He is able to do. Sometimes when we ask the question can God we do so with hope and other times with hopelessness even resignation wondering if He really is a can do God!

In Psalm 78:19 our writer makes an interesting statement: “They spoke against God” because they questioned His ability when the Israelites were walking in the wilderness and had no food. They even asked, “Can God furnish a table in the wilderness?” They questioned God’s ability to do something when they saw nothing. But God can do anything with nothing. Perhaps they forgot about Creation: “In the beginning God created” everything – and He did it from nothing. Nothing!

God has unlimited resources and might that exceed anything we can imagine. And we must not forget His unlimited love! So, when we add His resources to His might and mix in His love then add His wisdom with the plan He has laid out for each of us, it is not “CAN GOD” – it is GOD CAN! Our God is a CAN DO GOD!
Visit us at: SowerMinistries.org

HAMPTON ROADS
The Male Chorus of St. Mark AME Church in Virginia Beach celebrated their 44th anniversary Sunday (March 26) with a spirit-filled gospel concert. The packed show featured Ricky White’s Fully Committed, who celebrated their 9th anniversary with a concert at Mt. Gilead Baptist Church in Norfolk last weekend, headliner Daryl Harris and the Original Vocalaires, Providence Male Chorus, Little Piney Grove Male Chorus, and the St. Mark Praise Dancers.

The Male Chorus of St. Mark AME has remained a committed group over the years with a profound love for praising God in spirit and song. Chorus president Cleveland Blount, Ricky White, and Daryl Harris and the Original Vocalaires all thanked the New Journal and Guide for covering the concert and they urged our readers to continue to support their musical outreach ministries.

By Randy Singleton
Community Affairs Correspondent

Fully Committed
Original Vocalaires

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