The Holy Spirit is the Treasure Within You

By Nick Westbrooks

Interpreted by Rev. Dr. Earl D. Trent Jr.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us, we are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. –2 Corinthians 4:7-10

It was an amazing testimony of the human spirit when Manteo Mitchell broke his left fibula while running his final 200 meters of the preliminary 4×400 meter relay. Most runners would have stopped once they felt the pop and limped off of the track. But determined by his teammates’ dependence, he fought through the pain and finished his leg, allowing Team USA to make the finals. They would eventually earn a silver medal in the event.

Mitchell’s human spirit was the force that helped him finish the race. As followers of Christ, we are filled with the Holy Spirit. It is the force that keeps us going day after ordinary day.

Take the apostle Paul, the author of the first and second books of Corinthians. Before changing his name and undergoing a life-changing experience, Paul was a Pharisee named Saul who used to persecute the same people he advocated for when he was writing to the church of Corinth.

After his life-changing experience, Paul became a missionary, building churches and spreading the word of Jesus Christ. Throughout his transformation and ministry, Paul faced challenges that he had to overcome through only the power of God inside of him.

Paul lets the church know that it was not him that overcame his obstacles. He puts this idea into perspective by comparing the physical body to frail and easily-broken jars of clay filled with a valuable treasure—the spirit and power of God (v7).

Paul’s analogy is a reminder for us today as we endure struggles and challenges daily. It is not us that gets us through tough times, but it is God’s power within us that is the driving force. We are mere frail, vulnerable and easily-broken jars of clay. But in our brokeness, the Holy Spirit inside of us provides the power to finish our race.

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Mature Faith in the Time of Adversity

By Nick Westbrooks

As interpreted by Rev. Peggy Fields

Habakkuk 3:16-19

In the book of Habakkuk, the writer talks to God on behalf of the people of Judah. The prophet Habakkuk questions God and wonders why He allows righteous people to suffer and endure so much evil throughout the land (Chp 1:2-4).

God responds to Habakkuk by telling him that the individuals engaged in the evil activity will eventually be judged. Meanwhile, the people of faith will await the “revelation” to be fulfilled as the earth becomes filled “with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord…” He encourages Habakkuk as well as his followers to be patient and trust Him.

Just like the people of Judah, many of us now tend to question God and wonder why He allows righteous people to suffer and those who practice evil appear to be prosperous. We question why we can have “three college degrees and be unemployed,” why a couple “can divorce after 25 years of marriage,” how adults can get away with abusing children and how a gunmen can kill 12 people in a movie theater.

Instead of asking why, we should remind ourselves of who God is. We must be like the people of Judah and be patient and trust the Lord. Trust God even when we don’t understand what He’s doing. God’s plans are often different from our own, and quite frankly, better than ours.

Don’t worry about the evil in the world for God has everything under control. With the Lord’s strength, we will survive these trying times. “When you don’t understand God, rest in it. Don’t rebel. Your arms are too short to box with God.”

Watch the Throne: Closing the Black Male Generational Gaps

At a time when Black boys suffer from the conspiracy of their destruction, the guidance from the older generations of strong Black men is much needed. The disconnect between our young brothers (myself included) and the older brothers is most prevalent among African American males.

The generational disunion between Blacks was engrained in our psyches about 300 years ago by an ingenious slave trainer named Willie Lynch. Na’im Akbar writes about the systematical strategy to divide the slave community as a form of control in his highly important book Breaking the Chains of Psychological Slavery, and he mentions age as a primary detachment.

This isn’t the time to go in detail about our mental enslavement, but I do urge you to read Dr. Akbar’s book. Instead, this is a space to remind my brothers that we must challenge the “divide–and-conquer” strategy by closing the generational gaps. Accordingly, I commend the Rev. Tyrone P. Jones, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Guilford in Columbia, MD.

He attempted to bring this goal into fruition by organizing and uniting the male members and visitors of the church. The “100 Men in Black” Sunday brought Black men together in solidarity, and it was a call for the older brothers to close the generational gaps by teaching the younger brothers and preparing them for the future.

In his sermon Jones said, “Every man has the responsibility to pass on something worthwhile to that of a younger generation.” As men, we should heed this message to prepare the throne for our counterparts coming after us and to fulfill our purpose.

Every man has the responsibility to pass on something worthwhile to that of a younger generation.

No matter how effectively a man leads or performs his duties, he can’t and shouldn’t hold on to power forever. Eventually, he will have to give up the crown and the throne to someone else. In order for the next “king” to lead effectively, the incumbent man in power must prepare him effectively.

Additionally, knowledge and wisdom should be passed on to younger generations, because God commands it. As Jones proclaimed, “God is looking for your willingness to give to others.”

God is looking for your willingness to give to others.

With negative images in entertainment and news, Black boys need positive Black men doing positive things to be their role models and to be the images to emulate.  Although the younger generations should be watching the throne, these exemplar men have to reach out to boys and young men and show their genuine compassion and care. All young Black males, whether privileged or underserved, need positive, strong Black men to express their love and concern for their futures and wellbeing.

Just as men should reach out to the younger generations, boys should “watch the throne” by being willing to learn and to grow from the older men’s lessons. One day, they will be the men in charge. Without Black men at the heads of their communities with strong Black women beside them, (I didn’t forget about the sisters) we can’t advance, break the chains of psychological slavery deeply imbedded in our minds and fulfill the Creator’s will.

We have our age differences, but we can’t forget about the divisions among our peers. We must put aside our differences in how much money we make, where we live and what organizations we are members of. United, we make each other better men. I think of that classic collaboration of Ginuwine, R.L., Tyrese and Case where they sing: “What can a brother do for me? He can help me be the best man I can be.”

We Are One: Unity in the Body of Christ

But speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Him who is the head, that is Christ. From Him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself in love, as each part does its work. –Ephesians 4: 15-16

Today I visited Florida Avenue Baptist Church in northwest D.C. for the first time. The guest preacher, the Rev. Janelle Thompson delivered her sermon from the scripture above. The title of the message was “We Are One.”

As the apostle Paul wrote at the start of the fifteenth verse, we should speak the truth in love rather than deceiving and scheming one another. Focusing on that part of the text, Thompson stressed the importance of doing everything out of love. “Without love, what good is what we say or do?” We are able to do everything with love when we feel and identify with love.

The core of the message was the notion that all of God’s people are united as one body in Christ. Here in verse fifteen going into verse sixteen, the writer Paul compares our connection with each other to the anatomy of the human body. Christ is the “Head”, and his people are the “ligaments” joined together through Him. Whether you’ve studied anatomy or not, you know that the body doesn’t function if all of its parts aren’t working together. The same holds true in terms of our progression and relationships with one another.

In the church’s role of spreading the Gospel, all of its members are individuals and have individual gifts. The ideas and perspectives of the individuals usually aren’t homogenous. Despite our differences, we all must be willing to be joined together through Christ’s love with the common goal of delivering the good news and developing our faith.

As Thompson said in her sermon, “The Lord made us different so we can come together in our differences.” Since we are all God’s people—not judged by our social or economic status—we all have value and a purpose regardless of who we are in the secular world. This means listening to and respecting others opinions.

This message of unity can be applied to other instances in the secular world. Many people are employed at jobs where they don’t like their bosses or co-workers, but united under that company, they work together to provide a service and to earn a paycheck for doing so. Too often we see single parents who dislike their baby’s mother of father, but they must be united with the common goal of rearing their child to be the best that he or she can be. Additionally, we can apply this to our human rights movements for freedom and equality. History has proven that mass movements for civil rights and political revolutions were only successful through the unity of its participants.

The soul artist Maze was most likely singing about a romantic relationship in his classic “We Are One.” “We are one, no matter what we do / we are one, love will see us through / we are one, and that’s the way it is.” This too applies to us in a broader sense. I also think of Earth, Wind and Fire’s song “Fantasy.” “And we will live together / until the twelfth of never / our voices will ring forever as one.”  The combination of our gifts, talents and perspectives are valuable individually, but they are the most effective when they’re combined as one. Maurice White and Philip Bailey could have had successful solo careers, but not to the magnitude of EWF’s.

Remember, no matter what the goal or objective is, we each have a specific purpose and gift to contribute. We must unite as one body despite our differences or else we won’t achieve our common goal. If we don’t move together, we won’t move at all.

If we don’t move together, we won’t move at all.

Faith of Our Mothers Part 2: From Pain to Power

At the beginning of our Mother’s Day service at Calvary Baptist, we had a special alter prayer for the mothers and their children. Sons, daughters and grandchildren stood next to each other, touching and agreeing while the pastor prayed for their faithfulness, unity and encouragement. After the alter prayer, everyone returned to their seats and had a moment of silence for the mothers who were not among us anymore.

The assistant pastor also suggested that we pray for those mothers who may be going through painful times. I prayed for the mothers who passed and for the mothers enduring pain. In particular, I lifted up the mothers who lost children, and that time of meditation reminded me of a recent story in The Final Call.

The article told the stories of mothers who lost children to violence and how they are turning that pain into power; using their faith to remain hopeful while leading the movement to prevent other mothers from feeling that pain.

Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin, lost her son in February when he was shot and killed by a neighborhood watchman. She has dealt with the pain by reminding herself that “God is still in control.” She said she would tell mothers who lost children to “read their Bible, remain prayerful and keep pushing forward.”

Dealing with the pain of losing a child is unimaginable and has to be increasingly overwhelming on Mother’s Day, a day that is suppose to be a joyous time where children show their appreciation towards their mothers. But the faith of Ms. Fulton and the many other mothers is the catalyst that transforms their pain into power.

Wanda Johnson’s son, Oscar Grant, was shot and killed in 2008 on a train station platform by a former Bay Area Rapid Transit District officer. Johnson attributes her strength to endure and remain hopeful to her faith.

“Had I not had a relationship with the Lord, I probably would have fallen into depression.”

She also said that prayer not only gave her power through God but it gave her the strength to encourage others. The article entitled “Mother Love Conquers Adversity” also told the stories of Theresa Williamson, Valerie Bell, Enola Causey and Wanda Hawkins, all mothers who lost their children to violence but found power in their faith.

As I reflect on this subject, I think of Nardyne Jefferies, the mother of 16-year-old Brishell Jones who was gunned down in a drive-by shooting in southeast Washington, D.C. in 2010. I met Ms. Jefferies a couple of months ago when she spoke to the male students in the chapel at Howard University on the wake of the Trayvon Martin shooting. We prayed with her, and it was evident that her faith was keeping her grounded during those trying times.

I also think of the mothers of Tylik Pugh, Saahron Jones, Shakur Prince, Sha’Ron Jackson, Jonathan Paraison and the several other names from around my way who are gone but never forgotten. My prayer is that those mothers find the faith and peace to turn their pain into power on this Mother’s Day.

My heart goes out to all mothers who may be experiencing the pain of lost. Lord willing they keep pushing forward, remain faithful and keep the memory of their children alive so another mother will not have to experience the same pain.

Happy Mother’s Day

Peace

Faith of Our Mothers: Part One

Last year, I stayed on campus for Mother’s Day, but this year I made sure I was home to sit next to my mother and grandmother in church on Sunday. Along with sitting next to two of my favorite girls, I was highly anticipating the Mother’s Day word from my dear pastor, the Rev. Dr. Dwight C. Northington.

Referencing 2 Timothy, the preacher focused on the first chapter and the fifth verse in which Jesus remembers the “unfeigned faith” of Timothy’s mother, Eunice and grandmother, Lois. The “unfeigned faith” of the two biblical mothers is the faith that our mothers should strive to achieve. This is the same faith that is sung about in that classic congregational hymn that churches sing every year at this time, “Faith of Our Mothers.”

We were encouraged to pray for our mothers, for they “go through many things men wouldn’t go through.” The biggest task of them all, the pastor said, is carrying a child for nearly a year and giving birth: “Lord have mercy, I know brothers couldn’t deal with that nine months of kicking and moving.” I know I could not deal with it. Women are especially blessed with the God-given ability to bring forth life.

There was a word of encouragement for our mothers who face unfortunate circumstances with their children. Whether the child is not doing right or the child’s father is not doing right, the preacher man urged those mothers to not let the negative hand they have been dealt to interfere with the love of their children.

In order to survive those troubling times, mothers “must have unwavering faith in Jesus Christ, a faith that is deeply grounded in the word of God.” Also in the words of the reverend,

“Don’t hit the panic button, hit the prayer button.”

Having that steadfast faith, that faith of Eunice and Lois, means mothers should bring their children to the house of the Lord so they may learn about Jesus and learn that “God is good.” Not only should mothers bring their children to church and Sunday school, but they should come and learn WITH their children. In this manner, mothers adhere to Proverbs 22:6 which instructs parents to “train up a child in the way that he should go…”

Every day should be Mother’s Day. On this day, we should pray for their continued strength and be thankful for their faithfulness and nurturing love. Most importantly, we should honor our mothers just as the Word says. I pray that all mothers be encouraged and continue to have genuine faith.

Look out for part two.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Fear is Preparation

Earlier this week, I briefly conversed with an OG (original gentleman). He asked me about school and when I’m supposed to graduate. I told him I would be graduating in December, which is not a long time from now. He then asked that dreaded question that many prospective graduates hate to hear: “What are your plans after graduation?” I have some idea of what I want to do, but my goals are not specific, so I simply responded, “I don’t know.”

His response to me was “I bet that’s scary.” With less than eight months until graduation, I undoubtedly agreed with him. At this point, he shared with me a jewel about dealing with fear. He started out by asking, “When an animal becomes afraid, what does it do? It tenses up.” The OG explained that when an animal tenses up, it means that it is either preparing itself to either attack or run away. Furthermore, he said that when you are experiencing fear, it only means that you are in preparation. Therefore, fear is something to embrace, not to be afraid of.

I believe my fear lies in the uncertainty of the future and the unknown. I have somewhat overcome the fear of failure, but I have struggled with not knowing what I specifically want to do with my life, or rather what God’s will is for my life. While time was passing me by, I have not been making the moves I need to in order to establish a career where I am earning a living while changing the world.

The words from the OG reminded me of a sermon that I heard sometime last year. The preacher stressed the importance of distinguishing between concern and worry. I have to learn how to eliminate the worry from my mind and only allow he spirit of concern to dwell in me. I cannot allow myself to be become worried about the future. With concern and no worry, I maintain the faith that God will supply my needs and provide guidance while using the power He has given me to take steps towards doing His will.

I agree with the famous quote from President FDR’s inaugural speech: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” My attitude towards fear may hinder me from reaching my fullest potential. 2 Timothy 1:7 says, “For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” In accordance with this scripture, I am not embracing fear as an acceptable emotion, but I am embracing it as a feeling that can be transformed from something negative into something positive.

As I attempt to transform the spirit of fear into a spirit of power and rely on the success of my faith, I recognize that fear should be received rather than rejected, and I remind myself that I am preparing to make major moves, and God is preparing me for those moves. All I have to do is stay prayed up, educate my mind, leave everything in the God’s hands and simply be cool like I know how to do.