What’s An Idol?

Most of us probably don’t make a connection between our favorite activities and the Bible’s definition of an idol.

We’re probably even content to pawn off our neighbor’s statue of the Virgin Mary as God’s idea of what a “graven image.” But the term idol is mentioned or alluded to so many times in the Bible – even in the 10 Commandments – that worshiping them must be a pretty serious offense!

So, before we discuss what an idol is, let’s first talk about what it isn’t, starting with those carved sculptures that are mentioned so much in the Old Testament. Sure, for those cultures that use them, they can be idols too, but they’re only a representation of the modern issues we’re dealing with today.

Second, let’s look at a passage that best defines what an idol is. Colossians 3:5 says it’s “everything that belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed” (NIV). Simply put, an idol is anything we live or swear by which keeps us from truly serving and worshiping God. So, chances are, there are elements of our daily routines which have “idol” written all over them (sorry, but that nightly smoke you “need” to get to sleep? That qualifies too).

Here are five things you probably didn’t know are idols:

  1. Your horoscope. It’s got the First Commandment written all over it. We’re not supposed to worship the image of anything that’s “in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth,” and astrology certainly fits that description. One reason it’s bad: it limits your potential. If you think you’ve got no more capabilities than a goat, then how are you ever going to walk on water?
  2. Television and media images. Yes, I know you’re really into that show, and you also think you can’t live without your Xbox. But entertainment and social media has taken on a life of their own, and these days, unfortunately, there’s very little reality or God in them. Idols created by the entertainment industry now influence almost everything in society, from lifestyle choices to career pursuits. Its images can be as extreme as porn, or as violent as your favorite video game. But they can also be simple images repeated over time, like the thin blonde girl symbolizing universal beauty, or the African American man in handcuffs symbolizing universal fear. These images become idols which influence thought. They illicit desire, disparage a race or gender, create a false reality, or negatively influence our ideas about absolutely everything and everyone – even Jesus. Psalm 97:7 (ESV) lets us know that “All worshipers of images are put to shame, who make their boast in worthless idols.”
  3. Bad habits. Drugs, alcohol and other addictions; phobias, sickness, family history, overeating, uncontrolled emotions, thoughts…the list goes on. How many times have we heard (or said) statements like:

“I just can’t handle [insert phobia here]: that’s just how I am”, or

“We Smiths are [insert vice here]”, or

“My Mom and Grandma had [insert illness here], so I will too…”

Whatever limiting thoughts and ideas we allow ourselves to attach to are not only idols, but they can also influence the way our children and grandchildren think about themselves too (Exodus  20:5).

  1. Society’s norms. Gluttony, racism, oppression, and yes, casual sex; the practices we engage in and ideas we adopt which go against God’s instructions for our lives not only limit our own potential, but also the growth and potential of others.
  2. Money. This is a big one. Yes, it’s part of survival in our society. But love of money is another thing entirely. Jesus makes it plain in Matthew 6:24 that it’s impossible to live for greed and God at the same time. Greed has been at the heart of man’s endeavors from the beginning of time, and manifests itself in a variety of ways, from slavery to economic recession. If the motivation behind any action is monetary gain, as opposed to the intrinsic good of all mankind, then that action becomes an idol. From manufacturing a seed, to building a business, to developing a community or governing a nation: if God didn’t ordain it, then man’s probably in it for profit and control, and its effects diminish and destroy God’s people and His Will for the earth.

Idolatry keeps us from finding true liberty and freedom in Christ, and prevents us and future generations from being all we’re created to be (Exodus 20:2-5). “There are ways which seem right to a man, but in the end are the ways of death” (Proverbs 14:12 and 16:25). That passage defines idolatry in a nutshell, and God seemed to believe the message was so important for us to understand, He sent it twice! But in Proverbs 19:21, He also makes it clear that, in spite of man’s ways, it’s only God’s methods that triumph.

So save yourself years of trials and anguish: drop the idols and do things His way.

Little League World Series becomes showcase for black youth

It was the second out in a game-ending double play. The first baseman from the Great Lakes Region Little League team left his left foot behind, touching the base, as he stretched out to catch the baseball floating his way. By the time the play was over, he was laid out, stomach down in the dirt, with the ball snuggled in his glove.

By the time the play was over, the Jackie Robinson Park All-Stars from Chicago, Illinois, had booked a date in the Little League World Series final.

And for the first time, in what seems likes months, we see 13 young, black faces on the television screen, emerged out of one of the most dangerous areas in the country, headed down the path of success.

What a joyous sight it is.

For the past two weeks, the Little League World Series has garnered major air time on both ESPN and ABC. In recent years, ESPN has, in fact, featured the youth event in its television lineup, including color commentary and analysis from some of its most esteemed baseball minds.

This year, the event received a jolt of life from two unlikely areas–Chicago and Philadelphia–and one unlikely player–Mo’ne Davis.

Let’s talk about Chicago and the Jackie Robinson Park boys first.

The team’s namesake, in essence, says it all. Jackie Robinson, an alum of UCLA, was the first modern era black player in Major League Baseball. He entered the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962, ten years before his death. HIs number, 42, is retired across the MLB and on Jackie Robinson Day, every player in the league wears 42 for the day.

Enter Jackie Robinson West, an all-black park team with an all-black coaching staff playing a predominantly white sport.

At the beginning of the 2014 MLB season, according to the Pew Research Center, 8.3 percent of players were black. In 2012, blacks made up 7.2 percent of players and in that same year, whites made up 63.9 percent of the MLB.

Now, that’s not to say that blacks are somehow being held out of baseball. A majority of black youth are partial to basketball and football, and we can see that with the number of black players that make up the NBA (nearly 80 percent in 2011) and the NFL (nearly 70 percent in 2011). Both sports tend to be cheaper than baseball and provide more of an opportunity for instant gratification, in the form of a dunk or highlight-reel catch.

But this group of 12- and 13-year olds has bucked that trend tremendously, going 5-1 in the LLWS before reaching the LLWS final again Seoul, South Korea.

In fact, the Chicago boys lost 13-2 to Nevada in their second game of the tournament, and their next four matchups served as elimination games. In the U.S. final, facing Nevada once again, Chicago exacted revenge, winning, 7-5.

And let’s not forget one crucial point: this team is from the south side of Chicago. The side that you hear about for all the wrong reasons. The side synonymous with gang culture and black-on-black crime. The side where 9-year old Antonio Smith was killed in a shooting on Aug. 21.

This group of talented boys, a few years removed from high school and hopefully college, deserves a wealth of credit for their perseverance, tenacity, and skill on the baseball diamond. And even though they lost in the title game to Seoul, 8-4, they’ve turned an unlikely journey into a source of pride for the black community on a nationwide scale, a ray of light in a dark time.

And if that wasn’t enough, there is one more youngster–a little black girl–who has given us something to smile about as well.

Her name is Mo’ne Davis. She’s 13. She’s the only girl in the LLWS. And if you haven’t seen or heard of her, take a look at this video below:

Mo’ne don’t play.

And in the past two weeks, the outpouring of support from Davis nationwide has been immense. Michelle Obama, Ellen Degeneres, Magic Johnson and Dodgers’ pitcher Clayton Kershaw are among the names that have taken to Twitter to laud Davis’ skill and positive attitude towards the game.

While Davis is a standout in baseball, however, she says that her favorite sports are soccer and basketball. She hopes to play basketball at the University of Connecticut.

Davis saw her run to the LLWS final come to an end when her Philadelphia team fell to Jackie Robinson, 6-5. But the buzz Davis created, as the lone girl in this year’s LLWS, will last a lifetime.

Our attention, as a community, has been aimed at the happenings in Ferguson, Missouri. A young man’s life was lost, and if anything is worthy of our attention, it’s that.

But there are times, that in the midst of tragedy and injustice, our tunnel vision allows us to overlook some of the good that is still happening among our youth. The Jackie Robinson All-Stars and Mo’ne Davis, if anything, are worthy of a smile and head nod. It’s worth it to know that this special group of kids is making their families and cities proud, regardless of skin color.

So while we continue to pray for justice in the case of Michael Brown, let’s also give thanks to God, for blessing us with a group of young superstars, as they continue on their journey to greatness, the first steps in the journey having taken place right in front of our eyes.

Bishop Blake Calls for Peace, Prayer in the Wake of Michael Brown Shooting

Bishop Charles E. Blake on Thursday issued a request for prayer regarding the shooting of Ferguson, Missouri teenager Michael Brown, as the nation continues to keep its eyes on the happenings surrounding Brown’s death.

Below is Bishop Blake’s statement:

The Church of God in Christ (COGIC) joins the family of Michael Brown in asking for calm and peace in the aftermath of the shooting and killing of their son. Eighteen year old Brown, known as a “gentle giant,” was only days away from beginning his college studies.

It is imperative that the community resist the temptation to retaliate by looting and rioting in our own neighborhoods. Instead, we must allow the St. Louis County Police Department and the FBI’s investigations, regarding the senseless death of this young African American male to go forward.

The destruction of property in Ferguson, Missouri only hurts our communities and places more lives at risk. Furthermore, this riotous behavior takes away attention and resources from these extremely critical investigations.

I ask that we all remain patient and wait for the results of the investigations. During the next few days, please avoid settings that may put you at risks in any way.

Most importantly, please remember to pray for Michael’s family, especially his parents, Michael Brown, Sr. and Lesley McSpadden, as they prepare to lay their son to rest.

Living Through Affliction- Bishop Charles E. Blake

Presiding Bishop Charles E. Blake speaks on living through affliction.  He explains how we can overcome any affliction.

Forgive- Bishop Charles E. Blake

Are you able to forgive the person that has harmed you?  Bishop Blake gives points on forgiveness.

Christ Prayer for The Preservation of His Followers- Bishop Charles E. Blake

Christ Prayer for The Preservation of His Followers – Bishop Charles E. Blake

Expect Your Miracle- Bishop Charles E. Blake

Can you expect your miracle from God?  Presiding Bishop Blake speaks on how to expect your miracle from God.

Blacks Are Not Domestic Terrorists #JusticeForMikeBrown

After the fatal police shooting of unarmed 18-year-old Missouri teen Michael “Big Mike” Brown, President Obama urged people to have a discussion ‘in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds.’” 

So, what healing discussion should we have? Perhaps one that says: we are not what the media depicts us to be.

Once word got out that Brown had lost his life in close range at the hand of Ferguson, Missouri Officer Darren Wilson, nine people ranging in age from 19-38 took to looting and rioting Foot Locker and Princess Beauty Supply Store–each of the nine face felony charges relating to burglary and theft along West Florissant.

But if you recall media reports over the first few days of after Brown had been slain, the entire Ferguson County was up in arms and no one was safe.

Do the majority of black people agree with looting and/or rioting? No. That is never the answer. And according to Professor Brittney Cooper, “the answer also isn’t preaching to black people about ‘black-on-black’ crime without full acknowledgment that most crime is intraracial. The answer is not having a higher standard for the people than for the police.”

It seems that when black people get mad when unarmed teenagers are gunned down, the spectator response to looting rioting is “you’re driving business away,” from conservative commentators like Glenn Beck. There is a voice that is being stifled and when our black president finally comments, as mildly as he did, you have commentators like Todd Starnes from FOX news saying, “Pres. Obama is just looking out for his people.”

Which people are you referring to, Todd? The American people or black people?

When black people can’t see clearly through painful eyes and take to looting or other forms of expression, they are labeled as domestic terrorists. But when right-wing “terrorists” in America blow up abortion clinics, shoot Jewish community centers, encourage modern day KKK meetings or cut off the water supply to people in Detroit, they are following their constitutional right to have freedom of expression. The facts don’t lie.

Marc Lamont Hill, a writer and host for the Huffington Posts says, “A Black man in America is killed every 28 hours by police or vigilantes. THAT, not rioting, is domestic terrorism…”

The issue is finding a way to move past the anger. Anger is what makes people act out in ways that they wish they hadn’t in retrospect. But how do you comfort growing negative feelings towards a nonchalant judicial system? The reality is for the black community is that the justice system simply does not measure up to our standards. Numerous cases of unsolved murders, no due process or restitution for a victim’s loved ones are what the black community sees regularly. These emotions cannot be put into words because while prejudice towards black people does exist, it’s rare to find an openly racist cop or a judge. The prejudice is nuanced; it’s woven into the system, and it builds with each interaction until, at last, it results in unequal justices.

There is no comfort that can arrive fast enough, or resolve that can come quick enough. People are concerned for their black husbands, sons and brothers.

Brittney Cooper says, “I refuse to condemn the folks engaged in these acts, because I respect black people’s right to cry out, shout and be mad as hell that another one of our kids is dead at the hands of the police. The police mantra is ‘to serve and to protect.’ But with black folks, we know that’s not the mantra. The mantra for many, many officers when dealing with black people is apparently, ‘kill or be killed.'”

But again, we are not what the media depicts us to be. We are strong descendants from King and Queens of Africa. We are trailblazers in technology, music, medicine, sports, art and chosen heirs to the Father’s Kingdom.

Malcolm West, 26, tells West Angles Online, “I took place in the Hands Up Don’t Shoot rally right where it all happened. Don’t believe what you are seeing in the media. Things are peaceful. No one is rioting or looting.”

Married couple, Cory James, 30 and Rebecca James, 35, both agreed that the city was as peaceful as it has ever been. Rebecca says, “All the years spent in St. Louis, living in the inner-city and suburbs of St. Louis, I have a diverse perspective of how this city runs. The air here is peaceful. People are looking out for one another, sharing their food or water with each other [during the protest].” Cory says, “taking part in this rally made me feel like justice was prevailing. Outside of marriage and conceiving a child, this is the most exciting experience ever in life. My wife and I feel like the new era Civil Rights Activists.”

Hands Up Rally in New York

HandsUpRallyNY
Hands up don’t shoot in Kansas City

HandsUpRallyKansasCity

Most media outlets are designed to incite an outcry and not necessarily designed to report the news. Stories are fabricated, wounds altered. But we cannot let our emotions get caught up in a situation that may not exist. Continue to pray and protest peacefully. Hold your loved ones a little tighter and believe that better days are coming.

Remember the God you serve. Remember His promises to you. Hold on to His faithfulness.

Member Testimony: Jacques McNeil

“The brevity of life and the inevitability of death should cause men to pursue noble and worthwhile goals.”  – Bishop Charles E. Blake

As women, we sometimes have a tough time balancing our different roles on a daily basis: wife, mother, career woman, daughter, sister, and friend. Adding to the list can start to unravel our already harried lives.

But Los Angeles resident Jacques McNeil is finding that balance by weaving family and friends into ministry and discipleship. A West Angeles member for over 30 years, McNeil has found a support system within the church, serving in various ministries including the Young Women’s Christian Council, the Overcomers Sunday School Class, and the Evangelism Department.

Now an aspiring Evangelist Missionary, McNeil is founder of W.I.T.N.E.S.S. Book Club, a Christian women’s group with a two-fold purpose: to encourage women to live victorious, Godly lives through studying the bible and reading books by Christian authors, and to create sisterhood among its members. “WITNESS” is an acronym for “Women Inspired Through Networking Elements, Sister To Sister”.

McNeil is an Instructional Designer with UCLA Health Systems, and also works alongside her husband, Elder David McNeil, at 1 Soul At A Time Ministries. Through their work at 1 Soul, they merge their expertise, skills and anointing to serve as consultants to both individuals and organizations, offering support in a variety of service areas including leadership, ministry and business development, customer service, and conflict resolution. They are the proud parents of one beautiful and brilliant daughter, Micaela.

We spent some time with Mrs. McNeil who shared with us her testimony and journey:

Q: How did your family upbringing and Midwestern roots shape the woman you’ve become? I was born and raised in Canton, Ohio and I was the third of four children. My childhood was amazing. Family gatherings at our home were a central part of life. There was much fun, laughter and a diverse group of family and friends who I had the pleasure of learning from. We attended Shiloh Baptist church as a family, and during evening services, we attended Pentecost Temple COGIC, where Elder Lee Nucklos was Pastor, and my grandmother was an intercessor and Mother of the Church.

My parents instilled in my siblings and me the importance of serving those less fortunate, and they were intentional about exposing us to various cultures. My parents were extremely active in our church and in our community. That really inspired me to also be compassionate, to be at ease with diversity, and to have faith in the impossible. At the age of 13, my parents moved to Los Angeles, due to my father’s health challenges. So my experiences in both [cities] have really shaped every aspect of who I am today.

Q:  How did you choose West Angeles as your place of worship? Several years after my family moved to Los Angeles we started attending West Angeles Church of God In Christ. I was 20 and in college when I was led to rededicate my life to The Lord and to become a member of West Angeles. The “West Angeles Experience” was unlike anything I had ever encountered in my life. The music, the programs, the members, and Bishop’s unique style of teaching the Word of God in a way that was relatable, truly ministered to me.

 Regardless of your story, God loves you and has amazing things in store for you.

Q: You founded W.I.T.N.E.S.S. Book Club back in 1995, but a few years ago, you had an experience which shifted the work of the group’s ministry. Please share that story with us.  In January 2008, I awakened with an idea to deliver sack lunches to people on Skid Row. Our daughter Micaela was 6 years old at the time, and I wanted to introduce her to the importance of serving and giving to those less fortunate. She and I prepared the lunches and, with my husband David, we went to Skid Row to hand them out.

We distributed between 20-25 lunches that day, and the very last lunch handed out was to a young woman. As I handed it to her, she asked if I had any sanitary products, which I did not. She then said, “They give us diapers for that time of the month.” I was so appalled. The women seemed to feel totally degraded. I immediately told the story to the members of W.I.T.N.E.S.S., and suggested that we create personal hygiene gift bags to be distributed on Skid Row on Mother’s Day weekend.

We purchased various items, including feminine products, deodorant, tooth paste, and witnessing tracts, and we prepared 35 beautiful gift bags to deliver to the women that year.

Since its inception, this program has grown exponentially. We now receive corporate donations annually, and this year we were able to create nearly 500 “Bags of Love,” as we call them now. We not only delivered them to women on Skid Row, but to female veterans at the Veterans’ Administration in Westwood, and to women who live in Councilman Curren Price’s 9th District, the lowest-income district in Los Angeles. This year, thanks to the outpouring of donations and support, we were able to include Bibles in the bags as well. God is good and it’s an honor to be a vessel to bless His children.

SLIDESHOW:

Q: Has being a part of West Angeles helped you grow spiritually? If so, how?  Yes! By being an active member of West Angeles, I have grown in ways that I never imagined. Whether attending Sunday School, PCL, Bible College, 6 a.m. Prayer, Shut-In’s, Pastor’s Teaching; witnessing on the streets of LA, on Skid Row, at Convalescent homes, transition homes; or praying, fasting, reading and studying the word of God, my spiritual growth since becoming a member has been constant and enjoyable, and it has equipped me to stand amidst life’s challenges and trials. As a result of the ministry here at West Angeles, the love and consistency of Bishop and Sister Blake, and the excellence in which everything is executed here at West Angeles, I have been challenged to launch my own ministry, and to be a living witness to share the good news of Jesus Christ to everyone I meet.

Q: What parting words would you share with other women who are looking to make a change in their lives, but do not know where to start? To quote Bishop Blake, “The brevity of life and the inevitability of death should cause men to pursue noble and worthwhile goals.”  I believe we are all born with and for a purpose. We all have unique gifts, talents and specific God-ordained goals to accomplish, and because of the brevity of life, we really only have a short window of time to accomplish these goals, and to impact the lives of those in our circle of influence. I live my life with this at the forefront of my mind. All that I do on a daily basis should reflect that I have spent time with the Lord, and bring glory to God.

I enjoy and am passionate about the things that I am called to do, and that alone makes it all worthwhile. In parting, I would like to remind my sisters in Christ that they are fearfully and wonderfully made, in God’s image. Regardless of their “story,” God loves them and He has amazing things in store for them and for them to do. There is someone, somewhere, waiting to hear your story, to receive your words of encouragement, and to be blessed by your business acumen or parenting skills.

My sisters, be intentional about seeking the Lord and identifying your God-ordained purpose. As you do, the lives which you impact will be endless, and you will experience a level of joy and fulfillment that is second to none.

 

DID YOU KNOW?

West Angeles needs YOU!  There are more than 25 ministries and departments at West Angeles.  To get involved, please click HERE.