There are many things we need to get rid of in our lives. Presiding Bishop speaks about Dump Day. This is a time to clean out your closet and replace everything that has weighed you down for years.
Elder Henderson couldn’t have said it any better.
“They want to be all up on Facebook but can’t put their face in this book,” said Elder Uleses Henderson, motioning to the Bible in front of him as he preached the 8 a.m. service on New Generation Sunday.
New Generation Sunday, held this past weekend at West Angeles, was dedicated solely to uplifting the next generation of worshippers. The New Generation Choir ruled the day musically. The message, delivered by Elder Henderson and Elder Lawrence Blake at 8 a.m. and 11 a.m., respectively, was aimed at pumping life and inspiration into every youngster that walked through the doors on Sunday.
Henderson’s message was entitled, “The Making of a Champion.” It served the purpose of confronting many of the youth’s most popular vices, encouraging the young generation to stray away from its fascination with scandalous social media techniques and television that paints a negative depiction of black people, and actively seek a stronger relationship with God.
Henderson’s message was highlighted by a number of references to the Bible and popular culture. Here are a few that stuck out to me:
“It’s hard to get kids to focus. They rather keep up with the Kardashians than keep up with their schoolwork. Society is teaching our kids that the quickest way to get to the top is to lay on your bottom.”
“Young girls can relate to Rihanna, but not to church. The youth can do the Shmoney dance but can’t read scripture.”
“Satan is busy. Society isn’t doing a good job of teaching the youth that Satan is real.”
“It amazes me that God believes in us but we struggle to believe in him.”
“Even when we’re backsliding, he’s still right there to say, ‘I believe in you.'”
“There’s a difference between being knocked down and being knocked out. If you’re knocked down, you get back up…Young people, you have to refused to be knocked out.”
“The devil is a dirty fighter. He’ll hit you with everything he’s got. But with God on your side, you’re always going to come away victorious…You might walk away with a few scars, but a scar is nothing but a healed wound.”
“Don’t compare yourself to others. God has something for me and he has something for you. Stay in your lane and on your own course.”
“Don’t disqualify yourself. The only way to lose the race is if you quit. God called you to the race for a reason. You’re already a winner before you got in the race.”
“We need a few haters around. God says in the Bible, ‘You prepare a table for me in the presence of my enemies.’ If you don’t have any haters, maybe you’re closer to Satan than you think.”
“Young, black men have enough energy to make a baby but not enough energy to take care of one…We need to teach our kids to be finishers.”
New Generation Sunday was truly a blessing, and the energy in the church, anchored by a mixture of young and veteran worshippers, was a sight to behold.
Until next year!
There couldn’t be a better time for renewed focus on strengthening and celebrating the Christian family.
A whopping 78 percent of Americans identify as Christian, and after decades of unparalleled trials, triumphs and tests, we now know that regaining our stride as a community and a nation requires a reaffirmation of our faith and our beliefs.
For African American Christians in particular, this couldn’t be closer to the truth. Marriage, family, and generational ties were the foundations of our cultures in Africa. Even after being denied to marry during generations of slavery, our ancestors got married and stayed married decades later, making historic strides during the Civil Rights Era. Fast forward to the new millennium, however, and we’re now a generation that’s questioned our beliefs and traditions in favor of society’s trends and movements when it comes to marriage, relationships and child-rearing.
Adopting the permissiveness of the ‘sexual revolution’, the materialism spawned by the 1980s, and the self-absorption characteristic of the millennial – or “ME” – generation, has thrown some of us off track, landing us in worse financial and emotional shape than our parents or even grandparents. Where previous generations got married and stayed married, many of us have chosen single life or divorce, allowing ourselves an “out” as soon as something goes wrong. We dissolve the marriage before fully understanding the benefits of enduring and transcending trials.
But there’s no triumph without a trial (James 1:12), and if you’re ready to throw statistics out the window and breathe renewed life into your family and your future, it’s time to get back on track by:
1. Putting Christ at the center of your family life. The common denominator among strong civilizations is a common spiritual belief. Yet, while those of other faiths stand firm in their beliefs, we Christians have seen – and allowed – more challenges to our beliefs than any other religion. Ephesians 6:13 tells us to “put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and therefore after you have done everything, to stand.” As past generations have proven, the only way for us to thrive in an unstable society is to stand by the principles of our faith.
2. Putting the marriage first. When we travel by plane, one of the first things the flight attendants tell us is if the plane goes down, put on our own life support vest before helping others. The same goes for a marriage. The husband and wife – not career, money, possessions or even the children – are the core of the family. Show love and affection toward each other and attend to each others’ needs. Continue to grow as individuals and as a couple, and always keep your relationship new, exciting and alive. Joined by God, a husband and wife create a supernatural bond that knows no bounds. And the good news is, we’re not alone: marriage is on the rise !
3. Guarding your heart, mind, and ears. Staying focused on the Word, using discernment when deciphering society’s trends, limiting media intake, and surrounding yourselves and your family with like-minded people are important ways to maintain strength and focus as a Christian family. For example, studies show that you’re 75 percent more likely to become divorced if you spend most of your time with friends and family who are divorced .
4. Preparing your children to serve. Cultivate their walk in their God-given purpose – not their wants or desires as promoted by society. Teach them the importance of giving back, and of becoming global citizens (read more on raising strong children here).
5. Doing things together as a family. Whether through meals, vacations, charitable and leisure activities, a family enterprise, or worship, spending quality time together as a family is key. As the saying goes, “The family that prays together, stays together .”
6. Having faith in faith. For centuries we’ve overcome trials by summoning faith in Christ. But in modern times, many have turned their backs on faith, thinking that we’ve somehow “evolved” beyond a need for Jesus’ strength. True strength is found in “walking the walk,” having the courage to live by your beliefs, and by being the first example of how your children should live. Being a Christian isn’t ‘weird,’ but very special (1 Peter 2:9).
7. Creating a ‘Vision Statement’ for your family. Call a family meeting to create a mission statement together, and write down your process and your results. Having a mission statement keeps everyone focused on ultimate goals and the big picture, not the quick fix or the gamble. Another great idea is to adopt a family scripture, as the Bradley family discusses here.
8. Creating your “Village.” As the (Yoruba) African proverb says, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Multi-generational families are making a comeback. We honor the wisdom of the elders to keep us firmly rooted in our faith, our traditions, and our past triumphs, as well as to project a vision for our future. Your village may include trusted friends and your church family, as well as blood relatives. Put the well-being of the family first while setting limits. Discipline is a biblical principle (Proverbs 13:24); allow the wisdom of God to protect your family.
The truth is, marriage and family are central themes in the Christian faith, and they’re also symbolic of the church. To each other, we are “brethren,” “fathers,” “brothers,” “sisters,” and as a unit, we are the “household of faith” (Galatians 6:10).
By far, more people claim Christianity as their faith than any other religion, yet no other faith on earth has experienced the level of challenges – or triumphs – that belief in the power of Jesus has. Work hard to maintain your focus on faith, and believe that the strength of your marriage and your family is one of God’s secret weapons of prosperity.
 – Father Patrick Peyton.
Did you know?
• Christians are the largest religious group in the world, and make up 33 percent of the world’s population.
• The common belief that “50 percent of all marriages end in divorce” is a myth. Origins: In 1979, during a time when new ideas and movements like Women’s Liberation and the Sexual Revolution began to hit their peak, the number of divorces peaked at 47 percent of the number of marriages performed that year. However, the number did not reflect the millions of marriages which had endured through previous generations.
• Grandparents’ Day is celebrated in September.
CELEBRATE FAMILY with West Angeles at the 2015 FAMILY LIFE CONFERENCE with Bishop Blake and the West Angeles Counseling Center. Details coming soon to Westa.org.
Bishop Charles E. Blake informs us in his sermon Is Anything Forever, that nothing last forever.
Christ Prayer for The Preservation of His Followers.
Marriages, especially in today’s world, are subject to many challenges.
Our society seems to offer more hindrances to true love and lasting fidelity than it does support. Add the role of parent to the equation – of not one, but three African American young men – and you might expect an especially challenging situation.
Married for 34 years, Elder Edward Bradley and his wife Cozette are long-time West Angeles members who’ve gracefully raised three wonderful sons. They’ve been involved in several ministries, including Connections To Care, and the Fatherhood class at the West Angeles Counseling Center. Elder Bradley’s book, “Fatherhood: The Role of a Father” (Tate Publishing) explores what it’s like to be a man in today’s society where balancing the roles of provider, protector, and head-of-the-household can be difficult, to say the least. He explores reconciling manhood and fatherhood from a biblical perspective, while challenging men to become all that God has asked them to be.
Elder and Mrs. Bradley recently shared with us some of their wisdom, insights, and a funny story or two about maintaining a strong marriage and raising sons into strong men in a new millennium.
Q: Elder and Mrs. Bradley, thank you for sharing your story with us. How did you meet, and how long have you been married?
We were both born in California. We met on June 1st, 1980, on a Sunday afternoon at West Angeles Church of God in Christ. We were married five months later on November 22, 1980.
Q: Wow-a whirlwind romance! Through Him, anything is still possible. We’ve all heard it said that “Marriage is work.” As a wife myself, I do find that to be true – but not necessarily in the way society describes. Can you please share a challenge that you have overcome as a couple, which you transcended and became stronger because of it?
There are books on marriage, but every couple has a different makeup. Learn to work on your strengths and determine what will enhance the relationship. We really did not have any problems coming together. Yes, we had to work on logistics; moving my wife from another city to Los Angeles. We then worked on our finances. But overall it was pleasantly smooth. We were – and are – very happy; that took care of a lot of problems that may have derailed another couple. We made plans for our marriage; and yes, we made mistakes. But through it all, we trusted in the Lord. For our marriage, going to mid-week bible study (at West Angeles) was key. We learned so much as Pastor Blake (as he was known back then) ministered to the congregation. Both Sunday morning and evening services were excellent, but those services in the middle of the week handled life’s issues that may have tested us between Sundays.
Q: Elder Bradley, you’ve written a book on parenting, and you’ve been successful at raising three African American boys into men. Looking at today’s world and the challenges we face, what tips can you share that may help other parents who are struggling to keep their children on the right path?
In parenting, we must live what we preach. Parents should not live a double life at home; another at church, and another out in public places. Your children lose respect for you. Parents, be a person of your word; be “on one accord.” And do not be afraid to discipline your children. “Yes” is yes and “no” is no! Show them love and affection, and tell them you love them, even if you never heard it from your own parents. Teach them the word of God at home. Come to church together and sit as a family.
Q: Has purpose factored into the work you’ve been chosen to do? If so, how?
I was a Correctional Officer. I worked behind prison walls. Seeing people incarcerated and seeing that side of existence gives you another perspective on life. You determine through prayer and hard work at home not to see your children caught up in any negative lifestyle that the world is offering through outside influences. You educate them and other young people on the vices that would pull them down. We must lift them up continually! That is what helped me make the decision on how to raise our family. Also, being married since 1980, we have seen many couples go astray. But couples need to know that Jesus can keep them happy, elated, and satisfied with their own spouse! We would say that our gifts are for the purpose of encouraging young men and women. We minister to couples and try to implant the Lord into their lives. Our purpose is to fulfill the dreams and goals of our church. Wherever we can assist is where we want to be.
Q: How did you come to be members of West Angeles, and how has West Angeles been instrumental in your Christian growth?
I came to West Angeles in November of 1979 out of obedience to God. After 8 months He added a wife to my life, then years later, 3 sons. Coming through the doors of this ministry was a profound move of the Lord, and hearing the Word coming from Bishop Blake was phenomenal, mesmerizing, challenging and encouraging. He taught us young men how to be men of God; good husbands and fathers. As my wife and I grew as a couple, we started to share what we were taught. We had many who told us we were having children too fast because they came 3 years in a row! I told my wife that if they had a question about that to come see me! We are married and we are doing it right and we can afford them. Many others felt that raising 3 sons would be hard. Some said, “Yeah they’ll probably end up in gang activity”, or that they were “not going anywhere”; always giving us negative feedback. We knew that we had – and still have – faith in God for their protection. We decided to listen and reflect on God’s word and accepted Psalm 91 as our family scripture. So faith comes by hearing, and we heard and read God’s word. We put faith into action. Do not allow anyone to cast a negative shadow over your family! Always remain optimistic and positive and put the word of God over every situation.
Q: Are there any stories or lessons you’d like to share from your experiences as parents which may help others?
One story we want to share about raising children is, years ago, we went with several members of our extended to an out-of-town wedding at a hotel by the sea. We had a good time with family and friends. At the end of the weekend, as everyone gathered in the lobby to check out of the hotel, we suddenly heard the fire alarm ring and everyone panicked! The Fire Department and EMS came, but there was no fire, and no one knew who pulled the alarm. For a few minutes there was confusion and questions, but still no answers. As we left the hotel, we asked the kids where they’d been during all of the excitement. As we continued our trip home, we still could not get an answer, and we believed them…somewhat. But my wife kept asking. As we continued to ask them questions over the next week or so, we finally found out that one of them had done it and the others covered for him. We dealt with the untruthful son and the two “cover-up brothers” – in a nice way of course – and with a warning about deceit and dishonesty. The interesting part is it hurt them more to cover up the story than it did for any punishment we as parents could dish out.
Q: That’s a great lesson in using discernment and persistence as parents. In closing, is there anything you’d like to share about how the ministry at West Angeles has blessed you both?
West Angeles Church is a church which flows through the Holy Spirit, in a vertical relationship with God who moves spiritually through its members. Those members who are bold enough grab hold of that Spirit through prayer and supplication. With that, the Holy Ghost flows out of each of us and we are commanded to compel men, women, boys, girls, families and marriages through the power of Jesus Christ. We have to tap in and connect to the spirit of this ministry to make world-wide change. So be encouraged to stop sitting on the sidelines and use the talents and gifts God has given you. Yield to the Holy Spirit; for, as Bishop Blake says, “We are called to minister and witness to a deeply distressed and troubled world.”
Elder and Mrs. Bradley, thank you for setting a wonderful example, and thank you for blessing us with your story.
The WEST ANGELES COUNSELING CENTER offers classes on marriage, parenting and more. CONTACT 733-8300 ext. 2360, or email [email protected]
It’s “Back-to-School Season”: that time of year when youth and young adults around the world say “good-bye” to Summer fun and freedom, and go back to the structure and routine of school.
Senior year symbolically marks the end childhood and the beginning of adulthood: and for many, life on your own in college.
I still remember my first realization that I’d be leaving the small-town comforts and familiarity of home and family to embark upon the journey to adulthood in the big city. Up until that point, I’d spent most of my time focused on finishing my last year of high school; planning and preparing for entrance exams, college applications and portfolios; and gathering the necessities for dormitory life. Then it hit me: I’m going to be living a totally new life – and I had no idea what that was going to be.
Looking back now, I see an amazing adventure, and I wouldn’t have traded in a day of those experiences. But years later, much has changed in the world of today. The times are very different: and there might be a few things I’d want to know if I were doing it all over again.
Here are 5 things I wish I’d known before going away to college:
- Your faith will be tested. Your first encounters may be with people, activities, or ideas which are the exact opposite of everything you’ve learned to be true up until now.But although it’s great to learn new things, that doesn’t mean that your faith is wrong: even if everyone in society says otherwise.Your homework assignment for today:Read about Daniel and friends in The Book of Daniel, chapters 1-6. Best advice here? Know that saying “No” is a strength: not a weakness.
- It’s not necessarily a Christ-centered education you’re getting. Unless you’re attending a Christian college or seminary, your education is going to be secular; meaning, it may uphold more worldly ideas than Godly ones. I always thought that college was a more in-depth, specialized version of what we get in high school, and like the news, education was supposed to be neutral and objective, based on a central (bible-based) truth. Well, that’s no longer true for the news, and it’s not always true for your college education either.
- It’s a crash course in tolerance. My coed college dorm was a converted apartment building with large apartments as dorm rooms. So within my first two years of college, I’d had seven roommates; among them: a loveable white-hippie-drug-dealer; a physically-challenged-adopted Asian; a free-spirited African-American; a prim, Southern white supremacist; a shy Latino. That close proximity to actually living with diversity has continued to prepare me for life experiences to this day.
- You won’t always have someone on your side. Nope, not even professors. As a matter of fact, many professors feel it’s their duty to break you of whatever old ideas they think you’re harboring in order to make you “a new creation”. But remember your faith: and according to 2 Corinthians 5:17-18, that’s Jesus’ job. Joseph’s story in Genesis 34 is a great one to remember regarding the trials – and rewards – of staying faithful to the dream God has for you.
- It’s a very important step in a much bigger journey. Be proactive about your education; develop as many of your skills as possible. Where a syllabus may fall short culturally or spiritually, research other titles which can supplement your knowledge base. It’s important to seek and learn all you can to prepare yourself for the life God created you for (Matthew 25:14-30). Staying true to your Christian faith when you’re young will yield many rewards later in life, and this is just the beginning.
I guess the diversity of experiences was a gift, and I chose to accept it head-on (unlike my racist roommate, who asked to be moved to another apartment during our first semester; never to be seen by any of us again). My college years eventually led me to a fuller understanding of Jesus, of God, of my own values, and of the world. It may sound trite, but life really is a wonderful journey if you remember to keep the faith, stay the course, and hold on to the lessons it brings.