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Marriage Series: Should the Christian Wedding Vows Be Changed To, “As Long as We Both Shall Love?”

Our Westa.org Marriage Series continues! This week, Dr. Kenneth Hammonds takes a look at changes to modern Christian marriage vows. Should our vows change for good? Please CLICK HERE to take our poll on Facebook. 

As my wife, Naomi, and I enjoyed a rare day off today, I looked at her and thought, “You know – I really love this woman” (and by the way, I rarely miss a day telling her so). We are soon to celebrate 42 years as husband and wife.

The moment reminded me of an episode of one of my favorite TV shows called “Rhoda,” from back in the late 1970s (yeah, way back in the last century). Rhoda was a beloved character from the wildly popular “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” She was a wise-cracking, single woman whose dating ups-and-downs were the subject of her humor. But in Episode 1 of “Rhoda,” she’d meet Joe…and Rhoda was going to be married.

 

MARRIAGE FOR RHODA MORGANSTERN

I remember the special hour-long episode where Rhoda and her fiancé, Joe, exchanged their wedding vows. Viewed by more than 52 million people, the episode was a touching TV moment. A recent article about the show described ‘Rhoda’s Wedding’ as “a television landmark,” becoming the highest-rated television episode of the 1970s, a record it kept until the original Roots miniseries claimed the title in 1977.

Should the Christian Wedding Vows Be Changed To
“As Long as We Both Shall Love?” Actors Valerie Harper and David Groh from the series, “Rhoda”.

While watching this historic event back in 1974, I also remember clearly being shocked and surprised, however, to hear Rhoda and the man she loved vow:

“to live together as husband and wife, as long as we both shall love.”

Well, I’ve been to a few weddings in my day, and being a Christian minister, I’ve also officiated some, yet I have never heard any couple speak this phrase. But in today’s world – and even in the lives of Christians – the idea of marriage “as long as we shall love” seems to be lived out by many couples.

Although the American divorce rate is down in comparison with the 1970s, 80s and 90s, it is still higher (on a per capita basis, for every 1,000 people in the US) than it was almost 80 years ago, after the nation had endured the Great Depression. Today, article after article continues to promote the idea that ½ of all marriages end in divorce. So, is marriage really supposed to be forever? And should the vows be changed to “as long as we shall love?”

 

TO VOW OR NOT TO VOW: THAT MAY BE THE QUESTION

If a man makes a vow to the Lord, he shall not break his word. Numbers 30:2 

God takes vows pretty seriously. A “vow” in the Old Testament could be made between an individual and God or between two people. Whether to God or to man, a vow was considered a sacred, consecrated promise. It was a personal obligation that was to be fulfilled.

Today’s views on wedding vows and their content, however, are divided. Some still prefer the traditional phrase “As long as we both shall live,” while others seem to prefer the more modern “love.” An informal survey of both celebrity and civilian wedding vows around the world reveals that the phrases “as long as we both shall live,” or “’till death do us part” are still utilized and may even be preferred.

For example:

  • At their 2011 wedding, the Prince and Princess of Wales promised matrimony “so long as ye both shall live,” and “’til death us do part.”
  • Some Hindu wedding vows use the wonderfully poetic phrase, “Till both of us, with age, grow old.”
  • The book, 50 New and Traditional Wedding Vows, plus How to Write Your Own Vows: 10 Guides by Maria Kay, includes the modernized phrase, “all the days of my life.”

Many seem to believe that even if “forever” is not attainable, they still prefer the idea. Could concepts such as “promise,” “sacred,” “consecrated,” and “personal obligation” be of a bygone era?

 

WHAT IS LOVE?

If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us. 1 John 4:12

Love is an interesting human emotion (pain, pleasure, pressure, or whatever you wish to term it), particularly as it relates to the Western “civilized” society’s understanding of marriage. For many couples seeking holy matrimony today, love is that wild emotion; that tingling feeling down on the inside, that little taste of sexual fornication before marriage (if the marriage even happens at all). Others call it “indigestion” or “infidelity”: a breach of trust against God; the kind of stuff that is well below God’s righteous standard for our Best Christian living. This kind of personal, self-absorbed human love for many is merely a blind coagulation of looks, lust, and lucre.

The Greek word psychō (pronounced PSUE- ko;  ψύχω in Greek) refers to a human love that is gradually lessening in its fervor, power, and joy; waning, disintegrating, and evaporating away into non-existence. And the Scriptures do speak of a lower, less developed human-level type of love in Matthew 24:12, where Jesus predicted that the last days would be a time where “the love of many will grow cold” (NKJV). Bible Commentator, Marvin Vincent, defines this growing-colder-human-kind-of-love as a “spiritual energy blighted or chilled by a malign or poisonous wind.”  I would say that this “psychō”-type of love changed up on you! It was passionate, fiery, hot, and alive; but now, cooled off by the winds of time, adversity, or simply the desire for change, it has become cold, distant, impassionate, and dead.

Having spoken of a cold non-agapē love, we must ask, “Exactly what then is agapē in the fuller Christian expansion of this Greek word?” The best description of agapē in summary says:

Agapē is the highest form of love, a God-kind-of-love, whereby the one loving loves the one being loved unconditionally and also seeks that individual’s highest good and well-being.”

And in any human relationship, marriage or otherwise, we will need God to reach into the depths of our spiritual being to show this Christian agapē-love.

 

GOD’S IDEA AND GOD’S STANDARD

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways” saith the LORD – Isaiah 55:8

Should marriage Vows Be Changed To “As long As We Both Shall Love”? Graph charting 144 years of marriage and divorce in America.

Jesus’ theology of marriage was too much for even His disciples to take in. He said, regarding the short-term marriage idea, “Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so… whoever divorces his wife… commits adultery.” You might respond in shock like the disciples did, saying, “Well Jesus, if this is your view of marriage, it’s better for us not to get married, at all!” (Matthew 19:1-10).

There may also be some young adults today who may say of the Christian marriage vow to love someone for the rest of their lives, “I can’t make that kind of commitment. I don’t know what may happen in the future.”  Maybe modern believers in Christ should just make no such “vows” at all if they are too hard to keep!

Okay, I’m in my 60s. I came from a different era (the generation which created the modern sexual revolution, by the way), but I still believe in the fervent seeking which lives out (or loves out) the biblical standard of marriage: “One woman for one man for life.” Yes, I know there are sometimes extreme challenges to this concept, but in our Christian life’s teaching and living, we must still speak and seek to live up to the best of God’s will, and God’s standard for the best functioning of human society, especially in these modern times. With Jesus, and our own personal commitment, we can perfect, improve, enhance, and advance love.

That’s possible: so, let’s do it daily.

 

WE NEED TO HEAR FROM YOU!

Now back to the phrase, “as long as we both shall love”: should the Christian marriage vows be amended or changed to, “as long as we both shall LOVE” for this modern day, or remain “as long as we both shall LIVE” as it is has stated for the past 500 years or so?

Please answer on Facebook with a simple one liner. Include:

  1. Your age group (20’s, 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, etc.) and
  2. One word: “love” or “live” for how you think the vow should read.

Please, be honest. Don’t answer what you think we want to hear! Please feel free to forward this piece to your Christian friends and family; I’d love to hear their answers also.

As for me, I don’t see my 40 years of marriage to my lovely wife as some drudgery or lifelong slavery to an old vow, but rather as a wonderful and joyful relationship. It is for me a daily opportunity to say and honor “I do,” as in “I do love you and cherish you, as well as all the other good and the difficult stuff that’s part of any agapē relationship.”

 

 A PRAYER

“Dear Lord, I thank you for the spouse of my youth. It is an honor have him/her chosen for me by You for the enjoyment of our lives together serving Your purpose and glory. 

In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

 

SCRIPTURAL REFERENCES – Numbers 30:2-4, 1 Corinthians 13:8, Matthew 19:1-10, 24:12; Isaiah 55:8, 1 John 2:5; 4:12, 17. 

DR. KENNETH HAMMONDS (M.Div., Ed.D.) is a Discipleship Thinker- Teacher-Doer and Director of Christian Discipleship (Perfecting Believers) for West Angeles Church of God in Christ and Sector Leader for the Adult Ministries Division of the church. Of special theological interest for Dr. Hammonds is the discussion and development of a Theology of Discipleship that is spiritually vibrate, biblically sound, and personally practical.Dr. Hammonds has been a member of West Angeles for 30 years and serves on the Executive Staff as a Division Head. He also serves the Body of Christ as a Certified Life and Leadership Coach, and as a passionate New Testament Greek Trainer. He has been in Christian Ministry for over 45 years.

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DID YOU KNOW?

  • Two years after the “Rhoda” show began, Rhoda and her husband, Joe, broke up and later divorced. Joe revealed to his stunned wife that he had never really wanted to marry her. He said he only married her because she had pressured him into it after he’d invited her to live with him (it seems that an invitation to “move into my apartment” is not the same as an invitation to “move into my life in marriage.” Interesting ending to the vow, “as long as we both shall love”)!
  • The English word psycho is not related in meaning to the Greek word psychō, but rather a slang form of the term “psychopath.” The relationship between the Greek and English words is just an interesting coincidence!
  • The first known reference to the English phrase, “till death us do part” is in the Church of England’s “Book of Common Prayer” in 1529.
  • The idea of a marriage ceremony in the Christian Church seems to have become practice around the 9th century; however, as early as the 4th century there is evidence of couples seeking the blessing of the Church. Couples married in keeping with local customs and/or family traditions, making their own wedding “vows” of commitment, or having vows handed down to them.
  • On Valentine’s Day 2014, Pope Francis challenged 10,000 engaged couples who gathered in St. Peter’s square to consider marriage not as a temporary relationship, but as “The Joy of ‘Yes’ forever.” He said “It is still possible to take the risk of saying ‘forever’…it takes courage, but forever is a prospect that brings joy and allows us to look to the future.

Fast, Pray, Be Filled: 2017 Pilgrimage to Pentecost

Acts 2:4 (KJV) – And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

What is the Pilgrimage to Pentecost? This “50 Days of Prayer” was established by our Presiding Bishop Charles E. Blake, Sr. in order to empower the saints of the Church Of God In Christ to fervently seek the Power of God in a 50-day period of consecration and sanctification, from Easter (or “Resurrection Sunday”), through the Day of Pentecost.

The purpose of this consecration is for the Church Of God In Christ to petition God for continuance of the Pentecostal revival and outpouring. The aim is for all of the saints, in this changing world, to hold onto our unchanging faith; and as always, to fight for salvation and righteousness in a violent and immoral world.

What is every member of the Church Of God In Christ requested to do?  For the next 50 days, we are asked by our Presiding Bishop to take 11 minutes out of our daily prayer time to focus on the prayer requests provided in the prayer guide.

 

The dates for the 2017 Pilgrimage are:

SUNDAY, APRIL 16 – SUNDAY, JUNE 4, 2017

It is our hope and prayer that:

(1) every member of the Church Of God In Christ who has not been filled with the gift of the Holy Spirit would be filled, according to Acts 2:4; and that

(2) every believer who is already filled would receive a “refilling” of the Holy Spirit, according to Acts 4:31 and Ephesians 5:18.

We pray that this event impacts your life, and that praying for empowerment in the Spirit becomes a lifetime endeavor.

 

 

Please CLICK HERE to download your free prayer guide (PDF).

 

 

 

 

 

Join the weekly prayer call! Please CLICK HERE to download your free prayer call card (PDF).

 

 

 

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Member Profile: Dr. Judith McAllister

West Angeles Church of God In Christ welcomes back Dr. Judith Christie McAllister as she leads West Angeles’ Music and Worship Arts Ministry into its glorious future. Read the latest interview with Dr. McAllister as she discusses her history, her vision, and her musical goals for the year ahead in a recent feature from the Los Angeles Sentinel.

Dr. McAllister, please tell us about your ministry, and your role in the church.

My name is Judith McAllister and the ministry I am honored to serve in is that of “Worship” in every sense of the word. As a Worship Leader, who makes others aware of the presence of God in those special times dedicated to “Praise and Worship” within the church, I have the responsibility to set, maintain and protect the atmosphere, to ensure that it is conducive for the glory of God to reside.

Through the lens of worship, I have the honor of governing in the servant leadership position of the International Minister of Music/President for the

Dr. Judith McAllister.

Dr. Judith McAllister.

Church of God in Christ, Inc., which boasts over 6 million members worldwide. In this role, I coordinate the musical presentations for all of our major conferences and services. I also have the responsibility to travel to various churches within the brotherhood to teach, train, instruct and impart to the constituents tools necessary for excellence in their presentation of worship and music. Also, I have once again been given the wonderful opportunity to serve as the minister of music, worship and liturgy at West Angeles Church of God in Christ, where Bishop Charles E. Blake, Sr., serves as senior pastor.
In addition, I am the CEO of three entities that enable me to mentor, train and empower the next generation in music and worship arts. Judah Music Group LLC, which served as the springboard for the following recordings – “Send Judah First” (2000), “Raise the Praise” (2002), “In His Presence” (2006) and “Sound The Trumpet” (2008); Never Ending Worship (N.E.W.) Enterprises LLC, which houses all ministry products, and Never Ending Worship Ministries, (NEW MIN.) which serves as the foundation for all workshops and ministry engagements.

How long have you been in ministry, and how did you get started in it?

I have been ministering for over 35 years and this ministry began in my home church in New York City, (The Manhattan Holy Tabernacle) where I developed a love for the hymns of the church. Matriculating through my foundational years of school, I was named a prodigy; a classically-trained pianist studying at the famed School of the Performing Arts in New York, (graduating at 16 years of age) which afforded the initial tools necessary to execute my craft with precision and excellence, which in turn opened many doors, allowing me to participate in piano recitals at some of the city’s most prestigious halls such as CAMI, Carnegie and Lincoln Center.

What role has God or your faith played in your ministry?

God is all to me. It is within Him that I live and move and have my being. I do all that I do, because of my love and sincere gratitude for His love, favor and grace upon my life. In being recognized as a trailblazer in the area of praise and worship in the African American Church, my faith allows me to provide new paradigms for kingdom excellence in ministry; and in addition to mentoring music ministers all around the globe, I trust and have faith that my instruction continues to impact the body of Christ by elevating the understanding of radical, reverent and revelational worship.
What is one of the most memorable moments or experiences during your ministry?

Following a very powerful worship service, a young single mother approached me to say that her child was moved to tears while I was singing and ministering in song. I looked at the young 7-year-old boy, who was still under the influence of the Holy Spirit, and spoke into his life that the hand of God was on him and that he too, one day, would be a servant of the Lord in ministry. It blessed me so to see his face light up with joy and the essence of the Holy Spirit overshadowing him. In that moment, I understood and was blessed by the knowledge that the Lord used me as a vessel to awaken something within him, something neither he nor his mother had ever witnessed before!

What are you doing or working on now, and what are some of your future goals?

I am currently working on the “Promises of God” Project, which is inclusive of a CD single, a daily devotional and other worship aids of the same name, scheduled for release June 2017.
One of my many aspirations is to build a School of Worship and Arts for those who desire to be excellent in their presentation, spiritually, musically and professionally. I also desire to utilize my record label to give young, anointed and integral worship leaders the platform to be exposed to the world; to open doors for them that I did not have the privilege of walking through when I was young and on fire for the Lord.

Finally, my life is aptly summarized by this personal mission statement: “To fulfill the purpose of God for my existence to its fullest capacity, to die empty: having maximized every gift, passed on every ounce of wisdom having been blessed to obtain, completed every assignment and accomplished all that God has ordained for my life.”

Adapted from “L.A. Women of the Gospel – Judith McAllister.”  Published March 15, 2017. Reprinted courtesy of the LA Sentinel.


Hear the West Angeles Mass Choir lead by Dr. Judith McAllister in a performance of “Great”; West Angeles Church of God In Christ.

20 Scriptures and Quotes on Love

As month of February turns our thoughts to love, here are 20 memorable quotes and scriptures to remind us of the true meaning of mankind’s greatest gift.

“Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.” – The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality…I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.”

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

“We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.”

– The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

__________

“There are some who’ve said that it’s the role of the husband to love, and it’s the role of the wife to submit, but I would say that both20 Scriptures and Quotes on Love the husband and the wife must love and submit…The Bible says in 1 Peter 5:5, ‘All of you must submit to one another.’”

“Wisdom and love need to drink from the same cup.”

Before you fall in love, put priority on spiritual and emotional excellence, not just on physical and erotic attractiveness.”

“When two people love the Lord, who committed to the way of God, who believe the Word of God, and who believe in Christian principles, living, and raising their family, they’ve got a marriage that’s going to work and be blessed.”

– Presiding Bishop Charles Edward  Blake, Sr.

“Wisdom and love need to drink from the same cup” – Presiding Bishop Charles Edward  Blake, Sr.

__________

“Love should be your top priority, primary objective, and greatest ambition. Love is not a good part of your life; it’s the most important part. The Bible says, ‘Let love be your greatest aim.’”

“If God’s going teach you real love, He’s going put you around some unloving people.”

“The best use of life is love. The best expression of love is time. The best time to love is now.”

Pastor Rick Warren

__________

“Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public” –  Cornell West

__________

“We, the People, recognize that we have responsibilities as well as rights; that our destinies are bound together; that a freedom which only asks what’s in it for me, a freedom without a commitment to others, a freedom without love or charity or duty or patriotism, is unworthy of our founding ideals, and those who died in their defense” – Former President Barack Obama

__________

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” – Romans 8:28

“Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’” – Matthew 22:37-39

“Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him on high, because he has known My name. He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him,  and show him My salvation” – Psalm 91:14-16

As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” – John 13:34 

“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” – 1 John 3:16-18

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” – Romans 8:35

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” – 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

“A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” – John 13:34.


Hear Hezekiah Walker & The Love Fellowship Crusade perform “LOVE LIFTED ME” below –

Let’s Re-elect Our Beloved Presiding Bishop Blake!

As we commence the 109th Holy Convocation of the Church of God In Christ, our beloved, visionary leader Bishop Charles Edward Blake, Sr. is up for re-election to the office of Presiding Bishop. He was elected to the post in 2007 by the General Assembly of the Church of God in Christ at the 101st Holy Convocation, and re-elected in 2012 for another four-year term.

Presiding Bishop Blake: loving husband to First Lady Mae L. Blake.

Presiding Bishop Charles E. Blake is COGIC’s fifth Presiding Bishop and the seventh leader in succession. Continuing COGIC founder Charles Harrison Mason’s legacy of holiness, fervent, effectual prayer, and powerful Christ-filled ministry, Bishop Blake’s slogan, “Blake: A Bridge to the Future,” speaks to his commitment to develop a legacy of stellar leadership within the body of Christ for many generations to come.

 

BISHOP’S BRIDGE TO THE FUTURE

As COGIC’s Chief Apostle and West Angeles’s Head Pastor, Bishop Blake’s message and ministry equips the whole person to be a force for good, appealing to all races and ethnic backgrounds. A man of character and integrity, Bishop Blake’s unwavering faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ directs his mission to uplift the lives of others, and to make the world a better place. The loving husband to First Lady Mae Lawrence Blake, father of three and grandfather of eight is the recipient of many awards and appointments, and also has the ear and admiration of U.S. presidents past and present.

The Church of God In Christ has grown from a membership of more than 400,000 under founder Bishop Mason in 1961, to an estimated global membership of 6.5 million today. Under Presiding Bishop Blake’s leadership, the church can now be found in every state in the United States and i"I see COGIC in the future": Bishop Blake, a bridge to the future.n more than 60 nations around the world including Egypt, the Ivory Coast, and Israel. “I humbly ask,” says Bishop Blake, “that you give me the opportunity to continue to serve as your Presiding Bishop.”

Presiding Bishop Charles Edward Blake, Sr. is recognized as one of the great leaders of this generation.

 

LET’S RE-ELECT OUR PRESIDING BISHOP CHARLES EDWARD BLAKE, SR.!


DID YOU KNOW?

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors designated February 5, 2004 as Bishop Charles E. Blake Day.

Many thanks to Sister DeAndra Blake for her contributions.

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Dr. Tonya Lewis: 3 Good Reasons to Hold On to the Lord

It is easy for us to become tired and overwhelmed by the amount of energy required of us to hold on and not let go of something. ‘To hold on’ indicates that there is also the potential for us to loosen or release our grip; however, what is at stake also determines the intensity of our grip. The very idea of gripping and holding on to something means that we believe it is beneficial to do so and that determination must be the mindset of our spiritual walk with Christ here on earth. It qualifies us to experience the glory of all eternity with Him.

Our desperate desire to be rescued from hurts, pain, the horrible results of sin, and our attempts to live life apart God’s leadership influences us to accept Jesus’ invitation to come unto Him. After accepting Jesus as our Lord and Savior, however, we find that our lives still do have painful and disappointing experiences as we journey through them. The difference is that we now have the joy of knowing that the Great Lord God and His host of angels are with us to escort us through those challenges.

 

Hold On: Don’t Let Go of the Lord

As you can imagine, Satan is not – and never will be – accepting of our decision to live a Christian life. Thus, his efforts to discourage us and have us walk away from the Lord will continue, no matter how we age in years, or how long we are Christians. This is why each of us is warned in 1 Pet. 5:8(NLT) –

Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.

“No safe age or stage in life” is implied in this verse, which means that each of us must heed its warning AT ALL TIMES. We cannot become spiritually lazy and stop being alert just because we have walked with the Lord for many years. What’s more, we must be on guard:

  • To protect our invested years of serving the Lord
  • To go on to enjoy the fruits of our labor
  • To be a positive influence on others by staying true to what we know

 

6 Ways to Hold On to Faith in Jesus

Because of the ongoing, whispering effort of the enemy to convince us to release our grip on our faith, we must have a constant reminder to hold on and don’t let go – no matter our difficult and disappointing experiences in life. We are told in Amos 6:1-

Woe to them that are at ease in Zion, (NLT), Woe to those secure in Zion, (YLT).

Any predator’s strategy is to seek those persons who are not watchful and alert, for they are the easy prey. Each of us must guard ourselves, making ourselves difficult prey for Satan, and embracing the command of Hebrews 4:14 (AMP) –

…let us hold fast our confession [of faith and cling tenaciously to our absolute trust in Him as Savior].

Regardless of the philosophies of society, we must determine that nothing or no one will incite us to loosen or release our grip of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Because of the present joy of serving Jesus here on earth, and because of His blessed promise to us to enjoy the fullness of that joy throughout all eternity, we must enthusiastically hold on and don’t let go of our faith by:

  1. Staying true to our beliefs and experiences in the goodness of Jesus
  2. Rising above ANYTHING OR ANYONE who could discourage us
  3. Guarding our hearts against anything or anyone who could negatively influence it
  4. Keeping our eyes on Jesus and not on man or woman, no matter how “influential” they are in our lives
  5. Knowing that, as strongly persuaded as we were when we first gripped the faith of belief in Jesus, it is what we need today, tomorrow and as long as we live on this earth
  6. Renewing our grip on our Great God on a regular basis through praising and worshiping Him, meditating on His Word, and developing an even greater intimate relationship with Him

Remember: one moment in the presence of God will outshine all of the combined moments of temptation to release our grip on our faith; therefore, hold on! Don’t let go!

God bless you and yours!

Hear “Hold On” by The Whitfield Company below:


REVIVAL AT WEST ANGELES – The Evangelists Missionaries and The Brotherhood are joining forces to present a church-wide Revival, October 24-28, 2016,  at the West Angeles North Campus. The theme this year is: “Speak To Your Mountain”!  Speakers include: Elder Charles Blake, Evangelist Francine Gray, Elder Lawrence Blake, Dr. Tonya Lewis, Elder Dennis Bullock, Evangelist Velena White, Elder Ulesses Henderson, Evangelist Marva Hightower, and Dr. Judith McAlister.

Come out each night for prayer, praise, worship and a powerful move of God as we speak to our mountains!!!!

 

Bishop Blake: The Archer’s Bow

Sometimes affliction in your life is like an archer’s bow. The archer pulls the bow back; he pulls it further back, and further back. The archer seems as if he’s about to break it, but just before it reaches its breaking point, the archer releases the arrow, and the arrow soars farther and higher than imagination can conceive because of the stress on the bow.

The reason God is stressing you, pulling you beyond your limit, and it seems He about to break you is because, after a while, the arrow of your destiny is going to be released, and God is going to take you higher than you’ve ever gone before.

When the devil strikes you, keep on praising Him.

When the way is rough, keep on praising Him.

When the burden is heavy, keep on praising Him.

Jesus the Son of God is our example. Because he humbled Himself, God took Him higher than He’d ever gone before.

Life might crush you down, but I see you coming up! Be a “Hallelujah anyhow” person when the Lord stresses you.

Just start praising God!

 

SCRIPTURAL REFERENCES – Philippians 2:5-11, 4:13.

 

Adapted from the sermon, “Greater Blessings for Greater Afflictions” at West Angeles Church of God In Christ, 7/12/2015.  The entire sermon is available HERE, at West Angeles Gospel on Demand.

The History of Pentecost: Pentecostal Praise – Part I

Dr. William L Sheals of Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church in Norcross, GA shares the history of the Christian church and what Pentecostal praise truly means, on Pentecost Sunday at West Angeles Church of God In Christ, May 15, 2016.

 

JESUS, AND THE BEGINNING OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH

All churches should be Pentecostal, because the church was born on the Day of Pentecost. It was born after the power of the Holy Spirit manifested, as told in Acts 2:1-4.

Jesus spoke the church into existence supernaturally on Caesarea Philippi when He quizzed His disciples

The mihrab within the Upper Room (pictured center) was built during Muslim occupation.

The mihrab within the Upper Room (pictured center) was built during Muslim occupation.

asking, “Who do men say that I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Christ; Son of the living God.” Then Jesus answered him, “Yes, and upon that truth I build my church.” (Matthew 16:13-18)

Although Jesus spoke the church supernaturally into existence, she didn’t come into the manifestation until the day Pentecost had fully come. She was birthed after she received power and that power was the power of the Holy Spirit. When He came in, like a mighty rushing wind, tongues of fire set upon their heads and filled the house and filled everybody in the house and they were filled with power.

Let’s revisit that day, 2000 years ago:

Acts 2:1-4 (NKJV) Coming of the Holy Spirit – 2 When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. 2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

When we’re filled with the Holy Spirit, some of us quench the spirit, and that’s a sin. But for those of us who release Him, there’s power that permeates our very being, and you can’t keep it on the inside. That’s what happened to the 120 disciples who came out of the upper room that day.

There were also people from other nations who had gathered in Jerusalem at that time:

Acts 2:12-13 12 So they were all amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “Whatever could this mean?” 13 Others mocking said, “They are full of new wine.”

There’s a difference between Pentecostal praise, and what we call “praise” in the 21st century. We call “making noise” praise. But when it’s Pentecostal praise, it comes from the Holy Spirit. We cannot praise God in the flesh. We must come out of self, and the Holy Spirit within us will please God in the praise, if we release Him to do so.

 

WHAT IS PENTECOST?

Pentecost means ’50th.’ It refers to the Jewish feast celebrated 50 days after the 2nd day of Passover. It was called “Feast of Weeks” in Exodus 34:22 and Deuteronomy 16:10, and “Feast of the Harvest” in Exodus 23:16.

Pentecost, a day of thanksgiving to mark the end of the grain harvest, is a Holy Sabbath Day. On the day of Pentecost in Acts 1-3, Jesus was with the disciples for 40 days, then ascended back to heaven. We celebrate Pentecost 10 days after His ascension, on the 50th day after Jesus had risen from the dead. On that day, the words of Joel (v. 3:18) and John the Baptist (Matthew 3:11) were fulfilled.

On this day set aside to praise the Lord for giving His people a great harvest, the Lord began to harvest the lost souls of this world, through His church. The church, and the people who made up the church, would never be the same.

 

THE CHURCH, AND PENTECOSTAL PRAISE

Since those times, we have changed the format and the meaning of why we really come together. We come together as sacred assembly – we are the church – but when we do, it ought to be Pentecost Sunday every Sunday. We cannot duplicate the events of Pentecost; we cannot go to Jerusalem, enter the Upper Room and wait to be filled with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Ghost has already come and baptized every person who is saved (Corinthians 12:13).  In Ephesians 5:18, the Lord says,

Be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess, but be filled with My Spirit.

We cannot duplicate the miracles of that day: they are God’s doing (and we are foolish if we spend our time seeking the spectacular)! However, we can duplicate the conditions which existed among the people of God in that day.

The revival in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost is the greatest of all times. No revival has ever been so celebrated, nor so tremendous in its immediate effects and none has been so lasting in its result. The 120 disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ were suddenly immersed in the Holy Spirit. Their character changed, the way that they spoke changed, they spoke in different languages, the church was birthed on fire. We need another Pentecost experience.

 

SCRIPTURAL REFERENCES: Acts 1-3, Chronicles 4:1, Matthew 16:13-19, Exodus 34:22, Deuteronomy 16:10, Exodus 23:16, Joel 3:18, Matthew 3:11, Corinthians 12:13,  Ephesians 5:18

Adapted from the sermon, “Pentecostal Praise – Part I,” by Dr. William L. Sheals. West Angeles Church of God In  Christ on Pentecost Sunday, May 15, 2016.

Photos, courtesy Studium Biblicum Franciscanum.


Dr. William L. Sheals is Senior Pastor of Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church in Norcross, CA, also known as “The City of Hope.” Hopewell Baptist is built on what was originally a junkyard. It takes lives which had once been wrecks, and turns them into vehicles of praise for the glory and honor of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. As the accomplished author of seven books, including “Walking In Authority: Biblical Examples for Modern Times” and “Live in the Spirit for Life,” Bishop Sheals is an ambassador of Reconciliation and Goodwill for Israel, and spokesman for the Global Peace Movement. He is also in an independent film producer with his own production company, “End Touch Movies.” Presiding Bishop Charles Edward Blake, Sr. preached at Hopewell “Bapticostal” Church, as it is affectionately known, in honor of Dr. Sheals’ 36th anniversary as pastor there.

Get the entire series Pentecostal Praise Parts I, II, & III HERE on West Angeles Gospel on Demand. Look for PENTECOSTAL PRAISE, PART II, coming soon to Westa.org.

PRAISE THE LORD!  Read our post, Bishop Blake on How To Praise the Lord HERE, on Westa.org.

March is National Nutrition Month: Here Are 8 Verses to Inspire You

March is National Nutrition Month, but it’s important to make healthy eating a priority every day. Conditions such as obesity, diabetes, inflammation, and high blood pressure have become too common in modern American life – but we can start on the road to a healthier lifestyle by managing our nutrition today.

Does God want us to be healthy? Absolutely! We were created by Him for His purpose, and maintaining our physical being gives glory and honor to God (Romans 12:1).  Our walk; how we eat and live can inspire others to live healthier too: especially our children.

Here‘s a list of eight scriptures to inspire you to the road optimum nutrition and health:

Genesis 2:9 – And out of the ground the Lord God made every tree grow that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Deuteronomy 8:7-8 For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, that flow out of valleys and hills; a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey

2 Samuel 17:27-29 27 Now it happened, when David had come to Mahanaim, that Shobi the son of Nahash from Rabbah of the people of Ammon, Machir the son of Ammiel from Lo Debar, and Barzillai the Gileadite from Rogelim, 28 brought beds and basins, earthen vessels and wheat, barley and flour, parched grain and beans, lentils and parched seeds, 29 honey and curds, sheep and cheese of the herd, for David and the people who were with him to eat. For they said, “The people are hungry and weary and thirsty in the wilderness.”

Proverbs 3:7-8 – Fear the Lord and depart from evil. It will be health to your flesh, and strength to your bones.

Psalm 103:2-3 – Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits: who forgives all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases

Romans 12:1  Living Sacrifices to God – I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.

1 Corinthians 6:19 – Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?

3 John 1:2 – Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.

 

This post is not a substitute for the care of a doctor or nutritionist. “National Nutrition Month” is a campaign of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. All verses, New King James Version.


Have you heard about the FREE MEAL offer at the beautiful West Angeles Crystal Room?  In appreciation of your continued patronage, we are offering a FREE meal to you, our loyal customers. Pick up your Loyalty Member Card and begin adding up your meal credits. For more information, please call (323) 733.8300 Ext. 2352.

Look for healthy recipes on Westa.org! Search “Recipes”, or click HERE and HERE.

 

40 Acres, Reparations, and the Black Church

As the debate continues regarding reparations for African Americans, Henry Louis Gates, Jr. reveals the truth about the “40 acres and a mule,” and its origins in the Black church.

By Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

We’ve all heard the story of the “40 acres and a mule” promise to former slaves. It’s a staple of black history lessons, and it’s the name of Spike Lee’s film company. The promise was the first systematic attempt to provide a form of reparations to newly freed slaves, and it was astonishingly radical for its time. In fact, such a policy would be radical in any country today, the federal government’s massive confiscation of private property — some 400,000 acres — formerly owned by Confederate land owners, and its methodical redistribution to former black slaves. What most of us haven’t heard is that the idea really was generated by black leaders themselves.

It is difficult to stress adequately how revolutionary this idea was. As the historian Eric Foner puts it in his book, Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877, “Here in coastal South Carolina and Georgia, the prospect beckoned of a transformation of Southern society more radical even than the end of slavery.” Try to imagine how profoundly different the history of race relations in the United States would have been had this policy been implemented and enforced; had the former slaves actually had access to the ownership of land, of property; if they had had a chance to be self-sufficient economically, to build, accrue and pass on wealth. After all, one of the principal promises of America was the possibility of average people being able to own land, and all that such ownership entailed. As we know all too well, this promise was not to be realized for the overwhelming majority of the nation’s former slaves, who numbered about 3.9 million.

What Exactly Was Promised?

Today, we commonly use the phrase “40 acres and a mule,” but few of us have read the Order itself. Three of its parts are relevant here. Section One bears repeating in full: “The islands from Charleston, south, the abandoned rice fields along the rivers for thirty miles back from the sea, and the country bordering the St. Johns river, Florida, are reserved and set apart for the settlement of the negroes [sic] now made free by the acts of war and the proclamation of the President of the United States. We have been taught in school that the source of the policy of “40 acres and a mule” was Union General William T. Sherman’s Special Field Order No. 15, issued on Jan. 16, 1865 (That account is half-right: Sherman prescribed the 40 acres in that Order, but not the mule. The mule would come later). But what many accounts leave out is that this idea for massive land redistribution actually was the result of a discussion that Sherman and Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton held four days before Sherman issued the Order, with 20 leaders of the black community in Savannah, Ga., where Sherman was headquartered following his famous March to the Sea. The meeting was unprecedented in American history.

“Imagine how profoundly different race relations in the US would have been had the former slaves had access to the ownership of land…to build, accrue and pass on wealth.” – Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

Section Two specifies that these new communities, moreover, would be governed entirely by black people themselves: “… on the islands, and in the settlements hereafter to be established, no white person whatever, unless military officers and soldiers detailed for duty, will be permitted to reside; and the sole and exclusive management of affairs will be left to the freed people themselves … By the laws of war, and orders of the President of the United States, the negro [sic] is free and must be dealt with as such.”

Finally, Section Three specifies the allocation of land: “… each family shall have a plot of not more than (40) acres of tillable ground, and when it borders on some water channel, with not more than 800 feet water front, in the possession of which land the military authorities will afford them protection, until such time as they can protect themselves, or until Congress shall regulate their title.”

With this Order, 400,000 acres of land — “a strip of coastline stretching from Charleston, South Carolina, to the St. John’s River in Florida, including Georgia’s Sea Islands and the mainland thirty miles in from the coast,” as Barton Myers reports — would be redistributed to the newly freed slaves. The extent of this Order and its larger implications are mind-boggling, actually.

Who Came Up With the Idea?

Here’s how this radical proposal — which must have completely blown the minds of the rebel Confederates — actually came about. The abolitionists Charles Sumner and Thaddeus Stevens and other Radical Republicans had been actively advocating land redistribution “to break the back of Southern slaveholders’ power,” as Myers observed. But Sherman’s plan only took shape after the meeting that he and Stanton held with those black [leaders], at 8:00 p.m., Jan. 12, on the second floor of Charles Green’s mansion on Savannah’s Macon Street (pictured). In its broadest strokes, “40 acres and a mule” was their idea.

Stanton, aware of the great historical significance of the meeting, presented Henry Ward Beecher (Harriet Beecher Stowe’s famous brother) a verbatim transcript of the discussion, which Beecher read to his congregation at New York’s Plymouth Church and which the New York Daily Tribune printed in full in its Feb. 13, 1865, edition. Stanton told Beecher that “for the first time in the history of this nation, the representatives of the government had gone to these poor debased people to ask them what they wanted for themselves.” Stanton had suggested to Sherman that they gather “the leaders of the local Negro community” and ask them something no one else had apparently thought to ask: “What do you want for your own people” following the war? And what they wanted astonishes us even today.

Who were these 20 thoughtful leaders who exhibited such foresight? They were all ministers, mostly Baptist and Methodist. Most curious of all to me is that 11 of the 20 had been born free in slave states, of which 10 had lived as free men in the Confederacy during the course of the Civil War (The other one, a man named James Lynch, was born free in Maryland, a slave state, and had only moved to the South two years before). The other nine ministers had been slaves in the South who became “contraband,” and hence free, only because of the Emancipation Proclamation, when Union forces liberated them.

“Sherman’s plan only took shape after meeting with black ministers. 40 acres and a mule was their idea.” –  Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

Their chosen leader and spokesman was a Baptist minister named Garrison Frazier, aged 67, who had been born in Granville, N.C., and was a slave until 1857, “when he purchased freedom for himself and wife for $1000 in gold and silver,” as the New York Daily Tribune reported. Rev. Frazier had been “in the ministry for thirty-five years,” and it was he who bore the responsibility of answering the 12 questions that Sherman and Stanton put to the group. The stakes for the future of the Negro people were high.

And Frazier and his brothers did not disappoint. What did they tell Sherman and Stanton that the Negro most wanted? Land! “The way we can best take care of ourselves,” Rev. Frazier began his answer to the crucial third question, “is to have land, and turn it and till it by our own labor … and we can soon maintain ourselves and have something to spare … We want to be placed on land until we are able to buy it and make it our own.” And when asked next where the freed slaves “would rather live — whether scattered among the whites or in colonies by themselves,” without missing a beat, Brother Frazier (as the transcript calls him) replied that “I would prefer to live by ourselves, for there is a prejudice against us in the South that will take years to get over … ” When polled individually around the table, all but one — James Lynch, 26, the man who had moved south from Baltimore — said that they agreed with Frazier. Four days later, Sherman issued Special Field Order No. 15, after President Lincoln approved it.

What Became of the Land That Was Promised?

The response to the Order was immediate. When the transcript of the meeting was reprinted in the black publication Christian Recorder, an editorial note intoned that “From this it will be seen that the colored people down South are not so dumb as many suppose them to be,” reflecting North-South, slave-free black class tensions that continued well into the modern civil rights movement. The effect throughout the South was electric: As Eric Foner explains, “the freedmen hastened to take advantage of the Order.” Baptist minister Ulysses L. Houston, one of the group that had met with Sherman, led 1,000 blacks to Skidaway Island, Ga., where they established a self-governing community with Houston as the “black governor.” And by June, “40,000 freedmen had been settled on 400,000 acres of ‘Sherman Land.’” By the way, Sherman later ordered that the army could lend the new settlers mules; hence the phrase, “40 acres and a mule.”

And what happened to this astonishingly visionary program, which would have fundamentally altered the course of American race relations? Andrew Johnson, Lincoln’s successor and a sympathizer with the South, overturned the Order in the fall of 1865, and, as Barton Myers sadly concludes, “returned the land along the South Carolina, Georgia and Florida coasts to the planters who had originally owned it” — to the very people who had declared war on the United States of America.

Reposted from PBS.org “The African Americans: Many Rivers To Cross.” http://www.pbs.org/wnet/african-americans-many-rivers-to-cross/history/the-truth-behind-40-acres-and-a-mule/.  Accessed 2/24/2016.

Hear NPR’s podcast, “The Story Behind ’40 Acres And A Mule'” on All Things Considered here:


 

DID YOU KNOW?

  • After President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in 1865,  Andrew Johnson, his successor, overturned Special Field Order No. 15.
  • The freedmen were forced off of the land granted to them by Special Filed Order No. 15, including the Skidaway Island establishment.
  • Today, Skidaway Island, GA is one of the most affluent communities in the United States. Less than 0.9% of the inhabitants are the descendants of African slaves.