by Robert Earl Houston
By now most of us have seen the photograph of disgraced Los Angeles Clipper owner Donald J. Sterling from Sunday, June 1, 2014 visiting, at the pastor’s request, the historic Praises of Zion Missionary Baptist Church in south Los Angeles, California, where Dr. Joe B. Hardwick, is their venerable pastor.
Almost immediately there was a backlash. Why was he there? Was he there for damage control? Shame on Dr. Hardwick and Praises of Zion. And one person even went as far to suggest that Sterling should have been banned from the worship service completely. Other pastors across the country came out against his presence. But I am not one of those persons.
I wrote this on Facebook:
“I’m a little saddened at the reaction, especially from believers, to Pastor Joe B. Hardwick’s invitation to Donald Sterling coming to Praises of Zion MBC in Los Angeles. Sterling didn’t make a speech and from what I understood, he sat there, reverently throughout the worship experience. Yes, he made a mistake – but he’s still a soul in need of a savior. I know Dr. Hardwick and I believe it has nothing to do with a motive of money, and every baptist church is autonomous and if he wanted to invite him, that’s his priority and right. No wonder the fallen can’t be restored – because we are barring them from coming into the House of Hope. Just my two cents.”
I’m afraid of what many churches have become and what many skeptics, especially Christian bloggers, who sometimes reside in ivory towers, away from the visibility of their own sins. Church is not the retirement home for the super holy. Church is not the place where we congratulate each other on our holiness and our immaculate wardrobes. Church is not the place where those who struggle in life flee from because their shame forces those who fall or fail to retreat.
No, the church (and the Body of Christ) should be mature even and ministerial enough to open it’s doors and not put up barricades to those who are going through life. Can you imagine any Christian leader saying to his crowd, “we hate the President and he’s not welcome here” (like some have) or “that brother is not worthy because he has made a mistake in his life” (like some have) or in this case, “because he used the n-word, he’s not welcome here” (but then in private offices, throw around the word like it’s a football behind closed doors).
For the record, I believe Donald Sterling should been banned from the NBA, lose his franchise and be satisfied as a spectator and celebrate a sizable profit he has made from an initial purchase of $12 million dollars to the sale at over $2 billion dollars. His remarks, conduct, vile statements, etc. demand that he should be withdrawn from the NBA.
But never from the house of the Lord. It is there that he will find others who have had their issues in this life.
YOUR COMMENTS ARE WELCOMED
by Robert Earl Houston
WHITESTOWN, INDIANA – Ever had days that ran by so quickly that you didn’t have a chance to sit down and soak it all in? Well, I’m at a Starbuck’s Coffee, with my laptop and my Caffe Mocha Venti with an extra-shop and a small slice of Cinnamon swirl coffee cake . . . just to relax for a moment. Several events have occurred in the last few days, so allow me to respond:
First, I want to thank the Lord for the celebration of 5 years as senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Frankfort, Kentucky. I still can’t believe I’ve been in Frankfort for such a period of time. It feels like that Jessica and I just moved to Frankfort recently and I hope I never lose that feeling of awe and wonder. The Anniversary Committee went over and beyond the call of duty and I want to thank them for all of their efforts. It was flawless and a sign that a good plan always works. To be honest, the most nervous feelings I encountered was during the Roast of the Pastor at the 5th Anniversary Gala. I’m not a big one on criticism, but the jokes – the loving jokes – were funny and brought me to tears on a few occasions. Some of the best lines: “Pastor is also a weatherman. By the time you get home from morning worship, he’s already cancelled worship for next week because of weather . . . I don’t know why he cancels during a tornado warning, the church has a basement, I don’t . . . Pastor was searching for somebody for a whole year – he searched and low, still couldn’t find no body. He sang that song for one year . . . I love and respect my pastor. He’s a great man of God and I could never say anything about my pastor, BUT —-. It was great evening and the love and support of those in attendance was genuine and heartfelt. On Sunday my dear friend, Pastor Daniel Corrie Shull and my pastor, Pastor Barton Elliott Harris (coincidentally, both Fisk graduates) were our guest speakers for the day. To Go be the glory . . .
Second, I was appalled as most of the country about the revelations of the taped personal remarks of Donald Sterling, the now banned for life, owner of the Los Angeles Clippers. The new NBA Commissioner, Adam Silver, took a strong, pro-reason, ethical stance in his suspension of Mr. Sterling. What was interesting to me was to hear political pundits on the right try to equate Mr. Sterling’s behavior with some of the questionable behavior of star athletes. That is an apples and oranges discussion. The issue was never on employees – it was their employer/owner, who is held to a higher standards than the player. It seems that whenever “one of their own” (Republicans) are under scrutiny or attack, they run out to find a counterbalance. This issue was pretty straight forward and the team will certainly be sold/disbanded (if Mr. Sterling puts up a fight). Personally, I would like to see the league relocate the franchise to either San Diego/Orange County or Seattle, with a new name and new ownership.
Third, my Portland Trailblazers are looking incredible. Portland has not had a time this exciting in years. The franchise has been to the playoffs 30 times, but only in 1977 did the team go all the way and win the championship. (I remember the city-wide celebration and school being cancelled that day for the celebration). Coincidentally as we celebrate these Blazers, the coach of the championship season, Dr. Jack Ramsey, passed away of cancer. This group of athletes are amazing and I’m hoping that they go all the way to the championship game. Rip City!
Fourth, I just completed my participation in the 54th Annual Simultaneous Revival in Gary, Indiana. I’ve been the local guest of my friend, Pastor Marlon Mack and the Sweet Home Baptist Church the past few years, and serving with the evening lecturer, Pastor Todd Bankert. This year was unlike the previous ones, in my opinion, and it was a well run Simultaneous and the lineup of preachers had a feel of a National Convention, especially since two of the evangelists are also candidates for the presidency of the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc. I had the privilege of preaching Tuesday morning for the mass Breakfast setting and the Lord was KIND.
Five, the weather has been something else of late. There is a severe drought in the West (go figure, right next to the ocean), the north (Chicago area) is cold (it was around 40 this morning), the southwest is under inches of water due to historic flooding, and the midwest is under the threat and has been hit by tornadoes. I have never seen weather like this in my lifetime – when May feels like October. Very strange indeed.
Well, that’s enough. Back to my Caffe Mocha. Be blessed!
YOUR COMMENTS ARE WELCOME!
by Robert Earl Houston
I love the Lord with all my heart. And I am a sports enthusiast (not a fan, which is the abbreviated form of the word “fanatic”). Every Sunday I worship the Lord, pay my tithes and daily I pray and read the Word of God. Football, Basketball, Baseball, Hockey, Soccer are sports that I follow, honestly, from afar. I’m not one of those people who can ring out the starting 5 or 11 or 9 for a team. But I do enjoy the drama of sports.
I thought that this year’s game would be epic. The all-defense Seattle Seahawks versus the all-offense Denver Broncos. Unfortunately it was a blow-out and Seattle ran over the Broncos 43 to 8.
But was disturbing were the emails and Facebook posting where men of God prophesied about the game. Not predicted. Prophesied. There is a difference from making an educated guess (prediction) against the backdrop of a God-uttered or God-breathed prophesy (concerning the future).
I am afraid that in our pursuit of “going to the next level” that we have misguided ministers who are seeming to marry personal prediction and God’s authoritative will. It’s a disastrous train-wreck.
God is not tipping the scales of a sporting event. I don’t believe that God is “for” or “against” a football team. He has His disciples on both sides of the ball. I’m sure that Peyton Manning and Russell Wilson both prayed before the game. I’m sure that the chaplains for the Broncos and the Seahawks prayed the success and safety of their teams. I just don’t think God put His finger on the scale and heavily tip it against the Broncos.
It is incredible to think that a few days before the game any minister would film or broadcast a “lock” on the game. To use the words, “you can take this to the bank” or “God told me to tell you” is insidious and it makes you not a “smarter” or “bigger” or “greater prophet” it transform you into a wolf in sheep’s clothing pouncing upon the minds and spirits of the Sheep of God’s Pasture.
We’re gone into a church age of recognizing gifts TO THE BODY of Christ. I have no problem with the gifts, but when they are used to say what God has not said or to prophesy what God has not uttered is an affront to the Word of God and is an embarrassment to the church community at large.
In the Old Testament and New Testament ages, when a prophet delivered a false prophecy he was stoned. However, I suspect that these false prophets will add an addendum to their prophecies to protect their ungodly behavior.
I’m becoming more convinced that people who use “The Lord told me to tell you” has to be on some kind of self-producing “word.” When I was single, there were those who heard voices too. I’ve seen pastoral candidates who said “The Lord told me” only to blame biased pulpit committees for their losing to another (in some cases) less qualified candidates.
Why do we have the Holy Spirit if we need a third-party intervention? A few years ago I watched a “prophet” minister in a stadium full of black people and said “The Spirit of the Lord has told me that there are those in this cloud that have diabetes.” You don’t need a spiritual gift to figure out that if you’re in a room of 20,000 black people that somebody has diabetes. Duh . . .
I have yet to find a passage where God promised a victory to a sports team. Individuals – yes. Groups of people – yes. Jesus – absolutely yes. But to go out on a limb and say that God has ordained that the Broncos will win and it’s a lock – you become prophets who need to seriously consider retirement or the Body of Christ needs to issue you a layoff notice.
YOUR COMMENTS ARE WELCOME
by Robert Earl Houston
It is COLD outside. It’s 5:30 p.m. and right now it’s just 28 degrees outside and snow is in the forecast for New Year’s Eve. But let me tell you, we had CHURCH today at First Baptist.
Attendance was down (obviously) in both services, but the Holy Spirit showed up in a mighty way. At the 8:00 a.m. service one of my faithful sons, Minister Tyrone Roberts, brought the message, “An Answer to Trouble” (Job 13:15). Snippet of his message:
One of my favorite things to do when I have free time is to go on Facebook. Facebook can be described as social media, where we can view the lives of others through pictures and we can read about what they are thinking and even how they feel about certain things that are going on in our world today. We can learn what a mother thinks about the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, or the upcoming Fiscal Cliff; and you can even find out how much snow a person received in another part of the country; or you can be like a friend of mine that stated that he would be glad to see the year 2012 come to an end. He felt this way because he had lost some friends, lost some church members, had some health challenges…had personal hurts and pains…..and many other things that have caused him difficulty in this year. How many of us have had some ups and downs…set ups…and setbacks…. Some appointments and disappointments…but turn to your neighbor and say in spite of all we are still here!!!
In our text we meet a man named Job. Job was a man from the land of Uz. Uz was located between the city of Damascus and the Euphrates River, or the modern day border of Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Job was an upright man that avoided evil at all costs. He was a blessed man. If I were to contemporize Job; he would be like the Warren Buffet of his day. He was married, he had 7 sons and 3 daughters, Job had 7,000 sheep, and 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen and 500 donkeys. For those of you who don’t know a lot about Job, I will give summary of the first 12 chapters.
He did a great job. Today we began offering DVDs of the services (yeah!) and we’ve invested in video and recording equipment this year as we prepare to go on local cable access television in January (Local Cable channel 10) and his sermon was the first mass-produced under our new system. Turned out very, very well.
I do something here that my father in the ministry, the late Dr. A. B. Devers, I used to do with us. After every sermon that the Associate Ministers preach, we do a “skull session” in where we peer critique the sermon. I think peer review has a great value in building up preachers.
Sunday School was filled with a great discussion about Ephesians 4 and the role of husbands/wives. I happen to teach the Married Couples class and it was a very interesting discussion to say the least.
At 11:00 a.m. the service was probably one of the most different services we’ve had in a long, long time. And that’s a good thing. We deviated from the normal order of worship and when we did the Holy Spirit did something awesome. We had testimonial period and one of the sisters said “The Holy Spirit told me to come ‘home.'” That led to us extending the invitation to Christ mid-way through service and one male joined the church. After the music by the Magnificent Mass Choir (who lifted us up with one of my favorite song, Charles Jenkins’ “Awesome”) it was preaching time.
I ended the year by preaching from John 8:10-11 and the conclusion of Jesus’ interaction with the woman caught in adultery. I was struck by Jesus’ compassionate alternate to the trifling accusations of the Scribes and Pharisees. Not that Jesus condones sin, but he offers Himself as the remedy to sin AND proves to us that His forgiveness of sin should draw us closer to Him. The woman didn’t go back into the arms of her lover. She did not run out and find another man. She ran into the arms of Jesus – and at the end of the story all was left was her and Jesus!
I used a story that Melvin Von Wade, Sr. tells across the country (most recently on the must-read blog by H.B. Charles, Jr.): However, I want to be in the hands of Jesus. One of my preaching mentors was Dr. Melvin Von Wade, Sr. of Los Angeles, California and his mother, Mama Wade, would tell him as a little boy, son I don’t trust nobody but me and Jesus. Well, Mother Wade is now in her mid-90s and she called her son up one day and said, Melvin, I have an update. You remember how I use to tell you that I trust nobody but me and Jesus. Well, I have an update. I trust nobody but Jesus.
God then sent TWO MORE MEN to unite with First Baptist Church. It was awesome. God be praised!!!! And of course we had those who came forward for prayer. Thank you Lord for a great year and a great day.
NFL UPDATES . . .
- Andy Reid was fired (actually the decision made on Friday) as coach of the Philadelphia Eagles.
– Tampa Bay defeats Atlanta. Season over for T.B. and ATL starts prep for post-season.
– Buffalo beats the Jets. My grandmama could beat the Jets.
– Cincinnati beats Baltimore. Impressive season by the Bengals, playoff bound.
– Chicago beats Detroit and needs Green Bay to beat Minnesota. May be a long off-season at this point.
– Indianapolis beats Houston. Both teams in the playoffs.
– Carolina plays New Orleans – who cares?
– Giants beats Philly and still is eliminated for the playoffs.
– Pittsburgh beats Cleveland – look for the Browns to contend next year, not this year, next year, not this year . . .
– Other games are at the half.
What a weekend this has been. This has been one of the best Thanksgivings I can remember and it all started with the people that I love dearly – the First Baptist Church family for our annual Thanksgiving Day service. The service went very well and I’m thinking that next year I’m going to try moving it to the day before Thanksgiving. With all of the cooking activities that take place on Thursday morning and the new Thanksgiving day holiday of shopping, I may need to make adjustments. Anyway, the service was good and the Lord led me to preach, “That’s One Crowd I Don’t Want To Be a Part Of” which examined the ten lepers who were healed by Jesus and the sole one that came back to offer thanks and worship. Very appropriate for the day.
For Thanksgiving we feasted on Fried Turkey, Corn pudding, scalloped potatoes, green beans, cornbread dressing, sweet potato pie and the works. I ate in moderation. And I must admit, Jessica earned her chef’s hat this year! Way to go baby, way to go! Then the rest of the day was football until I passed out.
On Friday night, Jessica and I drove to Louisville for a scheduled program by the Messengers of Christ at Hill Street Baptist Church which, unbeknownst to us, had been cancelled at the last minute. So we took the night to have dinner at Cheddar’s Restaurant over the bridge in Indiana and then returned to our hotel room at the Galt House, which was filled with families that were in the area for the annual Light Festival. A good night indeed. I’ve learned as a pastor that things happen, programs cancel and we don’t always know the whys and wherefores, but God is still good.
We returned home on Saturday morning in time for the Men of Praise rehearsal. Many of the guys are out due to the holiday but those who were there, we pressed on, and actually we had one of the best rehearsals I can remember and there was a period of “male bonding” that is unique to the black experience that took place afterwards. We just sat there and talked – from sports, to shopping, to relationships, to you name it. It was a great time and rather than to hurry them out, we just let this happen. Sometimes, the best pastor is not the one who preaches but the one who can listen.
Sunday morning we had cancelled early morning service and I guess the word didn’t get completely out. For those who don’t know, I live RIGHT NEXT DOOR to the church, and my doorbell rang several times with parishioners who didn’t get the word about cancellation. They took it in good stride – that’s the one thing about have 99% of your congregation within city limits.
We concluded the Book of Hebrews in Sunday School and Deacon Zenas English taught our combined class. We had a great discussion and I appreciate his insights on the text. Kudos!!!
At 11:00 a.m., the people gathered slowly and by the time of the sermon, we had a very decent crowd. The Men of Praise SANG their hearts out. That number was affected by the holidays, but as I mentioned earlier, they were pitch perfect! They sang “Faithful is our God” and a new song I taught on Saturday by my friend, Dr. Patrick Bradley, “I Know There Is Something About God’s Grace” that the congregation picked up and welcomed immediately. God be praised for the men!
I preached on “SCANDAL” based on John 8’s description of the scandal of the woman caught in adultery. Several things caught my eye: First, Jesus was teaching and then interrupted by this scandal by his nemesis, the Scribes and the Pharisees; Secondly, when they accused her, Jesus went silent and wrote in the dirt. I suggested that it could have been words of praise because the accusations ceased; Thirdly, Jesus dismissed them by saying “let he who is without sin cast the first stone” and the only one qualified to do so was Jesus himself. Instead of condemnation, He pardoned – just as He does in our lives.
God be praised for one young adult brother joining the church under restoration. It was a good day.
Now that the election is over – what is with the looney part of the GOP with their asinine insistances since the election??? It reminds me of the character Marvin Martian who is always trying to blow up something and they are literally out of their minds. Look at their stupidity:
a. “Obama Stole the Election” – uh huh. Ever heard of a court case called Gore v. Bush ????
b. “Obama Wasn’t Eligible” – the birther wing led by Alan Keyes, Orly Taitz, WND and fools of that ilk have turned “Birtherism” into a cash cow. They disparage the President, look for conspiracies and “-gates” and are doing more harm to the country than good – oh and by the way Orly and WND and Sheriff Joe are ALWAYS begging for money but never produce a spreadsheet to see where their contributions go. Hmm . . .
c. “Let’s Secede” – OK, let me see – 25,000 people in Texas sign an electronic petition. There are over 25,000,000 people who live there that mean 1/100 of 1 percent have signed this foolish petition. Idiots . . . They can secede, just pay your portion of the Federal Debt, give us back all of our highways, bridges, airports, colleges, Federal Aid, and we’ll be glad to oblige.
Man, I must really need some coffee.
There were a lot of great games over the holidays. I’m saddened that Oregon won’t be playing for the national championship but they’ve got to stop playing Portland State and The College of Pharmacy and schedule some serious games in the future. Methinks it would be wise for the Ducks to schedule 2 non-conference games a year – one against the SEC and the other against Big 12 or another major conference or Notre Dame.
On the Cowboys front. This season is over. Stick a fork in it. We could have traded Romo for the pick to get RG3. He humiliated the Cowboys. Great Stadium. Great Venue. Horrible team.
by Robert Earl Houston
The big news today (Sunday) is Sandy.
Hurricane Sandy is slowly creeping up the coastline of the eastern United States after terrorizing the Caribbean. Sandy has dominated the airwaves, thrown our political process on hold, and is on our minds. We’re praying for all those who Sandy will affect – including those of us in Kentucky, who are now (Monday) experiencing high winds and clouds. Should be a very interesting week ahead.
On Sunday, we joined with my home church, Westwood Baptist Church, University Center, Minister Barton Elliot Harris, Senior Pastor, as they celebrated their 90th Church Anniversary. Church was filled to capacity and we were blessed by the Praise and Worship led by Minister Derrick Lamont Smith. A portion of the Magnificent Mass Choir lifted their hearts in praise by singing, “Clap Your Hands” and “Awesome.” I was introduced by my dear friend, Minister Brian K. Wilkins and preached “Which Way Will You Go?” from 2 Kings 7. The Lord was kind to the preaching moment. We feasted next door at Pearl-Cohn Comprehensive High School immediately after worship and it was a great meal. Thank you Westwood for your hospitality!
Sunday evening, Jessica and I were the guests of Pastor Marvin Neal, Assistant Pastor of Westwood and his lovely wife, Sherri. We were honored to be in their new home and Sherri’s mom, Regina Prude, “cheffed us to death” with an asian combo of chicken, shrimp and beef. We are very proud of what the Lord is doing with the Neals. Praise God for His blessings!
And now, Sports . . .
Congratulations to the San Francisco Giants for running the table on the Detroit Tigers. It was never a contest, the Tigers were outgunned from game 1 and the Giants looked hungry for the title. Sadly, the city doesn’t know how to celebrate a victory. Rioting is asinine and stupid over a baseball game. SMH . . .
The NFL . . .
Tampa Bay 36, Minnesota 17 – did anyone remind Tampa Bay that they were not supposed to win very much this year?
Chicago 23, Carolina 22 – Here’s my suggestion Cam Newton – try getting traded to Dallas.
Cleveland 7, San Diego 6 – 2 out of 3 for the Browns? A hurricane must be approaching.
Detroit 28, Seattle 24 – Both equally matched teams, but Seattle was outcoached.
Green Bay 24, Jacksonville 15 – GB is on the tracks now. Can they run the table?
Miami 30, NY Jets 9 – What must go wrong for the Jets to put Tebow in? The Sanchez era is over.
Atlanta 30, Philadelphia 17 – This is Atlanta’s year. Atlanta vs. Green Bay or NY Giants in the Super Bowl?
Pittsburgh 27, Washington 12 – RG3 was impressive, but the Steel Curtain is . . . the steel curtain.
New England 45, St. Louis 7 – New England needed a blow-out victory after the last few weeks.
Indianapolis 19, Tennessee 13 – Not a bad game and Andrew Luck needed this one.
Oakland 26, Kansas City 18 – I find the Raiders getting better and good news – they’re in the AFC West.
NY Giants 29, Dallas 24 – Cowboys showed disappointment, then heart, then disappointment. I wonder if that was the hand that Dez Bryant lifted against his mom? Note to Tony Romo: Yards passed are meaningless if you don’t win.
Denver 34, New Orleans 14 – It must be the air up there – many of the home games for the Broncos are affected by their great play and their opponent’s tiredness.
San Francisco at Arizona (Monday Night) – San Francisco by 20.
by Robert Earl Houston
ATLANTA, GA -
I have been in Dallas, Texas for the past few days on a “missions journey” that went horribly, horribly awry. I don’t want to bore you (or those viewing this) with details, but let’s just say this was one of the worst, painful, and traumatic weeks of my 52 year old life. it was horrible.
Yesterday, I took advantage of an idea and went on the tour of the Dallas Cowboys stadium. To call it a stadium is a disservice. I have visited several football stadium but there is nothing like the Cowboys facility in Arlington.
First, I’ve never stood in a $1.5 billion dollar facility – and yes, it is all that! It is an engineering marvel. Not ONE obstructed view, wider seats, a jumbotron screen that is almost the length of the football field, a nightclub on premise, the largest NFL fan shop in the country, an art gallery, the home base for the Cotton Bowl organization, an art gallery, the Cowboys Cheerleaders locker room, home and away lockerrooms, 2,000+ Hd screens in the facility, a standing room area that will accomodate 12,000 extra persons – this is truly the 9th wonder of the world.
The hospitality that I encountered was amazing. I met a sister in the pro shop who attends Pilgrim Rest Missionary Baptist Church where Dr. Curtis Wallace is the pastor, and she befriended me and mothered me like I was her long lost child. She kept on telling folk,”he’s just a big old teddy bear” with the sass of a country church mother. i believe if i had asked her for some collard greens and cornbread, she could have reached into her purse and pulled them out.
To hear the details of the construction of this facility is amazing. Also to learn that Arlington, TX is the largest city in America that does not have mass transit was disheartening. it would be great to get a hotel in the area and catch a trolley to the stadium.
When i heard that just last weekend you kindly opened the doors of the facility for a sleepover of cub scouts in the DFW area was very impressive. This arena has hosted the Cowboys, the Super Bowl, monster tractor pulls, bowling tournaments, boxing championships – and it’s only three years old. What an impressive start.
Thank you Mr. Jones, This visit lightened a very burdened heart. I have been a Cowboys fan since I was a teenager and to stand on the star at the fifty year line, with a football in my hand, and to have a photo made of it – it will be on my funeral program.
When I realized that it takes a small army just to maintain, prepare and serve during a game – again it is even more impressive that a facility of this kind exists in our country.
Thank you Mr. Jones!
Robert Earl Houston
p.s. Now about the team on the field . . . .