Welcome to my work! My latest book of columns, "Race, Faith and Politics Today," has just won honors for Best Non-Fiction Book from the Indiana Society of Professional Journalists and Best Book on Religion (Eastern/Western) in the eLit national awards. I also presented the volume in session at last fall's Church of God in Christ Holy Convocation in St. Louis. See my COGIC news page.
My column, "Keeping Faith," also won an award this spring for best reporting from the Evangelical Press Association, the USA's largest group of born-again news outlets. This follows two honors for best newspaper series and one for best copy editing from the National Association of Black Journalists (along with a couple for best magazine single-topic series for my work in The Whole Truth, the official COGIC magazine).
Previously, the column took an honor for best use of the Bible in secular media from the longstanding and greatly respected Amy Foundation. The piece also has won awards for best standing column from the Evangelical Press Association, finishing alongside Christianity Today; religion reporting from the Religion News Association, the world's largest organization of journalists covering faith; and three straight yearly awards for general column writing given by the Indiana Society of Professional Journalists plus another for coverage of issues of concern to minorities.
"Race, Faith and Politics Today," the aforementioned book compiling my columns on spirituality now out from Berean Publishing, is distributed by Ingram and available through Shopify and PayPal (as well as from several major Web portals and select bookstores). The book has Bible study and college course teaching guides available.
My latest book is good for those interested in a born-again lens on civic issues, America's racial divide, our increasingly secular culture, and a host of other trends & issues involving faith. You'll also find in it thoughts on Christian living, a practical take on theology and even the way of salvation if you'd like to pass it along to people curious about Christianity. You have the chance to read excerpts from the book and a recent interview with me about it.
I invite you to look around this website as it also has a blog on faith, Twitter feed, biographical informationand more. You may email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I love to hear from readers, so feel free to keep in touch, and I welcome you to stay up with my work, too.
We Christians like to say we’re free, but a lot of times we’re really still in bondage. Sometimes we may be in sin about the flesh, such as with greed or porn, but our greater problem is we are too often in the flesh, cleaning up our outside and mistaken in our focus.
The Good News of salvation through our repentance from sin and placing faith in Christ‘s atoning death and resurrection is, by definition, based upon the supernatural. However, even those of us who have followed Jesus for some time can forget this is a journey of unearned grace, mercy and favor, neither brought on nor sustained by our supposedly sinless behavior.
In Romans 7:21-25, the apostle Paul talks about the Jewish law of do’s and don’ts he follows mentally and the law of sin, which is what his body wants to do.
Verse 21-23: “I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin that is in my members.”
Paul from birth has been a Pharisee, someone who has followed, loved and revered God’s Old Testament. If anyone would have his life under control from sin, it would be him.
Yet here, he says evil is in him. How can this be? He still has a body and an old nature to deal with, and these can continue to make life in Christ a challenge.
Verses 24-25: “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God – through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.”
This struggle between the physical and spiritual would be endless and unhappy if not for Jesus Christ, whose sinless life fulfills the former covenant’s requirements so they no longer must be observed.
The Jewish law was a constant focus on “do this, don’t do that.” Really, it was a law of the flesh; people were focusing on their performance, not God’s will and work.
The Lord intended that the law would bring the Jews to himself in relationship by realizing they couldn’t keep it by their effort. This was a remedy for the fear they had that kept them away from God and had them send Moses to talk with the Lord for them (Exodus 20:19-21).
However, the Hebrews kept trying to obey the law’s 600-odd commands and make offerings to cover sins, not wipe them away. They thought that was God’s best, in spite of the instructions of Moses and several prophets (i.e., Isaiah 55:6-7).
In Romans 8, Paul tells us the Lord has made a better way for us.
Verses 1-2: “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh but the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.”
The apostle now shifts to comparing the law of Jesus Christ – grace through faith – with the Old Testament law of edicts and penalties.
Verses 3-4: “For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh on account of sin. He condemned sin in the flesh so that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but the Spirit.”
The Jewish law lacked strength due to commanding actions and words – changing the outside – and not converting the inside. That came only in the giving of Christ to forgive sins and the indwelling Holy Spirit to cleanse, fill and change believers.
If we think our striving is going to make us righteous in God’s eyes, we will instead be unrighteous, because this focuses on our work. Instead, we are to look steadfastly to Christ and keep pursuing deeper and deeper relationship with him (Hebrews 11:6), accomplished by prayer, reading the Bible, fellowship with other believers, and following the leading of the Holy Ghost.
When we abide in the Lord this way, sin largely takes care of itself. If we do get in trouble again, we simply call on Jesus to help.
Verse 5: “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, those things of the Spirit.”
Both those who live wildly in the flesh and those who think they can control it are fixated on what they can do as people, not what God can accomplish. Paul says for us look to Jesus, focus on him, and let his Spirit take care of our compulsions.
Verses 6-8: “For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God, for it is not subject to the law of God nor indeed can be. So, then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”
Even thinking we can keep all the Bible’s rules through our effort is living in the flesh and causes us to be judgmental, prideful, resentful and exhausted, for we are not supposed to carry such a load.
In living the law, we also have primarily inward lives, asking ourselves, “How well am I doing with God’s commands? Am I sinning in mind if not in body? Can the Lord possibly be pleased with me like this?”
When we trust God to lead us by his Spirit, we are outwardly focused: “Where is the Lord heading me? To whom can I testify about him? Who needs the love of Christ today? How can I help others?”
Verses 9-10: “But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not his. And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.”
When we trust God to bring right living in our bodies, the Holy Ghost takes care of it. Is the Spirit going to lead us into all flesh? No, “all truth,” John 16:13 says.
The greatest gain in godly living in my life probably was the first couple of years after coming to know the Lord, as he got rid of swearing, drinking and so much more. The smallest gain in godly living has come about when I’ve concentrated on it.
So what happens if we have a sin – even a habitual one – come up in our lives after we’re saved? We submit ourselves to God and resist the devil (James 4:7) by asking the Lord for forgiveness and for him to change our heart, then he provides a way of escape (1 Corinthians 10:13).
Verse 11: “But if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.”
Paul is saying Jesus is going to fix it. It may take a little while, but he will do it in his time. If we are saved, the Holy Spirit dwells in us, and he is far more capable and effective than any of our will power.
Now, we don’t make the mistake that anything we do is fine with God. Paul puts it this way: “Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?” (Romans 6:1).
Of course not, but realize that “sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace,” according to Romans 6:14. This says, as a believer, sin is not going to win – God will get rid of it in our lives. It also states that in Christ, we are not judged for our sin, for we are forgiven because of Jesus’ perfect life standing for our faulty one.
Verses 12-13: “Therefore, brethren, we are debtors not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh, you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”
There seem to be two camps in trouble in the Christian world: There are the fleshly folks, who say Jesus was a nice guy and he had some good teachings, but smart people don’t take the Bible all that seriously. Then there are the legalistic people, who state that they believe every word of Scripture, except that part about grace; if I ever commit a sin after I’m saved, I’m lost.
Both are slaves to flesh – one to indulge it, the other to control it. Both also are in a battle they'll lose.
Verse 14: “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.”
This is the answer: Take the Lord at his Word that he’s taking care of us, and just focus on following him and bringing his Kingdom to the people and places in our lives.
We don’t need to spend too much time on hearing directions, “go here, not there,” and so forth. Remember that “in him, we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28), and “a man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps” (Proverbs 16:9). The Holy Spirit flows through us to take us where we need to go; if he has to explain everything to us and persuade us it’s him talking, we’ll hardly get anywhere.
Mostly, we simply look outwardly and spread God’s love, peace, patience, kindness, forgiveness and other spiritual fruit and truth to those needing same as well as encourage those who have Jesus but are struggling. The Christian’s calling truly is that simple, but we don’t think it could be that clear or straightforward, so we make it infinitely more complex.
Another problem is that we live in a society that says, “Focus on yourself, fulfill yourself and cut down anyone who might cause you not to fulfill yourself, because it’s all about you.” Should we live like that, we’ll surely die, for it’s not all about us – it’s about Christ, and he will take care of us better than we can ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20).
In Romans 8, Paul says that the new law of the Spirit of life in Jesus Christ frees the believer from focusing on perfecting self since the Lord's sinless life and sacrifice fulfilled every such requirement.
Some churches today resemble Pharisees and Sadducees, those liberal theologically seeing the Bible as advice, not instruction, and conservative bodies sometimes caught in never-ending scourging of self.
Paul details the battle between his spirituality and flesh in Romans 7, admitting he struggles with sin even though an apostle called directly by Jesus himself.
Leaving behind constant inward attempts to purify and letting the Holy Spirit clean our hearts allows Christians to look outwardly to witness and make disciples.
The Holy Spirit's leading is best when living in his flow rather than occasionally concentrating to try to hear his direction.
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Most Christians understand they are freed from the Old Testament law of do's and don'ts. However, they may fall victim to focusing on perfecting themselves and come under law in a different form.
The Jewish law commanded outward obedience in order to drive the Chosen People to inward relationship with God when they realized they couldn't keep it. Instead, the Pharisees attempted to follow it strictly in legalism and the Sadducees discounted it as unrealistic.