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Sunday, February 23, 2014

American Negro Spirituals - A Christian Heritage

English: cropped version of Image:Harriet Tubm...
English: cropped version of Image:Harriet Tubman.jpg (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Many of us have grown up hearing and singing the old African negro spirituals like Wade In The Water, Steal Away, Swing Low Sweet Chariot and many others. These songs were believed to send secret messages among the slaves to show them means of escape. While Wade In The Water is believed to contain explicit instructions to the slaves to escape by means of water in order to throw pursuing bloodhounds off their scent, the song does have its roots in Christianity. In the Old Testament, God gave Moses the blueprint for leading the Israelites out of captivity by means of the Red Sea. The song also borrows a phrase in the New Testament about an angel troubling the water to bring about healing to anyone who went into the pool in time. 

Swing Low Sweet Chariot is another popular negro spiritual that was believed to contain coded means of escape for the slaves. In fact, it was thought to be a favorite of Harriet Tubman, notable leader of the Underground Railroad. However, unlike Wade In The Water and other negro spirituals whose composers are largely unknown, most historians believe that Swing Low Sweet Chariot was composed by "Uncle Wallis", a slave of a Chocktaw Indian tribe who had been converted to Christianity.

At the time, the Chocktaws  were one of the five "civilized" Indian tribes who practiced a  form of slavery similar to that of the whites. Brit Willis, Uncle Wallis' owner, hired Wallis out to entertain the Chocktaw boys  at Spencer Academy, and the song became popular among them, not among African-American slaves. In fact, the song was not circulated among African-Americans until after the civil war.

As I researched the information for this post, I was reminded of the song, By The Rivers of Babylon, sung by the Israelites after they were taken captive to Babylon. That song is based on these words from Psalm 137: By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion. 2 There on the poplars we hung our harps, 3 for there our captors asked us for songs, our tormentors demanded songs of joy; they said, "Sing us one of the songs of Zion!" 4 How can we sing the songs of the LORD while in a foreign land?

Is it a lot different from African slaves holding their secret church meetings and singing and crying out to their God for spiritual as well as physical deliverance? I don't think so.  
Enjoy this moving video below.

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Sunday, February 16, 2014

How Do We Love?

Love ? I love love love you.
Love ? I love love love you. (Photo credit: @Doug88888)
Valentine's Day has just passed, and many of us may still be basking in the afterglow of  time spent with that special person. Since I didn't post anything on Valentine's Day, I thought I would repost this article which I did last year. After all, love is timeless, isn't it?

The words of a song of yesteryear go like this: What the world needs now
Is love, sweet love, It's the only thing that there's just too little of

Remember that one? Do you agree that what the world needs now is love? That there isn't enough to go around?

From events taking place around us everyday it would certainly seem that way. So, if you agree there isn't enough love in the world, why don't you begin to share some? No, I'm not talking about man/woman love - not yet. I'm talking about brotherly love. Love for all mankind. Love for the people you know and the people you don't know. Love for the people who look, talk and act like you do and those who don't. The kind of love that Jesus exemplified. Giving love. Forgiving love. Helping love. Praying love. Saving love. Healing love.

We may not be able to do the last two. Only Jesus can save, but we can lead someone to Him. Only Jesus can heal, but we can pray that He will heal them. The clue is to do what we can. No one spoke more and did more in the name of love than Jesus did. He left the splendor of His heavenly home and came down to earth where He suffered hunger, thirst, pain and death. All in the name of love. And He commanded us, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it , Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself" (Matthew 22 : 37 - 39).

Simple, isn't it? But how close do we come to keeping that commandment? Do we love God the way we ought? Do we love our neighbors as ourselves? This month let us reflect on what it really means to love. If we find that we don't measure up, let us go to the Greatest Lover of all and ask Him to teach us how to love as He did.

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Sunday, February 09, 2014

When Should You Teach Your Kids About Jesus?

Suffer the Little Children to Come Unto Me
Suffer the Little Children to Come Unto Me (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
This question was asked in a forum I visited last week. A young woman wanted to know how to introduce the subject to her seven-year-old nephew who is also her godson. One person suggested teaching by example, another suggested it was not her place to do that; she should first consult with his parents. I told her what I do with my own little grand-daughter and what I did with my older grandchildren - read them Bible stories, give them coloring books with pictures of Jesus and other Biblical characters and teach them children's hymns.

I think this woman's heart is in the right place. She did not say if her nephew's parents are Christians. We don't know if the child gets any Christian teaching at home, and in today's culture he is not going to get any in school - unless he goes to a Christian school - or from the media. Jesus said, "Suffer little children and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 19: 14).

So, at what age should we begin teaching children about Jesus? If you are the mother, I would say, from the womb. Studies have shown that babies hear their mother's voice while they are still in the womb, therefore if you sing Christian songs to him, he will hear and pick up on that. After he is born, you continue singing and doing the other things mentioned above.  And, of course, pray with him and take him to church.

I am proud to say that the church I attend has a very strong child development center, and the children from four years and up are active in church. They sing, dance, read the Bible and participate in plays. This morning, a little girl who seemed no older than seven did the scripture reading. The Bible says, "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old , he will not depart from it" (Proverbs 22: 6). Is this what you want for your children? Then start early.

Listen to the video below of a seven-year-old girl singing Amazing Grace.

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Saturday, February 01, 2014

Who Are You Betting On?

As I was watching CNN a while ago I heard that over two billion dollars are expected to be exchanged in bets on who would win this Sunday's Super Bowl. According to one report, the Super Bowl is the gambling mecca of professional sports. No other sport comes close to it. Even Big Business gets into the act with commercials specially designed to spur the public to purchase their products.

So who are you betting on? The Denver Broncos or the Seattle Seahawks? See? I know the names, but that is as much as I know because when it comes to betting, the only one I bet on is Jesus Christ. Well, you say, He is not in the running. I'm not so sure. Atheists have launched a billboard urging fans not to pray for their teams. Makes you wonder what they are afraid of.

So, yes, I'll have my TV on, and I'll glance at it now and then, mostly when the commercials are on, but my bet will always be on Jesus Christ. He is a winner every time.
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