Category Archives: Religion

God can use you to your full potential!

The next time you feel like GOD can’t use you, just remember.

  • Noah was a drunk
  • Abraham was too old
  • Isaac was a daydreamer
  • Jacob was a liar
  • Leah was ugly
  • Joseph was abused
  • Moses had a stuttering problem
  • Gideon was afraid
  • Samson had long hair and was a womanizer
  • Rahab was a prostitute
  • Jeremiah and Timothy were too young
  • David had an affair and was a murderer
  • Elijah was suicidal
  • Isaiah preached naked
  • Jonah ran from God
  • Naomi was a widow
  • Job went bankrupt
  • Peter denied Christ
  • The Disciples fell asleep while praying
  • Martha worried about everything
  • The Samaritan woman was divorced, more than once
  • Zaccheus was too small
  • Paul was too religious
  • Timothy had an ulcer..AND
  • Lazarus was dead!
  • But don’t forget…
    Jesus helped them all!!!!

    Now! No more excuses!
    God can use you to your full potential.
    Besides you aren’t the message, you are just the messenger.
    In the Circle of God’s love, God’s waiting to use your full potential.

    1. God wants spiritual fruit, not religious nuts.

    2. Dear God, I have a problem, it’s Me.

    3. There is no key to happiness. The door is always open.

    4. Silence is often misinterpreted but never misquoted.

    5. Do the math… count your blessings.

    6. Faith is the ability to not panic.

    7. If you worry, you didn’t pray. If you pray, don’t worry.

    8. As a child of God, prayer is kind of like calling home every day.

    9. Blessed are the flexible for they shall not be bent out of shape.

    10. The most important things in your house are the people.

    11. When we get tangled up in our problems, be still.
    God wants us to be still so He can untangle the knot.

    12. A grudge is a heavy thing to carry.

    13. He who dies with the most toys is still dead.

    Have a great day!!! The SON is shining and he can certainly use you!

    America waking up to scope of black liberation theology

    MICHAEL VALPY

    White Americans are making a discovery: that in a country where the black church is an antidote to the six days of the week in which race matters, Rev. Jeremiah Wright is not a radical kook but a mainstream voice of righteous anger and uplifting hope.

    They’re also discovering that Barack Obama’s former pastor is not one of a kind, that there are a lot of Jeremiah Wrights across their land, preaching in the prophetic tradition of comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable.

    And they’re discovering that Mr. Wright is not only a national black celebrity, but also that he is cemented in the black-preacher tradition of applying the Christian Gospel to black experience, otherwise known as black liberation theology.

    Dwight Hopkins, a professor of theology at the University of Chicago Divinity School who specializes in black religious studies, said that, with the current media furor around Mr. Wright’s comments on everything from AIDS to 9/11 and the rule of the United States (he has called it “the U.S. of K.K.K.A.”) by rich, white people, Americans are suddenly discovering a church that has been invisible since the arrival of the first blacks to America in the 1700s.

    “It’s been thought of in the public realm as a place for good music, a place you can draw on for a political demonstration or people to walk the picket line if the clergy people endorse the cause. But a systematic appreciation of the black church has never been done.”

    In reality, Dr. Hopkins said in an interview, “there are a lot of black churches across the country where you’re going to find Rev. Wrights. Many, many black churches where the preaching will have similar content.”

    And the message will be, as black theologian James Cone of Union Theological Seminary in New York puts it, that “in a world in which values are defined by white domination and white supremacy, in that kind of a world, God sides with those who are the victims in it.

    “What you have in Jeremiah Wright is someone … speaking to the hurt in the African-American community. The suffering.”

    A number of academics who specialize in studies of the black church in America have pointed out the similarities in language of Martin Luther King Jr. and Mr. Wright.

    Prof. Cone noted that “when King spoke out against the war in Vietnam, he said America is the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today.”

    Dr. Hopkins said: “Strip away the formal presentation, black preaching is a ritual of performance, and once [Rev. Wright] lays out his facts, I don’t think a lot of African Americans would be put off by what he says” regardless of class or educational levels. “He is a national black pastoral leader, one of the top 100 preachers in the country.”

    Mr. Wright was pastor of Trinity Church of Christ in Chicago for 36 years until his recent retirement. It is the church that Mr. Obama, candidate for the Democratic Party presidential nomination, has attended for 20 years. Mr. Wright officiated at the Illinois senator’s wedding and baptized his children.

    Mr. Obama has now denounced the 66-year-old cleric for, among other things, invoking God’s damnation of the United States for its militarism and legacy of racism, declaring the war on terror to be based on lies, claiming that 9/11 was the result of U.S. foreign policy and suggesting that the U.S. government might have unleashed the AIDS virus to attack the black community.

    And while many media commentators have suggested Mr. Obama’s campaign for the Democratic nomination could be hurt by his one-time close association with Mr. Wright, at least one scholar, Peter Paris, professor emeritus of Christian social ethics at Princeton Theological Seminary, has worried that the senator’s condemnation of Mr. Wright could hurt him in some black churches.

    “Jeremiah Wright is seen as a major prophetic voice in the black community, and there are many people who adore him.”

    from The Globe and Mail.

    The enemy within?

    Crabs-in-a-barrel?

    Now we’ve heard and seen, in real time, how “pundits” employ the age-old tactic of “divide and conquer”; They just identify, encourage, and use for their purpose, “crabs” or fringe players in one’s black-experience repertoire, against the one who threatens the status-quo.

    Be aware! Our most destructive enemy will have spent significant time in our own households!

    Was it irresponsible of Wright to make his tour correlate with Obama’s campaign? Depends on how one defines that responsibility and who that responsibility is to.

    Did Obama have to address it? Again, it depends on perspective and sensitivity.

    When Bill Clinton was slapped with the question about Monica, how much would it have hurt him to say, “That’s how Hill and I roll.”

    Okay, okay. That last part is totally irrelevant.

    Back to the point. Both men are grown. Both have their own mission. Some would argue that X and King were just as diametrically opposed.

    Bottom line: rest your faith not in men, but in God Almighty – and let Him show you how this thing plays out, for all things work for the good for those who love the Lord. And no matter how likable a fellow may be, or how much he resonates with people, remember, wasn’t Barabas liked by the people? It is not the man, but the power behind the man that determines the outcome.

    Yes Barack is Black. Yes, he is in line to be the first Black president of the United States. But, quiet as it’s kept, that ain’t a bed that’s easy to lie in, or get up from, without catching a bad case of fleas and all the diseases that go with them. So pray for the disciples – both of them. They aren’t in the limelight for no reason; and time will tell what God has planned for both of them.

    Wright says criticism is attack on black church

    Wright

    By NEDRA PICKLER

    WASHINGTON (AP) — In a defiant appearance before the Washington media, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright said Monday that criticism surrounding his fiery sermons is an attack on the black church and rejected those who have labeled him unpatriotic.

    “I served six years in the military,” Barack Obama’s longtime pastor said. “Does that make me patriotic? How many years did (Vice President Dick) Cheney serve?”

    Wright spoke at the National Press Club before the Washington media and a supportive audience of black church leaders beginning a two-day symposium.

    He said the black church tradition is not bombastic or controversial, but different and misunderstood by the “dominant culture” in the United States.

    He said his Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago has a long history of liberating the oppressed by feeding the hungry, supporting recovery for the addicted and helping senior citizens in need. He said congregants have fought in the military, including in Afghanistan and Iraq.

    “My goddaughter’s unit just arrived in Iraq this week while those who call me unpatriotic have used their positions of privilege to avoid military service while sending over 4,000 American boys and girls to die over a lie,” he said.

    Wright said he hopes the controversy will have a positive outcome and spark an honest dialogue about race in America. Wright says black church traditions are still “invisible” to many Americans, as they have been throughout the country’s history.

    He said he hopes “the most recent attack on the black church — it is not an attack on Jeremiah Wright — it’s an attack on the black church,” he said to applause, “just might mean that the reality of the African-American church will no longer be invisible.”

    Videos clips of Wright’s sermons, circulated widely on television and the Internet, knocked Obama’s presidential campaign off-stride. The Illinois Democrat distanced himself from the comments of Wright, whom he has known for 20 years.

    In a sermon days after the Sept. 11 attacks, Wright said “America’s chickens are coming home to roost” after the United States dropped atomic bombs on Japan and “supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans.”

    Asked about some of the comments after the terrorist attacks, Wright challenged the reporter questioning him.

    “Have you heard the whole sermon? No? The whole sermon?” he responded. When the reporter shook her head, he said, “That nullifies that question.”

    He said criticism comes from people who only have heard sound bites playing repeatedly on television and have never listened to his entire sermons.

    Wright said he’s told Obama that if he is elected in November and is inaugurated in January, “I’m coming after you.” He said that’s because his differences are not with the American people, but U.S. policies.

    “Whether he gets elected or not, I’m still going to have to be answerable to God on November 5 and January 21,” Wright said.

    Satan’s meeting

    Satan called a worldwide convention of demons. In his opening address he said,

    “We can’t keep Christians from going to church.”

    “We can’t keep them from reading their Bibles and knowing the truth.”

    “We can’t even keep them from forming an intimate relationship with their saviour.”

    “Once they gain that connection with Jesus, our power over them is broken.”

    “So let them go to their churches; let them have their covered dish dinners, BUT steal their time, so they don’t have time to develop a relationship with Jesus Christ..”

    “This is what I want you to do,” said the devil:

    “Distract them from gaining hold of their Saviour and maintaining that vital connection throughout their day!”

    “How shall we do this?” his demons shouted.

    “Keep them busy in the non-essentials of life and invent innumerable schemes to occupy their minds,” he answered.

    “Tempt them to spend, spend, spend, and borrow, borrow, borrow.”

    “Persuade the wives to go to work for long hours and the husbands to work 6-7 days each week, 10-12 hours a day, so they can afford their empty lifestyles.”

    “Keep them from spending time with their children.”

    “As their families fragment, soon, their homes will offer no escape from the pressures of work!”

    “Over-stimulate their minds so that they cannot hear that still, small voice.”

    “Entice them to play the radio or cassette player whenever they drive.” “To keep the TV, VCR, CDs and their PCs going constantly in their home and see to it that every store and restaurant in the world plays non-biblical music constantly.”

    “This will jam their minds and break that union with Christ.”

    “Fill the coffee tables with magazines and newspapers.”

    “Pound their minds with the news 24 hours a day.”

    “Invade their driving moments with billboards.”

    “Flood their mailboxes with junk mail, mail order catalogs, sweepstakes, and every kind of newsletter and promotional offering free products, services and false hopes..”

    “Keep skinny, beautiful models on the magazines and TV so their husbands will believe that outward beauty is what’s important, and they’ll become dissatisfied with their wives. ”

    “Keep the wives too tired to love their husbands at night.”

    Give them headaches too!

    “If they don’t give their husbands the love they need, they will begin to look elsewhere.”

    “That will fragment their families quickly!”

    “Give them Santa Clause to distract them from teaching their children the real meaning of Christmas.”

    “Give them an Easter bunny so they won’t talk about his resurrection and power over sin and death.”

    “Even in their recreation, let them be excessive.”

    “Have them return from their recreation exhausted.”

    “Keep them too busy to go out in nature and reflect on God’s creation. Send them to amusement parks, sporting events, plays, concerts, and movies instead. “Keep them busy, busy, busy!”

    “And when they meet for spiritual fellowship, involve them in gossip and small talk so that they leave with troubled consciences.”

    “Crowd their lives with so many good causes they have no time to seek power from Jesus.”

    “Soon they will be working in their own strength, sacrificing their health and family for the good of the cause.”

    “It will work!” “It will work!”

    It was quite a plan!

    The demons went eagerly to their assignments causing Christians everywhere to get busier and more rushed, going here and there.

    Having little time for their God or their families.

    Having no time to tell others about the power of Jesus to change lives.

    I guess the question is, has the devil been successful in his schemes?

    You be the judge!!!!!

    Does “BUSY” mean:

    B-eing U-nder S-atan’s Y-oke?

    John the Baptist

    Johnny’s mother looked out the window
    and noticed Johnny ‘playing church’ with their cat.

    Johnny had the cat sitting quietly
    and he was preaching to it.

    Johnny’s mother smiled and went about her work.

    A while later she heard loud meowing and hissing
    and ran back to the open window to see Johnny
    baptizing the cat in a tub of water.

    She called out,

    ‘Johnny, stop that! The cat is afraid of water!’

    Johnny looked up at her and said,

    ‘He should have thought about that before he joined my church.’

    Being Guided by the Holy Spirit

    by Dr. Phillip G. Goudeaux

    If God cannot direct you in the little things, how can He direct you in the big things? He wants you to start yielding to Him in all things. I once heard someone say, “When you hear or read something for the first time, it produces a hope in you, but when you read it for the second, third, or fourth time, it begins to produce results or change in you.”

    There are many things that we go through as Christians. The Bible says that a righteous man may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all. You may be facing pain, adversities, or brokenness and have been praying to receive a word from the Lord about your situation. You must know that God will guide and deliver you from them all.

    It is very easy to be around people and pretend that everything is okay, but God is waiting for you to cry out to Him. You must trust God from the bottom of your heart and don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do and everywhere you go because He’s the one who will keep you on track. Don’t assume that you know it all. Run to God! Run from evil! Honor God with everything you own and give him the first and the best.

    There is nothing better than knowing God for yourself. When you have an intimate relationship with God, you can experience your own testimony and your own miracles & breakthroughs without having to just hear about everyone else’s. Since I have accepted Jesus into my life, I have personally found out is that the Holy Spirit will literally guide your thoughts into the revelation that you are seeking after as you are trying to figure out what the answers are. In other words – you will find the knowledge you are needing as you are seeking after it. The Holy Spirit can either guide your thoughts into what the correct answers are by you just using some of your brainpower to try and figure things out, or He will guide you as to where those answers are located.

    This is my confession in agreement with you:

    “Father, in the name of Jesus help me to deny myself. Help me to get out of the way and let You have full control of my life; I want Your divine guidance. I want Your help because I cannot do it myself and I am tired of having accidents. I am tired of having ups and downs. I want to be blessed. I want to be what You want me to be because I know it is not in man to direct his own steps. Lead me and guide me Lord. It is no more about me but it is all about You. Thank You for Your divine guidance today, tomorrow and every day from now on. I declare I am led by the Spirit and not by my flesh. I walk by faith in the living and true God. I trust You to direct me and I say because I am being led by the Spirit, I am blessed, on top and rising in Jesus’ name. Amen.”

    Dr. Phillip G. Goudeaux is founder & pastor of Calvary Christian Center located in Sacramento, CA. For twenty-eight years, Dr. Goudeaux has been a pioneer within the local, national and international community, taking the Word of God and making it tangible to all who have an ear to hear through simple, practical teaching and leadership.

    The full text of Jeremiah Wright’s “Audacity To Hope” sermon in 1990

    Several years ago while I was in Richmond, the Lord allowed me to be in that city during the week of the annual convocation at Virginia Union University School of Theology. There I heard the preaching and teaching of Reverend Frederick G. Sampson of Detroit, Michigan.

    In one of his lectures, Dr. Sampson spoke of a painting I remembered studying in humanities courses back in the late ’50s. In Dr. Sampson’s powerful description of the picture, he spoke of it being a study in contradictions, because the title and the details on the canvas seem to be in direct opposition.

    The painting’s title is “Hope.” It shows a woman sitting on top of the world, playing a harp. What more enviable position could one ever hope to achieve than being on top of the world with everyone dancing to your music?

    As you look closer, the illusion of power gives way to the reality of pain. The world on which this woman sits, our world, is torn by war, destroyed by hate, decimated by despair, and devastated by distrust. The world on which she sits seems on the brink of destruction. Famine ravages millions of inhabitants in one hemisphere, while feasting and gluttony are enjoyed by inhabitants of another hemisphere. This world is a ticking time bomb, with apartheid in one hemisphere and apathy in the other. Scientists tell us there are enough nuclear warheads to wipe out all forms of life except cockroaches. That is the world on which the woman sits in Watt’s painting.

    Our world cares more about bombs for the enemy than about bread for the hungry. This world is still more concerned about the color of skin than it is about the content of character—a world more finicky about what’s on the outside of your head than about the quality of your education or what’s inside your head. That is the world on which this woman sits.

    You and I think of being on top of the world as being in heaven. When you look at the woman in Watt’s painting, you discover this woman is in hell. She is wearing rags. Her tattered clothes look as if the woman herself has come through Hiroshima or Nagasaki. Her head is bandaged, and blood seeps through the bandages. Scars and cuts are visible on her face, her arms, and her legs.

    I. Illusion of Power vs. Reality of Pain

    A closer look reveals all the harp strings but one are broken or ripped out. Even the instrument has been damaged by what she has been through, and she is the classic example of quiet despair. Yet the artist dares to entitle the painting Hope. The illusion of power—sitting on top of the world—gives way to the reality of pain.

    And isn’t it that way with many of us? We give the illusion of being in an enviable position on top of the world. Look closer, and our lives reveal the reality of pain too deep for the tongue to tell. For the woman in the painting, what looks like being in heaven is actually an existence in a quiet hell.

    I’ve been a pastor for seventeen years. I’ve seen too many of these cases not to know what I’m talking about. I’ve seen married couples where the husband has a girlfriend in addition to his wife. It’s something nobody talks about. The wife smiles and pretends not to hear the whispers and the gossip. She has the legal papers but knows he would rather try to buy Fort Knox than divorce her. That’s a living hell.

    I’ve seen married couples where the wife had discovered that somebody else cares for her as a person and not just as cook, maid jitney service, and call girl all wrapped into one. But there’s the scandal: What would folks say? What about the children? That’s a living hell.

    I’ve seen divorcees whose dreams have been blown to bits, families broken up beyond repair, and lives somehow slipping through their fingers. They’ve lost control. That’s a living hell.

    I’ve seen college students who give the illusion of being on top of the world—designer clothes, all the sex that they want, all the cocaine or marijuana or drugs, all the trappings of having it all together on the outside—but empty and shallow and hurting and lonely and afraid on the inside. Many times what looks good on the outside—the illusion of being in power, of sitting on top of the world—with a closer look is actually existence in a quiet hell.

    That is exactly where Hannah is in 1 Samuel 1 :1-18. Hannah is top dog in this three-way relationship between herself, Elkanah, and Peninnah. Her husband loves Hannah more than he loves his other wife and their children. Elkanah tells Hannah he loves her. A lot of husbands don’t do that. He shows Hannah that he loves her, and many husbands never get around to doing that. In fact, it is his attention and devotion to Hannah that causes Peninnah to be so angry and to stay on Hannah’s case constantly. Jealous! Jealousy will get hold of you, and you can’t let it go because it won’t let you go. Peninnah stayed on Hannah, like we say, “as white on rice.” She constantly picked at Hannah, making her cry, taking her appetite away.

    At first glance Hannah’s position seems enviable. She had all the rights and none of the responsibilities—no diapers to change, no beds to sit beside at night, no noses to wipe, nothing else to wipe either, no babies draining you of your milk and demanding feeding. Hannah was top dog. No baby portions to fix at meal times. Her man loved her; everybody knew he loved her. He loved her more than anything or anybody. That’s why Peninnah hated her so much.

    Now, except for the second-wife bit, which was legal back then, Hannah was sitting on top of the world, until you look closer. When you look closer, what looked like being in heaven was actually existing in a quiet hell.

    Hannah had the pain of a bitter woman to contend with, for verse 7 says that nonstop, Peninnah stayed with her. Hannah suffered the pain of living with a bitter woman. And she suffered another pain—the pain of a barren womb. You will remember the story of the widow in 2 Kings 4 who had no child. The story of a woman with no children was a story of deep pathos and despair in biblical days.

    Do you remember the story of Sarah and what she did in Genesis 16 because of her barren womb—before the three heavenly visitors stopped by their tent? Do you remember the story of Elizabeth and her husband in Luke I? Back in Bible days, the story of a woman with a barren womb was a story of deep pathos. And Hannah was afflicted with the pain of a bitter woman on the one hand and the pain of a barren womb on the other.

    Hannah’s world was flawed, flaky. Her garments of respectability were tattered and torn, and her heart was bruised and bleeding from the constant attacks of a jealous woman. The scars and scratches on her psyche are almost visible as you look at this passage, where she cries, refusing to eat anything. Just like the woman in Watt’s painting, what looks like being in heaven is actually existence in a quiet hell.

    Now I want to share briefly with you about Hannah—the lady and the Lord. While I do so, I want you to be thinking about where you live and your own particular pain predicament. Think about it for a moment.

    Dr. Sampson said he wanted to quarrel with the artist for having the gall to name that painting Hope when all he could see in the picture was hell—a quiet desperation. But then Dr. Sampson said he noticed that he had been looking only at the horizontal dimensions and relationships and how this woman was hooked up with that world on which she sat. He had failed to take into account her vertical relationships. He had not looked above her head. And when he looked over her head, he found some small notes of music moving joyfully and playfully toward heaven.

    II. The Audacity to Hope

    Then, Dr. Sampson began to understand why the artist titled the painting “Hope.” In spite of being in a world torn by war, in spite of being on a world destroyed by hate and decimated by distrust, in spite of being on a world where famine and greed are uneasy bed partners, in spite of being on a world where apartheid and apathy feed the fires of racism and hatred, in spite of being on a world where nuclear nightmare draws closer with each second, in spite of being on a ticking time bomb, with her clothes in rags, her body scarred and bruised and bleeding, her harp all but destroyed and with only one string left, she had the audacity to make music and praise God. The vertical dimension balanced out what was going on in the horizontal dimension.

    And that is what the audacity to hope will do for you. The apostle Paul said the same thing. “You have troubles? Glory in your trouble. We glory in tribulation.” That’s the horizontal dimension. We glory in tribulation because, he says, “Tribulation works patience. And patience works experience. And experience works hope. (That’s the vertical dimension.) And hope makes us not ashamed.” The vertical dimension balances out what is going on in the horizontal dimension. That is the real story here in the first chapter of 1 Samuel. Not the condition of Hannah’s body, but the condition of Hannah’s soul—her vertical dimension. She had the audacity to keep on hoping and praying when there was no visible sign on the horizontal level that what she was praying for, hoping for, and waiting for would ever be answered in the affirmative.

    What Hannah wanted most out of life had been denied to her. Think about that. Yet in spite of that, she kept on hoping. The gloating of Peninnah did not make her bitter. She kept on hoping. When the family made its pilgrimage to the sanctuary at Shiloh, she renewed her petition there, pouring out her heart to God. She may have been barren, but that’s a horizontal dimension. She was fertile in her spirit, her vertical dimension. She prayed and she prayed and she prayed and she kept on praying year after year. With no answer, she kept on praying. She prayed so fervently in this passage that Eli thought she had to be drunk. There was no visible sign on the horizontal level to indicate to Hannah that her praying would ever be answered. Yet, she kept on praying.

    And Paul said something about that, too. No visible sign? He says, “Hope is what saves us, for we are saved by hope. But hope that is seen is not hope. For what a man sees, why does he have hope for it? But if we hope for that which we see not (no visible sign), then do we with patience wait for it.”

    That’s almost an echo of what the prophet Isaiah said: “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength.” The vertical dimension balances out what is going on in the horizontal dimension.

    There may not be any visible sign of a change in your individual situation, whatever your private hell is. But that’s just the horizontal level. Keep the vertical level intact, like Hannah. You may, like the African slaves, be able to sing, “Over my head I hear music in the air. Over my head I hear music in the air. Over my head I hear music in the air. There must be a God somewhere.”

    Keep the vertical dimension intact like Hannah. Have the audacity to hope for that child of yours. Have the audacity to hope for that home of yours. Have the audacity to hope for that church of yours. Whatever it is you’ve been praying for, keep on praying, and you may find, like my grandmother sings, “There’s a bright side somewhere; there is a bright side somewhere. Don’t you rest until you find it, for there is a bright side somewhere.”

    III. Persistence of Hope

    The real lesson Hannah gives us from this chapter—the most important word God would have us hear—is how to hope when the love of God is not plainly evident. It’s easy to hope when there are evidences all around of how good God is. But to have the audacity to hope when that love is not evident—you don’t know where that somewhere is that my grandmother sang about, or if there will ever be that brighter day—that is a true test of a Hannah-type faith. To take the one string you have left and to have the audacity to hope—make music and praise God on and with whatever it is you’ve got left, even though you can’t see what God is going to do—that’s the real word God will have us hear from this passage and from Watt’s painting.

    There’s a true-life illustration that demonstrates the principles portrayed so powerfully in this periscope. And I close with it. My mom and my dad used to sing a song that I’ve not been able to find in any of the published hymnals. It’s an old song out of the black religious tradition called “Thank you, Jesus.” It’s a very simple song. Some of you have heard it. It’s simply goes, “Thank you Jesus. I thank you Jesus. I thank you Jesus. I thank you Lord.” To me they always sang that song at the strangest times—when the money got low, or when the food was running out. When I was getting in trouble, they would start singing that song. And I never understood it, because as a child it seemed to me they were thanking God that we didn’t have any money, or thanking God that we had no food, or thanking God that I was making a fool out of myself as a kid.

    Conclusion: Hope is What Saves Us

    But I was only looking at the horizontal level. I did not understand nor could I see back then the vertical hookup that my mother and my father had. I did not know then that they were thanking him in advance for all they dared to hope he would do one day to their son, in their son, and through their son. That’s why they prayed. That’s why they hoped. That’s why they kept on praying with no visible sign on the horizon. And I thank God I had praying parents, because now some thirty-five years later, when I look at what God has done in my life, I understand clearly why Hannah had the audacity to hope. Why my parents had the audacity to hope.

    And that’s why I say to you, hope is what saves us. Keep on hoping; keep on praying. God does hear and answer prayer.

    Black Rabbi Reaches Out to Mainstream of His Faith

    16rabbi1_span1.jpg
    Sally Ryan for The New York Times
    Services at Beth Shalom B’nai Zaken Ethiopian Hebrew Congregation in Chicago, which has more than 200 members.

    By NIKO KOPPEL

    CHICAGO — Having grown up in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, Capers C. Funnye Jr. was encouraged by his pastor to follow in his footsteps. Instead, he became a rabbi.

    His congregation on the Far Southwest Side of Chicago is predominantly black, and while services include prayers and biblical passages in Hebrew, the worshipers sometimes break into song, swaying back and forth like a gospel choir.

    As the first African-American member of the Chicago Board of Rabbis and of numerous mainstream Jewish organizations, Rabbi Funnye (pronounced fun-AY) is on a mission to bridge racial and religious divisions by encouraging Chicago’s wider Jewish community to embrace his followers — the more than 200 members of Beth Shalom B’nai Zaken Ethiopian Hebrew Congregation.

    “I am a Jew,” said Rabbi Funnye, “and that breaks through all color and ethnic barriers.”

    As a teenager, Rabbi Funnye said he felt disconnected and dissatisfied with his Methodist faith. He embarked on a spiritual journey, investigating other religions, including Islam, before turning to Judaism. He said he found a sense of intellectual and spiritual liberation in Judaism because it encourages constant examination. “The Jew has always questioned,” he said.

    Like their rabbi, a majority of Beth Shalom’s members came to Judaism later in life, after wrestling with contradictions and questions that they found in their own earlier beliefs. Many refer to their religious experience as reversion, rather than conversion, and feel a cultural connection to the lost tribes of Israel. They say that Judaism has renewed their sense of personal identity.

    There are no firm national statistics on the number of African-American Jews, said Gary Tobin, president of the Institute for Jewish and Community Research. Usually referred to as Israelites or Hebrews, they have historically been seen to stand apart in theology and observance from the nation’s approximately 5.3 million Jews, mainly of Ashkenazi, or European, ancestry, and have largely been ignored by the broader Jewish community. Rabbi Funnye hopes to change that by speaking about his congregation at synagogues throughout Chicago and across the country.

    “I believe that people cannot know you unless you make yourself known,” he said. “The only way to do that is to step outside and not fear rejection.”

    To spread his message, he also serves on the boards of the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs and the American Jewish Congress of the Midwest. In addition, he is active in the Institute for Jewish and Community Research, focusing on reaching out to other communities of black Jews around the world, including the Falashas in Ethiopia and the Igbo in Nigeria.

    Occupying a former Ashkenazi synagogue, Beth Shalom is in the Marquette Park neighborhood. It is just blocks from where Chicago’s Nazi party used to march and where the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was struck by a rock while protesting against segregated housing in 1966.

    The congregation was founded in 1918 as the Ethiopian Hebrew Settlement Workers Association by Rabbi Horace Hasan from Bombay. Members include some Hispanics, African-Americans and whites who were born Jews, as well as former Christians and Muslims. In line with traditional Jewish law, Beth Shalom does not seek out converts, and members must study for a year before undergoing a traditional conversion ritual. Men are required to be circumcised, and women undergo a ritual bath in a mikvah.

    Many worshipers feel that their devotion to Judaism is misunderstood.

    “When the broader community thinks of a Jew,” Dinah Levi said, “we don’t fit the profile.” Ms. Levi, 57, raised as a Baptist, is vice president of Beth Shalom, where she said she feels at home with spiritual elements that incorporate the African-American experience. “Since we are a varied people as written in the Torah,” she said, “I think the religion can be embraced by a multitude of people.”

    Beth Shalom’s service is somewhere between Conservative and Modern Orthodox observance with distinctive African-American influences. Men and women sit separately as the liturgy is read in English and Hebrew. Some members kiss their prayer shawls, pointing to the Torah, as is the practice in traditional synagogues. A chorus sings spirituals over the beat of a drum.

    Across America, black congregations have been active since the early 20th century. In the past, efforts to reach out to the mainstream Jewish community have been met with suspicion and rejection, said Lewis R. Gordon, the director of the Center of Afro-Jewish Studies at Temple University. That is why many groups stay separatist, aligning themselves more with black nationalism than with traditional Jewish groups.

    “People ask me, ‘As if you aren’t already in a bad enough situation being black, why would you want to be Jewish?’ ” said Tamar Manasseh, 29, a lifelong member of Beth Shalom.

    Ms. Manasseh, wearing a Star of David around her neck, attended Jewish day school and is currently planning her daughter’s bat mitzvah. “I can’t change being Jewish just the same way I can’t change being black,” she said. Close to completing her rabbinic studies, she will be among the first black women to be ordained as a rabbi, according to Rabbi Funnye, her mentor.

    After a Saturday service, Rabbi Funnye has a quiet moment in his office. On the wall is a 1930s black-and-white photograph of members of an African-American congregation. The men, all in prayer shawls, look out before an opened Torah. “We’re not going anywhere,” said Rabbi Funnye, smiling confidently, “I’m going to reach out until you reach back.”