Mother’s Day Contentment

Mother’s Day is a time of great emotion, and as Sunday approaches, many of us are already feeling it.

Three of my friends lost mother’s recently, so for them and many others, this Mother’s Day will be a time of sadness.

For others, Mother’s Day is a happy time. It is when they show appreciation to mom, by lavishing her with praise, prizes and pedicures.

For me, the day and this week is a time of reflection. My mother who has Demetria turned 91 on Tuesday, This means the tables have turned; and now her children function in the role of parent and caretaker.

Philippians 4:11 tells us to learn to be content whatever the circumstances. At this point of my mother’s life, her memory is gone, her cognition diminished, her steps are getting shorter, but she is content with her circumstances.

It is the grace and mercy of God which has given me contentment regarding my mother’s circumstances. No longer do I think, “Why did this happen to such a wonderful, loving woman, who committed her life to using her powerful intellect to educate others?”

God’ grace has given me the magnificent gift of reflection. God’s grace affords me the time and space to reflect on the remarkable life she continues to live, and the continuous teaching she so generously provides for her children.

Therefore, on Mother’s Day the most emotional of days my prayer for you is contentment whatever the circumstance.

Marben Bland is the Pastor of Hall Chapel and Mitchell Chapel AME Churches in Sparta, Georgia.

Arthur Blank a Good Neighbor

Arthur Blank the owner of the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons is not only an American success story, he is also a good neighbor.  

Born in the Flushing neighborhood of the New York City borough of Queens.  Blank has amassed millions improving neighborhoods as the co-founder of Home Depot, the world’s largest home improvement retailer. 
 
Blank also helped his neighbors through his philanthropic efforts, making a personal pledge to give away at least 50% of his wealth during his lifetime.  

His Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, helps neighbors around the world, and promotes innovative solutions to transform the lives of youths and their families.  

Formed in 1995, the Foundation has provided more than $300 million to many charitable organizations. 
 
Blank’s Rules for Neighborly Success
 
Arthur Blank credits much of his success working with neighbors in business, sports and philanthropy, to these six simple yet powerful rules:
 
1. Put people first.
2. Listen to the customer.
3. Include everyone.
4. Innovate continuously.
5. Lead by example.
6. Give back.
 
The Parable of the Good Samaritan and The Blank Rules
 
Loving and caring for our neighbor is the commandment of God and is a key element in our Christian faith.  
 
The power of these timeless rules from Arthur Blank is evident in the parable of the Good Samaritan.
(Luke 10:25-37)    
 
Jesus uses the parable in response to the question of a local lawyer who ask “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”   
 
Jesus responds to the lawyer’s question by asking him, “What is written in the law?” 
 
The lawyer reads the law back to Jesus by saying it is commanded that “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” 
 
Looking for a loophole to trip up Jesus, the lawyer asked, “And who is my neighbor?”
 
In response, Jesus tells the story of the Good Samaritan; this is where the Blank rules come into play.  Let’s look at the parable in a different way, by using the Blank rules for treating his neighbor.
 
Putting People First  

“There was once a man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho. On the way he was attacked by robbers. They took his clothes, beat him up, and went off leaving him half-dead. Luckily, a priest was on his way down the same road, but when he saw him he angled across to the other side. Then a Levite religious man showed up; he also avoided the injured man.  A Samaritan traveling the road came on him. When he saw the man’s condition, his heart went out to him. He gave him first aid, disinfecting and bandaging his wounds.”
 
Question:  Who followed the Blank rule of putting people (his neighbor) first? Was it the priest? Was it the Levite religious man? Or was it the Samaritan?
 
Listen To The Customer / Include Everyone

“He gave him first aid, disinfecting and bandaging his wounds. Then he lifted him onto his donkey, led him to an inn, and made him comfortable. In the morning, he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take good care of him. If it costs any more, put it on my bill-I’ll pay you on my way back.'”
 
Comment: By giving the injured man first aid and taking him to an inn, the Samaritan was listing to the concerns of his customer without a word being said. 
 
Getting the innkeeper to help was smart; it expanded the care for this injured neighbor by getting others involved.  

How often as Christians do we take the “Lone Ranger” approach to loving our neighbor?  We should remember that even the “Lone Ranger” was never alone; he always had Tonto at his side.
 
Innovate Continuously

Comment: You may say what was so innovative about the Samaritan tending to an injured person?   Apple founder Steve Jobs, and noted innovator, said that innovation most often is not about doing something new. He said that innovation most of the time is about doing something that others were unwilling to do.

The Samaritan was innovative because he did something for “his neighbor” that the Priest and the religious Levite were unwilling to do. 

Question: How willing are we to innovate for our neighbor?

Lead By Example

Once the parable was completed, Jesus then asked the Lawyer, “What do you think? Which of the three became a neighbor to the man attacked by robbers?”

The lawyer responded, “The one who treated him kindly.”

Comment:  The Samaritan has set the example. 

Give Back

Then Jesus said, “Go and do the same.”

Comment:  The Samaritan has set the example; now Jesus wants us to go and set examples for others.  

Final Thoughts

Yes, Arthur Blank is a good neighbor; some may argue that it is easy to be a good neighbor when you are a billionaire!  

However, let me remind you that Jesus said, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”  

While I am not handicapping Mr. Blank’s afterlife, I am saying that all of us must be good neighbors, regardless of our resources.   

For when we live our lives keeping the commandment to “love our neighbors as we love ourselves,” we and our neighbors will all be the richer for it. 
 
Marben Bland is the pastor of Hall Chapel and Mitchell Chapel AME Churches in Sparta, Georgia.

The Great Commission- Are You A Disciple?

Last week we celebrated the resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The death and resurrection of Jesus is not only the fulfillment of Old Testament Prophecy, but it is the linchpin for a new relationship with God and His people.

In other words, Resurrection Sunday is a big deal! It changes everything, but in the words of those info commercials: “Wait there is more!” We often have a tendency to stop the narrative of Jesus’s time on Earth at the resurrection. However, the Gospels reveal that Jesus left His most powerful message to the end of His earthly ministry.

Matthew, Luke and Mark close with some version of the Great Commission. The last instruction of Jesus to go out into the world and make disciples, while spreading the good news of salvation. Let’s examine how Matthew records the Great Commission from Jesus:

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20, NIV)

The Great Commission is the bases of sharing the Gospel, and making new disciples of Christ through evangelism and missionary work. The Great Commission also creates an assumption, and a demand that those who are carrying out the work of the Great Commission are also disciples of Christ.

Now that would seem that it is a “no brainer,” if you are making disciples, you must be a disciple. Regardless of how simple it may seem, I would suggest from personal experience that it is not true. For many years although, I have always been a member of the church, doing the work of Lord, I was not a disciple.

The New World Dictionary defines a disciple as a learner who submits to discipline, or one who becomes a disciplined learner.

Jesus, in Luke 14:25, explains that discipleship for Christ goes farther than submitting to discipline, and becoming a disciplined learner. Being a disciple for Christ involves a greater relationship, a greater calling and a greater commitment. Being a disciple for Christ involves an ongoing cost.

  • A disciple must be willing to forsake family, friends and even life itself to follow Jesus
    (Luke 14:26).

  • A disciple must be willing to lay down his life in following Jesus (Luke 14:26).

  • A disciple must consider the cost of being a disciple of Jesus (Luke 14:27).

This weekend the church where I pastor kicked off our family movie night with the feature “Hidden Figures.” The movie is the true story of three brilliant African-American Women who were the unknown brains behind the United States Space Program.

Like many African-Americans in the Jim Crow South, the women of Hidden Figures – Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson – endured the hardships of racisms, sexism and unequal pay as the cost for their achievement as pioneers in the U.S. Space Program.

The message is clear; Jesus paid the price for our sins, and the expectation is clear – we must pay the cost being a disciple.

While there is a cost for discipleship, we can gain much comfort because the Great Commission stresses that we are not in this fight alone. Just before His accession to Heaven, Jesus said, “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

I don’t know about you but the opportunity to always have Jesus with us is worth the cost. Therefore the question that the Great Commission is asking all of us is simply this: Are you a disciple?

Why Is Good Friday Such A Good Day?

How can Good Friday be such a good day when Jesus walked through the streets of Jerusalem with a cross on his back?

How can Good Friday be such a good day when they nailed His hands and His feet to the cross, and then hung Him up to die?

How can Good Friday be such a good day when they put a crown of thorns on His head, and the soldiers gambled for His clothes?

How can Good Friday be such a good day when Jesus the son of God died on a cross – a death reserved for murderers, traitors and thieves.

Good Friday is such a good day because Jesus gave His life that we might be healed, His blood was shed for our forgiveness.

Good Friday is such a good day because it lead to Resurrection Sunday. With His death and resurrection, the path for salvation is clear we can be forgiven for our sins. Everlasting life with God in Heaven is possible for those who believe.

And that is why Good Friday is such a good day!

Marben Bland is the pastor of the Hall Chapel AME Church and Mitchell Chapel AME Church in Sparta, GA

I am So Happy

On Palm Sunday, I was reminded once again why I am so happy with the fact that God does not act or think like us.

Many Jews believed that their messiah would come in with all the trappings of power. With a mighty army, formidable weapons and violent vengeance against their enemies. Instead Jesus the messiah arrived in Jerusalem on a colt an animal of royal breeding but lacking the prestige reserved for a king.

However, Jesus came to Jerusalem with the most powerful weapon against evil, discord and sin that the world has ever known. Jesus rode into Jerusalem with the love of God, and for that He died on the cross. Because God so loved the word that He gave us his only son so that we may have the opportunity at everlasting life. And that is why I am so happy that God does not act or think like us.

A Hero’s Welcome

My sisters and brothers:

When the Cleveland Cavaliers came back from a three-games to one hole, to win the NBA Championship over the Golden State Warriors, the city of Cleveland erupted in joy. In defeating the defending champion Warriors, LeBron James and his Cavalier teammates brought the first championship to Cleveland in over fifty years. When the team arrived from the championship game in California, the Cleveland Fans gave them a hero’s welcome, including a parade attended by an estimated1.5 million people.

Lieutenant Colonel Benjamin Potter – an orthopedic surgeon, who spent the last four months caring for injured service members and Afghan Allies – returned home to a very enthusiastic hero’s welcome. His entire neighborhood in suburban Bethesda, Maryland, threw a block party in his honor.

Collins English Dictionary defines a hero’s welcome as a very enthusiastic reception from a group of people who show their admiration for something exceptional, that a person or group of people have done.

Jesus was given a hero’s welcome as He entered Jerusalem. The Gospel account in Luke 19:36-38 tells us that as Jesus rode along, people in a sign of respect and love, spread their cloaks on the road.

As Jesus started to go “down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, saying, ‘Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!’”

The Cleveland Cavaliers Lieutenant Colonel Potter, and Jesus Christ all richly deserved their heroes’ welcome. However, most of the people who welcomed Jesus that day in Jerusalem, soon turned into a bitter mob, demanding His crucifixion.
What happened to Jesus in Jerusalem – going from hero to the crucified one within the space of a few days – started me to think.

How many times have we given Jesus a hero’s welcome during worship on Sunday morning, and then reject our Lord and Savior on Monday?

How many times have we embraced Jesus when giving godly advice to others, but forget that same advice when it comes to situations in our own lives?

How many times have we given Jesus a hero’s welcome to get us through times of trouble, then all but neglect Him when things are going well?

On this Palm Sunday, the start of Holy Week, we commemorate Jesus’ passion, love and resurrection. Let us resolve to always give Jesus the hero’s welcome that He so richly deserves.

When we put Jesus first in our lives, we will receive the hero’s welcome of grace, love, power, and the opportunity to obtain the ultimate hero’s welcome of all – everlasting life with Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior!

Have a blessed Holy Week.

The Immigrant

In putting “America First,” President Trump has signed executive orders calling for the building of a wall along the United States – Mexican Border. He has also pledged to deny federal funds to so-called “Sanctuary Cities” that shield undocumented immigrants from deportation.

In putting “God First,” we disciples of Jesus live by Deuteronomy 10:17-19 with tells us:

The LORD your God is the God of all gods and Lord of all lords.
God does not play favorites or takes bribes.
God enacts justice for orphans and widows.
God loves immigrants, giving them food and clothing.

Finally, Deuteronomy 10:17-19 commands us to “…love immigrants because you were immigrants in Egypt.”

The most recently available Census Bureau Data reports that 13.3 percent of the population of the United States are immigrants. In a country of 318.9 million, that equals 42.4 million people.

The United States is truly a nation of immigrants, and the evidence is clear that most immigrants come to this country in search of a better life, not to commit crime or to take part in terrorism. 


The New York Times reports that an analysis of census data from 1980 through 2010 show that among men ages 18 to 49, immigrants were one-half to one-fifth as likely to be incarcerated as those born in the United States.

Across all ages and sexes, about 7 percent of the nation’s population are noncitizens, while figures from the Justice Department show that about 5 percent of inmates in state and federal prisons are noncitizens.

However, additional Justice Department analysis concluded that undocumented immigrants had crime rates somewhat higher than those here legally, but much lower than those of citizens.

So where does that leave us in this “America First” strategy? The tone and tenor of the President’s Executive Order blurs the line between who’s a serious criminal and who is not, and between documented and undocumented immigrants.

However, as disciples of Jesus our putting “God First” strategy is clearly defined for us in Leviticus 19:33-34.

“When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them.  The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born.  Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.”

In 1975 Neil Sedaka, the pop singer, pianist, composer and record producer, recorded a song in protest of the treatment of formal Beetle, John Lennon and others by immigration officials.

The song describes an America where strangers were welcome – a place where there was a sweeter tune, and there was so much room that people could come from everywhere.

When we put “God First,” we will treat the foreigners who reside among us as brothers and sisters, not as potential criminals. For as disciples of Jesus we live in the confidence that the Lord has given us an economy with unlimited opportunities of jobs and upward mobility for everyone along with a society that is safe for all of God’s Children, native born and immigrant. A land as Neil Sedaka describes where strangers are welcomed.

For God commands us to loves immigrants to welcomed them not to exclude them with executive orders. Ironically devised by a president who himself is married to an immigrant.

(Source material from this blog is from The US Department of Justice, The US 
Census Bureau, The New York Times and the Immigrant by Neil Sedaka.)

Marben Bland is the Pastor of Hall Chapel and Mitchell Chapel AME Churches in Sparta, GA