Mother’s Day Prayer 2017

Pray with me please:
Dear Father, as we approach your throne of grace, we thank you for creating Mothers. We thank you for creating our mothers with unique combinations of gifts and talents. We thank you for sacrifices they make for us, both small and large. We thank you for the love they give us, which comes from you.
– We pray that you give each mother your strength – especially the ones who have experienced the loss of a child through death; those who are separated from their child by many miles, illness or prison.
– We pray that your grace will shine on the single mother who must perform the difficult task of being both mother and father.

Finally, we pray for the mothers who are alone on this Mother’s Day. We pray for mothers who are prison bound, whose children have left them, who are home bound and who are in nursing homes. We also pray for mothers who never had the honor of bearing children, but who nurtured many poor and needy children who crossed the threshold of their lives.

Father, be with us as we look at the relationship between Jesus and Mary, His Mother. May we learn your way to succeed at this relationship of love between a mother and her child.

It is in your wonderful Son, Jesus’ Name that we pray. Let us all say amen, amen and amen.

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

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.

A Hero’s Welcome

Jesus was given a hero’s welcome when He entered Jerusalem however, days later the same people who cheered, were calling for His death.

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

“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 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

Praying For My President

Tomorrow just as I have done for the last eight years, I will pray for my President.

Today is the last full day of the Obama Administration. For the last eight years, my biggest fears were either the President would be assassinated, or he would be involved in some scandal. I prayed everyday that these things would not come to pass.

People may differ about some of his policies – the Affordable Care Act, the opening to Cuba, the commutation of Chelsea Manning’s sentence. In my opinion while by no means perfect this President and his family have been positive role models, for America.

Jesus, in Matthew 5:48 tells us, “Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.” (The Message Translation)

This time tomorrow, Donald Trump will be the President. His manner of being, and political agenda are in no way aligned with the way I think, act or live. My notion is to oppose him and everything he stands for.

However, Jesus tells me to love my enemies. Jesus tells me to seek to understand my enemies. Jesus tells me to let my enemies bring out the best in me, not the worst.

Therefore, tomorrow just as I have done for the last eight years, I will pray for my President.

-I pray for his safety.
-I will pray that he governs with wisdom.
-I will pray that he uses his position and powers to help the least of God’s people.
-I will pray for our nation to be at peace.

I will pray for my President – I will pray for President Trump.

The Details of a Radical Man

“The true detail is that most of us have been hoodwinked to believe that Dr. King was some saint who made a great speech that moved the white man, to pass a law in ’64 to give those blacks folk who ain’t got a little more.”

This week as I helped planned Martin Luther King, Jr. celebration services and a day of service at the church I pastor and the seminary that I attend, I found myself immersed in the details.

In those details I rediscovered that Martin Luther King, Jr. was and is a radical man.

The details tell me that during his time, Dr. King was not only radical, but also unpopular. An August 1966 Gallup Poll found that 63 percent of Americans had an unfavorable opinion of King, compared with 33 percent who viewed him favorably.

A close examination of the details of King’s positions reveal his radical unpopularity.
– King believed that America needed a “radical redistribution” of economic and political power.
– King challenged America’s class system in general, and especially its racial caste system.
– King was a strong ally of the nation’s labor union movement.

– King opposed United States militarism and imperialism, especially the country’s misadventure in Vietnam.

If the true details of Dr. King’s positions were known, would he be viewed in a positive light by 94 percent of Americans? Would his name be on schools and on street signs? Would his birthday be a national holiday?

“The true detail is that most of us have been hoodwinked to believe that Dr. King was some saint who made a great speech that moved the white man, to pass a law in ’64 to give those blacks folk who ain’t got a little more.” 3

However, the true detail is this, King and his agenda was much more comprehensive because it included uplifting Whites as well. King realized that White Americans were just as injured by racism and segregation as Black Americans. He understood that racial segregation was devised not only to oppress African Americans, but also to keep working-class Whites from challenging their own oppression, by letting them feel superior to Blacks.

“The Southern aristocracy took the world and gave the poor white man Jim Crow,” King said from the Capitol steps in Montgomery, following the 1965 march from Selma. “And when his wrinkled stomach cried out for the food, that his empty pockets could not provide, he ate Jim Crow, a psychological bird that told him that no matter how bad off he was, at least he was a white man, better than a black man.”

In the details of King’ radicalism I found that he was no original. King; he was radical because Jesus was a radical.

– Jesus was a radical from his humble birth, without the trappings of wealth, power and hegemony.
– Jesus was a radical for healing on the Sabbath.
– Jesus was a radical for praying, and forgiving his enemies.

Yes, the risen Jesus was a radical and King was His disciple.

In reviewing the details of my life, I realize that I am not a radical.

– I have lived a life of comfort powered by the civil rights movement, and paved with the blood of King and others.
– I have shunned difficult conversations, topics and moments so I could remain popular.
– I have not been radical because my Christian walk has been feeble, and my discipleship has been weak.

In his farewell address, President Obama said this about race, “After my election, there was talk of a post-racial America. And such a vision, however well-intended, was never realistic. Race remains a potent and often divisive force in our society.”

As an African American Pastor, race will be a major factor in my ministry. Of the various challenges that will face churches in my charge, I can be assured that race will factor in most of them.

As God’s envoy, I must be radical – not because it is the in thing to do, but because as King and many others have found out – the details of true discipleship demand it.