In the first year of King Cyrus of Persia,[a] the Lord fulfilled the prophecy he had given through Jeremiah. He stirred the heart of Cyrus to put this proclamation in writing and to send it throughout his kingdom:
2 “This is what King Cyrus of Persia says:
“The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth. He has appointed me to build him a Temple at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. 3 Any of you who are his people may go to Jerusalem in Judah to rebuild this Temple of the Lord, the God of Israel, who lives in Jerusalem. And may your God be with you! 4 Wherever this Jewish remnant is found, let their neighbors contribute toward their expenses by giving them silver and gold, supplies for the journey, and livestock, as well as a voluntary offering for the Temple of God in Jerusalem.”
5 Then God stirred the hearts of the priests and Levites and the leaders of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin to go to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple of the Lord. 6 And all their neighbors assisted by giving them articles of silver and gold, supplies for the journey, and livestock. They gave them many valuable gifts in addition to all the voluntary offerings.
7 King Cyrus himself brought out the articles that King Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the Lord’s Temple in Jerusalem and had placed in the temple of his own gods. 8 Cyrus directed Mithredath, the treasurer of Persia, to count these items and present them to Sheshbazzar, the leader of the exiles returning to Judah.
There are particular trials or situations that we deal with for such a long time, that it becomes a part of us. We connect and identify with the issue, wake up and go to bed with it, add it to our schedules and regular life, because that is all we know. We have never seen what life would be like, without it.
The danger we face when this happens, is we never prepare for what life will be like when we are free of this trial or situation. When the time of liberation happens, we can end up having withdrawal symptoms, missing the trial because we were so accustomed to the dysfunction it created in our lives.
There is a reason why God identifies Himself as the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. The ending of a thing is just as powerful as its genesis. It symbolizes finality, the ushering of a new season, the conclusion of what was.
As a believer, there are certain things you should desire to end in your life. We were not created for constant bondage and captivity. To refuse to yearn for freedom is equivalent to the belief that we are serving God out of routine and religiosity, not out of the faith that He is able to deliver. When was the last time you truly believed and asked God for deliverance, and expected that He would do it?
Ezra 1 is a powerful chapter that depicts the timing of God and the power He has over the hearts of those in leadership. God is so true to His word, that He touched the heart of a king to release the children of Israel who were in captivity, so that a word He had released to the Prophet Jeremiah years before would be fulfilled.
Do not give up on any prophetic word that you received from the Lord. He is not a liar, it may not manifest the way you want it to, or when you think it is supposed to, but it will come to pass
Renew your mind daily, to ensure you are not in double captivity. It is one thing to constantly deal with your trial, but another, to invite that trial to become bondage in your mindset. You begin to believe that you are worthy of the captivity, and in the moment liberation comes, you may detest freedom, because your mind is bound
Survive if you have to, but do not quit. The blessing of surviving after a storm is the evidence that you are an overcomer. Living in survival mode and becoming a survivor mean different things. To become a survivor is a sign of victory. You endured something that should have broken you, but you made it to the other side. Living in survival mode is a mindset that makes you believe there is nothing better out there for you, and there is no point in trying. You live life to just make sure you are alive, not living life because you are alive
When your captivity ends, worship and thank God because His deliverance has come. Do not allow yourself to become bitter and angry because of the years you have spent dealing with the trials and tribulations. It is not easy, and you will hurt and cry sometimes, but do not become bitter. Bitterness will blind you, and corrode you with anger. When freedom comes, your hope will have been tainted and all you will have is regret
Captivity has an end date, and the trial you are facing today, has a season that God has called “End”. Do not give up, do not stop praying, remember He is faithful, and He is watching His word to perform it in your life.
Today, give me the heart of a child, to pray and share with you where it hurts. Let me not assume that you are not powerful enough to deliver me. Forgive me, for placing my situation at a higher place of focus than the power of your love for me. You will save me, you will deliver me, you will favor me, you will release me from every captivity, because you are a good God, and you keep your word. Remind me today, I serve a God of pure integrity, and revive my faith and hope in you that this trial, has an expiration date. This too, shall come to pass, and I will live to testify of your goodness towards me.
Bishop Kenneth Ulmer has been pastoring for decades in Inglewood, CA. He has seen more than his fair share of racism on the streets and on stages across the country. But he has recently launched a campaign to work toward racial understanding and reconciliation that has captured the attention of Christians across racial lines. UrbanFaith contributor Maina Mwaura sat down with him to discuss his work to confront racism and bring people together. The below interview is edited for length and clarity.
You’ve been around for a long time, you’ve seen the ups and downs when it comes to race? Why did you decide to get involved with such an event like this, for people to come together and talk about this important topic?
I think you just answered it, it is the the importance of coming together. And talking about it, you know, the Bible does a passage where the Bible says, Come, come, let us reason together. And our efforts is simply first of all, to start with coming together, which, especially in these days of division, and schisms, and “isms” that should be “was-ims” all the divisions in the body of Christ, just coming together is an achievement. Yes, I’ve been doing this for a while…and I don’t think I have ever in my life or ministry seen a season and a time where the world is as divided. But more importantly, and more grievously more painful, is that the church is likewise significantly divided. And I think what bothers me is that many don’t know, don’t realize it, or didn’t get the memo, or whatever. And we’re kind of going on in business as usual.
But it is not, as usual, but in many cases, in terms of COVID, and everything, will never be the same. The issue is, what are we going to look like on the other side of this, and the exhortation is, don’t come out of this empty handed. Don’t come out of this, having learned nothing, haven’t having achieved anything, having made no progress. Look around, reach around, grab around for what God is saying to you. I would say, What is God saying to the church? You know, the exhortation of, of John, he did have ears. Here, listen, get it, catch it, what the Spirit is saying to the church, what he is saying, you know, the Prophet said, God is doing a new thing. And I love that verse. And I think it’s Isaiah 43, where it says…don’t miss this…don’t you see that God is doing a new thing? And so I think, ultimately, our gathering is to come together, to reason to wrestle to dialogue, even to dispute and debate. You know, what are you hearing God’s saying, what is God saying, now? What are the words of the marching orders for the body of Christ, when we come through this thing, and of course, all of us would admit that we didn’t know we, we did, none of us knew we would still be in it this long.
And, I gotta tell you, I’m not a prophet, not a son of a prophet, but I think things may get worse before they get better. And by that, I mean, this is not going to be a quick fix. It’s a major cultural shift. And there’s a major cultural shift as relates to the body of Christ as relates to the mandate the commission of the church.
Why do you enjoy talking about race? Like you don’t mind embracing it. Like you don’t mind stepping into it. When a lot of people are going, I think I’ll avoid that conversation. What do you enjoy about it?
I think it’s the new frontier. I say we’re in the desert. I think it’s the new battlefield. And I think it’s a battlefield where God can God desires. And I declared God will get glory. But it’s a battle we cannot avoid. It’s a battle we cannot did not it’s a reality that we cannot deny. But I think I think it is it’s one of those desert lands, is one of those wilderness lands, is one of those battles that God is going to bring us through. But the idea is you got to… I love that passage where in Second Chronicles, where God says to the Prophet Joshua, “Look, the battle is mine. The battle is not yours. I got this.” But then he says, “but tomorrow, you got to go to the battlefield.” Whoa, whoa, whoa, if the battle is yours, Lord, why can’t I watch you take it now? I’ll just be the cheerleader on assignment. God said No, no, no, it’s my battle. When I win through you.
And I think it’s a season where it’s those of us who are willing to take the risk of going into the battle that is in fact God’s, and that God will win. I have some white friends who admit, and I love them for admitting, “Man, I can’t even afford this.” Like I know a couple of white friends of mine who said some public stuff [that cost them]. [A friend and I] did a video about George Floyd and everything. And I have I noticed friends of mine who stood up and talked about the oneness in the body of Christ and racism and stuff. And that friend had a back door revival. He had members of families, some of them longtime families who left his church just for admitting just for mentioning it. And so, I think there’s a price to it, and I have some friends who are not willing to pay that price. But my only excitement is [that] I think it is the new battlefield where God will get glory. But he needs soldiers like us to take the battlefield.
Merriam-Webster dictionary defines worship as “to honor or show reverence for as a divine being or supernatural power.” This seems a functional working definition but anyone will tell you that worship means so much more than this. Perhaps your clearest experience has been in church, lost in the buzz of music. Maybe you first felt worship in the deep, sinking envy of celebrity. Worship pushes us to sacrifice everything from time to money to ambitions.It is also an experience highly prized by God. From the Hebrew exile from EgypttoJesus’ ministry on Earth, exclusivity in who we worship has been one of the main themes throughout the Bible. Even Lucifer, who is described as being crafted by God with instruments inside his very being, is described as perfectly fit for worship. So why does God prize this quality so highly and what exactly qualifies as worship?
In Romans 12:1-2, Paul expounds on what worship should mean to believers. He says that we should “offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” He calls this true and proper worship, which is a pretty radical and quite frank definition of what worship means in the Bible. It is not just an act of sacrifice or a passionate outpouring of emotion, worship comes from a place deeper than that. Worship is a mindset that comes from a place of absolute faith which motivates one to act mercifully and with empathy. From here, it seems pretty self-evident why God places such a high premium on this quality.
In Matthew 6:24, Jesus says the following while giving his fundamental sermon on the mount: No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. For better or worse, this has become somewhat of a contentious verse within the church.
In a country where capital is very highly prized, it is easy to slip into the total pursuit of wealth and justify the ethics for the quest after the fact. It’s easy to find yourself devoting every minute of your life pursuing more and more wealth for more than the sake of survival but because that wealth gives your life value. This is not a phenomenon exclusive to wealth, however. Fashion, celebrity, public attention, academic pursuit, all of these things can become objects we worship by devoting ourselves to them entirely without leaving room for God in our lives. Instead of bending our lives to fit God in, we sometimes try to bend God.
This is not to say that you shouldn’t have hobbies or interests, or that you can’t pursue wealth in any measure. We are each unique individuals made with specific talents and goals. This is more to say that whatever those talents and passions are, we must be sure that they are being used in service of our creator and not in pursuits of narcissistic self-aggrandizement.
The other day I got an email from a friend on how he was getting frustrated and tired of reading books and hearing lectures on Eurocentric theology and church history. He wanted to have some color injected into his Bible college and seminary education.
It’s a story I’m all too familiar with. By the end of seminary, most people are screaming at the top of their lungs, “Let me out!” But they press on anyway because they know they have a calling and they know this is the path God has them on in order to equip them. This is even more true for those students who are of non-white ethnicity. The seminary is a far cry from their home culture and the things taught there are taught from a predominantly white historical and theological perspective. Consequently, you can feel like you are being brainwashed or indoctrinated into whiteness or at the very least just made to feel like an oddball or invisible because your experience is different from a lot of the other students. I’ve been there. And I would have lost my mind if it weren’t for these principles working themselves out in my life intentionally or unintentionally.
1. Remember why you are there
You are there because you are called. You are here because you want to soak up the knowledge to make you effective in ministry. You are there to connect with like-minded folk who may one day partner with you in ministry. Do not let the overwhelming whiteness take you off course. Learn. Soak it in. Grow.
2. Make two sets of notes
There are two sets of notes to take. Notes for the paper you will write and notes for yourself (Shout out to MK Asante). Some things will be helpful for your academic career but other things will help as you take your seminary training back home.
3. Find the alternative books
When I first started attending Fuller Theological Seminary I had the privilege of working in the library. As I put the books back on the shelves I learned about James Cone, Gustavo Gutierrez and so many others. I began reading those books even before I started classes because they spoke from a perspective I understood and was familiar with. Just the exposure alone helped me to tackle some of the lack of diversity I was experiencing.
4. Find like-minded students
There is always, at least, a handful of students of color on any campus. If you can’t find students of color then there are many white students who understand where you are coming from. Reach out and connect. It may be the best thing you have ever done.
5. Find like-minded professors
In an attempt to make their faculties more diverse, most seminaries and Christian universities have hired at least two or three non-white professors who teach from a different perspective. Go and take their classes if you have the opportunity. If you can’t take their classes then find some way to connect with them. They understand your experience and are rooting for your success. Personally, I found Dr. Ralph Watkins and Dr. Jehu Hanciles. Just their teaching and course content helped me to not lose my mind!
6. Ask thought-provoking questions
Don’t just sit in class like a lump on a log. Ask questions—thought-provoking questions. Not solely to cause trouble. Ask questions from your unique ethnic and socio-economic perspective. It will not only bless you but also those in class around you who may be going into these contexts or just those who need to have their world expanded
7. Keep a vital and dynamic relationship with God
Last but not least, keep your eyes on Jesus. Don’t stop praying. Don’t stop reading your Bible. Remember this isn’t about ethnicity. This is about God’s calling on your life.
What about you do you have any other tips to include? What was your experience in seminary like? How did you keep from losing your mind?
In her new book, Seller of Purple, Dr. Tasha M. Brown lays out a solid framework for newbie women entrepreneurs.
Stepping out on your own and deciding to start a business can be daunting. Most people know going in that there’s going to be a lot of time, effort, money, and sacrifice to make your entrepreneurship dreams become a reality. And if you’re a woman who is juggling work and life balance, being an entrepreneur can sometimes have its own unique challenges.
In her new book, Seller of Purple, Dr. Tasha Brown lays out a solid framework for newbie women entrepreneurs. A seasoned entrepreneur herself, who has founded six businesses and two organizations, she weaves in her sage advice with biblical principles and role models. Urban Faith® had the opportunity to chat with Dr. Brown about her new book, her practical advice for budding entrepreneurs, and what we can learn from some of the women entrepreneurs in the Bible.
When should you not venture out on your own to be an entrepreneur?
People who really need to work a job, get their credit together. Or you need to build up some capital, save up some money. Because at the core of entrepreneurship is financial risk. If you’re not in a position to do that, if you need to feed your family, then maybe you need to work a little bit. It doesn’t mean that you can’t branch out into entrepreneurship later, but there are just some things you have to have in place.
Will you have to have a quarter of a million dollars to launch out?
No, not necessarily, but should you work towards having at least $200 to pay for the Articles of Organization. Yeah. And so there are some individuals who are thinking, “I just need to launch out. I’m going to give up everything and start being an entrepreneur.” That is quite possible, but it’s just a little easier if you can manage that financial risk by planning.
What organizations have you started?
I started the Women’s Leadership Network because I recognized a gap in leadership development for women in ministry. And so back from 2008 to 2011, I was working on my Doctorate of Ministry in Pastoral and Spiritual Care. And my thesis was around women in leadership or women in ministry navigating the leadership waters. It was my hypothesis that women did not have the same type of informal spaces to learn and grow as men. And so I wanted to create that space. And then most recently the Arise Prayer and Outreach Ministries.
You’ve got makeup and hair products in your portfolio. Why did you get in the beauty business?
In 2010, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. My sister was diagnosed in 2007. And so she went through her procedure in 2010. When I was diagnosed I did not have chemo or radiation, but I did have a mastectomy. And in 2011, I had what’s called an oophorectomy. I had my ovaries removed. And so in 2011, I went into menopause. And as your body ages, as you age, there’s hair loss. I also had to take a pill daily to prevent the cancer from returning and that also caused hair loss.
And so when you are going through a stage of your body changing, you look for really quick ways to feel beautiful. And so I already was in the space of having a body that was aging well beyond my 35 years of age when I was diagnosed. And so it was at my 40th birthday in 2015, that I was with my cousins and I told them that I would use mascara and edge control to cover up my edges. And I was like, “We need to create something. We need to create something.” And Dem Edges was born. Dem Edges Tinted Edge Control. And in 2016, Dem Edges was brought to the marketplace. But I didn’t want to be a one-trick pony, so I worked with someone to get a lipstick line. So it came really out of a space of being a breast cancer survivor, wanting to feel beautiful and I didn’t see things out there that really would help me.
How do you keep your faith when it comes to starting something new? Is it tough when sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t?
Initially, it was. In the beginning, I just couldn’t understand because I felt like I had this vision. I felt like God was leading me in a particular direction. But on the other side of those experiences, I recognize that number one, it was really important for that to happen, the experience to occur. Because in that failure was a seed, a seed of success. In that failure was a seed of wisdom, a seed of knowledge, a seed of information. And so that failure provided so much data that informed the next steps. I mean, it’s the same thing as an inventor or even someone who is in a lab, a chemist. They’ll try different things and learn what not to do. What do I need to pull back on? What do I need to add more of? And so I’ve just learned through my walk with the Lord that there is seed in that failure. And then the second thing I learned is that God is not bound by my time, just because I think it needs to happen the first time out the gate, doesn’t mean that God is like, “Yeah, it does have to happen the first time out the gate.” Sometimes I’ve got to take a couple of laps around, but I’ll still get that wind. So I just have to trust God’s timing in all of it.
What went wrong?
Small things got us ensnared, like not filing the annual report, and just not having a business process in place. Our heart was in the right place, but we didn’t have the business acumen. We didn’t have the tools. Just not having the knowledge to keep it going.
If you could go back to when you started your business, though, what advice would you give yourself?
I would tell myself it’s a marathon, not a sprint. There is such a misconception that you become an overnight success and that people are just exploding on the scene. Well, a lot of preparation goes into that moment. And so recognizing that you may have some success right out the gate, but you have to keep planning for recurring success. It’s the long game that really works. It’s not, “Man, I did $75,000 in sales. That’s great.” And then you stop. Well, no, you gotta keep going. And so to understand and not get seduced in the trap of the immediacy of the instant gratification, but to really look further and to plan for the long haul. That’s what I would tell myself.