Saturday, March 17, 2012


Memory and Recall

Scripture:  John 2:17, 22

When observant Jews made their annual pilgrimage to the temple every year, sometimes they needed animals for the sacrifice or needed to exchange Roman currency to pay alms. The Jews considered Roman currency idolatrous because they featured Roman gods, so to keep the temple free of sacrilegious alms, they changed it for Jewish currency. It was also normal for vendors to sell animals for sacrifice in the temple. In today’s scripture, the disciples remembered hearing “Zeal for your house will consume me,” found in Psalm 69:9. As they observed Jesus tearing down the temple, they recalled these words written years before their time.
            If the disciples had not remembered the scriptures as Jesus angrily knocked over the vendors’ tables and drove the animals out the temple, they may have dismissed Jesus’ actions as melodramatic. While changing money and the buying and selling of animals was commonplace, the disciple’s memory of the scriptures confirmed that making the temple a marketplace was irreverent. Some debate on why Jesus did not believe money-changers belonged in the temple, perhaps he wanted the temple to remain holy, or perhaps he didn’t feel as if alms were necessary to show reverence to God. Whatever the reason, for Jesus, exchanging, buying and selling in the temple was defamatory to God.
The University of Texas recently overturned affirmative action policies, dismissing such policies as outdates or downright discriminatory to certain groups. I remember when the University of Michigan, my alma mater, overturned their affirmative action policies in 2006. The argument against affirmative action cites “fairness” for all students, or, in other words, preferential treatment for students of color is in a way racist against white students. Since that decision the number of students of color enrolling into the university decreased dramatically. Using terms like “preferential treatment” in arguments against affirmative action colors the policy unfair and unnecessary, but when you think about the history of racism and discrimination, the years of disadvantages for people of color economically, politically and socially, affirmative action is very necessary. At this decision, the policy makers have forgotten the words and experiences of disadvantaged freedom fighters working to make things equal.
They did not remember the pain of enslavement and the decades following when the only jobs available to Blacks were field hands and housekeepers. They did not remember that Blacks did not have access to home ownership because policies systematically excluded them from buying homes. Most Americans hold their wealth in their homes, and Blacks missed out on two, three, and maybe four generations of wealth, wealth used to pay for a college education. Economic and social setbacks like these make affirmative action very necessary.
On the surface, preferential treatment may not look like equality for university admissions, but preferential treatment just levels the playing field for people of color. On the surface, buying and selling in the temple was necessary for paying alms and sacrificing, but examining history shows that sacrificing and paying alms was not needed to appease God.
We have to remember the words and actions of the generations before us to understand why we do things the way we do them. If the disciples did not understand Scripture, they would not have understood Jesus actions. 
Lent is the time for us to reflect on the life and work of Christ Jesus. Jesus was sent to interrupt the status quo, so real change can happen. As sojourners, freedom fighters, leaders and mentors, Jesus is the role model to follow to break down barriers and truly set the captives free.

I've a Message from the Lord (Look and Live)
I’ve a message from the Lord, Hallelujah!
The message unto you I’ll give;
’Tis recorded in His Word, Hallelujah!
It is only that you “look and live.”

Look and live, O sinner, live,
Look to Jesus now and live;
’Tis recorded in His Word, Hallelujah!
It is only that you look and live.

I’ve a message full of love, Hallelujah!
A message, O my friend for you;
’Tis a message from above, Hallelujah!
Jesus said it and I know ’tis true.

Life is offered unto you, Hallelujah!
Eternal life your soul shall have,
If you only look to Him, Hallelujah!
Look to Jesus Who alone can save.

I will tell you how I came, Hallelujah!
To Jesus, when He made me whole;
’Twas believing on His Name, Hallelujah!
I trusted and He saved my soul.

Prayer:  Lord, thank you for the words of wisdom that were spoken to us by our mothers and grandmothers, and thank you for giving us the recall when we witness their similar experiences in the present day. Give us the memory to do what is right, not what is popular or normal. Amen.

 Emma Akpan

Friday, March 16, 2012

FRIDAY, MARCH 16, 2012

Barriers to the Call

Scripture:  1 Corinthians1:18-21

It is ironic that I am writing about this topic in a blog post. We live in a world of free form journalism in which average citizens with the help of blogs, YouTube videos and Twitter have declared themselves experts on everything. In this society, writing a blog, posting a video, or microblogging self-qualifies anyone to be an expert.

In addition, we have a wealth of information available to us through our social media networks. As a result, many unfiltered messages assault us daily. Everyone has an opinion on something. With all of the noisiness of tweeting, texting and instant messaging, it can be difficult to hear God’s specific call.   

In today’s scripture, Paul preaches about Divine wisdom.  Given all of our media communications, how do we discern between wisdom and foolishness?

We must not allow the noisiness to drown out God's wisdom.  We must look to Jesus, the source of true wisdom.

Prayer:  Lord, as fear and pride cloud your vision for us, speak to us to remind us who we serve. Amen.

 Emma Akpan

Thursday, March 15, 2012


Limits with Words

Scripture:  Psalm 19:3-5

A few years ago, I spent two months in Brazil.  During my stint, I lived an entire month with a family who spoke no English. In order to communicate, I had to rely on my one year of training in Portuguese and my dictionary.  I was frustrated. 
As we lived together and learned one another, we discovered that not all forms of communication required words. My Brazilian family knew when I was excited, happy, upset, homesick, and even frustrated.  They quickly learned my likes, dislikes, and odd living habits as I did theirs.

Today's scripture speaks of heaven's declaration of God's glory.  No words are spoken, yet, The Voice goes out all over the world. Words aren’t always necessary. We preach and proclaim Jesus’ life and ministry most effectively by our actions. 

In the New Testament, Jesus’ speeches and teachings were written as background information because he met someone that needed to be healed. Jesus of course made many wise speeches; however he was known for what he did for the vulnerable.

Prayer:  Lord when words are not enough, show us the way to live our lives after your ministry. Allow people to see you through us. Bestow your grace upon us so that when we fall, we are forgiven and corrected.  Amen.

 Emma Akpan

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


Listening to the Call

Scripture:  Psalm 19:14

Abide in me, O Lord, and I in Thee,
From this good hour, oh, leave me nevermore;
Then shall the discord cease, the wound be healed,
The lifelong bleeding of the soul be o’er.
I am a big fan of meditation; however, I personally have trouble focusing. If I’m not on my phone, I’m on my computer. Even when I’m on the computer completing a task, my mind is on a million different things. 

Meditation is a time to quiet not only our voices and thoughts, but our spirits and allow God to completely enter in. It is not a passive exercise, it is very active because we have to actively empty our minds and open them completely to God. 


Today is a day of silence. As you pray today, look and listen to what God might be revealing to you...

Prayer:  Lord, empty our minds of stresses, distracting thoughts and words, insecurities, pressures and the need to please, in order to concentrate only on your plan for our lives.  Amen.

 Emma Akpan

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


What Are We Created For?

Scripture:  Exodus 20:2-4 and John 2:19

From the time I was a child, my parents told me I could become whatever I wanted to become. When I was in junior high and high school, I wanted to be a lawyer. Later in high school and in college, my career ideas changed with the months, (as they continue to.) But our occupations and jobs aren’t who we are; however, they may be a vehicle to live out our purpose. 

The Ten Commandments teach us that our purpose is to worship and serve God. The first few commandments assert that God is first and in all of our actions, we must serve God.  They also emphasize that we are called to holiness and to service. In John 2:19 we find Jesus telling the temple merchants that if they "Destroy this temple, in three days I will raise it up." Jesus' foreshadowing of his death on the cross is tied to his purpose.  His destiny is to die on the cross for our sins. 

Jesus’ ministry models for us how to live out God’s purpose. May we use our bodies and minds to serve God with purpose. May we tap into our gifts, talents and passions and find something tailor-made for God’s service.

Prayer:  Lord, give us the guidance to live into our true purpose, serving you, whatever that may look like.  Amen.

 Emma Akpan

Monday, March 12, 2012

MONDAY, MARCH 12, 2012

Call to Holiness

Scripture:  Exodus 20:1-17 

The Ten Commandments are esteemed by several religious faiths as the canonical directive from God. The Commandments read like orders from an all-powerful, yet distant God. However, they are not simply orders from a distant God; they are a call to holiness from a God that is involved with nature and humanity.  

The Ten Commandments are a call to holiness. They are a call to be reverent towards God, and to be reverent towards one another. The Commandments were written to protect the disadvantaged from being taken advantage of. Statements like “you shall not steal” or “you shall not bear false witness towards your neighbor” teach us how to treat others. 

No, the commandments are not instructions from a distant God, but a God that understands the human condition. God knows that we are vulnerable, we can be tempted, and run the risk of hurting others in the process. The commandments were made to protect us from pride and greed.  They were made to protect us from those who might take advantage of us and to protect us from ourselves.

Prayer:  Lord, teach us to be holy and righteous for your sake. Amen.

Emma Akpan

Sunday, March 11, 2012

SUNDAY, MARCH 11, 2012

Life-Giving Cross

Scripture:  Mark 8:31-38

Focus Verse: [Jesus] called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me…” (Mark 8:34)

Perhaps you know her. Each Sunday morning she sits in the back row, left-hand side of the sanctuary with three children in tow. The kids never utter a word during the service as crayons and puzzle books keep them busy. Mom smiles and nods politely as you greet her but never utters more than a “How do you do?” Dad doesn’t sit with them. In fact, you aren’t sure the last time you saw him. Maybe at the children’s baptism?

Leaving church today, she’ll take the kids to grandma’s house. She braces herself for what is to come. She knows he’ll be drinking. What she doesn’t know is if the day will result in fresh bruises and a phone call to grandma. “Can the kids stay with you tonight?”

Reaching out for refuge, she met with her pastor years ago. The pastor's words, “This is your cross to bear,” rang out. These are now words she carries with her. 

Is THIS her cross to bear?

I’ve been thinking a lot about cross-bearing.  What it is.  What it is not.  Does it come from following Jesus, from turning away from the idols of the world? Or does it come from others mistreatment or manipulation of you? 

What crosses do you bear?

Jesus does call us to deny ourselves and take up our cross, but at the same time Jesus grants new life. The tension between new life and crosses are messy and might unsettle us. How do we proclaim new life in the midst of worldly pain?

It seems to me that ALL of our pains, burdens, and sorrows (as well as our joys) lead to the Resurrected Savior.  

Following Jesus is never easy. But it is always life-giving. Embrace the life-giving cross which comes from loving as God loves. Dare to live into the promise of the resurrection.

Prayer:  Alpha and Omega, in you we have our beginning and end. Help us to let go of the crosses of the world and embrace your cross. Keep us on your path, walking each day in newness of life with you. Amen.

Jennifer M. Manis

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