66 Assurance Way: Pressing towards the Mark in 2017

By Greg Silverthorne

“But allow me to offer a little bit of hope, a reminder of what the soul actually is and how it is constructed and valued. 

It is not external, it is internal.  It is not made, it is given.  It is not earned, it is instilled.  It is not of humanity, it is of God.

And as such, it is not subject to the changing winds of culture or politics.   It is more stable, more lasting, and more resilient than anything else we possess”. [Emphasis added]  

Rev. Noah Van Niel (11/13/2016)


John14As I approached the 3rd anniversary of this blog (Sept 21, 2016), I had envisioned an Anniversary Series beginning in late September – and ending by December 21st.  So much for my grand plans. Smile.

On December 20th I published a post that captured a lot of what had happened on and since the November 8th Elections. “When Hate Arrives, Silence is Tacit Approval” One Man’s Story” was surely an example of faith in action!

The results of the Elections exactly 2 months ago, and many events (good and bad) since then, caused me to postpone the launch of the Series – to mid-January.  The silence is tacit approval post, along with the first post of 2017 (“Sermon Says: Hopefulness, God’s Presence, and Racial Harmony”), are posts I felt deeply called to do.  The young Priest , Rev. Noah Van Niel, featured in the Sermon Says post is a phenomenally eloquent and empathetic man of God!  The words that led this post are from that Sermon by the way.  When I first read the Sermon he delivered -the Sunday after Elections- I was immediately moved . . . and knew I had to share his profound perspective on the soul as a Christian’s stronghold. 

66AssuranceWay blogger


While I’ve written in the last 3+ years on topics beyond spiritual encouragement and Gospel music, like worklife/career issues, I’ve generally avoided blogging on politics.  Notice the tag cloud in the right sidebar. I haven’t done a lot of deep blogging on race issues.  However, the events of the last 2 months, including some enlightening dialogues (and deep self reflection), have been unlike anything I’ve experienced in my 55 ½ years on this planet as an African-American!  As bad as things look at times, I trust that ‘all things will work together for the good’ (Romans 8:28).  I trust that God will keep being a Way Maker, and not forsake me, you, or any abiding Christian.

  • Silver linings?  Yes.  I’ve personally seen, and helped others see, the racial dynamic of the US in a more nuanced way.   As well I’ve seen some extraordinary actions that caused me to NOT loss faith in humanity; my faith in God remains changed!  So, in the words of the late Maya Angelou, I will -from time to time- be a ‘trailing wisp of glory’ in shining light on a dark place in America – race relations.  I have accepted your assignment God!

That said, I will continue to blog about Christian assurance, gospel music, worklife issues, and spiritual encouragement & empowerment.

  • I will publish a post that I first envisioned just after Labor Day next weekend.  The story behind a lead singer for the Mississippi Mass Choir (Mosie Burks) is one I love!  Like Tiffany Joy (singing “Amazing” with Ricky Dillard), Burks is an anointed singer with an intriguing life story.

Greg Silverthorne, 66 Assurance Way

Sermon Says: Hopefulness, God’s Presence, & Racial Harmony

If you lose hope, somehow you lose that vitality

that keeps life moving, you lose that courage to be.”

Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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Keeping the Courage to Be: Your Hopes, Your Dreams

Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

I am personally the victim of deferred dreams, of blasted hopes, but in spite of that . . . I still have a dream, because, you know, you can’t give up in life. If you lose hope, somehow you lose that vitality that keeps life moving, you lose that courage to be, that quality that helps you go on in spite of all. And so today I still have a dream. I have a dream that one day men will rise up and come to see that they are made to live together as brothers”. [Emphasis added]

These words are from the last Christmas Sermon (December 1967) that King delivered, prior to his assassination in 1968. The importance of having hope and having dreams are expressed in this sermon by the embattled civil rights leader.   Racial harmony is based in all people really ‘living together as brothers’.   Therefore, simply uttering the word Unity in a single speech doesn’t mean that a diverse, divided country is magically transformed!  In the 1960s, when I was a young child living in New York, or now.

Sadly, in 2017, nearly fifty years after the death of MLK from an assassin’s bullet, we’re still a nation that judges people too often on their color – not their character.   Men of God like the other man who I showcase in this post, Rev. Noah Van Niel, give me hope that MLK’s dream is still possible.  A deferred dream, not an impossible dream.  

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Your Soul: A Stronghold Against Hate and Fear

Rev. Noah Van Niel

But allow me to offer a little bit of hope, a reminder of what the soul actually is and how it is constructed and valued. It is not external, it is internal. It is not made, it is given. It is not earned, it is instilled. It is not of humanity, it is of God. And as such, it is not subject to the changing winds of culture or politics. It is more stable, more lasting, and more resilient than anything else we possess. Our lives are liable to be molded and shaped by all sorts of forces beyond our control. But our soul—that bit of God that resides in each of us—is unchanging in that it is always pure, and righteous and good and it is always there no matter how much hatred, or anger, or worry, or fear is piled on top of it. And it will, always, have the last word”. [Emphasis added]

In that God has the final say, your soul will have “the last word”.  Period.  End of discussion.  This powerful Sermon was delivered on the Sunday after the recent Elections (11/13/16) by Rev. Van Niel.  I thank my friend Thomas, who I profiled in “When Hate Arises, Silence is Tacit Approval: One Man’s Story, for bringing this Sermon to my attention.  I’ve personally thanked Rev. Van Niel for delivering a message I, and many others, needed to hear!

The eloquence and empathy of this young, white Priest was one of the most calming things I experienced in the days after the candidate I didn’t vote for won.  To this fifty-something Black man in NC (yes, NC . . . Pray for me!), God knew I needed something compelling, spiritual, and anointed to deal with the changes I was enduring.  Reflecting on this Priest’s words was part of my own post-election strategy to not loss hope – when the candidate I voted for lost (in the Electoral College).  

God’s presence in our souls is something no Christian should take for granted.  Your soul is a stronghold like no other!


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Strategies for Dealing with Life’s Storms

Leslie Vernick

The sermons of Dr. King and Rev. Van Niel serve as a foundation for the insightful strategies which Leslie Vernick offers.   In times of disappointment and discouragement, even the most abiding Christians may feel like they can’t go on.  Sermons, without specific coping strategies, may not have had the impact the Lord desired for this post today – my first in 2017.   

In “5 Ways to Stop Discouragement from Getting the Best of You” Vernick offers some spiritual steps that you can take when facing disappointment.   They are in my humble Christian opinion a very good complement to the pulpit-delivered words of King and Van Niel.   

  • After offering four ways that abiding Christians can be discouraged, Vernick offers “five (5) steps you can take when you start to feel the black cloud of discouragement swallow you up“.   With ‘the God in you’ that is your soul, with ‘that courage to be’, and your dreams, you CAN deal with tough times like a champion.  You can go on!   The steps, described poignantly in her article, are:

1. Be honest.

2. Take care of your body.

3. Pay attention to your thought life.

4. Train yourself to “see” life out of two lenses at the same time

5. Press close into God


Link to full Sermons:

 


Our soul—that bit of God that resides in each of us— is

unchanging . . . and good and it is always there no matter how much

hatred, or anger, or worry, or fear is piled on top of it”.

Rev. Noah Van Niel



Photo credits:

Bible – honorbound/fickr  (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Pres. Lyndon B. Johnson & Rev. King – U.S. Embassy New Delhi/flickr  (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Cross – Dave King/flickr  (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)