I can't help but wonder if we are reaching our potential or if we, like the Children of Israel, have settled for a tenth of what God has for us. We should remember where we have come from, where we are today and where we are going.

by Dr. Henry Johnson

The month of February has been set aside as Black History Month. There is no doubt that we have a rich history. Our history has produced inventors, doctors, chemists, preachers, lawyers, theologians, activists, teachers, actors, authors just to name a few. The accomplishments of our people has had an impact on America and the world. We have truly been blessed as a people. This is a month that we should remember where we have come from...where we are today...and where we are going. I can't help but wonder if we have possessed all that God has for us and have we reached our potential.

In our text, Moses, the leader of Israel, has died. The children of Israel are at the edge of the Promised Land. Moses, their leader, is dead, so they are mourning his death. Moses had been called by God to go to Egypt to lead this people out of slavery. He had lead them through the wilderness...through their wavering faith...through their lack of commitment ...through the dying out of a generation but now after 40 years of his leadership Moses is dead. They are waiting to possess the land promised them by God. They are stuck because Moses is gone. They are mourning because Moses is gone. They haven't heard from God because Moses is gone.

In the midst of their mourning, God speaks to their new leader, Joshua who is the son of Nun. God lets Joshua know that it is time for them to arise...go over the Jordan...to possess the land He had given them. The children of Israel were stuck in their mourning for Moses. They weren't moving. There was no progress. I tell you they were stuck. Perhaps, they thought that since Moses was dead that they could not go on. You see Moses had bought them out of slavery. He had renewed their relationship with God. Moses had revealed God's Law to them. He had lead them for forty years. Moses was their leader but now he was gone and with him gone some might have felt they were not going any further.

But God stepped in with a word from Heaven...He told Joshua that it was time to get up. It was time to cross over the Jordan. It was time to go into the land that He had given to the children of Israel.

God tells Joshua in verse 3, Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you, as I said unto Moses. God had promised them the land. The land was theirs to have and all they had to do is go in and possess it. God told them that every place they walked on would be theirs. He even describes the areas available to them. God said From the wilderness and this Lebanon even unto the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and unto the great sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your coast. God gave them approximately 300,000 square miles of land to possess. He opened the door for them to go in and possess the land. He told them that He would be with them as they possessed the land. All they had to do is be of good courage and trust Him as they possessed the land.

I must report to you today that the children of Israel never possessed all the land God gave them. As a matter of fact, they only possess about 30,000 square miles. This is only one-tenth of what God wanted them to have.

The children of Israel allowed things to get in the way of their blessing. They put limits on God. They failed to go in and possess their promised land. They settled for a tenth when they could have had the full blessing. The never reached their potential.

Before we become too critical of the children of Israel let's take a good look at ourselves. We came out of slavery like they did. We are told that we were taken from Africa and brought to America. We were put to work by the task masters. The labor was hard but we helped build this nation with our blood, sweat, and tears. Our women were raped. Our families were divided as family members were sold to various slave masters. In spite of all that has happened God has brought us a mighty long way. He blessed us so we could be a great people and produce great men and women.

Our history has produced people like Benjamin Banneker,

who urged Thomas Jefferson to work for the abolition of slavery. Sojourner Truth, who was a nationally known speaker on human rights for slaves and women. Harriet Jacobs who was a reformer, Civil War and Reconstruction relief worker, and anti-slavery activist. Alexander Crummell, who was a preacher and author. Harriet Tubman who was called the “Moses” of our people because she was the conductor of the Underground Railroad and lead approximately 300 slaves to freedom during a decade of freedom work. Ida Wells-Barnett who was a prominent anti-lynching leader. E. Franklin Frazier who was Sociologist and educator. Lorraine Hansberry's who was a playwright and activist artist. She earned the tile of “Warrior Intellectual.” Carole Moseley-Braun who was elected Senator from Illinois, becoming the first African American woman to sit in the U.S. Senate. These individuals reached their potential and were instrumental in advancing various causes and opening the door for future generations.

I can't help but wonder if we are reaching our potential or if we, like the Children of Israel, have settled for a tenth of what God has for us. When I look at the black church, I see turmoil rather than unity. I see people who claim Christ as Lord but they aren't carrying out His mission. I see the church that use to be the roots of the black community losing its influence in the community. The black church use to be the center of our neighborhoods. The place we came in the good times as well as the bad. The church was a place where we worshiped... we rallied...we ministered to the physical, social, and spiritual needs of the individual and the family.

I see the black family that once was strong and anchored in the Lord dying. In the black family, the parents used to come to church and the children had no option but to come to church. The children were well behaved because the parents taught them to sit in church...to learn their Sunday School, BTU, and Bible Study lessons and participate in Sunday School, BTU, Bible Study... and youth activities. They taught them to respect their elders even if it was the wino on the corner. In the black family, the grandparents used to be instrumental in the direction and health of the family. Momma or as some might say big momma would keep things together. She would keep peace, unity, focus, and make sure the children got an education even though she might not have ever gone to school. She wanted the children to reach their potential.

The black family seems to be dying because the big mommas of today and the parents of today want to compete with the younger generations hanging out in the clubs and trying to stay young. I'm concerned that our younger generations don't treasure the freedoms that many died for in our history. Freedoms like education, voting, and owning property. I'm concerned because we have children who don't think they need an education but they think they should be corporate executives so they have formed their own companies called gangs and are involved in illegal activities. As a result of these activities, we find the largest population in our prisons to be black men. I'm tell you I am concerned that we as a people aren't reaching our potential. I'm concerned that we have become so apathetic that we won't vote. We have forgotten that our vote is important and that we can influence the direction of our nation with our vote. We sit idly by and let one woman's influence push public prayer out of school. Since that law went into effect, our schools have gone downhill fast. We have children taking weapons to school. Drugs being sold in school. We don't know if our children or our teachers will return home safely from school. I tell you I am concerned that we have gotten so relaxed and we are not reaching our potential. Our younger generations don't seem to care much about owning anything except cars with expensive stereos. They want the bling bling but don't realize that owning a home will bring the bling bling. I am concerned!

My dear brothers and sister, the question remains...HAVE YOU REACHED YOUR POTENTIAL? The children of Israel were willing to settle for 30,000 square miles rather than possess the 300,000 square miles God had promised them. They didn't reach their potential. They seemed to have forgotten that God had done great things for them and He could continue to do great things. They took their eyes off of God that's why they didn't reach their potential. I just want you to know today that we must keep our eyes on God if we are going to turn things around and reach our potential. We must trust in the Lord and lean not to our own understanding and acknowledge Him and He will direct our path. God is saying to us today...arise...go and possess the blessings I have for you...go and reach your potential and do great things.

Just Keeping It Real!

Reverend Dr. Henry Johnson
5 February 2004

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