Greenleaf: S1 E1 – “A Time to Heal” Synopsis

Warning:      This review contains spoilers. 

Grace “Gigi” Greenleaf  (Merle Dandridge) was once a prominent preacher who vacated her calling to pursue a career in journalism.  The untimely and mysterious death of her sister, Faith Greenleaf  (Terry Abney), ushers her return to the Greenleaf mansion after 20 years for a two-day visit. Accompanied by her teenage daughter, Sophia Greenleaf (Desiree Ross), Grace travels to the Greenleaf mansion for the private funeral service for Faith.

Warmly received by her father, Bishop James Greenleaf (Keith David), as the “Prodigal Daughter,” it is evident that she is still considered the “Black Sheep” of the family by her other family members.  Bishop Greenleaf makes several blatant attempts to convince Grace to stay in Memphis as a member of his ministerial staff.  Each attempt that he makes fuels long-standing tensions and sibling rivalries.

Grace reconnects with the “Other Black Sheep” of the Greenleaf family, her aunt, Mavis McCready (Oprah Winfrey).  Mavis and Grace are natural allies because they are both outsiders. Their trip down memory lane leads to a conversation to Robert “Mac” McCready (GregAlan Williams), Mavis’s brother. Over 20 years ago, Faith confided in Grace that their Uncle Mac had been sexually abusing her for several years, but later recanted her story.  Mavis informs Grace of the most recent reports indicating that Uncle Mac may still be molesting underage girls.  Mavis gives Grace a mission to right wrongs and stops Robert before someone else is harmed.

The next day, Grace attends Sunday Worship Service with the family.  During the altar call, Grace has a “Come to Jesus” moment and meets her father at the altar much to his delight.  Later, Grace calls Mavis and promises her that she will not leave like she did before.

This episode gives us insight into the Greenleaf dysfunctional family dynamic.  It explores the vulnerabilities and ambitions of each member of the family.  Questions to ponder as the series moves further:

  1. Did Grace decide to stay to investigate the murder of her sister, identify a way to stop her uncle, and/or she truly felt the touch of God return to her post?
  1. Does Mavis have a hidden agenda and is manipulating Grace to accomplish her mission?
  1. Did Faith actually commit suicide or was it a murder made to look like a suicide?
  1. Is Robert connected to Faith’s death?
  1. What caused the long-standing tensions between siblings?
  1. How will Bishop Greenleaf resolve both his internal and external pressures?

I am definitely intrigued.  Stay tuned!

#OWN #Greenleaf #SatanWeGonnaTearYourKingdomDown

Greenleaf: OWN’s Megachurch Drama Series Initial Review

Greenleaf is a new American drama appearing on the OWN network.  During its premiere with over 3.04 million viewers watching, Greenleaf made history ranking No. 1 for the most viewership during a series debut on the network. The notable acting performances of Merle Dandridge, Lynn Whitfield, and Keith David have received high praises.   Craig Wright created the series.  Oprah Winfrey, Clement Virgo, and Lionsgate Television are the executive producers.  Clement Virgo also serves as one of the directors and Oprah Winfrey portrays a reoccurring cast member, Mavis McGready.

What is it about Greenleaf that attracts so many viewers?  It is a perfect combination of marketing, the cast of renowned actors, an awesome soundtrack, and a plot that is both suspenseful and dramatic.  Greenleaf opens the door allowing viewers to peer into the lives of the affluential and powerful African-American dynasty of the Greenleaf family and its extensive megachurch predominantly serving African-American members in Memphis, Tennessee.

As we step through the doors to get a better view, we can see the cracks in the façade of the highly favored servants of God, namely the Greenleaf family.  The corruption, debauchery, and the entanglements into webs of deception are oozing through the cracks.  Blood and DNA are not the ties that bind this family. Nor is it their religious beliefs or doctrines.  It is their individual and collective secrets that they try to conceal.

The Greenleaf family built their dynasty upon a foundation of selfishness using the form of godliness as walls with their pride as a rooftop.  The Greenleaf dynasty is nothing more than a den of iniquity. The Greenleaf theme song entitled, “Satan, We’re Gonna Tear Your Kingdom Down,” performed by Pastor Shirley Caesar acts as a precursor to the imminent destruction of the Greenleaf dynasty.

In Genesis 18:16-33, Abraham makes his petition known to God by interceding on behave of Sodom and Gomorrah.  Abraham kept pressing God while questioning God’s justice and mercy for the righteous amongst the wicked. The writers have provocatively put the viewing audience in Abraham’s shoes making us ponder whether there is one righteous amongst the Greenleaf family. Will any of the members of the Greenleaf family turn from their wicked ways, repent, and ask for God’s forgiveness? Stay tuned as the story unfolds on OWN.

Five Keys to Dealing with Depression

Gregory L. Jantz, Ph.D., author of “Five Keys to Dealing with Depression,” creates a framework for the reader to identify the key indicators of depression in laymen’s terms.   He also provides a list along with an explanation of how certain medical and health conditions can make one susceptible to depression or depression-like symptoms.  Jantz employs a “whole person” approach recovery methodology. This approach consist of five aspects: intellectual, emotional, relational, spiritual, and physical.  As each aspect of the “whole person” approach is explored, the contrast between balance and unbalance is emphasized.

Throughout this publication, there are sidebars that contain Bible passages with an insert of reassurance of God’s love and promises.  Some of these sidebars are used to remind the reader of God’s commandments regarding our conduct as Christians.  Scenario based examples are utilized to illuminate patterns, behaviors, frequency, and severity.  Jantz suggests a variety of activities to counteract the imbalances.  He does not suggest that medication is not an option, but remarks that studies reveal the healing process improves significantly when therapy is accompanied with medication.

I believe the book serves well from a self-awareness perspective.  I was disappointed that the sidebars were not expounded upon more.  This book is primarily focused on depression and its symptoms with common suggestions to counteract negative behavior.  It is not a book on how to deal with depression from a scriptural viewpoint. Any spiritual content utilized is more of a sidebar or afterthought.  I believe I would appreciate the book more if there was a marriage of godly principles and common counteractive methods interwoven throughout the book.

This book is ideal for those who may show signs of depression and is useful in identifying key indicators of depression.  Because it offers helpful insight it could be used as a resource for supporting those exhibiting behavioral patterns of depression.

Product Review: Your New Name in Christ – 50 Names for Believers

Co-authors, David Laity and Len Woods, have written a pamphlet entitled, “You New Name in Christ”.   This appears to be an appendage to the pamphlet entitled, “Who am I in Christ”.  There are thirteen pages of content exploring the names attribute to Believers.  For each name there is a Scriptural Reference, meaning, insight, and additional supporting passages.

This publication can initiate transformation of our minds concerning how we view ourselves and how God views us. Regardless to what others may have said or how one views themselves, now there is comforting notation about our true identity in Christ.  Imagine what dormant talents, gifts, and skills we might discover based upon uncovering our true identifies.

There is some history provided on some of the most common names applied to Believers.  The word “Christian” is only used three times in the Bible and was initially used in a scornful manner towards Believers.  This publication also includes “Discussion Questions” challenging readers to examine the names in depth by looking through the lens of how God sees his children.  Although this pamphlet is introductory in nature, it is ideal to have for personal, small group, Bible Study, or Sunday School.

Product Review: 50 Christian Symbols & Their Meanings

The idea of creating a visual designs to represent concepts, ideologies, organizations, or something abstract is centuries old.  We are dependent upon symbols to convey warning, authenticity, emotions, affiliations, and organizations.

Jessica Curiel, author of “50 Christian Symbols & Their Meanings”, explores popular and commonly known Christian symbols providing their meaning and history.  According to Curiel, Christian symbols are used do denote people as Believers or Followers of Christ, aid in Worship, and act a reminders to biblical truths. Christian Symbols are not limited to objects, but include Christograms (monograms denoting Christ) or Christian and Biblical imagery.

As with the symbols that we use in social media and texting, some of them have multiple meanings based upon time period and culture.  For example, in the Bible the rainbow represents God’s covenant not to send a worldwide flood again.  However, the rainbow has been adopted by different demographics to denote proponents of diversity.  In times of persecution, the Christian Fish was used by Christian to discreetly identify other Believers.  A Believer would draw half of the Christian Fish in the dirt if the other person knew the symbol they would complete the drawing.

This publications does not provide an exhausted list of Christian symbols but highlights the most properly ones.  This pamphlet is ideal to teach new Believers about Christian Symbolism.  I would like to see more on this topic. I would recommend it for small group or Sunday School.

Evangelism Journeys: The Great Commission

Matthew 28:18-20 (KJV)

“And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.””

Matthew 28:18-20 is appropriately known as the Great Commission.  It is great due to magnitude, degree, and effectiveness of what is required. It is a commission because Jesus commanded a group of people (all of His disciples) sanctioning a worldwide mission to spread the Gospel. Within these three dynamic verses, there are six key components that are frequently overshadowed with major points of controversy. These six key components are listed below along with clarification of the controversy surrounding them.

Authority

In Matthew 28:18, God has given Jesus all authority of heaven and earth. This means that Jesus has the power to give orders, make decisions, and control over heaven and earth. Based upon this authority, Jesus sanctions the Great Commission.

 Fulfillment of Prophesy

Also in Matthew 28:18, we are able to see the fulfillment of prophesy. Daniel’s dream foretold of this time when Jesus would receive all power. Daniel 7:14 (KJV) states, “And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.”

 Worldwide Evangelism Mission Sanctioned

In Matthew 28:19, Jesus sanctions the worldwide evangelism mission.  Jesus itemizes the requirements for this mission.

  • † Proceed forward spreading the Gospel to all nations
  • † Baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost
  • † Teach them to be adherents to all the teachings of Jesus

Mark 16:15, 16 (KJV) indicates that the disciples were to earnestly share the Good News.  This Scripture also highlights that everyone will not be receptive to the Gospel.  Faith come by hearing the message and the message is heard through the word about Jesus Christ. (Romans 10:17, KJV) Jesus charged all his disciples with this mission.  There are some who believe that the charge was for those with the gift, anointing, or has the vocation of an evangelist.  We all have the ability to share our testimony about how we have been transformed through our relationship with God.

Evangelism or witnessing about Christ should not stop at sharing the message or a “Sinners Prayer.” New Believers need mentors to provide guidance and godly counsel. Spiritual development is a process that will be different for each Believer and takes time.  In a previous blog post, I identified some requirements and characteristics of a True Disciple entitled, “True Disciple Requirements and Characteristics”. (Please read for more information on the requirements and characteristics of a True Disciple.)

Trinitarian Immersion Formula for Baptism

Jesus provides a Trinitarian immersion formula (“baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost”) required for baptism. Baptism is essential because it unifies Believers with Jesus Christ in his/her death to sin and resurrection to new life with no condemnation.  It also symbolizes submission to Christ with a willingness to live God’s way and an identification with God’s covenant people.

Non-Trinitarian Believers reject this immersion formula because they reject the Triune nature of God by citing Scripture references of Acts 2:38, 8:16, 10:48, 19:5, and 22:16.  While these Scripture References use in the name of Jesus Christ”, they are not used as an immersion formula but reference by whose authority they are operating under.  God gave all authority in heaven and earth to Jesus.  As the disciples began fulfilling the Great Commission they identify that they are doing so by the authority of Jesus Christ.

Triune Attribute of God

In providing the Trinitarian immersion formula for baptism, Jesus is also revealing an incommunicable attribute of God.  Although the terms “Triune” or “Trinity” are not in the Bible, these terms are used to describe an attribute of God.  God is one being who exist in three Persons namely, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit sharing a divine being. The unity of the three person is the “Godhead.” There are over 60 Bible passages that mention the three Persons together.

 A Reassuring Promise

Matthew 28:20 provides us with the reassuring promise that Jesus is always with us.  After sanctioning the mission, Jesus would ascend into heaven then send The Comforter, Holy Spirit, to reside in us.

Product Review: Finding Hope in Jesus – Comfort for Loss

In life, we all experience levels of successes and failures, gains and losses. It is easy to bask in the afterglow of our successes and celebrate triumphantly.  However, failures and losses are challenging to endure.  “Finding Hope in Jesus – Comfort for the Loss” is a Rose Publishing publication that addresses the heart of loss from a biblical perspective. 

This pamphlet addresses the five stages of grief, myths about grief, and finding the meaning in loss.  Psalm 34:19 (KJV) states, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the LORD delivereth him out of them all.”  Christians are not exempt from loss.  In fact, Psalm 34:19 indicates that we are subject to several of them.  However, we have the comfort in knowing that God will deliver us out of them all. 

We experience loss in various ways from the tangible to the intangible.  Regardless of the type of loss, the stages of grief are the same.  In the Bible, there is a numerous accounts of loss experienced by people of God.  When we examine the Scriptures, we can identify with the feelings of hopelessness and stages of grief through their responses.  In the pamphlet, the lives of David, Job, Jeremiah, and Jesus are used to illustrate their times of loss. 

We have a tendency to question God and His sovereignty during our times of grief.  Why? Why do we have to experience the hardship?  Why did my love one have to die? Why God did you allow this to happen?  The reasons for our adversity may vary; however, there is comfort in the Scriptures that remind us that we do not fight for victory but from victory.  

I would encourage all to add this pamphlet to your collection.  During our times of loss, this pamphlet would be an encouragement.  It can be used as an aid to help encourage someone else who is experience different stages of grief.  It would definitely a valuable tool for a Bible Study, Small Group, or Sunday School lesson.

The Absurd Obscenity of the Cross

On this Good Friday, we set our hearts and minds to remember the selfless act of Jesus giving His life for humanity. There are some who struggle with the premise of Jesus’ death and resurrection.  To a non-Believer, the account appears to be a bit absurd and obscene.  Christians will want to provide a compelling argument against this perception to the non-Believer.  When we examine the Scriptures regarding the introduction of sin and the ultimate removal of sin, we can then understand and appreciate Jesus being the answer.

Sin can be defined as anything that violates the ideal relationship between an individual and God.  Sin was introduced in the Garden of Eden through the act of disobedience. This caused a ripple effect of corruption resulting in physical and spiritual deaths which allowed Satan to have dominion over all that God had given to man.  The old sacrificial system used for the atonement of sin was insufficient. There are no deeds or enough burnt offerings that we could offer to God the Father to protect us from His wrath.  Jesus was and still is the answer.

The entry of sin, the answer to sin, and the ultimate removal of sin all have one common component – a tree.  Through the act of disobedience, Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil ushering sin into the world. (Genesis 3:1-6 KJV)  We celebrate Good Friday because Jesus provided the solution to sin by dying on the tree. (Acts 5:30 KJV)  We anticipate the ultimate removal of all sin in eternity through the Tree of Life. (Revelation 22:1-3 KJV)

The fact is that what Jesus endured for humanity was absurd and obscene, yet necessary.  The absurdity was the arrest, trial, conviction, and sentencing of Jesus.  The obscenity was the mockery, brutality, and crucifixion of Jesus.  Sin separates us from God the Father placing us in spiritual darkness (or death).  Before the crucifixion, our Heavenly Father saw the absurd obscenity through our sins.  After the resurrection, God sees the shed blood of His Son that covers the multitude of past, present, and future sins.

Product Review: God in Real Life

Rose Publishing’s book entitled, “God in Real Life,” is a compilation of previously published pamphlets by Rose Publishing focusing on a teen audience.  The book in its entirety is a 130 pages in length with a 125 pages of actual content. A Study Guide is included. The questions are designed to promote an in depth discussion while fortifying essential doctrine relating to the aforementioned topics. The Study Guide starts from pages 112 to page 127.  This book is designed to act as a six week guide addressing topics such as:

Tough Questions about Christianity

This segment explores the questions that most adolescence begin to have after encountering scientific facts, people who practice different belief systems, and the behavior of proclaimed Christians.  This section asks the questions then examines the assumptions, challenges, and encourages teens to reflect.

Worldwide Views and Religions

This unit surveys the various belief systems and their differing viewpoints regarding the nature of God and humanity.  It explains the significance of the worldwide views and how these views can shape a person’s character and behavior. 

Who is Jesus and Why does He Matter

This section provides a comprehensible clarification and description about Jesus as the second person of the Godhead, as a man, and as our Savior. It further explains Jesus’ mission was not about religion by relationship.

Knowing God’s Will for Your Life

This component provides guidelines for learning what God’s will. While there is no easy answers to respond to the question, Rose Publishing provides four points of power to assist in identifying God’s will. Additionally, it reminds the reader of God’s promises, desires, and faithfulness.

 Answers to Evolution

This chapter of the book highlights the scientific theories that challenges the Scriptures relating to creation.  It provides compelling arguments refuting scientific claims and actual statements made by world renowned scientist.  It offers additional resources for further inquiry.

This book also includes chapters regarding sex and the occult.  I believe this is a great resource to utilize for small group, Sunday School, or Bible Study with the teens or new Believers without any previous Christian experience. The Study Guide is a bonus benefit allowing for an assessment of what the student learned and what subject matter may require further discussion.  The layout of the book is intended to be aesthetically appealing to the teens; however, some of the font utilized makes it difficult to read.   Despite the problematic fonts, I would recommend this to teachers and leaders.

Product Review: Christ in the Passover

The pamphlet entitled, “Christ in the Passover,” issued by Rose Publishing provides the Old Testament account of the Israelites enslavement in Egypt.  God heard their cries for mercy and responded through Moses.  Moses sought the freedom of the Israelites and demanding their freedom from Pharaoh.  Pharaoh being stubborn refused choosing to continue to increase the mistreatment of the Israelites.  God punished Egypt with ten plagues due to Pharaoh’s harden heart.

During the last plague, God provided His people with a means to escape the destruction – the blood of a perfect lamb in exchange for the first born of the family.  Not only does this pamphlet provides the origins of Passover within the Old Testament but the Passover celebration, Passover symbolism with the anticipation of Jesus’ works, the Passover celebration significance in modern day, and a comparison between Jesus and the Passover lamb.  

The Passover celebration is explained in depth and provides a modified version of the celebration for Christians.  Traditional recipes used in the Passover celebration are included.  I believe this pamphlet provides a fundamental understanding of the Passover.  It would be great for Bible Study, small group, or Sunday School. I would like to try the recipes and share it with my Sunday School class as we discuss the importance of celebrating the Passover.