Thursday, December 30, 2010
The elephant in the room, the unmentioned mentionable, the question that seems to hit the lips of society is when a tragedy hits, when bad things happen, where was/is God? I see it all the time and if you think about it, so do you! An earthquake happens, a mudslide in California takes place, a tsunami in the Orient strikes, a tornado falls in the Midwest and CNN, ABC, FOX NEWS will convene a panel with religious experts engaging in the field of Christian Apologetics trying to explain where was God and why did He allow this to happen?
The consensus of the public is either God does not exist or He does not care. If HE cares, HE is powerless to stop it because after all, bad things can only mean, GOD was not there. Joseph teaches us this concept is not true because he says if you want to know How I Got Over, all you have to do is Review God's Providence.
Without the systematic traditional theological Biblical survey language, Providence simply is "To Go Before" and "To see After". The story of Joseph suggests this is true and he begs us just to Review God's Providence. The phrase "The Lord was with Joseph" becomes a common thread woven through the tapestry of Joseph's testimony.
Even when he was sold he was still secure because God was with him. When he was with Potiphar, he still prospered because God was with him. In problems, he is still promoted because God is with him. While enduring fabrications and falsifications, God still shows favor by letting Joseph go to "The King's Prison". In prison, God is still with Joseph, when others forget, God remembers and in due season, Joseph is positioned in the place God has arraigned from the beginning because God will go before and see after.
When we Review our life, it is tempting to say God has forgotten about us. Death, loss of friends and family, pink slips and over draft notices can make you say Where is God? We mistakenly believe that "favor" is the absence of problems. God should stop the factory from shutting down. God should prevent my doctor from giving me a bad report on the MRI. God should stop my family member from dying but favor is not the absence of problems but rather it is the prosperity of God's children even through problems because GOD has gone before and seen after.
I am reviewing God's Providence. God was there when General Motors closed down on February 24, 2006. He went before and Saw after so on June 26, 2006, General Motors in Arlington, Texas offered me another job. I walked away as the assistant to the Pastor of the Greater Mount Olive Baptist Church on the fifth Sunday December 31st, 2006 but because God went before and saw after Easter Sunday Morning April 6th, 2008, I became the Pastor of the Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church. When I walked away from the provisions and the protection of General Motors, The Lord has Gone before and Saw after and provided my buy-out parachute to allow me to work full-time as a Pastor.
As you read this blog, you may be tempted to think that 2010 was a bad year. You may think that God forgot you, abandoned you or left you all by yourself. I invite you to slow down, sit sown and write down all the bad things that happened in your life in 2010, I bet you will discover that God was there all the time.
Review God's Providence,
A Great Book on the Providence of God is by D. A. Carson, "The God Who Is There: Finding Your Place in God's Story", not systematic or theological but a character driven devotional walk through the Bible on the Providence of God. Good read.
Sunday, December 26, 2010
Whatever version you sing or singer you listen to, Mahalia, Aretha or Vickie the words are still powerful and inspiring. On this last Sunday of the year, I can not help but look back on what God has done for me in 2010. I realize that we have been trained that this song is to be sung when we cross over to the other side but I realized this song can be sung now because it is a song of reflection and remembrance.
Time and vocabulary limit me from saying all I could say about how good God has been to me this year so I brought a witness. His name is Joseph. The dreamer who saw his future but didn't understand all of what he saw. The boy that was cast in a pit, sold for a profit, was accosted by the first "Cougar" in the Bible, Potiphar's wife, thrown into prison but ultimately was elevated next to Pharaoh. Joseph can tell us How to make it Over.
Joseph tells us the first thing we need to do in order to make it over is to RELEASE YOUR PAST. Some people can never move into the future because they are held hostage by their past, what happened to them, who lied on them, who mistreated them. Every time they see the person they review and remember so instead of releasing their past, they REHEARSE THEIR PAIN. They live life as a perpetual victim instead of the promised victor.
No one would have been angry with Joseph if he told his brothers off. It would be expected. After all, they plotted against him. After all, the cast him in a pit, they sold him for a profit. But Joseph doesn't do this, instead he Releases His past. He says, "God did this, and not you. He sent me ahead of you to preserve you, to secure a remnant".
In saying this, Joseph is no longer the Victim but rather he is the Victor. Someone reading this needs to Release their Past. All of us have family that mistreated us; people who have lied on us; acquaintances who ate and drank in our presence while we had nothing, but God allowed this to happen, not to destroy us but to develop us.
When you have become free from you past, you live in that freedom. Have you ever met someone who describes to you something that happened to them? In their description, their breathing changes, their voice becomes elevated, the color either leaves or changes in their faces. You can tell they have become disturbed. The amazing part of this is they are describing something that happened 10 years ago but because they have never let it go, it sounds like it just happened yesterday.
When they see the person, they walk the other direction, frown up, become upset, even leave church, because they are still the Victim. They make future relationships pay for past ones. They refuse to accept future blessing because of past disappointments but God wants us to follow Joseph's example and free ourselves into victory by releasing our past.
I have written too much and hopefully will synthesize this by the time I preach it as this is just the first point but I leave the blog with this: Look at you body. All of us have a scar! Somewhere! There is a place where we fell, were struck or cut, scratched or scraped that left evidence.
When you point to the scar, you remember the story. You remember what happened. You remembered you cried, the blood, etc. However, what you can not remember is the Pain. You remember there was pain, but somehow the pain of the event is gone. If it wasn't then every time you remembered the event, you would cry, but the pain is gone.
That's what God does for us when we RELEASE OUR PAST. We remember the event, we remember the experience but we live in the Emancipation FROM the event. We are no longer a VICTIM TO but rather we are VICTORS FROM.
Yes, we have scars, yes we have wounds, yes we have evidence of battles, scrapes and dust-ups but God has freed us. Now our scars are our testimony, I am free, You meant to kill me, you tried to destroy, the scar is the proof you meant it for my evil but God meant it for my good.
I am going to the pulpit and pray this works out but I am shouting because God just gave me something that I didn't write. FOR ALL MY SCARS GOD HAS GIVE ME SOMETHING BETTER THAN COCOA BUTTER, I AM COVERED BY HIS BLOOD.
HEY GLORY, KEEP RUNNING
Thursday, December 23, 2010
There never was another Who was a human child and also a divine Son; Who was wounded by Satan and Who, at the same time crushed Satan; Who was appointed the Savior of men, yet was crucified by men; Who was Judge of men; yet was led as a felon from one tribunal to another.There never was another Who died and was buried and yet lived; Who saved others and Himself could not save; Who had no sin in Him, yet all sin on Him; Who was the King of Glory, yet wore no crown but a crown of thorns; Who, in the glory He had with God before the world was, had the angelic hails of heaven and yet, on earth, gave Himself to the murderous nails of men!
There never was another Who was the Prince of life, yet died on Calvary; Who was as old as His heavenly Father and ages older than His earthly mother.There never was another Who was the victim of a Roman cross and victor at a Jewish grave.There never was another Who poured all seas, all lakes, all rivers out of the crystal chalices of eternity, yet on a cross said with a mouth hot like a parched desert that cries for rain, ‘I thirst’”.All of this was written to describe the Lord Jesus Christ.
"Jesus Christ was born in the meanest circumstances, but the air above was filled with the hallelujahs of the heavenly host. His lodging was a cattle pen, but a star drew distinguished visitants from afar to do Him homage. His birth was contrary to the laws of life. His death was contrary to the laws of death.
No miracle is so inexplicable as His life and teaching. He had no cornfields or fisheries, but He could spread a table for 5,000 and have bread and fishes to spare.... Three years He preached His Gospel. He wrote no book, built no church, had no money back of Him. After 2,000 years, He is the one central character of human history, the perpetual theme of all preaching, the pivot around which the events of the age revolve, the only regenerator of the human race.
Was it merely the son of Joseph and Mary who crossed the world's horizon 2,000 years ago? Was it merely human blood that was spilled on Calvary's hill for the redemption of sinners, and which has worked such wonders in men and nations through the centuries? What thinking man can keep from exclaiming, 'My Lord and my God!
Monday, December 20, 2010
The Christmas song "Santa Claus is coming to town" says "He is making a list and checking it twice, he is gonna find out who is naughty or nice". Parents have used this song as a bargaining tool for better behavior. Individuals have used this as an incentive to give or not give to someone.
Santa Theology suggests "Give only to those who are good"
Santa Theology suggests "Give to those who have earned it".
And whether you realize it or not, many people use "Santa Theology" in their lives. Wives decide whether or not they will be intimate with their husbands based on behavior" We give gifts to people based on whether we like them or they have been good to us. Children believe they should be rewarded for keeping a room clean or bringing home good grades.
However, this flies directly in the face of the Bible and Grace Theology. Luke 2:10-11 (HCSB) "But the angel said to them, 'Don't be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people:  today a Savior, who is Messiah the Lord, was born for you in the city of David."
Therefore the good news of great joy isn't just for the good people; it is for all the people. Even people who've committed great sins. Grace, unmerited favor, something I have not earned and can't pay back, God's riches at Christ's expense. I HAVE THIS GIFT BECAUSE OF GRACE.
Some of you think you woke up today because you were so good yesterday (Santa theology) but I woke up today because God looked beyond my faults and saw my needs (Grace theology). Some of you believe you drive what you drive, wear what you wear, live how you live because you earned it (Santa theology) but I am driving, wearing and living like I am because Jesus said to my creditors, his debt give it to me and my credit that I have with you, give it to him. (Grace Theology).
The good news of great joy is for all the people so let's tell the good news of grace and not Santa.Go tell it on the Mountain, Over the Hills and everywhere, Go tell it on the Mountain that Jesus Christ Has come.
Thursday, December 9, 2010
We receive "System Snow", "Clipper Systems" and "Lake Effect Snow". System Snow is the mildest of the three. There is advance warning! It won't stay around long and usually it won't leave too much precipitation, maybe 1" to 3" inches.
Clipper systems are seasonal, usual coming from November through February. They are fast moving, can appear out of no where, not much if any notice and can be very intense in a short amount of time leaving large patches of precipitation.
Lake Effect Snow is the worst of the three. It is a dumping! Large amounts of snow that never seems to end. It comes in waves and depending on which way the wind blows, it can miss you to the east, miss you to the west or it can hit you dead center. As of this blog writing for the season we are at a snow total of 14.5" inches of snow. Watching and dealing with this snow gave me a Word for someone.
Many times we hate the season of our lives and we pray for God to change the season. We groan, agonize, plead and fast for God to remove/change/alter the season, when God is trying to teach us how to live in between the Waves.
For some it is cold in your lives, no warmth, no sun, just cloudy cold days where you wonder will it ever get better. It does. IT IS IN BETWEEN THE WAVE. During the winter here, we may go 30 to 40 days without the sun shining, however even in between the clouds, the sun is so powerful, that even when the clouds won't leave, there are times the sun leaves an indention where the "GRAY BECOMES BRIGHTER". It's isn't the sun, it isn't clear skies but it is a reminder the Sun is still there. Gray becomes not as gloomy, not as dungy, GRAY BECOMES BRIGHTER.
There are times we need to remind ourselves that even when the clouds in our lives won't roll away, God is still powerful to shine through the clouds and leave an indention.
There are seasons in our life where it looks like it won't stop snowing, raining, storming, thundering, precipitation won't end. How do you live with it. The first year here in South Bend the winter season yields 119" inches of snow. Last year, it yielded 78" inches of snow, so far this year 14.5". Someone asks how do you do it? It's easy, you live in between the waves.
It changed my spiritual live when I realized this in my natural life here in town. IT DOES NOT SNOW ALWAYS. It only seems like it does but it will stop. YES, more is coming, YES, more is on the way, YES, it is only a temporary break, but IT IS A BREAK. During that break, we dig out, we shovel through, we make room, we clear space, so that when the next snowfall comes, it doesn't stack higher than we can see.
God always gives you a break in between the waves, so I don't need Him to change the seasons. Yes it would be nice, Yes it would be great, YES I WOULD LOVE IT. But I waste time arguing with God to change something that is due to the season I am in. It won't be 80 in the winter, it won't be sunny during cloudy times, it won't be dry in the middle of rainy season, so just find your IN BETWEEN WAVE.
It's the place where I find peace WHILE the storm rages, it is the sanctuary I worship in WHILE trouble is all around, it's the hiding place I rest WHILE my enemy is trying to subdue, it's the pocket of praise I find in the middle of my hell, it's the encouragement in the Lord that strengthens me so I can deal with the next attack that is coming.
Sometimes between the 6" inches of trouble that you are going through now and the 12 inches of desperation that will follow that and the 8 inches of disappointment that is the after affect of that, it's tempting to ask, plead, fuss, cry out to God to change the season but God can teach you how to live in between the waves. Dig out, shovel through, climb over, burrow out. LIVE LIFE IN BETWEEN THE WAVE
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
It amazes me how many people don't seem to realize the historical value of this date in history. It seems like more people are paying attention to man-made concerns than actual history. While I appreciate the massive pandemic of AIDS, let us never forget the epic pandemic of racism that even now still pervades our society.
I had the thought while reading this great history. It doesn't take a lot of people to change something. It just takes one person who is willing to say I have had enough and I won't stand for this anymore. Our churches would be better if one person would just say, I have had enough. Our schools would be safer, if one parent would say, I have had enough. Thank God Rosa Parks made this declaration. It just takes one person.
On December 1, 1955 Rosa Parks, with one single act of ‘defiance’ that would launch the Montgomery Bus Boycott, became the first lady of the Civil Rights Movement.
Many of us grew up with the notion that Parks simply didn’t want to give up her seat because she was tired from work. But as she revealed in her autobiography “My Story,” she knew very well what her decision to disobey bus driver James Blake would mean something.
“People always say that I didn’t give up my seat because I was tired, but that isn’t true. I was not tired physically, or no more tired than I usually was at the end of a working day. I was not old, although some people have an image of me as being old then. I was forty-two. No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in.”
When Parks refused to give up her seat, a police officer arrested her. As the officer took her away, she recalled that she asked, “Why do you push us around?” The officer’s response as she remembered it was, “I don’t know, but the law’s the law, and you’re under arrest.” She later said, “I only knew that, as I was being arrested, that it was the very last time that I would ever ride in humiliation of this kind.”
We thank you, Rosa Parks, for helping change the world.