Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Buried Under but Digging Out

Many people ask me, "How do you survive in South Bend with all of the snow"? I said to one recently, the same way you survive in life, I keep Digging out".

I wrote in my "It's Almost February post that we had received 40.5 inches of snow, something to that effect. By South Bend standards, a wimp of a winter. I thought I had escaped. This was January 30th. Then February rolled around.

With almost 5 days left in the month we have received 34.1 inches of snow in the month of February. We are only 1.4 inches away from breaking the record of the snowiest February of all time eclipsing a record that has stood since 1908.It was just yesterday I was laughing about how good it was, daring to point my finger at lake Michigan and the so called Lake effect snow and call them WIMPS. Then February came.

I write this because maybe you can relate. Just yesterday life was great, sun was shining, warm weather abounded. No major problems, burdens,or health concerns. Tax refund on the way, looking at vacation destinations and 70" TV's for the man cave and then it hit, the phone call that a loved one has passed, another announcing health concerns that won't be a quick fix,,, the tax refund now has been held up due to an audit of a tax dispute from 4 years ago

One problem on top of another problem. Before you can fix one another shows up, before you can clean off your desk, here comes another file, before this argument is settled, up pops another issue and you become buried under.A record day, week, month of problems you have never seen before. You become buried under.

The question becomes How do I deal with this Mountain of,,,,snow, burdens, problems, etc. Well let me give you the bad news first, IT'S NOT MAGICALLY GOING TO GO AWAY!! I can stick my head in the sand like an Ostrich but things will only become worse.

South Bend winters have taught me a necessary life principle: Live in between the waves. With a report of 2-4 inches of system snow today and lake effect of 1-3 tonight, an Alberta clipper that will drop 3- 5 this weekend with another 4-8 of lake effect after that, sometimes you only have hours, or days to dig out before the next one hits.

If you don't dig out from this snowfall, it will freeze and become too hard to move. You will have move-able snow on top and an ice chunk on the bottom. So we dig out. Snow blowers, plows, shovels and picks, we dig. Neighbors help each other, we push people out of driveways or dig people out stuck in the cul-de-sacs but we dig out.

We can't move all of the snow. That's an impossibility, so we dig enough to clear a path, a parking spot or a place. Let me encourage you, some problems will not be solved by ignoring them, nor will you be able to remove everything bad out of your life al at once, but if you can dig a place, a path, a parking place so that when the next wave hits you won't have to move twice as much, life will get better.

Dig out, don't get buried under.

Monday, February 23, 2015

You are not alone

75.5 inches of snow and by the grace of God, WE ARE STILL STANDING!!!!!!!! God blessed our church with another great worship experience as we finished our "BUT GOD" series. This is the first time I am exiting a series with trepidation wondering "Is it really time to leave it"?

The experiences, testimonials and life energy the series has taken on has been transformational for both the pulpit and the pew.

Dealing with the ever-changing landscape of daughters soon to be 14 year old, 12 year old and 10 year old making me wonder Am I really cracked up for this daddy thing??? They were so much easier at 7, 5, and three. Daddy was superman. They loved their daddy and he could do no wrong. Now Daddy is always wrong, never takes the right side, can't quite seem to get it................BUT GOD

I have a deacon whom I love that I constantly thank God for bringing into my life and although I never got the chance to experience a working relationship with him as Pastor and Deacon, I received something better, Dad and son.....and yet I received news that he is joining the legion of many that deals with the battle of  cancer, specifically prostate cancer......I had no words except BUT GOD!!

I have an amazing sister in Christ who I inherited when her amazing father Dr. Aaron A Jackson, Jr adopted me as his son in the ministry. I have said more time than I can count, Dr. A. Glenn Woodberry birthed me into ministry but Dr. Jackson gave me life. My sister always says she was the boy in the family until I came along. Our bond is unique...only to discover she joined the fight with cancer as well, fighting breast cancer, didn't know what to do, how to act, couldn't even really breathe when I heard the news, I could only say...BUT GOD!!

I have the potentially awesome opportunity to follow in the shoes of a great Moderator  Dr. Marion J. Johnson, Jr. who lead our District Association very well. Many pastors and leaders are encouraging me to step up. I feel the call of God and yet must admit, I see the challenges that lie ahead. Trying to make our Districts, State and National Conventions relevant to the needs of the people, matching the moment with the medium so that is more about ministry than money......it's necessary and I applaud and support whomever God chooses to lead this movement.............BUT ME.... I can't do it...............BUT GOD.

I pray for you. Yes You!! for whatever reason that brought you to this blog on this day, I pray for you! I simply want you to know YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

There is a chapter in Hebrews called the Heroes Hall of Fame found in chapter 11. Some of the Bible's best characters live here. We always have held this chapter up as people with great faith but actually this chapter is God's way of saying whatever you have gone through, someone else has been there and survived because they had a BUT GOD moment.

Whether Abel or Enoch, Noah or Abraham, whether Sarah, Issac or Jacob or even Joseph, Moses, or Joshua, a prostitute like Rahab or a man who couldn't leave prostitutes alone like Sampson and other names that time doesn't let us delve into, there is someone who has gone through what you are going through and God brought them out.

Don't lose heart and Don't lose hope. Hope is the fuel that drives your faith. It is the object on where your faith lies. It is why we used to sing My hope is Built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness, I dare not trust the sweetest frame but wholly lean on Jesus' name, On Christ the solid rock I stand all other ground is sinking sand, all other ground is sinking sand.

If Satan can kill your hope, he can derail your faith because Faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen. If my faith is derailed my witness becomes dysfunctional because without Faith it is impossible to please God, and therein lies our shout, because he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek 

There is a BUT GOD statement for your situation if you believe and trust in God.School taught me that citing the source changes plagiarism to scholasticism. Let me cite the source that gave me hope to Keep the faith. Thank you for reading this blog. Be encouraged!!!!!!!!!

Dr. Tony Evans defines Faith as this "Faith is acting like it is so even when it is not so in order that it will be so simply because God said so!!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015



60.4 inches of snow and we are still standing. I pray all is well with you. This time of year is always amazing to me coming from Oklahoma. If we received an inch of snow there, schools, churches and all events would be cancelled and a state of emergency would be called.

In South Bend, winter is a part of life, snow comes and we keep moving. The past Sundays have been amazing in the fact people didn't let snow stop them from coming to church or from having church once they arrived. I am humbled and honored to serve in South Bend at the Macedonia Church.

We started a 5 Week Sermon Series entitled "BUT GOD". It has been a blessing to people and the preacher as God has reminded us in the words of James Montgomery Boice, "If you understand those two words------BUT GOD--------they will save your soul.

I recommend two excellent books that have provided both information and inspiration for this series. The first is a book written by Casey Lute entitled, "BUT GOD...The Two Words at the Heart of the Gospel" 

This is an excellent informative read that for readers who like Boice and his commentaries, you will love this book. He stresses in this book that we need to learn how to finish the sentence. We are so quick to not speak this or not claim that; we miss the greater reality!

Lute suggests To the Left of "But God" in Scripture are some of the worst human atrocities, characterized by rebellion and disobedience. To the left of "but God" is Hopelessness, darkness and death but if you will not stop mid sentence and complete the thought you will see on the right side of "But God", readers of God's Word will find hope, light and life.

The second book I recommend on this topic is written by a fellow Oklahoman named Herbert Cooper entitled "BUT GOD" CHANGES EVERYTHING".

I call this my inspirational book. Please don't let that tag mislead you to believe this book isn't informative or theologically based because it is. The reason why I call it inspirational is because the reading of this book affected me differently than Lute's interpretation. Lute appealed to my theological mind but Cooper helped transform my mind into application.

Cooper helps the reader to understand and to chronicle their own "but God" story. He shares from the things God has delivered him from to help encourage the reader to look back at the divine pivot point  they have come through and right at the moment it seemed like all hope was lost, providentially a BUT GOD moment arrived.

Cooper says, "There is no easy way to define "But God" changes but you always know when you encounter them. WHen you have a "But God" moment in your life, what follows from that moment will be drastically different from what came before it.

What we have been experiencing at Macedonia through this sermon series as birthed by God through this writers has been nothing short of miraculous. We are writing our own "but God' Stories and God willing we will share some of those on this blog or thru the other church sites.


Friday, January 30, 2015

It's Almost February

40.8 inches of snow and we are still here. It has been light so far but I know Indiana can catch up quickly on totals. Can't believe it is almost February, the time has been flying by.

Had a great preaching and ministry Month at Macedonia, Great way to kick off the new year. Looking forward to great things celebrating our 90th Year.

Was blessed to be nominated for membership to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Commission of Indiana. I thank Governor Mike Pence for the consideration and his staff for the observation regardless of the outcome.

Blessed to have the opportunity to share with Goshen College in their MLK Celebration. The Voices-N-harmony Gospel Ensemble was amazing. DaVonne Kramer did an outstanding job as the Diverse Student Program Coordinator..

Ewuare Osayande, the anti-Oppression Coordinator from the Unite States Central Mennonite Committee was the keynote speaker and gave a moving message on "The Language of the Unheard: I Can't Breathe".He certainly was the embodiment of the theme "BE BRAVE, SHOW GRACE: ADVANCING INTERCULTURAL ACTION.

I am honored to be a part of the Center for Intercultural and International Education at Goshen College. Thank you Gilberto Perez for partnering with our church.

My name is submitted for consideration of becoming the next moderator of the Northern Indiana Missionary Baptist Educational District Association. I have a lot to say about that in upcoming posts.

I was honored to be named Regional Instructor of the Tear by the Sunday School Publishing Board, The Division of Christian Education and Credentials of the National Baptist Convention USA, INC. Thanks to my regional coordinator Dr, L.D. Tate for his consideration and my Madame Dean Sister Lawana F. Griffin for her support.

LAST BUT NOT LEAST, My beautiful oldest daughter Rachael Owens who will be 14 in march was recently inducted into the National Junior Honor Society from her school Summit Intermediate School. To be a member of this class, one must have maintained a minimum of 3.83 grade point average the 6th and 7th years and the first semester of the 8th grade year,

My daughter maintained a 4.1 grade point average. COME ON SCHOLARSHIPS. SHOW DADDY THE MONEY.

Lots of things going on and It's Almost February.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Content Where the Shepherd Places You

Living life abundantly should be one of the easiest things to do. After all, Jesus came that we might have life and have it more abundantly. He is the door and He is the shepherd, We are the sheep. If I would simply Listen to His voice and follow His commands, I will live an abundant life.

So what's the problem?  There is a saying "The grass is always greener on the other side...." The problem is it is hard to have a spirit of contentment when you have an attitude of complaint. This attitude is birthed out of the seed of comparing which is the enemy of contentment.

Howard Hughes, the famous billionaire demonstrates this attitude when asked the question, "How much money does it take to make a man happy"? He said, "Just a little more"!

Just a little more is birthed by paying attention more to what someone else has instead of being appreciative for what the Shepherd has provided you. Your 55" TV is actually good, until you saw the 70' inch. Your car is top of the line, gets from point A to point B until you saw your neighbor in a newer model. Your wife is beautiful, faithful and loyal until you looked across the fence and saw the next generation. The shepherd provided what you needed but because of comparing, the spirit of complaint seeped in and contentment was forfeited.

What is contentment? Contentment means my happiness is not dependent upon my circumstances. The belief that if I can just get a little more or to this level or to this place then my life will be right. This level of money...this size TV, house paid off. God says NO because once you get there you will still want something more because abundance is not found in things, abundance is found in Jesus.

Robert Fulghum, author of the classic book "All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten" put it this way, "The Grass is not, in fact, always greener on the other side of the fence. No, not at all! The grass is greenest where it is watered. When crossing over fences, carry water with you and tend to the grass wherever you are"

Troubles in life come when we believe the myth that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. We are taken over by envy, believeing that other people have the good stuff and then feeling depressed, anxious, and persecuted by the belief that we have so little. We are taken over by greed, wanting more and more and more, feeling that what we have cannot ever be enough.

The Bible clearly teaches us "to be content" no matter what our circumstances are. Philippians 4:11 says, "I have learned in whatsoever state I am in therewith to be content" The Amplified Bible describes being content as "satisfied to the point where you are no disturbed or disquieted". It doesn't say satisfied to the point where you don't want change, but you are satisfied with what God has provided and will be patient until God brings about that change.

Contentment will help you say the first sentence that an abundant life believer need to realize: I am exactly where the Shepherd wants me to be.

The Shepherd loves me too much to put me in a place where I couldn't grow, prosper and thrive. He has provided everything I need, protected me from the elements that would hurt me and from my enemies that would destroy me. What I didn't think to ask, He didn't forget to provide.

When I do my job as a sheep, LISTEN and OBEY, Jesus will do His job as a Shepherd and He will provide, protect and help me Prosper.

For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly. Psalm 84:11

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Abundantly Celebrating Life

The Lord is good every day and great worship isn't anything new at the Macedonia church but Sunday the presence of the Lord was more manifest than normal. God truly did a great thing in our service on Sunday from the invocation to the benediction, He was in control.

39.9 inches of snow and counting for the year and yes that is 18 inches of snow that came in one week but the people of Macedonia still came out to church on Sunday Morning.

I preached our church theme for 2015 out of John 10:10 "The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly".

Our theme for this year is Abundantly Celebrating Life: Past, Present and Future. Our church is blessed that this year will mark our 90th year that the Lord has allowed the Macedonia Family to exist. From a mission plant in a living room to our present location, God has been good to this church.

With all of God's goodness that He has bestowed upon us the thought came to my mind, Are we really living Life? Our world is full of unhappy people. Divorce, Suicide, drug dependency, depression, eating disorders, emotional and psychological disorders, THE WORLD NEEDS SOME JOY AND THAT JOY IN ABUNDANCE.

Where do we find it? Educators have failed to lead people to the abundant life. Science has not shown where abundant life rests. Believe it or not even Religion has not done an adequate job in teaching the masses the joy of life in Jesus.

Charles Stanley says we have learned to live an adequate life but not an abundant life. Many people view church as the end of their fun and celebration. The joy that Jesus gives doesn't seem to be reflected in the lives of people who claim He lives in their hearts.

Be Honest! Have you looked at some of the people who call themselves Christians? Do they seem to have joy? Excitement? Pleasure? Zest for life?

Most of our churches haven't taught us how to live abundantly, rather in fact they have taught us how to live somberly. So Christianity is equated with the Thou shalt Not's! We teach people what not to do in life rather than teaching them how to live abundantly in life. So we have created Christians who think its a sin to listen to any other type of music other than gospel. People who we can't invite to the church picnic without them frowning at everyone if someone is playing bingo, horseshoes, or God forbid Spades.

They know the what not to do's instead of doing anything. There is another group in our churches who also have been taught wrong. They believe the abundant life is the life that is marked by things.

Although the word abundantly in the English is an Adverb in the Greek this word is an adjective. It suggests the truly abundant life is not a life that is marked by quantity but it is a life that is distinguished by quality. You can have a house on the hills, four cars in the parking lot and every shoe, purse, bag and gadget available and still have no joy because joy is not found in things, joy is found in Jesus.

How can we live an Abundant Life? How can we Celebrate Life?

The devotional answer is found in the context of Chapters 9 and 10 of John.. Simply put when I understand who I am. SHEEP, and I understand who Jesus is, THE SHEPHERD, I can began to walk in abundance.. All a sheep has to do is two things according to the text. LISTEN AND OBEY.

Could it be that many of us fail to walk in an abundant lifestyle simply because we will not Listen to the Voice of the Shepherd and obey what He tells us to do. It is impossible to walk in abundance while living a life of disobedience.

If we learn what we are to do as SHEEP>>>>>> LISTEN AND OBEY, then the Shepherd can do what HE does best, PROVIDE. PROTECT and PROSPER

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

EX-NIHILO Something Out of Nothing

Thank God for another year. 7th winter here in South Bend at the Macedonia Church and I thank God for the journey. Very light year of snow so far, only 21.8 inches of snow. I am expecting that total to double by the end of this month.

Wonderful Sunday of church worship. I must admit I wish all of our churches worshiped every Sunday they way we worship on the first Sunday of the year. After all, God is good 52 Sundays of the year not just the first one. Either way, it gives us as pastors an opportunity to keep finding ways to keep the fire hot within our own buildings.

Normally, I preach our church theme for the year but I was led to Genesis 1:1-8 for this New Years sermon. The Lord blessed His idea that He allowed me to preach of "Ex-Nihilo: Something out of Nothing".

I must admit that lately one comment that the enemy has sent my way from people in the church and outside of the church has bothered me. It really isn't that bad of a comment as negative statements go but for some reason it has really crawled up my skin.

You can call me mule headed, stubborn, unyielding and I would just say YEP, you right!
You can say Pastor is mean and not friendly enough, I would say Guilty as charged.
You can say Pastor is a picky eater and doesn't eat everyone's food, AMEN So Be It!
Pastor isn't as good of a preacher as Pastor so and so or Bishop Almighty and I would be the first to admit it that is probably true.
Then I would thank God for His Grace and Mercy that sustains me and His Love that covers a Multitude of Sins and count myself as privileged that God still called and equipped me into this gospel ministry.

So if those comments didn't set me off, what did? OK I am embarrassed to say but I will. 

You ain't nothing! That's it. I know, doesn't sound like much. It really isn't but man, this has worked on me!

" You ain't Nothing". Your Church ain't nothing, your people ain't nothing. You have a little money in the bank but that's nothing. Yes you paid off the debt total you inherited but that's nothing, Yes your church is growing but compared to so and so that's nothing. 

The word Nothing festered in my craw like a rock in your shoe that finds your arch every time you step. It wouldn't leave me alone. I began to have the attack of I wanna be somebody, I wanna be something. I AM somebody, I AM SOMETHING. I'll show them. I make it bigger and brighter. We will become stronger and powerful..

It took the wisdom of an older Pastor to prevent me from train wrecking my ministry over some mess. I told him how I felt and he simply said, "Wow what a blessing"! Excuse me, I just told you they said I'm nothing, my church is nothing, my God-given people are nothing our money and clout are nothing. He looked at me again and said WHAT A BLESSING.

He would later explain, God does his best work out of nothing. EX_NIHILO- Something out of Nothing, BARA out of nothing, not working with something but working with nothing God creates masterpieces.

Could it be that the problem with many Pastors and Parishioners, many members and ministries, many saints and sinners is we believe we have already arrived. We are already something. We are all of that, after all, look at my preaching itinerary, look at my building and grounds, look at my members and my bank account, listen to me preach and teach, look at me sing and shout. I AM SOMETHING I AM SOMEBODY.

But in reality, we are nothing. Filthy rags at best, but nothing. A shiny penny, still nothing!. A crumpled up, torn in half dollar, NOTHING.

There is the blessing, instead of God waiting for us to try and become something on our own, God saved us from that! He stepped out on nothing. He worked in nothing. He creates out of nothing. He is not intimidated by our nothingness. It is His canvas board to create the work of art this world is and we are.

Martin Luther said it better than I can: