Wednesday, December 31, 2008

How to Get past YOUR Jordan

The birth of a New Year brings new hope and an optimistic outlook on the future. Many people have already claimed that in 2009, this will be your time, or in 2009, everything will be fine, or for some in 2009, I am going to get mine, and for all of those who are praying that prayer, I hope God gives you everything you desire.

However, even though the clock will change times, dates will change months, calendars will change years and the line of demarcation will be crossed, don't fool yourself into thinking that the new year will help you escape old problems. The Bill collector still knows your number, trouble still has a key to your door and the devil is still after you.

I have always loved the passage found in Joshua 3:1-6 where the people of God are crossing over into their destiny in the promised land. The phrase found in vs. 4, "you have not passed this way before" has arrested my attention as I stand looking over the horizon of another year.

Selfishly, I want everything to be great! No problems, no deaths, no headaches, heartaches, really I don't want anything to ache. I want members who are concentrated on ministry not mess, people who see the possibilities not the problems, I want the promised land! But I realize that, NO ONE SEES THE PROMISED LAND WITHOUT GOING THROUGH JORDAN TO GET IT.

What is Jordan? The simplest definition is "Anything that stands in the way or in between you and your destiny". Under normal circumstances, Jordan is not that formidable but when you get to your Jordan, it won't be normal. When the Israelites came to Jordan, Js. 4:15, the river was at flood stage. Under normal circumstances the Jordan was shallow and only 100 feet wide crossing at Gilgal but when the Israelites showed up it was over a mile wide and very deep. It was over 50 times wider and deeper than it would be normally and they would need supernatural help to get past it.

Jordan is not just a bill but it is a debt so large that there is no way you can pay it without some supernatural help. Jordan is not just a death but it is a death of someone so beloved in your life that it shuts down your ability to want to go on and live yourself. Jordan is not just a problem in the church but it is a problem so deep that it threatens your message, your ministry and now they want to call a meeting. It can't be fixed, faced or fought without supernatural help.

We can get past our Jordan's if we:

The Ark of the Covenant was symbolic of the presence of God. If the Ark moved, it meant God was moving. Where ever God leads, we must be ready to follow. The Bible says, "set out and follow it", it reminds me of the game "Follow the Leader" Where ever the leader went, we went, behind the bushes, through the trees, down the valley, etc., and it is the same in our lives, since we have not passed this way before, wherever God leads, we must follow.

There were clear instructions on getting to close, "There shall be a space between you and it................that you may know the way by which you must go". By giving a distance between the ark and those following, the ark could clearly be seen by the people. Too often we want to rush ahead of God without keeping our eyes on God, then wonder why we fail.
Sanctify yourselves for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you".
Sometimes we miss the wonder because we have not put in the work. Separate, set apart, consecrate yourselves. Get ready! If we are going to get past the Jordan's in our lives, we must examine ourselves to make sure our lives are as clean as possible.

We are all unfinished flower beds constantly needing the Master's touch in our lives. He digs, weeds, transplants and tills away at the places in our garden that do not look like him. It is not an overnight process and neither should it be but he is still working on us. We am not what we will be but neither are we what we used to be but the gardener while shaping us knows exactly what we can be.

Not sure what this will be but still I am ready to run,


Monday, December 15, 2008

Shared Service

Sis Janice Gaddis, Pastor Teron Gaddis, Rev. Ray Owens

What an amazing weekend I shared with an innovative Pastor and a powerful Church in the Greater Bethel Family of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Pastor Gaddis' commitment to Preaching/Teaching once again shows me that real, sustained and effective church growth is not done through Gadgets or Gimmicks but is through the power of God.

I have shared with this church family on the second Sunday in December for the Pastor's Aid Day for almost 8 years now. I started going when Pastor Woodberry missed a connecting flight from Bakersfield coming back from his vacation and I had to cover. After that Pastor Gaddis told Doc, stay on vacation, I can use you for another area of ministry and use Ray in this spot. Since I am no longer at Mt. Olive, it would have been very easy for Pastor Gaddis to say out of sight, out of mind but he thought enough of this preacher to bring me back to Oklahoma (not home as South Bend is my home now).

Many of the challenges I face here in South Bend and at Macedonia, Pastor Gaddis has already faced. A church with great older adults and loads of babies but a missing generation in young adults. Pastor Gaddis went off grid from the normal traditions of the church, his church motto is that they do church beyond the box, so he went after the unchurched. To see what God has blessed him with now knowing what he started with is a testimony to the faithfulness of God and the power of preaching and planning.

They are building Phase 1 of their new sanctuary and should be in by May. We pray God's choicest blessings on this ministry and can't wait for our Marriage conference in 2009 when the Gaddis family will come to South Bend and bless not only my church but this community.

Looking at his church, I saw a quick glimpse of what Mark 2:1-12 describes. I saw Shared Service. Everyone had their place, their position, their point, their "pole" if you will. I shouted when I was watching his church because I knew I was coming back home and preaching what the Lord was birthing into me.

Many people want to "Give" the Pastor the vision and foolishly many uncalled preachers have accepted some person's counterfeit vision instead of asking God for a vision for their church. God Conceives the Vision, then he Creates the Vision in the Pastor and that vision Consumes the Pastor with a burning to Cast the Vision, every sermon, every Bible Study, every business meeting, Cast the Vision until the people Catch the Vision and Correlate the Vision with their Conduct.

That's Mark 2. It's Shared Service. We have to help people who can't get themselves to Jesus. If we get them to Jesus, they can be healed but they have no motion, no movement, no manner to get themselves to Jesus. We are waiting for people to come to our churches who have no way of getting there in the first place. Yes they have transportation , yes they know what time service is but their condition has rendered them without movement.

Shared Service teaches us that there has to be a:

Right Method: Work together, Man your end of the pole, Some Carry, Some Climb, Some Cut

Righteous Message: Faith to Listen, Favor to Look upon, Forgiveness to Look past

Revealing Majesty: Transitional Position( Sins forgiven), a Transformative Posture( Get up) a Transcendental Praise, (We have never seen anything like this!)

Thanks to Macedonia for allowing me to go to Greater Bethel, thanks to Pastor Gaddis for allowing me to come and thanks to Pastor Staples for preaching the Word of God in my stead encouraging, edifying and educating the Body of Christ like only he can.

I am ready to run!


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Joseph, The most overlooked Man in the room

It is amazing to me how God will use certain events to either birth something into your stream of consciousness or to give confirmation to what he already has deposited. I was granted the privilege of being the speaker today for the Washington High School African-American Male Leadership Group. Their motto is: To Be so strong as to let nothing disturb my peace of mind, I am somebody, I will not fail.

It was a great time and I am indebted to Principal George McCullough, Jr. and my deacon Captain John Williams for allowing me to come; however, God used this to arrest my attention. I am disturbed by how society treats men in general, and African-American men in specific. We have women who think I don't need a man, a society that would seek to incarcerate before educate, and a church who seems to have turned a deaf ear to the development of men and their rightful place in the church and at home.

I know this is true and Joseph is my prime example of it. For some weeks now I have had a private irritation about the theological treatment of Joesph as it relates to the Christmas Story. Our Uniform Sunday School series of lessons has begun and will conclude the Christmas Story without a mention of Joseph, which is not an aberration but the norm.

Theologians concur that Joseph is the least significant of all the characters within the Christmas story. Mary is the prepared vessel and the obedient servant, the angels are an example of spontaneous praise as they witness Jesus doing something they have never seen before, the Wise Men teach us that some things are worth waiting, watching, walking, working and worshipping, the shepherds are our link that Jesus came to the least, lost, and left out but Joesph doesn't matter to us, after all he is just the baby's daddy and he isn't REALLY the father so why discuss him?

At the risk of peril from religious brothers and members who might think I am being more chauvinistic than spiritual, after Jesus, Joseph is the most important figure to this story. With all due respect to my Catholic brethren and the environment in which I Pastor, Mary was Chosen, The Wise Men where Commissioned, The Shepherds served as Confirmation and the Angels Celebrated but only one man had a Choice.

When God decided to entrust the care of his child to another, he needed to find a man. A man whose ego would not get in the way, a man who would listen to his words, a man who would think before he acts, a man that would be able to complete the genealogy of 42 generations, he needed a man.

God still needs men today. The world may have no use for you but God does. Not perfect men or unblemished men, or walking Biblical dictionary men but men who can choose him and do what he instructs them to do.

We measure men by what they say, what they have or who we perceive them to be. Therefore, Joseph means nothing to many because he has no recorded words, no books named after him and no seemingly notable events but Joseph is a great example to many of us that the real measure of a man is not based on what he says but how he lives. Even if my words are silenced my actions will still have an effect.

Maybe we should take another look at an overlooked man in Joseph.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Don't Miss the Party

By far this is the best weekend I have had here in South Bend, I officially am from Indiana now as it snowed all Friday and Saturday and I didn't bunker down like I had been doing. I kept going like it was no big deal. I attended a concert where one of my members Eugene Staples II, the son of one of our Pastors at the church Eugene Staples, Sr., is the lead musician for the Voices of Faith University of Notre Dame Gospel Choir. It was wonderful and God's name was praised, starting on the 4th Sunday of January, this choir will be ministering at my church every fourth Sunday to give them an outlet to use their gift for God and to introduce my church to another avenue of ministry.

Sunday was powerful ALL Day. We continued our advent series, "God is Closer than you think" with our sermon coming from Luke 10:38-42 and we urged the members "Don't Miss the Party" Martha invites Jesus to the home for what seems to be a dinner party but gets so lost in the preparation, she forgets the Prince of Peace is in the House. She is mad at Mary for not helping her and orders Jesus to tell Mary to come and help her. Jesus in effect says, Martha you are missing the party, only one thing is necessary and needful and Mary has chosen that one good thing.

During this Advent season many people are so busy making preparations to buy this, cook this, plan this that we have lost sight of the one who the holiday is all about. We have become so obsessed with the other stuff that we have forgotten the one needful thing. We encouraged the members in order not to miss the party they need to give up their worries, they need to concentrate on worship and understand that Jesus is worthy. The Lord blessed in spite of the limitations of the preacher.

We closed the day with an evening service where the church had a Pastor's aid program honoring my family. I am blessed with three beautiful girls Rachael, LaBraia, and Raven. Pastors Andre A. McGhee and K.D. Witherspoon came over to bless us in this program. I thank God fortheir fellowship, friendship and faithfulness to God as preachers and Pastors in this area.

Pastor Witherspoon killed the house. Many members of Macedonia had never heard my brother preach so they didn't know how powerful of a preacher spoon is. THEY KNOW NOW. He ran and drug everything in the house. I am glad I know he is my friend.

As grateful as I am for the friendship of these pastors, I am even more honored to be the Pastor of Macedonia and to be the recipient of the riches of God as distributed by this loving church. My mother taught me that people don't have to be nice and when they are nice they don't have to be nice to you, so when the occasion comes where someone is nice, the least you should do is say thank you. God bless Macedonia and I love you very much. It was a great weekend.