Monday, November 30, 2009

From Liability to Asset

During this Advent season, I am following the Lord into new territory. While studying for a particular sermon, I became enchanted with the book of Philemon and so what started as a one week journey has turned into a planned advent sojourn in this great book. We took our first walk Sunday. Our overall suggestion is that God through Jesus has left us the best gifts in the world. Sunday, we unwrapped the Gift of Forgiveness.

The importance of forgiveness is a constant theme of Scripture. There are no less than seventy-five different word pictures about forgiveness in the Bible. They help us grasp the importance, the nature, and the effects of forgiveness. Forgiveness is so important that the Holy Spirit devoted an entire book of the Bible to it. In the brief book of Philemon, the spiritual duty to forgive is emphasized, but not in principle, parable, or word picture. Through a real life situation involving two people dear to him, Paul teaches the importance of forgiving others.

Although the word forgiveness is not mentioned in this letter from Paul to Philemon, forgiveness is the reason for the writing of this letter. There are two New Testament words translated forgive. One word translated “forgive” (aphesin) means to send off or to send away. This word means the wrong is cut out and sent away from the wrongdoer. This word means the sin is separated from the sinner. This is the word that speaks of our sins being forgiven through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross.

The forgiveness offered by Jesus is offered because of our proneness to do wrong and the guilt that results from our doing wrong. However, God offers forgiveness for our wrongdoing and guilt because there is a penalty to be paid because of our wrongdoing and guilt. God forgives us because Jesus paid the penalty. Through Jesus Christ, we have been forgiven totally. Through the total forgiveness offered through Jesus, we maintain constant fellowship with God. Sin disturbs and breaks our fellowship with God. But forgiveness restores it.

Forgiveness offered through Jesus Christ is also the means by which we are released from the guilt of sin. Once we know we have been forgiven, there is no longer a need to carry the burden of the sin. The offender knows that God does not have any resentment because of the offense. The offender has a clear conscience because of being set free from the guilt and penalty of sin.
Forgiveness has to be understood as a part of justification. In justification, God set us free from the condemnation of the law. Because of the work of Jesus Christ, God removes the guilt of sin. The sinner is no longer liable for the payment for his sin.

A second word translated “forgive” (charizomenoi) means to grant pardon. It suggests being gracious to a person. It is canceling a debt or pardoning someone who has done wrong. This word translated “forgive” means a quarrel with a person has taken place. One person has hurt another person and caused that person harm. Despite being offended, the forgiving person cancels the wrong done by the offender. The hurt or harmed person is gracious to the offender. The offended person pardons the offender by wiping out the wrong and treating the person as if he has not sinned.

Sunday we tried to unwrap this gift of forgiveness in this manner, God's gift of forgiveness gave us:
I. A New Day
1. Erases our Past (justification)
2. Equips us for our Present (Sanctification)
3. Enables our Future (Glorification)

II. A New Directive
1. Speak as a partner to a partner

2. Speak as a Father to a Follower
3. Speak in Love

III. A New Designation
1. Paul=Prisoner
2. Timothy=Brother
3. Philemon=Beloved

4.Onesimus=From Slave to Son

Pray for us in this journey through Philemon as next week during this Advent season with God's help, we will unwrap the gift of Reconciliation.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Chicken Dinner Churches

Chuck Swindoll tells a story about a man living in Atlanta who was flipping through the Yellow Pages in search of a restaurant. He noticed an entry for a place called The Church of God Grill. His curiosity got the best of him and he dialed the number. A man answered with a cheery, "Hello! Church of God Grill!" He asked how the restaurant had gotten such an unusual name. "Well,” the man answered, “we had a little mission down here, and we started selling chicken dinners after church on Sunday to help pay the bills. People loved the chicken, and we did such a good business, we found ourselves needing to shorten up our church services in order to get enough dinners ready on time. After a while we closed down the church altogether and just served chicken dinners. We kept the name we started with, and that’s Church of God Grill.”

I love this story although when I first read it as an associate minister, I said there is no way this could happen. How can you become a "Chicken Dinner Church"? The wonderful world of being an associate minister, all knowing and completely naive all at the same time but changing seats has taught me so much, this can and does happen. It is amazing how much we do in church that has absolutely nothing to do with what God intended the church to be and leads us into becoming "Chicken Dinner Churches"

Sadder than that, it is amazing all the things we as pastors do and are expected to do that have nothing to do with the primary calling that God has placed on our lives, in effect; turning us into "Chicken dinner Pastors". We are everything from church firefighters, policemen, parliamentarians, veterinarians who heal the sheep that keep running into the fences that are meant to protect them and healing the goats and rams that keep head butting each other.

We serve as blue ribbon judges in sweet potato pie eating and baby kissing contests; serve on ceremonially appropriate dog and pony show civic committees that look good but affect no real change for the overall community except to serve as photo opportunities for politicians who have no real concern for our members except to lynch and fleece.

We serve as MC's for wedding ceremonies that have nothing to do with Jesus or covenant relationship building, or the providence of God but rather is just a prelude for the party later where drunken revelry and immoral behavior will become the garments worn by people who have taken off the Armor of God and replaced it with the"sinful suits of Satan".

I am convinced that meetings are or can be used as a tool of Satan to take you away from your primary power which is connection to and through God. NO, all meetings are not of Satan but so many are unnecessary. Pre-planning meetings, post meetings, evaluation meetings, recommendation meetings, meetings about the meetings, sub-committee meetings, Gripe session meetings?! Not Vision Casting, Not God-Centered, Bible Based, Fellowship Orientated, Ministry Driven, Discipleship Development, just meetings. Nothing solved! Nothing gained! Nothing decided! Just discussing the Chicken Dinner!

Sadder than all of that, we live in a culture and climate that is satisfied with being a "Chicken Dinner Church". As long as the bills are paid, the budget is met, money is in the account, lights are on, life is good, but our call is greater than "Chicken Dinners". My call is greater than being a "Chicken Dinner Pastor".

I am reminded of what Jeremiah said 15:16, "When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart's delight, for I bear your name, O LORD God Almighty.

MY CALLING is to Preach and Teach. It is summed up in Ephesians 4:12-15.12to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
14Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. 15Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.

Why are we here? Why are we opening the doors of the church? What we have to offer is greater than Chicken! Thank God for Fishes and Loaves ministry but any group can feed people. Thank God for Good Samaritan Ministries that seek to lift up, restore and reestablish people who have fallen on hard times but any group can do that. Thank God for Titus women development ministries that seek to teach women how to act, walk, dress, carry and project themselves but the AKA's Delta's and Zeta's can do that.

What we offer as the church, NO ONE CAN DO. The government can't give what we can give, Grants can write it, country clubs can't entitle it, Congress can't create it, Sororities and Fraternities can't pledge it, The Armed Forces can't develop it, Colleges can't confer it. There is no place like God's Church.

To clean them up, dress them up, help them up and work to set them up without giving them Christ is to do everything except what our primary calling should be and in effect render us into nothing more than "Chicken Dinner Churches"!


Thursday, November 19, 2009


Have you ever been in such an intense situation that you thought your mind might "break"? Or have you ever felt like you might mentally collapse from being pushed hard up against the wall with no obvious way of escape? If the answer is yes, you may relate to what Timothy was going through at the time Paul wrote him.

Consider the thoughts that must have been racing through Timothy's mind. Nero was killing many of the young minister's friends and church members. As the most visible Christian leader, Timothy must have wondered if the emperor's men would kill him. Add to that the great disappointment Timothy felt because of those who had abandoned him and the church, and it is clear that his mind could have felt very overwhelmed, subdued, and mentally affected.

Timothy was seeing this take place among the members of his congregation—and even among many of his leaders. Many of the men and women whom he thought he could depend on had left. They didn't want to be associated with Timothy and the church any longer. Hence, this was a very, very tough time for the Ephesian believers and their pastor.

What do you do? What do you do when the Nero's of the world attack? What do you do when church members walk away in the face of persecution? Paul wrote Timothy and said, "Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. Paul told him to "endure hardness," using the words sun, kakos, and pathos to make his point.

Compounded together, these words could be interpreted this way:
"Join in as a partner with the rest of us (sun) and face this vile, horrible, ugly circumstance (kakos) that is all around you. And if you must undergo a little suffering (pathos) to do this job, then brace yourself and go for it!"

Several key messages to Timothy were included in this one word. First, Paul used the word sun to let the younger man know he wasn't the only soldier serving the Lord. Although Timothy may have emotionally perceived that everyone else was abandoning the Lord, this wasn't the truth of the matter. In reality, many believers were still faithfully fighting the fight of faith. This is why Paul told him, "Join in as a partner with the rest of us."

Second, by using the word kakos, it is almost as though Paul was saying, "Yes, you're right. It's pretty bad out there, and it seems like things are getting worse. There is no doubt that a terrible, ugly mess lies before us. It is the most wicked situation we've ever faced."

Third, by using the word pathos, Paul is telling Timothy to brace himself for a fight and to toughen himself. A job needed to be done, no matter what kind of atmosphere surrounded him. Timothy's obedience couldn't depend on good or bad circumstances. If circumstances were turning against him and the other faithful Christians, it was time for them to make the quality decision to do whatever was necessary in order to complete their assignment.

I hear the choir singing FIGHT ON. In this walk we face many battles. But they're not yours, they belong to the Lord. Put on the armor of God Delight yourself in his word. Don't give up the fight. It's too late to give up now. Don't give up the fight.



Monday, November 16, 2009

Preaching to the "Bats"

We had a great time in the Lord on Sunday both at Macedonia and Greater St. John with Pastor McGhee celebrating his 6th Pastoral anniversary. I praise God for a church that is so willing to follow their pastor especially considering I preached at 10:00 and then an hour later I am right back up. Suckers for punishment or givers of grace either way, I appreciate Macedonia.

I had been scared all week, more so then the norm. Preachers are always apprehensive before, during and after the preaching moment but my respect for Dr. McGhee and the GSJ church had me very worried. As most followers of this medium know and all of us who have heard can attest, Pastor McGhee is some kind of preacher who is powerful in presentation and awesome in his ability to deliver the Word of God. We as ministers do not compete with each other but we certainly don't want to embarrass a pastor who invites us because it would be a disservice to him as well as to God.

I prayed for God to handle my fear. Let me say God answered my prayer but BEWARE OF WHAT YOU ASK GOD TO DO, HE MAY DO IT BUT NOT THE WAY YOU EXPECT.

Sunday morning at Macedonia I preached Acts 27: 39-44, "Piece by Piece". The Lord blessed us but while blessing He answered my prayer concerning my fear. How? Sunday morning, the famous Macedonia visitor arrived. I have always heard stories of "bats" attending church especially when the furnace is first kicked on for the season.

Lo and behold on the ceiling not far from eyesight and too close to the pulpit was a bat attending church. It had its seat and it would not be moved. I assumed the music would disturb it. The bat stayed. I thought the drums and symbols would irritate it. The bat stayed. I preached but must admit my eyes stayed on the bat. There were a couple of times the bat spread his wings like it was going to fly but never moved.

To many of you this may not be a big deal because you are visualizing this happening at your church; however, Macedonia is not a large church with acres of Negros and miles of sanctuary where if a bat is coming your way it would take 5 minutes just to reach you in the pulpit. Macedonia is not a large church in size of structure so the bat was very near.

I realized midway through the sermon, the bat was God answering my prayer. Members faces aren't so mean to preach to after you have preached to a bat. People flexing attitudes at you during a sermon don't really matter after a bat has flexed its wings on you.

I want to thank Brother Dewitt and all of the men for removing the bat after church. I thought I was going to have to do a Manu Ginobili and swat it down. Funny thing before Sunday, I would have told you I never would have been able to preach with a bat staring at me the entire service, but I did. Somehow, GSJ didn't seem all that intimidating.

Let me say how much I respect and admire the "Professor of South Bend" for his friendship and his dedication to Greater St. John. I was honored to be part of a great preaching lineup in Pastor Keith D. Witherspoon, and Pastor Charles Emery. The 4th chapter of 1 Peter will never be the same, Spoon killed versus 10-11 and Dr. Emery destroyed verses 12-19 "Suffering Saints"

The Lord allowed us to fumble through Job 2: 7-10 in an outline I have already shared in this forum. I appreciate the opportunity to stand in such a great house for such a powerful pastor while celebrating an almighty God. I wish Pastor McGhee many more celebrations and I thank God for the "bats" He allows to come in our lives.

One day when I become a good preacher that "Bat" story is going to destroy as an illustration.


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

84th Church Anniversary

The year was 1925 when a small band of God-loving disciples met in the home of Brother and Sister William Wolfe to begin a journey that many generations would benefit from. Because of this meeting, "The Gospel Light Mission" was born. In 1930 under the leadership of Pastor L. Lemon, the church moved to a larger building and became known as the Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church.

I am so honored to follow in the footsteps of great Pastors who laid the foundation that I stand on now, Pastors Young, Alexander, Lemon, Trotter & Johnson, Matthew, the legendary F. D. Johnson, C. Dewayne Williams and Anthony Pettus Sr.

We celebrated our 84th Church Anniversary beginning with a son of the church coming home Rev Dr. Erskine Jones and Sweet Home Ministries who encouraged us to "Praise the Lord", Psalms 113"1-3. Dr. Jones was sick and should be ashamed of himself for setting the bar that high, God be praised for great church.

We held a reunion musical Saturday where the voices of years past came together to make one big praise to the Glory of God. On Sunday another son, Rev Paxton Reed, Pastor of the Northlake Community Church of Huntersville, North Carolina blessed us with a major word out of Judges 11 dealing with "Family Relationships". He killed everything in the house.

I praise God for all the chickens, pigs and cows who died that I might live as we ate up a storm after church. We praise God that the former Pastor, Rev Anthony Pettus and his current church, The Greater Progressive Missionary Baptist Church in Ft Wayne, Indiana came to share with us. I am even more impressed that Pastor Pettus left his vacation just to share with us in this service. He blessed our hearts dealing with our anniversary theme, Romans 1:16-17, "Live By Faith". The Lord was certainly in the place.

Let me thank ALL of the workers, ministry leaders, volunteers, deacons, greeters, cooks, servers, inside, outside and alongside people who made this celebration what it was. I already am looking forward to what God will do for our 85th celebration.


Thursday, November 5, 2009

Don't Go to Bed Angry

Have you ever gone to bed sizzling with anger about what someone did or didn't do or about what someone said or didn't say? Ephesians 4:26, 27 warns us, "... Let not the sun go down upon your wrath: Neither give place to the devil." The word "wrath" is the Greek word parorgismos, a compound of the words para and orgidzo. The word para means alongside, as in something that is very close to you. The word orgidzo is the Greek word for wrath, which depicts someone whose mood is so upset that he becomes completely bent out of shape over some issue.

When orgidzo ("wrath") is operating in an individual, it often starts as silent resentment. That resentment slowly builds up inside the person, becoming stronger and stronger until one day, it finally explodes in rage! And because the resentment has simmered silently for so long, the outburst of explosive wrath is usually way out of proportion to the situation that caused the anger in the first place.

But when these two words are joined together, forming the word parorgismos, it presents the image of a person who brings anger to his side and then embraces it. Instead of rejecting anger or pushing it away when it shows up, this person draws anger to himself and then nurses it, nourishes it, feeds it, and holds it close. The aggravating issue gets "under his skin" and soon becomes so entrenched in him that it becomes his constant companion and partner. He takes the offense with him wherever he goes—and that includes taking it to bed with him!

Remember, the name "devil" is the Greek word diabalos. This word diabalos is derived from two Greek words: dia, which means through, as when referring to penetrating something all the way through; and balos, which means to throw. When these words are put together to form the word diabalos, it paints a vivid picture of the devil as one who repetitiously throws accusations at the mind—striking again and again until he ultimately penetrates the mind with his slanderous lies and relationship-destroying insinuations.

But the devil likes to look for the most advantageous times to strike your mind with his lies—and one of his favorite times to do this is when you go to bed at night. That is why Paul urges you, "... Let not the sun go down upon your wrath: Neither give place to the devil."

The word "place" is the Greek word topos, a Greek word that describes a specific place, like a real geographical place on a map. The word topos is where we get the term for a topographical map. This is very important, for it tells us that the devil is seeking a specific place, an entry point, through which he can enter our minds and emotions to stir up trouble and affect our relationships.

So don't go to bed angry and let your mind become a movie screen on which the devil can portray every foul thing he wants you to meditate on all night long. That only allows the enemy to steal your peace and infuriate you even further. Why not instead deal with that anger or unforgiveness before your head ever hits the pillow?

Sparkling Gems from the Greek Devotional, Nov 5th

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Safely Back Home

We made it home safely, PRAISE GOD!!!!!!!!!!!! I drove the girls to see their mom last week on Monday, drove back Tuesday so I could make Bible Study Wednesday. Round trip that was about 1700 miles and 26 hours on the road, but the grace of God allowed safe passage. Thursday, I had to drive to Fort Wayne for a District Board meeting so that was another 90 miles on the road one way. Saturday. I had to go to Gary for a State Planning session, but Gary is just down the street so that's just an hour away.

Monday morning I flew back to the city to get the girls and today by the grace of God and the wonderful people at Southwest Airlines, a proud papa took home his three beautiful girls. Let me say, if I didn't understand the power of God, fly through Midway Airport in Chicago with a 8, 6, and 5 year old (all girls even) while carrying two bags almost 50 lbs a piece, all the while having them fight about who daddy picks up first, GREAT TIMES!!!!!! God is good and He does give strength.

Pray for us as tomorrow is our church calendar planning meeting for 2010 and Sunday is our 84th Church Anniversary services. Somewhere we will rest, just don't know where yet.