Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Faith Finds the Space

An atheist college professor and a chaplain who worked within the student life development side were known for their intense debates about the existence of God. Whether in the cafeteria, at the football field or in the parking lots, they would wax on and on trying to convince each other that they were on the right side of the argument and the other was on the wrong side.

One day the chaplain had to have a conversation with a student who was struggling with adapting to college life so he went to the student's class. It was the professor's class. As the chaplain walked in, the professor wrote on the board in big bold letters his new hypothesis:
When he wrote it, he defied the chaplain to prove it was not true. The chaplain looked. He pondered. He prayed. The professor bellowed louder. I dare you to prove that what I have written on the board is not true. The chaplain looked again:
The chaplain opened his mouth and said, I agree with what the board says! The professor and the class was dumbfounded. The professor began to celebrate about the chaplains conversion to his side by saying, I am glad you finally agree that God is Nowhere. The chaplain said, I never said that!
Wait a minute, said the professor, you said you agreed with what was written on the board. The chaplain screamed out I DO but I don't read it like you do. I see it differently. You see:
The professor screamed that's not what the board says, there is no space in between the words and the chaplain smiled and said, FAITH FINDS THE SPACE.
There are times when it seems like GOD IS NOWHERE. Haiti! Mudslides in California! Economic collapse on wall street?! Where is God? Science says GOD IS NOWHERE, Circumstances cry out GOD IS NOWHERE and sometimes the flesh side of us wants to say GOD IS NOWHERE but FAITH FINDS THE SPACE.
It makes no sense scientifically, but I see God and can say GOD IS NOW HERE. Cancer has a man down, but through Faith I still see how the man will rise again. GOD IS NOW HERE, "Sugar", Hypertension, Depression have a man defeated but through Faith, I see a man who can and will live in victory. Faith Finds the Space.
One man looks at Haiti and sees the judgement or the curse of God but another can look at Haiti and see the grace of God in action. Where? Faith Finds the Space.
Keep Looking, Keep searching, Keep striving. Faith is not looking blindly at your situation, nor is it looking at a situation and suddenly the facts change; but Faith is looking at the problem but seeing the provider. It is Finding a Space. GOD IS NOW HERE.

1 Faith means being sure of the things we hope for and knowing that something is real even if we do not see it.( NCV)
1Faith makes us sure of what we hope for and gives us proof of what we cannot see. (CEV)
1Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of(A) things not seen.(ESV)

Keep Running, GOD IS NOW HERE


Monday, January 25, 2010

The Highs and Lows of Ministry

We had a great time in the Lord on Sunday as God blessed our church service like He always does. Brother Charles Coleman ushered us into the presence of God from the opening song and it was a glorious time in the Lord. Man, wouldn't it be nice if we could stay on the mountain top. I realize service is in the valley but sometimes I am not ready to go down so fast.

Sunday, I had to come down quickly because after the opening song, one of our praise team members took ill. Sister Yvetta Williams-Moore had a severe asthma attack and did not have her rescue inhaler with her. The sanctuary was too warm and that combined with her singing triggered a bad reaction. The dichotomy of worship going on upstairs and trouble and uncertainty downstairs was not lost on me, mountain tops and valley, highs and lows.

I praise God for our membership who used their skills as nurses and firemen to help aid Sister Moore until the paramedics came. Please continue to pray for Sister Moore and her recovery. Thankfully, God gave me a sinus infection that prevented me from preaching Sunday as this event would have certainly unhinged me. Rev. Anthony Day Jones, a son of the church now in Indianapolis, blessed us on Sunday and the Lord used him mightily. He preached Psalm 23:4 " A View from the Valley".

The sermon was sent from the Lord and was exactly what I needed to make it through the day. After church, we went to the hospital and stayed with Sister Moore until it was time for the church to travel to Gary, Indiana for the funeral services of Deacon Arthur Lee, Sr who is the father of my nurses ministry president, Sister Charrisse Taylor.

Sister Taylor is a faithful and dedicated member of our church and after learning more about her father and mother, it runs in the family. I am grateful for the members of Macedonia who traveled for a Sunday funeral. Please continue to pray for Sister Taylor and her family as the Internment will be today in Chicago, Illinois.

Highs and Lows; ups and downs; stop and go; twists and turns it all comes with ministry but I must admit, sometimes I wish the roller coaster would slow down just a little.


Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Boy with No Left Arm

Sometimes your biggest weakness can become your biggest strength. Take, for example, the story of one 10-year-old boy who decided to study judo despite the fact that he had lost his left arm in a devastating car accident.

The boy began lessons with an old Japanese judo master. The boy was doing well, so he couldn't understand why, after three months of training the master had taught him only one move.
“Sensei,” the boy finally said, “Shouldn't I be learning more moves?” “This is the only move you know, but this is the only move you’ll ever need to know,” the sensei replied.

Not quite understanding, but believing in his teacher, the boy kept training. Several months later, the sensei took the boy to his first tournament. Surprising himself, the boy easily won his first two matches. The third match proved to be more difficult, but after some time, his opponent became impatient and charged; the boy deftly used his one move to win the match. Still amazed by his success, the boy was now in the finals.

This time, his opponent was bigger, stronger, and more experienced. For a while, the boy appeared to be outmatched. Concerned that the boy might get hurt, the referee called a time-out. He was about to stop the match when the sensei intervened. “No,” the sensei insisted, “Let him continue.”

Soon after the match resumed, his opponent made a critical mistake: he dropped his guard. Instantly, the boy used his move to pin him. The boy had won the match and the tournament. He was the champion. On the way home, the boy and sensei reviewed every move in each and every match. Then the boy summoned the courage to ask what was really on his mind.
Sensei, how did I win the tournament with only one move?”

“You won for two reasons,” the sensei answered. “First, you’ve almost mastered one of the most difficult throws in all of judo. And second, the only known defense for that move is for your opponent to grab your left arm and you do not have a left arm.” The boy’s biggest weakness had become his biggest strength.

2 Corinthians 12:7-10 (English Standard Version)
to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Laying Issac Down

Battling through blood pressure and sinus issues, we had a great time in the Lord on Sunday continuing our series on "Giving Back to God". The worship of the Lord was high long before the "traditional time" because God blessed our Sunday School time.

The Lord instructed us to restructure our Sunday School and remove the separation and sexism that existed. One of the classes we added was a "Marriage class". Husbands and wives studying the Word of God together from a tag-team teaching approach with couples teaching couples. Deacon Kevin Howard and his wife Sister CoCo Howard stepped out of their comfort zone and started teaching. Today, Deacon was in A-flat at the end of the lesson. The growth and energy of that class carried over into service as we had a great time in the Lord.

The Choir was on point and the mixture of hymns with praise songs felt right today. I wasn't too concerned with being limited physically as every Sunday I am limited mentally but I can do all things spiritually so we challenged Macedonia to Lay down their Issac. Issac is that beloved thing; that cherished item, that sought after blessing, the thing you love more than life itself. What if God said to you today, "Give me your Issac"!

Carol Kent in her book, "When I Lay My Issac Down": Unshakable Faith in Unthinkable Circumstances replays her "Issac Moment"-- situations that are thrust upon us without warning or instructions and all we can do is follow God. Her moment was when her son, a U.S. Naval graduate with an impeccable record shot and killed his wife's ex-husband. She had to lay down her Issac.

The losses that are Thrust upon us which can be Issac experiences can be: Terminal illness, infertility, death, loss of job, giving birth to babies with disabilities, unwanted moves, the desire to marry with no one in sight, however, there are other Issac experiences that are personal choices such as: giving up on a dream for a greater good, giving up our control over a child who is becoming an adult, surrendering my ideal life for the reality of what I actually have, longing for a more ideal spouse but staying in a difficult marriage and believing in God's promises even when our lives are in a personal Hell.

This personal Hell is what Abraham must have faced when God said, "Give me your Issac; however the way he handles this situation teaches us how to lay our Issac Down. Abraham did two things so God could do one:

Abraham Relinquished--He Let Go--Laid Issac on the Alter
Abraham Relied--He Trusted God- Lifted His Hands up To God

God Returned- God Gave Back- God Exchanged--Ram in the Bush

Laying down your Issac is following a simple outline: It is:

Trusting in God without knowing why you are doing it
Trusting in God without knowing when it will be over
Trusting in God when you don't know How it will be done.

One might say it is impossible to do this, that's because you are so busy trying to figure out the when, how and why you haven't discovered the who. Jehovah-Jireh, The Lord Will Provide. "Jireh" translates into "Provide" which is a word with wonderful Latin roots. Pro means "before" and video means "to see". So it means to see in advance or before the need is known. God is preparing an answer before we know that it is a need. It was over for me after that and although I felt bad, I felt better right there. Many surrendered to the will of God today and we give HIM the glory for those who came.

The IMA had the MLK service today and Pastor Raymond McDonald II of the St. John Baptist Church in Gary, Indiana killed everything in the house from Acts 16:9-10, Keeping The Dream Alive. Great day all day. Dr, Ziboh, see you this week!!!!!!


Thursday, January 14, 2010

Sick and Shut in Visitation

The Lord has been dealing with me concerning our church doing a better job of visiting our sick and shut-in members. Although health has robbed some members of our church from attending as faithfully as they would like, they still are our members and deserve the same love, attention and benefits that membership affords.

The ironic thing is even though sickness has robbed me of the personal pleasure of having them in our corporate worship, these members still worship God faithfully every Sunday sending their tithes and offerings to the church. In some cases, they give more consistently then members who attend church every Sunday.

During my devotional and quiet time, God spoke to me on this issue and it became clear that our church and ministry would come under the punishment of God if we continued to cash checks from people we weren't having the Christian courtesy of going to see.

The foundation that our church rests on was laid by the hard work, sweat, money and dedication of members who now hindered by age, physical or health problems or mental disease are no longer able to do what they once used to do for the church; however, they still deserve no less than any other member in the church.

The world uses people up and when your usefulness is gone, it will throw you away but surely God's house should be different. If you are blessed to attend a church where the worship is hot, the choir ministry is a blessing, the youth and young adult ministry is relevant and where all facets of ministry to the total man is given, it just didn't happen by accident. Someone paved the way for the roads we walk on now. How dare we use the same roads they paved, to walk over and walk by these people!

I realized as a pastor you can't complain or fuss about anything you have not taught and while members and leaders may have been in positions in the church for a long time, we can never assume they know what they should be doing. It is the pastor's job to equip the saints for the work of ministry for building up the body of Christ.

It is in this vein under the direction of Deacon Henry Turner, a walking example of the term "servant", we have begun our "Lost Ministry" at Macedonia. Our purpose is to "Sweep the Room, Search The Region, and Stand Ready to Receive". We started this week visiting our sick and shut-in taking Communion to them, seeing about their needs and what we as a church could do to make things better for them.

I was overwhelmed watching the joy and pride that filled these members as they walked around in the nursing homes or called their families to say, "My church came by to see me", or My church brought me Communion", "MY CHURCH LOVES ME".

We must start living out the creed and song we sing, WE ARE MACEDONIA AND WE'RE CALLED TO HELP SOMEBODY". God help our church from the pastor to the membership have a heart for the lost. Cultivate within us a desire to sweep for, search for and stand ready to receive what you bring our way. Teach us to show love in our actions, kindness in our deeds and Christianity in our walk. God, we just want to please you.


Monday, January 11, 2010

Abide Here with the Ass

We continued our series on Giving Back to God this Sunday from the Biblical Passage of Genesis 22:1-5 where Abraham is called to worship with God. We do a lot of things in church, but in all of our doing we don't always worship. We sing songs but don't worship; give money but don't worship, listen to the Word but don't worship.

We have cultivated the climate in church of "sit back, relax and enjoy the program". If the audience feels entertained, they say we had a good worship service; however, worship is not about us it is about God. It is not for the created but it is for the Creator. While there are benefits for us in worship, we must never forget it is not about us. Our questions should not be, Did I like the service or the sermon but rather it should be, "Was God pleased with the service or the sermon".

Although Worship appears for the first time in "word form" in Genesis 22:5, it runs all the way back to the beginning of Genesis. The Lord blessed our efforts in this sermon and the presentation was much cleaner than the preparation. We opened talking about The Man, The Moment and The Mountain. This lead us into a Walk into Worship. Within the confines of this text but in the overall picture of Giving Back to God, our outline was:

I. Worship is being Submissive to the Will of God. (Vs.1)
II. Worship is giving Sacrificially to the Word of God (Vs. 2-3)
III. Worship is being Separated for the Workers of God (Vs.5)

It was this last point where I was the most intrigued. Why would God allow this part of the story to remain in the Holy Writ. What purpose does this serve for us today to hear the instructions that Abraham left for his servants and why is it even necessary for the workers to stay with the donkey. After all, the custom would be to tie the donkey up so it doesn't stray away. After it is tied, it's not going anywhere, so why the need to stay with the donkey.

We all learn differently so I am grateful for Pastors in this town and Pastors in the nation that you can bounce ideas off of. One local pastor suggested to look at this text in the KJV. I mainly preach out of the ESV, and there it was "Abide ye here with the ass". I understood then.

It is very possible that if Abraham would have allowed the servants to go along, they would have interfered with the worship of God and Abraham would have missed "THE LORD WHO WILL PROVIDE". If they would have seen Abraham sacrificing Issac, surely they would have tried to stop it.

I said that so that I might say this, everyone is not meant to go with you on your mountain. Some people will just get in the way and as much as you might want to take them along, some people you have to leave with the ass. We must separate ourselves from any and everything that will distract us from seeing and worshipping God.

Two examples from the Bible spring to mind, II Kings 4:1-7, the famous passage about the widow and the oil. She is instructed to gather all the jars she can find and after she has done it, "Shut the Door". Why is that necessary? Some people will get in the way of your worship and you will miss your miracle of "The Lord Will Provide" so you have to leave them....., you understand. Luke 8:48-56 is the story of raising the little girl from the dead and vs 51 says, "He suffered no man to go in, save Peter, and James, and John, and the father and the mother of the maiden".

Why didn't Jesus allow everyone inside? Vs. 49 gives the answer as the outside people said, "Thy daughter is dead; trouble not the Master". The presence of these people would serve as a distraction and the miracle of "The Lord Will Provide would be missed so leave them with the....., you understand.

Everybody does not belong on your mountain. Worship is separation for the workers of God. I can see Abraham saying I made this mistake before. You told me to leave everything but I took my nephew Lot and I remember how that worked out, so thank you workers for your efforts in getting me here, but I must go higher now, so I must leave you where you are, but I will be back.

The night before a game all the players stay at the hotel together, even if its a home game. They do this to separate themselves form the duties and cares of life and get their mind focused on the game plan for tomorrow's game. It is meant to shut out and let in.

By saying to leave some people with the ass, it is not meant to be disrespectful of other people but in order for me to go higher, I must shut some things, situations, circumstances, acquaintances, family, friends out in order to let God in. Dead weight can prevent you from seeing God's Divine will.

I have decided to let some people "Abide here with the Ass", I am going yonder to worship.


Saturday, January 9, 2010

Life's Windows

Life's Windows

Malachi 3:10
And prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.

Have you ever noticed how God provided for you when you were out of work? Not only did He sustain, but He kept you with your dignity. You didn't have to walk with a hung down head. You see that alone ought to tell you that you're not surviving because of your job, because jobs come and go. Possibly you have been married and perhaps your spouse died or moved away and you kept on surviving. Have you had your health and then all of a sudden it was gone and God kept putting food on your table. You're not surviving just because of your health.

God is the one that makes ends meet. Whatever your needs are, God has a window for that need. If you need a friend, he will open up a friend window; friends are worth more than money. That's why if you have one good friend, you should cherish that friendship. Most people don't have a lot of friends in a lifetime; they have associates. Associates will get in your business and tell it all over town and laugh while you're falling down. A friend will love you in spite of problems. There's a difference between an associate and a true friend.

If you need help, God has a help window. If you need health, He has a health window. If you need finances, He has a financial window. If you need a mind to be regulated, He has a mind-regulating window. He says, "I'll open the windows of heaven and I'll pour you out blessings that you don't have room enough to receive." You see God is not concerned with how much you have, he just wants you to be in his will. He just wants you to put him first and give him the first part of the money that He has allowed you to make.

365 Days in the Presence of God: Daily Devotions from the Sermons of Dr. Frank Ray.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Cell Phones in Church

I had the unique encounter Sunday Morning while preaching to look through the congregation and see the "cell phone church" busy at their "Blackberry Bibles" texting, surfing and playing away. To see someone on a phone is not an uncommon sight as many teenagers have their phones glued to their hands; however my problem on Sunday was I wasn't looking at teenagers but I was looking at grown adults playing with their toys during service.

I have wrestled with this all week. It is not uncommon during preaching that the devil uses things to try and disrupt and distract the preacher. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. For me Sunday, it worked! What is a pastor to do? Should we just ignore it? Maybe we should embrace it?! Is the old school method of the pastors that trained us to tell them to shut it off the right thing to do, and if so, how is this done as so to the message does not get lost in the medium it is conveyed. Maybe its your fault reverend, stop being Biblical and be more topical so the sermon can be interesting. What is a pastor to do?

Some churches clearly ask their members not to chew gum, not to walk during certain times and refrain or turn off their cell phones during service. Others have created "cell phone safe zones" where the uses of cell phones, PDA's, palm pilots, laptops and pagers is encouraged. The idea behind this is if a piece of technology helps an attendee pay better attention to the service, it should be welcomed.

To this end, many Pastors/Teachers, preachers and members have Bible software loaded on their phones and use them in church for word study, note taking and various translations of the text. When the babies give their Christmas speeches or participate in the choir, many parents pull out their cell phones to take pictures and record videos, surely this is fine, but to what end, when is it too far?

In this user friendly, technology driven church, how far is too far? What happened to the fear and reverence that used to exist for God's sanctuary. I grew up in an era where if you were chewing gum the saints would walk behind you in church, extend their hand, never saying a word because you already knew, take your gum out. Disagreements certainly happened in this era but the respect for the building would prevent people from "cussin" each other out with the phrase, "If i wasn't on church grounds I would......." What has happened to the reverence?

Some things don't belong in the sanctuary during worship. I shouldn't hear the ringtones of "Bedrock", "Grippin' on My Bed' and "How Low" in the middle of service. If Young Money, Ludacris, Lil Wayne, Lloyd, etc want to come to church, they are more than welcome to fellowship with us but honoring God comes first. To answer your phone in church and conduct a conversation while church is going on without the decency to at the very least excuse yourself from the sanctuary is disrespectful to God and His house.

I don't think its that much of a sacrifice to leave your Facebook, Twitter, and text messages alone for two hours to commune with God. I realize there are legitimate reasons for why a phone would be on but everybody is not that important.

So, What did you do reverend?! The old man in me (my home church would say the Woodberry in me) rose up. I stopped and told everyone to turn their phones off and put them up. It was a disservice to God and distracting to me. I am sure there was a better way to deal with it. I could have ignored it and talked to the offending parties in private but I believe you clean it up where it was messed up. It was done in public so the reprimand or rebuke must be public. Maybe I am wrong. Maybe I just need to be more exciting in the presentation, or maybe we just need to have more reverence for God, quit being so selfish and put God first by turning off our phones in church.

Thanks for the rant,


Monday, January 4, 2010

What Shall I render

I pray that everyone had a great experience in the Lord Sunday worshipping at your church. God blessed us Sunday at Macedonia as we kicked off our emphasis for January on "Giving Back to God" using Psalms 116 as our launching pad and verse 12 as our fuel to ask the question, What shall I render, What do I owe God, What should I be giving to God for all He gives and has given to me?

This Psalm, arguably, is one of the greatest Psalms in Scripture. It is a love song born out of thanksgiving because of the deliverance of God. It is a simple outline that naturally rests within the confines of the text: God Hears vs 1-5, God Helps vs 6-13, God is Holy, vs 14-19 and because of all that he has done it begs the question, How can I Honor Him, vs 12.

We live in a very selfish age. We owe God so much but yet we walk around as if God is just supposed to give, but when do we give? Our songs for worship, our sermons, our religious language is all about us, my time, my moment, my breakthrough, my miracle, my healing,etc. We brag about how I come to church to get my word and then I leave, well I must ask, when is it ever enough?

In this text God gave His Ear, vs 2, His Escape, vs 3, His Emancipation, vs 16, so surely after all of this, I ought to give him something. What do you give someone who owns everything? What can we give God? However therein lies the rub. We don't talk much about giving back to God. Review the text messages, twitter posts, Facebook messages that you received and the majority of them was from someone "encouraging you" to let you know 2010 will be your year, your year of prosperity, health, to be revived, restored, to recover and to "take back everything..etc, but when is it God's time. When do we stop walking into church with our hands out and start lifting our hands up?

How much better would our churches be if we stop walking into them thinking we are entitled to something, but rather had an attitude of what can I give to God because He has done so much for me! The writer of this Psalm left some good breadcrumbs to follow so that we can leave the wilderness of selfishness and dwell in the land of selfless living.

We should love Him, vs 1, We should Speak for Him, vs 8-10, We should Offer to Him, 13-17, We should Praise him, vs 18-19. I want to give God more of me, not just the pieces I gave Him in 09 but I want to give Him all of me.

I had an interesting event happen Sunday while preaching, still meditating on but will share this week for clarity and Pastoral counsel.