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: