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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

I Love Music

At the close of 2008, my family and I went to Palm Springs, Ca for the Western Baptist State Convention’s Congress of Christian Education. My original plans were to relax but that didn’t happen. Tracy and I attended a class for pastor and wives on the ins/outs of managing ministry and family. This class was a blessing to both of us to hear the challenges of other pastors and their wives explain battles with teenage children, un-realistic expectations of church members for the pastor and his family, and so on.

I remember one pastor expressed his frustration with his wife (who wasn’t there) about music. He loves all kinds of music while she believes Christians should only listen to gospel music. The differences at that time created tension in their marriage and among the children. His position is he didn’t see anything wrong with listening to all kinds of music. So he asked our instructor for help in dealing with the issue. The instructor quickly pronounced his love for music, all kinds, because of his musical background. He possesses a Masters in Music and Arts. As well as, the church he pastors offers a Music and Arts educational ministry.

As I was driving home yesterday, for some reason the experience in Palm Springs, Ca began to re-play itself in my head. I’ll state my position upfront, I LOVE MUSIC OF ALL KINDS! I’m not sure if it’s because of genetics or what, I just know I love music.

Growing up, my uncle and his friends would hang out in his back house listening to music and playing dominoes. LPs were everywhere. I would be sitting right there with them as a little boy listening to Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Earth, Wind, and Fire, The Jackson 5, Brothers Johnson, War, Stylistics, Chi-Lites, Four Tops, Temptations, Curtis Mayfield, Curtis Blow, Bobby Caldwell, Rufus and Chaka Khan, The Dramatics, Frankie Beverly and Maze, Teddy Pendergrass, Hall and Oats, Pieces of a Dream, The Supremes, Melba Moore, and so many others. I enjoyed those days and still to this day when I hear some of those songs it takes me back to my childhood. I LOVE MUSIC OF ALL KINDS!

I love Jazz music. My choice of music is jazz. Smooth, fusion, Latin, Big Band, and classical jazz. As often as I can, Tracy and I will go to a jazz concert. We’ve attended the Playboy Jazz Festival for the past 5 years. It’s a time for her and I to share quality time together as well as the outdoor atmosphere of the Hollywood Bowl is relaxing to us from the stress and strain of everyday life. I listen to 94.7 The Wave and 88.1 KJAZZ on a regular basis. At work 94.7 The Wave is played and on my drive home 88.1 KJAZZ because of the Latin Jazz segment. I enjoy Latin Jazz because of percussions, awesome. My favorite artists are Gerald Albright, Najee, Eric Darius, George Duke, Joe Sample, Fourplay, Hidden Beach All Stars, Chick Corea, Wayman Tisdale, Phyllis Hyman, Kenny G, Norman Brown, Paul Jackson Jr, Boney James, Chris Botti, and the list goes on and on and one.

I love Gospel music. I love the message in gospel music. I get a little concerned with some of the taglines in gospel music because it mis-interprets the clear teaching and principles of Scripture. Nevertheless, I love gospel music. I miss the choir sound in gospel music. The sounds of Milton Brunson and Thompson Community Singers, Mississippi Mass Choir, DFW, Edwin Hawkins – Music and Arts Seminar, Keith Pringle, James Cleveland and GMWA, LACC – Los Angeles Cathedral Choir, LA Mass Choir, Riverside Mass Choir and so many others. My favorite choirs currently are GLACC – Greater Los Angeles Cathedral Choir, GMWA Youth Choir, Voices of Fulfillment of San Diego, and LA Inner City Mass Choir. I love quartet groups. They have church with one song that can last for 30 minutes but who’s watching the lock. I know times have changed so praise teams, ensembles, and worship leaders are in now. But give me the choir sound. I love the many voices in harmonious structure, choir robes, hand clapping, rocking from side to side, and directors. I love gospel music.

I love R&B music. I’m not too crazy about much of the stuff that is played today because most of it is about sex, the mistreatment of women (and now men), and all other garbage that has no meaning at all in my opinion. What happened to good clean music that families could enjoy together at a picnic, family reunion or just sitting at the house? Nowadays, you have to watch what you play for fear of what words will be spoken in the song. I’m stuck in 70s, 80s, 90s, and early 2000s. I’m really stuck in the New Jack Swing era with Guy, Johnny Gill, New Edition, Bobby Brown, Teddy Riley, Club Nouveau, Keith Sweat, Wreckx-N-Effect, Janet Jackson, Babyface, TLC, BBD, Ralph Tresvant, Whitney Houston, Color Me Bad, Boys to Men, Brandy, etc. These were the days for dancing the centerpede, running man, pop-locking, gigolo, and of course, the electric slide. A party or family gathering wasn’t right without the electric slide. Now, it’s the cupid shuffle but you can’t get a way from the electric slide for it is the originator of dancing without a partner. OMG, the Cha-Cha, get back! If you haven’t noticed I love to dance too.

I’m not and have never been a fan of rap. If I hear it cool, if I don’t cool. I listen to some Country and Western. Rock-N-Roll no way. I like Latin music, Salsa and Kumbias.

I love music. What about you?

Monday, July 27, 2009

Sunday Thoughts - 7/26/09

I didn’t sleep well on Saturday night for thinking of the message. When I got up I was calm, relaxed, and ready for worship. But when I pulled on the parking lot, I got so nervous. I started pacing the floor in my office ready and anxious to preach. When worship began, I started to relax and as the service progressed I really started to relax.

But, when sermon time came, I got nervous all over again. I knew my manuscript but was fumbling over words, getting tongue tied, and for the first time we turned the A/C on. I’m not used to preaching with air blowing directly into my mouth but I need to get used to it. The Lord carried me through.

How do I describe our worship experience? Wonderful! Man, we had church yesterday!

I started our series; “Trusting God Our Shepherd – An Exposition of Psalms 23”

Topic: I’m Safe In His Arms
Text: Psalms 23:1A

Thesis: He knows how to keep me because I don’t know how to keep myself.

The Importance of the Sheep to the Shepherd
Point: You’re never so far away from God that He will not come find you

The Intentional Caring of the Shepherd to the Sheep
Point: God knows how to take care of you

The Intimate Relationship Between Shepherd and Sheep
Point: God knows you by name

The Irrevocable Nature of the Shepherd
Point: God will not mistreat you

Thank God for the message and to all our guest who came to church may God continue to bless you with His loving care. Tracy sang Safe In His Arms before the message. She did a real good job blessing us. Thank you!

After church, we had dinner together as a family with lasagna, salad, bread, First Goodwill swamp juice, cake, cookies, and what is a church dinner without fried chicken. Hmmmmm good! Thank you to our I’m Hungry Ministry (Culinary Ministry).

Glen and Marie celebrated 23 years of marriage yesterday and spent they’re day in church all day long. Thank you both and Happy Anniversary from your pastor. Much love to you

We celebrated the men and women of our church with 3:30 pm service with guest church New Birth Community Church, pastor Michael Saunders III. He preached our theme “It’s Our Time” from Galatians 6:9. Wonderful job! He really blessed me and the church and killed us singing the hymn “I Need Thee Every Hour”. Wow!

To Deacon Loud and Deacon Ham, thank you for your service in coordinating our afternoon service. God is not unjust to forget your labor of love. Thank you!

And when I though it couldn’t get any better, a member I’ve been praying for, Joseph Brown, came to our afternoon service. I did everything I could to fight back the tears. But I broke down during my remarks at the end of the service. It was really good for us, as a church, to see him and he looked real good. I proud of the church I pastor because when he came through the door they showered him with love and affection. That’s the kind of church I want to pastor. Praise God!

Many former members came to the afternoon service as well. Some with a church home and others without. Just about every person who walked through the door was amazed at the new look and it took them 5 minutes (no exaggeration) before they took a seat. One lady was so encouraged that she held my hand with tears in her eyes, only to say, “I knew you were the one God called to pastor this church. I’m coming home!”

I told her to pray for us and asked if she was committed to a church. Her response; “Not, really!” I then told her she’s always welcomed to come home.

I’m still riding on cloud nine from our worship experience. God is truly doing something wonderful, new, and exciting in our church. I’m just making myself available to be used by God. Keep praying for us.

Finally, sermons are now online at “Good Life Media Ministry” tab and click on sermons. Progress!

Until next time, be blessed!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Psalms 23 Mini-Series

I’ve been studying Psalms 23 this past week and man, what a word of comfort. This text is so rich with truth, encouragement, and strength that I’ve decided to preach a mini-series within a series:

Series: The God of Our Trust
Mini-Series: Jehovah-Roi – God, Our Shepherd


1. Trusting God Our Shepherd – I’m Safe In His Arms: “The Lord is my Shepherd

2. Trusting God Our Shepherd – I’m Satisfied: “I shall not want”

3. Trusting God Our Shepherd – I Can Rest: “He makes me to lie down in green pastures”

4. Trusting God Our Shepherd – I’m Refreshed: “He leads me beside still waters”

5. Trusting God Our Shepherd – I’m Restored: “He restores my soul”

6. Trusting God Our Shepherd – I Have Direction for my life: “He leads in the path of righteousness for His name’s sake”

7. Trusting God Our Shepherd – I’m Not Afraid of Death: “Yea, tho I walk through the valley of death, I will fear no evil”

8. Trusting God Our Shepherd – I Find Comfort: “Your rod and staff, they comfort me”

9. Trusting God Our Shepherd – I’m Taking Care Of: “You prepare a table before me in the presence on my enemies”

10. Trusting God Our Shepherd – I’m Honored: “You anoint my head with oil”

11. Trusting God Our shepherd – I’m Blessed: “My cup runs over”

12. Trusting God Our Shepherd – It’s all Good: “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life”

13. Trusting God Our Shepherd – I’m Going Home To Live With Jesus: “And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever”

I can’t wait for Sunday morning to get started!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Ultimate Example of Giving in the Church

I was sitting in my office with a friend of mine on a Saturday afternoon, out of no where I asked; “Should pastors tithe to the church they pastor?” or “Do pastors tithe in the church they pastor?”

Silence covered the room for about 3 minutes as the both of us searched for a response.

I think the topic of pastors modeling generous giving in the church they pastor is silent. We preach sermons to our members in an effort to increase giving but the question still remains; “How many pastors really tithe in the church they pastor?”

I have a lot of questions related to this issue:

What comes first in tithing, my position as pastor or my Christianity?

Is tithing on our church salary recycling church funds with a mentality that says; “I’ll give because I know I’ll get it back?

What does it say about the vision of the church if we don’t tithe to the church we pastor?

What does it say about our preaching on tithing? Are we convicted about what we preach before we preach it or do we preach tithing without having a personal encounter in private before going public?

Do we hold on to the tithe because the church isn’t paying enough?

Do we consider all other sacrifices that pastors make (financially) as a form of tithing?

Is the church suffering financially because the pastor is not tithing?

Unfortunately, seminaries don’t teach us about modeling generous giving as pastors.

I was speaking with a local pastor recently and he was explaining an incident he encountered in a church business meeting as they discussed details of their upcoming move into a new building. The ultimate disagreement in the meeting was money, could they afford the move or not? He explained that an elderly man in his church created such a uproar in the meeting that members began to second guess the move themselves. I listened to him as intently as I could and before long he made this comment to me: “They know how much I give to the church! I’ve opened my house and re-arranged furniture to make my living room look like a church. It’s my lights, gas, toilet paper, and water being used every week. My bills have increased since we moved back into my house and no one has offered me a dime on the mortgage or anything. They know how much I give.”

When he finished I said to him, “You’re assuming they know how much you give”. I further explained that I think one of my mistakes during our renovation project was cancelling the pastor’s anniversary as a sign of sacrifice. I assumed they would recognize my sacrifice but to my surprise they did not see it as a sacrifice and I’m not sure what they thought of it. However, looking back, I think the sacrifice would have been noticed and had much more impact if we continued with the pastor’s anniversary and then I TITHED (sacrificial gift) to the project.

It would have been recognized by the leaders because I filled out an envelope and to the members because I brought it to the offering plate. They don’t know what I’m giving but they do know I am giving something. I don’t have to say word because my sacrifice was seen publically and not behind the scenes, so to speak.

I believe we handicap our membership when we work hard behind the scenes to make things happen, financially. But what if we flipped the script and if the mortgage/lease/or rent needs to be paid, we tithe to the church and let the church pay for it. People will see our sacrifice through the tithe and not from our pockets (if that makes sense).

I think the model for generous giving works from top down and not from bottom up.

Think about it, pray about it, and then be about it.

Until next time be blessed,

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Danger of Scripture Familiarity

I have a challenge this week studying to preach one of the most precious bible passages (in my opinion, ever), Psalms 23.

Psa 23:1 A Psalm of David. The LORD [is] my shepherd; I shall not want.

Psa 23:2 He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters.

Psa 23:3 He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name's sake.

Psa 23:4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You [are] with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

Psa 23:5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over.

Psa 23:6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell [fn] in the house of the LORD Forever.

I learned this passage of scripture as a little boy in Sunday School class. One of the first bible passages, Tracy and I, taught to our children was Psalms 23. This passage of scripture is read in funeral and worship services. Many of us who need comfort run to Psalms 23. Most believers have read, studied, and/or heard messages on Psalms 23.

One would think there is nothing more to be said about this passage of scripture because it’s all been said before by some of the greatest preachers and teachers of my life time.

I’ve heard some great sermons on this passage by some of my homiletical heroes. Men who picked this Psalms apart, verse-by-verse, word-for-word, the entire Psalms, and sentence-by-sentence. It will be a challenge to ignore all that I remember about this passage and approach the text with fresh eyes.

Going into my study this week, I’m reminding myself that preaching this text is not about competition and comparisons, it’s about accuracy. Don’t add nothing to the text and don’t take nothing away from the text. Just say what the text has to say.

I pray God is pleased with my effort of study on Psalms 23.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Sunday Thoughts - 7/19/09

Good day of worship yesterday!

I'm posting my sermon manuscript today. I pray it blesses you as it did me and the church!

Topic: Trusting God Who Will Fight For You
Text: 1 Samual 1:1-28

I was walking home elementary school when I encountered one of my many fights as a younger man. The weekend before, my family and I, went to the drive-in to see one of my favorite actors, Bruce Lee in “The Last Dragon”. It was a normal occurrence for me to act out the movie with my friends as if I was Bruce Lee after one of his movies. So I’m jumping in the air, chopping, pausing for a moment in my martial arts stands, lips moving but words coming out seconds later, all the things a boy would after seeing a movie of fighting.

As we walked, I jumped to kick and someone behind me pushed me. I accidentally kicked a young lady in her behind.

Needless to say she wasn’t having it. I apologized and went on about my business acting out Bruce Lee’s martial arts expertise. Again, I jumped and was pushed from behind and again I kicked the same girl in the same place, again! I apologized but this time she was determined make it a big deal so I made it a big until her huge brother came over and was ready to fight.

I wasn’t a fighter. My motto was he who runs fast lives a long time. So I did what I always did, I ran home. When I got to the door my grandfather met me at the door; “Who you running from boy!” He wanted an answer and at this point no answer I gave would have been good enough. I told him the story and his response was; “Boy, go back and fight because nobody is going to fight for you! Or, You will have to fight me for running.”

Well, I went back to fight.

Over the years even until this day I still here the voice of my grandfather say; “Nobody is going to fight for you!”

Although not revealed until 1Samuel 1, there is a "preview" of Jehovah Sabaoth in Joshua 5:14,15.
Joshua in obedience to Jehovah had just commanded circumcision & Israel had kept the Passover. Now on the verge of a major military campaign (a picture of the spiritual warfare of all believers) not only against Jericho but against all of the Canaanites throughout the land was surely in need of Divine encouragement. And so we come to this fascinating encounter...

Now it came about when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing opposite him with his sword drawn in his hand, & Joshua went to him & said to him, "Are you for us or for our adversaries ?" He said, "No; rather I indeed come now as CAPTAIN (Prince) of the HOST (Sabaoth) of Jehovah (NIV = commander of the Lord's army] and Joshua fell on his face to the earth and bowed down and said to Him, "What has my lord to say to His servant?" The captain of the Jehovah's host said to Joshua, "Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy." And Joshua did so." (Joshua 5:13, 14, 15)

It is interesting that the NKJV capitalizes "Commander", clearly indicating that the translators feel this individual is divine. The context supports this encounter is almost certainly another "Christophany" (pre incarnate appearance of the Messiah). (cf "Angel of the LORD"). Note that although there is a chapter break at, the narrative seems to continue without break & in (Josh 6:2, 3, 4, 5) Jehovah addresses Joshua with encouragement & instruction...

"Jehovah said to Joshua, "See, I have given Jericho into your hand, with its king & the valiant warriors. "You shall march around the city, all the men of war circling the city once. You shall do so for 6 days. Also 7 priests shall carry 7 trumpets of rams' horns before the ark. Then on the 7th day you shall march around the city 7 times & the priests shall blow the trumpets (Josh 6:2, 3, 4, 5)

And so we see the "Captain of Sabaoth" meeting Joshua, a man preparing for war & in need of assurance of God's presence, provision & power, which provides a great preview of truth revealed in the revelation of the LORD of hosts.

Jehovah-Sabaoth is a military name of God, for hosts comes from the a Hebrew word that means to wage war. The Lord is the Commander of the hosts and heaven: the stars, the angels, the armies of Israel (Ex. 12:41), and to all who trust in Him (Psalms 46:7,11).

We see this military name of God in 1 Samuel 17, in the story of David fighting and defeating Goliath.

We see this military term in the Septuagint text of James 5:14, where James instructs the rich to be careful of hoarding and getting over on those who are poor to become richer. So in James 5:4, he says, “For listen! Hear the cries of the field workers whom you held back cry out against you. The cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Jehovah-Sabaoth – The Lord Almighty.

The first full revelation of this name is found in our text of 1 Samuel 1 in the story of Hannah. God reveals Himself to her as the Lord of Hosts during some extreme circumstances. She cries out to God and God rushes to her aide.

In summary, the name Jehovah-Sabaoth-The Lord of Hosts means God is our Commander and Chief who comes to the aide of those who trust Him.

Here’s the good news of the day and what the text is tailored to teach us; God hears our cry and He will fight for you!

Let’s look into this text to glean some helpful wholesome principles out of this text. Four (4) principles of observation here:

I. Hannah’s Dilemma – v. 1-7

The story recorded here in 1 Samuel reminds me of a love triangle mini-series filled with turmoil. Here’s Hannah’s dilemma:

A Disfunctional Relationship – Hannah is one of two wives to Elkhanah, Hannah and Penninah were married to the same man. Wow! It has always been the plan of God for a marriage relationship to be with one man and one woman. In this household, Elkanah had two (2) women vying for his attention. Another downside to this marriage relationship is two (2) groups of in-laws, not a good situation.

A Disability with her Womb – Hannah could not have children. The other wife, Penninah, had sons and daughters. In those days it was a sign of God’s displeasure for a woman who could not bear children.

A Difficult Enemy – The text tells us that Penninah provoked and irritated Hannah because of her inability to have children. Year after Year, Hannah had to endure the mouth, antics, and nasty comments of Penninah.

The end result is that Hannah cried all night long and did not eat.

Isn’t that just like the enemy to try and create disfunction and difficulty as well as taunting you about some physical, emotional, or spiritual disability to try and get you down.

It reminds of the story of Paul in 2 Cornithians 12, Pauls thorn in the flesh. God gives Paul a vision but to insure that Paul doesn’t get beside himself the text says that God gave Paul a thorn in the flesh and this is how Paul explains the thorn; “A message of Satan to torment me and keep me from getting puffed up – 2 Corinthians 12:7”.

There are some difficulties that we go through to keep us humble. But there are some difficulties that come to try and destroy us.

Hannah is depressed and discouraged. She’s not eating nor is she sleeping, just crying. And, what’s more disturbing is that Hannah’s name means favor. One would think that with a name with such meaning she would be able to live above her dilemma. Not so! There are some dilemmas in life that causes us to forget who we are in God. We don’t feel like we have God’s favor during difficulties.

But, can I encourage you today, you made it through the dilemmas because God’s favor is on your life. What the enemy meant for evil, God meant it for good. God encourages Paul in 2 Corinthians when Paul received a no to his prayer for deliverance. God told him my grace is sufficient and works best in your weakness.

God fights for us in our dilemmas by:

- Strengthening us to endure our difficulties
- Sustaining us in our disabilities

- Silencing the comments of our enemies

The dilemma may not change but God will keep you during times of extreme pressure.

The U.S. flag is flown night and day at only five places in the nation, and the practice dates only from 1898, flag experts say.
The places are: the grave of Francis Scott Key at Frederick, MD; Fort McHenry and Flag House in Baltimore; the Capitol Building in Washington; and the War Memorial in Worcester, Mass.
The practice resulted from public pressure, not from government action, when it began at Frederick in 1898. Since Key was the author of the “Star Spangled Banner,” it seemed appropriate that over his tomb there should be:
“Proof thru the night that our flag was still there.”

God is keeping us during extreme pressures of life as a testimony to the world that nothing can break us down.

II. Hannah’s Discourse - v. 8-16

As Hannah cries, here comes Elkannah. Elkannah loves Hannah but his comment in verse 8 seems to be one of insensitivity. He says: “Hannah, what’s wrong with you? Aren’t I taking care of you? Am I not doing enough to make you happy? I’m the best thing happening than ten sons?”

In here depressed state of mind, Elkannah doesn’t make things better, he seems to make them worse. Some say that Elkannah’s comments made Hannah feel better because she did eat after having the conversation with Elkannah. Maybe or maybe not, she may have eaten to keep his mouth shut until she could get to the church to talk to the Lord.

After dinner, she got up from the table and went to the temple to pray. She pours her heart out to God asking for help and deliverance. What we learn about the prayer of Hannah is:

It was personal v. 9 – Eli the priest was sitting at the doorpost of the temple but Hannah seemed to pass him up to talk to the Lord for herself. She didn’t ask the preacher to pray for her, she talked to God on her own. James 5 verse 14 says; “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray!”

It was Purposeful v. 11 – Hannah knew what she needed God to do for her and asked Him for it. Prayer is powerful when it is specific. Ask and it shall be given unto you.

It was Private v. 12-13 – Hannah is praying and has Eli watches, he sees her mouth moving but no words are coming out of her mouth. Hannah’s prayer was a private matter between her and God. The posture of prayer is not about the action of prayer as much as it is the heart of your prayers. In other words, prayer will mean nothing to God if it does not mean anything to you.

It was powerful v. 13a – 18 – Eli thought Hannah was drunk because her mouth was moving but nothing was coming out. Hannah explains that she was praying to God because she needed Him. Eli understood and told her to go in peace. Not only that, but Eli intercedes on the behalf of Hannah in verse 17; “Go in peace and may God grant you your petition”. Hannah prays for herself and the preacher joins in on the prayer. When Hannah got up off her knees from praying, verse 18 says; “She was no longer sad and she got something to eat”. Her situation had not changed yet but her disposition changed after she prayed. And that’s what prayer will do for you, it will change your disposition before it will change your situation.

III. Hannah’s Deliverance – v. 19-28

I got one question, where is Penninah? After verse 4, we hear nothing else from Penninah in this story. The good news of the day is that when God fights for us our enemy(ies) are a non-factor. What do we learn?

- God fights for us behind the scenes

- God fights for us by answering our prayers

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Your Witness Is Important

I’ve wrestled over the past few weeks with a question; “Should I write an article on Social Networking – Facebook?” My question was in response to another question asked a few months ago by someone on Facebook; “List five (5) things you don’t like about people on Facebook (paraphrased)”. Some responses were show boating, embellishing, too spiritual, I think that’s about all I could remember putting comments in a one word description to be brief in this article.

Well my wrestling has come to end and here’s the article.

I enjoy the avenue of social networking through Facebook. I’ve connected with many friends that I lost contact with. I enjoy status updates, photos, event announcements, videos, links, and notes. This past NBA season, I had a blast going back and forth with the Faker fans about their team. Ok, they won the championship, big deal! It was fun and people got to see me, a Christian who happens to be their pastor, as a person who likes to have fun. I enjoyed the drum off battle between Ethan and Jazz. It made me want to pick my sticks back up and join in on the battle. I haven’t forgotten how to play, either.

Point being, Facebook is a great place to meet new people and re-connect with family/friends.

However, I do want to challenge us to be conscious of who we are: Christians – God’s people. This is in no way my attempt to judge anyone or to be more spiritual than the other or anything like that. I do believe in being real and transparent. We are Christians living in a real world with real challenges and yet our reality is that we serve a real God.

Daniel Hill holds a steady part-time job working one or two shifts a week at Starbucks. It’s hardly a career-track position, and it’s not that he needs the extra cash or battles a secret caffeine addiction. It’s the people. Purple hair, belly-button rings, tattoos, black-painted fingernails—those people.

For Hill, whose day job is ministering on staff with Willow Creek Community Church’s Axis ministry, Starbucks provides a context to build meaningful relationships with postmodern, Gen-Next twenty-somethings who are far from God.

“Nothing has been more transforming for me than working at Starbucks,” says Hill. “These people matter to me.”

But the moonlighting gig isn’t a free pass to easy evangelism. His coffee colleagues are like a good cup of triple espresso—plenty of steam, a little bitter, and enough kick to knock you on your backside if you aren’t careful.

As Christians we serve a cynical generation where everything about Christianity is being questioned. One question that sticks out most to me is “What good is Christianity?” This is a question of relevance. Does your belief change lives? Does your religion work? Does it help me, whether I’m in your group or not? Or are you just another self-serving group of people tagged with Christians behind your name?

Many questions and accusations may and/or may not be warranted, yet the GenX of our day looks to other avenues for a community of belonging and not the church. Facebook, Twittering, and other social networking sites have, in many cases, taking the place of church community. Coming to a church event used to be pretty natural, but now it looks very different from the kind of community they are experiencing.

With this in mind, we need to be reminded of who we are to minimize, if not eliminate, cynical attitudes towards Christianity which ultimately questions God’s power to change lives.

Here’s the reminder, YOUR WITNESS IS IMPORTANT. We need to be careful of what we portray before others, especially before the unsaved, because your life maybe the only Bible people will read. Out of 100 people, one will read the Bible and the other 99 will read you. This may sound outrageous but the point is before a person accepts Christ they will judge His effectiveness in changing lives by watching how we conduct ourselves on a daily basis.

There were a many updates with cussing from Christians, picture post, and profile pictures that made me wonder, “Don’t they go to church?” or “Didn’t I just see them at church?” I understand that we all have our sinful struggles but those without the understanding, yet, will ask questions in skepticism trying to figure out how it is we can act one way in church but then be something totally different outside of church.

It was around prom time this year and I posted a few pictures of what not to wear to the prom but I failed right a caption on one of them. The picture was of a young lady with a cut basketball jersey that was a hot mess. "She wore that thing to a prom, unbelievably"; was my response. My friend Kyle commented on the post that I should explain the picture and he was right. People on the outside who do not know me personally but know me publically as a pastor would think I was trying to post porn on Facebook. That wasn’t the case at all. I wanted to make light of the fact that our appearance could be a determining factor as to how people judge and treat us. And that outfit was inappropriate for a prom and/or anything else.

One of my favorite verses is 1 Peter 3:15 which says; ““But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts and always be ready to give a reason for the hope that is within you with meekness and fear”.

The opening statement of this verse sets the standard for effective evangelism; “Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts…”
Peter encourages us to share the blessings of God with others. The “good life” is never to be kept for ourselves; it is to be shared with others. Peter suggests three steps we should follow in sharing the good life:

Step 1: “Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts”.
Step 2: “Always be ready to give a reason for the hope that lies within you.
Step 3: “Share it with meekness and fear”

To sanctify, hagiázō, is to “set apart.” The Christian faith makes no sense nor does Christian lifestyle ever work until and unless we “set apart” our lives to allow Jesus Christ to be Lord. The word “sanctify” comes from the same root word as holy (hágios)
Peter writes a great deal about the life of holiness in his first letter. As we have seen, he instructs us to “be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, ‘Be holy, for I am holy” (1:15–16). Holy living is possible only as we “sanctify the Lord God in our hearts.”

Also, Peter refers to Christian believers as “a holy priesthood” (2:5) and as “a holy nation” (2:9). To be holy is to be different. It is to be like the Lord who is the personification of holiness. To sanctify Christ as Lord in our hearts enables us to live the life of holiness. In the truest sense, it allows Christ to live His life of holiness in us and through us.

Lordship is the key to godly living. Jesus asked the question, “But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46). Authentic lordship must be lived out in obedience to Christ. If He is to be my Lord, He must control and rule my life. He must be at “master control.” He must “call the plays” of my life moment by moment.

Samuel Wilberforce once said that lordship could be defined in four words: admit, submit, commit, and transmit. Indeed, we must admit our sin and need of a savior; we must forsake sin and submit our lives to Christ as Lord; we must commit our way to the Lord day by day; and we must transmit or share His love and goodness with others. Peter proceeds to discuss the importance of transmitting our faith to a dying world without a Savior.

I believe, the effectiveness of our witness will be based on the life we live. In witnessing, your life matters! So here's the exhortation; protect your witness.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Sunday Thoughts - 7/12/09

Good day of worship just a long day overall!

I continued our series "The God of Trust" looking at Jehovah-Shalom - The Lord is Our Peace.

Topic: Trusting God Who Can Give You Peace
Text: Judges 6:22-24

Thesis Statement: Peace is not the absent of life’s realities. Peace is not coping. Peace is not ignoring problems and frustration. Peace is God holding you together when everything around you is falling apart.

There are three (3) essential truths about God-giving peace that we would do ourselves good to hold onto during stressful times:

1. God Presents Peace to all people - v. 1-21

- God presents peace to all people with Himself
Point: If you're going to live at peace, it starts with being at peace with God

- God presents peace to all people within ourselves
Point: Gideon is reluctant to lead Isreal because he possessed low self-confidence in himself to carry God's task. But God something in Gideon that Gideon didn't see, God saw his potential. Be at peace with what you can become and not what you and/or others say you are.

- God presents peace to all people in the pressures of life
Point: Israel is experiencing God induced pressure because of their relaxed attitude towards God. God will allow stress in our lives to get our attention and put us back on track with Him.

2. God promises peace to all people - v. 22-23

a. God promises peace with His person

b. God promises peace with His presence

c. God promises peace with His Comfort

3. God protects our peace - v. 24

a. Through Prayer - "The Power of Peace" - Philippians 4:6-7

b. Through Guarding our minds - "The Principles for Peace" - Philippians 4:8

c. Through Our Pursuit - "The Persistence of Peace" - Psalms 34:14; Hebrewss 12:7, 11

We pray God honors our efforts as well as strengthens the believer to live at peace despite stressful times.

We finally got our sound equipment to record our sermons/worship service. So within the next couple of weeks we will start posting on our website once we figure that out as well.

In the afternoon, we participated in the installation service of Pastor Barry Severe. Good service just a little long. Pastor Payne did an excellent job preaching from 2 Thessalonians 3:1-5 - "The Cords that tie Shepherd and Flock Together"

It was also good meeting fellow pastors that I've had the privilege of being friends with on Facebook: Pastor Harris and Pastor Hilton.

When we got home, Tracy and I crashed, literally.

I'm just about done with the names of God. I'm ready to start preaching something else. It's been a good study for me personally but man my work has been cut out for me in this series.

Until next time be blessed!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

I Can't Believe It

I Can’t Believe It!

I can’t believe we’re midway through 2009. Time has gone by so fast. I guess the saying is true; “Time flies when you’re having fun. As usual for me, my mind started racing through events this year that have changed my life.

In January, Pop Ted passed away to a heart attack. He had been in and out of the hospital but we thought it was routine and didn’t pay much attention to the reports of my mother. Receiving that phone call that Sunday night after preaching was emotional and shocking. We missed during the Super Bowl party and this 4th of July. His passing as left a huge hole in our family, we miss him dearly. My mother is bouncing back to her normal self but she still struggles each day.

As well in January, I lived to see the inauguration of a black president, President Barack Obama. I remember as a little boy sitting on the porch with my grandfather listening to him share the struggles of black culture and his hope to see a change for the better. Unfortunately, he did not get to see the fruit of his labor (as well as so many others), the first black president. Truth be told, I didn’t think I would see it either. My witness of this historic event has changed my life in so many ways. I see the potential of my future and the future of my children. There’s nothing we can’t accomplish in this world. I didn’t always think like this because I grew up in a racially hostile environment in Texas where we had to be escorted into high schools to play basketball games. I had to run home from school at times because of the color of my skin and the neighborhoods that didn’t like it. I’ve never been a racist (thank God for that) but it wasn’t easy growing up in such an environment. Seeing the support of president Obama from all ethnic groups encourages my soul to know that we have come a long way as a nation. The atmosphere of our generation is filled with potential. We need to keep dreaming and working toward our desired goals. The only person that can stop your progress is you. Don’t be or become your own stumbling block.

In March, First Goodwill celebrated 69 years of ministry. God has been faithful to our throughout these years and with a newly renovated church our potential is great. Nothing and no one can stop God’s work. That’s how I sum up God’s faithfulness to the church.

Living through this recession (or the great depression II) as made an impact on my life and the life of my family. Amazingly enough God has met every need for us. We’re still holding to our house and car. Our bills are being paid every month, we eat every day, and we get a chance, from time to time, to hang out with each other at 31 flavors. Through these hard economic times the promise of God in Philippians 4:19 has been proving: “And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory through Christ Jesus”. This recession is nothing more than an opportunity for God to keep on blessing.

In June, I celebrated 7 years of employment at Monogram Aerospace Fasteners. I never thought I would be here this long because my plan was to work for about 1-2 years and then become full time at the church. I was under the impression that being a working pastor was bad thing and all pastors should be in full time ministry. But when you look at the biblical pattern of Jesus and Paul, they were both working pastors as carpenter and tentmaker. My desire is to be in full time ministry. However, I realize that I can be just as effective in bi-vocational ministry as a full time pastor. It may take a little longer but slow growth sometimes is the best growth. It’s not easy being a pastor on a secular job where there’s 85% Catholic, 5% Jewish, 2% Christian, and 8% who knows. But God has been using me to develop meaningful relationships. Friends of mine, Carroll and Paula, started attending church about three (3) years in Wilmington, Ca and in a conversation at lunch they both told me that it was my witness as being down to earth, touchable, and personable that lead them to do so. Paula, who’s African American, grew up Catholic and his now a Christian. Her husband, Carroll, grew up Baptist but had some prodigal son moments. They both have a lot of questions and I do all I can to assist them without overstepping their pastor’s teaching. They didn’t come to First Goodwill but I’m glad to know that God did use me in some way to lead them to Christ. I’m working on another brother but he’s going to take some time for sure to convert. I have patience.

And in most recent days, we’ve experienced the loss of Farrah Fawcet, Ed McMann, Steve McNair, and the king of Pop, Michael Jackson. WOW! As I sat with Myles over the past week watching Michael Jackson’s life story, I found myself telling stories of my childhood like my grandfather used to tell me.

I never thought I would live to see events like these but God knows our destiny.

As I remember the first six (6) months of 2009, I can’t resist looking forward to the next six (6) months of 2009.

This year Tracy and I will celebrate 17 years of marriage in September. Many people didn’t think we would make it this far but we’ve out done some of our friends, family, and associates in our marriage relationship. Tracy is a wonderful woman with many gifts and talents for beyond what she believes she’s capable of doing. She’s a great mother and grandmother. She’s overcome great odds of her past and our future is very bright.

I’m watching my children grow up to be wonderful young people. Aysia will be a High School Junior and Myles a High School Sophmore this coming fall. Both with great potential and hope they believe in themselves as much as I believe in each of them. WOW! Soon and very soon we will be done with the troubles of the world when they graduate.

I’m watching my grandson grew up to be a smart young man with a whole lot of potential. We have a love hate relationship, I love to see come and happy to see him go home. Most of all, I love him dearly. Kari is great a mother. I only have one request, let the boy get dirty sometimes…lol. She is filled with creative painting talent that eyes have not seen as of yet. Keep up the good work.

In October, I will turn 42 years old, if God spares me to live that long. When I look at my history all I can say is I made it. I plan to do a blog of testimony around my birthday. My version of TV One’s Unsung – After the Dance: The Life and Times of Clinton Smith on October 1st, 2009 at 9 am. Don’t miss it.

In November, God willing, I will be celebrating 8 years as pastor of First Goodwill Missionary Baptist Church. We have accomplished so much as pastor and people that it blows my mind. I’m glad and privileged to serve such wonderful people and a great church. Our church is destined for greatness for beyond our wildest dreams with God’s help.

I can’t believe this year is half done already.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Sunday Thoughts - 7/5/09

This 4th of July weekend was fun with the family! I hung out with them all weekend. Friday, I smoked a brisket and hot links. We made sandwiches all day. We went to Venice Beach and walked from 4 – 8:30 pm. My legs were hurting so bad but the weather was nice and we had fun. Weird people still hang out at the beach!

Saturday, I woke up at about 5:30 am to study for Sunday before going to Palmdale, Ca for our new family tradition: 4th of July Crab boil with crab legs, sausage, potatoes, and corn in a mild seasoning spice. It was hot and windy in Palmdale. We ate so much and it was good. I loss track of time and Tracy came to tell me that it was 9:45 pm. We were having so much fun that I had no idea it was that late! We left at 11 pm.

My plan was to leave much sooner than that to finish my work for Sunday. Didn’t happen!

I woke at 5:30 am to get started only to change my preaching plans. I preached:

Topic: Finish What You Started
Text: 1 Corinthians 15:58

The last problem Paul deals with is the confusion of the Corinthians over the doctrine of resurrection. This was particularly confusing to the pagan, for resurrection was a concept totally foreign to Greek thought. First, Paul establishes the resurrection of Jesus as s historic fact in the first 11 verses of chapter 15. He then stresses the centrality of resurrection in Christian faith in verses 12-18, linking it to the culmination of God’s plan to establish God’s rule through Christ over all things in verses 19-29. If there were no resurrection there would be no reason for believers to make choices that lead to suffering here and now!
As to how the dead are raised, there are at best analogies. As a seed burst into new and transformed life, so will we, trading our natural, sinful bodies for imperishable bodies that shine with beauty of God Himself. Every believer will be transformed, and then, death and sin left far behind, we will experience the victory won for us our by Lord Jesus Christ.
When we get to verse 58 there seems to be a transition and it starts with the word “Therefore…” Therefore, ties what is about to be said to what has already been said. The question I had was, how does verse 58 relate to the first 57 verses? In summary, here’s what I believe the context is tailored to teach us…
Thesis Statement: While we wait for the resurrection of each believer, in the meantime, there is still much work to be done for the kingdom of God.
We look forward with great anticipation for the day when we shall live eternally with God. But until then there is work to be done. This text offers to us three (3) essential elements of our service to and for Him.
I. The Conditions of Our Work
- God expects us to be focused – “Be steadfast..”
- God expects us to be disciplined – “…immovable…”
- God expects us to be consistent – “…always abounding in the work of the Lord”
II. The Challenge of Our Work
The text assumes two things: 1). Every believer is at work 2). If you’re not at work, get to work.
- The Importance of Christian Work – “…knowing…”
- The Intensity of Christian Work – “...our labor
III. The Compensation for Our Work – “…not in vain.”
- What we do for God is not useless
- Only what we do for Christ will last

Lord, forgive me for goofing off this weekend! I’ll resume our study on the names of God this coming Sunday. At least I have a head start.

Tracy and I were extremely tired yesterday but baby Jimmy wanted to come over, so needless to say, he and his mother came over after church. We watched Madea Goes to Jail and ate tacos.

I tried to watch the interview with Jermaine Jackson on CNN but decided to call it a night. Back to work I be.

I really wanted to go to the E.K Bailey conference for expository preaching training but that didn’t happen again, ggggrrrrrgggrrggrrr! I’ll purchase material when it’s available.

I’m out!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

First Goodwill Praise Report - Pt. 2

Last night we held our Quarterly Church Conference. Most of our time was spent thanking God blessing our church during the 1st half of this 2009 year. After listing a number of things we can thank God, I then asked the question, “If someone asked you what you love most about your church what would you say?” Here are a few responses:

Fellowship – Our members love the fellowship and feelings of warmth displayed among the members of First Goodwill. She continued that our church has been through a lot together but “We can still depend of each other!” I agree totally, we can depend on each other. We may disagree but at the end of the day we come together and love each other. We rally together to get the done no matter how many is presence. We enjoy each others company and look forward to hanging out every chance we can get.

Preaching/Teaching – It was stated, almost in unison, that the members love the preaching/teaching of our church. My follow-up response was going to be with a question, “What do you love about the preaching/teaching of our church?” But before I could get it out responses started pouring out: The preaching/teaching is relevant, transparent, challenging, encouraging, enjoyable, real, powerful… Praise God! I work extremely hard on the sermons and lessons preached at our church to insure accurate interpretation as well as relevant to the reality of daily Christian living in world filled with trouble and sin.

Great worship – We don’t have all the bells and whistles like most churches. However, we have church at First Goodwill. I have a full band with piano, organ, drums, background singers, trumpets, saxophones, bass, and guitar. We sing all the latest gospel music as well as some old ones too. Great sound, it’s called tracks! And on occasion John P Kee, Hezekiah Walker, Kim Burrell, Youthful Praise, Carolyn Traylor, GMWA (all divisions), Mississippi Mass Choir, Milton Brunson/Tommies, or some well known gospel artist stops by during the invitation, fellowship, and/or the offering. Great sound, it’s called CD. And as of late God has really blessed our services as the Holy Spirit takes control. In at 10 am out by 11:30 am. Great spirit-filled worship!

I made a commitment to our church last night as leader we’re going to celebrate more of victories. We’re not neglecting the reality of challenges but I remember the words of a hymn that’s been ringing in my heart for the past few weeks: “Each victory to help you, some others to win (Hymn: Yield Not To Temptation)!”

Our church has a rich history but God has not finished making history with us yet!

I thank God for being the pastor of First Goodwill Missionary Baptist Church. And I pray God uses me to lead our church into greater heights in Him.

My inspirational ministry passage is found 1st Timothy 1:12-17:

I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

For those of you without a church home or a personal relationship with God come try God at First Goodwill Missionary Baptist Church located at 6900 South Compton Ave in Los Angeles, Ca 90001. The Word of God is being preached with power and conviction with the ultimate goal of saving the sinner and strengthening the saint. Worship times: Sunday @ 10 am and Wednesday Nights @ 7 pm.

For additional information about our ministry please check out our website at