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Sunday, February 28, 2010

Man, Save Your Family

The society in which we live has neglected to teach men about their role in the home, in the church, and society. The worldly view of a man's role is that he should provide financially for his family, but we shouldn't expect him to be very engaged with home life. In spite of all our talk of feminism, we have left the job of making a home and raising the kids to the female of the household. The role of leadership, of teaching and correcting the kids has fallen to the feminine side of our society. This is both unwise and unbiblical. As a result our homes are very weak and the enemy finds it very easy to destroy our families through divorce, rebellion, addictions, molestation, and child abuse.

In a quote from Leon Podles, who wrote the book “The Church Impotent” he remarks:

“Women go to church; men go to football games. Laymen attend church activities because a wife, mother, or girlfriend has pressured them… If a man goes to church, he goes because a woman has wheedled him into what hi would normally consider unmanly behavior. But if he goes voluntarily, he suffers suspicions about his masculinity. A devastating criticism of Christianity is many men see it not only as irrelevant, but as effeminate. As one man put it, ‘life is a football game, with men fighting it out on the green, while the minister is up in the grandstands, explaining it to the ladies.’”

The tide of leadership has changed drastically in our society, homes, and churches and women have been forced into areas that God did not intend for them to be. And while this maybe true, I believe that many a men and women do not understand their God-given roles while here on earth. God bless our fathers, grand-fathers, uncles, friends, and other adults for their attempt to try and teach us as men, our roles in society. However, much of what they taught us was based on what they were taught when they were coming up along with life long experience. So we as men have been taught:

That crying is for punks.
That success of a man is based on his economic status.
That beating a woman into submission is mucho.
That our sexual activity and little black books determine our worth in life.
That the woman’s role is in the kitchen and the bedroom
That life is what we make it.
That man is the bread winner of the family.
If we hurt, we’re told to suck it up and stop crying
If we’re sick, we’re told stop whining like a big baby
If we have to much fun, we’re told you’re nothing more than a big kid
If we we’re any other color outside of black, brown, and blue, then we’re gay (Homosexual)

And the list goes on and on and on……. And it’s this teaching that we’re judged by. We’re judged by our bank account, car, house, credit, looks, success, leadership, and our sexual performance.

I can continue on talking about the confusion of a man’s sexuality heterosexual or homosexual (the down-low syndrome). I can beat us up about what we’re not doing and congratulate us on what we’re doing right. But that’s not what I want to do today in this message. We’ve been beating up enough over the years by the church and society.

I have a two-fold agenda with this message today:

To give us as men an understanding of our roles in society, in the home, and in the church. I believe the principles to be rendered here today will apply to all three areas of our lives.

To call us to repentance for missing for so long, restore us to the place of godly leadership and stability, encourage us to hang in there even when the going gets tough.

The story of Noah presents to us three (3) principles for saving our families:

I. The Reasons for Saving Our Families (Why should we save our family?)

The story starts with a tragedy, God is angry with humanity because of their immoral living. What’s such a tragedy to me in this story is that just 4 chapters earlier God says: “Let’s make man in our very image”.

Now, four (4) chapters later, God is angry with the very creation He just created. Unfortunately, I believe God’s anger with humanity started in chapter 3 when Adam and Eve disobeyed God. Then Cain kills his brother Abel. Now, in chapter 6 the text opens with sexual immorality and God is angry and ready to wipe out all of humanity.

Reason 1: Save your family from worldliness – Ch. 3 and Ch. 6:1-2

- Compromising Situations: The serpent approached Eve

- Carnal People: The children of God, among whom the true religion was at first preserved, corrupt it by forming matrimonial connections with irreligious women.

Reason 2: Save your family from the wrath of God – Ch. 6:3, 6, 7

Reason 3: Save your family from you – Ch 6: 5

II. The Requirements for Saving Our Families (Seeks to answer the question: What does it take to save our Family?)

a. Be Different – Ch. 6:8-12

b. Be Ready to be used by God – Ch. 6:13-20

c. Be a Provider – Ch 6:21

d. Be Obedient to God – Ch. 6:22

III. The Reward of Saving Our Families (Seeks to answer the question: What should we expect from saving our family?)

A. God’s Protection – Ch 7:1-24

B. God’s Provisions – Ch 8:19

C. God’s Blessings – Ch 9:1

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

How Do I Answer This Question

In recent months, I’ve been asked the following question:

- Have you done enough?

I’m not sure if there is an answer to this question that would be appropriate. And to be quite honest, I’ve never thought of an answer. As well, I don’t know where this question (and others like it) is coming from. The struggles at First Goodwill are no different than most churches in the USA that can be summed up in two words: LIMITED RESOURCES. The struggle of limited resources is not isolated to the size or location of a particular church. However, I am becoming more and more cautious to whom I talk to about the challenges of our church. Actually, I’ve stopped talking to people and started praying to God. I recognize that when God is moving that the enemy will do whatever he can to block, slow down, or hinder the progress of God. Yes, the growth of our church is moving at a snails pace. But believe you me, if we keep plugging along our roots will be strong where lives are being changed for the kingdom of God. I don’t want a revolving door congregation. Our motto is developing a membership that sticks and stays. This is another way of saying; we want to open the front door while closing the back door at the same time.

There is also the saying: “Fine wine takes time”. I believe the principle applies to the church: “A strong church takes time to develop”. I don’t believe in overnight success. Success does not come without some type of struggle and perseverance. Who determines the success of a church? Who says a church is healthy because they have bodies, bucks, and a building? Why do we judge a church based on membership size? The church belongs to God and He determines our growth factor. It’s my responsibility and the responsibility of the members to hang in there.

I love the church and people God has given me to pastor. We have our struggles but God has kept us thus far. As a matter of fact, the 2nd Sunday of March we will celebrate 67 years of ministry at First Goodwill Missionary Baptist Church. GOD HAS BEEN FAITHFUL TO OUR CHURCH!

Have I done enough? Probably not according to the standards of others. One of my favorite passages of scripture is Hebrews 6:10; “For God is not unjust to forget your labor of love that you’ve shown towards the saints…”

The answer to this question is simple, now that I think about it, “Brethren, be steadfast, immoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.”

God enlarge our territory in the near future.

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Goal Of Life's Tests - James 1:1-4

As a brief introduction to James, let me say, I think we've made Christian living entirely too complicated. We’ve placed religious rules, traditions, philosophical opinions, by-laws, church attendance, religious practices, and Robert Rules of Order as a potential gauge for measuring a person’s and/or our own spiritual growth. As well, we use our spiritual maturity to measure someone else’s growth. If they don’t do it like we do then they have not grown in Christ.

Accountability is no longer accountability for the sake of helping each other become more Christ-like. Accountability has now become a judging match between 2 people that eventually creates fights and quarrels (James 4:1). Let me caution you to be careful judging someone else’s development against yours for when you place your supposed maturity next to the holiness of God you will discover you still have a little more growing to do.In addition, we allow supernatural events to be our gauge for measuring our spiritual growth. The more of the "supernatural" (whatever that means to you) we experience the more we feel we have grown in Christ. So, being healed physically, financial prosperity, near death experiences, and so many others, we assume, are valid experiences and expressions to measure our spiritual growth. This letter teaches that Christian living is practical and doable. The measurement for spiritual maturity rest in practical Christian living day-by-day. James writes; “So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be strong in character and ready for anything (NLT)”.We’ve all asked this question (or ones similar); “Am I growing as a Christian?” But when you ask this question what type of answer are you expecting? Are you expecting a heavenly voice to trumpet down and say; “This is my son/daughter in whom I am well pleased?” Are you looking for others to validate your spiritual maturity with a word of congratulations? Are you living a false spiritual maturity that on the outside says “I have everything together” but on the end side you’re just as sinful as you can be?Whatever the case, I believe the only real measurement for spiritual development is in areas of daily living disciplines.

The letter of James shows us practical daily disciplines as a means to measure our spiritual development. I want to outline the book of James in question form to help each us look at our spiritual development in a different light.* How do you respond to the struggles of life? James 1:1-4* What is your process for making decisions? James 1:5-8* What is your financial goal in life, to be rich or honor God? James 1:9-12* Do you own up to your mistakes? James 1:13-16* How do you view God’s blessings? James 1:17* Are you a quick tempered person? James 1:18-20* Are you honest with yourself about your spiritual development? James 1:21-27* Do you show favoritism? James 2:1-17* Do you trust God at all cost with everything? James 2:18-26* Can you control your tongue (WOW, this will show who’s growing)? James 3:1-12* Are you a selfish person? James 3:13-18* Do you like to fight? James 4:1-10* Do you respect other people? James 4:11-12* Are you impatient? James 4:13-17* What’s your focus here on earth, temporal satisfaction or eternal security? James 5:1-11* Are you an indecisive person? James 5:12* How is your prayer life? James 5:13-20* Can you be trusted? James 5:16* Do you believe God to do what you’ve requested? James 5:17-18* Are you on speaking terms with God? James 5:19-20Will we ever reach spiritual maturity at it’s best? I don’t know but we can try our best.

James wastes no time getting to his imperatives: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds” (James 1:2). Has James lost his senses? He is writing to beat-up brothers and sisters and he says, “Consider it pure joy,” or as the NEB says, “count yourselves supremely happy.” How nice . . . a letter of encouragement from Pastor Whacko! “Don’t worry . . . be happy!” Then and now James’ command to “Consider it pure joy . . . whenever you face trials of many kinds” sounds irrational! Put this verse on a sign next to the expressway and it would appear to be the work of a crazed fanatic. Indeed, to any culture (including ours) determined to insulate itself from trials, even from discomforts, this sounds crazy. Tragically, it even seems irrational to many who identify with Christianity.

The first practical evidence of daily Christian living is our response to life’s tests. Let’s be honest, life has a way of pulling the worse out of us. Some people respond cussing, fighting, drinking, gambling, immorality, adultery, drugs, stop coming to church, stop praying, stop reading the Word of God, no fellowship with other believers, we go in our shells and dare someone to knock on door to get us out. Here’s what we need to understand about life:

- No one is exempt from trouble
- Life is filled with difficult days
- Life is filled with difficult people
- Life will inevitably put you in unpleasant situations
- Life has its disappointments

The point is this, it is a misconception to think that just because you’re a Christian that life will take it easy on you. Unfortunately, it doesn’t happen that way. Yet while we have to face trials, tests, temptations, and tribulations, you can control how you respond to the difficulties of life.

Listen to James’ instruction, again:

James 1:2-4 (NIV)
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, [3] because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. [4] Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

James 1:2-4 (NRSV)
My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, [3] because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; [4] and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.

James 1:2-4 (Msg)
Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. [3] You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. [4] So don't try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.

These verses teaches us three (3) practical principles regarding how to profit from trials:

I. Respond with JOY – v. 2

What does James’ command really mean? In answer, we must first understand what it does not mean. James is not ordering all-encompassing joyful emotion during severe trials; nor is he demanding that his readers must enjoy their trials, or that trials are joy. He knew, as did the writer of Hebrews, that “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful” (Hebrews 12:11).
James was not commanding that we exult upon hearing that our career position has been given to our secretary, or that the neighbor’s children have leukemia, or that one’s spouse is adulterous. Rather, James is commending the conscious embrace of a Christian understanding of life which brings joy into the trials that come because of our Christianity. James says, “Consider it pure joy,” which means to make a deliberate and careful decision to experience joy even in times of trouble. Is this possible? Yes. Paul told the Corinthian church, “in all our troubles my joy knows no bounds” (2 Cor. 7:4). Luke reports that the Sanhedrin “called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name” (Acts 5:40, 41). Later, Luke tells us, Paul and Silas, having been severely flogged and being in intense pain, were in prison, and “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them” (Acts 16:25). Their concert so pleased God that he brought down the house! This apostolic experience is still the experience of the church today.
Several years ago the Presbyterian pastor Lloyd John Ogilvie underwent the worst year of his life. His wife had undergone five major surgeries, plus radiation and chemotherapy, several of his staff members had departed, large problems loomed, and discouragement assaulted his feelings. But he wrote,
The greatest discovery that I have made in the midst of all the difficulties is that I can have joy when I can’t feel like it—artesian joy. When I had every reason to feel beaten, I felt joy. In spite of everything, [God] gave me the conviction of being loved and the certainty that nothing could separate me from him. It was not happiness, gush, or jolliness but a constant flow of the Spirit through me. At no time did he give me the easy confidence that everything would work out as I wanted it on my timetable, but that he was in charge and would give me and my family enough courage for each day: grace. Joy is always the result of that.6
James did not say, “Consider it pure joy if you face trials” but “whenever.” Such trials are a part of every believer’s life. We are to thoughtfully find joy in our own diaspora experiences — when we feel alienated, disenfranchised, unpopular, even when difficulty and tragedy come our way which have no apparent connection with our Christianity. Such joy may seem irrational, but in Christ it is perfectly rational.

II. Respond with ENDURANCE – v. 3-4a

The rationale for such joy comes from knowing that the various trials we face have spiritual value. James says there is a two-step process through which our trials elevate us.

The first step is to understand that “the testing of your faith develops perseverance” (James 1:3) Elaboration on what is meant by perseverance will unlock rich truth. J. H. Ropes renders this “staying power.”7 Martin Dibelius calls it “heroic endurance.”8 And the NEB translates this as “fortitude.” James is talking about toughness — “the testing of your faith produces toughness.”

Here is how this works: we develop toughness or fortitude by repeatedly being tested and prevailing. The more tests we pass, the tougher we become. As a boxer engages in bout after bout, he toughens and becomes wiser and stronger. After a time he develops such fortitude, perseverance and staying power that he can take on the best. There is no way a fighter, or any of us, can develop toughness without testing! The endurance and fortitude of the Apostle Paul or William Carey or Corrie ten Boom did not come overnight and did not come apart from trials. Paul, in Romans 5:3, confirms this truth: “but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance.”

Nature teaches us the same principle. Free a butterfly from its chrysalis, and thus from the struggle of liberating itself, and you destroy its life, for it will never develop the strength to soar as it should. When fortitude is lacking in one of God’s children, he has a time-tested remedy — “the testing of your faith.” With this in mind, James’ irrational call — “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds” — becomes brilliant.

III. Respond with the GOAL IN MIND – v. 4b

The rationale becomes even clearer when we observe the second step: perseverance produces maturity. “Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:4). Spiritual perseverance or toughness produces a dynamic maturity. “Mature” refers to a personality which has reached its full development. Regarding the corresponding synonym “complete,” Peter Davids explains: “Perfection is not just a maturing of character, but a rounding out as more and more ‘parts’ of the righteous character are added.”9Thus, maturity is a dynamic state in which a thousand parts of us are honed, shaped, tempered and brought together, making a dynamic wholeness.
It is commonly taught that trials bring maturity, but it is not so. Rather, fortitude and perseverance in times of testings produce maturity. In troubled times we must practice spiritual toughness. As we endure “trials of many kinds” — economic stress, disappointments, criticisms, domestic pressures, persecution for our faith, illnesses — the multiple facets of our being are touched with grace. Dick Seume wrote beautifully about this:
Life on earth would not be worth much if every source of irritation were removed. Yet most of us rebel against the things that irritate us, and count as heavy loss what ought to be rich gain. We are told that the oyster is wiser; that when an irritating object, like a bit of sand, gets under the “mantle” of his shell, he simply covers it with the most precious part of his being and makes of it a pearl. The irritation that it was causing is stopped by encrusting it with the pearly formation. A true pearl is therefore simply a victory over irritation. Every irritation that gets into our lives today is an opportunity for pearl culture. The more irritations the devil flings at us, the more pearls we may have. We need only to welcome them and cover them completely with love, that most precious part of us, and the irritation will be smothered out as the pearl comes into being. What a store of pearls we may have, if we will!10
The key to a graced life, pearl-tipped facets of personality, and thus full maturity is constancy, tenacity, perseverance. Spiritual toughness is the key to saintliness!
The idea that when we “get it all together” our trials will lessen is a falsehood. Paul told Timothy the truth: “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3:12). Life will always be full of testings for the true Christian. We must not imagine they will lessen with time — say, less trials at thirty-five than twenty-five, or at forty-five than thirty-five, or at fifty-five than forty-five, or at sixty-five than fifty-five, or at seventy-five than sixty-five. Trials are not a sign of God’s displeasure but are opportunities to persevere in the Lord.
James commands the irrational: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds.” Is this crazy talk — pious prattle? Not when we embrace the double rationale:

1) Testing brings spiritual toughness — “because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance” (James 1:3). When we, by God’s grace, tough it out, our entire person becomes pearly.

2) Toughness brings a dynamic maturity — “Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:4).

When God wants to drill a man
And thrill a man
And skill a man,
When God wants to mold a man
To play the noblest part;
When He yearns with all His heart
To create so great and bold a man
That all the world shall be amazed,
Watch His methods, watch His ways!
How He ruthlessly perfects
Whom He royally elects!
How He hammers him and hurts him,
And with mighty blows converts him
Into trial shapes of clay which
Only God understands;
While his tortured heart is crying
And he lifts beseeching hands!
How He bends but never breaks
When his good He undertakes;
How He uses whom He chooses
And with every purpose fuses him;
By every act induces him
To try His splendor out —
God knows what He’s about!11

Such logic makes the command rational and supremely sane: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds.” James calls for a decisive act — to consider our troubles opportunities for joy and endurance. May we in prayer so acknowledge today and in days to come!

Through It All

I've had many tears and sorrows,
I've had questions for tomorrow,
there's been times I didn't know right from wrong.
But in every situation,
God gave me blessed consulation,
that my trials come to only make me strong.
Through it all,
through it all,
I've learned to trust in Jesus,
I've learned to trust in God.

Through it all,
through it all,
I've learned to depend upon His Word.

I've been to lots of places,
I've seen a lot of faces,
there's been times I felt so all alone.
But in my lonely hours,
yes, those precious lonely hours,
Jesus lets me know that I was His own

I thank God for the mountains,
and I thank Him for the valleys,
I thank Him for the storms He brought me through.
For if I'd never had a problem,
I wouldn't know God could solve them,
I'd never know what faith in God could do.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

It's Been a Minute

It's been a while since I've posted anything not because things are going bad but simply been too busy to do so. As a matter of fact, January was real busy and February hasn't slowed up any either.

My new place of employment is really demanding with un-realistic expectations and standards that no one person can ever live up to. It's been a true struggle for me working on this job and doing ministry work. I'm being tested in so manys and if I was to be graded right now...I think I would get an F. Thank God for grading on a curve with grace and mercy. I've been standing my ground to not work so much overtime on this job so that I can be prepared for Sunday worship service and my boss is not liking it at all. My heart, mind, and soul is totally on ministry and don't like juggling the two. But, I have to do what I have to do.

My church is going through yet another transitional period. We have come together with Pastor Reginald Payne and the Full Gospel Baptist Church. No, this is not a merger but two churches coming together in one building to build the Kingdom of God while maintaining our identities a two churches. At first, I was a little overwhelmed because I have a small congregation. The feelings were mutual among the members of First Goodwill as well as Full Gospel sensed our overwhelming feelings. We prayed and things are going pretty good so far. We have a 3-4 month trial period of living together before we really finalize the partnership. The reality is that this is a win-win situation for both churches as well as a test. This could be a good witness to churches, Christians, skeptics, and the world that two churches can come together in one building and work together. But it can also be a bad witness to churches, Christians, skeptics, and Christians if it doesn't work out. I believe it can work out eventhough pastor Payne nor myself have all the answers. So we're praying our way through the process. Combined Wednesday night bible study is wonderful. We have classes for everybody and my son Myles said to me: "Dad, I like this!" That was a plus. The fact that pastor Payne and I alternate on the teaching assignment of the Fundamentals of the Faith is a plus. I like that we don't have the pressure of preparing a lesson every week and we both can be fed the Word of God by one another.

I've finally landed on a new sermon series, Practical Christian Living - A Study of James. Taught through James a couple of years ago in our Wednesday Night Bible Study but I want to preach through this wonderful letter. I start tomorrow with "The Goal Testing Christians" - James 1:2-4. This will be fun and I'm looking forward to it.

Keep us in your prayers and I'll do the same

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Sunday Thoughts - 1/31/10

We had a wonderful day of worship Sunday! As well as, we entered into ministry partnership with a sister church in Pastor Reginald Payne and the Full Gospel Baptist Church which holds it's service at 9 am and First Goodwill Missionary Baptist Church services will be at 11:15 am. Sunday was the first official Sunday of two (2) churches worshipping in one building.

I will admit that during our very first pilot service in November that I had mixed emotions as well as many of our church members. Our second pilot service was not so bad, I stayed focused on ministering my church and leading them through the process from the pulpit. This past Sunday was a good for me and the church. The members came ready to worship and I was ready to preach. I will also admit that both myself and Pastor Payne don't have all the answers in this process. We've did our best to think it through as best we can. However, there is grey spots that require continued prayer, thinking, talking, and more praying. No transition is smooth and all transitions takes time.

This is a transition that I've committed to prayer every step of the way for both churches. My prayer is really simple: "Lord, let this partnership be a positive influence (good witness) on both churches, the world, and the Christian community. Just like everything in life, people are watching and hoping this venture fails so they can say those famous words: "See, I told you it wouldn't work!" There is a lot to gain and lose for both churches and we're now in the spot light. I've been hesitant to write or say much about it only because I believe the best thing for both churches is to submit everything we do in believing prayer. This past Saturday we had a combined prayer breakfast with both churches as well as with Praise Chapel that worships in our small building. The prayer breakfast was a success and God blessed the prayers of Pastor Calvary, Pastor Payne, and myself.

All is ask that the members, skeptics, friends, family, pastors, and the Christian community to do is prayer with us and not against us!

Sunday, I preached a pretty heavy message: God's Tips for Women - Proverbs 31:10-31. The message was challenging but I believe the members and our guest were blessed. I'm correcting some typing mistakes but as soon as that's completed I will post the manuscript. In the afternoon, we held our first women's minstry fellowship. I had planned to preach Titus 2:3-5 but Proverbs was still in me so I preached it again and the people were blessed. Thank you God for your word.

I was planning on starting a new series of sermon in 1 John but I think I'll put it off for a couple of weeks or so.

This Sunday was mission Sunday for us and I challenged the church to set aside a special offering to support mission work. Praise God for the positive response. It is our goal and prayer to fulfill the Great Commission of making disciples of all nations by supporting mission work in foreign and inland countries. As a church we're going to sponsor a child through Worldvision as well as join local churches in rebuilding Haiti.

I'm excited for 2010 and expect God to do some wonderful things for us! Please keep us in your prayers.