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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Did You Pray About It

The pressure was on some months ago while I was faced with situations that had me stressed, frustrated, discouraged, anxious, and disappointed. The pressure was so thick it was affecting me physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. I was totally drained! Never in my life have I experienced anything like it before. It seem like crying was a daily occurrence to the point my wife and family were really worried for me and my well-being.

During this time, two of the most precious people within our church were dying together, husband and wife. Never seen nothing like it before in my life. And then, family members died. In all within a 3 month time period, 6 people passed away. Never seen nothing like it before. During the funeral of one of my members, I tried to keep it together but when I stood to preach my last sermon for the member who passed and members of the church, I completely lost it. Weeping uncontrollably! Thank God for sustaining grace which allowed me to pull it together and complete my assignment.

During these most difficult months I was asked on several occasions….

Did you pray about it?

When asked the question, I was spending a tremendous amount of time praying about all the situations I was facing. My prayers were not long but quick and short prayers:

“Lord, protect my heart, mind, and ego!”
“Lord, give me peace about the situation!”
“Lord, help me to understand what’s going on!”
“Lord, search my heart!”
“Lord, protect my wife and teenage children through this process!”
“Lord, protect me from the wolves. Those who are only looking for a reason to gossip about my situation rather help me navigate through the situation!”
“Lord, let me not loose my love for ministry and preaching!”
“Lord, restore the joy of my salvation!”
“Lord, forgive me for past mistakes!”
“Lord, hold my wife together as my help mate but now let me help her!”

I’ll be the first to admit that my prayers were short and quick because I found it extremely hard to pray during a time when I was experiencing extreme loss everywhere imaginable.

Did you pray about it? And the follow up question was….

What was God saying?

If I can be extremely candid and honest, I prayed but had no clue what God was saying at the time. The pressure was so thick that it placed a dark could over my faith which had me doubting if this is all worth it. I was doing everything I could to make sense of all that was going on but was becoming more and more confused, irritated, stressed, and frustrated. I tried using church clich├ęs to encourage myself but that wasn’t working. I tried to sing some of favorite hymns and that wasn’t working. I ran out of options and yet the question(s) still remained...

Did you pray about it? What is God saying?

Did I pray about it? Yes, I did! What is God saying? Honestly, I don’t/didn’t know!

It’s been a few months and while things are still somewhat fresh God has been showing me some things that I believe is helping me to keep moving forward with Him and not give up.

First lesson, back off from the situation. The pressure got so thick that I made a decision to take my hands off and let God deal with it. This was not an easy thing to do. I’ve learned that there are times when there’s nothing more you can do about it. I went into a shell mode so to speak where I didn’t talk about the situation (as best I could). I stop taking some phone calls. And, I even backed off by taking a few Sundays off to spend with the family. I’ve found that by backing off, it afforded me the opportunity to clear my head from all that was taken place and see it from a different perspective.

Second lesson, pray anyway. It’s said that the best time to pray is when you find it hard to pray. That’s true! I know I didn’t loose it totally because I kept praying even when I thought it was useless. In John 11 Mary and Martha went to Jesus about Lazarus but He stayed where He was and didn’t run to raise Lazarus immediately. Paul prayed in 2 Corinthians 12 asking God to remove the thorn in his side but God said “NO!” I’m learning that God’s no really means a slow yes. He’ll show up when the time is right. But in the meantime He will keep you covered with His strength. And trust me, I know He will.

Third lesson, be quiet. Let me say it this way, keep your mouth shut. Sometimes I believe we talk ourselves out of our own blessing simply because we don’t know how to be quiet. I made a selective choice as to whom I spoke to about what I was going through. And with others I developed a generic one sentence answer where a follow up response couldn’t take place. I shot it down before it got started.

Fourth lesson, don’t spiritualize everything. This particular lesson may sound blasphemous to many of you reading this blog. But hear me out first before closing your ears. There some decisions we will make that are business transactions for which we can’t spiritualize. Having to close a business, sale a home, change stock, laid off a job, etc are all business transactions while living in an economic downturn. However, the decision is business not spiritual but how you handle the decision then becomes spiritual. Therefore, your prayer then becomes…”Lord, guard my heart and ego!” “Lord, give me peace about this decision!”

When the pressure is on it makes praying and hearing God’s voice difficult. But whatever the dilemma, distress, and/or difficulty you’re facing don’t stop praying.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Lesson Clarification

Bishop Sanders has started a lesson series for Wednesday Night Bible Study entitled "What God Thinks About Same Sex Marriage" which in my opinion is a good topic of study at the moment because of the push to teach homosexuality in schools to our young people.

Last night was the second session of lessons of which Bishop and I did tag team teaching. I was giving the assignment to build a biblical argument on how God views homosexuality.

I wasn't sure exactly where I would pick up so I wrote the following outline to be on the safe side.

"God's View Of Homosexuality"
Select Scriptures

My thesis: The holiness of God disgust Him because it's against His creative design for humanity for men and women.

1. Humanities Design - Genesis 1:27, Genesis 2:23-25
Point: God created marriage relationships for one man and one woman.
Anything outside of this design is totally against the will of God.

2. Humanities Perversion
Genesis 6:1-7 - an indication of demon perversion whereby evil spirits enter into the human body to pervert God's intentional design for man and woman.

Genesis 19:36 - Incest - Lot sleeps with his daughters and they have his children.

Genesis 38:15-18 - Prostitution - Lot meets a prostitute and pays for sexual favors

Genesis 19:5 - Homosexuality - Men show up at Lot's with a bold request to send the men so they can sleep with them.

Point: Evil spirits coupled with humanity has perverted God's intentional design for sexual pleasure of which He made and said it was good to shared between a man and a woman in marriage relationship.
Anything outside of this design disgust God's holy nature.

3. Humanities Disgrace

Deuteronomy 22:5 -The Disgrace of Woman - it doesn't look good for women to be wearing men's clothes. In other words, women should not be sagging and men should not be switching.

Deuteronomy 23:1 - The disgrace of man –Verse 23 deals with transsexual/transgender activity whereby a man will cut off his organ to become what he believes to be a woman trapped in a man’s body. The statement here in verse 1 is deliberate and alarming because the text say no one who cuts of his sexual organ will enter the assembly of God. This should be alarming to those who consider doing and those who have done it. But also upon further review of the God we serve extends forgiveness in Isaiah 56. Leviticus chapter 20 teaches us that there is mercy before death and mercy before judgment to those who repent.

4. Humanities Decision – Ezekiel 16 – There were all kinds of iniquities characteristic of this particular city but none of them was more shocking than homosexuality. Adultery, and fornication and polygamy and incest and rape and prostitution are already present in the world by the time we get to Ezekiel. But none so ugly has homosexuality. The question is how do we handle such perverted sin as a whole that is corrupting humanity in a major way. The text helps us in handling the issues:

- Confrontation – v. 1
- Point People To God – v. 8,14,19,23,30,35,34,63
- Humiliation – v. 63

Point: God will break us down only to draw us to Him!

Lesson clarification: Time was running out so I didn’t time to elaborate further so I want to do it now. I stated in the lesson that people who live the lifestyle of homosexuality oftentimes carry feelings of humiliation, anger, depression, discomfort, and loneliness. Further my statement was …. “And that’s how God wants them to feel.”

I need to clarify this statement because it would seem that I was saying God is a vindictive God who rains down His wrath on people who are hard-headed.

Let me be very clear, we do not serve a vindictive God. He is a forgiving and loving Father. However, feelings of humiliation, depression, anger, loneliness, and discomfort are produced as a consequence of our disobedience to a holy God. Further cross reference helps us to understand that our God is not vindictive but that our sins produce consequences for our sin. Ezekiel 36:31-31; “Then you will remember your evil ways, and your deeds that were not good, and you will loathe yourselves for your iniquities and abominations. It is not for your sake that I will act, declares the Lord God; let that be known to you. Be ashamed and confounded for your ways, O house of Israel”. This text again supports the argument that God is not vindictive but that our sins causes after guilt and shame. These feelings are not God-inflicted but sin-inflicted.

This clarification was necessary because I don’t want us communicating to others an untruth about God. I hope I clarified the statement with biblical backup to support my argument.

Monday, August 1, 2011

My thoughts on Sunday’s Best

First I want to state that “I love gospel music”! I loved it from the day of my childhood. I also enjoy watching the Christian reality TV show “Sunday’s Best”. However, I do have a dislike with the show…the judges who are judging the show. Grant it, I do recognize the difficulty of judging contestants because this is gospel music in which each person is singing about and to God who is worthy of our song of praise. Yes, I recognize the difficulty of judging the show because of our personal preferences of gospel music and for those who sing it. For instances, I’m not a big fan of Mary Mary nor Kirk Franklin. I can listen to the music but it does not invoke the presence of God into my life in most cases. Their music actually creates a party atmosphere that makes me want to dance (and I’m not talking about Holy Ghost dancing either). Much of their music, in my opinion, is not meant for worship service (maybe a concert but certainly not a worship service).

I, personally, don’t see how Mary Mary’s hit single “Walking” can be sung in a worship service preparing the congregation for hearing the Word of God. Now, I will agree that the Christian community does need some type of alternative music outside of R&B, Rap/Hip Hop, Jazz, etc. We do need something for us to listen to that is clean and that we can enjoy without feeling guilty of what we just listened too. But I also believe we need music that will point us to God even while we’re bobbing our heads to the beat. Unfortunately, I sometimes can’t hear the words without hearing the beat first.

I love me some Kim Burrell and her new single is killing! Tracy called me one day after hearing the song and asked if I heard. “I did”. She then asks me “what do you think about it? She’s not saying anything about God.” I told her “I love the song”. Then I said to her…”You know I haven’t paid much attention to the words.” The next time the song came onto the radio I listened very close to the words to see if God was mentioned in the song. Sure enough He (God) was mentioned in the song as Lord. I didn’t pay attention to the words because I was wrapped around the jazzy melody of the song and being able to distinguish the song from jazz and gospel was a difficult thing for me to do.

My thesis for writing this article is simple and clear….

Gospel music should point us to God and God only!

Many of you who are reading this article would/will say….”He’s traditional”. My response to you is “noooooo, I’m not”. I have a concern that gospel music is crossing over into secular music (in some cases) to reach a larger audience which anyone who is serious about ministry would love to do. And (let’s be honest) to make the almighty dollar of which every one of us as to eat. So why not make money doing what you love to do. I understand all of that! But, I believe the gospel is being taking out of Christian music.

I also believe that personal preference is also displayed in the judging of the show. For instances, last night, there were three ladies competing for the final 10th spot; Shanandolan Reynolds – Dallas, Texas, LaTrice Smith – Macon, Georgia, and Timesha Sampson – Memphis, Tennessee. In the end Timesha won the 10th spot….why??????

I think LaTrice out sung her for the spot. And even with Timesha’s opening song, Pastor Donnie commented that “they made the right choice”. How is that? Again, personal preference is my thought on the judging.

However, there is one other dislike for me that is much more important and possibly damaging to those competing for a recording contract. It’s the constant statements relating to the anointing. How does a person judge who has and/or has not the anointing? Is it based on if someone shouts at the end of their segment? Is it based on how the contestant reacts after they’ve song? Is it based on the audiences reaction after the song ends? Is it the antics of Kirk Franklin after each contestant? Is it emotional charge? Is it how they came onto the stage or left the stage? Does what they wear dictate how much anointing a person has during the competition? How do you judge the anointing?

Or, is personal preference basis for judgment of who has the anointing or not?

I think its personal preferences. We see the same anointing judging method of personal preferences in the life of the church. The choir wasn’t anointed because they didn’t sing our favorite song. The band was too loud so they weren’t anointed. The microphone system is this or that so the service wasn’t anointed. The deacons keep singing hymns each week during devotion. The pastor wasn’t anointed because he took a stand in a message on abortion, homosexuality, adultery, or some difficult topic that challenges us to stop a life of sin. Well, I believe a pastor/teacher who stands on the uncompromised Word of God is anointed because it takes the anointing to stand bold against issues that rub the congregation the wrong way in their sinful lifestyles.

Again, I say personal preference is the measure of our judgments. The church we attend, large or small. The preacher we listen too (I can/will write an article on this one soon). The people we hang out with. The topics we study in scripture. The money we give in worship services. And so many other choices and judgments we make based on personal preferences.

My exhortation to you is don’t be a Pharisee and allow your personal preferences cause you to miss out on the effectiveness of a person’s ministry.