Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Through The Roof

Mark 2:3-4  “Then they came to Him, bringing a paralytic who was carried by four men. And when they could not come near Him because of the crowd, they uncovered the roof where He was. So when they had broken through, they let down the bed on which the paralytic was lying.” 

In this Bible verse, four friends heard that Jesus was ministering in a house in Capernaum so they decided to take their paralyzed friend to see Jesus.  But they obviously arrived a little too late because the place was packed.  So when they could not get in through the door and when they could not get in though the window and seeing that all of the entryways were crowded they went to their last resort:  They went in through the roof.

If you find yourself facing closed doors or barriers to your breakthrough, and if you feel that you have been crowded out of opportunities for your success, allow me to encourage you to go “Through the Roof.”  Usually the phrase through the roof represents a significant increase or rise in a person, place or thing.  For example we may say, “Man when mom comes home and sees how messy this house is she is going to go through the roof.” Or “have you seen his grades this year, they are through the roof.”  Or  “nine years ago, gas prices were through the roof.”

Hence for the sake of this blog, Through the roof suggest an out of the box worship; a crazy praise; and an unyielding form of determination needed to obtain a breakthrough blessing from God.  Go through the roof in your worship and worship the Lord in a spirit of truth and holiness.  God through the roof in your praise and bless the name of the Lord regardless of the circumstance.  Go through the roof in your service to God and “be steadfast unmovable always abounding in the work of Lord for as much as you know your labor is not in vain in the Lord (I Corinthians 15:58). Go through the roof in your witness and go tell somebody about what great things the Lord has done in your life.  Go through the roof in your pursuit of Jesus (If you want to be blessed) and seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:33)

Sometimes we are too easy to give up in instances when the Lord has a blessing that can only be obtained by going through the roof.  So the next time you find yourself facing closed doors, blocked entry ways, and fortified barriers in  life - if you want to be successful; if you want to reach your goals, if you want to see the favor of God, there really is no other alternative, so do yourself a favor:  Go Through the Roof. 

Friday, December 9, 2016

Cana of Galilee- The Wedding

And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there: And both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage. (John 2:1-2)  
I was blessed to visit Cana of Galilee and witness five married couples -husbands and wives (with whom I was traveling with) renew their wedding vows at the historic location where Jesus performed an astonishing miracle.  Being at this marriage renewal help me realize that Jesus thought so highly about marriage that he used a wedding ceremony to launch his ministry and perform his first miracle where he turned water into wine. 
In fact Jesus was so intent to making sure that the married couple got off on the right foot that not only did he attend the marriage with his disciples,  but he gave the couple a marvelous upgrade on their wine (thanks to the encouragement of his mother Mary). 
Likewise, we ought to invite Jesus into our marriages.  Husbands and wives ought to invite Jesus in the manner in which they communicate, love, support, and forgive one another. Marriage is a beautiful thing.  The Bible says that What God has joined together, let no man put asunder (Mark 10:9). And that Marriage is honorable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge (Hebrews 13:4). And Husbands should love their wives even as Christ loved the church (Ephesians 5:25); submitting themselves one to another (Ephesians 5:21). 

Pastor James E. Jordan, Jr. presided over the wedding ceremony at the historic site as each couple recited their vowels and rededicated their love for one another.  The Elder Keith McGlown sang a beautiful rendition of “You are So Beautiful to Me” replacing the me with “Us” at the beginning of the ceremony.  And Sister Linda Clark Greenfield brought the house down when she sang “The Lord’s Prayer” to help close out this beautiful renewal of marriage vowels at at a small chapel placed on the original location where Jesus turned water into wine in Cana of Galilee.  

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Sea of Galilee

The absolute coolest place that I have ever preached at was on the Sea of Galilee during my recent pilgrimage to Israel with Pastor James E. Jordan Jr. and 39 other Believers in Jesus Christ.  On a beautiful but chili sunny day with still waters and clear skies, we set sail for what turned out to be an exceptional time of fellowship. 

In Isaiah 9:1, the prophecy is made that Jesus would come to the Sea of Galilee. And some 700 years later, Jesus earthly ministry was centered around this (13 miles long, 7 miles wide, 150 feet deep) lake that is also referred to as the Lake of Gennessaret (Luke 5:1) and the Sea of Tiberias (John 6:1).  So while important events occurred in Jerusalem, the Lord spent most of the three years of his ministry along the shore of the Sea of Galilee.  In fact, Jesus gave more than half of his parables and performed most of his miracles along the sea shore and at times on the Sea of Galilee.  Hence, the short message that I preached was based on four events that happened on and around this body of water as listed below in the following summary.

1.  Remain Calm in the midst of your storm (Mark 4:35-41)  In this passage, Jesus tells his disciples, let us go over to the other side and while on the boat, a great storm arose yet Jesus was sleep at the bottom of the boat.  The disciples woke up Jesus and said “Master, Carest not that we perish.”  Jesus wakes up and kindly rebukes the storm and says peace be still.  So we need to know that even as Born Again believers with Jesus on board our ship, we too will face storms.  But God is in control.  And he will rebuke the storms in our lives.

2.  Get out the Boat of Do Nothing and Trust God for your miracle (Matthew 14:22-33) When Jesus came to his disciples walking on water, they were afraid and assumed he was a ghost.  But Peter was the only disciple that had the audacity to get out the boat and walk on water to Jesus and experience a supernatural miracle.  The other disciples who stayed in the boat remained bound by their own insecurities and limitations.  So get out of the boat of underachievement and playing it safe, and trust God for your miracle.

3.  God Will Provide (Matthew 17:27) Jesus needed to pay his taxes so he sends Peter on an important task to go fishing for a four-drachma coin.  It matters not what the need is- God will provide.  You may not know how, where, when, or through whom he would use- But God will provide.  The first fish that Peter caught had enough money to pay the Temple tax for two people.  God can use any means to meet your need.  God will provide.

4.  Stay Focused on What God has assigned you to do  (John 21:4-22)  After the resurrection, Jesus once again appeared to his disciples on the shore of the Sea of Galilee and he asked Peter three times, "Do you love me? Feed my sheep."  Peter answered, you know I love you.  Yet after the 3rd time, Peter responded to Jesus and said "What about him?" (pointing to John).  So we must remain focused on what God has assigned and called us to do without worrying about the role of others.  God has a destiny and a purpose for your life, and in order to reach your destiny, we must stay focused on our assignment without worrying about anybody else.

While on the boat, we prayed, worshiped, sang hymns, praised God, danced in the spirit, snapped photographs, and fellowshiped with one another.   And just like the four Bible stories that I shared, it all happened on the Sea of Galilee.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Thy Will Be Done- The Garden of Gethsemane

I was blessed to travel to Israel recently with Pastor James E. Jordan Jr. of Refreshing Spring Church (COGIC)  along with 39 other Christians.  One of the highlights of my tour was a visit to the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives where I snapped a picture in front of a 3,000 year old tree that is said to be the place where Jesus told the disciples (Peter, James, and John)  to wait while he went to pray.  Wow.  What a great Experience.  While touring the grounds, I was compelled to think about all of the events that followed the prayer of Jesus in the Garden that night. 

Before His resurrection from the dead and ascension into heaven; Before conquering death, hell and the grave and taking captivity captive; Before being crucified on the cross and dying for the sins of the world, Before the nails in his hand, and the crown of thorns on his head, before being beaten, spit upon and scourged,  
Before being questioned by Pontius Pilate and falsely accused by the Sanhedrin counsel, before being betrayed by Judas with a kiss, before being arrested by a multitude of soldiers, before healing the ear of the High Priest’s servant who Peter cut off  with a sword – Jesus Prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane

“Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me;
nevertheless not My will but Yours be done.” (Luke 22:42) 

And because of this selfless act, we now have access to everlasting life.  So let us live like Jesus and seek the will of God in our lives above all else.  In the midst of challenge and despair, comfort and prosperity, in the good times and the bad, let this be our rallying cry: "Not my will by Yours be done." 

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Black Lives Matter

Black Lives Matter so Let Justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a might stream.” (Amos 5:24) For many of us in the African American Community, justice has seemed like an elusive concept in regards to unarmed Black Men being killed by the Police in recent months including the shooting deaths of Terrence Crutcher on September 16, 2016 in Tulsa, Oklahoma and Keith Scott on September 20, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina among others.  And while it’s true that more whites (581) are killed by the police than Blacks (306) in 2015, when one considers the proportion to the population percentage- 62% White to 13% Black respectively, these figures are very troubling. 

No Need to Be Afraid
Perhaps the saddest thing about the rising tide of police killings of unarmed Blacks is the creation of fear of the police in the hearts of many African Americans, both young and old.  During a recent lecture I had with several African American young men, nearly 100% expressed fear of casual interaction with the police.  In fact, some expressed extreme terror at the thought of even being pulled over for a traffic stop. It’s a shame when a certain sector of human beings in America feels like they are being hunted. This is a terrible way to live. It’s one thing to revere the police as authority figures; This is appropriate. But to be scared of their interaction is an ominous sign.  But there is really no need to be afraid. 

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love and a sound mind.” (2 Tim. 1:7).  So instead of being afraid we must first recognize the power we have to advocate, strategize, organize, listen, and trust God. The second reason we can’t be afraid is because of the love we have for ourselves and our fellow man including our enemies. Because "there is no fear in love. Because perfect love cast out fear. Because fear has torment. . ." (1 John 4:18)  And the last reason we should not be afraid is because God has given us a sound mind which includes wisdom and knowledge of how to handle ourselves in every situation. So relax, stay calm and don’t be afraid of the police. Because walking in fear is a life of bondage.  

Statistical Analysis
Black lives Matter, not only or exclusively but equally.  And the fact that African Americans are compelled to proclaim the statement is a sad commentary for American Justice. The statistics tell the true story.  A 2015 report by the Guardian Magazine “The Counted,” indicates that the rate of death for young black men killed by the police was five (5) times higher than that of young white men of the same age.  In fact, when paired with official U.S government mortality data, the findings suggest that about one in every 65 deaths of a young African American man in the U.S is a killing by the Police. (The Guardian, 12/31/15).  
And Of all of the unarmed people shot and killed by police in 2015, 40 percent of them were black men, even though black men make up just 6 percent of the nation’s population.   Moreover, Black people have been disproportionately killed by police, at a rate of twice that of White and Hispanic/Latino people (The Guardian 7/1/15).  

To be clear, we don’t want to see anybody of any race or ethnicity treated unjustly or killed by the Police. Not only that, some of the action taken by the police may have been undoubtedly justified in the context of legitimate crime fighting.  Yet and still, the alarming rate in which African Americans are killed, particularly in situations in which they are unarmed is extremely disturbing. Unfortunately, these police killings of unarmed Black Men are not exceptions, but symptomatic of a broader set of racial disparities that speak to the way justice is dispensed in many communities throughout the United States.  

Further studies suggest that African Americans defendants are 75% more likely than whites to be charged with offenses carrying mandatory minimums; 30% more likely than whites to be pulled over by police and three (3) times more likely to be searched after being pulled over (Fortune.Com, July 7, 2016: Obama’s Speech “We Can Do Better”)

The Police
Moreover, criticism of a few bad police departments is not an indictment of all police.  Without question, Police are to be respected and obeyed as law enforcement officers.  Nevertheless, the Police are not above reproach.  And the small percentage of police who fall in the category of crooked, trigger happy, and racist/abusive- make it bad for the majority of good policemen who should ultimately be viewed as heroes and not villains.  However, until changes are made in police policy, it appears that innocent people will continue to killed by corrupt police departments.

Black on Black Crime
What about Black on Black crime?  How can African Americans complain about the police when they are killing themselves? First of all, 84% of Whites are murdered by other Whites, yet we rarely here the term- White on White Crime.  Secondly, the propensity of crime in the neighborhood in which one resides, should not be a prerequisite for equal protection under the law and fair and just treatment by the police.  Thirdly, Black people are responsive to crime in their communities.  There are hundreds of rallies, stop the violence campaigns, anti-no snitch movements, community protest against street violence, vigils, and neighborhood forums that occur in urban communities throughout the U.S every year in response to crime in the Black community.  Unfortunately, these events rarely make the evening news.  

Historical Perspective
The Black Lives matter theme is not new to American history.  In 1851 Sojourner Truth, an African American Abolitionist sent a profound message when she declared in her celebrated speech, “Ain’t I a Woman.” She was essentially saying, although I’m a Black female, should not my life and opinion matter and be valued in the American feminine experience.   Dr. Martin Luther King’s last public speech before his assassination was in support of the Memphis Sanitation Strike in which protesters declared, “Am I Not a Man.”  Or shouldn’t my life matter in regards to a decent wage.  And who can forget James Brown famous song in 1968 that lifted the spirits of Black People all of the world as he declared: “Say it out Loud; I’m Black and I’m proud.”

So let us press forward for change in police policy and hold our legislators accountable.  And we can’t be satisfied until legislation is introduced and laws are passed to address a comprehensive retraining of all police officers with specific reference to a mandated use of Body/Dashboard Cameras, revision of deadly force policies, elimination of racial profiling, and the ability to curtail federal and state budget allocations based on documented evidence of police brutality. Indeed we can not rest until “justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

Thursday, February 18, 2016

By This Time Tomorrow

By this time tomorrow, God is able to turn your situation around.  Let’s examine 2 Kings 7:1 “Then Elisha said, Hear ye the word of the Lord; Thus saith the Lord, Tomorrow about this time shall a measure of fine flour be sold for a shekel, and two measures of barley for a shekel, in the gate of Samaria.”  The context of this passage surrounds the fact that Israel was under a siege by the Syrians.  And during the siege, no goods came in and none went out.  So as their food resources ran out, their economy hit an all time low.  And every single economic indicator showed a very dim picture. 

In fact, a donkey’s head which was ceremonially unclean for the Jews was selling for 80 shekels which is $1600 today.  Even worse, Dove poop (that’s right Dove poop) was being sold for five shekels which is $100 in today’s market.  And some had resorted to cannibalism as evidenced in 2 Kings 6:28-29.  And then Elisha delivers a wonderful prophecy that told them that By This time tomorrow, things would change for the better in their economy and food would be affordable.  What a difference a day makes. So don't count God out in your situation.

By this time tomorrow, God can give you the miracle for which you’ve been waiting.  By this time tomorrow, you could be planning your own wedding, opening your acceptance letter, or walking out of the hospital with a good bill of health.  By this time tomorrow, the case against you can be thrown out, the charges dropped and the whole situation reversed. By this time tomorrow, you can sign a contract for your new house, answer a call for a new job offer, or negotiate a multi-billion dollar business deal.

I’m keenly aware that you can’t rush God.  In fact the Bible tells us in Isaiah 40:31 “But they that wait on the Lord shall renew their strength and mount up on wings like eagles.”   And patience is a virtue.  However, I’ve come to realize that sometimes we get so tired and jaded in waiting, that many are very often unprepared for tomorrow’s blessing.  Now, if it does not happen tomorrow, continue to trust God and hold on until your change comes. 

But keep hoping and believing that your blessing is on the way.  Your deliverance is right around the corner.  Continue to expect your breakthrough.  Or in the Words of Shirley Caesar, just know that  “You’re next in Line for a Miracle: Today is your day.”  Make the Lord Jesus your choice because he owns tomorrow and He is able to turn your situation around in an instant, suddenly, and in one moment’s time or at a minimum: By This Time Tomorrow.