Saturday, August 30, 2008

A New Series

I have a big problem with my preaching. Whenever I am not in a series, I sometimes feel like I playing a game of darts in the dark, aiming at whatever I see and hoping I hit something that will give me a good score. When it comes to preaching, and I am not in a series, I feel handicapped and inadequate to be a blessing to the people that God places me in charge of. So what I usually do is when I get about 1/2 way through a series, I pray and ask God for guidance and leadership towards the next series of sermons that will help our congregation become the church that God is looking for in these evil days.

So as I began consulting the Lord on the next series, the Lord led me to see that we are now in a relocation project that is totally and completely a faith walk by the Pastor, leadership and members of the First Mount Zion Church Family, and in order to relocate in a manner such as the one we are embarking upon, the finances of our church needs to become a whole lot stronger than it is. While it is true that we sold our building for a real good sum of money, it would make no sense to use all of our resources on the move and have nothing left to build on. We need to increase our giving and fast!

So the Lord led me to begin a series on tithing and stewardship, and in doing so, he led me to an awesome book by the man who wrote the 5-Star Church, Stan Toler and Elmer Townes, which I am using as the title of our series, Developing A Giving Church. This book entails certain principles and practices that will encourage your church to become a church that gives.

Tomorrow we will be dealing with the parable of Jesus to his disciples in Matthew 20:1-16 as we deal with the matter of our actions and attitudes towards our lives as stewards. Please pray for the series, our church and me as I seek the guidance of the Lord to be a rich blessing to our congregation.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

History Is Made!!!!

On tonight, at roughly about 6:47 PM, history was made in Denver, CO during the Democratic National Convention. For the very first time in the vast 232 year history of these United States of America, a major political party has elected an African-American as its representative during the general election for the office of President as its nominee. This great event sparked cheers, excitement and an arena full of tears. This monumental occurrence touched the lives of nearly every delegate, members of the media, and most of all, millions of people who watched with baited breath and great anticipation on television.

I immediately began to think about people like Fannie Lou Hamer, the leader of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, who went to the Democratic Convention in 1964, in Atlantic City, NJ, to protest the fact that there were no black delegates from Mississippi being allowed be seated at the convention. This resulted in the Democratic Party's declaration in 1968 that all states must treat their representation equally.

I began to think about people like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who was drafted into the Civil Rights Movement in Montgomery, AL by the Montgomery Improvement Association to come to the aid of Rosa Parks, who was arrested for failing to give up her seat on the bus to a white person. From there he championed the cause for all black people to have equality which included the ability to cast their vote in any election. This stand for our people by Dr. King, led to the famous signing of the Voters Rights Act in 1965 by President Lyndon B. Johnson.

I began to think about people like my own mother, a woman born in the heart of Jim Crow Americus, GA in 1933, to a sickly mother and sharecropper father, who worked on a peanut farm owned by the parents of President Jimmy Carter. She had to endure the witnessing of the murder of both of her parents at the age of 10 by intruders. Leaves Georgia in 1950 at the age of 17 to travel to Newark, NJ to make a better life for an infant daughter, but what she encountered was more inequality and hard times even in the "promised land" of the North. She raised 5 children to believe in the power of God to change things and to change people as well. But in 2006, Hattie Louise Mann, made her transition from earth to glory without ever seeing true equality in America.

I wish Fannie Lou, Dr. King and my Momma, were able to sit down with me at the television to witness the things they had lived for, fought for and died without seeing all of their dreams come true: a black man IS THE NOMINEE for the Democratic Party. I wish that young people in our communities would take the time to see the magnitude of the history of this event. But instead of appreciating history, they are engulfed in the trappings of this world and the evil one named Satan. I challenge each and every one of us to stand up and let the coming generations know that we owe it to our fore-fathers to take advantage of doors that have been opened in our lives and to reach levels never seen before.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Winning The Battle With Sin

Yesterday, the Lord allowed us to conclude our series on the exposition of the model prayer in Matthew 6, with the closing phrase of Jesus teaching us the road map to having a life filled with prayer, with the petition found in verse 13, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. Many may be asking the same question that our congregation asked, what happened to the phrase, for thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, forever amen. That phrase is not in the original translation of the scrolls, but was added to other versions later.

This phrase, begins with the conjunction and, which is a connector of this verse with the previous verse in the entire prayer. Verse 12 tells us that we should pray forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors, and then Jesus tells us to pray and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. The point is that after we have received forgiveness and restoration, we need the Lord to help keep us on the right path and away from a lifestyle of defeat at the hands of sin. The only way to win this battle with sin is to pray to the Lord, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. Here is the sermon outline:

Thesis: true believers of Jesus Christ weigh their past life of sin against a future life of grace and make the decide never to return again.

I. Our Disposition in This Battle

-we must come to the reality that no matter who or what we think we are, all of us are susceptible to a lifestyle of sin

II. Our Deficiency in This Battle

-this prayer acknowledges that we are unable to handle the trappings of sin in our lives and the strength of our enemy, and we set out to call on the Lord for his assistance

III. Our Discharge From This Battle

-we are discharged when we remove ourselves from this fight and totally give it to the Lord to handle all that we deal with

The Lord blessed the exposition of His Word as well as our entire worship service on yesterday. I led the singing in worship like I do every week, but the Lord really showed out this Sunday. For after the altar prayer, I led the congregation in singing the vamp of that great hymn that is normally sang during Communion Service, The Blood. The words are:

It reaches to the highest mountains; it flows to the lowest valley
the blood that gives me strength, from day to day
it will never lose its power

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Get It Together!

Over the past week to 10 days, our community has lost many famous and important people to death. From Bernie Mac and Isaac Hayes, to Rep. Stephanie Tubbs-Jones from Oh and most recently Gene Upshaw, president of the NFL Players Union. All of these tragedies have caused me to stop and think about the state of the church of Jesus Christ in its present condition, and declare that it is time for every church that claims to belong to Christ, to get our business straight and be the beacon of light that the church was intended to be, when it was established in Acts 2.

Here we are, living in a world that is going to hell in a hand basket, as my mother would say, with a pair of gasoline drawers on, and yet the church has become more irrelevant each passing day. With more people dying without ever experiencing the joy that the free gift of salvation brings to those who believe, the church sits by impotent due to it's apathetic attitude towards anybody and anything other than themselves. It is sickening!!!

Instead of attempting to make a real difference in their homes or in their communities or on their jobs or in their schools or with their friends, the church is more concerned with who's in charge, who's in control of the money, who makes the decisions, who is sitting where, who is wearing what, who is on this board and who is on that ministry. Why did the Pastor choose them and not me, and why are they in front and I am not. We spend all of our time and energy worrying about this kind of garbage, yet people who are hurting and hungry for something different in their lives are leaving our churches worse than when they came, neglected for their needs and leaving with a newly minted distaste for the church and more importantly, for the people who are members there.

We wonder why it is commonplace for people like Michael Baidsen, comedians and even politicians, to look at the church with disdain, to center their comedic routines around church mess, and to totally ignore the impact that we should have on this society. It is because we spend too much time majoring in minor things instead of putting our focus on what is really important. This makes it hard to evangelize, because the unsaved sees and hears all of these things from the world and decides that they can do better without the church. SHAME ON US!

I did not adhere to the call of Jesus Christ to the ministry to be playing church, and fighting with folk over nonsensical things, and battling with boards about control. We need to take back the church and remember what Jesus told Peter in the account of Matthew 16, upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. Which tells us a couple of things:

I. This ain't our church, but it's God's Church - and since it's God's church, we need to do what God says do with his church

II. God's Church cannot have Satan in charge - that's because God's church will not have Satan prevail in it anywhere

Let us all make a commitment to retake the church back for it's designed purpose, to win the world for Jesus Christ. God Be Praised!!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Project Update!!!

I received some exciting news over the last 7 days that I am elated about. We have identified a new location for our ministry and this past week we made what I feel was an aggressive offer for the building, and on Friday the owners accepted the offer. God Be Praised! This building, located in a suburb of Newark, is not a traditional building as it was previously used as a warehouse, however, the thing that I absolutely love about this building is that on the outside, we literally would not have to do any work. All of our renovation work must be done on the inside.

Today, I interviewed two attorneys, one to be our general counsel, and the other to be our land use attorney that has a history of appearing before the town's Board of Adjustments and getting churches change of use variances. I am extremely happy with the skill set of both attorneys and we will probably hire both of them.

I am eagerly awaiting the cost proposal from our architech, as it is that proposal and subsequent rendering of our vision for the location, that will determine how much money the entire project is going to cost us. Our next step with him is to sit down and literally map out each and every detail of how the building is going to look in my mind and he will ascertain whether or not we have the adequate space for what I want.

Please pray for our church and this project as we attempt to "Build God a City", where we can proclaim the Word for his glory, protect the weak from his judgment and prepare the world for his return. Please pray that we are able to pay for both the location and all of the renovations, in order that we can have a facility that permeates both worship and work within this new community. Most of all, please pray that we are able to get a change of use variance from that city within an adequate time frame. To God Be The Glory!!!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Handling the Hard Times

As Pastor Witherspoon so eloquently reminded me of tonight, I forgot to post the outline for my message today on II. Corinthians 12:7-9. Here is the outline:

Thesis: once you change your perception of hard times, you will be able to experience all of the benefits that hard times will bring

I. Hard Times Make You Humble

-verse 7

a. creator of the thorn
1. there was given to me a thorn in the flesh
2. God gave Paul the gift of this thorn

b. carrier of the thorn
1. a messenger of Satan to buffet me
2. God gives the gift and allows Satan to bring the gift

c. cause of the thorn
1. lest I become exalted above measure
2. thorn not meant to destroy us rather meant to develop us

II. Hard Times Keep You Hopeful

-verse 8
-the word buffet in the Greek means to strike with an the imperfect tense which suggests a continuous action
-how does Paul deal with his thorn that is always everyday striking and bringing him great pain
-he talks to the Lord three times, with the hope that one of these times, God will answer his prayer

III. Hard Times Keep You Whole

-verse 9
-there are times when we ask God for something and God tells us no
-because we don't need him to change our circumstances; we need him to change us in our circumstances
-he does this by telling us that in times of hardship, his grace is all that we need

Speaking @ Mt. Carmel Missionary Baptist Church

Today, I had the expressed pleasure of preaching at the Mt. Carmel Missionary Baptist Church, Waterloo, IA, where my good friend Rev. Frantz T. Whitfield serves as the Pastor. Rev. Whitfield is a new pastor, who succeeded Dr. Thomas as Pastor after he went home to be with the Lord towards the end of last year. Pastor Whitfield is a young and energetic preacher who is experiencing many of the same growing pains that most young preachers face at their first church. However his is a little more pressing that others I know because he is a "son" of the church and often times it is more difficult for a "son" to enjoy a period of success at a church when many of the members remember him as a little boy.

What I truly like about this church is that there is a good core group of people who really love and respect the office of Pastor and they seem to have latched on to Pastor Whitfield's leadership for the church to be very protective of him.

I was invited to Mt. Carmel for their Family and Friends Day Celebration, and I was really unsure of what I would preach on today. I thought I had landed on a text found in II. Corinthians 4, while I was waiting for my connecting flight in Minneapolis, MN, but last night when I came back to my room to go over the message, the Lord led me to another text that really hit the nail on the head for the congregation. A famous story in the scriptures found also in II. Corinthians 12:7-9, which deals with Paul's thorn in the flesh, in which I tagged the messge, Handling the Hard Times. I argued basically that Paul teaches us in this text that when we change our perception of hard times, we will be able to experience all of the benefits that hard times will bring. The people seemed really receptive to my attempt at biblical exposition, to God be the glory.

Please keep Mt. Carmel and Pastor Whitfield in your prayers as he attempts to lead them to greater heights in Jesus Christ. Also, please pray for First Mt. Zion, because before I left on Friday, a building that we were looking at as a new location, accepted our offer to purchase and I must get back early in the morning to finalize the contracts and allow our contractor and architech to see the inside so that we can determine the total cost of both the purchase and the renovation. I am both excited and cautious, so please keep me in your prayers. God be praised!!!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

A Tough Day!

Today was a pretty tough day for my family. My cousin, Rev. Conway C. Johnson Jr. who pastors the New Hope Baptist Church, S. Toms River, NJ and his lovely wife Nikki had probably the hardest job ever on today, as they had to bury their 5-week old son Xavier Christian Johnson, who passed away last week due to a bout with pneumonia.

Conway and Nikki became the proud parents of a set of twins 5 weeks ago, but they were about 3 months premature, and Xavier was not strong enough to fight off the infection. I walked in to the service and after I saw Nikki break down, my emotions began to get the best of me. That's because 5-week old boys are not supposed to die according to our own thoughts, but we know that our thoughts are not the thoughts of God and our ways are not his ways.

I will say that this funeral was one of the best funerals I have ever attended, because even though it was a funeral for a baby, we could definitely feel the presence of the Lord in that place. Dr. T.H. Rankin Jr who pastors the Cathedral of Faith Baptist Church of Newark, preached an outstanding message out of II Samuel 12:15-23 which he tagged From Weeping To Worshipping. I led the worship in song by singing I Won't Complain and Center of My Joy. We had church!

Please keep my cousin and his wife in your prayers as they have to mourn quickly and find strength in Jesus to take care of their beautiful little girl.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Is This REALLY America's Pastor

Yesterday I picked up a magazine named Conde Nast Portfolio, which is a business intelligence magazine that is geared toward those who work in Corporate America, on the cover of their August 2008 issue, there was a headline entitled, God Wants You To Be Rich (Especially Now). This article is about Joel Osteen, the man who pastors a Mega-Church of over 45,000 members in Houston, Texas called the Lakewood Church. The author states that Osteen preaches the virtues of prosperity for himself as well as for his congregation, and that this article is a look at the man who may well be one of the biggest beneficiaries of the slumping economy.

Osteen, who is often called "Reverend Feelgood", is one of the new breed of televangelists like T.D. Jakes, Joyce Meyer and Creflo Dollar, who are considered rising stars, and are preaching a less sanctimonious , more inclusive message. This message has produced full pews and even fuller offerings in an economy where wallets are empty and hope is wandering. Osteen has perfected this feel-good preaching where he "encourages" his members to focus on the positives that it is the will of God for all believers to have a good job, a beautiful home and a prosperous cash flow. He states that it is God's will for them to live in prosperity, it is God's will that you will never be in debt, it is God's will that you will live a healthy life and never be sick, and if you are living in poverty, then you are not walking in the will of God.

What this so-called preacher has shown is that he does not have one iota of an understanding of the hermeneutics of scripture, and what he has done is create 45,000 ignorant people as well as millions more of our members who tune in every day to watch him misquote the Word and cause us to undue what it took us years to teach that he destroyed in one sitting in front of the television. If it's God's will for everybody to be rich, then why did Solomon write in Proverb 29:7 when talking about the rich, those of them who are just have a care for the rights of the poor, and those who are wicked have no such concern. If it's God's will for all believers to be rich, then why did the Lord say that the rich who are righteous must care for those righteous that are poor. Jesus himself said in Luke 4:18, that the Spirit of the Lord is upon because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor, he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted to preach deliverance to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set a liberty them that are bruised. That sure looks like Jesus said he came for those that were poor and sick. Paul says in II. Timothy 4:3-4, for the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears. And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned into fables.

The author asked Rick Warren, the Pastor of Saddleback Church of Lake Forest, CA, who wrote the Purpose Driven Church, a church that possesses over 20,000 members, about this prosperity thought and his response was that the idea that God wants everybody to be prosperous a bunch of baloney. My wife Penny said, when I discuss this with her tonight, something so major that I had to share it and I almost took credit for it, she said that God allows people like Joel Osteen to stay around so that we will know that the Word of God is true. WOW!

It is up to us to preach and teach our members who watch this crap that everything that happens in our lives is either a part of God's Divine Will or his Permissive Will. Let's stay in the Word of God and raise up a generation of true, intelligent believers who will recognize the difference between the Truth and a Lie. God be praised!!!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Another Chance

I was back in the pulpit after a wonderful vacation, and we continued our series on the Model Prayer found in Matt. 6 with an exposition on verse 12 which says, forgive us our debts as we have also forgiven our debtors, which I tagged this text Another Chance.

I was really worried about the message because I was on vacation and I made up my mind that I was going to have a true vacation and focus my attention on enjoying my wife and our time together away from everything. So, I didn't even look at the text until Friday afternoon, but one of the great things about being in a series is that I always know what text I will be lifting each and every Sunday, instead of wrecking my brain all week long searching the bible for something to preach. But the Lord gave us clarity and allowed the message to go forth clearly and concisely to the congregation.

This text is designed to show us that God can and he will give us another chance to get our business straight with him and with others that we have offended with our sinfulness. When I take the time to go back over my own existence, I can shout on the fact that God has given me another chance to right the wrongs that I have done. Here is the sermon outline. I pray that it would be as clear to you as I felt was clear to FMZBC.

Thesis: true believers of Jesus Christ who seek redemption will always seek complete reconciliation for the wrongs they have committed in their lives

I. Recognize the Necessity of Forgiveness

-when children of God pray this prayer it causes us to see that no matter who or what you think you are, all of us need to be forgiven

II. Realize the Nature of Forgiveness

-God has given us a gift that liberates us from the bondage of our sins through his forgiveness of our sins

III. Respond to the Nourishment of Forgiveness

-there is something about forgiveness that nourishes our bodies and souls which allows us to respond to the gift of forgiveness by forgiving others who have done us wrong

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Saturday Stuff

-I am home from my vacation with my wife and I am totally energized to get back in the game. There are times when as a Pastor, we need to refresh ourselves by completely getting away from the daily duties and struggles and headaches, that being a Pastor entails, and find a hideaway so that our batteries can be recharged. I have discovered that if you don't take your car in for a tune up, your car will give out on you. The same goes for the body, mind and spirit of a Pastor, if we don't take the time to recharge ourselves and get a tune up, we will be of no good to our ministries.

-Lord's willing, I will continue our series on the model prayer that Jesus taught his disciples and us in Matthew 6, with our look at verse 12 which states, forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. One of the things that have seemingly gripped the body of Christ is our unwillingness to forgive others, yet we desire great forgiveness from the Lord for all of the bad stuff that we have done against the Word, Will and Ways of God. I believe that the church of Jesus Christ will be better and be more effective if we learn how to forgive others in the same manner that God has always forgiven us. If we can learn to adopt that concept of Godly forgiveness even with our finite minds and sinfulness of our hearts, then we can go a long way to advance the Kingdom of our God. I am excited to study this lesson, because there are some people in my life that I really need to forgive for how they have treated me, and I have been holding on to some of that stuff far too long and all it's doing is giving them more power over my emotions than they should have. So I have received this lesson from the Holy Writ in order that I can liberate myself from the bondage of unforgiveness. God Be Praised!!

-Let's please keep the family of Bernie Mac in our prayers as they have to deal with the untimely death of one of the great comedic actors of our day.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Happy Birthday Penny!!!

Today we celebrate my wonderful wife Penny's birthday. I am appreciative of the fact that the Lord sent this woman to me. I am very grateful for the fact that she is the First Lady of the First Mount Zion Baptist Church, the mother of two outstanding sons, Tory and Tony, the step-mother of two great sons, Marquis and Devante, she is the Christian Education Director and Deaconness of our church. But most of all, she makes me look good every time she walks out the house, and with many Pastors struggling to find a help-meet to truly be an asset to their lives and to their ministries, I am blessed to have her taking this journey called ministry and life, day by day and step by step along with me.

We just returned from a well-needed vacation in Ft. Lauderdale, Fl and I must say that it was the best vacation that we have ever been on since our honeymoon. We ate at some of the best places, we shopped in the Miami Fashion District, and we enjoyed all of the sights on South Beach in Miami, which was an event all by itself. I can't wait to go on our next vacation together. I truly believe that husbands and wives need to recreate by themselves in order to maintain a healthy marriage. God be praised for keeping us together in marriage and in ministry.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Happy Birthday Marquis!!!

Today is Marquis' 15th Birthday. WOW! I am amazed by the fact that I have a son that is two years away from going to college. Please keep my son in your prayers. He has a calling on his life, and that's the very point when Satan rears his ugly head and tries to capture one of God's anointed. Have a great day son.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Spending The Week With My Boys

This past week, I had the most wonderful time traveling down to Orlando, Florida to spend 4 fun days with my teenage sons Marquis and D.J. They usually come up here to New Jersey to spend the summer with their Dad and Step-mother, but this year they had stuff to complete at home, so I decided to travel down their to get them ready to start school in a couple of weeks. I was really not prepared for their energy and desire to go any and everywhere they could. They wore me out completely.

Please keep my sons in your prayers as they are at the point in their lives when they are susceptible to being led astray by their peers to going away from the will of the Lord. I am grateful that they know the Lord Jesus as their savior, so please pray that they stay on the right path. And pray for me as I have to deal with my sons not living with me.