Hunger and Desolation

10/14/15 Psalm 63:1-7
Key Verse: Psalm 63:5– “My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips.”
I remember when I was at USMC Officer Candidates’ School in the summer of 1987. It is still a vivid memory… being wracked with sleep deprivation, stretched to the limit physically where I could literally drink a gallon of water because I had sweated so much, and not even caring what I ate because I was too hungry to notice. I had never been put to so rigorous a physical test before or since, but I finally came to the point of spiritual weariness and desolation that felt just as bad.

Just as hunger, thirst, and exhaustion leave voids in your physical being, Spiritual hunger creates a void in your soul.. Like the food, water, and rest I was finally allowed, God filled me with his spirit and met all my needs. I was like David at the beginning of Psalm 63, thirsty and wracked with spiritual need, and I looked onto a barren landscape. God gave me what I needed, and all he asked in return was that I have faith in him and his eternal plan! Now that is what I call a bargain!

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There’s the right way, the wrong way, and the Dean way.

10/13/15 Philippians 3:13-16
Key Verse– Philippians 3:14– “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
My Pastor and I were talking earlier today about the importance of a study plan when reading The Bible. I had told him that, up until today, I had been randomly selecting passages that related to topics that I wanted to speak about. What I learned, though, is that I should not try to mold The Bible toward my experiences; rather, I should base my experiences and future actions upon what I read in those pages. And randomly picking scripture doesn’t work well, either. My pastor related a story of a man who closed his eyes, let The Bible fall open, pointed to a verse and read, “And Judas went and hung himself.” Not one to be discouraged, he tried again. This time he read, “Go forth and do the same!”
I know my limitations… I have a lot to learn about being a Christian as well as being a teacher and minister. But I will continue to press toward that goal, and will allow the Lord and his book to shape my words and thoughts rather than the other way around. As Philippians 3:13 says, we all need to forget what lies behind and strain forward to what lies ahead!

A Voice in the wilderness

10/12/15 John 1:19-29
Key Verse: John 1:26-27– ‘John answered them, “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” ‘
I love the Gospel of John. I am still a neophyte in the reading and understanding of the scripture, but John speaks to me clearly. What a book! The greatest love story of all time! But also, a warning to prospective pastors.
When John the Baptist came forth, preaching of the coming Christ, he was directly asked, are you the Christ? Are you Elijah? Are you the Prophet? If not, then, why do you baptize?
We are all aware of famous evangelists and preachers who have fallen from lofty heights. I hope they remembered that they still could have eternal life by asking forgiveness for their sins, but I don’t know what happened to most of them. I would suppose that one of their greatest sins, though, was believing their own press.
I would imagine that it would be difficult to remember, when standing before hundreds or thousands of people hanging on your every word, that you are merely the messenger. John the Baptist, when confronted with the opportunity to reap the praises for himself stood steadfast in his mission to be the messenger., the “voice of one crying out in the wilderness.” (John 1:23)
As I continue my studies at Fruitland, and as I begin to have the opportunities to preach to different gatherings, I must certainly remember that I am but the messenger. We all are, or at least we all need to be. As we spread the word, remember we are spreading the good news of Christ! It is only through him that we can have eternal life. Now that is good news indeed! We are not worthy to loosen his sandal strap, but thank God, we are worth everything to him.Wilderness-south-of-Machtesh-Ramon,-tb010403635-bibleplaces

Be not Afraid!

Key Verse– Acts 18:9– “Then spake the Lord to Paul in the night by a vision, Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace.” (KJV)
It is hard to not give in to fear. Whether it be a fear of injury or death, a fear for one’s loved ones, or a fear of being scorned when witnessing, there are times when fear freezes us all. I had the privilege and pleasure of hearing Rev. Will Graham, grandson of Billy Graham, give the sermon this morning at Trinity of Fairview. He told us of a time when he was afraid to witness to two strangers in a gas station, and compared it to the fears that Abram and David had during their walks with God. I, too, have a number of fears, and one of them, also, is witnessing to strangers.
I wonder what Paul felt sometimes… scorned, mocked, imprisoned, and finally executed for his faith in Christ. But I am comforted by the voice of God when he spoke to Paul at Corinth and told him to have no fear; that he (God) would always be with him. This is a verse that I need to keep close to my heart; by remembering it, I will overcome the fears of this world and do the work of my Lord all the much better!
So I say to you the same words Christ says to us… “Be not afraid!”

Dealing with Frustration

10/10/15 Proverbs 3:5-6, Philippians 4:13, Luke 14:27

Key Verse– Philippians 4:13– “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

I will be honest- I am having a tough time adjusting to being back in a classroom setting. Before I came here, I spoke to Artis Bush, a member of my church and a Fruitland Graduate. His advice? “Be prepared to drink from a fire hydrant.” He wasn’t wrong. It feels like I am two weeks into my classes and 4 weeks behind on assignments!
It is very easy to get frustrated at this juncture… In fact, it would be easy to quit. But I am comforted by readings from the Bible. When I feel overwhelmed, I think of Proverbs 3:5-6, which states, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. “ I need to realize that I am not in this alone. And that Philippians 4:13 guarantees me success if I keep Christ in the picture. Dean will never make it through this, but Dean and Christ will. It’s not an automatic ticket to graduation, though; I have to do my part. Luke 14:27 states, “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” I must bear my cross. I must do my part. And at all times I must trust in God; for his plan will see me through this.
I will always follow Christ, and I will try to minimize the times where I think I know the best way. For I don’t. My biggest regret is that I didn’t come to Christ earlier in my life, in true humility and need. A lot of things that I mucked up would be different. Fortunately, Christ wants me just as I am. And I am so, so very happy that Christ is just as he is.

Respecting Authority

10/8/15 Hebrews 13:17

Key Verse– “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.”

Some of you who know me well know that I have always had a problem with respecting authority. In fact, MOST of you know this about me. I seem to have always had a rebellious streak. I don’t exactly know where it came from, but I’m going to refer y’all to my Mama. That wonderful woman seemed to always march to a different drummer!

I have learned, mainly through painful experience, that refusing to submit to lawful authority is not the best of ideas. Of all the different authorities under which my life has been lived, refusing to submit to God’s authority has cost me the most. And that refusal still goes on. I gave my life to Christ last year, but I am only recently learning that I set conditions on that action. I still wanted to be in charge, I still wanted to make the decisions, and I wanted God to stay in the background until I truly thought I needed him. What I didn’t realize, though, is that I ALWAYS need him and his authority.
Since starting at Fruitland, this has become more and more evident to me. I never truly surrendered all my life to him. I am endeavoring, however, to make this happen. But it’s tough. It’s tough for all of us to give over the reins to another authority. But as Paul writes, God, my pastor and my professors are keeping watch over my soul. It’s time to surrender this. Lord knows I have enough to worry about, what with classes and memorizations and note-taking… I should be happy that someone else is willing to watch out for me!

Be persuaded!

10/7/15 Acts 26:24-28

Key Verse– Acts 26:28– “Then Agrippa said to Paul, “You almost persuade me to become a Christian.”

Last Friday, my classmates and I gave our testimonies during chapel at Fruitland Baptist Bible College. It made me think of other testimonies, and one in particular: Paul’s testimony before King Herod Agrippa. Paul had been a prisoner for quite some time; in fact, he stood in chains before Herod’s court as he gave his testimony. Isn’t that ironic… he was the only one in chains, yet he was also the only one that, through God’s grace, was actually free!

As he spoke, Festus, the Roman procurator, called him insane, and Paul replied that not only was he sane, King Agrippa knew that he spoke the truth. Afterward, Agrippa made a short statement that, to me, is one of the most heartbreaking verses in the entire Bible: “You almost persuade me to become a Christian.”

Think on that. Agrippa was almost persuaded. Thus, when the day of judgment arrives, Agrippa will “almost” be given eternal life.

In 1871, a gentleman by the name of Phillip C. Bliss wrote a song about this very moment. The power of the first and third lyric makes me shiver…

Almost persuaded now to believe,
Almost persuaded Christ to receive.
Seems now some soul to say,
“Go, spirit, go thy way!
Some more convenient day
On Thee I’ll call.”

Almost persuaded, harvest is past!
Almost persuaded, doom comes at last!
“Almost” cannot avail;
“Almost” is but to fail!
Sad, sad that bitter wail.
Almost, but lost!

Folks, there is no middle ground here… either you believe or you don’t. You can’t “barely” scoot into Heaven. Be persuaded!

The best friend ever

10/6/15 John 15:14-16

Key Verse: John 15:15- “No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. “

As a child, my best friend was a boy named Johnny. Johnny was the preacher’s son, but together we managed to get into plenty of trouble. During the summer between my fifth and sixth grade years, we moved from one end of the county to the other, and I was furious at Johnny because he couldn’t convince his daddy to move near us! I, on the other hand, knew that my daddy wouldn’t be swayed, so I didn’t even try!

This, as all parents know, is “Kid Logic.”

Over the course of my life I have had a number of “best friends.” Some friendships lasted a few years, and some have lasted thirty or more. One thing I learned through this time, though, was that even the best of my friends had shortcomings, as did I. Finally, though, I found a best friend who would never let me down, even though I let him down daily. This friend comforts me, he provides for me, he soothes me when I am troubled.
Most importantly, this friend took my shortcomings onto his back and died for me.

Back when Johnny and I were close, we used to sing a certain song in church. I liked the tune, but never paid close attention to the lyrics until recently…

“What a friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer!”

Thank you for everything, Jesus. You are my rock, my savior, and the very best of friends.

Let’s get busy!

10/5/15 Isaiah 61:1-3
Key Verse: “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor: he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound.”

When I was saved last Christmas day, I spent the next couple of months wondering what God’s plan for me was. When he led me to preach, he let me know that more things were involved… I was to be a teacher and a messenger as well. These were the things that Christ did when he quoted Isaiah so many years later. That torch has now passed to me, and to all Christians. I want the church to bring the good news of Christ to as many lost souls as possible! We are not meant to be “Pew Potatoes” as my pastor says; we are meant to be the workers that gather the harvest!

I challenge every one who reads this to perform an act of kindness today and to spread the news of Christ. I just checked, and I have 574 people “friended” on Facebook. That is 574 opportunities to witness to the Glory of God!

Let’s get busy!

All kinds, all colors, same path

10/4/15 2 Corinthians 5:17

Key verse: 2 Corinthians 5:17–”Wherefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature: the old things are passed away; behold, they are become new.”

When I lived in Candler, I became good friends with my next-door neighbor, a fine man named Calvin. Calvin was a short, muscular Black man who worked two jobs to support his wife and his three beautiful daughters. He came from good stock… I had the pleasure of meeting his mother, Miss Irma, who was as Godly a woman as I have ever known. Right before we moved, Miss Irma told me, “You come on out to Hopkins Chapel, my church, anytime you want.” Well, today I took her up on her invitation.

In our theology class, we are learning that all possible sources that lead to Christian Theology need to be studied in order to successfully understand Christian Doctrine. I have decided that, in addition to attending my home church, I am going to visit churches of different doctrines in order to help me form my personal Christian doctrine. I hope to visit everything from Episcopal cathedrals to one-room snake-handling churches in my search for God’s truth.

Truth be told, I was hesitant about visiting. Hopkins is an AME Zion church with a traditionally Black congregation. After the shootings in Charleston, I thought that I possibly might not be welcome.

Boy, was I wrong.

From the moment I walked in, I was greeted and welcomed by every member of the congregation. I wasn’t familiar with their methodology, but they kindly helped me. And the worship… Holy cow. I have rarely been in a church where the Holy Spirit makes his presence known so strongly. It was the first time in my life that I cried during service. I had timidly come, expecting rejection, but I left with the love of my brothers and sisters in Christ filling my heart and the Holy Spirit burning passionately in my soul!

Paul wrote this scripture to talk about the new life we live when we come to know Christ. I know that every person in that church knew and worshiped Christ. That’s the beauty of faith in Jesus: it doesn’t matter who you were before, who you disliked because of the color of their skin or their beliefs or how you lived your life. Christ makes us new creatures, devoted to him and full of love for ALL people of this earth.

As for me, I’ll take that over hate every time.