Tag Archives: leadership

Is the Church Leading the World to Jesus Christ?

20151109_122835“Dear friends,
I’ve dropped everything to write you about this life of salvation that we have in common. I have to write insisting—begging!—that you fight with everything you have in you for this faith entrusted to us as a gift to guard and cherish. What has happened is that some people have infiltrated our ranks (our Scriptures warned us this would happen), who beneath their pious skin are shameless scoundrels. Their design is to replace the sheer grace of our God with sheer license—which means doing away with Jesus Christ, our one and only Master.” (Jude 3-4, The Message Bible)

I look to the church to lead the world to Christ. What I see baffles me! I remember well how when I received a call to Christ and Christ’s gospel, I went to my beloved Willard W. Allen Lodge No. 108 and bid farewell to my brothers. They were happy for me that I had discovered my life’s calling and understood my decision to fully commit myself to the of preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Is the Church transforming culture or is culture transforming the church? Are the two so intertwined until they are no longer singularly recognizable? Grambling State University has the Bayou Classic, a game that alumni and well-wishers look forward to each year. I daresay they have supporters committed to going to this one game even if they miss all the others. They prepare for it in advance to include budgeting, putting in time off at work, scheduling reunions, etc. It is of the utmost importance to them.

Do you as a supporter, no as a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ have that one service, that one day you have committed to the Lord and refuse to substitute for anything else? For me, it is the Holy Communion Service. Despite what I have going on, it is my commitment to be at my church partaking of the Lord’s Supper with my members. I do whatever I can to keep this commitment above all others.

Jude warns us of confusing our commitment to Christ with that of our worldly pursuits and aspirations. I love the Lord and the Lord’s Church; never would I forsake her for obligations to any other group I’m affiliated with. Do you have such loyalty to your church?

The world stands in need of disciples of Jesus Christ leading the fight for their souls. They do not need associates, friends, comrades that flock to the same worldly pursuits as themselves. They who have not God, need those who do to become recognizable and distinct from any other group. The world needs our light to shine its brightest at this very moment in history. I urge you to consider whether your witness leads others to Christ or to something someone, some place, else.

In His Service,

Faith to Forgive

Text:  Luke 17:5-6

5The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!”  6He replied, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.

Introduction

The disciples when confronted with the necessity to forgive in a way that would transform their lives, said to Jesus, “Lord, Increase our faith.”  When God challenges us to do a new thing we often find ourselves believing that the faith we have is incapable of achieving the goals God has set for us.  Nonetheless, God continuously challenges us to reach higher, dig deeper, and go further than we think we can.  It would be unfair of God to ask, if God did not know that we could achieve what God calls us to do. [Let me interject right here that when God asks you to accomplish a goal, he has already calculated his involvement in its completion.]  Lord, have mercy!

Mustard seeds are the small round seeds of various mustard plants. The seeds are typically about 1 or 2 mm in diameter, larger than many plants such as poppy, columbine, potulaca and dandelion while relatively small compared to many others such as pumpkin, watermelon, apples, pine-cone or coconuts. Mustard seeds may be colored from yellowish white to black.

Mulberry trees are famous fruit treats tracing back to ancient civilizations.     The most impressive aspect of the mulberry tree is that is can grow up to ten feet each year.   White mulberries can reach 80 feet, and can also be pyramidal or weeping in form. Red mulberry trees may reach up to 70 feet. The black mulberry is much shorter, reaching only 30 feet, and unless trained tends to grow as a multi-stemmed shrub. The three species differ greatly in longevity.  It is unusual for a red mulberry tree to survive more than 75 years, while a black mulberry may produce fruit for hundreds of years.  In other words, a mulberry tree has deep roots and is not easily moved by humans or destroyed by disaster.

When outwardly compared to a mustard seed, the mulberry tree is much more formidable and awe inspiring.  The mulberry tree relies on its vast network of roots for survival whereas the mustard seed relies on God’s grace to grow.  One is not germinated while the other is fully grown and producing fruit.

Jesus insists that “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.”  What an awesome depiction of faith.  If you start where you are, doing the will of God, before you know it, the faith you have will develop in such a way that you will be able to do things you thought impossible.  Jesus says develop your faith by using your faith.  You don’t get more faith by asking; you get more faith by doing.  Lord, have mercy!

 

Move 1

One day the great Michelangelo attracted a crowd of spectators as he worked. One child in particular was fascinated by the sight of chips flying and the sound of mallet on chisel. The master was shaping a large block of white marble. Unable to contain her curiosity, the little girl inquired, “What are you making?” He replied, “There is an angel in there and I must set it free.”
Every Christian begins his/her relationship with Christ with a measure of faith.  This passage introduces us to a clear path to setting this measure of faith free. The faith God put in you is enough for you to enjoy all that God has in store for your life.  Faith does not move your mountains, the God behind your faith moves the mountains.  Faith does not set you free; the God behind your faith sets you free!

 

Move 2

Jesus outlined three simple ways to release your faith. Three small steps to develop your faith.

First, forgiving those who repent.  Christians live knowing that people will offend us.  It is inevitable that somebody is going to offend you.  Saints, you do not prepare to retaliate, Jesus says you prepare to forgive.  Only through forgiveness can those who offend us receive God’s grace.  Jesus says in Luke 17:3-4, “3Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him.  4And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him.”

 

Dr. F.B. Meyer tells of a meeting of a church which was seeking a revival. During the meeting an elder got up and said to the minister, “I don’t think there is going to be a revival here as long as Brother Jones and I don’t speak to each other.” He went across to Jones and said, “Brother, you and I haven’t spoken to each other in five years. Let’s bury the hatchet. Here’s my hand.” Shortly afterwards another elder got up and said, “Minister, I think there will be no revival here while I say nice things about you to your face and am disloyal to you behind your back. I want you to forgive me.” Soon others were on their feet settling old scores. Then says Meyer, God began to visit them. The meeting was crowded and a revival broke out that swept over the whole district.  There was time for confession and an offer of forgiveness and healing. There could be no forgiveness without repentance and confession; no healing without recognizing the disease.

 

Second, believing God can change those who repent.  Faith is acting on what we believe about God.  Jesus does not ask us to look to our faith to forgive others.  Jesus reminds us that how big or small our faith is does not determine the outcome.  God is able to take those whose offense was huge and transform that person into a servant of his.  God has a way of turning people around when you do what he commands you to do.  In other words, God develops your faith as you exercise your faith.

 

In Luke 17:5-6 the disciples look at their limitations rather than God’s abilities.  It reads, “5And the apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith.  6And the Lord said, If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamine tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you.”

 

We have to believe in God’s ability to respond to the faith he has given us and act on that faith.  Years ago, two young men with a long history of delinquency and crime robbed a YMCA on the lower east side of Manhattan. On their way out of the building, they saw a young man at a telephone switchboard. They were frightened and assumed that he was calling the police. They seized him and beat him savagely with brass knuckles and a black jack. Thinking him to be dead, they hid him behind a radiator near the swimming pool and escaped.

 

Later that evening Gertrude Ederle, the first woman to swim the English Channel, was walking by the pool. She slipped in the young man’s blood, screamed and then found Donald Tippet’s body. He was rushed to the hospital where he lingered for days between life and death. Eventually he lived but one eye was so badly damaged it could not be saved.

 

Meanwhile the two young men were apprehended and brought to trial. Their past records assured that they would both get long sentences. However Donald Tippet did an amazing thing. He requested that the judge allow the two young men to be paroled to his charge. He wanted to give the boys a chance to change.

 

One of the boys blew his opportunity. He committed another crime, was caught and sent to jail. The other boy, however, was responsive to Tippet’s kindness. He went to college and eventually to medical school. He became one of our nation’s leading surgeons – an eye surgeon.

When Everett Palmer wrote of Donald Tippet’s amazing story of forgiveness and this surgeon’s accomplishments, he added, “I wonder if he ever performed one of those delicate eye operations without thinking of that night in the YMCA.”

 

Third and finally, Seeing forgiveness as our Christian duty.  Listen to verses 7-10 again.  “7But which of you, having a servant plowing or feeding cattle, will say unto him by and by, when he is come from the field, Go and sit down to meat?  8And will not rather say unto him, Make ready wherewith I may sup, and gird thyself, and serve me, till I have eaten and drunken; and afterward thou shalt eat and drink?  9Doth he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I trow not.  10So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.”

 

This parable gives us two types of responses to offense. The first one appears when the disciples come to Jesus and ask him to increase their faith. They give evidence of a church that believes it is their faith that makes the difference in someone’s life. They value church membership and fellowship more than evangelism and outreach.  This church is a little bit like the tavern called “Cheers” where everybody’s knows your name, and everybody’s glad you came, and everyone’s problems are all the same.

 

And this church likes it that way! There is a sense of community, a sense of belonging and caring, and we value it deeply. The prayer in this church is “God, give us greater faith, and greater blessings, and greater fellowship with our friends.”  But God don’t ask us to forgive others as you have forgiven us!  Don’t move us out of our comfort zone.  If you want us to do this, God you have to provide us something that we don’t have because we’re not prepared to do this.  Lord, have mercy!

 

The second response is dutiful forgiveness.  What Jesus tells the disciples is that forgiveness is hard work.  He uses the imagery of a slave serving his master. The servant has no right to demand anything of the master nor to expect to do anything but serve the master.

 

It’s not a comfortable image for Christian people, and perhaps that’s why this is not one of our most loved parables. We don’t like to think of ourselves as “worthless slaves;” we prefer to see ourselves as “special lambs.” But we cannot ignore the obvious expectation of Jesus in this parable; Jesus calls Christians to pack a lunch pail, put on a hardhat, and spend themselves by serving others.

 

Not just exhaust themselves in service, but do so without any recognition.  It is amazing that in the church today, people have to be recognized in order to serve the Lord.  Either pay me, applaud me, give me an award, or make me important.  Servant leadership has taken a back seat to selfless service.

 

Jesus admonishes us not to look for better treatment from those we forgive, nor to look for God to shout our names from his throne.  Jesus admonishes us to consider the act of forgiveness routine and to do so habitually simply because of what God has done for us.  How many do you know that want forgive someone unless that person caters to their every whim or demand?  How many people do you know that put requirements on their forgiveness?

 

Conclusion

I’m glad that God says if you forgive, I can use you to move mountains in people’s lives.  People want somebody to forgive them and to understand them.  People want someone who will offer them the unconditional love of God.  People have made so many mistakes, done so many wrong things in their lives, that when they come to church, they need somebody who will forgive them and offer them God’s grace and mercy to start again.

 

God wants somebody who will forgive the person who offends them.  God wants somebody who will allow him to change that person, and God wants somebody who will do so without any thought to compensation or reward.  Forgiveness given in this fashion can be the one avenue that God can use to transform a sinner’s life.  Forgiveness offered as a pardon for sins and offenses paves the way for “the goodness of God to cause a sinner to repent.

 

If you are here this morning and you stand in need of forgiveness, be bid you come.  If you have offense against someone and would like to repent before God, we bid you come.  If you want God to forgive you and to allow you his grace to begin again, we bid you come.  Jesus died for your sins and he stands ready to forgive you!  Will you come today?

A Question of Priorities

38 Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word. 40 But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me. 41 And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: 42 But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her. (Luke 10:38-42)

 

Introduction

The scripture says “And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard his Word.”  In other words, Mary and Martha had been listening to Jesus; however, Martha got distracted by the cares of this life.  Martha and Mary had both been listening to Jesus.

Martha heard the word of Jesus, fell in love with Jesus, and wanted to do something for Jesus in order to demonstrate her love. She was inspired by Jesus to impact issues of injustice, poverty, mass incarceration, racial disparity, and hunger. She wanted to serve Jesus in the world and set about being busy with many issues.  She was engaged in ministry on behalf of Jesus, and left her ministry to Jesus.  She left worship for work!  Lord, have mercy!

 

Move 1

Like Martha, the church is busy about many things in this world.  We have fallen in love with Jesus, we have been inspired by Jesus, and we seek to impact the world by doing ministry on behalf of Jesus.  We as a church are engaged in ministry on behalf of Jesus, and have left her ministry to Jesus.  Sororities, fraternities, clubs, civic groups, families and other organized organizations have been inspired by the gospel to work on behalf of the kingdom of God.  Many of these activities are both necessary and relevant if the church is to bear witness of Christ in the world.  Let me cite a few of our concerns.

First, Voter Registration and Voter Education.  Church and Civic leaders are promoting voter education in every city, town, and parish.  Unmarried women, people of color, and young voters are playing a crucial role in America.  Increasing voter participation will be a challenge. The Rising American Electorate—and particularly millennials—are showing less enthusiasm about the election than many other voter groups. That’s one of the findings of a new poll conducted in nine battleground states by our sister organization, the Women’s Voices Women Vote Action Fund.[1]  Will we be open to diversity or shut down our borders? Over the next four years, will it become harder or easier to vote, get health care or a college education, and earn paid sick days and wages that support families? Will we be a nation where the will of the majority prevails or a country that works only for the wealthy and the powerfully-connected?[2]  Yet the work continues because the deficits are huge:  over four-out-of-ten Rising American Electorate members are still not registered to vote. And churches are playing a major role in this effort.

Second, Black Lives Matter.  These are our children, founders from among members of the LGBT-Q community notwithstanding; they are being arrested, investigated, and threatened by the powers that be.  For them the Black Lives matter movement is everything.  Black Lives Matter originated in response to police brutality and injustice in America that had seemingly no response from the Black Bourgeoisie and Church Leaders to such racial disparity.  They are protesting, agitating, and insisting that real, tangible change comes in America.  Its cry is no justice, no peace; and not just justice for straight people but all people.  Just recently, I received this correspondence:

 

Dear Earl,

I just started a petition titled “Take the Pledge: Join the Movement for Black Lives”  Here’s what it says:  Guided by love, we continue to stand together for justice, human dignity and our shared goal of ending all forms of state violence against Black people. We organize, occupy, demonstrate, march and chant for a new future: A future we can be proud of. We stand on the shoulders of our ancestors, who fought for their freedom and ours. Like them, we want a world where our lives matter.

We want an end to the war being waged on Black people, in all its forms. Some people fear change, and that’s ok. Many will attempt to halt our progress. That is not ok. Some will continue their attempts to undermine us, but we will remain undeterred.

For far too long, our unjust deaths have meant business as usual in this country. No more.

Our work remains undone until our lives are free of violence. That is the future we imagine.

Until that day comes:
We pledge togetherness— we will not allow ourselves to be divided.
We pledge to allow our thinking and actions to be guided by love.
We pledge to bring courage and power into our communities, and stop their flow out.
We pledge not to be controlled by fear, but instead by our dreams.

Join us, and pledge to do the same: Stand with the Movement for Black Lives.

– The Movement for Black Lives

 

This is important work; necessary work; and this new generation has taken up the gauntlet.  And the church would do well to help lead in this effort.  However, this is Sunday morning.  Are the concerns for black lives more urgent than our concern for worship of Jesus Christ?

Third, Eradication of Poverty and Hunger.  In 2013, the median household income for residents of Grambling was $19,657 compared to $31,912 for the entire Lincoln Parish and $44,164 for the State of Louisiana.  In plain English, over 2,000 of our residents are poor.  63.7% of Grambling residents have income below the national poverty level and of those the 18-24 year olds suffer most.  Grambling has got to do something to increase median wages and job opportunities in this city or they will be subsumed by Ruston in a few years.  Poverty creates choices from which irrational decisions are made; choices between food and medicine, education and shelter that those who do not live among the working poor never have to make.  Hunger is a major issue in this city and in this State.

“In cities across America, many low-income neighborhoods are also food deserts, areas that lack well-stocked and large grocery stores where people can find healthy food, and use food stamps, officially known as SNAP benefits, to purchase items.  On May 13, the Los Angeles City Council approved a plan that will require all of the city’s farmer’s markets to accept food stamps. The move means low-income families will have an easier time finding fresh vegetables and fruits that are often grown locally.”[3]

Yet the battle continues across the country.  “It’s already begun happening. In 2016, 500,000 to 1 million recipients will be officially cut from the “food stamp” rolls. Some reports say it could be more than 1 million recipients.  Before the end of the year, reports say, Tennessee will have eliminated 150,000; Florida will cut 300,000 recipients; North Carolina will chop 110,000 from the rolls. More than 40 states will see changes in the program.

It will happen because this year – with foolhardy confidence in the dubious proposition that the economy has substantially improved – the federal policies overseeing the program reverted back to guidelines established under President Bill Clinton’s 1996 welfare reform package.

These guidelines restrict adults without children to food assistance for three months. Adults without young children who want to receive nutritional assistance beyond three months must find full-time jobs, or perform 20 hours a week of volunteer work (also known as “workfare”).”[4]

These issues and others cause Christians to get up early, stay up late, and work countless hours to bring justice and equity in the land.  Christians are busy about many things; hallelujah!  And Christians are quite successful in making a difference in the world in these issues among many others.  Satan’s kingdom is coming down.  Satan’s work against the people of God is being destroyed.  Yes, the government has made concessions; hunger is being dealt with; marches and protest abound throughout the land.  We are winning these earthly battles.  Our voice is being heard; our work for Christ moves forward.  However, as important as that is, Jesus says, “Rejoice not in your success.”  Don’t swell with pride when you are victorious. Hallelujah!

I hear Jesus in Luke 10: 17-20 advising his disciples to not get excited about the gains they are experiencing dealing with issues in the world.  Let me read it for you again, “17 The seventy came back triumphant. “Master, even the demons danced to your tune!”  18-20 Jesus said, “I know. I saw Satan fall, a bolt of lightning out of the sky. See what I’ve given you? Safe passage as you walk on snakes and scorpions, and protection from every assault of the Enemy. No one can put a hand on you. All the same, the great triumph is not in your authority over evil, but in God’s authority over you and presence with you. Not what you do for God but what God does for you—that’s the agenda for rejoicing.”

So then, work is important, success is assured, but that is not our highest priority.  The Westminster Catechism points us in the right direction.  It asks, “What is the chief aim of man?”  And answers with these words, “Man’s chief aim is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.”  Mary points us in that direction.

 

Move 2

Mary did not get up with Martha; Mary continued to listen to Jesus.  Her relationship with Jesus was more important than the many things with which Martha had become engaged.  She wanted Jesus to get Mary to help her.  But Jesus without denouncing Martha’s work, gave preference to Mary’s desire.  Martha did ministry on behalf of Jesus; Mary did ministry to Jesus!

Mary knew that when you’re in the presence Jesus; it’s not time to work; it’s time to worship.  Worship is designed to get us to spend time with ministering to Jesus.  Put the rest of the world on hold because Worship can’t be divided.  You can’t worship and be mentally engaged in many other things.  God wants your undivided attention in worship.  Was it not Jesus who said in Matthew 11:28-30, “28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.  30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Mary chose to worship Jesus; Mary chose to sit at his feet.  Mary chose to give God praise for her Lord Jesus.  Yes, I wonder this morning did you come to worship or did you come to work.  Did you come to worship Him?  He is worthy of your praise.

Mary had worked with Martha on many issues during the week.  But when she came to worship, when the presence of Jesus was in the house, when a word from the Lord was going forth, she sat down and rested.  Mary, can you see her, sitting in worship just listening to the Word of God speak.  Can you see her being refreshed, renewed, and revived?  Beloved, I don’t know what you came to do, but I came to worship, I came to hear a word from the Lord.  I came to lay down heavy burdens and let the presence of Jesus fill me with God’s power and God’s Love.  I wonder this morning is there anybody here that came to worship the Lord!  You’ve been working all week long, handling the issues of life, but this morning, right now, do you just want to sit at the feet of Jesus and worship Him.  Do you just want the presence of God to be upon you and in you?  Hallelujah!

Martha and Mary show that if you’re going to be effective as a minister working on behalf of Jesus, then you have to make sure you spend time with the man Jesus Christ.  You have to do more than save our sons, register to vote, fight against injustice, you also have to worship.  And I stop by to tell somebody this morning that worship sets the atmosphere for victory in the world.  Worship gives you the power you need to defeat the enemy.  Worship ensures that your well does not run dry; work, eternal work issues forth from worship.

 

Move 3 (Celebration)

Worship was an integral part of the work we did during the Civil Rights Movement.  The night before each major march, the marchers would meet in a church for worship.  They would sing the songs of Zion that expressed their faith and trust in God.  Then some deacon would begin to pray a prayer of faith, and finally Dr. King, Dr. Abernathy, or Dr. Jackson would preach the unadulterated word of God.  Can you see them there, gathered together singing and giving praise to God.  Lord, have mercy!

It was from these settings that prophecy would flow.  Dr. King would be so enamored with Jesus until he could hear God say, “I might not get there with you; but we as a people will get to the promised land.”  The people would shout because spending time in worship was so inspirational.  Worship made the work worth doing; worship made the work successful.  And look where the Lord has brought us!  Hallelujah!

I’m reminded of another story and I’ll close with this one.

Peter and John were doing ministry on behalf of Jesus.  Their enemies, members of the Sanhedrin called them into question about their methods.  They had just seen Jesus heal a man lame from birth.  The entire town was celebrating the move of God.  This miracle caused people to give God glory and Peter and John gave the Sanhedrin Counsel the message that it was in the Name of Jesus that they had done this miracle.  The Sanhedrin became furious, threatened Peter and John with imprisonment, beatings and worse if they did not stop telling the world about Jesus and his resurrection.

When the Sanhedrin released them, they went back to the church and began to pray.  And the Bible says, “While they were praying, the place where they were meeting trembled and shook. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak God’s Word with fearless confidence. The whole congregation of believers was united as one—one heart, one mind! . . . The apostles gave powerful witness to the resurrection of the Master Jesus, and grace was on all of them.” (Acts 4:31-33)

Mary reminds us that worship is our highest work.  Because in worship, miracles happen, prophecy flows forth, and God is glorified among us.  When we worship chains are broken.  When we worship, power to fight is granted. When we worship, we receive a word from the Lord.   When we worship we release the power of heaven to make the difference in our work!   Is there anybody here, ready to worship?  Hallelujah!

When we come to church, we come to worship Jesus Christ.  We come to thank God for what God has done through the shed blood of Jesus Christ.  We come to glorify God and enjoy him together.  Praise the Lord somebody!

[1] Why we need fireworks at the voting booth this year.  (2016). Retrieved from http://www.voterparticipation.org/need-fireworks-voting-booth-year/

[2] Ibid.

[3] Equal Voice News.  (2016).  A Food Desert Win: L.A. Farmers Markets to Take Food Stamps.  Retrieved from http://www.equalvoiceforfamilies.org/a-food-desert-win-l-a-farmers-markets-to-take-food-stamps/

[4] Darryl Lorenzo Wellington (2016).  Why good jobs are needed in the food stamp debate.  Retrieved from http://www.equalvoiceforfamilies.org/why-good-jobs-are-needed-in-the-food-stamp-debate/

How Determined Are You to Fulfill the Will of God for Your Life?

Luke 9:51-62, MSG Bible

51-54 When it came close to the time for his Ascension, he gathered up his courage and steeled himself for the journey to Jerusalem. He sent messengers on ahead. They came to a Samaritan village to make arrangements for his hospitality. But when the Samaritans learned that his destination was Jerusalem, they refused hospitality. When the disciples James and John learned of it, they said, “Master, do you want us to call a bolt of lightning down out of the sky and incinerate them?”  55-56 Jesus turned on them: “Of course not!” And they traveled on to another village. 57 On the road someone asked if he could go along. “I’ll go with you, wherever,” he said. 58 Jesus was curt: “Are you ready to rough it? We’re not staying in the best inns, you know.” Jesus said to another, “Follow me.” 59 He said, “Certainly, but first excuse me for a couple of days, please. I have to make arrangements for my father’s funeral.” 60 Jesus refused. “First things first. Your business is life, not death. And life is urgent: Announce God’s kingdom!” 61 Then another said, “I’m ready to follow you, Master, but first excuse me while I get things straightened out at home.” 62 Jesus said, “No procrastination. No backward looks. You can’t put God’s kingdom off till tomorrow. Seize the day.”

 

Introduction

Monty Roberts’ father as a horse trainer was moving from stable to stable, from ranch to ranch, training horses. Thus, the Monty‘s school career was constantly interrupted. One day, when he was a senior, teacher asked him to write about what he wanted to be when he grew up. He did not hesitate a minute and wrote seven-page paper about his aim to be an owner of a horse ranch, he wrote many details and drew a location of buildings and stables and even a detailed house plan.

Two days later he received his paper back with letter „F“ on the front page. After class he came to teacher and asked: „Why did I receive an F?“. The teacher responded: „This dreams is so unrealistic for a boy like you, who has no money, no resources and who comes from itinerant family. There is no possibility that you will reach your great goals one day.“ Then the teacher offered to rewrite the paper with more realistic attitude.

The boy went home and asked his father, how he should act. The father answered: „This decision is very important for you. So you have to make up your own mind on this“.

After several days the boy brought the same paper to his teacher. No changes were made. He said: „Keep the F and I will keep my dream“.

Now Monty Roberts owns 4,000-square-foot house in the middle of 200-acre horse ranch and he still has that school paper, which now is framed over the fireplace.[1]

Sir Thomas Buxton, remarked, “The longer I live, the more I am certain that the great difference between the great and the insignificant, is energy—invincible determination—a purpose once fixed, and then death or victory.”[2]  Lewis temple the fulfillment of your purpose must outweigh critique!  I’m going to say that again, “The fulfillment of your purpose must outweigh critique.”  Selah

Move 1

Jesus demonstrates that one’s inner circle, one’s priorities, and one’s determination must be linked to one’s commitment to fulfilling the call of God in your life.  Jesus affirms that “when the demand of God presses upon us, it must take priority over all that belongs to good sense, good citizenship, and good family relationships and customs.  In other words, if we are to obey God, the kingdom of God, God’s method of doing things has to have first priority in our life.  No other loyalty can surpass that of our loyalty to God and his kingdom.  Lord, have mercy!

He has set his sights on his destiny; Jesus is headed to Jerusalem and Jesus will not be deterred by his inner circle, other people’s priorities, nor the customs and traditions of family.  He is determined to arrive at this destination on time and therefore, he realigns all his concentration, determination and focus toward Jerusalem.

The text teaches us that along the way to your destiny in Christ, rejection, misunderstanding, and other people’s priorities will try to sidetrack you, but you must stay focused.  First, in Luke 9:51-56 we find these words, “ When it came close to the time for his Ascension, he gathered up his courage and steeled himself for the journey to Jerusalem. He sent messengers on ahead. They came to a Samaritan village to make arrangements for his hospitality. But when the Samaritans learned that his destination was Jerusalem, they refused hospitality. When the disciples James and John learned of it, they said, “Master, do you want us to call a bolt of lightning down out of the sky and incinerate them?”  Jesus turned on them: “Of course not!” And they traveled on to another village.”

First, rejection by those who have their own selfish agenda appears.  The Samaritans refuse to host Jesus because Jesus is not going to stay in Samaria.  He’s just passing through on his way to Jerusalem.  They, the Samaritans do not wish to go to all that trouble to welcome Jesus into the city knowing he’s not going to be there any length of time.  They feel that Jesus is disrespecting them by refusing to spend time with them and meeting their needs.  Hospitality was a big deal in Jesus’ day and remains so up to the present time.

His inner circle is alarmed at their rejection and volunteer to use their faith, their authority to punish the Samaritans.  After all, when Elijah was taken up, Elisha saw fire come from heaven in the form of a chariot of fire pulled by fire-breathing horses.  Inimical to that incident since they know Jesus will be departing soon, since they know his death is imminent and they will be left behind they want to show the Samaritans that they too have power in the kingdom.  But Jesus harshly rebukes them for having that kind of spirit and denies them the right to use God’s power for selfish ends.  In other words, this is not the time for them to show off their power.  They have already argued in Luke 9:46 about who would be greatest among them.  They simply misunderstand His purpose and His ministry even at this late stage of his ministry.  Lord, have mercy!

Secondly, in Luke 9:57-61, we see other people’s misunderstanding of what it takes to follow Jesus get in the way of following the plan of God when God calls.  Here the text again, “On the road someone asked if he could go along. “I’ll go with you, wherever,” he said. 58 Jesus was curt: “Are you ready to rough it? We’re not staying in the best inns, you know.” Look at the seriousness of with which Jesus handles each request for delay in doing what God demands.  This person is full of grit and determination but Jesus confronts him about the harshness of the journey.  Jesus challenges him to make sure he’s ready because following Jesus is no easy task.  He was excited, but Jesus was realistic and cautious about his motives and his commitment.  How many of us have declared we’re going to fulfill some purpose, only to fall by the wayside because the journey got hard?  Let me ask you, what is the source of your motivation?  Is it internal or external?  Do you need outside motivation or are you self-motivated, driven by passion for the thing God has called you to do?  That is the question you must answer because beloved, the road to success is paved with pitfalls, traps, rejections, and downright hatred.  Are you willing to endure until you do that for which God has called you?

Third and finally, family traditions and customs try to take the place of God’s destiny in your life.  In the text Jesus sees one with potential and interviews him for the job of following him to Jerusalem.  Jesus says to Him , “You come follow men.”  And before the words can drop from his lips, excuses start rolling out.  This young man places his family traditions above the call of God.  In Luke 9:59, the young man says, Certainly, but first excuse me for a couple of days, please. I have to make arrangements for my father’s funeral.”  For Jesus this is unacceptable.  Nothing can take the place of God’s call, not even family traditions and customs. Jesus adamantly replied to this young man, “First things first. Your business is life, not death. And life is urgent: Announce God’s kingdom!”  In other words, make God’s call your priority, not the issues of this life.  Hallelujah!

Right after that another young man comes up ready but not ready to follow Jesus. In Luke 9:61-62, the conversation goes like this, “I’m ready to follow you, Master, but first excuse me while I get things straightened out at home.” 62 Jesus said, “No procrastination. No backward looks. You can’t put God’s kingdom off till tomorrow. Seize the day.”  Can you sense the frustration of Jesus with these young men making excuses for not answering the call of God.  Even now Jesus is reminding them that procrastination is the killer of destiny.  Procrastination will put you behind; stay focused Jesus admonishes them.  Don’t let anything prevent you from fulfilling the will of God for your life. Beloved, whatever you do, don’t put off for tomorrow what you can do today!  Do what God has called you to do and begin Now.  Jesus is calling for some Now Disciples.

If you’re going to fulfill the plan of God for your life, you too must walk the rode of misunderstanding and rejection.  Listen, “In Jewish tradition this obligation, the obligation to bury one’s father was so sacred as to override any other obligations of the Old Testament Law.”[3]  But not to Jesus.  Here again, man’s adherence to customs and traditions posed a problem for those desiring to follow Jesus.  What about in your life?  Is it family reunion or holy communion?  Is it being faithful at your post or participating in some family ritual and abandoning your post?  What will it take for you to put God on hold so you can fulfill some family tradition or desire?  Lord, have mercy!

Move 2 (Conclusion)

Jesus had one mission; stated in Luke 19:10, “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”  Once found, the cost of redemption, the cost of their salvation would be death on cross.  Jesus would have to shed his blood in Jerusalem.  Jesus would have to give his life a ransom for our sins and Jesus would not be delayed, deterred, or detracted.  Neither rejection nor misunderstanding.  Neither excuses nor human traditions would keep him from his destiny.  Jesus set his face like flint and headed toward Jerusalem and it is on this journey to Jerusalem that attempts were made to hold him up from fulfilling his purpose.

Satan’s strategy is often delay not denial.  If Satan can get you to procrastinate perhaps you won’t fulfill your calling.  Jesus was having none of that; he would not allow rejection, misunderstanding or other people’s priorities to prevent him from fulfilling the will of God for his life.  And what about you?  On this Sunday Morning, I want you to vow that you will fulfill the will of God for your life and you will begin Now to do so.  No more excuses; it’s time to make real the promises of God for your life.  Beloved, nothing should be more important to you than reaching your destiny in God.  Can I get a witness, here?

Jesus stands as a light in darkness.  He stands as the ultimate example of one who once he made a decision would let nothing keep him from following his mind.  Hebrews 10:23, 35-36 encourages us by saying, “Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) and 35 Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward. 36 For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.”

Jesus urges us to stay focused; Jesus urges us to run our race.  Sing with the saints of old, “I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back.”

Therefore, run saints of God.  Grab hold of the thing that has gotten hold of you and run.  Don’t procrastinate, run.  Don’t get overwhelmed by life’s demands, run.  Don’t let family traditions stop you, run.  Don’t let the hardness of the journey stop you run.  Run, when folks love you, run.  Run, when they reject you, run.  Run, when they want you to wait, run.  Run toward the calling of God for you your life.  And when you do, God will smile on you. God will be with you.  God will sustain you.

[1] I will tell you a story of my friend Monty Roberts. (2016) Retrieved from http://www.inspirationalstories.eu/stories/success-stories/inspirational-stories-about-determination/

[2] Deermination Quote. (2016).  Retrieved from http://www.values.com/determination

[3] Nolland, J. (1993). Word biblical commentary:  Luke 9:21-18:34. Hubbard, D., Barker, G. Editors.  P.544. Dallas, TX: Word Books.

How to Harness the Power of the Routine

I am a free spirit; I am spontaneous; I hate structure that locks me down to doing the same old thing in the same old way.  Therefore, I don’t always finish what I start.  Sometimes in fact, I have too many things going on at once because I am a sucker for variety and excitement.  I like the thrill of the chase but not necessarily catching what I’m chasing.  I have dreams, ideas aplenty, but when the rubber meets the road, I end up without anything to show for my efforts.  I would rather be free than tied down to a particular pattern for any length of time.  Therefore, I have discovered that freedom without discipline is a curse.  I don’t do well with mundane, routine, ritualistic activities.  That is one of the weaknesses on my personal SWOT analysis.  There you have it, I admit it.

But now since I’ve been on my personal leadership development quest, I have learned the power of harnessing the routine to ensure success in any venture.  Let me just say that routines are powerful tools to ensure you remain consistent and get continuous victory in whatever path of life you choose.  Creflo Dollar teachings it this way, “Consistency is the key to your breakthrough.”  The Bible says Be Patient which means remaining consistently the same (routine) when you’re facing hardships, troubles, or trials.  Keep doing what you know is effective even when it gets monotonous, routine, ritualistic, and difficult to focus.  Your free spirit wants to flee, but you must harness your spirit, mind, and body and stay the course.  There is victory in staying the course even when your emotions are on hiatus.

The Apostle Paul warns against those who inspire others, yet after others have been inspired you refuse to do what you taught.  You refuse to practice what you preached.  He writes in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, “24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”

There are a lot of people who can give advice but live unstructured, undisciplined lives.  They’re not bad people, they just have not learned how to harness doing things they don’t feel like doing.  They haven’t mastered the art of staying in a system, staying on a course when things aren’t glamorous.  In other words, adversity does not cause them to become more steadfast in practicing effective principles of success, adversity causes them to flee, to switch careers, switch spouses, switch banks, switch whatever they’re doing in favor of trying something new.

Trace the lives of those with free spirits and you will find people who have a track record of not finishing what they have started.  At first it seems the things they have walked away from are limited to one area, but when you look at the totality of their lives, traces of a lack of tenacity are evident wherever they have gone.  These type of people are good motivators but bad leaders.  They are good speakers but poor administrators.  They are excellent observers but incompetent doers.  They hate detail, routine, and refuse to discipline themselves to do the hard and unflattering,  things in life.  Freedom is their curse not their blessing.  Until they harness the power of doing something systematically the same day in and day out, they will always be operating under this curse which guarantees that their success will be limited, spotted, and minimal.

And so today I want to teach those free spirits like me to harness the power of the routine so that we can reach our destiny and maintain our tenacity through boring, mundane, routine, ritualistic actions necessary for us to reach our goals.  In other words, I am teaching about how those who are daydreamers and free spirits can take full advantage of the blessings contained in self-discipline, ritual and routine.  Are you ready, let’s do this.

Routine provides structure, builds good habits, negates the need for willpower and motivation.    Willpower is finite and motivation is not constant.  That is why relying on routine to accomplish tasks is a lot easier than relying on willpower and motivation. Routine saves you work on the back end, and helps you become good at things thereby increasing your efficiency.  Systems can be improved upon and made more effective.  However, spontaneity is not subject to such scrutiny.  The power in routine is its ability, flexibility, and adaptability to environments, circumstances, and conditions.  You need to learn how to create systems, routines that serve your needs and those of the ones who depend on your service.  Harnessing systems and directing them to a definite end is a powerful tool to fulfilling your destiny.

According to Ash Roy, noted blogger, in his article for Productivity, “How 12 Highly Productive People Used The Power Of Routine To Achieve Greatness”, The secret to being a high achiever is a lot simpler than you’d imagine. It’s all about routine and focus.  He writes that Steve Jobs upon discovering his cancer asked himself one question each day, “Everyday he’d ask himself “If today was the last day of my life would I want to do what I’m about to do today?” When the answer was “no” for too many days in a row he knew he had to change something.”  This simple routine produced much added value for the customers and shareholders of the Apple Brand.  Warren Buffet reads 500 pages a day; that’s his routine and it has led him to be one of the most wealthiest men and most wise investors in the world.  What is your routine.  Consistency. Routine. Habit.  That’s the key to success for so many.

I want to share five steps to mastering or harnessing the power of the routine.

First step is Brain dump time.  It is the step where you determine what you need to get done this day.  Begin by answering these questions:

  • What tasks do you need to complete each day in order to get to work?
  • Which tasks do you need to do each day to get your kids to school?
  • Which tasks do you need to do each day to eat?
  • Which errands do you need to get done daily?
  • Which tasks need to get done each done in order for you to get some exercise?
  • Which tasks do I need to get done to maintain an organized home?

Second, create a timetable by assessing your energy levels. Think about when you do your best work.  Flexibility is the key; don’t mimic anyone else; be true to your own timetable.

Third, add some flexibility for exceptions.  Your work process or schedule may not fit neatly into this, and that’s OK; the point is to harness your most productive times to use for your most challenging tasks, and your least productive times to do the more mundane tasks.

Fourth, put it all together.  Write your daily agenda.  Start with anything that has to be done at a certain time each day (like picking your kids up a school or eating lunch).  Then slot in tasks based on when you think it makes the most sense to tackle them.

Fifth, test drive your agenda.  See how it works for you and adjust where it’s not working.  Your daily agenda is your key to consistency; the key to your success.  Becoming a creature of habit is not altogether bad.  If you run a business or lead an organization, you need to have structure so people will know when to expect you to be and do certain things.  Becoming reliable is a good thing.

Developing the systems that make your routine tasks more efficient is the key to harnessing the power of the routine.  Systems create avenues and seqways to greatness; don’t delay establish routines that add value to your life and your professional career.

You can transform your life!

I am passionate about helping the disadvantaged, left out, rejected, and marginalized of society become leaders that make a difference in society. My unique life story, professional experience, training and certification as a speaker, trainer, coach with the John Maxwell Group, I have positioned myself to add value to anyone who has been told they were not able to be a success in life. Come along with me and watch the opportunities for your personal growth and development increase.

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More is Expected of You

Contrary to popular belief you are no longer a grasshopper.  You have entered the land of the giants.  Through your tenacity, focus, and dedication to finish what you started, you sit before us as graduates.  Graduates you are on the first rung of the ladder of theological education and you are no longer the same. 
You have placed yourself in a position of expectation.  Expect more of yourself; the church expects more of you; and the Christ expects more of you. 

Expect more of yourself.  This vast array of knowledge to which you’ve been exposed makes you uncomfortable, restless, and yearning for more.  In some of you, that demon of pride has already tried to claim your soul and render your education worth less.  Indeed, I urge you to resist thinking that your education is complete.  Well did the Apostle Paul declare in 1 Corinthians 8:1-2….”We all possess knowledge.” But knowledge puffs up while love builds up.  Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know.” 

Be proud of this achievement but simultaneously, expect more from your certificate than pride.  Doors have now been opened for you because of your graduation, and you should work to enter these doors expecting that you have changed and are ready for more leadership challenges.

The Church expects more of you. Howard Friend says, “Churches need leaders who can rise to a formidable challenge, laced with danger and rich with opportunity, leaders who are self-transcending and self-motivated, inspired and inspiring” (Friend, 1998, p.109). 

Rev. Clementa Pinckey was one such leader.  He was ordained at 18. He served as a pastor at Youngs Chapel AME Church in Irmo, Jericho and Porter’s Chapel AME Churches in Beaufort, Mount Horr AME Church in Yonges Island and Campbell Chapel AME Church in Bluffton.
He started working at Emanuel AME in 2010. 

Pinckney also became a politician at a young age.
He was elected to the House of Representatives in 1996 at age 23 after serving as a page in the State House. After serving two terms, he won a seat in the Senate in 2000 at age 27.
Pinckney said his youth was an advantage.  “I’m not set in my ways and not set in old ways,” he told The (Charleston) Post and Courier in 2001. “Just like slavery needed to die out, old ideas need to die out. Being young allows me to be open-minded.”

Pinckney was also one of the lead co-sponsors on a body-camera bill for police officers and was an advocate for economic development in Jasper County. Pinckney also helped lead a prayer vigil after the police-shooting death of Walter Scott.
Pinckney was a member of the Senate’s finance, education, banking, corrections and medical affairs committees. 

He told the Charleston paper that he received a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Columbia’s Allen University in order to be able to better run his churches. He also earned a master’s degree in public administration from the University of South Carolina.
He leaves a wife, Jennifer, and two young daughters, Eliana and Malana.

“I always felt God had called me to serve within the church because of what the church stands for,” Pinckney told The Post and Courier in 2010. “This has always been home.”

We need educated leaders, filled with the Holy Spirit, and Committed to Jesus Christ in order to change the world for the better. 

Now that you have been educated the church expects you to be a believer not a doubter.  Doubters shut up, hold up, and lay up.  Believers speak up, move up, and get up.  Believers engage the challenges with faith that the answer lies just beyond the horizon. 

Believers are what the church needs if we are to deal with gender issues, racial quagmires, and systemic injustice.  The church expects you to roll up your sleeves, do the research, form a team, and confront these issues where you live determined to make a difference. 

The church expects that because of your education, the church can speak more relevantly to the issues of our time with more sophistication than merely quoting a scripture and saying a prayer.  The church expects you to lead your community through these various challenges as a disciple of Christ.

Your education takes you from an airline mentality to that of an airport mentality.  No longer are you merely concerned about your stuff.  An airline tries to influence as many passengers as possible to travel to the destinations they have selected.  There are only a limited number of seats and a limited number of flights.  And if you ain’t down with that…….. try another airline because we aren’t trying to accommodate your needs, we’re recruiting those willing to meet our needs. 

Your education has lifted your thinking higher than me, myself, and I; my four and no more; my church, my board, my role.  Before you were educated, you could think single mindedly about things but no more.  Your altitude has changed. 

People expect Delta to be concerned with Delta’s success.  Delta determines the way for it to get ahead of its competitors.  Delta knows Delta.  Delta is not expected to be expert in anything except Delta’s objectives.  But your education has stolen your Delta mentality.

Your education has given you the opportunity to think like you exist in an airport.  An airport serves as a conduit; it creates an atmosphere for several airlines to operate.  It works because air traffic controllers reduce the risks involved in takeoffs and landings.  Are you a pilot or an air traffic controller?  Additionally, airports organize and supply personnel, logistics, materiel, and resources to accommodate the destinations and needs of the airlines that use the airport. 

You are now expected to think of the big picture; the total church not just your church, your vision, your welfare. 
You are now challenged to ask how do my actions affect the entire community, the universal church, indeed the entire kingdom of God.  You have been taught how to grasp the big picture and make decisions based on the big picture.  In other words, you know longer make book decisions based on the chapter you’re reading now. 

Graduates, you have just begun the process of transformation; and the church expects more from you.  You have placed yourself in position for more responsibility and the church will look to you to model, to lead, and to demonstrate what you have learned.

Finally, Jesus the Christ expects more of you.  Christ Jesus needs witnesses who have committed their minds as well as their hearts to Him.  Jesus blessed you to finish this course of training because he had a purpose for your life.  Jesus said, “ Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.” (John 14:12)

Jesus expects more of you.  Jesus said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. And you placed yourself in position of self-denial more by completing this certificate of theology program.  You have obeyed the admonition that says, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15) 

You did it! You are prepared to be more sensitive to the voice of Jesus because you have learned his language.  Your faithfulness to complete this study demonstrates to all present that you are now ready to engage in the work God has prepared for you and Jesus expects more of you.  Are you ready to assume your place in the airport?  Are you ready to be a servant leader in the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ? 

Yes, you are prepared but are you willing?  Yes, you know the truth, but are you willing to meet these new expectations?  Yes, you are a graduate, but for what?  Jesus expects more from you than resting in this achievement.  And you and the church expect more of you as well.
Graduates more is expected of you.  You are expected to go forth and change your world!  Can you do that?  Hallelujah!