On 26 January 2014, I preached my first sermon entitled “Get Down to Get Up.” This message of humility before God, as a catalyst for elevation on earth, is the foundation of my being a preacher. It is my reminder to remain humble in the presence of the LORD and never get caught up in the accolades that often come with being a man of God.
As a preaching son of The Antioch M.B. Church of Pratt City, I’m blessed to serve under the tutelage of Dr. Q.E. Hammonds – one of the most learned, influential pastors in the country. My spiritual learning is enhanced further as I work alongside seven (7) brothers-in-ministry with varied levels of Biblical knowledge and life experiences. My church is compromised of wise elders, progressive adults and brilliant children. We are well-respected in the community and overflowing with love for each other. I am in a blessed place.
It’s been two years since my first sermon and I’ve been privileged to deliver eight (8) Sunday morning sermons in addition to several Words of Encouragement messages on Wednesday nights (after Bible Study). In two years, I’ve been blessed to share at our district conventions, lead our Order of Service and most recently reflect on the theme of our church’s centennial anniversary, “We’ve Come Thus Far by Faith.”
In two years, I’ve attended more funerals than ever before. The LORD and my family saw fit for me to eulogize my 43-year old cousin. Random pit stops at my church turned into teaching bible study with our senior members (i.e., Lunch With Jesus). God continually finds a way for me to serve Him, humbly.
My friendships are deeper. Apparently, my friends weren’t surprised at my call to ministry and I can see where their authenticity has grown in our conversations. Some have refrained from cursing around me *lol* while others quietly encourage me or ask for prayer. I find myself praying a lot with and for my friends. I’m thankful to be able to be a friend to them in that way.
My role as a father has an added dimension. All men are priests of their home; yet it’s different when you’re a single father who’s experienced separation, divorce, long distance and sorrow from not being in the home. Nevertheless, my children are my first ministry and preaching Jesus to them in a way where they can access God in their walk as children, is one of my greatest joys.
I realize that my two years as a preacher has shown me that I can still be a loner (and I’m working on that) when it comes to studying, praying and interacting with people outside of church. I understand that I’m a better writer than I am a speaker. I’m working hard to allow the eloquence and practicality of my words to leap off the page in a way that my oratory has the same impact. My third revelation is rooted in the power of prayer to revolutionize my situation. It’s amazing. God is amazing.
Thanking God for my two years a preacher and praying I continue to grow in grace for many years to come.
Our confidence comes from God and knowing that He’s got our back, front, sides, top and bottom. Our faith in Jesus Christ is the reason why we are not influenced by what we see, but we are moved by what we believe. We walk by faith; in other words, we LIVE, FUNCTION and CONDUCT OURSELVES by faith.
Therefore faith rules everything around me.
“So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Romans 10:17 KJV)
If faith is the fuel by which we live, we have unlimited supply through the Word of God! This is incredible because the Word of God has a single source. The Word of God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. The Word of God always has my best interest. The Word of God stands regardless of how I feel. The Word of God cannot be modified to fit my situation BUT the Word of God can give me the faith I need to change me in the face of my situation.
I can speak, declare, decree, claim, name, whatever I want into the universe and it means nothing if it is not according to God’s purpose for my life.
There is no guarantee that it will come to pass. But I know if I speak what thus sayeth the LORD, if I have faith in His Word and my will is lined up with His Will…it HAS to come to pass and whatever comes my way – prosperity or poverty, healing or sickness, friends or enemies I have the faith in God that it has no choice but to work for my good!
As we walk this walk by faith, we have an assurance – as saved, born-again Christians – that eternal life awaits us on the other side of this life. We can’t see the mansion. We can’t see the golden paved streets. We can’t see the new body. We can’t see the robe. These mortal eyes couldn’t handle it. But in faith we have the hope of glory to see and experience that eternal reward on the other side. By faith, we walk knowing that death is not the end of life, but merely a transition to a newer, better, everlasting life in the presence of the Father.
The world says that “seeing is believing” – but the world has got it twisted. Brothers and sisters, to walk by faith and not by sight is to live based on evidence that is not seen. Habakkuk says:
God desires to have a people who will trust Him no matter what they see and no matter what circumstance they find themselves in. What that means is this is not something you do on a case-by-case basis. Faith is not something you do out of convenience or physical evidence, it is something that you live according to the Word of God.
You’ve seen your gas gauge read “E” but by faith you kept going. You saw that short stack of money and that tall stack of bills, but by faith God made a way. You saw the doctor’s report say cancer, but by faith there’s no sign of it. You saw the job description and knew you weren’t the most qualified, but by faith – you go to that job everyday. You saw where you couldn’t have children, but by faith you’re picking up your child from daycare. You saw a storm take everything you had, but by faith your new house is bigger than the old one. You saw the bars of that cage close behind you, but by faith you are free today. On today it’s (still) not about what you can see but it’s all about who you believe and by faith we live because Jesus Christ died and rose again!
Continue to walk by faith and not by sight. Keep your life focused on the Word of God. We won’t be there, but praise God because our life was lead by faith in Him – we will see Christ for ourselves in heaven. We will be with the One who saved us. So let’s keep walking and don’t let anything turn us around. For we walk by faith and not by sight.
To have no love is to have no God; yet to know God is to know love. When the universe extends beyond our lifespan, it becomes an eternity that only our souls are able to reach. But while here on earth, we’ve taken distorted self-images and hedonistic wishes and mixed it with a broth of dim glimmers of spiritual shine. We warm those feelings by the exasperated exhales of fairy tales until it smells of our interpretation of love. That’s when we begin to breathe deeply; but the aroma is deceiving and by the time you know, you’ve already begun to choke.
Somewhere between euphoria and despair, you learn to breathe the haze as you await happier days filled with what you thought was love.
This dysfunctional depiction of love becomes your absolute definition of love, but your measuring stick is sick from poor nutrition that began before you could really understand how true love feels. Now you feel because you are an adult because you’ve endured heartache so severe that it brought you to your knees – and then you decided to pray. Your experience with love has tugged your soul towards the edge of your skin; bringing you as close to heaven as you could get without dying – yet you still haven’t lived.
Your past has become a barometer used for fortune telling rather than extrapolated lessons for newness and change. Paranoia passes for discernment. Pain is leveraged for intuition. Anger is given a makeover to resemble protection. We do this in the name of love but we’ve named the wrong thing because love does not require such modifications nor interpretations. This is why you feel love is not enough. Your love is a cornucopia of chaos derived from physical, emotional, sexual, spiritual, intellectual, cultural misconduct.
Where is God in your love equation? If you believe, then you know that God is love and his absence is love’s absence. That’s why your heart feels empty. Love sans God isn’t love at all. If you want to love someone, you want God for them. If you want to be in love, your desire must first be in God’s will. If you want to show him the greatest love of all, you must reflect the love God has for you. If you want to be her greatest lover, you must follow Christ before you can lead her to happiness.
God is the answer. God is infinite. God is the salve to heal your misappropriated emotions. God is more than enough; therefore love is enough. Love is enough. With God, your love is enough.
A few years ago, I wrote a song entitled Time Heals – a somber, mid-tempo melody about coping with heartache. The lyrics express disappointment in the perceived healer of life’s woes…time.
They say you are a healer
But each second I feel weaker
You’re powers aren’t working
Please don’t fail me now
“Time heals” is one of many cultural clichés whose popularity and frequency of use gives it a false sense of validation. At one time, even I was under the assumption that as the seconds sweep across the clock, my healing was imminent. Over the course of time, I would soon forget the issues that plague my spirit and cause my heartbreak. If I simply wait on the minutes and hours to grow into days, weeks and months – my pain will subside…all because of time.
Many of us have experienced the failure of time to be a catalyst for spiritual and emotional healing. In fact, the passing of time has allowed some of us to pick the scabs of our wounds to the point where we prolong the healing process with our unforgiveness, bitterness and anger. Others spend that time keeping the pain in the forefront of their minds. It guides every future decision; thereby having an adverse effect on how time operates.
Time is merely the infrastructure by which you can build your faith or wallow in your defeats. I’ve watched time deteriorate the spirit of a person because they counted on time to do the healing versus their doing the work (to heal). Time is an opportunity for us to give it to God and allow Him to be The Healer in our lives.
What I love about God is how he is not bound by the hands of the clock. He can restore you instantly, He can revive your spirit in days and not months. Healing can happen in the blink of an eye. Faith can be built gradually. Joy is attainable throughout eternity.
The phrase “time heals” can be oxymoronic in that time truly doesn’t do the work, but rather gives you room where God can do the work. We don’t know how much time we have, so it’s critical to give our wounded hearts to The Healer who exudes strength in our weakness, never stops working and able to do anything – at any time – but fail.
I’m here to help. My help comes from the Lord. You have the same access to Him as I do; you just have to believe. So why do I have to be here?
Some would say the reason for my presence is required in order to be used by God – therefore, it wouldn’t be “Christian” of me to deny my assistance to someone in need. I’ve endured situations where my refraining to help was met with the growled words, “and you call yourself a man of God!”
What do you do with that? How do you justify not being there for certain individuals who clearly are in need of tangible help and all you’re willing to offer is prayer from a distance?
I believe this is where discernment comes in. This is not a psychic ability but a practice in spiritual maturity, should we choose to embrace it. Discernment is about being in tune with who, what, when and where God is leading you; often without concerning yourself with the intricacies of why. We dilute discernment with emotions, misplaced compassion and guilt trips. The end result is enabling versus truly empowering those who come to you with their myriad of requests.
There are moments where your prayers from afar make room for God to work in the lives of those who want you to be their savior instead of Christ. There are times where your welcoming that drug-addicted relative into your home to “clean up” prevents them from getting effective treatment in rehab. Rather than experiencing God for supernatural increase, there are people in our lives that know we will be their safety net.
They won’t think to pray because they have your number on speed dial – without taking into account that you rely on God’s safety and they have the same access to Him. How many of us have ex-significant others that are immune to your “no” or have never heard the world expel from your lips? They know they can come to you. They know they can drain you. You’ve trained them to do so. It takes work to un-train them. If you battle co-dependency, it’s even harder.
When you spend time with God and stay sensitive to His purpose for you, He orders your steps and leads you towards people and resources that are designed to help you as well as give you an opportunity to help.
I struggle with people I have trained to drain me. I constantly ask God to show me and place me in the path of those who truly need my help while giving me the discernment and strength to identify and resist the opportunists who seek to get what they can get.
I will give you the shirt off my back, but shame if there are four brand-new shirts in your knapsack. There are people in my life who translate this thought-process as being “funny acting” or “selective” or “bring brand new” – if they feel that way, they miss the point and have no idea that I pray for them even more…from a distance.
I’m not mad nor am I holding a grudge. I know better; therefore, I am striving to do better. My enabling is a potential barrier, wedged in front of God’s blessings. I’m simply getting out of the way. That’s the real reason I’m not here for you.
I’ve seen the face of hopelessness and his beard was immaculate. The sunken eyes of shattered dreams rest securely behind the tinted glasses of designer frames. Anger and rage pulsate in veins that throb against dress shirt collars kept close by bowties and sportcoats. The battle lines for souls are drawn across the strong chest that’s covered in orange jump suits; blanketing a bleeding heart that beats inside a cage…subconsciously begging to be saved.
When I see my brother making a conscious decision to get saved and give his life to Jesus Christ, it is a victory won against the enemy that sought to destroy him. And I understand the road to salvation is often paved with discouragement, challenges, temptations and dangers.
Upon salvation, it often gets worst as you have made yourself the enemy’s prime target. Through salvation, the miracle of God transforming every circumstance into a catalyst for glory — is a wonder to behold, if we hold on to faith until it overrides fact. It energizes my spirit to see men…young men…young, black men…make that decision to choose life when the world shows, practices and ultimately wants to administer death.
The world has always had good men. Now more than ever, the world is in need of saved men. I’m beyond ecstatic to see them transforming before my eyes – one baptism at a time – because there’s so much work to do. There are so many lives to be revolutionized. There are so many families to be built, restored and rescued. There are so many businesses and organizations that require a saved man’s leadership. There are communities whose vitality hangs in the balance and waits for the intercession of saved men with steps ordered by God to do the impossible and change the world.
Regardless of the calamity shared in our society’s media, I know that a few saved men are being made everyday. The battle is on and popping. The war is already won. All we gotta do is give our time, talents and treasures to the Lord.
I praise God that a few saved men can do with Him what a few good men could never do without.
“But God released him from the horrors of death and raised him back to life, for death could not keep him in its grip.” (Acts 2:24) NLT
I was sixteen years old when I realized I suffered from necrophobia, the fear of death and things associated with it. I could not fathom the inevitable concept of death. This condition was often amplified at funerals.
Funerals freaked me out. Cemeteries creeped me out. The thought of touching a dead body, gripping the bars of a coffin or lowering remains into a six-foot hole – always came with a feeling of doom and trepidation.
I asked God to help me overcome my phobia. When we ask God to adjust our character traits, I’ve noticed He will thrust you in an uncomfortable environment that will extract the trait which you seek. You want more patience? God will place you in situations where you have to wait beyond your normal patience level. Want peace? God will allow you to stroll into total chaos. Want love? God will send you into a circumstance where you may need to love someone who’s not being very lovable.
In order to overcome my fear of death and funerals, God provided me with several opportunities to attend them. I want to be there for people and reaffirm God’s peace and comfort during their sorrow — even if it’s just through my presence.
While death is certain for everyone, its exact arrival time is highly uncertain. In recent years, I’ve seen elderly patriarchs and matriarchs leave admirable legacies. I’ve watched a man in his early 50s leave young adult children whom he won’t see graduate from college. I’ve endured the pain of watching a mother and daughter plucked from the earth like roses and laid to rest together. I’ve empathized with the grieving parents of a days old infant. I’ve even had the difficult task of eulogizing my own cousin who grew up with me, but will never have a chance to grow old.
As I’ve come to terms with death and my own mortality, I joke that I have “Black Benjamin Button Syndrome”- where I’m aging backwards. That condition only applies to my aesthetics; while the truth is I am getting older.
My peers are lamenting through what they perceive is a mid-life crisis. It’s a concept I cannot understand because it implies that we know the beginning and end of our life story by identifying our current state as the “middle.” There may be some subtle and /or blatant changes happening in our health, finances and life circumstances. Stiffness. Soreness. Aches. Pains. Bills. Dreams deferred. Visions blurred. And the lie on the street is that you’ve let life pass you by. It’s almost time for you die and you’ve done nothing you planned. That high school graduation speech gave you so much promise and hope; but it’s 20 years later and now your kids have that promise and you’ve been deceived into thinking your abundant life has alluding you.
He gave you “now.” That’s it. There are no days stored up for you and the ones you spent are over. He gives everyone right now. From the most successful to the most downtrodden – each of us gets right now. Not years, months, hours or even minutes. The exact quantity of life is not promised to you, but that doesn’t mean you go left and stress over the exact moment your life ends. You know neither.
So what do you know?
We know that God created us for a good work that He will carry on until the day of Jesus Christ. That’s our focus. That’s our purpose. We also know that Jesus died but death couldn’t hold him. As believers who are Christ-like, we have the same destiny to be released from the horrors of death – which is eternal punishment – and find peace in that we will die and that will NOT be the end of the story. In fact, it will be the beginning of infinity in the most glorious place in the universe.
Meanwhile, be confident and know you that where you are in life is exactly where you’re supposed to be. Even if it’s not in the best environment, all things (including the ratchet) are on God’s payroll.
“Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Phillipians 1:6) NIV
The story is told of motivational speaker, Les Brown, who asked an audience to go to the nearest wall, extend their hands upward and touch the wall at the highest point they could reach. After everyone obliged, he asked them to reach up and touch the wall again – but this time, stretch just a little further. Nearly everyone was able to break through and reach and touch higher than their original highest point.
The only difference between their first attempt and their second, was the request to go further than their perceived limit. They followed the instructions of a man who knew nothing of their physiology, psychology or spirituality. At his command, these individuals reached beyond what was supposed to be their limit.
Life is constantly trying to define our limits — the point in which we should break. Most of the times, we embrace the world’s perception of our threshold for pain, sanity, prosperity and faith. Meanwhile, the God who made us and strengthens us, continues to challenge that perception within us by the circumstances we endure in this tumultuous life we live.
As we keep having birthdays, we discover the things that we thought would break us: abusive relationships, divorce, job loss, death of a loved one, financial distress, etc. — they have come and gone while we are still here. We thought we had reached as far as we could, but God pushes us to stretch just a little bit further.
Unless Les Brown, Our Lord and Savior has the final say on our physiology, psychology and spirituality. He gave us the Holy Spirit to empower us to witness – and be an instrument of – modern day miracles that defy the world’s perception of our limits. As the world pulled up a chair and grabbed some refreshments to watch the spectacle of your brokenness — you didn’t break. When you mentally prepared yourself to accept irreparable damage to your heart and soul, God not only protected you; but made you even stronger.
The divorce was supposed to turn you into worthless, damaged goods. Your addiction was scripted to diminish your value as a human being. Her abandonment was supposed to sear your skin with the brand of being unloveable. His waywardness was intended to strip you of your virtue. But in Christ, we are able to reach higher than we originally intended. We are destined to reach beyond our circumstances. We are strengthened to bend, but never break. Moreover, we have the capacity to bounce back with confidence, faith, trust and gratefulness in our hearts.
After the setbacks, all we need to do is reach up and touch the wall of life again – but this time, stretch just a little further. You won’t break; in fact, you will go higher than you ever imagined.