Sunday, January 31, 2016

February Devotional Readings

Our readings this month are love centered. The daily readings are much shorter, so that we'll be able to spend more time concentrating on the particulars of each passage. I encourage you to spend time meditating on the daily passage and processing my honest thoughts toward the text. The 'Love & Devotion' posts, will be available online each morning. I'm convinced that bible reading strengthens our faith, improves our relationships with God and one another and equips us to keep fighting and not to give up.

2/1...Romans 5:8

2/2...Romans 12:5

2/3...1 John 4:16-18

2/4...1 John 3:16

2/5...Ephesians 1:4-5

2/6...Ephesians 3:18-19

2/7...Psalm 89:2

2/8...Romans 8:38-39

2/9...1 John 4:19

2/10...Acts 2:42

2/11...John 3:16

2/12...Ephesians 4:16

2/13...1 Corinthians 12:7

2/14...1 Peter 2:17

2/15...Proverbs 10:12

2/16...Proverbs 16:6

2/17...Galatians 6:1

2/18...Lamentations 3:19-24

2/19...Matthew 11:28-30

2/20...Deuteronomy 33:27

2/21...John 10:10

2/22...Philippians 1:7-8

2/23...James 5:19-20

2/24...Deuteronomy 30:20

2/25...Luke 6:32

2/26...1 John 3:18

2/27...1 Timothy 4:12

2/28...1 Corinthians 13:7

2/29...1 Corinthians 13:13

Love & Devotion (1 of 21)

***For the month February, our daily devotionals will all center around love. Be mindful that I will be writing on weekdays (Monday through Friday). However, our reading schedule will encompass the entire month. Check here each morning for my Love and Devotion thoughts, and I hope you'll share it with others by text or on your social media pages. I pray that these writings are a blessing to you!

Romans 5:8 (New Living Translation) "But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners."
-You Give Good Love (Whitney Houston) To watch the video click here

No questions asked, God is the giver of every good and perfect gift! The best gift of all is his love. God's love is unconditional and without restraint. Romans 10:8 leads us to believe that God is a 'I can show you better than I can tell you' kind of God. He not only proclaims his love for us but he proves his love toward us. My great grandmother always told me that the proof is in the pudding. Sure enough, when I taste of the wondrous love of Jesus (Psalm 34:8), I'm proof positive that he loves me!

God's unconditional and unrestrained love for us, was proven in the death of his son. God sent Jesus to die for us. It was a substitutionary death, because we were supposed to die but Jesus died in our place. That's worth pausing for, just to say thank you Jesus! If we were to pay our sin debt with death, we would've been done. But Jesus paid the debt that we owed with death, then he beat death up and was declared the victor! That's good love!

Here's what get's me choked up everytime, Jesus died for us while we were still sinners. There was no way for us to be better without him. We'd tried everything possible to get around Jesus, but there is no other way! It's our sin that reminds us that Jesus is our only hope.

Let's tie all of this together. God proved his love for us by allowing his son to die so that we could live. His death came without condition or prerequisite. Jesus died for our benefit, before we were aware that there was anything wrong with us. So, where doe's that leave us? It leaves us with a decision to make. Should we follow Jesus because he gives us the good love that we've been searching for, even though we haven't reciprocated it or will we continue to sin without any hope of being made better? I can't answer that for you, but I can inform you of my choice. Today I declare like Joshua in Joshua 24:15 "But if you refuse to serve the Lord, then choose today whom you will serve. Would you prefer the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates? Or will it be the gods of the Amorites in whose land you now live? But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.” I pray that you choose right and know that each day with Jesus is sweeter than the day before.

***Tomorrow's verse...Romans 12:5 'Believing Includes Belonging'

Dig Deeper (Sermon Series...Part 4 of 4)

Series: Dig Deeper - Hard Work Pays Off

Subject: Giving That Wows God (Digging Past Monetary Mediocrity)

Scripture: Luke 21:1-4 (New Living Translation) While Jesus was in the Temple, he watched the rich people dropping their gifts in the collection box. 2 Then a poor widow came by and dropped in two small coins. 3 “I tell you the truth,” Jesus said, “this poor widow has given more than all the rest of them. 4 For they have given a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she has.”

Introduction: In order for us to truly dig past monetary mediocrity, we must first honestly confront the uncomfortable fact, that we short God's money because we mismanage our own money. Consider these startling statistics: 49% of Americans don't pay their bills on time, 65% don't do a good job staying out of debt, 82% don't save adequately for the future, most of American divorces claim the primary cause of the split is finances, and charitable giving (which includes the church) is less than 2% for all Americans.

God is calling us to dig deeper! He never created us to be comfortable with mediocre living. Jesus came that we could live abundantly in him! We are the people of God! The cattle upon a thousand hills belong to our God (Psalm 50:10)! He made us to be the head and not the tail (Deuteronomy 28:13), the lender and not the borrower (Proverbs 22:7)! So, let's work hard at digging past our monetary mediocrity and learn how to give to wow God!

Transition: Check out these Overwhelming Observations from the text...

1) God is always watching
2) Giving is an act of worship
3) Diversity is important to the church
4) Giving is a sign of our obedience and faith

Exposition: This passage is geared to guide us in the following ways...

1) When we give it Provides for the ministry...They were giving in the temple for the temple!
    Malachi 3:10  Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test!

2) When we give it Pleases God...Can you hear the excitement in Jesus' voice?
    2nd Corinthians 9:7 You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.”

3) When we give it Prospers us...It's hard for me to believe she gave all and left with nothing.
    Luke 6:38 Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.”

***Don't miss next week!!! It's going to be crazy good!!!

Friday, January 29, 2016

February Sermon Series!!!

Love is in the air!!! February's sermon series will focus on love from the Old Testament book of Hosea, chapters 1 through 3. It's a remarkable love story between two central characters, Hosea and his wife Gomer. They're romance is all symbolic of God's love for Israel. I encourage you to read the story ahead of time, just follow the links below.

This series will be preached February 7th, 14th (a very special service that you don't want to miss), 21st and 28th only in Café Grace at 10:45 a.m. Park in the rear and use the entrance with the ramp. It's suggested that you be on time, so you don't miss the fellowship and food!

Read Hosea chapter 1 here

Read Hosea chapter 2 here

Read Hosea chapter 3 here

Day 19...Evening Devotion

"Leading While Bleeding"

We often attempt to act as if we have it all together, that we're the portrait of strength and aren't vulnerable to life's ills. The truth is that we all are subject to the problems of life; we all bleed. The question is are we leading in the process? John 19 is a gospel (good news) account of the unjust trial, brutal beating, humiliating death and humble burial of Jesus. He was bleeding but he never stopped leading!

According to the text, Jesus bled because of: the crown of thorns on his head, the lashes on his back, the nails in his hands and feet and because of the spear in his side. This blood trail makes Mark 14:24 come alive, when Jesus said “This is my blood, which confirms the covenant between God and his people. It is poured out as a sacrifice for many."

I know it's Friday, so I'm going to make this as quick as I can for you. Here's at least six ways that I believe Jesus was leading while bleeding in John 19...

1) Jesus kept the faith (verse 11) Don't loose hope in God because of your present pain! Understand that God has the final say over you. Keep on believing because this pain is the prequel to your sequel! That just means that it's not over for you! Stick with the word of truth that saved you and don't stray from it!

2) Jesus carried his weight (verse 17) Thank God that Jesus ain't no punk (that's not good grammar but it's great gospel)! Even in the face of his own blood, he led us by showing that you should never give up on yourself. I know the weight is heavy and the journey is long, but you've got this! You're stronger than you think!

3) Jesus expressed selfless concern (verses 26-27) While hanging on the cross, Jesus made sure that his mom would be taken care of. Wow! He was bleeding and dying but he stuck with his life's purpose. What's your excuse? This lesson in leadership is essential to your development. Be selfless not selfish and attach yourself to a purpose that's greater than yourself!

4) Jesus didn't quit, he finished (verses 28-30) If you're not ready to die, then you're not done! I think you've got the point. You're not too old, too young, too sick, too slow or too tired! So, keep pushing as long as you've got breath in your body! Finish this life that you've started and do it with every ounce of strength you have!

5) Jesus was crushed but not broken (verses 33-34) The scriptures said that no bone would be broken in Jesus' body. Pain in life is inevitable but it can only go so far. Whatever you're struggling with will not break you, because the bible tells me so!!!

6) Jesus left a legacy of responsible service (verse 38) Here's what makes Jesus the ultimate leader, he was dead but he still motivated people to be come off of the bench to get in the game. I pray that we all live lives that will push others toward greatness.

***Public Service Announcement: It's the weekend! Pastor is encouraging everyone to relax this weekend. Take care of you for a change and bring calm to your mind, body and spirit. Watch some movies, hang out with family, find an interesting book to read. Whatever you do just relax and rid yourself of stress. We'll see you Sunday at 10:45 a.m. as we celebrate communion, engage in fellowship, prayer and bible teaching that will challenge us to be better disciples! Invite a friend and don't be late!

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Day 18...Evening Devotion

"Friends and Foes"

For three and a half years, Jesus poured himself into twelve men. They spent an incredible amount of time together, traveling, working, eating and learning. Naturally, friendships form and significant connections are made. Ironically, everyone that you can count you can't count on. Out of twelve men, one betrayed him, one denied him and the rest except for John deserted him.

The point of this devotional is to make you aware of your inner circle. When you're in trouble, you'll quickly find out who is really in your corner. So, check the intentions of those around you, to ensure that they have your best interest at heart. Some (like Judas) are always hanging around but stealing from you every chance they get or they're secretly hating on you. Some (like Peter) are genuinely in covenant with you, but don't know how to handle the implications of being that close to you so they lie. Some (like nine disciples) just aren't strong enough to hang around when tough times come. If you're blessed like Jesus, you'll have that one friend that you can trust your momma with (John 19:26-27).

Bare with me, because I'm trying to make this short... Jesus was taken to court based on lies and convicted and sentenced to death by his own people. No fault in him was found, but he was a trouble maker who disrupted the religious system. Before you call it a night, I want you to think about friends who act like foes. There are people that will smile in your face and run their mouths about you behind your back, until they get in a crowd of other cowards so they can hide their voice. Please understand that people are fickle minded. Not long ago, we read of these same people praising Jesus now they're pushing Jesus toward the cross to be crucified. Don't get confused about who is really in your corner!

My prayer for you tonight, is that you will no longer turn a blind eye to the negative intentions of those who surround you. I pray that you will be wise in your friend selection, because the choice is yours. That's why it's imperative that I share this with you, sometimes you need the negativity (Judas) to push you to your destiny of glory. You're not going to always choose people like John to be on your team, but use the gossip as gas for you to keep it moving! When you choose people like Peter, teach them how to love you. Take your time in building quality relationships and don't get so frustrated that you give up, because a little while ain't always!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Day 17...Evening Devotion

"The Lord's Prayer"

Christians have been taught that the Lord's Prayer is found in Matthew 6:9-15 and Luke 11:1-4. It was often taught by well intentioned Sunday School teachers. We pray this prayer together to begin or end meetings or when we don't know what else to pray. The truth is that the prayer recorded in the above stated passages are not the Lord's Prayer, it's more accurately the Model Prayer. Jesus was giving us a pattern or prescription to follow when we pray, rather than a dictation on words to use.

John 17 is the Lord's Prayer. It's the only prayer of Jesus that we hear from him in significant length. As you wind down from your day, be encouraged by knowing that Jesus prays! He's set the example for all of us who claim God as Father, to keep the line of communication open with him. Jesus admonished his disciples in Luke 18:1 to pray and don't give up! Prayer is essential to life of the believer. I hope that you have a disciplined prayer life. I'm suggesting that you talk with (not to God) God often daily. You'll live in true liberty, peace and joy if you do!

I'd also like for you to be aware of the object of Jesus' prayer. You were on his mind! Thank God that Jesus prayed for us! He prayed in a triune fashion to include revelation, protection and action. Our acceptance of Jesus opened the door for God to reveal to us our purpose in the earth. This seems like a great time for a public service announcement: uhh, your life is NOT about you! Your existence as a follower of Jesus, is to know God and share him with the world.

Jesus also prayed about our protection. Please understand that Jesus (while on earth) personally guarded the disciples. This was a successful effort, with the exception of 'the one headed for destruction' which was Judas (verse 12). The implication is that Jesus protects us from ourselves. Now he accomplishes that task by the power of the Spirit of truth. When we're honest with ourselves, according to the truth of God's word, we'll see the error of our way. The issue then is that when we stray from God's word we transform the truth with our twisted theology, to justify the stagnation of our relationship with God. That leads us to the desire of Jesus in this prayer, he wanted us (his children) to be united (verse 11). The point of the protection is so we'll stick together, like God and Jesus are. Satan is aware of the glorious affect we'd have on the world, if we could just get along. So, he works hard at separating us. But God be praised, that Jesus has already prayed for us!

I'll tell you all good night, after I let you know about Jesus' prayer for us to be active participants in sharing the message which we believe. Verse 20 is our marching orders. Jesus tells us that we should be busy telling the world that a baby was born of a virgin, grew in grace and was a miracle worker. We should tell everyone bout how he was crucified, died and was buried and that three days later he got up from the grave. Don't forget to let them know that he lives for evermore! And if they ask how you know that he lives, tell them that he lives in your heart! You have the responsibility to share Jesus with the world! That's why I'm praying and pushing...praying that you won't be scared and pushing you to start in your house, then move to your friends and coworkers. How many people should you tell? Everybody, that Jesus lives and wants for none to die!

I know all of that was preachy, but before you go to sleep, let me give you something really practical. You were on Jesus' mind when he prayed. I hope that when you pray tonight, that you won't be selfish and talk with him only about you. Have Jesus on your mind when you pray! If you are worry about him, he'll take care of you!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Day 16...Evening Devotion

"Promises You Can Count On"

Pain is inevitable, power is available and problems are transformable. Those are the three movements of John 16. It's a passage that teaches us that God's promises can be trusted. Our society is filled with false promises, vain words and intentions that are void of sincerity. But you can depend on God! As I pen these words, they excite my spirit and stimulate my faith. God will never, ever let you down!

Pain is inevitable (verses 1-4, 33). This Christian life comes with pain and it's often caused by people who are serving God ignorantly. You must remember this divine warning, because being on Jesus' side will not be a road easily traveled. That's a promise. So, the inevitability of pain isn't a device of destruction but of development. Allow pain to build your faith instead of turn you away from believing in God. Even though you may deal with persecution, excommunication or even crucifixion, don't let anything separate you from the love of God (Romans 8:38-39)! God is for us! Here's what really encourages me, the things that cause our pain as believers, Jesus has already overcome (verse 33)! You can endure these light afflictions (2 Corinthians 4:17) because Jesus is King and our coming glory is worth our painful story!

Power is available (verses 5-15). The term 'the world' scripturally can refer to three distinct understandings: creation, humanity or in the case of our text the world system. Note that when Jesus says that after his departure from earth that he'll send us the Spirit, that it's not coming to 'the world' but to us/the church. Why? Because the Spirit isn't a ghostly presence that floats around but he needs the body of the church. We are the Spirit's tools to accomplish the work of building God's kingdom and we're his temple of residence.

The power of the Spirit is available to us to reach the world! It is senseless for us to operate (preach, pray, sing or work) independent of his power. Our effectiveness as tools of the Spirit depends on being empowered by him. This power is offensive (verse 8), because it confronts sin but thank God it's also gracious, in that no matter our sin, it gives us an opportunity to get right!

Problems are transformable (verses 16-32). God does not seek to turn you into a spoiled brat kind of a Christian. Where every time something painful happens that he takes the pain and replaces it with something more pleasant. However, God is a transforming God, that will turn your sorrow into joy! The same child that causes a mother pain in labor, brings her joy when it's over. The same Jesus that the disciples knew died on a Friday, which broke their hearts also brought them great joy on Sunday morning, when he rose from the dead. I'm suggesting to you, that your problems is nothing but a cocoon. If you just wait, "in a little while" (verse16) your problems will transform into a butterfly! I wish I had a microphone and an organ playing behind me right about now. If I did, I'd be whooping saying that "weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning" (Psalm 30:5)! God be praised for making us promises that we can count on!

Good night y'all! I pray that the Lord God blesses you real good and that you rest well in the promises of our God.

*Please join our weekly prayer call on tomorrow (Wednesday) night at 7 p.m. by calling (641) 715-3836 and use access code 131337. It will bless you if you let it!

Monday, January 25, 2016

Day 15...Evening Devotion

John 15:1-27 Read today's scripture here
"The Source"

The very first observation that I make when I look at John 15, is that it's completely in red. I know this isn't a deep revelation but the words of Jesus should grasp our attention. Since Jesus is the source of our hope, our present help and our eternal home, it would seem that we'd be addicted to hearing from him. If our claim of Christianity is to be validated, then our delight should be in the word of God (Psalm 1:2).

As your day concludes, I'd also point out that this chapter is really about having a relationship with God that's so qualitative, that it leads to reproduction. Here's where fasting, praying and reading daily comes into play. Our relationships with the Lord must be such a priority, that we are constantly expressing our love for him by drawing closer to him. A vine and a branch are in communion with each other. The implication is that you can't tell where one begins and the other ends because the two are that closely intertwined. Which presents us with an incredibly relevant question, how are you and God getting along? Don't blow this question off, because for many of us our relationship with God is either stagnant or second hand. Either we're stuck in a past understanding of God that was immature and superficial or we're relating vicariously with God through the experiences of others. We can do better than that!

When you're relating well with God, don't be deceived into thinking that that's the cap to your relationship with him. You should then be able to relate well with other people (verse 17). We've been commanded to love each other. I know that's a tough blow to your anger, your frustration and the hatred you've been harboring in your heart. But, the reality of your God relationship is that if he's working on the inside of you then it should be showing on the outside of you!

Before you lay down to sleep tonight, I want you to remember that you're no better than Jesus (verse 20). Life is hard. As a matter of fact (if I can be honest) it's damn hard! But the truth is that Jesus has our backs! He's committed us to the care of the Spirit of truth, that will keep us safe, sane and connected to the source who allows us to live, move and have our being (Acts 17:28)!

Good night and I love you all and I'm praying that God reminds you that life in him is abundant!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Dig Deeper (Sermon Series...Part 3 of 4)

Series: Dig Deeper - Hard Work Pays Off

Subject: A Funky Favor (Digging Past Unproductivity)

Scripture: Luke 13:6-9 (New Living Translation) Then Jesus told this story: “A man planted a fig tree in his garden and came again and again to see if there was any fruit on it, but he was always disappointed. 7 Finally, he said to his gardener, ‘I’ve waited three years, and there hasn’t been a single fig! Cut it down. It’s just taking up space in the garden.’ 8 “The gardener answered, ‘Sir, give it one more chance. Leave it another year, and I’ll give it special attention and plenty of fertilizer. 9 If we get figs next year, fine. If not, then you can cut it down.’”

Introduction: Unproductivity has no place in God's space! Our claim as recipients of God's generous grace, must be proved with the production of good fruit in our lives by the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).

Transition: When someone does you a favor, certain steps must be taken by the recipient in order to not squander the opportunity of another chance. This text is tailored teach us how to dig deeper in three major movements...

1) Be Still...Psalm 1:2-3 encourages us to be a planted tree in God's word. Stop squirming and moving, so God can work on you! (Read James 1:2-4 in your leisure)

2) Be Quiet...Philippians 2:14 admonishes us to "Do everything without complaining or arguing." Don't make the mistake of being ungrateful for God's favor, because the good and the bad works out for your good! First Thessalonians 5:18 reminds us to "Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus."

3) Be Productive...We all have been given a funky favor, of another year so let's make it count! God has gotten his hands dirty to help you be better. So, will you come up or be cut down?

Conclusion: Mercy and grace are close kin but aren't one in the same. Mercy doesn't give us what we deserve; that's pity. However, grace gives us what we don't deserve; that's favor!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Day 11...Evening Devotion

"What to Do in the Absence of God"

Good day to you all! I'm going to try to keep this devotional short today, since I got carried away yesterday. Here goes...

John 11 is widely referred to and is known chiefly because of one of three miracle resurrections that Jesus performs during his ministry. Bethany, is a little hamlet located about 2 1/2 miles southeast of Jerusalem. It's there that Jesus has a family trio that he's befriended, endeared and yes, he loves them. Their relationship with the Lord is of interest to this text, because that's where the tension lies. Sometimes we allow the length of time we've known God to get in the way of the strength of our faith in God. Length doesn't replace strength! Don't get it confused, it's the old argument of quantity versus quality.

Jesus receives message from Martha and Mary, that their brother, Lazarus is sick. Jesus intentionally waits two days before he and the disciples journey to Bethany. By then Lazarus is no long sick but he's dead. When he arrives, Martha has heard from the street committee that he's approaching the city. She runs to him with tears in her eyes, shame on her face and victimization in her voice. She's angry with God. Let me pause the story here and raise my hand, because I've been there! I've been angry with God, particularly when I thought our relationship would shield me from life's pain. But life happens (John 16:33)! But there's good news, when life attempts to destroy you, God is there to deliver you!

Once Jesus showed up, he learned what they did in his absence: they mourned, they buried Lazarus and the went home to pick up the pieces. Then Jesus says something that's frightening, take me to the body. They didn't want to go there, he stinks now. And none of us wants to go back to our life's stinky places. But Jesus reminds Martha that if you only believe in me that you'll see the glory of God. I know this is really simple, but I'm going to say it anyway, don't stop believing! I know that life can knock the wind out of you, and it even stinks sometimes. And I'm aware that if it's not one thing it's something else and that you're on the verge of throwing up your hands, walking away and saying to hell with this, but what ever you do, don't stop believing! Cry if you have to, holla when you need to but don't give up on God! Everything that you were crying about, Jesus is standing in front of you right now wanting to fix it!

You've read the text, so you know what happened. Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead. Here's the real miracle. Jewish law declared that resurrection of the body was not possible after the third day. Jesus waited on purpose until the fourth day, so that every time someone looked at Lazarus, the only thing they could say was that it was no body but God that brought you back! The glory of God was revealed in his resurrection!

Ok, ok, so what do you do in the absence of God?
1) Don't give up so soon...too many of us are writing God off as if he's a deadbeat. Hear this clearly, God has not forgotten about you. He still loves you. The pain that you're enduring (I'm talking to myself here!!!) is only momentary. Joy really doe's come in the morning!

2) Don't you dare draw the wrong conclusion...just because you can't see God moving, doesn't mean that he's not up to something! Don't be so sight driven. If you've been born again, we walk by faith! Faith will raise your dead dreams, put breath back in your relationship and turn your finances around! But don't sit down on God, give him something to work with!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Day 10...Evening Devotion

"The Value of God's Voice"

***Warning...There's so much good stuff in John 10, that I ramble and jump around a lot. If I was talking about this on my stool in church, my feet would be swinging!***

Today I was honored to help host a luncheon with my friend, Pastor Tim Steffon at his church, Martha Bowman. The purpose was to call awareness and action to human sex trafficking in our area. It's a heartbreaking cause, that I'm proud to champion. As I was preparing to share my thoughts with you on John 10, I couldn't help but be thankful for the freedom that we have in Jesus Christ. It's in him that we live, move and have our being. There's no grater feeling than liberty! As we pray during this time of consecration, let's pray for those who are bound and don't want to be. Also, let's pray for those who are free but still act as if they're bound and for those who are bound and don't want to be free.

Here are my scholarly stances on John chapter 10...
Let me start by saying that this passage is widely known, particularly because of verse 10. It contains two of the most confusing and misinterpreted passages in scripture (verses 16 and 34). For clarity, let me theologically clear up these verses for you.
-verse 16 "I have other sheep, too, that are not in this sheepfold. I must bring them also. They will listen to my voice, and there will be one flock with one shepherd." Jesus makes an incredibly interesting interjection, by vaguely pointing out that there are several flocks but only one shepherd. Jesus' intent of that interjection will never be fully understood because there's no other mention of it in scripture to probe. However, the spirit of his statement admonishes us to understand that no one group has a monopoly on God. Furthermore, it's not up to us to decide who's heaven bound and who isn't. There are folks who are desperately in search of God and are genuinely attempting to serve him. I would be lying if I told you that I thought that the God of mercy would disregard their efforts, because they weren't United Methodist like us. God be praised, that he isn't rigid and dismissive like we are!
-verse 34 Jesus replied, “It is written in your own Scriptures that God said to certain leaders of the people, ‘I say, you are gods!’ There's been religious sects that have formed because of this verse, which Jesus is quoting from Psalm 82:6. Unfortunately they formed ignorantly far from the truth. The proper interpretation doe's not imply that humans are God, rather, we're God like. In that we've been adopted by God and have become his children. Children should have characteristics of their parents, that causes others to see the evidence in them of you who their parents are. I don't think that you could mistake the fact that Antonie II is my son. He has so many features of mine that it's undeniable that he's my son. Thank God that we have the right to be called the children of God and that we are joint heirs with Jesus Christ!

The voice of God is valuable! So, stop trying to tune him out! And stop ignoring him! Hearing God is a blessed gift and a pleasure. The value in his voice is multifaceted, in that we find: the truth (verses 1 and 7), direction (verse 4), salvation and freedom (verse 9) and safety (verse 10). Your mother's voice is wise, your fathers voice is safe, your grandparents voice is comforting, your friends voice is fun and your boo-thang's voice is romantic but only God's voice has the ability to awaken all of those feelings in you at once! That's so valuable that it's priceless!

Jesus, with assertiveness, declares that he's not just a shepherd but he's the good shepherd. I want you to be encouraged by knowing, that you're following a good shepherd; he knows what he's doing! Sometimes it seems like your world is crumbling and that your back is against the wall. And you may get angry at God because you were following his lead, and seemingly his voice led you to a place that's low, lonely and full of lack. But don't give up on God, he's setting you up for a major display of deliverance, like only he can orchestrate! 

If you were wondering about the security of your soul, by being a follower of Jesus' voice, pay attention to verses 25-30. I don't worry about loosing my salvation, because I'm not holding on to Jesus but he's holding on to me! My salvation is secure because my God is strong! Hallelujah!!!

The last thing that I'll say about this chapter (amid an amalgam of thoughts on my heart) is that the folks Jesus was talking to, had the audacity to attempt to stone Jesus for saying that he was God. However, he got away because it wasn't his time to die. Here's a good place to shout, the ignorance of others can't kill you! Jesus had already told them in verses 17 and 18, that no one can kill him but when it was time to for him to die that he would, and that when he died that he wouldn't stay dead. Aren't you glad, if you ain't then you 'oughtta be glad (that's not good grammar but it's great gospel) that because we're God like, that just like him we can declare to who tried to kill us and to what tried to hold us down "O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”  For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ." 1 Corinthians 15:55-57

I hope that my rambling has been interesting and useful to you. Be better tomorrow and shh, listen because God is talking!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Day 9...Evening Devotion the Return

"Your Condition Doesn't Have to Be Your Conclusion"

Corporate fasting for Grace Corner has not turned out as I'd hoped as your spiritual leader. Those of you who've committed to this spiritual discipline and are sincerely seeking God's face, thank you! Your faithfulness isn't disregarded by God and I'm appreciative for your diligence and sacrifice. Here are my raw thoughts on today's reading...

John 9 is one of my all time favorite stories! Jesus is interested in you. Not the you that's visible to the world, because all they see is your problems. People have the tendency to only notice about you, what makes them feel better than you. However, Jesus looks at who you can be with his help. Believe it or not, we all are in dire need of Jesus' help! Here's what's really interesting, he's looking to help you when everyone else has become satisfied with the you that they can see.

The disciples (the church) see the same man that Jesus saw, and they assume that the reason this man is blind is because somebody messed up. I want to dispel this false Christian myth, that everything that is wrong in an individuals life is either the result of sin or the Devil. There are some things that are just unfortunate life occurrences. Jesus responds to their assumption, by submitting God's permissive will. That is to say that God did not cause this man to be born blind, rather that God allowed him to be born blind. Ironically, the whole point of the man's blindness is so that God could get the glory from his life! Whatever you do, don't attempt to steal God's glory! Your problems are God's platforms alone, for the display of his power!

Jesus then goes to work. He teaches us that miracles (improving the quality of one's life) are messy. Jesus uses his spit to mix with dirt to make a salve, and applies it to the blind man's eyes. That's nasty! But true ministry is a nasty process, that's far from pretty. The problem is when we attempt to remain in God's presence nasty. He tells the man to go and wash the nasty off! That's why I was pushing so hard for us to read, fast and pray together; I want us to get the nasty off!

Don't miss that the man was obedient and left from Jesus' presence and washed. He could see! It was a miracle! If you're wondering why you're still wandering in the darkness after a Jesus encounter, you have to ask yourself  'Have I been obedient to his command?' Here's an even better question to ask yourself  'Was I attentive to God's voice when he was instructing me?' You can no longer blame God for where you are in life, now's the time to question yourself. Listen, God can only order your steps, it's up to you to obey his orders!

Please understand that some people just don't know how to be happy for you, when you're no longer in darkness. All the church/Pharisees could do was question if this was the same man that was blind and to find out if the man that healed him was of God. Let me be clear, beware of why people are close to you. All of their questions aren't because they're concerned about you or even because they want to celebrate with you. As a matter of fact, once you tell them your testimony, they may not even want you around them anymore. And that has to be fine with you, because you condition has changed! You're no longer blind, so stop acting like it! Since they've showed you who they really are, believe them, leave them and go on with the Lord!

After the Pharisees put the man out, Jesus didn't leave him hanging! That's a fine time to worship him. Jesus found him, talked with him to let him know that he wasn't alone. I don't know where you are, how you're feeling or even what you're thinking but you aren't alone! Jesus is your friend and he won't leave you.

Don't get too comfortable in your condition, because it doesn't have to be your conclusion. Wise up and become obedient to God's command TODAY and watch him change you whole life!

Join us for prayer tomorrow night at 7 p.m. by calling (641) 715-3836 and use access code 131337. I'll lend some principles about leadership and be praying about it as well. Stay blessed!

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Dig Deeper (Sermon Series...Part 2 of 4)

Series: Dig Deeper - Hard Work Pays Off

Subject: Can't We All Just Get Along? (Digging Past Unhealthy Thinking)

Scripture: Luke 9:49-50 (New Living Translation)   John said to Jesus, “Master, we saw someone using your name to cast out demons, but we told him to stop because he isn’t in our group.”
50 But Jesus said, “Don’t stop him! Anyone who is not against you is for you.”

Introduction: Anthropology (science of humanity) has a branch that focuses on social habits. In observation, much like animals humans tend to run in packs. We're extremely cliquish. Because of the presumed safety in the size of the gang, we'll develop thinking that's exclusive to anyone outside of our group. There's a sense of unhealthiness in that kind of thinking, because it takes three arrogant stances: we don't know you, we don't want to know you and don't do what we're doing because we have a monopoly on it. That's fish bowl thinking. It's micro when it should be macro.

That's why I believe that God is calling us to dig deeper! We must dig past that unhealthy thinking, because it severely limits the church's impact of expanding the kingdom of God. It subjects the spread of the gospel message of salvation and liberation, to mediocrity. We're faced with those frightening realities and those of us who are followers of Jesus, are forced to answer the question Can't We All Just Get Along?

Transition: After a high speed chase on March 3, 1991, California police arrested and brutally assaulted a taxi driver named Rodney King. Those officers were charged and tried for their crimes, but were found not guilty. The verdict was the spark which started the 1992 riots in major cities across the country. Rodney King, in a televised plea for peace, asked the question "Can we all get along?" Martin Lawrence then picked up the line and made it his own in his self titled sitcom by asking "Can't we all just get along?" That's the question that we're presented with today. The church has been confused with who our true allies are. So, Jesus clears up our confusion in the text, by assertively voicing his mind.

Exposition: in order for us to answer this question honestly, we must examine three crucial elements...

1...Inadequate Observation (John said to Jesus, Master, we saw someone using your name to cast out demons) The apostles were standing on the outside looking in, saying that this guy is trying to be us. They'd allowed the power that Jesus gave them in verse 1, to become perverted by their inferiority. Their observation was inadequate because they were not in a position to be quality control!

2...Inappropriate Action (but we told him to stop because he isn’t in our group) We handled it for you, is the attitude that the disciples took. The problem is that they genuinely loved Jesus, but they didn't have Jesus' heart (that's a major principle)! The spirit of exclusiveness had meandered it's way into their ministry philosophy. Jesus empowered and employed them, with the purpose of growing the group, but they wanted church to be like Cheers, where everybody knows your name. But, if the group stays closed, we miss out on the willing, talented and faithful. Notice that while the church/disciples were looking at the man, the man was doing what they were supposed to be doing: working to help someone be made better!

3...Inevitable Correction (But Jesus said, Don’t stop him! Anyone who is not against you is for you) No question about it, Jesus had to say something! I'm positive that they could see it written all over his face, that he was about to doctor on their unhealthy thinking. Jesus is very straight forward and stern with this word of correction. The admonishment gives the sense that they had power over demons and diseases but not over people! Furthermore, the man that you all bullied, wasn't even an enemy!

Conclusion: What's the take-a-way for today? To understand that our mission is expansion! It's a good thing when you come to church are unfamiliar with someone. That simply means that we're on the grow and you've got a stronger family with their addition. So what do we do about them? Love them, befriend them and train them to keep the cycle of evangelism (reaching people) and discipleship (teaching people) going.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Day 3...Evening Devotion

John 3:1-36   Read today's scripture here
"Saved to Serve"

Thank God for allowing us to still be alive, alert and available for his use! It's day 3 of fasting and I hope that you are still as excited, about being on one accord with your brothers and sisters.

Salvation and service go hand in hand. There's no way to claim Christ as Lord and not have a servants heart. That's the take-a-way from John 3.

Nicodemus is a well respected spiritual leader. No one has pointed out that he is in leadership, but has no relationship with Jesus because that was the norm of the day. However, Nicodemus notices that something is missing within himself. So, he waits until dark to pay Jesus a visit. Isn't that true for most of us? We have the tendency to make Jesus a priority, only when darkness falls. Upon his arrival, he questions Jesus about how someone can be saved. The responses that Jesus gives him are difficult to process with his mortal train of thought. Plainly, Jesus explains that God's unconditional love for the world has provided a way for humanity to be saved (to have eternal life), through his son.

Salvation is a free gift, that's accepted of an individuals own will and volition. It's what affords us the opportunity to live without fearing death. Also, our appreciation for salvation should be translated into service. The saved don't sit! Once one has been truly saved, some positive action must follow.

John, Jesus' first cousin, had the job of preparing people to hear and receive the ministry of Jesus. There was no room for jealousy. Family all to often, allows petty insecurities to hinder the progress of good work. John understood what his role was. That's a key principle to hold on to; your role. If you want to intrude on someone else's lane, chaos will be the result. Now is the time to bloom where we've been planted and allow God to work through you, without a jealous spirit.

The servant's heart of John is to be emulated. He didn't want to be Jesus but he did want to serve in the best way he could. His philosophy of decreasing for Jesus to increase, is a major declaration. May our prayer be for us to be less seen by people, so that Jesus can be elevated in their sight. If we don't get out of people's view of Jesus, God will move us. I'd much rather come down instead of being brought down.

I'm praying that the Lord will agitate and aggravate you so much, that when you get up in the morning, you'll have the determination to want to serve God. Here's the only reason that you need, he saved you!

I hope you'll join the prayer call tonight at 7 p.m. and check back here tomorrow, for the evening devotion on John 4:1-54. I love you all and speak God's blessing of strength, sufficiency safety and sanity over your lives, that you may be incredible servants for building God's kingdom. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Day 2...Evening Devotion

John 2:1-25  Read today's scripture here
"Miracles and Messes"

Good evening! I pray that your day has been a blessed one. It's day 2 of consecration and I can sense that the struggle is real for you! I assure you that God's strength is made perfect in your weakness.

John 2 begins with an incredible miracle (Walkerized definition of Miracle: God showing up and showing out in public just for you!). At a wedding, where the pressure of everything being perfect is great, the groom is headed toward embarrassment because there is no more wine. We all know that that's a quick way to shut a lively party down; just yell that we're out of drink and everyone will surely disperse. Jesus saves this groom from embarrassment, by turning water into wine.

Here's a few thoughts about this miracle...
1) It wasn't all on Jesus. Jesus gave instructions, to fill six huge pots with water. Obedience is key to seeing progress in your life. If you want to see God work, then give him something to work with! We give incredibly to many excuses as to why we aren't obedient participants, to see God do the miraculous. The truth is that we aren't seeing God at work is because we aren't working. In the words of my great grandmother 'now you can put that in your pipe and smoke it'!

2) Jesus made the best wine. It's important to note that Jesus doesn't half do anything. Excellence should be our middle names! Don't settle for mediocrity in your life. The trouble with this is that we often don't see our insufficient action as substandard. So, it's necessary to be surrounded by people who will call you on your crap (that's right, I said it). The wedding planner told Jesus that you've saved the best wine for last. Before it's all said and done for you, you should get this stage in your life right. Stop wasting time and making excuses, and put in the hard work to make this season the best season of your life!

Right after a miracle, Jesus walks into a mess! Please understand, that life is filed with ups and downs. There's no way for you to escape life's messes. It's the mess that makes you (you'll catch that later tonight)! Jesus reveals in the temple, that he is not only the son of God but that he's also a soldier in the army of God! Don't get scared in the face of messy people! Don't miss this: messy people are messy and think they're doing God a favor. But mess can never be blessed, it can only be cleaned up!

I love all of you towards abundant life in Jesus Christ! I pray that these evening devotions are helping you to be great, just like the Lord desires for you to be. I hope you'll check back tomorrow as I pen my reflections on John 3:1-36. Also, don't forget to join our prayer call tomorrow night at 7 p.m. as we talk and pray about unity. Call (641) 715-3836 and use access code 131337.

Until tomorrow, happy fasting!

Monday, January 11, 2016

Day 1...Evening Devotion

John 1:1-51   Read today's scripture here "Connections that Count"

Today is the first day of our corporate consecration. We're putting in the hard work of getting on one accord, by fasting, praying and studying the scriptures together. Each day, I'll post an evening devotion in reflection to the day's scripture reading. I hope that you will take advantage of this daily resource, to help you develop as a disciple. I know that this 21 days of consecration is a sacrifice and a struggle. That's the point! Deprive your flesh with the intent of developing your spirit. It's going to be hard, but with God's help all things are possible!

Jesus is God's son; Jesus and John are first cousins; Andrew and Simon are brothers; Philip and Nathanael are close friends. Family and friends is what's highlighted in John chapter 1. What's even more interesting is that there's one person that's their common interest. Jesus!

There's no greater bond on the entire planet, than to be connected to others because of Jesus! The first 4 disciples were connected as family (Andrew & Simon) and as friends (Philip & Nathanael). Pease receive this principle, evangelism starts there! Andrew met Jesus and brought his brother to meet him to! Philip met Jesus and ensured that he told his close friend, that we've been searching for a fulfilment to our life's void and Jesus is the answer! Put in the hard work of having conversations about Jesus. Friends and family is the place to start and they're waiting on you to tell them what Jesus has done for you.

John (Jesus' first cousin) promotes and preaches Jesus. When you're in the family of Jesus, you ought not be able to keep quiet about him! I'd even dare to say that it's your job to pave the way for people to have a personal encounter with Jesus. John didn't take it offensively that he wasn't the light. It was the greatest honor of John's life, to tell the world about his cousin. There shouldn't be a reason in the world, that we're not the most vocal family in history! Let's cry loud, that Jesus is the lamb of God!

Early in John 1, Jesus' position is firmly fixed as the messiah, the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. He became flesh to die for us (the world), so that we can live. That's the most important connection of all! Jesus' descent to die for our sins, is what I call a conquering connection, that gives us the ability to live without the fear of eternal death.

Connections that count can be summed up in these words by Jesus in Luke 8:21 “My mother and my brothers are all those who hear God’s word and obey it.” God be praised for connections that count!

Check back here tomorrow at 5 p.m. for the evening devotion from John 2:1-25. Happy fasting!!!

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Dig Deeper (Sermon Series...Part 1 of 4)

Series: Dig Deeper - Hard Work Pays Off

Subject: Interesting Instructions (Digging Past Personal Comfort)

Scripture: Luke 9:1-6 (New Living Translation) "One day Jesus called together his twelve disciples and gave them power and authority to cast out all demons and to heal all diseases. Then he sent them out to tell everyone about the Kingdom of God and to heal the sick. 3 “Take nothing for your journey,” he instructed them. “Don’t take a walking stick, a traveler’s bag, food, money, or even a change of clothes. 4 Wherever you go, stay in the same house until you leave town. 5 And if a town refuses to welcome you, shake its dust from your feet as you leave to show that you have abandoned those people to their fate.” 6 So they began their circuit of the villages, preaching the Good News and healing the sick.

Introduction: The superficiality of the modern church is sickening. We want the allure of anointing without the authenticity. But God is calling for us to dig deeper! And digging deeper requires hard work; and hard work pays off! It gives us a sense of satisfaction and it makes us stronger in the process.

Transition: The tension of this text, is Jesus' charge vs. his disciples comfort. His directive vs. their desire. The truth is, that our actions far to often are contrary to God's divine design. However, when we hear his voice, anything we're doing that's inconsistent and incongruent with his instructions should and must be disregarded. His instructions are interesting, because they're against our logic. We attempt to rationalize divine directives, but our logic will never understand God's directives. Isaiah 55:8-9 says "“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. 9 For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.

So, the only thing we can do is trust God, when we can't trace him!

Exposition: interesting instructions from the Lord are in the least, triune...

1...God's instructions call us to positions of power (verse 1)
This power isn't about prestige that strokes your ego. This power is given from God, to help somebody other than yourself, to be better! This was a liberation of mind (demons) and body (diseases).

2...God's instructions commission us to preach promise (verse 2)
-The disciples were tasked to cast a wide net, when sharing the gospel (tell everyone).
-They were to help them first, so that they'd hear them (reference verse 1's mental and physical implications, prior to any transformative talk).

3...God's instructions challenge us to practice partiality (verse 3)
Our partiality should be geared toward, complete dependence on God alone. This is a challenge because we're accustomed to being independent. But God always makes proper provision for his children, when he sends them on kingdom building missions.

Conclusion: The resolve the Lord is seeking is obedience to his voice, even when what he instructs makes no logical sense. First Samuel 15:22 But Samuel replied, “What is more pleasing to the Lord: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams.

We just can't give any better offering to the Lord, than doing what he says!
*These sermon notes were prepared and presented by Pastor Antonie E. Walker, at Grace Corner Church in Macon, GA. The sermon was preached in Café Grace and Bloomfield Chapel on 01/10/2016.

Monday, January 4, 2016

2016 Vision & Consecration Guide

Special Alert: New Sermon Series!!!

Happy New Year!!! 2016 is The Year of Hard Work at Grace Corner. We're preparing ourselves for the work, with 21 days of consecration this month. During that time, Pastor Walker will lead us through a 4 part scriptural excursion from the theme Dig Deeper-Hard Work Pays Off. You're not going to want to miss any of these sermons. We believe that they'll bless you if you let them!