Wednesday, January 23, 2008

3 Steps to Blessedness

My wife has this thing she tells the kids from time to time, ‘When people show you who they are, you need to believe them.”

The key word is ‘show’.

It ain’t what it say or what it look like, it’s what it DO??!!

Love is an action word.

My wife and I often find ourselves in the situation where we’re trying to teach our children what is right and what is wrong and in the process of teaching by example, we’ve both had to grow into being more mature people than we used to be.

Even though I’ve done it on various of occasions, I actually found myself instructing my son not to drink directly out of the juice bottle.

It really comes down to being too lazy to wash and dry a cup.

“Look here mane, " I told my son, " I kiss my wife on the lips, I don’t want to swap spit with NOBODY else, so don’t contaminate the drinking supply with your germs. . “

Strange, I never made that connection until I became a father..does that make me a hypocrite??? Anyway…

As you can see, my family and I go through real life issues just like everybody else. Just because we’re a Christian family doesn’t mean we don’t ever have to go to therapy sessions.

My wife and I tossed around the idea of doing a reality show, kinda like Rev. Run’s House/Bernie Mac/My Wife and Kids or something, but I think she’s afraid of what I might say if the camera is on me too long.

Which is another reason of why I enjoy going to worship and praise services. I enjoy learning more about God and the path prescribed for us to walk. Being ‘good’ never came naturally to me, I had to ‘act’ like I had some sense.

And know that I made it past the chasm of confusion and unbelief and onto the side of the Believers in Christ, I know I still have a lot of growing to do. I still enjoy being taught and learning. I definitely enjoy a good sermon, we all need to be ‘preached up’ a bit from time to time when our spirits get low and our batteries need to be recharged.

And so often I find myself listening to sermons and I feel like the minister is talking specifically, directly and to nobody else but me. No matter how many people are in the congregation, God sent this person to minister to my soul.

This past Sunday, I felt myself in another one of these ‘He’s talking to YOU’ situations as I sat through our morning 11 o’clock service at Blueridge Baptist Church, 9621 Chesterfield.

Our church is going through a time of change right now, and we had a visiting minister deliver the address. He had already preached at our church before and conducted a Bible Study back in August, and I highlighted his points in Paper Chasing.

Rev. Ralph Fairley is his name, and although of slight stature, he wields a heavy sword when it comes to ministering the gospel of Christ. We actually know some of the same people, because his wife and I are both Stanford alums.

Our custom (at our church) is to stand in reverence to God’s Word, as the minister reads the passage of Scripture that he is going to expound upon. His text this Sunday was out of Haggai, the 2nd Chapter.

I was sitting in a pew right next to my father and as we stood, I flipped through my Bible and leaned over to him and asked, ‘Where’s Haggai??”

I knew Haggai was a latter prophet, somewhere after Daniel but before Malachi, but I didn’t know exactly where and I didn’t want to be the ‘novice’ of having to look at the table of contents. My dad, being the Bible scholar that he is, whispered, “It’s right before Zechariah”

I still had a hard problem finding Zechariah..and Zephaniah, but there was Haggai, right between the two.

Haggai is a small book, comprised of only 2 chapters.

Haggai was a prophet of the restored remnant of Israel after the 70 years captivity. They had returned to Israel and were allowed to rebuild the temple that had been destroyed. The text began at the 10th verse…

In the twenty-fourth of the ninth month, in the second year of Darius, the Word of Jehovah came by Haggai the prophet, saying, So says Jehovah of Hosts: Now ask the priests the Law, saying, If one carries holy flesh in the skirt of his garment, and touches his skirt to bread, or boiled food, or wine, or oil, or any food, will it become holy? And the priests answered and said, No. Then Haggai said, If one unclean of body touches these, is it unclean? And the priests answered and said, It is unclean. And Haggai answered and said, So is this people, and so is this nation before Me, says Jehovah. And so is every work of their hands; and that which they offer there is unclean. And now, I ask you, set your heart on it; from this day and onward, before the placing of a stone on a stone in the temple of Jehovah; from then onward, one came to a heap of twenty measures, and there were but ten; one came to the wine vat to draw off fifty from the winepress, and there were but twenty. I struck you with blight and with mildew, and with hail, in all the labors of your hands; yet you did not turn to Me, says Jehovah. Now set your heart from this day and forward, from the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month, from the day that Jehovah's temple was founded. Set your heart: Is the seed still in the barn? Yea, as yet the vine, and the fig tree, and the pomegranate, and the olive tree, have not brought forth. From this day I will bless you.

(Haggai 2:10-19 MKJV)

The title of his sermon was ‘Three Steps to Blessedness”

He started talking about working in corporate America and being privy to the large sums of money that were transferred everyday. With his position, he was able to see checks into the 6 figure amounts. And all the time he would wonder, how could he get HIS name on one of those checks next to, Pay to the Order of:

So many preach prosperity now and you can see them using the Bible to back up their ‘name it and claim it’ gospel on so many occasions..

John 15:7 “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.”

Matthew 6:33 “But seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you”

Psalms 37:4 “Delight thyself also in the Lord; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.”

Praise God = Get Paid is the formula they’re pushing.

But Rev. Fairley showed us that there are 3 steps required to getting our name ‘on that check’.

Haggai used the example of showing how holy flesh doesn’t ‘rub off’ onto others, but unclean flesh can contaminate healthy flesh. One rotten apple can ruin the whole barrel.

1st Step: Religion is no substitute for righteousness.

The people had begun rebuilding the temple, but when they compared the foundation and drawings to Solomon’s temple, they knew it wasn’t going to be as majestic as the previous temple. So they stopped working on the temple and went back to building their own personal houses and tending to their own private affairs.

They still loved God, but he had taken a backup spot to themselves.

God never intended to be the Pips to our Gladys Knight.

He didn’t ask to be the Blue Notes to our Harold Melvin.

He never wanted to be the Maze to our Frankie Beverly.

God is not a backup singer, he’s a lead. And until we put God first in our lives, we’re going to be stuck in idolatry.

2nd Step: Learn how to recognize and respond to the voice of the Lord.

That’s a hard one sometimes. Cuz every whacko preacher-prophet-apostle-priest that claims to be ‘speaking God’s Word’ ain’t.

There’s a lot of jank in the drank, when it comes to the exposition of the gospel.

That’s why Christians have the individual charge to study to show thyself approved unto God (II Timothy 2:15). You can never rightly divide without spending some time in prayer and Bible study for yourself.

Jesus was a lot more direct, because He knew, “My sheep know my voice.”

The 3rd and final step, is to learn how to totally rely on God.

Haggai let the Israelites know, that all those times of hard toil and labor with minimal return wasn’t necessarily because of ‘evil spirits’ or ‘bad luck’. Sometimes God limits our production as a way of chastising us towards obedience.

When parents don’t love their children, they let them run wild and do whatever. But when a parent truly loves their child, they chastise them and give them discipline. That’s how children are able to grow up and become responsible adults.

God wanted them to know that He didn’t care about the size or grandeur of what the new temple looked like. No matter how opulent, the temple would never shine without His presence anyway.

“Is the seed yet in the barn? Yea, as yet the vine, and the fig tree and the pomegranate, and the olive tree, hath not brought forth; from this day will I bless you.”

Attending church services regularly is not the same as embracing Christ in your heart, the former is an effect of the latter.

A lot of people are living in spiritual confusion. Trying to follow 20 different televangelist/ministers all teaching 20 different doctrines. Calling Ms. Cleo, checking their horoscope, going to see a palm reader or have a pre-birth séance, buying prophesy cloths, it’s unlimited the amount of ‘game’ that is being circulated.

Bible study is a vital cog to the Christian way of life. There is no substitute for it.

I know I’m personally guilty of putting my own affairs before God. There is a balance to be reached between caring for your family and fulfilling God’s plan for your life.

Spending all your time and money at church when your wife and kids are hungry with no place to live is out of bounds.

“But if any provide not for his own and especially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel”. – I Timothy 5:8

It’s all just another step toward learning how to totally rely on God.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Hard Heads 2008

Sometimes I have to go into ‘timeout’, so that I can calm down and get myself together.

Even though I’m a grown man with kids, I still have my tendencies of ‘tunnel visioned’ passion. (see Hard Heads)

As a child, I used to get so ‘caught up’ in whatever it was I was doing, that I lost sight of other things going on around me. This usually manifested itself in my MULTIPLE occasions of knocking over furniture, plantery and even a broken window (or two).

My mom had this one potted plant that I must’ve knocked over a dozen times (if you include the times I did it when my parents weren’t around). What made it so bad, it was in our den and we had this thick shag rug carpet. So when all that potted soil got into the carpet, you couldn’t sweep it up, you had to get the vacuum cleaner.

I mustve got my az whupped over that plant at least 3 or 4 times.

It just got to the point where my mom wasn’t trying to hear anymore ‘It was an accident’

You knocked this plant over AGAIN!!!????

Momma..I wasn’t trying to.

I don’t want to HEAR THAT!! I done told you at least 3 TIMES to stop running through this house like you ain’t go no sense!!! Now you done knocked over my plant..AGAIN!!! I’m tired of talking to you…

At that point, she was usually in a huff and spitting mad and headed toward the closet to get one of my dad’s leather belts..usually the black one. She never heat me with the buckle tho, only the strap. Thanks be to go, I was HEALED and DELIVERED!!

Nowadays, if parents put a belt on their child’s behind, they’re liable to ‘catch a case’ and have them white folks in their life. Child Protection Services have helped a lot of families, but they’ve also hurt a few too. On both sides of the coin: Neglect of sheltering a child truly in harm or danger’s way AND over-reacting to a situation that ultimately ended up damaging the relationship between child and guardian.

I don’t want to see any child hurt or abused, but at the same time, I know I was one of those hard headed little boys that needed physical reprimand to garner my full attention.

I read stories about those 4 sisters in Washington D.C. that were found in a decomposed state and I almost start pacing the floor sometimes. I still get crunk over stuff like that. Another reason of why I cling as close to Christ as I possibly can..I need to lean on Him a lot. Or else I would have ‘flipped out’ a LOONG time ago.

Quite the contrary of my Michael Corleone, Godfather admiration, I would have never been the Don, cuz I could have never killed my brother Fredo.

And when I see instances of gross neglect and blatant evil such as this, I am reminded and re-affirmed that there are spiritual powers in high places working hard every day to spread evil and hate into this world.

Eph 6:12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

I’m very much aware of this battle that is raging.

I believe in education, living a healthy lifestyle (diet, exercise) and taking care of your families. Working hard at whatever it is you do. Giving your best.

As many ills of society that there are to fight against: child abuse, domestic abuse, drug addiction, alcoholism, greed, strife, poverty, hunger, disease, illiteracy..all that stuff and more is going down in full effect in 2008.

Some people ask, “Is it REALLY getting bad or has it been this way all the time and it’s just getting publicized more now?”

I dunno..all I know is that there’s much work to do and when our book is closed, the question we have to ask ourselves is if He is going to say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant. (Matt 25:21,23)” Or is He going to say, “Depart from me you workers of iniquity, I never knew you.(Matt 7:23)”??

Monday, January 07, 2008

The Dying Family

As I was driving her to school this morning, my daughter asked me if I had made any New Year’s resolutions.

I told her no.

“New Year’s resolutions never made any sense to me. If people want to change something about themselves, why wait until January 1st ?? Do it right away!”

Of course, that’s not to say that I don’t have some things that I can improve upon.

Tidiness. Punctuality. Punctuation. Grammar. Sentence structure.

There are definitely a lot of areas for me to tighten up my game.

But at the same time, I thank God for giving me a passion and a purpose.

I like to write.

I like to read.

I like to study the predicament of the human soul.

I love to study God’s Word.

It’s not just a passing fancy for me.

I don’t see Jesus Christ as a genie in the lamp for me to rub on when I need Him and keep tucked away in a back closet when I want to do MY thang.

Instead, I take the words from Joshua’s and the Psalmist pen to heart.

Jos 1:8 This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.

Psa 1:1-2 Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.

These words mean even more to me, now that I’m a husband and a father. This past Sunday our church had an installation ceremony for all of the new and re-elected ministry leaders. As my wife and I stood together before the congregation, along with all the other ministry leaders who took the pledge and prayer for the New Year, I made sure to grab her hand as we recited the pledge and prayed together.

I know it’s a blessing to be happily married and living under the covenant of Christ. Everybody ain’t got it like that.

In fact, in the neighborhood that we live and attend church, the family structure of a husband, wife and kids is quickly becoming an extinct species.

Drug abuse. Children born out of wedlock. Divorce. Adultery. Deadbeat parents and a plethora of other ‘issues’ are plaguing our community.

As much as I would love to thump on my chest and tout how strong MY family is..I know I can’t take any of the credit. Because the bond that fuses my family together is a lot stronger than anything I could have done on my own.

A lot of people look at my wife and me and assume that everything came so easy for us. Little do they know that our marriage was in no means a fairy tale beginning. Like Mahalia Jackson used to sing, we came up on the rough side of the mountain.

If anything, our marriage is a testament to what can happen when you make Christ the head of your life and your marriage.

I know there are a lot of marriages that are teetering on the brink of destruction. Most of the questions and inquiries about God and the Bible that I get from men always seem to center around the common complaint, “My wife ain’t submitting to me!!

I don’t try to get into anybody’s business, but if they ask me, I tell them. “Have you submitted yourself to Christ?”

Just like the military, there’s a God ordained structure or a ‘chain of command’ that must line up in order to operate in harmony.

My prayer for the New Year is for all the families that are struggling to make it. More specifically, my prayer is for all the men to stand up and assume their position and duty in God’s plan for the family. Loving your wives. Not provoking your children to anger. Being the king and priest of your household like God meant for you to be.

Because when the man doesn’t stand up and assume his role, that leaves a lot more responsibility and burden on the woman. And there are some strong and devout women with the courage and faith to make it work, but it’s not the way God intended for it to be.

Marriage is an exercise of patience and perseverance. In a lot of ways, you’ve got to sacrifice your own personal desires for the good of the group. Marriage definitely ain’t for everybody, especially selfish people.

But the joys you get from persevering and ‘making it’, can make all the hardships and struggle that you went through more than worthwhile.

Happy New Year everybody! Get some Word in your life in 2008!!