Just One Step

The following was originally posted on January 10, 2011.

 

Scripture Reading: Matthew 26:34-40

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in , I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’

In November of 2006, I had the opportunity to visit the country of Liberia, in West Africa. My home church, Milledge Avenue Baptist Church, had given some assistance to a church there outside the capital city of Monrovia. Commission Baptist Church is the name of that church in West Africa and it is led by a truly wonderful and loving pastor. At the time I visited the church, Liberia was just beginning to recover from a brutal fourteen year civil war in which many lives were lost. Most families in the church had to cope with the loss of one or more family members.

Our church had given financial assistance to Commission Baptist Church to rebuild the roof on their church. The roof was removed and the church was almost destroyed during the civil war. The church was very important to the congregation and they wanted to get their place of worship back in the best condition possible.

One of the first things that I noticed when we arrived at the church was a hand made sign that read, “Just one step and God will do the rest.” It was several days later however, that I really began to recognize the significance of those words to the people of Commission Baptist Church.

We were in a meeting with the deacons from Commission Baptist Church and some deacons from other area congregations. I started telling the deacons about how our church feels a calling to do mission work. I told them about the bread burners – a retired group of men in our church who decided to go out into the community feeding the hungry and sharing the love of Christ. I shared with them how several Sunday school classes volunteer to prepare and serve lunch at Our Daily Bread, for the homeless in our community. I told them about Touching Taliaferro with Love, the summer camp to help disadvantaged children in the poorest county in Georgia.

I told them about the group of church members that went to Louisiana to help people recover from the catastrophe of Hurricane Katrina. I shared with them the story of people in our church that volunteer for Habitat for Humanity.

Pastor Weah, the pastor of Commission Baptist Church, later said, “That’s what I am trying to make my congregation to be more aware of. We are called to move beyond the walls of this church and go out into the community and share the love of Christ with people that do not know Christ.” “We have to move beyond our comfort zone and be out among people who are different.”

This pastor was speaking to his congregation that had lost practically all of their possessions and who were struggling daily to feed their families. And their pastor was asking them to go out and help others – and share the love of Christ with their neighbors and with complete strangers. I’m sure that they had to wonder how they were going to be able to do that when putting food on their table was their main concern each day. Pastor Weah would later tell his congregation that it is not about what we as humans are able to accomplish, it is God’s will that will be carried out if we listen, obey and are faithful. We can’t be afraid of the unknown, or fearful of others who are different from us. We can’t let our own individual limitations stop us. Just one step and God will do the rest.

As followers of Christ we are called to help others and to show compassion to others. We learn to think less about ourselves and our own needs and more about the needs and concerns of others. And when you do this you have the promise of Jesus to “take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.”

Prayer:
God, help me to be more aware of how I can help my fellow human beings. Help me to not be judgmental and to be more loving, like the example that Jesus gave us to follow. Take away my selfishness and give me a desire to help others that truly need some love and compassion in their lives. Amen.

Worthy is The Lamb

Revelation 5:6-14 (NIV)

Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing at the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. The Lamb had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits  of God sent out into all the earth. He went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne. And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people. And they sang a new song, saying:

“You are worthy to take the scroll
    and to open its seals,
because you were slain,
    and with your blood you purchased for God
    persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.
 You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God,
    and they will reign on the earth.”

Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they were saying:

“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,
    to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength
    and honor and glory and praise!”

Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying:

“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
    be praise and honor and glory and power,
for ever and ever!”

The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped.

The name “Lamb of God” is a name that refers to Jesus as the sacrificial offering given on our behalf. Rev. 12:11 tells us that have overcome Satan by the precious blood of the Lamb. In John 1:29, John the Baptist calls Jesus “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” And 1 Peter 1:18-20 tells us that we were redeemed “with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.”

The Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir sings a beautiful version of the song “Worthy is The Lamb.” I hope that you will take the time to listen to this powerful song and let these angelic voices inspire you as you give praise to the Lamb of God who redeemed us with his blood.

A Dear Friend

This week a dear friend, Rev. Augustine Weah, arrived in Athens to visit our church. Rev. Weah is from our sister church, Commission Baptist Church, just outside of Monrovia, Liberia in West Africa. Six years ago I was privileged to visit his church along with my pastor, Edward Bolen. It was my first visit to Africa and it was an experience that I will never forget. I long for the day when I can return to Commission Baptist Church and once again be a part of their joyful worship services.

I have been reading from the journal that I kept while in Liberia and I have been reminded of some wonderful moments from my time spent there.  I am so thankful that I kept a journal or I would have not been able to remember many details about my visit there. For example, there were two signs hanging in the church that read: “Little is much if God is in it” and “Just one step and God will do the rest.” The order of worship from our last Sunday service there had 26 items on the worship schedule. The service began at 11am and ended at 2pm.

I fondly remember that Sunday church service which began in a long line from outside of the church. Standing outside of the church, getting lined up to go inside, it was very hot. The choir was first in line, followed by the Deacons, and then the pastors.

These were some of the meals that were served to us while in Liberia: Cabbage soup over rice with red peppers, Fish, beef and red peppers over rice with Palm Butter, Joffa Rice and plantains, Barracuda with rice and mixed vegetables, fried fish with rice and plantains.

I was also reminded of the many children that we came into contact with at the church and in the community. After a Thursday night service I wrote, “There were lots of children at the service tonight. They all gathered around me and wanted to get close to me and touch me. Edward said that I had quite a fan club.” While walking in a 1 1/2 mile “parade”, we encountered many children who were on the roadside. They would come up to us and want to talk to us or shake our hands. I missed my children back home very much so it was great that we were able to be around so many wonderful Liberian children during our time there.

Rev. Weah talked to a group gathered for Wednesday night services at our church last night. He talked about how joyful he was, to be able to visit our church and meet his brothers and sisters in Christ from Milledge Avenue. Many of our church members, who have only heard stories about this pastor and his church, will now have the opportunity to meet him and learn from him.

Only God could make it possible for our two churches to get together. God moved the hearts of his faithful servants both in Athens, Georgia and in Liberia, West Africa, and God’s people responded. With God, all things are possible, if we will only believe and have faith. It brings to mind the words from one of the signs that was hanging inside Commission Baptist Church that read, “Little is much if God is in it.” Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Calling on Jesus

Psalm 118:24: This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

I am so thankful for this day in which I exist to serve God. I am blessed with the opportunity to preach again this Sunday on Ruth chapter 1. The sermon is Running on Empty or Filled by Faith. There are so many people in this world who feel that their lives are “empty.” We pursue the things of this world to fill that void or emptiness, when we should be seeking God, who can bring us into fullness in Christ.

As believers we must remember that God is close by, He is available, all we have to do is call upon His name. When we call upon Jesus, He will answer, and will deliver us from emptiness and a life that is dead. Call upon the name of Jesus and experience a full life in Christ, who defeated sin and death on the cross at Calvary. He is waiting for you to call upon His name and you will begin to see that all things are possible through Christ.

The song by Nicole C. Mullen, Call on Jesus, is another one of my favorite praise songs. If you have not yet listened to the beautiful words of this song, I encourage you to do so this morning, it will renew and strengthen your faith.

May the Peace of Christ be with you all.

 

 

Spiritual Warfare

Ephesians 6: 10-18:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

The Apostle Paul reminds us that our “struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” I wonder how often we have read over this passage from the book of Ephesians and not fully realized exactly what Paul is referring to. As believers, we must be equipped to do battle with the supernatural, dark forces of evil that exists in the heavenly realms.

I don’t know about you, but this battle against the spiritual forces of evil seems overwhelming to me. How can we resist or stand against the dark forces of the evil one? How am I, a mere mortal, able to stand against the forces of evil? Paul tells us in the first verse of today’s reading how we are able to do this when we writes, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.” It is only by the incredible power of God that we are given the ability to take our “stand against the devil’s schemes.” We are powerless in our own might but with God’s power we can obtain the necessary “armor” to stand our ground against the desires of the evil one.

It’s interesting how the evil one will try to stand in the way of a believer. I had originally tried to write this post over a month ago and each time I came back to it, I was prevented from writing it. Things would occur that made me stop what I was writing or would cause me to lose my concentration and quit. Some people would say that those things just naturally happened, that it had no connection to the spiritual forces of darkness. I would strongly disagree with that assessment. The evil one will do anything to prevent God’s people from carrying out their duties of proclaiming the kingdom. And the evil one comes on especially strong when we publicly oppose him and his evil schemes.

In the book of Daniel, we are given a glimpse of the powerful nature of these spiritual forces of evil. Daniel 10:12-13: Then he continued, “Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them. But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, because I was detained there with the king of Persia. The NIV study Bible notes that this was apparently a demon exercising influence over the Persian realm in the interests of Satan. His resistance was finally overcome by the archangel Michael, “the great prince who protects” the people of God (Daniel 12:1). [1]

In his book, Destined for the Throne, Paul Billheimer writes about the battle of spiritual warfare that is being waged in our daily lives. Bellheimer writes that the primary way to overcome this spiritual battle is through prayer. Sadly he writes that we are just “too busy to pray.” On this topic of prayer he also writes, “No angel was ever invited to share this high privilege (prayer). No archangel was ever invited into the throne room of the universe. Only redeemed humanity. And many of us are too busy – watching television, following sports, hunting and fishing, bathing and boating, engaging in farming or business. We are so busy with the cares and pleasure of this life, trying to keep up with trends in new cars, new homes, new appliances, new furniture, that we do not have time to pray. If you can buy the new car, the new home, the new furniture, the new gadgets, hold down two jobs, and so on, for the glory of God – well and good. But if we didn’t have to have such a high standard of living would we not have more time to pray?” [2]

The Apostle Paul reminds us to “put on the full armor of God” so that we will be able to stand up against and resist the evil forces that exist solely to separate us from God and his plan for redeeming mankind. The Apostle Paul also reminds us to “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.

James 4: 7-8a: Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.



[1]Zondervan NIV study Bible, p. 1335

[2] Destined for the Throne, Paul E. Billheimer, p. 52-53