Relationships


While certain critics continue their onslaught of playwright, Tyler Perry, regarding his latest film, “For Colored Girls,” box-offices prove these so-called experts don’t altogether know everything; and especially about our understanding and appreciation of black art. In my humble opinion, the production struck (strangely) a few spiritual chords I found noteworthy, and afforded me the opportunity to incorporate them into a recent message. Through a combination of varying and independent themes, Perry amazingly caused them to coalesce in a warmly communal scene at the conclusion of the movie that was packed with preaching. If you have seen it already, then you may appreciate these epigrammatic observations from my review.

As these nine ladies stood arm-in-arm on the roof of the apartment building wherein much of the drama took place, I found their dissimilar stories and uniformly unfortunate circumstances portraying these common truths. Somehow they each came to discover (1) You’re not the only one that’s going through; (2) There’s always someone else who is worse off than you; (3) You need me, and I need you; and (4) and if any of us are going to make it, only God can bring us through!

Poetic, yes! But, I submit these are both painstaking and powerful, too!

Settle with these realities, my brothers and sisters. When you do, you may find comfort to stay in the fight, the courage to continue with the struggle, and the strength never to give up (or give in) until the battle is finally over. God is not through with you yet!

Be blessed and may His peace be with you, always!

God favored me in a most refreshing and remarkable way the other day. After years of searching (and simply refusing to give up), I was able to reconnect with a dear friend I met over 30 years ago while we both were serving as young officers in the United States Army at Fort Benning, Georgia. Reassigned to a new installation in 1981, I moved on and we simply lost contact. We had not spoken since.

Finding him was not easy. It took time and effort, and the closer I got (it seemed), the more challenging the search became. When finally we spoke, the excitement in our voices was both unmistakable and indescribable. We laughed and cried as we talked. I was especially moved as he told of his painful path over the years. Injuries, sickness, difficulties, and even the shadow of death were all a part of his peculiar journey. On several occasions he shared how he almost lost his life in a few accidents during overseas maneuvers. His story brought me to more tears, but I was (and am) so happy to discover he was alive and well.

Of all the things he shared, his voice was strongest when he told me about how God alone had kept him and had brought him safely through. Confidently, he reported he held faithful membership with Eastern Star Baptist Church in Indianapolis, Indiana, where Reverend Jeffrey Johnson serves as pastor. He cited their motto there is the church “Where Jesus is exalted and the Word is explained.” What he said next shook me to the core. He said, “Reg, you know I’m not a preacher and I may not be able to explain the word like many others; but I can assure you of one thing; can’t nobody beat me exalting Him. Believe that!” There was even more joy!

In His own mysterious way, God granted me another measure of His grace by allowing me to reunite with a dear friend and brother who I have not seen in three decades. Incredibly, and perhaps equally as long he was also looking for me.

In case you haven’t already figured it out, I’m really excited about this reunion. I have only heard his voice, but I’m still glad about it. I have yet to see his face or even shake his hand, but I still have joy about it. Just the prospects of seeing him in the near future give me great encouragement, and each time I tell of this experience, my joy excites others.

I should tell you there is a Great reunion scheduled! In these days of economic challenge and personal difficulty, keep pursuing this Friend–the Lord—while He may be found. You, too, will find joy unspeakable and full of glory. In fact, you will be surprised to learn some good news in your search. This Friend has also been looking for you!

As I exited my vehicle at Wal-Mart this past Thursday, I noticed a young couple exiting their vehicle at the same time. Strangely, we had to park a good distance from the main entrance since the parking lot was rather full. I couldn’t help but notice how the guy was dressed. He had on a bright yellow cap with a huge green “G” on it, with a grass-colored bib that was turned backwards on his head. He also wore a green jersey with a huge number four centered on it. White striped on both the shoulders and the sleeves accented his garb as he sported some khaki colored knickerbocker-type shorts that came down to his knees. A pair of sandy-colored sandals finished off his attire that plainly declared he was a Green Bay Packer fan.

Interestingly, earlier in the week, the Packers found themselves on the losing end of a widely publicized battle against their Chicago arch rivals—the Bears. It was a great game that kept fans (and viewers) on edge as it came-down-to-the-wire. In the closing moments, the Bears skillfully positioned themselves to kick a winning field goal to break the 24-24 tie. Green Bay was helpless to do anything realistic with the ensuing kickoff. The game ended 27-24, Chicago! Pundits indicate the Packers actually gave the game away. That was on Monday night! Yet, on Thursday, a man gracefully and publicly wore his Packers regalia without shame. I thought, “What would make a man continue to wear his favorite team’s paraphernalia even though his team lost a game they should have won; and sadly had let him down?” It’s really rather simple:

1. He was clearly a loyal fan and unashamedly loved his team.

2. He knew this game (Monday night’s) was just “one game” and the season wasn’t over.

3. He also knew that Sunday was coming and there likely would be an opportunity for redemption.

Are you a loyal fan of Christ’s church? Or are you someone playing the victim and participating in the negativity about others who fail or fall? My prayer is that we—Christ’s church—will soon embrace these principles. It does not matter who it is or what they have done (or what they may be accused of doing). True believers will (1) always remain as loyal proponents of the church of Jesus Christ just because they love the team; (2) they will work hard to remember this is only one game (e.g. one fumble, one dropped pass, one missed field goal, one flag, one fowl, one strike, one delay of game, or one un-sportsman-like conduct call, etc.), and that the season isn’t over; and (3) they will keep in mind that Sunday is coming; and there should arrive (prayerfully) a fresh opportunity for redemption.

Remain loyal, my brothers and sisters! Keep wearing the Lord’s regalia; and know that God alone is this game’s Official—He’s the Umpire, the Referee, and the Line Judge—and He alone has the power and is in the position to determine if any of us should remain on the team, or can continue to play the game!

In case you don’t know, Green Bay defeated Detroit today!

Here we go again! It should be no surprise that another Christian scandal has made it to the headlines and piqued the interest of believers everywhere, the viewing world, and especially the media. Although the truth is yet to be discovered, rumors continue to mount and many have already drawn conclusions on the innocence and guilt of the accused. The devil just doesn’t play fair, does he? It is most sad!

Let me be clear! Christ’s church is no stranger to controversy; and Christians and Christian leaders are never exempt from these routine and riotous hazards of the faith. Regrettably, some of these are self-imposed and the results of ones’ own undoing. Many are not! Throughout history God’s people have been under the microscope of constant judgment and incessant criticism. In fact, Jesus said, “…the kingdom suffers violence and violent men take it by force.” (See Matthew 11:12, NASB). As believers we will never escape satanic attack and the inequitable demonic strategies employed to destroy God’s work and our witness. What, then, are Christians supposed to do? How are we to respond when these tragic and unavoidable black-eyes occur? And believe me, this is undeniably a huge “black-eye!” Let’s see!

First of all, whenever a brother or a sister has been charged or is accused of a thing—a crime, an offense (a sin), an indiscretion, a fault, etc.,—as sad as it may be, don’t be surprised. In Revelation 12:10, our adversary is called “the accuser of the brethren.” Satan is still the “father of lies, the master of disguise, and the author of confusion.” These are the indisputable facts, and there’s no way around them!

Secondly, don’t judge. Any rash conclusions reached or quick judgments made about anyone who is accused is both premature as well as immature. “All the facts” need to be weighed! And even further, it is not our right or responsibility to ever reach a hasty “verdict” without giving those facts due consideration. Yes, believers will eventually judge angels (1 Corinthians 6:3), but these will surely be based on facts!

Thirdly, remember grace. Were it not for the grace (goodness) of God, any of us could be under attack (under seize, or even under fire) at any given moment. That means while you may not be on the witness stand or public display (today), you don’t have to be guilty of anything for the enemy to accuse you of something. We are ALL guilty of something(s), and it is only God’s grace that keeps ALL of us out of the lime-light and the public line-of-fire. Thank God for His grace and always be sure to extend the same to others who may be struggling or are presently under attack!

Fourthly (and most of all), PRAY! The fallout associated with these terrible misfortunes is incalculable. We should immediately begin to intercede and pray. Consider for a moment those who are directly affected:

(a) The accused—undoubtedly a human being with feelings, family, friends, some form of fortune, failures, faults, and flaws. It cannot be easy for anyone accused (whether innocent or guilty).
(b) The accusers—no doubt, there are some issues within the hearts and minds of anyone who would pursue a legal (and public) course of action to resolve an apparent personal problem or difficulty. The Bible is clear on the way believers are to resolve offenses and settle differences.
(c) The world of believers—whenever scandalous matters are aired before the world for open debate and public consumption it sadly damages the image of the church and the strength of every believer’s witness. There is absolutely no way around it!
(d) The unbelieving world—these (unsaved sinners) don’t need another excuse for failing to choose Jesus Christ as their portion. When you take a look at it, it’s a no-win situation and we all lose; and the only way to combat these kinds of heinous assaults is to engage the most formidable weapon in our arsenal and at our disposal—prayer!

Fifthly (and lastly), trust God to work it out! God alone is judge, and we should trust Him and His power to work it all out for all of our good and more especially for His glory. It is still true whatever the enemy may mean against us for evil, God can (and will) work it out for our good! Trust Him!

Be encouraged, my brothers and sisters. This certainly won’t be the last attack (or perhaps fall) of a believer or man or woman of God. When it’s all said and done, God will still be God, He is still good, He will still be great, He yet remains gracious, and He will always be greatly to be praised!

Our national body met this week in Kansas City for its 130th Annual Session. KC is less than 200 miles away and since I have some level of familiarity with the area, quite naturally I drove the distance. It was good to share fellowship with colleagues and friends from all over the country.

A pastor and friend from the DC area caught a ride with me to and from the downtown Convention Center daily since he had no car. As we were riding back to our hotels one evening, he verbalized it appeared as if I was headed in the wrong direction. In all actuality, we were taking a different route, but we were still going to our same destinations. Quietly, I ignored his concern. Finally, he repeated himself, and in a rather humorous manner I looked at my friend and gave him this somewhat typical response: “Man, I’ve got this thing!” Soon we were arriving at our destination and he conceded (with surprise and delight) he really didn’t think we were going to make it.

Reflecting on our riding exchange, I thought whenever riding in someone else’s vehicle, you simply have to trust that person to get you to your goal. Interestingly, and what he didn’t know (and I didn’t tell him) was that I had been that way before.

This reality is true of Christians. We are often concerned about whether or not the path we are taking is the right one, or the given direction we are traveling can get us to our goal. Often delays and unfamiliar scenery will challenge our comfort zones and make us quite naturally uneasy. Let me tell you, my dear brothers and sisters, don’t let these concerns worry you! We have a few comforts along this journey called faith that should put us at ease.

First, we should always remember that Someone else is doing the driving. While we at times are prone to forget (as did my friend), we must keep in mind we are simply the passengers. Secondly, He (God) knows exactly what He is doing, and too, where He is going. It may not look like it or even seem like it to us, but faith says He does. That means we’ve got to trust Him. Thirdly, even though it appears He may be (at times) ignoring us, there is one other truth we must never forget: He’s been this way before! Over two-thousand years ago, our Lord traveled this same trail. In fact, when He left, He sent us a Tour Guide (a personal Driver) to make sure we will reach our goal.

Job expressed it best at Chapter 23 and verse 10 of his journal: “But He knows the way that I take; and when He has tried me I shall come forth as gold.”

Enjoy the ride, dear friends! God’s got this thing!

Never have I felt as helpless being a parent as I did when a severe thunderstorm found its way into our community. My children were quite small and I was quietly attending to some work in my basement office at home. The Midwestern skies suddenly turned dark, and I heard small feet scurrying down the stairs. Lightening began flashing across the canopy of the skies and the heavens thundered in a series of bellowing roars. Soon, all three of them peeked around the office door as I sat at my desk. With blankets and pillows in tow, one spoke up and asked if they could come downstairs with me. Of course, I said, “Sure!” As they nestled in and sat calmly in the adjoining room, I thought how powerless I was in the situation. Had the storm become a tornado, there was nothing I could do to save them or myself. Even still, in spite of my vulnerability there yet was a strange peace that prevailed among them as they found sanctuary near me. I heard God speak in the particularity of it all.

So many times in life we will find ourselves in similar circumstances and there is literally nothing we can do to change it. Three small toddlers taught me a lesson I have never forgotten. Every last one of us can do exactly what they did. As soon as the storm began, they (1) immediately stopped what they were doing, (2) took cover and began paying keen attention to the developments, and (3) found sanctuary near their father. Oh, if we would but do likewise. Bless His holy name!

If there is a storm brewing in your life, try the above child-like strategies, and let the Father give you a peace that will surpass all comprehension.

Believe me; unlike the rest of us, God is not helpless under any circumstances!

My daughter called to check on me and to fill me in on her upcoming summer plans which will include summer school. As our conversation neared an end, I thought I was about to get away when the inevitable topic surfaced. She said kindly, “I need some money, daddy.” I smiled and told her I would take care of it, and we hung up the phone. That was Friday. On Monday, she called to see if I had taken care of it. I reassured her I had. She called a day later because the money hadn’t hit. It arrived the next day. My baby needed a blessing from her daddy and called to make her request known. Notice how I handled it! Several hundred miles away, I never even left my office, nor moved from my desk. I did not go to the bank. I did not write a check. I would not later on go to the post office, nor did I mail to her a package. I simply continued to sit at my computer and executed an electronic transaction that deposited the necessary funds into her account. It only took me a matter of minutes. I did what she asked!

Did you get it? If I—sinful me—as an earthen father, have the capacity to respond to the needs of my children by long distance (and thereby keep my word), how much more do you think our Heavenly Father is likewise able to meet the needs of His children; and also keep His word? His word says, “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up on wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31) His word says, “…God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)

Yes, at times it feels like we are being neglected or somehow overlooked when it comes to our prayer requests to God. The apparent delays are unnerving and can frustrate us to no end. Rest assured, dear friends, God heard you when first you asked; and is already doing (and maybe even has already done) something about it. The angel of the Lord came to reassure Daniel of this truth (read Daniel 10: 12). In essence, the angel said, “I was on my way, but unfortunately I got held up…” (paraphrase, mine) What great comfort Daniel must have received to learn that God was faithfully working on his behalf (sending help to see about him) even though the manifestation had not been revealed!

“Keep holding on, my brothers and sisters!” Help is on the way!

Only a moment ago I stepped out of my truck and walked around to the passenger side door to retrieve my brief case and shoulder bag. When opening the door, a small meal receipt fell out and onto the church’s parking lot. Before I could pick it up, a gentle breeze lightly swept it under the vehicle and it was too far gone for me to reach. Calmly, I walked to the other side of the vehicle, backed up a bit to see if I could see it, and just stood there unmoved. After a few minutes, the receipt eased its way from under the vehicle, and I quietly picked it up. As I walked into my office, I rehearsed (in my mind) my harmless incident and clearly heard God speak.

In case you feel you have fallen short in raising or parenting your children, perhaps my innocent experience in our church’s parking lot can help. If you have dropped-the-ball or even feel as though somehow you missed-the-mark with yours (or simply wish you had done things differently), then do what I just did:

1. Notice (pay attention to) where the mishap occurred.
2. Reposition yourself so you can see the direction in which they might be headed.
3. Wait for the Wind (of the Holy Ghost) to breathe on them.

God still has a way of gently breathing on our imperfect efforts and returning to us what seems to have been lost. Solomon said if you train the child properly (“…in the way he should go…”) while he or she is young, the child will not depart from the path when the child becomes old (read Proverbs 22:6).

How do we know God yet breathes? It is because the Wind is still blowing!

For years now I have coined a somewhat lyrical and memorable phrase detailing what it means to be a fully liberated adult. On those occasions when I have incorporated it into a sermonic discourse, it has never failed to generate a rousing response. The statement is this: “You are not a fully liberated adult until you’re actually grown, gone, on your own, and leaving your mama and daddy’s money alone!” A few may disagree, but numerous have noted how it resonates with their own views when it comes to an excellent definition for being a true adult!”

As comical and perhaps factual as this quotation may be, it reminds us of the common quest of every growing (and groaning) teenager as they begin to know privilege, opportunity, more liberty, and some degree of independence. It seems the more they taste it, the more they want of it (and there’s nothing wrong with wanting it either). I believe, however, I can honestly say for every child-rearing adult and loving parent that no child wants to leave home any quicker (or to any degree greater) than their guardians want them to soon be on their way. In the final analysis, there is one inescapable factor we cannot ignore; “these things take time.”

As I pondered this all too familiar dilemma, the Lord pressed upon me another truth—an axiom of sorts—that is indisputably true. It is this: “In one’s quest for autonomy and a want for authority, none get to live without accountability.”

We would all do well to learn this reality. No one should seek to live without the distinct privilege of allowing another (or others) to uphold you in loving and responsible accountability. It is the only guarantor of excellence, ethics, and equality for a healthy society to exist. Lord Acton was right when he wrote, “Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely!” This certainly holds true when it comes to the management of our lives!

When you think about it, Jabez’s simple prayer included an insightful appeal that recognized his own need for living right in community. While he requested more real estate, resources, and responsibility, he also asked the Lord to “…keep me from evil so that I may not cause pain.” (see 1 Chronicles 4:10). He wanted God to help him manage himself so that he would not create problems for others who lived with, amid, and near him. He knew in the scheme of things he could not be successful without living responsibly and accountably around other people. Joyfully, God did exactly what he asked Him to do. He can do it for you. Just ask Him!

I have never asked God to help me be a better preacher or pastor. If only He would enable me to be a better person. That is why my desperate plea daily is simply: “Lord, help me to live right!”

A few weeks ago I went to celebrate with a colleague at his 50th birthday event. We graduated from seminary together and have been friends for over a quarter of a century. This was no routine birthday party. It was a true celebration of his life after having survived major heart surgery in 2006. An aneurism on one of his heart valves had to be repaired which caused him to undergo a nine hour operation.

In commemorating this special time, he dared to think-outside–the-box and brought in the famous Dramatics all the way from his home town of Detroit, Michigan. Let me tell you, it was off-the-chain! They sang and did their “old school” twists and turns, and blew us away with a timeless genre of music that yet endures. Friends (near and far) along with members of his congregation showed up in a non-traditional setting and enjoyed some really good music and had a really great time. The next night we went to watch the Colts play the Ravens in the play-offs. The Colts, of course, won 20-3.

The entire weekend was liberating (to say the least) for me. Historically, I have been quite stoic and sought to conceal that “other side of me” which surfaces every now and then in my Christian journey. I discovered some valuable lessons and thought I’d share a few.

1. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying a really good time.

2. We (believers) should always—at all times—have balance and exercise Christian moderation.

3. When done with dignity and good taste, you can do it without guilt or having any regrets.

Some may feel this composition crosses-the-line and may be a bit on-the-edge; because they feel there is no place for secular socializing as believers. Let me remind you, Jesus had no problem with a party. As a matter of fact, while we know He attended a wedding feast at Cana of Galilee, few of us highlight the fact He stayed for the “after set.” The wedding was over and our Lord and Savior remained for the ensuing reception. In fact, He stayed so long until the host’s wine supply ran out. No problem for Christ! He simply made some new (more) wine; and it was so good many commented it was better than the first batch.

Here is a final observation. If exercising your Christian liberty becomes a problem for others’ maturity, then don’t exercise your liberty. Conversely, if your Christian maturity is bothered by another’s liberty, you may want to take a look at your maturity. Decency and orderliness are always appropriate!

Believers can’t afford to become “party animals,” but there’s nothing wrong with having a good time. Enjoy your life!

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