Monday, February 25, 2019

Pastor's Ponderings, February 25, 2019

The Achievement Award Goes To…

On February 24, 2019, the 91stAcademy Awards ceremony awarded the best films of 2018 with Oscars.  These artists have devoted to their lives to developing their craft and last night the nation honored and praised them.  Like these entertainers, many of us have fought for, strived for, and cried for people to think well of us. If others thought we were worthy, we thought the same, but if others thought we were not worthy of honor, prizes, or fame, our whole world would crash.

In the Bible, the religious leaders in the time of Jesus also sought recognition. But Jesus said they did everything solely so that men could see them (Matthew 23:5-7).  They loved men’s praise more than God’s praise. They knew that Jesus was the Son of God, but crucified Him anyway because they were afraid of being thrown out of the synagogue (John 12:42, 43). While earthly honors are important and they can motivate us to do outstanding work, they must not supersede the importance of heavenly rewards. The Bible says that we are to focus more on our heavenly trajectory than our earthly pursuits (Colossians 3:2-4)

According to Scripture, there are five divine crowns after the Last Judgment waiting for those who please God.  These are the Crown of Life, the Incorruptible Crown, the Crown of Righteousness, the Crown of Glory, and the Crown of Exultation.  Paul triumphantly stated that he knew that after his imminent death, the Crown of Righteousness was waiting for him (2 Timothy 4:8).

Earthly treasures will fade, man-made crowns will be forgotten, but we must build our hopes, our dreams, and our focus on God’s eternal treasures.  We must hold onto God’s unchanging hand and He will reward us greatly and eternally (Galatians 6:9).

Matthew 23:5-7
Amplified Bible (AMP)
5 They do all their deeds to be seen by men; for they make their phylacteries (tefillin) wide [to make them more conspicuous] and make their tassels long.
They love the place of distinction and honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues [those on the platform near the scrolls of the Law, facing the congregation],
and to be greeted [with respect] in the market places and public forums...

John 12:42, 43
New International Version (NIV)
42 Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not openly acknowledge their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; 
43 for they loved human praise more than praise from God.

Colossians 3:2-4
New International Version (NIV)
Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 
For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 
When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

2 Timothy 4:8
New International Version (NIV)
Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day--and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

Galatians 6:9
New International Version (NIV)
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Pastor's Ponderings, February 19, 2019

Once again, we are blessed to have a guest author for this weeks Pastor’s Ponderings, Dr. Malika Fair.

Giving God A Side-Eye?

I’m too familiar with sickness and disease. I’m trained to be able to look at someone and almost immediately place him or her in a “sick” vs. “not sick” category in terms of their imminent demise. I’m also blessed that friends and family members will call on me to ask for medical advice and I can be an advocate for them as they navigate the complicated medical system. Yet, something unusual has happened over the past two weeks. The family and friends who I’ve encountered with medical issues rival the number I see on a busy ER shift. New friends and old, mentors and mentees, and even my own Father have been in the hospital. Seeing and hearing their pain has impacted me to my core and I’ll be honest, I’ve questioned God.

Intellectually, I know that physicians are quite limited and rely on our training, scientific discoveries and pattern recognition to treat medical conditions. Spiritually, I believe in miraculous healing, the power of prayer, and I’ve seen people recover against all odds.  But practically, I sometimes pause and look at God with a side-eye. “This doesn’t seem like the God I serve. Why would you allow this to happen? Haven’t they suffered enough? Can’t you just take the pain away? Can’t you just heal them right now?”

The Bible tells us that He knew our bodies when we were first formed in our mother’s womb (Jeremiah 1:5). Despite what we think about ourselves or what blood work and X-rays tell us, we are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). Times of sickness and disease bring a lot of fear, but God promises that He will never leave us (Hebrews 13:5). He reminds us that He knows our end from our beginning (Isaiah 46:10). Even when we have horrific challenges, He tells us to take heart, because He has overcome the world (John 16:33).

As I wait for my family and friends to be completely healed, I realize that God is already working. He is healing by allowing her speech to come back slowly, his pain to go away, her tumor to shrink, and his doctor to know what procedure is needed. God is showing up by sending friends and family to the bedside, meals to their kitchen, and allowing calls to reach their phone. He’s making sure children are cared for, bills are paid and responsibilities are lifted. He’s bringing laughter during pain. He’s reminding us that our lives are like a vapor (James 4:14). We can’t hold on to anything but Him.

It might be you that is experiencing a health challenge or maybe it is a friend or family member. Although we anxiously anticipate the healing to occur, the gift is in the process. The healing is what is happening inside all of us when we learn what it means to really trust Him. Even in looking to the side, if you look close enough God is still present and doing amazing works.

Click here to learn about my friend’s miraculous and steady recovery and consider donating:

Jeremiah 1:5
New International Version (NIV)
5“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,before you were born I set you apart;I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”

Psalm 139:14
New International Version (NIV)
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

Hebrews 13:5
New International Version (NIV)
5 Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

Isaiah 46:10
New International Version (NIV)
10 I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.’

John 16:33
New International Version (NIV)
33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

James 4:14 
New King James Version (NKJV)
14 whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Pastor's Ponderings, February 11, 2019

God Wants His Children To Be The Best

Frances Y. Spencer wrote an article in “The Advocate”, February 6, 2019 issue, entitled, “Carnegie Hall sets stage for teen cellist’s dreams.”  As a fifth-grader cellist in Chicago, my grandson, Ethan Clay began to dream one of those dreams shared by musicians across the globe of playing Carnegie Hall. On Sunday, February 10, 2019, he took the famous stage as part of the Honors Performance Series at Carnegie Hall. Over10,000 students auditioned and he was selected to be in the elite 300 who would perform yesterday. This is a dream come true not only for Ethan but also for his parents Erick and Leslie Clay. His dream is also their dream, as they want the best for him.

In the Bible, God tells us that He also wants the best for His children.  He says that His children get His protection and are the apple of His eye (Psalm 17:8).  We are accepted in the beloved (Ephesians 1:6).  God wants us to receive His peace that goes past any earthly peace.  He wants us to be rich without all of the sorrow that sometimes comes with it.  He wants us in divine health, not just to be able to afford to visit a doctor (3 John 2).

Just like Ethan and the 300 other outstanding performers from around the world, God says that His children are the head and not the tail, on top and never on the bottom (Deuteronomy 28:13). He concludes that whatever we do in life is very successful in His eyes (Psalm 1:3).  In every challenge of life, in the end, we always are victorious (2 Corinthians 2:14a). His children don’t just win but in Christ, they are greater than winners (Romans 8:37).

Our family is so happy that God has gifted Ethan with both musical and academic ability and is being recognized for his talent and commitment.  We as followers of Christ should also look forward to that blessed day when we will receive the ultimate crown of righteousness that is being set aside for us in eternity (2 Timothy 4:8).  God wants the best for His children. Let us receive all of the peace, joy, love, and prosperity that He has for those who love Him.

Psalm 17:8
Amplified Bible (AMP)
Keep me [in Your affectionate care, protect me] as the apple of Your eye; Hide me in the [protective] shadow of Your wings.

Ephesians 1:6
New King James Version (NKJV)
to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.

3 John 2
New International Version (NIV)
Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well.

Deuteronomy 28:13
New International Version (NIV)
13 The Lord will make you the head, not the tail. If you pay attention to the commands of the Lord your God that I give you this day and carefully follow them, you will always be at the top, never at the bottom.

Psalm 1:3
New International Version (NIV)
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers.

2 Corinthians 2:14a
King James Version (KJV)
14 Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ…

Romans 8:37
New International Version (NIV)
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

2 Timothy 4:8
New International Version (NIV)
Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Pastor's Ponderings, February 4, 2019

God Wants A Close Relationship With His Children

In the February 2, 2019, US News, Jacob Soboroff and Dennis Romero wrote an article entitled, “Finding all migrant children separated from their families may be impossible, feds say.”  Apparently the Trump administration’s decision to separate the parents from their children at the United States southern border may permanently impact thousands of families.  Whether one supports the separation decision or opposes it, it is hard to dismiss the pain and agony of separation from one’s children.

In the Bible, God says our own disobedience to His loving kindness separates us from Him (Isaiah 59:2).  To bring us back to Him, over two thousand years ago, God the Father sent His Son Jesus Christ to pay for all of our sins.  He allowed His only Son to be stabbed, beaten (Isaiah 53:5a) and put to death on a cross between two known criminals.  Jesus’ most poignant words were, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me (Matthew 27:46)?” 

God the Father and Jesus the Son paid a great price to reconcile us back to Him. But even when our rebellion against God divided us from Him, He loved us so much that He declares that our rightful place is with Him and Christ (Ephesians 2:4-6).  He affirms that He has delivered us from rebellion against Him to a loving relationship with Him (Colossians 1:13).

Just like the parents at the border want their children back with them, God says His children are accepted in His heavenly realms (Ephesians 1:6).  He has a place especially prepared for those who love Him (John 14:3). God so loved the world that He gave His only Son for us that we might be with Him (John 3:16).  Let us accept His kind offer and have a close relationship with our Father.

Isaiah 59:2
New International Version (NIV)
But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.

Isaiah 53:5a
New International Version (NIV)
But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; 

Matthew 27:46
New International Version (NIV)
46 About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).

Ephesians 2:4-6 
New International Version (NIV)
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 
5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 
6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.

Colossians 1:13
New International Version (NIV)
13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves,

Ephesians 1:6
King James Version (KJV)
To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.

John 14:3
New International Version (NIV)
And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.

John 3:16
New International Version (NIV)
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.