Sunday, April 12, 2009

Don’t Forget Yo’ Peace!


John 20:19-23

If you have ever watched a Tyler Perry movie, I am sure you have heard Mudea talking about not leaving without her “peace.” But the “peace” she is talking about is her “piece”, or pistol, designed to wreck up some stuff if she don’t get the respect she demands! Every family has a “Mudea,” some of us are blessed with three or four. Might I suggest a better way to live in peace than Mudea’s…

In today’s passage, Jesus showed up finding the disciples hunkered down, hiding from the Jews in fear of their life. They had no idea what do to do next or where to go. In steps Jesus. Once they realized who he was, the fear was gone and they began to rejoice. Their hope had returned. His first words to them were “Peace be with you!” Then as if to confirm his own word, he said it again, “Peace be with you!” It was not a suggestion, but a command.

What is this peace Jesus was giving? It can be defined as “inner contentment or lack of emotional agitation.” That state of being that came from the assurance that although everything seemed to be a hot mess, everything was fine because Jesus had arrived. With that command of peace, came the assignment or marching orders for the disciples. It was time for them to go and do what Jesus did for three years…but not without the Holy Ghost. Jesus came in, calmed the fears, set orders and gave the command. Not once did ask what was wrong, how did anyone feel, do you want this peace, or will you go. Now THAT’S authority. He just set order.

Still today, as his disciples we are not alone, nor do we have to take matters into our own hands and create out own “peace” with an “ie” instead of an “ea.” We can gain confidence in the midst of trying situations because Jesus gives us his peace and the gift of the Holy Ghost to walk out whatever our assignment is here on Earth. When we are troubled, all it takes is accessing that connection and following his example to find our way through.

Peace be with you…now you can go… but not without the Holy Ghost!

Prayer: Father, sometimes we forget that you are in control and promised to never leave us, just as the disciples did. How joyful and comforting it is to know that you leave us with your peace and the Holy Ghost to do what you have called us to do! We are never alone. Please teach our hearts not to fear in difficult times, but instead to hold fast to You and who we are in you.
In the name of Jesus, who is our peace, Amen

Tracey Bowen, Associate Minister
Bethel Apostolic Temple
Miami, Florida

Thursday, April 9, 2009

God Showed Me Myself and It Wasn’t Pretty


John 13:36-38

This fast has been great and it’s been painful.  Of course, missing out on the food I love has been a challenge, but more painful has been how God has showed me myself during the fast.  I’ve seen many things about myself that I just did not like.  All that ain’t your business, but I’ll share one thing:

I was hyper-critical and used to make very caustic and harsh comments about things done wrong and the people who committed the errors.  I had great fun with this, I thought.  Friends and family and others who just kinda know me, know that if some blunder occurred at some event that they could catch my eye and I would be right there with the right expression to show horror, dismay or disbelief.  I can catch an error!  There is a lot wrong with this...

I had allowed my eyes and my ears to become attuned to mistakes and mishaps.  I looked for what was wrong rather than what was right.  This hurt me and denied me inspiration and enjoyment and information I could have had.  It also has served to make me known for catching the wrong stuff.  Eeeeesh!

Honestly, the most painful part of realizing this about myself is knowing that it really is all about my insecurities, fear of failure, fear of success, fear of ignorance… FEAR PERIOD!  Focusing on the wrong someone else does is really just to occupy your time so you won’t have to think about your own mess. 

Now, I am focusing on the good.  And there is a LOT to focus on.  I want to be known for praise instead of criticism.

Peter had an image of himself that was not true.  But God mercifully allowed the man who denied Jesus to live into the calling of Jesus Christ and preach the first Pentecost Sermon. 

Seeing self in this fast in an act of God’s mercy.  Through the blood of Jesus, we have the opportunity to outlive the not-so-pretty parts of ourselves and then to live into Jesus’ calling on our lives.

Roderick Belin of Nashville, Tennessee

NOTE: Holy Saturday is a day for quiet reflection, prayer and preparation for Resurrection Sunday.  As such, there will be no devotional reading tomorrow.  Let us continue to pray together for the power of His Resurrection to be renewed in us.  There will readings on Resurrection Sunday. 


The Making of a Great Intercessor


John 17

Some of the most powerful prayers to be prayed can be found in the pages of the bible. These prayers were prayed by men and women of great faith through the history of Christianity. Their ability to evoke change in the natural realm is still prevalent today.

Not only are the words of these prayers powerful, but a lot can be gleaned about effective prayer by studying the format in which the prayers were prayed. Such is the case with John 17. What can be learned by the prayer of Jesus? Let’s look closely,

1. Jesus prayed for himself, FIRST.

God manifested in the flesh, took the opportunity to go to the Father on behalf of himself first and foremost. Before we can begin to pray for others, we must first make that personal connection for ourselves.

2. He prayed for those in his care.

We must lift up those we have responsibility of, those who walk with us, and those within our sphere of influence. Jesus prayed for their well being, their protection, and that they grow in truth… all of which are wonderful things to pray for those who entrusted to your care. He also acknowledged the privilege of them being “given” to him, but also humbled himself by confessing that he knew they were not his. Wonderful reminders!

3. He prayed for Believers, those already believing and those yet to believe.

This part is particularly powerful because not only did he pray for those who believed, he prayed for those you were yet, to believe. He prayed for you and he prayed for me. That is powerful. Your prayers can bless generations to come, sealing salvation for the unsaved before they are even born. Amazing!

Those desiring to go deeper in intercession or those who just want a more organized prayer life would benefit from the model left for us by Jesus the Chris. Committed prayer for self, those in our sphere of influence, and other believers, even those who have yet to believe, can reap bountiful results. If you don’t believe it, look at your own life. Jesus prayed for you over 2000 years ago and you are saved. What a mighty God we serve!

Thought: Read the language of John 17. Can you feel the love and passion Jesus had for his ministry? Are you willing to try God by making a list of your greatest personal concerns for you, your family, as well as other believers and then watch God work? Why or why not? It is written that we are invited to “Taste and see that the Lord is Good!” Go for it!

Tracey Bowen, Associate Minister
Bethel Apostolic Temple
Miami, Florida

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Light Advantage


John 12:27-36 NASB

“Now My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, 'Father, save Me from this hour'? But for this purpose I came to this hour. “Father, glorify Your name " Then a voice came out of heaven: "I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again." So the crowd of people who stood by and heard it were saying that it had thundered; others were saying, "An angel has spoken to Him." Jesus answered and said, "This voice has not come for My sake, but for your sakes.” Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out. "And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself." But He was saying this to indicate the kind of death by which He was to die. The crowd then answered Him, "We have heard out of the Law that the Christ is to remain forever; and how can You say, 'The Son of Man must be lifted up'? Who is this Son of Man?" So Jesus said to them, "For a little while longer the Light is among you Walk while you have the Light, so that darkness will not overtake you; he who walks in the darkness does not know where he goes. "While you have the Light, believe in the Light, so that you may become sons of Light " These things Jesus spoke, and He went away and hid Himself from them.”

His ministry was powerful, succinct and filled with teaching moments. There had been miracles, great and small, prophetic announcements, sermons and small group meetings with the hand-chosen. Yet, in the hours before Jesus went into hiding many still did not understand the purpose of his coming nor the fact that it was for our sake that his life was to be sacrificed. How could they not understand?
Maybe it was his entrance on a simple donkey instead of one more befitting a Messiah that confused them? Or the fact that he spoke in parables of warning and even had his life purpose confirmed by The Father that perplexed them? Whatever the case they failed to understand, continued to question and essentially missed the point because the were trying to reduce Jesus into their perception of a Messiah instead of reaching out to grasp The Light Advantage that he offered them.
The Light Advantage is the revelatory truth that the life of Jesus was sacrificed for our sake…on purpose to lead us to God. The Light Advantage says that we will trust and obey God regardless of our limited understanding. It requires us to be in relationship with Him so that we are able to follow His Word and recognize His voice even when the darkness seeks to overtake us. The Light Advantage compels us to lift Him up so that others may be drawn to Him. The Light Advantage mandates us to come out from the shadows and move into the brightness that is there to illuminate our way.
Sadly, we seem to suffer from this same “ism”. To walk in the light requires that we move outside our comfort zone of darkness, the place where we have made ourselves content in our dysfunction, and step into a realm where we are required to DO something instead of just BE. For me, the darkness is a place where I can crouch and hide behind my indecision, inaction, or silence and wallow in the doubts I have in my gifts or myself. Without light, I can stay in the shadows not growing in the anointing God deposited in me because I refuse to move into a place of accountability where I can be used.
I have decided that I am tired of making myself invisible or feeling as if others have more of a right to the lighted path than I do. This Lenten season, I have decided to fully embrace The Light Advantage. Just as Jesus instructed those gathered to “Walk while you have The Light”, we are called to do likewise. It is time to stop dipping in and out of the shadows when things get a little tougher than we expect or even worse let’s not step back into the shade and sit there comfortably waiting in silence when we are called to do so much more.

Prayer: Lord, let me fully embrace the advantage that Your Light provides for me so that I can call others to do the same. Amen.

Rev. Carmen Avery Walker
Youth Pastor - Mt. Carmel AME Church
www.cawministries.org

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Welcoming and Affirming


John 12.20-26 NRSV

Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. 21They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus.’ 22Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. 23Jesus answered them, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honour.

“We are a welcoming and affirming church.” The communities whose mission statement makes this declaration want newcomers to know that theirs is a place of love and welcome. They want newcomers to know that the walls of exclusion that kept them out of other communities do not exist here.
As Philip and Andrew walk with Jesus through Palestine, they watch Jesus chisel at walls of exclusion. They witness Jesus’ interaction with Nicodemus, a Pharisee. They stumble upon Jesus’ mid-day bible study with a Samaritan woman. They watch Jesus heal an official’s son. Jesus doesn’t distinguish between any of these people. Instead, he affirms their value, welcomes them fulfills their need.

When the Greeks approach Philip and Andrew explaining that they “wish to see Jesus,” Philip and Andrew don’t distinguish either. There are no walls separating them from these Greeks, these newcomers. These two disciples have learned something from following Jesus’ example and they know what to do. They go right to Jesus to tell him that the world has come to their door. Jesus’ response? The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. It is time for the mission to move forward.

Do we know that we are the closest thing to God people will ever see? Not only are there people who stand outside the doors of the church who wish to see Jesus, there might be somebody sitting right next to us on Sunday morning who wishes to see Jesus. The forward move of Jesus’ mission requires us to make our hearts and spiritual homes places of love and welcome for the world. Show them Jesus.

Kymberly McNair
New York, New York

Monday, April 6, 2009

REJOICE!

John 12: 9-19

They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, "Hosanna!" "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” "Blessed is the King of Israel!" - John 12:13 (NIV)

Growing up I was always excited about Palm Sunday. We would go to the early mass so that we could get our palms. Everyone waved their palms, sang hymns, prayed and had a good time. We would take our palms home and shape them into crosses. We had a reminder of what Christ did for us. I often wondered what Jesus thought or felt as he rode that young colt and the people laid down palm branches as he entered the city. To hear them yell “Hosanna!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Blessed is the King of Israel.”

Palm Sunday was a day to rejoice. We should allow Christ into our lives. Wave your palms and rejoice in the Lord. Shout Hosanna and bless the name of the Lord. Christ is real and he is waiting to enter into our hearts now and forever. To God be the glory!

Prayer: “I will praise thee, O LORD, with my whole heart; I will shew forth all thy marvellous works. I will be glad and rejoice in thee: I will sing praise to thy name, O thou most High.” (Psalm 9:1-2 KJV)

Thought for the Day
“God is good!”

Beverly Douglas
Antioch, TN

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Is Your House a House of Prayer


Matt 21:12-17

I like a man who can handle his ‘bidness and Jesus is my kind of man! He walked into the House of God, saw that things were kind of shady, and wrecked up the place. He was hot! Once he disrupted the status quo, he immediately set things in right order and began to operate according to purpose. Whata’ man, whata’ man, whata’ man, what a mighty GOOD man! Yes he is!

Let me ask you something…is your house a House of Prayer? I am not just referring to your house of worship; in fact I am NOT referring to your house of worship at all. I am speaking of your personal house, your actual body/being and the place where you dwell. Simply put, we are the church. We are called to be “temples” where the Holy Spirit dwells; therefore we can take the leap and say that just as the physical temple is to be a House of Prayer, our physical beings and households should be as well.

Ask yourself the following questions: Do you spend more time pursuing the things of the world rather than the things of God? Is your heart tender towards meeting the needs of others, asking nothing in return, or do you help, believing that you are owed something, even if that something is just a thank you? Is your focus on freely ministering the healing love of Jesus to those who are blind and lame or do you think they somehow owe something for such services?

Upon examination, if you find that there are things out of order, what can you do? Turn it over! Follow Jesus’ example and overturn those things that are out of order and when you are done, ask the Lord to help you establish His order. From there, whatever he says do, you do. So if God says start that healing ministry, get you some oil and start praying! It’s time to feed those who are hungry, go grab some pots! Whatever is needed to turn your house into a House of Prayer, get it done and do not delay!

Prayer: Father in the name of Jesus we repent for those times when our focus gets off and we do not honor you by being who you have called us to be. Help us to establish ourselves as the “House of Prayer” needed in this hour, understanding that our obedience will lead the way to great change in the Body of Christ. In Jesus name, Amen.

Tracey Bowen, Associate Minister
Bethel Apostolic Temple
Miami, Florida

Saturday, April 4, 2009

What To Do in a Cold, Stiff, Stinky Situation


John 11:28-44

We enter this text at verse 28 after a terrible thing has happened. Lazarus, brother of Mary and Martha, and dear friend of Jesus has died. Martha, in her grief, tells Jesus, “Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died”, and she has a point. Imagine the pain she and her sister suffer with. Mary and Martha are not skeptics. Much like us, they know Jesus and know who to call when trouble comes. But four days have already passed since Lazarus’ death. As a matter of fact, Jesus waited two whole days after hearing of Lazarus’ sickness to go see his dear friend. How, at such a time as this, could Jesus not come?

But Jesus grieved. Verse 33 tells us that Jesus, “groaned in the spirit, and was troubled.” Many light-heartedly reference this scripture as the shortest verse in the Bible, but indeed it was Lazarus, for whom “Jesus wept.”

So by the time Jesus comes asks for the stone where Lazarus had been laid to be rolled away, Martha reminds Jesus that after all this time, Lazarus surely “stinketh.” In response, Jesus does two very important things in verses 41-43. First, Jesus thanked the Father for hearing him. Second, he spoke the will of God, to which he had been in tune. When Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth” what do you think Lazarus did? Lazarus, bound by hand and foot, came forth!

I want you to know that if Jesus had come when Mary and Martha had first called for him, the rows of skeptics and unbelievers would have said, “Oh! Lazarus wasn’t really sick.” If he had come immediately after Lazarus’ death, they would have said, “Oh, Lazarus wasn’t dead. He must have been in a coma.” So Jesus waited until Lazarus must have been cold and stiff, bound and wrapped in “graveclothes” to show up and restore Lazarus’ life. Had Jesus come any earlier, the skeptics would have had “reasonable doubt” and God would not have gotten His glory.

If ever you find yourself in a situation that is “cold and stiff”, in a situation that “stinketh” and it appears that the time for restoration has long passed, remember this passage and do as Jesus did. Give thanks to the Father, and speak God’s will.

How can you know God’s will? Fast and pray, just as we are doing now. Believe that Jesus will show up, and get the glory.

We are His people, and now is our time.

Tracy Evans
Atlanta, Georgia

Friday, April 3, 2009

Intimate Expression of Extravagant Love


John 12:1-10

We’ve all witnessed various expressions of love - hugs, kisses, holding hands. Some are endearing - a parent steadying a toddler’s steps or a grandparent’s calming touch. Others are universal - a certain look that passes between a couple or the first marriage kiss.

But there are some expressions of love that make folk uncomfortable. Perhaps it’s a secret desire for a loving relationship. Maybe it’s because the observer doesn’t feel the behavior is appropriate. Feelings of envy, jealousy, inadequacy - any could be the basis for the discomfort.

Mary offered intimate expressions of her love to Jesus - she offered the contents of alabaster jar to anoint her Master and King, she uncovered her hair in public (unheard of for a Jewish woman), and she then used her hair to wipe His feet (a deeply personal act). Mary’s love couldn’t be hidden; it was evident in all she did.

Breaking down the word “Intimacy” could be “Into-Me-See” in that it speaks to a closeness, a honesty and a clarity that leaves no room for duplicity, guile or deceit.

Judas, who was incapable of such intimacy, reacted as many who neither have a healthy nor growing relationship with Christ. He was critical, disdainful and just downright hateful. Judas’ lack of love and intimacy helped propel him to his destiny with 30 pieces of silver and his betrayal of our Savior.

Prayer: Lord, open my heart to seek intimacy with You. Let me never be reserved nor reticent to express my love for You. During this season of Lent, please remove those barriers, both internal and external, to my drawing close to you. Amen.

Rev. Jill Day-Foley, Associate Minister
Payne Chapel AME Church
Nashville, Tennessee

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Inbox Full?


John 10:19-42

Main Text: John 10:27

I have two Yahoo email addresses and Facebook and MySpace accounts. If left unchecked, my inbox can fill up rather quickly with messages from family, friends, preachers, associates, businesses/companies, unknown people, annoying people, etc. Sometimes I do not check messages for days, or sometimes weeks. If you do not check your messages, your inbox can easily fill up with unanswered, important mail; junk mail, or possible internet cams/hoaxes. I missed several good opportunities and blessings because of such carelessness. Also, when I check my inbox, I do not hesitate to use the delete button liberally! With SPAM on the increase, having a Junk mail folder has become an essential element in managing my eLife. Filtering out the unwanted, and processing the good.

Are you doing that with your life? Guarding your heart and mind? When was the last time you checked your spiritual inbox? When was the last time your spiritual inbox was full? Was it full of God’s presence or Satan’s mess? “My sheep recognize my voice; I know them and they follow me.” As believers in Christ Jesus, we can recognize good or bad messages in our spiritual inboxes. The Holy Spirit reveals to us Satan’s spam messages and with that knowledge avoids damages. This type of discernment requires a close relationship with Jesus. You cannot identify Jesus’ voice correctly unless you know him personally. When you draw near to God, he will draw near to you. If you want to be attentive and responsive to God’s will in your life, listen for his voice. That means checking your spiritual inbox and seeking God’s face for guidance.

Prayer
Lord, you are the Great Shepherd. Grant us the peace and direction we need this day. In Jesus’ name. Amen

Fedrick Wilson, Youth Minister
Williams Chapel AME Church
Orangeburg, SC

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Embrace God, Not Things: The Power of an Abundant Life


John 10:1-18

Main Text: John 10:10

During the holy season of Lent, each of us is called to re-examine who and what has first priority in our hearts. In whom or what do we take delight? If it is in the perceived stability of “man-made” systems and material things, then an honest assessment of current conditions might lead to despondency. Our world is in a state of unrest with unending wars, sectarian strife, racism, divisiveness and intolerance among neighbors, and collapsing global economies. Unprecedented greed and the lack of governance at all levels have simply overwhelmed many of the societal systems we have come to rely upon. However, we find solace in knowing there is One who wants to be our constant, unmovable support in this ever-changing world. Jesus the Chief Shepherd said, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”

As we sojourn through Lent, God is calling us to seek His face in the midst of uncertain circumstances. We may not understand God’s silence or delay, but it is God’s way of teaching, molding, developing, and purging us for greater works. God wants us to enjoy the abundance of his glory, but we must rely on him when it is easy and difficult. When we embrace the fullness of God’s liberating power in our weaknesses and moments of vulnerability, His strength is made perfect in us. Jesus gives life. The life he gives now is abundantly richer and fuller. It is eternal, yet it begins immediately. Life in him is lived on a higher level because of his overflowing compassion and grace. It’s the good news of our faith! God says to us, “In case of an accident or a broken heart, remember I love you, and I will see you through.”

Prayer
O Lord and Shepherd, come into our hearts afresh, and help us to live abundantly through you. We pray this prayer in the name of Jesus. Amen

Fedrick Wilson, Youth Minister
Williams Chapel AME Church
Orangeburg, SC

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Be a 24/7 Follower of Jesus Christ the Messiah


John 9: 18-41

We should be familiar with this passage of scripture about Jesus giving sight to the man born blind. I want to focus on versus 20-23 that mention his parents. In the face of the Pharisees, his parents were comfortable acknowledging him as their son. They were able to allow the Pharisees to question their son about his miracle. But his parents were afraid to acknowledge Jesus as the Christ. They did not want to be kicked out of the synagogue. They understood how they would be looked upon with disdain by others. Their position in the community might have been challenged. With this knowledge, they were accepting of the fact that their son, who was now of age, would have been treated. But what they overlooked was the power of their statement declaring Jesus as the Christ would have done in the community. Maybe their stance would have moved more people to accept Jesus as Christ. Have there been times where you did not stand tall and claim Jesus was your/the Christ? Maybe not directly, but probably indirectly. Not through your words, but by your actions. You did not show the world that you were a 24/7 follower of Christ. Can you relate to some of these examples?

Ø Drinking until intoxicated at a party on Saturday and worshipping on Sunday.
Ø Late night phone calls or visits that did not lead to sex but came very close, then trying to minister to a friend about fornication.
Ø Cursing or cursing people out up until you walk through the church doors.

We all can probably name a time or two when we, like the blind man’s parents, did not want to mention that we were followers of Jesus Christ. We can sometimes be blinded by the allure of worldly acceptance. We need to proclaim we are followers of Jesus Christ all the time through our words, actions and thoughts. Is Jesus Christ the Messiah in every area of your life?

Dear Father,
Have Mercy upon us. Forgive us of all the sins that commit each and every day. Forgive for being like the blind man parents, more concern with popular opinion than with the only opinion we will ever need, Yours. Search out every area of our lives that does not proclaim Your Son, Jesus, to be Christ. Help us not to be like the world, but to continually show the world Jesus by our words, our thoughts and our actions. Amen!

Nicole Mew
New York, New York

Monday, March 30, 2009

Do It NOW!


We must work the works of him who sent me while it is still day; night is coming when no one can work. John 9:4

As Jesus engages the struggle between darkness and light, between blindness and sight we feel a sense of urgency in his words. Do something to show people who God is. Do it NOW. Time is not on your side. There is a task before you and you don’t know how much time you have.

On August 24, 2008 as I was driving to a celebration that was being hosted in honor of my election to the Judicial Council of the A.M.E. Church, I lost control of the vehicle. My car flipped over and rolled across a busy freeway and into an embankment where the car began to bury itself in the dirt. In addition to worrying about my dogs who were in the car with me, I was concerned that I had been given this task and it appeared I would die before doing anything with the new duties in my hands.

So often we wrongly assume that we can borrow time from tomorrow. When we meet Jesus face to face will we be finished with our work, or explaining why we did not: clothe the naked; provide jobs for the jobless; visit the sick and in prison; help the blind to see with the light that shines from within our souls; bring tangible relief (good news) in a starving world, actively seek peace in the middle of war zones? When shall we do these things?

God who carefully shaped each of us, we remember today the urgent call on our lives to work, to toil, to actively engage in transforming our territories. Forgive us for the many times we fail to act. Forgive us for the many times we fail to act responsibly with the power you have given us. Please prosper the work of our hands today and implant in our minds, bodies and souls a sense of urgency and assurance that night is coming.

Pastor Francine Brookins
Wright Chapel AME Church
San Francisco, California

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Lessons in Suffering


Scripture: Mark 8:31 – 9:1

Suffering is characterized by unpleasant feelings, agony and distress. There are days when I dread the complications of life, the struggle, the push and pull required to accomplish tasks and stay on track. When even ordinary chores seem to go wrong and simple conversations with loved ones turn into perpetual outbursts and rampant banter – you start to wonder what is the point. At times you may even think – where did I go wrong? We don’t schedule in time slots for unpleasant experiences or even foresee suffering for ourselves – our survival strategy is to avoid pain and suffering.

Jesus does teach us about the nature suffering.
When we make the choice to remain in control of our lives, we actually forfeit the authentic life that is found in Christ. We should deny the perceived right to govern ourselves and submit fully to God’s will and in this pursuit we will know the cost of discipleship from a deeply personal experience. Here we confront the opposition of our will, yet when you allow our will to be crucified there is the gift of eternal life that comes through death. Your work in suffering exists the very core of your soul.
When we suffer while our world of our friends, family, and co-workers watch and whisper, at times we are likely to feel embarrassed, but Jesus cautions us not to be ashamed.
Key thought
When you to compromise your most valuable possession for moments of pleasure or popularity in the world, you put your soul at risk.

Prayer
Jesus, for the sake of my soul help me to move toward suffering with You so that I may have life.

Additional reading: Disciplines of the Spirit by Howard Thurman, “Suffering” p. 64

Hymn: It Is Well With My Soul

"It Is Well with My Soul" is a very influential hymn penned by hymnist Horatio Spafford and composed by Philip Bliss. This hymn was written after several traumatic events in Spafford’s life. The first was the death of his only son in 1871, shortly followed by the great Chicago Fire which ruined him financially (he had been a successful lawyer). Then in 1873, he had planned to travel to Europe with his family on the S.S. Ville du Havre, but sent the family ahead while he was delayed on business concerning zoning problems follow the Great Chicago Fire. While crossing the Atlantic, the ship sank rapidly after a collision with a sailing ship, the Loch Earn, and all four of Spafford's daughters died. His wife Anna survived and sent him the now famous telegram, "Saved alone." Shortly afterwards, as Spafford traveled to meet his grieving wife, he was inspired to write these words as his ship passed near where his daughters had died.

Katherine Ellington
Hollis, New York

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Hard Sayings...Great Reward


John 6:60-71

Prior to this text, Jesus fed 5000 and walked on water. His miracles were so mind boggling that it was declared in verse 14, "Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world”. But when Jesus said that he is the Bread of Life and drew the line in the sand; his disciples had a problem. Our text begins with the complaint, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”

Now you would think that the disciples would not have a problem in agreeing with Jesus’ assessment of the truth. He had just walked on water, fed 5000 people and had to hide because the crowd wanted to declare Him King. In fact, unlike us, many of the disciples were with Jesus on a 24/7 basis. However, as Jesus surmised, most of them were hanging around for the food and entertainment.

In America, our religious freedoms allow us to state that we are Christians without much sacrifice. It is easy to go to church where the music is great or “Pastor sho’ did preach.” However when it is time to get down to the essentials…the hard teachings, many of us want to bolt. It is important that we humble ourselves and allow the Lord to enable us to get back to the essentials of the faith…Jesus Christ is Lord. The only to the Father is Christ. 5000 people participated in the physical food of Jesus, but only a few believed. Are you just participating in a few miracles for entertainment sake or as Peter, be willing to allow God to give us eternal life?

Orletta E Caldwell
Detroit, Michigan

Friday, March 27, 2009

Relationship and Purpose


Gospel: John 6:52-59

Key verse: Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. John 6:53 (KJV)

Jesus had just performed the miracle of feeding the multitude with the two fish and five barley loaves. After which, a discussion arises regarding bread, the true bread of heaven and the manna (bread) which fed the Children of Israel in the desert. Jesus points out that He is the true bread of heaven and it is He who brings “life unto the world”. In the key verse, Jesus admonishes the crowd, the Jews, that if they do not “eat the flesh” and “drink the blood” of the Son of Man, they do not have life. Jesus was admonishing them, as well as us, that we must have an intimate relationship with him if we desire to have life. This life of which he speaks is our eternal life: he that eateth of this bread shall live forever (verse 58). We cannot be satisfied with believing that since we have nice clothes, nice cars and nice homes we are living or have “life”, for there will come a time when all these things will be brought to nought and if we have not eaten of the flesh and drank of the blood of Jesus, our souls will be lost.

Thought to Remember: A true relationship with Jesus is formed when an intimate relationship is developed, nurtured and maintained by a continuous feasting on the true bread of heaven.

Epistle: Romans 8:28-39

Key verse: Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. Romans 8:30 (KJV)

In the Book of Jeremiah, the prophet explains how the word of the Lord came to him and let him know that before he was formed in his mother’s belly or came forth from her womb, the Lord sanctified or set him apart and ordained him to be a prophet to the nations. He was predestined to be a prophet! In this Epistle, Paul tells the church at Rome, hence tells us, that each was called by God to fulfill a purpose. And because we are predestined to or for that purpose, we who claim God as our Father cannot be separated from that purpose no matter what the enemy tries. If God be for us, who can be against us? (verse 31). We cannot see into the future, so we do not yet comprehend the great things that we can and will accomplish for the Kingdom of God. The enemy knows and is trying with every weapon he has to get us off the track that God has us following. Even in the midst of economic crisis, failed marriages, broken homes and church conflict, as God’s chosen people, we are more than mere conquerors through the God that loves us!

Thought to Remember: Each of us has a purpose and calling. We must, as God’s chosen, not let anything or anyone detract us from that purpose.

Rev. Ron W. Taylor
Britton’s Neck, South Carolina

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Whose Child Are You?


John 6:41-51


They were saying, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know?  How can he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven?’” John 6:42 


So often the circumstances of our natural birth define us for the rest of our lives.  To whom we were born, where we grew up, who raised us, and the villages that surrounded us can make us into something great, or set our course towards failure.  Our self-image is constantly being shaped by those around us.    


In the text Jesus is offering a new path, a new way of seeing, believing and being.  He is offering a change that the world around us can’t see, understand or control.  The people who “know” him can’t accept it.  They know his daddy and his momma and they simply can’t imagine that God could have chosen this child to be the Savior of the world, the bread of life.   As a result those whose vision is blinded by the world’s standards may just starve to death. 


Go and look in the mirror right now.  Whose child are you?  You are God’s child.  You are in a great big family of ordinary people through whom God has done, is doing and shall do, extraordinary things.  Remind yourself of who you really are as you go throughout your day.  Then take this a step further, remove your fault-finding lenses and look for God in the faces and voices and stories of those who seem very different than you.   


Oh God, our heavenly parent, we thank you for always using the least likely candidates to do your works.  Help us today to eat from the bread of life that cleanses us from the opinions of the unrighteous and reminds us that we are your beloved children.  Use us as your instruments to offer this bread to someone else.   
 
Rev. Francine Brookins, Pastor

Wright Chapel AME Church

San Francisco, California

 

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Lord, Get My Mind Right!


Daily Reading: Rom 8:1-11

Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. Romans 8:5


Sometimes we want what we want.  I know I do.  So what happens when what we want is not according to what the Spirit desires or wills?  According to this passage of scripture, we begin to live according to the sinful nature and thus become unable to please God.  What’s wrong with the sinful nature?  It leads to death and keeps us bound to old and negative things.  It does not lead to freedom and life, the two things Jesus came to give us freely.


If we are in Christ, we are no longer bound by sin, nor are we slaves to it.  In Christ, we have been set free.  However, the process does not stop there.  Jesus sets us free, but we have to walk in it.  We have to choose to walk upright, seeking God’s will for our life, not the life we choose on our own and certainly not the one set by the world’s standard.  How do you become acquainted with the will of the Spirit for your life?  You spend time in His presence.  Here are just a few ways you do that:

Prayer—Simply talk to him and make your request, concerns, and questions known.  Do not forget that praise and worship are an important part of prayer.

Bible Time--- John 1 states that he (Jesus) is the word.  When you get in the bible, you are engaging the very presence of God.

Mediation--- Spend quality time reflecting on the word of God, what he has spoken to you, etc.  Rick Warren says that if you know how to worry, you already know how to meditate.  Worry is simply focusing on the negative and rehearsing it over and over again.  Apply that same concept to the goodness of God’s word and prepare to be amazed.

Fasting--- Sacrificing the pleasure of fleshly desires that can distract us and numb our spiritual sense is another way to obtain the mind and heart of Christ in a matter.

Listening--- Once we have done all of the above, we must prepare our         spiritual ears to hear what the Spirit is saying.  He amazingly speaks to us through the engagement of all 5 of our senses and some.  All we have to do is be available to hear.


We have the assurance that we are no longer dead in the law of sin through Christ Jesus.  Because of his sacrifice when we have moments of relapse into that former death state, we have the ability to get back into relationship and live again…and again…and again.


Father, in every area of our life we want to be in line with the will of the Spirit and not the flesh.  We repent for wanting what we want.  As we delight ourselves in you, give us the desires of our heart.  We want to be pleasing to you.  Amen


Think about it:


In what areas of your life are you seeking your own will?

Are you prepared to walk in the will of the Spirit?  


Tracey Bowen, Associate Ministry
Bethel Apostolic Temple
Miami, Florida

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Fleeing from Fear

Scripture: John 6:16-27

 

Reflection: Too often, the "in" crowd is appealing to me when I read the newspapers and magazines. Whatever they are doing, I want to be informed about it and follow the celebrity gossip and glossy pictures of the stars. These people are only "in" for the moment, leaving shallow memories of a career, record deal or cheap DVDs  for sale at a bargain store, six months after their Hollywood debut.

 

I have to ask myself, when was Jesus part of the "in" crowd? When have I seen Jesus in a music video, box office hit or heard him in a Grammy award winning tune? When Jesus walked across the lake, the crowd and his disciples watched him in awe. The news cameras were not there, the press was absent and the paparazzi evidently was too busy for the photo shoot. Yet, here is the son of God, giving out worldly advice and comforting those who were frightened watching him walk across the rough waters. The Bible says Jesus said, "It is I; don't be afraid."

 

Following the crowd takes me away from my focus on Jesus. For it is only by listening to Jesus' words that I will find eternal life from emulating h is example of courage and spiritual strength. 

 

Prayer: Dear God, too many times I get caught-up with what the crowd is doing.  I am listening and following  the crowd and I have failed to watch you. I have failed to hear you and take your assistance for guidance when the road is difficult to travel. Help me navigate the waves in the water so that I may journey behind you on the water. I need to swim against the tide of the crowd and embrace your words of sustenance. I fear not, Lord, because you enable me to find my strength in you. Amen

 

Humbly Submitted: Cassiette and Tamer Lee West-Williams (Chicago, IL)

Monday, March 23, 2009

Good and Plenty

Read John 6:1-15

“When they had all had enough to eat, … "Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted." So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.”                  - John 6:12-13 (NIV) 

 As the time got closer to Thanksgiving Day, I began to worry that there would be more people than food. My sisters and I discussed what we would bring to the dinner. However, it seemed that with every phone call someone new was coming. My younger sister and I prayed for “bottomless” pots. When Thanksgiving Day finally arrived, there appeared to be just enough food, but people kept coming. We prayed and everyone ate until they were full. There was enough food for everyone to take a plate home and leftovers. The food was good and there was plenty.

      Jesus fed 5000 men, not counting the number of women and children, with two fish and five barley loaves. With thanksgiving, the food multiplied. It was good and there was plenty to go around. There were even leftovers. Our Thanksgiving Day does not compare to what happened that day on the mountain, but it is a reminder that God is the ultimate provider. God can take a little and make it into plenty. When we seek Christ, not only are we fed physically, but also spiritually. 

Prayer: Father, give us this day our daily bread. Amen. 

Thought for the Day

“God will meet all [our] needs” (Phil. 4:19) 

Beverly Douglas 
Antioch, TN

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Understanding is Priceless!


Mark 8:11-21

Although we have witnessed addiction come clean, abuse turn to peace and cancer of the breast become a survivors sisterhood, we still want something miraculous to happen in our lives that will ultimately prove that the Lord is in existence. As if we really need undeniable proof.

Some will go as far as discussing with friends of the grace and mercy that the Lord has given others while continuing not seeing, hearing or speaking of the uncountable grace and mercy that is given to them daily.  Some with confused hearts and minds will discuss amongst those special friends how they continue to listen to and rely upon gifts from man.  In addition to asking the Lord, "why is my life not blessed?”" or  "Is it something I've done?”" This temporary discussion, of course, is with a forgetfulness of what they have already witnessed and with a misunderstanding of whom all blessings flow.

Meditating instead of gossiping; believing in the works of the Lord and not the ideals of man; careful judgment of the things that you see; words that you hear and conversations that you partake in will lead to a belief in and understanding of the ability of the Lord in everyone’'s life at any given moment.  

Understanding is priceless!

 

Felecia Teasley

Nashville, Tennessee 

Saturday, March 21, 2009

They Will Try to Stone You


Scripture: John 8:47-59

I don’t know what it is about human nature, but we are quick to try and kill that which we don’t understand or don’t agree with.  More often than not the battle cry spoken is “We’re right and you’re wrong!”  Very self righteous, indeed!  Jesus encountered this quite a bit in his three year ministry.  In fact,it is what eventually led him to the cross.  If they had only known who he was…

In John 8:47-59, it is clear the people do not see Jesus for who he was; in fact they flat out asked him if he operated under a demonic influence.  Not only that, they reduced him to a Samaritan lineage knowing full well his mama and daddy were Jewish!  Talk about insult!  These were not just random people either; these were the religious astute of this time.  If anyone should have known him, THEY should have known him.  Nevertheless, they called him a demon and an outcast.

Jesus gave an awesome example of what you should do when someone refuses to see you for who you are and insists that are less than.  Remember who you glorify.  When provoked to defend himself, Jesus stated, “"If I glorify Myself, My glory is nothing; it is My Father who glorifies Me.”  He went on further to point out that they did not recognize the Father in him because they did not know the Father, further justifying his lack of response—it was not about him and they were blind to who he was anyway.  He proved himself right because by the end of the chapter he gave them a glimpse of who he was and they couldn’t handle the truth… the rocks started flying.

When you live for God, you can not stop the rocks from flying.  Nor can you argue down every naysayer that questions who you are and what you represent.  You can, however, follow the example of our Savior.  When the insults start, forget about your self and focus on glorifying the Father.  After all, it’s all about Him.  When the rocks start flying, hide yourself in the love, protection, and truth of the Father, allowing Him to graciously and victoriously fight your battle.  

Thought: Do you know who you are in Christ?  If so, can you clearly articulate it under pressure?  Do you believe it? 

If not, do you have the resources in place to discover who you are in Christ?  When will you commit to learning?  Today is a good day!

Tracey Bowen

Miami, Florida

God Is

John 8:47-59. Jesus said to them, "Very truly, I tell you, before Abraham was, I am!"

Those who heard Jesus say these words understood him as claiming that he was divine. They would not have picked up stones to kill Jesus merely because they thought he had a demon. That would have been absurd. Rather, they knew that "I AM" was a name reserved for God (Exodus 3:14). It meant a continuing and unchanging existence outside time. The Jews found it hard to accept that Jesus had been in existence before he became human. The truth is that Jesus was in the beginning with God and was God (John 1:1). 


It matters to me that Jesus is divine. I should not be quiet about the misinterpretation of this passage by some sects who do not believe in both the divinity and pre-existence of the Lord Jesus Christ. He was able to do the work he did because of his divine nature. He was in existence before Melchizedek. His atoning sacrifice is effective because of who he is. Likewise, the promises he made can only be taken seriously if we know the person who made the promises. Jesus, the I AM, promised to be with us until the end of the age. 


There is one Physician, who is both flesh and spirit, born and yet not born, who is God in man, true life in death, both of Mary and of God, first feeling and then beyond feeling, Jesus Christ our Lord. 
--Ignatius of Antioch 


Prayer: Dear Lord I trust you and I desire to be in your will and I wait on you....



Friday, March 20, 2009

The Truth Shall Set You Free


John 8:33-47

Thought

The Jews came to rely solely on being the physical seed of Abraham.  They favored and conformed to the ways of their world and abandoned the sacred and consecrated culture of an Abrahamic heritage.    Because the Jews did not practice the customs of Abraham, they were unable to recognize the truth about the type of freedom Jesus spoke about.   They didn’t realize that He wasn’t speaking of a physical bondage, but of spiritual shackles and hindrances.  He called them out as members of the devils household who are lustful, murderers and killers of Christ.  They were indeed, slaves to evil.  Why is it that we don’t always recognize when we are operating in ways opposite of how Christ would have us to be?   Or when being caught up or entangled in sinful circumstances or acts cause us to be slaves of the situation?  Often times, we make attempts to rationalize or justify something that clearly goes against the Word of God.   God’s chosen people are citizens of heaven and therefore, not of this world.   We do not conform to what the world thinks we should do or be fooled into thinking there will be no retribution for sin.   Just as Jesus called out the Jews, He will call us out on Judgment Day.  We have the opportunity, right now to be acquiescent to truth and salvation.   We cannot speak the truth if the truth is not in us.  We cannot be for Christ but yet keep one leg straddling the fence.  We cannot serve two masters.   The Gentiles were spiritual children of Abraham by faith.  We are all adopted into the house of faith, but it is up to us to recognize what binds us and prevents us from being children of light.  Romans 10:8 says, “the message is close at hand; and is on your lips and in your heart”.  Live daily by the message contained in the Word and remain steadfast and poised to distinguish the truth.   “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32).


Prayer

Heavenly Father, I pray for Godly wisdom and direction in my life.  Make clear to me the things that are unlike You and prevent me from being what You would have me to be or try to deter what You have purposed me for.  I pray for clarity of thought, mind and soul that I may recognize when something or someone is not of You.  In Jesus’ Name I pray, Amen.


Reverend Khalima Jacobs
Baltimore, Maryland

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Truth Sets Us Free/ La Verdad Da Les Libertad

John 8:31-32


En mi vida como un persona joven, hay muchas cosas que distraer nos. Por ejemplo, los chicos, techonolgia, y a veces nuestras familas. Me parece que estoy en este catografia tambien porque con la absencia de mi padre, tengo fe  en cosas que no son importantes. No quiero ser una persona materialistica pero, por otro lado , es muy dificil para vivir con mis condiciones.  Tengo que confiar en Jesus porque su verdad me da libertad de mis pescados. La bibla les dijo que si el hijo les da libertad somos libertadas por segura. No soy perfecta y he duelo personas en la vida pero reconzco que quiero cambiar y necesito confiar en Jesus y las peronas que me duelos en pasado. Puedo obtener el fe y cambia mi vida por el mejor.  Puedo ser una persona buena de mi mama y los otros en mi vida. Quiero hacer una diferencia en mi vida y alabanzare el nombre de Dios para Vida!


La Oracion

Nuestro padre  en el cielo, el empieza y el fin

Por favor perdoname por que he pescado muchas veces en mi vida

Por favor enseneme la luz y la verdad para da me libertad

Por favor guardame en sus brazos fuertes y crearme un corazon nuevo

Tomarme y cambiarme para ser una persona mas honesto y confiazada. 

Dame el Fuerza para quedar bajo estema, temor y mientos detras de mi.

Usted es un Senor magnifico, alabanzare su nombre para todos las dias de mi vida. Soy su hija y por favor traerme  mas cerca de usted. 

En su nombre precioso y bendito 

En  el nombre del padre, hijo y el espiritu santo

AMEN!



English translation


In my life as a young person, there are many things that to distract us.  For example, the boys, technology, and at times, our families.  I think that I am in this category because of the absence of my father and I have faith in things that are not important.  I do not want to be a materialistic person but, on the other hand, it is very difficult to live with my condition.  I have to trust in Jesus because His truth gives me liberty.  The Bible told us that if the Son gives us liberty we are liberated for sure.  I am not perfect and sometimes I am sad but recognize that I want to change and I need to trust in Jesus and not the people who have hurt me in the past.  I can obtain the faith and change my life for the better.  I know I can be a good person in my heart.  I want to make a difference in my life and praise the name of God for Life!  


The Prayer


Our Father in Heaven, the Beginning and the End.  Please you forgive me because of the failures in my life.  Please teach me the truth that gives me freedom.  Please keep me in Your strong arms and create in me a new heart. Take me and change me to be a person who is honest and confident.  You give me the strength to leave fear and lies behind me.  Lord, You are wonderful and I will praise you all the days of my life. I am Your daughter, please draw me near to you.  In Your blessed and precious name… In the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit AMEN!


Tamer Lee W., Age 17

Chicago, Illinois

SHINE ON ME!


SCRIPTURE

John 8: 12-20

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.’ Then the Pharisees said to him, ‘You are testifying on your own behalf; your testimony is not valid.’ Jesus answered, ‘Even if I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid because I know where I have come from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I am going. You judge by human standards;* I judge no one. Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is valid; for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father* who sent me. In your law it is written that the testimony of two witnesses is valid. I testify on my own behalf, and the Father who sent me testifies on my behalf.’ Then they said to him, ‘Where is your Father?’ Jesus answered, ‘You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also.’ He spoke these words while he was teaching in the treasury of the temple, but no one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come. 


DEVOTION

Today we are reminded that Jesus is the Light of the World! Isn’t it wonderful GOOD NEWS that when we walk with Christ, Jesus will illuminate our pathway? Often as humans we feel like we are stumbling around in the dark. We strain the eyes of our hearts to see what the future holds. We worry, fuss, and cuss when we feel like we don’t know what is going on around us! 


But, today we are reminded that the darkness is not dark to God! There is nothing that God does not know and nowhere that we can go—or hide—that God cannot see! Since this is true, we walk in bold confidence knowing that the bright light of God’s countenance leads us onward and upward to glory land!


Does this mean that the way will always be easy? No! Does this mean that we will always feel in control? By no means! But, if we make it our business to “hold to God’s unchanging hand” we will never be truly lost or alone.


The Pharisees had trouble getting a hold of this good news. They asked Jesus, “Who else can confirm that you are the light of the World?” Jesus answered, “Me and my Daddy say so!” 


Today, all three persons of the Holy Spirit bear witness to the fact that Jesus is the Light of the World! But, they ought not to have to bear witness alone. We are called to share this GOOD NEWS with everyone we meet. We all know people who are stumbling around in the darkness, devoid of hope, and empty without Jesus. Let us make it our business to go to them today and “offer them a light!”


Light of the World, shine on me, that I might reflect your light to others. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Rev. Yolanda Denson Lehman, M.Div.

Travelling Evangelist: AME Zion Church


Publisher: “Ain’ta That Good News?!”


A daily Christian devotional dedicated to making the GOOD NEWS easy to understand and easy to share! Monday-Saturday, I mediate on a Biblical scripture with an emphasis on evangelism. On Sunday, I post my sermon based on revised standard lectionary! Please read as you are able, and share as you are led!


http://aintathatgoodnews.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Missing God


John 7: 37-52

You will seek … and not find [the one] out of whose heart flows living water. 

John 7:34, 38 [paraphrased]


Two incorrigible siblings were sent to their pastor for counseling.  When the first child got to the office, the pastor opened the session by saying in a stern but loving voice, “Where is God?” The child looked at the pastor incredulously puzzled but remained silent.  Undaunted, the pastor said again, “Where is God?” This time, the child darted out the office, ran home and hid in the closet. When her brother asked what she was doing in there, she responded, “If I were you, I’d hide in here, too! God is missing, and they think we did it!” 


Can Jesus say of us: God is missing and I think my children did it?


The feast referenced in this passage contained many rituals, one of which involved pouring water on the altar to memorialize the water that flowed from the rock during the wilderness experience.  It unclear whether the people were then engaged in that ritual, but, at some point, Jesus cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let them come to Me and drink.” Perhaps Jesus saying pouring water had become a mere ceremony, devoid of God and that the people were so focused on the pouring water on the altar that they missed the living water in their midst?


As we journey to the cross, even as we share in the resurrection, engaging in its share of ritual, let us aim to seek Jesus. Otherwise, our fasting and praying becomes vain pieties. Like the religious people of Jesus’ day, God will be missing. And, we will miss God in our very midst. 


Is God missing from our efforts to seek God? 

Have we missed God in our efforts to find God?



Kathryn V. Stanley

Big Bethel AME Church 

Atlanta, Georgia

Monday, March 16, 2009

Jesus Teaches at the Feast


John 7:14-36 

 

14Not until halfway through the Feast did Jesus go up to the temple courts and begin to teach. 15The Jews were amazed and asked, "How did this man get such learning without having studied?" 16Jesus answered, "My teaching is not my own. It comes from him who sent me. 17If anyone chooses to do God's will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own. 18He who speaks on his own does so to gain honor for himself, but he who works for the honor of the one who sent him is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him. 


For all you college basketball fans its March Madness, and with that comes all manner of what’s commonly known as “trash talking.” From the players, to the coaches, to the fans, there will be talk. Talk about whose team is better, whose fans are louder, and which team plays more effective defense. But it is on the court where the talking ceases and a team’s reputation is bolstered or crushed and the talk is exposed for what it really is; just talk or an announcement of the real thing.


In v14 we find Jesus in the temple doing, guess what? Talking. His teaching was and is revelatory and life-changing. The level of Jesus’ teaching was impressive to those Jews who heard it, but it prompted them to ask, “How does He know so much without being schooled?” (The Message) Based on what they knew about his background the $64,000 question was where did he get His skills? He wasn’t an alumna of a Division 1 Rabbinical school. And He wasn’t a graduate of the EFGH Holy Scripture Summer Camp. Who taught Him all that stuff? Just who was the fantastic teacher that produced such a brilliant student? 


Jesus told those assembled at the temple courts that day to, “Stop judging by mere appearance, and make a right judgment.” It takes spiritual discipline to be able to sit and receive knowledge, wisdom, and understanding from someone we believe has absolutely nothing to teach us, from someone we perceive is not on our level intellectually, spiritually, and/or socially. But hear the voice of Jesus, “Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment.” As we draw nearer to Jesus during this time of fasting and sacrifice, ask God for the discernment necessary to recognize in the Sprit those teachers who don’t always look the part, but carry a teaching just for us that is not their own…It comes from the One who sent them.


Let’s Pray: Thank you in advance Lord for the spiritual insight, patience, and strength to hear and receive your Word from your chosen teachers. AMEN.


Colette Walker

Roselle, NJ