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

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


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.

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.”

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