Daddy! Daddy! There Are Butts In My Face!

I recently attended a revival service at the Bethlehem Baptist Church in Covington, Ga. The Evangelist was Pastor Charles E. Nesbitt, Jr., of the Providence Baptist Church of College Park, Ga.

During his sermon, Pastor Nesbitt shared this illustration about worship. He told the story about how he was invited to preach at a service for a friend in Ohio and his hotel room was on the 10th floor. When his ride arrived downstairs to pick him up for the service, he got on the elevator to go downstairs. Whereas, it was only he and another family on the elevator when he initially got on, on the 10th floor, the elevator stopped at nearly every floor so that by the time he reached the lobby, the elevator was packed.

In the midst of all those people getting on the elevator, the family, along with him, were forced to the back of the elevator as more people got on. In this family was a little girl about 3 or 4 years old. Because of her small size and short statue, by the time the elevator was full, all she could see was people’s butts in her face! That was a view she didn’t like very well. So, she pulled on her father’s coat-tail and raised up her arms for her father to pick her up. The father looked down at her, smiled, but ignored her gesture and continued his conversation with her mother. The girl tugged again, but got the same results. Finally, for the third time, the child tugged more vigorously than ever at her father’s coat-tails. This time, he stopped, looked down at her and her raised out-stretched arms and finally picked her up! He finally realized that her view; facing all those butts, must not have been a good experience for her. So, he picked her up into his arms and the girl was happy because, 1) she was in her father’s arms and 2) in her father’s arm, she had a nicer view and a better perspective.

Pastor Nesbitt said, that is the function of worship! When we go to church to worship and praise God, the experience lifts us up into the Father’s arms and enables us to see the world from God’s perspective, thereby, giving us a better perspective and a nicer view! Without the elevating experience of worship, without the Father lifting us up into His arms, all we have is the depressing view of all the “butts” in the world.

Thank you Pastor Nesbitt, for such a profound illustration and prolific sermon!

I posted this for all those who feel depressed and intimidated by all that is going on in the world today. Worship will not change the world, but it will change you! It will give you a different and higher perspective. It will enable you to see the world from God’s point of view! And when we look at the world from God’s point of view, we can rest in the knowledge that all things are working together for the good to them that love the Lord; the called according to His purpose. Although it looks out of control from our limited perspective, worship elevates us to the realization that God is still in control.

Oh! Father, I stretch my hands to Thee, no other help I know! Lord, lift me up, and I shall stand, by faith on heaven’s table land. A higher plane than I have found, Lord, plant my feet on higher ground!

All ‘Power’ In His Hands!

“And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.” (Matt. 28:18 KJV)

“And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” (Matt. 28:18 NKJ)

I recently posted a synopsis of this teaching about the ‘power’ God gave Jesus at His resurrection on my FaceBook page. But, because of its theological significance, I want to expand and explain it here.

You see, the bottom line is that historically and traditionally, we have and we do preach this text incorrectly! I’ve done it numerous times myself in the past! Now, it makes for a good ‘whoop!’ (Those of us who are African-Americans and grew up in church know what the ‘whoop’ is! For those who don’t know, it is the climatic celebration at the end of a preacher’s sermon. It is the part where the preacher begins to chant, moan, and sing the message. Now there are some pseudo-intellectuals in the Black community who say the ‘whoop’ is unnecessary and a sign of ignorance, but as of late, there are many preachers of European descent who are beginning to recognize and incorporate its communicative genius into their sermonic delivery! But, I digress! So, let me get back to my point) Yes! The traditional way we’ve preach it makes for good whooping material! I can hear it now: “Yes! When He got up early that Sunday morning; He rose with all power in His hands! Can I get a witness here? Power to raise up a bowed-down head! Power to make me walk right! Power to make me talk right! Power to hit a straight lick with a crooked stick! Oh! Y’all don’t hear me! I said; When He got up; He had all power in His hands!” Yes, that’s the way we preach it, but we’ve been preaching it wrong!

We’ve been preaching it as if the Greek word for ‘power’ in the text is dunamis but it is not! The Greek word in the text is exousia! Now, although both of these Greek words can rightfully be translated into English as ‘power,’ they have two different meanings! Dunamis has the meaning of ‘might, ability, and strength.’ Exousia has the meaning of ‘authority, privilege, rule, choice, government, and right.’ Jesus already had all dunamis-power! That’s the power He used to raise Lazarus from the dead! That’s the power He used to open the eyes of the blind, to turn water into wine, and to perform all of the miracles! We might ought to notice that the miracles are called; dumamis (mighty works) in the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), but they are called; semeion (signs) in the Gospel of John. No! God didn’t give Jesus all dunamis-power at His resurrection! Jesus already had all dumamis-power!

At His resurrection, God gave all exousia-power to Jesus! That’s the power to rule! That’s the power, the right, and the authority to be in charge! That’s the power to govern! That’s authority! That’s the power of right, as in the power of attorney; the power to transact business in someone else’s name! That’s the all-power that God gave Jesus at His resurrection! When God raised Jesus from the dead, God made Jesus the CEO of the Kingdom of God!

Notice also that, according to the Bible, Jesus didn’t rise up from the grave on His own power! No! In the act of the resurrection; Jesus wasn’t the actor, Jesus was acted upon or rather, Jesus was the recipient of the action: It was God who raised Jesus from the dead!

Now, at this point you might be asking: What difference does it make? Well, it’s a matter of biblical accuracy and correct theology because there is a difference between power and authority! Power is the strength, might, or ability to do something, whereas authority is the right to do it! It’s quite possible to have the strength to do something, but that doesn’t mean you have the authority to do it! You can also have the authority or the right to do something, but yet not have the ability or the power to do it! It’s possible to have power without authority and authority without power! But Jesus already had the power and when God raised Jesus from the dead, God gave Him the authority!

That means, Jesus has the right! He has the authority to make demands upon our lives! After He died and God raised Him from the dead; God put Him in charge! In Philippians 2:8-11, the Apostle Paul says: “And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (KJV)

Now there are those who are refusing to bow and acknowledge Jesus as Lord today! But, in thinking about them, I’m reminded of an old television commercial for a transmission repair shop, I think it was Aamco. A lady brought her car into the shop to be checked because it was making so weird noises. The mechanic checked her car and told her she needed some work done on her transmission. When the lady heard how much it was going to cost, she decided she wouldn’t pay it. It was at that point that the mechanic told her: “Ma’am, you can pay me now, or you can pay me later!” Now he wasn’t offering her a service-now-pay-later plan. No! What he was telling her was that she could either pay a low price now and get the transmission fixed, or she could wait until the problem got worse and have to pay an even greater price later on! Well, you can either voluntarily bow and acknowledge Jesus as Lord now, or you can refuse and be forced to bow and acknowledge Him as Lord later! You can bow now or you can bow later, but eventually every knee (even the demons in Hell) will bow and acknowledge Jesus as Lord because God has placed all authority in His hands!

“There Is No C-H-U-R-C-H Without U”

Church congregation singing hymns in church

(Disclaimer: The truths and concepts in this article is directed toward those who have professed a belief in Jesus because, biblically speaking, there are no “real” Christians who are not a part of the church.) 

I think that one of the major faults of “American Christianity” is the fact that most American Christians are more “American” than they are “Christian!” Let me show you what I’m talking about:

 

First of all, in the American spirit, there is a strong sense of individualism. Inbreeded in all Americans is a strong independent bent that favors the individual over the group. However, in the Bible, the emphasis is not on the individual, but rather the group. In ancient biblical cultures, the individual’s identity was found in his or her relationship to the group, the family, the clan, the tribe, the nation!

 

When Jesus called individuals to follow him, he always called them to be in community with one another. In Matthew 16:18, we read of Jesus saying: “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” (NKJ) The word that is translated as “church” in that verse, is a Greek word that carries the meaning of; a gathering of citizens, called out of their homes into some public place, an assembly, a congregation. I’ve heard people say that they have the “church in their hearts” but according to the Lord’s definition of church, that’s an impossibility! The church is never just one person; the church is always a group of people! There must always be more than one to have a church!

 

Now, I understand that there are many people who are just fed up with the politics and hypocrisy of the institutionalized church. Well, they are not alone, so was and so is Jesus! In many churches, Jesus is on the outside looking in! By the way, that Bible verse that is often used in an evangelistic effort to get sinners to come to Christ is really a misapplication. Revelation 3:14, says: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” (ESV) In the context of the passage, this is not a picture of Jesus; knocking on the door of a sinner’s heart. No! This is a picture of Jesus; knocking on the door of His church!

 

But, to leave or quit the church because of the imperfections of the people within it is like trying to travel without going anywhere! It’s like trying to leave yourself because you don’t like yourself! The bottom line is this: You need the church and the church needs you! The church is a community of believers and disciples of Christ! And it is within the context of community that God reveals Himself to the world! In his prayer in John 17, Jesus prayed to the Father: “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” (Jn. 17:20-23 ESV) Jesus prayed that all believers (the church) might be one in unity! Jesus told his disciples in Matthew 5:16 to let their light so shine that men might see their good works and glorify the Father in Heaven. It is interesting to note that in the Greek text, the “your” is plural (he wasn’t addressing them as individuals, but as a group) while the “light” is singular! It is a picture of the group (the church) working together to let one light shine!

 

The Apostle Paul likened the church to the human body, with each separate member as a part with a distinct role that fits and works together for the benefit of the whole body. (1 Corinthians 12:11-27) The church needs you and you need the church because none of us are complete by ourselves! You have something I need and I have something you need! In fact, not only is that true for the church, it is also true with life in general! That’s why when people are killed or die prematurely, it is such a tragedy! It’s tragic because they will never get the chance to contribute the gift they came to give and because of that; we all suffer! That is also another reason why it is so important that people really know or come into a right-relationship with God! Because when people are “lost” it’s not just a matter of them going to Hell when they die! When people are lost, they are also lost from their destiny and purpose, which ultimately were designed to glorify God and benefit humanity! When people are lost, they cannot make the contribution they were born to make! And when they don’t make that contribution, the rest of humanity suffers!

 

That’s another reason there is no church without you! The mission of the church is to “make disciples” of all ethnic groups. (Matthew 28:18-20) Why? Not just so that they might be saved, but also that they might collectively demonstrate the glory and love of God to the world! The task is too big for individuals! It can only be done with people who are committed to God and each other!

 

You also need the church to keep you in check! No matter how much you read the Bible and how much “alone time” you have with God, it is also important that you have communion and fellowship with people who share your aspirations, beliefs, dreams, ideals, goals, and convictions! You were not designed to function alone! According to the Bible, there is no such thing as a “Lone Ranger” or “Solo-Christian.” It is God’s will that we all live out our Christian faith in a community setting! In fact, you need that setting to authenticate your faith!

 

I could go on and on, but let me just conclude by saying that without “u” even the word; “church” doesn’t make sense! There is no “c-h-u-r-c-h” with you because “u-r” right in the middle of it!

The Walmart Church

Walmart ChurchThere is a growing church in America today, the name of which, most people have never heard of; it is the Walmart Church! Now, you will not see the name “The Walmart Church” on the marquee outside, but there are locations all around!

What is “The Walmart Church?” It is the church of convenience! The Walmart stores specialize in making shopping convenient for their customers, with many locations having retail and groceries under the same roof. Convenience is a big thing with the Walmart Church, with services at different times for the convenience of its attenders.

The Walmart Church is also the church of discount prices! At the Walmart Church, God’s approval and blessings are offered at a great discount! One can lay claim to Christianity with little or no cost to one’s previous lifestyle. At the Walmart Church, one can be a “Christian” and yet be spared the embarrassment of being fundamentally different from one’s “non-Christian” neighbors. All one has to do to remain a member in good standing is consistently donate an offering and attend a mass meeting on Sunday.

Now of course, I am being sarcastic and there really is no such thing as “The Walmart Church!” But I wonder, is that really the state of the church in many places in America. When many people consider becoming a part of a church today, they actually go “church-shopping!” They visit congregation after congregation, looking for the one that fits their list of specific characteristics: The preacher must be a dynamic and engaging speaker. The music ministry must be lively and entertaining and it would be a plus if there is a drama and fine arts ministry! And of course, there must be a Teen, Youth, or Children’s Ministry to engage the kids while the adults go to the big church to “get their praise on!”

But whatever happened to the idea of being a part of a church because one felt led of God to be there? Whatever happened to the idea of the church being a place to nurturing relationships and fostering spiritual growth? Whatever happened to the idea of finding a church where one was led of God to join so that one might express and utilize their own spiritual gifts in ministerial service?

The church, as Jesus formed it, was not designed to serve its membership. Its membership was designed to be an extension of the ministry of her Lord in serving others! In other words, the real question today that one should be asking is not what this church can do for me and my family, but rather how can my family and I help this church fulfill the Great Commission that the Lord has given!

Well, I don’t know about you! Keep looking for “The Walmart Church” if you want to! As for me, I am looking and I am working to transform the church where I serve into a place where people feel led of God to be a part of! A place where we don’t just “have church” and be entertained, but a place where people are taught, inspired, and challenged to be all that God has called them to be!

At Church To Have A Good Time?

people in a clubI posted a blog-post some time ago entitled: “The Crazy Things We Say In Church.” In that post, I listed some of the things that are commonly said in church that really don’t make any spiritual and in some cases, any common sense. Well, there is another saying that I’ve heard so much that I think it deserves a post all by itself! How many times have you been in a church service and heard an MC, a deacon, a preacher, or even a pastor say: “We’re here to have a good time”? Now, I wouldn’t have a problem with the saying if I hadn’t heard it somewhere else and it was theologically accurate!

Can you think of anyplace else where you have heard this statement? Hmm? Isn’t that what we used to say in our pre-Christian days when we were into the nightclub life? It was Friday night and we had just gotten paid so off we went to the clubs; to have a good time! Now, what’s so amazing to me is that many of us, although we now profess to know God, we go to church with a “night club mentality!” Let me show you what I’m talking about! When we were going to the club, we did not expect anything to happen at the club that would cause significant changes in our lives. We didn’t go to the club with an expectation of our lives changing for the better, we just went to have a good time! It was a hard week at work, so we went to the club to relax, forget about our troubles for a few hours, and to enjoy ourselves. Well, there are some people who go to church on Sunday mornings with the exact same expectations! They don’t expect any significant changes to occur in their lives. They don’t expect anything to happen while they are at church that will cause any significant change in their lives. They just come for an hour or two to “get their praise on!” They just come to have a good time! They left “hell” to come to church and then leave church with the full expectation to go back to the same hell they left! They don’t expect any changes. Sunday morning for them, is just a two-hour- reprieve from the hustle and bustle of everyday life!

But there is so much more to coming to church than just having a good time! Now, if you have a good time while you’re there, that’s all fine and well, but having a good time should not be the main purpose! Why should we come to church? Well, the main reason is to worship and experience the presence of God! And when we worship God, it is not about us; it’s about God! When we give God the praise and adoration of which God is worthy, our “good feeling” is just a by-product. But not only do we get a good feeling, God also moves on our behalf in our various life situations.

A good model of what should happen when we go to church in found in Isaiah’s temple vision in Isaiah 6. Isaiah “saw” the Lord, high and lifted up! When Isaiah saw how high the Lord was; he also saw how low he was! A true worship experience helps us to see the majesty and glory of God and recognize our own faults and failures. That experience caused Isaiah to exclaim (in the language of my fore-parents) “It’s not my brother! It’s not my sister, but it’s me, O Lord! Standing in the need of prayer!” Finally Isaiah was touched, cleansed, and commissioned. That’s what a real worship experience is all about! After a true worship experience; we don’t leave the same way we came! We leave with a sense of our sins forgiven! We leave with a determination and will to do the will of God! We leave stronger than we were when we came! The time we spend in worship at church is so much more than just for the purpose of having a good time!