Monday, September 29, 2008

Sunday Celebrations

Yesterday was our Annual Men & Women’s Day Celebration at GSJ. Our theme was taken from Phil. 1:27 (ESV) which read: Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel.

Traditionally, this occasion held as its premise the raising of funds in the spirit of friendly competition. Since assuming the pastorate at GSJ, my goal has been to shift our focus from mere fundraising to faithbuilding objectives designed to foster biblical unity and to strengthen the role of men and women in our church. As you already know, suggesting that someone change or augment something they are accustomed to doing can be stressful but thank God for people who are open to change that will stimulate growth in our walk with Christ.

Rather than invite a pastor to share as our guest, we assigned a man and woman from the congregation to give meditative reflections on the theme during both worship experiences. I am pleased to report that everyone who shared was a blessing and benefit to the congregation and we will be a stronger church because of it. Our chairpersons are to be commended as well as anyone who had a hand in making this day memorable. I pray that the fruit of their labor blesses us continually for years to come.

During the 11am service I had to leave and head over to share with my brother and fellow blogger, Pastor Keith D. Witherspoon, who celebrated two years of faithful service to the Bethlehem Missionary Baptist Church. Pastor Witherspoon is a dynamic preacher, visionary pastor and a preacher’s friend. I am thrilled to see the people of this great church shower him with love, honor and thanks for his stellar leadership. I preached a message entitled “The Wisdom Paul Preached” taken from 1 Corinthians 2:1-5. Here is the outline:

Title: The Wisdom Paul Preached

Text: 1 Corinthians 2:1-5

Thrust: Paul makes his methods, message and motives clear to those who question his preaching prowess so that the believers will know that their faith in God’s power and not man’s wisdom was his chief concern.

I. The Method Paul Expressed

a) The words uttered v. 1;4

b) The weakness used v.3

II. The Message Paul Emphasized

a) The person of Christ v.2

b) The passion of Christ v.2

c) The power of Christ v.2

III. The Motive Paul Explains

a) That your faith be in God’s power v.5

Later that afternoon, GSJ, Pastor Isaac Culver & the Jerusalem Baptist Church along with other guests shared in the finale of this great celebration honoring Pastor Witherspoon and his Family. It was a great celebration and my prayer is that my brother will always prosper. Talk to you soon!!!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Our Daughter's Wedding

Our daughter, Courtney, married her sweetheart of 5 years, Jose Rodriguez on Saturday, August 30, 2008 at 5pm. Jennifer and I can't get over how much our little girl has grown. This wedding ceremony was unlike any I performed in the past. It's always awkward when the bride is your daughter. Needless to say, we are ecstatic for the both of them and wish them many years of marital bliss.

Pictured left to right: Jose, Jennifer, Andre, and our daughter, Courtney

I'm so glad I finally got around to posting these photos. My wife would be so proud. Please pray for our daughter and new son as they share their lives together in meaningful matrimony. Special thanks to one of GSJ's finest, Bro. Howard Buchanon for serving as our photographer during this special evening. Blessings!!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

It's In the Valleys I Grow

I received a card in the mail earlier today from a caring member of GSJ. The intent of this card was to encourage me to continue to fight the good fight of faith despite seemingly insurmountable pitfalls.

A glaring weakness of mine is hiding my frustrations associated with pastoral ministry. My expectations of the people whom God gave me oversight can be so unrealistically high, that the least deviation from desired behavior can be frustrating. Thank God for praying people in the pews who appreciate your ministry and have a vested interest in your success. The card was accompanied by a poem which inspired and invigorated me. The Lord always knows when to move on the heart of His people to be a blessing to you. The poem is entitled “It’s In the Valleys I Grow.” Let me share it with you. Enjoy!!

Sometimes life seems hard to bear,
Full of sorrow, trouble and woe
It’s then I have to remember
That it’s in the valleys I grow.

If I always stayed on the mountain top
And never experienced pain,
I would never appreciate God’s love
And be living my life in vain.

I have so much to learn
And my growth is very slow,
Sometimes I need the mountain tops,
But it’s in the valley I grow.

I do not always understand
Why things happen as they do,
But I am very sure of one thing.
My Lord will see me through.
My little valleys are nothing
When I picture Christ on the cross
He went through the valley of death;
His victory was Satan’s loss.

Forgive me Lord, for complaining
When I’m feeling so very low.
Just give me a gentle reminder
That it’s in the valleys I grow.

Continue to strengthen me, Lord
And use my life each day
To share your love with others
And help them find their way.

Thank you for valleys, Lord
For this one thing I know
The mountain tops are glorious
But it’s in the valleys I grow!

- Jane Eggleston

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Light of the World

Today at GSJ, we celebrated another year of service for the Children’s Choir. The third Sunday of each month is normally set aside to allow the children a more visible and viable role in corporate worship. What a joy it was to see the children in a unique way use their God-given talent to the praise of His glory. We were especially blessed with a musical rendition by Brianna Warren, one of our youth who is currently mastering the art of playing the piano. The church responded with great joy as her growth as a musician became extremely apparent.

I preached a message during our 8am service entitled “The Light of the World” taken from Matthew 5:14-16. My appreciation for this passage of scripture has deepened over the years and since it weighed heavily on my mind this week, I could not wait to preach it. In fact, the Sermon on the Mount, which happens to be the greatest sermon I’ve ever read, by the greatest preacher who ever walked this earth (Jesus), is one of my favorite New Testament discourses. After sharing with His disciples the character which should color one’s conduct in kingdom living, Jesus proceeds to let them know who they really are and what He expected of them. Here is the Sermon Outline:

Title: The Light of the World

Text: Matthew 5: 14-16

Thrust: One who names the name of Christ must have conduct that is consistent, continuous and conspicuous for the world to see and God to be glorified.

I. The People of the Light

A. The Light Identified v.14a

1) Jesus is the Light of the world (John 8:12; John 9:5)

2) You are the light of the world (Eph. 5:8; John 12:36; Matt. 6:22; Rom. 13:12; 1 John 1:7)

a. the poor in spirit (v. 3)
b. those who mourn (v.4)
c. those who are gentle (v.5)
d. those who hunger and thirst for righteousness (v.6)
e. those who are merciful (v.7)
f. those who are pure in heart (v.8)
g. those who are peacemakers (v.9)
h. those who are persecuted (v.10-12)

B. The Light Illustrated – v. 14b; 15a

1) a city on a hill

2) a candle in the house

II. The Power of the Light

A) To dispel darkness

B) To determine direction v. 15b

III. The Purpose of the Light

A) Your good works exposed v.16

B) God’s name exalted v.16

During the 11am worship we had a special guest minister, Rev. Derick Buggs, Associate Minister from the Bethlehem Baptist Church here in South Bend, where my brother and fellow blogger, Pastor Keith D. Witherspoon serves as pastor. Using as a text, Jeremiah 29:10-14, he challenged our youth to trust God’s plan and promises for their lives regardless of the pain life gives or the peer pressure they will face. Rev. Buggs, under the teaching of his pastor is becoming a solid, sound and strong preacher of the Gospel. Special thanks to Pastor Keith D. Witherspoon for sharing his son in the ministry with us this Lord’s Day.

After church, I headed to Bethlehem Baptist Church for dinner upon the invitation of the pastor as they concluded their Annual Senior Day. Truly, this has been a full day and I can’t wait to recuperate on Monday. Pray that the Lord refreshes, reinvigorate and renew me for the responsibilities of this coming week.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Walking Sermons

With every passing moment of my life, the urgency to live for God’s glory, and to allow my walk with Him to be a witness to unbelieving humanity becomes paramount. Truth be told, we don’t always know whose watching us. Consequently, it behooves us to remain cognizant of what our daily lifestyle says about our walk with Christ. Paul, in his second epistle to the Corinthians, says:

"Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart." -2 Cor. 3:3(KJV)

With that in mind, let me end this brief post by sharing an inspirational piece by poet Edgar Guest:

I’d rather see a sermon than hear one any day.
I’d rather one would walk with me than merely show the way.
The eye’s a better pupil and much sharper than the ear.
Fine counsel can confuse me, but example’s always clear.
The lectures you deliver may be very wise and true,
But I’d rather get my lesson by observing what you do.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Saturday & Sunday Thoughts

The Gospel Chorus of GSJ celebrated 70 years of faithful service to our church this past weekend. We were blessed to hear songs of Zion led by past and present members during a Reunion Concert held on Saturday evening. What a time we had as the atmosphere was filled with the praises of God’s people in worship. One former member, Helen Barham, traveled from the state of Tennessee to be with us and we were truly blessed by her presence. Please pray that God will continue to prosper this integral part of our Music Ministry.

Today at GSJ was a rather challenging preaching experience for me. I continued my sermon series out of 1 Corinthians, chapter 9; a very difficult chapter to preach where you serve as pastor. Regardless of what disclaimer you use, there will always be someone to question your motivation. Even though I’ve preached from 1 Corinthians for a few months now, there are some who accuse you of asking for a raise as if more money for faithful diligence in the Word is an anti-biblical concept. Nevertheless, I valiantly pressed on to follow Paul’s train of thought as he continues to address one of several questions the Corinthians asked of him.

Previously in chapter 8, Paul began to answer their question concerning meat offered to idols. After initially agreeing with the strong whose line of reasoning was not against biblical principles, he cautioned them to not use their christian liberties to offend the weak. While eating meat was not a sin in and of itself, it can become hazardous to the spiritual well being of the weak. Therefore, we must forgo the exercising of our right to eat meat lest we force the weak to violate their own consciences.

In chapter 9 Paul further illustrates this principle by reminding them of his own experience. He begins the opening verses defending his apostleship as he was flanked with underserved criticism from his enemies because of the message he preached, ministry methods he implemented and his refusal to exercise certain apostolic privileges. This led him, however, to remind the Corinthians of some rights he willingly refused so that the gospel is preached without obstruction. Although it was Paul’s apostolic right to receive generous compensation for service rendered, he labored among the Corinthians for three years without a salary. This was brought to their attention not to extort money from them, but to further drive home the fact that sometimes we must voluntarily surrender that which we know we are entitled so that an example of selfless sacrifice can be displayed for others to imitate.

Truly the Lord saw us through as we shared this message in a rather unorthodox way. With that said, I don’t necessarily have an outline I can share. It was one of those Sundays, if you know what I mean. According to some members I talked to following the services, it did not impede their ability to get the point of the passage, for that I am grateful.

We concluded the afternoon with lunch at a local establishment called ‘Trios’ with the Gospel Chorus. There we continued in wholesome fellowship before returning home for the day.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The Name the 'King' Gave

I am currently reading Dr. David Jeremiah’s devotional entitled, Signs of Life: Back to the Basics of Authentic Christianity. In the meditation entitled “Turn on the Lights” he refers to a short story he found in a devotional by Kim P. Davis with Beth Moore, called, Voices of the Faithful: Inspiring Stories of Courage from Christians Serving Around the World (page 164). It stresses the importance of letting our light shine before men that they may see our good works and glorify the Father in heaven, Matthew 5:16. Let me share the inspiration I received today. It reads:

"A missionary named Gerri told of working in an African town. One day exciting news reached her. The Lozi king is coming to attend church services and to eat at her house. As far as Gerri knew, the king usually didn’t visit private homes, and word of his upcoming visit spread through the town like wildfire.

When the day finally arrived, the king entered Gerri’s house. She explained in the Lozi language that she was a missionary and that, in Lozi, the name Gerri sounded like “Jelly” because the “r” sound is hard for the people to pronounce. She boldly asked the king for a Lozi name. Though she didn’t know it at the time, such a request was against protocol, but the king smiled and said, “I’ll think about it.”

Later as he prepared to leave, the king said, “My wife and I have decided upon a name for you. It will be Liseli [pronounced lee-SHE-lee]. It means ‘light.’ Just as the sun gives light and life to plants, animals, and people, I want God’s Word to be life and light to the people of Western Province.”

Gerri later wrote,” I was stunned and pleased to receive this blessing. After the king left the room, a lady seated nearby privately said, ‘Ah, you are a very lucky woman to be given a name by a king.”

Well, the King of Kings has given you a name – and it’s LIGHT! (pp. 14-15).

May the glorious light of God's presence shine through our very lives so that there is no question as to who we are or Whose we are.

Friday, September 5, 2008

What A Fellowship

Last evening my brother, Pastor Keith D. Witherspoon and I, had the awesome blessing of traveling to Grand Rapids, MI., for worship with Pastor Decarto Draper Jr., and the Bethlehem Baptist Church during the second night of their “Power-Pac Revival 2008."

We were encouraged, empowered and enriched as we heard the teaching and preaching of Dr. Clifton Rhodes Jr. of Messiah Missionary Baptist Church(, Grand Rapids, MI. and Pastor Marvin E. Wiley of Rock of Ages Baptist Church(, Maywood Ill.

Dr. Rhodes was the featured lecturer who stirred us up immediately by challenging us to evaluate our spiritual posture before God. He stated that in order for us to accomplish this feat we must begin with an honest assessment of our obedience to the word and discipline in prayer. Pastor Rhodes is a seasoned preacher who can be a tremendous asset to the young Timothys of the gospel.

After music rendered by guest choirs, we were ready to hear preaching from Pastor Marvin E. Wiley. He preached a message entitled “It’s All Good” taken from Psalm 119:71. As a young pastor, I was really locked in, not only because he is one of my pastoral heroes, but because he really encouraged us to develop a deeper appreciation for God’s word while facing various afflictions in life. I don't have to tell you that serving the Lord has it's share of bumps and bruises, but God will deliver us out of them all. The message ended with a brief testimony highlighting how God’s faithfulness and the love of his beloved congregation helped him in recent physical afflictions. God always come through for us when we stand on His word.

We were able to further cherish this rare opportunity to glean from these men over dinner as we discussed church life, mutual friends and ministerial philosophies which proved to be simply delightful. I came away from the experience of fellowship more determined to improve my stewardship toward God as it relate to my church and the whole of life. God Be Praised!!!!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

The Righteousness of God

My first Wednesday back from vacation was indeed special. I was greeted with resounding applause as I walked into the educational wing of our church to lead noon and evening bible study. It’s really precious to know when you are away that people sincerely miss you and can’t wait to tell you how much they appreciate the ministry God has given you.

We resumed our study of Paul’s letter to the church at Rome. In recent weeks we had discussed the wickedness of man in his depraved state and have concluded that all men are under sin. Whether we are Jew or Gentile all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory. We continued our exploration of this rich doctrinal treatise, finding ourselves in chapter 3; verse 21-22; where Paul says:

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: (ESV)

Paul is expanding upon his thesis for the whole book which you may recall was eloquently stated earlier in chapter 1 verse 17. It says:

For in it (the gospel) the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” (ESV)

Having already succeeded in arguing that there is none righteous no not one in 3:10; Paul now makes it known that the only way we can become righteous is through faith in the finished work of Christ at Calvary. What the law, circumcision or any other thing could not perform has been provided through Christ who is the righteousness of God promised and revealed.

We had such a wonderful feasting of God’s word that time ran right past us. Truly, this was a fruitful day in the word as we praised God for His unspeakable gift of salvation made available to us all.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Another Great Sunday

Yesterday, all roads led to the Rock of Ages Baptist Church (, a church serving two communities (Maywood and Bolingbrook) Illinois, where Rev. Marvin E. Wiley serves as pastor.

Prior to arriving, I had already determined which of the three services I would attend. Others who had the experience prior, warned me to get there early because failure to do so would make it hard to find convenient parking or comfortable seating. When I opened the door, I was immediately met with the warmth of hospitality and because I had arrived too early, was escorted to the chapel where I could watch the conclusion of the prior service via teleprompter. You should have seen the anticipation plastered upon my countenance as I eagerly anticipated hearing one of my homiletical heroes.

Pastor Wiley is a preacher par excellent, a visionary pastor, well sought after evangelist and one of nicest people you will ever meet. I just knew he would be in town so after worship began, I waited for him to enter the sanctuary when I learned that recording artist, Darius Brooks, formerly of the Thompson Community Singers, is the minister of music, so you know the church was set ablaze with the worship and praises of God’s people.

The service was in high gear from the start, making preaching very easy. Before long my greatest fear happened. Someone who was not the pastor walked out and sat in his seat. During my bout with disappointment, I did not immediately recognize this individual. It dawn on me that it was Pastor Decarto Draper, Jr., pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Grand Rapids, Mi.

Pastor Draper is a powerful young preacher-pastor who is one of Pastor Wiley’s sons in the ministry. He really brought it as he preached a message from II Corinthians 12:7-10 entitled “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction.” The message was well received and really ministered to hurting people who suffer God-given thorns to keep them humble while serving faithfully. Although I was initially dejected and disappointed that Pastor Wiley was a no show, Draper rose to the occasion and God used him in a mighty way.

It was a great day of celebrating God’s unmerited favor upon us in a multiplicity of ways, and I am truly thankful to be one of His today.

P.S. Continue to keep us in your prayers. My vacation has ended so you know what that means. Peace!!