July 28, 2015

Dr. E. Dewey Smith Responds To Anti-Gay Church Hypocrisy Video Clip That Has Gone Viral!

By Crystal Smith

dewey epk pic

"Dr. E. Dewey Smith Responds To Anti-Gay Church Hypocrisy Video Clip That Has Gone Viral!"

This is a long article, but in all thy getting GET understanding! Media is quick to edit and only report on the part they feel is relevant. We asked Dr. Smith for a response and we decided to publish the ENTIRE reply and here it is! Click HERE to see FULL SERMON!

For almost 30 years I have been blessed to share the Gospel in enumerable settings and 
favored to move fluidly throughout diverse contexts. I have always been considered an
“ecclesiastical diplomat”, who has sought to find a way to “draw circles” and not “lines” from a Christian vantage point. My focus has consistently been centered on highlighting the essentials of the Faith.

As a student of church growth and history, it has become painfully evident that post-modernity has created a myriad of challenges for established ministries as well as Christianity as a whole. To be quite honest, nearly every main-line denomination in the Western Hemisphere has recently experienced significant decline in terms of conversions, baptisms, missions and contributions. Millions of millennials do not identify with any faith tradition, while a host of others declare themselves as “spiritual but not religious.”

On July 22, 2015, I was given the opportunity to minister at a Holy Convocation of one of the premier African-American Pentecostal denominations in the United States. In preparation for my message on that night, I had a sense of “calling” to focus on the theme of evangelism. My message was taken from Acts 8:1-8 and was entitled “Blessings In Disguise.” The crux of the message centered around some traumatic things that the early church experienced in the opening verses of the 8th chapter. These painful moments were necessary in propelling early church believers to leave “Jerusalem” and spread the Gospel all over the world. 

After I communicated what appeared to be the disintegration of the church in the first three verses of Acts chapter 8, Philip, one of the “Deacons/Servants” selected in Acts 6:1-7, went to the city of Samaria. This was quite significant because for 800 years, the Samaritans were a marginalized group of people. The Jews actually despised the Samaritans and avoided contact with them. The body of the message dealt with Philip’s approach toward the Samaritan people. St. Luke explicitly recorded, “Philip preached Christ unto them”. As Philip preached the Gospel, the Samaritans “with one accord” listened to him, and inevitably persons who had been lame, sick and “possessed” found healing, deliverance and breakthrough. Philip went to Samaria to “evangelize and not antagonize” the people.

At that moment, I made a logical application and challenge from that point; who could many “religious” people consider to be “21st Century Samaritans”? Would they be willing to leave “their Jerusalems” and share the Gospel with those not like them? In making that point, I posited that maybe recent Supreme Court legislation could be a moment for persons to share Christ with those who some consider and treat as 21st Century “Samaritans.”

For decades within many African-American churches, homosexuality has been the “big elephant in the room.” Homosexuality has long been a “taboo subject” in black congregations. Many churches have operated by a “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. A host of bishops, pastors, evangelists, musicians and singers have lived homosexual lifestyles. The theology of traditional ministries forced a lot of people into marriages that were strictly for public purposes. A myriad of homosexual men married unsuspecting women, for the sake of the church, while still privately engaging in same-sex relationships. 

The theology of an overwhelming amount of people and fear of church scrutiny, led countless individuals to live pretentious lives for “the sake of the Kingdom”. In my message, I highlighted the undeniable contributions that gay musicians, singers and directors have made to the African-American church. For decades, church members have seen effeminate men and women with masculine traits leading music departments. Enumerable churches have relied heavily on same-gender loving people to help build ministries. On Sunday mornings, excited parishioners anxiously gather in houses of worship to hear the choir “blow the roof off of the building.”

The majority of Pastors know, whether they would admit it or not, that good preaching and awesome music can help “put butts in the seats and bucks in the banks.” To this very day, an awesome worship, arts and music department is highly valued and regarded within African-American churches. Music aside, some of the most faithful and supportive members of many black churches have been same-gender loving individuals.

African-American people, in general, love music. The love for and importance of music has created quandaries for years within black ecclesial contexts. An uncomfortable dichotomy exists for many: a “traditional theology” versus the need for a powerful worship service. On one hand, many Pastors have “preached what the Word of God” says about the “abominable nature” of homosexuality while simultaneously having those guilty of the “abomination” on payroll. While vociferously highlighting the nature or preferences of whom some disparage as “abominable Sodomites,” many Pastors never fathomed their own “abominable” pride that led to them wanting to have the “baddest choir in town,” regardless of their theology. 

I, along with thousands of others, have used the most insulting and degrading terms, from the pulpit, in referencing “unnatural” people. I shared how the same themes of “demonization” and “exploitation” that were systemic during the times of slavery were eerily similar themes with traditional church theology and homosexual employees. While nothing more heinous has ever existed than African chattel slavery, similar diabolical motivations were present. While some persons connect the struggles of the LGBT movement to the abolitionist and Civil Rights movements, that was not my purpose or intention during the message.

As a proud heterosexual with a southern upbringing, I have also preached more unfavorably and critically of homosexuals. It is much easier for preachers to be more vocal about the “sins” of which they have not been or are not guilty. However, I have found that often many preachers who have “hammered” homosexuals regularly and consistently in the sermonic moment, are often guilty of having the same proclivities. I believe that many heterosexual boys are socialized to hate homosexuals. This socialization could be subconsciously based on the premise of “if you hate them, you will not become them.” I was one of those young guys who did not want to ever be around homosexuals. I took pride in only having heterosexual musicians on my music staffs. 

My preaching, perspectives and disdain “shifted” as I matured as a Pastor. Having to counsel men who were embarrassed and had no relationships with their children because of their child’s orientation; praying with 14 year old suicidal teenagers in psychiatric units who felt hated by God, their parents and by me because of their sexual identity issues; and discovering that a family friend, was homeless and addicted to drugs because of his life long struggles with his orientation, forced me into deep contemplation. This great human being discovered when he was an adult, that he was born as a hermaphrodite. 

At birth, his parents decided to “make him a boy” and never divulged that to him until recently. This revelation also forced me to find a “space” for his story within my theological and ideological framework. I know he loves God too! He was one of the most kind persons anyone could meet. Could I now continue to preach “God did not make anybody that way” and “God never makes mistakes”? Would my theology allow room for pre-natal sex organ abnormalities? If God did not make him that way, who did? Was it simply genetic? Was he “cursed” as some of his family members implied? Could his “salvific conversion” amend his deficiencies? 

Could the Holy Spirit take away the high levels of estrogen in his body? While pondering these questions, I discovered that two members of my present congregation were born with hermaphroditic issues as well. What does the Gospel say about that? Is it possible that someone could be born loving the same gender? If a person was born loving the same-gender, is that then considered abnormal? Would a “depraved nature theology” answer those questions? If a child can be born with chromosomal abnormalities, Down Syndrome and other issues, could the same be applied to sexuality? Does our theology consider recent science? 

Since science and faith rarely mutually co-exist, should we work harder to harmonize in this context? Many of these answers I still don’t have. Honestly, for a long time I really had not cared to know. Please don’t be angry, but I must share both my ignorance regarding this subject as well as my brutal truth. The humor and irony of the viral clip is that I have always been guilty of speaking my truth. I despise pretense, “so what you see is what you get” with me.

The aforementioned questions and more are asked by many millennials. The inability of many church leaders to answer questions or allow room for questions has turned many people away from faith. Additionally, the hypocrisy that is so prevalent in some ecclesial settings is cause for much disdain amongst young people. Many teenagers from Pentecostal backgrounds, are often lambasted about getting tattoos and piercings, because the “Word says so in Leviticus.” The complications of and hermeneutical skills required to delineate between “Moral Laws”, “Ceremonial Laws” and “Civil Laws” in Leviticus are overwhelming, frustrating and almost impossible for young believers and unbelievers who just “want God” in their lives to comprehend. On one hand some have heard, “you are saved by Grace and not your works” and on the other they are told to “learn all 600+ sins/abominations in Leviticus in order to stay saved”.

I facetiously referenced this point in the message last week. I did not expound on the categories of law in Leviticus, not because of ignorance but because it was not germane as a major point in the message. It was simply a comedic portion of the application of that point. Those who know me and follow my ministry understand that I am a comedian by nature and always interject “light-hearted” moments while ministering.

While there are several passages in the Bible that are used to condemn homosexuality, my point was that we often “pick and choose the sins that we highlight.” While my brief and comedic reference to Leviticus in the message may not be sufficient and not detailed enough for some, what do we think about the myriad of perspectives about “divorce and remarriage”? In many African-American ecclesial settings, church leaders have been divorced and remarried. If a bishop or pastor divorced his wife, without her committing adultery and he remarried while his first wife is still alive, is he in sin? Is that sin less than homosexuality? Can a pastor get divorced and still be qualified to preach? What if the bishop doesn’t “rule his own house well”? 

Can a woman serve as a pastor or bishop? What about some people justifying “slavery” with their interpretations of the Bible? What about the abomination of pride? What about those with “lying tongues”? Any thoughts about the innocent Iraqis killed during “Operation Freedom”? Any homiletical outcries over the “drones” that kill children? Any sermons in white, evangelical churches on Dylan Roof? What did Jesus say about poverty and the poor? Which sin is worse? Whose interpretation is correct? 

What is orthodox? I really believe that an ecumenical forum of Bible Scholars and faithful preachers should convene to critically examine biblical texts pertaining to homosexuality. Often our interpretations are skewed by our own biases and backgrounds. As the early church gathered at Nicea in 325 AD to discuss “Arianism”, I sense that this shifting culture needs a similar gathering. “Pre-Understandings” of biblical texts should be “left at the front door” and the most critical and objective hermeneutical skills brought to the forefront. 

Although enumerable media outlets have used my sermon clip for their own journalistic and editorial priorities, my message was not presented in an effort to “affirm the rights” of the LGBT community. My sermonic intentions and ministerial assignment is not to be the “pro gay pastor”. My agenda is Jesus’ message and exaltation. I preached that sermon and in it confidently affirmed the humanity of and contributions that have been made to the black church by many from the gay community. 

I stand wholeheartedly behind that because it is the truth. Millions of people within the LGBT community and other sects have reached out to me over the past few days. While this has been different, unexpected and uncomfortable for me, it has shown me how so many within the gay community only want to be respected, positively acknowledged and have their humanity affirmed. It is sad to hear the stories of alienation that many same-gender loving people have emailed or sent via social media. Millions have stated, “thank you for sharing that we both are on the same level in God’s eyes and have access to Jesus….thanks for letting me know that I Jesus still loves me……thank you for not making me feel inferior “. 

While these messages have opened my eyes tremendously, please know that I was not trying to become a focal point or “champion” for a “cause”. My message was presented with the hopes that we could develop a heart of “ministry” for those who desire it. I, like many other pastors, have not been equipped with the tools or even the “know how” to engage in a meaningful conversation or ministry opportunity with a gay person. I have heard some gay people say, “I want out of this lifestyle”. 

What does that mean for most churches? What is the response? Do we have ministries to address that? What does the “anti-homosexuality church” say to parents who have gay children? Does our theology cause a wedge between “straight” parents and same-gender loving children? Is it “godly” for a parent to ever turn their backs on their gay children?” Can we be like Philip and share Christ with those who are hurting and wounded? Are the members of our congregations prepared to do what Philip did?

What is the response of the church to persons who are “comfortable in their lifestyle”, do not see it as sin and accept homosexuality as their normal and God-given reality? Can they participate in ministry? Will it still be “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”? As many churches will not perform same-sex marriages, will they dedicate or christen the babies who are being raised in same-gender loving homes? Can same-gender loving people attend our churches? While some congregations are “welcoming and affirming” of gays, will others be at least “welcoming”? 

Will some churches excommunicate persons who admit that they’re same-gender loving? Corporations, schools and the public square have all become more open to the LGBT community; have our churches prepared congregants to live in a civil manner with all people? Is proper treatment of our “gay neighbors” a part of our ecclesial efforts to promote decency, civility and citizenship? Is Dr. King’s concept of the “Beloved Community” relevant in this context?

I have always believed and taught that marriage is between a man and a woman. Even as society changes and my theology evolves around ministering to and being intentional about loving all people, my personal theology is still based on male and female relationships only. While this may disappoint many who have encouraged me over the past few days, please allow a mutuality of “tolerance”. However, I do think it is important for us to distinguish between personal theology and public policy. The Supreme Court ruling is an issue of policy. 

Post-modernity has made me more aware of the pluralistic democracy that governs America. The U.S. is not a theocracy and has been established to supposedly provide certain freedoms and rights to all of its citizens. Every American citizen is granted both the freedom of and freedom from religion. As cynical as that may sound for some, it is the essence of our Nation’s founding. It is very likely over the next 100 years, that many Atheists will be in policy-making roles in America. In the last Presidential election, the majority of evangelical Christians voted for a Mormon as President of the United States. 

Imagine the changes in society over the next century. I have grave concerns about whose theology could be used to form public policy in the year 2115, should The Lord delay His return. The present policy of this land allows me to worship where I desire to worship and to live with my wife and children. The policy of this land has recently given same-gender loving persons the right to have marriage ceremonies, should they choose and the right for me as a Minister to not perform that ceremony.

My sermon was not intended to be a condemnation of gays nor a condoning of same-gender loving relationships. My message was simply to say that those of the LGBT community who desire our ministry and love should not have to wonder if we care! Heterosexuality and patriarchy should not cause an “elitism” and ” superiority” that prevents us from doing what Jesus did in St. John 4:1-40 and following Philip’s example in Acts 8:5-8. Both fought through the biases and prejudices of their day to converse with those unlike them. Jesus and Philip never allowed their differences and presuppositions to prevent them from conversing with the Samaritans and treating them with decency and love.

I have no idea why my 4 minute sermon clip was posted and became viral without context or my approval. I do not know why those brief words have caused several “saints” to “hate” and even “wish death” upon me. I will never understand why some would rather “condemn” without getting context. I do know why those with “causes”, both positive and negative, used the clip for their “purposes”. In spite of it all, I am comforted by the fact that God and those who have actually heard the entire message, know that my purpose was simple: Spread the message of Jesus with those who will listen and expect God to bring transformation to any life. Though I wish God had given me prior warning about the “firestorm” of the past five days, I am confident that Jesus’ name has been heard by millions all over the world via my mouth. Although “Stephen has died, Saul has gone crazy and the Saints are scared and scattered,” through it all it’s still a “Blessing In Disguise.”



Source: Joy105.com

June 27, 2015

Dr. E. Dewey Smith, Jr. Speaks On The Supreme Court, Black Sexual Politics & The GMWA!

By Crystal Smith

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“The Supreme Court, Black Sexual Politics & the GMWA

Several months ago, I learned through social media that a conference was convening at First Corinthian Baptist Church in Harlem, NY.  This church is pastored by my Morehouse College classmate and friend, Pastor Michael Walrond.  The conference was sponsored by Columbia University and had an intriguing theme:  “Are the Gods afraid of Black Sexuality?:  Religion and the Burdens of Black Sexual Politics.”

A member of the church who attended the conference posted some thought provoking quotes on social media.  The posts covered a myriad of topics, a few of which were:  1) Same-gender loving people write a lot of the music that has historically and presently been ministered in churches.  2)  There are a disproportionate number of same-gender loving people in churches who are the heads of music departments in conservative churches.   3) “Pastors ignore the gay elephant in the room.”  4) How do we engage conversations around race, religion, gender and sex with African-American ecclesial communities? 5) Many of our male gospel singers are involved in same-gender loving relationships.

The quotes posted from the two-day conference were extremely thoughtful and forced me to into reflection.  After I re-posted some of the quotes, I was informed that some of the sessions were led by a gay, female Bishop.  Although I was totally unfamiliar with this presenter,  her thoughts were measured and comprehensive.  I was later asked by someone, “why did you tweet the words of a gay Bishop?”  My response was simple, “I was not at the conference,  had never heard of the Bishop and had no idea about her sexuality!”

After answering that question, my thoughts went into overdrive.  Why did the person think I was wrong for posting her words?  Should I have determined her name and sexuality before posting her thoughts?  Were her factual  thoughts nullified by her sexuality?  Can a gay person not give truth?  Do we know the sexuality of every person that we tweet or retweet?  Who qualifies to be retweeted?  Can we retweet a liar, but not someone who is gay?  Is it ok to sing church music that is produced by a gay person, but not retweet a factual comment by a gay person?

After the Supreme Court ruled on June 26, 2015, that same-sex marriage was legalized in all 50 States, my mind went back to these questions that were posed in October 2014.  How would this ruling affect ecclesial communities?  Would pastors stand up in protest?  Would Christian leaders vilify the Court and the President?  Will the government try to force all churches to perform same-sex marriages?  What should we do?

As Christianity is not monolithic, the responses were as I anticipated.  Many Christian leaders voiced their disgust and disdain with “Sodom and Gomorrah” references while others, in support of same-sex marriages, declared “Love Wins.”. It was ironic and sadly humorous that we often expect the world to be on “one accord with Christians” when “Christianity” hasn’t been on “one accord” in over 2000 years.  Honestly, since the 1st Century, there have been enumerable schisms and doctrinal differences.

After being prodded by several people to share my thoughts about the Supreme Court ruling, my staff and I posted some of my musings on social media.  I posted thoughts pertaining to America not truly being established as a Christian Nation, on the differences between Personal Theology and Public Policy, on Evangelizing and Antagonizing and on To Speak or Not To Speak.

Yesterday, the Supreme Court Ruling and the October “Are the Gods Afraid of Black Sexuality” Conference made a loud collision for me.  When will we speak or be silent?  After talking to trusted and respected leaders from differing view points, I felt the need to not only address the Supreme Court ruling, but also to give comments regarding the deafening silence that still permeates many black churches regarding sexuality.  Our silence on certain issues has led many in the millennial generation to leave the church.  Leaders are often viewed as hypocritical because of our seeming inability to address all of the aforementioned questions.  

Months ago I was asked to speak at the Gospel Music Workshop of America, an annual gathering of some of the best musical talent in the world.  Founded by the legendary, Rev. James Cleveland, this organization has produced our world’s greatest gospel music and musicians for decades.  As I have been involved in gospel music my entire life, I’m aware of the strengths, struggles and stereotypes associated with the genre. During the “Are The God’s Afraid of Black Sexuality”Conference, the GMWA was also referenced.  There was conversation about the contributions and sexuality of some past and present attendees along with discussion on the significant contributions made from its members to local houses of worship.

As a proud heterosexual who was a musician, choir director and singer,  stereotypes kept me away from certain musical organizations.  Not wanting to be connected to or labeled limited  my exposure to gifted people and musical opportunities.  To this very day, there are some young musicians who still have these sentiments.  How do we connect them to organizations to enhance their skills?

It’s interesting that some Christian leaders expect worldly leaders to properly address same-gender loving relationships when many churches have not.  Some of the best musicians have died of AIDS while leading our music departments and we say nothing.  Often “down low” males in music ministries marry unsuspecting women only to hide their sexuality and gain acceptance–not because they desire a woman.  HIV/AIDS is a pandemic and is prevalent amongst clergy and music ministries, partly because of our silence.  Often mean-spirited leaders use disparaging, demonizing and dehumanizing language, while in the pulpits, to degrade the same people who’re helping to build the local ministry.   What is the the theology concerning these areas?  Do we recognize the gifts of those from a certain persuasion and minimize their humanity?  Do we accept the fact that some of our best are gay but tell them “don’t bring or show it around the church?”How does the gay musician feel when they’re berated by a preacher with the same proclivities and they both know it?  Are we saying POTUS is wrong for supporting gay marriage while knowing that some of our music leaders are in gay relationships–they just don’t have the license?  Can the choir director be gay as long as he/she isn’t “practicing it?  Do we believe they should be getting counseling or seeking “deliverance ministry”?  Have we merely adopted, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”?  What if they say, “This is who I am, I don’t need deliverance“?  Should we sing music penned by a gay person? Do you believe that singing a song produced by a gay person will bring “a gay spirit” into the church?  The leadership of the Gospel Music Workshop of America is seeking to not only sharpen the musical skills of its attendees but also to grapple with some of the complex questions and issues raised in this writing.

Since yesterday there’s been a lot of debate and commentary regarding the legalization of same-sex marriage in all 50 States. While we all have the right to express our opinions about the Supreme Court ruling and its implications, have we looked within to answer our own questions?  We expect President Obama, a politician, to properly articulate and delineate nuances of same-gender loving relationships, when the truth is many pastors have not or, even more likely, cannot.

 

Source: Joy105.com

May 23, 2015

Slip and Fall

By Amanda Usher

 

“I cried out, ‘I am slipping!’ but your unfailing love, O Lord, supported me.”

Psalms 94:18 (NLT)

There are times when people may feel themselves changing, not necessarily evolving, but transforming into someone that is outside of their character. Their mindsets may morph outside of their normality, threatening their sanity. It’s hard to actually feel yourself slipping into a pit of misery, fear, weakness or depression and not be able to catch yourself. The good news is that there’s Someone who’s willing to save you, even from yourself.

This illusion of a transformation occurs when tragedies seem to increase, and joy continuously decreases. You feel yourself slipping into someone completely opposite of your true character. You’re no longer yourself. You no longer care about anything or anyone. Your trials and tribulations are burying you, and you may not think that you can dig yourself from underneath them. But in the midst of your development, in the back of your mind, there’s one lonesome thought that you can still be saved. But how do you pull yourself out of this depression, out of this misery and into the strength and faith that you once knew? You don’t.

You wait for God to do it for you, because at that moment, you can’t save yourself. You’ve temporarily abandoned the proper tools that God has given you, and now it’s up to Him show you why He’s called the Savior. This isn’t to say that there’s absolutely nothing that you can do because there are definitely a couple of actions that you can take while you await God’s rescue.

First and foremost, talk to Him and build your faith. Pray for His power, but most of all, tell Him thank you. Remember what He’s already brought you through, and thank Him for it. Remember that you’re currently opening your eyes every day, no matter how hard it is to do, so thank Him for it. Thank Him in advance for anything that He will do for you in the future. You may not be yourself, but you still understand who God is as He never changes. He still loves you, and deserves praise. So thank Him before, through and after your battle. While you’re speaking to Him, express to Him how you feel and ask for direction. He’s an understanding God, and will hear your words.

Surround yourself with people who love you. They have to be positive and reassuring people who want to partake in building you up, not helping you fall down. These may be people that God will work through to bless you. They can pray with you, and be members of your local community, your church or your family as long as they wish to uplift you.

Make the decision to build your strength and change your mindset. Studying the Bible could be one way of doing this. You have to choose to not fall and just exist, but rather live life fully. While He has already prepared your escape out of your turmoil, you have to first decide to go to Him and ask for help; but worship Him even after your storm is over.

You may slip, but the Savior will never let you fall.

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When’s the last time that you felt yourself slipping? How did God rescue you?

If you enjoyed this article, here are several recommended sermons for you:

  

 

May 18, 2015

A Heart of Forgiveness

By Amanda Usher

 

“Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.”

Col. 3:13-5 (NLT)

People will bring harm to you and will violate you in ways that may linger with you for a lifetime. You can’t afford them the opportunity to have any power over you. You have to free yourself from any chain of deceit and betrayal that they’ve brought into your life. Holding on to the misery that comes with being bounded by them is not worth the agony of living in pain and hurt. Let go.

Never forget what they’ve done but rather forgive them for doing it to you. Forgive them not only because you were commanded by God to do so, but do it because you need to drown yourself in peace. If you’re still stuck in the negative areas of your past, you can’t fully appreciate the positive ones in your present or in your future. People spend years and years allowing themselves to be angry and affected by the abandonment they felt from a parent, or allowing themselves to be held back from experiencing genuine love because of a past relationship. You have to take the steps to heal those wounds and move forward to value what you have today.

You could also be the cause of your strife through your actions. Every choice that you make will one day affect you in either a positive or negative way, so you very well may have harmed yourself due to poor decisions. Forgive yourself for whatever you have done to contribute to your unhappiness. It was a mistake that may have taught you something about yourself unbeknownst to you, so don’t spend your days depressed about it.

God has something amazing planned for your life. You have to move forward into the greatness of your future without any baggage. Don’t live a life full of hatred for not an ounce of peace will be found. It’s okay to be hurt and saddened, but it’s never okay to carry that burden for years and years helping it weigh you down. God wants to grant you serenity with the new life that He’s given you when you accepted Him. Bask in it and love and thank Him for it. While you don’t have to befriend the person that caused your tragedy, forgive them not to please them, but to please your Heavenly Father. Only then will you know true tranquility.

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Who in your past, or present, must you forgive to have bliss in your life? Have you begun to start the process of letting go of them?

If you enjoyed this article, here is a recommended sermon for you:

 
May 06, 2015

Fight Night

By Amanda Usher

 

“If my misery could be weighed and my troubles be put on the scales, they would outweigh all the sands of the sea…”

Job 6:2-3 (NLT)

“I wish He would crush me. I wish He would reach out His hand and kill me. At least I can take comfort in this: Despite the pain, I have not denied the words of the Holy One. But I don’t have the strength to endure. I have nothing to live for.”

Job 6:9-11 (NLT)

“No, I am utterly helpless, without any chance of success.”

Job 6:13 (NLT)

Trials and tribulations are inevitable, and the pain experienced through these times can sometimes be unbearable. They’re hard to work through, and may even threaten your emotional state.

You may feel as if your storms will drown you, but they won’t if you don’t allow yourself to be weak, and let God be your backbone, instead. The community can even be a source of strength for you. They can encourage you and assist you in pushing forward. While it’s okay to momentarily feel helpless or fragile, you can’t allow yourself to stay in that pit of misery. Your battles will bring growth and life to your world, not death. That is, if you fight. Prove to God, to yourself and to others that you won’t be defeated by turmoil. Prove yourself to be a great soldier.

If you refer to the previous blog post, dated Sept. 29, 2014, you will see the steps to “preparing for the battlefield” are far from complex or complicated (How…Fight?). One thing that is a must is for you to understand your character while also not allowing yourself to be taken out of character. You have to learn yourself, and learn about God’s greatness. “Preparing yourself for a fight can be a teachable moment for yourself and others,” according to the post. “It can reveal to you that you can handle a lot more than you thought that you could while also displaying to others how powerful your God is.” If you believe that He is almighty and bigger than any problem, why would you wish to be crushed? Why would you wish to be taken away?

Struggles may seem endless, but you’re more powerful than them. You may believe that you “don’t have the strength to endure,” but you do. Your endurance comes from your faith in the Holy One and in yourself. It comes from prayer, and belief in the Word.

You have to make the decision to stand up to your situation, stand proud to be a child of God and fight. Fight for your sanity. Fight for your survival. Fight because you have the Savior in the storm with you. Don’t wait until tomorrow but make your choice today. This you shall remember:

“You’re not on the battlefield alone. Man may abandon you, but God never will. You may feel tortured, bruised and beaten down, but God will still have His hand on you. You’re still in His reach. Your fight is only a test, and it’s up to you to pass it. Show Him that you can handle whatever fight comes your way, and prove to Him that you are indeed ‘fit for the Master’ (How…Fight?).”

The famous Mayweather-Pacquiao fight may be over, but your fight night has arrived. You’ll come out victorious because your Father will be with you. You won’t be defeated, and you will succeed. Keep in mind that you always have something to live for, even if you have no family or a limited amount of friendships, because you have yourself to live for. Don’t be taken out by what the devil throws your way or fail the tests that God has put in front of you. Believe in His promises, believe in His Word and you’ll be just fine. Just remember to always fight!

Think about a time when you felt swallowed up by your problems. What did you do ensure that you’d be a conqueror and survive?

If you enjoyed this article, here are a couple of recommended sermons for you:

April 21, 2015

The Ultimate War

By Amanda Usher

 

“The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions.”

Gal. 5:17 (NLT)

“When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.”

Gal. 5:19-21 (NLT)

“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!”

Gal. 5:22-23 (NLT)

There’s a lifelong war that occurs within us. This war consists of multiple internal battles between the way that we WANT to behave and the way that we’re COMMANDED to behave. It’s one that haunts all of us, and at times, may even get the best of us and causes us to falter and displease our Father.

Now what do you do when self-control seems overshadowed by lust? Or when envy, jealousy and hostility are desperately striving to cancel out any kindness and goodness in you? Do you allow yourself to be defeated in this ongoing war, and therefore deny God, or do you stand up to accept Him and fight against this sinful nature?

On one hand, you could easily enjoy the pleasures of the earthly world. You could get drunk, dance your heart out at wild parties and may even partake in some sort of sexual immorality. That would be fun for you, right? Maybe you’re the type to let your selfish ambition take over and you decide to step on others to benefit your own success. The question is, where would these things eventually land you?

How would these acts get you into the heavenly world with the One that created you? While they may afford you temporary happiness and fulfillment, the satisfaction will soon die and fade, leaving you to be in search of it again on another day. It’s a cycle that never ends because God is nowhere in it. If He was in the center of your life, you would have constant joy, continual peace and everlasting faithfulness.

So how do you make sure that you keep this sinful nature from consuming you? It takes a lot of God’s deliverance and much prayer. Change from you is also needed: a change of friends, a change of scenery, a change in routine or a change in how you view your circumstances as this nature can frequently come from a depressed state of mind. Trust that you can find peace and joy within the Holy Spirit, not from a bottle of alcohol or flesh. Worship God, and believe in His Word. It’ll be complicated to abandon earthly desires, but it’ll be more than worth it when you enter through the Gates.

Don’t let this sinful nature win this conflict, but rather allow the Holy Spirit to be the victor. The two are in combat with one another, but there’s only One that promises favor. He promises love, understanding and eternal salvation. Don’t let your behavior hinder you from receiving the Holy Spirit’s fruit. Be a brave, faithful soldier!

Which of the two will be the victor in your life: the sinful nature here on earth or the Holy Spirit in Heaven?

If you enjoyed this article, here are a couple of recommended sermons for you:

April 13, 2015

A Helpful Gift

By Amanda Usher

 

“And I have been a constant example of how you can help those in need by working hard. You should remember the words of the Lord Jesus: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

Acts 20:35 (NLT)

You never know how much of a blessing you could be to someone until you actually lend a helping hand to that person. Assisting others not only brings light to their lives, but it also can fulfill you. Knowing that you were able to help a person should bring you joy. Giving is about more than just a few dollars. It’s about time, effort, energy and the willingness to make other people’s lives better. In return, you’ll receive a blessing for every gift that you offer.

Sometimes you’re not aware of the burdens that a person has on their shoulders. They could be weighed down by financial woes, family struggles or even career battles. You should want to be there for them in any way that’s within your power.

Even if you can’t lend them any money, you can lend them your ears as you listen to them discuss their hardships. That’s one of the main acts of kindness that people look for when going through a trying time. They want to vent and get out all of their emotions. They want to have that one person that they’re positive they can trust and will listen to them with open ears and a nonjudgmental heart.

You could even help them by bringing them to the Lord if they’ve seemed to stray away from Him. Bring them to church with you. They may decide to join, which they probably wouldn’t have had the courage to do so had you not been there with them to start the journey.

Giving does not have to be a solo effort. Get everyone in the community involved! A person in need should be surrounded by support and uplifting energy. People in the community can even gather to help a cause by donating or volunteering. There are several ways to contribute.

Be a gift to someone today, and brighten up his or her life with your kind efforts. The rewards are worth it.

When was the last time you helped someone in need? What did you do for them?

Note: There are various causes to give to, including Tabitha’s House at the House of Hope Atlanta. To find out more, visit houseofhopeatl.org.

 

If you enjoyed this article, here are two recommended sermons for you: 

 

    

April 07, 2015

Pray and Obey

By Amanda Usher

 

“Pray that the Lord your God will show us what to do and where to go.”

Jeremiah 42:3 (NLT)

“Whether we like it or not, we will obey the Lord our God to whom we are sending you with our plea. For if we obey Him, everything will turn out well for us.”

Jeremiah 42:6 (NLT)

God’s plan is God’s plan. This means that His plan may not be yours.

You could’ve very well mapped out a huge, brilliant step-by-step plan that you believe will lead you into the right direction, but the truth is, that plan may not matter. God has already created a vision for you and your life, which pretty much overshadows any step of any plan.

While He understands what you want for your life, He also knows that your desires may not be what you need for your life. As His child, you shall trust His will, obey Him and follow His guidance. Let Him bring you into mind-blowing greatness. Nothing but amazing benefits and blessings can come out of putting your faith in His will.

If you’re failing to comprehend and see where it is that He wants to take you, pray that He opens your eyes. Pray that He works through the right people around you to display His vision. Ask Him to put you in the correct position to embark on this God-given journey. Be still and silent to hear His words.

God wants you to succeed, and He’ll make sure that you do. You just have to trust Him to make a way, work your way through each step and praise Him through it all. His plan being magnified doesn’t mean that yours wasn’t good. It just means that His is much better.

Pray for His leadership, then obey His will.

Where has God led you that you may not have been leading yourself? How have obeying Him and following His will benefitted you?

 

If you enjoyed this article, here is a recommended sermon for you:

March 26, 2015

Lord, I'm Weary

By Amanda Usher

 

“I am worn out waiting for your rescue…”

Psalms 119:81 (NLT)

There’s no rushing God.

He works in His own time and at His own pace. While His response endlessly proves to be beneficial to your life, it doesn’t always come when you want it to come. So what do you do when you’re swimming in your own sea of tears, when your knees are sore from all of your kneeling and praying and when your pain seems everlasting? What do you do when you just simply become “worn out” waiting for God to help you? You continue to pray, you continue to trust Him and you continue to build your faith.

Weariness is not a sign of weakness. It’s okay to feel as if you’re being bent too far but understand that you’re not breakable. You’re built to endure even the worst of heartaches. That’s what you should pray for during your storm – endurance. Don’t ask for a quick way out, but rather power and patience to withstand any turmoil. He hears your words and understands your desire for an escape. He’ll provide one for you when He sees fit. Prayer is a superior weapon, so don’t give up on it.

The strength that you need to make it through will come with your trust and faith in God’s power. After you speak to God, you have to trust that He’ll answer you. Though He may be taking His time, you should have faith that He isn’t ignoring you and certainly hasn’t forgotten about you. He never abandons His children. Though you may be growing exhausted and impatient waiting for God, you can’t allow your faith to waver. You have to keep it strong and durable.

Dwelling in your misery only increases your weariness. Don’t be suffocated by your tiredness. It benefits you to trust that God knows what He’s doing in your life. You may believe that you’re too mentally and emotionally fatigued to continue, but while God hasn’t put an end to your battle yet, He’s definitely helping you to work through your troubling days. You’ll find rest. Just continue to talk to Him and believe in Him. You never know what blessings may be waiting for you at the end of the tunnel.

At what point in your life did you become weary while waiting for God’s rescue? How did you handle it?

If you enjoyed this article, here is a recommended sermon for you:


 

March 07, 2015

Blind Faith

By Amanda Usher

 

“But when I am afraid, I will put my trust in you. I praise God for what He has promised…”

Psalms 56:3-4 (NLT)

It’s a difficult task to enter into a foreign experience completely blind. The outcome isn’t known. There’s uncertainty as to which struggles may present themselves. There are a plethora of emotions involved with traveling into unfamiliar territory.

But sometimes, you just have to pack up and go. Embark on a new journey despite any fear. Try your hardest to get that promotion that you’ve been waiting to receive. Move to that new place that you are absolutely sure God is telling you to go. Complete the assignment that He’s given you, no matter what it is, even if it’s starting a business or penning a novel. You never know what tremendous results can come out of you being obedient.

You can’t allow fear to hinder you from doing what God put you on this earth to accomplish. You have to trust Him and trust that He knows what He’s doing in your life. He will lead you step by step into victory, and make you a champion.

So praise Him to prove your faith, even if you don’t know what’s going to happen. Scream out in joy for not only what He has already done, but for the places that He will take you. Show Him that you’re going to let that timidity and fearfulness go and continue with His plan for you. Worship Him for He’s given you a promising future. Don’t be nervous to enter into it.

You have to also trust yourself. Believe that you can acquire the most amazing achievements. Understand that you can be and that you are a beautiful gift to this world. You may not think that you can do certain things, but you can. Don’t let your doubts stop you from trying because success comes with effort. Have faith in God, but have faith in yourself, as well.

God is going to raise you to new heights, not allow you to fall. Don’t miss out on blessings because you are afraid. Utilize the bravery and strength that He put inside of you. Trust, be faithful and watch God work.

What kind of fears do you have concerning entering into your future? What are you doing to vanish them?

If you enjoyed this article, here are a couple of recommended sermons for you:

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