Wow, I am choking up. One of my favorite Gospel songs is, “Just a Little Talk with Jesus”. Dixie Davis shares the story Rev Cleavant Derricks told her and her dad about the inspiration for the song. Growing up during the depression it was a struggle to come up with $5 a month fee to study music at Cadek Conservatory in Chattanooga. One month the young Brother Derricks mother told him he had to stop his music lessons because they didn’t have the money. He was angry. He went to the theater where he worked and while he swiped the floor he cried out to God voicing his anger and frustration. A gum wrapper stuck to his broom. It frustrated him even more until he realized it was a $5 bill. The line we have all sung at church hit him at that moment, “Just a little talk with Jesus makes it right”. Skip 60 years later. My first year of marriage. I wanted to study guitar with Mario Abril. He had already accepted me as a student but I didn’t have the money. I also wanted to study music theory. Absolutely no money for such things. Then my parents gave me life insurance policy that I could cash in. That paid for a year of guitar lessons with Mario and the jazz correspondence course from Berklee. Same God, same conservatory, same problem, same solution. Praise God! JUST A LITTLE TALK WITH JESUS MAKES IT RIGHT!!!!!!
A little over 10 years ago our former General Superintendent, George O Wood, wrote a book, “Core Values: Serving Christ’s Cause with Effectiveness and Excellence.” The fellowship sent out a copy to all the licensed ministers. It was part of a denominational initiative. I received one and put it up, unread, in my bookcase for well over a decade.
I took it down and started reading it last night. Wow! The power in that book and the confirmation from the Holy Ghost that I felt reading it. Dr. Wood tells such stories. For example, his parents started a little church in Indianapolis. They made huge sacrifices and it seemed like a failure. They sold the building and finally left Indianapolis feeling like they failed. They never knew that the woman that bought the building founded a great Pentecostal church that sent missionaries all over the world.
He told a story of the man that struggled to start a church in PA. He started by preaching on the street corner. He finally struggled and acquired a building. It was the church where where the father of George O Wood, eventual General Superintendent of the largest Pentecostal denomination in the world, was saved.
God has a plan. God seeks folks that obey their call. We are not guaranteed seeing the results here on earth but His word does not return to Him void. I am so choked up and more determined than ever to keep on the firing line. To be faithful to my God. To preach the soul saving, blood-bought, life-changing Gospel at every opportunity. Praise God!
This ministry is a missionary outreach to the present-day church of Laodicea. The forces of the enemy have deluded many to think they are in good shape. Nothing is farther from the truth. Much of the church is in a complete state of apostasy. Many so-called professional “ministers” turned the church into anyone’s whore for a dollar. The Holy Ghost has placed in my heart the burden of the word of the Lord to proclaim, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me,” (Rev 3:20).
I will preach the 3S Message — Salvation, Sanctification, and Service
Salvation – Preach salvation first, foremost, and forever
The church has one main function in this world. Preach the soul-saving gospel of Jesus Christ to a lost and dying world. It is a ploy of the devil to move our attention to things like style, arts, causes, or politics. ALL functions of the church are only in support of saved souls. We are a failed and apostate church if we lose our single-minded drive to see people saved.
1Co 2:2 For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.
Act 17:2-3 And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures, (3) Opening and alleging, that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ.
Sanctification – Preach salvation is more than words. Actions matter.
Christianity is more than words. We must be visibly different than the world around us. Many ministries have turned their back on godliness and righteous living. Churches have endorsed and accepted drinking, gambling, pornography, adultery, fornication, lying, hatred, bigotry, and unseemliness for political expediency. Many have destroyed their testimony in the eyes of our children and the world around us. That was the devil’s plan all along. Bitter tears will be wept at the judgement seat when souls that were needlessly lost are cast into Hell because we looked no different than the world. Our words have no weight if we do not the truth.
2Co 6:14-18 Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? (15) And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? (16) And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. (17) Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, (18) And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.
Service – Preach and personally demonstrate love is an action.
We are the only Jesus that the world can see. We must be an expression of His love in the world. The goal is to win them to the Lord. We are not ushering in the kingdom of God by changing the world one piece at a time. Jesus is coming back to setup the kingdom. The mission of the church is not to change the earthly politics or culture to realize an incremental second coming. The bible is plain that there will be an instantaneous second coming. We are only demonstrating the love of God so that we may win some to Christ and our compassion compels us to act.
James 2:15-16 If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, (16) And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?
I will stand against the 3P Message — Politics, Prosperity, and Performance
Politics – No place for politics in the Church
Christians have a responsibility to vote, voice opinions, volunteer, donate, pay taxes, and intelligently investigate important civic matters. We should live up to all our civic responsibilities unless those responsibilities directly contradict an obligation to God. However, all of that must be outside the church doors and must be far removed from the pulpit. God would have all of us to know that we must follow the example left by Jesus and the Apostles if we claim a New Testament biblical ministry. We see no debate between the Publican and Zealot. There are no examples in the New Testament of Jesus or the Apostles trying to affect any political change in their many dealings with political officials of their day. They lived in a world of abortions, social injustice, and unnecessary wars. Their world had more gross social injustice than our modern world. Slaves were raped and killed on a whim. Late-term abortions? Their world allowed exposing live unwanted babies to the elements. Yet, not one example of political activity in the New Testament (Note: any reference to the Old Testament would require us to live under the divine right of kings for it to be exegetically sound).
We must understand our calling. The “Religion of the Yellow Stick” only lasts while you are monitoring and it does not change where folks spend eternity (The Religion of the Yellow Stick was named when native Scots were being driven to church by beatings with the priest’s yellow walking stick). Souls go to hell if we alienate them to force certain behavior. Our job is to preach the gospel and see folks born again. The new birth is the thing that changes them. Not our domination of the political arena.
John 18:36 Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.
Prosperity – Calvary is not a cash machine
The evangelical church, especially some broadcast ministries, have completely twisted Christianity. Rice Christians and bread-and-loaf disciples are only faithful while they have a physical need. They church should minister when it can to needs of its members and the community. However, the correct goal is always to win the soul for God. Also, God does supply needs sometimes miraculously. However, the folks in the New Testament usually only had one coat, no indoor plumbing, no personal transportation other than foot, no refrigerator, and no 401-k. The bible is clear that most in the early church were poorer than their neighbors.
Not one instance of Jesus, or the apostles, selling a thousand-dollar seed-faith for some debt reversal. No flying into town on a personal jet. No one selling magic holy oil or righteous rain water to the gullible in the Bible. The message and goal was simple – you are lost, Jesus came to save you, accept Him and believe for a newness of life.
God has not called me to preach against professional ministers or giving to the church or compassion ministries. There are places that require ministers to be paid because their job is a full-time job. These folks should make what the average person makes in their congregation. They should not starve or do without health insurance to serve God nor should they live like kings. Moreover, churches and ministries have bills and should also have the resources to minister to the needs of their clients. However, God would have us to know that there is a place in His work for an Amos or a Paul. Someone that will work a secular job and fund their ministry without ever asking or accepting a dime. Crooks have poisoned public opinion so much that an Amos or Paul may be the only one that can get the Gospel message to some folks.
Luke 16:13 No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.
John 6:26-27 Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled. (27) Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed.
James 2:5-6 Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him? (6) But ye have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats?
Performance – A good floor show is no substitute for the Gospel
Churches have watered down their services. Motivational talks replace preaching. Handshakes and card signings replace alter calls. Danish rolls replace Holy Ghost conviction. Slick homogeneous music replaces organic music sung from the heart with some local flair. Churches in all the denominations are creating a homogeneous seeker-friendly experience modeled from a few mega-churches. God did not call us to change the music tastes of the world. Churches should have their own local flair. The word “virture” in Philippians 4:8 is the Greek word areste. It carries the concept of fulfilling a function instead of being a particular flavor. It is specifically not tied to style nor is it tied to precision of execution. It is tied to function. Yet, there is a drive for churches to be a cookie cutter of some mega-church. There should be enough variety that everyone should find a church that fits their tastes.
1Samuel 16:7 But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.
Philippians 4:8 Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
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We like to quote (usually to somebody else), 1 Peter 5:7, “Cast all your cares on Him because he cares for you.” Cares and cares: My cares are my responsibilities that cause me anxiety, “What if I can’t? What if I fail?”
God’s care comes from His love and understanding, All of 1 Peter 5:1-11 reflects how He, our Father, is trying to help me see how to handle what I’m facing. Because of my relationship with Him (vs. 6), I can humbly take direction from others (vs. 5) and not try to get my jobs done by “lording it over” others—taking over, demanding (vs.3). Also Father reminds me that I do have an active enemy, the devil, who wants to devour me, to make me hopeless, useless (vs. 8-9).
And (vs.11) in all of life, it is our God Who is to look good (glory) and Who is in charge (dominion).
Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him. 1 Kings 19:18
I served on the board of directors of CFAMC, held a Christian poetry contest for seven years, compose music, taught free shape-note classes, and promoted local singing groups on the radio. I believe the arts should occupy a primary place within the church. We express our worship of God mainly through our arts. The arts also give Christians the opportunity to contemplate the things of the God.
Privately, I have often vented about the state of the arts in churches. I have often found myself with Elijah complaining that, “I alone am left.” However, it seems like every time I grumble to God, I get a pleasant surprise — I AM NOT THE LAST MAN STANDING.
I was so encouraged last week at the Stamps-Baxter Music School. We have an entire generation of young folks learning how to sing parts and write new music. There are folks, like Charles Towler, that are actively publishing new convention books. There are convention style singings all through the south. Praise God! I am not the last man standing.
I hear Fanfare for the the Common Man with my kith and kin in mind. Those that left the farms of Alabama, the Georgia redclay, the heat of the Mississippi summer sun, and the shadow of Lookout Mountain to retrieve their fallen brothers for their last trip home, rain fire from the sky, take a night watch under a pacific moon, and spent horror filed nights in a filthy foxhole in Europe. They didn’t make any of the decisions that brought the fight. They were just working men that took their place in the breach of the wall. I, and the generations they never knew, honor and appreciate their sacrifice.
And, for the record, I have a hard time hearing Fanfare for the Common Man without wiping my eyes. This country wasn’t defended by presidents and senators. It was defended by railroad hands and hillbilly farmers that paid the price with pieces of their heart and soul. They included a peaceful night yet unslept in every body bag they filled at Inchon and rained down their own mental health with fire over Europe. Give honor to the leaders of the land but never forget the common man that carried the full weight on his back.
Jos 4:3 And command ye them, saying, Take you hence out of the midst of Jordan, out of the place where the priests’ feet stood firm, twelve stones, and ye shall carry them over with you, and leave them in the lodging place, where ye shall lodge this night.
The church and I seemed perfectly paired. We both looked like we were on our last leg. I had recently left my home church of the last twenty years. I was trying to research churches around Chattanooga before potentially starting a new work in Chattanooga. But, I had a family crisis in the middle of my ‘market research’. The details do not matter to this story but it was bad and I was utterly devastated. I just wanted to go home and lick my wounds.
Tiftonia Church of God had a similar story. The church had been healthy and on the move. Some trouble happened about six months before I walked in the door. Members fled in droves. To make it worse, the pastor was having considerable health issues. On my first Sunday morning at Tiftonia Church of God had the pastor, his wife, the song leader, his wife, and a couple of other people not including myself.
Regardless of its problems, however, the church had three important features: (1) you could feel the Holy Ghost (2) it looked just like my first home church, Union Ave Baptist Church (3) the pastor, James Ford, carried himself just like my first pastor, Lawrence Hicks. James Ford was strong and humble with a huge heart that dwarfed even his massive six foot frame. God might not send me back to my old home Baptist church, but He sent me to the next best thing — a place with almost the same look and feel.
First, I stayed for selfish reasons. I was hurting and needed friends. We talked together. We prayed together. We worshiped God together. God saw me through that hour of darkness using the fellowship of Brother Ford and the good folks of Tiftonia Church of God.
Second, I stayed because of the call of God. Brother Ford’s health was failing and the Lord bound my heart to his work. I don’t think you can understand what it means without experiencing a call of Aaron and Hur to hold up a man of God’s arms during a rough battle. It’s a call to someone’s mission that bounds you to it.
The church’s biggest problem was its 100% senior membership. This 50+ year-old visiting Assembly of God preacher was the youngest person regularly attending the church. It broke my heart. I prayed intensely about it.
But, a miracle happened. Two daughters of a former pastor started bringing carloads full of youth to the church. They came ready to work. They spent their own money and gave days of labor fixing up the youth rooms. That church has a thriving youth department now. Praise God! Brother Ford saw a church full of consistent young people before he left to his reward.
I was able to see myself and that church cross over Jordan from our separate deserts. I know there will be more deserts for me in my life and my ministry. So, I wanted to keep something to remind me that my God saw me and Tiftonia COG through our storms. So, this morning, as I am about ready to leave for my next assignment from the Holy Ghost, I took a picture on my cell phone of a choir of young people. Their beautiful faces will remind me that my God always makes a way the next time I am discouraged.
There are those moments in our lives when God speaks to us with strangely and oddly interconnected events. This has been that type of week for me.
I had a young girl come to my door this week. She was obviously pregnant and wanted to talk to my wife. Lindy wasn’t home so the girl left without coming into the house, telling me what she wanted, or even giving me her name.
We started asking questions with the kids and I now have a good idea who it was at the door. If our guess was correct, she is a young girl that has recently experienced life changing events that sent her spiraling. We have never known the girl personally but she knows us by reputation and figured we would be easy targets for drug money.
Life has run this girl over and now heading straight for her baby. She stood at my door with her unborn baby, who potentially is facing a lifetime of problems, for only a brief moment. I spent the entire week crying and praying for both of them.
Several days later my grandsons were having church in my living room. They were dancing and praising God to a Veggie Tails video. I stood in the hallway with my Droid in my hand videoing through the tears. Would to God that children everywhere sing and dance praises to my God in a loving living room.
Deep in my soul, God is speaking the same thing. All the children deserve to hear his Word. All the children deserve a fighting chance. All the children deserve to come into this world addiction free.
Send the Light, the blessed gospel light! Let it shine from shore to shore.
Exodus 4:2 And the LORD said unto him, What is that in thine hand? And he said, A rod.
Moses had been working the flocks of Jethro for forty years. He was familiar with the staff. The shepherd’s staff was a general all purpose tool in his profession. It could be used as a weapon, a walking aid, or a gentle snare for the wondering lamb. But it was only a long curved stick used in a profession that was detestable to the Egyptians. But, what miracles God worked through that simple stick. It became a serpent before Pharaoh. The Nile became blood when Moses struck the river with it. The stretched out rod brought frogs across the land. The rod struck the ground and brought forth lice. The rod brought down thunder and hail with fire running along the ground. The stretched out rod brought locust. The lifted rod and outstretched arm parted the Red Sea and made a way for the children of Israel to escape.
But it was only a common tool of his trade — nothing more, nothing less. God met Moses in Jethro’s fields and asked a terse question, “What is in your hand?” Then He took Moses where He found him and transferred that simple tool into the famous symbol of the Exodus with awesome unction from the throne of God. All it took was the courage of Moses to follow his calling back to the land of captivity to led his brothers out — with his tool in his hand.
God calls each of us where He finds us. He finds us with one simple tool or another. What power He can infuse with His holy unction. Listen to His voice. What is in your hand?
I was in the kitchen this morning practicing my latest guitar creation. Wish I could figure out why I only write guitar music that I can barely play. Anyway, that’s a topic for a different time. On to our point for today. We have a few house mice that are thankfully thinning out. I heard one of the survivors scampering in the corner while I played this morning. It brought to my mind one of the dumbest things I ever tried to sell to my wife.
We had only been married a few months. I was in the room next to our bedroom playing my classical guitar. These were the days when I was really a classical guitarist — footstool, no position dots on the neck, left hand fingers perfectly perpendicular to the fretboard, and fingers as close as possible to the strings.
I was playing my heart out — pling, pling, whoosh … pling, pling, pling, whoosh. My ear only heard the plings. My brain subconsciously edited the “whoosh” sound that my fingers were making as I changed positions on the neck of the guitar. Lindy, who was half-asleep in the next room, heard the whoosh sound and yelled, “Donnie, there is a mouse in the house!” After fifteen minutes we figured out that the mysterious whoosh was only the sound of changing positions on the neck of the guitar.
Here comes the classic donnieism — I attempted to convince Lindy that “whoosh” sounds were only the sign of my great classical guitar technique. Expert fingers are suppose to stay close to the strings and naturally that causes the “whoosh” sound. Believe me, that was hard to sell with a straight face.
That’s so funny. But aren’t we Pentecostals doing the same thing? We take our children to kids camp, let them romp and stomp with the church youth group, and politely lay hands on them and listen to their fervent testimony when they come back from camp. Then we watch them leave the church in droves at 21.
We lie to ourselves and say it is because we are standing for the truth, the old-fashioned way, righteousness … you fill-in the blanks. But, we are lying to ourselves. Young adults have stood for the truth, they have stood for the faith once delivered to the saints, and they have stood for righteousness. Young adults are not allergic to God. Righteous young men and young women of long ago prove it. However, our young adults are simply sick of watching us play church.
Ichabod, ichabod, the glory has departed. We must get our anointing back. We don’t need slick, we need sanctification. We don’t need a program, we need power. We don’t need a fresh course, we need sweaty-palm Holy Ghost conviction.
In a nutshell. We need to pray through. Our kids need for us to pray through. Our country needs for us to pray through. Our churches need for us to pray through. The night is coming and we need oil in our lamps. The glimmer of the little shiny toys that replaced anointing oil years ago has no light within itself. We need the anointing oil from the hand of the Master to the light the way in the darkness.
My Lord and my God, let a revival start and let it start with me!