Honoring Those Who Made The Ultimate Sacrifice

Memorial Day is a day where we honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice while serving our country.

The Defense Department reports more than 1.1 million American soldiers have been killed in US wars and conflicts from the Revolutionary War to the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In his famed Gettysburg Address President Abraham Lincoln said we must give honor and thanks to those who “gave the last full measure of devotion” And that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Memorial Day is a day where we honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice while serving our country.

Jesus Christ made the greatest ultimate sacrifice in the history of the world. His sacrificial death at Calvary to atone for the sins of mankind was the perfect demonstration of His own teaching in John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.”
Jesus death on the cross, His supreme offering of His sinless life made it possible for our forgiveness, and our redemption and our new life as Disciples of Christ.

Therefore on this Memorial Day where we honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice while serving our country. The question is as Disciples of Christ what are doing to honor the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus?

May I suggest the answer can be found in Matthew 28:16-20 in the verses we know as the Great Commission: Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

As Disciples of Christ our task to honor the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus is simple….we should go out and make more Disciples for Christ.

So on this Memorial Day as we enjoy:
• The wonderful food
• The various sporting events – Go Golden State in Game 7
• The extra sleep

Let us honor our fallen heroes of war but let us give the ultimate honor and glory to our risen savior of peace Jesus Christ our Lord by creating more disciples for Christ.

Join us for our Devotional Prayer Call 6:30 AM (EDT) 5:30 AM (CDT) Monday, Wednesday, Friday. 641-715-3580 is the number to join us. Then use Passcode: 548874 to get into the call. (You are not required to announce or to identify yourself as you join the call.)

The Chewbecca Mom: God Created Us To Be Joyful

The most watched, the most shared and perhaps the most joyful video ever was posted to Facebook last week by a woman who is now called worldwide the Chewbecca Mom.

Candace Payne a 37 year old stay at home mom of two from Grand Prairie, Texas rocked to fame when a Facebook live video of herself infectiously laughing while wearing a toy Chewbecca mask broke Facebook records, garnering millions of views.

Candace and her Chewbecca mask via the power of social media, has demonstrated one of the most powerful truths of our lives…God created us to be joyful.

In the video Candace is living proof that we should use our lives to spread the joy of the Lord through the simple joys of our lives.

The joy of the Lord is the gladness of heart that comes from knowing God, abiding in Christ, and being filled with the Holy Spirit. The joy of the Lord is a reoccurring theme in the Bible:

  • When Jesus was born, the angels announced “good tidings of great joy” (Luke 2:10).
  • Even before His birth, Jesus had brought joy, as attested to in Mary’s song. (Luke 1:47)
  • In his mother’s womb the embryo that was to become John the Baptist “leaped for joy” in response to hearing the voice of Mary the mother of Jesus.

Jesus exemplified joy in His ministry, he did not go around as a glum and domed son of God in fact:

  • His enemies accused Him of being too joyful on occasion (Luke 7:34).
  • Jesus described Himself as bridegroom enjoying a wedding feast (Mark 2:18–20);
  • Joy is reflected in many of Jesus’ parables, including the three stories in Luke 15, which mention “rejoicing in the presence of the angels” (Luke 15:10) and end with a joyful shepherd, a joyful woman, and a joyful father.

The video is so enduring not only because it is funny but for the message that Candace gives about the power of sharing our simple joys.

In an interview with Good Morning America, Candace reveals
“The best part of all of this is being able to share joy with people is the reactions that I have received.

I had one lady message me about her autistic daughter who hadn’t laughed in two months. She said that every time she showed her the video, she laughed and laughed.”

Candace goes on to say… “From one mama’s heart to another mama, to see a child laugh that you haven’t seen laugh, those are the stories I will take with me every day.”

Jesus tells us in John 10:10: That a thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came so that you may have life and have it abundantly.

The simple act of posting a video about the simple purchase of a Chewbecca mask has caused an abundance of joy for the entire world.

While we may not post the most viewed video in the history of Facebook, we can and should share the abundant joy of the Lord in our everyday lives.

So let us never forget that God created us to be joyful.

So let us share the simple joys and the hijinks of our lives as we continue to laugh with the adventures of Candace Payne who will forever be our joyous Chewbecca Mom.

What To Do When A Child Dies

It is the call, the notification or the bedside visitation that no parent wants to receive or make.

It is the announcement, the realization, the understanding that your child is dead.

Losing a child is something that should not happen. As parents we want to see our children in the moments that matter:

– Dancing on stage
– Playing in a game
– Attending the prom
– Graduating from school
– Getting Married
– Having Children making you a grandparent

We should not be seeing our children in a body bag, or in an urn or in a coffin. Our children our pride, our joy our gift from God should be alive not dead.

However, as we awake this morning that is the reality for our sister Dr. Heidi Lovett.

Her son, Nnamoi Richard Louis, bone of her bone, flesh of her flesh, borne from her womb, nursed from her breast has died.  And with Nnamoi’s death our sister Heidi is feeling pain, sorrow and grief that we who have not lost a child cannot imagine.

Mary the mother of Jesus also endured the death of a son. John 19:25 tells us that Mary was at the cross during the Crucifixion.

  • Mary was at the cross watching her son been strung up
  • Mary was at the cross seeing the nails being drilled into her son’s hands
  • Mary was at the cross witnessing it all the soldiers mocking her son, gambling for his clothes, and piercing him in his side.
  • Mary was at the cross when her son Jesus breathed his last and died.

Jesus knew the pain, suffering and sorrow caused when a parent loses a child.

  • Jesus saw the death of a child first hand when he raised the widow’s son at Nain as described in Luke 7:11-17.
  • Jesus saw the death of a child first hand when he raised Jairus daughter as depicted in Matthew 9:18-26; Mark 5:21-43.
  • And Jesus saw death first hand when he raised Lazarus from the dead as told to us in Luke 8:40-56 and John 11:1-44.

Today as our thoughts turn to Heidi and the task she must do this weekend to entomb her son. I ask you to consider these thoughts:

First: When death comes Jesus has no intention to leave us alone in our sorrow, pain and grief.

John 19:26-27 tells us: When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.

From most biblical accounts that disciple was John. We are all disciples who Jesus loves and as such we should look after and comfort Heidi and all others who have experienced the death of a love one. However, as disciples we should extend our love beyond this time of immediate grief. We should and

I know that this group will be with her in the days and weeks ahead. Lifting Heidi up in prayer and extending to her the kindness demanded by our Lord and Savior.

The second thought: If our child is a disciple of Christ we will see them again.

John 3:16 tell us clearly: For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

While the Bible does not mention Jesus visiting his mother, after His death. An assumption can be made that Mary would be among Jesus’s disciples to see him herself or at least in contact with them enough to know what had happened.

Remember at the crucifixion, Jesus entrusted his mother into John’s care. Seeing as how John is among the first disciples to witness and speak with Christ after his resurrection, surely Mary knew what was going on.

Nothing can eliminate the grief that we will feel when we lose a child. However, as a disciple of Christ if we can stand confident in the promises of God that we will see our child again.

Finally: As a Disciples of Christ we need to make our children Disciples of Christ.

Proverbs 22:6 tells us Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.
And in a world of video games, internet, bad people and other temptations that training up will be difficult. However, as parents we must do all we can to show our children the way of the Lord.

So our hearts and prayers go to Heidi and her family. As disciples of Christ we will never leave her, as disciples of Christ we will see our child again, and as disciples of Christ we must work to make our children disciples of Christ as well.

Heidi we love you, we are praying for you and we look forward to your return to us.

The Graduation of Benjamin Eugene Bland

Something happened yesterday that was supposed to happen; Benjamin Eugene Bland graduated from Morgan County High School.

  • Benjamin Eugene Bland was born on December 13, 1996 addicted to crack.
  • The drug damaged his body and brain leaving him with a host of physical and mental problems.
  • He was adopted as an infant by my sister Cheryl. She named him after my father Benjamin.

Something happened yesterday that was supposed to happen; Benjamin Eugene Bland graduated from Morgan County High School.

  • Benjamin Eugene Bland was sick most of his young life; my sister and his grandmother, Mary Lois Bland, spent countless hours in hospitals, treatment centers and doctor’s officers as he fought for his life.
  • His IQ as measured by most standardized tests is well below standard for his age and grade, he is autistic and has difficulty engaging people.
  • Despite his IQ, Ben is an honors math student. While engaging people is hard for him, he is still a sought after math tutor.
  • He drives a car, holds a steady job, and he will be enrolled in vocational technical school in the fall.

Something happened yesterday that was supposed to happen; Benjamin Eugene Bland graduated from Morgan County High School with honors.

Let’s face it, by all rights my nephew Benjamin Eugene Bland:

– A crack baby
– A sick child
– A student with a substandard IQ
– A person with Autism

Should not be graduating from high school, actually he should not be alive at all.

However, my sister Cheryl placed her trust in God and as Philippians 4:13 tells us: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

With that strength, something happened yesterday that was supposed to happen; Benjamin Eugenie Bland graduated from Morgan County High School.

Good Morning Class of 2016:

It is my honor and pleasure to speak before you, to the people who taught you and to the people who love you on this special day.
What makes this day truly special is the great part that imagination played in making this day happen:

– The imagination of the faculty understanding as Albert Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”

– The imagination of your parents who dreamed long and hard about this day, keeping these words of Langston Hughes ever so close when he wrote, “Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken-winged bird, that cannot fly.”

– Your imagination! Your imagination held firm that this day would happen regardless of the setbacks, regardless of the challenges, regardless of all the bad pizza you ate. Your imagination that this day would take place never wavered. For as Trisha Yearwood said, “What’s meant to be will always find a way.”

Yes, this day was built on imagination. Days like today are special, for when imagination is mixed with dreams, talent and hard work – special things happen!

Imagination is all around us because we serve a God of Imagination. Looking at Genesis Chapter One, we can see God’s imagination, dreams, talent and hard work on display.

In six days this is how God used imagination:

– Day One – God imagined the heavens and the earth, and they were created
– Day Two – God imagined the sky, and it was created
– Day Three – God imagined water, dry land and vegetation, and they were created
– Day Four – God imagined stars and heavenly bodies, and they were created
– Day Five – God imagined all the life that lives in the water, and it was created
– Day Six – God imagined and created all the creatures that lived on the dry land. His greatest imagination brought forth a man created in His own image.

It is in that image that God has given us imagination.

Therefore, the question for you the members of the Class of 2016 is this: What should you do with your God-given imagination?

Let me suggest three ideas:

1. Use Your God-Given Imagination, or Lose It

God gave all of us unique abilities, talents, and gifts. Yes, while some may have more imagination than others, God gave all of us some degree of imaginative powers.

God reminds us in 1 Peter 4:10, “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.”

You are the manager of the gifts God gave to you. Use your imagination to apply those gifts to help God’s people.

In 1 Corinthians 4:2, Paul writes, “Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.”

2. Spur Your Imagination by Spending Time Alone with God

God desires “alone time” with us. He wants a personal relationship with us. He created us as individuals, “knitting us in the womb” (Psalm 139:13).

In a world which stresses teamwork, team-building, connections, and networking, our time alone with God can actually spur our imagination. Look what spending time alone with God can do:

– Moses spent time alone with God before parting the Red Sea.
– David communed with God before taking on Goliath.
– Jesus spent time alone with God before going to the cross.

3. Let Jesus Feed Your Imagination with Fun

As a Christian, you can enjoy life because your conscious is clear. Hebrews 10:22 tells us “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.”

You can enjoy life because you are secure within God’s love. As you relax in fun and security, then imagination will come your way.

Unfortunately, there are many people who do not want to let God into their lives because they fear God will make them give up everything that is fun.

In other words, they think that to become a Christian is the same as saying “the party’s over,” that to be spiritual is to be miserable. People are frantically looking for fun fixes, but that means they operate under the law of diminishing returns. They spend more time, more money, and more energy to get less and less of a thrill. They go around asking, “Are we having fun yet?”

Class of 2016 my message to you is this:

God is a God of truth
God is a God of love
God is a God of imagination

Walt Disney is one of the undisputed kings of imagination – from movies to theme parks to books to amination. The imaginative dreams of Disney remain the driving force of entertainment and popular culture, some 50 years after his death.

As I said earlier, days like today are special because when imagination is mixed with dreams, talent and hard work – special things happen.
Class of 2016, today is a dream come true. You know imagination cannot happen without dreams.

Walt Disney said, “All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.”

Class of 2016, chase your dreams and let your God-given imagination flow. When you do that, great things will happen.

Thank you and my God richly bless you.

Mothers: The Deliverers Of Life

While God creates life he selected Mothers to deliver life.

Mary the Mother of Jesus celebrates her role in delivering life in the verses of Luke 1: 46-55 when she says:
“The Lord has looked on me, His servant-girl and one who is not important. But from now on all people will honor me. He Who is powerful has done great things for me.”

God has selected mothers to deliver life:

However a mother does not have to birth the child to deliver life to a child

– The Reverend Gloria Wicker has been a spiritual mother to me. Delivering life in how to be a pastor.

– Mrs. Fedora Patterson has been a neighborly mother to me. Delivering life in proving a home away from home. Along with candy to me and all of my siblings as we grew up next door.

– Mrs. Jamie Fuller has been a mother of confidence for me. Delivering a belief in me at time in my life when I had little belief in myself.

God has selected mothers to deliver life:

However a mother does not have to birth the child to deliver life to a child.

MaryMary Fanroy-Milton is the aunt of my daughter in law Erika. Although Mary never gave birth to a child she has delivered life to others.

Mary was killed last week in an auto accident but she had made the decision to be an organ donor.

After her death her heart was rushed to the airport for transplant to a deserving patent. A helicopter and several other planes were on hand to rush her remaining organs to other folks in need.

According to Mary’s sister Laura Witherspoon, because of Mary’s generous gift, she has delivered life to 6 people.

God has selected all of us to deliver life:

The National Organ Transplant Fund reports:
• 22 people die every day while waiting for a transplant.
• 1 organ donor can save 8 lives and change the lives of more than 50 people.
• Almost anyone can be an organ donor, regardless of age or medical history.
• All major religions in the U.S. support organ donation.
• Donors can still have open casket funerals, and organ donation doesn’t cost the donor’s family any money.
• If a person is hospitalized, the medical staff provides the best possible care, regardless of organ donor status. Donation is only considered after a patient has died.
• Donors are needed for all races and ethnic groups. Transplant success rates increase when organs are matched between members of the same ethnic background.
• Signing the back of your license or a donor card is not enough. To officially register as an organ donor got to https://registerme.org to register.

God has selected all of us to deliver life:

John 15:13 tells us that “The greatest love people can show is to die for their friends.”

Mary3Mary Fanroy-Milton has demonstrated that all of us Mothers, Fathers and people who have never had children can be delivers of life.

On this Mother’s Day, I hope that you will honor Mary as we obey the command of John 15:13 and show the greatest love by becoming an organ donor.

For God blesses those who deliver life.

The Greatest Love

John 15:13 tells us that “The greatest love people can show is to die for their friends.”

Fort Valley State University, a small historically black school located in central Georgia is grieving the death of Donnell Phelps. The 19-year-old freshman was fatally stabbed as he came to the defense of three young women who were being harassed by the alleged suspect.

Donnell laid down his life for his friends

This verse in the Gospel of John “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one`s life for his friends” (John 15:13). tells us a lot about God`s love:

However, many people interpret this verse to mean that you must do as Jesus and Donnell did in the sense of actually dying for others.

This is not the crux of what this verse means although in rare occasions, as we witness with Donnell, God might call someone to die so that someone else could know Jesus.

What the verse really means is this: Laying down your life for others is putting them first and making their needs more important than your own.

The verse is about being selfless and sacrificial in our actions towards others rather than selfish.

In another verse in in John tell us this: “These things I command you, that you love one another” (John 15:17).

By seeking to show love to our friends, family and those who also know Jesus, we reveal love to those who don`t know Him. Our love bears testimony of His life.

In John chapter 13, we find the passage where Jesus washes His disciples` feet. He tells us that this is an example of how we should treat one another:

“For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you” (John 15:15).

Again, this does not mean we need to wash people`s feet although, God could ask that of us. Washing feet in those days was part of the culture since people wore sandals and their feet became dirty after walking.

What it means for us today is that God wants us to serve other people, to honor and esteem them above ourselves. When we do this, we show God`s love as we lay down our life for others.

“The greatest love people can show is to die for their friends.”

Today to honor young Donnell and to show our love for Jesus. Let’s go out of our way to lend a hand to those in need, to show compassion even to those who do not deserve it, and to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.
Donnell Phelps has set the example that as disciples of Jesus we must give greater love.