9 -11 And Irma

Sixteen years ago today, 2,996 people were killed during the September 11 attacks.

Today, we are feeling the power of now, Tropical Storm Irma with strong winds and heavy rain damaging buildings, knocking down trees and wiping out power.

Philippians 4:4 tells us to Rejoice in the Lord always.

So, on a day when many may feel sad because of the loss of life on 9/11, on a day when many may feel scared as the winds blow and the lights flicker,
I will rejoice!

Despite attacks from abroad, and political slip-ups at home, we are still The United States of America.
Therefore, I will rejoice!

Through the wind and the rain, I know the rainbow of the Lord is on its way. Therefore, I will rejoice!

I serve a God that is bigger than a terrorist attack, bigger than a President, bigger than any storm, and bigger than my worry and my fear; Therefore, I will rejoice!

So, choose to rejoice in the Lord always, and know that everything will be all right.

The Revealing Waters of Houston

We have all seen the destruction; we have all seen the determination; we have all seen the death; it has all been revealed this week in Houston.

In Genesis 9:8-17, God promised not to destroy the earth again by flood and in that same act, the Lord established a new covenant.

God’s New Covenant is the promise that He will forgive sin and restore fellowship with those whose hearts are turned toward Him. Jesus Christ is the Mediator of the New Covenant, and His death on the cross is the basis of the promise (Luke 22:20).

The New Covenant was predicted while the Old Covenant was still in effect — the prophets Moses, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel all allude to the New Covenant.

The flood waters of Houston revealed the spirit of the New Covenant. God’s people, from first responders to ordinary citizen volunteers, heeded the teaching of Jesus to love our neighbors as ourselves.

The flood waters of Houston also revealed the evil spirit of greed, pride and hypocritical actions that impeded opportunities for rescue, recovery and shelter. However, the Good News is this: all these actions of people can be washed away, and made right by the New Covenant.

The flood waters of Houston will also provide healing because of the New Covenant. For these nearly countless days of displacement, discouragement, and death will be replaced by lives of recovery and renewal.

After the forty days and nights that produced the floods that destroyed the earth, God told Noah that He would put a rainbow in the clouds, as a sign of the New Covenant.

As cloudy and dark these days of rain and flood may seem, the people in Houston and all of us can take comfort for that rainbow. For even in the middle of the storm, the goodness, grace and mercy of God is revealed. The rain will eventually stop, the earth will not be destroyed, and the New Covenant of God with salvation for all is being revealed.

May God bless the people of Houston and all who have been effective by the revealing waters of Harvey.

A Payer For The School Year

 

School started this week in many parts of the country.    

The first day of school is filled with magic, wonder and excitement about the educational process.   

Nelson Mandela described education as the most powerful weapon that a person can use to change the world.

However, as the excitement of the first day of school turns into the routine of days and days at school, the power of education can be deluded.

• The power of education can be deluded by underpaid and overwhelmed teachers, forced to operate in a system more focused on test scores instead of real learning. 
• The power of education can be deluded by inattentive parents who see school as a low-tech babysitter.  They are so distracted by their own lives that they can care less for the lives of their children. 
• The power of education can be deluded by run downed, underfunded, and poorly led school districts. 

God wants and expects education to be provided to His children. 

Proverbs 22:6 tells us to “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”

Deuteronomy 6:7 reminds us that “We should teach diligently to our children.”

Psalm 127:3 lets us know to that “children are a heritage from the Lord.”  As our children return to school, we think of this heritage, and we pray the prayer of Jabez. 

In his prayer detailed in 1 Chronicles 4:9-10, Jabez asked the Lord for four things, that all of us who love and care for our children should pray for as well.
 
First, Jabez asked for God’s blessings.   

Our children need God’s blessings on the school bus. 
Our children need God’s blessings in the lunchroom.
Our children need God’s blessings in the classroom.
 
Our children also need God’s blessings at home.
 
In a lot of homes, Diva Mama have replaced Big Mama, and there is no replacement for the absentee Daddy.
 
Secondly, Jabez asked for an enlargement of his territory, and an increase his responsibility.
 
We can pray for our children’s territory to increase, and help them by:

Requiring our children to attend school every day.  Petty complaints of sickness should not be encouraged.  No excuses!  Whatever happened to striving for perfect attendance?
 
We can pray for our children’s territory to increase, and help them by:

Demanding that our children obey, behave, and pay attention in school.  No suspensions, no trips to the principal’s office, no trouble. 
 
 We can pray for our children’s territory to increase, and help them by:

Doing all we can to encourage our children to not just get good grades, but great grades!  If they made D’s and F’s last year, we can let them know we are expecting A’s and B’s this year. 
 
The territory of our children can and will increase when we pray for that increase, when we guide them, and we let them know that we expect more from them, and from ourselves this year.   
 
The third thing that Jabez prayed for was for God to be with him, and to stay close to him.
 
• As adults, we must help keep our children close to God.
• We should talk with them and not at them.
• We should listen to them and acknowledge that they have things to say.  They should know that we value what they say, and we are listening to them. 
• We should pray with and for them.
 
Lastly, Jabez asked God to keep him from harm, and free from pain.
 
Our children will experience pain because of the harmful presences in this world.  They need to be protected from bullying, from drugs, and all the difficulties associated with growing up. 
 
We must be at the vanguard of prayer for our children.  We must pray for them nonstop, as they face the challenges and opportunities that education can provide. 
 
So, during these first days of this new school year:
 
• We should be like Jabez, and pray for God’s protection for our children. 
• We should be Like Jabez, and pray for God to bless our children.
• We should be Like Jabez, and ask God to enlarge the territory of our children while increasing their responsibility.
 
Godspeed and blessings for the teachers, staff and children, as we start this new school year. 

Marben Bland is the pastor of Hall Chapel AME Church and Mitchell Chapel AME Church in Sparta, GA for more of his writings go to www.marbenbland.com

What’s In It For Me?

What’s in it for me, is often a question we ask ourselves when faced with questions and situations from the serious to the sublime.

Faced with impending death on the cross, Jesus understood “what was in it for Him” as he prayed to the Father in the Garden of Gethsemane. As Christ asked, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me?” 

Despite knowing what was in it for Him – a painful, shameful, and awful death on the cross – Jesus still said to God, “Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”

As Christians, we often want to ask God the question, “What’s in it for me?” We ask this question, especially:

When we are asked to give more time or money than we feel comfortable in giving.

When we are commanded to love that neighbor that is difficult to love.

When we face the death of a love one who died too soon, or in a way that we cannot understand or accept.

What’s In It For Me?
What’s In It For Me?
What’s In It For Me?

When we follow the will of the Lord, the question is simply answered by what Jesus said in the garden: “Your will Lord, not mine.”

Jesus in John 15:7-8 says, “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask and whatever you desire, it shall be done for you.  My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.”

Abide is an Old English word signifying progressively to “await, remain, lodge, sojourn, dwell, continue, and endure.”

In this passage Jesus is telling us that if we abide in Him, thereby, following God’s will not our will, then “Whatever we desire it shall be done for us.”

So by doing God’s Will – whatever is in it for me – God will make it happen for me!

Think of it this way:

If What’s In It For You Is: Financial Freedom, then follow God’s will and you will get it.

If What’s In It For You Is: The repair of a relationship between you and a love one, then follow God’s will and you will get it.

If What’s In It For You Is: A Job, A Marriage, A Car, A House, or even an Ice Cream Sandwich, then follow God’s will and you will get it.

When Jesus gave us the answer “Your will Lord, not mine,” to the question, “What’s in it for me?”

Jesus also demonstrated through His death and glorious resurrection, that God really and truly knows what is best for you and for me.

God showed us His love because the Lord gave us His only Son to save us and redeem us. … Why? Because only God could truly answer the question…… “What’s in it for me?”

Mama Fuller A Confidence Builder Sent From God

I define confidence as a feeling of self-assurance, a feeling that I can take on the tasks that God has put before me.

For me confidence comes from knowing that God believes in me, and knows that I can be better than I am right now.

Confidence also comes when God sends someone in my life to reinforce my God given talents with the expiations that I the potential to do great things.

Jamie Fuller, the Youth Director of our church, was a person who gave me confidence at an early and critical time of my life.

Mrs. Fuller, who we now call Mama Fuller, gave generously of her time and talents in producing plays, programs and services at our church.

With gentle firmness, Mama Fuller took a bunch of sometimes unruly, but very talented kids and gave us confidence – to go on stage, in a church in the Georgia Outback.

Mama Fuller also gave us the confidence to do well in the college classroom, the confidence to excel in the military, the confidence to win in the boardroom, and the confidence to be the kind of mothers, fathers and Christians that God desires us to be.

God understands the importance that confidence plays in our lives. That is why the Lord’s Word is filled with promises of strength and courage, if we place our confidence in Jesus Christ.

Hebrews 4:16 tells us to approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, for when we do, we may find the grace to help us in our time of need.

God also understands that we need people, experiences and opportunities in our lives to give us the confidence that we lack.

  • God brought Aaron to Moses to give him confidence.

  • God brought Mordecai to Esther to give her confidence.

  • God brought Jamie Fuller to give me and all the kids she interacted with confidence.

We all need a Mama Fuller in our lives, a person anointed by God to give us the confidence we need do God’s will.

I hope you will take a moment and thank God for the confidence builders that the Lord has brought into your lives.

Thank you Lord for blessing us with talents;

Thank you Lord for blessing us the confidence to use those talents to achieve great things in your name;

Thank you Lord for blessing us confidence builders like Mama Fuller!

“I’m overwhelmed”

“I’m overwhelmed.” It’s something we hear often from frazzled parents to business owners, from pastors to everyday folks.

There’s just so much to do, so many details to notice and manage. Nobody wants to feel overwhelmed, yet what can we do about it?

Moses was overwhelmed. In Exodus 18, we see Moses working from morning to night to judge the disputes of “God’s chosen people.”

Because Moses wanted the Israelites to know and understand the law, he became a one-man Supreme Court. He personally solved the disputes of the people because each case mattered to him and to God.

No matter how well intentioned, being constantly overwhelmed took its toll on Moses, as it would on any of us.

Recognizing this, Moses’s Father-in-law, Jethro offers this wise counsel to him in Exodus Chapter 18, verses 17-18.

“What you are doing is not good. You and the people with you will certainly wear yourselves out, for the thing is too heavy for you to do alone.”

God’s intention is for none of us to go it alone; that is why Adam had Eve, Moses had Aaron and Jesus had disciples. God used Jethro to give Moses an effective strategy to overcome being overwhelmed.

Let’s quickly examine three elements of this strategy:

  1. Stop Being a Micro-manager – Master the Art of Delegation.

By encouraging all decisions to be funneled through him, Moses fell into the trap that all overwhelmed folk land in, he became a micro-manager.

Jethro’s advice wasn’t to streamline the court.

His advice wasn’t to appoint people who would summarize the information for Moses, so that he could render quick verdicts. In this way, he would have kept his powerful position, as the only judge the people would know.

Instead, Jethro’s wise counsel was for Moses to give up some of his power, by delegating it to others.

The second and third parts of Jethro’s godly strategy to keep Moses from being overwhelmed answers the question, “How are we to delegate?”

  1. Train the People.

In Exodus Chapter 18 verse 20, Jethro perhaps encourages Moses to start the world’s first training and development program. He told Moses:

“Teach your people God’s requirements and pass on His laws. Show them the right way to live and the kind of work they should be doing.”

Moses trained leaders who would be given some of his authority, and participate with him in caring for the nation. Therefore, Moses became a more effective leader, and he was no longer overwhelmed.

  1. Know What Your People Can Do – Put Them in the Best Situation to Succeed.

In verse 21, Jethro suggests that Moses select able people – people who he knew had the capacity to be rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens.

How can we know about the capabilities of people? Well, we can do it by helping people understand their spiritual gifts.

A spiritual gift is a supernatural ability given by God to the believer, for serving God’s people.

This week at our church (Hall Chapel and Mitchell Chapel), I taught about spiritual gifts. I invite you to learn about your spiritual gifts by following this link. (Spiritual Gifts Survey) You can take the same spiritual gifts survey we took at Hall Chapel and Mitchell Chapel, AME Churches.
I hope you will enjoy discovering the spiritual gifts God has placed in you.

As Jethro suggested to Moses, if you:

  • Stop micro-managing and start delegating
  • Train good people and put them in positions to succeed
  • Discovery your spiritual gifts
    Then, you will be able to endure, and you will not be overwhelmed.

My prayer for you this week is that you will take positive steps to avoid from being overwhelmed.

I would love to learn of your efforts, please drop me a line on my personal email: marben@marbenbland.com. I look forward to hearing what God has done in your life.

Until we meet again,

Blessings, Peace and Love!

Eddie Thomas – God’s Old Soldier Fades Away

On April 19, 1951, General Douglas MacArthur made a high-profile “farewell address” to a joint meeting of both houses of Congress.

One of America’s most renowned Generals during World War II, MacArthur summed up his military service with a lyric from an old British Army Barrack Ballad. Which most proudly proclaimed, “Old soldiers never die; they just fade away.”

Eddie Thomas, served his country in both the United States Army and Airforce; he was what we in the military call a “soldier’s soldier.” While this old solider has faded away, he leaves a legacy as a man of fidelity, a family man, and a man of faith.

As a man of fidelity, Brother Thomas was a loving husband to his wife, Geraldine. They shared more than a four-decade bond of unquestionable togetherness and support.

One the last surviving husband’s in the enclave of Clinton, Georgia where I grew up. Brother Thomas kept fidelity with his community; he was always ready to pitch in with the work of house and home.

A demonstration of his fidelity was the simple fact that Brother Thomas was devoted to keeping his community looking military sharp! He always did his duty out there cutting the grass, regardless of the heat, or his physical condition.

As a family man, Brother Thomas cherished his role as father, grandfather, and great grandfather. His unvarnished advice – much of it based on his military experience – often cut to the heart of any matter presented to him. He was uncompromising, always telling the truth, and always available for family.

As a man of faith, Brother Thomas put on the whole armor of God. As a solider in God’s Army, Brother Thomas was ready for battle. He had on the belt of truth, the shoes of peace, and the breastplate of righteousness, as he carried the sword of the Spirit, studying the word of God in Sunday School, Bible Study, and church.

Brother Thomas knew that as a solider in God’s Army, he was not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies. Rather, his fight on behalf of the Lord was against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in heavenly places.

Because of the excellent solider that Brother Thomas was, he put on all of God’s armor so that he could stand firm against all strategies of the devil.

So now, on this week, we pause to celebrate the birthday of this nation. This is the nation which Brother Thomas pledged to protect; the flag which adorns his casket is a symbol of his commitment to that pledge. However, the question as we consider the life of this solider is this, what kind of solider are we?

In Revelation 3:15-16, Jesus says,

“I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other!  But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth!”

God want us to be hot soldiers like Brother Thomas.

Hot because he loved his wife and cared for his family.

Hot because he loved his community and cared for them, so much so that he was always willing to speak the truth, regardless of how unpopular it was.

Hot because he loved his Lord, and cared for the people of God, so much so, that he gladly put on the whole armor of God.

“Old soldiers never die, they just fade away…” Eddie Thomas this old solider who tried to do his duty as God gave him the light to see that duty, has now faded away to be with his Lord.

Well done soldier, well done!