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!

A Special Report

I can recall it like it was yesterday, I was ten years old, it was late afternoon on a Thursday. I was watching television with my brothers and sisters when the words flashed on the screen accompanied by the announcer saying in an authoritative tone, “We interrupted this program for a special report.”

In those few moments before the most trusted man in America made an appearance, my mind raced to what news would be in this special report.

Had America been attacked? Did an airplane crash? Was the earth quaking in some far off land?

In his first letter to the Church at Thessalonica, Paul – as with the television program I was watching that day – intrigues his audience by thanking them for setting a good example. He applauds them for their conversion, and he comforts these new converts by telling them of his sincere longing to see them again.

Then in chapter 5 verse 24, near the end of the letter during his blessing and admonition, Paul interrupts his own program with this special report.

“The God who calls you is faithful, and The Lord can be trusted to make it so” (1 Thessalonians 5:23-28 The Voice).

So what is the meaning of this special report?

The first thing we can glean from this special report is God has called us to a holy calling.

2 Timothy 1: 9, from the voice translation, tells us that
God has already saved us and called us to this holy calling – not because of any good works we may have done, but because of God’s own intention, and because eons and eons ago (before time itself existed), He gave us this grace in Jesus the Anointed, the Liberating King.

This special report from Paul is also reminding us that God is faithful.

Jeremiah 29:11-13, from the English Standard Version, tells us this about the Lord’s faithfulness to us:

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, plans to give you a future and a hope.  Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you.  You will seek me and find me, when you seek me seek me with all of your heart.”

Finally, this special report from Paul makes it clear that we can trust the Lord.

Psalm 37:4-6 from the English Standard Version says:
“Delight yourself in the Lord, and God will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in God, and God will act. God will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday.”

We interrupted this program for a special report,

And the report is this:
God is calling us
God is faithful
And we can trust God

My Brothers and Sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think on these things – because they come from our Lord in Heaven. (Philippians 4:8 The Voice)

This has been a special report.

Mother’s Day Prayer 2017

Pray with me please:
Dear Father, as we approach your throne of grace, we thank you for creating Mothers. We thank you for creating our mothers with unique combinations of gifts and talents. We thank you for sacrifices they make for us, both small and large. We thank you for the love they give us, which comes from you.
– We pray that you give each mother your strength – especially the ones who have experienced the loss of a child through death; those who are separated from their child by many miles, illness or prison.
– We pray that your grace will shine on the single mother who must perform the difficult task of being both mother and father.

Finally, we pray for the mothers who are alone on this Mother’s Day. We pray for mothers who are prison bound, whose children have left them, who are home bound and who are in nursing homes. We also pray for mothers who never had the honor of bearing children, but who nurtured many poor and needy children who crossed the threshold of their lives.

Father, be with us as we look at the relationship between Jesus and Mary, His Mother. May we learn your way to succeed at this relationship of love between a mother and her child.

It is in your wonderful Son, Jesus’ Name that we pray. Let us all say amen, amen and amen.

Marben Bland is the pastor of the Hall and Mitchell Chapel AME Churches in Sparta, Georgia

Mother’s Day Contentment

Mother’s Day is a time of great emotion, and as Sunday approaches, many of us are already feeling it.

Three of my friends lost mother’s recently, so for them and many others, this Mother’s Day will be a time of sadness.

For others, Mother’s Day is a happy time. It is when they show appreciation to mom, by lavishing her with praise, prizes and pedicures.

For me, the day and this week is a time of reflection. My mother who has Demetria turned 91 on Tuesday, This means the tables have turned; and now her children function in the role of parent and caretaker.

Philippians 4:11 tells us to learn to be content whatever the circumstances. At this point of my mother’s life, her memory is gone, her cognition diminished, her steps are getting shorter, but she is content with her circumstances.

It is the grace and mercy of God which has given me contentment regarding my mother’s circumstances. No longer do I think, “Why did this happen to such a wonderful, loving woman, who committed her life to using her powerful intellect to educate others?”

God’ grace has given me the magnificent gift of reflection. God’s grace affords me the time and space to reflect on the remarkable life she continues to live, and the continuous teaching she so generously provides for her children.

Therefore, on Mother’s Day the most emotional of days my prayer for you is contentment whatever the circumstance.

Marben Bland is the Pastor of Hall Chapel and Mitchell Chapel AME Churches in Sparta, Georgia.

Arthur Blank a Good Neighbor

Arthur Blank the owner of the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons is not only an American success story, he is also a good neighbor.  

Born in the Flushing neighborhood of the New York City borough of Queens.  Blank has amassed millions improving neighborhoods as the co-founder of Home Depot, the world’s largest home improvement retailer. 
 
Blank also helped his neighbors through his philanthropic efforts, making a personal pledge to give away at least 50% of his wealth during his lifetime.  

His Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, helps neighbors around the world, and promotes innovative solutions to transform the lives of youths and their families.  

Formed in 1995, the Foundation has provided more than $300 million to many charitable organizations. 
 
Blank’s Rules for Neighborly Success
 
Arthur Blank credits much of his success working with neighbors in business, sports and philanthropy, to these six simple yet powerful rules:
 
1. Put people first.
2. Listen to the customer.
3. Include everyone.
4. Innovate continuously.
5. Lead by example.
6. Give back.
 
The Parable of the Good Samaritan and The Blank Rules
 
Loving and caring for our neighbor is the commandment of God and is a key element in our Christian faith.  
 
The power of these timeless rules from Arthur Blank is evident in the parable of the Good Samaritan.
(Luke 10:25-37)    
 
Jesus uses the parable in response to the question of a local lawyer who ask “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”   
 
Jesus responds to the lawyer’s question by asking him, “What is written in the law?” 
 
The lawyer reads the law back to Jesus by saying it is commanded that “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” 
 
Looking for a loophole to trip up Jesus, the lawyer asked, “And who is my neighbor?”
 
In response, Jesus tells the story of the Good Samaritan; this is where the Blank rules come into play.  Let’s look at the parable in a different way, by using the Blank rules for treating his neighbor.
 
Putting People First  

“There was once a man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho. On the way he was attacked by robbers. They took his clothes, beat him up, and went off leaving him half-dead. Luckily, a priest was on his way down the same road, but when he saw him he angled across to the other side. Then a Levite religious man showed up; he also avoided the injured man.  A Samaritan traveling the road came on him. When he saw the man’s condition, his heart went out to him. He gave him first aid, disinfecting and bandaging his wounds.”
 
Question:  Who followed the Blank rule of putting people (his neighbor) first? Was it the priest? Was it the Levite religious man? Or was it the Samaritan?
 
Listen To The Customer / Include Everyone

“He gave him first aid, disinfecting and bandaging his wounds. Then he lifted him onto his donkey, led him to an inn, and made him comfortable. In the morning, he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take good care of him. If it costs any more, put it on my bill-I’ll pay you on my way back.'”
 
Comment: By giving the injured man first aid and taking him to an inn, the Samaritan was listing to the concerns of his customer without a word being said. 
 
Getting the innkeeper to help was smart; it expanded the care for this injured neighbor by getting others involved.  

How often as Christians do we take the “Lone Ranger” approach to loving our neighbor?  We should remember that even the “Lone Ranger” was never alone; he always had Tonto at his side.
 
Innovate Continuously

Comment: You may say what was so innovative about the Samaritan tending to an injured person?   Apple founder Steve Jobs, and noted innovator, said that innovation most often is not about doing something new. He said that innovation most of the time is about doing something that others were unwilling to do.

The Samaritan was innovative because he did something for “his neighbor” that the Priest and the religious Levite were unwilling to do. 

Question: How willing are we to innovate for our neighbor?

Lead By Example

Once the parable was completed, Jesus then asked the Lawyer, “What do you think? Which of the three became a neighbor to the man attacked by robbers?”

The lawyer responded, “The one who treated him kindly.”

Comment:  The Samaritan has set the example. 

Give Back

Then Jesus said, “Go and do the same.”

Comment:  The Samaritan has set the example; now Jesus wants us to go and set examples for others.  

Final Thoughts

Yes, Arthur Blank is a good neighbor; some may argue that it is easy to be a good neighbor when you are a billionaire!  

However, let me remind you that Jesus said, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”  

While I am not handicapping Mr. Blank’s afterlife, I am saying that all of us must be good neighbors, regardless of our resources.   

For when we live our lives keeping the commandment to “love our neighbors as we love ourselves,” we and our neighbors will all be the richer for it. 
 
Marben Bland is the pastor of Hall Chapel and Mitchell Chapel AME Churches in Sparta, Georgia.

The Great Commission- Are You A Disciple?

Last week we celebrated the resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The death and resurrection of Jesus is not only the fulfillment of Old Testament Prophecy, but it is the linchpin for a new relationship with God and His people.

In other words, Resurrection Sunday is a big deal! It changes everything, but in the words of those info commercials: “Wait there is more!” We often have a tendency to stop the narrative of Jesus’s time on Earth at the resurrection. However, the Gospels reveal that Jesus left His most powerful message to the end of His earthly ministry.

Matthew, Luke and Mark close with some version of the Great Commission. The last instruction of Jesus to go out into the world and make disciples, while spreading the good news of salvation. Let’s examine how Matthew records the Great Commission from Jesus:

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20, NIV)

The Great Commission is the bases of sharing the Gospel, and making new disciples of Christ through evangelism and missionary work. The Great Commission also creates an assumption, and a demand that those who are carrying out the work of the Great Commission are also disciples of Christ.

Now that would seem that it is a “no brainer,” if you are making disciples, you must be a disciple. Regardless of how simple it may seem, I would suggest from personal experience that it is not true. For many years although, I have always been a member of the church, doing the work of Lord, I was not a disciple.

The New World Dictionary defines a disciple as a learner who submits to discipline, or one who becomes a disciplined learner.

Jesus, in Luke 14:25, explains that discipleship for Christ goes farther than submitting to discipline, and becoming a disciplined learner. Being a disciple for Christ involves a greater relationship, a greater calling and a greater commitment. Being a disciple for Christ involves an ongoing cost.

  • A disciple must be willing to forsake family, friends and even life itself to follow Jesus
    (Luke 14:26).

  • A disciple must be willing to lay down his life in following Jesus (Luke 14:26).

  • A disciple must consider the cost of being a disciple of Jesus (Luke 14:27).

This weekend the church where I pastor kicked off our family movie night with the feature “Hidden Figures.” The movie is the true story of three brilliant African-American Women who were the unknown brains behind the United States Space Program.

Like many African-Americans in the Jim Crow South, the women of Hidden Figures – Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson – endured the hardships of racisms, sexism and unequal pay as the cost for their achievement as pioneers in the U.S. Space Program.

The message is clear; Jesus paid the price for our sins, and the expectation is clear – we must pay the cost being a disciple.

While there is a cost for discipleship, we can gain much comfort because the Great Commission stresses that we are not in this fight alone. Just before His accession to Heaven, Jesus said, “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

I don’t know about you but the opportunity to always have Jesus with us is worth the cost. Therefore the question that the Great Commission is asking all of us is simply this: Are you a disciple?

Why Is Good Friday Such A Good Day?

How can Good Friday be such a good day when Jesus walked through the streets of Jerusalem with a cross on his back?

How can Good Friday be such a good day when they nailed His hands and His feet to the cross, and then hung Him up to die?

How can Good Friday be such a good day when they put a crown of thorns on His head, and the soldiers gambled for His clothes?

How can Good Friday be such a good day when Jesus the son of God died on a cross – a death reserved for murderers, traitors and thieves.

Good Friday is such a good day because Jesus gave His life that we might be healed, His blood was shed for our forgiveness.

Good Friday is such a good day because it lead to Resurrection Sunday. With His death and resurrection, the path for salvation is clear we can be forgiven for our sins. Everlasting life with God in Heaven is possible for those who believe.

And that is why Good Friday is such a good day!

Marben Bland is the pastor of the Hall Chapel AME Church and Mitchell Chapel AME Church in Sparta, GA