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Friday, December 25, 2009

The Wise Men: Following the Evidence

Read Matthew 2: 1-12. The wise men. The 3 kings of Orient who come to Jerusalem seeking the Messiah. (P.S. The Bible doesn’t actually say how many wise men there were. Three’s a number from tradition.) They have seen a star which tells them that the time of the great prophesied King of Jews birth has come.

At this point in the Nativity record we are up to 2 years after Jesus birth (Matthew 2: 16). Look they didn’t have airplanes. These men have come from a far country, loaded with kingly gifts. We depict them as traveling on 3 lone camels, but they probably had an armed escort and/ or traveled in a caravan. From the appearance of the star to the time it took to pack, plan, and travel from whatever nation or nations in the Far East, Jesus was no longer an infant.

The wise men are well informed (hence the whole “wise” thing). They know that Jerusalem is the ancient capital of the Jewish people, so naturally, seeking a Jewish king, they show up at the royal palace in Jerusalem. Problem is: Jesus isn’t in Jerusalem.

Luke 2: 39     So when [Joseph and Mary] had performed all things [in the temple] according to the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own city, Nazareth.

By the evidence of the star they had seen, the wisemen knew when the king of the Jews had been born, but they didn’t know where. Matthew 2: 4-6 tells us that the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem knew where the Messiah would be born, but had missed the fact that the time had actually come.

Did you catch that?

A carpenter was in the right place to meet Christ at his birth. A young virgin with a tarnished reputation was there for the full Incarnation of the Messiah. A bunch of lowly shepherds met the Jesus within hours of his birth. An old crazy man and an old crazy widow woman (Luke 2: 25-27, 36-38) had already had personal encounters with the promised Savior just days after His birth; but neither the most learned men in Judea nor the wisest ones in the Far East knew enough on their own to find their way into the presence of Jesus. Why? Because though they were waiting for and looking for the King of kings, they were each following only part of the evidence.

All around us, there is evidence that God is real (Psalm 19: 1-3). Following the evidence will draw us closer to God and His Truth, but that evidence isn’t always in the form that the world will accept.

From the Jewish scholars in Jerusalem, Herod, the evil secular king of Judea, discovered that the Messiah was to be come out of Bethlehem (Matthew 2: 4-6). From the wisemen, he discovered the timing. Herod pretends that he wants to worship Jesus (verse 8), but he really wants to destroy Him.

Another important point:

Don’t think that evil people don’t know stuff about God just because they are evil (2 Timothy 3: 7; James 2: 19). Be very, very, very careful when you get spiritual advice from people who say they believe in God but live and promote beliefs that devalue Jesus and the Truth of the Bible. These people may be well informed. They may know things that you don’t. They may present logical, well-referenced reasons why you should follow their directions. But, following them will not take you beyond a vague intellectual acknowledgment of God or something god-ish. To transcend that and to come to a personal relationship with the one true God, through Jesus you have to follow the trail of the evidence which, if you are willing to see, God has placed in front of you.

Herod pointed the wise men to Bethlehem. But God pointed them somewhere else.

Matthew 2: 9 ¶ When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.
11 And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother

At this point, Jesus is no longer a baby. He is a young child, and He is no longer in a stable outside of an inn in Bethlehem. After Jesus was circumcised and Mary was purified according to Jewish law (Luke 2: 22, 39; Leviticus 12: 2, 3), Jesus’ earthly family returned to Joseph’s hometown, Nazareth. The star was guiding them to Nazareth.

Bethlehem is just south of Jerusalem. Nazareth is way north. The wisemen had to make a decision. They could follow the logical advice of a convincing, powerful, but ungodly man. Or, they could follow God the rest of the way just as they had followed Him up to this point (by following the star).

They chose to follow the evidence that God had placed in their life and the result was a personal encounter with Jesus Christ.

11 And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.

Examine your life for God’s evidence. How many times have you walked away from an accident or incident in which you should have been dead? How many times have you listened to a strange pull, a voice in your heart and learned that you had avoided tragedy? How many times have you ignored that voice and regretted it? That was God.

How many times has some Christian spoken an answer to a question they didn’t know you had? What faith has brought you this far? Are you now going to stop following that star because some dude said to? Open your eyes. See the evidence that God has placed right in front of you.

We so often pray for a sign. We so seldom acknowledge the signs He gives us every day.

Think about it. The wisemen followed a star. Not a vision of a star. An actual visible something in the sky. Lots of people must have seen it. But only these few were wise enough to follow it.

And, here’s one of the coolest things:

Once the wisemen have a personal encounter with Jesus and they fall down before Him, they no longer need the evidence. They have faith. They don’t abandon their education. They don’t cast off their knowledge. But, they now have a personal relationship with God, not just an intellectual acknowledgment of Him.

12 And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.

They arrive in Israel following evidence. They leave following God.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Shepherds: From Outcasts to Evangelists

Shepherds: From Outcasts to Evangelists

Isaiah 9:6 For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of His government and peace There will be no end, Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, To order it and establish it with judgment and justice From that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.

Read Luke 2: 8-20. The shepherds keeping watch over their flocks were waiting, too. As Jews they were waiting for the Messiah promised in Isa. 9: 6,7. They were waiting for Jesus to come, but they were waiting for the 1st Advent of Christ the same way most of us are waiting for His 2nd Coming. That is, in a general sense they expect Messiah some vague time or other, but right now, they’re not really thinking about Him. They’re thinking about their sheep.

The scripture does not say that the shepherds were praying or discussing prophecy or studying the night sky for signs and portents. Shepherding is their job and these men are at work. More pressing to them is breakfast, sleep, and their next pay. Just like us.

Luke 2: 10 Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.
11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
12 And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”
13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:
14 “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”

The night shift routine is interrupted by a divine declaration: “The wait is over! Today is the day that the Savior is born. And guess what, you bunch of regular guys out here working and minding your own business? You are going to be the ones who find Him” (v. 12).

How do the shepherds react? No one shepherd is identified as the leader of the group. So (Luke 2: 15) they decide as a group, “Let’s go see more of this thing God is doing among us. We’ve been kinda sorta waiting for a great move of God. Well, fellas, it looks like we’re in one. Come on, let’s go.”

Luke 2: 16 And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph and the Babe lying in a manger.

The shepherds did what we should do when the Lord interrupts our daily worries and routines. When you see the Lord move on your job, in your family, or within your circle of influence don’t just go back to business as usual. Gather those around you and seize the opportunity to draw each other closer to Jesus.

You may not consider yourself a Christian leader. The crucial moment may present itself while you have no greater spiritual credentials than the average person around you. So!

You don’t have to be a preacher to lead your circle to Christ. Just listen to the Lord. When God delivers something into your midst that nobody even knew they were waiting for, take the opportunity. Don’t just walk away alone, but invite them, all of them, to come with you. Don’t wait for the perfect time. Often you may have to walk the path of Christ alone, but don’t wait for a solitary moment when God is calling to you in a social one. Grab those you love, say “Let us go,” and then go with haste to seek Jesus.

And look at what God can do for you.

17 Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child.
18 And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

These shepherds arrived in Bethlehem as shepherds, but they leave as the first Christian evangelists. They arrive with no spiritual credentials, but they have a personal encounter with the Savior of the world and they leave sharing the first Christian testimonies--together.

Don’t be ashamed of Christ before your friends.

Matthew 10: 32 “Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. 33 But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.

Draw closer to Jesus now. Invite your friends to draw closer with you, now. God will show you all something wonderful. On this ordinary day, He can turn you all into something more than you had expected. He’ll give you what you are all really waiting for.

Next: The Wise Men-Following the Evidence

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Joseph: How A Good Man Goes Great

Joseph: How A Good Man Goes Wrong Great

Matthew 1: 18     Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. 19     Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly.

Read Matthew 1: 18-25. In this passage for the Advent (Coming of Jesus) , Joseph is waiting. For what? He’s waiting for Mary, his betrothed. And Joseph has a good plan for Mary and him.

Maybe he’s been working and saving for awhile now.Maybe he expects to have his house built pretty soon. Pretty soon he’ll be ready to approach Mary’s father and receive Mary as his wife.

Luke 1:39, 40 tells us that after Gabriel’s announcement to her, Mary left Nazareth and traveled into the country of Judah to visit her cousin Elisabeth. This is not a trip around the corner. Nazareth to Judah was about 60 miles (for a lone, pregnant girl in 4 B.C.) . And that doesn’t even account for the extra distance if Mary took the traditional route around the country of Samaria. So Mary was most likely out of town when Joesph gets the news that she is pregnant. Their plans are ruined and he can’t even have a face-to-face with Mary about the whole thing. (No cell phones, no email).

It’s all messed up for Joseph.

Joseph is at a point in his life that is familiar to many of us. He has done everything he was supposed to do to receive the rewards of the good plan he had made. And suddenly something crazy goes wrong. And there we are, like Joseph, alone, trying to figure out how what in the world we’re going to do now.

Joseph figures there’s no way he can marry Marry now. But, Joseph is a “just” man (The word is dikaios and is also translated “righteous.”), and he really does love Marry. He doesn’t want to destroy her life by calling her out for adultery, so he decides to quietly cancel the betrothal (Matthew 1: 19).

When our good plans go really wrong it is human to think that God has somehow tricked us. We think that God has unfairly changed the rules in the middle of the game and we get upset. Sometimes we decide to just quit the whole thing. But remember Malachi 3:6 For I am the LORD, I change not;…

God never changes. But sometimes, God interjects change into our plans so that we can line up with his will.

Gabriel appears to Joseph (busy time for Gabriel). He explains what’s happening and tells Joseph, “fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.” Gabriel explains that all the changes in their plans are a fulfillment of prophecy (Matthew 1: 22,23). Get it? This was God’s great plan all along.

Joseph is a righteous man, so of course he will follow God’s will. The question is how will he follow this new plan.

The answer: Just as he always had. Joseph had been a good man when he and Marry where betrothed. Now he takes her as his wife and becomes a good husband. Joseph had planned to be a good husband, provider, and protector once he’d gotten everything in his life lined up just right. Now, with everything thrown in disarray, he becomes a good husband, provider, and protector.

It is not circumstances that determine how we follow God, it is character and faith in Him.

Joseph would have had to go to Bethlehem for the census anway. Now, he goes and takes the very, very pregnant (“great with child”) Mary. Joseph doesn’t have the connections to get a room in the overcrowded town of Bethlehem. Perhaps the relatives Joseph had in his ancestral hometown refused to let this couple they considered to have conceived out of wedlock sleep in their home.

And consider this: Why was Mary, 9 months pregnant, even with Joseph? Yeah, they were married, but why wasn’t she at home being cared for by the women of her own family? Perhaps her family had cast her off at well. In any event, Joseph did not abandon her. He stayed with her, getting the only shelter they could find---a stable, because (v. 7) there was no room in the inn.

(This, by the way, is an example of a man who may not have 2 cents, but is worth a million dollars.)

If you have been serving God faithfully and you see your good plans falling apart, keep serving God faithfully. If you planned on faithfully helping out with the kids at church once a month and now you feel called into leadership of a youth ministry, lead as faithfully as you would have helped.

If you had planned to do good by deliver a couple of plates to the homeless and go home, but your heart has been called to spend great amounts of time ministering to them even though it means exposing yourself to their unpleasant circumstances, be now as faithful in this greater ministry as you would have been in the good one.

If you planned to be good by staying with your boyfriend/girlfriend, but trying to stay out of the partying and sinfulness of their lifestyle and now you feel convicted to break off the unhealthy relationship; be as strong in the difficult great thing as you’d planned to be in the good thing.

Like Joseph and Mary, doors may be shut to you that had been open before. Like Joseph, you may be unprepared in every visible way for this great plan God has revealed. That’s O.K. Keep being righteous. Keep being faithful.

Philipians 1:6 Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:

Galatians 6:9 And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.

Next: Shepherds: From Outcasts to Evangelists

Monday, December 21, 2009

Mary: A Story of Changed Plans

Mary, A Story of Changed Plans

Luke 1: 26     Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27     to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.

Grab your Bible and read Luke 1: 26-47. In these verses Mary is waiting for something good. She is waiting for a husband. She is betrothed to a good man named Joseph and waiting for the day when they will live happily ever after as man and wife.

While Mary is waiting for that day to come, she is visited by the angel Gabriel. Gabriel tells Mary that she will conceive a son. Now stop for a moment, set aside our Christmas special image of this event, and think about it.

Mary does plan to get married and have a family, so why is the idea of conceiving a son so strange to her?

An ancient Middle Eastern betrothal wasn’t exactly like a modern engagement. In betrothal two families agreed that their children would marry one day. This agreement may have been in place for years before the marriage actually happened. Mary’s suspicion of Gabriel’s pronouncement indicates that the wedding isn’t imminent. Gabriel’s proclamation doesn’t synch with Mary’s good plan, so she’s suspicious.

We also need to recognize that the Bible’s depiction of Mary is not the simpering, mousy little vessel portrayed in movies. She was strong (consider all she had to endure as Jesus’ mother), and she was thoughtful. Several passages specifically refer to Mary observing and thinking deeply about what’s going on around her (Consider Luke 2: 10, 51). In Luke 1: 29 Mary listened to Gabriel and considered what manner of greeting this was.

When she hears Gabriel out, she asks a question which at first glance seemed to betray a lack of faith. Verse 34: Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?” ("Know" meaning to have sexual intercourse.) Mary’s cousin Zacharias was struck mute for asking Gabriel a similar question in Luke 1:20. With a closer look though, the question really reveals how smart, strong, and faithful Mary was.

Mary is a virgin. Though betrothed, she’s not actually getting married anytime soon. So, in her mind, this self-proclaimed angel seems to be asking her to sin. And if Gabriel’s asking her to sin, he isn’t really a messenger from God. God will never ask us to achieve good or even great things by compromising His Word or by violating His commands.

For the faithful servant of God the end does not justify the means.

Gabriel explains that the Holy Spirit will overshadow Mary and that the child will be the Holy Son of God. He also points to her elderly cousin Elisabeth (Luke 1: 7, 13,14, 24,25) as a sign that what he says is true. This revelation is hard for Mary, but she tests Gabriel’s words and they line up with the Word of God revealed in the law and the prophets.

God has called Mary to discard her good plans and to become part of His great plan. God has accelerated her timeline and her objective. Marriage sooner. A child sooner. And not just a child by Joseph, but a child by the miraculous Incarnation of God Himself.

To this Mary responds “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. (v. 38)

And in verse 39, Mary immediately gets up and goes alone to see Elisabeth and check out the rest of Gabriel’s story.

Deuteronomy 18: 22     when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.

It is said that “Good is the enemy of great.” Because of the good, Mary could have rejected this word from the Lord.

She could have said, “Look, Gabey. I got a plan here. I got a good man who’s gonna marry me one day. That’s good enough for me. I never asked for this mother-of-the-Messiah-by-the-Holy-Spirit-thing. ”

But, when she sees that the word from Gabriel lines up with the word of God and when she sees the confirmation in Elisabeth’s life, Mary realizes that God’s plan for her, though not what she was waiting for, is better than good. It is great. And she praises God . At Elisabeth’s house, Jesus in her womb, and John the Baptist turning flips in Elisabeth’s, Mary declares, “ My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior (Luke 1: 46, 47)   .

Next-- Joseph: How A Good Man Goes Wrong Great

Saturday, December 19, 2009


In John 10:22, 23, Jesus is in the temple during the Feast of Dedication. This feast, not listed among the festivals God gave in Leviticus 23, is today known as the Feast of Lights or Hannukah. Jesus, the light of the world, calls us to be light to the world. That light is supposed to be more than ornamental. That light is supposed to be powerful, personal, and public.

Being light to the dark world is an underlying theme of Christmas and Advent season. This is the challenge of this third in the Advent Sermon Series. It is also the challenge which the minstry of Hall Memorial CME Church is answering.

Listen to the sermon.

Now, do more than say, "Amen." Pray for our ministry at Hall Memorial CME Church. Participate in our work, or find a church near you and become an active part of their ministry.

Many lights together can scatter a great darkness where a single light alone may fail.

No more excuses. Get your light out into the streets.


Christmas and Advent is a time of excruciating waiting. Children (of all ages) wait impatiently for the dawn when they can tear into gifts and play. Hosts and hostesses wait for the guests to leave so that they can stop smiling. Business owners wait for the tallies to come in so they can see if they've made enough to survive another year. But most of all, Christians wait for Jesus to return and establish His Kingdom on Earth.

The question is, how do we wait? Not knowing the day nor the hour of our Lord's Return, feeling daily the pressures of a world that doesn't care about or believe in His Coming, beset by pressures in the here-and-now; what should the followers of Jesus Christ be doing that will sustain us in hope, comfort us in life, and add to our glory in the End? These are the questions Pastor Anderson T. Graves II explores in this 2nd in the Advent Sermon series.

Listen and hear the answer from the Word of God.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Wait For It (Advent)

When will Jesus return? Why hasn't He returned yet? How should we respond the signs of the times that so many people point out around us? What did Jesus Himself have to say about the signs of the end? These questions are crucial for Christians in this era. Whether or not you are "into" end time prophecy, a basic, Biblical understanding of our place in the 2nd Coming timeline is important. Without it you and I can be deceived or confused. And a misguided or directionless church is never a good thing.

Listen below as Pastor Anderson T. Graves II opens Old and New Testaments and shows us what the Bible says about our place in the endtimes. Hear this the first in a series of Advent sermons. Through this sermon the Lord does what He always does: teach us, comfort us, & challenge us to study His Word and hear Him ever more clearly.

Monday, November 23, 2009


When asked to write about Thanksgiving by Pastor Graves for the church’s blog page. I wondered about time and concept .

Time: because time is short and yet it is the span of life from birth to death, and then it spans unto eternity.
Concept: because there are so many directions we could go, without a thought of the strangers in the land.

If for some reason you only think of Thanksgiving as an American Holiday think about this. There are American ideas that we have all used to describe and even talk about the first Thanksgiving day. To find the words, the feelings, and the meaning of this day, we must do more than what the world has lead us to believe.

Thanksgiving (or let’s just call it thanks-for-giving, or better still, giving thanks for all that the Lord has done for you and I)-- Giving-thanks or Thanksgiving is like praise and worship. If we do not believe Hebrews 11:6b “that He rewards those that earnestly seek him”, then praise for what He has done does not occur, and worshiping Him for who He really is genuinely is an afterthought.

On the other hand, if we believe Hebrews 11:6b, then hopefully we see the little things that He has given us. Therefore praise for and worship to Him is earnest and sincere. Just as praise and worship is to be done every day, so too Thanksgiving or giving of thank as well.

The Thanksgiving Holiday may be once a year but being thankful and giving can be and should be done 365 days of the year. Therefore let us be thankful for ever moment we have with our friends, and loved ones. Let us be giving to all men but especially to those that need the most when it is in our power to give, for to whom much is giving much is required. Time is short, eternity is long, and Jesus is the way through it all.

Loving you in Christ Jesus,
Elder, Douglas Perry

Remember where you were and give thanks.
Acknowledge where you are and give thanks.
Know where you are going in Jesus and give thanks.


Deuteronomy 8: 10 When you have eaten and are full, then you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land which He has given you.

From a story of a problem child at a Thanksgiving table to the a Biblicial story of promises and warning, Pastor Graves leads us through the Scriptures and presents a timely Word for all want to be blessed by God. Listen as Pastor points us to the wise advice of our Heavenly Father.

A Truly Secure Investment---God

In America our sense of security in the future in closely tied to our finances. In times of economic uncertainty like our current recession, we wonder if there is truly any such thing as a "safe investment." There is. But, it may not be what you expect.

Listen below to an investment opportunity that present the risks up front, guarantees your principal (deposits), is free from hidden fees, and provides defined and assured returns.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Cost of Change

What do the Biblical story of Ruth, the debate over healthcare, and a home improvement project have in common? More importantly, what do these items together reveal about how God will change your life? Listen and find out, as the Lord provides an unexpected follow up to the sermon "Open Your Life to the Light."

(delivered by Pastor Anderson T. Graves II)

Saturday, November 7, 2009


We all growl like bears, and moan sadly like doves; we look for justice, but there is none; for salvation, but it is far from us. (Isaiah 59: 11) How often do we, even we church folks, feel this way: angry, sad, frustrated, lost--all at the same time. Why? Is there help? Is there hope for these times of spiritual darkness? There is.

In this sermon, Pastor Anderson T. Graves uses a common home improvement as a metaphor and walks us through the powerful Word of God from darkness to a life filled with light.

Friday, October 30, 2009

How to Change a Child into a Child of God

(Originally delivered by Pastor Anderson T. Graves II for the Youth and Young Adult Crusade at New Hopewell CME Church.) Churches try all kinds of methods to bring young people into the church. Often young people attend but never grow into anything like a real, deep relationship with Jesus. How do we overcome this problem? The key is in Jesus' treatment of children. Grab a Bible and listen. See Jesus' "suffer the little children" speech in a new way and learn How to Change a Child into a Child of God.

Monday, October 26, 2009

What Do I Give God When I Don't Have Anything?

We hear so much in the church about money? Tithes. Offerings. Gifts. "Sowing seeds." There is so such concentration on pleasing God with our finances. But how then do we please God when the finances dry up?
How do we "get our blessing" when the income doesn't equal the out-go?
Can I really do great things for God when I don't have anything to give? YES! YES!
Listen and learn what your "nothing" really is. Listen as Pastor Anderson Graves II opens the Word and teaches what great things the Lord has ordained for those who don't have anything.

(This sermon was originally delivered at our sister church Freeman Chapel CME Church in Lafayette, Alabama.)

Thursday, October 22, 2009


Sometimes the simplest things teach the deepest lessons. How do we decide on our priorities when so many things compete for our time and attention? How do we find focus in a world of masterfully designed distractions? With all of the things--many of them good--which cry out to be #1 on our calendar, how do we decide what it is we really want? How do we know what God wants for us?

The answer is in the Bible but the search for the answer begins with a simple chant from a Friday night footbal game. Listen as Pastor Anderson T. Graves II leads us through the Scriptures.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


When you hurt the worst part of the pain can be the loneliness you feel. Does anyone really understand? Is there anyone who actually knows what you're going through? Is there relief? Is there comfort? Is there deliverance from the loneliness?


Listen to part 1 of "The Power in Your Pain" then download and read the full text

Don't let the loneliness rule you.

Click here for the full text of the sermon (right click to save)

Monday, October 12, 2009



This video is definitely cute, but it evokes 2 different responses.
First, I think, how wonderful that this little baby wants to imitate a man of God delivering the gospel. I wonder if it's just play or if he really is already acting on a calling. (Jer 1:7 But the LORD said unto me, Say not, I am a child: for thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak.)

But, my second thought is: What is he saying? And why is everybody saying,"Amen," when they can't understand what he's saying?
Are they amening the message or the boy?
2 Timothy 4: 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;
4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.

Now, I know neither the child nor the church, so I make no judgment on either. Barring evidence to the contrary they get the benefit of Christian doubt. I assume that the church is genuinely Christian and that the child's words are either innocent gibberish or accurate (though inarticulate) Biblical preaching.

This little video does demonstrate one of the widest and most troubling weaknesses in the church: A huge number of Christians don't know what in the world their preachers are talking about?

Many of us (Yeah, the preacher said "us" to include pews and pulpits.) don't study the Bible on our own with any consistency. So, when preachers start wailing on and on, we follow the rhythm, but we can't discern if the substance is truly Biblical.

We follow men and women because they wear robes and clergical collars, but we haven't checked the map, the Bible, to see whether they are leading up to the mountaintop or off the cliff into the lake of fire.

Because of the same lack of a scripture-life, we oppose leadership not because the leader's vision is unBiblical or wrong; but because we don't like how the leader said it. Or because the leader's too ugly or too cute to be telling us what to do. We say,
"He didn't ask me before he hopped up and started telling his vision for the church. Just because she's the pastor don't mean nothing. I been running this church for 20 years and ain't no 'pastor' gone come up in here and change nothin'!"

Preachers quote a scripture at the beginning of their sermons and then spend 45 minutes gossiping about the congregation without ever explaining the scripture they quoted. And we fall out in the aisles cause, "He sho' did preach!"

We applaud the sermon and thank the teacher for the wonderful Sunday school lesson. Then we proceed to live as though we'd never heard of a church let alone joined one.
Mark 7: 6 ...This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.

We are Christians--followers of Christ, pursuers of Chrit-like-ness. Christ is the Word made flesh (John 1). We cannot follow Christ without following the Word. We seek an intimate experience with the Word made flesh, but that can only be fully realized if the experience of Salvation is developed through an intimate day-by-day relationship with the Word revealed in scripture.

When the benediction has been spoken and you're off church property in the "real" world, it is not the preacher you must live by it is the teachings you have received that you must live by. What are you being taught? Are you learning it?

However cute your preacher is or isn't, read your Bible. No why you are (or are not) saying Amen.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Which Wisdom Will You Follow?

September 13th, Hall Memorial CME Church held a special luncheon to honor the elder members of the church--those who have been living examples of wisdom to us.

This service however, provoked some questions: What is wisdom? Who possesses it? Many, conflicting sources claim to be the voices of true wisdom. How can we tell where to place our trust? In ths sermon, Pastor Graves draws out answers to these questions from the book of James.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Staying On the Right Road

It's hard to live a righteous Christian life. Is it even possible to live holy in this postmodern society? Yes it is. And Pastor Graves leads us through a scriptural how-to-actually-get-it-together that anyone who's ever driven a car or ridden in one can follow and apply. Listen and learn the key to living right on the road of life.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Passion! for the Christ

Passion! Not a word we use much in the church. And why not? In this sermon we begin in the Bible's own guide to romantic passion "The Song of Solomon" and continue through a scriptural challenge to rediscover a passionate pursuit of the ultimate true Love.

To downloadable this sermon or to subscribe to our podcast, copy this webaddress into your browser

Monday, August 24, 2009

How Many Miracles Does It Take?

"In the course of this week God has worked at least 2 miracles in my life." Beginning with these words, Pastor Graves preached a sermon of moving personal testimony and of challenge.
Listen and follow the scriptural path to a faith that is greater than miracles.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

ASU Service: More Than Meets The Eye

A few months ago, God gave Hall Memorial CME Church the vision and the opportunity to take the gospel to the campus of Alabama State University. We recognized that incoming freshmen in particular, who are establishing identities that will follow them for the remainder of their college years, need to hear the gospel because if they come to Christ they can be delivered from failures that plague them all of their lives. And more, those they would have hurt will be spared the pain that young adults so often inflict on one another.

It was not an easy task. Our original facility was closed because of a severe leak. We had no venue to offer worship. Our musician wouldn't make it. Our back-up musician had a conflict.
We prayed and we prayed. Believing that this outreach was God's will we asked in faith for whatever space we could have. It was outside. 10 A.M. in August.

But we fasted and prayed.

We realized the night before the service that there was nowhere to plug in the audio equipment. The weather forecasts promised tropical storm driven rain.

We prayed for God to withhold His rain. Sunday morning it was already drizzling where I live. I walked in the mist claiming by faith God's favor and the withholding of the rain.

Our drummer missed the date. Our worship partner's musician didn't show. We started late.

It was beautiful.

The overcast sky cooled the campus and made it a pleasant morning. Because we were outside instead of the air-conditioned auditorium we'd originally booked, the sound of our choir singing accapella through the speakers (plugged up on an extension cord run into the building)brought students out who might not have dressed up and gone into an auditorium for some church's service.

At the altar call, students came forward to renew their commitment and to seek prayer for salvation.

The Word of God was delivered to every ear on campus that was outside or near an open window.

We closed a powerful service, packed up everything and went our separate ways.

As my family sat down for lunch after the service, I looked out the window.

It was raining.

God is good.

Press play to hear the sermon.

'Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen' Stills - Photo Gallery on Yahoo! Movies

'Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen' Stills - Photo Gallery on Yahoo! Movies

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


Pray for our outreach to the freshmen of Alabama State University. Our assigned venue on campus is closed because of a leak in the roof. We don't have a confirmed alternate location to bring the Word...yet. We believed God had opened this door for us to bring the gospel to these young people at this crucial point in their lives; so now we believe God has a door for us to bring the gospel to these young people at this crucial point in their lives.

In the natural it is frustrating to be less than a week out from any planned event and see critical parts of the plan fall apart. But, I know that what we do in evangelism is not about the plan, or the venue, or even the event. It's about the gospel which is about Jesus.

So, if Hall Memorial CME Church and our ministry partners at New Walk of Life Church have to go mic-less and accapella on the steps of the Acadome, we receive what God has prepared because by faith (with prayer and fasting) we claim the fruit of what God has planted in our hearts.

Pray for us. Pray with us. Fast as God leads you.

We walk with our Father around this obstacle. We stand in Him as the obstacle turns around. And when He reveals what is on the other side of this obstacle, we will praise Him for the opportunity to do His will.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Hit 'Em With Everything You Got!

I haven’t seen the new “Star Trek,” but I’m sure that the following scene is in the movie, because this scene’s in every movie like “Star Trek.”

The hero’s ship is under attack from an enemy vessel. The enemy vessel is larger, more heavily armored, and equipped with superior firepower. Heavily damaged, the good guys are on the verge of being destroyed. The heroic captain orders his crew to arm every torpedo bay, shift all power to the weapons, commit every ounce of energy to one final attack. Looking forward at the enemy, the captain orders, “Hit ‘em with everything we got!”

They fire the weapons. Every laser, bullet, missile, arrow, rock, and bottle on board streaks forward and strikes the enemy target head on. There’s a massive explosion; and when the smoke clears----- the enemy vessel is still there.

The heroic crew is battered and wounded. Their ship is defenseless, systems are failing, smoke erupts from every corner. One more shot from the enemy will end them. This is it.

The moment that the good guys ……

Cause something unexpected happens. They try some military maneuver that’s never worked before; they execute some risky new technical operation; they discover that they’ve held out long enough for reinforcements to arrive. Something always happens after the good guys have “hit ‘em with everything they got” and they’ve got nothing left. That’s always how the good guys win.

In 2 Kings 13:14 – 19, the nation of Israel is in bad shape. The 10 tribes that make up Israel, the northern kingdom (also known as Samaria)have fallen into national idolatry, mixing worship of the true God with pagan rituals and regular sacrifices to false gods. And they are dominated by the superior military power of their enemy Syria (Aram). The Syrians raid at will, demand tribute, and harass the Jewish people at every turn. Syria’s army is a larger, better equipped, and seemingly unstoppable power. It has been only the intervention and intercession of powerful prophets like Elisha that have kept Syria from completely destroying the kingdom of Israel. And Elisha is dying (verse 14).

Joash, king of Israel, goes to see Elisha before he passes away. When Joash arrives at Elisha’s bedside he weeps over him and says “O my father, my father, the chariots of Israel and their horsemen!” This touching statement is an exact quote of what Elisha himself said when his predecessor Elijah was parted from him and translated into Heaven. This would be a touching scene of grief and piety but for one small detail.

Joash isn’t a true believer. Verse 11 says that Joash did evil in the sight of the Lord. He did not depart from all the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel sin, but walked in them.

Point? Joash knows how and when to quote the Word of the prophets. He’s religious, but he’s not faithful.

Like us, Joash isn’t really, truly, in his heart-of-hearts interested in submitting to God by faith, but he is very interested in getting God’s favor. He’d love a blessing, preferably without having to do a bunch of obeying and stuff. (Sound familiar?)

For the sake of His people and His promises to His people, God offers Joash a chance to be blessed. Elisha orders the king to take a bow and shoot some arrows into the ground. He explains that the arrows represent God’s deliverance (verse 17).

Joash fires. One arrow. Two arrows. Three arrows. Then he stops.

He probably stopped and looked at Elisha, trying to gauge the prophet’s reaction, read his expression. Probably trying to see if he’d done enough. That’s us.

We want to know when we’ve done enough of the religion thing.

“How many times, Lord, do I have to pray before You answer?“
“How many months do I have to tithe before you pay off my student loans?”
“How often do you expect me to witness to so-and-so before I can give up on his hard-headed tail?”
“Exactly how much church do I have to attend to make up for the dirt I did this past week?”

Joash shoots 3 arrows and stops. And Elisha is maaaaaad! He says in verse 19 , “You should have struck five or six times; then you would have struck Syria till you had destroyed it! But now you will strike Syria only three times.”

Now let’s be fair to Joash. It’s not like Elisha told him to fire 5 or 6 arrows and he just decided not to. How was Joash to know how many was enough? How could he know (and, by extension, how can we know) how much of our time, how much of our energy, how many of our prayers, our resources, our “arrows” God expects us to throw at our situation? Simple.

Elisha said, “Take the arrows…Strike the ground”

Joash should have asked himself what we must ask ourselves: How many arrows do I have?

Instead of trying to find the minimum acceptable level of religion, Joash should have targeted the ground and hit it with every arrow he’d got.

When we seek deliverance from God, we are to seek the Word not just as a means of appearing religious, but in a desire to be truly and totally obedient. We must take up whatever arrows are available. Look around in your church, in your home, in your life. What talents are there? What financial resources? What gifts? What time not obligated to work? What knowledge? What connections and contacts? What ideas unshared? What labor unperformed? These are your arrows.

We make the mistake of trying to give the least we can give, do the least we can do and still be acceptable to God. Target the ministry needs, opportunities, and challenges in front of you and instead of trying to calculate how little you can do, hit ‘em with everything you got!

Joash had 3 arrows worth of faith, so God gave him 3 victorious battles. Sometimes the reason we get only temporary deliverance instead of full victory is because we only believe for temporary deliverance.

We sin and then pray that God will deliver us from the immediate consequences, but we don’t believe He can free us from the addictions and sinful habits that led us into sin.
We believe God will keep our children from getting expelled, but we don’t believe and obey Him to deliver them from the sins that underly their expulsion-worthy behavior.
We pray for this month’s rent, but we don’t believe and obey to see total deliverance from the bondage of debt.
We walk in sin everyday and pray for forgiveness every night, but we don’t commit to full repentance and the ultimate deliverance of our soul from sin and Hell,

We have partial deliverance because we attack our issues with some of our faith, some of our resources, some of our “arrows.” God commands us to commit all to His work. (Matthew 22: 37; Deuteronmy 26: 16; Ecclesiastes 9: 10) Target what God has placed and allowed in front of us and hit it with everything we got. And when we do, guess what?

It won’t be enough.

The problems in our lives may very well prove to be more than we can overcome with the resources available. The sins in our heart may very well prove to be to deeply entrenched for our single will to excise. The history of bad decision-making in our families may be to commonly reinforced. After all the smoke clears the enemy may still be there.

But… something will happen.

Joash probably wondered, "How can a bunch of arrows fired into a dying preacher’s yard defeat the great Syrian army with it’s superior armor and overwhelming firepower?
I need more than all these arrows in my hand.”


When we have the faith to hit the work of God with everything we’ve got, then God will make something happen.

If Joash had kept firing, after 5 or 6 shots God would have provided complete victory over the Syrian army. Just as David chose 5 smooth stones to throw at Goliath and found that he only needed one (1 Samuel 17: 40), so we, if we go all out for God, will discover that the resources already given to us will be enough, more than enough to do the work to which we’re called.

When we’ve exhausted every resource, God will give us a new idea, revive an old one, send us help from an unexpected area, …He’ll make something happen. That’s how the good guys always win.

Stop waiting for more. Stop procrastinating. Stop excusing ministry-lessness because we don't have enough resources.

By faith, commit to His work, take up whatever God’s put in our hands and
“Hit em with everything we got!”

2 Kings 13: 14 Elisha had become sick with the illness of which he would die. Then Joash the king of Israel came down to him, and wept over his face, and said, “O my father, my father, the chariots of Israel and their horsemen!”
15 And Elisha said to him, “Take a bow and some arrows.” So he took himself a bow and some arrows.
16 Then he said to the king of Israel, “Put your hand on the bow.” So he put his hand on it, and Elisha put his hands on the king’s hands. 
17 And he said, “Open the east window”; and he opened it. Then Elisha said, “Shoot”; and he shot. And he said, “The arrow of the Lord’s deliverance and the arrow of deliverance from Syria; for you must strike the Syrians at Aphek till you have destroyed them.” 
18 Then he said, “Take the arrows”; so he took them. And he said to the king of Israel, “Strike the ground”; so he struck three times, and stopped. 
19 And the man of God was angry with him, and said, “You should have struck five or six times; then you would have struck Syria till you had destroyed it! But now you will strike Syria only three times.”

Saturday, June 13, 2009


You are invited to join the pastor and congregation of Hall Memorial Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, Saturday, June 20, 2009, at 7 P.M., for our 2nd Annual Juneteenth Banquet.

Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States.

From its Galveston, Texas origin in 1865, the observance of Juneteenth as the African American Emancipation Day has spread across the United States and beyond. Today Juneteenth commemorates African American freedom and emphasizes education and achievement.

Join us as we celebrate with praise, song, dinner, and documentaries the journey from our past to the present.

This occasion will enlighten, educate, and inspire.

Tickets are $15.00. Email us at or call 334-288-0577 to reserve your tickets or to send your support.

Monday, May 18, 2009


A funny think happened on the way to church this Sunday morning. Actually, it was Sunday afternoon, and it wasn't my church I was headed to. I was on the way to Pleasant Grove CME curch in Troy, AL. I was to preach the message for a service in honor of Pastor Carlton Pickett's 5th year as their pastor.

I'd driven to this church at least twice before, and I had written directions. But I was exhausted so my wife drove and I went to sleep. When I woke up we were 25 miles past where we should have turned.

Now, there was nothing wrong with the written directions. They were correct and clear. The assigned driver fully intended to reach the right destination. The problem was, their pastor, their shepherd, the one who most intimately understood the way, was asleep. So the flock went astray.

We made it to the service---- 40 minutes late. The title of my sermon was: "Thank God for Pastors Who Are Awake and Have Your Back."

Romans 10:14 How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?

It would be easy for preachers, Sunday school teachers, small group leaders, and other leaders in the church to say (correctly) that the same Holy Spirit in us is in our students; and to then say (incorrectly) that whether we do our jobs or not the people will get what they need from the Lord.

Each Christian has a calling, not necessarily a calling to the pulpit, but a calling to some area(s) of ministry. We each have a responsibility, a responsibility to fulfill our calling correctly, consistently, and courageously, fully aware (awake) that we must answer to God for whether or not we do.

1 Peter 5:1 The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed:
2 Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly;
3 nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock;
4 and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.

Ezekiel 33: 7 So thou, O son of man, I have set thee a watchman unto the house of Israel; therefore thou shalt hear the word at my mouth, and warn them from me.
8 When I say unto the wicked, O wicked man, thou shalt surely die; if thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand.

I know that we get tired, and we shouldn't always be the one in the driver's seat. But we must make sure that before we fold our hands in sleep, we have properly expounded the written Word and prepared the assigned under-shepherd so that our flock does not go astray.

Isaiah 30: 20, 21 And though the Lord gives you The bread of adversity and the water of affliction, Yet your teachers will not be moved into a corner anymore, But your eyes shall see your teachers. Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” …

Saturday, May 16, 2009


Because of what I see in the trailers for "Angels and Demons," I'm not going to see it in the theaters and I'm not going to rent it. Not because the trailers make it seem blasphemous, but because the trailer make it seem boring.

However the release of the latest installment of "The DaVinci Code" does evoke some thought on the past wrongs of "the church." Setting aside Dan Brown's fictional (We do all remember that these books and movies are made-up stories, right?) conspiracies, there are some actual areas in which our forefathers and we have dropped the ball.

One's the way we used to, and in some cases still do, deal with unwed parents. Consider 2 Kings 4: 8-17.

2 Kings 4: 8 Now it happened one day that Elisha went to Shunem, where there was a notable woman, and she persuaded him to eat some food. So it was, as often as he passed by, he would turn in there to eat some food.
9 And she said to her husband, “Look now, I know that this is a holy man of God, who passes by us regularly.
10 Please, let us make a small upper room on the wall; and let us put a bed for him there, and a table and a chair and a lampstand; so it will be, whenever he comes to us, he can turn in there.”

A financially well-to-do, married, upstanding lady becomes the prophet's benefactor. She and her older husband build him a mini-parsonage and support his ministry. God rewards her with a son (verse 16 & 17). The child tragically dies (verse 19 & 20). But God through Elisha revives the child and returns him to the arms of his righteous and upstanding mother.

Beautiful, simple, and fair. She's a good person who does good things and has lived the right way. Therefore, she deserved this miracle. Right?

Consider 1 Kings 17.

1 Kings 17: 9 “Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. See, I have commanded a widow there to provide for you.”

Elijah, Elisha's mentor, is directed by God to leave a place of divine provision and to seek support from this widow lady. But this sister is not like the other.
She's a widow = single mother.
She's so poor (1 Kings 17: 12) that she's about to cook her and her son's last meal before they starve to death.
And, she has a questionable past.
We know this because in verse 17, she refers to her past sins that may be a reason for the tragedy she's experiencing.

So a poor, single, mother with a questionable past comes in contact with the prophet Elijah. She doesn't have any means, but God miraculously provides for her (verses 14-16) and she becomes Elijah's benefactress.

And, her son tragically dies (1 Kings 17: 17). But God through Elijah revives the child and returns him to the arms of his mother (verses 19-23).

The miracle of physical resuccitation is not promised (see Jesus' comments in Luke 4: 25, 26) in every case of physical illness, but these scriptures point to the equally powerful, and longer lasting miracle of spiritual resurrection.

So, what's the connection? These two mothers have nothing in common socially, yet each experiences God's miraculous provision and the deliverance of their children.

Therefore, we conclude that it is not Mama's (or Daddy's) social status, marital status, or past that determines their ability to bring blessings upon their family. But it is their present standing with God.

Receiving the prophet into their homes represents receiving the Holy Spirit that empowers the prophet. Receiving the Holy Spirit is the mark of salvation (Ephesians 1: 13).
However a parent comes to have the Holy Spirit dwelling inside them, the power of the Holy Spirit which comes with Salvation in Jesus Christ, is the only things that can deliver a family in distress.

Some mamas and daddies come to this place because they were raised the right way. Some mamas and daddies come to this place out of the desperation and despair of living the wrong way.

By no means does the Scripture compromise in its call for sexual purity and neither should we, the Bible-believing church. By no means does Scripture negate the fact that our past choices have consequences for our present and future lives and those of our children. By no means does Scripture imply that the God designed sequence of marriage-then sex within the marriage-then babies is no longer valid. But I hope that we have realized that it is the pre-marital/ extra-marital sex that is the sin, not the pregnancy and not the child.

The church has the responsibility of going to parents and offering Christ and the fellowship of believers, whether the trip takes us to the home of a "notable woman" or to the squalid dwelling of some poor single parent with a questionable past.

If they will hear the Word, receive Jesus, and walk in the leading of Holy Spirit, miracles can still happen. God loves these parents. So must we.

Saturday, May 2, 2009


A few months back my wife realized that many sermons and Bible lessons make references to sowing and reaping (planting and harvesting), but many of our children and young people have no understanding of these terms.

They’ve never dug up the ground and laid seeds in it. They’ve never tended growing crops and battled weeds and insects on their behalf. They’ve never prayed for rain to come or for the rain to stop so that their work would not be in vain. Many members of our congregations, adults included, have never picked from a bush, plucked from a branch, cropped from a plant, or cut from a stem any of the fruits or vegetables they consume.

The Lord had given Brother Charles Moore, our chief steward much the same realization. So this Saturday we planted our first church garden. We’ll use the fresh vegetables in our church kitchen and share them with the community.

Bro. Moore tilled up the ground in a corner of the church yard a few weeks back. On May 2nd, he taught our first gardening class. The kids, and some adults, came out to learn the proper way to plant tomatoes, okra, corn, and squash. They used the tools and handled the seedlings and the seeds. They even helped with the tiller. (A tiller’s a machine that break’s up the ground. It looks like the miniature offspring of a push lawn mower and a tractor that has some egg-beater genes.)

Everybody got dirty, my wife “supervised”, and those of us who grew up on farms reminisced. It was great.

But, the best thing about it was seeing the kids so excited.
Excited about the prospect of growing something with their own hands.
Excited about the feel and promise of farming.
And excited to be learning from the elders of our church.

Our children are not doomed to the intellectual imprisonment of computer and tv screens. Their knowledge of how to survive in the word does not have to be confined to the environs of school hallways and virtual landscapes. Our elders and the skills they’ve acquired over a lifetime are not obsolete.

We are all responsible for remembering that and for facilitating a tradition we’ve generally strayed from: the tradition of the elders passing on their stories and their knowledge to the children.

It doesn’t have to be complicated. It doesn’t have to be a lecture.

It can be as simple as, “Drop these seeds here. Now pull the dirt over them and go get some water.”

When we connect the elders and the children we plant something old and eternal, something Biblical; something that is steeped in love and knowledge, connection and expansion.

And you know what the Good Book says, “You reap what you sow.”

Friday, April 24, 2009


I know that as a preacher I'm expected to be stoic and "spiritual" about a death in our church family. I have no doubts about Bro. Bickerstaff's salvation. I believe that even now he is with our Lord in Paradise. I believe, I know that all the pains and discomforts typical of an older Black man in the South (diabetes, hypertension, arthritis) are gone for him now. I know that our brother is truly, infinitely, totally happy, healthy, and whole now.

But, I'm sorry, it still hurts.

This Sunday School, the teacher won't be interrupted by a question that always begins "What then..." and always somehow transitions into a story about when he was in the army or when he was at Tuskegee Institute.
This worship service , I'll not hear a raspy baritone (just a few beats ahead or behind everybody else) ring out over the rest of the congregation when we sing.
This Sunday when we're all shaking hands and exchanging hugs after the benediction I won't get an impromptu history lesson that connects any location or event you can think of to a cousin in the Bickerstaff family.

I will miss it, and the anticipation of those missed moments hurts.

But the pain does not rise to despair. The hurt does not dissolve into hopelessness. Because I do believe that there is more to this life than this life. Because I do know that a faith relationship with Jesus Christ delivers us from eternal death. Because I am secure in the promise of resurrection and reunion, I miss my brother, but I look forward to hearing his raspy baritone singing out someday future. I look forward to hearing him interrupt some prophet from ancient days or some great Bible teacher yet unknown as they talk on the lawn of New Jerusalem. I expect even greater stories about the time in Paradise I missed.

I look forward to all that, and the hope of those promised moments comforts.

It really does.

Hear the eulogy at


Mr. George W. Bickerstaff

was born July 3, 1930 in Montgomery County, Alabama. He was the firstborn of the late Mr. George Walter Bickerstaff, Sr. and the late Mrs. Martha Gardner Bickerstaff. George graduated from Jimmy Lowes high School and obtained an Associates Degree in dietetics from Tuskegee Institute.

He served with distinction in the Korean Conflict and received an honorable discharge.

He was married to the late Mary Addison Bickerstaff. To their union were born four children: Johnny Addison, LaJuliet Bickerstaff, Kenneth Bickerstaff, and Lillian Bickerstaff (preceded in death).

For many years, he worked in civil service until his retirement from Maxwell Air Force Base in 1989. He was a long time member of Hall Memorial Christian Methodist Episcopal Church where he served as a member of the steward board.

Brother Bickerstaff is survived by his children: Johnny Addison, LaJuliet Bickerstaff, and Kenneth Bickerstaf; one sister, Ernestine Bickerstaff-Daniels; three brothers: Bernard Bickerstaff (Susie), Alonzo Bickerstaff (Patricia), Clark H. Bickerstaff (Mary); uncles and aunts: patsy Rodgers, Sylvia Foster, Jessie (Mack) Crum, Celestine (Oscar) Henderson, Samuel Gardner, Elliot (Sharon) Gardner, Rosie (Charles) Scott; and a host of relatives and friends.

Monday, April 13, 2009


Consider the following verse:
New Revised Standard Version
Matthew 28: 6 He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come see the place where he lay.

New King James Version
Matthew 28: 6 He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.

Linguistically and grammatically speaking, both of the above translations are accurate, but this post isn’t about grammar or Greek-to-English linguistics.

It’s about our mindset toward the resurrection. There is a temptation now that Easter is past to “move on”. The ecstasy of Resurrection morning seems too magnificent, too heart-wrenching to continue in past the day. But if we just file Easter away we lose something vital. Something that is so essential to our faith that the moment had to be hidden for us to see it.

Think about it. Mary was aware of the immaculate conception. The birth of Jesus occurred with family and probably a few strangers around. Christ’s life, ministry, and miracles—His baptism, His transfiguration, His triumphant entry on Palm Sunday---all happened where others could see. The ascension was witnessed by hundreds. The charisma of the Holy Spirit was publicly displayed on Pentecost. But no human eyes saw the Resurrection. Even the guards at the tomb were unconscious when it happened.

The Resurrection, the very moment of Christ’s victory over death has human witnesses only to its aftermath.

Why? I wonder why such an important—the most important--- moment in the history of God’s relationship to humanity would not be sealed by the irrefutable observations of scores of eyewitnesses.

I think the answer is in the subtle difference between the NRSV’s technically correct phrasing and King James’s more poetic rendering of the angel’s declaration at the empty tomb.
Jesus was born.
Jesus preached.
Jesus died.

But ….

Jesus is risen!

Easter is not just about an event 2,000 years in the past. Nor is it about a service last Sunday.

Easter, the Resurrection, is about who and how Christ is now.

Christ is risen. No one needed to see Him get up, because the getting up from the grave wasn’t the main point. The main point of the Resurrection is that Jesus is not now in the grave.

In John chapter 11, Lazarus was raised from the dead by Jesus; but eventually Lazarus died again.
Jesus is risen from the dead never to die again.

Because the Resurrection is a present truth, we in this moment have hope of our resurrection one day, if we are in Christ (Romans 10: 9; Colossians 2: 12).

Because the Resurrection is an eternal reality, Jesus declared even before He entered Jerusalem to be betrayed and crucified that “I am the Resurrection and the Life” (John 11: 25).

Christians serve Jesus Christ not for who He was but for who He is. He is “I am,” Yahweh, Jehovah, Lord, God. It is in relationship with Jesus, present and eternal, that we find hope, peace, promise, and purpose. We pray, study, praise, evangelize, proselytize, and minister to needs because Jesus is.

After all the eggs have been hunted, after the baskets have been emptied, after the new clothes have grown old, remember ---whatever translation of the Bible you use--- that

He Is Risen!

Sunday, March 1, 2009


Romans 8: 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

Matthew 17: 20 So Jesus said to them, “Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.
21 However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.”

Amos 8: 11 “Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord God, “That I will send a famine on the land, Not a famine of bread, Nor a thirst for water, But of hearing the words of the Lord.

We fast by abstaining from food or from certain foods for a period of time. The basic idea is that by deliberately denying our physical needs for a time we become more attuned to spiritual things. By ignoring the voice of our bellies we are able to more clearly hear the voice of God. It works.

Jesus attested to the power of fasting in Matthew 17: 21 and Mark 9: 29 (some new Bible versions leave out these verses) when He explained why they were unable to confront certain kinds of spiritual opposition. In Matthew 9: 15, Jesus made it clear that His followers would practice fasting after His resurrection and ascension.

Fasting works. But, it works both ways.

A fast from physical nourishment weakens the physical body and nourishes a spiritual mindset.

Reciprocally, a fast from spiritual nourishment weakens the spirit and reinforces a worldly/ carnal mindset.

Romans 8: 5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.

Think about it.

When you spend a day or so abstaining from prayer, when you fail to feed your soul on the Word of God, when you go for extended periods without one-on-one time with God you have put yourself into a fast of the spirit, a fast from spiritual nourishment.

The result is predictable. When we abstain from the spiritual disciplines our spirits grow weaker and our carnal/ fleshly/ natural/ bodily urges and tendencies grow stronger. Sin gets easier. Living holy gets harder.

The old-school advice of parents and Sunday school teachers is still valid. Read your Bible every day. Pray constantly. MAKE TIME daily to sit alone and commune with God.

I post this on a Sunday evening. Probably most of you have been spiritually fed in church today. Nevertheless, I hope you won’t go to bed hungry; and when you wake I hope you break-fast in more ways than one.

Psalm 34: 8 Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

SPIRITUAL FOOD CRISIS (part 3: The Conclusion)

Now let us see the conclusion of the matter.

When spiritual starvation is allowed to run its full course you see the same effects that physical starvation produces.
1. A starving body starts breaking down its own tissues. Basically, a starving body begins to consume itself.
2. Hunger causes starving people to eat anything they are offered and anything they can find.
3. In extreme cases, starving people may even consume one another.

Proverbs 1: 18 And they lay wait for their own blood; they lurk privily for their own lives.

A physical body that receives no nourishment from without will take it from within. A starving body breaks down muscle, then fat, then the tissue of vital organs. It literally eats itself up from the inside. If you have a spiritually body – whether an individual or a congregational body—that does not have the living water of Jesus, that is not drinking the milk of the Word, that is does not feed on the bread of life, that does not digest the meat of the Father’s will; then you have a spiritually starving body that will slowly self-destruct.

Look at the young girl giving her body away again and again, destroying her virtue because she feels so empty, so hungry inside.
See the contentious congregation withering away as it tears consumes itself in backstabbing and undermining.
Consider the self-hating man, woman, boy, or girl who’s every interaction and relationship is filled with gossip and manipulation, who’s behavior is self-destructive because the soul are so hungry.

2 Timothy 4: 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; 4 and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.

2 Peter 2: 2:1 But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. 2 And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed.

Like newborn babies, starving people will eat whatever you give them, even if all you put before them is a baked cake of … dirt. We encounter these starving spiritual babies and sometimes we feed them dirt.

We talk to those who are less spiritually mature than us telling them things like:

“You know you’re supposed to be nice to people, but if they come at you wrong, you better cuss them out!” That’s spiritual dirt.
“Oooh ooh, he got a bunch of money. I know he didn’t get it legally, but he sure is blessed.” That’s spiritual dirt.
“I know what the Bible says, but God’s not really going to send anybody to Hell.” That’s spiritual dirt.
“The Lord know you’re only human. He’ll bless you even if you live in sin.” Spiritual dirt.
“Man, an episode of Oprah’s as good as a morning at church.” Spiritual dirt.
“Lie to the boss for me.”
“Lie to the bill collector for me.”
“Lie to your daddy for me.”
“Lie to your mama for me.”
Dirt. Dirt. Dirt. Dirt!

We season this grime, bake it up, and set it before people who are desperate for something, anything to feed their souls; and they eat it up because they have nothing else. They look to us because we seem well-fed, or at least, better fed than they, but if all we offer them is dirt, we will fill their bellies, but “dem still hungry.”

But even, if we don’t actively misfeed and deceive them, we must be careful not to simply neglect them.

There are many well-documented stories of explorers who became lost or stranded and, desperate for food, boiled their belts, chewed their saddles, even ate sawdust. If we do not feed people spiritually, if we do not tell others about the living water, the milk of the Word, the bread of life, the meat of the Father’s will; then they will look around and consume whatever is at hand. They will swallow the lies of astrology. They will sate their bodies with addictions. They will gorge themselves on crime. They will accept and imbibe any destructive heresy, lying fable, and false prophesy lying around the culture because we who have access to spiritual nourishment have failed to share with them.

And if malnourished or misnourished long enough, starving people may begin to consume one another.

2 Kings 6: 25 And there was a great famine in Samaria; and indeed they besieged …
26 Then, as the king of Israel was passing by on the wall, a woman cried out to him, saying, “Help, my lord, O king!”
27 And he said, “If the Lord does not help you, where can I find help for you? From the threshing floor or from the winepress?” 28 Then the king said to her, “What is troubling you?”
And she answered, “This woman said to me, ‘Give your son, that we may eat him today, and we will eat my son tomorrow.’ 29 So we boiled my son, and ate him. And I said to her on the next day, ‘Give your son, that we may eat him’; but she has hidden her son.”
30 Now it happened, when the king heard the words of the woman, that he tore his clothes…

The evidence of spiritual cannibalism is all around us.

See the young man who is so spiritually hungry, that he thinks, “I’ll kill my brother because maybe if I take his life, it’ll fill this hole inside me.”

Consider the Wall Street executive who has gutted the company, drained the employees’ pensions, consumed the savings and the livelihoods of thousands of people, to make another million and try to feed a hunger that no amount of money can satisfy.

These are examples of people who are so spiritually hungry that they attack each other.

The solution?

In my hometown of Bassfield, Mississippi, when an older lady saw a young mother with a hungry, or hungry-looking, child, she would tell the girl, “You need to feed that baby!” Then, without hesitation or permission, she would reach into her purse , pull out a candy bar, a pack of crackers, or some other snack, and hand it to the child.

The solution to the spiritual food crisis is for us -- the church, children of God, saints, believers in Jesus, Saved, Elect, Chrisitians-- to feed the babies. If you have received the living water of the Holy Spirit,
if you have any knowledge of the milk of the Word,
if you have given your life to Jesus, the bread of life,
if you seek to be filled with the meat that is the Father’s will,
then you must reach down, take out what you have and share it with whomever looks hungry around you.

If you are starving yourself, get to some food. Take advantage of the promise Jesus made to the woman at the well in John chapter 4. Recognize Jesus as Messiah and Lord of your life, and he will rehydrate you with living water. He will help you how to grow on the milk of the Word. He will be your bread of life. He will give you the meat of the will of the Father.

Confess your sins to God. Ask forgiveness in Jesus name. Accept Jesus as Savior and Lord of your life. Repent and be saved.

Matthew 5:6 Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.