Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery

Love Letter #7 says, “Thou shalt not commit adultery.”1 Adultery comes from the Hebrew word, ne’ifa, and the standard interpretation is “intercourse between a married woman and a man not her husband.”2 Yet, this word, ne’ifa, by definition, extends to both men and women. Hence, any sexual relationship outside of God’s Edenic marital covenant between a man and a woman is adultery, and this love letter applies with equal force to both men and women alike.3
Unfortunately, however, “current thinking and practice make light of lasting commitments in which both spouses are sexually faithful to each other until death. But Scripture regards any sexual relationship outside of marriage as sin.4

Despite this biblical admonition, the proliferation of pre-marital and extramarital sexual relations has skyrocketed as expressed in the countless storylines and themes of popular television sitcoms and movies viewed on conventional television, the internet, and in theaters. Moreover, the global teen pregnancy rates, and the steady rise of unwed mothers, sexually transmitted diseases, and divorce attests to the increase in adulterous relationships.

Recreational sex is the norm today. Three in 10 teen American girls will get pregnant at least once before the age of 20, which constitutes nearly 750,000 teen pregnancies per year.5 Additionally, 40% of all births in the United States are to unwed mothers, with 72% of all births to Black women occurring outside of marriage.6 Furthermore, 20 million new sexually transmitted disease cases are reported globally each year,7 and 50% of all marriages in the United States end in divorce.8
Our Creator, knowing these devastating effects of adultery, shared this love letter for our own good. He knew that a standard to protect the marital bond was necessary, given His knowledge that adulterous relationships would have negatively enduring effects on His children.
“Such liaisons defraud the legitimate sexual partner, and may harm him or her physically, emotionally, financially, legally, and socially. They hurt the extended family, and if children are involved, they particularly injure them. The cloud of lies and dishonesty that hovers over such affairs so destroys trust that it may never be restored.”9

God has good news, however; He still restores! For those who have fallen prey to adultery and have disregarded Love Letter #7, there remains hope! God’s word conveys this hope in the words of 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”10 After God forgives, His restoration process goes into effect!
This restoration process is illustrated through the life cycle of a water bottle. When we look at an unused water bottle, the bottle is clean, pure, and spotless. The water inside the bottle looks fresh and wholesome. When we get ready to drink, we’re happy because we know the water is going to pour into us and help us restore what we lost. Yet, before we drink from the water bottle, there’s a small sign on the bottle that says, “recycled product,” which implies that before we saw the clean, pure, and spotless water bottle, it was dirty. It had been used before. It had been thrown into the garbage. It was in the trash. But then one day, someone picked the water bottle up, dusted it off, and took it to a recycling plant. The water bottle went through the recycling process, and was then filled up again with fresh, clean water to be poured into someone else’s life.

For the individual who has been a participant in adultery and dishonored Love Letter #7, God has a recycling process. You may have been used, abused, and thrown in the trash, but Jesus loves you! He can pick you up again! He can dust you off again! He can fill you up again so that you will be able to pour into someone else’s life again! Remember, “if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”11
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CARLTON P. BYRD, D.MIN., is Senior Pastor of the Oakwood University Church in Huntsville, Alabama and the speaker and director for Breath of Life Television Ministries.

  1. *All scriptural texts are taken from the King James Version unless otherwise indicated.
  2. Exodus 20:14.
  3. http://judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/11021/what-does-adultery-mean-in-the-7th-commandment
  4. Hebrews 13:4; Revelation 21:8.
  5. Seventh-day Adventists Believe. . . A Biblical Exposition of 27 Fundamental Doctrines, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists Ministerial Association, Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1988, 300-301. Leviticus 20:10-12; Proverbs 6:24-32; 7:6-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9, 13, 18; Galatians 5:19; Ephesians 5:3; 1 Thessalonians 4:3.
  6. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/unmarried-childbearing.htm
  7. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/unmarried-childbearing.htm
  8. http://www.cnn.com/2016/10/20/health/std-statistics-record-high/index.html
  9. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Divorce_in_the_United_States
  10. Seventh-day Adventists Believe. . . A Biblical Exposition of 27 Fundamental Doctrines, 301. First John 1:9.
  11.  Second Corinthians 5:17.



Thou Shalt Not Kill

Love Letter #6 says: “Thou shalt not kill.”¹ In other words, “you shall not murder.” Despite this admonition from God, the frequency of murder is so rampant that you and I have now become desensitized to this subject and accustomed to hearing about killings on the 6 o’clock news. In 2015 alone, the latest year for recorded murders in the United States, “there were a total of 15,696 reported murders and non-negligent manslaughter cases in the United States.”² Moreover, according to the World Health Organization, “On an average day (worldwide), 1,424 people are killed in acts of homicide (almost one person every minute); roughly, one person commits suicide every 40 seconds; and about 35 people are killed every hour as a direct result of armed conflict.³

The aforementioned demonstrates the culture of violence and killing around the world. This is not just in real life, but also in the life of fantasy and make-believe. In fact, if we don’t see a murder in a movie, the movie is boring. Moreover, the ratings of our movies are determined by how much violence there is. In music, the arts, and video games, killing has become a kind of entertainment because our world has a craving for it. When you consider this, it makes you wonder if Love Letter #6 has gotten lost in the midst of all this hysteria. And so, in a culture of killing, do we still hear God’s voice saying, “Thou shalt not kill” ?

Yet, every killing hasn’t been with a gun, knife, shotgun, bomb, or tank. If we expand our understanding of this commandment, it extends beyond the palpable perception of murder. For example, who has been killing someone with his or her tongue? With his or her speech? With treacherous gossip? As followers of the Love Letters, we’re quick to say if someone has gods, other than God. We’ll rebuke someone for taking the name of the Lord in vain. We’ll stress the importance of God’s Sabbath observance. We’ll look with a jaundiced eye if one doesn’t honor and respect one’s parents. What about killing someone with your tongue? What about killing someone’s character and reputation with your words? The Bible is clear, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.”4

Let’s go a step further and not limit our understanding of killing to the taking one’s life, or killing another with conversation, but let’s also include killing one’s own body with the injurious intake of harmful foods and drinks. In short, many people are killing themselves by what they put in their bodies. We’re cautioned in scripture, “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God! Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.”5

The words, “Thou shalt not kill,” are also applicable to alcohol, wine, and strong drinks. “Wine is a mocker. Strong drink is raging. And whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise!”6 If not here on this earth, persistent use of these drinks will result in eternal death. “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”7

Nevertheless, “Thou shalt not kill” is also related to the eating of unclean foods, specifically unclean meats. Leviticus 11 explicitly outlines those animals that are clean versus those that are unclean. Those who persist in eating unclean meats will burn when Jesus comes. “For, behold, the Lord will come with fire, and with His chariots like a whirlwind, to render His anger with fury, and His rebuke with flames of fire. For by fire and by His sword will the Lord plead with all flesh and the slain of the Lord shall be many. They that sanctify themselves, and purify themselves in the gardens behind one tree in the midst, eating swine’s flesh, and the abomination, and the mouse, shall be consumed together, saith the Lord.”8
This love letter from the Lord succinctly says, “Thou shalt not kill!” Don’t kill physically! Don’t kill with your tongue! Don’t kill with what you put in your body! “Thou shalt not kill!” And because I love Jesus, and I desire to love Him in the way He wants to be loved. I will not kill.
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CARLTON P. BYRD, D.MIN., is Senior Pastor of the Oakwood University Church in Huntsville, Alabama and the speaker and director for Breath of Life Television Ministries.

*All scriptural texts are taken from the King James Version unless otherwise indicated.
1 Exodus 20:13
2 www.statista.com/statistics/195331/number-of-murders-in-the-us-by-state
3 www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/pr73/en
4 Proverbs 18:21
5 First Corinthians 10:31 and 1 Corinthians 3:16, 17
6 Proverbs 20:1
7 Galatians 5:19-21
8 Isaiah 66:15-17




The Honor Due Parents

The first four love letters (commandments) that God gives us in Exodus 20:3-11 deal with our love for Him. The final six love letters deal with our love for our fellow man. In Matthew 22:36-40, Jesus reiterates this love construct by saying, “The first great commandment is thou shalt love the Lord Thy God with all thy heart, with all they soul, and with all thy mind. And the second is likened unto it. Thou shalt love Thy neighbor as thyself. On these two hang all the law and the prophets.”
Beginning with Love Letter #5, we now see the shift from our vertical relationship with God to our horizontal relationship with others. The admonition in this letter is to love our parents, “Honor thy father and thy mother that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord, thy God, giveth thee.” In addition to this transition, this specific love letter is the first commandment with a promise.
The promise is clear: “If you honor your parents, you will enjoy long life on the earth.” Yet, when this is read, there is a tendency to believe that if one honors his or her parents, then he or she will live a long life. Being respectful to one’s parents doesn’t automatically qualify anyone for longevity in life, however. The correct understanding of this promise was applied to the children of Israel. If they obeyed their parents, they would live a long time in the land that God was giving them. Remember, the people of Israel had been brought out of Egypt and brought out of slavery, but they had not yet entered the Promised Land. The Promised Land was the land God was giving to them. The Message Bible puts it simply, “Honor your father and mother so that you’ll live a long time in the land that God, your God, is giving you.”

If you give respect, you’ll get respect.

Honors For Elders
Nevertheless, from a topical perspective, the love letter says, “Honor your parents. Honor your grandparents. Honor your great grandparents. Honor your forefathers. Honor your seniors. Honor those who have gone before you.”
To honor is “to respect greatly; regard highly; treat with deference and courtesy.” The Hebrew root word used here for honor is kabead, which means, “to make heavy.” In other words, don’t take your parents lightly. Give them the respect and reverence they deserve. This is critical.
Unfortunately, for some, this love letter challenges those who have found it difficult to honor parents who, because of inadequate support, poor parenting, and bad examples, don’t warrant their child’s respect. Yet, in spite of what parents have done, this is not a command honoring “perfect” parents. God specifically says, “Honor thy father and thy mother.” God doesn’t say, “Honor your father and mother if they deserve it, if they’ve been good to you, or if they’ve never made mistakes. God says, “Honor your father and mother.” So while it may be arduous to honor one’s parents given their less than positive behaviors, one should still honor the position of fatherhood and motherhood.

Turnabout
The Bible is also clear that what “one sows, one shall reap.” So if you have children, the way you honor your father or mother, will likely be the way your children honor you. The honor you give is the honor you will receive. If you give love, you’ll get love. If you give respect, you’ll get respect. If you give honor, you’ll get honor. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. “Give and it shall be given unto you.” “Honor thy father and thy mother.” That’s Love Letter #5.


CARLTON P. BYRD, D.MIN., is Senior Pastor of the Oakwood University Church in Huntsville, Alabama and the speaker and director for Breath of Life Television Ministries.

*All scriptural texts are taken from the King James Version unless otherwise indicated.
1 Matthew 22:36-40
2 Exodus 20:12
3 Exodus 20:12, Message Bible
4 www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/honor
5 www.biblestudytools.com/lexicons/hebrew/kjv/honor




A Date With God

vividly remember the first date I had with my wife, Danielle. It was at Oakwood College (now University) in the College Skating Rink where one of the university clubs was having a dinner. I remember what we wore, ate, and talked about. In preparation for this “date,” I made sure I looked my best, dressed my best, smelled my best, and acted my best! Although people were trying to engage in conversations with me, not to mention there was a dinner program simultaneously taking place, my attentions were solely focused on Danielle.

The time we spent together on this first date was meaningful as it laid the foundation for a lifelong commitment that we made to one another on December 21, 1997. Standing before God, our families, our friends and our church, we entered the sacred estate of holy matrimony. Over 19 years later, we’re still going on dates, spending valuable time together, and we’ve been blessed to have four beautiful daughters (one deceased).

Every week, however, I have another “date,” but this date is with God! After six days of labor and work during Creation week, our Creator set aside the seventh-day, Sabbath, as a day of rest for us, and a time of worship to Him. During this twenty-four hour period, from sunset Friday to sunset Saturday, I have a weekly “date” with God! I refrain from doing my own ways, finding my own pleasure, or speaking my own words. My attentions are focused on God and His love for me.

Because we love Him, we honor this date.

The venue for our “date” is His house, His sanctuary, and I worship Him—continually thanking Him for His grace and mercy! When I enter His house for this “date,” I look my best, dress my best, smell my best, and act my best—not because my worship offering is greater because of these actions, but because He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords and I celebrate the fact that I can be in His presence!

Most dates, be it a concert, dinner, or social event, come to an end as they only last for a specific time period. Yet, the good news about our date with God is that it will continue throughout eternity. “For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, saith the Lord, so shall your seed and your name remain. And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one Sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the Lord.” This means that when we reside in God’s great heaven, we will celebrate the Sabbath with Him without end!

Let us never forget that God gave us His commandments, His love letters, because He created and knew what was best for us. He instituted the Sabbath, Love Letter #4, because He loves us and knew we’d need a specific day of rest and refreshment, along with a precise period of worship to Him. Because we love Him, we honor this “date,” and spend valuable time with Him coming aside from the daily rigors of life. I enjoy my present “dates” with God, but I look forward to the day when these “dates” never end and our time together is infinite!

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CARLTON P. BYRD, D.MIN., is Senior Pastor of the Oakwood University Church in
Huntsville, Alabama and the speaker and director for Breath of Life Television Ministries.

*All scriptural texts are taken from the King James Version.

1  Genesis 2:1-3

2  Exodus 20:8-11

3  Leviticus 23:3; Luke 4:16-20

4  Isaiah 58:13-14

5  Leviticus 23:3; Luke 4:16-20; Psalm 122:1;

6  Revelation 17:14

7  Isaiah 66:22-23

8  John 14:15




Mind Your Mouth

The directive, “Watch your mouth,” has been uttered for many years by parents telling their children to watch what they say. If a child is getting passionate and high-spirited in a discussion with his or her parents, the child will hear, “Watch your mouth!” If a child starts getting sassy and insolent with his or her parents, the parents might retort, “Watch your mouth!”

In the third of His ten “Love Letters” (Exodus 20:3-17) to us, His children, God is telling us, “Watch your mouth.” When you refer to Me or when you speak to Me, there is a certain way you are re supposed to call My name. You are not to be careless. You are not to be reckless. You are not to be funny. You are not to be facetious or flippant. If you love Me, call Me by My right name and use My name in the right way.”

Clearly, God is protective of His name, which is why He told us to proceed with caution in the handling of His name. He specifically said in Exodus 20:7, “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.”1

To “take in vain” means to use God’s name in an irreverent or irresponsible manner. It means to treat it with no more respect than any other word in the English language.

Our works should testify to our words

But God gave us His name, YAHWEH, which means “I AM that I AM”2 to underscore the importance of His name, and to emphasize that it was not to be used in cavalier fashion. In fact, Hebrew history indicates that in biblical times God’s name was off limits to be pronounced. The only people who were given license to pronounce His name were the high priests. None of the Hebrews or Israelites would ever announce His name because His name was holy.

Holy is defined as “set apart for the service of God; sacred.”3 Because the name of God is holy, it is set aside; set apart. It is not to be played with, used in meaningless banter, or verbalized in crass profanity. If you’re going to love God the way He wants to be loved, He’s saying, “Watch your mouth when it comes to My name!”

Let me add, however, another injunction when it comes to the name of God. Through our actions and behavior, we should also properly reflect God’s name. Put simply, God’s name is not limited to our conversation, but it also encompasses our conduct. Hence, the application of this love letter from God extends beyond our words and also includes our works because the way we live can be an affront to the name of God. Our works should testify to our words. As Christians, we are followers of Christ, and our actions should align with Whom we follow. We are not to be bad advertisement for God, typifying inconsistency between our words and our works. Others should know we are Christians by our love. If we’re going to carry God’s name, let’s carry it proudly!

The power of life and death is in our tongues.4 Let’s speak life and watch our mouths.

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CARLTON P. BYRD, D.MIN., is Senior Pastor of the Oakwood University Church in
Huntsville, Alabama and the speaker and director for Breath of Life Television Ministries.

*All scriptural texts are taken from the King James Version.

1 Exodus 20:7.

2 Exodus 3:14.

3  www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/holy

4 Proverbs 18:21




God’s Love Letters To Humans

In God’s second “Love Letter” to His people as recorded in the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:3-17), He says, “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.  Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments” (Exodus 20:4-6).

When we read this directive, we may be tempted to presume we don’t have to be immersed in its application. After all, how many people actually bow down to a graven image in our contemporary society?  Yet, beyond our worship posture, God is admonishing us that if we’re going to love Him, we are not to worship or deify anything or anybody other than Him.  Hence, a graven image is not limited to a figure, likeness, or illustrative icon—it could be money, a house, car, or desired possession.

This love letter also contains God’s clear statement that He’s a “jealous God.”  When reading this, however, it is important to understand that the divine application of jealousy is far different than human comprehension of the same.  Remember, God says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways” (Isaiah 55:8).

When we think of jealousy, we often think of it in a negative sense as an individual who cannot tolerate the thought of someone else having something they don’t have. Such jealousy is rooted in envy, a self-absorbed loathing of someone because you want what he or she has. Nevertheless, there’s a distinction between jealousy and envy.  Jealousy can be good or bad depending on the object of the jealousy, and the reason for the jealousy.  Envy, which is nearly always bad, is a feeling of displeasure over the blessings someone else is enjoying. Jealousy makes us want what others are enjoying, while envy makes us want to deprive them of that enjoyment.

God, however, is not envious of us.  He wants us to experience the joys of life! (See Psalm 16:11).  So when the Bible says, “God is a jealous God,” the correct interpretation of this is that God is “fiercely protective” of us.  There’s a big difference between being jealous of someone, and being jealous for someone.  God is not jealous of us, but rather He’s jealous for us.  True love is never jealous of someone you love, but it’s always jealous for the person you love!

In this “Love Letter,” God is saying, “I’m jealous for you!  I don’t want you worshipping, or bowing down to anything or anyone else. I’m a jealous God!”  In other words, God is not jealous or envious of us, but God has a holy zeal for us.

What a blessed assurance to know that God loves us so much that He’s intensely protective of us!  Why?  He’s our Creator!  We are His creation! (See Genesis 1:1, 26.) He’s our Shepherd!  (See Psalm 23:1.)  We are His people!  The sheep of His pasture! (See Psalm 100:3) And one day soon, God will redeem His creation, His people, from this earth! (See John 14:1-3; 1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17.) 




Put God First

In Exodus 20:3-17, we find the Ten Commandments as written with the finger of God to His people. These directives are not declarations of rules or restrictions, but these are 10 ways to express our love to God. Jesus said in Matthew 22:37, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. And thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” When you consider this directive of love, it’s merely an expansion of the Ten Commandments. The first four commandments deal with our love for God, and the final six commandments deal with our love for one other.

Jesus further admonished us in John 14:15, “If ye love Me, keep My commandments.” This command also affirms the fact that our obedience to God should be rooted in our love to Him. To put it another way, if we love God, we ought to love God in the way He wants to be loved. He wants us to love Him through obedience to His commandments. Hence, the commandments are embedded in love not merely in law. And I like to refer to them as “Love Letters from God”—to us.

I’m to be your only God, not your favorite God.

In Love Letter #1, God tells us in Exodus 20:3, “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.” God is very serious about this directive, which is why He made it His first command. Because when we put other things or people first in our lives, we reduce God to anything—but not first place. God, however, is not to be relegated below anything or anyone. Moreover, the subsequent nine commands are inconsequential unless you accept and follow commandment one.

We are to “seek God first and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto [us],” according to Matthew 6:33. Nothing comes before God, because if it does, we have breached commandment one. We can’t move to the other commandments.

Additionally, God is not saying in this love letter that you can have other gods, and you can worship all the other gods you want. “I just want to be your favorite”—no. When a groom recites his vows to marry his bride, he’s not saying, “I want to be your favorite husband.” He’s saying, “I want to be your only husband.” Accordingly, God is saying, “I’m to be your only God, not your favorite God.”

The words “favorite” and “only” are not synonymous. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, favorite means the one that is “preferred above all others of the same kind.” Only means no one else, nothing more, solely and exclusively. When God says, “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me,” God is saying there is only one God. Not a favorite god. Not a god instead of. Not a god in addition to. Not a god in opposition to the one and only true God.

In our highly secular, postmodern world, it is very convenient to put things before God. It is very easy to become so obsessed with our favorite people, places and possessions that they begin to rival our God. We must put God first! God is to be above everything and everyone! There is no one or nothing like Him! He’s the King of kings and Lord of lords! “He is God; there is none else beside Him,” says Deuteronomy 4:35. And remember Psalm 24:1, “The earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.”

Let’s love God the way He wants to be loved and put Him first! Remember His Love Letter #1, “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me!” 

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CARLTON P. BYRD, D.MIN., is Senior pastor of the Oakwood University Church in Huntsville, Alabama.

*All scriptural texts are taken from the King James Version




Delay is Not Denial

My adolescent years were ones in which the soon return of Jesus was imprinted in my mind like an indelible image etched on a printer’s lithography plate. I vividly remember hearing my parents, other family members, pastors and teachers, alike, admonishing me to love Jesus and live according to His Word because Christ’s coming was fast approaching, and He was coming to redeem His followers.

Nearly 40 years have passed since these early impressions, and yet, Jesus still has not come. As a minister of the gospel, like those who have preceded me, I have heralded the loud cry to prepare for Christ’s second advent. With passion and urgency, I have cited Jesus’ words in Revelation 22:12, “And, behold, I come quickly and my reward is with me to give every man according as his work shall be.”  Moreover, given the frequency and intensity of the cataclysmic occurrences in our world—including wars and rumors of wars, famines, pestilences and earthquakes—further illustrate the imminence of this grand event.

Despite the biblical promise of His return, coupled with the physical manifestations pointing to His return, we still eagerly and anxiously await His return. So why the delay? Why are we still here?  What’s preventing His coming?  Is He really coming, and if so, when?

Be confident that delay is not denial. While we don’t know the specific time of His return, we have been assured that His coming is soon. Yet, His coming is being delayed for two primary reasons:

1.  Humanity Must Accept or Reject the Gospel—Revelation 7:1-3 states, “And after these things, I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree.  And I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God: and he cried with a loud voice to the four angels, to whom it was given to hurt the earth and the sea, Saying, ‘Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, until we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads.’”*

God has instructed His angels to “hurt not the earth” until His people have been “sealed. “To receive this sealing, we must accept the gospel of Jesus and follow His commandments, which should be rooted in our love for Him. Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commandments.”  Prior to His second coming, each of us will make a decision to accept or reject Christ. Hence, Christ is delaying His coming until we have made this choice. The prophetic signs of Christ’s coming are being fulfilled daily which suggest that the time to make this choice is elapsing by the minute. We must heed the declaration of the first angel of Revelation 14:7 that it is time to, “Fear God, and give glory to Him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship Him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.”

2. The Gospel Must Go to the Entire World—Matthew 28:19-20, says, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”

Just prior to His ascension back to heaven, Jesus commissioned His disciples to proclaim the universal gospel message to every man, woman, boy and girl. As followers of Christ, we have been given this divine mandate to globally take the good news of a returning Savior to every human creature on planet Earth. Until this is done, Jesus cannot return, making the delay of His return dependent on us. Put simply, Jesus is not coming anywhere until His gospel goes everywhere!

Friends, Christ has not denied the certainty of His return. It has just been delayed. To avoid further delay, and to expedite His coming, let’s lovingly accept this wonderful gospel message and enthusiastically share it with others. “Even so come Lord Jesus!”    

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CARLTON P. BYRD, D.MIN., is Senior pastor of the Oakwood University Church in Huntsville, Alabama.

*All scriptural texts are taken from the King James Version




Who Has Your Vote?

The year 2016 will be very intriguing on the political campaign trail since this is a presidential election year for the nation’s highest office. Campaign speeches, candidate debates, politician promises, and television advertisements are the order of the day. From reduced taxes to national security, each candidate has a promise for a better future with the pledged intent to be the best individual to lead arguably the most powerful nation on earth.

Political parties, campaign workers, political action committees, labor unions, and caucus groups alike are lobbying on behalf of their selected candidate to secure votes. The question, “Who has your vote?” will be asked throughout this period in efforts to ascertain candidates’ standing with voters. Voters will research candidates’ platforms, review their congressional voting records, listen to presidential debates, study political agendas, read media blogs, evaluate candidate pros and cons, and then make a decision to support their preferred candidate.

As a minister of the gospel, I dare not mix church and state issues, but juxtapose the aforementioned question, “Who has your vote?” to a greater reality that affects not one’s political penchants or likings, but one’s eternal life.

While an American leader can only keep a campaign promise for a maximum of eight years, let me remind you of a leader who has made an eternal promise to us.1 This leader is King of Kings and Lord of Lords,2 and His platform has forever been one of love.3 His track record has always embodied teaching the Word, preaching the good news, healing the sick, caring for the poor, and setting people free.4 His passion for people has been centered in giving them life.6 Moreover, with Him, there are no property taxes, because He paid it all for us on Calvary.6 This leader is none other than Jesus Christ! Jesus has my vote! He has my support! He’s not a Democrat, Republican, or Independent. He’s just my Savior!

A vote is defined as “a formal opinion or choice.”7 So, to cast a vote for Jesus is to formally choose Him. You’re letting everyone officially and overtly know that Jesus is your choice! While this vote is not cast in a voting terminal, booth, or cubicle, I’d like to suggest four ways in which you can cast your vote for Jesus:

1) Through love – Jesus said, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”8 We are further admonished, “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth, not knoweth not God; for God is love.”9

2) Through obedience – Jesus says, “If you love Me, keep My commandments,”10 and what a joy it is to obey Him knowing that great peace is afforded to those that love His law!11

3) Through worship – Again, Jesus declares, “God is a Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.12 The great psalmist exhorted, “Praise ye the Lord. Praise God in His sanctuary: praise Him in the firmament of his power. Praise Him for His mighty acts: praise Him according to his excellent greatness. Praise Him with the sound of the trumpet: praise Him with the psaltery and harp. Praise Him with the timbrel and dance: praise Him with stringed instruments and organs. Praise Him upon the loud cymbals: praise Him upon the high sounding cymbals. Let every thing that hath breath praise the Lord. Praise ye the Lord.”13

4) Through service – Let us “serve the Lord with gladness: come before His presence with singing.” The apostle Paul added, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.”14

Jesus made us a promise. He promised that one day soon He is coming back to redeem His supporters!15 We show our support and express our vote for Him through love, obedience, worship, and service! Jesus has my vote! Can He count on yours?       

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Let God Be God

Uncertainty, trepidation, and insecurity are becoming commonplace in our world today. With the proliferation of terrorist attacks, ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) threats, and civil unrest, global security and public safety have become popular “watchwords” in our postmodern society.
Although Jesus foretold in Matthew 24 that our present-day calamities, namely “wars and rumors of wars,” would characterize the imminence of His return, the veracity of such eschatological events has required Christians to acknowledge and accept the reality that we are living in the final days of earth’s history. Moreover, even non-Christians and those of no religious belief system at all have been compelled to concede that something of cosmic significance is fast approaching.
To combat people’s fears, Bible preachers, teachers, and evangelists remind us that God still has everything in control.2 We’re admonished to have faith in God, to believe what we don’t see. Hebrews 11:1 defines faith as “the substance of things hoped; the evidence of things not seen.”3 And “without faith, it is impossible to please God.”
Despite these pronouncements and declarations of faith, however, we are still a people of logic, reason, and rationale. For many it has to “make sense.” One plus one must equal two. A comes first, then B. Like a game of chess, one move determines the next. So while we have the most comprehensive intelligence technologies and powerful military machines in history, we are still called upon to have faith, to believe without seeing when fear and anxiety are rampant among the masses.
But some still ask, “Why all the strife? Why all the conflict? Why all the unrest? Why would a loving God permit the senseless killings we are witnessing and reading about? Why?” We can all come up with varying answers to these the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.”
This is where our faith and trust in God have to be exercised. We cannot explain why these things happen or why they’re permitted to happen, but we must trust God. Remember, “We have nothing to fear for the future, except as we shall forget the way the Lord has led us, and His teaching in our past history.”6 For me, this statement affirms the simple truism, “Let God be God.”
Yes, we have more information now than ever before. Yes, our communication tools allow us to connect with anybody anywhere at anytime. Yes, we’ve even sent a man to the moon. But at the end of the day, we must let God be God and put our faith and trust in Him. “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.”