Hometown Hero

Our Bible study this year recalls the details of some life-changing, biblical personal encounters with Jesus. Feel free to post your thoughts and reactions to things you have read and experienced in the study, #messagemagazine. Above all, it is our prayer that you get to know Jesus and experience His life-changing power for yourself.

Good coming-home stories take us back to the place where it all started. The rags-to-riches stories of successful athletes, business owners, physicians, or musicians that nobody thought would make it, all defy the limits. We often learn of the teacher who believed, or a coach who saw the talent beyond the circumstances at home. These redeeming stories of hope inspire the soul and are an all-out assault on labels placed on people.
When Jesus went home He was not the same person who left. Now He was a rabbi, a healer, and hope-giver who has followers. He knew what He was about, and His reputation preceded Him. But this is the latest download and update for those at home. They knew who He was; they knew His sisters; they knew the house He grew up in, but who is this guy? No, at His homecoming, Jesus received no celebration, pats on the back, smiles and waves from the neighbors, or a key to the city. Even the homies from around the way didn’t bother to throw a party.
Instead, they doubt and question Jesus. Mark writes the story this way in chapter 6:
“And on the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished, saying, “Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works done by his hands? Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.” (ESV)*
In other words, “Who is this guy?”
He is the founder, CEO, and lead attorney of earth’s Innocence Project with the sole mission to be an advocate for those who have sinned, and to save through His grace those who come to Him in faith. He is unbeaten on the road, flawless in His execution, and has found His niche.
Don’t hate, He is simply about His Father’s business. Being on the road changed Jesus, but doing His Father’s work, and living His purpose changed Him more. He was unrecognizable. And that was a good thing for the world.

The “haterade” flowed like water at home though. Who do you think you are? How dare you return home and speak like this?

It is out of our emptiness that we fill ourselves with the blood of others who we have limited, and even killed with labels we have placed on them. Humans were labeling pros in the time of Christ, and today we carry on the tradition. We even do it to ourselves. Labels on birth limitation, and they often shackle their captives emotionally without the possibility of parole. We limit each other. We incarcerate each other. Those who take the risk of a prison-break are sometimes tried by a jury of peers and found guilty of attempting to exceed expectations. Jesus had broken free, and wanted the people in His hometown to be free as well. They, however, could not be. They would not be.

Who is this guy?
Deeper yet, what happens when the blessing we need does not appear the way we expect? Jesus simply came to be a blessing, and the limits of his community, and His home stood in the way because He is not Jesus talking with a manwhat they expected. We treat our retuning children this way. We miss blessings because the person or vision did not fit the description. Too young. Too bold. Too much. Labels. Limits. We are missing out! How many years will we waste because we have no faith in the generation that is coming home? How long will we let our best minds, and most talented give their best outside of the city walls?

Who is He we ask?
An earlier chapter in Mark says that while in a storm that threatened shipwreck, and the lives of all aboard, Jesus is sleeping. He is labeled as not caring. All they could see was imminent destruction, but Jesus reminds them that He is not limited by storms and waves, and the fear of losing His life. He simply says, “peace be still.” Who is this guy? He speaks and nature listens.
Jesus then steps on the shore and strips off the label of “crazy demon-possessed man” from an outcast who was living among the dead. Jesus gave this shackled man unfettered freedom of life. Who is this guy, that even demons obey Him?
Jesus then rips the label of “incurable” from a woman by the mere touch of her hand to His garment. He is not done yet, because He deals with the biggest label of all, death. He rips the label of death off of Jarius’ daughter and she is brought back to life.
If I were there that day, I hope that I could say, “Jesus I want you to do your thing right here. You are always welcome here. Here is the key to the city, and I can’t wait to see what you will do right here at home.”
Who would He be then? The Savior of the world, the slain Lamb of God, and the coming King. The One who can free us from our limits and labels. Jesus/Savior.


Baron A. Sovory is a pastor, husband, father, and youth leader in Southern California.

*Scripture quotations marked ESV are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Too Much Jesus

Too much religion. Too much church. Too much Jesus? For many it is hard to drive to the store without running into some sort of ministry. Steeple after steeple, cause after cause. It seems as if someone is always trying to find a way to spread the “Word.” Have you ever wondered if someone could have too much Jesus? Can you be around Him so long that you get weary of His presence? Let me ask a question that may be more relevant: Is there a time when you can get so familiar encountering Him that He no longer influences your life in the miraculous way He is capable of? As we continue exploring the different encounters people have had with Jesus, let us look at those who were exposed to Him the most.


Day 1 - Read Mark 6:1

Sometimes it is hard to think about the reality of “God with us.” This verse uses a very interesting word when it comes to describing where Jesus was going: hometown. Can you imagine what it was like to live in the same town and see the development of the One who was to save the world? Have you ever wondered? Tell us what you think about this. We at Message would love to hear it.

Day 2 -Read Mark 6:2

I must admit that in writing this, it just dawned on me that Jesus not only had a hometown, but also a home church. To get a real feel for the amazement that those who were in the synagogue experienced, the next time you go to church, look at one of the children in your congregation and try to see them as the King of the universe. Envision them as having all power and authority. Tell about this exercise. Can you do it? Does it make you chuckle? Tell us about it.

Day 3 - Read Mark 6:2,3

From the last section, are the questions that were asked truly preposterous? There is something to be said about the effect of familiarity. Has God become familiar to you? When was the last time Jesus truly blew your mind, or caught you off guard? Read Hebrews 13:8, Romans 11:34, and Isaiah 55:8, 9. How do these fit together? What do they say about being “familiar” with God?


Day 4 - Read Mark 6:4

It seems as though the hardest setting to share and live the Gospel in, is around those who call you family. The ones that know you the best are often the hardest to reach, because either they know your story, or are not open to what you have to say because of history. Jesus seemed to experience this also in Nazareth. The people believed they knew Him so well that it was a foreign possibility for this man to be the Messiah. Is there someone who has been trying to talk to you, but you do not listen to them because you are close? Is there someone God has put on your heart to reach out to, but you are hesitant to do so with because of the nature of your relationship? Write out a prayer. Do not say their name if you do not want to, but write it out, and if you are willing, share your prayer so we at Message can pray with you for that situation.

Day 5 - Read Mark 6:5

It may amaze you, but you have the power to stifle God’s power in your own life, and those around you. The people of Nazareth somehow found a way to get the Bible to say “He [Jesus] could not . . .” Is it possible that God has intended to do some things in your life, but your expectation of Him is that He will be and do what He always has? And has that perspective limited what actually happens? Can you by the power of the Holy Spirit identify something you may be limiting God from doing? Let us know here at Message. We would love to pray for you in this.


Day 6 - Read Ephesians 3:20

Make a list of the things in your life you are looking for God to show His power in. Then make a list of what you think the best outcome would be. Read the verse above again and erase, or rewrite your answer. I am convinced that no matter how fantastic our scribbling get, God can exceed them. In your own way, praise God for what He is going to do with your list. If your praise takes the form of a song, poem, picture, or anything else that is shareable, we would love to be blessed by your praise here at Message. Share it with us.

Day 7 - Read Mark 6:6

I pray that God takes you and me to a place that our name can never appear in this verse. If faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God, I look forward to God dispensing His word in such excess that we will amaze Him with the abundance of our faith.



*Scriptures quotations credited to NIV are from the Holy Bible, New International Version. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Rashad Burden is the associate pastor of the Progression church, in Atlanta, Georgia.



As questions go, theirs seemed simple enough. “What will be the sign of your coming, and of the end of the age?” The earthly ministry of Jesus was winding down. Enjoying a rare moment alone with Him on the Mount of Olives, the disciples had begun peppering Him with questions about His departure, and His promised return. News of His imminent departure had stunned them. Word that He would be returning had no doubt provided some comfort. But, clearly, not wanting to be taken by surprise when He returned, they raised an essential question, “what sign should we look for?”
The question must have brought a smile to the heart of Jesus. After all, ever seeking signs from God, mankind seemed to habitually misinterpret signs given by God, or routinely ignored them. His own birth was a prime example. The signs had been everywhere that God’s promise of a redeemer had been fulfilled in Bethlehem. Still, the vast majority of God’s people missed that
magnificent moment.
M. H. Manser has observed that the reality and authority of God are confirmed supernaturally through the signs He ordains. “Signs,” wrote Manser, “may serve either as a warning to those in rebellion against God, or as encouragement for those serving God. And, in His description of signs in the world prior to His second coming, the imagery offered by Jesus was stark, portending a time of turmoil for mankind when the earth would be littered with the wreckage of conflict, pandemic depravation, and the aftermath of widespread natural disasters.”
We now find evidence for each of these in events occurring in our time period. As a result, some Christians teach that because we see these events, the end is here. But, is that true?
In this age of social media and around-the-clock cable fare, it is easy to assign significance to the political upheavals, natural disasters, and current events that fill our daily news cycles. Despite our best efforts, peace on earth cannot be found. Wars rage in Afghanistan, Iraq, Mali, Nigeria, Ukraine, and other hot spots around the world. The Asia Pacific region has been racked by typhoons and tsunamis. The earthly landscape seems to be an animated billboard of signs heralding the end of the world and the second coming of Jesus. This has resulted in any number of professed prophets declaring that these events are signs of the end. Such conclusions might even seem reasonable, considering Jesus’ response to the disciples’ request for signs of the end. Since, globally, it is now possible to find much of what had been foretold by Jesus, doesn’t that mean the end of the world is at hand? Actually, it does not.
As often happens, when some Christians rehearse the twenty-fourth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, they miss key aspects of the signs referred to by Jesus. It is true that the Lord spoke of conflicts and calamities, but a careful reading of the passages involved reveals what is often overlooked. Clarification is offered in Matthew 24:6, “But the end is not yet.” According to Jesus there is more to come. In fact, He reiterates in Matthew 24:8, “All these are the beginning of sorrows.”

For those who have chosen to embrace a relationship with the King of Glory, these signs are not a time for distress.

Based on current events, and their misreading of the signs, some have chosen to sound the alarm, causing fear and concern among God’s people. However, we can avoid confusion through a faithful reading of God’s Word. Jesus counseled in Luke 21:9, “But when you hear of wars and commotions, do not be terrified; for these things must come to pass first, but the end will not come immediately.”
There is no need to guess when the end shall arrive. The Lord has provided in His Word wisdom for His people regarding end time events. Nations shall war. Earthquakes will cause devastating temblors. Famines will spread. Pestilence will gain a global foothold. But, these signs merely represent the beginning of the end. However, for those who have chosen to embrace a relationship with the King of Glory, these signs are not a time for distress. To the contrary, these signs confirm that their faith has not been in vain. Jesus is about to return.
The final signs, marking the end of the age and the return of Jesus, will be reflected in the seven last plagues. Revelation 16 reveals the nature of those signs. In Egypt, the children of God were protected under the banner of the blood as the plagues fell. When the seven last plagues fall, the children of God will be likewise protected under the banner of the blood. The fulfilling of this prophetic truth will be the ultimate sign that our redemption is completed. That shall be a clear sign that we will see Jesus as He is, and we shall be as He is. A sure sign that eternity is ours to live.

Greater than a Presidential Pardon


The Simonian Farm in Fresno, California is one of the most renowned family-run produce farms in the United States. Founded in 1901 by Armenian immigrant, Baghdasar Simonian, ownership of the farm has passed through three generations of family leadership to its current owners, Dennis and Bonnie Simonian. Situated on 80 acres in the San Joaquin Valley of California, the Simonian Farm produces more than 180 crops, and seasonal fruits including cherries, peaches, nectarines, apricots, apples, pomegranates, blackberries, grapes, boysenberries, and figs.
One September day in 1995 the Simonians learned that they would receive a visit from the president of the United States, Bill Clinton. They received a telephone call regarding this special visit less than an hour before Clinton was to arrive. So what began as a normal day of vocational routine turned into an emotional frenzy bordering on pandemonium in preparation for the president’s visit.
Given all that had to be done, and the honor of meeting the president, the Simonians decided that their daughter, Ashley, should miss school. Because meeting the President was such a rare opportunity, they further believed no teacher would refuse to grant an excused absence for their daughter.
Just as they said they would, President Clinton and his entourage arrived at the Simonian Farm, and marveled at the operations, and products of the farm. The president also signed several autographs. While he was signing Ashley’s memory book, an onlooker mentioned that Ashley had skipped school to meet him. Without hesitation, and in the middle of the farm produce store, the president invoked his full authority and wrote an excuse for Ashley’s absence from school that day. In essence, she had a Presidential Pardon!
“Presidential pardons have been issued for murderers, thieves, embezzlers, and derelict soldiers. But I imagine Ashley’s pardon was a first in American history: a presidential pardon for absence from school. Regardless of his or her politics, it would be a rare teacher who would refuse to accept an excuse from one of the most powerful authorities on earth”.
obamalettertopsealCan you imagine how this written pardon by the president would be cherished, and for generations to come, it would be the centerpiece for the momentous events of that day? From the frantic scramble to prepare for the president’s arrival, to his actual presence, and signing of the excuse, this presidential pardon would forever be etched in the minds of the Simonian family.
Yet, you and I have a pardon, which is of greater value than any excuse note written by a government official including the President of the United States. We have a pardon written by the King of Kings and Lord of Lords! More than any excuse, we have a pardon for our sins, written with the precious blood of Jesus Christ! When we read 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness,” we read our pardon! Praise God for Jesus’ blood! Praise God for Jesus’ sacrifice! Praise God for this pardon! And because of this pardon, we can joyously look forward to Jesus’ soon return!

1www.wikipedia.org and www.simonianfarms.com
2Henry, Jim. In Remembrance of Me. Nashville, TN: Broadman &
Holman Publishers, p. 162.


Ready For Whatever

Our friend and Pastor, Eugene Hamilton, looked up in surprise at his North Charleston prayer meeting on June 10, 2015 to find a White man had slipped into a pew and sat down. Unusual, yes, but nothing over which to stop the service. After prayer meeting, the man simply asked if the church could help him with some money, and it did. Hamilton soon learned that another lone White man visited prayer meeting across town, sought out the pastor, sat through Bible study, then rose to kill nine worshipers before fleeing. “Mother Emmanuel” African Methodist Episcopal Church was left bloodied and bereaved.
“Wow, that could have been me,” Hamilton shuddered in disbelief.

Just as unbelievable has been the praise rising from the city, the church, and believers who flocked in for support, said Hamilton. There the killer’s name, story, and evil are not spoken of. Families of the victims pronounced forgiveness in lieu of condemnation at the killer’s arraignment. And, there, powerful praise still rises in the very church where the enemy sought to ignite a race war.

The Huffington Post captured the essence of that when Alanna Simmons, granddaughter of Daniel Simmons who was killed that day, addressed the shooter. “Everyone’s plea for your soul is proof that they lived in love and their legacies live in love.”

While it seems unthinkable that one could be prepared for such a horrific event, the “Emmanuel 9” were. Real readiness is not only one’s outward preparation; it is also the clarity and commitment that resides within. This distinction was lost on a South Carolina legislator—a colleague of the 41 year-old slain Pastor and legislator Clementa Pinkney—who said the nine “waited to be shot,” and lamented cynically that things would have been different had someone at the church been armed. One can be prepared, and not ready!

The Mother Emmanuel Nine spent their last moments immersed in the Word.

The nine who died that fateful day in June were ready, in the best sense of that word. The aftermath of the tragedy showed that they had lived so well in life that even in death, their spirit of love and forgiveness reached out enveloping the unrepentant murderer who took their lives. If they could send a message from the grave to our cold, cruel world, they’d don the idiom of their forbears and declare, “There are things you don’t know nothin’ bout.

“You don’t know nothing about being so immersed in the Word that you welcome your murderer unawares into the warm embrace of spiritual nurture, only to be mercilessly killed by him moments later. Loved ones left to live on and love on without you.

“You don’t know nothin’ ‘bout this—this having the Word so deeply rooted in your heart that Emmanuel comes to inhabit your being, for the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:2). We knew Emmanuel, and we reflected His love when gave our enemy a seat in the circle. That was consistent with who Jesus is, but you don’t know nothing about this.

“You don’t know nothin’ ‘bout people who surrender the relentless struggles of life for moments in the presence of the Spirit. But we, the Emmanuel 9—the God-With-Us-Nine—wanted to be with Him. Do you know anything about that?

“You don’t know nothin’ ‘bout being ready. Since when did exercising faith in God become conditional on whether or not someone was going to do us harm? Aren’t we supposed to be ready for whatever comes (2 Peter 3:12)? We’re sorry. You wouldn’t know nothing about that.

“You don’t know nothin’ ‘bout surrender—about leaving burdens at the altar, artifice on the chopping block, yourself at the cross. You don’t know what it is to be vulnerable, unmasked, and exposed, or what it feels like to bring faith to a firefight. It does not compute. Yet, even the Great “God With Us” forestalled legions of angels when His enemies came to get Him (Matthew 26:52-53; John 18:10-11).

“You don’t know nothin’ ‘bout forgiveness, the kind that is spoken through grief, and offered with trembling hands and blood-stained clothes (Luke 23:34). We forgave not because we are good, but because that is what Jesus did—not because we have to, but because we are free to.

“You don’t know nothing about the mystery of evil that constantly threatens humanity (Ezekiel 28:15). Its invisible infrastructure is directed at you every day in a myriad of micro-assaults. Do you know that you are under attack by the enemy of your soul?

“Are you ready?”
Lose the Fear: How to BE Ready for Anything!
1. Jesus will be back, John 14:3.
2. Learn to discern the impostors now, Matthew 24:24.
3. Expect Him to come literally, Acts 1:11; Luke 24:36-43.
4. When He comes, if you are alive, you will see and hear Him, Matthew 24:30; 1 Thessalonians 4:16.
6. Live for Him now, Matthew 25.
7. Hold on and use the “patience of the saints,” Revelations 14:12.
8. Open your heart for the sealing of the Holy Spirit, Revelation 7:1-3.
9. Be an angel. Help someone get ready, Revelation 14:6-10, 2 Peter 3:12.
10.Accept His love. Jesus is waiting for you, 2 Peter 3:8,9; Malachi 3:17.

Elevation 2015 July August

The greatest thing you can do every day is to seek elevation in your relationship with
Christ. The Holy Bible, will help lift you closer to Jesus. Whether you use an app, a music
player, or a paperback book to draw closer to God, know that He is waiting to meet you.

Kurt Carr Kurt Carr wrote a song, “We Gotta Put Jesus Back”, encourages songwriters and artists to make Jesus the focus of their lives and ministry. This song offers a strong admonition to gospel ministry workers in the music, book, and social media genres.Prosperity, favor, and overcoming difficult circumstances have been the themes on which many artists have focused. These themes are great, especially because they minister to people who are going through hard times. However, in response my Father loves to quote Matthew 23:23, “These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.” All themes have their place, but they all should lead to one major theme: salvation through Jesus Christ, and the call to be ready for heaven when He returns.
donnie-mcclurkin-biolarge_robinmark The song “Days of Elijah of Elijah” from Donnie McClurkin’s 2005 hit album, Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs, became a blessing to many congregations as believers longed for Jehovah to come riding on the clouds to take his people home. Others have also written songs about Jesus’ return. Lamar Campbell wrote a song titled “It’s Over There.” “Home Someday,” recorded by McClurkin and artist Duawne Starling followed the same theme and gospel standouts Take 6 lent their soulful melodies to “Glorious Day.” Take 6 recorded Glorious Day. Sharon Riley and James Hall got in on the act with the song “Caught Up.” The “Well Done” theme has been the subject of wonderful songs by artists such as Tye Tribbett and Dedrick Haddon. Even pop artist Jennifer Hudson lent her powerful vocals to “Jesus Promised Me a Home Over There.”
the great controvasy_cmyk Some book say that the second coming of Jesus will be secret rather than public event. Here are some books that tell the truth about the return of our Lord and King. The books of Daniel and Revelation are excellent sources on end-time events and manner of Christ’s return. No matter how dark things seem, God always comes out victorious and so will the people of God. The Great Controversy by Ellen G. White has been on of the most widely sold publication on church history and the events preceding Second Coming of Jesus. It tells of martyrs and their zeal for truth and light, and of Martin Luther who launched the protestant reformation. Professor Jon Paulien in What The Bible Says About the End Time and Keys to Unlocking Revelation tells us how God will emerge victorious at the end of time. Ready or Not by G. Edward Reid is another easy to understand work on the Second Coming. These readings will give great insight into the events that we face today, and a lot of hope on how God will save His people in the end.
The Bible Info App by Simple Updates provides a wealth of answers to questions on Scripture. Breath of Life, Amazing Facts, It Is Written, Signs of the Times, and Studying Together Apps provide a lot of great information about the second coming, and other deep subjects of the Bible.
Remember, the second coming of Christ is a promise, and an awesome event. Salvation is assured to those who believe and keep the commandments of God as a light unto their path. God will use every means–print and electronic–to share the gospel with men and women. Let us seek the Lord while He may be found and call upon Him while He is near (Isaiah 55:6).


2015 July/August Issue

Urban Prophets – “I wasn’t a good enough sinner that God’s grace wouldn’t cover me,” says Jeremy Anderson, whose group travels the United States preaching God’s Grace. P.14

Urban Prophets – “I wasn’t a good enough sinner that God’s grace wouldn’t cover me,” says Jeremy Anderson, whose group travels the United States preaching God’s Grace. P.14


by Jeremy Anderson / Road trips and stories that transform lives.

by Jill Monet / Where can you go that He cannot find you?

by Brian Thomas Jr. / God showed up and revealed Himself in a jail cell.

20 THE STORYTELLER’S CHANGE by Javan Cornelius / As the filmmaker, he documented The Grace Tour. Grace transformed him.


by Paula Webber / Homeland Security readiness expert, Herma Percy, helps you get ready for the next big one.

by Donald L. Bedney, II / Your destiny on that Great Day does not have to be a mystery.

by Melvin Hayden, III / Seven must-haves that prepare you for the certain crises of uncertain times.

by Phillip McGuire Wesley / MEDIA THAT TAKES YOU HIGHER

by Carmela Monk Crawford / NO NEED TO FEAR


by Donna Green Goodman/ OUT OF THE GROUND

by Willie and Elaine Oliver / GETTING THE KIDS READY FOR JESUS



by Rashad Burden / TOO MUCH JESUS?

by Donald McPhaull / SIGN ME UP!


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