Can you hear me? Lesson 2

Lesson 2 – Read John 18:28

Just a surface reading of this raises some questions. Why would Jewish leaders think that if they led the Romans to kill Jesus, it would not implicate them? Were they really prioritizing their own ceremonial cleanliness over the life of someone else? Does this resonate with you? If so, tell us how on social media using #messagemag.

2016 July / August Issue

Dr. Destiny

“Modern-day scientist Milton Brown follows in the footsteps of George Washington Carver and Percy Juilan

When Milton Lang Brown, III, M.D., Ph.D., received the 2015 Percy Julian Award last September—the Nobel Prize for black chemists from the National Association for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers—he was compared immediately to the award’s namesake.

by William Lee / Men are beginning to sense that they have been called for a higher and nobler purpose.”

by Tim Allston / Modern-day scientist Milton Brown follows in the footsteps of George Washington Carver and Percy Juilan

by Beverly D. Rivers / This civil rights veteran pioneered the three Rs of compassionate community development.

by Chris Thompson / Singer-songwriter Sheléa Frazier takes her R&B audience to church

compiled by Eugene Anthony / God wants you to know that you are saved so that you can lead others to Him.

by Pat Sparks Harris / Evangelist Charles D. Brooks, Sr. July 24, 1930—June 5, 2016


by Carmela Monk Crawford / Next witness please

Current news & views

by Donna Green Goodman / basil pastabilities!
by H. Jean Wright II / Overcoming stress

by Willie and Elaine Oliver / He’s outgoing, she’s not

by Carlton Byrd / Delay is not denial

by Debra McKinney Banks / Blood on his hands

by Rashad Burden / Can you hear me?

by Donald L. McPhaull / Time to re-friend jesus


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Blood On His Hands

Our Bible study this year recalls the details of the days leading up to the trial, death and resurrection of Jesus. In meditating upon His sacrifice for us in this “thoughtful hour”, we pray that you will sense your connection with all of heaven. Feel free to post your thoughts and reactions to things you have read and experienced in the study, #messagemag. Above all, it is our prayer that you get to know Jesus and experience His life-changing power for yourself.

Pilate had seen a lot of things in his life. As a Roman governor, he had witnessed some serious atrocities and put away many notorious criminals. And, for the right price, he had even condemned innocent people to death. But this was something entirely new.

The man standing before him appeared so calm and dignified. Although dirty, disheveled and bruised, this man they called Jesus of Nazareth, almost looked like He was not of this world. He showed no trace of fear, guilt or shame; nor did He have a bold or defiant look in His eye. Instead, His eyes showed love and compassion—for him. In the presence of Jesus, Pilate felt like he was the one on trial.

News about the works and miracles Jesus performed had traveled all over the region. Even Pilate himself had heard about them in the palace. Jesus could cure the sick, feed thousands and even raise the dead. He was known to do so much good for His people. Why were they trying to kill Him?

“What accusation do you bring against this man?” Pilate asked the Jewish leaders. (These leaders, who refused to ceremonially defile themselves by entering the Gentile Praetorium on Passover, still found it OK to condemn an innocent man to death.)

They lied, “He stirs up the people, teaching throughout all of Judea. If He were not an evil-doer, we would not have delivered Him up to you” (Luke 23:5; John 18:30). That still didn’t satisfy the nagging feeling Pilate experienced that condemning this particular man to death would be the wrong thing to do. He was almost begging for an out.

Pilate was weak and vacillating. He didn’t want to risk losing his position in government and society. Giving in to their demands, he ordered Jesus to be crucified.

Even in the midst of all He was enduring, Jesus saw in Pilate someone with whom the Holy Spirit was striving. Pilate was having an internal, spiritual tug-of-war. There was still a window of hope for him to acknowledge the conviction he felt in his heart. Seeking to justify his position, Pilate tried several times to figure out just who this man was. Finally Jesus replied, “You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice” (John 18:37).

“Pilate had a desire to know the truth. His mind was confused. He eagerly grasped the words of the Saviour, Wife whispering into his earand his heart stirred with a great longing to know what it really was, and how he could obtain it. ‘What is truth?’ he inquired. But he did not wait for an answer,” according to a book about Jesus’s life, The Desire of Ages, by Ellen G. White.

All of the key players in this part of the life of Christ were so close to the truth, but they were blinded by their own fear, pride, feelings of self-righteousness and self-sufficiency. They didn’t know how far they had drifted from the only One who could save them from themselves. The religious leaders had stirred up the angry mob and continued to bury themselves and the Jewish nation as a whole with every word they uttered demanding His death. “His blood be on us and on our children,” they declared. “That awful cry ascended to the throne of God … the blood of the Son of God was upon their children, and their children’s children, a perpetual curse. Terribly it was realized in the destruction of Jerusalem. Terribly has it been manifested in the condition of the Jewish nation for [more than] eighteen hundred years—a branch severed from the vine, a dead fruitless branch, to be gathered up and burned,” the book continues.

Pilate was weak and vacillating. He didn’t want to risk losing his position in government and society. Giving in to their demands, he ordered Jesus to be crucified. Although he tried to literally and figuratively wash the blood of Jesus from his hands, he had already sealed his fate. Not long after the crucifixion, Pilate lost everything he had tried to hold on to and eventually ended his own life.

There is a well-known painting of Jesus standing at a door and knocking. If you look closely, you would see that the doorknob is only on the inside of the house. We control whether or not He can come in. He is not going to kick the door down and barge inside. Instead, He stands there full of love and compassion, patiently waiting while we attempt to hide the filth and dirtiness of our lives.

The Holy Spirit strives with us; prompting us to step over the obstacles, push away the barriers and open the door to our hearts. The King of kings and Lord of lords wants to come in and save us from ourselves. What is holding you back?

DEBRA MCKINNEY BANKS is the communication assistant for the Atlantic Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, and writes from western Massachusetts.

ELLEN G. WHITE (1827-1915), the most translated female author in history and recently named one of the “100 Most Significant Americans of All Time” by the Smithsonian Institution in 2014, was a co-founder of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

*You can read The Desire of Ages in its entirety online at

Can You Hear Me?

Yes, action speaks louder than words. Who you are is defined less by what you say and more by what you do. Jesus said a lot of things that many church people can rattle off on command. The question is: Was it what He did or who He was that validated what He said? I believe it’s both. His true character and resolve appeared in His journey to the cross. He said a lot without uttering many words. His question to us is: Can you hear Me?


Day 1 - Read John 18:19-26

Sometimes we forget that Jesus was a Jew, born and raised. Can you imagine growing up in a religion, your parents being in the religion, only to have the religious people turn on you? Maybe you’ve had this experience. I’m praying healing over you as I write these words. We at Message would love to hear your testimony. Share with us via social media using #messagemag.

Day 2 - Read John 18:28

Just a surface reading of this raises some questions. Why would Jewish leaders think that if they led the Romans to kill Jesus, it would not implicate them? Were they really prioritizing their own ceremonial cleanliness over the life of someone else? Does this resonate with you? If so, tell us how on social media using #messagemag.


Day 3 - Read John 18:29

Pilate gets pulled into this controversy by virtue of his position. I’m always intrigued by how people encounter Jesus. I love when I see stories of people running into God in the most unexpected ways. In this case, Pilate is just doing his job, and God is thrown on his doorstep.

Have you ever seen or heard of someone running into God in a place you wouldn’t expect? Share with us here at Message using #messagemag.

Day 4 - Read John 18:32-33

Why do we conclude that when we choose to follow Jesus, things will get easier? I think there is a disservice done when people think that following God is easy. If it was hard on Jesus, it will be hard on us. Do you notice these verses say this encounter had to happen to “fulfill what Jesus had said about the kind of death He was going to die?” What does this say to you about Jesus? Share using #messagemag on social media.

Day 5 - Read John 18:33-36

I recently used Lyft to go to a concert with some friends. When the driver arrived and greeted us, I noticed his demeanor and his accent. “You’re from New York,” I said. “I wasn’t mean was I?” he replied. “No,” I told him. “It was just the way you carried yourself.” Jesus carried Himself as if He was from a different place, and it was obvious in front of Pilate. Take time to reflect as to what your actions say about your place of origin, especially under pressure. Do you act like this world or another world is your home?

Day 6 - Read John 18:37-38

John sets out his premise clearly in the verses that begin his gospel (John 1:1). He believes Jesus is the Word. He also believes Jesus when He says, “I am the Truth.” For John to write that Jesus says, “Everyone on the side of truth listens to me,” is significant. John’s not talking about a set of beliefs as truth but rather about a person. I believe Jesus wants us to “listen” to His actions. Does Jesus return evil for evil? Does He defend Himself in the face of false accusations? What are we hearing when we look at the life of Jesus as he stands before Pilate?

Day 7

Pilate came to an interesting set of conclusions. First, Jesus was a king. Second, His accusers had no legitimate basis for charges. Do we believe that same thing? Have we had a stressful encounter with Jesus when we were able to ask the hard questions and get the tough answers? I submit to you that if we look at the actions of Jesus, we will hear more than ever came out of his mouth. He asks, “Can you hear me?”


Rashad Burden is the pastor of the Shiloh Seventh-day
Adventist Church in Ozark, Alabama. He also pastors the Mt. Olive Seventh-day Adventist Church in Dothan, Alabama.


Can you hear me? Lesson 1

Yes, action speaks louder than words. Who you are is defined less by what you say and more by what you do. Jesus said a lot of things that many church people can rattle off on command. The question is: Was it what He did or who He was that validated what He said? I believe it’s both. His true character and resolve appeared in His journey to the cross. He said a lot without uttering many words. His question to us is: Can you hear Me?

Read John 18:19-26

Sometimes we forget that Jesus was a Jew, born and raised. Can you imagine growing up in a religion, your parents being in the religion, only to have the religious people turn on you? Maybe you’ve had this experience. I’m praying healing over you as I write these words. We at Message would love to hear your testimony. Share with us via social media using #messagemag.

Time To Re-Friend Jesus

Jesus couldn’t possibly be the only way to God,” stated Oprah Winfrey on her signature television program in 2008.

So, is Jesus the only Way, or should we feel comfortable pursuing other avenues to eternity?

Among Christians, there is some confusion on this point. Although results from a poll taken by the Barna Group in 2015 indicate more than 150 million Americans profess faith anchored in Jesus, only 63% of professed believers agree that salvation comes only through Jesus.1

According to the Barna Group’s research, Jesus suffers even greater rejection as the only means of salvation among a narrow segment of the professed Christian population. While 37% of all professed believers deny Jesus as the only door leading to heaven, in this age of social media, an even greater number of millennials (those born between 1984 and 2002), or 44%, do not see a relationship with Jesus as the one true way to salvation. In essence they have un-friended the Son of God even as they seek other validation for entry into the Kingdom of Glory.

So, is it possible to know what to believe? Indeed it is, and we have God’s Word on it. God’s Word makes us aware of our available options as we journey in this life. Ultimately, the road of life leads in one of two directions. Revelation 20:11-15 identifies one of them. Those who choose this option have selected everlasting destruction as their final destination. Verse 15 shares these sobering words, “And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.”

Trying to get to heaven without having our names in the Lamb’s Book of Life is like trying to walk to New York from Los Angeles by walking west into the ocean. The net result will be no bon voyage and no celebration at the end of the journey. Destruction is all that awaits those who make the effort to be saved without Jesus. However, Revelation 21:1-4 provides insight on the other direction life’s road takes. It leads to life eternal in the Holy City, New Jerusalem, whose inhabitants shall abide in the presence of God forever.

How do we earn a place in that city? We don’t! Jesus has done that for us. His life, death and resurrection have made it possible for us to have this hope of everlasting life. Possession of such knowledge helps to make the words of John 14:1-6 all the more thrilling to believers. Contained in the passage is a promise from Jesus that He would “go to prepare a place” for us, the New Jerusalem, that we might “be with” Him forever. And, He declares Himself to be “the Way” for acceptance into the city. So, not our merits, but His, make it possible for us to enjoy life eternal with God.

Jesus, Himself, declares that each of us must choose which direction we want to travel on life’s highway. Again, the two choices are compared, in Matthew 7:13, 14: “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.”

So, which will it be: wide and broad or narrow and difficult? No one can choose for us. It’s a personal decision that each of us must reach. As we consider our options, it is prudent for us to consider Peter’s words in Acts 4:12: “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

True, some talk of other options to life eternal. But, their speculations, theories and philosophies serve to remind us of the counsel of the wise man in Proverbs 14:12:

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.”

How many ways to salvation? Only one. And, in light of God’s Word, now would be the right time to re-friend Jesus.


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!”    


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

Next Witness Please

A 1968 Harris poll indicated that whites and blacks were deeply divided as to what they perceived to be the American Mass Shootings Statscauses of race riots. “Police brutality against Negroes” was a major cause according to 51 percent of blacks polled and of 10 percent of whites polled.

Almost 50 years later, a gap still exists in the perception of police. A 2014 CBS poll found that 74 percent of blacks compared to 28 percent of whites polled thought that police are too quick to use deadly force.

What must the numbers say now, in light of highly publicized shootings by police and of police? What is the reason for a credibility gap that falls along racial lines? Is there an incident, a statistic or any credible voice that can close the gap?

Star Witness With Studies

In a memorial for five Dallas police officers shot by a black gunman, President Barack Obama walked in gingerly. He talked to two communities. On one hand, he said, painting all police with a broad brush of bias is not honest and creates a dangerous atmosphere. Police are thus at risk so are the communities they serve. On the other hand, growing despair over disparate treatment must not be overlooked in the wider, whiter community. How can you ignore this, he asked, “when study after study shows that whites and people of color experience the criminal justice system differently . . .[?]”

“[W]e cannot simply turn away and dismiss those in peaceful protest as troublemakers or paranoid,” Obama said to applause, according to the White House Press Office. “We can’t simply dismiss it as a symptom of political correctness or reverse racism. To have your experience denied like that, dismissed by those in authority, dismissed perhaps even by your white friends and coworkers and fellow church members again and again and again—it hurts. Surely we can see that, all of us.”

Obama’s words will be critiqued through the lenses of political analysis, or entertaining commentary. Many blame him for what they perceive as new rates of racial division. A “Wall Street Journal” article in July reported the disparity in viewpoints on that very issue: “Among blacks, 51 percent say Mr. Obama has made progress, a sentiment shared by just 28 percent of whites. On the other end, 5 percent of blacks and 32 percent of whites believe Mr. Obama has made race relations worse.”

If President Obama’s word and experience hold little weight, can we draw from our collective human experience instead?

Everyday Experience

Unfortunately, everyday experiences for most whites do not include real black lives or experiences. Good luck finding someone for a jury or citizen review board who understands the disparate treatment of their fellow black citizens. A 2013 American Values Survey conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute indicates that the social circle for most whites is still very segregated.

The social networks of most whites is 91 percent white, 1 percent black, one percent Hispanic, 1 percent Asian, 1 percent mixed race and 1 percent other race. Seventy-five percent of whites move in networks that are completely white, according to the article “Self-Segregation: Why It’s So Hard for Whites to Understand Ferguson,” published in Atlantic Monthly in August 2014

“Therein lies the fundamental difference: a radical contrast in experience and, therefore, perspective,” wrote Sojourners founder and CEO Jim Wallis in his book America’s Original Sin. “Believing that black experience is different from white experience is the beginning of changing white attitudes and perspectives. How can we get to real justice if white people don’t hear, understand, and, finally, believe the real-life experience of black people [?]”

Enter the poster-child witness:

Character Witness

Philando Castille Art
Original art by Broderick Poole

After 32-year-old Philando Castile was shot by police in June, loved ones of the St. Paul, Minnesota, school cafeteria supervisor wanted the record set straight.

“Once again we have the death of an innocent black man whose life was taken at the hands of an officer, due to his “wide-set nose,” Shiloh Baptist Church pastor, Steve Daniels, preached loudly. “He was not selling CDs. He was not selling cigarettes. He was not resisting. He was not running. … He was hardworking, respected by men, and, most of all, he respected the law!”

Castile was described as “Mr. Rogers with dreadlocks” yet, since age 19, police stopped him more than 30 times. They cited and fined him for minor violations 50 times. The profiling resulted not in additional safety to anyone, but in an unnecessary and unjustified death.

Roll the footage:

Video Evidence

As Philando Castile lay bleeding in his car, his girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, calmly captured his last breaths in video on her mobile phone. She posted it to Facebook. Upon being stopped—whether it was for a broken taillight, as Officer Jeronimo Yanez told her, or because he looked like an armed robbery suspect—Yanez shot Castile to death.

“That guy reaching for his registration papers was not a dangerous situation,” said Diop Kamal, a former cop and long-time police abuse crusader and CEO of Of course he wasn’t there, one would argue. He could not know the factors that played into the officer’s decision. But without the video evidence, statistics show Yanez would be credible to the wider public. Fortunately, this time, it’s on video. But even that is already being refuted.

Internal Affairs

    There may never be evidence that stands up to the scrutiny of biased thinking. Credibility is in the eye and will of the beholder. We have to want to make things fair and right.

     That is what the president alluded to in Dallas. “[S]o much of the tensions between police departments and minority communities that they serve is because we ask the police to do too much, and we ask too little of ourselves.”

Muhammed Ali photo

Elevation 2016 July/August

The goal of Elevation is to take your mind to a higher place by introducing resources that will help you soar! If you have a book, an app or new music, write me at for review!

Here are some new resources to consider in your journey of purpose.


LoveDay book cover

“He Already Put a Ring on It”  Shari A. Loveday

Shari Loveday makes finding love practical and identifies with those who go through the journey of finding love. It includes a 30-day devotional with “date night” suggestions for how to set the mood for intimacy with God.

12 Shades of Man cover

“12 Shades of Man: Testimonies & Transitions to Manhood”   Various Authors; Editors, Eric Thomas and Jeremy Anderson.

This book provides riveting testimonies of men who have dealt with pain, doubt and temptation. Each author shares a testimony of his experience in his journey to success—and even some of his failures. It brings transparency and helps men answer the question, “When God shines your light on you, what shade of man will you be?”


 Anthony Cedars CD cover  Anthony V. and Cedars. Anthony Vaval has been a great support to my ministry in Brooklyn. After a long journey with his group, Cedars, he has released the single “I Will Forever.” It’s an awesome contemporary praise song that all should add to their digital library. It’s available on iTunes and Google Play.
 David Bratton CD Cover  David Bratton. After writing the chart-topping hit gospel song, “Every Praise,” David Bratton released his live LP, “Every Praise Live!” with his wife, Valena Bratton, and God’s Blueprint for Life Ministry. This is a great worship and praise album that is a powerful resource for worship teams in churches all around the world.
 Ray Robinson CD Cover  Ray Robinson, Canadian former crooner and rapper, shares a soulful musical experience in his debut gospel album, “Do You Hear Me?” His words and music are about truth and realization. No parental advisory is necessary with this album.
 LIVRE CD Cover  Livre is a group of friends with a passion for Christ. Their energy on stage is matched with their studio performance. Their debut album, “Jericho: Tribe of Joshua,” is a fusion of various styles of music ranging from contemporary gospel to R&B and more. They present worship in a fresh and relatable way.


 Praize Vision App

Praizevision  |  Watch church congregations as they live stream (or archive) their worship services weekly. Gain inspiration through the word of God, music and other podcasts from this app.

 Group Me App

Group Me  | Do you have a list of people to text that is too large for your phone? Use GroupMe and text as many individuals as you need to.

Scan Biz Card App

ScanBizCards  | I use this app because I get business cards all of the time. It helps to scan the card and download it to my phone right away. Great for fast organization.