Latest Issue

I Saw A Man Die


Free online articles from the Magazine.

FEATURES

28 ARE WE THERE YET?
by G. Russel Seay /
The destiny of your choosing awaits.

FAVORITES

5 EDITORIAL
by Carmela Monk Crawford /
I Dream a World Where We Can Make It Stop

23 FUTURECAST
by Carlton P. Byrd /
SO MANY CHURCHES, HOW DO I PICK ONE?

24 THE EXPERIENCE
by Ellen G. White /
GET JUSTICE FOR ME

25 THE EXPERIENCE STUDY
by Rashad Burden /
SAVING LIFE




Are We There Yet?

Have you ever been annoyed with the kid in the backseat yelling, “Are we there yet?” We forget that we were once that kid. We are built to be concerned about our destiny. People spend billions each year to get insight to their future, from church (needing a prophetic word), to astrology, tarot cards, and psychics. What makes us obsessed with destiny? 

Four character traits we all possess create a drive to determine our destiny. We are made to live with purpose; we are rational; we are imaginative, and we have the power of choice. Humanity is concerned with destiny on a personal and cosmic level. To live with purpose is to live believing your life has meaning. To live rationally is to live grounded within a reality that makes sense –logically and sensibly. To be imaginative means that you can investigate future that does not yet exist. That which is not yet future, can become a future because humans have the power of choice.

Your Choice, then there’s God’s Choice

Your destiny is ultimately linked to your choices. The quality of your choices is dependent on your knowledge and emotional health. Partial knowledge, even when your motives are positive, can lead to negative outcomes. Before making a major decision, it is very important to do your research. Also evaluate your emotional health or state at the moment you are contemplating making a major decision. Try to avoid making major decisions during times of grief and even times of euphoria. 

In the Hebrew and Christian Bibles, God demonstrates that He does not force a person’s will. One can find such an example in the story of the prophet Balaam (Numbers 22-25). When a foreign king, Balak, contracted with Balaam to curse Israel, God told Balaam not to. Balaam, desiring the bounty Balak was offering, tried everything he could. However when he tried to curse Israel only blessings came out of his mouth. While Balaam could not audibly curse Israel, his will was not changed, so he cursed them in his heart.

Free Will

Another story that most church-going kids know, is the story of Jonah. God told him to go and preach to the people of Nineveh. Jonah refused and decided to go in the opposite direction. God, however, arranged a three night stay in the Big Fish Motel, which gave Jonah time to reflect over his decision. Jonah changed his mind and at the end of the three days, he decided going to Nineveh wasn’t so bad after all.

If God, who gave us free will, does not force our will, what is His role in our lives? First, we should be clear why we have free will. God desires to have a loving relationship with humanity based on trust freely given. Love can only be given freely if we have a free will. While God can be coercive in matters of universal concern, He will not coerce individuals to love Him. God expresses his love and care in so many ways. Some of those ways are inscrutable, the things that cause grief and sadness. God yearns to guide us to paths that lead us into closer relation with Him and fellow humans. He died to make a way for our ultimate destiny –a life eternal where things that cause us hurt, pain, and grief will no longer exist. As our relationship with God deepens and matures, so too does our trust and ability to discern God’s will for our lives.

Joseph’s Dynamic Destiny

The Bible story of Joseph (Genesis 37—50), the son that Jacob had with Rachael, can be a helpful parable to illustrate the dynamic relationship between God’s will and our will. Joseph was the eleventh and favorite son of Jacob. This favoritism bred jealously among his brothers. To make matters worse, Joseph shared two dreams that God had given him to forecast his destiny. Those dreams essentially meant that one day Joseph was destined to be the leader of his family. 

When Joseph’s brothers plotted to kill him, it would seem as though they made sure his dreams would not come to pass. They threw him into a pit, selling him to a band of merchants who sold him into slavery in a foreign land—Egypt. Then his owner’s wife falsely accused him and had him thrown in jail. Jail had to be the place from which he could never imagine being elevated into the cabinet of Pharaoh, yet, this former slave and felon became the secretary of Agriculture. Famine overspread the land, and Joseph’s family traveled to Egypt for grain, eventually appealing to the secretary of Agriculture, Joseph. Though he recognized his brothers, they did not recognize him. Finally, when he pressured his brothers to bring their father on their next trip for grain, and they did, Joseph’s destiny was fulfilled.

Joseph’s faith in God’s will guided him through each turn. God only gave him his destiny; not details relative to its path. The path is not always smooth or easy. Your faith must focus on God with each step and turning point. I am sure when Joseph must have asked “am I there yet?” that he trusted His God. He refused to get off the path until God said, “We’re here!” 

God has a plan for your life. God has promised, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end” (Jeremiah 29:11 KJV).




Saving Life

What is Love? Who is love? How do you love? Maybe you’ve asked one of those questions. At least, you have heard them asked at some point or another. What if I told you that justice and love in the Bible are the same? Would you believe me? Let us journey through this experience as we find out how God’s love in you can bring justice and save life.


(1) Read Mark 3:1; Isaiah 1:17; Micah 6:8

We are introduced to a man in Mark 3 who has a visible difference that alienates and marginalizes him in society. In his time, he had no business being in the synagogue, and his exclusion stemmed not from his actions, but because of something over which he had no control. Can you imagine being pushed to the sidelines of society because of some outward thing that you can’t help? Talk to us about it on Social Media using  #MessageMag.

(2) Read Mark 3:2; Mark 2:23-27; Psalm 37:27-29

While this man with a withered hand stands there, others in the synagogue are wondering if Jesus will heal him on the Sabbath. What they don’t realize is that Jesus uses the Sabbath to give people who are weary, rest. Who is more weary than individuals like this marginalized man? Do you know of any? How do they fall into this category?

(3) Read Mark 3:3; Prov. 28:5; Psalm 33:5

Jesus then does the unthinkable. He asks the man who isn’t even supposed to be in the room to stand up, front and center. How loving it is to give attention to the ignored, a voice to the silenced, and a platform to the underserved. Jesus empowering someone to stand in a place he should be, but policy forbids, is justice.

(4)

I must say that it intrigues me to no end that this man had his life changed by following the simple directions of Jesus. It wasn’t a series of positive actions. It wasn’t a history of good behavior. It wasn’t credit for some good deed. It was simply doing what Jesus told him to do. Be like this man. Don’t let your condition dictate your actions. Jesus is a professional at looking beyond our faults and seeing our needs. #RighteousnessByFaith

(5) Read Mark 3:4; Deuteronomy 27:19; Jeremiah 22:3

Jesus then asks them about justice. They have no reply. If Jesus asked you about justice would you have a response? What would it be? Share what you would tell Jesus about love on Social Media using #MessageMag. We’d love to hear from you!

(6) Read Mark 3:5; Job 12:22; Psalm 140:12

The passion of Christ reaches a fever pitch, and the Bible describes Him as distressed and angry! Why? Because these church people refuse to acknowledge that this alienated and marginalized individual is the one who has been excluded from the privilege of accessing a good life like everyone else. There is no way this still happens in 2020, is there? If so, how? Share your thoughts with us on Social Media using #MessageMag

(7) Read Mark 3:5-6; Isaiah 61:8-9; Zechariah 7:9-10

Jesus empowers this man to lift his hand and be healed. The saving of this man’s life put Jesus’ life in danger. The same can happen for those who wish to love as Jesus did. When your love steps out in public and is exposed as justice, know that you need not worry about your life because Jesus is saving for you.

…......……………………………………………………………….

Rashad Burden is the pastor of the Mount Olive and Shiloh Seventh-day Adventist Churches in Southern Alabama.

2020 July August cover
This article is part of our 2020 July / August Issue
Subscribe –>


“Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart, saying:

“There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God nor regard man. Now there was a widow in that city; and she came to him, saying,  ‘Get justice for me from my adversary.’ And he would not for a while; but afterward he said within himself, ‘Though I do not fear God nor regard man, yet because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.’ ”

Then the Lord said, “Hear what the unjust judge said. And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them? I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?” 

Luke 18:1-8

Get Justice for Me – When Heaven Has Enough

A Reflection

Selected from Christ’s Object Lessons, by Ellen G. White, “Shall Not God Avenge His Own?”

The Scriptures describe the condition of the world just before Christ’s second coming. James the apostle pictures the greed and oppression that will prevail. He says, “Go to now, ye rich men, . . . ye have heaped treasure together for the last days. Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth. Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton. Ye have nourished your hearts, as in a day of slaughter. Ye have condemned and killed the just; and he doth not resist you” James 5:1-6. This is a picture of what exists today. By every species of oppression and extortion, men are piling up colossal fortunes, while the cries of starving humanity are coming up before God” (p. 170).

The world has become bold in transgression of God’s law. Because of His long forbearance, men have trampled upon His authority. They have strengthened one another in oppression and cruelty toward His heritage, saying, “How doth God know? and is there knowledge in the Most High?” Psalm 73:11. But there is a line beyond which they cannot pass. The time is near when they will have reached the prescribed limit. Even now they have almost exceeded the bounds of the long-suffering of God, the limits of His grace, the limits of His mercy. The Lord will interpose to vindicate His own honor, to deliver His people, and to repress the swellings of unrighteousness” (p. 177).

They “shall have judgment without mercy” that have “showed no mercy” (James 2:13.) Not long hence they will stand before the Judge of all the earth, to render an account for the pain they have caused to the bodies and souls of His heritage. They may now indulge in false accusations, they may deride those whom God has appointed to do His work, they may consign His believing ones to prison, to the chain gang, to banishment, to death; but for every pang of anguish, every tear shed, they must answer. God will reward them double for their sins” ( p. 179).

From India, from Africa, from China, from the islands of the sea, from the downtrodden millions of so-called Christian lands, the cry of human woe is ascending to God. That cry will not long be unanswered. God will cleanse the earth from it moral corruption, not by a sea of water as in Noah’s day, but by a sea of fire that cannot be quenched by any human devising”  (p. 179).

…......……………………………………………………………………………….

2020 July August cover
This article is part of our 2020 July / August Issue
Subscribe –>

…......…………………………………………..

ELLEN G. WHITE (1827-1915), one of the most published authors in the world, 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 www.whiteestate.org/onlinebooks.





Get Justice for Me – When Heaven Has Enough

“Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart, saying:

“There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God nor regard man. Now there was a widow in that city; and she came to him, saying,  ‘Get justice for me from my adversary.’ And he would not for a while; but afterward he said within himself, ‘Though I do not fear God nor regard man, yet because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.’

Then the Lord said, ‘Hear what the unjust judge said. And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them? I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?’” 

Luke 18:1-8


A Reflection

Selected from Christ’s Object Lessons, by Ellen G. White, “Shall Not God Avenge His Own?”

The Scriptures describe the condition of the world just before Christ’s second coming. James the apostle pictures the greed and oppression that will prevail. He says, “Go to now, ye rich men, . . . ye have heaped treasure together for the last days. Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth. Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton. Ye have nourished your hearts, as in a day of slaughter. Ye have condemned and killed the just; and he doth not resist you” James 5:1-6. This is a picture of what exists today. By every species of oppression and extortion, men are piling up colossal fortunes, while the cries of starving humanity are coming up before God” (p. 170).

The world has become bold in transgression of God’s law. Because of His long forbearance, men have trampled upon His authority. They have strengthened one another in oppression and cruelty toward His heritage, saying, “How doth God know? and is there knowledge in the Most High?” Psalm 73:11. But there is a line beyond which they cannot pass. The time is near when they will have reached the prescribed limit. Even now they have almost exceeded the bounds of the long-suffering of God, the limits of His grace, the limits of His mercy. The Lord will interpose to vindicate His own honor, to deliver His people, and to repress the swellings of unrighteousness” (p. 177).

They “shall have judgment without mercy” that have “showed no mercy” (James 2:13.) Not long hence they will stand before the Judge of all the earth, to render an account for the pain they have caused to the bodies and souls of His heritage. They may now indulge in false accusations; they may deride those whom God has appointed to do His work; they may consign His believing ones to prison, to the chain gang, to banishment, to death; but for every pang of anguish, every tear shed, they must answer. God will reward them double for their sins” ( p. 179).

From India, from Africa, from China, from the islands of the sea, from the downtrodden millions of so-called Christian lands, the cry of human woe is ascending to God. That cry will not long be unanswered. God will cleanse the earth from it moral corruption, not by a sea of water as in Noah’s day, but by a sea of fire that cannot be quenched by any human devising”  (p. 179).

…......………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

ELLEN G. WHITE (1827-1915), one of the most published authors in the world, 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 www.whiteestate.org/onlinebooks.

2020 July August cover
This article is part of our 2020 July / August Issue
Subscribe –>

…......…………………………………………..


What is Love? Who is love? How do you love? Maybe you’ve asked one of those questions. At least, you have heard them asked at some point or another. What if I told you that justice and love in the Bible are the same? Would you believe me? Let us journey through this experience as we find out how God’s love in you can bring justice and save life.

 

(1) Read Mark 3:1; Isaiah 1:17; Micah 6:8

We are introduced to a man in Mark 3 who has a visible difference that alienates and marginalizes him in society. In his time, he had no business being in the synagogue, and his exclusion stemmed not from his actions, but because of something over which he had no control. Can you imagine being pushed to the sidelines of society because of some outward thing that you can’t help? Talk to us about it on Social Media using  #MessageMag.

(2) Read Mark 3:2; Mark 2:23-27; Psalm 37:27-29

While this man with a withered hand stands there, others in the synagogue are wondering if Jesus will heal him on the Sabbath. What they don’t realize is that Jesus uses the Sabbath to give people who are weary, rest. Who is more weary than individuals like this marginalized man? Do you know of any? How do they fall into this category?

(3) Read Mark 3:3; Prov. 28:5; Psalm 33:5

Jesus then does the unthinkable. He asks the man who isn’t even supposed to be in the room to stand up, front and center. How loving it is to give attention to the ignored, a voice to the silenced, and a platform to the underserved. Jesus empowering someone to stand in a place he should be, but policy forbids, is justice.

(4)

I must say that it intrigues me to no end that this man had his life changed by following the simple directions of Jesus. It wasn’t a series of positive actions. It wasn’t a history of good behavior. It wasn’t credit for some good deed. It was simply doing what Jesus told him to do. Be like this man. Don’t let your condition dictate your actions. Jesus is a professional at looking beyond our faults and seeing our needs. #RighteousnessByFaith

(5) Read Mark 3:4; Deuteronomy 27:19; Jeremiah 22:3

Jesus then asks them about justice. They have no reply. If Jesus asked you about justice would you have a response? What would it be? Share what you would tell Jesus about love on Social Media using #MessageMag. We’d love to hear from you!

(6) Read Mark 3:5; Job 12:22; Psalm 140:12

The passion of Christ reaches a fever pitch, and the Bible describes Him as distressed and angry! Why? Because these church people refuse to acknowledge that this alienated and marginalized individual is the one who has been excluded from the privilege of accessing a good life like everyone else. There is no way this still happens in 2020, is there? If so, how? Share your thoughts with us on Social Media using #MessageMag

(7) Read Mark 3:5-6; Isaiah 61:8-9; Zechariah 7:9-10

Jesus empowers this man to lift his hand and be healed. The saving of this man’s life put Jesus’ life in danger. The same can happen for those who wish to love as Jesus did. When your love steps out in public and is exposed as justice, know that you need not worry about your life because Jesus is saving for you.

…......……………………………………………………………….

Rashad Burden is the pastor of the Mount Olive and Shiloh Seventh-day Adventist Churches in Southern Alabama.

2020 July August cover
This article is part of our 2020 July / August Issue
Subscribe –>





I Dream a World Where We Can Make It Stop

I dream a world where man
No other man will scorn,
Where love will bless the earth
And peace its paths adorn
I dream a world where all
Will know sweet freedom’s way,
Where greed no longer saps the soul
Nor avarice blights our day.
A world I dream where black or white,
Whatever race you be,
Will share the bounties of the earth
And every man is free,
Where wretchedness will hang its head
And joy, like a pearl,
Attends the needs of all mankind-
Of such I dream, my world!
—Langston Hughes

Back to back Black bodies building up in the streets have our communities triaging men downed in the coronavirus, racism and poverty pandemics. One hundred years on from Langston Hughes’ dreaming, this nightmare is still going.

I recently discovered the work of Kareem Lucas, who Kickstarted a theatrical event around his observational poetry. His “Rated Black: An American Requiem” sits on an unusual, dramatic device: a young man preemptively administering his own “homegoing” ahead of what he expects to be his inevitable, tragic demise.

“After consuming all this violence upon and death of Black people I decided to tell my own story on my own terms in my own way, before I become a trending hashtag that’s an unwilling martyr, or a super predator instantly shamed and blamed,” Lucas wrote in a petition for funds for “Rated Black.” “Death is not a distant thought. Death is a fast approaching inevitability that must be accepted and appropriately planned for.”

God, where am I going?
The lines in front of me
use references that lie,
and the truth is not a direction.
I need to inspect my expectation.
I wish I could talk to my destiny
and ask it ‘What will I be?

A month ago, I was ready to chuck the silly dreams for a collective destiny of co-existence. No trigger warning could have prepared my spirit for the murderous aggression we saw against Ahmad Arbery by a white former police investigator and his son. Nothing could rouse us from the nightmare of knowing Breonna Taylor perished when police shot her in her sleep. I couldn’t stomach the evil of police officer Derek Chauvin’s barbarism toward George Floyd. Nothing steals your optimism more than hearing of white Christian brothers wonder why George Floyd has been made a martyr. This has been a rape of our fragile peace.

Except, then, the people took to the streets. Now Congress is pushing through a bill—likely to face hurdles in the Senate, and risk of veto—that renounces brutish practices such as chokeholds, and “no-knock” warrants. When the people took to the streets, we see District Attorneys bringing their case against murderers, and securing indictments, and exacting justice for the depravity with which these people treat life. When the people took to the streets they mounted attacks on the symbolism of racist regimes. They turned their sights to monuments to the civil war, the confederacy and slavery worldwide. This included that of ole’ Jefferson Davis, the president of the confederacy, who fell with a crunch on Richmond, Virginia’s Monument Avenue. Pennsylvania Avenue, with one of the world’s most famous addresses, is now our yellow brick road, for it declares that “Black Lives Matter.” And who knew that Martin Luther King Jr.’s often repeated dream would see fulfillment, not in child’s play, but in the coming together of little children of all races to fight the power.

Can I dare to dream that this will change anything? My personal piece ‘d resistance came in the observation of a grainy image of hope, when police vehicles clustered in my neighborhood. While the lights swirled and officers worked, off on a side street sat a little red hatchback. Its young, white, male driver—sealed inside—trained his cell phone camera on their every move.

2020 July August cover
This article is part of our 2020 July / August  Issue
Subscribe –>

 

 

 

 

 

 




So Many Churches, How Do I Choose One?

We have churches everywhere today. We have churches on every corner. Big churches. Little churches. Urban churches. Rural churches. Some churches clap their hands. Some churches don’t. Some churches say, “Amen.” Some churches don’t. Some churches have musical bands. Some churches don’t. Some churches have long services. Some churches don’t. We have churches everywhere.

Every church preaches love. Every church preaches forgiveness. Every church preaches salvation. We have churches everywhere preaching everything.

Now let me be clear that there are good people in all churches. There are good Christians in all denominations. But, when I consider a church, it’s not about who has the nicest building. It’s not about how many members you have. It’s not whether you have a television ministry or not. It’s not about how many choirs or praise teams you have. While all of these things may be good, I’ve learned in my life that that’s not why you should become a member of a church. Rather, you should become a member of a church where God’s unadulterated Word is being preached.

You must be where the people, though they may be imperfect, are pursuing a perfect message. There are too many churches where anything goes. In these types of churches, you can do anything you want. If it feels good, do it. But Jesus is coming back soon for a church “without spot or wrinkle;” one that is “holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:27).

The signs pointing to the imminence of Christ’s return are increasing every day. Jesus foretold us in Matthew 24 that there would be wars and rumors of wars, earthquakes, famines, pestilences, and so much more just before His second coming. We can clearly see that the Coronavirus, the current modern-day pestilence, has ravaged our world, and people are still dying.

Sadly, the world is not going to get better, but it’s going to get worse. We don’t have time to play around with the idea of a church! We shouldn’t attend a church simply because of its popularity. But we’ve got to be where God’s truth is being preached and taught.

Jesus says in Matthew 7:21-23, NIV:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

Today, I’m happy to say that I’m a Seventh-day Adventist Christian! It is not the name, or the denomination that is as important as the indicators, or the signs of a truth-telling and truth-seeking body of believers. So, in seeking a church, make a decision based on Bible-based reasons. Here are factors that I believe rightfully inform a decision to join a church:

1. Its teachings are in harmony with the Word of God. Isaiah 8:20 speaks about our responsibility to live according to the principles as taught in God’s Word. Hence, it should be our desire to belong to a church that advocates biblical teaching and fosters a biblical lifestyle.

2. It keeps all Ten Commandments of God including the Fourth Commandment to “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8). Revelation 12:17 says that those who follow God and keep His commandments are God’s remnant people.

3. It has the Testimony of Jesus. Revelation 12:17 also states that having the “testimony of Jesus” is a characteristic of God’s remnant. Revelation 19:10 defines “the testimony of Jesus” as “the Spirit of Prophecy,” which demonstrates the abiding witness of God’s saving power through a human vessel.

4. It preaches the everlasting gospel in all the world. Revelation 14:6 reminds us that God’s church will spread the good news of the gospel all around the world, not just locally.

5. It preaches the final three point message of Revelation 14:6-12. These three messages remind us to “fear God,” flee the fallen, rebellious system of Babylon, and to reject the Mark of the Beast.

6. It believes that salvation comes only through Jesus Christ. Acts 4:12 and John 3:16 are abiding reminders that Jesus came to save sinners, and there’s no other way to be saved but through Him.

Perhaps you’re looking for a church. Maybe you’ve become interested in attending church. In your decision process, be sure to consider the list above. And remember, God does care which church I choose, because He’s coming back, not for just any woman, but for His special bride.

…......………………………………………………………………………

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.

_________________

2020 July August cover
This article is part of our 2020 July / August  Issue
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2020 May / June Issue

The Testimony Issue


Free online articles from the Magazine.

FEATURES

28 LAST-MINUTE MINISTRY
by Donald L. McPhaull /
If anything, COVID-19 teaches us to plan ahead.

FAVORITES

5 EDITORIAL
by Carmela Monk Crawford /
Bucket List for the Saved

23 FUTURECAST
by Carlton P. Byrd /
DON’T MISS THE MIRACLE

24 THE EXPERIENCE
by Ellen G. White /
SOCIAL DISTANCE

25 THE EXPERIENCE STUDY
by Rashad Burden /
WHITE AS SNOW




BUCKET LIST FOR THE SAVED

PRAISE GOD FROM WHOM ALL BLESSINGS FLOW

I praise God that even though it looks like we may have to slog through months of economic challenge, health threats, global movements and machinations, He is still in control. We don’t know what’s on the horizon, and truthfully, stock analysts, political pundits, policy makers, and executives don’t either, yet God knows. I praise Him that even now, as the earth experiences a new quiet God’s Spirit speaks to our hearts, and agitates the subconsciousness.

IN MY HEAD. IN MY FEELINGS.

Confession truth: we have nagging questions and unfinished business, made real by the realization that we, too, could contract this virus that could wipe us out in a matter of weeks. As we grieve in acute sadness and isolation the passing of our loved ones, we, too, realize this thing could come for us. There would be no time to say good-bye, no time for getting things in order if they have not already been. Answers to those nagging questions can surely be found in the Word, in prayer and through providence. “And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart,” Jeremiah 29:13.

The midnight madness, the 2 a.m. sleeplessness, and the 4 a.m., listlessness, are all opportunities to seek peace and alignment with the Almighty God.

And, if we don’t let them, there’s not one thing that will take us away from God’s loving care. (Romans 8:38, 39)

FOR THINE IS THE KINGDOM

Expectancy, is a state of joy, not dread. The joys and sorrows here and now, will be completely eclipsed upon the return of Jesus. Even so, come Lord, Jesus! It helps to imagine that moment. What’s on your bucket list? Here’s mine:

5. I want to reunite with loved ones. I imagine my father clasping the hands of the angel sent to wake him up and bursting forth from that box we laid him in. That “twinkling” moment to come (1 Corinthians 15:51) reminds us that whether your heart disappeared into a hospital, never to be seen again, or whether it visits the graveside every month for decades, this is a season. Like the fragrant cherry blossoms of spring, our friends and family members, asleep in their graves spring up when the light of the Son breaks forth upon the earth.

4. I want to experience the power to sustain. Don’t get me wrong. I have experienced, and am experiencing God’s day-to-day grace. Like David, I have been young, and now I’m old, and I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his seed begging bread (Psalm 37:25). The Mighty Rock flowed twice for Israel when they were thirsty; manna appeared every morning in the wilderness; ravens visited the refugee prophet Elijah; and, a poor widow’s meal and oil just would not run out as long as it was needed. I wouldn’t mind seeing what God cooks up this time.

3. I want to see the rescue of the saved. I often think of the story of how Jesus was taken to the temple as a baby (Luke 2:22-38). Levitical law required parents to present their son and an offering before the Lord. Can you imagine the scene when Joseph and Mary walked in and when the priest asked the baby’s name, they said Jesus? (Matthew 1:21). That day, the Holy Ghost revealed to two onlookers that this is it. This is Whom you’ve been waiting for, the consolation of Israel. Likewise, I wouldn’t mind seeing the plans for destruction against God’s people fail. I wouldn’t mind seeing the weapons falter, and, after all, the clear indication of God’s favor. I wouldn’t mind seeing the spine-tingling sight of a little cloud, the size of a man’s hand in the distance.

2. I want to fly away. 1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17; 1 Thessalonians 5 says whether we wake or sleep, the saved are going to be caught up in the air to meet the Lord. Richard Branson, Elon Musk, space travel is in my future. Star Trek, Star Wars, no need for a time warp technology, because what is time in infinity?

1. I want to see Jesus. This theme of scripture, hymns, poems, and gospel songs fills the number one spot. Ironically, perhaps our wishes are moot, because the Bible already says of the return of Jesus: “Behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him, and they also which pierced Him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of Him. Even so, Amen,” Revelation 1:7. But, as many songwriter’s have mused, I want to see Him.

Don’t despair now. Our ancestors used to sing,

I open my mouth unto the Lord, and I won’t turn back. I will go. I shall go, to see what the end’s going to be.




Last-Minute Ministry

The last day of 2019 was much more than the end of the year. As things have turned out, for me, it also marked the start of a countdown to my being sidelined in self-quarantine. On December 31, 2019, physicians in Wuhan, China, announced discovery of a perplexing new strain of pneumonia afflicting 41 patients with flu-like symptoms. Half listening to the news report, I worked the math out in my head. Forty-one people, in a city of 11 million, located in a nation populated by 1.4 billion. To my way of thinking, it was an unfortunate situation—overseas. So, no need to view that “breaking news” in a personal way.

However, the “Novel Coronavirus 2019” took only two months to transform my perspective. Following my trip home to Omaha for my eldest brother’s hip replacement surgery, that virus struck personally. Tommy came through surgery seemingly none the worse for wear. My three other siblings and I visited daily, submitting to screening each time. “Have you visited China recently?” “Have you been out of the country?”

Back in Southern California, I began hearing increasingly grim reports of sickness and death associated with COVID 19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. Still, it wasn’t a personal issue, until my phone rang, three days later.

“Your brother, Thomas, has pneumonia and has tested positive for the coronavirus,” reported the Nebraska public health official. Suddenly, the coronavirus was very personal.

“How are you feeling? Have you had any symptoms? Fever? Cough? Shortness of breath?”

By then, the World Health Organization had made official what many had already suspected: planet earth was in the throes of a coronavirus pandemic. After talking with my own doctor, and with a packed freezer and pantry, I quarantined myself. What is happening?

Scenarios to Consider

As usual, social media tried to make sense of it all, and two religious sounding propositions stood out to me: 1. Coronavirus is one of the seven last plagues. And, 2. this COVID 19 pandemic is the “big one,” ushering in the end of the world.

Could the coronavirus be one of the seven last plagues? Of the two threads, this one seemed the easiest to address. As the first quarter of the 2020 calendar year drew to a close, the financial web site, Business Insider, reported hospitals in 200 countries were scrambling to treat 784,000 patients, while the death toll climbed past 38,000. The casualty rate was staggering. Furthermore, the pandemic’s growth rate gave every impression that a plague had been loosed on the earth.

We found our answer, but not in human theories. Our primary source was God’s Word.

Possible Plague?

The first question takes us to Revelation 16, where the seven last plagues are introduced. Revelation’s plagues remind us of the plagues immediately preceding the exodus, and a critical fact that there were two classes of people: those who chose obedience and worship of God, and those who rejected Him.

So, a question in response to the first question: When the ten plagues struck in Egypt, were they harmful to God’s people? Exodus 7-12 remind us that none of the plagues harmed God’s people. Why not? Exodus 12:13 provides insight: “Now the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses …I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you….”

Protected by the blood of the lamb, the people of God suffered no harm. So, too, in the last days. The last plagues will not touch the people of God, because we are protected by the blood of the Lamb. Paul declared in Ephesians 1:7, “ In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins…”

Since, believers have fallen victim to the coronavirus, too, we may be certain that it is not one of the last plagues.

Portentous Potential

Nonetheless, that leaves question #2, is Novel Coronavirus 2019 the “big one,” that portends the imminent arrival of the end of the world?

Have we reason to believe that we are nearing that point in time, that the Bible refers to as the last days? Absolutely! Luke 17:26-30 indicates that just as it was (sinful) business-as-usual when Noah climbed onboard the ark, and when Lot followed angels out of Sodom, before the Lord returns, those same conditions will be replicated. Paul also profiles the character of those living in the last days, who will reject God’s grace and be lost (in 2 Timothy 3:1-5), and it sounds very familiar. Jesus warned of false christs, wars and rumors of wars in Matthew 24. Then, He adds the caveat, when those events take place, don’t alarm yourself, because the time of the end has not yet arrived. He goes on to point out that nations will battle, kingdoms will grapple and famines, pestilences and earthquakes will take place. Still, these are not the final events. The point is, a careful reading of God’s Word, especially Matthew chapter 24, reveals what the last days will be like.

Missing Piece of the Puzzle

We know for a certainty the last days will take place. However, don’t you find it a little curious that God offers no specificity regarding the exact date of the last days? He informs us there will be last days; but, He never says when they will be. Could it be that God withholds that information because He knows how we love to put things off? And, that being prone to last-minute ministries, thinking we still had plenty of time, we might not get to the assignment He has given us. So, we don’t have all the facts regarding the “last days.”

Instead, Jesus pointed out that neither men, nor angels know the exact time of the Lord’s return and of the last days, (Matthew 24:36). Paul echoed that the end shall arrive unannounced (1 Thessalonians 5:2). 2 Peter 3:10 is where we learn that the Lord’s promised return will take all of us by surprise, as does a thief who robs by night. And, Revelation 3:3 makes it plain that we will not know the hour our Lord comes for us.

Rather than give us the exact time of the end, because He knows how deadly our procrastination can be, God gives us our exact role in His plan of salvation. Preach the gospel, Matthew 24:14. Find the lost where they are and compel them to come to the Lord, Luke 14:23. Teach and baptize, Matthew 28:19, 20.

Personal Assignment

In verses 39, 40, 44, and 54 the promise from Jesus is that He will raise us up at the “last day.” It doesn’t get much more personal than that.

The personal nature of the coronavirus experience for me found my brother’s fever breaking at last, so that he could be discharged from the hospital. As for me, I remain symptom free, and long released from my self-quarantine. Now, it’s a matter of living, worshiping and serving until the “Last Day” arrives.

@020 May June cover of Message Magazine
This article is part of our 2020 May / June Issue
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Don’t Miss the Miracle

It was Bryan Stevenson who said, “There is power in proximity. We have to get close to people and the communities who are at risk—and stay close.” When I reflect upon this statement and consider the current challenges our society faces, I surmise that our inability to solve problems is not because we don’t have good ideas, but rather because we don’t get close enough to them to engage in a way that makes a meaningful and lasting impact.

The Bible records in Matthew 14 that Jesus had just received the terrible news of the untimely death of his cousin and forerunner, John the Baptist. Our Savior wanted to spend some time alone to contemplate and grieve the loss of his fellow minister of the Gospel. He boarded a boat, likely on the edge of the Sea of Galilee, and sailed away from the shore. Because the people heard that He was leaving, they tracked His course, and by the time He reached the other side of the lake, they had already assembled en masse to have Him speak to them, care for them and heal their sick loved ones.

Jesus wasted no time and busied Himself in the work of healing and nurturing the people. And sure enough, Jesus, the Great Physician, spoke with each one and healed them all.

By the time Jesus had finished caring for all of the people, no one wanted to leave. After all, it was a perfect day already and there was no other place they’d rather be. Moreover, the time had simply drifted away, and no one had thought about food. They were either waiting or working in Jesus’ one-day “pop-up” clinic. The disciples came to Him and urged Him to send the people away so they could purchase meals in the neighboring towns. Yet, Jesus would hear none of it, and responded with a simple challenge, “No, give them something to eat,” (See Matthew 14:16).

This challenge was incredibly impractical and totally implausible, given their location, the size of the crowd, and the resources on hand. “We only have five loaves of bread and two fish,” they replied. Jesus must have thought to Himself, “Well then, that will have to do.”

He petitioned His Heavenly Father, likely with a prayer of supplication for provision and exponential favor, and no sooner than He prayed, His request was answered and granted. The disciples watched in amazement as Jesus seemed to be breaking bread over and over again in His Hands. As He began to divide the fish and the loaves, His hands were becoming more and more full until they were overflowing.

The disciples stood in astonishment, but there was no time for spectating. They needed to shift from being caregivers, grab some aprons, and become servers. They scurried quickly to gather baskets to catch the food that fell from the Master’s overflowing hands. Requiring the people to sit down in groups of fifty, the disciples delivered this miraculous makeshift meal to the grateful throng. When the disciples finished serving, everyone had eaten until they were satisfied, but there were still twelve extra baskets of food left!

After the disciples had finished serving, they tallied the number of individuals served, and to their surprise, they counted “about 5,000 men, plus women and children,” Matthew 14:21. But that’s not the greatest miracle here!

The greatest miracle was that in the mind-blowing moment, the disciples are once again being transformed into a faith-filled mission task-force! They go from expecting that they would bear no responsibility in the feeding of the multitude to engaging and participating in the act of the miracle themselves! When God works a miracle through you, you will never be the same again!

God wants to work a miracle through us today. He’s not expecting that someone else will take on the impossible mission. He has said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible,” Matthew 19:26. Nothing is impossible with God. He wants to use you to do the impossible. He wants to use you to carry out His mission. He wants to use you to be His hands and feet. He wants to use you to change the world. Don’t miss the miracle! He’s going to perform it through you!

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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.

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This article is part of our 2020 May / June  Issue
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