Keep Running: Philippians 3:12-17(Message Version)


Text: Philippians 3:12-17(Message Version)

12-14 I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, my eyes are on the prize, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back. 15-16 So let’s keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision—you’ll see it yet! Now that we’re on the right track, let’s stay on it.  17 Stick with me, friends. Keep track of those you see running this same course, headed for this same goal.

Subject: Keep Running!!

Propositional Statement: In order to attain any meaningful goal in life you have to be willing to work for it, no matter what it takes and don’t bail out.

Antithesis: It is my belief that everyone in this church has a special God given talent. Every man, woman, boy, and girl in here is talented at something whether they know it or not.

Thesis: But what the text is telling us is that when we have a goal to reach in life, we cannot quit on our goals.

Relevant Question: Why can’t we bail out?

Synthesis: We can’t quit because we’ve already started on our way, if we already started, we have finish what we start.


Have you ever thought about purpose? Every year a new book is released to help people achieve their purpose. Purpose Driven Life, The Power of Purpose, Your Best Life Now, 10 Steps to Purpose, 7 Steps to Your Dream; everyone has got the answer! TD Jakes said it like this, “If you can’t figure out your purpose, figure out your passion. For your passion will lead you right into your purpose.” Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” ….So, I ask again, have you ever thought about purpose? Well, let me ask that a different way, what is your purpose?

It is my opinion, EVERYTHING created in life has a purpose! Every business in operation, every car made, every book written, every toy assembled, every building constructed, every bridge designed, every medicine concocted, and every church that has been started has a purpose for its existence! In the same manner, EVERYONE under the sound of my voice and alive in this world, has a purpose assigned to him or her from birth by God. Whether you know it or not, I believe that every man, woman, and child is destined to do something great for God. We are all designed to believe in Christ, be Christ-like, and then partner with Christ to achieve our destiny and life’s purpose. Hear me clearly, no matter how OLD or YOUNG we are; as long as we’re on this earth, God still has something for us to do. Let me say this in a different way, just in case I’m not coming through; no matter how OLD or YOUNG we are; no matter where we’ve been in life, no matter what we’ve done in life, or who we did it with, as long as we’re on this earth, God has a PURPOSE for our lives! Can you turn to your neighbor and say “God has a purpose for YoU!” Come on, say it like you really believe it, God has a PUPOSE FOR YOU!”

I don’t know about you, but I don’t believe God wants us to go through life, just to be going through life. I don’t believe in doing stuff just to be doing stuff. I don’t believe in taking up space, just to be taking up space. If we’re going to be here on this earth, we need to be here for a purpose.  Purpose, is what the Japanese people call, “IKIGAI,” meaning reason to get up in the morning!” In other words, purpose is our reason to live! Do you know your reason to live? I know that some of us work jobs, but what is your reason to live? I know some of us are retired or close to retirement, but even in retirement, what is your reason to live? I know you been coming to church Sunday after Sunday, Wednesday after Wednesday, but what is your reason to live? Why are you here? Why are you still here, living in 2015? You weren’t born in the biblical days, you weren’t born in medieval times, you weren’t born during slavery, but instead God intentionally chose you to be born in the 20th  and 21st century for a such a time as this; so I ask you once again, what is your IKIGAI? Why do you get up and go? Is it for your children? For your grandchildren? For your family? For your church? For money? To prove somebody wrong? For your own Ego? For a purpose? For God? Why are you here?

On the flip side, while all of us are called to purpose, many of us fall into three categories– either we know our purpose and are living it out; we don’t know our purpose at all, or we know our purpose and the vicissitudes of life get in our way. I’ve found out, that life will put hurdles, obstacles, mountains, roadblocks, detours, impediments, and barriers in our way. In life, haters, jobs, bills, personal issues, hang-ups, hurt and pain, politics, the unknown and unexpected all get in our way to throw us off course. The reality is, as a result of these roadblocks, hard times, and mess– some of us usually think about giving up, before we ever reach our goals and fulfill our purpose. Life happens and we think about giving up!

God is calling us to be great men and women of God, but for some of us, the hurdles have become too high, the mountains too mighty, the detours too dangerous, and the hurt too heavy. If we’re going to be honest this morning, from time to time there are times when quitting is the better option. We may think about quitting our job, our marriage, our friendships, quitting on our dreams, our program, our family, or even quitting on God!

Sometimes in life, QUITTING just seems like the best thing to do. Do I have a witness in here? Are there any folk in here who can be honest and admit they thought about quitting? Thought about giving up! Thought about filing for divorce. Thought about walking away and leaving the church! Thought about turning in your resignation letter! Thought about packing your bags! Thought about throwing in the towel! You don’t have to give yourself away, just wave your big toe at me.  

Newsflash, If you’ve ever thought about quitting, you’re not the only one, many before you have and many after you will! The Good News is, there is hope found in this 2,000 year old scripture, for all of us……. who have ever felt like giving up!


Ebenezer, as we dive into our text this morning, the Apostle Paul gives us The Good News and my thesis, which is, Just Keep on Running, Keep Running, and Keep Running.” My brothers and sisters, In our text, we find Paul writing a letter from Prison to warn the church at Philippi, about outside distractors trying their best to hinder the Philippians church from being the faithful Christians that God has called them to be.

These haters that were trying to distract and discourage the Philippians were called Judaizers. Church, the Judaizers were a fundamentalists group of people who tried to do everything by the book of the law. They taught and preached that being a true Christian, meant following all the literal laws in the Bible, dotting every “I– crossing every T,” being circumcised, keeping strict dietary rules, and being religious in their lifestyle. The Judaizers thought God would only accept them if they walked like a Jew, talked like a Jew, lived like a Jew, ate like Jews, wore their hair like the Jews, and acted more Jew than the Jewish people. And can I tell you, just like Paul told the Philippians Church, God doesn’t care how religious we are, if we have no relationship with him. God doesn’t care how much we know about being and acting Christian, if its not done with a sincere and loving heart! The Judaizers thought they knew how to be Christ-like , but had no idea.

Paul told the people, if anyone has a reason to brag about how good they are, I do. Paul said, I was born a Jewish man, circumcised on the eighth day, born in the elite family of Benjamin, went to the best Jewish schools, read the Torah, kept all the laws, even persecuted Christians with great passion. But none of that matters anymore. Because Paul says, none of that compares to knowing Jesus Christ. Paul loved the fact that he was now saved, fire baptized, and filled with the Holy Ghost. Paul had a new lease on life and turned over a new leaf. Paul was now a good and faithful Christian and he had a desire to know Jesus Christ even deeper! Paul was hungry for a more intimate relationship with Jesus Christ! That was his goal! Paul wanted to know Jesus so deep that he said in verse 10, “I want to know him in the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformed unto his death.” Paul finally found his purpose to run for in life! Which was to live like Christ! In other words, Paul had one goal in life; to live for, suffer for, and die for his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. No matter what Paul encountered, how hard it got, whether he was in jail, dealing with haters, Paul was determined to Keep Running towards his goal!  Paul strapped on his running shoes and he ran to be more like Jesus! Paul was writing to encourage the church at Philippi to stay faithful, don’t get discouraged, and keep running towards your goals and purpose! And on my 16th Sunday as pastor of this great church, I believe God sent me by Ebenezer African Methodist Episcopal Church to tell y’all… whatever your goals and purpose are, stay faithful, don’t get discouraged, don’t quit, don’t get weary in well doing, work together, ignore the naysayers, love God, love others, love yourselves, and keep on running, running towards your goals!

Relevant Question



We should Keep Running because We have to Finish what We Start. Look at the text, Paul says in verse 12, “I’m not saying this because I have it all together, because I’ve made it, but I’m well on my way.”……… Paul suggests to us, that he’s already on his way towards his purpose, which is being more like Christ! So, in his mind, If I’m on my way, why stop now? Sometimes for us, the hardest thing to do in life, is get started towards our purpose and goals. We like to procrastinate, think about it five and six times, pray about it, research it, pray about it, ask our friends about it, pray about it again, fast, change our minds, but after all the deliberating, we never get started. Church, don’t think about, be like Nike and Just Do It! Get Started!

In this text, God is using Paul to tell us, its time to finish what you start! Perhaps someone in here today, has already started school, wrote the business plan, started the diet, began the program, applied for the job, bought the ring, began writing the book, and started towards your goals, now is the time to finish what you start! I don’t know who I’m talking to, but you can keep running, because you have what it takes! Your smart enough! Gifted enough! Talented enough! Strong enough! Know enough people, have the support, and God is with you! So  finish what you start! 

Right Here at Ebenezer amazing things have happened over the past quarter! Lives have been touched, hearts have been changed, money raised, souls saved, van paid off, the community is being reached, awesome Vacation Bible School, wonderful Homecoming services, and the best is yet to come!! In the future, there is a church and parsonage to be renovated, lives to be saved, land to be built on, county to transform, and Norfolk-Eastern Shore District to lead, so we must finish what we start! Listen to what God is saying, since you’ve already started on your way, don’t turn back now! KEEP RUNNING! When you feel like giving up, let this word be a reminder to keep pushing towards the mark, pressing towards the mark, fighting towards the mark, praying towards the mark, straining towards the mark, like a sprinter in a race, leaning towards the mark, because we’re almost there. The Goal is in reach! The finish line is near…… NOW, Finish What YOU start!

Why should we Keep Running?

Because in verse 14, Paul says, “I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, my eyes are on the prize, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back Momma, we can’t quit, because Running Gets us Closer to our Prize!  Understand this, In this pericope of scripture, Paul’s purpose, represents his prize! His goal represents the prize! His destiny is the prize!

So for us, the prize is what God wants us to have! God is calling us to the prize, because God wants us to walk in our purpose and destiny! No one, but God gives us purpose and destiny! We need Jesus to show us the way to achieve purpose and destiny and the Holy Spirit to empower towards purpose and destiny! The closer we get to Christ, the closer we get to our purposed prize. The more we run towards Jesus, the closer we get to our destined prize! In other words, our Prize and the Prince of Peace are connected!.

Paul’s goal was to reach Jesus, which should ultimately be our eternal purpose, but God has also called us to an earthly purpose. God has called us to reach a goal for his glory! (pause) ……..Let’s be honest, You know what you want in life! You know your hearts desire! You know the dream that keeps you up at night! In case you didn’t know Jesus wants you to achieve that PRIZED purpose! So let me say it again, the closer we get to Jesus, the closer we can get to our purpose in life. The text says in verse 14, that God is beckoning us onward towards Jesus. To beckon is to signal or entice someone to something by gestures such as waving, nodding, jumping, or doing whatever it takes to get that person from where THEY are, to come to where YOU are. 

Alright, you not feeling me; let me make this clearer, how many of us have ever seen a relay race in the Olympics? 

  • I love watching the relay races, especially the 4X100 relay race! 
  • In a relay race, each race is designated for a certain distance and the team who gets to finish line first– earns the ultimate prize
  • If you pay close attention, whenever its time to pass the baton, the runner on the receiving end is always beckoning the incoming sprinter to their location on the track.
  • However, what always intrigues me, is the exchange of the baton between the 3rd sprinter and the anchor sprinter. 
  • Rev. Smaugh, The anchor sprinter is always the last sprinter. 
  • Anyone who knows anything about track, knows that you always put your fastest, strongest, most confident, and most capable runner in the anchor position. 
  • On the last leg, the incoming runner has to reach his/her hand and put the baton into the hands of the outgoing runner. 
  • It’s the anchors job to carry the baton to the finish line!
  • You missed it, one sprinter has to reach out and pass the baton 
  • Pass the baton to a sprinter he trusts is faster, a sprinter that is stronger, a sprinter that is better, and a sprinter that is more capable of finishing the race and bringing home the Gold, which is the ultimate prize.
  • And in case you need some help this morning, in this race called life, WE are the 3rd sprinter and JESUS is our ANCHOR!!!!
  • baton pass

I’m talking about Jesus, he is the GREAT sprinter. He will help us run this race! Just pass your baton and put your ALL in his hands! Reach out and put our purpose in his hands, reach out and put your pain in his hands, reach out and put our addictions in his hands, reach out and put our problems in his hands, reach out and put our lives in his hands, reach out and put our hopes in his hands, reach out and put our families in his hands, reach out and put our destiny in his hands– because if we KEEP RUNNING and REACH OUT to JESUS, HE will carry us to the prize! Put it all in his hands! His hands can handle it ALL! 

I know he can handle it because, Jesus is bigger, Jesus is faster, Jesus is stronger, Jesus is wiser, and Jesus is better for the job! I hear Jesus saying, come on (waving motion) man of God, come on king, come on mighty man of valor, come on Queen, come on virtuous woman, come on Child of God, just keep running to me! Jesus is saying, just a little more commitment, more giving, more praying, more trust, more hope, more faith, more effort(waving) come on, I’m here with you, just keep your eyes on the prize! Don’t look at the bills, don’t look at the storms of life, don’t listen to the busy-bodies, don’t listen to the haters, don’t be discouraged, fight through the temptations, ignore the nay-sayers! Keep pressing! Keep reaching! Keep running! And when times get tough and life gets hard! When you feel like giving up and you have no strength to run on…..KEEP RUNNING, Keep running, keep running towards Jesus, because RUNNING will get US CLOSER to OUR PRIZE!



We should KEEP RUNNING, because We’re not running by Ourselves! Look at what Paul told the believers of Philippi in verse 17, “Stick with me, friends. Keep track of those you see running this same course, headed for this same goal.” Family, this journey called life is too hard and too difficult to be on it alone. Just like the song says, “I need you to survive, you need me, we’re all of apart of God’s body, stand with me, agree with me, we’re all apart of God’s body.” It is so crucial in life to surround ourselves with like- minded individuals who are headed in the same direction as we are.

There will be times when we want to quit, but those people won’t let us quit, because they know the magnitude of our prize. We should surround ourselves with people who have more experience than we do, because they can tell us where to turn, which obstacles to avoid, and which roads not to take. We want to be around folk, like the four friends in the Gospels who carried their sick friend through a roof to see Jesus! We want to surround ourselves with folk who ain’t afraid to speak life into our spirit! We need to be around folk who ain’t afraid to walk with us into our destiny!

These are the folk who are there for us! These are true friends! True Christian friends! These friends pray for you, they look out for you, challenge you, correct you, love you, sharpen you, bless you, encourage you, and you can call them in the midnight hour. They are friends who stick closer than a brother. I don’t care who you are, it is a blessing to have good friends! We can Keep Running, if we Run this race called life with some good friends by our side! Friends, how many of us have them, Friends! Find you some good friends!!! ……..(pause)

Lastly, as I take my seat, we can Keep Running,if we do what my momma always told me to do! PREACHA, what did your momma tell you to do, always take your daily vitamins. I’m talking about vitamin A, B, C, and so on! Does anyone in here know about vitamins? Ebenezer, we can Keep Running, if we take our vitamins. Take them, everyday!……..


  • Anxious? Take Vitamin A. “All things work together for good, for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
  • Blue? Take Vitamin B. “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name.” (Psalm 103:1)
  • Crushed? Take Vitamin C. “Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7)
  • Depressed? Take Vitamin D. “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” (James 4:8)
  • Empty? Take Vitamin E. “Enter his gates with thanksgiving,  his courts with praise. Give thanks to him, bless his HOLY name.” (Psalm 100:4)
  • Fearful? Take Vitamin F. “Fear not, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God.” (Isaiah 41:10)
  • Greedy? Take Vitamin G. “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put unto your lap; for the measure you give, will be the measure you get back.” (Luke 6:38)
  • Hesitant? Take Vitamin H. “How beautiful upon the mountains…. are the feet of the messenger, who announces peace, who brings good news, who announces salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns.'” (Isaiah 52:7)
  • Insecure? Take Vitamin I. “I can do all things… through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)
  • Jittery? Take Vitamin J. “Jesus Christ, is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8)
  • Know nothing? Take Vitamin K. “Know this, that the Lord is God, it is He that made us and not we ourselves. (Psalm 100:3)
  • Lonely? Take Vitamin L. “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)
  • Mortgaged? Take Vitamin M. “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)
  • Nervous? Take Vitamin N. “Never, no never, will I leave you, nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)
  • Overwhelmed? Take Vitamin O. “Overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21)
  • Perplexed or puzzled? Take Vitamin P. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” (John 14:27)
  • Quitting? Take Vitamin Q. “Quit you like men and women, be strong.” (1 Corinthians 16:13)
  • Restless? Take Vitamin R. “Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him.” (Psalm 37:7)
  • Scared? Take Vitamin S. “Stay with me, and do not be afraid; for the one who seeks my life, seeks your life; you will be safe with me.” (1 Samuel 22:23)
  • Tired? Take Vitamin T. “Those who wait for the Lord, shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31)
  • Uncertain? Take Vitamin U. “Understand that I am (the Lord). Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me.” (Isaiah 43:10)
  • Vain? Take Vitamin V. “Vexed with unclean spirits: and they were healed every one of them. (Acts 5:16)
  • Wondering what to do? Take Vitamin W. “What does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8)
  • eXhausted? Take Vitamin X. “Exercise thyself rather unto godliness.” (1 Timothy 4:7)
  • Yearning for hope? Take Vitamin Y. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for you art with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4)
  • Zapped? Take Vitamin Z. “Zealous for good deeds.” (Titus 2:14)
  • And after you take your vitamins, get back up and KEEP RUNNING!!!
  • no friends to call……KEEP RUNNING
  • no one by your side, no money in the bank……KEEP RUNNING
  • no bible in hand and at your wits end……KEEP RUNNING
  • don’t know how you’re going to make it……KEEP RUNNING
  • tears coming down your face……KEEP RUNNING
  • momma not here, daddy not here……KEEP RUNNING
  • In RUNNING, JESUS will give you strength in weakness
  • In RUNNING, JESUS will encourage US when WE feel discouraged
  • In RUNNING, when WE fall, JESUS will pick US up
  • In RUNNING, JESUS will turn OUR trash into A treasure
  • In RUNNING, JESUS will take our mess and make it a message
  • In RUNNING, JESUS will TAKE our pain and turn it into purpose
  • So RUN ON my brother, RUN ON my sister….
  • Don’t bail out
  • Don’t quit now
  • Don’t give up
  • Don’t throw in the towel
  • Keep pressing on
  • Keep pressing towards the mark of the high calling
  • Keep PUSHing….. praying until something happens
  • Keep struggling
  • Keep fighting
  • Keep living
  • KEEP RUNNING 5X….. run, run, run, run, run, run
  • Do I have anyone here today, who’s ready to run on?
  • Are you ready to run?
  • Say………
  • We need KEEP RUNNING, B/C We’ve Already Started, It Gets Us Closer to Our Prize, and We’re Not Running By Ourselves!

T.E.A.M.- We’ve Got 2 Stick Together

Text: Psalm 133:1-3

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is

For brethren to dwell together in unity!

2      It is like the precious oil upon the head,

      Running down on the beard,

      The beard of Aaron,

      Running down on the edge of his garments.

3      It is like the dew of Hermon,

      Descending upon the mountains of Zion;

      For there the Lord commanded the blessing—

      Life forevermore.


Church, 4 out of the 10 most covered and sampled songs in music history belong to a group from Liverpool, England– The Beatles. While, I’m not a Beatles fan, one of my favorite Beatles songs is Come Together! Maybe you’ve heard the versions covered by either Aerosmith, The Supremes, Diana Ross, Ike and Tina Turner, Michael Jackson, Tom Jones, Elton John, or even the Jennifer Lopez and Mary J. Blige duet. The song goes, come together, right now, over me! The song was released in 1969, one year before The Beatles broke up, as a last ditch effort by John Lennon to keep the group together. And today, as we begin our T.E.A.M. sermon series, I want to focus on the importance of you guessed it sticking together!

When it comes to sticking together, images of unity, fellowship, intimacy, connection, friendship, camaraderie, community, and relationship come to mind.  I believe that there is power and great benefit in sticking together! In the movie Soul Food, Big Mama Joe said, “when we come together like a fist, we can strike a mighty blow!” Watch this, the other day, I was at the gym lifting weights and during my lifting session, I got to a point where I was no longer able to lift the weight by myself, so I asked a guy at the machine next to me for a spot! A spot is when someone stands behind you to assist you with the weight, once your strength goes out. Now, with both of us working together, I was able to lift something, that I was no longer able to lift by myself! In 2011, Egyptian citizens, who were fed up with police brutality, corruption, low wages, unemployment, and living under a dictatorship government, came together in unity and overthrew their president Hosni Mubarak. Because the people came together, the Egyptians were able to strike a mighty blow, that would have not been possible if they were acting on their own.

When it comes to sticking together, I believe that it’s God’s will and desire for Christians to stick together, but ideally, I believe it’s God’s will for all people to stick together! Not matter what our race or ethnic identity is, God desires that we stick together! Even when we read this Psalm this morning, I interpret God encouraging his people to maintain true togetherness, faithful friendships, real relationships, and committed connections amongst each other. In fact my thesis is this, God’s desires that all people live together in unity! Not only does God desire that we live together in unity, but I believe that it’s God’s desire that ALL people worship together in unity! Beloved, God is pleased when we live in unity together, because God values togetherness. Psalm 133 is a text of togetherness and unity and in biblical literature its known as a song of ascent or “going up.” These songs were traditionally sung by the children of Israel as they would make three annual pilgrimages to the Holy City of Jerusalem. The “songs of ascents” sung by the Israelites on their journey are all characterized by their brevity, succinctness, and ability to offer cheer and hope. Every year the Israelites would journey to Jerusalem to attend these three major festivals, Passover, Festival of Weeks, and the Feast of Tabernacles.

It was during these three treks to Jerusalem that the participants would take place in festivities and ritual worship. The folk who made these religious field trips to Jerusalem, would be lawyers, doctors, entrepreneurs, young and old people, men, women, and children, and persons from different regions and tribes. And all of those who gathered to attend the three annual feasts understood that unity and togetherness was key. There was to be no bickering, no fighting, no disputes, no arguing, no beef, no smiling in one’s face and talking behind their back, and absolutely no violence during these events. Instead, the children of Israel knew it was a time to set aside personal differences in order to celebrate their common heritage, commemorate their deliverance from Egypt, and reflect on their time around the tabernacle of God in the desert.

Once again, this text lets us know, that while en route to Jerusalem, the children began to sing songs in Holy Harmony!!If you allow me to use my spiritual imagination, I envision that they would sings songs like What a Fellowship, What A Joy Divine, they’d sing Blessed Assurance, or perhaps they’d even sing We’re Marching, Marching Up to Zion, That Beautiful City of God! Then some brother or sister would sing,“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!”  Church, It is very clear that the “songs of ascent are about togetherness and unity, that the fellowships in Jerusalem were characterized by togetherness, and that this text is about togetherness.


On the other hand, while God encourages us to live together in unity, sadly sticking together is not always our best trait! Family, if I’m honest this morning, these past couple of days have been somewhat discouraging for me. As I watch, listen, and read the news, I really believe that God is speaking to the world about the ramifications of not sticking together. Hear me, I don’t believe that its GOD’s will for people to be divided, instead I believe that division is the work of the enemy. God desires for people to be in relationship and reconciled with one another, while the devil’s primary goal is to keep people disconnected from healthy relationships! God is a God of love, while the devil is a demonic force of evil.

So, what am I talking about? Church, this week has been a tough, because it seems like the spirit of disunity, disconnectedness, dissension, discord, and disagreement is running rampant in our world! Everyday in the news, we hear about countries at odds with each other. I am truly saddened by the division found between Israel and Palestine and Russia and Ukraine. Everyday in Palestine, the people of Gaza City wake up to increased death tolls of innocent Palestinian men and women. To make matters worse, not only are innocent people being killed, but schools that are designed to educate and enrich the lives of students, are being bombed, resulting in the deaths of innocent children. While, the death toll may be larger in Palestine, Israeli citizens are being killed in this conflict as well. Now, I’ll be honest, I’m not sophisticated in my knowledge of this conflict, but I don’t have to be an expert to acknowledge the loss of life.

As it relates to Ukraine and Russia, it’s the same story, just different countries. People are being killed, families our being destroyed, homes are being lost, and there seems to be no immediate end in sight. This conflict has gotten so bad, that 2 weeks ago, 298 innocent lost their lives on a Malaysian Airlines jet. These people weren’t fighting in any war, to my knowledge none of them were Russian or Ukrainian citizens, but just because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time, they lost their lives! Once again, due to division and dissension, lives of innocent men, women, and children are being lost. Too many countries are divided!

Not only are countries divided, but we’re divided in our American political system. In politics, right here in our country, the Republican Party has agreed to file a lawsuit against the President of The United States, because they believe President Obama has abused his power by wanting people to have healthcare. I’ve always found it interesting as to why people with healthcare are fighting so hard to keep other folk without healthcare. Not only are we divided over healthcare, but the country is divided over immigration reform, because some folk don’t think citizens from other countries don’t belong in the United States! Once again, I have trouble understanding, how it is that the descendants of the people who stole this country from the Native Americans, have a problem with other folk entering this country! We’re divided over political issues!

Not only are we divided in the political arena, but we’re also divided when it comes to issues about God, religion, and the church. We have one God, but thousands of religions around this world! Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Zorastrisim, Yoruba, and many more. We have one Christ, but we have Pentecostals, Baptists, Methodists, Apostolics, Lutherans, and thousands of other denominations. We have liberal Christians and Conservative Christians, who at times, embrace ideologies that are polar opposites! My bible says, “How good and pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity; the Bible says there is a friend that sticks closer than a brother, the Bible says through the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfected together in the same mind and in the same judgment, the Bible says we are to love one another.

But for some reason, those of us who proclaim to follow Jesus Christ, are the most divided. Question, did you know, that there are churches where members don’t speak to each other? Did you know that there are churches where the members form separate cliques and circles? Did you know that there are churches where the people talk about each other? Did you know that there are churches where the people fight and argue at meetings, dog the preacher out, and don’t support programs if its not their “program?” I’m so glad to know this doesn’t happen at at St. Mark AME Church! The great spiritual leader, Gandhi once said, I love your Christ, but I Don’t like your Christians!  Church, out of all the places, we have too much disunity in the church! Too much disunity in our world! Martin Luther King Jr. once said, We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.” God calls us to stick together as brothers and sisters in unity, but it’s much more natural and easy to live divided as adversaries and enemies!

Relevant Question

The questions is, Why does God want us to Stick Together, When its Human Nature to Live Divided?


The first answer to this question is so simple, that I almost missed it trying to be deep! God wants is to Stick Together because he wants to BEHOLD the BEAUTY! The word behold means to see or observe a person, place or thing, especially a remarkable and impressive sight. When we BEHOLD something, we appreciate its BEAUTY, we are in awe, we remember the image, we love what it look likes, we stand back and just shake our heads because we can’t believe our eyes. You remember when you first laid eyes on your husband or you wife and you just had to behold their beauty! Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers and sisters dwell together in unity! It’s a pleasing sight to see people walking together in unity! God is pleased when we are unified! God is pleased when we are together! God is pleased when we are on one accord! I believe it was the late Rodney King who said, “can we all just get along?” God is pleased to BEHOLD THE BEAUTY of people sticking together!

I’ve been to the Grand Canyon, the Rock of Gibraltar, to the top of the Washington Monument, Empire State Building, and they’re a beautiful sight! I’ve seen pictures of the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia, its clear blue water and coral reefs are postcard beautiful. I’ve seen pictures of Mount Rushmore, the Taj Mahal in India, the Great Wall of China, and the Pyramids of Egypt! All are considered to be the most beautiful sights in the world!

However, I contest, that none of these images compare to a picture taking at the Million Man March! None of these compare to an image taking at the March on Washington! None of these images compare to the picture taken when Americans came together after 9/11. None of these compare to people working together after the Earthquake in Haiti, that was a divine display of people sticking together in unity! What a sight to behold! When Christians laugh, sing, dance, pray, and worship together in unity, that is a beautiful picture! When children of all races play together in the sandbox, behold its beauty! When we see unity, it makes us feel good! Unity pleases us! Unity inspires us to do better! When we see brothers and sisters dwelling together, how good and pleasant it is to see! God wants young, middle age, and seniors to live together in unity! God wants black, white, brown, red, and yellow people to live together in unity. God wants alumni from VCU and WSSU to get along with those from NCCU, VUU, FSU, VSU, JCSU, ECSU, Shaw and even UMASS to stick together. God wants unity among pink and green and crimson and cream, between Alpha’s and Omega’s. God wants unity between Democrats and Republicans. House and Senate! Unity between lower class, middle class, upper class, and those with no class. God wants new church members and old church members to stick together in unity! God wants Smithfield-Selma Four Oaks to live together in unity! Methodist and Baptist in unity! Pastor and people in unity! Church and community in unity! God loves to see unity! Behold  the Beauty of people sticking together in unity! How pleasant it is! Sticking together is beautiful! It looks good! It makes you say, wow! It’s the best sight to see! Behold the Beauty of men, women, and children sticking together in unity!

Why should we stick together?

God wants us to stick together because it spreads. Sticking Together has spreading and diffusive qualities. When we read verse 1 and 2 of the text, one of the things that we realize, is that the author of this psalm is comparing sticking together in unity to the anointing oil that flowed down the beard of Aaron. The text says, “Unity is like the precious oil on the head, running down upon the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down over the collar of his robes”

The thing thats significant about the “precious oil” spoken of in this text is its ability to spread.

The oil that was used to anoint Aaron was made holy by God and had diffusive capabilities. This means it had the ability to flow from the top of his head and spread to the soles of his feet. The anointing oil did stop at one spot of his body, but covered the whole body. The oil would run down his garment and not just stop and cake up in one place, but spread until it touched every placed that needed to be touch. For example, my wife likes to tease me y’all, she teases me because my face is always oily! She thinks I’m too greasy! I told her its the coconut oil in my hair! She said all I need is a dime amount in my hair, I tell her I put about 3 quarter sizes in my hair, because I have a lot of hair! She told me I only need a little bit because it spreads! Okay, does anyone still use baby oil? You know that one drop of baby oil can oil your whole body, because it spreads!

This is the good news, because when we Stick Together, God’s blessing will not only bless us, but spread to those we’re connected to as well. Sticking Together not only has an impact on us, but on our families too. Sticking Together spreads down and impacts are friends! Sticking Together spreads down and impacts our schools! Sticking Together will spread to our communities! Sticking Together will spread to our generation and generations to come! Sticking Together will impact our parents! When we Stick Together we will change our world!! Behold, how good and pleasant it is when we Sticking Together because its like the oil on Aaron’s beard, it won’t stop in one place, but it keeps on spreading! When the oil flows, it just keeps spreading! It starts at home and spreads abroad. (go into the congregation and grab people as an example of sticking together)

Why should we Stick Together?

We should Stick Together because of its springing effects! Like the change of seasons, when we transition from winter to spring, the trees begin to blossom, the flowers start to bloom, the birds begin to chirp, the butterflies flow from flower to flower, the snow starts to melt, and the crops begin to grow! Spring is a time of renewal and growth.In the Spring, the days begin to get longer! In the Spring, the weather gets warmer! In the spring, dead things begin to live again! In the Spring, resurrection begins to occur! Don’t you love the Spring?

In this text, it reads in verse 3, It is like the dew of Hermon, Descending upon the mountains of Zion; For there the Lord commanded the blessing—Life forevermore. The Dew from Mt. Hermon would flow from the top of its peak, trickle down to the base of the mountain, and the blessing would be the vegetation that would spring forth from the watering of the dew! The dew would descend down the mountain and spring life into things that were once barren! Flowers would spring! Lush greens would spring! Fruit would spring up! Stuff would grow and life would spring forth! When we stick together in unity, I believe life can spring forth! When we stick together, families can spring! When we stick together, marriages can spring! When we stick together, finances can spring into abundance! I When we stick together, grades can improve!! When we stick together, people can kick habits! When we stick together, we can be a stronger church! When we stick together, God will spring us blessings! Dead things will rise! Barren areas will spring up! Broken areas will be made whole! There is a blessing in sticking together!


Forgiveness 101: It’s Going to Take Faith (7/27/14)


Today, as we finish up our last Sunday in our series, Forgiveness 101, I want to spend some time discussing the most difficult and challenging aspect of forgiveness. In my opinion, forgiveness is most challenging, when the people or person we are asked to forgive are those who are closest to us! In my opinion, there is no hurt, like the hurt, we experience from those close to us! There is no pain, like the pain, we experience at the hands of someone we know! There is no stronger anger, when the actions of those closest to us, provoke us to be angry! There is nothing more upsetting and discouraging when we have been deceived, lied on, betrayed, and stabbed in the back by those closest to us! I think The O’Jays said it like this:

(What they do!) 

(They smile in your face) 

All the time they want to take your place 

The back stabbers (back stabbers) 


All the time they want to take your place 

The back stabbers (back stabbers) 

I keep gettin’ all these visits from my friends,

yeah, what they doin to me 

They come to my house again and again and again and again, yeah 


So are they there to see my woman 

I don’t even be home but they just keep on comin’ 

What can I do to get on the right track 

I wish they’d take some of these knives off my back 


(They smile in your face) 

All the time they want to take your place 

The back stabbers (back stabbers) 

Low down… dirty… 


Get this, the O’Jays aren’t mad at their haters, or about the fact people are trying to take their woman, or even stab them in the back, but they’re mad because the haters, people trying to steal their woman, and stab them in the back are their those closest to them! I repeat, sometimes the people closest to us, will hurt us the most; and its the people closest to us, that’s the hardest to forgive! Not only is hard to forgive the people or person closest to us, but there are times when the hardest person to forgive is ourselves! Church you and I both know, that it’s hard to forgive me, myself, and I. If you know like I know, as people, we can be hard on ourselves! Do me a favor, turn to your neighbor, and ask them, do you need to forgive yourself?

It’s hard to forgive ourselves, because nobody knows our flaws, like we know our flaws! Nobody knows our deepest secrets, like we know our deepest secrets! Nobody knows how bad we messed up, like we know how bad we messed up! Nobody knows our sinful thoughts, like we know our sinful thoughts! No one knows that we lied, but we know we lied! No one knows that we stole, but we know that we stole! No one knows that we cheated on that test, but we know we cheated on the test! No one knows that we were unfaithful, but we know how unfaithful we were! No one knows we took that drink, but we know we had too many drinks! No one knows about our habit, but we know about our habit! No one knows, what we did, like we know what we did! No one knows what we should have done, but we know what we should have done! We keep struggling with the same issue, year after year because we haven’t forgave ourselves! 

Church, all I’m saying is, it’s hard to forgive ourselves! We can forgive Pookie, Junebug, Lisa, Johnny, Jane, and Harry, but when it comes to forgiving ourselves, we won’t do it! For some strange reason, we tend to be harder on ourselves than anybody else! In my opinion, when we refuse to forgive ourselves, we refuse to accept God’s forgiveness in our lives! By refusing God’s forgiveness, we refuse the work of Christ on the Cross! When we refuse the work of Christ on the Cross, there is no way that God can offer us salvation, and when we don’t have salvation, we book ourselves a 1-way ticket to hell!


On the other hand, as I read this pericope of scripture, perhaps the real reason that we struggle to forgive ourselves is BECAUSE WE CAN’T forgive ourselves! Let me say that one more time, because someone missed it, the real reason that we struggle to forgive ourselves is BECAUSE WE CAN’T forgive ourselves Ladies and gentlemen, in preparing for this sermon, it dawned on me, that you nor I have the power to forgive ourselves of anything! Only God has the power and ability to forgive our sins!

The GOOD NEWS is this, there is a God that can break every chain of guilt, shame, unbelief, perfectionism, self-condemnation, self-hate, low self-esteem, and un-forgiveness that we struggle with! There is a God, that forgives us for every wrong doing, slip up, and mess up! There is a God, that loves us, in spite of our flaws! There is a God, that loves us in spite of our shortcomings! There is a God, who loves us in spite of our sin, and there is a God who loves us, even when we don’t love ourselves! And today, in the book of Romans, we encounter Paul, the globetrotting Apostle, writing to Christians in Rome, to share his interpretation of the gospel message!

Like Washington DC is to America and Raleigh is to NC, Rome was the capital city of the Roman Empire. Because it was the capital, Rome was known to be very powerful, having a strong military presence, having an organized government, comprised of people who were upper- class, middle- class,  and the poor class. In Rome, there were the educated and uneducated, blue collar and white collar workers, religious and unreligious, and the Jews and Gentiles! Like Africans dispersed throughout South America, the Caribbean, and North America, the Jewish believers in the New Testament had been dispersed throughout the Roman Empire!

In this epistle, Paul is in Corinth writing a letter of introduction to the Christians in Rome, because he plans to visit with them while on his journey to do ministry in Spain. Furthermore, some scholars believe that Paul writes this letter to ask the church in Rome for money, to support his missionary assignment. This letter differs from his previous writings because, unlike his other epistles, Romans was written to a church that Paul did not start or had yet to visit. We don’t even find Paul addressing a particular issue or problem in this local church, but instead he writes in very broad terms about his understanding of salvation and justification. Paul’s main goal was to clear up any misperceptions about his theological views in the gospel message!! 

Beginning in chapter 1, all the way through chapter 16, Paul takes his time to share all his views on the hot topics in his day and time!! Paul addressed the Mosaic Law, Adam and Eve, Abraham, the holy Spirit, Jesus Christ, circumcision, justification, righteousness, salvation, love, sin, guilt, judgement, Christian behavior, civil authority, and even paying taxes! I would imagine if Paul was living in 2014, he would also address the hot topics of our day! He’d address child immigration issues at the Texas border, the Israeli and Palestinian conflict, the tension between Russia and Ukraine, Malaysian Airlines and missing planes, he’d tweet #bringbackourgirls in Nigeria, he’d talk about Eric Garner a man unjustly murdered by New York City police, he’d address gay marriage, gun violence in Chicago, teacher pay in North Carolina, and the state of our young people here in America! Paul wouldn’t be afraid to preach and teach about any relevant issues!

Now, as we shine the spotlight back on chapter 3, we find Paul addressing a trending topic in this text! The controversial issue that Paul is dealing with is the subject of justification and how the Jews and Gentiles receive its benefits! If you can, please keep justification at the forefront of your mind. Justification means to be upright, just, and made innocent of sin in God’s sight!  One more time, Justification means to be upright, just, and made innocent of sin in God’s sight! Now turn to your neighbor and say, Justification means to be upright, just, and made innocent of sin in God’s sight! 

The major problem that the Jews and Gentiles faced, is that they thought justification came through the Mosaic Laws and Old Testament traditions! The Jews thought that obeying the Decalogue or the 10 Commandments was enough to make them innocent in God’s sight! They thought that serving no false gods or idols, not taking the Lord’s name in vain, keeping the sabbath holy, honoring their parents, not killing or stealing, not committing adultery, not bearing false witness, nor coveting their neighbor’s property was enough to keep them clean and holy in God’s sight! Not only were the Jews misled, but the Gentiles were misled because they thought that circumcision and the Law made them Jewish, and upright in God’s sight. 

Church, for the Jews and Gentiles to believe that the Law or circumcision made them right with God, was them trusting in their own human efforts! When they put their trust in their human efforts, they deceived themselves into believing that their works, wit, and intelligence was enough to unlock the door to their forgiveness! 

Sadly, too many of us are guilty of trying to fix our lives by ourselves! We buy self-help book after self-help book, then we try to think positive thoughts, then we try watching Dr. Phil, then we read the daily horoscope, then we call Madame Cleo, then we search the internet to see whats wrong with us, or we grab our Bibles and try to be perfect and pious Christians! Part of the reason people think church folk are hypocrites, is because we act like we ain’t never been through nothing! I’m just blessed and highly favored! God is good, all the time, all the time, God is good! We’re so heavenly bound, we’re no earthly good! Just like the Jews and Gentiles, when we attempt to somehow forgive ourselves, we fool ourselves into believing that we have the power, ability, or creativity to actually achieve self-forgiveness! Paul says in verse 20, that the Law does nothing but make us aware of our sin, not save us from our sin! And for us to get to the place where we can truly forgive ourselves, we first need to realize that there is no way we can forgive ourselves, and then and only then can we embrace God’s plan of forgiveness through justification, as outlined by Paul!


Therefore, if the Law couldn’t make the Jews right with God, circumcision and false idols couldn’t make the Gentiles right with God, and we can’t forgive ourselves, then how do we begin the process of being made right with God (justification)? After all we’ve done, how will we and God ever view ourselves worthy of forgiveness? The first lesson the text teaches us is probably the hardest lesson for all of us to learn! Ladies and gentlemen, we begin the process of forgiveness and being made right with God, by recognizing We All Have Flaws!  Let’s look at what it says in verse 23 from the King James version, 3For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God!” Is that what your Bible says?? In the Good News translation it reads, “everyone has sinned and is far away from God’s saving presence.” In the New Living Translation it reads, “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” In every translation and version, it says all, everyone, and errybody has sinned!! Not some! Not 2 or 3, Not the Baptist or the Methodist! Not the black or the white people! Not the rich or poor! Not the democrats or republicans! Not the Jews or Gentiles! Not the saved or the unsaved, but errryboody has flaws! We ALL have FLAWS that lead us into sin!

So, if we all have flaws and we’re all gonna sin, what makes us think that we have a shot at being perfect?! If we all have flaws, why you so hard on yourself? If we all have flaws, why set a standard of living for ourselves, that we can’t reach? If we all have flaws, why such unfair expectations? If we all have flaws, why you keep condemning yourself? If we all have flaws, why won’t you accept God’s forgiveness? The text clearly says, “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.”

Not only do we have flaws, but guess what, even folk in the Bible had flaws that caused them to sin! In the Old Testament, Father Abraham lied multiple times about Sara being his wife, and he doubted that God could give him children because of his old age. Noah, the man who built the Ark, was known for being a drunk. Moses, the man who led the people out of Egypt and across the Red Sea, killed a man at an early age. Jacob, a man who wrestled with an angel, had his name changed to Israel, was known for being a liar after he stole his brother’s blessing! Rahab, assisted the Children of Israel by hiding spies in her house, but she was also a prostitute! David defeated Goliath, was anointed King at an early age, wrote many Psalms, a man after God’s own heart, but had a man murdered and slept with his wife! King Solomon was a great and wise king, but was known to have had over 700 wives and 300 women on the side! Jonah had a God given purpose, but begin his ministry by running from God! Peter was a disciple of Jesus and the rock of the church, but he cut a man’s ear off and denied Jesus 3 times! Paul was known for killing Christians, but right now we’re reading his book! We find countless examples of flawed, messed up, imperfect, and sinful people in the Bible, but they still allowed God to turn their lives around and use them, despite how flawed they were! They said, “I might not be what I want to be, but thank God, I’m not what I used to be! Church, we can begin the justification process in our lives and become innocent in God’s sight, as soon as we recognize We All Have Flaws!

2nd Point

Not only do we need to know, the how of forgiveness and justification, but we also need to know the WHO! The text says in verse 24, 24But by the free gift of God’s grace all are put right with him through Christ Jesus, who sets them free.” It’s clear throughout the whole book of Romans, that men and women need to be put back right with God, due to the fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden! Adam and Even broke and separated our connection and standing with God. In the book of Genesis, as soon as Satan was allowed to come between God and mankind, our relationship with God was severed! Because of this broken relationship, the Bible reveals the story of man and God trying to FIX their relationship! 

So with that said, this is my 2nd point, in order for us to be justified in God’s sight, We All Need a Fixer to get the job done! You do know what a fixer is, right?? A Fixer is, someone who intervenes with authorities for a person in trouble (usually using underhand or illegal methods for a payment)”  I believe we’ve all seen a fixer at work, come on don’t play holy on me! I’m sure some of y’all watch a fixer every Thursday night in the fall and spring?? Anyone ever heard of Scandal?? Anyone ever heard of Mrs. Olivia Pope, the professional fixer, played by the talented Kerry Washington?? Whenever something goes down with President Fitz, Olivia Pope fixes it! Whenever something goes down with Harrison, Olivia Pope fixes it! Whenever something goes down with Huck, Olivia Pope fixes it! Whenever something goes down with Abby, Olivia Pope fixes it! Whenever something goes down with Cyrus, Olivia Pope fixes it! Whenever something goes down, they call Olivia Pope, because she’s the fixer! Sadly, just like you and me, whenever something goes down with Olivia, she can’t seem to fix her own mess! Which is why We All Need a Fixer who’s never lost a case, We All Need a Fixer who’s never lost a patient, We All Need a Fixer who’s never fell asleep on the job! And We All Need a Fixer who’s always there for us!

Beloved, the only way for us to forgive ourselves and be put right in God’s eyes to allow Jesus to fix us! The truth is, we can’t change others, we can’t change ourselves, we can’t forgive ourselves, and neither can we fix ourselves! God, our father in heaven, loved us so much, that he sent us his only begotten son to fix us! Jesus is our fixer! Jesus is the one and only fixer! Jesus is our mediator! Jesus is our intercessor! Jesus is our bridge to God! Jesus is our middle man! Jesus is our connector! Jesus is our missing link! It’s Jesus and only Jesus that fixes all our flaws! 

Why do we need Olivia Pope, when we have Jesus? 

Why do we need Buddah, Krishna, or Muhammad when we have Jesus! 

Why do we need Seagrams, Johhny Walker, and Budweiser when we have the living water in Jesus? 

Why do we need the dope man, when we have the hope man in Jesus? 

Why do we need the good time girl, when we have  the Good Shepherd in Jesus? 

Why do we depend on people, places, and things to fix and help us, when we have the bright and morning star in Jesus? 


Can’t nobody do us like Jesus! 

Can’t nobody fix us up like Jesus!

Can’t nobody love us like Jesus!

Can’t nobody change us like Jesus!

Have I got a witness this morning?

 Can anybody testify this morning, that all we need is Jesus? 

Do you believe that Jesus is enough? 

Do you believe that Jesus can pick you up, turn you around, and place your feet on solid ground?

****Jesus Object Lesson****

Old Testament brief History of atonement

3 Volunteers


Free Gift

Sticky notes with sins on them

Jesus lie on the altar as the perfect sacrifice 


3rd Point

Lastly, not only do we need remember that We All Have Flaws, know that We ALL Have a Fixer in Jesus, but we need know WHAT completes the justification process! The only way that we can allow forgiveness to be complete in our lives is to HAVE FAITH IN THE FIXER!  If we go back and read verse 25 and 26, they both inform us that it requires faith and belief for Jesus to be our Fixer! If we want our lives fixed, it’s going to take faith! Paul is suggesting in this text that God only requires us to have FAITH  in Jesus! Paul is saying, yes all of our flaws cause us to sin! Yes, we’re all guilty of sin! Yes, we’re all imperfect! Yes, God can and should judge us according to our sins! However, if we just believe and have faith in his son, God will give us a clean slate! If we just believe and have faith in his son, God will look the other way! If we just believe and have faith in his son, God will throw out the case! If we just believe and have faith in his son, God will dismiss the charges! If we just believe and have faith in his son, God will pronounce us not guilty!

All it takes is belief and faith in his son! He’s not asking much from us, just belief and faith! God is saying, have faith, in what my son did on that old rugged cross 2014 years ago and believe that it still has power today! God is saying, have faith, that the blood of Jesus can cover you! God is saying, have faith, that even though he died on a Friday night, 3days later he got up on a Sunday morning! If I were Baptist, I’d say, “Earrrrrly Sunday Morning!” God is saying, have faith, that Jesus got up with all power in his hand! Some of us may be asking, what is FAITH again? FAITH is placing our complete and 100% trust, hopes, beliefs, concerns, cares, and love in a God we have not see physically seen, yet acknowledging all of the evidence that point to him!

We can have FAITH because the BIBLE says in Hebrews ch,13, Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forevermore. We can have FAITH because the BIBLE says in John ch. 1, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. We can have FAITH because the BIBLE says in Colossians ch. 1, For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. We can have FAITH because the BIBLE says in Matthew 18, “For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.” We can have FAITH because the BIBLE says in John 14, “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”

And when we have, we understand that we can do all things through Christ that strengthens us! In the Old Testament the question is asked, is there anything to hard for the Lord?? St. Mark, is there anything to hard for the Lord?? St. Mark, if God be for us, who can be against us??? St. Mark, what can separate us from the Love of Christ?

By Faith……

We can walk in victory

We can walk in power

We can receive his healing

We can live on purpose

We can be a witness for Jesus

We can finish what we start

…….Just preach…..

Forgiveness 101: Finding Our Way Back Home (7/20/14)

Text: Luke 15:11-24

 11 Then Jesus said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.’ So he divided his property between them. 13 A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. 14 When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. 16 He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. 17 But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! 18 I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.” ’ 20 So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. 21 Then the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; 24 for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate. 

Subject: Forgiveness 101: Finding Our Way Back Home



Maya Angelou once wrote these words, “I long as does every human being, to be at home wherever I find myself.” It is my belief that in this journey called life, we will all at sometime or another leave what we consider to be our home. At this very moment, sitting in your pews, many of you may be reflecting on the subject of home right now. Perhaps some of you are thinking that home is the city and state which you live in, or that home, is the house or apartment building that carries your address. Home may be the place where our favorite sports team plays, such as the Washington Redskins or the sorry Dallas Cowgirls! 

Home may be the place where some of our fondest childhood memories of joy and pain were experienced. Home may be the place where you met your first childhood friends. Home is that place we all had to go when the street lights came on. Home is the place of some of our most intimate secrets. Home could be the place where our loved ones reside, whom we often miss so much when were apart from them. Home is a place of safety and refuge. If we’re lucky enough, home can be that place where we’re used to eating those delicious and soulful home-cooked meals. I don’t know about your house, but I loved coming home to mom’s homemade buffalo wings, potato salad, dad’s fried fish and collard greens, or my wife’s sweet potato casserole and stuffing. We all know about home-cooked meals! You know what I’m talking about, that fried and baked chicken, smothered pork shops, macaroni and cheese, collard greens, butter beans, yams and 7-UP pound cake! Oh and let us not forget the sweet tea. I’m talking about home!Home is that place where no bed anywhere else, has ever quite felt like our own bed. Where our pillows are broken in specifically for us. Home is that place where we can lounge how we want to lounge, walk around how you want to walk around, and relax and be comfortable like no other place. I’m talking about home y’all!

Home is that church, where we learned how to sing. Home is the church where we first walked down the aisle and gave our life to Christ. Home is the church where we first got baptized. Home is the church where your children we’re baptized! Home is the church we go to, for homecoming service! Home is that church where we were taught the Bible stories in Sunday school and learned about God. Home is that church where we enjoyed the fellowship and the preaching. Home is your home church.

Home is the college or university we called home for 4 years, that we go back to for homecoming; Im talking about North Carolina A&T, Shaw, UNCG, UNCC, Virginia State, Elizabeth City State, Fayetteville State, Duke, Virginia Union, St. Augustine, North Carolina Central, or even UMASS. We all have some fond memories about our school days. Being away at college was the home where we exercised our independence that was not ours while living at home with our parents. Free to stay up all night long. Free to stay out as long as we please, free to dance the night away. While away at college, we can call home and say one thing to our parents, all while doing a totally different thing. The freedom not to attend class, the liberty to not wake up and go to church, and the freedom to meet new people. Some of us still have friends that we met there, still talk to and look forward to seeing at homecoming. For most of us, home is a great place!  I ask you again, have you ever been away from home before?

The dictionary defines home as the place where one permanently lives and in other cases the place where something or someone flourishes. Meaning that home can be and is for some of us more than just a place where we lay our heads or have lived at. Here this! If home is also a place where someone or something flourishes at, that means home doesn’t have to be limited to a physical place! As people, we can grow and flourish in wherever and whatever place or situation God allows us to be in! Home can be that career that we excel in. Home can be that positive atmosphere that we do our best in. Home can be the place where our gifts and talents flourish the most in.Home is where we find love, peace, joy, acceptance, support, and did I say love? Home can be the place or situation where we are mentally, physically, financially, socially, and spiritually flourishing into our best selves! 

I believe we all have a home! I believe Michael Jackson was at home on the stage! Michael Jordan was at home on the court! Oprah is at home on our television set. The late-great Maya Angelou was at home when she had a pen in her hand! Denzel Washington is at home on the big screen. It was once said that “Home is where the heart is.” I don’t know about you, but if home is the place where I can grow, flourish, and feel loved– then, I love being at home! Home is truly where my heart is!! I know I’m not by myself, Ray Charles and Willie Nelson loved home so much, that they sang Georgia because Georgia was always on their mind! If we read between the lines, Dionne Warwick and Luther Vandross (I don’t know if it was big or small Luther) sang “A house is not a home, if there’s no love there!” In The Wiz, Diana Ross sang, “When I think of home I think of a place where there’s love overflowing, I wish I was home, I wish I was back there with the things I been knowing!” If we go hip-hop, Sean “Diddy” Combs rapped, “I’m coming home, I’m coming home, tell the world I’m coming home!”


Nevertheless, for some strange reason, no matter how much love we find at home, no matter the acceptance, no matter the joy, no matter the growth, no matter how good the food is, no matter how great our relationships are, or how comforting home is, we all decide to leave Home one way or another. If you don’t believe me, then go with me again to the 15th chapter in the Gospel of Luke, where we read about a young man that had everything he needed and could want at home, but still chose to leave home!

In this chapter, we encounter our matchless messiah, Jesus Christ preaching and teaching in the town of Perea, while in route to his ultimate destination– Jerusalem. In the midst of his journey to Jerusalem, Jesus stirs up some controversial discussion amongst the Pharisees, as to why he hangs out and eats with the sinners. The people wanted to know why Jesus being who he was, hung out with the crowd that would be considered the least of these. The word had spread through the grapevine that Jesus surrounded himself with a group of people who according to the text– were sinners. Jesus was known to hang around some shaky characters! If I can pause for a moment, perhaps this teaches us that is Christ-like to hag around some sinners! If all our friends know Jesus, how can we share the light of Christ with the folk who don’t know Jesus? Please note that Jesus is currently preaching in the town of Perea, which means, “on the other side!” Jesus had no problem hanging “on the other side” of town! Jesus didn’t mind hanging across the tracks! I like Jesus’ style, he hung out with the common folk! Jesus hangs out with people who didn’t know the scriptures, didn’t go to church, didn’t know who Richard Allen was, or Kirk Franklin! Instead, Jesus hung out with folk who loved to partake in communion, listened to Teddy Pendegrass and Young Money, and frequented the gentlemen’s club! That’s the folk Jesus surrounded himself with! To explain why Jesus fellowships with the kind of people he hung with, he shares a parable about the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the prodigal son who left home! 

It is in the parable of The Prodigal Son that we encounter a young man who learns the hard way that “there is no place like home.” In this story, we see a young man who was anxious to leave home, and experience freedom outside the comfort and supervision that he was used to growing up. As we examine the life of the young man, we notice that his story and testimony may be similar to our story and testimony. This young man has reached a certain age and he is ready to leave home. This son who is nameless, reaches a point in his life, where he is now ready to pack his bags, say his goodbyes, and leave the incubator that has molded him into the man that he is. He was no longer interested in being at home with his family. Not only is he ready to go, but the young man also wants his share of his father’s inheritance. 

The text lets us know, that the son received his  whole share of the property, animals, and money set aside for him since birth from his father. Daddy gave him the cars, the money, the houses, the clothes, the jewelry, the investments, and his share of the family business! The father made sure that his young son was sent out into the world prepared to make a decent life for himself. Now church I have to admit that while reading this text I was a little confused as to why this young son was in such a rush to leave home. I mean his older brother still lived at home, life couldn’t have been that bad. The text says nothing about him going away to the local state college or joining the military. The text doesn’t say anything about him having a fight with his father and being kicked out the house, it just says this young man was ready to leave home. 

Sadly, as we move along in the text, we notice that this son went buck wild when he left home. It says that he packed his bags and went to a distant country. The description of the country being distant infers that he went to a place totally opposite of what his home life was. At home he grew up in a Jewish household, but now he was living in a world that didn’t embrace a Jewish style of life. He was now in a place where the Greek culture was dominant. At home he was raised in an environment that had a strong belief in God, but now he was in a world that wanted nothing to do with his God. At home he was raised in an environment that promoted education and strong family values, but now he was living in a world where the kids dropped out of school and came from broken families. At home he saw examples of respectable men and women, but now he was living in a place where the men disrespected the women and treated them less than the queens that they were. Home was a loving and supportive atmosphere, but now he was in an atmosphere that was cold and neglectful. Home was a place where he could grow and hone his skills, but now he was in a place of stagnation. Jesus tells us that the young man went into this distant country, a place that was antithetical and the opposite of what his home was like! 

This young man lost his mind. In my opinion, he not only left his physical home and location, but he left his spiritual and mental home! He left home, because he was now in a place where he was no longer flourishing and growing! Remember our working definition of home; its a place where people live and where someone or something flourishes and grows! The scriptures say, he lost his mind, he spent all that he had, he wasted all of his money, he squandered all that his father gave to him, and he found himself working with in the fields with the pigs, but eating the food that the pigs ate. It says he was living undisciplined, immoral, self-indulged, and riotous. He was living what Ricky Martin would call, “La Vida Loca.”  

Now, in my opinion to be at home mentally, physically, financially, socially, and spiritually is to be in God’s will! Ideally, I believe that God wants us to be healthy, whole, prosperous, and balanced mentally, physically, financially, socially, and spiritually. To me, when all 5 areas are aligned with God’s purposes for our lives, we are at home. Furthermore, when we strive to live a life of obedience and worship to God, we are at home! The Bible says in Romans 12, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” In other words, when we allow our whole being to be committed to God, we are at HOME in God’s will! Home is living in God’s will! Home, is where God wants us to be! Is this making sense? I hope I’m not confusing you!

However, when we leave home, we are outside of God’s will! Whenever we leave where God wants us to be mentally, physically, financially, socially, and spiritually; we then leave HOME, because we have left God’s will! When we leave God’s will, we leave home! When we leave home, which is out of God’s will, we then begin to live a life of sin! When we live a life of sin, we have to live with the consequences of sin! We all sin, but God doesn’t want us to deliberately and unrepentantly to live in sin! Living in sin causes us to live in shame! Living in sin causes separation from God! Living in sin causes selfishness! Living in sin causes us to keep secrets and live a life of secrecy! Living in sin causes us to lose our way! The young man in this text left home, which caused him to leave God’s will! Which caused him to live a life characterized by sin, selfishness, shame, secrecy, and separation from God!

So, if being at home is the place where God desires for us to flourish and grow mentally, physically, financially, socially, and spiritually; but on the flip side, leaving home is where we live a life of sin, shame, selfishness, secrecy, and separation from God, how does the Prodigal Son and those of us who have also left home, find our way back HOME in God? 

Relevant Question

That’s the question of the hour, how do we like the Prodigal Son, find our way back home into God’s will and how do we as the Body of Christ, assist in this process?


Church, I believe that the most important factor in finding our way back home and helping others to find our way back home is the act of FORGIVENESS! In my opinion, while there may be many themes in this story, above anything else, the importance of forgiveness resonates with me! As men and women of God, forgiveness is the key that opens the door back to God’s will and purpose for our lives; and likewise forgiveness is how we help others get back in line with God’s will! With that being said, there are three things that I want to share about FORGIVENESS, as it relates to this text!

The first thing that FORGIVENESS causes us to do is to Respond in Humility! I believe that it is impossible for us to forgive others and to forgive ourselves without humility! Humility is one of the keys to forgiveness! When we Respond in Humility, we are able to self-examine our own lives, and not think too highly of ourselves! Humility helps us to not be prideful and arrogant, but modest, loving, and a person of service! Humility allows us to emulate Jesus, who was said to be meek and mild! Humility helps us to seek forgiveness when we’re wrong and seek forgiveness even when we’re not in the wrong! It takes courage to Respond in Humility!

In verses 18-20 of the text we see 2 examples of humility in action; it reads, “18 I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.” ’ 20 So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him.” Church, it takes great humility to admit when you have messed up! The son in this text finally realized that leaving home was not God’s plan for his life! He finally realized that leaving home caused him to live a life of sin. However, I praise God for this son, because he humbled himself and decided to go back home and ask his father for forgiveness! He realized the error and mistake of his ways, but wasn’t too proud to leave where he was, what he was doing, and who he was with to go back home and seek forgiveness! That speaks volumes to me because there are times when we all need to respond in humility and seek forgiveness! Someone in here today needs to humble themselves and ask God for forgiveness, ask someone that you harmed for forgiveness, and also ask yourself for forgiveness! Sometimes the hardest person to forgive is ourselves! St. Mark, it doesn’t matter what it is, or how long ago it was, we all need to humble ourselves and ask for forgiveness! It may be a spouse, your best friend, your neighbor, a church member, a child, a co-worker, or even that person you saw looking back at you in the mirror this morning, but whoever it is, I encourage you to ask for forgiveness!

Not only does the son Respond in Humility, but the father also responds in humility! Watch this– the text says, “But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him.” This is significant if you understand Jewish culture. See back in those days men would where very long tunics or robes to cover their legs! In that culture, it was humiliating and shameful for a man to show his bare legs in public! In order for the father to run to his son, he had to lift up his tunic so that he wouldn’t trip and fall while running! The father was willing to show his legs and be humiliated, so that his son could be forgiven! That’s what the father will do! A real father will do anything on behalf of his children! Now if our earthly father will do this, what about our heavenly father? The father will humble himself and send his son through 40&2 generations to earth to be humiliated and to die on an old rugged cross for our sins! Church, just like this father and our heavenly father, we are asked to Respond in Humility and forgive others who have wronged us!

The 2nd thing that FORGIVENESS allows us to do is Restore broken Relationships! Church, on our journey back home to God’s will, there will come a time when broken relationships need to be repaired and restored. Let’s be honest, there are some people that we are still at odds with or at odds with us, because of an offense that was committed! Its hard to be friends with someone who hurt you! Its hard to be friends with someone who broke your trust! Its hard to be friends with someone who stole from you! Its hard to love someone who cheated on you! Its hard to love someone who left you! Its hard to like someone who did you wrong! Its hard to be in the presence of someone who turned their back on you! However, God is telling us, that true forgiveness should and has to compel us to Restore and Repair Broken Relationships!

In verse 20, the major reason that the FATHER ran to his son, was to restore the son’s broken relationship with the family, but also with the community! In preparing for this sermon, I learned that if a Jewish son lost his inheritance among Gentiles and returned home, the community had a tradition of taking a large pot, breaking it in front of the son and yelling, “you are cut off from your people!” So the father ran to the son, not only to restore him back into the family, but also to keep him from being cut off and ostracized by the community! Relationships are key in forgiveness because God has created us for relationships! 

In the Garden of Eden, God walked and talked with Adam in the cool of the day! God had a relationship with Adam! The Bible says,  that God is a jealous God! God doesn’t like for us to have relationships with any other false Gods!When we have healthy relationships, we are in God’s will, and when we are in God’s will we are at home! In order for us to be at home in God’s will, our vertical and horizontal relationships have to be restored and repaired! Sin causes separation from God and others, but forgiveness causes us to restore and repair broken relationships! 

When we Restore and Repair Broken Relationships, people are able to be all that God has called them to be! When we Restore and Repair Broken Relationships, we are able to save marriages and build healthy families! When we Restore and Repair Broken Relationships, we are able to build healthy churches and communities! When we Restore and Repair Broken Relationships, we are able to walk together as brothers and sisters in Christ! When we Restore and Repair Broken Relationships, we are able to stop the violence, stop the fighting, put down the guns, and stop the killing! When we Restore and Repair Broken Relationships, we are able to enact policies and pass legislation that all people can benefit from! When we Restore and Repair Broken Relationships, we are able to respect each other’s differences! When we Restore and Repair Broken Relationships, like the brother of the Prodigal Son, we have to realize that everybody won’t be happy about our forgiveness! However, when we Restore and Repair Broken Relationships, we can do just like this father does! Bring out the best robe, bring out the ring, bring out the sandals, get the fatted calf and kill for a celebration! When the father brings out these fine clothes, a ring, and animal, he forgives and restores his son back to his rightful place! This was a cause for celebration!

In other words, the last thing that FORGIVENESS causes us to do, is Rejoice! This truly is the best part of the whole story! The text reads, let us eat and celebrate; 24 for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate” The son was living a life of sin, which equals death, but now he’s back in the father’s will, which equals life! Rejoice! The son was out there lost, but now he’s found! Rejoice! The son left home, but now he’s back home! Rejoice! The son was on his way to hell with gasoline drawls on, but now he’s got eternal life, Rejoice! The son was living with the effects of sin, but now he’s living in the overflow of forgiveness, Rejoice! The son was sinking deep in sin, Far from the peaceful shore, Very deeply stained within, Sinking to rise no more; But the Master of the sea, Heard his despairing cry, From the waters lifted him, Now safe is he. Love lifted him! Love lifted him! When nothing else could help, Love lifted him. REJOICE!! 

Church, this son received the father’s forgiveness and found his way back home in God’s will, so we have a reason to rejoice! We can rejoice, because we are this son! We too were sinking deep in sin, but God heard our cry, so REJOICE! We we’re out there doing everything that we were big and bad enough to do, but God forgave us, so REJOICE! We were given a 2nd chance by God, so we all have a reason to REJOICE! God looked past our faults and saw the best in us, so we have a reason to REJOICE! If an earthly father can celebrate his son coming back home, can you imagine the celebration in heaven when we do what God calls us to do, it ought to make us REJOICE! 

Is there anybody in here that has a REJOICE in their soul? Is there anybody in here who is willing to Rejoice? 

  • Can you rejoice that God woke you up this morning?
  • Can you rejoice that God has allowed us to see another day?
  • Can you rejoice over his many blessings; food on the table, car in the driveway, clothes on our back, roof over our head, a reasonable portion of health!
  • Can you rejoice just because God’s been good!
  • However you rejoice, just rejoice! Clap your hands, shout, cry, lift up your hands, say amen, shout hallelujah, just rejoice!