WHO WAS THAT MAN

Teena Myers, Chairman of Southern Christian Writers, addresses the Women’s Ministy at Christian Fellowship Church about the man Jacob wrestled with who stunted his spiritual growth proving it was neither an angel nor God.

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MY CORNER OF THE CHRISTIAN WORLD

I walked through the church door at 11:30 a.m., the announced time for the monthly ministers meeting. Tin plates of pork, chicken, and brisket lay next to several bags of buns, plastic canisters of potato salad and beans. I was ready to eat, but I was the only one there. The Pastor of the host church tapped me on the shoulder. He saw me enter the building. We traded a few comments about being on time. “I have an obsession about it,” I said. He acknowledged the same obsession. Apparently, an obsession the rest of the ministers did not share.

I poured some tea and sat down to wait. While I waited, I wondered if the shepherds were leading the sheep or the sheep leading the shepherds. Most church services I’ve been in begin with a handful of people. The sanctuary gradually fills until everyone is in their usual place, not unlike the ministers meeting that day. After several ministers arrived, we were encouraged to eat and the conversation flowed freely.

I enjoy listening to the pastors’ talk. In spite of the hardships they endure, I’ve never heard them complain. They express their fears and concerns. They request prayer, but they don’t complain. Instead, they affirm their belief that the work is God’s, and he will make a way for them to accomplish their assigned task.

The subject of faithfulness and timing arose. One pastor, who lost his church and most of his congregation after Katrina spoke with wisdom. “You have to be faithful,” he said. “Sometimes God puts you in a place for a specific time, and you just have to wait. Moses waited forty years until God’s time came for him to fulfill his ministry.”

As the pastor spoke, my thoughts drifted to my own frustrations. I’ve often wondered why I could never leave New Orleans. I tried. On one occasion, God changed my plans without asking me. God does lots of things without asking me. I gave myself a failing grade on the faithfulness test. I had given up seeing the fulfillment of the things God spoke to me shortly after I became a Christian but so did Moses. His zeal to fulfill his ministry had turned into apathy by the time God appeared in a burning bush. “Send someone else,” Moses pleaded to no avail.

I snapped out of my daydream in time to hear a financial appeal for a woman pastor in Mississippi. Times have changed . . . at least in my corner of the Christian world. Women pastors are a rare breed and still disdained by many. It was comforting to hear our presbyter seeking help for her. I left the meeting hopeful that discrimination against women in the church will one day come to an end.

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SCW Poetry Fellowship

Ingrid Adams, author of twelve poetry books and Southern Christian Writers Board Member At Large, kicks off the SCW Poetry Fellowship with a message on writing and publishing poetry.

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SOUTHERN CHRISTIAN WRITERS DEBUT MEETING

 

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I AM YOURS

I’m reading a story, I’ve read a thousand times, in fact, I wrote a book on this subject. This time I see it. Why didn’t I see it before? Too immature? Too preoccupied with me? Maybe passing the half-century mark in age has finally taught me what is really important in life. Love, that elusive thing we all want, yet few seem to find. I know. Quit beating around the bush! What’s the love story? You might find the characters disappointing: one man, no woman, one God. This is not Romeo and Juliet.

The Lord came to Abram (this is before God changed his name to Abraham) in a vision and said, “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.” (Genesis 15:1) Did you hear what God said to this man? “I AM YOURS.” The King of kings, Lord of lords, giver of life, creator of all things seen and unseen gave himself to Abram as a reward. Jackpot! Could winning a billion dollars in the lottery be worth more?

Abram’s response brought my reading to an abrupt halt. “O Sovereign Lord, what can you give me…” (Genesis 15:2) God already gave Abram everything. Was Abram even listening? Instead, he obsessed about who would get his stuff after he died, because God had not given Sarai the son he promised.

Take courage. We are talking about the father of our faith.

How often have I sat in my prayer chair and told God what he can give me instead of being grateful for his love? More times than I can count and even want to remember. I’m thinking of moving my prayer chair outside where I can count stars and believe. Care to join me?

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REFLECTIONS ON SUFFERING

There must be a reason for all the suffering in the world, and I reasoned that the reason is hidden in Job. Something caught my eye in Job Chapter 1 that made me pause and wonder. Satan put on his disguise as an angel of light and waltzes into the throne room like he belonged there. God spots him and asks, “Where have you come from?” (Job 1:7). Satan didn’t think that was any of God’s business and blows him off with, “From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it” (Job 1:7).

God knew this pseudo angel of light well and knew exactly what Satan was doing on the earth. Instead of booting Satan out of the throne room and slamming the door, he painted a big red target on Job’s back. God himself brought blameless and upright Job who fears God and shuns evil to Satan’s attention. Making matters even worse, Satan received permission to do anything he desired except touch Job’s flesh.

At this point being blameless and upright is unappealing. Why bother with perfection if it makes me target practice for the devil? One word changed my concept about Job. God said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job?” My what? My who? Did you hear what God called Job? “SERVANT!” Did I type that loud enough for you? “SERVANT!”

Immediately, I fired up my computer and opened Study Bible version 5. A few keystrokes and I had every Hebrew word with corresponding English translation in view for Job Chapter 1. Yep. No mistake. The Hebrew word “ebed” means servant and Vines Expository Dictionary confirmed it.

God doesn’t mince words. With “words” God spoke the world into existence. Jesus was the word and the word was with God. Words are very important to God. “But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.” (Matthew 12:36-37, KJV) If we are justified or condemned by our words, we can be sure that God has not spoken an idle word – ever.

God could have said to Satan, “Have you considered Job?” He could have said, “Have you considered my son Job?” When God called Job “my servant” it wasn’t a Freudian slip of the tongue. God identified exactly who Job was: a servant not a son.

Are we all God’s children? If you believe the Bible, God created all of us and all of us belong to God. But I’m more inclined to believe that we are all God’s servants than I am to believe that we are all God’s children. The Bible is clear. God will not receive you as his child unless you act like his child. “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God.” (Matthew 5:9, KJV) “Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters. (2 Corinthians 6:17-18) There are definitely some requirements to be satisfied if you desire the honor of being received as a son instead of a servant.

Are you wondering what I paused and wondered about? Here it is: God allowed a servant to suffer without reason but would he allow a child to suffer without reason? What do you think?

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I AM A MEMBER

I suppose it was inevitable. Sooner or later someone was bound to ask, “Why haven’t you become members of the church?” My husband would not have a problem satisfying the requirements to become members. I do. Therefore, when the inquirer posed his question, my husband deferred answering the question to me.

We were asked a frank question. I gave a frank response and related two of many reasons I no longer have an interest in satisfying membership requirements.

“You shouldn’t hold a grudge,” said the inquirer.

Sigh. I should have known better than to condense thirty years of experiences into two events. If I were holding a grudge, I wouldn’t attend church at all. It’s not a matter of bitterness and grudges. It’s a matter of dignity. One of my pastors had a saying: There is nothing to be learned from the second kick of a mule. Apparently, I’m really dense. I had to be kicked four times in a row before I learned what I should have learned the first time the mule kicked.

When I began my Christian walk, I loved the church and wanted nothing more than to be included in its activities. I even desired to spend my life serving God in the church. But the path God led me down caused “in the church” to fall by the wayside, and I’ve learned that there are more ways of serving God than activities within a church building.  I don’t have anything against the additional requirements for joining a church. It works well for some. It simply did not work for me and over time satisfying those requirements became irrelevant.

The people who sit on church pews have been kind and loving. Receiving the same from those who stand behind pulpits proved rare. Years and tears taught me their hateful actions were rooted in fear and insecurity. My anger with them eventually dissolved into pity and pity blossomed into compassion. But compassion must be tempered by wisdom or you will find yourself in a never-ending abusive relationship. At some point, you have to have some respect for yourself and say, “Enough, I will no longer attempt to be part of something that loves me in word but hates me in deeds.”

Frankly, there is nothing that has shaken my faith worse than organized religion. If I had taken my eyes off of Jesus, I seriously doubt I would be a Christian today. The first time I walked away from the church a dramatic life-changing experience that I cannot explain in words and shall never forget brought me back. The second time I found myself on the outside looking in; I was driven out of the church along with two-thirds of the congregation by the pastor’s insensitivity. I had no plans to return, but the sheep that remained pleaded with me until I relented.

Shortly after I returned God led my family to an independent church and me to a Bible study on the Gospel of Luke. As I studied the Gospel a light came on. Organized religion hated Jesus too. In fact, hatred has been in the church from the day Cain worshipped by Abel’s side and then murdered him in the field. Abel paid a high price for having God’s approval.

Every pastor who treated me hateful had first acknowledged that they recognized the call of God on my life and that my doctrine was sound. The price I paid for God’s approval was not as costly as Abel’s but still painful. Eventually, and I suppose inevitably, the Cains’ in ministry destroyed my desire to serve God in the church.

Accepting that corruption in the church is nothing new and should even be expected was a small consolation for the suffering I had endured. Nor did it compensate for the opportunities I lost. For my faith in God to be restored, I needed to know why God tolerates Cain at the expense of people he approves. I found my answer in a difficult scripture:

“In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.” Hebrews 12:4-6, NIV

The sin Jesus struggled with is the same sin Christians struggle with today. The sin produced by the Cains’ who hate us because they know God approves of us. Their hatred teaches us, trains us, disciplines us to worship God instead of mortal men.

It no longer hurts that the church loved me in word but not in deeds. I understand that am a stranger and a foreigner here. Sometimes it’s lonely, but my eyes are on the good shepherd. I’m willing to wait and even die in faith believing God will have a place for me when his kingdom comes. I am a member of the church. The church Jesus is building where Cains’ will never tread.

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