Last night I was going through the Media Archives of our church and found a video of one of my mentors in the faith, Pastor Odessa Copeland. To be honest Pastor Odessa was more than just a mentor, she was a second mother to me. She taught more than I can even put into words and challenged me to be a better minister of the gospel every chance she got.
I remember when I first met Pastor Odessa in 2003. We were at a Flea Market in Red Springs, NC. She happened to have a shop where she sold antiques. My mother introduced us and she greeted me with a smile and a hug as she sat in her chair. Then she kind of paused and looked at me and then proceeded to say something unexpected, “you’re called to preach and it’s time for you to get started”. Then she goes on to say “You’re coming to speak at my church in August so get ready”. Nervous and shocked, I reluctantly agreed.
Just as she said, I started preaching that August and quickly learned that teaching God’s word was the very thing I was created to do (I had no idea I was called to Pastor, but that wouldn't happen for another seven years). Pastor Odessa continued to nurture my gifts and taught me in depth about the importance of the fruit of the spirit being evident in both my character and my ministry. She and her husband, Bishop Copeland; gave of their personal time to guide me in the understanding of scripture and the value of operating in the Kingdom.
In February of 2015, Pastor Odessa left this side of Heaven to rest in the Lord. After watching the video I realized just how anointed, wise, and sensitive to the spirit she was. At the time, I failed to realize in totality just how blessed I was to be in her presence nor did I know how vital her teachings were. I am grateful for the time I did have with her and the many lessons she shared with me. It is because of her ability to be used by God that our church exists today. Words can’t express how blessed I feel to have been able to sit at the feet of such an influential woman. Thank you Pastor Odessa for your love, lessons, and deeds! They will never be forgotten and may the seeds that you’ve sown in my life never wither away.
I love you Pastor Odessa!
It is often assumed that spiritual leaders have it all together. I believe that people assume that because we teach God’s word we have some sort of secret or special connection to God in a way that they just aren't privy to. Well, this is so not true. Your leaders have been where you are and then some! We’ve struggled, suffered, been talked about, and even had to be delivered from some stuff; all to get us where God needed us to be. Allow me to shed some insight as to how we are so much alike.
For starters, all of God’s children have this thing called a weakness. This weakness can be anything from sexual lusts, perversions, lying, gossip, etc. It is these weakness that cause us to struggle like we do most commonly because we enjoy them until they ultimately bind us into a lifestyle that we really don’t want, but yet struggled (everyday) to get out of.
I believe that many of you have the same mindset I once had. I believed that me being delivered from my weakness would end the battle and simplify my faith walk. Man, was I wrong or what! You know what I quickly (and I mean QUICKLY) discovered? I discovered that every single day of my life is a battle. In addition to that, the battles seem to vary, some hard and some easy. The harder ones come at you “sideways” which means they specialize in the element of surprise while others you can deal with under the influence of the Holy Spirit.
The tough battles are the ones you learn from the most (mainly because they’re harder to forget and the spirit is often quieter during these times). It is in the battles that I learned to live in James 4:7 which taught me to submit my life (and all its contents) to God and resist (or ignore) the devil and he will flee. And let me tell you, IT WORKS! Now, the devil will return to taunt you time and time again, but the more you resist and denounce him, the stronger you become!
I want you to know that your weakness can be overcame however; it is an ongoing process. We are delivered by faith just like everything else in our spiritual walk. If you believe it - you will receive it. I believe it’s like Matthew documented in his book in chapter 9 verse 29. This is where Jesus stated “according to YOUR faith be it unto you”. He was speaking about healing, but I’ve learned our everyday lives are the same way. It is our believing that determines our receiving. In addition to that point, you have to maintain an effort to not allow anything or anyone to keep you bound. If you confess your sins in prayer, repent for them, and sin no more, then you are free. No man nor woman on this Earth has the power to change that. Even when they bring up the past be careful not to be offended! This is so important, because the truth is the truth. If you did it then don’t act like you didn’t just keep silent and remember in your spirit that they are referencing who you USED TO BE and not who you’ve BECOME!
Be encouraged, stay in your word, and keep moving forward in the things of God. Remember that it was Jesus’ blood that set you free and God’s grace that allows you to operate in that freedom. No one else is owed an explanation. You just make sure that your life is in alignment with God’s word and you'll always win!
Yesterday as I was working the Holy Spirit brought a question to me. Now, I've known the Holy Spirit for sometime so I know that when he asks a question it's from a position of location. So I carefully examined my “usual answer” and came to this conclusion. I Pastor because I love being a spiritual father. As a spiritual father it allows me the permission and opportunity to build/raise people in faith ultimately, bringing them closer to God. Then I was lead to examine my spiritual children, their lives, and the world we live in. It didn’t take me long to see the bondage that seems to be accepted across our society and even within the church.
In my opinion one of the toughest areas of Pastoring is walking out God’s grace. You see God seems to patiently wait for us, guide us, and allows us to fall without making us do anything. I on the other hand, often feel the need to coach and convince members to accept certain concepts within the scripture and adapt them into their lives. I am learning how to allow God to do the work and keep my faith in him for them. This poses a challenge for me, because of the passion/love I have for our people however; all I can do is teach. It is the responsibility of the people to allow God to do the work as a result of them working the word (by way of application) in their lives.
In closing, I suffer because I see slavery that an entire generation is in but, they believe it’s acceptable however; nothing could be further from the truth. I see a generation driven by drugs, sex, and violence. I see people who claim to be strong and intellectual but, can’t even see what’s right in front of their faces. I see an enemy who has done a great job at distracting and destroying an entire generation by simply setting them up for failure time and time again. It is for that reason that I WILL continue in ministry and I WILL continue to be an example, and I WILL continue to teach the truth! I know this is my call because seeing the need verifies my purposes in the Earth and that is why I Pastor!
Have you ever been in a place in life where your perspective has changed on almost every side? The way you once saw things is no longer how you view them? The things that you once thought were important now seem to be farthest from your mind? That's exactly where we are as a ministry. I have had the pleasure of learning that when God expands you into new levels not everyone will support your supernatural promotion. In fact, some seem to be more interested in breaking you down than building you up. Unfortunately, this has been something I've witnessed time and time again in ministry. Not necessarily with myself but, with those who sit under our teachings.
It seems as though when we make a decision to change we have a sign on our back, chest, and stomach that says "shoot here!!" and that is exactly what everyone does. At first I thought it was a satanic attack but,I later learned that it's people in general. See one of the methods I strive to make clear in our church is that everything is not the devil's fault, it's just easier to pass the buck. In most cases the blame is solely on us however; we refuse to accept it. We are flesh therefore; we do flesh stuff. My flesh will gossip, lie, fight, and even partake in sexual thoughts and desires if I allow it to. For example, if I were to partake in those things I could not say "it was the devil" because the fact of the matter is it was all me. I thought about it, I planned it, and I did it. The faster we learn that the better it would be for all of us.
Now that we understand supernatural accountability, we must also come to glimpse with the understanding of change and the struggle thereof. One of the hardest parts of the change is obtaining the strength within to successfully carry out the change without falling for the ploys of the enemy or his distractions. Surprisingly, when you begin to change the people around you will not support that change. In fact, most of them would rather you stay just the way you are. You were more fun, easier to talk to, and understood them better however; you were bound, disgusted, and busted, but everyone in your circle (including yourself) was too blind to see it. If you listen to the people around you then you'll be stuck forever and never get to enjoy your freedom or your destiny for that matter.
As difficult as it may be I encourage to keep making the effort to change. Once you accept the fact that not everyone is going to be excited about your change you'll be just fine. It is important that you accept your change and constantly work on it in spite of what others may say or do. If God is pleased then everything else in your life will be pleasing to you because you obeyed his word. Those who honor that are keepers and everyone else will be replaced anyways. Keep your eye on the prize and let nothing stop you from reaching your goal! Remember Jeremiah 29:11 reminds us that God has a plan and we’re already setup to win!
One thing that I have come to understand over the past month or so is how to trust God. Situations in my life have changed in what I once called “the worst way” but, I already see them working out for my good. In this process I have made a conscious decision to get closer to God and obtain a better understanding of his word. As a spiritual leader faith has been something I have taught time and time again but, I’ve never seen it like I do now. This began as God allowed me to be stripped of all the things I prided myself on. It was as if he knew this would only draw me closer to him. As a result, I've corrected my faults (which is a work in progress), my prayer life increased, my faith has been fueled, and I have a better understanding of that which God has called me to do. I feel the need to share this because I know that there are so many others out there like me who are either bound by something or feel as though they are too messed up to be repaired by God. Well I have news for you, GOD LOVES YOU and on top of that HE IS READY TO HELP YOU THROUGH THIS RIGHT NOW! In this process I had to be reminded of God’s grace and mercy as it relates to me and the decisions I’ve made in my life. Then he allowed me to understand that I cannot allow myself to wallow in a self pity but, walk in his divine order of forgiveness. All he wanted was for me to surrender ALL I have to him so that he could not only remove the messiness in my life but, use me to a greater degree. The holy spirit kept bringing me to scriptures that reminded me that even in the evil of my flesh and in my thoughts, God’s plan never changed for my life and neither did his love. Now as I type this blog, I am free and you (or anyone else for that matter) can do nothing to tie me down! We’ve made our mistakes but, if we repent then he forgives those mistakes AND he forgets them (that blows my mind every time). The problem is you may be like me and struggle to forgive yourself. It is an extensive process but, it is worth it! God has a plan and it includes you in fact you play a major role in this mighty move that God is working within you. The process was needed to wake us up. Now we have to run after the assignment and the plan that God has for us and let nothing stop us. Welcome to freedom!
The process of pain is one that most of us don’t want to endure. In most cases we choose not to endure it because pain causes discomfort which drives away from the very thing/opportunity in which God wants us to be close to. The pain in which I speak of is not physical pain but, emotional pain. Many people allow pain to block them and sometimes even bind them into things and even relationships they don’t want or need. The thing that most people never realize about pain is that it builds. Builds what you ask? It builds character; it builds tenacity, and it can even build you. Pain has a way of shaping us into whatever we allow ourselves to be shaped into. Pain is not just a hurting experience but, pain is also a growing opportunity. Although you don’t want it, you need it. Jesus went through a series of painful experiences leading up to his sacrifice on the cross. Today he is stronger and so are we because of his endurance, his commitment to his father, and even his pain. Through his pain we have grace, favor, and forgiveness. Just as Jesus went through seasons of pain that were needed so will we. Although the pain brings so much discomfort and a host of negative emotions; know that God is building you to become a more resilient and better prepared Kingdom Kid. You are a instrument but, before you can be fit for the Master’s use; you must first be fined tuned. Once you have been tuned the Master(God) can use you to your fullest ability. Then you will see the ultimate power and worth of all your pain.
I honestly find it sad how the idea of love or appreciation has been so distorted. People today have become so selfish and our main concern is what we want to do and in most cases the only time others are incorporated is to get whatever we want from them. The word love has been thrown around so much to the point that people no longer even know the meaning of the word let alone trying to display it to another person. What happened to unity, character, or even integrity? We have become so cold and unfocused to the point that we have no heart for one another. It breaks God’s heart to see his people become so evil and cold blooded. The only way we can change this is within ourselves. If we really focus on changing ourselves it will challenge others to change themselves. It all starts with us! You in?
As a Christian one thing you automatically know is that you are different from the people outside of Church. We understand that we are to be totally submitted and committed to God and everything he stands for. Through the years I feel as though we may have lost focus. I have been saved for twelve years and have been in ministry for ten of those twelve and one thing I see regularly is the reality of how small minded we as believers have become. The key to being a Christian is understanding that we are here to be living examples to the people around us. Does this mean that we are perfect? No of course not however, you are expected to be the difference in the environment in which you are in. For example if you are at work and they are gossiping about someone else then you separate yourself from them until they are done but, you do not partake in it. This is how it should be done but, somewhere along the lines we started singling out the people outside of Church and we judge them or speak negative things about them. I feel as though we are all the same. The difference is that the people outside of the church don’t understand God or what he really is about. We as Christians need to come out of our shell of Christianity and study the non-believers and what they do and you will see that we are all the same; we are just on different levels. Our job is to bridge the gap in what ever ways possible; not judge it….