Apr 012022
 
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God Saved Me On April Fool’s Day!

April Fools’ Day is special for me! It was on that day in 1979 that I began following Jesus! I was sitting in my MIT dormitory room in MacGregor House G Entry 4th floor looking out at the Charles River on a beautiful spring day. I was not in any sort of crisis – there was nothing wrong in my life that I was aware of. I wasn’t upset about anything. Somehow the Jesus who suffered the horrors of crucifixion roughly 2000 years ago and then rose from the dead 3 days later made his presence known to me and made it clear that I now had an opportunity to follow him. The Jesus I now follow is the same Jesus who has been given all authority in heaven and earth (Matthew 28:18-20) and who will ultimately judge and rule over all creation (Acts 17:29-31).

I didn’t grow up in church. My mother took me to Sunday School for a brief period when I was perhaps 5 or 6, but I don’t think that period in my life lasted more than a few months. I did attend Trinity Parish Boys Camp (run by Trinity Church in Manhattan) during the summers of 1971 – 1974 but, although I was curious about the church services, the priests who ran the camp made no effort to “close the sale”, so I re-focused my attention elsewhere.

My ideas about God had largely been formed by watching the Lutheran claymation show “Davey & Goliath” on television (a wonderful show) as a young child. When I was 16, my sister Renée wrote me a letter about how to make Jesus Lord of my life, but by then I found the idea that I needed Jesus in my life offensive and I tore up the letter and threw it away.

When I arrived at MIT in 1976, I met Michael Harrison, who would become my best friend (and eventually the best man at my wedding). He was already a Christian and encouraged me to become one. The following year I met Courtney McBath, who would also strongly encourage me to become a Christian. Despite their influence I felt strongly that following Jesus was something I just wouldn’t be able to do. I might be able to start out OK, but I just didn’t believe that it would ultimately work. I would tell them: “Maybe I’ll get saved when I’m 30”.

On Sunday April 1, 1979 however, in my MacGregor dorm room, Jesus somehow made it clear to me that if I decided to follow him then, it would work. I felt free to accept him and confident that I could actually be a Christian. I also felt free to say no to Jesus, but I also had a nagging worry: I didn’t know when I would ever again feel that same freedom to follow Jesus!

I decided to follow Jesus and to attend the Black Christian Fellowship Bible study that Friday. As it turns out, Eva had, quite independently, decided to follow Jesus herself that same week (we were no longer a couple at that point). I wasn’t planning to attend church because my mother had told me that churches were full of hypocrites. I went to the Bible study that Friday because I knew the members and trusted that they were genuine. When they invited people to share testimonies I told them that I had asked Jesus to be lord of my life and that I believed he had saved me. Word eventually went out on campus that the unthinkable had happened – Rocklyn had gotten saved. I didn’t go to church that Sunday, but the following Sunday was Easter and I figured I would go to church for Easter. I went to First Church of God (now Shawmut Community Church of God) in the South End and met Bishop Gideon A. Thompson, (he was Pastor Thompson then) who answered my questions, opened his library to me, and mentored me in ministry. He created safe space for me to ask questions and he saw to it that I got answers. Under his ministry I was NEVER made to feel bad for wanting to understand God, Jesus, the Bible, etc. By the way, “Eva had already begun attending the same church and, as you can guess, we didn’t stay broken up for long.

Yes – God saved me on April Fools Day! Now here I am many years later, still following Jesus. To God be the glory!

Dec 082012
 
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What Does “The Gospel” Really Mean?

Frank Viola has recently written several blog posts promoting a fresh understanding of the gospel:

I have generally found Frank’s material to be very helpful as we pursue the vision that God has given us at Life Church, and the posts above are no exception. Please take the time to read them (preferably in the order in which they appear above).

More About Frank Viola

Frank Viola is an author and blogger. You can explore his ministry more fully at his web site: FrankViola.org.

Dec 052012
 
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Have you ever played wiffle ball? Would you use a guitar as a substitute for a bat in a wiffle ball game? This is one of the questions posed by Shane Hipps, in an unusual yet enlightening sermon. Shane Hipps is one of the teaching pastors at Mars Hill Bible Church and on Sunday June 27, 2010 he taught a sermon entitled “Wiffle Guitar”. In which he explored spiritual gifts and shares some powerful insights about how God views our quest to understand what our gifts are.

Shane’s sermon is available from the Mars Hill web site:

Wiffle Guitar by Shane Hipps – Sunday June 27, 2010

Check it out and enter into a new experience of your gifts and your ministry.

Apr 042012
 
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Abundant Life

In John 10:7-10 Jesus makes a powerful statement about life:

  Therefore Jesus said again, “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep.  All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them.  I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture.  The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. 

The phrase “to the full” has also been translated “more abundantly” and this leads to the important understanding that Jesus has come to give us abundant life. As we examine Jesus’ lifestyle it also becomes apparent that he expected his followers to be a  community – praying for them to be one just as he and the Father are one (John 17:20-23). In other words, the abundant life we have in Jesus includes our relationships with other believers.  If our lifestyles diminish our relationships then we won’t experience life as abundantly as we ought to.

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Feb 102012
 
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Note (April 13, 2017): This post will be updated (something it badly needs) over the next few weeks!

Old Word – New Meaning

Several years ago (probably sometime in 2006), while attending a meeting for local clergy, I heard the keynote speaker make a statement that I have never forgotten:

“Grace is the empowering presence of God enabling you to be who God created you to be, and to do what God has called you to do – right where you are.”

The speaker was the late Pastor James Ryle; he had been invited to address the monthly meeting of the Black Ministerial Alliance of Greater Boston (BMA) by then BMA President Bishop Gideon Thompson. Later that year Pastor Ryle (again at Bishop Thompson’s invitation) taught several sessions at the 2006 Jubilee Christian Church annual convention. He elaborated on this same truth. Up until this time I had always thought of grace as “God’s unmerited (i.e. undeserved) favor” or “God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense”, but on that day Pastor Ryle gave me a new and extremely helpful way to understand this critical concept. It blessed me so much that I wanted to share it with others; I began looking for Pastor Ryle’s teaching in written form.

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Aug 192011
 
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In 1985 John Wimber gave a presentation on spirit-led ministry at the Signs and Wonders Conference. Here are a few key facts about John Wimber:

  • John was a musician who brought Bobby Hatfield and Bill Medley together to form the Paramours. They went on to become “The Righteous Brothers”.
  • He founded the Anaheim Vineyard Christian Fellowship
  • John helped to found and went on to lead the international Vineyard Movement.
  • He went home to be with the Lord in 1997.

You can read more about John in his Wikipedia article. The 4 videos in this post show John demonstrating a very relaxed and trusting way of following the Holy Spirit’s leading during times of congregational ministry. I find it to be very freeing. Hopefully you will too.

You can also view the embedded videos right from this blog post:

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Apr 232007
 
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The following observations are drawn from a discussion I facilitated during the April 22, 2007 Christian Musicians Fellowship (CMF) at the home of George and Emily Russell. The topic for the discussion was:

“How can we as musicians present our faith in our respective spheres of influence without going over the top?”

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