All posts by Rev. Kelly R. Jackson

Rev. Kelly R. Jackson has been an author/poet for over 30 years. He self-published his first book, "Temporarily Disconnected", in 2006, and has since published 10 more books. As he grew closer to God and became a licensed and ordained minister, his work grew more and more spiritual, beginning with 2011's "A Guide For Spiritual Living" (revised in 2014), which was followed by 2014's "An Understanding with God", and 2015's "The 30 Day Meditation". In 2016, he published two books: "Going Through to Get Through: Activating your faith during life's most trying times" and "Are we still making Disciples: Pushing The Church Beyond Membership and Sunday Morning Worship". Rev. Jackson also does a weekly radio broadcast, "Your Life With Purpose", in his hometown of Detroit, MI. The broadcast is designed to teach the Word of God to the listener, while encouraging them to live a life according to the God's holy Word. Rev. Jackson has a no nonsense approach to his work, but it's also filled with spirituality, compassion, humor, and always common sense and wisdom. Rev. Jackson is currently a member of the Bethel Temple Missionary Baptist Church, under the leadership of Pastor Damon Moseley. He's also husband, the father of two sons and he still resides in the Metro Detroit area.

God knows your heart, and that should concern you 

Whether we really believe it or not, God really does know who we are. That may seem like a strange opening line, but sometimes, I think we forget. When spend so much time trying to put our best foot and face forward to our fellow man, that we forget that God knows the truth about us. And when I say the truth, I mean the WHOLE TRUTH!

It should encourage all of us to know that God loves us in ways that the vast majority of the people we come into contact with in our lives don’t. Some people can’t deal with our habits, issues, and shortcomings, but God is different. Even with all that is wrong with us (and there’s something wrong with all of us), God has the ability to look past it and love us anyway. But, let’s be clear: Just because God loves beyond our flaws doesn’t mean He excuses our flaws. 

Herein is our human problem while dealing with a spiritual God. We want our fleshy ways to be acceptable to God, and that’s just not how it goes. We’re approaching God as we do our fellow man. “I’m not perfect, just accept it!” That’s fine when we’re asking for a little bit of grace from one another, but not when we’re dealing with God. There isn’t a “have to” anywhere in a sovereign God, which means He doesn’t have to put up with any of us. He does what He wants, when He wants, and only has to accept what He wants. 

One of our favorite phrases is this: “God knows my heart”. However, this statement isn’t the defense mechanism that we think it is. It’s a warning. It shouldn’t be a statement to get others off your back, instead, it should be a revelation to whoever decides to speak those words. It’s a reminder that if no one else knows the deepest recesses of your thoughts, your feelings, and yes, your motives, it is The One Being that controls it all. 

Understanding that God knows the heart means understanding that no matter what you try and cover up, it remains exposed to God. No matter what you speak, God knows what you feel. No matter what you do, God knows whether or not you’re sincere. God knowing our hearts means God knows the lie in our lives whether anyone else ever sees the truth or not. Saying that God knows our hearts is saying that His opinion is the only one that matters. Believe it or not, that should actually make us uncomfortable! 

I don’t say this to scare anyone because God is a forgiving God, whereas man will never let you forget. However, I do say this so that we can be clear. God’s forgiveness doesn’t mean He’s going to pacify our wrong. God still punishes, whether new age religion wants to believe it or not. 

He’s not going to look the other way when we mistreat one another. He’s still jealous, so He knows when you’re doing things for Him and when you’re doing them for show. He knows when we reverence people more than we reverence Him, and that’s evident by who’s able to get us to move. Again, He doesn’t know the truth we want others to see, He knows the WHOLE TRUTH! 

Once we realize how serious that statement “God knows my heart” is, not only will we stop saying it to other people, we’ll actually adjust our behavior. Because God really does know our hearts!

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Faith don’t come easy!

There’s a common misconception about faith that exists not only in the world, but even inside the church. There’s this thought that a life of faith is a bed of roses. It’s an idea that people of faith are blissfully blind and neither worry nor concern ever darkens our door. Not only is this idea of superhero Christians incorrect, but it’s also damaging to new converts who get frustrated because they never reach that state of Christian bliss. 

I do my best not to worry about the ills of life and I’ve grown a lot since my younger days. However, I’d be lying if I said I never looked to God and wondered. When I’m tried and I don’t quite understand, I find myself thinking as Job did when he said “When He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10). However, it’s the trying that is the challenge. 

In the vein of Job, many fail to realize that some of the things that add to the trying times are the people around us. It’s the people that don’t always understand the ways in which we trust in God. They’re the people that can’t see past the right now, so they push our spiritual buttons. They assume that faith is simple, and yet they complicate it for us quite often. 

Their thinking at times is that we just decided to follow God without any concerns or trepidation. The thought is that we know where we’re going and what we’re doing at all times, but that’s not faith. There is a struggle to faith and while we accept it at most times, there are days when it’s difficult to understand and embrace. And yet, we do it anyway because the other option isn’t encouraging. We talk about faith glowingly because we know and trust God. But the road is anything but easy, even though God is worth every bit of the struggle.

Contrary to popular belief, faith doesn’t just come from people deciding to blindly follow God. Faith doesn’t always come when we decide to do something. Sometimes, it comes when we’re forced into something. When you didn’t leap off the cliff, but you were thrown. When you didn’t jump into faith, but you were pushed by people who were behind your back, but didn’t have your back. When you were showered with “We love you and support you”, but you realize you’re in a room full of strangers that you’ve known for years (let that sink in).

When you’re bombarded with advice from people that have absolutely no experience in what you’re going through. When you have to abandon what you’ve been doing for years because you now realize that you were wrong and God was right and He tried to tell you five mistakes ago. No, faith isn’t always what we decide. Sometimes, it’s all we have left.

Dissemination proper: The power is in God, not us

Before we reach, teach, or preach, we must know and understand what we’re talking about, and who has the authority.

“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us”. – 2 Corinthians 4:7

20141012_194349 (2)Sometimes we misunderstand what it means to have this treasure in earthen vessels. The Word of God wrapped in our fragile humanity. In our arrogance, we assume that whatever slips through the cracks of our brokenness will always represent the goodness of God. The truth of the matter is we ought to take great care when we speak on behalf of God. Because of our brokenness, we’re capable of great information and misinformation.

Something I shared in my latest book, Are We Still Making Disciples, is the fact that all transformation isn’t godly transformation. Meaning that everyone that claims to be transformed isn’t necessarily transformed by God. Every thought that comes to our mind isn’t God’s gospel just because we’re saved. After being dipped in Scripture, we’re still very capable of acting in the flesh. In action and in speech, all while claiming to speak from the Scriptures and for God. I would caution, as we operate in these earthen vessels, that we get an understanding with our memorization.

We’re in a day and age of Scripture bashing with limited study and/or understanding. What’s often missed by the world that hates to hear from the church on any controversial issues, is the fact that the church actually beats up on one another with Scripture just as much as they do the world, if not more. And they do it the same way: with a lack of understanding.

We’re under the impression these days that because we do things a little different than days past, that we are somehow different. We have some updated Bibles and viral ministries, and now we think that we’re progressive. In some cases, we are, but in others, we’re very much the same. We’re not openly pronouncing hell on everyone that we don’t agree with as they did in days past, we’re just a little more subtle now.

We have new school platforms with old school sensibilities, and we think no one knows the difference. We’ve invited everyone in, hoping that they don’t catch on. Where we’re no longer Bible thumping, we’re tablet tapping. But clever judgement in still judgment, and the world isn’t fooled.

One of the primary motivations for me writing Are We Still Making Disciples is the fact that we have so many that lack understanding that are on an evangelism crusade in the name of the church, touting a few memorized Scriptures as though they not only understand, but are living by them to the letter (Romans 3:23 comes to mind).

However, it’s not so much the church sending people out as it is people going out on their own. We have so many social media evangelist, prophets, and scholars, that the church can’t keep up or contain them. People have forgotten the difference between testifying about what God has done for you and the responsibility of leading people to Christ.

With leadership comes great responsibility. If we’re standing on Scripture, throwing it around on our pages, in our friendship circles, in our families and so on, all with the idea that we’re leading people to Christ, we must remember where the power lies. It’s not in our snappy statuses, it’s not in our spiritual high mindedness, it’s not in the fact that we’re memorizing more than we’re applying, and it’s certainly not in our ability to throw Scripture better than we can catch it. The power is in God!

So our responsibility isn’t to be smug or clever with His Word. Our responsibility is to rightly divide it. To keep quiet about what we don’t have a grasp on. To remember that the treasure is in contaminated earthen vessels, and if we’re not careful, the contamination of these vessels can spoil the contents, so that when it’s poured out and it’s consumed, it makes the recipients sick and not healed.

It’s so vitally important that we pay more attention to the fact that God has the power concerning His Word. We are the conduits. Have a zeal of God, but according to knowledge. We must rightly divide before we disseminate. In all thy getting, get understanding.

But did YOU die?: You’re still here for a reason!

Let me start by saying that 2016 presented a lot of different challenges for me in ministry, in finances, in church, and in family. And just like many of you, some of my favorite celebrities passed away, most notably for me, my musical hero, Prince. Yes, the preacher loved Prince, but that’s another story for another time.

If there is anything that marked 2016 for many of us, it was those celebrity deaths. In addition to that, many of us experienced some deaths of people that were close to us. In my former church, there were 3 significant deaths of long time members, all within a few months. We also witnessed more mass shootings and pointless murders in this world, where compassion seems to be more and more scarce with each passing day.

As if that wasn’t enough, our country elected a man to the White House that at worst is a racist and a misogynist, and at best is one that has no issue with anyone that is racist or misogynistic. There’s a lot that happened this year that had many people that were once hopeful and optimistic feeling as if there was no more hope. But before you give up and give in, there is a question that must be answered: Did YOU die?

I’m gonna be the first to admit that I didn’t like 2016. While it started off great with me publishing my 7th book (Going Through to Get Through), by April I was mourning the death of my aforementioned childhood hero. Shortly after that, those deaths started happening in the church. Along with that, there was all types of issues and strife in that church, where I was born and raised. Trying times, indeed. But as we come to the beginning of a new year, the fact that I’m still here is not lost on me.

What we often miss in the midst of struggle and loss is the fact that God has purpose hidden in the midst of it all. No matter who died in 2016, you didn’t. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t care and that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t mourn, even if you mourned a celebrity that you didn’t know personally (because I mourn for anyone that can only show compassion to people they know). What it does mean is that God has spared us, and that’s not an accident. It’s on purpose. It’s WITH purpose!

If there’s anything that all of us need to take from any year or any time in which we experience multiple tragedies, including what happened on election night, it is an understanding that God left us here to answer back. There’s something that God still wants to get out of us, and that’s why even in the midst of the seemingly unspeakable, God expects us to speak!

Whether it’s with your talents and gifts, through your ministry, or just in how we need to show more love to one another because we don’t know when the last time is the last time, God expects us to go forward with life and be a voice. No matter who dies, we still have to live. Not to mourn perpetually, not to be afraid of politics and policies, and not to be concerned about who’s next to go, because none of us has any of those answers anyway. 

Did YOU die? If you’re reading this, the answer to that is an obvious one. The more pertinent questions to answer becomes why not and what do I do with the chance I’m still given. Do you have all of 2017? Who knows. But what you do have is right now. You didn’t die. So, what do you plan to do now?

Happy New Year!

Read an excerpt from “Are We Still Making Disciples”: “Think outside the box, but not outside The Bible”

 

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Think outside the box, but not outside The Bible

So many of the rules of the church have been loosened because we want to seem welcoming to an ever growing segment of society that doesn’t see the need in physically coming to church. While I understand that we need different methods in a different world, there are some things about the church that should be non-negotiable.

I once preached a sermon entitled “When Jesus Is Your Draw”, taken from Luke 5:1-10. In the text, Jesus goes out into the boat with Peter to catch fish. Peter had gone out the night before, as he explained to Jesus, and had caught no fish.

However, even after explaining to Jesus that the fish weren’t biting, Peter says to Jesus, “Nevertheless, at thy word I will let down the net”. Once Peter followed Jesus’ instructions, he caught so many fish that his boat couldn’t hold them. There were so many fish that the text says his net broke and he had to call another ship over to take in the overflow of fish.

The text also states that there were so many fish that both boats begin to sink. However, what I always noticed in the text was what didn’t happen. While the net was broken and the boats began to sink, nowhere in the text does it say that any fish got away. Peter had gone back to the same place that he had gone the night before to catch fish, but to no avail. The difference was that Jesus was now in the boat. After this, Jesus told Peter, “From henceforth, thou shalt catch men”.

This text is a great lesson in what we as disciples need to draw people. All we need is Jesus. We’re in a day and time where we’re “marketing” the church in an effort to reach a new generation. I have no qualms about this as this generation responds differently than generations past. You have to reach them through their phones, either by text or social media, and you must do so in ways that grabs their attention.

I’m very active on social media platforms and I use them to promote books, ministry events, and I even post a live video feed from the studio during my radio broadcast. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with different methods to draw people to church.

Where I have a problem is when Jesus comes up missing in the marketing plans. Where I have a problem is when we’re promoting services, but we aren’t promoting the Savior. Jesus is the center of the church, so how do we expect to make disciples of Christ, without promoting Christ?

When what you used to do doesn’t work anymore, you have to come up with a new strategy. Yes, believe it or not, there is a strategy to discipleship. When Jesus sent His disciples out in the 10th Chapter of Matthew, He didn’t do so without giving them instructions. He told them what to do, how to do it, and He even told them what their demeanor should be as they did it. Yes, God is intentional!

However, in the midst of new strategies and new approaches, we can’t water down the Word of God or Jesus in the process. No matter what our approach is, it must be centered on The Word. No matter what we’re doing to grab people’s attention, we must always make Jesus the center of attention. We can think outside the box, but we should never think outside The Bible. If Jesus isn’t the draw, then what we’re doing is in vain.

The world has convinced us that crowds matter when we’re putting on a program. Where we used to believe in “where two or three are gathered”, we now don’t believe it’s worth it unless there are two or three hundred. We’ve been convinced that the flyer can’t be too churchy, or the wording can’t be too Christian. We have buzz words like “fire”, “anointing”, and “breakthrough” that causes people to run to our churches.

We make sure that we have the praise team or the preacher of the moment. In the name of creativity, we do all that we can to draw people to our flame. However, when you’re doing something for The Lord, the who and the why are always more important than the number of people that show up.

No matter what program we put on in church, there ought to be three objectives:

  1. Glorifying God
  2. Getting someone saved
  3. Keeping someone connected to God

I know we like to fill the room, but our main objective should be filling the people up with Jesus. Again, this isn’t to disparage anyone that’s looking for creative ways to fill up the church. In fact, I encourage every church to have some sort of marketing plan that targets the people that are current members (we can’t be so concerned with the fish we don’t have that we neglect the ones that we do), as well as the people that you’d like to see at the church. The point here is that Jesus must still be the main reason we do any of it.

As we see in that Luke 5:1-10 text, when we take Jesus into the world, even in places where we were once unsuccessful, He draws where we once failed. And He’s so powerful, that even when we fill up our churches and people begin to overflow, because He’s the draw and He’s what people came for, no one will get away.

When we make Jesus the center of any program that we’re putting on, we are fulfilling our purpose as the church. When we draw people to Jesus with Jesus, they will stay because of Jesus.

Whatever we do in the church must begin with The Bible. When we come up with ideas, we should ask:

  1. Is this Biblical? – Are there any Scriptures that supports what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, and how we’re doing it?
  1. Who’s getting the glory? – Is what we’re doing lifting up the name of Jesus or our particular ministry, our cause (if the cause isn’t Christ), or even our invited guests?
  1. Is there an opportunity for someone to be saved? – This is beyond simply opening the doors of the church. Is what we’re doing actually being done to draw people out of the world and to Christ?
  1. Does it point to discipleship? – For those that are in attendance that are already saved, will it cause them to go out and witness to someone else about Christ or just witness about the event?

I know this may seem a little stuffy to some people, and maybe we’ve gotten to a point where we believe we don’t have to mention the name of Jesus every time we invite someone to our church. But if you don’t want to mention the foundation of the church in what you’re doing in the church, supposedly for the church, then one has to wonder if any of it is really about the church. If Jesus isn’t the draw, then what are we really doing?

If we really want to fill the church, there are some tried and true methods that we can use that will ensure that the people that are coming are there for the right reason. Evangelism still works. Witnessing still works. The testimony of your personal life when you’re in the world still works. But no matter what the method, we should all be doing as Peter did. We need to get Jesus in the boat, or in the case of our discussion, in the marketing plan.

Then, we need to develop a nevertheless spirit. Maybe we tried some things the old way and didn’t get the response that we wanted, so then we have to ask ourselves, did we drop the net on our word or on the word of Jesus?

By simply obeying what Jesus said and when He said it, Peter did what he always did when fishing. But when he did it at the command of Jesus, the outcome was completely different. If we’d only follow His Word, we’d catch more fish than we could hold.

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Stay in your lane: Don’t focus too much on “the Joneses”

FullSizeRender (4)Everyone that appears to be ahead of you isn’t necessarily winning. This is one of the things that we need to understand in life. We’re often looking ahead, around, and behind us, when our primary responsibility is to run the race that God has designed for us. It is not our call to be overly focused on the apparent successes or supposed failures of others. Just do you, and all that God has promised will come to you.

Let me try and make it a little plainer. The only way for you to lose the race that God has for you to run is if you don’t do what you’re supposed to do. No one can beat you. No one can stop you. That is, no one but you. You have a specific duty and it’s all in your lane. If you stay focused on that and stay the course, God will cause you to triumph!

Focusing on those ahead of us can be misleading. There’s nothing wrong with having good, sound, accomplished mentors that have blazed the trail before you, but not everyone is doing as well as you think they are. There are people that are running ahead of you, and they’re running quite fast, but they’re also running towards destruction. Without having all the information that’s present in their lane, you could unnecessarily speed up while trying to keep up, and crash into a coming hurdle that God intended for you to jump over with ease.

Conversely, you must consider the example that God is setting through you. There’s someone running behind you. Not because they’re slow, not because they’re failing, and not because they don’t have the skills that you have (sometimes, they have more). There are some people that are running behind you just to see how you’re running your race. They’re taking notes. They’re learning from you. God may in fact be using you as a standard bearer. Are you running properly? Are you at the right pace? How are you handling your hurdles? Are you properly positioned in your own lane?

I’ve noticed that God has given me a very unique ministry. I don’t preach the same as others (I don’t have a “Baptist sound”), I don’t teach the same as others, and much of what I do in ministry outside the pulpit was established before I was ever licensed, which caused skepticism because people often put more stock in titles than they do in content. But I also believe that by answering my call later in life, I’m better able to handle the uniqueness of the call.

At this stage in my life, I have a better understanding of how a sense of competition doesn’t belong everywhere in life. This is especially true in ministry, where our primary goal should be leading others to Christ, and not trying to outdo one another. Because of the perspective that I have, I’m able to just do what God has called me to do. I can write as He inspires me, teach and preach as He inspires me, and walk in what He’s called me to walk in, without ever feeling inferior because it’s not quite what others do in their lane. But more than anything, because I’m unique in what I do, it helps me to appreciate the beauty in what my co-workers in the vineyard do without ever feeling the need to change or to try and change them.

I know the grass often looks greener on “the Joneses” side. They’re jobs seem better, their ministries seem to be flourishing a bit more, they even seem to have better friends than you. But just remember, as you run your race, all that glitters ain’t gold. People have become quite good at imagery these days.

At the same time, some people are doing exactly what it looks like they’re doing because God has called them to greater heights and platforms. But before you go aspiring to that, you must understand that there is also a greater responsibility there as well. While understanding that sometimes everything isn’t what it seems to be, we must also remember that we aren’t in some lanes because we can’t handle it.

“The Joneses” may be miserable or they may be as happy and accomplished as they appear. Pray for them and wish them well in whatever they choose to do. But don’t let it distract you from what God called you to do. I call it snowflake ministry. We don’t all look the same, but when we all get together, what a beautiful sight it can be. All we have to do is what we’re designed to do. And to get to the well done line, we can’t be overly concerned with any other lane but our own. Don’t press toward any mark. Press toward the one that God has set before you.

Have you considered the tree?

FullSizeRender (4)Nobody questions the tree. How it came to be, what it endured during its growth, or what it takes for it to maintain. You just know a tree when you see one. You have no idea what it took growing from a seed to the tree you see before you. You have no idea about the storms it has endured, limbs being broken away by strong winds that would’ve taken down a lesser tree.

People carving names and symbols on it, things that don’t represent who the tree actually is, but now it’s branded forever. Cars crashing into it, damaging its bark, and yet the tree is often left to supposedly heal itself (but we know that God is the healer). Dogs doing their business on it, and yet the tree continues to stand, renewing its leaves every year.

The message here is very few people will actually witness your growth, but that doesn’t change who and what you are. Many have enough vision to know that even though they didn’t witness the growth, their eyes aren’t deceiving them. You are what you are, whether they want you to be or not.

At the same time, some people know exactly what you are, they just refuse to respect it. They will brand you with names. They’ll dump on you. They’ll mercilessly crash into you and then blame you for being where you’ve always been, doing what you’ve always done. They resent you being in your calling! They’ll even desire to cut you down and cast you into the fire.

But don’t be discouraged! You are what God called you to be. Even when people don’t understand how you came to be, even when they didn’t witness your evolution, even when they wish to uproot you in the name of new development, stand strong. Just as God created you. He planted you and He will allow you to continue producing in your season.

“He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season. Whose leaf also shall not whither; And whatever he does shall prosper.” – Psalms 1:3