Stress is a part of life. It is one of the major factors that cause strokes, heart attacks and other illnesses. I have said on many occasions that the cliché “too blessed to be stressed” sounds good, but in reality no matter how blessed we are, we still have stress in our lives.
A few stress factors in our lives are: how our bills will be paid; broken relationships; health problems; troubled marriages and raising children. Now if that is not enough, think about the stress that comes in leadership, in pastoring people, and in serving in a ministry; they all bring challenges. It is important for us to accept the fact that a certain amount of change and crisis is an essential part of life.
We need to be honest with ourselves and with God about our ability to deal with stress. One of the things we can do is identify how we can draw on our faith when dealing with stress. Take the time to see how the hand of God has been evident in your life.
I believe it is important for us to have a frame of reference so we can look back over our lives and see how God has helped us deal with stressful situations. Remember, every day is a gift from God. Use each day to the fullest; learn to live, to laugh and to love, as these virtues will help reduce the stress in your life.
Allow God to speak to you and recognize that His Word is true, for in Romans 8:28 we read, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them that are the called according to His purpose.” That is not to say that everything bad that happens in life is good, but something good can come out of it. Trust God and acknowledge that you need him to help you cope when stress becomes overwhelming.
Our faith can carry us through the trying times, and our trust in God can lead us to a richer, fuller life giving us balance and hope. Take a few moments each day and spend quiet time with God, focusing on him and his ability to carry you through. Nothing is greater in life than our faith in God. It puts everything into a spiritual focus. We do not have to be in denial when stress comes our way; we can just trust God.
Whenever you are overwhelmed by a stressful situation, turn to God. Prayer can lighten your load, and know that through the power of prayer, stress can be transformed into joy and peace. Just remember, that when stress comes your way, you are not alone, God is there, and many others are going through some of the same stressful situations you are.
Let me assure you, I am not speaking in theory, and like many others, have had some stressful situations in my life. I can’t even begin to record them, but know that I am grateful to God that under the heavy weight of stress, his amazing grace kept me, when I could not even keep myself. He and he alone was there to help me, and I am a living witness that through faith he can handle whatever stress comes in your life. Don’t let stress handle you; let your faith handle stress. Your life will be enhanced, you will live longer, and God will get the glory.
Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy wrote these profound words, “I have come to the conclusion that the most important element of human life is faith.” From faith, and through it, we come to a new understanding of ourselves and the world about us. It puts everything into a spiritual focus…so that love and joy and happiness, along with worry, sorrow and loss, become a part of a large picture, which extends far beyond time and space.
The Rev. Charles W. Quann is the senior pastor of the Bethlehem Baptist Church in Penllyn and Spring House.
For the past several months, I have been preaching a series of sermons from the book sub-titled “Break Free From the Bondage of your Past”: Joyce Meyer, by Richard Young. Also in this series I refer to Bishop T.D. Jakes’ book entitled, “Let It Go.”
In each of these books, the author talks about the need to get rid of excess baggage as well as the importance of forgiving, so that we can be forgiven. I would argue strongly, many of us cannot really enjoy life because we are still carrying yesterday’s hurts, mistakes and past failures. We will never experience the real joy of life until we let go and move forward in our lives. As pastor of the Bethlehem Baptist Church for more than 25 years, I have encountered many people who are stuck in the past. They have become angry, mean-spirited, have little or no self-esteem, and blame everyone else for their troubles.
I do not know how many people have been helped by these sermons, but I can honestly say these books have helped me to let go of some things. I believe in being transparent and vulnerable in sharing my own journey. Nothing is gained by holding on to yesterday. Bishop Jakes writes in his book, “We cannot embrace God’s forgiveness if we are so busy clinging to past wounds, and nursing old grudges; in order to move into the blessings of our future, we must relinquish the pains of the past.”
Richard Young writes, “Who are you helping most when you forgive the person who hurt you? Actually, you are helping yourself more than the other person”. I always looked at forgiving people who hurt me as being really hard. It seemed so unfair for them to receive forgiveness when I had been hurt. I got pain and they got freedom, without having to pay for the pain they caused. I now realize I am helping myself when I choose to forgive.
There is so much truth in what these writers have to say. There is an art to forgiveness, and when you discover that art, you are able to “Break Free From The Bondage of your Past.” Our past experiences may have made us the way we are, but we don’t have to stay that way. There is a plaque on my desk I read daily which says, “Live, Laugh and Love.” You really can’t do that when you are bound or slave to the past. Every day is a good day; let yesterday be the past, for this is the day the Lord has made, and surely we can rejoice and be glad in it. You cannot rejoice being angry, holding a grudge or being resentful. Life will pass you by, and the people you are angry with will enjoy life while you wallow in your pity. Sometimes you must write off the past so you are available for the future. There is a portion of Scripture in James 1:2 that reads, “Count it all joy, when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience”.
I encourage you to approach each new day with trust and confidence in God. Do not worry about your enemy; according to the Word, he will make your enemy your footstool. Learn to live each day to the fullest and trust God completely. One of the blessings that come to mind is the opportunity to reflect upon my life’s journey. In the words of the songwriter, “God has been good to me; all of my good days outweigh my bad days, I won’t complain.” I have had enough setbacks and failures to be dependent on God, and enough blessings to trust in God. There were those who tried to block my blessings, but they only became steps for God to take me to a higher level.
I will use this column in the coming weeks to write this series of sermons I have preached on “Break Free From the Bondage of the Past.” I pray they will be a blessing to you.
Gifted to Serve is the name of one of our ministries at Bethlehem. For a number of years, our congregation has supported Chosen 300 Ministries, led by Brian Jenkins, which provides food to those in need.
Every third Saturday of the month members of our congregation travel into Center City to provide food and sometimes articles of clothing for those in need. This ministry was formerly known as Feeding the Homeless. I am grateful to God the ministry name has been changed to Gifted to Serve because, in my humble view, I believe it brings dignity to those persons we are serving. I would argue strongly that often times the people who need our help the most are stigmatized and made to feel less than human. I know some would argue that by changing the name from Feeding the Homeless to Gifted to Serve we have diminished the number of homeless people in our city. The reality is, with this economy, it does not take long for anyone to be on the receiving end. I strongly believe we as believers have been called to serve. Whatever gifts we have are to be used to serve others.
There is a wonderful story in the Gospel of John, Chapter 13, when Jesus our Lord and Savior broke bread with His disciples for the last time. The story is told that in the upper room, the master rose from supper, took a towel and girded himself. He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet. Peter, who was always impulsive, said, “Master, you should not wash my feet.” The master replied, “If I do not wash your feet you do not have part of me.” Then the master said, “Do you know what I have done to you? If I then, your lord and teacher, wash your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet.”
What a marvelous story of how the master served others. In that room was betrayal and denial. The master does the work of a servant and washed his disciples’ feet. We have become so consumed with ourselves that in many ways we have failed to serve others. One of the greatest blessings in life is to experience the blessings that comes when you put others first.
The Gifted to Serve Ministry at Bethlehem has taken on a whole new meaning. We do not look at those who we serve every month as being homeless, but rather an opportunity to serve our brothers and sisters whom God loves with the same love that he showers on us. When you see people with the eyes of God, you don’t see the way the world sees, but rather you see people made in the image of God. You also recognize that before this life is over, you may need someone to serve you.
Let’s strive to serve God’s people with love and dignity, so they will feel a sense of worth, not with a hand out, but rather a hand up, expressing the love of God.
Let our hands as well as our hearts be extended to those from all walks of life. One of the motivating words in scripture is “hospitality,” embracing others in the manner in which God embraces us. As we meet strangers, always remember they may be strangers to us, but never to God. May that same love he showers upon us be shared with others, and may we recognize it is more blessed to give than to receive. God has blessed us and equipped us to serve others. May He be pleased with the service we render and may we do it to the glory of God.
The Rev. Charles W. Quann is the senior pastor of thr Bethlehem Baptist Church in Penllyn, and Spring House, Pa.
I have been privileged to be a member of the Blue Bell Rotary for the past 15 years, and the title of this article, “Service Above Self,” is the mission of the Rotary. Our Rotary is made up of men and women of different faiths, as well as different ethnicities. I have had the awesome opportunity to serve as one of its presidents.
Our mission is part of a world-wide charitable club, both nationally and internationally, whose goal is to meet basic human needs. The thrust over the years is to eradicate polio, and the purification of water and sanitary needs in Haiti and throughout the world. The Rotary Foundation has contributed millions of dollars to worldwide hunger, and as a result of their efforts, life has been made better for countless people, particularly in areas where poverty has hampered the lives of so many. The Blue Bell Rotary has contributed to a number of needs in our community, providing mentoring to children, scholarships to students, and responding to tragedies and disasters.
One of the remarkable things I have discovered about the Rotary, even though it is not a religious group, is that they are guided by so many God-given principles. I would argue strongly that sometimes those Godly principles are not seen in the body of Christ. We live in a society where it’s all about me; or, what can the church do for me? In many cases we have forgotten about the least, the lost and the lonely. Do we really put service above self? Do we see humanity in motion by the things we do? The Bible says, “Faith without works is dead”. Our faith must be put into action so we can be conduits for Christ, serving others as he serves us. One who follows the Lord must make a full surrender and place service above self. The Gospel of Mark 8:34 reads, “Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me”. If we are going to follow the Master, we have to move self out of the way. To be a cross-bearer one must also be willing to carry the cross for others.
I have gained so much from being a Rotarian; no, it has not saved me, but it has helped me to have empathy and compassion for others. It has opened my heart to the countless needs of people of all walks of life, and provided an opportunity for those of us who know God to share his love. It has deepened my appreciation for the blessings of life God has granted me, and has opened my eyes to the need to seek to be more like Jesus in his love and care for people. Many of the efforts in our church focus on our concern for others; our orphanage in Kenya, the adoption of the Kinsey School in Philadelphia, our food pantry, housing the homeless, the sickle cell initiative at Children’s Hospital, and supporting cancer patients and families with Praise Is The Cure; all come out of the Word of God, which in many ways is the foundation of the Rotary.
I have a motto on my desk which reads, “It doesn’t matter how much you have, but how much you have shared with others.” It is my fervent prayer that along with the various ministries in your church, you are actively working and giving to some of the many outstanding charities that seek to lift up people.
In this Thanksgiving season, let us seek to share our resources with others. Many families are still dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy and will not have an opportunity to have Thanksgiving dinner with their families. Let us remember them with our prayers and financial resources. Have a blessed Thanksgiving and remember to love God and serve people.
For the believer Christmas is a significant day in the life of our Christ. It is a day in which our Savior, the babe of Bethlehem, was born in a manger. The Word of God records the Savior’s birth in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. In Luke 2:11, we read these words, “The Savior, yes the Messiah, the Lord has been born today in Bethlehem the City of David”. We have every reason to celebrate, but the tragedy comes out of the fact that there are many who will celebrate Christmas without ever acknowledging Jesus Christ. We live in a consumer-driven generation, and for many, Christmas has become nothing more than bargains and sales. Not too long ago, an effort was put forth not to say “Merry Christmas”; you were instead encouraged to say “Happy holidays. “ Look what happened this Thanksgiving. The retail chain stores were not satisfied with Black Friday, and opened their stores on Thanksgiving Day. Many persons stood in line on Thanksgiving to purchase an item for a percentage off, even though many of those stores had raised their prices, and then applied a percentage off. It would not be surprising to see stores open on Christmas Day, encouraging persons to exchange their gifts early and get a discount.
Many of our churches are closed on Christmas Day, and we know what happens when Christmas falls on a Sunday, las it did last year. Instead of the church setting the standards for the day, we have allowed society to dictate how we should observe this sacred day. Nothing is sacred anymore. Not only is everything available on Sunday, Christmas is even being driven by greed. When is enough, enough? When do people just simply say, we are not going to participate, purchase or shop on these sacred holidays? Why not spend Christmas with your family and give thanks to God that our Savior is with us always? Give simple gifts, and spend less time trying to compete and max out your credit card. Invite someone to your home on Christmas who is lonely; visit a nursing home; spread some joy and enjoy the beauty of the day. Remember to keep Christ in your Christmas celebration, and don’t allow yourself to be consumed by commercialism. Without Christ in Christmas, no matter how many gifts you receive, there will still be voids those gifts cannot fill; only Christ can satisfy a hungered soul. Take this one day and make it meaningful in your spiritual walk, as well as build deeper relationships with your family.
Christmas is about love, that’s what the world needs today. It is even hard to find the mention of Christ in Christmas carols. Yes, we have even taken Christ out of our Christmas music, because we are concerned about being politically correct and socially accepted. I say, let us take our Christmas back, for it is our day. Christ has given us this day; it is his day; and we are his people, and it is a blessed day.
Let me put a disclaimer here, I enjoy Christmas with all of the meaningful festivities – family, food and gifts, but there can be no real Christmas without Christ. I plan to have a blessed Christmas with Christ. As you celebrate your Christmas, may it be blessed.
There’s much to celebrate Bethlehem Baptist Church in Spring House as the members celebrate their 125th anniversary this year. From the “Visions to Victory” weekly television broadcast to housing homeless families on the church campus, it is clear that Bethlehem is more than just a house of worship.
The Rev. Charles W. Quann, the senior pastor, is quick to point out that it was God’s plan for Bethlehem to be a predominantly African-American church nestled within a multimillion-dollar largely Caucasian community. The neighborhood is so exclusive one cannot find it on most navigational maps.
So when Bethlehem purchased the land for the campus built eight years ago, some wondered how it had secured the former synagogue for just $3 million. It also overcame township zoning hurdles as wary “blue-blood” neighbors voiced concerns about their property values. Yet even as a commuter church Bethlehem now boasts of some 18,000 members, according to Quann.
“We have the vitality of a rich history,” said Quann, who is the church’s eighth pastor. “But we also have a glorious future. It is one thing to be excited about one’s past, but it is (meaningless) if it’s just something to reflect upon. It is clear that God is using this congregation and will do so in the future when you look around and see all the young people.
“By our adoption of the Kinsey Elementary School in West Oak Lane, God has called us to serve students in the Philadelphia School District. Even as Kinsey, during these critical times, is scheduled for the chopping block, we will continue to serve those children. Our church is not bound by location and neither is our service —that’s why we also serve more than 100 children in Kenya,” Quann said.
So the church has taken definitive steps during Quann’s 25-year tenure at Bethlehem to be more family-friendly. For instance, there is a children’s Bible study going on at the same time as the 9 a.m. worship service. In this way, families who must drive 15 minutes from Northwest Philadelphia neighborhoods or even take longer commutes from Wilmington or Reading can maximize their time.
The church also has the Hype children’s ministry and a chapter of the Amachi mentoring program (founded by the Rev. W. Wilson Goode) that keeps the young people engaged. Among the projects are collaborative efforts with Villanova and Saint Joseph’s universities for an enrichment program or reading initiative. These have contributed to the church’s diversified its membership, which now includes those from the Latino, Asian-American and Caucasian communities.
Even some in the surrounding neighborhood have now embraced the church. Bethlehem can accommodate the parking overflow for the 11:15 a.m. service by using the Upper Dublin High School lot. There are even shuttle buses that will take church families to the campus.
The local secondary school will also be the venue for Bethlehem’s anniversary gala in October, according to Quann. “We will be honoring all the former pastors, including three living pastors. We will have children from Kenya here for two weeks and they will attend the church picnic and the special service on Sunday, Oct. 27,” he said.
The keynote speaker for the anniversary celebration will be the Rev. Dr. J. Louis Felton, senior pastor of the Mount Airy Church of God in Christ in West Oak Lane. Also being honored will be Robert W. Bogle, president and CEO of the Tribune. “We want to recognize the Tribune for the work they have done in recognizing the work of our church, because we are grateful for the visibility,” Quann said.
“We have also recently added the Rev. Tamika Moore, who is a strong pastor,” Quann said. “She brings with her freshness and vibrancy. During our anniversary year we are able to welcome her.”
Additionally, the church will highlight its many missionary endeavors. After the crisis in Newtown, Conn. the Bethlehem Youth Mission raised $4,000 to send to the Sandy Hook Elementary School. Couples are able to have a “Date Night with the Pastor” to help strengthen their marriages, and individuals can also meet with Quann at a neighborhood Starbucks for coffee and to discuss their spiritual concerns.
Furthermore, the church hosts special events like comedy shows and concerts featuring top name artists. Also, it is line dancing time every Tuesday at 11 a.m. and even the senior pastor is likely to drop by to learn a new step. This is part of the church’s growing holistic health ministry.
“It’s important not to be so rigid and tight that you don’t eliminate stress. So, part of our mission in being a holistic church is to show that as Christians we can laugh, be fit and enjoy ourselves even as we look toward our future,” Quann said. Looking ahead also means that there will be capital improvements coming to the Spring House church building. To fully utilize the three-story edifice, the church will be adding an elevator. Just last week members were filing zoning petitions to install the elevator after raising pledges of $200,000 toward the $300,000 project from the Capital Campaign Fund.
One may even find Quann at speaking at other churches or having other preachers and even politicians in his pulpit. When Praise for the Cure, a breast cancer foundation, held its kickoff last summer Quann was quoted as saying, “I am no longer timid about wearing pink because it’s all about raising awareness of early detection.”
Or, when Ebenezer Memorial Baptist Church in Norristown held its 168th anniversary celebration recently, Quann delivered the sermon.
“This is a church on the cutting edge,” Quann said. “That’s why if there is an issue that affects Montgomery County, this township, or any other community where members live, I will have elected officials or someone from the American Red Cross come in here. I have served as a trustee at Abington Hospital and I serve on the Montgomery County Housing Authority, and I will share what I do.
“We have borrowed a theme of President Barack Obama’s campaign as our slogan,” admitted Quann, who was among the featured speakers at last September’s Democratic National Convention in Charlotte. “We say that we are fired up and ready to go for Jesus. We are not an isolated or stagnant church, so we are constantly ready to move our church into the future.”
Those who cannot get to Bethlehem Baptist can check its weekly “Visions and Victory” television program which airs on WPPX, channel 61 every Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. It is also featured on Gospel Highway radio daily at 2 p.m. Furthermore, the church has a Facebook page and utilizes contemporary technology, like Skype, to broadcast services online.
Bethlehem Baptist Church is located at 712 Penllyn Pike, just off Dager Road and Bethlehem Pike near Blue Bell. It has Sunday worship services at 9 and 11:15 a.m. For more information call (215) 643-4977 or visit bbc4christ.org/.
We live in a violent society. Every day we read or hear about acts of violence, and we constantly hear that it is Black on Black crime. I write today about the violent acts we commit to ourselves, like those we see every day in our neighborhoods and in our streets. To make matters worse, we use various excuses to justify ungodly behavior; from economics, education and poor housing conditions, the list continues on and on. Yes, all of these facts can be validated, but that does not condone the killing, maiming or destroying of one another.
Violence is seen throughout our country. The tragedy which took place in a movie theater in Colorado where 12 were killed and dozens were wounded is frightening. I find it appalling that the government cannot come up with some effort to curb guns in the hands of people. Yet, they can enact legislation to hinder people from voting, with voter ID being required in order to vote. Last month right here in our city, on a hot summer evening, teenage boys allegedly gang-raped a 12-year-old girl in the Myers Recreation Center in Kingsessing. Youths were gathered to participate in sports activities and in the darkness of the night, this horrible incident took place. There is no place safe, and this child’s life has been severely damaged. What would possess boys, at that young age, to attack this innocent child? How does the community respond to such violence? Where are the parents and guardians? Were these boys who allegedly committed this crime aware of what they were doing? Why couldn’t one of them act in defense of this young girl, instead of participating? Where were the cries from the neighbors? I also think of the tragedy at Penn State, in the Sandusky case. It appears as though it was a cover-up, no one dared speak out, and so many voices are silent from the college officials to the coaches; even now, the emphasis is on the prestige of the school and the economic fallout; what about the victims?
Life is precious, and in far too many cases, we have lost the meaning of life, because for many, it means nothing. As I previously mentioned, our society as a whole is violent, and far too long the church has been silent. We need to raise our voices against violence. We have to be able to find a way to handle conflicts. The Lord has called us to lift our voices against any and every ungodly act. In the book of Micah, 6:8 we read, “The Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” I maintain that you cannot seek justice, love and mercy and walk humbly with God and not raise your voice against violence. In the words of Martin Luther King Jr., “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”
The time has come when we as a people of God must truly be the people of God. Speak not just with words, but with action. Let us seek to build a better world for our children and our grandchildren so we can live in a world free of violence. That may be wishful thinking, but certainly there ought to be hope and dreams that we can live without seeing violent crimes committed every day. Let us allow God to speak to our hearts so we can live together as brothers and sisters. Let us seek peace, that our voices are heard loud and clear. The time has come to end this violent destruction.
The Rev. Charles Quann is the pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church.
The one thing missing in the family of God is that we do not have enough radical followers of Christ. I would argue strongly that in many ways, followers have taken on the identification of the world of politics. Some are conservative or moderate and some still remain liberal.
But as a people of God, our lifestyle must be that of being radical for the sake of Christ. We cannot compromise with the mores and standards of our society. We have to be extremists. I know that may seem foreign to some, but the reality is we can be in the world, and not of the world. There needs to be something totally different about us that will set us apart as followers of Christ.
When you read the life of Jesus, he was radical. He did not conform to religious or political standards; he ate with sinners; healed on the Sabbath; spoke out against injustice; and was regarded as a rebel. When he called his followers, many of them were radical; they left their families and professions to follow him.
What our society needs now more than ever are followers who dare to speak about a system that has more regard for the haves than the have-nots or one that punishes the poor and needy while rewarding the wealthy and rich.
Our love for Christ must be radical. Never mind if people call you fanatical, or label you as being out of touch, just be willing to take a stand when you see injustice or ill will to God’s people. Be radical in your worship; yes I know there are those who say, “It doesn’t take all that to praise God,” but when you have been blessed by God there are times when your worship and praise is radical.
I often think of Mary, the sister of Martha, who was radical in her devotion for Jesus. In the Gospel of Luke 10:43, Jesus responds to Martha over the way Mary has chosen to sit at the feet of Jesus. Jesus responds in this matter, “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed — or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
Martha was busy doing work and Mary was radical in her worship. Sometimes work becomes more important than our worship. Be a radical worshiper and worker, and do not conform to anyone’s expectations other than for our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Be a radical follower in your place of worship and in your community; wherever you are, let people know that you have given your all for the Master. Remember, we have received radical love; a love of Christ that has washed away our sins; a love of Christ that has restored us to the fold. No one can love us like Christ; no one can forgive us like Christ. Don’t worry about being politically correct or allow our degrees, education and sophistication to get in the way. In every aspect of our life let us demonstrate our deep and abiding love for Jesus Christ. The Word says, “To whom much is given, much is required.” Let our passion and love for Christ give us integrity and honesty. Join this radical movement and help change our world.
I cannot begin to share with you how wonderful God has been to me. He has richly blessed me. As I reflect over my life, I am truly amazed how far God has brought me. It is out of that spirit of gratitude that I have been inspired to author a book I am entitling, “It’s Not Where You Start, But Where You Finish.” This book is really not about me, but more importantly, about how God has granted me his favor. With the help of my chief of staff, I plan to take the next year and a half to recount my journey from early childhood to the present time, displaying the magnificent power of God.
I am deeply indebted to Robert Bogle, CEO of the Philadelphia Tribune, for allowing me to write this monthly column. In several of my columns I expressed some of the pain in my life as the result of coming from a broken family. I have come to realize more than ever the importance of one putting his faith in God, no matter the family circumstance. It is out of some of those experiences that I have a deeper appreciation for the word of God. Romans 8:28 reads, “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” I must admit I have heard this Scripture many times; in fact, I have even preached it. It became clear to me as I trace and track God over my days as a youth that I am not alone, for there are some things that happen in our lives that are far from good. It is amazing how God can take some of those bad things and turn them into blessings. I plan to share in this book the pain of seeing my father beat my mother; he abandoned us, thus leaving my mother, with the help of my grandmother, to raise me and my two sisters.
Now, I look back and see how God has placed persons in my life, like the late John F. White Sr., who became a strong role model in my early teens; and the Rev. Dr. Albert F. Campbell, pastor of Mt. Carmel Baptist Church, who believed in me when I did not believe in myself, to license and ordain me at Mt. Carmel under his leadership. I went back to school to finish my education and attended college. It is my fervent prayer that this book will inspire others to understand that “It’s not where you start, but where you finish.”
I am in a wonderful season in my life, with blessings still unfolding, and I owe it all to God. I do not plan to leave out any of the pain and shame of my early years, nor do I plan to leave out any of God’s blessings. I have come to realize, as the songwriter said, “My good days outweigh my bad days, and I will not complain.” I know full well that the same God who has blessed me is able to bless others. There are so many African-American youths who have given up on themselves. They feel life has no value, even at an early age. Perhaps that is why we see so much violence in our communities. Many of them have no hope, dreams or aspirations. One of the greatest tragedies in life is to wake up every day and not have anything to look forward to. This book will show how God can take you out of the valley of despair to the mountain of hope, and turn grief into joy.
Every page of the book will have words that will flow from my heart to your heart. It is God, and he alone, who deserves the glory for all he’s done and for all he will do. Blessings are still unfolding, and I look forward to new blessings each day, for I know that morning by morning new mercies I see. Don’t dwell on your past, look to your future. It may be repetitious, but it is true, “It’s Not Where You Start, But Where You Finish.”
Rev. Charles Quann is the pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church.
Happy New Year. January marks the beginning of a new year, and Almighty God has blessed us with the opportunity to begin anew in 2013. By his grace, we can begin this new year with Christ. God has granted us a new start so that all we did not accomplish in 2012 we are able to do this year.
No matter how many resolutions we may make or how many goals we may seek to achieve, they really cannot be accomplished without Christ. Our flesh is weak, and if we are not careful, we will repeat some of the same bad habits that caused us pain and misery in 2012. We will continue to make those bad choices and poor decisions unless we put Christ first. We have to let go of the things that have hampered our growth. All of us have done things last year that we need not repeat. Perhaps we said something that hurt someone; it is even possible that some things were said to us that caused us pain, but let go and let God.
In the words of the apostle Paul, we have to press toward the goal and high mark of Christ Jesus. Paul writes in the book of Philippians, 3:13-14 these words, “But I focus on this one thing: forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead. I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God through Jesus Christ is calling us.” Paul’s words are deep and profound, for there are some things we have to forget. Last year is gone and there is nothing we can do about it, but thanks be unto God for this new year full of blessings. There is nothing we cannot achieve through Christ Jesus, our Lord, for the Word says, “I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.”
As this new year unfolds, commit yourself to be “Fired Up for Jesus,” ready to go; ready to press your way regardless of any obstacles that may get in your way. Commit yourself to use this year to the glory of God. Stay focused, think positive and seize the blessings God has waiting for you. Be consistent in your prayer life; develop a stronger faith; worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness; live with integrity and honor; let your life count for something; stay away from negative people and surround yourself with people of like minds who want to make a difference with their lives; and have the attitude of Christ. Knowing Christ and living for Christ is priceless; let him reign in your life. It is extremely important that we focus on those things which are true and honorable to God. Shine brightly for Christ that others will know you have been with him and he has been with you. Take the time to thank God for another year, and live it in such a way that God will get the glory out of your life and all those round you will be edified.
I have written on several occasions in this column of my love for butterflies, as they represent new life. Anyone who is in Christ is a new creature — old things are passed away and all things are new. Yes, in January we can even envision the beauty of a butterfly representing newness — from a cocoon to a beautiful insect. God can turn the heavy burdens of the past into the joys of our present circumstances. I pray you are blessed with the beauty of God in 2013, just remember to begin this year with Christ and end with Christ. Make every day count. Begin each day to make it awesome; live, love, enjoy laughter, embrace your family and celebrate your friends. Above all, walk with God and let Him walk with you; when you do, you will experience the ultimate joy that only Christ can give.
Rev. Charles W. Quann is pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Montgomery County.