Luke 2: 15-17, 20
15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.
16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.
17 And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.
20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.
What is the pre-requisite for the next level in your life? Before the shepherds could tell anyone about the baby, they had to first GO and see the baby! Before they could go and tell it, they had to first GO and see! This post will deal with the the procedural elements we must process before the manifestation of the promise.
For me, this came true when I went to college. Though I had every intention of finishing college I didn't finish at my first stop. However, I did meet someone who For me, this came true when I went to college. Though I had every intention of finishing college I didn't finish at my first stop. However, I did meet someone who in one decision changed the trajectory of my life. I was at Weatherford College studying to become a professional musician. While at Weatherford, I met Charles who became my best friend. Years later, Charles referred me to his aunt's company which toured Europe playing and singing gospel music. I auditioned and got the job and was on my way overseas and in 2012 and 2013 to Japan to play gospel music.
So, while I didn't finish at Weatherford, I did make the connection that gave me the experiences that have taught me so much about life and made me the man I am, today! Today, I want to use the pericope of the shepherds to talk about what to do when destiny is a destination- where you go to activate God's promise over your life.
I have spent much time in consideration of the Christmas account in Luke's gospel since I began writing "They Saw Him First". I haven't touched each corner of the account but I'm getting there. Today, I want to talk about the shepherds' journey TO Bethlehem. After the angels had ascended to Heaven, the men decided to go see the baby. As we discussed in the book, they were near Bethlehem presumably in a pasture in/near Jerusalem.
The men see the baby but verse 20 grabbed my attention the other day. They returned glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, AS IT WAS TOLD UNTO THEM. Because they saw what they were told they would see, they went telling the people as they were commanded by the angels to. Many times, we look at the end, but not the middle! Before you go tell it, you gotta see it! Destiny is in the destination, it's in the preparation for the message. It's on the back side of the desert before the Lord is getting ready to pull back the curtain and introduce you to the world! Something I want to deal with in this post is what to do when destiny is a destination. There was something the men were to behold, but it wasn't where they were! Read that, again!
Now, allow me to make this plain, what was told to them came to pass WHERE they went to see it! God rewards faith and obedience, as the writer of Hebrews said, "without faith it's impossible to please God..." (Hebrews 11:6). We know we need faith where we are and we talk about faith that will keep us rooted and grounded, but what about faith that will MOVE us from where we are? Abraham had that kind of faith and responded when he heard the Lord tell him to move and go where the Lord would send him. In Isaiah 55:10-11, we hear the Lord say that His word will be accomplished WHERE he sends it!
So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.
So understand that for the word of the Lord to come to pass, it may require movement on your part. In some cases, you will be required to go where the word of the Lord is being performed! The angel said go TO Bethlehem, that's where the prophecy is being fulfilled. It couldn't be fulfilled anywhere else, it wouldn't be fulfilled according to the shepherds' comfort, but it would happen WHERE the angel said it would.
We may not know how to get there, but God doesn't intend on us getting there without Him. The word of God won't fall flat and He will guide you there! This is faith that requires us to move and be led in response to our movement. The shepherds got to where the baby was, took it all in and spread the news as they returned home. In "They Saw Him First", we celebrate the unique assignment of the shepherds, but don't dismiss the destiny in their destination!
The shepherds became evangelists only after going TO Bethlehem! Many of us are sitting down despondent in disappointment and disbelief because the word over you has yet to manifest. But look at the response of the shepherds after their encounter with the angel, "Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us." (Luke 2:15) The shepherds understood that to accomplish what they were destined to do, they would have get up! I'm writing this to encourage certain of you to, GET UP!
That's not good enough, you need to get up and GO! When destiny is a destination, you don't ever accept staying where you are. "I've got to get there!" In fact, there was an activation upon the shepherds when they saw Jesus. What God had planned for them to do wouldn't be accomplished in Jerusalem!
I surmise that they shared the word of seeing Jesus on the rout back to Jerusalem from Bethlehem. So, not only was there an activation in Bethlehem when they saw Him, the application was on the road back to their priestly pasture. Don't get mad with God once you discover that the activation and application may be in separate places not named HOME!
I don't really know why I always talk about leaving home because I LOVE home! I love knowing just about every corner of my city and being immersed in the culture, here. I'm so Fort Worth, I love and hate the city at the same time! Coming into 2020, I made a GIF that said "let's get uncomfortable!" It looked terrible but that was symbolic of how uncomfortable I thought I would be willing to get this year. We're weeks away from 2021 and whew...I didn't get as uncomfortable as I thought I would need to but I'm still being shaken from my places of comfort for a good reason. Moving? I don't know about that! My family is here and even though technology has made us never out of reach, I want to be able to touch my family when I want to see them.
The pandemic put the kibosh on that though, didn't it? Maybe that was practice for somebody...everything you did to keep in touch during the pandemic was practice for relocation! Is that for you? I'm not claiming that, just yet! LOL Seriously though, when destiny is a destination, you gotta go get it to work it! It ain't at home...Jesus was rejected in Nazareth, and they threatened His life for asserting His Kingdom authority there! Home base for you isn't necessarily home base for what God has called you to!
Saturday November 30, 2019 after 16-18 hours on the road, we were finally home. We headed home from Chicago, after spending the week of Thanksgiving with my wife's family. We had fun and lots and lots of good food. By Wednesday, I was convinced that Chicago has some of the best food spots in America. We spent the week with family, saw friends and before hitting the road, made one final sightseeing stop in Chicago...the Obama home. Because we left before sunrise, our taking the moment in looked more like scouting the place! LOL
We rode to St. Louis to take more pictures at the Gateway Arch then we were on the road with Texas on our minds. We made many restroom and snack stops so the trip that began at dark, concluded way past dark at home. Tired, yet somewhat energized by the safe arrival home, I began bringing our luggage in. On the second to the last trip inside though, I heard: "you're gonna write a book and release a song!" I'm working on that song, y'all...but I somewhat had an idea of what the book would be about.
I was already working on making my dramatization an ebook so, there it was! Fleshing it out was no easy feat! I had already completed it in the design program but couldn't finalize it in there because I sized it wrong. After transferring the work to Word and back to the design program, I was stuck. I went back to Word to finalize it there and all that was left to do was present it. That's where I had the biggest problem. All the hours of research, all the months of learning book formatting, typography and the book industry didn't prepare me for the anxiety I regularly feel when it's time to present my finished product to the public!
On one hand, it's procrastination and as I dealt with in "The Journey to Genesis", not even perfectionism is an adequate excuse for procrastination. So now that I've pressed through all the duress of preparation, what next? PRESENTATION! That's the scary part! You can pray in your private prayer closet and day by day check off items on your vision board, but everything changes when you have to take it outside, to the people! People can be mean, cruel and let's not even talk about the people who will try to be YOU and crush what you have.
Going outside is dangerous, that's why most of us want to keep our kids in our sight when they go play. There's danger outside, but don't stay inside so long that your forfeit the DESTINY also waiting for you, outside! After recounting the shepherds' journey to Bethlehem, the gospel of Luke then tells us that Mary took the baby to the temple, which was customary. Jesus the baby was to be circumcised on the eighth day. As Mary and Joseph approach the temple, Luke begins to tell us about Simeon an old man. He was waiting at the temple for Jesus...unbeknownst to Mary and Joseph. Before he died, he was see the Messiah, that was the word promised to him and as he saw them approaching, the Holy Spirit told him who he was looking at.
This was Simeon's praise after seeing Jesus, Mary and Joseph, "Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed. (Luke 2:29-32, 34-35).
As Simeon's blessing concluded, Anna began to also bless the Lord, "and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem." (Luke 2:38) So while Simeon's life's promise had been fulfilled, Anna in her old age told the people about Jesus, also. Take a moment and drink that in...
Now, back to us and this anxiety we face. After seeing Jesus, Simeon asked the God to take him because the prophecy over his life had been fulfilled and Jesus had another walking press release in Anna. We're not Jesus, but can I tell you that people are waiting on what God will (has) birth(ed) in/through you? Do you need more convincing? Not only do you need to go outside, but there's a set destination for your destiny. Don't be afraid when you have to take that "thing" (your baby) to a specific place or that you discover that it is destined to prosper in a specific place.
While Mary pondered all she had experienced in her heart (Luke 2:19), the baby was not for her only, He came to save the world. She would go from pondering it in her heart to placing Him in the temple to be circumsized. The immaculate conception and miraculous birth weren't for Mary to keep to herself. What God has birthed in/through you isn't for you to only marvel at God's goodness. On some level, it will have to be shown.
I have gone a full year having not said much about "They Saw Him First" though I have the copyright form, ISBN, cover I created and bookstore to buy it from. Yet when it came time to make the announcement, I couldn't do it. I put my phone down, I walked away from the computer. I struggled to find the words to put in the post. I didn't know what to do...well, I did, I was just too insecure to do it.
The same thing happened earlier this summer when I released "This Crisis Is Not Cause for Alarm". I can't keep these book releases to myself because they aren't for me, they're for YOU! They're for the people waiting for answers from God, the people who have lost hope and the people looking for inspiration. Even more, it's for the people I don't know and have never met that the Lord will allow my words to speak to. The least we can do is go outside and make it available. Don't keep the people waiting, their faith in God is on the line!
Luke 2: 21-39
That’s a hard question to answer, but if I had to choose one, it’s probably the chapter that talks about music. Music during a global crisis, a pandemic even? YES! I have done a fair share of writing since we’ve all been sheltering in place but when I heard music in the air, I took particular interest in my writing. In this chapter, I not only encourage people to make music, but to use music to cope with these times! In making his case for music as a spiritual gift, the late Reverend Dr. Bobby J. Baylor said, “In a letter to the church in Colossae, Paul instructed the people to use music to teach and admonish each other toward the virtues of Christian living; mercy, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering, forbearance, forgiveness, and charity. The implication here is that music has the power to accomplish all these things, or at least to promote the effort to develop them as character traits. Considering the infinite scope of topics that music may address, we may safely conclude that it can inspire the growth and development of these virtues.”
We’re no different than others in times of crisis before. Music has always had a way of getting us through hard times. It’s biblical, too! In Psalm 137, the nation recounted being asked to sing Zion songs in a strange land when demanded to do so while in Babylonian captivity. While imprisoned, Paul and Silas prayed and sang and the jail shook! Can you imagine our songs shaking this situation?
Let Heaven and Nature Sing
More importantly, I believe that God is giving His people songs for this season! I believe that a new sound will emerge from this season and we MUST welcome it. We must yield to the new and deal with the old as He leads. It’s interesting watching segments of the church fight to hang on to what this season is demanding be done away with. It’s like complaining while watching leaves then snow fall without realizing the good a change in seasons does for humanity and nature.
“…new advances in public ministry (especially in music) follow periods of revival: the Spirit motivates artist and ministers, not the other way around… Secondly, revival is invariably accompanied by tension between the established church structure and the individuals sparked by new challenges and inspiration…There is no question that God uses music and the creative drive of His servants at times of spiritual renewal.”
I’d like for you to read my new book “This Crisis Is Not Cause for Alarm” and if you’re a musician or singer, I would really LOVE for you to create something during this time! Don’t worry, I’m not exempt from this cool moment! I’m headed back to the studio to perfect some earlier recordings, myself! Creators, let’s create!!!
One of the most profound scriptures in the bible is Romans 15:4. In it, the Apostle Paul says, “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.” When I read this verse, I immediately understood what people have said for years about reading the bible. What has been canonized serves a very real purpose for our sake. Hebrews 4:15 says, “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” This should help us as we navigate the troublesome waters of this Coronavirus pandemic. Jobs, health and finances have all been affected and for some, their livelihood has been wiped out for the foreseeable future. As a believer, I recognize how trite it may seem to some to suggest reading the bible and praying, but it is a proven solution. When worry could easily consume you, the Lord offers rest. This rest is not because everything is right, but because it will be alright.
Just as you will find an answer in the word, I believe that you will find great encouragement in this devotional. My prayer for you is that you are encouraged and your faith strengthened with each day’s time in the Word. The psalmist declared that the Lord led him besides still waters, but the tumult of this pandemic and ensuing fallout has many of us feeling like the disciples on the sea of Galilee. They asked Jesus, “carest thou not that we perish?” (Mark 4:38) feeling as if He didn’t care enough to save them from the storm. Remember, after Jesus spoke, “there was a great calm” (Mark 4:39). As you read this devotional and encounter the word, I pray that you also encounter the peace Jesus spoke on the sea of Galilee. This sea was known for this type of storm, but the disciples seemed helpless and at the mercy of nature.
it is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life…then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.
A few of the disciples had been fishermen in their professional lives but in that moment, they were fishers of men, without the tools they would normally have at their disposal to survive such a storm of that magnitude. Though they didn’t have tools, they had the text…the living, breathing word of God (John 1:14). In this devotional, you will find more of the the living word to help you find direction in the time of need and guide you through feelings of fear, dread, doubt, insecurity and others brought on by the pandemic. With each day, my prayer for you is that the storm in your life ceases and you discover yourself not only walking by, but sailing on still waters!
“This Crisis Is Not Cause for Alarm”, provides a brilliant response and gives redress to guide believers through the Coronavirus pandemic. The most important aspect of this Coronavirus crisis is making it to “the other side”. While the disciples were in the throes of a life-threatening tempest (Mark 4:35-41), this was true for them, as well. This tempestuous trial is where the journey in “This Crisis Is Not Cause for Alarm” begins. Though this unknown virus has upended hopefulness and expectations for greatness this year, Willis knows that one word from the Lord can change everything.
There is much more on the horizon, and now is not the time to give up hope and retreat in defeat. This Coronavirus crisis, though troubling, is no cause for alarm. In fact, with it, the book sounds the alarm using the words of Jesus in Matthew 24. Believers have a unique opportunity to spread the gospel as never before imagined.
A refreshing read for a trying time! Fred is a wonderful writer, using the right mix of teaching and inspiration to move his reader from a sense of panic to calm as they gain insight on what is needed to get them to their “other side”!
Shatona Johnson, The Book Doctors
I want readers to press on knowing that there are unknown scores of people depending on them to survive this storm. In the same way that the disciples safely made it to “the other side” after the storm on the sea of Galilee, Willis believes that we too can safely journey through this pandemic to safety on “the other side” to achieve the Lord’s purpose for us there and then. This inspiring book is available wherever eBooks are sold and includes a 10-day devotional.
“This Crisis Is Not Cause for Alarm” is a timely and necessary book for those who are desiring strength and peace during the difficult challenges that Covid-19 has brought to our present world. While reading this book I was truly encouraged and received peace in knowing that God will always have the final say concerning His people. We can find rest in knowing that we may need to alter some things, but we can STILL live our lives according to His will. Even in the midst of a pandemic, there is still purpose and what God has promised shall come to pass.
Kimberly E. Bailey
One thing I don’t want to happen is to discover that the time God gave me wasn’t long enough to do what He required of me.
I believe I was either 16 or 17 the first time I heard that song…yes some odd 20 years ago. We were at a musical to sing and the choir marched in singing this song. The choir wasn’t as large as it was known to be but the choir still marched in from the back door which took about five minutes extra since most of the singers were senior citizens. I found it odd that they would choose to march in on that song because well, many of them would soon be crossing over, as the song said. I never forgot this song and occasionally sing it because well, it’s a catchy song! This year has been an eye-opening year. Both because of the losses we’ve endured and because I’m doing something that will forever impact my legacy. I pray all the time for at least 40-50 more years here on earth and I know that God has already numbered my days, but we’ll see about that, in the end.
One line in the song that feels the most morbid is: “Don’t let Him catch you with your work undone.” What happens if He does? Do we get in trouble in Heaven? Do we lose our reward? What about the fact that all our works go up in flames in the end, anyway? Then I thought about it, we know what God has given us to do…but we don’t do it. We think that we have as long as we want until sickness creeps up on us then we’ll have time to do it slowly as our bodies fade away. That’s not true. There are countless difference makers whose lives were cut short before they reached the fullness of their potential. What about the people who knew all along and started late and ran out of time before the Lord called them home? What about them? What about you? What about me?!?
This past week has been really tough for me and so many people that I know and love. We are mourning loss like never before. It’s been said in jest but in reality, people are dying who have never died before. Your favorite singer, musician, Pastor, co-worker, neighbor…people you’ve always had close to you, the ones you could always count on to be there whether their health was optimal or abysmal…they’re crossing over! Fixtures within our community that we could always count on to be present in the moment…are now memories, in the sands of time! Have they completed their work, or was their time simply up? As a person who has attended more funerals than I can remember, I can tell you that time cut many people and their work short and that few accomplished the fullness of their life’s purpose. It’s cute and comforting to say that some completed their work in shorter time and left us sooner than we’d like, but for many that is simply untrue! If you’re over the age of 21 and reading this, congratulations!
Congratulations on living through your youth and, welcome to adulthood when we all have to make life-altering decisions on our own, each moment of the day. At whatever age you are, you’ve got to know that there is somebody somewhere who didn’t live to see the age you are now. In middle school, we lost Toby. He was a fifth grader and he forgot his house key and went back inside through a window to get it. The window came down on him and he couldn’t get from under it before he suffocated. In high school, seems like there was a death each year, Earnest, Bart, Elizabeth and another student whose name I don’t remember all died before we graduated in 2000. After graduation, we lost Manuela and James, classmates from elementary school and middle school, respectively.
Last year, we lost April…one of my oldest friends. In fact, I’d known April for the better part of 30 years and we kept in touch on Facebook, quite often. And yet, here I am. The question looms, what am I doing with this gift of time that God has given me? Am I working the work that God has placed in my hands? Am I? Are you? Do you ever stop to wonder what God thinks of your life? Sometimes I wish I could a progress report or something! An update even…something, anything to let me know I’m on pace to hear “well done” when it’s all said and done! Wherever you are and whatever you’ve been commissioned to do, let’s get to work! If you’ve begun…work to finish strong! If you have yet to start…get started, what are you waiting on?
If you just don’t know, let’s pray and agree together that God will make it known to you! As the song said, “we’re fast approaching the setting sun”. We don’t have forever and even as the bible promised 70 years in Moses’ day, we know very well that many of us won’t make it to that milestone. With that in mind, let’s commit to doing better and working the work that has been placed in our hands because we don’t want the Lord to call us before our work is done and we certainly don’t want to hear anything besides: “well done thou good and faithful servant…enter thou into the joy of the Lord.”
Edward Bulwer-Lytton said “the pen is mightier than the sword” and how true that is!! Looking over my the last few years, I’ve been blessed to meet and speak with many of the mightiest men with pens. What I could guess about my future is that I would become an internationally known artist and musician writing songs for the world to sing. I’ve done ok in that regard since I’ve written the jingles for my shows and podcasts, which have reached international listeners in numerous countries and territories.
Besides that, our closing number from 2006-2008 with the Glory Gospel Singers was #ohhappyday written by #EdwinHawkins. You can imagine the sheer joy pulsing through my veins when I met him in 2016! Yes, I told him we sang it in Europe and how (as if he didn’t know) the song and movie “Sister Act” helped usher in a movement of gospel music and singing for Christians, atheists, and Buddhists, alike. I wrote about it in a feature while on tour and published the article in my column on examiner.com (now defunct). I re-visited the story when I wrote about his passing as a contributor on the Huffington Post and the Christian Post.
In 2015, I accepted an assignment on AXS.com entitled: Five Things We Love About Kirk Franklin.” There are numerous reasons people love Kirk Franklin, but to better develop an outstanding piece, I called upon my friends from around the world to complete the article. With input from Japan, Germany, Durban, Great Britain and here at home in Fort Worth, I had five differing perspectives on the impact and reach of Kirk Franklin…hence the reason he is so beloved around the world!
So, while I wasn’t the one writing the songs, I was alright as the guy writing about the men and women writing the songs making the world sing! If I were to personify purpose, I’d have to concede it’s a funny character! While I wasn’t internationally known for my music as I’d hoped, I was recognized by and for celebrating internationally known artists. Much of what I aspired to do as a musician manifested for me on what I like to call the other side of the velvet rope as a journalist! It was a hard lesson to learn but learning to let let go of my plans to made room for God’s much bigger plans for my life. Living a life of purpose is much bigger and better than I could have ever imagined!!
My new book has launched and I couldn’t be more excited! The writing process for this book has taken approximately two years but it has been worth each minute.
So what is The Journey to Genesis? It is a discovery of your created purpose, a real connection to the reason you were born. The journey to Genesis is a clarion call for men to return to fellowship with God that will define and even refine your life’s purpose, relationships and partnerships in a transformative way. Three scriptures inspired this writing journey: Genesis 2:15, Psalm 24:1a, and Psalm 100:3b. These scriptures challenged me in this manner:
1) There’s never an instance where we’re not spending our lives in response to our creation.
2) The earth is His and everything in it.
3) We are God’s people and belong to Him like sheep roaming in a pasture.
Then it hit me…there’s a reason I’m here! Beyond conception, beyond creation…there’s a reason! Getting to know the reason is where many people like myself get lost in the sauce of self-discovery. I prayed and asked God why I’m here, and I’m somewhat confident that I’m now walking in it. For me, it wasn’t not knowing; it was the lack of boldness that retarded my progress. For most of us men, we’re in either category: we either don’t know, or we’re afraid! Fear robs you of your opportunity to be great, and while many of you have thought it, you yet struggle to do it. Why is that? How long will you refuse your life’s purpose? Join me on the journey and discover the wonder of walking in your life’s purpose!
Mighty Pen Publishing
In our book blog, we're continuing the conversation with readers. We know that writing a thought provoking book will make you think, but what do you do then? Well, we hope to continue the conversation began by reading the book with posts here.