The Chairman of City Harvest Church’s advisory board brought two messages that blessed the church at a critical point in its journey: the importance of seeing the world through the right lens, and discerning God’s patterns and principles through His Word.
“Everything God does is according to a pattern and based on a principle.” said Dr AR Bernard as he addressed the congregation at City Harvest Church on the weekend of Jan 31 and Feb 1.
Bernard is the founder and CEO of the 37,000-member Christian Cultural Center in Brooklyn, New York, as well as the chairman of CHC’s advisory board. He preached two different messages that weekend.
There are four things people look for in a man and a leader, said Bernard as he opened his sermon on Saturday: “Maturity, decisiveness, consistency and strength.” Maturity is the latest attribute to a list that Bernard has been teaching the church this past year.
LOOKING THROUGH THE RIGHT LENS
In Luke 11:33- 36, the Pharisees asked Jesus for a sign, proof that He was who He said He was. They wanted Jesus was to demonstrate His credibility by providing evidence. “The reality is that you can give people many signs, but if they don’t want to see it, it does not matter how many signs you give them,” said Bernard.
Referencing Luke 11:29, Bernard told the congregation that the people did not need another sign to respond to Jesus.
“The problem was not the sign. The problem was the lens the people were using to see Him.
“No matter what Jesus said or did, they still saw Jesus as evil. If the lens they were seeing through was good, healthy and whole, then they would see Him in that light.”
Bernard went on: “What we see with our eyes is colored by the condition of our hearts. Our own fears, prejudices and assumptions can affect the lens with which we see people and things around us. What you’re going through now is testing the way you see the church and its leadership. If your own fears, prejudices and assumptions are inaccurate or unfounded, then it does not matter what the church and its leadership does, because you already are seeing through the wrong lens.”
Context, audience and purpose are critical when interpreting what is said in the Bible, said Bernard. Ten people can read the same Bible and come away with 10 different interpretations. Reading from Luke 10:25-29, Bernard shared that verse 26 (“What is your reading of it?”) was Jesus’ way of asking: ‘What lens are you looking through?”
The parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37) was Jesus’ answer to the lawyer’s questions in verse 29. Jesus was showing him that he could not pick and choose who to love. The Jews looked down on the Samaritans as a matter of tradition.
“Your neighbor is whoever that crosses your path with a need that you have a power to respond to,” defined Bernard. “The centerpiece of the parable is not the Samaritan, but the wounded man. The other players represent other lenses through which the man was seen. The wounded individuals that we bring the Gospel to are the focus. The critical question is, how do you see a wounded man?”
To the lawyer asking Jesus the question, the wounded man was simply a topic of discussion. The Samaritan, however, saw the wounded man as a social responsibility, therefore he met the needs of the wounded man. This is the true lens of the law.
“We are to bring the wounded individual back to God and to the person they are in God, to spiritual, emotional, physical wholeness,” Bernard explained.
“Worship is meant to give you transcendence, to be lifted up to a place where you look down instead of looking up. You would be able to feel their pain and joy, and see things through their lens. If you don’t adjust your lens you may come to conclusions that are not righteous.”
The preacher linked it back to CHC’s pillar of the Cultural Mandate. “The ministry of reconciliation must be experiential and contextual. The church cannot be disconnected to the world; it needs to be culturally savvy and sensitive,” Bernard explained.
Bernard then spoke prophetically to the church: “City Harvest, God has anointed you in ways you don’t even understand yet, but you will. He has anointed you for 21st century ministry, taking you through levels and stages that when this is all over, you will see this ministry and yourself in a whole new light and become a model on how to engage culture.”
On Sunday, Feb 1, Bernard taught the congregation to focus on the way God works.
Bernard brought the congregation to a message he taught CHC in May 2013: the announcement in Genesis 3:15 about the seed of the woman. He explained: the Old Testament is the preparation for the manifestation of the seed, where the law came by Moses. The New Testament Gospels are where the Bible manifested Christ, from which grace came.
The Book of Acts is where the seed goes through propagation and transition, where the Bible helps one understand how grace and law work together. The Epistles form an explanation of the transition from law to grace. Lastly, the Book of Revelation depicts the consummation and completion of God’s overall plan. Therefore, the Bible is a progressive unfolding of God’s plan for humanity.
Bernard reminded the church that everything God does is according to a pattern and based on a principle. “Pattern” refers to a model, blueprint, design. “Principle” means a broad and basic truth.
In Exodus 25:1-9, God wanted Moses to build the Tabernacle precisely according to His instructions. “Not everyone is committed to the message and cause at the same level,” was the revelation Bernard brought. “Some are committed at 30-fold, 60-fold or 100-fold levels. For pastors and leaders, you have to know that many members need to move from compliance to commitment.”
Patterns and principles are the keys that unlock mysteries and reveal truth. Without a vision for the future, one will always go back to the past, said Bernard.
“Life reciprocates! What comes around goes around. In human relationships, distance is measured in affection, not in miles,” he noted.
Drawing from Mark 4:26-29, Bernard taught that everything begins in seed form and then grows into an experience. “God’s pattern for progress is a pattern of promotion. He takes us through levels and stages. Promotion requires change. Change means to be different. Change is not change until it has changed, not just ‘changing’. Don’t ask God to promote you if you don’t want to change. Don’t ask for an above-average pay if you just want to remain an average worker!” The preacher’s words drew applause and agreement from the congregation.
In closing, Bernard exhorted the congregation to meditate on God’s Word for practical living. “The Bible is a practical book to be experienced in practical living. We are spiritual beings mastering the human experience. The Bible is our life. It is about human experiences in our relationship with God. We need to meditate on it day and night.”
Michelle Weers, 24, a business management graduate shared her thoughts about Bernard’s messages with City News. “Dr Bernard dropped many nuggets of wisdom in his sermon. One thing that spoke to me most was that we are not human beings getting a spiritual experience, but rather we are spiritual beings mastering the human experience. That statement shifted my perspective on the emphasis I place on what’s important. It felt like an awakening to who I am—it will help me as I navigate through life.”
The City News team wishes to convey its deepest condolences to Dr Bernard and Elder Karen on the passing of his oldest son Alfonso Bernard Jr on Feb 4. Dr Bernard was scheduled to preach at CHC on Feb 7-8 but returned home to be with his family and church.