Expect the Unexpected!

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1 Corinthians 2:9 “However, as it is written: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him” (NIV)

There may be moments in life where something totally unexpected happens in your life; maybe you get a new job, a new house, or an engagement happens. Or perhaps there’s the death of a loved one, or diagnosis of an ailment.

But with God, He encourages us that no matter what’s happened so far, He loves us so much that He’s got plans for our lives that we can’t even imagine. The word of God encourages us to look to God, and expect the unexpected from Him.

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But…

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2 Corinthians 4: 7-10 – “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed, always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.” (NKJ) 

One definition of the word ‘But’ that Webster’s lists is “on the contrary, on the other hand”; another definition they list is simply “Yet”. In this text, Paul is encouraging the church at Corinth, reminding them in a sense that no matter what negative circumstance they were facing, they had a ‘but’ that made them look at what was on the other hand, what was on the contrary in the positive. 

All of us, no matter how positive our outlook may be, run into the negative. But like the believers in Corinth, we too have a ‘but’, or a ‘yet’. No matter what life doles out at us, the disciples of Christ have the promises of God to stand on, knowing that God is not a man that he should lie, neither the son of man, that he should repent (see Numbers 23:19). When the enemy comes against us, it would benefit us to remember the word of God, knowing that he is faithful to perform that which he’s promised. 

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You’ve Got a Friend

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Proverbs 18:24 – “A man who has friends must himself be friendly, But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” (NKJ)

In 1971, folk singer Carole King released a song she’d written that talked about being a friend that you could always call on, that no matter what happened in the life of her friend, she’d always have a friend. The verse “you just call out my name and you know wherever I am, I’ll come running to see you again. Winter, spring, summer or fall, all you have to do is call and I’ll be there…you’ve got a friend”. The song can stir great sentiment, especially if you have a friend you thought of when you read the words.

The song expresses an ideal, but the words of Christ from today’s verse are a promise that will never be broken. So even if your ‘bff’ can’t get to you, there’s a loving savior who tells us all we have to do is call on Him, that in fact, He’s already near to those who call on Him in truth, no matter when, no matter where, you’ve got a friend in Jesus; call Him today, He loves to hear from you!

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loves to hear from you!

Irrelevant

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Philippians 3:8 – “Yes, all the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant – dog dung. I’ve dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ.” (The Message Bible)

Driving in to work most mornings, I listen to the Steve Harvey Morning Show, during which the first twelve minutes of the show he shares lessons he’s learned and wisdom he’s gained. There was one morning that he said something that caught my ear, and that was he always prays and asks God that no matter what he does in life, he wants to have been relevant, to have made a difference in the way that God wants him to be. He always says no matter what he achieves, it’s nothing he’s done, but what God’s blessed him to do.

That said, there are many achievements in life that can make you proud that you’ve succeeded in a specific area of your life: earning a degree, getting out of debt, landing the perfect job, achieving success as an entrepreneur, purchasing a home, becoming famous, being a great spouse and/or parent, becoming free from any number of addictions to live a clean and sober life; the list can go on and on, and they are indeed reasons to celebrate.

In this text, the apostle Paul, who had indeed been successful in the eyes of the religious elite of his day, says he counts what he once thought was important as dog dung compared to the knowledge of Christ. Paul was a brilliant man of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews (see Philippians 3:5), a Pharisee, a citizen of Rome (which some believe made him somewhat well-off financially), a tent maker by trade, zealous in persecuting the church for righteousness based on the law. But even with a list of such impressive achievements in life, Paul says all of it is irrelevant, meaningless, when compared to the privilege of knowing Christ as his Master. As disciples of Christ, no matter what else we achieve in this life, all of it is irrelevant, and can be pushed aside in favor of the knowledge of Christ.

Sound radical? So does the crucifixion of Christ!  While we’re focusing on important goals, we must never lose sight of the fact that anything we do is irrelevant, insignificant, and downright meaningless when compared to our knowledge of the one who gave up heaven to rescue us from hell; don’t let your life become irrelevant.

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Treasure Your Gift

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Jeremiah 3:15 – “And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding.” (KJV)

There was no way I could know that a conversation I was having with someone would yield information I never wanted. It troubled me, so I prayed about it, but it also drove me to the word of God for assurance. What God let me take away from the whole experience is this: we must treasure the gift of pastors that God gave us.

How so? By interceding for them; by being a joy and not a burden to shepherd; by pouring back into them through deeds and words of encouragement; by standing with them through good times and bad understanding that they, like us, are flawed human beings who just happen to be scrutinized on a level tantamount to the inquisition. But most of all, we treasure our gift by being loyal to the one God has entrusted to watch for our souls.

If you find yourself bitter, angry, hateful, indifferent or unforgiving toward your gift, take an assessment: maybe you’re in the wrong place with the wrong pastor; maybe you’ve not let go of a past hurt be it real or imagined. But whatever you do, as with all gifts God has given, treasure them; not worship or idolize, but cherish them for their life of sacrifice and their heart of serviceJ

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It’s Not What You Say

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1 Corinthians 13:1 – “If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.” (The Message Bible) 

The topic of love is always one that can spark a conversation that can lead to debate and or controversy. The Greeks give us six different “categories” of love: 

  1. Philautia – love of the self, of which there are two types, one being narcissism (self-obsessed), the other where one had a wider capacity outside themselves to love
  2. Pragma – mature, long standing love; the deep understanding developed between long-married couples
  3. Agape – selfless love, or the God kind of love, considered the highest form of Christian love
  4. Ludus – playful love, referring to the love between children or young lovers; a type of frivolity enjoyed among friends is this love also
  5. Philia – deep friendship, or that concerning the deep comradely friendship developed by brothers in arms, and loyalty to friends. The Greeks valued this love far more than the base sexuality of Eros
  6. Eros – represents the idea of sexual passion and desire; it wasn’t always regarded as something positive by the ancient Greeks, it was sometimes regarded as dangerous, fiery and irrational love that could take hold and possess you. 

Today’s text tells us that no matter how eloquently one can speak to move and influence people, if what is spoken is without love, regardless of what type love we categorize it as, you’re as irritatingly noisy as a creaky, rusty gate.  There’s a quote attributed to the great author Maya Angelou that says “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” 

If you’ve ever felt unloved or disregarded, then you know the importance of living our title today; don’t just focus on what you say, focus on saying what you must say with love, even if it’s just a modicum of love; it will make all the difference. 

*Types of love from yesmagazine.org 

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Beautiful Feet

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Romans 10:14-15  – “How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things!’” (NKJV) 

There’s a school of thought among some Christians that they don’t need a pastor or preacher. Among some that I happen to know personally, the reason for this that I hear most is “God speaks to me too; I don’t need a man telling me what they think God said”. This mentality is usually born out of some hurt they’ve experienced, and be it real or imagined, their solution is to withdraw and become lone rangers. 

God does speak to us all, but not in the same capacity, and I thank God for that; I have a hard enough time hearing and carrying out the word God speaks to me just for me. I don’t pretend to know what my pastor deals with on a daily basis simply because he obediently answered the call of God on his life, or any other shepherd for that matter. I just know that I thank God for the beautiful feet of those that carry this gospel as preachers and pastors to a lost world, and a sometimes rebellious church. 

We must develop the habit of interceding for those who watch for our souls, who labor and sacrifice more than we can ever imagine and that includes spouses and children of these leaders. Let these God sent ones know, if you can, that you appreciate their beautiful feet.  

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The Promise Comforts

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Revelation 21:4 – “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” (NKJ)

Today has been rough for me from start to finish because I’ve learned of two deaths, 1 as soon as I got to work, the second, about an hour ago. The first person who died I didn’t know, but I work with his wife, who happens to be one of my favorite people. I was out of the office yesterday, and had thought of this dear lady because I’d promised we would visit a favorite store of mine that she’d been wanting to go to, and I wasn’t there. My heart broke for her family, particularly her preteen daughter who is innocent enough to not realize when she called her mom to say that she couldn’t wake her dad that he was actually deceased. Ironically, I signed the card from the office with this Bible verse.

The second has literally numbed me. I’ve mentioned in a prior blog that in college, I became a fraternity Sweetheart, and the second deceased today is one of the gentlemen that I was a Sweetheart for his line. He was so well liked by so many the whole time he was on campus, and every year since. My best friend in the world happens to be a Sweetheart for the same set of brothers, and though we wouldn’t admit it to anybody but each other, we each had a favorite pledge, one we looked out for just a little more than the others. The great man who died was her favorite; she doesn’t have any social media pages, so I’ll call her in the morning to tell her the news. I know she’ll be crushed, but she’s got to know, and I’ve been her bestie since high school, so I’ll deliver the news. 

Though I’m feeling so very heavy in heart for both these families, I take comfort in the promise The Bible has given us in this text. I admonish you, as I’ve heard folks say all my life, give people their flowers while they can smell them. In other words love the people you love while you both know about it. Having experienced many deaths that changed the world I live in, I know that it will take time, but God will comfort those grieving for the promise comforts us in the time where it feels like our world is out of control. God is blessing, even in this very dark moment; be blessed friends, and love while it counts.

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The Secret to Unity

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Psalm 133:1 – “How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity” (NIV)

Unity is wonderful when it happens, but it’s often difficult to achieve. Believers differ, disagree, hurt each other’s feelings, and fight about issues and problems.

The key to becoming one lies in Jesus’ prayer to his Father for all believers: “that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me (John 17:22-23).

Put Jesus’ plans and priorities first, making them your own, which allows Jesus to be “in” you, and unity achieved,

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Our Best Life

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John 3:16-17 – “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” (NKJ)
There’s a popular phrase that’s being used that really just means that people aren’t settling for just anything, they want everything they think is going to make them rich, happy, popular, successful and satisfied in this life, and nothing is going to stop them from their mission. That phrase is “Living my/your best life”; and I’d venture to say that most times I’ve seen or heard it used, it has to do with this earthly life. For those of us who are living this life just to live again, it it can refer to the here and now as well, but The Bible gives us God’s ultimate definition of  what living our best life is as those created in His own image.
Never forget that God wants us to prosper in all things and be in health, even as our soul prospers (See 3 John 1:2). But, our focal verse today reminds us who are of the family of God that we won’t live our best life in the temporal, but rather in eternity.
God so loved us, fallen man both Jew and Gentile, that He arranged the only acceptable sacrifice to insure that we would have the opportunity to be reconciled to Him and we live a blessed and abundant life as we’re on this Christian journey. Our acceptance of God’s gift of salvation to us gives us access to His promises to us, but in this life, we will still have trials and tribulations, but He sustains us through them all. But we should rejoice that our best life has less to do with the earthly trappings of success, but rather with our eternal life.
Would I love to have more money, success, love and health than I can ever deplete in this life? Of course, and I still can and will, but I admonish you as I admonish myself to make sure that our earthly life choices lead us to our best life for eternity.

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It’s Not All Good

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1 Corinthians 10:23 – “You say ‘Everything is permitted.’ But not everything is good for us. Again you say ‘Everything is permitted.’ But not everything builds us up” (NIRV)

While studying today, when I read our focus scripture the first thing that came to mind was my eating and exercise habits. We resolve to start eating healthy and work out every day (usually January 1st, or right before summer), and for about 2 weeks, we’re living like Olympic hopefuls.

But then we make the startling discovery that French fries are on the good food list because after all, they’re made from a vegetable, and vegetables are permitted! We stop working out because suddenly, there’s just not enough time in our day, so when we go out for dinner or shopping, we park far from the entrance to get in a little bit of a walk (I won’t lie, I’ve done this).

In the text today, the Apostle Paul is admonishing the church in Corinth that just because something is allowed doesn’t mean everything is good for them, or builds them up spiritually. Let’s weigh our options in life the same way, and favor that which will benefit us in living a righteous life both physically and spiritually.

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According To

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Philippians 4:19 – “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (NIV)

‘According to’ is a phrase that is used countless times throughout scripture, so I was curious as to how Webster’s defines it. In the context of today’s scripture, it is defined as a prepositional phrase meaning ‘in conformity with; as stated or attested by; depending on’. 

If we were to replace the phrase with the definition in Philippians 4:19, it would read: ‘And my God will meet all your needs in conformity with; as stated or attested by; depending on his glorious riches in Christ Jesus’. Whichever definition you use, I pray you’re as encouraged as I am in this season of  uncertainty that God will meet every one of your needs according to what He has, which just happens to be everything,

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Prayer for Our World

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Psalm 147:3 – “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”

It’s been with a heavy heart that I’ve tried to function all day today because the first bit of news that I heard was that there was yet another mass shooting where innocent lives were taken by a person for reasons unknown to millions, and maybe even the gunman himself. 

As I drove to work, I kept hearing this news report, and what saddened me most was that I realized that there’s a desensitizing that’s happened in regard to this in our country. There were expressions of sadness, of anger, of bewilderment; I even read a report that expressed the glee that the gunman “wasn’t one of us, but of Middle Eastern descent” which is totally irrelevant. But there were very few expressions of genuine shock or surprise. We who claim the name of Christ must never forget that we’re charged, among other things, to pray without ceasing.

So I remind myself, and all who read this who are blood-bought disciples of Jesus Christ, that we have to pray for those who lost loved ones to this tragedy; we must pray for those who were in that place who witnessed this senseless act of violence and are now struggling to find peace in their minds. We must pray for those who may experience what is called “survivor’s guilt”; we must also pray for the family of the one who committed this act. I know some will say they don’t deserve sympathy, they may be blamed for this “crazy person” and their acts, but truth be told, they’ve suffered the loss of someone they love as well. We don’t know the circumstances, but that’s the beauty of really praying for anybody – we don’t have to know the details, we just have to know that God knows it all, and pray that He give them comfort, peace, and that His Spirit would bind the families and loved ones of all affected together in unity and in love in this deeply sad time of bereavement. 

I know there are those who will say I’m crazy for even thinking this gunman or his family deserve any consideration. To that I say maybe I am, and though there’s nothing that can be done for those who’ve passed on already, I ask you to remember that on a hill called Golgotha on either side of the cross of our Lord Jesus there were two others condemned that day, and one man, knowing he was guilty and deserved his punishment, was crazy enough to believe the innocent man in the middle and ask for forgiveness – for that request, he ended up in Paradise. If Jesus, the innocent sacrifice, could answer the prayers of the heart of a sinner, surely we can see past our perception and pain, and send forth prayer for our world; blessings to you all.

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Tell the Truth & Shame the Devil!

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Galatians 4:16 – “Have I therefore become your enemy because I tell you the truth?” (NKJ)

In his letter to the Galatians, the Apostle Paul is warning the very same people that he’d labored to get from childlike faith to mature faith in the God of our salvation. He reminds them that they’re no longer slaves to sin, but are the free children of God. He recounts how lovingly they had received and cared for him while he was yet with them, and now he’s telling them that due to their wanting to return to the useless spiritual principles of the world that perhaps all of his hard work birthing them into the family of God was for nothing.  I’m not a pastor, but I can imagine that many, if not all, have felt this way a time or two concerning those that they’re responsible for covering. 

The verse for today, for me, says all that it would take for my spiritual leaders to say to me to get my head back in the right frame of mind if I’d strayed from the truth of God that they’ve not only taught, but paid for – yes, those called to shepherd the flock of God pay with their lives to be able to walk in the calling that they’ve accepted. While we’re at the movies, they’re in their prayer closet, on their faces interceding for the flock they cover; while we’re eating everything that’s not nailed down, whether we’re hungry or just being greedy, they’re fasting, consecrating and praying for our spiritual safety; while we’re just out here “living our best life”, they’re seeking the will of God that we would become all that God’s called us to be. 

Don’t get me wrong, because a good pastor does all of this, but a great pastor has balance, so they too can get to enjoy and “live their best life” too. In my case, I’ve got to admit that I’m under the right leadership for several reasons. My Apostle, and his wife who is our Pastor under him in our ministry, have shown the love of Christ to me and everyone who walks through the doors of our church, whether the person is a disciple there or not. They’re available to us after every service, they’re available on social media, as we have a majority of millennials as disciples and guests,  and they’re available if you need to meet with them.

I must admit though, there are times that I wish I wasn’t so close to them, the times when I  know I’m completely in the wrong and they’re going to tell me the truth and shame the devil, meaning they aren’t going to sugarcoat a thing. They have both told me the truth in what I know is love, but at the time I’m getting that dressing down, it doesn’t feel like it. Like the Galatians the Apostle Paul is addressing here, I was acting like they were the enemy, but knowing that they’re really covering me. 

If you’re blessed enough to have spiritual leaders that aren’t afraid to tell you the truth and shame the devil, thank God for it, take your licks, accept the truth, and get yourself together.

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Going My Way?

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Proverbs 14:12 – “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” (NKJ)

Reading the focal scripture for today made me think of an episode of The Twilight Zone. In it, a young woman is traveling alone across country from NYC to California for a vacation, and in the opening scene, a mechanic is changing a tire on her car that had blown out. She asks the mechanic, as she does all the other characters she encounters about a hitchhiker that she started seeing right after the tire incident, eventually becoming frightened because this man keeps showing up ahead of her in one location after she’s passed him in another. She eventually feels so frightened that she calls home to speak to her mother, and is informed her mother’s been hospitalized ever since the death of her daughter. In the last scene, she gets back in the car, looks in her rear view mirror and the man she’s been seeing, by now we understand that he’s Death, is in the back seat, and he asks her ‘going my way?’.

In the world we live in, there are so many options, so many opinions that the world has to get to God. As children of God, we must be wise, following not what we think is right, because we could ‘think’ our way straight to death, be it spiritual or physical. There’s no need for us to guess about what route we should be taking. We already have the road map to go God’s way, which doesn’t lead to death, but rather eternal life in Him.

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Stop Hiding in Plain Sight

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1 Peter 5:6-7 – “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” (NKJ)

This instruction given to the family of God seems really simple at first glance, but I’ve come to realize some of the most seemingly obvious and simple tasks are about as multilayered as an onion – many different layers, but the same thing in essence. 

I say this because as I reflect on my walk with Christ thus far, there were many times that I interchanged being humble with being hidden. I’ve since learned that they are two very different things, but the same in essence.

Once again, the one person’s story I can tell without offending the person is me, so I’ll share something that some know, and most who’ve had any social interaction with me may not believe, but in terms of my personality, I’m an extroverted introvert. When I first heard of this term and its meaning, I was so glad to put a definition to who I am.

I’m one of the few people I know who will admit that as a child, I didn’t really care much for other children for long periods of time – too loud, too selfish, just generally annoying after a while (my cousins didn’t count, they rock!). I had few true friends, and I was fine with that; in fact, that’s still true for me. My favorite places to spend my free time were at the library, museums, and the movies. Growing up in NYC, I love Broadway theater, concerts, and beautiful architecture. In my twenties and early thirties, I traveled, and I moved to different states more than once. In college, I became a Sweetheart for the greatest fraternity on the face of the planet (PHI BETA SIGMA!), and gained friends through that collegiate experience that I still have today; I even dared to pledge a sorority, but illness that took me out of school for an extended time ended that endeavor, though I’m still friends with those phenomenal women today as well. Though I do enjoy the company of others, I love to laugh, and to make others laugh, I’m really much more comfortable being by myself. The things I listed above I’ve done alone more than I ever have with others, but my mother, God love her for her wisdom, insisted that I be a social butterfly of sorts. I feel like the onion some days: lots of layers, the same in essence. 

When I became a disciple of Jesus Christ, it took a little getting used to for many different reasons. The first is that the first church ministry I became part of was music ministry, and choirs have more than one section vocally, so there went my independent act! I’ve gained family of my heart all over the USA because of my church memberships. Of all things, I love to serve the people of God, but I don’t seek attention or accolades for what I feel like I ought to be doing without anybody asking or telling me to do. I love being behind the scenes, making sure that those who are out front have nothing to worry about except their part. I serve in hospitality, I serve in music ministry, and I serve in a capacity that I really would never be paid for and that’s being part of the crew that makes sure the church is clean and prepared for service.

What does that have to do with our scripture today? I’m so glad you asked! During my first eight years in Florida, I was at a ministry that honestly, I never really cared for, not in the way that I’d cared for past ministries; in all the time I was there, I was never allowed to serve in any capacity – none! I did learn that I wasn’t being humble in my service at the other churches when I got to my beloved home church now, I was really hiding. It was at the place I’m in now that I got busted, and had to change and flow into the humble (MW: not proud or arrogant) place God wants us all to be in concerning service to Him.

I’ve never sought position, and it took the Spirit of God to have me to reveal to my current pastor that I’d actually been ordained an elder while living in Dallas, Texas. I realize I was terrified to do so, because I don’t want to be out front, so the less they knew, the more I could blend in and just ‘be’. So now that I’ve been outed so to speak, I still don’t want positions, I just want to serve God and His kingdom humbly, but I no longer stand in the fear that was the essence of my hiding.

Do I still enjoy my alone time,? Yes, because that’s part of how God designed and created me. But I embrace the humble yet visible place of being a servant of God and have rejected hiding for what it is in my case, fear of rejection. It’s tough some days, but if you’re like me, I admonish you to come forward humbly and stop hiding in plain sight; it happens to feel pretty good.

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Earth, Wind and Fire

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 1 Kings 19: 11-12 : ” ‘Go out and stand before me on the mountain,’ the Lord told him. And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper.” (NLT)
The focal text today takes place after God gave the prophet Elijah the power to defeat and kill the false prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel. King Ahab’s heathen wife Jezebel has threatened to kill Elijah, and we find him in a cave that he’d hidden in, basically having a pity party when God demonstrates His power. This seems a bit ridiculous considering all that the prophet had done by the hand of God, but before we criticize Elijah, if you look back over your life, you’ll find you’ve had earth, wind and fire moments in your life just like Elijah had that day.
God calls Elijah to stand before him on the mountain, where God passes Him by and a windstorm that tears the rocks loose, but the Lord Himself was not in the wind according to The Bible. How many times have you felt reassured because the Lord’s shown Himself to you and right after that, you’re in the midst of a violent storm, tearing loose and moving the things that are solidly in place around you; things and/or people that have always been there in your life that you can depend on?
Once the wind had made its debut, an earthquake hits, which the text tells us that the Lord wasn’t in the earthquake. This makes me think of especially turbulent times in my own life where it seemed like it was storm after storm, where I looked for God in everything around me to make sense of my seemingly out of control life. Like Elijah, I found out later that everything I thought would kill me was to simply move me into the next phase of my life.
As if back to back catastrophic occurrences weren’t enough, now there’s a fire! Again, I’ll be honest and say that it’s in the times of fiery trials that I asked God to just kill me and get it over with. Funny thing, earlier in 1 Kings 19 that the mighty man of God, the prophet himself had asked God to kill him out of fear of Jezebel’s reprisal. I’ve actually said ‘God, what else do you want, you already have my whole life? I have nothing left, this has to stop!’ But just like He didn’t entertain Elijah’s foolish requests, clearly He doesn’t answer the things we pray for because we’re feeling sorry for ourselves. It’s not until God’s used earth, wind and fire, all temporal elements that Elijah understands through the natural that he then hears God for the next direction the prophet is to take.
The lesson here is that we don’t hear God until we shut our mouths and quiet our spirit while standing in the spot that God commanded us to occupy. If you complete studying this entire account, you’ll find that after the fire God commands the prophet to anoint two kings, reveals to Elijah that he’s not the only prophet of God on the scene, and last but not least, God commands Elijah to anoint Elisha as prophet in his place.
When God uses us to go against the evil that thinks it’s in control, we must understand that no test, no trial, no tribulation is our end. When we begin to feel that we’re the only one going through for no reason, it’s best that we find someplace,  shut up with the pity party, speak peace to our own spirit, and remind ourselves that God hasn’t ever nor will ever abandon us. Don’t let earth, wind, and fire have to manifest in order for you to hear God’s direction and trust Him. I don’t know about you, but I’ve been through too much for God to fire me and have me to go get my replacement and anoint them to do what I was originally supposed to complete.
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Sooner Than We Think

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Matthew 24: 37-42 – “The arrival of the Son of Man will take place in times like Noah’s. Before the great flood everyone was carrying on as usual, have a good time right up to the day Noah boarded the ark. They knew nothing – until the flood hit and swept everything away. Two men will be working in the field – one will be taken, one left behind; two women will be grinding at the mill – one will be taken, one will be left behind. So stay awake, alert. You have no idea what day your Master will show up.” (The Message Bible)

Today marks the end of Daylight Saving Time in the U.S. and quite frankly, I’m sick of the whole concept. Benjamin Franklin introduced the idea of resetting clocks forward one hour in Spring and backward 1 hour in the Fall, but Americans didn’t start the madness of adjusting our clocks back and forth until nearly the end of WWI. The House of Representatives passed a law to ‘save daylight’, making March 15, 1918 the first date this useless tradition started. The public balked and the decision to keep this lunacy going was given to local governments, though the feds did re-institute the law during WWII. Though there is an actual law still on the books about this, not every state participates. 

In thinking about the time change all day, I posted to my social media pages a meme and added my post “Don’t be in your church’s parking lot in the morning wondering if you missed the rapture”. During my study time, this scripture was where I was led concerning not man’s time, but God’s appointed time to end time as we know it, and thrust us into our true reality in eternity.

Jesus is approaching the time of his crucifixion, and our text today is part of His answer to them concerning the end times and His second coming. He teaches the very worried disciples that life will be as normal as it was in Noah’s day; in fact, His description sounds pretty much like the days we’re living in right now. But Jesus is vaguely specific concerning the time of His return, because though He’s certainly part of the Holy Trinity, Jesus “THE MAN” isn’t omniscient or omnipresent. The God part of Him knows all, and is ever present everywhere, but Christ tells the disciples that even He, Christ “THE MAN” doesn’t know the day nor the hour of His second coming. He describes what will happen when that time comes, and even then, it’s only the beginning of the end for those that are left behind when the body of Christ is taken out of time and into eternity in the catching away of the saints of God. 

We’re living thousands of years after Jesus Christ came to reconcile us back to God so that we can live our best lives eternally. Rather than being consumed by the signs of the last days, we would be wise to understand the age we’re in, study and live by the blueprint aka The Bible, and be prepared to go back with Him when He does return, because though no man knows the day or the hour, rest assured that it’s sooner than we think.

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Jesus – The Original Superman

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Titus 2: 11-14 – “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.” (NKJ)
One of the many lessons my brother and I were taught being raised by my mother and grandmother was we had to share. As I reflected on that, I realize that we learned early on that nothing was ever going to be your way all the time, and in our household, selfishness wasn’t tolerated. My grandmother would let us take turns choosing which dessert she’d make for Sunday dinners, and she included herself in the rotation; I remember hating her pick for pound cake because my favorite was chocolate layer cake, and pound cakes had no frosting. I’ve since changed my mind on pound cake, but chocolate layer cake still rules!
We had to share the television, games, and learn to live together so we’d be functional and decent human beings that contributed to society rather than hindered it. Because of this, I learned to love superhero movies and comic books; the martial arts movies never really stuck, but I endured so that my favorite picks were allowed at the appointed time.  Of all the super heroes I got to learn about, one of my top five faves was of course, Superman. There was something so cool about the seemingly normal almost nerdy Clark Kent really being an alien from another planet dwelling among us, doing no harm, but able to turn into the hero needed to stop evil in its tracks, and have justice prevail. 
This fictional hero brings to mind the very real person of God embodied in human form, Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. Though Superman is a character, Jesus is the character of God Himself wrapped up in flesh, something akin to the suit Clark Kent wore to cover up his true identity. God so wanted reconciliation with man originally created in God’s image, that the plan of redemption had to come through the flesh, for it was by flesh (man) that sin did enter the world. This was a job for Jesus, because God is a spirit, and mankind needed a kinsman redeemer.
The Bible teaches us in this text how those who have received the grace of God that brings salvation should live, while we yet look for Jesus’ glorious appearing. Consider that Jesus gave Himself for us that ultimately we would be redeemed from lawlessness, purified that we would be His own special people, with a fervency or zealousness for good works. Like countless others, I’m fascinated by and with the life of Jesus Christ as He dwelt among us, but it’s His death, burial, and resurrection that makes Jesus my original, forever Super-Man. To reference an old song of the church: living He loved me, dying He saved me, buried He carried my sins far away; rising He justified, freed me forever, one day He’s coming back, glorious day! This is what all who claim the name of Christ have as a guarantee.
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Answers, Options & Opportunities

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Ecclesiastes 10:19 –  “A feast is made for laughter, and wine makes merry; but money answers everything.” (NKJV)

In the past couple of weeks there was something really insignificant that so many Americans fell for: a ginormous lottery jackpot. There were people all over the country lining up to spend their money on tickets because after all, if you don’t play, you can’t win (hmm, that might be why I didn’t win; oh well!). The lottery fever was so intense that I know people who profess otherwise that gambling is a sin who bought lottery tickets, swearing that they would tithe to their home church and do so much for the kingdom of God. I’m not calling them liars, who am I to judge? If my dad were still living, he’d have been in the number, but I would have been teasing him as usual saying he’d have to win it all just to break even for all the years he played. Of course there were those ever so diligent “saints of the most high God” who were busy condemning people, many times while incorrectly quoting scripture by reminding the world that money is the root of all evil (see 1 Timothy 6:10 for what the Holy Writ really says). In any case, I’m not going to pretend I don’t want wealth; I’m a billionaire in the making, and that’s not said lightly or in jest, because I happen to understand the promises of God for my life.

I have a former pastor who’s taught for decades that God doesn’t mind His people having money, He minds when money has His people. He also said something that will stay with me the rest of my life: poverty creates emergencies and crises where money creates options and opportunities. Our text today, and the scripture in 1 Timothy 6 referenced above both let us know that God has no problem with his people having money. Some may disagree, but if you believe a God who owns the cattle on a thousand hills,  promised to supply all the need of His people according to His riches in glory, has paved the streets of heaven with gold, and has gates made of pearl throughout, and last but not least tells us in this text that money answers all things has a “problem” with money, I pray that He reveals the real deal to you. I won’t even bother you about Jesus’ clothing being gambled for as He was being led to crucifixion, but have you ever wanted a poor, broke man’s rags so badly you’d gamble for them? 

I’ll talk about my own life, because I won’t offend me. In my few years on this earth, I’ve enjoyed my fair share of partying and nightclubbing, to the point of shutting down one club and going to the after hours joints because 3 a.m. was just too early to call it quits. Thanksgiving has long been my favorite holiday, especially when I had to travel to get home, because the feast is phenomenal, and for me, there’s nothing like the love and laughter during that special holiday. I’ve consumed more than my fair share of wine and various other beverages that made me merry (I wasn’t a mean drunk!). And I’ve also had enough crises and emergencies arise in my life because of the absence of money, and though I’ve had some, I’ve not had enough consistent instances of money making options and opportunities my reality every day. 

I’m not going to knock those that believe that all you need is a dollar and a dream to become wealthy and I know enough about life to thoroughly understand that money doesn’t bring you happiness. But what I do know for sure is that I’ve done “not enough”, “barely enough”, and “broke as the 10 Commandments at Mardi Gras” long enough; I’m believing God to manifest His word in my life that I would have abundant, overflowing answers, options and opportunities for the rest of my days.

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The Loveless Church

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Revelation 2:1-7 – “To the angel of the church of Ephesus write, ‘These things say He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands: ‘I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary. Nevertheless, I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place – unless you repent. But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitians, which I also hate. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the  midst of the Paradise of God.'” (NKJV)

In this portion of scripture written by John The Revelator, there’s an evaluation of the seven churches that were part of the Apostle Paul’s missionary journey, whether he saw to them personally, or sent another in his stead. Though these churches did exist at the time of this revelation, their characteristics are types we find in the church not just down through the ages, but even today.

At first glance, the church at Ephesus is doing pretty good as far as churches can be graded. According to The Bible, this church is patient, laborious in the name of the Lord while not growing weary, and can’t stand those that are evil. They’ve shut down the fake apostles, finding them to be liars. But even in the midst of it all, God points out that he has something against them, and this is a very dangerous thing for a church especially today: they have left their first love.

One definition MW has of the word ‘left’ is “abandoned”, so if we were to substitute that definition for the word lost, part of the text today would read: that you have abandoned your first love. The church at Ephesus is guilty of abandoning their trademark, their brand so to speak, and that is going from being the church defined by their love for God, and have fallen away from God not in their works, but spiritually, which is very dangerous for any believer, and any church that opens their arms, hearts, and doors in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Their relationship with God is in disrepair, and the word of the Lord to them is, in the AABV (Ansonia’s Alabaster Box Version), get yourselves together, make your way back to ME, your first love, or I’m coming to shut you down! God will allow churches (lampstands) with this trait to continue in their work, but if they don’t get themselves together spiritually, the church (body/people) may remain, but the spirit of God will have departed. In essence, there will be a building full of people that do all the good works in the name of the Lord, but He’s no longer there or interested until they get back in right relationship with Him spiritually.

I can honestly say that I’ve been part of 4 ministries in my life, and overall, they’ve all done great things in the name of the Lord. But, in studying these churches of Revelation, there are characteristics in each that John has written to the angels (messengers) of the houses in the book of Revelation as the Spirit of God directed him that we in any house of the Lord would be foolish to ignore. We’re each responsible in some way for the church body collectively, and definitely for the church that each of us is, the representation of Christ in the earth in our lives, not a gathering place.

Let’s not get so bothered with the work of the Lord that we leave the Lord of the work, and allow sin, heresy and flat out evil to sit, walk, and work among us. No, none of us is perfect, but as leaders, the blood is on our hands if any are lost because we refuse to address and act in the correct spiritual matter regarding all things in the house of the Lord. We must always be so in love with our God that His ways become our ways so we don’t lose our way, and end up a social club bound for hell rather than the brilliant representation of Christ in the earth. I pray that we would heed the warnings, and make the necessary correction given in this precious word of God so that we don’t labor in vain, but instead keep our lampstand because the Lord of the work is completely pleased with His church. Did the church in Ephesus heed the word given to the angel of that house by John the Revelator? I wasn’t there, so I can’t say. But what I can say is if that the ministry you’re planted in has forgotten their first love, or if you personally are stellar in the natural but raggedy in your spiritual life, repent, and do your first works, lest you suddenly find yourself ineffective, without the presence of God. You won’t be a successful overcomer who eats of the tree of life in  paradise of God unless you remember from where you’ve fallen, and get back to that which you were assigned to do.

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What We Can Give in Return

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Psalm 116:12 – “What shall I render to the Lord for his benefits toward me?” (KJV) 

Like most companies, my employer offers benefits to the employees. Benefits are those incentives that employees take into consideration many times before they even apply for a position; health care benefits are very important to just about everyone I know, as well as vacation time, family leave. But not everyone who works for a company is entitled to benefits; there are criteria, like work status, and length of employment that determine what benefits, if any, an employee is entitled to receive.

Companies aren’t the only ones to offer benefits. God gave us the benefit of salvation before we were ever his ‘employees’ (see Romans 5:8). But we must choose to partake of the benefit of salvation to receive the full goodness and blessing of God on our lives. Yes, I know that those who ascribe to other faiths are blessed, but they don’t receive the inheritance, the full benefit of an heir, in that state of separation from our God. 

So what do we give God in return for his benefits toward us? We reap the benefits from our employers or our own company by showing up and successfully completing the work we were hired to do. But with God, we give our lives in return. We live the life of salvation that Christ died for. We follow the commandments he’s given us, we work and serve in the house and the kingdom of God in the earth. We preach, teach, evangelize, pastor, do the work of an apostle, witness, and do all that he’s gifted and assigned us to do, knowing that we will reap the ultimate benefit of eternal life with God.

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The Compromising Church

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 Revelation 2:12-17 – “Write this letter to the angel of the church in Pergamum. This is the message from the one with the sharp two-edged sword: ‘I know that you live in the city where Satan has his throne, yet you have remained loyal to me. You refused to deny me even when Antipas, my faithful witness, was martyred among you there in Satan’s city. But I have a few complaints against you. You tolerate some among you whose teaching is like that of Balaam, who showed Balak how to trip up the people of Israel. He taught them to sin by eating food offered to idols and committing sexual sin. In a similar way, you have some Nicolaitans among you who follow the same teaching. Repent of your sin, or I will come to you suddenly and fight against them with the sword of my mouth.’ Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches. To everyone who is victorious I will give some of the manna that has been hidden away in heaven. And I will give to each one a white stone, and on the stone will be engraved a new name that no one understands except the one who receives it.” (New Living Translation) 

The church of Pergamum is one that has remained faithful to God even when faithful servants and witnesses of Jesus Christ are martyred, and is located in a city that is so given over to the world system that it is called the place where Satan has his throne. But even with the saints being faithful to their calling, there are still complaints that the Lord has against them. One of their sins is that they allowed teachers to stay among them who taught the people how to sin. The other charge against them is that they allow those who follow such idolatrous sinful teaching to be among them who were faithful to God. In essence, they allowed those teaching and practicing spiritual filthiness to be among them, which leads to corruption in the body of Christ. They’re advised to repent quickly, or else he would come and rebuke them for allowing their foul spiritual practices, as well as those committing the acts. 

The church today is in many ways like this church. We fight on for souls to be healed, delivered and set free from sin and spiritual oppression, we stand in the face of the enemy’s camp, we witness, we pray, we lead those who are out of the ark of safety into salvation. But if we’re honest, we allow what looks like spiritual foolishness, but what really is spiritual corruption and filthiness to dwell right among us. Leaders allow preachers and singers to come right into the house of God, knowing that their spiritual life is raggedy, but because they’ll bring in a good crowd, because they don’t want to be known as ‘judging others’, or simply put sometimes the leaders themselves are given over to spiritual corruption, they allow these people to come in and share ‘their gifts’ with the body of Christ. We have to get past the big names some of these people have made for themselves or an outstanding gift that will leave people entertained and happy, but still bound spiritually due to the absence of God’s anointing. It’s necessary to let the fruit of their labor speak for them – if it’s rotten fruit, they need to either repent, or the church needs to not tolerate their operation within the body of Christ to continue. 

When we look at what’s happening in our own individual houses of worship, as a believer, you may not be in leadership, but you can still see the areas that need spiritual attention, so we should intercede for our leadership. We must pray that they would hear clearly from God and then act in the way that they are directed. If we are pastors, we must be willing to stand for God and his instructions to us without fear, and without favor regarding what the people we lead will think, say or do in reaction to it. Let’s look within the body that we’re part of, and be about carrying out whatever the Lord would have us to do so that we don’t lose our place in the kingdom of God. 

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Nobody Greater

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Hebrews 6:13 – “When God made his promise to Abraham, since there was no one greater for him to swear by, he swore by himself.” (NIV) 

Our devotion today was inspired by a gospel song of the same title that says in its verse ‘I searched all over, couldn’t find nobody, I looked high and low still couldn’t find nobody, nobody greater, nobody greater than you’.

The song tells us that no matter where the search led, be it the highest mountain, the deepest valley, or even across the seas, there’s nobody greater than God to be found in this search. Our text confirms that there is indeed nobody greater than our God, for when God himself looked for someone greater to swear by, there was nobody greater.

Rejoice in the God of your salvation today and every day, because there’s truly nobody greater than our God; blessings!

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Lactose Intolerant

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1 Corinthians 3:1-3 – “But for right now, friends, I’m completely frustrated by your unspiritual dealings with each other and with God. You’re acting like infants in relation to Christ, capable of nothing much more than nursing at the breast. Well, then, I’ll nurse you since you don’t seem capable of anything more. As long as you grab for what makes you feel good or makes you look important, are you really much different than a babe at the breast, content only when everything’s going your way?” (The Message Translation) 

I’m remembering an interesting conversation I had with someone concerning, among other things, my reaction to what I deemed as foolishness going on within the ministry we both  belonged to at that time. She rightly expressed concern, not about the tolerance of this behavior by leadership, but instead about how my clear expression of how I felt about that church came across to others. 

This discussion made me realize that at this stage in my walk with Christ, I’m lactose intolerant spiritually. I know that’s an odd way to phrase it, but people who are lactose intolerant in the natural can’t process lactose, because they lack the enzyme necessary to break lactose down and make it useful for the body. The symptoms of lactose intolerance include diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, bloating and gas, and it’s recommended that one should see a doctor if they suffer these symptoms frequently, particularly if calcium intake is a concern*.  There are many products sold over the counter to help those who are lactose intolerant, including various alternatives to milk, and over the counter medications to ease the onset of symptoms. 

My spiritual lactose intolerance symptoms are much the same; it makes me sick to see people who claim salvation for decades, serve in ministry, and still can’t handle anything but “milky” word. They’re spiritually immature, and are content to be in that state of existence. I advised in the conversation that though we’d have to agree to disagree on how I felt about things, I realized that I can’t allow my lactose intolerance to damage these senior citizen aged babes in Christ. I can’t allow how I was raised spiritually make me demand something of these that they aren’t capable of handling, so it’s my charge to make sure that I handle them with care as I would an actual baby. Until they mature enough to handle the full substance of the word of God and what it requires of us, I have to be sure that I don’t cause injury to them. 

So, as an elder in the body, I’m taking my meds, which are the word of God, prayer, and faith that God isn’t done with any of us. Maybe some of you are spiritually lactose intolerant, as I am. It would do the body of Christ good for us to treat the symptoms we suffer in the prescribed manner so that we can be a help to the man or woman of God that is in charge of shepherding us all to higher and deeper levels in God,

*Information obtained from http://www.themayoclinic.org

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The Best Place

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Psalm 84:10 – “For a day in thy courts is better than a thousand. I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness.” (NKJ)

The writer of today’s verse lets us know where the best place for Christians is: in the presence of God, and that serving in His house in the lowest capacity is better than the highest place of esteem among the wicked.

If you’re not in the best place, make the changes needed to get there; if you are, and feel a bit beat up, or insignificant in your service, be encouraged, serve out of a pure heart and be assured God sees and blesses you.

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Think on These Things

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Philippians 4:8 – “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy – meditate on these things.” (NKJV) 

Ever find yourself bombarded with what seem to be random thoughts? Or feel like you’re obsessing about life: world events, parenting, being a spouse, serving God, planning for holidays and family events, career decisions, love life? I personally have to “shut my mind down” at night so that I can rest well and not worry about the day I just ended, and kill anxiety about what’s coming in the day on the way.

We live in a world simply over-saturated with information, but here’s a remedy that the apostle Paul gave us to put it all in perspective regarding what’s really important. So today if you find yourself drawn into overwhelming thoughts, think on these things, take a deep breath, and lighten your load by giving God praise for these things.

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Recognize Your Need

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Revelation 3:17 – “You say ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth, and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.” (NIV) 

This scripture was written by the apostle John after he was taken into heaven and given divine revelation of the end of days. Here he’s speaking about one of the seven churches in Revelation, the church of Laodicea, which happened to be a prosperous church. They had all the material trappings they could want, and felt they didn’t need anything.

But in this revelation, God tells them they’ve gotten comfortable in their surroundings as well as their possessions, and that their attitude toward their real mission was in the worst state. They were neither hot (passionate), or cold (resistant), but were lukewarm (indifferent), and God had no use for them at all!

Take heed that you realize your need for God no matter what state you’re in, because if you lose sight of that, you risk God having no need of you. We must never acquire so much that we believe it’s our works that get us anything. We mustn’t ever let bad circumstances make us bitter about what God allows, but rather remember that the best things this temporal life has to offer mean nothing if you don’t have eternal life with God our Father. Recognize your need for God, and yield to His guiding and controlling your life.

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The Importance of Alignments

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2 Corinthians 6:14-17 – “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: ‘I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be my people.’ Therefore ‘Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you.’” (NKJV) 

Many times, the first part of our text is referenced in regard to marital relationships, which is indeed an important alignment, but the apostle Paul is stressing to the Corinthian church that any alignments or allegiances that are not in sync with the word of God and the works of Jesus Christ are to be avoided, or if one finds themselves in such an alignment, it must be cut.

As we are disciples of Christ, we must have no covenant, no agreement with any unbeliever, idol, or even the temple of an idol. The scripture says that because God dwells in us, walks among us, is our God, and we are His people, we need to come out from among those things that would defile our covenant with God. If we want to be received by God, to stay in the divine covenant we have with God when we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and savior, we must decide that any alliance that goes against our relationship with God, we need to come out of that alliance.

In short, we must decide which alignment is most important to our eternal soul, and come out from among that which God says is unclean. If you’re not sure if the alignment is one you should have or not, use the questions listed by the apostle Paul above as a guide, and if God isn’t in alignment with it, then we shouldn’t be either. 

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Late in the Midnight Hour

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Acts 16:25 – “But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.” (NKJV)

There’s a popular gospel artist who recorded a song many years ago that has our title today in one of its verses. What inspired this writing is I received a post on social media of a cockatoo losing all his cool when that part of the song came on by raising the feathers on his head, spreading his wings, bobbing his head, and turning around in circles; clearly that’s his part of the song. It was not unlike congregants when the song is sung in churches; I know just how that cockatoo feels!

I wondered if I should include The Bible’s telling of what happened as a result of our text today, which is indeed important, but as I reflected on my own life, I asked myself the question “What do you do when it’s late in the midnight hour in your life?”.

See, we don’t have to be physically imprisoned, but we all have seasons of trials that we can do nothing in our own power and strength to change. It’s late in the midnight hour that we need to turn up our prayer and praise to God, acknowledging his greatness in every situation. No matter how bad things may appear in the natural, when we give God our all especially in those times of trial, God’s always gives us the victory. 

The victory we see in The Bible is not just for Paul and Silas, but also the other prisoners, and even the jailer, who received salvation as a result. The challenges we face for the sake of the kingdom of God can lead us straight into midnight hours, but remember, they are divinely ordained for us. Those of us who serve the living God must understand that our trials are rarely about us, the anointing on our lives is not for us, and the results of our service to God, more often than not, are for others. 

When you find yourself in a midnight hour wondering when the clock will turn and your change will finally come, follow the example of the apostle Paul and Silas, and kick it up like my bird friend: hold your head up high, raise your hands in praise, and dance before the King, because as that gospel song says and I know to be true, late in the midnight hour, God’s gonna turn it around, and it’s going to work in your favor!

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The Mark of a Great Leader

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 Galatians 4:16-19 – “Have I now become your enemy because I am telling you the truth? Those false teachers are so eager to win your favor, but their intentions are not good. They are trying to shut you off from me so that you will pay attention to only them. If someone is eager to do good things for you, that’s all right; but let them do it all the time, not just when I’m with you. Oh, my dear children! I feel as if I’m going through labor pains for you again, and they will continue until Christ is fully developed in your lives.” (New Living Translation) 

As we get closer to the mid-term election, I personally can’t wait until it’s finally over with.  I research the records of career politicians seeking re-election, and for those that are new to politics, I watch them closely not only because they have no political record, but because actions speak louder than words. In this particular set of elections, I’m watching to see who endorses the candidates as well, because birds of a feather really do flock together.  I feel a responsibility  to choose those who have the mark of a great leader, because if it turns out like the last presidential election, I know that the complete debacle like the one that this country is in currently that follows isn’t my fault.

In our text today, the apostle Paul is addressing the Galatians about following false teachers. Paul displays the mark of a great leader because he addresses the problem head on. So many leaders have this round-about way of addressing and handling sin in the ranks, especially if it concerns leaders in the church. But as we all know, nothing hidden stays that way, especially in the day of camera phones and the internet! Paul gets right to the heart of the matter, and even alludes to the fact that he wishes he were addressing them in person. 

But he displays another mark of a great leader in that even though those in his charge are getting off track spiritually, he still covers them spiritually, and will continue to bear the pain of laboring for them until they mature fully in Christ. He lets them know that though he’s labored for them before, he’s not going to abandon them to their own destruction, but that he would continue to do whatever it takes to lead them back to the road of their maturity in Christ. 

There are many great spiritual leaders that labor for all in their care. Sure, we have some who labor for their inner circle, for those that will continue to support them and their agenda.  But when we’re blessed with a man or woman of God who bear the mark of the greatest leader, we should pray for them and their family, follow them as they follow Christ, war in the spirit for them, and make sure that they aren’t continuously laboring for us with no return for their efforts, 

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Mental Direction

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Romans 12:2 – “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (NKJV)

I’ve heard a few preachers say that you can’t stop birds from flying over your head, but you can stop them from building a nest in your hair. That sounds crazy, but the meaning is actually profound. 

In the world we live in, just as the world that the apostle Paul lived in, there’s so much that can influence our walk with Jesus Christ, but the Bible is clear on what mental direction is the right one for believers in Jesus, and transformation is not an option, but a necessity.

While the church of God is concerned with the spiritual direction of Christians, we rarely hear about the importance of our mental direction and the benefits of not only professing Christ as Lord and Savior of our lives, but getting our mind on the right path. I can talk about me, because I was there: until I got the true meaning of this Bible verse, I was saved, but I was loud, strong, and wrong when it came to my mental direction. I served in music ministry, taught vacation bible school, was a certified Sunday School teacher, but in real life, I was living raggedy because of my mental direction. I didn’t understand how wrong it was to do everything “right” concerning the outward appearance of my salvation, but keeping my old mental direction, which led to me acting, just like the world, because my mind hadn’t been renewed. Thank God I got the revelation on that before I left this world, because to go to hell from the pews is not what I want to do!

I admonish you to take a spiritual mental assessment of your life. If you’re stuck in the same mental direction that you were in when you were unsaved, it would behoove you to get it together! Is it easy? No. Do you miss it some days regardless? Yes, but because you’re aware that you need to mental confirmation, to go in the right direction in your mind according to The Bible, you’re now obligated to make the effort every day to make sure that your mind is indeed in line with the word of God, reflecting the mind of Jesus. This Christian walk isn’t about lip service, but about action to not just be a human being, but a human doing, and if your mental direction is all jacked up, you’ll be a human doing the wrong thing in Jesus name, which is an epic fail. Yes, Jesus paid it all on the cross at Calvary, and it’s a free gift – it’s the hustle that costs you everything. Your mental direction is a huge factor in where you end up spiritually – the first one was on Jesus, this one is on you – get busy in the right direction.

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Hearing Isn’t Enough

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 James 1:22-24 – “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was.” (NKJV) 

The writer of the text today admonishes us that merely hearing the word of God without doing what the word instructs us to do is the same as self-deception.

To be deceptive where others are concerned is bad all by itself, but to actually practice deceiving oneself is completely crazy to me. How is it that you can know the truth, yet lie to oneself concerning the truth? 

When we act according to the word of God, we not only walk in obedience, but we also fulfill the assignment that each of us has. It’s important to be covered by a pastor that is truly preaching and teaching the word of God in our hearing, but hearing isn’t enough; we have to give life to the word of God by allowing our life to be a reflection of what God says we must do as his disciples in the kingdom. 

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What Does Your Soul Thirst For?

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Psalm 42:1 – “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for you, O God.” (NKJ) 

Everybody gets thirsty, which simply translated is the urge to drink fluids; it’s a natural instinct regulated by a negative feedback loop between the brain and other organs in the body, and as far as survival instincts go, it doesn’t get more basic. We can survive for only a matter of days without water, and thirst serves as an automatic reminder of that fact, and thus, plays a crucial role in keeping us alive. Yet people sometimes lose their sense of thirst, usually attributed to age, or certain brain injuries preventing people from recognizing when they need to drink.

Water, of course, is the best thirst quencher, but a stroll to the beverage coolers in any convenience store or supermarket will confirm there’s an overabundance of choices for something to drink. Those things may temporarily quench your thirst, but the body will become thirsty again. 

In our text today, the writer of this Psalm likens our soul thirsting after God to the deer panting after the water brooks. The deer is in search of, longing for water not only to sustain and refresh him, but to also protect him from his enemies. The text makes me take a self-assessment and I’ll ask you the same question I’m asking myself: What does your soul thirst for? What is it that you’re seeking out, longing for, panting after that only God can quench the thirsting of your soul for? If it’s not God, you’ll remain thirsty. Like natural thirst, it’s not wrong to be thirsty, it’s just how you sate that thirst that makes all the difference. 

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Not So Fast!

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Ecclesiastes 7:9 – “Do not hasten in your spirit to be angry, for anger rests in the bosom of fools.” (NKJ)

I must confess that in my  twenties, I was easily upset and angered by things, and reacted in ways that reflected my displeasure, and assuring the offenders that I was not to be taken lightly. While my anger could be set off in an instant, the vengeful acts to right what I perceived were offenses were planned out meticulously so that they would not soon, if ever, be forgotten. Honestly speaking from this older, more mature, saved time in my life, that era was one in which I was depressed, lonely, and at times, suicidal, and I thank God that He kept me because the foolish girl I was in the first half of my life had no idea that God indeed had a plan for my life, to give me an expected end that I never even thought about.

Why am I bringing up what could be considered ancient history? I’m glad you asked. I was having a not so great day due to several factors, and the icing on the cake was that I needed assistance to do what I’m paid to do at work, and got zero help from those I sought help from. So I came back to my desk, determined that I would do nothing work oriented for the rest of the week since it wasn’t important to those assigning work to me. In short, anger flared up in my spirit immediately, and anger found a cushy resting spot in my bosom. 

The Holy Ghost immediately arrested me, and told me to get in the word of God, so I figured I just needed to write this blog. But when I got to the text he guided me to, I had to repent, and then be transparent, because God has a funny way of dealing with you before you can minister a word to anybody else. Regardless of the reason I rushed to anger, I was told to not get there so fast, and be open to what God had to say to me. 

Maybe you’re having a fabulous day, or like I was a little while ago, maybe everyone breathing air is getting on your very last nerve and you want the world to go all the way away forever. I’ll tell you what God told me: Not so fast! Seek the Lord in his word, and in prayer, and get your spirit together so that there’s no place for anger to rest in you. No, it’s not wrong to be angry, but we’re told to be angry and sin not. In the state I was in, sin was already in the works and it didn’t take but a hot second; hence the need for me to repent. As I repented, I got a phone call in the office from a woman a world away who though we’ve never talked until today, in a single conversation, she unknowingly confirmed everything in this devotion before it was even written. Trust God, seek him, and don’t be so fast to let your temper flare; that way, you won’t become housing for anger to rise up out of anytime it sees fit.

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High Anxiety

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Philippians 4:6 – “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;” (NKJ) 

I used to work at one of the premier theme parks in the world, and because there’s certain times that park attendance is higher than normal , those of us who worked “back of house” had to go to the “front of house” and pitch in to make sure our guests didn’t feel the impact of higher guest numbers. 

This dreaded (for me at least) time is known as “Xtras”, and the process of waiting on the email and signing up is really close to what happens in “The Hunger Games” when choosing a warrior from a district. A friend who was temping at the company on one of these days asked me to lunch, and I told him I couldn’t go, because I had to be at my desk when the email posting the dates and venues we’d like to work was sent. This whole thing was done on a first come, first served basis, and quite honestly I’d rather have a migraine than to get stuck working in some areas of the park. So to say that the entire company is pretty much in high anxiety mode during this time is kind of an understatement, because even executives are subject to this. 

This whole fiasco that I’m no longer subject to brought to mind our text today. Before I figured out a foolproof way to never have to do this nonsense again,  I’d always think “they could at least tell us what time the email will come out”.  But the apostle Paul is admonishing the Philippian believers to be anxious about nothing in their lives, but instead to let their wants be made known to God by prayer and thanksgiving, and leave it in God’s hands.

I write this to encourage myself and others who daily face situations that would cause us much higher anxiety than working in a theme park, but the word of God works in every case. So ditch the anxiety, and trust in the Lord to do what is right for you; he’s never failed to take care of us in any situation, and in that, we can rest assured that he will continue to cover us and bring us through any trial victoriously.

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Pay No Mind to the Symptoms

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Isaiah 53:5 – “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon him, and by his stripes we are healed.” (NKJ)

I’ve been fighting off a migraine for the last 2 days, it’s just something that happens that I have no control over the severity, or the amount of occurrences. Many of you have some disease (defined by Webster’s as ‘a condition that prevents the body from working normally’) that maybe you take medication for daily, or ‘runs in your family’. We live with trying to control the symptoms (Webster’s defines this as ‘a change in the body or mind which indicates that a disease is present’).

As believers, we should do what we must to maintain our healthy status despite the symptoms of diseases showing up every now and then to try to defy what Christ did for us on Calvary, but I’m here this morning, in pain, still fighting, to pay no mind to the symptoms. We must always cling to the fact, not the idea, but the fact, that the 39 stripes that Christ took in his body on Calvary have nullified every disease the enemy would try to afflict on us, our family, and our loved ones.

Beloved, in the midst of every crisis or occurrence of the symptoms of the disease prevailing for the moment, we must give no credence at all to those symptoms, but instead stand on the unchanging, immutable word of God that by Jesus’ stripes, we will not BE healed, we are not GOING to be healed, but we ARE healed.

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Nurture the Gift to Maturity

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1 Timothy 4:12-16 – “Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe. Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching. Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you, which was bestowed on you through prophetic utterance with the laying on of hands by the presbytery. Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that your progress will be evident to all. Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.” (New American Standard) 

In our text today, the apostle Paul is encouraging his young protégé Timothy to look past what the people he’s ministering to might think of him because of his age. Instead, he’s to demonstrate who he is in Christ through his speech, conduct, love, faith and purity. While he’s carrying out his divine assignment until Paul arrives, Paul tells him to pay attention to nurture his spiritual gift, which was given as an honor by those who went before him in ministry, those who were so to speak ‘the board of bishops’, or ‘college of cardinals’. 

If you realize you’ve lost the desire to nurture the gift to maturity shake yourself through the word of God to get your fire back, and get back to pursuing the assignment God’s given you. It’s can be a slow, painful process, but it’s an essential process to make sure that you nurture the spiritual gifts in you to maturity. God has entrusted each of us to do so for the good of His kingdom.

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How Do You Know?

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Acts 17:11 – “Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” (NIV)

About a month after I joined the ministry I now belong to, someone asked me who my pastor is, and I responded using his title as “Apostle”. This person then looked at me and asked, not in malice, but in all her understanding, ‘How is he an apostle? Did he walk with the Lord?’ My response was ‘Where is that in The Bible, that you can only be an apostle if you actually walked with Jesus, because if that’s true, then the apostle Paul is not an apostle, along with everyone else who came after the twelve who walked with Christ?’ I also reminded her that “Apostle” is one of the five-fold ministry gifts, and though there is a school of thought that this gifting was done away with after the twelve died, I believe The Bible, and that it’s still true in its entirety today and through eternity. I later learned that this woman responded out of her understanding of what she’d been taught by her pastor, but she missed the real crux of his message, as he had expounded further on this school of thought that there’s no apostles today.

In our text, the Berean Jews are hailed as the best kind of seekers of the true word of God. They not only went to the synagogue, they studied the scriptures daily to make sure that what they’d heard was indeed the truth. It doesn’t speak to them doubting Paul, or any other preacher of the gospel, it speaks to their being responsible for knowing the word of God as well as the man of God.

The woman that I had this conversation with couldn’t answer the question correctly not because she’d been taught wrong, but because she understood it partially, and didn’t search the scriptures and other accepted writings concerning Christianity so that she could know for herself what is correct.

On a whole, the body of Christ places the burden of knowing and studying the scriptures on those called to preach, teach, and evangelize. It’s viewed that it’s the pastor’s job to do all of this, when in fact we should all study the scriptures daily, not to prove someone right or wrong, but to know why we believe what we profess.

The encounter I had was between two Christians, but what if you’re witnessing to a non-believer, and you’re asked questions as to why the gospel of Jesus Christ and the word of God is necessary, and any other number of questions? Just like non-believers in Christ will ask, other Christians will not hesitate to ask you how do you know what you’re talking about is true concerning the word of God and all that goes with it. We’ll never know every answer, but it pays to be equipped so that you stand firm in your faith, and aren’t able to be persuaded that anything else is true for you as a disciple of Christ.

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You’re Under Consideration

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 Job 2:1-3 – “Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them to present himself before the Lord. And the Lord said to Satan, ‘From where do you come?’ So Satan answered the Lord and said, ‘From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking back and forth on it.’ Then the Lord said to Satan, ‘Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil? And still he holds fast to his integrity, although you incited me against him, to destroy him without cause.’” (NKJ) 

In this portion of scripture, we see where God actually gets Satan to take His faithful servant Job into consideration, as he’s been looking for something or someone to consume. One of the definitions of the word ‘consideration’ by Webster’s is: a matter weighed or taken into account when formulating an opinion or plan’. 

God stated that there was nobody else like Job on the earth, that he was blameless, of good character, a man of integrity. Satan wanted to prove to God that Job’s faith was false, tied not to his love and reverence for God, but rather to the abundant blessings in Job’s life. God actually takes Job into consideration to be tested, tried, and ultimately, blessed beyond what Job had ever been before. 

I don’t know about anybody else’s current state of existence, but in studying this text, I’ve changed my perspective from being in what seems to be an unending cycle of trials and tribulations to being under consideration by God. God, in His plan for my life, has taken into account all matters to form that plan, and like Job’s life, as long as my faith stands, I’ll come through every trial and into the destiny that was preordained for me. Hopefully, this is true for someone else, and we can all give God praise for his perfect plan when taking us into consideration.

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Searched

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Psalm 139:17-18 – “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (KJV)

Since the tragedies that took place in our country on 9/11/01, our world has changed immensely. The innate sense of safety and security we as Americans had was shattered, and though some things have returned to as normal as they can get considering the circumstances, many things changed forever.

We can no longer enter courthouses, federal buildings, airport terminals, or even theme parks without being searched. I personally hate the process all employees endure just to come to work at my place of employment, and often refer to it as 1 step from being the search convicts endure upon entering prison. In fact, I take a whole different route to go through an entrance that has a much more civilized way of doing things, and it’s worth the few extra steps I walk for it.

King David writes in our text today of a deeper, even more important search than any man can actually conduct; he’s asking to be searched by God, that he would ultimately be led in the way God would have him to go.

I’ll be honest and talk about myself: there are times I don’t want God to know or search my heart, because I know it’s in a pitiful state. But in the grand scheme of things, it’s only God who can conduct this search properly, fix the problems that we may or may not be aware of, and then set us on the right path He has for us. So instead of saying “I’m saved, sanctified, and filled with the Holy Ghost” I’m changing my phrase to “I’m saved, sanctified, searched by God, and filled with the Holy Ghost”; feel free to join me in submitting to the search that will allow you to honestly say so. 

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Bittersweet Days

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1 Thessalonians 4:13 – 18 –  “And regarding the question, friends, that has come up about what happens to those already dead and buried, we don’t want you in the dark any longer. First off, you must not carry on over them like people who have nothing to look forward to, as if the grave were the last word. Since Jesus died and broke loose from the grave, God will most certainly bring back to life those who died in Jesus. And then this: we can tell you with complete confidence – we have the Master’s word on it – that when the Master comes again to get us, those of us who are still alive will not get a jump on the dead and leave them behind. In actual fact, they’ll be ahead of us. The Master himself will give the command. Archangel thunder! God’s trumpet blast! He’ll come down from heaven and the dead in Christ will rise – they’ll go first. Then the rest of us who are still alive at the time will be caught up with them into the clouds to meet the Master. Oh, we’ll be walking on air! And then there will be one huge family reunion with the Master. So reassure one another with these words.” (The Message Translation) 

The day had started off as a bittersweet day for me – I had been off work for 4 days on a little mini-vacation, I’d had a migraine that I got calmed down the day before, but the biggest draw of the day is that my grandmother would have been 91 years of age that day had she not been called home by God 8 years prior. Would I love to still have her here for me to enjoy? Of course! But, I understand that her physical health was waning, and that God knew best, so that’s what makes me able to not be completely sad today, but to enjoy the sweet memories that I have of my life while she was here with us. 

I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s lost a precious loved one, and no matter what anybody says, it’s never easy to do. But Paul gives us the word on what’s really happening while we may experience the bittersweet days that are bound to come when you lose a loved one. It’s reassuring to know that not only will we go back with Jesus at that appointed time that he calls his bride home, but we’ll be reunited with those who went before us, ones we hold dear in our hearts and minds. 

So when you have those moments when it seems more bitter than sweet in your life concerning the passing of loved ones, take comfort and be assured that the plan of God will reunite us all who live and die in him for all eternity, never to be apart again. 

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God Requires Kindness

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Ephesians 4:32 – “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (NIV)

As a Christian, my goal is to be like Him in all my ways. Today’s scripture is one that reminds us that in order to be like God, we have to be kind, we have to be compassionate, and we have to forgive.

Hide this word in your heart not just for today, but for every day we live on our way to perfection in Him.

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A Matter of Faith

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John 20:27 – “Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here, and look at my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!” (NLT)

The bible tells us that ‘faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen’ (see Hebrews 11:1). In this passage of scripture, Jesus told Thomas to not continue in faithlessness, but to believe. This caught my attention, because the disciples are now interacting with the resurrected Christ before he returns to his heavenly throne. Jesus telling Thomas to not be faithless any longer tells me that though he was a disciple, he wasn’t a believer. Thomas validated this implication by having stated in no uncertain terms that he wouldn’t believe that Christ had indeed risen unless he saw the scars he bore in his body as a result of the crucifixion. We really have no right to criticize Thomas for his stance, because it really was a matter of faith to believe all that Jesus had taught the twelve at the darkest time in their lives.

Their rabbi, their teacher, the one whom they’d walked away from their normal lives to follow, was dead. Thomas had a perfectly human reaction to the circumstances, and his faith wasn’t strong enough to believe past the crucifixion at that point. Until then, the only resurrection they’d seen occur was Lazarus’, and the one who called Lazarus from the grave was now in a grave the last time Thomas checked. He wasn’t there when Christ appeared to the other ten remaining, disciples, so his faith was still shaken. 

There are many incidents in life that can cause our faith to be shaken, whether or not we acknowledge or admit it. It can be a death, a divorce, a loss of employment, foreclosure, any number of things. But it’s up to us to exercise the faith we profess to have in God during the good times in our lives in the bad times as well. Like Jesus pointed out to Thomas, we must not be faithless, but believing at all times. 

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Just Like Us

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Matthew 6:12 – “and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us.” (NLT)

This text is a portion of the model prayer, more commonly known as The Lord’s Prayer. Jesus is using this model of prayer to teach the disciples how they should pray after he’s pointed out some of the ways that people were praying (and still do) that aren’t correct. 

This particular line stands out to me, because this line is asking God to forgive us our sins in the same manner that we forgive people who sin against us. When we pray this, we’re asking God to be just like us, to render forgiveness to us the same way that we render forgiveness to those who have sinned against us. This, my friends, can be a problem if we’re not gracious to forgive. 

How do you forgive? Is it grudgingly? Is it only after you’ve made someone suffer for what they’ve done to you? Do you have a list of ‘unforgivable’ transgressions that results in you never, ever forgiving anyone who crosses that line with you? Is it quickly and fully? Is it graciously? Do you have to announce to the world you’ve forgiven someone so that you can get the glory for being such a good Christian? Do you tell the person you’ve forgiven them, or do you use their transgression against them to control them? 

These questions are important, because when we ask God to forgive us, we want him to forgive, forget, be merciful and gracious toward us, and still love us and welcome us back to him. But is that how you forgive? Does your method and record of forgiveness make you want to ask God to forgive just like us?  

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God’s Garden

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Psalm 92:13 – “Those that be planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God” (KJV)

It’s important that God’s children establish roots in the house of God, for like plants in nature, we must have roots in the proper soil and environment in order to blossom and flourish to full fruition.

We need to be rooted and grounded in the house of God, not just checking in on Sunday morning as though mere attendance counts.

God wants us firmly planted in his house, not only taking in the nourishment of the word, but offering a sweet smell to him through our service and our daily living. 

In our flourishing into his beautiful garden, we then attract those outside the kingdom that they would be planted in the house of God. 

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Get the Most Out Of It

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Philippians 2:1-8 – “If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care, then do me a favor: agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand. Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all.  When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death – and the worst kind of death at that: a crucifixion.”(The Message Translation) 

There’s nothing worse than feeling like you’ve invested time, energy, and resources into something that in the end you got nothing out of. There was no value added to your life in any way for all the efforts exerted, and most likely, you experienced feelings of anger, regret, bitterness, disappointment and/or depression. 

The apostle Paul starts this text with a statement that made me think about my own Christian walk. When I left one ministry and became a disciple at the ministry I now belong to, I thought a lot about what I got out of being part of that first ministry for as long as I was.  I’ll be honest, though I learned much about myself in the years I was there, there was so much negative fallout that I’d initially concluded that I’d wasted time being there, that what I’d personally sacrificed wasn’t worth what I publicly endured. But in my study time, God showed me how to get the most out of the experience, learn from the negative and use the positive so that I can show that my love of Christ as a disciple of his by agreeing to and living out the requests that God had the apostle Paul outline. 

When we consider the ultimate sacrifice made by our savior to redeem us back to God, nothing we endure for His sake can ever compare. So rather than letting negative experiences make us doubt that we should ever venture forward again, instead of letting a root of bitterness take root and change our hearts,  we would benefit to let the difference that the love of Christ in your life allow you to get the most out of every situation. 

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How to be a ‘Mary’ in a ‘Martha’ World

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Luke 10:38-42 – “As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, ‘Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!’ ‘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’.” (NIV) 

 One thing we must remember, especially in our service in the kingdom of God, is that doing “a lot” or being busy doesn’t mean you’re successful. 

In today’s text, Jesus and the disciples are in Bethany and they go to the house of Lazarus’s sisters Mary and Martha, where Martha jumps into preparations to host Jesus in her home. At first glance, who in their right mind wouldn’t do everything they could to assure that Jesus felt welcome and comfortable in their home? This is the ultimate house guest, Christ in person at your house! She soon notices though that her sister Mary is sitting down listening to Jesus rather than helping her, and she gets ticked off. She even throws a little shade at Jesus, asking him if he cared that her lazy, good for nothing sister was just sitting down chilling while she worked like a dog to make this dinner happen, and demands that Jesus make Mary help her – what a nerve she has! 

But before we judge Martha, how many times have we been wrapped up in the preparation to receive Jesus through our serving in ministry, and get a bit of an attitude with those who just seem to want to lie at Jesus’ feet? I’ve heard more than one pastor use the scripture “the harvest is truly plentiful, but the laborers are few” (See Matthew 9:37) to admonish those not “busy” in ministry to motivate them to action. Have we considered that “busy” is sometimes just that, “busy”? It doesn’t mean productive, it doesn’t mean fruitful, it doesn’t even mean that being busy makes any difference at all in a situation, and in this case, Jesus checks Martha, and lets her know that there’s only one thing that’s needed, Mary has plugged in to it, and he’s not about to take that away from her. If we’re not sitting at the feet of the Master seeking to hear what it is he has to say, all that “busy work” is a frustrating, upsetting waste of time. 

There’s nothing at all wrong with wanting to serve and welcome Christ’s presence in our lives, our homes, and our churches as Martha did. What is wrong is being so caught up in the work of the Lord that we forget that it’s truly the Lord of the work that is most important. No service, no ministry, no sacrifice that we can make to him on his behalf will ever equal simply understanding that sitting at his feet and hearing his words are what is most important; this is how we can be a ‘Mary’ (worshipper/seeker) in a ‘Martha’ (busy, many times for no real reason) world.

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Stop Craving Pharaoh’s Food

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Numbers 11:4-6 – “Now the mixed multitude who were among them yielded to intense craving; so the children of Israel also wept again and said: ‘who will give us meat to eat? We remember the fish which we ate freely in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic; but now our whole being is dried up; there is nothing at all except this manna before our eyes!’” (NKJV) 

The word “craving” is defined in Webster’s dictionary as “an intense, urgent, or abnormal desire or longing”. There are cravings for many things, from foods to drugs to fame and fortune and countless other things, but the one commonality that cravings hold is that until it’s satisfied, it doesn’t go away, but seems to intensify. 

In our text, the children of Israel are in the wilderness, and some among them were discontent now that they were free from pharaoh’s oppression, depending on God for sustenance rather than eating pharaoh’s food, which they’d grown accustomed to. Their craving for what was their life of slavery is the sin that causes God to ultimately grant them their request for meat rather than manna, for a month, until it ran out of their noses (see v.19-20) and they loathed it. 

In much the same way as the children of Israel, we as God’s children sometimes have cravings for things beyond the sustenance God provides for us. It may be food, a relationship, a job, money; there have been times in my own life that I compared how much happier I was and how I seemed to be more prosperous before coming into the family of God. These cravings seek to pull us into the disobedient state of complaining about what we have, and can lead to the sins of covetousness, lust, greed, wrath, and jealousy, and each of these can lead to countless other acts of sin that we’ll give in to in order to satisfy that abnormal longing our flesh is crying out for. 

Like the children of Israel, we forget about the bondage we endured while we enjoyed “the melons, leeks, onions, and garlic” that our oppressor, Satan, doled out to keep our flesh in check while our spirits died. 

Is there something that you know is outside of the will of God for your life that you just can’t stop craving? Is there some desire that is tormenting your very soul day in and day out, demanding satisfaction, seeking to convince you that it’s okay to give in to, though it’s against God’s will and word? If so, confess it before God, and ask Him to satisfy your soul and bring your flesh under subjection so that you don’t have to suffer the consequences of sin that satisfying the cravings for pharaoh’s food will inevitably lead to. 

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Guilty!

2 Samuel 12: 5-7a  – “David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, “As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this deserves to die! He must pay for the lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.” Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man!” (NIV) 

One definition MW has for self-righteousness is ‘narrow mindedly moralistic’. Our verse today comes from the passage of scripture where God sends the prophet Nathan to deal with David regarding his sins concerning his affair with Bathsheba and the subsequent events.

The Bible outlines David’s self-righteous reaction to hearing of an injustice done to a poor man by a rich man, but it turns out that Nathan was using this story to describe the injustice that David himself was guilty of against Uriah.

This started me thinking about my own life and asking if I was the woman guilty of the very things I may be holding someone else’s feet to the fire over. The real lesson is none of us can judge anyone else seeing that we all have to repent daily, and we’re all in need of the forgiveness and mercies of God daily. Take a look at your life and be honest: are you the man? 

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Fight the Urge to Faint

Galatians 6:9 – “And let us not be weary in well doing; for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” (KJV) 

Though there have been great moments in the year, 2018 has been extremely trying, and there has been more than one time I’ve wanted to faint, figuratively and literally, naturally and most important, spiritually. 

MW defines the word ‘faint’ as: lacking courage and spirit; lacking strength or vigor; weak, dizzy & likely to faint, and hardly perceptible/dim”. I can say that each of these definitions have described me spiritually more times than I care to admit, but the one that is most disturbing is the urge I’ve had to become ‘hardly perceptible’ or ‘dim’. 

There are times in our walk with Christ that we want to simply exist, especially if you’re engaged in ministry in any way. The pressure to perform, having to look like you have it all together when that’s the farthest thing from the truth. For some, myself included in my past ministry, being limited in your ability to serve in the house of God can make you simply want to fade to black, and give up on everything and everyone but God. I have to say I’ve been blessed to have those few people everyone needs to encourage you to keep on pushing, because God has greater for you. 

We mustn’t allow the trials of life to cause us to want to blend into the background; we have to continue to let Christ shine through us in our well doing to a lost and dying world.  Though at times it looks like our good works come to nothing, be encouraged that God sees our hearts, He knows our love for Him and His kingdom, and there is coming a season that we will reap the harvest of the work we’ve sown. But in order to get to that season, we mustn’t get weary in doing well; we must fight the urge to faint.

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