Thursday, October 4, 2012

It Pays to Obey

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will direct your paths."
~ Proverbs 3:5, 6

Proverbs 3: 5-6 is one of my favorite passages of Scripture. I recite it to myself regularly to encourage myself. It's so easy to "lean on our own understanding." The last two and a half years have been an interesting journey in trust and obedience. In March 2012 the Lord told me to leave Maryland and go to Connecticut to help my sister. I'd been living in Maryland for eighteen years, had my own office/business, long time friends and ministry opportunities. I think that's the side most people saw and therefore found it difficult to believe that God was moving me to CT. I encountered quite a bit of opposition and disbelief, even from my spiritual leaders. Nevertheless, I knew without a shadow of a doubt that I was being directed by the Lord to go to Connecticut. Though on the surface, i.e., in the natural, it seemed impractical and I didn't know all the reasons why the Lord was instructing me to go, I was looking forward to the opportunity to reconnect with my two sisters and get to know their children. I had also been pretty sick for almost a year and was looking forward to some rest.

On my own I would never have thought to relocate to Connecticut. The Lord knew this, but he also knew just what I needed and his timing was perfect. I no longer owned my own home, I had no children, I wasn't married or otherwise engaged and the lease on my apartment was about to end.

Three weeks after my move to Connecticut, my beloved nephew was murdered and I was the first person my sister saw and came to when she received the news. I'm so glad I was there. During the year and four months that I lived in Connecticut I got to know my other nephew and two nieces. I also reconnected with other relatives, published my first two books and got my artwork into a bookstore in Connecticut. What if I had disobeyed God and stayed in Maryland?

After my season in Connecticut ended I received an invitation to go to Florida, another place I had absolutely no desire to move to, but my older brother invited me to come and I felt the Lord was telling me to go. Once again, I received a good deal of opposition. This time it came from a few family members. I'd been job hunting and interviewing for about three months by the time my brother invited me to move to Florida and I had just gotten a couple decent job prospects. The job market in Florida on the other hand looked bleak. But because I knew this move was also the Lord's will, I obeyed.

It's been ten months since I relocated to Florida and the Lord has done some wonderful things. Once again the Lord put me in a position to renew my relationship with another sibling. He's been opening doors for publicizing my books and art. He's given me a number of new, heartwarming friendships, allowed me to start a new business venture and opened up ministry opportunities for me at my new church. Today as I reflected on God's direction over the last two and a half years, I marveled at his design and I'm glad that I trusted him and obeyed.

 "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways  higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts," says the Lord. (Isaiah 55: 9)

To God be the glory.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

I Was Glad When They Said Unto Me

"I was glad when they said unto me, 'Let us go into the house of the Lord.'" (Psalms 122:1, KJV)

I just love being in the house of the Lord. There's something special about being in corporate worship and the way God moves in a corporate setting. As much as I love our intimate time together, God has ordained and blessed the gathering together of his people to worship Him and minister to each other.

So "let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another-and all the more as you see the Day approaching." (Hebrews 10:25, NIV)

"Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others." (Romans 12:4-5, NIV)

"It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ." (Ephesians 4:11-13, NIV)

We need each other. We can't be in "unity" all by ourselves. "The body has many parts..." By ourselves we only represent one part- one member of the body. Don't underestimate your value to the body of Christ. Step up and step out. Use your gift(s) to aid in the development of the body of Christ.

 "We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully." (Romans 12:6-8, NIV)

We need you.


Thursday, May 10, 2012

Whose Report Will You Believe?

There are only two agendas or two parties: God's and the devil's. Which one will you believe and follow?

Years ago when I was nineteen or twenty years old I was faced with a similar question. It was Black History month and I was the youth minister and learning a lot about African American history in preparation for our youth program in honor of Black history month. After all my research and preparation, I had to ask myself, "Who am I?" In the end I did a personal monologue with God as part of the program addressing: "Who am I?" It wasn't unlike the question: "Which came first, the chicken or the egg?" My monologue went something like this: "I am a woman, I am Black; I am a Christian," I mused out loud. "Do I dissect myself? No. I am all those things, but first and foremost, I am a Christian. I am a new creation in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:17)."  The apostle Paul says it again this way, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28).

There are only two choices though the world would have you believe otherwise. There are only two kingdoms and one was doomed from the beginning. There is the kingdom of darkness and the kingdom of light. The battle, no, the war, is a spiritual one. Don't lose sight of that and get caught up in the devil's agenda to confuse and divide us. "We wrestle not against flesh and blood." When Jesus was confronted by the Pharisees about Caesar and who we should pay taxes to in Matthew 22:15-21, it was a religious and political ploy and tactic of the enemy to take the focus off the real issue of light and darkness. Don't get caught up now with the devil's tactics.

This is not a political race we are currently confronted with, but another one of the devil's spiritual ploys. It is a race against spiritual forces of evil. "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms" (Ephesians 6:12).

Satan is certainly raging. "Be self-controlled and alert..." God tells us in 1 Peter 5:8, "Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour" with his schemes. Again, don't get caught up. Don't get side-tracked. Stay alert. Pray and continue to be prayerful.

Finally, "Do not be conformed to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then, you will be able to test and approve what God's will is-his good, pleasing and perfect will" (Romans 12:2).

A Messenger.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Thought Provoking Friday

What does Jesus mean by, "The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life"? (John 12:25 NIV)

I would love to hear your responses. (Also, I know some may be tempted just to attach Matthew 10:38 or Luke 9:23 as a response. Please note, those are the same instances just recorded differently and not really answering the question in layman terms or in everyday language.)

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Are We Confused?

Ephesians 5:1-6 “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people…For of this you can be sure: immoral, impure or greedy person-such a man is an idolater-has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient.”

I have had a few incidences lately that have left me pondering the discernment of some who claim Christ as their Savior. It is not a new thought for me, however. I know there are many who believe that as long as we “confess Jesus Christ as Lord” that we can live any way we please and God will accept us. I wonder in light of the majority of Scripture how one can believe this? How, I wonder in light of the passage above, for instance, can one believe that all you have to do is say you believe in Jesus Christ and that’s it? 1 John 2:3-6 says, “We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, ‘I know him,’ but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him…This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.”

James says it this way, “What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead…Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that-and shudder. You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did….” (James 2:14, 17-22) Again in verse 26 James says, “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.”

Peter said it this way, “Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do, for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’” (1Peter 1:13-16)

Jesus said it this way in John15, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitfulRemain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers: such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned…This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” (John 15:1-8)

The Scriptures are flooding me. Paul instructed the church at Corinth in the following way, “I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people-not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat…” (1 Corinthians 5:9-11)

These are some hard passages; tough to digest, I know. But nonetheless, it is God’s Word. God’s love is challenging to us. We are confused about what true love is and what it means to believe and to love God and our neighbor, if we think that love only “feels good”. Many times, doing the loving thing, doing the righteous thing, doing the godly thing, is tough. Disciplining our children for their own good, is tough. Telling the truth in love when we know it will hurt and possibly even cause pain, is tough. Picking up our cross and following Jesus, is tough.

This probably won’t be a popular post. But I cannot sit by and listen and watch those in influential positions of our society or those not so influential positions promoting ungodly principles as godly; Christian men promoting unchristian lifestyles as acceptable-godly lifestyles. I would be party to the deception-the lie, if I said nothing. In my primary text for this post, Ephesians 5:5-6, Paul says, “For of this you can be sure: immoral, impure or greedy person-such a man is an idolater-has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient.” Whose report will you believe, God’s or man’s?

If so inclined, please visit: recent blog posts at Due Diligence (3/22/12) & How To Address Your Woman With Weight Issues (3/21/12)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Shine, People, Shine

It's been awhile since I've heard the song, Shine, Jesus, Shine, by Hillsong. The chorus says, "Shine, Jesus, Shine, fill this land with the Father's glory. Blaze, Spirit, Blaze, set our hearts on fire. Flow, river, flow, flood the nations with grace and mercy. Send forth your Word, Lord, and let there be light."

This morning as I went for an early walk and looked up at the moon and the stars, the Lord reminded me, "Let your (our) light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven" (Matt. 5:16). So when I got home I looked up the passage again:

You are the salt of the earth... You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden... In the same way, let your light shine before men that they may see your good deeds and praise (glorify) your Father in heaven. (Matt. 5:13-16)

"A city on a hill cannot be hidden... in the same way, let your light shine..." People are looking at us. I recently saw an interview on ABC, I think it was, where the Victoria Secret Model for 2011 resigned because the Holy Spirit was convicting her about the conflicting message she was portraying as Christian baring her body before the world in such a sexy role. She gave glory to God in her interview by unashamedly telling the world that she  increasingly felt she was not being a good example to young girls as a Christian and the Lord convicted her to step down.

I think of some of the recent headlines of Christians coming under public attack and standing up for Christ. Again, I thought of this passage, "...A city on a hill cannot be hid...let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and praise (glorify) your Father in heaven." Now back to that classic song, Shine, Jesus, Shine; Jesus shines through us. Our lives are the ones on display. The light of Christ has to shine through us. It shines through us when we love our brothers, our neighbors, our co-workers and our enemies. The light of our lives shine when we live for Christ in our day to day relationships.

Jesus said, "...let your light shine before MEN, that they may SEE your good deeds and praise (glorify) your Father in heaven." I don't believe it's so much the work, ministry or "good deeds" you do within the church walls that He speaks of, but rather, the good deeds you do at home, at work, at the grocery store or shopping mall. It's the work done at the homeless shelter or soup kitchen, the work done at the prison or hospital visiting the sick. The work done shoveling snow for your neighbor who needs assistance or the good deed of patiently allowing the car at the stop sign or on your left to get in front of you. It's smiling at the check out cashier who might be disgruntled or tired. It's being patient with the waitress or waiter in the restaurant and leaving them a tip and a tract if you feel led.

My brother, who is not saved yet (it's coming), left a Christmas card in our mailbox for the mail woman. She was so grateful, she couldn't stop thanking me. I realized it must have been my brother. I wouldn't be surprised if he put a little monetary gift in there for her as well. If unbelievers can regularly do good deeds how much more should we? There are many unbelievers who serve at soup kitchens, homeless shelters and the like. What about the body of Christ? We all have different gifts and callings. Even if you don't feel as though you have any special gift or calling, you do. You have Christ. Open up your life and your eyes. Stop thinking about just you and yours as you go about your day. Smile, pray, be patient, be generous. Give yourself away. Don't just sing the song, live it. You are the light of the world.

One of today's popular worship songs is, I Give Myself Away. Please read the lyrics below, but let's not just sing the words on Sunday or in our cars as we drive along, or at a conference, let's really live them.

I give myself away
I give myself away
So You can use me
I give myself away
I give myself away
So You can use me

Verse 1:
Here I am
Here I stand
Lord, my life is in your hands
Lord, I'm longing to see
Your desires revealed in me
I give myself away

Verse 2:
Take my heart
Take my life
As a living sacrifice
All my dreams all my plans
Lord I place them in your hands

My life is not my own
To you I belong
I give myself, I give myself to you

Father, Help us as your people to live for you, to die to self and shine for you. Help us to be one, even as Jesus prayed so that the world may believe that You sent Him.
In Jesus' name I pray. Amen

Friday, January 6, 2012

Live a Life Worthy

Ephesians 4:1 (NIV)
"As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received."

I've been reading Ephesians 4, verses 1-6 over and over again the last week. God wants us to live a life worthy of the calling He's given us. It's a cry! Yes, it's instruction. Yes, it's a command. But I hear Paul saying "...I urge you..." It's a cry, a plea that is resonating in my heart.

In times like these, more than ever before, we need to live lives that are worthy, lives that are holy. Over the last week, different parts of the passage at different times have stood out. Yesterday it was, "As a prisoner for the Lord..." and the beginning of verse two which says, "Be completely humble and gentle..." I asked myself, "Why did Paul preface his instruction to live holy with his current state of imprisonment?" What was the importance of him introducing the instruction to live holy in that way? Paul was using himself as an example for them to follow.

Paul was a prisoner for the cause of Christ. Paul had been beaten, stoned, imprisoned, rejected and misunderstood for the cause of Christ. He could say with authority, "Live worthy of the calling you have received."

Let Paul's plea ring in our ears this year. Every day let us remember to walk worthy of the calling of Christ Jesus.

"How to Live Worthy" - Next Post (Stay tuned)

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Remember Them

HAPPY NEW YEAR!! I pray you all had a great start to the new year. I thank God for you.

Iraq & Afghanistan War Veterans
I am thinking of the troups returning from Iraq and those returning home from or still in Afghanistan. Amidst our busy lives, we need to remember them. Remember them in prayer, remember them in giving, remember them for jobs, remember them. Many of us have been personally touched by having family members or close friends serving in these wars and so it may be a little easier to keep them in the forefront of our minds. But in reality, we are all benefiting from their sacrifice and commitment and need to remember them.

Missionaries Overseas
They are fighting on the frontlines of a different kind of war, in an army of which we are all apart of. Let us remember them as we go about our lives in 2012. Remember them in prayer and financial support. Remember them and send care packages. They fight on the front lines and often go without recognition or support. Many of us are not called or wouldn't want to sacrifice all to do what these missionaries are doing for the cause of Christ. However, Paul said, "Remember those in prison as though they were your fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering" (Heb. 13:3). Remember them.

Leaders (Church & State/Federal)
Satan is out to discredit the gospel of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ and pastors/ bishops; the leadership of the church is the first line of defense. I find that there is a tendency for many Christians to do the devil's work and attack our leadership. I am not saying that they are not to be held accountable. On the contrary, we all are to be held accountable for our ministries, lives and callings. What I am referring to is the criticism that destroys. The gossip that wounds. If a survey were to be taken, I wonder what percentage of Christians would say that they pray more for their church leadership than criticize them? Being in leadership is no easy task. What if our lives- our families' lives were under a microscope daily? I am not saying that there are not those in leadership that should not be, but I can't help but remember that God is sovereign. Is it not He who when King Nebuchadnezzar raised up his head in pride and said, "Is it not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my might power and for the glory of my majesty?" (Dan.4:30), replied: "This is what is decreed for you, King Nebuchadnezzar: Your royal authority has been taken from you...Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes" (Dan. 4:31-32)?

It is God who exalts and God who humbles. Nothing is done without his knowledge. So whether we agree with our leadership or not, let's remember to lift them up in prayer. This, of course, includes our country's leaders as well.  "I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone- for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior who wants all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of truth" (1 Timothy 2:1-4). How we respond and speak of those in leadership affects our witness. Our children, spouse, neighbors, co-workers, fellow believers are all spectators in our lives. It is very important to remember.

I witnessed two examples of how criticism of leadership can potentially damage or unnecessarily cause harm to listeners not long ago. I have a friend who did not regard the teaching of her pastor highly. She'd left her previous church when her pastor stepped down and had been going to this new church for about three years. She didn't like how this pastor preached or teached in comparison to the Word that she received from her previous pastor. I heard her criticize him a few times in the company of her two teenage children. As a result of her choice to disrespect him, it was difficult for her to receive from him. Then I noticed the last time I heard her criticise him in front of her teens that they also voiced disregard for his preaching style and said they to do not get anything from his messages. Her attitude towards him was also adopted by her children. Though I did speak up in defense of the pastor in regards to the level of respect we are to have for those God places in authority over our lives, I wasn't the parent.

The second incident I remember in reference to this principle of praying and being thankful for those in authority over us is in regards to President Obama. A millionaire acquaintence of mine remarked in grievance one day shortly after Obama's health care initiative was approved that he wondered where God was in all this and actually, how God could let this happen... (There were several hundred of us on the conference call, saved and unsaved and speaker was known to be a Christian.) He immediately followed his initial remark with, "I don't understand it, but God is sovereign." He caught himself and "saved face" as a Christian. Though in disagreement to the decision, he acknowledged God's sovereignty and ability to take care of us all.

Let's remember to pray as the time draws ever nearer to Christ's return. Pray for those in leadership. Pray for our veterans, our missionaries, our country and the lost.

May we as the body of Christ and our local bodies of fellowship, become more and more, "houses of prayer" in 2012.