Friday, February 16, 2018

He Never Gave Up...

He never gave up...


I had a life changing experience while in prison this week. Honestly, I didn't go because I had done something wrong yet my time there helped me realize that I had some wrong ways of thinking.

My mother is very active in prison ministry and just finished leading a 15 week class for some inmates. Because she regularly talks about her experiences in the prison, I requested to join her at the next class. The day we went, the room was full of energy as the men eagerly reveled in completing their course. We fellowshipped together, ate some great food, and one recently released individual told his story.

As we were nearing our time to leave, the the men began sharing how the class affected them.

A bigger man quickly exited the room and another man stood up to speak. The speaker started by saying that there was a special man on their unit that had a big heart but was short with words. The man called "Big", had a severe stroke while in prison and was told he would never regain his short term memory and some of his long term memory.

The story teller went on to say that "Big" really loved Jesus and frequently read his bible. When "Big" saw people struggling, he wanted to share what his bible said yet he couldn't get it out. The stroke not only twisted his body and mind, it also wrenched his fluidity of speech from free flowing to nearly a trickle.

Can you imagine carrying life saving information in your mind and not being able to articulate it to anyone??

Essentially, the doctors gave up on "Big", the other inmates gave up on him, and to some degree I believe "Big" gave up on himself.

1 Corinthians 13:7-8 (NLT) says, "Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages[a] and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever!'

Paul wrote this letter to share that God's love is greater than the temporal things that we use to define love and admonishes about the tenacity that true love holds.

When we adhere our faith to the truth that God and love are a seamless union, we will believe that God never gives up on us and just the same He and His love lasts forever. 

So..."Big" walked back in the room as the storyteller was finishing up. The storyteller closed by saying that my mom's unyielding belief in God and her relentless love for "Big" changed him forever. "Big" can now recall scriptures as well as share scriptures with others. "Big" sat in his chair with a tear that ran the length of his face and before I realized, I was crying also.

Allow me to take this moment to encourage anyone that has ever given up on someone or felt like someone has ever given up on them. Despite their or your justification for giving up, you have a Father in Heaven who has not and will not give up on you. I also believe that there is someone in the background still rooting for you too!

  • Maybe you have ignored God - He still loves you
  • Maybe you have walked away for a while - He still loves you
  • Maybe you have given other things greater prominence than Him - He still loves you
  • Maybe you just haven't fully give your life to him - He still loves you

His love last forever and is waiting for your return. Don't give up on God - He hasn't given up on you...

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

I Know I'm Close!!!!!

I know I’m close…


Celebrated gospel singer Marvin Sapp wrote a song titled, “Close”

Pay attention to these lyrics:

Almost There by Elena Nosyreva
I must be close to my destiny
Extremely close to my victory 'cause here comes
Trials and troubles, jealousy and envy
I must be close to what You have for me, I must be close
To my overflow
Extremely close to my miracle
'Cause here comes
Confusion, problems and enemies
I just believe
That I must be close to what You have for me

Do you know what it is like to be close? I affirm that when we are close to what we have prayed, cried, and sought after that experiences will drive distance between Jesus and us.

Today let’s shorten that distance. You are close to what you need – let’s get closer to Christ

The temptation to quit or slow down is greatest right before we reach our goals!

For marathon runners, it’s called bonking or hitting the wall. It is the part where both your mind and your body have lost the ability to make another step.

Competitive runners say that the best advice to beat the wall is to
1.     speed up
2.     psych yourself out – talk yourself into power

If you will walk with me, you will see that the wall is bigger than a marathon runner in a competition. It is a metaphor for the place in our marriage, our dreams, our college/university degree plans, or our hopes for pregnancy where the attacks of doubt, disappointment, and detours are about to derail us.

I believe that in that sullen place it is not time to fall out but to follow through with every effort you have to complete your goal.


Let’s look at the story of Jacob.

Genesis 32:22-32 New Living Translation (NLT)
Jacob Wrestles with God
22 During the night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two servant wives, and his eleven sons and crossed the Jabbok River with them. 23 After taking them to the other side, he sent over all his possessions.
24 This left Jacob all alone in the camp, and a man came and wrestled with him until the dawn began to break. 25 When the man saw that he would not win the match, he touched Jacob’s hip and wrenched it out of its socket. 26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking!”
But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”
27 “What is your name?” the man asked.
He replied, “Jacob.”
28 “Your name will no longer be Jacob,” the man told him. “From now on you will be called Israel,[a] because you have fought with God and with men and have won.”
29 “Please tell me your name,” Jacob said.
“Why do you want to know my name?” the man replied. Then he blessed Jacob there.
30 Jacob named the place Peniel (which means “face of God”), for he said, “I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been spared.” 31 The sun was rising as Jacob left Peniel,[b] and he was limping because of the injury to his hip. 32 (Even today the people of Israel don’t eat the tendon near the hip socket because of what happened that night when the man strained the tendon of Jacob’s hip.)



Consider these Three points:

1.  Evening denotes an ending but also sets up for a new beginning!      
a.   You can have everything and still feel like something is missing (v22)
b.  Even when you think you are alone you really aren’t (v24)

2.  Endurance is built not given!
a.   The battles you experienced to this point have prepared you to stand this war. Do you remember the story of Jacob and his pursuit of Rachel.

3.  Know your name! – (v27)
a.   Know who you are and not just what you are called
      Stop allowing unqualified people to label you what you have not been called or named!
b.  Outlook determines outcome; to end with joy, begin with joy!
c.   Jesus tempted in the wilderness (matthew 4) and Jesus tempted in the garden (Luke 22)



Storms aren’t always sent to take you out – some are sent to clear your path…

Monday, February 5, 2018

Now You're Talking My Language!

I enjoy watching the news before leaving the house. Recently I watched a reporter tell the story of a Floridian escapee. As the escapee swiftly moved through the streets, an officer passionately pursued in his SUV. As the officer got right next to the fleeing escapee the officer barked out, “Stop!” It was to no avail. The officer raised his tone and added more emphasis, “Please, stop!” Each demand fell on seemingly deaf ears. Despite the lights and sirens of the officer’s truck as well as the authority of the officer, the escapee was not concerned.

As the reporter ended the news segment she chuckled the question, “Why didn’t the officer just say woah?”

The escapee was a horse.

I love this story! It is a personification of the communication challenges that leaders typically face. Quite often we believe that because of our title, our age, or our gender that people should immediately respect our commands.

When people do not swiftly respond to our authority it usually has little to do with our title and more to do with how we communicate.

Proverbs 18:2 relates, “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.”

There has to be a place of mutual understanding before real progress can be made. 

Fussing without figuring out how to properly communicate is a waste of breath and time.

Paul said, “When I am with those who are weak, I share their weakness, for I want to bring the weak to Christ. Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some” (1 Corinthians 9:22 NLT).

This is a challenge to anyone. Have you really made conscious effort to adequately communicate? In Steven Covey's, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, he wrote that we should seek first to understand, then to be understood. Before you get annoyed, get a better idea of all that is really going on.

Communication is crucial to achieving any goal. Take time this week to consider what you are saying, who you are saying it to, and how you are saying it. Even if your intentions are awesome how you articulate those intentions is just as important.

Learn the language of your audience and speak well!


https://www.click2houston.com/news/-will-you-stop-please-deputy-begs-runaway-horse-to-halt-on-busy-florida-road

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

The delay that doubt creates...

Does Jesus have your complete trust?


Proverbs 3:5-6New Living Translation (NLT)

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take.”

Stock photo ALAMY
Sunday’s delicious dinner consisted of broccoli, sautéed potato slices and turkey meatloaf. My youngest child ate everything her little hands could hold and my middle child made a happy plate by demolishing his portion. The oldest child had a different dining story. He ate his vegetables and killed the potatoes but struggled with the meatloaf. I tried to encourage him by telling him that his siblings ate what I fed them.

Didn’t work.

I explained to him that I would never give him anything that wouldn’t harm him and that eating would not only make him strong but also allow him time to play before bed.

He started picking at the food slowly.  He used his hands to pick out onions. He cut the meatloaf into smaller portions and even spread it out around the plate so it seemed like some of the meat was consumed. By the time he finished, it was too late to really enjoy the evening.

That scenario reminds me of Moses’ farewell address in the book of Deuteronomy. In chapter one, Moses recalls that after He and the Israelites traveled for eleven days, they were at the edge of great promise. Moses encouraged his followers to dismiss their fear and embrace their divine right to the land before them. Instead of just walking in, the people convinced Moses to send in spies to survey the land. The spies came back touting how great the land was but also detailing how great the land’s challenges were.

Their fear kept them from possessing property that they already owned. Essentially, the Isrealites doubted their leader and their God.  This act of doubt turned a short trip into a very long journey!

Consider these three things.

  • Don’t allow your doubt during the journey to deny your arrival into what is rightfully yours. Second-guessing your ability when God has given you affirmation is improvident.
  • Passive obedience delays absolute success. Moses said yes to God but he said maybe to the land. Sometimes leaders make mistakes. Moses had authority and approval from God yet He allowed the persuasive words of his people to affect his leadership. When the 10 of 12 spies said no to the land, it turned a quick trip into a 40-year excursion. Israel’s youth  eventually walked into the promise land but the parents and Moses never experienced it for themselves. Are you trying to check out what God has already worked out???
  • Trust God totally. I can understand your uncertainty about God’s confirmation at times. That is why it is imperative that you develop a personal relationship with God and connect to leaders that are deeply rooted in Christ. God can confirm and affirm through whatever he chooses. Proverbs 19:20-21, “Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future. Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.”

You have seen God do great things for others and you have heard Him tell you the promises that are for your life. The next part is up to you. God has prepared great blessings for you and wants you to fully enjoy them. It may not look like what you want but it is often exactly what you need...

Are you going to get stuck looking through the peephole of opportunity or will you open the door and walk into your promised land?







Monday, December 18, 2017

Cleaning for Christmas! Psalm 51

During this holiday season, many assemblies and individuals take part in a religious tradition called Advent. It is the four Sundays and weeks leading to Christmas. Advent is a time of reflection and hope as people prepare and recognize the real meaning of Christmas and the coming of Jesus Christ. In fact, the word “Advent” in Latin means coming. 

There are three meanings of coming that Christians detail during Advent

  1. Jesus’ 1st coming to the world over 2,000 years ago
  2. Jesus’ 2nd coming is into our hearts and our lives
  3. Jesus’ 3rd coming is when Jesus will return to the word as righteous King and Judge

Of the many ways that Advent is counted down, the most popular are calendars and candles. The calendars have little windows with different daily gifts and pictures. The Candles are arranged in a wreath or on a candelabra - three purple candles and one pink.

So…what’s the point. 

All of this effort is to prepare for and celebrate the coming of Jesus. My question for you is are you prepared?

The other day I was giving my father-in-law a ride home. During the journey, he showed me pictures of his Christmas decorations and told me about annually winning for best decorations. I was somewhat intrigued but it was what he said as he prepared to exit my truck that caught my attention. He lamented, “We decorate and do the most for a child’s first birthday, why not decorate for the celebration Of Jesus, our Lord and Savior’s first birthday.

Take a look at Psalm 51:1-19.

This 19 verse chapter is an extremely transparent moment between David and God. David has done something against God and his Kingship. He impregnated a married woman (Bathsheba) then had her husband (Uriah) killed in battle. But, it was when Nathan the prophet addressed David’s sin that David began to relent and become truly repentant. (2 Samuel 12)

In Verses 1- 12 of Psalm 51, David was adamant about recognizing his wrongs and seeking forgiveness. The transition to gratitude and how he would express it took place in the last seven verses.

Just as we eagerly prepare for family, friends, and house guests for Christmas - I am challenging you to consider if you have cleaned up for Jesus’ return home. 

Here are three things to consider as you clean:

1. Recognize your dirt
“Against you, and you alone, have I sinned; I have done what is evil in your sight. You will be proved right in what you say, and your judgment against me is just.[a] 5 For I was born a sinner— yes, from the moment my mother conceived me.” (Psalm 51:4-5)

If you don’t recognize it is dirty - you won’t make effort to clean it. 
Sin is missing the mark - not by being off target a little bit but like an archer that knows his target and shoots in a different direction.

The intriguing thing about David’s open moment with God was that he had no remorse for his actions until Nathan met with him. By that point, the child was born and had been on the earth for some undisclosed amount of time. David had justified and forgotten his actions and may have never relented had he not been called on his behavior. That was nearly a year after the initial action. Dirt is relative to the individual. We tend to focus on the “big” sins when even the little sins carry the same weight. Dirt is dirt and it all needs to get cleaned.

2. Determine your cleaning process
When you have guests, do you only clean what can be seen or your entire home? Do you start with one area and clean really throughly then progressively diminish your efforts as you address other areas of your home? The same effort you put into cleaning one part should continue throughout the house or you. God desires us completely - we need to consider all of our life as we pursue a life of righteousness. Admittedly, I am not that great at cleaning up. I neglect areas and get lazy about things I don’t want to clean. But, thank God for help. Understand, there are some things you can’t clean alone. I love the show hoarders. It’s interesting how people on the show don’t see their collecting as a problem until it has severely limited their quality of life. As bad as they want to fix it, it takes the employed efforts of family and professionals to restore and repair their dirty situations. Who is willing to help you clean? Is their an area you are struggling to complete clean up? With God anything is possible - He’s an extreme clean agent.

And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

3. Make it a lifestyle and not an occasion (Psalm 51:17) - 
Here is a simple one. When we get in the mode of maintaining the areas that tend to attract dirt, cleaning is not an arduous process. Before my brother married my dentist, I neglected the dentist for a good amount of time. Although I ate well and brushed regularly, my absence from a good cleaning created issues. When I visited the dentist, she told me that the cleaning she needed to do would take multiple visits to get the deep results. I didn’t enjoy those sessions but I was better because of them. Don’t neglect those cleanings with Christ. 

Quick tip: Some things take longer to clean than others. Instead of getting frustrated at how long it is taking - trust that you will be better soon and the maintenance will be easier than the repair. 

2 corinthians 5:17 - This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

Here is my close:

I often refer to the story of the children israel when i teach because of the depth of information in their journey. For today, there is one particular thing that stands out. Moses is standing at the Red Sea’s edge with a multitude of individuals behind him. God gives him the directive to move. Moses stretches his hand out points with his staff and the red sea splits. The bible says that they crossed on dry land. Mud leaves tracks and dry land (not sand) doesn’t leave a trail. The spiritual washing that God wants to do in your life is saying this for you today - the trail to your past was erased when you stepped into this cleansing process in christ. Not only was your trail erased so were pharaohs army, which mean even the things that are pursuing you will be wiped away as well. He has wiped it all away to clean you up. Don’t pick up what God has helped you to release 

Jesus is coming home - will you be ready?



Friday, December 1, 2017

What if you can't see it? Faith beyond sight...

More..

If we were to compare success to an EKG machine, a straight line would equal death. Just as the machine’s constant beeps and peaks let us know we are living, the great mountain tops and deep valley lows let us know that life is happening and we must keep living.

In Psalm 121 we find the psalm of ascents or the song of degrees. That basically means it is a gradual psalm. 

“I will lift up my eyes to the hills—From whence comes my help?
My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121:1-2)

David is in a hole similar to the ruts that many of us unfortunately experience. While there, David speaks of “looking to hills” but you must understand his context. David speaks of seeking help/hope in a place that was physically and spiritually beyond him. David knew that although he could not actually see his refuge he was certain that it was available to drastically alter his location as well as his outlook - and he had access.

Our church youth group punctuated this message with an activity. I asked one of the teens to take a sticky note and place it as high as he could on one of our room’s walls. Being a decent basketball player, the teen bent his knees, leapt as high as he could and adhered the sticky note to the wall.

I continued teaching.

1. To go there you must start here. 
Before you can cross the finish line you have to leave the starting line. It’s not enough to have great dreams, good intentions, and wonderful ideas. You must put action to those items if you ever want to see their reality. Rarely does anyone choose to dwell in despair. David wanted desperately out of his current state so he decided to move. Have you made any moves?

2. To get there you must believe you will arrive there.
Although there are times that the road is foggy we must be clear that Jesus has given us a destination and road indicators. Even if the road is hard to see - your faith in the future will lead you beyond your lack of visibility. 

3. To go there you must trust who is guiding you on the way there
Have you ever driven your car to the point that the fuel indicator arm was resting on E. Even though the indicator displays empty, the vehicle is still moving. It is because the vehicle has more built into it when the display says there is none. The “more” that is in you Is the divine intervention that pushes you beyond your own capacity. If you can trust your car to travel beyond the “E” display - it is obvious that you can and should trust your Heavenly Father to kick in and stretch you beyond your empty feeling.

Are you feeling empty right now? Have you traveled as far as you feel is physically possible? Trust me, there is more. You can go further!

I closed my message with our youth group by asking my sticky note participant if he really placed that note as high as he could go. He said, “No” then grabbed a chair and jumped again. He went higher!


#AimHigher #ThereIsMore