The Power in a Trial

The proverbial phrase, when life hands you lemons, make lemonade, is one I am sure we all have heard a time or two.

 It is easy to hear and even smile about but did you know it is biblical? If we follow this essential thinking. What it is saying is, instead of being victims, become victors. No matter what we face, perhaps the trial on the outside or the temptation on the inside, we can experience victory through our faith in Christ.

I will be the first to say it is a challenge to endure some tests and temptations. I believe that the Father knows this beforehand, which is part of the reason He allows the stretching. Jesus’ omniscience has no boundaries and His love for us, in the trial or when we are up against a temptation again. I don’t know about you, but I sometimes find it hard to solve problems with a smile on my face because sometimes they are hard.

The standard definition of a trial is a process of testing or investigation to prove innocence or guilt in a court of law. If anyone has ever sat through or been the center of a trial, then you know it can get intense. Just the thought of being on trial is stressful from a mental perspective but do me a favor. I want you to think about a trial from a spiritual perspective to test our faith through different ways used to build our inner man.

James 1:2-6 gives some imperatives for us to think on. If I did not know any better, it appears that James (one of the four brothers of Jesus Christ) is coming across a bit testy and so sure of himself but what he is explaining is the blueprint for how to go through the difficult times.

The truth is we are going through some tough times now as humans, a nation, and a world. There are four simple statements I want to point out that James has reminded us all of to stay encouraged through these times.

The first is to count a joyful attitude. Stop and think about this statement, Outlook determines the outcome, and attitude determines action. I had heard this statement from a professor when I was in college, and it stuck with me. Can I tell you something? We cannot expect everything to go our way. Jesus said to us in John 16:33, In the world, ye shall have tribulation. Some trials come because we are human- sickness, accidents, disappointments, even some tragedies. Sometimes this is hard to fathom and understand because God takes care of us through some pretty rough times.

This leads to my second point; some trials come because there is a test that we need to pass.

I know there were some that I failed, and I am not broadcasting or happy about these, but I might as well be transparent with you. Some of the simplest tests that the Lord placed before I failed because I did not study or thought I could handle. Such arrogance and thank God for deliverance and grace.

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials. James is telling us the importance of thinking carefully about a thing or evaluating it correctly. Do you know we are to assess our problems in the midst of what we value? Our values determine our evaluation. In other words, if I value comfort over character or if I value material and physical over spiritual, I cannot consider it all joy because what I value is more important than what I cannot see right now.  

The second James tells us it is when you encounter various trials. I know this probably not a new revelation for us, but let us take a look one more time. What James is informing us of is we will; trials are inevitably a part of life, and they are like mosquitos; they keep coming. Some translations may say, fall into. When you least expect and want them, they will appear out of nowhere, but guess what? They are building our inner man. A trial is like lifting weights. The more weight you take on, the stronger you become; the process consists of ripping the very thing you are trying to build (from the inside) first before the growth can appear outwardly. The muscle tissue stretches, and then it repairs, but when it restores, it is that much stronger. Did you catch that?

Knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. James 1:2

“To know” means that we are to have an understanding mind. We must know faith constantly is tested. Testing helps to prove something. Remember when we take examines of various sorts, well tests are taken to approve a thing. I watch the show Gold Rush sometimes, any fans reading this? Well, the show’s premise is they are searching (excavating land for gold) and when they find what they call “pay dirt,” they run it through a dredging machine that separates it from the dirt. The separation is necessary to relinquish the gold. The process is not easy and requires endurance. They put in some serious work that sometimes appears to be for naught. After a while, the prospectors reap the benefit of their work, gold ore. The gold prospector brings his ore sample into an assayer’s office for approval. The purpose of the Assayer tests a metal to see how pure it is. 1 Peter 1:7 is the scripture reference of this testing of faith. Endurance is not attained by reading a book, listening to a sermon, or even praying. They help but only going through the difficult situation life presents for us; trusting God and obeying Him is the point. James reminds us not to waver or have any doubt in who or what our responsibility should be.

And let endurance have its perfect result so that you may be perfect and complete lacking nothing.

The word “let” means a surrendered will or to relinquish control. God cannot build character without cooperation in the trial from us. Letting go of control is hard, especially when the trial appears to be intensifying, whether Covid, political and social injustice of any kind, or perhaps individually the problems we face. This word is for all of us; let endurance have its perfect result. Say that a few times to yourself or write it down today, but remind yourself that God is building our character and strength in the trials we continuously face. I think about times before when something has come up out of nowhere (it seems), and at the moment, it breaks me, but upon closer inspection, God is with me. And he is with you too.

James gives us insider information letting us know God desires to build our character before He calls us into service for Him. That is why the surrendering of ourselves to His will is essential. Ephesians 6:6 tells us we are to be surrendered not by way of eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as God pleasers, doing the will of God from the heart. There is the perfect and complete, lacking in nothing because when connected to our Lord, just like a caterpillar to a cocoon, we are equipped and built up for the journey ahead. The trial that we find ourselves in today, tomorrow, or yesterday is all perfecting us, friend.

Last but surely not least, James tells us But if any you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. Why did James say this? Does not he know if we are human, we lack wisdom in many areas? To some, the book of James is a guide for following the path to life, avoiding the way that leads to pain and heartache. And in doing so, it offers us something more, a consideration of the nature of faith. It can only be found in the Son of God and only when we truly desire wisdom or insight to be our goal. Insight helps us understand how to use these trials for our good and to bring God glory. Wisdom is the qualitative factor determining if we have evaluated the trial we are in, just came out, or about to enter correctly. Only when we seek God’s wisdom of handling or approaching even the trial are we able to win.

Maybe you are like me, that I have to remind myself of this very thing. James opens the book hot off the press with the power in a trial. Having to ask God for help, I believed, showed a lack of growth but no friend; that is the wisdom that Jesus wants to give when we ask. That is the accurate measure of our development- when we stop attempting to go through these circumstances alone and depend, even throw ourselves in the arms of Jesus. He knows what to do and will always bring us out more robust than when we went in.

Be encouraged.

Don’t Believe the Hype Psalms 64

Evil can and will come in many forms. Sometimes it is recognizable, and at other times it is not. It can go right up to your door, walking on the same street, in your workspace, and even in your own home. As Black History Month comes to a close and I pondered what the Lord would give me to write, I came across this psalm in the Psalter. No, this is not a post that necessarily pertains to black history; however, I believe that there are some truths that we all can learn and help us to navigate through all the evil that masquerades in our day today.  

Sometimes there is nothing we can do to prevent it from striking. I don’t know about you, but I wish I could remedy or just not even have to deal with a lot of evil. Evil can move our pity and stir our indignation at times. Perhaps we argue, and even in a moment of generous impulse, we may try addressing the problem. We have seen countless examples of various evils that we as humans have attempted to address and stamp out, but it did not happen to our disappointment. From racism, political concern, police brutality, or movements believed to further our views of oppression, evil is still here and thriving. I am not glorifying opinions, but I am attempting to find a consensus that no matter your ethnicity, gender, economic status, political beliefs, or historical backdrop-evil is not a people problem but a sin issue.

It has been said of poets that they learn in suffering what they teach in song, and this is the experience of the psalmist David.

Psalms 64 gives us the perfect backdrop to understand or provide circumstantial evidence to prove our point. King David was such a prayer warrior, but more importantly, he was wise. He knew that he could do nothing about his situation. However, he knew who could. Talk about phoning a friend or using a lifeline. David was the best that did it.

1 John 5:19 tells us, “we know that we are of God and that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.” Evil does not always warn that it is on the way; however, we realize that we have power with a secret weapon by prayer. We are victorious, friend. When we see wrong or evil accounts on the news or daily, we can still find hope. It will take work from all of us, however. We like to address one side of a coin, but we must handle it all. Yes, our country is going through much political unrest. January 6th is a prime example of what happens when evil’s power gains a foothold. Police brutality is wrong in the black community, but so is the killing of innocent police because of some in all communities’ actions. We cannot say we are Christians, but in our mind choose what sin matters to God and us and overlook others that are just as unfortunate. We outwardly profess Christianity, but our hearts inwardly still are filled with hatred, jealousy, and entitlement as humans.   

Here is a King David talking to God about a problem. King Saul has been attempting to ruin David, even kill David. And most of Saul’s officers were involved in this conspiracy to destroy him. Why were they trying to kill David? God anointed him as king, but it had not come to fruition, but was that the real reason?

People may give us all kinds of trouble, not “good trouble” like the late Congressman John Lewis termed. We must remember our battle is not against flesh and blood, but the enemy and his hosts. And when we are aware of Who fights for us, we can get into “good trouble” and not fear or concern ourselves with what is transpiring because we have the King of Kings and Lord of Lords going before us.

Be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations; I will be exalted in the earth.

~ Psalms 46:10 ~

Keep hope and do not believe the hype but rest in our Lord and Savior in these times. I wish I could say they are unprecedented, but they are not. Though packaged differently we have been here before. Yet we must remember we serve a God who has given us a blueprint in His Word to meet us where we are and provide us with hope, the ability to change, and even to repent.

1) Seek the Lord’s protection. (v.1-2) David begins with “Hear my voice” – he didn’t say this because God wasn’t paying attention but because he was coming with sincere intention.

a) David did not ask God to change the circumstances but fortify his own heart and deliver him from fear. The fear of the Lord mobilizes us, but the fear of man paralyzes us.

b) Hide me from the secret counsel of the wicked, from the insurrection of the workers of iniquity. (sin)

Insurrection here is not referencing a civil revolt against authority but the people speaking evil against David and taking action to ruin Him. Let’s face it; some people will not like us. Not because we have done anything but just because of what we represent. David represented something pure and different from what was, which scared the forces in power. His commitment was only to the Lord and not to his plan, even when David fell- he admitted he was wrong and was convicted and changed. That is the difference. Groups today stand for their belief systems and are driven more by emotional stirring (how this affects me personally), but we openly say it is spiritual. Still, if it were spiritually motivated- we would address the wrong on all accounts.

My mother used to say, “the more men indulge in sin, the blinder we become.” In other words, the more persistent we break the second great commandment, the more indifferent we grow to the first. In (v.5) of Psalms 64, David says, “they hold fast to themselves an evil purpose.”  David is addressing the evil of the hearts of conspirators set to harm. How disturbing it is for David, who fears God, to be experiencing this. David grieves over the waste and, worse still, the misapplication of human power; he confesses with shame and sorrows the sin that has brought such terrible outcomes into the world. What about you today, are you grieved by all that is going on in the world? Or are we grieving over parts and turning a blind eye to the rest.     

2) Ask for the Lord’s wisdom. (v.3-6) David knew what the enemy was plotting. We need to know the strategy of our enemy when he attacks. (2 Cor 2:11) Like a lion, he comes to devour (1Peter 5:8); as a serpent, he comes to deceive (2 Cor 11:1-4). David compares his enemies’ tongues to swords and their words to poisoned arrows (v.3). One of the enemy’s main weapons is an accusation. (Rev 12:10; Zech 3) God will always lead us in what to do when we ask Him for wisdom and not just react. The evidence of a life changed by transformation and not moved by what unfolds before our eyes define wisdom.

3) Trust the Lord for Victory (v.7-8) This is not always so simple, but by trusting in the Lord and obeying the Father’s direction, David was confident that God would defeat his enemies. Don’t get caught up in what you see in the media and even what others say on social media platforms. I even found myself chiming in and feeling a bit irritated at all that has been occurring, and no, this is not necessarily a bad thing, but when I check my heart- God showed me it was more emotion than trusting in Him. Let God’s love and Word help us not allow emotions to drive us. Because let us be real, there are many incandescent with rage over all that has been occurring, and it shows no matter where we are, what or whom we believe.

These application steps seem so universal, but they really can apply to every area of our lives.

Everyone has a perspective, but the only view we should be striving to imitate is Christ’s, as disciples of Him. And when that becomes our aim, the Lord has promised to fight our battles for us. God himself will shoot arrows at our enemies (v.7). Perhaps you are saying, Lord, how long or God do you not know what they are getting away with? One thing I know from my experience-nothing or no one gets away from our God, and in His time, he will make all crooked paths straight. All we need to do is do not believe the hype.

Be encouraged today.  

Keep the Receiver off the Hook Ephesians 6:18

Lately, I have been distracted by what is going on in the world. The climate of the world’s events saddens me. No matter what side of the coin you’re on regarding what has transpired over the last year, (a global pandemic, political unrest, social injustice) one thing we can agree on, it has been a lot. When I find myself watching the news, scrolling through social media and hearing all the rhetoric, I have to step away and regroup because from my perspective, this is overwhelming. The truth for me and maybe for you too is that anything that we look from our view has the propensity to be overwhelming. Am I right about it?

Some of the events that are unfolding before us, I never thought I would see in my lifetime. Wait, probably those before me have said the same thing in the past. All of the occurrences we are experiencing now, have been here before.

That which has been is that which will be, And that which has been done is that which will be done. So there is nothing new under the sun.

Ecclesiastes 1:9 NASB

To some this is discouraging, but I believe this gives us hope amidst uncertainty. These times let us know that we can endure and get through anything, because these troubles have come before and we have been victorious. Victory does not come without work or loss. Despite what is happening in the world, we do not lose hope because the Lord is still in control. When I wake up in the morning, I have to remind myself of this and breathe again. The other morning, while in God’s Word, I was reminded of my real responsibility while here on earth. My time here is not just for me to live and enjoy the good life, but what we all that proclaim to be followers of Jesus Christ should do, is pray. In Ephesians 6, we are reminded that to put on the full armor and that prayer is our greatest weapon. Friend, when I read this proverbial truth, it reminded me of what, we that call ourselves disciples of Christ, should be doing during these seemingly dark days.  

With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints,

Ephesians 6:18 NASB

Prayer is our greatest defense in these times. Prayer is the key that can turn the lock opening doors to change. When we hear and see all that is happening around us, it causes emotions to arise. The feelings that we try to control on our own are reminders that prayer is needed. Prayer not just for individual’s or for those in our circle, but for all humanity. Where in the Bible does it say, pray for certain political parties, cultures, economic status (you get the point), it does not. In fact, the Bible instructs us, in 1 Thessalonians 5:17, to pray without ceasing or in other words, always be in communion with God. Before cell phones, there was time that if you were on a landline and forgot to place the receiver back on the hook, the person on the other end could still hear your conversation. This is the essence of what I mean, keep the receiver of the hook so the Lord can always hear you.   

With all prayer and petition, pray at all times.

In Ephesians 6:18, Paul tells us that we should be consistent in prayer. There are prayers to intercede for others, prayers for thanksgiving, prayers to petition God for something, prayers of supplication, all these we should do constantly with God.

Pray in the Spirit.

When we pray, are we praying in sincerity or just because we should? In my home office, I have a scented wax burner. I enjoy the way it disperses the fragrance into the atmosphere. However, if it is not plugged into the source of power the wax will just sit and not melt as it should. Just because I have the wax and the burner, but no source of power-my atmosphere will not smell any different. This is the same in prayer, just because I know what I am purposed for and look the part but have no connection to the source, nothing will change.

Pray with your eyes open

I am not saying keep your eyes open when you are praying, that may be a little strange to some. What I am saying is stay alert. Stay alert to what is around you and focus. Let us not get caught up in the schemes and distractions that interfere with God’s plan. I will be the first to admit that it is tough to not get caught in smaller, emotionally driven areas. Where it is tough, we need to ask God for His help and guidance

So here is the reflection: Are we doing what we know to do? Are we praying constantly for all humanity or are we selective in who and what we pray for? Prayer is not like going to a store and picking up milk, based on the type that fits my taste. God did not instruct me to pray for those that are likeminded or make me feel special. He gave the body of Christ a specific instruction of how to pray. This is the challenge.

May we not lose our sight being so closed to God in darkness that we miss His wonderful light. 

Be Encouraged.

The Gift that Keeps on Giving

It’s one of the most wonderful times of the year, Christmas – a season I have loved since childhood. For some, this is the best time of the year to show love to family and friends, giving gifts, Christmas carols, and much more. It is a time to receive the items they have asked for and the excitement of Christmas cookies, cakes, and pies to children. In our household, Christmas was special because we knew it was a time for the family to come and celebrate together. I looked forward to seeing my cousins and favorite aunts and uncles under one roof. Although those years have come and gone, I can remember the anticipation of waking up and unwrapping gifts that I had asked for earlier that year. I appreciated the presents for a few months, but soon they would lose their luster, eventually ending up pushed to the side or put in the toy box and forgotten about. I know what you are thinking, how unappreciative. These gifts that I anticipated and talked about all year, in a few months, are forgotten. I was grateful to have parents that did not get upset with us for not appreciating the gifts that they purchased for us those many years ago. Not that we didn’t appreciate the gift, but after the moment had gone, the season had changed, or something new had come along- we no longer felt the value.   

May God, our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace.

Philippians 1:2 NLT

I am so thankful for my parent’s patience with us. Even now, with my children, this same behavior has been passed down through the years. Am I the only one? Sometimes we get upset with our children when they fail to appreciate small gifts; however, we too undervalue God’s gifts of grace and peace. Compared to the bold and bright packages of the world that are constantly seen and given, we may not know the package’s value. We may overlook them when nestled next to the worldly gifts that we can feel and see. Sad to say, we seek the tangible gifts that this world offers and overlook the intangible packages marked grace and peace.

When the Father places these gifts in our lives, what a blessing we gain. If only we knew what hides in these seemingly small gifts. Although the Apostle Paul prayed this for Philippi’s people, the value seen carries the same weight today. Once unwrapped, the treasure in a small package will always find significance in our lives, young or old. I don’t know about you, but these are priceless things that I have come to appreciate over the years. Christmas gifts may cost a fortune at one time, but we find ourselves replacing them later on; in my life, the gifts of grace and peace have proven priceless.

My appreciation has grown daily over the years to appreciate the Father’s gifts. Just think, waking up every day expecting to unwrap new grace and peace.  This package trumps the best Christmas gift you could ever possibly have received. Grace is the goodwill of God and Christ exercised towards humanity, that continues to have a purpose no matter where we find ourselves in life. God has given this freedom to all of us who want to accept this gift. That is the blessing of the present, that once we receive it, we can always possess it.

For by grace, you have been saved through faith. And this is not your doing; it is the gift of God.

Ephesians 2:8 ESV

What a perfect gift. When we realize that God loved us enough to send His son, Jesus Christ, to be the ransom for what we could not afford, the only thing we need to open this gift is to accept it. We gladly accept the ones that our loved ones give us during this holiday season. So even more, we should receive the well-thought gift of a loving Lord’s grace expressing how much we mean to Him, daily. The peace we experience by reconciliation.  I realize that God has been with me in some of the darkest moments of my life; that is the real gift. When I stop and think, it is the presence of God in my life that gives me joy. What about for you?

Do you want to experience the greatest gifts that bring the greatest joy every day? Do you have a desire to live every day in peace with our Lord?   

Father, Help us receive the most generous gift daily, which we experience when we accept you as Lord. Thank you for the reminder of how your gifts of grace and peace bring continuous joy. Let us not forget the true gifts that can bring us the greatest joy daily. Help us to remember in this season that you give the greatest gifts for all to receive and not just for a day but a lifetime.

In Jesus Name, Amen

“Dress It Up”

Flip, tuck, pat, rub, Dad seasoned the bird with precision.

Growing up, my dad did most of the cooking in our household. Sunday dinner was the highlight of the week because we knew we would be in for a treat. Throughout the week, dinner typically consisted of smaller portions of our usual everyday meal. But Sunday was my favorite–it would include a whole chicken or a roast with many sides.

I can remember watching him season the bird with celery, onion, and various other seasonings. Dad used to say, “These seasonings are all good, but salt does a little extra. It dresses it up.” At the time, I was not concerned about salt, pepper, or paprika. What I knew was that I was going to eat like a king. Or at least in my mind, this is what I believed.

As a kid, those many years ago, I did not realize the effectiveness of salt not just for flavoring but in many other ways. Salt enhances. It’s one of the spices that can improve any food if appropriately used.

Let your speech always be with grace as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.

~Colossians 4:6 NASB

Is this why Paul compared our speech to salt? God gave him an inside tract as to how we, as believers, could influence those in our sphere of influence. He realized that if we sprinkled the light of Christ in how we responded to those around us, no matter how negative or cold their attitudes were, there would be an improvement.

Like the flavoring of our food with natural salt that brings the best out of it, our speech should minister grace to the hearers. Our words should be pure and life-changing. Our words should cause the world to desire to hear more of what we have to say, and bring them to realize there is something different about us and the message we share.

I love Chick-Fil-A French fries. They are the perfect balance of the salt to potato, and the crinkle-cut presentation enhances my desire to eat more. I often find myself saddened, peering down into an empty fry carton as if someone stole the last few morsels from under my nose. On the other hand, if there were too much salt on these slivers of goodness I would have an adverse reaction. What am I trying to say? Salt will enhance, but only if it is appropriately used. But, salt can also hinder when it’s overused.

The spiritual application is this: Our words can enhance, or interfere, when we are speaking to those around us. So we must use discernment as to when and how much to speak. How many of our conversations would be different if we adhered to Paul’s recommendations? Words have the power to build up, or tear down, and that in an instant. Christ always wants us to build up.

There have been pivotal times in my household that I overwhelmed my wife with my words, and she did not want to receive anything from me at that moment. However, there also were times when she has wanted to hear more of what I was saying. This same principle can apply with my children. It can apply with relatives, friends, and even in the workplace.

Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.

~Ephesians 4:29 NASB

Salt also preserves. In biblical times, salt was added to the sacrifices. Those sacrifices were set apart to be given to the living God. It would help us say the right things in the right manner if we remembered that our words also are sacrifices to God. I don’t know about you, but this concept is not easy, and I don’t always remember to do this. Nor do I act like I should.

We should want to maintain our character, conduct, and conversations as holy, so that we represent Jesus Christ appropriately. We should maintain a lifestyle that helps others to desire a relationship with Christ as they listen to our words. When we view our speech this way, the effectiveness of our witness will be tasted by many.

Whether on our job, in our relationships, in our community outreaches, or perhaps even with our enemies, we want others to taste how good our Lord is by observing our speech and actions and how we preserve the presence of God in our daily lives. When we can still smile or give a pleasant word when we are cut-off in traffic, this is a witness. When those around us are complaining, but we bring hope to a negative conversation, this also is the seasoning of grace. When the climate around us is negative, rash, and hostile, we can still sprinkle hope and peace. These are the attributes of salt given for all to experience.

While there are some positives to salt, there are also some negatives. If the salt has lost its distinctiveness and the flavor is bland, it will not fulfill its purpose. Have you ever tasted bland salt? What did you do with it? You probably threw it away. Imagine, if my father had put bad seasoning on his famous chicken–I probably would not like chicken to this day. If salt cannot be tasted in food, then it is not being used correctly. If there is no enhancement or distinct difference when salt is added to food-then it is not suitable for anything good, and must be discarded.

When the Holy Spirit cannot be seen in our speech, we cannot effectively influence those we contact. Or if we do speak, and what we speak is negative and not exalting Christ, is it worth saying. Friend, let’s discern when to speak, how to speak so that Christ is exalted, and maintain lifestyles that shows others we are the Lord’s people.

Friend, examine your words as salt. Allow the Holy Spirit to season your speech with grace, so others can see Christ in you. Be purposeful with your words. Let them be like my dad’s delicious chicken–all dressed up and seasoned to perfection.

Are your words, like salt, precisely and effectively used, and full of grace?

Father God, I desire the distinct presence of Your Holy Spirit to be with me daily. Please help me to share Your good character by covering me with Your presence. Help me when I loose my effectiveness to witness to those I see every day, whether at home, work, or in the community. Allow me to spread Your love to all I meet so that those in my sphere of influence will desire to taste and see how good You are.

In Jesus’s Name, Amen.

Great Expectations

I recently accepted a new position in a different field. As excited as I am, it has left me uncertain of where God is leading. What is certain is that I am feeling a little uneasy.   This new season requires a different level of faith. But that is just like God to stretch our faith. Faith is like muscles, they grow with resistance and pressure. That may look different depending on the situation, but for me, it is: what type of work environment will it be? Is it team-oriented? Will the benefits package be enough for my family? These questions and more began to formulate in my mind. Then God reminded me of 1 Chronicles 28:20.

Then David said to his son Solomon, Be strong and courageous and act; do not fear nor be dismayed for the Lord God, my God is with you. He will not fail you nor forsake you until all the work for the service of the house of the Lord is finished.  1 Chronicles 28:20

With great promise, comes great expectations. Often, we can’t see the reward until we make the sacrifice to move beyond our fears. Until we make the decision to act.  What makes the sacrifice worthwhile is the expectation of what is to come. That is the reward.  

Sacrifice is always a prerequisite to any upward movement for any area in life. If I only focus on the end, I miss out on what is happening in the process. The process is the road that must be traveled on the way to change. We cannot get there if we are not willing to take a step. Lately, I have felt the Lord has had me in constant process, and to be honest, it is a challenge. There are some days where I ask, “Lord, are you still with me?”

The Bible often gives me or reminds me of what I need to move forward. The reminder here is hidden behind a father (David) encouraging a son (Solomon) to have great expectations in what is to come. The expectation of things unseen. David spoke directly from the Lord. The reminder David speaks over Solomon’s life positions his thinking for an expected end. God wants us to find comfort when we rest in the Holy Spirit, and trust how He leads.  

Great expectation is the confidence I place in God that He has my situation worked out, but not for the reasons I want. It is easy to focus more on where the benefit is for me more times than I should. When this happens, I try to refocus on Christ and say, Lord, what are you saying to me? Maybe he is trying to get me to see where my identity is. Is it in Him or me? I have to remind myself it is not about me. Daily we strive to train our minds to stay faith-focused, especially in these uncertain times. I know this applies personally to me. Accepting a new career path is exciting but nerve-racking. When I think about all the intricate details, it can be overwhelming, but God’s great expectation (not Charles) reassures me.  

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

I found a few things in 1 Chronicles 28:20 that I think we all can implement to help us move forward: Be strong, Be courageous and Act.

When I think about strength, it means different things. Being strong can be applied to life circumstances such as loss, struggle, and confusion. It signifies the power to move past hindrances—the ability to press beyond our ability. Strength is grown by endurance, and this is one area God has been challenging me to grow in- not in my own but His power. When I am strong in His strength, nothing can stop me. It is almost like having a spotter while lifting weights. He assures me I am not alone, and with His help, I lift/handle far more than on my own.

Courage often gets misrepresented. Courage does not mean one is not afraid; sometimes, it is just the opposite. It is not the absence of fear but the ability to continue despite. I wonder what Solomon felt when his father encouraged him to build without experience? He was young and did not know all this process would entail but his father told him to have courage. I have had moments where fear tried to grip me. But friend, we must push through the worry and unknown and believe that we can. If we never do, we never will. If we stay stuck in fear and don’t try to become free—we know our ending. It stares us in the face screaming defeat. If Solomon never moved from fear to want more, great expectation could never manifest.  

I remember an exercise I had to complete while attending an old job retreat. We were asked to climb a rock wall 80 feet up. Once at the top the only way down was to jump and grab a trapeze bar that was suspended in the air, pretty scary, right? I wanted to go first and get it out the way, so I did. I did not think about the consequences; I did not look down; I just climbed up and jumped. Sometimes we have to act when we know the instructions are clear.  

 Have you been holding back? What is something you had great expectations for, and you have grown cold hoping for?

Father, allow us to rest in You when the direction is unclear and the path uncertain. Teach us to trust Your voice to lead us to an expected end. Help us to depend on You in the process and build on that what You have called us to. Give us the courage to trust You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

So, This is LIFE

This post really blessed me and I wanted to repost for a fellow Brother in Christ and I pray it blesses you as well

Basic Bible Thoughts

There is a board game entitled “Life”. It brings with it a certain set of boundaries and rules for a successful life. The game has a starting point and a path that will lead you through the life, ending in retirement. The journey is dictated more by chance than it does the choices that you make. With each spin of the wheel you travel the path predetermined for your journey, following each direction you find when landing on a certain square. You begin your life with $10,000, a car, and a set of cards that will determine your education level, pay, and secrets that will be unveiled in retirement. You make purchases and borrow money from the bank that must be repaid by the time you reach retirement with interest. Retirement is at Millionaire Estates or Countryside Acres, but to be the winner of life you must create the greatest…

View original post 837 more words

Where Are You Going?

We were lost, and it did not make sense. As we listened to my phone give us directions. I began to wonder, did I miss a turn? The further we drove down the windy, dark road, it became more difficult to see up ahead. My high-beams were like matches that had served their purpose and were gracefully fading out. At the same time, looking at my palm-size, dim-lit phone displaying the road ahead, numerous times the words “rerouting” displayed on my screen. I realized there was no signal and I needed to shut my phone off and turn back on.

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. Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom. Instead, fear the Lord and turn away from evil. Then you will have healing for your body and strength for your bones.
(Proverbs 3:5-8)

The incident I just described is an actual occurrence of where I found myself one night coming back from a weekend conference. Perhaps you can relate to the story. I want you to know that you are a part of a very elite group of individuals that have placed too much dependency on our phones or our small boxes in our vehicles, called “navigation” devices. According to Webster, Navigation is the method of determining position, course, and distance traveled. (emphasis added)

My navigation that night was solely dependent on my phone. I had placed complete trust in a handheld device to lead me home. You may be thinking, why didn’t I turn around or I didn’t realize that something was wrong? The short answer is “no.” I allowed a small box to talk to me and give me directions on how to get to my destination. Where the source of instruction was coming from, I never questioned. Technology is impressive, and the satellites in space transmit signals apparently, but how do we know? We believe, right?

Why is it easier to believe a device telling us play by play direction than it is to accept God’s Word or the whisper of the Holy Spirit? Listening to a phone is a perfect description of what happens when I trust in my guidance instead of placing my trust in the Holy Spirit. Just as I lost my way traveling on that windy road when my signal dropped, sometimes in life, I lose my way. Sometimes I am not connected to the right source. If I listen to the wrong voice or trust without question the voice speaking to me- it can leave me lost. It can leave me lost and searching for familiarity or some resemblance of light.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
do not depend on our own understanding.
(Proverbs 3:5)

In today’s society, it is easy to get sidetracked or concerned about what is around us. Events or circumstances leave us feeling confused. We may feel lost and uncertain about what lies ahead, but this verse reminds us that we have a full-proof plan. That is the first step in getting to our final destination; what are we trusting? The problem is that many of us do not take full advantage of placing our complete trust in the Lord. I don’t know about you, but if I am not careful, I depend on my alleged robust understanding as opposed to the Holy Spirit’s whisper. I began to have an inflated sense of confidence in my efforts and this is where the problem lies. Trusting in Charles’ way leads to a dead-end.

Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take.
(Proverbs 3:6)

We are to search out what God wants for us, and this is done by listening attentively for His voice and trusting His process even if we don’t see the result. To seek describes a conscientious effort put forth to find something. I was seeking to get home that night, but I was listening from a limited perspective, not observing what was before me.  My navigation was leading me down a one-way road to nowhere, and I was seeing it unfold before my eyes, never stopping to turn around. Reminds me of a Proverb that discusses listening to good counsel. Let the wise hear and increase in learning and the one who understands obtain guidance. (Proverbs 1:5 ESV)  The Holy Spirit is good counsel and helps us improve our knowledge. This statement about the Holy Spirit is easy to say and admit, but it is harder to put in action. I confess plenty of my blunders in life are the result of not seeking or following the sweet, gentle counsel of the Holy Spirit. I found myself hearing and seeing the need to reroute but often failed to follow the promptings.

Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom. Instead, fear the Lord and turn away from evil. Then you will have healing for your body and strength for your bones.
(Proverbs 3:7,8)

When the navigation is on, the rerouting feature comes in handy. It reminds us that not only has the way been redirected for us, but our destination is still obtainable. The reason may not be our fault; sometimes, we can miss a turn. Let’s be honest. Sometimes we are lost because we are focusing on our way of direction and not listening to that voice intended to get us to our destination safely. It is not always the best way to get back; in fact, it often comes with more twists and turns. There is a way that seems right to a man, but it ends in death. (Proverbs 14:12 ESV) Stop for a moment. Think about the reroute feature as God’s grace towards you and I. Grace is unmerited favor. If we acknowledge the fact that we have veered from the navigation and change directions and follow where it leads, we can still reach the destination. Yes, it will come most times with more steps, but that is why it is called a reroute.

When we allow the Holy Spirit to deliver us after missing or taking the wrong turn, we must do two things to get back on track. We admit first that we are off-track. Then we listen to the instructions to correct our particular predicament, being lost. If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14)  

What if after so many times of rerouting-the navigation just turned off, leaving us to find our way? What would we do? More importantly, what could we do?  We probably would have to calibrate our navigation. This calibration is sometimes our last hope in finding our way back home. We calibrate navigation when a connection breaks with the source giving directions. Communication no longer transmits to us. In turn, they are leaving us to trust our sense of direction to do anything—a dangerous place to find ourselves. The question is, where are you going?

If you need to calibrate your sense of direction, stop and do it. Allow Christ to come in and take control to restore that connection with the Holy Spirit so that you can hear pure instruction to get you through this journey of life. Call your Pastor or godly counsel, if you don’t have a church home, ask God to lead you to where He wants you. To get what you need to put you on the right path.

Lord, we thank you for your Holy Spirit. Thank you for the reroutes in our lives when we were going the wrong way. We thank you for the ability to calibrate with you to regain the connection we so desperately need. Please help us to know where we are going and not lose our way.

In Jesus’s name, Amen

Be Encouraged Friend…

Rocks to a Swordfight 1 Samuel 17:40

He took his stick in his hand and chose for himself five smooth stones from the brook, and put them in the shepherd’s bag which he had, even in his pouch, and his sling was in his hand; and he approached the Philistine. (1 Samuel 17:40)

rocksoverwater

 

Reading the Word of God is so refreshing and insightful. There is so much packed in the Basic Instruction Before Leaving Earth that sometimes I just am in awe when I think of those that the Holy spirit inspired to weave the pages together

The story of David has always been one of those that I was drawn to. So many principles that can be applied in our daily lives. When I reflect on the account found in this story, I feel empowered to think: little faith leads to great victory and big faith means unstoppable.

What made David so confident that he was able to defy the odds, emerging victorious in the battle with Goliath? Was it the fact that he was a skilled warrior back on Jesse’s sheep ranch? He had proven himself by killing a lion and a bear. Was that enough for him to feel qualified to defeat this enemy? Or was it something deeper that compelled him? Did he feel there was no way to allow anyone to talk about his God? Perhaps, he knew it was a testimony for the living God to be magnified.

This morning while in prayer with the Lord, this verse took on new meaning. I am usually not one to share when I am in a spiritual battle. However, I felt led to share that there has been a Goliath facing me in my mind. No, it is not a physical giant but oftentimes it can feel like one. The giant of doubt. The thoughts or feelings of inadequacy when trying completing a task because perhaps you feel too small. I want to encourage you that little things can do big things. Let me rephrase. That is partial truth. The truth is little things can do big things when God is at the forefront. David definitely proves that.

The giants we often face can create fear in the mind. If we do not know where our identity lays it can cause a devastating battle in our mind. Think about it, not only was David faced with what appeared to be overwhelming odds physically, but he also encountered doubters from his own camp.

His brother Eliab heard, when David spoke to the men of what will happen to the man that kills Goliath? For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should taunt the armies of the living God? (1 Samuel 17:26) David had a courageous spirit. Eliab says, why have you come here. Who is taking care of the sheep? You only came down because you are trying to see the battle. (1 Samuel 17:28) In other words, his brother could only see David from his perspective in the eyes of Eliab. David was only in the way and only capable of taking care of the sheep. We can truly underestimate the power of faith when God is behind us friend. I think it is interesting Eliab believed in the Lord but missed completely that God can use any means for His will to be accomplished.  David’s brother was defining him based on natural means but did not see little things can do big things when God is there.

David was also presented with doubt from King Saul. Then Saul said to David, you are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are but a youth while he has been a warrior from his youth. (1 Samuel 17:33) Saul doubted because he was afraid of failure and could not get beyond his own thoughts of what it looked like. It looked like David was not qualified. Sometimes intentions of others can be in the right place but with the wrong motive.

We should not allow fear to be the reason that prevents us from not stepping out to trust God. Saul was not only afraid for David but he was afraid of losing the kingdom. A lot was at stake here. Think about it, David was just a little boy (teenager) and Saul’s entire army had been facing this giant daily and no one, from Israel, has stepped out to challenge him. The Philistine came forward morning and evening for forty days and took his stand. (1 Samuel 17:16) Why? They were paralyzed by fear. And the truth is Saul wanted David to be likeminded in his approach to be afraid to fight. All Saul could see was an inexperienced and young boy that had dreams. Some people don’t have the vision to go against the norm. To remind their hearts that they don’t have to fear with God. David was not the norm. David saw beyond those in the camp and David had a disdain for anyone that tried to doubt his God. And he was about to be used to bring God glory in a big way.

faithoverfear

 

Has God called you to do something that seems against the norm? Does everyone and everything seems to be against you? Circumstances, doubt, fear, finances, resources, time. It may not be as big as a Goliath but whatever it is face it. My prayer is that you don’t let any of those reasons stop you from trusting God. If the Lord is for you who can be against you. (Romans 8:31) This was not just David doing something haphazardly but it was truly about proving the might of His God. It was not David seeking bragging rights or attention.

The next verse in this text is so powerful I think we miss what David was truly saying. David said, I’ve been a shepherd, tending sheep for my father. (v.34) The lifestyle of David had been one of protection before this moment. His protection was always for someone else’s interest. In this instance it was his father, Jesse and the sheep. But what David spoke to Saul had a two-fold meaning. David was saying this is nothing new to me sir. I was born for this. This is what I was called to do. Second, David was speaking his calling into the atmosphere in this very moment. I am doing the work that my father has called me to do. I have been tending the father’s business for a long time. Tending means to regularly or frequently behave in a particular way or to have a particular characteristic. You don’t have to really know what God has been preparing you for but you must be ready to respond when it presents itself.

 Now here is the hard part -the self-reflection. I know what it’s like to feel doubt in my mind. To believe that where I have been or what I have been doing up to this point has no significance. You may feel as if no one sees how you have been working because you have been in a secluded place by yourself, behind the scenes. Don’t worry friend. Just know that when God is ready to present what you have been preparing for, God will let you know. He wants to make sure that there are no traces of self in our heart before He presents what we were created to do.

Remember, no matter how minor or major, it is all for the glory of God. If David had only wanted to go to the battle because he could defeat Goliath (self-reliance) but not for God’s glory, the battle might have been lost. Because David had God’s interest in mind with rocks to a swordfight, he was victorious. Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us. (Ephesians 3:20)

As we face the Goliath’s of today, Covid-19 and the rising death toll, racial tension and the future of our world, we don’t have to fear. We can be confident and courageous in knowing that we are backed by an Almighty God. Not only backed but He is the Rock in the fight. He is the one that is confident and reminds us that we are able to stand. David understood that the stones that he grabbed had no power in them. But the Rock that he was standing on represented the bedrock foundation of something bigger than him. Just as Peter understood when Christ reminded him. I say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church. (Matthew 16:18) Peter means a small stone (petros) but the word for rock (petra) means bedrock or large foundation. What Jesus foretold to Peter was parallel to what David used to fight against the giant Goliath.

Jesus was saying to Peter, and I am paraphrasing, Peter you are a small stone but I am going to build my church on something much larger than you through you. Just like the Lord was saying to David, you are a small stone but I am going to use you to accomplish something so much bigger that will bring me glory. By bringing rocks to a swordfight.

Be Encouraged,

Charles Blog Signature

 

The Little Foxes We Don’t See

Catch the foxes for us, The little foxes that are ruining the vineyards, while our vineyards are in blossom.   Song of Solomon 2:15

grapevine

 

The last few days have been challenging to say the least. It is interesting how God will reveal Himself through teachable moments (if you will) to us in what appears as a most inopportune time. The other morning, around 2:30 am, my household was awakened by the sound of an alarm going off from downstairs. When I went downstairs, I was shocked to see water pouring from our kitchen appliances and from a vent in the ceiling. The alarm was coming from our stove letting us know there was a problem. That problem, water, was about to cause an electrical issue with the stove. I never even knew this model stove was created with a feature that if water ended up consuming the wiring, it would sound an alarm.

When I turned the light on to adjust my eyesight, there was about 3 inches of water on our hardwood floors. It was definitely not what I expected to awaken to on Monday morning. In order to give this blog context, let me go back to a few days earlier. I noticed a small spot on the ceiling in which we did not think it was a big problem. It appeared to be a minor leak in one of our pipes. My initial thought was, I would just open that small portion of ceiling up on Monday and take a look and see if I could fix it myself. I did not think it was claiming my attention at that time so I put it off. Fast forward to Monday morning and what appeared to be a small little leak ended up ruining our kitchen, kitchen appliances and our hardwood floors. Something that appeared to be minor that I decided to put off, until later to take care of, ended up creating a major crisis.

Through this experience, God had given me a sure indication, a step by step, hands on experience of how sin in our lives wreaks havoc. We see it and we don’t pay attention to the seriousness of it based on limited perception and privilege. We cannot see what is going on behind the small spot. We don’t see the raging disruption that is about to cause serious damage to our daily movement if we just ignore the warning. Or better yet, if we just say, I know it is a little problem and I can just get to it later. We can marginalize sin in the same way. I marginalized that small spot on my kitchen ceiling. If only I had taken action right away and accessed what I was seeing correctly. I saw it and in my arrogance thought I could handle it on my own. That was the problem with privilege, believing that I could handle it because of how I saw myself but with really no definitive justification. Never really taking a closer look at what was festering under the surface.

I say arrogance because in truth I did just think I could handle it and it was no biggie. Often, this is how we treat sin. We downplay it, oh it is not adultery, it’s just an “entanglement.” It is not lust it just happened because I was up surfing the television late night. Or it was just one look, all men do it. It is just a little fib not really a lie. We marginalize our sin. We marginalize what we see that can potentially grow into a deeper problem. The lesson for me is two-fold: not only pay attention but take action.

Don’t ignore the signs but take action to prevent or to repair the problem.

  • When we see a small issue deal with it right then don’t put it off.
  • When we don’t deal with the small issue other things are affected inadvertently.
  • When we don’t deal with the small issues, the effects are long lasting and even destructive to everything around us. (A domino effect)

The good news is that we had insurance to replace the mess. Insurance is what allows us to go through the process of review, removal, recovery and restoration. All of these are important after a major crisis. And all of these are important when it comes to fixing the problem of sin in our lives. It is not enough to just see the problem but we have to begin the claim process. The claim process is proclaiming that we are sinners in need of a Savior named Jesus Christ. If we confess with our mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. (Romans 10:9-10)

Once the claim has been put in for approval then we are cleared to begin the process for review. This review is where the work of the Holy Spirit begins to shine light on those dark, dampened places that are in need of replacement.  Without the review work of the Holy Spirit, the road to recovery is a back and forth process that often ends without work completed.

After the review the removal process begins. The removal of sin does not take place until the Holy Spirit is allowed to take us through repentance which literally means change of mind. The change of mind is from old habits, old attitudes and old ways of doing things. This removal of sin leads to the turning away from sin. The removal is the heavy lifting that often comes with great suffering. Removal of sin does not go without physical work having to be done to cut, break, pull and sever deep connections that have been under the surface for a long time. Remember my ceiling and all the damage that was exposed after I decided to contact my insurance about restoration. It was not a pretty sight, in fact, the work required had to be accessed and then evaluated to see how much time would be needed for removal. This is how sin is, it takes time for the Holy Spirit to work and remove us from old to new thinking but when the process has begun and we are on board. Great things will come about. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.   (2 Corinthians 5:17)

The recovery process is where we begin to see results leading to restoration. Once we have allowed the old to be replaced and begin to bring in the new mindset and new way of life. What was damaged before begins to take on new purpose and meaning. It is the first signs of the new taking root in our lives. Some decide to do the work themselves but I implore you to allow the professionals to take you through the process. The professional in this scenario is the power of the Holy Spirit that we must be willing to surrender (or relinquish control) to. This is the surest way to make sure that what is replaced is done properly. We must trust the process friend. Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight (Proverbs 3:5-6). The recovery process is that which is able to take a liar and make him a person of integrity. It will take an estranged spouse and make them available. It will take an impatient person and make them mild mannered. It will take our blunders and blossom beautiful moments out of them. It will take this pandemic we are in the midst of and create people more grateful for family and God. The recovery process can be good news.

Last but not least, restoration is the end result. Its good news knowing that the things that we ignore and think are destroyed opportunities can be restored. When we look back over the process of what can occur when we allow the Holy Spirit to come in and do a complete work. Its better news taking action before things get to this point so that there does not have to be restoration.

Nestled away in the Song of Solomon 2:15 is the verse giving a warning about little foxes that can destroy a vineyard.  What they do is nibble at the vines where the grapes receive nutrients from, causing the vines to wither and die. The little foxes need to be dealt at the root of the vine before they destroy the beauty of what could be produced. It was determining the problem and saying what needed to done. The same is applied with the spot on my ceiling and the same as sin in our lives. Don’t allow sin to continue so that it can be dealt with before the consequences are detrimental. Don’t allow the reading of this blog to just be another read but deal with that which is underneath.

Be encouraged

 

Charles Blog Signature