Invited or Not?

God, I invite your searching gaze into my heart. Examine me through and through; find out everything that may be hidden within me. Put me to the test and sift through all my anxious cares.

~ Psalms 139:23 TPT ~

Imagine getting the call, a family member wanting to see you is making an impromptu visit to your home.  You quickly begin to straighten up (hopefully) because we want them to see the neat and tidy version and not the messy, day-to-day us. I do not know about you but the truth is I am not always neat and tidy. No, my house is never messy but sometimes we leave things out of place because we believe no one will see what’s inside unless we let them in.

However, as we look at our key verse, we see this is not what David is saying, in fact, it is the opposite. He desires the Lord to come inside and visit.

For me, this can be a challenge from day to day. I know it is a crucial element to make sure that I am allowing openly for the Holy Spirit to take a look (not a peek) inside my heart. This is a sign of surrender and a declaration of transparency that we, just like David, have to relinquish to the Lord. I can say this is not always easy for me? What about you?

The Passion translation emphasizes “gaze”, meaning almost a steady, intent look for a long time, in curiosity or wonder. The Lord wants to know what is going on inside of us, as He looks with a searching gaze. He wants to know those things that are not revealed in a moment but take a studying over. Like an art critic looking over a masterpiece in the gallery, to see intricate details missed by the naked eye.

I ask myself sometimes, “Why Lord?, I am not that interesting”, in fact, from where I stand, I feel like I embarrass him. But even in these moments of uncertainty or inadequacy, I especially need Him to come in. This verse in the Psalter is asking God to come over and look around. To see what is really going on behind closed doors “as is” because we want and need His presence to help us do better.

David says something interesting after he prays for the initial invite. Examine me through and through. To Examine means to inspect in detail and determine the nature and condition of a thing. David invited God’s searching gaze into his deepest, sensitive parts. He wants the Lord to look at his thoughts and feelings. David was saying, what do my actions convey? David wanted the Lord to check his outward motives first and then take another gaze.

In the Mosaic law, the priests were to come into God’s presence, without the blemish of sin or disobedience. If sin is committed and not confessed before the time they entered the tabernacle, they were struck down by the Almighty. If they were found to be unclean, the priests could not proceed and they were pulled out of the presence of God.

The actions may have changed but the principle of coming into the presence of the Lord pure is still the goal today. Now we confess our sins directly to the Father. Let us not be afraid to come into the presence of the Lord, like David. And not only just come in but allow Him to look around and stay awhile. I know from my own encounters with the Lord, though challenging, they have truly left me with more joy, more purpose, and more fulfillment in the end. Take a moment today and ask yourself how would a visit from the Lord leave you feeling? And if He stopped by today what would He find?

Continue to stay encouraged friends.

Refined

“Forged In Fire” is a popular show that consists of four bladesmiths competing in three rounds of elimination contests that test their skills with steel and/or other metals. The four contestants must compete in an area known as “the Forge” to create a blade (or another weapon) of the judges choosing. After the smith’s blades are put through a series of tests to demonstrate their durability, sharpness, and endurance. The judges critique and give the Smiths back their blades to address any refining issues, consisting of addressing the blemishes or issues pointed out by the judges.

Refined in Hebrew is Zaqaq, meaning to strain, extract or clarify. The word refined, according to Webster, means impurities or unwanted elements having been removed by processing. The process of refinement is necessary for this Christian walk.

For you have tried us, O God; You have refined us as silver is refined. You brought us into the net; You laid an oppressive burden upon our loins. You made men ride over our heads; We went through fire and through water, Yet you brought us out into a place of abundance.

Psalms 66:10-12 NASB

We have a tendency to forget that process does not always feel good and just like the refinement of the blades created on “Forged in Fire, ” there is a price. I have disappointed the Lord more than a few times and have caused some of the dearest, closest people in my life much pain. I am not proud of it at all. When I think of the actions and people I have hurt, I am grateful for God’s grace. I reminds me how imperfect I am without His touch. I am thankful for His compassion and love. Yes, we suffer for our disobedience and sometimes we carry the scars of that disobedience for the rest of our lives. However, I am thankful for Him looking beyond our blemishes and dark spots allowing us a spot at the Master’s table to be refined and not discarded. The truth is without Him there can be no refinement.

Like a careful craftsman, the Lord put Israel through the furnace and removes the impurities plaguing them. Israel has disobeyed God and the Lord has punished them for their sin. The Jews had turned and departed from the instruction of God. They fell in a backslidden state and instead of pursuing the right relationship with God- the Lord turns from His chosen people, leaving them to their own consequences for a moment. But when they turned back to the Lord (wholeheartedly), He transformed their shortcomings into abundant blessings.

This was encouraging because God’s punishment for Israel is only a moment but His mercy is everlasting. Mercy is compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm.

But because of his great love for us, God who is rich in mercy made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions-it is by grace you have been saved.

Ephesians 2:4-5 NASB

Here is the gift that the Lord gives each and every one of us to experience when we allow Him to reign in our lives. Jerusalem experienced suffering for their disobedience but the Lord’s mercy prevailed in the end. He removed their punishment, he defeated their enemies, and Jew and Gentile were accepted by the Almighty. This is the refining work that we are promised that sin will be removed and our repentance leads to salvation.

Even when I reflect or feel regret for past mistakes and disobedience. Even when I do not deserve mercy, The Lord whispers in my thoughts that He has refined me. There is no need to walk back down the road of rebuke. It is a new day, a new mindset, and a new season. This is what we tell ourselves but often we find ourselves looking back down that road. I do not know about you friend, but I am striving daily to walk in the will of the Lord (even when I am bombarded with thoughts of failure). This is when we must allow “the mighty Warrior” to battle for us – battle against our thoughts, our insecurities, and our doubt. So that we are victorious.

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.

Psalms 51:17

The practical for me is that if we have strayed away from the Lord’s will and experienced His discipline. When we turn in repentance with a broken and contrite heart, confessing our wrongdoing then the Lord will receive us again and make us stronger than ever before.

Thank you, Lord, for rejoicing over me because I can remember a time when you did not and were not pleased. We pray for those of us that are going through refining now, let us feel your presence and hope. I ask you to delight in each and every person reading this prayer. You are the “Mighty warrior that saves”. What I deserve is nothing but you have offered me redemption. I am grateful for your love and for forgiving me. Please Lord remind us of this truth daily- that you are with us daily, moment by moment, in dark and dry seasons. Give us a fresh perspective and let us appreciate the refining you are doing in us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

New Focus, New Mindset

Remember ye, not the former things, neither consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.

Isaiah 43:18-19

Well, Christmas is over, and we are on the horizon of a new year. 2021 has been everything short of unpredictable. There have been some tragedies, some hurdles we had to cross while others we did not. Nevertheless, we are still here. Even through hardships, we have had some victories, friends. This year for me has been constant testing of my Faith. It has been a lot to handle, but we are still here by the grace of God.  

This scripture spoke to me a few days ago. God reminded me of the new thing he wants to do for us if we just allow Him. I am not referring to something that brings us more finances, friends, or fame. I am talking about a new mindset.

Changing our mindset is not always easy or without work, yet here we are on the brink of 2022, and I believe that better is coming- the better that God desires for our future.

“Remember not the former things,” neither consider the things of old.” 

Sometimes we have a tendency to think of God as the God who was and the God who will be but not God who is. We focus on things he has done previously, but what about now? He is the great I AM- God of the present, and HE is relevant now. He does not want us to focus on the things that were. This is your opportunity for God to let you know that He cares about the now and He is telling us, not asking us (as he told the children of Israel) to forget the previous and look forward to the future.

The Lord is explicitly concerned about you. Yes, You! It is time to move out and not stay stuck in the past’s failure, sin, and discouragement. No matter what this year has brought to your doorstep that appeared to overwhelm you, there is a new day coming. If we constantly are stuck in the past, we cannot reach our potential.

Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,

Philippians 3:13

“Behold, I will do a new thing”

Behold means to look up and pay attention. God desires our focus today as we prepare for the new thing, the new year, and the new mindset. The background of this text was God desired to free Israel from being stuck in the discouragement and seduction of Babylon; they would never be free from Babylon if they did not lookup. If they did not look ahead and see what could be theirs to embrace. Will we stay connected to the Lord for the new thing? Will we stay in tune with His Spirit and free ourselves from what is holding us hostage? That could be past friendships, relationships, attitudes, habits, hurts, or former ways of thinking.

“I will even make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert,”

The Lord desires us to trust him so that He will make a way out of what appears difficult. When God makes a promise, often we worry about the details or what is to come. The Lord turns what looks like problems into blessings. His resources and ways are above our ways. We

Will we trust Him as we go into the new year and new territory? Yes, some things are still unchanged, but will we grasp the new focus for the New Year. Make a choice to see what is ahead from God’s perspective of Faith instead of looking back to what was. No matter what last year did or did not bring, turn your focus to what is to come and see the Lord work on your behalf.

Be Encouraged…

Take Nothing for the Journey

The show “Naked and Afraid” is a popular television series. Not only because of the unknown, but also the level of competition between the contestant and the unknown. It consists of two individuals (male and female) dropped in a remote location for twenty-one days to survive in the wild. Combatting elements and nature, each individual without food, water, clothing and only one survival item is left to fend for themselves. Those that make the twenty-one-day trek receive a grand prize of five thousand dollars for their troubles. That does not seem like very much money to put yourself through such a grueling obstacle course with a stranger for almost a month. The participants do this not for the tangible compensation of cash, but for the challenge.

Over these twenty-one days, I can only imagine what they endure and the level of mental toughness necessary to make it. I don’t mind camping out in my backyard for a night, but we are talking about three weeks in the wild. I wonder where along the journey they realize, it will take more than just physical strength, mental toughness or experience to get them through. There is a level of preparation that they must have before embarking on such a challenge.

I have never watched an entire season of the show, but I have seen a few episodes. A lot of what they are up against is a mystery until they find themselves face to face with nature. Just like in the Gospel of Mark, where Jesus is preparing the disciples for a journey. The disciples have no idea what they will encounter. However, he tells them to take nothing for the journey and they obey. The difference between the show and disciples is that one is dependent on self and the latter is dependent on an Omnipresent God.

Calling the twelve to Him, he began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over impure spirits. These were his instructions, Take nothing for the journey except a staff – no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. Wear sandals but not an extra shirt. Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town. And if any place will not welcome or listen to you, leave that place and shake the dust of your feet as a testimony against them.

~ Mark 6:7-12 NIV~

Preparation for any journey is hard work and requires much discipline. It will require their faith and trust. The Messiah is not only summoning but is commissioning them with purpose.  Today, we also have been commissioned and purposed with a challenge to reach places and people we have never seen before.

To reach these accomplishments there are a few things that we can learn from Jesus and the disciples.  First, the commandments of God always lead to stretching moments. Stretching means learning how to be bendable, flexible and refined in the hands of God. This does not always feel good. I can imagine the disciples as Christ is summoning them. Jesus never asked them their qualifications. He just sent them out in pairs and gave them authority. This encourages us to be ready to step out into new territory if the Lord is calling.

Unlike the contestants on the show who prepare for the twenty-one-day challenge, we must rely on Jesus Christ as our guide. I wonder, are we prepared? Do we follow the commandments? There have been times where I have said, God what is the point of this? The Lord leaves us to ourselves only to realize our dependency is solely on Him. And only when we are willing to do it His way, do we find and fulfill purpose.

But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you.

~ Matthew 6:33 NASB ~

As I reflect on the disciples and how they lived their lives, I see that they weren’t concerned with the latest cellphone or the how many followers they had on social media. They were not worried with their 401(k), account status or if they were aggressive enough or too conservative with their portfolio. They lived focused lives. I wonder is it safe to say living by faith means leaving the extra behind? Including our thoughts, concerns, anxieties, worries and fears. I think about what Jesus gave the disciples. He freed them to go forward without anything holding them back. He told them take nothing for the journey except a mere staff. (v.8) Here is a question for us. How are we living? Have we exchanged faith for the familiar or fancy?

In Christ we learn the importance of provision on the journey. This begins when we accept the Lord leading us in a faith-based life. The disciples took nothing for where they were going. They simply rely on provision as they enter the nearby towns. There was no salary or benefits package, just the lifetime guarantee of heaven and the gratification of becoming a vessel for Jesus Christ. Talk about crazy faith at work.  Provision in the natural is what most live for, but the disciples relied solely on those whom they testified too.

It is recorded in Matthew’s gospel, when the disciples left a home if it was worthy, they were instructed to give it a peace blessing in Hebrew, Shalom. Shalom was a sign of peace but not just any peace. This peace represents a sense of wholeness and well-being. It identifies all in one’s life balanced and working as should. This peace was not constructed from outward things but internal priority. This was learned behavior and we too can experience this inner peace-no matter what occurs around us. I would say this is one of the priceless gifts we obtain on this journey with Jesus that unless you experience it – we won’t understand the blessing.

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace that surpasses all understanding will guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus.

~ Philippians 4:8 NASB ~

Friends, significance is not in things that feed our flesh, but in the things that fulfill the plan for our lives. Can we stop looking for stuff to gratify us in the moment and look for our purpose in Jesus? Make the choice to accept the best life that one can only find in Jesus Christ. Not in things that excite for the moment or the latest challenge to be conquered. But when we take the step to take nothing for the journey, except Christ – we open ourselves to the greatest and most rewarding challenges ever.

Is there a Broken Vessel in the Room?

In times past, I can recall how my limited perspective and personal bias in situations of prejudice, racism, or ways in our world skewed my view. It was not until I stepped outside of myself that I could truly see. Friend, we live in a world filled with hatred, envy, and jealousy for one another; but on the other hand, there are glimpses of love and hope that we miss. We encounter selfishness over selflessness. Those stepping over some, the weaker, as opposed to helping to lift one another. The attacking of some because we may disagree personally instead of finding what Christ says about an issue. Let me call it as it is, SIN. As long as we water down the truth or cover it up with band-aids, we will never deal with the source of pain. We will continue to make statements such as, “well, we all have something,” or false justification of right and wrong. With this thinking, we can never operate in humility. This may be why we can see the church and church denominations divided on issues – focusing on some but overlooking others that are just as important. Or we see the government concentrate on some and ignoring others. If we say we are followers of Jesus Christ operating with the leading of the Holy Spirit in humility then our actions should demonstrate this truth. Why preach to those outside of the church if we are not acting within the church as we should?

If we want to see the presence of Jesus released in a dying world, then we all need to be broken. I am not talking about a physical breaking of body parts, but the surrender of our mind, body, and soul. We all need to consider what we are willing to surrender in the presence of Jesus? Again, are our motives selfless or selfish? An excellent example of this is nestled away in the Gospel of John.

Then Mary took a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet, wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

~ John 12:3 NASB ~

There are so many thoughts found in this passage of scripture that is applicable in our lives. I love this scripture for so many reasons, but one is the heart of Mary. She had developed a relationship with Jesus. Mary was so grateful and she desired to express that through her actions. In this chapter, Jesus is preparing to be crucified and endure much suffering and death within days. So there is a desire for Mary to spend time out of selfless love for Jesus. She is operating from a space of humility and wanting to be with Jesus. It was not about what she can get from Him or learn but just being there- a good reminder of an essential truth for us today. We all can get so busy in our day to day lives that we forget to enjoy Jesus. There have been times where I have found myself studying the Word, spending time in prayer or worship –just because I am trying to finish a blog post or hear a word from the Lord. I am caught in the doing and forget about just being in His presence. Not trying to get anything from Him. Not attempting to complete a task but simply communing with a loving Father in a relationship. Mary’s heart helps me reflect on where I am with Christ and areas where I still need work.   

Secondly, Mary operates in humility. At this moment, she gives Jesus her best by serving Him wholeheartedly. Jesus had her undivided attention, and Mary expressed her love for Jesus in those few moments with him. Do we give Christ our attention as we should or when we have time? Such a loving Father, He never complains but trusts and believes that we will get better. Like a Father to an immature son or daughter, He patiently waits for us to catch the lesson. In our world today, the Father desires us to be broken in humility, to place Him above our wants and desires. He is waiting patiently for the world to acknowledge who He is in the room. Have we put science, church edifices, our titles, careers, and needs above the Father? I wonder what would happen if the world ever stopped to acknowledged Jesus Christ wholeheartedly. Not because of what we can gain from Him but just because of who He is in the room. Perhaps Covid-19 would cease, or violence and hatred would subside? If we wholeheartedly served because we would learn to seek the Father first and everything else after that.

But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

~ Matthew 6:33 NASB ~

Our commitment to Jesus is a sign of our brokenness before Him. I thought about Mary and how she was unwilling to give to Jesus what did not cost her much.A sign of being broken is the level of sacrifice we are willing to make for others. Some commentaries explain, the perfume she gathered required a year’s wages from a common laborer to purchase that ointment. Her sacrifice was great. Some would consider it a sign of disrespect for Jewish women to let their hair down in public, but Mary humbled herself and laid her glory at His feet. (1 Cor 11:15) She laid her best in the presence of Jesus. Those in the room misunderstood her sacrifice, but the One who mattered most felt her commitment. My prayer is that we don’t let people take us away from doing what is most important for the Kingdom of God. It may seem strange or unpopular to the masses, but let us continue to keep our focus and trust on the Lord, no matter what.

Finally, Mary took what she had and put it to use, not just to be seen but felt. Unless the alabaster flask breaks, the worth on the inside (the ointment of pure nard) is not released. Many appreciate the alabaster flask, “the packaging ” – i.e., their career, the appearances of having it together, popularity, financial gain, etc. If Mary only focuses on the beauty of the flask but never releasing or experience what is inside; then she would miss Jesus in all of it. He should be the focus not what appears costly or lavish. Friend, we must be broken for the Lord’s Spirit to come alive. Only then can we truly live on this earth and realize that nothing else in the room matters except Jesus.

Here is food for thought: We are not antique collectors; we are not admirers of the alabaster flask (the packaging). The Lord wants us to release that which is inside – to see the value.

When we allow what is on the inside to be in the presence of Jesus – transformation occurs. I am concerned about those who may never experience being introduced to a Father who desires to transform our lives from hardened pots to broken vessels.

May we remember to encourage all we meet to get to know Jesus Christ. Not only get to know Him but build a relationship with Him. And may those who already know Him never forget the sheer power of His presence in the Room.

Insurmountable Odds

I do not know about you, but I tend to root for the underdog in many cases. Whether in sports, movies or even in real-life situations – I tend to have a soft spot for the one that seems they will not be the victor. Growing up, I use to love to watch cartoons and how it seems that the superhero was losing to the villain, but in the end, I knew the superhero would come out on top. I love watching a good basketball game (especially around the playoffs) when the losing team seems counted out, and they make a final come back in the last minute of the game. But the most remarkable example of an underdog that I can think of is that of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who went to a cross and died. He looked defeated by death, but victory came in three days when he arose. Oh yes, the story appeared to be defeat, but that is not the end of the story.

Recently I was studying the book of Second Chronicles and was revisiting the story of King Jehoshaphat. Here is another occurrence that seems to face insurmountable odds.

You need not fight in this battle, station yourselves, stand and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem, Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out to face them, for the Lord is with you.

~ 2 Chronicles 20:17 ~

King Jehoshaphat is facing an impossible situation that is out of his control. An army has risen against him because he decides to do what was right in the Lord’s eyes. Things are so bad that in the story, it says that Jehoshaphat was afraid, but then it says he turned his attention to seek the Lord. How about that, talking about an underdog. This army consists of various tribes, but they have one thing in common, King Jehoshaphat is their enemy. Sometimes the thing we face is not because of what we have done wrong, but because we have stood up for what is right. Deciding to stand for the right thing often comes with a price that is worth being paid. Did you catch that?

This King that was on a mission from the Lord is afraid. Have you ever been there? Or maybe not scared, but perhaps emotions are running rampant, and we forget that God is with us. This underdog is going through, and it appears that he will lose the battle, but Jehoshaphat fixes his eyes on something more significant than what is surrounding him, His God.

When we stand for what is right, God’s eyes are upon us, and He has proven time and time again that He will fight for us. No matter if your boss is threatening to fire you for standing up against corruption, or maybe taking a stand for being a Christ-follower with friends and family, or perhaps expressing Christian beliefs in a blog and standing for God’s way and not the world’s way. Maybe this is not your story, but if it is, be encouraged by the thought that you are not alone.

It took me a while to learn this, but we will always come out better pleasing God than trying to appease those around us. Do not get me wrong; there is nothing wrong with making folks feel happy and making them feel special, but when this becomes the focus of our lives, we can miss God’s best. There have been numerous times I have missed God in a moment. But I am so grateful for God’s redemptive love and how He redeems the time. When I think about past times I attempted to circumvent God and please people, how far off I ended. It saddens me just thinking about it. God is like a parent watching a child make one wrong decision after another, and it just breaks the heart, knowing that there is a better way if only we would listen. In society today, we have plenty following their way of thinking and making their own decisions breaking God’s heart. From government to community to our households, we have gotten away from listening to the voice of God and turned to what we believe is right, individually. Well, let me say, God is looking for a remnant that is not afraid to stand for what is considered unpopular and not be moved.

Let’s face it, we will encounter situations, but we can prevail as long as we keep our trust in the Lord. Friend, let us remember the example of Jehosophat and the children of Israel. It was not popular, but he did what was right in the Lord’s eyes. I wonder what the king thought when he heard about the multitude that gathered against him? Now put yourself in the king’s shoes. Think about it, you take a stand on your job for being a Christ-follower and decide not to go along with the norm, and the whole office comes against you. They go against you, and they threaten to remove you because you are against what they believe.

I will lead the blind by a way they do not know, in paths they do not know, I will guide them. I will make darkness into light before them and rugged places into plains. These are the things I will do.

Isaiah 42:16

I want to encourage us to realize that, like King Jehosophat, confidence in God trumps whatever we are facing. We can meet some pretty tough situations at times, and they can leave us asking, “God, where are you?” But I encourage us that even if we do not see God working, we can always know He is. Remember that God desires to change us, and often that comes through us going through the tough times because standing for Christ is not always easy, but it is purposed. Jehosophat found his purpose through fasting and prayer corporately. With Jehosophat and Judah telling God with transparency, they do not know what to do.

For we are powerless against this great multitude who are coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are on you.

2 Chronicles 20:12

After reading this passage initially, I had to ask myself, Charles, what do you see? Am I focused on what I see, or am I looking up to the Lord? It is easy to get caught up on what we are going through to the point where it can deafen the Holy Spirit’s whisper that I am here and fighting for you. Dr. Tony Evans often says, If all you see is what you see, then you do not see all there is to be seen. There is much more to focus on, friend. Don’t focus so much on the impossible, but keep your eyes on the Father. Don’t focus on the naysayers and the odds stacked against you; focus on the Father. Don’t focus on the likes or shares (or lack of) on social media posts, but focus on the Father. The Lord loves the underdog because He can do his best work when all appears to be lost. Or when we seem to be standing alone, find solace in the fact, we are not alone. We can find comfort in knowing that when we serve the God that provides, protects, and promises to be with us in every situation. We come out victorious.

Yes, the insurmountable odds are pretty cool.

Appointed Moments

There are times in our lives that are orchestrated events. It appears that time and purpose are conducting a well-choreographed waltz for all to observe. Some may call it, the right time at the right place.

I have experienced a few of these moments in life -that have been nothing short of amazing. I want to confess however, I have not been worthy of any of them. It is only God’s graciousness and unconditional love for me that any of these precious memories were created. This may not be your story, but if you stop and reflect on past times in our lives- we can trace the hand of God leading to a greater purpose. Then there are those times that just seem to appear out of nowhere, where we are left in complete amazement. Asking God, “what did You just do?” I mean literally He just blows our mind. Is there anyone else can attest to the fact? That God knows how to leave us in utter disbelief, but even in these moments God is purposely increasing our faith.

He is able to do so much when we just trust His leading and timing. He is the greatest Architect to build the perfect platform for all to see His handiwork at its best. It is literally His glory being revealed in our lives.

I know the plans that I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you to bring you to an expected end. ~Jeremiah 29:11~

God has created moments for us to experience His glory while here on earth. In fact, we can experience many moments like this when we experience the presence of Jesus. I think it is important to remember even as exciting as this can be, that these are His moments and not ours to control. The Almighty has allowed us to take part in this blessed time. When we allow God to lead us, listen to the whisper of His voice and follow His promptings, He offers us experiences that could only be orchestrated by His Sovereignty.

Perhaps you may not feel your best while reading this but do not disregard the opportunities that occur despite our condition in a moment of time. Things may not be as secure or smooth as we would like, however, if we look for the opportunity for Jesus to meet us in our condition- great things can happen. The hard times you may be experiencing now may not be ideal; but do not miss the opportunity to look from a different perspective. Maybe you are ready to give up, do not.

Amongst a pandemic, rising economic crisis, social injustice across diverse cultures, the silence of the church, political unrest, the break-down of the family unit, prejudice against the marginalized and overlooked -just to name a few of the concerns plaguing our world, do not miss the voice of Jesus, growing louder and louder daily, because of the opposition of others that do not see His truth.

I ask myself this recently and wanted to pose it to you to ponder for yourself. Are we willing to miss our opportunity to allow God to not just show up but change us? I have been reading on Blind Bartimaeus and how he was in the presence of Jesus and asked him to do something about his condition. He did not want to miss the moment in his presence so he did something bold and out the ordinary. He cried out. No one expected Blind Bartimaeus, a man identified by his condition, to do this. Here is a thought – are we defined by our condition as well? Or do we acknowledge who is in our presence, Jesus, and that He trumps our temporary condition? Not only did Bartimaeus do the unexpected, he was not concerned about the opposition in his environment. Those that were around him telling him to be quiet and not waste the Master’s time.

That helps me realize that opposition in our environment should not be our focus. It is just a distraction. All that we consume in social media, the news, our daily reports, our circle of friends should not take our eyes off the presence of Jesus. However, we find ourselves in competition with all of these at times. Bartimaeus was willing that even those around him were telling him to be quiet, he kept his focus on what he was there for, He wanted to experience Jesus. It was Bartimaeus’ appointed time and he was not willing to miss it.

I want to leave you with two thoughts. The first, persistence leads to breakthrough friend. May we never give up when things seem to be hard. We may just be on the cusp of our appointed moment. Do not stop believing and certainly do not stop trusting in the Lord’s timing.

Secondly, Jesus already knows what is needed. When our faith is exercised, Jesus steps in to help and turns our tough situations into blessings. Despite how things appear in a moment when we cry out to the Lord He can turn our situation, he is waiting for us to turn to him.

Keep the faith friend. The appointed moment is just around the corner if we do not lose hope or our spiritual sight- despite what it looks like.

Blessings

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.  

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.