“Don’t Let FAKE FOOL You!”

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Matthew 13:24-25, “Jesus gave them another parable [to consider], saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field.  But while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds [RESEMBLING WHEAT] among the wheat…” (AMP)

I guess as a woman it would be considered rather strange that I don’t particularly care for Roses. I don’t consider them ugly, I just don’t possess a particular fondness for them. And to be honest, I really don’t like any one set flower. However, if you really want my heart to sing, give me a mixed bouquet of wildflowers! I absolutely love a bouquet of mixed flowers with all the different shapes, scents, sizes, colors etc…it just captures my heart and instantly makes me smile!

However, I must share this. One of my coworkers had a beautiful bouquet of flowers on her desk. I stopped by to pick up some work, and there I saw these amazing flowers in a vase. Wildflowers! My Wildflowers! I actually noticed a few more times as I hustled down the hall past her door. I really felt like a flower stalker! I just couldn’t help myself. I would walk past her office, even if I had no reason to, just to take a glimpse at her huge bouquet of the wildflowers I so love. But then one day, I actually put on the brakes for a moment and I stuck my head all the way in the office and told her, I have just got to smell the flowers on your desk. I leaned over and inhaled deeply…needless to say…it wasn’t worth the stop. You see, after all of that peeking, visiting, stalking, admiring, smiling and smelling…I exhaled my disappointment. The beautiful, breath-taking wildflower bouquet was a FAKE! It LOOKED so real, too real, so real in fact that I couldn’t tell they were fake until I got close enough to realize they didn’t have the scent real flowers possess.

Which made me think of us, the church, the body of believer’s. Do we carry the REAL Scent of our Savior? 2 Corinthians 2:15, “For we are the sweet fragrance of Christ [which ascends] to God, [discernible both] among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.” (AMP)

You know, those flowers can sure fool you. They look so real, but they have NO LIFE. They look so authentic, but they have NO SCENT. Just like so many folks who look like they really belong to Jesus Christ, but there’s no life, no sweet fragrance of Christ.

Jesus warned us about this fatal difference in His story about God’s Kingdom being like a wheat field. Listen: Matthew 13:24-30, “Jesus gave them another parable [to consider], saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field.  But while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds [RESEMBLING WHEAT] among the wheat, and went away. So when the plants sprouted and formed grain, the weeds appeared also.  The servants of the owner came to him and said, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? Then how does it have weeds in it?’ He replied to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants asked him, ‘Then do you want us to go and pull them out?’ But he said, ‘No; because as you pull out the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them.  Let them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, “First gather the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; but gather the wheat into my barn.”’”(AMP)

Just because God hasn’t uprooted the phony weeds now, doesn’t mean He won’t later. In fact, the phony weeds will be first to be gathered, tied and burned. So, don’t by any stretch of the imagination think that you’re getting away with Imitation Christianity. God knows who are His and who are not. He knows who’s real, and who’s fake (no matter how well a performance or appearance they put on).

In another place, Jesus describes people who will come before Him on Judgment Day, talking all the right Christian words and beliefs and activities. But He’ll tell them, “I never knew you.Now, that’s what you call some frightening words! Here’s the Scripture in full: Matthew 7:21-23, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven.  Many will say to Me on that day [when I judge them], ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, and driven out demons in Your name, and done many miracles in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them publicly, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me [you are banished from My presence], you who act wickedly [disregarding My commands].’ (AMP) The Message Bible reads like this: “Knowing the correct password—saying ‘Master, Master,’ for instance—isn’t going to get you anywhere with me. What is required is serious obedience—doing what my Father wills. I can see it now—at the Final Judgment thousands strutting up to me and saying, ‘Master, we preached the Message, we bashed the demons, our God-sponsored projects had everyone talking.’ And do you know what I am going to say? ‘You missed the boat. All you did was use me to make yourselves important. You don’t impress me one bit. You’re out of here.’ (MSG)

I don’t know about you, but that certainly gave me a Selah moment! And that moment took me straight to 2 Corinthians 13:5, “Test and evaluate yourselves to see whether you are in the faith and living your lives as [committed] believers. Examine yourselves [not me]! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves [by an ongoing experience] that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test and are rejected as COUNTERFEIT?” (AMP) The Message Bible reads like this: “Test yourselves to make sure you are solid in the faith. Don’t drift along taking everything for granted. Give yourselves regular checkups. You need firsthand evidence, not mere hearsay, that Jesus Christ is in you. Test it out. If you fail the test, do something about it…” (vss. 5-9 MSG).

The time to realize that you know ABOUT Jesus but you don’t KNOW Him is NOW, not when you’re standing before Him, BECAUSE THEN IT’S TOO LATE! Now, is the time to self-exam and get yourself together! Now, is the time to make sure you’re planted, deeply rooted among the wheat, the real wheat, not them ‘Resembling Wheat!’ If you find yourself amongst the Tares, tear yourself away and get right! Or you’ll find yourself falling in the same category as those whom Christ said, “I Never Knew You!” And pay attention to the text, because it doesn’t say let the Apostle, Bishop, Pastor, Prophet, Elder, Evangelist, Minister, Deacon, Missionary, evaluate you and your lifestyle of faith to make sure it’s genuine. No, this is an inside job! “TEST AND EVALUATE YOURSELVES…” Your faith, and lack thereof, are your responsibility alone! You have no one to blame but yourself if you ‘miss the boat!’ It’s too late in the end-time hour to keep faking, pretending, acting like, and impersonating righteousness! It’s time to simply get Right and get Real!

Remember 2 Timothy 3:5, “Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.” Now, let’s look at this in a few translations shall we:

“holding to a FORM OF [OUTWARD] godliness (religion), although they have denied its power [for their conduct nullifies their claim of faith]. Avoid such people and keep far away from them.” (AMP);

“They will LOOK LIKE they are religious but deny God’s power. Avoid people like this.” (CEB);

“Even though they will MAKE A SHOW OF BEING RELIGIOUS, their religion WON’T BE REAL. Don’t have anything to do with such people.” (CEV);

“They will go on PRETENDING to be devoted to God, but they will refuse to let that “devotion” change the way they live. Stay away from these people!” (ERV);

“having the APPEARANCE of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.” (ESV);

“They will APPEAR to have a godly life, but they will not let its power change them. Stay away from such people.” (GWT);

“they will hold to the OUTWARD FORM of our religion, but reject its real power. Keep away from such people.” (GNT);

“They will go to church, yes, but they won’t really believe anything they hear. Don’t be taken in by people like that.” (TLB);

“They will do things to make it LOOK as if they are Christians. But they will not receive the power that is for a Christian. Keep away from such people.” (NLV)

Just like those artificial flowers that are so beautiful but so dead, it’s so easy to look like someone who belongs to Jesus but not really know Him. Especially if you’ve been around Jesus most of your life. You know the words. You believe the beliefs. You try to do the right things. You go to the right meetings. You give to the right things. And, quite possibly, everyone around you assumes you belong to Him Except Jesus! And He’s the only one who matters.

Listen: That “examine yourself” verse says to make sure “Christ Jesus is IN YOU.Not on you, as all the “I’m a Believer” symbols like to imply. You know, we like to carry the bible, talk in church lingo, have 10 titles, 15 robes, 20 crosses, all to look like we’re something we’re not. We’re attending Sunday School, Bible Study, Prayer Meetings, Revivals, Anniversaries, Outreach, and the like and still heading straight to hell as the Non-Believer we are at heart. It’s time we stop “wearing Christ” and actually have Him on the INSIDE. Because truly that is the only thing that will make a REAL difference.

A lot of people simply have Jesus AROUND them, but not IN them because there’s never been a time when they consciously and personally really opened up their life to Him. And I do mean all of it, not just the compartments you feel safe or comfortable in letting Him visit. But I mean letting Him move all the way in. Take your name off the deed to your body, and make it His sole property alone. It’s time to stop having Christ in our HEAD, but not in our HEART. Which means you will miss heaven by eighteen inches. (That’s how far it is from your head to your heart). And God says, “It is with the HEART man BELIEVES and is SAVED” (Romans 10:9). You Need Jesus in Your Heart, Not Just in Your Head, if You are to Ever Have a Real, True, Genuine, Authentic Relationship With Him!

Look at it like this: One night Keith went into a church…not married. The woman he wanted to marry came down the aisle. They stood in front of the minister. They walked out together, but Keith left still not married. Why? Because it was the rehearsal. However, the next night, same woman, same man, same minister, same aisle, but this time Keith walked out married. You see, the first night Keith was just going through the motions. But the second night he committed his life to her. Maybe you’ve been going through all the motions of knowing Jesus. But somewhere, you’ve missed the step of saying, “Jesus, I know what you did on that cross was for me. And you’re my only hope. Beginning right here, beginning right now, I am completely Yours! I turn my entire life into Your capable, nail scarred hands!” You see, that’s when you commit yourself to Him. Not practice, not rehearse, not go through the motions, not resemble, not look like, not pretend. But for real! Which means no more going to church every Sunday, singing the songs, dancing, leaping, running, clapping, shouting, praising, speaking in whatever tongues. In other words, no more show, no more performance, no more acting and acting like. But this time being real with God so you can finally be right with God. Because the truth is, you don’t have any more time to play and waste. As cliché as it may sound, His return is soon. And you don’t want to be unprepared. You want to be rapture ready. With no sorries, no explanations, no reasons, no requests for just a little more time. You want no remorse and no regrets. And the only way to secure that is to be Real, be Right and be Ready!

Matthew 25:1-13, “Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins, who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom.  Five of them were foolish [thoughtless, silly, and careless], and five were wise [far-sighted, practical, and sensible].  For when the foolish took their lamps, they did not take any [extra] oil with them, but the wise took flasks of oil along with their lamps.  Now while the bridegroom was delayed, they all began to nod off, and they fell asleep.  But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Look! The bridegroom [is coming]! Go out to meet him.’  Then all those virgins got up and put their own lamps in order [trimmed the wicks and added oil and lit them].  But the foolish virgins said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, because our lamps are going out.’  But the wise replied, ‘No, otherwise there will not be enough for us and for you, too; go instead to the dealers and buy oil for yourselves.’  But while they were going away to buy oil, the bridegroom came, AND THOSE WHO WERE READY WENT IN WITH HIM to the wedding feast; and the door was shut and locked.  Later the others also came, and said, ‘Lord, Lord, open [the door] for us.’  But He replied, ‘I assure you and most solemnly say to you, I DO NOT KNOW YOU [WE HAVE NO RELATIONSHIP].’  Therefore, be on the alert [BE PREPARED AND READY], for you do not know the day nor the hour [when the Son of Man will come].” (AMP)

For me, this was yet another Selah moment…

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be Left Behind. I want while I’m here to be planted and well rooted so that I may bear good fruit. And when it’s time to go home, I’m ready because I’m certain of my eternal resting place. So, two things need to take place for us. One, we need to be planted and rooted as Real Trees/Plants/Flowers that grow, develop and produce fruit! Matthew 7:15-20, “Be wary of false preachers who smile a lot, dripping with practiced sincerity. Chances are they are out to rip you off some way or other. Don’t be impressed with charisma; look for character. Who preachers are is the main thing, not what they say. A genuine leader will never exploit your emotions or your pocketbook. THESE DISEASED TREES WITH THEIR BAD APPLES ARE GOING TO BE CHOPPED DOWN AND BURNED.” (MSG); Luke 13:7-9, “Then he told them a story: “A man had an apple tree planted in his front yard. He came to it expecting to find apples, but there weren’t any. He said to his gardener, ‘What’s going on here? For three years now I’ve come to this tree expecting apples and not one apple have I found. CHOP IT DOWN! WHY WASTE GOOD GROUND WITH IT ANY LONGER?’ “The gardener said, ‘Let’s give it another year. I’ll dig around it and fertilize, and maybe it will produce next year; IF IT DOESN’T, THEN CHOP IT DOWN.’” (MSG).

WISDOM NUGGET: Don’t take advantage of your grace-period! Get planted, rooted, develop, grow and bear fruit before your barrenness gets you chopped down!

Secondly, don’t put off getting real and right for tomorrow!  James 4:13-17, “And now I have a word for you who brashly announce, “Today—at the latest, tomorrow—we’re off to such and such a city for the year. We’re going to start a business and make a lot of money.” You don’t know the first thing about tomorrow. You’re nothing but a wisp of fog, catching a brief bit of sun before disappearing. Instead, make it a habit to say, “If the Master wills it and we’re still alive, we’ll do this or that.” As it is, you are full of your grandiose selves. All such vaunting self-importance is evil. In fact, if you know the right thing to do and don’t do it, that, for you, is evil.” (MSG)

Today, is your best day to get real, get right and get ready! Don’t put off until tomorrow when you may very well end up among the tares, among the foolish virgins or the chopped down barren tree!

Don’t Let Fake Fool You, the Time to Get Real With God is TODAY!

Much Love, Dr. Shermaine #EnjoyTheRead #BeInspired #BeEncouraged #BeEmpowered #BeChallenged #ShareTheWord

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“Be YOU, Everyone Else is Taken”

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Psalm 51:16-17, “Going through the motions doesn’t please You, a flawless performance is nothing to You…” (MSG)

Me and my eldest daughter, Mo’Nae, absolutely love one particular movie that we’ve seen a million times. And yet, if it came on again tonight, we would both be crazy glued to the television as if we’ve never seen the movie before; have no idea of the plot and characters; as if we’re clueless as to how the movie ends. Sounds crazy, but it’s true. And what movie might you ask that has caused us such devoted repetition? Well, it’s called, “Catch Me If You Can”! And it’s based on a true story. You see, Frank Abagnale, Jr. lived a wild and crazy life as a doctor, airline pilot, banker, investor, attorney and celebrity. But before you assume that he must have been the most talented and gifted person to ever walk the face of the earth, listen to this: The Irony Is, He Was Never Authentically Any of Those! And even though he deserves an academy award for his portrayal of them, He Was a Fake, a Fraud, and a Pretender.

It all began early in his life when he realized he had the talent to convince people he was “somebody” through his sheer confidence and acting ability. However, he began to make money at his game and soon found himself addicted to role playing. And by the time it was all over, he’d helped perform surgery in an operating room, conned banks out of thousands of dollars, flown an airplane as a pilot, and gone to places most people only dream of going. The problem was – It Was All a Show!

Which reminds me of Psalm 51:16-17, “Going through the motions doesn’t please You, a flawless performance is nothing to You…” (MSG) At the end of the day, no matter how “flawless” you believe your performance was, it was still merely a performance. And no matter how awesome a Broadway show may be, at some point the actors bow, the curtains close, the audience leaves, and you have to lay down your costume-character and be the real you! That’s what happened to Frank.

A few years into it and he wanted out! The glamour was gone. He was desperate to come clean. But he had created such a web of deceit that it wasn’t easy. Which made me think of real actors, who have played a role for so long, people don’t know how to differentiate between the person and the part they play. For instance, I loved “Angie and Jessie” from All My Children. They were my all-time favorite soap opera couple. But I remember when I was younger, someone said to me, “you know you look a lot like Debbi Morgan”. I said, “really? Well who is she?” The person laughed and responded, “you don’t watch All My Children?” I said, “of course I do, that is when we have a day off from school”. She said “then how is it possible you don’t know who Debbi Morgan is?” I said, “I don’t remember a character on the show by that name.” The person laughed again, harder this time and said, “you know Angie, as in Jessie and Angie don’t you?” Well, of course I lost it by then. My response, “duh, who doesn’t know them, they’re my favorite. Angie is so pretty”. I reiterate, the person laughed…again…even harder than the last hard laugh! She said, “girl you do know Debbie is Angie? It’s her real name!” My jaw hit the floor. Truth is, I never thought of them as “characters”, Angie was really Angie! Well, what can I say, I only knew her as her “character”, I never knew the actual or real person behind the part being played.

And honestly, that’s a lot like many of us today, we’ve played our roles for so long, been in character for so long, read from the same script for so long, others (nor ourselves) can find the real us anymore. The danger in this is that we never live real and fulfilling lives. It’s always a show, a line always has to be remembered, we have to recall all the previous scenes and scripts. We pretend so long that we can’t find the real us under the layers of showmanship. That word “showmanship” is defined as “the manager or presenter of a circus or fair; a person skilled at entertaining, theatrical presentation, or performance.” And that’s what happens to us, we manage our lines, present a great show, we’re skilled at entertaining those we want to applaud us, we perform, no different than that of a circus act or fair! Such pretense is no different than imprisonment. And speaking of imprisonment, that’s exactly what happened to Frank. The FBI was onto him, and he ended up spending years in prison. Which makes me wonder, how many years of mental and emotional imprisonment have many of us suffered in because we never discovered the freedom of simply being ourselves. I agree wholeheartedly with Pastor Joel Osteen, “There’s a Freedom When You Can Be at Peace With NOT Being Perfect!” It is better to be Real, Imperfect You, than to be a Perfect Imitation of Someone You’re Not!

Another memory came to mind, and it’s when I was first saved. I wasn’t raised in church, and so all I had as examples were the women who were in my local church. They were older, and a lot more conservative. They wore conservative hairstyles, modest clothing and make-up, little heels but big hats. And little ole me trying to come from the streets to the other-side and “fit in”. And for many years, I was impressed with my own acting ability. I wore the long skirts, the wide-brim hats, the little touch of make-up, and of course I mastered the “church lingo”, knowing what to say, when to say it, how to say it, and who to say it around. And truth be told, those were the most miserable years of my entire life! I never felt like “me.” I was the young woman who loved to wear big hoop earrings, long box-braids, red fingernails, mini-skirts, black eyeliner (that I wore on my lips as well…lol!) Lord, I was a hot mess when I walked into that little church house. But if nothing else, I was authentically me. But then I came around people who were not like me and since I was the only “odd ball”, clearly I was the one who needed to change. I even remember the missionary that told me I had to stop wearing braids or I would never get a decent Christian husband. Don’t laugh, because I believed her! And so I stepped into character, and it took me well over a decade to step off the stage for the last time!

I look at a lot of my pictures from those days and very few have me smiling. I really wasn’t happy. I always felt trapped. I felt like a performing monkey. And no matter how horrible it made me feel, I lived by the motto, “the show must go on!”

Well, Frank had a great talent, but he wasted it pretending to be someone else. And I’m afraid, far too many of God’s children are doing the very same thing. We’re so busy performing for people who are performing themselves, that we never develop real character because we’re always playing one!

But listen to Paul’s words, “…I have finished the work I was to do…” Paul made it clear, my time-card is stamped with the time I actually put in to the work I was assigned to do! Not Timothy, not Barnabas, not John Mark, but I, Paul, have finished the work I was assigned to do! I wonder how many of us can claim that as our true testimony?

Listen, the reality is, you can only be yourself, because everyone else is taken! But the good news is, YOU are enough…as is!

Think about it, Paul wasn’t perfect! Listen to a portion of his life in 2 Corinthians 11:23-29: “I’ve worked much harder, been jailed more often, beaten up more times than I can count, and at death’s door time after time. I’ve been flogged five times with the Jews’ thirty-nine lashes, beaten by Roman rods three times, pummeled with rocks once. I’ve been shipwrecked three times, and immersed in the open sea for a night and a day. In hard traveling year in and year out, I’ve had to ford rivers, fend off robbers, struggle with friends, struggle with foes. I’ve been at risk in the city, at risk in the country, endangered by desert sun and sea storm, and betrayed by those I thought were my brothers. I’ve known drudgery and hard labor, many a long and lonely night without sleep, many a missed meal, blasted by the cold, naked to the weather. And that’s not the half of it, when you throw in the daily pressures and anxieties of all the churches…” (MSG)

Paul was authentically himself, even if being authentically himself was painful and unattractive! Paul suffered, but he was himself. Paul worked harder, went to jail, was beaten up, at the door of death, flogged, had rocks thrown at him, he was shipwrecked, had a hard time in travel, struggled with robbers, friends, foes, in the city and the country, baked by the desert sun and about to drown in a sea storm. He was betrayed, endured hard labor, he was lonely, sleepy, hungry, cold and naked, and still none of that tops the fact that he also had to fight with the pressures and anxieties of All the churches! And still Paul says, “…I have finished the work I was assigned to do…”!

Paul didn’t have it easy, but he remained true to himself, to his God, to the people he was responsible to lead and to his faith. And he did it all without pretense! And so can you!

Maybe your life’s journey has been as unappealing as Paul’s. Maybe you’ve had to wait on the unemployment line, wait for food stamps, wait for Medicaid, wait at the homeless shelter for a cot, wait at the soup kitchen for some crackers. However, your story is still beautiful even with some ugly chapters included! Truth is, we all have chapters in our life story that we don’t read aloud, and we certainly don’t share with others. However, God wants to bless YOU, not your character-role! He has blessings for you with your name on it but just as you have to show authentic ID to claim property, you’ll need to show the real you to claim your blessings! Angie can’t claim Debbi’s blessing, even if so many believe she’s one in the same. No, only one is real, authentic and identified! So it is the same with you.

Don’t waste your life away as Frank did.

Can you imagine though, who and what he could have actually become had he simply been himself?! And you are no different. So, don’t throw away who you can become by pretending to be someone else now. Be You! All of you! Imperfect, flawed, cracked, crazy-hair, crooked teeth, acne-faced, stretch-marked, out of shape YOU! No matter your marital status, financial status, leader or laity, no matter your educational background, your ethnicity, how many children you have or don’t have, how many divorces you’ve gotten, none of it matters! What matters most is that your are the Real you and that you finish the work that was given to you to complete!

Sarah couldn’t be Rebekah; Leah couldn’t be Deborah; David couldn’t be Judas; Esther couldn’t be Ruth; Peter couldn’t be John; Abigail couldn’t be Anna; Samson couldn’t be Jacob; Eli couldn’t be Matthew. And yet all of them were significant in Scripture, and none of them had to pretend to be someone else in order to accomplish it.

You are significant to the world, and more importantly to the Kingdom of God just as you are, the real you. Don’t dilute you; don’t masquerade you; don’t alter you; don’t attempt to be anyone else but you!

There’s a work for you to complete and a reward for you to receive, however, your “character” can’t complete your work nor receive your reward, only YOU can. Don’t forfeit your future by being a fraud. Ask the Lord what you are to do, and then do it. Ask the Lord who you are to be, then become it. Without excuse, apology, blame, or reason. You my friend, are enough. Be YOU, after all, there’s no one in all the world that can be YOU, except YOU!

“The day I pulled off the mask of pretense, fake happiness and put it in the trash – was the day when I peeped inside my heart and met my true self.” (Shilpi Sood)

“No one can long hide behind a mask; the pretense soon lapses into the true character.” (Seneca the Younger)

“Do they love you, or the mask you put on everyday?” (Shimika Bowers)

“Behind every mask there is a face, and behind that a story.” (Marty Rubin)

“Sometimes it’s not the people who change, it’s the mask that falls off.” (Author Unknown)

“If you want the great and mighty things God has for you, you must get to the root of anger and deal with it. Get rid of the masks and face the things that happened in your life that made you the way you are today. Admit that you can’t change by yourself. Until the root is removed, it’ll continue to produce one bad fruit after another.” (Joyce Meyer)

“Don’t be trapped behind a mask, acting out a life you don’t really want. Be honest with God and let Him remove your mask and replace it with a new you that doesn’t need to hide from the world.” (Author Unknown)

“It is better to be hated for what you are than to be loved for what you are not.” (Andre Gide)

“Honesty and transparency make you vulnerable. Be honest and transparent anyway.” (Mother Theresa)

“Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are.” (Brene Brown)

“There is nothing more beautiful than seeing a person being themselves. Imagine going through your day being unapologetically you.” (Jenny Garrett)

“By being yourself you put something wonderful in the world that was not there before.” (Edwin Elliot)

“Less Perfection, More Authenticity.” (Author Unknown)

“Don’t trade in your authenticity for approval.” (Author Unknown)

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

“Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else.” (Judy Garland)

“When you show up authentic, you create the space for others to do the same. Walk in your truth.” (Jenny Garrett)

“Remind yourself that you cannot fail at being yourself.” (Wayne W. Dyer)

“When you shine your own unique light in a way that only YOU can do, then, you are way beyond competition!” (Naralee)

“The real you is more interesting than the fake somebody else.” (Lauryn Hill)

“The most powerful lesson I’ve learned in life is to never act like someone you’re not. Not only will people know that you’re being fake, but you’re also fooling yourself by thinking that the REAL you isn’t good enough.” (Anthony Gucciardi)

Much Love, Dr. Shermaine #EnjoyTheRead #BeInspired #BeEncouraged #BeEmpowered #BeChallenged #ShareTheWord

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“Are You Following the Right Leader?”

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John 3:30, “He must increase [in prominence], but I must decrease.” (AMP); The Message Bible reads like this: “This is the assigned moment for Him to move into the center, while I slip off to the sidelines.” (MSG)

I am definitely one of those people that has to check and double-check everything I buy at the supermarket. Especially when it comes to dairy, meats, fresh fruit and vegetables. After all, when you’re raised in a house of two great cooks as parents, you come to believe that there really is an art to shopping for food. Some may not know any better, but truth is you can’t just grab the first apple or tomato you see! You have to learn to smell and squeeze the produce. And where did I get that from? My mom. She taught me how to do that as well as the importance of doing that. She taught me that you have to learn how to check for holes and dents in apples and peaches; you don’t just take the first one off the pile. You have to check to see how yellow those bananas are, or how green, or how black. In other words, there are ways to tell whether a fruit or vegetable is one you should buy. However, it’s much tougher to shop for a spiritual leader that’s a good one you can trust. Oh, but there is a way to tell!

Now if we are to be brutally honest, it’s getting tougher and tougher to know which spiritual leaders you can actually trust. After all, we’re living in a time when a lot of Christian heroes have let us down, right? People who say spiritual things, lead spiritual causes, give spiritual counsel, and then all of a sudden something happens that exposes their fleshy hypocrisy. In a way, it kind of makes a lot of us hold back and wonder who can we trust to govern, keep and protect our soul and that of our families?

Now, another truth we need to keep in mind is this, we’re not supposed to have our eyes on man in the first place! Jeremiah 17:5-6, “God’s Message: “Cursed is the strong one who depends on mere humans, Who thinks he can make it on muscle alone and sets God aside as dead weight. He’s like a tumbleweed on the prairie, out of touch with the good earth. He lives rootless and aimless in a land where nothing grows.” (MSG). Surely you don’t want that to be your testimony!

The Bible makes it clear that our focus should never be on flesh! 1 Samuel 16:7, “But God told Samuel, “Looks aren’t everything. Don’t be impressed with his looks and stature. I’ve already eliminated him. God judges persons differently than humans do. Men and women look at the face; God looks into the heart.” (MSG). That word ‘eliminate’ is defined as: ‘to completely remove or get rid of; to reject or exclude from consideration or further participation.’ Its Latin Origin ‘eliminare’ literally means ‘to turn out of doors.’ You see, this man wasn’t just rejected, but he was completely removed, God got rid of him, He made sure he was excluded from any consideration or participation; he was in essence kicked out his own house, turned outdoors! Therefore, if God doesn’t entertain ‘flesh; looks and stature’, why should we?

So, our focus on spiritual leadership shouldn’t be on the flesh, but on the spirit! God does give His people leadership; He does raise up leadership for the benefit of the Body of Christ. Ephesians 4:11-13,And [His gifts to the church were varied and] He Himself appointed some as apostles [special messengers, representatives], some as prophets [who speak a new message from God to the people], some as evangelists [who spread the good news of salvation], and some as pastors and teachers [to shepherd and guide and instruct],  [and He did this] to fully equip and perfect the saints (God’s people) for works of service, to build up the body of Christ [the church];  until we all reach oneness in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God, [growing spiritually] to become a mature believer, reaching to the measure of the fullness of Christ [manifesting His spiritual completeness and exercising our spiritual gifts in unity].” (MSG)

In other words, there are authentic spiritual leaders who are doing their job. God does want us to be able to get His teachings and see His love coming through people, but so many have let us down. How can you tell whether a pastor is a leader from God or a person who’s simply doing his own thing in God’s name?

Well, there’s one person that Jesus really held up as a model leader. It was John the Baptist. He said, “There has been no greater man born among women.” (Matthew 11:11) Now I cannot think of a stronger endorsement than that. Jesus said John the Baptist was the real deal; a real spiritual leader, worthy of following. And why was John the Baptist an ideal leader? In John 3:30, speaking of Jesus, John said this, “He must become greater; I must become less.The King James Version says, “He must increase; I must decrease.” 2 other translations read like this:

“Jesus must become more important, while I become less important.” (CEV);

“He must increase in importance, while I must decrease in importance.” (GWT);

You know how to test a spiritual leader? Well, one of the tests is this: Does he leave you thinking more about him or more about Jesus? Where is the spotlight focusing most and shining brightest, on him/herself, or God? Is it more about his organization, his goals, his ministry, his programs, or more about Jesus and the Great Commission He assigned for us to fulfill? An authentic man or woman of God, like John the Baptist, puts himself or herself in the background, on the sidelines, making sure that JESUS is the one who’s made to be Greater and More Important, in the very center. However, the leader doing his own thing is heavy on sentences that have: “I”, “me”, and “mine” in them, but rarely, “HIM”.

Is this the only test? No, but it’s a pretty good start. If you’re in leadership, measure yourself that way. Who is getting the attention, you the leader or the Savior? The real spiritual leaders, the ones you can trust, are the ones who put Jesus in the spotlight and make you think about Him and forget about them. They’re not seeking accolades and applause and amen’s. They don’t need their names called for everything, anything and nothing. They don’t need their picture posted on every wall nor do they need their name written on every piece of paper. They don’t need a chair the size of the Throne of God. Their main focus is that you focus mainly on Jesus! If that’s not the type of leader you are under, get out now!

Years ago I read about a man who maybe a hundred years ago had lived in the countryside in England. He traveled to London and wrote to his wife and said, “Honey, today I went to two of the great churches of London. This morning I heard Dr. Cartwright and he is a great preacher. Tonight I went to Metropolitan Tabernacle and I heard Mr. Charles Spurgeon.” He said, “Mr. Spurgeon has a great Savior.Leaders, after you’re done speaking, teaching or preaching, do you want them to remember a great preacher, or do you leave them thinking about a great Savior? I never like to leave a church or service feeling like I was just greatly entertained by an outstanding cast of performers. I don’t want to remember the songs, the dances, the praise breaks, the garments, the titles, the beauty of the sanctuary. But what I want to leave with is conviction that I can be a better believer than I have been. It’s rare these days that I actually hear sermons that speak on holiness, sanctification, repentance, sin, hell, consequences of bad choices, or even chastisement. Instead, messages focus more on houses, cars, land, spouses, promotions, increase, harvest, blessings, abundance, and the like. But what happened to using the Word to do what it was originally designed to do? And what’s that you ask? Well, 2 Timothy informs us:

2 Timothy 3:14-17, “But as for you, continue in the things that you have learned and of which you are convinced [holding tightly to the truths], knowing from whom you learned them, and how from childhood you have known the sacred writings (Hebrew Scriptures) which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus [surrendering your entire self to Him and having absolute confidence in His wisdom, power and goodness].  All Scripture is God-breathed [given by divine inspiration] and is profitable for instruction, for conviction [of sin], for correction [of error and restoration to obedience], for training in righteousness [learning to live in conformity to God’s will, both publicly and privately—behaving honorably with personal integrity and moral courage]; so that the man of God may be complete and proficient, outfitted and thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (AMP)

The Message Bible says it like this: “But don’t let it faze you. Stick with what you learned and believed, sure of the integrity of your teachers—why, you took in the sacred Scriptures with your mother’s milk! There’s nothing like the written Word of God for showing you the way to salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. Every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another—showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God’s way. Through the Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us.” (MSG)

For some reason I don’t think the Word is being preached or taught in this manner anymore. Because everyone is happy, over-joyed and excited to leave church when the Word is done. However, the Word says when the Word comes forth it will instruct, convict, correct, train, and exposeSo if that’s how the Word is coming forth, why are we so happy after every sermon, every week? We should leave after the Word feeling as though we’ve received instructions since we’ve been convicted and corrected of wrongs, and now we’re being trained to be better since our worst has been exposed. We should leave with pad and pen in hand and a list of what we need to make our own lives better.

Now, I certainly don’t believe you should spend Sunday after Sunday being busted upside the head with the Bible. But shouldn’t something be said week after week that makes you better week after week? And not “feel” better, but “be and do better.” There is indeed a difference.

Maybe you’ve been burned by Christians, by a Christian leader, many of us have. I’ve certainly had the experience of being hurt by spiritual leadership. But don’t let them cause you to miss Jesus in the midst of it all. Sometimes I think we get so lost in “Following Them”, that we forget Jesus said, “Follow Me.” Does that mean we ignore spiritual leadership? Absolutely not! Romans 13:1-7, “Every person must obey the leaders of the land. There is no power given but from God, and all leaders are allowed by God. The person who does not obey the leaders of the land is working against what God has done. Anyone who does that will be punished. Those who do right do not have to be afraid of the leaders. Those who do wrong are afraid of them. Do you want to be free from fear of them? Then do what is right. You will be respected instead. Leaders are God’s servants to help you. If you do wrong, you should be afraid. They have the power to punish you. They work for God. They do what God wants done to those who do wrong. You must obey the leaders of the land, not only to keep from God’s anger, but so your own heart will have peace.  It is right for you to pay taxes because the leaders of the land are servants for God who care for these things.  Pay taxes to whom taxes are to be paid. Be afraid of those you should fear. Respect those you should respect.” (NLV);

Hebrews 13:17, “Be responsive to your pastoral leaders. Listen to their counsel. They are alert to the condition of your lives and work under the strict supervision of God. Contribute to the joy of their leadership, not its drudgery. Why would you want to make things harder for them?” (MSG).

In other words, leadership be it in the church or in the land is to be respected. Now, you don’t have much say so in the leaders of the land, but you have a lot of say so under which leader you submit to in any given church. You are not their by force but by choice, so choose your place of worship wisely. Don’t make a selection as though it were an arena, museum, palace, stage or theater. But ask God for godly wisdom that you make the right choice to serve in the right house of worship under the right leader.

And what are some signs that you have the right leader? Just listen to Scripture:

Matthew 17:6-8, “When the disciples heard it, they fell flat on their faces, scared to death. But Jesus came over and touched them. “Don’t be afraid.” When they opened their eyes and looked around all they saw was Jesus, only Jesus.” (MSG) You need to be submitted under a leader that makes you see Only Jesus. Not them, their accomplishments, titles, positions, vestments, rings, robes, initials, degrees, collars, etc…But Only Jesus!

1 Corinthians 2:2, “You’ll remember, friends, that when I first came to you to let you in on God’s master stroke, I didn’t try to impress you with polished speeches and the latest philosophy. I deliberately kept it plain and simple: first Jesus and who he is; then Jesus and what he did—Jesus crucified.” (MSG) You need to be submitted under a leader whose preaching and teaching is about who Jesus is and what Jesus did. Not who they are (or think they are) not on what they’ve done (or think they’ve done). But a leader who keeps the name of Jesus on his/her lips when preaching or teaching. Not someone using Greek, Latin, and Hebrew in every other sentence, and certainly not someone who you need to keep the Webster’s Dictionary on hand every other 2 lines to know what 23 letter words they keep using every 5 minutes to be verbally impressive! A good leader keeps it “plain and simple.” And to those of my preacher friends who stand flat foot and preach and teach the ‘plain and simple’ Gospel, without hoop and holler, please do not compare yourselves to those who do. A hoop and holler are not the equivalent or evidence of the Holy Ghost, it is but a person’s preferred style of execution. It’s apart of their personality in how they choose to deliver. So, never feel as though you are not making the same, or even a greater impact on the lives of your hearers, just because your delivery is packaged differently. You don’t have to yell, scream, sweat, do back-flacks, bang the podium, spin around in circles with fancy footwork, flying hands and spit spreading everywhere. You can still, speak what God gave you and go sit down without breaking a sweat, and still watch souls be added to the Kingdom of God. Remember, whatever your ‘preferred style’, the importance is on the Message being delivered in its most plain and simple form. Look at it like this: If a person who’s diabetic has their glucose levels shoot up through the roof, do you really think at a time like that, they want someone to hand them a pen of insulin and teach a 2 hour, detailed tutorial on the history of insulin, before they use it? No, they need a straight shot! Stick pen now! And truthfully there are a lot of people coming to our churches that are leaving empty because we’ve over-complicated the message. You can’t properly apply what you don’t clearly understand. Therefore, I reiterate, what your ‘preferred style’ is, for the sake of the people’s soul and eternity, keep it ‘plain and simple.’

Galatians 1:10-12, “Do you think I speak this strongly in order to manipulate crowds? Or curry favor with God? Or get popular applause? If my goal was popularity, I wouldn’t bother being Christ’s slave. Know this—I am most emphatic here, friends—this great Message I delivered to you is not mere human optimism. I didn’t receive it through the traditions, and I wasn’t taught it in some school. I got it straight from God, received the Message directly from Jesus Christ.” (MSG) You need to be submitted to a leader that is void of intimidation and manipulation. A leader that doesn’t need and seek applause and popularity. A leader that doesn’t attempt to impress with 9 titles and 14 initials (half of which were bought, not earned). A leader that hears from God and speaks the unadulterated Word of God to His people. A leader who is not into people pleasing, is sure to help you grow to your full potential.

Colossians 3:23-25, “Servants, do what you’re told by your earthly masters. And don’t just do the minimum that will get you by. Do your best. Work from the heart for your real Master, for God, confident that you’ll get paid in full when you come into your inheritance. Keep in mind always that the ultimate Master you’re serving is Christ. The sullen servant who does shoddy work will be held responsible. Being a follower of Jesus doesn’t cover up bad work.” (MSG) You need to be submitted to a leader that knows who the real Master is (and that it clearly is not them). Working in the church they pastor, still means you are working for God! Avoid leaders who make you feel as though you work personally for them. The work of the ministry has nothing to do with mere man. The work of the ministry is adding souls to the Kingdom. And even in this work, we are to put forth our best effort, remembering WHO it is we’re working for. Avoid leaders who act as though the Church is their personal incorporation. A leader of humility and servanthood is who you sit under submissively. A leader that does his/her best which brings out the very same in you! That’s the leader you follow.

2 Timothy 4:3-4, “You’re going to find that there will be times when people will have no stomach for solid teaching, but will fill up on spiritual junk food—catchy opinions that tickle their fancy. They’ll turn their backs on truth and chase mirages. But you—keep your eye on what you’re doing; accept the hard times along with the good; keep the Message alive; do a thorough job as God’s servant.” (MSG) You need to be submitted to a leader that will feed you the unadulterated Word of God. I love the word “unadulterated” because it’s simply defined as “having no inferior added substance.” In other words, you need a leader that will call it “Adultery”, not “An Affair”; “Sin” and not “An Issue”. You need a leader that possesses the wisdom of when to cover you and when to expose you. You need the bread of life, not a cake of compromise. A leader that will tell you when you’re wrong, not help you try to justify it as right. You need a leader that will continue to serve you the Solid Meat of the Word even when your flesh only wants to Digest Spiritual Junk Food!

Galatians 2:19-21, “What actually took place is this: I tried keeping rules and working my head off to please God, and it didn’t work. So I quit being a “law man” so that I could be God’s man. Christ’s life showed me how, and enabled me to do it. I identified myself completely with him. Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not “mine,” but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I am not going to go back on that. Is it not clear to you that to go back to that old rule-keeping, peer-pleasing religion would be an abandonment of everything personal and free in my relationship with God? I refuse to do that, to repudiate God’s grace. If a living relationship with God could come by rule-keeping, then Christ died unnecessarily.” (MSG) You need a leader just like that!

If you see a leader who leaves you thinking about Jesus, in the crowded spiritual supermarket that you and I shop in, you’ll know that’s one worth buying into. So, after this little lesson, it is my prayer that you will carefully, thoroughly, honestly re-evaluate your spiritual leadership. Make sure you are in the right house with the right head. The loss of your soul is too costly!

Remember our opening text:

John 3:30, “He must increase [in prominence], but I must decrease.”; (AMP);

“This is the assigned moment for Him to move into the center, while I slip off to the sidelines.” (MSG);

“Jesus must become more important, while I become less important.” (CEV);

“He must increase in importance, while I must decrease in importance.” (GWT).

There are many things you can use to measure good leadership, but why not follow the ruler Jesus Himself used? He used John the Baptist because He wasn’t out to compete with Him, he was out to make Jesus the most prominent; the center; and the most important, even if that meant he was to decrease; slip off to the sidelines and become less important. If you dare find a leader like that, follow him/her closely, you’ve indeed found the right one!

Charles H. Spurgeon Quotes:

“A time will come when instead of shepherds feeding the sheep, the church will have clowns entertaining the goats.”

“That very church which the world likes best is sure to be that which God abhors.”

“Satan, he can make men dance upon the brink of hell as though they were on the verge of heaven.”

“I believe that one reason why the Church of God at this present moment has so little influence over the world is because the world has so much influence over the Church.”

“The preaching of Christ is the whip that flogs the devil. The preaching of Christ is the thunderbolt, the sound of which makes hell shake.”

“The Word of God is like a Lion. You don’t have to defend a lion. All you have to do is let the lion loose and the lion will defend itself”

“Visit many good books, but live in the Bible”

“If you are idle in Christ’s work, you are active in the devil’s work”

“If sinners be damned at least let them leap to hell over our dead bodies. And if they perish, let them perish with our arms wrapped around their knees. If hell must be filled, let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let no one go unwarned or unprayed for.”

“People, like sheep, tend to follow a leader – occasionally in the right direction.” (Alexander Chase)

“According to Scripture, virtually everything that truly qualifies a person for leadership is directly related to character.” (John MacArthur)

“Leadership is unlocking people’s potential to become better.” (Bill Bradley)

“Leaders don’t create followers, they create more leaders.” (Tom Peters)

“A man who wants to lead the orchestra must turn his back on the crowd.” (Max Lucado)

“Leadership is not about titles, positions or flowcharts. It is about one life influencing another.” (John C. Maxwell)

“To become a leader worth following, you must give time and attention to the inner man. To leave a legacy that goes beyond accomplishments alone, a leader must devote himself to matters of the heart.” (Andy Stanley)

“Christian leadership is a privilege of being in the service of influencing God’s people to achieve divine vision and purpose.” (Tionge Matela Msiska)

“Most Christian leadership is exercised by people who do not know how to develop healthy, intimate relationships and have opted for power and control instead. Many Christian empire-builders have been people unable to give and receive love.” (Henri Nouwen)

“A leader is one who sees more than others see, who sees farther than others see, and who sees before others see.” (Leroy Eims)

“Leadership is not about positions and having people bow to you. It’s not about having titles conferred on you. Leadership is about service. It is about helping people fulfill their God-given purpose.” (Pastor Mensa Otabil)

“To keep the wrong leader in the wrong place prevents the right leader from being in the right place.” (Aubrey Malphurs)

“Hold yourself responsible for a higher standard than anybody expects of you. Never excuse yourself.” (Author Unknown)

“Those of us who have been privileged to receive education, skills and experiences and even power must be role models for the next generation of leadership.” (Wangar Maathai)

“Leadership is all about people. It is not about organizations. It is not about plans. It is not about strategies. It is all about people-motivating people to get the job done. You have to be people-centered.” (Colin Powell)

“Your gifts are not about you; leadership is not about you; your purpose is not about you. A life of significance is about serving those who need your gifts, your leadership, your purpose.” (Kevin Hall)

“A big part of leadership is recognizing that your fruit often grows on other people’s trees.” (Todd Adkins)

“True leadership is the authority given by the trust of the followers to use power for the benefit of all.” (Dr. Myles Munroe)

“Every local church has a leader, but it seems so few local churches are being led.” (Andy Stanley)

“Leadership in church is one of the biggest challenges that the church is facing because without strong leadership, the church rarely lives out its redemptive potentials.” (Bill Hybels)

“Spiritual leadership is knowing where God wants people to to be and taking the initiative to get them there by God’s means in reliance on God’s power.” (John Piper)

“Leaders must be close enough to relate to others, but far enough ahead to motivate them.” (John Maxwell)

“The art of communication is the language of leadership.” (James C. Humes)

“The true test of leadership is how well you function in a crisis.” (Brian Tracy)

“The story of the church, as depicted in the book of Acts, is one of a community of faith directed by a team of leaders working together toward a common vision. Had the church relied upon a single, incredibly gifted, magnetic individual to replace Jesus, the church would surely have collapsed.” (George Barna)

“Integrity is the most valuable and respected quality of leadership. Always keep your word.” (Brian Tracy)

“If serving is below you, leadership is beyond you.” (Bishop Dale C. Bronner)

Much Love, Dr. Shermaine #EnjoyTheRead #BeInspired #BeEncouraged #BeEmpowered #BeChallenged #ShareTheWord

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“Don’t Let Fake Fool You!”

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Matthew 13:24-25, “Jesus gave them another parable [to consider], saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field.  But while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds [RESEMBLING WHEAT] among the wheat…” (AMP)

I guess as a woman it would be considered rather strange that I don’t particularly care for Roses. I don’t consider them ugly, I just don’t possess a particular fondness for them. And to be honest, I really don’t like any one set flower. However, if you really want my heart to sing, give me a mixed bouquet of wildflowers! I absolutely love a bouquet of mixed flowers with all the different shapes, sizes, colors etc…it just captures my heart and instantly makes me smile!

However, I must share this. One of my coworkers had a beautiful bouquet of flowers on her desk. I stopped by to pick up some work, and there I saw these amazing flowers in a vase. Wildflowers! My Wildflowers! I actually noticed a few more times as I hustled down the hall past her door. I really felt like a flower stalker! I just couldn’t help myself. I would walk past her office, even if I had no reason to, just to take a glimpse at her huge bouquet of the wildflowers I so love. But then one day, I actually put on the brakes for a moment and I stuck my head all the way in the office and told her, I have just got to smell the flowers on your desk. I leaned over and inhaled deeply…needless to say…it wasn’t worth the stop. You see, after all of that peeking, visiting, stalking, admiring, smiling and smelling…I exhaled my disappointment. The beautiful, breath-taking wildflower bouquet was a fake! It looked so real, too real, so real in fact that I couldn’t tell they were fake until I got close enough to realize they didn’t have the scent real flowers possess.

Which made me think of us, the church, the body of believer’s. Do we carry the Real Scent of our Savior? 2 Corinthians 2:15, “For we are the sweet fragrance of Christ [which ascends] to God, [discernible both] among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.” (AMP)

You know, those flowers can sure fool you. They look so real, but they have no life. They look so authentic, but they have no scent. Just like so many folks who look like they really belong to Jesus Christ, but there’s no life, no sweet fragrance of Christ.

Jesus warned us about this fatal difference in His story about God’s Kingdom being like a wheat field. Listen: Matthew 13:24-30, “Jesus gave them another parable [to consider], saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field.  But while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds [RESEMBLING WHEAT] among the wheat, and went away. So when the plants sprouted and formed grain, the weeds appeared also.  The servants of the owner came to him and said, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? Then how does it have weeds in it?’ He replied to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants asked him, ‘Then do you want us to go and pull them out?’ But he said, ‘No; because as you pull out the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them.  Let them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, “First gather the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; but gather the wheat into my barn.”’”(AMP)

Just because God hasn’t uprooted the phony weeds now, doesn’t mean He won’t later. In fact, the phony weeds will be first to be gathered, tied and burned. So, don’t by any stretch of the imagination think that you’re getting away with Imitation Christianity. God knows who are His and who are not. He knows who’s real, and who’s fake (no matter how well a performance or appearance they put on).

In another place, Jesus describes people who will come before Him on Judgment Day, talking all the right Christian words and beliefs and activities. But He’ll tell them, “I never knew you.Now, that’s what you call some frightening words! Here’s the Scripture in full: Matthew 7:21-23, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven.  Many will say to Me on that day [when I judge them], ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, and driven out demons in Your name, and done many miracles in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them publicly, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me [you are banished from My presence], you who act wickedly [disregarding My commands].’ (AMP) The Message Bible reads like this: “Knowing the correct password—saying ‘Master, Master,’ for instance—isn’t going to get you anywhere with me. What is required is serious obedience—doing what my Father wills. I can see it now—at the Final Judgment thousands strutting up to me and saying, ‘Master, we preached the Message, we bashed the demons, our God-sponsored projects had everyone talking.’ And do you know what I am going to say? ‘You missed the boat. All you did was use me to make yourselves important. You don’t impress me one bit. You’re out of here.’ (MSG)

I don’t know about you, but that certainly gave me a Selah moment! And that moment took me straight to 2 Corinthians 13:5, “Test and evaluate yourselves to see whether you are in the faith and living your lives as [committed] believers. Examine yourselves [not me]! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves [by an ongoing experience] that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test and are rejected as counterfeit?” (AMP) The Message Bible reads like this: “Test yourselves to make sure you are solid in the faith. Don’t drift along taking everything for granted. Give yourselves regular checkups. You need firsthand evidence, not mere hearsay, that Jesus Christ is in you. Test it out. If you fail the test, do something about it…” (vss. 5-9 MSG).

The time to realize that you know ABOUT Jesus but you don’t KNOW Him is NOW, not when you’re standing before Him, BECAUSE THEN IT’S TOO LATE! Now, is the time to self-exam and get yourself together! Now, is the time to make sure you’re planted, deeply rooted among the wheat, the real wheat, not them ‘Resembling Wheat!’ If you find yourself amongst the Tares, tear yourself away and get right! Or you’ll find yourself falling in the same category as those whom Christ said, “I Never Knew You!” And pay attention to the text, because it doesn’t say let the Apostle, Bishop, Pastor, Prophet, Elder, Evangelist, Minister, Deacon, Missionary, evaluate you and your lifestyle of faith to make sure it’s genuine. No, this is an inside job! “TEST AND EVALUATE YOURSELVES…” Your faith, and lack thereof, are your responsibility alone! You have no one to blame but yourself if you ‘miss the boat!’ It’s too late in the end-time hour to keep faking, pretending, acting like, and impersonating righteousness! It’s time to simply get Right and get Real!

Remember 2 Timothy 3:5, “Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.” Now, let’s look at this in a few translations shall we:

“holding to a FORM OF [OUTWARD] godliness (religion), although they have denied its power [for their conduct nullifies their claim of faith]. Avoid such people and keep far away from them.” (AMP);

“They will LOOK LIKE they are religious but deny God’s power. Avoid people like this.” (CEB);

“Even though they will MAKE A SHOW OF BEING RELIGIOUS, their religion WON’T BE REAL. Don’t have anything to do with such people.” (CEV);

“They will go on PRETENDING to be devoted to God, but they will refuse to let that “devotion” change the way they live. Stay away from these people!” (ERV);

“having the APPEARANCE of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.” (ESV);

“They will APPEAR to have a godly life, but they will not let its power change them. Stay away from such people.” (GWT);

“they will hold to the OUTWARD FORM of our religion, but reject its real power. Keep away from such people.” (GNT);

“They will go to church, yes, but they won’t really believe anything they hear. Don’t be taken in by people like that.” (TLB);

“They will do things to make it LOOK as if they are Christians. But they will not receive the power that is for a Christian. Keep away from such people.” (NLV)

Just like those artificial flowers that are so beautiful but so dead, it’s so easy to look like someone who belongs to Jesus but not really know Him. Especially if you’ve been around Jesus most of your life. You know the words. You believe the beliefs. You try to do the right things. You go to the right meetings. You give to the right things. And, quite possibly, everyone around you assumes you belong to Him Except Jesus! And He’s the only one who matters.

Listen: That “examine yourself” verse says to make sure “Christ Jesus is IN YOU.Not on you, as all the “I’m a Believer” symbols like to imply. You know, we like to carry the bible, talk in church lingo, have 10 titles, 15 robes, 20 crosses, all to look like we’re something we’re not. We’re attending Sunday School, Bible Study, Prayer Meetings, Revivals, Anniversaries, Outreach, and the like and still heading straight to hell as the Non-Believer we are at heart. It’s time we stop “wearing Christ” and actually have Him on the INSIDE. Because truly that is the only thing that will make a REAL difference.

A lot of people simply have Jesus around them, but not in them because there’s never been a time when they consciously and personally really opened up their life to Him. And I do mean all of it, not just the compartments you feel safe or comfortable in letting Him visit. But I mean letting Him move all the way in. Take your name off the deed to your body, and make it His sole property alone. It’s time to stop having Christ in our head, but not in our heart. Which means you will miss heaven by eighteen inches. (That’s how far it is from your head to your heart). And God says, “It is with the HEART man BELIEVES and is SAVED” (Romans 10:9). You Need Jesus in Your Heart, Not Just in Your Head, if You are to Ever Have a Real, True, Genuine, Authentic Relationship With Him!

Look at it like this: One night Keith went into a church…not married. The woman he wanted to marry came down the aisle. They stood in front of the minister. They walked out together, but Keith left still not married. Why? Because it was the rehearsal. However, the next night, same woman, same man, same minister, same aisle, but this time Keith walked out married. You see, the first night Keith was just going through the motions. But the second night he committed his life to her. Maybe you’ve been going through all the motions of knowing Jesus. But somewhere, you’ve missed the step of saying, “Jesus, I know what you did on that cross was for me. And you’re my only hope. Beginning right here, beginning right now, I am completely Yours! I turn my entire life into Your capable, nail scarred hands!” You see, that’s when you commit yourself to Him. Not practice, not rehearse, not go through the motions, not resemble, not look like, not pretend. But for real! Which means no more going to church every Sunday, singing the songs, dancing, leaping, running, clapping, shouting, praising, speaking in whatever tongues. In other words, no more show, no more performance, no more acting and acting like. But this time being real with God so you can finally be right with God. Because the truth is, you don’t have any more time to play and waste. As cliché as it may sound, His return is soon. And you don’t want to be unprepared. You want to be rapture ready. With no sorries, no explanations, no reasons, no requests for just a little more time. You want no remorse and no regrets. And the only way to secure that is to be Real, be Right and be Ready!

Matthew 25:1-13, “Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins, who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom.  Five of them were foolish [thoughtless, silly, and careless], and five were wise [far-sighted, practical, and sensible].  For when the foolish took their lamps, they did not take any [extra] oil with them, but the wise took flasks of oil along with their lamps.  Now while the bridegroom was delayed, they all began to nod off, and they fell asleep.  But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Look! The bridegroom [is coming]! Go out to meet him.’  Then all those virgins got up and put their own lamps in order [trimmed the wicks and added oil and lit them].  But the foolish virgins said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, because our lamps are going out.’  But the wise replied, ‘No, otherwise there will not be enough for us and for you, too; go instead to the dealers and buy oil for yourselves.’  But while they were going away to buy oil, the bridegroom came, AND THOSE WHO WERE READY WENT IN WITH HIM to the wedding feast; and the door was shut and locked.  Later the others also came, and said, ‘Lord, Lord, open [the door] for us.’  But He replied, ‘I assure you and most solemnly say to you, I DO NOT KNOW YOU [WE HAVE NO RELATIONSHIP].’  Therefore, be on the alert [BE PREPARED AND READY], for you do not know the day nor the hour [when the Son of Man will come].” (AMP)

For me, this was yet another Selah moment…

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be Left Behind. I want while I’m here to be planted and well rooted so that I may bear good fruit. And when it’s time to go home, I’m ready because I’m certain of my eternal resting place. So, two things need to take place for us. One, we need to be planted and rooted as Real Trees/Plants/Flowers that grow, develop and produce fruit! Matthew 7:15-20, “Be wary of false preachers who smile a lot, dripping with practiced sincerity. Chances are they are out to rip you off some way or other. Don’t be impressed with charisma; look for character. Who preachers are is the main thing, not what they say. A genuine leader will never exploit your emotions or your pocketbook. THESE DISEASED TREES WITH THEIR BAD APPLES ARE GOING TO BE CHOPPED DOWN AND BURNED.” (MSG); Luke 13:7-9, “Then he told them a story: “A man had an apple tree planted in his front yard. He came to it expecting to find apples, but there weren’t any. He said to his gardener, ‘What’s going on here? For three years now I’ve come to this tree expecting apples and not one apple have I found. CHOP IT DOWN! WHY WASTE GOOD GROUND WITH IT ANY LONGER?’ “The gardener said, ‘Let’s give it another year. I’ll dig around it and fertilize, and maybe it will produce next year; IF IT DOESN’T, THEN CHOP IT DOWN.’” (MSG).

WISDOM NUGGET: Don’t take advantage of your grace-period! Get planted, rooted, develop, grow and bear fruit before your barrenness gets you chopped down!

Secondly, don’t put off getting real and right for tomorrow!  James 4:13-17, “And now I have a word for you who brashly announce, “Today—at the latest, tomorrow—we’re off to such and such a city for the year. We’re going to start a business and make a lot of money.” You don’t know the first thing about tomorrow. You’re nothing but a wisp of fog, catching a brief bit of sun before disappearing. Instead, make it a habit to say, “If the Master wills it and we’re still alive, we’ll do this or that.” As it is, you are full of your grandiose selves. All such vaunting self-importance is evil. In fact, if you know the right thing to do and don’t do it, that, for you, is evil.” (MSG)

Today, is your best day to get real, get right and get ready! Don’t put off until tomorrow when you may very well end up among the tares, among the foolish virgins or the chopped down barren tree!

Don’t Let Fake Fool You, the Time to Get Real With God is Today!

Much Love, Dr. Shermaine #EnjoyTheRead #BeInspired #BeEncouraged #BeEmpowered #BeChallenged #ShareTheWord

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“Don’t Judge My Character, When You Don’t Know My Story!”

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“…What’s the STORY behind these ruins?” (1 Kings 9:6-9 MSG)

“I’m on the edge of losing it – the pain in my gut keeps burning. I’m ready to tell my STORY of failure…” (Psalm 38:17-20 MSG)

Anybody that knows me, knows how much I love dogs! In fact, if I wasn’t so busy, I’d have a dog right now! You see, I’ve had them ever since I was a baby. Every breed, every size! And those that know me best, know that German Shepherds have always been my favorite dog, since my favorite childhood dog was a German Shepherd named “Captain.” Every time I see a dog, whether walking down the street or if I’m in the car or on the bus, I instantly turn into a 5 year old screaming, “daddy can I have him?” In a nutshell: I Love Dogs!

However, I’ve never met a pup quite like my friends Yorkie “Bella”. You see, Bella wasn’t very easy to get to know. She was such a cutie pie though! So little, so adorable, but not approachable at all! In my experience, most dogs run up to you when you come to the door, even if you’re a stranger, and they’re usually all over you. But Not Bella! She ran the other way and cowered in the corner! No matter how gentle, or how friendly you were to her, it didn’t matter. As soon as she saw someone coming, she ran in the opposite direction! She refused to come out of her corner for anybody! Strange dog,” I thought. However, that was until my girlfriend explained that Bella had been terribly abused by her first owners. So, when she saw people, she saw pain.

You couldn’t understand the way Bella Acted, until you knew her Story. Believe it or not, but people are like that, too.

You watch how they act, how they treat people, you see the bad attitude they have, and you say, “I don’t know what her problem is, but I don’t have to deal with her foolishness! I don’t know why he woke up on the wrong side of the bed, but I will not be treated like I was his aggravating alarm clock that disturbed his beauty sleep! Or, you respond with the same garbage they just dished out to you. So often we judge people with little, distorted or no information at all! We see what they do, and assume that’s who they are. But rarely is that ever the case.

I’ve discovered that the “make a difference” people in this world, the healers, are the ones who never forget this critical issue in dealing with people: YOU CAN’T UNDERSTAND THE WAY THEY ACT, UNTIL YOU KNOW THEIR STORY! AND EVERYBODY’S GOT A STORY!

I remember discovering how wrong I had been about some of the women in my leadership group, AFTER many of them poured out their hearts at our women’s retreat. Late into the night, people you thought you knew, revealed the pain in their background. Some of the women who were “distant” were physically, mentally, verbally, and sexually abused. Some of the women who had “bad attitudes” actually suffered from varying mental illnesses (such as depression). Some of the women who “dogged men out“, were in relationships that treated them like property instead of like a person. Some of the women who didn’t like to be a “part of our social gatherings“, were actually ex-alcoholics, and although our events had no alcohol at them, for them, just being in a place with a lot of people, laughing, joking, having fun, listening to music, all gave them urges to need a drink (since that was mostly the settings when they did drink). They were simply trying to avoid the triggers that have shot them in the past!

In other words, suddenly the lights went on and I said, “So that’s what I’ve been seeing all these years! It had nothing to do with their personality, just their personal, private, painful past.I felt bad that I had been responding to them based on their deeds, and never considered the needs behind those deeds.

Reminds me of parenting my children as babies. I had my oldest daughter at 17 and my youngest at 19, so I wasn’t exactly the most patient, understanding or experienced parent! I could deal with them crying because they were hungry or wet, but it was those times when they would cry, and for the life of me I couldn’t figure out what they were crying about, that drove me nuts! There were times I would cry because I couldn’t figure out why they were crying. Panic attacks would set in, depression would be overwhelming…and then my mom would come in the room, pick them up, close my door, and take them to her room. I guess some “motherly sixth-sense” would kick in and she would know when to come to my rescue. I remember feeling so discouraged, inadequate, and like a down-right poor excuse of a mother, because I couldn’t figure out why my children were crying. Me and mom had a little chat not long after those early days, and she said, “every cry has a story behind it, some chapters are quick and you find out right away, but then some you have to wait it out until chapter 40 before you figure it out. Either way, every cry has a story behind it.” I have no idea what made me recall that today, but that’s what brought out this devotional.

And the truth is, there are some people that we come into contact with on a daily basis (in our homes, churches, work, school, supermarket, laundromat, hair and nail salon etc…) that are “crying”. But unfortunately, we get so frustrated because we don’t know why they’re crying that we simply ignore the cry, or wait for someone else to come and pick them up and figure it out. I can’t even imagine the amount of people who have left our churches because they were “crying” and no one took the time and patience to figure out why. We were so busy being frustrated by the “noise” of their behavior, attitude, ways, and words, that we didn’t listen for the story behind the act of ‘crying’.

Problem is, we’re too busy reacting, instead of listening. Which brings to mind Ephesians 4, beginning with verse 29. He says, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up, according to their NEEDS, that it may benefit those who listen” (NIV).

Let’s, as my custom, view this verse in a few translations, shall we?:

“Do not let unwholesome [foul, profane, worthless, vulgar] words ever come out of your mouth, but only such speech as is good for building up others, according to the NEED and the occasion, so that it will be a blessing to those who hear [you speak].” (AMP);

“Don’t let any foul words come out of your mouth. Only say what is helpful when it is NEEDED for building up the community so that it benefits those who hear what you say.” (CEB);

“When you talk, don’t say anything bad. But say the good things that people NEED—whatever will help them grow stronger. Then what you say will be a blessing to those who hear you.” (ERV);

“Don’t say anything that would hurt another person. Instead, speak only what is good so that you can give help wherever it is NEEDED. That way, what you say will help those who hear you.” (GWT);

“Do not use harmful words, but only helpful words, the kind that build up and provide what is NEEDED, so that what you say will do good to those who hear you.” (GNT);

“Watch your talk! No bad words should be coming from your mouth. Say what is good. Your words should help others grow as Christians.” (NLV)

In other words, don’t say things that will tear a person down, only things that will build that person up! Why? Because you’re focusing on their NEEDS, not their DEEDS! The word “need” is defined as “something required because it is essential or very important; expressing necessity or obligation; circumstances in which a thing or course of action is required.” And despite what their deeds may have been, there were needs that they stemmed from (if only we would take the patience and time to figure them out).  And according to Scripture and the very definition of the word “need”, this is what God is requiring of us, as essential for them.

Listen: Whether that person is your child, your spouse, your parent, your friend, your coworker, or someone at church, they’re response is more about their need than their deed. And no matter what their response, your reaction is to meet their need! You are to love them enough to listen to their story until you can find the chapter their stuck in that needs and requires your help. Are you obligated to do that? Absolutely! “You are your brother/sisters keeper!John 13:35, “By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you have love and unselfish concern for one another.” (AMP) The Message Bible says it like this, “Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.” (vss. 34-35 MSG). Then 1 John 4:20-21, declares, “If anyone boasts, “I love God,” and goes right on hating his brother or sister, thinking nothing of it, he is a liar. If he won’t love the person he can see, how can he love the God he can’t see? The command we have from Christ is blunt: Loving God includes loving people. You’ve got to love both.” (MSG)

And no matter how badly they’ve Acted, you have to love them enough to hear their Story, and be concerned enough to help them write a new Chapter! You can’t love God and not love people! God Himself calls you a liar!

Listen: If you knew their story, you’d understand that many have been made to feel worthless much of their life. So they make choices based on the fact that they’re viewed as trash by some (especially those closest to them). And that’s one of the hardest battles to be won, is helping a person get past their past, and to forget what they keep recalling. You have to love them Forward! Your love for your brothers/sisters needs to be progressive (which is defined as, ‘proceeding gradually or in stages; engaging in or constituting forward motion’)! They will never get to where they need to be if they remain stuck where they are. And sometimes that means we have to be their “pen” of inspiration. When they feel the horror story is how it ends, we need to step up to the “desk” and say “oh no it’s not! There’s another chapter in you and we’re going to write it out!They need to know that their character doesn’t die here; this is not the final chapter; the story is not over!

No Matter How They ACT, You Are Responsible to Stay In CHARACTER! Never Act Out of Character!

Now, if we’re being honest here, we’ve all been in situations where we wanted to (and some of us did), treat other people the same way they treated us! After all, no one smiles at the person they held the door open for, and when they walk through they never parted their lips to say thank you. No one is happy about a person they’ve helped, that treats them harshly in return. But does that give you reason, justification, license or excuse for us to Act out of Character? Absolutely Not! Ephesians 4:26-27, “Go ahead and be angry. You do well to be angry—but don’t use your anger as fuel for revenge. And don’t stay angry. Don’t go to bed angry. Don’t give the Devil that kind of foothold in your life.” (MSG); Then Matthew 18:21-22 shares, “Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, when someone won’t stop doing wrong to me, how many times must I forgive them? Seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, you must forgive them more than seven times. You must CONTINUE to forgive them even if they do wrong to you seventy-seven times.” (ERV); [By the way, that wonderful word “continue” is defined as “to persist in an activity or process; to remain in existence; to carry on with; to carry on traveling in the same direction.” Its Latin Origin “coninuare”, from “continuus” literally means “uninterrupted.” So no matter their response or reaction, you have to CONTINUE to forgive them, with no interruptions!]

1 Peter 3:9, “and never return evil for evil or insult for insult [avoid scolding, berating, and any kind of abuse], but on the contrary, give a blessing [pray for one another’s well-being, contentment, and protection]; for you have been called for this very purpose, that you might inherit a blessing [from God that brings well-being, happiness, and protection].” (AMP);

Romans 12:17-19, “Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.” (MSG);

And My Personal Favorite: Matthew 5:38-42, “Here’s another old saying that deserves a second look: ‘Eye for eye, tooth for tooth.’ Is that going to get us anywhere? Here’s what I propose: ‘Don’t hit back at all.’ If someone strikes you, stand there and take it. If someone drags you into court and sues for the shirt off your back, giftwrap your best coat and make a present of it. And if someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously.” (MSG)

Are You Getting This?! Your Only Reaction to Their Response is Love!

You have to step in their shoes, after all, that’s what Intercessors do. They fill the gap, step in the middle, carry a load that’s killing somebody else! And truth is, maybe their story includes some awful hurt that has turned them hard, just so they won’t get hurt anymore. Maybe there’s some morally dark chapters in their past that can make them critical and legalistic today because they hate what they used to be. They may wound because they’ve been wounded. Remember: “Hurt People, Hurt PeopleSomewhere behind the way they act is a story of a perfectionist parent, trust lost because of abuse, the absence of a father’s love, abandonment, failure, tragedy and the like. So stop judging their story, intercede instead, and simply help them to write a new chapter!

Stop concerning yourself with what they’re drinking; what they’re smoking; how long they’ve been fornicating; how many tattoos and piercings they have; why the marriage ended; why they didn’t finish school; why they left that church; why they dress the way they do; or why do they have 5 kids with 3 baby daddies! Concern yourself more-so with helping them to write their next chapter, instead of being stuck re-reading their last one!

The Bible is clear, “…Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.” (Ephesians 4:31 NIV) Which for many of us, that has been our response to their deeds. But instead, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as Christ in God forgave you.” (vs. 32 NIV) That’s how we’ll respond if we operate, trying to understand there are needs beneath those deeds; there’s a history behind those hang-ups.

One thing I can tell you from a lot of years of learning what’s really inside people – when a person is hardest to love, they need your love the most! And that’s when you ask Jesus to release His love through you because your love just isn’t enough. React to their bad attitude or their bad treatment, and you can be just another person who just wounds an already wounded person more. Respond with the mercy and the grace and the compassion you received from Jesus and you can be part of healing that wounded person. Everybody’s got a story, and you can help write a new chapter.

Remember the opening text: “…What’s the STORY behind these ruins?” (1 Kings 9:6-9 MSG) Everybody has a story behind their ruins! So don’t be so quick to respond and react! James 1:19, “Understand this, my beloved brothers and sisters. Let everyone be quick to hear [be a careful, thoughtful listener], slow to speak [a speaker of carefully chosen words and], slow to anger [patient, reflective, forgiving];” (AMP) If that be our reaction, maybe, just maybe, their response will be our other opening text: “I’m on the edge of losing it – the pain in my gut keeps burning. I’m ready to tell my STORY of failure…” (Psalm 38:17-20 MSG) No one wants to talk to someone that’s not listening. How about today be the day we stop lashing out at the way they act, and simply listen to their story?

Remember this: “…But that’s not the end of it. There’s MORE to this STORY.” (Daniel 11:27 MSG)

Likewise, there’s more to their story as well, and it will be a beautiful best-seller, if only you’ll listen and not judge their story, then let your response and reaction be, “Let Me Help You Write a New Chapter!”

“Everybody’s got a story to tell. The only problem is finding a person that will listen…and care.” (Author Unknown)

“Every single person on the planet has a story. Don’t judge people before you truly know them. The truth might surprise you.” (Author Unknown)

“Everyone has a story. It might or might not be a love story. It can be a story of dreams, friendship, hope, survival or even death. And every story is worth telling. But more than that, it’s worth living.” (Savi Sharma)

“Everyone has a story to tell. Everyone is a writer, some are written in books and some are confined to hearts.” (Savi Sharma)

“Before you judge my life, my past or my character, walk in my shoes. Walk the path I have traveled, live my sorrows, my doubts, my fears, my pain and my laughter. Remember, everyone has a story. When you’ve lived my life then you can judge me.” (Pinterest)

“Don’t judge people for the choices they make when you don’t know the options they had to choose from.” (Pinterest)

“Do not judge my story by the chapter you walked in on.” (Author Unknown)

People of God: “Don’t Judge Their Character, Before Hearing Their Story!”

Matthew 7:2, “For just as you judge and criticize and condemn others, you will be judged and criticized and condemned, and in accordance with the measure you [use to] deal out to others, it will be dealt out again to you.” (AMPC)

Galatians 6:1-5, “Live creatively, friends. If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore him, saving your critical comments for yourself. You might be needing forgiveness before the day’s out. Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ’s law. If you think you are too good for that, you are badly deceived. Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.” (MSG)

Much Love, Dr. Shermaine #EnjoyTheRead #BeInspired #BeEncouraged #BeEmpowered #BeChallenged #ShareTheWord

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“Unmasking Me!”

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Hebrews 4:12-13, “What God has said isn’t only alive and active! It is sharper than any double-edged sword. His Word can cut through our spirits and souls and through our joints and marrow, until it discovers the desires and thoughts of our hearts. NOTHING IS HIDDEN FROM GOD! HE SEES THROUGH EVERYTHING, AND WE WILL HAVE TO TELL HIM THE TRUTH.” (CEV)

I’m not a fan of Halloween, but I learned a lesson from it in a story a friend told. His story goes like this, “I had to stop at a convenience store one Halloween night. I was not “trick or treating” however. I was actually just trying to pay for the gas I put in my car. But that’s when I saw this interesting sign they had posted; it was a sign I had never seen anywhere else before. It simply read, “PLEASE REMOVE YOUR MASK BEFORE YOU ENTER.” However, I wasn’t wearing one. But to be honest, for one brief unhappy moment, I did remember what they used to tell me in school long after Halloween was over, some mean kids would yell, “Hey, Halloween’s over, take off your mask!” I wasn’t wearing one then either (kids can be cruel even when in jest). But the sign in the store was no joke or laughing matter by far. Obviously, they didn’t want someone to try to pull off a Halloween heist, wearing a mask that would conceal their identity from the security cameras. Which is why they were so adamant about no one entering the store that night wearing a mask.”

Well, we both took away the same interesting thought from his experience. We wondered if God feels that very same way about us when we enter prayer. Truth is, I can almost imagine a sign like that one at the store, being displayed at the entrance to the Throne Room of our Almighty God which we enter when we pray: “PLEASE REMOVE YOUR MASK BEFORE YOU ENTER.”

And you know why? Because God is not impressed by our religious words or our religious image. He is not interested in seeing the masks that we sometimes wear around various groups of people. He does not want to hear a recitation of the same tired old prayer script that we often repeat without thinking. He insists that we come as we really are – completely unmasked. You see, YOUR REAL GOD can only help the REAL YOU!

The futility of pretending or masquerading before God is abundantly clear in Hebrews 4, beginning with verse 12. It says: “For the Word of God is living and active and full of power [making it operative, energizing, and effective]. It is sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating as far as the division of the soul and spirit [THE COMPLETENESS OF A PERSON], and of both joints and marrow [the deepest parts of our nature], exposing and judging the very thoughts and intentions of the heart.  And not a creature exists that is concealed from His sight, but all things are open and exposed, and revealed to the eyes of Him with whom we have to give account.”

In a nutshell, it’s useless to come before God pretending we feel how we’re “supposed” to feel instead of how we really do feel. It’s a waste of time to come with our rationalizations, our excuses and our cover-ups. We are all laid bare before Him! He sees the “COMPLETENESS OF A PERSON”, not a piece, not selected parts, but He sees all of us, our entirety, our complete and whole selves (good, bad, beautiful and ugly), not a piece of us is hidden or concealed from God. Instead we are exposed and revealed to Him! I mean after all, how can you hide any part of yourself from the God who made every part of you?

Psalm 139, “God, investigate my life;
 get all the facts firsthand. I’m an open book to You; even from a distance, You know what I’m thinking. You know when I leave and when I get back; I’m never out of Your sight. You know everything I’m going to say before I start the first sentence. I look behind me and You’re there, then up ahead and You’re there, too—Your reassuring presence, coming and going. This is too much, too wonderful—I can’t take it all in! Is there anyplace I can go to avoid Your Spirit? to be out of Your sight? If I climb to the sky, You’re there! If I go underground, You’re there! If I flew on morning’s wings to the far western horizon, You’d find me in a minute—You’re already there waiting! Then I said to myself, “Oh, He even sees me in the dark! At night I’m immersed in the light!” It’s a fact: darkness isn’t dark to You; night and day, darkness and light, they’re all the same to You. Oh yes, You shaped me first inside, then out; You formed me in my mother’s womb. I thank You, High God—You’re breathtaking! Body and soul, I am marvelously made! I worship in adoration—what a creation! You know me inside and out, You know every bone in my body; You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit, how I was sculpted from nothing into something. Like an open book, You watched me grow from conception to birth; all the stages of my life were spread out before You, The days of my life all prepared before I’d even lived one day. Your thoughts—how rare, how beautiful! God, I’ll never comprehend them! I couldn’t even begin to count them—any more than I could count the sand of the sea. Oh, let me rise in the morning and live always with You! And please, God, do away with wickedness for good! And you murderers—out of here!—all the men and women who belittle You, God, infatuated with cheap god-imitations. See how I hate those who hate You, God, see how I loathe all this godless arrogance; I hate it with pure, unadulterated hatred. Your enemies are my enemies! Investigate my life, O God, find out everything about me; Cross-examine and test me, get a clear picture of what I’m about; See for Yourself whether I’ve done anything wrong—then guide me on the road to eternal life.” (MSG)

Who, in their right mind, would ever attempt to hide anything from a God who knows them this well? It’s absolutely pointless! And yet, we still come to God in prayer wearing fig leaves! We’re still trying to play cover-up! We’re still trying to hide behind flawed masks.

But, there’s no point in attempting to play dress up when you’re spiritually and emotionally naked before Him anyway! So stop trying! Don’t cover it, dress it, lie about it or attempt to mask it! He knows all, so go ahead and tell it all! Let it go, for good and for real! Be real with Him. He won’t love you any less. I’ve discovered that sometimes we treat God as if He’s like people, and He’s not! He’s not waiting to drop on your head all the sins you’ve ever committed that He’s been holding over your head! He’s not waiting to use the information you share with Him against you. He’s not waiting on stand-by for just the right moment to trip you up. God does not delight in watching His children stumble, fail and fall. He’s waiting with arms open wide for us to run to Daddy and tell Him all about it…so what are you waiting for?

He already knows what’s behind the mask you show everyone else. You can’t and you won’t shock Him, no matter what you have to tell Him. You won’t surprise Him! But you will insult Him by coming to Him as if you’ve got it altogether! Because, if it’s one thing God does not appreciate its Performance! Don’t believe me? Listen to His Word:

Isaiah 1:13-17, “Quit your worship CHARADES. I can’t stand your trivial RELIGIOUS GAMES: Monthly conferences, weekly Sabbaths, special meetings – meeting, meetings, meetings – I can’t stand one more! Meetings for this, meetings for that. I hate them! You’ve worn Me out! I’m sick of your religion, religion, religion, while you go right on sinning. When you put on your next PRAYER-PERFORMANCE, I’ll be looking the other way. No matter how long or loud or often you pray, I’ll not be listening. And do you know why? Because you’ve been tearing people to pieces, and your hands are bloody. Go home and wash up. Clean up your ACT. Sweep your lives clean of your evildoings so I don’t have to look at them any longer. Say no to wrong. Learn to do good. Work for justice. Help the down-and-out. Stand up for the homeless. Go to bat for the defenseless.” (MSG)

Now, does anything about that sound like God is interested in attending another Prayer Performance? Absolutely Not! He already knows we’ve got blood on our hands so why do we attempt to come to Him sounding like we’ve been spic-and-span clean all day long? And what’s worse is that He even tells us pray as long and as loud and as often as you like, I Will Not Be Listening! So what’s the point, I ask yet again, aren’t you tired of pretending with God in prayer? Because He’s clearly fed up with our pretense, so much so, that He’s even turned a deaf ear to us! Is that really the relationship you want with Him?

Listen, God desires to talk with us about absolutely anything, however, God operates on an invitation basis. He comes into your life when you open it up to Him. So He’s asking you to check your mask at the door of His Throne Room and come, as the hymn says, “Just as I am, without one plea, but that Thy blood was shed for me.” That’s the relationship God is looking for. One of sincerity, one that is authentic and real. One without hypocrisy and pretense and performance! And yet, the one He’s getting instead says this in the Bible:

Isaiah 65:1-7, “I’ve made myself available to those who haven’t bothered to ask. I’m here, ready to be found by those who haven’t bothered to look. I kept saying ‘I’m here, I’m right here’ to a nation that ignored Me. I reached out day after day to a people who turned their backs on Me, people who make wrong turns, who insist on doing things their own way. They get on My nerves, are rude to My face day after day, make up their own kitchen religion, a potluck religious stew. They spend the night in tombs to get messages from the dead, eat forbidden foods and drink a witch’s brew of potions and charms. They say, ‘keep Your distance. Don’t touch me. I’m holier than thou.’ These people gag Me. I can’t stand their stench. Look at this! Their sins are all written out – I have the list before Me. I’m not putting up with this any longer. I’ll pay them the wages they have coming for their sins. And for the sins of their parents lumped in, a bonus.” God says so. “Because they’ve practiced their blasphemous worship, mocking Me at their hillside shrines, I’ll let loose the consequence and pay them in full for their actions.” (MSG)

You see this is where we find ourselves when God is finally fed up! This is a people that either ignored God, or gave Him a religious performance, or sought after help from everyone and everything else but Him. And as the old saying goes, “even nice people have their limit.” Well, so does God! We love to talk about God’s love, mercy, grace and favor, but you do know He’s also Just? Think about it: If you were in a relationship with someone who never talked to you, shared anything with you and spent no time with you, how much longer would you actually stay in that relationship? How long before you have to say something…do something about it? Well, stop treating God any different. He’s screaming “I’m Right Here”, says the Word of God, and still we either go to the horoscopes, popular preachers, or we go to Him in pretense or we ignore Him altogether. Exactly how much longer do you think God will tolerate this kind of “relationship”, when if this was the treatment you received from a MAN/WOMAN relationship, you wouldn’t dare accept it!

We serve a God who is touchable, available, accessible, so why are we being distant or disguised? He’s waiting in the Throne Room for us to come and visit, what are we waiting for? After all, He only desires that you take off your mask before entering, is that really that hard?

Truth be told, He already knows about the affair, the habit, the addiction, the lie. He knows where you were, who you were with and what you did. So what exactly do you think you can hide from Him? How can you possibly think you can hide what can only be exposed and revealed before Him?

So why not go to Him, honestly, and tell Him that you were jealous, envious, coveting, malicious, angry, bitter, resentful? He knows already, He’s only trying to talk with you to make you better. He understands your failures, your stumbles, even your deliberate sin! And yet with knowing all of that the Scripture goes on to say:

“Inasmuch then as we [believers] have a great High Priest who has [already ascended and] passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession [of faith and cling tenaciously to our absolute trust in Him as Savior]. For we do not have a High Priest who is unable to sympathize and understand our weaknesses and temptations, but One who has been tempted [KNOWING EXACTLY HOW IT FEELS TO BE HUMAN] IN EVERY RESPECT AS WE ARE, yet without [committing any] sin.  Therefore let us [WITH PRIVILEGE] approach the throne of grace [that is, the throne of God’s gracious favor] with confidence and WITHOUT FEAR, so that we may receive mercy [for our failures] and find [His amazing] grace to help in time of need [an appropriate blessing, coming just at the right moment].” (Hebrews 4:14-16 AMP)

He knows exactly how it feels to be human! How can you ask for anymore encouragement than that? He knows, He understands, so you can come to Him Honestly about Anything! You will not catch Him off guard, you will not shock Him, you will not disappoint Him, you will not (and cannot) make Him love you any less, no matter what you tell Him, and that’s Good News! He loves us unconditionally! He doesn’t have hidden agendas and secret motives. He simply loves us His children and wants to Father us. The problem? We won’t let Him!

I’ll tell you this, I entered this New Year a whole lot lighter and only because I got sick and tired of going to God covered up! I was exhausted always trying to find the right words without sharing all of my wrong. I was tip-toeing around the throne room hoping He wouldn’t notice all the detours my feet had made from the path He laid out for my life. I love talking to God, I just didn’t want to take my mask off to do it! I didn’t want Him to see all the mistakes, missteps, mess, and misery! But I determined that going into this New Year my relationship with my Father was going to be better by being real! And I can honestly say I love talking to God now more than I ever have in the past. I mean the real me. All of the real me. The things that scare me, the things that cause me to panic and get nervous and anxious. I tell Him all the things that make me walk in fear. I’ve shared with God all of my insecurities. It honestly amazed me that I was saved for so long, and yet didn’t have a Real relationship with God where I could be naked and not ashamed and tell Him everything! Big things, little things, silly things. It doesn’t matter what it is, the point is I’m His daughter and He’s my Dad and at any given moment He wants to hear from the real me! My prayer life has become more personal, real, and practical. I feel God’s love and see His guidance and hear His compassion. I dropped a lot of weight when I took off my mask before Him! I finally felt safe, protected, and lovingly carried.

Which reminded me of my niece. She got into trouble in school and she had to tell me what happened. I told her, go ahead, tell me (as she stood in front of me). She said, “okay, but can I sit on your lap where it’s safe to talk.” I thought it was funny and adorable. But it also reminds me of how I feel in my prayer life with God now. It’s not standing in the pulpit with the mic and proclaiming an awesome prolific, eloquent, heart-wrenching prayer. Nope, it’s me climbing into my Dad’s lap, where it’s safe to talk, so I can tell Him all that I’ve done wrong so He can help me get it right. If you don’t feel that way when you pray, let this be your admonishment to change that today.

Take your mask off and go to God for real! Pour it all out to Him, He won’t drown in your sorrows and woes I promise you. Nothing you say to Him will take Him under. He can carry it and you. So today, no mask, no cover-up, no disguise, no make-up, no pretense, no performance. Just you, the real you. The at home in pajamas, scarf, no make-up, lounging on the sofa watching television eating ice cream YOU! The one that’s not in hiding, but comfortable in their safe place. God is your safe place. You can take your ugly to Him, and you don’t even have to get pretty to do so! Tell Him the truth about how it and they made you feel; tell Him about the job (or lack thereof); tell Him about the kids, the marriage, the waiting, the loneliness, the money, the depression. Tell Him about the decisions you have to make; tell Him what happened at school, at church, at your friend’s house. Tell Him what happened last night. Tell Him about your hurts, even the ones from decades ago. Tell Him all about your fears and tears. Tell Him about the midnight worries; the overeating; the substance indulgences. Tell Him that you’ve lost your way; that your fire has dimmed to ashes; tell Him about your lukewarm feelings about church; tell Him that you have no idea what your gifts or purpose is.

Sons and Daughters, Your Dad wants you, the real you! So why walk around broken when He’s the mender of all things broken? Give Him your fragments; your pieces; all the chipped parts of your life that look like they’ve been over-due for a make-over long ago! Remove the mask and talk to your Father. No need for an eloquent speech; no need to try to be deep and spooky; no need to speak in ten thousand tongues of fire; no need crawl in fear into the Throne Room; no need to put your ‘church clothes’ on to meet with God; just take YOU, all of YOU, the real YOU to Him! Take Him all of your issues, problems, worries, struggles, complexities. All of it!

Take it to Him, Today, Unmasked, God is Waiting to See and Hear From the Real You!

Luke 12:1-3, “[CAN’T HIDE BEHIND A RELIGIOUS MASK] By this time the crowd, unwieldy and stepping on each other’s toes, numbered into the thousands. But Jesus’ primary concern was his disciples. He said to them, “Watch yourselves carefully so you don’t get contaminated with Pharisee yeast, Pharisee PHONINESS. YOU CAN’T KEEP YOUR TRUE SELF HIDDEN FOREVER; BEFORE LONG YOU’LL BE EXPOSED. YOU CAN’T HIDE BEHIND A RELIGIOUS MASK FOREVER; SOONER OR LATER THE MASK WILL SLIP AND YOUR TRUE FACE WILL BE KNOWN. YOU CAN’T WHISPER ONE THING IN PRIVATE AND PREACH THE OPPOSITE IN PUBLIC; THE DAY’S COMING WHEN THOSE WHISPERS WILL BE REPEATED ALL OVER TOWN.” (MSG)

Listen: No More Pharisee Phoniness, No More Religious Masks, No More Hidden You! Today is Your Day to be Unmasked and Real! No Act, No Roles, No Lines, No Script, No Performance, No Costumes, Just the Unmasked and Real You!

“Ever since the days of Adam, man has been hiding from God and saying, ‘God is hard to find.’” (Fulton J. Sheen)

“The parts of me I usually like to hide are the very parts where God is working through my life and my story.” (Bonnie Gray)

“Find God – He isn’t hiding from you, you’re hiding from Him.” (Paramahansa Yogananda)

“You can run with a lie but you can’t hide from the truth. It will catch you.” (Author Unknown)

“You can speak with spiritual eloquence, pray in public, and maintain a holy appearance, but it is your behavior that will reveal your true character.” (Dr. Steve Maraboli)

“You don’t bring glory or pleasure to God by hiding your abilities or by trying to be someone else. You only bring Him enjoyment by being you.” (Rick Warren)

“Our huffing and puffing to impress God, our scrambling for brownie points, our thrashing about trying to fix ourselves while hiding our pettiness and wallowing in guilt are nauseating to God and are a flat denial of the gospel of grace.” (Brennan Manning)

“In all your course, walk with God and follow Christ as a little, poor, helpless child, taking hold of Christ’s hand, keeping your eye on the mark of the wounds on His hands and side, whence came the blood that cleanses you from sin and hiding your nakedness under the skirt of the white shining robe of His righteousness.” (Jonathan Edwards)

“Christian, that sin which first came between you and God is bad, but that is not the last step in the progress of sin. The most guilty part in this quadruple sin is to hide it, deny it, ignore it, refuse to confess it, refuse to repent of it.” (John R. Rice)

“Don’t hide your scars, wear them as proof that God heals.” (Author Unknown)

Much Love, Dr. Shermaine #EnjoyTheRead #BeInspired #BeEncouraged #BeEmpowered #BeChallenged #BeReal
Feel free to also join us at: http://www.selfcarewithdrshermaine.blogspot.com Today’s Lesson: “Foods With Vitamin C, Besides Oranges!”

“Be You, Everyone Else is Taken!”

brunette girl holding a white theatrical mask

Psalm 51:16-17, “Going through the motions doesn’t please You, a flawless performance is nothing to You…” (MSG)

Me and my eldest daughter, Mo’Nae, absolutely love one particular movie that we’ve seen a million times. And yet, if it came on again tonight, we would both be crazy glued to the television as if we’ve never seen the movie before; have no idea of the plot and characters; as if we’re clueless as to how the movie ends. Sounds crazy, but it’s true. And what movie might you ask that has caused us such devoted repetition? Well, it’s called, “Catch Me If You Can”! And it’s based on a true story. You see, Frank Abagnale, Jr. lived a wild and crazy life as a doctor, airline pilot, banker, investor, attorney and celebrity. But before you assume that he must have been the most talented and gifted person to ever walk the face of the earth, listen to this: The Irony Is, He Was Never Authentically Any of Those! And even though he deserves an academy award for his portrayal of them, He Was a Fake, a Fraud, and a Pretender.

It all began early in his life when he realized he’d the talent to convince people he was “somebody” through his sheer confidence and acting ability. However, he began to make money at his game and soon found himself addicted to role playing. And by the time it was all over, he’d helped perform surgery in an operating room, conned banks out of thousands of dollars, flown an airplane as a pilot, and gone to places most people only dream of going. The problem was – It Was All a Show!

Which reminds me of Psalm 51:16-17, “Going through the motions doesn’t please You, a flawless performance is nothing to You…” (MSG) At the end of the day, no matter how “flawless” you believe your performance was, it was still merely a performance. And no matter how awesome a Broadway show may be, at some point the actors bow, the curtains close, the audience leaves, and you have to lay down your costume-character and be the real you! That’s what happened to Frank.

A few years into it and he wanted out! The glamour was gone. He was desperate to come clean. But he had created such a web of deceit that it wasn’t easy. Which made me think of real actors, who have played a role for so long, people don’t know how to differentiate between the person and the part they play. For instance, I loved “Angie and Jessie” from All My Children. They were my all-time favorite soap opera couple. But I remember when I was younger, someone said to me, “you know you look a lot like Debbi Morgan”. I said, “really? Well who is she?” The person laughed and responded, “you don’t watch All My Children?” I said, “of course I do, that is when we have a day off from school”. She said “then how is it possible you don’t know who Debbi Morgan is?” I said, “I don’t remember a character on the show by that name.” The person laughed again, harder this time and said, “you know Angie, as in Jessie and Angie don’t you?” Well, of course I lost it by then. My response, “duh, who doesn’t know them, they’re my favorite. Angie is so pretty”. I reiterate, the person laughed…again…even harder than the last hard laugh! She said, “girl you do know Debbie is Angie? It’s her real name!” My jaw hit the floor. Truth is, I never thought of them as “characters”, Angie was really Angie! Well, what can I say, I only knew her as her “character”, I never knew the actual or real person behind the part being played.

And honestly, that’s a lot like many of us today, we’ve played our roles for so long, been in character for so long, read from the same script for so long, others (nor ourselves) can find the real us anymore. The danger in this is that we never live real and fulfilling lives. It’s always a show, a line always has to be remembered, we have to recall all the previous scenes and scripts. We pretend so long that we can’t find the real us under the layers of showmanship. That word “showmanship” is defined as “the manager or presenter of a circus or fair; a person skilled at entertaining, theatrical presentation, or performance.” And that’s what happens to us, we manage our lines, present a great show, we’re skilled at entertaining those we want to applaud us, we perform, no different than that of a circus act or fair! Such pretense is no different than imprisonment. And speaking of imprisonment, that’s exactly what happened to Frank. The FBI was onto him, and he ended up spending years in prison. Which makes me wonder, how many years of mental and emotional imprisonment have many of us suffered in because we never discovered the freedom of simply being ourselves. I agree wholeheartedly with Pastor Joel Osteen, “There’s a Freedom When You Can Be at Peace With NOT Being Perfect!” It is better to be Real, Imperfect You, than to be a Perfect Imitation of Someone You’re Not!

Another memory came to mind, and it’s when I was first saved. I wasn’t raised in church, and so all I had as examples were the women who were in my local church. They were older, and a lot more conservative. They wore conservative hairstyles, modest clothing and make-up, little heels but big hats. And little ole me trying to come from the streets to the other-side and “fit in”. And for many years, I was impressed with my own acting ability. I wore the long skirts, the wide-brim hats, the little touch of make-up, and of course I mastered the “church lingo”, knowing what to say, when to say it, how to say, and who to say it around. And truth be told, those were the most miserable years of my entire life! I never felt like “me.” I was the young woman who loved to wear big hoop earrings, long box-braids, red fingernails, mini-skirts, black eyeliner (that I wore on my lips as well…lol!) Lord, I was a hot mess when I walked into that little church house. But if nothing else, I was authentically me. But then I came around people who were not like me and since I was the only “odd ball”, clearly I was the one who needed to change. I even remember the missionary that told me I had to stop wearing braids or I would never get a decent Christian husband. Don’t laugh, because I believed her! And so I stepped into character, and it took me well over a decade to step off the stage for the last time!

I look at a lot of my pictures from those days and very few have me smiling. I really wasn’t happy. I always felt trapped. I felt like a performing monkey. And no matter how horrible it made me feel, I lived by the motto, “the show must go on!”

Well, Frank had a great talent, but he wasted it pretending to be someone else. And I’m afraid, far too many of God’s children are doing the very same thing. We’re so busy performing for people who are performing themselves, that we never develop real character because we’re always playing one!

But listen to Paul’s words, “…I have finished the work I was to do…” Paul made it clear, my timecard is stamped with the time I actually put in to the work I was assigned to do! Not Timothy, not Barnabas, not John Mark, but I, Paul, have finished the work I was assigned to do! I wonder how many of us can claim that as our true testimony?

Listen, the reality is, you can only be yourself, because everyone else is taken! But the good news is, YOU are enough…as is!

Think about it, Paul wasn’t perfect! Listen to a portion of his life in 2 Corinthians 11:23-29: “I’ve worked much harder, been jailed more often, beaten up more times than I can count, and at death’s door time after time. I’ve been flogged five times with the Jews’ thirty-nine lashes, beaten by Roman rods three times, pummeled with rocks once. I’ve been shipwrecked three times, and immersed in the open sea for a night and a day. In hard traveling year in and year out, I’ve had to ford rivers, fend off robbers, struggle with friends, struggle with foes. I’ve been at risk in the city, at risk in the country, endangered by desert sun and sea storm, and betrayed by those I thought were my brothers. I’ve known drudgery and hard labor, many a long and lonely night without sleep, many a missed meal, blasted by the cold, naked to the weather. And that’s not the half of it, when you throw in the daily pressures and anxieties of all the churches…” (MSG)

Paul was authentically himself, even if being authentically himself was painful and unattractive! Paul suffered, but he was himself. Paul worked harder, went to jail, was beaten up, at the door of death, flogged, had rocks thrown at him, he was shipwrecked, had a hard time in travel, struggled with robbers, friends, foes, in the city and the country, baked by the desert sun and about to drown in a sea storm. He was betrayed, endured hard labor, he was lonely, sleepy, hungry, cold and naked, and still none of that tops the fact that he also had to fight with the pressures and anxieties of All the churches! And still Paul says, “…I have finished the work I was assigned to do…”!

Paul didn’t have it easy, but he remained true to himself, to his God, to the people he was responsible to lead and to his faith. And he did it all without pretense! And so can you!

Maybe your life’s journey has been as unappealing as Paul’s. Maybe you’ve had to wait on the unemployment line, wait for food stamps, wait for Medicaid, wait at the homeless shelter for a cot, wait at the soup kitchen for some crackers. However, your story is still beautiful even with some ugly chapters included! Truth is, we all have chapters in our life story that we don’t read aloud, and we certainly don’t share with others. However, God wants to bless YOU, not your character-role! He has blessings for you with your name on it but just as you have to show authentic ID to claim property, you’ll need to show the real you to claim your blessings! Angie can’t claim Debbi’s blessing, even if so many believe she’s one in the same. No, only one is real, authentic and identified! So it is the same with you.

Don’t waste your life away as Frank did.

Can you imagine though, who and what he could have actually become had he simply been himself?! And you are no different. So, don’t throw away who you can become by pretending to be someone else now. Be You! All of you! Imperfect, flawed, cracked, crazy-hair, crooked teeth, acne-faced, stretch-marked, out of shape YOU! No matter your marital status, financial status, leader or laity, no matter your educational background, your ethnicity, how many children you have or don’t have, how many divorces you’ve gotten, none of it matters! What matters most is that your are the Real you and that you finish the work that was given to you to complete!

Sarah couldn’t be Rebekah; Leah couldn’t be Deborah; David couldn’t be Judas; Esther couldn’t be Ruth; Peter couldn’t be John; Abigail couldn’t be Anna; Samson couldn’t be Jacob; Eli couldn’t be Matthew. And yet all of them were significant in Scripture, and none of them had to pretend to be someone else in order to accomplish it.

You are significant to the world, and more importantly to the Kingdom of God just as you are, the real you. Don’t dilute you; don’t masquerade you; don’t alter you; don’t attempt to be anyone else but you!

There’s a work for you to complete and a reward for you to receive, however, your “character” can’t complete your work nor receive your reward, only YOU can. Don’t forfeit your future by being a fraud. Ask the Lord what you are to do, and then do it. Ask the Lord who you are to be, then become it. Without excuse, apology, blame, or reason. You my friend, are enough. Be you, after all, there’s no one in all the land that can be except YOU!

“The day I pulled off the mask of pretense, fake happiness and put it in the trash – was the day when I peeped inside my heart and met my true self.” (Shilpi Sood)

“No one can long hide behind a mask; the pretense soon lapses into the true character.” (Seneca the Younger)

“Do they love you, or the mask you put on everyday?” (Shimika Bowers)

“Behind every mask there is a face, and behind that a story.” (Marty Rubin)

“Sometimes it’s not the people who change, it’s the mask that falls off.” (Author Unknown)

“If you want the great and mighty things God has for you, you must get to the root of anger and deal with it. Get rid of the masks and face the things that happened in your life that made you the way you are today. Admit that you can’t change by yourself. Until the root is removed, it’ll continue to produce one bad fruit after another.” (Joyce Meyer)

“Don’t be trapped behind a mask, acting out a life you don’t really want. Be honest with God and let Him remove your mask and replace it with a new you that doesn’t need to hide from the world.” (Author Unknown)

“It is better to be hated for what you are than to be loved for what you are not.” (Andre Gide)

“Honesty and transparency make you vulnerable. Be honest and transparent anyway.” (Mother Theresa)

“Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are.” (Brene Brown)

“There is nothing more beautiful than seeing a person being themselves. Imagine going through your day being unapologetically you.” (Jenny Garrett)

“By being yourself you put something wonderful in the world that was not there before.” (Edwin Elliot)

“Less Perfection, More Authenticity.” (Author Unknown)

“Don’t trade in your authenticity for approval.” (Author Unknown)

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

“Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else.” (Judy Garland)

“When you show up authentic, you create the space for others to do the same. Walk in your truth.” (Jenny Garrett)

“Remind yourself that you cannot fail at being yourself.” (Wayne W. Dyer)

“When you shine your own unique light in a way that only YOU can do, then, you are way beyond competition!” (Naralee)

“The real you is more interesting than the fake somebody else.” (Lauryn Hill)

“The most powerful lesson I’ve learned in life is to never act like someone you’re not. Not only will people know that you’re being fake, but you’re also fooling yourself by thinking that the REAL you isn’t good enough.” (Anthony Gucciardi)

Much Love, Dr. Shermaine #EnjoyTheRead #BeInspired #BeEncouraged #BeEmpowered #BeChallenged #BeYou
Feel free to also join us at: http://www.selfcarewithdrshermaine.blogspot.com Today’s Lesson: “Top Concentration Killers!”

 

“Are You Following the Right Leader?”

I Am the Way

John 3:30, “He must increase [in prominence], but I must decrease.” (AMP); “This is the assigned moment for Him to move into the center, while I slip off to the sidelines.” (MSG)

I am definitely one of those people that has to check and double-check everything I buy at the supermarket. Especially when it comes to dairy, meats, fresh fruit and vegetables. After all, when you’re raised in a house of two great cooks as parents, you come to believe that there really is an art to shopping for food. Some may not know any better, but truth is you can’t just grab the first apple or tomato you see! You have to learn to smell and squeeze the produce. And where did I get that from? My mom. She taught me how to do that as well as the importance of doing that. She taught me that you have to learn how to check for holes and dents in apples and peaches; you don’t just take the first one off the pile. You have to check to see how yellow those bananas are, or how green, or how black. In other words, there are ways to tell whether a fruit or vegetable is one you should buy. However, it’s much tougher to shop for a spiritual leader that’s a good one you can trust. Oh, but there is a way to tell!

Now if we are to be brutally honest, it’s getting tougher and tougher to know which spiritual leaders you can actually trust. After all, we’re living in a time when a lot of Christian heroes have let us down, right? People who say spiritual things, lead spiritual causes, give spiritual counsel, and then all of a sudden something happens that exposes their fleshy hypocrisy. In a way, it kind of makes a lot of us hold back and wonder who can we trust to govern, keep and protect our soul and that of our families?

Now, another truth we need to keep in mind is this, we’re not supposed to have our eyes on man in the first place! Jeremiah 17:5-6, “God’s Message: “Cursed is the strong one who depends on mere humans, Who thinks he can make it on muscle alone and sets God aside as dead weight. He’s like a tumbleweed on the prairie, out of touch with the good earth. He lives rootless and aimless in a land where nothing grows.” (MSG). Surely you don’t want that to be your testimony, and all because you depended on mere humans!

The Bible makes it clear that our focus should never be on flesh! 1 Samuel 16:7, “But God told Samuel, “Looks aren’t everything. Don’t be impressed with his looks and stature. I’ve already eliminated him. God judges persons differently than humans do. Men and women look at the face; God looks into the heart.” (MSG). That word ‘eliminate’ is defined as: ‘to completely remove or get rid of; to reject or exclude from consideration or further participation.’ Its Latin Origin ‘eliminare’ literally means ‘to turn out of doors.’ You see, this man wasn’t just rejected, but he was completely removed, God got rid of him altogether, He made sure he was excluded from any further consideration or participation; he was in essence kicked out his own house, turned outdoors, eliminated! Therefore, if God doesn’t entertain ‘flesh; looks and stature’, why do we?

So, our focus on spiritual leadership shouldn’t be on the flesh, but on the spirit! God does give His people leadership; He does raise up leadership for the benefit of the Body of Christ. Ephesians 4:11-13,And [His gifts to the church were varied and] He Himself appointed some as apostles [special messengers, representatives], some as prophets [who speak a new message from God to the people], some as evangelists [who spread the good news of salvation], and some as pastors and teachers [to shepherd and guide and instruct],  [and He did this] to fully equip and perfect the saints (God’s people) for works of service, to build up the body of Christ [the church];  until we all reach oneness in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God, [growing spiritually] to become a mature believer, reaching to the measure of the fullness of Christ [manifesting His spiritual completeness and exercising our spiritual gifts in unity].” (MSG)

In other words, there are called, authentic spiritual leaders who believe it or not, are doing their job. God does want us to be able to get His teachings and see His love coming through people, through leaders, but so many have let us down. How can you tell whether a pastor is a leader from God or a person who’s simply doing his own thing in God’s name?

Well, there’s one person that Jesus really held up as a model leader. It was John the Baptist. He said, “There has been no greater man born among women.Now I can’t think of a stronger endorsement than that. Jesus said John the Baptist was the real deal; a real spiritual leader, worthy of following. And why was John the Baptist an ideal leader? In John 3:30, speaking of Jesus, John said, “He must become greater; I must become less.The King James Version says, “He must increase; I must decrease.” 2 other translations read like this:

“Jesus must become more important, while I become less important.” (CEV);

“He must increase in importance, while I must decrease in importance.” (GWT);

You know how to test a spiritual leader? Well, one of the tests is this: Does he leave you thinking more about him or more about Jesus? Where is the spotlight focusing most and shining brightest, on him/her, or God? Is it more about his organization, his goals, his ministry, his programs, his protocols, his plans, or more about Jesus and the Great Commission He assigned for us to fulfill? An authentic man or woman of God, like John the Baptist, puts himself or herself in the background, on the sidelines, making sure that JESUS is the one who’s made to be Greater and More Important. However, you can easily identify a leader doing his or her own thing because they’re heavy on sentences that have: “I”, “me”, and “mine” in them, but rarely, HIM.

Is this the only test? No, but it’s a pretty good start. If you’re in leadership, measure yourself that way. Who is getting the attention, you the leader or the Savior? The real spiritual leaders, the ones you can trust, are the ones who put Jesus in the spotlight and make you think about Him and forget about them. They’re not seeking accolades, applause and standing ovations. They don’t need their names called for everything, anything and nothing. They don’t need their picture posted on every wall nor do they need their name written on every piece of paper. They don’t need a chair the size of the Throne of God. Their main focus is that you focus mainly on Jesus! If that’s not the type of leader you are under, get out now!

Years ago I read about a man who maybe a hundred years ago had lived in the countryside in England. He traveled to London and wrote to his wife and said, “Honey, today I went to two of the great churches of London. This morning I heard Dr. Cartwright and he is a great preacher. Tonight I went to Metropolitan Tabernacle and I heard Mr. Charles Spurgeon.” He said, “Mr. Spurgeon has a great Savior.Leaders, after you’re done speaking, teaching or preaching, do you want them to remember a great preacher, or do you leave them thinking about a great Savior? I never like to leave a church service feeling like I was just greatly entertained by an outstanding cast of performers who know how to stay in ‘form of godliness’ character and not mess up their Sunday morning script as they play out the ‘righteous’ role for a few hours. I don’t want to remember the songs, the dances, the praise breaks, the garments, the titles, the beauty of the sanctuary. But what I want to leave with is conviction that I can be a better believer than I have been. It’s rare these days that I actually hear sermons that speak on holiness, sanctification, repentance, sin, hell, consequences of bad choices, or even chastisement. Instead, messages focus more on houses, cars, land, spouses, promotions, increase, harvest, blessings, abundance, and the like. But what happened to using the Word to do what it was originally designed to do? And what’s that you ask? Well, 2 Timothy informs us:

2 Timothy 3:14-17, “But as for you, continue in the things that you have learned and of which you are convinced [holding tightly to the truths], knowing from whom you learned them, and how from childhood you have known the sacred writings (Hebrew Scriptures) which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus [surrendering your entire self to Him and having absolute confidence in His wisdom, power and goodness].  All Scripture is God-breathed [given by divine inspiration] and is profitable for instruction, for conviction [of sin], for correction [of error and restoration to obedience], for training in righteousness [learning to live in conformity to God’s will, both publicly and privately—behaving honorably with personal integrity and moral courage]; so that the man of God may be complete and proficient, outfitted and thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (AMP)

The Message Bible says it like this: “But don’t let it faze you. Stick with what you learned and believed, sure of the integrity of your teachers—why, you took in the sacred Scriptures with your mother’s milk! There’s nothing like the written Word of God for showing you the way to salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. Every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another—showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God’s way. Through the Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us.” (MSG)

For some reason I don’t think the Word is being preached or taught in this manner anymore. Because everyone is happy, over-joyed and excited to leave church when the Word is done. However, the Bible says when the Word comes forth it will instruct, convict, correct, train, and exposeSo if that’s how the Word is coming forth, why are we so happy after every sermon, every week? We should leave after the Word feeling as though we’ve received instructions since we’ve been convicted and corrected of wrongs, and now we’re being trained to be better since our worst has been exposed. We should leave with pad and pen in hand and a list of what we need to make our own lives better.

Now, I certainly don’t believe you should spend Sunday after Sunday being busted upside the head with the Bible. But shouldn’t something be said week after week that makes you better week after week? And not “feel” better, but “be and do better.” There is indeed a difference.

Maybe you’ve been burned by Christians, by a Christian leader, many of us have. I’ve certainly had the experience of being hurt by spiritual leadership. But don’t let them cause you to miss Jesus in the midst of it all. You see, sometimes I think we get so lost in “Following Them”, that we forget Jesus said, “Follow ME.” Does that mean we ignore spiritual leadership? Absolutely not! Romans 13:1-7, “Every person must obey the leaders of the land. There is no power given but from God, and all leaders are allowed by God. The person who does not obey the leaders of the land is working against what God has done. Anyone who does that will be punished. Those who do right do not have to be afraid of the leaders. Those who do wrong are afraid of them. Do you want to be free from fear of them? Then do what is right. You will be respected instead. Leaders are God’s servants to help you. If you do wrong, you should be afraid. They have the power to punish you. They work for God. They do what God wants done to those who do wrong. You must obey the leaders of the land, not only to keep from God’s anger, but so your own heart will have peace.  It is right for you to pay taxes because the leaders of the land are servants for God who care for these things.  Pay taxes to whom taxes are to be paid. Be afraid of those you should fear. Respect those you should respect.” (NLV);

Hebrews 13:17, “Be responsive to your pastoral leaders. Listen to their counsel. They are alert to the condition of your lives and work under the strict supervision of God. Contribute to the joy of their leadership, not its drudgery. Why would you want to make things harder for them?” (MSG).

In other words, leadership be it in the church or in the land is to be respected. Now, you don’t have much say so in the leaders of the land (outside of exercising your voting rights), but you have a lot of say so under which leader you submit to in any given church. You are not their by force, but by choice, so choose your place of worship wisely. Don’t make a selection as though it were an arena, museum, palace, stage or theater. But ask God for godly wisdom that you make the right choice to serve in the right house of worship under the right leader.

And what are some signs that you have the right leader? Just listen to Scripture:

Matthew 17:6-8, “When the disciples heard it, they fell flat on their faces, scared to death. But Jesus came over and touched them. “Don’t be afraid.” When they opened their eyes and looked around all they saw was Jesus, only Jesus.” (MSG) You need to be submitted under a leader that makes you see Only Jesus. Not them, their accomplishments, titles, positions, vestments, rings, robes, initials, degrees, collars, etc…But Only Jesus! Never Submit Under a Leader Who Wants To Shine Like a Star, While Blocking Out the Son!

1 Corinthians 2:2, “You’ll remember, friends, that when I first came to you to let you in on God’s master stroke, I didn’t try to impress you with polished speeches and the latest philosophy. I deliberately kept it plain and simple: first Jesus and who he is; then Jesus and what he did—Jesus crucified.” (MSG) You need to be submitted under a leader whose preaching and teaching is about who Jesus is and what Jesus did. Not who they are (or think they are) not on what they’ve done (or think they’ve done). But a leader who keeps the name of Jesus on his/her lips when preaching or teaching or carrying out any other form of leadership. Not someone using Greek, Latin, and Hebrew in every other sentence, and certainly not someone who you need to keep the Webster’s Dictionary on hand every other 2 lines to know what 23 letter words they keep using every 5 minutes to appear verbally impressive! A good leader keeps it “plain and simple.” And to those of my preacher friends who stand flat foot and preach and teach the ‘plain and simple’ Gospel, without hoop and holler, please do not compare yourselves to those who do. A hoop and holler is not bad in and of itself, but neither is it the equivalent or evidence of the Holy Ghost, it is but a person’s preferred style of execution. It’s apart their personality in how they choose to deliver the message. So, never feel as though you are not making the same, or even a greater impact on the lives of your hearers, just because your delivery is packaged differently. You don’t have to yell, scream, sweat, do back-flacks, bang the podium, spin around in circles with fancy footwork, flying hands and spit spreading everywhere. You can still, speak what God gave you and go sit down without breaking a sweat, and still watch souls be added to the Kingdom. Remember, whatever your ‘preferred style’, the importance is on the Message being delivered in its most plain and simple form. Look at it like this: If a person who’s diabetic has their glucose levels shoot up through the roof, do you really think at a time like that, they want someone to hand them a pen of insulin and teach a 2 hour, detailed tutorial on the history of insulin before they use it? No, they need a straight shot! Stick pen now! And truthfully there are a lot of people coming to our churches that are leaving empty and still spiritually sick because we’ve over-complicated the message. You can’t properly apply what you don’t clearly understand. Therefore, I reiterate, whatever your ‘preferred style’ is, for the sake of the people’s soul and their eternity, keep it ‘plain and simple.’

Galatians 1:10-12, “Do you think I speak this strongly in order to manipulate crowds? Or curry favor with God? Or get popular applause? If my goal was popularity, I wouldn’t bother being Christ’s slave. Know this—I am most emphatic here, friends—this great Message I delivered to you is not mere human optimism. I didn’t receive it through the traditions, and I wasn’t taught it in some school. I got it straight from God, received the Message directly from Jesus Christ.” (MSG) You need to be submitted to a leader that is void of intimidation and manipulation. A leader that doesn’t need and seek applause and popularity. A leader that doesn’t attempt to impress with 10 titles, 12 degrees, and 14 initials (half of which were bought, not earned). A leader that hears from God and speaks the unadulterated Word of God to His people. A leader who is not into people pleasing, is sure to help you grow to your full potential. Submit to a leader who has a clearly evident relationship with Jesus Christ, and who receives direct messages from Him through His Word, that they consistently teach, preach, pray, apply share and live!

Colossians 3:23-25, “Servants, do what you’re told by your earthly masters. And don’t just do the minimum that will get you by. Do your best. Work from the heart for your real Master, for God, confident that you’ll get paid in full when you come into your inheritance. Keep in mind always that the ultimate Master you’re serving is Christ. The sullen servant who does shoddy work will be held responsible. Being a follower of Jesus doesn’t cover up bad work.” (MSG) You need to be submitted to a leader that knows who the real Master is (and that it clearly is not them). Working in the church they pastor, still means you are working for God! Avoid leaders who make you feel as though you work personally for them. The work of the ministry has nothing to do with mere man. The work of the ministry is adding souls to the Kingdom. And even in this work, we are to put forth our best effort, remembering WHO it is we’re working for. Avoid leaders who act as though the Church is their personal incorporation or family business. A leader of humility and servanthood is who you sit under submissively. A leader that does his/her best which brings out the very same in you! That’s the leader you follow.

2 Timothy 4:3-4, “You’re going to find that there will be times when people will have no stomach for solid teaching, but will fill up on spiritual junk food—catchy opinions that tickle their fancy. They’ll turn their backs on truth and chase mirages. But you—keep your eye on what you’re doing; accept the hard times along with the good; keep the Message alive; do a thorough job as God’s servant.” (MSG) You need to be submitted to a leader that will feed you the unadulterated Word of God. I love the word “unadulterated” because it’s simply defined as “having no inferior added substance.” In other words, you need a leader that will call it “Adultery”, not “An Affair”; “Sin” and not “An Issue”. You need a leader that possesses the wisdom of when to cover you and when to expose you. You need the bread of life, not a cake of compromise. A leader that will tell you when you’re wrong, not help you try to justify it as right. You need a leader that will continue to serve you the Solid Meat of the Word even when your flesh only wants to Digest Spiritual Junk Food!

Galatians 2:19-21, “What actually took place is this: I tried keeping rules and working my head off to please God, and it didn’t work. So I quit being a “law man” so that I could be God’s man. Christ’s life showed me how, and enabled me to do it. I identified myself completely with him. Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not “mine,” but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I am not going to go back on that. Is it not clear to you that to go back to that old rule-keeping, peer-pleasing religion would be an abandonment of everything personal and free in my relationship with God? I refuse to do that, to repudiate God’s grace. If a living relationship with God could come by rule-keeping, then Christ died unnecessarily.” (MSG) You need a leader just like that!

If you see a leader who leaves you thinking about Jesus, in the crowded spiritual supermarket that you and I shop in, you’ll know that’s one worth buying into. So, after this little lesson, it is my prayer that you will carefully, thoroughly, honestly re-evaluate your spiritual leadership. Make sure you are in the right house with the right head. The loss of your soul is too costly!

I close with our opening text: John 3:30, “He must increase [in prominence], but I must decrease.”; (AMP); “This is the assigned moment for Him to move into the center, while I slip off to the sidelines.” (MSG); “Jesus must become more important, while I become less important.” (CEV); “He must increase in importance, while I must decrease in importance.” (GWT).

There are many things you can use to measure good leadership, but why not follow the ruler Jesus Himself used? He used John the Baptist because He wasn’t out to compete with Him, he was out to make Jesus the most prominent; the center; and the most important, even if that meant he was to decrease; slip off to the sidelines and become less important. If you dare find a leader like that, follow him/her closely, you’ve indeed found the right one!

Charles H. Spurgeon Quotes:

“A time will come when instead of shepherds feeding the sheep, the church will have clowns entertaining the goats.”

“That very church which the world likes best is sure to be that which God abhors.”

“Satan, he can make men dance upon the brink of hell as though they were on the verge of heaven.”

“I believe that one reason why the Church of God at this present moment has so little influence over the world is because the world has so much influence over the Church.”

“The preaching of Christ is the whip that flogs the devil. The preaching of Christ is the thunderbolt, the sound of which makes hell shake.”

“The Word of God is like a Lion. You don’t have to defend a lion. All you have to do is let the lion loose and the lion will defend itself”

“Visit many good books, but live in the Bible”

“If you are idle in Christ’s work, you are active in the devil’s work”

“If sinners be damned at least let them leap to hell over our dead bodies. And if they perish, let them perish with our arms wrapped around their knees. If hell must be filled, let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let no one go unwarned or unprayed for.”

 Much Love, Dr. Shermaine #EnjoyTheRead #BeInspired #BeEncouraged #BeEmpowered #BeChallenged
Feel free to also join us at: http://www.selfcarewithdrshermaine.blogspot.com Today’s Lesson: “How Worry Affects Your Body?”

“Healing Self-Inflicted Scars”

dose4

Proverbs 19:3, PEOPLE RUIN THEIR LIVES BY THEIR OWN STUPIDITY, SO WHY DOES GOD ALWAYS GET BLAMED?” (MSG)

We arrived at church one Sunday morning and my husband had a scratch on his face. It was really obvious too, especially since a spot of blood was still present, but most people didn’t mention it. In fact, they were very nice. But then there are those who – like me, unfortunately – hate to miss an opportunity to “bust someone’s chops”. So, of course, I had a few people say to me jokingly, “Elder, you better stop beating on your husband!” And naturally, my comedian of a husband had no problem with his wife taking the blame, so he kiddingly went along by saying, “I’ve been telling people for years she’s little but lethal!

NOW FOR THE TRUTH: He was blasting Fred Hammond and dancing…while shaving! In other words, HIS SCARS WERE COMPLETELYSELF-INFLICTED”!  

This incident reminded me of the quote: “The man who can smile when things go wrong has thought of someone else he can blame it on.” (Robert Bloch).

Now, as comical as that was, the truth of the matter is, it’s always convenient to blame someone else for something that was really OUR OWN FAULT! J. Paul Getty said: “A man may fail many times but he isn’t a failure until he begins to blame somebody else. 

Believe it or not, but sometimes, we even go so far as to not only blame others, but to blame God, WHEN THE SCARS ARE REALLY SELF-INFLICTED! The reality is: “If you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your trouble, you wouldn’t sit for a month.” (Unknown Author).

You see blame, much like temptation, is our “OWN” fault! That’s why the Bible admonishes us: “Don’t let anyone under pressure to give in to evil say, “God is trying to trip me up.” God is impervious to evil, and puts evil in no one’s way. The temptation to give in to evil COMES FROM US AND ONLY US. WE HAVE NO ONE TO BLAME but the leering, seducing flare-up of OUR OWN lust. Lust gets pregnant, and has a baby: sin! Sin grows up to adulthood, and becomes a real killer.” (James 1:13-15 MSG).  In case you missed it, the key is, “…The temptation to give in to evil COMES FROM US AND ONLY US. WE HAVE NO ONE TO BLAME but the leering, seducing flare-up of OUR OWN lust…” In other words, there is no one else to blame but the individual you see looking back at you in the mirror every day! So if the reflection shows the hair is a mess, the makeup is smudged, there’s food in the teeth, YOU, and only YOU are responsible to fix it! And that’s in the natural. However, the same principle applies to you spiritually! If you see your attitude is nasty; your language is filthy; your mind is dirty; your moods and emotions are erratic; your heart is unclean; your desires are impure; YOU and only YOU are responsible to fix it! If you’ve allowed your mouth to cause harm, YOU fix it; if you’ve allowed your actions to damage someone else’s life, YOU fix it; if you know you’ve said something wrong, done something wrong, thought something wrong, felt something wrong, YOU fix it! If you’ve damaged someone’s reputation; assaulted their character; disrespected their integrity; ruined their reputation; lied on them; gossiped about them; spread rumors about them; caused any form of injury to them or their loved ones, it is YOUR responsibility alone to fix it! No one else is held accountable for repairing what you ripped apart!

All blame is a waste of time. No matter how much fault you find with another, and regardless of how much you blame him, it will not change you.” (Wayne Dyer).

It’s interesting to hear God’s perspective on this issue from our text, which is a really incredible little verse. A man’s OWN FOLLY ruins his life, YET HIS HEART RAGES AGAINST THE LORD” (NIV) Now, let’s see what the other translations have to say about it:

“The foolishness of man undermines his way [ruining whatever he undertakes];
Then his heart is resentful and rages against the Lord [for, being a fool, he blames the Lord INSTEAD OF HIMSELF].” (AMP)

“We are ruined by OUR OWN stupidity, though we blame the Lord.” (CEV)

“People ruin THEIR LIVES with the foolish things THEY DO, and then they blame the Lord for it.” (ERV)

“The stupidity of a person turns his life upside down, and his heart rages against the Lord.” (GWT)

“A man may ruin his chances by HIS OWN foolishness and then blame it on the Lord!” (TLB)

“People’s OWN foolishness ruins their lives, but in their minds they blame the Lord.” (NCV)

“The foolish acts of man make his way bad, and his heart is angry toward the Lord.” (NLV)

In other words, this foolishness is all your fault! As the saying goes, you broke it, you fix it! Yes YOU! So stop trying to get everybody to bring a tool kit to your life and repair your self-inflicted damage! Truth is we take 50% of our woes and blame it on the devil and the other 50% we blame on God. Where does that leave us? With nothing to take personal accountability for! However, 1 Corinthians 13:11, “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.” (AMP). In that one verse ‘I’ is repeated 6 times! Each time addressing what the person did (“TALKED, THOUGHT AND REASONED LIKE A CHILD”), therefore, it only makes sense that when it was time for a change, that same person, and only that person, was the one held accountable to make the change (“I DID AWAY WITH CHILDISH THINGS.”). You will never obtain maturity until you take full responsibility for putting your immaturity away! This is a solo job, and you are the only employee hired to work on it! So, get to work!

Let’s be honest, much of what hurts us, is based on the deliberate decisions WE made for US! The devil didn’t do it, and he didn’t make you do it! And God is not punishing you, your punishment is of your own doing for what you decided to do, without God! Enough is enough! Today is the day you take personal responsibility for your own life! You will no longer make Choices, then assign your Consequences to others, the devil or God!

Now, that’s what you call the “HONEST TO GOD TRUTH”! After all, how many times have you heard someone say, “How could GOD let this happen? How could GOD do this to me?WHEN, IN FACT, THEY’RE ONLY REAPING THE HARVEST OF THEIR OWN MISTAKES – AND THEIR OWN DELIBERATE BAD DECISIONS! A great quote says, “You have nobody to blame but yourself if you stumble more than once over the same stump.” And how many of us are guilty of that very thing? Which means, if the last affair scarred you, why would you do it again? If the alcohol and drugs almost cost you your life before, why would you do it again? If the last gossip split your church, why would you do it again? If running away from your problems only led you right back to them, why would you run again? And yet, we find ourselves stumbling over the same stump instead of going in a different direction altogether! Which means, the problem has nothing to do with the stump being Moved, the problem is that you keep coming back to same place to Visit it! Think about it: If you turned the corner on Franklin Street and ran into a brick wall, how many more times are you going to keep turning back down that same Franklin Street expecting a different result? Sounds a lot like the quote: “Insanity is doing the SAME thing over and over again, expecting DIFFERENT results!” You can’t continue repeating the same things thinking you will get a different result, that my friend is INSANITY! Which should not be found among believers whose God has said to them. For God did not give us a spirit of timidity or cowardice or fear, but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of SOUND JUDGMENT AND PERSONAL DISCIPLINE [ABILITIES THAT RESULT IN A CALM, WELL-BALANCED MIND AND SELF-CONTROL].” (2 Timothy 1:7 AMP) You don’t get to plead insanity when God has given you a well-balanced mind! Such conduct contradicts His command.

REMEMBER, THE DRIVER IS TO BLAME FOR WHERE THE CAR ENDS UP! But far too often, we blame God for where we end up, WHEN WE’VE BEEN DOING THE DRIVING ALL ALONG! I believe Gabriel Meurier said it right: “He who excuses himself accuses himself.” No more excuses, it’s time for the church to stop grooming lifetime babes in Christ and come to full maturity! Hebrews 5:11-14, “I have a lot more to say about this, but it is hard to get it across to you since you’ve picked up this bad habit of not listening. By this time you ought to be teachers yourselves, yet here I find you need someone to sit down with you and go over the basics on God again, starting from square one—baby’s milk, when you should have been on solid food long ago! Milk is for beginners, inexperienced in God’s ways; solid food is for the mature, who have some practice in telling right from wrong.” (MSG)

Then, 1 Corinthians 3:1-4, further admonishes: “But for right now, friends, I’m completely frustrated by your unspiritual dealings with each other and with God. You’re acting like infants in relation to Christ, capable of nothing much more than nursing at the breast. Well, then, I’ll nurse you since you don’t seem capable of anything more. As long as you grab for what makes you feel good or makes you look important, are you really much different than a babe at the breast, content only when everything’s going your way?” (MSG) Do you really want that to be all that can be said of you? After all this time in your walk with God your still on baby’s milk, acting like an infant, and nursing at the breast of immaturity? No, it’s time to take ownership of our lives and mistakes, and accidents and deliberate bad choices and consequences and decide today, to do and become better!

In fact, this may be an issue in your life right now. I for one can certainly assure you, it’s been an issue in mine, Plenty of times. You know where things have gone wrong and messed up for you and you end up being inflicted by scars in the process, and now you’re allowing them to come between you and your God?! But maybe, just maybe, could it possibly be, that your scars are, at least in part, SELF-INFLICTED?! You know how the saying goes: “A bad workman always blames his tools.” (Proverb). So, is it at all possible that you neglected some things that you should have taken care of? Have you allowed some things that are really important to slip; to be crowded out by some things that really weren’t all that important in the first place? Stephen R. Covey said, “The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” Far too many of us are blaming others, and even blaming the devil and God for things that are going wrong, WHEN THE TRUTH IS: WE’RE NOT DOING RIGHT! “To find a fault is easy; to do better may be difficult.” (Plutarch). Therefore, “Walk straight, act right, tell the truth. Don’t hurt your friend, don’t blame your neighbor…” (Psalm 15:2-4 MSG). NOW THAT’S SOME GOOD, SOUND, BIBLICAL ADVICE! BLAME NO ONE…BUT YOU!

IN ADDITION, A LOT OF US ARE SIMPLY REAPING SOME RESULTS TO OUR OWN STUBBORNNESS AND REFUSAL TO DO IT GOD’S WAY! “But I say, walk and live [habitually] in the [Holy] Spirit [responsive to and controlled and guided by the Spirit]; THEN you will certainly not gratify the cravings and desires of the flesh (of human nature without God).” (Galatians 5:16 AMP). God’s been trying to lead you in a different direction, maybe even convicting you of some sinful attitude, action, relationship that you need to change, or a wrong way you’ve been treating others. God’s Word to you just may be Isaiah 48:18, “IF YOU ONLY HAD PAID ATTENTION TO MY COMMANDS, your peace would have been like a river, your righteousness like the waves of the sea.How often our pain is the result and the harvest of our OWN selfishness, our OWN bad choices, our OWN messed up priorities, our OWN lack of character, integrity and faithfulness, our OWN hasty words, our OWN lies, and the things we’ve neglected, or the people we’ve abused?! And to have peace of mind, all we would’ve had to do is PAY ATTENTION TO GOD’S COMMANDS! Maybe today is a good day to start doing that, don’t you think?

“Some favorite expressions of small children: “It’s not my fault…They made me do it…I forgot.” Some favorite expressions of adults: “It’s not my job…No one told me…It couldn’t be helped.” However, TRUE FREEDOM BEGINS AND ENDS WITH PERSONAL ACCOUNTABILITY” (Dan Zadra).

People of God, enough is enough with the “…rage against the Lord“. THIS IS A TIME TO LOOK IN THE MIRROR AND ACCEPT THE RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE RESULTS OF OUR OWN CHOICES! In the words of Stephen R. Covey: “There are three constants in life…change, choice and principles.” So, let today be a new beginning for you, so tomorrow’s harvest will be better, instead of barren! 

Remember, the healing of the prodigal son began when, according to the Bible, “HE CAME TO HIMSELF” Today, we determine not to blame others or the devil, and certainly not to blame God. BUT TODAY WE ACCEPT ACCOUNTABILITY AND RESPONSIBILITY TO TREAT OUR OWN SELF-INFLICTED SCARS!

Today we decide to apologize to those we’ve hurt, intentionally or not. Today we address all the things we’ve been ignoring. Today we admit it was us, it was our fault, it was our stubbornness, it was our slothfulness, it was our disobedience, it was our pride, it was our lust, it was our jealousy and envy, it was our competitiveness, it was our arrogance, it was our need for validation and approval, it was our pettiness, it was our bitterness, anger and resentment. Today we take ownership of what we’ve deliberately chosen to do to infect our own lives with the poison that’s about to kill our dreams, hopes, vision and purpose. Today we point no fingers, we simply put our hands to work in fixing our own lives. Yes, God takes excellent care of us, but He wouldn’t have given us brains if we weren’t supposed to use them. We are intelligent beings, and today we start to act like it. If we can make a decision to do wrong, certainly we can now make the decision to do right. But it all starts with us addressing US! 

Blaming your faults on your nature does not change the nature of your faults.” (Indian Proverb). So no more pointing fingers, no more ‘if she hadn’t did’ or ‘if he hadn’t said’; ‘if I grew up living there’; ‘if I had the money’; if they supported me more’; ‘if the job didn’t’ etc… NO, PERSONAL GROWTH STARTS WITH PERSONAL ACCOUNTABILITY!

“There’s a difference between interest and commitment. When you’re interested in doing something, you do it only when it’s convenient. When you’re committed to something, you accept no excuses; only results.” (Kenneth Blanchard). If you’re not just interested, but committed to receiving healing for yourself, then make a mature start today by being honest and admitting that most of your scars are in fact self-inflicted! Nothing to do with him, her, them, that place, or that thing. It was your own hand that inflicted your own pain and thereby your own scars, and it will be your own hand that helps them to heal!

Homework: 2 Samuel 12th Chapter, let David and Nathan minister to you about self-inflicted scars and their consequences. Which is another thing in and of itself. Because David had Nathan, and likewise, you need a Nathan too. If you are to develop into full maturity as one that takes full accountability for their life, you need to make sure you are in the right company and not associated with the wrong companions! 1 Corinthians 15:33, says, “Do not be so deceived and misled! Evil companionships (communion, associations) corrupt and deprave good manners and morals and character.” (AMPC). Which means you need to surround yourself with people who are not afraid to hurt your feelings by telling you the truth about YOU! Avoid people who will throw a cover over your flaws, and instead attach yourself to people who will call you on the carpet! People like this, don’t allow you to live just any kind of way. They are important and vital to your walk and work. Find them and never lose sight of them!

Today, Love You Enough to Heal Your Own Self-Inflicted Scars! It’s No One’s Responsibility, But Your Own!

“You must take personal responsibility. You cannot change the circumstances, the seasons or the wind, but you can change yourself.” (Jim Rohn) 

“When bad things happen, resist the urge to blame others. Instead, find something you can do yourself to fix the problem.” (Dave Ramsey) 

“Accept responsibility for your actions. Be accountable for your results. Take ownership of your mistakes.”  

“Personal accountability requires mindfulness, acceptance, honesty and courage.” (Shelby Martin)

“The moment you take responsibility for Everything in your life is the moment you can change Anything in your life.” (Hal Elrod)

“Responsibility is accepting that YOU are the cause and the solution of the matter.”

“It is not only what we DO, but also what we DO NOT DO for which we are accountable.” (John Baptiste Moliere)

“You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.” (Abraham Lincoln)

“Accountability is the glue that ties commitment to results.”

“Accountability is essential to personal growth, as well as team growth. How can you improve if you’re never wrong? If you don’t admit a mistake and take responsibility for it, you’re bound to make the same one again.” (Pat Summitt)

“When you choose your behavior, you choose your consequences.” (Dr. Phil)

“The victim mindset dilutes the human potential. By not accepting personal responsibility for our circumstances, we greatly reduce our power to change them.” (Steve Maraboli)

Much Love, Dr. Shermaine #EnjoyTheRead #BeInspired #BeEncouraged #BeEmpowered #BeChallenged #BeHealed
Feel free to also join us at: http://www.selfcarewithdrshermaine.blogspot.com Today’s Lesson: “Alcoholism in Black Women”

“Overcome Overload!”

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 “The minute I said, “I’m slipping, I’m falling,” Your love, God, took hold and held me fast. When I was upset and beside myself, You calmed me down and cheered me up.” (Psalm 94:18-19 MSG)

Before a violin can produce music, STRESS must be put on the strings! But pull the strings too tightly and they’ll SNAP! The same is true of you! Enough stress gets the juices flowing and helps you do what needs to be done, but beyond that, YOU SNAP! And everyone around you knows when it happens because your attitude gets funky, your temper gets short, your mouth gets reckless, your moods are swinging in every direction, you become sarcastic and belittling, you become combative and pit-bull attackingly miserable and painful to be around! This is what happens when too much STRESS causes you to SNAP!

Someone quipped, “You know you’re on overload when you have no time to cook a tv dinner, the cat’s on tranquilizers, and family reunions have to be mediated by law enforcement!Seriously, before it gets to that point, do these 2 things first:

(1)   ASK FOR HELP: During Hurricane Katrina, 8 dolphins were swept out of their aquarium into the sea, but because they Stuck Together they were rescued! If One had tried to go it Alone, he’d have perished! That’s why you have to remember when you’re Alone too much you lose perspective. If the enemy can Isolate you, he can Influence you! Which is why God designed His Family to Stay Connected! Or as Paul says, “That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care for another” (1 Corinthians 12:25).  Lena Horne said it best: “It’s not the load that breaks you down; it’s the way you carry itMaybe you need to stop trying to use 2 hands to carry a 4 hands load! In a Nutshell: ASK FOR HELP! It takes nothing away from your ability, calling, gifts, talents, skill-set or anointing. It’s simply being honest and real that what I’m carrying is heavy and I need help! Anything beyond that is pure arrogance, pride and self-conceit at its best. And believe it or not, but some people see you have too much and wait and watch to see if you’re going to be humble enough to ask for help. And sadly enough, most people don’t! Which is why I will never understand how they get so bent out of shape, when their load levels them! All you had to do was Ask For Help! Truth is many of our mountains are really just several molehills piled up! Therefore, if you want to avoid building mountains start delegating some of your molehills! “Sometimes asking for help is the bravest move you can make. You don’t have to go it alone.” (Author Unknown); “Be strong enough to stand alone, smart enough to know when you need help, and brave enough to ask for it.” (Author Unknown); “Don’t be shy about asking for help. It doesn’t mean you’re weak, it only means you’re wise.” (Author Unknown); “Everyone no matter how big and strong, could use a little help sometimes. Never be afraid to ask for help when you need it. What are we here for, if not for each other?” (Author Unknown); “Ask for help, not because you’re weak, but because you want to remain strong.” (Les Brown); “I’m courageous enough to know I can accomplish great things. I’m humble enough to know when to ask for help.” (Katrina Mayer)

(2)  GET REAL WITH GOD: Under stress a surge of negative emotions can be overwhelming, and unless you unburden your soul before God you’ll explode at the wrong people! The Psalmist suggests: “Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall” (Psalm 55:22 NIV ); “Trust God, my friends, and always tell him each one of your concerns. God is our place of safety” (Psalm 62:8 CEV). It’s no coincidence that many of the Psalms start out with the Psalmist crying out to God for help, and end with him rejoicing because he vented his pent-up frustrations! Maybe you should follow his example! “I am so weak that I can hardly write, I cannot read my Bible, I cannot even pray, I can only lie still in God’s arms like a little child, and trust” (Hudson Taylor). Sometimes that alone, Is Enough! In other words, stop trying to act like Bionic Woman, 6 Million Dollar Man, Superwoman, Superman, and the like. Truth is, you are flesh and blood and a lot more like the Hulk than any other (because one stresser too many and you’re going to turn into a green explosion)! I know you are Spirit and that Spirit has power, but it never diminishes the fact that you are still 100% human, with human limitations! Think about it: Even Jesus had to deal with human emotions! He was compassionate; angry; greatly distressed; sleepy; in anguish; in pain; sorrowful; grieved; thirsty. He asked others to pray with Him and for Him. He wept. He had to deal with difficult family members, friends, disciples, and enemies. Daily He was confronted with the sick, those with ailments and disease; those in need of sight, hearing, speech; forgiveness. Jesus had a full Human plate just as many of us have today. And yet He was still humble enough and honest enough to get away by Himself for alone time with God. The Bible shares, “…Soon a large crowd of people had gathered to listen and be healed of their ailments. As often as possible Jesus withdrew to out-of-the-way places for prayer.” (Luke 5:16 MSG). And this is the all-powerful, all-knowing, all-seeing Jesus the Son of the Living God! And yet, He needed time away, because He never allowed His diety to mask his humanity. He shows us how to deal with varying daily struggles and yet be smart enough, human enough, to pull away and say enough. And if He can do it, surely He desires the very same of us. In fact, in His own words: “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:28-30 MSG) Sounds to me that God Himself doesn’t mind you getting a little rest in! “I do the best that I can do, and leave the rest to God.” (Danny Dummitt); “When we rest, we trust that God holds everything together.” (Margaret Feinberg); “When we do not allow time to rest, cracks in our spirit can leave us emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually fragile.” (Karen Ehman); “Rest in the security of your Heavenly Father’s arms until you see His power transform your circumstances.” (Stormie Omartian); “Throw yourself upon God’s faithfulness as you do upon your bed, bringing all your weariness to His dear rest.” (C.H. Spurgeon); “Rest is a weapon given to us by God. The enemy hates it because he wants us to always be stressed and pre-occupied.” (Author Unknown); “You have permission to rest. You are not responsible for fixing everything that is broken. You do not have to try and make everyone happy. For now, take time for you. It’s time to replenish.” (Author Unknown)

The Psalmist cried out: “I’m awake all night.” (Psalm 77:4) In another translation the Psalmist REALLY lets you know how he feels: “I found myself in trouble and went looking for my Lord; my life was an open wound that wouldn’t heal. When friends said, “Everything will turn out all right,” I didn’t believe a word they said. I remember God—and shake my head. I bow my head—then wring my hands. I’m awake all night—not a wink of sleep; I can’t even say what’s bothering me. I go over the days one by one, I ponder the years gone by. I strum my lute all through the night, wondering how to get my life together” (Psalm 77:2-6 MSG).  

The truth is, You Can’t Escape All Stress, but you can learn to cope with it by taking control of your life in small but important ways:

(1)  THINK ABOUT SOMEONE OTHER THAN YOURSELF: David was so frazzled he was awake all night. Ever been there? That’s when you need to remember: Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.” (Philippians 4:6-7 MSG). Elijah was depressed and suicidal when God showed him how to help himself. How you ask? BY LEAVING THE CAVE HE WAS HIDING IN, AND GOING OUT AND MINISTERING TO OTHERS! FOCUSING ON SOMETHING OTHER YOURSELF GIVES YOU BETTER PERSPECTIVE! All praise to the God and Father of our Master, Jesus the Messiah! Father of all mercy! God of all healing counsel! He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us. We have plenty of hard times that come from following the Messiah, but no more so than the good times of his healing comfort—we get a full measure of that, too” (2 Corinthians 1:3-5 MSG). Need help? THEN REACH OUT AND HELP OTHERS! However, this does not mean adding someone else’s load to the one you’re already struggling with yourself! It means something a little more simplistic: Tutor a teen with a subject they’re struggling with; drop off a hot plate of food to a senior who lives alone or someone sick and shut in; send someone an encouraging quote who’s dealing with a burden; sit next to someone in service you know is hurting and hold their hand. You’ll be amazed how much of a break your brain will get from constantly being drained by your own struggles. And as an added bonus, when you began to help someone who is worse off than you, it helps to put things into perspective for yourself. Just maybe something or someone you’re struggling with is not as bad as you think…remember as bad as things are they can always become worse. So learn to appreciate where you are and what you have, and the best way to do that is helping someone else! “A kind gesture can reach a wound that only compassion can heal.” (Dr. Steve Maraboli); “Helping one person might not change the world, but it could change the world for one person.” (Author Unknown); “We rise by lifting others.” (Robert Ingersoll); “We can’t help everyone, but everyone can help someone.” (Ronald Reagan); “The strongest people make time to help others, even if they are struggling with their own problems.” (Simple Reminders); “As you grow older you discover you have two hands: one for helping yourself, one for helping others.” (Audrey Hepburn)

(2)  DON’T GET BITTER: Life is 10 percent what happens to you, and 90 percent how you respond to it. When somebody you trust betrays or disappoints you, or you’re struggling financially after tithing faithfully for years, it’s easy to feel let down. But “…Don’t…become bitter” (Hebrews 12:15 CEV); it destroys relationships and cuts you off from God’s presence. The answer is learning to Thank [God] in everything [no matter what the circumstances may be, be thankful and give thanks], for this is the will of God for you [who are] in Christ Jesus [the Revealer and Mediator of that will]” (1 Thessalonians 5:18 AMP). Don’t Become Bitter, Become Thankful, and Watch Things Become Better! “Things don’t go wrong and break your heart so you can become bitter and give up. They happen to break you down and build you up so you can be all that you were intended to be.” (Charlie Jones); “If I thought about it, I could be bitter, but I don’t feel like being bitter. Being bitter makes you immobile, and there’s too much that I still want to do.” (Richard Pryor); “You either get bitter or you get better. It’s that simple. You either take what has been dealt to you and allow it to make you a better person, or you allow it to tear you down. The choice does not belong to fate, it belongs to you.” (Josh Shipp); “Life is flying by. You don’t have time to waste another minute being negative, offended or bitter. If someone did you wrong, get over it and move forward.” (Joel Osteen); “Never succumb to the temptation of bitterness.” (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.)

Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.” (Matthew 6:34 MSG) I know today many of you have the testimony that Everything that could go wrong, has gone wrong! Your son tattooed his forehead, your daughter pierced her tongue, your husband’s paycheck went down, your wife’s blood pressure went up, the dog chewed your work shoes, the job wants overtime while you have no vacation time, the toilet’s overflowing, the roof is leaking, the washer sounds like the car and the car sounds like the train and dare we discus it’s day one of PMS?! And naturally today is the last day to send in the check, sign the permission slip, drop that off and pick that up! No Wonder You’re Stressed! Well, let’s see if we can find just a little help! When life gets overwhelming remember these 4 simple things:

(1)  GOD’S STILL LOOKING OUT FOR YOU: I know what it feels like, I know what it looks like, I know what it sounds like, I know what it seems like, and still I say God is Still Looking Out for You! When things look bad, remind yourself that God’s bigger than your problem: “…Don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. GOD WILL HELP YOU DEAL WITH WHATEVER HARD THINGS COME UP WHEN THE TIME COMES”(Matthew 6:34 MSG) God has not and will not ever leave you or forsake you! Hebrews 13:5, “…for He has said, “I will never [under any circumstances] desert you [nor give you up nor leave you without support, nor will I in any degree leave you helpless], nor will I forsake or let you down or relax My hold on you [assuredly not]!” (AMP) You my friend are never alone! You are never without His presence, His protection, His provision. Handle what you can handle then leave the rest in the hands of God. Remember: YOU said you trust Him…now’s the time to prove it! After all, His hands loved you enough to be pierced, nailed, bloodied and disfigured surely they love you enough to hold you in the midnight hour…don’t you think?

(2)  DON’T QUIT: Every time you reach the breaking point it’s a test! You have before you a series of choices that will add up to either quitting, or persevering through to victory. Paul was flogged, thrown in jail, shipwrecked and run out of town, but he refused to give in to circumstances and in the end he was able to say, “I have fought the good fight, I have FINISHED the race, and I have REMAINED FAITHFUL” (2 Timothy 4:7 NLT).  DON’T QUIT! Don’t change jobs, change churches, or change spouses! Stick it out and wait for the Lord! He has promised you He has a guaranteed plan for your future: Jeremiah 29:11, “This is GOD’s Word on the subject…I’ll show up and take care of you as I promised and bring you back home. I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out – plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for” (MSG) and last I checked He Still Cannot Lie and His Word Still Cannot Fail! (“…God is not man, one given to lies, and not a son of man changing His mind. Does He speak and not do what He says? Does He promise and not come through?” (Numbers 23:19 MSG); “…Just as rain and snow descend from the skies and don’t go back until they’ve watered the earth, Doing their work of making things grow and blossom, producing seed for farmers and food for the hungry, So will the words that come out of my mouth not come back empty-handed. They’ll do the work I sent them to do, they’ll complete the assignment I gave them.” Isaiah 55:8-11 MSG).  So I reiterate, Don’t Quit! No matter how many things are going Wrong…God will come through at just the Right time on your behalf!

(3)  IF IT’S NOT YOURS…DON’T TOUCH IT: Stress comes from micro-managing others and assuming responsibilities that aren’t yours! Establish healthy boundaries. If you’re not sure what’s appropriate, ask God to show you. In other words, adhere to His Word: “…mind your own business; do your own job. You’ve heard all this from us before, but a reminder never hurts..” (1 Thessalonians 4:11 MSG) MAKE SURE YOU’RE NOT CARRYING SOMETHING GOD NEVER GAVE YOU! Selah!

(4)  YOUR BREAKING POINT CAN BE YOUR BREAKTHROUGH: Ever heard the expression hitting the wall?” Well, Runners use it when they’re exhausted and feel like giving up. But seasoned athletes know if they push through the pain they’ll get their second wind and experience a runner’s highthat’ll carry them over the finish line! So, Don’t let the Overload Overwhelm you, you have a finish line to cross, so get your second wind, finish your assignment, then relax! Remember: You are called to Overcome not to become Overwhelmed! So today, Unload!

“Learn how to say ‘no’. Don’t let your mouth overload your back.” (Jim Rohn)

“Saying ‘yes’ to happiness means learning to say ‘no’ to things and people that stress you out.” (Thema Davis)

It’s not information overload. It’s filter failure.” (Clay Shirky)

Much Love, Dr. Shermaine #EnjoyTheRead #BeInspired #BeEncouraged #BeEmpowered #BeChallenged
Feel free to also join us at: http://www.selfcarewithdrshermaine.blogspot.com Today’s Lesson: “27 Health Problems Linked to Low Vitamin D!”