“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/she leave you thinking more about him/her 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-flips, 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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“Pretty Container, But Poisonous Content!”

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My girlfriend Caroline absolutely loves the country, hiking, and camping! She loves animals of every kind, and always has a story to tell from her adventures. Well, the last time she saw a frog, she was with one of her grandchildren. She loved it when her grandson Jake picked up a little bug-eyed green fellow and held him close so she could get a better look at him. It was one of Kermit’s cousins, you know. Now, Jake didn’t have any second thoughts about picking up a frog. They’re harmless, after all! Well, most of the time – unless that’s if it’s what they call a poisonous dart frog! No worries though, I’m pretty sure we don’t have those, but they’re about one and one-half inches long, and they live in tropical rain forests in Central and South America. And they are the good-lookers of the frog kingdom family. You see, they’re not a boring, plain ol’ green color. They are quite diverse in color, and can come in multiple colors at the same time. The dart frog is extremely brightly colored. He looks very interesting, but he can be carrying enough poison to kill 20,000 mice! Or more important to you and me – enough poison to kill ten people!

Here’s a creature who looks so good and yet kills so dead! Just like sin; maybe the sin that’s been looking pretty good to you lately. So many people have reached out and touched what they should have never touched, and they paid a painful price that they could have never imagined. Sin may appear pretty at times, but it’s pretty poison!

James 1:13-15. “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.” (MSG)

Those are some sledgehammer verses! It traces a moral disaster from the first desire for something that’s wrong to the sinful choice to get what looks so good, to its final result. When that “baby” called sin finally is born, what you get is death because sin always kills. It kills families, it kills marriages, it kills character and reputations, and it kills ministries and churches. Sin kills your self-respect, people’s trust in you and even your closeness to the God that you can’t live without.

The story of this attractive killer goes all the way back to the very first humans God ever created, Adam and Eve. With all the beauty of the Garden of Eden available for his enjoyment, God gave Adam this one prohibition: “You must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.” Satan came to Eve and told her the exact opposite: “You will not surely die.” And “when the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it” (Genesis 2:17; 3:4, 6). And they learned the hard way that no matter how much you think you have to gain from going outside God’s boundaries, you have so much more to lose! They lost Eden, they lost walking with God, they lost intimacy with God, and instead they gained so much pain and even death!

It may be that the same devil is lying to you right now about the sin that looks so good to you. “It won’t hurt,” “Everybody’s doing it,” “Hey, you deserve it,” “You need this,” “Only a little,” “Ah, just this once.” Anything to get you to bite! Anything to get you to take the deadly poison of sin. It looks like you have so much to gain if you’ll just lie a little, cheat a little, flirt a little, try a little, or take just one look. But you have so much to lose! However, you won’t know that until it’s too late, unless you listen to what God says.

Wisdom Nugget: First sin fascinates you, and then it assassinates you!

However, I, in God’s love, have come to you TODAY to wave you away from a choice that will take you where you never wanted to go, it will keep you longer than you ever wanted to stay, and it will cost you more than you ever wanted to pay. Don’t walk away from that sin – RUN away from it! Sin looks so good yet it kills so dead! Much like the pretty, yet POISONOUS dart frog!

Let’s take a look at a few facts about this little terror, and see what Spiritual truths we can gather from their Natural world:

FOR ONE, THE BRIGHTER THE DART FROG IS, THE MORE TOXIC IT IS! And isn’t that a lot like sin? After all, it’s always the APPEARANCE of something that gets us in trouble every time! Our EYES fall in love with what we ‘SEE’, not knowing that what we can ‘SEE’ is just on the Surface! For example, we SEE someone else’s marriage and it LOOKS like it’s absolutely perfect; we SEE someone else’s children and they LOOK ideal; we SEE someone else’s home and we become dissatisfied with the apartment we live in; we SEE what someone else is driving and then we’re mad that we’re still taking the bus; we SEE the job someone else has and all of a sudden we’re ready to change careers; we SEE the position someone holds in church and overnight God has called us to a new office, title and position! But what we don’t know is all that lies underneath the SURFACE of all of that stuff we covet. You see, underneath all that brightly covered stuff, their marriage LOOKS perfect, but he beats her daily; their children LOOK ideal, but their son is in a gang and their daughter is on cocaine; their home LOOKS beautiful, but neither of them can get any sleep at night worrying about making the payments they can’t afford; their car is in a class all by itself, and yet their children have to take out loans because the car loan emptied their college funds; they have a well-paid job, and little do you know they hate it every day because of all the compromising they have to do to maintain it; they sit in a big chair at church, but possess so little character in the comfort of their own home! Be careful of allowing your EYES to LURE you into lusting after ‘SHINY, BRIGHT’ things. You just may discover that it’s nothing more than poison gift wrapped in pretty paper! 2 Corinthians 11:12-15, “And I’m not changing my position on this. I’d die before taking your money. I’m giving nobody grounds for lumping me in with those money-grubbing “preachers,” vaunting themselves as something special. They’re a sorry bunch—pseudo-apostles, lying preachers, crooked workers—POSING as Christ’s agents but sham to the core. And no wonder! SATAN DOES IT ALL THE TIME, DRESSING UP AS A BEAUTIFUL ANGEL OF LIGHT. So it shouldn’t surprise us when his servants MASQUERADE as servants of God. But they’re not getting by with anything. They’ll pay for it in the end.” (MSG)

GUARD YOUR EYES AGAINST THE APPEARANCE OF PEOPLE, PLACES AND THINGS! LOOKS CAN STILL BE DECEIVING AND THINGS AREN’T ALWAYS WHAT THEY LOOK LIKE!

SECONDLY, THE DART FROG IS SMALL, BUT DEADLY! As believers, we’re quick to jump on those who commit adultery, fornicate, drink, smoke, curse, lie, and steal, but I’m often amazed by how we alter the definition of sin when it comes to our OWN! We like to categorize it and give it a size, when it becomes personal. You see, adultery is a “big sin”, oh but sister girl in the corner slandering her sister in Christ with gossip, now that’s a “little sin.” But the bible does not differentiate! Sin, is Sin, no matter who does it or what kind of sin it is! The dart frog can be as SMALL as a paperclip, and still it is DEADLY! And whether they get caught drunk driving while you’re sowing discord among the brethren, sin is still sin! It is still deadly, no matter how ‘small and insignificant’ you may think it is! Proverbs 6:16-19, “These six things the Lord hates; Indeed, seven are repulsive to Him: A proud look [the attitude that makes one overestimate oneself and discount others], a lying tongue, And hands that shed innocent blood, A heart that creates wicked plans, Feet that run swiftly to evil, A false witness who breathes out lies [even half-truths], And one who spreads discord (rumors) among brothers.” (AMP) But most don’t pay these things any mind, because clearly the “bigger” sins, are adultery and drunkenness! LISTEN, anything that God deems a sin, is a sin! And sin has no size, no category, just the consequence of death! Today, is a great day, to get rid of ALL sin! Just as the ‘little foxes’ spoil the vine, even the sins in your life that you deem ‘little’ will spoil you! Song of Solomon 2:15, “Our vineyards are in blossom; we must catch the LITTLE foxes that DESTROY the vineyards.” (CEV) What You Deem a SMALL SIN Can Bring You BIG DESTRUCTION!  James 3:3-12, “Now if we put bits into the horses’ mouths to make them obey us, we guide their whole body as well.  And look at the ships. Even though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are still directed by a very SMALL rudder wherever the impulse of the helmsman determines.  In the same sense, the TONGUE is a SMALL part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things. See [by comparison] how great a forest is set on fire by a SMALL spark!  And the tongue is [in a sense] a fire, the very world of injustice and unrighteousness; the tongue is set among our members as that which contaminates the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life [the cycle of man’s existence], and is itself set on fire by hell (Gehenna).  For every species of beasts and birds, of reptiles and sea creatures, is tamed and has been tamed by the human race.  But no one can tame the human tongue; it is a restless evil [undisciplined, unstable], FULL OF DEADLY POISON.  With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God. Out of the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. These things, my brothers, should not be this way [for we have a moral obligation to speak in a manner that reflects our fear of God and profound respect for His precepts].  Does a spring send out from the same opening both fresh and bitter water?  Can a fig tree, my brothers, produce olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Nor can salt water produce fresh.” (AMP)

I REITERATE, WHAT YOU DEEM A SMALL SIN CAN BRING YOU BIG DESTRUCTION! DON’T COMPROMISE YOUR CHARACTER! ALL SATAN NEEDS IS A SMALL OPENING TO GIVE HIM OPPORTUNITY TO OVERCOME YOU! Ephesians 4:27, “Leave no [such] room or foothold for the devil [give no opportunity to him].” (AMPC) A “foothold” is defined as “a place where one can lodge a foot to give secure support while climbing; to secure a position from which further progress may be made.” You may not think a ‘little sin’ can cause much damage, but the Bible disagrees with you! You see, all the devil needs is a foothold, enough room just to get his toes in, and as soon as you allow him that little wiggle room, it will become the place where he can lodge his foot to give him secure support while climbing into your life, making further progress until total takeover and destruction has been accomplished! So…do you still think ‘little’ isn’t such a BIG deal?!

THIRDLY, THE FOOD THE DART FROG EATS IS WHAT MAKES IT POISONOUS! Which is why you have to be so careful about what you DIGEST! The enemy comes to steal, kill and destroy, so clearly he’s not digesting anything good! Therefore, nothing to do with sin can be good! I don’t care what it looks like, feels like, or the lies it promises, sin is still a deadly killer! Everything out of the enemy and sin is ugly, damaging, and life threatening. It’s fear, discouragement, jealously, anger, maliciousness. And when you partake of sin, that’s the poison you digest! Stop coming into contact with people, places and things that will kill you! Don’t play around it, don’t flirt around it, don’t go near it, avoid it at all costs! Because nothing from it can ever produce anything good, just further destruction! People of God, Let’s Use the Wisdom of Scripture! Proverbs 4:10-15, “Dear friend, take my advice; it will add years to your life. I’m writing out clear directions to Wisdom Way, I’m drawing a map to Righteous Road. I don’t want you ending up in blind alleys, or wasting time making wrong turns. Hold tight to good advice; don’t relax your grip. Guard it well—your life is at stake! Don’t take Wicked Bypass; don’t so much as set foot on that road. Stay clear of it; give it a wide berth. Make a detour and be on your way.” (MSG) THE MORE WORD YOU DIGEST THE LESS CHANCE YOU HAVE OF SIPPING ON SIN AS YOUR CHOICE SUBSTANCE ABUSE! FOLLOW THE ADMONISHMENT OF THE PSALMIST: “How can a young person live a clean life? By carefully reading the map of Your Word. I’m single-minded in pursuit of You; don’t let me miss the road signs you’ve posted. I’ve banked Your promises in the vault of my heart so I won’t sin myself bankrupt. Be blessed, God; train me in Your ways of wise living. I’ll transfer to my lips all the counsel that comes from Your mouth; I delight far more in what You tell me about living than in gathering a pile of riches. I ponder every morsel of wisdom from You, I attentively watch how You’ve done it. I relish everything You’ve told me of life, I won’t forget a word of it.” (MSG)

BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU CHOOSE TO DIGEST, IT CAN VERY WELL MEAN LIFE OR DEATH TO YOU!

FOURTH, AS COLORFUL AS DART FROGS ARE, THEY ALWAYS HAVE BLACK ON THEM TO MAKE THEM EASIER TO CAMOUFLAGE! And that’s just like sin! It can camouflage as something good and fulfilling. But no matter how well it camouflages itself, sin is still sin, and sin still kills! You can dress it up all you like, the poison it possesses still remains intact! The Dart Frog is the Epitome of Hypocrisy…and Unfortunately, So are Many of God’s Children! 2 Timothy 3:5, “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). The Message Bible reads like this: “Don’t be naïve. There are difficult times ahead. As the end approaches, people are going to be self-absorbed, money-hungry, self-promoting, stuck-up, profane, contemptuous of parents, crude, coarse, dog-eat-dog, unbending, slanderers, impulsively wild, savage, cynical, treacherous, ruthless, bloated windbags, addicted to lust, and allergic to God. They’ll make a SHOW of religion, but BEHIND THE SCENES they’re animals. Stay clear of these people.” (vss. 1-5 MSG) Which is why today is a good day to re-exam the company you keep! Why? 1 Corinthians 15:30-33, “…But don’t fool yourselves. Don’t let yourselves be POISONED…BAD COMPANY RUINS GOOD MANNERS.” (MSG); Matthew 7:15, “Beware of the false prophets, [teachers] who come to you dressed as sheep [APPEARING GENTLE AND INNOCENT], BUT INWARDLY ARE RAVENOUS WOLVES.” (AMP). Some people are nothing more than pretty containers with poisonous content! A form of godliness; a show of religion; wolves in sheep’s clothing! Nothing more than the appearance of godliness. Therefore, use wisdom when selecting your circle so you don’t end up boxed into a circus full of clowns!

Now, there are so many more facts about the dart frog that could be shared, but I’ll close with this last one:

POISONOUS DART FROGS DO NOT LIVE IN THE WATER AS THEY LACK TOE WEBBING AND ARE POOR SWIMMERS. However, like all frogs they begin life in the water as tadpoles. They live in small pools found in the leaves of bromeliads and other tree dwelling plants until they emerge as tiny frogs. And why is this my favorite fact? Because of Ephesians 5. A portion of it reads like this: “Husbands, love your wives [seek the highest good for her and surround her with a caring, unselfish love], JUST AS CHRIST ALSO LOVED THE CHURCH AND GAVE HIMSELF UP FOR HER,  SO THAT HE MIGHT SANCTIFY THE CHURCH, HAVING CLEANSED HER BY THE WASHING OF WATER WITH THE WORD [OF GOD],  so that [in turn] He might present the church to Himself in glorious splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy [set apart for God] and blameless.  Even so husbands should and are morally obligated to love their own wives as [being in a sense] their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself.” (5:25-28 AMP)

Focal Point: “…SO THAT HE MIGHT SANCTIFY THE CHURCH, HAVING CLEANSED HER BY THE WASHING OF WATER WITH THE WORD [OF GOD]…”  

I’ve learned that to keep myself from sin, I need to position myself where the enemy can’t get to me! You see, the dart frog is full of poison and can kill 20,000 mice or ten people, yet it has to be able to get to them first! And if I dare to stay with Christ, and allow Him to sanctify me by washing me with the water of the Word of God (the enemy), that pretty, poisonous dart frog, can’t get to me, BECAUSE IT CAN’T SWIM! Reminds me of Moses and the Red Sea! They went through, while their enemies went under! Or like the unclean spirits that came out of the man and asked Jesus if they could enter the pigs. They were granted their request, and rushed down the steep bank into the sea; and they were drowned [one after the other] in the sea, says the Scripture! How awesome is that! If I keep myself out of the enemies reach, he can’t touch me! But family, that means that we actively do what we must to stay out of harms way! You can’t play with sin and the devil, and then get mad when you get hurt! You can’t play with hell then cry when the heat burns you! A safe place for you is to dwell in the presence of God, in the Word of God, in prayer with God! Allow Him to be the Rivers of Living Water flowing out of you (more water that the enemy can’t swim in!)

People of God, don’t be tricked, or fooled, it (and they) may look real good, and may promise to make you feel even better. However, don’t fall for it! It may be pretty, but it (and they) can be quite poisonous! Stay clean, stay holy, stay drenched in God, and stay alive!

Remember: Just as God has plans for our lives (Jeremiah 29:10-11, “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); so does Satan have plans for our lives! 2 Corinthians 2:11, “I did this so that Satan would not win anything from us, because we know very well what Satan’s plans are.” (NCV) And what are his plans for our lives? “…TO STEAL AND KILL AND DESTROY!” (John 10:10) Let’s Not Be the Ones Who Supply Him With the Ammunition to Take Us Out! Instead, Let’s Obey Christ’s Orders: Matthew 10:16, “Stay alert. This is hazardous work I’m assigning you. You’re going to be like sheep running through a wolf pack, so don’t call attention to yourselves. Be as cunning as a snake, inoffensive as a dove.” (MSG)

The enemy is playing for keeps, so keep yourselves alert in this hazardous kingdom assignment! Don’t compromise and don’t live contrary to Christ’s commands:

Ephesians 5:11-16, “Don’t waste your time on useless work, mere busywork, the barren pursuits of darkness. Expose these things for the sham they are. It’s a scandal when people waste their lives on things they must do in the darkness where no one will see. Rip the cover off those frauds and see how attractive they look in the light of Christ. Wake up from your sleep, Climb out of your coffins;
Christ will show you the light! So watch your step. Use your head. Make the most of every chance you get. These are desperate times!” (MSG);

Romans 12:1-2, “So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.” (MSG)

Hebrews 12:1-3, “Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!” (MSG)

2 Corinthians 6:14-18, “Don’t become partners with those who reject God. How can you make a partnership out of right and wrong? That’s not partnership; that’s war. Is light best friends with dark? Does Christ go strolling with the Devil? Do trust and mistrust hold hands? Who would think of setting up pagan idols in God’s holy Temple? But that is exactly what we are, each of us a temple in whom God lives. God himself put it this way: “I’ll live in them, move into them; I’ll be their God and they’ll be my people. So leave the corruption and compromise; leave it for good,” says God. “Don’t link up with those who will pollute you. I want you all for myself. I’ll be a Father to you; you’ll be sons and daughters to me.”  The Word of the Master, God.” (MSG)

We will not lose our crown, nor silence His ‘well done good and faithful servant!’

Let’s exam our lives saints, and get back to raising the standard bar of a Spirit of Excellence among God’s Children. Let’s not be fooled again by Satan’s Pretty Containers With Poisonous Content, We Have Too Much to Lose! Holiness Will Always Keep Us Safe From What’s Hellish!

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

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“POUR On the SALT, TURN On the LIGHT”

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I’m such a lover of history! So today I invite you to take a little trip with me!

It was the early winter of 1994 – the one the Sanitation Department of New York City would not forget for a long while. Much of the East Coast got hit big time with this parade of snow and ice storms. At one point, they were coming about every other day. A hard freeze and frequent storms created layers of frozen precipitation on the ground. Kind of like geological strata except slippery. Olympic skaters could have practiced on Broadway or Fifth Avenue to give you a real good visual!

Needless to say, the sand and salt trucks were working around the clock, and drivers worked such long hours that I’m persuaded they had to wear name tags when they finally got home because they’d been gone so much and so long, it’s a wonder their families remembered who they were! But, ultimately, the slippery stuff wasn’t the biggest problem. No, the real crisis was a salt shortage. Now, snow and ice are bad. But no salt on the snow and ice? Well, that’s horrific! People were saying, “Hey, they ran out of salt!” However, one city official explained that was not the problem. He said, “There’s plenty of salt. The problem is we can’t get the salt from where it is to where it’s needed.

Read with me Matthew 5, beginning at verse 13, “Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.” God goes on to describe us, then, as “Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.” (vs. 14) And then He says, “Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (vss. 15-16).

Let’s look at these verses in the Amplified Bible: “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has lost its taste (purpose), how can it be made salty? It is no longer good for anything, but to be thrown out and walked on by people [when the walkways are wet and slippery]. “You are the light of [Christ to] the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.  Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good deeds and moral excellence, and [recognize and honor and] glorify your Father who is in heaven.” (AMP)

The first thing that struck me is this: “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has lost its taste (PURPOSE)…” And what’s our “Purpose”? Simple: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” (Matthew 28:19-20); “And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover. So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God. And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen.” (Mark 16:15-20); “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

In a nutshell: It is our responsibility to bring the Gospel to EVERYBODY, EVERYWHERE! If we’re not sharing the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, then we’ve lost our PURPOSE! And what happens when PURPOSE is lost? …It is no longer good for anything, but to be thrown out and walked on…” It’s dangerous to lose your PURPOSE! Sadly, the church has become so consumed with “Personal Purpose” that we’ve missed out on our “Corporate Purpose”! We’re so fixated on getting people to join our church, that in the end, all we’ll have is a long church roster on earth, but a short roster in heaven! The early church of Acts 2 was so powerful because it possessed a single-minded focus on Corporate Purpose! They were assembled together, of one mind, goal, and purpose. They worked together for all! And what happened? They got 3,000 souls in a day and we can’t get 3 visitors in a year! People of God, our Salty Purpose is to Work Together in Sharing the Good News With All We Come in Contact With! And not for the aim and goal of getting people to join our church, but getting people to have their name written in the Lamb’s Book of Life!

Think about this: When salt loses its purpose, it’s good for nothing but to be thrown out. Well, if we’re not sharing the Good News, which is our purpose, why would God allow us to continue living and breathing on the Earth, when we’re no longer good for anything since we’ve lost our purpose? When something has lost its purpose, why hold on to it? Why keep it around? It no longer serves a purpose! Let that be your days meditation thought…

Now let’s take a look at The Message Bible Translation:

 “Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You’ve lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage. “Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.” (MSG)

 Let’s look at this in a few parts: “Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness?…” I love Psalm 34:8, “O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him.” But again, Matthew says, “…If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness?…” YOU my friend are the key ingredient! Your saltiness gives people a thirst for Living Water! But if you lose your salt, they lose a taste that would’ve led them to a Water in which they would never thirst again! It’s important to ALL that you never lose your saltiness! It’s vital to the salvation of others! You will lead them to Living Waters; You will lead them to Godliness; You will lead them to Experience the Goodness of the Lord; You will lead them to Trust Him! Don’t Lose Your Salt!

Matthew goes on to say, “Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a SECRET to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill…” (MSG) So, if God is not a secret to be kept, why do we, as believers, keep Him tucked away quietly within our church walls? The word “secret” is defined as “not known or seen or not meant to be known or seen by others”. Clearly, God Was Not Meant to Be the Churches Secret! The Scripture Declares, “…We’re going PUBLIC with this, as public as a city on a hill…” (MSG) And do you know what the word “public” means? It’s defined as “available to the people as a whole; involving the affairs of the community; in open view of everything and everybody”. In other words, God is Not a Secret to Be Kept, Nor Hidden or Confined! Which means we, the church, need to get out of the church! We’re preaching, teaching, praying, encouraging just Saved Folks! We’re so busy with protocol, programs, and positions that People are slipping through the cracks and sliding right into hell! Maybe we should stop sitting at the Dais table and go stand in the soup kitchen and serve. Maybe we should stop attempting to out-dress one another, and take those clothes to much needed clothes drives. Maybe we should stop gathering at the church, and gather at the shelters instead. Maybe we should stop having countless praise breaks, and take a break from superficial Christianity and actually live as Christians who really serve Christ.

If you’re a follower of Jesus, there are two things you need to know that your Savior says you are. You are salt and you are light. Now, it doesn’t take a lot of salt to change the environment. Think about it: you don’t need a pound of salt for a pound of meat, right? You don’t have to have as much salt as there is ice. But in order for salt to do any good, it has to be in contact with the thing it is needed to change; on the street or on the meat. It doesn’t do anything in a salt shaker or piled in a salt mountain somewhere in a big storage yard! There needs to be contact! But how can we as salt, season the earth, if we never come in contact?! We have to leave the pews and pulpits if we’re ever going to come into contact with the world!

God’s problem with getting Jesus to lost and dying people is the same as that winter emergency in New York; the salt wasn’t getting where it was needed! We – who know Christ – often are not in enough meaningful contact with the people who need us most. It’s as if there are these great mountains of spiritual salt in a very cold and frozen world. We salt people spend so much time in meetings with each other, doing programs for each other, having concerts with each other, serving on committees for each other, and doing books and music for each other. We’re disconnected from the people who are dying without our Jesus! If we’re to season the earth we need to come into contact with its inhabitants. And YES, that means we need to come into contact with the prostitutes, pimps, drug addicts, alcoholics, gangs, homeless and the like. We need to visit the sick and shut-in, the hospice, the nursing homes, the emergency rooms, shelters, soup kitchens, prisons, asylums, abortion clinics, dialysis and chemo centers. We need to share our salt in the laundromat, the supermarket, on the train, in the cab, or standing in line at the deli! We are constantly surrounded by people who need what we have, and yet we give them nothing, but give each other the same things week after week, behind the closed doors of the church!

Isn’t it time for the salt to get out where it’s needed? We need to leave the comfort of Salt Mountain and dare to risk getting involved in places where lost people are; to look at the unbelieving people around us and start building some bridges into their lives; building intentional rescue relationships. More than picketers, protestors, politickers, or promoters, God needs some of His people to just move close to some people who are not His people…YET!

Listen to Matthew again in The Amplified Translation and then The Message Bible:

You are the light of [Christ to] the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.  Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good deeds and moral excellence, and [recognize and honor and] glorify your Father who is in heaven.” (AMP);

“You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.” (MSG)

Can you imagine how odd it would look if you walked into a dark room, turned on the lamp, and then put the lit lamp in a closet and closed the door? Sounds silly doesn’t it? But that’s what we’ve been doing. We sing all these wonderful songs about the goodness and faithfulness of God, yet we sing in the church. We preach all these inspiring messages about the salvation, healing and delivering power of God, yet we preach in the church. We teach about the attributes of God, the fruit of the Spirit, the unconditional love of Jesus, yet we teach in the church. We pray until tumors dry up, cancer is cured, Aids no longer exists, the lame are walking, the deaf can hear, the mute can speak, the blind can see, the bound are free, and yet we pray this only in church. Why do we keep light surrounded by more light, when we live in such a dark world? We talk about sagging pants, rebellious youth, broken homes, tattoos, piercings, addictions, and the like, and yet all light does is talk to more light about it, instead of light going out into the world and fulfilling its purpose, “…it gives light to all who are in the house.  ” (AMP); I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine!” (MSG) I love one of the definitions of the word “shine” it’s defined as “a torch used to give direction in the dark.” That’s what we’re assigned to do. Give a dark world some light, so that they may see our Jesus! And what happens when we do? “…they may see your good deeds and moral excellence, and [recognize and honor and] glorify your Father who is in heaven.” (AMP). When we shine light, they see our Father, and find a path that leads them to Him. And once they find Him, they praise Him, honor Him, and glorify Him!

But I also love the way the Message Bible says it, “…By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.” (MSG) When we go to where we’re needed, and share our salty testimonies about what God has done for us, we prompt them to do the same. Seek Him, Find Him, Follow and Trust Him. But we have to go to them first, and “open up”.

And an added bonus is this, “it gives light to all who are in the house…” When you share the Good News with just one person, you in fact share it with many more. You see, when you share it with that husband, you have to remember that he’s also a son, a brother, an uncle, a god-father, a teacher, a coach, a friend etc…what does that mean? When you share light with him, he in turn shares it with his wife, children, siblings, parents, nieces and nephews, god-children, students, athletes, friends etc… When you share with him, he shares with a whole host of others! Your light shines on his whole household! “it gives light to ALL who are in the HOUSE…”

Would you dare to ask God today to lay some lost person on your heart? Maybe He already has. Ask Him, “God, go ahead and break my heart for the people within my reach who do not have You.” And then invest yourself in what Jesus did. He came “to seek and to save those who are lost.” If you share your light, they’ll find Him too!

Listen: Too many people are slipping away, falling, and crashing because there is no salt making a difference where they are. Please, if you know Jesus, be where you are needed the most!

Luke 14:34, “Salt is excellent. But if the salt goes flat, it’s useless, good for nothing. “Are you listening to this? Really listening?” (MSG)

Today Determine to Pour On the Salt, and Turn On the Light!

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

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“What You SEE Depends On What You’re LOOKING For”

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Lamentations 3:19-27, “I’ll never forget the trouble, the utter lostness, the taste of ashes, the poison I’ve swallowed. I remember it all—oh, how well I remember—the feeling of hitting the bottom. But there’s one other thing I remember, and remembering, I keep a grip on hope: God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out, his merciful love couldn’t have dried up. They’re created new every morning. How great your faithfulness! I’m sticking with God (I say it over and over). He’s all I’ve got left. God proves to be good to the man who passionately waits, to the woman who diligently seeks. It’s a good thing to quietly hope, quietly hope for help from God…” (MSG)

Alex is the director for the outreach team at his church. One year, several of his team members were all driving together to an evangelism explosion out of state. They were in two cars, but stayed in touch by means of walkie-talkies. At a couple of points, one of the men in the car behind him pointed out a hawk that he spotted soaring gracefully over them. They saw several of them, actually, on this particular trip. ‘Now, when you see a hawk or an eagle’ Alex said, ‘it’s kind of always an event for a city boy like me’. But then Alex friend Terry – who was not driving at the time said, “Well, I just saw a dead coyote on the shoulder.” As their walkie-talkie conversations went on during that trip, that wasn’t the last hawk Alex saw – nor was it the last road kill that Terry saw. I guess whether you see soaring hawks or dead coyotes depends on where you’re looking and what you’re looking for.

Truth is, some of us have this amazing ability to miss out on the most beautiful things going on around us because we only focus on seeing the ugly or even the dead. For instance, some folks see mostly what’s right with people and with their situation – others just can’t help focusing on what’s wrong…or the ‘dead coyotes’. And it really does depend on where you Choose to look – Up or Down. And in the end, it all boils down to Choice…whether you look Up or Down, or focus on what’s good or what’s bad, either way it is always your deliberate Choice.

Alex and Terry were on an evangelism mission, you would think they would already have their focus on what’s good, positive, great, and uplifting. But you had two men, traveling down the Same road, but seeing two very Different outlooks. Alex was focused on the soaring hawks, Terry was focused on the dead coyotes…which are you focusing on?

The Old Testament prophet Jeremiah knew what it was to see the ‘dead coyotes’ – until he Chose to look up and see those ‘soaring hawks’. Both perspectives are evident in Lamentations 3, beginning in verses 19-20.

First, he saw, the ‘dead coyotes’ – for the Bible reads: “Just thinking of my troubles and my lonely wandering makes me miserable. That’s all I ever think about, and I am depressed.” (CEV). Another translation reads: “I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me.” (NIV). That word “downcast” is defined as “to have eyes that continually look downwards; to be low in spirit; to be bowed down; distressed; troubled; uneasy; worried; hopeless; disappointed; discouraged; agonized; anguished; weeping; bleak; desolate; dreary; comfortless; having a despondent feeling.” And “despondent” is defined as “to feel or show extreme discouragement, dejection, or depression; to be brokenhearted; gloomy; joyless; miserable; saddened; sorrowful; unhappy; pessimistic.” Needless to say, the prophet was not feeling all that great! But how could he when the Bible says, “Just thinking of my troubles and my lonely wandering makes me miserable. THAT’S ALL I EVER THINK ABOUT, and I am depressed.” Of course if this is your only mindset about yourself, your life and the challenges you face, you will be depressed, especially if this is “…ALL YOU EVER THINK ABOUT…”! Imagine going day in and day out with nothing positive, good, uplifting or encouraging to enter your mind. What a horrible way to live, especially as a believer who has been given the promise of Life and that More Abundantly! What the prophet struggled with was his: affliction, troubles, loneliness, bitterness and gall. Is that where you are? Does your pain, failures, broken heart take away God’s Unspeakable Joy from your life? Well, it’s possible, when you focus on your frustrations and your failures, the bad news and the negative feelings, yeah, you’re going to be discouraged, you’re going to be depressed, your souls going to be downcast within you. Especially when this is “…ALL YOU EVER THINK ABOUT…”!

At this point, the prophet is very much like Terry, all he can see is the ‘dead coyotes’, while others are focusing on the ‘soaring hawks’.

Reality Check: Now, truth is, at some point in time we’ve all felt like this, and if you haven’t yet…just keep living! To be honest, life can throw you some curve balls that no one can prepare you to catch. Can we be real? No one looks forward to a divorce, a baby out of wedlock, an addiction, a disease, the loss of a loved one, the bankruptcy, the foreclosure, the abandonment, the rejection, the depression, the job loss, the repossessed car, the unmet tuition, the promotion passing you by. No one wakes up one morning and thinks this will be a part of their agenda for the day. But for many, life happens, and happens hard and unexpectedly! And so we look around and all we see are ‘dead coyotes’. It doesn’t look as if things could get any worse, nor does it look as if things will get any better. Then, the next thing you know your mind starts wandering, “I thought I’d be married by now; I thought I’d have at least my first child by now; I thought the church/ministry/business would have taken off by now; I thought my vision and dreams would have come to pass by now; I thought I’d be finished school by now; I thought I’d own my own home by now; I thought I’d be off the bus by now; I thought I’d finish writing my book by now; I thought I’d be through with all these tests and medications by now; I thought the ailment would have run its course by now; I thought I’d be happy by now…” It appears as though life, happiness, promise, dreams and even God has forgotten about us. And so we look around like Terry and only see ‘dead coyotes’, or like the prophet we only see troubles and misery.

But then there comes a turn of events, a shifting of focus and perspective. Listen to the change: “I’ll never forget the trouble, the utter lostness, the taste of ashes, the poison I’ve swallowed. I remember it all – oh, how well I remember – the feeling of hitting the bottom. BUT THERE’S ONE OTHER THING I REMEMBER, AND REMEMBERING, I KEEP A GRIP ON HOPE. GOD’S LOYAL LOVE COULDN’T HAVE RUN OUT, HIS MERCIFUL LOVE COULDN’T HAVE DRIED UP. THEY’RE CREATED NEW EVERY MORNING. HOW GREAT YOUR FAITHFULNESS! I’M STICKING WITH GOD (I SAY IT OVER AND OVER). HE’S ALL I’VE GOT LEFT. GOD PROVES TO BE GOOD TO THE MAN WHO PASSIONATELY WAITS, TO THE WOMAN WHO DILIGENTLY SEEKS. IT’S A GOOD THING TO QUIETLY HOPE, QUIETLY HOPE FOR HELP FROM GOD…” (vss. 19-27 MSG)

Alright, prepare for the soaring hawks!

You see, when you focus on all the evidence of God’s love and God’s care in your life…when you look for the blessings that He has sown into this day and every day, your load gets lighter and your heaviness turns to hope. Same situation – two Different outlooks. Either way, you Choose! Because things didn’t change for the prophet, but his Mindset, Focus and Perspective did. The trouble, lostness, taste of ashes, poison, hitting rock bottom…all that was still there, but placed in perspective of an even greater truth… “BUT THERE’S ONE OTHER THING I REMEMBER, AND REMEMBERING, I KEEP A GRIP ON HOPE…” That’s what you have to learn to do when you’re losing your grip on life, grab ahold of hope! For it’s in that hope that you’re reminded of God’s loyal love that can’t run out and His mercy that can’t dry up! Every new morning they are there to meet you before you even meet the day! Your God is that loving and that caring and that protective of YOU! Even when you’re situation doesn’t change, your Mindset can, your Outlook can, your Perspective can! Which is what happened to Jeremiah, he said, I’M STICKING WITH GOD (I SAY IT OVER AND OVER). HE’S ALL I’VE GOT LEFT. GOD PROVES TO BE GOOD TO THE MAN WHO PASSIONATELY WAITS, TO THE WOMAN WHO DILIGENTLY SEEKS. IT’S A GOOD THING TO QUIETLY HOPE, QUIETLY HOPE FOR HELP FROM GOD…”

The same God who has promised to never leave you or forsake you is still your very present help in times of trouble. Remember His Love Notes Penned Directly to 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);

Matthew 28:20, “…AND LO, I AM WITH YOU ALWAYS [REMAINING WITH YOU PERPETUALLY – REGARDLESS OF CIRCUMSTANCE, AND ON EVERY OCCASION], EVEN TO THE END OF THE AGE.” (AMP);

Deuteronomy 31:6, “BE STRONG AND COURAGEOUS, DO NOT BE AFRAID OR TREMBLE IN DREAD BEFORE THEM, FOR IT IS THE LORD YOUR GOD WHO GOES WITH YOU. HE WILL NOT FAIL YOU OR ABANDON YOU.” (AMP);

Joshua 1:9, “HAVE I NOT COMMANDED YOU? BE STRONG AND COURAGEOUS! DO NOT BE TERRIFIED OR DISMAYED (INTIMIDATED), FOR THE LORD YOUR GOD IS WITH YOU WHEREVER YOU GO.” (AMP);

1 Peter 5:7, “CASTING ALL YOUR CARES [ALL YOUR ANXIETIES, ALL YOUR WORRIES, AND ALL YOUR CONCERNS, ONCE AND FOR ALL] ON HIM, FOR HE CARES ABOUT YOU [WITH DEEPEST AFFECTION, AND WATCHES OVER YOU VERY CAREFULLY]” (AMP);

Psalm 46:1, “GOD IS OUR REFUGE AND STRENGTH [MIGHTY AND IMPENETRABLE], A VERY PRESENT AND WELL-PROVED HELP IN TROUBLE.” (AMP)

And that’s just a FEW Love Notes from Your Father!

Listen: Even on a bad day you still serve a good God! Which is why you have to make the deliberate choice to stop looking for the ‘dead coyotes’ when the ‘soaring hawks’ are flying overhead to remind you to look in the right direction…Upwards! Could it be that maybe you’ve allowed too much negativity to blind you to God’s blessings that are all around you? You’ve allowed your frustrations and hurts and stresses to dominate your view. Maybe people can tell because you seem to be kind of: cynical, sarcastic, accumulating negatives, or looking for things to criticize. You’ve allowed yourself to get stuck in a negative rut – and the trip gets to be drudgery when all you’re looking at is the ‘dead coyotes’.

Trust me, we all have said a time or two, “God, this is not how it was supposed to turn out!But don’t forget, your problems don’t hinder His plans, and His plans for you are still marvelous!

Jeremiah 29:10-11, “This is God’s Word on the subject…I’ll show up and take care of you as I promised…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) No amount of troubles, misery, or struggles, can ever hinder the plan of God for your life!

Listen, you’ve been driving along this life highway for a good minute now, don’t you think it’s high time you change your perspective on the view? Think about it: Alex and Terry were driving around mountains, yes, there was dirt, gravel, bumps in the road, scary turns, dark nights…but there was also beautiful sunshine and flowers by day, there was birds chirping, hawks soaring, and above all, they were on their way to minister to the lost about the Jesus they’ve found. Two men, on the same road, same mission, and yet focusing on two very different views. One saw life, the other saw death, one saw soaring, the other saw grounding. But both had a Choice in what they saw based on where they looked and what they were looking for. One Chose to look up the other Chose to look down, where have you Chosen to look?

Maybe it’s time to say, “Lord, would you forgive me for letting the negative take over – for missing so many of the beautiful things that You put into every one of my days. I’ve been looking in the wrong direction. Please shift my focus. Help me to see the positive; to see Your new mercies every morning; to see Your love in action.” Then you can make this a day full of God sightings of good stuff. “Certainly, goodness and mercy will stay close to me all the days of my life…” (Psalm 23:6 GWT) Goodness and Mercy will not only be with you always, but they will stay close to you all the days of your life! There will always be something good to see, every day, in your life…you simply have to make the Choice to see it! Out the same window, you can see the majesty of the soaring hawks or you could see the mess of the dead coyotes. What you Choose to focus on is actually going to determine the kind of journey you have. So, if you don’t see happiness in your life; change direction. If you don’t see joy in your life; change direction. If you don’t see peace in your life; change direction. If you don’t see love in your life; change direction. Stop looking down, and start looking up! You didn’t survive all that you have to walk around with your head down, your eyes downcast, your back bent and your shoulders slumped.

Psalm 3:3-4, “But You, God, shield me on all sides; You ground my feet, You lift my head high; with all my might I shout up to God, His answers thunder from the holy mountain.” (MSG)

If you are walking with your head down, you have not gone to God! Because according to Scripture, He lifts your head high! Even in the midst of pain, heartache, loss, bitterness, resentment…He can still lift your head high! No matter what your finances may look like, He can still lift your head high. No matter what your marriage looks like, He can still lift your head high. No matter what’s going on with your children, He can still lift your head high. No matter what the doctor said, He can still lift your head high. And not only lift it, but lift it HIGH!

Listen good to the psalmist, “But You, God, shield me on all sides…” No matter what you face in life, God is still your shield, on all sides!  Even when it doesn’t look good, sound good, or feel good, God is still there…on all sides! You can’t make a turn and not run right into God! So don’t you dare think that you are in this life alone. Nor are you in your hurt, suffering, confusion, or disappointment alone. God has you on all sides. You just need to shift the direction of your focus. Stop looking at you, stop looking at your marriage, loneliness, children, job, loss, hurt, finances, health…and start looking to God! Start looking up!

Psalm 5:1-3, “Hear my words, O Lord. Think about my crying. Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God. For I pray to you. In the morning, O Lord, You will hear my voice. In the morning I will lay my prayers before You AND WILL LOOK UP.” (NLV)

Lay it all before the Lord in prayer and look up to Him. Not to other people, not to your situation, but to Him! Your problems aren’t the problem, your perspective is. The word “perspective” means “the angle or direction in which a person looks at an object; the ability to understand what is important and what isn’t; having a clear point of view; the proper or accurate point of view or the ability to see something objectively.” The word “objectively” is defined as “to not be influenced by personal feelings or opinions.” You see, no matter what is going on in your life, you need to always maintain a good perspective. No matter how bad it is, don’t allow your feelings and opinions to influence you to look down at the ‘dead coyotes’. No, look at it from the right angle, above, upwards, towards the direction of clear and accurate viewing, noting what is important and what’s not. In a nutshell: The fact that you have a problem, is not important. The fact that you have a God who has a solution for every problem, is important! Don’t look at IT, look at HIM!

Remember these 3 examples:

1…Luke 10:38-42, “As they continued their travel, Jesus entered a village. A woman by the name of Martha welcomed him and made him feel quite at home. She had a sister, Mary, who sat before the Master, hanging on every word he said. But Martha was pulled away by all she had to do in the kitchen. Later, she stepped in, interrupting them. “Master, don’t you care that my sister has abandoned the kitchen to me? Tell her to lend me a hand.” The Master said, “Martha, dear Martha, YOU’RE FUSSING FAR TOO MUCH AND GETTING YOURSELF WORKED UP OVER NOTHING. One thing only is essential, and Mary has CHOSEN it—it’s the main course, and won’t be taken from her.” (MSG) Mary had the right focus, the right view, the right perspective. After all, when Jesus is present, what/who else really matters? Don’t allow your circumstances to shift your focus from God.

2…Numbers 13:27-33, “We went to the land to which you sent us and, oh! It does flow with milk and honey! Just look at this fruit! The only thing is that the people who live there are fierce, their cities are huge and well fortified. Worse yet, we saw descendants of the giant Anak. Amalekites are spread out in the Negev; Hittites, Jebusites, and Amorites hold the hill country; and the Canaanites are established on the Mediterranean Sea and along the Jordan.” CALEB INTERRUPTED, called for silence before Moses and said, “LET’S GO UP AND TAKE THE LAND – NOW. WE CAN DO IT.” But the others said, “We can’t attack those people; they’re way stronger than we are.” They spread scary rumors among the People of Israel. They said, “We scouted out the land from one end to the other—it’s a land that swallows people whole. Everybody we saw was huge. Why, we even saw the Nephilim giants (the Anak giants come from the Nephilim). Alongside them we felt like grasshoppers. And they looked down on us as if we were grasshoppers.” (MSG) When you know what God has promised you, let no one attempt to talk you out of attaining it. Not others, not yourself, not your situation! Caleb never wavered in the belief of the promise of God, not even with the presence of Giants added to the mix. Likewise, keep your focus on God, nothing and no one else. The giants don’t matter compared to God! No matter how big your giants, they can never out-size your God!

3…1 Samuel 17:32-37, “Master,” said David, “don’t give up hope. I’m ready to go and fight this Philistine.” Saul answered David, “You can’t go and fight this Philistine. You’re too young and inexperienced—and he’s been at this fighting business since before you were born.” David said, “I’ve been a shepherd, tending sheep for my father. Whenever a lion or bear came and took a lamb from the flock, I’d go after it, knock it down, and rescue the lamb. If it turned on me, I’d grab it by the throat, wring its neck, and kill it. Lion or bear, it made no difference—I killed it. And I’ll do the same to this Philistine pig who is taunting the troops of God-Alive. GOD, WHO DELIVERED ME FROM THE TEETH OF THE LION AND THE CLAWS OF THE BEAR, WILL DELIVER ME FROM THIS PHILISTINE.” Saul said, “Go. And God help you!” (MSG) Always remember what God has already done on your behalf! That’s what David and Jeremiah both did! They remembered…GOD! If He could do it then, He can do it Again! So, before you go looking for ‘dead coyotes’ again, remember that the God whose wings you find safety and shelter under is still soaring overhead! Don’t look down, look up! Even when what you’re facing looks like it will slaughter you, remember Who is on your side…On All Sides! No matter how great the struggle you face, nothing and no one will ever be able to Out-Size Your God!

Today, be encouraged to look at life from a different perspective! Focus on the good, for your God is still good even when you’re having a bad day!

Genesis 50:20, “AS FOR YOU, YOU MEANT EVIL AGAINST ME, BUT GOD MEANT IT FOR GOOD IN ORDER TO BRING ABOUT THIS PRESENT OUTCOME, THAT MANY PEOPLE WOULD BE KEPT ALIVE [AS THEY ARE THIS DAY].” (AMP);

Romans 8:28, “AND WE KNOW [WITH GREAT CONFIDENCE] THAT GOD [WHO IS DEEPLY CONCERNED ABOUT US] CAUSES ALL THINGS TO WORK TOGETHER [AS A PLAN] FOR GOOD FOR THOSE WHO LOVE GOD, TO THOSE WHO ARE CALLED ACCORDING TO HIS PLAN AND PURPOSE.” (AMP)

He’s working all things for your favor and for your good. Don’t let the situation shift your focus! Even when your shoulders are weighed down, go to God to lift your head high! Even when you’re overwhelmed you will not be overtaken! God is there, every morning with new mercies, ensuring that you are never consumed! Keep your eyes on Him at all times, especially in hard times, remembering that What You See Depends On Where You Look! Look Up and Look to God!

Isaiah 40:31, “BUT THOSE WHO WAIT FOR THE LORD [WHO EXPECT, LOOK FOR, AND HOPE IN HIM] WILL GAIN NEW STRENGTH AND RENEW THEIR POWER; THEY WILL LIFT UP THEIR WINGS [AND RISE UP CLOSE TO GOD] LIKE EAGLES [RISING TOWARD THE SUN]; THEY WILL RUN AND NOT BECOME WEARY, THEY WILL WALK AND NOT GROW TIRED.” (AMP)

“What we see depends mainly on what we look for.” (John Lubbock)

“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” (Wayne Dyer)

“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” (Henry David Thoreau)

“Use your struggles and frustrations today to motivate you rather than annoy you. You are in control of the way you look at life. Be mindful.” (Marcandangel)

“Which way you ought to go depends on where you want to get to.” (Lewis Carroll)

“If you keep looking back, you’re going to trip going forward.” (Pinterest)

“It’s easier to go down a hill than up it, but the view is much better at the top.” (Henry Ward Beecher)

“You’re the one who decides how big or small your problem is. It depends on how you look at it.” (Pinterest)

“People are not disturbed by things, but by the view they take of them.” (Epictetus)

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

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“Pray For Your Pastor”

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(Ephesians 6:19 AMP), “AND [PRAY] ALSO FOR ME, that [freedom of] utterance may be given me, that I may open my mouth to proclaim boldly the mystery of the good news (the Gospel)”

The Message Bible reads: “AND DON’T FORGET TO PRAY FOR ME. Pray that I’ll know what to say and have the courage to say it at the right time, telling the mystery to one and all, the Message that I, jailbird preacher that I am, am responsible for getting out” (Ephesians 6:19 MSG)

Paul is one of the most tried Pastors of all time! One of God’s most suffering servants! In his own words Paul declares: “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.“ (2 Corinthians 11:23-27 MSG).

Paul Was A Pastor Under Pressure! Truth Is, Paul Was Stressed! In essence, Paul started off killing church folks, and now church folks were trying to kill him! And yet, with all Paul’s pressure, problems, perplexities, and stress, all he asked for from the church was PRAYER!

He didn’t ask them to pay his mortgage, he didn’t ask for a down payment on a new car, he didn’t ask for a Pastoral Vacation in Hawaii, he didn’t ask for a bigger ring, a longer robe, or a platinum cross! He didn’t ask for another title, another office, another position! He didn’t ask for another church, another armor-bearer, or another entourage! He didn’t ask for a salary or a raise (and he was qualified and deserved both), he didn’t ask for a special offering, he didn’t ask for an appreciation service, banquet, awards ceremony, Christmas celebration, Birthday Explosion, or anniversary allotment! All the Pastor asked for was PRAYER! Church, the Pastor just asked for PRAYER!

Which Provokes Us To Question: What Was So Vital About Prayer, That With All His Pastoral Pressure, That’s All He Asked For?!

Listen: After Wilbur Chapman’s first sermon at Bethany Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, a man said, “You’re pretty young to be Pastor of this great church. We’ve always had older men. I’m afraid you won’t succeed, but since you preach the gospel I’m going to help you all I can.” Chapman thought, “What a crank”. But the man continued, “I’m going to pray for you, and a few others have covenanted to join me.” Later, Chapman wrote, “I didn’t feel so bad when I learned that they were going to pray for me. Soon the three became fifty, and the fifty became two hundred who met before every service to pray for me. In another room eighteen Elders knelt so closely around me that I could put out my hand and touch them. I always went into my pulpit confident that I would have God’s anointing in answer to the prayers of those people. It was easy to preach – a real joy. And what was the result? Eleven hundred people were saved and joined the church in the next three years, and six hundred of them were men! It was the fruit of the Holy Spirit in answer to prayer. Church members have much more to do than go to church as curious, idle spectators to be amused and entertained. It is their business to pray mightily that the Holy Spirit will clothe the Preacher with Power and make his words like Dynamite!

However, it is unfortunate that the opposite is taking place in many churches today, with many congregants who would rather complain about their Pastor instead of coming into covenant as a church and interceding on their Pastors behalf. And, yes, believe it or not as anointed, gifted, talented, and powerful as your Man and Woman of God is…Even They Need, Require and Desire PRAYER!

It’s hard enough standing before the masses who want you to entertain them, dazzle them, inspire, impact, impart in and empower them!  They want the Pastor to pray, study, meditate, perform signs and wonders, flow in the five-fold ministry and possess all the gifts of the Spirit! They want the Pastor to pray they get a job tomorrow (while they remain stretched out in their bed today) They want the Pastor to pray their throbbing right toe is healed right now (while they yet stand with their hammer toes, bunions, corns, and calloused feet scrunched up in a shoe 2 sizes too small) Not to mention they’re also hopeful that God answers the Pastor’s prayer that they get a new house, new car, new money, new children, new job, new business, and new spouse all by noon…YESTERDAY…

And yet, they never once think to cover their Pastor in PRAYER!

And I’m not talking about that little prayer addendum you make at the end of your hour long prayer FOR YOURSELF! ‘and Lord, bless my pastor too, in Jesus Name, amen’ The devil’s a lie!

Statistically, today, we have Pastor’s walking away from their marriages, ministries, families and churches (they obviously need more than your bless ‘em Lord prayer). Pastor’s are sexting church members, having facebook affairs, tweeting tricks and treats, fondling children, cheating on spouses, absent from their children’s lives (clearly they need more than your touch ‘em Jesus); Pastor’s are depressed, stressed, drinking, on drugs, committing suicide, and going back into the world (surely they need more than your bless ‘em Lord, in Jesus name)! Pastors are trying to pastor through this Covid-19 pandemic, encourage members who have lost loved ones, those battling the illness themselves (besides other health ailments), those who have lost their jobs, those who have no idea where the next mortgage, rent, tuition, gas, light, or meal provisions are coming from, those struggling with depression, fear and suicidal thoughts, not to mention sheer confusion. Yes, your pastor needs more than ‘do it again Lord’ prayers!

SAINTS, PRAY FOR YOUR PASTOR!

Clearly It’s Time To Stop Making Petitions OF Your Pastors, And Start Make Petitions FOR them Instead!

Truth is, Pastors are expected to cast out demons, mend messed up marriages, straighten out crooked children, be at the hospital, the morgue, hospice, nursing home, rehab center, the homeless shelter, soup kitchen, jailhouse and in the pulpit, with a smile on their face ready to preach you happy, all at the same time! And yet, nobody shows up for Prayer?!

SAINTS, PRAY FOR YOUR PASTOR!

Pastors are expected to help finance congregants bills, the church bills, fix the boiler in winter, the air conditioner in summer, pray away allergies in spring, and clean out the gutters in the fall! They’re expected to donate money for the tuition scholarship fund for your children, cure your car, repair the roof and raise the dead! But dare the Pastor expect the church to PRAY!

One thing I can assure you, no matter how wonderful your Pastor is, your Pastor needs your Prayers! I know they may be so anointed that you can’t see it, but trust the experience of someone who has worked behind the scenes with several Pastors, They Get Tired, Frustrated, Lonely, Depressed, Discouraged, Overwhelmed, and Yes Believe It Or Not They Have Their Own Health, Family and Finance Issues Too! They experience broken hearts, bitter church folks, and dreams that seem as though they will never be birthed into the Land of the Living!

I believe we look at Pastors and only see their robe and forget that they are still very much Human!

Your Pastor cries, Your Pastor gets angry, Your Pastor wants to walk away! Yes, Even Your Pastor Is Human!

It Always Amazes Me That Flaw-Filled Parishioners Always Want a Flaw-Less Pastor!

I’ve watched many churches only shine the spotlight on their Pastor at his/her Anniversary Services and Celebrations! But trust me on this one, your Pastor’s face lights up knowing that he/she is being Prayed for By YOU! Their greatest encouragement comes without the Celebrations…but the quiet Pastor I just wanted to say be encouraged…”  That might not sound like much to you, but to the Pastor who’s expected to daily walk in the shoes of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Paul, and Jesus….It Means The World! An innocent hug, a scripture text, an inspirational card, all give your Pastor a booster shot of encouragement! But absolutely nothing touches the heart of a Pastor like a word of Prayer!

Your Pastor is spending Incalculable Time In Prayer Keeping the Hand, Tactics and Attacks of the Enemy at Bay In Your Life…Are You Doing the Same For Him/Her?

The Enemy Is After Your Pastor Too! He Attacks Your Pastor when he/she is lonely, discouraged, tired, frustrated…and even after a Major Victory…he comes Shooting Off Fiery Darts! And unfortunately, there’s no one standing before him/her with a Shield of Faithful Prayers!

And further still, Pastors are expected to out-preach, out-teach, out-pray, out-gift every other Pastor on planet Earth! Everyone wants their Pastor to be the Best of the Best of Pastors! And with such Expectations, Many Pastors battle with Competition, Comparisons, Self-Esteem and Self-Worth Issues! Yes, Your Pastors Are Human!

Truth is, Many Pastors don’t think they’re good enough, smart enough, gifted enough, anointed enough, or even financially well enough to walk in their gift as Pastor! And worse yet, Many are in debt now, and yes I mean at the Bankruptcy Court filing because of the car, house, church, or clothes they bought attempting to keep up with the appearance of what they perceive a real anointed Pastor’s life should look like”. Want to know how I know? I’ve helped them fill out the papers! 

Many churches have 50 ministries, the appearance of meeting needs and being great, only to look again and no new souls have been added to the church…just recycled members from someone else’s! 

Chapman had eleven hundred New members added to the church in three years and six-hundred of them were men, and it was all the product of what prayer produced! Imagine the schemes, themes, and dreams the church would no longer have to entertain if the focus was simply shifted back to Prayer!

Furthermore, Your Pastor has Gossip filtered in his/her ears while they try to hear clearly from God. They have to keep their mind, heart, emotions, and body under subjection even while battling with Various Temptations…That Are Accidental…But More Likely Deliberate! They have to keep their eyes full of love while looking at a group of sinful folks that he/she is expected to help make Heaven their home!

Much Is Expected of Pastors, And Believe It Or Not, Much Is Expected From You Too!

Here’s a Challenge For You (And I Want You To Keep Me Informed Of How It’s Progressing): Select One Day Out of the Week That Is Designated For Prayer For Your Pastor! Fast That Day, and Keep Him/Her Covered!

What Should You Pray For? You want to pray that your Pastor hears God clearly and follows His directions accurately; pray that your Pastor Walks Circumspectly in this world as the Bible admonishes; pray that your Pastor Lives a Life and Lifestyle that is above reproach (Consecrated, Holy, Righteous, Just, and Clean); Pray that all of your Pastors Gifts are in Full Manifestation; Pray that your Pastor remains in Prayer, and keeps his/her Faith from Faltering; Pray that your Pastor keeps their body under subjection, their will yielded to God, their Spirit fed by God’s Word, their Mind Renewed, their Heart and Hands Clean, their Motives and Intentions Pure, and their Vision Clear; Pray that they remain continuously clothed in Humility, the Garment of Praise and the Whole Armor of God; Pray that they Follow In the Footsteps of Jesus.

But also pray that Your Pastor always takes the way of escape that the Lord has provided for Temptation; pray they are faithful stewards over the family, job, career, ministry, church and finances that the Lord has entrusted to them; pray that their ears and mouth are kept from gossip, rumors, lies, falsehood, deceit, and flattery; pray that they are kept from the failure of favoritism; pray that they are honest when they’re hurting (far too many Pastors are attempting to “Fake It Until They Make ItHowever, God never gave us this as a principle to practice); pray that they take needed physical and mental breaks; pray that they have adequate help in their personal and private lives; even pray that they go to the doctor for annual physicals (you don’t want to know the statistics of Pastors dying under age 50 from poor health); pray that they maintain their joy and their peace of mind!

In other words, Every Part of Your Pastors Life Needs and Requires Prayer!

They endure the same struggles as the congregants, they’re just expected to slap a robe, a cross, a bible and a good sermon over it!

Saints, be your Pastors safe place where they can be honest about their hurts and frustrations (again, you don’t even want to know the statistics of Pastors who are going to Unsaved Psychologists and Psychiatrists because of the stresses of life and ministry).

Your Pastor Needs You and Your Prayers!

Today, Determine to Lighten Their Burden Simply By Bending a Knee In Prayer. You’ll Be Amazed At How Much Better Your Pastor Will Be!

Alarming Pastoral Statistics: 97% of Pastors Have Been Betrayed, Falsely Accused, or Hurt By Their Trusted Friends; 50% of Pastors Marriages End In Divorce; 70% of Pastors Battle Depression; 7,000 Churches Close Each Year; 1,700 Pastors Quit Each Month; 80% of Pastors Feel Discouraged; 94% of Pastors Families Feel the Pressure of the Ministry; 78% of Pastors Have No Close Friend; 90% of Pastors Report Working 55-75 Hours Per Week With Either No Salary, or No Salary Increase; and Only 10% Actually Retire a Pastor. (By Dr. Bill Purvis)

Which is All The More Reason To Pray For Your Pastor!

Prayer is the greatest support for any Pastor.

Your prayers are much like Aaron and Hur: Joshua led the attack as Moses had commanded, while Moses, Aaron, and Hur stood on the hilltop.  The Israelites out-fought the Amalekites as long as Moses held up his arms, but they started losing whenever he had to lower them. Finally, Moses was so tired that Aaron and Hur got a rock for him to sit on. THEN THEY STOOD BESIDE HIM AND SUPPORTED HIS ARMS IN THE SAME POSITION UNTIL SUNSET.  That’s how Joshua defeated the Amalekites.” (Exodus 17:10-13 CEV)

Remember, your Pastor is human, and gets tired too. And when he does, he should be able to count on you to uplift and support him. And that doesn’t mean on Sunday only. After all, Aaron and Hur supported their leader “…IN THE SAME POSITION UNTIL SUNSET.” As long as it takes, keep your leader uplifted, covered and supported in prayer, they need it!

“A pastor never gets to say ‘I’m off duty’. Never gets to punch out at 5. Never gets to have a normal schedule. We don’t know how many sleepless nights they spend on their knees praying for their church. How much opposition they face. How many family opportunities they miss to meet with hurting people. We can’t carry their burden for them but we can do what the Bible tells us to: Pray for them. Encourage them. Support them. By blessing them we will only be blessed in return.” (DaughterByDesign)

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

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“The Purpose of Ministry is to Equip, Not Entertain”

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John 6:30, “What sign (miracle, wonderwork) will You PERFORM then, so that we may see it and believe and rely on and adhere to You? What [supernatural] work have You [to show what You can do]?” (AMP).

Okay, so try to picture this. Here’s a group of maybe a hundred teenagers in a seminar for two hours, sitting on concrete the whole time, taking notes the whole time, and asking for more when the seminar is dismissed! Naturally, your response would be, “What planet were you on?” But that was actually in Haiti when a Pastor friend (Pastor Toonee) was there a few years ago, teaching in a workshop in a gymnasium. You see, the only place to sit was in the balcony, and in the balcony of that gym it was all concrete. And yet they still told him to take two hours to teach! “Wow”! He said, “I could talk here all the time!” He thought, Okay, I could probably figure out something to say for two hours, and he did. Believe it or not, when he was finished, after two hours of teaching, they quickly ran to the next seminar to get some more! These students remind me of the mind-set of those in Acts 17:11, “Now these [Jews] were better disposed and more noble than those in Thessalonica, for they were entirely ready and accepted and welcomed the message [concerning the attainment through Christ of eternal salvation in the kingdom of God] with inclination of mind and eagerness, searching and examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.” (AMP).

If only the Church, as a Whole, would develop this same mind-set!

Unfortunately, for many of today’s churches, you’d better be done in 20 minutes or you’ll be talking to yourself! Unless, of course, you’re funny enough to be like a Christian comedian! I call it a Disease that’s been afflicted on the whole American church! And the name of it isEntertainitis.”

Our Scripture follows the feeding of the 5,000, where it says in John 6:14, “When the people saw the sign (miracle) that Jesus had performed, they began saying, Surely and beyond a doubt this is the Prophet Who is to come into the world.’” (AMP). Another translation says it like this: “The people realized that God was at work among them in what Jesus had just done. They said, “This is the Prophet for sure, God’s Prophet right here in Galilee!” (MSG).

Well, they chased Him all the way across the lake of Galilee, and when they found Him on the other side of the lake, it says they asked Him, “‘Rabbi! When did You come here?’ Jesus answered, ‘I assure you, most solemnly I tell you, you have been searching for Me, not because you saw the miracles and signs, but because you were fed with the loaves and were filled and satisfied.’” (vss. 25-26 AMP).  Another translation states it like this: “When they found him back across the sea, they said, “Rabbi, when did you get here?” Jesus answered, “You’ve come looking for me not because you saw God in my actions but because I fed you, filled your stomachs—and for free.” (MSG).

Then, in verse 30 they asked Him, “What sign (miracle, wonderwork) will You PERFORM then, so that we may see it and believe and rely on and adhere to You? What [supernatural] work have You [to SHOW what You can do]?” (AMP). Another translation reads: “…Why don’t you give us a clue about who you are, just a hint of what’s going on? When we see what’s up, we’ll commit ourselves. SHOW us what you can do.” (MSG).

PAY CLOSE ATTENTION TO WHAT HAPPENS NEXT!

They Were Looking For Jesus to PERFORM and Give Them a SHOW! Mere Entertainment! But When Jesus Attempts to Equip Them Instead, Watch What Happens:

Finally, after Jesus begins to talk to them about the SHEDDING OF BLOOD AND A CROSS, verse 66 says, “AFTER THIS, MANY OF HIS DISCIPLES DREW BACK (RETURNED TO THEIR OLD ASSOCIATIONS) AND NO LONGER ACCOMPANIED HIM” (AMP). Another translation states: “AFTER THIS A LOT OF HIS DISCIPLES LEFT. THEY NO LONGER WANTED TO BE ASSOCIATED WITH HIM” (MSG).

Now, here’s a crowd, and they are ready to follow Jesus AS LONG AS THERE WAS A GOOD SHOW: Miracles, Excited Crowds, Cheers, Surprises, Songs, Good Feelings! BUT AS SOON AS IT GOT SERIOUS OR DEMANDING, AS SOON AS IT COST SOMETHING, AS SOON AS A HINT OF SACRIFICE WAS SMELT IN THE AIR, THEY CHECKED OUT – This Is The First Known Case of “Entertainitis”!

Interested In Spiritual Input AS LONG AS IT’S EASY TO TAKE!

And what does the Bible say about folks like this? “In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s Word all over again. You need milk, not solid food!” (Hebrews 5:12 NIV). Another translation reads like this:  “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).

I didn’t realize how shallow our faith here (in the States) is until I met Christians in other countries! They Know How to Pray Powerfully, and Extensively! They’re Hungry, Not For Jokes and Stories, BUT For Solid, Biblical Teaching! They believe wholeheartedly in what the Word of God Commands: “Study and be eager and do your utmost to present yourself to God approved (tested by trial), a workman who has no cause to be ashamed, correctly analyzing and accurately dividing [rightly handling and skillfully teaching] the Word of Truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15 AMP).

Unlike many of us, they’re interested in the Substance of Christianity, NOT the Style of the Speaker! Therefore, while we’re having Church Gathering Socials, they’re having Revolutionized Revivals! While we Accept Ministry Mediocrity, they’re Expecting and Experiencing Miracles!

Unfortunate for today’s church, we’re a product of a Media Culture; kind of a Sesame Street, Internet Pop-Up Approach that changes the subject every 60 seconds! Compared to believers in the rest of the world, we have a Sesame Street faith! Many will follow as long as its ENTERTAINING, but as soon as it Gets SERIOUS, They Change the Topic, Bring out the Puppets, and Act a Fool all for the purpose of Keeping Church Folks ENTERTAINED!

Listen: Both Adults and Children can watch Sesame Street. But ONLY the Children should be Learning From It! As an Adult you may find portions that ENTERTAIN You, but there should be Absolutely No Moments Where You Seek It To Help You Grow! Why? BECAUSE IT’S A STAGE YOU SHOULD’VE OUTGROWN BY NOW!

Children learn their Basic Necessities there (abc’s, 123’s, colors, shapes, sizes etc.) You on the other hand should NOT be learning anything! It’s Basic, For Children, For Those Who Know No Better, For The Immature! It Can Only ENTERTAIN You!

Likewise, stop sitting under teachers and preachers, that LEAVE YOU ILL-EQUIPPED BUT WELL ENTERTAINED!

The Word of God has a Definite Purpose When It Goes Forth, and here it is: “Every Scripture is God-breathed (given by His inspiration) and Profitable for Instruction, for Reproof and Conviction of Sin, for Correction of Error and Discipline in Obedience, [and] for Training in Righteousness (in Holy Living, in Conformity to God’s Will in Thought, Purpose, and Action), So that the Man of God May Be Complete and Proficient, Well Fitted and Thoroughly Equipped For Every Good Work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 AMP).

No Where In That Long Laundry List of Purpose For the Word of God Do You Find, “TO ENTERTAIN THE SAINTS!”

The First Step toward the Cure of Entertainitis is to Recognize the Disease and to Want a Cure! We need to begin to Re-Train Our Hearts to Look for the Treasurable Truth in a Message, Not the ENTERTAINMENT Value; to Look for the Bible in a Song, Not the Beat; to Quit Expecting Preachers to Do All the Study Work For Us; to Pack the Congregation for a Concise Word From the Lord, Not Just For a Concert or Special Event; to Understand this is a War, Not a Walk Through the Park!

Most Important, we need to Commit Ourselves to the Spiritual Discipline of a Personal Bible Study Time With Jesus that starts Every Day! That’s the Anchor of an Authentic Christian Life!

Maybe it’s time we simply say, “Lord, I’m SICK of Suffering in a Shallow, Entertaining Faith. I want to Get Rid of this DISEASE of Entertainitis….NOW. DELIVER ME!”

Special Note: Preachers/Teachers, Don’t Be Discouraged When You Switch From Being ENTERTAINING to IMPACTING! Like Jesus, Many Will Walk Away And Leave You! But That’s Quite Alright!

Those Who Really Want The Substance Will Stay With The One Effectively Wielding The Sword of the Spirit!  “After this, many of His disciples drew back (returned to their old associations) and no longer accompanied Him. Jesus said to the Twelve, Will you also go away? [And do you too desire to leave Me?] SIMON PETER ANSWERED, LORD, TO WHOM SHALL WE GO? YOU HAVE THE WORDS (THE MESSAGE) OF ETERNAL LIFE. AND WE HAVE LEARNED TO BELIEVE AND TRUST, AND [MORE] WE HAVE COME TO KNOW [SURELY] THAT YOU ARE THE HOLY ONE OF GOD, THE CHRIST (THE ANOINTED ONE), THE SON OF THE LIVING GOD” (John 6:66-69 AMP).

Only A Fool Would Walk Away From the Hand That Feeds Them!

Listen: We are to be Ministry Gifts that EQUIP the Body of Christ, Not Ministry Puppets that merely ENTERTAIN It!

“And His GIFTS were [varied; He Himself Appointed and Gave Men to Us] Some to be Apostles (Special Messengers), Some Prophets (Inspired Preachers and Expounders), Some Evangelists (Preachers of the Gospel, Traveling Missionaries), Some Pastors (Shepherds of His Flock) and Teachers. HIS INTENTION WAS THE PERFECTING AND THE FULL EQUIPPING OF THE SAINTS (HIS CONSECRATED PEOPLE), [THAT THEY SHOULD DO] THE WORK OF MINISTERING TOWARD BUILDING UP CHRIST’S BODY (THE CHURCH)” (Ephesians 4:11-12 AMP).

The word “intention” is defined as “an aim or plan”. Therefore, God’s aim and plan for the five-fold ministry is to serve for the purpose of, “…THE PERFECTING AND THE FULL EQUIPPING OF THE SAINTS (HIS CONSECRATED PEOPLE), [THAT THEY SHOULD DO] THE WORK OF MINISTERING TOWARD BUILDING UP CHRIST’S BODY (THE CHURCH)”

That’s the aim and plan: Equipping, NOT Entertaining!

The word “equip” is defined as “to supply with the items needed for a purpose; to prepare someone for a task; to furnish for service or action by appropriate provisioning; to make ready.” Its Old French Origin “équiper”, is from a modification of the Anglo-French “eskiper, eschiper” meaning “to load on board a ship, to embark, to man a ship.It is in essence, to provide a ship with everything it needs to embark on its journey successfully and efficiently. That is our responsibility, to provide people with what they need to carry, to accomplish their purpose and calling in God. It is not, however, to hear as many amen’s as possible; it’s not to see people run, jump, leap, clap, yell, spin, dance and fallout. It’s not to proclaim houses, cars, land, spouses, promotions, possessions and money. It is to prepare people for purpose! Whether it’s preaching or teaching, to 2,000, 200 or 2, we are to prepare them with what they need to produce God’s purpose in their lives. That’s our responsibility. Not to hit the right key, the right note, perfect the perfect moan. No, it’s to Equip the people, not Entertain them!

The word “entertain” is defined as “to provide with amusement or enjoyment.” Its Middle English “entertinen”, from Middle French “entretenir”, means “to hold”. It serves as a purpose of holding a person’s attention for no other reason than to “DISPORT (‘enjoy oneself unrestrainedly’), DIVERT (‘cause to change course or take a different route; distract; entertain’), AMUSE (‘cause someone to laugh; to entertain’. Its Old French ‘amuser’ means ‘to entertain or deceive’ from ‘muser’ which means ‘to stare stupidly’), REGALE (‘to entertain with conversation’) or SOLACE (‘to comfort’).” And what does that mean? “It means to pass or cause to pass the time pleasantly; to have one’s attention be engaged in humor; to distract the attention from worry or routine occupation especially by something funny.” And is that bad? No, not in and of itself. But when it comes to our responsibility of preaching, teaching, equipping and preparing people, yes, it is quite bad. Entertainment has its place, however, it is not our responsibility when it comes to the people, to ensure that they have a good laugh. No, we are to ensure that they have what they need to live a godly life.

When you look at the day and time we’re living in, you must agree that the times are dangerous and very serious. The devil is playing for keeps. He’s not playing with our lives, he’s looking to take our lives. And if we as the church, do not become more grounded in our responsibility, he won’t have to fight too hard to win. Our children need to know the importance of the Word of God, prayer, righteousness, holiness and proper leadership. How do they get that though, from perfecting praise breaks? No! We need to teach them how to feed their soul, not have fabulous fancy foot-work. We need to prepare the next generation to enter the government, heads of state, to make laws, to change laws, to serve in other areas, outside of the pulpit, if the world is to ever change for the better. And they will receive none of this equipping if we keep entertaining them, Sunday-after-Sunday. If marriages are to remain intact, we need to equip, not entertain. If singles are to remain holy, and set-apart, we need to equip, not entertain. If the disciples are to turn the world upside down, we need to equip, not entertain. If leadership is to be effective and efficient, we need to equip, not entertain. If the unbeliever is ever to become a believer, we need to equip, not entertain.

We are the Church, not Comedy Central. There has to be a distinction in what we do, say, believe and live. We are to be Salt and Light, not Sugar and a Dimmer.

People of God, we have to do better, and Leaders, it begins with us. 1 Peter 4:17, “For the time [has arrived] for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will [be] the end of those who do not respect or believe or obey the good news (the Gospel) of God?” (AMPC)

Church, judgment will begin with US. Therefore, now, is the time to get this thing right. Remembering that we are Representatives of Heaven, Ambassadors of Christ, and Created in the Image and Likeness of the God-Head. Now, is the time to look like it, sound like it, act like it, and live like it.

Preachers, now is the time to follow the admonishment of the Apostle Paul: “And [pray] also for me, that [freedom of] utterance may be given me, that I may open my mouth to proclaim boldly the mystery of the good news (the Gospel)” (Ephesians 6:19 AMPC)

Let the church-house resemble Acts 4:31, “And when they had prayed, the place in which they were assembled was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they continued to speak the Word of God with freedom and boldness and courage.” (AMPC)

Not song and movie titles; not the latest celebrity in the news; not the latest slang or cliché. But to preach the Word of God, with boldness, freedom and courage. Not jokes, just the Word. We are not a circus, we are not performing puppets. We’ve done more than enough ACTING, now let us ACT OUT THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES.

Leaders/Preachers/Teachers/Believers, Let’s Start Equipping and Stop Entertaining!

Now is the time to Soar towards being Fully Equipped instead of Foolishly Falling for being Merely Entertained!

“The Devil has seldom done a cleverer thing than hinting to the Church that part of their mission is to provide entertainment for the people, with a view to winning them. Providing amusement for the people is nowhere spoken of in the Scriptures as a function of the Church. The need is biblical doctrine, so understood and felt that it sets men afire.” (Charles H. Spurgeon)

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

“If you were God’s children you would loathe the very thought of the world’s evil joys, and your question would not be, “How far may we be like the world?” but your one cry would be, “How far can we get away from the world? How much can we come out from it?” (Charles Spurgeon)

“The Word of God will be to you a bulwark and a high tower, a castle of defense against the foe. Oh, see to it that the Word of God is in you, in your very soul, permeating your thoughts, and so operating upon your outward life, that all may know you to be a true Bible-Christian, for they perceive it in your words and deeds.” (Charles Spurgeon)

“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.” (Charles Spurgeon)

“For the church to turn aside from its divine work to furnish amusement and recreation is to pervert its true mission. It is to degrade its mission. Amusement and recreation should stem from the home or individuals rather than the church. The church, like Nehemiah, has a great work to do; and it should not come down to the plains of Ono to amuse and entertain.” (Goodpasture, Gospel Advocate)

“If the church of today does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authentic ring, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century.” (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.)

“A church is not a Fortune 500 company. It’s not simply another nonprofit organization, nor is it a social club. In fact, a healthy church is unlike any organization that man has ever devised, because man didn’t devise it.” (Mark Dever)

“God’s church is not a social club. It’s not a building, and it’s not an option. The church is life and death. The church is God’s strategy for reaching the world. What we do inside the church matters.” (Francis Chan)

“We have taken the command of Christ to go, baptize, and teach all nations, and mutated it into a comfortable call to come, be baptized, and sit in one location.” (David Platt)

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

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“6 Rules For Anger Management”

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Ephesians 4:25-32 “What this adds up to, then, is this: no more lies, no more pretense. Tell your neighbor the truth. In Christ’s body we’re all connected to each other, after all. When you lie to others, you end up lying to yourself. 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…Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift. Don’t grieve God. Don’t break his heart. His Holy Spirit, moving and breathing in you, is the most intimate part of your life, making you fit for himself. Don’t take such a gift for granted. Make a clean break with all cutting, backbiting, profane talk. Be gentle with one another, sensitive. Forgive one another as quickly and thoroughly as God in Christ forgave you.” (MSG)                                                                    

Two forceful personalities in a relationship are like two rivers flowing into one; there’s going to be a Strong Current! Anger can be instant like a flash of lightning, or prolonged like the rumble of thunder! Sometimes we clash painfully, other times we distance and silently abandon the relationship. But Anger Handled the Right Way Doesn’t Have to be Destructive!

IMPORTANT: “Anger is only one letter short of Danger.” (Author Unknown).

So let’s discuss some of God’s Rules for Anger Management.

RULE #1—KEEP IT HONEST: Our text says, …NO MORE LIES…When You’re Angry Don’t Deny It! Believe it or not, Anger Can Be Constructive! Edward G. Bulwer-Lytton said: “Anger ventilated often hurries toward forgiveness; and concealed often hardens into revenge.We’re right to get angry when people are mistreated and wrongs are not made right. Saying, ‘I’ve been feeling angry and because I value our relationship I’d like to talk about it,Is Honest, Non-Threatening and Invites Resolution

Observe the following tidbits on Anger: 

a)   IGNORING, STIFLING, SUPPRESSING, OR PRETENDING YOU’RE NOT ANGRY IS DISHONEST:Do not teach your children never to be angry; teach them how to be angry.” (Lyman Abbott).

b)   ANOTHER FORM OF LYING WHEN YOU’RE ANGRY IS EXAGGERATION: Phrases Like: ‘You NEVER listen to what I say.’ Or ‘You ALWAYS ignore my wishes.’ Or ‘NOBODY does anything around here except me.Such Generalizations Are Untrue and Serve Only to Aggravate and Polarize, Guaranteeing the Real Problem Gets Obscured and Goes Unsolved. The truth is, maybe they weren’t listening; maybe your wishes are ignored and maybe you do more than others; BUT CAN YOU HONESTLY SAY THAT HAPPENS ALL THE TIME?! Remember this: “If you add to the truth, you subtract from it.” (The Talmud). So, do your best to avoid such words as ‘NEVER’; ‘ALWAYS’ and ‘NOBODY’. Keeping in mind that: “An exaggeration is a truth that has lost its temper.” (Kahlil Gibran).

c)   ANOTHER WAY TO LIE WHEN YOU’RE ANGRY IS BLAMING: Phrases Like: ‘If you’d arrive on time I wouldn’t have to nag you,’ or ‘If you’d quit nagging so much, maybe I’d start being on time.’ BLAMING IS A WAY OF EVADING YOUR OWN RESPONSIBILITY WHILE POINTING THE FINGER AT OTHERS! It angers others, perpetuates your own anger and never produces the result you want! I believe the following quote will put things in proper perspective for you: “If you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your trouble, you wouldn’t sit for a month.” (Unknown Author)…I know that hurt, but if applied, it will help!

God’s rule is always right:  ‘…Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor…‘.

RULE #2—KEEP IT NON-LETHAL: Paul writes: ‘IN YOUR ANGER DO NOT SIN… ‘ (Ephesians 4:26 NIV). What do Paul’s words mean? DON’T LET YOUR ANGER ESCALATE TO THE POINT OF DOING DAMAGE! DON’T USE YOUR WORDS AS WEAPONS OR A CONTROL MECHANISM!Sometimes when I’m angry I have the right to be angry, but that doesn’t give me the right to be cruel.” (Author Unknown). It’s okay to express your emotions in A HEALTHY WAY, BUT KEEP THEM IN CHECK! “Not the fastest horse can catch a word spoken in anger.” (Chinese Proverb). Your goal must be to resolve the problem and strengthen the relationship, not ‘sound off’ and wound the other person! “Speak when you are angry and you will make the best speech you will ever regret.” (Ambrose Bierce). The Bible says it best: “…a crushed spirit who can bear?‘ (Proverbs 18:14 NIV). Now, is all this easy to do? NO! BUT YOU HAVE TO BE MINDFUL: WORDS SPOKEN IN JEST, SARCASM, SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS OR ‘RIGHTEOUS INDIGNATION’ WOUND PEOPLE, AND SOMETIMES THOSE WOUNDS ARE PERMANENT! Hear the Word of the Lord: ‘A wholesome tongue is a tree of life, But perverseness in it breaks the spirit.‘ (Proverbs 15:4 NKJV). ‘ ‘The tongue can bring death… ‘ (Proverbs 18:21 NLT). Ungodly words, once unleashed, can: ‘…sink deep into one’s heart‘ (Proverbs 26:22 NLT). YOUR WORDS CAN LIVE IN THE HEART AND MEMORY OF A PERSON AND GO ALL THE WAY TO THE GRAVE WITH THEM! We say, ‘Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,BUT IT’S NOT TRUE! A PERSON CAN DIE OF A CRUSHED SPIRIT, AND THE ONE WHO SPOKE THE WORDS CAN LIVE TO REGRET THE DAMAGE THEY’VE INFLICTED AND NEVER GET A CHANCE TO UNDO IT! ON THE OTHER HAND, ANGER PROPERLY HANDLED NEVER NEEDS TO BE REPENTED OF! SO LEARN TO DIFFERENTIATE BETWEEN THE ANGER YOU FEEL AND THE WORDS YOU SPEAK! ANGER CAREFULLY THOUGHT THROUGH, CAN REVEAL IMPORTANT INFORMATION ABOUT NEEDED CHANGES!

RULE #3—KEEP IT CURRENT: Storing anger in your hard drive ONLY HURTS YOU! Anger, if not restrained, is frequently more hurtful TO US than the injury that provokes it.” (Seneca). When you rehearse old resentments YOU GROW BITTER! But remember the words of Malachy McCourt, “Resentment is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” The Bible says: ‘The good man brings good things OUT OF THE GOOD STORED UP IN HIS HEART, and the evil man brings evil things OUT OF THE EVIL STORED UP IN HIS HEART. FOR OUT OF THE OVERFLOW OF HIS HEART HIS MOUTH SPEAKS‘ (Luke 6:45 NIV) The Contemporary English Bible says it like this: “Good people do good things BECAUSE OF THE GOOD IN THEIR HEARTS. Bad people do bad things BECAUSE OF THE EVIL IN THEIR HEARTS. YOUR WORDS SHOW WHAT IS IN YOUR HEART.SO SILENCE ALL THOSE OLD ISSUES IN YOUR HEART BEFORE THEY GET TO TALKING AND REVEAL THE REAL YOU! “Anger dwells only in the bosom of FOOLS.” (Albert Einstein).

Therefore, when you’re angry, DEAL WITH IT QUICKLY! Don’t passively allow time to decide your options, or sit around hoping the other person will see the light and apologize! The Bible says: ‘If a fellow believer hurts you, GO AND TELL HIM—work it out between the two of you…confront him with the need for repentance, and offer again God’s forgiving love.” (Matthew 18:15-17 MSG). Did you read those instructions clearly? “…GO AND TELL HIM…DON’T SIT BY IDLY WAITING FOR THEM TO COME TO YOU! GET UP AND GO TO THEM AND TRY TO RESOLVE THE PROBLEM AND RESTORE THE RELATIONSHIP!Reconciliation is more beautiful than victory.” (Violeta Barrios de Chamorro).

When You Repress Reconciliation, You Add One More Skeleton to Your Closet! And Sooner or Later, Doctors Say, It’ll Eat at Your Stomach Lining, Attack Your Immune System, Predispose You to Heart Problems, Cancers and Other Physical, Social and Emotional Disorders! Meantime, It’ll Preoccupy You, Dissipate Your Energy, Cripple Your Creativity, Hinder Your Fellowship With God, Your Friends and Fellow Believers; Not to Mention That It Denies the Offender the Opportunity to Clear Their Conscience, Repent and Get Right With God and You! So Stop Dragging Up the Past, Trying to Blackmail the Guilty By Hauling Skeletons Out of Closets at ‘Auspicious’ Moments, Plotting Revenge, and Passing Down Resentments For the Next Generation to Carry!

Now, I don’t believe in Buddha, but I sure like his analogy: “Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; BUT INSTEAD, YOU’RE THE ONE WHO GETS BURNED.Tell me that’s not accurate! Therefore saints, ask God for the Humility and Courage to deal with Today’s Problems – TODAY! When your head hits the pillow tonight, know that your issues are Current, Up To Date with God and Everyone Else, and Sleep Well! “In peace I will both lie down and sleep, for You, Lord, alone make me dwell in safety and confident trust.” (Psalm 4:8 AMP).

RULE #4—KEEP IT SOLUTION-FOCUSED: Someone has said that fellowship is like two fellows in a ship: one can’t sink the other without sinking himself! In other words, by seeking to gain the upper hand you both lose! By seeking to save and strengthen the relationship you both win! So when you speak, be sure it’s ‘…helpful for building others up according to their needs…‘ (Ephesians 4:29 NIV). Maybe this Scripture would become clearer if you read it in the Amplified Bible, it states: “Let no foul or polluting language, nor evil word nor unwholesome or worthless talk [EVER] come out of your mouth, but only such [speech] as is GOOD and BENEFICIAL to the spiritual progress OF OTHERS, as is fitting to the need and the occasion, that it may be a blessing and give grace (God’s favor) TO THOSE WHO HEAR IT.We Are Charged to Understand What the Other Person Needs! In doing so, YOU DO NOT BRING UP PREVIOUSLY CONFESSED OFFENSES; YOU DO NOT DRAG IN OTHER PEOPLE; You Do Not Use Wisecracks About People’s Weight, Height, Color, IQ, Physical, Mental and Emotional Limitations; and You Do Not Bring Up Unrelated Things or People That Cloud the Issue and Keep You From Finding a Solution! In addition, Don’t Raise the Volume In Order to Intimidate and Manipulate! God Made You With a Capacity For Anger Because When Handled the Right Way It’s the Fuel That Brings Needed Change and the Medicine That Heals. An unknown author stated: “You don’t have to attend every argument you’re invited to.”   

Keep that in mind as you: 

a) SEEK A SOLUTION, NOT A ‘VICTORY’: Name-calling and ‘diagnosing’ others only makes things worse. Your focus should not be on what they did, BUT ON WHAT YOU CAN DO TOGETHER TO RESOLVE IT.

b) ADMIT YOUR OWN FLAWS AND ASK FOR FORGIVENESS: Since it takes two to tango, acknowledging your OWN imperfections makes it easier for someone else to acknowledge theirs.

c) BEFORE YOU ATTEMPT TO TAKE A ‘SWING’ AT SOMEONE, MAKE SURE IT’S A POSITIVE ‘STROKE’: If you take the time to get your mind right, mere words will be no struggle! Finally, believers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable and worthy of respect, whatever is right and confirmed by God’s word, whatever is pure and wholesome, whatever is lovely and brings peace, whatever is admirable and of good repute; if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, THINK continually on these things [CENTER YOUR MIND ON THEM, AND IMPLANT THEM IN YOUR HEART]. (Philippians 4:8 AMP). For each of the difficulties you have to address, GIVE A COMPLIMENT ALSO. Example: ‘I’m sure this wasn’t easy for you to hear, but thanks for listening to me so graciously.CRITICISM DOESN’T CHANGE CHAOS TO CALM, BUT A COMPLIMENT SURE DOES!

RULE #5—KEEP IT IN THE LAUNDRY ROOM:Let all bitterness and indignation and wrath (passion, rage, bad temper) and resentment (anger, animosity) and quarreling (brawling, clamor, contention) and slander (evil-speaking, abusive or blasphemous language) be banished from you, with all malice (spite, ill will, or baseness of any kind).” (Ephesians 4:31 AMP). MALICIOUS TALK IS LIKE WILDFIRE, IT CONSUMES THOSE WHO SPREAD IT AND THOSE WHO LISTEN TO IT! As my auntie would say, “don’t display your dirty wash; keep it in the laundry room.

Saints, dirty laundry gets aired in two ways: 

1)   OPEN EMBARRASSMENT. YOU SAY IT WHERE YOU KNOW OTHERS ARE GOING TO HEAR IT!  But keep in mind: “A person’s character is revealed by their SPEECH.” (Greek Proverb). Solomon also gives us some wise advice to follow: “He who goes about as a talebearer REVEALS SECRETS, but he who is trustworthy and faithful in spirit KEEPS THE MATTER HIDDEN.” (Proverbs 11:13 AMP); “Prudent people don’t flaunt their knowledge; TALKATIVE FOOLS BROADCAST THEIR SILLINESS.” (Proverbs 12:23 MSG). SO WHETHER YOU REALIZE IT OR NOT, SPEAKING YOUR MIND, ONLY SPEAKS VOLUMES ABOUT YOUR LACK OF GOOD INTENTION AND INTEGRITY; YOUR LACK OF PROPER MOTIVE AND MATURITY AND YOUR LACK OF COMPASSION AND CHARACTER! “Outside show is a poor substitute for inner worth.” (Aesop). 

2) SUBTLETY. You make jokes about their figure, family members and friends, etc., IN ORDER TO BELITTLE THEM! This results in EMBARRASSMENT for the person you’re angry at, widens the gap between you AND MAKES RECONCILIATION IMPOSSIBLE!  So the next time you decide to crack a joke, EMBARRASS someone or speak your mind REMEMBER WHAT GOD SAID: “Let there be no filthiness (obscenity, indecency) nor foolish and sinful (silly and corrupt) talk, nor coarse jesting, WHICH IS NOT FITTING OR BECOMING…” (Ephesians 5:4 AMP). In addition, the next time you go to acting “SUBTLEBE MINDFUL OF THE PERSON YOUR EMULATING:NOW THE SERPENT was more SUBTLE and crafty than any living creature of the field…” (Genesis 3:1 AMP). Need I say more?! Even Paul warns Timothy about avoiding “Subtleties”: “O Timothy, guard and keep the deposit entrusted [to you]! TURN AWAY FROM THE IRREVERENT BABBLE AND GODLESS CHATTER, WITH THE VAIN AND EMPTY AND WORLDLY PHRASES, AND THE SUBTLETIES AND THE CONTRADICTIONS IN WHAT IS FALSELY CALLED KNOWLEDGE AND SPIRITUAL ILLUMINATION.” (1 Timothy 6:20 AMP). Keep in mind: “Subtlety may deceive you; integrity never will.” (Oliver Cromwell).

Solomon writes: ‘He who goes about as a talebearer reveals secrets, But he who is trustworthy conceals a matter‘ (Proverbs 11:13 NASB). SO, NO MATTER WHAT YOU KNOW ABOUT THEM, YOUR CHARACTER AS A CHRISTIAN OUGHT TO COMMISSION YOU TO CONCEAL THE MATTER! As believers, we possess “…the ministry of reconciliation.” (2 Corinthians 5:18) NOT THE MESSAGE OF REVENGE! Keep in mind: “While you are meditating revenge, THE DEVIL IS MEDITATING A RECRUIT.” (Francois de Malherbe). So are you going to be SAVED OR SATANIC? DIVINE OR DEMONIC? LIGHT OR DARK? YOU CAN’T HAVE IT BOTH WAYS! Paul makes that crystal clear: “…How can you make a partnership out of right and wrong? That’s not partnership; that’s war. Is light best friends with dark? Does Christ go strolling with the Devil? Do trust and mistrust hold hands? Who would think of setting up pagan idols in God’s holy Temple?…” (2 Corinthians 6:13-17 MSG). You can’t be Loving and Hateful, you need to make a choice. And just in case you need a little help, the Bible says: “Hatred stirs up trouble; love overlooks the wrongs that others do.” (Proverbs 10:12 CEV).  THAT ALONE SHOULD’VE TAKEN THE DIFFICULTY OUT OF YOUR DECISION!

RULE #6—BE PART OF THE CLEAN UP CREW: We say, ‘They brought it on themselves. Let them get over it.They may have deserved it, but we can’t walk away and leave open wounds to become infected! We ‘Make a clean break with all cutting, backbiting, profane talk. Be gentle with one another, sensitive. Forgive one another as quickly and thoroughly as God in Christ forgave you.‘ (Ephesians 4:32 MSG). How did Christ forgive us? After we’d acknowledged, confessed and repented of our sins? No! The Bible says: ‘…when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son…‘ (Romans 5:10 NIV). God took the initiative, so forgive, before the other person asks for forgiveness! And if you want to really show maturity, forgive them even if they Never ask for forgiveness! God didn’t allow you to remain His enemy for life (and He had good reason to); so show forth the same grace and mercy you receive and forgive them. Only then are you yourself forgiven, the wounds inflicted healed, and all parties records before God are expunged! Manage your anger before it causes you to act real Asinine (defined as “extremely stupid or foolish”)!

IN A NUTSHELL: TODAY IS A GOOD DAY TO OVERCOME ANGER!

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

Feel free to also join us at: http://www.selfcarewithdrshermaine.blogspot.com Today’s Lesson: “13 Dehydration Symptons Everyone Should Know”

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“The Marriage Triangle”

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Most men would call it a ‘chick flick’, but I’m definitely a sucker for a good romantic comedy! They are my absolute favorites! But then so are some of the crazy dramas too, which almost always have the same theme proving the old cliché true, “two’s company, three’s a crowd.” But that’s really true, especially when it comes to romance. Example: Guy meets girl, guy falls in love with girl, guy falls in love with another girl in addition to the first girl. Which ultimately is like putting a match in gasoline! That is a centuries-old formula for an explosion! It’s the infamous love triangle! Soap operas thrive on them; marriages are destroyed by them!

A love triangle is usually a prescription for broken hearts unless you have the kind of love triangle that keeps hearts from being broken.

Now, there’s a formula in Ecclesiastes 4. It’s a formula for lasting bonds between people. You could very well call it the arithmetic of love. Here’s what it says beginning at verse 9, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work. If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up. If two lie down together they will keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”

That passage is a powerful statement about relationships, especially if you apply it to the ultimate relationship of marriage. It says two work together better than one, two walk together better than one, two stand together better than one, and then suddenly the number changes. Suddenly it’s talking about three strands. Wait…I thought we were talking about two…So enter the love triangle: a husband, a wife, and God. That’s the kind of love triangle that avoids broken hearts. Ephesians 5:21 alludes to it when it says; speaking to husbands and wives, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (NIV). It’s the Jesus factor in a marriage that always makes the difference. Now, the triangle is the strongest geometric figure there is, and a love triangle with Christ at the top is virtually indestructible! In other words, you’ve got the man and woman joined together by that line along the bottom, but they both have a line going up to Jesus at the top. That bond between the man and the woman will fray sometimes. There’s interference, there’s disappointment, there’s disillusionment, there’s hurt. But if both the man and woman are connected to Christ at the top of the triangle, that bond will hold them together when the bond of human compatibility is unraveling.

The problem with many of us as spouses is, we don’t always keep Christ at the top of the triangle. Often we fight to be in the top slot that we push Him down, or take Him out of the equation altogether. But the only way for the love triangle with Jesus to work effectively, is to always be certain that He maintains His top priority position. While we’re fighting to be heard, fighting to be right, fighting to prove the other wrong, fighting to get the upper-hand, we undermine His hand on our Covenant. Which makes you wonder: As soon as we think divorce is the answer, isn’t it amazing when you share that theory with others, most will always ask, “have you prayed about it first?” Why do they ask that? Well, genius, you can’t call yourself a Christian then make a decision to Crucify your Covenant, and think people aren’t going to ask if you consulted Christ! Even other people are under the impression that you have Christ in your marriage! And so they ask the obvious question of “have you prayed about it first?” And more often than not, we haven’t, we just want a quick fix for what we’ve allowed to slowly break down over the years. We want Jesus, in the beginning, to bless our covenant, but as soon as conflict and crisis hits along the journey, we pull the marriage over, kick Jesus out from behind the wheel, and then drive our marriages right over the cliff! After all, how can you possibly think you can reach your marital destination without the only One who has the directions? And remember, we kicked Him out! But when you take over the Wheel, you lose your Way from His Will!

So, the question is, “How much is Jesus Christ a real Person and Presence in your marriage?” Do you pray together about real life issues as if Jesus is right there with you? “Lord, we’ve got to talk to You about this together.” In fact, when was the last time you prayed With your spouse? And not for houses, cars, land, business, ministry, money, promotion, elevation, or personal gain. But prayed With your spouse: “Lord, teach us to be loving, faithful, supportive, encouraging, kind, generous, patient, forgiving. Teach us to acknowledge one another’s strength’s and be patient and understanding in one another’s weaknesses. Teach us to be a better man and woman; better husband and wife; better father and mother; better son and daughter; better disciples; better believers, better friends, better spouses, better lovers, better teammates. Teach us to walk by faith and not by sight. Teach us to trust You when our finances or health is failing. Teach us to be Your mirror to the world of what unconditional love really looks like.” When is the last time you prayed With your spouse, not for personal gain, but for personal growth?

Do you often ask together, “What would Jesus do?” Are you cultivating the habit of sharing what Christ has said to you from His Word that day with each other? Are you at church together? Do you sit together? Do you labor in ministry together? Do you get on your knees together and fight for your family and children?

And though most ‘super-saved Christian’s’ may call it ‘carnal’, but do you also laugh together, watch television together, travel together, go to the movies, out to dinner, go shopping, do you still date and court your spouse? Do you call and text your spouse as much as you do everybody else? Are you in your spouses’ face more than you’re on Facebook? Do you share as many pictures with your spouse as you do with Instagram? Do you text your spouse as much as you tweet? Do you send flowers? Do you enjoy engaging conversation from talking about Jesus, to the weather, to the government, to what you ate for lunch? Do you take walks? Do you still share dreams, or have you only become each other’s nightmares? Do you sit down to dinner, in your own home, at your own dinner table, without the intruding guest of your cellphone, internet or social media? Do you go for a long drive? Picnic in the park? Weekend get-a-way to no-where in particular? Have you planned your vacation? Have you passionately made love to your spouse or do you simply settle for watching such scenes on movies screens with actors portraying the roles of marital bliss? I know, sounds ‘carnal’ to some, but for those who know that it takes your body, soul and spirit to make a marriage work, you get it! We don’t spend all of our time in church, in the Word or in prayer! Those things are wonderful, those things are needful, especially when they’re done as couples, however, going to the beach won’t send you to hell either! If you’re finding it difficult to laugh with your spouse over something silly, then something is wrong! Even Jesus, slept, ate, prayed, and wept…in other words, Jesus expressed His natural as well as His spiritual. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with you doing the very same! As a couple you can preach the walls of Jericho down, but when you’re done, go to Olive Garden and eat some pasta! Are you getting this?! You cannot expect to have an Enjoyable marriage that has no Joy!

Maybe the marriage is rotting because you’ve both stopped eating the fruit of the Spirit! Imagine if you digested daily more love for your spouse, more joy and peace with your spouse, more forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and gentleness towards your spouse, and more self-control to keep yourself only for your spouse, you’d see a tremendous difference take place in your marriage. That’s the beauty of having Jesus not only in your marriage, or a part of your marriage, but having Him (His Spirit) as Head Over your marriage! Then, even on bad days, you could still be good to your spouse!

So, are you attempting to make marriage work with just the two of you, or have you considered a love triangle with Jesus? After all, who better to have in the midst of your marriage, and even in the midst of its’ problems then Jesus? Jesus saves, heals, delivers, forgives, understands, is patient, kind, loving, and generous. Who better to teach a couple such characteristics but the One who has exemplified such characteristics with the Godhead? Isn’t it amazing how they work together? And as a believer, you have the opportunity and privilege to invite them into your marriage to show you how to work together just like Them.

I’ve always said it, and always will, most often the issue in marriage isn’t ‘we’ve grown apart’, the issue is ‘we haven’t grown up.’ Marriage takes Maturity. It takes two people that will stop screaming ‘mine’ and start screaming ‘ours’. It takes two people that will stop trying to have their own way, and instead go in the way of God. It takes two people who learn to talk to each other and with each other not against each other and at each other. It takes two people who learn to attentively listen, even when they have so much they want to say. It takes sacrifice, and sacrifice is painful and bloody! No one has ever made a sacrifice and thought it was good or even felt good! It’s hard, it’s tough, it can be absolutely grueling, but when you remember the purpose and payoff of the sacrifice you’ll know it was worth it! But you have to ‘adult’ to get there! You can’t play the bully; you can’t be the whiner; you can’t pick the fight; you can’t run to your corner and call it quits; you can’t drag in reinforcements of the flesh, and think it will better anything! No! For this, you’ve got to grow up, mature, adult and fight to maintain the marriage you willfully made!

The good news? You don’t have to do it alone! If only we’d stop inviting and involving Jesus in the Wedding only…and start inviting and involving Jesus in the Marriage also, we’d be so much better! However, if truth be told, we have a bad tendency to invite everyone else into our marriages, Except Jesus. Oh, we’ll talk to family, friends, coworkers, and just people of interest that will lend an ear (some with pure motives and intentions, many without). But the One person we committed our vows before is the One person we overlook in marital trouble. We seek outside sources, when He’s waiting on the sidelines, ever so patient, for us to include Him back in the triangle. I mean, if it started with Him, shouldn’t we carry it all the way through with Him?

But sadly, we as a church live in a day and age where anyone, anything, everyone, everything is easily discarded. Can you imagine if we had to be perfect in order for Jesus to come? He would never have come because none of us are perfect. Instead, He came because our imperfections needed Him. He didn’t throw our sins in our face; He didn’t get joy out of our sorrows, pain or failures; He didn’t say that we weren’t good enough; He didn’t give us a laundry list of perfection to live up to before He came. And yet, we as believers, look for others, especially our spouses, to live up to an ideal that’s not ideal. We want them to cross every ‘T’ and dot every ‘I’, even though we don’t and we can’t. And so when we don’t get what we expected, imagined or wanted, we discard. Aren’t you grateful Jesus doesn’t work like that? Not even Judas’ betrayal; Peter’s denial; or Thomas’ doubts could make Him replace them. He loved them, embraced them, and accepted them as the flawed individuals they were. However, as spouses, we don’t always treat one another with the same unconditional love. We don’t extend the same grace, mercy, and forgiveness. We aren’t as patient, dedicated, or determined. No, we simply and quickly discard.

Which makes me wonder about many of us and our employment. So many of us work on jobs that we hate or with people we would much rather not even walk on the same sidewalk with. And yet, we never up and quit our jobs; we don’t leave; we don’t walk away; we don’t throw our hands up and throw the towel in. We can be frustrated, taken advantage of, misused, disrespected, treated unfairly and even poorly, and still, 30 years later, we’re on the same job. If only we treated marriages with the same commitment.

Oh, there will be days when you’ll want to file for divorce; days you’ll have no idea why you got married in the first place; days when you think ‘who is this person?’ There will be conflict, arguments and even misunderstandings. There will be days that are hard and nights that are long. But if you wouldn’t throw in the towel on a job with people you hate; how can you throw in the towel with the person you said you love? Know this: Eventually that job will have no need of you and will discard you (retirement). But you’re married to a person who’s in it ‘till death do we part’, and yet that’s the person you choose to resign from? Listen, marriage is hard, it’s work and there will be days when you feel like it’s more work than going to work! But is it still worth it? Absolutely. God still hates divorce; adultery is still a sin; and a vow made, should still be a vow maintained.

Let today be the day you re-exam your own marriage. Is Jesus still a part of it, or have the two of you given Him the boot? Is He still the first person you consult, or does He come in after you’ve called Tyrone; texted Sheila; emailed Leslie; or inboxed David? The Man who has given sight to the blind; speech to the mute; walking to the lame; and life to the dead can surely help your marriage, don’t you think?

As a kid, I remember playing all kinds of sports, I was a tom-boy after all. But one of the things everyone hated was to be picked last to be on a team. Is that what you’ve done to your spouse? Is that what you’ve done to your Jesus? Are they the last people you pick to play on your team? No one wants to feel as though they are in ‘add-on’. No one wants to feel like ‘I’ll get to you on my to-do-list when I can’. No one wants to feel unappreciated, undervalued, unwanted, unloved. So, make sure neither your spouse nor your Savior is feeling this way.

Lastly, when God is Love, how do you think you can manage a marriage without Him who is Love? The Father so full of love sent His very own Son to die just for us; Jesus so full of love laid down His own life, voluntarily, just for us; the Holy Spirit so full of love, has moved in and made His home in us, His temple. Now, just imagine if you invited and involved the Godhead into your marriage the level of love you both would be filled with?

Love triangles with people will destroy your marriage, but one with the Godhead ensures that it’s indestructible! Which will you choose today?

Before you get married, wait for someone who is joined to Jesus as you are, because it is worth the wait. And after you marry, practice His presence daily in your home. A love triangle with Jesus as that real third person is the strongest bond on earth!

“Determine to pray more words over your marriage than you speak about your marriage.” (Lysa TerKeurst)

“A husband and wife must function like two wings on the same bird. They must work together or the marriage will never get off the ground.” (Dave Willis)

“When you face a struggle in your marriage, remind yourself that the struggle will become a story someday. It will either be a story about why you divorced or a story about how you worked together to build a stronger marriage. You get to decide which story becomes true.” (Dave Willis)

“Marriage is not 50-50; divorce is 50-50. Marriage has to be 100-100. It’s not splitting everything in half, but giving everything you’ve got.” (Dave Willis)

“Love your spouse more than you love your career, hobbies and money. That other stuff can’t love you back.” (Dave Willis)

“Your children are learning about marriage by watching you. Treat your spouse the way you want your children’s future spouses to treat them someday.” (Dave Willis)

“When we get married, it is always helpful to remember that we are both sinners. Neither of us is perfect. We will mess up. We will at times hurt each other. And we will need to practice forgiveness.” (Simply One in Marriage)

“I want my life and my marriage to look less like the world and more like Christ.” (Marquis Clarke)

“Always strive to give your spouse the very best of yourself; not what’s left over after you have given your best to everyone else.” (Dave Willis)

“Great marriages don’t happen by luck or by accident. They are the result of a consistent investment of time, thoughtfulness, forgiveness, affection, prayer, mutual respect and a rock-solid commitment between a husband and wife.” (Dave Willis)

“Real Love is when you are completely committed to someone even when they are being completely unlovable.” (Dave Willis)

“In every disagreement with your spouse, remember that there is not a winner and a loser. You are united in everything, so you will either win together or lose together. Work together to find a solution where you both win.” (Dave Willis)

“Be the person you want to be married to.” (Author Unknown)

“Marriage is less about Perfection and more about Perseverance.” (Fierce Marriage)

“The more you Invest in your marriage, the more Valuable it becomes.” (Author Unknown)

“How to fight in a Christian Marriage: Shut Up; Back Up; Pray Up; Make Up.” (Matthew Jacobson)

“More marriages might survive if the partners realized that sometimes the Better comes after the Worse.” (Doug Larson)

“A strong marriage rarely has two strong people at the same time. It is a husband and wife who take turns being strong for each other in the moments when the other feels weak.” (Author Unknown)

“A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person.” (Author Unknown)

“There is no challenge strong enough to destroy your marriage as long as you are both willing to stop fighting against each other and start fighting for each other.” (Dave Willis)

“Your marriage will not be defined by the size of your struggles, but by the size of your commitment to overcome the struggles together.” (Dave Willis)

“Your marriage vows are most important in those moments when they are most difficult to keep.” (Dave Willis)

“We charge our cellphones daily but let our marriages die. If your smartphone receives more daily charging than your spouse, then you’re spending way too much time talking to the wrong people.” (Marriage365)

“Couples who make it aren’t the ones who never had a reason to divorce; they are simply the ones who decided early on that their commitment to each other was always going to be bigger than their differences and flaws.” (Dave Willis)

“When forced to choose between your career and your spouse, your friends and your spouse, or even your family and your spouse, you must always choose to put your spouse ahead of the rest. If your first loyalty isn’t to your spouse, then you don’t really understand the meaning of marriage.” (Dave Willis)

“The problem with marriage today isn’t marriage. The problem is the people going into it have no idea what they’re committing to. Marriage is more than two rings, and a pretty dress. It’s a covenant to be kept.” (Meaningful Marriages)

“Your spouse is the one person who has seen you at your worst; smelled your morning breath, put up with your crazy relatives; endured your quirky habits and still loves you more than anyone on earth.” (Dave Willis)

“Your spouse should never have to face any struggle without your full partnership, encouragement, and support.” (Dave Willis)

“If every couple quit when marriage got difficult, 100% of couples would be divorced. Challenges in your marriage are an opportunity to work together, not an excuse to give up on each other.” (Dave Willis)

“Lifelong love isn’t the result of Compatibility. It’s the result of Commitment.” (Dave Willis)

“In most cases, the only person who ‘wins’ in a divorce is the attorney. The husband and wife both suffer heavy losses financially, relationally, and emotionally.” (Dave Willis)

“Secrecy is the enemy of intimacy. Every healthy relationship is built on a foundation of honesty and trust.” (Dave Willis)

“Don’t just be physically monogamous; be mentally monogamous as well. True intimacy begins in the heart and the mind; not in the bedroom.” (Dave Willis)

“Never trade temporary pleasure for permanent regret.” (Dave Willis)

“Instead of nagging about your spouse, try bragging about your spouse. Build them up, don’t tear them down. Focus on what they are doing right instead of always pointing out what they are doing wrong.” (Dave Willis)

“Fight less, cuddle more. Demand less, serve more. Text less, talk more. Criticize less, compliment more. Stress less, laugh more. Worry less, pray more. With each new day, find new ways to love each other even more.” (Dave Willis)

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

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“The Stretching Is Strengthening Your Faith!”

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“…thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress; have mercy upon me, and hear my prayer” (Psalm 4:1)

When God wants to make you a bigger person, He does it through “Distress”! The word “Distress” has an Old French Origin “Destresce”, from Latin “Distringere” which literally means “To Stretch Apart”! And “Stretch” is defined as “To be made or able to be made longer; wider without tearing or breaking; to extend to full length; last longer than expected; extend over a period of time; be sufficient for a particular purpose; extended storage capacity; and to use the maximum of one’s resources”.

You see saints, when you look at “Distress” in its Proper Perspective it doesn’t seem all that bad at all now does it?!

The Psalmist was “…Enlarged…” when he was in “…Distress…”! Trust me, you’re going to want to remember that! To “Enlarge” is defined as “To Make Bigger”! So the Psalmist was Made Bigger By God’s Distressing Stretches which resulted in him being made longer, wider (without tearing or breaking apart), he now also has the ability to extend to his full length, and even last longer than others expected and over a good amount of time as well, not to mention being sufficient in his purpose and having more than enough in his storage capacity to use to the max all of his resources!

In other words, Stop Complaining About Your Distress…It’s the Place Where God Enlarges You! I Bet You’re Ready To Be Distressed Now Aren’t You?!

You see, the way to build a stronger muscle is to lift more weight! Now, when a muscle is put under stress, you groan. But if you persist, that muscle grows stronger and what you were groaning about last week you are smiling about this week, because you can now handle what you couldn’t get a hold of before! Which is why I’m still trying to figure out who said the Christian Life was supposed to be easy? Because It Certainly Was NOT God! His Word actually compares the Believers Life to a Battlefield, not a Bed of Roses! The Bible even declares: “…endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (2 Timothy 2:3).

Let’s look at how a few other translations word this text:

“Take [with me] YOUR SHARE of the hardships and suffering [which you are CALLED TO ENDURE] as a good (FIRST-CLASS) soldier of Christ Jesus” (AMP);

“Accept YOUR SHARE of suffering like a good soldier of Christ Jesus” (CEB);

“As a good solder of Christ Jesus YOU MUST endure your share of suffering” (CEV);

“Thou therefore suffer affliction as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (GNV);

“JOIN ME in suffering like a good soldier of Christ Jesus” (GWT);

“TAKE YOUR PART in suffering, as a loyal soldier of Christ Jesus” (GNT);

Hopefully you noticed a few things:

1.       YOU SHOULD’VE NOTICED PHRASES LIKE: “YOUR SHARE” and “JOIN ME”, in the translations above. And why is that relevant? Because, believe it or not, you are not in your Distress ALONE! When God calls you to endure hardness, He does not send you as a lone soldier and call you an Army! So before you start complaining, realize that you are not the only one! Here’s a perfect Scriptural Example: Elijah said, “I am the ONLY ONE LEFT, and now they are trying to kill me, too” (1 Kings 19:10, 14) And God’s reply? “Yet I will preserve 7,000 OTHERS in Israel who have never bowed down to Baal or kissed him!” (1 Kings 19:18). Right when you think you’re the ONLY ONE, God will show you He has 7,000 More, Just Like You! As hard and lonely as your distressing moment may feel, you are not alone! You have other brothers and sisters in distress with you! If you stop your self-made pity party, you could celebrate the presence of your comrades! You are not the only one struggling in marriage; you are not the only one praying the Lord has mercy on your children’s idiotic decisions; you are not the only one battling loneliness in the midnight hour; you are not the only one unemployed; taking medication; surviving an illness; dissatisfied with the reflection they see in the mirror; heartbroken or trying to figure out how do I get myself out of what I got myself into?! Listen, the military does not call one soldier an army! Neither does God! You have soldiers who are fighting day-to-day just like you to win the battles of life. And just like them, YOU must take YOUR SHARE and JOIN in the warfare with the rest of God’s Army! So no more murmuring and complaining, as the Word of God admonishes you, JOIN In the Suffering and TAKE YOUR SHARE As a Good Solider!

“Be grateful for what you have and stop complaining – it bores everybody else, does you no good, and doesn’t solve any problems.” (Zig Ziglar);

“If you’re not going to put forth any effort to change it, don’t waste your efforts complaining about it.” (Author Unknown);

“Complaining is draining. Complaining only takes away energy from today and never solves the problems for tomorrow.” (James Altucher);

“If you don’t like something change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. Don’t complain.” (Dr. Maya Angelou);

“Complaining about a problem without posing a solution is called whining.” (Teddy Roosevelt);

“If you’re not helping to make it right, then stop complaining about it being wrong.” (Author Unknown)

2.       DID YOU NOTICE THAT THOSE WHO “ENDURE” are “CALLED to Endure”? Read the text! “Take [with me] YOUR SHARE of the hardships and suffering [which you are CALLED TO ENDURE]…” (AMP) I find it absolutely Amazing that we don’t mind being called to preach, teach, prophesy, pray, preside, lay hands, lead the solo, sit in the pulpit, in the big, special chair, or on the front pew or to wear all sorts of titles, positions, offices, rings, robes and bedazzled crosses, but we Complain About Being Called To Endure! Oh, you can CALL us Apostle, Prophet, Bishop, Pastor, Elder, Evangelist, Minister, Deacon, Missionary, Director…Just Don’t CALL Us to Endure! Oh, you can CALL us blessed, anointed, gifted, talented, awesome, phenomenal, handsome, beautiful, smeared in blessed oil…Just Don’t CALL Us to Endure! Listen, “Endure” simply means “to suffer (something painful and prolonged) PATIENTLY; to TOLERATE; and to Remain in Existence” In other words, NO you’re not going to come out of it in 2 days, you are Called to Endure…Patiently! Tolerate it, Handle It, Remain in its Existence or in other words, Stop Trying to Outrun Suffering and Hardness That Is Your Share to Carry! Stand Still and Handle It, That’s What Good Soldiers Are Commanded To Do!

In addition, God Would Not Give You A Calling He Didn’t Equip You To Answer! Listen to the Word of God: “Strengthen (complete, perfect) and make you what you ought to be and equip you with everything good that you may carry out His will; [while He Himself] works in you and accomplishes that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ (the Messiah); to Whom be the glory forever and ever (to the ages of the ages). Amen (so be it).” (Hebrews 13:21 AMP); “ And I am convinced and sure of this very thing, that He Who began a good work in you will continue until the day of Jesus Christ [right up to the time of His return], developing [that good work] and perfecting and bringing it to full completion in you.” (Philippians 1:6 AMP); “And those whom He thus foreordained, He also called; and those whom He called, He also justified (acquitted, made righteous, putting them into right standing with Himself). And those whom He justified, He also glorified [raising them to a heavenly dignity and condition or state of being].” (Romans 8:30 AMP) People of God, You Are Not In Your Distress Alone and God Called You to Endure It! And Last I Checked, Obedience Is Still Better Than Sacrifice!

“Without patient endurance, even the smallest thing becomes unbearable. A lot depends on our attitude.” (Dalai Lama);

“Endurance is not just the ability to bear a difficult thing, but to turn it into glory.” (William Barclay);

“Don’t pray for an easy life. Pray for the strength to endure a difficult one.” (Bruce Lee);

“Perseverance is more than endurance. It is endurance combined with absolute assurance and certainty that what we are looking for is going to happen.” (Oswald Chambers);

“I will love the light for it shows me the way, Yet, I will endure the darkness because it shows me the stars.” (Og Mandino);

“I’m a distance runner. I’ve been trained to keep going, even when it’s hard. When it hurts. When it sucks. When I don’t want to. I look past it. Relentless forward progress to the finish. Call it what you want; stubbornness, endurance, determination, guts. Deep down, I don’t know how to give up.” (Author Unknown)

3.       ONE OF THE TRANSLATIONS DECLARES, “…you MUST endure your share of suffering”(CEV)  The word “MUST” is defined as “To be obligated”. “Obligated” has a Latin Origin “Obligare”, from “Ligare” which literally means “To Bind”!  It’s root is found in the legal field and is called a “Binding Agreement/Contract”, and in a nutshell it is defined as: “An agreement with specific terms between two or more persons or entities in which there is a promise to do something in return for a valuable benefit known as consideration”. It also carries the definition, “An agreement between two or more parties, especially one that is written and enforceable by law”. If anyone in the Bible was the epitome of a “Binding Agreement/Contract”, it was the Apostle Paul! And even he was not alone, both Timothy and James were called Bondservants as well, and a Bondservants’ main purpose is to be Obedient To Their Master! When something is Binding Nothing Should Separate It! It’s an Agreement a Contract that Serves to Benefit Both Parties! You are indeed called to endure hardness and handle your place of distress, which means you are obligated to this also! This is not an option! This is a requirement! It’s a legal, written (the Bible) Law, Agreement and Contract between you and your God! So as Distressing as it may be, You MUST Endure It! Never Forget, Every Binding Agreement Comes With a Promise Attached!

“Great moves of God are usually preceded by simple acts of obedience.” (Steven Furtick);

“We are not obedient because we are blind, we are obedient because we can see.” (Boyd K. Packer);

“Obedience is an act of faith; disobedience is the result of unbelief.” (Edwin Louis Cole);

“Obedience doesn’t make God love you more, but it does show that you love God.” (Greg J. Barber);

“Be obedient even when you do not know where obedience may lead you.” (Sinclair Ferguson);

“Obedience is a choice. It is a choice between our own limited knowledge and power and God’s unlimited wisdom and omnipotence.” (L. Tom Perry);

“Let the consequences of your obedience be left up to God.” (Oswald Chambers);

“God is awesome. He doesn’t need you to be awesome; He needs you to be obedient.” (Matt Chandler);

“There will be no peace in any soul until it is willing to obey the Voice of God.” (D.L. Moody);

“In times of distress, let your covenants be paramount and let your obedience be exact.” (D. Todd Christofferson);

“Selective obedience brings selective blessings.” (Jorg Klebingat);

“When the Holy Spirit lays something in your heart, move without hesitation. You have no idea who may be depending on your immediate obedience.” (Author Unknown);

“He who refuses to obey, cannot command.” (Author Unknown)

4.       I’VE ALWAYS LOVED THE SAYING, “GOD DON’T MAKE NO JUNK!” And that’s the truth! One of the translations above even calls us, “…FIRST CLASS SOLDIERS…Even in Distress, We Are Still First-Class! We May Have to Endure Sitting In Distress, But At Least We Do It Sitting In First-Class! Listen, God Called You and Equipped You, Therefore, You Can Endure It! Yes, Your Uniform Has Been Beaten, Battered and, Torn, But Don’t You Dare Take It Off and Don’t You Dare Abandon It! You Are a First-Class Soldier and You Can Endure! So Act Like It!

“Don’t ever make the mistake of telling God that you have nothing to offer. That simply is not true. God does not create any junk.” (Dr. Myles Munroe);

“I am somebody cause God don’t make no junk.” (Ethel Waters);

“I am a Citizen of a Kingdom that Cannot be Shaken. A Child of a King with No Limitations.” (Author Unknown);

“You have something to offer that nobody else can offer. Nobody has your exact personality or your gifts. You are more than average. You are one-of-a-kind.” (Author Unknown)

And What Has All of That to do with Strengthening Your Faith? Well, Satan’s number one target is your FAITH! And if you don’t learn how to stand your ground in the midst of distressing seasons, he will aim at, and hit the target of your faith, piercing it through-and-through every time! Just ask Peter!

Jesus said to Peter, “…Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your FAITH should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.” (Luke 22:31-32 NKJV). In the same way you separate wheat from chaff, Satan wants to separate you from your Faith!  Don’t Let It Happen! No Matter How Deep the Distress, No Matter How Far The Stretch, No Matter How Enormous The Endurance Must Be…Don’t Let Your Faith Fail!

Listen: Not only did Peter survive this attack, and strengthen his brothers, but he also grew through it and wrote: “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you” (1 Peter 4:12 NKJV). The Amplified Bible says it like this: “Friends, when life gets really difficult, don’t jump to the conclusion that God isn’t on the job. Instead, be glad that you are in the very thick of what Christ experienced. This is a spiritual refining process, with glory just around the corner.

In other words, “There Will Be Glory After This!” And It’s Coming, Just Around the Corner! So remain steadfast on your journey! Fight, Endure, and While You’re Strengthening Your Faith, Strengthen Your Brothers, And Before You Know It, God Will Enlarge You IN Distress…And When It’s Done He Will Have Glory Waiting to Greet You…Just Around the Corner!

If Satan can destroy your confidence in God and His Word, he wins and you lose! So the Word for you today is to be encouraged because “The Stretching is Only to Strengthen Your Faith!

“You have to sweat for it. HE requires an investment from you. The miracle is in your discomfort. Stretch!” (Bishop T.D. Jakes)

“The circumstances of life will shrink or stretch your faith. Either way, the choice is always yours.” (James MacDonald)

“Sometimes God stirs us out of comfortable situations in order to stretch us and cause us to exercise our faith. We may not like it, and it may not always be comfortable, but God loves us too much to just leave us the way we are.” (Author Unknown)

“The stretching of your faith is an immediate pain that results in ultimate gain. It is in the waiting that we become who we are meant to be.” (Mandy Hale)

“This season, God is stretching you. You won’t pop, but you will stretch in your faith, dreams, vision, and goals. Trust God and stretch.” (Author Unknown)

“For God’s purpose to Spread, God’s people must Stretch.” (Steven Furtick)

“God doesn’t always take you out of the problem. Sometimes, He stretches your faith by taking you through the problem.” (Rick Warren)

“If God is stretching you, He’s transforming you.” (Author Unknown)

“You can’t grow without being stretched.” (Amy Gatliff)

“God’s plan is so big for you that it’ll require you to Stretch!” (Author Unknown)

“When God is stretching you, expect great things on the other side.” (Author Unknown)

“When God stretches you beyond your comfort zone, He’s preparing you for greater.” (Dianna Hobbs)

“God wants us to be constantly stretching and growing. There are new levels for you to rise up to. There are new treasures within you to discover. Explore what God has placed within you because He has purpose for everything within you.” (Victoria Osteen)

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

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“Answering the Caleb Calling”

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Numbers 13:30, “Caleb interrupted, called for silence before Moses and said, “Let’s go up and take the land – now. WE CAN DO IT.” (MSG)

Looking over the course of my life I realized that just about everything I’ve done and accomplished, came through risk. Even my love of teaching came through risk. You see, I was a Minister-in-Training and one of the responsibilities was to teach. The problem? I wasn’t raised in church and had no experience teaching, especially of all things the Bible! Truth is, I was still trying to teach it to myself! But there was no way around this whole teaching thing, not if you were going to be in leadership. And it’s not the teaching alone that was terrifying, but the thought of the students not liking me or worse, not understanding what I was teaching. And to make matters worse, I was a bit self-conscious because I had horrible acne, a chipped tooth and the podium was almost as tall as I am (so, even if they could hear me and understand me, could they see me?)! I was worried, scared and quite insecure about my appearance, about my knowledge of what I was teaching etc. There was this one line that rang over and over in my head, ‘I don’t think this is a good idea.’ And if that wasn’t bad enough, the only advice my leader gave me was ‘there’s no reward without risk. Just give it a chance. You’ll never know if you never try.’ Needless to say, I’ve been teaching ever since! But how did that first session go? Absolutely horrible! LOL! I forgot everything but my name! But my leader kept pushing me week after week. ‘You can do this…you’ll stumble, fall, cry, get a badly bruised ego, but you’ll also dust off, get back up and keep walking…trust me, you’ll get there.’ Guess what? It worked! It was worth the risk! Because now, I have the limitless opportunity to travel anywhere and teach, train, develop, lead…to prepare curriculum’s, seminars and workshops. In church, at work, in schools. And all because the reward was worth the risk. I would never be able to do what I do now, if I didn’t take the risk then.

So, what rewards are you missing out on in life, because you’re too afraid to take the risk?  

Well, how about we start with the definition of ‘risk’? It’s defined as, “a situation involving exposure to danger, injury or harm; the possibility that something unpleasant will happen; the possibility of loss.” Its’ French Origin ‘risque’, from its Italian Origin ‘risco’ literally means ‘danger.’ And a few synonyms are ‘hazard; pitfall; threat; and trouble.’ Trust me, I hear you screaming, ‘that’s why I’m not risking it!’ Oh, but that’s where you’re wrong my friend.

Truth is, anything worth having is worth the risk to get! And yes, that risk will include putting you in situations that can be dangerous (after all, you may fall on your face in front of everybody); the risk can cause injury and harm (especially to your ego, conceit, arrogance, high-mindedness and pride); something unpleasant can happen (you can forget the words, freeze up, stutter, faint, be talked about, gossiped about); you may even encounter loss (especially of the security you had in your comfy, comfort zone); it may be hazardous (because you just may find out that those in your circle were the very ones keeping you boxed in); you may even come across a pitfall (which is defined as ‘a hidden or unsuspected danger or difficulty; a covered pit for use as a trap.’ Yep, the very ones who give you the opportunity may actually be setting you up for a great, unsuspected fall); you may actually experience threats (especially if you happen to become better than the others who just knew you’d try, fail and give up…but you didn’t! And so you will have to deal with the oppression that comes with every opportunity.); and lastly, you will have some trouble (after all, did you really think you’d achieve something great without it?)

Yes, my friend, you will have to risk it to get it, but once you do, you’ll realize it was worth it!

Remember this: You Can’t Attain What You Don’t Go After! And when what you’re going after is BIG, you’ll always be tempted to let small stumbles stop you dead in your tracks! Don’t You Dare Let It Happen!

You press forward no matter what! Even if the risk means you have to change your circle of friends; you have to try something new or do something different. It’s worth the risk to get all God has for you and to become all that God has called you to be!

There was this striking poster on the wall. It showed two mountain climbers near the peak of this Alpine mountain, straining to reach the top. But it was the inscription that impressed me most. It read: “Conquest without risk is a triumph without glory.” That’s pretty good.

Now, that doesn’t just apply to reaching the top of a mountain. In fact, it pretty much describes everything worth doing in life. No risk, no meaningful conquest – a triumph without glory. Low risk – low return. High risk – high return. It’s a principle that defines Spiritual Greatness or Spiritual Mediocrity.

Whether it’s a relationship, a job, a career, a ministry, a church, a business, you will encounter risk before reward! Which is what we learn from in our lesson today.

In Numbers 13, the conquest was not a mountain; it was the taking of the Promised Land that God had promised. And if you take a moment to think about that, you’ll realize just how ridiculous we can be when it comes to taking a risk. God Himself promised them the Promised Land. So, how could they allow risk to scare them from what God promised them?

Numbers 23:19, “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?” (MSG)

Listen to varying translations of this Scripture:

“God isn’t a man that he would lie, or a human being that he would change his mind. Has he ever spoken and not done it, or promised and not fulfilled it?” (CEB);

“God is no mere human! He doesn’t tell lies or change his mind. God always keeps his promises.” (CEV);

“God is not a man; he will not lie. God is not a human being; his decisions will not change. If he says he will do something, then he will do it. If he makes a promise, then he will do what he promised.” (ERV);

“God is not like people, who lie; He is not a human who changes his mind. Whatever he promises, he does; He speaks, and it is done.” (GNT);

“God is not a human being, and he will not lie. He is not a human, and he does not change his mind. What he says he will do, he does. What he promises, he makes come true.” (NCV);

“God is not a man, that He should lie. He is not a son of man, that He should be sorry for what He has said. Has He said, and will He not do it? Has He spoken, and will He not keep His Word?” (NLV)

Now, how could anyone with this level of Character and Integrity be doubted? How can anyone who serves this God, be fearful enough to forfeit a fruitful future that was guaranteed to be theirs? But can we be honest? Are we really any different? That job would have been ours, if we didn’t talk ourselves out of going for it. Didn’t think we were qualified (and sometimes we weren’t, however, if God says go for it, not even that should stop you)! Who knows the house you would already own if you weren’t so sure that your credit score alone was the guaranteed deal breaker. God doesn’t need your credit score to get you to the goal! Who knows what you’d be driving if only you would have trusted God. Who knows who you would be married to, if you only trusted God, heard and heeded His voice, instead of the internal clock in your head telling you to grab Bubba over there because at 30 he’s the best shot you’ve got. Who knows the grants and scholarships that passed you by because you didn’t think you had what it took for them to come your way. Who knows how well that business would be doing today if only you would have trusted God with the blueprints instead of handing them over to your fears to redesign. Who knows where the church or ministry would be if only you would have believed God when the battle raged instead of retreating and running away.

People of God please commit this to memory: God doesn’t make promises He can’t keep! So if He said it’s yours, it’s yours! And that holds true no matter what you see, what you hear, or what they say or what they look like! God keeps His promises; He keeps His Word; He fulfills it and makes it come true, so why are you doubting? Why are you stagnant? Why are you fearful? Why are you not moving forward? Why are you not trying it? Why are you scared? Why are you not taking the risk?

Listen: They were guaranteed the promise of the Promised Land! Problem? It was currently inhabited by fierce people who, of course, didn’t plan to hand it over. And whether or not they would ever experience all God had for them depended on whether or not they would trust Him enough to take some big risks. Now whether or not you experience all God has for you may depend on that same thing.

So, are you willing to trust God with what He promised you even if you’ll have to take some big risks in the process? Are you willing to risk being talked about, walked away from, laughed at? Are you willing to risk having to endure the uncommon, the unfamiliar and the uncomfortable? Are you willing to take the risk that small minds will attempt to shake your confidence and faith in achieving the big dreams that God said can and will become your reality? Are you willing to risk having to go alone? Are you willing to risk going without the full insight to how God is going to make this thing happen? Are you willing to take the risk to go to the bank, to walk into the dealership, to meet with the loan officer, to apply to the school, to show up for the interview, to write the book, to buy that property or that land? Are you willing to take the risk of being misunderstood? Are you willing to take the risk of looking misplaced for the moment? Are you willing to take the risk?

Twelve scouts had explored the land of Canaan, and they reported back on the fabulous beauty and bounty they found there. But ten of those scouts chose to focus on the risks, two on the Lord who had promised them this land. It boiled down to an exchange like this, recorded in Numbers 13, beginning with verse 27, “This was their report: “We arrived in the land you sent us to see, and it is indeed a magnificent country—a land ‘flowing with milk and honey.’ Here is some fruit we have brought as proof. But the people living there are powerful, and their cities are fortified and very large; and what’s more, we saw Anakim giants there!  The Amalekites live in the south, while in the hill country there are the Hittites, Jebusites, and Amorites; down along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea and in the Jordan River Valley are the Canaanites.” But Caleb reassured the people as they stood before Moses. “Let us go up at once and possess it,” he said, “for we are well able to conquer it!” “Not against people as strong as they are!” the other spies said. “They would crush us!” So the majority report of the spies was negative: “The land is full of warriors, the people are powerfully built, and we saw some of the Anakim there, descendants of the ancient race of giants. We felt like grasshoppers before them, they were so tall!” (TLB)

Now, they brought back fruit (Proof) that the land (God Promised to be Theirs) was indeed Flowing With Milk and Honey. And still, in the face of all of this, the Scripture says, “…So the majority report of the spies was negative.” How do you hold the proof in your hand and still say with your mouth, we can’t handle it?! The Proof Was Already in Your Hand! It’s Prosperous and it’s Promised to Us! And yet they forfeit! That’s like receiving a paid in full mansion, your name only on the deed, nothing owed out of your pocket, the keys in your hands, but you spend 40 years standing on the stoop looking at a door you never open to fully possess what’s already yours!

Keep in mind, anytime you’re about to make a positive change, someone will come with a negative report! The choice is yours to believe it, or believe God. My suggestion? Believe God!

Isaiah 55:8-11, “…For as the sky soars high above earth, so the way I work surpasses the way you work, and the way I think is beyond the way you think. 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.” (MSG)

When God sends His Word on Assignment it has no other option than to Fulfill the Assignment! Therefore, you have nothing and no one to worry about when God gives you a Promise! Not the naysayers, not the negative report, not the disapproving stares, or the discouraging words. Nothing can stop what God starts!

Philippians 1:6, “I’m convinced that God, who began this good work in you, will carry it through to completion on the day of Christ Jesus.” (GWT)

God has proven Himself trustworthy to Carry to Completion what He Began! In a nutshell: Nothing and No One Can Stop What God Starts! Now, all you need to do is be just as “Convinced”! The word “convince” means “to cause to believe firmly in the truth of something; to persuade to do something.” Its’ Latin Origin ‘convincere’ literally means ‘to overcome, to demonstrate’, from ‘vincere” which means “to conquer.” Listen, if you’re going to get what God’s got for you, it will take risk, but you will reap a reward! And all you’ve got to do is be convinced that what He promised will come to pass! You’ve got to believe firmly in the Truth, regardless of the Facts! Yes, there were Giants (Facts), but they could never be bigger than God (Truth)! That’s why we are to walk by FAITH, not by Sight! Let your Spirit lead you, not your Senses! Because often when God is about to do something BIG, your senses tell you to Shrink back! Don’t You Dare Do It!

Now, as for them, you probably know the result. The people followed the lead of the ten scouts who said, “The risks are too great.” And they never saw the Promised Land! Be careful who you listen to, who you trust, who you share your vision, hopes and dreams with. Everyone will want to reap the rewards with you, but very few will want you to take the risk, and even fewer will take the risk with you! Caleb says, “yes, let’s do this, we got this, we can do this, we can conquer this”, yet the naysayers respond like this:

“So those men gave a report that discouraged the people…” (ERV)

“So they brought to the people of Israel a bad report…” (ESV)

“So they spread a false report among the Israelites…” (GNT)

“So they began to spread lies among the Israelites…” (GWT)

“They spread scary rumors among the People of Israel…” (MSG)

“So they brought the people of Israel bad news…” (NLV)

When you’re getting ready to take a big risk and get what God’s got for you, look out for people like this! Those who will attempt to discourage you, give you a bad or false report, lie to you, spread rumors of fear and bring you bad news! These are dream killers, and destiny destroyers, avoid them at all costs, or you’ll pay a pretty penny in missing out on the Promises of God for your life!

Unfortunate as it may be, they chose what was safe, and they wandered in the wilderness for 40 years. They could have had wonderful; instead, they lived and died in the wilderness! Many of God’s children over the years have made that same tragic miscalculation. And they have lived that same tragic result. Do you really want that to be descriptive of you?

Right now God may be asking you to follow Him into something risky. To obey Him is going to mean taking a financial risk, or a geographical risk, a social risk, doing something that’s way beyond your comfort zone. Something out of the norm and status quo. But when you get serious about obedience to God and the promises of God, usually such a thing involves risk. But the great danger is not in obeying God’s “risky” leading; it is in not obeying because you won’t risk it at all! You’ll miss the top of the mountain if you listen to every little molehill murmurer along the way. You’ll miss the best that God has for you. You’ll miss the Promised Land. Are you really willing to risk that?

Maybe you’re all settled in at your little base camp at the bottom of the mountain. You’re safe, but you’ll never see the view from the top if you stay where you’ve always been. You’ve been stuck there long enough, it’s time to move on before you miss out.

Dream big; broaden your vision; enlarge your territory; go further; reach higher! They’ve got Giants, but you’ve got God, it’s a Fixed Fight and you’ve got the Fruit in Hand to Prove it! Trust God and Take the Risk, the Reward Reaped Will be Well Worth it!

“It is better to make a thousand failures than to be too cowardly to ever undertake anything.” (Clovis G. Chappell)

“You can never cross the ocean unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.” (Christopher Columbus)

“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.” (T.S. Eliot)

“Don’t be afraid to give up the good to go for the great.” (John D. Rockefeller)

“If you are not willing to risk the Usual you will have to settle for the Ordinary.” (Jim Rohn)

“There can be no great accomplishment without risk.” (Neil Armstrong)

“If it’s still in your mind, it is still worth taking the risk.” (Paulo Coelho)

“I believe that one of life’s greatest risks is never daring to risk.” (Oprah Winfrey)

“If we walk away from risk to keep ourselves safe, we will waste our lives.” (John Piper)

“A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for.” (William Shedd)

“And the day came when the risk it took to remain tight inside the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” (Anais Nin)

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” (Author Unknown)

“Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure…than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.” (Theodore Roosevelt)

“Risk more than others think is safe; Care more than others think is wise; Dream more than others think is practical; Expect more than others think is possible.” (Cadet Maxim)

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

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