“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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“Your HURT is HELPING Someone HEAL”

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2 Corinthians 1:3-4, “What a wonderful God we have—He is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the source of every mercy, and the one who so wonderfully comforts and strengthens us in our hardships and trials. And why does He do this? So that when others are troubled, needing our sympathy and encouragement, we can pass on to them this same help and comfort God has given us.” (TLB)

Working with youth ministry is probably one of the most unpredictable ministries to work with. You just never know what you’re going to encounter with young people. Sometimes they want to be bothered, and sometimes they don’t want to be bothered at all. But nothing was worst for my youth pastor friend who decided to take a bus load of youth on their first ever mission trip! Now, to be honest, sometimes a bus ride full of kids can be fun, but then there are also those times when it can be as boring for them as watching paint dry! Hence, you will begin to hear the famous “are we there yet?” line. But this group of young people were excited because it was their first mission trip to a Navajo Reservation from Michigan! However, I don’t think they’ll remember their trip as boring at all! You see, unfortunate for them, the carelessness of another driver, forced their bus to swerve sharply at one point, causing the bus to go off the road and roll all the way over into a ditch! Well, as you can imagine, they were absolutely horrified! But, one by one they emerged from the bus. Some of them were injured and they had to be treated at a local hospital, but thankfully no one died.

By the time they finally arrived at that reservation they were a pretty sorry looking bunch. They didn’t exactly come running into that Native community. They came limping in and hurting. They weren’t able to bring all their luggage with them, and some of the kids were on crutches, in braces, patched up, and bandaged up.

BUT, that became the very reason why those Navajo young people listened to those white kids from Michigan. The comments of the Native young people made it pretty clear. If those Michigan young people had arrived looking like they had no idea what pain felt like, the Native youth who live in so much hurt probably would have never listened to a single word they had to say. But as one teenage leader from the youth group said, “Our wounds became our credentials.

Which brought to mind for me 2 Corinthians 1:3-4. It’s about finding meaning in your pain; maybe even the pain you’re going through right now. Here’s what the text says, “What a wonderful God we have—He is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the source of every mercy, and the one who so wonderfully comforts and strengthens us in our hardships and trials. And why does He do this? So that when others are troubled, needing our sympathy and encouragement, we can pass on to them this same help and comfort God has given us.” (TLB)

So you go through a hurting time. You know how the pain feels. You reach out to God for whatever resources He can give you to get through it and you start to experience God’s greatness, God’s grace, God’s kindness. And now you’re qualified by those experiences to help other hurting people. You can tell them in a very personal way the difference Jesus makes in a hurting time. And just like those Native American young people with those banged-up white kids, they’ll listen. You know why? Because you’ve been there.

It’s almost ironic. The worst things that happen to you in your life teach you the most about your God, and they give you the best chance you’ll ever have to tell people about Jesus Christ. Day after day you’re with people who, just under the surface, are carrying so much pain, a lot of scars, and unimaginable wounds. And they won’t listen to just anyone. But they will listen to someone who’s been through a deep valley too; maybe someone like you.

Truth is, no one wants to share their pain with someone who they don’t believe can relate. It’s like leaving your 3 bedroom house, and going to the shelter and telling a woman with 2 kids on a cot that “you understand”. When in fact, at home, you’re 2 girls are tucked away nice, cozy, comfortable and safe in their own separate bedrooms. It’s hard to share with someone the pain of a marriage heading for divorce, when every time you see them with their spouse, they are as happy as ever. Who wants to tell someone they don’t have enough change to get on the bus, while that person hops in a brand new car saying, “it’ll get better”. You want to talk to someone who can understand, who can relate, some who can personally identify, someone who gets where you’re coming from, because they just left there themselves. Which is why we have to be so careful about trying to avoid every pain, ache, moment of suffering and affliction. Because at the end of the day, someone, somewhere, needs something you have to offer, and they will more readily receive it through your pain than through your joy.

Which is why for me I love ministering in shelters (I can relate); I love ministering to those suffering through domestic violence (I can relate); those eating dinner at the soup kitchen with their children (I can relate); those trying to heal from the scars of rape, abortion, and addiction (I can relate); those feeling abandoned, rejected, left out, overlooked, under-estimated (I can relate); those suicidal and depressed (I can relate).

If you ever want to find out where your strengths are in ministering to others, just locate the places of pain where you can relate.

Your pain can become your credentials to answer hurting lives with the love of Jesus Christ that you’ve experienced in your darkest hour. And they’ll listen to you, someone whose bus has rolled over and who carries some of the scars and the damage from the crash. Those are pretty hard earned credentials, ones you’d have never chosen to have. But they are credentials God can use mightily in a hurting world. He uses wounded messengers to become agents of His healing. Which is why you should stop trying to get out of every painful event. Believe it or not, but God can bless you and use you to bless others, even while you’re still in the midst of personal pain yourself!

Romans 8:37 says, “Nay, IN ALL THESE THINGS we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us.” Did you catch that? We’re not more than conquerors because we conquered our pain and now we’re out of it. But we’re more than conquerors “…IN ALL THESE THINGS…” We can help someone OUT, even while we’re still IN! That’s what I call a powerful testimony! I love the way The Living Bible states it, “BUT DESPITE ALL THIS, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ who loved us enough to die for us.” (TLB). In other words, it doesn’t even matter what I’m dealing with, because despite it all, I have overwhelming victory, even in the midst of it! And someone around you today needs you to know that, so when it’s rooted and engrained in you, you can share the same mustard seed faith with them!

Even the greatest pain, serves an even greater purpose! Genesis 50:19-21 reads, “Joseph replied, “Don’t be afraid. Do I act for God? Don’t you see, YOU PLANNED EVIL AGAINST ME BUT GOD USED THOSE SAME PLANS FOR MY GOOD, as you see all around you right now—LIFE FOR MANY PEOPLE…” (MSG) God can use the same thing that hurt you, to help someone else! I love the way the translation puts it, God used the SAME plans! The evil his brothers meant for him, turned out for his good, and life for many! Never doubt that your pain has a purpose! Our Father is a loving parent to us His children. He does not cause us pain that serves no purpose. Which is why Psalm 119:71 is one of my absolute favorite Scriptures, because those things that helped me most, hurt me most first! But I’ve learned from God’s Word, that the bad, worked for my good.

“MY SUFFERING was GOOD FOR ME, because through it I learned Your statutes.” (CEB);

“It was GOOD THAT I HAD TO SUFFER in order to learn Your laws.” (GWT);

“It is GOOD FOR ME THAT I WAS TROUBLED, so that I might learn Your Law.” (NLV);

“The punishment You gave me WAS THE BEST THING THAT COULD HAVE HAPPENED TO ME, for it taught me to pay attention to Your laws. They are more valuable to me than millions in silver and gold!” (TLB);

“It is GOOD FOR ME that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes.” (KJV)

How amazing to know that my suffering was good for me; it was good that I had to suffer; my punishment was the best thing that could have happened to me; and it was good that I was afflicted. Sounds ironic, but my bad was for my good! Why? Because it was only then that I learned to pay attention to His statutes and laws. My affliction was my best teacher. After all, I didn’t learn until it began to teach. And it is likewise for someone near you today. They need you to share your mess ups, screw ups, missteps, mistakes, flaws, imperfections, bad decisions. They need you to share and show the vulnerability of unmasking your wounds and scars. They need someone just like you who can identify, so they can finally stop allowing their pain to keep them in hiding.

Some people will only get free when you share the blessing from your bondage! Which is why you need to be like Lazarus. When Jesus called him, he came out of the grave, still wrapped in his dead man garments. And as bad as he must have looked and smelt, when Jesus called him to come out, he came out! Jesus could have had him come out right out of the garments, but no, He then spoke to those around Lazarus to loose him. There are people around you that will watch as your dead man clothes are being unraveled, and they will be encouraged to know that it’s more important for them to be a part of the miracle, than for you to come out looking like you never needed a miracle to begin with. It’s okay for people to know that you don’t cross every ‘t’ and dot every ‘i’. It’s okay for people to know you don’t always feel strong, powerful, anointed, and gifted. It’s okay for people to know that you don’t always smile and laugh and feel upbeat. It let’s them know you’re real. It let’s them know you’re human. You hurt; you experience disappointment, let downs and pain…just like them. After all, it’s what Christ did.

John 1:14, “The Word became FLESH AND BLOOD, AND MOVED INTO THE NEIGHBORHOOD. We saw the glory with our own eyes…” (MSG);

“And the Word (CHRIST) BECAME FLESH, AND LIVED AMONG US; and we [actually] saw His glory…” (AMP);

“The Word BECAME FLESH AND MADE HIS HOME AMONG US. We have seen His glory…” (CEB);

“The Word BECAME A HUMAN BEING AND LIVED HERE WITH US. We saw His true glory…” (CEV);

“CHRIST BECAME HUMAN FLESH AND LIVED AMONG US. We saw His shining-greatness…” (NLV)

Christ lived among us, made His home among us, became flesh and blood, and moved right into the neighborhood, so why are we avoiding people and their pain?! He didn’t. He spoke to hurting people, touched them, encouraged them, healed them, defended them, ate with them, and if all of that wasn’t enough, He let them touch Him in return! He loved us enough to be just as human as divine. He wasn’t so concerned with being Royal, as He was with being Relatable!

Hebrews 4:14-16 reads, “Inasmuch then as we [believers] have a great High Priest who has [already ascended and] passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession [of faith and cling tenaciously to our absolute trust in Him as Savior].  For we do not have a High Priest who is unable to sympathize and understand our weaknesses and temptations, but One who has been tempted [knowing exactly how it feels to be human] in every respect as we are, yet without [committing any] sin.  Therefore let us [with privilege] approach the throne of grace [that is, the throne of God’s gracious favor] with confidence and without fear, so that we may receive mercy [for our failures] and find [His amazing] grace to help in time of need [an appropriate blessing, coming just at the right moment].” (MSG)

He understands, He sympathizes, He knows, He can relate. Now it’s our turn to do the same! Understand, sympathize, know and relate. Truth is, if we are to finally be effective witnesses, we need to touch more than we talk! Stop saying what you think they need or want to hear; stop throwing clichés at them; stop drowning them in Scripture showers. Sometimes a simple hug, shoulder or smile, can say more than any word in the dictionary. Today, determine to touch, and be touchable!

Remember, Doubting Thomas didn’t believe until he saw the wounds. You know some people are like that. The pain you’ve been through may never make much sense to you until you see Jesus and He shows you the grand design of which that pain is a part. But until then, offer that pain to Him as credentials to make a difference for Him to other wounded people. To actually, maybe, even help them change their eternity by finding your Jesus. His wounded rescuer – that’s you! Thomas needed to put his hands in His side, and there are some people out there that need to put their hand in yours! They need to know your pain, they need to know you understand and can relate. They need to know you’re real. They need to know that as bad as it is right now, you are their living proof that it doesn’t get perfect, but it does get better.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18, “So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever.” (MSG); The Amplified Bible says it like this, “For our momentary, light distress [this passing trouble] is producing for us an eternal weight of glory [a fullness] beyond all measure [surpassing all comparisons, a transcendent splendor and an endless blessedness]!” (AMP).

They need to know it won’t be like this always. They need to know this trouble will pass; they need to know it’s just a momentary, light distress; they need to know that this is really just small potatoes! And you my friend, are the one to tell them that! Let them know, that you personally know, God can do some awesome things in the midst of pain!

Psalm 30:5, 11, “…The nights of crying your eyes out give way to days of laughter…You did it: You changed wild lament into whirling dance; You ripped off my black mourning band and decked me with wildflowers. I’m about to burst with song; I can’t keep quiet about You. God, my God, I can’t thank You enough.” (MSG)

You are the one to inform them that they will not cry always, and that their mourning clothes are not permanent. God has a time limit on all things, and therefore, their pain is not indefinite. They will laugh again, they will dance again, they will sing again. You are their proof. Remember, your wounds are your credentials that qualify you to help others heal.

Allow the proclamation of Isaiah 61:1-5 to be on your lips today, as you minister healing through your wounds to those who are hurting, and need you! You’ll show up like those kids from Michigan with bruises, scars, bandages, crutches, wheelchairs, walkers, canes, and of course pain. But you are also showing up and showing them that none of it stopped you from sharing it with them!

“The Spirit of the Lord God is on me, because the Lord has chosen me to bring good news to poor people. He has sent me to heal those with a sad heart. He has sent me to tell those who are being held and those in prison that they can go free.  He has sent me to tell about the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day our God will bring punishment. He has sent me to comfort all who are filled with sorrow.  To those who have sorrow in Zion I will give them a crown of beauty instead of ashes. I will give them the oil of joy instead of sorrow, and a spirit of praise instead of a spirit of no hope. Then they will be called oaks that are right with God, planted by the Lord, that He may be honored.” (NLV)

Today, Allow Your Hurt to Help Someone Else Heal!

“Your greatest ministry will most likely come out of your greatest hurt.” (Rick Warren)

“Remember that even in the midst of suffering, God’s Will is being done.” (Paul Chappell)

“God has a purpose for your pain; a reason for your struggle; and a reward for your faithfulness. Trust Him and don’t give up.” (Author Unknown)

“Everything that God allows to come our way is always with a purpose. He uses even the greatest error and deepest pain to mold us into a better person.” (Author Unknown)

“God will give you the power to have peace in the midst of the storm.” (Joyce Meyer)

“What if the thing that produces your pain, is the very thing that God will use to release His power?” (Steven Furtick)

“Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.” (Helen Keller)

“Sometimes God will use our deepest pain to launch our greatest calling.” (Author Unknown)

“Your purpose is greater than your pain.” (Bishop T.D. Jakes)

“You were afflicted so that you can help deliver other people from what you escaped from.” (Bishop T.D. Jakes)

“Your brokenness is not useless. God can always use your pain to rebuild a stronger you.” (Trent Shelton)

“Don’t waste your pain; use it to help others.” (Rick Warren)

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

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“WHO Is HE To YOU?”

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…AND HOW ABOUT YOU? WHO DO YOU SAY I AM?…” (Matthew 16:13-19 MSG).

Meteorologists have studied weather patterns to discover the WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, WHY and HOW of rain, thunder, lightning, hail, drought, monsoons and the like. They have pondered why deserts receive less than an inch of rain per year, while India’s monsoons pour down over 400 inches annually. Why does lightning strike? What causes hail? Why does thunder make the sound it does? How can we predict hurricanes and tornado’s?

While great strides have been made in observing, predicting and understanding the weather, no one has been able to change it. Why? Because while human beings have studied the WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, WHY and HOW, they often have forgotten to ask the most important question of all: WHO?

Maybe you’ve been making the very same error. Looking at your situation and focusing on the WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, HOW and even WHY? But falling short in focusing on WHO?

Job’s friend, Elihu, didn’t subscribe to the weather channel or own a farmer’s almanac. He understood, however, that God controls it all: “It is GOD WHO takes water from the earth and turns it into drops of rain. He lets the rain pour from the clouds in showers for all human beings” (Job 36:27-28 GNT). He may as well said, “I don’t understand the process of condensation and precipitation, but I do understand that God is in control of it all!

So, what’s keeping you from reaching that same place? A place of complete confidence that even when you don’t understand all that’s going on in your life, you yet trust HIM? You Trust GOD! You may not understand the WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, HOW, or WHY, but what’s keeping you from trusting the WHO that is Always Faithful? “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” (Lamentations 3:22-24 MSG); “For the Lord is always good. He is always loving and kind, and his faithfulness goes on and on to each succeeding generation” (Psalm 100:5 TLB); “God is faithful (reliable, trustworthy, and therefore ever true to His promise, and He can be depended on); by Him you were called into companionship and participation with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:9 AMP) Sounds to me as though we gravely underestimate our God’s Faithfulness towards us. In fact, hearing those Scriptures alone ought to lead us to repentance and a new found attitude of gratitude for the Lord’s Consistent Faithfulness.

Furthermore, the first words in the Bible are, “In the beginning GOD…” So, while we might not understand all the intricate details and secrets of life, we can hold on to this: God set the universe in motion and still sustains it! Paul put it like this: “We look at this Son and see the God who cannot be seen. We look at this Son and see God’s original purpose in everything created. For everything, absolutely everything, above and below, visible and invisible, rank after rank after rank of angels—everything got started in him and finds its purpose in him. He was there before any of it came into existence AND HOLDS IT ALL TOGETHER RIGHT UP TO THIS MOMENT. And when it comes to the church, he organizes and HOLDS IT TOGETHER, like a head does a body.” (Colossians 1:15-18 MSG). Now, if God can create and hold all of this together, surely you have no doubt about His ability to hold you and all that concerns you, together?

Jeremiah states: “Alas, Lord God! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and by Your outstretched arm! There is nothing too hard or too wonderful for You” (Jeremiah 32:17 AMP). Did you read that? “…There is NOTHING too hard…for You” The word ‘nothing’ is defined as, ‘not anything.’ People of God, where is your level of confidence in your God? Do you believe that there is absolutely NOTHING taking place in your life that is too hard for your God to handle? There’s absolutely nothing that you’re experiencing, enduring, suffering or struggling through or with that is too hard for your God to handle. There’s NOT ANYTHING that you can name that will EVER be listed under the TOO HARD FOR GOD TO HANDLE category! Which is why you should be encouraged to finally reach a place where you can confidently say: “…With men this is impossible, BUT ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE WITH GOD” (Matthew 19:26 AMP). In other words, don’t let the government shut-down scare you; you don’t allow the doctor’s diagnosis to cause you to panic; don’t let the marital discord make you believe that what’s out of your hands is also out of God’s; don’t focus on your children doing the very opposite of what you’ve taught and trained them to do under the admonition of the Lord (God has His hands on them too); stop pacing the floor over the funds that are no longer piling high in your bank account (God is neither limited by money or intimidated by numbers). Learn how to trust God even in the moments when you can’t trace Him. Know that He’s still your LIGHT even in DARK places and seasons of life. Believe that He is still a very present help in times of trouble and that no matter how dark your circumstances get, your God is not afraid of the dark, therefore, neither should you be!

When will you reach a place where you trust what He SAID and not what you SEE? After all, “…we walk by faith [we regulate our lives and conduct ourselves by our convictions…” (2 Corinthians 5:7 AMP). So, when will you therefore, begin to conduct yourself by your convictions? A ‘conviction’ is ‘a firmly held belief; the quality of showing that one is utterly convinced of what one believes or says.’ And ‘convinced’ is ‘to cause to believe firmly in the truth of something; to be fully persuaded.’ Its Latin origin ‘convincere’ literally means, ‘to overcome and demonstrate’, from ‘vincere’ which means, ‘to conquer.’ You see, when you reach a growth level where you trust God without question, you began to stretch and strengthen your faith to the point where your convictions are firmly held in their belief because they are utterly convinced of what they believe and what they declare and decreed. Your faith reaches a point where you’re convinced and believe firmly in the truth of what God has already said concerning you, knowing that His Word can’t fail and can’t lie, therefore, you are fully persuaded to overcome your fear by the demonstration of your faith and conquer all that life’s struggles tell you can’t be conquered! You began to walk, talk, think, act and live in the full knowledge that there is Absolutely Nothing Too Hard for Your God, and Nothing With Him Will Ever Be Deemed Impossible!

Know this: Trusting GOD, NOT Your Circumstances, is What Matters Most!

So, are you going through a difficult situation in your life right now? Are there circumstances that you cannot understand? Well, instead of trying to fix it or control it, rather than trying to figure out the WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, WHY and HOW of your struggle, why not simply focus instead on WHO:

FOCUS ON GOD WHO IS ELOHIM: The Creator, Who Made You With a Plan and For a Purpose!  “…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” (Jeremiah 29:10-11 MSG). People of God, you have no need to worry, fret or fear about your past, present or future, for God has a plan, a purpose and a promise, and neither of them will fail due to your problems!

FOCUS ON GOD WHO IS EL ELYON: The God Most High, Whose Ways are Higher Than Your Ways! “I don’t think the way you think. The way you work isn’t the way I work.” God’s Decree. “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” (Isaiah 55:8-11 MSG). So stop trying to figure this out on your own! God’s Got It And You! Trust Him, Follow Him, Lean On Him, Obey Him! He Cannot Lie And Won’t Fail You! He Can Handle What’s Got a Hold of You! This is God’s Message, the God who made earth, made it livable and lasting, known everywhere as God: ‘Call to me and I will answer you. I’ll tell you marvelous and wondrous things that you could never figure out on your own” (Jeremiah 33:2-3 MSG). Imagine That! God Himself is sitting by waiting for you to call on Him! He’s waiting for you to bring to Him all of your WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, WHY, and HOW questions! Because He alone will “…tell you marvelous and wondrous things that you could never figure out on your own” So, why are you still struggling with this? Why are you continuing to lose sleep, hair, peace, joy, comfort and strength? When you can simply talk to God, the One WHO is the answer to all of your questions?!

FOCUS ON GOD WHO IS EL ROI: The God Who Sees and Knows Where You are and How You Feel! “So she called the name of the Lord Who spoke to her, You are a God of seeing, for she said, Have I [not] even here [in the wilderness] looked upon Him Who sees me [and lived]? Or have I here also seen [the future purposes or designs of] Him Who sees me?” (Genesis 16:13 AMP). Much like Hagar, you can be at your lowest point in life right now, wandering through the wilderness ready to give up and throw in the towel. Not knowing what to do for yourself or your child. With no provision or protection, and worse yet, having those who should be there to support you, be nowhere to be found. And yet, it is at this very same place where God manifests Himself to you and like Hagar all you can say isI looked upon Him Who sees me [and lived]…”. In other words, yes you’ll survive this, yes you’ll make it through this! There will be an “After This” testimony for you too! But like Hagar, you have to focus on WHO, not WHAT! “Now that we know what we have—Jesus, this great High Priest with ready access to God—let’s not let it slip through our fingers. We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all—all but the sin. So let’s walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help.” (Hebrews 4:14-16 MSG). Did you catch that? “…Take the mercy, accept the help”. God is waiting to extend mercy and help to you, so, what are you waiting for? If you can simply take your eyes off everything and everyone else and focus them where they need to be on (WHO) you will come out of this a lot better than you went into it!

FOCUS ON GOD WHO IS EL SHADDAI: The Lord God Almighty, the One Who Can Change You or Walk With You Through Your Circumstances as Surely as He Can Send Rain From Heaven! “Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track. Don’t assume that you know it all. Run to God! Run from evil! Your body will glow with health, your very bones will vibrate with life!…” (Proverbs 3:5-12 MSG). If you want to live and have a good life than simply follow God! You want restored health than simply follow God! The WHO is all you need to get through all the WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, HOW and WHY! The greatest exercise to maintain good health and a good life is walking with God! “But look!” he said. “Look!” he answered, “I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire; and they are not hurt, and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God” (Daniel 3:25 NKJV). Saints, there is absolutely nothing you can walk in, where God is absent! Remember: “God is our Refuge and Strength [mighty and impenetrable to temptation], a very present and well-proved help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1 AMP). The Message Bible says it like this: “God is a safe place to hide, ready to help when we need him. We stand fearless at the cliff-edge of doom, courageous in seastorm and earthquake, Before the rush and roar of oceans, the tremors that shift mountains.” (MSG). You are never alone! Your God loves you too much to ever leave your side! “Be strong. Take courage. Don’t be intimidated. Don’t give them a second thought because God, your God, is striding ahead of you. He’s right there with you. He won’t let you down; he won’t leave you” (Deuteronomy 31:6 MSG). Now that’s what you call comfort! Need a little more reassurance? Here you go: “for He [God] Himself has said, I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support. [I will] not, [I will] not, [I will] not in any degree leave you helpless nor forsake nor let [you] down (relax My hold on you)! [Assuredly not!]” (Hebrews 13:5 AMP). You my friend are tucked away safely under the wings of God and in the hands of God, whereby nothing and no one can touch you or take you away! “Count on it: Everyone who had it in for you will end up out in the cold – real losers. Those who worked against you will end up empty-handed – nothing to show for their lives. When you go out looking for your old adversaries you won’t find them – Not a trace of your old enemies, not even a memory. That’s right. Because I, your God, have a firm grip on you and I’m not letting go. I’m telling you, ‘Don’t panic. I’m right here to help you.’ (Isaiah 41:11-13 MSG). Now that’s what you call safe!

And just in case you think something or someone in the world can harm you, God loves you enough to even give you a protection plan that’s better than ADT:

“You who sit down in the High God’s presence, spend the night in Shaddai’s shadow, Say this: “God, you’re my refuge. I trust in you and I’m safe!” That’s right—he rescues you from hidden traps, shields you from deadly hazards. His huge outstretched arms protect you—under them you’re perfectly safe; his arms fend off all harm. Fear nothing—not wild wolves in the night, not flying arrows in the day, Not disease that prowls through the darkness, not disaster that erupts at high noon. Even though others succumb all around, drop like flies right and left, no harm will even graze you. You’ll stand untouched, watch it all from a distance, watch the wicked turn into corpses. Yes, because God’s your refuge, the High God your very own home, Evil can’t get close to you, harm can’t get through the door. He ordered his angels to guard you wherever you go. If you stumble, they’ll catch you; their job is to keep you from falling. You’ll walk unharmed among lions and snakes, and kick young lions and serpents from the path. “If you’ll hold on to me for dear life,” says God, “I’ll get you out of any trouble. I’ll give you the best of care if you’ll only get to know and trust me. Call me and I’ll answer, be at your side in bad times; I’ll rescue you, then throw you a party. I’ll give you a long life, give you a long drink of salvation!” (Psalm 91 MSG).

And just in case your faith fuel hasn’t reached all the way on full yet, here’s a little more:

“The earth belongs to God! Everything in all the world is His!” (Psalm 24:1 TLB)

“Do you have any idea how powerful God is? Have you ever heard of a teacher like him? Has anyone ever had to tell him what to do, or correct him, saying, ‘You did that all wrong!’? Remember, then, to praise his workmanship, which is so often celebrated in song. Everybody sees it; nobody is too far away to see it.” (Job 36:22-25 MSG)

“What is faith? It is the confident assurance that something we want is going to happen. It is the certainty that what we hope for is waiting for us, even though we cannot see it up ahead. Men of God in days of old were famous for their faith. By faith – by believing God – we know that the world and the stars – in fact, all things – were made at God’s command; and that they were all made from things that can’t be seen” (Hebrews 11:1-3 TLB).

“Don’t you yet understand? Don’t you know by now that the everlasting God, the Creator of the farthest parts of the earth, never grows faint or weary? No one can fathom the depths of his understanding.  He gives power to the tired and worn out, and strength to the weak.  Even the youths shall be exhausted, and the young men will all give up.  But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:28-31 TLB).

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:28-30 MSG).

People of God, Don’t Allow Focusing On WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, WHY, and HOW, Distort Your Vision That You Can’t See WHO! And YES, It’s Vital That You Know WHO He Is!

When Jesus arrived in the villages of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “What are people saying about who the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some think he is John the Baptizer, some say Elijah, some Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.” He pressed them, “AND HOW ABOUT YOU? WHO DO YOU SAY I AM?” Simon Peter said, “You’re the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus came back, “God bless you, Simon, son of Jonah! You didn’t get that answer out of books or from teachers. My Father in heaven, God himself, let you in on this secret of WHO I REALLY AM. And now I’m going to tell you who you are, really are. You are Peter, a rock. This is the rock on which I will put together my church, a church so expansive with energy that not even the gates of hell will be able to keep it out. “And that’s not all. You will have complete and free access to God’s kingdom, keys to open any and every door: no more barriers between heaven and earth, earth and heaven. A yes on earth is yes in heaven. A no on earth is no in heaven.” (Matthew 16:13-19 MSG).

SO, DO YOU KNOW WHO HE IS? WHO HE REALLY IS? Because if you did, you wouldn’t worry about WHAT is going to happen in the government, WHEN will I be healed, WHERE will I find the money to pay the bills, WHY did the promotion pass over me, and HOW am I going to get out of this? NOPE! You stand confident in your faith knowing that the God WHO is responsible as the source of your faith has never failed before and He most certainly won’t fail you now!

So inspite of WHAT you’re going through, WHO will you allow God to be to you?!

“Though you have changed a thousand times, He has NOT changed once.” (Charles Spurgeon)

Hebrews 13:8, “Jesus Christ (the Messiah) is [ALWAYS] the same, yesterday, today, [yes] and forever (to the ages).” (AMPC)

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

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“7 Practical Life-Application Lessons From the Cross”

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Jesus prayed, Father, Forgive Them; They Don’t Know What They’re Doing…” (Luke 23:34 MSG)

LESSON 1: FORGIVE THOSE WHO HURT YOU! Two kids were playing when one accidentally hit the other with a stick. That night the injured boy’s Mom said, “Son, you must forgive Harry before you go to sleep.” Grudgingly he replied, “Okay, but unless I die before I wake up, he’d better watch out tomorrow morning!” Hello! When people hurt us it’s hard to believe it could’ve been unintentional or done in ignorance. Yet amazingly, after being flogged, humiliated and nailed to the cross, Jesus said, “Father, Forgive Them; They Don’t Know What They’re Doing”. Forgiving means Refusing to Remain a Victim. By not holding grudges or retaliating you free yourself from the control of those who offend you. Remember: Jesus said, “…love your enemies and pray for anyone who mistreats you” (CEV). Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was persecuted by the Nazis, said, “God doesn’t promise that when we bless our enemies they’ll not despitefully use us. They Will. But that can’t hurt or overcome us, so long as we pray for them. By praying for them, we are doing for them what they can’t do for themselves.Professor Tony Campolo routinely asks his secular college students what they know about the teachings of Jesus. The response is always the same: “Love your enemies”. More than anything else this command stands out as the thing that differentiates Christians from non-Christians. Jesus said, “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cure those with leprosy, and cast out demons. Give as freely as you have received!” (Matthew 10:8 NLT). Practicing forgiveness stems from a deep gratitude to God for wiping out a debt so great, we could Never have repaid it! Therefore, when forgiving, remember: “…Give As Freely As You Have Received!

And Jesus Said To Him, “Assuredly, I Say to You, Today You Will Be With Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43 NKJV).

LESSON 2: REACH OUT TO OTHERS! When Jesus was hanging on the cross the Bible says, “One of the criminals hanging alongside cursed him: “Some Messiah you are! Save yourself! Save us!” But the other one made him shut up: “Have you no fear of God? You’re getting the same as him. We deserve this, but not him—he did nothing to deserve this.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you enter your kingdom.” He said, “Don’t worry, I will. Today you will join me in paradise.” (Luke 23:39-43 MSG) While one man mocked, the other acknowledged his sins and received mercy. The truth is, as much as it galls judgmental people, God said, “If you hide your sins, you will not succeed. If you confess and reject them, you will receive mercy” (Proverbs 28:13 NCV). And that Promise is for the Lost, the Least, and the Lowest among us! Think about it: Jesus could have been so focused on His OWN pain that He failed to see the suffering of those around Him. But instead He Reached Out in love as a fellow-sufferer. In the depth of His own agony He not only Promised the thief on the cross Eternal Life, He Comforted him with these Amazing Words: “…Today you will be with Me in Paradise!” There’s a Lesson here for you – one that Job the patriarch learned. Job lost all his children and his fortune in a single day – how did he stay sane? How did he go on to greater things? How? “After Job had prayed for his friends, the LORD restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before.” “After this, Job lived a hundred and forty years; he saw his children and their children to the fourth generation” (Job 42:10, 16 NIV). It’s in Reaching Out to others, that we ourselves become restored and whole!

Woman, Here Is Your Son.” (John 19:26 MSG)

LESSON 3: TAKE CARE OF THE PEOPLE WHO DEPEND ON YOU!  In addition to losing her son, Mary was also losing His protective “Covering” in a society where women were often treated as second-class citizens after the family males died. So as well as coping with her grief as a mother, Mary may have been wondering what the future held for her. Certainly that would be in our thoughts. Jesus recognized that. And in the midst of the chaos, when He saw her and “the disciple he loved standing near…He said to his mother, ‘Woman, here is your son.’ Then to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’” When the other disciples fled in fear, John followed Jesus all the way to Calvary. Then he went even further. The Bible tells us (and history confirms it) that once Jesus committed Mary to his care, John fulfilled that charge, and “From that moment…accepted her as his own mother” (John  19:26-27 MSG). Here’s what we learn from this: Never Let Your Own Suffering Blind You To the Needs of Those Who Depend On You! When you’re enmeshed in your own problems it’s easy to assume that your loved ones automatically understand where you’re coming from. Not Necessarily! While it’s okay to let them help, never “dump your stuff” on them, or expect them to suffer because you’re suffering. The Bible says, “When you do things, do not let selfishness or pride be your guide. Instead, be humble and give more honor to others than to yourselves. Do not be interested only in your own life, but be interested in the lives of others.” (Philippians 2:3-4 NCV). Jesus was always more concerned with other people’s needs than His own – and we should take our cue from Him!

And About the Ninth Hour Jesus Cried Out With a Loud Voice, Saying, “Eli, Eli, Lama Sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, Why Have You Forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46 NKJV).

LESSON 4: DIRECT THE HARD QUESTIONS TO GOD! At Calvary Jesus asks one of the most heart-wrenching questions ever recorded, “God, why have you forsaken Me?” These words are also found in Psalm 22:1-3 where David poured out his soul in despair, asking God, “God, God . . . my God! Why did you dump me miles from nowhere? Doubled up with pain, I call to God all the day long. No answer. Nothing. I keep at it all night, tossing and turning…Are you indifferent” (MSG). Did you hear David? “Why did you dump me…are you indifferent?…” Ever felt like that? I have! The Bible says that at Calvary God made Jesus “…who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21 NASB). In order to break sin’s hold on us and make salvation possible, Jesus underwent a pain, so great with His Father that it made Him cry out “…My God, My God, Why Have You Forsaken Me?” Some of us have at some point in time used the phrase “God-Forsaken”, but can you imagine actually feeling “God-Forsaken”? Or have you ever felt “God-Forsaken”? I have! If you’ve ever felt overwhelmed and abandoned, you know from experience that there’s not another living soul who has a satisfactory answer to your “WHY?” With the best of intentions our loved ones can only go but so far in giving an answer. However, God Alone can pour His Healing Balm Into Your Breaking Heart and Help You Make Sense of (or at least accept His Will) for what’s happening. That’s why you need to go to HIM ALONE for your answers! But here’s the flip side to directing the tough questions to God – You Must Also Be Willing to ACCEPT His Answer and Do What He Says! The Bible says: “So God has given both His promise and His oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to Him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us.” (Hebrews 6:18 AMP). Did you catch that? “…God has given both His PROMISE AND His OATH…”, so even if you don’t get the answer you want, you can rest assured that if nothing else, He Hears You! You have His Promise and Oath that He will be Your Refuge and in that You Can Have Great Confidence! That’s Comforting Even When the Answer Isn’t! You can also be Certain of something else: The One Who Makes “Everything…Work Together For…Good” (Romans 8:28 NLT) Always Sends the Answer That’s In Your Best Interest! So You Can Trust Him! Therefore, No Matter How Painful the Hurt or How Heart-Wrenching the Loss, Take Your “My God…WHY???…” to HIM!

Jesus…Then Said, “I’m Thirsty” (John 19:28 MSG)

LESSON 5: ACKNOWLEDGE YOUR HUMANITY!  Combine the torment of being Crucified in the Intense Judean Heat, with the Loss of Bodily Fluids, and You Can Vaguely Understand Why Jesus Was Thirsty! However, the Bible says that when they offered Him water containing “…a mild painkiller (wine mixed with myrrh)…He wouldn’t take it” (Mark 15:23 MSG). Why? Because it would have dulled His senses and He wanted to stay alert! Make no mistake about it, Jesus could have summoned a host of angels to deliver Him at any second! But instead He CHOSE to die for our sins…fully alert! HE SAID, “No one takes my life from Me. I give it up willingly! I have the power to give it up and the power to receive it back again, just as My Father commanded Me to do” (John 10:18 CEV). This also explains why John wrote: “Jesus, seeing…everything had been completed” (He fulfilled every Old Testament prophesy concerning His crucifixion) said “I’m thirsty!” And yet, not taking anything to drink, He boldly proclaims in a parched voice, the words that every believer holds dear…”It Is Finished!” Listen: When you’re in a dark valley like Jesus was that day it can cloud your thinking and make you lose perspective, unless you voice your needs to those around you. By acknowledging His Physical Thirst, Jesus reminded each of us that there are times when we’re not self-sufficient, when we need help from others. Why else would Paul write: “Bear one another’s burdens, and …fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2 NASB). I understand you’re gifted, anointed, powerful, holy-ghost filled, fire baptized…etc…I get all the “church lingo”. But sooner or later you will be confronted with something that makes you cry out “I’m thirsty”. Or the translation for us, “Something I’m battling with is physically and painfully assaulting my body (be it sickness, depression, stress, worry, fear etc…)” Understand this: You my friend are no less Spiritually anointed because you cry out Physically! As Hard As It Is For You To Grasp, You Are Still Human With Your Anointed Self! Never Be So Afraid of Being Human that You Masquerade Being Super-Human! Those around Jesus may not have meant Him well, but surely you’re surrounded by some folks that are holding out to you…a mild painkiller…” be it through a prayer, comfort, a hug, a word of encouragement…But you’ll never receive it if you don’t open your mouth and be honest and sayI’m Thirsty”. Saints, Be Human…It’s Okay! David writes: “As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him; for He knows how we are formed, He remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:13-14 NIV). GOD Remembers We Are Just Human – WE Are the Ones Who Forget! The bottom line is, Jesus was humble enough to acknowledge His humanity, and we need to learn to do the very same.

…Jesus…said…”It Is Finished!…” (John 19:30 NKJV)

LESSON 6: YOU CAN ADD NOTHING TO A FINISHED WORK! In the Old Testament tabernacle there were different items of furniture such as the table of showbread representing our need for fellowship, the lamp stand representing our need for light and understanding, etc. But there were no chairs! Why? The Priest’s Work Was Never Finished! He Couldn’t Sit Down! But after Jesus cried, “It Is Finished!He Returned to Heaven and SAT DOWN AT THE RIGHT HAND OF HIS FATHER – THE WORK OF REDEMPTION WAS COMPLETE! The Greek words for “It Is Finished” Literally means “PAID IN FULL!” It’s what folks in those days wrote across a receipt when the bill was PAID IN FULL! Christ’s death covers your EVERY SIN – FROM THE CRADLE TO THE GRAVE! And to offer your “good works” as partial payment, INSULTS GOD! You Can’t Add To a Finished Work! Look at it this way: Imagine seeing a finely crafted coffee table sitting in a carpentry shop ready for delivery. You reach for a wood plane and say, “It’s good, but not good enough, let me show you how it should look since I’ve taken a few classes.” The master carpenter immediately steps in and says, “No, you’ll ruin it!” Likewise, imagine receiving a very expensive gift from a loved one. Immediately you pull out a $5 bill and say, “Here, let me help you with the cost”! It’s an Offense, an Insult! You’re robbing the giver of his joy and the sacrifice of its worth! Listen: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV). The Amplified Bible says it like this: “For it is by free grace (God’s unmerited favor) that you are saved (delivered from judgment and made partakers of Christ’s salvation) through [your] faith. And this [salvation] is not of yourselves [of your own doing, it came not through your own striving], but it is the gift of God;  Not because of works [not the fulfillment of the Law’s demands], lest any man should boast. [It is not the result of what anyone can possibly do, so no one can pride himself in it or take glory to himself.]” Lastly, The Message Bible says it like this: “Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all his idea, and ALL HIS WORK. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It’s God’s gift FROM START TO FINISH! We don’t play the major role. If we did, we’d probably go around bragging that we’d done the whole thing! No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him IN THE WORK HE DOES, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.” Saints, saving faith requires – trusting only in a Finished Work of Christ! And You Can’t Add To A Finished Work!

“…Jesus…Cried Out With A Loud Voice…”Father, ‘Into Your Hands I Commit My Spirit…” (Luke 23:46 NKJV).

LESSON 7: RELEASE IT TO GOD! Some of the issues we struggle with seem to be never-ending, like money worries, family problems and health concerns. Even when we get a break and should be resting, we sit up anticipating the worst, wondering, “How long, Lord?Well, the only way to have Real Peace is to Commit the Outcome to God! When Jesus cried, “…Father, Into Your Hands I Commit My Spirit…It Was a Cry of Release! It was an Act of Trust that meant Surrendering Control to the Father (something we’ve Yet to learn to do!) The atoning blood had been shed, salvation’s work was finally complete! But before Jesus could pray That Prayer, He FIRST had to pray,Father, If You Are Willing, Take This Cup From Me; Yet Not My Will, But Yours Be Done” (Luke 22:42 NIV) And that’s a prayer we must each learn to pray! In Philippians 3:10-11 Paul wrote: “All I want is to know Christ and the power that raised Him to life. I want to suffer and die as He did, so that somehow I also may be raised to life” (CEV). We all want to rule and reign with Christ Someday, we just don’t want to submit our will to His Today! But it doesn’t work like that! Jack Hayford writes: “The charted course…always has been…the way of the cross.’ The cross not only calls us to Jesus, it also calls us to a life, to the wisdom of God’s ways in all our relationships and pursuits…to the pattern of Jesus…in the face of our deepest struggles.” So whatever you’re wrestling with today, Release it to God once and for all! When you do, you’ll experience His peace, and you won’t be disappointed with the outcome!

Practical Life Applications:

  1. FORGIVE THOSE WHO’VE HURT YOU;
  2. REACH OUT TO OTHERS;
  3. TAKE CARE OF THE PEOPLE WHO DEPEND ON YOU;
  4. DIRECT THE HARD QUESTIONS TO GOD;
  5. ACKNOWLEDGE YOUR HUMANITY;
  6. YOU CAN ADD NOTHING TO A FINISHED WORK; AND
  7. RELEASE IT TO GOD!

I know many, especially around this time and season, look for “Deep” messages with thought provoking insight that has never been heard of this side of Heaven. But it is in injustice to the Message of Christ not to make the Word of God Practical and Applicable to the People. A Word that can help us in church, but hurt us at home because it lacks clear, simplistic understanding and application is of no value. Therefore, throughout the remainder of the week/weekend, when listening to varying messages, make sure you do not seek to be impressed or entertained, but that you seek to be enlightened, encouraged, inspired and challenged to change your life (your whole life “body, soul and spirit”) for the better.

In a Nutshell: Never Applaud a Message You Can’t Apply!

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

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LETS STAY CONNECTED!

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“Marriage RIGHTS For When Things Go WRONG”

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“Live joyfully with the wife whom you love…”  Ecclesiastes 9:9 (NKJV)

Sonja Ely writes, ‘I was watching my seven-year-old granddaughter play with her toys. At one point she staged a wedding, first playing the role of the mother who assigned specific duties, then suddenly becoming the bride with her “teddy bear” groom. She picked him up and said to the “minister” presiding, “Now you can read us our rights.” Without missing a beat, she became the minister who said, “You have the right to remain silent, anything you say may be held against you, you have the right to have an attorney present, you may now kiss the bride.”As comical as that is, you need to know what your marriage rights are! And to start you must know that, first and foremost, marriage is God’s idea!  

In Eden He said, ‘…It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him”‘ (Genesis 2:18 NKJV). The word ‘comparable’ means ‘compatible with his (or her) needs‘. In other words, the person you choose to marry will be Comparable, Not Perfect! They can be Perfect FOR You, but they are in no ways Perfect. That’s why it’s foolish for Imperfect YOU, to get so divorce-driven frustrated every time they don’t meet your cross every ‘t’ and dot every ‘i’ imaginary ideals that you also fall very short of attaining! So, before we start anything please know that it is vital to your marriage that you embrace the fact that your spouse will never be perfect this side of heaven and neither will you. Which means, we have two imperfect people who need to come up with marital frustration strategies that are comparable for them to keep their covenant intact.

Listen, when you marry someone, you marry everything they’ve been through! Each of you brings your own baggage. And unless you sort out what to keep and what to discard, things can quickly erode. You must also understand that when you leave God out, you create bigger problems for your marriage than who forgot to take out the garbage or wash the dishes! Keep in mind, Satan has made marriage one of his prime targets! He loves to promote strife.  

Which is why when it comes to marriage we must learn to quickly and completely forgive: The Bible says it like this: 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 4:31-32 MSG). Why is this so important? Because unforgiveness gives Satan an advantage to tear your marriage apart which is why we are further admonished: ‘If you forgive anyone anything, I too forgive that one; and what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sakes in the presence [and with the approval] of Christ (the Messiah), TO KEEP SATAN FROM GETTING THE ADVANTAGE OVER US; FOR WE ARE NOT IGNORANT OF HIS WILES AND INTENTIONS‘ (2 Corinthians 2:10-11 AMP). You see, the whole purpose of forgiveness is: “…To Keep Satan From Getting The Advantage Over Us…So forgive your Imperfect Spouse, with Your Imperfect Self, and Keep Satan at bay! God’s plan for your relationship is strength and harmony, not strife and confusion. He wants to help you build a strong, loving union that glorifies Him. To do that, you must show grace, forgiveness and resolve to make Jesus Lord of your relationship! Remember, your marriage was God’s Idea, therefore, let Him Control it and it won’t Veer off the Divorce Cliff!              

In discussing marriage on his TV sitcom, Jerry Seinfeld tells his friend why he’s not married: ‘No healthy person would want the neglect I have to offer.Let’s face it, even the ‘best’ marriages are made up of two imperfect people who sometimes neglect each other. And when you’ve been hurt it’s easy to react in the flesh instead of responding in the Spirit. Because truthfully, some hurts go really deep and grow really strong roots over time. At this point we must remember that regardless, forgiveness is a decision, however, trust is a process and when it’s been torn down, it takes time to rebuild it. Men and women often perceive trust differently. When a spouse has been hurt, her husband or his wife may think an apology should immediately enable them to trust them again, move on, and not talk about it again. That’s not so; because there are two things that need to happen. First, the offending partner needs to acknowledge what they’ve done. Don’t just tell your partner to get over it‘. Validate their feelings, even if they act like they don’t want you to. Acknowledge their pain. You see, when others rationalize or trivialize what’s hurting us, it only makes us angrier. Only when we feel validated do our wounds begin to heal. Second, the offended partner needs to make sure that bitterness doesn’t creep in.How can I do that?you ask. By refusing to stay hurt any longer than is absolutely necessary, and by allowing God to heal your heart and restore your love. The Bible says, ‘… “If you hear his voice today, don’t be STUBBORN!”‘ (Hebrews 4:7 CEV). When God gives you the grace to forgive and release the hurt, you need to seize it not be stubborn about it! Holding your spouse in unforgiveness prison, means you’re locked up in bondage right along with them! You do remember the Scripture says:  “And the two shall become ONE Flesh, so that they are No Longer TWO, BUT ONE FLESH.” (Mark 10:8 AMP). If you don’t free them, you don’t free you either! Selah…              

After the death of the child David fathered with Bathsheba, we read, ‘Then David got up… washed himself… changed his clothes… went to the Tabernacle and worshipped the Lord. After that, he returned to the palace and… ate. His advisers were amazed. “We don’t understand you,” they told him. “While the child was still living, you wept and refused to eat. But now that the child is dead, you have stopped your mourning and are eating again”‘ (2 Samuel 12:20-21 NLT). Why did David mourn more intensely before the baby died than he did after? Because according to many research studies across the countries, men grieve hard, but not necessarily as long. Once something’s over, they’ve a tendency to move on. However, in marriage, this can cause problems. You see, according to the studies, men often genuinely don’t understand why their wives can’t accept that ‘what’s done is done’, and move on too. But listen to David’s logic: ‘… I fasted and wept while the child was alive, for I said, “Perhaps the Lord will be gracious to me and let the child live.” But why should I fast when he is dead? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him one day, but he cannot return to me‘ (2 Samuel 12:22-23 NLT). Stay with me, the Bible says that God ‘… comforts us… so that… When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort… ‘ (2 Corinthians 1:4 NLT). Therefore, David’s next move was crucial. And what was it you ask? He ‘… Comforted Bathsheba, his wife… ‘ (2 Samuel 12:24 NLT). Notice, David didn’t ask, ‘What’s wrong with you? When are you going to get over this? I’ve moved on what’s taking you so long?No, he recognized that even though he was beginning to heal, his wife was still hurting. The healing process accelerates once you begin to empathize with, and comfort your mate. And this is advised for both husband and wife, no matter who caused the hurt. Healing always takes time and that timing is different for both parties. Therefore, you need to learn to heal, and whichever gets to the healing finish line first, don’t leave the finish line until your spouse has crossed over it, no matter how long it takes them to get there. It’s important that you both finish, what’s unimportant is who finishes first.              

Sometimes the loss won’t even be a person, but a thing. For instance, when your mate loses their job and you find yourself suddenly going through a season of financial uncertainty, here are three things you need to keep in mind. First, remember it’s just a season. The important thing is to guard your attitude while you’re waiting for things to turn around. For example: Unless he’s lazy or an outright freeloader, your husband already feels bad because he can’t provide. He knows the children need shoes, the bills are piling up and that you’re tired of eating noodles or beans on toast, so don’t keep reminding him! Second, now is the time to get behind him and strengthen his ego, not deflate it. How?‘ you ask. By asking yourself, ‘Am I always complaining? Do I highlight the things we don’t have? Do I covet stuff that’s beyond our budget right now? Am I doing my part to cut back and make ends meet, or am I splurging on non-essentials, going shopping every day and wanting to eat out every night?Remember, responsibility and accountability for your marriage survival falls on Both of your shoulders! Finally, never forget, ‘this too shall pass’. Now is not a good time to remind your husband (or your wife if she’s the breadwinner) about the new car your brother bought or the great house your friend just exchanged on. Now is the time to practice saying with Paul, ‘... I have learned to be satisfied with the things I have and with everything that happens. I know how to live when I am poor, and I know how to live when I have plenty. I have learned the secret of being happy at any time in everything that happens, when I have enough to eat and when I go hungry, when I have more than I need and when I do not have enough. I can do all things through Christ, because he gives me strength.‘ (Philippians 4:11-13 NCV). Has God ever failed you? No, and He won’t now, so make up your mind to trust Him. How you handle this season may well determine whether your relationship emerges weaker or stronger.              

So know your Marital Rights! You have the right to Forgive;  when you are offensive you have the right to Acknowledge What You’ve Done; when you’ve been offended you have the right to Keep Bitterness at Bay, Forgive and Release the Hurt; You have the right to Comfort, You have the right to remember that Financial Droughts Are Seasonal, they do not last; you have the right to Build Your Mates Ego, Not Break It; you have the right to remember that no matter how bad it may seem now, This Too Shall Pass! Remember Your Marital Rights and You’ll Both Be Able to Properly Handle When Things Go Wrong! 

“…you have left (abandoned) the love that you had at first [you have deserted…your first love.]”  (Revelation 2:4 AMP)

Nobody plans it, it just seems to happen. Romance runs headlong into Reality! Something gives, and it’s usually romance! At first it’s just two love-birds with no higher earthly priority than each other’s happiness. Then comes the patter of tiny feet, and our well-ordered world gets turned upside down. Children don’t fit neatly into our schedules and agendas. They can’t and won’t wait. Three kids, two jobs, one mortgage later, and romance seems to be a distant memory. Two overworked people wonder where they lost that romantic feeling and whether it will ever return. I agree with G.K. Chesterton, “The way to love anything is to realize that it might be lost.” 

Unfortunately, some settle for marriage without the sizzle; some stay till the kids are older, then look for greener, more romantic pastures. But God offers a third, more exciting alternative: God’s alternative – Do What It Takes to Restore Your ‘…FIRST LOVE…(This Scripture was written to the church at Ephesus, but the principle also applies to building a good marriage). Therefore: 

  • RE-EXAMINE YOUR PERCEPTIONS: We think our current sizzle-free status is proof that romantic love is dead and the dream forever lost. That’s because we confuse romance with love. Romance brings people together, but love keeps them together. People who love each other can make romance live again – at any age or stage. “Sexiness wears thin after a while and beauty fades, but to be married to a man who makes you laugh every day, ah, now that’s a real treat.” (Joanne Woodward). Romance can come and go, but Love has a Stability that Remains Standing even when all else is Falling Apart! Therefore, water your marriage’s seeds of love and fresh romance will sprout forth!
  • REALIZE THAT THE SIZZLE WASN’T LOST, IT WAS ‘LEFT’:’ You have LEFT [behind] your first love.It didn’t leave you. It didn’t die. And a new partner is not the solution! You Left It and Only You Can Make It Right Again By Your Return To It! Remember this: “Warm hugs are better than cold shoulders.” (Author Unknown)
  • RETRACE YOUR STEPS: You’ll find romance where you left it: Undernourished, Crowded Out, Over-Looked and Seriously Oxygen-Deprived, But Not Dead! God created marriage! Talk to Him! Follow His instructions and your romance can live again! REMEMBER: And here’s a second offense: You fill the place of worship with your whining and sniveling because you don’t get what you want from God. Do you know why? Simple. Because God was there as a witness when you spoke your marriage vows to your young bride, and now you’ve broken those vows, broken the faith-bond with your vowed companion, your covenant wife. God, Not You, Made Marriage. His Spirit inhabits even the Smallest Details of Marriage…So Guard the Spirit of Marriage Within You…” (Malachi 2:13-15 MSG). If Only We’d Protect and Guard Our Marriages to the Same Degree We Do Our Cellphones! Selah…

Here are three ‘R’s’ that work in our walk with God – and in our marriages:            

First: REMEMBER. REMEMBER the height from which you have fallen!…” (Revelation 2:5 NIV). Not the depth, but the height. Not how bad it’s become, but how great it once was! Not the worst of times, but the best! Recall when just being together was the highlight of your whole day! What were you doing then that you’re not doing now? Do you remember when you phoned just to hear his voice? The gifts you couldn’t afford, but bought her anyway? The love notes you slipped into his pocket? Remember opening doors for her, pulling out chairs, holding her coat for her while she puts her arms through the sleeves or flowers on Tuesday, just because it was Tuesday? Remember cooking his favorite dish although you were exhausted from working late, or reading ‘1001 Ways to be Romantic’ and trying them all…twice? Remember quiet candlelit dinners when you shaved again and wore her favorite cologne, you know the one you hated? Remember when intimacy wasn’t all about me? Remember the special places, times, smells, looks, songs, poems? Remember a rose on her tray with breakfast in bed because she had cried when she heard the song, ‘You don’t bring me flowers anymore,’ and you vowed you’d never forget the flowers again?REMEMBER!Remember what you did for love! The magic may seem to have appeared by accident, but it actually grew by action! You were the magic! What you did fueled the romance, then you stopped doing it and the flame subsided! But the pilot light still burns, and remembering the heightsreleases positive, faith-inspiring chemistry that can move you to actions that will fan the flame into a fire again! “To keep the fire burning brightly there’s one easy rule: Keep the Two Logs Together, near enough to keep each other warm and far enough apart—about a finger’s breadth—for breathing room. Good fire, good marriage, same rule.” (Marnie Reed Crowell).            

The second ‘R’ for renewing your first love is REPENT; which in its simplistic form means, to change your mind, direction, and actions. You can’t solve a problem with the same thinking and behaviors that created it; new thinking and actions are required. If your relationship once sizzled, you still have what’s needed to make it sizzle again. You’ve been remembering what you were doing at ‘the height’ of the relationship. You’ve acknowledged that those actions made the relationship exciting and fulfilling, than you stopped doing them, and that youleft [behind] your first love.” Now you’re ready to repent (which means to turn around) and go in a different and better direction so you can once again cause the flame of love to burn brightly in your marriage. “More marriages might survive if the partners realized that sometimes the better comes after the worse.” (Doug Larson). “A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person.” (Mignon McLaughlin).              

The third ‘R’ of renewal is RE-ENACT; Do the things you did at first” (Revelation 2:5 NIV). List the things you used to do when the relationship was great. Each of you should prayerfully and privately commit to doing a couple of the listed items, without telling your partner which ones you chose. Try to ‘catch’ your partner re-enacting the things you did at firstand let them know how much it means to you that they cared enough to do it. You’ll get more of what you reinforce by gratitude! “In every marriage more than a week old, there are grounds for divorce. The trick is to find, and continue to find, grounds for marriage.” (Robert Anderson). But a word to the wise: at first it may feel strange, even unreal, when you begin to re-enact those early behaviors. So be patient, that will change. Just keep doing it. And don’t wait till you feel like it. You can act your way into new ways of feeling, even when you can’t feel your way into new ways of acting. Do it till you feel it, till the joy of your first love reignites!              

You further have the marital right to remember the good times of your marriage instead of ruminating over the bad; you have the marital right to repent of any wrongs you have committed against your spouse; you have the marital right to retrace your steps and find the romance that your neglect caused you to loss; you have the marital right to reenact every good memory of your marriage and if you’re real smart, you’ll create some new memories too!

Now to help you ease your way back into ‘the heights of your first love”, I’ve learned that laughter is a Huge and Valuable Asset! With that said, share some of these funny marriage quotes with your spouse tonight and have a good laugh! Especially if you can identify with any of them! 

“I love being married. It’s so great to find that one special person you want to annoy for the rest of your life.” (Rita Rudner). 

“Never go to bed mad. Stay up and fight.” (Phyllis Diller). 

“Valentine’s Day is when a lot of married men are reminded what a poor shot Cupid really is.” (Author Unknown). 

“Any intelligent woman who reads the marriage contract, and then goes into it, deserves all the consequences.” (Isadora Duncan). 

“Three rings of marriage are the engagement ring, the wedding ring, and the suffering.” (Author Unknown). 

“Marriage means commitment. Of course, so does insanity.” (Author Unknown). 

“I never knew what real happiness was until I got married. And by then it was too late.” (Max Kauffman). 

“Wedding rings: the world’s smallest handcuffs for those who are sentenced to do life! I suggest you choose your cellmate wisely.” (Author Unknown). 

“There is so little difference between husbands you might as well keep the first.” (Adela Rogers St. Johns). 

“Once a woman has forgiven her man, she must not reheat his sins for breakfast.” (Marlene Dietrich). 

“It’s easy to understand love at first sight, but how do we explain love after two people have been looking at each other for years?” (Author Unknown) 

“Women hope men will change after marriage but they don’t; men hope women won’t change but they do.” (Bettina Arndt). 

“I have learned that only two things are necessary to keep one’s wife happy. First, let her think she’s having her own way. And second, let her have it.” (Lyndon B. Johnson). 

“My husband and I divorced over religious differences He thought he was God, and I didn’t.” (Author Unknown). 

“The reason they’re called the opposite sex is because every time you think you have your wife fooled—it’s just the opposite.” (Walter Winchell) 

“The best way to remember your wife’s birthday is to forget it once.” (H.V. Prochnow). 

Have a good laugh as you Rekindle Romance and Exceed New Levels of Love By Remembering, Repenting and Re-Enacting! 

YOU NOW HAVE THE RIGHT TO REMAIN HAPPILY MARRIED TIL DEATH DO YOU PART!

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

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“Why Help Matters?”

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Ecclesiastes 4:9, “TWO are better than one…” (NIV)

Edward Farrell said, “Listening is rare. THERE ARE CERTAIN PEOPLE to whom we feel we can talk because they have such a deep capacity for hearing, not just our words, but hearing us as a person. They enable us to communicate on a level we’ve never reached before. They enable us to be as we’ve never been before. We will never truly know ourselves unless we find people who can listen, who can enable us to emerge, to come out of ourselves, to discover who we are. We cannot discover ourselves by ourselves.”

Note the words: “THERE ARE CERTAIN PEOPLE…who enable us to be as we have never been before.”

THESE ARE THE PEOPLE YOU NEED THE MOST!                        

With that said, consider the following questions to help you discover whether you’ve found your “CERTAIN PEOPLE…” or you NEED to Find Them:

1.    WHO COACHES YOU? What older, wiser, and more experienced brother or sister stands on the sidelines of your life and watches with the big picture in mind? Now keep in mind, coaches don’t run the race for you, THEY SIMPLY SET THE STANDARD FOR THE RACE AND MAKES A JUDGMENT ON YOUR PERFORMANCE! So who does this for you? Who mentors you? Who guides you? Who makes sure you don’t go outside the boundaries? Remember This: “A good coach will make his players see what they CAN BE rather than what they ARE” (Ara Parasheghian). Therefore, find yourself a coach that can see your successful future even in your present failures!

2.    WHO STRETCHES YOUR MIND? Who makes you wince as they expose the many faces of your ignorance; who will not let you get away with spiritual and intellectual superficiality? Who makes sure you don’t just play church? Who makes sure you don’t become complacent and lazy? Who makes sure your streams are always flowing (since stagnant water stinks!) Which makes me think of a quote I love that reads: “Too many people confine their exercise to jumping to conclusions, running up bills, stretching the truth, bending over backwards, lying down on the job, side-stepping responsibility and pushing their luck” (Author Unknown) You need someone who will give you a more beneficial exercise plan for your future! You need someone who refuses to let you settle, when they can stretch you to soar!

3.    WHO LISTENS TO AND ENCOURAGES YOUR DREAMS? Dreams are not intellectual propositions that must be proven. They are the work of visionaries; they are out-of-the-box, frequently awful and occasionally good. These are the folks who, when others laugh and say you’re trying to build castles in the air, remind you that God “…calls things that are not as though they were” (Romans 4:17). Another translation says: “…God…gives life to the dead and calls into being things that were not”. These are the people you need! People who make you see the house while in the apartment. People who make you see the church with no license to preach. People who make you see the car with no permit. People who make you see a fruitful marriage while contemplating divorce. These people share your hearts desires with you and even when they seem a little far-fetched, they still believe. Do you have people like that? Another quote I love says: “All men dream but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity; but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes to make it possible” (T.E. Lawrence). You need people in your life that will awaken you from daydreaming and push you to make your dreams a reality! If you don’t have encouragers like that now, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR? The birth of your dreams are at stake!

4.    WHO PROTECTS YOU? When the Christians in Jerusalem wanted nothing to do with the newly converted Saul of Tarsus, Barnabas acted as his advocate. Your voice alone is not enough! You need others to speak up for you. And this doesn’t imply weakness! “You obey the law of Christ when you offer each other a helping hand.” (Galatians 6:2  CEV). You need people in your life that will protect you from critics, gossips, back-biters and liars. People who protect all that you are in God, flaws and all. People who know your mistakes, but also know the price of forgiveness that was paid in Blood on your behalf. Therefore, they won’t sit around idly and let others use your past to abuse your future.  In other words, locate your Barnabas who will encourage you, stand up for you, support you and protect you. “The antidote for fifty enemies is just one faithful friend” (Aristotle). You don’t need the Tree to protect you from the heat of the sun, all you need is the Shade of the tree! Therefore, find you a Barnabas who you can stand in the shade of when the heat is on, they’ll stand before you and be a friendly protection.

5.    WHO SHARES YOUR TEARS? Mary was close enough to share Jesus’ tears in His most painful, life-draining moment. Who’s close enough to you to pick up on the signals (even the silent ones), to sense when fears and tears need to be shared? Yes, there are times when we need a pep talk or a shot in the arm, but there are also times when we need to be encouraged to lie low and realistically process our emotions. Who does that for you? Who cries with you, but has enough discernment and wisdom to know when you’ve cried enough? “Tears are the safety valve of the heart when too much pressure is laid on it” (Albert Smith). Which is why it’s so vital that you learn to surround yourself with people who won’t allow you to hide behind your name, your title, your position, your gifts, your anointing, your skills, your talents, your familiarity or comfortability, your business, your church, your ministry, your image etc. You need people that will say “Let it out!” People who know when to cry with you, for you and those who know when enough is enough and they hand you a tissue and say “Clean it up and get it together!These are the mentors who send you back to your wife or husband (whether the hurt was on their part or yours)! They do not however entertain you being lustfully messy with someone else because you’re caught up in your feelings. These mentors let you pour out your tears, but they also know how to help you turn off the water works and get a beneficial plan together so you can bounce back! If you haven’t found this mentor yet, locate them fast! And trust me, they’ll be easy to recognize! They’ll be the one who knows how to give you a healthy balance between your break-down and your break-through. They’re the ones that know how to discern when you need a listening ear, and when you need a verbal rebuke. They know when you need a pat on the back, and when you need a swift kick in the behind. They know when to help you resolve a conflict, and when to let that conflict beat you down because it was never your battle to begin with. Whatever you do, find this mentor!

6.    WHO REBUKES YOU? Even with 20/20 vision, one pair of eyes is never enough! You have blind spots! We all do. And Satan is always standing by ready to remind you of your good qualities. Why? Because pride is his expertise! And even the devil knows, “First pride, then the crash—the bigger the ego, the harder the fall.” (Proverbs 16:18 MSG). But a true friend exposes and challenges your self-seeking, self-pleasing, and self-dependence, and helps you to restore to God the authority you’ve robbed Him of! Who’s bold enough to do that for you? “Most of us can read the writing on the wall; we just assume it’s addressed to someone else” (Ivern Ball). You need a person that confirms that the writing on the wall is addressed personally to YOU! You need what David had, a NATHAN! Someone that will tell you to your face, “IT WAS YOU”! Someone who doesn’t care if you get mad, or stop speaking to them, someone who cares more about you being in right standing with God than right standing with them. Who does this for you? Who gets right in your face and rebukes your wrong? If no one, you my friend are in grave trouble!

7.    WHO SEEKS GOD WITH YOU? Praying together keeps us honest! Yes it’s only in the honesty of shared prayer that we draw closer to God, and to one another. The Bible says,: “Make this your common practice: “Confess your sins to each other…pray for each other so…you can live together whole and healed. The prayer of a person living right with God is something powerful to be reckoned with…” (James 5:16 MSG). You need someone in your life that is filled with the Word of God, Saturated with a Prayer Life, and Disciplined Enough to Fast Consistently! Someone who daily seeks the Face of God, and will therefore, provoke you to do the same. Someone who makes you want to live holy, live right and live honest (someone who will confront you if you’re not). Someone who helps you come clean with God and others. Someone who helps you be better today than you were yesterday, and better tomorrow than you were today. Who does that for you?  “When you knock, ask to see God – none of the servants” (Henry David Thoreau).  You need people in your life that help you get past seeking clergy collars and simply seek God instead! People who will not let you simply hold hands in a prayer circle, or wail and fall out at the altar, or wait in long lines for someone to lay hands on you. No, you need partners who will say sit and read the Word until the Word speaks back! Keep your eyes focused until you see God! Sit quiet until you hear God’s voice! Surround yourself with those who are not hung up on the Servants but on the Savior! Stick close to those who have little desire for seeking anything outside of seeking God! Do you have someone like that?

8.    WHO PLAYS WITH YOU? Does this sound Unimportant, even Carnal? Well it’s NOT! You must never let the seriousness of life override your need for recreation, a word that’s only understood when it’s hyphenated ‘RE-CREATION’. Ever notice how energized we are after some Rest, a walk in the park, a movie, or an evening out? In essence, the stress we endure daily has a way of breaking down and destroying our creativity, therefore we need time to focus on something less time constraining and mind exerting. Fresh ideas always flow after some playfulness. So don’t get so caught up in schedules and projects that you don’t take time out to enjoy life.A cheerful heart brings a smile to your face; a sad heart makes it hard to get through the day.” (Proverbs 15:13  MSG). Who makes sure you never miss recess? Human beings need pleasure the way they need vitamins” (Lionel Tiger). Just as recess is a part of a child’s day, make it a part of yours! Include people in your life who challenge you to fly a kite, run a race, go to a museum, a theme park, a picnic.  Surround yourself with people who interrupt your 9-5 with a silly joke or an out of key song that you sing to the top of your lungs, or a hideous dance move that will send your children seeking for help! Play a board game, walk on the beach, play dodge ball, tag, red light green light 1,2,3! LOL! Find someone to jump rope with, hop-scotch, or play jacks! Put your hair in 2 ponytails and tell your kids to go with you to the supermarket! LOL! See, many of you are laughing already and you haven’t even done these things, all you did was read them, and they made you laugh! Imagine how much fun you’ll have when you actually take a break and DO THEM? I remember a really good friend of mine from high school had 2 theme barbecues several years back and one of the themes was you had to come dressed in 1970’s attire! I’m still praying those pictures never make it to Facebook! LOL! Her other barbecue was a pajama theme! Sounds ridiculous, but the fun was unbelievable! Deanna is one of my dearest friends because she always makes me laugh and makes sure that I take a break in life, and actually LIVE! Think about it: After ALL Job went through…what does it say in the closing chapter? “AFTER THIS, JOB LIVED…” (Job 42:16 AMP). YES, BELIEVE IT OR NOT, AFTER ALL THAT JOB EXPERIENCED, THAT OTHER FOLKS WOULD’VE KILLED THEMSELVES OVER…HE ENDURES IT…AND IN THE END…JOB LIVED! In its entirety it reads like this: “AFTER THIS, JOB LIVED 140 YEARS, AND SAW HIS SONS AND HIS SON’S SONS, EVEN TO FOUR GENERATIONS. SO JOB LIVED, AN OLD MAN AND FULL OF DAYS” (Job 42:16-17 AMP) If you don’t have a Deanna like me, find one! She’s the key to many fun-filled days in your life! Someone Who Knows All That You’ve Endured And At The End Of It All, They Make You LIVE! Today, put your name in this Scripture and then LIVE! “After this, _____________ LIVED!” (Thanks Bishop James R. Chambers!)

You need to ask yourself today: “Who Coaches Me?; Who Stretches Me?; Who Listens to and Encourages My Dreams?; Who Protects Me?; Who Shares My Tears?; Who Rebukes Me?; Who Seeks God With Me (and for me)?; Who Plays With Me?Because all of these components are vital to a healthy and happy you!

In addition, this will cause you to do a thorough search of those in your life, and cause you to make necessary adjustments. You’ll begin to remove negative and pessimistic people. You’ll get rid of critical and judgmental folks. You’ll say goodbye to dream stealers and dream killers. You’ll discard unnecessary people who only pat you on the back and give your overly inflated ego more air. You’ll strike out those who don’t stretch you. You’ll pull away from those who don’t push you, protect you or play with you. You’ll become unsatisfied with those who are seeking people instead of seeking God. You’ll then begin to search for people who mean you well, Body, Soul and Spirit!

Now, That’s What You Call Living A Blessed and Well-Balanced Life!

So, Who Does This For You? Who Helps You? Because it Matters! If you can list them, CELEBRATE THEM, if you don’t have them, FIND THEM!

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

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“The Danger of Seeking Validation”

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I know for a fact that I’m really going to date myself when I share this, but oh well! You see, when I was a teenager, you could often tell a girl was going “steady” with a boy by the jacket she wore. And when my cousin started going “steady” with a girl, she couldn’t wait to get into his jacket; his football jacket that is – the one he earned with blood, sweat, tears, and my aunt’s hard earned money. You could tell this girl was “going with” my cousin. How? The jacket she wore had his name on it. I have to tell you though, it was slightly amusing to me to watch her wear it. You see, my cousin was a big lineman! He was over 6 feet tall and over 300 pounds! His girlfriend on the other hand, was lucky to ever break a hundred on the scale! In other words, she swam in that coat! It completely drowned her! And she wasn’t the only one. We had a lot of girls in our school who were dating athletes, (including myself) and we all wore their jackets as a symbol that stated, “Hey, I belong to him. He’s mine.But the truth is, most of us didn’t look that great in those guy’s jackets. You see, I discovered that wearing what a man gives you for security may not be the best fit for you after all! Keep that in mind as we journey forward!

We’re going to take a look at Genesis chapter 29. But first let me give you a brief background. Jacob has worked seven years to earn Rachel’s hand. However, he didn’t realize until he lifted the veil on his wedding night that he had been deceived. He had married the sister, Leah, who was not Miss America or Miss Israel for that matter. So he had to work seven more years to get Rachel, the one he really wanted. Now he’s got two wives. The Bible says, “Rachel he loved. Leah was unloved by him.” 

Leah, like many women, had a very deep love hunger that was slowly starving to death.

Genesis 29:31-32,When God realized that Leah was unloved, he opened her womb. But Rachel was barren. Leah became pregnant and had a son. She named him Reuben (Look-It’s-a-Boy!). “This is a sign,” she said, “that God has seen my misery; and a sign that now my husband will love me.” (MSG) Interesting isn’t it? She’s looking to this man for the love and the identity she needs and she’s coming up empty.

Well, then, she finally has another baby…and another… It says in Genesis 29:33-34,She became pregnant again and had another son. “God heard,” she said, “that I was unloved and so he gave me this son also.” She named this one Simeon (God-Heard). She became pregnant yet again—another son. She said, “Now maybe my husband will connect with me—I’ve given him three sons!” That’s why she named him Levi (Connect)” (MSG). Again the man does not give her what she needs. 

I’ve always found this story absolutely amazing because it opens up with Leah knowing that this man doesn’t love her, and never has. He has always wanted and loved her sister Rachel. Can you imagine a woman knowing full well that a man does not love her, from the very beginning, and even after he sleeps with her, his only response is, how do I get Rachel your sister instead? And her response to that? I’ll get pregnant and give him sons. You see, it was a big deal in their culture to have the firstborn be a son. So to Leah, it was a sign that Jacob would indeed finally love her (even though he’s given her absolutely no reason to believe he’d changed his mind, or that he ever would). After all, Rachel (no matter how much you love her), is barren. I, on the other hand have given you your firstborn son. Surely, “…my husband will love me…” (MSG). And when that doesn’t happen, Leah continues on her love-deprived search and quest. She gives him 2 more sons, Simeon and Levi. Now she believes God has heard of her unloved misery and that now her husband will connect with her. However, Leah is in for more discouragement and disappointment.

Leah, wanted the love of her husband, she wanted God to hear of her misery and intervene and then she wanted to connect with her husband. Son after son after son…Leah is let down over and over again. She keeps trying to give a man what she thinks he wants so she can finally get what she needs. However, Leah remains unloved and let down.

In truth, Leah reminds me a lot of the young girls/women that I counsel. I just recently had a teenager in my office who just turned 17 and she’s currently pregnant with her third child! (Yes, I said third!) All of them are by the same boy. The same boy in fact, who has told her repetitively that he does not love her or want her. Yet, she’s under the impression that if he didn’t love or want her he wouldn’t keep sleeping with her. One of her last statements to me was: “we have 3 children together so we’ll always be together.” I must admit, I sat in total amazement. But that wasn’t what pushed me over the edge. It was her next statement that did that. She said: “I just pray this baby is finally a boy, he’s always wanted a son, and I just know if I can give him his junior, he’ll love me too much to ever leave me again.” Sadly, this is the mindset of many teenagers, young adult and even adult women. If I just give him what he wants, he’ll give me what I need. This my sisters is a grave mistake! Reminds me a lot of my cousin’s girlfriend wearing his football jacket. The jacket was leather and heavy! Then to add on its size due to his size made her look ridiculous. She couldn’t even walk right wearing that thing. Not to mention she had her own book bag, pocketbook etc…she was weighted down with something she thought gave her validation, identity and a since of security, entitlement and belonging. No matter how foolish it made her look!

The word “Validation” is defined as “to check or prove the validity of; to make or declare legally valid; to confirm; to grant official sanction; to recognize; to establish; to illustrate the worthiness or legitimacy of.”

The word “Value” is defined as “the regard that something is held to deserve; importance or worth; to consider with respect to worth, excellence, usefulness or importance; considered beneficial; assigned worth; to regard or esteem highly; to calculate, assess or appraise”

Women, looking for a man to give you what only God can will always leave you empty, deprived and longing. No man, no matter who he is, where he comes from, what he has, what he does, what he looks like, can validate your value! Your worth and worthiness come from God alone. The sooner women grasp this, the better! I don’t care how fine you look, how shapely your figure, how wonderful you may be in the kitchen and in the bedroom, no man can validate your value. You are the sole property of God alone. Therefore, it is He alone that proves your worthiness, importance, significance, and usefulness. No man has the right to do this. You can wear all the name-brands in the world, wear the most stylish of hairstyles, have flawless skin (or flawless makeup), and still your worth cannot be validated by a man. So, stop attempting to prove your worth to a man. Stop giving him what you need to keep for yourself. Stop lowering your standards, self-respect and self-esteem. Stop compromising your convictions. Stop waiting by the phone for it to ring. Stop sitting on the sofa staring at the door hoping he comes knocking. Stop jumping and running every time he opens his mouth. Stop crying, begging, pleading, and degrading yourself in hopes that he will love you, want you, need you, or value you. Stop getting in that bed over and over again, only to leave with sex, not love. Stop depleting your bank account in hopes of making him happy. Stop buying him stuff. Stop trying to prove your worth so he deems you worthy. No man can validate your value! Giving him what he wants sexually, giving him children, giving him stuff, will never prove your worth! 

Leah had son after son after son, and each time it had nothing to do with her, she did it all for a man. Grant it, it was her husband, but a husband she knew never loved her. She kept trying to prove she was worthy of his love, and yet he continued to overlook her because his sight was on Rachel alone. She didn’t have children because she wanted to be a mother, she had them because she wanted the love of a man. And before you judge her too harshly, might I ask you to self-exam and see what have you done down through years for the love and attention of a man? What bed did you enter for a man? How much money did you waste for a man? How much of your self-respect went out the window for a man? How much of your future have you lost focus on for a man? How many of your gifts, talents and abilities are still lying dormant, because you’re still laying like a doormat for a man? 

If women could only see their worth and value, the fashion, hair and makeup industry would literally dry up. We wouldn’t have so many Barbie dolls trying to look “ideal” for a man that’s not “ideal” himself. No matter how sexy you look or how sexual you are, your value and worth have nothing to do with either. I’ve never seen an age with so many “sex symbols” at such young and tender ages. Cleavage is hanging out of everywhere. Panty-lines are visible. Skirts are the width of belts. Clothes are being worn 3 times too small. Boots are coming up to the thighs. Lace used to be considered an undergarment, and now it’s the only garment. Now, I know the world believes that sex sells, but as women of God that has absolutely nothing to do with us! We are indeed more than lips, hips and fingertips. We are more than eye-candy, a trophy wife or notch on a man’s belt. As women, our Significance isn’t founded on Sex!

1 Corinthians 6:16-20: There’s more to sex than mere skin on skin. Sex is as much spiritual mystery as physical fact. As written in Scripture, “The two become one.” Since we want to become spiritually one with the Master, we must not pursue the kind of sex that avoids commitment and intimacy, leaving us more lonely than ever—the kind of sex that can never “become one.” There is a sense in which sexual sins are different from all others. In sexual sin we violate the sacredness of our own bodies, these bodies that were made for God-given and God-modeled love, for “becoming one” with another. Or didn’t you realize that your body is a sacred place, the place of the Holy Spirit? Don’t you see that you can’t live however you please, squandering what God paid such a high price for? The physical part of you is not some piece of property belonging to the spiritual part of you. God owns the whole works. So let people see God in and through your body.” (MSG)

Daughters, you are of high value and worth. Neither sex, or looking sexy is validation of value. You don’t “look” valuable, you simply are!

1 Peter 3:1-4, “The same goes for you wives: Be good wives to your husbands, responsive to their needs. There are husbands who, indifferent as they are to any words about God, will be captivated by your life of holy beauty. What matters is not your outer appearance—the styling of your hair, the jewelry you wear, the cut of your clothes—but your inner disposition.” (MSG)

1 Timothy 2:8-10, “Since prayer is at the bottom of all this, what I want mostly is for men to pray—not shaking angry fists at enemies but raising holy hands to God. And I want women to get in there with the men in humility before God, not primping before a mirror or chasing the latest fashions but doing something beautiful for God and becoming beautiful doing it.” (MSG)

Titus 2:1-6, “Your job is to speak out on the things that make for solid doctrine…Guide older women into lives of reverence so they end up as neither gossips nor drunks, but models of goodness. By looking at them, the younger women will know how to love their husbands and children, be virtuous and pure, keep a good house, be good wives. We don’t want anyone looking down on God’s Message because of their behavior…” (MSG)

Women, are you getting this? It’s not about your hair, clothes, style, looks, or sexiness. It’s about the beautiful woman you are on the inside that knows her value and worth are established by God, and none other. It’s about maintaining your character, integrity, dignity, elegance, and class. It’s about letting a man know your worth, not proving your worthiness to a man.

Which reminds of the following poem: “Women are like apples on trees. The best ones are at the top of the tree. The men don’t want to reach for the good ones because they are afraid of falling and getting hurt. Instead, they just get the rotten apples from the ground that aren’t as good, but easy. So the apples at the top think something is wrong with them, when in reality, THEY’RE amazing. They just have to wait for the right man to come along, the one who’s brave enough to climb all the way to the top of the tree.” 

 Sisters, stay at the top of the tree! Make him climb, exert effort, pursue you (not the other way around!) Take the signs off your back that read: “for sale; bargain; discount; great deal; thrift; inexpensive; used; hand me down; negotiable; disposable; clearance” Daughter, you are worthy, valuable and priceless! Walk like it, talk like it, think like it, dress like it, act like it, live like it!

Back to Leah…yes, she indeed wanted the love of Jacob. She had 3 sons to prove that’s what her heart’s desire was. She wanted to be loved, she wanted to be heard, she wanted to be connected to. But all of those things were to a mere man. However, that is not the ending of Leah’s story. In verse 35, “She became pregnant a final time and had a fourth son. She said, “This time I’ll praise God.” So she named him Judah (Praise-God). Then she stopped having children'” (MSG). 

Leah had hoped to find her identity in Jacob’s love. She didn’t get it. But finally, after three times of counting on a baby to secure her man’s attention, she refocuses her love hunger from Jacob to Jehovah; from her husband to her Heavenly Father. There’s many of women who have been disappointed by a man; hurt by a man. There’s frustration, there’s bitterness. There’s a distorted view of real love. There’s been hurt by the lack of love or approval that you could never seem to win, or maybe a boyfriend or a husband has let you down like Jacob did Leah. You feel betrayed, abandoned, unloved, unnoticed and unworthy. Leah, like so many women, was looking in the wrong place for identity. No woman was ever meant to derive her identity and worth from the approval of a man. And so, Leah said, “I’m going to turn to the Lord.Maybe it’s time you do the same. 

The jacket that reflected some of my cousin’s identity didn’t fit the woman in his life. She was never meant to find her identity in being his girl. Every woman is headed for disappointment and chronic insecurity if she’s trying to define herself by some man in her world. It’s a liberating day when you discover that no man could do for your worth what the Lord can do. He loved Leah; even when her man didn’t. He gave her His divine blessing when her man wouldn’t give his. Don’t waste time trying to find your identity in the fickle, fragile love or approval of a man. Look beyond them to the Lord. Start drawing on Him for all you need. Remember, the Scripture does not say, “A man is my Shepherd. I shall not want.”…NO! It states, “The Lord is my Shepherd. I shall not want.” Remember That!

Your identity is that you are a unique, masterpiece creation of a loving God: Ephesians 2:10, For we are His workmanship [His own master work, a work of art], created in Christ Jesus [reborn from above—spiritually transformed, renewed, ready to be used] for good works, which God prepared [for us] beforehand [taking paths which He set], so that we would walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us].” (AMP). You are the Masterpiece of the Master, not that of a mere man! You were created to be Used By God…Not Used By a Man! You are a Daughter of the King! He thought you were worth dying for! And loved you too much to even stay dead! Then loved you even greater, because He refuses to leave you here…He’s coming back just for YOU! What man can possibly love you like that?

Women, be sure that you bring your love hunger to the only One who will never disappoint you – your Savior, your Shepherd, Jesus Christ. 

Now, in closing, I would love to end this on a good note, however, let’s read a little further into the Life of Leah: Genesis 30:16-21,When Jacob came home that evening from the fields, Leah was there to meet him: “Sleep with me tonight; I’ve bartered my son’s mandrakes for a night with you.” So he slept with her that night. God listened to Leah; she became pregnant and gave Jacob a fifth son. She said, “God rewarded me for giving my maid to my husband.” She named him Issachar (Bartered). Leah became pregnant yet again and gave Jacob a sixth son, saying, “God has given me a great gift. This time my husband will honor me with gifts—I’ve given him six sons!” She named him Zebulun (Honor). Last of all she had a daughter and named her Dinah.” (MSG)

Leah unfortunately continues her journey of unrequited love. She’s still looking for validation of value from Jacob. Two more sons and a daughter, and still she’s in the same place of saying, “…This time my husband will honor me with gifts—I’ve given him six sons!”  

Women, please do not make Leah’s mistake of spending an entire lifetime seeking for a man to give you what he has no right to give you. Your value is never validated by a man, only by your Master.

As a last “Selah”…remember this, Leah had 6 sons, and then lastly a daughter. Daughters were supposed to stick close to their mothers and learn from them. They were taught by their mothers how to be wives. They were to emulate their mothers teaching, behavior and conduct. Makes you wonder, what could Leah possibly teach Dinah about a healthy relationship with a man or a husband? Our children often imitate us to, especially our daughters. And the last thing this world needs, is more young girls watching older women chase after desperate and deprived love, approval, acceptance and validation from a man.

Sadly enough, Leah desperately, but willfully and legally,  gave herself to Jacob (a man she knew from the very beginning never loved her). However, Dinah, you’ll discover in Genesis 34, was raped, and then had her rapist ask for her hand in marriage. And people think watching reality shows is something! Read Genesis 34!

“Now Dinah the daughter of Leah, whom she had borne to Jacob, went out [unescorted] to visit the girls of the land. When Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, prince (sheik) of the land, saw her, he kidnapped her and lay [intimately] with her by force [humbling and offending her]. But his soul longed for and clung to Dinah daughter of Jacob, and he loved the girl and spoke comfortingly to her young heart’s wishes. So Shechem said to his father Hamor, “Get me this young woman as a wife.” Now Jacob heard that Shechem had defiled (violated) Dinah his daughter; but his sons were in the field with his livestock, so Jacob said nothing until they came in. But Shechem’s father Hamor went to Jacob to talk with him. Now when Jacob’s sons heard of it they came in from the field; they were deeply grieved, and they were very angry, for Shechem had done a disgraceful thing to Israel by lying with Jacob’s daughter, for such a thing is not to be done. But Hamor conferred with them, saying, “The soul of my son Shechem [deeply] longs for your daughter [and sister]. Please give her to him as his wife. And [beyond that] intermarry with us; give your daughters to us [as wives] and take our daughters for yourselves. 10 In this way you shall live with us; the country will be open to you; live and do business in it and acquire property and possessions in it.” 11 Shechem also said to Dinah’s father and to her brothers, “Let me find favor in your sight, and I will give you whatever you ask of me. 12 Demand of me a very large bridal payment and gift [as compensation for giving up your daughter and sister], and I will give you whatever you tell me; only give me the girl to be my wife.” 13 Jacob’s sons answered Shechem and Hamor his father deceitfully, because Shechem had defiled and disgraced their sister Dinah. 14 They said to them, “We cannot do this thing and give our sister [in marriage] to one who is not circumcised, because that would be a disgrace to us. 15 But we will consent to you only on this condition: if you will become like us, in that every male among you consents to be circumcised, 16 then we will give our daughters to you [in marriage], and we will take your daughters for ourselves, and we will live with you and become one people. 17 But if you do not listen to us and refuse to be circumcised, then we will take our daughter [Dinah] and go.” 18 Their words seemed reasonable to Hamor and his son Shechem, 19 and the young man did not hesitate to do the [required] thing, for he was delighted with Jacob’s daughter. Now he was more respected and honored than all [others] in the household of his father. 20 Then Hamor and Shechem his son came to the gate of their [walled] city [where the leading men would meet] and spoke with the men of the city, saying, 21 “These men are peaceful and friendly with us; so let them live in the land and do business in it, for the land is large enough [for us and] for them; let us take their daughters for wives and let us give them our daughters [in marriage]. 22 But only on this condition will the men consent to our request that they live among us and become one people: that every male among us become circumcised just as they are circumcised. 23 Will not their cattle and their possessions and all their animals be ours [if we do this]? Let us consent [to do as they ask], and they will live here with us.” 24 And every [Canaanite] man who went out of the city gate listened and considered what Hamor and Shechem said; and every male who was a resident of that city was circumcised. 25 Now on the third day [after the circumcision], when all the men were [terribly] sore and in pain, two of Jacob’s sons, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s [full] brothers, took their swords, boldly entered the city [without anyone suspecting them of evil intent], and they killed every male. 26 They killed Hamor and his son Shechem with the edge of the sword, and took Dinah out of Shechem’s house [where she was staying], and left. 27 Then Jacob’s [other] sons came upon those who were killed and looted the town, because their sister had been defiled and disgraced. 28 They took the Canaanites’ flocks and their herds and their donkeys, and whatever was in the city and in the field; 29 they looted all their wealth, and [took captive] all their children and their wives, even everything that was in the houses. 30 Then Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, “You have ruined me, making me a stench to the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites and the Perizzites! My men are few in number, and the men of the land will band together against me and attack me; I shall be destroyed, I and my household.” 31 But they said, “Should he [be permitted to] treat our sister as a prostitute?” (AMP)

Leah made a deliberate desperate decision regarding her body, Dinah unfortunately was made subject to a man that made a decision on behalf of her body. Women, we cannot debase ourselves any longer over the flawed desire for having a flawed man’s validation, which proves and approves nothing. Dinah couldn’t stop what happened to her, but the whole ugly story line that involves two families, neighboring communities and even death are harsh realities that come with choices and consequences relating to sex. Sisters, let’s make better decisions for ourselves, our bodies and our lives and be better examples for our daughters as well. Ladies, remember, they’re watching us. So, let’s make sure we set good examples for them to model.

“The only permission, the only validation, and the only opinion that matters in our quest for greatness is our own.” (Dr. Steve Maraboli)

“Self-esteem comes from within. No amount of validation or approval ‘out there’ will ever give it to you.” (Pinterest)

“The woman who does not require validation from anyone is the most feared individual on the planet.” (Mohadesa Najumi)

“A vibrant and independent woman is much more beautiful than a woman who waits for people to validate her existence.” (Kelly McNelis Senegor)

“It takes a strong person to do their own thing and not wait for anybody else to validate their existence.” (Steven Aitchison)

“Live life in such a way that someone else’s validation means absolutely nothing to you.” (Pinterest)

“An amazing thing happens when you stop seeking approval and validation: You find it. People are naturally drawn like magnets to those who know who they are and cannot be shaken!” (Mandy Hale)

“The more you begin to love yourself, the less you’ll look to others to validate, approve of, or complete you.” (Mandy Hale)

“The dream is yours…why are you asking others to validate or nourish it? Your journey must be self-propelled. It must be fueled from within.” (Dr. Steve Maraboli)

“If you persistently seek validation from others you will inadvertently invalidate your own self-worth.” (Dodinsky)

“Stop allowing other people to dilute or poison your day with their words or opinions. Stand strong in the truth of your beauty and journey through your day without attachment to the validation of others.” (Dr. Steve Maraboli)

“Your self-worth is determined by YOU. You don’t have to depend on someone telling you who you are.” (Beyonce)

“There’s a difference between caring about what others think and worrying about it. When you care about what other people think, you respect and value their opinion. When you worry about it, you depend on their validation for your worth. So keep caring. Keep treating people like they matter. Just know that you matter too, whether they confirm it or not.” (Lori Deschene)

“Stop validating your victim mentality. Shake off your self-defeating drama and embrace your innate ability to recover and achieve.” (Dr. Steve Maraboli)

“Women have to learn where their true source of validation is.” (Maureen Murdock)

“If you live for people’s acceptance, you will die from their rejection.” (Lecrae)

“When you depend on people to build you up, they’ll have the same power to break you down. You don’t need their validation to know your worth.” (Pinterest)

“I’m secure in who I am. I don’t need the validation of those that would say, you have to be a certain way in order to be accepted. I’m comfortable going against the grain. I’m walking my path and I will always walk the direction my heart tells me to go, even if I must walk alone…all fired up!” (Collective Evolution)

“No effective guidance will ever be achieved by seeking approval of others.” (Pinterest)

“It doesn’t matter what other people think. If you make the choice to create positive changes for yourself, that is all that matters. You don’t need anyone’s approval, validation or support…and a lot of the time, you really should avoid it.” (Stephanie Zamora)

“Happiness is discovering that the most worthwhile and powerful validation is the one you give to yourself.” (Dodinsky)

“When I accept myself, I am freed from the burden of needing you to accept me.” (Dr. Steve Maraboli)

“In a relationship, one must not seek validation from the other, it should come naturally. If it’s not there, the worst thing you can do is beg for it.” (Dodinsky)

“Never get your sense of worth from outside yourself. Don’t let other people tell you how much you’re worth, decide for yourself. It’s called SELF-Worth not other’s worth.” (Pinterest)

“True confidence is knowing who you are in Christ, and that your validation, approval and acceptance comes from Him.” (Kim Brooks)

“I want to be in a relationship where you telling me you love me is just a ceremonious validation of what you already show me.” (Dr. Steve Maraboli)

“The more I fill myself with God’s Truth, the less I need validation from others.” (Lysa Terkeurst)

“You don’t need anyone’s affection or approval in order to be good enough. When someone rejects or abandons or judges you, it isn’t actually about you. It’s about them and their own insecurities, limitations, and needs, and you don’t have to internalize that. Your worth isn’t contingent upon other people’s acceptance of you – it’s something inherent. You exist, and therefore, you matter. You’re allowed to voice your thoughts and feelings. You’re allowed to assert your needs and take up space. You’re allowed to hold onto the truth that who you are is exactly enough. And you’re allowed to remove anyone from your life who makes you feel otherwise.” (Daniell Koepke)

“Your value doesn’t decrease based on someone’s inability to see your worth.” (Pinterest)

“Stress, anxiety, and depression are caused when we are living to please others.” (Paulo Coelho)

“Once you know your worth, you’ll never feel compelled to give another discount again.” (Pinterest)

“Never allow someone to be your priority while allowing yourself to be their option.” (Mark Twain)

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: “Avoid the Valentine’s Day Crash!”

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“Church, Let’s Go Fishing!”

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Luke 5:10, “And so also were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon (Peter). And Jesus said to Simon, Have no fear; from now on you will be CATCHING MEN!” (AMPC)

I assure you I was not your typical young girl! I didn’t dream of the most beautiful wedding, the most expensive wedding gown with the long train that took 5 people to carry it. I was more of the tom-boy who was climbing up trees and jumping out of them; learning to work on engines since my dad was a mechanic; walking the dogs; chopping wood since I wanted to do everything my dad did, because if you haven’t guessed it, I was indeed the typical daddies’ girl! And one of my dad’s absolute favorite things to do in all the world was to go fishing! So once again you guessed right, I just had to learn how to fish! And it wasn’t a struggle for me either. Before you knew it, I was digging for worms, and baiting hooks, casting my line, and catching some fish!

Now, as for me, catching the fish was fun. Eating them was fun. But, in between, there was this one step that was a lot less fun – cleaning them! But for that fish to realize its culinary destiny, it had to be cleaned.

If you’re a fisherman, you’re apparently Jesus’ kind of person. Four of the twelve disciples He called were fishermen by trade. When He summoned them to His service, He said, “…Follow Me [as My disciples, accepting Me as your Master and Teacher and walking the same path of life that I walk], and I will make you fishers of men” (Mark 1:17 AMP). He told Simon Peter, “…Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men.” (Luke 5:10 NKJV).

So the business of bringing people into a relationship with Jesus Christ apparently has some things in common with fishing. For example, you don’t try to attract the fish with what you’re interested in, but what they’re interested in. For example, I like pizza. I don’t like worms. But if I put pizza on my hook, I’m going home with an empty bucket. I’ve got to offer what will be interesting to the fish that I’m trying to attract. And so it is church, with reaching people for Jesus Christ, especially MEN! Think about it, if all you offer is religious bait, coming to a religious meeting to hear a religious speaker talk on a religious subject in a religious place, you probably won’t attract many of the lost men who need Christ so desperately. But if you’re talking about needs they care about in a place where they feel comfortable, in words they can understand, you have a far better chance of getting them within hearing distance of the Gospel. Now, does that mean if they enjoy the strip club, you go to the strip club to win them to Christ? Uh, No! Your convictions, character and calling should never be compromised! But will an unsaved man be more likely to talk to you over a game of bowling, than an hour of bible study, yes sir! Remember, your bait is not supposed to catch your interest, but theirs.

Now, there’s another very important fishing principle we need to keep in mind as we present Jesus to the people around us. It’s a principle it seems many believers have never thought about. And church, here it is: FISH AREN’T CLEANED UNTIL THEY’RE CAUGHT FIRST! Now that’s pretty deep and profound don’t you think? Nope! Just common sense, that has become way too uncommon in the church!

You see, far too many times, lost people feel judged by us rather than loved by us, because we attack the things they do. But they do those things because they’re lost, which is why instead of judging their lost ways, we should be leading them to the One who will take them from lost to found! However, that’s hard to do because we’re too busy trying to get them in “proper church attire”; trying to change their habits; their mindset; their way of life; their behaviors; and their speech. We’re too busy trying to take out their piercings; cover their tattoos; restyle their hair; and put sheets over their splits, and safety pins to close up their cleavage. Before they get in the church good, we have 5 auxiliaries to put them on; and want to cram tithes and offerings down their throat. Now, let’s be real, how would you feel about a group of people telling you Jesus loves you, now all you have to do is give Him 10% of the paycheck you worked hard to earn, and the one that barely covers your bills as it is? As church folks, we have a tendency of going too far, too soon!

Think about this: No fishermen goes to the water, immediately sticks his hand in the water, snatches out a fish, cleans it, cooks it and eats it. No, there is a process to fishing, and one of the greatest parts to that process is waiting! It doesn’t happen in an instant. And most men, in particular, aren’t going to just pour into the church like a floodgate has opened either. A fishermen knows that he can sit out there for hours and catch absolutely nothing; or just one or two. If only we could learn to be that patient with catching men!

Women have a stronger tendency to fill the church pews, men not so much, not so many, and not so quickly! So, if you’re attempting to grow the men’s ministry, you will need patience and better bait!

And more importantly, it’s vital that you remember: You catch them, then JESUS cleans them!

Take a brief walk with me through Luke 19 beginning with verse 5. The whole town is shocked when Jesus says to Zacchaeus, of all people – the town crook, “I must stay at your house today.” As stunned as anyone, the Bible says Zacchaeus “welcomed him gladly. The people started muttering, ‘He has gone to be the guest of a ‘sinner.’” But after meeting Jesus and experiencing His unconditional love, Zacchaeus can’t stand his sin anymore. He announces he’s going to make right the dishonest wrongs he has done, “If I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” Jesus announced, “Today salvation has come to this house.

Zacchaeus Got Clean, But He Got Caught First!

The problem with the lost people you know is not their profanity or their dishonesty or their immorality – truth of the matter, they’re lost and they’re living like it! So why are we as the church, mad at the world because they behave like the world? That’s like being mad at a dog because he barks; a cat because he purrs; a fish because he swims; or a lion because he roars! It’s the same as being mad at an elephant because he has a trunk; or a giraffe because he’s tall; or a bear because he’s big! You can’t be mad at something or someone that does what it’s purposed to do! And guess what, sinners…SIN! I know, who knew! 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, “Don’t you realize that this is not the way to live? Unjust people who don’t care about God will not be joining in his kingdom. Those who use and abuse each other, use and abuse sex, use and abuse the earth and everything in it, don’t qualify as citizens in God’s kingdom. A number of you know from experience what I’m talking about, for not so long ago YOU were on that list. SINCE, THEN, YOU’VE BEEN CLEANED UP AND GIVEN A FRESH START BY JESUS, OUR MASTER, OUR MESSIAH, AND BY OUR GOD PRESENT IN US, THE SPIRIT.” (MSG) So, we can’t be mad at sinners who sin. However, I love the way we, the church, conveniently forget that text also says, “…A number of YOU know from EXPERIENCE what I’m talking about, for not so long ago YOU were on that list. SINCE, THEN, YOU’VE BEEN CLEANED UP AND GIVEN A FRESH START BY JESUS, OUR MASTER, OUR MESSIAH, AND BY OUR GOD PRESENT IN US, THE SPIRIT.” (MSG) Don’t forget, you weren’t born saved! And some of your best sinning even came, AFTER salvation! Therefore, we need not be mad at the world for acting like the world, but we should be mad that the church acts like the world! But dare we address such a controversial matter?! You were just as bad off as they are, but the Godhead was merciful! Jesus  cleaned you up with the Father and the Holy Ghost! And pay close attention to WHO did the cleaning! It was the Godhead! Not the Bishop, Pastor, Overseer, Elder, Evangelist, Deacons, Missionaries; Ushers; Trustees; Mother Board; Music Ministry and the like, no it was the Godhead Alone! Try to remember that the next time you go Man Fishing! You Catch, God Cleans!

You see, sinner’s real problem is that they need a Savior! Yes, they must repent, but that’s part of being rescued by Jesus from their sin! Don’t make their lifestyle the main issue. Make Jesus the main issue, and say with the great spiritual fisherman, Paul, “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. (1 Corinthians 2:1-2 MSG). See church, simple is still best! One righteous man (Jesus) went to an unrighteous man (Zacchaeus) and his life was made the better because of being in the company of a man who didn’t judge him, didn’t try to change him, didn’t bring up his past, his mistakes, his failures, his sins, his habits. No, you simply had one short, unrighteous man that went to great lengths to see Jesus. Jesus looked up, saw him, and talked to him (not about him). The man (Jesus) let’s Zacchaeus know I’m your uninvited guest today, and Zacchaeus was delighted to have Him.

Now, I must note this, as soon as the righteous starts talking to the unrighteous, the so-calledrighteous’ start gossiping! Luke 19:7, “And when the people saw it, they all muttered among themselves and indignantly complained, He has gone in to be the guest of and lodge with a man who is devoted to sin and preeminently a sinner.” (AMP) Now, you would think the “church folks” would be happy to see someone unrighteous come into contact with someone righteous. And not to simply visit a church service, but to receive salvation! You would think this was a good thing! Sad as it is to say, you will experience some of the very same behavior. But remember, you have to catch them, before He can clean them. So, if that means going to their house, instead of the House of Worship, just to have a conversation that may bring about salvation, is worth it, don’t you think? Even if it is done in the midst of muttering church folks!

Well, in spite of those who should have been spreading the gospel, and not the gossip, neither Jesus nor Zacchaeus pays them any attention, nor verbally responds to them! Take note church: There will be some folks who don’t think you should be around such people, even if you are trying to win them to Christ. But don’t you get distracted, you have the right bait available and over the process of time, they will be caught by you, and cleaned by Him, and the naysayers can do nothing about it! After all, is their soul about them, or Him? Remember Paul’s words: “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. (1 Corinthians 2:1-2 MSG). People of God, if you want the same results, follow the same regime: Keep it simple, meet them on their terms, use the right bait, and once they’ve been caught, let Jesus clean them (after all, if you had the power to clean them, you would’ve been able to clean YOU years ago!) #Selah

But just as you needed someone to reach out to you, and you needed time to come to Him, and more time to let Him clean you after you were caught, give your brothers and sisters the same courtesy. Don’t get caught up in protocols, programs, and positions. There simply needs to be one brother/sister telling another brother/sister how they can become family. Don’t complicate the matter about rules, regulations, laws, do’s and don’ts. Do your part, and let God do His. You catch, let Him clean!

Psalm 51:1-2, “Have mercy upon me, O GOD, according to Your steadfast love; according to the multitude of Your tender mercy and loving-kindness blot out my transgressions. WASH ME THOROUGHLY [AND REPEATEDLY] from my iniquity and guilt and CLEANSE ME AND MAKE ME WHOLLY PURE FROM MY SINS!” (AMPC);

Psalm 51:7, “PURIFY ME WITH HYSSOP, AND I SHALL BE CLEAN [CEREMONIALLY]; WASH ME, AND I SHALL [IN REALITY] BE WHITER THAN SNOW.” (AMPC);

Psalm 51:10, “CREATE IN ME A CLEAN HEART, O GOD, and renew a right, persevering, and steadfast spirit within me.” (AMPC)

In all of that WASHING; CLEANSING; and PURIFYING, did you note that the ONE who was doing it was: “…O GOD…”! Not, “O James, Jasmine, Edward, Esther, Jeffrey, Juanita, Joseph, Julia, Dwayne, Dorothy, Douglas, Diana, Derrick or Deidra”! Nor was it, “O Apostle, Bishop, Pastor, Elder, Evangelist, Minister, Deacon, Missionary, Brother or Sister”! NO, It Was, “…O GOD…”! Because that’s the Only One Who Can!

It’s simple directives, you catch, He cleans! And as soon as you stop playing God and stay in character with the only role you were cast in, the sooner we can fill the pews with more than just women and babies, but we will see a great catch of men filling the House of God as redeemed Men of God! Church, don’t let any more men and women be left out floating aimlessly in this world, when you have the bait to catch them, and you have the means of getting them to your God so He can clean them! Don’t complicate such a simple process by attempting to be grand. The goal is to make sure your Name is written in the Lamb’s book of Life, not your Accomplishments or Head Count!

Saints, today is a good day to go fishing! And unlike my dad who had his favorite spot to fish in. God has sent us into all the world to fish! Meaning, you need to be casting your line with bait attached to doctors, lawyers, teachers, janitors, bank tellers, cashiers, CEO’s, police officers, fire fighters, and nurses. You need to be casting your line at the supermarket, at the bank, at the laundromat, at school, at work, at home, at the homeless shelter, at the soup kitchen, in the prisons, in the nursing homes, at the hospital, in the emergency rooms, at the rehab, at the dialysis and chemo centers. You need to be casting your line among those married with three children and those divorced with 5; among the unwed mother; the identity and gender confused; among those with 10 piercings and 20 tattoos; among those in Ivy League colleges; among those in community college. Cast your line walking down the street, boarding the bus, train or plane. Cast your line as you share that cab ride. Cast your line as you wait in line at the social services office; while you’re standing in the unemployment line; while you’re getting ready to perform at Madison Square Garden! Are you getting this? Sinners are everywhere, therefore the church needs to be casting her line everywhere! After all, it is what we’ve been commissioned to do, right?

Acts 1:8, “He told them, “You don’t get to know the time. Timing is the Father’s business. What you’ll get is the Holy Spirit. And when the Holy Spirit comes on you, you will be able to be my witnesses in Jerusalem, all over Judea and Samaria, even to the ends of the world.” (MSG)

Mark 16:14-20, “Still later, as the Eleven were eating supper, he appeared and took them to task most severely for their stubborn unbelief, refusing to believe those who had seen him raised up. Then he said, “Go into the world. Go everywhere and announce the Message of God’s good news to one and all. Whoever believes and is baptized is saved; whoever refuses to believe is damned. “These are some of the signs that will accompany believers: They will throw out demons in my name, they will speak in new tongues, they will take snakes in their hands, they will drink poison and not be hurt, they will lay hands on the sick and make them well.” Then the Master Jesus, after briefing them, was taken up to heaven, and he sat down beside God in the place of honor. And the disciples went everywhere preaching, the Master working right with them, validating the Message with indisputable evidence.]” (MSG)

Matthew 28:18-20, “Jesus, undeterred, went right ahead and gave his charge: “God authorized and commanded me to commission you: Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you. I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age.” (MSG)

Church, we have work to do! So, Let’s Go Fishing!

Matthew 4:19, “Walking along the beach of Lake Galilee, Jesus saw two brothers: Simon (later called Peter) and Andrew. They were fishing, throwing their nets into the lake. It was their regular work. Jesus said to them, “Come with me. I’ll make a new kind of fisherman out of you. I’ll show you how to catch men and women instead of perch and bass.” They didn’t ask questions, but simply dropped their nets and followed.” (MSG)

 “We’ve Strayed From Being Fishers of Men to Being Keepers of the Aquarium.” (Paul Harvey)

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

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“The Father Can Still Reach Our Children!”

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Luke 7:11-15, “Not long after that, Jesus went to the village Nain. His disciples were with him, along with quite a large crowd. As they approached the village gate, they met a funeral procession—a woman’s only son was being carried out for burial. And the mother was a widow. When Jesus saw her, his heart broke. He said to her, “Don’t cry.” Then he went over and touched the coffin. The pallbearers stopped. He said, “Young man, I tell you: Get up.” The dead son sat up and began talking. Jesus presented him to his mother.” (MSG)

Believe it or not, but I am the proud mother of 6 adult children! I birthed 2 beautiful daughters (ages 30 and 27); and I was also blessed to inherit 4 more amazing children through marriage (ages 29, 28, and 26 year old twins). And they are all indeed a wonderful handful! Are they perfect? Absolutely Not! They are 6 very different, interesting and sometimes strange creatures! Not 1 personality is a duplicate of any of the others, so it definitely makes for a very comical parenting life. Their careers range from psychology, medicine, furniture, music, government to entertainment law. Now, if that’s not 6 different individuals, I don’t know what is. But truth is, I’m very proud of each of them and love each of them dearly.

Now, as amazing, wonderful, gifted, handsome and beautiful as all my children are, they can indeed drive me nuts! Yes, they are all adults now, and I was told it gets easier as they get older (I have no idea who started that rumor and lie), but I don’t believe that to be at all true! You see, when they’re younger you have so much more control over them and what they do and where they go and who they spend time with. But when they become adults, you become more nervous because they don’t always have to clue you in on their every decision and move they make. And for an over-protective parent like me, that can mean a lot of sleepless nights in prayer!

However, I think it’s safe to say that not many parents can sleep real soundly until they know their children are safe and in for the night. My oldest daughter is 30 years old, and I still look for her to let me know at night, no matter how late it is, that she’s made it home safely. I always look forward to hearing the words, “Ma, I’m home.” Sometimes they get delayed, or sometimes they’re in a situation where they couldn’t call. And it’s natural, I think, for a mom or a dad to be anxious until they can get a fix on where their kids are, and the great time of relief is when they come in the door and we know everything’s okay. Right? I guess some of the most beautiful words in the English language are, “Mom, Dad, I’m home.Maybe you know a child who’s way overdue in saying those words.

With that said, let’s take another look at our text in a different translation: “Soon afterward Jesus went to a city called Nain [near Nazareth], and His disciples and a large crowd accompanied Him.  Now as He approached the city gate, a dead man was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the city was with her [in the funeral procession].  When the Lord saw her, He felt [great] compassion for her, and said to her, “Do not weep.”  And He came up and touched the bier [on which the body rested], and the pallbearers stood still. And He said, “Young man, I say to you, arise [from death]!” The man who was dead sat up and began to speak. And Jesus gave him back to his mother.” (AMP)

Wow! That’s a powerful story! And the most touching words of all for me (as a mother) are these, “…And Jesus gave him back to his mother.”

You know, Jesus is still in the business of giving children back to their parents, even when it appears hopeless they’ll ever come back. Maybe you or someone you know has a son or a daughter who’s away right now; spiritually, emotionally, mentally, physically. Well, my word of encouragement is this simple word from the Lord. He’s still in the business of giving children back to their parents.

I know what some of you may say though, “you don’t know how far gone my child is; or I just don’t see it as possible, it’s been too long or they’ve been like this too long.” Well, let me tell you, from experience, it’s not too late for your child to return. Some may not know it, but I wasn’t raised in church. And although I loved school and went to school and I was even a straight A student, I was still a bit of a wild child. Yes, I had both parents at home, and yes they believed in discipline. And yes, I still got into trouble! I partied, clubbed, hung out in the streets, I did drugs and alcohol, and my virginity was not preserved for marriage. Some will say, ‘why would you share all that?’ Because, someone, somewhere needs to know that their child is not the only one. I had 2 children before my 19th birthday. I struggled taking care of them at some point and ended up with no job, no money, no man, and sleeping in a shelter with my children. I guess that’s a far cry from the preacher, teacher, robe-wearing, bible toting Christian you see today. Am I perfect? Not on your life! Not even on my best day! But am I better than where I was (spiritually, emotionally, mentally and physically), absolutely! Did it happen overnight? Uh…NOPE! Did I make more mistakes even after salvation? Sure Did, Every Day! But am I still redeemable? YES! And so are children, regardless of their age, and regardless to what they’ve done or where they’ve been or how long it has been.

You see, I was blessed enough to have a woman cross my path, and much like Jesus did for the woman’s son in the above Scripture, someone stopped by my dead life and spoke life so that I might live again, and live better. And that’s my intention for you and your children today. To stop by and speak life, no matter how dead their situation may be!

I don’t know why specifically, but for some reason, I just thought that this day should be the time when we should talk about this for someone who needs that little word of encouragement. Someone that needs to hear that their children are not lost forever!

I know this to be true and not just because of my own past youth mistakes and redemption, but from my own children’s lives as well. All 6 of them, unlike me, were raised in church. They were taught about Jesus at the same time as learning A,B,C’s and 1,2,3’s. They went to Sunday School, Bible Study, and ALL Church Services. They were on multiple auxiliaries at church. And when it was time to make friends, they were to pick their friends from church! Sounds a little nuts, but we pushed our kids hard in the Christian Faith and have absolutely no regrets about it to this day. Now, did all of that keep them saved, sanctified, holy, delivered and spotless? Heck, I Wish! But truth is, it didn’t. They are church kids, and preacher’s kids, but will I stand here and tell you they have never had a drink of alcohol and never seen the inside of a club and never crossed the sexual line…sorry, but if I’m going to help you, I have to be honest with you, and that most certainly is not the case here! They’ve dated people I wish they never met, they’ve lied to us, they’ve done things and gone to places I wish I could erase from my memory bank! As a mom I would love to un-tattoo them, un-pierce them, un-drink them, un-fornicate them, and un-do every bad decision they’ve ever made in life, but I can’t, and neither can you and neither can they! But thank God He doesn’t need us or them to go back and un-do anything! He can make them whole using all of their fractured pieces!   

Maybe you know better than I do why we’re talking about this today. Sometimes maybe it seems like your prayers just are not being answered for the one you love. But remember, much of God’s work is invisible. Like plants getting ready to sprout and come out, and flowers blooming in the spring. We don’t see anything going on all winter, looks like nothing is going on under the ground. But God is at work all the time. My pastor loves to say, “when it looks like nothing’s happening, God’s still at work.” And I believe it to be true. Much that God is doing to bring that child home, you can’t see. But you’d better believe it’s going on under the ground where you can’t see it.

I know you’ve prayed, fasted, pleaded with God, interceded on their behalf and still it looks like nothing is happening. And if you’ve been in my shoes as a parent, sometimes it seems like the more you pray, the worse they get! I know the feeling of, “Lord, when are you going to do it for my kid? When are they coming back home? When will they come back to church? When will they change for the better? When will they finish school? When will they turn around? When God…When?” And because I’m a counselor, I know that some of you have even deeper questions such as, “When will he get off drugs? When will she get out of that crack-house? When will he get out of that gang? When will she get out of that abusive relationship? When will he get a job? When will she stop having babies?” Truth is, it’s not easy being a parent. And sometimes we just want our kids to just ‘get that.’ But more often than not, they won’t until they’re forced by life to walk in our shoes. However, for the time being, we’ll simply trust our Father to keep us and them! After all, He’s the Father of Children like US, and after all we’ve done, said, and been, and He yet loves US unconditionally still, certainly He can be trusted to help us Parent!

Proverbs 3:5-12, “Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; He’s the one who will keep you on track. Don’t assume that you know it all. Run to God! Run from evil! Your body will glow with health, your very bones will vibrate with life! Honor God with everything you own; give Him the first and the best. Your barns will burst, your wine vats will brim over. But don’t, dear friend, resent God’s discipline; don’t sulk under His loving correction. It’s the child He loves that God corrects; a father’s delight is behind all this.” (MSG)

Father Knows Best, Is Indeed More Than the Title of a TV Show, But For Us It’s the God’s Honest Truth!

So, we have Jesus to Save them and bring them back to life; we have the Father to help us Parent them; and then there’s the Wonderful Comforter and Counselor, the Holy Spirit – and He pursues that child wherever he goes. They can get away from us; but they can’t get away from Him. Psalm 139:7-12, “Is there anyplace I can go to avoid your Spirit? to be out of Your sight? If I climb to the sky, You’re there! If I go underground, You’re there! If I flew on morning’s wings to the far western horizon, You’d find me in a minute—You’re already there waiting! Then I said to myself, “Oh, He even sees me in the dark! At night I’m immersed in the light!” It’s a fact: darkness isn’t dark to You; night and day, darkness and light, they’re all the same to You.” (MSG).

Isn’t it wonderful to know, that your child has an internal tracking device, so that they are NEVER truly off the grid?! There is absolutely nowhere for your child to run and hide, where they are not seen and heard. No matter what they do, who they do it with, where they go or how far they go, they can’t get away from the Holy Ghost! That may frustrate them, but it should certainly fortify your faith! Your child has nowhere on planet earth to hide from God! In fact, look at verse 8, “If I ascend to heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in Sheol (the nether world, the place of the dead), behold, You are there.” (AMP). Your child can’t find a hiding place on the earth, in heaven, in hell or even in death! So, keep praying mom, keep fasting dad, they have no real way of escape!

I must also add this admonishment though, open arms do more than open mouths to bring kids home. Sometimes we can talk too much and push them so hard we actually push them away from the Lord. Listen: The Father of the prodigal son didn’t chase the son. He just kept his arms open for him to come home. (Feel free to read the entire story in Luke 15:11-32), but I just want to hone in on a small part for now that reads, “So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was moved with compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’  But the father said to his servants, ‘Quickly bring out the best robe [for the guest of honor] and put it on him; and give him a ring for his hand, and sandals for his feet.  And bring the fattened calf and slaughter it, and let us [invite everyone and] feast and celebrate;  for this son of mine was [as good as] dead and is alive again; he was lost and has been found.’ So they began to celebrate.” (vss. 20-24 AMP)

There’s so much that I love about this story, but what I found most interesting today are these 3 things:

1.. As bad as this son messed up, you would think it would’ve been the son running to the safety of his father, but it was the other way around, the father seeing him a far off, “…ran and embraced him and kissed him…” You can’t always wait for your child to come to you, sometimes you have to meet them half way, or go all the way. Some may think it unfair, since it was the kid that messed up. But the father didn’t even care. He saw his son a far off, and went to him first. Sometimes we can let our anger cloud our judgment and think, “as bad as you messed up, you have to earn your way back into my good graces; you’ll need me first; you better beg for my forgiveness; you better hope I let you back in…” But the father, saw his son and went to him and with compassion, and showed him love and affection. Make sure you do the same;

2.. The son immediately starts with, “…I am no longer worthy to be called your son…” But my favorite part is, “…But the father said to his servants…” The father never even addressed the sons’ sins. He immediately started the restoration process. Believe me, as a kid and as an adult, nobody knows better than you just how badly you’ve messed up. So having others pour salt in your fresh, open wound doesn’t help any with the healing. They know what they’ve done, so when they make their U-turn back, don’t keep giving them fines for everything they’ve done wrong and every wrong turn they’ve ever made. Let them start over. Give them another chance. You know, like the many you receive from God daily… Don’t rub it in their faces. Don’t keep rehashing old history. Don’t keep reviewing their mistakes like an auditor during tax season. Take their lives from under the microscope. Be grateful that they’ve made it back and not in a coffin!

3.. Many of us make the mistake, after our children return, of telling everybody, everything about the what, when, where, why, and how, behind our children’s mistakes. Please don’t. Instead, do what the father did, before he told others (and all he told them was to come and celebrate with him for the return of his son that was good as dead, but is now alive), he Re-Covered the son that he’d Recovered! “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quickly bring out the best robe [for the guest of honor] and put it on him; and give him a ring for his hand, and sandals for his feet….” The son didn’t deserve it, but the father did it anyway. People may have known that he’d left home, but when he returned, his father made sure that before anyone saw him, he Re-Covered, and Re-Clothed him so that he didn’t look like where he’d been or what he’d done. Isn’t that just like our Father? By the time the folks would arrive to see him, he would look like he’d never left in the first place. Parents, when they return, restore them, re-cover them, and celebrate! After all, that’s all that really matters is that they’ve finally returned home…right?

Looking at the widow’s dead son, and the prodigal son, both looked like hopeless cases never to be resolved. And yet, they both were. One son was dead, and the other as good as dead, and yet, both were recovered and restored. Even when it looked completely impossible.

Therefore, I encourage you today, don’t give up on your children. They are redeemable, just as you were.

1 Corinthians 6:9-11, “Don’t you realize that this is not the way to live? Unjust people who don’t care about God will not be joining in his kingdom. Those who use and abuse each other, use and abuse sex, use and abuse the earth and everything in it, don’t qualify as citizens in God’s kingdom. A NUMBER OF YOU KNOW FROM EXPERIENCE WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT, FOR NOT SO LONG AGO YOU WERE ON THAT LIST. Since then, you’ve been cleaned up and given a FRESH START by Jesus, our Master, our Messiah, and by our God present in us, the Spirit.” (MSG)

Mom, Dad, Don’t Forget You Messed Up Too! But the Bible clearly says, “…Since then, you’ve been cleaned up and given a FRESH START by Jesus, our Master, our Messiah, and by our God present in us, the Spirit.” Give them the second chance God continually gives you. And I’m crazy enough to believe that one day you will hear, “Mom… Dad… I’m home.”

“Where I left gaps in my children’s upbringing, God fills them in.” (Lisa Pennington)

“The difference between mercy and grace? Mercy gave the prodigal son a second chance. Grace gave him a feast.” (Max Lucado)

“Jesus told the story of the prodigal son to make a simple point: never mind what you’ve done, just come home.” (Glen Fitzjerrell)

“Satan Seeking Whom He May DEVOUR is No Match for a Savior Seeking Whom He May DELIVER.” (Tony Nolan)

Luke 19:10, “The Son of Man came to look for and to save people who are lost.” (CEV)

Matthew 18:12-14, “Look at it this way. If someone has a hundred sheep and one of them wanders off, doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine and go after the one? And if he finds it, doesn’t he make far more over it than over the ninety-nine who stay put? Your Father in heaven feels the same way. He doesn’t want to lose even one of these simple believers.” (MSG)

Luke 15:4-7, “Suppose one of you had a hundred sheep and lost one. Wouldn’t you leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the lost one until you found it? When found, you can be sure you would put it across your shoulders, rejoicing, and when you got home call in your friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Celebrate with me! I’ve found my lost sheep!’ Count on it—there’s more joy in heaven over one sinner’s rescued life than over ninety-nine good people in no need of rescue.” (MSG)

John 3:16-17, “For God so [greatly] loved and dearly prized the world, that He [even] gave His [One and] only begotten Son, so that whoever believes and trusts in Him [as Savior] shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge and condemn the world [that is, to initiate the final judgment of the world], but that the world might be saved through Him.” (AMP)

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

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“Don’t Save the Flowers for Their Funeral”

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1 Thessalonians 5:11, “Therefore encourage and comfort one another and build up one another, just as you are doing.” (AMP)

If it’s one day I remember vividly it is the day it aired that our beloved Princess Diana had died. Yet, when Princess Diana died, I still don’t believe anyone could have ever predicted the massive public outpouring of love and grief that came from the British people in the week following her death. Maybe you remember that sea of flowers that enveloped the front of Buckingham Palace and Diana’s personal residence at Kensington Palace. You couldn’t get anywhere near the gates! The flowers seemed to stretch out endlessly! Someone who had been close to the Princess said, “Diana had no idea she was loved like this.That’s sad but not unique!

I’ve never been to a funeral anywhere near the scale of Princess Diana’s. But I have been to a lot of funerals. And there are lots of flowers there. Not just the kind with petals, but I mean verbal flowers! You hear people talking about how much that person meant to them, about their strong points, about special qualities or experiences that touched the life of the one who was giving the tribute.

However, it would be much more affirming to that departed person if only they could’ve received those verbal flowers in life. If only they could, in essence, smell all the flowers that are suddenly coming their way. I can’t help but wonder -and even consider for myself how many of us have told him/her these wonderful things while they could still appreciate them?

One of my devotional Scriptures for today was 1 Thessalonians 5:11. It’s simple, but it’s strong medicine. “…encourage and comfort one another and build up one another.” That needs to be shared in every home; every work place; every classroom; every church. “…encourage and comfort one another and build up one another.” That’s one of those commands from God that would be really great to display wouldn’t it?

However, too often, we are very communicative about what we don’t like that a person is doing. The criticisms, the put-downs, the sarcasm, the complaining, oh they come pouring out really quickly. So most of us have a good idea of what’s wrong with us, because we have a lot of help finding that out from others. But you literally have to train your mind and train your mouth to look for and to express what you do like about that person; what strengths God built into them; what they do right. Things you should thank them for, what they’ve done that’s helped you or ministered to you. Instead of waiting to hear the words, “in profound sorrow…” In essence, let’s stop saving the flowers for their funeral!

People are by no means perfect, NONE OF US ARE! We are all flawed, broken, damaged, and imperfect. We get things wrong, we think, speak, feel and act wrong. But that’s not all the time! Everyone has something absolutely wonderful about them. How great would it be to highlight that, just once, while they’re still alive to appreciate it?

At funerals, and home-going services, I’m often floored by the great words people speak, the experiences they share, and the emotions they express. But I can never shake the question from my mind, “I wonder if they did all that while the person was still living?”

Think about it: How many people in your life help you, support you, encourage you, provide for you, protect you, love you, laugh with you? How many people in your life are you able to call and talk to, to share, to lean on, to depend and rely on? How many people in your life have been there for you during the ups, downs, mean in between times; the good, the bad, the ugly, the insane? Now think, do they know you appreciate it and them? Have you told them? If not, what are waiting for? If so, why not tell them again?

As for me, I’ve always been the type of person who’s not all that crazy about receiving gifts, words and cards on valentine’s day, my birthday, mother’s day, Christmas etc…No, I’m a bit more mushy! I love flowers (just because it’s Tuesday); I love hearing I love you (in the laundromat); I love dressing up and going out to dinner (at Applebee’s); I love an unexpected gift (for absolutely no reason); I love cards (that aren’t attached to any holiday, and especially cards that are written from the person, not the perfectly worded Hallmark tradition). I love hearing ‘thank you’, and when I ask ‘for what?’ the response is simple, ‘for everything.’ I love random hugs that have nothing to do with ‘turn to your neighbor and embrace them.I guess in essence, I love those imperfect, untimely gestures of affection and appreciation. Not those attached to a time of year, a birth, holiday or worse a death. Think about it, the last time someone showed you a sign of love and appreciation, that was completely unexpected and not related to anything in particular, how great did that make you feel? Now, wouldn’t it be awesome to do that for someone else, so they can join in on such a great feeling?

I wonder what would Princess Diana’s response have been, if she simply woke up one morning and looked out her window and saw that massive parade of flowers, for no other reason than ‘we love you and want you to smell your flowers while you still can?’

Well, truth is, you don’t have to do anything quite that elaborate, but there are people in your life that need to hear your love, see your love, feel your love, and even smell your love. And why not express it NOW, when you get to SEE the joy it brings them, while they are alive!

Why wait until the funeral to bring beautiful flowers that they can’t see, smell or appreciate? Why wait until the funeral to tell the whole sanctuary and all of social media how wonderful a mother she is; how great a father he is; how beautiful your children are; how loving your church family is; how compassionate your leaders are, how phenomenal your wife is; how loving your husband is. Why wait to tell them they preached a great sermon, taught an inspiring lesson, prayed a powerful prayer, cooked a delicious meal? Why wait to tell him how handsome he is or how beautiful she is? Why wait to say good job, well done, you did great, I’m proud of you, I knew you could do it? Why wait to buy flowers; a card; dinner; go to the movies; out dancing; sight-seeing; skating; skiing; painting? Why wait to call, leave a voicemail, send a text, email or letter? Why wait to pay them a visit, buy a silly gift in their favorite color or cartoon that will be sentimental, thoughtful, loved and appreciated? Why wait? Because one day, you’ll wait too long and miss a moment that becomes only a memory.

The people in your personal world are people in desperate need of regular encouragement. So might I ask you a personal question: How well are you doing with that?

You know, I love what the word “encourage” means. It’s defined as “to give support, confidence, or hope to; to help or stimulate the development of.” Its French Origin “encourager”, from “corage”, literally means “courage.” And “courage” is defined as “the ability to do something that frightens one; strength in the face of pain or grief.” It’s Old French Origin “corage”, from Latin “cor” literally means “heart.” And that’s exactly what you give to people when you encourage them, you literally give them your heart, which is literally to give them your love! Your heart is the very core of you, how special it is to share with someone the very center of you? Can you imagine how special someone would feel to know they have your heart? Well, that’s what you give people when you encourage them, your heart, your love. And something that tender, meaningful, and special should never be held hostage until the words “in profound sorrow…” are spoken.

When you encourage someone, you are literally putting courage into them. You ever see the face of a child who is terrified at something, only to have them look towards the voice saying “go ahead, you can do it, I’m right here, I won’t let it hurt you, I’m not going anywhere, go for it, I believe in you.” With that thought, there’s a commercial that I love. It’s a mom holding onto her son’s bicycle, and he turns and looks at her and says, “don’t let go!” She responds, “I won’t!” (But she does anyway…lol) However, he doesn’t fall, but neither does he turn around to see if she was still holding on. Makes me wonder, if just hearing her say she wouldn’t let go, was enough? Just those few words of confidence and encouragement, and off he went peddling his heart out with a smile!

How many people in your life need to hear you speak words of confidence and encouragement like that to them?

Let’s be honest now, truth is, we all have a terrible tendency of getting familiar, comfortable, used to and even too busy for. And that can be a disaster to any relationship/friendship. It’s good ground for sowing bad seeds of complacency, taking advantage of and taking for granted. You almost get into a place of expectancy: (‘that’s what they always do, that’s what they should always do’), even without your thanks and appreciation. But what happens when the husband who rubs your feet at night doesn’t wake up the next morning? What happens when the wife who keeps the household afloat, closes her eyes for the last time? What happens when the children don’t make it home from school? What happens when the fire and flood destroy all the things you never took time to notice and appreciate before? What happens when the friend moves, and the friendship moves on too? What happens when mom doesn’t return from her usual doctor’s visit? What happens when the bus jumps the curb where dad was standing? What happens when grandpa now has Alzheimer’s and doesn’t remember you? What happens when grandma is bound to her wheelchair and can no longer get to all the family functions? What happens when you promised over the last 6 months that you would call your favorite aunt, only to hear the sad news that she’s passed on? What happens when the uncle who took a million pictures at your every function has now lost his sight?

You see, in the blink of an eye, anything can happen! So, why assume and take for granted that you will always have tomorrow, when there’s nothing further from the truth?

Job 14:1-2, “Man who is born of woman lives only a short time and is full of trouble.  He grows up and dries like a flower. He leaves like a shadow and does not stay.” (NLV);

Psalm 90:12, “Teach us to use wisely all the time we have.” (CEV);

James 4:14, “Yet you do not know [the least thing] about what may happen in your life tomorrow. [What is secure in your life?] You are merely a vapor [like a puff of smoke or a wisp of steam from a cooking pot] that is visible for a little while and then vanishes [into thin air].” (AMP)

Yes, that’s just how life is! Short, full of trouble, grows, dries and leaves. Nothing and no one is secure, for we don’t know the least thing about tomorrow (if it ever comes around again). Which is why we should use wisely all the time we have.

Would I consider this a gloomy message? Absolutely not! It’s a challenge, it’s an empowerment, it’s an opportunity, it’s a message to rethink and appreciate those you ‘say’ you love. It’s motivation to celebrate life (and all those who make up your life). It’s to shift you from the temporary to the eternal. It’s to make you change for the better. Sadly enough, we as believers, live in this world as if we’re never to leave it. And that my friend is a dangerous way to live. Our goal isn’t a house on the earth, but a mansion in the sky. Heaven is our hope and home. We are mere travelers, visitors, aliens, guests, sojourners temporarily walking through this earth. The goal isn’t to build a life you can’t leave, but to build up loved ones, who know how much you really love them (no matter who leaves here first). I’ve always said, I want to take care of my parents in such a way, that when they leave this earth, I can laugh more than cry because I did right by them. And I pray you will live the same way. Encourage others, appreciate them, celebrate them, thank them, build them up, after all, it’s what we are commanded to do (not suggested)!

And truth is, some of us come from a background where there wasn’t much praise, there wasn’t much encouragement, so it’s hard for us to give what we never got. But you of all people should know then how much it hurts not to get it. So, today, ask the Lord to give you eyes to see the positive in the people around you and to give you the words to tell them what you see (while they can still hear your words, apply them, appreciate them, and become better because of them).

When you praise someone, thank someone and compliment that person, when you tell them the good things you see in them, you are doing what the Bible calls “building them up.” What’s the alternative? Tearing them down. However they treat you, your job is to be like Jesus and to give them the gift of encouragement. Some of the difficult people in your world may be difficult only because they’ve had so little encouragement.

Whatever nice things you might say at a person’s funeral, why not decide Today to say them Now, to their Face? A pile of flowers after they’re gone won’t do a thing for them. But your flowers now could make a big difference if you give the flowers to them when they can still enjoy them.

The person you’ve been saying for the longest “I’m going to call her, visit him, go out to eat with them”….GO!!! Stop hesitating, stop procrastinating, stop making excuses, stop assuming tomorrow is guaranteed on your to-do-list, because it’s not, not for any of us!

Don’t Save Anymore Flowers; Don’t Wait For Anymore Holidays, Events or Special Occasions! Don’t Save the Best China For Once a Year! Don’t Assume They Know How You Feel About Them and What They Really Mean to You! Today, Express It, Show It, Say It, Share It!

I’m sure Princess Diana knew she was loved, but certainly not to the degree that was expressed…when it was too late for her to see it, hear it, feel it, or smell it!

So, I’m here as your little reminder to enjoy life and to enjoy your loved ones (expressively, verbally and if you’re anything like me, in the silliest ways possible!) Don’t hide your love, release it, show it, TODAY!

In closing, my children think I go a bit overboard on this one! Because my daughters are 30 and 27 and I still kiss them, hug them, play in their hair, send them silly text messages, cook their favorite foods, tell them I love them, buy them silly stuff, and even wait up for them to get home. Because I never want them to wonder about my love, care and appreciation for them in my life. As for my husband, he can’t eat beef or pork, so when I cook dinner (which is almost every night), even if I cook pork or beef for myself, I still cook a separate meal for him. Why? Because even the smallest of gestures convey love and appreciation for the people in your life that you ‘say’ you love. And sometimes that will require you to do a little more than you really feel like doing on somedays. However, when he praises my cooking ability, and even goes so far as to take pictures of his dinner and keep them stored in his phone in a “my wife’s dinner” file, something about that just makes me smile and feel appreciated, valued and loved. You see, it doesn’t have to be anything elaborate! Most often people just need to hear “I love you, you’re important to me, I value you, I missed you, I’m sorry, please forgive me, can we start over, can I help you with that?” Or maybe just a post it on the fridge as you’re leaving the house before your spouse or children that says, “I love you, enjoy a great, safe day!” It doesn’t take much to do something simple, yet heartfelt to convey to your loved ones that you do in fact love them. You can pull out her chair; you can iron his slacks; you can open the door for her; you can pour a glass of juice to go with his dinner; you can bring a stuffed animal home for the kids (and not because it’s their birthday or holiday, but simply because you want them to See that you think about them throughout the day. And believe it or not, but kids need that kind of reassurance of your love too!) You can pick up dinner on the way home or make surprise reservations or whip up some franks and beans (if you’re really not skilled in the kitchen). The whole point is for your loved ones to see, hear, feel, taste and smell your verbal expression of flowers! Why wait for “in profound sorrow”, when you can show love “just because it’s Saturday”?

Family and Friends, enjoy a beautiful day and please know my heart of thanks to you for your friendship, following, support and encouragement are dear to my heart. You don’t have to do what you do, but you do…lol! And so today is my day to practice my own preaching…I LOVE YOU, I THANK YOU, I APPRECIATE YOU, I CELEBRATE YOU, I LOOK FORWARD TO ALL THE GREAT THINGS GOD IS GOING TO DO THROUGH YOU, I BELIEVE IN YOU! Please receive this as my verbal flowers to you this day!

“We’re here to give you your flowers while you live.” (Barbara Knox)

“Don’t come to my funeral to show how much you cared about me. Show how much you care about me now…while I’m alive.” (Daily Inspirational Quotes)

“Appreciation is learning to give flowers while people are still living.” (Joel Osteen)

“Dead people receive more flowers than the living ones because regret is stronger than gratitude.” (Anne Frank)

“Flowers always make people better, happier, and more helpful; they are sunshine, food and medicine to the soul.” (Luther Burbank)

“Appreciate the people in your life now, you have no way of knowing how long they’ll be here. Show your love now. Before someone’s tomorrow has been taken away, cherish those you love, they can be gone in an instant.” (LoveAndSayings)

“Appreciate the people who fill the spaces in your life or one day, when you least expect it, those spaces will be empty.” (LoveAndSayings)

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

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