“Rest is NOT a Sin”

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Mark 6:30-32, “The apostles then rendezvoused with Jesus and reported on all that they had done and taught. Jesus said, “Come off by yourselves; LET’S TAKE A BREAK AND GET A LITTLE REST.” For there was constant coming and going. They didn’t even have time to eat. So they got in the boat and went off to a remote place by themselves…” (MSG).

The Bible speaks in a negative way about “IDLENESS”. After all, it’s defined as, “avoiding work; lazy; not in use; having no purpose or basis; doing nothing of relevance.” Its Old English origin literally means, ‘empty and useless.’

The Bible says this in Proverbs 6:6-11, “Go to the ant, you Sluggard! Consider her ways and be wise, Which, having no captain, Overseer or ruler, Provides her supplies in the summer, And gathers her food in the harvest. How long will you slumber, O Sluggard? When will you rise from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber – So shall your poverty come on you like a prowler, and your need like an armed man” (NKJV). The Message Bible says it like this: “You lazy fool, look at an ant. Watch it closely; let it teach you a thing or two. Nobody has to tell it what to do. All summer it stores up food; at harvest it stockpiles provisions. So how long are you going to laze around doing nothing? How long before you get out of bed? A nap here, a nap there, a day off here, a day off there, sit back, take it easy—do you know what comes next? Just this: You can look forward to a dirt-poor life, poverty your permanent houseguest!” (MSG)

This is not in reference to those who are working, but to those who are not! They haven’t even tried! Don’t even give a little bit of effort. Never making the slightest of attempts! This speaks of those who are idle, those who avoid work, those who are lazy, not in use, floating through life with no purpose or basis to their existence, accomplishing absolutely nothing that has any relevance. They’re called lazy, foolish sluggards who in the end can only look forward to a dirt-poor life with poverty being their permanent houseguest! Saints, make sure this is NOT descriptive of you! Do not attempt to use REST as your excuse for LAZINESS!  

Then 1 Timothy 5:13 goes on to say, “And besides they learn to be Idle, wandering about from house to house, and not only Idle but also gossips and busybodies, saying things which they ought not” (NKJV). Of all the things you can learn in life, make sure idleness is not the subject you pass with flying colors! You see those who are idle have nothing of value to share with anybody. All they have is gossip because they’ve learned to become busybodies, who are only busy running their mouths! And you have to be careful around people like that because the Bible says they go from house to house! Make sure they don’t visit you! These are the wrong guests to entertain!

The Bible Refers to those who are “LAZY” by such loathsome words as “Slothful,” “Sluggard,” and “Slack Hand”! We do not want our names listed in these categories! Therefore, before we talk about REST make sure you’re one who has earned it, and not one who uses it as an EXCUSE for Laziness and Idleness! God will not confuse the two when He hands out blessings and curses, so I suggest you likewise not confuse the two!

Now, the Bible Refers Very Positively about LABOR and WORK in the following Scriptures:

Luke 10:7, “Stay with the same family, eating and drinking whatever they give you, because WORKERS Are Worth What They Earn. Don’t move around from house to house” (CEV);

1 Corinthians 3:8-9, “The one who Plants is just as important as the one who Waters. And each one will be Paid For What They Do. Apollos and I WORK Together For God, and You are God’s Garden and God’s Building” (CEV);

Ephesians 4:28, “If you are a thief, quit stealing. Be honest and WORK Hard, so you will Have Something to Give to People In Need” (CEV);

1 Thessalonians 4:11, “Try your best to live quietly, to mind your own business, and to WORK Hard, Just As We Taught You To Do” (CEV). 

Given the Admonition that we are to WORK six days and rest one (Exodus 34:21, “Do your WORK in Six Days and REST On the Seventh Day…” CEV), we might conclude that the Bible is about all work and no fun. However, that is far from the truth!  

Jesus Expected His Disciples to “Come Aside” periodically for REST, and Scripture has repeated references to the Benefits of “Making Merry”:

Proverbs 15:13, 15, “A Merry Heart Maketh a Cheerful Countenance…but he that is of a Merry Heart Hath a Continual Feast”;

Proverbs 17:22, “A Merry Heart Doeth Good Like a Medicine…”;

Luke 15:32, “It was meet that we should Make Merry, and Be Glad…” 

The Bible speaks of More than Seventy Days a Year in which “No Customary Work” is to be done!

Leviticus 23:7-8, “In the first day ye shall have an holy convocation: ye shall do No Servile Work Therein. But ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD seven days: in the seventh day is an holy convocation: ye shall do No Servile Work Therein”. That word ‘servile’ is defined as, ‘excessively willing to serve or please others; of or characteristic of a slave or slaves.’ Its Latin origin ‘servilis’, from ‘servus’ literally means ‘slave.’ In other words, this rest break was speaking of those who actually did Work! And by its definition they worked hard, as hard as slaves, excessively willing to serve and please others. There’s been times when we’ve all worked our hearts out on projects, only to attempt to sit down, and before our behind could hit the cushion, another assignment was given! And yet, as hard as we are to work, God let’s us know that we are not to ALWAYS, ALL THE TIME, WORK! There are times when you are to take a break and get a little rest! Especially since rest is NOT a Sin!

The seven-day feasts that mark Passover, Tabernacles, and Weeks, as well as the Feast of Trumpets, and every Sabbath Day Are Included in this time of rest where no servile work is to be done!

In addition to Rest and Prayer, Leisure days in the Bible are associated with food, gift-giving, singing, and great joy: Revelation 11:10, “And they that dwell upon the earth shall rejoice over them, and make merry, and shall send gifts one to another; because these two prophets tormented them that dwelt on the earth”.  

A time of Rest from work is Advocated for those who are experiencing grief: Matthew 14:10-13, “So he sent and had John beheaded in prison. And his head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, and she brought it to her mother. Then his disciples came and took away the body and buried it, and went and told Jesus. When Jesus heard it, He Departed From There By Boat To a Deserted Place By Himself…” (NKJV).  

It is Advocated for those who are seeking Spiritual Empowerment to do God’s Will: Matthew 4:1, 11, “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him” (NKJV).  

It is Advocated for those who are entering into an intense period of Prayer: Matthew 14:23, “And when He had sent the multitudes away, He Went Up On the Mountain By Himself to Pray. Now When Evening Came, He Was Alone There” (NKJV).  

And it is Advocated for those who are Newly Married: Deuteronomy 24:5, “When a man has taken a New Wife, he shall Not go out to War or be Charged with Any Business; he shall be Free at Home One Year, and bring Happiness to his Wife whom he has taken” (NKJV). [That last one might’ve saved a lot of ministry marriages if we had simply applied it!]  

Listen, keep this in mind: The word “Leisure” means “Time Spent in or free for Relaxation or Enjoyment”. Its Origin is the Old French word “Leisir” from the Latin word “Licere” which means to “Be Allowed”. People of God, Allow Yourself Leisure Time! You’ve Earned It, You Deserve It, You Need It, and Most Importantly, the Bible Commands It! Yes, the Bible is indeed in favor of those who Labor and Work Hard! But Likewise the Word is Not Silent Regarding the Leisure Time of Rest and Play that is Needed to Balance Out the Believers Life! So keep your 50/50 Balance in Life, Work and Play, and Enjoy a Long, Healthy Life!

Understand this: You Will Never Renew Until You Rest! And what does the Bible say about Rest? “And He said to them, [As for you] come away by yourselves to a deserted place, and REST A WHILE – for many were [continually] coming and going, and they had not even leisure enough to eat” (Mark 6:31 AMP).

One of the hardest things to do for many of us, especially in leadership, is to “take a break” without feeling guilty and selfish; or worse, feeling like a failure because everything on your “to do” list didn’t get done. Here’s a news flash: There Will Always Be More To Do! There will always be more deadlines, meetings, appointments, assignments, etc. Which is why one of your biggest challenges will be learning the difference between setting high standards for yourself – and setting unrealistic, impossible ones! Think about it: It’s hard enough trying to make time to get done what you NEED to get done, but that doesn’t compare to the sheer exhaustion of attempting to do something you were never assigned to do in the first place! Therefore, in order to get a handle on your schedule, erase anything non-essential that you’ve penciled in yourself! Truth is, many of us are running around all over the place, completely exhausted and spent, ignoring our loved ones, burned out, miserable, and all because we’re doing more than God ever assigned to our hands! Therefore, here’s some homework for you. Sit down with a pen, pad and your schedule, and make sure you’re supposed to be doing all the stuff you’ve been doing! Remove your unnecessary agenda entries and rearrange your hectic schedule! And I’ll even take it further. Sit yourself down from the committees, auxiliaries, ministries, and leadership positions that God never told you to accept! Have enough maturity to go to your leaders and be honest that you added more to your plate than you can digest in a healthy manner. Learn to tell people ‘no’ without excuse or explanation! Stop over-committing yourself! Stop allowing people to guilt you into stuff! Take your hands off all the stuff God never entrusted you to hold! Sometimes success means knowing when to get somewhere and sit down!

Because to make matters worse, we often claw our way to our idea of success only to discover that we don’t like the pressures that go with it. So what should we do? Learn to Walk Away! Jesus Did! “The apostles then rendezvoused with Jesus and reported on all that they had done and taught. Jesus said, “Come off by yourselves; LET’S TAKE A BREAK AND GET A LITTLE REST.” For there was constant coming and going. They didn’t even have time to eat. So they got in the boat and went off to a remote place by themselves…” (Mark 6:30-32 MSG).

Jesus understood that if you don’t take a break – You’ll Break! And isn’t that the truth for many of us? We have such busy schedules and long to-do lists that we rarely get a chance to even eat. And even when we do eat, it’s late and definitely not what we should be eating! Which leads us to a whole new list of problems with bad dieting, over-weight, sickness, ailments and disease. Which only adds on to those problems by adding painful bodies, multiple medications and expensive doctor visits! And the vicious cycle goes on and on.

And what is Jesus Advice: “…LET’S TAKE A BREAK AND GET A LITTLE REST.” 

And what does the word “Rest” mean? “To cease work or movement in order to relax or recover strength; allowed to be inactive in order to regain or save strength or energy.” Do you notice the blessings in rest from this description? For one, you Recover and Regain Strength! You see, Exhaustion Wears You Out! It Drains You of Strength and Weakens You, Inside and Out! In fact, the word “Exhaust” means “to tire out completely.” Its Latin Origin “Exhaurire” literally means “Drain Out”. Now please explain to me how can you be of any good use to your family, friends, job, business, ministry or even to yourself if you’re Completely Tired and Drained Out?! You Can’t! Which is why it’s so important for you to know when to Take a Break! Remember, you can’t Give what you don’t Got! No one can Drink from you if you’re always Drained! The word ‘drain’ is defined as, ‘to cause to run out; to become dry; to deprive of strength and resources; to empty of content; to be used up.’ I reiterate, No One Can Drink From You If You’re Always Drained, Dry, Deprived, Weak, Empty and Used Up!

Saints, Rest is NOT a Sin, It’s a Necessity!

Another added blessing from the definition of ‘Rest’ is that you become Inactive! Many would consider that a negative, but actually it’s not all that bad. One of the definitions of “Inactive” is simply “Not currently being used.” And this can be for your own good! Truth is, sometimes you don’t know how much you do until you stop doing it! And that’s a truth for those around you too who are accustomed to you doing everything! Sometimes you need to stop, so someone else can start! You’ll never know what those around you are capable of if you don’t give them the opportunity to show you. You my friend, as gifted, anointed, blessed, and talent as you are, you are still NOT God. You are here to Represent Him, NOT Be Him! You can’t be everybody’s everything, and then wonder why you have nothing left for yourself! My pastor loves to say, “Stop Giving Away What You Need to Keep for Yourself!” And maybe it’s time you heed that advice. Maybe it’s time you spend an inactive season, where you’re not being used, and it’s okay!

Elijah thought he was the only one too, until God Himself let him know He had 7,000 additional servants! 1 Kings 19:13-18, “When Elijah heard the quiet voice, he muffled his face with his great cloak, went to the mouth of the cave, and stood there. A quiet voice asked, “So Elijah, now tell me, what are you doing here?” Elijah said it again, “I’VE BEEN WORKING MY HEART OUT FOR GOD, the God-of-the-Angel-Armies, because the people of Israel have abandoned your covenant, destroyed your places of worship, and murdered your prophets. I’M THE ONLY ONE LEFT, and now they’re trying to kill me.” GOD SAID, “Go back the way you came through the desert to Damascus. When you get there anoint Hazael; make him king over Aram. Then anoint Jehu son of Nimshi; make him king over Israel. Finally, anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet. Anyone who escapes death by Hazael will be killed by Jehu; and anyone who escapes death by Jehu will be killed by Elisha. MEANWHILE, I’M PRESERVING FOR MYSELF SEVEN THOUSAND SOULS: the knees that haven’t bowed to the god Baal, the mouths that haven’t kissed his image.” (MSG) Like Elijah, I know you’re “working your heart out for God”, and it feels like since you’re doing Everything, you are the only servant God has, but I assure you, you are not all God has left! God has other servants that can do what you do, and several who can do it better. So, believe me when I tell you, taking an ‘inactive season’ off duty will not depress God, nor cause the heavens to go into chaos, it will not rob the angels of an assignment, it will not give advantage to hell, and it will not stop the spreading of the Gospel nor the building up of the Kingdom of God, nor will it kill the Body of Christ!

Saints, Rest is NOT a Sin! Trust me, you will not lose your Standing in God if you go somewhere for a season and Sit Down!  

Another blessing you reap from the definition of ‘Rest’ is that You also Regain Energy! Rest is like a Vitamin, You Should Take it Daily and Take a Supplement Too If Need be! The word “Energy” is defined as “The strength and vitality required for sustained activity.” It’s Greek Origin “Energeia”, from “Ergon” literally means “Work”. When you REST you become Re-Energized! So When You Go Back to Work, Your Strength is Sustained! And “Sustained” comes from the Latin Origin “Sustinere”, from “Tenere” which means “To Hold”. You see, once you get some REST, then you get back to work you’ll be able to hold yourself together because you took the simple time to re-energize! It’s hard to hold yourself together when you feel like you’re being torn in 20 different directions at the same time! That’s why it’s so easy for us to fall apart, because we’re too exhausted and weak to hold ourselves together. That’s why rest is so vital! In other words, REST is a Blessing! So, don’t under-estimate it, don’t devalue it, don’t disregard it, don’t over-look it! GET IT! And like medicine, take it in the right doses so you can recover!

The last blessing from the definition of ‘Rest’ is that you become Relaxed! And “Relax” means “to make or become less tense, anxious, or rigid; rest from work or engage in a recreational activity.” It’s Latin Origin “Relaxare”, from “Laxus” literally means “To Loose”. In other words, if you want to get a hold on things…Relax and Loosen Up! I know you’re gifted, talented, anointed, awesome, powerful and everyone loves you and wants you apart of everything they do, however if you don’t take a break…you will break! And in order for you NOT to break down, you have to break up your schedule! Balance it out! Have your meetings, but go out for a meal with the family too. Nail that presentation, but go get your nails done too. Coordinate that event, but get your 5 year old niece and enjoy a coloring book too. You have to have balance if you are going to avoid toppling over!

Which is why you should:

1…Make a list of the things that only YOU can do, then delegate the rest or let them go. Not every piece of mail that comes to the house has your name on it! So stop taking other people’s mail and stop acting like your middle name is “occupant” too! You can’t do it all no matter how awesome you are or think you are. And if you are in the company of those you can’t trust to delegate work to, you’re about to go out of business anyhow;

2…Learn to make small steps and celebrate small accomplishments for that’s what life is made of. If you only get 2 things done on your list of 20, eat a piece of chocolate and be happy! You at least accomplished something, there are many who didn’t even take the time to write a to-do list out, let alone do anything on it;

3…Don’t allow the stuff that’s still undone, to undo you. By God’s grace and mercy we see another tomorrow. And as long as He has work for you to do, you will continue to see another tomorrow. And when you don’t, you can still rejoice because your work here is done. Remember Jeremiah 29:11, God’s plan is not for you to have a plan, a back-up plan or a plan B! Simply do what needs to be done, and what’s left undone leave for tomorrow. God knows what needs to be accomplished in each day. And He certainly knows your future, so stop letting today stress you, you have a promising future ahead, it will get done, trust God day by day, He has a great, unstoppable plan for your life. No More Worrying! Matthew 6:30-34, “If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers – most of which are never seen – don’t you think He’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do His best for you? What I’m trying to do here is get you to RELAX, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and how the way He works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how He works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.” (MSG);

4…Strive for balance; don’t even become addicted to what you enjoy. For instance, some of us have a tendency to even turn good things into disasters. It’s great that you love your job, but you can’t have a wife and three kids at home and get home at midnight 7 days a week! Balance is always the order of the day. And the word “Balance” is defined as “an even distribution of weight ensuring stability”. To have a stable life, keep your scales between work and play even;

5…Don’t allow overachievers to put you into overdrive. You’re in it for the long haul. You win when you pace yourself. Competition kills! So stop peeking over at the agendas of others. You have no idea what they HAVE to do. To Have Great Insight, Simply Keep Your Eyes On Your Own Vision;

6…Take time for the people who matter most, otherwise you’ll lose them. Busyness is a destroyer of relationships/friendships. And truth is, all the success in the world won’t compensate for the joy and treasure of your family and loved ones! Always keep the main thing the main thing, and the main thing will always be your loved ones First!

People of God, It’s Vital That You Learn How to Walk Away, Take a Break and Rest! Believe it or not, but there’s a Blessing in REST! However, You Don’t Want Rest In Peace to Be the Only Blessing You Get! Remember, JESUS is an Advocate of REST! Therefore, Your Challenge is Simple: Take a Break and Get a Little REST!

Matthew 11:28-30, “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.” (MSG)

“Each person deserves a day away in which no problems are confronted, no solutions searched for. Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us.” (Dr. Maya Angelou)

“Your mind will answer most questions if you learn to relax and wait for the answer.” (William S. Burroughs)

“Life is all about balance. You don’t always need to be getting stuff done. Sometimes it’s perfectly okay, and absolutely necessary, to shut down, kick back, and do nothing.” (Lori Deschene)

“There is virtue in work and there is virtue in rest. Use both and overlook neither.” (Alan Cohen)

“If you get tired, learn to rest, not quit.” (Author Unknown)

“You have permission to rest. You are not responsible for fixing everything that is broken. You do not have to try and make everyone happy. For now, take time for you. It’s time to replenish.” (Author Unknown)

“The six best doctors: sunshine, water, rest, air, exercise, and diet.” (Wayne Fields)

“When you rest in His presence, you rest in the knowledge that He is in control.” (Dr. Michelle Bengtson)

“Rest when you’re weary. Refresh and renew yourself, your body, your mind, your spirit. Then get back to work.” (Ralph Marston)

“It is very important that we re-learn the art of resting and relaxing. Not only does it prevent the onset of many illnesses that develop through chronic tension and worrying, it allows us to clear our minds, focus and find creative solutions to problems.” (Thich Nhat Hanh)

“You’re killing yourself for a job that would replace you within a week if you dropped dead. Take care of yourself.” (Author Unknown)

“Rest and your energy will be restored.” (Lailah Gifty Akita)

“You can’t pour from an empty cup. Take care of yourself first.” (Author Unknown)

“If you don’t take care of your body, where are you going to live?” (Author Unknown)

“When you start taking care of yourself you start feeling better, you start looking better and you start to attract better. Everything starts with you.” (Author Unknown)

“Taking care of yourself doesn’t mean me first, it means me too.” (L.R. Knost)

“It’s not selfish to love yourself, take care of yourself, and to make your happiness a priority. It’s necessary.” (Mandy Hale)

“Taking care of yourself is the most powerful way to begin to take care of others.” (Bryant McGill)

“Beautiful girl, take care of yourself. No one else knows what your soul needs.” (AstonG)

“Make your happiness and personal growth a priority in your life. The more you take care of yourself, the more you can take care of others.” (Author Unknown)

“The best cure for the body is a quiet mind.” (Napoleon Bonaparte)

“Your mental health is more important than the test, the interview, the lunch date, the meeting, the family dinner, and the grocery run. Take care of yourself.” (Author Unknown)

“Remember to take care of yourself. Sometimes you get so busy taking care of others that you forget that you are important too.” (Author Unknown)

“Take care of yourself, you never know when the world will need you.” (Rabbi Hillel)

“Today, do something for You; relax, clear your mind, take a break, go for a jog, watch the sunset. Enjoy the simple things. Enjoy You!” (Brooke Griffin)

“Three steps to a Happy Life: 1) Don’t stress yourself with useless people who don’t even deserve to be an issue in your life; 2) Never invest too much emotion at one thing because if you do, you will end up hurting yourself; 3) Learn to live life without worries because God will take care of everything, trust and just have faith.” (Author Unknown)

“Self-care is a deliberate choice to gift ourself with people, places, things, events and opportunities that recharge our personal battery and promote whole health – body, mind, and spirit.” (Laurie Buchanan)

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: “5 Things to Know About Your Metabolism”

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“Leadership Must Be TESTED, Not Just TITLED!”

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“TEST ME, O Lord…Examine my heart and my mind.” (Psalm 26:2)               

Tests are Designed to Reveal and Validate What You’ve Learned. Therefore, Until You’ve Been Tested, You Really Don’t Know What You Know—and More Importantly, WHAT YOU DON’T! Tests are Opportunities to Prove Your Growth, Maturity, Obedience, Discipline, Faithfulness and Potential!

So remember the following in times of TESTING: 

1…YOU’LL EXPERIENCE TESTS AT EACH STAGE OF YOUR GROWTH: Just like children in school, they don’t get to take an ELEMENTARY EXAM, pass, go to JUNIOR HIGH and say, “I took a test in 6th grade, I don’t need to take this one!” NO! AT EACH STAGE A TEST, THAT FITS THAT STAGE AND PREPARES YOU FOR THE NEXT, HAS TO BE TAKEN AND PASSED, IF YOU’RE GOING TO BE PROMOTED AND ELEVATED…DESERVINGLY! In a Nutshell: You Can’t Prepare For College, Based Off a 6th Grade Exam, Even If You Passed it at the Top of Your Class! It Still Doesn’t Count! Likewise the Test You Passed as a Minister Doesn’t Qualify You for Eldership. Nor does the Test You Passed as an Elder Qualify You For Pastoralship! Neither Does Your Physical, Mental, Emotional, Financial, Psychological, Social or Spiritual Tests That You Passed In 1990 Mean Anything in 2020! So, Stop Whining and Crying, and Instead Buckle Down and Prepare to Pass Your Test Knowing that Tests Are Only Given When There’s Potential Proof that You’ve Outgrown Your Current Placement!

2…YOUR GOAL SHOULD ALWAYS BE TO PASS THE TEST, OTHERWISE, YOU GET TO TAKE IT REPETITIVELY UNTIL YOU DO: You Do Not Get the Opportunity to Fail Your Test and Pass On to the Next Level Anyhow…(Despite What You See In Our Public School Systems and Church Leadership Today)! Now, if You Fail It’s Alright, Because if the Truth Be Told, We Have ALL Failed on One Test or Another! HOWEVER, As Soon As You Fail, At Least Be Smart Enough to HIT THE BOOKS AGAIN (the Word of God), MEET WITH YOUR TUTOR (the Holy Spirit), STUDY (2 Timothy 2:15), and then Reschedule to Take Your Test AGAIN! You may Fall Down, but Each Time You Get Back Up, POINTS ARE ADDED TO YOUR GRADE! YES, YOU GET BONUS POINTS FOR GETTING BACK UP! Extra Work Earns Extra Credit! Bottom line, You Don’t Get to Go to the Next Level, Without Passing What You’ve Failed! And if you are in the UNFORTUNATE position of being under a LEADER who will pass you anyway (based on how you treat them, your attendance, your gifts, charisma, tithes and offering etc…), HAVE ENOUGH SENSE TO NOT ALLOW IT! IN THE END, YOU WILL ONLY SET YOURSELF UP FOR A FOOLISH AND FATAL HARD FALL! Think about it: Would you allow someone to pass you to Advanced Algebra WHILE YOU’RE STILL TRYING TO FIGURE OUT THE TIME TABLE CHART IN THE BACK OF YOUR COMPOSITION NOTEBOOK!? NO! WHY? BECAUSE YOU’LL ONLY FAIL, AND LOOK FOOLISH WHILE DOING IT! LIKEWISE, MAKE SURE YOU ARE IN THE RIGHT GRADE, TAKING AND PASSING THE RIGHT TESTS, AT THE RIGHT TIME! DON’T BE QUICK TO MOVE UNTIL YOU’RE QUALIFIED!

3…TESTING ALWAYS PRECEDES PROMOTION: Actually, it PREPARES You For It and PROVES You’re Ready to Handle It! If You Cheat, or Try to Copy Somebody Else’s Answers, You May Temporarily Seem to Succeed. But Eventually Time and Circumstances Will Reveal You For What You AreWhich Is Someone Who Can’t Handle What They Manipulated Their Way Into Getting! Here’s Biblical Proof: “Seven sons of Sceva, a leading priest, were doing this. But one time when they tried it, the evil spirit replied, “I know Jesus, and I know Paul, but Who Are You?” Then the man with the evil spirit Leaped On Them, Overpowered Them, and Attacked Them With Such Violence that They Fled From the House, Naked and Battered.” (Acts 19:14-16 NLT). People of God, Pass Your Test Before Attempting to Pass Out Ministry Cards! If Not, You’ll Quickly Find Yourself Being the “Eighth Son of Sceva!”

4…SELF-PROMOTION CAN NEVER REPLACE DIVINE PROMOTION: So, Don’t Attempt to Rush Ahead of God’s Plans; Wait and Allow Him to Open the Door In the Right Season! Look at it this way: Even after a child passes their exam, all their paperwork has to be Looked Over, Graded and Accounted For! What They’ve Done Throughout the Year Has to Be Reviewed. What were All of Their Test Scores? How did they handle Their Projects? Were they Late? How many times were they Absent? How well did they work with their classmates? Likewise, God Will Examine and Evaluate Your FULL FILE, to Determine Whether or Not You’re Ready for the Next Level. And just because you passed ‘A’ Test, Don’t Mean You’re Ready to Pass the ‘GRADE’! “But God hasn’t moved to the mountains; his holy address hasn’t changed. He’s in charge, as always, his eyes taking everything in, his eyelids Unblinking, Examining Adam’s Unruly Brood Inside and Out, Not Missing a Thing. He Tests the Good and the Bad Alike; If Anyone Cheats, God’s Outraged. Fail the Test and You’re Out, Out in a Hail of Firestones, Drinking From a Canteen Filled With Hot Desert Wind.” (Psalm 11:4-6 MSG). Saints, God Will Exam You Inside and Out, Test You, Watch If You Cheat and Give You the Boot if You Fail!  You May Impress People, But God On The Other Hand Is Not Impressed At All! Therefore, Don’t Get Caught Up In the “Laying On of MAN’S Hands”! It Means Nothing Compared to the Laying On of GOD’S HANDS AND HIS COMMISSIONING!

5…A PRODUCT CANNOT BE SAFELY AND PROFITABLY USED, UNTIL IT’S BEEN THOROUGHLY TESTED, AND NEITHER CAN YOU! God’s Not a Hard-Hearted Parent Who Enjoys Seeing His Children Struggle Through Life’s Tests. If He were to visit you in person, He’d probably say: “I don’t enjoy making you go through this, but it’s the only way to prove you’re ready for what’s ahead. Before I can use you greatly—I must test you thoroughly!” Here’s a tip for your next test – Generally, God’s Tests for Elevation are Based On Your CHARACTER! And like any Good Actor in a stage play, Your Job is toSTAY IN CHARACTER!” Regardless of what anyone else does, FOLLOW GOD’S SCRIPT FOR YOUR LIFE! I understand everybody’s becoming a Pastor, Bishop, Apostle, Overseer, Prophet, etc…OVERNIGHT WITHOUT QUALIFICATION, CREDENTIALS, CALLING OR CHARACTER…HOWEVER, DON’T YOU DO IT!…These were Asher’s sons, all of them Responsible, Excellent in CHARACTER, and Brave in Battle—Good Leaders…” (1 Chronicles 7:33-40 MSG); “Be Wary of False Preachers who smile a lot, dripping with practiced sincerity. Chances are they are out to rip you off some way or other. Don’t Be Impressed With Charisma; Look For CHARACTER. Who Preachers Are Is The Main Thing, Not What They Say. A Genuine Leader Will Never Exploit Your Emotions or Your Pocketbook. These Diseased Trees with their bad apples are going to be chopped down and burned.” (Matthew 7:15-20 MSG); “There was a Man by the Name of Joseph, a member of the Jewish High Council, a Man of Good Heart and Good CHARACTER…” (Luke 23:50 MSG); “So don’t lose a minute in building on what you’ve been given, complementing your basic faith with Good CHARACTER, Spiritual Understanding, Alert Discipline, Passionate Patience, Reverent Wonder, Warm Friendliness, and Generous Love, Each Dimension Fitting Into and Developing the Others. With these Qualities Active and Growing In Your Lives, No Grass Will Grow Under Your Feet, No Day Will Pass Without Its Reward As You Mature In Your Experience of Our Master Jesus. Without These Qualities You Can’t See What’s Right Before You, Oblivious That Your Old Sinful Life Has Been Wiped Off The Books.” (2 Peter 1:5-9 MSG). People of God, You Will Never Be Used Greatly, Until You’ve Been Tested Thoroughly! And Your Testing Will Be Largely On the Maintenance of Your CHARACTER! Therefore, Possess Good Character, and You Won’t Have To Pray God Grades On A Curve!

If You’re On the Verge of Elevation, then You should be Real Uncomfortable Right About Now! You should feel the Squeezing and the Pressures of Preparing for and Taking God’s Exam! Truth Is: Growth and Maturity Means there’s some Stretching and Expanding! In other words, things are Getting Bigger! Just like in the natural your feet and hands get larger, you get taller, your body develops those things that were once hidden, and brings them to the surface. Likewise, in the Spirit, when You’re Growing and Maturing, Your Faith is Stretched, Your Humility is Increased, Your Accountability is More Severe, Your Responsibility is Expanded, Your Prayers are More Fervent, Your Fasting Becomes More Frequent, Your Studies Become More In Depth. Growth, Maturity and Elevation Are Some Great, Big Blessings, However, They Do Not Come Easily or Comfortably! So, if You’re on the Verge of Elevation and the Weight is becoming Heavier, that’s a Pretty Good Sign that You’re on your way to an A+ On Your Test! On the Other Hand, if You’re on the Verge of Elevation, and All is Smooth Sailing, I’m No Guidance Counselor, but I’d Advise You to Keep All Your Books From this Current Grade! Why? Because I Got a Feeling You’re Going to Need ’em…Again!

“TEST ME, O Lord…Examine my heart and my mind.” (Psalm 26:2)

                 Let’s look at some of the TESTS God Uses to DEVELOP Us: 

1…THE TEST OF SMALL THINGS: This TEST comes when we’re asked to do something We Consider to be BENEATH OUR ABILITY AND POTENTIAL. It Proves how Faithful we are to Our Commitments. It also Reveals whether or not we’re Ready for Greater Responsibilities. Jesus said, “Whoever can be Trusted with VERY LITTLE can also be Trusted with VERY MUCH” (Luke 16:10). You Don’t get to Oversee Much Until You’re Willing to Undertake Little! In other words, if you can be an Elder and still clean the church bathroom, you can be trusted with More! If you can be the Women’s Ministry Director, and serve food at a women’s shelter, you can be trusted with More! If you can be the Chairman Deacon and still mop up a spill in the vestibule, you can be trusted with More! If you can be the Minister of Music, and play no different in front of 2 people than you would 2,000, you can be trusted with More! If you can be the Dean of the Christian Education Ministry and not get an attitude when asked to teach 3 four year olds a Sunday School lesson, you can be trusted with More! Are You Starting to Get the Picture? Can You See It Clearly? You Don’t Get Anything Big Until You Can Be Faithful Over the Small You’ve Already Been Given! If your Pastor was asked if you qualify for More, based off this little summary, would he/she give you a yes or a no? An A+ or an F-?

2…THE MOTIVE TEST: This TEST comes to us when we’re doing all the right things—BUT NOT NECESSARILY FOR ALL THE RIGHT REASONS! For example, it’s right to Pray. YET Jesus Warned: “When you Pray, DO NOT BE LIKE THE HYPOCRITES, FOR THEY LOVE…TO BE SEEN BY MEN(Matthew 6:5) That’s why we need the mirror of God’s Word: “For the Word of God is…able to JUDGE THE THOUGHTS AND INTENTIONS OF THE HEART.” (Hebrews 4:12) When you stand before Christ to be evaluated and rewarded, the question will Not only be, ‘WHAT did you do,’ but also, ‘WHY did you do it?’ A good question that Pastors should ask of their leaders a little more often than most do.

3…THE STEWARDSHIP TEST: Jesus said, “Give, and it will be given to you.” (Luke 6:38). Only when your Empty Hand is Open, can you Receive More From God. The Practice of Giving on a Regular Basis Prevents You from Being Owned By What You Own! Money is called Currency because it’s supposed to Flow Through You Into the Lives of Others! Abraham Was Blessed For the Sole Purpose To Be a Blessing! So Are You! When you Withhold out of Fear or Greed, you Limit what God Wants to Give You. So become a River (one that flows), Not a Reservoir (one that withholds)!

4…THE WILDERNESS TEST: This test comes when we feel Spiritually Dry and our joy level is Low. It Reveals Our Ability to Adapt to Adversity and Change, and as a Result, Enter a New level of Growth! It Proves We’re Able to Perform Even When Life and Ministry Aren’t Fun. “He led you through the vast and dreadful desert…To…TEST You So…In the End it Might Go Well With You.” (Deuteronomy 8:15-16). Remember: Short-term pain, Long-term gain! You Don’t Get to Inherit the Wealthy Place Until You Can Endure the Wilderness!

5…THE CREDIBILITY TEST: Nothing matters more than your Confidence Before God—and Your Credibility Before People! When Lot tried to rescue his sons-in-law from the destruction of Sodom: The Bible says, “He seemed as one that mocked.” (Genesis 19:14) As a result he Lost Credibility When it Mattered Most! Make Sure You Don’t! The Last thing You want is to tell people in a Burning Building where the Exit is, But They Don’t Believe You, So They Don’t Listen to You or Follow You! When You Lose Credibility, You Lose Lives!

6…THE AUTHORITY TEST: Before Paul took the Gospel to the Gentiles he First went to Jerusalem and Submitted His Plan to the Apostles, Asking For Their Blessing. There wasn’t a “Nobody is going to tell me what to doAttitude! When You Fail to Submit, You Forfeit Your Opportunity to Pass On to the Next Level! Look at it this way: God placed David under a Flawed Leader named Saul that wanted to Kill Him! Proving you can Learn As Much From the Mistakes of a Failure As You Can From the Achievement of a Success! Because David Submitted, He Qualified to Sit on Saul’s Throne! An Effective Follower Becomes an Effective Leader!

7…THE OFFENCE TEST: Jesus said, “Offences Will Come.” (Luke 17:1) So Be Ready! Those who Lead Always Take the Brunt of It! The Front Line is No Place for the Weak-Willed or Weak-Kneed! So, When Offences come are you going to: Get Mad and Get Nowhere; Get Even and Get in Trouble; Or Get Over It By Forgiving? “If you hold anything against anyone, Forgive Him, So…Your Father In Heaven May Forgive…Your Sins.” (Mark 11:25). If You Can’t Handle Offence You Can’t Handle the Opportunity of More!

8…THE WARFARE TEST: This test is for those who Claim to be Strong in Faith, but Prove to be Weak in Fight! “When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, Though that was Shorter. For God said, ‘If They Face War, They Might Change Their Minds and Return to Egypt.’” (Exodus 13:17). Now, you Haven’t been called to be Insensitive and Abrasive, But if Your Destiny Is Worth Pursuing—It’s Worth Fighting For! So, Toughen Up! It’s a Battlefield, Not a Bed of Roses! You must Engage the Enemy Daily Using Every Spiritual Weapon at Your Disposal! If Not, He’ll Steal, Kill and Destroy You! This test Demonstrates Your Ability to Continue in Your Vision, Even While Experiencing Disappointment and Opposition! So remember, the Level of Attack is the Best Indicator as to the Level of Blessing that Awaits You, Beyond It! Your Wealthy Place Is Just On The Other Side Of Your Warfare! Don’t Fail This Test! It Will Cost You Too Much!

9…THE TEST OF TIME: This test has Two Dimensions. One Reveals the Strength of Your Life’s Impact, the other Reveals the Length of It! Each Calls For Your Signature of Excellence On All that You Do. Listen: The electric light still burns even though Edison has left the building! The needy are still being cared for even though General Booth is in Heaven. Now, even if your Legacy Doesn’t Reach Those Heights, Your Influence Can Still Outlive You! The test of Time has a second dimension—An Eternal One. How You Live Your Life Today, Determines Your Rewards In Heaven. “Eventually there is going to be an Inspection. If you use cheap or inferior materials, you’ll be found out.” (1 Corinthians 3:12-13). Therefore, Live a Life and Lifestyle that Others Will Deem Worthy of Continuing as a Legacy, Far After Your Earthly Life Is Over!

10…THE LORDSHIP TEST: Simon Peter passed this test by Obeying a Command that Seemed to Make No Sense At All: Jesus said to him, “Pull out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.’ Simon answered, ‘Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But Because You Say So, I Will Let Down the Nets.When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break.” (Luke 5:4-6). First, Peter tried fishing Alone and Failed. Next, He Tried it With Jesus and Succeeded. Same Fisherman. Same Fish. Same Boat. Same Nets. What changed? He Was Willing to Do it God’s Way! If You want to Succeed, Talk to God, Listen to God—and Do What God Says

With 10 points per test, what does your grade look like so far? Note: If you’re going to Be Helped, you have to First Be Honest. So if you haven’t made 100% yet, you still have the Opportunity to do so. Just hit the books (Your Bible), meet daily with your tutor (The Holy Spirit), study diligently (2 Timothy 2:15), and retake the test! There’s a 100% Within Your Reach….Grasp It!

Church, don’t just walk around with Titles that have never been Tested! Make sure you’re proven and qualified. Don’t just go with the latest fad of adding on more Initials yet making no Impact. Maturity, Responsibility and Growth have to take place on your Current Level of Leadership before you attempt Skipping Steps that will eventually lead you to Demotion! Leadership is not an Entitlement, nor is it a Competition. Respect God’s Process of Testing, Time and Choice. It’s not about your Platform, but His Plan. Follow it to the letter, do not deviate! God does not need your help, and knows exactly what’s best for you! Trust Him to do what’s Right, so you won’t have to suffer being Left Back!

2 Timothy 2:15 (various translations)

“Study and do your best to present yourself to God approved, a workman [TESTED by trial] who has no reason to be ashamed, accurately handling and skillfully teaching the word of truth.” (AMP)

“Study and be eager and do your utmost to present yourself to God approved (TESTED by trial), a workman who has no cause to be ashamed, correctly analyzing and accurately dividing [rightly handling and skillfully teaching] the Word of Truth.” (AMPC)

“Work hard so God can say to you, “Well done.” Be a good workman, one who does not need to be ashamed WHEN GOD EXAMINES YOUR WORK. Know what his Word says and means.” (TLB)

“People who are given whatever they want soon develop a sense of entitlement and rapidly lose their sense of proportion.” (Sarah Churchwell)

“What separates privilege from entitlement is gratitude.” (Brene Brown)

“Gratitude begins where my sense of entitlement ends.” (Steven Furtick)

“Entitlement is a delusion built on self-centeredness and laziness.” (Pinterest)

“Teach your children gratefulness. Do all you can to deliver them from our culture’s poisonous entitlement mentality.” (Randy Alcorn)

“Don’t feel entitled to anything you didn’t sweat and struggle for.” (Marian Wright Edelman)

“Service and gratitude will fuel your relationship; entitlement and expectation will poison it.” (Steve Maraboli)

“One of the consequences of such notions as ‘entitlements’ is that people who have contributed nothing to society feel that society owes them something, apparently just for being nice enough to grace us with their presence.” (Thomas Sowell)

“Having a sense of entitlement is upheld by the belief that WE are the center of the universe.” (Aletheia Luna)

“The final test of a leader is that he leaves behind him people of conviction who will carry on.” (Walter J. Lippmann)

“Leadership is less about your credentials, creativity or charisma; and more about your credibility, compassion and character.” (Alex Ihama)

“God never uses anyone greatly until He tests them deeply.” (Aiden Wilson Tozer)

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

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“The Process of Pruning Produces the Fullness of Potential”

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“I AM the True Vine, and My Father is the Vinedresser. Any branch in Me that does not bear fruit [that stops bearing] He cuts away (trims off, takes away); and He cleanses and repeatedly prunes every branch that continues to bear fruit, to make it bear more and richer and more excellent fruit.” (John 15:1-2 AMP).

Unlike my mom, when it comes to growing things, I’m not exactly Seedling Sam the Gardening Man. I grew up in New York, but my mom on the other hand, was the epitome of a farm girl who had the most amazing green thumbs! As soon as you’d walk in her apartment, you would be immediately welcomed into a living room that could be best described as a personal green house! I’m not as good as mom, but I can, however, keep a plant or two alive based off what she’s taught me about how things grow and flourish. I was reminded of one of those lessons when I read an article about growing blueberries in a local Sunday newspaper. The writer of that article is a recognized expert on blueberries. He explained how one of his most important steps in making blueberry bushes fruitful Is to Chop Off Branches! Sounds Destructive, But Actually It’s Constructive! He Prunes Away A Lot of TOP BRANCHES So the Interior Branches Are Exposed to the Sunlight! The result? BIG BLUEBERRIES AND LOTS OF THEM! And all because he Chopped Off the Top Branches!

“Better to be pruned to grow than cut up to burn.” (John Trapp).

We all really need to understand this pruning process, especially since it’s one of God’s Most Important Methods In Growing Us! In fact, some of the difficulty and loss that you’re experiencing right now May Actually Be Your Heavenly Father Cutting You Down to Help You Grow Up! And the results are going to be far greater than they ever could have been, if He left what He has been taking away! “If God didn’t think twice about taking Pruning Shears to the natural branches, why would he hesitate over you? He wouldn’t give it a second thought…” (Romans 11:21 MSG). In other words, God is not struggling with cutting you down so He can help you grow up! He hasn’t given it a second thought, because He knows it’s ultimately for your good, growth and development!

As Jesus was in His final hours before the cross, He prepared His disciples for the battles and the assignments ahead with some powerful teaching. And since they saw grapevines pretty often, He chose that as an analogy of their, AND OUR, relationship with Him. In John 15, beginning with verse 1, Jesus says: “I am the true vine, and My Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in Me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit He prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” (NIV). Another version says it like this: “I AM the True Vine, and My Father is the Vinedresser. Any branch in Me that does not bear fruit [that stops bearing] He cuts away (trims off, takes away); and He cleanses and repeatedly prunes every branch that continues to bear fruit, to make it bear more and richer and more excellent fruit.” (AMP).

In short, HE LEAVES YOU WITH LESS, SO YOU CAN BE AVAILABLE FOR MORE!

Sidebar: Pastors, when the ministry begins to go through shifting changes and all of a sudden you began to notice that the numbers are lowering, don’t panic! This is not always a bad sign! God simply has the Pruning Shears on the ministry for its’ future growth and development! It’s a necessity to have the ministry pruned for its later potential and prosperity. Before God takes you into Greater, He will Cut Off those who have Stunted Growth and even those who are Consistently Growing, just so they will Grow All the More! Remember: “…He cleanses and repeatedly prunes every branch that CONTINUES TO BEAR FRUIT, TO MAKE IT BEAR MORE AND RICHER AND MORE EXCELLENT FRUIT.” Sometimes when it looks like a Loss, it’s actually God’s Greater Gain! Of course He loves the fact that the ministry has experienced Growth, but that’s why He Prunes, so it not only experiences Growth, but so it can, “…BEAR MORE AND RICHER AND MORE EXCELLENT FRUIT.” Take note, the, “…RICHER AND MORE EXCELLENT FRUIT”, ONLY COMES AFTER THE PRUNING PROCESS! So, don’t be discouraged, just continue to trust your Gardener during the Pruning Process!

Jesus went on to explain that all the things we do for Him have to flow from our deep relationship with Him – “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man REMAINS in Me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; APART from Me you can do nothing…If you REMAIN in Me and My words REMAIN in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be given you.” If you keep pursuing Jesus and getting ever closer to Him, your life is going to be Abundantly Fruitful! You’re going to make a Greater Difference with your life than you’ve ever made before! You’re going to be More Spiritually Magnetic, and having you around is going to be more and more like actually having Jesus Himself around! You are going to attract more people into the Fruitful Kingdom of God! The key is to Remain in a Healthy Relationship with Jesus! Why? Because, Apart from Him You Can Do NOTHING! But, If You Remain In Him and His Word Remains in You… “…ASK WHATEVER YOU WISH AND IT WILL BE GIVEN YOU!”

BUT…Before You Receive the Richer and More Excellent Fruit, FIRST COMES THE PRUNING!

I imagine if a vine could talk, he’d say to the pruner, “You’re killing me, man!” And the gardener would reply, “I know this hurts, but I’m actually removing things you don’t really need so you can explode with greater fruit.” THAT MAY BE EXACTLY WHAT’S HAPPENING IN YOUR LIFE RIGHT NOW! IT DOESN’T FEEL GOOD, OH, BUT IT IS GOOD! Romans 8:26-28, “Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. THAT’S WHY WE CAN BE SO SURE THAT EVERY DETAIL IN OUR LIVES OF LOVE FOR GOD IS WORKED INTO SOMETHING GOOD.” (MSG)

AS BAD AS IT FEELS NOW, STAY IN THE PRUNING PROCESS, BECAUSE IT’S ABOUT TO GET REAL GOOD!

GOD IS LOVINGLY REMOVING THINGS (AND PEOPLE) YOU THINK YOU NEED, BUT MORE OFTEN THAN NOT, THESE THINGS (AND PEOPLE) MAY ACTUALLY BE HOLDING YOU DOWN, HOLDING YOU BACK, AND HOLDING YOU CAPTIVE! SO BE ENCOURAGED, THE CUTBACKS ARE COSTLY BUT WORTH IT! THE PRUNING IS PAINFUL, BUT ESSENTIAL TO YOUR POTENTIAL, PRODUCTIVITY AND PROSPERITY!

I actually learned that there are a few types of pruning methods:

FIRST, THERE’S “THINNING”: This is a drastic form of pruning, a thinning out cut is the removal of an entire shoot, limb, or branch AT ITS POINT OF ORIGIN! When performed correctly, THINNING ENCOURAGES THE FORMATION OF NEW GROWTH THAT WILL MORE READILY BEAR FRUIT AND FLOWERS!

NOW FOR THE SPIRITUAL APPLICATION OF “THINNING”: In order for many of us to GROW PROPERLY, WE HAVE TO BE PRUNED TO THE EXTENT THAT WE REMOVE, ENTIRELY, PEOPLE, PLACES AND THINGS THAT HELPED US GET TO THIS DAMAGED PLACE WE’RE IN NOW! REMEMBER: THINNING REMOVES THE ENTIRE SHOOT, LIMB OR BRANCH AT ITS ORIGIN! IN OTHER WORDS, WHERE IT ALL STARTED! For instance, if that’s liars who got you lying; the bars that got you drinking or the credit cards that got you in debt, REMOVE THEM ENTIRELY! DON’T BE AFRAID OR ASHAMED TO THIN SOME FOLKS AND SOME STUFF OUT! REMOVE HIM, HER OR THEM, IF THEY DARE TO COMPROMISE YOUR POTENTIAL TO PROSPER! IF YOU DO, YOU’LL THEN BE IN THE POSITION TO FORMULATE (HEALTHY PEOPLE, PLACES AND THINGS) SO THAT NEW GROWTH CAN TRANSPIRE, MORE READILY FOR BEARING FRUIT! RESPECT GOD’S THINNING PROCESS! LET HIM REMOVE PEOPLE, PLACES AND THINGS THAT YOU STARTED OUT WITH…BUT DON’T NEED TO FINISH WITH!

SECOND, THERE’S “TOPPING”: Topping is a very severe form of pruning which involves removing all branches and growths down to a few large branches or to the trunk of the tree. When performed correctly, IT IS USED ON VERY YOUNG TREES TO TRAIN THEM TO GROW INTO SPECIFIC SHAPES!

NOW FOR THE SPIRITUAL APPLICATION OF “TOPPING”:  When used correctly, TOPPING IS USED ON YOUNG TREES TO TRAIN THEM TO GROW IN SPECIFIC SHAPES OR IN SPECIFIC DIRECTIONS! When you see those beautiful trees, with all their unique twists and turns to them in various shapes and designs, THEY ARE THE RESULT OF TOPPING! But in order for that to take place, IT HAS TO START YOUNG! Now, it would be very easy for me to pick on our YOUNG PEOPLE (Which the Church Does Far Too Often), but instead we’re going to go in a different direction, and speak of “YOUNG” IN TERMS OF “IMMATURITY!” PEOPLE OF GOD, IF YOU’RE EVER GOING TO FINALLY GROW UP, AND COME TO FULL MATURITY, YOU’VE GOT TO SURRENDER YOURSELF TO TOPPING! IT MEANS BRINGING ALL YOUR IMMATURE ISSUES BEFORE THE GARDENER FOR HIM TO PRUNE, SO YOU CAN FINALLY GROW UP INTO THE SPECIFIC SHAPE AND DESIGN THAT HE HAD IN MIND LONG BEFORE YOUR BIRTH! THE GOOD NEWS IS THAT YOU CAN’T DO THIS FOR OLD TREES, THEY’RE ALREADY SET IN THEIR WAYS AND HARDENED, SO IF YOU’RE STILL AN “IMMATURE SAINT”, THERE’S HELP AND HOPE FOR YOU YET! YOU’RE IN THE BEST POSSIBLE POSITION TO BE RE-DIRECTED FOR THE DESTINY YOU’VE BEEN DESIGNED FOR! PEOPLE MAY TALK ABOUT YOUR “IMMATURITY” BUT GOD IS WAITING, WILLING AND READY TO USE HIS “TOPPING” PRUNING METHOD TO SPECIFICALLY SHAPE, DESIGN AND DIRECT YOU TO LOOK MORE BEAUTIFUL THAN YOU EVER THOUGHT POSSIBLE! THINK ABOUT IT: THOSE BEAUTIFULLY CRAFTED TREES ALWAYS MAKE PEOPLE STOP AND STARE OR TAKE A DOUBLE LOOK! AND WHEN GOD GETS FINISHED “TOPPING” YOU…THEY WILL DO THE VERY SAME IN LOOKING AT YOUR LIFE!

THIRD, THERE’S “RAISING”: This removes the lower branches from a tree IN ORDER TO PROVIDE CLEARANCE FOR BUILDINGS, VEHICLES, PEDESTRIANS, AND VISTAS!

NOW FOR THE SPIRITUAL APPLICATION OF “RAISING”: This type of pruning is of a necessity, not for you, BUT FOR THOSE AROUND YOU! “RAISING” IS A FORM OF PRUNING THAT MOVES YOU OUT OF THE WAY, SO OTHERS CAN GET BY AND GET THROUGH! I hate to say it like this, BUT THIS LEVEL OF PRUNING IS OFTEN FOR THOSE WHO HAVE BEEN DOING SOMETHING SO LONG THAT THEY’VE PERFECTED IT AND CAN’T NOBODY ELSE ON PLANET EARTH DO IT LIKE THEM OR BETTER THAN THEM, AS LONG AS THEY’RE STILL ALIVE! YOU HAVE TO BE PRUNED TO MAKE ROOM FOR OTHERS! AFTER 30 YEARS, YOU SHOULDN’T SEE ALL THE SAME PREACHERS IN THE SAME PULPIT; THE SAME CHOIR MEMBERS, THE SAME MUSICIANS, THE SAME DEACONS, THE SAME MEMBERS! WHERE’S THE GROWTH IN THAT?! LOOK AT IT FROM THIS SIMPLE ANALOGY: YOU CAN’T PUT ANYMORE WATER IN A FULL GLASS WITHOUT IT SPILLING OVER AND MAKING A MESS! NO, YOU DRINK IT ALL! AND THEN IF SOMEONE COMES ALONG THAT NEEDS YOUR GLASS, YOU DON’T HAND IT TO THEM USED AND DIRTY! NOR DO YOU TELL THEM I ONLY DRANK WATER OUT OF THIS GLASS SO YOU HAVE TO DO THE SAME! NO, WHAT YOU DO IS CLEAN IT (REMOVE ALL EVIDENCE OF WHAT YOU HAD IN IT), THEN YOU GIVE IT TO THEM GLADLY THAT THEY MIGHT FILL IT HALFWAY OR ALL THE WAY, WITH WHATEVER BEVERAGE OF THEIR CHOOSING! YOU DON’T, HOWEVER, ATTEMPT TO CONTROL THE USE OF THE GLASS JUST BECAUSE YOU HAD IT FIRST, OR HAD IT LONGEST! PEOPLE OF GOD, THERE IS A WHOLE NEW GENERATION THAT IS TRYING TO PRESS FORWARD, BUT CAN’T BECAUSE THOSE WHO HAVE BEEN IN THE SAME PLACE FOR 30 YEARS WON’T MOVE OVER AND MAKE ROOM FOR FRESH GROWTH! THEY WILL REPLACE YOU (THAT’S THE LAW OF AGE), BUT THAT’S NOT THEIR GOAL! THEY’RE SIMPLY TRYING TO HELP, IN THEIR YOUTH, IN THEIR STRENGTH, WITH BUILDING THE KINGDOM OF GOD! SO STOP BEING SELFISH, AND MOVE OUT THE WAY SO OTHERS CAN GET BY AND GET THROUGH! MOSES IS DEAD AND SO IS JOSHUA…BUT THERE IS A NEW GENERATION! DON’T BLOCK THEM WITH YOUR OLD SET WAYS!

FOURTH AND FINAL, THERE’S “REDUCTION”: This reduces the size of a tree, OFTEN FOR CLEARANCE FOR UTILITY LINES! Reducing the height or spread of a tree is best accomplished by PRUNING BACK THE LEADERS AND BRANCH TERMINALS TO LATERAL BRANCHES THAT ARE LARGE ENOUGH TO ASSUME THE TERMINAL ROLES! Compared to ‘Topping’, ‘REDUCTION’ HELPS MAINTAIN THE FORM AND STRUCTURAL INTEGRITY OF THE TREE!

NOW FOR THE SPIRITUAL APPLICATION OF “REDUCTION”: This type of pruning HURTS LEADERSHIP! BECAUSE REDUCTION REMOVES BRANCHES THAT ARE HIGH UP BY THE POWER LINES, CUTS THEM BACK SO THAT ROOM FOR THOSE UNDERNEATH THEM CAN ASSUME THEIR ROLE! OUCH! LORD HELP! IN ACTUALITY, THIS SHOULDN’T BE ALL THAT HARD AT ALL, SINCE THE LEADER BRANCH THAT IS BEING CUT BACK, IS ONLY MAKING ROOM FOR THE LATERAL BRANCH TO COME UP AND TAKE IT’S PLACE! NOT BECAUSE THE LEADER BRANCH DID ANYTHING WRONG, IT’S SIMPLY THE TIME FOR  WHAT’S GROWING OUT OF ITS SIDE (LATERAL) TO COME UP A LITTLE HIGHER! “LATERAL” means: “FROM THE SIDE OF; ESPECIALLY A SHOOT OR BRANCH GROWING OUT FROM THE SIDE OF A STEM”.  ITS LATIN ORIGIN “LATERALIS” literally means “SIDE”. LEADERS, IT’S NOT SOME STRANGE, FOREIGN ENTITY, BUT SOMETHING/SOMEONE THAT CAME FROM OUT OF YOU! THAT SHOULD PUT YOUR EGO, PRIDE AND COMPETITIVE NATURE TO REST! IT’S A PART OF YOU, THEREFORE, REGARDLESS TO HOW HIGH IT OR THEY GO, THEY STILL CAME FROM YOU! LEADERS, ENDURE THE PRUNING OF REDUCTION, IT DOES NOT REDUCE YOUR MINISTRY, PURPOSE, GIFTS, ANOINTING OR EFFECTIVENESS, IT SIMPLY MAKES ROOM FOR OTHERS TO REACH THE HEIGHTS OF POWER THAT YOU HAVE ALREADY ATTAINED! TRUTH IS: YOU MAY NOT ENJOY THE PROCESS…BUT YOU AND EVERYBODY ELSE WILL LOVE THE RESULTS! YOU MAY HAVE TO STEP ASIDE, BUT YOU’LL ALWAYS BE CLOSE ENOUGH TO WATCH YOUR “LATERAL” STEP UP AND STEP THROUGH! BE PROUD…THEY’RE PRODUCTIVITY AND PROSPERITY CAME OUT OF YOUR PRUNING PROCESS!

Listen Leaders, I know a lot of this was hard to take in, but I promise you, it was indeed to encourage your heart! Pruning is Painful, but nothing is more Painful than Missing Out on Your Purpose, Potential and Prosperity! Let God do the Gardening that’s a Necessity to Your Future Growth! He Knows What He’s Doing, After All His Pruning is Apart of His Great Plans Just For You!

Jeremiah 29:10-11, “This is God’s Word on the subject…I’ll show up and take care of you as I promised and bring you back home. I KNOW WHAT I’M DOING. I HAVE IT ALL PLANNED OUT—PLANS TO TAKE CARE OF YOU, NOT ABANDON YOU, PLANS TO GIVE YOU THE FUTURE YOU HOPE FOR.” (MSG)

Pruning is Part of the Plan, All You Have to Remember, is What God Has Said… “…I KNOW WHAT I’M DOING…”

“Every Living Thing Needs to be Pruned, So It Can Reach Its Fullest Potential – Including You and Me.” (Author Unknown)

“Every Experience is Part of God’s Pruning Process. You’ve Been Picked Out to be Picked On. He Cuts Off Fruitless Branches and Prunes Fruitful Ones.” (Author Unknown)

“Give A Lot, Expect A Lot, And…If You Don’t Get It, Prune.” (Tom Peters)

“For Me, Slowing Down Was Simply Another Way to Prune the Bush. To Force Myself Into Cutting Away Certain Parts of My Life So That I Don’t Wake Up Next Year, Blooming Roses I Don’t Like.” (Erin Loechner)

“Pruning is a Necessary Part of Life. In Order to Move Forward, You Must Let Go.” (Cheryl Richardson)

“People Aren’t Too Much Different From Roses. They Both Need the Sunshine of Encouragement, Proper Feeding, Water, Tender Loving Care, Skilled Pruning and Room to Grow.” (Lila Peiffer)

“Gardens Are Great Projects. Like Great Careers and Relationships That Last. They Are Tended, They Shift, They Grow. They Endure Over Time, Gaining a Personality and Reflecting Their Environment. When Something Dies or Fades Away, We Prune, Replant and Grow Again.” (Seth Godin)

“When God Has You in a Place of Waiting, He’s Preparing You For Greater. He’s Sifting, Pruning, Refining, and Shaping You For the Best That is to Come.” (Author Unknown)

“God Prunes Us When He is About to Take Us Into a New Season of Growth and Expansion.” (Christine Caine)

“Better to be pruned to grow than cut up to burn.” (John Trapp).

“When we can become skilled at selectively knowing what to prune out of our lives, what remains becomes stronger, brighter, clearer.” (Lisa Byrne)

“Remember that growth always involves some pruning.” (Pinterest)

“The purpose of pruning is to improve the quality of the roses, not to hurt the bush.” (Florence Littauer)

“The vinedresser is never nearer the branches then when he is pruning them.” (David Jeremiah)

“God loves you too much to give you the promotion without the pruning.” (Bob Sorge)

“No one likes the process of pruning and the pain of loss, but fruit only grows on new wood.” (Leonard Sweet)

“The trees which are pruned, watered and nurtured by caring hands bear the greatest fruit; it is the same with people.” (Bryant McGill)

“Prune the branches that no longer belong to the future.” (Dr. Joe Dispenza)

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: “Low-Grade Depression – Here’s What That Means”

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“Keep SHINING, You’re Someone’s Way Out of DARKNESS!”

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Matthew 5:14-16, “Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—SHINE! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.” (MSG)

There are two types of stories that pull at my heart-strings immediately. One is that of anyone who survives a life-devastating event; and two, anything concerning children. Well, what I’m about to share with you combines them both.

You see, she was only seven years old; the lone survivor of a plane crash that killed her parents, her sister, and her cousin. The sheriff said “she literally fell out of the sky into a dark hole.” He called her survival “a miracle.” This “miracle” survivor somehow crawled out of this upside-down wreckage of her dad’s plane dressed only in shorts and a t-shirt on a cold winter night. Shoe-less, through brambles and underbrush, this, who they called “remarkable” young girl, navigated two embankments, a hill, and a creek bed in the dark!

Then, much like the book of Genesis, “and then there was light”. Actually, it was just a single security light on a house. But when she knocked on that door, a kind, grandfatherly man brought her inside. Then she was safe. One report said this: “He thinks his security light may have been a beacon.I agree, a beacon of light for a little girl who had lost so much in the dark. Thank God for the light that saved her life.

This story got me to thinking about who I need to be for people who’ve lost so much (in the dark moments of life). Those who feel alone, depressed, disheartened…those whose world has suddenly crashed into darkness, who need someone to be a light – a “beacon” – to lead them to safety.

I love that word “beacon”, it’s defined as “a fire lit on the top of a hill as a signal; a light serving as a signal for ships or aircraft.” Its Old English Origin literally means “sign.” The word “signal” is defined as “a gesture, action or sound conveying information or an instruction.” Its Italian Origin “segnalato” means “distinguished”, from its root “segnale” which means “a signal.When we as believers become beacons of light for those lost in darkness, we serve as a signal conveying information about our Savior and instruction that He is the Light of the World to follow. And our signal is “distinguished”, which is defined as “having an identifying characteristic.” And what characteristics stand out for us as believers? “But the fruit of the Spirit [the result of His presence within us] is love [UNSELFISH CONCERN FOR OTHERS], joy, [inner] peace, patience [not the ability to wait, but how we act while waiting], kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature together with its passions and appetites.  If we [claim to] live by the [Holy] Spirit, we must also walk by the Spirit [WITH PERSONAL INTEGRITY, GODLY CHARACTER, AND MORAL COURAGE—OUR CONDUCT EMPOWERED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT].” (Galatians 5:22-25 AMP) That’s what distinguishes us. That’s what makes people who are walking around in darkness, look up and take notice of us. They see the light of an unselfish person with personal integrity, godly character and moral courage that conducts themselves according to the empowering Holy Spirit from within.

In other words, when people (whether saved or unsaved) see us, they should see light! They should see a way out. They should see encouragement, inspiration, empowerment, care, unconditional love and a non—judgmental attitude. They should see someone who simply wants to help guide them out of Gloom and into God. Those starving for help should see the Fruit of the Spirit in us. They should see love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance. As believers, we are to be beacons of light in this dark world. Philippians 2:15, “so that you may prove yourselves to be blameless and guileless, innocent and uncontaminated, children of God without blemish in the midst of a [morally] crooked and [spiritually] perverted generation, AMONG WHOM YOU ARE SEEN AS BRIGHT LIGHTS [BEACONS SHINING OUT CLEARLY] in the world [of darkness],” (AMP).

So, are you shining light, or throwing shade? Because you can’t do both!

In our text for today, Jesus says this in Matthew 5, beginning with verse 14, “You are the world’s light—a city on a hill, glowing in the night for all to see.  Don’t hide your light! Let it shine for all; let your good deeds glow for all to see, so that they will praise your heavenly Father.” (TLB) The word “glow” is defined as “to give out steady light; to have an intense color and a slight radiance.” And the word “steady” is defined as “firmly fixed, supported, or balanced, not faltering or wavering; reliable; regular; continuous; and frequent.” In other words, our lights are always on, they do not turn off! The Scripture commands us, “…DON’T HIDE YOUR LIGHT!” When something is “hidden” it means it’s “put or kept out of sight; concealed; and camouflaged”. Which is very descriptive of some of us, believers, when we’re anywhere else, outside of church! Oh, we’ll shine brightly within the 4 walls of the church, but somehow we manage to dim-down at work, the salons, the barbershop, supermarket, laundromat, the mall, and most certainly when we’re cut off by someone on the highway! And that word “dim” means “difficult to see, shady, and unclear.” It becomes difficult to see our light when we want to blend in and look and sound like everyone else. When we conform to the crowd, it’s difficult to see our individual light. And depending on where we are, what we’re doing and who we’re doing it with, we become real shady. Our integrity and character becomes unclear. We’re no longer distinguished but indistinguishable. And what’s the danger of that? “YOU ARE THE WORLD’S LIGHT…” The world will only see the light that we shine. But when we remain hidden, they remain in the dark. But we’re commanded, “LET IT SHINE FOR ALL…” People are depending on us church. And as the Scripture says, “…ALL…” people are depending on us. Every culture, nationality, gender, race, age, rich, poor, single, married, divorced, with kids, without kids, varying religions, they are all depending on us…whether they know it or not. Because despite the popular ideas of “higher powers”, there is only One Power, One Name and One God, that can save them from eternal darkness and His name is Jesus Christ. And we as His followers, named after His name (Christians) are to continuously be the road map that points them in His direction! John 14:6, “Jesus said to him, I AM THE [ONLY] WAY [TO GOD] and the [REAL] TRUTH and the [REAL] LIFE; NO ONE COMES TO THE FATHER BUT THROUGH ME.” (AMP); Philippians 2:9-11, “Because of that obedience, God lifted Him high and honored Him FAR BEYOND ANYONE OR ANYTHING, EVER, so that ALL CREATED BEINGS IN HEAVEN AND ON EARTH—EVEN THOSE LONG AGO DEAD AND BURIED—WILL BOW IN WORSHIP BEFORE THIS JESUS CHRIST, and call out in praise that HE IS THE MASTER OF ALL, to the glorious honor of God the Father.” (MSG)

We are the Beacons of Light, in this Dark World, that will Lead ALL to Jesus! Saints, We Can’t Dim Our Light, They Need Us to Show Them the Way Out!

Speaking of being a beacon and light, I’ve been thinking what it means to be a beacon or light for people in my personal world. And I found out, in its simplicity, it means being one person they know who is all about their need, not about my own. One who has time to listen (and even when I don’t have time, making time anyhow). Being that one person who doesn’t just ask the obligatory “How you doing?” But one who asks that second and third question to see if that obligatory “I’m fine” answer they gave me is really how they’re doing. Being a light means being the one who refuses to hear or speak trash talk about anyone. Who protects a person’s name when they’re not in the room. Who builds a person up and never tears them down. Who says, “Thank you” and “I’m sorry” and “I was wrong.” It’s being the person to call, leave a voicemail, text, email, or visit. It’s the person to mail a get well card. It’s the person giving more than a “church hug”, but being arms in which someone can fall into, cry freely and still feel unashamed. Its’ being a safe place for someone to strip off all their layers of initials, titles, positions, and the like, and simply being who they really are in the moment (hurt, confused, in pain, lonely, depressed, bitter, discouraged, angry). It’s being the person they can confide in knowing that their confidence will never be betrayed.

It’s always being the person who treats people, as the Bible says, “with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15). The Message Bible reads it like this, “If with heart and soul you’re doing good, do you think you can be stopped? Even if you suffer for it, you’re still better off. Don’t give the opposition a second thought. Through thick and thin, keep your hearts at attention, in adoration before Christ, your Master. Be ready to speak up and tell anyone who asks why you’re living the way you are, AND ALWAYS WITH THE UTMOST COURTESY. Keep a clear conscience before God so that when people throw mud at you, none of it will stick. They’ll end up realizing that they’re the ones who need a bath. It’s better to suffer for doing good, if that’s what God wants, than to be punished for doing bad…” (vss. 13-18 MSG) People of God, this ought to be descriptive of us, no matter what or where. Christians ought to always be courteous, kind, generous, gentle, caring, and understanding. After all, how can we possibly be anything contrary to the Christ we’ve been called to represent in His Image and Likeness?

In a nutshell: We do not “turn off our light” no matter how dark a person may be that approaches us. We have not been called to judge, point fingers, assign blame, pronounce guilt, to condemn or put down. We are simply to be light that directs dark to Light. That’s our responsibility. We are to represent God, not attempt to replace Him, or try to “be Him”. Just do what He asked of you, and certainly I’ve found nowhere in Scripture where He’s asked of us to treat cruel with cruel or dark with dark. In fact, His Word admonishes us, “Summing up: Be agreeable, be sympathetic, be loving, be compassionate, be humble. THAT GOES FOR ALL OF YOU, NO EXCEPTIONS. No retaliation. No sharp-tongued sarcasm. Instead, bless—THAT’S YOUR JOB, TO BLESS. You’ll be a blessing and also get a blessing. Whoever wants to embrace life and see the day fill up with good, Here’s what you do: Say nothing evil or hurtful; Snub evil and cultivate good; run after peace for all you’re worth. God looks on all this with approval, listening and responding well TO WHAT HE’S ASKED; But he turns his back on those who do evil things.” (1 Peter 3:8-12 MSG). Did you read your job responsibility? “…BLESS – THAT’S YOUR JOB, TO BLESS…” Not to curse, but to bless! No matter who you’re dealing with, no matter their attitude or response, you are to bless. Whether you feel like it or not, you are to bless. Whether it’s morning, noon or night, you are to bless. Whether it’s family, friend or foe, you are to bless. Whether it’s at home, church, work, business, gas station, in traffic, or a PTA meeting, you are to bless!

It’s a blessing, to be light! You know why? Because “light” people are those who remember a person’s birthday, who checks on them when they’re sick, who’s at the hospital, the wedding, and the funeral. Who drops what I’m doing when they’re hurting. Who offers to pray withnot just for – them when God is needed so much. “Light” people give you their precious time and undivided attention.

And so you don’t take this as a personal attack, I even asked MYSELF: do people around me see me as “safe“; the “go-to” person when it’s dark, when it’s cold and when it’s lonely? Have I so lived that when they hit a wall, they’ll think of me as a place to turn? Am I the light on the porch when people around me are feeling lost? Do people see Christ in me? Do they taste salt and see light? Am I compassionate, kind, enduring, patient, loving, understanding, pleasant to be around? Is my attitude a good one (or does it depend on the day, person and circumstance)? Do I murmur? Do I complain? Am I negative? Am I pessimistic? Am I confrontational? Am I critical? Am I the person someone would call in times of trouble? When someone has fallen into sin and needs restoration, am I a person they would call on to help them reconcile with God? As James admonishes us, am I a person they can confide in, trust, and confess to? In other words, this Word challenged me to re-exam my own life, lifestyle and walk with God, and His people. Now, I’ve discovered that I’m not a horrible person, however, I’ve also realized that I can certainly become a better person. I can be the light someone needs in their dark tunnel. I can help them navigate their way. And sometimes that’s not with speech, just with the gift of presence.

I can be that for one reason. Truth is, Jesus Christ has been that for me. And so have my brothers and sisters in Christ. Whether it was worry over my children, struggling in marriage, hardship in finances, discouraged with church, sleepless nights with school, the loss of my dad, the loss of my mom. I’ve had “Light” people that stepped into my dark path, and said, “lets walk this thing together.” And believe it or not, but there are people in your life that need your light. Oh, yeah, they have a smile on their face, and they know how to laugh on cue, and they’ve mastered, “I’m good, I’m fine, All is well, I’m blessed and highly favored.But truth is, in private, many are struggling just to wake up, get up, get dressed and keep going. For many, it’s a struggle just to put both feet on the floor in the morning. For many, their nights are so bad, they no longer want to face another day. YOU, my friend, can be their little piece of personal sunshine on a stormy day.

One thing that always warms my heart is passing by a person and they smile, which makes me smile. We never speak, we never exchange words at all. And yet, I feel instantly better. Likewise, you don’t have to be everything for everybody. Sometimes a little smile, a brief hug, a quick pat on the back, is all that’s needed to turn someone’s day around. In fact, you’ll be absolutely amazed at the rekindling of fire you can be to someone’s desire to live with just a few words, I believe in you, you can do this, you can be better, I see greatness in you, dream again, try again, don’t give up, keep pressing, you’ll make it.Everyone needs encouragement, even those that don’t admit it or ask for it. Everyone at one time or another experiences dark days and needs someone to shed a little light. Why not allow yourself to be that light?

Someone in your life needs to feel loved, important, significant, and cherished. Because someone in your life feels neglected, wounded, unforgiven, ashamed, guilty, and desperate. And all they need to make a difference in their darkness is just a little light. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). The Message Bible says it like this, “Jesus once again addressed them: “I am the world’s Light. No one who follows me stumbles around in the darkness. I provide plenty of light to live in.” (MSG). If you could just help them direct their darkness to Him, He’ll provide them plenty of light to live in. However, that can’t happen, if you don’t help them get to The Light. If someone in my personal world is wandering in the dark today, I just pray they’ve seen the light in me so I can help them find the Light in Him.

I’ll close with this little story. I have pocketbooks! Lot’s of ‘em! Every color, style and size. My favorites however, are my big bags. But the down-side of them is that I always throw my keys in my bag, so when I get home and try to get in the house, I can’t! It’s dark when I get home at night, and I never think to take them out ahead of time or to place them in a better place of convenience. Well, I ended up attending a friends event and the giveaways were cute little keychain flashlights. I said “what in the world am I supposed to do with this little thing?” And a child (yes, a little kid) gave me the answer. She said, “well, maybe you can use the little light until you can get to a bigger one.” All I could think was: “And a child shall lead them!” That was one of those moments when I thought, “kids say the darndest things”. Sounds comical, but I think she nailed it. The little light, would help me get to the big Light. And upon using my little keychain flashlight to fish out my keys one night, I found it to be true. That little light helped to find my keys, unlock and open the door and the first thing I did was cut on the big light inside.

Today, that’s my prayer for US! That we’ll be just a little light that leads someone in darkness to the Big Light! Just think about the opening story, she walked away from so much tragedy, in the middle of a dark, cold and lonely night, and the only thing that saved her and her life, was a little light that was kept on.

My Admonishment to You Today: KEEP SHINING, YOU ARE SOMEONE’S WAY OUT OF DARKNESS!

“Nothing can dim the light which shines from within.” (Dr. Maya Angelou)

“There are two ways of spreading light, to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.” (Edith Wharton)

“A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.” (James Heller)

“In order for the light to shine so brightly, the darkness must be present.” (Francis Bacon)

“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.” (Desmond Tutu)

“If you want to give light to others, you have to glow yourself.” (Thomas S. Monson)

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.)

“Small lights have a way of being seen in a dark world.” (Neal A. Maxwell)

“All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle.” (Francis of Assisi)

“Within you is the light of a thousand suns.” (Robert Adams)

“If you want light to come into your life, you need to stand where it is shining.” (Guy Finley)

“Instead of cursing the darkness, light a candle.” (Benjamin Franklin)

“It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light.” (Aristotle Onassis)

“Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light.” (Helen Keller)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alright, prepare for the soaring hawks!

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

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

Hebrews 13:5, “…FOR HE HAS SAID, ‘I WILL NEVER [UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES] DESERT YOU [NOR GIVE YOU UP NOR LEAVE YOU WITHOUT SUPPORT, NOR WILL I IN ANY DEGREE LEAVE YOU HELPLESS], NOR WILL I FORSAKE OR LET YOU DOWN OR RELAX MY HOLD ON YOU [ASSUREDLY NOT]!’” (AMP);

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jeremiah 29:10-11, “This is God’s Word on the subject…I’ll show up and take care of you as I promised…I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out – plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.” (MSG) No amount of troubles, misery, or struggles, can ever hinder the plan of God for your life!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Remember these 3 examples:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“You’re Too Close to Lose Focus Now!”

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“LET’S KEEP FOCUSED…those of us who want everything God has for us” (Philippians 3:15 MSG)

My mama always said, “You Become Effective By Being Selective!”

It’s human nature to get distracted! Many of us are like gyroscopes, spinning around at a frantic pace but not getting anywhere! Without a clear purpose you keep changing directions, jobs, relationships, churches, etc., hoping each change will settle the confusion or fill the emptiness in your heart. You think, “This time will be different,” but it’s not because it doesn’t solve your real problem—Lack of Focus!

The power of focusing can be seen for instance in LIGHT. With a magnifying glass the rays of the sun can set paper on fire! But when light is FOCUSED even more as a laser beam, it can cut through steel! Just as it is with Light, so it is with LIFE, nothing is as Potent as a Focus! The men and women who make the greatest difference in life are the most Focused! For instance, the Apostle Paul said,I am bringing all my energies to bear on this ONE THING.” (Philippians 3:13 TLB). Paul’s obsession was to make Christ known, and maintaining a Focused Life, allowed him to do just that. So if you want your life to have impact, FOCUS it! Remember: “You Become Effective By Being Selective!” Which means in a nutshell: Stop Dabbling! Stop trying to do it all! Do less in fact. Turn away from even good activities and do only that which matters most. I learned a hard lesson that I hope you’ll learn easy: Never Confuse ACTIVITY With PRODUCTIVITY!

Poet William Matthews wrote, “One well-cultivated talent, deepened and enlarged, is worth a hundred shallow faculties. The first law of success in this day when so many things are clamoring for attention is Concentration—to bend our energies to One point, and to go directly to that point, looking neither to the right nor to the left.

Focus doesn’t come easily or naturally, it’s a Discipline that must be practiced Daily!

Paul told Timothy to Focus on his strengths:That special gift…you were given…keep that dusted off and in use.” (1 Timothy 4:14 MSG). Focused people don’t hide their weaknesses or excuse them; instead they focus on their strengths!

There’s a story about a couple who decided to build a farm. Then they began to argue. The wife wanted to build the house first. The husband wanted to build the barn first to house the animals. They went back and forth until finally the man said, “Look, we have to build the barn first—because the barn will enable us to build the house, the garage, the silo, the kid’s swing set, and everything else!” In other words, When You Focus on Putting FIRST Things FIRST, Everything Else Falls Into Its Proper Place Automatically!

Anthony Campolo says, “What you commit yourself to, will change what you are and make you into a completely different person. The future conditions you, not the past. What you commit yourself to become, determines what you are—more than anything that ever happened to you yesterday. Therefore, I ask you, ‘What are your commitments? Where are you going? What are you going to be? Show me somebody who hasn’t decided, and I’ll show you somebody who has no identity, no personality, and no direction.

Focusing on weaknesses instead of strengths is like having a handful of coins, a few made of gold, the rest of tarnished copper, and setting aside the gold coins to spend your time shining the copper ones in hopes of making them more valuable. Think about it: No matter how long you spend polishing tarnished copper coins, they’ll never be worth what the gold ones are! So, Stay Focused on your God-given strengths! That is an investment that will yield great dividends!

Another way to look at it is this: Why focus on the many that were called, instead of the important few that are chosen?! Remember: “You’ll Become Effective By Being Selective!” So make sure your selections today are those Few things and people that Matter Most!

“Do not swerve to the right or the left.” Proverbs 4:27 NIV

Bear this in mind, Focus does 3 things for you:

(1) IT KEEPS YOU ON TARGET: We find ourselves pulled in a dozen different directions, spending much of our time and energy on things we don’t really care about. Author Don Marquis put it this way: “Ours is a world where people don’t know what they want, and are willing to go through hell to get it.” The Bible says: “Let your eyes look straight ahead…Do not swerve to the right or the left.” (Proverbs 4:25-27 NIV) Focused People Develop a Discipline that helps them to Stay On Target Without Swerving to the Right or the Left! Distractions Invite Detours From Your God-Given Destination! So, Stay Focused!

(2) IT INCREASES YOUR ENERGY: Attempting everything, like attempting nothing, will suck the life right out of you! Focus gives you energy. Admiral Richard Byrd, the Polar explorer, said, “Few men come anywhere near exhausting the resources dwelling within them. There are deep wells of strength that are never used.One of the reasons those wells go untapped is Lack of Focus. The mind doesn’t reach toward achievement until it has clear objectives. Focused People have Learned to Focus All of Their Efforts Into One Thing or One Direction, which in Return Replenishes the Energy and Strength that was Zapped from Multiple Activities that didn’t Produce an Ounce of Productivity! All you desire will come together once you stop letting everyone and everything pull you apart!

(3) IT LIFTS YOU: It’s been said thatthe world stands aside to let anyone pass, who knows where he or she is going.In a sea of mediocrity, just knowing what you want to do and making an effort to pursue it, distinguishes you from almost everybody else. Henry David Thoreau asked, “Do you ever hear of a man who had striven all his life faithfully and singly toward an object, and in no measure obtained it? If a man constantly aspires, is he not elevated?Just by striving to become better than you are, you become elevated—even if you don’t accomplish all of what you desire, and even if others don’t step aside for you. By trusting God and aiming higher, you move to a higher level—Regardless. Staying Focused Isn’t All About Elevating to Another Level, Another Position, Another Title. Staying Focused Gives You The Best and Highest Level of Elevation There Is…Which is Simply Becoming a Better You Today Than You Were Yesterday, and a Better You Tomorrow Than You Were Today! Now That’s What You Call a Worthy Elevation!

Acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.” (Proverbs 3:6).

When it comes to staying focused, keep in mind these 3 additional notes:

(1) FOCUSED PEOPLE ALWAYS LOOK FOR A BETTER WAY: What got you where you are, won’t necessarily get you where you need to be. A family who moved into a new neighborhood got a late start one morning. As a result their 6-year-old missed her school bus. Though it would make him late for work her father agreed to take her to school if she gave him directions. After 20 minutes of going in circles they finally arrived at the school, which turned out to be only a few blocks away from where they lived. Steaming, her dad asked why she drove him all over the place when the school was so close to home. “We went the way the school bus does,” she said. “That’s the only way I know.” Focused People Don’t Get In a Rut, Nor Do They Get Stuck and Stagnant! They Continuously Reinvent Themselves and How They Do Things. They Grow and Change Constantly! They Don’t Regress, They Progress! They’re Forever Moving Forward Looking to Do Better In 2020 Than They Did in 2010! If Everything You Do Is Still Done the Same Way and The People You Are Around Are Still the Same People, You My Friend Are In Serious Danger of Never Becoming Better!

(2) FOCUSED PEOPLE CONCENTRATE A LITTLE HARDER AND A LITTLE LONGER: Hall of Fame baseball player Hank Aaron said, “What separates a superstar from the average ballplayer is that he concentrates just a little bit longer.Focused thinking is the ability to remove distractions and mental clutter so that you can concentrate with clarity. Examine Your Thoughts, Examine Your Emotions, Examine Your Speech, Examine Your Attitude, Examine Your Heart, Examine Your Habits and Certainly Examine Your Associations and Immediately Remove Anything or Anyone That Clutters Your Clarity or Breaks Your Concentration! Keep In Mind: Folly and Focus Can’t Dwell In the Same Place!

(3) FOCUSED PEOPLE MAKE COMMITMENTS, NOT EXCUSES: A sign on the desk of an officer at the Pentagon read: The secrecy of my job does not permit me to know what I’m doing.It’s a cute joke, but not so cute when it’s true. When you don’t know what you’re doing, you become frustrated and end up failing. That’s why praying and getting direction from God, is critical for every area and aspect of your life.Do not swerve to the right or the left”, says the Scripture.  To ’Swerve’ means ‘to make an erratic deflection from an intended course.In other words, your lack of focus, when heading in the direction of your destiny will cause you to ’swerve– or stray from the intended course God has set for your life. Which is why you must always remember: In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” (NIV). And when He does—STAY FOCUSED!

“No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I FOCUS on this ONE THING: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead.” (Philippians 3:13 NLT)

The poorest man in the world is not the one without money, he’s the one without a vision for his life. But Vision requires Focus. When you’re spread too thin you become mediocre at everything and excellent at nothing! Failure always results from saying yes to too many things. Because something is good doesn’t mean it’s right for you. When your plate’s full doing what God has given you to do, learn to say no to everything else! “No” doesn’t mean never, it just means “not now.” If you try to fight on every front you’ll wear yourself out and fail to win where it counts most. Fighting a battle without spoils is like pouring water on a burning shack. Unless somebody’s life’s in danger it’s probably not worth fighting for. Conserve your energy for when something important is at stake!

Know that you’ll always lose when you: Fight the wrong battle; Fight at the wrong time; Fight when you shouldn’t be involved; Fight because you need to win in order to feel good about yourself; Fight, though the battle has been lost, but your pride won’t let you swallow it! Learn to Stay Focused on your goals. Keep your eyes on the prize that God has set before you. And be warned: If the enemy can’t defeat you, he’ll distract you with side issues or disqualify you by getting you to make bad decisions. Either way, he wins and you lose! 

No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I FOCUS on this ONE THING: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead.Notice 3 more things about Focused people:

(1) FOCUSED PEOPLE DON’T LIVE IN THE PAST: Too many of us yearn for the past and get stuck in it! Instead, we should learn from the past and let go of it. Elbert Hubbard wrote, “A retentive memory may be a good thing, but the ability to forget is a token of greatness. Successful people forget. They’re running a race. They can’t afford to look behind. Their eye is on the finish line. They’re too big to let little things disturb them. If anyone does them wrong, they consider the source and keep cool. It’s only the small people who cherish revenge. Be a good forgetter…success demands it.

(2) FOCUSED PEOPLE DON’T THINK ABOUT THE DIFFICULTIES, BUT THE REWARDS: If you dwell on the difficulties too long you’ll start to develop self-pity instead of self-discipline. As a result you’ll accomplish less and less. By focusing on results you’ll stay encouraged. Make Christ your example.He was willing to die a shameful death on the cross BECAUSE OF THE JOY HE KNEW WOULD BE HIS AFTERWARDS.” (Hebrews 12:2 TLB).

(3) FOCUSED PEOPLE CHOOSE THEIR FRIENDS CAREFULLY: Here are 5 types of people you’ll encounter: 1) REFRESHERS—who strengthen your faith and energize you; 2) REFINERS—who sharpen you and clarify your vision; 3) REFLECTORS—who mirror your energy, neither adding to nor subtracting from it; 4) REDUCERS—who try to diminish your goals and efforts to their comfort level; and 5) REJECTERS—who don’t understand you or what God’s called you to do. At some point in time you will have to encounter all five of these people! So, remain Focused and you’ll stay grounded; the praise of others is less likely to go to your head, and the negative impact of your critics will be minimized!

“Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee.” (Genesis 12:1 NLT)

I use to wonder why God would take people like Moses, or Abraham away from their familiar environments, after He called them. Uprooting them from family and friends to use them for greater works. But the more I look at where I was, where I’m at, and where I’m going, the more I understand why God does such a thing as this. The harsh reality is, there are many limits put on us By Our Very Own Loved Ones! Especially those that have watched us come up and fall down many times before. Often, their perception of us distorts our vision and causes us to doubt ourselves, God, and even the planned purpose He has for us. But what we must remember is, whenever someone says you can’t do it or be it, they are a liar! Because the Bible Clearly Declares,I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.” {Philippians 4:13} Understand that too often people will speak into your life, according to what THEY were able or NOT able to accomplish for their own. They will judge you based on what they could or Moreso, what they couldn’t do themselves. But Listen: A vision is only seen by the bearer of it and because you were selected to bear it, it is therefore invisible to others. In actuality, they only get to see the back of it, after the glory of it has passed by, (Exodus 33:12-21) That’s why folks get mad with you, because they want to see the personal face-to-face of your vision, but have to settle for the hind parts instead! So prepare yourself, because when you’re chosen by God to carry out a vision, not everyone’s going to understand what you’re doing or why.  So they’ll label you based on the outside, because they don’t have inside access! Don’t let them shift your focus because they can only see the container and not the contents! 

And they said one to another…this dreamer cometh…let us slay him…and we shall see what will become of his dreams.” {Genesis 37:19-20} Listen: Don’t feel bad when you don’t have a lot of friends and family around, or when people abandon you and walk away. Count it all joy, because those that God wants in your life will never leave and those that are from Him will never lead you astray. Friends and family are good to have, but many times God removes them so prepare yourself for it. Don’t fight it. Stop holding folks hostage in your life that need to be set free! Allow God to add and subtract what’s best for your multiplication! There’s so much more to you than meets the eye, so surround yourself with people that can see past your appearance. If you just Stay Focused, you’ll say like Joseph,…Don’t you see, you planned evil against me but God used those same plans for my good…” {Genesis 50:20} Need I remind you, Joseph didn’t say that to enemies, or even friends, but to FAMILY!

Isn’t this the carpenter?” {Mark 6:3} Please be careful around those who love to say, “I knew you when…” in an attempt to label or limit you. When David volunteered to fight Goliath his faith was an embarrassment to his big brother Eliab, an officer in King Saul’s army. Think of Eliab’s position, “If my little brother wins, everybody will ask, ‘How come you couldn’t do it—big brother?’” Beware: your decision to step out and follow God will put pressure on others around you! And the first place you’ll feel it will be amongst those closest to you, especially if your calling sets you apart, and takes you higher than them! The Bible records that Eliabburned with anger at [David] and asked, ‘Why have you come down here? And with whom did you leave those few sheep in the desert? I know how conceited you are and how wicked your heart is” (1 Samuel 17:28). Take Note: Before David could overcome Goliath, he had to overcome the thoughts and opinions of those around him, especially his family. And you will too! Look at the life of Jesus. When He went back to His hometown they said,What’s this wisdom…given him,…he even does miracles! Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son…they took offence at him. Jesus said to them, ‘Only in his hometown, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honor.’ He could not do any miracles there, except lay His hands on a few sick people and heal them…he was amazed at their lack of faith.” (Mark 6:2-6)

Bottom line: Don’t allow those “who knew you when”, to hinder where you’re going! Neither friend, family or foe! STAY FOCUSED!

“…Stay close to the king wherever he goes.” (2 Chronicles 23:7 NIV)

Commercial flying can be a real adventure. Like the day Pastor Ron booked a last-minute flight to the Northwest to support some Native American friends who had just lost their young son. He was supposed to fly into Spokane, Washington, but fog shut it down and he was diverted to another airport for the night. So, the airline put him up in a hotel overnight and promised they’d do their best to get him to Spokane the next morning. Pastor Ron knew if he didn’t get to the reservation that next day, he would have missed what he was going for. He really needed the real scoop on whether or not his plane was going to get into Spokane. Thankfully, from a casual conversation at the hotel, he knew who the captain was. So that next morning, as he waited around trying to get some word on the fate of his flight, he saw the captain headed for a pay phone in the airport. He made sure he got close to the captain; he was calling to check the current Spokane weather. Then, as he walked over to the gate agents in charge of his flight, Pastor Ron overheard him say, “Well, we’ll try Spokane, but I think there’s only a 20% chance we’ll get in. We’ll probably end up back in Denver where we started.” Well, that inside information helped Pastor Ron pursue alternatives – one of which got him where he needed to be, when he needed to be there.

There was one reason Pastor Ron knew where to go – He Stayed Close to the Captain. Actually, that’s how all of us are going to know what we’re supposed to do and where we’re supposed to go – and that’s by Staying Close to the Captain of our flight; Staying Close to Captain Jesus!

There are eight words in 2 Chronicles 23:7 that I’ve actually typed out and posted on my wall at work. These eight words remind me of the secret of knowing and doing what God has planned in any given situation. In this chapter, a coalition of military and spiritual leaders is working to put the rightful king on the throne in Judah – even though he’s only a boy. The temple staff, the Levites, are given a straightforward assignment, and here are those eight words,Stay close to the king wherever he goes.That’s our assignment, too. And when we fulfill this assignment, we’ll be led naturally and supernaturally – into the next steps we’re supposed to take. Just like that day at the airport when Pastor Ron got his direction just by staying close to the captain. He had the information Pastor Ron needed, but he never would’ve known that information Except For His Proximity to the One Who Knew. It’s like that with knowing God’s Will for our lives. It’s not your cleverness in figuring it out; It’s Your Closeness to the God Whose Will You’re Looking For! That’s actually the Focus of John 10, which describes us as sheep following our Shepherd. Jesus said,My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27) NIV. See, it’s about being where you can hear His voice – not figuring out some spiritual jigsaw puzzle called “The Will of God.”

If you’re needing to know God’s direction right now, don’t focus so much on figuring out The Plan. Focus on staying close to the Man, to Jesus, whose plan it is. Living in God’s Will isn’t supposed to be this stressful spiritual mystery game. Relax and do the things that get you really close to the person Who is the Pilot of your earth-journey. Or in the words of the Bible, “Stay close to the King … wherever He goes!“ Unfortunate in this day and time of the church, too much attention is being Focused on Fleshly Leadership! But God’s Word still declares:You can’t depend on anyone, not even a great leader. Once they die and are buried, that will be the end of all their plans. The LORD God of Jacob blesses everyone who trusts Him. God made heaven and earth; He created the sea and everything else. God always keeps His word. {Psalm 146:3-6 CEV}. Stop focusing on the arm of flesh, for it will fail you every time. Instead, Stay Focused on Your Captain, Your Leader, Your King, Whose Word Never Fails! Knowing With Assurance that Once He Gives You Direction, You Are Guaranteed to Make it to Your Intended Destination!

It is indeed my prayer that you will now set your heart, mind and spirit to the things of God and the Will of God for your life, and that you will allow nothing and no one to distract you or deter you from destiny, Not Even You! People of God, Stay Focused and Finish Strong! Because You’re Too Close to Manifestation to Lose Sight of the Vision Now!

“If your parents ever measured you as a child, they had you stand against a wall, and made a little pencil mark on the wall to show your growth. They did not measure you against your brother, or the neighbor’s kids, or kids on TV. When you measure your growth, make sure to only measure your today self by your past self. If you compare your relationships, your success, or your anything against anyone else, you are not being fair to you. Everyone has a different path, a different pace, and different challenges to face along the way.” (Doe Zantamata)

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

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“When the Valley is Better Than the Mountain!”

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2 Chronicles 20:25-26, “When Jehoshaphat and his people came to carry off the plunder they found more loot than they could carry off—equipment, clothing, valuables. It took three days to cart it away! On the fourth day they came together at the VALLEY OF BLESSING (Beracah) and blessed God (that’s how it got the name, VALLEY OF BLESSING).” (MSG)

So often we talk about the great “mountain-top experiences” of life. And they are indeed wonderful! After all, with all the work, sweat, time and energy it takes to get to the top of the mountain, who wouldn’t want to celebrate the accomplishment and relish in their time at the top? It’s a beautiful view from the top, so much to see, to embrace, to celebrate and enjoy. However, I’ve found myself to have that same experience in some of my valleys as well. Unfortunately, we often view the valley as the dark, depressing, miserable, defeated place, but I’ve come today to tell you, that couldn’t be further from the truth!

You see, there’s a beautiful spot in Vermont that my friend Pastor Jonathan and his family has loved to visit for many years. Through working in ministry together, God introduced them to some wonderful friends who made it possible for them to stay at the place they own. Pastor Jonathan will be the first to tell you, even to get there is beautiful! First, they drive through the Adirondack Mountains in New York State. And then they enter the Champlain Valley of Vermont. And as they’re leaving the one range of mountains they’re immediately and sometimes simultaneously looking at the next range; the scenic green mountains of Vermont.

Now, the inn they stay in is in the Valley between the two. So when they arrive, they look West at those mountains they’ve just been through, and they look East at those mountains they plan to explore tomorrow. It’s a great place to be in the middle of the Valley.

You see, all they’re really doing is visiting the Valley between those two Mountains. From one side they can see the mountain they’ve already come over, and from the other side they can see the mountain that they will come over. I believe God intends for us all to live in a valley just like that!

Well, to see that kind of living in action, let’s go to a dramatic example of the history of God’s ancient people in 2 Chronicles 20. Jehoshaphat is the Jewish king, and it says, “Some men came and told Jehoshaphat, ‘A vast army is coming against you’.” Well, frankly, this threat is overwhelming. But this godly king doesn’t get overwhelmed. Maybe nervous and scared, as many of us would, but certainly not overwhelmed. The Bible reads, “Then Jehoshaphat was afraid and set himself [determinedly, as his vital need] to seek the Lord; and he proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah. So [the people of] Judah gathered together to seek help from the Lord; indeed they came from all the cities of Judah to seek the Lord [longing for Him with all their heart].” (vss. 3-4 AMP).

Listen to some of his prayer to God: “Oh Lord,” he says, “God Are you not the God who is in heaven? Power and might are in your hand and no one can withstand you. Oh Lord God, did you not drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham? They have lived in it and they have built in it a sanctuary for your name.” (vss. 6-8) Now, what he’s doing here is, LOOKING BACK AT THE MOUNTAINS OF YESTERDAY: the walled cities, the barbaric tribes the Jews had to conquer, the taking of a Promised Land they didn’t even have an inch of yet, and all the challenges of living since then and building an incredible temple to God. And Jehoshaphat is grateful to God for making all those mountains that once looked so big into monuments to His love, and His power, and His faithfulness.

BUT THEN THE KING LOOKS AHEAD AT THE MOUNTAIN OF TOMORROW; this vast army coming. He says, “Oh Lord God, we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us.“(vs. 12) By the way, that feeling of powerlessness might be right where you are right now…but keep reading. “We do not know what to do (he says) but our eyes are upon You.” (vs. 12) Their eyes were not focused on the vast army…But, Our eyes are upon You.” And the Lord’s word to His servant, “Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army, for the battle is not yours but God’s.” (vs. 15)

The king is now trusting God for the mountains of tomorrow! Right there is the picture of a victorious life of faith; a life in which nothing is really overwhelming. Living in the valley between what God has done and what God is going to do. To put it simply, God leads you in such a way that there is always something to thank Him for and always something to trust Him for!

First, you’ve got to look back at the amazing works God has already done, and specifically thank Him for them. Your confidence grows as you remember all He’s already done. Can you imagine if we did this every time a crisis in our lives appears? Think about it, He’s provided before; He’s healed before; He’s delivered before; He’s made ways out of no way before. And according to the Word of God, He has not changed! “Jesus Christ is [ETERNALLY CHANGELESS, ALWAYS] THE SAME YESTERDAY AND TODAY AND FOREVER.” (Hebrews 13:8 AMP). So if He did it then, what makes you doubt Him now? When you were unemployed, He was there; when you were lonely, He was there; when you were discouraged, He was there; when you were hurting, He was there. What makes you think anything has changed, since the Bible declares “JESUS CHRIST IS [ETERNALLY CHANGELESS…”? The rent, mortgage, car note, car insurance, tuition, utilities were all a struggle before, and still He came through, so why is your faith shaken now? Why are you wavering now? Why are you doubting now? Why are you second guessing now? You’ve needed food, shelter, and transportation, before, and He came through, why are you fearful now?

This is not your first time in the valley! “Even though I WALK THROUGH THE [SUNLESS] VALLEY OF THE SHADOW OF DEATH…” (Psalm 23:4 AMP). Did you catch that? You’ve walked through the valley before! God never promised that you would stop visiting the valley, but the provision is still the same, “…I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod [to protect] and Your staff [to guide], they comfort and console me.” (AMP). You’ve been here before, and He was there with you then, and He’ll be there with you now! Never forget His power neither ascends or descends because of the height of the mountain or the depth of the valley you experience. “JESUS CHRIST IS [ETERNALLY CHANGELESS]…” No matter your location, He knows where to find you, after all, there’s no where you can go and be without Him!

Psalm 139:7-16, “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I run away from where You are?  If I go up to heaven, You are there! If I make my bed in the place of the dead, You are there!  If I take the wings of the morning or live in the farthest part of the sea, even there Your hand will lead me and Your right hand will hold me.  If I say, “For sure the darkness will cover me and the light around me will be night,” even the darkness is not dark to You. And the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are the same to You. For You made the parts inside me. You put me together inside my mother.  I will give thanks to You, for the greatness of the way I was made brings fear. Your works are great and my soul knows it very well.  My bones were not hidden from You when I was made in secret and put together with care in the deep part of the earth.  Your eyes saw me before I was put together. And all the days of my life were written in Your book before any of them came to be.” (NLV).

If God doesn’t lose sight of you in heaven, hell, or the earth, what makes you think He will suddenly develop cataracts and not be able to see you in the valley?!

Be like Jehoshophat, remember the mountains you’ve overcome in the past and let them restore your faith to overcome the mountains before you! You look at the mountain behind you…THEN you look ahead and you see all those huge challenges in front of you! And you trust Him for those just the same. Why? Because the same God who brought you through all the mountains before, will bring you through these as well! Never be discouraged by the valley, it’s an awesome strategic place to be positioned when you look at it from the right perspective. Hear the word given to Jehoshophat: “Don’t be afraid; don’t pay any mind to this vandal horde. This is God’s war, not yours. Tomorrow you’ll go after them; see, they’re already on their way up the slopes of Ziz; you’ll meet them at the end of the ravine near the wilderness of Jeruel. You won’t have to lift a hand in this battle; just stand firm, Judah and Jerusalem, and watch God’s saving work for you take shape. Don’t be afraid, don’t waver. March out boldly tomorrow—God is with you.” (vss. 16-17 MSG) That word “waver” is defined as “to move quiveringly; to flicker; to weaken; to falter; to be indecisive.” And that word “indecisive” means “not able to make decisions quickly and effectively.” But what is there for you to be indecisive about? God has already made the decision, “…This is God’s war, not yours… You won’t have to lift a hand in this battle; just stand firm… Don’t be afraid, don’t waver…” You have nothing to fear in the valley, because God’s got you!    

See, the battle is the Lord’s. Those five words say it all about this day and about each tomorrow in your life. It’s another day to trust Him. That’s what the valley does, it tests, exposes and builds your faith! “Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.” (James 1:2-4 MSG).

When looked at from the proper advantage point, the valley is a blessing, not a curse! The enemy wants you to believe that the valley is the place of discouragement, depression, and despair. A place of loneliness, dread, fear and worry. A place of doubt and guessing. A place void of God. And my friend, that couldn’t be further from the truth!

You see, in the valley you’re positioned between two mountains. You get to see where God has brought you and where He’s taking you at the same time. So when doubt and distress rear their ugly head, all you have to do is take a glance over your shoulder. Remember when God healed you, delivered you, protected you, provided for you, strengthened you. Remember when He restored your peace, joy, sanity, and life. Remember when you thought that last trial would take you out for good. When you thought that was it. That was the last straw. There’s no recovery from this…AND THEN…GOD! The valley tells your fears they have no power over you. The valley reminds you that you’ve conquered that, you got over that, you got past them. The rumors, lies, gossip, and backbiting that was designed to destroy you, fell apart at the seams! The valley is the place where you remind the devil that your God is walking with you while you walk your way through. The valley reminds you that what was supposed to kill you, ended up breathing new life into you!

“Joseph replied, “…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…” (Genesis 50:20 MSG). In this case, God didn’t get rid of Joseph’s enemies/haters/brothers, instead He kept them around so they would see that all they tried to do to ruin him, didn’t work. In fact, it all worked to his good and to his advantage. And to rub salt in the wound, God even positioned Joseph’s brothers to where what they needed could only come from the hands of Joseph! The one they hurt would be the only hand that could help them! God didn’t remove Joseph’s brothers from his life, and He won’t always remove your trials, challenges, haters, and valley’s from yours either. Because the greater blessing is that God can bless you while you’re still IN the valley! God doesn’t need you to come OUT of anything in order to bless you! He can bless you while you’re still IN it! “Nay, IN ALL THESE THINGS we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us.” (Romans 8:37). Did you catch that? “…IN ALL THESE THINGS…” God doesn’t need to bring you OUT, He can bless you, protect you, provide for you, go to battle on your behalf, and strengthen you, even while you’re still IN it! He proves His might and power by making us more than conquerors even while we’re still, “…IN ALL THESE THINGS…” Take heart, take courage! God will show OUT, while you’re still IN!

That’s the beauty of the valley. You get to look over your shoulder and remember what the Lord has done…and what should be your response? “Then Jehoshaphat knelt down, bowing with his face to the ground. All Judah and Jerusalem did the same, worshiping God. The Levites (both Kohathites and Korahites) stood to their feet to praise God, the God of Israel; they praised at the top of their lungs!” (vss. 18-19 MSG). Praise and Worship was the response to what we’ve already made it over!

BUT THAT’S NOT EVEN THE BEST PART!

Now you get to turn your ahead around, look forward and smile! Why? Because God gives you a view/vision of what He’s about to do NEXT!

“They were up early in the morning, ready to march into the wilderness of Tekoa. As they were leaving, Jehoshaphat stood up and said, “Listen Judah and Jerusalem! Listen to what I have to say! Believe firmly in God, your God, and your lives will be firm! Believe in your prophets and you’ll come out on top!” (vs. 20 MSG) We’ve made it over the last mountain-top, and now we’re about to conquer the next one! We’re about to “…COME OUT ON TOP!”

The valley now provides you with security that what God did before He’s able to do again! He defeated our enemies before, He’ll defeat them again. He healed, delivered, answered prayer, made provision and provided protection before, and He will do it again! And all we have to do is trust Him in the Valley for the next Mountain!

Jehoshophat and the people of God trusted their God so much in the VALLEY that they began to sing, praise and worship! And God’s response? “As soon as they started shouting and praising, God set ambushes against the men of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir as they were attacking Judah, and they all ended up dead. The Ammonites and Moabites mistakenly attacked those from Mount Seir and massacred them. Then, further confused, they went at each other, AND ALL ENDED UP KILLED. AS JUDAH CAME UP OVER THE RISE, looking into the wilderness for the horde of barbarians, they looked on a killing field of dead bodies—NOT A LIVING SOUL AMONG THEM. When Jehoshaphat and his people came to carry off the plunder THEY FOUND MORE LOOT THAN THEY COULD CARRY OFF—EQUIPMENT, CLOTHING, VALUABLES. IT TOOK THREE DAYS TO CART IT AWAY! On the fourth day they came together at the VALLEY OF BLESSING (Beracah) and blessed God (that’s how it got the name, VALLEY OF BLESSING).” (vss. 22-26 MSG)

AND YOU DIDN’T THINK THE VALLEY WAS A BLESSED PLACE TO BE!

People of God, all this was done, in the VALLEY, not on the Mountain! They sought God there, they received instructions there, they obeyed there, they prayed, praised and worshiped there, God placed ambushes against their enemies there, and it is there where they had their enemies cut off, and there that they carried off (equipment, clothing, valuables) so much so, that it took three days to carry it all away! But it’s there fourth day response that blessed me most, “…On the fourth day they came together at the VALLEY OF BLESSING (Beracah) AND BLESSED GOD (that’s how it got the name, VALLEY OF BLESSING).”

THEY BLESSED GOD IN THE VALLEY! WON’T YOU LET THAT BE YOUR RESPONSE TODAY IN THE MIDST OF YOUR VALLEY!

Remember: The valley is not a bad place to be positioned! It reminds you (and your faith) of what the Lord did before, and what He will do again! It’s a place of encouragement, empowerment, renewal, trust, hope and confidence. Truth is, Sometimes the VALLEY is Better Than the Mountain!

In closing, take some time to look at a few other VALLEY’S below, where the Blessings of the Lord prevailed!

Psalm 84:6, “Passing through the VALLEY of Weeping (Baca), they make it a place of springs; the early rain also COVERS IT WITH BLESSINGS.” (AMP)

Numbers 13:21-25, “With that they were on their way. They scouted out the land from the Wilderness of Zin as far as Rehob toward Lebo Hamath. Their route went through the Negev Desert to the town of Hebron. Ahiman, Sheshai, and Talmai, descendants of the giant Anak, lived there. Hebron had been built seven years before Zoan in Egypt. When they arrived at the Eshcol VALLEY they cut off a branch with a single cluster of grapes—IT TOOK TWO MEN TO CARRY IT—slung on a pole. They also picked some pomegranates and figs. They named the place Eshcol VALLEY (GRAPE-CLUSTER-VALLEY) because of the huge cluster of grapes they had cut down there. After forty days of scouting out the land, they returned home.” (MSG)

Joshua 11:7-9, “Joshua, his entire army with him, took them by surprise, falling on them at the Waters of Merom. God gave them to Israel, who struck and chased them all the way to Greater Sidon, to Misrephoth Maim, and then to the VALLEY of Mizpah on the east. NO SURVIVORS. Joshua treated them following God’s instructions: he hamstrung their horses; he burned up their chariots.” (MSG)

Genesis 26:16-18, “Then Abimelech said to Isaac, “Go away from here, because you are far too powerful for us.” So Isaac left that region and camped in the VALLEY of Gerar, and settled there. Now Isaac again dug [and reopened] the wells of water which had been dug in the days of Abraham his father, because the Philistines had filled them up [with dirt] after the death of Abraham; and he gave the wells the same names that his father had given them.” (AMP)

BLESSINGS, PROVISION, FRUITFULNESS, VICTORY, RECOVERY AND RESTORATION ARE ALL FOUND IN THE VALLEY!

TODAY, THANK GOD FOR YOUR VALLEY OF BLESSING!

“As you walk through the Valley of the unknown, you will find the footprints of Jesus both in front of you and beside you.” (Charles Stanley)

“Sometimes you must learn to appreciate the view in the Valley.” (Annette Harrison)

“Mountaintops inspire leaders but Valleys mature them.” (Winston Churchill)

“All of life is peaks and Valleys. Don’t let the peaks get too high and the Valleys too low.” (John Wooden)

“Everyone wants to live on top of the mountain, but all the happiness and growth occurs while you’re climbing it.” (Andy Rooney)

“No one gets to the top of a mountain without first going through a Valley.” (Steve Harvey)

“If you feel you are in a Valley today, don’t despair. Just put one foot in front of the other and continue on. Count your blessings with each step. You will soon see that you are on top of the mountain!” (Pinterest)

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: “The Healthiest Foods to Eat For Breakfast”

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“Your Giant Will NEVER Be Bigger Than Your God!”

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1 Samuel 17:48-51, “That roused the Philistine, and he started toward David. David took off from the front line, running toward the Philistine. David reached into his pocket for a stone, slung it, and hit the Philistine hard in the forehead, embedding the stone deeply. The Philistine crashed, facedown in the dirt. That’s how David beat the Philistine—with a sling and a stone. He hit him and killed him. No sword for David! Then David ran up to the Philistine and stood over him, pulled the giant’s sword from its sheath, and finished the job by cutting off his head. When the Philistines saw that their great champion was dead, they scattered, running for their lives.” (MSG)

One of the funniest things in the world to me is listening to a child’s perspective. After all, the world looks a little different through five-year-old eyes. Chase was five and he was the grandson of one of my dear friends. One day little Chase was out with his Mom, and they drove past this construction site and saw one of those giant cranes. Well, Chase got completely wide-eyed as he watched the humongous mechanized monster moving things around so powerfully! And then finally, in total amazement, he tried to find a way to express how big that crane looked to him. Here’s what he said: “Mommy, it’s bigger than God!

Which is the thought that brings us to 1 Samuel 17:33. Here, we’re watching the army of Israel being totally intimidated by Goliath, the Philistine giant/bully. Yet David, is this little guy who wants to go out and fight him! But Saul, the king, replies in verse 33, “…You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight him. For you are [only] a young man and he has been a warrior since his youth.” (AMP). And then in Verse 37, David says, “…The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.” And Saul said to David, “Go, and may the Lord be with you.” (AMP)

So by the time we get to verses 45-47, David Charges the Giant! David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.  This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and He will give all of you into our hands.” (NIV).

Now, the Israeli army looked at Goliath and said like Chase, “He’s bigger than God!” And therefore, they retreated!

David seemed like the least likely person to take on the giant, but he was the only person there who believed that God was bigger than the giant!

So David, it says, “…ran quickly toward the battle lines to meet him.” (NIV).

The Jews of Moses’ day and Joshua’s day? Well, they made the same mistake when they measured the challenge in front of them. They looked at the Promised Land and they saw walls, and cities, and warriors that were bigger than they were. Listen to Numbers 13:31-33,But the others said, “We can’t attack those people; they’re way stronger than we are.” They spread scary rumors among the People of Israel. They said, “We scouted out the land from one end to the other—it’s a land that swallows people whole. Everybody we saw was huge. Why, we even saw the Nephilim giants (the Anak giants come from the Nephilim). Alongside them we felt like grasshoppers. And they looked down on us as if we were grasshoppers.” (MSG).

The Contemporary English Version reads: “But the other men replied, “Those people are much too strong for us.”  Then they started spreading rumors and saying, “We won’t be able to grow anything in that soil. And the people are like giants.  In fact, we saw the Nephilim who are the ancestors of the Anakim. They were so big that we felt as small as grasshoppers.” (CEV)

They had men say in essence, “God’s Bigger Than Giants!” But unbelief won the day, and so the people got to spend 40 years wandering in the wilderness as a result! Listen to Numbers 32:10-13, “The Lord became very angry.  And he said that no one who was twenty years or older when they left Egypt would enter the land he had promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. NOT ONE OF THOSE PEOPLE BELIEVED IN THE LORD’S POWER, EXCEPT CALEB AND JOSHUA. They remained faithful to the Lord, but he was so angry with the others that he forced them to wander around in the desert forty years. By that time everyone who had sinned against him had died.” (CEV)

“It’s bigger than God!” That’s what unbelief says. It’s what worry is saying. It’s what fear is saying. It’s what discouragement is saying. We don’t really believe that theologically, but practically we seem to. We get beaten by the walls, beaten by the giants and the obstacles, because we think, “This one’s pretty big, maybe too big for God!”

But do you really want to miss the Promise because you doubt God’s Power? Do you really want to die in fear, because you didn’t live in faith? I think not!

So, what’s the big thing that’s making you afraid, making you discouraged? “These bills are bigger than God.” Really? “This crisis is bigger than God.” Is it? Really? “This pain, this illness, this family problem; it’s bigger than….” Oh, forget it! It’s nowhere near bigger than God! Nothing is! Compared to YOU, the challenge or the obstacle is huge. But what are you going to compare to GOD, who created and controls a hundred billion galaxies and everything in them? Why don’t you measure your monster next to Him? You’ll find your fear turning to faith and your stress melting into peace!

Where is your child-like faith, to replace your child-like fear? Why are you responding like little Chase, who doesn’t know any better? To him, everything is huge, even a machine compared to God, appeared (in his little mind) as bigger than God. However, you know better, so why is this your response and reaction?

You’ve seen God heal, you’ve seen God deliver, you’ve seen God save, you’ve seen God do the impossible, you’ve seen God turn it around in your favor. So why do you doubt Him now? You’ve seen God keep a roof over your head, clothes on your back, food on the table, clothes in the closet. So why do you doubt Him now? You’ve seen God protect you and provide for you. So why do you doubt Him now? What the doctors said before didn’t stop God from being God…what stops Him now? You’ve seen God grant you a job, a paycheck, insurance, transportation. So why do you doubt Him now?

People of God, we need to learn how to measure our giants by the size of our God, not our God by the size of our giants! After all, what can be measured against God?

Psalm 146 reads, “Hallelujah! O my soul, praise God! All my life long I’ll praise God, singing songs to my God as long as I live. Don’t put your life in the hands of experts who know nothing of life, of salvation life. Mere humans don’t have what it takes; when they die, their projects die with them. Instead, get help from the God of Jacob, put your hope in God and know real blessing! God made sky and soil, sea and all the fish in it. He always does what he says – he defends the wronged, he feeds the hungry. God frees prisoners – he gives sight to the blind, he lifts up the fallen. God loves good people, protects strangers, takes the side of orphans and widows, but makes short work of the wicked. God’s in charge – always. Zion’s God is God for good! Hallelujah!” (MSG)

Now, that’s how we need to view our God! Bigger Than All Things! Always in Charge no matter what becomes out of Control in our lives! Listen, there is absolutely nothing that God can’t do except lie and fail! So why are you allowing circumstances to crush your faith?

And I’ll be the first to tell you, this is not what I’ve read, but what I’ve lived. I know what it feels like to feel as though your marriage struggles are bigger than God; bills are bigger; the diagnosis is bigger; the pain is bigger; the enemies attack is bigger; the lack of employment is bigger; the lack of money is bigger; the lack of food and shelter is bigger. Been there! And I know first-hand the response on both sides. I know what it feels like to experience all of those things and feel as if God has forgotten you or that your situation is so big that God has to figure out a solution to your problem. And I can tell you personally, thoughts like that only bring about fear, worry, lack of sleep, loss of hair, loss of peace and joy, high blood pressure and the like. In other words, it does not help, it only hurts! But, I’ve also grown, matured and developed into a woman of faith. I learned to trust God to handle what I can’t get a grip on. And I’ve watched Him supersede even what I asked of Him in prayer. I learned how to look at obstacles, trials and struggles as only another means of increasing my faith, challenging my hope, and building my trust, dependence and reliance on Him. I learned that my hardships and hard times were only teaching me to do more than read the Scriptures, but to apply them, live them and walk in them. You can’t walk by faith while standing still in comfort. Stretched faith comes from uncomfortability and unfamiliarity! Listen to James:

James 1:2-4, “Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.” (MSG)

Tests, Challenges, and Pressures, Work FOR You, Not AGAINST You!

Truth is, if many of us weren’t tested or challenged to endure hardship and pressure, our faith would remain the size of a mustard seed for the entirety of our Christian Walk! And is mustard seed faith bad? Absolutely not! Listen to Matthew 17:20, “Because you’re not taking God seriously,” said Jesus. “The simple truth is that if you had a mere kernel of faith, a poppy seed, say, you would tell this mountain, ‘Move!’ and it would move. There is nothing you wouldn’t be able to tackle.” (MSG) How awesome is that?!

But, should we stay at the same mustard seed size of faith? I think not!

Romans 1:16-17, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation [from His wrath and punishment] to everyone who believes [in Christ as Savior], to the Jew first and also the Greek. For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed, both springing from FAITH AND LEADING TO FAITH [DISCLOSED IN A WAY THAT AWAKENS MORE FAITH]. As it is written and forever remains written, “THE JUST AND UPRIGHT SHALL LIVE BY FAITH.” (AMP)

Mustard seed faith is awesome! However, it’s a SEED for a reason! The word “seed” is defined as “a flowering plant’s unit of reproduction, capable of developing into another such plant; the beginning or process of something which continues to develop and grow; to stimulate growth and development; designed to produce and reproduce; to stimulate more of; offspring.” Some of its related words are: “fountain; spring; well; beginning; birth; genesis; inception; launch; onset; outset; start; threshold; creation; permeate.” And that last word “permeate” is defined as “to spread throughout; to pervade.” Its Latin Origin “permeare” means to “pass through.” In other words, your mustard seed faith should never remain stagnant as just a mustard seed. It’s a seed for a reason. It’s supposed to reproduce; develop; grow; continue; permeate and spread throughout! It’s supposed to pass through from one capacity to another. And if the Scripture says, “…there’s nothing you wouldn’t be able to tackle”, and that’s just with mustard seed faith, imagine what else you would be able to handle with increased faith? In addition, what else would you believe God for if you increased in faith? Maybe then when the bills come in you won’t lose your mind; maybe then when the doctor gives you a report, you’ll still believe the report of the Lord; maybe then when your marriage looks like it’s going down for the last time, it will go another round; maybe then when your children look as if their leaving the faith you’ve taught them, you’ll trust that what you’ve trained them, will not be forgotten; maybe then a layoff will cause you to take a leap of faith instead of lagging behind in fear.

So, are you encountering something really big right now? Well, be awed, but not by what’s big, but by your God who’s bigger! That’s what our little friend saw, something that was bigger than he was so he thought it was bigger than God is. Not So! Nothing and No One is, nor will ever be! That’s where we take heart and courage! Even when something is bigger than you, it’s never bigger than God (who is also IN you!) 1 John 4:4, “Little children, you are of God [you belong to Him] and have [already] defeated and overcome them [the agents of the antichrist], because HE WHO LIVES IN YOU IS GREATER (MIGHTIER) THAN HE WHO IS IN THE WORLD.” (AMPC)

No matter what you face today, it cannot defeat you! Like David, no matter how Goliath came at him, nor what he came at him with mattered. David knew he had the upper hand, because He had the Hand of God to hand him his enemies Head! 1 Samuel 17:48-51, “That roused the Philistine, and he started toward David. David took off from the front line, running toward the Philistine. David reached into his pocket for a stone, slung it, and hit the Philistine hard in the forehead, embedding the stone deeply. The Philistine crashed, facedown in the dirt. That’s how David beat the Philistine—with a sling and a stone. He hit him and killed him. No sword for David! Then David ran up to the Philistine and stood over him, pulled the giant’s sword from its sheath, and finished the job by cutting off his head. When the Philistines saw that their great champion was dead, they scattered, running for their lives.” (MSG)

People of God, You Serve a Big God, No Matter How Big the Battle is You’re Facing! Like David, You Will Win! But You Have to Remember to Increase Your Faith and Believe That When God Says I Got You, He’s Got You! Hebrews 13:5-6, “…God assured us, “I’ll never let you down, never walk off and leave you,” we can boldly quote, God is there, ready to help; I’m fearless no matter what. Who or what can get to me?” (MSG)

How dare we ever fear anything when God is bigger than everything, AND, He’s Promised to NEVER let us down or walk off and leave us?! God is ready to help you, so you need to live fearless, after all with God in you and with you, “Who Or What Can Get to You?!”

Don’t make the mistake of missing a miracle because you let something loom larger in your heart than the awesome God of the creation, the awesome God of the cross, the awesome God of an empty tomb, the awesome God of second chances; the awesome God of the universe; the awesome God that’s living in you and coming back for you! After all, if the cross, nails, thorns, spear, death, hell and the grave couldn’t stop or hinder God, what makes you think the gas and water bill that you can’t pay right now can?!

People of God, be encouraged today knowing that there is nothing too Big or too Hard or too Impossible for Your God to Handle! It Is Well, Because With God, We Win, No Matter What!

Romans 8:31-39, “So, what do you think? With God on our side like this, how can we lose? If God didn’t hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son, is there anything else he wouldn’t gladly and freely do for us? AND WHO WOULD DARE TANGLE WITH GOD BY MESSING WITH ONE OF GOD’S CHOSEN? Who would dare even to point a finger? The One who died for us—who was raised to life for us!—is in the presence of God at this very moment sticking up for us. Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture: They kill us in cold blood because they hate you. We’re sitting ducks; they pick us off one by one. None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—ABSOLUTELY NOTHING CAN GET BETWEEN US AND GOD’S LOVE BECAUSE OF THE WAY THAT JESUS OUR MASTER HAS EMBRACED US.” (MSG)

FRIENDS, BE ENCOURAGED! YOUR GIANT WILL NEVER BE BIGGER THAN YOUR GOD!

Jeremiah 32:17, “O Lord God! You have made the heavens and earth by your great power; nothing is too hard for you!” (TLB)

“The giant in front of you is never bigger than God who lives in you.” (Christine Caine)

“Focus on giants, you stumble. Focus on God, your giants stumble.” (DayStar)

“God will not allow any person to keep you from your destiny. They may be bigger, stronger and more powerful, but God knows how to get you to where you’re supposed to be.” (Spiritual Inspiration)

“Start calling yourself healed, happy, whole, blessed, and prosperous. Stop talking to God about how big your mountains are, and start talking to your mountains about how big your God is.” (Spiritual Inspiration)

“Make God bigger than your ‘what-if’s” (Christine Caine)

“Face the giants in your life, slay them and move on. Do not be daunted by the mistakes and failures in your life.” (Bishop T.D. Jakes)

“All David had was faith and a rock and he defeated a giant. All you need is faith in the Rock to defeat yours!” (Daystar)

“Sometimes God will put a Goliath in your life, for you to find the David within you.” (Author Unknown)

“King Saul thought Goliath was too big to fight, David thought he was too big to miss!” (Author Unknown)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PAY CLOSE ATTENTION TO WHAT HAPPENS NEXT!

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

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

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

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

And what does the Bible say about folks like this? “In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s Word all over again. You need milk, not solid food!” (Hebrews 5:12 NIV). Another translation reads like this:  “I have a lot more to say about this, but it is hard to get it across to you since you’ve picked up this bad habit of not listening. By this time you ought to be teachers yourselves, yet here I find you need someone to sit down with you and go over the basics on God again, starting from square one—baby’s milk, when you should have been on solid food long ago! Milk is for beginners, inexperienced in God’s ways; solid food is for the mature, who have some practice in telling right from wrong.” (MSG).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“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

Feel free to also join us at: http://www.selfcarewithdrshermaine.blogspot.com Today’s Lesson: “How to Start Running?”

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