“Keep Your Hand On Your Sword!”

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“But he stood his ground and fought the Philistines until his hand was weary and STUCK TO THE SWORD. But the Lord accomplished a great victory that day. The troops then returned to Eleazar, but only to plunder the dead.” (2 Samuel 23:10 CEB)

The Message Bible reads like this: “Eleazar son of Dodai the Ahohite was the next of the elite Three. He was with David when the Philistines poked fun at them at Pas Dammim. When the Philistines drew up for battle, Israel retreated. But Eleazar stood his ground and killed Philistines right and left until he was exhausted—BUT HE NEVER LET GO OF HIS SWORD! A big win for God that day. The army then rejoined Eleazar, but all there was left to do was the cleanup.” (2 Samuel 23:9-10 MSG)

Eleazar, one of David’s “…three mighty men…” was the kind of person who simply wouldn’t quit! When the Philistines attacked, we read, “he attacked and killed Philistines until his hand got tired and STUCK TO HIS SWORD…” What a tremendous picture of encouragement for those of us in the midst of battles right now! “…HIS HAND STUCK TO HIS SWORD…” In a nutshell: I simply want you to be encouraged to STICK WITH IT, EVEN IN BATTLE, AND WATCH GOD GIVE YOU A GREAT VICTORY!

However, if on the other hand you unfortunately decide to quit, walk away and throw in the towel, you must ask yourself what more can God do on your behalf? Because the truth is, you can’t Retreat and simultaneously expect Victory! And this is where many of us mess up!

Instead of sticking with it we give up on our children, discard marriages, throw away friendships, quit jobs, drop out of school, close businesses, change churches, etc… instead of being mature enough to stay in it and stick it out! 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) And with Scripture validation, I feel it is within my right to inform you that many of us are Immature, Under-Developed and Lacking in Many areas for no other reason than that we got out of things PREMATURELY!

Imagine what your daughter might have done if you didn’t give up; what might your son have soared in if you hadn’t given up on him; what might your husband have accomplished if you would’ve stuck it out through the rough patches a little longer; what might your wife have become if you would’ve wiped her tears instead of throwing in the towel; what profits might the business have seen had you worked at it just a little harder; what degree would you have by now if you hung in there a few more semesters; what growth might the church have experienced had you stayed on your post instead of switching pews and pulpits?

Sadly, we give up, give out and give in far too quickly and certainly far too often!

We fail to understand that Progression not Perfection is the Ultimate Goal!

Let’s face it, you will experience conflict, crisis, trials, struggles, heartache and heart-break, financial difficulties, set-backs, and the like. That’s all just a part of life! But does that give you just cause and reason to quit? Absolutely Not! After all, look at what Jesus said in John 16:33 in the following translations:

“…In this godless world you will continue to experience DIFFICULTIES….” (MSG);

“…In the world you have TRIBULATION and TRIALS and DISTRESS and FRUSTRATION…” (AMP);

“…While you are in the world, you will have to SUFFER…” (CEV);

“…In the world you’ll have TROUBLE…” (GWT);

“…Here on earth you will have MANY TRIALS and SORROWS…” (TLB).

So where on Earth did we get the false impression and faulty idea that life for the believer is roses with no thorns?! Especially since Jesus Himself forewarned all of us that we would have “…Difficulties…Tribulation…Trials…Distress…Frustration…Suffering…Trouble…and Sorrows…” And yet even knowing this In Advance, we still give up as soon as it looks like the sky no longer has sun, moon, stars, rainbows, and silver linings, and instead it’s just dark, bleak, rainy, cloudy, gloom-filled nights! When did we become so weak, that the only thing we have the strength to do is give up and walk away?!

Can you imagine if you planted a seed today and then went to the garden tomorrow expecting to see growth and since there was none, you uprooted the seed and threw it away! Now imagine doing that every time you don’t See Immediate Manifested Growth in other areas of your life! The Result Would Be That You Would NEVER Produce Anything! Maybe that’s where you are right now…every area of your life is filled with stagnant water and stunted growth. Well, just maybe the problem isn’t it or them, but YOU! Maybe you should stop hindering Manifestation based off your Improper Expectations! Think about it: Even God Uses and Respects Waiting and Time!

“There’s an OPPORTUNE TIME to do things, a RIGHT TIME for everything on the earth: A RIGHT TIME for birth and another for death,
A RIGHT TIME to plant and another to reap,
A RIGHT TIME to kill and another to heal,
A RIGHT TIME to destroy and another to construct,
A RIGHT TIME to cry and another to laugh,
A RIGHT TIME to lament and another to cheer,
A RIGHT TIME to make love and another to abstain,
A RIGHT TIME to embrace and another to part,
A RIGHT TIME to search and another to count your losses,
A RIGHT TIME to hold on and another to let go,
A RIGHT TIME to rip out and another to mend,
A RIGHT TIME to shut up and another to speak up,
A RIGHT TIME to love and another to hate,
A RIGHT TIME to wage war and another to make peace.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 MSG)

There is an OPPORTUNE TIME for Everything Under the Sun! So why are you so Impatient?!

The word “opportune” is defined as “done or occurring at an especially convenient or appropriate time.” Its Latin Origin “opportunus” comes from “ob” meaning “in the direction of” and “portus” meaning “harbor”. It originally described the wind driving towards the harbor, at varying times, hence the meaning “seasonal”. And that’s what we fail to realize before we quit, give up, throw in the towel and walk away! Everything in life is “seasonal”. Good and bad days alike! And “seasonal” is defined as: “fluctuating characteristics depending on varying times of the year.” So, just as we don’t experience Summer all year long, neither do we Experience Winter, Spring or Fall, all year long. The seasons alternate! They do not remain the same. And if you dare learn to apply that principle to friendships and relationships you’ll stop washing your hands of people when all you needed to do was wait for the season to change! Who wants to be in Summer all year long?! And although I think I can find a few people that might like the idea, the rest of the world would hate to miss out on all that the other seasons bring. Winter is pretty cold, but it also brings Christmas, New Year’s Eve, Valentines Day, Gift Exchanges, Family Gatherings Over Large Dinners etc. Meaning even Winter has its’ burdens and blessings! And when you look at it like that, you’ll not seek a divorce because you’re in Winter, instead you’ll look for the blessings that even Winter carries. Then you’ll determine to endure it because there is Always a changing of the seasons! I hope you’re really getting this. Because as a counselor, it’s heart-breaking to listen to story after story of demolished friendships and relationships that only required more communication, openness, laughter, time and a bit more perseverance and patience.

Listen to this true story: Truett Cathy is not only a Committed Christian, but he’s also one of the world’s most successful businessmen. He started Chick-fil-A with one small diner and it grew to more than 1,450 restaurants, making it the second largest quick-service chicken restaurant chain in America. As of September 2007, in Forbes Magazine’s listing of billionaires, Cathy was number 380 in the United States with a net worth of 1.3 billion dollars. And this was achieved even while remaining closed on Sunday’s which is one of the busiest sales days of the week. However, in his autobiography he tells of being so tongue-tied he could hardly put two words together. Then, three weeks after he opened his first store it burned to the ground. And if that’s not bad enough, when he finally got his second store, his brothers, who were his partners, were all killed in a plane crash. People advised him to quit. But instead he decided to trust God and keep trying! As a result his business employs thousands, and feeds millions every day! Truett Cathy took his setbacks and turned them into stepping stones!

And if he can endure THAT…you can endure THIS!

Now to our Scripture: “But he stood his ground and fought the Philistines until his hand was weary and STUCK TO THE SWORD. But the Lord accomplished a great victory that day. The troops then returned to Eleazar, but only to plunder the dead.” (2 Samuel 23:10 CEB); The Message Bible reads: “Eleazar son of Dodai the Ahohite was the next of the elite Three. He was with David when the Philistines poked fun at them at Pas Dammim. When the Philistines drew up for battle, Israel retreated. But Eleazar stood his ground and killed Philistines right and left until he was exhausted—BUT HE NEVER LET GO OF HIS SWORD! A big win for God that day. The army then rejoined Eleazar, but all there was left to do was the cleanup.” (2 Samuel 23:9-10 MSG)

The Scripture in varying translations say Eleazar kept fighting even though he was:

“…weary…” (CEB);

“…exhausted…” (MSG);

“…tired…” (ERV); and

“…cramped…” (GNT).

Yet, despite all of this, even in the midst of battle, HE NEVER LET HIS SWORD GO! In fact, the Scripture says it like this:

“…weary and clung to the sword…” (AMP);

“…weary and stuck to the sword…” (CEB);

“…cramped, yet couldn’t let go of his sword…” (CEV);

“…tired and stuck to his sword…”;

and my personal favorite, “…exhausted – but he never let go of his sword…” (MSG).

Imagine if we followed Eleazar’s example and even though in our friendships and relationships when we become “…weary…exhausted…tired…and even cramped…” we still refuse to “…let go…” instead we “…cling and stick…”

I love the way The Voice translation puts it: “but Eleazar stood his ground. He killed Philistine soldiers that day until his arm grew tired, but he never dropped his sword. The Eternal One gave them a decisive victory that day; and then the people came back, only to pillage the fallen.” (VOICE)

Despite how Eleazar FELT, he still “…stood his ground…” and “…never dropped his sword…” And what was the end result of his determination? Let’s see what the Scripture says:

“The Lord wrought a great deliverance and victory that day…” (AMP);

“…the Lord won an impressive victory that day…” (GWT);

“…the LORD wrought a great salvation that day…” (JUB);

“…the Lord gave him a great victory…” (TLB);

“…A big win for God that day….” (MSG);

“…The Lord saved many of His people that day…” (NLV);

Due to Eleazar’s persistence, determination, perseverance and fight, “…the Lord wrought DELIVERANCE…an IMPRESSIVE VICTORY…and SAVED MANY OF PEOPLE…” And all because one person decided I’m not giving up, giving out or giving in! I’m not quitting, throwing in the towel, or walking away. Instead I’m going to stand, cling, and stick it out despite how I feel, why? Because the Scripture says, “…The Lord won a great victory that day. AFTER IT WAS OVER…” (GNT)

Remind yourself that after this is over, me, my family, my children, my friends, my business, ministry and church will experience Deliverance, Victory and Salvation! And isn’t that worth it to hold on just a little while longer?

Today, Determine to Just Stick It Out! There Will Be Victory After This! But you have to keep your hand on your sword, and what is your sword? “…and the SWORD OF THE SPIRIT, WHICH IS THE WORD OF GOD.” (Ephesians 6:17 AMP)

Now, Eleazar had a physical sword, however, ours is more powerful! It is the very Word of God! And why is it so important that we know that? Because, “…though we walk in the flesh [as mortal men], we are not carrying on our [spiritual] warfare according to the flesh and using the weapons of man.  The weapons of our warfare are not physical [weapons of flesh and blood]. Our weapons are divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses.  We are destroying sophisticated arguments and every exalted and proud thing that sets itself up against the [true] knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought and purpose captive to the obedience of Christ,” (2 Corinthians 10:3-5 AMP)

We are not fighting flesh and blood, we are fighting principalities in the spirit! And that requires not a physical sword but a spiritual one, and one that we keep stuck to us like Eleazar’s sword! This is vital because as followers of Christ, we have to fight like He fought, and He fought using the Word of God! “Jesus replied to him, “IT IS WRITTEN AND FOREVER REMAINS WRITTEN, ‘MAN SHALL NOT LIVE BY BREAD ALONE.” (Luke 4:4 AMP); “Jesus replied to him, “IT IS WRITTEN AND FOREVER REMAINS WRITTEN, ‘YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD AND SERVE ONLY HIM.’” (Luke 4:8 AMP); “for IT IS WRITTEN AND FOREVER REMAINS WRITTEN, ‘HE WILL COMMAND HIS ANGELS CONCERNING YOU TO GUARD AND PROTECT YOU,’ AND, ‘THEY WILL LIFT YOU UP ON THEIR HANDS, SO THAT YOU DO NOT STRIKE YOUR FOOT AGAINST A STONE.’” JESUS REPLIED TO HIM, “IT IS SAID [IN SCRIPTURE], ‘YOU SHALL NOT TEMPT THE LORD YOUR GOD [TO PROVE HIMSELF TO YOU’” (Luke 4:10-12 AMP) And then what happened? “When the devil had finished every temptation, he [temporarily] left Him until a more opportune time.” (Luke 4:13 AMP)

People of God, this is how we are to fight in the Spirit, with the Word / Sword of God!

However, how can you use a Sword you don’t use?! You can’t use the Word of God against the enemy if you don’t know the Word of God for yourself! Which is why we are admonished to remember: 2 Timothy 2:15, “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)

What’s the best way to fight a liar? With the truth of course! And what does the Bible say about Satan? John 8:44, “You are of your father the devil, and it is your will to practice the desires [which are characteristic] of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks what is natural to him, for he is a liar and the father of lies and half-truths.” (AMP)

You can slay lying Satan with the truth, but you have to know the truth first in order to do so! And if you are not consistent in personal bible study time; Sunday school; and Bible study, how are you accomplishing this? You can’t wield a sword effectively if you don’t know how to! That’s like giving a baby a loaded gun, it doesn’t know how to use it effectively, but if he keeps picking and poking, eventually he’ll accidentally figure out how to pull the trigger which will be dangerous and deadly to himself and others, and all because he was given a weapon he wasn’t taught how to properly use! You know why? For a baby, it makes sense not to give a loaded weapon. But you’ve been saved how long now? Delivered how long now? Anointed how long now? Gifted how long now? Sitting under the Word of God for how long now? And you’re still haphazardly wielding a powerful sword?!

Please understand how powerful your Sword is: Hebrews 4:12, “For the word of God is living and active and full of power [making it operative, energizing, and effective]. It is sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating as far as the division of the soul and spirit [the completeness of a person], and of both joints and marrow [the deepest parts of our nature], exposing and judging the very thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (AMP) This is a powerful weapon, and it’s at your disposal by your God, and you’re not using it?!

2 Timothy 3:16-17, “All Scripture is God-breathed [given by divine inspiration] and is profitable for instruction, for conviction [of sin], for correction [of error and restoration to obedience], for training in righteousness [learning to live in conformity to God’s will, both publicly and privately—behaving honorably with personal integrity and moral courage]; so that the man of God may be complete and proficient, outfitted and thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (AMP) God gave you such a powerful weapon to wield that it can be used to hurt your enemy and help you at the same time!

People of God, please hear me, you are already equipped for every battle you’ll ever face in this life, natural and spiritual, and all you have to do is read it, apply it, live it and use it!

The Word of God needs to be so engrafted to you that it seems like another member attached to your body! James 1:21, “Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.” (KJV) “Engrafted” means, “to attach to, and become part of.” And doesn’t that sound a lot like Eleazar and his Sword?! He held it so long and tight that it may as well been a second layer of skin. And that’s how the Word of God has to be in your life! Never let your Sword go! Instead, grow with it, study how to use it, but whatever you do, don’t let it out of your hand!

And yes, that means when you’re tired, wearied, frustrated, attacked, treated unfairly, doesn’t matter, keep your sword in hand. Hold it tightly, because the more tightly you hold on to it, the more tightly it will teach you how to hold on to your loved ones, even in bad times, and yet, never let go!

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

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“There’s a Blessing Behind Closed Doors!”

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Psalm 42:1-5, “As the deer pants for water, so I long for you, O God.  I thirst for God, the living God. Where can I find him to come and stand before him?  Day and night I weep for his help, and all the while my enemies taunt me. “Where is this God of yours?” they scoff. Take courage, my soul! Do you remember those times (but how could you ever forget them!) when you led a great procession to the Temple on festival days, singing with joy, praising the Lord? Why then be downcast? Why be discouraged and sad? Hope in God! I shall yet praise him again. Yes, I shall again praise him for his help.” (TLB)

Anyone that knows me knows that I am a bookaholic! I read everything! There is absolutely no time in which there isn’t a book in my hand, on my desk, in my bag, or on my nightstand. I love reading books! And when my daughters were little, I would always make sure that they had reading time at home. They had to read a book, and give me a book report, yes, even as little tots! I always wanted them to be educated, intelligent and in the know. And I made sure that they read everything from Encyclopedias, to Dictionary’s, to Novels, to Magazines and Newspapers. I pushed them hard to read, and to this day, nothing has changed, they still love to read (but for some reason, they refuse to give me book reports any longer) go figure.

Well, unlike many kids today, my children spent a lot of time at the public library. I would take them, they would find their particular book and I would find mine. But there’s one particular memory about our library trips that I remember most. It’s what stirred today’s devotional. Me and the girls, as usual, went to the library, however, this time was different when we got there. Usually, it would be full of parents, guardians and kids, but this time there was no one. And it suddenly dawned on me that this time wasn’t a good time to go. You see, this was the time in which they traditionally conducted their inventory. Yep, what a lousy time to go to a place you really want to be in, but you can’t, because they were shut down to take stock.

Now, before we go on, let’s define this word “inventory”. It means “a complete list of items such as goods in stock or the contents of a building; a quantity of goods in stock.” Its Latin Origin “inventarium” means “a list of what is found”, from “invenire” which means “to discover”. Inventory is conducted to discover what’s good, what’s bad, what’s out-dated, what’s needed, what’s no longer needed, and how much of all of this is present. Inventory is done to find out the cost of the good and the cost of the bad, in stock.

With that in mind, there was one man in history who was called the man after God’s own heart by God Himself. His name was David. It’s this man whose personal spiritual diary is in your possession. It’s called the book of Psalms. One of those is in Psalm 42; it’s a real look inside David’s heart. No pretense, no mask, no phoniness, no cover-up, but the real heart of David.

Psalm 42 beginning at verse 1, “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.” Then here arises David’s question, “When can I go and meet with God?” Now what’s David’s frame of mind in this Psalm? Well he reveals it in verse 3, “My tears have been my food day and night.He later describes himself as being downcast, and disturbed. In a word David is struggling. In essence, something’s not right. But instead of sinking, he knows the lifeguard to call on for help. He says this in the Psalm, “My soul is downcast within me: therefore I will remember You.

Here, David is much like the library, he’s saying it’s time to close the store and meet with God. It’s time to take an inventory of my life and where I am right now. It’s time to discover what’s good, what’s bad, what’s out-dated, what’s needed, what’s no longer needed, and how much of all of this is present. It’s time to find out the cost of the good and the cost of the bad, I have in stock.

Maybe it’s that time for you too. It’s time to meet with God, let Him close the door (that no man can open) and you take close inventory. Truth is, we can only go but so long without time away from all the other voices. And can we dare be honest? There are a lot of voices. Our spouses, children, family members, coworkers, bosses, clients, church, neighbors, and the list could go on forever. Someone, somewhere is constantly talking to us about something. But with so many voices to listen to from day-to-day, when do you get quiet time just to hear the voice of the Lord? And isn’t that the one voice we can’t afford to ignore?

Life has a strange way of simply spinning out of control without a periodic time of uninterrupted inventory with God. Because, besides listening to all the other voices, we also have jobs, school, responsibilities, appointments, meetings, and once again, the list could go on and on. For instance, there was a time when I was heading out the house for work with a million things on my mind, court dates for work, teaching sessions, leadership workshops, preaching engagements, my mom’s doctor appointments and bills that needed to be paid, on top of handling the household affairs of my own house, and my own doctor appointments etc… All of the distractions didn’t dawn on me until I was almost to work, and a woman on her phone stepped out into the street on a green light and was almost hit by a car. She screamed “Jesus! Thank God I prayed before I left home this morning!” And that’s when it hit me…did I pray this morning? I honestly couldn’t remember. I had so much to do, so many places to be, so many meetings to attend, so many workshops to facilitate, so many decisions to make, I simply couldn’t remember praying before I left home. That’s a rarity for me, since walking around in the quiet of my living-room is my absolute favorite place to pray every morning. But somehow that morning, I didn’t “have time to pray.” But when I finally got to my job, I went in my conference room and just sat quietly for a moment. As ironic, and maybe even comical as it may sound, my silent prayer to God was asking God, “did I pray this morning?” So grateful that He didn’t disconnect His communication with me, because I could clearly hear Him say… “No…” Immediately I wondered what God’s grace, mercy, favor and protection had spared me from, as I walked along the morning without ever asking Him to keep me covered by His blood and by His name? I thought about that woman so distracted by her phone that she almost lost her life getting struck by a car, but even in her distraction, she still remembered that she’d prayed that morning.

I know for most, that sounds tragic coming from a preacher, but it’s my truth. Sometimes I can get so busy (with both the good and the bad) that I don’t take time out for God or even for myself. Even more disturbing is that morning prayer, in particular, is my most favorite. I always come out of morning prayer feeling like a super-hero (don’t laugh!) But I do. I feel like I have God, all His angels, the whole armor of God and the whole host of heaven walking out the door with me to face the day. I feel so inspired, empowered, encouraged, lifted, strong, and yet, I was too busy that day to pray.

I do hope this will encourage and inspire you to re-evaluate (and do a personal inventory) of your life. Go to God like David did, “Lord, when can I meet with You?” God will close the door, and you will have uninterrupted, personal time with your Savior. Which makes me think of the many times in the Bible (Old and New Testament) when a door was closed, there was often a miracle performed on the other side of it. From Noah and Elisha to Jesus and the Disciples, something awesome happens, when doors are closed!

Stores know you can’t really take stock of what you have while you’re still selling and servicing customers at the same time. They have to close the doors. They have to hang out a closed sign to do it. It’s the same spiritually, mentally and emotionally for us. Because it’s hard to really see where you are and where God wants you to be while you’re still meeting all the demands of your daily responsibilities and servicing all the “customers” in your life. It’s hard to know what You need, while simultaneously serving all the needs of others.

But what I’ve learned (albeit the hard way) is that you have to value you enough to ask God to close the door because you need to meet with Him to re-evaluate your inventory.

One of the things I hate the most (especially when it comes to my hair products) is when I go to the beauty supply for something specific (usually something I absolutely love), only to have them tell me “we have to order more”. UGH! Well, Miss, I (like every other woman) knew at 9am this morning that I would be washing my hair at 7pm this evening, and I came in here for the Only shampoo I use! What do you mean, “we have to order more”, or “we’re out of stock”. Either phrase will get you a roll of the eyes or a snap of the neck or worse, a fierce comment! However, that only happens when you over-estimate or under-estimate your stock! And doing inventory is designed to avoid that very thing. But how many times do we all make this mistake in judgment? Either we’re more empty than we thought, or assume we’re more full than we are. Which is why inventory is so vital.

There must be those times when you hang out the closed sign and just say, “I’m all yours, God.” Spend some extended time with your Lord. Remember David’s question: “When can I go and meet with God?” It might be a day; it might be a couple of days or once in a while a longer period of time. And what you do is, just take you, your bible, a pen, and a big notepad to write down what comes to you while you’re listening to the Lord and you can expect Him to fill that pad. He loves when we come to Him with an empty piece of paper, instead of our own full personal agenda.

This is one of the greatest gifts you can give to your spouse; taking over their responsibilities so they can close for inventory. It’s a gift to you too. You get a better husband or wife out of the deal. A son or daughter can offer extra help so their mom or dad could spend this time. A church or a ministry is wise to allow, even to encourage their leaders to stop all the business and running the church machine, and take time out for inventory. Truth is, many marriages, relationships, friendships, businesses, and churches are going under because everyone is too busy to do inventory. You need some quiet time away from it all (and them all) to sit with God and see what’s good, what’s bad, what’s out-dated, what’s no longer needed, what requires more. If not, you’ll find yourself still trying to make deposits in others, when you’re depleted yourself.

In honesty, there are some relationships/friendships/companions we no longer need, and we’re stressed out over their very presence. However, if you took the needed time to sit behind closed doors and talk to God, He would’ve shown you that months even years ago. Many of us have people, places and things that have been long out-dated, and still they’re hanging onto us because we haven’t taken out the necessary time to re-evaluate them, and realize that keeping them is far too costly!

Listen: When you do go meet with God, open up every corner of you to His search light. Psalm 139:23-24, “Investigate my life, O God, find out everything about me; Cross-examine and test me, get a clear picture of what I’m about…” (MSG) You need to ask the Lord to do this for you. That word “investigate” means “to carry out a formal inquiry so as to establish the truth.” Its Latin Origin “investigare” means “to trace out”. When you “trace” something, it means “to find out by investigation”. And there are simply some things in your life that you will never discover need to be removed from your life until the Lord does His own private investigation. It’s not until you sit with the Lord, with your undivided attention, and listen attentively to Him, that you’ll be able to finally trace where your exhaustion is coming from; where your discouragement is coming from; where your depletion is coming from; where your peace, joy and contentment are going. It’s not until then when you’re able to trace where your aggravation is coming from. It takes investigation, and investigation doesn’t happen in 5 minutes. You need time to spend time with the Lord. You’re losing too much sleep, money, sanity and strength. You need to trace the source.

You need to deal with wrong actions, and wrong attitudes that have developed. Stand back with Him and get the big picture again. Then ask Him to help you see each of the key people in your life as He sees them – through His eyes. And when He says he goes…then you let him go! When He says she stays, whether you like it or not, she stays! You need clear and concise guidance and direction, and you can’t get that surrounded by a multitude of noisy distractions!

So how long has it been since you closed for inventory? Are you afraid they’ll get mad? Are you afraid you may miss an opportunity? Are you afraid the time a part will destroy the relationship/friendship? Are you afraid you’ll miss out on money? Are you afraid you’ll lose ‘friends’, posts, likes, and tweets? Are you afraid you’ll lose your seat, title, office and position? Are you afraid you’ll lose your ring and robe? What has you so afraid of temporary closed doors, that will grant you permanent peace? Listen, anytime you spend time with the Lord, you Gain…you never Lose! So anything (or anyone) that falls off in your silence, was a quiet blessing!

God has so much He wants to show you and you need to hear His voice so much. You’ll come out of that seeking time really ready for business again. But first you have to be still and know that He is God. You Have to Take Time to Be Still! Some may not like this, but I’ll say it anyway, you are not that anointed, gifted, talented, important and vital that all of the world and the Kingdom of God will go on hold because of your absence.

Know when you need a Break before you’re Beyond Repair!

Jesus shares these interesting words in Luke 14:28-30, “Is there anyone here who, planning to build a new house, doesn’t first sit down and figure the cost so you’ll know if you can complete it? If you only get the foundation laid and then run out of money, you’re going to look pretty foolish. Everyone passing by will poke fun at you: ‘He started something he couldn’t finish.’” (MSG) You need to have the Lord close doors, and sit you down to do inventory. You need to know if you have all that you need to do and be all that the Lord desires, or are you missing something? And if you are, do you even know what it is? Well, you’ll never know until you sit down and count the cost. Do your inventory before you start the business, open the church, relocate, marry him/her, go to school there, take this job… Can you finish what you started with what you have? And I understand potential and ambition, dreams and desires, but I also understand the importance of time with God to hear His voice and heed is direction. You need to know how much you’ve gained by having her in your life, you also need to know how much you’ve loss by having him in your life. And you’ll never know either without time with God.

I’m a firm believer that God closes doors to force you to turn to Him, so He can finally point you in the direction, to the right door, you should’ve entered. Even David knew that. Because as distressed as he was, he at least knew he needed some time with God. He said, yes, I’m going to praise Him again, but for right now, I need some help with what I’m feeling. So do you, and that’s not a bad thing to admit.

Let God close the door, so you can both sit down and reason together, what’s working and what’s not. Where is the gain and where is the loss? What should be added, what should be taken away? And you can’t sit with God, while you’re busy serving others. You need to put your “closed for inventory” sign up, and let people know, “not today…” You’re not out of commission permanently, you’re just under New Management, and receiving some Over-Due Repairs, and when you open for Business again, this time, you’ll turn a better Profit! Let God restructure and renovate you and your life. Let Him go over the plans and look at the numbers. Let God Handle It, and Take Your Hands Off It. You need a break from being everything to everybody all the time. Let God replenish you. Let God restore you.

Keep in mind: YOU are not the only person people can go to! For instance, there were other libraries I could’ve taken the girls too, and there were other beauty supply stores I could’ve went to. In other words, get rid of your Elijah Complex, You Are Not the Only One God Has Left to Use!

Today, Ask God For a Meeting, and When He Closes the Door, Take Out Your Pen and Pad and Do Some Much Needed Inventory!

Listen to Matthew 6:6:

“But when you pray, go into your [MOST] PRIVATE ROOM, AND, CLOSING THE DOOR, pray to your Father, Who is in secret; and your Father, Who sees in secret, will reward you in the open.” (AMPC)

“But when you pray, GO TO YOUR ROOM, SHUT THE DOOR, and pray to your Father who is present in that secret place. Your Father who sees what you do in secret will reward you.” (CEB)

“When you pray, GO INTO A ROOM ALONE AND CLOSE THE DOOR. Pray to your Father IN PRIVATE. He knows what is done in private, and he will reward you.” (CEV)

“But when you pray, GO AWAY BY YOURSELF, ALL ALONE, AND SHUT THE DOOR BEHIND YOU and pray to your Father SECRETLY, and your Father, who knows your secrets, will reward you.” (TLB)

 “Here’s what I want you to do: Find a QUIET, SECLUDED PLACE so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace.” (MSG)

“But you, when you pray, go into YOUR INNER ROOM, CLOSE YOUR DOOR and pray to your Father who is in SECRET, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” (NASB)

“When you pray, go into a room by yourself. After you have shut the door, pray to your Father Who is in secret. Then your Father Who sees in secret will reward you.” (NLV)

BASED ON THESE TRANSLATIONS, HOW IS YOUR BEHIND CLOSED DOORS MEETING SUPPOSED TO BE DONE WHEN DOING INVENTORY WITH GOD?

YOU ENTER YOUR MOST PRIVATE ROOM AND CLOSE THE DOOR; YOU GO TO YOUR ROOM AND SHUT THE DOOR; YOU GO INTO A ROOM ALONE AND CLOSE THE DOOR BEHIND; YOU GO AWAY BY YOURSELF, ALL ALONE, AND SHUT THE DOOR BEHIND YOU IN SECRET; YOU FIND A QUIET, SECLUDED PLACE SO YOU’RE NOT TEMPTED TO ROLE PLAY BEFORE GOD; YOU GO INTO YOUR INNER ROOM AND CLOSE YOUR DOOR; YOU GO INTO A ROOM BY YOURSELF AND SHUT THE DOOR!

IN OTHER WORDS, THIS IS A PRIVATE MATTER BETWEEN YOU AND GOD! NOT YOUR PRAYER CIRCLE, NOT YOUR BFF, NOT EVEN YOUR PASTOR, SPOUSE OR CHILDREN! YOU AND GOD ALONE NEED TO HAVE THIS CONVERSATION AND COMPLETE THIS INVENTORY! SO BY NO MEANS THINK THAT YOU ARE BEING SELFISH, THIS IS ABOUT SELF CARE! AFTER ALL, YOU ARE NO GOOD TO THE BODY OF CHRIST IF YOU CAN’T EVEN TAKE PROPER CARE OF YOUR OWN BODY!

DO NOT TAKE THIS LIGHTLY! LIKE DAVID, SET ASIDE YOUR MEETING TIME WITH GOD, TAKE YOUR PEN AND PAD, AND GET TO WORK! WE HAVE NEED OF A HEALTHY, HEALED AND WHOLE YOU IN THE KINGDOM OF GOD TO AID IN FIXING THIS FRACTURED WORLD!

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: “There’s a Blessing Behind Closed Doors”

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“Carry God Correctly!”

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2 Samuel 6:3, “And they set the ark of God upon a new cart and brought it out of the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill; and Uzzah and Ahio, sons of Abindab, drove the new cart.” (AMP)                     

For those of you desiring to be a True Soul Winner for God, then the First Key you must remember is to Carry God Correctly!  

God cannot be sprayed on like cologne, used as a scent to cover up our sinful stench! Nor can He be used like a credit card, hidden, and taken out only when needed to be used! No, God Must Live IN You and Through You! 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, Do you not know that your body is the temple (the very sanctuary) of the Holy Spirit Who LIVES WITHIN YOU, Whom you have received [as a Gift] from God? You are not your own, You were bought with a price [purchased with a preciousness and paid for, made His own]. So then, honor God and bring glory to Him IN your body.” (AMP).

Truth is, it’s getting really hard for the people of God to be Effective in reaching out to the world because the world is starting to believe in their own Form of Righteousness and even though they have No Commitment to God, they believe that they are heaven bound! This is going to step on some Sanctified Toes, but the Truth of the Matter Is: This is the Churches Fault! 2 Timothy 3:5, For [although] they hold a form of piety (true religion), they deny and reject and are strangers to the power of it [their conduct belies the genuineness of their profession]. Avoid [all] such people [turn away from them].” (AMP).

Church, We have made So Many Excuses For Ourselves, And Them, going after Money Instead of Deliverance or Preaching Feel Good Messages Instead of Preaching the Total Truth, that Now, the World is Walking Alongside the Church As If They Are Okay! However, the Word of God Has Commanded Us: “So, come out from among [unbelievers], and separate (sever) yourselves from them, says the Lord, and touch not [any] unclean thing; then I will receive you kindly and treat you with favor.” (2 Corinthians 6:17 AMP). 

When we Hide the Truth, We Give No Reason For Change To The World! We have to remember at all times, Believers Don’t Blend!

Again the Church Is Commanded: 2 Corinthians 6:14-16, Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers [do not make mismated alliances with them or come under a different yoke with them, inconsistent with your faith]. For what partnership have right living and right standing with God with iniquity and lawlessness? Or how can light have fellowship with darkness? What harmony can there be between Christ and Belial [the devil]? Or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? What agreement [can there be between] a temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God; even as God said, I will dwell in and with and among them and will walk in and with and among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” (AMP). 

Understand This: When We Are “Of” The World, Then We Promote It And Cause the World to Accept a Form of Godliness, Instead of a Godly Lifestyle! It’s All About How WE (THE CHURCH) Carry God In Our Daily Lives, PUBLICLY AND PRIVATELY! The World Should See a Distinctive Difference Between Us and Them. Our Homes, Families, Character, Integrity, Work Ethics, Dress Attire, Habits, Lifestyle, Should All Send a Clear Message Between Light and Dark, Clean and Unclean, Holy and Unholy, Saved and Unsaved, Believer, and Unbeliever! Church, Let’s Come Out of Acting Like the World, So We Can Bring the World Into the Church! We Can’t Help Them When Our Behavior is No Different From Them.

Listen: In this passage of Scripture, we find a group of people that are Trying to Carry God’s Ark (Which Represents His Presence), BUT They Did Not Follow His Commandments!

Let me say it like this: These guys Decided to Put God on a Vehicle and Carry Him to a Certain Place. HOWEVER, God Commanded that They Carry Him By the Hands of the Sanctified Levites and that They Carry Him By the Handles that were Attached to it! BUT, They Came Up With the Bright Idea to Place Him On a Cart and Drive Him By Oxen! Well, when the cart hit a bump, the Ark Got Off Balance and Uzzah Reached Out to Stabilize it. When He Touched It, He Was Struck Dead On the Spot! But the Moral of This Story Is Not that Uzzah Touched the Ark of God, BUT the Whole PROCESS of Carrying the Ark was WRONG!

Church, in case you didn’t know, Disobedience Leads to Death and Dethroning! Just Ask Saul! Then Samuel said, Do you think all GOD wants are sacrifices—empty rituals just for show? He wants you to listen to him! Plain listening is the thing, not staging a lavish religious production. Not doing what GOD tells you is far worse than following around in the occult. Getting self-important around GOD is far worse than making deals with your dead ancestors. Because you said No to GOD’s command, he says No to your kingship.” (1 Samuel 15:22-23 MSG).

Amazing, You Can Either Have It All Or Lose It All And It All Simply Depends On Obedience!

God Did Not Want Them to Carry Him Like That! Uzzah reached out and tried to Help God, BUT He Shouldn’t Have Been Carrying God Like That In the First Place! Even Though Their Motives Were Good, the Process of Getting God to the People Was Wrong! And That’s What We Must Remember Today! If We Are Going to Reach the Lost, We Have to Carry God Correctly!

2 Corinthians 5:16-20, “Because of this decision we don’t evaluate people by what they have or how they look. We looked at the Messiah that way once and got it all wrong, as you know. We certainly don’t look at him that way anymore. Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it! All this comes from the God who settled the relationship between us and him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other. God put the world square with himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins. God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing. We’re Christ’s Representatives. God Uses Us to Persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God’s work of making things right between them. We’re Speaking For Christ Himself Now: Become friends with God; he’s already a friend with you.” (MSG).

In A Neat Little Nutshell: You Can’t Convert Them Into a Right Relationship With God, Carrying God Wrong!

Listen: As Christ’s Representatives, We Can’t Afford to Mix God Up in Our Selfish Agendas, BUT We Must Stick to the Bible and Understand How He Wants Us to Walk in This World!

“See then that ye Walk Circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise.” (Ephesians 5:15). The Word “Circumspectly” means to be “Cautious and Prudent” Its Latin Origin “Circumspectus”, from “Circumspicere” literally means to “Look Around”. In other words, whether it be in your thoughts, words, actions, motives, intentions, or attitude, Be Cautious and Prudent, Take the Time to Look Around You, there is a Whole World Watching How You Walk! And Many will either stay the same, change for the better, or change for the worse, Simply and Literally By Watching How You Walk!

“Prudent” means “Acting with or showing care and thought for the future”; Its Latin Origin “Prudens”, from “Providens” literally means “Forseeing” As a part of witnessing, it is our job as the church not to see people (unbelievers) as they are Currently, but as they Can Be In Christ! We have the ability to Forsee Them Being Saved, Sanctified, Healed, Delivered and Changed! Therefore, we walk in such a manner as not to foolishly hinder what could be a fruitful future for them in the Kingdom! Which means, we must take such care in our walk because they are watching and will thereby imitate…For Better Or For Worse!

Think of it this way: A small child learning how to put their shoes on needs assistance, teaching, direction and an example shown because of their lack of knowledge in how this is to be done. And looking to an adult, who they believe knows all about this stuff, obviously, they come to us to show them how to do it. Can you imagine if we told them the left shoe goes on the right foot, and the right shoe goes on the left foot? Sounds comical, but do you know that they’re going to do it! Why? Because they trust that what We Tell Them and Show Them Is Correct! After all, why would we, who supposedly love them, want to tell and show them something that is not only wrong, but painful, and which can eventually lead to a difficult walk and deformity?

However, the truth is, that’s exactly what we, the church, has been doing to the world! We’ve been telling them one thing and doing another! And in confusion, they’re doing both…what we say and what we do, and then we’re wondering why are they so screwed up and confused…BUT WE CAUSED IT!

And while we’re talking about teaching people to walk right, there’s another little thing to keep in mind. As parents, we often check our children’s feet and shoes as they grow older because we always want them to be in the Appropriate Size! Likewise, don’t just get the “glad glads” when someone comes to Christ and then just leave them at the altar! Babes in Christ are no different than Babies, to Children, To Teens, To Young Adults, To Adults. They need help throughout all their stages of life and growth! Teach them throughout each Transition! Listen, you can’t get mad when they’re 16 and still struggling trying to walk in the same size shoe as when they were 6, when you never helped them out of it! You see, the danger is that once a person does something consistently (be it right or wrong), it develops into a habit, and that habit (be it good or bad) will become their normal way of life. So, if we tell the world to put out their cigarettes, get rid of the bottle, flush the drugs, we better make sure those things have already been delivered from us first! Because when we compromise before the world, we compromise the eternity of the world. We can’t tell them to start a new way of life, when we haven’t stopped our old way of living. In addition, we can’t set low standards that say you can cuss (just not on Sundays); you can drink, get high, and smoke 2 packs a day (just not on Bible Study nights); you can fornicate, commit adultery, lie, steal, cheat, be unforgiving and spiteful (just not when you see other believers around). We have to stand out so distinctively it makes the world come to us asking questions! Which is why you don’t see an influx of unbelievers visiting churches. For what? When what’s going on within the 4 walls of the church is the same thing going on within the 4 walls of the club! Why would they come to church to learn how to live right, when we’re comfortable living wrong? Church, we have to do and be better. We have to set the bar as high as God’s character and integrity, especially since we’re going around using His Name (Christ) to describe ourselves (Christians)! My former pastor used to say, ‘bring no shame to the family name.’ Well, if you were charged for bringing shame to the Kingdom of God family name, would you be found innocent or guilty? And yes, that includes your public AND private life!

It’s our job to make sure that unbelievers come to Christ, and it’s our job to continue walking with them along their journey! However, that is difficult to do when we keep changing up the rules of Salvation depending on the Circumstance of Life we find ourselves in! We can’t call what they do sin on Saturday, when we do the same thing on Monday. We Can’t Compromise the Characteristics of Christ that Should Be Evident in Every Believers Life and Lifestyle. Remember This: Carrying Christ Requires Consistency!

We must learn to consistently walk in such a manner that our testimony is the same as Enoch’s: “And Enoch walked [in Habitual Fellowship] With God; and he was not, for God took him [home with Him].” (Genesis 5:24 AMP).  And this isn’t a Sunday Walk either! Enoch’s Walk With God Was “Habitual”, meaning it was “Done Constantly as a Habit; It was his usual or his regular, daily, consistently unbroken routine”! Now that’s a walk, in the words of the Apostle Paul, that is “worthy to be imitated”!

Church, To Carry God Correctly, We Must Walk Circumspectly! God Wants Us to Walk With Him and Carry Him Within Ourselves So that He May Be Shown Mighty In Our Own Lives! God Wants Us So Full of Him that We Can Just Walk Up to a Sinner and he will See God’s Glory Shining Through Us!

After All, If We’re Really Spending Quality Time Walking With God, Talking With God and Carrying God, There Should Be Manifested Evidence of the Fact, Shouldn’t It? It was for Moses:When Moses came down from Mount Sinai carrying the two Tablets of The Testimony, he didn’t know that the SKIN OF HIS FACE GLOWED BECAUSE HE HAD BEEN SPEAKING WITH GOD. Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, SAW HIS RADIANT FACE, and held back, afraid to get close to him. Moses called out to them. Aaron and the leaders in the community came back and Moses talked with them. Later all the Israelites came up to him and he passed on the commands, everything that GOD had told him on Mount Sinai. When Moses finished speaking with them, he put a veil over his face, but when he went into the Presence of GOD to Speak with Him, he removed the veil until he came out. When he came out and told the Israelites what he had been commanded, THEY WOULD SEE MOSES’ FACE, ITS SKIN GLOWING, and then he would again put the veil on his face until he went back to Speak With GOD.” (Exodus 34:29-35 MSG). 

People of God, the World is looking to see the Glow of His Glory on Us, NOT the Form of Godliness Through Us! Therefore, Today Determine To Carry God And His Glory Correctly!

God Is Tired of Us Hiding In the Church or Using Our “Ministry” as a Cart to Carry Him Instead of Us Carrying Him Personally! The Day of Trying to Get Sinners to Church to get them Saved Is Over! We Must Be Full of God’s Spirit and Reach the Lost at Our Jobs, in our Homes, at the Supermarket, in the Laundromat, on line at the Bank, Walking through Park and our Neighborhoods, Just Because He Is Shown Mighty in Our Personal Lives! If We Walk Right Before Them, They Will Know the True and Living God! If Signs and Wonders Really Follow Us (Healing, Miracles, Deliverance, etc.) then They Will Know the Power of God and Desire It! Our Man-Made Schemes of Reaching the World are Not Important! God Will Reach the Lost If We Just Lend Him Our Members and Show Him In Our Daily Walk! Don’t Get Caught Up In a Man-Made Plan to Carry God in Any Method Other Than the Way the Word of God Tells Us To!

After all, what will it Profit the World to See Us Carrying God the Way They Do?

Saints, There Must Be a Difference Between Us and Them! A Clear Distinction! Exodus 8:20-23, “God said to Moses, “Get up early in the morning and confront Pharaoh as he goes down to the water. Tell him, ‘God’s Message: Release my people so they can worship me. If you don’t release my people, I’ll release swarms of flies on you, your servants, your people, and your homes. The houses of the Egyptians and even the ground under their feet will be thick with flies. BUT WHEN IT HAPPENS, I’LL SET GOSHEN WHERE MY PEOPLE LIVE ASIDE AS A SANCTUARY – NO FLIES IN GOSHEN. THAT WILL SHOW YOU THAT I AM GOD IN THIS LAND. I’LL MAKE A SHARP DISTINCTION BETWEEN YOUR PEOPLE AND MINE. This sign will occur tomorrow.’” (MSG)

IT IS MY BELIEF THAT GOD STILL WANTS HIS PEOPLE DISTINCT FROM THE WORLD AROUND THEM! SO THE QUESTION YOU NEED TO ASK AND ANSWER IS: “IS MY CHRISTIAN LIFESTYLE DISTINCT FROM THE WORLD OR HARD TO DIFFERENTIATE FROM IT?!”

2 Samuel 6:6-7, “When they came to Nacon’s threshing floor, Uzzah reached out [with his hand] to the ark of God and took hold of it, because the oxen [stumbled and] nearly overturned it.  And the anger of the Lord burned against Uzzah, and God struck him there for his irreverence; and he died there by the ark of God.” (AMP) Trying to help cost him his life. And all because he put his hands on the ark he wasn’t supposed to touch. An ark that was being carried incorrectly. Can you imagine if that was God’s response to us every time we carried Him incorrectly or represented Him in a manner inconsistent with His Character? How much of the Church would be left alive? Sadly, Uzzah would never have lost his life had the ark been carried correctly in the first place. Saints, we have to remember that there are always consequences to our choices. And if we choose to haphazardly carry God incorrectly, He will chastise the children in whom He loves. But who’s to say what that chastisement might be? And do you really want to compromise and chance it? Truthfully, we’ve all missed out on much due to our disobedience. Not to mention, this side of heaven, we’ll never know how many people we led astray by our contrary behavior.

We preach, teach and pray that these are the end times and the last days. Well, wouldn’t you say then that it’s vital that the church gets her act together? Lives and eternity are hanging in the balance. Our obedience can tip the scales in the Kingdom’s favor. People of God, We Must Stay Obedient to Him In Order to Win the Lost! For We Dare Not Carry God So Carelessly That the World Declares “…You ALMOST Persuaded Me…” (Acts 26:28) ‘Almost’ is defined as, ‘very nearly; borderline; partially; just about; within an inch of.’ And in these last days and end times, is that the report we intend to give to God? That our inconsistent lifestyles of straddling the fence, caused people to miss heaven by a borderline?! People who were very near to accepting You, they were partially there, just about, within an inch of making it in, until they saw how we act out! Listen, I can’t speak for you, but that is NOT the report I intend to give God!

Let’s not lose anymore Uzzahs!

Let’s Carry God the Way He’s Already Commanded Us to. Let’s be His clean, and honorable vessels that He can pour into and out of. Let’s make sure our habits, behavior, attitude, speech, attire, lifestyle choices all reflect a good representation of God. Let’s remember we’re created in His image and likeness, we’re His Ambassadors, we are Christians, called by His Name, we are Disciples of Christ, we are children of God, and representatives of heaven, we are the called out ones, we are the CHURCH OF THE LIVING GOD! Now, let’s act like it!

Remember, the world is watching our walk, let’s make sure we don’t trip them up!

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

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“Has Your Appetite Matured Yet?”

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Hebrews 5:11-14, “I have a lot more to say about this, but it is hard to get it across to you since you’ve picked up this bad habit of not listening. By this time you ought to be teachers yourselves, yet here I find you need someone to sit down with you and go over the basics on God again, starting from square one—BABY’S MILK, when you should have been on SOLID FOOD LONG AGO! MILK IS FOR BEGINNERS, INEXPERIENCED IN GOD’S WAYS; SOLID FOOD IS FOR THE MATURE, who have some practice in telling right from wrong.” (MSG)

Two of the greatest days of my life happened when I gave birth to my daughters. They are now 31 and 28 years old, and have grown into beautiful women. As their mother, I am extremely proud of them. And as much as they’ve accomplished over the last 3 decades, I think the funniest accomplishment of them all was when they were babies learning how to walk. Watching them transition from the stage of crawling to walking was indeed some of the funniest moments of my life.

Now, both of these young women came from the same mother, but they most definitely had two very different levels of motivation.

My oldest daughter Mo’Nae was not at all, whatsoever, fond of this whole walking thing. She didn’t get it and wasn’t trying to. She found no excitement in it at all. She’s a size 2 today, but then she was a chunky, chubby baby who acted as though her weight hindered her from doing much of anything. She wasn’t one of those children who pulled up on the furniture, or crawled out of the crib, or one who would make effort to stand on shaky legs and give this whole walking thing a shot. In fact, I thought I’d help her get motivated. Now, as my disclaimer, for many of you, you are going to consider this some form of child abuse. You see I walked to the store, and on the way back, I decided to sit her down on the ground and start walking away. My stupid assumption was that she would cry a little but then try to get up and come after me. Needless to say, that chubby, stubborn kid sat right there, unfazed in the least. She didn’t move, didn’t even try to, didn’t cry, didn’t reach, made absolutely zero attempts to walk. She just sat there, waiting for me to come back and pick her up and keep on carrying her. And sadly, I most certainly did.

However, my youngest daughter Ashley, was a different story altogether! I thought this kid had super-natural powers! She would pull up on anything, crawl out of anywhere. She wouldn’t sit still! She learned to walk so early, and so fast, it was amazing. I even took her to the doctor to make sure this was normal baby activity. She refused to stay in one spot. If you blinked, she would be attempting to get up the stairs! She was such a handful, because she was always so motivated to try the next thing. And it never mattered whether she fell or not, hurt herself or not, she wouldn’t let anything stop her. She would just keep going to whatever she deemed the next phenomenal life discovery!

And if you think the difference in these two stopped there, you are mistaken. Because the next thing was baby food. My oldest daughter Mo’Nae, could wait, the youngest Ashley, never could! Oh, and neither was she content with baby food for long. No, she kept following our forks as we put real food into our mouths. She was determined to have some of that right there, right now. And she wasn’t the type of kid that you could trick and give a chicken bone to. If you gave that to her, she would throw it on the ground. She was always looking for meat. She refused to settle for an empty, non-filling bone. She would not be fooled.

Now, the oldest could wait for you to sit with her and feed her. But oh boy that youngest one, she wasn’t even content for long with depending on someone else to feed her. Early on, she was reaching out for food and insisting on feeding herself. She would have food on the floor, in her hair, down her clothes, in her shoes. It didn’t matter, as long as some of it landed into her mouth, and she did it on her own, she was alright!

You see, our oldest could wait, she could be patient, she was in no hurry for anything at all. She has always done her own thing, at her own pace, in her own time. And even if it was different from the rest, she didn’t care, she would never alter who she was or what she did for anyone. She could wait out anything, and has not changed in over three decades.

But that youngest one, oh she crawled for a while, waited to be fed for a while, but we could tell she was impatient with crawling being her only means of transportation and waiting for others as her only means to eat. She really wanted to walk and she did. She wanted to eat her food when she wanted to and she did.

And what does all of this have to do with anything? Simple: A healthy child is never content to stay at the same level, and neither should a healthy child of God! Amazing how our babies and children motivate themselves to the next level, but we bible-toting, bible-believing, bible-quoting children of the Father are always stuck at a stagnant, stunted growth stage!

Unfortunately, too many of God’s children have reached a particular level of growing up in Jesus and they have just settled down there. You see, they don’t feed themselves much spiritually. They depend largely on others feeding them. They have no personal devotion time, no time in which they read the Word of God for themselves. No, instead they wait around for the latest fad-preacher to spoon-feed them sugar instead of handing them a knife and fork for some meat! So many children of God don’t even attend Sunday School (which I never understand how you skip foundational teaching); nor do they attend Bible Study (how do you stay healthy if you’re not eating the Word of God, in a consistent, private and public setting?)

Then, you have those children of God who think spiritual crawling is just fine, maybe because most of the Christians they know are stuck in the crawling stage themselves. You know, those who’ve been saved 40 years, in leadership 30 years, yet still going around in the same immature circles for 20?! At what point to realize you’ve been in this same place, with these same people, doing all the same stuff for years, and nothing has made a bit of difference in your life yet?!

Makes me think of my youngest daughter, because as her parent, just like any other parent; I was happy my daughter wasn’t content to stay where she was. She was always restless for more. Once she out-grew something, there had to be something else, and she’s still like that to this very day.

Truth is, I would have every reason to be very concerned if she was content to stay at a level that was below where she was meant to live! Could that be how your Heavenly Father feels about you?

Imagine how ridiculous it would look if at the age of 30, I’m still tying her shoes, spoon-feeding her, picking out her clothes and dressing her, carrying her around, pulling out baby wipes to clean her face, changing her diaper, heating her bottles. Are you seeing how foolish this imagery is? Now, if she suffered from some disorder or disability, we could all understand this type of behavior, dependence, helplessness, and neediness. But since she doesn’t have any, this would be utter insanity on her part and mine! And before you agree, make sure that this imagery isn’t descriptive of you!

Come on now, let’s be real about it: Are people still carrying you, babying you, spoon-feeding you, supporting you, wiping your tears and snot, and trying to protect you from every known danger in all of the world, because clearly you don’t know how to defend yourself? If that is you, this is your personal devotional, STOP CRAWLING, GET UP AND WALK!

The writer of Hebrews challenged believers who he said “ought to be teachers” by this time but instead were still needing someone to “teach you the elementary truths of God’s Word all over again.” He told them to “leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity” (Hebrews 5:12; 6:1). The Message Bible says it like this: “So come on, LET’S LEAVE THE PRESCHOOL FINGER-PAINTING EXERCISES ON CHRIST AND GET ON WITH THE GRAND WORK OF ART. GROW UP IN CHRIST! The basic foundational truths are in place: turning your back on “salvation by self-help” and turning in trust toward God; baptismal instructions; laying on of hands; resurrection of the dead; eternal judgment. God helping us, we’ll stay true to all that. BUT THERE’S SO MUCH MORE. LET’S GET ON WITH IT!” (Hebrews 6:1-3 MSG)

My favorite part? “…BUT THERE’S SO MUCH MORE. LET’S GET ON WITH IT!” I Agree! Let’s be real, who wants to be in the exact same place August 13, 2020, that they were in on August 13, 2019? Or for many of us, August 13, 1999; 1989; 1979; 1969; 1959; 1949, for that matter?! People of God, There’s So Much More! More to Mature Into! Our prayer lives should be more, our bible study should be more, our faith, hope and trust in God should be more. We should have more stability by now. More strength by now. More courage by now. More forgiveness by now. More bounce back ability by now. More focus by now. In the words of Paul, “…BY NOW YOU SHOULD BE…”

So, maybe the question you need to ask yourself today is, “BY NOW, WHERE SHOULD I BE…THAT I’M NOT?” And your follow-up question? “WHAT AM I GOING TO DO ABOUT IT…STARTING TODAY?!”

And how about we take our honesty just a little further? When are you going to stop complaining about your marriage, and do more to fix it? When are you going to stop fussing about your children, and do more to help them get on with life (even if that’s a swift kick in the behind, and right out the nest?!) When are you going to stop talking about your leaders and do more praying for them instead? When are you going to stop gossiping about that auxiliary and do more to make it better? When are you going to stop begging people for money and do more interviewing to simply get a job and save your own money? When are you going to stop nagging about that house, that apartment, that car, that tuition, those bills, and do more to improve them? Complaining, fault-finding, blaming, pointing fingers, whining, nagging, even crying will not help the situation. It’s time to “…GET ON WITH IT!”

Learn to cook, clean, do laundry and pay bills on time. Get out of debt. Finish school. Get a job. Take better care of your own health. Move. Relocate. Change your conduct, speech, and attitude. In other words, stop crawling around crying and get up and walk! Walk to the interview, walk to the bank, walk to the counselor, walk to the gym, walk to the real estate. Get up and actively do something more to make your life better! You’ve been crawling around in this crib of life long enough. Even babies grow out and grow up, what’s your excuse?

You’ve been at this stage long enough. Challenge yourself, stretch yourself, and most of all, be honest with yourself, that you are not doing your very best. Today is a great day to give it everything you’ve got! Get up, get out, get on with it and get more!

In Philippians 3, beginning with verse 12, we hear what a healthy child of God wants. Remember, this was written by the Apostle Paul, maybe the most powerful Christian of all time. But still he says, “I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.The Message Bible says it like this: I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.” (MSG)

Maybe you’ve been coasting at the same spiritual speed for a while; you’ve been content with mediocrity – still crawling, still on milk. But now it’s time for you to get restless with remaining the same. Paul said, “I press on to TAKE HOLD…” It’s time for you take hold and get a handle on your life, and start making some gear shifts! It’s time for you to say with Paul “…I’M OFF AND RUNNING, AND I’M NOT TURNING BACK.” No more diapers, milk, pacifiers, bibs, bottles, formula, and crawling. No, it’s time for Maturity not Mediocrity! And by no means wait until January 1, 2021 to determine you’re going to shift gears from crawling to walking, no, adhere to the Bible’s admonishment: Proverbs 27:1, “Never boast about tomorrow. You don’t know what will happen between now and then.” (GNT). The Easy Read Version says it like this: “Never brag about what you will do in the future; you have no idea what tomorrow will bring.” (ERV) And then over in James 4:13-15 we read: “Look here, you people who say, “Today or tomorrow we are going to such and such a town, stay there a year, and open up a profitable business.” How do you know what is going to happen tomorrow? For the length of your lives is as uncertain as the morning fog – now you see it; soon it is gone. What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we shall live and do this or that.” (TLB). Therefore, stop making the same empty promises and resolutions to yourself and everybody else about the change you’re going to make at the stroke of midnight on December 31! Instead, start NOW, this moment! You have no idea how much time you have left, but you do know how much time you’ve already wasted that you can’t get back! So no more procrastination; no hesitating; no straddling the fence; no waiting until the New Year. No you’ve been waiting around long enough, get up now and start walking in it for real, right now! This is NOW the Moment for you to finally Walk Into Maturity!

That word “Maturity” is defined as “fully grown or developed”. Its Latin Origin “maturus” literally means “timely, ripe.” And that should describe you, by now, don’t you think?! When something is “ripe” it means it’s “fully matured; having reached a fitting time; advanced; full”. If that doesn’t describe you, edit your life so you can edit your description. You are no longer a babe in Christ, so stop crawling and crying and get up and walk in maturity!

The word “Mediocrity” is defined as “of only average or fairly low quality”. Which reminds me of Colossians 3:22-25, “Servants, do what you’re told by your earthly masters. And don’t just do the minimum that will get you by. DO YOUR BEST. Work from the heart for your real Master, for God, confident that you’ll get paid in full when you come into your inheritance. Keep in mind always that the ultimate Master you’re serving is Christ. The sullen servant who does SHODDY WORK will be held responsible. BEING A FOLLOWER OF JESUS DOESN’T COVER UP BAD WORK.” (MSG) As believers, we don’t do shoddy or bad work, everything we do, we do to our Best ability! And that includes the life and lifestyle in which we live. Be it public or private our life and lifestyle should always exemplify excellence! Mediocrity should never even be found in our vocabulary!

When complacency, procrastination, familiarity, laziness, slothfulness, mediocrity and anything stagnant presents itself to you, remember who you are: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a consecrated nation, a [special] people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies [the wonderful deeds and virtues and perfections] of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.  Once you were not a people [at all], but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (1 Peter 2:9 AMP)

Did you catch that? “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a consecrated nation, a [special] people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies [the wonderful deeds and virtues and perfections] of Him who called you…”

Nothing About That Sounds Like Mediocrity! You Have a Responsibility to Your Royalty!

Today, this devotional was sent to remind you that you’ve been living far beneath your rights and privileges as a Child of God. And now that you know better, do better! James 4:17, “So any person who KNOWS what is right to DO but does NOT do it, to him it is SIN.” (AMP) So, stop begging, bargaining, pleading, and crawling. Get up and walk! Whatever you don’t have, get up and go get it! No excuses! Today is your day of motivation to make changes in your life for the better. And if that means you have to change some people, places and things, do so. If it or they are not making you better, get rid of them before they make you worse! Keep a circle of people who push you, pull you, charge and challenge you. You need those who refuse to accept that where you are is as far as you can go. You need people who put their foot in your back and propel you out of your comfort zone. You need people who make you pick up tools and start building instead of just looking at the blueprint. You need people who act like a nightmare to wake you from your daydream to get you to live your actual dream! You need those who call you on the carpet no matter what. You need those who will tell you, to your face, enough is enough. Get up, grow up and get on with life! Don’t settle for flattery of speech, don’t settle for those who say they understand your short-comings, struggles, and strongholds. Don’t settle for those who will carry you so long they actually cripple you. Don’t settle for those spoon-feeding you riches, when they should motivate you to feed on repentance. You’ve been at this stage, on this level, for far too long! Enough is indeed enough. Stop leaning, and walk; stop crawling, and walk; stop letting people carry you, and walk; stop being propped up and walk, stop waiting for everybody else to do it for you, and do it yourself. How much more of your time, ability and life are you really willing to waste?

Today is your day to move from Mediocre to More! Remember the Word of God: “So come on, LET’S LEAVE THE PRESCHOOL FINGER-PAINTING EXERCISES ON CHRIST AND GET ON WITH THE GRAND WORK OF ART. GROW UP IN CHRIST. The basic foundational truths are in place: turning your back on “salvation by self-help” and turning in trust toward God; baptismal instructions; laying on of hands; resurrection of the dead; eternal judgment. God helping us, we’ll stay true to all that. BUT THERE’S SO MUCH MORE. LET’S GET ON WITH IT!” (Hebrews 6:1-3 MSG)

By the end of this year, don’t let your resolutions be the same unfilled ones you made last year. Don’t get stuck!

HERE May Be Comfortable, But THERE Is Calling You!

If you want to Walk into More, you have to Crawl out of Less!

Today, Get Up, and Get There! STOP CRAWLING, GET UP AND WALK!

Today, Shift Your Appetite From Milk to Meat! It’s Time to Mature to a New Level!

“Spiritual maturity isn’t measured by how high you jump in praise, but how straight you walk in obedience.” (Author Unknown)

“Spiritual maturity is not reached by the passing of the years, but by obedience to the Will of God.” (Oswald Chambers)

“Maturity in the Christian life is measured by only one test: how much closer to His character have we become?” (Elyse Fitzpatrick)

“Every season of your life is valuable because God does not waste anyone’s time. Every season is necessary for our growth, our pruning, our maturity and preparation for our calling.” (Lisa Osteen Comes)

“We shouldn’t focus on the doors that God closes. Change doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Change means growth.” (Author Unknown)

“When God Wants You to Grow, He Makes You Uncomfortable.” (Author Unknown)

“Growing closer to God is not the result of trying harder, but of surrendering more.” (Author Unknown)

“Change is a part of life. Be open to change, because that’s God opening the door to growth in your life.” (Author Unknown)

“God allows difficulties, inconveniences, trials, and even suffering to come our way for a specific purpose. They help develop the right attitude for the growth of patience.” (Billy Graham)

“Spiritual maturity is a lifelong pursuit. We grow in spiritual maturity moment by moment, day by day, year by year.” (Jim George)

“Spiritual maturity is not a matter of years or time, it’s just a matter of your connection with the Lord and His Word, and your obedience and your humility.” (Author Unknown)

“Maturity is the ability to think, speak and act your feelings within the bounds of dignity. The measure of your maturity is how spiritual you become during the midst of your frustrations.” (Samuel Ullman)

“One of the greatest indicators of our own spiritual maturity is revealed in how we respond to the weaknesses, the inexperience, and the potentially offensive actions of others.” (David A. Bednar)

“God’s Word is the living seed that brings new birth. It is the milk that nurtures the new life of a young Christian and the meat that builds the muscle of a mature believer.” (Colin S. Smith)

“Bible study is the metal that makes a Christian. This is the strong meat on which holy men are nourished. This is that which makes the bone and sinew of men who keep God’s way in defiance of every adversary.” (Charles Spurgeon)

“Our spiritual maturity will never exceed our knowledge of the Bible.” (Albert Mohler)

“Biblical convictions are essential for spiritual growth and maturity. What is ironic today is that people often have strong convictions about weak issues (football, fashion, etc.) while having weak convictions about major issues (what is right and what is wrong)?” (Rick Warren)

“A spiritual mature person prioritizes work before play, love over lust, and character over charm.” (Pastor Paul Sheppard)

“Maturity comes when you stop making excuses and start making changes.” (Author Unknown)

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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“Don’t Let FAKE FOOL You!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For me, this was yet another Selah moment…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“POUR On the SALT, TURN On the LIGHT”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alright, prepare for the soaring hawks!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Remember these 3 examples:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“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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“The Marriage Triangle”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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