“Don’t Let a Dark Past Dim Your Bright Future!”

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1 John 1:5-7, “This, in essence, is the message we heard from Christ and are passing on to you: God is light, pure light; there’s not a trace of darkness in Him. If we claim that we experience a shared life with Him and continue to stumble around in the dark, we’re obviously lying through our teeth – we’re not living what we claim. But if we walk in the light, God Himself being the light, we also experience a shared life with one another, as the sacrificed blood of Jesus, God’s Son, purges all our sin.” (MSG)

So, anyone that really knows me knows, I Hate Scary Movies! It’s just not my thing! And truth is, the reason I hate them, is my own fault! You see, there were some pretty scary (in my opinion) movies when I was younger (there was, Friday the 13th; the Exorcist; Carrie; the Shining; Halloween; the Lost Boys, the Omen, the Texas Chainsaw Massacre; Child’s Play; Nightmare on Elm Street; Hellraiser, to name a few). But what got me in trouble was the first scary movie I watched (that I was told by my parents specifically NOT to watch, and that was Cujo!) Now, in my little head, I didn’t get the big deal, after all, it was just a crazy movie about dog, right? I mean how bad could it be?! Well, can I tell you, I swore off all dogs after that movie! In fact, I watched it and refused to go anywhere near my own dog anymore! In the end, I was grounded and sent to bed. Oh sure, Mom and Dad thought I could watch that kind of movie and drift right off to sleep in la la land. But that was NOT my sweet, peaceful night at all! The problem is, adults don’t believe what kids know to be the awful truth – that there are monsters in your closet at night! And in my case, the monster was on four legs, named Cujo and was waiting in my closet for me to go to sleep! But my parents expected me to close my eyes and just start having sweet dreams? Come on!

Actually, I really had nothing to fear from those monsters that lived in my overactive imagination. But then there are real monsters that a lot of us have locked in a closet somewhere in our heart: the secret pain, the secret sin, the secret darkness of that unforgiving heart. They’re like vampires. They live in the darkness. But as I came of age, I discovered that they start to lose their power when you drag them into the light.

My parents were indeed upset that I disobeyed them and watched a movie they forbade me to see. But they also loved me too much to let me have nightmares. And so, they took a flashlight from the garage and turned it on (in my closet). Believe it or not, but knowing that as long as that light was on, the dark monsters couldn’t get me, gave me a pretty good night’s rest!

However, when it comes to life’s experiences with pain, I’ve found that getting rid of my ‘monsters’ wasn’t as easy or as simple as turning on a flashlight. The monsters of molestation, rape, domestic violence, health battles, homelessness, and the like didn’t exactly go away as quickly as the flip of a light switch for me. Nor did they for my friend Tynelle.

Tynelle, was abandoned, often physically abused by a drunken father, and cocaine addicted mother. Then she was horribly betrayed by her sister’s boyfriend. She trusted him so much as the brother she never had, and yet he sexually violated her. It was the final chapter in a story that told her a cruel lie, “Tynelle, you are worthless.” A story line that brought her to the brink of suicide not once, but three times. She took pills the first time, slit her wrists the second, and the third time she held a gun to her own head literally.

Thank God, Tynelle came across some wonderful people who led her to Jesus who did what no one and nothing else could do, He saved her! However, there was a few ‘monsters’ left living in her closet; bitterness, anger, mistrust, fear of rejection, not to mention, hatred that she harbored in her heart. Now, all of her feelings and emotions were understandable. But unforgiveness never hurts the person we refuse to forgive. No, instead it eats us alive and, strangely, it ties us to the very person we can’t stand!

Like so many of us who have had to endure mistreatment in whatever form, many of us did like Tynelle and stuffed it in the closet. But there is where it grows into a monster of ungrieved grief, unrepented sin, and unforgiven hurt; a monster that morphs into all kinds of anger, rage, depression and self-loathing.

SIDEBAR: I love plants as much as my mom did (okay, maybe not quite as much as she did), but I do love them. I have one in my office that my boss gave me years ago. At that time, it was the only plant I had in my office. I would water it, and make sure it was placed in a safe location where no one could cause any damage to it. It was absolutely a beautiful plant. But as the weeks went by I noticed it started to look as if it were dying, and it was. I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong and so I asked my boss to take a look at it. I told him I was doing everything you’re supposed to do to keep a plant alive. What he said still helps me today, he said: “If you want it to grow, you have to move it from that dark corner and bring it into the light.” Sounds simple enough. But the way it helped me besides helping my plant, was I’ve learned that if I’m going to heal from hurt, I can’t keep hurt tucked away in a dark corner somewhere. I have to physically bring it out of a dark place and bring it into the light. When I brought my plant into the light it began to heal and grow. When I brought my hurt, pain, discouragement, disappointment, and past into the light it healed and I grew. But it took me to physically move my plant, and to physically move my pain. And it’s going to require you to likewise physically move what’s hurting you to a place where it can heal. Those monsters of yours need to be brought out of the dark and into the light, it’s the only way to get rid of them. Now, before you think my plant was an easy task, let me be the first to tell you, it was not. From the floor to about my shoulder was its height (and I’m only 5 foot 2 inches by the way) so that gives you an idea of how big my ‘little’ potted plant was! Moving it took hard work, and moving my hurt was even harder work. But it needed light, and so did I, so a move had to take place!

Remember This: “Nothing Happens Until Something Moves!” (Albert Einstein)

Listen to our text again:

1 John 1:5-7, “This, in essence, is the message we heard from Christ and are passing on to you: God is light, pure light; there’s not a trace of darkness in Him. If we claim that we experience a shared life with Him and continue to stumble around in the dark, we’re obviously lying through our teeth – we’re not living what we claim. But if we walk in the light, God Himself being the light, we also experience a shared life with one another, as the sacrificed blood of Jesus, God’s Son, purges all our sin.” (MSG)

Once you’ve made the decision to make Jesus Lord of your life, you have LIGHT! And in Him there’s not a trace of darkness! But in us, oh yes indeed there is. That’s why it’s so important to take our darkness to Him. After all, why should we keep stumbling around in the darkness of hurt, heartache, let-downs and disappointments when we can simply come to Him so that His light can outshine our darkness? Why dwell in the darkness of sin, when we can dwell in the light of our Savior?

And just as moving my plant required work, so does walking in the light of God requires work. The Scripture says, “…But if we WALK in the light…”Walk” is present tense. Meaning, this is a daily requirement! In order for this to work, I have to walk, every day. I have to make a deliberate decision to come out of darkness and into His marvelous light. Be warned, this will not be easy, and you’re not going to feel like doing it all the time. But if you are to grow and heal, it is a necessity. When you look at 1 John, it reveals to us that walking in the light brings us out of darkness; brings us into admittance and acceptance; it brings us into a wonderful shared bright light of life with other believers not to mention it grants us a clean slate by purging all our sins. And all we have to do is bring our darkness to His light.

John 8:12, “Jesus once again addressed them: “I am the world’s Light. No one who follows Me stumbles around in the darkness. I provide plenty of light to live in.” (MSG) Therefore, I must ask, why are you living in darkness when you can live in perpetual light? That word “perpetual” is defined as “never ending or changing; occurring repeatedly; seemingly continual.” Its’ Latin Origin ‘perpetualis’, from ‘perpetuus’ literally means “continuing throughout.That’s what you could have if you’d simply bring your darkness to His Light! He Himself is LIGHT! And therefore He promises that if you follow Him, you won’t stumble around any longer in the darkness. And aren’t you finally tired of stumbling around in the darkness? Every time you hear a particular song; see a specific scene in a movie; or hear someone’s voice that sounds like theirs, you return to that dark place, when you could live in the perpetual, never ending, light of the Lord!

NOTE: Once You Start Living in the Light, You’ll Stop Letting Darkness Visit!

Jesus provides plenty of light to live in, what better motivation than that to move out of darkness?

My pastor said something one Sunday that blessed me tremendously. He said, “if the dark cloud you’re under doesn’t move, then YOU move.” And that’s something I’m encouraging you to do today. YOU MOVE! Remember: “Nothing Happens Until Something Moves” (Albert Einstein). And oftentimes that ‘something’ is YOU! So, why live in that darkness a moment longer than you have to? Remember the hard truth is, sometimes you can move IT, and sometimes you simply have to move YOU! Which may require a great deal of separation! Like, moving from those contacts, connections, phone calls, text messages, pictures and emails. Move from that place, from that thing, from that person. Move from re-imagining memories in a prettier light than they actually were. Move from those feelings, that conversation, move from repetitive bad decisions and choices. Move your dark into His light.

Today: Take all of your Monsters out of your Past Closet, and put them in your Prayer Closet instead! Take the regret, the remorse, the bitterness, the anger, the hatred, the revenge, the unforgiveness. Take the broken heart and the broken spirit. Take the fractured mind and the bruised ego. Take what they said and what they did. Even take the part you played in your own self-inflicted pain. Take it all to Him. There is no greater Light than the Lord!

1 Peter 2:9-10, “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.” (AMP). God Himself Called You Out of Darkness, So Why Are You Still Trying to Live There?

Don’t you see that inspite of where you’ve been, what you’ve done and what was done to you, He yet calls you Chosen; a Royal Priesthood; a Consecrated Nation; a Special People; His Own Possession. As dark as you were, He still called you out of darkness!

People of God, He Called You OUT…So Why Are You Allowing Your Past to Keep You IN?!

Despite the Mess, you have since received Mercy, so why not live in it?

That same text in the Message Bible reads like this: “But you are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be a holy people, God’s instruments to do His work and speak out for Him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference He made for you – from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted.” (MSG) That’s talking about YOU! The night-and-day difference that God desires to make in your life if only you’ll simply move your feet! Walk out of darkness and into His marvelous light…and all of this awaits YOU! No More Rejection, Just Acceptance. And All You Have to Do is WALK!

And just in case you need DIRECTIONS for your walk, here they are: “BY YOUR WORDS I CAN SEE WHERE I’M GOING; THEY THROW A BEAM OF LIGHT ON MY DARK PATH. I’ve committed myself and I’ll never turn back from living by Your righteous order. Everything’s falling apart on me, God; put me together again WITH YOUR WORD. Festoon me with Your FINEST SAYINGS, God; teach me YOUR HOLY RULES. My life as close as my own hands, but I don’t forget what you have REVEALED. The wicked do their best to throw me off track, BUT I DON’T SWERVE AN INCH FROM YOUR COURSE. I inherited YOUR BOOK ON LIVING; it’s mine forever – what a gift! And how happy it makes me! I concentrate on doing EXACTLY WHAT YOU SAY – I always have and always will.” (Psalm 119:105-112 MSG) That’s how you govern your walk in the light, you use the Word of God as your lamp! It’s your map, your GPS to guide you out of darkness and into light!

Listen, you’ve been under that dark cloud long enough! You’ve been scared of those monsters in that dark closet long enough! Today is a new day, and one in which you need not give old days the opportunity to rob you of. Whatever happened, happened. You can’t undo it; you can’t change it; you can’t go back and alter some of the details of it. But you can decide today, that I’m not going to give another moment to those monsters. My body, soul, spirit, heart, mind and emotions deserve to live in light. I deserve peace, joy, laughter, unconditional love and complete healing and wholeness, and I’ve decided it will start today!

Now, remember, sometimes that will require you to delete the photos, messages and contact information. It may require you to stop talking to that person, or going back to that place. Because you can’t ask God to bring you into the light while you bring darkness with you, still clutched tightly in your hands! No, you have to make the deliberate decision to loose your grip on darkness and let it go! 2 Corinthians 6:14-18, “…How can you make a partnership out of right and wrong? That’s not partnership; that’s war. Is light best friends with dark? Does Christ go strolling with the Devil? Do trust and mistrust hold hands?…” (MSG) The answer, NO! So you cannot ask God to bring you out of darkness, when you refuse to let darkness go! Know today that you can’t take that dark past with you into a bright future!

Whatever your ‘monsters’ are, bring them out of your past closet of darkness and into your present prayer closet of light. You’ve dealt with enough torment, torture, self-doubt and self-pity. You’ve been under that dark cloud far too long. You’ve cried long enough; been depressed and discouraged long enough; you’ve been lonely, angry and bitter long enough; you’ve replayed their role in your drama long enough; you’ve renewed the issues to your past publications long enough. You’ve complained and talked about it long enough. Do some spring cleaning during this summer season! Clean all that old junk out of your closet! Stop allowing hurt to hang around in your closet! Those skeletons in your closet don’t pay rent, and yet you’ve been paying a great price for them to live there, free of cost to them, hefty cost for you! Today serve them their eviction notice, pack them up and put them out!

Bigger, better and greater are waiting for you, just around the bend! Today, determine to make it your turn to change direction! Stop going backwards and start moving forward! Don’t allow that dark past to dim your bright future! Shine His Light on Your Dark Monsters and Finally Be Free From What’s Hiding in the Closet!

John 8:32, “And you will know the truth [regarding salvation], and the truth will set you free [from the penalty of sin].” (AMP)

1 John 1:9-10, “If we [freely] admit that we have sinned and confess our sins, He is faithful and just [true to His own nature and promises], and will forgive our sins and cleanse us continually from all unrighteousness [our wrongdoing, everything not in conformity with His Will and purpose]. If we say that we have not sinned [refusing to admit acts of sin], we make Him [out to be] a liar [by contradicting Him] and His Word is not in us.” (AMP)

“Don’t get stuck in your past, use it to fuel your future.” (Pinterest)

“The only way to get over the past is to leave it behind. If you spend your time re-living moments that are gone forever, you might miss out on the special moments that are yet to come.” (Pinterest)

“Don’t let past relationships and old mistakes ruin your future. Don’t let someone or something that didn’t make it in your life continue to hurt you. If you do, you’re still giving a portion of your life to something that no longer exists – it’s like letting your happiness slip into a black hole. Learn the lesson, release the pain, and move on. Scars remind us of where we have been, not where we are headed.” (LessonsLearnedInLife)

“Being stuck in the past is like walking forward with your back facing the front. You’ll always miss out on what’s in front of you.” (Pinterest)

“You can get over a broken past if you decide to believe that there’s nothing in your past that can keep you from having a great future.” (Joyce Meyer)

“Forgiveness is giving up the hope that the past could’ve been any different.” (Oprah)

“If you want to get over a problem, stop thinking about it. Your mind affects your mouth and your mouth affects your mind. It’s difficult to stop talking about a situation until you stop thinking about it.” (Joyce Meyer)

“Sometimes you have to make peace with your past in order to keep your future from becoming a constant battle.” (Susan Gale)

“Sometimes we get so addicted to murmuring about the past and blaming the past for everything that we miss our whole future. You’re not going to enjoy your future, and you’re not going to enjoy your right now, if all you can do is be guilty and ashamed and afraid of your past.” (Joyce Meyer)

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

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“Men Helping Men Through Failure, Encouragement and Restoration”

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Acts 15:36-41, “After a few days of this, Paul said to Barnabas, “Let’s go back and visit all our friends in each of the towns where we preached the Word of God. Let’s see how they’re doing.” Barnabas wanted to take John along, the John nicknamed Mark. But Paul wouldn’t have him; he wasn’t about to take along a quitter who, as soon as the going got tough, had jumped ship on them in Pamphylia. Tempers flared, and they ended up going their separate ways: Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus; Paul chose Silas and, offered up by their friends to the grace of the Master, went to Syria and Cilicia to build up and sinew in those congregations.” (MSG)

2 Timothy 4:11, “…Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very helpful to me for the ministry.” (AMP)

Remember This and Never Forget It: Every Man is Mark, Barnabas and Paul…at Some Point in Life!

One of the things I absolutely love is to watch a baby learn how to walk. It’s the most funniest thing to me ever! In fact, I like to call it the Frankenstein Walk! It’s so clumsy, so mechanical. It’s kind of a “step, boom” method. Someone comes along and says, “I think it’s about time“, then sets them up on their legs – you know, kind of spaghetti legs – and they take one step, then boom! And, of course, they get up again, and the next time it’s step, step, boom! And then step, step, step, boom! You get the idea. But what I love is that even babies don’t call it quits after a fall! As often as they wobble, step, then go boom, either someone helps them back on their feet or they struggle their way back up to give it another shot! Believe it or not, but it’s like that for many believers as well.

I remember when my youngest was learning to walk, she pretty much had the same step, boom, method as all babies have. But when she went down, you could see her grabbing something and battling to get her muscles going all in one direction so she could get up again. But then there were also those times when you saw her big sister reaching over to give her a hand. Actually, that’s what it takes whenever you go step, boom! Sometimes you can pull yourself up, and other times you need someone else to help you back up again! Are we our brother’s/sister’s keeper? Yes We Are!

And so, I think today is a good day to look at a man who stepped out to serve the Lord and went “step, boom!” His name is John Mark. Acts 15 is where we’re hearing about a missionary journey that Barnabas and Paul were launching. “Barnabas,” it says, “wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, but Paul did not think it was wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. They had such a sharp disagreement they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus.

Now, in order to get the full story, realize you need to turn to 2 Timothy 4, where at the end of Paul’s life he is now alone in a Roman prison. He will soon be executed for his loyalty to Jesus Christ, and guess who he mentions? Guess who he wants to see? MARK! The same guy who bombed out earlier in his Christian work, and Paul said, “Boy, I don’t think this guy’s going to make it.” But then Paul writes, “Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful for me in my ministry.” Wow!

Brothers, it is indeed my prayer that today’s devotional will help you look at yourself and your brothers in a new, and even better, light. I want you to look at these three men and see yourself and your brothers, and possibly began responding to each with a clearer perspective.

First, there’s MARK (HE FAILED). And believe it or not, you’ve failed and so have many of the men you know. Does that mean you or they have to live in failure forever? No! Failure never has to be fatal. It doesn’t have to end your marriage, ministry, career or life. Yes, Mark, went the wrong way, he let people and leaders down, but thank God that’s not how his story ended, and neither will it be the closing chapter of your life. In truth, maybe you did fail at the marriage: (you didn’t give it everything you should have, you weren’t as supportive, or kind, or faithful, or loving, or committed, or encouraging as you should have been); maybe you did fail at fatherhood (you weren’t there for the events, activities, talks, and medals); maybe you did fail at the ministry (you didn’t tithe, you didn’t go to prayer, bible study, Sunday school, or afternoon services, you didn’t support the men’s ministry efforts); maybe you did fail at the business/career (you didn’t pay attention to the over-head, you didn’t handle the budget right, you didn’t do better by your staff, you took advantage of your sick and vacation time, you were late to clock in, early to clock out, and went into overtime on lunch). Let’s say the truth of the matter is, this is the truth of the matter! You Failed! But do you have to stay there, absolutely not! Be honest with yourself first (and then others), that you didn’t get it right. Then, if you can pull yourself up, then pull yourself up! But if not, know that you are not the only one, and that there is help available! Which is why you have to be so careful in how you judge your brothers. You don’t know what led them to where they are, just like they don’t know what led you to your failures. So, instead of gossiping or getting and staying stuck, just turn around and start looking for Barnabas!

Second, there’s BARNABAS (HE ENCOURAGED). Mark may have screwed up, but thanks be to God he wasn’t left to his own devices! And neither are you. There will be times that you and your brothers will be Mark (you will have failed at many things, badly). But there will also be times when Barnabas will come to your aid, and then there will also be those times when you’ll need to be the Barnabas that comes to your brother’s aid. You never want to kick someone when they’re already down. And the best way to keep you from doing this is to remember when you were Mark too.  You needed someone to look beyond the worse in you and still see the best. Well, there are men around you who need the same thing.  Not all men will come to church! And those that do, won’t always come speaking in church lingo. Some will come, but not dressed like you, act like you, conduct themselves as you do. Some will come and they will come with more baggage than the baggage claim at an airport. Some will come from gangs, drugs, alcohol, failed marriages, poor fatherhood, estranged relationships with their children and family. Some will come with no job, no place to live, no hope, no faith. Some will come bitter, discouraged, angry even combative. But Barnabas, if you can encourage the Apostles to take a shot and believe in Paul who was the King of the Killers of Christians, most certainly you can work with these brothers also. Some brothers just need to feel like they’re not going to be picked last to be on the team. Like Barnabas, he could’ve said, listen Mark, I’ve worked with Paul a long time, I’ve built a friendship with him, I trust his leadership, I’m loyal to our covenant. I can’t help you, you should’ve done what you were supposed to do from the beginning. But that was not at all Barnabas response, instead, he picked the one person no one wanted on their team, and he says in essence, ‘I’ll take him’! Brothers, there are some men in your church, in your home, in your family, on your job, in your community that simply need to hear,I’ll take him!” Yep, with all his baggage and all his failures, “I’ll still take him!” Men of God, be the man that watches Mark go “step, boom,”, then go over and help him back up! And do it knowing full-well that he may go down again! But after all, when did you get it perfectly right? You still wobble in some areas, and yet you still have God’s grace, mercy, favor and forgiveness. Are you really going to withhold such a wonderful gift like that from your brother, that you open every new day?

Third, there’s Paul (HE RESTORED). Now, Paul had a two-fold responsibility. Because first of all, as a leader, he had to be honest. Mark did fail! And there’s no such thing as an effective leader who doesn’t correct bad behavior. Paul still had more journey’s to go on, more people to reach, more work to do. He couldn’t just take into account Mark, but the danger of Mark relapsing again in failure that would affect others. So he makes a leadership decision not to take him. But what I love is that even though as a leader, he corrected and reproved Mark, that wasn’t the end of their relationship!

You know what the message is? When you’re following Christ, failure is not final! But it takes two kinds of people to recover someone from a fall. It takes Barnabas to encourage the one who has fallen, to get back up, but it also takes Paul the restorer, to say I’ll give him another chance. I still see hope, a future, a change, some more potential, he deserves another chance.

You know, if that baby goes “step, boom” he can’t just say, “Well, I fell down. I guess I’ll never walk. I’m not cut out for this.” He can’t just keep lying there helpless on the floor. No! Because if he does, he’ll still be there when he’s 18; his Mom will be vacuuming around him! LOL! But no, instead, he gets up and he says in his own little brain, “I will try this walking thing again.But sometimes you need help, you need a Barnabas to Lift and a Paul to Re-Launch!

Maybe that’s you. Maybe you’ve been giving up because you failed. But the gospel of Mark’s life is that you can be restored. You can be useful again if you’re willing to battle your way back up, even on wobbly legs. But recovery also requires a brother; one like Barnabas, who will work with you patiently, who will deal with your weaknesses, who will give you an another chance. And it takes a brother like Paul, who though he had his doubts, is willing to accept him once he’s restored, and not to continue to say, “Oh, yeah, he’s the failure.

Now, one of these is you, or it needs to be. Maybe you’re a Mark and you feel that you’ve fallen. But now ask the Lord for the courage and the patience to battle your way back up. Maybe you’re a Barnabas who reaches out to that person that others have given up on, maybe even a member of your own family. Or maybe you’re Paul, who can make or break somebody’s comeback by whether you greet them with open or folded arms.

When one of God’s kids goes “step, boom” there is still hope if there’s a battler determined to walk again and a brother who’s offering a hand of help.

Can we be honest brothers? Life is not easy, and most times it’s horribly unfair. So you never get the opportunity to be Paul all the time. The strong one that restores. But when life happens, you will find yourself being all three of these men, and sometimes you can find yourself being all three, all in the same day. But know this, Mark didn’t die in his failure; Barnabas didn’t overlook him; and Paul didn’t completely give up on him. In fact, the Scripture says, “Only Luke is with me. Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry.” (2 Timothy 4:11 KJV). Let’s look at Paul’s words in a few translations:

 “…Take Mark, and bring him with thee; for he is USEFUL TO ME FOR MINISTERING.” (ASV);

“…Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is VERY HELPFUL TO ME FOR THE MINISTRY.” (AMP);

“…Get Mark, and bring him with you. He has been A BIG HELP TO ME IN THE MINISTRY.” (CEB);

“…Take Mark, and bring him with you, because he is a VERY USEFUL HELPER IN MY WORK.” (CJB);

“…Get Mark and bring him with you, because he CAN HELP ME IN THE WORK.” (GNT);

“…Bring Mark with you when you come, FOR I NEED HIM.” (TLB);

 “…Bring Mark with you; HE’LL BE MY RIGHT-HAND MAN.” (MSG)

As badly as Mark messed up, Paul says, I need him, he’ll be my right hand man! Can you imagine what those words must be like to hear after you’ve failed so miserably? And more importantly, to hear them from the very person whom you failed! I wonder if the man (who you know) that messed up, but was received like this by the brethren, if he would still be a member of the church today? You know that same ‘Mark’ in your ministry, in your home, on your job, who failed in his leadership; who didn’t complete his assignment; whose wife left him; who’s estranged from his children (by his own fault); whose lost the job. You know, that Mark. What kind of man could he have matured and grown and developed into had he been mentored in his mistakes?

Paul went from, “Acts 15:36-41 saying, “…Barnabas wanted to take John along, the John nicknamed Mark. BUT PAUL WOULDN’T HAVE HIM; he wasn’t about to take along a quitter who, as soon as the going got tough, had jumped ship on them in Pamphylia…” (MSG); to saying in 2 Timothy 4:11, “…Pick up Mark and bring him with you, for he is USEFUL TO ME FOR SERVICE.” (NASB)

Paul, says, don’t leave him down in his failure, pick him up and bring him to me because even after his failure he is still, “…USEFUL TO ME FOR MINISTERING; … VERY HELPFUL TO ME FOR THE MINISTRY… A BIG HELP TO ME IN THE MINISTRY… VERY USEFUL HELPER IN MY WORK… CAN HELP ME IN THE WORK… FOR I NEED HIM… HE’LL BE MY RIGHT-HAND MAN! Now, that’s what you call Restoration!

Men of God, please know that you as well as your brothers will all experience times of being Mark (who failed), Barnabas (who encouraged) and Paul (who corrected and restored). And whichever stage you find yourself in, know that it’s progressive and repetitive. You don’t stay in either stage permanently. As anointed, gifted, talented, powerful and awesome as you are, you will fail again, you will need to be encouraged as well encourage others again, you will need to give and receive rebuke and restoration again. And all of this is a blessing because Mark teaches us Humility; Barnabas teaches us Hospitality; and Paul teaches us Hope. Give these wonderful gifts to yourself, as well as to your brothers!

Life is not easy, and there is no flawless, perfect male specimen walking around on this planet! All have sinned, all have missed the mark, all have made mistakes, all have messed up, all have gotten it wrong at some point in life. Pointing fingers is not a remedy. Gossip, rumors, slander, and lies, is not a remedy. Favoritism, is not a remedy. Encouragement and Restoration, now that’s a Remedy! That’s a Recipe for Greatness and Recovery!

Today, Remember that every man is Mark, Barnabas and Paul at some point from moment to moment in this life. Be as forgiving, encouraging, supportive and strengthening as you would want someone to be to you. Be the living proof that any man can go from failure, to encouragement, to restoration! And make it your business to personally be a part of his process!

Which means you will not only need to be Barnabas and Paul, but you’ll also need to be Peter: Luke 22:32, “But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen they brethren.” (KJV) Let’s review this text in a few translations:

“but I have prayed [especially] for you [Peter], that your faith [and confidence in Me] may not fail; and you, once you have turned back again [to Me], strengthen and support your brothers [in the faith]” (AMP)

“But I have prayed especially for you [Peter], that your [own] faith may not fail; and when you yourself have turned again, strengthen and establish your brethren.” (AMPC)

“But Simon, I have prayed that your faith will be strong. And when you have come back to me, help the others.” (CEV)

“I have prayed that you will not lose your faith! Help your brothers be stronger when you come back to me.” (ERV)

“But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith will not fail. So when you recover, strengthen the other disciples.” (GWT)

“but I have pleaded in prayer for you that your faith should not completely fail. So when you have repented and turned to me again, strengthen and build up the faith of your brothers.” (TLB)

“I have prayed that you will not lose your faith! Help your brothers be stronger when you come back to me.” (NCV)

“But I have prayed for you. I have prayed that your faith will be strong and that you will not give up. When you return, you must help to make your brothers strong.” (NLV)

“Simon, stay on your toes. Satan has tried his best to separate all of you from me, like chaff from wheat. Simon, I’ve prayed for you in particular that you not give in or give out. When you have come through the time of testing, turn to your companions and give them a fresh start.” (vss. 31-32 MSG)

Brothers, Today, Determine to be There for Your Brothers!

“Conflict cannot continue without your participation.” (Dr. Wayne Dyer)

“Whenever you’re in conflict with someone, there is one factor that can make the difference between damaging your relationship and deepening it. That factor is attitude.” (William James)

“Do not kid yourself, a conflict is never about the surface issue. It’s about issues unsaid, untreated, and unhealed.” (Author Unknown)

“The goal of resolving conflict in a relationship is not victory or defeat. It’s reaching understanding and letting go of our need to be right.”

“Explain your anger, don’t express it, and you will immediately open the door to solutions instead of arguments.” (Author Unknown)

“Conflict is Inevitable, but Combat is Optional.” (Max Lucado)

“Bringing a problem to resolution and closure through continued discussion and compromise is an honorable act as it shows respect for the needs of both partners.” (Lynne Namka)

“No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” (Albert Einstein)

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: “Ways to Allergy-Proof Your Home”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“You Can Stop Hiding Now”

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“…the Lord God called out to the man, asking him, ‘WHERE ARE YOU?” (Genesis 3:9 ISV)

The first recorded question God ever asked was, “[Adam]…WHERE ARE YOU?” And it’s a question you need to stop and ask yourself today: “Where Am I…Honestly?” If you don’t know the answer, or you do, but you don’t like it, then today’s devotional is for you!

When God asked Adam, “Where Are You?” he responded by saying, “I HEARD YOU in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid” (vs. 10 NIV). The New King James Version says it like this, “…I heard Your Voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I HID MYSELF”  

I find it amazing that USUALLY when we get into trouble, God’s Voice is the Only One We Want To Hear! When we’re sick, in danger, need protection, feel confused, lonely, depressed, discouraged etc…the First Thing We Cry Out Is SPEAK LORD! However, that wasn’t the case with Adam…not when he messed up! And just like Adam, many of us go into HIDING when we mess up! We run away FROM instead of TO the Voice of the Lord! If we could only reach a place of understanding that God is NOT LIKE MAN, we would learn to take our mess to Him instead of trying to hide it from Him (as if that were even possible!)  For even the Psalmist declared:  “Is there ANYPLACE I can go to avoid Your Spirit? To be out of Your sight? If I climb to the sky, You’re there! If I go underground, You’re there! If I flew on morning’s wings to the far western horizon, You’d find me in a minute – You’re already there waiting! Then I said to myself, “Oh, He even sees me in the dark! At night I’m immersed in the light!” It’s a fact: darkness isn’t dark to You; night and day, darkness and light, they’re all the same to You” (Psalm 139:7-12 MSG)

Sorry Saints, But There Is Absolutely NO Hiding From God! So Give It Up!

He Sees You…All Of You…And Yet, Loves You Still! The Bible says, “Christ arrives right on time to make this happen. He didn’t, and doesn’t, wait for us to get ready. He presented Himself for this sacrificial death when we were far too weak and rebellious to do anything to get ourselves ready. And even if we hadn’t been so weak, we wouldn’t have known what to do anyway. We can understand someone dying for a person worth dying for, and we can understand how someone good and noble could inspire us to selfless sacrifice. BUT GOD PUT HIS LOVE ON THE LINE FOR US BY OFFERING HIS SON IN SACRIFICIAL DEATH WHILE WE WERE OF NO USE WHATEVER TO HIM.” (Romans 5:6-8 MSG)

He Loved You BEFORE You Did What You Did, BEFORE You Said What You Said, BEFORE You Thought What You Thought! AND HE EVEN LOVED YOU AFTERWARDS! He Simply Loves You…All Of You…Mistakes, Mess and All! So Stop Trying To Hide From Him! Please understand, God is NOT LIKE MAN!

Man will bring it up again; hold it over your head; brow beat you to death with it; belittle you by it…BUT NOT GOD! HE HAS SAID: “If we claim that we’re free of sin, we’re only fooling ourselves. A claim like that is errant nonsense. On the other hand, if we admit our sins—make a clean breast of them—HE WON’T LET US DOWN; HE’LL BE TRUE TO HIMSELF. HE’LL FORGIVE OUR SINS AND PURGE US OF ALL WRONGDOING. If we claim that we’ve never sinned, we out-and-out contradict God—make a liar out of Him. A claim like that only shows off our ignorance of God.” (1 John 1:8-10 MSG) Beloved, God Is Ready to Forgive You, Purge You and Clean You of All Wrongdoing! So Why Are You Still Trying To Hide From Him? Isn’t Forgiveness and Cleansing What You Want? Well, You Can’t Get It From Him While Trying to Hide From Him!

Listen To How Much He Loves You: “BUT, I, YES I, AM THE ONE WHO TAKES CARE OF YOUR SINS – THAT’S WHAT I DO. I DON’T KEEP A LIST OF YOUR SINS” (Isaiah 43:25 MSG). Now that’s what you call Simply Amazing! If God, of All People, Doesn’t Keep a List, Why Do You Allow Others, and Yourself, to Keep You Stuck In What You Did, Where You Were, Who You Were With etc…? God Himself Said “…I DON’T KEEP A LIST OF YOUR SINS” So Throw Your List Away, And Throw Away The List Others Keep Trying To Keep On You As Well!

Now, this does Not in any way give you a clean slate just so you can dirty it again, for the Word of God Declares:  “Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! NEVER AGAIN LET ANYONE PUT A HARNESS OF SLAVERY ON YOU” (Galatians 5:1 MSG) The Amplified Bible says it like this: “In [this] freedom Christ has made us free [and completely liberated us]; stand fast then, and do not be hampered and held ensnared and submit again to a yoke of slavery [which you have once put off]” (AMP) In other words, He didn’t Redeem You for You to Return to Mess! The Bible says, “As a dog eats its own vomit, so fools recycle silliness” (Proverbs 26:11 MSG) When He Restores You…Don’t Be a Fool and Recycle Your Silly Ways! When He Redeems and Restores You…DON’T RECYCLE YOUR REFUSE! And “Refuse” is defined as “Matter Thrown Away As Worthless” It’s Old French Origin “Refusè” Literally Means “REFUSED”! So Unlike What the Sanitation Department Would Say: I’m Telling You DO NOT RECYCLE! OR BETTER YET, REFUSE THE REFUSE!

I also find it amazing the lengths we will go to in order to “HIDE”! We’ll bury ourselves in work, or get involved in an affair, or build a wall around our hearts, or leave a marriage, leave a job, leave a ministry – anything but face the truth! And that’s not what God wants you to do! After all His Word says, “And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32 NLT) So Why “HIDE” From What You Need To Set You FREE?! Truth and Nothing Else will set you free! And whether you are Embraced or Embarrassed by it, as long as you acknowledge it, you will be set free! Some will talk, some will speculate, some will add scenes to your story that were never part of the plot…but THEY are not the focus….You and Your Truth Are! Man Does Not Have a Hell To Put You In Or A Heaven To Keep You Out Of…SO WHY LET THEIR OPINION CARRY SO MUCH WEIGHT?!

REMEMBER, THE BIBLE SAYS: “But neither exile nor homecoming is the main thing. Cheerfully pleasing God is the main thing, and that’s what we aim to do, regardless of our conditions. Sooner or later we’ll ALL have to face God, regardless of our conditions. WE will appear before Christ and take what’s coming to US as a result of OUR actions, either good or bad.” (2 Corinthians 5:10 MSG) Did You Catch The Bonus In That Scripture?! It says “…WE’LL ALL HAVE TO FACE GOD, REGARDLESS OF OUR CONDITIONS. WE WILL APPEAR BEFORE CHRIST AND TAKE WHAT’S COMING TO US AS A RESULT OF OUR ACTIONS, EITHER GOOD OR BAD” Saints, NO ONE IS EXEMPT FROM ACCOUNTABILITY BEFORE GOD! SO THE NEXT TIME SOMEONE ATTEMPTS TO BRING UP YOUR STUFF…REMIND THEM THAT THEY HAVE A DATE OF ACCOUNTABILITY BEFORE GOD TOO! DON’T WORRY ABOUT WHAT I DID, WHAT I’M DOING OR WHAT I WILL DO…JUST MIND YOUR OWN STUFF! 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12, “Stay calm; MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS; DO YOUR OWN JOB. You’ve heard all this from us before, but a reminder never hurts…” (MSG)

IN ADDITION…THE BIBLE SAYS, “So where does that leave you when you criticize a brother? And where does that leave you when you condescend to a sister? I’d say it leaves you looking pretty silly—or worse. Eventually, WE’RE ALL GOING TO END UP KNEELING SIDE BY SIDE IN THE PLACE OF JUDGMENT, FACING GOD. YOUR CRITICAL AND CONDESCENDING WAYS AREN’T GOING TO IMPROVE YOUR POSITION THERE ONE BIT. Read it for yourself in Scripture: “As I live and breathe,” God says, “every knee will bow before Me; Every tongue will tell the honest truth that I and only I am God.” So tend to your knitting. YOU’VE GOT YOUR HANDS FULL JUST TAKING CARE OF YOUR OWN LIFE BEFORE GOD.” (Romans 14:10-12 MSG)

That’s a Good Spot For a Praise Break! Now, After You Sit Down and Pull Your Neighbor Down, The Lesson Continues:

You see, God wasn’t trying to find Adam; He just wanted Adam to find himself! Yep, that’s it! God Is Simply Trying to Get You To Be Honest About Where You Really Are and What You Really Did! And not so He can hold it over your head, but so you can finally come to full Maturity! After All, Accountability is the Basis of Maturity! You can’t be trusted with More Until You can be trusted to be honest about the Least You Already Messed Up! Yes, You Get a Second Chance…But Do You Realize If You Keep Starting Over…You Never Get Farther Then The Spot You Messed Up In?! Can you imagine your church transitioning every 5 years losing and gaining the same folks like recycling? How is that growth? The same goes for you! You have to Gain Ground Then Establish Your Footing! Psalm 18:33, “He makes my feet like hinds’ feet [able to stand firmly and tread safely on paths of testing and trouble]; He sets me [securely] upon my high places.” (AMP); Habakkuk 3:19, “The Lord God is my strength [my source of courage, my invincible army]; He has made my feet [steady and sure] like hinds’ feet And makes me walk [forward with spiritual confidence] on my high places [of challenge and responsibility].” (AMP); 2 Samuel 22:34, “He makes my feet like the doe’s feet [firm and swift]; He sets me [secure and confident] on my high places.” (AMP) God has already done His part in securing our footing on high places, according to the Word of God, so we can confidently walk forward! Therefore, why are we constantly walking backwards or in vicious cycles to nowhere?!

Look at it this way: If you were given a Billion Dollars in your bank account, and had only 5 minutes to get it out and your bank is across the street, but you only run in place…what’s going to happen? The truth is, you were given the blessing, it’s yours, got your name on it, and it’s even in your bank account, and you have the bank card and access code! The only problem? You have to leave where you are and take steps (progress) across the street to attain it! If not, you can’t complain that you never received the blessing…you just didn’t progress in steps to take hold of it! Maturity is the same! You have to gain ground by taking steps towards Accountability for your deeds, words and speech! “Adams”, you have to grow up and not point fingers at Eve! Likewise, let God take care of your haters, gossipers, tale-bearers and the like! You Are Responsible For YOU and Accountable to GOD! That’s What Matters! So Come Out Of Hiding and Be Truthful You! Even If Your “Truthful” Is Painful and Not So Pretty! Until you do that, you’ll remain where you are, running in place and gaining muscle and strength that is applied to absolutely nothing!

Another problem is, when you “HIDE you become a “PHONY”! And the word “Phony” is defined as “To Be a Fraudulent Person”. And “Fraudulent” means “To Be Dishonest”. Going back a bit, remember John 8:32? “And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free”? People of God, That’s Your Hindrance Right There! Being Phony! Because Being Phony Is Being Fraudulent and Being Fraudulent Is Being Dishonest! And Dishonest Means “Not Honest, Trustworthy, Sincere, or Truthful”! In a Nutshell: Hiding Leads to Phoniness That Causes You To Be Dishonest With Yourself, Others and God! And the Danger of Your Dishonesty Is That It Keeps You From Being Truthful…And Only TRUTH CAN SET YOU FREE! Are You Getting This? UNTIL YOU’RE TRUTHFUL YOU WILL NEVER BE FREE FROM THE TRAPS OF SIN AND DISOBEDIENCE?! And besides that, do you have any idea how much emotional and mental energy it requires of you to keep up a Charade for others? Only two things are worse: being a phony with yourself, and being a phony with God! Furthermore, you’ll find it difficult to be honest with others or look them in the eye. Why? Because you’ll be afraid they might look into your heart and see the real you! Is that where you are today? Afraid to look into your own heart? Or afraid someone else will? 

Well Today, STOP IT! Be Truthful With You, God and Others and then MOVE ON…

Look at it this way: Neither God, Adam, Eve or Even the Serpent Stayed in the Garden After the Fall! There Was Far Too Much of a Story That Had To Continue to Be Lived and Written! Everything Didn’t Stop In the Garden When Adam and Eve Fell, And Your Whole Life Has No Reason To Be Put On Permanent Pause Because of Your Failures or Falls Either! So, Keep Moving! There’s More Story To Tell! The Good News is, Adam was naked but God clothed him; he was guilty but God cleansed him; he was anxious but God comforted him. And if you come to Him today God will cleanse you, clothe you, and comfort you too! He’s just waiting for the opportunity to do it! So when are you going to finally give it to Him?!

Listen: “Hide” means “To Camouflage” and “Camouflage” Old French Origin “Camoufler” means “To Disguise” and “Disguise” means “To Alter In Appearance or Nature So as to Conceal the Identity Of” And that’s what you are doing and allowing others and the enemy to do to you… when you’re in hiding…it Alters and Conceals Your Real Identity In God”. Yes, You Messed Up! Yes, You Got It Wrong! Yes, You Were Disobedient, Sinned and Broke Commandment and Covenant! But Is It Fatal? NO! Your Failure Does Not Make You Illegitimate! You Still Belong to the Body of Christ! You Are Still The Child of the King, Your Father Is Still Enthroned In Heaven, You Are Still An Heir, Joint Heir and Your Inheritance and Your Identity Are Still Your Possessions!

Yes, Adam messed up, but how wonderful to know that he was only the First Adam!

Romans 5:12-21, “You know the story of how Adam landed us in the dilemma we’re in—first sin, then death, and no one exempt from either sin or death. That sin disturbed relations with God in everything and everyone, but the extent of the disturbance was not clear until God spelled it out in detail to Moses. So death, this huge abyss separating us from God, dominated the landscape from Adam to Moses. Even those who didn’t sin precisely as Adam did by disobeying a specific command of God still had to experience this termination of life, this separation from God. BUT ADAM, WHO GOT US INTO THIS, ALSO POINTS AHEAD TO THE ONE WHO WILL GET US OUT OF IT. Yet the rescuing gift is not exactly parallel to the death-dealing sin. If one man’s sin put crowds of people at the dead-end abyss of separation from God, JUST THINK WHAT GOD’S GIFT POURED THROUGH ONE MAN, JESUS CHRIST, WILL DO! There’s no comparison between that death-dealing sin AND THIS GENEROUS, LIFE-GIVING GIFT. The verdict on that one sin was the death sentence; THE VERDICT ON THE MANY SINS THAT FOLLOWED WAS THIS WONDERFUL LIFE SENTENCE. If death got the upper hand through one man’s wrongdoing, CAN YOU IMAGINE THE BREATHTAKING RECOVERY LIFE MAKES, SOVEREIGN LIFE, IN THOSE WHO GRASP WITH BOTH HANDS THIS WILDLY EXTRAVAGANT LIFE-GIFT, THIS GRAND SETTING-EVERYTHING-RIGHT, THAT THE ONE MAN JESUS CHRIST PROVIDES? Here it is in a nutshell: Just as one person did it wrong and got us in all this trouble with sin and death, ANOTHER PERSON DID IT RIGHT AND GOT US OUT OF IT. BUT MORE THAN JUST GETTING US OUT OF TROUBLE, HE GOT US INTO LIFE! One man said no to God and put many people in the wrong; ONE MAN SAID YES TO GOD AND PUT MANY IN THE RIGHT. All that passing laws against sin did was produce more lawbreakers. But sin didn’t, and doesn’t, have a chance in competition with the aggressive forgiveness we call GRACE. When it’s sin versus grace, GRACE WINS HANDS DOWN. All sin can do is threaten us with death, and that’s the end of it. GRACE, BECAUSE GOD IS PUTTING EVERYTHING TOGETHER AGAIN THROUGH THE MESSIAH, INVITES US INTO LIFE—A LIFE THAT GOES ON AND ON AND ON, WORLD WITHOUT END.” (MSG)

In other words ‘Adam’s, the whole world does not cease to exist because you messed up! As long as you have JESUS, there is always recovering grace just waiting to grasp you! No matter how bad or how hard your fall, you don’t have to hide! People of God, You Are the Heritage of the Lord…So Stop Hiding…Come Out And Reclaim Your Proper Place In the Kingdom! Don’t Allow What Happened in YOUR Garden of Eden to Make You Forget What Happened in HIS Garden of Gethsemane! YOU ARE GRACE COVERED…SO DON’T HIDE, BE HONEST, AND BE HEALED!

Jeremiah 23:23-24, “I am everywhere – both near and far, in heaven and on earth. There are no secret places where you can hide from Me.” (CEV)

Job 34:21, “God watches everything we do.” (CEV)

“The person who surrenders absolutely to God, with no reservations, is absolutely safe. From this safe hiding-place he can see the devil, but the devil cannot see him.” (Soren Kierkegaard)

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

“We cannot hide, deny, or cherish sin and expect the Lord to hear and answer our prayers.” (Dr. Charles Stanley)

“Religion is one of the safest places to hide from God.” (Richard Rohr)

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

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

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“6 Rules For Anger Management”

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

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

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

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

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

Observe the following tidbits on Anger: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keep that in mind as you: 

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

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

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

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

Saints, dirty laundry gets aired in two ways: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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“7 Practical Life-Application Lessons From the Cross”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Practical Life Applications:

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

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

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

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

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“The Devil Thought He Had Me, But I Got Away!”

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2 Timothy 4:17-18, “But the Lord stood by me and strengthened and empowered me, so that through me the [gospel] message might be fully proclaimed, and that all the Gentiles might hear it; AND I WAS RESCUED FROM THE MOUTH OF THE LION. THE LORD WILL RESCUE ME FROM EVERY EVIL ASSAULT, AND HE WILL BRING ME SAFELY INTO HIS HEAVENLY KINGDOM; to Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.” (AMP)

I’ve often shared that I’ve made friends from all over the world. Every ethnicity, culture, gender, social, economical, marital status/class, I’ve befriended and built lasting relationships with them all. However, in this friendship tree of mine, I must admit, there are quite a few nuts! And my friend Arlene and her husband Dave are indeed at the top of the nut tree! You see, Arlene was raised in the country, deep country, all woods and maybe 2 houses per town country! Since you get the idea now, listen to this. Arlene decided to visit her father, along with her daughter and son-in-law. She then convinced her Dad to hike with them back into the woods to see the spring where they used to go to get water when she was a little girl. Eventually, they came upon a scene that was imprinted on her memory like a photograph – that spring gushing from the rocks, just beneath a cave above it.

They spent a few minutes exploring and then they headed back. That night her son-in-law pulled out the video that he’d shot of their little expedition. As the picture panned past that darkened cave, he stopped the video and rewound it to get a closer look. And there, gleaming in the darkness, were the two eyes of a big cat – a dangerous wildcat! They hadn’t seen the cat – but the cat clearly saw them! They had been exploring right beneath a wildcat – and they never knew the danger they were in!

Which made me think of 1 Peter 5:8, “Be on your guard and stay awake. Your enemy, the devil, is like a roaring lion, sneaking around to find someone to attack.” (CEV). The Living Bible says it like this, “Be careful – watch out for attacks from Satan, your great enemy. He prowls around like a hungry, roaring lion, looking for some victim to tear apart.” (TLB)

I wonder how many of those, Unseen Dangers, you and I have had in our lives; the things that could have hurt us or destroyed us that we never knew about – in essence, the wildcats that never pounced. In an increasingly dangerous world, isn’t it great to know that you are under that kind of protection?

When I heard Arlene’s story and saw the video, I immediately began to look back over my life. You may not believe it, but I wasn’t born saved, and wasn’t raised in church (I know…who knew…LOL!) So, in replaying the video of my past in my own mind, I was both terrified and grateful, and here’s why. I wasn’t always where I should be; I wasn’t always doing what I should have been doing; I wasn’t always with the person/persons I should have been with, and yet God still spared my life in the midst of all of my unknown, accidental and even willful sins. It made me ask myself, “ never-mind Satan, but why didn’t God just kill me where He caught me?” Whether it was in the club, drinking, smoking, cursing, half-dressed, committing fornication. Why did He let me live? Why didn’t He allow those things to take me out? When I stole, why wasn’t I arrested? When I drove drunk, why wasn’t I locked up? When I was involved in gang activity, why didn’t I ever get shot or stabbed, or caught with the drugs in my possession? I told you, I wasn’t born saved! When I was in a domestically violent relationship for years, and beat up while pregnant, why did me and my baby survive? When I was homeless with my 2 toddlers, why didn’t social services take my children away when I couldn’t provide for them? When I was in the homeless shelter, why did no one hurt me or my children? When I was without a job, why did my children still have something to eat, while other children starved? When my heart valve began to have issues opening and closing properly, why didn’t I go into cardiac arrest? When I had a tubal pregnancy that ruptured on the table, why didn’t I die in surgery? When they continually found cysts and every 6 months for years I had to keep going back and forth to have mammograms and ultrasounds, why did God allow every single time to have them come up benign? When leaving the club at 3am and walking through a dark alley, why wasn’t I attacked, while another woman was, at 12noon during a sunny day? With all the hurt I’ve caused others over the last 4 plus decades of life, why did He spare me to still be found amongst the living?

And if you think that’s bad, I even took it a step further, because truth be told, as believers, we know how to justify behavior and simply say, “yeah, but all that was BEFORE you got saved.” True, but then I would have to address all the sins I committed AFTER salvation! I wasn’t born saved, but I didn’t always lived Saved after salvation either! My super-saints won’t be able to handle this, but for the deliverance of others, here goes: I sinned holding my bible, sinned wearing my collar, sinned in the pulpit and the pew, sinned before Sunday School and after Bible Study, sinned serving Communion and being served Communion, sinned in my robe and my civics! I know that may not be your confession and testimony, but it is mine! I own it and I’m glad God delivered me from it, but didn’t remove the memory so I could help somebody else move from where I USED to be stuck at! I took a brutally honest look back over my life, and it made me think to myself, “Lord, of all the people you could call your own, why in the world did you call me?” Some of my biggest screw ups in fact happened, AFTER salvation! And still His grace, mercy and favor have kept me. Inspite of it all, still His protective hedge has not been removed from my life! When my sins had my entire life right beneath the lions cave, God changed the lion’s appetite so he didn’t pounce and deservingly devour me! That’s why I’m so grateful because even when the devil thought he had me, God still made it so that I got away!

Paul wrote about that level of security in our text of 2 Timothy 4:17-18. He said, “But the Lord stood with me and gave me strength so that I might preach the Good News in its entirety for all the Gentiles to hear. And he rescued me from certain death. Yes, and the Lord will deliver me from every evil attack and will bring me safely into his heavenly Kingdom. All glory to God forever and ever! Amen.” (NLT) Now there is a pretty powerful antidote to fear! The Lord WILL rescue me and deliver me from every evil attack! In fact, not even death can come for me before His timing for it, not even ‘Certain Death’! And even in the face of timely death, I still have further security that “…the Lord will bring me safely into his heavenly Kingdom…” Death can only come for me when God says it’s invited. And even when it’s invited, it will only bring me to my Father’s House in Heaven! That’s why you should look fear, and even fear of death, right in the face and laugh. You are Always Protected By Your God!

Now, for the super-religious, let me add for you, that doesn’t mean we don’t take precautions! Even being protected by God, He has granted His children a good amount of solid common sense! Paul often continued to preach boldly, even when he knew there were forces who wanted to kill him in the city. But other times he left town quickly or sneaked out of the city in a basket.

When Nehemiah and his workers were threatened, he said, “We prayed to our God AND WE POSTED A GUARD DAY AND NIGHT” (Nehemiah 4:9). Now, look, our faith is not in that guard but in our God. But sometimes God chooses to protect us through practical steps that He asks us to take. Therefore, yes you are safe and protected by God, and indeed He will rescue and deliver us. However, we were created with brains for a reason! Always walk by faith, but never walk foolishly, and utilizing God’s wisdom is the best way to accomplish both successfully!

Ultimately we’re safe because our Almighty God is watching over us. In just six verses in Psalm 121, it says “The Lord watches over you” five times! It concludes by saying, “The Lord will keep you from all harm – He will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.” Listen to it in its entirety:

Psalm 121, “I look up to the mountains; does my strength come from mountains? No, my strength comes from God, who made heaven, and earth, and mountains. He won’t let you stumble, your Guardian God won’t fall asleep. Not on your life! Israel’s Guardian will never doze or sleep. God’s your Guardian, right at your side to protect you – Shielding you from sunstroke, sheltering you from moonstroke. God guards you from every evil, he guards your very life. He guards you when you leave and when you return, he guards you now, he guards you always.” (MSG)

My absolute favorite part is, “…HE GUARDS YOU NOW, HE GUARDS YOU ALWAYS.” Meaning I am never without God’s protection. My present is secure, my future is secure, and so are yours!

So, when is the last time you praised the Lord for all those wildcats that never pounced from the cave due to God’s protection? For all those times you’ve been delivered from danger and never even knew it! Makes you wonder why the stray bullet didn’t hit you? Why did the drunken driver missed you? Why did the slashers never cut you? Why did the rapist go down the opposite block from the one you were walking on? Why wasn’t your suicide attempt successful? Why didn’t depression have you in a padded room, rocking and trying to remember your name? Why did the gang and terrorist activity miss your dwelling place? Why didn’t the accident take your life? Why didn’t the loss of employment cause the loss of your home? After such a painful broken trust, why were you allowed to love again? Why did you get to carry a baby to full term after multiple miscarriages? Why did you survive?

I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait ’till we watch the video in heaven! I think we’re going to be absolutely amazed at what could have happened that didn’t!

I often watch the news and I’m blown away at times by the things that happened, that just missed me by a moment! Such as, there was a 5 car pile-up (at an exit I would have normally gotten off on, but we missed it); a train derailed (the same one I was mad at that I missed); a bus broke down (the early one that I usually catch, but missed, and caught the later one, while passing the one I wanted thinking, thank you Jesus); a water-main busted (right by my job, but I had the day off); I was supposed to attend a Federal Campaign Event at the Windows on the World restaurant with my then boss Gary Battle at Aetna (the same week of 9/11, but it was cancelled last minute for not enough participation). 

All I can say is, “The Devil Thought He Had Me, But I Got Away!” I believe it’s safe to say that we ALL owe God continuous praise, worship, gratitude and thanksgiving for the many ‘wildcats’ that He didn’t allow to pounce and devour us whole! Just imagine, that kidnapping could’ve been you; that school shooting could’ve taken your child’s life; that plane you were on could’ve dropped out of the sky; that train you made could’ve derailed; that house fire could’ve been your house! Your drink could’ve been tampered with; popping that one extra pill could’ve been your overdose! You see, I think we’ve dressed up Satan over the years in such a comical manner (red suit with horns and a pitchfork, looking to poke us and hurt us). But that’s not how the Bible describes him. John 10:10 says, “THE THIEF’S PURPOSE IS TO STEAL, KILL AND DESTROY...” (TLB) You see, the devil has a clear PURPOSE, and it’s not to hurt you, it’s to STEAL, KILL AND DESTROY YOU! In other words, the devil is playing for keeps, which means we need to stop playing games! Until Jesus raptures His church, Satan is working overtime to steal, kill and destroy us, and everyone and everything attached to us. So when he makes his temptation offers, that could very will take our lives, and yet God provides a way of escape, we need to be the loudest people with the loudest praise of thanksgiving, because the devil thought he had us, but thank God, we got away!

And if we dare tell the whole truth, many of us got away but the “skin of our teeth”! And the term “skin of your teeth” has some history behind it. Listen: After Shakespeare, a prolific coiner of new words, the King James translation of the Bible has been the biggest source of phrases in English. “By the skin of one’s teeth” is one of them. Meaning ‘narrowly’ or ‘barely’, and referring usually to a narrow escape from disaster. The phrase comes from the Book of Job, in which Job is subjected to horrible trials by Satan, to be relieved finally by God. The precise phrase Job uses is slightly different: ‘My bone cleaveth to my skin and to my flesh, and I am escaped with the skin of my teeth’ (19:20). The Amplified Bible says it like this: ““My bone clings to my skin and to my flesh, And I have escaped [death] by the skin of my teeth.” (AMP) Exactly what ‘the skin of one’s teeth’ might be is not entirely clear, and there have been many theories put forward. However, the most plausible explanation is that it refers to the thin porcelain exterior of the tooth (rather than the gums). In other words, Job escaped with his teeth, but just barely. Job is comparing the narrow margin of his escape with the shallow ‘skin’ or porcelain of a tooth: the equivalent, in fact, of a ‘hair’s breadth’. And truthfully that’s how MANY of us made it out, by a hair’s breadth!

We seem to forget that we are Satan’s target, every moment of every day and every night. Better yet, this is how the Bible describes it: “Keep a cool head. Stay alert. The Devil is poised to pounce, and would like nothing better than to catch you napping. Keep your guard up…” (1 Peter 5:8-11 MSG) That word “pounce” is defined as “to spring or swoop suddenly so as to seize or attack; to take swift advantage of a mistake or sign of weakness.” And that’s what we’ve been spared of, by the skin of our teeth, a pounce from Satan that could’ve suddenly seized and attacked us and our every mistake or sign of weakness! But thank God, His Strength protected us against our weaknesses that the devil could’ve taken advantage of and used to annihilate us with! 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, “Because of the extravagance of those revelations, and so I wouldn’t get a big head, I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me, My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness. Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.” (MSG) Aren’t you grateful that God always steps in the midst of Satan’s plots, with His Own Plan!? Our weaknesses will never go away, which means Satan’s attacks on our weaknesses will never go away…however, neither will God’s Strength!

We’ve made it out of the enemies grasp, by the skin of our teeth, but yet, we still made it out! And therefore, we owe God our best praise! Because when the lion was poised to pounce, God protected us and kept us alive! Every time Satan tried to trap us with temptation, God provided a way of escape! 1 Corinthians 10:13, “No temptation [regardless of its source] has overtaken or enticed you that is not common to human experience [nor is any temptation unusual or beyond human resistance]; but God is faithful [to His word—He is compassionate and trustworthy], and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability [to resist], but along with the temptation HE [HAS IN THE PAST AND IS NOW AND] WILL [ALWAYS] PROVIDE THE WAY OUT AS WELL, so that you will be able to endure it [without yielding, and will overcome temptation with joy].” (MSG)

Be Encouraged, because no matter what the enemy brings our way, God will now and always provide us the way out! THE DEVIL THOUGHT HE HAD US, BUT WE GOT AWAY!

In closing, Psalm 107, is one of my absolute favorite Scriptures. And I love it most in the Message Bible translation, because it reminds me that many of the dangers I faced, God Got Me Out, Just In the Nick of Time!

“Oh, thank God—He’s so good! His love never runs out. All of you set free by God, tell the world! Tell how He freed you from oppression, Then rounded you up from all over the place, from the four winds, from the seven seas. Some of you wandered for years in the desert, looking but not finding a good place to live, Half-starved and parched with thirst, staggering and stumbling, on the brink of exhaustion. Then, in your desperate condition, you called out to God. HE GOT YOU OUT IN THE NICK OF TIME; He put your feet on a wonderful road that took you straight to a good place to live. So thank God for His marvelous love, for His miracle mercy to the children He loves. He poured great draughts of water down parched throats; the starved and hungry got plenty to eat. Some of you were locked in a dark cell, cruelly confined behind bars, Punished for defying God’s Word, for turning your back on the High God’s counsel—A hard sentence, and your hearts so heavy, and not a soul in sight to help. Then you called out to God in your desperate condition; HE GOT YOU OUT IN THE NICK OF TIME. He led you out of your dark, dark cell, broke open the jail and led you out. So thank God for His marvelous love, for His miracle mercy to the children He loves; He shattered the heavy jailhouse doors, He snapped the prison bars like matchsticks! Some of you were sick because you’d lived a bad life, your bodies feeling the effects of your sin; You couldn’t stand the sight of food, so miserable you thought you’d be better off dead. Then you called out to God in your desperate condition; HE GOT YOU OUT IN THE NICK OF TIME. He spoke the word that healed you, that pulled you back from the brink of death. So thank God for His marvelous love, for His miracle mercy to the children He loves; Offer thanksgiving sacrifices, tell the world what He’s done—sing it out! Some of you set sail in big ships; you put to sea to do business in faraway ports. Out at sea you saw God in action, saw His breathtaking ways with the ocean: With a word He called up the wind—an ocean storm, towering waves! You shot high in the sky, then the bottom dropped out; your hearts were stuck in your throats. You were spun like a top, you reeled like a drunk, you didn’t know which end was up. Then you called out to God in your desperate condition; HE GOT YOU OUT IN THE NICK OF TIME. He quieted the wind down to a whisper, put a muzzle on all the big waves. And you were so glad when the storm died down, and He led you safely back to harbor. So thank God for His marvelous love, for His miracle mercy to the children He loves. Lift high your praises when the people assemble, shout Hallelujah when the elders meet! God turned rivers into wasteland, springs of water into sunbaked mud; Luscious orchards became alkali flats because of the evil of the people who lived there. Then He changed wasteland into fresh pools of water, arid earth into springs of water, Brought in the hungry and settled them there; they moved in—what a great place to live! They sowed the fields, they planted vineyards, they reaped a bountiful harvest. He blessed them and they prospered greatly; their herds of cattle never decreased. But abuse and evil and trouble declined as He heaped scorn on princes and sent them away. He gave the poor a safe place to live, treated their clans like well-cared-for sheep. Good people see this and are glad; bad people are speechless, stopped in their tracks. If you are really wise, you’ll think this over—it’s time you appreciated God’s deep love.” (MSG)

Now if that doesn’t encourage you, nothing else will! Right when the roaring lion was poised to pounce and steal, kill and destroy us, God stepped in right in the nick of time and delivered us! Today, let’s obey the Scripture: “…IF YOU ARE REALLY WISE, YOU’LL THINK THIS OVER – IT’S TIME YOU APPRECIATED GOD’S DEEP LOVE.” I agree, it’s time we appreciate God’s deep love for us by thanking Him because…HE DELIVERED US WHEN THE DEVIL THOUGHT HE HAD US…BUT WE GOT AWAY!

So, what will be your response today for God’s multiple rescues of your life? I know what mine will be: Ephesians 3:14-19, “My response is to get down on my knees before the Father, this magnificent Father who parcels out all heaven and earth. I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit—not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength—that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.” (MSG)

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

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“Marriage RIGHTS For When Things Go WRONG”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“Church, Let’s Go Fishing!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Zacchaeus Got Clean, But He Got Caught First!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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