“Are You FOLLOWING the Right LEADER?”

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John 3:30, “He must increase [in prominence], but I must decrease.” (AMP); The Message Bible reads like this: “This is the assigned moment for Him to move into the center, while I slip off to the sidelines.” (MSG)

I am definitely one of those people that has to check and double-check everything I buy at the supermarket. Especially when it comes to dairy, meats, fresh fruit and vegetables. After all, when you’re raised in a house of two great cooks as parents, you come to believe that there really is an art to shopping for food. Some may not know any better, but truth is you can’t just grab the first apple or tomato you see! You have to learn to smell and squeeze the produce. And where did I get that from? My mom. She taught me how to do that as well as the importance of doing that. She taught me that you have to learn how to check for holes and dents in apples and peaches; you don’t just take the first one off the pile. You have to check to see how yellow those bananas are, or how green, or how black. In other words, there are ways to tell whether a fruit or vegetable is one you should buy. However, it’s much tougher to shop for a spiritual leader that’s a good one you can trust. Oh, but there is a way to tell!

Now if we are to be brutally honest, it’s getting tougher and tougher to know which spiritual leaders you can actually trust. After all, we’re living in a time when a lot of Christian heroes have let us down, right? People who say spiritual things, lead spiritual causes, give spiritual counsel, and then all of a sudden something happens that exposes their fleshy hypocrisy. In a way, it kind of makes a lot of us hold back and wonder who can we trust to govern, keep and protect our soul and that of our families?

Now, another truth we need to keep in mind is this, we’re not supposed to have our eyes on man in the first place! Jeremiah 17:5-6, “God’s Message: “Cursed is the strong one who depends on mere humans, Who thinks he can make it on muscle alone and sets God aside as dead weight. He’s like a tumbleweed on the prairie, out of touch with the good earth. He lives rootless and aimless in a land where nothing grows.” (MSG). Surely you don’t want that to be your testimony!

The Bible makes it clear that our focus should never be on flesh! 1 Samuel 16:7, “But God told Samuel, “Looks aren’t everything. Don’t be impressed with his looks and stature. I’ve already eliminated him. God judges persons differently than humans do. Men and women look at the face; God looks into the heart.” (MSG). That word ‘eliminate’ is defined as: ‘to completely remove or get rid of; to reject or exclude from consideration or further participation.’ Its Latin Origin ‘eliminare’ literally means ‘to turn out of doors.’ You see, this man wasn’t just rejected, but he was completely removed, God got rid of him, He made sure he was excluded from any consideration or participation; he was in essence kicked out his own house, turned outdoors! Therefore, if God doesn’t entertain ‘flesh; looks and stature’, why should we?

So, our focus on spiritual leadership shouldn’t be on the flesh, but on the spirit! God does give His people leadership; He does raise up leadership for the benefit of the Body of Christ. Ephesians 4:11-13,And [His gifts to the church were varied and] He Himself appointed some as apostles [special messengers, representatives], some as prophets [who speak a new message from God to the people], some as evangelists [who spread the good news of salvation], and some as pastors and teachers [to shepherd and guide and instruct],  [and He did this] to fully equip and perfect the saints (God’s people) for works of service, to build up the body of Christ [the church];  until we all reach oneness in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God, [growing spiritually] to become a mature believer, reaching to the measure of the fullness of Christ [manifesting His spiritual completeness and exercising our spiritual gifts in unity].” (MSG)

In other words, there are authentic spiritual leaders who are doing their job. God does want us to be able to get His teachings and see His love coming through people, but so many have let us down. How can you tell whether a pastor is a leader from God or a person who’s simply doing his own thing in God’s name?

Well, there’s one person that Jesus really held up as a model leader. It was John the Baptist. He said, “There has been no greater man born among women.” (Matthew 11:11) Now I cannot think of a stronger endorsement than that. Jesus said John the Baptist was the real deal; a real spiritual leader, worthy of following. And why was John the Baptist an ideal leader? In John 3:30, speaking of Jesus, John said this, “He must become greater; I must become less.The King James Version says, “He must increase; I must decrease.” 2 other translations read like this:

“Jesus must become more important, while I become less important.” (CEV);

“He must increase in importance, while I must decrease in importance.” (GWT);

You know how to test a spiritual leader? Well, one of the tests is this: Does he/she leave you thinking more about him/her or more about Jesus? Where is the spotlight focusing most and shining brightest, on him/herself, or God? Is it more about his organization, his goals, his ministry, his programs, or more about Jesus and the Great Commission He assigned for us to fulfill? An authentic man or woman of God, like John the Baptist, puts himself or herself in the background, on the sidelines, making sure that JESUS is the one who’s made to be Greater and More Important, in the very center. However, the leader doing his own thing is heavy on sentences that have: “I”, “me”, and “mine” in them, but rarely, “HIM”.

Is this the only test? No, but it’s a pretty good start. If you’re in leadership, measure yourself that way. Who is getting the attention, you the leader or the Savior? The real spiritual leaders, the ones you can trust, are the ones who put Jesus in the spotlight and make you think about Him and forget about them. They’re not seeking accolades and applause and amen’s. They don’t need their names called for everything, anything and nothing. They don’t need their picture posted on every wall nor do they need their name written on every piece of paper. They don’t need a chair the size of the Throne of God. Their main focus is that you focus mainly on Jesus! If that’s not the type of leader you are under, get out now!

Years ago I read about a man who maybe a hundred years ago had lived in the countryside in England. He traveled to London and wrote to his wife and said, “Honey, today I went to two of the great churches of London. This morning I heard Dr. Cartwright and he is a great preacher. Tonight I went to Metropolitan Tabernacle and I heard Mr. Charles Spurgeon.” He said, “Mr. Spurgeon has a great Savior.Leaders, after you’re done speaking, teaching or preaching, do you want them to remember a great preacher, or do you leave them thinking about a great Savior? I never like to leave a church or service feeling like I was just greatly entertained by an outstanding cast of performers. I don’t want to remember the songs, the dances, the praise breaks, the garments, the titles, the beauty of the sanctuary. But what I want to leave with is conviction that I can be a better believer than I have been. It’s rare these days that I actually hear sermons that speak on holiness, sanctification, repentance, sin, hell, consequences of bad choices, or even chastisement. Instead, messages focus more on houses, cars, land, spouses, promotions, increase, harvest, blessings, abundance, and the like. But what happened to using the Word to do what it was originally designed to do? And what’s that you ask? Well, 2 Timothy informs us:

2 Timothy 3:14-17, “But as for you, continue in the things that you have learned and of which you are convinced [holding tightly to the truths], knowing from whom you learned them, and how from childhood you have known the sacred writings (Hebrew Scriptures) which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus [surrendering your entire self to Him and having absolute confidence in His wisdom, power and goodness].  All Scripture is God-breathed [given by divine inspiration] and is profitable for instruction, for conviction [of sin], for correction [of error and restoration to obedience], for training in righteousness [learning to live in conformity to God’s will, both publicly and privately—behaving honorably with personal integrity and moral courage]; so that the man of God may be complete and proficient, outfitted and thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (AMP)

The Message Bible says it like this: “But don’t let it faze you. Stick with what you learned and believed, sure of the integrity of your teachers—why, you took in the sacred Scriptures with your mother’s milk! There’s nothing like the written Word of God for showing you the way to salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. Every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another—showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God’s way. Through the Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us.” (MSG)

For some reason I don’t think the Word is being preached or taught in this manner anymore. Because everyone is happy, over-joyed and excited to leave church when the Word is done. However, the Word says when the Word comes forth it will instruct, convict, correct, train, and exposeSo if that’s how the Word is coming forth, why are we so happy after every sermon, every week? We should leave after the Word feeling as though we’ve received instructions since we’ve been convicted and corrected of wrongs, and now we’re being trained to be better since our worst has been exposed. We should leave with pad and pen in hand and a list of what we need to make our own lives better.

Now, I certainly don’t believe you should spend Sunday after Sunday being busted upside the head with the Bible. But shouldn’t something be said week after week that makes you better week after week? And not “feel” better, but “be and do better.” There is indeed a difference.

Maybe you’ve been burned by Christians, by a Christian leader, many of us have. I’ve certainly had the experience of being hurt by spiritual leadership. But don’t let them cause you to miss Jesus in the midst of it all. Sometimes I think we get so lost in “Following Them”, that we forget Jesus said, “Follow Me.” Does that mean we ignore spiritual leadership? Absolutely not! Romans 13:1-7, “Every person must obey the leaders of the land. There is no power given but from God, and all leaders are allowed by God. The person who does not obey the leaders of the land is working against what God has done. Anyone who does that will be punished. Those who do right do not have to be afraid of the leaders. Those who do wrong are afraid of them. Do you want to be free from fear of them? Then do what is right. You will be respected instead. Leaders are God’s servants to help you. If you do wrong, you should be afraid. They have the power to punish you. They work for God. They do what God wants done to those who do wrong. You must obey the leaders of the land, not only to keep from God’s anger, but so your own heart will have peace.  It is right for you to pay taxes because the leaders of the land are servants for God who care for these things.  Pay taxes to whom taxes are to be paid. Be afraid of those you should fear. Respect those you should respect.” (NLV);

Hebrews 13:17, “Be responsive to your pastoral leaders. Listen to their counsel. They are alert to the condition of your lives and work under the strict supervision of God. Contribute to the joy of their leadership, not its drudgery. Why would you want to make things harder for them?” (MSG).

In other words, leadership be it in the church or in the land is to be respected. Now, you don’t have much say so in the leaders of the land, but you have a lot of say so under which leader you submit to in any given church. You are not their by force but by choice, so choose your place of worship wisely. Don’t make a selection as though it were an arena, museum, palace, stage or theater. But ask God for godly wisdom that you make the right choice to serve in the right house of worship under the right leader.

And what are some signs that you have the right leader? Just listen to Scripture:

Matthew 17:6-8, “When the disciples heard it, they fell flat on their faces, scared to death. But Jesus came over and touched them. “Don’t be afraid.” When they opened their eyes and looked around all they saw was Jesus, only Jesus.” (MSG) You need to be submitted under a leader that makes you see Only Jesus. Not them, their accomplishments, titles, positions, vestments, rings, robes, initials, degrees, collars, etc…But Only Jesus!

1 Corinthians 2:2, “You’ll remember, friends, that when I first came to you to let you in on God’s master stroke, I didn’t try to impress you with polished speeches and the latest philosophy. I deliberately kept it plain and simple: first Jesus and who he is; then Jesus and what he did—Jesus crucified.” (MSG) You need to be submitted under a leader whose preaching and teaching is about who Jesus is and what Jesus did. Not who they are (or think they are) not on what they’ve done (or think they’ve done). But a leader who keeps the name of Jesus on his/her lips when preaching or teaching. Not someone using Greek, Latin, and Hebrew in every other sentence, and certainly not someone who you need to keep the Webster’s Dictionary on hand every other 2 lines to know what 23 letter words they keep using every 5 minutes to be verbally impressive! A good leader keeps it “plain and simple.” And to those of my preacher friends who stand flat foot and preach and teach the ‘plain and simple’ Gospel, without hoop and holler, please do not compare yourselves to those who do. A hoop and holler are not the equivalent or evidence of the Holy Ghost, it is but a person’s preferred style of execution. It’s apart of their personality in how they choose to deliver. So, never feel as though you are not making the same, or even a greater impact on the lives of your hearers, just because your delivery is packaged differently. You don’t have to yell, scream, sweat, do back-flips, bang the podium, spin around in circles with fancy footwork, flying hands and spit spreading everywhere. You can still, speak what God gave you and go sit down without breaking a sweat, and still watch souls be added to the Kingdom of God. Remember, whatever your ‘preferred style’, the importance is on the Message being delivered in its most plain and simple form. Look at it like this: If a person who’s diabetic has their glucose levels shoot up through the roof, do you really think at a time like that, they want someone to hand them a pen of insulin and teach a 2 hour, detailed tutorial on the history of insulin, before they use it? No, they need a straight shot! Stick pen now! And truthfully there are a lot of people coming to our churches that are leaving empty because we’ve over-complicated the message. You can’t properly apply what you don’t clearly understand. Therefore, I reiterate, what your ‘preferred style’ is, for the sake of the people’s soul and eternity, keep it ‘plain and simple.’

Galatians 1:10-12, “Do you think I speak this strongly in order to manipulate crowds? Or curry favor with God? Or get popular applause? If my goal was popularity, I wouldn’t bother being Christ’s slave. Know this—I am most emphatic here, friends—this great Message I delivered to you is not mere human optimism. I didn’t receive it through the traditions, and I wasn’t taught it in some school. I got it straight from God, received the Message directly from Jesus Christ.” (MSG) You need to be submitted to a leader that is void of intimidation and manipulation. A leader that doesn’t need and seek applause and popularity. A leader that doesn’t attempt to impress with 9 titles and 14 initials (half of which were bought, not earned). A leader that hears from God and speaks the unadulterated Word of God to His people. A leader who is not into people pleasing, is sure to help you grow to your full potential.

Colossians 3:23-25, “Servants, do what you’re told by your earthly masters. And don’t just do the minimum that will get you by. Do your best. Work from the heart for your real Master, for God, confident that you’ll get paid in full when you come into your inheritance. Keep in mind always that the ultimate Master you’re serving is Christ. The sullen servant who does shoddy work will be held responsible. Being a follower of Jesus doesn’t cover up bad work.” (MSG) You need to be submitted to a leader that knows who the real Master is (and that it clearly is not them). Working in the church they pastor, still means you are working for God! Avoid leaders who make you feel as though you work personally for them. The work of the ministry has nothing to do with mere man. The work of the ministry is adding souls to the Kingdom. And even in this work, we are to put forth our best effort, remembering WHO it is we’re working for. Avoid leaders who act as though the Church is their personal incorporation. A leader of humility and servanthood is who you sit under submissively. A leader that does his/her best which brings out the very same in you! That’s the leader you follow.

2 Timothy 4:3-4, “You’re going to find that there will be times when people will have no stomach for solid teaching, but will fill up on spiritual junk food—catchy opinions that tickle their fancy. They’ll turn their backs on truth and chase mirages. But you—keep your eye on what you’re doing; accept the hard times along with the good; keep the Message alive; do a thorough job as God’s servant.” (MSG) You need to be submitted to a leader that will feed you the unadulterated Word of God. I love the word “unadulterated” because it’s simply defined as “having no inferior added substance.” In other words, you need a leader that will call it “Adultery”, not “An Affair”; “Sin” and not “An Issue”. You need a leader that possesses the wisdom of when to cover you and when to expose you. You need the bread of life, not a cake of compromise. A leader that will tell you when you’re wrong, not help you try to justify it as right. You need a leader that will continue to serve you the Solid Meat of the Word even when your flesh only wants to Digest Spiritual Junk Food!

Galatians 2:19-21, “What actually took place is this: I tried keeping rules and working my head off to please God, and it didn’t work. So I quit being a “law man” so that I could be God’s man. Christ’s life showed me how, and enabled me to do it. I identified myself completely with him. Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not “mine,” but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I am not going to go back on that. Is it not clear to you that to go back to that old rule-keeping, peer-pleasing religion would be an abandonment of everything personal and free in my relationship with God? I refuse to do that, to repudiate God’s grace. If a living relationship with God could come by rule-keeping, then Christ died unnecessarily.” (MSG) You need a leader just like that!

If you see a leader who leaves you thinking about Jesus, in the crowded spiritual supermarket that you and I shop in, you’ll know that’s one worth buying into. So, after this little lesson, it is my prayer that you will carefully, thoroughly, honestly re-evaluate your spiritual leadership. Make sure you are in the right house with the right head. The loss of your soul is too costly!

Remember our opening text:

John 3:30, “He must increase [in prominence], but I must decrease.”; (AMP);

“This is the assigned moment for Him to move into the center, while I slip off to the sidelines.” (MSG);

“Jesus must become more important, while I become less important.” (CEV);

“He must increase in importance, while I must decrease in importance.” (GWT).

There are many things you can use to measure good leadership, but why not follow the ruler Jesus Himself used? He used John the Baptist because He wasn’t out to compete with Him, he was out to make Jesus the most prominent; the center; and the most important, even if that meant he was to decrease; slip off to the sidelines and become less important. If you dare find a leader like that, follow him/her closely, you’ve indeed found the right one!

Charles H. Spurgeon Quotes:

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

“That very church which the world likes best is sure to be that which God abhors.”

“Satan, he can make men dance upon the brink of hell as though they were on the verge of heaven.”

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

“The preaching of Christ is the whip that flogs the devil. The preaching of Christ is the thunderbolt, the sound of which makes hell shake.”

“The Word of God is like a Lion. You don’t have to defend a lion. All you have to do is let the lion loose and the lion will defend itself”

“Visit many good books, but live in the Bible”

“If you are idle in Christ’s work, you are active in the devil’s work”

“If sinners be damned at least let them leap to hell over our dead bodies. And if they perish, let them perish with our arms wrapped around their knees. If hell must be filled, let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let no one go unwarned or unprayed for.”

“People, like sheep, tend to follow a leader – occasionally in the right direction.” (Alexander Chase)

“According to Scripture, virtually everything that truly qualifies a person for leadership is directly related to character.” (John MacArthur)

“Leadership is unlocking people’s potential to become better.” (Bill Bradley)

“Leaders don’t create followers, they create more leaders.” (Tom Peters)

“A man who wants to lead the orchestra must turn his back on the crowd.” (Max Lucado)

“Leadership is not about titles, positions or flowcharts. It is about one life influencing another.” (John C. Maxwell)

“To become a leader worth following, you must give time and attention to the inner man. To leave a legacy that goes beyond accomplishments alone, a leader must devote himself to matters of the heart.” (Andy Stanley)

“Christian leadership is a privilege of being in the service of influencing God’s people to achieve divine vision and purpose.” (Tionge Matela Msiska)

“Most Christian leadership is exercised by people who do not know how to develop healthy, intimate relationships and have opted for power and control instead. Many Christian empire-builders have been people unable to give and receive love.” (Henri Nouwen)

“A leader is one who sees more than others see, who sees farther than others see, and who sees before others see.” (Leroy Eims)

“Leadership is not about positions and having people bow to you. It’s not about having titles conferred on you. Leadership is about service. It is about helping people fulfill their God-given purpose.” (Pastor Mensa Otabil)

“To keep the wrong leader in the wrong place prevents the right leader from being in the right place.” (Aubrey Malphurs)

“Hold yourself responsible for a higher standard than anybody expects of you. Never excuse yourself.” (Author Unknown)

“Those of us who have been privileged to receive education, skills and experiences and even power must be role models for the next generation of leadership.” (Wangar Maathai)

“Leadership is all about people. It is not about organizations. It is not about plans. It is not about strategies. It is all about people-motivating people to get the job done. You have to be people-centered.” (Colin Powell)

“Your gifts are not about you; leadership is not about you; your purpose is not about you. A life of significance is about serving those who need your gifts, your leadership, your purpose.” (Kevin Hall)

“A big part of leadership is recognizing that your fruit often grows on other people’s trees.” (Todd Adkins)

“True leadership is the authority given by the trust of the followers to use power for the benefit of all.” (Dr. Myles Munroe)

“Every local church has a leader, but it seems so few local churches are being led.” (Andy Stanley)

“Leadership in church is one of the biggest challenges that the church is facing because without strong leadership, the church rarely lives out its redemptive potentials.” (Bill Hybels)

“Spiritual leadership is knowing where God wants people to to be and taking the initiative to get them there by God’s means in reliance on God’s power.” (John Piper)

“Leaders must be close enough to relate to others, but far enough ahead to motivate them.” (John Maxwell)

“The art of communication is the language of leadership.” (James C. Humes)

“The true test of leadership is how well you function in a crisis.” (Brian Tracy)

“The story of the church, as depicted in the book of Acts, is one of a community of faith directed by a team of leaders working together toward a common vision. Had the church relied upon a single, incredibly gifted, magnetic individual to replace Jesus, the church would surely have collapsed.” (George Barna)

“Integrity is the most valuable and respected quality of leadership. Always keep your word.” (Brian Tracy)

“If serving is below you, leadership is beyond you.” (Bishop Dale C. Bronner)

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

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“Rest is NOT a Sin”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which is why you should:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Feel free to also join us at: http://www.selfcarewithdrshermaine.blogspot.com Today’s Lesson: “5 Things to Know About Your Metabolism”

Feel free to join us at: http://www.chefshermainesbiblecafe.home.blog Today’s Chef Special Word: “FORGIVE”

LETS STAY CONNECTED!

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“Leadership Must Be TESTED, Not Just TITLED!”

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

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

So remember the following in times of TESTING: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2 Timothy 2:15 (various translations)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“The Process of Pruning Produces the Fullness of Potential”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Feel free to also join us at: http://www.selfcarewithdrshermaine.blogspot.com Today’s Lesson: “Low-Grade Depression – Here’s What That Means”

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“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

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“Leadership Balance: When to SIT, When to SERVE”

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Luke 10:38-42, “Now while they were on their way, Jesus entered a village [called Bethany], and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home.  She had a sister named MARY, WHO SEATED HERSELF AT THE LORD’S FEET AND WAS CONTINUALLY LISTENING TO HIS TEACHING.  BUT MARTHA WAS VERY BUSY AND DISTRACTED WITH ALL OF HER SERVING RESPONSIBILITIES; and she approached Him and said, “Lord, is it of no concern to You that my sister has left me to do the serving alone? Tell her to help me and do her part.”  But the Lord replied to her, “MARTHA, MARTHA, YOU ARE WORRIED AND BOTHERED AND ANXIOUS ABOUT SO MANY THINGS;  but only one thing is necessary, for MARY HAS CHOSE THE GOOD PART THAT WHICH IS TO HER ADVANTAGE], WHICH WILL NOT BE TAKEN AWAY FROM HER.” (AMP)

Every now and then I love a good 5-star restaurant, however, anyone who knows me will tell you, I’m an Applebee’s-A-Holic! I love the Bourbon Street Chicken and Shrimp (that’s my New Orleans side talking). But it’s my absolute most favorite meal there. Well, me and a few coworkers went there for lunch one day and it was at the tail end of their rush hour. Can I tell you, this place is a zoo for about 90 minutes around that time! But after some time it was slowing down and one of the waiters was finally able to stop and chat with us (a good friend from our leadership workshops). Anyway, when he asked how we were doing, I said, “I don’t know about them, but I’m doing a whole lot better now. I had lunch!” Sean’s response? “I know what you mean. If I wait very late to eat lunch, I start to get shaky. I told him, “Well, I guess you’re in a good place then.” Sadly, he corrected me. He said, “Sometimes we are so busy serving it that we don’t have time to eat it ourselves. I guess you could say we’re ‘Starving Servants’Nothing could’ve broken my heart more.

Truth is, a lot of us have experienced what my restaurant friend Sean was talking about – being so busy serving that we don’t have any time to get fed ourselves naturally or spiritually. Think about it, it happened to Martha, didn’t it? It’s happened to me way too often, and probably to you, too.

Particularly in leadership, I find it easy to burn out while trying to keep everybody else’s flames burning brightly. For many of us, we’re busy getting wood, finding matches and lighters, positioning logs, collecting paper or twigs, stoking dying embers, and even removing ashes so they don’t hinder any future fires. We’re so busy trying to keep others on fire, that we’ve become lukewarm ourselves! And certainly we don’t want “lukewarm” to be descriptive of us! Revelation 3:16, “So because you are lukewarm (SPIRITUALLY USELESS), and neither hot nor cold, I will vomit you out of my mouth [REJECTING YOU WITH DISGUST]” (AMP). I reiterate, surely, you don’t want this to be descriptive of us!

But the hard truth is, sometimes, you can get so busy praying for others, that you forget to pray for yourself. You take such good care of everyone else’s health, while yours deteriorates. So busy doing everything for everybody, that you forget you are a body too. And your body needs proper food, exercise, and rest as well. Think about it: Jesus was hungry, so He ate, He was tired, so He slept, He was angry, and so He threw the money-changers out, He was sorrowful, and so He wept. Now, if the Son of God Himself can have emotions and healthily express them, who are we to pretend to be ‘Super-Human’? Selah…

Mary and Martha’s experience is described to us in Luke chapter 10. The above version gives it to us in the Amplified Bible, but now, let’s look at the same Scripture in the Message Bible translation, it reads: “As they continued their travel, Jesus entered a village. A woman by the name of Martha welcomed him and made him feel quite at home. She had a sister, MARY, WHO SAT BEFORE THE MASTER, HANGING ON EVERY WORD HE SAID. BUT MARTHA WAS PULLED AWAY BY ALL SHE HAD TO DO IN THE KITCHEN. Later, she stepped in, interrupting them. “Master, don’t you care that my sister has abandoned the kitchen to me? Tell her to lend me a hand.” The Master said, “MARTHA, MARTHA, YOU’RE FUSSING FAR TOO MUCH AND GETTING YOURSELF WORKED UP OVER NOTHING. One thing only is essential, and MARY HAS CHOSE IT—IT’S THE MAIN COURSE, AND WON’T BE TAKEN FROM HER.” (MSG).

The 2 parts I love about this version is: “…ONE THING ONLY IS ESSENTIAL…” and “…IT’S THE MAIN COURSE…” Can you imagine being so busy in the kitchen that you don’t even know the ‘MAIN COURSE’ has been served? How can you be Starving and yet miss out on the Main Course?

Now, anyone following my devotionals/blogs for any length of time, know I love the origin of words. I love what’s called ‘Etymology’, which is defined as, “an account of the origins and the developments in the meaning of a word.” Its Greek Origin, “Etumologia”, from “Etumos”, literally means “True”. And that’s all Etymology is, discovering the true meaning of a word. With that said, let’s discover some definitions. Remember now, my 2 favorite parts about the text are: “…ONE THING ONLY IS ESSENTIAL…” and “…IT’S THE MAIN COURSE…”

“Only” is defined as “unquestionably the best; alone in a class or category; existing with no other or others of the same kind.”

“Essential” is defined as “fundamental; central; absolutely necessary.”

“Main Course” is defined as “the most substantial course of a meal; featured; primary; usually the heaviest, heartiest, and most substantive; also called the ‘meat course.’”

In other words, Mary, being, “…seated…at the Lord’s feet…continually listening to His teaching…and…who sat before the Master, hanging on every word he said…” was doing the thing that was: unquestionably the best thing, for it is in a class all by itself, not in comparison to anything else. Being seated at the feet of Jesus is fundamental, central and absolutely necessary. Mary choosing to sit at the feet of Jesus, to hear the Words of Jesus, chose the Main Course, that which is most substantial, featured, primary, the heaviest, heartiest and most substantive meal of any course. She chose the Main Course which was indeed the Meat Course! Leaders, can you honestly say you’ve made the same choice?

This reminded me a lot of Matthew 4:4, “But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” Let’s look at this Scripture in a few translations:

“…Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes out of the mouth of God.’” (AMP);

“…People won’t live only by bread, BUT BY EVERY WORD SPOKEN BY GOD.” (CEB);

“…‘No one can live only on food. PEOPLE NEED EVERY WORD THAT GOD HAS SPOKEN.” (CEV);

“…‘It is not just bread that keeps people alive. THEIR LIVES DEPEND ON WHAT GOD SAYS.’” (ERV);

“…Scriptures tell us that bread won’t feed men’s souls: OBEDIENCE TO EVERY WORD OF GOD IS WHAT WE NEED.” (TLB);

“…“It takes more than bread to stay alive. IT TAKES A STEADY STREAM OF WORDS FROM GOD’S MOUTH.” (MSG);

“…‘A person lives not on bread alone, BUT BY EVERYTHING GOD SAYS.’” (NCV);

“…’Man is not to live on bread only. MAN IS TO LIVE BY EVERY WORD THAT GOD SPEAKS.’” (NLV)

Serving does have its place of priority, especially among leadership. However, do you now see the vitality attached to the admonishment of hearing and heeding the Word of God? Our very lives, says the Scripture, ‘…depends on what God says…” But if we make no time to hear what thus saith the Lord, how do we intend to keep on living? This is the equivalent of having your heart literally stop beating, your lungs stop pumping oxygen, your brain entering into a vegetative state, your warm blood starts to run cold, but you insist You Are Alive! No ma’am, no sir, you are not! And just as you cannot live without the healthy functioning of your vital organs, so you need a healthy appetite of the Word of God to ensure you continue to live, and live well. The Word of God is Your Vital Organ! “Jesus answered him, “The Scriptures say, ‘It is not just bread that keeps people ALIVE. THEIR LIVES DEPEND ON WHAT GOD SAYS.’” (ERV)

Preachers, Teachers, it’s not enough to study the Word of God only to give it out to others. Now, is that our responsibility to share it, absolutely. However, is that our only responsibility, absolutely not!

I believe we are personally accountable to study the Word of God for ourselves, according to 2 Timothy 2:15, “Study and do your best to present yourself to God approved, a workman [tested by trial] who has no reason to be ashamed, accurately handling and skillfully teaching the word of truth.” (AMP); and 2 Timothy 3:16-17, “All Scripture is God-breathed [given by divine inspiration] and is profitable for instruction, for conviction [of sin], for correction [of error and restoration to obedience], for training in righteousness [learning to live in conformity to God’s will, both publicly and privately—behaving honorably with personal integrity and moral courage]; so that the man of God may be complete and proficient, outfitted and thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (AMP)

However, I also believe we are personally accountable to Ephesians 4:11-13 as well, “And [His gifts to the church were varied and] He Himself appointed some as apostles [special messengers, representatives], some as prophets [who speak a new message from God to the people], some as evangelists [who spread the good news of salvation], and some as pastors and teachers [to shepherd and guide and instruct],  [AND HE DID THIS] TO FULLY EQUIP AND PERFECT THE SAINTS (GOD’S PEOPLE) FOR WORKS OF SERVICE, TO BUILD UP THE BODY OF CHRIST [THE CHURCH]; UNTIL WE ALL REACH ONENESS IN THE FAITH AND IN THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE SON OF GOD, [GROWING SPIRITUALLY] TO BECOME A MATURE BELIEVER, REACHING TO THE MEASURE OF THE FULLNESS OF CHRIST [MANIFESTING HIS SPIRITUAL COMPLETENESS AND EXERCISING OUR SPIRITUAL GIFTS IN UNITY].” (AMP)

It’s vital to take personal accountability for ourselves AND others. A Healthy Balance between the two. We have to study AND teach, but we also have to individually become mature believers, growing spiritually for ourselves.

It takes nothing from you as a leader to know when to SERVE and when to SIT. For in truth, you will need to do them both if you are to be an effective, efficient leader. In a nutshell, SERVE AND FEED OTHERS, BUT DON’T STARVE YOURSELF!

Now, Martha’s busy serving Jesus. Mary is sitting at Jesus’ feet, listening to Him. Which is better? Most of us make-it-happen, get-it-done types would instinctively gravitate to the doing stuff rather than the being stuff. But Jesus says, “Mary has chosen what is BETTER. I think we’ve all been Martha-ed…and maybe you are right now. You get so busy SERVING Jesus that you have no time to SIT WITH Jesus. It’s like my Applebee’s friend. We’re so busy serving spiritual food to others that we’re actually eating less of it ourselves. Now that’s backwards! The more people are looking to you, the more you have to be with the Lord yourself. But, frankly, it’s easy to let your spiritual health become a victim of ministry. In fact, serving God’s Word without experiencing God yourself is a prescription for burnout!

There is no leader, no believer, so gifted, anointed, talented, and powerful, that you are the only person God can use. The reality is, if you don’t teach another lesson, there will be another teacher. If you don’t preach another sermon, there will be another preacher. If you don’t make it to visit the hospital, hospice, jail, and nursing home, there is someone else who can! Neither the world or the Kingdom of God Stop, because you Start to take some time for yourself! It’s not selfish, it’s self-preservation, it’s self-care.

Elijah, YOU ARE NOT THE ONLY ONE LEFT! 1 Kings 19:13-18, “…He said, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God of hosts (armies), because the sons of Israel have abandoned (broken) Your covenant, torn down Your altars and killed Your prophets with the sword. AND I, ONLY I, AM LEFT; and they seek to take away my life.” The Lord said to him, “Go, return on your way to the Wilderness of Damascus; and when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael as king over Aram (Syria); and you shall anoint Jehu the son of Nimshi as king over Israel; AND ANOINT ELISHA THE SON OF SHAPHAT OF ABEL-MEHOLAH AS PROPHET IN YOUR PLACE.  It shall come about that Jehu shall put to death whoever escapes from the sword of Hazael, and Elisha shall put to death whoever escapes the sword of Jehu. YET I WILL LEAVE 7,000 [SURVIVORS] IN ISRAEL, ALL THE KNEES THAT HAVE NOT BOWED DOWN TO BAAL AND EVERY MOUTH THAT HAS NOT KISSED HIM.” (AMP). So, God Not Only Has a Replacement in Place for YOU, but He’s Also Got 7,000 Survivors! I reiterate, you are not so gifted, anointed, talented, or powerful that you are the only person God can use. He’s already got in place your replacement, plus, 7,000 others! Please believe me, you are not the only one God has left to use. Therefore, I strongly admonish you to learn the balance between SERVING and SITTING. This is the sign of a healthy, effective leader. After all, if you die prematurely because of your lack of balance, you do realize God already has your understudy in place? The term ‘understudy’ is defined as, ‘an actor who learns another’s role in order to be able to act in their absence.’ The show don’t die because you do! So if you die early, we’ll celebrate your life; mourn your death; and then another actor will step into your role! Leaders, Take Better Care of You!

I learned the hard way, there’s a danger in studying God’s truth only to prepare lessons, Bible studies, sermons, devotionals, blogs etc…and missing the purpose of studying it, which is to have your life changed through applying it to your everyday life. Not, just sharing with others so they can apply it to theirs. There’s a danger of becoming someone who leads others to experience the Lord while you’re slowly becoming a spectator yourself. And you can so fill your life with Christian meetings, Christian positions, and Christian activity that it feels like knowing the Lord. But, in fact, those activities have slowly crowded out that precious private time with Jesus. And that time is the fuel for any valid ministry! When you run out of time with God, you run out of fuel, which may clarify why you’ve been feeling so empty!

Stop Serving And Starving! Sooner or later that’s going to lead to a Martha Meltdown! Ministry is supposed to be the overflow of your own time with the Lord, not a religious substitute for it. So if you feel yourself growing weak and tired, frustrated, and negative while you’re serving your Lord, don’t blame the work and don’t blame the customers. You probably have not taken time to feed yourself spiritually – to really be with Jesus. And remember, your very life depends on every Word God speaks. You don’t want to lose your seat at the foot of Jesus because you were so busy serving for Jesus! You need balance. That word “balance” is defined as “an even distribution of weight ensuring physical, mental or emotional stability.” Its Old French Origin, from Latin literally means “balance having two equal scale-pans.” And what does God have to say about balance and scales? Proverbs 20:23, “The Lord hates for people to use the wrong weights to cheat others. It is wrong to use scales that are not accurate.” (ERV) Whether you lean too much to the Mary side or too much to the Martha side, neither is Good. Neither is a just weight. You are cheating yourself and others out of your very best. The natural and spiritual scales in your life should always be equally balanced. You need time to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen, then you need time to get up from the feet of Jesus and be the feet of Jesus, to go and feed the masses the Bread of Life.

“…BUT MARTHA WAS VERY BUSY AND DISTRACTED WITH ALL OF HER SERVING RESPONSIBILITIES…” (AMP); BUT MARTHA WAS PULLED AWAY BY ALL SHE HAD TO DO IN THE KITCHEN….” (MSG) Martha, you are not by yourself, so stop being so busy. Distractions are deadly, so pace yourself and focus your attention. There are only 24 hours in every day. You can only do but so much. So, do your part, and know when the scenes have changed, we’ve moved on to another part in the play. It’s now their time to act, their role is to be played, not yours. Leaders, know how to share parts, and know when to bow out when yours is done. You are not the only character in the story of the Kingdom.

“MARTHA, MARTHA, YOU ARE WORRIED AND BOTHERED AND ANXIOUS ABOUT SO MANY THINGS…” (AMP); “…“MARTHA, MARTHA, YOU’RE FUSSING FAR TOO MUCH AND GETTING YOURSELF WORKED UP OVER NOTHING….” (MSG) Martha, are the people around you becoming more and more annoyed by your presence? Have you even noticed? Martha, stop comparing, stop complaining, stop fussing, worrying, being anxious and bothered (and bothering everybody else by the way)! You’ve been getting yourself worked up over everybody and everything. Stop running around, and go sit down!

“…MARY, WHO SEATED HERSELF AT THE LORD’S FEET AND WAS CONTINUALLY LISTENING TO HIS TEACHING….” (AMP); “…MARY, WHO SAT BEFORE THE MASTER, HANGING ON EVERY WORD HE SAID…” (MSG) Martha, Balance With Mary! It’s not about being one or the other. It’s not about one being so much better than the other. The best is balancing the both of two great worlds. Serving and Sitting. Leading and Listening. Being at His Feet, and Being His Feet. Balance is Beautiful and Necessary! Leaders, the Head can’t be sick while expecting the Body to be Well. Everything Starts at the Top and Works Its Way Down. And Whether You are a Healthy or Unhealthy Leader, It Is Working Its Way Down From the Head to the Body. Do Not Become the Illness That Infects Your Own House!

“Balance is not something you FIND, it’s something you CREATE” (Jana Kingsford)

“Life is a balance of holding on, and letting go.” (Author Unknown)

“Life is about balance. Be kind, but don’t let people abuse you. Trust, but don’t be deceived. Be content, but never stop improving yourself.” (Author Unknown)

“Extremes are easy. Strive for balance.” (Colin Wright)

“The major work of the world is not done by geniuses. It is done by ordinary people, with balance in their lives, who have learned to work in an extraordinary manner.” (Gordon B. Hinckley)

“Life is a balance between what we can control and what we cannot. I am learning to live between effort and surrender.” (Danielle Orner)

“If the emotional bills don’t balance, there has to be an accounting.” (Marie Casey Stevens)

“Problems arise in that one has to find a balance between what people need from you and what you need for yourself.” (Jessye Norman)

“I want balance in my life.” (Ron Dellums)

1 Corinthians 12:18, “But now [as things really are], God has placed and arranged the parts in the body, each one of them, just as He willed and saw fit [with the best BALANCE of function].” (AMP);

2 Timothy 1:7, “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity or cowardice or fear, but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of sound judgment and personal discipline [abilities that result in a calm, WELL-BALANCED mind and self-control].” (AMP);

1 Peter 4:7, “The end and culmination of all things is near. Therefore, be sound-minded and self-controlled for the purpose of prayer [staying BALANCED and focused on the things of God so that your communication will be clear, reasonable, specific and pleasing to Him.]” (AMP);

1 Peter 5:8, “Be sober [WELL BALANCED and self-disciplined], be alert and cautious at all times. That enemy of yours, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion [fiercely hungry], seeking someone to devour.” (AMP) 

Leaders: Don’t Serve Life to Others, Yet Starve to Death Yourself!

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

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“The Protocol of the Anointing”

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“…It’s like costly anointing oil FLOWING DOWN head and beard, FLOWING DOWN Aaron’s beard, FLOWING DOWN the collar of his priestly robes.” (Psalm 133:2 MSG)

A Well-Known Fact Is This: If People Can Lift You Up, They Can Also Very Well Let You Down! Remember That!

In April 1993, after Steve Morrow scored the goal that gave the Arsenal Football Club England’s Championship Cup, his teammates tossed him into the air in ritual celebration. BUT…they failed to catch him when he came down, and an embarrassed Morrow was carried off the field on a stretcher with a broken arm and an oxygen mask over his face! Can you imagine the feeling after such a great victory, to walk away looking more like the loser than the winner? And if that’s not bad enough, what’s worse is that it wasn’t those AGAINST him that hurt him, but it was those FOR him, those on his OWN TEAM!

The Psalmist writes: “How wonderful, how beautiful, when brothers and sisters get along! It’s like costly anointing oil FLOWING DOWN head and beard, FLOWING DOWN Aaron’s beard, FLOWING DOWN the collar of his priestly robes. It’s like the dew on Mount Hermon FLOWING DOWN the slopes of Zion. Yes, that’s where God commands the blessing, ordains eternal life.” (Psalm 133:1-3 MSG).

The Amplified Bible says it like this: “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious ointment poured on the head, that RAN DOWN on the beard, even the beard of Aaron [the first high priest], that CAME DOWN upon the collar and skirts of his garments [consecrating the whole body]. It is like the dew of [lofty] Mount Hermon and the dew that comes on the hills of Zion; for there the Lord has commanded the blessing, even life forevermore [upon the high and the lowly].” (AMP).

I want us to take a look at a few vital lessons found here:

1…According to the Bible, the “COSTLY ANOINTING OIL” is tied directly to “how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in UNITY.” And yet, somehow the church still manages to fight and compete more over the “anointing/anointed” than they are willing to come together and work together on the same team for the same goal. Listen, you can’t tell me you’re anointed and yet you’re at odds with your brothers and sisters in Christ who are connected and fitly joined in the same One Body. The anointing is yoked to your unity, not disunity. So if you’re so “anointed” that you can’t get along with your brothers and sisters, perhaps you’re not necessarily “anointed”, just “oily.” Look at it like this: Pouring oil on raw chicken then serving it to others is unhealthy and deadly. Yet, pouring oil on the same raw chicken, however, placing it in the oven to thoroughly cook until it’s done and then serving it to others, feeds and nourishes them. The difference is one went through nothing, and the other went through a process. With that said, I’ve come to discover that some people are just “oily”, possessing no nutritional value whatsoever, and can be deadly in their words, actions and attitude, because they’ve endured no process. They just threw on some oil and assumed it was the same as the anointing. And yet you also have those who have more than just “oil”, because they’ve been processed. Which is why a lot of “oily” folks are immature; while processed “anointed” folks are mature. You see, they’ve learned to respect process; time; persistence; endurance; patience; and waiting. All things that the immature can’t handle. On the other hand, the maturity of the anointed knows that the key is dwelling and working together in unity with your brothers and sisters. Anything less, is just immature, oily folks who cause malnutrition to the Body of Christ. Which is why it’s so vital to remember: Ephesians 4:16, “From Him the WHOLE BODY [THE CHURCH, IN ALL ITS VARIOUS PARTS], JOINED AND KNITTED FIRMLY TOGETHER by what EVERY JOINT supplies, when EACH PART IS WORKING PROPERLY, CAUSES THE BODY TO GROW AND MATURE, BUILDING ITSELF UP IN [UNSELFISH] LOVE.” (AMP) The Costly Anointing Oil is Yoked to Unity in the Body of Christ;

2…According to the Bible, the “anointing oil” is “PRECIOUS”. It is not to be used as a tool of competition and comparison. It is to be treated as the precious, treasure that it is, not fruitless attempts to out-do, or be better than someone else. We’ve so grievously misused, and mishandled the anointing. But it was never given for the purpose of trying to out-shine anyone else. The anointing serves a purpose and that purpose is not a selfish tool used at your whim. “And it shall come to pass in that day, that his burden shall be taken away from off thy shoulder, and his yoke from off thy neck, and the yoke shall be destroyed because of the anointing.” (Isaiah 10:27). Does that sound like the anointing should be used in a common manner? Certainly not. Therefore, today, realize the purpose, plan and power of the anointing, and handle it as the precious oil that it is. It should never be handled haphazardly for it’s the necessity to the destruction of yokes! The word “precious” is defined as “having great value”. Its Latin Origin ‘pretiosus’, from ‘pretium’ literally means ‘price.’ The anointing is too costly to be utilized in such a cheap manner as to degrade it with competition and comparisons. Remember that the next time you’re tempted to out-preach, out-teach, out-pray, out-sing, out-shout, out-praise your brethren! That is not the purpose for something this precious and priceless. The Costly Anointing Oil is Precious;

3…According to the Bible, the “anointing oil” covered “…the collar and skirts of his GARMENTS…Can you imagine the anointing covering your garments? Sometimes I wonder if the anointing is as present on us, in us and with us as we say? Because shouldn’t at some point in time, contact with the anointing alter your garments? Truth is, there’s some attire (on both men and women) in church that confuses me. I don’t understand open cleavage; visible panty-lines; tight clothes that need an oxygen mask of their own. And things have gotten so bad in church, even amongst leadership, that vestments have become “fashion statements”. But in Scripture the “anointing oil” covered “…the collar and skirts of his garments…Shouldn’t the church be seen differently than the world, even in our attire? And if so, why do our “holy garments” look no different than their “fashion statements”? And since when did words like “basic”; “simple”; “fundamental”; “decorum“; “descent“; become curse words? Think about this: Being crafted in His image and likeness; being called the righteousness of God and ambassadors of Christ, shouldn’t we be a bit more cautious and careful in how we present ourselves, or should I say more importantly, how we present and represent HIM? With that said, today, take a double-look at how you “as a believer” dresses (men and women alike). Make sure that you are sending the right message. After all, would you want to be in an emergency situation and the NYPD showed up dressed like the swim team? No, you expect them to be in uniform and to be prepared and equipped, and looking like the distinguished officers they’ve been called to be. Well, people should expect the very same from us as believers, followers, disciples, Christians and Children of God. There should never be cause for people to need to take a double-look or question if we’re a part of the Kingdom of Light or the Kingdom of Darkness. The Costly Anointing Oil Should Alter Our Attire;

4…According to the Bible, the “anointing oil” did something special “…it consecrated the whole body.The word “consecrate” is defined as “to make or declare sacred; to ordain to a sacred office.” Its Latin Origin “consecrare” literally means “to dedicate or devote as sacred.” In this day and age of the church we don’t see much consecration, dedication or devotion to GOD. Can we dare to tell the truth, rings, robes, chairs, positions and titles are all being haphazardly tossed to and fro with no meaning or purpose other than to say from one year to the next, I’ve been elevated…again. But the “anointing oil” is precious and serves to consecrate. It signifies that you’ve been set apart for no other reason, purpose, motive, intention, or agenda than to simply be used of God. “…the whole body…” was consecrated. Head to Toe. Which makes me wonder do we make sure that our minds, thoughts, deeds, actions, words, emotions, and the like are all set apart for God as well as our bodies? Does He have all of us, or just the parts we’re willing to give Him? Think about it: When the Father gave us His Son, He didn’t give us pieces of Him, He gave us His Whole Son. He sacrificed All that He is, just to have all that we are, and to use us to draw in others with the same loving-kindness. Is the anointing that special to you? Does it mean so much to you that you’re willing to give God ALL of you for His use in His service for His kingdom? Or is the anointing just special to you when you’re assigned to preach, to teach, to pray, to lead, or to be visible to others? The Costly Anointing Oil Consecrates the WHOLE Body;

5…According to the Bible, the “anointing oiland the “unity of the brethren” is also tied directly to “the dew of Mount Hermon…that comes on the hills of Zion; for there the Lord has commanded the blessing even life forever more…How amazing that the anointing is attached to a place where the Lord has commanded blessings and eternal life? And yet, we treat it so commonplace. But your anointing is a blessing and its life! Don’t get so caught up in the distractions of treating the anointing as a competitive edge over your ministry colleagues. Your anointing is not so you can preach better, teach awesome, or pray like the intercessor of the month. Your anointing is where the Lord has commanded blessings and life, treat it as such and don’t devalue it by abusing it carelessly. The Costly Anointing Oil Gives Blessings and Life;

6…According to the Bible, the “anointing oil” is “…upon the high and the lowly…The anointing does not discriminate. It doesn’t wait until Sunday morning, special services, consecrations, conferences and convocations to flow. It doesn’t need to be attired in full vestments to flow. It serves 2 people no differently than it serves 200 or 2 million. So, a good question to ask yourself is, do I flow to All, or just stagnate toward a few? The anointing reaches the “…the highly and the lowly…It treats alike the rich and the poor, the white and the black, the educated and the challenged, the sick and the well, the old and the young, the women and the men, all equally. Do you? Honestly, do you teach to the same degree with a class of 3 that you do in a class of 30? Do you preach to a congregation of 12 the same as you would 1,200? Do you carry yourself the same whether meeting with the CEO or the janitor? The anointing is consistent and does not change up roles like characters in a play. And if you are amongst the anointed, neither should you. The Costly Anointing Oil Does Not Discriminate;

7…Lastly, according to the Bible, “the anointing oil” “…FLOWS DOWN…

Despite what you see in a lot of our churches today, God still works through Structure and Order! “For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.” (1 Corinthians 14:33). The New Living Translation says it like this: “For God is not a God of disorder but of peace, as in all the meetings of God’s holy people.” (NLT). In other words, the Oil Flows DOWN, Not UP! That would be confusion and contradiction, doing the opposite of what the Word has already declared.

Truth is, it doesn’t matter if those Under you think you’re absolutely wonderful, unless those Above you agree! Like it or not, but leadership and anointing come with the requirement of complete submission and total surrender. I don’t care how many people pat you on your back, never let it go to your head! Meek, lowly, humble are all characteristics that every anointed leader should carry. It keeps you from becoming pompous, arrogant and conceited. Remember: the anointing flowed down from Aaron (the leader, the high priest). It did not flow from Israelite to Israelite. It flowed from the High Priest down…In Order!

Until you understand that, you’ll be susceptible to those who, for their own reasons, and hidden agendas, want to tell you how wonderful you are and how you should be running the show! However, in God’s Kingdom, you’re not approved by people, you’re approved by God: “…This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye Him.” (Matthew 17:5); “Fellow Israelites, listen to these words! Jesus the Nazarene was a man whose credentials God proved to you through miracles, wonders, and signs, which God performed through him among you. You yourselves know this.” (Acts 2:22 CEB); “Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant.” (Galatians 1:10 NLT); “God tested us thoroughly to make sure we were qualified to be trusted with this Message. Be assured that when we speak to you we’re not after crowd approval—only God approval. Since we’ve been put through that battery of tests, you’re guaranteed that both we and the Message are free of error, mixed motives, or hidden agendas. We never used words to butter you up. No one knows that better than you. And God knows we never used words as a smoke screen to take advantage of you.” (1 Thessalonians 2:3-5 MSG). Bottom Line: The Anointing is Approved of By God, Than the Leadership in Which You Are Submitted, Subjected and Surrendered to, NOT By the People Who Pat and Applaud You!

Like in the opening story above, the very same people who lifted Steve Morrow UP, were the very same people that let him fall DOWN! And if you think they won’t do the very same to you, just ask Jesus! The same that yelled “Hosanna, Hosanna,” in one breath, were the very same people who inhaled then exhaled “Crucify Him, Crucify Him.” God is still a God of structure and order. Let Him Approve of You, Then Be Patient and Wait For His Approval to Pass From His Desk to Your Leaders, and Then On to You. The anointing is not like ordinary oil, it does not run out. So even if you have to wait for the appointed, appropriate time, WAIT. You’re anointing will never be assigned to someone else. Nor will it dry up and deplete itself. Nothing from the Holy Spirit lacks or is deficient in anyway. So I admonish you, don’t allow people, especially your inner circle, clique, crew etc…to push you before God’s allotted time. Respect the process and wait. Let the oil flow DOWN from the head to you!

The word “flow” is defined as “to move steadily and continuously; to move or issue forth freely.In other words, you don’t have to force it, you just have to wait for it!

Remember this: To do anything significant for God you must first submit to leadership that can inspire you, instruct you, and when the time is right, release you into your calling. So don’t leave the church, argue with leadership, get caught up in the gossip mill, resign, walk away, throw in the towel and give up. Just be patient and wait. The anointing oil is still flowing!

And while you wait, learn the protocol that goes with the position. The word “protocol” is defined as “the official procedure or system of rules governing affairs of state or diplomatic occasions; the accepted code of behavior in a particular situation.” Its original sense however meant “the original note of an agreement; the first page or flyleaf.” Which is the introduction or beginning of an agreement. It’s the table of contents letting you know all that comes AFTER this first, initial page. It gives the description of what is to come. And the start of any proper protocol to any position is submission and surrender. The ability to wait with expectation and a good attitude. And the first step of protocol to your anointing is to remember that the Oil Flows DOWN! So stay low, stay meek, stay humble. It is after all, the place where the anointing flows and settles.

In conclusion: The “anointing oil” reminds me a lot of the Old Testament leader Joash, who was the keeper of the cellars of oil. When you get a chance make sure you study it, it is valuable information for leaders and laity alike! However, in a nutshell: He was responsible for keeping the oil; making sure it stayed in place; and watching out for intruders. But the downside, as some would say, to his position was that he was unnoticed, uncomfortable, lonely and unappreciated. He couldn’t come out the bottom of the cellar until the king called for him. And much is the same for you, the anointed, possessors of the anointing. The oil flows DOWN, not in a prominent, seen, visible, highly acknowledge position. But it’s lowly and unnoticed until the king calls you forth. Make sure you remember that the very next time someone attempts to “encourage you to follow them instead of the flow of the anointing oil.” Stay low and humble, continue to serve, because even when you think no eyes are on you, they are. When leadership deems it time for you to come to the forefront, your anointing will flow. But until then, stay down until He brings you up!

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

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“You’re Too Close to Lose Focus Now!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“Pray For Your Pastor”

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

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

Paul is one of the most tried Pastors of all time! One of God’s most suffering servants! In his own words Paul declares: “I’ve worked much harder, been jailed more often, beaten up more times than I can count, and at death’s door time after time. I’ve been flogged five times with the Jews’ thirty-nine lashes, beaten by Roman rods three times, pummeled with rocks once. I’ve been shipwrecked three times, and immersed in the open sea for a night and a day. In hard traveling year in and year out, I’ve had to ford rivers, fend off robbers, struggle with friends, struggle with foes. I’ve been at risk in the city, at risk in the country, endangered by desert sun and sea storm, and betrayed by those I thought were my brothers. I’ve known drudgery and hard labor, many a long and lonely night without sleep, many a missed meal, blasted by the cold, naked to the weather. And that’s not the half of it, when you throw in the daily pressures and anxieties of all the churches.“ (2 Corinthians 11:23-27 MSG).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SAINTS, PRAY FOR YOUR PASTOR!

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

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

SAINTS, PRAY FOR YOUR PASTOR!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your Pastor Needs You and Your Prayers!

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

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

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

Prayer is the greatest support for any Pastor.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PAY CLOSE ATTENTION TO WHAT HAPPENS NEXT!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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