“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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“Don’t Let FAKE FOOL You!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For me, this was yet another Selah moment…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“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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“Give Your Faith Some Feet”

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Joshua 3:14-17, “So when the people broke camp to cross the Jordan, the priests carrying the ark of the covenant went ahead of them.  Now the Jordan is at flood stage all during harvest. Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan AND THEIR FEET TOUCHED THE WATER’S EDGE, the water from upstream stopped flowing. It piled up in a heap a great distance away, at a town called Adam in the vicinity of Zarethan, while the water flowing down to the Sea of the Arabah (that is, the Dead Sea) was completely cut off. So the people crossed over opposite Jericho.  The priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord stopped in the middle of the Jordan and stood on dry ground, while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground.” (NIV)

One of the things I’m known for in my household is packing! I don’t care where we’re going, by the time we get there, there will look like a replica of home! Now, that may be alright when you’re going away for a few days, but unfortunately I’m a creature of habit. So I pack like that even for an overnight trip! For example, I had to teach a leadership workshop in upstate New York, for only one day! I was taking Amtrak for only approximately 3-4 hours after work, and then staying to teach the workshop the next day, and the day after that coming back home. I literally needed nothing more than what I was teaching in and a hygiene package. But that would make far too much sense for ‘Pack-It-All Patty’! I had my files and I had my laptop. Then I had hard copies just in case the Power-point presentation didn’t work out. But those things make sense, what didn’t make sense was the large (medium and small) suitcases I took with me…for One Day! In other words, I had a lot of luggage! Now, my large suitcase, which was screaming for mercy because I packed everything but the kitchen sink in it, is what I call ‘Big Bertha’! Seriously, I actually called her ‘Big Bertha’! Stop laughing, and don’t judge me!

Well, on this particular day I was loaded down with ‘Big Bertha’ as I was paying my Overnight hotel bill. I looked over at the door that I was going to be using to leave the hotel and there was a problem. There was no handle on that door. I had this heavy load and a door with no apparent way to open it. Is that a problem? Well, of course not. You know what happened. As I walked toward that door, presto, it opened all by itself! All I needed to do was walk towards it! Keep that in mind!

In Joshua 3 is where the Jews are about to cross into their Promise Land. But they’re facing a flooded Jordan River and if they’re anything like me, they would be wondering how in the world are we ever going to get across this! But let’s walk through the text from the beginning to dig out some diamonds in the rough. Bear in mind, the first six verses are what happens BEFORE the Lord ever says a word to Joshua. Listen:

Joshua 3:1-6, “Early in the morning Joshua and all the Israelites set out from Shittim and went to the Jordan, where they camped before crossing over.  After three days the officers went throughout the camp,  giving orders to the people: “When you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and the Levitical priests carrying it, you are to move out from your positions and follow it.  Then you will know which way to go, since you have never been this way before. But keep a distance of about two thousand cubits between you and the ark; do not go near it.” Joshua told the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you.” Joshua said to the priests, “Take up the ark of the covenant and pass on ahead of the people.” So they took it up and went ahead of them.” (NIV)

Verse 1, this happened early in the morning! In other words, you cannot expect to get anywhere great by being lazy! The leaders and the people all had to get up and out…Early in the Morning! Nutshell: No More Excuses! If you want it, get up and go get it! Just be mindful that the timing of God is often inconvenient! You have to be ready to rise with the Son and the Sun!

Verses 2-5, the leaders give clear and concise orders for the people to follow. You cannot expect to get anywhere great with unorganized leaders and uninformed followers. The people were told who to look out for, who to look to and where to go, even when to go. They are taught obedience, (‘…move out from your positions and follow it. Then you will know which way to go…) But they are also warned about following directions to the letter, because, (‘…you have never been this way before…’) How awesome that not only you, but a whole group of people with you get the opportunity to enter new territory, in which they’ve never been in before. And all they need is obedience to get there. And so will you. When you start to believe God to open new doors, some of those doors will be uncommon, unfamiliar and uncomfortable. What you did to get through the last doors won’t open these new doors. So you have to be prepared to have guidance, direction, focus, vision, obedience, and courage to step into a new place, new level and new territory. This next direction from God for your life will be where you have never been before, therefore, hear clearly and heed without compromise. Another great nugget here is, (‘…When you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and the Levitical priests carrying it, you are to move out from your positions and follow it. Then you will know which way to go, since you have never been this way before. But keep a distance of about two thousand cubits between you and the ark; do not go near it.’) Always have a keen sense of the presence of the Lord with you. Truth is, going into new territory, in a way you’ve never been before, is a bit scary. And where there is fear there is the tendency to stand still. But if you do, you’ll miss where God is taking you NEXT. If you want the doors to open, you have to move towards them by faith. God is with you even when it feels awkward, when you’re uncertain, when you’re nervous and even when unbelief desires to peek its little head in. God is with you. Let that be your motivation to keep moving forward! If you get stuck here, you’ll stay here, and the door that would’ve opened, will remain closed. Are you really willing to risk your destiny?

Verses 6-7, make sure those following you are uncontaminated! The word ‘contaminate’ is defined as ‘to make impure by exposure to or addition of a poisonous or polluting substance.’ Its Latin Origin ‘contaminare’ means ‘to make impure’, from ‘contamen’ meaning ‘to pollute through contact.’ Listen: the last thing you need when you’re about to enter a new door, a new season, a new level, is to be attached to people who will pollute you through contact. “… Joshua told the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you.” The word “consecrate” is defined as “to make or declare sacred; to dedicate, to set aside, to set apart, to devote to sacred use.” In a nutshell: you don’t need anyone attached to you that’s living just any kind of way. You don’t need to be polluted by those unholy, unclean, ungodly, or unrighteous. You don’t need to be polluted by those in fornication or adultery. You don’t need to be polluted by those who are filled with fear, negativity, unbelief, or pessimism. You don’t need to be polluted by those who are wavering in their faith, them that are double-minded and unstable in all of their ways. You don’t need to be polluted by those who are functioning outside of the Will of God for their own lives. Make sure the people you’re taking with you are consecrated, dedicated and devoted to being holy! Why? Because there’s a lot at stake, (‘…Joshua told the people, “Consecrate yourselves, FOR TOMORROW THE LORD WILL DO AMAZING THINGS AMONG YOU.”) Are you willing to miss out on God’s promise because you’re in contact with polluted people? He’s getting ready to do something in your life that’s absolutely amazing, therefore, check the company you keep…in advance…and make all necessary adjustments…Prior to the Promise! And then the Bible says, “…Joshua said to the priests, “Take up the ark of the covenant and pass on ahead of the people.” So they took it up and went ahead of them.” (NIV) Leaders, you have to be among the people to relate, but ahead of them to motivate. You have to show them where we’re going, not just say it. We’re visual people, we need to see you actually believe what you say! If you say where going to the next level, we need to see your feet already in motion!

Now, once the people and leaders have all done their part, then the Lord speaks:

Verses 8-13, ” Tell the priests who carry the ark of the covenant: ‘When you reach the edge of the Jordan’s waters, go and stand in the river.’” Joshua said to the Israelites, “Come here and listen to the words of the Lord your God.  This is how you will know that the living God is among you and that he will certainly drive out before you the Canaanites, Hittites, Hivites, Perizzites, Girgashites, Amorites and Jebusites.  See, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth will go into the Jordan ahead of you.  Now then, choose twelve men from the tribes of Israel, one from each tribe.  And as soon as the priests who carry the ark of the Lord—the Lord of all the earth—set foot in the Jordan, its waters flowing downstream will be cut off and stand up in a heap.” (NIV)

First, you always want to have a leader that tells you to listen to the Word of the Lord (not just to him). Remember, it is God who will get you to the promise, not man.

Secondly, God always has such a wonderful way of encouraging His people to know that He’s always with them. Again, when you’re about to conquer something new, amazing and unfamiliar, fear will creep in…make sure your faith kicks it out! God Himself sends them a reminder through reassurance that He is in fact with them. And no matter what enemies they would face (‘…Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Girgashites, Amorites, Jebusites…”) He would drive them out! God will allow nothing and no one to hinder you from the Promise He made to you. That’s why you should never allow fear to halt your feet of faith. It doesn’t matter what or who you will encounter on your way to the promise, God has already promised it will not over take you! So you need not worry if on your journey to the promise you encounter your own ‘ites’ as the Israelites did, God will drive them out. And it doesn’t matter if those ‘ites’ are (hypertension, diabetes, cancer, lumps, tumors, unemployment, divorce, foreclosure, heart break, or financial disaster) it will not impede your journey to the promise…God has already Promised! And He Never Breaks His Promise! Listen to my favorite Scripture in varying translations, Jeremiah 1:12:

“…I am [actively] watching over My Word to fulfill it.” (AMP);

“…I am alert and active, watching over My Word to perform it.” (AMPC);

“…I’m watching over My Word until it is fulfilled.” (CEB);

“…I always rise early to keep a promise.” (CEV);

“…I am watching to make sure that My message to you comes true.” (ERV);

“…I am watching to make sure that My Words come true.” (GWT);

“…I’ll make every Word I give you come true.” (MSG);

“…I am watching to see that My Word is completed.” (NLV)

In other words, God Keeps His Word! He watches over it to make sure it comes to pass, so no matter what obstacles you encounter along the journey to your promise, keep moving your feet of faith forward!

What I also love about this text is proper positioning, accountability, responsibility, leadership and order. “…Now then, choose twelve men from the tribes of Israel, one from each tribe.  And as soon as the priests who carry the ark of the Lord—the Lord of all the earth—set foot in the Jordan, its waters flowing downstream will be cut off and stand up in a heap.” (NIV) The men were chosen and there was no argument regarding who was chosen. Now, in today’s church, that scene would’ve played out a tad bit different! “Why does he get to do it; why is she over that; who said he could go there; why is she sitting over there now; he hasn’t been here long enough to do that; she’s not living right, how does she get to go with them; why Tony and not Tommy; why Keisha and not Karen?” And the bickering would go on forever and a day. And yet, they were told to choose 12, the 12 were chosen and that was the end of the story. Always remember, there is too much at stake to miss out on God’s promise because we’re too busy fighting for control; in competition; making comparisons; and judging who was chosen. Think about it: does it matter which 12 were chosen, since Everybody gets the same promise? Don’t allow distractions to get in the way of you reaching your destined promised land! Positioning is necessary because Order is vital. But in the end, We All Get the Promise! Remember we are One Body of Christ, His One Church, therefore, let’s act like it. Let’s get Everybody in Procession to the Promise!

God says, “…And as soon as the priests who carry the ark of the Lord – the Lord of all the earth – set foot in the Jordan, its waters flowing downstream will be cut off and stand up in the heap.” When God is with you, and goes before you, and gives you an unbreakable promise, what’s keeping your feet from moving forward in faith?

Verses 15-17, conclude like this, “Now the Jordan is at flood stage all during harvest. Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water’s edge, the water from upstream stopped flowing.” It piled up in a heap a great distance away, at a town called Adam in the vicinity of Zarethan, while the water flowing down to the Sea of the Arabah (that is, the Dead Sea) was completely cut off. So the people crossed over opposite Jericho. The priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord stopped in the middle of the Jordan and stood on dry ground, while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground.” (NIV)

And what’s my favorite part? Well, when did the water’s part? It said, “…as soon as their feet touched the water’s edge…”

You see, if it was me, I might have tried to negotiate this one, “I’ll tell you what, Lord. How about you part the waters and I’ll start walking in.” But, He says, “No. You start walking in and I’ll part the waters.” Sounds a lot like faith with feet. It also sounds a lot like my automatic door at the hotel. It looked like I could hurt myself if I just kept walking toward that door. After all, I couldn’t see any way it would open, so I could have stood there with ‘Big Bertha’, my suitcase, all afternoon waiting for an opening. But the door opened as I was walking toward it – by faith you might say.

Now, can you imagine if I never moved towards the door? I would’ve been standing there with ‘Big Bertha’, weighted down and going nowhere. And mind you, the only thing that would’ve hindered me would have been my own 2 feet. Maybe that’s what’s been hindering you too. Instead of going to the mortgage loan officer; to the dealership; to that interview; to negotiate that property; or fill out those scholarship and grant papers…you’re simply standing still, in the same place, going nowhere, with all those doors just waiting for you to step foot near them so they can automatically open just for you! And think about it, even while I was carrying ‘Big Bertha’, the door still opened as soon as I stepped to it. So before you start to run down your long laundry list of all the baggage you have with you as the reason you can’t go through any new doors, remember, I had ‘Big Bertha’ and the door still opened! God is not intimidated by your baggage! And truth be told, many of us are avoiding doors because of the baggage we carry, but just as that door didn’t care two cents about my baggage but opened anyway, so God doesn’t care about your baggage either, He cares about your feet, just like the automatic door does. Carry your baggage, right up to the door! Your baggage doesn’t hinder your entrance or your exit! The door only cares that you move your feet towards it, regardless of what you’re carrying! So don’t let fear and doubt, or inadequacies keep you standing still! No, Give Your Faith Feet and Move Forward!

Stop allowing yourself to get stuck on how the door will open or if the door will open, Just Move Your Faith Feet Towards It! You see, we, of course, want to know how every door might open. We want to know how every need will be met, every obstacle will be removed, and the Lord says, “Just start walking.” But meanwhile, we just stand still waiting for the waters to part or until we’ve had a lot of our questions answered, till it looks safe. And many people have lost God’s plan for their lives that way over and over again. The door can’t wait to open for us, but we’re standing at a distance wondering, “will it open, where does it lead, who’s on the other side, is it a wooden, glass or iron door, does it have a handle, do I ring the bell, who will help me with this baggage…” Stop Murmuring and Move!

God is asking you to walk by faith, not by sight. This is not about what you see, it’s about what He said! And He said the promise is yours, you just have to walk towards it. So Move Your Feet of Faith! I know it’s risky, I know it’s scary, I know it’s intimidating, I know it’s uncertain, unclear, unfamiliar, uncommon, and even unconventional. And still I admonish you…Give Your Faith Some Feet and Move Forward! Automatic doors don’t need handles, so you don’t need your hands for this one. You’re not going to open it, fix it, or figure it out. This time it’s not about your eyes, but your ears, not about what you see, but what He said. This time it’s not about your hands, but your feet, you don’t need to handle anything, you just need to move your feet.

Today, allow this devotional to encourage, empower and inspire you, but also allow it to challenge you to change from your normal, status quo comfort zone, and get on course with God to your next promise. You’ve been standing here staring at that door long enough. Move your feet of faith towards it, and watch God open it and do amazing things just for you…Just As He Promised!

James 1:22-24, “Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are a listener when you are anything but, letting the Word go in one ear and out the other. Act on what you hear! Those who hear and don’t act are like those who glance in the mirror, walk away, and two minutes later have no idea who they are, what they look like. But whoever catches a glimpse of the revealed counsel of God—the free life!—even out of the corner of his eye, and sticks with it, is no distracted scatterbrain but a man or woman of action. That person will find delight and affirmation in the action.” (MSG)

Hebrews 11:1-2, “Now faith is the assurance (title deed, confirmation) of things hoped for (divinely guaranteed), and the evidence of things not seen [the conviction of their reality—faith comprehends as fact what cannot be experienced by the physical senses]. For by this [kind of] faith the men of old gained [divine] approval.” (AMP);

2 Corinthians 5:7, “for we walk by faith, not by sight [living our lives in a manner consistent with our confident belief in God’s promises]” (AMP)

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

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“How to Establish Quiet Time With God?”

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“O GOD, YOU ARE MY GOD, EARNESTLY I SEEK YOU.” (PSALM 63:1 NIV)

When you come to meet with God you should have an Attitude of:

1…EXPECTANCY: Expect to ‘give and get’ from your time together. And make it a time of Intimacy. Now, intimacy wasn’t designed to be found in a crowd or a public place; intimacy calls for being alone with the one you love. The Bible speaks about Christ as the groom and us (the church) as His bride. Therefore, the groom has an Expectancy when it comes to His bride. He Expects us to go out of our way to be with Him, to spend valuable time with Him, to talk with Him, to share with Him, to love Him. He Expects us to show and prove our love for Him. He Expects words of appreciation, adoration and admiration from His bride. Without a doubt, He as our groom, has already given us this and much more, so don’t you think by now He deserves to really be loved by us in return? Th Bible says: “And, behold, a woman…brought an alabaster box of ointment, And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment.” (Luke 7:36-38) Intimacy with God is Important!

2…REVERENCE: Don’t clumsily rush into God’s presence! Prepare your heart by being Still before Him and letting the Quietness clear away the thoughts of the world. Remind yourself Who it is you’re meeting with – GOD! Once me and my husband took an evening and went out to dinner, for no other reason than just to spend some quiet, quality time together. You would’ve thought we were going to a 5-star restaurant by how we were carrying on trying to make sure we picked out just the right outfits and shoes. We almost choked our children to death with cologne and perfume spraying all over the place. And we only went to the restaurant ‘BBQ’s’! In other words, this wasn’t a “Special Event”, but it was Special. We loved each other enough to take the time to look especially nice, for no-one else but one another. And likewise, when you enter the presence of God, that set aside time for just you and Him, take the time to Prepare Yourself.You are Worthy…to receive Glory and Honor” (Revelation 4:11 NIV). Make sure you have enough praise and worship; enough thank you Jesus’; enough I love you Lord. Remember, He’s Worthy! Take the time to present Him with a clean and a pure heart. Present Him with a mind that is focused on Him alone. Truth is, we’ve been giving God a lot of Entertainment, but not enough true, heartfelt Endearment. “Worship the Lord in Holy Clothing. May all the earth shake in fear before Him” (Psalm 96:9 NLV). “Bravo, GOD, bravo! Gods and all angels shout, “Encore!” In awe before the glory, in awe before God’s visible power. Stand at attention! Dress your best to honor Him!” (Psalm 29:1-2 MSG). If He means what you say He means to you, love Him enough to enter His presence at your Best! You can’t Rush Reverence!

3…ALERTNESS: Get to bed early so you’ll be in good shape to meet God in the morning! He deserves your Full Attention. Give God the Best part of your Day – when you are the Freshest. Follow the example of Christ:VERY EARLY IN THE MORNING…Jesus…went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” (Mark 1:35 NIV). Hudson Taylor said, “You don’t tune up the instruments after the concert is over…you tune them up before you start.I don’t know about you, but when I was single and dating, I made sure my make-up was flawless, no bags under my eyes, breath-mints in my bag, changing my outfit ten times to get just the right look. I wanted my date to see me at my Peak, at my Best. I made sure, when I enter and when I leave your presence, You Will Remember Me! Well, I’ve learned to give God even Better than that! I’ve learned to be Alert to His presence. When I know I’m going to meet Him in morning prayer I get to the bathroom and get myself together! Why? Because if I gave flesh that much, surely I should give Spirit that and much more! If you really think about it, we cost God too much to short-change Him now!Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be Alert servants of the Master, cheerfully Expectant…” (Romans 12:11) Don’t give God your Aloofness when He deserves your Alertness.

4…WILLINGNESS: This Attitude is Crucial: Because you don’t come to your quiet time to choose what you will or won’t do, but with the purpose of doing anything and everything God wants you to do. So come to meet with the Lord, possessing a mindset to do His will—no matter what! Determine that I’m not just going to enter His presence and laugh, and jump, and shout, but He has something Vital to tell me. Therefore, I’ve got to be ready to receive and willing to fulfill whatever the day’s assignment might be.Going a little ahead, he fell on his face, praying, “My Father, if there is any way, get me out of this. BUT PLEASE, NOT WHAT I WANT. YOU, WHAT DO YOU WANT?” (Matthew 26:39 MSG). One of the questions that should always be on your lips when you enter your quiet time with God is, “What Do You Want From Me God?

Take special time to increase your Expectancy, Reverence, Alertness and Willingness to God. Go out of your way for Him, like you’ve never done before. Make a sacrifice to spend quality time with Him. Seek Him with all you’ve got. Pursue Him as if it’s your last time to grasp Him. Love Him enough to be quiet before Him and hear what He has to say.

Remember: There is no greater Return, than Investing in Quiet Time With God.

Stephen Olford said, “I want to hear God’s voice before anyone else’s in the morning. And His is the last voice I want to hear at night.

David and Daniel met with the Lord three times daily: EVENING, and MORNING, and at NOON, will I pray, and cry aloud: and he shall hear my voice.” [Psalm 55:17] “Now… Daniel… kneeled upon his knees THREE TIMES A DAY, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aftoretime.” [Daniel 6:10].

So does that mean the rule of thumb is to meet with God three times daily? No. What it does mean is whatever time you set, Simply Be Consistent! Put it on your calendar if need be! In honesty, we put far less important stuff on our calendars (hair, nail and feet appointments, lunch dates, sales at Macy’s etc.) Therefore, it shouldn’t be all that difficult to make an appointment with God, certainly our Daily Protector is more important than a Perm! And just like you’ll rearrange your schedule to keep all your other appointments, do what you need to, to keep this one! You didn’t stand up Tyrone or Tasha, so whatever you do, Don’t Stand God Up!

As women, we keep better hair and nail appointments than we keep God appointments. As men, you keep better barber and basketball appointments than God appointments. As youth, you keep better girlfriend/boyfriend appointments than God appointments. In other words, we’ve ALL messed up our appointments with God, whether it be through cancellations, lateness, fatigue, change in plans etc… But if the truth be told, even if you are the President and CEO, you will Never have a more important appointment than the one you schedule with God! 

Make a firm commitment like the Psalmist. He said,My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O LORD; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up.” [Psalm 5:3]. That word “shalt” is the same as “shall” and the word “shall” means “expressing a strong assertion or intention” more importantly its Origin is Old English meaning “Owe“. The word “Owe” means to “Be Required to Pay (money or goods) to (someone) in Return for Something Received“. And the word “Required” means “To Expect Someone to Do SomethingAnd all of that sums up to mean the Psalmist Expressed a Strong Intention to Give God What He Owes Him (His Time), Because He is Required To Pay God In Return For all the Goodness, Blessings, Miracles, Provision, Protection…He Has Received. And Most Important God is Expecting Him to do It! And the Psalmist Has Vowed that it Shall be Done! My Voice SHALT Thou Hear In the Morning, O LORD; In the Morning Will I Direct My Prayer Unto Thee, And Will Look Up” Does meeting with God in Quiet Prayer Time Mean that Much to You?!  Do you realize you OWE God? Do you realize just how much you OWE God? Do you realize that God is REQUIRING this of you? Do you realize that God EXPECTS this from you? The Amplified Bible reads that same verse like this, “In the morning You hear my voice, O Lord; in the morning I prepare [a prayer, a sacrifice] for You and watch and wait [for You to speak to my heart.]There’s a few things I want to point out here:

(a) The Psalmist makes an Appointment with God:My voice SHALT thou hear In The Morning, O LORD…

(b) The Psalmist takes the time to Prepare Himself and what he wants to Offer God: …I PREPARE [a Prayer, a Sacrifice]…

(c) The Psalmist makes it clear that it’s not about himself: …For YOU…

(d) The Psalmist knows that his Appointment with God is not just about what he has to give to God, But What God Has to Give to Him Also: …watch and wait [For You to SPEAK to My Heart.]

I cannot stress enough the Importance of making and keeping your Quiet Time Appointments With God! If David could do this, certainly you can do the very same! Remember You OWE God That Much! You Are REQUIRED to Pay Up and He’s Waiting In EXPECTATION!

Now, let’s look at a few ‘TIME’ tips for our Quality Time With God:

1…DON’T START WITH A TWO-HOUR QUIET TIME: You’ll quickly get discouraged. You’ll create memories of failure rather than memories of success. You must grow in this relationship as you do in any other. So begin with a few minutes and let it grow. You don’t plant your seed Monday and look for a harvest on Tuesday. It takes time. So be patient and pace yourself. The more faithful you are in keeping your Quiet Time Appointments With God the more appointments you’ll want to make and the longer you’ll want to stay.

2…DON’T CLOCK-WATCH: That’ll ruin your quiet time faster than anything else. Decide what you can do in God’s Word and prayer during the time you’ve selected; then do just that! Sometimes it’ll take more time than you have set aside, sometimes less. But don’t clock-watch! When on a date with that special somebody that you’re enjoying spending time with, you don’t watch the clock waiting for it to be over. No, you enjoy every minute. In fact, if it’s really good, the first things you say are: ‘Where did the time go?’ ‘And I wish this night didn’t have to end.’ God is simply looking for the same attention. The more quiet, intimate time you spend with God, the more in love with Him you’ll become. Therefore, you’ll automatically want to increase that time. It’s a process. So enjoy each stage.

3…QUALITY, NOT QUANTITY: It’s what you do during your quiet time – whether 15 minutes or 2 hours – that’s important. Whatever time frame you set, simply give your full attention to Him. My husband knows not to talk to me while I’m watching TV. I’ll nod my head the whole conversation through, but I guarantee you when I’m asked later about it, I have no idea what he’s talking about. Why? Because I Wasn’t Paying Attention! So don’t try to be super-deep and lay in prayer for 4 hours when you don’t do 4 minutes consistently. It’s unrealistic, and what’s unrealistic goes unmet. So whatever time frame you set, just give God your full attention and when it’s done, it’s done, until the next time. There’s nothing worse than to read ten chapters and not even retain ten verses. Why not commit to one chapter and let it minister to you? Remember, QUALITY will always over-ride QUANTITY when it comes to spending time with God.

4…CHOOSE A SPECIAL PLACE: Early the next morning Abraham got up and returned to THE PLACE where he had stood before the Lord.” [Genesis 19:27 NIV]. Your special place ought to be a place where: (a) You can pray aloud without embarrassment; (b) You’re comfortable. But for some of us I must stress the point: Don’t have your quiet time in bed – that’s far too comfortable! Trust me, I’ve tried it! Now, as for me, my special place is in my living-room at 5am. I anoint myself and walk the floor of my living-room in prayer while the house is asleep. And even when the house wakes up, no one disturbs my special place of prayer until I’m done. As the days go by your special place will come to mean everything to you, because it will become your meeting place with God. It will become your sacred, set aside, consecrated, personal holy ground. Now, don’t think this place has to be perfect, it just has to be a place where you can enjoy your Quiet Time in the Presence of the Lord.

All of that sounds wonderful preacher, but what happens When Noise Interrupts Your Quiet Time With God?!

“O GOD, You Are My GOD, Earnestly I Seek YOU.” PSALM 63:1 NIV

Let’s address some “Quiet Time Problems/Interruptions.”

The Problem of Discipline is a Major one! This is better known as “The Battle of the Blankets.” It faces you the moment you wake up! The devil will Exaggerate just how tired you really are. And when he and your flesh team up, it’s a battle to just get out of bed! So here are some tips on Overcoming this problem:

(1) GO TO BED ON TIME! Too many of us stay up late watching TV, therefore we have a hard time getting up in the morning. (I confess, Law & Order at 11pm has gotten me in a lot of prayer time trouble). But Dawson Trotman lived by the Scripture,Early will I seek thee.You see, even if he had company the night before, he would excuse himself and go to bed because his top priority was meeting with God each morning.  Ask yourself, is meeting with God that important to me?

(2) GET UP IMMEDIATELY UPON WAKING! If you wait to think about it, you’ve already lost the days battle! Furthermore, when you wake up in the morning it’s not the time to pray that you’ll have willpower to do it. In other words, Plan It! Be Intentional! Resolve like the Psalmist,In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice.” (Psalm 5:3 NIV). Make it a Mandatory Meeting!

(3) GO TO BED WITH THOUGHTS OF SCRIPTURE! Fall asleep with the attitude of, ‘See you in the morning, Lord.’ Ask Him to wake you up with thoughts of Him. One of the best ways to do that is to go to sleep with a Scripture verse on your mind. Remember You’ve Been Commanded:Do not let this Book…depart from your mouth; meditate on it DAY AND NIGHT.” (Joshua 1:8 NIV).

You say you’re not getting much out of your quiet time? Well, Rick Warren refers to this as “The Battle of the Blahs.” He writes: “You can never judge your quiet time by your emotions. Emotions may lie; feelings may come and go. If you only have a quiet time when you ‘feel’ like it, the devil will make sure you never feel like it. Some days will seem bland. On other days you’ll think heaven has opened up to you. So don’t expect a glorious ‘experience’ every morning. Not having goose-bumps doesn’t mean God is not present.

However, dry spells can be caused by a few things:

(a) DISOBEDIENCE:  Because God won’t bless you beyond your last act of disobedience. And He won’t reveal step two until you’ve effectively climbed past step one. So repent and get it right.

(b) BEING IN A HURRY: Samuel Chadwick said, “Hurry is the death of prayer.So go for meaningfulness, not mileage!

(c) BEING IN A RUT: When your quiet time becomes a Ritual instead of a Relationship, it dies! So be flexible; change your routine, keep it interesting. Now men you would do it for your woman; and women you know you would do it for your man. So learn how to do it for your God. Besides, you’ll never have a better or more lasting relationship than that you have with God. So don’t you think it’s worth it to do whatever it takes to make your relationship work?

Sorry, it’s not over yet! Because once you’ve wonThe Battle of the BlanketsandThe Battle of the Blahs,you’ll have to fightThe Battle of the Brain.” Your mind will wander off in 101 directions during your quiet time! The devil will make sure of it! You’ll find yourself distracted by noises, lack of sleep, tensions with others, work, things you ‘just can’t forget,’ and even things you haven’t thought about all day. So here are some helpful suggestions:

1…BE SURE YOU’RE THOROUGHLY AWAKE! Take a shower, splash cold water on your face, or do some exercises. Get the Adrenalin flowing! The Psalmist writes,As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God.” (Psalm 42:1 NIV). A deer being pursued by a hunter has only one thing in mind; getting to the stream where its wounds can be healed, its thirst quenched, and its strength renewed. Therefore, panting does not mean entering your quiet time dragging in, mumbling half a scripture, and dozing back off to sleep. There is a hunger and a thirst an urgency to get to God. So Wake Up and get to Panting and Pursuing after Him!

2…USE A MEMO PAD: When you decide to spend time with God you’ll suddenly ‘remember’ everything you have to do, or have left undone. So write things down as they come to you, then tell yourself, “I’ll get to that later,” and go back to prayer. Don’t let the devil distract you!

3…WALK WHILE YOU’RE PRAYING: You won’t fall asleep while standing up, (at least I hope not), so move around. And while you’re moving quote scriptures like,…I’m giving you every square inch of the land you set your foot on—just as I promised…” (Joshua 1:3 MSG) You’ll pray more purposeful and powerful then won’t you?

4…PERSONALIZE THE SCRIPTURES: Pray them back to God. Since God’s Word is always in line with God’s Will, your prayers will be answered. For example, use Psalm 23: “Lord, You are my Shepherd, therefore I shall not want for anything. Thank You for leading me in paths that are right when I don’t know which way to go.” It reminds you that you’re talking to SOMEONE who loves you and protects you and wants the best for you.

Who wouldn’t want to spend more quiet time with a Person like that?

If truth be told, nothing is more difficult to maintain than your quiet time with God. When pressures mount, what’s the first thing you’re tempted to drop? Time With God! Satan knows if he can keep you from it, he’s already won the battle, because he’ll have no opposition from you. Many of us who have messed up and missed the mark can honestly say, “It all started when I began to neglect my time with God.” So let’s look at some more ways to Overcome this problem.

1…MAKE A COVENANT WITH GOD! And be serious about it:When you make a vow to God, do not delay in fulfilling it…It is better not to vow than to make a vow and not fulfill it” (Ecclesiastes 5:4-5 NIV). In the end, you need to remember that you’re in a relationship with a Covenant-Keeping God. Therefore, it’s not enough to make the vow, You’ve Got To Keep It!

2…PUT IT ON YOUR SCHEDULE: Block out time to meet with God each day, just like you plan a doctor’s appointment or a business luncheon. Think about it: We will run for a bus, jump on a train, chase down a taxi just to make it on time for an appointment with man. But we can’t roll over out of bed to meet with God in our own house? I don’t know about you, but I don’t want that to be my track record with God. Being known more for my cancellations than actual kept appointments with Him.The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men to see if there were any who…sought after God, inquiring for and of Him…requiring Him [of vital necessity].” (Psalm 14:2 AMP) God is Seeking for those who are Seeking for Him! Are you seeking?

3…BE READY FOR THE DEVIL’S EXCUSES AND ATTACKS: To be forewarned is to be forearmed! So follow the Boy Scout motto, “Be Prepared!Dr. Robert G. Lee used to say,If you wake up in the morning and don’t meet the devil face on, it means you’re headed in the same direction!So don’t wake up with the mentality that the heavens are going to open up, and the angels are going to descend and lead praise and worship while you enter your Quiet Time with God! If this is what you’re looking for when you open your eyes, then you are in for a very Rude Awakening! Often times you’ve got to fight for your Quiet Time With God! But the rewards you receive for winning the fight are invaluable! So let the boxer in you rise up and let the devil know you’ve still got another round in you!I praise you, LORD! I prayed, and you rescued me from my enemies.” (Psalm 18:3 CEV).

4…LEAVE YOUR BIBLE OPEN THE NIGHT BEFORE AT THE PASSAGE YOU INTEND TO READ IN THE MORNING: When you wake up it will serve as a reminder to have your Quiet Time With God. Believe it or not, I used to sit my open Bible on top of my alarm clock, this way I had to pick up my Bible, to shut off my alarm clock. And it takes a pretty crazy person to pick up their Bible and throw it to the side, unread, when you realize God’s Grace and Mercy gave you another day to open your eyes! So whatever it takes… don’t miss out on your Quiet Time With God!…I have treasured the Words of His mouth more than my daily bread.” (Job 23:12 NIV).

But what if I miss a day?Don’t worry about it, and don’t go on a guilt trip over it! If you miss a meal it doesn’t mean you gave up eating, does it? You’ll simply be a bit more hungry, so eat a little more at the next meal. Just don’t make a molehill a mountain! You can trip over a molehill and get some scrapes, dust yourself off and keep going. But a mountain will kill you! So stop treating your missed time with God as if you’ve fallen from Mt. Everest!The LORD’s kindness never fails! If He had not been merciful, we would have been destroyed. The LORD can always be trusted to show mercy each morning.” (Lamentations 3:22-23 CEV).

Listen: Psychologists say it takes up to three weeks to get familiar with a new habit; then another three weeks before it takes root. So the goal is to get beyond that six-week barrier!

Here’s a simple formula for developing a habit:

(1) MAKE A STRONG RESOLUTION: If you begin half-heartedly you’ll never succeed. The Bible says,Encourage one another daily.” (Hebrews 3:13 NIV). So become accountable to someone. Ask them to encourage you, and to remind you of the promise you made to God. I’m a witness, I have some Covenant Friendships that don’t let me get away with nothing! It works!

(2) NEVER ALLOW AN EXCEPTION: A habit is like a ball of twine: every time you drop it some of the strands unwind. So never allow ‘just this once’ to occur. Each act of yielding weakens your will and causes you to lose ground!

(3) SEIZE EVERY OPPORTUNITY TO PRACTICE YOUR NEW HABIT: Whenever you get the slightest urge to practice it, do it right then. Don’t wait, use that moment to reinforce it. It doesn’t hurt to overdo a new, and good, habit.

(4) RELY ON THE POWER OF GOD: When all is said and done, you must realize you’re in a spiritual battle and that you can only succeed by the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit. So pray that God will strengthen you. Depend on Him to help you develop Quiet Time habits for His Glory.Call to Me and I will answer you. I’ll tell you marvelous and wondrous things that you could never figure out on your own.” (Jeremiah 33:3 MSG).

No Matter How Noisy Life May Become, Prepare And Equip Yourself To Allow Nothing And No One To Disturb Your Quiet Time With Your God!

“O GOD, You Are My GOD, Earnestly I Seek YOU.” (PSALM 63:1 NIV)

In closing, the word ‘Earnest’ says a lot. In fact, David wasn’t the only one who was ‘Earnest.’ James 5:17 says, “Elijah was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed EARNESTLY that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months.” Now when you study how Elijah prayed, the Bible says he prayed ‘earnestly’ that rain should not fall and God answered his prayer. The Scripture also says he was ‘subject’ to like passions as we are. The term ‘subject’ means ‘likely or prone to be effected by’. In other words, Elijah had some of the same pressures, temptations and conditions of life that we suffer today, and yet, when he prayed, he did it in an earnest, heartfelt manner, regardless to circumstance. Therefore, we have no excuse for our fast food prayer delivery! This isn’t a ‘bless the dinner rolls’ type of prayer. Elijah didn’t simply pray, “Lord, let there be no rain”. The word ‘Earnest’ is defined as ‘with sincere and serious intention’. Therefore, earnest prayer is Continued, Fervent and with Deep Conviction. It’s prayer that pulls on the very heart strings of God. This is the kind of prayer Jesus talked about in Matthew 6:6, …when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou has shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.Earnest prayer is Concentrated, Focused, and Deliberate. This kind of prayer is Serious Business! It’s more than saying, “Lord, bless all Christians; bless my family and bless me, in Jesus Name,” and then you’re off to work or to bed! No, it’s Sustained Prayer over a period of time. Earnest prayer, possesses the power to change even the most hopeless of situations. Isaac prayed hard to God for his wife because she was barren. God answered his prayer and Rebekah became pregnant.” (Genesis 25:21 MSG). Even Jesus prayed earnestly, “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift each of you like wheat. But I have pleaded in prayer for you, Simon, that your faith should not fail.Luke 22:31 (NLT).

When you engage in this kind of prayer, You Don’t Give Up!

Every time I enter a new struggle and it gets long and hard, to the point it wearies me, I read Luke 18:1-5. Also [Jesus] told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not to turn coward (faint, lose heart, and give up). He said, In a certain city there was a judge who neither reverenced and feared God nor respected or considered man. And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, Protect and defend and give me justice against my adversary. And for a time he would not; but later he said to himself, Though I have neither reverence or fear for God nor respect or consideration for man, YET BECAUSE THIS WIDOW CONTINUES TO BOTHER ME, I WILL DEFEND AND PROTECT AND AVENGE HER, LEST SHE GIVE ME INTOLERABLE ANNOYANCE AND WEAR ME OUT BY HER CONTINUAL COMING…” (AMP).

My prayer for you today, is that God will mold you into Disciples of Earnest Prayer. I pray that you will develop the characteristic of persistence and tenacity. And regardless to the situation or circumstance, you will not give up, give in or give out!

Now, just as earnest as Elijah, Isaac, Jesus, and even the widow were, particularly in prayer and petition, David was just as earnest in ‘seeking’ God. David does not use past tense, as an sought for the Lord. But the present tense, of I’m still seeking Him. Whether it’s to enter Quiet Time With God, or to enter into your closet of prayer with God, do it earnestly! Seek for Him with diligence.

Listen to David in full, “O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” The Message Bible says it like this, “God-you’re my God! I can’t get enough of you! I’ve worked up such hunger and thirst for God, traveling across dry and weary deserts.”

You’ll know when you’re Earnestly Praying and Earnestly seeking, when your pursuit of God’s presence makes you feel trapped in a desert, hungry and thirsty and He’s your Only source of satisfaction and fulfillment! Unfortunately, somehow the church, the bride, has lost her hunger and thirst, her passion, her desire and longing for God, her bridegroom. Therefore, it is my prayer that this extensive devotional has stirred up a refreshing in your soul for Him. A new hunger and thirst that only He can feed and quench. I pray you will change your schedule in whatever way needed just so you can spend Quality, Quiet Time With God. I pray for a burning fire to be ignited within you that has to reach Him, has to see Him, has to hear from Him. From this day forward, I pray you will open your eyes each morning and say with David, “O God, you are my God, EARNESTLY I seek you…”

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

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“Let’s Just Kiss and Say Goodbye”

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Ruth 1:14, “Then they wept aloud again; and Orpah KISSED her mother-in-law [GOODBYE]…” (AMP)

One of the great things about being a 70’s baby is great music! My mom and dad were huge on parties and music! One of my dad’s favorite songs (and if he was smart, only I know this and not my mom), was the song, “Kiss and Say Goodbye” by the Manhattans. Here’s the lyrics:

“Kiss And Say Goodbye”: “This has got to be the saddest day of my life. I called you here today for a bit of bad news. I won’t be able to see you anymore. Because of my obligations, and the ties that you have. We’ve been meeting here every day. And since this is our last day together, I wanna hold you just one more time. When you turn and walk away, don’t look back, I wanna remember you just like this. Let’s just kiss and say goodbye. I had to meet you here today. There’s just so many things to say. Please don’t stop me ’till I’m through, this is something I hate to do. We’ve been meeting here so long, I guess what we done, oh was wrong. Please darling, don’t you cry, let’s just kiss and say goodbye. Many months have passed us by (I’m gonna miss you) I’m gonna miss you, I can’t lie (I’m gonna miss you) I’ve got ties, and so do you, I just think this is the thing to do. It’s gonna hurt me, I can’t lie, maybe you’ll meet, you’ll meet another guy. Understand me, won’t you try, try, try, try, try, try, try. Let’s just kiss and say goodbye. (I’m gonna miss you) I’m gonna miss you, I can’t lie (I’m gonna miss you) Understand me, won’t you try (I’m gonna miss you) It’s gonna hurt me, I can’t lie (I’m gonna miss you) Take my handkerchief, wipe your eyes (I’m gonna miss you) Maybe you’ll find, you’ll find another guy (I’m gonna miss you) Let’s kiss and say goodbye, pretty baby (I’m gonna miss you) Please, don’t you cry (I’m gonna miss you) Understand me, won’t you try (I’m gonna miss you) Let’s just kiss and say goodbye.”

Now, the lyrics have nothing to do with Naomi, Ruth and Orpah, but it was indeed a song I heard played so much growing up, that I could swear to someone my parents wrote it! And when I read Orpah during my devotion time, it honestly was the song that popped into my head. I thought, truth is, for some people in our lives, it really is time to simply Kiss and Say Goodbye.

Ruth told Naomi, “where you go I will go.” And to be honest, you can spend your life anywhere with anybody doing anything, then suddenly meet someone and sense that there is a connection between you. It comes so natural that they become a part of your life, attached as permanently as your hand is attached to your arm. It’s what made Elisha quit farming and follow Elijah, an eccentric prophet; it’s why Timothy hung out with Paul, an old man soon to be executed. You know intuitively, “I won’t reach my destiny without you in my life.” Looking back you realize if you hadn’t met that certain person, or taken that phone call, added that Facebook friend, or read that email, you wouldn’t be where you are today. Truth is, so many people in our lives have played such major roles in helping us to become the greater person we’ve become, that it’s hard to even fathom life without them. It’s what kept Ruth attached to Naomi, even at the most miserable of times. Inspite of death, loss, famine, and the struggle to begin again, Ruth stayed. And man did her decision pay off! She meets and marries Boaz, and produces a great seed in Obed. Naomi is provided for and gets a fresh start at life. She can finally leave the “Mara” (bitterness) feelings behind her, a new and great day has indeed come. And all because Ruth remained. And it doesn’t make Ruth good or bad, it’s just that her Character was not finished in the Role it would Play in Naomi’s Story.

On the other hand, “Orpah kissed her mother-in-law goodbye”. Now, Orpah’s leaving didn’t make her a bad person; it just meant her role in the story was over. Likewise, we need to learn how to recognize when somebody’s part in our story is over, otherwise we’ll kill ourselves constantly trying to raise the dead.

David pleaded with God for his newborn baby’s life. 2 Samuel 12:16-17, “David therefore appealed to God for the child [to be healed]; and David fasted and went in and lay all night on the ground.  The elders of his household stood by him [in the night] to lift him up from the ground, but he was unwilling [to get up] and would not eat food with them.” (AMP). But, when the child died, he had to accept that there was nothing more he could do, so he, “…got up from the ground, washed, anointed himself [with olive oil], changed his clothes, and went into the house of the Lord and worshiped. Then he came [back] to his own house, and when he asked, they set food before him and he ate.” (12:20 AMP).

I can tell you from experience, one of the greatest things you can do for your body, soul, spirit, heart, emotions and peace of mind, is to acknowledge when something in your life is over! I learned (and the hard way, might I add), that if God means you to have it, He’ll give it to you.  Psalm 84:11 declares, “For the Lord God is our sun and our shield. He gives us grace and glory. The Lord will withhold no good thing from those who do what is right.” (NLT). If you’re supposed to get it, God will give it to you! James 1:17 confirms, “But whatever is good and perfect comes to us from God…” (TLB) The Message Bible says it like this: “So, my very dear friends, don’t get thrown off course. Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven. The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light. There is nothing deceitful in God, nothing two-faced, nothing fickle. He brought us to life using the true Word, showing us off as the crown of all his creatures.” 16-18 MSG). Saints, if it was good for you, perfect for you, desirable for you, or beneficial for you, God would have given it to you! If He hasn’t, trust His decision. He’s a Father who will always do what is in His children’s best interest.

So, if you’ve tried to make it work and it hasn’t, accept His will in the matter. Get up, go to the mall, buy yourself a new outfit, treat yourself out to a good meal; whatever you do, just keep living! Never beg anyone to stay with you against their will, be it a relationship, friendship, or business/ministry partner. Their leaving is no accident; it just means God has something bigger, better and greater in store for you (and possibly them too), so trust Him and move forward!

Sometimes, like it or not, people will leave your life. And there will also be times when you’ll have to make the decision to leave theirs. Listen to this:

Genesis 13:1, “So Abram left Egypt…and Lot was still with him…” (MSG).

Then read Genesis 13:14-17, “After Lot separated from him, God said to Abram, “Open your eyes, look around. Look north, south, east, and west. Everything you see, the whole land spread out before you, I will give to you and your children forever. I’ll make your descendants like dust—counting your descendants will be as impossible as counting the dust of the Earth. So—on your feet, get moving! Walk through the country, its length and breadth; I’m giving it all to you.” (MSG)

Did you read the good news I read? “AFTER LOT SEPARATED FROM HIM…” then the Bible says, “…GOD SAID TO ABRAM…” After Lot left, God spoke to Abram some of the most awesome promises in Scripture. Literally, nowhere could Abram turn, and not bump into a blessing! North, South, East, and West…Abram Would Be Prosperous! BUT, God only spoke this, AFTER LOT LEFT!

I know it’s hard when the person you love leaves, but sometimes in order for God to give you what He’s had on reserve for you, you have to release them first! Sometimes that will be a family member, a friend, a business associate, a ministry colleague. Sometimes the length of time together will be decades, years, months, weeks, days, or even mere hours, minutes and seconds.  But when God says it’s time to let go, Let Them Go! Will it be easy? Absolutely not! Will it be impossible? Absolutely not! It will hurt, you may cry, you’ll experience regret, but you will continue to live on.

What’s Coming Is Better Than What’s Been. That’s something I need you to hold on to. God’s best for you is not behind you, but before you. However, if you keep holding onto your past, you’ll never be able to grab a hold of the great future God has in store for you.

More people will come, and yes, more people will leave as well. Your life is the ink in God’s pen, He’s the author writing a beautiful story, full of drama, action, suspense, comedy, romance, and the like. But you have to remember that it’s His pen, His story, His characters. You have to learn to be okay with the characters He brings to life, and the ones He allows to die off.

In closing, my favorite time of year is Autumn. I love everything about it! The weather is perfect, the scenery is beautiful, the clothing shifts and has such warm colors, the scents change to more apples, pumpkin, cinnamon, and cocoa. It’s my absolute favorite season! But there’s more to it than that for me. You see, Autumn is also a time when things change, get fickle, and fall off!

Therefore, in your Fall seasons in life, you better prepare yourself to let some shady, fickle folks fall!

And don’t complain when they fall off either! Fall is the season in which things, and people, are supposed to fall off! Can we keep it simple? When leaves fall, we rake ‘em up, put ‘em in a bag, tie it up, and sit it out for the garbage. We do not, however, attempt to pick ‘em up, and put ‘em back on the tree! See, when folks start falling off, you need to rake ‘em, bag ‘em, tie ‘em and put ‘em out for the garbage! Understand that the reason you keep failing your fall exam is because you keep trying to pick ‘em up and put ‘em back!  The key to passing the test is, in the fall, let ‘em fall!

There’s two animals that possess a characteristic I love. And that’s Cats and Dogs. They do something fairly regular, that I’ve learned to do fairly regular myself, they shed. Now, the word “shed” means “to allow to fall off; to discard; to get rid of; to take and cast off”. Its Old English Origin means to, ‘separate or divide’.

See, cats and dogs don’t shed, and attempt to put back on, what fell off! And neither should you! You need to get serious enough about your purpose and accept the fact that anyone that fell down, wasn’t strong enough to hold you up in the first place; anyone that separated, wasn’t faithful enough to remain in covenant; and anyone that divided was subtracted because they couldn’t add or multiply anything worthwhile to your life anyhow! I’m warning you, in the fall, let ‘em fall!

Proverbs 30:25 says: “…they prepare their meat in the summer…” Don’t miss it: They gather in the summer, they drop things that are not a necessity in the fall, so they have what they need, their meat, in the winter! Let me help you, the reason you have nothing in your hands in the winter, is because you gathered everybody in the summer, but you didn’t let none of them non-essential folks go in the fall! And now, in the dead of winter, you have no meat in your hands, cause you still trying to hold up those you should’ve let down! I’m warning you, in the fall, let ‘em fall! 

You’re suffering because you’re trying to carry junk food into a winter season that requires Meat! The Bible says, “…they prepare their MEAT in the summer.” Listen to me real good, your next season Requires MEAT! In the words of the Apostle Paul, “But strong MEAT belongeth to them that are of full age…” (Hebrews 5:14). Your next level is a level of maturity and growth, a level of tenacity and stamina, a level where your childish things have been put away! A level of blessings and promise, a level of break-through’s and victory! But only MEAT is strong enough to sustain you at such a level! Might I give you some valuable advice worthy to be followed? Before your next Promotion get rid of those still wearing Pampers! Before your next Degree get rid of those still Drooling! Before your next Baptism get rid of those still wearing Bibs! Before your next Calling get rid of those still Crying in Cribs! Before your next Revelation get rid of those still shaking Rattles! Before your next Touch get rid of those still Teething, because this next level Requires Those That Can Chew and Digest MEAT! Only MEAT is strong enough to sustain you in the season of winter! Therefore, you’ve got to let some folks go! I’m warning you, in the fall, let ‘em fall! Why? Cause my destiny’s at stake; my calling is on the line; my purpose is trying to press through; my vision is getting clearer and I’m in the 9th month of birthing what’s in my belly! I can’t risk going without in the winter because I didn’t forfeit in the fall! I’m warning you, in the fall, let ‘em fall!

Never allow the Immaturity of your Company to Compromise the Growth of your Calling! 

And be bold enough to tell them the truth! It’s because of where I’m going that I can’t take non-essentials with me. See, when it came time for the sacrifice, it was only between Abraham and Isaac, he told the servants to stay where they were! What’s about to take place don’t involve you! And you need to do the same! Only take those who are essential to the process, provision, promise and promotion of your next season! No non-essentials allowed! 

Well then, just for clarity, who are the non-essentials I can’t take with me? Glad you asked! You can’t take folks still fighting over he said she said nonsense. You can’t take folks still sucking their teeth, rolling their eyes, pointing their fingers and folding their arms! You can’t take folks looking like preaching prostitutes. You can’t take folks who still get provoked into foolishness! You can’t take folks still cussing, crying and complaining! You can’t take folks who fight more than they fast, play more than they pray and worry more than they worship!  

Jealous and envious folks are non-essentials; gossipers and back-biters are non-essentials; lazy sluggards are non-essentials; prayerless, faithless, powerless, wordless folks are non-essentials! Look around today at the company you keep and ask yourself a vital question: Are they non-essentials? Because if they’re non-essentials they can’t go where you’re going! 

Remind yourself: I can only take essential folks because they’re strong enough to handle the winter! They know how to stay on fire when the winds are blowing, the temps are dropping, the rain is freezing and no matter where you go, it’s bitter cold everywhere! You see, winter folks know how to struggle and endure; how to get provision in poverty; how to cry and not quit; how to pause and not give up; how to take a break and not breakdown! Winter folks can handle when it gets dreary, lonely and cold, without becoming desperate, bitter and weak! That’s why they’re essential! You can only take essential folks who understand that your purpose is coming with provision, but it’s coming in the winter! So prepare yourself to let ‘em fall, in the fall!  

Don’t get upset when your Orpah kisses you and says goodbye. It’s her time and season to leave. And you can’t get what’s rightfully yours from God, until she’s left. Make today the day you Kiss and Say Goodbye to your Orpah! The summer will come to a close, then fall will fastly approach and winter will be on its heels! So, begin your spring cleaning TODAY! 

Make sure you make every necessary change in each of the right seasons.

“Some people are going to Leave, but that’s not the End of your Story. That’s the End of their Part in your Story.” (Author Unknown)

“Sometimes you have to accept that people’s part in your story is over.” (Author Unknown)

“The best part about your story is that the next page is blank and you get to write it.” (Chris Butler)

“When people want to go, let them go. Your destiny is never tied to anyone who leaves you, and it doesn’t mean that they are bad people. It just means that their part in your story is over.” (Author Unknown)

“I’m the author of my story and I’m not finished writing yet.” (Author Unknown)

“When writing the story of your life, don’t let anyone else hold the pen.” (Harley Davidson)

“Part of being the heroine in your own life is accepting the bad with the good. Not dodging it or covering it up or glossing over it to make it look prettier. I think it’s a lot braver to talk about your doubts and fears instead of act like everything is perfect. Life without both joy AND sadness is a life without balance.” (Mandy Hale)

“Sometimes the people you wanted as part of your whole story are only meant to be one chapter.” (Author Unknown)

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

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“Preparing the Next Generation”

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1 Peter 1:18-19, “You must know (recognize) that you were redeemed (ransomed) from the useless (fruitless) way of living inherited by tradition from your] forefathers, not with corruptible things [such as] silver and gold, but [you were purchased] with the precious blood of Christ (the Messiah), like that of a [sacrificial] lamb without blemish or spot.” (AMPC)

Now, I don’t fly much at all, however I must say, if I’m ever on an airplane flight where the flight attendant becomes incapacitated, I still think I might be able to do the safety instructions. I mean, I’ve heard them so many times (not so much as on the actual plane, as to commercials and movies). But I’ve still heard the script often enough that I could repeat it word for word. It’s been a few years since I was last on a plane, and they’ve indeed changed a few things. Actually, many airlines have now video-ized (my word) the presentation. It used to be the attendants who did it, but now in our overwhelmingly quick-paced world of technology, machines have got it covered. Most of you will remember the part where that little yellow oxygen mask would drop down from above your seat in their demonstration. Well, in the videos they have now, everyone is wonderfully calm in this simulated oxygen problem. I’m sure that’s very true-to-life…NOT! Well, on one of the videos I’ve seen, it shows a mother putting the mask on herself, and then on her little girl. The instructions script goes like this: “If the cabin pressure drops, get the oxygen to your face first, and then to your child’s.

Listen: When it’s crunch time on an airplane flight, you have to first get for yourself the oxygen you need as a parent, then you can give your son or daughter what they need. And in these increasingly challenging days for parents and dangerous days for our children, we’ve got to (First) breathe deeply what our children need so we can then pass it on to them.

Over the years of youth and family work that I’ve been involved in, I have often been asked by a parent, “Can you help my son or daughter?” Often, the most helpful answer I would love to share is, “Can we get the oxygen to you First, Before we try to get it to them?

Think about it: How many times has our child’s weakness been a mirror of our own, their failure a mirror of our failure, their baggage, their needs? It’s kind of like my child, my mirror. Which means I have to get me fixed First before I can fix my son or daughter. But how in the world do we change things about ourselves that we haven’t been able to change all these years?

The answer can be found in 1 Peter 1:18-19 it says, “You must know (recognize) that you were redeemed (ransomed) from the useless (fruitless) way of living inherited by tradition from your] forefathers…” (AMPC)

Believe it or not, but we have all gotten some very destructive hand-me-down ways of living from our parents who probably got those same hurting ways from their parents, and so on and so on. And even though we may have been determined not to reproduce some of those traits, (even the ones we’ve hated), truth is, many of us have still ended up duplicating instead of destroying harmful family traditions. There they are popping up in our generation; marking (or better yet scarring) another generation. And unless their hold can be stopped in our generation, we’ll pass on the bruises instead of the blessings to further future generations!

Until we can find the spiritual oxygen needed, we’ll never be able to help breathe new life into the next generation.

Admit it, or deny it, but we’ve all got ways of doing things we have long wanted to change, and for a long time: things like our temper, our negative attitude, our lack of discipline, our critical tongue, this addictive personality, this controlling personality, this lack of affection, this dishonesty. We’ve all inherited some family traditions that need not be passed down any further. Which is why we have to take into account what the Bible instructs us:

“You must know (recognize) that you were redeemed (ransomed) from the useless (fruitless) way of living inherited by tradition from your] forefathers…”

This is the first thing we must be honest about, granddad and grandma didn’t pass the best of traditions to mom and dad, and mom and dad didn’t pass on the best traditions to us. And since we’re being honest, let’s be all the way honest, WE, have not passed down the best traditions to our children. Sure, we’ve passed on photos, family recipes or holiday traditions, but for many of us we’ve also passed on that cussing tongue; that resentment, bitterness, hate, anger, jealousy, competition, comparisons, and unforgiveness. We’ve taught our children (via our own speech and behavior) that it’s ‘okay’, when clearly it is not. They’ve listened to us gossiping about church folks, then going to church to pray, praise and worship! Or we’ll tell them the importance of going to Sunday School; Bible Study; Prayer and Morning Worship (while we’re shopping at Macy’s during Sunday School; at the Movies during Bible Study; watching our favorite Television show during Prayer or at IHop during Morning Worship).

People of God, we have to demonstrate better examples of Christian Conduct before our children if we want them to emulate the Right things about us (because trust me, whether we want them to or not, they will emulate much of what they see us do).

Warning: Our Children Will Embrace and Emulate What We Entertain!

Remember, the Scripture makes it clear, “…from the useless (fruitless) way of living INHERITED BY TRADITION FROM YOUR] FOREFATHERS…” We have taught them far too many lessons on failure; compromise; excuses; blame and the like. We have to reverse this or the next generation will produce more “…useless, fruitless…” ways of living. And after all, who wants that as their family legacy?

Do you honestly want to live in such a way that you pass on to your children (who will pass on to your grandchildren and so on) ways that are displeasing to God? Do you want them to spit out your verbal vomit of disrespect because that’s all you taught them to digest?

Listen, as much as we like to talk negatively about the next generation, let’s be real, some of that stuff they received from us. Many didn’t learn to smoke, drink, cuss, lie and steal from the streets, no, they learned that in the house! Many didn’t learn to be lazy, unaccountable, undependable, from the streets, no, they learned that in the house! Many are in insurmountable debt and owning absolutely nothing of substantial worth, because they learned such behavior in the house! Do you really want our children to live in such a manner that their future is useless and fruitless, and all because they learned such acceptable behavior in the house?!

And this goes far beyond just our personal homes. This addresses the House of God, which addresses us as leaders in God’s house. Are we setting proper examples for the youth in our ministries and churches? Are we correcting them, empowering them, instructing them, and encouraging them? Or do we simply give them a little something to do so they can stay out of our hair?

Are we teaching them to tithe, to give offering, to respect authority, to lead well, to be faithful, dedicated and committed? Are we teaching them how to handle conflict on an auxiliary so they’ll know how to handle conflict on a team? Are we coming to the house of God together, as a family, or are we teaching them that it’s okay if we worship in bits and pieces?

Saints, we have to DO better or they will never BE better! And that’s the goal, to make the next generation better than the previous one. To show growth, maturity, and fruitfulness. But to do so, we’ve got to put the oxygen masks on ourselves first!

Which means, we can’t tell them to pull up their sagging pants when the panty-lines of the preachers are exposed; the cleavage of the worship leaders are hanging out and the youth leaders need someone to wrap a tablecloth around their legs before the whole congregation can see where babies come from! How can we tell them not to lie, cuss, steal and gossip, when we do? How can we tell them to go to church, while we stay home and send them with grandma or auntie? How can we tell them not to drink, smoke, or have sex or babies out of wedlock, when we do? How do we tell them to grow up, but we as leaders can roll our eyes, suck our teeth and walk all the way on the other side of the church just so we don’t have to walk past Brother “I Can’t Stand Him”, or Sister “She Makes Me Sick?” How do we tell them the importance of giving to God, when they see us purchase more at the mall in one day than we’ve put in the offering plate all year long?

In a nutshell, we’ve got to do and be better, so they can as well! 

Let’s change us and we won’t have to worry about changing them (they’ll simply follow the examples we’ve set) and this time, it will be worth the imitation.

Let’s prepare the next generation by making the necessary changes in ourselves, first. Let’s show them the fruit they are to produce: Galatians 5:22-25, “But the fruit of the Spirit [the result of His presence within us] is love [unselfish concern for others], joy, [inner] peace, patience [not the ability to wait, but how we act while waiting], kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law.  And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature together with its passions and appetites. If we [claim to] live by the [Holy] Spirit, we must also walk by the Spirit [with personal integrity, godly character, and moral courage—our conduct empowered by the Holy Spirit].” (AMP)

This is the fruit we want them to reap and reproduce! And they can, if only we would begin planting the proper seeds.

Our children (both biological, spiritual, and all those we come into influential contact with) need to see in us what they will one day see in themselves. Let’s start reflecting now faith, hope, trust, holiness, kindness, goodness…let’s show them what it means to be the Image and Likeness of God. Let’s expose them to the Christ-Like Character and Conduct that Every Believer Should Possess.

If we love them, let’s help them.

1 Timothy 4:11-14, “Get the word out. Teach all these things. And don’t let anyone put you down because you’re young. Teach believers with your life: by word, by demeanor, by love, by faith, by integrity. Stay at your post reading Scripture, giving counsel, teaching. And that special gift of ministry you were given when the leaders of the church laid hands on you and prayed—keep that dusted off and in use.” (MSG)

This is the example we want to set for them. Let’s teach them, by word, by demeanor, by love, by faith, by integrity. And in teaching them in this manner, they will one day emulate us and teach us in the same manner. And we will have started a cycle of blessing instead of a cycle of cursing. Let’s share the reading of the Word with them, give them wise counsel and teach them. And let us also be so active in the gifts God has granted us, that our children will be inspired to do the same. Let’s show them the excitement of ministry, so that we fan their inner flame into a blaze, and they beat us to the house of God!

Our children need to see us reading, studying, applying and living the Bible, so they copy our character as they build their own. They need to see and hear us praying (often), (publicly and privately), so they can emulate. They need to see us visible and active and happy in the house of God, so that they will not view it as a place you have to go, instead of it being the place you want to go to most. Let them see us behave as believers so they’ll know what it looks like, sounds like, and should be like.

Let’s prepare the next generation by getting the baton of blessings (and behavior) ready to pass on to them. Let’s give them what we desire them to give to the generation after them. Let’s help them to do and be better than we ever were, and let’s teach them to do it quickly, young, and authentically. Let’s expose them to the joy of living for God.

We’ve passed on enough poor examples to the next generation, now let’s change us so we can help change them. Let’s get our oxygen masks on, get what we need to get so we’re prepared to give them what they need to receive. Our youth are not a lost cause, we simply need to care enough to reflect to them what they should mirror!

Today, let’s prepare them for bigger, better and greater, and that has nothing to do with money! But let’s prepare them instead to have bigger hearts, better attitudes, and greater integrity.

And if God were ever to ask us what we did to help the next generation, let us be able to rejoice…and not regret!

Psalm 145:4, “Generation after generation stands in awe of Your work; each one tells stories of Your mighty acts.” (MSG)

Matthew 19:13-15, “One day children were brought to Jesus in the hope that He would lay hands on them and pray over them. The disciples shooed them off. But Jesus intervened: “Let the children alone, don’t prevent them from coming to Me. God’s kingdom is made up of people like these.” After laying hands on them, He left.” (MSG)

 “God put us here to prepare this place for the next generation. That’s our job. Raising children and helping the community, that’s preparing for the next generation.” (Dikembe Mutombo)

“The most important business of one generation is the raising of the next generation. Nothing else you do in life will be as deeply satisfying.” (George Will)

“What one generation tolerates, the next generation will embrace.” (John Wesley)

“The future belongs to those who give the next generation reason for hope.” (Pierre Teilhard de Chardin)

“Both man and woman have their own parts to play in bringing faith to the next generation.” (William Wilberforce)

“Try to do for the next generation of church leaders what the previous generation of church leaders has not done for you.” (Andy Stanley)

“If the church marries herself to the spirit of the times, she will find herself a widow in the next generation.” (Charles Stanley)

“Pass the truth to the next generation. Teach them early what we learned late.” (Emily’s Quotes)

“The more we idealize the past and refuse to acknowledge our childhood sufferings, the more we pass them on unconsciously to the next generation.” (Alice Miller)

“The empty nest comes quickly. Do not squander your most precious privilege of participating in the lives of your children.” (Dr. James Dobson)

“Life affords no greater responsibility, no greater privilege, than the raising of the next generation.” (C. Everett Koop)

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

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“Don’t Miss Your Mentor’s Mantle”

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2 Kings 2:1-15, “Just before God took Elijah to heaven in a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on a walk out of Gilgal. Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here. God has sent me on an errand to Bethel.” Elisha said, “Not on your life! I’m not letting you out of my sight!” So they both went to Bethel. The guild of prophets at Bethel met Elisha and said, “Did you know that God is going to take your master away from you today?” “Yes,” he said, “I know it. But keep it quiet.” Then Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here. God has sent me on an errand to Jericho.” Elisha said, “Not on your life! I’m not letting you out of my sight!” So they both went to Jericho. The guild of prophets at Jericho came to Elisha and said, “Did you know that God is going to take your master away from you today?” “Yes,” he said, “I know it. But keep it quiet.” Then Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here. God has sent me on an errand to the Jordan.” Elisha said, “Not on your life! I’m not letting you out of my sight!” AND SO THE TWO OF THEM WENT THEIR WAY TOGETHER. Meanwhile, fifty men from the guild of prophets gathered some distance away while the two of them stood at the Jordan. Elijah took his cloak, rolled it up, and hit the water with it. The river divided and the two men walked through on dry land. When they reached the other side, Elijah said to Elisha, “What can I do for you before I’m taken from you? Ask anything.” Elisha said, “YOUR LIFE REPEATED IN MY LIFE. I WANT TO BE A HOLY MAN JUST LIKE YOU.” “That’s a hard one!” said Elijah. “BUT IF YOU’RE WATCHING WHEN I’M TAKEN FROM YOU, YOU’LL GET WHAT YOU’VE ASKED FOR. BUT ONLY IF YOU’RE WATCHING.” And so it happened. They were walking along and talking. Suddenly a chariot and horses of fire came between them and Elijah went up in a whirlwind to heaven. ELISHA SAW IT ALL and shouted, “My father, my father! You—the chariot and cavalry of Israel!” When he could no longer see anything, he grabbed his robe and ripped it to pieces. THEN HE PICKED UP ELIJAH’S CLOAK THAT HAD FALLEN FROM HIM, returned to the shore of the Jordan, and stood there. He took Elijah’s cloak—all that was left of Elijah!—and hit the river with it, saying, “Now where is the God of Elijah? Where is he?” WHEN HE STRUCK THE WATER, THE RIVER DIVIDED AND ELISHA WALKED THROUGH. The guild of prophets from Jericho saw the whole thing from where they were standing. They said, “THE SPIRIT OF ELIJAH LIVES IN ELISHA!” They welcomed and honored him.” (MSG)

Question: Where have all the Mentors gone? And since I’m a woman, let me talk from a woman’s perspective today (brothers, please don’t be offended, I’ll get back to you next week, ALTHOUGH, if you pay close attention, I’m sure you’ll still be able to glean something of encouragement from today’s devotional too).

Now, when I ask where are all the Mentors, I mean where are the older, wiser women who once taught younger women to bake bread, sew clothing and keep their kitchens spotless? Where are the women who once gathered in homes for coffee and encouragement? Where are the women who taught other women how to be good mothers, supportive wives, and holy single women? Where are the women who taught you how a godly woman ought to dress, behave and speak? Where have all the Mentors gone?

Well, truth is, they haven’t disappeared entirely. They can be found in the church, in homes, offices, neighborhoods and schools. Their focus may have changed a bit in this day and time, but they are still there for the younger women who have much to learn from them!

I often share with people that I wasn’t raised in a “Christian household”, nor was I raised in church. For some who’ve known me for the last 20 years or so, would be shocked to hear that (and I indeed count it as a humbling honor), but truth is I wasn’t on the choir, I was in the club; I wasn’t taking communion, I was taking shots at the bar; I wasn’t preaching, I was partying! 

However, when I turned 25, and was homeless with 2 children on my own with nothing more than a high school diploma and no job or money, Jesus started to look pretty good to me! Seriously! 

Well, I eventually made it to a little underground, Baptist church and if you saw what I looked like you would be amazed that the mother board didn’t attempt to take me and drown me in the baptismal pool, with or without salvation! LOL! You see, I walked in with braids down to my behind; a face full of cheap make-up amateurishly applied; a mouth worse than the worse cussing sailor on the high seas in the midst of a disastrous storm; a sheer tank top, colored bra and a skirt the size of belts I wear now (and it still had two splits on the side…LOL) Talk about a hot mess! I’m so grateful ‘selfies’ and the like were not around! However, a true fun fact is, in 1997 (the exact same year of my 25 birthday and the year I received Christ, while looking a hot mess), the first recognizable social media site, Six Degrees, was created! Talk about being grateful! God got me before social media could! LOL! THANK YOU JESUS! And people are running around thanking God for houses, cars, and jobs! I was thanking God that He called me before social media caught me! I reiterate, a Hot Mess!  

And yet, it’s the older women I remember and cherish most about my early days of salvation.  They were indeed the epitome of love, encouragement, support and help (in addition to rebuke, reprove, correction and instruction)! I will never forget a single one of them! And here’s a few reasons why:

I had one mother that said, “baby go in the bathroom and wash that makeup off your pretty face! You know how many ugly women need those products that you’re wasting on your face?” That’s Old School though, (she didn’t care two cents about how she delivered her message, nor how I felt when I received it!) LOL! I laugh now, and I certainly laughed then! And believe it or not, I went straight in that bathroom and did what mother said do!  Truth is, I loved the church mothers because at least they were too busy talking to my Face to talk behind my Back! FACTS! They were a bold Baptist bunch who were determined to make me a believer, voluntarily or involuntarily! One way or another, they were going to make me right with God no matter how wrong I was!

Another one of the mothers came up to me and explained what a “lap cloth” is and why I needed one…desperately…again, I laugh now, and I certainly laughed then! You see, mother said, “why buy the cow when they can get the milk for free? And baby you’ve already let 2 men dabble in your milk, no sense in letting them take your cheese too” LOL! Honey, I thought I would hit the floor on that one! I was like “WHAT?!” What the heck does that even mean? LOL! What does milk and cheese have to do with sex, babies and salvation?! LOL! But mother didn’t play! So, trust when I tell you, grown or not, I learned to wear my skirts covering my shoes with my legs tightly crossed and still had on a “lap scarf“! Good times I tell you the truth! Oh, I was determined to stay saved, and mother was more determined to keep me saved!

Not to mention the mothers who helped my mouth get delivered!  One mother said “ignorant women curse, intelligent women either use wise words, or utilize the strength of restraint and be quiet. Fools argue with fools, wise women know the wealth of their words (and their silence) and simply walk away”. I must admit, I cussed a few more folks out after that, but I eventually got better…a little better…LOL!

Serious Moment: I tell you, I was blessed to be surrounded by older women who invested in me. Not my gifts, ministry, anointing, calling, purpose, destiny etc…but Me…Personally! They helped me dress better, speak wiser, act appropriately, behave more becoming, and they certainly were not shy at all about calling me on the carpet about anything that reappeared from my pre-saved days! LOL!

These same women helped me to go to school, get a job, an apartment, and to raise my daughters in the admonition of the Lord. They taught me about saving money, about tithing, about dating appropriately and dating appropriate men, since I was single at the time. With that said, I’ll never forget the first time a mother said to me “not him baby, that’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing“.  Now, that may make sense to you who have been saved all your little life. But imagine someone saying that to someone not raised in church at all?! Now, I’ve heard of men being equated to dogs (‘all men are dogs’, as the saying goes), but never had I in all my days heard of a man being equated with a wolf and a sheep! And just how did the wolf shear the sheep to get its wool and make clothes out of it?! And where was all of this found in the Bible?! What exactly was the lesson I was supposed to walk away with here?! I was like, mothers what are you doing to my sanity! What in the world did dating, sex, men, sheep and wolves have to do with being saved?! LOL!!!!! I couldn’t figure out if the man was bad because he was a dangerous wolf, or bad because he was a punk sheep! Yall laugh, but church folks, you can’t use “church lingo” on everybody! If nothing else, develop a Church Dictionary and give it to unbelievers when they cross over so we all know what yall talking about! You can go ahead and laugh, by now you know I laughed then…and I’m certainly laughing now!

These same women invited me to their homes for cooking lessons and sewing lessons (and yet I still hate to sew to this day!)

And these women were smart too! I had one mother who was the mother of all mothers say, “you are so pretty with your cute little figure, now this is what you’re going to do in the church to keep your pretty little cute figure…SAVED!” Next thing I knew, I was a Missionary, Choir and Praise Team Member, Usher, and First Lady’s Assistant! LOL! Not to mention I was at church every Sunday before anybody, standing on the steps with my 2 babies waiting for Pastor to open the church house! LOL! Those were the days! Honey, those mothers had me in prayer and bible study (every Tuesday); missionary meetings (every Wednesday); usher meetings (every Thursday); rehearsals (every Friday); and Monday nights I met with one of the Sunday School Teachers, who taught me at her house how to read and understand the bible! And Saturdays were no longer party day’s, they became the day I had to study for my missionary class, usher class, Sunday School, and back then our choir had homework….literally….homework! Like, here’s the paper with the words to the song, now go home and find at least 5 scriptures to support this song being sung in church…LOL! First Lady Was Crazy! LOL!  

Those mothers/women were determined! I was a real life Christian Frankenstein project! They didn’t care how I came in there, but they certainly refused to let me stay that way! LOL!

Well, sisters, I share all of this with you because we need this kind of support and love in the church today (especially for our younger women, and our babes in Christ). We have more than enough criticism and judgments, we need those who look past all of the outer exterior and help people from the inside…out! It works, I’m a witness!

Listen, my youngest daughter Ashley, if she walked in your church today you more than likely would think she knows absolutely nothing about Jesus! She has around 30 tattoos, 20 piercings, red, green, silver, pink, purple, multicolored hair and contacts (depending on the mood of the  day), her finger nails are long and pointy, she wears open-toe sandals in winter and leather jackets in summer! Everything about her outer appearance is questionable, and I’m her mama! LOL! But little do people know she’s been in church since she was four and singing on the choir and praise teams since then as well. She’s never missed Sunday school or bible study, or prayer meetings or rehearsals, and she still had to memorize a Scripture every Sunday to stand before the congregation to recite. She worked with the youth and dancers, and at home had to do devotional service in the morning before I took them to school and at night before they went to bed. But by her outer appearance many would assume she knew nothing about Jesus and was raised in the streets! But that’s why mentors are so vitally needed in church. I didn’t have to raise her by myself, she had a whole church that became grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, godparents, and they helped her to grow into a phenomenal young woman! Still strange, but phenomenal nonetheless! LOL! She loves God and to see her get lost in praise and worship has brought this mother to tears many of days. Mentors, there are a whole lot of ‘Shermaine’s” and ‘Ashley’s’ out there that look different than you’re accustomed to for a ‘church lady‘, but she needs God and you can get her to Him, regardless of what she looks like in the process! Don’t judge, just help! Don’t criticize, just help! Don’t gossip, just help! Don’t try to make them change, just help! Many of us look quite different on the outside, but we have a David’s heart for God on the inside, don’t be the one that gets in the way of that development and growth!

Now, I was far from perfect then and now, but I promise you I would’ve easily been in a grave and had my children taken from me, had those women not stepped into my life and turn it completely upside down! I will forever be grateful for all of my awesome motherly mentors!

You see, some Mentors are much like Elijah, who was faithfully carrying on his role as God’s prophet when he saw Elisha working in his father’s fields. He saw the potential in this young man, so he threw his mantle on Elisha’s shoulders, symbolically passing the leadership to the next generation.  (1 Kings 19:19, “So Elijah left there and found Elisha son of Shaphat, whose plowing was being done with twelve yoke of oxen, and he drove the twelfth. Elijah crossed over to him and cast his mantle upon him.” AMPC) Elisha then said good-bye to his old life and moved forward, following Elijah and learning from the older man. I’m so grateful that I had mentors/women/mothers, who looked past all of my problems and still saw some potential.  Elisha was busy in the fields, but I was busy having fun. And still my Elijah’s found me, saw my potential, and they went to work to make sure that my potential produced something!

Eventually we find the prophetic pair at Bethel, the house of God. Elisha had steadfastly, faithfully and consistently stayed with his Mentor Elijah. Even when Elijah commanded Elisha to remain in Bethel, Elisha refused, saying he would never leave the older prophet’s side. You see they left Gilgal together and Elijah told him to stay put as he would go forth on his assignment. But for Elisha he followed Elijah to Bethel, to Jericho and then on to Jordan. Thus, Elisha expressed his love and faithfulness not only to Elijah, but also to God. Elisha vowed never to leave Elijah, and he didn’t until he had gleaned everything he needed to know from this godly man, until he received the blessing of his Mentor, until he watched his Mentor vanish in a heavenly whirlwind. I love the way Elisha stuck like glue to Elijah, because I certainly did the same with my mentors/mother’s! I watched everything they did; I listened to how they talked; I mimicked how they would sit as ladies, back straight and head held high with shoulders squared! I would dress as they dressed, tone down my makeup, clean up my speech, whatever they did, I did. I was determined to be better, and they were determined to make me better!

Truth is, we all need Mentors like Elijah: women who have faced challenges and overcome them; women who have grown through struggle and perseverance; women who have seen God perform miracles; women who have gone through hard times and experienced God’s presence with them. 

We all need Mentors who make us better physically, mentally, emotionally, financially, academically, socially, spiritually, etc…We All Need Mentors!

We all need Mentors/Women who can pass on the news that God’s Word is still active and dynamic among us. Those who will teach us how to pray instead of having pity parties; teach us to search the scriptures instead of seeking out a girlfriend to get bad advice from; to teach us to fast instead of fall apart over every failure! We all need Mentors to correct our speech; our dress attire; our attitude; our behavior; our laziness etc…We need Mentors to sayno honey, you not ready for marriage, motherhood or ministryWe all need Mentors!

Why? Because these are the very ones who can place the mantle on our shoulders and confirm that we’re ready to move on to greater tasks, or withhold that mantle until they know beyond a shadow of a doubt that we’ve matured enough to carry it!

Mentors, we need your insight; knowledge; understanding; wisdom; discernment; guidance; counsel; experience. We even need to know your failures, mistakes, missteps, mishaps and the like too. In essence, we need you to help us to walk around the pitfalls you fell into!

So…Who are the godly women walking along the roads in your life, willing to pass on the knowledge they’ve gained? Who has watched you as you’ve worked in your Bible study, your volunteer position or at your job? Who has seen your gifts and your potential? Who stands by waiting to knock you down a few pegs when you get arrogant, conceited, prideful and entitled; or lifts you up when you feel low? Who corrects you, rebukes you, trains you instead of just tolerating you? 

Find Your Elijah! And while you’re at it, try being like Elisha. Follow your Elijah and glean from her knowledge of the living God concerning how to best serve Him and live for Him. 

Remember Elijah’s words to Elisha,if you see me, you’ll get from me what you asked”. Elisha Kept His Eyes On His Mentor, Stayed In Close Proximity and Obeyed Him and Thus He Received Elijah’s Mantle! But the key is, he watched his mentor! Unfortunately, too many of us are trying to be seen, that we’re not watching, and thus we’re missing the mantle! Selah…

Get a Mentor, Stay Close, Be Obedient, Remain Watchful, So You Don’t Miss Your Mantle!

“…And so it happened. They were walking along and talking. Suddenly a chariot and horses of fire came between them and Elijah went up in a whirlwind to heaven. ELISHA SAW IT ALL and shouted, “My father, my father! You—the chariot and cavalry of Israel!” When he could no longer see anything, he grabbed his robe and ripped it to pieces. THEN HE PICKED UP ELIJAH’S CLOAK THAT HAD FALLEN FROM HIM, returned to the shore of the Jordan, and stood there. He took Elijah’s cloak—all that was left of Elijah!—and hit the river with it, saying, “Now where is the God of Elijah? Where is he?” WHEN HE STRUCK THE WATER, THE RIVER DIVIDED AND ELISHA WALKED THROUGH. The guild of prophets from Jericho saw the whole thing from where they were standing. They said, “THE SPIRIT OF ELIJAH LIVES IN ELISHA!” They welcomed and honored him.” (MSG)

There will always be evidence that you are carrying your mentor’s mantle! Elisha was able to do what his mentor did, and not out of comparison or competition either! And the other prophets saw him, and their collective testimony was, “THE SPIRIT OF ELIJAH LIVES IN ELISHA!” THEY WELCOMED AND HONORED HIM.” Would people be able to say the same about you? Do they see the reflections of your mentor in your life, speech, behavior and actions? Can they see the evidence that you’ve been a good student and follower?

Remember to do as Elisha did, stay close, obey and be watchful!

Reflection Questions:

  1. Who do you see as an Elijah, faithfully serving God in your community/church/life? Have you reached out to them for mentoring?
  1. What do you need to do to become more available to learn from a godly Mentor?
  1. Who do you trust to tell it like it is?
  1. Who pat’s you on the back and simultaneously kicks you in the butt?
  1. Who teaches you; trains you; instructs you?
  1. Who invests time into developing and maturing you?
  1. If you have a mentor, how well do you think they’re doing? How well do you think they would say you’re doing?
  1. Name 1 woman who has mentored you the greatest and why?
  1. What is the best mentor advice you’ve ever received?
  1. In what ways could you become a Mentor to another woman?

1 Kings 19:19-21, “Elijah went straight out and found Elisha son of Shaphat in a field where there were twelve pairs of yoked oxen at work plowing; Elisha was in charge of the twelfth pair. Elijah went up to him and threw his cloak over him. Elisha deserted the oxen, ran after Elijah, and said, “Please! Let me kiss my father and mother good-bye—then I’ll follow you.” “Go ahead,” said Elijah, “but, mind you, don’t forget what I’ve just done to you.” So Elisha left; he took his yoke of oxen and butchered them. He made a fire with the plow and tackle and then boiled the meat—a true farewell meal for the family. Then he left and followed Elijah, becoming his right-hand man.” (MSG)

Titus 2:1-5, “Your job is to speak out on the things that make for solid doctrine. Guide older men into lives of temperance, dignity, and wisdom, into healthy faith, love, and endurance. Guide older women into lives of reverence so they end up as neither gossips nor drunks, but models of goodness. By looking at them, the younger women will know how to love their husbands and children, be virtuous and pure, keep a good house, be good wives. We don’t want anyone looking down on God’s Message because of their behavior. Also, guide the young men to live disciplined lives.” (MSG)

Elijah’s, Find Your Elisha’s, They Have Need of You!

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

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“The Importance of Foundation”

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Isaiah 28:16-17, “But the Master, God, has something to say to this: “Watch closely. I’m laying a foundation in Zion, a SOLID granite FOUNDATION, squared and true. And this is the meaning of the stone: a trusting life won’t topple…” (MSG)

It’s said that when Michael Eisner, head of the Disney Corporation, had plans drawn up for a house, one wall was so thin it almost buckled under its OWN weight.

Likewise, another software billionaire’s house had pine siding that rotted BEFORE the house was even completed.

So, were they just too busy to notice the inferior materials being used? Or were they careless in who they hired for the construction and faulty in overseeing the laying of a proper foundation? 

Architects say that people find construction details boring; they’d rather spend their money on glitzy stuff instead. They focus on the light fixtures, the desired wallpaper, the carpeting, and what colors to use in each room as opposed to if a storm hits, is the foundation fortified enough to keep this house from floating away like Noah’s Arc?!

The problem is that people fail to understand that it’s the foundation that determines the strength, stability, and ultimately the longevity and value of the house. A ceiling fan in the bedroom, central A/C, and a patio to barbecue on are irrelevant if the house collapses because you cut corners in its construction! Well, as it goes for a house, so it goes for your Character. Which is why you should take the time to ask and answer the following for yourself: Am I putting all of my efforts into maintaining an inferior ‘image’ while I neglect putting into place the foundational blocks that will fortify my character such as my attitude, integrity and responsibility to fulfilling my God-given purpose?

Listen: We have enough people giving the appearance of a leader and the appearance of character, and the appearance of a lifestyle that exemplifies that of Christ-Likeness. But what happens when the act has to end and you have to step out of the character you’ve been portraying and now you have to face the reality of life with all of its real challenges, not the Hollywood scenes you’ve rehearsed for the audience? Will the REAL YOU be able to remaining standing, or will the façade (defined as: ‘a deceptive outward appearance’) fall?

Listen to Jesus’ words: “These words I speak to you are not incidental additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living. They are FOUNDATIONAL words, words to build a life on. If you work these words into your life, you are like a smart carpenter who built his house on solid rock. Rain poured down, the river flooded, a tornado hit—but nothing moved that house. It was fixed to the rock.” (Matthew 7:24-25 MSG).

Houses built on sand are quick, cheap and easy; they provide temporary comfort and instant gratification. And sadly, this has become the norm for believers lives today. We want everything quick, cheap and easy! We want a marriage without prayer, preparation or pre-martial counseling (not to mention you don’t clean and can’t cook); we want children when we have no savings put aside to ensure they will have milk, pampers, a crib, and an actual room to call a nursery (not grandma’s old sewing room, because you can’t afford anything else); we want a brand new car when we can’t keep a metro-card filled from week-to-week, we want a house with bad credit, 20 year old debt, and a credit score that’s too low to rate! We want a promotion and have yet to proven to excel at the current job level, we want a building with no blueprints, a business with no plan, a ministry with no calling and an anointing with no adversity or affliction. We want online degrees, credits, and credentials, because that’s easier than having to physically sit under someone and have them adequately critique us by what they See not just what we Say and Write. We want everything quick, cheap and easy, but we forget how the sandcastle crumbles: “But if you just use my words in Bible studies and don’t work them into your life, you are like a stupid carpenter who built his house on the sandy beach. When a storm rolled in and the waves came up, it collapsed like a house of cards.” (Matthew 7:26-27 MSG).  That’s the price you pay for quick, cheap and easy, are you sure it’s worth it?!

HOWEVER, building on rock is hard; it takes time, effort, foresight and perseverance – but the results are worth it because they’re lasting! Whether it’s a marriage, mother/fatherhood, a business, ministry, church or friendship, when you take the time and build it accordingly, it will outlast the storms of life! Which is why most marriages, yes even Christian ones, don’t last! We can be so desperate to change our “status” from married to single; barren to mother; high-school drop-out to Doctor of “Anything”, that we will literally settle for Anything! As long as I can have a quick turn-around, overnight it will be worth it. Well, I beg to differ for many reasons, but for one in particular, I’m a Witness That This NEVER Works!

For me, PERSONALLY, it wasn’t about marrying the wrong man, but it was about marrying at the wrong time! When me and my husband wed, we both had so much baggage from our previous relationships that it was just about impossible to build a new life with old, damaged materials. We had health challenges, financial restraints, and 6 children to figure out how to raise in one 2 bedroom attic apartment. Not to mention living in Queens, but having work and church in Long Island, and all with no car! We entered into something permanent without properly handling the temporal challenges that weren’t easy but possible to change for the better. So a good part of marriage was miserable because we didn’t do as the Scripture says:

“One day when large groups of people were walking along with him, Jesus turned and told them, “Anyone who comes to me but refuses to let go of father, mother, spouse, children, brothers, sisters—yes, even one’s own self!—can’t be my disciple. Anyone who won’t shoulder his own cross and follow behind me can’t be my disciple. “IS THERE ANYONE HERE WHO, PLANNING TO BUILD A NEW HOUSE, DOESN’T FIRST SIT DOWN AND FIGURE THE COST SO YOU’LL KNOW IF YOU CAN COMPLETE IT? IF YOU ONLY GET THE FOUNDATION LAID AND THEN RUN OUT OF MONEY, YOU’RE GOING TO LOOK PRETTY FOOLISH. Everyone passing by will poke fun at you: ‘HE STARTED SOMETHING HE COULDN’T FINISH.’ (Luke 14:25-30 MSG)

In other words, we never sat down to figure the cost of building a new life! We didn’t figure in where to live; what we could afford; how were we going to get around; where would the children go to school; will we be able to feed 8 mouths; what happens if one of us loses our job (which did in fact happen to both of us); what happens if one of us is disabled due to one of our health challenges? What will we do to send 6 children, who are all back-to-back in age) to college just about at the same time? Will we be able to afford health coverage for a family of 8?!

We did not count the cost, we did not plan, we did not prepare, we did not try to figure anything out.  And we “ran out” of many things, many times, because we did not lay a proper foundation. Are we still married? Yes, 19 years and running. How are our children? Great, educated and employed. Do we have any regrets? Absolutely! Because we still face challenges today, because of all we didn’t properly prepare for yesterday!

I share all of this with you because so many are unfortunately looking for an easy way out of just about everything! And like it or not, but a new spouse, church, clothes, hairstyle, affair, substance abuses, job promotion etc… can’t fill the void of gaps in a cracked foundation. Quick, cheap and easy, doesn’t last, but pacing yourself, taking your time, persevering, putting in hard work and counting up the cost, in advance, gives you a better return on your future investments.

So, don’t try to buy the house and car tomorrow, don’t try to drive off the parking lot today, don’t try to get a 10 year degree in 10 months, don’t try to get pregnant just yet, don’t quit the job prematurely, don’t change churches…again! Wait, sit down, take your time, be patient, draw up a plan, have a back-up plan in place, get the right construction workers to work with you, make sure you have proper backing, and all of your papers in order, then proceed wisely and cautiously. You don’t want a 2 year marriage to end up in divorce court; you don’t want children that you have to depend on the state to feed, you don’t want to go to the wrong school and get the wrong degree, that doesn’t get you into the right job. You don’t want to leave the church that feeds you for a church that eventually causes you to become spiritually malnourished.

Now, if you’re not sure what kind of house you’re building it’s really easy to find out, all you’ve got to do is just watch what happens when the storms of life hit! Because evidence that you built on sand is when you can easily walk out of the marriage, children, church, job and school because of a few drops of rain on a cloudy day! You see, a house built on rock will withstand the same storm that levels those built on sand! The marriage may not be smiles every-day, but it will last; the children may not be perfect, but they’re progressing; the church may push you to want to switch religions some days, but stick it out, growth often comes in the midst of struggles; the job may not give you the promotion you desire or even deserve, but it yet provides a paycheck that keeps you from standing in line waiting for a cot and a cup of soup at the homeless shelter and soup kitchen; school can oftentimes make you wonder if your brain even works, but remember even if what it took them 2 years to get, takes you 10, it will be worth it, because you didn’t throw in the towel. You stuck it out and made it work, and that’s what rock builders do, they work hard, they sweat hard, and many days they cry hard; but they eventually enjoy the spoils of victory from surviving life’s hardest battles!

Simply stated, there are no shortcuts! And the word “short-cut” is defined as “an alternative route that is shorter than the one usually taken”; or the secondary definition I prefer calls it, “an accelerated but somewhat irregular way of doing something.” And the word “irregular” is defined as “contrary to a rule and standard.” And what’s our rule and standard? “These words I speak to you are not incidental additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living. They are FOUNDATIONAL words, words to build a life on. If you work these words into your life, you are like a smart carpenter who built his house on solid rock. Rain poured down, the river flooded, a tornado hit—BUT NOTHING MOVED THAT HOUSE. It was fixed to the rock.” (Matthew 7:24-25 MSG). Our standard is that of excellence! We do not go the way that is quick, cheap and easy, but we plan, prepare, work hard, and build what is solid and lasting. We’re like the athlete that trains hard and wins! The Bible says it like this, “You’ve all been to the stadium and seen the athletes race. Everyone runs; one wins. Run to win. All good athletes train hard. They do it for a gold medal that tarnishes and fades. You’re after one that’s gold eternally.” (1 Corinthians 9:25 MSG). We do nothing for momentary gratification, but we live lives that will leave durable legacies built on strong, solid, fortified foundations fixed to the Rock!

Remember this: Character is the result of Commitment, Consistency, and Building According to the Principles of God’s Word. When you make these the Foundation of Your Life you’ll make it through Any Storm in Life!

Build a solid life that will outlast your life! That’s what legacies are all about!

However, in order to attain this, you have to make sure you’re building with the right materials on the right foundation. And what are the right materials? Prayer, the Word of God, fasting, patience, faith, trust, hope, humility, wisdom, obedience, perseverance, the Voice of God, the indwelling of the Holy Ghost and the like. And we use all of this to build on what foundation? Jesus, the cornerstone that can never be moved! If you want a life, family, ministry, church, business, marriage that doesn’t topple over, use these materials and build only on the foundation Jesus has laid! Then, when the storms of life hit, you’ll remain standing! Be the Smart Builder not the Stupid One; Be Wise and Not Foolish; Build On What is Solid Not Sandy; and Then You’ll Have What Stands and Never Falls!

“But you, dear friends, must build up your lives ever more strongly upon the foundation of our holy faith, learning to pray in the power and strength of the Holy Spirit.” (Jude 1:20 TLB)

“Or, to put it another way, you are God’s house. Using the gift God gave me as a good architect, I designed blueprints; Apollos is putting up the walls. Let each carpenter who comes on the job take care to build on the foundation! Remember, there is only one foundation, the one already laid: Jesus Christ. Take particular care in picking out your building materials. Eventually there is going to be an inspection. If you use cheap or inferior materials, you’ll be found out. The inspection will be thorough and rigorous. You won’t get by with a thing. If your work passes inspection, fine; if it doesn’t, your part of the building will be torn out and started over. But you won’t be torn out; you’ll survive—but just barely.” (1 Corinthians 3:9-15 MSG)

“Afflicted city, storm-battered, unpitied: I’m about to rebuild you with stones of turquoise, Lay your foundations with sapphires, construct your towers with rubies, Your gates with jewels, and all your walls with precious stones. All your children will have God for their teacher— what a mentor for your children! You’ll be built solid, grounded in righteousness, far from any trouble—nothing to fear! far from terror—it won’t even come close! If anyone attacks you, don’t for a moment suppose that I sent them, And if any should attack, nothing will come of it. I create the blacksmith who fires up his forge and makes a weapon designed to kill. I also create the destroyer— but no weapon that can hurt you has ever been forged. Any accuser who takes you to court will be dismissed as a liar. This is what God’s servants can expect. I’ll see to it that everything works out for the best.” God’s Decree.” (Isaiah 54:11-17 MSG)

“That’s plain enough, isn’t it? You’re no longer wandering exiles. This kingdom of faith is now your home country. You’re no longer strangers or outsiders. You belong here, with as much right to the name Christian as anyone. God is building a home. He’s using us all—irrespective of how we got here—in what he is building. He used the apostles and prophets for the foundation. Now he’s using you, fitting you in brick by brick, stone by stone, with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone that holds all the parts together. We see it taking shape day after day—a holy temple built by God, all of us built into it, a temple in which God is quite at home.” (Ephesians 2:19-22 MSG)

“Meanwhile, God’s firm foundation is as firm as ever, these sentences engraved on the stones: God knows who belongs to him…” (2 Timothy 2:19 MSG)

“Welcome to the living Stone, the source of life. The workmen took one look and threw it out; God set it in the place of honor. Present yourselves as building stones for the construction of a sanctuary vibrant with life, in which you’ll serve as holy priests offering Christ-approved lives up to God. The Scriptures provide precedent: Look! I’m setting a stone in Zion, a cornerstone in the place of honor. Whoever trusts in this stone as a foundation will never have cause to regret it. To you who trust him, he’s a Stone to be proud of, but to those who refuse to trust him, The stone the workmen threw out is now the chief foundation stone. For the untrusting it’s…a stone to trip over, a boulder blocking the way. They trip and fall because they refuse to obey, just as predicted.” (1 Peter 2:4-8 MSG)

And I tell you, you are Peter [Greek, Petros—a large piece of rock], and on this rock [Greek, petra—a huge rock like Gibraltar] I will build My church, and the gates of Hades (the powers of the infernal region) shall not overpower it [or be strong to its detriment or hold out against it].” (Matthew 16:18 AMP)

PEOPLE OF GOD, WHETHER IT’S YOUR LIFE, MARRIAGE, FAMILY, MINISTRY, CHURCH, BUSINESS, OR CHILDREN, THE FOUNDATION MATTERS, THE FOUNDATION IS IMPORTANT, THE FOUNDATION IS ESSENTIAL, THE FOUNDATION IS VITAL, LET NO ONE TELL YOU DIFFERENT!

John Ruskin said, “The highest reward for man’s toil is not what he GETS for it, but what he BECOMES by it.

And when you take the proper time to use the right materials and build on the right foundation, the highest reward for your toil is not pats on the back, awards and special announcements. No, your reward is becoming a believer who knows how to build on a foundation that stands! And that’s the greatest reward this side of heaven!

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

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