“Keep Your Hand On Your Sword!”

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

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

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

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

Instead of sticking with it we give up on our children, discard marriages, throw away friendships, quit jobs, drop out of school, close businesses, change churches, etc… instead of being mature enough to stay in it and stick it out! Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. SO DON’T TRY TO GET OUT OF ANYTHING PREMATURELY. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.” (James 1:2-4 MSG) And with Scripture validation, I feel it is within my right to inform you that many of us are Immature, Under-Developed and Lacking in Many areas for no other reason than that we got out of things PREMATURELY!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“…weary…” (CEB);

“…exhausted…” (MSG);

“…tired…” (ERV); and

“…cramped…” (GNT).

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

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

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

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

“…tired and stuck to his sword…”;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

However, how can you use a Sword you don’t use?! You can’t use the Word of God against the enemy if you don’t know the Word of God for yourself! Which is why we are admonished to remember: 2 Timothy 2:15, “Study and do your best to present yourself to God approved, a workman [tested by trial] who has no reason to be ashamed, accurately handling and skillfully teaching the WORD OF TRUTH.” (AMP)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“The Process of Pruning Produces the Fullness of Potential”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“Men Helping Men Through Failure, Encouragement and Restoration”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“The Protocol of the Anointing”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“You’re Too Close to Lose Focus Now!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“The Gift of Being Hidden”

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Isaiah 49:2-3, “… in the shadow of His hand He HID ME; He made me into a POLISHED arrow and CONCEALED me in His quiver. He said to me, “You are my servant…in whom I will DISPLAY my splendor.” (NIV).

Isaiah says four notable things about how God works in our lives, let’s take a look:

1…“…IN THE SHADOW OF HIS HAND HE HID ME…” The wordShadow is defined asa dark area, a position of relative inferiority or obscurity, sadness, gloom or weakness.And yet, the Prophet Isaiah is excited about being in theShadow”! Why? As they would say in real estate, LOCATION IS EVERYTHING! The Scripture says,…In the Shadow OF HIS HAND He hid me…Isaiah understood a few Powerful Principles about the Hand of God that we need to learn! He understood that SALVATION is found IN THE HANDS OF GOD!Behold, the LORD’S HAND is not shortened, That it cannot SAVE…” (Isaiah 59:1 NKJV). “For they did not gain possession of the land by their own sword, Nor did their own arm SAVE THEM; But it was YOUR RIGHT HAND, Your arm, and the light of Your countenance, Because You favored them.” (Psalm 44:3 NKJV). Isaiah understood that DELIVERANCE is found in the Hands of God!So the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty HAND and with an outstretched arm…” (Deuteronomy 26:8 NKJV). “The great trials which your eyes saw, the signs and the wonders, the mighty HAND and outstretched arm, by which the LORD your God BROUGHT YOU OUT…” (Deuteronomy 7:19 NKJV). “You have BROUGHT YOUR PEOPLE…OUT…with signs and wonders, with a strong HAND and an outstretched arm…” (Jeremiah 32:21 NKJV). Isaiah understood WHO SAT AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD!Whereas this ONE [CHRIST], after He had offered a single sacrifice for our sins [that shall avail] for all time, sat down at the RIGHT HAND OF GOD.” (Hebrews 10:12 AMP). Isaiah understood that CHRIST INTERCEDES for us while seated at the Right Hand of God!Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—IS AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD AND IS ALSO INTERCEDING FOR US.” (Romans 8:34 NIV). Isaiah understood that the AUTHOR AND FINISHER OF OUR FAITH was Seated at the Right Hand of God!Looking unto JESUS the AUTHOR AND FINISHER OF OUR FAITH…is set down at the RIGHT HAND OF THE THRONE OF GOD.” (Hebrews 12:2). Isaiah understood the DEPTH OF LOVE Found in God’s Hands!See, I have WRITTEN YOUR NAME on the PALMS of MY HANDS. Always in my mind…” (Isaiah 49:16 NLT). Isaiah understood the PROTECTIVE HEDGE found in the Father’s Hands!My Father, Who has given them to Me, is greater and mightier than all [else]; and NO ONE IS ABLE TO SNATCH [THEM] OUT OF THE FATHER’S HAND.” (John 10:29 AMP). Maybe it’s just me, but being found “…In the Shadow of HIS HAND…sounds like a pretty good place to be, even when I’m feeling dark, inferior, obscure, sad, gloomy and weak! And that’s not all, in addition to the Right Hand of the Father, even before the Prophet Elijah called down fire from heaven at Mount Carmel, God instructed him to go and HIDE HIMSELF at the brook Cherith where he would be supernaturally fed and strengthened (“Go from here and turn east and HIDE YOURSELF…1 Kings 17:3 AMP). People of God, you must understand that before every “SHOWING” there’s always first a “HIDING”! God gets us alone and does a work in us that cannot be accomplished any other way! SO THE NEXT TIME YOU’RE DREADING THE SHADOW, REMEMBER THAT THE SHADOW IS FOUND IN THE HANDS OF GOD, THE ABSOLUTE BEST AND SAFEST PLACE TO BE HIDDEN! Psalm 91:1, “HE WHO DWELLS IN THE SHELTER OF THE MOST HIGH WILL REMAIN SECURE AND REST IN THE SHADOW OF THE ALMIGHTY [WHOSE POWER NO ENEMY CAN WITHSTAND].” (AMP) So, yes, you’ll come forth, in due season, and do great works, but never forget, there’s always a “HIDING” before a “SHOWING”! Therefore, Don’t try to Shine, just Stay in the Shadow!

2…“…HE MADE ME INTO A POLISHED ARROW…” The archer takes a rough tree branch, cuts it down and makes it into a highly polished arrow capable of hitting the mark! Many people see you as they saw David, hanging in the back, unnoticed, overlooked, underestimated and undervalued! (1 Samuel 16:11, “Then he asked Jesse, “Is this it? Are there no more sons?” WELL, YES, THERE’S THE RUNT. But he’s out tending the sheep…” MSG) But that’s alright, because just like David, in due season, the Prophet assigned to your life, will come looking for you in the HIDDEN places of the backyard, to bring your anointing to the FOREFRONT! And he’ll do it before the eyes of all those who didn’t see much in you! But keep this in mind, you don’t have to do anything to help this process along! The Bible says in Isaiah, “…HE MADE ME…So stop seeking validations, confirmations, applause, accolades, encouragement, pats on the back, support and assistance! Stop waiting for someone to sign their name to a certificate granting you elevation that only God need give! This is not the season to put your focus on people, but you need to get your focus back on God! When you desire for people to lift you, you also grant them the opportunity to let you down! That’s why it’s always best to wait for God to do it, so no one can take credit for who you become in God! Instead, be like Abraham, “…I’ll take nothing from you, not so much as a thread or a shoestring. I’M NOT GOING TO HAVE YOU GO AROUND SAYING, ‘I MADE ABRAM RICH’” (Genesis 14:22-23 MSG). Stop allowing people to rub your ears and ego with flattery, and wait for GOD TO POLISH YOU TO PERFECTION! You may be a rough tree branch right now, but over time you will reflect the Psalmist, “…he shall be like a tree firmly planted [and tended] by the streams of water, ready to bring forth its fruit IN ITS SEASON; its leaf also shall not fade or wither; and everything he does shall prosper [and come to maturity].” (Psalm 1:3 AMP). That’s what happens when you let God do it and not man! Remember: “…HE MADE ME…SO NO SELF-PROMOTION IS NEEDED OR NECESSARY! You don’t have to go around informing everyone about what God is about to do in your life; you don’t have to post it, tweet it or scope it! You don’t have to upload the website, you don’t have to design the business cards! You don’t need flyers and self-promoting advertisements; you don’t need to live stream what God hasn’t allowed to flow out of you yet! YOU, don’t have to do anything but wait on God, hear God, serve God, and respect God’s process and timing! Remember: “…HE MADE ME INTO A POLISHED ARROW…” That word “Polish” is defined as “to make smooth and shiny by rubbing; to improve or refine.” And with that said, know this: Pearls come forth after constant rubbing against or irritation of sand; Diamonds come forth through pressure; and Gold and Silver come forth through the refining of Fire. In other words, your polishing will not always be a wonderful experience, because you will be irritated at times, have to endure pressure at times and will have to be challenged through some fiery situations, but when it’s all said and done, you’ll be able to say with Job, “But He knows the way that I take [and He pays attention to it]. When He has TRIED ME, I will come forth as [REFINED] GOLD [PURE AND LUMINOUS]” (Job 23:10 AMP). Therefore, Let God Polish You Into the Arrow That Will Hit It’s Mark…In Due Season!

3…“…HE……CONCEALED ME IN HIS QUIVER…” Once you allow God to HIDE you…then…POLISH you, next He’ll put you into His QUIVER. A “Quiver” is “an archer’s portable case for his arrows, that he keeps Tied Securely to Him”. WHAT A WONDERFUL PLACE TO BE, TIED SECURELY TO HIM, WITHIN EASY REACH WHEN THE MOMENT TO USE YOU COMES! That’s why you don’t need to run all around town begging and pleading with folks to encourage, validate or support you! You don’t need to tap dance and perform for the praise or opportunities of man! If you simply practice the art of Patience and allow God the Time it takes in the Process to Hide You, then Polish You, then Secure You In His Quiver, when the Kingdom Assignment comes up with Your Name On It, You’re Already at the Fingertips of God, Ready to be Used at the Most Opportune Moment! You want to be used? THEN DON’T STICK CLOSE TO MAN, STICK CLOSE TO GOD! That word “Conceal” is defined as, “to prevent from being seen or known.” Its Latin ‘concelare’, from ‘celare’ literally means “to hide.” And clearly that’s the problem with God’s children today, we want to be Seen and Known…not Hidden and Concealed! We’re so unlike Jesus who always sought out a solitary place to be with God and pray. Now, He’s the Son of God, and yet He didn’t seek notoriety! Matthew 20:28, “…Whoever wants to be great must become a servant. Whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave. THAT IS WHAT THE SON OF MAN HAS DONE: HE CAME TO SERVE, NOT BE SERVED…” (MSG) He came to seek and to save that which was lost…not to find those who would be able to help Him put His name up in lights! People of God, being hidden and concealed is for your own protection! Do not try to go ahead of God or to do things your own way and in your own timing. God has you concealed in His quiver to keep you tied securely to Him. So when it’s your time, your close enough to God to be ready for immediate use. Ephesians 2:10, “For we are God’s [own] handiwork (His workmanship), recreated in Christ Jesus, [born anew] that we may do those good works which God predestined (planned beforehand) for us [taking paths which He prepared ahead of time], that we should walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us to live].” (AMPC) The Message Bible says it like this: “Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish! We don’t play the major role. If we did, we’d probably go around bragging that we’d done the whole thing! No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.” (vss. 7-10 MSG) Saints, stay tied to Him in prayer, praise and worship; stay tied to Him in discipline, obedience and sacrifice; stay tied to Him so close that like John you can rest on His breast; stay tied to Him where if the enemy ever tried to come for you…he’d have to come through Him first! God is not concealing you for punishment, He’s concealing you for protection. And not just from the enemy, but from people who see your gifts and anointing and want to push you to a place God has not permitted you to go yet! That’s why we have so many ineffective churches open today, someone saw a gift and anointing, spoke about it, and off folks went to get anybody to lay hands on them and hand them a piece of paper that has nothing to do with the Will of God for their lives! Don’t let that happen to you! Stay quietly concealed in the Masters quiver, until HE says it’s now time for you to be released!

4…“…YOU ARE MY SERVANT…IN WHOM I WILL DISPLAY MY SPLENDOR” After visiting the Balkans, Canadian reporter James Creelman wrote, “I learned that the world’s supply of rose oil comes from the Balkan Mountains. The thing that interested me was that the ROSES HAD TO BE GATHERED DURING THE DARKEST HOURS. Initially this seemed to be a relic of superstition. But as I investigated I learned that A FULL 40 PERCENT OF THE FRAGRANCE DISAPPEARS IN THE LIGHT OF DAY. Saints, if you’re not too prideful to be HIDDEN, not too impatient to wait on POLISHING, not too quick to be attached to people instead of attached to God’s QUIVER, you’ll eventually reach the destination of DISPLAY! But like the roses on the Balkan Mountains, DON’T DOWNPLAY YOUR DARKNESS! Just as the roses are gathered at the darkest hours, GOD WILL COME FOR YOU IN YOUR DARKEST HOUR! GOD KNOWS THAT YOUR BEST FRAGRANCE IS IN THE DARK! HE KNOWS YOUR MOST POTENT PRIOR TO DAYBREAK! AND JUST AS MOST OILS ARE PRODUCED IN THE DARKEST OF PLACES, THE ANOINTING ON YOUR LIFE IS NO DIFFERENT! SO DON’T DISCOUNT YOUR DARKNESS, IT ALWAYS LEADS TO DISPLAYING HIS SPLENDOR! Isaiah 45:3, “And I will give you treasures hidden in the darkness, secret riches; and you will know that I am doing this – I, the Lord, the God of Israel, the one who calls you by your name.” (TLB). There’s great treasures in store in dark places, if only you’ll remain close enough to God (not people) so you can attain it. You my friend are likewise a hidden treasure in the darkness, and God will display your value when it’s time so that it’s not misused, mishandled, squandered or taken advantage of. So, what do you do in the meantime? Remember what He said: “…You Are My Servant…”, therefore, do what Servants do…Serve! Stop waiting for your moment; your 15 minutes of fame; stop waiting to be the next gospel super-star; stop waiting for the church, the ministry the elevation and promotion; stop waiting for the title, the position, the acknowledgements and celebrations. No, just remain Hidden, while God Polishes you. Stay Concealed in His Quiver, Tied Securely to Him and Within Reach at all times. And when He deems the time has arrived, He’ll find His Servant…Serving and then you’ll have the testimony, “…IN WHOM I WILL DISPLAY MY SPLENDOR…” Just remember, even when it’s your time to be Displayed, it’s not about you, but about Him! “…I WILL DISPLAY MY SPLENDOR…” Being used of God has nothing to do with making your name or yourself great! 2 Corinthians 4:7-12, “If you only look at us, you might well miss the brightness. We carry this precious Message around in the UNADORNED CLAY POTS OF OUR ORDINARY LIVES. THAT’S TO PREVENT ANYONE FROM CONFUSING GOD’S INCOMPARABLE POWER WITH US. AS IT IS, THERE’S NOT MUCH CHANCE OF THAT. YOU KNOW FOR YOURSELVES THAT WE’RE NOT MUCH TO LOOK AT…” (MSG) This needs to be our attitude! The importance, the significance, the focus should always be on His Treasure Within Us That We’ve Been Privileged to Carry…NOT ON US, THE UNADORNED CLAY POTS! When it’s time for your Display, just remember WHO you are to Display!

People of God, whether it’s getting married, having children, going back to school, relocating, ministry, employment, starting a business, etc. RESPECT GOD’S PROCESS! When you go from point A to point B, there’s no story to tell! But when you have to patiently start at point A and travel all the way to point Z, there’s a whole lot of story between all those letters! Sad to say, but so many people are in such a rush to get to the next thing, that they’re missing out on the current thing. So, enjoy your NOW and stop missing out on life pursuing NEXT! God does all things well, and in His perfect timing, so be patient, trust Him, and wait.

Look at it like this: Can you imagine the sadness of a parent if all they had was the birth of their child, and then the next moment the kid’s graduating college?! No first steps, first words, recitals, try-outs, holidays, birthday’s etc…just birth then college graduation! What parent would dare want to miss out on all the pictures, memories, moments etc…of all that falls in between? Well it’s time you learn to treat your life the same way. There’s a lot of story to tell, so stop trying to peek at the next chapter, and live in this one! Stop trying to get to the end of your story! Enjoy the characters, the story line, all the drama, comedy, romance and action of what life is all about! Trust Me, You’ll Be So Glad You Did in the End!

Respect God’s Process, Because There’s a Gift in Being Hidden!

Ecclesiastes 3:11, “He has made everything beautiful and appropriate IN ITS TIME. He has also planted eternity [a sense of divine purpose] in the human heart [a mysterious longing which nothing under the sun can satisfy, except God]—yet man cannot find out (comprehend, grasp) what God has done (His overall plan) from the beginning to the end.” (AMP);

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);

Psalm 62:5-6, “God, the one and only – I’ll wait as long as He says. Everything I hope for comes from Him, so why not? He’s solid rock under my feet, breathing room for my soul, An impregnable castle: I’m set for life.” (MSG)

Psalm 27:14, “Wait for and confidently expect the LORD; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for and confidently expect the LORD.” (AMP)

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

Feel free to also join us at: http://www.selfcarewithdrshermaine.blogspot.com Today’s Lesson: “The Best and Worst Juices For Your Health”

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“6 Rules For Anger Management”

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

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

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

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

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

Observe the following tidbits on Anger: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keep that in mind as you: 

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

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

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

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

Saints, dirty laundry gets aired in two ways: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“The Stretching Is Strengthening Your Faith!”

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“…thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress; have mercy upon me, and hear my prayer” (Psalm 4:1)

When God wants to make you a bigger person, He does it through “Distress”! The word “Distress” has an Old French Origin “Destresce”, from Latin “Distringere” which literally means “To Stretch Apart”! And “Stretch” is defined as “To be made or able to be made longer; wider without tearing or breaking; to extend to full length; last longer than expected; extend over a period of time; be sufficient for a particular purpose; extended storage capacity; and to use the maximum of one’s resources”.

You see saints, when you look at “Distress” in its Proper Perspective it doesn’t seem all that bad at all now does it?!

The Psalmist was “…Enlarged…” when he was in “…Distress…”! Trust me, you’re going to want to remember that! To “Enlarge” is defined as “To Make Bigger”! So the Psalmist was Made Bigger By God’s Distressing Stretches which resulted in him being made longer, wider (without tearing or breaking apart), he now also has the ability to extend to his full length, and even last longer than others expected and over a good amount of time as well, not to mention being sufficient in his purpose and having more than enough in his storage capacity to use to the max all of his resources!

In other words, Stop Complaining About Your Distress…It’s the Place Where God Enlarges You! I Bet You’re Ready To Be Distressed Now Aren’t You?!

You see, the way to build a stronger muscle is to lift more weight! Now, when a muscle is put under stress, you groan. But if you persist, that muscle grows stronger and what you were groaning about last week you are smiling about this week, because you can now handle what you couldn’t get a hold of before! Which is why I’m still trying to figure out who said the Christian Life was supposed to be easy? Because It Certainly Was NOT God! His Word actually compares the Believers Life to a Battlefield, not a Bed of Roses! The Bible even declares: “…endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (2 Timothy 2:3).

Let’s look at how a few other translations word this text:

“Take [with me] YOUR SHARE of the hardships and suffering [which you are CALLED TO ENDURE] as a good (FIRST-CLASS) soldier of Christ Jesus” (AMP);

“Accept YOUR SHARE of suffering like a good soldier of Christ Jesus” (CEB);

“As a good solder of Christ Jesus YOU MUST endure your share of suffering” (CEV);

“Thou therefore suffer affliction as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (GNV);

“JOIN ME in suffering like a good soldier of Christ Jesus” (GWT);

“TAKE YOUR PART in suffering, as a loyal soldier of Christ Jesus” (GNT);

Hopefully you noticed a few things:

1.       YOU SHOULD’VE NOTICED PHRASES LIKE: “YOUR SHARE” and “JOIN ME”, in the translations above. And why is that relevant? Because, believe it or not, you are not in your Distress ALONE! When God calls you to endure hardness, He does not send you as a lone soldier and call you an Army! So before you start complaining, realize that you are not the only one! Here’s a perfect Scriptural Example: Elijah said, “I am the ONLY ONE LEFT, and now they are trying to kill me, too” (1 Kings 19:10, 14) And God’s reply? “Yet I will preserve 7,000 OTHERS in Israel who have never bowed down to Baal or kissed him!” (1 Kings 19:18). Right when you think you’re the ONLY ONE, God will show you He has 7,000 More, Just Like You! As hard and lonely as your distressing moment may feel, you are not alone! You have other brothers and sisters in distress with you! If you stop your self-made pity party, you could celebrate the presence of your comrades! You are not the only one struggling in marriage; you are not the only one praying the Lord has mercy on your children’s idiotic decisions; you are not the only one battling loneliness in the midnight hour; you are not the only one unemployed; taking medication; surviving an illness; dissatisfied with the reflection they see in the mirror; heartbroken or trying to figure out how do I get myself out of what I got myself into?! Listen, the military does not call one soldier an army! Neither does God! You have soldiers who are fighting day-to-day just like you to win the battles of life. And just like them, YOU must take YOUR SHARE and JOIN in the warfare with the rest of God’s Army! So no more murmuring and complaining, as the Word of God admonishes you, JOIN In the Suffering and TAKE YOUR SHARE As a Good Solider!

“Be grateful for what you have and stop complaining – it bores everybody else, does you no good, and doesn’t solve any problems.” (Zig Ziglar);

“If you’re not going to put forth any effort to change it, don’t waste your efforts complaining about it.” (Author Unknown);

“Complaining is draining. Complaining only takes away energy from today and never solves the problems for tomorrow.” (James Altucher);

“If you don’t like something change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. Don’t complain.” (Dr. Maya Angelou);

“Complaining about a problem without posing a solution is called whining.” (Teddy Roosevelt);

“If you’re not helping to make it right, then stop complaining about it being wrong.” (Author Unknown)

2.       DID YOU NOTICE THAT THOSE WHO “ENDURE” are “CALLED to Endure”? Read the text! “Take [with me] YOUR SHARE of the hardships and suffering [which you are CALLED TO ENDURE]…” (AMP) I find it absolutely Amazing that we don’t mind being called to preach, teach, prophesy, pray, preside, lay hands, lead the solo, sit in the pulpit, in the big, special chair, or on the front pew or to wear all sorts of titles, positions, offices, rings, robes and bedazzled crosses, but we Complain About Being Called To Endure! Oh, you can CALL us Apostle, Prophet, Bishop, Pastor, Elder, Evangelist, Minister, Deacon, Missionary, Director…Just Don’t CALL Us to Endure! Oh, you can CALL us blessed, anointed, gifted, talented, awesome, phenomenal, handsome, beautiful, smeared in blessed oil…Just Don’t CALL Us to Endure! Listen, “Endure” simply means “to suffer (something painful and prolonged) PATIENTLY; to TOLERATE; and to Remain in Existence” In other words, NO you’re not going to come out of it in 2 days, you are Called to Endure…Patiently! Tolerate it, Handle It, Remain in its Existence or in other words, Stop Trying to Outrun Suffering and Hardness That Is Your Share to Carry! Stand Still and Handle It, That’s What Good Soldiers Are Commanded To Do!

In addition, God Would Not Give You A Calling He Didn’t Equip You To Answer! Listen to the Word of God: “Strengthen (complete, perfect) and make you what you ought to be and equip you with everything good that you may carry out His will; [while He Himself] works in you and accomplishes that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ (the Messiah); to Whom be the glory forever and ever (to the ages of the ages). Amen (so be it).” (Hebrews 13:21 AMP); “ And I am convinced and sure of this very thing, that He Who began a good work in you will continue until the day of Jesus Christ [right up to the time of His return], developing [that good work] and perfecting and bringing it to full completion in you.” (Philippians 1:6 AMP); “And those whom He thus foreordained, He also called; and those whom He called, He also justified (acquitted, made righteous, putting them into right standing with Himself). And those whom He justified, He also glorified [raising them to a heavenly dignity and condition or state of being].” (Romans 8:30 AMP) People of God, You Are Not In Your Distress Alone and God Called You to Endure It! And Last I Checked, Obedience Is Still Better Than Sacrifice!

“Without patient endurance, even the smallest thing becomes unbearable. A lot depends on our attitude.” (Dalai Lama);

“Endurance is not just the ability to bear a difficult thing, but to turn it into glory.” (William Barclay);

“Don’t pray for an easy life. Pray for the strength to endure a difficult one.” (Bruce Lee);

“Perseverance is more than endurance. It is endurance combined with absolute assurance and certainty that what we are looking for is going to happen.” (Oswald Chambers);

“I will love the light for it shows me the way, Yet, I will endure the darkness because it shows me the stars.” (Og Mandino);

“I’m a distance runner. I’ve been trained to keep going, even when it’s hard. When it hurts. When it sucks. When I don’t want to. I look past it. Relentless forward progress to the finish. Call it what you want; stubbornness, endurance, determination, guts. Deep down, I don’t know how to give up.” (Author Unknown)

3.       ONE OF THE TRANSLATIONS DECLARES, “…you MUST endure your share of suffering”(CEV)  The word “MUST” is defined as “To be obligated”. “Obligated” has a Latin Origin “Obligare”, from “Ligare” which literally means “To Bind”!  It’s root is found in the legal field and is called a “Binding Agreement/Contract”, and in a nutshell it is defined as: “An agreement with specific terms between two or more persons or entities in which there is a promise to do something in return for a valuable benefit known as consideration”. It also carries the definition, “An agreement between two or more parties, especially one that is written and enforceable by law”. If anyone in the Bible was the epitome of a “Binding Agreement/Contract”, it was the Apostle Paul! And even he was not alone, both Timothy and James were called Bondservants as well, and a Bondservants’ main purpose is to be Obedient To Their Master! When something is Binding Nothing Should Separate It! It’s an Agreement a Contract that Serves to Benefit Both Parties! You are indeed called to endure hardness and handle your place of distress, which means you are obligated to this also! This is not an option! This is a requirement! It’s a legal, written (the Bible) Law, Agreement and Contract between you and your God! So as Distressing as it may be, You MUST Endure It! Never Forget, Every Binding Agreement Comes With a Promise Attached!

“Great moves of God are usually preceded by simple acts of obedience.” (Steven Furtick);

“We are not obedient because we are blind, we are obedient because we can see.” (Boyd K. Packer);

“Obedience is an act of faith; disobedience is the result of unbelief.” (Edwin Louis Cole);

“Obedience doesn’t make God love you more, but it does show that you love God.” (Greg J. Barber);

“Be obedient even when you do not know where obedience may lead you.” (Sinclair Ferguson);

“Obedience is a choice. It is a choice between our own limited knowledge and power and God’s unlimited wisdom and omnipotence.” (L. Tom Perry);

“Let the consequences of your obedience be left up to God.” (Oswald Chambers);

“God is awesome. He doesn’t need you to be awesome; He needs you to be obedient.” (Matt Chandler);

“There will be no peace in any soul until it is willing to obey the Voice of God.” (D.L. Moody);

“In times of distress, let your covenants be paramount and let your obedience be exact.” (D. Todd Christofferson);

“Selective obedience brings selective blessings.” (Jorg Klebingat);

“When the Holy Spirit lays something in your heart, move without hesitation. You have no idea who may be depending on your immediate obedience.” (Author Unknown);

“He who refuses to obey, cannot command.” (Author Unknown)

4.       I’VE ALWAYS LOVED THE SAYING, “GOD DON’T MAKE NO JUNK!” And that’s the truth! One of the translations above even calls us, “…FIRST CLASS SOLDIERS…Even in Distress, We Are Still First-Class! We May Have to Endure Sitting In Distress, But At Least We Do It Sitting In First-Class! Listen, God Called You and Equipped You, Therefore, You Can Endure It! Yes, Your Uniform Has Been Beaten, Battered and, Torn, But Don’t You Dare Take It Off and Don’t You Dare Abandon It! You Are a First-Class Soldier and You Can Endure! So Act Like It!

“Don’t ever make the mistake of telling God that you have nothing to offer. That simply is not true. God does not create any junk.” (Dr. Myles Munroe);

“I am somebody cause God don’t make no junk.” (Ethel Waters);

“I am a Citizen of a Kingdom that Cannot be Shaken. A Child of a King with No Limitations.” (Author Unknown);

“You have something to offer that nobody else can offer. Nobody has your exact personality or your gifts. You are more than average. You are one-of-a-kind.” (Author Unknown)

And What Has All of That to do with Strengthening Your Faith? Well, Satan’s number one target is your FAITH! And if you don’t learn how to stand your ground in the midst of distressing seasons, he will aim at, and hit the target of your faith, piercing it through-and-through every time! Just ask Peter!

Jesus said to Peter, “…Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your FAITH should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.” (Luke 22:31-32 NKJV). In the same way you separate wheat from chaff, Satan wants to separate you from your Faith!  Don’t Let It Happen! No Matter How Deep the Distress, No Matter How Far The Stretch, No Matter How Enormous The Endurance Must Be…Don’t Let Your Faith Fail!

Listen: Not only did Peter survive this attack, and strengthen his brothers, but he also grew through it and wrote: “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you” (1 Peter 4:12 NKJV). The Amplified Bible says it like this: “Friends, when life gets really difficult, don’t jump to the conclusion that God isn’t on the job. Instead, be glad that you are in the very thick of what Christ experienced. This is a spiritual refining process, with glory just around the corner.

In other words, “There Will Be Glory After This!” And It’s Coming, Just Around the Corner! So remain steadfast on your journey! Fight, Endure, and While You’re Strengthening Your Faith, Strengthen Your Brothers, And Before You Know It, God Will Enlarge You IN Distress…And When It’s Done He Will Have Glory Waiting to Greet You…Just Around the Corner!

If Satan can destroy your confidence in God and His Word, he wins and you lose! So the Word for you today is to be encouraged because “The Stretching is Only to Strengthen Your Faith!

“You have to sweat for it. HE requires an investment from you. The miracle is in your discomfort. Stretch!” (Bishop T.D. Jakes)

“The circumstances of life will shrink or stretch your faith. Either way, the choice is always yours.” (James MacDonald)

“Sometimes God stirs us out of comfortable situations in order to stretch us and cause us to exercise our faith. We may not like it, and it may not always be comfortable, but God loves us too much to just leave us the way we are.” (Author Unknown)

“The stretching of your faith is an immediate pain that results in ultimate gain. It is in the waiting that we become who we are meant to be.” (Mandy Hale)

“This season, God is stretching you. You won’t pop, but you will stretch in your faith, dreams, vision, and goals. Trust God and stretch.” (Author Unknown)

“For God’s purpose to Spread, God’s people must Stretch.” (Steven Furtick)

“God doesn’t always take you out of the problem. Sometimes, He stretches your faith by taking you through the problem.” (Rick Warren)

“If God is stretching you, He’s transforming you.” (Author Unknown)

“You can’t grow without being stretched.” (Amy Gatliff)

“God’s plan is so big for you that it’ll require you to Stretch!” (Author Unknown)

“When God is stretching you, expect great things on the other side.” (Author Unknown)

“When God stretches you beyond your comfort zone, He’s preparing you for greater.” (Dianna Hobbs)

“God wants us to be constantly stretching and growing. There are new levels for you to rise up to. There are new treasures within you to discover. Explore what God has placed within you because He has purpose for everything within you.” (Victoria Osteen)

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: “8 Secrets of People Who Never Miss a Workout”

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

LETS STAY CONNECTED!

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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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“You’re Facing the Wrong Way!”

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Isaiah 43:18-19, “Do not remember the things that have happened before. Do not think about the things of the past. See, I will do a new thing. It will begin happening now. Will you not know about it? I will even make a road in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.” (NLV)

I have been to my fair share of amusement parks both as a child and as an adult. And honestly, I’ve enjoyed quite a few of the rides. However, I must admit, I am not a fan of the roller coaster! Oh, I’ll watch you on it, and will scream when you scream, and will laugh myself silly, but I will do every bit of that on the ground! You see, my rides on roller coasters are very few and really far in between! But there is this particular amusement park that I visited many years ago, and they had two roller coasters side by side and two lines to get to them. Over on one line was a sign that said, “Forward.” Over on the other line, a sign said – yeah, you guessed it – “Backward.” Either way, it was your choice. You could ride looking forward or looking backward. But you had to pick one!

The older I get, the more I realize there are two lines in life as well, and two cars you can ride in. One says, “Forward” and the other says, “Backward.” Either one you pick, it will be your choice. Frankly, I don’t want to ride looking back at where I’ve already been. No, I’d rather ride looking ahead to where I’m going. I hope you do, too.

And that’s what God wants for you. Don’t believe it? Just listen to the Bible: Isaiah 43:18-19, here’s what it says, “Do not remember the things that have happened before. Do not think about the things of the past. See, I will do a new thing. It will begin happening now. Will you not know about it? I will even make a road in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.” (NLV)

God wants today to be the first day of the rest of your life, not just another day of what your life has already been up until now. This can be page one of a whole new volume or just another page of the same old story. Either way, the choice will always be yours to make.

Maybe you’ve been riding too long looking backward. You keep rehearsing and reliving the hurt of your past, your failures, the painful losses you’ve experienced, and the regrets over what you’ve done or what you should have done or what was done to you. But that’s the past, and none of it can be changed. But if you don’t move beyond the pain, the anger, the bitterness, the self-pity, the grief, and the self-condemnation – if you keep dwelling on that, you’ll miss the part of your life that can be changed – the future.

Think about it: If you choose the roller coaster ride where you’re facing backwards, all you’ll ever see is where you’ve already been. And haven’t you been facing that way long enough? Every time you tell a story it’s always past tense, because instead of your past being a reference, you’ve allowed it to become a residence. My dear, that is not the purpose of your past. You are not to live in the prison of your past confined to all the people, places and things that didn’t go right. Living like that is wrong! You are at the amusement park, enjoying the ride, but with no new attractions to see, because you  continue to deliberately choose to face the wrong way. All you see is “been there, done that, got the t-shirt.” All you see is what they said and what they did and what you didn’t accomplish. But that was then, this is Now! And what does God say about Now? “…See, I will do a new thing. It will begin happening NOW…” (NLV)

Just imagine what you’re missing because you’re facing the wrong way?! You see, when you ride the roller coaster ride and you’re facing forward, there is always something new to see! Whether you go up or down, and in life you will experience both, still you will see it in a new view. Imagine going low, but the anticipation and expectation of what you’ll see when you come up again! You’ll always be in a  constant excitement of what is next! Not, “oh, I saw that already, or I knew that was coming.”

One of God’s great representatives, Paul, said, “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14).

The Amplified Bible says it like this: “Not that I have already obtained it [this goal of being Christ-like] or have already been made perfect, but I actively press on so that I may take hold of that [perfection] for which Christ Jesus took hold of me and made me His own. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider that I have made it my own yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching FORWARD to what lies ahead, I press on TOWARD the goal to win the [heavenly] prize of the UPWARD call of God in Christ Jesus.” (AMP)

People of God, it’s time we stop facing BACKWARD, and instead start facing FORWARD, as we press TOWARD, the goal to win the [heavenly] prize of the UPWARD call of God in Christ Jesus!

No more back peddling, no more staring in the rear-view mirror as if we can go back and undo what we’ve done or what’s been done to us. No, today is the day that we stop hesitating, stop procrastinating, stop remaining stuck and stagnant. Today is the day we move Forward, Toward and Upward! Today is the day we change direction and face the right way!

We don’t need faith for what has happened already, we need faith for what is about to happen. We have to prepare for what God is going to do, not what He has already done!

Stop treating your life like a hamster on a wheel, constantly moving, but going nowhere but in circles!

Which means you have to do quite a bit of self-examination. You need to test the people, places and things in your life and see what needs to be restored and what needs to be replaced! It’s time for new, not just the same old, that you keep slapping patches on in hopes it will ‘this time’ hold itself together.

Jesus is the Lord of new beginnings, of fresh starts, of clean slates. You need to come to Him and let Him release you from being tied to the people who’ve hurt you, by getting His grace to forgive them. You need to ask His help to begin to define your life, not by what has happened, but by what’s going to happen; what can happen because of Jesus in your life. Yes, it is Jesus alone that still makes the difference!

Think about it: The lame walked because of Him; the deaf heard because of Him; the blind was able to see because of Him; the adulterous were forgiven because of Him; a 12 year old girl was brought back to life because of Him; the woman with the issue of blood was healed because of Him; the four friends were able to get their friend delivered off that mat because of Him! The testimonies are endless regarding the change that Jesus makes in the lives of people! And if you dare to allow Him to help you get past your past, He can do some wondrous things in your life too! But you can’t stay stuck in the same place! You can’t keep turning backwards. You have to move forward. You have to change direction. You have to do something different.

Can you imagine if the woman at the well stayed there; can you imagine if Lazarus would’ve ignored Jesus call; can you imagine if Mary said, ‘sorry God, but this is just too outrageous for me to be a part of’; can you imagine if Ruth said, ‘nope, I’m going back to what’s familiar’; can you imagine if Abraham said, ‘leave my family and go somewhere without a destination in mind, I don’t think so?’; can you imagine if Esther said, ‘oh well, at least I made it to the palace, hope the rest of yall survive somehow’; can you imagine if Deborah said, ‘Barack I don’t have to go with you so I’m not’; Can you imagine if Gideon didn’t listen to God but kept all the useless people he had with him? All of these people had to do something unfamiliar, uncommon, and uncomfortable to see something new and different. And my friend you will have to be put in the very same position!

Yes, that means you may have to work on an auxiliary you never have before; yes, that means you’ll have to finally go back to school and finish your education; yes, that means you may have to accept that, that particular friendship and relationship has run their course; yes, that means you may have to take a job in a field you know nothing about; yes, that means you may have to take this next journey alone; yes, that means you may have to break out the box by reshaping your inner-circle; yes, that may even mean a change in the most simple of things (a change in hairstyle or hair color; a different style of dress; a different restaurant; different foods; learning about different cultures or a different language; taking up yoga, Zumba or Pilates). In other words, you can’t expect to see something new if you keep staring at something old. You can’t expect to experience something new when you keep hanging around something old.

You have to force yourself to face the challenge of doing new things, so you don’t die with the same ole, same ole.

“Do not remember the things that have happened before. Do not think about the things of the past. See, I will do a new thing. It will begin happening NOW. Will you not know about it? I will even make a road in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.” (NLV)

Your new thing is trying to happen NOW, but do you see it? No! Do you know it? No! Because the old has your undivided attention! And the most expensive thing in the world is paying attention to people who don’t value you! Enough is enough!

God is trying to do such remarkable things that you’ve never seen or heard before, and you’re missing out on all of it because your eyes have a distorted vision of the past only, and no insight of the future that can’t wait to be revealed!

2 Corinthians 4:17-18, “So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever.” (MSG)

As hard as your past may have been, it is but small potatoes compared to the coming good times! There’s so much greater ahead of you if only you’d stop focusing behind you!

Listen, if that bad relationship was enough to take you out you wouldn’t be alive today. Maybe the reason you haven’t seen the right person for you is because all you can see is the person who was wrong for you! Forgive them, forgive you, and face forward! You have no idea what and who you’re missing out on! Stop reliving, stop rehearsing, stop rehashing. Your life is a great ride, and you’ll enjoy it a lot more if you’ll face the right way! Stop complaining about your former church, you haven’t been there in years! Focus on where you are now, and where you’re on your way to, it’s a much more exciting view! Stop retelling the stories of coworkers that betrayed you in 1990, you do know it’s 2020 right? Yes, dad left (when you were 6) and if you’re not careful, you’ll be 60 and still telling the story of when he was supposed to come back with your bag of chips and never did. Yes, that person broke your heart, and believe it or not, but your heart is still beating! Who knew someone could break your heart and still not stop your pulse?! They picked her over you for the promotion. I get it, you’re more qualified. But at the end of the day, you still have a job, a paycheck, and you can still pay your bills, you my friend are still ahead of the game!

I’ll even go so far as to tell you to stop talking down to yourself and about yourself. Very few of us are the same size we were in high school, and guess what? We’re still here, so what exactly do we have to complain about? If you don’t like your weight, change your eating habits, diet, go to the gym, see your doctor. But don’t keep taking out the family photos from 1970 to compare yourself to who you are in 2020!

The dog you loved when you were 10 is dead. You do know you can get another dog right?

Are you getting this? You don’t have to stay stuck, you don’t have to be complacent, you don’t have to live in your comfort zone or your past. You are free to change, to move and to do something different and new, so do it! Don’t let yet another year come and go and you find yourself at December 31, 2020 with the same old story of what you’re going to do different in 2021!

No! Today is your day to change position and direction! We’re not going over that old history any longer!

Listen, when you can start your story and anybody can finish it at the drop of a hat, it’s been told too often! Enough! Take a pen, get a new book, and start a new chapter! Preferably, one no one has heard of before! Let people see things in your life now and wonder when did you do that, when did you go there, when did you finish that? Instead of, ‘yeah, I remember you told me, quite a few times before.’

Saints, no more settling for what you SAW, it’s time to SEE!

Get out of your Past, into your Present and preparing for your Future! You’ve been focusing behind you long enough, today, decide to Face Forward and enjoy a Better Ride with a Better View of the Better Things Coming Just for You!

“If you think your best days are behind you, they are. If you think your best days are ahead of you, they are.” (Jon Gordon)

“How you see your future is much more important than what happened in your past.” (Zig Ziglar)

“As years and experiences add up and life begins to wear us down, it’s easy for the vibrancy of our passion and purpose to fade…never let your best days be behind you. In my mind, they’re always ahead.” (Shawn Anderson)

“Get your hopes up. Raise your expectations. Your best days are still in front of you.” (Joel Osteen)

“Your life isn’t behind you; your memories are behind you. Your life is always ahead of you. Today is a new day – seize it!” (Steve Maraboli)

“The only way you may correct the bad things in your past is to add better things to your future.” (Shiloh Morrison)

“Don’t fall in love with what God did for you yesterday.” (Bishop T.D. Jakes)

“To reach up for the new, you must let go of the old. What lies behind you is not nearly as important as what lies in front of you.” (Joel Osteen)

“The past is like using your rear-view mirror in the car, it’s good to glance back and see how far you’ve come, but if you stare too long, you’ll miss what’s right in front of you.” (Author Unknown)

“You can’t start the next chapter of your life if you keep re-reading the last one.” (Author Unknown)

“Even though there are days I wish I could change some things that happened in the past, there’s a reason the rear-view mirror is so small and the windshield is so big, where you’re headed is much more important than what you’ve left behind.” (Author Unknown)

“Every morning, we get a chance to be different. A chance to change. A chance to be better. Your past is your past. Leave it there!” (Author Unknown)

“Sometimes you just have to turn the page to realize there is more to your book of life than the page you’re stuck on. Stop being afraid to move on. Close this chapter of hurt, and never re-read it again. It’s time to get what your life deserves, and move on from the things that don’t deserve you. Don’t spend your days trying to correct your past, instead, let go and let God create something better for your future.” (Author Unknown)

“When your past calls, do not pick up! It has nothing new to say!” (Author Unknown)

“The best way to stop stumbling over the past is to walk boldly into the future.” (Author Unknown)

“God put your eyes in front of your head for a reason, now stop looking back!” (Author Unknown)

“Progress is made by moving forward not looking backward!” (Author Unknown)

“No matter how much you revisit the past, there’s nothing new to see.” (Author Unknown)

“There comes a time to stop looking back and trying to figure out ‘why’? At some point, we need to shift our attention to ‘what’s next’?” (Author Unknown)

“Just because the past taps you on the shoulder, doesn’t mean you have to turn around and look back! It simply means you’re not moving forward fast or far enough!” (Author Unknown)

“It is not possible to go forward while looking back.” (Author Unknown)

“Once you make the decision to move on, don’t look back. Your destiny will never be found in the rear-view mirror!” (Mandy Hale)

“It’s okay to look back at the past, just don’t stare!” (Author Unknown)

“Lord, remove anybody out of my life that means me no good, serves me no good purpose, and is not real and loyal in my presence and absence. Bless me with the discernment to realize and give me the strength to let go and don’t look back!” (Author Unknown)

“Stop crying over spilt milk and start looking for the next cow!” (Author Unknown)

“You’ll never see all the awesome things ahead of you if you keep looking at all the bad things behind you. Sometimes you just have to turn around and give a little smile, throw the match and burn that bridge! Live, learn and don’t look back!” (Author Unknown)

“Never look back. If Cinderella went to pick up her shoe, she would not have become a Princess!” (Author Unknown)

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

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