“You Will Walk Out of What You Were Carried Into!”

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John 11:1, “Now a certain man was SICK, Lazarus of Bethany…” (NKJV)

John 11:17, “So when Jesus arrived, He found that he [Lazarus] HAD ALREADY BEEN IN THE TOMB FOUR DAYS.” (AMPC)

John 11:43-44, “When He had said this, He shouted with a loud voice, LAZARUS, COME OUT! AND OUT WALKED THE MAN WHO HAD BEEN DEAD, his hands and feet wrapped in burial cloths (linen strips), and with a [burial] napkin bound around his face. Jesus said to them, Free him of the burial wrappings and let him go.(AMPC)

John 12:1-2, “So six days before the Passover Feast, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, who had died and whom He had raised from the dead. So they made Him a supper; and Martha served, BUT LAZARUS WAS ONE OF THOSE AT THE TABLE WITH HIM.(AMPC)

Lazarus goes from being sick; to being dead; to being carried into a tomb where he would lay for four days; to Jesus calling his name; to Lazarus walking out as a live man; and then being seated at the Passover Feast Supper table with Jesus!

From the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead, we learn certain lessons:

The First Lesson is About REASON: You cannot have radical faith until you’ve exhausted all REASONABLE SOLUTIONS. You see, Mary and Martha didn’t send for Jesus UNTIL THEY’D DONE EVERYTHING THEY COULD DO FOR LAZARUS. THEREFORE, THINK AND BE REASONABLE; IF YOU CAN DO IT FOR YOURSELF, GOD WON’T DO IT FOR YOU! For example, unless you are willing to change your diet and start eating right, how can you go to God with confidence for healing? Because even if He heals you, your habits will take you right back to an unhealthy place. Unless you are willing to put the needs of your spouse above your own, what’s the point in praying for a happy marriage? James writes: “Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works” (James 2:18 NKJV). Before you go crying out to God to supply a miracle, BE SURE THAT YOU’VE TAKEN THE NECESSARY TIME TO DO ALL YOU CAN DO FIRST! THERE’S NO NEED OF A MIRACLE FOR WHAT YOU CAN MANAGE ON YOUR OWN! For example, before filing for bankruptcy, make sure you’ve exhausted all your options first! In other words, see if you can make payment arrangements FIRST! If you can set up a payment plan to pay off a debt in five years, does it make sense to file for bankruptcy, when it will stay on your credit report for ten?! People of God remember they sent for Jesus WHEN THERE WERE NO MORE OPTIONS LEFT! John 11:3, “So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.” Unlike our modern times, they didn’t have round-the-clock hospitals and doctor offices and urgent care set up back then. And even though there were doctors, because of their feet or a horse or camel, they had no better method of transportation to check on a sick individual. Therefore, it was the family’s responsibility to do all they could in the absence of professional medical care. The sisters would then take care of their sick brother Lazarus as much as they could, but then they would need a physician, thank God they called on the Great Physician! However, they did what they could, within REASON, for their brother BEFORE they even called on Jesus! Make sure you’re not asking God to lay His hands on something that you can fix for yourself! You see, the word ‘reason’ is defined as, ‘the power of the mind to think, understand and form judgements logically; that which is practical or possible; to find a solution to a problem by considering possible options.’ Its French origin (‘reisun), from Latin (‘reri’) literally means ‘to consider.’ Before you flip out and panic begging God to show up in the next 3 seconds, make sure you’ve considered your options. Maybe the real truth is, the mortgage miracle you’re asking for is for a house you knew you couldn’t afford before you moved in it. Maybe the financial blessing you need by midnight isn’t as important as you cutting up some credit cards; stop shopping with money that should’ve been set aside to pay off your bills. Maybe it’s not the car note that’s the burden, but you driving something beyond your reasonable means, trying to impress people who are more likely in greater debt than you! Maybe you’d get a job if you got up in the morning, got dressed and went to hitting the pavement with your resume, opposed to you sitting on the sofa watching reality tv, while waiting for a job to UPS your dream job to your doorstep! Are you getting this? Consider your options and work within your abilities and reason. Then, when you know it’s beyond your hands to handle, place it in God’s!

I have found in life that if you want a miracle you first need to do whatever it is You Can Do—if that’s plant, then plant; if it is to read, then read; if it is to change, then change; if it is to study, then study; if it is to work, then work; whatever You Have To, Do. And Then you will be well on your way of doing the labor that works miracles.” (Jim Rohn). In other words, I reiterate, sitting on the sofa watching soaps, yet believing God to send you a Miracle Job, is IDIOCY! And Idiocy is defined as “EXTREMELY STUPID BEHAVIOR!” Believing God for a Miracle is one thing, acting like a MORON is altogether something entirely different! Do what’s REASONABLE, and He’ll do the Rest!

The Second Lesson is About RELATIONSHIP: Some folks only turn to God when they have a crisis. Prayer is a foreign concept to them UNTIL they have a car wreck, or their marriage falls apart, or they lose their job. Then, incredibly, they say, “God, why did You let this happen to Me?HOWEVER, IT’S HARD TO GO TO SOMEONE WHEN YOU’RE IN TROUBLE, IF YOU’VE SPENT NO TIME BUILDING A RELATIONSHIP WITH THEM! Jesus often spent time at the home of Mary and Martha eating at their table. They were givers, not takers: The Bible says, “It was that Mary who anointed the Lord with fragrant oil and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick” (John 11:2 NKJV). When you love the Lord to that extent, you can go to Him in faith knowing your needs will be met. HOWEVER, PLEASE BEAR IN MIND, THE LORD IS NOT YOUR PERSONAL GENIE THAT YOU RUB THE RIGHT WAY WITH WORDS OF PRAISE, WORSHIP AND ADORATION WHEN YOU NEED HIM TO GRANT YOU THREE WISHES! (Lord please keep the 1) Foreclosure, 2) Repossession and 3) Death Demons Away…Hallelujah, I Love You…THAT’S NOTHING MORE THAN PURE MESS)! HE CARES NOTHING ABOUT YOUR RELIGIOSITY, HE WANTS A RELATIONSHIP! AND BELIEVE IT OR NOT, THERE IS A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN RELIGION AND RELATIONSHIP! Look at it this way: RELIGION is like INSPIRATIONAL MUSIC (you don’t necessarily have to be saved to sing it, nor do you necessarily have to even mention the name Jesus!); But RELATIONSHIP is like GOSPEL MUSIC (it has to speak of the Life, the Death, the Burial, the Resurrection and the Coming Again of the Lord Jesus Christ…IF IT IS IN FACT “GOSPEL” MUSIC!!) FURTHERMORE, RELIGION is MAN-MADE; the GOSPEL is GOD-GIVEN! RELIGION is What Man DOES FOR GOD; the GOSPEL is What GOD DID FOR MAN! RELIGION is MAN’S SEARCH FOR GOD; the GOSPEL is GOD’S SEARCH FOR MAN! RELIGION is MAN’S TRYING TO CLIMB UP THE LADDER OF HIS OWN SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS, WITH THE HOPE OF MEETING GOD ON THE TOPMOST RUNG; The GOSPEL is GOD COMING DOWN THE LADDER IN THE INCARNATION OF JESUS CHRIST AND MEETING US SINNERS AT THE LOWEST RUNG! GOD DOESN’T WANT THE INSPIRATION OF RELIGION, BUT THE IMPARTATION AND INTIMACY OF RELATIONSHIP! ‘Impartation’ means ‘to communicate, to grant a share of, to make known or disclose information, to give and bestow something, to contribute, add to, carry or express’! GOD IS LOOKING TO DO ALL THIS WITH YOU! HE WANTS TO TALK WITH YOU, DISCLOSE INFORMATION TO YOU, BESTOW AND GIVE GREAT THINGS TO YOU, AND TO LIKEWISE RECEIVE THEM FROM YOU! HE DESIRES A RELATIONSHIP! AND AFTER ALL HE’S ALREADY GIVEN YOU, SURELY GIVING THIS TO HIM IS NOT ASKING TOO MUCH OF YOU!

To fall in love with God is the greatest of all romances; To seek Him, the greatest adventure; To find Him, the greatest human achievement” (Augustine)

The Third Lesson is About RELINQUISHMENT: As long as you believe you can handle the problem on your own, you will not reach for the miracle-working power of God. You have to be in a situation so bad that you pray the prayer of Relinquishment:Lord, I’ve done all I know and things aren’t getting any better. So I’m through trying to fix it. I turn it completely over to You. I don’t know how You’re going to handle it, but I know you love me and want only what’s best for me. So here it is, Lord; it’s all YoursTHIS IS NOT A PRAYER OF DEFEAT, IT IS ONE OF TOTAL TRUST. David wrote: “Though I am surrounded by troubles, You Will Protect Me…You Reach Out Your Hand, and the Power of Your Right Hand Saves Me. The LORD Will Work Out His Plans For My Life – For Your Faithful Love, O LORD, Endures Forever…You Made Me” (Psalm 138:7-8 NLT). THAT’S HOW YOU RELINQUISH! The word ‘relinquish’ is defined as, ‘to willingly cease to keep or claim; to give up.’ Its Latin origin ‘relinquere’, from ‘linquere’ literally means ‘to leave.’ And that’s what you need to learn to do today, give it to God and leave it there! One of the greatest blogs I’ve read regarding Relinquishment is called “Relinquish Control to Abba Father God” by Hazel Straub, and it reads as such: “Trust me with all your problems and do not lean on your own understanding. I am the solution for all of your difficulties and problems. Hand them over to me and watch me as your Problem Solver. Worship and keep your focus on me, not the difficulty. Rest from your struggles. Direct your eyes to me. Is anything too hard for me? Deliver your problems to me. Give me control and relinquish your grip. I am more than able to handle your difficulties and cares. Has it worked for you to leave me out of your solution, as you struggled? Hand them over to me and let them go. I am God, who loves you and bears your burdens. I am your help and strength. Let my love and joy invade you. Abba Father, there is no one greater than you and I give you all my worship. I relinquish control to you. I turn from trying to solve and handle my problems, on my own and release them to you. Thank you for bearing my burdens. I will be still and know that you are God. I trust you.THAT’S HOW YOU RELINQUISH!

Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; He’s the one who will keep you on track. Don’t assume that you know it all. Run to God!…” (MSG)

The pastor of a great church tells of running out of money when they were only halfway through the construction of their new sanctuary. The congregation was growing and there was no doubt that they needed the extra space. But the bank wouldn’t give them any more funds. So the pastor prayed and said, “Lord, personally speaking, I don’t need this big building. I already have a place for all my children. You need a place for Yours. I don’t know how You’re going to take care of this, but those are Your kids, Lord, so I’m turning it over to You. I’m relinquishing this responsibility into your capable hands.GOD ANSWERED, THE MONEY CAME THROUGH, AND WITHIN A FEW YEARS THEY WERE WORSHIPING IN A BEAUTIFUL SANCTUARY, DEBT FREE! SO, NO MATTER HOW IMPOSSIBLE IT LOOKS, LOOK TO THE WORD THAT TELLS YOU WITH GOD NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE! SIMPLY GIVE YOUR PROBLEM TO HIM AND DON’T ATTEMPT TO TAKE IT BACK! Philippians 1:6, “I am convinced and confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will [continue to] perfect and complete it until the day of Christ Jesus [the time of His return]” (AMP) RELINQUISH IT ALL TO GOD, HE CAN HANDLE WHAT YOU CAN’T GET A HANDLE ON!

The Fourth Lesson is About RADICAL FAITH: When somebody is dead and buried, that’s as “final” as it gets! To believe God in the face of such a situation requires Radical Faith! Until this moment Martha had “IF ONLY” faith.  “Lord, IF ONLY You had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:21 NKJV). But then she began to realize what Jesus could do, and moved to “EVEN NOW” faith. She said to Jesus, “But EVEN NOW I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You” (vs. 22 NKJV). Radical Faith says, “Lord I believe that my future can be greater than my past, that You can turn the situation around and snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, that nothing is too hard for You.Radical Faith in the face of Radical Circumstances brings Radical Results! That means, no matter what the doctor says, your only Radical Response of Faith is, “…And By His Stripes (Wounds) We Are Healed.” (Isaiah 53:5 AMP); “…For By His Wounds You [Who Believe] Have Been Healed.” (1 Peter 2:24 AMP). That means, when the job lays you off; when the mortgage, car note, and tuition are all behind, and the lights and gas are about to be cut off. When there’s no food in the fridge, when you don’t have enough money to even get on the bus, your only Radical Response of Faith is, “And my God will liberally supply (fill until full) your every need according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19 AMP). When God gives you a dream and vision so big it scares you into believing the people around you that are saying the bank won’t give you a loan for that; you can’t get that grant; no one will underwrite that; you’re asking too much; that’s too big; that’s ridiculous; that’s outrageous; that’s impossible. Your only Radical Response of Faith is, “I can do all things [which He has called me to do] through Him who strengthens and empowers me [to fulfill His purpose – I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency; I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him who infuses me with inner strength and confident peace.” (Philippians 4:13 AMP); “…With people [as far as it depends on them] it is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26 AMP); “Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh; is there anything too hard for Me?” (Jeremiah 32:27 AMP) When people say, but you’ve had that habit and addiction forever; you’ve messed up every day of your life; you cheated; lied; failed; missed the mark; fallen short; walked in deliberate and willful disobedience and sin; there’s just no way God will ever redeem you! Your only Radical Response of Faith is, “Some of you were sick because you’d lived a bad life, your bodies feeling the effects of your sin; You couldn’t stand the sight of food, so miserable you thought you’d be better off dead. Then you called out to God in your desperate condition; He got you out in the nick of time. He spoke the word that healed you, that pulled you back from the brink of death. So thank God for His marvelous love, for His miracle mercy to the children He loves; Offer thanksgiving sacrifices, tell the world what He’s done—sing it out!” (Psalm 107:17-22 MSG) Are you getting this people?! All you have to do is exercise your Radical Faith and watch God handle your Radical Results!

Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is the assurance (title deed, confirmation) of things hoped for (divinely guaranteed), and the evidence of things not seen [the conviction of their reality—faith comprehends as fact what cannot be experienced by the physical senses].” (AMP); Hebrews 11:6, “But without faith it is impossible to [walk with God and] please Him, for whoever comes [near] to God must [necessarily] believe that God exists and that He rewards those who [earnestly and diligently] seek Him.” (AMP)

The Fifth Lesson is About RESTORATION: Therefore the sisters sent to [Jesus], saying, ‘Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick’…Then…He said to the disciples, ‘Let us go to Judea’” (vss. 3, 7 NKJV) You’ll never know what the Lord can do until you invite Him into your situation. He can give you back what you have loved and lost! He can restore what life has taken from you – and then some! It’s not too late! Send for Jesus! No matter how bad your situation may be, pray,Lord, EVEN NOW I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You

Deeply moved again, Jesus went to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone covering the entrance. Jesus said, “Take the stone away.” Martha, the dead man’s sister, told Jesus, “Lord, there must already be a stench. He’s been dead for four days.” Jesus said to her, “Didn’t I tell you that if you believe, you would see God’s glory?” So the stone was moved away from the entrance of the tomb. Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you for hearing me. I’ve known that you always hear me. However, I’ve said this so that the crowd standing around me will believe that you sent me.” After Jesus had said this, he shouted as loudly as he could, “Lazarus, Come Out!” The dead man came out. Strips of cloth were wound around his feet and hands, and his face was wrapped with a handkerchief. Jesus told them, “Free Lazarus, And Let Him Go” (John 11:38-45 GWT).

For most people that’s their happy part in the story. However, mines is found in John 12:1-2, “So six days before the Passover Feast, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, who had died and whom He had raised from the dead. So they made Him a supper; and Martha served, BUT LAZARUS WAS ONE OF THOSE AT THE TABLE WITH HIM.(AMPC)

He was sick; died; carried into the tomb; called by name by Jesus; walked out of what he was carried into and then finds himself alive and well, and seated at the table with Jesus being served supper! Now, I know you’ve been through a rough patch, and that rough patch may have been months, years or even decades, and still I speak by faith over your life that you will walk out of what you were carried into! Yes, that situation was hurtful; that sickness was painful; their rejection is sorrowful; and still you will end up better than you began!

John 11 is a hard season to be in because it’s surrounded by hurt, pain, loss, death, waiting, fear, and the like, but your John chapter 12 is just around the corner! Not only will you be revived and restored and fully recovered, but the same people who saw you be carried in will be the same people to watch you walk out! And NO you will not come out smelling like roses! After all, there was no way for Lazarus to be bound head to toe in graves clothes and lie in a grave for four days and come out without any stench at all! And neither will you! Your coming out won’t look or smell good, but you’re coming out anyway!

Before you know it you will go from the Tomb to the Table…so don’t throw in the Towel yet!

Do your part, and watch God do His!

People of God, Do What Is Reasonable; Improve Your Relationship With the Lord; Relinquish the Impossible to God; Have Radical Faith that God Can and Will Do It; then Rejoice, for He Will “…Restore To You The Years That the Locust Hath Eaten…” (Joel 2:25)

LEARN FROM LAZARUS AND LIKEWISE, YOU’LL WALK OUT OF WHAT YOU WERE CARRIED INTO!

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

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“Are You FOLLOWING the Right LEADER?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Remember our opening text:

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

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

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

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

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

Charles H. Spurgeon Quotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“Rest is NOT a Sin”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which is why you should:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LETS STAY CONNECTED!

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“Leadership Must Be TESTED, Not Just TITLED!”

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

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

So remember the following in times of TESTING: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2 Timothy 2:15 (various translations)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Feel free to also join us at: http://www.selfcarewithdrshermaine.blogspot.com Today’s Lesson: “22 Healthy Snacks That Burn Fat”

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“Has Your Appetite Matured Yet?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HERE May Be Comfortable, But THERE Is Calling You!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Feel free to also join us at: http://www.selfcarewithdrshermaine.blogspot.com Today’s Lesson: “How to Start Strength Training?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Listen to our text again:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 Peter 2:9-10, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a consecrated nation, a [special] people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies [the wonderful deeds and virtues and perfections] of Him WHO CALLED YOU OUT OF DARKNESS INTO HIS MARVELOUS LIGHT. Once you were not a people [at all], but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (AMP). God Himself Called You Out of Darkness, So Why Are You Still Trying to Live There?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“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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“No Matter How Long It Takes, WAIT For God!”

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Micah 7:7, “BUT ME, I’M NOT GIVING UP. I’M STICKING AROUND TO SEE WHAT GOD WILL DO. I’M WAITING FOR GOD TO MAKE THINGS RIGHT. I’M COUNTING ON GOD TO LISTEN TO ME” (MSG)

I seem to vaguely remember this old nursery rhyme from when I was a kid. It went like this: “Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow?” If you asked my niece that question, she’d probably say, “Real Slow!And maybe that’s why Mary was so contrary! You see, last spring, my niece worked with her Dad to clear a little area in the yard where she could have a vegetable garden. She was all excited about planting seeds in the ground: tomato seeds, green beans, carrots, and lettuce. But then she went out THE NEXT DAY to look at what she had planted. What did she see? ABSOLUTELY NOTHING! Then the NEXT WEEK, and the next week, and the week after that. She watered the garden when it didn’t rain. Helped pull up weeds. For the longest time, she went out to that garden to see what was happening and found out…NOTHING WAS HAPPENING – OR SO IT APPEARED! NOW, HAD SHE TRIED TO DIG UP THE SEEDS TO SEE IF ANYTHING WAS HAPPENING, SHE WOULD HAVE RUINED EVERYTHING! But you know the story. It finally happened: The tomatoes and beans and carrots and lettuce finally showed MANIFESTED EVIDENCE, that what LOOKED LIKE NOTHING, WAS ACTUALLY SOMETHING ALL ALONG…IT JUST TOOK TIME!

To everything there is a season, and a TIME for every matter or purpose under heaven…He has made everything beautiful in its TIME.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 11 AMP);

“This vision-message is a witness POINTING TO WHAT’S COMING. IT ACHES FOR THE COMING—IT CAN HARDLY WAIT! And it doesn’t lie. If it seems slow in coming, WAIT. IT’S ON ITS WAY. IT WILL COME RIGHT ON TIME.” (Habakkuk 2:3 MSG).

Listen: No Matter What It Looks Like NOW, Remember It Will Look Even Better LATER! “‘This Temple is going to END UP FAR BETTER THAN IT STARTED OUT, a glorious beginning but an even more GLORIOUS FINISH…” (Haggai 2:9 MSG) And YOU Will Enjoy the Same Awesome Testimony! You Just Have to WAIT For It! No Matter How You Started Out, You Will Have an EVEN MORE GLORIOUS FINISH! But the fruit of the [Holy] Spirit [the work which His presence within accomplishes] is love, joy (gladness), peace, PATIENCE (AN EVEN TEMPER, FORBEARANCE), kindness, goodness (benevolence), faithfulness.” (Galatians 5:22 AMP). Just Be PATIENT!

Something had been happening all along to those seeds in my nieces garden! AND SOMETHING HAS BEEN HAPPENING ALL ALONG TO THE SEEDS WE’VE PLANTED AS WELL! REMEMBER: JUST BECAUSE WE CAN’T SEE WHAT GOD IS DOING, DOESN’T MEAN HE’S NOT DOING ANYTHING! In fact, that may be something important for you to remember right now. You’ve been praying about that need, that situation, that person for a long time and it LOOKS LIKE NOTHING’S HAPPENING! But the key words to keep in mind are: LOOKS LIKE! When a seed’s been planted, it LOOKS LIKE there’s NOTHING going on for some time, until that plant breaks through and ultimately produces some wonderful fruit!

When a new life has begun in a woman’s body, it doesn’t LOOK LIKE anything’s happened for quite a while. BUT EVERY DAY, THAT LIFE IS GROWING EVEN WHEN WE CANNOT SEE ITS GROWTH, UNTIL IT FIRST RESHAPES THAT MOTHER’S BODY AND ULTIMATELY APPEARS AS THAT PRECIOUS LITTLE BABY BEING BORN! Reminds me of a quote I’ve learned to live by: “Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is Patience.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson). The Bible says it this way: “But if we hope for what is still unseen by us, WE WAIT FOR IT WITH PATIENCE AND COMPOSURE.” (Romans 8:25 AMP).

The problem is that when it LOOKS LIKE nothing’s happening, we tend to say, I’ve got to do something!AND MOST OFTEN, IT’S THE WRONG THING TO DO; MUCH LIKE DIGGING UP THE SEED TO SEE IF IT’S GROWING OR PLOWING UP THE GARDEN BECAUSE IT LOOKS LIKE NOTHING’S HAPPENING!

Example: In 1 Samuel 13, beginning with verse 7, we receive a sobering example of how much we have to lose when we can’t WAIT for God to do it His way! You see, Saul, Israel’s first king, has been told by God’s man Samuel, to go down ahead of him to Gilgal. Samuel assures him that he will surely come down to him to sacrifice burnt offerings…BUT Saul must WAIT seven days UNTIL Samuel comes to him and tells him what he must do. HOWEVER, with the Philistine forces massing against them, the Bible says this, “…Saul remained at Gilgal, and all the troops with him were quaking with fear. He waited seven days, the time set by Samuel; but Samuel did not come to Gilgal, and Saul’s men began to scatter.” (vss. 7-8 NIV). SAUL PANICKED, AND HE DID WHAT NO KING WAS ALLOWED BY GOD TO DO: HE OFFERED THE BURNT OFFERING HIMSELF AND HE CROSSED A SACRED LINE! The Bible says, “Just as he finished making the offering…”, (hear this), “…Samuel arrived…” (vs. 10). And Samuel asks, “What have you done?…” (vs. 11). 

Saul answers by talking about what “…I SAW”…”I THOUGHT” …” I FELT…” (vss. 11-12 NIV).

Here’s the text in full: “What have you done?” asked Samuel. Saul replied, “When I SAW that the men were scattering, and that you did not come at the set time, and that the Philistines were assembling at Mikmash,  I THOUGHT, ‘Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not sought the Lord’s favor.’ So I FELT compelled to offer the burnt offering.” (NIV)

Three of the greatest keys to blocking God’s blessing that’s trying to spring forth in your life is: YOUR EYES (“I Saw”); YOUR MIND (“I Thought”); AND YOUR EMOTIONS (“I Felt”)!

When Your Something looks like Nothing the last thing you need to do is have BLURRED VISION, IMPURE THOUGHTS AND INTENTIONS AND UNCONTROLLABLE EMOTIONS!

When Your Something looks like Nothing and you’re tempted to do Something about it, Beware of the Dangers of YOUR EYES, MIND AND EMOTIONS and bring them under subjection quickly! 

Why? Look at what the Bible admonishes: 

1…CONTROL YOUR EYES: The Bible says, “For we walk by faith [we regulate our lives and conduct ourselves by our conviction or belief respecting man’s relationship to God and divine things, with trust and holy fervor; thus we walk] NOT BY SIGHT OR APPEARANCE” (2 Corinthians 5:7 AMP). “But GOD told Samuel, “LOOKS AREN’T EVERYTHING. DON’T BE IMPRESSED WITH HIS LOOKS and stature. I’ve already eliminated him. GOD judges persons differently than humans do. Men and women LOOK at the face; GOD LOOKS into the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7 MSG). Wisdom Nugget: DON’T LET YOUR PHYSICAL SIGHT, DESTROY YOUR SPIRITUAL VISION

2…CONTROL YOUR MIND: The Bible says, “But whatever comes out of the mouth comes from the heart, and this is what makes a man unclean and defiles [him]. For out of the heart come EVIL THOUGHTS (reasoning’s and disputing and designs) such as murder, adultery, sexual vice, theft, false witnessing, slander, and irreverent speech. These are what make a man unclean and defile [him]…” (Matthew 15:18-20 AMP). “Among these we as well as you once lived and conducted ourselves in the passions of our flesh [our behavior governed by our corrupt and sensual nature], obeying the impulses of the flesh and the THOUGHTS OF THE MIND [our cravings dictated by our senses and our DARK IMAGININGS]. We were then by nature children of [God’s] wrath and heirs of [His] indignation, like the rest of mankind.” (Ephesians 2:3  AMP). Wisdom Nugget: CHOOSING BETWEEN A REPROBATE MIND (Romans 1:28, “And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient“) AND A RENEWED MIND (Romans 12:2, “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.“), WILL DETERMINE WHETHER YOU CONTINUE TO REIGN OR COME TO RUINS! Bear in MIND, THE CHOICE IS YOURS!

3…CONTROL YOUR EMOTIONS: The Bible says, “A FOOL EXPRESSES ALL HIS EMOTIONS, BUT A WISE PERSON CONTROLS THEM” (Proverbs 29:11 GWT). “In the end they will be destroyed. THEIR OWN EMOTIONS ARE THEIR GOD, AND THEY TAKE PRIDE IN THE SHAMEFUL THINGS THEY DO…” (Philippians 3:19 GWT). Wisdom Nugget: FULFILLMENT COMES NOT FROM FEELING, BUT FROM FOLLOWING! Look at it like this: THE COAT OF A ROTTWEILER IS SOFT, BUT HAPHAZARDLY REACHING OUT TO FEEL IT, MIGHT RESULT IN YOUR GOING INTO YOUR FUTURE WITH A FEW LESS FINGERS! LIKEWISE, FOLLOWING YOUR FEELINGS IS JUST AS DANGEROUS! DON’T LET YOUR EMOTIONS MAIM YOU! “MAIM” MEANS: “TO WOUND OR INJURE (SOMEONE) SO THAT PART OF THE BODY IS PERMANENTLY DAMAGED!” IN A NUTSHELL: TEMPORARY EMOTIONS CAN PERMANENTLY MAIM YOU! 

Saul messed up with what he SAW, THOUGHT AND FELT, therefore, Samuel informs him, “You have done a foolish thing…You have not kept the command the LORD your God gave you; if you had, he would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time. But now your kingdom will not endure…because you have not kept the LORD’s command.” (vss. 13-14 NIV). SAUL FORFEITS THE MAJOR LEGACY OF HIS LIFE BECAUSE OF DISOBEDIENCE THAT DISQUALIFIED HIM; A DISOBEDIENCE THAT CAME BECAUSE HE COULDN’T WAIT FOR GOD TO DO IT HIS WAY! 

INSTEAD, HE OBEYED HIS EYES AND MISSED OUT ON SEEING HIS KINGDOM ENDURE! 

HE OBEYED HIS THOUGHTS INSTEAD OF RESPECTING THE FACT THAT GOD’S THOUGHTS ARE NOT OURS. Isaiah 55:9, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Oftentimes your real sacrifice is in waiting the full seven days, and even when nothing seems to happen, even on the appointed day, WAITING, TRUSTING AND KNOWING THAT GOD DOES NOT FAIL AND DOES NOT LIE, HE WILL PERFORM IT AND I’M GOING TO CONTINUE TO SIT UNTIL HE DOES, is the best thing you could ever do!  

LASTLY, HE OBEYED HIS FEELINGS AND FORFEITED A PROMISED FUTURE! 

HOWEVER, BEFORE YOU POINT YOUR FINGERS AT HIM, KNOW THAT YOU AND I ARE PRONE TO MAKING THAT SAME KIND OF MISTAKE! Nothing seems to be happening, things are starting to fall apart, and it LOOKS LIKE we’re at the point of no return! So we take matters into our own hands and, in so doing, WE RUIN WHAT GOD WAS GOING TO DO! God is so often the God of the eleventh hour! He waits until the moment when everyone will know IT HAD TO BE HIM! He waits so our faith can stretch farther than its’ ever stretched before so He can do greater things for us than He’s ever done beforeGod is working in ways we can’t see, but ultimately something beautiful will be born for all to see! 

In the words of the Psalmist:Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him and HE WILL DO THIS…be still before the Lord and WAIT PATIENTLY FOR HIM” (Psalm 37:5, 7). Let God Do It His Way and In His Timing! And no matter how long you have to wait, remember: “God is not a man, that He should tell or act a lie, neither the son of man, that He should feel repentance or compunction [for what He has promised]. Has He said and shall He not do it? Or has He spoken and shall He not make it good?” (Numbers 23:19 AMP). Yes He Will!

People of God, Regardless to what you See, Think or Feel, Your Nothing Has Something…You Just Have To Wait For It! SO WAIT! The Bible Admonishes Us: “WAIT and HOPE for and EXPECT the Lord; be brave and of good courage and let your heart be stout and enduring. Yes, WAIT for and HOPE for and EXPECT the Lord.” (Psalm 27:14 AMP).

Some of the most exciting moments in sports are the touchdown or field goal that win the game, especially, when there’s no time left on the clock! That game-winning basket as the final buzzer sounds is unforgettable! The game-winning home run with two out in the bottom of the ninth inning is remarkable! I’ve come to find out that whatever the sport, there is nothing like a sudden victory when victory seemed out of reach! It makes the fans go absolutely ballistic! Which reminds me of a quote I love: I always turn to the sports section first. The sports page records people’s accomplishments; the front page has nothing but man’s failures.” (Earl Warren). Truth be told, it can be real nerve-wracking when you’re behind and time is running out! But it’s an awesome moment when a hero pulls out an unexpected victory…at the last minute! And the longer I walk with this God of ours, the more I’ve come to appreciate Him as the God of the last-second victory, or the God of the eleventh hour, as I’ve called Him so often. The Bible reveals many names by which God wants us to know Him. One that has meant so much to so many for so long is “Jehovah-Jireh”. It means, “The Lord will provide or the Lord will see to my provision.

You may be facing a need or situation right now where that is literally your only hope – that the Lord will provide. Maybe it’s a job, a friend, or much needed finances; maybe it’s the house, the healing, the breakthrough or soundness of mind you need. Well, if that’s the case, today you need to be reminded that we have a rock-solid promise in Philippians 4:19, “And my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” (NIV). Understand that this Scripture lets us know that God’s supply has nothing to do with what’s happening in the economy, in the news, at work, or in what your limited resources can or can’t do! It’s all about His UnlimitedGlorious Riches in Christ Jesus account in Heaven, which transcends every limitation earth can provide!

People of God, You Need NOT Attempt to Understand God or His Ways or His Timing, or His Supply. You Need Only to Remember That He Is and Will Always Be…UNLIMITED! Which is why you should never fret over your LITTLE, when you serve such a BIG God! Another quote I love says, “If God were small enough to be understood, He would not be big enough to be worshiped.” (Author Unknown) And the truth of the matter is, you may never understand how God supplies rivers in the desert, but when you’re thirsty, knowing that He can and He will is Enough!  So before you allow your fears to get the best of you, remember: “The Fear of God kills all other fears!

Now to be honest, I believe God often waits a while to meet our needs…On Purpose! Let’s look at Scripture: “A man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany…the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Master, the one you love so very much is sick.” When Jesus got the message, he said, “This sickness is not fatal. It will become an occasion to show God’s glory by glorifying God’s Son.”…Then Jesus became explicit: “LAZARUS DIED. AND I AM GLAD FOR YOUR SAKES THAT I WASN’T THERE. YOU’RE ABOUT TO BE GIVEN NEW GROUNDS FOR BELIEVING. Now let’s go to him.” (John 11:1-4, 14 MSG). So before you panic, know that God always has a reason for allowing you to sit in the waiting room! And His reason is always the same: “…it will become an occasion to show God’s glory by glorifying God’s Son…and…You’re about to be given new grounds for believing…”. Your waiting, while wounded, gives God Glory and Increases Your Faith by giving you New Grounds or New Reasons to Trust Him even at the Eleventh Hour! That’s why you can’t get discouraged because “…it’s usually the last key in the bunch that opens the lock” (Author Unknown)! So, be patient, a door of opportunity is about to open just for you…all you have to do is WAIT!

Philippians 4:19 says He promises to meet all of our needs, But He does Not promise WHEN! See, most of us already know that He can do it, and that He’s promised to do it, but if only He’d share WHEN He’s going to do it, we’d be less likely to flip out when the last grain of sand is found in the hourglass! But then that wouldn’t be considered faith, now would it?! Ramona C. Carroll said it best: “Faith is putting all your eggs in God’s basket, then counting your blessings before they hatch.But unfortunately for many of us, when we get to that last grain of sand, we panic, and come up with desperate and oftentimes ridiculous ways to so-called meet our needs on our own!

Again, let’s look at Scripture: “Sarai, Abram’s wife, hadn’t yet produced a child. She had an Egyptian maid named Hagar. Sarai said to Abram, “GOD has not seen fit to let me have a child. Sleep with my maid. Maybe I can get a family from her.” Abram agreed to do what Sarai said.’ (Genesis 16:1-2 MSG). And believe it or not, nations are still paying for that ridiculous attempt at helping God out”! Too often we abandon our trust in God because, He’s – if we dare be honest—TAKING TOO LONG! Even the Psalmist knows what this feels like: “Please, God…Treat me nice for a change; I’m so starved for affection. Can’t you see I’m black-and-blue, beat up badly in bones and soul? GOD, HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE FOR YOU TO LET UP? Break in, GOD, and break up this fight; if you love me at all, get me out of here. I’m no good to you dead, am I? I can’t sing in your choir if I’m buried in some tomb!” (6:1-5 MSG). See, you’re not the only one who wants to stamp “Federal Express” or “Overnight Delivery” on God! But such actions take us right out of the Will of God and aborts what God was going to birth on our behalf if we would’ve trusted Him enough to wait the full 9 months!  “But those who WAIT for the Lord [who EXPECT, look for, and HOPE in Him] shall change and renew their strength and power; they shall lift their wings and mount up [close to God] as eagles [mount up to the sun]; they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint or become tired.” (Isaiah 40:31 AMP).

Now, it’s in Genesis 22, where we find that God is known as Jehovah-Jireh for the very first time. We can learn a lot from how He worked that day for Abraham. See, Abraham had, by faith, obeyed God’s direction to take the son God had once promised to him, climb Mt. Moriah with him, and sacrifice his son there; as God (the Father) would do Himself one day with Jesus (His Son). Believing that God will somehow provide something he can’t imagine, Abraham yet promises his servants that both he and his son Isaac will return from the mountain. Genesis 22:10 says his faith and obedience went so far that “he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son.” At that very LAST MOMENT, God stopped him and showed Abraham a ram, stuck in a thicket, who would be sacrificed instead of his son. And the Bible says, “So Abraham called that place, ‘The Lord Will Provide.’Remember: Jehovah-Jireh – often steps in right on time, which is usually—when there’s no time left! Which reminds me of a quote I love, “Faith isn’t faith until it’s all you’re holding on to.” (Author Unknown)

God loves to come through for us when there is absolutely no place else that answer could come from, and there is no time left on the clock. It’s 11:59! The buzzer is about to sound! But that’s when God shows up with His provision, at a time and in a way that will blow you away, give Him all the glory, and show people around you the greatness and faithfulness of your God! Then it’s only natural that you’ll experience a whole new level of faith in Him and worship for Him! God’s last-minute victories are some of the most awesome moments of your life! So don’t lose faith now! Faith is deliberate confidence in the character of God whose ways you may not understand at the time.” (Oswald Chambers). Keep in mind: The greater the need, the later the hour, the more amazing God’s work on your behalf! That’s why you need to determine to be like your sports heroes and hang in there until the end of the game! And when God steps in and grants you a last-second victory, before the last grain of sand falls in the hourglass, remember, like the sports fans, go absolutely ballistic…in praise, worship and thanksgiving!

Will the wait be easy? Absolutely not, in fact it’s one of the hardest things to do! But remembering that God watches over His Word to perform it (Jeremiah 1:12); remembering that God does not and cannot lie (Numbers 23:19); remembering that God keeps His Word and every promise He makes (Isaiah 55:11), certainly makes the wait a little easier! And yes, I understand that the mortgage is over-due; the tuition seems impossible to pay; the car note is about to turn into a bus pass; the doctors may as well sign your cause of death certificate; the marriage is on life-support; the job is strangling your sanity or the lack of one is strangling your empty bank account. And yet, I still say wait on God and watch Him work, even at the 11th hour! He’s done it before, and He can and will do it again! Don’t lose heart, patience, peace, joy or faith. God sits too high to let His people down! Hold on and hang in there, before the last grain of sand falls, God will step in with a last minute miracle!

“Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.” (Philippians 4:6-7 MSG);

“All around us we observe a pregnant creation. The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs. But it’s not only around us; it’s within us. The Spirit of God is arousing us within. We’re also feeling the birth pangs. These sterile and barren bodies of ours are yearning for full deliverance. That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy.” (Romans 8:22-25 MSG);

“Be still and rest in the Lord; wait for Him and patiently lean yourself upon Him; fret not yourself because of him who prospers in his way, because of the man who brings wicked devices to pass.” (Psalm 37:7 AMP);

“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.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18 MSG)

“How we handle the journey will determine the destination.” (Billy Cox)

“When it looks like nothing is happening, God is at work.” (Bishop James R. Chambers)

“Patience is not the ability to wait, but the ability to keep a good attitude while waiting.” (Joyce Meyer)

“Our willingness to wait reveals the value we place on what we’re waiting for.” (Charles Stanley)

“Sometimes we don’t understand why we are waiting. Often it is because God has something great in store, it’s just not the right time.” (Joel Osteen)

“No matter how long it takes, when God works, it’s always worth the wait.” (Author Unknown)

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

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“Men Helping Men Through Failure, Encouragement and Restoration”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“Keep SHINING, You’re Someone’s Way Out of DARKNESS!”

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Matthew 5:14-16, “Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—SHINE! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.” (MSG)

There are two types of stories that pull at my heart-strings immediately. One is that of anyone who survives a life-devastating event; and two, anything concerning children. Well, what I’m about to share with you combines them both.

You see, she was only seven years old; the lone survivor of a plane crash that killed her parents, her sister, and her cousin. The sheriff said “she literally fell out of the sky into a dark hole.” He called her survival “a miracle.” This “miracle” survivor somehow crawled out of this upside-down wreckage of her dad’s plane dressed only in shorts and a t-shirt on a cold winter night. Shoe-less, through brambles and underbrush, this, who they called “remarkable” young girl, navigated two embankments, a hill, and a creek bed in the dark!

Then, much like the book of Genesis, “and then there was light”. Actually, it was just a single security light on a house. But when she knocked on that door, a kind, grandfatherly man brought her inside. Then she was safe. One report said this: “He thinks his security light may have been a beacon.I agree, a beacon of light for a little girl who had lost so much in the dark. Thank God for the light that saved her life.

This story got me to thinking about who I need to be for people who’ve lost so much (in the dark moments of life). Those who feel alone, depressed, disheartened…those whose world has suddenly crashed into darkness, who need someone to be a light – a “beacon” – to lead them to safety.

I love that word “beacon”, it’s defined as “a fire lit on the top of a hill as a signal; a light serving as a signal for ships or aircraft.” Its Old English Origin literally means “sign.” The word “signal” is defined as “a gesture, action or sound conveying information or an instruction.” Its Italian Origin “segnalato” means “distinguished”, from its root “segnale” which means “a signal.When we as believers become beacons of light for those lost in darkness, we serve as a signal conveying information about our Savior and instruction that He is the Light of the World to follow. And our signal is “distinguished”, which is defined as “having an identifying characteristic.” And what characteristics stand out for us as believers? “But the fruit of the Spirit [the result of His presence within us] is love [UNSELFISH CONCERN FOR OTHERS], joy, [inner] peace, patience [not the ability to wait, but how we act while waiting], kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature together with its passions and appetites.  If we [claim to] live by the [Holy] Spirit, we must also walk by the Spirit [WITH PERSONAL INTEGRITY, GODLY CHARACTER, AND MORAL COURAGE—OUR CONDUCT EMPOWERED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT].” (Galatians 5:22-25 AMP) That’s what distinguishes us. That’s what makes people who are walking around in darkness, look up and take notice of us. They see the light of an unselfish person with personal integrity, godly character and moral courage that conducts themselves according to the empowering Holy Spirit from within.

In other words, when people (whether saved or unsaved) see us, they should see light! They should see a way out. They should see encouragement, inspiration, empowerment, care, unconditional love and a non—judgmental attitude. They should see someone who simply wants to help guide them out of Gloom and into God. Those starving for help should see the Fruit of the Spirit in us. They should see love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance. As believers, we are to be beacons of light in this dark world. Philippians 2:15, “so that you may prove yourselves to be blameless and guileless, innocent and uncontaminated, children of God without blemish in the midst of a [morally] crooked and [spiritually] perverted generation, AMONG WHOM YOU ARE SEEN AS BRIGHT LIGHTS [BEACONS SHINING OUT CLEARLY] in the world [of darkness],” (AMP).

So, are you shining light, or throwing shade? Because you can’t do both!

In our text for today, Jesus says this in Matthew 5, beginning with verse 14, “You are the world’s light—a city on a hill, glowing in the night for all to see.  Don’t hide your light! Let it shine for all; let your good deeds glow for all to see, so that they will praise your heavenly Father.” (TLB) The word “glow” is defined as “to give out steady light; to have an intense color and a slight radiance.” And the word “steady” is defined as “firmly fixed, supported, or balanced, not faltering or wavering; reliable; regular; continuous; and frequent.” In other words, our lights are always on, they do not turn off! The Scripture commands us, “…DON’T HIDE YOUR LIGHT!” When something is “hidden” it means it’s “put or kept out of sight; concealed; and camouflaged”. Which is very descriptive of some of us, believers, when we’re anywhere else, outside of church! Oh, we’ll shine brightly within the 4 walls of the church, but somehow we manage to dim-down at work, the salons, the barbershop, supermarket, laundromat, the mall, and most certainly when we’re cut off by someone on the highway! And that word “dim” means “difficult to see, shady, and unclear.” It becomes difficult to see our light when we want to blend in and look and sound like everyone else. When we conform to the crowd, it’s difficult to see our individual light. And depending on where we are, what we’re doing and who we’re doing it with, we become real shady. Our integrity and character becomes unclear. We’re no longer distinguished but indistinguishable. And what’s the danger of that? “YOU ARE THE WORLD’S LIGHT…” The world will only see the light that we shine. But when we remain hidden, they remain in the dark. But we’re commanded, “LET IT SHINE FOR ALL…” People are depending on us church. And as the Scripture says, “…ALL…” people are depending on us. Every culture, nationality, gender, race, age, rich, poor, single, married, divorced, with kids, without kids, varying religions, they are all depending on us…whether they know it or not. Because despite the popular ideas of “higher powers”, there is only One Power, One Name and One God, that can save them from eternal darkness and His name is Jesus Christ. And we as His followers, named after His name (Christians) are to continuously be the road map that points them in His direction! John 14:6, “Jesus said to him, I AM THE [ONLY] WAY [TO GOD] and the [REAL] TRUTH and the [REAL] LIFE; NO ONE COMES TO THE FATHER BUT THROUGH ME.” (AMP); Philippians 2:9-11, “Because of that obedience, God lifted Him high and honored Him FAR BEYOND ANYONE OR ANYTHING, EVER, so that ALL CREATED BEINGS IN HEAVEN AND ON EARTH—EVEN THOSE LONG AGO DEAD AND BURIED—WILL BOW IN WORSHIP BEFORE THIS JESUS CHRIST, and call out in praise that HE IS THE MASTER OF ALL, to the glorious honor of God the Father.” (MSG)

We are the Beacons of Light, in this Dark World, that will Lead ALL to Jesus! Saints, We Can’t Dim Our Light, They Need Us to Show Them the Way Out!

Speaking of being a beacon and light, I’ve been thinking what it means to be a beacon or light for people in my personal world. And I found out, in its simplicity, it means being one person they know who is all about their need, not about my own. One who has time to listen (and even when I don’t have time, making time anyhow). Being that one person who doesn’t just ask the obligatory “How you doing?” But one who asks that second and third question to see if that obligatory “I’m fine” answer they gave me is really how they’re doing. Being a light means being the one who refuses to hear or speak trash talk about anyone. Who protects a person’s name when they’re not in the room. Who builds a person up and never tears them down. Who says, “Thank you” and “I’m sorry” and “I was wrong.” It’s being the person to call, leave a voicemail, text, email, or visit. It’s the person to mail a get well card. It’s the person giving more than a “church hug”, but being arms in which someone can fall into, cry freely and still feel unashamed. Its’ being a safe place for someone to strip off all their layers of initials, titles, positions, and the like, and simply being who they really are in the moment (hurt, confused, in pain, lonely, depressed, bitter, discouraged, angry). It’s being the person they can confide in knowing that their confidence will never be betrayed.

It’s always being the person who treats people, as the Bible says, “with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15). The Message Bible reads it like this, “If with heart and soul you’re doing good, do you think you can be stopped? Even if you suffer for it, you’re still better off. Don’t give the opposition a second thought. Through thick and thin, keep your hearts at attention, in adoration before Christ, your Master. Be ready to speak up and tell anyone who asks why you’re living the way you are, AND ALWAYS WITH THE UTMOST COURTESY. Keep a clear conscience before God so that when people throw mud at you, none of it will stick. They’ll end up realizing that they’re the ones who need a bath. It’s better to suffer for doing good, if that’s what God wants, than to be punished for doing bad…” (vss. 13-18 MSG) People of God, this ought to be descriptive of us, no matter what or where. Christians ought to always be courteous, kind, generous, gentle, caring, and understanding. After all, how can we possibly be anything contrary to the Christ we’ve been called to represent in His Image and Likeness?

In a nutshell: We do not “turn off our light” no matter how dark a person may be that approaches us. We have not been called to judge, point fingers, assign blame, pronounce guilt, to condemn or put down. We are simply to be light that directs dark to Light. That’s our responsibility. We are to represent God, not attempt to replace Him, or try to “be Him”. Just do what He asked of you, and certainly I’ve found nowhere in Scripture where He’s asked of us to treat cruel with cruel or dark with dark. In fact, His Word admonishes us, “Summing up: Be agreeable, be sympathetic, be loving, be compassionate, be humble. THAT GOES FOR ALL OF YOU, NO EXCEPTIONS. No retaliation. No sharp-tongued sarcasm. Instead, bless—THAT’S YOUR JOB, TO BLESS. You’ll be a blessing and also get a blessing. Whoever wants to embrace life and see the day fill up with good, Here’s what you do: Say nothing evil or hurtful; Snub evil and cultivate good; run after peace for all you’re worth. God looks on all this with approval, listening and responding well TO WHAT HE’S ASKED; But he turns his back on those who do evil things.” (1 Peter 3:8-12 MSG). Did you read your job responsibility? “…BLESS – THAT’S YOUR JOB, TO BLESS…” Not to curse, but to bless! No matter who you’re dealing with, no matter their attitude or response, you are to bless. Whether you feel like it or not, you are to bless. Whether it’s morning, noon or night, you are to bless. Whether it’s family, friend or foe, you are to bless. Whether it’s at home, church, work, business, gas station, in traffic, or a PTA meeting, you are to bless!

It’s a blessing, to be light! You know why? Because “light” people are those who remember a person’s birthday, who checks on them when they’re sick, who’s at the hospital, the wedding, and the funeral. Who drops what I’m doing when they’re hurting. Who offers to pray withnot just for – them when God is needed so much. “Light” people give you their precious time and undivided attention.

And so you don’t take this as a personal attack, I even asked MYSELF: do people around me see me as “safe“; the “go-to” person when it’s dark, when it’s cold and when it’s lonely? Have I so lived that when they hit a wall, they’ll think of me as a place to turn? Am I the light on the porch when people around me are feeling lost? Do people see Christ in me? Do they taste salt and see light? Am I compassionate, kind, enduring, patient, loving, understanding, pleasant to be around? Is my attitude a good one (or does it depend on the day, person and circumstance)? Do I murmur? Do I complain? Am I negative? Am I pessimistic? Am I confrontational? Am I critical? Am I the person someone would call in times of trouble? When someone has fallen into sin and needs restoration, am I a person they would call on to help them reconcile with God? As James admonishes us, am I a person they can confide in, trust, and confess to? In other words, this Word challenged me to re-exam my own life, lifestyle and walk with God, and His people. Now, I’ve discovered that I’m not a horrible person, however, I’ve also realized that I can certainly become a better person. I can be the light someone needs in their dark tunnel. I can help them navigate their way. And sometimes that’s not with speech, just with the gift of presence.

I can be that for one reason. Truth is, Jesus Christ has been that for me. And so have my brothers and sisters in Christ. Whether it was worry over my children, struggling in marriage, hardship in finances, discouraged with church, sleepless nights with school, the loss of my dad, the loss of my mom. I’ve had “Light” people that stepped into my dark path, and said, “lets walk this thing together.” And believe it or not, but there are people in your life that need your light. Oh, yeah, they have a smile on their face, and they know how to laugh on cue, and they’ve mastered, “I’m good, I’m fine, All is well, I’m blessed and highly favored.But truth is, in private, many are struggling just to wake up, get up, get dressed and keep going. For many, it’s a struggle just to put both feet on the floor in the morning. For many, their nights are so bad, they no longer want to face another day. YOU, my friend, can be their little piece of personal sunshine on a stormy day.

One thing that always warms my heart is passing by a person and they smile, which makes me smile. We never speak, we never exchange words at all. And yet, I feel instantly better. Likewise, you don’t have to be everything for everybody. Sometimes a little smile, a brief hug, a quick pat on the back, is all that’s needed to turn someone’s day around. In fact, you’ll be absolutely amazed at the rekindling of fire you can be to someone’s desire to live with just a few words, I believe in you, you can do this, you can be better, I see greatness in you, dream again, try again, don’t give up, keep pressing, you’ll make it.Everyone needs encouragement, even those that don’t admit it or ask for it. Everyone at one time or another experiences dark days and needs someone to shed a little light. Why not allow yourself to be that light?

Someone in your life needs to feel loved, important, significant, and cherished. Because someone in your life feels neglected, wounded, unforgiven, ashamed, guilty, and desperate. And all they need to make a difference in their darkness is just a little light. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). The Message Bible says it like this, “Jesus once again addressed them: “I am the world’s Light. No one who follows me stumbles around in the darkness. I provide plenty of light to live in.” (MSG). If you could just help them direct their darkness to Him, He’ll provide them plenty of light to live in. However, that can’t happen, if you don’t help them get to The Light. If someone in my personal world is wandering in the dark today, I just pray they’ve seen the light in me so I can help them find the Light in Him.

I’ll close with this little story. I have pocketbooks! Lot’s of ‘em! Every color, style and size. My favorites however, are my big bags. But the down-side of them is that I always throw my keys in my bag, so when I get home and try to get in the house, I can’t! It’s dark when I get home at night, and I never think to take them out ahead of time or to place them in a better place of convenience. Well, I ended up attending a friends event and the giveaways were cute little keychain flashlights. I said “what in the world am I supposed to do with this little thing?” And a child (yes, a little kid) gave me the answer. She said, “well, maybe you can use the little light until you can get to a bigger one.” All I could think was: “And a child shall lead them!” That was one of those moments when I thought, “kids say the darndest things”. Sounds comical, but I think she nailed it. The little light, would help me get to the big Light. And upon using my little keychain flashlight to fish out my keys one night, I found it to be true. That little light helped to find my keys, unlock and open the door and the first thing I did was cut on the big light inside.

Today, that’s my prayer for US! That we’ll be just a little light that leads someone in darkness to the Big Light! Just think about the opening story, she walked away from so much tragedy, in the middle of a dark, cold and lonely night, and the only thing that saved her and her life, was a little light that was kept on.

My Admonishment to You Today: KEEP SHINING, YOU ARE SOMEONE’S WAY OUT OF DARKNESS!

“Nothing can dim the light which shines from within.” (Dr. Maya Angelou)

“There are two ways of spreading light, to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.” (Edith Wharton)

“A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.” (James Heller)

“In order for the light to shine so brightly, the darkness must be present.” (Francis Bacon)

“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.” (Desmond Tutu)

“If you want to give light to others, you have to glow yourself.” (Thomas S. Monson)

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.)

“Small lights have a way of being seen in a dark world.” (Neal A. Maxwell)

“All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle.” (Francis of Assisi)

“Within you is the light of a thousand suns.” (Robert Adams)

“If you want light to come into your life, you need to stand where it is shining.” (Guy Finley)

“Instead of cursing the darkness, light a candle.” (Benjamin Franklin)

“It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light.” (Aristotle Onassis)

“Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light.” (Helen Keller)

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

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