Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Please Leave a Message...

Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.  But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.       (2 Corinthians 12:8-9)

Chances are we have all experienced pain.  The pain that I am talking about is not in the physical sense, as when you break a leg, but the pain that comes as a result of the things we carry.  This is the pain that is probably the hardest to talk about.  It is the pain we often hide.  Many times it sneaks in and we don’t even know it is there until it begins to speak.  Yes, this pain comes with a message. 

Lets consider your mind as a huge answering service, it is constantly talking calls.  Many voices are recorded there.  Voices of ignorance, and voices of praise.  Voices of friends, and voices of enemies.  The voice of God, and yes, the voice of Satan.  Everyone, everything, and every situation that you have faced has left you a message.  Some messages are good, but many are not.

The problem begins when we save a message we should have deleted.  We play them over and over.  We memorize them.  Sometimes we even put the lock code on so that no one else even knows they are there, and before you know it, you have a hidden message. 

God wants to expose those messages, he wants to expose the lies the enemy has tried to leave you.  The message that you aren’t good enough, or that you are undeserving of love.  The message that you will never make it, or that your children will never be saved.  The message that he will eventually walk out just like your daddy did, or that you will never see that love one delivered from addiction.  The message that cancer will win, and you will die.  Messages from satan. 

The apostle Paul talks about these messages.  No one knows what his thorn was, but we do know it tormented him.  Paul says it was a messenger of Satan.  Whatever it was. it was trying to tell him something. 
And this thorn was doing much what a splinter does, it was something under the surface, unseen, but with every move, and every touch, it hurt. It was in Paul’s flesh, unseen by the naked eye.  You would never even know it existen if you simply looked at the Apostle Paul.  I would imagine this great Man of God looked like he had it all together, touring the land, sharing the gospel, but with every move he made, he was painfully aware of his thorn, and the message that the devil had sent with it.

I once faced a painful situation with one of my children, and, as Paul did, I cried out for God to remove this thing. I begged God to take it away, but He didn’t. And before I knew it, the devil sent a message with that pain. This messenger of Satan, this thing, this thorn in my flesh that God was not removing was speaking to me loud and clear.  It was saying, “God is not here, and God really doesn’t even care.”

Maybe you haven’t been through what I have been through, maybe your thorn isn’t the same thorn as the Apostle Paul’s, but maybe you have suffered loss in your life, or maybe you have been molested, or abused.  Maybe you battled addictions, or your child is strung out.  Maybe your family is on the brink of divorce.  Maybe the mom who used to care for you, you now have to care for her as you watch her mind being taken by Alzheimer’s.  Maybe you are a widow, or buried a child that should have buried you.  Maybe you lost your job and are facing eviction.  Maybe cancer is raging within.  No matter what it is, chances are you have cried out for God to remove it. 

Paul says he cried out for God to remove his thorn, and finally after the third cry, Jesus answered, “My Grace is sufficient, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 
God did not remove the circumstance, but he replaced the message!

Brothers and Sisters, whatever you are facing today, whatever thorn may be hidden under the surface that is causing you pain with every breath you take, know this, GOD’S GRACE IS SUFFICIENT!  And it is right there, right in the weakest place, the hardest place, the most painful place,  that then the power of Christ is made perfect.

Cast down those lies of the devil, delete those messages.  God cares, God is here, God loves you, and yes, God knows.  You may not understand why you have to go through whatever you are facing, why the thorn has not been removed, but Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us to trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight. 

Even when we don’t understand, yet must we trust Him knowing He will guide us on the straight path.  Matthew 10;30-31 says, “But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows. 
The devil is a liar.  God loves each and every one of us, and yes, He cares. He even knows how many hairs are on our heads. Replace those lies with His truths.  Delete those hidden messages, and speak the word of God, the truth into your life. 

His grace is here for you and it is sufficient for everything you are facing.  You may not be able to handle it in your own power, but it is ok to be weak.  Paul said, he boasts in his weakness, because it is there that the power of Christ is made perfect.  Boast in that weakness today, all allow the power of Christ within you to be made perfect. He may not remove it, but He will help you to endure it.  

Be encouraged!

Monday, January 18, 2016

It is Time to Grow

"You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ."   1 Peter 3:17,18   

This year, our two oldest daughters and grandchild moved home.  We had missed them over the past few years while we resided over a thousand miles apart.  And with that distance came many missed opportunities to see our grandchild, Noelle, grow.  

I recall when my husband and I drove to South of the Border to pick up Noelle.  It had been over a year since I had seen her last.  I couldn't believe how big she had gotten and how fast she had grown.  Noelle no longer rode in an infant seat, but now was in a toddler one, and as I opened the car door, I saw those once chubby little legs were now long and slender and seemed as if they had grown a foot.  Her hair, so long and curly, and even her little fingers had grown so much that I could hear my Mimi echoing in the back of mind as she would have quickly exclaimed that "These are the fingers of a piano player!"  I began to think about growth, and how amazing and essential it is.

I realized that there was nothing Noelle had done that caused this change, because physical growth is automatic.  From the time we are born, our bodies have been designed to grow.  Our arms grow, our legs grow, our hair grows, our nails grow, everything grows.  And as my grandchild grows, she will also continue to change.  While she may always have a resemblance of her infant self, her growth will bring forth a transformation. 

 While physical growth is automatic, spiritual growth is not.  It comes with desire and effort.  Both physical and spiritual growth should cause a transformation.  As we grow spiritually, we should begin to take on the image of Christ.  Without effort, we will not grow.

Spiritual growth begins when we are born again.  Just as a baby grows to and adult in the natural, so it is in the spiritual.  So, how do we ensure that we are growing spiritually?

We must continually do a self-examination.  This is necessary for spiritual growth, and we have to be brutally honest when we are checking ourselves. If you have been born again for years and still have the same bad attitude you did before you were saved, you are not growing.  If you are still offended when your Pastor corrects you, you are not growing.  Or how about prayer?  Do you pray more now than you did just a year ago?  Has your study time in the Word increased?  Here is one that may sting, because I know we get "stuck" on that 10 percent thing, as if when we reach it, we have arrived, but has your giving increased?  If your answer to any of those questions was no, then it is time to change your diet.  

See, while we can't stop our physical growth, we can hinder it by not eating the correct foods.  We can actually do physical damage to our bodies by filling it with junk.  And again, as it is in the physical, so it is in the spiritual.  What are you eating?  Is your time filled with Scandal, Empire, and The Walking Dead?  What are you feeding your spirit?    Are you surrounding yourself with negative people that continually speak negative things?  That is equivalent to going on a diet and then allowing someone to shove donuts down your throat.  Everything we allow in our spirit is food, it is being used to either grow us in Christ, or stunt our growth with the intent to keep us bound to the fallen world around us

But here is the good news, all we have to do is make a change.  As long as their is breath in your body, you have the opportunity to change.  My husband and I started a fitness journey this year.  We meant with the dietitian, and joined the gymOur intent was and is good, but without follow through, and consistency, nothing will change.  It takes discipline to make a change.  Everyday I have a choice, I can eat a donut, or I can eat a salad, what determines the physical state of my body is the selection I make from the choices surrounding me. Sometimes in order to make the right choice while we are training our flesh, we have to change the selections around us.  We had to empty out our house of anything that was not healthy and that would hinder us from achieving the change we were making.  

Once more, I say, as it is in the physical, so it is in the spiritual. I can remember growing up, I would get these horrible leg cramps.  My Mimi would reassure me and say, "Oh honey, they are just growing pains."  The truth is growing is painful.  Things are pulled and stretched, and it just hurts.  And the decisions we have to make in order to grow spiritually are probably going to hurt.  Our flesh will begin to scream out in pain and rebellion.  We will have to make some hard choicesWe may have to cut off that friend that we have had for years that likes to gossip, and invest the time into making a new friend.  We may have to go out of our comfort zone and find someone that is seeking the same thing we are seeking, to grow in God, one that will pray with us instead of talking about us.  We may have to call block that phone number that calls at 3 am and wakes us from our sleep.  We all know the intent of those late night calls is not of God. Instead of entertaining the call, we may have to take that 3am wake up and get down on our knees and pray.  We may even have to pray that God removes the desires raging within our flesh everytime that call comes.  We may have to shut off that cable and quit reading The Enquirer, and instead saturate our atmosphere with songs of Praise, and begin to dive into the Word of God with just as much zeal as we once dove into the things of this world.  We may have to rearrange our schedule and free up some time to ensure we are able to get to weekly Bible study, knowing that in order to grow as God intends, we must, as the scripture says 'grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord, Jesus Christ.'  This growth only comes through the Word of God.  It is our Bread of Life, our nourishment.  

It is the Word of God, and the application of it to our lives, that causes a transformation that is so amazing that even our closest friends and relatives can no longer recognize us.  It is in that transformation that Christ is made known.  This is the power, the hidden treasure that is spoken of in 2 Corinthians 7-10 that reads, "But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all surpassing power is of God and not from us.  We are hard pressed but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down but not destroyed.  We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may be revealed in our body."  It is in that treasure, that power of Christ, that we are able to love as He loves, to serve as He served, to show mercy as He shows mercy. It is in that treasure, that power of Christ, that we are able to make the changes needed to ensure that we grow.
Brothers and Sisters, I encourage you today to grow There are so many things that God wants to birth through each and every one of us. There are ministries waiting to be birthed; marriages waiting to birthed; gifts waiting to be birthed; businesses waiting to be birthed; the list goes on an on.   But in order for that to happen, we must mature, we must grow because the birth is the outward result of an inward growth; a growth that is required because anything born before it matures, usually does not survive.  Allow God's work to be completed and become all He has created you to be.  Grow. 



Thursday, August 1, 2013

Train up a child in the way he should go.

Train up a child in the way he should go,
And when he is old he will not depart from it.
(Proverbs 22:6)

Every parent has dreams for their children.  From the moment they take their first breath, and until the instant that we take our last one, a true parent never gives up on their kids.

So what do we do when those precious little ones come into their own and more often than not, we find ourselves struggling to recognize the person they have become? 

For Christians, we turn to God and are reminded of this verse; "Train up a child in the way they should go, and when they are old, they will not depart from it."  (Proverbs 22:6)  We find an assurance that if we have to trained up a child in the way he should go,  no matter how they may be acting in the here and now, when they are old he will not depart from it.  What is the it?  It is the way they have been trained.  It with withstand the circumstances of today and extend into the situations of tomorrow.

When I got saved, my daughters were 14, 12, and 9, and my son, Judah, wasn’t born until many years later.  I worried that it was “too late.”   My girls were on the latter side of their years at home, and I had taught them any way but the right way.  But God gave me this window of Grace and I began to teach not only my kids, but every kid that I came into contact with. 

Many nights my kitchen would be full of teens, sitting on the floor all around me as I cooked just asking question after question.  They were curious. These children, not only mine, but their friends, were a part of our every day life.  They had witnessed that transformation that took place when I was saved.  The new the "old me," and the witness the birth of the "new me."  Everyone is different, but for me, the night I was saved I changed.  I went from the bar to the Bible, from Beyonce to Shirley Ceasar, and from cussing to praising. I was instantly delivered from drugs and alcohol, and these kids saw it all.  

I can remember being at a Church picnic, and as I approached the playground, my daughters friends were all gathered talking about how I had changed so quick and they were confused. Confusion is an opportunity for ministry, and I took the time with these kids to teach them at every opportunity that was placed before me. But, I could teach them till I was blue in the face, I could share with them story after story, scripture after scripture and still not accomplish what Proverbs 22:6 instructs us to do.

There is a difference between teaching and training. The essence of teaching is causing another to know, but the essence of training is causing another to do.  When we teach, we deal with a topic of a subject, but when we train, we deal with a function or a duty of it.  Now, teaching is much needed in order to train.  Teaching imparts the knowledge, and then training is the application of the knowledge.

When we train our children, we take the Word that we live by, and we begin to “condition” them.  My kids were used to Sundays being the day off, now I had to condition them, train them to get up, to get dressed, honoring God with their matter of dress, and bringing themselves into His house.  Yes, there were days they fought, at the beginning, but I wouldn’t back down.  Training takes discipline.  New years eve, when all the other 17, 18 year olds were at the house parties, I had no problem being the bad guy, our kids were in the all night service along with any friends they wanted to bring.  I was training them.  Training is not comfortable, it is painful.  

Recently, my Pastor was speaking about his trainer, and how his body hurt in places he did not know existed. And in fact, I think he said these words, that his instructor was “building his core.”  That is what we are to do, build our children's core.  How do we do this?  By training them.  We cant take the easy way out.  Yes, if you have teens, they will probably get mad, they are teenagers.  They will probably throw a fit, and attempt to rebel against you.  But we have to be willing to put them through the pain so that we prepare them for their future. Training takes consistency.  We must stick by what we say, and what we expect them to do and be the best trainer we can be.  A good trainer knows the trainees limits, and pushes them to surpass those limits.  They know its going to hurt, they know they will probably be bucked up against.  A good trainer knows its not going to be easy, but yet they push.  This is what we are to do because, like any trainer,  we know the end result.

We train them and conditioning them to seek after righteousness when all those around them are seeking after alcohol and drugs.  We train and condition them to recognize that hunger pains should not always be fed, because some things only come out only through fasting and prayer. We train them and condition them that the body is not for the pleasure of anyone buy your spouse.  We train them and condition them that when people talk about them and mistreat them, they don't have to run their mouths, they can run to God.  We train the and condition them to control their flesh. 

And when he is old he will not depart from it… depart from what?  Depart from the areas in which they were trained… If we just quote scripture and think that because our kids know the word that they wont depart from God, that is not the truth.  Satan himself can quote scripture and he departed from God. We must train them, it is there that they will not depart.  And here is the beauty of proverbs 22:6,  as out there as I was, I had been trained to go to church, I had been trained to pray, I had been trained to call on the name of Jesus, and when I was old, and the devil thought he had me... I did not depart from what I had been trained in. That training led me back to Jesus, and it is the same training I know am training my own children in.

And I end with this, this scripture is not for parents, it is for Christians.  It does not say train your child, it says train a child.  We all have a responsibility in the body of Christ to train up these children.  If you see children talking during the word, let them know to honor God by keeping quite; if you see them walking around during service, let them know, we honor God by not being a disruption; if one of them are beside you and it comes time to give and they have nothing, dig deep and teach them to give an offering to God.  Train these children in the way they should go, and when they get old they will not depart from it, from generation to generation..