“You f…… B…..!” Is the epithet he hurled at me. Did I get your attention? As people who faithfully follow Jesus we are not excluded from our share of anger, vitriol and harassment; if not even more. Christ believers are supposed to share the gospel of Christ and fulfill the call of The Great Commission by telling others about our redeeming Savior. Preachers admonish parishioners at church services worldwide on Sunday mornings to “tell others about Jesus!” I often think: What about those who do not want to be told about God? In today’s climate, I cannot tell you how many times telling others about the goodness of God met me with indifference, hatred and disdain. People are either atheist, agnostic, apatheist or new agers. Hey, different people follow different religions — I get that — and are as passionate about their beliefs as I am about mine. In a few instances, some people I spoke to even tried to get me to convert to their religion. More, other people that I spoke to were deeply hurt by “religious” people and ran as fast as they could away from anyone who uttered the name God. Then there are those who like to challenge your beliefs, undermine your knowledge in God, and corner you into a debate about religion. I’ve learned long ago not to debate God’s word. And then there are those whom I believe are actually tired, miserable, broken and overtaken by their sins but refuse to submit to God out of distrust and/or rebellion. Thus, they attack the “God” in you!
The person who made the offensive comment to me was someone I loved dearly. He was like a brother to me. You know the type of person that is very judgmental, condescending, rude, aggressive and confrontational? This describes my dear friend. He had practically driven away every one in his family and our circle of friends because of his behavior, but I refused to give up on him. “I will love him like Christ loved, and continue telling him about God,” is what I told myself. Nonetheless, at every meeting, dinner, get together with him I left feeling drained, insulted, berated, picked apart and belittled.
But this last meeting was on a whole nother level. It’s as if he came with an agenda to provoke me to respond to his antics. The cheerful person that I am, he began to attack my happiness asking me “Why are you smiling so much? There’s nothing to smile about!” Can you believe it? Someone’s mad at you for smiling! I quickly told him what’s inside reflects on the outside and would he rather I be miserable like him? I know … I know I probably shouldn’t have said that but I just could not believe what I was hearing. He criticized everything from God, my natural hair and character, to my joyful personality. Then it dawned on me how far God had brought me from a few years ago; He took away all my pain and replaced it with His joy! I then began sharing with my friend details of my background and the things God had brought me through, and telling him that’s where my joy comes from. Telling him about the goodness of God in my life seemed to make him even more confrontational. He started badgering religion, religious people and Jesus. I told him that I’m sorry that he feels that way but God is a redeemer and if he would just open up and try to get to know God his life could change too. He said he doesn’t need God and his life is fine without him.
I had to go there! … Albeit nicely. I told him the truth. I told him that his communication with others comes off as negative, aggressive and rude. Sure, we all have our bad days, but to live in a place of perpetual rudeness is a reflective character trait. I reminded him of a couple of people we know that he personally hurt deeply. He took no responsibility and shifted blame on everyone else. He then said that he was a good person and “does good” for others. I told him good works does not make up for the hurt and pain he leaves in his aftermath. I invited him to invite God into his life. I was then met with anger, harsh words, and berating. So much so, I had to walk away from this person whom I considered a dear friend. What truly has the world come to? If you’re smiling it’s fake. If you’re nice you have an ulterior motive. If you’re a Christian you’re hateful because you believe what the Bible says. It’s hard out here in these streets! The Bible forewarned of times such as these.
In Isaiah 5:20, the Bible warns of calling good evil and evil good.
By the time I got home I was in tears and had a pow-wow with God. “God, how could he talk to me like that? Why would he curse me out like that?” It was then God began to pour into my spirit how His Son Jesus was cursed, beaten, and murdered because He shared the good news. It was as if He asked me “Was I more important than His son? Was I better than His son?” If Jesus had to suffer persecution so will you, my child! Wow! It was a wake up call! I had to apologize for my own entitlement and shortsightedness.
How many times have we asked God to “use us” for His kingdom and the assignment does not come as we expect? Truthfully, many do as the aforementioned: question God and walk away from the gospel completely when they are deeply hurt. And truthfully speaking, it is not the person attacking you but the spirit in them. It is often because many people do not want to turn away from their sins, they have been hurt and are afraid to trust God, or they need to test the “God in you” because they need to know He’s real. They are really looking for something to believe in and need to know that this God you speak so highly of is really a redeemer. If we, who proclaim this Christ, buckle at every insult then it gives opposers the finger to mock God and question His power in our lives. I have had it happen time and time again. But what I felt God was speaking to me in this situation is that he used me to plant a seed of salvation. Many hurting people put on a tough exterior but deep down they are yearning for help. God is so loving, he hears their inward cries. When someone touches God’s heart, He usually sends many people to speak into their life.
Life is hard. Sin has hardened people, but our hearts must not become hardened.
This situation with my friend is what I call a ‘Come to Jesus moment.’ We who serve Christ often too have to come to Him and lay at his feet and cry as a little baby. Life is hard. Sin has hardened people, but our hearts must not become hardened. We must do as Paul admonishes,”fight the good fight of faith” and finish our race — bruises, scars, wounds and all!
Wow! What an amazing finish to this year! God so blessed me to finish “His” book: Don’t just breakthrough, BREAK FREE! I say His book because I had totally different intentions when I started writing the tome. But beloved, God had to bring me through various trials and deliver me from some things in order for me to understand the gist of what I was writing about! Including: stubborness, unforgiveness, pride, homelessness, joblessness and debilitating sickness. I payed the price with blood, sweat and tears! It took me nearly 7 years to finish this book!
I now realize if it had been published when I first started writing it, it would have been verbiage and not experience. It would have been words but no substance. It reminds me of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego when they were thrown into the fiery furnace. God had to allow me to be thrown into the fiery furnace to test this word that I was proclaiming; He had to test my faith by fire! Luke 22:31-32 says, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you Simon, that your faith may not fail!
So like clay, instead of being burned up, my faith has been refined into a beautiful vessel! Hallelujah! A vessel for salvation, a vessel of hope, a vessel of light to the lost, depressed, and those that are struggling to live another day!
Many of you may know I’ve recently lost a dear loved one. You never really realize the magnitude of death until it knocks on your door. When I was writing this book, for some reason God put on my heart to write:
“From time to time, God will send you a travel companion to help you along your way [on life’s journey]. Although you may be tempted to get upset when they leave, don’t!” Page 237.
I couldn’t understand at the time why I had written that as I never really lost anyone close to me to death. While editing the final chapters of the book, when I reread that sentence, I wept.
Beloved, God knows the trials we will endure before we can ever conceive of them. Surely, we can never understand why God allows good people to die violently, but oh how He loves us and protects and keeps us in the midst of life’s storms. I love you and God bless you!
All the cities which the Philistines had captured between Eckron and Gath were returned to Israel, and so Israel got back all its territory. And there was peace between Israel and the Canaanites. GNB
1 Samuel 7:14
As a Christian, no doubt we will experience peaks and valleys, highs and lows on this journey. More, tantamount to weather seasons, we will go through different spiritual seasons–the summer’s, winter’s, spring’s, and fall’s of our Christian walk. Some people love the change of seasons; personally I would love if it could stay summer all year around! I love summer and everything that comes along with it: feeling the sun on my face, beaches, barbecues, wearing lighter clothing, outdoor events. I hate Winter! I hate being cold and the seclusion that oftentimes comes with it because of frigid temperatures especially in the northern part of the United States.
As my dread of the physical Winter season, as so the Winter season of my Christian walk. I know we have to go through changes as disciples because that’s how we learn and grow. But truthfully, I’d rather my Christian season stay summer: peaceful, joyous, serene, still, and calm. But in life, everything has to have a balance in order to grow. We will face challanges, trials, loss, attacks, persecutions and the like. There will be times of silence, not understanding God’s purpose and times when it seems like you are doing everything right but you aren’t yielding any fruit! It seems like you are not advancing, moving forward; but perhaps going backwards! It seems like the enemy is taking over your territory.
Prosperity gospel will tell you that you’re not favored by God, you need to plant a large financial seed, or perhaps you are not living right. Beloved, I disagree! You can be doing all you know how to do, living righteously and are at a standstill in certian areas of your life. God loves you, you are always favored by Him, but there are several factors why God may allow these seasons:
1. He’s trying to reach you.
Let’s face it! Some of us learn our lessons quickly and some of us are like the mule that Psalms 32:9 mentions:
Don’t be stubborn like a horse or mule. [They need] a bit and bridle in their mouth to restrain them, or they will not come near you.
Translation: God has to sternly guide you to follow His will. I’m perfectly guilty of that. He may be trying to call attention to a certian area of your life that you may not even be aware of that’s not glorifying Him: greed, gossip, complaining, selfishness, negativity, self-righteousness. The longer it takes to get the lesson, the longer you’ll be in this spiritual class.
2. God’s teaching you to trust and wait on Him.
How many of us when a trial comes, we first pick up the phone and call a parent, a loved one, or a friend. Or, how many of us our first reaction to a crisis is panic or fear? Sometimes God has to isolate you so that He is the only one you have to turn to. More, I’ve had to learn to take a deep breath when problems occur, don’t let my thoughts run amuck and grab hold of the Bible and find scriptures of hope, perserverance, and God’s faithfulness and MEDITATE on them.
3. Unrepentant sin or idol worship.
The passage in 1 Samuel speaks of the Israelites’ petition to Samuel to pray that God will save them from the hands of the Philistines, but in the interim they were worshipping man made idols (statues). Are their any idols in your life that you may have placed before God, love it so much that you refuse to give it up? Pornography, fornication, gluttony, adultery, material things, lying, stealing, dishonenest business dealings, just to name a few.
The Philistines had already slaughtered four thousand men of the Israelite army and had taken the sacred Lord’s Covenant Box. Samuel’s reply to the Israelites in 1 Samuel 7:3 was to turn to God with all of their hearts and get rid of their idols. He told them to dedicate themselves completely to the Lord, worship Him only and He will resue them from the power of the Philistines. Some of you, God is saying if you turn away from willing sin and idols He will deliver you.
1 Samuel 7:10
The Philistines moved forward to attack; but just then the Lord thundered from Heaven against them. They became completely confused and fled in panic.
Beloved, if you let go of anything in your life that is separating you from true fellowship with God, He will chase away any spirit that may be holding you in bondage and preventing you from advancing in other areas of your life. All of the cities in your life that the enemy has captured because of unrepentant sin or idol worship, God will return back to you! He will give you peace, joy, a future and hope! Jeremiah 29:11
Lord, help me be the person you want me to be. Lord, help me to know that I have a purpose divinely ordered by You! Do not let me succumb to peer pressure or what other’s think of me! Give me boldness and confidence to stand on truth, morality, righteousness and most importantly God!
Take away the need to please people! Help me to know that your voice speaks through me and has spoken through those before me and will speak through generations to come to keep the fire burning for Jesus Christ!
Many are called, but few are chosen! Help me to continue to walk the straight and narrow path because many are distractions along the way; wide is the gate that leads to destruction.
1 Thessalonians 2:4
We always speak as God wants us to, because He has judged us worthy to be entrusted with the Good News. We do not try to please men, but to please God, who tests our motives. (GNB)
Lord fill me each morning with your constant love so that I will continuously have a song in my heart and be joyful all my life. Lord you awaken me each morning, you awaken my ear to hear as the learned. Give me as much happiness as the sadness you gave me during all my years of misery.
What is life but a vapor that dissipates and is carried off by the wind! We are like weeds that sprout in the morning, that grow and burst into bloom, then dry up and die in the evening! A few years on this earth is all we have, maybe more if we are strong.Yet they bring trouble and sorrow, then life is soon over then we are gone!
Teach us how short our lives are so we will not waste any time! Direct me in that which I am called to do so that it glorifies and honors your name! Lord my God, let me see your blessing on my life! Give me success in alI I do!
“Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.”
You may be reading this right now and and are going through your own personal storm. We go through different seasons in our lives and perhaps at this current moment your season is sickness, joblessness, loneliness, an impending bill that you don’t know how it’s going to get paid, or where the money is going to come from. Perhaps your season is hopelessness, depression and despair; no matter how much you pray or read the Bible, sadness glooms over you. Perhaps your season is a wayward loved one; a rebellious child, a cheating spouse, a backslidden relative, or a cantankerous boss.
Beloved, the verse in Jeremiah admonishes us to be like a tree planted by the water. Water represents peace, stillness and calm. Water is soothing and relaxing. It says it “sends out its roots by the stream.” The steam is Jesus! The verse is saying to grab a hold of God. He is the peace that will still the storm. More so, not only cling to Him, but be rooted and grounded in Him! That no matter what way the wind blows, your faith, trust, and livelihood will be in Jesus Christ! Beloved, even though torrential rain may pour down, your leaves will remain green and intact. If we define green it is stated as:
The color of life, renewal, nature, and energy. It is associated with growth, harmony, freshness, safety, fertility, and environment.
It means that whatever season you go through, God is right there with you! You may face horrendous trials, but God will give you the strength, courage, and boldness to go through it! And the best part, the verse says you won’t cease to bear fruit. While you are going through these trials, God is producing sweet fruit in you: patience, long suffering, forgiveness. Joy! Joy in the midst of your trials! Amen!
James 1:2-4 says, My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, Knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.
As a new year is beckoning us one can’t help but ponder the challenges, obstacles, twisting and winding roads that have met us. Some are still paralyzed perhaps, by this past year’s events. Maybe you have experienced a personal loss; whether it was the loss of a loved one, career, home or quite simply…hope. You may be tempted to carry into the new year the burdens of yesterday; a quite heavy load that oft times seem impossible to carry. Sometimes even wondering where was God through those sleepless nights and unbearable days.
According to Matthew 28:20 God says “…Lo I am with you always.” He was right there by your side! So I ask you, my brothers and sisters to perhaps think about your situations from a different perspective. Was there a common theme related to the pain, struggle, and hardship you endured this past year? Perhaps there was an area in your life God needed to bring to your attention. Maybe God allowed it to prune, refine, and complete you.
The theme that was a constant challenge in my life this past year was in the area of relationships. It seemed like I was being attacked on every side and in every aspect of my relationships; whether personal, family, or professional. After tirelessly, and frustratingly trying to work things out in my own strength I was humbled to my knees in prayer. God began to show me things about myself that I had not submitted to His will. In each relationship God used the other person to show me a mirror reflection of myself! The traits that I often had problems with in others were some of the same traits God was trying to perfect in me. Wow! And, on the other hand, I also struggled with character traits in others that were the extreme opposite of mine! Nonetheless, I could see how God allowed those situations to make me aware of my own behavior. When I realized the things that I was doing out of habit, stubbornness, or selfishness it was truly a wake up call! It wasn’t comfortable going through that season but I’m glad that I did! I learned a lot from those experiences and am very thankful God showed me what was in my own heart!
So I now ask you to revisit your trials and tests from the previous year. Now that you are looking at them through spiritual glasses, were there trying areas in your life where maybe God was building your character or maturing you spiritually? Spiritual growth often comes in the form of pain. It’s in those tough times that you learn how to depend on God. You strengthen your faith muscle when God delivers you out of trial after trial! Hallelujah! That’s how you get your spiritual wings and begin to fly! The more trials overcome, the closer you are to being free. Let’s go into the new year soaring!
~HaPpy NeW YeAr!