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Happy New Day!

Sunday, February 1st, 2015

It is of the LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness (Lamentations 3:23).

Happy first month of the year! This is the month when New Year’s resolutions are  made after a few months of pondering what they should be. This is also the month that resolutions are broken and hastily fade into the background of our lives. The holiday hustle and bustle has finally subsided, and we return to our normal routines—not integrating resolutions into our day-to-day schedule.

Like the majority of “resolution makers,” we may feel a cringe inside of us—knowing how we determined new standards to achieve in our life, and how easily they were broken. The tune, “well there is always next year” is constantly on repeat in our heads. We too feel like we’re failing ourselves and everyone around us who heard us boldly proclaim how this would be the year that we would…

Yet, there is something “sacred” about the first day of the month that gives us a sense of newness and freshness. There is something about leaving a year behind us and walking into a brand new year that puts a wind under our heels and a bit of hope in our hearts that this year could be different. But, the minute our resolution is broken, the newness of the year begins to lose its charm and appeal. But, may I propose a different way of thinking on the matter?

Not only is God’s grace sufficient for us in every New Year, but it is equally sufficient for us in every new day. His mercies are renewed like the morning sun. No matter if it is a New Year’s resolution, or mistakes that we make in the day, Jesus has a wellspring of mercy that is waiting for us the minute the new day dawns.

Yes, it is good to set goals. But, when those goals are broken, it doesn’t mean goals should be done away with. Every day is a brand new day with new mercies, new victories, new challenges, and new successes. We should treat every day like we treat the beginning of the New Year because in reality, no one has ever stepped into the new day given to us but God. He provides a brand new perspective for us if we will allow Him.

It’s said that it takes 21 days to create a habit. If we try to start a new habit and we fail before the “21-day habit” mark is achieved, we need to realize that God is right there with us. He is waiting on us in the morning, acting as our cheering squad, telling us, “we can overcome.” God loves for us to partake of His new mercies. We need to realize that God is not taking a tally of everything we do wrong. In repentance, God wipes our life clean. And, right along with new mercies comes a wellspring of forgiveness.

Ever wonder why we say, “Good Morning” to each other? There are many different opinions as to why, but I believe the morning is good because it is brand new, fresh, full of mercy and love, and all mine to explore. Each day, there are some who did not awake to a new morning. We should consider ourselves highly blessed that God chose us to arise in another new morning, packed full of His mercy.

I woke up one morning with a timeless song in my head:

Great is Thy faithfulness. Great is Thy faithfulness.
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have need of Thy hands have provided.
Great is Thy faithfulness Lord, God to me.

We can rest in the knowledge that as we walk into this New Year with an entire set of new challenges, new victories, and new failures, His mercies are renewed every morning. So, we can take each day a step at a time, and rejoice in the bountiful mercies of Jesus Christ.

The Most Valuable Gift Exchange

Friday, December 12th, 2014

The “gift giving” season is categorized as one of the most fascinating and stressful times of the year. The hustle and bustle of Christmas is described with catchphrases such as “give the gift of [insert item here] this season.” Even more so, the question, “what am I going to get” unashamedly pops into many minds of adults and children alike.

Some people have professed how this season is among the most tiresome and dreaded, simply due to the giving-and-getting aspect that comes along with it. Let’s all be honest; we equally love to give and to get gifts. I would be remiss if I did not include one of the familiar verses of Scripture in reference to getting. It simply states:

Wisdom is the principle thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting, get understanding (Proverbs 4:7, KJV).

Now how, may I ask, do you get wisdom and understanding? I believe that there are many ways to interpret this scripture, but here we have the perfect opportunity to explore the greatest gifts we can get and give this holiday season.

The wisdom and understanding Proverbs 4:7 refers to goes far beyond modern intellect and fleshly knowledge. The wisdom and understanding discussed here is the same wisdom and understanding that:

  • King Solomon, the son of King David, prayed for when God visited him in his dream and told him that he could ask for anything his heart desired (II Chronicles 1:10).
  • Lead Phineas, the grandson of Aaron the priest, to halt the rebellious acts of the people of God that caused terrible plagues (Numbers 25).
  • Caused Job, even in his darkest hour, to say, “The Lord gives, and the Lord has taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21).

May I heavily submit that this wisdom and understanding is straight from the throne of God? This is a visible manifestation of Christ in action in your life! This manifestation is the Holy Ghost; it guides your decision-making and rules your everyday life even in the midst of adversity.

This wisdom and understanding (the Holy Ghost) is meant to be pursued and coveted. It is to be desired above any gift you could ever receive. This wisdom and understanding will carry you straight through to eternity, for it will create a solid foundation of truth for you to stand upon that goes beyond cultural boundaries and norms. It will lift you up into the heavenly place, and will seat you with Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

This wisdom comes only from having a deeply rooted awe and reverence for the Most High (Proverbs 1:7), and this understanding comes only from keeping the laws of God and being doers of the Word of God (Deuteronomy 4:6).

To get the wisdom and understanding within your heart and mind that Jesus is the only source—the only way, truth, and life—is far more precious than any other gift that could be given this holiday season.

And, last but not least, the greatest gift you could give is to not just to give yourself, but to literally give yourself as a gift to God. Romans 12:1 says:

I beseech you therefore brethren by the mercies of God that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice; holy, acceptable unto God which is your reasonable service (KJV).

Here is where we tie the exchange of gifts together: the truth is, to give God everything you are requires you to receive His wisdom and understanding.

Since the things of God are foolish to man, it is hard in the natural mind to understand the importance and beauty in giving God your heart, soul, mind and strength, so that you are consumed with the presence of God on a consistent basis. But, when you begin your journey of seeking God with a sincere heart, you will automatically seek after His wisdom and understanding. This will create a heart of humility within you that will have your soul desiring to surrender everything that you are before a holy God.

In all reality, this gift exchange is very unfair. Christ, the spotless Lamb humiliated by humankind, humbled Himself and became a servant to bring eternal salvation to the world. Whereas humanity—the likes of you and me—are only able to offer up ourselves, with all of our spots and blemishes, to this holy God who craves fellowship with us. I must say we are getting the better end of this gift exchange!

So, this holiday season, because of the beauty and surrender that is found in being a participant in this spiritual gift exchange, take the time to excuse yourself from the holiday hustle and bustle, find a quiet place to pray, and seek the Lord for his wisdom and understanding. Ask God for a deep awe and reverence of His presence, and ask Him to develop within you a heart that will allow you to give yourself fully to Him.

This is the most powerful exchange of gifts that can happen in this present day and age. These are the only gifts that will never become old and dull and will persist throughout eternity.

In Everything Give Thanks

Friday, November 21st, 2014

Pain. Anger. Frustration. Grief. Joy. Wealth. Peace. Happiness. Contentment. Death. Violence. Affliction. Love. Worry. Honor. Humiliation. Care. Victory. Triumph. Defeat. Blessed. These are only a few of the strong emotions that we may come to encounter throughout the course of our lives.

Five-year-old Jane Worthington was dropped off at the orphanage in San Moreno California by her drunken father who had just witnessed his wife of 7 years, stricken with severe depression, take her own life the week before. Feeling confused and helpless, Jane, though only five years old, felt a wave of darkness sweep over her. Through the years of struggle that followed, she learned that life is full of trouble and pain.

Sixteen-year-old Lewis Johnson, born and raised in an Apostolic home, could not see himself completely giving everything to God because of his infirmity. Lewis was born with multiple sclerosis, which resulted in a misalignment of his spine to where he always walked in an abnormal way. Multiple doctor’s appointments and treatments could never cure his aching heart for the rejection that he felt every time he walked into his school building. No matter how many times he raised his hands at the altar in church, something always made him ask the question, “why me?”

Janine Benton, 18 years old from Dubois, Indiana, felt very content at the university she chose to attend. As her family celebrated her completion of high school with a graduation party at the most desired country club in town, Janine couldn’t help but reflect on how her life has been full of peace and happiness. Not only was she well liked by the community, but she also managed to land a full ride academic scholarship to Brown University, where her best friend was also going to attend. To top it all off, her parents awarded accomplishment with a brand new car. How could she not be excited to start such a new and promising chapter of her life?

On the one hand, a family can be celebrating the birth of a new child. On the other hand, a family can be mourning their loss, as they lay their child to rest. On the one hand, families can come together for a joyous holiday season of Thanksgiving, with floods of good memories that they have shared. On the other hand, families across the way could be dreading the holiday season, for fear of rehashing broken memories of their unloving families. Although each person has a completely different story, there is one common denominator that is required of the happy, the sad, the rich and the poor:

“In Everything give thanks.” (I Thessalonians 5:18)

Thankful in the Midst of Chaos

Sometimes we ask ourselves, “How can I give thanks, when nothing seems to be going right?” How can a mother who has just experienced a miscarriage for the third time, find it within herself to give thanks? How can a father, who has just found out that his 17-year-old son is diagnosed with an unidentifiable and incurable cancer, find it within his heart to give thanks? How can the families, who have suffered the abduction of their children, find it in their souls to say, “Lord I give you thanks today”? In this world full of evil and heartache, it is hard to find the courage to be thankful when you have only been exposed to pain. And then, when you look at someone who may not have gone through much trial or pain in their life, you begin to envy their happiness. You wonder why you were stuck with so much suffering and heartache. But God doesn’t specify in His word who should give thanks or when it is appropriate to give thanks, based on your life’s circumstances. He simply commands us to give thanks in everything—even in the bad things. It’s pretty hard to comprehend how a God, who is in control of the cosmos and the very breath that we breathe, could allow humanity to endure such turmoil of the soul and still command us to be thankful unto him. But in looking closer, we see that God will never give us more than we are able to bear (I Corinthians 10:13).

We look at the story of Job and how his suffering endured, without reprieve and without warning or understanding. Yet he could utter the words:

naked came I into out of my mothers womb, and naked I shall return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21).

We find, at this point in his suffering, Job realized that he must be thankful because his only alternative was to curse God and die. God, who created and handcrafted you, who made you after the likeness of his image, and from the beginning of time looked upon you and said “you are good,” knows every single thing you encounter in your life. Whether it be joy or sadness, his plan and purpose for your life’s journeys are forever established in heaven. They are designed with the intent to draw you closer to a love relationship with him, that you may be a witness to the awesome power of God for someone else. Knowing that the Holy One regards me and desires to make me an ambassador of his glory gives me the courage that, no matter what life may bring, I can lift up my head and hands to say “Thank you Jesus.”

He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.

 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. (Isaiah 53:4-6).

Jesus, our Jehovah Jirah. Jesus, our Kinsmen Redeemer, knows how it feels to be in pain, to be wounded, to be hurt, and to feel emotional and physical abandonment. Jesus knows how it feels to be rejected by those who are supposed to love you the most. Yet, he knows that his affliction served a greater purpose. That purpose is to bring redemption for you and me. Whatever you are going through in life will serve a greater purpose if, in your heart, you can continue to say “Thank you Jesus.”

I will end with the wonderfully inspirational story of a true hero in history, named Cory Ten Boom. Cory Ten Boom and her family lived in Holland during the time of the Holocaust. Because of a deep burden that God placed in their hearts, they created a secret room in their house to hide Jews from the Nazi’s. Even though their hideout saved a numerous amount of Jews, they were eventually discovered and Cory and her entire family were sent to the concentration camps. Cory Ten Boom’s family did not survive. In Cory’s book “The Hiding Place”, she recalls being marched into her cell and looking upon the pile of bodies on the floor stacked on top of each other. Upon closer look, she could see her sister amongst the bodies that were so carelessly thrown away. As she was marched to her cell, I am sure numerous emotions were filling her heart and mind. I’m sure the enemy tried severely to torment her mind with thoughts of cursing God. But Cory knew that “In every thing give thanks.” She spoke of her cell and how there was an infestation of fleas there. I’m sure the fleas feasted upon her and everyone else in those cells. But instead of Cory Ten Boom finding, yet another thing to potentially complain about, she began to thank God for the fleas in her cell. She later found out the only reason she survived the concentration camp, and the reason she was never sent to the gas chambers, was because the Nazi soldiers did not want to come near her cell and its infestation of fleas. Glory be to God! God used fleas to save His humble servant and Cory Ten Boom lived to recall the stories that occurred during that time in history. Looking at her story, one could easily see why she would have cause to shrink into a hole of depression. Cory Ten Boom and her family did not have to hide away the Jews. If they had kept to themselves, they would have survived. And why did God have to use fleas to help her in her dark situation? So many questions could make one easily doubt the sovereignty of the Almighty! But instead of cursing God, Cory Ten Boom insisted on thanking God. Could it be that she understood life isn’t about having everything come easy, with little to no pain and suffering? Could it be that she understood life was about standing fast in thanksgiving to the Creator, no matter what happens? I think this is the lesson to be learned: that in everything we are to give thanks!

This holiday season, whether you are enjoying it with family and friends, or perhaps may be enjoying the season alone, lift up your head and thank God for his many blessings. Rest in hope that, even if you don’t understand the trials and troubles that may come into your life, the One who Created life knows exactly why you are in your season of life and He has it all in control. Let your life be a continual season of thanksgiving and there will always be that beacon of light and peace, that will undeniably be linked to the love that Jesus has for you.

The Harvest in Waiting

Wednesday, October 29th, 2014

Looking over the vast array of crops that had been planted with blood, sweat, and tears, the old farmer reached up and wiped the sweat off of his brow. As the sun beat upon his wrinkled flesh, a smile reached his eyes and a feeling of pride rose in his heart. Turning to walk away, he was reminded of the benefits from the time he spent working with every ounce of energy he could muster. The harvest was plenteous and ready to be reaped.

As he sat in his old rocking chair later that evening sipping hot tea, a familiar story gripped his heart. A story of a young man, who brought forth a beautiful harvest. He was used mightily of God—and showed the power and authority that is manifested when following after God.

This man was Joseph.

God used Joseph in many different ways. From a young child, Joseph was destined for greatness. It was quite possible that he did not know the journey he would take, or the harvest that God planned for him to bring forth. His purpose was not in figuring out what, or why. His purpose was to look to He who knows all things and “works everything after the counsel of his own will.” (Ephesians 1:11).

The old farmer thought about the troubles that befell Joseph along the way. God blessed Joseph with dreams that had deep, significant meanings. He was blessed with a father who loved him dearly. God blessed him with knowledge and wisdom. Yet, through it all, God kept from Joseph His intentions for why he was given the gifts he possessed. God was strategically planting seeds within Joseph’s heart, but it was not yet time to bring forth the harvest.

Joseph began to tell his family the dreams that he had. In one particular dream, Joseph told of sheaves that he and his brothers were binding in the field. His sheaf arose and stood upright, but his brothers sheaves made obeisance (gave reverence or respect) to his sheaf (Genesis 37). Even as Joseph was telling his dreams to his brothers, he had no idea what they meant. All the while, God was planting those seeds in Joseph’s life. The anger and jealousy of his own brothers caused them to sell him into slavery. He was sold into Egypt and stripped of all his life’s luxuries. He was then lied on by his master’s wife, even though he was a man of high moral character and allegiance to God. Because of this, Joseph was thrown into prison with little hope of ever being released. The “Master Farmer” was still constantly tilling the ground in Joseph’s life by using him even in the bleakest of situations. God was able to use Joseph to minister to two individuals in the prison by interpreting the dreams that were plaguing their minds (Genesis 40). Because of his commitment to God, Joseph found himself not only being released from prison, but being promoted to second in the Kingdom. He served directly underneath the King in authority. Even more, God used Joseph to bring life to sustain the entire land during a great famine.

Joseph was also used to deliver his own family. He saw his dreams come to fruition when his brothers bowed before him, pleading that he allow them to purchase food for the sustaining of their family. Joseph was used mightily of God! Time truly told of all of the victories that were won by the obedience and faithfulness of Joseph. The farmer sat in his old rocking chair and pondered the thought of harvest in connection with Joseph. He sat there, wondering what would have happened if Joseph would have tried to “jump the gun” on God’s plan. His mind was full of dreams that he didn’t understand. Trouble seemed to always find him, and he suffered greatly. What if Joseph decided to take matters into his own hands, and figure out for himself what really was going on in his life? Sometimes it is easy for us to try and reap the harvest before it is ready to be brought forth. We lack understanding that God intentionally takes us through seasons of growth. The stages of planting, watering, tilling, and waiting must take place before the harvest. Sometimes we want the harvest immediately, without going through the time of waiting.

Joseph had no idea what the harvest in his life was going to look like. He waited patiently upon the Lord, and in due season he reaped because he fainted not (Galatians 6:9). There are times when we go through struggles in life that we do not understand, and even times where we may question God’s judgment. One thing remains certain, “He makes everything beautiful in his time…”(Ecclesiastes 3:11). Nothing beautiful would have been thought to come out of Joseph’s situation, when all around him there was only trouble. In the beginning of his journey, God was there, and God knew what the harvest was going to look like—in the beginning of your journey, God was there too. He has been planting seeds in your life that are going to bring forth a bountiful harvest if you wait upon Him. Don’t seek to reap before the planting and the pruning are complete. Every situation in your life is being used by God to bring about a harvest for His kingdom. Nothing we go through is solely for ourselves; Joseph showed us this in his life of self-sacrifice. He was used to bring forth a harvest for the kingdom of Heaven, and that is still what God is wanting his children to do—bring forth a bountiful harvest for his Kingdom.

As the old farmer shut off his lights and headed to his bedroom, he once more peered out the window and looked over the many crops that were ready to be harvested. He thanked God for his blessings. He understood that the blood, sweat, and tears that were put into the soil were all part of the process to bring forth a bountiful harvest. We must learn not to curse the process, but allow God to plant seeds within us. Through seasons of diligent waiting, we will produce a harvest that is beyond anything we could have ever imagined!