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Understanding Prayer Pt.1


 I want you to understand that prayer is NOT something you have to do. Prayer is something WE get to do.  Many of us dread the thought of prayer because of our understanding of it. Case #1 Being taught as children to pray over our food and pray before we go to bed has become more of a routine than a hoping to talk to and hear from a Holy God. Case #2 Not seeing the manifestation of our prayers being answered in the manner in which we wanted and Case #3 Never really understanding the importance and power of prayer and how it relates to our everyday life. In Case#1, understand there is a difference between routine prayer and intentional prayer. When we pray routinely, there is no thought about what we are saying and why we have said it. As a little girl, my mom taught me how to routinely bless my food. I would say, God is grace, God is good, let me thank Him for my food… Amen.” Never was I taught what that prayer of thanksgiving really meant and over the years, it became a robotic type of prayer.  

In Jeremiah 1:5 (ESV) it reads, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” In this particular scripture, we see how God was very intentional about our creation and what he called us to do and be. He gave our lives thought. Every last one of us was carefully thought out in detail. That is the kind of prayer the Lord has called you and I to give. When someone asks you to prayer for them, stop what you are doing, be mindful of them and do it right at the moment. Even during mealtime, thank the Lord for the hands that prepared it and thank Him for the provision of your meal. Matthew 14:19 (ESV) says, Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass, and taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds.” Jesus understood that God is deserving of thanks for all our provision, and He is intentional about praying to the Father and giving thanks. Let us not continue in our robotic routine of prayer; rather let us become more intentional. 
 

Justify Your Faith in Christ Pt. 2

Justifying our faith is all about taking a stand for what is right in the eyes of the Almighty God - not man. We as human beings are fragile. We tend to falter in making decisions and keeping promises. In this falling state we even tend to create our own moral standards which too many of us have felt the consequences of. Knowing that we are not perfect really should bring a sigh of relief and a curious mind in seeking the one who is perfect. The bible is indeed the good book because as we and society slowly deteriorate, the bible has set the standard for us all to thrive.
Many people choose not to believe the word of God, many people choose to denounce Christ as their Lord and savior and for those people, I simple pray for them, love them where they are and allow the teachings of the bible to lead and guide me in such a way that my life will cause the doubtful to believe. Yet even for the true believers there is a need for us to rediscover the differences between right and wrong, good and evil. This requires denial of self and acceptance of Jesus. Proverbs 30:5 (NIV) says, “Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.” There are no mistakes in God and when we decide to accept and believe in HIS word it goes on to tell us that HE will be our shield-our protection. Believing is easy, but living our lives (making choices) that line up to the God we serve is totally different. It will take more than self-will to justify your faith.
In order for us to justify our faith, we must stand firm on the word of God. 1Corinthians 15:58 (NIV) says, “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” At the end of the day, it’s not about proving yourself to people, it’s about pleasing a loving, faithful, forgiving, and mighty God! Justify your faith for HIS sake!
 

Justify Your Faith in Christ Pt. 1

Justify means to show (an act, claim, statement,) to be just or right. It also means to defend or uphold as warranted or well-grounded. Have you ever felt like you had to defend someone who had been mistreated? Have you ever been in a situation where you were wrongly accused? How did either of those instances make you feel? We live in a world that invariably force their right way of thinking or doing onto us. As we continue to grow in our faith, we will be constantly challenged in our faith. Think about everything you and I are encounter on a day to day bases. Radio, television, internet, the workplace, employers, and our employees. There is a wide range and variety of information and energies streaming our way. So many ideas, suggestions, and accusations come to shake up our faith in an all-knowing and loving God.
Yet in the midst of it all. God has given us someone GREATER to help us justify our faith. I am grateful for the Holy Spirit in my life and in the lives of all true believers. He acts as a filter for this unclean and ungodly world. He teaches us how to master every accusation, thought, and social media trend that is readily available to sway us. 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 (NIV) says, “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.  We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” The word demolish means to tare down, therefore we are to go against (destroy) everything that goes against the will and way of God and understand the way we fight and how we fight makes the difference! The Holy Spirit will also strengthen our discernment to those things that are frivolous and incoherent to our faith, which will help us to guard ourselves and our families.
Lastly in being able to justify our faith, it is imperative for all of us to seek the Holy Spirit in obeying the Word of God. The world around us will come to know Jesus not by how many times we go to church, not by the I Love Jesus bumper sticker, neither will they come to know HIM by any of us saying We Love Jesus. The world will come to know Christ by the way we live our lives. As my pastor so kindly reminds our congregation, “the greatest sermon we will ever preach will be the life that we live”! So as we justify our faith, let us be reminded that God has empowered us to live a victorious life as long as He is the center of our lives. 
 

Now That's Love


Webster defines love as passionate affection for another person; a feeling of warm personal attachment, as for a parent, child, or friend and it even defines love as a sexual passion or desire. As you read those simultaneously listed, yet distinctive meanings; ask yourself what does LOVE mean to you? Many people may agree to one or all of the meanings listed, but it is also safe to say, that many of us will define LOVE based off of our personal experiences of the word. We must be careful, because our experiences could lead us on a fictitious path of seeking love. I know people who believe LOVE is when someone buys them expensive gifts. I know people who believe LOVE is doing exactly what their spouse or significant other wants them to do. Sadly, to say, when their expectations are not met, they do not feel loved.
I want to set the record straight for every single person who is impatiently waiting to be married because they feel once they walk down the aisle they will be loved. I want every married couple to understand that no one is perfect, not even their spouse and he or she will never be. I want every young girl and young boy to know now that LOVE is not only the feeling they get when they see their crush walking down the hall; LOVE is accepting a person for who they are; flaws and all and this is exactly what CHRIST did for us. Isaiah 53:3-5(NIV) shows all of us in vivid detail what LOVE really is, “He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” Now that’s LOVE! LOVE is sacrifice. LOVE is giving up something so dear to you for the benefit of someone else. CHRIST is LOVE!!! HE gave up HIS very life, so that you and I could live and not just live (exist), but for us to live for HIM and in HIM. HIS sacrifice empowered us to LOVE others in spite of their shortcomings and our own.
Let us pray and ask the Holy Spirit to teach us how to LOVE like CHRIST. Not the Sunday morning LOVE, not the easy LOVE because you look like me, but the seven days a week LOVE, that when I really don’t like you or your attitude kind of LOVE. It’s tight, but it’s right.
 I LOVE ALL of YOU with the LOVE of CHRIST, BE BLESSED
 
 

Hope

 
 
I had been praying for months concerning direction for the New Year. I had accomplished a lot of things in the past couple of years. Quitting my job, being more active in our son’s lives, spending valuable time building my marriage and ministry, starting two businesses, and building a team that helped and continues to help with the vision of helping girls in our community. What was next on my list to do for the Lord? What exactly should I be doing right now? I cringe at the thought of living an aimless life; no passion, no drive, no goals, therefore, I’m always thinking about how God views me and if I’m doing enough. One day, as my husband and I were arriving onto a job site, there was a book lying in the street in a zip-lock bag. Did I fail to mention it was raining that day? As I walked curiously towards the unaccountable object, I recognized the familiar face of the late Billy Graham on the cover. It was entitled, The Reason for My Hope – Salvation”.  
Of course I believed it to be a sign from the Lord directly for me because this was the second book I had received on the subject of hope in the same month. As I read Billy Graham’s book and reflected on the other book, I began to understand the answer to my question. God wanted me to see that everything I had done was because of hope. My hope in Him. Hope is never what I have at the moment, but what I am expecting to have. The Lord ultimately desires for us to have HOPE in Him which is the confidence in Him that our future is in His hands. Psalm 147:11 says,  “The LORD delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love” – Job 11:18-19 also says, 18 You will be secure, because there is hope; you will look about you and take your rest in safety. 19 You will lie down, with no one to make you afraid, and many will court your favor.”  We can’t be moved by our achievements nor our disappointments. He is and will forever me our hope. Lee Strobel said it best, “Hope is the inextinguishable flicker God ignites in our souls to keep us believing in the prevailing power of His light even when we are surrounded by utter darkness.” That darkness can be sickness, disease, a broken home, financial crisis, or even lack of understanding. Either way, let us have HOPE in JESUS this year!
 
 

Oh Happy Day


One of my favorite gospel songs sung by the legendary Mahalia Jackson called Oh Happy Day, is an 18th century hymn written by English clergyman Philip Doddridge  that was manifestoed into a soulful gospel music arrangement by Edwin Hawkins in 1967. The song’s roots came from Acts 8:35, as it states, “So beginning with this same Scripture, Philip told him the Good News about Jesus.”  You would have to or better yet, you should go back and read from the beginning of  Acts 8 to really understand the context and power of this particular scripture. In the beginning of Acts 8, the church (believers of Jesus Christ) were under attack. Saul (not yet Paul) was the villain during this period of history. He believed his duty was to kill as many Christians as possible. Believers had scattered left to right to escape the great persecution that was upon them. Stephen a believer had just been stoned to death. The saints were distraught, yet even in their despair they preached the gospel! Phillip is one of the heroes in Acts 8. He traveled from Samaria to Jerusalem to Gaza sharing God’s word and that word brings us back to Acts 8:35 the Good News of Jesus Christ.
It was a Happy Day for an Ethiopian Eunuch. He had heard the Good News, believed in it and received the Holy Spirit. He had encountered the Holy God. The one who came to save. The one who is still saving today!!! This song tells a story for all those who choose to believe. It is a song that brings excitement and anticipation of experiencing a life free from sin and filled with God’s love. It may not have seemed like a Happy Day for the persecuted saints, but they knew what we must know and constantly remind ourselves today and that is - Jesus is real, Jesus is all-powerful, Jesus loves us and Jesus saves.
 
 

No Fear Here

No Fear Here
 
As a parent, I use to worry about our three sons having a normal life. The world had already stereotyped them. My husband and I have heard it all. People would say, “Preacher’s kids are the worst”, “Teacher’s kids are the worst”…… Did I mention we are both J.  For us, being normal meant being balanced, having an awareness of the world around them and knowing how to overcome it. We wanted them to know how to articulate their thoughts in a clear, strong, and magnificent manner, so those around could understand their hearts. We prayed and still pray for them to understand the difference between right and wrong-choosing right. Was that too much for us to ask? As parents, we all have seasons of worry, doubt, and fear concerning our children. Honestly, it’s a part of the human nature-it is normal, but it is not a place we should dwell or linger in. I am reminded in those worrying, doubtful, and fearful moments - who gave us those precious stones.
Psalms 34:4 (NLT) is a sweet truth and promise from the Lord, it says, “I prayed to the Lord, and he answered me. He freed me from all my fears.”  In God’s simplest way, He promises us peace of mind when we seek Him. I have learned that when I pray a prayer of peace for myself, my children or anything in my life- there has to be an exchange; meaning I have to let go and give Him my fear in order to receive His peace which is one of His many promises. He wants us to have His peace. His desire is for you and I to disband all of our fears in order to walk in the Victorious life He has called each and everyone one of us to.
Jeremiah 32:39 encourages me as a mother when He tells me, “I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me forever, for their own good and the good of their children after them.” As parents, we are to be the ultimate example for our children. Understanding as we make mistakes in raising and loving our children, how we handle the mistakes can also be a blessing for our children to witness. We love are darling sons dearly and because of God’s love for my family and your family-we will not walk in fear. Fear you are NOT welcomed here.
 

Faith to Believe

May 2016
 
                                                                                   Faith to Believe
 
Women have and will always be the driving force of life. The ability to give birth and the power and wisdom to raise a child is all but a miracle within itself. Mary the mother of Jesus was oh so  familiar with this great work of bringing life into this world. She had faith in an all-knowing and omnipresent God that He would lead and guide her every step of the way. In Luke 1:30-31, the word of God says, “But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus.  Those who know this history of this beautiful story will know that Mary was a virgin. So to have someone (an angel) inform you that you were about to give birth and had no sexual relation was unbelievable. How could this be possible? Pay close attention to the first thing the angel said, Do not be afraid! He knew that fear would contaminate her faith. He knew that fear would build walls around her thinking. Fear would make it impossible for her to believe the promises of God . It is the same today with our own children, families, careers and ultimately God’s purpose for our lives. Can you and I simply believe God at his word? When we do, so many extraordinary wonders happen. We become unstoppable. We are able to cause the mountains in our lives to fall, we are set free from bondage on every level and we are empowered to pour into others.
Mary concluded her conversation with the angel by saying, “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Now that is Faith to Believe! Mary essentially said, this has never happened to me before, but I believe you Lord, I don’t understand why you chose me, but I’ll trust you Lord, and this task is so… much bigger than me, but I’ll go. The Lord never promised us a worry free life, yet He did promise us that if we believed, we would see the Glory of God. It is possible to live a life of that is purposeful and pleasing in the eyes of the Lord. We just need the faith to believe.
 

Blessed Life

April 2016
 
Blessed Life
 
In February 2016, I heard of the passing of Denise Katrina Matthews. Denise Katrina Matthews was better known as Vanity the singer, songwriter, dancer, actress and model. She was the lead singer of the female trio Vanity 6 from 1981 until it disbanded in 1983. Denise lived a life of prominence, wealth, and beauty. People looking from the outside thought she had it made. Money, cars, houses, movie deals, networking with some of the top celebrities in Hollywood. Women wanted to be her and men wanted to have her. Her life of stardom quickly ended due to drug abuse and numerous failed relationships. I can only imagine during this time of her life there were many late nights of loneliness, sadness, and pain. Denise was at a very low place in her life and no amount of money or fame could fill her dark void.
After a near death experience, she gave her old ways up for a much greater passion. Denise gave her life to the Lord in 1994 and never looked back. She came to herself. Her story reminds me much of the Prodigal Son. It says in Luke 15:17-18…. “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.” You see a Blessed Life has never meant having material wealth or possessions. It has never been about popularity. This woman had everything in the eyes of man, yet she was missing the most important thing, that being a loving relationship with the Father. We can get caught up in assuming others have it together based on their houses or cars and even worst we measure our success by the numbers in our bank account. Now, don’t get me wrong. I do not believe God has called us to be broke physically or spiritually. He tells us in Philippians 4:19, “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” We must make Jesus our priority and many times we don’t. Her life was indeed a Blessed Life when she came back to the Father. She had found her way back home and in our Father’s house we have everything we need. She became a mouth piece for the Lord, sharing HIS goodness and joy with others. She was a firecracker for HIM. I thank the Lord for her desire to be used by HIM and her life has encouraged me and others to continue to live a Blessed Life in the Lord. 

Do You Know His Voice?

Do You Know HIS Voice?
 
In the beginning of John chapter 10, Jesus is sharing a story (parable) with the Pharisees. The Pharisees were religious men who believed in God’s existence. They believed in the resurrection of the dead, in an afterlife, and even angels and demons. Their relationship with common people was even intact. You might even say based on their beliefs and relationships, they were the ideal Christians. So why is Jesus having this teaching moment with them? John 10:1-6 says, “Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. 2 The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5 But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” 6 Jesus used this figure of speech, but the Pharisees did not understand what he was telling them.” Jesus needed them to understand that it was only through HIM that their beliefs, relationships, and actions would be accepted. You see, the Pharisees like many professing Christians today have been reduced to a legalistic list of rules and rituals. Their answer in changing the world was looking them right in the face and sadly, they missed HIM.

How did they miss HIM??? A simple, yet profound gift called FAITH. Many times in this life we will not understand the ways of God, but God sent us the way. John 14:6 says, “Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”  All they had to do was believe in the parables of Jesus. The parables was and is THE WORD OF GOD. They fell in the trap of leaning to their own understanding (Proverbs 3:5). So how can we avoid this trap?!? First of all, PRAY. Seek the Lord with a pure heart and focused mind. Your motives must be genuine. A natural hunger and thirst for HIS guidance in your life will always lead you in the right direction. Secondly, we must know that we are not perfect and at times we will miss the mark, but in missing the mark we should NEVER give up from hitting it next time. Finally, spend time in God’s Word. The more you communion with HIM, the stronger your relationship with HIM will be and the stronger your relationship with HIM your hearing of HIS voice will be clear. Let us learn from those who have gone before us. Our Lord’s voice is not a voice of confusion or fear. HIS voice brings peace, faith, and love. I pray for our community to desire, seek, and hear the voice of our Savior like never before.
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