The Result of Faith is Always VICTORY!

“What too many athletes fail to mention…. ‘My hard work, conditioning and practicing is what got me here’” – An unmentioned Facebook friend.

To be quite honest, when I first read this quote I was baffled, even angered, if I may. The ignorance to me was astonishing. However, I quickly found myself in a state of remorse, not because the thought disagreed with my perspective or because it ridiculed a professional athlete who was not ashamed to give God glory after a hard fought victory in the second biggest football game of that players’ season. No, I was saddened because in a country and world TEAMWORK and HUMILITY is promoted, someone was annoyed enough by the glorification of Jesus that he would rather have heard Ray Lewis talk about himself and boast about his own work ethic rather than, in humility, give glory to God.

You see, Ray Lewis is not an average athlete by any stretch of the means. He’s one of the greatest linebackers to ever play the sport of football and he is also one of, if not the hardest working athlete in all of sports and Ray Lewis knows this about himself as well. Yet what Ray Lewis also knows is that he did not create himself and he also knows that the Patriots, who lost to the Ravens on Sunday for a chance to play in the Super Bowl, worked just hard, conditioned just as hard and practiced just as hard if not harder than his team. Ray Lewis knows this because it was just a year ago that his team was on the losing side of the same game to the same team, and after that loss Lewis didn’t hang his head, he didn’t say he should have worked harder, because he knows how hard he works on a daily basis. The message he delivered to his team after a heart breaking loss was this “God doesn’t make mistakes…we did what we were supposed to do, we played hard, we fought hard and we played as a team…God is going to bring us back here next year, so it is our responsibility to put in the work.” In a game that the Ravens lost due to a missed field goal, Ray Lewis knew the only reason they lost was because that was the way God drew it up. Not because they were outworked, out coached, out smarted or out conditioned; simply because the Creator and Life giver had a different plan. Lewis knew they had VICTORY whether the score board showed it or not, according to Lewis they did what they were supposed to do, they played like a team in unity and because of it they would be stronger the following year.

Ray Lewis knows how hard it is for a team to make it through the regular football season and knows that no matter how much or how hard a team works, there’s the little things, known as the intangibles, that teams must get to go their way. These aren’t skills, nor are they necessarily things that can be practiced throughout the week. So while 90 percent of athletic competitions are based on preparation and skill, there is 10 percent where faith must be applied. Ask Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith if it was his work ethic and conditioning that provided him the strength to play in a Monday night game earlier this season shortly after he received word that his brother had died. He will tell you it was God and God alone.

Because while we are natural beings who can produce natural strength, endurance and knowledge; we are also spiritual beings. The first chapter of the book of Genesis in verse 26 we read that though we were created out of dirt (Genesis 2:7), life was breathed into us by the Creator, God Almighty. Therefore, life does not exist without the breath God gives us; there is no strength, endurance, knowledge or skill, without the breath of God.

Therefore, I was saddened to hear such a remark that reveals the true state of our country. In a season when the leader of the country promotes hope and equality, we beg for arrogance and self-centeredness. We long to hear others talk about their own work and how decorated they are by their own achievements, on a day when even the president urges the nation to promote others rather than themselves, our world proves to be tainted by sin which produces pride, arrogance and ignorance.
Therefore, when we have the privilege of hearing an athlete humble himself and give glory where glory is due, we should rejoice! For the TRUTH is that without the breath of Life, which comes from the Living God, we are nothing! Literally!

Setting The Bar High

Acts 15:7-11

“7And after there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. 8And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, 9and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith. 10Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? 11But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”

        As Christians we sometimes tend to forget what the Lord has given us grace on and saved us from.  We begin to think that this walk is easy and hold others to extremely high standards.  For some of us we forget that this walk we now have with Christ, like any any relationship, took time to build.  There are times of feeling disconnected, lazy and doubtful.  Yet, we expect others to be able to achieve this relationship with Christ at the snap of OUR fingers.  The fact is that God doesn’t move at the sound of our voice or when we feel it is necessary.  We move at the sound of His voice, at the time He deems appropriate.

        Many tend to turn into a person who becomes resentful at the things others do because they can no longer do them.  A bitterness sets in and the grace and mercy God shed on us, we cannot shed on others, which in return takes that covering of grace and mercy off of our own lives.  There were two commandments that Jesus gave during His time on earth: 1. Love the the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength 2. Love your neighbor as yourself.  Have you ever heard someone say ” Well I love God, I just think that some of the people around me are idiots.”  I can’t help but laugh when I hear comments like this, or with somewhat of the same meaning, because if you love God those who act foolish should be receiving more of your love than those closest to you.  Jesus said that He came for the lost, yet we feel that the lost having nothing to live for and should just be wiped off the face of the earth.

        In the passage above the people were exclaiming to the Apostles and Elders that the gentiles were not baptized therefore they should cannot be saved.  I love the response of Peter when he says why should we place a yoke on the disciples that not even our fathers were able to bear.  In other words, why are we requiring others to be holy before coming to the Father, when even when we were circumcised we acted worse then them.  Why are we setting standards for others, that we were never able to attain?  Why do we not show the grace and mercy that the Father showed to us?

        Don’t hold others to standards that we were once not able to reach ourselves.  Shower others with love and encouragement and allow God to be in charge of the increase.  I urge you to shower people with love and encouragement today, let the love of God flow out of you.  I’m going to end today’s post with a prayer, be open to the spirit and receive it. God Bless!

“Heavenly Father we come before you Lord with longing hearts,desperately seeking grace, mercy and favor in your eyes. We ask Lord that you would forgive us of the standards we hold others to, when we ourselves cannot attain these standards. We ask Lord that your hand would be among us today, that as we pour out love and encouragement on others today, they would receive it and fell YOUR touch. Their hearts would turn to YOU and YOU would begin to lead them in righteousness. I ask that YOU watch over us and continue to guide our footsteps and make clear the path YOU have set before us.  In the name of YOUR SON JESUS, AMEN!”

Got Swag?

Psalm 27:1-3 (NIV)

“1 The LORD is my light and my salvation—
   whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the stronghold of my life—
   of whom shall I be afraid?

 2 When the wicked advance against me
   to devour me,
it is my enemies and my foes
   who will stumble and fall.
3 Though an army besiege me,
   my heart will not fear;
though war break out against me,
   even then I will be confident.”

        Confidence is defined as; full-trust, confidence and assurance.  I define confidence as being able to walk with your head held high, chest out, without fear.  The slang term used for confidence is SWAG or swagger.  In sports there are many teams that have extreme amounts of confidence.  These teams are usually the best, or one of the best, in their sport.  These teams recognize that in order to be an elite team, they must hold themselves to an elite level.  These teams always remain confident, even when faced with bad stretches where they may have lost five games in a row or are on the brink of elimination, these teams never doubt themselves.  The players understand the organization they are representing and although situations may seem daunting they know they have the ability to overcome all obstacles.  They must maintain their swag to instill fear in the opposition.

        Now you may be thinking, “What in the world does this have to do with Christ?”  I’m here to tell you it has everything to do with Christ!  You see because as children of the Most High God we were created to live with Jesus Swag.  Not to be ashamed of our creator and our savior, but to be able to walk in confidence, without fear, knowing that the Lord hold us in the palm of His hand.  As Christians we must be confident that the Lord will not forsake us, we must walk boldly in His name, giving Him credit for everything we have been blessed with.  Standing up for our obedience in His name.

        When we remain confident in the Lord, He keeps the enemy at bay, out of striking distance.  Like the intimidation factor that sets into other teams morale as soon as the Yankees take the field.  When we represent Jesus, the devil will only come so close, because He FEARS the Lord.  When we remain confident in the Lord, we know that even if the series is 3-1 and we feel like we are on the brink of destruction, at any moment the Lord can stretch forth His hand change the tides, in our favor.  For this reason David says, even when my enemies surround me, going for the kill, I will remain Confident!

        This confidence is not a confidence that should only be shown in times of uncertainty, because what kind of confidence only shows up when destruction is on the horizon?  Paul tells us in Romans 1:16, “I am unashamed of the Gospel.”  We must also be unashamed of the Gospel, when others ask why we can’t go to the bar to watch the game, why we don’t have sex with our significant others out of wedlock, why we refrain from perverse conversations, our answer should be “Because I’m a child of the Most High and everywhere I go, I go with Jesus Swag!”  Walk with your head held high! God Bless.

Disaster Prevention

Proverbs 1:28-33 (ESV)

28 “ Then they will call on me, but I will not answer;
      They will seek me diligently, but they will not find me.
       29 Because they hated knowledge
      And did not choose the fear of the LORD,
       30 They would have none of my counsel
      And despised my every rebuke.
       31 Therefore they shall eat the fruit of their own way,
      And be filled to the full with their own fancies.
       32 For the turning away of the simple will slay them,
      And the complacency of fools will destroy them;
       33 But whoever listens to me will dwell safely,
      And will be secure, without fear of evil.”

        Have you ever known or met a person who just denies any existence of God?  Or worse, maybe they claim to know God and believe in Jesus, yet they believe they can live life in which ever manner they please.  On top of this they seem to be taken care of, they never seem to be out of money, have nice cars, always on vacation and seem to have a peaceful family.  This facade just makes us cringe, doesn’t it?  Well it shouldn’t!

        The fact is that while these people may be thinking they are living the good life, in fact they are living a very shallow life, a life that if all these materialistic components were taken away, they would no longer have a meaning for life.  Sure the fruit of their labor looks good for the time being, but when tragedy strikes, as God promises it will, where will they go?  Many extremely wealthy families have been broken up over the past few years because of the economic depression our country is in.  People are divorcing, turning to drugs and alcohol, and taking their own lives.  This happens because the image the devils paints in our head is one that shows us that money is all we need to live at peace and we believe this.  However, the devil doesn’t tell us that one day we will be left with nothing but our heart and soul, which is to be examined and judged.

        Verse 33 says those that listen will dwell securely  and will be at EASE, without dread of disaster.  Ever notice how all these rich men put their money into stocks to attempt to capitalize on the money they already have earned and then they sit there and constantly watch what the stock market is doing because if their stock crashes they could lose everything.  This raises their stress level and blood pressure and also takes their attention away from their family.  This is why God urges us to take our safety out of our money and lay it into His hands.

        The ONLY way to fully be happy and safe is to invest in the Lord.  Invest with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, because HE is the only disaster protection we need.  He will watch over your family and lead them to the Promised Land.  God Bless!

Watch Out For Snakes

Psalm 18:1-3 (KJV):

 1 I will love You, O LORD, my strength.
 2 The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer;
         My God, my strength, in whom I will trust;
         My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
 3 I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised;
         So shall I be saved from my enemies.

        When a child is told not to play with fire, what is the first thing that child asks himself?  “Well why can’t I play with fire?”  When my oldest younger brother was 3 years old he was told not to touch the curling iron because it was hot.  Sure enough as soon as he knew my step-mother was not looking, he went for it and grabbed it.  The result was a trip to the emergency room and a severely bandaged hand.  My brother cried, said sorry and never touched a curling iron, hot or cold, ever again.

        With the evolutions in our society, people become curious and are encouraged to test their limits.  Encouraged to “play with fire”, however, they do not realize that there are some fires that are inescapable.  There are parameters that the Lord places around us because He knows, although they may not have an immediate effect, we can become consumed and burnt to the core.  The Lord will allow us to go through some fire as it is, but as prideful humans we believe we can handle more, while the Father already knows the outcome of certain actions.

        This subject came to mind the other day as I was hiking with my girlfriend and a couple of my Christian brothers.  As we were hiking there were noises in the bushes that sounded like Rattlesnake rattles.  In the beginning when I heard these noises I just kept walking, wanted nothing to do with them.  However, as we continued on the hike I started to become curious.  I had reached the top of one of the hills before the other three and as I was attempting to catch my breath I heard the same noise in a bush nearby.  So I started to get closer to see if the noise was truly a rattlesnake or just the wind hitting the brush.  So I was cautiously getting closer I began to think, if it’s not a rattlesnake I’ll have the comfort of knowing that these hills are not infested with rattlesnakes and if it is a rattlesnake, I’m just going to end up running away anyway, unless it’s too late and I get bit.  However, there was also another option, stay put cause they are not bothering me as it is and I’m safe.  So I became curious no longer.

       The Lord will protect us and even when it feels that we are being persecuted it is never a situation that He is not involved in.  Trust in the Lord because He is our Rock and keeps us protected under the shadow of His wings.  Although it may seem hot, the Lord is there to cool us down and refresh our spirit. We must discipline ourselves to stay away from the traps the devil attempts to lay down in our path.

The Face of an Angel

Acts 6:8-15

“8And Stephen, full of grace and power, was doing great wonders and signs among the people. 9Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), and of the Cyrenians, and of the Alexandrians, and of those from Cilicia and Asia, rose up and disputed with Stephen. 10But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking. 11Then they secretly instigated men who said, “We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.” 12And they stirred up the people and the elders and the scribes, and they came upon him and seized him and brought him before the council, 13and they set up false witnesses who said, “This man never ceases to speak words against this holy place and the law, 14for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and will change the customs that Moses delivered to us.” 15And gazing at him, all who sat in the council saw that his face was like the face of an angel.

        Standing up for what you believe in can be a trying duty.  There are many people and organizations out there that do not mind hearing others talk about God, but once the name of Jesus is brought up, it is almost as if they have been called a profound name.  Jesus is to us, what the Dark Knight is to Gotham City.  At the end of the movie, The Dark Knight, the officer’s son asks why Batman is running away, the officer replies because we have to chase him.  The son then says, but he has done nothing wrong and the officer says “Because he’s the hero Gotham deserves, but not the one it needs right now.”

        Jesus is the savior we need to get through our daily lives, we just are not always willing to stand up and contest for Him the same way He does for us.  If the police officers would have defended Batman, sure there would have been a group of people who believed against them, but the officers’ integrity would not have been challenged.  When it comes to us there are many times when we would rather not say we believe in Jesus because it will cause a ruckus with others around us, but when we deny Jesus we say that we believe He is the Savior we need, just not the Savior we want to share with others.  Then our own integrity is being challenged because we are turning into cowards.

       Matthew 5:10 reads, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.”  Jesus tells us not to fret because although we may be laughed and persecuted for our trust in the Lord, our true home is waiting for us in Heaven.  Luke tells us in Acts 5:15, that when Stephen was sitting before the council, his face was like the face of an angel.  This absolutely blows my mind, that although he was being persecuted, he was also being comforted and lifted up by the Lord.  I don’t know about you but if being persecuted results in the Lord making my face like the face of an angel, I think it is worth it.

        If there is only one thing you take from this post, I hope it is that the next time you think about shying away from sharing your faith in Jesus, you remember that the Lord is watching and is with you. God Bless

He is With You

Psalm 9:9-10 (NKJV):

“9 The LORD also will be a refuge for the oppressed,
         A refuge in times of trouble.
 10 And those who know Your name will put their trust in You;
         For You, LORD, have not forsaken those who seek You.”

        Often times when we are in the middle of a bad situation, or a storm, the first question that comes to mind is what did I do to deserve this?  Which many times seems like a reasonable question to ask, however we have a God that is by our side saying, “Don’t panic I haven’t gone anywhere.”  That feeling of panic is exactly what the enemy wants us to feel, because when we are in a moment of vulnerability is when we become more prone to act out in a way that is ungodly.  Like a mother bear that will mind her own business until she feels that someone is getting too close to her cubs.  When the mother bear feels that her cubs are being put in danger she becomes defensive, angry and has a heightened possibility of attacking.  When we as humans get put into a situation where we feel out of control, we feel that our family is in danger, we think there is an easy solution to the problem, we put ourselves into attack mode.  It could be as innocent as finding a lost purse and not returning it or seeing a person who has stabbed us in the back and wanting to start a fight with that person.  Both cases are cases in which sin seems excused.  However, it is at these times that God wants to see your true colors, are you really live a life set our for Him or when times get toughest, do you look to your own strength to get you thorough the storm.

We have a ROCK that we can hold on to during these tough times, He is the Cornerstone Rock that knows us better than we know ourselves.  It is through these dark Storms that He tests us to see our true colors.  They are tests to get us prepared for the blessings He has coming for us.  He has to put us through fire so we become shiny and durable, like refined gold.  The Lord is always looking to promote us, to take us to the next level, it is up to us LEAN ON HIM during the most vulnerable times in our life.  It is during these times that God becomes the most real in our lives.  As He told Paul in 2 Corinthians, His Power is perfected through our Weakness.  It is His sovereign love and justice that makes the impossible, possible in our lives.

Today, when situations, relationships, financial needs, become overwhelming cast your worries upon Jesus, because He cares for you!  Remember, the test is preparing you for the BLESSING!!!