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!

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What’s Your Reward?

 1“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”

– Matt. 6:1-8

 

What is that we seek? Do we seek the approval and/or recognition of men? Or do we seek to be acknowledged by Christ?

Most “Good Christians” who know the lingo and have bought the t-shirt would answer with the latter, without even acknowledging that by answering with latter they are seeking the former. In other words with our attempt to seek attention from Christ we really seek the attention of people but give it a cute cover by saying we are seeking the acknowledgment of Christ, as if He doesn’t already KNOW US.

Truly an epidemic across the globe, too many Christians who in their fleshy longing of acceptance put their trust in works, rather than the work that has already been completed. Don’t get me wrong, we as Christians should act out our faith, I also strongly believe that we should not hide our faith and should be vocal. However, it is also apparent that the case my be at times that Christians become defeated or lose motivation when the acknowledgement does not proceed the deeds.

You see giving and all the other charitable works we do as the body of Christ are great, but is it possible that in doing good we lose focus of why we are doing these things? I believe that in the scripture Jesus hits on some key points, that if we are not careful, we can easily overlook. He who gives to be acknowledged, speaks to be heard, and prays to be honored among men have already received their reward. Yet most people who do so are not content with this reward, because the reward they say they are seeking is that which only the Father can give, but yet when only the Father is looking, they become defeated.

It is no secret that perseverance is one of the seven things the Apostle Peter mentions for the blueprint on living a fruitful life.

The Christian life is a matter of repentance, justification and sanctification. Acknowledging that we are broken, accepting Jesus as our Lord and Savior, being brought back into relationship with God and caring our Cross to spread the Gospel. Therefore the works we do are simply the cross we bare, our rightful duty as being heirs of the Kingdom of God. If we seek to do such works, it should be for the Kingdom of God, to spread the Gospel and see lives be changed. Not so our Pastor or leaders can see us, not so we can be given a promotion in church ministry and not so others can perceive us as being “Holy”.

The thought stated that those who seek acknowledgment from Christ is equivalent to seeking acknowledgment from men, is stated because Christ already knows us. He created us, to think that we can catch His attention is frankly denying that He is who He says He is, which is all-knowing.

Christ died for us, so that we can know Him. To think that we can grasp God’s attention through our charity is backwards. Christ has been there and done that, He’s is the CEO of all charities established, because He laid the framework of charity, by caring the cross to Calvary, so that you and I can KNOW HIM.

Guys, do charity and do good, because what Christ has done for you is good. Not because you want more blessings, honor and/or rewards on earth, but simply because YOU KNOW CHRIST.

True Christianity

True Christianity. It is far too common to find a “Christian” or should I say a “self-proclaimed” Christian nowadays. There are plenty of people in our country who label themselves as Christian. However, this is more of a defense from Catholicism, Mormonism and Jehovah Witnesses, than it is a statement of their beliefs. Dare I say a true Christian should approach their walk with Christ without the title.

When we label ourselves as Christians we put ourselves in a category, not that Christianity is a bad category to be apart of but the scary part is allowing the category to paralyze and separate us in a way that does not represent Christianity’s true beliefs.

Many self-proclaimed Christians do so to ostracize themselves from the religious talk that hovers around our society, you know the conversation you’re never supposed to bring up with friends and family because it might cause division. It is more a defense or deferral from accountability, resorting to the freedom of Christianity. A freedom from the Law of Moses for salvation, but is commonly used as a crutch to exercise a prodigal lifestyle. Which is a complete contradiction to the label of being a Christian.

A true Christian lives in a way that does not look for the easy way out, doesn’t look for the short cuts, doesn’t wait for somebody else to move, but takes the love and truth that Christ left for us and spreads it through actions and words, when needed. Christians in today’s society are more concerned with how other Christians will perceive them, rather than others seeing the image of Christ through them. When Christians worry about their own image, they begin walking in circles trying to clean up their own mess and reject the opportunities to preach the gospel and make disciples.

Christians become paralyzed by labeling themselves Christians by allowing the label to do all of the talking, “Why don’t you party?” answered with “Because I’m Christian.” Wow, that was a great example of spreading the Gospel, right? Wrong, while I am by no means stating that we should participate in such gatherings, we should have a stronger answer than simply stating the label of our beliefs. It was not until Acts 11, when Paul and Barnabas were labeled Christians to begin with. On top of that it was not a self-proclaimed label, but one that was given by the people based on their actions. James 2:26b (ESV) states that “…faith apart from works is dead.”

I strongly believe that our salvation is through faith alone, however this gift we have received should encourage and empower us as recipients of grace, to spread this message which provides freedom to all of those weighed down by the burdens of addiction, poverty and death. Jesus himself says in Matthew 16:19 that the message of the gospel has the power to loosen the chains of death and set people free in Christ. Yet we don’t act as if we hold this power, dare I say that we don’t want the responsibility that comes along with this power.
Christians today have become consumed with the pleasures of this world, rather than being obsessed with the world to come. Christianity today needs to consist of people not looking at one another’s weak spots, but rather picks up the slack for one another for the sake of the gospel. The joy, peace and hope we have in the world to come, the return to perfection and fullness of harmony, in being reunited with the creator. By unwarranted grace we were saved and made new, while there may be times when he/she feels unworthy of the gift that has been given to us. However, we best pay tribute to our savior by receiving this grace and reflecting His image for all to see.

Matthew 5:13-16
“13“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. 14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

Embracing The Fire

Daniel 3:12-30 (ESV)

“There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the affairs of the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These men, O king, pay no attention to you; they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” Then Nebuchadnezzar in furious rage commanded that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be brought. So they brought these men before the king. Nebuchadnezzar answered and said to them, “Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up? Now if you are ready when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, well and good.t But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?” Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king.t But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” Then Nebuchadnezzar was filled with fury, and the expression of his face was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. He ordered the furnace heated seven times more than it was usually heated. And he ordered some of the mighty men of his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and to cast them into the burning fiery furnace. Then these men were bound in their cloaks, their tunics,t their hats, and their other garments, and they were thrown into the burning fiery furnace. Because the king’s order was urgent and the furnace overheated, the flame of the fire killed those men who took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell bound into the burning fiery furnace. Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up in haste. He declared to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?” They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.” He answered and said, “But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods.” Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the door of the burning fiery furnace; he declared, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out, and come here!” Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out from the fire. And the satraps, the prefects, the governors, and the king’s counselors gathered together and saw that the fire had not had any power over the bodies of those men. The hair of their heads was not singed, their cloaks were not harmed, and no smell of fire had come upon them. Nebuchadnezzar answered and said, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants, who trusted in him, and set asidet the king’s command, and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God. Therefore I make a decree: Any people, nation, or language that speaks anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego shall be torn limb from limb, and their houses laid in ruins, for there is no other god who is able to rescue in this way.” Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the province of Babylon.”

As Christians, it is rather easy for others to see Christ in our lives when times are good. When our finances seem to be overflowing, there is no conflict with friends or family and it feels as if every decision is the right decision. Were constantly listening to worship music, were the loudest ones during worship at church, were tithe and give an offering that’s greater in monetary value than others and we are constantly telling others how much we love Jesus. We feel ready to lead the outreach ministry because there is a fire burning inside of us that we feel can never be put out.

Then we are thrown into a FIERY FURNACE. During this time are we still as vibrant and energetic? Do we continue telling people how much love Jesus or do we begin to condemn Him for our troubles? Nebuchadnezzar said that while the men were in the fire he was able to see a man that looked like the son of God. How amazing is that? During a time of fear and anguish, the persecutor was able to see Jesus in the lives of the men. Ask yourself a question, during times of persecution can others see Jesus in you?

Gold is put through fire to be refined or be made pure. As Christians, we need to be able to embrace the fires we go through and accept them as situations of purification. While the fire is extremely hot, there are two things we can be sure of, if we do not condemn HIM. 1) HE will be by our side and 2) When we make it out, we will be purified. It’s almost a natural instinct to beg for comfort during times of trouble, challenge yourself to TRUST IN THE LORD during your next journey through the FIREY FURNACE. When you embrace the Fire, Jesus embraces you! God Bless.

When Sin Stares You In The Eyes

Daniel (1:8-13 ESV)

“But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank. Therefore he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself. And God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs, and the chief of the eunuchs said to Daniel, “I fear my lord the king, who assigned your food and your drink; for why should he see that you were in worse condition than the youths who are of your own age? So you would endanger my head with the king.” Then Daniel said to the steward whom the chief of the eunuchs had assigned over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, “Test your servants for ten days; let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then let our appearance and the appearance of the youths who eat the king’s food be observed by you, and deal with your servants according to what you see.”

Daily we are faced with tough decisions, decisions that test our FAITH and BELIEFS. We live in a “Fallen World”, a world in which has become corrupted in almost every matter. The enemy has taken all the wonderful things God created and has found a way to pervert them. Whether it’s music, television, books, the way we think, see and speak, have all become victims to this DEADLY EPIDEMIC.

The fact is that the enemy will do whatever it takes to separate us from our RELATIONSHIP with God. It started in the garden of Eden and has gradually become worse. Any new technological advance, invention or new communication advancement that comes about, becomes corrupted before we have the opportunity to use it. The ability to SIN IS AT THE CLICK OF A BUTTON.

Daniel was faced with a situation many of us are faced with on a daily basis, he was living in a new land, under the control of a king who did not worship the same God as Daniel. However, Daniel was given favor by the Lord and was being honored for the Wisdom and Knowledge God had given him. He was being taken care of and then the enemy attempted to sneak in and separate his relationship with the Lord. Daniel was given the opportunity to eat a five course meal, or in our terms a Ruth Chris steak with all the sides he could scarf down, however Daniel knew the meat had been offered to idols and was not going to risk any form of separation from God. So he kindly denied the meat. The part that I love is the Chief Eunuch’s reaction. He was assured that if Daniel did not eat the same type of food as the others then he would not receive enough nutrition and would surely look different. I love this because that’s the same reaction we, as Christians, receive when we kindly say “No, thank you I don’t _____”, you can fill in the blank, drink, smoke, party, have sex out of wedlock. As Christians we always get the “crooked” eye from people when we choose to stick to God rather than give in to the perversion. Others give in to the temptation because they simply do not want to be looked at different, or as the Lord calls them “chaff, being tossed to and fro.”

What choice do we make daily with sin staring us in the eyes? Do we choose to avoid corruption and separation from God or do we choose to avoid separation from The World? Daniel chose to separate himself from the world for the sake of his personal relationship with God. My question to you today is, Are you willing to do the same? I know I am. God Bless.

One Way Street to Destruction

Ezekiel 6:3-7 (KJV)

“3And say, Ye mountains of Israel, hear the word of the Lord God; Thus saith the Lord God to the mountains, and to the hills, to the rivers, and to the valleys; Behold, I, even I, will bring a sword upon you, and I will destroy your high places 4And your altars shall be desolate, and your images shall be broken: and I will cast down your slain men before your idols 5And I will lay the dead carcases of the children of Israel before their idols; and I will scatter your bones round about your altars 6In all your dwellingplaces the cities shall be laid waste, and the high places shall be desolate; that your altars may be laid waste and made desolate, and your idols may be broken and cease, and your images may be cut down, and your works may be abolished 7And the slain shall fall in the midst of you, and ye shall know that I am the Lord.”

When I was in the fifth grade I remember having a discussion with one of my friends about the reality of God. He was just as your common day atheist, with no substance to support his reasoning for there being no God. As our conversation began to escalate he ended the conversation by running to recess yelling “if God is real let Him strike me with a lightning bolt!”

I remember feeling sorry for a kid who was, at that time, my best friend. I had known him since kindergarten and I remember thinking that he was going to have a rude awakening one day. I didn’t think he would get hit by a lightning bolt but I knew God would get his attention someday. How exactly does this happen?

The passage above gives a description of one of the ways the Lord will grab our attention. He will take everything that holds your “so-called” happiness and cast it down. In those days it was altars, idols and images. In our day it’s bars, celebrities, homes, and finances. The world will run to a bar for a “quick pick me up”, reality television to feel better about their own lives, homes for stability and finances to buy whatever they believe will make them happy. These high places will never be able to hold the weight of the true joy that we long for.

Ever notice that when people begin to lose their homes and/or jobs they run to church. While they are definitely running to the right place, it doesn’t have to take situations like the Children of Israel were faced with to submit our lives to the Lord. As Matt. 6:20 reads, “lay up your treasures in Heaven”, because when your treasures are in heaven, so is your heart.

The Lord gets upset when your heart is stored in anything else but Him. So be forewarned, if your trust, happiness and/or stability is relying on anything other than God you are going down a one way path that leads to destruction. Rather than getting to a braking point, take the necessary steps to put God first in everything. God bless!

Follow The Leader

1 Peter 5:5-11

“5Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. 8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 10And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. 11 To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.”

As humans we have the tendency to attempt to keep situations in control. If there is a problem we desperately seek for a solution assuming that it is within our own power to turn around certain situations. There are a variety of self help and do-it-yourself books that are accessible with the click of a button. As humans we are reluctant to look inward and find the root of the problem. We would rather cover the holes or wounds inside with a patch, rather than being transparent and having open heart surgery. The fact is that many of our actions stem from experiences we’ve faced throughout our lifetime and rather than presenting these situations and feelings to the Lord, we “bottle” them up deep inside of us. Then the harsh emotions that dwell inside of us begin to control all of our relationships and daily habits.

The scripture says to HUMBLE yourself before the Lord and cast your ANXIETIES (worries, stresses, etc.) before HIM, so that in the right time (due season, the time he has appointed for you) HE can life you up! When we become transparent and allow ourselves to be vulnerable before the Lord, we remove our hand from interfering with the work that GOD IS TRYING TO DO IN US.

Our Father in heaven sees our pain, worries and all other anxieties. He is also more than willing, capable and faithful to provide, we must first be willing to say “Father I can’t do it by myself.”.

There will be moments in our life when we are given a leadership role, whether it be in ministry, work, at home or whatever other setting you might be able to think of. This role does not mean that you are capable of doing the task all by yourself, but God is giving you some responsibility because He is confident YOU will rely on HIM! There are too many times in life when we attempt to be perfect and accept anything less as failure. Lean unto God and lay the anxieties before Him, so that He may exalt you in His perfect timing. God bless!