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!

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!

I Have A…. Vision?

Ezekiel 1:1-3 (ESV)

“1 Now it came to pass in the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, on the fifth day of the month, as I was among the captives by the River Chebar, that the heavens were opened and I saw visions of God. 2 On the fifth day of the month, which was in the fifth year of King Jehoiachin’s captivity, 3 the word of the LORD came expressly to Ezekiel the priest, the son of Buzi, in the land of the Chaldeans by the River Chebar; and the hand of the LORD was upon him there.”

There are times when people feel led to do certain things, some have good reasons, some have selfish reasons, others say they have no reason and then there are those who do things and make decisions for Godly reasons. Well what is a Godly reason? A Godly reason is when God speaks yo you, through visions (as we see in the passage above), through His Word (Bible), and prayer (meditation). When He does speak He will confirm and continue to tug at your spirit.

Then the devil creeps in and attempts to keep you from following the vision God has given you. We begin to doubt and second guess our decisions. We ask God for another sign or vision. Then He follows through a second time and we continue to doubt. However, as we see here with Ezekiel, he was receiving visions from God and then the Lord speaks to us, through the scripture to sure up our doubt. The scriptures say, that the HAND OF THE LORD WAS UPON HIM. It does not get any clearer than that. Ezekiel was receiving vision, direction, instruction, whichever allows you to understand best and the hand of the Lord was upon Him.

Whenever the Lord sends you into a certain direction or gives you a specific vision, there is no need to doubt or second guess, because when the Lord speaks to you, HIS HAND IS WITH YOU. Therefore, there is no need to fear, because when HIS hand is with you HE will provide the resources and equip us with everything we need and more! Walk with your God given confidence today, trusting that God will provide the rest! God bless.

Who Are You Serving?

Romans 1:1

“Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God,”

Servant – One that serves others.

I love the way Paul opens his letters, stating to the people that he is a SERVANT of Jesus Christ. What I love even more is that in it’s original greek text it is written as, BONDSERVANT. When we think of a servant we think of someone who is forced to carry out tasks, duties and/or labor. Either because they have been taken captive or because they need financial support, therefore they subject themselves to this servanthood. Our modern day term would be an employee, because most of us get jobs to support ourselves and our families. So we become employees which are subject to instruction by managers and/or supervisors.

Employees do not work for free, they either get paid or they quit. Sometimes employees will even threaten their leaders with quoting in order to receive more money for their work. Now do not get me wrong, I am not saying that getting paid for out work is wrong in anyway, I’m merely setting the scene for what a BONDSERVANT is. You see because a BONDSERVANT is someone who freely chooses to serve, without pay. One who when they are faced with the option of living according to their own ways or staying to serve in subjection to their master. Which in the Christians case is Jesus Christ.

This is why I admire Paul, because he had no need change his ways. He was living life the way he wished, he was in good favor with the people and was working for the high priests, so he had no desire for financial support. However, when the Lord came to him, he freely set aside all those things to become a servant for the Lord.

Most of us come to the Lord out of desperation, whether it be for financial support, a broken heart or the need of physical healing. Which by no means are bad reasons to follow Christ, but Paul had everything going for him and was on his next mission when the Lord spoke to him and turned his life upside down. My question is this, Are we living our lives as employees, expecting something in return from God? Or are we living as bondservants, thankful for all the things HE has already done in our lives and how HE has molded our hearts?

I urge you today to evaluate yourself, are you doing this Christ thing because you believe it offers more benefits than the world? Or Are you truly allowing God to set you apart because of the Love that has encompassed you and turned your heart from the selfish and bitter person you used to be? If you truly wish for the Holy Spirit to take hold of your life start by examining your heart, forget about the blessings you desire and focus on what God has called you to do, spread the Gospel to all the nations. (Matt. 28:19) Open yourself up and live as a BONDSERVANT. God bless.