Shine Bright

In the midst of what has been taking place in our country recently, particularly through the pulpit of our president, causing division throughout our nation in areas of race, gender, class and socioeconomics, I felt a need to remind those of you listening to not forget our task at hand.
 
Matt. 5:16 (NASB) Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.
 
I am a staunch believer that the kingdom is bigger than skin color. But those of you of African descent know there is a duality that exists when it comes to being saved and black in America. Where you have a mandate to love your enemies, but also a call to stand for social justice.
 
I try not to stumble into the realm of which W.E.B. DuBoise calls double-consciousness — what he describes as his two-ness,—an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.
 
With that being said, I know who I am — I am unashamedly Christian and unapologetically Black.
 
Cornel West, in his book Democracy Matters, said that Christians should be prophetic beings who shout down deliberate ignorance and challenge willful blindness. He says, “Christians should force the people around them to know and to see. What they do about it is their choice.”
 
To walk like Jesus means to identify with the disenfranchised and marginalized. Jesus himself was a part of the disinherited.
 
No matter what’s going on around you, it’s your job to be the light. That’s not a call to be passive. It’s a call to shine bright. When you encounter bigotry, don’t let it go unchallenged. Let your light shine. When someone is harassed for his or her sexual orientation, don’t let it go unchallenged. Let your light shine. When someone is judged on his or her exterior, don’t let it go unchallenged. Let your light shine.
 
Rev. Marvin McMickle talked about train crossings in Chicago. There was not enough room to build overpasses, so most train crossings are at street level, much like in Cincinnati. Most had arms with lights and a bell that went off long before the locomotive appeared and traffic was stopped. But in the remote areas, there was just a man in a booth who would go out with a lantern to warn traffic.
 
One night, the guard fell asleep and woke up to a train whistle that sounded too close. He grabbed his lantern and went out to warn the one car that was coming. He kept waving his lantern, but the car kept coming, and the car and engine collided on the track, killing everyone in the car.
 
During the investigation, the guard was asked a number of questions: Were you in the booth? Yes. Did you hear the train whistle? Yes. Did you come out and wave the lantern? Yes. Did you light the lantern? No.
 
“With life and death in his hands, he was waving a lantern with no light,” McMickle said. I believe God bends over to ask us: “Is there light in your lamp?”


Overcoming Fear

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” (2 Timothy 1:7, NLT)
 
This summer, while on vacation with the family, we came upon a rock climbing wall where we were staying. I had never been on a rock climbing wall, but my kids were super excited to try it out. My son’s attempt at going up the wall the first time was not that successful, so to encourage him I said I would give it a shot. They put a helmet on me and strapped me up in a harness, who’s job was to hold me up in the event that I fell. As I began to make my ascent up the wall, I realized something. I’m not that fond of heights! The wall was maybe 50ft. in the air at best, but it felt more like 200ft. As I was putting one hand over the other, I kept telling myself, “I’ve got to do this, because my son is watching me.” Not to mention, the 60 year old woman in front of me in the line completed the climb without a problem. The one thing that pushed me to finish the climb and eased my fears was the fact that I remembered I had a harness on, which meant it was impossible for me to fall.
 
So many people today are missing out on God’s abundant joy, peace and victory because they keep giving in to a spirit of fear. So many people today are living with less than God’s best because they’ve allowed fear to creep in and take root in their lives. They are afraid to make a decision, they are afraid to confront issues, they’re afraid to step out in faith, they’re afraid of the past, and they’re afraid of the future! But as believers, we don’t have to live that way.
 
Always remember, fear is not from God. Fear is the greatest weapon the enemy uses to try to hold us back. Scripture tells us that fear brings torment. It’s designed to paralyze us and keep us from moving forward in our purpose. And it’s not always a fear of what might go wrong, sometimes it’s a fear of what just might go right.
 
Here’s some good news; God is greater than fear. His power in you is greater than any power that comes against you. But in order to walk in His power, you have to close the door on the fear that’s causing you to stand still. You have to make a decision to deal aggressively with fear. You can’t be passive and expect to live in victory. The only way to conquer fear is to strap on your helmet & confront it head-on. His Word is truth which sets you free!
 
If you’ve allowed fear to steal from you in any area of your life, today is your day to get free! The next time you feel fear, declare today’s verse in 2 Timothy 1:7. Tell fear it has to go and walk in freedom. Meditate on His word and speak His promises. Focus on Him, find freedom and move boldly into the blessing He has prepared for you! When you do, you’ll be surprised how high you can climb.


Why, God?

Have you ever interrogated God. “Why, God? Why does cancer exist?” Why did you allow my child to die? Why am I the one always getting hurt? Why do fools fall in love? When you look in the Bible for an answer, it turns out that “Why, God?” is not a new question at all.
 
In John 9, Jesus encountered a man who was born blind, and the people falsely assumed it was the result of sin. They asked Jesus, “Who sinned, this man or his parents?” Jesus told them it was neither! The people assumed it was a generational curse or a lack of faith. But Jesus set the record straight by revealing the real reason: “This happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”
 
I like the way the Message Bible says it:
Jesus said, “You’re asking the wrong question. You’re looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here. Look instead for what God can do.
 
There is a big difference between praying away and praying through.

We’re often so anxious to get out of difficult, painful, or challenging situations that we fail to grow through them. We’re so fixated on getting out of them that we don’t get anything out of them. We fail to learn the lessons God is trying to teach us or cultivate the character God is trying to grow in us. We’re so focused on God changing our circumstances that we never allow God to change us! So instead of ten or twenty years of experience, we have one year of experience repeated ten or twenty times.

All your prayers shouldn’t be “get me out” prayers. Sometimes we need to pray “get me through” prayers. And we need the discernment to know when to pray what.

If we’re being completely honest, most of our prayers have as their chief objective our own personal comfort rather than God’s glory. We want to pray away every problem, but those shortsighted prayers would short-circuit God’s perfect plan. There are seasons and situations when we need to simply pray through.
 
Can our prayers change our circumstances? Absolutely! But when our circumstances don’t change, it’s often an indication that God is trying to change us. The primary purpose of prayer is not to change circumstances; the primary purpose of prayer is to change us! But either way, the chief objective remains the same: to glorify God in any and every situation.


Can You Spare Some Change?

I was talking to somebody who was from Cincinnati, but had been gone for some years and just recently moved back. He was commenting on how so much has changed since he’d been gone. Change is one of the most difficult things that we all face but change is inevitable. Mark Twain said, “The only person who likes change is a wet baby.” One reason people don’t like change is because they get comfortable where they are. We get used to our friends, our job, or the place we live. And even if it’s not perfect, we accept it because it’s familiar. When we’re not willing to change, we get stuck in what God “used to do” instead of moving forward into what God “is about to do.” The truth is, just because God has blessed you where you are, doesn’t mean you’re supposed to just sit back and settle there.
 
I read about some people who had a business idea and took it to one of the leading companies that rents movies and videos. They said, “We’ve got an idea and we’d like to partner with you on it. We’ve developed the technology to send movies through the internet. This gives people the option to order a movie from home instead of driving back and forth to a store.” The company wasn’t interested in that idea. They said, “No, thanks. We’re the leaders in our field. We know what we’re doing.” The people with the idea said, “Fine.” So they decided to start their own company and called it Netflix. Today Netflix has taken off and has practically put the other company who rejected their idea out of business.
 
My point is that you have to stay open to new ideas. You have to stay open to what God is doing now. What God did five years ago may not be what He has for you today. It is possible to be doing the right thing at the wrong time.
 
In Deuteronomy, when the people of Israel were in the desert on the way to their Promised Land, God gave them manna to eat. That was good. It sustained them for a while but it wasn’t permanent provision. One day, the manna stopped coming but the people had to keep moving forward. Then, God gave them quail and they were so excited. That fed them for a while but it was also just temporary. God was taking them to the Promised Land where they would have permanent provision. When the manna stopped coming, when the quail didn’t show up, they recognized it was only temporary provision. They had to know God had something much greater for their future so settling for what satisfied them at the moment wasn’t an option.
 
Simply put, God was saying, “When I move, you move, just like that!” If you will stay open and be willing to change, then you’ll see His success—His provision will lead you into your Promised Land!


T.G.I.T.

Here’s one of those Arsenio Hall moments on things that make you go Hmm. Did you know studies show that people are actually happier on Friday? That’s because we’re looking forward to the weekend. We change our mindsets and decide to focus on the good things ahead. I think everybody has that one particular two-step that you do on your way out the door of your job at the end of the work day on Friday.
 
Quite simply, we decide to enjoy our lives more on Fridays. We smile more, we show more excitement, and we show more kindness to other people. There’s a full on restaurant chain based on the very same concept— TGIFridays. We’ve shaped our minds to do something called, living for the weekends.

 
Conversely, a study says Monday mornings are so depressing that, on average, we don’t crack our first smile until 11:16 a.m.. Half of employees will be late to work, and will only log about three-and-a-half hours of productive work time.
 
But what if every day could be like Friday? What if we decided to meet every other day of the week (even Monday) with the same joy and enthusiasm that we have on Fridays?  What if, instead of saying, “Thank God, it’s Friday,” we have the attitude “Thank God, it’s today?” (T.G.I.T.)
 
I believe we all have what we need inside in order to be happier if we will just get our thoughts, attitudes, and perspectives in the right place. The key to experiencing supernatural joy every day is to choose your response to life—no matter what challenges you are facing, no matter what circumstances are weighing you down, no matter what negative news you may have received. The way you live your life is totally up to you! Your level of joy is not dependent on the obstacles in front of you or what day of the week it is. It’s dependent on you choosing to put your faith and trust in Almighty God.
 
Psalm 118:24 says, “This is the day the LORD has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.” Notice it doesn’t say, “Friday is the only day the Lord has made…” No, God wants you to enjoy every day. How do we do this? It starts by choosing to focus on God’s goodness instead of your problems. Every morning, if you’ll set your mind in the right direction, then your attitude and actions will follow suit. I know some days are more difficult than others. But if you program your mind to praise God no matter what the circumstances are, you won’t have to drag through life living from “Friday” to “Friday.”
 
I’m so glad “happy” isn’t one of the fruit of the Spirit. One thing I’ve learned is that happiness is contagious. You have to take the initiative to enjoy your life more, and when you do your happiness will rub off onto other people. Let’s make Every Day a Friday!


The Gift of Goodbye

All of us, at times, will have people who leave our lives for one reason or another. Beyond your family and the commitment of marriage, there are some relationships that are meant for just a season. It may be something you weren’t expecting. You may not understand it. But if you’ve done your part to walk in love and forgiveness, if you know in your heart you’ve done your best and the person walks away, that’s when you have to trust that God knows who needs to be in your life. Stop making seasonal help full time employees. 
 
One time, I heard somebody talk about the gift of goodbye. It means when somebody chooses to leave, you may not realize it right away, but they just did you a huge favor. Maybe that person was holding you back. Maybe they were keeping you from spreading your wings. Maybe they weren’t a good influence. When somebody leaves your life, a business partner, a friend, a neighbor, a coworker; don’t take it personally. Let God do a new thing in your life. If God has decided that the season is over, there’s nothing you can do to hold it together. You might as well just let it go and get ready for something new that God wants to do.
 
T.D. Jakes wrote a wonderful book entitled, Let it Go. In it he says, There are people who can walk away from you. And hear me when I tell you this! When people can walk away from you, let them walk. I don’t want you to try to talk another person into staying with you, loving you, calling you, caring about you, coming to see you, staying attached to you. Your destiny is never tied to anybody that left. The Bible said that, “They came out from us that it might be made manifest that they were not for us. For had they been of us, no doubt they would have continued with us.” [1John 2:19] People leave you because they are not joined to you. And, if they are not joined to you, you can’t make them stay. Let them go. And it doesn’t mean that they are a bad person, it just means that their part in the story is over. And you’ve got to know when people’s part in your story is over so that you don’t keep trying to raise the dead. There’s a difference between planting something and burying something.
 
Develop the gift of goodbye. It’s the tenth spiritual gift. I used to get upset when people would leave me. I now believe in “goodbye”. It’s not that I’m insensitive or uncaring, it’s that I trust. I know whatever and whomever God means for me to have and be a part of my life He will give. And, if a relationship takes too much sweat I don’t need it. Stop begging people to stay. Let them go!!
 

Today, instead of focusing on what you don’t have, focus on what you do have. Focus on the relationships that are in your life. I don’t need a whole lot of friends, just the right ones. Take the time to invest in the people around you. Look for ways to sow love and encouragement. Thank God that He is opening doors for you. Thank Him for the right connections in your life. And thank Him for the gift of goodbye because He is ordering your steps and aligning you to walk in the place of blessing He has prepared for you!