Saturday, May 24, 2014

Respect the Fight

Good Morning,
No, this is not a typical message. Many of you in the United States are celebrating this Memorial holiday weekend with cookouts, vacations and pool visits. But I challenge you this weekend to respect the fight. Many men and women have lost their lives, limbs or even peace of mind fighting in wars. Some have fought wars and served this country though they may not have always been respected as citizens in this country. Both my biological parents served in the U.S. military and I respect their service to this country. I have aunts, uncles, cousins and a late grandmother who willingly served this country. Some are buried on military soil. I respect high school/college friends and acquaintances who have served this country. I respect every man and woman who has served this country past and present. When I was in college one year, I made arrangements with one of my high school friends to visit her on the island where she was stationed. I never told her how proud I was of her for serving for a country that she wasn't even born in but became her home. Another high school bestie of mine became a U.S. citizen so that he could serve in the military. I respected the fight. When I was in college, I was encouraged by both my mom and aunt to take the test for the Air Force upon graduation to go in as an officer. I did not succumb to the encouragement because I grew up hearing their stories and was convinced I could not stomach what they endured. But I respected the fight. Many people do not understand that the remaining spouse and children make a sacrifice as well. Respect the fight.
Whenever I see a soldier I greet them with a smile and say, "Thank you for your service." I do that because many of them do not hear thank you where they are sent, especially if in a war zone. I challenge you from this day forward, to greet and thank every U.S. soldier you meet. You may not agree with the war they may have had to fight, but at least respect the fight and their willingness to die or lose limbs if necessary to save the lives of others. You can always have a cookout, a vacation or swim, but a life is precious. One who is willing to lose it so others might live and enjoy freedoms is to be respected.

Friday, May 23, 2014

The Battle for You

1Samuel 22:13
Then Saul said to him, "Why have you conspired against me, you and the son of Jesse, in that you have given him bread and a sword, and have inquired of God for him, that he should rise against me, to lie in wait, as it is this day?"
King Saul was furious because his own servants did not cater to his jealous rage against David. Saul was so furious that the entire time he spoke with the priest he would not call David by name but referred to him as "the son of Jesse." That's some serious anger. Many of Saul's servants knew that his anger against David was illogical. David was a faithful servant. Saul's anger was because he knew God was going to eventually give the thrown to David. Saul's rage was at the point of desperation and out of control. It was so out of control that he was angry with the priests who went to God on David's behalf, to the point of ordering they be killed.  Anyone who did anything for David that helped to push him forward into what God had for him. Do you remember that the Spirit of the Lord left Saul and God allowed an evil spirit to torture Saul? It was David whom God sent to soothe Saul. What does this have to do with you?
Did you know that the very people God may send you to help, may one day turn against you if there is a spirit of jealousy? Do you know that enemy of your soul, Satan, like Saul, does not like it when anyone goes to war on your behalf? Remember, Satan was angry that Jesus went to battle for us and he attempted to ensnare Jesus. But God! Jesus triumphed! Jesus was the ultimate intercessor on our behalf. The men and women of God who He sends to battle in prayer on your behalf become targets for you. Their love and desire for God, love for you, as God's people, cause them to war on your behalf no matter how high the stakes. They put on the whole armor of God as detailed in Ephesians 6. They war and battle on your behalf by the direction of God through the Holy Spirit against principalities and rulers of darkness. They war on your behalf so that what God has for you and desires for your life moves forward. Just like the evil within Saul that brought him to desperation, so Satan works in desperation against you when you desire to be faithful to God. He, like Saul, wants allegiance and soldiers. These men and women of God are under the direction of Christ as intercessors on your behalf. Do not take lightly the battle for your soul. Do not take lightly those who love you enough to war on your behalf in the spirit realm. Like the priests who had to face Saul and the evil spirits within him, they face Satan and the evil spirits in those who do not mean you well.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Identity Theft

Acts 8:9-10
9But there was a certain man called Simon, who previously practiced sorcery in the city and astonished the people of Samaria, claiming that he was someone great 10to whom they all gave heed, from least to the greatest, saying, "This man is the great power of God."
There are some people who claim to be great that really are not who they claim to be. There mission is to deceive people. Unfortunately, the people of Samaria experienced this with a man called Simon. And for this, Christ left behind the Holy Spirit to help discern. In 1John 4:1 the Word says we are not to believe every spirit, but test the spirit, whether they are of God. The people of Samaria were unfortunately not educated on this, But God! He sent one in the five-fold ministry, an evangelist, Philip. Please refer to Ephesians 4:11-16.  Philip was sent to preach about Christ.  Simon was amazed, confessed that he believed and then was baptized. However, his heart was not delivered from his former ways. Simon again was amazed. This time by the apostles Peter and John as they did the laying on of hands and Simon attempted to "buy" a position that can only given by God. Why is this so important?
Anyone that is who they claim to be in Christ, God will not allow them to "buy" their position. That is stealing an identity that Christ did not give to them. Identity theft is not only a serious crime in the world, but it is a serious crime in the kingdom of God. The NKJ Study Bible refers to it as "simony", the unworthy buying and selling of ecclesiastical offices. You cannot buy your way into a position and expect that God will not expose you to those who see with the Holy Spirit. And you cannot buy your way into heaven. Grace is a gift given by God paid for by the blood of Christ. God appoints those He has called to particular offices through the Holy Spirit. There has to be an experience with Christ. It may not be as deep as what the apostle Paul experienced on the road to Damascus, but there certainly has to be to "a defining moment." Test the spirit by the Holy Spirit.  Do not allow identity theft to steer you from the true heart of Christ and the kingdom of God. Those who claim to teach the Word are judged more harshly as the Word says and you and I shall know them by their fruit.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Preceding with Goodness

Ecclesiastes 7:1
1A good name is better than precious ointment, and the day of death than the day of one's birth;
What do people think when they hear your name? What word most commonly describes who you are? Are you known for standing up for righteousness? Are you known as a kind and loving person? Does the reputation you have precede you with goodness? Or are you known simply by self-seeking deeds and half-heartedness?  Why would a person's death be more celebrated than their birth? Because by their death, there should've been plenty of time to impact those around them with the love of God. When someone says that dead person's name, does a smile, laugh and warm heart follow?
Earlier this year my family lost a great elder. I knew he was great but the testimonies at his memorial were so wonderful that I was SO proud to be his grand niece. My uncle, a man who served this country, his city and loved not only his children but the children in the community as well. He was a well-known business man in the city were I am from. If you mentioned the name of his business, anyone in town would've known it. He spent a lot of time mentoring children. I knew he was a role model in our family but that day, to hear all the stories of the lives of the children he touched, I felt honored to be related to him. Our family shared stories online as to the man he was. I gave a personal testimony of an event that occurred 33 years ago. At the last family reunion we both attended, he still remembered that event like it was yesterday. For me, it was the first time I realized how others saw the color line. See, my uncle wasn't the same color as me. To me, that didn't matter. All that mattered was that he was a family member. My first grade classmates didn't believe he was my uncle when he walked in the lunch room. But when I called him Uncle by name and he turned and waved, they all looked in amazement. My uncle was a jokester and loved to laugh but he also had a big heart. The kind of home going service he had, was just as amazing as my late stepfather's, A man of distinction, known by his heart and wonderful deeds. Even if a person didn't know God, they were exposed to Him because the love of God existed in a man.
How will you be remembered? It's something to think about.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Balance

Ecclesiastes 4:8a
8There is one alone, without companion: he has neither son nor brother. Yet there is no end to all his labors, nor is his eye satisfied with riches;
The society we live in today applauds overworking and more so greed. There is no balance. How so? Men and women are suffering more heart attacks and strokes at younger ages. Stress and worry are in the top slots along with diet. Some eat right but the stress overtakes the body. Conditions in the natural have a spiritual root. Jesus said that worry does not add a day to one's life. Some are overworking to make ends meet. Others already have an abundance and are either working out of greed or to avoid the issues in life itself. Proverbs 23:4 is clear that you and I are not to overwork to be rich because riches can fly away. There is nothing wrong with hard work nor having money. But work/life balance is a real issue. King Solomon referred to the man who has no friend, no companion not even family. His labor is in vain because it is for no one other than himself. And the man is so consumed with himself and riches that he doesn't take notice. Our Lord wants a balance in our lives. He only gave you a certain number of years on this earth. You can easily shorten those days by stress, worry and competing to "keep up with the Jones." Yes, you and I are to work hard. However, Jesus said in Matthew 6:31-33 not to worry about what we shall eat or drink or wear. That our Heavenly Father knows we have need of all these things. "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you."  In other words, God's priority-His will for you is top priority and He will make provision according to His glorious riches. God owns EVERYTHING so you will never out do/make more than what He has for you.

Monday, May 19, 2014

What is Your Blind Spot?

Mark 10:21
21Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, "One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give it to the poor, take up the cross, and follow Me."
Why does the subject of possessions keep coming up? Because God wants EVERYONE to understand the basics. In Hosea 4:6 the Word says, "My people perish from a lack of knowledge." Jesus doesn't want anyone to perish. What is standing in the way? The rich young ruler wanted to know what he must do to inherit eternal life. He told Jesus he kept all the commandments since he was young. The NKJ Study Bible makes a note, "Jesus sought to reach the man by revealing the blind spots in his spiritual life."
The young man's response was one of sorrow as the Word says because the young man had many possessions. The disciples were amazed by Jesus' response to the young man. The NKJ Study Bible notes the following, "Riches are neither good nor bad. But when they take the place of God by being the object of trust, that trust indicates money has become an idol."
What is your blind spot? There are some of you, whom like the young ruler, Jesus has asked you to lay something aside or lay it down, in order to do something He called you to do. You haven't done what Jesus called you to do because you don't want to make the sacrifice. That very issue is what is standing in the way between you and Christ. Yes, you have an acquaintance with Christ but you are keeping Him at arms length. Jesus has likely already told you what that "thing" is. Jesus made the greatest sacrifice anyone could ever make, He gave His life. Surely you can give up something for the one who loves you. Jesus wants your total trust and love. Yes, it is hard to do. But greater is the reward that He has for you. Many have not gotten to the point where they can give away whatever God has given them. Look at the dedicated mother Hannah. She wanted a child so bad. God blessed her with that child, Samuel. She loved God so much for answering her prayer that she dedicated him back to the Lord. And for it, God used Samuel to the fullest as a prophet to kings. Again, what is your blind spot? What did Jesus ask you to lay down or give away? The Lord wants to know He is really first in your life.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

The Price of Not Heeding

Ezekiel 2:6
6"And you, son of man, do not be afraid of them nor be afraid of their words, though briers and thorns are with you and you dwell among scorpions; do not be afraid of their words or dismayed by their looks, though they are a rebellious house.
This was one of the scriptures God used to convict me of my disobedience the first time I had to write a less than a "feel good message" to all of you that might not soothe the "itching ears." I feared the reactions and rejection of the others, of all of you at one point in time. Jesus said in Matthew 10 not to fear the ones that could kill the body but the one who could kill both body and soul. God, and God alone. God has since relayed to me multiple times, through several others, "they are not rejecting you, but God so do not loose heart." I am going to tell right now, this is not a feel good message but an eye witness account of the price of not heeding. It is wrapped up in so many things and hard to begin.
Throughout the day, my mind kept reverting back to a friend who went home to be with the Lord a few years ago. That friend, Xeiva Quinn, would've celebrated a birthday on May 18th. In less than a month I will return to the same venue of community outreach Xeiva first introduced me to when I sang alongside her in the Mass Choir at the church where I was baptized. But this time, it is by invitation from another group. I recall the months leading up to Xeiva's death and the lesson I learned to go with it. What does this have to do with you? Trust me, you'll understand by the end of this tapestry- just follow along please.
I had begun the process of compiling the pieces for my first book, Get Your JOY In The Morning. The Bishop I was under at that time was hosting an event where the saints could utilize their God-given gifts to those in attendance. I had volunteered to be in the program. Early that afternoon in 2009 I suddenly had memories of my time with my former church family and Xeiva was in the forefront of my mind. When I arrived at the entrance of the venue for the showcase, I found Xeiva at the front door. She had been invited by a mutual friend who played the drums for the bishop. I had tears of joy and she and I embraced as friends with such excitement. It was at that event that I sang and recited a poem that ended up at the beginning of my second book,  Shh Don't Tell. I promised Xeiva that I would go back to visit. I surprised her a month later as God had been prompting me to visit. On December 19th, 2009, the day of the huge snow storm, I shared with Xeiva that I had just submitted my manuscript in hopes of a book contract. She was so excited. Xeiva made me promise that I would call her when it was official. I didn't keep my promise. My intent was to wait until the contract was in my hand and signed. Tuesday, January 12th I had signed the contract but was running to an event that night and I told myself that I would call Xeiva the next day instead.
January 13, 2010 at 10am, I realized I still had not called Xeiva. I was at work but wanted to stop and call her. I looked at my cell phone and picked it up. As I went to dial, God said "No." At approximately 5:45pm that night, I was at the corner of 24th between N and O streets in Washington, D.C. when the call came from my girlfriend that Xeiva had died that morning. Doubled over in a gut-wrenching pain and tears, I realized it was too late to keep my promise. I knew I was supposed to call Xeiva long before that morning, but did not heed. My wonderful girlfriend who called to give me the news later said, "Joy, whose to say she would've answered the phone? She hadn't returned any of our calls the 2 days leading up to her death." But I know I was supposed to call. And even if I didn't speak to her, I could've left it on her voicemail. Even if I had not spoken with her, she would've at least known. I have apologized to God many times over, I know my sin was forgiven, but it's a hard lesson to live with at times because I cannot pick up and call her just say thank you for supporting me and loving me. I cannot call her to thank her for allowing her light, love of God and evangelistic work to influence me. I shall always remember my friend Xeiva but also, the price of not heeding.