Personal Power


A relatively new marvel of modern technology is a device called a Fitbit. I received one as a gift for Christmas, and it continues to amaze me. A small watch-like apparatus strapped around the wrist is able to understand and interpret human motion (or activity). By analyzing acceleration data, the details about frequency, duration, intensity, patterns of movement, number of steps, stairs, distance traveled, calories burned, and sleep patterns are all made available for wearers to review. Mine revealed the quality of my sleep habits as if I had been to a polysomnography clinic. I continue to be literally blown away!

With all of that, this small gadget would show me something more. In a matter of days, an email message came to my inbox from the Fitbit monitoring system alerting me of a matter I had actually neglected to notice. The message read: “Your Charge battery level is low. Charge your battery as soon as possible.” I looked at the device and as sure as the message was real, the battery indeed needed to be charged. The Fitbit is only designed to run for about a week before it needs to be recharged.

Technology is incredible. In all actuality, these advances are really not new. And to the surprise of many, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs are not the creators of such brilliance. Since the beginning of creation, God made us with an even more advanced kind of genius. The Psalter noted that humanity is “…fearfully and wonderfully made…” (Psalm 139:14) Perhaps one might consider ours a “Faithbit”—a parallel kind of technology (namely, spirituality) designed to help us with a variety of daily motions and maneuvers no matter what we face in life. By faith, we can get up when we fall; overcome great difficulties; traverse great distances amidst the darkest nights, and so much more.

Faith is so amazing that along with it comes an alert system that apprises every believer whenever the battery—that essential power—is low and needs recharging. One might ask, how does one know? Great question! Here are a few hints! A bad attitude or quick temper is an alert that signals your battery is low. A negative spirit or some unhealthy (bad) habits surely indicate your battery is low. Weakness and ungodliness are certain notices that your battery is low. The paralysis of fear and exaggerated worry are no doubt tell-tell signs your batter is low.

If any of these or other similar indicators are the case with you, it could be that your faith-bit battery is low and needs to be recharged immediately. Simply plug it in—that is, pray, fast, spend quality private time with God, read your Bible, worship), and allow God to give you the strength you need to make it a little while longer. In case you don’t have one (a “faith-bit”), it only requires you to take the time to sign up. The only way any of the Fitbit data would be at my disposal obliged me to register online to allow the advocates to keep me informed. You can sign up, too; and you don’t even need a computer. Simply approach the Father in prayer, and confess your sins, and accept the terms (Jesus) for your salvation and justification. He is faithful still to cleanse and forgive you of all your sins if you’ll only ask Him.

In August we held our annual back-to-school festival for the youth of our church and community in Memphis’ beautiful Martin Luther King Park.   Its exquisite landscape and rolling hills are a wonder to behold as it sits almost hidden off Interstate 55 in south Memphis.

 

Upon my arrival to join others from our church who had already made their way there, I observed the features associated with the glorious park scene as some of the youth (and adults) danced to music that was being played on a CD player.  There was a nice pavilion situated in the area we had selected with a nicely paved platform that served as its foundation and floor.  Picnic tables were positioned thereon for users to enjoy any food they might bring.  There were a number of convenient places to cook—barbeque pits—all around the pavilion area.  A picturesque fishing pond sat adjacent to the platform for the kids to cast their reels and poles.  We had a joyful time.

 

After a couple of hours that warm Saturday afternoon, I made my exit from the event to rest for the next day’s activities.  As I did, I became distracted by what sounded like an idling lawn mower that I failed to notice when first I came.  Moving toward the direction of the sound, I discovered a portable generator off the pavilion floor that was curiously purring away.  In that moment, I heard God speaking to me.  Amazingly, the engineers of this tremendously family-friendly venue designed the area with just about every amenity one could imagine to enjoy a normal outing with one exception—there was no electricity.  It was a profound revelation I will never forget; and about which I wish to share.  The lesson is simple:  Because of the way the land was designed, in order for there to be power IN the park, someone would have to bring power TO the park!”

 

Bless you, my dear readers!  There is no need crying about the fact that you live in a hell hole; work in a heathen environment, or routinely find yourself with or around some ungodly people.  That, my dear friends, may be the very reason your presence is needed there.  You may need to consider my discovery at the MLK Park in Memphis, Tennessee:  If there is to be power ON your job, IN you home, or AT those places you frequent and enjoy fellowship, then SOMEONE—more especially YOU—simply may need to bring that power TO the job, TO the home, or TO those places where God’s presence is needed to make a redemptive difference.

 

Let God use you

Fate has a way of introducing situations into our lives that challenge us at the deepest levels. From debt, difficulty, disaster, divorce, death, and beyond, these have a way of putting-the-squeeze on us in ways we would prefer to avoid. Never does God intend for these things to depress or destroy us. To the contrary, He uses these to develop us into power-broking people who can endure trials and prevail at any time, in any place, and under any circumstance. Settle with the fact that some realities just won’t change. Loved ones do age and may become ill. Grown children will eventually leave home; whether at a time we are ready for them to go, or earlier should they decide to take the plunge. Employers may make hard choices that cost us substantially. In short, we will continue to experience losses no matter who were are or what we have attained. We cannot change these!

You should know, though, you have options! You can either fight it—that is, try hard to deny the reality as if it does not exist—or you can face it. You can either take it lying down, or you can stand up in the midst of it and be a victor, and not the victim. When life issues you a lemon, you can actually make lemonade. God gives believers the power to take stumbling blocks, and successfully turn them into stepping stones. Regardless of how painful the dilemma is, we can make it, because it’s not the end of the world. That is, yet! Want to know how? Here’s an approach:

First, thank God for the test (trial). Really, that’s all it is. It’s a test of your faith. I don’t know anyone who tries to intentionally fail a test. There are some Christians, however, who would prefer to simply “not take the test.” Don’t trip! Thank God for it. It’s only a test! Second, ask God to help you learn from it. There is so much to learn in every experience. Turn that trial or challenge into a learning module. God will show you areas where you are much stronger/wiser than you realized, and ways (and places) where you need improvement. No matter what, learn from the experience! Third, be positive! The matter of faith is a “living” reality. Therein lies a power at our disposal to handle and overcome any adversity if we would simply appropriate it. Sing songs of praise and be joyful. Do all you can to celebrate God’s goodness even in the dark places! Make God larger than the problem. Fourth, trust His word (Him) through it! Remind yourself of the promises of God. He alone declares never to leave nor forsake us. He alone has the power to defeat death, hell, and the grave. Read and remember His word.

Daniel had fasted and was praying for three full weeks anticipating a breakthrough and some needed relief for the people of Israel (Chapter 9). While still praying, the angel of the Lord came and told him what he needed to hear. Amazingly, the angel confessed he departed heaven to come to Daniel’s aid a full three weeks earlier, but had been strangely detained by demonic forces (see Chapter 10:13). Even more amazing was the fact Daniel never lost hope. I wondered why! I pondered how we might equally be resilient as we wait on God’s timely intervention into our situations today. Two things came to mind:

(1) God always gives assurance in spite of the appearance. When things appear they are not changing and you find yourself getting a bit weary, pay close attention to how God mysteriously provides assurance even in spite of the appearance. Things are not always as they seem.
(2) Trust the revelation instead of the manifestation. As you read His word, hold fast to what God has said rather than what you see. His word alone can kindle a fire in your heart and give to you the comfort you need to make it through. I am a witness He will!

Dear brothers and sisters; roll up your sleeves and tell the devil “He’s a liar; and the truth is not in him!” Trust God! You can and will make it!

I admit I am a “control freak.” That’s right; I said it! I like control. The thing about it is I only want control of one thing. I am at peace knowing there are many things over which I have absolutely no control. I have no control over creation, nature, the weather, the seasons, many of life’s circumstances, other people’s behavior, the economy, and more. I actually do not want or need any of these. The one thing over which I have the privilege (and responsibility) and absolutely want sure control of is me. I work daily to do just that—to always be in control of me!

Now, let me be clear. I make no claims that managing such control is an easy assignment. In fact, it is a constant daily challenge. Things can and will happen, and people will continue to do things with which many are in total disagreement and have no real like. Even so, it behooves us to learn quickly the only one over which we have true power and managerial control is self.

One of the hardest lessons for many of us to grasp is the need to maintain proper possession of that personal “emotional remote” we each have been given. You see, the adversary is bent on causing us to lose it. He literally wants us to be out-of-control at every juncture; and especially during crisis and difficulty. He routinely uses tragedy, disaster, calamity, death, and other hardships to trip us up, and to throw us into an emotional frenzy. Try to keep in mind; however, whenever you are out-of-control you have actually placed the “remote” into the hands of another. And when others have that kind of power in your life, you have actually given them too much power. Never should another have the power (and privilege) of “changing your channel”—your attitude and behavior—when bad (or even good) things happen. It is not right that any should dictate another’s reactions and responses like some myopic minstrel or mindless puppet on a string. That kind of manipulative control can be dangerous.

Sadly, we at times forfeit the “remote” to people who don’t know what to do with it when they get it. The one thing we can be sure of is that they are out-of-control, and they are helpless to regain any sense of stability without the aid and assistance of someone else (and hopefully, someone who loves them) who can keep a level head throughout. With the help of God, that’s the kind of person I am determined to be.

Charles Swindoll was only partially right when he wrote, “…life is 10% what happens to me, and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you … we are in charge of our attitudes.” In reality, we are in charge (control) of more than just our attitudes. We are also in charge (control) of our behavior; and if not, we truly should be.

If somehow (and for whatever reason) you have lost your “remote,” there’s no need to panic, but you need to fix that real soon. The devil didn’t make you do it; neither alcohol nor drugs made you do it. Circumstances and situations don’t make you do it; and for sure, no one else can make you do it. The bottom line is you (and only you) are in control of you! To be sure, the Apostle Paul wrote, “Do not be drunk with (under the influence of) wine, but rather be filled with (in the control of) the Holy Spirit.” (Ephesians 5:18; emphasis and italics, mine).

Happy Holidays! And, always be careful to hold on to your “remote!” As a matter of fact, why not simply give it to the Holy Ghost? I promise you He won’t hurt you!

While certain critics continue their onslaught of playwright, Tyler Perry, regarding his latest film, “For Colored Girls,” box-offices prove these so-called experts don’t altogether know everything; and especially about our understanding and appreciation of black art. In my humble opinion, the production struck (strangely) a few spiritual chords I found noteworthy, and afforded me the opportunity to incorporate them into a recent message. Through a combination of varying and independent themes, Perry amazingly caused them to coalesce in a warmly communal scene at the conclusion of the movie that was packed with preaching. If you have seen it already, then you may appreciate these epigrammatic observations from my review.

As these nine ladies stood arm-in-arm on the roof of the apartment building wherein much of the drama took place, I found their dissimilar stories and uniformly unfortunate circumstances portraying these common truths. Somehow they each came to discover (1) You’re not the only one that’s going through; (2) There’s always someone else who is worse off than you; (3) You need me, and I need you; and (4) and if any of us are going to make it, only God can bring us through!

Poetic, yes! But, I submit these are both painstaking and powerful, too!

Settle with these realities, my brothers and sisters. When you do, you may find comfort to stay in the fight, the courage to continue with the struggle, and the strength never to give up (or give in) until the battle is finally over. God is not through with you yet!

Be blessed and may His peace be with you, always!

The Apostle Paul wrote to his colleague and cohort, Timothy, and incorporated a familiar trans-generational analogy to illustrate his point. He told this young servant and friend to “…stir up…” the gift inside him (2 Timothy 1:6). A few modern translators relate he was to “…fan into flame…” the gift (NIV, NLT, etc.). We can only assume what Paul meant (exactly), but the metaphor offers key insights for us to gain a reasonable understanding of his admonition as we attempt to interpret these words.

In the chill and challenge of those Eastern mornings or the brisk cold of many a night in Rome, we get the sense (a mental picture) that Paul may have been responsible to manage the fire pits used to warm and comfort prisoners and soldiers. He portrays how a well lit fire (whether in a fire place, a fire pit, or even a grill) unattended can soon become dormant and lose its ability to give heat. He knew that live coals left alone will eventually smolder and become ashen. Born of his experience (or perhaps his careful observation), the Apostle seizes an opportunity to convey to Timothy a truth we all need to learn. To avoid your fire going out, all one needs do is “stir up the gift.” What does that mean in modern language, and how do we appropriate such a strategy for our own lives? Let’s consider the following:

1. PAY ATTENTION TO IT! As in the small matter of our given dexterity, each of us (as infants) began to favor a particular hand which others saw and knew was to be our dominant appendage. In fact, they would be careful to encourage use of the same by placing the crayon or pencil into that hand in the establishment of proficiency. The same is the case when it comes to spiritual gifting. God has factored dexterity into our developmental reality. One sure way to discern it or to discover it is by simply paying attention to it. Notice your strengths and propensities. Others will, too!
2. PRAY ABOUT IT! As curiosity becomes calm, be sure to seek God about the conclusions you may be reaching. Ask Him (God), “Lord, is this your will?” Ask, “Am I headed in the right direction for my life?” I am confident we would each more easily and much more quickly fair better about our gifts and callings if we would spend more time praying about it.
3. PLAN FOR IT! When you are serious, there may be areas of your life that need serious adjustment and personal modification—like debt, education, special training, etc. Begin to position yourself and your circumstances for full-time devotion to “fulfilling your calling.” In that God has invested in you, then you should invest in you, too!
4. PURSUE IT! At some point, plans must eventually be executed and put to the test. Go for it! You have to start heading in that direction. You will never make it to DC if you don’t leave Atlanta. You’ll never become a physician if you don’t attend medical school. If you want to become a lawyer, you first must pass the LSAT. Move definitively in that direction. Pursue it.
5. PRESENT IT (or PUT IT INTO PRACTICE)! Strangely, the world feels gifts are to be received. I beg to differ. Gifts are called gifts because they are designed to be given (presented). Let God use you to be a blessing to someone else’s life so they can be transformed by the love of God in you. Allow your gift to express itself in the lives of other people.

These may not be all that Paul meant, but they surely offer some practical insights into how we can approach the notion of “gift stirring” he mentioned. In all actuality, Timothy’s gift was already in his DNA as it was evident in both his mother and his grandmother. He was spiritually “wired” for service. God did His part (by giving the gift), but it was Timothy’s job to do his part—stir it up!

Think about this in your life’s journey. If others are not being warmed, comforted, enlightened, transformed, attracted, even charmed (benefiting) from the gift of God resident within you (these are all things a flaming fire will do), then that’s a good indication your fire is out. And if yours is out, don’t be alarmed or discouraged about it. Just do what Paul told Timothy! “Stir that thang up!”

A rather cavalier regard for the things of God prevails in our society today. Few have distinguished themselves as even possessing the “zeal for God” that Israel had in the first century (read Romans 10:2). One would have to laud them at least for having passion—a rare commodity in the twenty-first century church. Post modern spirituality (and especially the “gosperity message”) has sadly reduced God to nothing more than a Cosmic Valet and Heavenly Paramedic or convenient EMS. As a result, many have no need for God except in an emergency.

Clearly many lack authentic spiritual passion. So called church goers are more content just to “have a good time,” than to have a transformative encounter with God that would result in active engagement of ministry. If this malady were a medical problem, some drug conglomerate would have already manufactured a remedy. How I wish it were that simple!

For today’s commentary, I have only one (rhetorical) question: Is there an impotency drug for the church? Too many believers desperately need help with impotence and dysfunctionality!

Quite honestly, there is a prescription. Solomon said God prescribed a simple remedy for this condition—being spiritually impotent and dysfunctional. In fact, the Great Physician included a sure guarantee—His promise. Here it is: “If my people who are called by my name would humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14).

Sounds like there is medicine available for our ills! All we need do is take it.

Take the medication, my dear friends, and be blessed today!

How long do I have to go through this? When will my “ship come in?” Will trouble ever cease? When is it going to be my turn? Will my dreams come true? Will things ever get better? These are the universal and unrelenting concerns of so many true believers. They pray, they fast, they seek the loving intercession of others, even labor before the Lord for hours on end; and yet it seems like nothing happens. Things don’t improve or get any different, and the waiting is wearisome to endure. Here’s a real question for you? What if change doesn’t come or things don’t get better? And what if they get worse? Plainly frustrated by waiting, what is one supposed to do? How does one manage in the meantime and beyond this likely possibility?

If God does not discernibly change things for you or improve your circumstances to your delight, and obviously you can’t change them, here are some options:

1. You can start by changing YOU. There’s no need to keep beating-your-head-up-against-the-wall in frustration and disappointment. Arriving at this crucial growth position does not mean you’re happy with or appreciate your situation; instead it means you are learning to accept it. It doesn’t mean you like it; it just means you have decided to live WITH and “to live” IN SPITE of it. Sometimes things just won’t change. “It-is-what-it-is,” and there is nothing we can do to fix it. Don’t become bitter! Get better! Try hard to work on you!

2. Get involved in some area of kingdom service. One of the best ways to avoid depression and overcome the tendency to be overwhelmed by your own plight is to find eager (helpful and encouraging) involvement in another’s struggle. Ask God to reveal to you His opportunities where you can be a real and meaningful blessing to someone else who may be having a hard time. Trust me! You won’t have to look long, you won’t have to look hard, and you certainly won’t have to look far!

3. Listen and learn from both. Someone asked me recently from where I find all my stories? I told them I actually don’t have stories; all I have are experiences. And from these experiences, I am able to joyfully discover stories. How then does that happen? All I do is take the time to reflect on my experiences and process them from every possible angle. When they have “marinated” for a while, I seek God about the lesson He wants me to gain in every one of them. Some believers see life as full of obstacles; I try to see life’s obstacles as learning opportunities. Don’t miss the lesson you are supposed to learn; and don’t rest until you find it. It’s in there!

You can actually turn your negative experiences into positive energy! You can move from frustration to favor. Just ask God to help you, and before you know it you will have stumbled upon a new joy that will give you the strength you need to go on!

Confident He will still help you through it, I remain…

The ministry of encouragement is an important aspect of productive ministry. Without it, the work will hardly flourish, workers will grow weak and faint, and the witness of the church will flounder miserably. Every believer needs spiritual encouragement.

 

Key to properly offering this vital ministry is a healthy understanding of its design. There is a scrolling screensaver I created on my laptop that has been there since first I purchased the unit several years ago. The exact same phrase functioned on my previous unit. It reads, “Encouragement without empowerment equals enablement.” You see, it is my firm position that if you offer encouragement and fail to empower the recipient to a heightened level of living and productivity, you may be enabling their helpless behavior and not challenging them to grow. Case in point: Were one to continue to bring fish daily to the hungry after leaving a favorite fishing hole, for sure, the hungry would be encouraged; but only fed for a day. But, at the next trip to the lake, if one would bring an extra pole and teach the hungry how to fish, then such persons would become empowered to feed themselves for a lifetime. No longer would they be dependent on another for food, because they could responsibly feed themselves.

 

Even automobile manufacturers realize that batteries (while they obviously have energy) cannot continue to function sufficient to keep cars and trucks running alone. So, another valuable device was attached to the motor called the alternator. Its job is simple. Like other auto parts, the alternator can’t function without power from the battery. But unique to its operation, the alternator’s primary purpose (while receiving essential energy from the battery) is to re-send the energy it gains back to the battery so the battery can maintain a positive charge. Were it not for the alternator’s crucial “ministry,” the battery would soon loose its charge and the ability to keep the vehicle running.

 

There you have it! If you are being energized by someone else who serves faithfully in ministry, ask God to help you be an alternator. Find meaningful ways to re-send the power you gain back to the person(s) giving it to you so they can maintain a positive charge and keep the machine—the work of ministry—working for the Master. Then (for sure), preachers can keep witnessing, sinners no doubt will keep believing, ministries can keep growing, and church can keep making a difference in every community.

 

Be an alternator! Your ministry as such could be the determiner of another’s success or failure.

 

On Sunday, June 28, 2009, Joey Logano became the youngest driver ever to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup series. At 19, the rookie somehow bounced back from a near debilitating crash that blew a left rear tire, and ultimately rendered him one lap behind the rest of the field. Forced to leave the race, his crew skillfully (and quickly) repaired the flat; and simultaneously refueled his car so that he was able to reenter the track. Incredibly, Logano took the lead when Ryan Newman, along with several others throughout the course, ran out of gas around lap 264. The scheduled 301-lap chase was shortened due to rain in the 273 lap, and Logano emerged as the front runner to take the championship. In spite of a tire-blowing crash and while everyone lacked petroleum, Joey Logano was able to win the race; all because somebody else on the team made sure he had fuel enough to finish.

 

We, too, encounter tragedies and experience setbacks that often sideline us along life’s unpredictable journey. Many times throughout the course, we are forced to make unscheduled pit-stops because we’re hurting and need to deal with the damage. Every tragedy, however, does not have to take us completely out of the race. No matter the disaster—debt, difficulty, divorce, even death—we can still continue the journey and finish strong if others on the teams would ensure we have sufficient fuel to finish. Worship, prayer, and praise, are necessary pit-stops for Christians. The church—the people of God—is her maintenance crew. It is our duty for those who have blown-a-tire or simply had a crash to readily help them get back in the race, so they can finish and win the prize.

 

Nine weeks beyond my rotator cuff surgery, my physical therapist tells me my range of motion is now around ninety per cent. Currently, we’re working on strength-training so I can again do the things I would normally be able to do. Were it not for the skilled intervention of some physical therapists, I would likely not be able to fully recover. I’m already back-in-the-race, because I have some qualified crew members who are helping me refuel.

 

May the Christ’s church likewise help others so they can continue the journey and be useful, too! He’s able!

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