Faithfulness


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

A young pastor and I were having a discussion about a text he was investigating for his sermon he would be preaching the upcoming Sunday morning. As he sat on the deck at the back of his newly constructed home, a disturbing scene unfolded before his eyes. A father (and neighbor) was cutting his grass two lots away. While pushing his lawnmower through the yard, the man’s six year old daughter thought it playful to run in front of the mower just ahead of her dad, and without being admonished. Before he knew it, my friend called it “an accident-just-waiting-to-happen.” He further blurted out while I was yet on the phone, “That’s exactly why I have got to hurry up and get my privacy fence put up.” Unaware of the developments since I was at my house and he was at his in another city and state, I asked what he meant. He described the scene and repeated his comment and added, “Because, I don’t want to be a witness to nothing!”

I laughed with him (at first), and then I thought to myself about this common malady and how tragically this position characterizes many a Christian. We have been called to be just that—witnesses. Our Lord said before He left, “…and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8, NIV). Yet, we seem to want to hide behind our preciously designed privacy fences and neglect to be and do what we have been called to be and to do. We prefer to hide behind the safe and comfortable privacy fence of a nice sanctuary, the fence of public worship, the privacy fence of a church building, the nice privacy fence of a tailored suit and a new dress on Sunday morning. But, as soon as worship ends and for the rest of the week, we seem content to hide behind these and other well-constructed privacy fences so we don’t have to be witnesses to no one and to no-thing—not anything.

Allow me to admonish you, dear brother or sister. Before it is everlasting too late, commit to come from behind these familiar barriers in your own life. Encourage others who may be hiding as well to do the same thing in their lives.

As darkness prevails in our world, every community needs the light of bold witnesses for the Lord Jesus Christ. We can no longer remain silent and unseen behind these spiritual privacy fences. Let your light shine! Be a witness to someone today, and share with them the gospel of salvation. The Lord will bless you for it, and you just might prevent a tragedy from happening!

While attending the Hampton’s Ministers Conference recently, a colleague and I were conversing about the NBA playoffs and he asked at what time the game would start that evening. Motioning to pick up the TV remote, he objected and said, “Let me get it!” Curiously, he took his Smartphone and began speaking into it. Effortlessly, he simply verbalized the question, “What time does Miami and Dallas play tonight?” In a matter of seconds, the phone executed a search and revealed the game would begin at 8:00 p.m. I was literally blown away. Quickly, I asked him what in the world did he just do! He told me about this downloadable application for Smartphones that would allow such an option to anyone who wanted to use it. Not wanting to be left out, I located the software on my phone and downloaded it with ease. I have been using it ever since.

Don’t miss this! Technology has now come to a point that without ever typing a key, one can simply via voice recognition ask your phone just about any question you want, and in almost no time the phone will reveal the answer. Well, the creators of Google aren’t that smart. In fact, they simply have been trying to mimic an application designed by God since the beginning of time. Similar to Google Search, God’s search engine is called prayer. It’s free and only takes a little, and it is available to anyone who would access it. Our Creator has already designed us to employ it; and is only waiting an opportunity to resolve and answer all of our issues and questions. He is only a prayer away.

If you’ve got a problem, just ask God. I am a witness He will answer you!

Some time ago I sat in a familiar chair to have my shoes polished on my way to a funeral. As I sat there to negotiate this experience, I paid close attention as my shoes underwent a necessary transformation. The skilled craftsman quietly began by brushing away any loose dirt or debris, and followed with some saddle soap and water to thoroughly clean the leather. Afterwards, he took an old cloth to wipe away the excess moisture and dried the leather before applying the polish. He then took his crooked fingers and carefully patted the small can of Kiwi held in his left hand, and slowly started rubbing the wax solution onto the shoe’s surface. After brushing his application into the shoe, it left a simple flat black hue on my nice monk straps. Thankfully, he wasn’t finished. He then applied a second coat to ensure it was adequately absorbed within the leather and began brushing it into the shoe. Slowly, a faint luster began to emerge on the shoe’s surface. In patient form, the quiet gentleman took a soft finishing rag and began popping it across the ball of my shoe; around the sides and on the back of the heels. Eventually, a rich black glossy finish sparkled at my feet as he concluded his work by nicely dressing the soles.

Interestingly, when the shoe shine man started out, he was undaunted by the fact that my shoes were unclean; a bit scuffed, and clearly needed attention. Even as he went through his procedure for cleaning and buffing, he remained undeterred by his assignment though no major change occurred. He was determined to keep working and did not stop until the end he desired emerged. This keen man stuck with his task and was able to get a shine out of the shoe because he knew there was a shine “in the shoe.”

Our Lord, Jesus (our Shine Man), likewise would never have told us to allow our lives (lights) to “shine” had He not known there was “shine” potential and possibility already within us. He firmly said that you and I are the light of the world (Matthew 5: 16). And we are encouraged by the Lord to allow His light to shine through us so others may see our good works and give glory to the Father in heaven.

Today, why not make this your new commitment? In fact, you should sing it aloud:

“This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine;
Everywhere I go, I’m going to let it shine;
Jesus gave it to me; I’m going to let it shine;
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine!”

Recently I counseled someone who had become rather melancholy about church, worship, and just the whole image of modern day ministry. The smorgasbord of appeals being made from an array of sources makes choosing a church (even Christ) very difficult, and has caused some to be discouraged to the point of disinterest.

The Bible says such a period would emerge. Paul told his colleague and friend there would come a time when people would not endure sound doctrine (2 Tim 4:3), and even said some would eventually abandon the faith (1 Tim 4:1). With the deluge of preachers and self-proclaimed prophets afoot in cyberspace and the world today, it is becoming more and more difficult to know exactly what and who to believe. A lot of stuff out there may sound good, but so much is neither good nor sound.

Is there an actual litmus test for determining legitimacy in ministry? How can one know what and who to believe? Or even know who is real? Our Lord said clearly without regard for personality, charisma, gifts, degrees, apparent success, and the like, there is one sure tell sign. He said, “By this will all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one for another.” (John 13:35, NIV) Succinctly, amidst all the hype and pseudo-energy that characterizes a lot of contemporary preaching, the love of God must and will be unmistakably clear to help confirm if a message and messenger is truly real. The power of God’s love is still able to woo sinners unto repentance if we would simply trust Him.

Remember our childhood days? While we could hardly afford a bicycle, most kids were enamored by the speed and sound a motor cycle made. Too dangerous and expensive for most of us, we remained content to ride our bikes, but would make an inexpensive modification to its operation to enhance our experience. We would simply take a playing card (any card) from a deck of cards, and a clothes pin from where mom would hang the laundry, and clip the card onto the frame of the bike so it would flap against the spokes. Remarkably, it created for us a noise that gave the sense we were riding a motorized cycle. There was only one problem. While it made a lot of noise, it actually had no power.

Chew on that, my brothers and sisters. Please don’t be guilty of the same. Be encouraged!

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!

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!”

God favored me in a most refreshing and remarkable way the other day. After years of searching (and simply refusing to give up), I was able to reconnect with a dear friend I met over 30 years ago while we both were serving as young officers in the United States Army at Fort Benning, Georgia. Reassigned to a new installation in 1981, I moved on and we simply lost contact. We had not spoken since.

Finding him was not easy. It took time and effort, and the closer I got (it seemed), the more challenging the search became. When finally we spoke, the excitement in our voices was both unmistakable and indescribable. We laughed and cried as we talked. I was especially moved as he told of his painful path over the years. Injuries, sickness, difficulties, and even the shadow of death were all a part of his peculiar journey. On several occasions he shared how he almost lost his life in a few accidents during overseas maneuvers. His story brought me to more tears, but I was (and am) so happy to discover he was alive and well.

Of all the things he shared, his voice was strongest when he told me about how God alone had kept him and had brought him safely through. Confidently, he reported he held faithful membership with Eastern Star Baptist Church in Indianapolis, Indiana, where Reverend Jeffrey Johnson serves as pastor. He cited their motto there is the church “Where Jesus is exalted and the Word is explained.” What he said next shook me to the core. He said, “Reg, you know I’m not a preacher and I may not be able to explain the word like many others; but I can assure you of one thing; can’t nobody beat me exalting Him. Believe that!” There was even more joy!

In His own mysterious way, God granted me another measure of His grace by allowing me to reunite with a dear friend and brother who I have not seen in three decades. Incredibly, and perhaps equally as long he was also looking for me.

In case you haven’t already figured it out, I’m really excited about this reunion. I have only heard his voice, but I’m still glad about it. I have yet to see his face or even shake his hand, but I still have joy about it. Just the prospects of seeing him in the near future give me great encouragement, and each time I tell of this experience, my joy excites others.

I should tell you there is a Great reunion scheduled! In these days of economic challenge and personal difficulty, keep pursuing this Friend–the Lord—while He may be found. You, too, will find joy unspeakable and full of glory. In fact, you will be surprised to learn some good news in your search. This Friend has also been looking for you!

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