Walking Through the Open Door

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1 Peter 5:10 (NLT) – “In his kindness God called you to share in his eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation.”

Just because we are believers doesn’t mean we are exempt from trials and suffering. Peter knew this more than most, because he had endured countless attacks due to his belief in Jesus Christ. But he always kept the faith that God was at work within his life, despite his many encounters with opposition. Peter knew that he would be restored someday, even if that “someday” was the day of the Lord’s return. I want to share a true story, that brought this Scripture verse home for me.

For quite awhile, I was unhappy on my job. The original company I’d worked for had recently been acquired through merger with a larger firm. Dynamics were changed, new policies were enacted and generally speaking there were some challenges. All in all, it ceased to be a good fit for me. I prayed diligently on the matter, and before too long, I was presented with several prospective opportunities. While the first two just didn’t seem right for me, the third choice lined up as if God had specifically spoken into my life. It lined up so well, that I doubted it. So, before lunging head first at the opportunity, I took time to pray even more. I believe God confirmed that third choice through several ways: speaking with my pastor; bible scriptures pointing toward following the Lord’s direction; and there was a peace I felt over the whole decision. The time came when I signed the necessary documents and set a date for starting my new career. At the same time, I drafted a profession letter of resignation from my existing firm, and offered a timeframe of 3 weeks notice.

The day after I submitted my letter of resignation, I contracted viral pinkeye, and had to take days off from work. Four days after the submission–and incidentally four days into my sick leave–I received a call from the Vice President of my division. He wanted me to reconsider my decision to leave the company because it “looked bad” for me to leave after the company had invested so much into my developement. I respectfully declined, and thanked him for the time spent working together. The VP suggested that I take the weekend to reconsider the resignation. Here, I’ll divert.

Faith requires us to believe even when we cannot see the outcome. Oh, sure we read about it all the time in bible stories and listen to testimonies and T.V. shows with happy endings, so we know faith is real. But, it isn’t until you’re truly faced with tough decisions that you find out just how strong your faith really is. That weekend, I struggled terribly with the 11th hour decision. Do I stay put, and retain the company car and all of my health benefits, especially at a time when I’m dealing with a progressive health issue? There is safety in the known. Or, do I follow what I believe to be the Lord’s direction, honor the signed documentation of a new company and start a new career at 43 years old: no health benefits; no company car; no seniority. For a brief moment friends, I chose to stay right where I was, because logic dictated that to be the smart move. But, once again, God confirmed. My wife reminded me that we had prayed for months for God to open new doors of opportunity for me, professionally. And I was reminded that once he opens one door, he shuts another. How can I claim to love the Lord if I do not follow his direction, even in the tough times?

The follow Monday, I gave the VP my final answer, and was immediately terminated from my job. The day was May 2, 2016. Because my last day of physical work on the job had been Tuesday, April 26, 2016, I would received no sick leave time from that point (I had apparently run out), and my health insurance benefits had effectively expired on the last day of April. No benefits, no company car, no income for at least four whole weeks. When God opens one door, he shuts another for good. We have to decide whether or not we are willing to walk through the new door.

Today, my pinkeye has me irritated and I have to beat my flesh into submission because it constantly wants to run contingency plans for the tough times ahead. But, I believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. I believe I made the best decision for my family. I believe that what Peter said in the Scripture above is truth, and God will restore, support, strengthen and set my feet on a solid foundation. The physical and spiritual struggles I’m enduring right now are only temporary. I look at it as the enemy attempting to get me to doubt God’s deity. But, we have to always remember who we truly serve, and he’s not a failure.

I didn’t want to write this story to put my business out into the wind for attention. I actually didn’t want to share this at first, because part of my battle with my flesh is dealing with the reality of being fired from a job. The circumstances surrounding the shut door don’t even matter. My ego was bruised. But…if sharing this story encourages one person out there to look to and lean on God’s word during sufferings, sharing this story was worth it. Since this was such a long post, let me share that verse with you once again. And, be encouraged friend. When you’re going through the struggles, recognize that you must be on the side of God, because Satan is persecuting you so heavily. My vision is blurry, and I struggled throughout this entire writing.  But I finished it, for someone out there beyond my keyboard. Be encouraged because God is still with you.

1 Peter 5:10 (NLT) – “In his kindness God called you to share in his eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation.”

 

*Always*

I’m Doin’ Just Fine

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“When you feel down and out, sing a song
It’ll make your day, yeah, yeah
You will come to shout, sing a song
It’ll make a way

  Sometimes it’s hard to care, sing a song
It’ll make your day
A smile so hard to bear, sing a song
It’ll make a way” – Earth, Wind & Fire: Sing A Song

Hey friends! It’s been a little while since I shared anything new and inspiring. Well…this ain’t that message. Truth is I’m human, breathe air, bleed and shop at Walmart and Kroger just like the rest of you. As such, I’ve had to fight through some trials lately that simply left me feeling “blahh”; the kind of “meh” that keeps a writer away from the keyboard. Some of you know what I’m talking about. Life is an ever revolving door of seasons. There are times when you feel on top of the world. And then, there are those times when the weight of the world seems to be firmly seated on your chest.

I heard a radio preacher expand on the notion of, “God wants me to be happy.” He said something that caught my attention and gave me pause to think about what I’m doing in life. Said preachers dropped this point:

“Happiness is an emotional state, and we have to remember we can’t always trust our emotions. Emotions very often have little to do with obedience.”

Adultery feels great to the adulterer, until he’s facing the barrel of a gun. So why would anyone choose to put themselves within a five minute window of physical pleasure for a lifetime of repercussions? (SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: I’m not the adulterer in that last example.)

I think what the preacher was saying is that we–as believers–should remember that there is a difference between happiness and joy. Life’s circumstances have a way of diverting our eyes away from the presence of the Lord, and on the “stuff” we don’t have. We tend to think the “stuff” will bring us happiness. But, when we have joy in our lives, the love of the Lord sustains us through the trials of life.

That’s where I’ve been lately. Between the changes with my job, my computer exploding (no seriously), the need for a new car and the uncertainty of my family’s address, I tell you friends…the book of Job was real in my life for a minute. Talk about goin’ through it! But, we serve a mighty God and I am constantly reminded that despite the circumstances surrounding me, he is always in complete control.

This past weekend, money came unexpectedly without expectation, borrowing or gifting. Oh, it was a gift alright; just enough to replace my deceased Windows Vista machine with a brand new Windows 10 desktop for the family. God obviously gets all the praise for that one. And just as he’s known to do, it came right on time. So I find that tonight, I have a song in my heart. I love Earth, Wind & Fire.

Maybe this was an inspirational message for some of you who might be going through the struggle yourselves. To you, I say this: STOP WHINING AND START PRAYING.

~Just kidding. Sorry about that~

Hold on brother and sister. God knows exactly where you are, and what you’re facing. Don’t you give up on him because he certainly won’t give up on you. He’s got your best interest at heart and his plan for your life involves your obedience. After all, your obedience leads to joy and happiness.

For those who care: yes…I’m doin’ just fine.

*always*

Those Pesky Words

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Writers often “see” a scene long before it’s written. There’s where the problem lies. It happens to me all the time! Unfortunately, my vocabulary falls laughably short of my imagination’s ability to frame action. Often, my frustration manifests like this:

Billy pointed the gun and yelled, “Don’t make me use this!”

* Nope*

Billy’s shaky hand lifted the pistol and aimed at the officer. “Don’t make me do it, man,” he yelled.

*Blah!*

Before Officer O’Maly could react, Billy trained the Glock sites square at his forehead. “Don’t make me shoot you,” Billy shouted.

*ARGH!!*

You see what I’m sayin’? I can see this intense scene from half a dozen differing angles, but I struggle to find the right words to make you–the reader–feel the emotional suspense! This kid is pointing his gun at an office, ready to squeeze the trigger. The challenge is conveying that moment.

The less-is-more rule works in many different scenarios, but there are times when you need that perfect combination of colorful adjectives and adverbs to bring a scene to life. I don’t necessarily believe your words have to be intellectually gigantic, but they should be chosen in a manner that will draw your audience into the fray of the action. A lot of times, I’ll keep my scene building short and sweet before returning later to bulk it up. That first strike-out up yonder is a good example. It was short, sweet and boring.  But, for me as the writer, I needed that as a starting point.

Don’t be afraid to write skimpy sentences. Hey, that’s what drafts are for. Write those thin lines to get that story moving. You can always fight with pesky words to fatten up the scene description later. Just remember not to go overboard with the descriptors. There is nothing worse than this:

Billy’s sweaty, shaky left palm tightly clamped the polymer beaded grip of the Glock 19 Gen 4 pistol. He slowly raised the cold steel barrel toward officer O’Maly’s receding hairline temple, before the policeman could adequately react. Sternly, Billy pronounced, “Don’t you make me blow you away, cop!”

*REALLY?!!!*

Those pesky words, I tell ya. Use with caution, but keep on writin’ Wordsmiths.

Dear Bizzle

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Dear Biz,

Young brother, I was on my way to counting sheep for the night, when I decided to check my Facebook. A quick refresh put your message up at the top of my list. Strange, considering it was posted an hour ago. After reading through it one time, I felt compelled to reach out and encourage you. I hope this reply reaches your eyes and grants you a moment of peace, if only briefly.

The saying goes, “A new level; a new devil.” While it’s a catchy metaphor, Satan is real and hounds the saints relentlessly, pushing buttons that sometimes we don’t even know exist. Friends can turn their backs on you; family can disown you; fans can flip like a thumbed coin. I know it gets hard to please folks when you’re just trying to do the right thing under God’s guidance. You need to remember that God is exactly who you’re obediently following, Biz. The devil’s only testing your mettle because you’re succeeding as a soldier for the Lord.

Dude, I listened to the Wade-O interview just this morning on my iPod, while at work. You held on to that $40,000-plus stash even when your personal bank account was in trouble. In the end, that money went straight to Africa to build water towers, just like God intended. The devil hates you because of your obedience! You take your wife on tour with you, effectively negating the enemy’s thwarts and temptations on your flesh. The devil is furious with you because of your integrity! You constantly consult your pastor and your close circle of peers, before making any major decisions, just like a faithful disciple of Christ is supposed to do. Satan wants you broken before the masses, because of your heart for God!

As a man of God, you have to remember young brother: Jesus said, “They will hate you because they first hated me.” You have to deliberately close your ears to the chatter of the world around you, because nothing you do will satisfy those in the world.

I can’t begin to imagine what you face daily, because of your celebrity, but I do know that you must resist the urge to give attention to the words of discouragement. I know sometimes that very discouragement might come from “Christians”. But remember that Jesus also told us, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven,”. Some of these folks whispering in your ear and behind your back are false. Rely on the Lord alone for strength, brother.

Biz, it’s perfectly alright to admit you’re tired. You’re human, young brother. You’re life is constantly scrutinized because of your success. But where the line must be drawn is here: you will NOT give up! You will NOT go back! Your sons are counting on you to show them how a true man of God handles life challenges. The fight never stops, homie!

Never stop praying. Never stop reading. Never stop believing. I believe in you, young brother. I’m constantly praying for you and your family. I’m just one of many who are behind you.

Before you turn in for the night, I want you to read 2 Samuel 22:2-4 . God’s got you Bizzle. Never doubt him.

Raw Deal…Or Not

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The Apostle Paul made the fate of believers blatantly clear in 2 Timothy 3:12, when he said,

“In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,”

Wow. Taken at face value, who would want to live that life? It seems like a raw deal, doesn’t it? Especially when you apply your own struggles to this verse.

But, there is hope. More to the point, there is faith. Paul also strengthens us through Romans 8:28, when he said,

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

So, maybe following Jesus Christ is not such a raw deal, if everything that happens to us leads toward a greater good, we’re unable to see through human eyes.

Many people refuse the Lord because they think following him means a life of servitude, boredom, restrictions and constant troubles. Actually, following the Lord leads to a life of freedom, excitement, protection and countless victories. Jesus does not persecute. Jesus saves!

*always*

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P.O.V.

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  • One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.
  • The glass is half empty; the glass is half full.
  • This is a setback; this is an opportunity to regroup.
  • I can’t get any lower; I can only go up from here.
  • I quit; now watch me get started.

Point of view (or P.O.V.) is vital for success. The way you view a situation or circumstance tells a great deal about your character. If there are truly two sides to every story, your version will determine your own outcome.

Do you look at your life challenges and see the obstacles standing before you? Can you look beyond those giants? Or…are you the kind of person who faces the giants, and recognizes the opportunities beyond the challenges? Can you see the victory just after the trial?

Long before David was crowned king of Israel, he faced off against a Philistine giant of impossible size and strength. Yet, David never faltered. He saw victory where others, much stronger than he, saw only defeat. David’s P.O.V. was different from that of his countrymen despite looking at the same challenge. Because of his difference in perspective, God gave him a great victory.

We all face giants. How you respond to yours depends on your point of view. Instead of fearing the circumstances, look to God and recognize the victory on the other side of the challenge.

*always*

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Strength In Weakness

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2 Corinthians 12:9

“’But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”

It doesn’t naturally or logically make any sense that Jesus chooses to use us in our weakness. But, from a spiritual standpoint, that weakness within us is exactly what he wants. Think about it: if God takes our weaknesses and uses them to minister to others—through us—can we honestly say, “Look at what I just did”?

I hate the sound of my own voice, outside of my head. Yet, I sing when he tells me to. I’m afraid of crowds. But, I charge toward the alter if God calls me to it, right in front of a full congregation. I second guess my written work all the time. But, God continues to flow through my words. Folks, I’m a coward by nature; always afraid of what someone else might think of me; always afraid of my human inadequacies. But, the Lord uses my cowardice and transforms it into a strength I don’t possess on my own. Through his power, I’m able to do marvelous things.

You’re not the only one afraid to step out on faith. Whatever your secret talent is, God wants to use it to glorify his kingdom. You simply have to be willing to give him your weakness. That’s what the Apostle Paul was saying. In boasting of his own weaknesses, he recognized his willingness to give himself completely to the Lord.

  • Jim, don’t be afraid to share your music. It’s time. God will love your sound.
  • Gus, it’s time to write. Jesus will smile on your heart displayed and shared on paper.
  • Mike, it’s time to claim headship of your household, brother. God won’t allow you to fail.
  • Kovan, you’re becoming the husband and father you were meant to be.

*always*