That Moment When God Reminds You…

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A good life is like a fantastic roller coaster. High peaks slowly creep, and the anticipation is scary-exciting. Then, the rush of the downhill race takes your breath away. Life throws a few speedy curves into the ride for good measure. The truly great coasters will even surprise you with quick peaks and valleys in succession, just to add witty surprise to the experience. Then, in a blink…it’s all over.

A mediocre life is like a drive along a dessert highway. The asphalt is slightly bumpy and quite often the anticipation stems from a need to arrive at the destination. The scenery is dull. The road is straight and yields no surprising twists or turns. The journey is so mundane, it seems to take several lifetimes before the end arrives.

The thing about life is, it’s often a combination of both the good and the mediocre. We experience the highs of the hilltops at times, but we also endure the lows of the valleys: the success of a promotion and the grief of a lost loved-one; that first kiss, and that first bee-sting; the triumph of broken spiritual chains, and the deflation of facing personal weak faith.

It’s the duality of life. Hills and valleys. Highs and lows. Ups and downs. It never stops. But one constant is true.

God’s always there.

I know, it may not always seem like it and some might have a genuine right to argue against my claim. There are real monsters in the world. There are tragedies everywhere. And sometimes, things don’t exactly have to be earth-shattering to bring you down from the hilltop. Sometimes, it’s just a series of little things subtly chipping away at your joy and confidence.

But, God is still there, too.

I believed God had given me specific talents, uniquely crafted for me. Sure…anyone could do what I can do. But no one could do it exactly the way I can. Surely, He had to have given me these talents for a reason. It’s a high point, when you realize your purpose.

But as the years continued to roll by, I didn’t seem to recognize any forward movement with my talents. My gifts just didn’t appear to make any difference in my life, or the lives of others. Despite the countless encouraging scriptures of faith, I really struggled to continue believing my apparent gifts were from God. More and more, I started to believe they were a product of my own design and that I was now wasting time with them. Where I’d once vehemently believed God had spoken those gifts into my heart, I was suddenly contemplating giving them up.

Friday morning, I was ready to stop writing altogether. And then…Friday evening came.

My home church–River of Life–hosted an outpouring service, and despite my secret decision to pack up my pens and journals, I came to church expecting to see God move in the lives of my church family members. The church was alive with the sounds of praise and worship, and the presence of the Holy Spirit was heavy in the sanctuary. For almost two hours, we sang and prayed, before my Pastor took to the pulpit.

Pastor Eddie launched into intercessory prayer; boldly praying for folks to receive the blessing of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The place was electric! As he prayed, and pronounced blessings of healing for people he didn’t know personally, I simply basked in the presence of the Lord, watching the Spirit work through the lives of my church family and visitors alike. And then, something unexpected happened.

He called my name. Pastor Eddie called my name, and caught my eye.

“I don’t normally call people out,” he announced, “but the Lord wants you to know, don’t quit on your gifts. Brother don’t quit on your gifts.”

I broke. I lost strength and fell to ground. He could not have possibly known that very morning, I’d decided to stop writing. My Pastor had no idea what I had been struggling with since the beginning of the new year. He couldn’t have known I’d given up hope. There could be only one explanation.

God was still there. He was…He is…still watching me. He knows my name, and He knows my heart. And on that Friday, among so many different people coming to Him with their own issues–looking to be set free–He took the time to speak to me in a way that could not possibly be mistaken for anything other than what it was: miraculous.

I was completely undone. At some point, my wife came to my side and held on to me as every ounce of guilt and shame poured out through hot tears and naked sobs. When composure returned, it came with a renewed sense of purpose. With that purpose came freedom. I have no idea what God wants me to write, but He told me not to give up. I have faith in Him. I’m riding the hilltop.

I don’t know what you’re struggling with right now, at this very moment friend. But I can say this with fresh confidence: God sees you. He knows where you are, and knows exactly what you’re going through. I know life is hard sometimes, and it becomes easy to lose sight of what’s true; what’s good. Despite my struggles, I think the best thing I could have done was to go into that outpouring service with expectancy. I had no idea what I was looking for. I just wanted to be in His presence. And maybe–just maybe–that’s all you need. You just need to be in the Lord’s presence. You seek Him, even in your struggles, and I promise you He will find you; not that you’ve ever been lost to Him. I lost my youngest son once. It was a nightmare. I don’t wanna talk about it. But God never loses His real children. He’s always there. Sometimes, He just wants us to come to Him; to seek His presence.

So don’t give up. Don’t give in. Don’t quit. I believe He’s rooting for you. You just have to keep on believing…

 

 

*always*

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Hell is real, bruv.

Ask any saint, and he’ll tell you so.

Lives are cut short;

Lasting only as long as sin entertains, persuades and deceives and destroys;

Oh, the agony of the eternal fire!

When exactly did this happen?

Even now, I regret some of my past decisions; actually…

Every decision to ignore the truth of God;

Never to breathe a peaceful life again.

Sometimes, You Gotta Just Go With God

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“What does that mean, Enn?”

Yeah, I know…

“Sometimes, you gotta just go with God; what exactly are you saying?”

Well, see, that’s the thing. I don’t exactly know.

“What do you mean, ‘I don’t exactly know?’ What am I about to read here?”

I can’t rightly answer that question. But, I can tell you this: there are seasons when the Spirit moves in me and I recognize it’s time to sit down at the keyboard. Usually, I’ll turn on some inspiring music and wait for Him to put words into my heart. Tonight is no different. He’s moving, and I’m trying to listen.

One of my favorite songs is “Hymn of Praise” by William McDowell, featuring Julia McMillian and Daniel Johnson on lead vocals. Man, whenever I hear this powerful worship song, I can’t help but to fall in line with the Holy Spirit. Tonight, this song is on heavy repeat…even as I write. As I listen to the praises of God’s people, I’m trying to see the words forming in my heart. This special message is for someone tonight.

You’ve been trying so hard to make things work out in your favor, doing everything you think is right. You’ve been working hard, taking care of your responsibilities and doing everything by the book. Yet, for every step you take, it seems like something or someone pulls you two steps backward. When’s it going to be your time to catch a break, for once?

God sees you. He heard that prayer of desperation, last night. He knows exactly where you are and precisely what you’re going through right this moment, as you read these impossible words. Yeah…He sees you. He sees your struggles.

Mark 9:23-24 records a powerful exchange between Jesus and a father. “Jesus said to him, ‘If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.’ Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, ‘Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!'”

That last verse is personal to me, because I know what it feels like to struggle with unbelief strapped to weak hope. But Jesus doesn’t say, “If you wait until your emotions line up with your head-belief, then I’ll act.” No. He simply tells us to believe. You may not feel it emotionally. It may not make any sense to you. It’s a leap of faith.

Tonight, I need you to believe, even if you don’t feel it in your bones. Just trust in God and know that He’s got you exactly where he wants you. Maybe it’s time to leave that job. Maybe it’s time to be brave and put yourself out there. Maybe it’s time to ask for help. Maybe it’s your time to pursue you calling. You’ve been struggling so hard. Believe. He is with you, and knows where you are.

 

*Always*

Which One Are You?

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Last night, my family returned home from mid-week church services around around 9PM. My 10 year old, Isaiah, made a bee line straight up the steps toward the computer room.

“Zeek,” I said. “What are you doing?”

“I’m writing something.” He replied.

At first, I figured he waited until the absolute last minute to finish his homework, and didn’t want to own up to it. I pressed him again.

“Zeek, what’re you doing?”

“I’m writing something, I told you. I have to do it now.”

“Okay,” I said. I’ll let it ride and we can have a discussion about late homework tomorrow. About 20 minutes passed, when he came down stairs and proudly handed his Mom a sheet of paper.

“Read it.” He told her.

After she read and laid it on the table, I picked up the sheet. The writer in me had already resolved to critique the little page for grammatical errors, and to go easy on him. As I read, yeah…there were a few 10 year-old errors to be found. But what I found most intriguing, was the depth of the little story that ended with an honest question. It hit me right there, as I put down my Mitch Albom novel.

“My son’s a writer.”

This is his little story:


One day, as I was coming home from church, it was raining; but it wasn’t like any rain I’d ever seen before. It was strange, because I noticed the rain behaving in three different ways:

  1. Part of the rain was rising up.
  2. Part of the rain was moving sideways.
  3. Part of the rain wasn’t moving at all. It just stood still, frozen in space.

Besides the strange rain, I also saw a mirror standing up by itself, in the rain. You want to know what I think this meant? Well, I’ll tell you. I think the part of the rain that was rising up represents the people who will go to heaven. I think the part of the rain moving sideways represent the people who are trying to make it to heaven, but the devil keeps pulling them down. I think the part of the rain standing still represents the people who won’t make it to heaven. I think the mirror is God, showing us who we really are.

Now I have a very good question for you. Which one of these (out of the three types of rain) are you?

By: Isaiah Smith

Always Love You

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Hey there,

I’ve been pretty busy lately. The new job is going well and my family is enjoying a season of humble prosperity. Things are good. My oldest sons are growing into fine young men, and my daughters are both growing into beautiful young ladies. My lil guy is at that special age where I simultaneously want to wrap my arms around him in a protective bear-hug, but also seal his mouth shut with duct tape. He’s mostly the cause of my blooming gray goatee. My wife likes the silver. She thinks it’s sexy and wisdom looks good on me. I’ll take that. Everyday, I see more of the woman she’s destined to become and it brings me joy. We’ve been through some things over the years, but by the grace of our father, we’re about to celebrate 15 years of marriage. I wouldn’t trade her or her special brand of crazy for all the money in the world. She was made special for me. I see it all the time now. And I’m thankful for them all. They are my family.

There are days when I feel as if life has become so busy that I’ve placed you on the back burner, as some afterthought. But you know my heart. And even though I probably don’t need to say it, I will because I know you like to hear confession from the lips. I think about you all the time. No matter what I may be doing in my busy days, you’re always there. Sometimes I can hear past conversations and then marvel at how things have turned out. Sometimes I imagine your voice answering a spontaneous question. Sometimes I smile when I think to myself that its perfectly fine to love someone else the way I love my family. But then, you are family, aren’t you? I can’t exactly pinpoint when you officially became family to me, but I know it’s true.

I wanted to write this to you, just as a reminder. I know its a big world and you’ve got things to do that don’t necessarily involve me. But, I also know that you still love me. I know you’ll love me forever. I know you think about me often, because I can feel it from time to time. It’s that special bond we have. I hope I make you proud as not only the man I’ve become, but as the man I am becoming.

Some folks may read this and have no clue what it means. Others may read it as a misconstrued cryptic message. But you know exactly what it all means, and you know it’s straight from my heart. In time, people may turn away from you; maybe even close loved ones. That’s gonna hurt something terrible. But I want you to remember this truth: I figured out a long time ago that I’m going to always love you. Do you understand that? I’m going to *always* love you.

Good night.

 

 

 

Keep Your Eye On The Ball

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In sports, particularly those involving a ball, the coach always lays down the fundamental rule of the game.

“Keep your eye on the ball.”

Wide receivers can be distracted by defensive players, in football. Soccer goalies can likewise be distracted by opposing team players’ orchestrated chaos. Every center-fielder knows the dangers of losing the baseball in the open sky. And free-throw shooters can easily be distracted by those multicolored shakers folks rattle from the seats behind the backboard. It’s amazing the things that can distract us from the goal–the ball.

This year’s election is shaping up to be no different. Now, now…before you make any assumptions family, this is not apolitical debate post. Quite the opposite. While I would expect people to pick a particular side, this late into the election year, what I find really fascinating, and disturbing at the same time, is the display of blatant hatred between folks of differing opinions. What’s really got me baffled is how rampant that hatred is flowing through the Christian community!

As this political race continues to heat up, I’ve seen friends “un-friend” each other over choices in candidate backing. I’ve read some of the most un-Christianlike commentary written about people over the red vs. blue debate. I’ve even read flat out lies quoted by people who are supposed to be shepherds!

Let’s be clear. If your pastor says something to this effect, “If you back *blank*,” (feel free to insert your choice), “you’re going to burn in hell,” chances are you might want to start seeking a new church.

The race for the presidency isn’t the only distraction today. Race is also making Christians lose focus. Look…it’s no big secret that we’ve got a race problem in this country. It’s always been here. Some folks are simply tuning into reality late because now it’s being filmed everywhere. It’s a really important issue, that upsets me just like it probably upsets a lot of you. Here’s what it’s doing to us, as the body of Christ: it’s dividing us. Many multicultural churches are now finding an ever increasing challenge of being sensitive to all of its congregation members. That should always be a given anyway, but once cultural sensitivity is thrust into the forefront every Sunday, we drop the ball.

Let’s look at the presidential race for a minute. Now, we Christians believe in what the bible says; am I correct? I mean if you doubt the word, you should probably stop reading this blog right here. God’s word tells us how the story ends.

“What story are you talking about, Enn?”

That’s a fair question. The answer is simple: the only story that matters! Life and the end of the age. We know that in the last days, things are going to get slightly weird for us all. But, in the end…we win! Yay! By “we” of course I mean those who truly follow the Lord. Which leads to my next point. In Matthew 28:19-20, Jesus gave an awesome commission to us all:

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

But that wasn’t all he said. If we back up a bit, before he gave the great commission he gave the disciples these awesome commandments found in Matthew 22:37-40. Jesus said:

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Here’s where these come into play today. Family…tomorrow I want you to conduct an experiment. Watch social media. Look at how people are treating each other over their differences in candidates, then ask yourself if this is the love Jesus told us we need to display. Honestly, Hillary and Donald are distractions from the bigger issue. As believers, we should recognize this fact: Satan is dividing us, and winning! So many people are concerned with Joe backing Hillary and Jane backing Donald that we don’t see the division in progress. As believers, we should be focusing on bringing folks to Christ. Our mission hasn’t changed! Keep your eye on the ball! Jesus is the ball!

The same holds true for the race issue. Yeah…I know its bad out here. I get it. Again, take a step back and look at what’s really going on. Satan is dividing us! I’ve got white friends who are now uber sensitive to what comes out of their mouths out of fear of offending me. Watching them struggle with words is uncomfortable to me, because we’re supposed to worship together in the same place every Wednesday and Sunday! Dude, stop being afraid to talk to me! II Timothy 1:7 says, “For God did not commit to us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” Get back in your right mind and have a decent conversation with your brother! I’m black; you’re white; we love the Lord. That’s it! Again…Jesus is the ball. Keep your eye on him.

This wasn’t supposed to go 900 words long but apparently, I’ve had it on my heart for some time. Christians, now is the time for us to unite and share our beliefs with a hurting world. I honestly don’t care who you decide to vote for. I’m not going to erase you from my friend list, and dodge you on the street. Yeah, that stuff is really happening out there. I know we’ve got racial tensions out there. This isn’t new despite what the media keeps throwing at you. Let’s heal each other with the love the Lord told us to display. I just told you guys a few nights ago, my cousin’s an atheist. She hates Christianity. I love her anyway. She’s my blood, and any so-n-so who raises a hand against her will have to come through me first. Our differences will not cause me to hate her.

As believers, we seriously have to keep our eye on the ball. we’ve got a mission that is super relevant today. The mission isn’t new, and hasn’t changed in centuries. We simply have to stay focused on it, despite the distractions of our time.

Smith out. Good night.

Foolish Beliefs

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1 Corinthians 1:18 (NLT) – “The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God.”

1 Corinthians 2:14 (NIV) – “The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.”

My family has been at the forefront of my critical thinking lately. My dad; certain cousins; my brother-in-law and nephew have all been a constant focus in my thoughts. These are good people, who do not believe in what I believe. It’s safe to say that some of them even consider me foolish for placing most of my major decisions in the hands of religion. That’s how they view a belief in God. For them, praying first is a weak-minded sentiment. That’s why I worry about them.

A few weeks ago, I was involved in a car accident. I literally walked away from the terrible scene, but it made me acutely aware of a few things:

  1. God truly does exist (as if there were any doubt before the accident).
  2. We never know when our time on this earth is up. Time can’t be wasted.

Along with thinking on my loved ones, I’ve been seriously praying to the Lord to give me direction on how to share the gospel, particularly with family members who are not receptive of it. The two referenced verses from 1 Corinthians make a clear cut case, that people who do not believe in God will–and do–view the message of the gospel as foolishness. These verses have honestly intimidated me for years. In the past, I’ve taken the stance, “Well…if they aren’t going to believe me anyway, then why should I even bother? After all, they deserve whatever they get for disrespecting the Lord.”

That way of thinking is old and immature. I don’t want my Dad to pass away into an eternity absent of God. I want to see him and my Mom when this brief moment in time–called my life–is over. I want my cousin Bry to gain an understanding of what her grandmother Amanda knew to be true. I want my nephew Lakota to enjoy his young life, depression free; not always in search of fulfillment that will never come from any other place except the Son. I want my brother-in-law to come back to what he knows to be truth.

I think it’s a dangerous position to have a belief in false truth. What if you believed gravity was false and decided to walk  off an 800-feet high cliff to prove your point? Ultimately, believing God is false is just like that, and will lead to terrible consequences. I don’t want that for my family. I want them to come to know the Lord and trust in him just as I have.