Trustration

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This morning, Pastor Eddie Marcum preached an entire sermon on a word he pulled from thin air. Funny thing is, the message fulfilled like a perfectly cooked butter-basted lobster tail; man it was so good!  I’m going to go ahead and give the Ennis-vernacular version on the essence of Trustration.

There are times in life, when we stand up against the wall of frustration. You know what I’m talking about. Those times when we get all up in our flesh because we’ve been praying and behaving Christian-like, but it seems as if God’s simply ignoring our pleas and most-sanctified chants n’rants.

“I go to church every Sunday! I tithe faithfully! I volunteer for the annual bake sale, even when I can’t afford to buy that much cookie dough! But the heathen Jones family up the block just bought a new Lincoln Navigator, when the mister’s been on assistance for four years?! What’s up with that Lord?”

You know, king David had that kind of episode; seriously. In I Samuel 20:1 (NIRV), David asked his homeboy Jonathan, “What have I done? What crime have I committed? I haven’t done anything to harm your father. So why is he trying to kill me?”

Apparently, even kings have off days where God ignores their troubles. On top of the frustration, Satan comes along and dangles temptation in our faces, essentially daring us to remain faithful to a god who seemingly cares nothing for our circumstances.

“Look, I know your license is suspended. But, if you don’t drive to work today, you’re gonna get fired. You won’t get caught, if you take the back roads and stay under the speed limit. C’mon, everybody has to do it at some point.”

Satan came hard at Jesus when he knew the Lord would be tired and hungry. After fasting in the desert 40 days and nights, the enemy tried to tempt the Lord. Luke 4:3 (NIV) says, “The devil said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.'”

Pastor Eddie said when frustration and temptation get together, your only response should be to dig in deep and trust in the Lord because, during those times–the in between times–God is pulling you through. Those are the times when you find out just what your faith is really made of brother! WOO! I can testify! Y’all read my last blog a few weeks ago. You know my struggles were real. You know my faith was truly tested. Pastor said we can go ahead and call that faithful response to trust in the Lord through our double-whammy frustrations and temptations “Trustration”! You’ve gotta claim it, sister!

“Get behind me, Satan! Through your frustration and temptation, I’m practicing trustration because God didn’t bring me this far just to bring me this far! The end is NOT here! You will NOT stop me now!”

Oh, somebody out there in reader-land is gettin’ a hold of this right now! Hold on to it, and swing it around, family! You’ve got to fight for your victory! Prayer and faith are the weapons we use to fight the demons we can’t lay fists on.

Trustration may not be found in the Webster Dictionary, but you better believe David practiced it. How else could he write the Psalms and still come out on top? And we know that Jesus passed every one of Satan’s temptations, and was afterward attended by the angels. He practiced Trustration, retorting himself–the living word–right back at the enemy’s advances.

Family, in the midst of my personal struggles a few weeks back, I unknowingly practiced Trustration. When my job was prematurely gone, and my eyesight was taken by viral conjunctivitis, and my family had no second car to help share the load, things literally looked bleak. But God answered diligent prayers to provide for true needs in our family. An awesome small car was purchased. My eyesight was restored completely, just in time for me to begin my new career for a new consulting firm. Don’t tell me there is no God! He’s everywhere, and he hears all prayers!

Sometimes, the flesh coupled with trials can make for a devastating outlook on the future. But I want you to remember that the same God who created everything is quite capable of handling our minor problems. Don’t quit on trusting in him. I promise you, he’ll never quit on you, no matter how far you think you’ve fallen. Trustration began as a pastor’s simple made-up word. If you apply it to your life whole heartedly, the simple word can change the course of your life. A negative plus a negative will always mathematically cancel out and become positive friends.

Temptation + Frustration = Trustration

 

*always*

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*

Right Where I Am

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Hey family! Can you see me? Did you enjoy the music of Beach Dreamin’? Yeah man! It’s not just about the writing with this guy, here. Occasionally, I’ll do something musically creative. I’ve got a gooey soft spot for House Music so, there ya go.

Right now, I’m sitting in my dimly lit study. Miles Davis’, “Kind Of Blue” sets the tone via my iPod, while I peck at the keys of my laptop. It’s a laid back kind of Friday. For a short while, we’ve got money in the bank account, food on the table, the car’s still hanging on, and nothing is broken in the house–except my Windows Vista desktop tower–that can’t be easily fixed. A man’s gotta learn to appreciate the small respites of life. There are pauses in battle.

This past week has shown me a lot of what we chase after, in a never-ending pursuit of happiness. I saw a Facebook feature article of 9 famous rappers who claimed to be rich, when they were dead broke. A couple of guys on the list spent time in jail for tax evasion to the tune of over 1 million dollars each. Another claimed bankruptcy and pleaded with the judge that he couldn’t afford to pay 5 hundred dollars a month for child support. I recall one of his albums going platinum a decade ago. Money…

I recalled a feature on a few celebrities who had committed suicide, and were now worshipped as martyrs by scores of adoring fans unable to let go. I saw another Facebook video that featured some current big-name stars having candid interviews about the price of fame and the resulting depression that accompanies the isolation of superstardom. Fame…

Why do we hate God so much, that we choose to look for a sense of satisfaction found nowhere else but in his presence? Why is it so hard for us to accept the gift of his grace and mercy, and the reality that his love is sufficient enough to give us real and lasting peace? Why do we continue to chase after money and fame–on any level–believing those mirages to be the answer to the void we’re all born with?

We are born with a void. At some point in the lives of everyone, its presence becomes apparent. Thus begins the chase; the pursuit…for happiness. Some folks turn to sex, some to drugs, some to occupations, some to thrills. Millionaires deal with it just as the poor experience it. Powerful men of diplomacy search for something they can’t identify, just as a faceless patron lost in a sea of followers yearns for a plug to fill the void of her heart. All the while, the answer surrounds us.

JESUS

Tonight, I’m far from claiming financial independency. On Monday, I’ve got to wake up and clock in just like everyone else. I’m nobody special in the world; just another uninteresting face among many. You might walk by me on the street, and not even recognize that you’ve just recently read something I’ve written. But…tonight…I’ve got peace. I know that Jesus, has filled–and is continuing to fill–the void I was born with, because I asked him into my heart.

I’m not preparing to go tear up the club, or get turnt up, or skirt chase. No sir, on this Friday evening, I’m spending my time writing and basking in the presence of the Lord. I’m thanking him for the little victories and the covered necessities. I’m cool…right where I am.

Little Gifts

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My 10-year old son, Isaiah, is your average variety video-game junkie. I claim full responsibility, because I was hooked from the days of the Atari 2600. Ahhh, Donkey Kong…

…where was I? Oh yeah…

Isaiah doesn’t take to reading the bible on his own, so I have to make him pick it up and read alongside me. From time to time, I catch him actually digging the stories and chapters we read. Tonight was one of those little gifts. As we read through Luke 10, my little guy had questions pertaining to his own responsibilities as a believer.

“What happens if I try to tell someone, who doesn’t know me, about Jesus and the bible? They’re not gonna listen to me.”

“That’s not your responsibility, son,” I told him. ” It’s not up to you to fully convince people of the gospel, because that’s a work of the heart by the power of the Holy Spirit. Your job is to tell folks about the Lord, and to do your best to live the Christian life in front of people and when you’re alone.”

He thought about this for a moment.

“So, I don’t have to try to get everybody to believe? That just seems too hard.”

“No. Not everyone will listen to what you have to say. But don’t let that keep you from telling them anyway, because God can use you to get to whomever he wants. But just remember that it’s not your responsibility to save anyone. You can’t. That’s God’s responsibility. We’re called to follow him, and spread his gospel.”

I saw it click in his eyes. For one brief moment, he wasn’t thinking about YouTube, Rhett & Link, Creepers or MarioKart. He was thinking on things of the Lord, and he was planning to go to work in school tomorrow; kingdom work.

Tonight, I felt like an accomplished dad.


 

Proverbs 22:6 (ESV) – “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”

Repentance

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Dear Lord,

I spend a lot of time complaining about the lack of attention I receive. I clock hours writing articles and stories that I claim glorify you. I work into the late night hours, and sometimes days, putting together original beats and melodies with the plans of writing God-glorifying lyrics or at least passing the instrumentals on to an artist who will honor you. My DJ controller/mixer has clocked some pretty insane hours as I constantly record sessions for my various social media sites. Speaking of social media, I’ve spent loads of time trolling and following various Christian artists and authors; reaching out to give a word of encouragement whenever I feel led to do so.

Through it all, I convince myself I’m doing your will. But tonight I dug deep and faced the truth. In my heart, I’ve long for the glory you deserve. I’ve secretly harbored a desire to hear or read a comment from someone—anyone—who gets where I’m coming from; who acknowledges my efforts.

“Hey brother, just wanted to let you know what you said to me really touched my heart.”

“Hey Ennis, your music really grabbed hold of me today.”

“Brother E, I just wanted to say ‘Thank You’ for writing that piece today. It really spoke to me.”

When did my selfish ambitions take the place of your glorification, Lord? When did you receiving the honor become cheap, compared to me receiving praise for my efforts? When did I fall victim to selfish desires, through the gifts you’ve given me?

In my heart, I want people to praise my writing; my music; my witty banter; my words of encouragement. I want it for me. When I pray that you would bless my talents, I’m praying for self-glorification. Your glory is a distant second despite my words.

This is hard for me to write and accept, because no one wants to acknowledge their own dark side. I need you to know that I see what you’ve known all along. I see my selfish intentions and ambitions. Tonight, I give them to you.

I’m sorry Lord. Please forgive me for putting you behind me. Help me to see clearly, and to use the talents you’ve given me to truly honor you, with no expectations of personal gain. If you don’t get the glory, I don’t want to do it. My confession is real. Guide every step I take, from this moment going forward, Jesus.

Step By Step

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“It only takes one step to start. That’s what he told me. Seemed simple enough. So…why can’t I find momentum?”

You’re not ready yet.

“I thought I was. A man can only take so much, before something gives.”

I know. I understand. It takes time, and a real commitment. Unfortunately, many people choose to go the other way.

“But, the prayer was the first step, right? I mean, I feel like I’m not so…alone…anymore.”

It was. You’re not. But, it can’t stop there. I have so much more in store for you. The plans I have for you, are to give you a hope and a future you can’t even begin to imagine. But, you have to willingly choose to go deeper.

“Pastor says that all the time. I never really understood what it meant. Go deeper, how? He told me one step would change my life.”

And it has. Now that you have a new life, you need to lay down the old one. Part of doing that is getting to know me. I don’t want you to simply know my name. I want you to get to know me intimately. That’s going deeper.

“How do I do that exactly? You’re not going to tell me I need to throw out all of my music, ditch all of my friends, relinquish my intelligence and start meditating all day, are you?”

HA! That’s funny. No, nothing like that. I want you to get close to my Word. Don’t fear it anymore. Learn from it. It’s me. In time, you’ll find me throughout its entirety. I’ve always been there. I’ll always be there. I AM.

“You are—”

I AM.

“What’s that mean?”

It means from the beginning to the end, I will always be. Since you’ve called, and I came, I will never leave you. I will fight for you, but I will not compete for your love. You have to willingly choose.

“What’s the choice I have to make? Why can’t you just come into my life and add good things to what I already have? Why does there have to be a choice?”

I know it seems hard at first. Maybe even unfair. But it has to be this way. Light and darkness can’t coexist. You have to choose between the life I offer and the life behind you.

“So…no middle ground? No compromise?”

No. But I promise you this: though the road may get rough, I’ll always walk it with you; one step at a time. Soon enough, you’ll find that the music you loved, some of the friends you cherished, even your former way of thinking will seem flawed compared to what I will show you.

“And what’s that? I’m already bad off. Giving up all the good stuff in my life is going to gain what?”

My peace.

“Peace.”

My peace; a peace you’ve never known but have always yearned for. You already feel a small portion of it.

“How do you know?”

We’re talking.

“-”

Yes. Let that sink in for a moment.

“Jesus—it feels weird to speak your name out loud.”

I know it does, at first. Don’t be ashamed.

“Jesus, I want to try to get to know you better. Will you help me?”

Absolutely. Now, we’re walking together.

 

* Jeremiah 29:11*

Faith’s Challenge

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Believing For Greater Things In 2016 is the vision of River Of Life Assembly Of God church (Belleville, Mi.) this year. We are taking to heart, “faith the size of a mustard seed”, and believing that this will be a year of awesome praise reports, phenomenal testimonies and evidences of God’s movement in the lives of individual families, as well as the body of our church. God moves mountains for people, by faith.

We all harbor dreams. Some are small, while others are the size of 747 airplanes. I think the disconnect between witnessing some dreams fulfilled and others deferred lies in the strength of one’s faith. Sure, God won’t answer every prayer we toss up willy-nilly; I get that. But, I also believe that some prayers are just waiting to be answered. God simply wants to know if we will believe, by faith, for their fruition. That’s just my opinion. Dreams are often sideswiped by our perception of reality’s boundaries.

Logic challenges faith. My best friend is one of the smartest guys I know. He’s always been an overachiever, from the time we were 9 years old, right up into our 40s. When Eric sets his mind to a task, it’s done, before the first stroke of his hand. Someone possessing that type of drive would have no problem believing for greater things, right?

Wrong.

Eric, knows the intricate boundaries of reality so well, that his own understanding sometimes limits his ability to focus on God’s omnipotent power. He has a difficult time spiritually proclaiming, “Lord, I don’t know how you’re gonna do it, but I’m believing you can and will do it for me, simply because you love me.” It’s a heart thing, friends. It’s not enough to simply speak the words. You have to believe it in your heart. That’s faith. It challenges the culture and reality as we know it.

Honestly, I think that was God’s intention all along. Most times, faith defies logic. We’ve seen the shows or heard the reports of doctors who have declared statements such as, “I don’t understand how this happened. Medically, it makes no sense. Someone must be watching over you.” I’ll bet that in many of those instances, if we were able to go back and see everything, we would find prayer warriors believing by faith on behalf of the miracle recipient.

Did you just flinch when I said that? I saw you. You know who I’m talking to.

That’s the problem with doubt. It leaves little room for faith to do what it’s meant to do. Did you know that Jesus returned to his own home country, and was unable to perform miracles–except to lay hands on a few sick people–because of their lack of faith? That fascinates me! The bible says, in Mark 6:6 that he marveled because of their unbelief. Jesus Christ marveled at the unbelief of the people! That actually makes me wonder how many times I personally threw away blessings from the LORD, because of my own unbelief due to lack of faith. Think about it for a moment. I really don’t care if you’re a believer or not. For one brief moment, I dare you to force yourself to think about this statement:

“What if I actually believe it can happen, for once?”

You can insert whatever you like for “it” to make it personal. Just do it. Ask the question, and seriously think on it. Two bible verses that help me to constantly put faith into perspective are these:

Psalm 37:4 (ESV)- “Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

and

Proverbs 16:9 (NKJV)- “A man’s heart plans his way, but the LORD guides his steps.”

Faith challenges us to ignore our surrounding circumstances and trust God to do what seems impossible. Today, I challenge you to pick one dream; one prayer; one desire; one choice and focus on it, no matter how impossible its obtainability may seem. Then…I dare you to start believing that God can accomplish it for you.