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.

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*

Pink-Eye Epiphany

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Okay. Admittedly, this is a pretty bad photo. Clearly, I could use a shave around the lips, under the nose and around my head. Yeah, that’s my sleep shirt; orange and worn down to its perfect stage of maximum comfort. But the bullseye is that glaring bloodshot left eye of mine. I’m into day three of viral pinkeye. The crust; the constant leaking; the swelling; blurry vision; yeah man! Life is awesome right now.

My pastor once told a story he’d read about a famous person snapping 100 selfies until she found the perfect one to share on social media. Doesn’t the world do that all the time? Television, music and social media always seem to paint a picture of perfection and our kids eat that stuff up. But, how many photos do professional photographers have to snap, before they capture the perfect scene? How many setups does the musician have to go through, to get that perfect sound? How many Twitter stars actually hire folks to post social media photos and tweets on their behalf?

We don’t often see the behind the scenes activity associated with “perfection” and could care less, because we’re too enamored by the allure of the finished product. Often times, we chase after that “perfection” not realizing that we have to experience life along the route. Sometimes, the route of life is ugly. Trust me when I tell you Beyonce is not Cover Girl beautiful all the time. There are days when I’ll bet she looks just like a regular Mom on the outside. That’s no disrespect; that’s real life.

Rather than crawl into a hole and hibernate until my eye clears, I decided to share my ugly discomfort. Hey, we’re going to encounter setbacks from time to time. Just don’t let them take you away from the path toward your goal, whatever that might be. And…don’t allow the things of this world to deceive you. The chase for perfection–or whatever is closest to it– will require you to walk through some pretty ugly scenery from time to time.Remember this: if God brings you to it, he can bring you through it.

I gotta go swab my eyeball. Fun times…

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*

Set Your Mind On Eternal Value

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We always lust for more. We’ll envy the new house the Jones bought even when our modest home is paid for. We want their house. Have you ever pulled up next to a nice SUV, but failed to notice the woman and 3 children standing in the snow at the bus stop right beside you? We’re too busy wondering how that gas guzzler must ride. Guys, have you ever ogled the supermodel–currently on her 3rd marriage–while your faithful wife–the mother of your children–is asleep on the sofa beside you? C’mon, don’t act like I’m the only flawed man in the room!

In the flesh, our appetites are insatiable. Sometimes, life plays out like an old school video game with never-ending levels. Each time we grab hold of the next big thing, almost instantly we want more; something bigger; something better; something totally unrelated to the last big thing, but still temporarily out of reach.You ever meet a millionaire who has everything money could ever buy, but still suffers from loneliness? Personally, I don’t know any millionaires, but they get lonely too. Money can’t buy happiness.

Colossians 3:2 says, “Set your mind on things above, not earthly things.” If we could find it in our hearts to daily seek the Lord and ignore the cravings of the flesh, we’d have less stress in our lives. The big house on the corner doesn’t care that you’re trying to obtain it. It won’t make an effort to reach out to you; neither will the Bentley, or the yacht, or the promotion. But…if we set our minds and hearts toward obtaining Jesus, He will reach out and meet us…not halfway, but right where we are. Jesus doesn’t depreciate either, people. His value is eternal.