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*

Only One of Perfection

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Romans 3:23 (NIV)“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,”

Do you know how much pressure we impose on ourselves by trying to live a life of perfection? Oh c’mon. Don’t act like you don’t know what I’m talking about, you uber Christian, you. Everyday, we struggle against the earthly desires we crave, while trying to uphold our Christian duties. Duties; as in works. You’re not convinced you’re one of them? Fine. Let me give some examples of what we tend to do. Check out my fancy-shmancy color coding:

“Christians should really stay away from ‘Harry Potter’ movies, because they promote demon worship and witchcraft. We can finish this conversation later, after I return from watching “Solo”.

Yep: an actual statement made by one of God’s children. Here’s another one.

“You let your kid listen to that ‘Kendrick Lamar’ crap? My kid only listens to ‘Bizzle’ and ‘Sevin’. Yeah, they drop ‘Nigga’ in their lyrics too, but they’re promoting Jesus by speaking the language of their folks.”

Yes, actual statement. I really can’t make this stuff up. Here’s one more for you.

“I give to the needy every chance I get. We have to give to the less fortunate. It’s in the bible, you know.”

“What about that homeless guy we saw Downtown?”

“Oh, he probably just wanted money for drugs or something.”

That was an actual conversation.

Sometimes I think we try too hard to adhere to rituals and rules, and forget that at the end of the day we’re all just people prone to fall short of God’s standard. In our quest to be perfect, we often come off as judgemental and hypocritical. If that’s the way we present ourselves in front of unbelievers, why would they want to follow us? 

I tend to get caught up in ritual practices, too. Sometimes, I cross the line between following the Lord and I going off the deep end, in my own quest to earn His favor. I reason to myself, “This is what God wants me to do, so I’ll do it and prove myself perfect in His eyes.” Now, no one is going to admit that’s what we do, but it’s the truth of who we are. We try to live super Holy lives despite partaking in straight-up pagan and carnal activities. 

Did you NOT know Jesus wasn’t born on December 25th? Did you also NOT know that the December 25th celebration was originally a pagan feast, we Christians adopted? We need to cut out all the Pharisee acts, and just live life to the best of our abilities. Celebrate the birth of our Lord, absolutely. But don’t judge the family that doesn’t celebrate Christmas as being sacrilegious! That’s their choice. Let God sort that out, in His timing. 

Let me say this: God knows our hearts and He knows our flaws. It was because of His love for us, despite our failed nature, that He sent the only one of perfection–that’s His son, Jesus–to die sacrificially for our sins. We can’t earn Salvation through any acts of super Christianity. Salvation is a free gift of God, through faith in His son Jesus Christ. 

I am a God fearing, flawed man. Everyday–every single day–I mess up one of God’s Old Testament laws. There is no way I could ever live up to any of them. That’s why I love Jesus. He knew me before I was born. He knew what kind of a failure Christian I would become. In that knowledge, He still said, “Father, I’ll go down and take one for the team. Ennis is going to be out there someday. I need to do this for him.” 

In His perfection, Jesus chose to become a living sacrifice so that I personally would be set free to live my life for Him, complete with my everyday failures. I could never repay Him for that! I can’t mimic His perfection!

I see Christians get mad over Donald Trump tweets. I see Christians hate on each other, over clothing. I see Christians judging other Christians who show love to Muslims. I see Christians judging others over music, food, even the type of car one drives. 

I think (and this is just my opinion) we ought to get on with the business of focusing on our own personal relationships with Jesus, as opposed to following rituals and judging others who may not live up to our standards. That’s why I like Romans 3:23. It reminds me that we all fall short of God’s Holy standards. Who am I to judge someone else, as I’m enjoying Sevin lyrics,on my way to watch a Star Wars flick and eat cheese Ballpark Franks with my gay cousin. Did I mention I was wearing my anti-Trump T-Shirt to the movie theater? 

You hate me right now, don’t you uber Christian conservative?

Jesus loves you.   

We Are The Church

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I am the church.

I am called to represent Christ & influence others.

I am called to make a difference.

I am called to love God & serve people.

I am the church.


People often misinterpret the term “The Church”. We liken it to physical buildings or a specific meeting place, where folks congregate to talk about all things related God. However, the Lord never intended for the church to be a stationary building. His intention was to make His following body of believers the church. Each of us who proclaim the name of Jesus, and follow His commandments are a part of the body of Christ; we are the church.

A lawyer once challenged Jesus by asking, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” Matthew 22:37 records, “Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’” To this he added, “And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” These commandments model the mission of the New Testament believer.

Everywhere we go; everything we do; every time we go in, and come out, we represent Christ. You see there is a fundamental difference in the behavior of a person who really recognizes this fact, versus someone who simply visits a building on Sunday, and then returns to “normal life” after the service is over. When we see ourselves as the living embodiment of Christ’s church, we recognize the power of every move we make. Remember this: we are called to influence others (non-believers) with the truth we believe in. That doesn’t limit us to sharing the gospel with other believers in a building or assembly. It gives us the mission assignment to share the gospel everywhere we go, no matter the crowd.

The Apostle Paul told his protégé Timothy to, “Preach the word; be ready in season or out of season,” meaning we must be ready to share our faith outside of the religious buildings and assemblies. We should never be ashamed to share the gospel with those who need to hear it. This is what the church looks like. This is the way in which the church behaves. The church is alive and in motion, not an inanimate object that only comes alive once or twice a week. We are called to represent our Lord and Savior, and introduce His message to those who have yet to believe.


I am the church.

I am called to represent Christ & influence others.

I am called to make a difference.

I am called to love God & serve people.

I am the church.

R.O.C.K. (Who Are You Lord)?

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Before I dive into this acronym, I want to happily give credit where it’s due. This is NOT my original idea. In fact, the acronym was preached in my church (River of Life Assembly of God, 870 Savage Rd., Belleville, Mi 48111). So, the true credit goes to the author of the acronym; namely, Pastor J. Eddie Marcum. Pastor’s message was so powerful, that it caused me to really examine my personal relationship with the Lord. The basic principles behind the acronym were shared during his sermon. On my part, I wrote this piece based on some serious soul searching. My hope is that this post challenges you (dear reader) to search your own heart and honestly evaluate your relationship with the Lord. For the past few days, I’ve been asking myself a serious question:

“Who are you Lord?”

Jesus once asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?”

“Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah,” they answered.

“But,” Jesus retorted, “Who do you say that I am?”

Peter confidently replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”

Matthew 16:18 (NKJV) tells us that, “Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.'”

R – REVELATION

Simon–who was gifted with the new name, Peter, by the Lord–had received this truth by a revelation. In other words, the true nature of Jesus had been revealed to Peter by divine intervention on the part of GOD our Father. Peter hadn’t simply stumbled on the answer, on his own. He had to be shown who Jesus really is.

Family, in order for us to come into a deep relationship with the Lord, his true nature must be revealed to us. Sometimes we limit Jesus to being nothing more than our personal best friend. Sometimes we treat him as if he were our own personal genie, we call on when times are bad. I think these perspectives of the Lord are wrong. We all know a Christian brother or sister who constantly struggles to gain victory. Well…until there is a true understanding of just who Jesus really is, lasting victory is impossible. Sure, we might be able to suppress trouble areas of our lives for a time, but total victory can’t happen until we know who the Lord is and what he’s capable of doing in our lives. That’s why a wrong understanding of who he really is causes us to lack faith in what he can really do. We have to come to an understanding of who Jesus truly is. That revelation can’t come from your Pastor, your Mom, your Dad, or your best friend. They can all tell you what they may already know, but the revelation (for you) has to manifest in your heart. That revelation comes from God. He makes the true identity of Jesus personal for you.

O – OBEDIENCE

I’m going to go Old Testament for a moment here, so bare with me. When Saul was officially anointed first king of Israel, Samuel gave him specific instructions to obey the LORD. All he had to do was obey and things would go well for him. He didn’t, of course. Consequently, the kingdom of Israel was ripped from him and given over to another.

Christianity isn’t a lifestyle requiring a bunch of rules. Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross gave us the ability to live in freedom. But don’t misunderstand; our freedom (as followers of Christ) should motivate us to obey God’s Word. Let me be clear: we are not bound by the law to perform certain tasks, or else. We are instead free to live without the chains that once bound us and because of the gratitude in our hearts, we ought to be moved to obey God’s Word.

Saul didn’t earn the title of king. It was given to him; a free gift of God. All he had to do to retain his title and secure his dynasty, was obey the LORD out of the love in his heart, for the LORD. But Saul felt pressured to live up to what he thought the people wanted him to be. His aim to please the people outweighed his love for the LORD, leading him to sin against GOD. Personally, I think he also developed the big-head syndrome. He began doing things the way he wanted, without consulting the LORD first.

Sometimes we do the same. We think to ourselves, “Eh, a little bit of this won’t hurt anybody.” That instantaneous choice to disobey God can have long lasting effects on our lives. How can we honestly expect Jesus to care for us, if we don’t care for him. Obedience to the Lord is not punishment. He wants us to be obedient, so that we might live in the fullness of him. Obedience to Jesus keeps us away from troubles we can’t see. His sight is long, while ours is very limited.

I know a young man who constantly struggles with the peer pressures of life. Whenever we talk, I usually hit him with the same questions. You would think after some time, he might catch the hint.

“Have you been reading your bible?”

“Have you been praying?”

“No” is always the answer. Yet…he can’t understand why he continues to trip over the same issues. I gotta tell you, this exasperates me, which leads to my greatest personal challenge of all.

C – COMPASSION

Family, I’ve got to be the least compassionate person I know. I’m not proud of it. My lack of compassion puts a huge stumbling block between the Lord and I. The problem is I see the block coming, as I continue this walk. Still, I stroll right up to it, and trip over it constantly! It took a long time for me to be able to admit this to myself, let alone others. It makes me feel sad; ashamed. But, lately, I’ve come to the realization that this is exactly why I need Jesus in my life.

You want to know what bible verse I’ve always struggled with? John 11:35. The shortest verse in the bible has always been the most complicated verse for me to take to heart. In my humanity, I also failed to understand why Jesus cried when he saw the others begin to cry, over the death of Lazarus. I figured, “C’mon, he knew exactly what he was gonna do all along!”

Jesus has compassion for me. Why else, and how else (for that matter) could he willingly die for me? He wept for Lazarus because of the compassion in his heart, for Martha and Mary’s pain. He defended the woman caught in adultery, because of the compassion he felt for her. Everything the Lord did for others, was done out of the compassion within his human heart.

He could have easily destroyed any of his attackers, at any time throughout his earthly ministry. He felt anger. He flipped tables. He cracked whips. He spoke a word, and a fig tree immediately withered! Jesus had every right to retaliate against his attackers, yet he chose to die for them.

This is a hard lesson for me to grasp. Even with the help of the Holt Spirit, I struggle. The young man I spoke of earlier, I constantly wrestle against the fleshy desire to wash my hands of him, in judgment. That’s what it is, family: Judgment.

My flesh says, “How long will you continue to put up with this boy? Just hit him over the head and let him drown in his own disobedience!”

Isn’t that ironic? I can easily judge his refusal to obey the Lord, while standing neck-deep in my own compassion-less judgment. This is NOT who the Lord is.

The “C” of the ROCK-acronym is my cross. I bear it everyday. I thank God for Pastor Eddie’s message, because today I recognize its importance in my walk with Christ. I can look across the landscape of my life and see instances where a lack of compassion has lain waste past relationships with old friends, put strain between my kids and I, even caused rifts in my marriage at times.  I realize the question of “Who are you Lord?” has a deep rooted meaning for me, because the blinders are coming off. I’m starting to see the relationship I thought I had, really isn’t what I believed it to be. How could it be? Jesus is all about compassion. I have to genuinely try to be more like him.

I hope this frees someone today. It’s freeing me, as we speak.

K – KINGDOM MINDED

Here’s where I go off sermon-topic. Pastor Eddie, as I  challenged myself with the acronym, the “K” hit me in a different way than what was originally preached.  That doesn’t lessen the significance of our need to bend our knees in prayer and worship to God, because the act of submission is vital to our relationship with the Lord. Kingdom Minded simply stuck in my mind as I thought this through.

I think when we try to understand who Jesus is and what he means to us individually, one of the things we must realize is that Jesus is all about advancing the Kingdom of Heaven. That’s the endgame for the Lord. He takes no interest in self gratification. He willingly became a servant in order to put the “kingdom Business” first and foremost.

I want to share something the Mrs. and I were actively trying to keep very private up until…now. We’re trusting in God to give us a new home. Fact is, our large family has outgrown our current home. The house we’re after literally contains the desires of our hearts, and we have been praying like we’ve never prayed before. The whole family is involved!

Today, the Mrs. sent a text message saying, “We need this house. I need to have a bible study. I have two ladies here (at work) that are experiencing some serious conflict about their religion.”

Amenities aside, my wife’s already committing the new house to God’s work. She’s thinking Kingdom-minded. And that’s the point. Sure we enjoy our stuff, but if we’re not using the gifts and the stuff to honor God,  what’s the point?  Colossians 3:23 (NKJV) says, “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as unto the Lord and not to men,”. Like Jesus, we need to be about the business of advancing God’s kingdom in all that we do: in church; at work; on the soccer field; in the movie theater; wherever we go and in whatever we find ourselves doing.

As a gamer, I sometimes find the occasional player with a biblical gamertag. I actively seek them out. When they find out “Dadski40plus”–I know; it sounds wack–is a believer, we usually break into kingdom conversation. Yep…even in the gaming world.

So, who is the R.O.C.K.?

R-Revelation

O-Obedience

C-Compassion

K-Kingdom Minded

Jesus embodies all of these attributes, because he lives and displays them for all time. Once we understand that, we realize who He really is.

 

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*

Hawaii Praise

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Ephesians 3:20 (NIRV) – “God is able to do far more than we could ever ask for or imagine. He does everything by his power that is working in us.”

My buddy Dan just sent a photo of his vacation in Hawaii. He’s standing atop a green peak, in a tank-top, shorts and shades, yelling at the powder blue sky. In the background, I see a green expanse of flatland far below. The crystal blue ocean pans out to the left. Dan’s about to get married in August, so he took this time to spend a few days with a military buddy, in the beautiful Hawaiian atmosphere.

As I study the picture, I’m genuinely happy for my young friend. As a young engineer, he’s worked extremely hard and avoided some of life’s more precarious pitfalls. He deserves a vacation every once in awhile. Why not Hawaii?

I was just finishing up reading Ephesians chapter 3 (during my lunch break in cubetown), when the photo came through on my cell phone. A wide grin stretched across my face, as I texted him back, “YES!!!”.

Then I thought, “Man, I will never be able to do something like that, in my lifetime.”

I was immediately convicted by those condemning words. What do I really believe about God and his omnipotent power? What did I just finish reading? If I truly believe the Spirit of God dwells within me, why would I ever doubt his ability to take my family farther than we could possibly imagine?

If it is within his plan for my life, the Lord can do anything, take me anywhere and affect change through anyone, using me as one of his many instruments. That’s what the apostle Paul was teaching the Ephesians. We tend to think in the 3 dimensional realm of our current circumstances at any given moment. Those circumstances often dictate what the outcome will look like. But how many of us know that God is not–nor will he ever be–confined by 3 dimensions?  His dimensional scope defies physics, economics, logic(s) and any other “ics” we can come up with.

Dan, I’m gonna need you to mark that spot on the hilltop. Someday, I’ll make it there, if the Lord is willing to have me go do his work in Hawaii. When the camera snaps, my voice will be lifted high in praise to God, for making the seemingly impossible miraculously possible.

Everyone’s Got Their Thing

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An acquaintance has a gambling problem. Another can’t get enough of strip clubs. A friend attends church regularly, but can’t stop posting half-naked selfies. Another just can’t seem to climb out of the debt hole. Still, another friend drinks too much, while yet another is secretly addicted to pornography.

By the way…I’m included in one of those categories, just so you know.

What do we all have in common, besides being failures in some personal area of life? We’re all human. But, you know what? Despite our humanity, Jesus meets us right where we are; in our most vulnerable states.

In the book of Matthew, chapter 9:10-13, we see Jesus hanging out with tax collectors and “sinners” at Matthew’s house. Now, if you want to imagine that in terms of today’s society (particularly urban society), think about it like this: Jesus went to the hood Bar-B-Que to eat with the dope boys and the turn-ups. When the uppity suburbanites hear of this party, they immediately check Jesus’ crew.

“Hey! Why in the world is he hanging out with those thugs and degenerates?”

The bible says, upon hearing this, Jesus replied, “It’s not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

“What in the world is that supposed to mean?” asks the snooties.

And therein lies the problem. Most unbelieving people can’t understand the gospel or show respect for Jesus because they don’t even see their own need to have him in their lives.

Thankfully, Jesus cares enough about man to meet him right where his sins are exposed. He does so in a loving way.

Can I be 100 with you for a minute? This statement may adversely effect my future loan inquiries, but it may also set someone free, who just might be suffering from the same struggles; strength in numbers and all that. I struggle with debt. I have for most of my adult life. No matter how hard I try to trim fat, my financial savvy is a constant trainwreck. It’s not that I spend money on ridiculous items. I simply haven’t found the formula for getting ahead of the expenses my large family regularly incurs. While this “thing” of mine is a thorn in my side, Jesus never once punished me for battling this sin. Yes; it is a sin in my life. I have to discover what keeps me financially bound. While it may be something simply for Dave Ramsey to point out, I struggle with it daily. It’s my cross to bare. Because I recognize it, I know that I need the Lord in my life. I need him to help me through the rough times, to locate the source of my sin and to ultimately eliminate it, because I can’t do it on my own.

Everyone’s got their thing. The importance of recognizing your thing, is knowing you don’t have to try conquering your thing before you come to Jesus. He already knows what your vulnerabilities are. So instead of acting like the suburbanite snobs (I don’t have a problem. I’m perfect in every way), bring your baggage straight to him and let the Lord walk you through it.