Monday, April 17, 2017

FUNCTIONAL LEPROSY: A Spiritual Pandemic!

If I regard iniquity in my heart,
the Lord will not hear me. (Ps. 66:18)
I watch a fair amount of television  and I am always amazed by the number of commercials there are for medications. Talk about coming to grips with your own mortality! As humans there's a lot of diseases we have to deal with, but there's one drug and commercial that I've never seen.  It's a remedy for Functional Leprosy.  You see, it's a spiritual disease!

Ah, hah!  Never heard of it?  Me either, until a couple of weeks ago.   I joined about 300 women at my church for the Priscilla Shirer 2017 Simulcast!  If you're a student of the Word and love good women bible studies, the name is very familiar!  If not, then you might recall Priscilla as the prayer-less wife in the movie, War Room. 

Simulcasts have been going on for many years in Christian circles.  But this was my very first one.  I generally like to be in the same room with a dynamic teacher or preacher (even if it's 40 rows back in an auditorium with thousands). But I've got to tell you this turned out to be a great experience!  The Word of God, like the God we serve is truly omnipresent! His Spirit was so powerful that it didn't matter that Priscilla was hundreds of miles away in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  

Taking her text from 2 Kings 5:1-14, Naaman's Leprosy Cured, she unpacked the text with deft skill and precision telling us what it means to be a spiritual leper and how a little Israelite girl's faith was the key to the cure!  Here's how Priscilla's described the condition she calls Functional Leprosy.  It is hiding our sins, fears, and insecurities under a guise of spiritual health and wholeness.  To the outsider, we function well. We attend church, serve and even lead ministries.  We go through all the acceptable motions of emotionally healthy spirituality but inside we're dying from this dreaded disease.

Just like, the physiological symptoms of the leprosy disease, we become numb to the pain that is often afflicted upon the assumed spiritually weak.  The parallels between the two diseases don't stop there however.  Fearing the isolation, shame and loathing that so often comes with the disease (and the sin that is at its root), we keep the mask of functional leprosy glued on tightly.  Even when we are finally able to admit to ourselves that we are suffering, our pride attempts keep us from the cure! 

Such was the case of Naaman, a well respected, commander in the Syrian army who at the behest of a servant girl went to Israel seeking healing.  When he didn't get the reception he thought he deserved, rebuffed by the king and later refused a private audience with the prophet Elisha, he got angry and said forget it! The cure in his opinion, did not befit a man of his stature.  But like the servant girl, his underlings, had his best interest at heart.  They persuaded him to be obedient and thus as the prophet said, dipped  himself in the muddy Jordan river and found himself cleansed from the disease. 

Two powerful lessons resonated with me from this study.  Both of them required the dipping of my own sin in the blood of Jesus as I John 1:9  before I got it.  Both to this day fills me with hope: 

First, none of us are immune to Functional Leprosy!  It's sad to admit but often church is NOT the  best place to show your weakness and vulnerabilities! This is not to discourage Christian fellowship, theres really nothing like it!  But somewhere in our sanctified minds we still believe church is only for Super Saints! Those who have it all together! God's word says something totally different.  In 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 Paul tells us that God's grace is sufficient for every weakness and it is in this weakness that God's power is perfected.  Also, Romans 8:1 assures us, that there is no condemnation in those who are in Christ Jesus! So go ahead... Go to church as you are...just remember you don't have to leave the same way you came! 

Second, I so identified with the servants in the story of Naaman.  In my early Christian life, I felt that I was out of sync with my destiny.  I wasn't where I needed to be to get the most out of my life I thought!  Not in my personal ambitions and certainly not in my marriage!  But God's Word showed me something completely different.  I Corinthians 1:27 says that God will often choose the foolish things in the world to shame the wise and the strong.  Psalms 37:4 taught me to Delight myself in the Lord where I was and He'll give me the desires of my heart; and I Timothy 6:6 says contentment with godliness is great gain.

I love the way Priscilla Shirer put it in the Simulcast:  Like the servant girl, I thought I was displaced but I was actually being divinely used!  I thought I was being cheated but found I was chosen!  Maybe the same can be said of you!

UNTIL NEXT TIME...

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Sunday, April 2, 2017

UNANSWERED QUESTIONS..NOT UNANSWERED PRAYERS!


For now we see in a mirror dimly,
but then face to face
(I Corin. 13:12a)
By and by, when the morning comes, all the saints of God are gathered home, we'll tell the story how we've overcome, for we'll understand it better by and by! -(Lyrics by Charles Albert Tindley, 1851-1933)

Here's a tune that comes to mind as you sit in God's Waiting Room!  I know it has for me a time or two.  Inquisitive by nature, I'm known to ask questions about things I desire a deeper knowledge about and for the most part with a little research I can find answers that satisfy my curiosity,  I tell you sisters, Google is a wonderful tool!  

However, there are some questions that Google can't answer.  Learned people can't provide it, and even experience falls short of a satisfactory answer.  Questions that only you and God talk about lest others would think you stupid, naive, or at the very least, unspiritual! So you commit these things to prayer...but what if God doesn't answer? 

First, if you are a Believer in Christ, God hears all our prayers (He's just not obliged to respond the way we want Him to!) Proverbs 15:8 tells us that He delights in the prayers of His children.  He also invites us to come boldly to His throne and make our requests known (Hebrews 14:6).  So it's not a matter of Him not hearing, He is omniscient after all, but whether our prayers meet the right parameters.  There could be other factors to consider.

We may be hindering the answers to those oh, so important questions: When we hide iniquity (sin) in our hearts (Ps. 66:18); God hides His eyes from us and our circumstances (Is. 1:15)!  Dealing  with personal, unconfessed sin is a bigger priority in God's eyes than our prayer requests! 

 Something else, the Bible teaches:  Our prayers must line up with God's will (I John 5:14) and we need to ask with the right motives (James 4:3)  I believe God answers every prayer in one of four different ways:  YES!   NO!  WAIT!  and  YOU ALREADY KNOW THE ANSWER!

Now getting back to those unanswered questions!  The problem is not God but us!  Often when we ask God the big WHY question it's not because we really want to know the reason but we want Him to let us in on His itinerary!  His timing!  His plans now and in the future! Let me tell you why He doesn't share these things:

1.  These are Secret things, reserved for the Trinity  (Deu. 29:29). Stop worrying about what you don't know...work on what you do!  We've got 66 books that show us God's plan for our lives, now that's good place to start!

2.  It's Really None of our Business! (Acts 1:7-8) One of the last things Jesus told His disciples when they asked when He would restore the kingdom,  was that it was not for them to know the times or season for this is under the authority of the Father


3.  God is merciful! Frankly, we're way out of our league, trying to handle things in God's In Box! Man's limitation is no match for God's infinite wisdom! (Exodus 15:11)

Now here's the Number One reason God doesn't always answer our questions...HE WANTS US  TO TRUST HIM!  He created us with free will, the power to make choices. He wants us to choose to trust Him even when we can't trace His hand or understand what He's doing!  He takes us often  from the Prayer Room, to the Waiting Room, but one day we'll be in our Heavenly Home and there...Trusting in the Lord, and according to His Word, We'll understand it better by and by!


UNTIL NEXT TIME...

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Monday, March 20, 2017

MASTERING DISTRACTIONS!

There is an old Pennsylvania Dutch proverb that says, The hurrier I go the behinder, I get!  Do you ever feel that way? That you can't seem to get anything done but you're still exhausted at the end of the day? You are not alone!

This is common among busy people. We start a project over here, get interrupted,  go to another, and before you know it you're late for work, church, picking up the kids, and then rushing off to an appointment you just can't miss!   Bottom line:  Nothing you wanted to do got done at the end of the day!

There are many culprits in our chronically busy life styles. They suck up our time, wreak havoc on our body, and yield very little results!  But the one that has cropped up in my life lately with a vengeance is DISTRACTIONS!!  Chalk it up to old age if you will, but I've been seeing the symptoms in people of every age!  The difference in my case is,  I'm determined to do something about it!  I just believed the Lord had a remedy for all of this nonsense and you know where I found it?  Right in His word!  Let me drop a bit of God Knowledge on you this morning if you're feeling FRUSTRATED with DISTRACTIONS:


  • Take your Super Woman Cape Off!  You can't Help Everyone! Beware of over committing to projects, responsibilities, that take you away from the things God really wants you to do!  This is particularly hard if the things we're asked to do are helpful, and meet a real need.  Moses, in Exodus 18:17-18 was told by Jethro, this very thing in the Voice paraphrase translation: What you are doing is not good for you18 The responsibility is just too much. You are going to wear yourself out. Not only that, you’re going to wear out the people too. You can’t do it all by yourself. 
  • Keep the Main thing the Main thing! Look for God's Will in the matter first! The Lord is more interested in us Being With Him, than our notion of Doing Things For Him! Jesus told Martha, in Luke 10:42 as she was stressing over Mary's lack of concern for kitchen duty: There is need of only one thing.  Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken from her."   Our distractions are sometimes nothing but more busy work to keep our minds occupied and our hearts far away from more important things! 
  • Surrender Attempts to Control Every Situation! Know and Accept Human Limitations! Ministering to the needs of others is a God-Size job and we can not do it alone. (John 15:5a) As women we often forget that because nurturing and serving is in our DNA. We become worried and concerned and will often Take on More rather than Trust God More!  The Apostles had to learn a similar lesson in Acts when they were forced to surrender the needs of the widows to God and Spirit filled servants. Acts 6:3-4 -  3 Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.” They learned to master their distractions and frustrations by sharing the load with others.
Summary:

In everything we do we must ask ourselves these questions:  Why am I doing this?  Who gets the glory? Am I using this as a substitute for spending real quality time with the Lord? You may be like me frustrated with everything that didn't get done, but have you considered....God may be using these very things to get us back where He wants us to be ON OUR KNEES?


UNTIL NEXT TIME...

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Sunday, March 12, 2017

Tea And Symphony!!

What a weekend I've had dear readers!  I spent a glorious couple of hours with beautiful sisters enjoying a little tea and a symphony!  If this sounds a bit archaic and too old school for your taste...hold that thought until the end of this post!

Generations of women at my church recreated an age-old bonding ritual of sisterhood, in what I believe combined both tradition and contemporary. The traditional part was the ambiance of low lighting, classical music, elegant styling, and a variety of teas, sandwiches and pastries served right at your table.  

The contemporary part was that no hats or gloves were required (ladies dressed in their best black and white); and tea time started at eleven a.m. rather than the formal two or three o'clock afternoon setting (we're busy women with lots of responsibilities). One particular joyous sight for me was that the older generation of women were served by younger women, many who had their own daughters and nieces beside them,  teaching them how to serve! Now that's a flash from my past!

The program was a bit different as well.  While one usually think of gifted musicians displaying their honed skills, our symphony was composed of only five women,  it was A Symphony of Sisters.   Each in a different season of their life: a college freshman; an aged widow; a working mom with five children; a caregiver wife to an ailing husband, and a busy mother in ministry raising three boys and a teenage daughter.  Their instruments were their voices, testimonials of God's goodness and grace in their lives and I tell you, they were in rare form!  It was truly inspiring.

So what did we learn about true sisterhood as we sipped our tea?

1.  Sisters are Still a force to be reckoned with!  We are Strong, We are Survivors, and with God's help, can get through anything!

2.  The Differences in our ages is not a Liability but an Asset. Younger women are fearless but sometimes reckless, they are forging new paths for themselves.  Older women need to trust them more to do the right thing, but be there for them when they get off track!

3. Women can indeed work well together. Love, Respect and the Appreciation for each other's gifts and talents were quite evident at this tea. We need to stop believing the negative rhetoric that younger women won't listen to wisdom and older women don't have anything useful to say!

As demonstrated at this particular tea: Our Lives are Like a Symphony...Everyone has a key part to play....Don't let hitting one sour note keep you from playing your part..we need you!


UNTIL NEXT TIME...

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Wednesday, March 1, 2017

A Simple LACK of Respect!!

I praise You becauseI am fearfully
and wonderfully made...(Ps. 139:14)
In a recent post, I mentioned how inspiring the movie, Hidden Figures, was to me and thousands of women nationwide! There are so many untold or scarcely mentioned women who have made astounding contributions to our world and if not for a few diligent journalists, the general public would never know them!

I was reminded the other day of yet another one, Henrietta Lacks!  Oprah Winfrey will portray her in an upcoming HBO biopic, airing in April!  Let me give you a heads up!  This is a MUST SEE movie!  It is based on a book by Rebecca Skloot, entitled, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, published in 2010.

I first became aware of Henrietta four years ago when I traveled with my granddaughter to NCAT (North Carolina A&T) for a college tour. A student adviser gave her a copy.  Thought she ought to read it since she planned to study biomedical engineering.  I read the entire book on our nine-hour trip back home!  I literally could not put it down!

Henrietta Lacks was a ordinary black woman living in Baltimore who got sick and was diagnosed with cervical cancer in 1950.  She died a year later at the age of 31.  John Hopkins, a world famous research hospital upon examining her cancerous tissue after her death was intrigued. Performing innumerable tests on her tissue they found like the Psalmist, that she was fearfully and wonderfully made  (Ps. 139:14).  They had never seen cell structures as unique as hers! 

These cells became known as HeLa (HE for Henrietta and LA for Lacks).  The studies and experiments done using these cells revolutionized medical research and was shared globally to scientists in many fields of medicine. They were critical to the production of the Salk  Polio Vaccine.  Polio was a horrific disease at the time. Thus, hundreds of medical patents have been established improving human life and the cells are still being used today! Sounds Great doesn't It? There's only one problem..They never told Henrietta's family they were doing it!!! 

(Read more about this amazing woman at: http://www.biography.com/people/henrietta-lacks-21366671#synopsis


So what message can we derive from this woman's story?  What can we tell our daughters and granddaughters?  Let's start with this:

1.  Every Woman's Body Has Value!  You are a precious jewel in the eyes of God even to the very cells that comprise your innermost being!  Your worth is immeasurable and therefore the price you put on it should be of such a high standard that you' will not defile it, contaminate it with strange flesh and should certainly not be used as a play thing for someone unwilling to pay God's price for it... a committed covenant relationship called marriage (I Corin. 6:19; Song of Songs  3:5) 


2.  Every Woman's Body Has Beauty!  Stop allowing people who don't KNOW you, DEFINE you! Your specific body type, skin color, and  hair texture is what makes you UNIQUELY YOU!  (Henrietta's body, although ravished by disease retains a measure of beauty today because it is providing for others a better quality of life.)   No one but the Lord has the right to ascribe a standard of beauty to you and He's already assured you that it is the inward beauty that counts not the outward (I Peter 3: 4; I Sam. 16:7) Most of what is called beautiful and alluring is based on profitability and popularity!

3.  Every Woman's Body Deserves Respect! Does it surprise you that the general lack of respect and the objectification of women's bodies seems to be growing? Pornography and rape on campus is on the rise. Politicians think nothing of talking about grabbing women by their vaginas and equating our emotional wiring to menstrual bleeding!  I can't imagine what this is doing to the minds of our little boys and girls growing up in this environment.  This is not of God!  Our bodies are a living sacrifice (His altar) acceptable and pleasing to God! (Rom. 12:1-2) It should be treated and honored with that same kind of  respect! Let's start demanding that others do so!

So there you have it!  The month of March is traditionally Women's History Month let's take a cue from those who Inspire and Aspire, then Conspire with one another to be all we can be in the Lord!


UNTIL NEXT TIME...

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Monday, February 13, 2017

Apostle John, C.L.O.

Greater love hath no man
than this...(John 15:13)
Steve Harvey (the clean version), is one of my favorite comics, and is fond of referring to himself as C.L.O. (Chief Love Officer).  His Chicago-based T.V. show routinely features men and women with relationship problems and as a best selling author and cultural icon, Steve considers himself an expert in matters of the heart! 

Well, I found another that has more experience, whose advice is more reliable, and who has been on the World's Best Selling list for years!   It's the Apostle John of the New Testament!

John, the Apostle, not to be confused with John the Baptist or the others you'll find in the Bible has long been known as the Apostle of Love!  It could be because love is a favorite theme in his New Testament writings (Gospel of John,  First, Second, Third John, and Revelation) or because he had the privilege of walking, talking, leaning on, and learning from its Original Creator, Our Savior, Jesus Christ!

Depending on when you're reading this, Valentine's Day may already be fading fast, but here's a message about True Love that never gets trite or stale and John is just the one to remind us!


***True Love is Experiential!  Are you still trying to figure out why someone says they love you but their words and actions don't seem to jibe?  Maybe you're basing love on worldly perspectives rather than Christ's!  Okay, so he forgot the card and candy! Didn't make dinner reservations and you ended up eating take-out or leftovers! I'm not saying you're not deserving of more and certainly not giving Brothers a pass for being insensitive, but hear what the C.L.O. says in John 21:15-22.  He recounts Jesus restoring His fellowship with Peter, 
an apostle who denied and abandoned Him in His time of need!  We often learn how to love others as we have been loved in the past!  Your significant other may not be able to give you what he has never experienced.  Your compassion and willingness to forgive him of this flaw, may be a critical first lesson!

***True Love is Unconditional! How faithful has your loved one been the other 364 days of the year? Can you depend on him to work and pay bills?  Is he there when you're sick? During times of crisis or when you need emotional support?  Now here's the  kicker...how faithful are YOU?  If he drops the ball, even once on any of these...does he dread having to face you!  We are all imperfect in some area! Yet John tells us in I John 4:18-19, There is no fear in love.  We shouldn't be afraid to make mistakes, fall short in areas of weakness, especially if past behavior proves that our real intent is to be true to our roles and responsibilities. We hang in there and believe the best about our loved one!

***True Love is Sacrificial! Let's be honest, we don't always get our way when it comes to how we want to be appreciated!  As Gary Chapman, says in his book, The Five Love Languages, our love tank may be on "E" most days!  But do we stew in frustration, let the Enemy have his way or do we continue to Pray, Communicate, and Look for opportunities to rescue our relationship from certain death?  John 3:16, says it all:  God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life!


CHRIST DIED FOR A HOPE THAT HE DID NOT SEE YET BELIEVED EXISTED!
ARE YOU WILLING TO DO THE SAME FOR TRUE LOVE?




UNTIL NEXT TIME...

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Monday, February 6, 2017

MORE HIDDEN FIGURES: The Women Behind Great Bible Events!

There's nothing hidden
that will not be revealed...

(Mark 4:22 (GWT)
Black folks got a wonderful Christmas present from the film industry in 2016.  Two outstanding movies portraying authentic black experiences... Fences and Hidden Figures! I tell you, I've never been prouder or in the case of the latter, so inspired!

I was quite familiar with playwright, August Wilson (Fences, The Piano Lesson), but like many, I'd never heard of these extraordinary women: Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson.  What's more incredible is that I lived through this dramatic time in history.  Watched it all go down on television and never knew that  black female mathematicians and a budding engineer made it all possible!

It started me wondering, how many other women made significant contributions (skills, intellect, finances) to well-known historical events but go unrecognized and uncredited.  I discovered them in every field of study and not too surprisingly, even in the BIBLE! 

Let me test your Bible knowledge and challenge you when reading God's Word again, to pause and give Him praise... for they too are Hidden Figures:
  • The Hebrew Midwives in Egypt (Exodus 1:15-17) - When ordered to kill all male babies of the Hebrew race, they stood up to Pharaoh, defied his orders and saved many, making them incredibly important to the Exodus!  Shiprah and Puah are named but two million Hebrews left Egypt. Thousands of babies were born during this time. Reasonably it would take  hundreds of unknown women acting as Midwives to save a generation which by the way, included the tribe of Judah, from whence our Savior, Jesus Christ claims human ancestry.
  • Tabernacle Tapestry Weavers (Exodus 35:25-26) - God's dwelling in the wilderness was a fantastic display of artistry and skill.  Every tent covering, table cloth, wall hanging woven to decorate or adorn its rooms, from the tent entrance to the Holy of Holies was magnificent. The scriptures tell us that they were woven by the hands of unknown womenGifted artisans filled with wisdom! This beautiful representation of God's presence kept Moses, Joshua and the Israelites moving forward to the Promise Land and women were a part of the movement too!
  •  Women Disciples of the New Testament  (Luke 23:49; 24:10, 22;  55; 24:24: Mark 15:40-41, Acts 1:14, Acts 16; Romans 16: 1-27) -It is in the New Testament that we get a greater picture of the significance of women.  As followers of Christ, some are named outright: Mary His mother, Mary Magdalene, Mary and Martha, Joanna, etc.  But there were more only referred to as, The Women! These Hidden Figures were with Christ at every juncture of His ministry, some contributing finances and monetary assets.  We find them at the   Cross of Calvary; the Tomb of His Resurrection, and present in the Upper Room before and after His ascension.  The Women were praying with Lydia in Acts 16 when the gospel came to Macedonia and from there Asia Minor, and Europe. Unknown and Unsung Heroines!

 These Hidden Figures of the Bible:  Praying Women, Praising Women, Prophesying Women! A verse here and there or silent Serving Women in the background THEN and NOW...will one day be known by us all!  For as Jesus explained in this Mark 4 parable. A lighted candle is never meant to be lit and then hidden under a bowl!  



SO TO ALL MY TALENTED AND GIFTED SISTERS!
 SHINE, SHINE, SHINE! 
(The World Needs to See Your Light!)

UNTIL NEXT TIME...

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