Is the Church Standing Between You and the Cross? When I was pregnant with my first son, life was beautiful. I loved being pregnant. People showed me favor everywhere I went. I’d get extra helpings of food and free ice cream. People opened doors for me and strangers would start conversations with me and share their stories tips about childbirth.…
Everyone has a story. The Christian life is full of them. If you’re like me and have been a Christian for a long time, then you are quite familiar with the challenges of being immersed in a culture that is counter to what we believe. If you are a new Christian, welcome to this wonderful journey of exploration, and the…
The World Is Waiting Elisha Didn’t Realize It, But He Was Ready “So Elijah departed from there and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, while he was plowing with twelve pairs of oxen before him, and he with the twelfth, and Elijah passed over to him and threw his mantle on him.”- I Kings 19:19 When I decided to return…
Why Can’t I Forgive You? By Linda Nelson One Sunday after service, I was waiting in line to register for an upcoming event when my sister walked up. We started talking about something when out of my peripheral vision I saw a hand waving and then I heard a Snap! Snap! I turned my full attention to the lady behind…
By Linda Nelson
There is a carefully crafted, sustained battle challenging what God has declared about you; Here’s what you need to do to stop it.
“In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim, Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, came to Jerusalem and besieged it.
And Nebuchadnezzar instructed his servant to bring some of the children of Israel and some of Judah’s descendants to him.
He took the young men, who were good looking, without fault, and wise, because he knew that they could be taught the ways of the Chaldeans and serve in his palace.
Nebuchadnezzar changed their names and gave them daily provisions of his food and wine. And these young men were required to train for three years so they could serve him. Among these young men were Daniel and his three friends.
But Daniel made up his mind that he would not defile himself with King’s Nebuchadnezzar’s food or wine, and he requested permission not to eat the king’s food.– Daniel 1: 1-8
From the beginning, satan has been intent on separating us from what God has declared over our lives. As soon as Adam and Eve made the decision to come into agreement with the enemy, they formed a covenant with the opposition and allowed him to enter the place that was reserved for God. His goal was to obliterate their potential, redirect their focus, and use the gifts and talents God had given them for his own purpose (I Peter 5:8).
Every time we read a newspaper, or a magazine, and every time we turn on the television, there is a message telling us that we aren’t good enough. For Christians that message is in direct opposition to God’s declaration in Genesis He had formed us out of the dust of the ground and proclaimed it “very good.”
God, who is sovereign, makes no mistakes. Yet, we are continually at odds with our sexuality, our appearance, our economic standing and our social position. We clamor to be like everyone else (I Samuel 8:4-7)- we long to fit in, to be liked and to be validated in a world that doesn’t love us when the Lover of our very souls has already told us that we alone are good enough.
Daniel and his friends were plucked out of Judah and planted in Babylon. God allowed it. He always has a plan. The test for Daniel and his friends was to resist the Babylonian way so God could use them in that place. In order to accomplish this, they couldn’t eat the king’s food. They were in Babylon, but they were not a part of it. They belonged to God.
Brothers and sisters, we are in Babylon! Our mission like Daniel’s is to stand flat-footed and declare the truth of the living God. But in order to carry out this assignment, we cannot waver on who we are and we can’t be distracted by the many voices in the world. Any Instability about our identity will cause us to make decisions out of insecurity and will prevent us from accomplishing our purpose. It is imperative that we remain focused on the big picture. Here’s what we must do.
1) Believe God
As God’s sons and daughters, our job is to trust God’s plan. In order to do that, we have to believe that He has our best interest at heart.
The serpent caused Eve to question who she was and then offered her something she thought was better. Today, it’s the same story. We can’t be flawless enough. The bodies we came here with are wrong. Our hair is too oily or too kinky. Our skin is too pale or too dark. We’re either not smart enough or have become too smart for our own good and are now bored with the simplicity of life and so we run after useless stuff that we believe will keep us entertained only to discover that we soon become tired of that too.
If Adam and Eve was anything like me, they had already thoroughly examined that forbidden tree. They probably had already circled it, and held the fruit from it, smelled it and rolled it around in their hands. That’s what we do- we test boundaries.
God didn’t make us robots, but He did make our thinking minds to be used for His glory. He made us unique for His purpose. He gave us a free will to decide because it’s so much sweeter when your children choose to love you, obey you and trust that you have their best interest at heart, believe that It’s going to be okay even when we don’t understand. Believing God is the key to our success in this counter culture in which we are immersed.
But what has happened to our contentment of believing that God created us on purpose? And where is the satisfaction of knowing that we are His children who are called by His name, and created for dominion despite our current station? How do we forget that when God created us, He declared it very good without obsessing that “This one’s nose is too big” or “That one over there is unlikable”?
My first grandchild, A.J., was diagnosed with Autism when he was 3 years-old. When we got the diagnosis, we were devastated, and questioned God’s purpose for A.J.’s life. Almost 10 years later, A.J. continues to struggle with behavioral issues and frequent tantrums. His parents are exhausted and sometimes I feel helpless as a grandmother. I have bombarded God with my prayers for my grandson, and I admit I have felt fearful and sometimes abandoned by God. This is where the enemy comes in and whispers a word of opposition.And this is where we get to decide.
God’s word of unwavering love and a promise to give us hope and future has never changed even though I can’t see it, God always has a plan (Jeremiah 29:11).
In the book of Daniel, Daniel and his friends were prisoners of Babylon. They had been snatched away from their home and families and put into one of the most powerful world systems in existence. They had been stripped of their identities and forced to learn the ways of an opposing nation. It looked as if they had no power. At that moment, it seemed as if God had abandoned Israel and overlooked every promise He’d made to Abraham. Daniel had to decide whether to believe that God or to give in to what he saw and heard around him. Sometimes it’s easier to give in, but God didn’t promise us easy, He promised us victory.
2) Determine Who You’re with and Who’s with You
Who you hang out can determine your success. Being with the right group is a display of who you are and your potential.
The men that rode with David were warriors. They were men who lived on the fringes of society, but they were committed to David and his mission.
They loved David’s passion for God and they risked their lives for the cause. When people heard of them they knew what they were about. They knew that they didn’t play and were about the business of establishing order.
My husband and I are in the same posse. Our hearts belong to God and His purpose and although we don’t always agree or understand each other, we are committed to the cause.
Daniel and his friends decided to stand together in Babylon. They determined to believe what God had said about them in the midst of one of the most powerful world forces at the time. They trusted they were in that place, but that place could not be in them. And God brought them out.
We live in a culture that is hostile to the things of God and the name of Jesus, Surrounding ourselves with strong passionate unwavering Christians who know their identities will help us remember who we are.
Take a look around at your friends. If they don’t share and support your faith or the mandate that God has given you, maybe they shouldn’t be a part of your inner circle. Who are you hanging out with? Are they going in the same direction? Are they like minded?
3) Remember Why You’re Here
And God created man in His own image- male and female. He blessed us and commanded us to be bountiful, productive, prosperous, successful and fill the earth with others just like us. He We are here to restore order into the chaos and to be living, breathing, walking examples of Him.
We are to speak what we hear Him speak and to demonstrate His ways. Then God will take care of all the other stuff that distracts us and keeps us awake at night.
4) Get Planted
Get connected to a body of believers. The church is a power house of support and connection and a place of planting. The church gives us foundation and covering. Miracles happen when Christians come together to worship God and there is a strength that comes to us when we are connected to other Christians. In Paul tells us not to take lightly the importance of gathering with one another in Hebrews 10:25.
No matter what kind of week or day I’ve had, when I walk into my church I know that it is a place of refuge and peace and the place where we gather to celebrate our King.
The church gives us foundation, reinforces our purpose and creates an atmosphere of faith and strength. There is something beautiful that happens when we come together.
5) Use Your Weapons
Adam and Eve fell for the enemy’s tactics and we still suffer the consequences. But the second Adam, who is Jesus, came, focused and ready for battle. Jesus made it His business to show us how to shut the enemy down! Genesis 4:3-11.
Once again satan crept in just when he thought Jesus was vulnerable- He was hungry and had been in the wilderness for 40 days- His flesh was weak, but His spirit was strong as the enemy crept in to question the very thing that God had just declared; “This is my Son in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17).
That’s what God is saying about us. We are His. He has already endorsed us.
Paul knew adversity and persecution and he knew the challenges that Christians face when he encouraged us to use our spiritual weapons.
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the spiritual forces of wickedness. Take up the full armor of God” (Ephesians 6:10-18).
Don’t wait until you get weary or discouraged to play catch up on bible study or your prayer life. Keep feeding your spirit with the word of God that is alive, and the Spirit of God who is with us always. Consciously surround yourself with people who will stand with you and encourage you when you can’t see God.
Daniel and his friends endured a lot. They were placed into a fiery furnace and later, Daniel was thrown into the lion’s den. his friends were place in a fiery furnace. but because they determined not to allow the culture they were in infiltrate them, they qualified for service and God’s protection.
And God granted Daniel favor with the commander who for ten days, allowed Daniel and his friends to refuse the food that the king offered to them. And at the end of the 10 days, their appearance seemed better and they were fatter than all the youths who had been eating the king’s food, and God gave them knowledge and intelligence in every area of literature and wisdom, and He gave Daniel understanding for all kinds of dreams and visions”- Daniel 1:8-17
Father, thank you for creating us in exactly the right way. Help us to ignore the voices of opposition and to believe that we are Yours and that we are good enough. Help us understand that you are always in our corner fighting for us and pushing back the darkness over our lives. And thank you for always standing at the ready with outstretched arms when we miss it and have to come back. Strengthen us on this journey so that we can get to the places you've assigned us to and accomplish the things that we were created for. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Walk it out!
By Linda Nelson
I am a black woman who doesn’t hate President Trump. Don’t get me wrong, I am perplexed and many times dismayed by the comments and actions that bring into question his intentions and character, but the reality is that despite all odds, Donald Trump now sits in the White House as President of the United States.
In many ways his presidency is a reflection of who we are, either because we are like minded and have come into agreement with his philosophies and the way he views America, or because we enjoy the show that is often accompanied by the behaviors we crave, and finally because some of us just want to be left alone and have therefore left open those places that we should be occupying, but instead have been filled by someone else.
Whatever the reasons, there is in fact a much bigger force at work here and despite the bravado and arrogance that Trump displays on television, in the newspapers and on his Twitter feed, he is fallible and prone to the same weaknesses and defeats as we all are. Alone, he is unable to encompass the enormity of the White House, and the office he now holds.
As a Christian, I pray that Trump realizes his own limitations and begins to recognize, and rely on the unending capacities of God. But after I have cast my vote and lent my voice, and bent my knees in prayer to the Most High God, in the end I have to trust that the God that I serve is sovereign, forgiving and compassionate to mankind and all of our shortcomings. I have to know within myself that only God knows how our days will end up and that in this landscape of uncertainty, He knows the places that we were created to fill.
King Solomon was one of the wisest men known to Israel. The bible says his riches were vaster than any. Yet King Solomon knew how fallible he was as a man. He writes about his revelation of man’s propensity to believe that we are the generation that has initiated a new thing and therefore are different and more advanced than those who have been before.
He reminds us that there is no such thing as a new thing- it is only new to us (Ecclesiastes 1:9). Throughout the ages our surroundings may appear different, but they have always existed in seed form, waiting for those of us whom God has purposed to cultivate them, to come into our rightful places (Genesis 2:5).
And in Ecclesiastes, King Solomon holds the mirror before us and our continuous state of self-love, self-admiration and self-absorption.
Everything is boring and no one can find meaning in it. Boring to the eye- boring to the ear. What was will happen again. There is nothing new on this earth. Year after year it is the same old thing. Does someone call out, ‘Hey this is new’? Don’t get excited- it’s the same old story. [He says] I made myself great. I built myself houses and planted vineyards. I gathered for myself silver and gold and the special treasures of kings. So I became great and excelled more than all who were before me in Jerusalem. Whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them, and I did not withhold my heart from pleasure.Then I looked on all the works that my hands had done and on the labor in which I had toiled and indeed it was all vanity and grasping for wind. There was no profit under the sun." (Ecclesiastes 1-2)
But the good news is that when we acknowledge that God’s way is the way, and then align ourselves to His purpose and intent, then unity, peace and victory will come.
Trump will be president for a little while, but God is God forever. So let us do what we were created to do, because when we do what we can do, then God will do what only He can do. So let us come into agreement with God’s plan and His intentions. And let us begin to think like He thinks, and to speak what we hear the Spirit speaking. And then let us turn and bring everything around us into order through the gifts, talents and abilities that God has placed in us for such a time as this. Walk it out!
Father thank you for the continual opportunity to return to you and get it right. Help us as we seek You because we know that in You is life, power, love, forgiveness and strength to endure. Meet us where we are and make those things that are crooked in our lives straight. In Jesus’ name. Amen
By Linda Nelson
Race- A class or kind of people unified by shared interests, habits or characteristics
The black life is unlike any other existence. It doesn’t matter how many black people you know or have married into your family- the experience of being black is shared only by other blacks. On the inside, black skin is merely an adornment that contributes to life’s sundry landscape, but on the outside, a subtle change in skin tone has the power to elicit skewed opinions and re-ignite acts of previous atrocities.
This country has watched in horror and disbelief as racism has once again been laid at the feet of a generation. And the roots of hatred now threaten to nullify the battle that was once waged by slaves who planned revolts and created undergrounds to freedom. And by white abolitionists who risked their lives to protest publicly and provide places of refuge for human beings who wanted only to be treated like everyone else. Gone are the days of teenagers who sat at lunch counters where they were spat on and yanked off stools. And mothers and fathers and grandparents who marched across cities knowing that just ahead were bloody encounters with night sticks, and water hoses and attack dogs. Past racial atrocities brought action from college students who gave up their carefree college days for a bus ride to the south filled with firebombs, and beatings and days spent in jail.
As a black woman I am angered by the attitude of entitlement from some and the apathy and violence of others. But as a Christian, I find myself in the middle between God’s will and my own. To whom is my allegiance? Is it to my race or is it to my God?
Love –An unselfish, loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another
In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus had to choose between His flesh and His assignment. While His flesh cried out “My Father, if it is possible let this cup pass from me, nevertheless let your will not mine be done” (Matthew 26:39), Jesus knew that His obedience was tied to our deliverance. So He submitted Himself to the will of the Father and became a representative for you and me. He was beaten beyond recognition, ridiculed, spit on, mocked and finally crucified by the same hands that he now prayed for (Luke 23:34). And even when He didn’t understand, He trusted the Father, who always sees the end of a thing from the beginning (Matthew 27:46).
My assignment can never compare to His sacrifice, but the example that He left for you and for me should challenge us to always choose Him. It is God who loves us and fights for us and continuously restores us. For Him, the least I can do is offer to exchange the feelings of helplessness, and anger and retaliation, for His wisdom and direction. The question is no longer, “What would Jesus Do?” but, “What would He have me to do?” (Ephesians 5:1,8)
God told Abraham that he would be the father of many nations, and his seed would be too abundant to count. It sounded ridiculous because Abraham was old and Sarah, his wife, was barren. In order for Abraham to buy into what God saw for his future he had to see like God saw. God told Abraham to come outside (Genesis 15:5-6). From that place Abraham saw the vastness of the universe, and his perspective about God and himself changed.
video courtesy of YouTube
Kingdom- the realm in which God’s will is fulfilled
In the cocoon of blackness, it’s difficult to see beyond the news and the conversations on social media sites, but as citizens of the kingdom of God, it is essential that we make the transition from anger and fear and helplessness and entitlement and apathy to the place that we need to be. That place cannot be in the middle. God has redeemed us so that we will be a counter culture within this culture, and show the world the heart of our King.
I know it sounds like a lot, but we can do this because of the shed blood of Jesus who pushed aside Himself so that we would have victory. It’s not always the easiest way, but it is the only way. In order to be successful we have to:
*YIELD OUR WILL TO HIS WILL
*CONTINUALLY PRAY FOR HELP; FOR PEACE; FOR COMFORT
*RESIST THE “MOB MENTALITY”
“Warn those who are unruly, see that no one renders evil for evil, pursue what is good for yourselves and for all, rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in everything, don’t quench the Spirit” (I Thessalonians 9:14-22).
Through my involvement with a local race forum, I have seen firsthand the efforts, by those who don’t look like me or live where I live, to understand the black experience and make things better. In fact, the majority of people who attend these forums and race groups in this area are white. These are facts that are rarely revealed.
Join or form a racial forum. Explore political options. Get involved with law enforcement. Help to promote understanding across the aisle. Be mindful of one another. Make a conscious effort to let one another in.
This means that no longer can we remain silent when coworkers spout untruths about another race. We have to remove ourselves from the middle of racist jokes made in jest and out of ignorance. We must resist the need to socialize with only those who look like us and be willing to step outside of our tents to experience the beauty of God’s vast creation.
At a local race forum, the white editor of a local newspaper tearfully shared his story. He had been raised in a small all white community where he never saw or interacted with black people. He didn’t encounter a black person until he went to college. Because he had no social interactions with blacks, he didn’t care about or understand the struggle. Years later, he was invited to attend a community race forum where he says he got to know black individuals and listen to the stories of experiences and frustrations. Only then did he see them as friends, and become invested in their lives because what they shared was more than what they did not. Their stories became his stories.
Father, we are the people who are called by Your name. As Your sons and daughters, You have created us for this time and have placed within us everything that we need in order to succeed in the earth. We will be victorious to restore peace and unity as we proclaim your kingdom to the world. Help us to get out of the middle and find our places as salt and light in this world. Help us to celebrate one another, and make concerted efforts to bridge the gaps of racism. Let Your love be our guide, and may we always choose you over ourselves. And we will give you the praise and the glory, in Jesus’ name. Amen.”
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