Faith in Action

churchMy pastor preached an on time word today. The context of his message was from Matthew 25:14-18 which discusses the parable of three servants. Their master gave each of them talents (silver) in proportion to their abilities. They were not given instructions on what to do with it. The first two servants doubled what they were given even though each man did it in a different way while the last servant hid what he was given in fear of losing it altogether. I’m really not here to do a character study or to break down the Scripture but rather to share how today’s church service blessed a friend of mine.

 

We have a ton of college students attending our church so it is fairly common for Pastor Williams to speak empowering messages towards them, but today was different. He made a lot of references to the unemployed. Part of his message spoke about having confidence in one’s self. He likened a jobless person to persuading a business that he or she would be the best employee they had ever had causing it to earn more money. I think it was this part that lit a fire in my friend. He texted me later that same day to say, “I have a job.” I asked him about the details and he explained that shortly after service he had called the owner of one of the businesses he’d had an interview with. He told him with confidence that he would be there ready to work first thing Monday morning. The man had not finished conducting interviews for the position but liked my friend’s approach and hired him on the spot!

 

I say all of that to say this: you can’t do this thing we call life on your own. I know a lot of people, even Christians, who don’t go to church for whatever reason. The truth of the matter is you need someone or something to provoke you to greatness. You can read the Bible and pray for understanding, yes, but you should also surround yourself with people who either have what you’re trying to achieve or can show you how to get it. If you’re in debt, would you take the advice of a broke person?

 

Proverbs 15:22 Without counsel purposes are disappointed: but in the multitude of counselors they are established. (KJV)

 

My pastor isn’t just a preacher, but he’s a mentor. He breaks down the word in ways that are easy to understand so that it can be applied for right living. Let’s be honest. The Bible is a very large book. If you’re not familiar with it, how do you know what page to turn to in the middle of a storm? That’s where someone like a pastor or minister can help; not only by pointing you in the right direction but also by decoding the Scripture. I know I’m not the only one who gets confused by the “thees” and “thous”.

99 problems

Maybe you’ve had some bad experiences at churches in the past. Don’t let that deter you. There are about 320,000 churches in the United States. If one person breaks your heart, do you say I’m never going to love again? Of course not, so why do people do the same thing with church? If one didn’t sit well with your spirit, find another one. When I moved from my hometown, I visited at least six places of worship before I found my church home. The church not only delivers the Good News but is a place for believers to uplift one another. The word of God is an incorruptible seed (1 Peter 1:23). When a seed is planted in fertile ground, it will produce. I’m not the same person I was 5 years ago or even one year ago. His word is maturing me to a life that hungers and thirsts for righteousness.

 

Hebrews 10:25 And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near. (NLT)

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Bloom Where You Are Planted

I’m a bit of a reality show junkie. Most reality TV shows are a lot like junk food. They taste good but are undoubtedly bad for you when consumed repeatedly. The ladies of Mob Wives, Bad Girls Club, Real Housewives, Love and Hip Hop, and a host of other reality stars are far from tasteful and uplifting. There are, however, some positive images of women behaving uprightly. Shows like Tia and Tamera and Mary Mary have done well, so I was pleased to see the premiere of The Sheards which documents the life of gospel powerhouse Karen Clark Sheard and her family.

 the sheards

On a recent episode, songstress Kierra “Kiki” Sheard was invited to sing at an open mic night. There were two other performers that came before her. One of the spoken word artist’s rhymes included profanity. Another man humored the audience by poking fun at religion and church folk. Then it was Kierra’s turn. She sang a medley of gospel songs, and while I thought she sang well, she later sobbed in the bathroom disappointed in her performance. Before taking the stage she feared how her message would be received. Her insecurity stemmed from a desire to please everyone around her. She didn’t want to offend anyone whose beliefs may not have been the same as her own.

 

Matthew 5:14-16 You are the light of the world – like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father. (NLT)

 

I’m a fan on Kierra so my opinion is biased, but I like the show and appreciate her transparency. As great of a singer as Kierra is, even she has insecurities about performing in front of people. Beyond being a minister of music, she’s still a person. Kierra even discusses her battle against the bulge and wanting to live a healthier lifestyle whilst being a lover of foods that aren’t particularly contributing to that goal.

 

If I could give her a word of encouragement, I would remind her of the scripture above. God has given her a gift and has called her to use it for the building of His kingdom. Her voice and the Good News it proclaims has the power to win souls for Christ. Whether she be in a coffee shop, church, or concert she shouldn’t be afraid to please God for the sake of pleasing mere people.

 

God can change an atmosphere with His profound word and His presence. Since we are made in His image (Gen 1:27) and are heirs to His throne (Rom 8:17), we have inherited this same authority. Have you ever had someone say something like, “I don’t know what it is about you… I just can’t put my finger on it.” Why can’t they figure you out? What is it that you have that is so radiant? Jesus proclaims He is the light of the world in John 8:12. Since we, believers, have been given the gift of salvation, we too have a light, Jesus, within us. Don’t let anyone or anything snuff it out.

When Good Isn’t Good Enough

A few nights ago I cried myself to sleep. I can easily empathize with something I hear or see, so crying is not a rarity for me, but I felt overwhelmed with anxiety. For months I’ve been unhappy at work plagued by headaches and questions as to where I went wrong. Some jobs have a blue print one could follow. You go to school, get a degree, start small with an entry-level position, go for something bigger after gaining experience, and voila… enjoy your house, car, spouse, 2.5 kids, and dog for the rest of your long and happy life. If only that were the case.

when good isn't good enough

I don’t doubt the value of a college education, but it is terribly overpriced. The payoff varies greatly, oftentimes, short of the student loans that must be repaid for said education. I did what I thought I was supposed to do. I went to a four year university. Although I changed my major three times, I settled on a degree in Finance. I landed a paid internship which was the perfect sized shoe to get my foot in the door for my current position as a stockbroker. I felt accomplished at first, but now my emotions are akin to eating a meal that made me full but left me unsatisfied. I have a taste for something totally different, but I don’t know what exactly. I have everything that I need and am blessed beyond measure. I thank God for a loving family, a healthy body, food, shelter, and employment. My issue is not of lack but of fulfillment.

I took a long weekend to visit some family members and thought it would be just the break I needed. Instead, upon returning I procrastinated against another impending Monday by surfing the web an hour well after I had intended to go to bed. I didn’t want to go to sleep even though I was tired because I knew as soon as I closed my eyes I’d be waking to another miserable work week. To add insult to injury I have no idea what I want to do. I can learn to do just about anything; play the piano, saxophone, volleyball, and even salsa, but I don’t have a passion. I can’t think of anything that I must do or couldn’t live without.

I’ve been praying for God to reveal to me where He wants me to be and what I should be doing now to get there. I’m reminded of David. He was a shepherd before he was a king. In his days of herding livestock I wonder if he longed for more out of life. In time his ability to protect helpless animals from predators like lions and bears would give him the fearlessness and confidence required to defeat Goliath. I wonder too if what I consider to be mundane tasks are actually preparing me for something much greater.

An even more important revelation came to me that night. Forgiveness. My son’s father committed suicide last year. The first emotion I felt after hearing of his passing was sadness. I was heartbroken that my son would be a statistic growing up without his father. He was the funniest person I knew and could make anyone smile even on their worst day. It’s awful that our son will never know for himself how great his father was. Then the second emotion I felt was anger. I was angry with him for taking the “easy way out” (although I’m sure it wasn’t an easy decision to make). I was angry that he left me to take on parenting alone. He also had two other children. I didn’t understand how he could leave them behind. I know we all have ups and downs, but I have never considered suicide a reasonable option.

It was in my moment of pity and questioning that I was finally able to sympathize with my son’s father. I have no idea what he was going through that would lead him to end his life, but I can imagine he just felt fed up. I am tired of being tired with work, and I’m sure he had things going on in his life that he was also tired of struggling with. I wish he would have talked to someone about his issues to find a better resolution, but I forgive him.

I know that this valley I’m going through is only temporary. I’m going to listen to my faith, not my feelings. This too shall pass.