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Thursday Inspiration: Whom Shall I Fear?

31 Mar

I didn’t get to post my Sunday inspiration because I was away from home.  Now I’m back and I’m ready to get this thing started!  Prepare yourself for another loooooooong essay.  I promise, I’m going to get better about brevity and such.

My topic today is about fear.  The Bible speaks often, and very explicitly, about fear.  I could easily name about ten or fifteen verses off the top of my head (2 Timothy 1:7, Psalms 27:1, Psalms 23:4 – for example), but the point is that fear is a natural emotion that has no place in our supernatural lives.  We’re human and we are bound to be afraid of a multitude of things that really don’t make any legitimate sense.  Me?  I’m afraid of monkeys, roaches, and balloons.  I’m also afraid of rejection, losing the people that I love, and being forgotten.  The things that we fear are oftentimes the driving force behind the decisions that we make in our lives.  Fear shouldn’t be our motivation.  Our motivation should be faith.   Faith and fear, by definition, are antonyms; you can’t walk in both at the same time.  I can’t have faith in a situation and operate out of said faith if I am walking in fear and operating out of worry.  It doesn’t work like that. Fear looks at a situation and says, “what am I going to do?”  Faith looks at a situation and says, “What is God going to do?”  The times that faith and fear most often come in conflict with one another are when we are going through trials.

In your trial, faith accomplishes what fear cannot and fear creates conditions in which faith cannot operate.  Once you step out on faith, you must place all of your focus and the whole of your attention on Jesus – otherwise you will start walking in fear.  Basically, you have two options when dealing with your trial:

1.  Trial —> Distraction —> Distraughtfulness —>  Disdain —> Disappointment
2.  Trial —> Focus —> Faith —> Action —> Results

I had a cute little flow chart I created in Microsoft Word, but it would paste into WordPress.  Oh well.

Since option #2 is very straightforward (I believe), let’s start with option #1 and with Distraction.  When you are distracted, your mind becomes preoccupied by what your situation is doing to you instead of what you are supposed to be doing to your situation.  Things that may distract you are people close to you, like friends and family,  who only remind you of how bad things are instead of how good God is.  Other distractions back be haters and obstructionists who don’t want you to succeed and will hind your progress, habits and behaviors that are contrary to the Word, pity parties, and any doubt, dear, depression, or hesitation that may disconnect you from God and His Word.  If you are or become distracted, i.e. unfocused, there are ways to get back on track.  Study your Word.  This is the most effective means because you have to know what the Word says about your situation so you will know how to act.  Praying and asking for guidance is other good idea.  Part of being distracted is feeling inadequately prepared.  Pray for God to show, direct, and lead your thoughts and actions.  Finally, you should surround yourself with positive people who will encourage you and positively influence your life.

Once you have become distracted, and unless you refocus, you then become distraught and distressed because of your distraction.  Now you are so wholly consumed by what is going on, you give yourself completely over to fear and worry.  There are  several reasons why being distraught is a bad thing.  First of all, due to inevitably overreacting and forgetting that the battle is already won, you allow your circumstance to become bigger than you and forget that it isn’t bigger than God.  You start to second guess all of your choices and decisions, eventually becoming scared to even move.  When you become “stuck in neutral,” so to speak, anything that comes along can push you in a multitude of wrong directions and you are unable to do anything because you are unable to guide yourself.  You lose your peace and your joy and you become an ineffectual ministry vessel because your fear taints your work.  You are unable to effectively make your way out of your trial and are very likely not to achieve any results at this rate because you are going around in circles.  It’s easy to become disoriented (I’m using a lot of words with the “dis” prefix, I see…) and confused.  You don’t know left from right, right from wrong.  In this case, you usually make the wrong decision, which leads to….

Disdain.  My, how it is easy to get to this place.  It is frustration at its finest.  Once you have become fearful, you are no longer faithful.  You lose every ounce of your faith and then begin to question why God allowed you to get in this situation in the first place.  You’re angry.  Why me?  How come?  It ain’t fair!  You are so confused, you don’t know how to get out of the hole that you’ve dug for yourself and, to be quite honest, you really aren’t looking to get out because it’s easier to find external blame than it is to find internal blame.  You have no results.  You have no victory.  Unless you can refocus on the task and hand and get your head back on straight, you disdain will only lead you to your final destination:

Disappointment.  We all know how that feels.  You think that God didn’t come through for you because you didn’t get what He promised.  What really happened is that you didn’t come through for yourself.

I could go a little further with this, but I won’t.  Basically, I’m just trying to tell you to be wary of fear.  It creates a cycle of thought and behavior that simply isn’t in keeping with your faith life.  And to be quite honest, what do we really have to fear anyway?  If are what we say we are, Believers, then we should be able to walk more confidently in our faith.  And I’m not saying this stuff to be self-righteous.  This is meant for me as well.  There’s a laundry list of things I haven’t done – am not doing – and missed opportunities that I will be held accountable for because I was operating in fear.  But if we take the time to stop and examine our fears and examine our faith, it is possible to see that our faith can best our fears every time.

The End.

Sunday Inspiration: I’m NOT Perfect…but that’s no excuse

20 Mar

Not sure what’s up with the tree covered hill in the video…but I just wanted the song…

Public Service Announcement:  I am not perfect.  I curse like a sailor (usually when I’m alone and no one can hear it), I’m a champion procrastinator, and I dislike being wrong more than I dislike monkeys, roaches, veggies, and the color orange.  I’m impatient and stubborn; I can be insensitive and incompassionate.  My left foot is bigger than my right.

I am human.  We all are.

Everybody has a set of flaws that they carry around with them like a grocery list.  Everybody has that one or two or seven things that they know they need to work on.  We all carry the banner of imperfection, however, some of us are waving it a little harder than others.  I’m going to try and say what I’ve got to say with tact and brevity:  do not allow your humanity to overcome your humility.

Now what the heck do I mean by that?  Well, two things, really.  Allow me to get all lexicographical for a moment.  Humanity (in a nutshell, a really small one) is basically human nature.  A simple definition of humility would be the that is the opposing virtue to the vice/sin of pride.  A better definition (per the definition I just looked up) is, “the quality of being modest, reverential, even politely submissive, and never being arrogant, contemptuous, rude or even self-abasing.”  Within that definition of humility are two opposite ends of the pride spectrum:  arrogance and despair. 

On one hand, you have the arrogance that comes from believing that being human gives you a free pass to act a fool.  There are some people who feel like they are exempt from having to behave themselves, above the rules so to speak, because “everybody makes mistakes.”  You know the ones…God forgive me for what I’m about to do.    Uh, come again?  God’s mercy endures forever, but He has mercy on whom He will.  Making a mistake is one thing.  The intent to sin, well that’s another matter entirely.  That’s a form of arrogance, plain and simple.  Yes…we’re all going to mess up.  That does not mean that you should not take care to try and curb those bad habits and do whatever you can in your power to move past the things that hinder you.  That’s the equivalent of refusing to take baths on the grounds that you’re only going to get dirty again.  Like my grandma says:  holiness is right.  I’m not saying go out and buy one of them floor sweeping skirts or do something extreme.  Holiness isn’t about appearance.  It’s about making a lifelong commitment to separate yourself from the things that can and will impede your direction and dedication when it comes to the Kingdom.  And I know I’m the pot calling the kettle black.  There are a lot of things that I personal need to remove from my life and I know that I will die having never fully gotten rid of them all.  However, I will not let that be an excuse for not trying.  It’s a long process.  I’ve got to die daily.  It’s not easy and I’m going to mess up more than I get right.

On the other hand, there is despair.  A word about despair:  a professor of mine told me once that the highest – and most dangerous – form of despair is pride.  Despair is the loss of hope, the feeling that whatever it is that you’ve done is something that you can’t or won’t be forgiven for.  This is a form of pride because you have allowed your self and your sin to become bigger than God.  The second half of that definition I mentioned earlier talks about “self-abasement,” which is (from the same source), “Self-abasement is voluntary self-punishment or humiliation in order to atone for some real or imagined wrongdoing.”  I have a few issues with the idea of self-punishment.  For starters, it sort of is a slap in the face of the Crucifixion, which was the ultimate sacrifice/payment for our sins.  It’s like saying that what Jesus did is enough for what you’ve done – again, despair.  Sometimes we allow our humanity, our human nature and the fact that we are imperfect to effect us to the point that we take ourselves out of commission.  We feel like we can’t be used by God.  We feel like we can’t go to God even in prayer.  That’s a dangerous, dangerous place to be.  As I stated in another post, God has used imperfect people in spite (or perhaps because) of their sin. 

The moral of the story is this:  you are bound to fall.  When you fall, you have three options:  make excuses, lay there, or get up and keep going.  It’s really that simple.  Nobody’s perfect and no one ever will be.  God isn’t asking us to be perfect.  He’s just asking us to keep pressing toward the mark.

Have a good Sunday, everybody! 

Sunday Inspiration: Transparency vs. Invisibility

13 Mar

 
 
This another old something that I wrote a while ago, almost immediately after I wrote “Being a Vessel.”   God bless!
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I typed this note in MS Word first to cut down on the number of typos. When I went back and re-read my previous note, the English major in me was aghast at the number of typographical errors. Typos are distracting – to me at least. But anywho, this note is not about typographical errors. It’s about something I was thinking/praying about on the way to work and I decided to share.

Sharing is caring.

As many of you know, I’m in a place of transition. Last year, 2008, was really about new beginnings for me and this year, 2009, is about divine completion. Not that I’ll ever be complete (there is always room for improvement), but I feel like God is looking to complete this particular cycle and transition. So I was praying and talking to God about being a vessel and removing all of those things that are not like Him, and I said, “Lord, I need you to make me transparent.” And y’all know how me and God talk – like I talk to y’all  – and he said, “Well why stop there? I don’t need you to be transparent; I need you to be invisible. Transparent isn’t good enough.” I wasn’t as confounded as I was when he was talking to me about being a vessel because I had heard a minister friend of mine say the same thing – ask the Lord to make you transparent until you are invisible. So I asked for clarification. And here it is.

Transparency or being transparent, by definition, means to be “sheer, as to permit light to pass through; easily seen through; diaphanous.” (Shout out to Dictionary.com) Allow me to explain using my chemistry background (the only thing it’s good for these days): things that are transparent, like glass or certain types of plastic, allow light rays to pass through them so that what is on the other side may be clearly visible, almost as if there were no obstructing material. Almost. Invisibility, however, means “not visible; not perceptible or discernible by the eye or mind; unseen.” So I was like, okay God! I see where you’re going with this!

Being transparent is okay, but when you want to be a vessel for God, being transparent isn’t quite good enough. It’s a nice starting place, but you’ve got to go beyond that. We’re supposed to be the lights that draw others to Christ and the light that is within us is Christ Jesus. People are supposed to see Him in us before we speak, walk, smile, or bat our eyelashes. That being said, being transparent allows people to clearly see Him in you…but they can still see you. When you look through glass to see something, it is pretty impossible not to get a bit of glare or reflection in the process. Besides that, glass has a knack of getting dirty and smudged with fingerprints and stuff. We all know how distracting reflections, dirt, and smudges can be. It’s like looking out of a dirty windshield. Right now it’s spring and pollen is everywhere. When you get in your pollen covered car, you can see enough through the glass to get where you’re going, but all of the dirt, pollen, and smudges (if you wipe your window with your hand sometimes like me – bad habit) are pretty distracting. Those reflections and smudges – our pride, opinions, rebellion, doubt, etc – really take away from someone seeing the God in us. We don’t need ourselves to reflect, smudge, and distract anyone who is seeking God. They can see the God in us, but they can also still see the us in us. Does that make sense?

But thank God for invisibility, not being visible or discernible to the eye or mind! That means the person doesn’t even recognize or know that I’m there. All they see is God. There are no reflections. There are no smudges. There are no distractions. There is no me. That’s what God wants from us. When we say we want to decrease so that He might increase, that doesn’t just mean I’m getting rid of some of the Jessica that’s there – I’m getting rid of all of the Jessica there. I don’t want anything that Jessica is doing or saying to distract those that may be looking for Him. When people see me, I want them to see the God in me. I don’t even want them to wonder how or why I’m doing what I’m doing. I want them to immediately know, “Okay. That’s the God in Jessica.”

So, guys, pray for me that I get to that point. Right now, I’m still transparent…well, I might be a little on the translucent side, but I’m getting there! It is my prayer that I, and everyone who wants to be a force in the Kingdom, take up the task of becoming invisible.

Sunday Inspiration: Being a Vessel

6 Mar

This is something I wrote a while back (approximately 2 years ago), but feel it’s a pretty relevant reflection about how I’m feeling today.  Since I’m feeling all inspirational and whatnot, I thought I’d share it.

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I wasn’t going to write this until the morning, but given my propensity to sometimes forget things and the not-so-quiet voice in my head telling me to just do this now, I’ve decided to write this note.

I just made it back home from Birmingham to Sylacauga. It’s not a long drive, but it’s a boring one. Me being the narcoleptic that I am, I usually talk to someone on the phone when I drive home late at night because I don’t want to fall asleep behind the wheel. Welp, after my phone just randomly decided that it doesn’t want to read SIM cards (this stupid phone is, by the way, only seven months old…), I pretty much was out of luck on the ride home. So I decided to sing to stay awake. I sang some of the songs on one of my gospel mix CD, then just turned the radio off completely and just sang bits and pieces of some songs. So basically, the whole thing shifted into a worship experience.

Well, after I began worshipping, a song that I’m writing (and by song, I mean lyrics – y’all know I don’t play…yet) popped into my head. I don’t have much to the song. It’s about being a vessel. So as I was singing it, I thought to myself, just finish writing it now. So I sat there thinking, but nothing was coming to my mind. So I thought, okay…you can’t think of anything, it must be because you must not understand what a vessel is. So I literally, out loud to keep myself awake, started having this conversation about a vessel. I say it was a conversation because I, at first, started talking to myself, but I began to realize some of the answers coming out of my mouth didn’t come from me. It was God speaking to me. Seek and ye shall find, y’all.

Praise break.

Anywho, I began to ask questions about what a vessel is. What is a vessel? A vessel is something that holds something else. Okay. What else? Well, there are several kinds of vessels. There are vessels used for transportation. A ship is a vessel that carried people by sea from one place to another. A box can be considered a vessel. You loads things inside of it and move the box and its contents to another place. A pitcher is a vessel. You put liquid into it and then pour it out. A cup is a vessel. It receives liquid from somewhere and is then used, in most cases, to satisfy a person’s thirst. These are just a few examples of vessels, namely the ones that came to me while I was driving. So I’m driving and I’m like, okay…so? What does that have to do with anything? There are a bunch of vessels and they contain different things. A vessel is a container. And?

Then I noticed a pattern. When people use a vessel for transportation, they get on, go, and get off. When a box is used as a vessel, you put something inside of it, move it to another place, and then unpack what you put inside. When a pitcher is used as a vessel, it is filled with a liquid and then, in nearly all cases, the contents are poured out into a different vessel, which is a cup, and the contents of the cup are then used up. So a vessel doesn’t just receive and hold on to is contents – there’s some giving back involved. What I got from that is that a vessel is never used as a permanent storage place. It contains, but it never retains. Contain means to hold; hold implies and future release. What ever it is you contain, you’re going to call it forth to use. Retain means to keep; keep implies permanent possession. Whatever it is you retain, you have no intention of turning loose. Vessels are used with the knowledge that whatever is put in it will come back out. It is never intended that something remain in a vessel forever. And let me clarify. I’m not saying or meaning release, give away, and all that in terms of just flat-out discarding and throwing away your contents (i.e. anointing). What I’m saying is that your contents are being used so that they can be renewed. You’ve got to use it because we are ever-changing and ever-growing in God and the contents he has for you today may be different that the contents He has for you tomorrow. You can’t grab ahold to something new when you’ve still got a handful of something old. Your hand isn’t big enough. You’ve got to use what you’ve got, pour it out today so you can get that a fresh annointing. So I said, okay God. That’s nice. I feel you…and?

And here’s where I got excited. I probably shouldn’t give this disclaimer, but let me just say that His revelation, if you will, might not affect you the way it affected me. You might not understand any of this the way I did. You might not understand any of this at all and may think I’m loony. It even might be something that you already know, but this was new to me and it made me literally pause and tell God thank you.

So, if a vessel is a container that is used to hold something with the intent of releasing its contents again, what happens when it doesn’t release anything? It becomes a coffin. Again, that may not make sense or mean anything to you, but that thing made me think! My hands are shaking as I type this. When we say that we are surrendering ourselves to Christ, we are saying that we are giving him our everything and that he can use us as he sees fit. We’re telling Him that we want to be vessels. Now, whatever it is that God puts in your vessel – be it a spiritual gift, a natural talent, a word, or a revelation – it’s not meant to stay in there. It’s meant to be used. It’s meant to flow into you, through you, and right back out of you. We don’t have to worry about being refilled – God takes care of that. He just needs us to pour out what He has given us and use it to win souls to the Kingdom of God.

Now, on the flip, if you have turned yourself over to God to be a vessel, He fills you, and you go somewhere and sit on it, you’re just like old dude with the one talent (Matt. 25:14-30) that went outside and buried it in backyard. Not only have you buried your talent alive within you and have become a walking coffin, but you’re being disobedient, too. You are no longer a vessel; you are a coffin. A coffin retains something dead. It doesn’t give its contents back, except in Hollywood.

That was a joke. Laugh.

We get so caught up in titles and names and all these other natural things that don’t really mean anything. A vessel is a vessel. The only thing that matters is whether or not it’s being used the way it’s supposed to be used. A lot of times we get it twisted and worry about the vessel itself. Y’all, God has used a drunk (Noah), a liar (Abraham), a murderer (Moses), and an adulterer (David) as vessels. None of us are worthy, so don’t even think about that. None of us are perfect vessels. We’ve been chipped, cracked, broken, and we’re dirty as can be. But He can fix, mend, heal, and clean us and use us. Again, the emphasis is not on the vessel. The vessel itself is never as important as it’s contents. That’s what matters most. I watch Discovery Chanel and I watch that crazy white guy, Bear Whateverhisnameis from time to time. Y’all know him – the one that goes out in the wilderness and eats bugs and sleeps in a dead moose and junk. Weird guy. So anywho, I was watching an episode where he was in the desert overseas somewhere and hadn’t had any water in a minute. Welp, he happened upon a dead camel. As you know, camels store water in their humps.

Y’all know where I’m going with this.

This totally grossed me out (and probably you too, lol) but this man was so desperate for some water that he split open this camel’s back and drank that water out of the camel’s hump. I was too outdone when I saw that. I was like, EW!!! Did he REALLY just drink camel water? I spent the rest of the episode waiting for him to drop dead. This man did not care where this water came from. He wanted, no, NEEDED some water and he did not care that it came from a dead camel. The dead camel was secondary. The water was his primary focus. The point I’m trying to make, in this (albeit, extreme) illustration is that the vessel isn’t as important as what’s inside of it.

That’s what the enemy is after. He’s after what God has put inside of you. That’s what he’s come to steal, kill, and destroy. Satan ain’t worried about your flesh. He ain’t a bit more studyin’ your body than the man in the moon. He’s after your contents. The only thing he can get out of the flesh is a means to corrupt or pervert your contents. To throw you off track. To make you sit on it, bury it, and become a coffin. That’s what he wants.

Y’all, we’ve got to be vessels. We can’t ask God to use us, to pour into us and then just hold on to it. That’s not the purpose of a vessel. Nobody goes to pour a glass of milk without the intent of drinking it, and therefore relieving the glass of its contents. And if you do forget that you’ve poured it and that your vessel contains something, its contents is going to go bad and you’re going to have to throw it out. Now what if God did that to us? 

I’m going to end this with just a few lines (not the whole song, because it STILL isn’t done…) from the song that brought this about. Again, if you didn’t get anything out of this, I’m sorry. I’m just saying what He told me to say. If nothing else, take this as a testimony. I’ve definitely have a better understanding of what it is to be a vessel and I thank God for that.

Shaped by the Potter
Crafted by the Master
I want to be filled
Like the box of Alabaster
Pour into me Lord
Let Your anointing fall on me
Use me as You will
I’m surrendering to thee

I want to be a vessel
I want to be a vessel
Oh, send me, I’ll go
I want to be a vessel