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Let Patience Prevail

patienceWhat a joy to spend Thanksgiving weekend with my Mama. I love her so much, but it hasn’t always been that way.

Back in the day, mom and I could tangle like no others. Looking back, we realize that so much of what we disliked about each other was a mirror image of ourselves.

Yesterday, I helped her purchase and set-up a new iPad, make holiday wreaths and spend time with the grandkids. I was taken aback when she turned to me and said, “Denise, you are so patient. “ Patience has never been one of my virtues (at least through my eyes). All I could say was, “Thank you”.

Mom’s comment prompted me to look up the Biblical definition of patience, mostly because, as a pastor’s daughter, God considers patience a virtue. OMG, had I actually acquired a virtue in this crazy life filled with so many failures, disappointments and setbacks?

What is virtue?

I define it as a desirable moral quality that makes the best of any difficult or unsatisfactory situation; from that pothole in the road that never seems to get fixed, to the child crying on your flight to wherever. The Bible defines it as conformity of life and conduct with the principles of morality or simply stated: moral excellence.

Where does patience fit into the mix?

Good question.

  • I believe our ability to be patience is often based upon the person (or persons) with whom we must be patient.
  • That family member or work associate that annoys us just might be God’s gift to build our patience.
  • We grow morally (in virtue) through the daily grind of life. We can either retard or increase our virtue based on our response to daily difficulties and life experiences.

What stunts our growth?

A bitter and resentful spirit can certainly hinder our moral growth; as does anger. An unwillingness to see another person’s perspective also exacerbates our level of impatience, as does the inability to have an empathetic understanding of other’s weaknesses.

The old saying you must walk a mile in someone’s shoes to understand what they are going through is true even today.

So, what’s the goal?

Hopefully, it is a desire to be mindful of how God is at work in the details of our daily life, even in the tiny annoyances we encounter (like the crying baby on the plane). I am convinced Jesus endured nuisance and annoyance from his disciples on numerous occasions, but His patience was remarkable. He knew what it was like to walk around in their shoes.

As Christians, every aspect of our life should be to profile Jesus. Our purpose is to bring us into closer conformity of His image; to see people, situations and life’s challenges through His eyes. At the end of the day, our goal is to look upward and rest in content that God is working all things for His good and purpose in our life.

“For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.”
Philippians 2:13

TODAY’S PRAYER:

Lord, some of Your people are hard to love. They can be moody, mean, difficult, and impossible to understand. They blame me for things I didn’t do and have expectations I can’t meet. Sometimes I wish You hadn’t put them in my life.

I need You to show me how much You love them. Reveal what You see under the surface, where they’re hurting, and tell me how to make a difference. Thank you for giving me your patience to be kind and compassionate when I don’t have my own and for loving me when I’m the one who’s difficult in someone else’s life.

 

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The Catty Shack Club

cattyAre you a member? You might be and don’t even know it.

I’m not talking golf (caddy) here; I’m talking about running your mouth and being catty behind the scenes while on the surface you give all appearances of being the faithful friend, family member or co-worker. Yes, I’m talking about you, me and a host of others who are active members of this club.

The conversation:

“Isn’t he/she just so wonderful? They do so much for others through community & church donations, volunteering their time, energy and efforts – BUT…

It’s the BUT, DID YOU KNOW and DON’T TELL ANYONE that negates any positive comments previously shared. The moment you utter the words, you (and me) have enrolled in a ‘catty’ shack club membership.  We have deliberately made ourselves judge and jury as we indulged in comments that are hurtful and spiteful.

The why:

What compels us to share negative comments about those we love and care about? Good question.

Honestly, I believe it has more to do with acknowledging the success of someone we love and admire. It makes us more aware of our own weaknesses, limitations and failures to find gratification in life. God desires us to uplift, encourage and inspire others just as He does for us.

The outcome:

I can say with complete confidence that God doesn’t share any BUT, DID YOU KNOW and DON’T TELL ANYONE secrets about us with others. We should follow that same example.

To share tidbits and betray the confidence of others speaks volumes about us and the condition of our spiritual heart. Are we harboring envy or greed that needs to be reconciled? Maybe it’s jealousy or our own feelings of inadequacies.

Whatever, the reasons, we are not judge or jury to the decisions others make, the lifestyle they choose or the intents of their heart. That is God’s job. There will always be open enrollment to membership in the Catty Shack Club.

When the enemy of this world solicits you to engage in membership, remind yourself that it serves no purpose.  Our God-ordained purpose is to love at all costs.

“…but the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13

I think we have all heard: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say it.” It’s applicable. If you want to share, then share with God in prayer.  Unlike us, He sees the whole picture, not just the conversation.

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The ‘Worship’ Cocktail

worshipPREFACE: In an earlier in post, I determined to share about different areas and seasons in our life that often need holy intoxication. When we allow ourselves to become inebriated with God’s Word and fully embrace it, we experience divine liberation.


I just read about a church in Atlanta, Georgia that is adding skimpily clad aerialists as part of their Sunday morning worship. Don’t bother checking Snopes, it’s true.

Satan is one smart cookie. In this last decade, his deceptive powers have increased a hundredfold. He knows the return of Christ is imminent. His purpose is to use current trend antics to erode the foundation of salvation with distractions that turn church services into a masquerade of worship.

Nowhere in scripture do I find Jesus using strobe lights, bump and grind music and digital sideshows to proclaim the gospel. But, it’s happening every day in churches worldwide. In an effort to draw in the masses, churches are resorting to making worship service a (all-in-the-name of Jesus) three ring circus act.

The applause that follows isn’t in tribute to our Lord; it’s a tribute to the entertainment provided by the master of ceremonies: Satan.

The Master said:
“These people make a big show of saying the right thing, but their hearts aren’t in it. Because they act like they’re worshiping me but don’t mean it, I’m going to step in and shock them awake, astonish them, stand them on their ears. The wise ones who had it all figured out will be exposed as fools. The smart people who thought they knew everything will turn out to know nothing.” Isiah 29:13

Christians, OPEN YOUR EYES to the cunning and deceptive methods Satan is using on the stages of today’s churches. It’s a debauchery to Jesus. The pastor at the Georgia church cites that God gifts us with talents and they should be used to praise and worship God. That is true, but not all talents are appropriate to showcase at a church service.

I just don’t see a silk rope draped around a scantily dressed woman, or a shirtless man in tight fitting stretch pants, as a ministry based talent. I know a talented tattoo artist…you see where I am going with this.

If is entertainment based and doesn’t incite heart-felt contemplation about the condition of our heart and need for salvation, it is deceptive and just plain WRONG.

This scripture sum up God’s idea of true worship before Him:

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:1-2  

There is a growing trend to make worship services entertainment based. Our focus of praising God for His mercy, forgiveness and redemption of our sin in an expression of reverence and thanksgiving to Him are lost in theatrics.

And then, there is the Beyonce Mass at a California church where hundreds gathered to worship God while listening to her songs.  Go ahead, shoot your arrows at me, but this is massnothing more than a Satan-ordained crusade to dilute the Gospel of Jesus and masquerade a pop star as an idol of God-ordained worship.

People of God, this is not of God. Let me put it another way: STOP embracing these popularized trends as a way to point generation X,Y and Z to Jesus.

The complacency within so many churches is grievous. Maybe it’s time to turn off all the microphones and silence the instruments and let God hear our imperfect voices lifted in praise to Him.

“Be still, and know that I am God! I will be honored by every nation. I will be honored throughout the world.” Psalms 46:10

Much to our chagrin, God doesn’t need us or our praise and worship. He doesn’t proof in worship of our talents and showmanship. Kick your pride to the sidelines. What God desires is a “eyes wide open” approach to worship.

Today’s Prayer:

Father God, cast out any ‘thinking outside the box’ views that are not in agreement with scripture. Remind me that the simple message of your grace and salvation doesn’t require theatrical displays or backdrops.

Open my eyes spiritual eyes to see that Satan stands ready to disguise the gospel of Christ with current trend antics that redirect focus from the life-saving power of the cross and the blood shed for our salvation.

Fine-tune my worship of you to align with God’s Word. Let your spirit reveal worship that is counterfeit and manufactured by the great deceiver, Satan.

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The Perfect Cocktail

coppa-martiniDo you know the Bible has the perfect cocktail for every situation in life?

Bartenders are aware that the most important rule of mixology, the rule that supersedes everything else, is that balance is everything. The same is true in your Christian walk with Jesus. Forget about a splash of this scripture or a splash of that scripture.

To grow in God’s grace, we must look deep into His Word to truly understand and receive the balanced life Christ intends for us to enjoy.

We are quick to assess our Christian cocktail based on needs. A couple parts of joy mixed with a little kindness and love; we throw in a pinch of mercy for good measure. Or, I’ll take two shots of a miracle, one shot of peace, followed by three shots of forgiveness.

If only the Christian walk was that simple. It’s not! Bible cocktail recipes are based on sound doctrine and principles. We can’t just throw things into a shaker and expect it to yield a perfect and balanced Christian life.

The right cocktail of scriptures mixed with prayer is the only way we find balance for whatever weakness, need or struggles we face.

What does God’s perfect cocktail look like for you?

I invite you to visit my blog (DeniseMarksBlog.com) every Monday and Friday for the next five weeks as I share my thoughts on God’s perfect and balanced cocktail for our imperfect life situations. God truly desires for us to find consistency, balance and divine intervention in all things.

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Silence: Blessings in Disguise

“The loveliest gifts sometimes come wrapped in the ugliest paper.” ― Matshona Dhliwayo

 

I call out to God, but the heavens are silent. My words seem to fall on deaf ears and my suffering continues. In anger I cry out to God, “where is your goodness, where is your love”– I know you hear my voice, why don’t you answer, why don’t you respond to my desperate pleas?

If your relationship with God sometimes feels like this, you are not alone. When stretched to our limits and in the fight for our life, when darkness seems to be winning and we are overcome with betrayals, addictions, health issues and we can’t find answers, we question God.

But what if our tears, hardships, pain and suffering in this life is really blessings in disguise. What if God purposes these situations to remind us this is not our home, to draw us closer to the cross and to thirst after Him? I believe God hears our cries; he listens and is continually proactive in our life.

We will never understand the inner workings of God in our life but one thing is certain, when life frightens us or gets us down—or when life seems like a battle ground and we feel like we’re alone on the battlefield—our omnipresent God is with us in every moment of any life situation.

In our valleys, when the heavens are silent, when doubt, fear, and transition overwhelm us, we must encourage one another and cling even closer to God. There is no nook and cranny of space that is absent of His presence. Whether you’re aware of it, or not, God is there.

I too, experience seasons of silence in my faith.  Sometimes they are short-lived, other times they seem like forever. Right now is one of those forever seasons for me.  It’s a conscious effort to forge ahead when God is mute and I am overcome by doubt and spiritual aloneness.

My journey with God has become a test of trust, a time to embrace and accept that His silence may actually be a blessing in disguise. Is this a time of training; is there something He wants to teach me? Whatever the reason, it will take as long as it takes and in the process my companions will be darkness and loneliness.

But dawn always follows darkness; loneliness is dispelled at daybreak and intimacy is restored.

“If you let God’s silence do its work, you will come out the other side knowing that you’re not alone, that God longs for deeper intimacy with you, that he’s worth trusting for the journey, and that you’re stronger than ever.”   ― Verla Wallace

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Confessions of a Doing-Addict

ludwig-wittgenstein-quotes-18650Those who know me well will agree I have an exceptionally kind heart and caring nature; that is the good part. Unfortunately, it is my inability to recognize the obvious warning signs of a ‘doing addict’ that causes problems.

Sometimes it takes an epiphany, a thunderbolt moment so to speak, before we hit the pause button in life, inhale deeply and ask, “What does enough look like?” I was about to find out when a thunderbolt moment jolted me to my senses. Perhaps God realized I would never push the pause button; and so, He did it for me.  It was a spiritual awakening long overdue.

An over-giving, doing-addict situation was about to bring clarity about how I valued myself.  Once the haze of deception cleared, my partnership with self-sabotage was revealed. It was MY thunderbolt moment. What internal anomaly caused me to give greater value to the life of others over my own?

I liken myself to an ATM with a dysfunctional operating system that disperses withdrawals carte blanche to anyone who expresses a need. Trust me, random free-loaders aren’t the only ones who are quick to cash in on the fringe benefits of a giving heart; so are many Christians.

Overtime, logic rules and the inevitable happens—the doing-addict goes bankrupt.  Without withdrawal limits in place, energy, happiness, time and money are depleted. I knew it was time for God to restore my operating system. My good-intentions, over-giving energies needed a purposeful balance. My ‘doing addict’ days were numbered.

And so, to gain insight into those situations that trigger my self-destructive choices, I have elected to participate in a behavioral management program that, I believe, will rehabilitate and bring a positive change to my eternal thumbprint.

I wholeheartedly embrace this opportunity as a way to cultivate spiritual growth, redefine my goals and give God free reign to my thunderbolt moment.

With the imminent second coming of Christ, my soul senses the Holy Spirit stands ready to infuse each of us with thunderbolt moments that electrify our souls to God’s eternal purpose for mankind.  Life circumstances may differ for each of us, but when God points a thunderbolt moment in our direction, it is best to embrace it with open arms. It will change us in ways we never imagined.

Motivated by good-intentions, doing-addicts inevitably assume the role of an enabler and react to situations based on their impulses. This presents a problem because to exercise our will over God’s divine direction puts us at risk of spiritual, emotional and/or financial bankruptcy.

 

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Living Within the Lines

Live Within the LinesWhen I was a kid, a box of crayons and coloring book could occupy me for hours on a rainy day. It was a free for all with crayons erratically scribbling outside any designated boundary. To stay inside the lines wasn’t a consideration; I was a budding artist.

When finished, the colored page was given to mom who praised me for a job well done and displayed it on the refrigerator door until she found a polite excuse to remove it.

In adulthood the only time I color is with my kids or grandkids and when I do, it’s rare to find a clean page to color. The kids have scrawled over every page in the book with total disregard for the printed lines or direction they move their crayons. When I do find a blank page, I am quick to exercise my proprietary rights and ban squatter privileges to anyone under the age of ten.

For me, a blank color page exemplifies a new start in life; a new beginning in my walk with Christ. It’s like a form of therapy in times of stress and uncertainty.  Every circular motion of the crayon is a reminder to stay within God’s boundary lines for the best outcome. I grow and flourish in my strengths, find comfort, serenity and healing when I choose to be obedient to God’s will.

There is a spiritual awakening that occurs when we discover God’s lines don’t confine or hinder us, but rather provide healing to do the impossible within us. His boundary lines are defined by grace, balance and love. To give Him control of our crayon box is to give Him control of our life.

Are you frustrated and confused about your circumstances and question God’s purpose for your life? Is your life going in every direction and cluttered with scribbles that extend outside the lines of grace?

I encourage you to ask God to help you color inside the lines of HIS will. Our Heavenly Father can color inside the lines of our life better than anyone else.

“Stay always within the boundaries where God’s love can reach and bless you. Wait patiently for the eternal life that our Lord Jesus Christ in his mercy is going to give you.” Jude 21