Knock, Knock…Who’s There?

I’ve said before that I believe people give the devil too much credit. We act as if he is all-knowing. He isn’t. We act as if he is all-powerful. Not true. We act as if he can be everywhere doing everything to everyone. Nope. What he can do is infest our minds and try to create barriers between us and God. He can distract us from our tasks and make us question our purpose. He can distort our perception of the truth and plant seeds of doubt that take root in our minds and cause us to make a mess of our own lives.

Trouble is always around the corner. Thankfully, God goes ahead of us (Deuterony 31:8, Isaiah 45:2). He has fought and won the battle for our lives. If we lose, it is because we have chosen to do so. Next time trouble knocks at your door, ask yourself who has really delivered it there. Often we will find that we make the devil’s work a little bit easier by making choices that are outside of God’s will for our lives. This is not to say that hard times will not come. Some things are inevitable and are beyond our control. Fortunately, we serve a God who has the characteristics that Satan lacks. Our God is all-knowing. He is all-powerful. He is everywhere making every needed provision for every one of His children.

Be blessed, loves.

SBF 🙂

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Only God Can Judge Me…

I ran across this jewel yesterday and I just had to share. So often, we hear people make the statement, “Only God can judge me.” What does that really mean? Is it true? Are there conditions? Is correction really judgment if it is done in love? Take a read and comment below. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

 

Love

Today I rose with love on my mind. Not bad for a first thought. I found myself thinking about the nature of love. I almost resent the popularity of the word. Even those with the best intentions often use the word love without understanding that it is not at all a noun to be felt as in an emotion or a gift to be received…it is an action to be carried out with every breath, every thought, and every decision of your life.

Love doesn’t focus on how others can treat you better. Love doesn’t keep a record of how many times you’ve forgiven someone for hurting you. Love doesn’t make promises to change on this condition or that one. Love just does loving things because it can, it should, and because it. is. LOVE.

If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging symbol. If I have the gift of prophecy, and I know all mysteries and all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.

-1 Corinthians 13:1-3

Note: If you still just don’t get it, but you do believe that God IS Love…replace each occurrence of the word love, with God in the passage above. Maybe then, you’ll understand His call for us to show love.

My Work…My Ministry

I teach. Summer vacation just ended. I’m back at work now teaching Anatomy & Physiology and Environmental Science to 175 diverse, opinionated, intelligent (each in a unique way) teenagers. I need a little coffee and a lot of Jesus every day to help me effectively teach these young minds.

I pray for my students, colleagues, administrators, my classroom, and myself regularly. Still, when my students have a bad day or get frustrated by something…I just want to pray WITH them, remind them about the love of Jesus, and share some scripture with them. However, I can’t.

The law says that Jesus can’t come up in my classroom. He isn’t welcome in the school building. No matter how many hearts He might touch or lives He might save, He must be a non-factor within the public school system.

Ha! Whomever wrote such a silly law never knew the power of my God! I don’t mention Jesus, but my students do. I don’t quote scripture, but when I ask them for their favorite quote or life motto…they quote scripture! I don’t pray aloud, but during that moment of silence after the pledge of allegiance…Jesus moves! I’m so grateful for these things, but there is something else about the challenge of “keeping Christ out of schools” that I have to shout about.

If I can’t speak about Jesus…I am left with no other option but to teach my students about Him through my actions! Through love, understanding, care, concern, service, encouragement, high standards, dedication, sacrifice, and patience…I model the love of Jesus for them. God wants us to keep Him at the center of all things and remember that nothing can separate us from His love. When faced with obstacles, we have to find a way to magnify Him as we work through them.

Anything that brings us closer to God is a good thing. In this case, I am grateful for the opportunity to use my work as my ministry in deeds and not just with words. Please pray with me that students and educators everywhere have a peaceful, loving, productive school year.

Keep Smiling,

SBF 🙂

P.S. Here is a snippet of one section of my bulletin board for this year. Inspired by a board that I saw on Pinterest, I’m hopeful that it will encourage positive choices and character-building among my students this year.

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Coming vs. Staying

The necessity of the Church is not to appease saved folk. It is necessary because it is a place of refuge for broken souls. It is a place of fellowship…a place of hope…a place of promise. The Church, by God’s design, is a body of kingdom builders. With this in mind, I am a firm believer that God meets each of us where we are. We do not all come to know Jesus at the same time and not all of us have been saved all of our lives.

I am grateful for the church families who open their doors, arms, and homes to those who stand in need of a little more Jesus in their lives. Those types of churches specialize in helping to introduce people to Christ by welcoming people into the fold no matter their spiritual state. The message is loud and clear, “Come. As. You. Are.”

I support the “Come As You Are” mindset. However, I will not pretend to believe that coming as you are means that we are to STAY as we are. When you confess your belief in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, your personal Savior, and the One who died for the redemption of your sins, you must also open your heart and allow Him to come inside. I don’t claim to know much, but I do know that when Jesus enters a place, He does not leave it in the same condition in which He found it.

You cannot truly know God and remain the same. Opening up to Him, communicating with Him, and obeying Him will cause things in your life to change. The power of His love will transform you. Your perspective will change. Your convictions will change. Your life…it will change.

I think my good friend, Travis Greene, sums up my thoughts well with the lyrics of his song, “Hope.” Take a peek below.

Freedom’s here & I’m forever changed
No way I could remain the same
If you’re looking for the old me
Sin don’t live here no more, No!
That part of me has passed away
When God showed up, it could not stay
If you’re looking for the old me
I’ve been changed forever

Free to worship God with my whole heart
I’m not going back no more, I found my Hope

Early Morning Reflections…

It hit me as I woke up this morning that God is always listening, always working on our behalf…essentially, God is always BEING God. He listens to our prayers…from the simplest to the most detailed. He answers them too. In His own way. In His own time. Not in a way that eliminates us of personal responsibility or free will, but in a way that reminds us from time to time that He. Is. God.

2012-13 were two of the most humbling years of my life. 2014 hasn’t brought new circumstances just yet, but it has brought a new perspective. I’ve learned that joy isn’t in circumstances or situations. Your joy is in your perspective. This morning, I woke up so grateful. I couldn’t list all of my reasons if I tried, but I am especially thankful that I have learned to choose joy. Despite every potential reason that I may have to complain, I have decided not to speak or dwell on those things and to instead just thank Him for each moment being as well as it is and to make it count for something.

I realized this morning that lately, I’ve been waking up with a busy mind. I have had so much going on inside of my head, but one thing has been constant. My simple little prayer has been a staple in my recent conversations with God. I’ve been asking Him, “Who can I help or encourage today, God?” My common sense tells me that someone somewhere is praying for help. My faith tells me that God will answer my prayer and theirs by equipping me with exactly what I need to be of service to them.

I pray that I always wake up with a mind to ask and that He always answers.

Have a wonderful Saturday, beautiful people.

Keep smiling. 🙂

-SBF

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Work, Not Worry: My Thoughts on the Visionary Work of God

“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.”

-Matthew 6:33-34 KJV

I view Sunday as a day of preparation. It is the close of one week and the beginning of another. On Sundays, I worship, rest, reflect, collect my thoughts, and begin to set goals for the week to come. I also do these things at the beginning of each new month. So on today, Sunday, December 1st…I’m getting a double dose of my norm.

I woke up this morning about 3 hours behind my brain. I was up late working on a project and quite honestly, I don’t know that I ever stopped working on it even with my eyes shut and my mouth open (I’ve been informed that I sleep like that…don’t judge me). I sat up this morning and aside from thanking God for that amazing thing He did in giving me another shot at life today, all that was on my mind was work.

Over the past year, I have become more aware of visions as a mechanism for advancing the kingdom of God. It is how He communicates to His people regarding their purpose in His plan. I have had so many conversations with Him about this. God has revealed some things to me at the oddest of times that just take me out of the present and into the future if only for a moment. Sometimes, the revelation is so quick that I find myself pleading with Him for just one more glimpse of what is to come. Mind you, I’m not pleading because I’m so excited to get to work. I’m not begging Him to show me the end result because I’m so confident that it is pleasant. I’m asking Him for that glimpse because each of the things that God has placed within my spirit to bring to pass while I’m here…and I do mean each of them…takes a lot of time, a heap of work, and quite honestly (excuse my language) each one scares the hell out of me.

There, I said it. God hasn’t blessed me with cotton candy dreams or cupcake visions. He has required me to trust His timing. Submit to His will. Break out of my comfort zone. Believe that He will provide. Do what I said I would never do. Lose friends. Forgive enemies. Accept that I may never reap an earthly reward for the work that I put in as I walk in my purpose.

Fortunately for me, in my little chat with Him this morning, He placed a metaphor in my heart that makes it easier for me to communicate to others why it is important to follow God’s plan for your life and work those visions even if they make you apprehensive. See, to me…God is like a farmer. He plants a seed because He wants it to grow. No good farmer will plant seeds and willingly leave them to fend for themselves. The farmer plants the seed in the appropriate season, waters the seed, makes sure that the soil composition is suitable for the seed, and even removes weeds or pests that threaten the seed’s well-being. Sure, seeds and the plants that they become have natural defensive mechanisms that help them weather a specific range of environmental factors, but they are heavily dependent upon the farmer’s provisions. Likewise, the farmer has planted the seed for the purpose of bringing forth a harvest so He is invested in the well-being of said seed.

I’m sure you’ve figured out that we, each of God’s children, has a visionary seed planted within us. Most likely, we have different visions, but every now and again, we will realize that some of us have been granted a similar vision because God intends for us to help each other bring it to pass. We can’t pretend to know how God intends for us to get things done all the time. We simply must identify what it is that He has asked us to do, commit to doing it, and trust that He will equip us with everything that we need to get it done.

We have to work, not worry. When your vision is God-given, you just work it. Period. Your job is to understand WHAT the task is, not to figure out HOW it will come together. Come what may, you have to have faith that because God wants it done, it will be done. Don’t shy away from what He has placed in your heart. Consult with Him frequently and use the gifts that He has given you. I can imagine that one of the greatest shames that a child of God can face is that of watching someone else bring their God-given vision to pass because he/she wasn’t willing enough, courageous enough, or faithful enough. Don’t let that be you. It definitely won’t be me.

P.S. This is another post for another day (tomorrow maybe), but don’t confuse what YOU want to do with what GOD wants you to do. Not every hustle is faithful and not every grind is God-ordained. God hates sin and will never require you to do so to prosper.

Keep Smiling,

SBF

The Alabaster Box…

Now when Jesus was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper, there came unto Him a woman having an alabaster box of very precious ointment, and poured it on His head, as He sat at meat. (Matthew 26:6-7, KJV)

Jesus is everywhere. I try to make a conscious effort of recognizing His presence and ushering myself closer to Him through worship. I believe this is why one of my favorite worship songs began to speak to me in a different way lately. In CeCe Winans’s song, The Alabaster Box, she sings the following lyrics:

And though she spoke no words

Everything she said was heard

As she poured her love for the Master

From her box of alabaster.

Those words stirred something in my spirit that led me to look a little deeper into the story of Mary’s alabaster box. I had questions about its meaning…its significance…its lesson for us all. My curiosity led me to the 26th chapter of Matthew. A familiar passage, Matthew 26 is one of several that describes the plot against Jesus that led to His crucifixion. In the text, Jesus is attending a feast in Bethany at the home of Simon, whom Jesus had healed from leprosy. In the presence of those attending the feast, Mary of Bethany presents Jesus with a box of alabaster. Alabaster was mined and used to craft containers and vases during Mary’s time. It was very expensive as was the fragrance inside of Mary’s box. Because an alabaster box of such a precious scent was so rare and valuable, it was often used as the dowry for women. A dowry was a gift presented to the man who a woman was to marry.

Mary approached Jesus with her alabaster box and after washing and drying his feet with her hair, she broke the box over His head anointing Him with the oil inside. I can imagine that Mary treasured her alabaster box. It is not a stretch for me to believe that she kept it in a safe place and daydreamed about who she would give the box to when it was time for her to marry. It was likely her most prized possession yet she chose to break the container and pour out all of its contents over Jesus’s head. Mary’s act of sacrificial worship was met with disdain of Jesus’s disciples, especially Judas. The Word says that while others called Mary wasteful and questioned her decision to sacrifice the oil in the manner in which she did, Jesus understood her.

But when His disciples saw it, they had indignation, saying, to what purpose is this waste? For this ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the poor. When Jesus understood it, He said unto them, Why trouble ye the woman? for she hath wrought a good work upon me. (Matthew 26:8-10, KJV)

During the time that Jesus walked the Earth, it was customary to wash the feet and anoint the head of a guest in your home. Mary went beyond what was required of her when she sat at the feet of Jesus in total submission using her hair to cleanse His feet, then breaking her container over His head. Her actions suggest that she was willing to sacrifice all that she had for Him. While intended for the man that she was to marry, Mary decided that she would not give her alabaster box to anyone else. Instead, she would give her all to Christ. Can you imagine how heartbroken she must have been when her act of worship was ridiculed by the disciples?

Fortunately, the story of the alabaster box does not end with ridicule. Mary served the same understanding God that we serve today and He acknowledged her act as not only an act of worship, but as the anointing for His death. He prophesied that Mary’s devotion to Him as she poured out everything that she had would be shared for generations to come. His prophesy continues to hold true as we explore the story of Mary’s alabaster box right now.

I learned several things from this passage. First, I learned the importance of giving of yourself. Perhaps those of you reading this right now do not own an alabaster box of precious ointment. I certainly do not. However, God has given each one of us a spiritual gift. That gift is precious, but as long as we keep it to ourselves, no one else benefits from it. When Mary broke the alabaster box over Jesus’s head, the scent of the oil filled the room and could be smelled by everyone in attendance. Our spiritual gifts are similar to Mary’s box. It is up to us to recognize our spiritual gifts and to use them to glorify God and help those around us. Do you know what your spiritual gift is? It may be singing, teaching, leadership, acts of service, tremendous faith, hospitality, or something else. Whatever it is, you are charged with the responsibility of sharing that gift with the world. If we look deeper into Mary’s act of worship, we recognize that Mary did not only open the container of oil, she broke it. Mary did not make an attempt to hold back any of her gift for herself. She didn’t save a portion to be used later. She gave her all. Ask yourself if you are giving all that you have by way of your spiritual gifts? If you are not, what is holding you back? Can you do more? Will you do more?

Another thing that I learned through Mary’s encounter is that she did all she could with what she had. I am sure that Mary would have loved to be able to expose the plot against Jesus, stop Him from being falsely accused, and prevent His death. However, she did not focus on what she could not do. Mary did what she could and we see that Jesus was pleased with that. Not all of us have the same gifts. It is easy to recognize the gifts that other people use to glorify God, but often focusing on their gifts prevents you from maximizing your own. So what, you can’t write a huge check to feed families at Thanksgiving? Can you go and visit someone who is in the hospital instead? Can you call and invite someone to church? Can you send an encouraging email to a co-worker who is having a rough week? Build your ministry around your own gifts and not only will God be pleased, He will use you in ways greater than you ever dreamed. I am certain that Mary never knew that her sacrifice would make such an impact on God and on all of Christianity that Jesus declared that it would be preached across the world in memorial of her.

Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her. (Matthew 26:13, KJV)

I learned another important lesson from Mary. When we give of ourselves in worship and total submission in the presence of Christ, people will know that we have been with Him. For Mary, the scent of her perfume lingered upon her after breaking the box over Jesus’s head. For us, it may be a more loving disposition, a more willing heart, or a more forgiving spirit that lingers. Whatever it is, when you have truly engaged in worship, people will sense that something is different about you. His presence will separate you from the world. Have you ever been told that there is just something different about you? Have people ever felt connected to your spirit? How wonderful would it be to reach a point of consistent and sincere worship so that your presence alone would usher people closer to Christ?

Finally, I took note of the disciples’ criticism of Mary. Sadly, their complaints about the way that Mary saw fit to worship Jesus reminds me of many people in the Christian church today. How often have you or others around you frowned upon or even questioned the way that someone expressed their devotion to God? I have heard it all. From criticism about the type of praise and worship music played in church to whether or not it “takes all of that” when people feel led to cry out in praise, we must learn that it is not our place to devalue anyone else’s acts of worship. After all, we will never truly know or understand just what Jesus has done to the heart of anyone other than us. As CeCe Winans says in her song,

And I’ve come to pour my praise on Him like oil from Mary’s alabaster box.

Don’t be angry if I wash his feet with my tears and I dry them with my hair.

You weren’t there the night He found me.

You did not feel what I felt when He wrapped His love all around me

And you don’t know the cost of the oil in my alabaster box.

Above all, it is important that we remember worship for what it is…an act of devotion, adoration, and sacrifice that brings us closer to God and releases His power among His people. I encourage you to commit to using your spiritual gifts, whatever they may be. Regardless of what anyone thinks of you, give all that you have to God. Your act of sacrifice is needed to advance the kingdom. Your gift is yours for a reason. It is not a coincidence. It is not yours for safe-keeping. Start right now. Get tired. Give of yourself until you feel like there is nothing left. The time has come for you to break your alabaster box.

Please note:

The video below is a cover of CeCe Winans’s song, The Alabaster Box. CeCe is one of my favorite gospel artists and I do not wish to take anything away from her by not including her version of the song in this post. However, this clip was so moving to me because of the unique story of the woman singing it and the impact that she had on those in her presence as she performed it. I was left with the impression that this song is her testimony and that with this performance she has finally cracked open her own alabaster box. Enjoy.

All of Him loves all of you (and me)…

Let me go ahead and warn you…this post is all about the love of God, but that video down there is quite secular. It’s an autobiographical love song. Quite possibly one of the most beautiful love songs of our time. An instant classic, for sure. When I first heard this song, I was immediately drawn in by it. What woman doesn’t want to experience the type of love described in this song? It is devout. It is unashamed. It is imperfectly perfect. It is unconditional.

My initial reaction to the song was a jaw drop. I was in awe of how sweet it was. Then, I experienced a longing…then I became hopeful. Finally, I began to feel grateful. I experience the type of love that John Legend sings about every.single.day. The bible tells us in John 3:16 that “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” It is clear to us through this verse that God has a tremendous heart for us. It reminds of us His demonstration of that love through actions as opposed to just words. That alone, is worth having a glad and thankful heart, but God’s love runs so much deeper than that.

Most of us can name someone that we love. I don’t mean someone that we are just fond of…I mean someone that we really, really love. We can probably list many reasons for loving them. Perhaps they are physically attractive, intelligent, funny, and a good listener. Maybe we love the way they find interest in the things that we like to do, we might like the way that they dress, or it could be that we enjoy sampling their amazing culinary skills. It might be that they are ambitious or generous or compassionate or helpful. I’m sure that someone came into your mind as you read through those last few sentences. Now, ask yourself…would you still love the person in your mind if they stopped being every single one of these things?

There are levels to love. Phileo is brotherly love…like the type shared between friends. Eros is sexual love. Agape is unconditional love. It is how God loves. It is the only way that love can last a lifetime. It is illogical and completely selfless. The other types of love are easily influenced and fluctuate based on feelings, which are fickle in nature. Agape love says that MY LOVE FOR YOU IS NOT DETERMINED BY YOU, BUT IT IS RATHER A CHOICE THAT I HAVE MADE.

God does not love us because we are so good. He doesn’t love us because we are worthy. He doesn’t love us because we are obedient. He definitely doesn’t love us because He has to do so. God loves us not because we are lovable, but because He is loving. He has made a choice on His own to cover us with His love no matter what we think…or say…or do. Now think…who do you love in this way?

God has called for us to love each other as He loves us. If we find that we “fall out” of love, what we have truly realized is that we were never loving unconditionally in the first place. When it comes to our relationships with the people that we care about, we have to remember that true agape love cannot be swayed by time, distance, or circumstance. When we allow this to resonate, we will find that we are able to love more completely and more like God, who has provided the model for us.

Receive the love of God. Reciprocate the love of God. Share the love of God. Make up your mind to love people no matter what. Call or text someone and tell them, “I love you…and there is nothing that you can do about it.”

“For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” -Romans 8:38-39

Be blessed, beautiful. 🙂

It’s All Good…

I am truly a work in progress. I won’t use that as a crutch or an excuse. I hate when people do that. I actually get a little frustrated quite often by how MUCH work still needs to be done on me and within me. I have to learn to be patient with myself in that regard because while it is perfectly find to want to do and be better…some things simply take time.

Nevertheless, pressing on is the only option. There is no alternative. I was reflecting on a painful experience today with someone very close to me and was really bothered by the outcome. Fortunately, this week I have been heavily focused on Romans 8:28, which reminds us that “ALL things work together for good to them that love God, to them that are called according to His purpose.” With each day that passes, new experiences provide different insight on some of my “go-to” verses such as this one.

I look at Romans 8:28 today with new insight. I look at it with the understanding that if I truly internalize the notion that ALL things are working for my good, there is no worst case scenario. Whether the things that I desire from a person or situation come to pass as I would like for them to or not…God is in control. With focus on what He has placed me here to do being of the utmost importance, each situation that I am faced with and every decision made has the opportunity to bring me closer to God, which is always a GOOD thing.

This is yet another example of what it means to me…to put feelings aside and smile by faith.