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Loving Jesus makes the difference

You can only do anointed ministry if you love the Lord.
Ministry happens in the overflow of the Lord’s presence.
Ministry happens in the love moment
Ministry happens without the involvement of our hands

You can only do anointed ministry if you love the Lord more than these.
Who or what are the “these” in this sentence.
Do you love me more than these other guys love me? That was the question Jesus posed to Peter in the days following his resurrection and preceding his ascension

We think about the disciples having to face, in the day, the ongoing persecution meted out to them because it was clear to everyone that they had indeed been with the Lord. You can’t really hide it even if you try.
It oozes from your pores.
It shines on your face
It’s in your touch.
It’s in your heart.
Everyone knew they’d been with the Lord, and their lives still weren’t safe.

*They would have to deal with the persecution and you see what happened to them in the early days- imprisonment, beatings, they were constantly under threat of death.

*They would have to deal with people who would come to join them. Don’t think there weren’t crazy church people back in the day. Not long after they got started, people were already arguing over communion and how it should be shared
They were already arguing over who had the best gifts.
They were already creating strife and divisions of class and gender
They were already church as we know it, without the benefit of cell phones or the Internet and social media.
Jesus knew they would have to deal with church people.

*They would also have to deal with each other. Again, divisions and conflict. Replacing leadership. Wondering how long they’d be operating until Jesus’ return.

*They would have to deal with newcomers who’d never been with Jesus, but claimed to know him better than they. Paul being one. Saul the persecutor. Saul who had threatened and set out with governmental permission to kill them.
Imagine Ananias’ shock and awe when the Lord told him to go find this zealot and embrace him with God’s hospitality.
Go where? Do what? Did you mean me? There’s another dude named Ananias down the road a piece and I think I heard he was especially gifted in this area.

*They were about to demonstrate the effortlessness of fishing if you follow the direction of the Master. Their haul was too much to handle. Especially in contrast to their earlier fruitless effort in the same water.
The only difference was Jesus.
As it would be as they ministered all over the known world under the leadership of God’s Holy Spirit.
The only difference was Jesus.

For us the only difference is Jesus.
Jesus set the standard. Jesus paved the way. Jesus made the difference.
Love the difference.
Love Jesus.
Love the One who makes us different.
Love the One who helps you live with the difference.
Love the One who helps you see the difference as a blessing.

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Kindness

Maya Angelou said people won’t remember the words you said, but they will remember how you made them feel. She was so right. When I’m in my feels I remember people who went out of their way to show extravagant kindness. One such  moment happened at the Double T Diner in Catonsville, Md about eight years ago. It was a yearly Father’s Day gathering and we sat at a specially arranged long table in the inner room. Our gatherings are always so loud that everyone participates or gives those glaring glances as if to remind us we’ve forgotten our indoor voices. We do forget. Whenever we’re together. The good time outweighs any negative “feel waves” we might have encountered since the last gathering. We are blessed to be a family-in-training for how love and grace really work together. We don’t have it yet. But I’ve got to tell you I’m blessed to be in this bunch. 

Anyway everyone was eating and I was overjoyed. You see, all my children were gathered. Even Adrian. I didn’t birth him but he’s been mine since he was seven months old. Even went to court to keep him after he’d been with me for seven years. He’s always been an odd bird and much of it is attributable to the experiences of his early months that led to his being in our household. Abandonment. Deprivation. Things that left indelible marks on his soul. Marks that the abundant but imperfect love we tried to lavish on him just could not erase. And for reasons we still can’t understand led him to choose life on the street. And yet he seems happy in the life he’s chosen. And yet he seems overjoyed to be with us whenever we can track him down. And his sisters find him weekly to be sure he has his necessaries to sustain him. 

So he’s not always available for family celebrations. But he was here for this one. And he hadn’t done due diligence as far as personal hygiene. His face was dark with street dark. His clothes were unkempt and unclean. His locks were unruly and untended and he looked and smelled like a “homeless” guy. We didn’t care because he’s our “homeless” guy and we love him. But he’d drawn stares from the time we got out of the car. And they continued throughout the meal. I’m not throwing shade. I might have stared at someone who looked like him. But he’s my son and I was just thrilled he was with us. 

And there was this waitress. I wish I knew her name. Every time this memory resurfaces my heart just melts at the thought of her. She was a White woman, brown hair, slight built. Heart of gold. She waited on my son as if he had been the visiting king of a neighboring country. She saw to his every need. She regarded him with kindness and hospitality as if he were a guest in her home. She even anticipated his needs and made sure he had enough of everything he ate. 

I thanked her without gushing and we tipped her well as we always do. But there was nothing I could have given her that would have compensated her or even matched the extravagant kindness with which she treated my son that day. God knows who she is and I pray that even today, probably eight years later that God would lovably some gift, some kindness on her that she won’t even understand. Not to pay her. To overwhelm her so her cup of kindness continues to overflow and rebound to bless her and everyone she meets. 

Amen!

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All I see is Jesus

Imagine receiving this email from the Lord in your inbox;

I’ve spent most of your time on earth trying to convince you of my love. We didn’t have that problem when we were together in heaven before I formed you in your mother’s womb. We were great friends and were in constant communication. And I want the same thing with you now.
But it’s so hard to get your attention.
You keep looking at your scars. I’m looking at your wounds. You keep looking at the marks you bear. I’m looking at the testimonies they tell. You keep looking at your sins.
And all I see is Jesus.
I see the wounds he wore to free you, the stripes he bore to heal you, the blood he shed to deliver you. You look at your attire. I look at the righteousness in which you’re clothed.
And all I see is Jesus.
I see the love he has for you. I hear the prayers he prays for you. I see the Comforter he left for you.
You look at your lack and I see the inheritance you have as a joint heir with Jesus.
I have loved you with an everlasting love and have established you in my love.
Don’t look down. It diminishes you.
Don’t look back. It distracts you.
Don’t look east or west. It delays you.
Look to me. Look up. Your face is engraved on the palms of my hands. And I love to see your face because when I look at you,
All I see is Jesus.

Love Always
Your Heavenly Father

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Engrafted into the vine

I love this passage early on in the biblical vine conversation in Isaiah 5:1-5. It demonstrates God’s own faith-in-action plan for us to emulate. In preparation for a good harvest, the vine dresser chooses good ground or a healthy environment for the project. He then builds a fence around it to protect it from earthly predators. He gathers out the stones to give it optimum chance of agricultural success. He then plants the vine, the star of the show. After that he builds a tower, right in the middle. The tower distracts airborne creatures who would otherwise zero in on the vine.
And right away, without waiting for the end of the season or the sight of the expected harvest, he built a wine press to process that harvest.
This is the way to live faith.
Make all preparation, from beginning to end, and walk in the expected manifestation.
This is our God making ready for the realization of his own dream in our lives.
Our only job is to rest and flourish in the life he has already designed.
Let’s look at it some more.
Jesus restated the same process in John 15 when he said, “I am the true vine.” You see, the original vine spoken of in the Hebrew Scripture was the intended bearer of God’s standard, the nation of Israel.
But Jesus bottom lines it. I am the true vine. I’m the real thing. I am come to do what could not be done in any other way, through any other vessel. And my life is the lifeline for you to be likewise. I’m the true vine. My Father is the vine dresser. He’s the one with the original plan. He’s the one with all the right steps in all the right places with the original vision for the perfect outcome.
Imagine the vine. He says we are the branches. So in his Sonship, we are attached, as joint heirs, to the One who will usher us into eternal life, here on earth, and in the prepared hereafter of which he spoke to his disciples.
We are the branches. We are attached to the true vine. But the benefit is much more than physical life. The real benefit is that as we are attached and give permission, the life of the true vine then flows into the branches. The same life. The same essence. The same character. Just as grape vines produce grapes – the essence of the vine…just as apple trees produce apples…just as banana trees produce bananas – the true vine of God, God’s Son Jesus Christ, produces in these saved branches, the character of Jesus Christ.
We become as he is. We love as he loves. We grace as he graces. We dispense mercy as he is merciful.
The fruit of the spirit is the character of Jesus Christ. And it is that character that is produced in us as we remain in the true vine of God.
And all we have to do is remain. Remain. Abide. Relax.
Make ourselves at home in God’s love. This is the vine life:
Being able to rest in him; to allow him to move with his plan in our lives.
Being able to allow him to work out his vision for our lives even when we can’t see and even when it makes no sense.
Being able to walk in it, with grace, when each next step is sheer mystery.
Being able to wait for it – the “exceeding abundantly” thing that he does that we could not possibly have imagined with our finite minds, not even with our soul vision.

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Photo by Henri Guérin on Pexels.com

A song the angels cannot sing

They wish they could.
Their worship is beyond amazing. You’ve heard it without recognizing what it was. You’ve been in worship with 15 people in the congregation and 5 choir members. Singing was good. Worship was pure. But you had to open your eyes and peep. Because Suddenly it sounded like a multitude surrounding you and a multitude above you. Way more than the 20 people you knew to be in the building. And when you peeped it was as you suspected. Angels join in because our worship is irresistible.
They worship God on the regular. But they were created in heaven to worship in heaven.
Their story is different from ours so is their testimony.
So they sing their song but are attracted to the song we sing. Song born out of joy, song born out of passion, song born out of pain and tragedy. Song born out of…
Song based in the overwhelming thanksgiving for redemption and grace; song born out of hearts overcome with love and mercy. Song born out of gratitude for escape, for deliverance, for healing and for memory.
So sing your song. Sing it regularly. Don’t leave anything out. Sing your trials. Sing your victories. Sing your fear. Sing your peace. Sing your tragedy. Sing God’s rescue.
No one in heaven or on earth is equipped to sing your song. Not the right key. Not the right notes. Not the right verses. No where near the right refrain. No one.
God is due your song. He deserves it. He’s worthy of your song.
So throw back your head and let it go. Don’t hesitate. Don’t equivocate. Don’t wait for Sunday or Wednesday.
Sing it now. Sing it loud. Sing it often.
It’s a song the angels cannot sing!
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Amazing

Amazing. It’s one of those super expressive words that is often overused and therefore loses it’s gust or. But I can’t think of anything but Amazing. I use it to describe the grace of God, his willingness to overwhelm us with that which we really don’t deserve. Favor. 

And I’m using it to describe the gracious love of our children who always bless us beyond our understanding. Always. In unexpected ways. Most recently, they took us to Turks and Caicos to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary. 

It was wonderful. The time together was wonderful. The company of extended family members who went with us was wonderful. Toni, our eldest, is the visionary and her daughter, Trenae is the executor. Paula and Wanda, middle and youngest, enthusiastically complete the circle in whatever ways are needed. And in the ceremony that Trenae anchored, Toni officiated; Paula offered the prayer and Wanda read her poem written just for the occasion. And my granddaughters, Janiyah, Jourdyn, Jasmine and Jaime read my favorite love poem, Celebration, by Mari Evans. Not to forget, my great grandson, AJ, who was the ring bearer and his father, Arlen, who walked me down the aisle. What a memory!

If you knew our story! If you knew from whence the Lord has brought us! If you knew some of the hurdles we’ve overcome, individually and collectively! If you knew this all began with two 18-year-olds who had no idea they couldn’t make it happen. So we started out with great expectations and an unseen road map to a trail already plotted out by the Lord.

If you knew our story, you’d dance with us and shout out to God for the goodness and grace and mercy he’s afforded us for these 50 years, for these four children and their spouses, for these five grandchildren, two great grandsons…and all those to come.

We are the children God used, and is using, to erase generational curses in our families, to change educational and professional trajectories; we are the children God armed with unreasonable faith to accomplish incredible feats way beyond our imaginations. Sometimes even beyond our realization.

And I write this to encourage anyone who feels as if they’re without hope, who feels they’re stuck in a place without an exit, who feels life will always be just as it is now.

Not so!

Just let the Lord know you’re here for all that he has in store for you and totally open to go wherever he leads and do whatever he instructs.

In the midst of whatever seems to be an awful place, speak out your willingness to hear and be all God has for you. With your whole heart.

God always hears. God always answers. 

God. Is. Amazing. 

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He always helps me pray

He gives me beautiful language and scripture when I pray publicly and gives me encouragement and guidance when I pray privately. He gives me specific words that touch the hearts of specific hearers when I pray publicly and words of love and humor when I pray privately. He gives me spirit pictures when I pray publicly and spirit visions when I pray privately.
He urges me to pray at certain times because prayer is needed at those times. He shows me faces of people to pray for or to call because they need to have their names called or to hear my voice at those moments.
He always helps me pray

He gives me places to go, in that moment, and I run into the right people when I’m obedient.
He gives me words to write, in that moment, and I get past writing blocks when I’m obedient.
He give me subjects to preach and teach at the very moment someone asks me to come.
He always helps me pray.
And he helps you too.

{Excerpted from Have you heard of the Holy Ghost?, available for purchase on walkingworthynow.com.}

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