“Fast-Forward Friends”

Have you ever watched a movie with someone who had already seen it, and when it got too suspenseful, you couldn’t resist the urge to ask “What happens next?” In that brief moment, the unknown made you wish you could fast forward to see how it would all play out.

Recently, I had a conversation with a sister in Christ, and we were discussing the regret that comes with poor decision-making, or receiving ungodly counsel (Psalm 1). I said to her, “We all need Fast-Forward Friends.” These are the people who will help us fast-forward to the end of the story of our pending decision. These friends are able to judge the situation with clear minds, free from the emotional fog that sometimes clouds our personal judgment. I really believe Fast-Forward Friends can help save us from many heart aches and setbacks.

The way of a fool is right in his own eyes: but he that hearkeneth unto counsel is wise (Proverbs 12:15).

Many of us have been hindered because we made poor judgments and decisions without seeking Godly counsel. I believe the reason we don’t want to first seek Godly counsel is because it might not agree with what we have already purposed in our hearts to do. What many of us do is make our own plans, without seeking God or Godly counsel, then we want God to bless it. When it doesn’t work, we question God, or even worse, we get discouraged and want to quit.

I remember when I decided that I was going to get married, I sought Godly counsel, but not initially; it was more of an “I followed the Christian protocol” gesture. I did not realize at the time, that the people advising me were my Fast-Forward Friends. They literally told me the entire storyline and how the story would end; but I was already planning to get married, so I chose not to heed their many warnings. I vividly remember one of my Fast-Forward Friends saying, “Okay, you are going into this with your eyes wide open;” boy was she right! The marriage barely made it to the one year mark; and within that year, we separated and got back together three times before the final split. If I would have listened to my Fast-Forward Friends, I would have waited and God would have revealed everything about me and him, to confirm why we were not ready for marriage. One good thing that came from this situation is that now I am available as that Fast-Forward Friend to warn any person who is contemplating marriage prematurely, or without seeking Godly counsel.

If King David would have had some Fast-Forward Friends, then perhaps he wouldn’t have committed adultery with Bathsheba and ultimately caused his entire bloodline to be cursed. Fast-Forward Friends would have said, “If you do this, you will conceive a child with her, then you will have to kill her husband, then your child will die, then your son will rape your daughter, and your other son will try to take your kingdom from you.” Now, I know they may not have known exactly what would happen, but they would’ve been able to present different scenarios of what could possibly go wrong with his decision; and perhaps he would have changed his mind, realizing those few moments of lust were not worth the consequences he would endure as a result of it (2 Samuel 11, 2 Samuel 12, 2 Samuel 13, 2 Samuel 15).

Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety (Proverbs 11:14).

I realize inviting people into your decisions to serve as Fast-Forward Friends requires vulnerability, especially in our “I don’t want people in my business” society; but I wholeheartedly believe that if you choose them wisely, these people can help you stay in the Will of God and avoid a lot of disappointment and pain.

Let me also add that Fast-Forward Friends can encourage you during those difficult times when you need to be reminded of your purpose and destiny. They can fast-forward to the end of the story and remind you of the many Promises of God, and why it is so imperative that you stay the course. They will make it hard for you to fail or quit.

So, That Settles It, stop settling for the “I told you so” friends, and pray and ask God to send you some Fast-Forward Friends. Likewise, if God has helped you to overcome poor decision-making and you have gained wisdom to prevent someone else from making the same mistakes, be their Fast-Forward Friend.

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“Behind the Scenes”

Have you ever thought about the things that you have done for which you never received any acknowledgment or thanks? I remember being there for people (when no one else was) during a difficult time, yet when they were better, they expressed gratitude to everyone except me. I remember sacrificing to help people and never even receiving a “Thank you.” I recall working Behind the Scenes of other people’s dreams or projects, I treated them as if they were my own (sometimes doing more than the visionary), but when the accolades came, I was not mentioned. I have served well for others, even when no one was watching, because my service is unto the Lord. I never expected anything from people (my service is genuinely from the heart), but my hope is that God will see what I do in secret and reward me publicly (Matthew 6:4). So, I continue serving with gladness.

23 And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;

24 Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ (Colossians 3:23-24).

Now, this is by no means an attempt to boast in myself; but this message is to encourage everyone who has been working Behind the Scenes and you feel like you have been forgotten. This is to everyone who has wondered, “When is it my turn to go forth in the ministry/purpose of the Lord.” This is to everyone who has an unselfish desire for God to enlarge your territory solely because you want to share the love of Christ with people (1 Chronicles 4:10).

Think about any event you have attended such as a movie, wedding, concert, or play. Now think about all the work that takes place Behind the Scenes that the guests never see. It’s not often that the Behind the Scenes crew is recognized, but without them, the event cannot go forth. This is how God sees you. Others may not see your labor of love, but God recognizes your work. What you do for Him is important and it matters to Him.

6 Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart;

7 With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men:

8 Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free (Ephesians 6:6-8).

Working Behind the Scenes has actually placed you in a unique position. What is this position you ask? It has kept you in a posture of humility. Think about it: What you do is important and needed, you are constantly overlooked and unappreciated, but you still serve and you always do so in the Spirit of Excellence, as unto the Lord. This is what God is looking for. This is what pleases Him.

Let me also add, that I know there are some people who cheat, lie, and manipulate their way into the spotlight prematurely, but don’t get jealous. Unfortunately, many times, it is these very people who rise to fame quickly and fall even faster; because while they may have had the gifts, talents, and/or the charisma to get them there more rapidly, they didn’t have the character to sustain them, and therefore their glory is short-lived (Proverbs 11).

34 Put your hope in the Lord. Travel steadily along his path. He will honor you by giving you the land. You will see the wicked destroyed.

35 I have seen wicked and ruthless people flourishing like a tree in its native soil.

36 But when I looked again, they were gone! Though I searched for them, I could not find them!

37 Look at those who are honest and good, for a wonderful future awaits those who love peace.

38 But the rebellious will be destroyed; they have no future (Psalm 37:34-38 NLT).

The good news for you is this: As you continue to serve well, with integrity and without the applause of men, that’s when God can promote you and bring you to the main stage. See, those times of obscurity were needed for training and character development; once you have successfully completed this, you are ready for the spotlight because now you are equipped to handle it. Now God can trust you with all that He wants to do through you, because He knows you are not a “Glory Hound” and you will always point people to Him.

So, That Settles It. Don’t get weary working Behind the Scenes; continue to serve. Remember that you are performing for an Audience of One and He is giving you a standing ovation.

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“Great Expectations”

Have you ever gone through a season of testing and difficulties in your life, and even though it seemed as if all hell was breaking loose around you, there was something on the inside of you that gave you a feeling that “something greater is coming?” That’s what hope in God does for those who believe; I call it Great Expectations.

There is this song by Tenth Avenue North entitled, “I Have This Hope,” and the chorus resonates deeply in my heart:

“I have this hope in the depths of my soul, in the flood or the fire You are with me and You won’t let go.”

Isaiah says it like this:

When you go through deep waters, I will be with you.

When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown.

When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you (Isaiah 43:2 NLT).

Lately, it seems like I have faced one test/trial after another. As soon as I get through one difficult situation, there’s another one waiting for me. I was so excited about celebrating my 40th birthday and was planning a fun weekend getaway, only to encounter an issue in my physical body forcing me to cancel my trip. I was so excited about completing my last semester of school this summer and earning my second degree, only to receive a phone call that the only class I need has been cancelled due to low enrollment. I received an exclusive invitation from a client to audition for a role in a television commercial, but I didn’t get the part. I mean it just seems as if nothing is working out as I planned.

Surprisingly, even in the midst of having moments of questioning, doubting, frustration, anger, venting, sadness, and disappointment, there is still this hope deep down on the inside that will not allow me to linger in any of these emotions too long. Even though it looks as if nothing is going the way I planned, I cannot ignore this Great Expectation that persists to burst through in my spirit like the sun bursting through the clouds on a rainy day. There is such peace permeating from the very depths of my soul; there is this overwhelming sense that “it can happen at any moment;” an unexplainable, uncontainable excitement.

I want to remain downtrodden, but this undeniable feeling of joy in the midst of sorrow will not allow it. I want to sulk and sit around murmuring and complaining, but I find myself laughing and choosing to see the good in every situation. I want to rain on everyone else’s parade, but instead I find myself encouraging and cheering others on.

I will bless the Lord at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth (Psalm 34:1).

So, That Settles It; even in the midst of hard trials and uncertainties, remember that in God we can always have Great Expectations; because no matter the situation, as long as He is with us, whether we are on the mountain top or in the valley, we can rest in Him. On another note: Sometimes, things we planned don’t work out because He has an exceeding Greater plan. Trust Him and Praise Him in advance for the Victory!

I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13 NLT).

 

“Emergency Room”

Do you know of any people with an illness who don’t see their Primary Care Physician regularly, and when they do, they don’t follow the treatment plan they have been given? These people are considered non-compliant. I’m sure we all know someone who’d rather live however they want, not take their medication, not take care of themselves; then when they are sick again, they go to the Emergency Room for a quick fix. They get the medicines they need and they are off to living recklessly again.

Many times, whether we admit it or not, people treat God like an EMT and the local church like an Emergency Room. When they are hurting, and don’t know what else to do, they go to church; and when they have an urgent matter, they call on God and expect Him to show up as an EMT. They get a temporary fix and are on their way, and won’t return until the next time they are hurting or have a need.

Now, there is no judgment here, but I would love to see people stay committed and keep their healing and spiritual freedom. If you don’t have a (Spiritual) Primary Care Physician, God is always taking new cases. Likewise, if you need to visit this (Spiritual) Emergency Room, please do, because your situation could be a matter of life or death. But, consider the long-term: God wants to be your Primary Care Physician, not just an EMT, and your local church should be utilized as more than just an Emergency Room. This is your life we’re talking about here!

15 See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil;

16 In that I command thee this day to love the Lord thy God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commandments and his statutes and his judgments, that thou mayest live and multiply: and the Lord thy God shall bless thee in the land whither thou goest to possess it.

17 But if thine heart turn away, so that thou wilt not hear, but shalt be drawn away, and worship other gods, and serve them;

18 I denounce unto you this day, that ye shall surely perish, and that ye shall not prolong your days upon the land, whither thou passest over Jordan to go to possess it.

19 I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live:

20 That thou mayest love the Lord thy God, and that thou mayest obey his voice, and that thou mayest cleave unto him: for he is thy life, and the length of thy days: that thou mayest dwell in the land which the Lord sware unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them (Deuteronomy 30:15-20).

People who are concerned about their health and having a healthy lifestyle, keep their regular appointments with their Primary Care Physician, they take their medications as prescribed, and they make whatever provisions required to aid in maintaining good health.

What am I saying? I’m glad you asked.

If you are concerned about your Spiritual life, you will keep your regularly scheduled appointments and take your medications as prescribed. This includes prayer and meditation, reading and studying God’s Holy Word, worship, and fellowship with your local church. You can draw strength from the Saints (your brothers and sisters in Christ), which is why fellowship is so important (Hebrews 10:25). Keeping your appointments and regular checkups is important, because while you can study and receive revelations from the Word of God on your own, when you hear the preached Word of God, it should bring confirmation, or perhaps help you gain a better understanding, and help you to rightly divide the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15).

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom. Instead, fear the Lord and turn away from evil. Then you will have healing for your body and strength for your bones (Proverbs 3:5-8 NLT).

When you endeavor to maintain a healthy Spiritual lifestyle, it protects you from many sicknesses that could arise as a result of sin and iniquity, or disobedience to the Will of God. You take the proper precautions to ensure your Spiritual health is not affected or polluted. You recognize that this accountability is the path to long life (Psalm 91:16).

Also, let’s not forget how expensive an Emergency Room visit is (especially if you don’t have insurance). Whereas, a co-pay at your Primary Care Physician’s office is more reasonable. The same is true in the Spiritual. The price you pay when you have to continue returning to the (Spiritual) Emergency Room for the same issue is guilt, shame, and condemnation; but accepting Jesus Christ as your Primary Care Physician is free (Salvation). The only thing you have to do to maintain it, is keep your regularly scheduled appointments and be honest with your (Spiritual) Primary Care Physician. There is no problem that He can’t fix; you just have to trust Him.

He said, “If you will listen carefully to the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in his sight, obeying his commands and keeping all his decrees, then I will not make you suffer any of the diseases I sent on the Egyptians; for I am the Lord who heals you” (Exodus 15:26 NLT).

So, That Settles It. Don’t remain non-compliant, stop using God as an EMT and your local church like an Emergency Room. Get Spiritually Fit and purpose in your heart to live a healthy Spiritual lifestyle, so that you may live and not die and declare the works of the Lord (Psalm 118:17).

Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth (3 John 2).