Category Archives: Leadership Development

You Are Tough Enough to Move Past Your Past!

I didn’t let fear get in the way of me rising to my dreams. When I had to change career paths, the circumstances were unfavorable. I felt like someone had ripped my heart out and left me empty and void of life. I was afraid I would never recover, let alone become the person I am today, but I persevered.

My immediate family rallied around me and gave me the strength and courage to move forward. They were then and are now phenomenal. Because of them I took the opportunity to grieve the loss and think about my next steps. With so much loss attached to me, all I could cling to was the dream I had, the prophecy over my life and my faith in God.

This dream was crystalized while attending the Walden University Leadership Studies program. Having a capstone that mandated each student set goals, objectives, and strategies for their lives beyond graduation was a life saver. That document is and has become my rock. Because of the thoughtful construction of that document, I have steadily walked past my fear into my future. I kicked fear’s booty when I, gained the intestinal fortitude to say to myself, as one great person said, “Your past is not your residence; it is your reference.” I chose to live in the NOW.

Opportunities and blessings keep coming and my life though sometimes attacked by fear of losing again, is much better than that dark place I was in more than ten years ago. I follow the advice of my mentor, “Do it Afraid!” Truly, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Join me and allow me to help you discover what I now know, persistence is the key to your breakthrough. The strategies and experiences I have had uniquely qualify me to assist you out of your dark cloud into the light of a brand new opportunity.

#brandstorychallenge #day3

Even a Change in Midlife Can be Used to Succeed! You Can Begin Again!

My life changed when I was driven to change career directions and made the decision to pursue my early childhood dream, that of becoming a University Adjunct Professor. I enrolled in school and began a doctoral program designed to help me become an adult educator and a consultant to school systems in need of innovative thinkers in the field of adult education.

However, the need to take care of my family pushed me after two years to try a non traditional approach to obtaining my doctorate and after receiving it in 2008, I was immediately hired to teach by the University of Phoenix as an Adjunct Professor of Humanities. As I developed more confidence and conviction that I could begin again, I applied for and graduated from both the Walden University Masters Degree Program in Leadership Studies and the John Maxwell Certification for Speakers, Trainers, and Coaches.

My setback became a springboard from which to become an independent consultant working with other leaders who have needed to make a total change in direction and rebrand themselves in order to be successful. That’s why I love to work with those who have had climatic experiences that threaten their future potential, because I was there ten years ago, but by the grace of God I received a brand new start. Let me help you begin again!

‪#‎brandstorychallenge‬ ‪#‎day2‬

You can transform your life!

I am passionate about helping the disadvantaged, left out, rejected, and marginalized of society become leaders that make a difference in society. My unique life story, professional experience, training and certification as a speaker, trainer, coach with the John Maxwell Group, I have positioned myself to add value to anyone who has been told they were not able to be a success in life. Come along with me and watch the opportunities for your personal growth and development increase.

#brandstorychallenge #day1

I’m Pressing On in Christ

http://bible.com/72/php.3.13-14.hcsb Brothers, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus.

Someone once said change is difficult. However, that perspective is generally directed toward those being asked to change. I have discovered personal change is not simply difficult rather it is an excruciatingly painful process.

I have a comfort zone in every area God confronts and changing remains frightening. I now realize that change challenges my beliefs, paradigms and emotions. Change demands I accept the fact that what I have been is no longer a valid philosophy for where I’m headed. Change doesn’t involve just habits; change involves my mindset. Breaking out of my comfort zone then is really breaking out of old patterns of thinking. Patterns I have relied upon for over 59 years must be shed as a snake sheds its skin in order to grow.

Thus, I join Paul in stating that change is a constant “press.” I must put pressure on those stubborn, clingy, ideologies that hinder my growth. I am pursuing the destiny God intended for me before the foundation of the world. What an exciting challenge that has been and will continue to be.

More is Expected of You

Contrary to popular belief you are no longer a grasshopper.  You have entered the land of the giants.  Through your tenacity, focus, and dedication to finish what you started, you sit before us as graduates.  Graduates you are on the first rung of the ladder of theological education and you are no longer the same. 
You have placed yourself in a position of expectation.  Expect more of yourself; the church expects more of you; and the Christ expects more of you. 

Expect more of yourself.  This vast array of knowledge to which you’ve been exposed makes you uncomfortable, restless, and yearning for more.  In some of you, that demon of pride has already tried to claim your soul and render your education worth less.  Indeed, I urge you to resist thinking that your education is complete.  Well did the Apostle Paul declare in 1 Corinthians 8:1-2….”We all possess knowledge.” But knowledge puffs up while love builds up.  Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know.” 

Be proud of this achievement but simultaneously, expect more from your certificate than pride.  Doors have now been opened for you because of your graduation, and you should work to enter these doors expecting that you have changed and are ready for more leadership challenges.

The Church expects more of you. Howard Friend says, “Churches need leaders who can rise to a formidable challenge, laced with danger and rich with opportunity, leaders who are self-transcending and self-motivated, inspired and inspiring” (Friend, 1998, p.109). 

Rev. Clementa Pinckey was one such leader.  He was ordained at 18. He served as a pastor at Youngs Chapel AME Church in Irmo, Jericho and Porter’s Chapel AME Churches in Beaufort, Mount Horr AME Church in Yonges Island and Campbell Chapel AME Church in Bluffton.
He started working at Emanuel AME in 2010. 

Pinckney also became a politician at a young age.
He was elected to the House of Representatives in 1996 at age 23 after serving as a page in the State House. After serving two terms, he won a seat in the Senate in 2000 at age 27.
Pinckney said his youth was an advantage.  “I’m not set in my ways and not set in old ways,” he told The (Charleston) Post and Courier in 2001. “Just like slavery needed to die out, old ideas need to die out. Being young allows me to be open-minded.”

Pinckney was also one of the lead co-sponsors on a body-camera bill for police officers and was an advocate for economic development in Jasper County. Pinckney also helped lead a prayer vigil after the police-shooting death of Walter Scott.
Pinckney was a member of the Senate’s finance, education, banking, corrections and medical affairs committees. 

He told the Charleston paper that he received a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Columbia’s Allen University in order to be able to better run his churches. He also earned a master’s degree in public administration from the University of South Carolina.
He leaves a wife, Jennifer, and two young daughters, Eliana and Malana.

“I always felt God had called me to serve within the church because of what the church stands for,” Pinckney told The Post and Courier in 2010. “This has always been home.”

We need educated leaders, filled with the Holy Spirit, and Committed to Jesus Christ in order to change the world for the better. 

Now that you have been educated the church expects you to be a believer not a doubter.  Doubters shut up, hold up, and lay up.  Believers speak up, move up, and get up.  Believers engage the challenges with faith that the answer lies just beyond the horizon. 

Believers are what the church needs if we are to deal with gender issues, racial quagmires, and systemic injustice.  The church expects you to roll up your sleeves, do the research, form a team, and confront these issues where you live determined to make a difference. 

The church expects that because of your education, the church can speak more relevantly to the issues of our time with more sophistication than merely quoting a scripture and saying a prayer.  The church expects you to lead your community through these various challenges as a disciple of Christ.

Your education takes you from an airline mentality to that of an airport mentality.  No longer are you merely concerned about your stuff.  An airline tries to influence as many passengers as possible to travel to the destinations they have selected.  There are only a limited number of seats and a limited number of flights.  And if you ain’t down with that…….. try another airline because we aren’t trying to accommodate your needs, we’re recruiting those willing to meet our needs. 

Your education has lifted your thinking higher than me, myself, and I; my four and no more; my church, my board, my role.  Before you were educated, you could think single mindedly about things but no more.  Your altitude has changed. 

People expect Delta to be concerned with Delta’s success.  Delta determines the way for it to get ahead of its competitors.  Delta knows Delta.  Delta is not expected to be expert in anything except Delta’s objectives.  But your education has stolen your Delta mentality.

Your education has given you the opportunity to think like you exist in an airport.  An airport serves as a conduit; it creates an atmosphere for several airlines to operate.  It works because air traffic controllers reduce the risks involved in takeoffs and landings.  Are you a pilot or an air traffic controller?  Additionally, airports organize and supply personnel, logistics, materiel, and resources to accommodate the destinations and needs of the airlines that use the airport. 

You are now expected to think of the big picture; the total church not just your church, your vision, your welfare. 
You are now challenged to ask how do my actions affect the entire community, the universal church, indeed the entire kingdom of God.  You have been taught how to grasp the big picture and make decisions based on the big picture.  In other words, you know longer make book decisions based on the chapter you’re reading now. 

Graduates, you have just begun the process of transformation; and the church expects more from you.  You have placed yourself in position for more responsibility and the church will look to you to model, to lead, and to demonstrate what you have learned.

Finally, Jesus the Christ expects more of you.  Christ Jesus needs witnesses who have committed their minds as well as their hearts to Him.  Jesus blessed you to finish this course of training because he had a purpose for your life.  Jesus said, “ Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.” (John 14:12)

Jesus expects more of you.  Jesus said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. And you placed yourself in position of self-denial more by completing this certificate of theology program.  You have obeyed the admonition that says, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15) 

You did it! You are prepared to be more sensitive to the voice of Jesus because you have learned his language.  Your faithfulness to complete this study demonstrates to all present that you are now ready to engage in the work God has prepared for you and Jesus expects more of you.  Are you ready to assume your place in the airport?  Are you ready to be a servant leader in the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ? 

Yes, you are prepared but are you willing?  Yes, you know the truth, but are you willing to meet these new expectations?  Yes, you are a graduate, but for what?  Jesus expects more from you than resting in this achievement.  And you and the church expect more of you as well.
Graduates more is expected of you.  You are expected to go forth and change your world!  Can you do that?  Hallelujah!

The Courage to “Be”

“Whosoever shall find his life shall lose it; whosoever shall lose his life for my sake shall find it.” (Matthew 10:39)

Introduction
Since the dawn of time mankind has struggled to find meaning in life. Jesus posits a challenge in our text this morning. Jesus challenges us to find not only the true meaning for life; but also challenges us to dedicate the life we find to him for his purposes.

Who am I? Where am I? Am I awake or asleep? Alive or dead? How did I get here? What am I supposed to do while I’m here? Is there life after death? Why is there death?

The Movie, “The Matrix” sought to answer these questions. In this movie the world we know as reality is depicted as some form of pseudo-reality. It was a sham, a hoax, perpetrated by those who sought to enslave humanity through use of its vices and weaknesses. The real world in “the Matrix” was the machine world; a world of reality confined to numbers and cold, unemotional purpose. If you had a purpose you were allowed to serve the Architect of this pseudo reality otherwise you were terminated.

The key was to have your mind expiated from this pseudo reality by Morpheus and to be reborn as a cross between human and machine. Once freed your powers were increased and you could fight the machine world to regain and protect the pseudo reality which you despised in the first place. Zion as it were was the city of bliss and happiness that all humans coveted; it had to be protected at all costs. Zion was the aim and object of those seeking to be freed. It was a very intriguing movie but left us just as confused as we were before its production. For you see trying to answer life’s questions apart from Jesus is futile, frustrating, and fruitless.

Jesus uproots us from this pseudo reality and transports us into a new reality, the reality of God’s Kingdom. We can choose to spend our life trying to discover what and who we are in this world or we can spend our time discovering what and who we are in the Kingdom. In the former choice, we find a never ending story; but in the latter decision we find absolute power, purpose, and passion for living. In other words we can spend our time finding out who and what we are only to keep discovering that we can’t fully discover it or we can find and discover who we are based on our relationship with Jesus Christ.

Let us explore these two choices, seeking to find out about ourselves in this world or seeking to find out about our relationship to God in this world.
These two choices are reflected in the words of this text: “Whosoever shall find his life shall lose it; whosoever shall lose his life for my sake shall find it.” This is a strange and mind boggling text. It seems to suggest two pathways; one that leads to death and one that leads to life. In other words, even after we spend a lifetime looking for the answers to the quintessential questions “Who Am I?” “Why Am I Here?” outlined before, even after we find the answers, we will still end up losing our life.

So, should we spend our time looking for our life knowing that we will lose it anyway? Or should we decide how we will live our lives in this world?

Move 2
Now consider this: We are persons! “A person is one who knows the world around him and particularly who knows himself in relation to that world and to other persons. . . . A person may be influenced from without, but the determining factor in shaping life and destiny is from within. Others may influence us; we determine ourselves. This means that a person has the power of looking ahead and of choosing one’s own course in light of moral distinctive.

Thus the challenge that Jesus poses is a challenge that can literally be accepted. This challenge is to “be or to become.” It is to find out who and what you really are and to “be” that unique distinct person, and then surrender that person to him and his cause. It is what Paul Tillich in his novel work The Courage to Be puts this spin on the text:. ” … Therefore, Jesus says that we are to take accept the life we find or determine within ourselves to use that life for his purpose, power, and passion. That passion is to help others discover their true selves and then commit that self to God through a personal relationship with Jesus as a disciple. Since loss of life is inevitable, Jesus challenges us to lose it doing the will of God rather than our own. But who can make such decision without first discovering who they are and “being” who they are in relation to this world? None of us can truly decide to become disciples of Jesus until we first discover who we are without Jesus. From such thinking is derived the saying of Shakespeare, “To Thine Own Self Be True.”

There are obstacles to determining who and what we are. They are three: intimidation, domination, and manipulation. Each derive from our relationship with others. Your environment influences your choices; intimidation, domination, and manipulation negatively influence you becoming your true self. All three of these obstacles are the forces of darkness that seek to cut you off from the light which shines once you obtain wisdom and knowledge about yourself. Only after overcoming these three negative influences can we discover our true self and with that the “life” of which Jesus speaks.

Move 3
Many of us quite frankly are hypocrites. We pretend to be who we are not. We have lived in response to intimidation, domination, and manipulation. We have kept our true self hidden, protected from the world or those in our environment. Only when we develop the courage to be can we relinquish that true self to Jesus in discipleship. Living as someone you’re not keeps you chained, isolated, imprisoned.

Only when you decide to “be” can you realize the depths of your alienation from God and accept God’s Son, Jesus as Savior. This notion of being is as a homosexual coming out of the closet. It is as an alcoholic refusing to drink another alcoholic beverage. It is as you and I determining to speak our truth refusing to allow others to intimidate, dominate, or manipulate us.

Being you is tough. Being you means accepting who you are at the core of your being: the good, the bad, the ugly. People in the world often exclaim, “Don’t judge me!” “Accept me for who I am.” “What you see is what you get!” Then, go on to be who they think someone else wants them to be. Being you is tough; accepting you is even more difficult.

Yet, this is exactly the you Jesus is challenging you to be. He does so because this is the you God is after. David, the King of Israel gave God his true self: whoremonger, murderer, selfish,warrior, betrayer, lover, friend, leader, servant, shepherd, singer, song writer, worshipper. David was all these things; but David dedicated his total nature, his true self, to God. And God accepted David as a son. David the Bible commends David on this one point, “David was a man after God’s own heart.” David sought to become who God intended him to be even as David dealt with his own true self.

This is discipleship: surrendering your true nature to Jesus and exchanging that nature for Christ’s nature. It is an evolving, transformative relationship with Jesus Christ. This, my friends, is the courage to be. Jesus invites us to trust Him with our true selves knowing that Jesus has paid the price and knows the way for us to live free eternally. I urge you to submit your true nature to Jesus today! Amen.

From a Caterpillar to a Butterfly

What did the caterpillar feel as the cocoon slowly engulfed its body? Metamorphosis is a scary proposition. Trust in God has to be firmly established in order to surrender to such a process.  And that’s why it doesn’t happen overnight.  Salvation is instant but sanctification takes a lifetime. Therefore, it’s important to be patient with oneself.  Even the cocoon took time to transform the caterpillar.  When your transformation seems problematic or unusually delayed, trust the God of the process.  God has designed the process to fit your true self.  For God loves the caterpillar just as much as God loves the butterfly.  God loves the you you are now just as much as the you you are becoming.  So love yourself and love the journey.

Not Without Opposition

“because a wide door  for effective ministry has opened for me  — yet many oppose me.” [1 Corinthians 16:9, HCSB]

No great opportunity to make a difference for Jesus comes without opposition.  And you wonder why them good church folks can give you a thousand reasons why something could not or should not be done. The reasons go from budget deficit to lack of human will to the nonsensical,  “We’ve never done it before.”  I have discovered that waiting for consensus or a majority vote is counterproductive.  A leader has to influence not just in words but by his or her actions.  “Just do it!”

The church doesn’t lack opportunity;  it lacks the will.  Such will can only be cultivated by prayer and meditation in the Word of God.  Then when great opposition arises, ecumenism is a valid force to maximize the opportunity.

When those in the church can’t or won’t get involved in kingdom matters, align yourself with other disciples, other religious traditions, other groups and take advantage of the opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives.  One thing is certain, the glory will belong to God.

My point is don’t let opposition negate your opportunity.  Do all you can while you can so that God’s name will be praised. Hallelujah!

It’s Time to move to the Next Level

Text:  Deuteronomy 2:1-3

Introduction

The children of Israel had taken 40 years to complete a journey, which should have taken only a few days.  God charged them to move into their land of promise, but they refused.  They tried to remain encamped on the top of the Mount Horeb.  And if they couldn’t stay where they were, then they decided to stay in the wilderness.  Because they rebelled against God’s opportunity due to the opposition that lay before them, they could not enter into the opulence that their land of promise afforded. 

So God decreed that the generation that started out with Moses would not enter the Promised Land; only the next generation would enjoy
This new generation had wandered in the wilderness for 40 more years watching their ancestors die without receiving the promise.  They had been receiving instructions on how to live as people of God.  God taught them how to fight in order to preserve their freedom.  God taught them how to worship in order to preserve their faith.  God taught them how to love one another and to care for one another to preserve their nation. 

Finally, God taught them how to get wealth to preserve their independence from other nations.  Never again did God intend them to become slaves.
It was time for them to move to the next level.  They had everything they needed to move.  God was with them; a skilled proven army was with them; faith was with them; unity was among them; and wealth was among them.  Nothing was missing and nothing was broken.  They were ready – destiny was upon them. 

Now, Moses stands atop that same mountain peak rehearsing the travels and journeys of God’s people throughout the last 80 years.  He challenges the next generation to move to the next level with faith in their God.

Move 1

The opportunity God presented was in front of them.  But in order to take advantage of this opportunity they would have to face opposition.  In order to get to the opulence God had decreed for them they would have to confront their enemies.  You see, beloved, when you decide to act in concert with God, God will give you an opportunity and you will have to face opposition before the opulence flows into your life.

First, let us look at the opportunity.  God gives you opportunities that belong only to you. 

What God has for you no one else can take.  Notice verse 4-12 and 17-23 [read] What God promised the children of Esau, he fulfilled.  What God promised the children of Lot, he fulfilled.  God did not allow the Israelites to possess lands he previously promised to others.  And what God promises to you, he will fulfill. 
Beloved, you serve the God of an open door.  The Bible declares, “God will open doors that no man can shut, shut doors that no man can open.” 

When you determine, to move into your destiny, God will guide your steps. In other words, your brothers and sisters in the LORD will not lose their blessing because God has chosen to move you forward.  So be not afraid, neither be dismayed.  It’s time for us to move to the next level. 
Not only that, but in your personal life it’s time for you to move to the next level.  You’ve circled this mountain long enough.  You’ve been bankrupt, distressed, and in a mess long enough. 

In short, God has granted us opportunities that we have wasted because when opposition came we bailed out instead of confronted the enemy.  It’s time for us to move to the next level.  We’ve circled these stagnant  mountains long enough.  Hallelujah!

It’s time for each of you to take advantage of the opportunities that God has provided for you.  And you don’t have to worry about getting what God has for somebody else.  God wouldn’t do that.  What God has for others will always belong to them.  But what God has for you belongs to you.  Don’t delay; don’t procrastinate; don’t hesitate; step out of your place of pain, and step into your place of peace.  It’s time for you to move to the next level.  Again, you’ve circled this mountain long enough.  Now is the time to act!

The story is told in 2 Kings 7:1-20 of a time of utter turmoil in the lives of the people of God.  Their enemies the Syrians had besieged them.  Nothing could enter and nothing could leave the city without encountering this opposition.  In due time famine set in and people were reduced to eating their own children. 

Then Elisha the prophet declared, “Hear this message from the LORD!  This is what the LORD says:  By this time tomorrow in the markets of Samaria, five quarts of fine flour will cost only half an ounce of silver, and ten quarts of barley grain will cost only half an ounce of silver.”
This was God’s way of presenting them with an opportunity.  God always sends us a message, a Word of direction, purpose, and destiny.  If you miss hearing God’s word about your situation, you miss God’s opportunity. 

Simply put, once you hear God’s word, you have to mix it with faith in order for it to benefit you.  Hebrews 4:12 reads, “God’s promise of entering his place of rest still stands, so we ought to tremble with fear that some of you might fail to get there.  For this Good News – that God has prepared a place of rest – has been announced to us just as it was to them.  But it did them no good because they didn’t believe what God told them.”
But thanks be to God there were four lepers who believed.  They heard the word and decided to take advantage of God’s opportunity.  They looked at one another and asked, “Why should we sit here waiting to die?”  They reasoned among them, “We will starve if we stay here, and we will starve if we go back into the city.  So, we might as well go out and surrender to the Syrian Army.  If they let us live, so much the better.  But if they kill us, we would have died anyway.”

Someone here this morning needs to hear this Word.  You need to surrender your life to Jesus Christ.  Why keep sitting in a place of pain, misery, and anguish?  Why keep circling the same of mountain of defeat when God is presenting you an opportunity to go to the next level.  You know in your heart, just like those four lepers that you need to act.  You need to move forward.  You need to believe the word that God has sent this morning.  You will come, won’t you?  You will take advantage of God’s opportunity, won’t you?  It’s time for you to move to the next level. [Pause]

Move 2

Well, let us move on.  The Second thing you encounter when you decide to act in concert with God is opposition.  Look again at Deuteronomy 2:13-16 [read]

When God presents you with opportunity, you encounter opposition from two fronts: within and without.  The first opposition came from within their minds.  They felt inferior to the people who already lived in that land.  They felt that they were powerless, sinful, helpless people. 

Their minds could not imagine ever living among so great a people.  They could not imagine fighting these foes and being successful.  So, they talked themselves out of their own blessing.
And that’s the problem with slavery, addiction, or abuse of any kind.  It so demeans the victim until the victim begins to see themselves as their affliction.  You go from having diabetes to being a diabetic.  You go from having a drinking problem to being an alcoholic. 

In Numbers 13:33, God presented an opportunity for the first generation to enter the promised land. They responded “And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants:  and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight.  You can’t face opposition without boldness and confidence in who you are.  If they had not seen themselves as less than those people, then the Anakims would have seen them differently as well.  How do you see yourself compared to other people?  Because how you see yourself will actually be how others see you and treat you. 
Are you bold, confident, self-assured, full of faith in God?  Do you see yourself as wonderfully and marvelously made?  If not, now is a good time for you to see yourself as God sees you. 

In his 1994 Inaugural speech Nelson Mandela as President of South Africa quoted these words penned by Maryanne Williamson:

Your playing small doesn’t serve the world.
There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that
Other people won’t feel insecure around you.
We were born to make manifest the glory of God within us.
It’s not just in some of us, it’s in everyone.
And as we let our light shine, we unconsciously
Give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fears,
Our presence automatically liberates others.

However, once you get your self-image realigned to conform to the image that God designed, you must still face external opposition.   

When you decide to act in concert with God, enemies will show up and try to beat you back into your old place.  Look at Deuteronomy 2:24-25 and 3:1-13 [read] Notice how God had destined these enemies for defeat even before the children of Israel encountered them.  I’m telling you that when you get with God you become invincible. 

The Bible declares, “God always causes us to triumph in Christ Jesus our LORD.”  The Bible declares, nay, we are more than conquerors through Christ which loves us.”  The Bible declares, “No weapons formed against us shall be able to prosper.”  When God gives you an opportunity, he also prepares your opposition for defeat.  Just like it’s time for you to move to the next level, it’s also time for your opposition to move to another level.  And that level is to move out of your way or face God as their adversary. Gardner Taylor, would tell his enemies “your arms are too short to box with God!”

We must face our enemies.  We cannot hide, sidestep, or dodge them.  We must confront them.  We must let them know our purpose!  We must announce our objectives!  We must send word that we are moving to the next level.  Hallelujah! 
And we must let our enemies know that we are ready to fight for the souls of our children.  Let the weak and the faint of heart stay at home and watch the house.  But, let the young of heart, the bold, and the fearless arm themselves for battle.  It’s time for us to move to the next level.  It’s time to take this church out of neutral and put it into drive so we can win souls for Jesus Christ! 

Let us challenge ourselves to go further than we have ever been to announce the kingdom of Christ.  God has promised:  “Fear him not:  for I will deliver him, and all his people, and his land, into thy hand.”
Paul faced opposition with every opportunity.  He said in 1 Corinthians 16:9, “For there is a wide-open door for a great work here, and many people are responding.  But there are many who oppose me.” 

Beloved, with every opportunity, there will be those who oppose you, but keep on moving.
Your mind may tell you to turn around, but keep on moving.  You may begin to get cold feet, but keep on moving.  You may be ostracized and criticized, but keep on moving.  Your friends may walk away, but keep on moving.  Your friends may even become your enemies, but keep on moving.  You may not understand where you’re going, but since you know that where you were was misery, pain, and despair, keep on moving.  Keep on moving.  Don’t let opposition spoil your opportunity because you’re on your way to opulence, which is the plan of God for your life and this church.

Move 3

Finally, when you decide to act in concert with God, you encounter opulence. Opulence means “wealth, riches, sumptuousness, prosperity, lavishness, and luxury.  When God presents an opportunity, don’t despair the opposition because when you take advantage of God’s opportunity it leads to opulence.  God desires to bless his children more than they could ever imagine.  The purpose of the opportunity is to open up channels for more people to experience the blessings of God through your hands.  The act of accepting God’s opportunity ensures that your life will abound with blessings. 

The Bible declares, “The blessings of the LORD they maketh rich and addeth no sorrow with it.”  The bible declares, “Our God is able to do exceedingly abundantly above anything we could ever ask or think.”  The Bible declares, “The LORD has increase on his mind.  He is always thinking about you.  He wants to bless you more and more.”  But you have to overcome opposition and stand your ground as you pursue the opportunities that God places in your path.

Beloved, God wants to do exceedingly more with this church than he has ever done before.  “Eyes have not seen, neither has ear heard, what good things the LORD has prepared for those who love him.”  It’s time for us to move to the next level.  We’ve circled the mountain of average, and mediocrity long enough.  It’s time to move into the area of excellence.  It’s time to get motivated, fired up, and charged up to be used by God to bless somebody else.  It’s time for us to go higher as a resource in this community.  We have to rid ourselves of the status quo and begin to do things differently.  We need to explore the opportunities regardless of the opposition.  Amen.

The story is told in Luke 5:1-10 of some anglers who had fished all night long and captured nothing.  Finally, after hours of exhaustive work with no results they began to clean their nets and prepare to accept defeat and go home.  But then Jesus showed up and asked them to allow him to use their boats to minister to the crowds.  After they had served the LORD, he wanted to bless them.  He told them to cast their nets on the other side of the boat opposite from where they had toiled all night.  They almost missed this opportunity.  They were tired, exhausted, and frustrated.  The majority did not want to do it.  But thank God, Peter was willing to try it.  Peter was willing to say as their leader, let’s at least try it his way.  And when they did they caught so many fish, they were living in opulence.  This one catch done God’s way made them rich beyond their wildest dreams.  Their opulence was such that they had to enlist others to come help them put the fish in their boats.  They had more than enough.  This was a testimony that God had been with them and many other lives were impacted through their knowledge and belief in God.  God used this opportunity, though fraught with opposition, to bless them and those engaged in the fishing business with them. They were a changed people, changing the world.

Beloved, don’t be afraid to trust God’s word.  He is telling us that it is time for us to move to the next level.  I challenge you to excel in whatever you do for the LORD.  When God presents an opportunity for you to minister to someone else, take full advantage of it.  Embrace all the opposition as challenges and keep on moving.  You will experience walking in your wealthy place.  Oh, the joy of leaving poverty, sickness and despair behind.  Oh, the joy of experiencing true love and friendship.  Oh, the joy of not having to repeat mistakes from the past because you did what you needed to do to learn from your mistakes.  Now everyday in everyway your life is getting better and better. 

Beloved, you’ve circled these mountains of defeat long enough, turn north.  Turn toward God through Jesus Christ and allow him to change your entire life.  Decide that you are going to work in concert with God and not against God.  Determine that from now on you refuse to serve the world, your own selfish aims, and the devil.  Resolve to embrace God’s way and God’s word.  Resolve that you’re going to seize God-given opportunities, overcome opposition, and enjoy opulence as you serve the Lord.  Then and only then will you reach your promised land.

The Courage to Be

“Whosoever shall find his life shall lose it; whosoever shall lose his life for my sake shall find it.” (Matthew 10 : 39)

Introduction 
Since the dawn of time mankind has struggled to find meaning in life.   Jesus posits a challenge in our text this morning. 

Jesus challenges us to find not only the true meaning for life; but also challenges us to dedicate the life we find to him for his purposes. 
Who am I?  Where am I?  Am I awake or asleep?  Alive or dead?  How did I get here?  What am I supposed to do while I’m here?  Is there life after death?  Why is there death? 
         

The Movie, “The Matrix” sought to answer these questions.  In this movie the world we know as reality is depicted as some form of pseudo-reality.  It was a sham, a hoax, perpetrated by those who sought to enslave humanity through use of its vices and weaknesses.  The real world in “the Matrix” was the machine world; a world of reality confined to numbers and cold, unemotional purpose.  If you had a purpose you were allowed to serve the Architect of this pseudo reality otherwise you were terminated. 
         

The key was to have your mind expiated from this pseudo reality by Morpheus and to be reborn as a cross between human and machine.  Once freed your powers were increased and you could fight the machine world to regain and protect the pseudo reality which you despised in the first place.  Zion as it were was the city of bliss and happiness that all humans coveted; it had to be protected at all costs.  Zion was the aim and object of those seeking to be freed.  It was a very intriguing movie but left us just as confused as we were before its production.  For you see trying to answer life’s questions apart from Jesus is futile, frustrating, and fruitless.
         

Jesus uproots us from this pseudo reality and transports us into a new reality, the reality of God’s Kingdom. We can choose to spend our life trying to discover what and who we are in this world or we can spend our time discovering what and who we are in the Kingdom.  In the former choice, we find a never ending story; but in the latter decision we find absolute power, purpose, and passion for living.  In other words we can spend our time finding out who and what we are only to keep discovering that we can’t fully discover it or we can find and discover who we are based on our relationship with Jesus Christ.

Let us explore these two choices, seeking to find out about ourselves in this world or seeking to find out about our relationship to God in this world. 

These two choices are reflected in the words of this text:  “Whosoever shall find his life shall lose it; whosoever shall lose his life for my sake shall find it.”  This is a strange and mind boggling text.  It seems to suggest two pathways; one that leads to death and one that leads to life after death. 

In other words, even after we spend a lifetime looking for the answers to the quintessential questions “Who Am I?” “Why Am I Here?” outlined before, even after we find the answers, we will still end up losing our life. 

So, should we spend our time looking for our life knowing that we will lose it anyway?  Or should we decide how we will live our lives in this world?

Move 2
Now consider this:  We are persons!  “A person is one who knows the world around him and particularly who knows himself in relation to that world and to other persons. . . . A person may be influenced from without, but the determining factor in shaping life and destiny is from within.  Others may influence us; we determine ourselves.  This means that a person has the power of looking ahead and of choosing one’s own course in light of moral distinctive. 

Thus the challenge that Jesus poses is a challenge that can literally be accepted.  This challenge is to “be or to become.”  It is to find out who and what you really are and to “be” that unique distinct person, and then surrender that person to him and his cause.  It is what Paul Tillich in his novel work The Courage to Be puts this spin on the text:. ” …  Therefore, Jesus says that we are to take accept the life we find or determine within ourselves to use that life for his purpose, power, and passion.  That passion is to help others discover their true selves and then commit that self to God through a personal relationship with Jesus as a disciple.  Since loss of life is inevitable, Jesus challenges us to lose it doing the will of God rather than our own.  But who can make such decision without first discovering who they are and “being” who they are in relation to this world?  None of us can truly decide to become disciples of Jesus until we first discover who we are without Jesus.  From such thinking is derived the saying of Shakespeare, “To Thine Own Self Be True.”  

There are obstacles to determining who and what we are.  They are three:  intimidation, domination, and manipulation.  Each derive from our relationship with others.  Your environment influences your choices; intimidation, domination, and manipulation negatively influence you becoming your true self.  All three of these obstacles are the forces of darkness that seek to cut you off from the light which shines once you obtain wisdom and knowledge about yourself.  Only after overcoming these three negative influences can we discover our true self and with that the “life” of which Jesus speaks.

Move 3
          Many of us quite frankly are hypocrites.  We pretend to be who we are not.  We have lived in response to intimidation, domination, and manipulation.  We have kept our true self hidden, protected from the world or those in our environment. 

Only when we develop the courage to be can we relinquish that true self to Jesus in discipleship.  Living as someone you’re not keeps you chained, isolated, imprisoned. 
         

Only when you decide to “be” can you realize the depths of your alienation from God and accept God’s Son, Jesus as Savior.

This notion of being is as a homosexual coming out of the closet.  It is as an alcoholic refusing to drink another alcoholic beverage.  It is as you and I determining to speak our truth refusing to allow others to intimidate, dominate, or manipulate us. 
         

Being you is tough.  Being you means accepting who you are at the core of your being: the good, the bad, the ugly.  People in the world often exclaim, “Don’t judge me!” “Accept me for who I am.” “What you see is what you get!” Then, go on to be who they think someone else wants them to be.  Being you is tough; accepting you is even more difficult.
          Yet, this is exactly the you Jesus is challenging you to be. 

He does so because this is the you God is after.  David, the King of Israel gave God his true self: whoremonger, murderer, selfish,warrior, betrayer, lover, friend, leader, servant, shepherd, singer, song writer, worshipper.  David was all these things; but David dedicated his total nature, his true self, to God.  And God accepted David as a son. David the Bible commends David on this one point, “David was a man after God’s own heart.” David sought to become who God intended him to be even as David dealt with his own true self.
         

This is discipleship: surrendering your true nature to Jesus and exchanging that nature for Christ’s nature.  It is an evolving, transformative relationship with Jesus Christ. 

This, my friends, is the courage to be.  Jesus invites us to trust Him with our true selves knowing that Jesus has paid the price and knows the way for us to live free eternally.  I urge you to submit your true nature to Jesus today! Amen.

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