Thursday, March 29, 2012

God hasn't overlooked you

Ever feel like God is overlooking you? Maybe all your friends around you are moving on to better jobs, getting their degrees, getting married, having families, moving forward in ministry or maybe a new house or something whilst you're sitting there patiently asking, "God, where's mine?"

I've asked God that question several times and most times I'm sharply rebuked. Other times, His silence tells me that He's already answered my question so go look around! :)

But seriously, sometimes we get so caught up in envying the blessings of others, we fail to see God coming through for us time and time again. Even though your friends may have the family, or the fancy cars or the house etc, they may not always be happy. I personally know some folk who seem to have it all put together on the outside, but upon closer examination, their problems completely surpass mine.

You see, our problem as humans is that we view progress as the big things, when God may have been working on the little things in our lives. You may have had a difficult childhood and God may have been spending time working out the stuff that hinders your freedom. Or you may be very fragile from a past hurt, so God is spending time reaffirming you, healing you and comforting you before he brings the correct man into your life. You may be longing for a new house, but God desires something greater than you have seen with your own eyes for you, so He's taking his time getting "all the ducks in a row" before setting it before you.

Remember, that if you move out of God's season for your life, you're asking for trouble. Don't be envious of what you see your friends achieving, God's plan for you is greater that what you can see. Don't spend time trying to be rich like Brother Bob, or "filled with the spirit" like Sister Jane. Spent time becoming you. Move in the direction God says to. Spend time with him, love him and learn him, He will show you his plans for you in due time and in the meantime you'll grow spiritually, not like Sister Jane, but like you, the you God wants you to be.

Be Blessed!

Joana James - Author of From Redemption to Maturity,   Nightmare at Emerald High & Alana and Alyssa's Secret  

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

From Redemption to Maturity - A devotional

From Redemption to Maturity - A Devotional

I've been posting so many devotionals that I'd like to share with the world, not just those who stumble across my blog, so I've decided to put them into a series of books. This is the first of the series, and it's called From Redemption to Maturity, simply because that is the intention. I'd like to see Christians just like myself move from just being a Christian, to being strong and powerful forces that the devil must thing twice to mess with. I've  kept the cost low, $0.99 cents, and that's where it will stay. From time to time it will be free because all I really want to do is get these messages out there.

Even if you're an avid follower of this blog, I'm sure you'd appreciate the opportunity to read a few of this devotions in your quiet time, away from a computer and the world.

I Pray that this project will touch many lives.

Here's the Blurb:

From Redemption to Maturity is a small collection of devotionals that are meant to encourage, strengthen and stir the hearts of Christians towards maturity.

With every story, I have included my own person testimonies and experiences. I wouldn't share something with the world that I don't believe or haven't experienced myself.

The purpose of this devotional is to see Christians blossom and grow, so may you flourish with each page.

Why Nightmare at Emerald High

Where I grew up, the occult has always been a very touchy subject. However, stories passed on from generation to generation of the encounters of various people with things that can only be supernatural. My own mother has stories of "ti bolon" and other other-worldly beings following her through the quaint fishing village of Anse-La-Raye where she grew up. Nowadays, the stories are a bit more sophisticated and sinister. It is no longer the isolated "gaddeh" (St. Lucian Creole for "Seer") performing strange rituals that promise to keep evil spirits away; but now, secret societies are widely accepted as normal. These good old boys clubs seem quite normal and harmless but the few that have had direct contact with them will tell you quite a different story.

There are seeral rumours coming out of the schools about witches clubs etc and whilst this may sound far-fetched to some, I say, where there is smoke, there's fire.

It is with all these things in the backdrop that I created the story "Nightmare at Emerald High". I've realised the danger that so many of our teens face with some of the "harmless" curricula taught at public schools. New concepts are introduced and our children are expected to accept it as truth. This is a truly dangerous time to be a teenager and my book Nightmare at Emerald High seeks to warn our teens of this danger.

Grab yourself a copy today whilst it's free. Get a copy for each of your children, nieces, nephews, friends' kits etc. It has been described as a real eye-opener for parents and I hope that after reading this, even one teen may be saved from a life of bondage.

Nightmare at Emerald High: A Christian Thriller

The Blurb: 
Malcolm Drake is one year away from the end of high school when a tantalizing scholarship offer comes his way. Malcolm and several other classmates eagerly join a program called Alternative Science that promises to open their minds to new ways of thinking and of course, help them win that scholarship. Little do they know that this program would change their lives forever. The class is riddled with eerie séances, encounters with spirit guides and a slow desensitization of the teens towards everything evil until they become completely entangled in the world of the occult.
With the program being run by the town's most influential people, will the teens escape with their innocence?

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Test of Faith

1 Some time later, God tested Abraham’s faith. “Abraham!” God called.

“Yes,” he replied. “Here I am.”

2 “Take your son, your only son—yes, Isaac, whom you love so much—and go to the land of Moriah. Go and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will show you.”

3 The next morning Abraham got up early. He saddled his donkey and took two of his servants with him, along with his son, Isaac. Then he chopped wood for a fire for a burnt offering and set out for the place God had told him about. 4 On the third day of their journey, Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. 5 “Stay here with the donkey,” Abraham told the servants. “The boy and I will travel a little farther. We will worship there, and then we will come right back.” Genesis 22: 1-3

Every time I read or think about this passage of scripture, I can't help but shake my head in amazement. God gave Abraham a son through whom His promises to him would be fulfilled, and then He asks him to sacrifice that son.

I know what my response to God would have been and I sure yours would probably sound something like mine! But Abraham proved his loyalty to God in a number of ways.

  1. He was full of faith - To know that you are about to kill your promise and still go ahead and do it requires A LOT of faith. Abraham must have believed in his heart that God would some how provide him with another son or another means of blessing, so he went forth in blind faith. 
  2.  He was very trusting - He knew that God always has his best interest at heart, so to be willing to sacrifice his promise, he was showing God that he trusted him to come through for him in the end. 
  3.  He walked in complete obedience to God - God asked for something and he obeyed. There were no questions or periods of delay, he simply did what God asked. 
  4.  He knew the voice of God - I know if I heard a command like that, I'd rebuke the devil. But Abraham knew the voice of his God because they were friends. Their relationship was so tight that he knew for sure that it was God speaking to him. (That came in very handy when God needed to stop him from killing his son!)
We can all take a page from Abraham's book. He trusted God completely and in the end he was blessed beyond measure. He passed God's test of faith with flying colours. God was so pleased that he stopped him from sacrificing his son and provided a ram for the sacrifice. Sometimes, God may be asking us to hand him something that is very dear to us, but we hold on to it because we love it so much. Our love for certain things supersedes our love for God, yet if we only surrender those things to Him, he will bless us with so much more.

My encouragement to you today is to trust your God like Abraham did. Have faith in him, obey him completely, not just when things are going good. And of course, develop a relationship with him that can withstand any test.

Joana James - Author of Nightmare at Emerald High & Alana and Alyssa's Secret  

Friday, March 23, 2012

I've got a Crazy Praise

Yesterday, I conducted a little experiment on twitter. I had all my friends going, looking for scripture verses in the Bible that offered Praise to God, then posting them. I did a search on the word "praise" and my search turned out 380 results. Imagine 380 verses with the word praise in it; and we have not even considered the verses that offer praise without actually having the word praise in them.

So why is it that so many Bible verses are dedicated to praise? I have a theory and you'll let me know if you agree. I don't know about you, but something happens to me when I praise God. It doesn't matter how depressed, lonely, angry, miserable or whatever, no matter how I feel, when I begin to praise God genuinely (in Spirit and in Truth), something happens to me. You see, God inhabits the Praises of his people and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. So it stands to reason then, then when I Praise and God shows up, depression, anger, loneliness and everything else would have to leave right. There are so many scriptures dedicated to praise because your praise must outweigh everything else. It must outweigh your complaints, your requests and your prayers of supplication. Praise must come first. In many great battles, the praise team was sent first. See the earlier post Praise God in Advance for more info on this.

Sometimes it's necessary to just raise an absolutely Crazy Praise. It may make no sense to the person next to you, or maybe even to your own self. But it in the midst of adversity, shout out a praise. Let it come from deep within you, especially when you don't feel like it, cause really and truly, that's when you need it most. The devil can't stand it when we praise God. He has no choice but to step aside as the Spirit of God comes in to inhabit our praise.

So go on, let it out. Let out your praise. Loudly, softly, however, it doesn't matter really. As long as you mean it. Let out your Crazy Praise!

If you feel so inclined, join me on twitter today with your #crazypraise. Use the hashtags #crazypraise and #praisetest and let's blaze up cyberspace with our Praise!

Joana James - Author of Nightmare at Emerald High & Alana and Alyssa's Secret 

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Child-like faith

It's amazing the things God reminds us of and when he reminds us of them. It's 3:50am and I'm wide awake because there is way too much on my mind. In recent weeks, I've hardly been able to utter a prayer of real depth to a God I certainly love with all my heart. My situation has just been weighing so heavily on my mind, I'm not even sure how to pray about it. But this morning, God is reminding me of a time when I was so young, innocent and naive that I'd come to him about anything.

I must have been only about 4 years old or so but I remember it clearly. Our home was being renovated and new carpeting being installed. I was the youngest of five children, my younger brother hadn't been born yet. Everybody else was at least ten years older than me, so I was the baby of the family. So anyway, we had new carpeting installed. My older brothers did it themselves and I spent the entire time watching them closely. They were using heavy duty staple guns to fasten the carpet to the floor and somewhere in my 4 year old mind, I figured I could use said staple guns to put a little book of plain paper together for my own drawing pleasure.

Well, If you've ever used one of those things then you'd know that it is very powerful and the staples do not come out of whatever you've shot them into very easily. I gathered up several scraps of paper and set out on my mission. I found a staple gun that was unattended and positioned myself in a corner behind the table and out of sight of any meddling adults. I placed my paper on the floor, grabbed my "stapler" and went to work. After lots of flexing of my 4 year old muscles, I fired the gun through my paper and into the floor. Satisfied with my work, I tried to grab my book and run. The book would not budge. The thing was stapled to the floor!

At that point I panicked. First of all, I was not supposed to be playing with the staple gun. Secondly, I may have just ruined the newly installed carpet.  I could see my punishment coming. I'm an 80s kid, from the Caribbean, where spanking is allowed. I could feel my behind contorting in anticipation of the punishment. I could not be found out! I was desperate. I tugged and pulled and tugged some more, but the thing just would not budge. I heaved and tugged and heaved again, still no luck. So, I did what I knew would work. I clasped my hands and closed my eyes like I was taught in Sunday School and prayed. "Lord, if you'll help me get it out, I promise I'll be good." Satisfied that God would answer my prayer, I began to tug again. But it was to no avail, minutes passed and sweat began to pour down my face, but the book wouldn't budge. So, I prayed again. "Lord, If you help me get it out before mom sees me, I'll be really, really good." And I tugged again. Nothing happened. I was desperate so I prayed again. "God, if you keep me out of trouble, I'll be extra, extra good." Then, I looked up and saw my mom, my brothers and my sister all watching me. My heart nearly leapt out of my chest. They had been watching me for quite some time really, as I prayed in earnest to get the staple out of the floor. When they realised they'd been found out, my brother rescued me and removed the staple from the floor. I did get chastised, but they were all so amused by my childish faith that I didn't spanked. Thank you God for answering my prayer! :-)

Tonight God reminded me of that day and that prayer. I was willing to come to him for something so little, yet now, with a problem as big as I'm experiencing, I'm avoiding Him. Sometimes, we try to fix our own stuff, organize our own lives and God is sitting there waiting for us to come to Him. It's not that I don't think that God can fix my situation; I'm afraid that he won't choose to. So I've been trying to spare myself the disappointment. But tonight, I'm learning that all those years ago, he didn't answer my first two prayers the way I wanted, but it all worked out in the end. I was chastised because it was necessary, but I was spared the full brunt of my mother's wrath. Maybe I can learn to trust Him to answer my prayer as He sees fit this time around. I'm reminded that if I do, it will all work out in the end. What we really need is child like faith. We must believe that the God we serve loves us enough to sort out our situations, not the way we want it, but the way we need it.

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

Joana James - Author of Nightmare at Emerald High & Alana and Alyssa's Secret

Thursday, March 15, 2012

In the end, I WIN

I wrote this little piece in October 2011. I look back at it now and laugh a little, but there's still a lesson to be learnt. I guess I must have been going through a pretty difficult period when I wrote this, but the message in the end is the absolute truth, in the end, we Win!

So sue me for wanting to be successful.
Or better yet, thrash me for desiring life not filled with misery.
Condemn me for needing to feel loved.
Maybe you’d even want to hang me, for deciding not to be a pawn in your evil game.
I know you hate me for setting standards that you can’t reach.
So maybe you should just try to hang me and get it over with.
But wait, my fate is NOT in your hands.
My destiny you CANNOT hinder.
The plans for my life are greater than you can ever imagine.
Whether you try to sue me, thrash me, condemn me, or hang me,
The plans of my God will still go unhindered.
Didn’t you hear, greater is he that is in me, than he that is in you!
Didn’t you hear, No weapon that you form against me can win!
Didn’t you hear, His plans for me are plans of peace!
Didn’t you hear, He’s already written my book,
I decided to sneak a peek at the last chapter,
And guess what, world, in the end I WIN!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Pain, a catalyst for Growth

So many times people have told me "pain is necessary", "you have to go through stuff in order to grow". At the time when you're feeling the pain, those statements are really, really hard to believe. The last thing you want to hear when you're hurting, is that the hurt is necessary.

However, one day, after you have gone through it all you'll realise how much you've changed because of what you went through. You'll realise that your standards may be set higher to avoid further disappointment, or you avoid doing certain things or going certain places for self preservation.

Have you ever been around a baby who's in the teething stage. They experience incredible pain and some babies even develop fevers. They chew on their tongues, fingers or whatever they can find to ease the discomfort, but pretty soon, a brand new set of teeth develop and they can move on to the solid foods that their bodies now require to continue growing.

Our Spirits are the same. In the early days of our Christianity we're shielded and protected from serious harm. We're fed spiritual milk and slowly the growing pains start. Situations around us become difficult and we get tested. With each situation, the aim is to push us toward growth. In the future, the pain we experienced serves as a reminder. "Don't go down that path again" our consciences will tell us. Our hearts will tell us, "remember you got hurt severely when you did things this way". That reminder helps us make wiser decisions and become better people.

That's when you realise that all those people were actually right. Your pain really is a catalyst for growth, but only if you learn the lessons that it came to teach you.

As a young adult I had a really short temper. I was also very defensive and would lash out at any one who would dare to hurl an insult or say anything to offend me. Recently, I had an experience where a co-worker deliberately and blatantly made statements to destroy my character and reputation. Today, I sat back and examined my response and I realise just how much I have actually grown. I didn't react angrily, I didn't even respond. I didn't pray for God to hurt him, I just let it slide. All those years of pain from the backlash of my angry responses have taught me to hold my tongue and let God sort out my troubles. And finally, after many years, my pain has made me develop a new reflex, I now keep silent in the face of insults.

Don't go through pain in vain, let it bring change and transformation to your life. Let it push you to grow, for growth is its purpose. 

Saturday, March 10, 2012

From Redemption, to Maturity

Maturity may be defined as a "State of being brought by natural processes to completeness of growth and development" or "pertaining to a condition of full development as a man of mature years." The natural processes which lead to maturity can be hindered or helped.

There is within every man, a hunger to find his reason and purpose for being. Much of the restlessness among all people is caused by a search for life's meaning. Every person needs a goal and as long as man remains apart from God, his desire for spiritual growth cannot be fulfilled. Our denial of this need to know and serve the Creator is an act of sin that prevents spiritual maturity.

We can really see that every person is born with a pressing need to be growing toward a goal. Often, a person feels this need in terms of schooling, wealth, or status and promotion. In truth, this need can only be satisfied with a proper relationship with God. It is not enough to just know him, or to ask him to forgive our sins. There must be a shift from the redemption phase, to actual maturity. The growth process enables us to be become more and more like Him. As we spend time with him, we learn more about what he requires of us and it becomes easier to follow his will.

Jesus came into our world as a revelation of God's concern that we find our true purpose. Jesus is the model of the correct "God-man" relationship. His wholeness was the result of a life lived in correct relationship with His Source. His life, death and resurrection opened the way for man to truly fulfil his purpose. What sin robbed from us, Christ restored.

What is most important for us to remember, is that as Christians, our walk must always be characterised by growth. There must be movement towards the character of Christ. One should be able to look back at life and notice change and find a greater level of maturity in some way shape or form. My encouragement to us all, is to strive for growth, identify the areas in your life that require a bit more maturity and work on them, one at a time if need be. Remember though, that Christ is the catalyst for growth. Christian maturity can only truly happen with his involvement.

Joana James - Author of Nightmare at Emerald High & Alana and Alyssa's Secret

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Anthem Song by Lisa D. Evans

Hosanna! Hosanna!
Hosanna in the Highest!
To the Lion of the Tribe of Judah
For He is the greatest!

Holy, holy, Lord God Almighty
The whole earth is filled, with His glory!

Worthy, worthy,
Worthy is the Lamb
Against all the critics of the ages -
His Kingdom will stand!

Blessing, honour, glory and power
Be unto the Ancient of Days, forever!
From everlasting to everlasting
Mankind will never understand your ways!

Echoes through time's corridors
Reverberation of Your praise!

Higher and higher,
We lift the Alpha and Omega!

To You alone we pledge allegiance,
To You alone, and no other!

We bow before your throne.
We cast our crowns at Your feet.
We wait in Anticipation
For the King of Kings to speak;

"All power has been given unto Me,
If you suffer with Me, you will reign triumphantly!"

All power has been given unto You;
It is true.
We suffer with You,
That we will reign with You too! Selah.

Poem No. 14 of Jubilee Chronicles by Lisa D. Evans

See my review of the entire book here. 

Jubilee Chronicles is a collection of psalms, hymns and spiritual songs that are expressions to the One I love, My Creator. It is not for the faint hearted but only for those who are not afraid to express and receive true love in the face of adversity and uncertainties. I have learnt to rely on the knowledge, wisdom and foresight of My Creator because of His position as Creator. He made me, so He knows what is best for me.
I have taken time to write some thoughts during a tumultuous time in my life which, I am sure you may identify with. These words were drawn from deep within when everything with-out, sought to discourage and pull down. They were then mingled with the truth of God’s Word – He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6), to create an inspirational piece that goes beyond the emotion!

My prayer is that you will find strength and courage to trust in God as you read this First Volume of Jubilee Chronicles. Seasons are meant to change, so enjoy every season!

Friday, March 2, 2012

On your own

My first book, is about two young girls who went through the most impossible of circumstances, dealing with prostitution, rape and a druggie for a mother, they almost had no chance at a decent life. One sister had it all put together, the other didn't appear so. So who do you think succeeded? (I'm not telling you, the book is free today so go get it :D)

There is an ingredient that is key to success, and without it, we could try our hardest but we are not very likely to succeed. I've heard many people over the years say, "I'll come to Christ after I've changed my life", or, "I really need to change you know". I have many friends who are heavy drinkers say many, many times, "I'm not going to drink any more", only to go back to the bottle later.

In my book, one sister refused the help of the one person who could see her through her pain, the other embraced him. Several times we reject the only person who can really help us out of the mess of our lives. There are certain things that we just cannot do by ourselves, no matter how hard we try, simply because it requires supernatural strength. Let's face it, none of us have supernatural strength. The will to stop drinking, or doing drugs or even other "less dangerous" habits must come from within us, but without God's help, many fail.

The Holy Spirit provides both the conviction and the comfort when we need it. He convicts us to put down the bottle and comforts us when we crave it. He reminds us of God's love, and gives us something else to live for. And that is the most important part, having something else that is much more important to live for.

When life seems way too difficult for us to keep going, God reminds us of the plans he has for us. In a moment of despair, you may feel suicidal as I have been before. But each time, God reminds us that he's there and he still cares. The questions is asked "Where is God when it hurts?" I'll dare to say that he's right there speaking, we simply aren't listening for his voice. .

My prayer is that you won't ignore God the way one of the sisters did in my book, but that you'll embrace him like the other. His arms are wide open and he has the blueprint for your life, trust him to lead the way.

Alana & Alyssa's Secret: Rise from the Ashes

Alana and Alyssa are young girls struggling to live in a world that has been cruel to them since birth. The death of their father destroys their mother who becomes hooked on drugs and see the girls as a quick way to earn money for more. Alana seems like the one most likely to succeed whilst Alyssa gives in to a world of prostitution and fast money. Will they Rise above their circumstances? Or will their world continue to fall apart?

N.B. This book was free on the day this blog post was created. Unfortunately, the promotion has since ended. However you can still grab a copy if you so desire here.