Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Emergency Fund

We all have an "emergency fund" - a safety net in the event that we fall sick or have an accident or need to fix a leaky roof etc. The emergency fund is not only a bank account - it could comprise of family members and friends who provide emotional support, a good job, a country with a good economy, a university education and more.  If you're honest with yourself, your stress levels are way lower when you have something to lean on in the case of an emergency. It's common sense. You feel that if something were to happen to you, then you'd at least have the money to take care of yourself, people to help take care of you etc. An emergency fund is a good thing - a great thing really, but it becomes a problem when we trust the emergency fund more that we trust God.

What do I mean by that?

You see, I've been noticing some thing about myself, and I'm pretty sure that I'm not the only one. As a chronic worrier (yes, I know, that needs to change), when I have nothing or no one to fall back on, I go into panic mode. My human nature needs something that I can see to make me feel safe. However, as a child of God, my hope, trust and confidence should be in God, not what I can see. In other words, my automatic reaction should be faith (Hebrews 11:1) and not panic.

So here's where the emergency fund gets us in trouble. Whilst it is an excellent thing to have (and we should all be working on one), when we have it, we tend to lose sight of the fact that God is our provider - He's our source and everything comes from him. We lose sight of the fact that we don't provide for ourselves, God does. Our faith level drops a little bit because we feel that if something happens we'll be fine. We don't remember that it is God who gave the emergency fund in the first place and He loses a little bit of his significance in our lives. That is why, when our emergency fund is depleted, we go into panic mode.

I believe that faith is like a muscle. It must be exercised or it will deteriorate. If we don't learn to have faith even in the good times, when times become desperate it is going to be difficult to wrap our heads around that fact that God can and WILL take care of us.

So what's the message of today's post? As children of a living God, we must remember to put our faith not in the material things that we have, or the persons that we may have around us, or the jobs that we currently hold or the current state of the economy of the country that we live in. Our faith should ALWAYS be in God. He has given us wisdom and has taught us to save for the future, to educate ourselves, to work diligently at whatever job we have and invest in the future. However, let us not let that "emergency fund" distract us from have total faith in our ultimate source.

Be blessed and have a great day.

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Thursday, March 20, 2014

Serving One Another in Love

We all know Christianity means following Christ, i.e. living our lives patterned after the way he lived here on earth and doing the things he taught. One of the biggest things I've noticed about Christ's life is his ministry. When I say ministry, I'm not referring to the noun the way we all use it these days, rather, I refer to it as a verb.

According to Ministry is: a) the profession or duties of a minister of religion and b) the performance of these duties. Hmm... interesting. Does it mean then that as ministers we are required to do something?

You see, I say this because we live in an age where people are obsessed with titles and positions. We call ourselves ministers because we hold certain positions within our local church assembly, but are we really doing ministry?

When Christ walked on planet earth, he healed the sick, the blind, the broken and fed the hungry, both spirituality and physically. He didn't look down on sinners, nor did he cast them aside. He didn't regard the church officials as higher than the regular folk on the street. Rather, he spent more time working with these people, eating in their homes, allowing them to wash his feet and teaching them the errors of their ways in love; showing them that there was a better way to live.

So why then, did our ministry evolve to singing in church to church-folk who already know Jesus and treating others who don't or who are struggling as outcasts? Why do we create tiny cliques of other ministers as "sophisticated" as ourselves to associate with and ignore the plight of everyone else?

See, now I have to be careful with today's posts because I can certainly see a lot of my friends and associates getting mad at me for it because a lot of us fit into these descriptions. However, we must be aware of our mistakes as Christians and this is one of them.

Ministry means helping our fellow man. It means serving those entrusted to our care. It means understanding their plight. It means not being too "stoosh"* to reach down to them in their situations and lend a helping hand. It means leaving the comfort of our church pews sometimes and going next-door to the old lady's house and helping her get rid of the weeds that have over-run her yard. It means, befriending that girl who was just raped and walking her through her recovery process- it does not mean telling her that everything will be alright and then moving on.

Ministry does not mean an exquisitely cut suit with salon-perfect hair and nails and the perfect shoes. We are not called to "look the part" of ministry, we are called to live it. Let's stop being oblivious to the hurt of people around us. There are people in our everyday lives who are in desperate need of help but are afraid to ask us because they fear that we will look down on them. They are afraid that we will offer them only a few church cliches in our best "ministry voice" and then leave them to the wolves to fend for themselves.

Christians, fellow brothers and sisters, our Christianity must be tangible and identifiable. The people we are called to serve need to know that we are accessible and not judgmental or else they will never come to us for their help that they need. If that is the case, then our mission will never be accomplished and Christ's love will never be shown as it should. I'm sure we all agree that we are God's hands here on earth. He does things in the lives of people but it is through other people. If we are too distracted by our church services and our new "ministry suits" then we won't see those who are hurting and who need help.

Let us stop acting the part of ministry and let us learn to live it.

* Stoosh is a term used in the Caribbean to refer to those who are "fresh" or look down on others whom they don't consider to be part of their clique, clan or class. 

Devotions like this one and others can be found in the Soul Food Series in Kindle or paperback format. 
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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Being Pushed Into Bad Decisions

Sometimes we let people who treat us badly push us into bad decisions.  Think about it - how many bad decisions have you made because somebody else hurt you or treated you like less than you are worth? How many times have you gone into rebound relationships with people you would never even entertain if you were not hurting? What about leaving a great job for a crappy one because your boss was being a pain? Or maybe you even decided to switch churches because a certain church member just keeps getting under your skin. 

People who treat us badly can push us to do things that we don't want to do,  but that doesn't have to be the case.  There's a saying that goes,  "he who angers you controls you" and it is very true.  If someone can anger you to the point where you do dumb things, then they are controlling you. 

The Bible reminds us that we can be angry without sinning (Ephesians 4:26).  Today, I want us to remember that we can be hurt and not do dumb things.  Usually with anger we don't stop to think about our reactions,  but with hurt,  we usually have plenty of time to hash things out in our heads.  In situations of hurt,  we can be tempted to sit and stew on what has happened to us but that is actually detrimental to growth.  You won't see the good in your situation if you spent time dwelling on the bad.  Sometimes vengeance is our motivation for doing dumb things,  and other times we are simply searching for relief. We may want to just get away from that mean boss or that awful person in church but doing that may actually shift us from a position that God wants us in so that he can propel us forward.  What if God has a promotion lined for you? What if your future husband is planning to visit your church the same day you decided that you're never going back?

You're going to miss your blessing by moving hastily or under pressure instead of under direction for God. 
Of course the worse case of this I've seen is people jumping into bad relationships because they feel the need to move on from past hurt. It is easy to end up there simply because of all the emotions involved.  If you've been rejected by one person and another person comes along ready to accept you,  then it feels like the best thing in the world.  Unfortunately,  because you're so vulnerable you may be hooking up with a monster and not realise it until it's too late. 

My encouragement to us all today is to remain focused on God's voice; especially in the times where you feel frustrated or hurt.  Those are the times the enemy jumps on to bring dumb distractions in our way.  If we're focused on God then we'll see the warning signs and be able to dodge certain destruction.  If we're focused on our hurt and looking only for relief then we may make some terrible decisions that have far reaching repercussions. 

Do have a blessed day and remember to stay focused on God. 

Devotions like this one and others can be found in the Soul Food Series in Kindle or paperback format. 
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Thursday, March 6, 2014

Dealing with loss

People always say you never know what you have until you lose it. I think that sometimes, you know exactly what you have and you know that losing it will be terrible, but you never really understand just how terrible until its actually gone.

Mommy & Me - cutting cake on her 60th Birthday
Growing up, my mother was my rock, the glue that held my family together and the person who taught me that above all else, trust God with everything. When she was diagnosed with Stage 3 Ovarian cancer, part of me died. I was faced with the harsh reality that one day soon, she'd be gone. The day came eventually and whilst I was sad, a part of me was grateful that her suffering was done. That kept me sane for a while; well until I realised that I could never ask her what recipes I could make with the local "farine" I have had on the dinning room table for several weeks now.

Losing important people in your life sucks, big time. No matter what anybody says, it never really gets easier. You just learn to cope and keep yourself occupied. Thankfully, we Christians have an advantage. We know that our loved ones who have died in Christ will live again. We know that their earthly suffering has ended and that they will never know suffering again. People say that we'll see them again in heaven but honestly I'm not so sure that when we get there we'll even be interested in finding long lost loved ones. I may be wrong, who knows - I guess we'll find out one day.

Today's post is to comfort those of us who've lost the most important people in our lives. Until I lost a parent, I always thought that I understood what it would be like for an individual to lose a parent. Now, I know that I wasn't even close to imagining the pain. One year later, the only people who I speak to about losing my mother are my two friends who also lost parents. It feels like nobody else really gets what I'm going through. Speaking to my friends who understand my pain makes me realise, that I'm not the only one who feels that way. They echo my sentiments and tell me that they don't talk about it either cause people whose parents haven't died don't get it.

It's easy to simply shut everybody out of ours lives because they simply don't get what we're going through. That's not always a good thing though, because in spite of the fact that people don't get it, sometimes they can actually help.

Be reminded also, that in spite of the fact that our earthly friends simply don't get it, God does. He still has our backs, even when you don't understand (like me) why he had to take our loved ones. Find comfort and strength in him. Stay focussed on today's tasks and preparation for a successful future. If at all possible, find someone who actually understands to speak to about your loss - talking really does help.

Stay blessed and have a bearable day.

Devotions like this one and others can be found in the Soul Food Series in Kindle or paperback format. 
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