Will the Circle Be Unbroken?

     Last September my mother passed away. She was our queen and we literally placed a crown on her head as she lay in her casket. She meant the world to us, and we sent her “home” in grand style with a celebration fit for royalty. Mama was the glue that kept the family together. Not only did she model grace and beauty, she also taught us the power of prayer. We rarely prayed together as a family, but I often heard her pray for so many people when I happened to pass her room any time of the day. I remember my pastor say that God had called her to build something through prayer. I never quite knew what that meant, but I imagined He had given her a great assignment which affected many lives.

As I think about her today, an old hymn is playing in my head:  “Will the Circle Be Unbroken,” sung by numerous individuals like Randy Travis, Aaron Neville and Johnny Cash, as well as groups like the Staple Singers and Dolly Parton and Friends. I’m not sure what all of these fine singers had in mind, but an earlier version by the Carter family describes an intimate picture of a hearse coming to take the singers’ mother away to a gravesite. One of the singers is deeply affected by the loss of his mother. Knowing she is with the Lord gives him great comfort and challenges the family members to pursue a relationship with the Lord in hopes of seeing her again.

When I think of this song, I think of the power of a legacy of prayer. Is there anyone willing to pick up the mantle of prayer and fight for their family members? When the prophet Nehemiah, cup bearer to the king of Persia, was allowed to return to Jerusalem and oversee the rebuilding of the wall around the city, he understood the importance of strategically placing armed guards behind the lowest parts of the wall in the exposed areas. He said, “I stationed the people to stand guard by families, armed with swords, spears, and bows. Then as I looked over the situation, I called together the nobles and the rest of the people and said to them, “Don’t be afraid of the enemy! Remember the Lord, who is great and glorious, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes ( Neh. 4:13 – 14, NLT}.”

My mother understood her call. She was anointed and appointed to pick up the mantle given to my grandmother, another praying woman. And as my four children and their spouses, and I, led by my son-n-law, call our family’s prayer line on Thursday evenings, I rejoice that the legacy of prayer continues. We have experienced God’s faithfulness manifested through restored relationships, sustained health of my husband and other physical healings, job transfers, and a host of other answered prayers.

Will the circle be unbroken? Yes, Lord, by your grace through faith in the only True and Living God! The circle will not be broken!

 

Why I Left My Sorority

    A few weeks ago, I entered a time of fasting and was quite taken by surprise when God showed me something I needed to surrender to him. I hadn’t given much thought to this area until last year when I was invited back to my college to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the founding of my local chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority. You see, I was one of the ten charter members and my name was “written in stone” for subsequent pledgees to memorize and revere.

I was honored when I got a call from a sister regarding the upcoming celebration. She informed me that the chapter wanted to find members of the charter line and that we would be honored at the event. It just so happened that I would be visiting my family in Maryland at the time. I would be a few miles from the event location. I was thrilled! The anniversary was more than expected. I felt like the queen of the ball, as I was the only charter member there that day. As I sat at the head table and took pictures with so many smiling ladies, I thought, “This is great! I’m so proud to be a part of this wonderful sorority. What could top this day?” I left with several gifts and warm memories.

A few months later I looked at the commemorative items on my dresser and smiled. “Wow! That was a celebration I’ll never forget.” About nine months later I felt God nudging me to start a fast, a time of drawing closer to Him and seeking His will for my life. I decided to spend less time watching TV and being on social media. I chose to get in the word and to watch teachings on YouTube for support. One day I listened to a young lady who talked about why she walked away from Delta Sigma Theta Sorority. Her testimony profoundly affected me. She had my attention. I had teased a couple of church members about their sorority from time to time, and they had joked with me as well. We often ribbed one another about whose sorority was the best and who had made a mistake in choosing her sorority. But this was different. God had my attention. I was captivated and I knew I was entering into a time of research and decision-making.

One of the most noticeable concerns for me were the first and second commandments: 

  1. “You shall have no other gods before Me.”
  2. “You shall not make for yourself a carved image (idol). You shall not bow down to them or serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.”

I was convicted. I had never looked at my sorority as a god before, but as I desired to walk closer with My God, I knew He was bringing DST to my attention. I was serving another god, and that was a serious problem. Some might say, “It’s not that serious. It’s only a sisterhood. Come on.” But I took a closer look. The young lady I listened to pointed out the symbol on the sorority hat and I looked at my hat on my dresser. The symbol was the Roman goddess Minerva. I googled the history and discovered she was supposedly the goddess of wisdom, war, art, schools, and commerce. It was said that she was in charge of so many things that she was thought to be “the goddess of a thousand works.” She was said to be influenced by the Greek goddess Athena. These false gods were highly revered by ancient peoples. Minerva was celebrated (worshiped) in a variety of festivals in ancient Rome. Although I did not intentionally worship this false goddess, she would no longer have a place of honor in my life. I wanted my family to be blessed, not cursed by my serving a false goddess. 

Another troublesome issue pointed out was that one of the past presidents of DST edited 1Corinthians 13 to bring prominence to DST, substituting the organizational name for God in the love chapter. For example, the fourth verse goes like this: “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up. The edited version reads, “DST suffers long and is kind; DST does not envy; DST does not parade itself, is not puffed up.” As a born-again Christian, I could no longer align my self with an organization which took liberty to change the holy scriptures for its benefit.

As a result of my newfound revelations, the next thing I did was clean house. Any paraphernalia related to DST had to go: pictures, hat, elephants, or other things representing the sorority. I also contacted my local chapter and asked that my name not be used in any ceremonial events or secret rituals. Deuteronomy 20:29, says “The secret things belong to the Lord our God….” My next step is to contact the national council to publicly renounce my association with the organization.

My heart’s desire is to walk with my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, in close fellowship or intimacy. That involves dying to myself daily, surrendering anything which stands between me and Him. This is my chosen journey, with God’s help.  I, in no way, wish to condemn anyone who desires to participate in any Greek organizations. Joshua 24: 15 reads, “But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

I am a work in process, and so are you. We are all on a journey. God’s not finished with any of us yet. May our goal be to behold Him and pursue Him. May our heart’s desire be to serve Him, and Him alone, all the days of our lives and to bring glory to His Name forevermore! Come, Lord Jesus!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Fresh Revelation of God’s Love Is Coming

 

One of my grandsons often asks me if I still love him whenever he feels he’s disappointed me. My natural tendency in the past was to withdraw from God when I felt I had disappointed Him. Even today, I have to remind myself to go to His Word for the Truth when my attitude stinks. It’s very easy to look at our faults and mistakes and feel unworthy of God’s love, but the truth is God’s love is unconditional. He does not condemn us. He desires that we run to Him, press into His presence and admit our need. Oh, how great is His love toward us!

At the end of Nehemiah 9, God’s people realize they’ve fallen short of the Law of Moses. They call out with these words: “Now therefore, our God, the great, the mighty, and awesome God, who keeps covenant and mercy; do not let all the trouble seem small before You….” In Chapter 10 some gather together and make a covenant (a promise to God) to faithfully obey the law. But guess what! They fail Him over and over again.

What about us? The enemy of our soul, Satan, desires to keep us under condemnation. He wants us to question God’s love for us. Contrary to the lies of the enemy, here are reminders of God’s everlasting love:

Ps. 6:9

     “The Lord has heard my cry for mercy; the Lord accepts my prayer. All my enemies will be ashamed and dismayed; they will turn back in sudden disgrace.”

Ps. 105:8-10

     “He remembers His covenant forever, the word He commands for a thousand generations, the covenant He made with Abraham, the oath He swore to Isaac. He confirmed it to Jacob as a decree, to Israel as an everlasting covenant.”

John 3:16-17

     For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. Only one person, the Lord Jesus Christ, fulfilled the requirements of the Law. The Bible says in Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Jesus paid it all!

Because of Christ, we have full access to the Father. He invites us to come and sit at His feet and be loved. Let us draw near to God, for God is Love and His love is everlasting. Wrap your arms around us, Father. Let us pour our hearts out to you and shower you with our affections. As we do so, we find unconditional love in You. Abba Father! Help us to live in Your presence and daily gain a fresh revelation of Your love!

NEXT WEEK’S ASSIGNMENT: Read and study Nehemiah 11 and focus on the importance of the people finding DWELLING PLACES.

Be encouraged! As always,

     Patricia

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have You Ever Eaten a Maggot?

 

Does anybody remember the show Fear Factor, a reality contest on TV about ten years ago? The worst part about the show was seeing people eat the worst things imaginable–spiders, roaches, crickets, maggots, etc. And all for the chance to win $50,000.00. The truth of the matter is our enemy, the devil, is a master of deception. His tactics are subtle and we must be vigilant if we are to avoid falling for his FEAR FACTORS.

Over the past few weeks, we’ve looked at the qualities of a leader in the Book of Nehemiah. Nehemiah’s mission was to rebuild the ruined walls of Jerusalem. In chapter six, Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem and the rest of his enemies devised another plot to throw Nehemiah off target. Four times they sent a false prophet to intimidate him. Nehemiah refused the bait. Then he was FALSELY ACCUSED of setting himself up as king. Once again, Nehemiah recognized the enemy’s primary tool–FEAR!

You’d think the enemy would quit. Not so! When that didn’t work, the band of naysayers PLANTED AN INFORMER in Nehemiah’s camp. That person told Nehemiah that his enemies were planning to kill him that night and that he should hide in the temple. Now how can a leader accomplish a task if he or she is hiding? Once again, Nehemiah recognized the FEAR FACTOR. He called on God to help him and prayed about his enemies.

Are you facing a tremendous trial? Sickness, unpaid bills, unemployment, bankruptcy, death of loved ones, separation or divorce, or other difficulties? Has the enemy been playing FEAR FACTOR with you? Are you entertaining thoughts like these? Why me? Why now? You’ll never get through this. God doesn’t love you. Why are you wasting your time? Sound familiar? Believe me, I’ve heard them all, and entertained a few.

What can you do when these FLIES are buzzing about your head? RUN TO GOD’S WORD! FAST! FIND A VERSE OR TWO TO HOLD ONTO WITH ALL GOD’S STRENGTH!

We used to sing a line like this: “Whose report shall you believe? We shall believe the report of the Lord.”

MEMORY VERSE: Philippians 4:13- “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Then picture yourself in His arms strengthening you, pouring His love into you, and lifting you up on your feet, with Him in you and behind you. Then thank Him for the victory (every day, every hour, every minute). Sing His Word over yourself!

I’M PRACTICING. Won’t you join me? For Week Eleven, read chapter 7 and use the GROW METHOD (G- God 1st, pray; R- Read; O-Observe key words; W-Write your thoughts) to answer these questions:

1. What appointments did Nehemiah make after the wall was built?

2. What do you think was the purpose of registering the people by genealogy?

Blessings to all! As Always,

Patricia

 

 

I’ve Got a Secret!

I pulled a friend aside at church last week and told her I had a secret to tell her. God had shown me something and I was about to explode with the news, or so I thought. When I got home I realized that out of my excitement I had shared the information prematurely. Have you ever opened your mouth too soon and wished you hadn’t? Fortunately for me, my friend is a woman of integrity. The lesson was not about her; it was for me. When I later read Nehemiah, I began to understand the importance of timing and keeping my mouth shut.

Last week we learned Nehemiah had asked the king of Persia for permission to go to Jerusalem to rebuild the city. In chapter 2:11-20, we discover his PLAN OF ACTION once he arrived at Jerusalem:

1. He waited three days before he did anything. We need to be still and allow God to speak to us.

2. He got up at night. He acted when God showed him to move, not when it was convenient and not when others could see you. 

3. He only took a few “good” men with him. Some people can’t go where God is taking you. They’re just not ready.

4. He checked out the Valley Gate, the Serpent Well, the Refuse Gate and the Walls of Jerusalem. He also examined the Fountain Gate and the King’s Pool. In our own lives, we’ll have some valleys, we’ll get bitten by events, we’ll need to let go of some trash and our walls will seem broken down from time to time. But “there is a Fountain, filled with blood, born from Emmanuel’s veins, and sinners plunge beneath that flood, lose all their guilty stains!” Hallelujah! We can wash in the King’s Pool!

5. The officials–Jews, priests, nobles, officials, or others–did not know where he had gone or what he had done. Are you a secret agent, C.I.A? Are you CALLED IN ANONYMITY? Or do you want to be seen?

6. He finally went to his people, gave a report and invited them to join the cause.  A passionate leader imparts vision after assessing the situation.

7. He faced opposition from three enemies: Tobiah, Sanballat, and Geshem and answered them with confidence in God. WHEN THE ENEMY COMES IN LIKE A FLOOD, GOD IS OUR DEFENSE!

Memory Verse: “For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future (Jer. 29:11, NIV).”

WEEK FIVE ASSIGNMENT: Read Neh. 4:1-9 and answer:

1. What were the enemy’s tactics?

2. What was Nehemiah’s prayer?

3. What was the result?

Until next week, stay on the wall and GROW!

As always,

Patricia

 

 

AWAKE!

A loud knock startled me from my sleep this morning. What in the world was that? Eyes wide open, I lay in bed a few more minutes, thinking that someone was trying to get my attention. I never went to the door, but I knew the Holy Spirit was calling me to prayer. With so many crises in the world–disease, famine, hurricanes–God is calling His people to get up and listen to His instructions for the day. He is praying for us and we, in turn, are to take our assigned place on the prayer wall. I desperately wanted to go back to sleep but wondered what would happen if I didn’t heed the call. No doubt, Nehemiah felt the urgency of his hour.

In Chapter One of Nehemiah, we find him faithfully fulfilling his job as cupbearer for the king of Persia. While there, he got word that his hometown, Jerusalem, was in shambles–walls broken down, gates burned, survivors hopeless. As Chapter Two opens, Nehemiah decides to approach the king and ask permission to go back home and do something about the problem. The king was not a “happy camper” when Nehemiah approached him with a sad face. But he went afraid. IS GOD ASKING YOU TO DO SOMETHING AND ARE YOU AFRAID? THEN WELCOME TO NEHEMIAH’S WORLD! AND MINE. WE can not let fear stop us from fulfilling the call on our lives. Have I done that before? You bet! More than once. But thank God for second, third, and fourth chances. IS GOD CALLING YOU TO LAUNCH OUT?  The very person Nehemiah feared was the person who provided the resources he needed to get the job done.

The king gave Nehemiah letters for safe passage through enemy territory, strong men to accompany him and a “coupon” to get enough wood to repair the gates, the city wall, and BUILD A HOUSE FOR HIMSELF. GO figure! The dude promised the king he’d be back and planned to build a house there. That brother had FAVOR!!!!!!!!

Whatever your assignment, know that God has prepared the way and the resources. Go forth and stake your claim! It’s already done!

Memory Verse: “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory through CHRIST JESUS (Phil. 4:19).”

As you read the next assignment, remember to use the GROW METHOD:

G- GOD. ASK HIM TO OPEN YOUR EYES.

R- READ.

O- OBSERVE KEY NAMES, PLACES, AND REPEATING WORDS.

W-  WRITE 3 – 5 SENTENCES WHICH SUMMARIZE WHAT YOU READ AND HOW IT APPLIES TO YOU.

WEEK FOUR ASSIGNMENT: Read NEH1:11-20 and answer these three questions:

1. What was Nehemiah’s strategy when he got to Jerusalem?

2. How did he motivate the people?

3. Explain how he faced opposition.

Until next week, happy reading!

As always,

Patricia

 

 

Take Me to the King!

What do you do when somebody sends you a text or calls with bad news? A few months ago I was sitting in a restaurant with my husband Willie when a text came from my sister: “I’ve got bad news. Call me when you get the chance.” Right away I got a sinking feeling in my stomach and my mind began to take different routes trying to figure out what the news might be. Had somebody been in an accident? Had somebody died? Was it a friend or relative? How was I going to handle it? Right away, I made a conscious decision to do something “highly spiritual.” I texted her back with this plan of action: “I’m at dinner. I’ll call you when I finish eating.”

Now I consider myself to be a woman of prayer, but my default mode was “have something to eat.” Last week we looked at a person named Nehemiah, a “cupbearer” for the king of Persia. His job was to taste everything to test for possible poisonous drinks or food. As you remember, he was a stranger in a foreign land.  One day some friends came with bad news about his hometown: “The survivors who are left from the captivity…are in great distress, the wall of Jerusalem is broken down and its gates are burned.” How do you think Nehemiah felt about his kinsfolk and home? Right, devastated! He, no doubt, remembered the good times when all was well. 

  Chapter One, verses 4 – 11 sum up the steps Nehemiah took when he heard bad news:

1. He cried and mourned for many days, fasting and praying before God. His crying had purpose.

2. He reminded God that He was a Covenant Keeper.

3. He asked God to listen and keep His eyes open.

4. He confessed his own sins and the sins of his people.

5. He reminded God about the importance of repentance and God’s response.

6. He asked for success and mercy from his captor.

What about us? I believe God establishes patterns that can bring about powerful answers to prayer. As we follow Nehemiah’s journey, remember to use the GROW Method of study.

G- God-Ask Him to open your eyes.

R- Read the assigned passage.

O- Observe key words (Names, Places, Repeating Words)

W- Write 3- 5 sentences to sum up what you read, the principle or rule, and your application.

WEEK THREE ASSIGNMENT: Read Nehemiah 2: 1 – 10 and answer these three questions.

1. Explain how Nehemiah approached the king?

2. What specific things did Nehemiah request?

3. What do you learn about approaching God?

MEMORY VERSE: Philippians 4:19 “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus .”(NKJV)

PRAYER: Father, thank you for your faithfulness in teaching me to seek you before I take action. Help me to release all my cares to you, knowing that you hold the world in your hands. I trust myself to your care. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Happy reading! As always,

Patricia

P.S.  A change: I’ll be posting on Mondays.