Posts tagged ‘faith’
I’ve always wanted to be an accomplished writer. From the moment I read Alice Walker’s book Meridian at the age of 13, I wanted to be an author. I love the way words exemplify the human condition so concretely. The way a good story can transport a reader from a mundane existence to another world. I love that when expended into the pages of a good book I could be anyone I chose to be and that writing allows me to dream out-loud and share that dream with readers from every walk of life.
Books are magical. Inspiring. Influential. From the heartfelt stories of a Christian novel to the powerful pages of the Holy Bible, books change lives and good writers are invaluable. At a young age, God showed me that writing was my true calling but to step into the life He pre-destined for me I had to activate my faith.
In preparation to walk into my destiny, I spent many years honing my writing skills. Even though when I look back at that time in my life, I realize I didn’t always trust my talent. Therefore, I did other things. I worked various jobs, started businesses and wrote for other people. It was safer to do those things then to go after my dreams head-on. I was afraid to be the writer God wanted me to be until 2005, the year I turned 31-years-old and the same year I lost my mother to cancer. Her death changed my life. It brought forth a strong desire within me to live a life of purpose in dedication to her because she loved me unconditionally. To be the writer I wanted to be I needed faith in God’s promises for my life as well as the support of people who inspired me to move towards my dreams.
Many people have the same story. We are passionate about dancing, but we never become a dancer. We are skilled carpenters, but we take jobs sitting behind a desk. We love to sing, but we never join the choir or share that gift with the world. We hear God’s calling on our lives but refuse to accept it because of our fears. We become what I call boat-people, afraid to take a step out of the boat – our comfort zone – because of our fleeting sense of security and a flawed belief that our God-given talents aren’t good enough to be accepted by the world.
The boat symbolizes the limitations of living in the flesh – an act that’s rocky and unstable yet conventional. Most of us are raised to be boat-people. We are expected to conform to this world and the expectations of man. Stepping away from the boat represents our growing faith in God and finding our true purpose in life. The importance of finding our true purpose is to honor God by fulfilling His Great Commission to spread his teachings to all the nations. When we fail to live a purposeful life and to use our gifts to glorify God’s Kingdom we hinder the spiritual growth within our homes, our communities and the world.
The boat carries many people who believe it’s safer to stay in it than to venture out. But when God has placed in your heart a belief that life has more to offer than sitting in the boat, you experience a powerful pull towards your calling.
In Matthew 14, the Bible illustrates the power of stepping away from the boat and subsequently, fear-stricken boat-people. In these verses, Jesus sends the disciples in a boat to cross a lake and wait for him on the other side. As time progress, Peter and the other disciples find themselves in the boat far from land. The boat had sailed a considerable distance from where Jesus was, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it. Jesus, who had gone up a mountainside alone to pray, was not with his disciples when the wind and darkness cast fear upon them.
The Bible states in Matthew 14:25-29 (NIV): Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”
Over the years, I’ve cherished the teachings of these verses. Jesus walks on water and Peter, a commoner, joins him on the water until his lack of faith causes him to sink. Every time I hear this story, I am drawn to understand better the symbolism of the boat itself and how this story is an example of what happens when God is calling for us to walk in our destiny, but we fail to move closer to him. In my opinion, Peter’s failure didn’t come from his lack of faith once he got on the water, but his lack of faith before he stepped out of the boat. In the boat were the other disciples who I imagined were debating what to do. Should they turn back? Should they cry out? Should they drop the anchor and stop moving? They were afraid. Afraid to go forward, move backward or to leave the boat. They were boat-people struggling to save themselves and convinced the situation before them was too dire to be resolved, even by God.
Peter, engulfed in his own fears and those of the other disciples, had to decide what to do. Peter called out to Jesus in Matthew 14:28, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water. Instead of believing that only Jesus would have the power to walk on water, Peter, a loyal disciple, questioned if it was Jesus at all. He was doubtful before he stepped out of the boat.
When I think about my faith to go after my dreams, I realize that I often operate like a boat-person. Rocking from wave to wave during the most turbulent times of my life, I ignore God as He calls to me to take a step out of my comfort zone and away from people who are stuck believing that life has nothing more to offer than their current situation. God has shown me that hidden in each of our DNA is a strain of greatness that we can only tap into with unwavering faith as minuscule as a mustard seed. We should step out of the boat even if we periodically find ourselves sinking because we must perfect our faith walk before reaching the pinnacle of our Christian experience.
My desire to be a writer is God’s way of calling me to get out of the boat. He is telling me to trust Him and to have faith. To fight against the challenges and limitations before me and to go after my dreams. What I’ve learned over the years is that getting out of the boat is one thing, but getting out of the boat in faith is something altogether different.
Stepping out of the boat means stepping away from boat-people
Whenever I hear a sermon on Matthew 14, I always wonder why God called Peter out of the boat but left the other disciples behind? I liken this story to so many of us who are listening to God with one ear and listening to earthy influences – or boat-people – with the other ear. God tells us to come and to have faith that he will direct our path. Boat-people, often comprised of our friends and family who harbor doubt and fear, are whispering words of defeat that often overshadow God’s voice. The other disciples did not ask to step out of the boat. They were satisfied waiting for Jesus to come to them, to show himself and prove that he was capable of walking on water. Peter chose to meet him on the water, while the other disciples chose to remain in the storm.
Was Peter stepping out of the boat to get away from people who doubted Jesus more than he doubted Jesus? Was the doubt in his mind the results of being around other negative people who lacked vision? Moving towards God is a faith walk we often do alone. The men Peter left behind in the boat could not see or understand the destiny God had for his life. But to reach that destiny, Peter needed the faith and fortitude to step away from the norm.
This story is a reminder that what God has for you is for you. Our destiny was determined before we came into this world. Our responsibility is to decide whether to remain in the boat and doubt God or to take steps to fulfill our purpose. The people sitting in the storm with you are often there because they don’t trust that God can bring them out.
Peter stepped out of the boat doubting Jesus’ power. He did not complete the journey, but he did show Jesus and the other disciples that he was willing to take the necessary steps to reach his destiny.
Sometimes we all find ourselves sinking. But God will not let us drown. In Matthew 14; 31-33 the story concludes: Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him [Peter]. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
I encourage you to get out of the boat. Leave the boat-people behind and pursue the life God has prepared before you. Jesus is standing on the water in the middle of the lake with his hands stretched out, waiting for you to come.
Michelle D. Jackson is the author of the inspirational novel, The Heart of a Man. Follow her on Facebook @AuthorMichelleDJackson.
The original article was published in the January 2018 issue of The Mount Christian Magazine. To order an copy visit The Mount website.
So many people are in need of a HERO. So many people are waiting on a SUPERMAN or WONDER WOMAN to descend from the sky and protect them from a struggling world.
But what if, there are no heroes coming to our rescue? What if, God provides us with the strength and courage to change the world, and WE were created to be the heroes of our own lives?
God blesses us with the power to come together and build a world comprised of integrity and goodwill. In these unpredictable times, it’s important that we stop waiting for our heroes to rescue us and start living like the responsibility is ours, and ours alone.
Ask yourself: Am I up for the task? Am I warrior-ready? Can I be a hero in my community? What will it take to change the world around me?
Learn to be your own HERO and watch your life soar.
#HeroInME #GrowingBOLD #FaithFUELED
The praise team approached the microphone stands behind the pulpit one warm Sunday morning. Called by God to inspire a congregation of worshippers, they gathered on the stage to give back and I, like many others in the church pews, was willfully ready to receive. The tempered playing of the keyboard was accompanied by the guitarist’s spasmed sound and the chest pounding thump of the drums. Each singer rocked from side to side in an uncoordinated dance; joyous, I imagined, for being blessed to see another day.
The song began with words I’ve longed to hear all week. Words that took me to a place of peace and joy. Words that encapsulated the heartbreak and uncertainty of living in a struggling world that desperately needed God’s salvation.
The choir sung with such perfection, “You thought I was worth saving. So, you came and changed my life. You thought I was worth keeping. So, you cleaned me up inside. You thought I was to die for.” With every verse, I was reminded of God’s faith in me. Regardless of the countless mistakes I’d made, the sins I repeated even when I knew better and the times I refused to do what he sacrificed on the cross for me to do, I was still worth saving – I was worth God sacrificing the life of his only begotten son.
Jesus died on the cross for our sins. He paid a debt we could never repay. We were worth dying for; we were bought with a price. What an honor to be loved so completely.
In every corner of the church, congregants sprung to their feet lifting their hands in praise. Together, we were transported to the ultimate place of worship. A place void of pain and filled with love. We were seated at the foot of Christ; worshipping him in unison. We were embodying what the praise team was called to do. Our faith – a blessing to God – was music to his ears.
My tears overwhelmed me. They were a testament to a life so filled with God’s love that I unequivocally could not take another breath without giving him praise. And while I praised him, the Holy Spirit revealed in me a path to a better understanding of my purpose on earth. I asked myself: If God thought I was worth dying for, how do I justify living a frivolous life? How can I refuse to follow God’s word?
God gives us what we don’t deserve. He redeems us. Sets us free. He took our place on the cross. He never asked for much from any of us; but he gave in abundance.
Knowing how unconditional his love is, gives me the strength to set my goals high and to see my life as a conduit to spreading God’s word. As a child of a living God, I cannot justify a meager life. My dreams must be bigger than the sky; my purpose filled with giving back and helping others. I am not here on earth to do my will, but to do God’s will and to show him that the life Christ died on the cross to save is working to be a blessing to those in need.
What are you willing to die for?
Our Christian walk is one of purpose. How we live our life and how we realize our dreams were set in motion during the long and torturous walk Christ made to the cross. His work on earth is done; he is now with God steering us in the right direction from his throne in heaven. Now, it is for us to complete the rest of the journey with God’s strength and faith beckoning us towards living a life of purpose.
But living a purposeful life is often hard to do. Knowing what’s worth sacrificing our life for is difficult to explain. That’s why I’m so happy God had no reservations about me. He didn’t look over the totality of my life, or considered my failures and sins before determining if I was worth sacrificing his only son for. He simply knew my heart and loved me despite my transgressions.
As the praise team continued, I recognized why the sweetness of their words brought me to tears. Again, in perfect unison they sang: “You thought I was to die for. So, you sacrificed your life. So, I could be free. So, I could be whole. So, I could tell everyone I know.”
I pray that on this journey we clutch hold to things worth dying for and we live our lives with principle and courage so we can do as the song writers says – be free and be whole.
Michelle D. Jackson is author of the inspirational novel, The Heart of a Man. Follow her on Facebook @AuthorMichelleDJackson. The original article was published in the October 2017 issue of The Mount Magazine.
The song referenced in this article is “Worth” by Gospel Singer Anthony Brown and group therAPy
It dawned on me this beautiful Sunday morning that over the years God has been working to get me to a place where I understand the true purpose for my life. So many times I’ve visited the graveyard to say goodbye to a friend or family member. So many long, sad walks back to my car wondering if that person, who is now with God, fulfilled their earthly purpose.
This journey to live on earth takes us through many peaks and valleys. We struggle with understanding who we are, our mission, our purpose and why God chose us. We see people who appear to navigate life with such ease and grace, and then we witness the fallen – those who struggle with every turn.
We all have a story; we all have fears, but do we know and accept God’s purpose for our life?
What I am more and more convinced of is that the God I serve whose imagination is as wonderful and brilliant as a bright and sunny sky and as massive as the roaring sea, has molded each of us into a unique piece of art, a masterpiece.
Once we accept that we are God’s greatest work, we can live in His purpose for our life and fulfill our destiny.
You were never meant to be like anyone else. You are an original. You are the first and the last. Your purpose cannot be defined by anyone but God. Your wins and losses are all intentional paths on your personal journey. Every experience was created to help you become the person God wants you to be.
You are a masterpiece!
Accept it. Live in it. Love with it and be blessed.
As we mourn the death of someone we love, work towards reclaiming our good health after sickness or struggle against the despair that follows heartbreak and disappointment, we often find ourselves in need of a time to heal.
Healing is the restoration of our mind, body and spirit. It is the process for which we accept the pain of the past and mend the wounds of the present.
At some point in life we all find ourselves in need of a time to heal. Whether it’s healing from a major surgery, recovering from a divorce or finding peace after the death of a loved one, we must properly heal if we are to live the life God promises us.
The restoration process is a task often underestimated by many Christians. Exemplifying strength in our fleshly bodies is not the same as embracing God’s almighty strength and His commitment to mend our broken spirits. Healing is crucial to our personal and spiritual growth. But God teaches us through his word that He will restore our health and heal our wounds (Jeremiah 30:17).
A sick body needs to heal. An embattled mind deserves time to rest and a spirit, tormented and challenged by temptation and evil, warrants time in God’s strong and mighty hands. A time to heal can be perceived as a time to lean on our faith in God and His promises to give us life abundantly.
In our training for godliness we must learn how to take time to heal from the struggles of this world. In accepting this task, it is important to know why the act of healing is crucial to our spiritual growth.
H reminds us to Honor the Process. If you are in a healing period, you have survived the storm. Respect the process no matter how hard it is and know that God is with you. Invest the time needed to properly heal from the pain, restore your strength and rejuvenate your faith in God’s promise for your life. Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved, for you are my praise – Jeremiah 17:14.
E is for God’s Everlasting Love. God will not turn away from you even in your broken state. He heals our mind, body and spirit by offering us an everlasting love that will not judge us for our weaknesses, failures or flaws. Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you – 1 Peter 5:6-7.
A is for The Alpha (The Omega) & The Almighty. God is our most devoted friend. He listens to us when no one else will. He cares about us when we are at our loneliest. While we heal, we are covered by God’s love, grace and mercy. He is the alpha and the omega; there is no place where God’s love will not reign. Who is forgiving all thine iniquities, who is healing all thy diseases – Psalm 103:3. Who is giving healing to the broken of heart, and is binding up their griefs – Psalm 147:3. O Lord, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways – Psalm 139:1-3.
L is for Loving-Kindness. Healing comes after a period of rest and retrospect. God heals us through his love and gentleness. We must learn to love ourselves with vigor and consistency during our time of healing. We must believe that love heals the sick and the broken-hearted. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance – 2 Peter 3:9.
For those of us struggling during the healing period, remember that the renewal of our mind is one of God’s promises. Take the time to heal and let God restore your strength so you are prepared to be a disciple for his heavenly kingdom.
Michelle D. Jackson is author of the inspirational novel, The Heart of a Man. Follow her on Facebook @AuthorMichelleDJackson.
The original article was published in the March 2017 issue of The Mount Magazine, https://www.mt-ararat.org/2015-04-30-15-47-47/the-mount-magazine.