Category Archives: New Year

But did YOU die?: You’re still here for a reason!

Let me start by saying that 2016 presented a lot of different challenges for me in ministry, in finances, in church, and in family. And just like many of you, some of my favorite celebrities passed away, most notably for me, my musical hero, Prince. Yes, the preacher loved Prince, but that’s another story for another time.

If there is anything that marked 2016 for many of us, it was those celebrity deaths. In addition to that, many of us experienced some deaths of people that were close to us. In my former church, there were 3 significant deaths of long time members, all within a few months. We also witnessed more mass shootings and pointless murders in this world, where compassion seems to be more and more scarce with each passing day.

As if that wasn’t enough, our country elected a man to the White House that at worst is a racist and a misogynist, and at best is one that has no issue with anyone that is racist or misogynistic. There’s a lot that happened this year that had many people that were once hopeful and optimistic feeling as if there was no more hope. But before you give up and give in, there is a question that must be answered: Did YOU die?

I’m gonna be the first to admit that I didn’t like 2016. While it started off great with me publishing my 7th book (Going Through to Get Through), by April I was mourning the death of my aforementioned childhood hero. Shortly after that, those deaths started happening in the church. Along with that, there was all types of issues and strife in that church, where I was born and raised. Trying times, indeed. But as we come to the beginning of a new year, the fact that I’m still here is not lost on me.

What we often miss in the midst of struggle and loss is the fact that God has purpose hidden in the midst of it all. No matter who died in 2016, you didn’t. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t care and that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t mourn, even if you mourned a celebrity that you didn’t know personally (because I mourn for anyone that can only show compassion to people they know). What it does mean is that God has spared us, and that’s not an accident. It’s on purpose. It’s WITH purpose!

If there’s anything that all of us need to take from any year or any time in which we experience multiple tragedies, including what happened on election night, it is an understanding that God left us here to answer back. There’s something that God still wants to get out of us, and that’s why even in the midst of the seemingly unspeakable, God expects us to speak!

Whether it’s with your talents and gifts, through your ministry, or just in how we need to show more love to one another because we don’t know when the last time is the last time, God expects us to go forward with life and be a voice. No matter who dies, we still have to live. Not to mourn perpetually, not to be afraid of politics and policies, and not to be concerned about who’s next to go, because none of us has any of those answers anyway. 

Did YOU die? If you’re reading this, the answer to that is an obvious one. The more pertinent questions to answer becomes why not and what do I do with the chance I’m still given. Do you have all of 2017? Who knows. But what you do have is right now. You didn’t die. So, what do you plan to do now?

Happy New Year!

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Everybody’s seasonal: Lessons for 2016 and beyond…

2016-new-year-ss-1920I’m guilty. I was one of those people. Always at the end of the year, threatening to kick someone out of my life. Claiming new change for the new year. Making my list and checking it twice, and if you didn’t fit in, you can get out. It seems like a wise thing to do, especially in the name of self-improvement. But there came a day when I took a long look at this practice and found that not only was it unnecessary for me to even try to do such things, it’s not even my business. Let me explain.

First, let me state that we don’t need a lot of resolutions. We simply need resolve. Stop looking at the calendar as an indication of when you should change. Change when you feel the need to. January 1st isn’t some magic day. I know the feeling of newness hits us all, but that same feeling would hit you in the middle of June if you saw a need for change, made the change, and committed to it.

Also, I contend that we don’t need to choose our circle as much as we need to cultivate that which God has chosen for us. God has promised to direct our paths (Proverbs 3:5-6), so He will lead us into those places that He would have us to go, around those people that He would have us to be with. If you’re in the wrong place, He’ll make you aware. Not so that you can remove someone, but so that you will know why He’s about to.

In the Christian community, we sing songs like “I Give Myself Away”, where there’s a portion of the song that goes: “My life is not my own, to You I belong, I give myself, I give myself to You”. If this is in fact truth, how are we making decisions on who stays and who goes? If your life belongs to God, then He makes the decisions on who belongs in your life.

Now, I know the thought here is going to be “Rev. Jackson, don’t I have to make some decisions about who I should and shouldn’t associate with?” Yes, you do, and I believe that God does lead us to certain decisions. However, what I believe more than anything is that God changes us first, in order to change our surroundings and our circle of friends.

We’re so focused on who’s in and out of season in our lives that we lose sight of the fact that we can be out of season in someone else’s life as well. We’re so busy kicking people out of circles that we don’t know that there are some circles that we need to be kicked out of too.

Once there’s a difference in how you’re living, you won’t have to get rid of any wrong people in your life. Once they see you going in a direction that they don’t wish to go in, they will remove themselves without any assistance from you. This way you didn’t “kick” anyone out, and there are no hard feelings. You’ve probably recognized that they needed to go, and God moved them away. Most importantly, this leaves the door open for reconciliation, just in case we come back into season in one another’s lives down the road.

If we’d only just remember, we’re all seasonal. No matter how important you think you are, no matter what you’ve done for a person, no matter where you think you fit into their lives, it is only for a season. Remember that as people are passing through your life, so too are you passing through theirs. We don’t like to deal with difficult people in our lives, but their blessing may be tied to their interaction with us. We may be in their lives but for a season, but our impact may be life-long.

I’ve often stated in my writings and my teachings that we should let God be our gardener. We should allow Him to do all of the planting and uprooting as He sees fit. There are times when people are in our lives and we wish they would just go away. But if God placed them there, they must be there for a reason.

Many of us would’ve never learned the lesson of choosing the right friends had God not allowed us to make the mistake of choosing wrong once or twice in life. In the parable of the wheat and the tares (Matthew 13:24-30), Jesus tells us to allow them to grow together, and He will separate them when the time is right.

If we allow God into our lives in that same way, He will separate us from the “wrong” people when the time is right. But don’t be surprised when you look up in the end, and there are some “wrong” people standing by your side, who were supporting you all along. Some of those very people were on your “get out of my life” list, and you were so focused on how God was using you, that you had no idea how He was using them.

I know this thinking isn’t popular these days. We’re so busy taking pride in being some kind of lone wolf that we forget that we need one another. We’re so busy telling folks that all we need is God, while forgetting that God manifests His love for us through others. Social media will have you thinking that everyone is disloyal when they don’t co-sign your every move, when in fact the most loyal people you’ll ever meet in your life are the ones that aren’t afraid to tell you that you’re wrong. They’re the ones that would rather fall out with you than silently watch you make huge mistakes, all in the name of being your “ride or die”.

Seasons change all the time, and some last longer than others, no matter what the calendar says. Our relationships are the same way. Remember that any fruit that’s picked before it’s time can cause illness when it’s consumed. Allow all of your relationships to reach maturity. Even through the growing pains. Even through the difficulties of life. Even when it seems they’ve outlived their usefulness.

We’re all seasonal. Live your life, in your current moment, in this current season. Leave all of the changes to God, with the expectation that He will do something great in your life, while providing the people that you need along the way. And He’ll do it all in due season.

What are you really carrying into 2015?

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As we close out the old year and head for the new one, I’m seeing a lot of posts on social media and hearing a lot of talk from people about showing some people something in 2015 (usually a perceived hater or someone that they don’t like). Here’s what’s interesting about that: In order for us to show someone “something”, we would have to pray for their downfall (because God reveals our successes in His own way). Most times, we want to prove something to people in authority or people we perceive to be above us, whether they deserve to be above us or not. But in order to prove it to the point that they’d actually care, the person we’re proving it to would have to suffer loss. In this scenario or mindset, if they’re to see your elevation, they’d have to be beneath you. However, there’s a catch to this manner of thinking.

Successful people don’t really worry that much about other people’s success. They’re too focused on what they’re doing to try and “prove” anything. They’ve already proven it. And know that success is relative. To some, it’s money and possessions. To others, it’s a happy and healthy family. To some, it’s a great relationship with God. And there are still yet some that see having all of these elements as success. Either way, to truly be successful and be right with God, we can never wish for our success in someone else’s failure.

To take this a step further into the spiritual, blessed people are so busy basking in God’s blessings, grace and mercy, they have no reason to wish ill on anyone in order to feel more blessed. They realize that such an attitude can cancel out God’s blessings. I know that Scripture tells us that God will make our enemies our footstools, but we need perspective. Everyone that disagrees with you or won’t do what you want them to isn’t necessarily an enemy, and thus, God won’t make them your footstools. Some disagreements are just that. Disagreements. We don’t have to use these small differences as an emotional launching pad into the next year. Your desire to be a better you for the upcoming year should have nothing to do with proving anything to anyone other than you.

Scripture also tells us that it is the prayers of a righteous man that availeth much (James 5:16). What that means is that you must be righteous in your prayers to receive God’s blessings in their fullness. You can’t go into 2015 or any day in any other year with so much animosity towards your fellow man that you wish failure upon them in order to be elevated. This is the enemy’s plan to keep us at odds with one another. Once we know who we’re fighting, we can stop fighting one another. Once we realize that no matter who’s against us, God is for us (Romans 8:31), we’ll realize that it isn’t worth it to wish ill on one another. Just know that God can’t be for you if you’re against another one of His children. He can only be for you when you know who your real enemy is (Ephesians 6:12)!

We simply need to walk with God into the next day and the next year. Let Him do the promotion and demotion. Let Him do the planting and removing of people from your garden. And most of all, if you have ill will toward your fellow man, ask Him to remove it, not for 2015, but ask Him to do it right now!

The lesson here is that it’s alright to wanna come up, but you should never want for your come up to be at the expense of someone else’s downfall, whether it be through your actions or your wishing. We often list the things that we claim we’re not carrying into the New Year, and all the while, if we have this “I’ll show them” mindset, we’re carrying anger, bitterness, grudges, and a spirit of revenge. We want to destroy others because we feel destroyed by the fact that certain relationships didn’t work out. However, Scripture also tells us that when we set traps for other people, whether physical or spiritual, we are actually setting those traps for ourselves (Psalms 35:7-8). Something to keep in mind as we plot emotional revenge on the people that we feel have wronged us in 2014.

What God has for you really is for you, and He doesn’t have to downgrade anyone to upgrade you. Just a reminder in case you see yourself coming up in the next year, but you also see your “enemies” climbing too. Don’t be confused. God’s got enough for all of us.

So we know who you’re rooting for in 2015. The question is, who are you rooting against, and how do you expect God to bless that mindset?