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“BLESSED AND THANKFUL TO SERVE A GOD WHO IS FAITHFUL”

Today, I am officially fifty-one year’s old, and I can truly say that I am blessed. God has been so good to my family and me. Through the highs and lows, He has been faithful. I don’t know what everyone else does on their birthday, but for me, it’s a time of reflection. I just spend time looking back over my life, and seeing what all has happened. There are some things I think about that breaks my heart, but other things make me smile and rejoice. It’s the roller-coaster ride of life for sure. However, on this day, my heart is filled with thankfulness. This past year has been amazing. Honestly, I don’t have time to write it all down in this blog, because it could really be a book. But through it all, I sit in my miracle house, surrounded by the most incredible family and man could ever ask for. My wife of thirty-two years, my four daughters, my one son, my son-in-law, my grandbaby, and the next one on the way; I am thankful for these blessings.

I am also thankful for the church I pastor. Point Of Mercy is the place where I lead and feed, and it’s a privilege. They are so kind to my family and me, and after being here thirteen years, there is no other place I want to be. Whatever else happens in my life and ministry, it will come from this place — not just the members, but my pastoral team that I get to serve with. I also have the privilege of overseeing my father’s church in Bristol, VA; Soul’s Harbor. That’s where my roots and heritage are, and I truly love the faithful members there. Pastor Robert and his family are doing such a great job leading that congregation, and I know my parents would be so proud of what all God has done in the last three years.

Here I am, one year into my own personal, spiritual jubilee, and I’m so thankful for the faithfulness of God. I plan to spend the rest of my life being an encourager to everyone around me. From the pulpit to social media, I want to encourage, inspire, and challenge. I don’t have time to be angry, bitter, and vengeful. I don’t dwell on the hurt; I promote healing. I plan on strengthening the weak and embracing the broken. I’m not worried about the people who have walked away from me; I’m focused on the ones who are walking in. Who knows, maybe my birthday blog will help encourage you today to let some things go that you’ve been holding on to for a long time.

So, at fifty-one, I am blessed and thankful to serve a God who is faithful.

I love you Alonna, Brittany, Angelynna, Faustino, Brooklyn, MaKendra, Jason, Äna, and Adley Brae.

And to the rest of my family and close friends; I love you with all of my heart, and I’m so glad to have you in my life.

“REDISCOVER YOUR FAITH”

Luke 8:22-25

22 One day he got into a boat with his disciples, and he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side of the lake.” So they set out,
23 and as they sailed he fell asleep. And a windstorm came down on the lake, and they were filling with water and were in danger.
24 And they went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and the raging waves, and they ceased, and there was a calm.
25 He said to them, “Where is your faith?” And they were afraid, and they marveled, saying to one another, “Who then is this, that he commands even winds and water, and they obey him?”

Jesus calmed several storms during His ministry, and even though I’ve read about them many times, I couldn’t help but notice something He asked. When they woke Him up, they did it out of fear. But Jesus moved beyond their unbalanced emotions and calmed the storm. Then, He looked at them and asked a question. WHERE IS YOUR FAITH? He wasn’t angry with them; He just needed an answer. Notice that He didn’t ask until there was a calm.

I think it’s interesting that He wasn’t accusing them of not having any faith. He just wanted to know what they did with it. I believe Jesus was trying to tell them; you have faith; you just can’t get to it because of your fear. It’s in there, but your emotions are overshadowing it. He had to remind them that faith is not based on feeling; it’s based on belief. We walk by faith and not by sight. You see, it was impossible for them not to have it, because they had been with Jesus for some time now, and what He taught them, gave them faith. It was in there; they just had to rediscover it.

How many times are we guilty of the same mistake? We approach God with out of control emotions. We think it’s over, and we feel like He doesn’t care. Then, He brings calm to our situation. Now, let me ask you the same question. WHERE IS YOUR FAITH? You have it; you just can’t find it because you’re living in so much fear. You have enough faith to come through whatever you’re facing; so where did you put it? Did you place it behind your emotions? Is it hidden behind your anxiety? Perhaps you’ve forgotten you had it. Maybe you wouldn’t have to approach the Master so much if you would keep up with it. My friend, you have faith. It’s in you. You’ve heard too many sermons and seen too many miracles not to have it. Here’s my challenge for you. It’s time to rediscover your faith.

“BE CAREFUL HOW YOU TALK”

I find that people respond better when you encourage them to do something, rather than put them down. I personally don’t enjoy working for or with people that put you on a guilt trip. I also don’t like to be around those who can only point out what you do wrong, but never communicate what you do positively. I’m saying this because how people talk and communicate with us, affects our response. I think we would all agree with that, and we need to make sure we are building people up, not tearing them down. Since it takes more skill to build than it does to destroy, we should focus on building up the people around us. This would help all of our relationships.

I could give you a list of all the people that you should make sure to encourage and build up. However, let me tell you about one of the most important ones. You need to learn how to talk to yourself. How you talk to others can sometimes be a reflection of how you talk to yourself. If you’re not happy with yourself, chances are, that’s why you’re not happy with the ones around you. Putting yourself down all the time will not help you reach your goals. Comparing yourself to others minimizes your abilities and applies too much pressure for you to perform at your best. You have to learn how to find the good within you. I’m not saying to ignore your faults; I’m only pointing out that dwelling on them alone will not help you reach your potential.

Let me encourage you to encourage you. Take some time to stop worrying about what people aren’t doing around you and discover what you do well first. Learn how to talk to you before you talk to them. You are not what others say you are; you are and will become what you say you are. How you see yourself is more important than how others see you. You are God’s creation, and He only makes what has the potential to become great. Start this day by building yourself up. Know your worth and walk in confidence. Be kind to everyone around you, and by all means, be careful how you talk to yourself.

“YOU OWE IT THE ONES YOU LEAD”

No matter what position you hold in the Kingdom of God, everyone gets weary and tired. Whether you’re a communicator, administrator, or assist; after so long, you feel the weight of that load. You can get to the place that you go through the motions, and you become more like a programmed machine. You do what you do for many reasons. First of all, it’s your calling. Second, you want to see people saved. Third, you want to bless God’s people. When we think about those things, then we start to feel bad for feeling bad. Don’t forget; you’re still human, and you can only handle so much. There’s a reason you’re tired and not as creative. It’s a sign that you need to rest.

There isn’t anything wrong with taking some time off and resting. In fact, it would be wrong for you not too. The stress of church work is so burdensome, it takes a calling, anointing, and rest to get through it. Preaching, teaching, organizing, singing, programming services, promotions, marketing, outreach, and small groups; it’s a lot. And you can’t do it all by yourself, and you certainly can’t be what you need to be without a break. You’ll think better after some time off. Your blood pressure will come down. I know that for a fact. Not to mention, your marriage will be stronger, and your kids will have your complete attention for a little while.

Even Jesus took time to rest. Yes, God in the flesh had to rest. Once, He sent His disciples on the boat, while He went to the mountains. They didn’t understand and were afraid to be without Him. However, Jesus had to teach them to not lean on Him for everything. I believe that example should be illustrated in all of our churches. Sure, people want you with them all the time, but sometimes you have to point them to the sea while you go to the mountains. That can be spiritual or physical. You have to know when is a good time to leave for a while. Jesus didn’t leave them in the beginning; when He first called them. But after a lot of teaching and leading, He was able to send them on without Him being with them. Maybe you should do that with the ones you lead.

For the Livingstons, we like to go camping in our fifth-wheel. We love boating, on a pontoon or a Carnival Cruise Ship. I have a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, and my wife and I usually go riding the day after a church service. I could have just said motorcycle, but when you own a real that has two names, you have to say it all – LOL. My point is, rest will make you better at what you do. If you just keep going without it, in time, you’ll want to quit. Take some time this week and schedule yourself some time off. It doesn’t matter if it’s just a couple of days or a week. You need it, and your church should support it.

The Kingdom needs you; your church needs you, your department needs you, the organization needs you; so do it.
You owe it to the ones you lead.

“YOUR CURRENT CONDITION”

The disciples walked away from one of the greatest miracles that Jesus had performed. He took one little boy’s lunch of five loaves and two fish and fed over five thousand people. However, when it was over, Jesus told His disciples to get on the boat and sail to the next town. While they were on the sea, a vicious storm came out of nowhere and threatened their lives. They became afraid and believed they were going to die. Jesus came walking to them on the water and ended up calming the storm. There is a scripture in the story that I think is worth mentioning. Mark 6:52 says “they considered not the miracle of the loaves and fish.”  It appears that they were so fearful in their current storm that they forgot the miracle they had just experienced.

I’m reminding you of this story because so many times we are guilty of the same thing. When an unexpected storm appears, we tend to only think about where we are currently. Don’t get me wrong, I am in no way trying to minimize the intensity of anyone’s present storm, but have you considered what you’ve already experienced? Are you so worried about your current situation now that you’ve forgotten that God has made a way for you so many other times before? Sure, the sky is black, and the wind is fierce; but the same God that brought you this far is closer than you think. Just like you saw Him do the impossible before, He’s going to do it again. Let me encourage you not to let your current trial cause you to forget your last miracle.

“WHO ARE YOU CHEERING FOR?”

Philippians 2:3
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.

Just let the last of this verse sink in. Count others more significant than yourself. In my opinion, this would change everything and everyone. It would change how co-workers, friends, church members, and even families see one another. I think Paul was saying, stop focusing on yourself, and start promoting those around you. Can you imagine that? Instead of everything being about us, we would shift it to others. Why don’t we try it? Look for someone that you can encourage today or simply give a compliment to. Build someone up on social media that you are connected to. Brag on a family member, promote someone you go to church with and be a friend that gives, not just receives. Go ahead, walk away from your own personal spot-light, and be the biggest cheerleader for those around you.

Ask yourself this question; who are you cheering for?

“EXCITED?”

I love to hear people when they are excited about doing something in the church. They start planning, talking, and putting things together. You can see it in their eyes as they can hardly wait to get started on a new project. Excitement is great, but it is an emotion, a feeling, and a fading one at that. Excitement comes and goes, no matter who you are. Things can happen to hinder that emotion, like obstacles and opposition. You can be all pumped up about something new one day, but then face something negative, and that feeling can be drained.

I’ve had a lot of people come to me excited about getting something started, but after the excitement was over, so was the project. At that point, you’ll hear all kinds of reasons why someone quit and walked away. The problem was, you can’t build anything on excitement alone. Emotional building never gets completed.

Let me give you another word. This word passes an emotion and gets down into the heart and mind of a sincere worker. That word is commitment. Commitment doesn’t just start the job; in fact, someone committed will not just jump into a project. They will count the cost and make sure they can stay with it until it’s over. They refuse to start what they can’t finish. I’m not saying committed people don’t get excited; I’m merely pointing out that when opposition comes, they see it, recognize it, and feel it, but they work through it.

Examine yourself today and determine whether you are excited about something, or committed to it. If you have several unfinished projects that you’ve started, maybe you should transition from being an emotional worker to being a committed one. Be excited, be passionate, be happy, be motivational, be encouraging; but most of all; BE COMMITTED!!!

“THE HEART OF A GIVER”

Can you give something without expecting a return? Before you answer, take a moment and think about it. The reason I say that is because the real heart of a giver just gives. The joy in it for them is when they make the transfer from themselves to whoever the recipient is, not when they get something in return. I believe this is why the Bible teaches us that it is more blessed to give than to receive. If you live to give, you feel blessed, but if you give to receive, you never know when you will be blessed.

I’m not just talking about money and tangible things; I’m also referring to giving our selves in actions and bearing each other’s burdens. The heart of the giver is full when the act of giving happens. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great when someone thanks you for giving or does something in return to show their appreciation, but that’s not why the giver gave.

You may even be upset because you gave to someone or something and you’re waiting to receive a thank you or just some kind of return. Let me encourage you to stop, rethink, and remind yourself that the blessing came when you gave. You didn’t give it to me, but let me say thank you, not for just giving but having the heart to give. That giving spirit resembles the heart of Jesus.

Let this be our prayer:
Create in me, oh God, the heart of a giver like you.

“PRAY BEYOND YOURSELF”

When you pray today, pray beyond yourself. What I mean is, pray outside of your own personal needs. Don’t just communicate with God about where you are, but spend time asking Him to help those that are struggling wherever they are. We are so in need of each other’s help, and united prayers can definitely make a difference. Don’t just go down the list of names, but pray with a burden. Feel the weight of someone is carrying. You never know what God might reveal as you are standing in the gap for a brother or sister.

The early church understood this so well. That’s why you find several scriptures telling us to do so. They knew the power of prayer for themselves and for each other. It moves God when He hears us praying outside of our own needs. Let’s follow in the steps of the Apostles and Jesus. Pray today, but pray beyond yourself.

James 5:16
Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

“WHAT THE ENEMY DOESN’T WANT YOU TO KNOW”

Many are carrying the weight of a past mistake. Holding on to something they can’t seem to get over. If you are one of those that are in that kind of struggle, I would like to encourage you today. There is nothing you can do that God’s Grace cannot cover. He’s not even looking at your past; He’s focused on your future. God will never remind you of your mess-ups. You are wasting your time obsessing about a failure that God doesn’t remember.

You might say, but you don’t know what I’ve done. Let me tell you something that the enemy doesn’t want you to know. No matter what you’ve done; it won’t stop God from what He wants to do.