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The Greatest Gift  

The Greatest Gift by Dr. Naima Johnston Bush, Founder, The Refreshing Life with Naima

When I went to middle school at the East Harlem School of the Performing Arts, we sang a song based on James 1 verse 17 that went like this, “All good gifts around us, are sent from heaven above, so thank the Lord, thank the Lord for all His love, I really want to thank the Lord.”  

The mere fact that we sang a song filled with praise and power in a public school is amazing, but the greatest truth is contained in its simple poetry, God gives us good gifts, and He gives us these gifts because He loves us.  At Christmas, on birthdays, or “just because”, we scour the stores seeking and searching for that perfect gift to brighten the lives of those we love.  Sometimes it is about quantity or expense, the bigger the gift or the more expensive, the better we showcase our love.  Sometimes it is small and meaningful, the delicate, thoughtful or handcrafted object that illustrates the tenderness of the heart. 

But how often have we received a gift and despised it?   Spent more time thinking about how the gift was impractical, not needed, to extravagant or in our own insecurities we were unclear of the motive or rational of the giver?  How often have we been unsatisfied with the gift that we did receive, hiding in our hearts the secret thoughts of, “what should have been mine” or “what I could do if I would have been given that something else!” 

In our often selfish and blinded states, we sometimes treat the gifts of God that way, failing to see the beauty or power in the special gift He has given just to us.  We go about our lives, doing what we want to do and never stop to ask the Lord what gift He has placed in us that must be used to edify the body of Christ and encourage the lost to seek the love of Christ.  

I was like that, God gave me a gift for music and I poured it into a dream of secular stardom so that I could be bigger then Whitney and better then J-Lo.  My goal, my greatest dream, was to win an Oscar, an Emmy, a Tony, a Grammy and various Soul Train, NAACP, American Music and MTV awards, while selling millions of records and cruising around the world first class in my private jet.  That was before the world beat me up and before I accepted the greatest gift of God – Salvation.  

We think that our gifts are inadequate, we don’t pursue them, we allow the world to influence our holy dreams and then one day we look back with regret.  The greatest tragedy is when we believe the lie of the devil, that we have no gifts at all and can make no difference in these last days.  I was like that, God gave me the gift of music and I hid my light under a bushel believing that I could not sing like Whitney and didn’t look like J-Lo so I better let that music dream go, get an education and make as much money as I could in the academic world.  That was before I understood that Paul’s words to Timothy applied to me today! 

Paul states in 1 Timothy 4 verse 14, 

Neglect not the gift that is in thee which was given thee by prophecy… 

Or how about when Paul states in 2 Timothy 1 verse 6, 

Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by putting on of my hands. 

Have you failed to stir up the gift, let it lay dormant, hidden it or not figured out what it was because you are afraid, or you think that it is not a worthy gift, or you want to do what you want to do and never stopped to ask the Lord what He would have you to do? 

For many years I neglected the gift of song in me, so when the Lord called me to leave my safe, well paying job as the Associate Director of Student Life at Wright State University in 2001 to sing for His glory, all I thought about was my failures, my shortcomings, my inadequate voice… I never even thought about the power of the anointing.  I didn’t understand that if God had given me the gift, and if I used the gift for His glory, then it was not a question of me failing or being less gifted then someone else.  I did not need to compare myself to anyone else, because the gift that God gave me, He gave only to me and only I could do the job He called me to do with His gift to me.  He called me Naima, gift from God, what is He calling you?  Confused?  Well here is the revelation in another way. 

When we neglect the gift inside of us, we deny the world an opportunity to see the power and glory of the Lord through His working in our frail abilities.  When we believe the lies of man or the devil, that we are too dumb, old, late, slow, poor, or we have to much to lose… we glorify the kingdom of the enemy by withholding from individuals the song that they need to be encouraged, the prayer that might save their lives, the class that needs to be taught so that a child can be influenced and make the choice for the Lord and so on and so on!  When we neglect the gift we fail to edify the body or lead the lost and become partners with the enemy in his attempt to destroy the kingdom of God.

How do you plan to use your gifts in 2019? I'd love to hear your thoughts. Leave a comment below or shoot me a message at: naima@ministryofnaima.com

This blog is an excerpt from Naima's Book: Confessions of a Big Girl. Purchase your copy of Confessions by Clicking Here!

Glory To The New Born King! 

This Christmas Eve... everyone here at the Refreshing Life with Naima wishes each of our readers and loved ones a very Merry Christmas! We join in with the angels and all believers across the globe to give praise to the One who brings Light and Life!  

Merry, Merry, Christmas and Happy New Year! We pray this song blesses you this Christmas season!

 

Would Santa Punch You In The Face? 

Would Santa Punch You In The Face? by Dr. Naima Bush, Founder of The Refreshing Life

Who knows how a Turkish bishop named Nicholas, who was orphaned at a young age and had a penchant for gift giving and died centuries ago, became an eternally living, jolly fat man, who lives in a snow covered wasteland, riding around with magic reindeer while managing to defy the space time continuum that the Good Lord put in place. 

Don’t get me wrong, I think the idea of Santa is a wonderful thing, and I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t hope to one day leave milk and cookies out for the dude with my own children.  When my brother and I were little we left Santa some Chips Ahoy and an orange plastic Tupperware tumbler of Vodka… don’t ask… 

But this year as I flipped from channel to channel it seemed that every holiday themed movie or TV show that was on was about Santa Claus, or an Elf, or a dysfunctional family. Unless it was a Hallmark or Lifetime movie, then it was about some professional business woman to busy for love and how seasonal magic somehow ushered her into the arms of Mr. Right. 

Not one show about the birth of our Savior, the true meaning of Christmas, the greatest gift ever given, at least not until Charlie Brown comes on, and then we’ll hear Linus preach the gospel message until the day that somebody protests that Christmas tradition as being offensive. We already lost the song, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” and Rudolph is facing the axe because of bullying… but I digress. 

As I was pondering my TV selections, I thought about a conversation I had with a Catholic friend of mine in regards to the true history of Santa Claus. Now Nicholas was a devout man, who loved the Lord with his whole heart.  There are many stories of how he gave away everything he had to meet the needs of others, all in the name of Christ. 

But he shared with me a story I had never head before.  This one was about how St. Nicholas attended the Council of Nicaea in the year 325 with three hundred other church leaders under the direction of the Emperor Constantine. During this major ecumenical event, the Nicene Creed was produced, but before that Santa got a little unruly… 

Arius, a church leader from Egypt had the floor and was going on and on about how Jesus was not equal to God the Father, thus rendering the Trinity as null and void. The longer Arius talked, the more perturbed Nicholas became, until he could take the heresy no more and dashed across the room and smacked in some accounts, or punched in others, Arius in the face.  Which to be honest, makes me laugh uncontrollably, since the only image I have of Saint Nicholas comes from the imaginings of the secular world. 

Well, of course Nicholas, the patron saint of children, repentant thieves, merchants (might explain all the shopping) and pawnbrokers (yes, pawnbrokers)  was punished and stripped of his bishop’s garments and thrown in jail… and then there’s a miracle and restoration… you’ll have to look it up to get the details on this one or we’ll be here forever… But Nicholas does get out of jail and is restored to his office. 

The point is Nicholas was willing to risk it all to defend the truth. Christmas is about Christ, and I believe Saint Nicholas would agree. If he got so upset he was clocking folks in the eye over the importance of the Trinity, what would his response be to how the world has taken this most sacred time and turned it into a Black Friday brawl over a $198.00 TV set? 

Yes, Christmas is a sacred time. It should be more about giving the gift of His eternal love, of forgiveness and restoration then about elves and grinches and stockings. I’m not saying not to put out your cookies, or decorate your tree or hang your Christmas lights. Jon and I watched Elf this past weekend and I laughed so hard I almost choked. But while we are doing these things, let's not forget The One who gave us breath in our lungs so that we could laugh, The One who loved us so much that He left His throne to be born in this barren place to give us hope and a future.

What I am saying is that although many believe that the story of Saint Nicholas smacking Arius is a myth, it still begs the question. A man so on fire for the Lord that he risked everything to tell the world he would not stand for the demotion of his Savior, that he would not stand idly by while someone made the Lord Jesus Christ less then what He Is, that someone would so reckless disregard the gift the Father gave us to restore us, pushed Santa Claus to the brink. 

If Jolly Old Saint Nick was here today, would he be so jolly? Or would he be running around malls, TV stations, Christmas events and even churches smacking folks in the face?

I'd love to hear your thoughts and comments. Please leave us a note below or on our Facebook page! 

#santaclauspunchesarius #saintnicholasandarius #slappingsanta

Does It Have To Be So Hard? 

Does It Have To Be So Hard? by Dr. Naima Johnston Bush, Founder of The Refreshing Life

How difficult can it be to speak by faith to the divine Creator of Heaven and Earth who you may not physically see but who has shown time and time again that He exists. When we think about prayer, we are often caught up in the ritual of it. We sometimes get stuck thinking about how to say the right words or making sure that we pray at the right time or we trip over our language trying to make the cries of our hearts sound lofty and eloquent.   

But what if prayer didn’t have to be so hard? I have longed to have a life of powerful prayer, one where my life evidenced that my supplications were not bouncing off the wall but were penetrating the throne room of heaven and impacting lives for eternity. And honestly, sometimes it’s not that deep, sometimes I just want to know He is near, that He hears, that He cares. 

When Jon and I were engaged we took a short trip to Texas so that he could introduce me to his family.  It just so happened to be the 4th of July and we spent the evening sitting on the stone embankment that overlooked the Gulf of Mexico and watching the fireworks. Some lit up the night sky from boats on the water, from the professional production that was taking place and some from were being set off by the many families gathered around us. 

I saw that little girl and the potential threat she possessed before the incident even took place. Unsupervised, unaware and much too young to be handling things that had the potential to blow her face off, she recklessly lit color changing, gravity defying fireworks in blissful oblivion as she got closer and closer to where we sat. 

An then there it was. Spinning and puttering, changing colors it flew into Jon’s face, the threat of a third degree burn was all I could imagine.  Jon says all he could think was how he was going to have scars on his face for our wedding pictures… all I could do was to call on the name above all names. 

"Jesus!" I yelled. And that spinning, maddening firework fell to the ground instantly extinguished. It was like I called to Him to sits on the throne and He answered instantly. 

And that’s one of the keys to powerful prayer. It is simply believing that God hears you, regardless if He chooses to answer right away or if it seems the answer is delayed.  

In Jeremiah 29:12 the Scripture tells us: "Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you."

There are a multitude of scriptures where the Lord tells us that He hears us when we call or pray to Him.  Jeremiah, was a prophet for over 40 years, he saw how revival came when the people followed the Lord – and he saw destruction come when they failed to obey the Lord.  But again and again, Jeremiah did not wavier from knowing that God hears and God answers prayer. 

One of the most powerful ways you can get the Lord’s attention is to simply call Him. A call means to give something a specified name – a name denotes or rather it tells us, what something is – not what it does. 

Like a chair. By virtue of experience we know what a chair does, it allows us to sit without fear of falling.  We know what a chair is used for and we’ve given it a name. Chair. 

The same is true with the names of God. We know that His name describes the powerfulness of His character.  So, if you need healing you call – Jehovah Rapha. 

If you need God Almighty, the all sufficient one – you call El Shaddai. 

If you need Him to be with you, call for, Immanuel, God is with us. 

When you need help in the battle or the struggle – Call Jehovah Nissi – the banner under which we are victorious! And sometimes you must simply call – Yahweh – I AM That I AM and He will rush to your aid. 

Remember the name we call tells us not only what God does, but who God is… He is more then what He does.  He is the healer but He is also healing! He is a provider but He is also provision. He is present always with us. 

And the name I love the most… sometimes you got to simply call Abba which means Daddy or Pappa…  and who loves and more protects and cares for their children more then a faithful Pappa?

One of the first keys to understanding powerful prayer is that you must believe that He hears you when you call out with passionate trust knowing and believing that God hears you. And what you call Him, He simply is and will provide.

 

Have you grabbed your copy of Naima's new book, Keys To Powerful Prayer and the six month Refreshing Life Prayer Journal? You can purchase your copy today by clicking here: Power Prayer Book and Journal

A Prayer Can Reach Heaven  

A Prayer Can Reach Heaven by Wanda Burnside (c) 1998

Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. (Jeremiah 29:12)

Click the picture below to watch the inspiring video of Wanda's poem, A Prayer Can Reach Heaven.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wanda Burnside is an author, poet, publisher and speaker who loves to use her gifts to encourage others in their faith. To learn more about Wanda and Write the Vision Ministries contact here: Email Wanda

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