Thanks for subscribing to the Chasing Endurance newsletter. God has been so good to me that I had to take this first issue to give Him thanks. That's why I'm calling this "The Praise Edition". Do you have anything to thank God for? Go ahead, give him some praise, I’ll wait.
Didn’t that feel good? I know. We were made to worship Him and give Him glory and that’s our best gift to Him.
I'm going to keep this short and sweet.
In this edition we'll have:
Remember, the race is not for the swift but for he who endures to the end.
Reclaiming My Praise
Have you ever noticed that one of the first things to go when you’re going through a trial is your praise? It’s easy to praise God when things are good. But the minute you hit a roadblock…. That’s it. I’m done. But why does God---? I found myself in one of those situations last week. My family did not sleep well on Monday night. The weather had changed so we Cootes celebrated it by listening to the asthma rattle. Do you have a child or family member with asthma? It’s one of the worst things to experience. Even going through it second-hand I knew it was horrific. Our little boy was struggling to breathe and we could hear every breath. Because he was struggling to breathe, he couldn’t sleep. He wasn’t sleeping so neither were we.
I knew then that I would not be going to work the next day. I prepared mentally for to spend some time at the hospital. I got up the next morning optimistic. Three nebulizer treatments. Short wait for the doctor’s review. I would be home by one o’ clock. Four hours at the most.
My husband saw the other side of the coin. “You’re going to be there all day. There’ll be a lot of persons there.” Still, in spite of this, I held on to my optimism. I kept praying. I had a song in my heart. I was hopeful. God was going to come through for us.
Fast-forward three hours. We had gotten the three treatments, there was a doctor was doing patient reviews. Things were looking good. Two hours later we were still there. Waiting for the review. Then came the bad news: three more treatments. We would be there for another three hours (at least).
My hope crashed. My inner sound track came to a screeching halt. Tears filled my eyes. Why hadn’t God allow us to go home? Friends, sorry to say this but, I lost my praise. The thought of another four hours (minimum) wiped away any joy I had left in my heart. Until I remembered where I was. How dare I get mad when there were persons who had been on the ward since Saturday? How dare I get mad because the doctors wanted to make sure that my son was in the very best condition before they sent him home? How dare I get mad when on two prior occasions we had to leave him there? For three days and four nights? Did I really think that God had to answer my prayers? How dare I?
The enemy tried to tell me that my praise was not needed. So, I started praising God in little ways. I praised God because we were alive. I praised God because he only had asthma. I praised God because he was getting treated. As I praised Jehovah I started getting back my joy and my peace.
I think I finally understand what it means to give God a “sacrifice of praise” (Hebrews 13:5). Praising God when we’re happy or feeling blessed doesn’t cost us anything. Praising God when we’re in pain or distress, when He doesn’t seem to be listening… That’s the sacrifice. That’s when it really costs us something. That’s when it takes real effort. And that’s when we have to fight for it. You see the enemy doesn’t want us to praise God. He wants us to continue to feel entitled, as though God owes us something. We have to remember that we were made to worship the Creator. We were made to give glory to God.
In Luke 21:1-4 we are told the story of a widow who gave her last two mites. She had nothing else. The probability that she had no food to eat was high, yet still she gave thinking of others before herself. Her offering was a true sacrifice. Like this widow, we should give of ourselves until we have nothing left. Then in the giving of ourselves we open our hearts to the Lord for Him to use us to do mighty things.
And let us continue to praise the Lord. Let everything that has breath, praise the Lord!
An Interview with Mikhail
I met Mikhail Nation in 2014 and was immediately impressed by him. It's not often that you see a young man (he's 22!) passionate about God. But, here he is. Because I believe that real-life examples of active faith are just as important as the stories of the patriarchs, I am telling his story. Q: What's your Jesus story? How did you meet Him?
A: Wow. My Jesus story, I basically grew up in Church... but felt no real connection to its members ... or even Jesus Himself ... so I was kind of like those tambourines you knock in church ... it will do what you tell it to musically speaking but ... its hollow ... vertically empty ... and like it's miniature cymbals... very shaky.. I met Jesus in Church ... but I left Him there... I just played hypocrite in school. After all being a Christian wasn’t "in" yet. I was skipping classes to go to a bar with friends to play pool and hang out with some people that weren’t necessarily known for praising God. I even sold guns for a national gang at one point. I basically backslid under the pressure to fornicate; I quickly became addicted to the sweet savory nectar of fornication. I just plummeted into it. Soon I became an addict to it. I was having sex right after school usually in some public area that would be thrilling and exciting.
Like the Word says you become a slave of whatever you choose to obey. I was kneeling to sin’s almost every command. One summer I decided to go to my church’s camp. I heard people could get changed there and I guess somewhere deep inside was a man of valor. Even on my way to camp, I was hooking up with one of the church sisters at a rest stop …. Trying to get laid before Jesus changed me. At that camp I learnt that if you really want change you have to be willing to lose all the burdens, all the addictions and all the selfish desires that aren’t of God. I would say that it was in 2010 that I got delivered and set free. Now I can say I’m an “ex-slave”. Serving Christ isn’t easy, but every breath, every sacrifice makes it worthwhile.
Q: Did you have to step away from persons you considered friends?
A: I had to. Jesus said the road to heaven is narrow. I think of friendship as a bond or a rope - if you don’t pick the weight that’s attached to your rope, it will pull you down. I had to sift through my friends list and choose persons who would build me up, encourage me, enable me to do better, allow me to be well ... me ... but the best me I could be.
What's the hardest thing God ever asked you to do?
The hardest thing I believe God ever asked me to do was to remain celibate. It seemed as though the minute I became a Christian, the devil took all the prettiest girls and sent them around me. He painted a bulls-eye on my head and gave these beautiful woman arrows of short shorts, extra slim tank tops and new push up bras. Then said, “Go get him!” And thank God a brother has learned how to close his eyes!
Q: Did you do it? If yes, how did you get the courage/faith/strength to do it?
A: I could easily white-out that that one time I slipped and tell you lovely readers that I have been the perfect model of celibacy, but it wouldn’t be honest. I’ve tried my best to obey God in this matter. I’ve preached to hundreds of people about it. But I have to admit, I messed up once in 2012. I chose to be hard-hearted to God.
The strength, courage and faith to remain celibate came from my faith in God and a belief that He will not give me more than I can bear. I also developed faith in myself - that I had the ability to say no! I got deeper in God’s Word; deeper in prayer. I spent more time listening to pastors preach and built up my spirit to withstand these “booty shorts and push up bras”.
After remaining celibate for 3 years, the Lord has blessed me with a resplendent fiancé.
Q: What was the easiest?
A: The easiest thing God ever told me to do was to probably give someone a small amount of change.
Q: What does your devotion & prayer life look like? Walk us through a typical example.
A typical example of my prayer and devotional life might seem a little weird. I “snack” on Scriptures throughout the day - a Psalm here, a Proverb there … when I get too hungry… I digest something a bit heavier like maybe 3 chapters. I’m not the traditional Christian in that I will read one scripture, pray one prayer and that’s it. I like to mix it up with God.
It’s the same with my prayer life: I will pray sometimes for maybe 5 minutes in the morning or even an hour. I get up from 4 or 5 a.m. and pray down a storm against some demons. But sometimes I just snuggle in bed … that’s the truth … However I really prefer night prayers. So I’ll pray more then … for protection … to be more like God etc..
Q: What would you say to those persons who claim that church and service to God are boring?
A: Wow. I will be honest and say yeah, sometimes churches are boring. But what I’ve realized as I mature in Christ, is that the church reflects the people. That means - the problem is us. We’re boring. Our offering to God is lame. Our God is a “cool, head-bopping, world-saving, sitting on the throne, ain’t scared of nobody God”. I would advise and encourage those persons: find some way to spice up your offering to God or your church’s offering to God. Put some jalapeño peppers on that praise, with some ketchup!
Q: How did you get drawn into photography?
A: To be honest I just realized I was good at taking pics with cell phones and posing “models”. Plus, I always had an eye for God’s beautiful creation. For me, photography is capturing what God created!
Q: When did you realize this was your gift?
A: I realized this was my gift in about 2012 when I got a Galaxy S3 and started taking pictures. What can I say? Thanks Samsung!
Q: How have you used this gift for His glory?
A: Well I have used it to bless persons who can’t afford to pay the full price for a wedding photographer. I shoot a wedding that barely pays me enough to cover the cost of the shoot with the same energy and commitment as I do for my top clients. Why? Because we don’t deserve any of God’s goodness, yet He still gives us breath and life. Even if we don’t serve Him as well as we should at times.
I also shoot gospel concerts and promotional events; things that will capture the attention of people through imagery.
Q: How do you keep your faith strong?
A: I keep my faith strong by one simple rule: “if I don’t do what God has called me to do, then He will get someone else to do it”. I push myself to read and study the Bible … pray deeper.. Believe with more conviction ... and walk in obedience.
Q: What's next for Mikhail? Where do you see God leading you?
A: I know I’m called to be a Pastor, so Bible in School is next year. In the meantime I’ll just keep ministering in healing, evangelizing, preaching and showing love. Simply because: God is love!
Q: One last question, Mikhail. You consider yourself a "faith walker", can you explain what that means?
A: Sure. Let me tell you a story first. I left school one evening about 10:00pm and God told me to go and stand in the square and wait for the person who will give me fare to go home. I was there standing for about two hours when I was approached by someone who asked me if I was okay. I said yes because I expected my blessing to come in another format. After the person walked off, God told me that that was the person and because of my disobedience I would have to wait a bit longer.
So I waited and God did provide. I learnt a valuable lesson that day: I have to trust what God says because His word is true. That's why I consider myself a faith walker, I walk by faith, not because I understand God's will or His ways but because I know that what He asks me to do, He will take me through. And I know it may seem strange when I say God speaks to me but He really does. Each of us has the ability to hear from God if only we would take the time to listen.
Thank you for taking the time to read Mikhail's story. I hope hearing the story of how God is still working to change lives will serve as an inspiration to you.
You can check out Mikhail's website at www.peacephotography.rocks where he has a totally awesome portfolio.
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