“The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep recognize his voice and come to him. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. After he has gathered his own flock, he walks ahead of them, and they follow him because they know his voice. They won’t follow a stranger; they will run from him because they don’t know his voice.”
As children of God, we’re His sheep. He calls us by name and we follow him…and Him only. It’s a critical goal of our walk – to learn and decipher His voice from the “noise” of life – but we so often fall short.
In life, so many other things beckon for us and our attention. The enemy wants us to follow the money, or the “in-crowd.” He wants us to follow what feels right or what the world dictates. Chase that promotion. Chase that girl/guy. Follow that high. Walk this way.
The enemy calls our names…but we shouldn’t answer. We shouldn’t follow him. In fact, Jesus says (and I’m paraphrasing here, “Nah, son, they with me. I betchu they won’t follow you. Mine is the only voice they know.”
So if our lives are the only God some folks see if. If we know there is a group of folks looking for a reason to discredit our Father and our Savior, when we choose to listen to AND FOLLOW voices that aren’t our Shepherd’s, we’re in effect calling Jesus a liar.
Now, fret not. God’s gon’ get ALL His glory, whether it’s from you and me or not. (Remember those rocks?) But I can’t help but to think…
Who you callin’ a liar?!
I for one don’t want to be responsible for calling my Risen Saviour a liar simply because I couldn’t control my flesh, or because I thought I knew better, or I couldn’t get past what I wanted for what He has ordained.
Nope. I’m good. Because the last I checked it was the devil who was a liar. See how crafty he is?!
Life is a series of experiences bookended by decisions. (Credit me when y’all take that!)
Sometimes our decisions are between two choices or about a circumstance we find ourselves in. And still other times the decision is more simply wherher or not to trust God.
So how do we know when we’ve made the right choice?
LET’S BE CLEAR: it’s ALWAYS the right decision to trust God.
But if you need more guidance, you’ll know that you made the right decision when after praying about it, feeling consistently led to move in a certain direction, and then taking that action, you’re overcome with an indescribable peace. And suddenly, that situation that had been costing you sleep doesn’t anymore.
A peace that’s predicated on faith. Faith that’s founded on a decision to trust the Word of God over the world. And a Word that tells us that ALL THINGS work together for our GOOD.
Sure, you may still have questions about how it’s all going to work out. But HOW is none of our business; that’s God’s domain.
Our concern is only the WHO – God, our Lord and Saviour – whom, once we seek first, has promised to take care of everything else.
You’re so busy kicking that closed door that you (1) can’t see the one God’s opened behind you or (2) you’ve lost sight of God’s plan choosing instead to pursue things the way YOU think they are supposed to go.
Here’s how I know:
“A man’s gift makes room for him, And brings him before great men.”
For everyone with a case of the Mondays today. God gave me this this morning to put the J-O-B in perspective — and to call me out for my hypocrisy.
(And as I write this, knowing there are many other ways that Christians are hypocrites, I reserve the right for this to be the first in a series. Anyway…)
HYPOCRITE, STOP WORRYING!
Oh, God’s your source? Then why is it that every time you need something, or it looks like your bank account is getting thin, you start thinking of ways to make ends meet IN YOUR OWN STRENGTH and using YOUR OWN LOGIC?
The Bible says in Prov 10:22 ESV: “The blessing of the Lord makes rich, and He adds no sorrow to it.” And, in the footnotes and some other translations it goes further to say of 10:22b, “And no toil/work adds to it.”
See, your job is an assignment, it isn’t your Source. You can’t work your way wealthy. So do what you were sent to do, get what you were sent to get, and give what you were sent to give.
Tithers, we’ve gotta stop panicking every time our money gets a little funny — or looks like it will be. Considering second jobs, taking on unnecessary side hustles, pursuing the wrong clients, and all kinds of things just to get what God has already promised to provide.
As tithers, Malachi tells us we’re covered, and God’s our Source anyway! It’s our birthright.
Stop telling people “God won’t put more on you than you can bear.”
That’s not Bible.
The truth is that He WILL put more on us than we can bear. It’s how He grows our faith and trust in Him. If He didn’t strategically and purposefully allow adversity in our lives, we wouldn’t come to know His power for ourselves and then trust Him more and more. And if He didn’t allow situations where we were forced to trust Him, how could we ever come to a place where we could have faith for the “exceedingly abundantly” He’s already promised us?
I mean, how could you trust God for that bill being paid, that job, that car, that house, or that healing if you hadn’t already learned through experiencing Him yourself in your challenges that He’s able?
If He didn’t put more on us than we could bear, we wouldn’t need Him and we certainly wouldn’t need Jesus. Heck, we’d be our own saviors every time.
This is why the Bible says we should rejoice in our weaknesses because it gives God a chance to show Himself strong, to show up and show off on our behalf.
With the things I’m fighting, the things I’ve been through, the things you’re up against and been through, you would have lost your natural mind, maybe even taken your own life BUT for God.
I absolutely believe that God puts more on me than I can bear — not overcome, but bear — because otherwise how will He prepare me for what’s to come? What testimony would I have if I never had to cry out to Him in my dark places? And what kind of faith would I have if I didn’t have to believe — while I sat in those dark places, even as tears streamed — that He’d purposed that moment to bless me only AFTER He guaranteed that the weapon wouldn’t prosper and that I would win, it would all work to my good?
I don’t know who else I’m talking to right now, but know this: you ain’t always gotta be strong. He wants you to let Him be your strength. To grow you, to grow your faith, and to increase your expectation in Him.
God’s got more for you on the other side of this — no matter what your “this” is.
But I trust in your unfailing love. I will rejoice because you have rescued me.
As I read and re-read this passage this morning, the thing that really stuck in my Spirit was the tense of the words the author chose.
Preceding verse five, the author was crying out to God, asking Him how long will he endure struggle, imploring our Savior to answer him, to show up.
But then we get to verse five and something amazing happens. The sense of woe ends sharply and, if we look closely enough, we see a change — not in the author’s circumstances, but in his perspective.
Verse five begins with the word “but.” The word “but” can play a number of roles in English grammar. It can be a preposition, an adverb. However, in this use I believe it’s most important as a conjunction, a word to add together groups of words. That’s what’s important to note: even though a change is occurring in the author, nothing has changed in his circumstances. Rather, he’s chosen to use what he’s going through as a part of what’s to come.
Further, any good grammarian will also point out that the use of “but” also signifies that everything before it is now inconsequential in reference to what will follow.
My bills are due and I don’t know how I’m going to pay them, BUT…
My body is ill and the doctors say they don’t know what more they can do, BUT…
The vision You gave me is too big/expensive/scary and I don’t know if I can accomplish it BUT…
They said they’d always be there for me, and they’re gone now that I need them, BUT…
It feels like I’m going through this all alone, BUT…
The verse goes on, after signaling a change in the author’s perspective to say, “But I trust in your unfailing love.”
“I trust.” That’s current. That’s present. That’s now. And, following the author’s please for response, and then his decision to shift his focus, “I trust” being present tense tells us that even though all hell was breaking out in this man’s life, the hell didn’t negate his faith. In essence he’s showing us that even as he’s going through it and doesn’t know how much more he can or even when God will will show up, he still trusts in God’s unfailing love.
The author knows that no matter how badly it hurts, or how uncomfortable what he’s going through is, his circumstances do not affect or reflect the fact that God loves him and that God’s love never fails. It never falters. It never doesn’t reach us. It never judges us. It never decides to show up today and not tomorrow. It never abandons us because we’ve sinned or doubted. God’s love just is.
You need to know that trials and trust are not and should not be mutually exclusive in your life. They will not be exclusive. In fact, this scripture shows us that trust in the Lord is ever more important when we’re going through our trials. That trust is a reminder that we aren’t in it alone, that God still cares, and that He isn’t oblivious to what we’re going through. Trials and trust in God go hand in hand.
The verse then goes on to say, “I will rejoice because you have rescued me.”
Now this is where it gets really good, where the “but” has shown us that the author’s perspective is changing, and the “I trust” show us what the author’s two conflicting states of mind are, “I will rejoice” shows us a decision.
“Will” is future tense. It also reflects a decision. The author, even though he’s going through hell, even though it doesn’t appear that God has reached out to save him, he knows that in spite of his uncomfortable circumstances that God still loves him unfailing. And, as a result of that knowledge, the author decides that he will rejoice.
Right there in the midst of his hell.
Right there in the midst of his storm, his trial, his going through.
Right there with the overdrawn bank account.
Right there with the 100th no call back after applying for a job.
Right there with the raggedy car that won’t start.
Right there with the daycare closed and no way for you to watch the kids and go to work.
Right there with the rent/mortgage being due and no money to pay it.
Right there with that unreliable friend/partner.
Right there in the midst of those silent cries alone at night.
Right in the thick of it, the author decides, no matter what it looks like or feels like, I am going to rejoice. And that’s an important decision because the Bible tells us that when we choose to celebrate in the midst of our adversity it confuses the enemy.
In fact, when I looked at the word “rejoice” in my concordance, I learned this:
the original word used here is a Hebrew verb
in the Bible it’s used to mean to exult and to be glad
Strong’s Concordance goes on to define it as “to spin around (under the influence of any violent emotion)…be glad, joy, be joyful…”
Whoa. “To spin around under the influence of any violent emotion.” To me, that means that all of the anger, the fear, the frustration, the helplessness, the pain, and every other intense emotion the author was feeling as he cried out to God in the beginning of the chapter was still there.
Even as he decided to change his perspective, he then decided he would force himself to be glad, pouring out all of the negative emotions the enemy wanted to use to oppress and depress him as positive praise for a God that never fails — even, and especially, when hell is breaking out all around us.
Then the verse continues with, “because you have rescued me.”
“Because” is a preposition here. It’s setting us up to understand why. Everything that comes after because tells us why the author’s perspective changed and why he forced himself to praise God in the middle of his turmoil.
And why did he, you ask? “Because you [God] has rescued me.”
Don’t miss that: “rescued” is past tense.
It’s already done.
Before this storm erupted. Before all hell broke loose. Before I lost all my money. Before he or she walked out. Before the doctor gave me the diagnosis. Before the bills became due. Before I lost my job. Before I cried myself to sleep.
Before it all even happened, God had already rescued you. He’d already saved you. He’d already provided. He’d already blessed you. He’d already made a way.
And get this, once a person or a thing has been rescued, that which threatened them can no longer harm them.
So before you started “going through” God had already seen to it that what you would go through wouldn’t hurt you, couldn’t hurt you.
That means that before the storm even erupted in your life, God had already made you victorious over it.
Look, tense matters. Tense matters in this scripture because it reminds us that everything that happened before we were saved, before we prayed, before we rejoiced, before we decided to worship God is no longer important and never could touch us.
And tense matters because if you’re still overcome with the emotion your circumstances have you feeling, then this scripture is a roadmap to peace.
Tense matters because where you are has no bearing on WHOSE you are or where you WILL be.
Tense matters because if He did it back then. If He did it before. He’s the same God, with the same unfailing love. He WILL show up and show out on your behalf this time, too.
Tense matters because how we choose our thoughts and words dictates whether we remain stuck in a place where we’re telling our God — Who’s already saved us — about our problems, or whether we’ll choose to move to a place where we tell our problems about our God.
Tense matters because we have the God-given authority to change our circumstances, to speak life and death to situations in our lives based solely on the words we speak.
So tense matters. Because you can be going through forever, or you can choose to celebrate the victory you already had now.
It matters. It matters to God. It matters to your storm. It matters for you.
Last night marked the fifth and final installment in my five-week, Leap of Faith Prayer Call for women. It has been an absolute honor and privilege to be able to pray for and with women as they believe God for more in their lives. I can only hope that this prayer line was a blessing and/or encouragement to those who dialed in or listened to the recordings. I know I definitely saw God move in my life in this time with you all.
I shared an excerpt from Pastor Rick Warren’s “God’s Dream For Your Life,” 19-day devotional as the devotion last night. You may read it in its entirety below, or listen to it and our prayer by using the credentials below:
Here is the transcript of the devotional I shared:
From Dream to Deliverance
If you want your faith to grow so you can claim God’s promise in Mark 9:23 — “Everything is possible for the person who has faith” (GNT) — then you must first understand that God takes you through six phases of faith.
Phase 1: Dream What is the dream God has given you? If you don’t have a dream you’re working toward, you just exist. You need to start praying, “God, give me your dream.” You’re here on Earth for a purpose. When you discover that purpose, you’ll discover the dream God wants you to go after.
“God … is able to do far more than we would ever dare to ask or even dream of — infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, or hopes” (Ephesians 3:20b TLB).
Phase 2: Decision Maybe you have a dream from God, but you’ve not yet made a decision to go after it. God’s word for you in phase 2 is, “Go for it!” You may need to make the decision to give your life to Christ or be baptized or join a church or get involved in ministry.
“If you are like that, unable to make up your mind and undecided in all you do, you must not think that you will receive anything from the Lord” (James 1:7-8 GNT).
Phase 3: Delay When things don’t happen on our timetable, we tend to run ahead of God and create detours to make it happen. Do not detour! You may end up making the wrong decision. You’re in God’s waiting room. Wait for God to work his hand.
God says in Habakkuk 2:3, “But these things I plan won’t happen right away. Slowly, steadily, surely, the time approaches when the vision will be fulfilled” (TLB).
Phase 4: Difficulty What difficulties have you faced waiting for your dream to be fulfilled? You’ll go through many tests in life, but God knows what you’re going through. He’s watching, and he hasn’t forgotten you.
“Even though you are temporarily harassed by all kinds of trials and temptations. This is no accident — it happens to prove your faith, which is infinitely more valuable than gold” (1 Peter 1:6-7 Phillips).
Phase 5: Dead End Some of you are at your dead end, and you’re ready to give up. But you’re right where God wants you! He is preparing you for deliverance. God’s word for you is, “Hang on! Don’t give up!”
“At that time we were completely overwhelmed, the burden was more than we could bear, in fact we told ourselves that this was the end. Yet we now believe that we had this experience of coming to the end of our tether that we might learn to trust, not in ourselves, but in God who can raise the dead” (2 Corinthians 1:8-9).
Phase 6: Deliverance Do you expect and trust God to deliver you? He will. But it doesn’t happen overnight. You have to go through all six stages before God brings you to deliverance.
Many thanks to everyone who joined our next to last prayer call. They’re going by so quickly! Next week is our last week already. I pray this series has been a blessing to you Ladies. It’s certainly been a blessing to me.
To hear the recording from last night’s call, use the call-in credentials below:
I didn’t prepare a traditional devotional tonight because I really just want to talk to you; to encourage you.
Sometimes, when we stop to think about the enormity of our God, how good He is and how undeserving we are, we can become frozen in our own tracks. The enemy will begin to lie to us, telling us we have nothing to offer. Or trying to convince us that we’ll never be able to get our lives together enough to be of service to such a good God.
But my prayer tonight is that in sharing a little bit of my testimony that you’ll be encouraged — not just to tell the devil to go to hell (literally!), but to also keep pursuing God on your walk with him.
I won’t bore you with the details of my birth story or anything quite that long ago. But what I will tell you is that in late February/early March of this year I felt like God was so far away. I felt like for all the good I thought I was doing, I wasn’t sure where God was and I wasn’t sure that He was pleased.
In January, I’d done a stint of praying everyday at the same time. And from that time with God the idea — and the guest — for my first Leap Luncheon Series™ was revealed to me. But, like I always had, I soon found myself “too tired” to stay up later or to get up earlier. And, the “habit” quickly became past-tense.
The following month, when I tried to recreate the magic of the first luncheon, I found that I was a day late and a dollar short. An advisor told me that invites to really notable folks had to go out a month in advance, if not sooner. And just like that, what was supposed to be a monthly luncheon was on its first hiatus.
I sulked for a little while over why my event seemed so short-lived and what the Holy Spirit revealed to me was that I’d stopped seeking the Source. I’d become so enamored with the gift, that I’d turned my eyes from the gift giver.
The revelation convicted me and I immediately committed to returning to my 4:45am prayer and meditation times.
Since then, I’ve had five more successful Leap events. I’ve been blessed to bless others — giving gifts of money and resources to other folks who cross my path. I’ve been invited to be a guest speaker at a few different events as well. And the future looks…exciting.
I look back now, seven months into my decision to give God the first hour of my day, and I realize that it wasn’t until I chose to physically and literally seek God first, as we’re admonished in Matthew 6:33 that things started to turn around for me.
I decided to live out the truth that God was and is my Source. That means not worrying when bank accounts run low – or overdrawn – but choosing to trust God instead. And He’s proven that He is indeed an on-time God.
I decided to live out the truth to lean not to my own understanding and to commit my ways to Him. That meant asking God simple things like, What should I put on my to-do list today?, and then prioritizing the things He gave me. And He’s proven that every detail of my life is important to Him.
What I’ve found was that at that time when I started this daily prayer time, I felt like I didn’t have anything to give God. I literally felt like, I have nothing to offer you, God. But I know you’ve been good enough to warrant me missing a few winks, so here I am.
There have been mornings when I’ve hit snooze one too many times and had to make up my prayer time at the end of the day. There have been mornings that I’ve been so tired that I’ve fallen asleep intermittently throughout. And times when I literally wrote in my prayer journal, God, I’ve got nothing to say this morning. I’ve gone to Him angry and disappointed. Sad and confused. I’ve prayed in tongues some mornings, sobbed uncontrollably others, and simply sat in silence for some others.
But in the six or so months since I’ve been really trying to commit to this thing, God’s moved in a mighty way in my life. He’s grown this luncheon idea to a multi-city brand that one day may make me a little money and give me a national platform. On May 19th He told me write down some declarations. One of them described a house in great detail that I, at the time, never thought I could have or afford. Today, I’m excited to say we’ve placed an offer on the very house He described to me and we’re just waiting for the confirmation that its ours.
I’ve often in the past few months made it a priority to give big gifts, to give when it hurts, or to give when I’m down to my very last dollars as a means to show God I trust Him and/or to sow seeds for the desires He’s placed in my heart. Just last week a couple gave my husband and I a substantial sum of money to help us get our down payment together for the house God told me was ours. Just like that. Out of the blue.
Look, I’m not perfect. And I don’t share these testimonies with you to brag or to somehow say I’m better than anyone. I’m a sinner of the worst kind perhaps.
But I share these bits of my story with you to say this:
1. God sees you. He knows how you’re sacrificing and sowing in tears and labor. He sees all that you’re doing and going through and He is faithful to reward your efforts. I’m a witness to that.
2. You are all the gift God needs. Don’t ever think that you have nothing to give God. If all you give HIm is your time and attention – and it doesn’t have to be all at once or for some long period of time, it can be throughout the day, while you’re sitting in traffic, or even in the shower. But if you give HIm you, if you choose to seek Him first literally, He’ll bless you for your efforts.
And 3. You are not alone. I struggle all the time with figuring out how to get it all done in a day. Whether you’re juggling a business, a husband, and kids like me, or you’re just trying to figure out where to live, what to do, or who to date, you aren’t alone. God loves you and He cares about every detail of your life. If you’d ask His opinion, tell Him, Lord, I’ll do whatever you want me to today, He’s faithful to direct your path. I’m a witness.
I don’t always get up in the morning. And I jack up on my walk many times every hour of the day. But I can say that since I’ve decided to prioritize time with God, my faith has grown, my expectation has grown, and the room that I leave in my life for God to do miracles has grown, too.
The sellers of our new house haven’t accepted our offer yet, but they will. I don’t yet have all of the money I need for a down payment either. I don’t know how we’re going to afford the renovations and I’m not sure when we’ll move in.