Who’s Fighting?

Ephesians 6:13 says this in the NLT version:

Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm.

Let’s just get something clear that this verse in fact makes crystal clear: you’re going to have to go through.

There.  I said it.  No matter what you’ve been told, the reality is that we’re all going to go through.

We’re going to have storms, tests, trials, disappointments.  We’re going to have seasons of waiting and of hurt, of healing and of preparation.

We’re gonna have a little hell to go through from time-to-time.

And the sad part isn’t that we somehow think otherwise.  No, the real travesty is that we come through looking like we’ve been through hell.

We’re whipped.  Tired.  Beat down.  Tore down.  Broken.  A mess of a person.  We look like we just got in the ring with Tyson and are happy just to have our lives.

That’s a grave misunderstanding of whose we are and who we are called to be.

We were created to be victorious and for our very lives of victory to give glory to the King.

So much so that not only should we NOT be surprised to make it through, but we should expect it and walk out looking like victors.

…instead of the sad sacks that crawl out of the least little storm looking like they’ve been to hell and back.

That scripture, Ephesians 6:13, tells us that all we need to do is prepare and stand.  Period.

Nowhere in that scripture does it say we have to fight or attack or strategize.

Nope.

It says do all you can and then stand.

You see, the reason we come out look like death warmed over is because we’re trying to fight spiritual battles – the Lord’s battles – in our own strength, our own time and our own way.

Instead of preparing – by hiding the Word in our hearts and heads – and then standing still and letting God secure the victory He’s already promised to us with the blood of Jesus (whew!), we try to figure out how to make it work; how to get out of our uncomfortable situation; how to get through this test unchanged, unfazed, and unscathed.

We have to do this.  We must prepare and stand.  So God can fight and be glorified and so we can win.

It’s just like Donald Lawrence’s new song, The Gift, says, “You don’t look like what you’ve been through.”

Why let the enemy think He’s won any ground by allowing him to affect your countenance, your disposition, your joy, when you already know – AND HE KNOWS – that he’s defeated at every turn?

Aside from robbing God of the fullness of his praise and glory, there is another risk to trying to fight your own battles: you end up tired.

Sarah Young says it like this in her devotional, “Jesus Today”:

I will fight for you; you need only to be still. I know how weary you are, My child. You have been struggling just to keep your head above water, and your strength is running low. Now is the time for you to stop striving and let Me fight for you. I know this is not easy for you to do. You feel as if you must keep struggling in order to survive, but I am calling you to rest in Me. I am working on your behalf; so be still, and know that I am God.
Quieting your body is somewhat challenging for you, but stilling your mind may often seem downright impossible. In your striving to feel secure, you have relied too heavily on your own thinking. This struggle to be in control has elevated your mind to a position of autonomy. So you need the intervention of the Holy Spirit. Ask Him to control your mind more and more – soothing you from the inside out. Take time to rest in the shadow of the Almighty while I fight for you.
Exodus 14:14 – Psalm 46:10 – Romans 8:6 – Psalm 91:1

So what’s it gonna be?  Are you going to keep trying in vain to fight battles you were never meant to fight for a victory you already had?  Or are you going to prepare, stand, and let God secure the victory and get his glory?

You can keep scheming, trying to find ways to get through or get over or get past, but know this: there is no shortcut to who God’s created you to be.  Without every lesson, every test and trial, you cannot become who He needs you to be.

So, stop trying.  Start trusting.  Prepare and stand.

This battle is not yours.  It’s the Lord’s…and all you can do is win.

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Forward

This song has been running on repeat in my Spirit all day:

What a moment You have brought me to
Such a freedom I have found in You
You’re the healer who makes all things new, yeah, yeah, yeah

I’m not going back, I’m moving ahead
Here to declare to You my past is over in You
All things are made new, surrendered my life to Christ
I’m moving, moving forward, oh

You have risen with all power in Your hands
You have given me a second chance
Hallelujah, hallelujah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Oh yeah, yeah, yeah, oh

I’m not going back, I’m moving ahead
Here to declare to You my past is over in You
All things are made new, surrendered my life to Christ
I’m moving

Not going back, moving ahead
Here to declare to You, my past is over in You
All things are made new, surrendered my life to Chris
tI’m moving, moving forward
Said I’m moving forward, oh yeah

Singing You make all things new
Yes, You make all things new and I will follow You forward, oh
You make all things new
You make all things new and I will follow You forward
You make all things new
Yes, You make all things new and I will follow You forward
You make all things new
Yes, You make all things new and I will follow You forward
I will follow You forward, yeah, oh, oh
(lyrics from Metro Lyrics)

There are so many things that excite me about this song.  Chief among them is the realization that we have an invitation to move on.  Right now, right here, you and I can leave the anxieties, the worries, the regrets, the shame, the hurt, the sadness.  We can leave all of that behind right now and move forward with God.

This is bigger than God forgiving us for our sins, this is an invitation to forget them.  To never look back.  To never be held hostage  by our pasts.

We’re guilty of having a horrible memory.  We forget the victories Christ won for us in our past and allow doubt and fear to seize up the hope in our present and our futures.  If He made a way then — if He paid the bills then — if He healed the body then — if He gave you peace then — if He fought AND WON the battle then — if He’s every done anything for you, He’s faithful to do it again.

So move forward!

The Bible says it like this – I like this! – in Isaiah 43:16-21:

This is what the Lord says—
he who made a way through the sea,
a path through the mighty waters,
17 who drew out the chariots and horses,
the army and reinforcements together,
and they lay there, never to rise again,
extinguished, snuffed out like a wick:
18 “Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
19 See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.
20 The wild animals honor me,
the jackals and the owls,
because I provide water in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland,
to give drink to my people, my chosen,
21     the people I formed for myself
that they may proclaim my praise.

Look, God is doing a new thing!  Yes, He’s done great things in the past.  Yes, we’ve all fallen in the past.  But right now, in this moment, He wants us to acknowledge that He is STILL working for our behalf.  With the undefeated track record He already boasts in performing miracle after miracle in our lives, He’s saying, “Don’t even sweat that.  Look what I’m doing now!”

Look, I don’t know where you are in your lives.  I don’t know what you’re praying for, trust God for, fasting and seeking Him for.  But I know this: He’s working for you right now and He’s doing something new.

Your breakthrough this time won’t look like what it did the last time.  That money won’t come from that same source.  That deliverance won’t come from the same source.  That’s breakthrough won’t come from the same source.

BUT IT’S HERE.  IT’S STILL YOURS FOR THE TAKING IN THE NEW THING THAT GOD IS DOING RIGHT NOW.

The Word says it’s ‘BURSTING OUT.”  Let’s be clear, things burst out when what’s holding them isn’t large enough.  So the blessings, the peace, the faith, the deliverance, the healing, the breakthrough.  What He’s doing for you right now is SO much bigger than your sins, your past, your guilt, it’s so much bigger even than what He’s done before that He needs you to just be open to the now.  Be present and accept His present!

I don’t know what you need today, but if you’re like me, you’ve got prayer requests out that you believe God will answer but that you’re waiting to see materialize in the natural.

All I can say — what God is saying to me — is I’m doing it right now.  Get ready, get ready, get ready, because this new thing is bigger and badder than what you’ve expected.

Not because we deserve it.  Not because we’ve earned it.  But because that’s just how big and GOOD our God is.

Let all that other stuff go.  Thank God now.  Praise Him now.  Rejoice now for this new thing that He’s already doing for you.

Move forward today.

Move forward with God and don’t look back.

I’m moving forward…with faith and expectation.

Move forward!

Making Sense of the Crazy

I remember the day my parents dropped me off at college.  One of the last stops of the day was to the dreaded Bursar’s Office.

I remember walking into the office with my entire family – parents, sisters and brother – all in tow.  Part amazed at the architecture, part taking it all in, and part silent prayer.

When it came time to talk dollars and cents with the Bursar, my mother went into the office, sat very coolly and comfortably into a chair at the Bursar’s desk, and smiled.

The Bursar asked, “Now, how are you all going to be paying for Safiya’s tuition?”

Without missing a beat, and still smiling, my mom replied, “My Father.”

I sat.  Stunned.  My grandfather was not a man of means…at all.  He could barely afford his own upkeep at the time.  So I sat there, sweating somewhat, trying to figure out whom my mother was referring to.

The Bursar continued.

“Oh, ok.  Your father is going to be sending us a check, or…?”

My mom replied, “Yes.  He will be paying the tuition.”

I’ll be honest, I don’t remember any more of the conversation.

I remember panic setting in and me wondering how far in the semester I’d get before I’d be booted.

And I remember wondering what in the world my mom was on, lol.  Was she crazy?!  Clearly, she was crazy!

Well, our Father did pay.  Not just that semester, but He made way after way, semester after semester.  He never failed me.  Through undergrad and grad school, He made a way.

I’m reminded of this conversation for two reasons today.  First because this morning I had a similar conversation with the Director of Financial Aid at the private school my daughter has applied to.

Second because, as our nation sits stunned and still trying to understand the Zimmerman verdict, this episode from my past reminds me of two things: everything always works out and we should never lean to our own understanding.

Everything Always Works Out

The Bible is clear that God is the writer and finisher of each of our fates.  He and He alone knows what will happen to us, when, how and for what purpose.  He asks that we only trust Him and His plan.  And then, as further reassurance, He says in Romans 8:28: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

We don’t know the big picture.  We don’t know the how or the why between Trayvon’s death or Zimmerman’s acquittal.  But the God we serve is still the same.  He’s still all-powerful, all-knowing, and sovereign.  And because He is unchanging, His word is as well.  This too will work for good.  Everything will – in His time – be alright.

Lean Not to Our Own Understanding

Look, we just can’t know everything.  Furthermore, we cannot use our feeble, human minds to try to understand how things will come together or how things will work.  It’s not possible.  How can a finite mind understand the workings of an infinite God?  We can’t.  So, to save us the frustration, the anxiety, the heartache and the toil, the Lord tells us clearly in Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”  Stop trying to make sense of the plan.  For starters, you’re only seeing a small snapshot of a grander scheme.  And secondly, even if you could see it all, you could never understand it.  Stop trying to chart your own course or make things happen in your own strength, timing and according to your own plan.  Just trust Him.  He never fails.

I know these aren’t always easy scriptures to accept.  Heck, I know these scriptures but I still don’t know how we’ll afford my daughter’s tuition.  Much like the nation still doesn’t know “what now?” after Trayvon’s death and Zimmerman’s acquittal.

But I take peace in, I meditate on, I cling to the hope that comes with trusting God: to provide, to answer questions, and to take care of everything.

This is what I urge us all to do; today and everyday.

When the path ahead is unclear.  When there seems to be confusion around you.  And when you can’t make sense of your circumstances.

Cling to your hope in God and believe that everything will be alright, according to His plan and in His time.

When we take our hands off of our problems, our puzzles, our circumstances and situations, God can step in to solve them or to reveal the answer to us.

I am expecting the God of my vision to secure the provision for it to come to pass.

I pray the same peace for you today.

So, how do we make sense of the crazy? How do we understand the seemingly incomprehensible?

We don’t.

We trust the One who wrote the plan.

That’s all we can do.

Inspiration from the Ministry of John Legend

Can I be honest for a moment?

I can be needy.

Not just like “in a relationship” clingy, but Spiritually, when it comes to my Heavenly Father, I can be really needy.

If I don’t check my faith, I can find myself in moments wanting a sign to know He’s there.  I want to hear from Him or feel Him or see Him.

I want something that will say to me, “Yup, I’m still here.”

I’m not like this all the time.  No, I’m grateful for the growing measure of faith God continues to develop in me.

That faith keeps me from panic-stricken fits of worry that somehow the omnipresent Lord is not present with me or aware of me in any given moment.

But, if I’m honest, I find my neediness revs up a notch in my seasons of waiting.

You know what I mean.

It’s after your storm: so you’ve prayed and cried and fasted and prayed to get through.  The Lord has answered those prayers, He’s revealed my next steps, a little bit more of the path He has for me.  And then it feels like all progress comes to a screeching halt.

And there. I. Sit.

Waiting.

In that season of waiting (which is more accurately not waiting but divine preparation) it can feel like God’s checked you off of His Holy to-do list to focus on someone else, some other issue for a time.

But today, I want to remind you and I that God never leaves us.

I know this because, well, He said it in a number of scriptures:

Joshua 1:9 ESV

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

Matthew 28:20 ESV

Teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Hebrews 13:5 ESV

Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Romans 8:38-39 ESV

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Now…

If you’re anything like me, sometimes a song really helps to drive home the point.  And, if you’ve been reading my blog for a while now, you know I find divine inspiration in all kinds of things.

So…

If you’re in a season where the enemy is trying to get you to believe that God’s moved on, He’s forgotten about you, and that your “next” is delayed or may never come, hum a few bars from the hymnal of John Legend.  The selection is “Stay With You”:

We’ve been together for a while now we’re growing stronger everyday now

It feels so good and there is no doubt I will stay with you

As each morning brings sunrise and the flowers bloom in springtime

On my lovin’ you can rely and I’ll stay with you

Oh I’ll stay with you through the ups and the downs

Oh I’ll stay with you when no one else is around

When the dark clouds arrive I will stay by your side

I know we’ll be alright

I will stay with you

Though relationships can get old and have a tendency to grow cold

We have something like miracle yeah, and I’ll stay with you

Oh I’ll stay with you through the ups and the downs

Yes I’ll stay with you when no one else is around

When the dark clouds arrive I will stay by your side

I know we’ll be alright

I will stay with you

There will be heartaches and pains

Yes it will but through it all, we will remain, hey

In this life, we all know friends may come, and they may go

Through the years I know I will stay

In the end I know that we’ll find love so beautiful and divine

And we’ll be lovers for lifetime, yeah and I’ll stay with you

Oh I will stay with you through the ups and the downs

Oh I’ll stay with you when no one else is around

And when the dark clouds arrive I will stay by your side

I know we’ll be alright I will stay with you

Yeah everything will be fine yeah and I will stay with you

Through the end of time I will stay with you

Lyrics Courtesy of Metro Lyrics

Video courtesy of jarapara/YouTube

GOD PROMISES THAT HE WILL STAY WITH YOU!

Devotional: It Ain’t About You

*This devotional was originally written by me in May 2012, but it’s a good reminder.  I hope it blesses you!

Sunday, I took my kids to Richmond, VA, to spend the day with my mom on Mother’s Day.  It was a last-minute decision, so by the time I joined my family at church, the Bishop was wrapping up.  Once service was over, I made my way to the altar to say hello to him.

We talked back and forth, I introduced him to my son, and before too long, my father had joined us in our chat.

My father went on to tell the Bishop about my new job and how proud he was of me.  The Bishop was proud, too, and he congratulated me.  He then said something that I’ve thought about frequently since.

He looked at me and said, “Look, this is a great opportunity for you.  But God has you here for your husband.  Your husband is going to be able to go anywhere he wants to in the federal government through you.  So your connections, your work.  God’s going to use you to bless your husband. And he put you there to tell the truth.  Always tell the truth.”

Hearing the Bishop prophesy about my husband’s future brought tears to my eyes.  I don’t know how much I’ve told you all about my husband, but he’s a phenomenal man.  He works full-time as a police officer, takes our oldest child to school, works out, takes care of both babies throughout the day, drops and picks me up from work, cooks dinner most nights, cleans everything, and on top of that is a full-time student. He is selfless, intelligent, thoughtful and far greater of a husband than I ever imagined I’d have.

So, given all of that, you can understand why a prophesy of blessings for my hard-working husband would cause such a reaction in me.

But you know, the more I thought about the entire exchange, the more I realized the greater message in what Bishop said.  It’s this: the idea that even though we’re most often consumed with our plans, our goals, and what God has for us, the truth is that sometimes our placement, our promotion is so God can use us to be a blessing to someone else.

I know, I know.  It may not be a revolutionary, life-changing epiphany to you.  But I feel strongly today, right now, that someone reading this is wondering why God has them where they are.

Perhaps you can’t figure out why you’re stalled, why your promotion hasn’t come, or this season hasn’t ended.  Maybe you feel like for some reason God isn’t answering your prayers to move on, to do something different, to go somewhere new.

Well, let me encourage you: perhaps, just perhaps, it ain’t about you!

Not what you were expecting, I’m sure, but I do mean this to be an encouragement.  Maybe all the hell you’re going through on your job isn’t because you’re being punished, but because God is teaching someone else a lesson, growing them, testing them, stretching them.

Maybe you’ve been single so long not because God intends for you to spend your life alone, but because he’s preparing your wife or husband, maturing them, blessing them, grooming them.

Maybe your resumes are going unanswered not because you don’t qualify, but because that job is for someone else who’s had it worse, for longer, and for whom this is their break.

Maybe, just maybe, it’s ain’t about you!

And to be honest, it ain’t always going to be supernatural.  Case and point: maybe that flat tire that you had on the way to work kept someone else from getting into a life-altering accident.

Maybe the phone call, text, FB post, tweet, or email that you never got kept a door closed that would have brought you nothing but heartache.

Or maybe the phone call, text, FB post, tweet, or email that YOU SENT was never responded to to stop you from introducing drama to someone else’s life.

You know, as I thought about this devotional, the Lord brought to my remembrance something that my friend and mentor at Zion Church, Min. Katana, has said more than once in our small groups.  And it’s this, “Sure, God doesn’t need us for His will to be done, but often He works through people.  And He can’t work if you don’t let Him.”  Now, I paraphrased that, but what I want you to get is this: you can’t be open to God’s leading and His desire to use you if you’re fixated on what you think you’re going through.

I mean, that’s just logical: how can you hear God’s voice over your own “woe is me”, pity party?

Look, my prayer for you today is that your thinking will be changed.  That you and I both will move from me-centric thinking to He- capital H – He-centric thinking, being always aware of God being at work.

And if you can’t remember that, if you find yourself so frustrated, sad, disappointed, confused, or dejected because of your circumstances, then prayerfully you’ll remember this, John 15:16, that says, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit – fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in name.”

Wondering why you haven’t gotten what you seek? Wondering why you haven’t been released from this job, this relationship, this assignment, this place or this season?

I guarantee you that if you begin to ask God how you can be of service to Him where you are, ask Him why He’s placed you where you are, appointed you to do what you’re doing, seek Him and ask those questions and you’ll be well on your way to seeing the Lord open the path to your next appointment.

 

Don’t Hate the Wait

So, this post is going to just be real. And the real deal is that even when God has promised us things, sometimes – often times, perhaps – we have to wait to receive those blessings.

And let’s be honest: waiting sucks.

I mean really. The time between confirmation and taking possession can seem painfully long and uneventful.

In that time, it is easy to become discouraged; to doubt what’s God’s said; and to even question your faith.

So, as I am in a season of waiting now, I thought I’d share with you some things we can do while we wait.

  1. Praise God. Once we receive word that more or better or next is coming, we should immediately go into a season of worshipping and praising God to thank Him for His favor, His provision, and His blessings. Thanking Him with praise, especially before you take possession is a line in the sand to God. God I believe your Word, I believe your power and I know it’s coming. Thank you.
  2. Excel Where You’re Planted. If you’re anything like me, once you know new/next/promotion is coming, it can be hard to remain focused on the task – or job – at hand. But the reality is that at some point THIS was what you were waiting for God to provide. So we honor God by doing everything as to His service and to honor Him. So what better way to say thank you Lord for making a way than by ensuring that you continue to take care of what He’s already given you…while you wait for what He’s promised?
  3. Serve Others. In the moments when God says, “OK [insert your name here], this is what I’m going to do for you,” it’s all about you. But we must be careful not to stay in a self-centered mode as we prepare for promotion. In fact, the best way to remain humble and to prepare for the new levels of service you’ll be expected to meet when God promotes you is to serve others now. Stop thinking about yourself – no matter how great and exciting the news is – and start focusing on others. Are there folks God’s placed in your circle that could use your encouragement, time, resources or kind words? There are no coincidences in Christ. Likewise we are called to minister from every place in our lives because there’s always someone you can help.
  4. Be Present. When I get confirmation of what’s to come, I have a habit of sprinting far off into the future, planning future events based on what I don’t even have yet. Don’t do that! Remain present in the here and now. Besides the fact that the Word is clear that tomorrow will have its own cares and troubles, we must always remember that tomorrow isn’t promised. Sure, allow yourself a few minutes to daydream about what God is capable of, but then come back and firmly anchor yourself in today. The best way to be prepared for tomorrow is to make it through today. We miss so much of our life’s journey while racing into the what could be of our futures.
  5. Take Inventory. The reality is that even when God says He’s got a blessing for us, we won’t be released from our present season until our work is done; until we’ve given what we’ve come to give and received what we’ve come to get. Bottom line. So it is imperative that we are even more diligent in seeking God’s guidance in the moments after confirmation of a new season/new blessing so we can be clear what work we must wrap up where we are. If you think waiting to take possession of your blessing is hard, imagine how hard it is to realize some time later that you could have had it sooner if only you’d sought God’s roadmap.
  6. Be Grateful. I mean be grateful for what you already have. Be grateful that God loves you enough and cares enough for you to want to bless you and give you more. Be grateful that He’s given you health and strength to walk the road He has you on. Be grateful for life and family and for another day. Decide that your joy won’t be anchored in the gifts, but in the Gift-Giver. This his how you ensure that your head is in the right space – and your heart – when it’s finally time to receive.

Look, I know it isn’t easy. And it isn’t fun. But waiting – with faith and patience and grace – are necessary for God to perfect us and for His will to be done.

And, as not helpful as this might seem, the reality is that we aren’t called to wait in our strength, our own way. In fact, we are reminded that even our waiting should be done His way, so that He can be glorified and so that our faith in Him can grow. Consider these two scriptures:

Galatians 6:9 – Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

Isaiah 40:31 – but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Yes, there is even a way to wait victoriously and to honor God!

So, here’s my final thought: don’t hate the wait! It’s a part of life – natural and spiritual – and plays a critical role in our development. Follow these tips, and whatever other instructions you’re led to follow in your waiting season, and you’ll be walking into your “new” before you know it!