Pulling a Peter

I pulled a Peter, y’all.

Somewhere in the last month I went from walking on water, completely focused on and trusting in God, to panicking and shouting out for Him to save me.

Somewhere along the lines I got so mesmerized with what was before/around me, that I took my eyes off of the one who was keeping me afloat, and now, I’m crying out for a dingy, a life preserver, something.

It’s like I woke up and what were the peaceful waters of my life were all of sudden lapping aggressively at my face and neck.  I’m flailing y’all.  And had God not shown me how close I was to going under…BUT GOD.

Are you overwhelmed?  Did you wake up one morning and all of sudden the burden of debt, or responsibilities at home or work, or challenges in your relationship, or the struggle of bad habits were all heaped on your head?

That’s where I am.

But this morning, the Lord showed me Psalm 119:147.  It goes like this in The Message version:

Psalm 119:147

145-152 I call out at the top of my lungs,
“God! Answer! I’ll do whatever you say.”
I called to you, “Save me
so I can carry out all your instructions.”
I was up before sunrise,
crying for help, hoping for a word from you.
I stayed awake all night,
prayerfully pondering your promise.
In your love, listen to me;
in your justice, God, keep me alive.
As those out to get me come closer and closer,
they go farther and farther from the truth you reveal;
But you’re the closest of all to me, God,
and all your judgments true.
I’ve known all along from the evidence of your words
that you meant them to last forever.

I read that, and here are a few things the Holy Spirit told me that may be an encouragement to you:

1. You’ve gotta rise early to find direction.  You cannot expect to hear the small, still quiet of the Lord once the cacophony of your life has begun.  Set aside some quiet time – for me it must be early, but for you it could be over lunch, or doing your commute, or whenever – and dedicate it to seeking God, praying to Him, and (most importantly) listening for instruction for the day.  And it will be JUST FOR TODAY, because remember, tomorrow will have troubles of its own.

2. God isn’t going to waive a magic wand to make it all disappear.  Nope, if you read this scripture, what you’ll come away with is peace to sustain and endure and to accomplish whatever is before you.  Nowhere does it say He’ll take the burden away.  Rather, what it says is, if you seek Him, He’ll tell you how (not if, but how) you’ll win this battle.

3. God hasn’t changed.  He is the same God of our quiet and peaceful and faith-filled season as He is when we feel like we’re drowning, in over our heads, or too far gone for saving.  His promises are still true.  His word is still true.  If something’s different, the only thing that’s changed is you/me.

4. Once we put our eyes back on him, it’s not that our enemies/challenges disappeared (sometimes they will, but…), no it’s just that the change in focus makes them seem less imminent, less menacing, farther away.  The moral? The closer we draw to Him, the more insignificant all the other drama becomes.

5. Even though you’re going through, being pursued by challenges on every side, God is still there.  In fact, He’s closest during your times of peril.  I remember being told that the teacher is always silent during the test.  That seems an appropriate reminder right here.

I’ll be honest with you.  Even after this revelation from the Holy Spirit, there’s still a small, infinitesimal part of me that still feels overwhelmed, but God told me very clearly: write down all you have to do (make a to-do list) and together, you and I will, work through it.

Bottom line?  Life won’t get easier when it’s hard.  LOL.  I know that seems like common sense, but it’s often what we’re looking for: a secret escape from the hard times so we can mystically teleport ourselves back to peace and reassurance.  It doesn’t exit Family.  How else can God grow us and stretch us and deepen our dependance on Him if not by going through things from time to time?

But even though you can’t escape the tough times, he will give us the strength to endure if we seek Him, listen to/out for Him, and remind ourselves through the Word and our memories (because as Tye Tribbett said, “If He did it before/He’ll do it again/Same God right now/Same God back then) we’ll live to have HIm fight for us another day.

Isaiah 50:4

New International Version (NIV)

4 The Sovereign Lord has given me a well-instructed tongue,
to know the word that sustains the weary.
He wakens me morning by morning,
wakens my ear to listen like one being instructed.

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Funny Money and Fuzzy Math

This morning during my devotional I was led to read Malachi 3.

Now, being raised in a good, southern Black Baptist church, I know this chapter well.  It is the go-to standard on tithing and hold’s what I believe to be the only passage in the Bible where God dares the read to “try him.”  (If I’m wrong, please let me know!)

This morning, as I read the passages for the umpteenth time, I was struck with a new revelation when I read verse 11:

Malachi 3:11

New Living Translation (NLT)

11 Your crops will be abundant, for I will guard them from insects and disease.[a] Your grapes will not fall from the vine before they are ripe,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.

Now the part that struck me this time around was the word “crops.”

What stood out to me was the principle that in order to have crops, one must sow something.  One must plant seeds in order to have a harvest.

As I prayed and meditated on this scripture, the Holy Spirit asked me, “What are you sowing?”

Let’s get the literal application out of the ways first: tithes and offerings sow seeds of faith in the Kingdom.  God promises in Malachi 3 to bless to overflow those who plant these seeds in His Kingdom.  Such that every time you offer your tithes and offering, you are planting a seed of faith which God sees, nurtures and then blesses to abundance on your behalf.

There.  That’s the literal application.

But this morning as I read, I was struck with the question of, “What are you sowing?”  Because as I meditated on this Scripture I realized that if we sow seeds of irresponsibility, overspending, and impulsiveness with our finances, they too will grow at some point.

Yes, the Word of God is clear: He will fend off the enemy in the area of your finances when you tithe.  And yes, we know that all things work together for the good of those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose, but I can’t help but to hear the voice of Denzel Washington as Malcolm X ringing in my ears: “Those chickens will come home to roost.”

I’ll share that I was convicted as I read this scripture because while God is faithful to rebuke the devourer and to bless my crops, I am not always cognizant of what seeds I’m sowing.  A splurge here, an over-budget purchase there.  Independent moments have a way of creating quite the pattern (and expense!) over time.

I say this not to scare anyone, or to cause you to feel badly about yourself.  Nope.  I share this to be transparent with you – because I’m nowhere near perfect – and to hopefully bless someone with the revelation I received today.

What seeds are you sowing?

And I believe this transcends finances.  If you want to lose weight, what seeds are you sowing to see that come to fruition?  You want your business to take off or your ministry to take root?  Do you want to be a wife or husband?  Are you ready for a new job?  Are you desperate to leave old habits behind?

What are you doing to see the results that you want?

What seeds are you sowing?

If we don’t do anything different, we’ll keep getting what we’ve always gotten…in every area of our lives.

Bottom line: sowing the wrong seeds in your financial life/stewardship over what God has given you can make your money funny.   And sowing the wrong seeds in other areas of your life, hoping to get different results, is just downright fuzzy math.

When you plant apple seeds, you won’t get oranges.

Likewise, that which you expend your energy, time, resources and spirit to accomplish, will be what grows.  Nothing more, nothing less.

What seeds are you sowing?

Credit Isn’t Due

In the past few weeks, I’ve had similar conversations with different groups of friends.

No matter their challenge, I’ve found the Holy Spirit encouraging me to share the following with them:

“Look, the devil ain’t smart. The Bible says there’s nothing new under the sun; so we know he isn’t all that clever. Every trick he’s pulling on you, he’s pulled before and been defeated by Jesus himself. No, all the devil is is patient.”

I want to share that with you – someone reading this – today because no matter what you’re facing, what season you’re going through, you must hold on to your faith in God and your belief that it will get better and that you will win.

Why?

For starters, because it is written that you’re more than a conqueror and we KNOW you’ll win. (Skip to the end of the book; all of God’s children win!)

But also because what I’ve said is true. The devil is just patient.

Get this. When it feels like there’s one problem after another befalling you, things are going wrong left and right, realize that its your decision to stand firmly planted in God’s power and your faith that secures your victory.

The enemy knows that if he beats up enough, puts us down enough, wreaks enough havoc in our lives that we’ll eventually doubt that God cares, that He hears us, or that He’s fighting on our behalf.

If the enemy can distract us long enough by tampering with the temporary circumstances around us, he can distract us from God and possibly delay the blessings the Lord has for me.

Because remember, Matthew 6:33 advises us to seek God first. In doing so, and if we live righteously, He’ll add all good things unto us.

The lesson? No matter what hell is breaking out around you, remember God’s promise in Psalm 91 that NONE OF IT will harm you, and just keep your eyes, thoughts and prayers locked on God. Don’t start telling God about your problems. Begin to tell your problems about your God and watch what happens!

So, what’s the takeaway? Let’s recap:

1. Our season of blessing is upon us. We can see it, feel it, and know that God’s prepared/preparing us.

2. Seemingly, out of nowhere, all hell breaks loose in our homes, on our jobs, in our families, our finances. Everywhere!

3. At first we remain flat-footed in our faith, trusting and believing God to protect and provide. Ultimately though, as in every test, we reach a crossroads where if one more thing goes wrong we feel we just won’t be able to take it. (And let’s just be clear, we ALL reach this point – me included – infinite times along our Christ walk. It’s how we grow!)

4. The enemy waits for us to reach that moment – that “if one more thing goes wrong” point – to distract us with, well, one more thing. Sometimes our faith will be strong enough to stand firm. But sometimes, we break under the pressure of it all and the devil thinks he has one up on us. But, because he isn’t powerful enough to change God’s plan and purpose for you, all he can do is delay the delivery of God’s blessings into our lives or postpone the end of whatever season we’re in.

So, our challenge in moments like that, if we choose to accept it, is to not allow the enemy to distract us. To remember that all of his assails are temporary; they’re like sleight of hand tricks because they can’t render any permanent effects on the blessings, mercy, love and favor of God that we’re drenched in.

I hope that this encourages someone. I believe that there is someone reading this who is wondering, “Lord, why all of this, right now? Why me? Have I done something wrong? Do you see me going through all of this? Do you care?”

To you I would say two more things:

1. The teacher is always silent during the test. Just because you feel God isn’t answering doesn’t mean He’s left you. He knows what you’re going through and, most importantly, knows that you will win.

2. The devil doesn’t mess with people who ain’t got nothing. (Yeah, I know that’s awful English, but stick with me.) It’s just like a thief; they don’t rob folks who don’t have anything. So the devil’s extra attention right now is just confirmation that if you hold on, hang on, keep believing, keep professing your faith and confessing your victory something great is just on the other side of this.

***

At one point in my family’s favorite movie, “The Color Purple”, Miss Celie says to a battered and angry Miss Sophia, “This side’ll be over soon; heaven lasts always.”

Adopt that mindset: this time/season/hardship will be over soon. What’s to come – the manifestation of God’s promises, blessings, favor, love, mercy and grace on you and your life – is eternal.

Stand your ground and like the coward he is the devil will retreat frustrated, you will prosper and God will be glorified.

I know this to be true from my own life.

Do you believe it?

Labor Day

These are the Scriptures that are on my heart this morning:

Deuteronomy 28:8
“The Lord will guarantee a blessing on everything you do and will fill your storehouses with grain. The Lord your God will bless you in the land he is giving you.

Deuteronomy 28:12a
The Lord will send rain at the proper time from his rich treasury in the heavens and will bless all the work you do.

1 Timothy 4:14
Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you.

Proverbs 18:16
Giving a gift can open doors; it gives access to important people!

Although I’ve been blessed to be employed for many Labor Day holidays, this one today feels different.

It’s different because today I celebrate Labor Day as someone who went to God with an explicit, detailed and bold prayer request for a new job more than six months ago and today I am in that job. A job that God, quite literally, created for me to fit the criteria of my bold prayer and bold faith.

So where, quite often in the past, Labor Day was an all too brief but welcomed respite from the drudgery of a 9-to-5, today I have a different perspective because I feel like I’m using my God-given talents in a job that glorifies Him; in a way that glorifies Him; and through a vehicle He ordained to bless me.

You know, there’s nothing logical about my professional progression. I majored in journalism in college. Worked in Higher Ed administration and admissions for a couple of years after college (probably because I just wasn’t ready to let my college years go). I earned my Masters in writing and in that time did all kinds of writing for all kinds of outlets. I followed a passion for people and telling stories and desiring justice for everyone to a communications stint at the Salvation Army and then into (my first) public relations as the spokesperson for DC Public Schools. From there, I continued to wonder what I wanted to do when I grew up…right into the office of Congressman Elijah Cummings as his spokeswoman.

Now in all of that time, I made a ton of mistakes. I learned a lot. Made invaluable connections. But more than anything, I prayed non-stop that God would use me and that He’d close any doors I was not meant to go through. Let’s be clear, I did not and do not deserve anything that I have. And I didn’t always “get it right,” but the one thing I never waivered in was my desire for God’s will for me and my belief that He woudn’t take me anywhere that I wasn’t supposed to be.

I’ve quit jobs because I trusted Him that much. I took jobs that I thought were beyond my ability in positions I thought were too good for me because I trusted Him. And now, today, I sit in a job that He made for me to glorify His name and kingdom because it’s where He lead me and because He knows far better than I what I’m capable of and what gifts He’s put in me.

Don’t be fooled: I’m still scared about a some of the requirements of this new job. There are things I must learn and improve upon — and fast — but the thing about trusting and waiting on God is that He won’t promote you before you’re ready because He wants to see you succeed.

See it blesses God to see you succeed using the gifts He’s given you. It’s a testimony to His greatness when we allow him to bless the work of our hands. He has no desire to see, gets no pleasure out of seeing, us drag ourselves into jobs day in and day out just for the check. Why? Because, first, He’s our Source and provider, and second, because He came to give us life and life more abundantly.

…I guess I say all of this morning to say this: take time today to seek God’s face about where you are in your career or profession. Be honest with Him about how you’re feeling about where He has you placed right now, and then get serious about living and working on purpose!

The Scriptures above are all promises of what God will do with our work when we give it to Him for His glory and are obedient in using our gifts. They are promises available to all His children. They are work realities that can be yours!

Use today to reflect on how God’s gifted you and how you can glorify HIm with it.

I’m a living testimony that it won’t always look right or feel right, but if you trust God to lead you and believe in Him, He will use the seeds He’s planted in you for His glory AND your good.

I’m a believer that this Labor Day is about taking a moment to check the work of our hands to ensure that it’s fulfilling God’s purpose for our lives.

God wants more for you than just a J-O-B. And if you want that, too, take some time today to talk to God about it! Ask Him to give you a plan for getting back in His will OR preparing for His promotion and then get ready, get ready, get ready!

God has a plan JUST FOR YOU and a purpose that ONLY YOU CAN FULFILL.

Your living ain’t in vain. Live on purpose and He’ll promote you. No matter what you do, where you’re gifted, or what you’ve got, give it all to God. He’ll bless it and multiply it just like HIs word says!

Video: Keyondra Frederick YouTube