Breath of Life

There’s a song that’s sung at my church. The refrain says,

It’s your breath in our lungs/So we pour out our praise/We pour out our praise to You only

Another says,

These hearts will cry and these dry bones will sing

That line resonated with me as I thought about all the dry bones in my life. The dreams, the desires, the needs. The relationships, the opportunities. 

What are the dead bones in your life?

The same life-giving breath that flows through your lungs now can resurrect the dead places, the dry places in your life. 

Hear this:

This is just a little reminder: nothing – no thing – is beyond the resurrecting power of Christ. 

That business you want to start. Your marriage. Your kids. That promotion. 

God is able. And you are worthy by virtue of you being God’s kid. 

Cry out to God. Be vulnerable and offer Him your heart. And He will cause your dry bones to live again. 

Just a #TuesdayThought. 

Face it, We’re Hypocrites

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. 

Right?

  

More Than Thankful

Last week was Thanksgiving and it was a wonderful time.

Surrounded by friends, family – immediate, extended and distant – I was swathed in visual reminders of just how blessed I am.

But I find that today, a full week after the food, festivities and fellowship have ended, I am still meditating on this theme of being thankful.

As I drove to Thanksgiving dinner with my husband and children, the Lord challenged me to move from a place of simple thankfulness to one of appreciation.

You see, the typical definition of thankful is to be pleased.  Whereas, the definition of appreciation is to show gratitude.

I believe that one of milestones in our walks with Christ is to move from a place of simply being pleased and/or relieved by the blessings and favor He showers on us, to being appreciative – grateful for it all and, dare I say, gleaning a lesson from the good, the bad, the indifferent and the downright ugly.

Yes, I am thankful to God for my family and friends.  For every smile of my children and kiss from my husband.  I’m grateful for our home and all of the material blessings God’s afforded us.  I’m grateful for employment, for passion and a vision to fulfill the purpose God has created and is calling me to fulfill.

But I appreciate every disagreement I have with my husband because it challenges me to grow in love.

I appreciate every tear and tantrum from my children because it demands I walk in patience.

I appreciate every time my bank account was empty or even (dare I be real?) overdrawn, because it forced me to learn better stewardship and reminded me of my true Source.

I appreciate every person who told me I wasn’t good enough, because it demanded that I return to what God told me to do.

I appreciate every setback, every hurry-up-and-wait on the road to this season in my career, because it taught to me to trust God’s plan.

I appreciate every negative word spoken about me and/or to me, because it meant I had to rely on who God says I am.

I appreciate every phone call I made that went unanswered, because it challenged me to call on the Lord.

I appreciate every difficult decision and mistake that I’ve made, because they forced me to seek God and His plan for me.

Why, you ask?  How is that so?  How can I be equally grateful for the “good” and the “bad”?

Well, because for me, this time, living in this season of thankful appreciation, is a confirmation of what the word says in Roman 8:28 (NIV):

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.

Know this.  I can’t speak for you.  And I am by no means knocking your thankfulness but I am challenging you to look thank about being thankful in a broader sense.

Aggressively find your silver lining.  Proactively seek out the blessing in your mess.

Not simply because it’s a good habit or because it will grow your faith, but because I believe this is how God has called us to live; this is how we exemplify that we are in this world but not of it.  Through out outlook, our perspective.

As the holiday season continues, I pray that you will continue to be shown reasons to be both thankful and appreciative, and that you bless God for them both.

Meditate on this…

YouTube video courtesy of Gregory Slack

Favor Ain’t Fair

*Today I share a mini-sermon from two of my Mothers-in-Christ.  This is just to encourage that person who is looking at someone else’s life and wondering, “Why is He doing all that for her/him? What about me?” I hope this blesses you!

I’ve often heard people quote Acts 10:34-35 that God is no respecter of persons. But I think we have been mis-educated about its meaning. My understanding of it had been whatever God does for one person He will do the same for any person. I beg to differ with that interpretation.

Here are the verses:

34 Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism 35 but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right.

The back story on that verse is this is the first time Peter was preaching to Gentiles and he wanted them to know that God saw them the same as the Jewish people with the same entitlements.

So, the question to me then is does God have favorites?

Well, having read about His relationship with Abraham, whom he visited and ate with; Moses, whom He saved to use to free his people; David, who was a king of His heart; Solomon, the re-builder of His temple; Job, whom He knew trusted Him even if He killed him; Peter, James, and John who formed His inner circle while on this earth; and John who we know He just loved the most, I think YES God does have favorites.

I would then ask can anyone be his favorite?  And I believe that answer would also be YES.

And finally, HOW?

God has given us ALL a measure of faith.  Many of us work on a ‘mustard seed’ sample of faith but is that the measure?  No; faith can grow.  We know that faith needs works.  We know that God loves praise and worship.  We know that God wants us to trust Him and not be of a double mind.  God always searches our hearts.  It is our faith that moves the heart and hand of God. And oh, don’t forget predestination.  We can’t leave that out.

So, yes, God is a respecter of person. Be clear though: God is not a respecter of person from outward appearances, but He definitely is based on the condition of the heart.

Bottom line, God may not do to and through you what He is doing for someone else; but, He definitely has plans for you. Plans to prosper you, in your own special way according to His purpose and condition of your heart, and to give you a future (Jer 29:11).

No, favor ain’t fair, but we all thank God for the measure of faith and favor He’s given us each…and for the ability to grow in both!

 

First Fridays Prayer Call Devotional: Watch Me Work!

*Today I was honored to be asked to serve as the guest host on the  First Fridays Weekly Prayer and Praise call.  This weekly devotion and intercession call is a midweek faith refuel led by Min. Akisha Sharon Greene of the First Fridays Ministry.  Below is the devotion I gave today on the call.  I’ll add the call-in information to listen to the recording soon.*

I’ll tell you, I’m not going to beat around the bush because what I have for you all is so very simple.

I’m going to talking very briefly from Psalm 37 and my title – if you want to call it that – is “Watch Him Work.”

God has asked me to tell each of you this:

You’ve prayed.

You’ve cried.

You’ve worked.

And you’ve tried.

Now step back, and watch the Lord work.

Look, I don’t know where each of you is today — I don’t know your personal travails.  I don’t know your ongoing trials.

But I know that you’ve got haters: folks that talk about you behind your back.

People that said you’ve never be anything, you’d never amount to anything, and you’d never go anywhere.

They’ve laughed at your dreams.

Scoffed at your confidence.

And scorned you for your faith.

But God is saying, “Step back, baby, and watch Me work.”

You’re doing your best to be the Proverbs 31 woman and your husband or your children still ain’t acting right?

God says, “Now watch me work.”

You’re tithing, giving your offerings faithfully, and now your money is funny?

“Watch me work.”

Your grandmother was a single mom.  Your mother was a single mom.  And you’ve done all you know how to prepare to be the help meet to a man of God’s choosing?

“Watch me work.”

Sick, and the doctors say they’ve done all they can?

“Watch me work.”

Coworkers telling you there’s no way you can get that promotion – no matter how hard you try?

“Watch me work.”

The devil keeps throwing your past in your face, saddling you with guilt, shame and depression?

“Watch me work.”

You used to be a size 2 – or you ain’t never been a size 2 – and the world is telling you you aren’t beautiful because of it?

“Watch me work.”

See you’ve prayed like it all depends on God.  And you’ve worked like it depends on you.

And now, watch Him work.

Psalm 37 tells us in the Message translation that He sees all of that you’re going through – attacks by the enemy, vindictiveness from others, and folks who scheme against you – but the Lord is faithful to vindicate you, promote you, protect you and bless you in spite of your haters.

In fact, verses 5 and 6 say:  Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun.

What does that mean?

It means you can cue the Nas and Puff Daddy baby.  Tell ’em all: “You can hate me now!”

And keep reading.  Because while they plot and scheme, lie on you, talk about you, criticize you and attack, the Word says in Psalm 37 that your children will be blessed; your inheritance will be great; your protection in Christ impenetrable  and your future signed, sealed and delivered as official by God himself.

So yea, you’re gonna have haters.  You’re gonna have folks who look at you and think, “Who does she think she is?”  You’re gonna feel like all of your prayers are unanswered and your work is in vain.

But just like that song the kids sang a few years ago, God’s got one thing to say to you:

Now watch me work.
Now watch me work.
Now watch me work.
>Now watch me work.

Death couldn’t beat him.  The cross couldn’t hold him.  And the grave couldn’t keep him.

And now He wants to show up and show off in YOUR life.

Take your hands off the reigns.  Take your eyes off the pain.  And heed the Lord’s command:

Watch me work.  Now watch me work.

Amen?!

Devotional: Keepin’ it 100

Look, I’m just going to go ahead and call this what it is: we are a bunch of frauds y’all.

We walk around here, doing our best to look pulled together, pieced together, holding it together.

We put on a good front for others.

We say the right things, pray the right things.

We’re always calling on the name of the Lord, speaking in tongues, naming and claiming it.

 

I think my parent’s generation called it putting on airs.  And my generation now calls it faking, frontin’, or not keeping it 100.

In every case, this is when keeping it real goes wrong.

And no matter what we call it, we ought just stop with the games and be real.

 

If we’re really honest with each other (and ourselves!), each one of us is only  one bad phone call, one bad email or text from falling apart from at the seams.

Literally we’re one paycheck from ruin.

One bad break-up from thinking about ending it all.

We’re just one more thing away…

I tell you this not so you are fearful, but so we’re honest with ourselves and one another.

Because the reality is that all that we have and all that we are has nothing to do with us, and everything to do with God.

 

Look at 1 Corinthians 15:10:

New Living Translation (NLT)

10 But whatever I am now, it is all because God poured out his special favor on me—and not without results. For I have worked harder than any of the other apostles; yet it was not I but God who was working through me by his grace.

And if that doesn’t convince you, listen to this…

Romans 12:3:

New Living Translation (NLT)

3 Because of the privilege and authority[a] God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.

2 Corinthians 3:5:

New Living Translation (NLT)

5 It is not that we think we are qualified to do anything on our own. Our qualification comes from God.

 

The reality is that so many of us are trying to walk around living our lives “like it’s golden,” that we fall woefully short of living our lives like they are God’s: His vessels, His tools, His walking resume of His power, mercy and miracles.

Yeah, you could walk around trying to project the image of having it all, doing it all, and being all that.  But that’s like trying to look like you’re the man/woman while driving someone else’s car.

It doesn’t work.

More than it not working, you do a few very harmful things when you fake it like this:

1. You rob God of His glory.  How can others come to know and praise God for His power, mercy, grace, miracles and favor in YOUR life if you never allow yourself to be honest about what He’s done for you?

2. You rob others of a chance to see and know God.  For the same reasons above, how can you minister to someone – say that God will bring them out – if you don’t allow your life to support your testimony that it’s possible?  God uses each of our lives as an illustration of who He is, what He’s capable of, and how much He loves all of us.  If you aren’t transparent with SOMEONE, or allowing yourself to be held accountable by SOMEONE, you aren’t helping ANYONE.

3. You rob yourself of reality.  Don’t let the enemy convince you that you’ve got it going on because you pulled yourself up from your bootstraps.  No, you may look like you’re all that, but if you do, it’s because God ordained it, allows it, and is using it for His glory, His kingdom and His will.

Truly get this in your spirit: it ain’t about you, boo!

So, the next move is up to you.

You can keep killing yourself from the inside out with stress, worry, fatigue just trying to keep up with the Joneses.

Or you can do less “living life like it’s golden,” and more living Godly.

DEVOTIONAL: Every Day is SUNDAE

Every Tuesday is family date night. My little family of 5 picks a new restaurant at which to have dinner and talk about our day. Yesterday, instead of venturing to a new joint, we ended up at an old favorite. At the end of our meal, I treated myself to a mini sundae: a gooey mess of brownie chunks and chocolate syrup, capped with ice cream and a dollop of whipped cream, and finally topped with a cherry.

While I helped my husband shepherd our toddlers into the car, I kept thinking about how much I was looking forward to my sundae. And how, for such a small treat, it was nice of them to top it with a cherry – garnish usually reserved for the larger, full-size option.

As I relished my dessert it occurred to me that, for Christians, every day is a sundae. Not S-U-N-D-A-Y, but S-U-N-D-A-E.

Why? Because in spite of all the dark, sticky, complicated mess at the bottom of our souls/in our closets/in our pasts, God doesn’t withhold giving us good stuff. And then, by his favor, putting a cherry on top.

Not following me? Ok. How about this? Even though we probably deserved get an STD or worse for all of our fornication and – (clear throat) – playing the field, not only did He keep us safe and healthy, but as a cherry on top he actually sent us a husband or a wife.

Oh, wait, that’s not you? Alright, how about this? Instead of causing us to lose our job – which we should have – when we lost our minds and cussed out the boss, He enables us to retain our jobs and then, only because of His favor, we get promoted or a raise or a new job altogether.

Still not you? Ok. Maybe God’s been merciful enough to keep you from ruining your life or that of your family even though you’re still running to drugs or alcohol or food or sex every chance you get. But not only does He protect your family from your dirt, but He protects you – you’ve never been jumped at a buy, you’ve never been beaten or robbed.

Or maybe God gave you a vision years ago. But you’ve let fear stop you cold – you aren’t doing anything with it and on top of that, all of your friends, everyone around you, is branching out and doing their own thing. Instead of giving that dream to someone worthy, someone who’ll do something with it, not only does God continue to define it for you, He’s giving you time and space to decide to accept the more He’s offering you.

Or maybe it was that decision to drink or drive that should have ended up with you losing your life – or someone else losing theirs. But God…

Or maybe you can’t stop lying.  You want to tell the truth, but you can’t.  But God…

Maybe you have tapped out all of your sources, borrowed money from everyone and their child. You haven’t paid back a soul. And instead of them coming to beat you down or take you to court…But God…

Perhaps you can’t stop visiting illicit sites, or sending dirty texts and FB messages and emails. Your husband or wife or children don’t know yet; it would ruin your family…But God…

I need someone who recognizes that even though all manner of ungodliness can be found in our pasts, in our closets, and sometimes in our mouths and minds, when we repent, God continues to cover all our mess with the blood of Christ, with His grace, AND THEN blesses us on top of that.

He knows what complicated, messy, disgraceful stuff we have living in the inner most regions of our hearts and minds AND HE STILL keeps blessing us; and more than blessing us, He’s still pouring grace and mercy and favor all over us and our lives.

Maybe you’ve been perfect all your life, but I’m here to tell you that for all the mess I’ve chosen to entertain: I shoulda been dead. I shoulda been sick. I shoulda been unemployed. I shoulda been clinically depressed, mentally unstable. I shoulda been homeless. I shoulda been broke. My kids shoulda been… My husband shoulda been…

BUT FOR THE GRACE OF GOD BEING THE CHERRY ON TOP OF OUR LIVES.

Not only did He pull me up out of and through my mess, but by the blood of Christ, He covered it with all kinds of good stuff, and then chucked some favor on top just because that’s just how good He is.

I could go on and on, but I just keep coming back to the realization that not only does He bless us, keep us, protect us, strengthen us, love us, heal us, direct us, forgive us, correct us, grow us, enlarge our territory…not only does He do ALL of that, He then goes right behind all of that to do a little bit more. When we repent and ask for His forgiveness, He blesses us in spite of our messes, and then adds an extra measure of favor on top – like a cherry atop a decadently messy sundae.

I’ll tell you guys. I got so excited about this that I started reading the scriptures and found that consistently we are told that favor comes with something else.

Job 10:12 says that he grants us life AND FAVOR.

Psalm 5:12 says that He blesses the righteous AND SURROUNDS US WITH FAVOR.

Psalm 102:12 says that He will show us mercy AND FAVOR.

Proverbs 18:22 says the man who finds a wife finds a treasure AND FAVOR.

Proverbs 8:35 says that whoever finds Him finds live AND FAVOR.

Acts 7:10 says he was delivered out of all his troubles and GIVEN FAVOR.

Even Luke 2:52 says that Jesus increased in wisdom and stature AND FAVOR.

HOW. AWESOME. IS. THAT?!

Look back over the dirt, the mess, the skeletons, the missteps and mistakes in your life, and then think back on how, through the blood of Christ and your repentant heart, God covered it all with His good grace and mercy. And then on top of that, He heaped favor and love and forgiveness and blessing and promotion.

As we prepare to celebrate Good Friday and the Resurrection, let’s be grateful for the many times God’s resurrected us – our lives, our families, our dreams, our careers, our hopes – and then went a step further to pour out his love and grace and mercy on us just because He loves us THAT much.

Today is SUNDAE. Let’s walk in all the goodness God has heaped on our lives, and thank Him for loving and calling us in spite of our messy, broken lives.

God uses imperfect vessels for his perfect will. Our lives are beautifully imperfect bowls in which He fills us with all of His goodness.

Don’t allow the enemy to keep you in a pity party of one. Repent. Accept God’s forgiveness. And enjoy the SUNDAE.

Stop Trying. Just Trust.

Matthew 11:28-30 (NLT):

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. [29] Take my yoke upon you.  Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. [30] For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

It is so easy to get caught up in “doing.”  Whether it be at home or at work, we can very quickly find ourselves stepping in to make things happen.  While some labor in the world is necessary, we should be careful that that habit doesn’t spill over into our faith walks.

The reality is that following Christ is supposed to be effortless.  Not without challenges – let’s be clear – but we should not have to worry or fret about it.  We should simply be led by a desire to seek God.  Period.   In fact, the word tells us that if we seek God first all things will be added unto us  (Matt 6:33).  That guarantees us that if we would just focus on Him, then He’ll supply everything else: all of our needs and (because he takes pleasure in blessing us (Psalm 35:27)) our desires as well.

I don’t know where you are in your life.  I don’t know your personal struggles and I don’t know what you’ve been “working” on.  However, I do know this: if you would stop trying to make it happen (whatever your “it” is) in your own power and might, and give it over to God, He is faithful to do it (John 16:23) or give it to you (John 14:14).

Let’s take an inventory of where we’re toiling.  If we’re consistently working on something, trying to make something happen in some area of our lives, perhaps that’s an area we should give over to God.  Look for areas of anxiety, fatigue in your life: they are usually good indicators of a place where you’re trying to make things happen, instead of letting God make them happen.

In fact, a book I’m reading now put’s it this way: we should work like “it” depends on us, and pray like it depends on God.  And how accurate is that? Do everything in your power to support God’s will for your life, including believing and trusting Him to make it happen.

I pray that God gives us each a full revelation of how much He loves us; because that will enable us to love ourselves and others as He’s commanded and will position us fully to take on that yoke of God and leave our burdens at His feet.  It’s a privilege we can claim simply by being His child.

I believe fully that God desires to do more for us than we could even think, as or imagine (Ephesians 3:20).  You guys are such an awesome, blessed, favored group of folks, and I want you to receive ALL that God has for you and to fulfill His purpose for your lives.  I’m just excited to be blessed to come along for the ride.

Aren’t you tired of being tired?  What are you going to give over to Him now?