June 16 Leap of Faith Prayer Call

To hear the recording of last night’s prayer call use the credentials below:
Playback Number: (641) 715-3589
Access Code: 859-866
Reference Number: 3

Below is an excerpt of the devotional I shared during the call.
For our topic tonight, I’d like to reference a hymn that actually predates me.  It came about in 1979 and was — and remains — quite popular.  The hymn is, “Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough,” sang by that anointed psalmist, Michael Jackson.
Ok, ok.  I’ll admit that “Don’t stop til you get enough” and Michael Jackson aren’t where most folks would find Christ-inspiration, but his song – specifically the hook of “don’t stop til you get enough” – is in fact reminiscent for me of a basic principle in the kingdom: don’t settle.
So tonight, for a few minutes, I want to encourage you to don’t stop til you get enough. Or in other words, to not settle for less than God’s best in your life.
The word of God says that we are to be in this world but not of it, transformed by a renewing our minds (Romans 12:2). Likewise, it says in Jeremiah 29 that God has a plan for us to give us hope and a future, to prosper us not harm us. And then, in Psa 37:4, we’re told that God will give us the desires of our hearts. He’ll literally tell us what we should want so that His plan for our lives can be achieved.
So, for me, adding all of that up, nothing in that says to simply accept what’s offered to you. To go along to get along. Nothing in those promises says we should have low or no expectations in life.
So why then do we, especially women, continue to accept cookie-cutter lives when we serve a radical God who delights in blessing us and Whom the word declares gives us every good and perfect gift?
Why accept the world’s leftovers when God has prepared a table for you? Why accept anything less than God’s best when, as the daughter of the King, His best is in fact your birthright and inheritance?
 Why accept following someone else’s career path when you deserve – and were created to accomplish – so much more?  Why accept simply living, when you’re called to live life more abundantly?  Why accept simply having your “ends meet” from month to month when your God wants you to live in abundance?
Why?  Because sometimes we tell ourselves we aren’t good enough or we don’t deserve it.  We allow the enemy to tell us that we have to earn our stripes, pay our dues, like everyone else.  But I’m here to tell you that Jesus paid it all with HIS stripes so you and I could inherit the Kingdom and all that God has for us.  You’ve just got to be committed to not stopping until you get enough.  And you’ve gotta be patient until your breakthrough is delivered.
See, when we’re patient, the word tells us in James 1:12, that God will bless us. So if the key to getting God’s best is to be steadfast, patient, in waiting for what God wills, why not wait with expectation for His best instead of settling for what’s quickest or easiest?
See, we’re already told in 2 Cor 1:20 that all of God’s promises are yes in Christ. That means they’re already a done deal, ours to take hold of. If only we’d be patient and not settle. If only we’d make up in our minds to not stop til we get enough.
Don’t stop believing. Don’t stop praying. Don’t stop hoping. Don’t stop expecting. Don’t stop planning.  Don’t stop working like it depends on you. Don’t stop praying like it depends on God.  Don’t stop dreaming. Don’t stop. Don’t stop. Don’t stop.
You know, there’s an Internet image going around of two cartoon men, both seemThree-feet-from-goldingly digging in the same diamond mine. It appears they’ve been swinging their pickaxes for some time; they appear disheveled, sweaty, and tired.  And they also both appear right at the edge of breaking though to an innumerable amount of diamonds right on the other side of a dirt wall ahead of them. Literally, we see them both only a few swings away.
But one of the men has given up; tired from all the digging and plugging away, he’s turned away from the inches of dirt that stand between him and a financial windfall. He walks away disappointed with his pickaxe over his shoulder, defeated. Above him the other man, who’s been digging just as long and as hard, continues to swing his axe. And that’s the motivation for you tonight.  Because there’s no way he can be sure of WHEN he’ll break through, but he knows he will eventually and he’s committed to swinging until that breakthrough comes.
If you’re feeling like that first man tonight – beat down, defeated, tired, second-guessing whether what you’re chasing will ever really come to pass – I want to say to you tonight you’re one more swing away from your breakthrough. You’re one more swing away from landing that new client or earning that promotion. You’re one swing away from getting that ring or opening the doors on your new business. Your breakthrough is an arm’s length away. And your pickaxe is your faith in God.  Your prayers and your confessions.  You are one more prayer away, one more swing away, from God’s breakthrough for you.
Don’t let this world and the people who are of it talk you out of your blessing because their faith is too small or their fear is too big. You must not settle for anything less than the God’s best that you’re pursuing.
You must not give up or give in. Even if you journey on alone.  Even if they can’t understand your passion or why it’s so important to you.  Even if you are starting to wonder if you’ll ever get it, if it worth it anyway, I say to you tonight…
Whatever you do: don’t stop, til you get enough.

Sufficiency

Last year, God gave me an idea. It was a way for me to use what I have to bless others.

Well, tomorrow that GOD idea (way better than good) comes to fruition, but not without some work on my part in the days leading up.

Last Wednesday was my big go day to make this thing happen. I was working on my event, managing my employees’ progress on separate accounts, and doing research for two clients. All while trying to be present with my husband as we worked out at the gym, and with my children as I took them to and from swim lessons.

It was a lot. To say the least. And there were moments throughout the day when I clearly remembered thinking, “I’m doing too much.” I combatted those thoughts and fought back feelings of being overwhelmed by making myself acknowledge how blessed I was to have such freedom, and by reciting that my God is not a God of confusion.

But as I pondered how crazy the day felt later in the evening, I was led to 2 Corinthians 12:

Of course, I am now referring to the wonderful things I saw. One of Satan’s angels was sent to make me suffer terribly, so that I would not feel too proud. Three times I begged the Lord to make this suffering go away. But he replied, “My gift of undeserved grace is all you need. My power is strongest when you are weak.” So if Christ keeps giving me his power, I will gladly brag about how weak I am. Yes, I am glad to be weak or insulted or mistreated or to have troubles and sufferings, if it is for Christ. Because when I am weak, I am strong. (‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭12‬:‭7-10‬ CEV)

The passage immediately made me smile and say “Yessss!” It was an instantaneous response to my unspoken query of how I’d managed to get everything done.

I know you’ve been there. Ripping and running with a to-do list as long as your arm. And at random times along the trajectory of your day you think or say or feel like you’re one new email notification from losing it all.

But this passage is an encouragement to each of us every time we experience one of those chaotic days. God’s grace is sufficient.

There is one very well-know definition of grace that we likely all know: God’s unmerited favor. It’s receiving blessings and favor from God that you and I could never earn, don’t deserve, and can never repay.

But in my quiet time I stumbled upon this new definition that is so aptly described here in 2 Corinthians: the influence or spirit of God operating in humans to regenerate or strengthen them.

Yessss!

It is when it seems all hell is breaking loose around us that God’s grace is sufficient. Not only is the knowledge of a love so deep that it gives without ceasing enough to put things in perspective and give one peace, but then the inner dwelling of God’s divine strength pushing us through the chaos when our own ability is long gone also gives us peace.

It’s like, no matter which definition you use, God’s grace is enough to get you through your hard time.

No matter what you’re feeling, His grace is enough.

No matter what you’ve done, His grace is enough.

No matter where you’ve been or who you are, God’s grace is enough and all you need.

I reflect now on how crazy last Wednesday felt for me and am grateful not just that I made it, but more specifically for God’s grace that pulled me through.

When the children were alternately bickering, crying, and whining…

When my wi-if failed just after I hit send on a critical email…

When I was 15 minutes late leaving the house…

When our car began to act a fool mid-commute…

Each time, having the knowledge of God’s unmerited favor and love in my life kept things in perspective and kept me from losing it.

And each time, His spirit operating in me gave me just a little patience more…a little faith more…a little strength more to accomplish everything He needed me to that day.

And now I’m on the eve of my big GOD event. No, every ticket isn’t sold. And no, I’m not certain that everything will go as I’ve planned. But I know that I’m operating in His will, and as long as I work as in service to Him, His will will be done and His grace will be enough to make it the success HE needs it to be — not me.

I’m so grateful for His grace. I’m so grateful for Jesus. I’m so in awe of God. And truly, His grace is sufficient for every situation I face in life.

What are you facing right now? Have you told yourself that His grace is sufficient?

Guilty As Charged

My apologies for the radio silence, folks.  My family and I are in a season of transition and I’ve been all-hands-on-deck there.

The thing about transition is that change – all change – is uncomfortable in some way.

And what I’ve learned is that transition to new seasons of increase often feel like you’re Alice in wonderland: growing scarily fast in a box that isn’t growing with you.  The sides of that box – your circumstances, your situations – they all seem to grow smaller as you get closer to God’s “next” for you.

That is uncomfortable.  It can be scary and intimidating.  And sometimes, that unknown of how it’ll all work out can cause us to retreat – to turn from the promised land that’s just within our grasp.

I’ve thought often about this dichotomy – the fear that accompanies promotion and increase – and God has told me over and over again why that period feels so bad.  How is it that moving towards something so great can feel so bad?

The answer lies in where we cast our eyes.

When God’s leading us through stillness, peaceful increase we have no problem looking to Him: trusting Him, believing Him, walking in faith through this beautiful unknown full of hope.

It’s usually when God shows us the destination (or even just the path to where He’s leading us) that we take our eyes off of Him and put them on the road ahead of us/world around us.

The problem with that is that our circumstances, situations and surroundings are constantly changing, for the better and worse.  It’s difficult to feel solidly footed on a topsy turvy course.  Much like it’s difficult to keep your balance in the fun house at a carnival.  A distorted, dynamic atmosphere affects your vision.  Small things become magnified to scary proportions.  And big things appear insignificant.  The road ahead looks treacherous and lonely and dark.

We become so consumed with these temporary things that we stop looking at God, we stop looking to God.  We mistakenly think that somehow He’s left us to fend for ourselves or has stopped hearing our prayers.

The truth is that life looking to God isn’t easy, but because He’s constant and unchanging and faithful, the storms we go through with Him often fail to register on our radar at all.  When we allow ourselves to get so wrapped up in Him that He surrounds us, we can’t even see the circumstances and situations around us.  We don’t even know we’re “going through.”

But when we take our eyes off of Him, much like Peter when he stepped out of the boat, our reality it colored by the wordly things around us and we begin to panic, to sink.

You may have been saved, sanctified and Holy Ghost-filled your whole life, so maybe you can’t relate, but I stand here today saying: Guilty As Charged.

But there’s good news, we don’t have to stay in this vicious cycle of peace battling panic.  There’s a fix.

So here’s my little dose of hard truth – hard to swallow (because it’s a lesson I keep relearning at different intervals in my life) and hard to hear (because no one wants to hear that they’re doing something wrong): don’t stop looking at God.

When you’re on the path to a promotion and all of sudden your money gets funny, don’t stop looking at God.

When you’ve almost reached that hard-fought, hard-earned goal of weight loss, quitting smoking, quitting drinking, quitting cursing or whatever, and all of sudden you relapse, don’t panic and don’t stop looking at God.

When it feels like all of your friends either can’t be found or are throwing more shade than support, don’t look for new ones, keep looking at God.

When it feels like your life is closing in on you – job, relationship, everything – don’t start looking at your problems, look to God!

You know I read somewhere that we should stop telling God how big our problems are and begin telling our problems how big our God is.  That is so true.  Think about it, what is your measly paycheck or even your bills to the God that owns everything?

I’ll close with a devotional from Sarah Young’s book “Jesus Today” that really brings this all home.  Your victory lies in your vision:

From “Jesus Today”:

Gaze at Me; glance at problems – this is the secret of living victoriously. Your tendency is to gaze at problems for prolonged periods of time, glancing at Me for help. This is natural for someone with a fallen mind living in a fallen world. However, I have called you to live supernaturally, and I have empowered you to do so. The Holy Spirit, who lives in all My followers, enables you to live beyond yourself – to transcend your natural tendencies.

Ask My Spirit to help you fix your gaze on Me. Invite Him to alert you whenever you get overly focused on problems so you can redirect your attention to Me. This is hard work, because it is not only unnatural but also counter-cultural. Moreover, the evil one and his demons seek to distract you from My Presence. All these influences working together put massive pressure on you to pay attention to your problems – or else! So you need the assistance of My Spirit continually. Ask Him to help you deal with difficulties as needed, while reserving the bulk of your attention for Me – your constant Companion.

Hebrews 12:2John 14:16-172 Corinthians 4:18

Amen.

Devotional: Dark Times

A friend of mine sent this to me today.  It’s an excerpt from Sarah Young’s “Jesus Today:”

When you are going through a dark time – a hard time – its easy to project that darkness into the future. The longer you struggle with adverse circumstances, the darker the way before you appears – and the harder it is to imagine yourself walking along bright paths again. The temptation is to just give up and let misery become your companion. So it is crucial at such times to remember that I am your constant Companion. Moreover, because I am Sovereign God, I am able to turn your darkness into Light.

When you feel on the verge of sinking in despair, turn to Me for help. Cling to My hand, and walk by faith through the darkness. Do not focus on the circumstances that are weighing you down. Instead, through eyes of faith, look ahead to brighter times, and praise Me for them. While you worship Me in midst of darkness, I enable you to see the first gleam of dawn on the path before you. Continue walking worshipfully with Me – a walk of faith. As you persevere along this path, the dim light will gradually shine brighter and brighter till the full light of day.

Isaiah 61:1 – 2 Samuel 22:29 – 2 Corinthians 5:7 – Proverbs 4:18

***

We all go through dark times.  Whether it’s the darkness of loss, pain, grief or sadness, or it’s the darkness of not knowing what to do, where to go, or what “the plan” is, I’m sure we’ve all been there.

It can be difficult to keep the big picture in mind at these times.  While folks tell you that the storm won’t last always, all you see around you is darkness, loneliness, and despair.  People tell you that this season is almost over, but you can’t even find the strength to hope for what’s next.

It is in these times that I’ve found it most helpful not to challenge myself or my friends to dig deep or keep trying.  No, in these times all we must – truly, all we CAN do – is look to God.  That’s it: nothing more, nothing less.

When you’re feeling your lowest, call to him.  It doesn’t have to be a fancy, sophisticated prayer.  In fact, if all you do is say the name “Jesus,” while tears fall down your face, you’ve done enough.  He hears you, He feels your pain, and He’s there.

The truth is, no matter how difficult to understand or see, that this dark time will end.  But my prayer for you as you go through is to remember the one who is with you, leading you and protecting you.

Remember, the Word never says you won’t go through the valley of the shadow of death (whatever that looks like for you), all it says is that God is with you through it all, giving you the strength you need to see His plan for you through to the end.

This too shall pass my Brother and my Sister.

Feel free to leave your prayer requests below or at my email address (safiya.simmons@me.com) if you’d like to know that someone is praying with and for your victory.  I’m pleased to do so.

Devotional: Don’t be a victim

I remember growing up I had an aunt who would admonish my cousins (her kids) saying, “Don’t be a victim!” This usually followed some exchange where one of the kids felt wronged by another child while playing. Upon seeking adult intervention, this would undoubtedly be her response.

Don’t be a victim.

Now, as a young person, I never understood what that meant. “Don’t be a victim?” I’d ponder. Man, I remember mulling that thing over each…and….every…time.

I’m a lot older and a little wiser now. So now I have a different perspective on making oneself a victim. And in my “wisdom” I know now that basically what my aunt was telling my cousins was don’t allow other people to make you feel helpless. Don’t let them make you feel weak. Don’t. Be. A victim.

While there are most certainly times when you don’t have a choice in the matter, I am also certain that there are times when we choose to be victims. And we as Christians, let me tell you, we’ve made an art of it.

You see, we sometimes get to a point where we are so religious and so holy that we’re gullible, mealy-mouthed even. Or as the old folks would say, “So heavenly minded that we’re no earthly good.” We cling to old sayings like “hold your mule” or “turn the other cheek” so closely that we sometimes allow ourselves to be treated poorly, to be treated as less than we are, not just to our detriment, but to the detriment of the Kingdom too.

I mean, where in the Bible does it say that following Christ requires you to surrender your spine and resign yourself to being the world’s doormat? Where does it say to ignore the prompting of the Holy Spirit and just allow yourself to be used, looked over, counted out?

The reality is that the same Holy Spirit that imbues us with the power to heal, cast out demons, and even raise the dead, also fills us with boldness and confidence.

Proverbs 28:1 says “The wicked run away when no one is chasing them, but the godly are as bold as lions.” And 2 Corinthians 3:12 says of serving God and following the ways of Jesus, “Since this new way gives us such confidence, we can be very bold.”

I mean, even the God we serve is bold. His Son openly disobeyed laws prohibiting healings and miracles on certain days. And remember when he went into the synagogue and turned over the tables? I mean, he even challenges us when in Malachi 3 he says of tithing, “…I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have room to bring it in! Try it! Put me to the test!”

So in what area of your life are you making yourself a victim?

Is it at work? Are you being disrespected, or, or are you sitting on your ideas for fear of rejection?

Maybe it’s in your relationships? As a single person you’re taking whatever the cat drags in, instead of knowing your worth and setting and sticking to standards. Or you’re married and you’re letting yourself be abused because you think that’s what a submissive wife does or because as head of the household you think she should be strong enough to take it.

Or maybe you’re a victim in your church. You aren’t actively serving or growing because there isn’t a ministry that’s rolling out the red carpet and begging you to join, begging you to give of your time and services. Or because the Pastor didn’t lay hands on you or preach or speak to you directly.

To you, and whatever your situation is, I say, DON’T MAKE YOURSELF A VICTIM! You serve a bold God, who’s given you the same spirit of boldness. So when you’re following His will and doing what He’s telling you, walk with His confidence, authority and audacity. And just know up front that the world will never understand; they won’t get it.

What are you afraid of? Are you afraid that you’ll stand up and someone will say, “Who do you think you are?”

Well, let’s get it out of the way, Who do you think you are?

Actually, the better question that I pose to you this morning is, “Whose do you think you are?”

If you know like I know, and your answer is that you’re a child of the most high God, then you’ve got the authority to be bold, to be confident, to be authoritative and to be assertive as you follow the plan and directives God has for you.

Who do you think you are?

Better yet, who do you think you are NOT to do what God’s called you to do? NOT to start that business, or take that step, or share that idea, or speak up. Who do you think you are to say you know better than God? To say that you shouldn’t stand up for yourself because you’ll be laughed at, ridiculed, embarrassed, rejected, or because that’s not what Christians do?

If they rejected your Savior – who boldly came to a sinful world, told us all to trust and serve a God we’ve never seen, and then defeated death and the grave for each of US – what makes you think that being a shrinking flower will save you?

The reality is that just because you serve the Most High God, you’ve already got a target on your back.

So my prayer for you is not just that you decide to stop being a victim, but that you will tap into the boldness and confidence that God has given you. It’s with this boldness that you should walk everyday, and with this same boldness that you should evangelize and serve our Lord and King.

Be bold in your faith. Be bold in your convictions. Be bold. And don’t make yourself a victim!