#bepetty for Jesus

Last week I had the privilege of preaching for the first time.

Now, anyone who knows me personally or who has followed this blog for a while may be saying, “You’ve been preaching for years.”  But last week was the first time I’d been invited to speak…in a church…from a pulpit…with the express purpose of bringing the Word.

I was nervous and exhilarated and humbled that God would choose me for such an awesome and important task.  But the word He gave me for this young adult audience was unique and on-time…just as He is and just as our relationship is.

Gratefully, my dear friend Penny videoed the entire 13-minute sermon.  Take a few minutes, check it out,  and commit to #bepetty for Jesus.

And I have to give credit to the amazing Awesomely Luvvie who is the genius behind all the “petty” names at the end. Pick up her petty T-shirt here!  *And no, she didn’t ask me to endorse this and I’m not being compensated.  Just giving a shout out to something/someone who inspired  me.

Blessings to you!  I hope it inspires you and speaks to your situation.

What are you feeding?

Here’s a short thought for the day…

Your FOCUS feeds your FEELINGS. 

If you FOCUS on your faults, flaws, and failures, that will feed you fear, anxiety, helplessness and sadness. 

But when you FOCUS on His face, His presence feeds your faith with joy, peace, patience, and power. 

Choose today, all day and repeatedly throughout the day, to FOCUS on what feeds your FAITH. 

That means repeatedly choosing to look to, rest in, trust and give attention to the problem SOLVER instead of the problem. 

  
Read PSALM 46:1–2 and decide now to let  FAITH FUEL your day today. 

Because though what we face sometimes surprises us, nothing is a surprise to God. He’s already delivered us before the storm erupts. 

He’s FAITHFUL. So feed your faith, and follow Him. He’ll empower you to walk on the very waters the enemy sent to drown you. 

  

Dealing With Disappointment

Some of you may remember that last Thursday I finally brought to fruition a God idea nearly a year in the making.

But what no one knows (save my husband and my Mama) is that the day before my big event was bookmarked with disappointment.

The day started with me receiving word that I had not won a Chase Mission Main Street small business grant for my small business.

Disappointed is an understatement for how I felt. I felt abandoned, alone, angry, sad and overwhelmed all at once.

Just like that, the way I thought God was going to move in my life had changed. And I was left with the overwhelming heaviness of the reality of my situation. My goals for my business, the debt my family had amassed supporting my business, they weren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

I cried a lot that morning. I couldn’t sleep I was so grief-stricken. And when I got into the shower, I broke down. The tears and the anger and the hurt all flowed freely. I was overcome.

But somehow, mid-rant, I found myself humming this song: “Lord You are good and your mercy endureth forever. Lord You are good and your mercy endureth forever!…I worship you! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!”

Even now, a week later, I remember clearly the puzzled look that crept across my face when I realized the dichotomy of the moment: here I am sobbing into the shower stream on the outside, but my Spirit was praising God.

The reality is that nowhere does God say we won’t be disappointed. Similarly, nowhere does He say we aren’t allowed to feel, to have emotional, human responses to the changes in our lives.

So even as our flesh mourns, if we stay prayed up, our Spirit will minister to us…even without out participation.

In fact, as I reflect now, I smile at the thought of a scripture that the Lord brought me to in my devotion.  It was Job talking, chapter 13, verse 15a: “God may kill me, but I will trust Him…”  That’s how I felt in that shower, ranting about how sad and disappointed I was.  Reminding God of His word and His promises.  (He’d later – much more politely, I might add – remind me that HOW He plans to fulfill the promises of His word is none of my business.  My only responsibility is to believe and expect that He will.)

The corresponding disappointment bookmark came later that Thursday evening. My day ended with my best subcontractor giving me 30 days notice. She’d gotten a job offer for a job that was perfect for her and where she wanted to go. For months, I’d been praying that God would enable me to hire her full-time. But, it wasn’t to be.

But I didn’t take this second spate of news as hard as I’d taken the morning news. And the reason why is because in between the two events I stumbled across the Feels Like Home blog; specifically this entry on 13 Bible Verses and 6 Steps to Deal with Disappointment.

Here’s the part that pulled me out of my pity party and put my day in perspective, directly from the blog:

13 Bible Verses & 6 Steps to Overcome Disappointment

Believe in God’s plan. Our God is a miracle worker. He can part waters, move boulders, heal the dead (not just the sick, remember, the dead), save, destroy, bless, and curse. He can do anything, everything, things beyond our comprehension.

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:8-9

When I say you have to believe, I mean you have to believe that God has got this thing in His hands. He is looking out for you. He is working out a plan that is bigger than you, and you are going to be better for it in the end.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11

Sometimes, it takes a painful disappointment to teach us a skill or strengthen our faith or to put us in the right place at the right time. We don’t know His ways or His thoughts. We just have to believe in His promise.

Grieve. Things have not gone the way you wanted. Your hopes and expectations have been defeated. You need to spend some quiet time being sad, mourning the way you thought things would be.

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18

Cry. Exercise. Read. Do whatever it is that releases the sadness, the disappointment, the defeat.

And then, eventually, you have to stop grieving and move on.

Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning. Psalm 30:5

Disappointment is not meant to define you, my friend. It is not meant to hold you hostage or weigh you down into the mire of depression. Don’t give it that power.

Pray. You had to know this was coming, right? Spend some time talking to your Heavenly Father. Tell Him your heartache. Tell Him about the plans you had and ask Him to show you why He’s taken them away. I promise you that He has good in this for you, and it’s okay to ask Him what that good is.

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. Romans 8:28

Talk to Him like you’d talk to your best friend. Your prayer doesn’t have to be pretty or sound like one at your church. It just has to be honest and come from your heart.

Give your burdens to the Lord, and he will take care of you. He will not permit the godly to slip and fall. Psalm 55:22

You, my friend, are the godly. You are chasing after God, trying to do the right thing, seeking a better understanding of Him. Aren’t you? He’s talking about you.

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

Listen and wait. Big things happen when we pray. Sometimes, they are blessings beyond our expectations.

But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you. Matthew 6:6

Sometimes they happen right away, but usually they happen later when we least expect them. Keep waiting. You’ll know when your prayer has been answered.

Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord. Psalms 27:14

Search for the good. This is a miserable time to try to be thankful. I don’t know about you, but all I want to do is wallow in self pity of my dreams deferred (or dreams lost). This is the time when it’s hardest – and most important – to find the good, grab onto it with both hands, and celebrate it. You need to.

This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24

In beginning this post in the middle of the night, I came to understand that it wouldn’t have happened if my plans had worked out. I wouldn’t have been sleeping fitfully. I wouldn’t have jumped out of bed to write these words. It was God’s plan for me to write these words. (It has been an incredibly soothing and cathartic process). It is also His plan for you to be reading them right now. I am thankful that He chose me.

Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Ephesians 5:19b-20

Believe in yourself. You too are part of God’s great plan. He is preparing you to do His work right now, even in this time of disappointment. No matter what burden comes, know that He will help you stand underneath it, carry it up the hill, and triumph over it in the end.*

Have you never heard? Have you never understood? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth. He never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding. He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion. But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:28-31

God believes in you. You may not feel equipped to handle this on your own, but He’ll give you what you need to get through it.

For I can do all things through Christ, who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13

*The triumph doesn’t always happen when we think it should. Sometimes, we only triumph over our struggles as we leave this broken world. A conversation I had with my pastor illustrates this point:

“Tara, God will heal her.”

“I just don’t know that He will. She is so sick. She hardly gets out of bed.”

“He is going to heal her. He might heal her body now, or He might heal her soul in heaven, but you can trust Him to heal her.”

Wow. The simplicity and immensity of that statement left me with many tears but complete peace. We can trust Him to defeat our disappointment, no matter what it is.

Look, I don’t know where your disappointment lies.

Maybe it’s in a relationship that ended, or never took off. A professional opportunity that passed you by. Or a personal dream that has yet to come to fruition.

Whatever it is, I hope these passages encourage you. No matter how disappointed we feel, nothing has changed with God: He’s still just as in love with us; just as dedicated to our success and peace and joy; just as committed to giving us “hope and a future.”

Sometimes, just sometimes, we have to go through the disappointment to get closer to our destiny.

Because sometimes the thing we really wanted wasn’t God’s best for us. And what is yet to come is infinitely better.

Huffington Post Blog: On Bedside Baptist

I can’t remember how many times I’ve learned – and relearned! – the lesson about the pitfalls of busyness. (Check out one of those times here.)

But a few days ago I found myself in that space again: suddenly realizing the toll overcommitting was having; this time not just on me, but my family as well.

Head on over to the Huffington Post to check out my latest post on my membership-in-good-standing at Bedside Baptist and, most importantly, the liberty I found there.

It’s Turning Around

Being a Christian requires a special kind of vision.

Like a Spidey Sense, only different.

Because being a Christian requires that we see things in the spiritual before we see them in the physical.  I mean, it’s literally the definition of faith (Hebrews 11:1):  the substance of things hoped for, evidence of things not seen.

It requires that we see things through the lens of faith – believing that things are already done before we can see, taste, touch or feel them.

This morning I woke up with VaShawn Mitchell’s song, “Turning Around For Me,” in my spirit and on my mind.

The song goes like this: (courtesy of VaShawn Mitchell YouTube)

As I’ve hummed this song to myself this morning, the lyrics have transformed from a word of encouragement to a promise to a declaration.  It moves you from a place of pleading for relief from whatever your circumstances are to shouting in victory and thanks to God that, yes, it’s turning around.

See, the first time you sing this song you’re encouraged because you’re compelled to look at all of the stuff you’ve got going on in your life, around you, at home, at work, in your head and your heart — all of it — and tell yourself, “Yeah.  It won’t always be like this.  It’ll get better.”

Then, as the words start to ruminate in your mind and your heart, it starts to sound like your own cheering section: “Sooner or later,  It’s turning around.  Sooner or later.”  You’re getting worked up now, and thinking, “Yeah, I may not see it, but it’s turning around.  It may not look like it, but it’s turning around.  It may not feel like it, but He’s working on my behalf.  I may not understand it, but it’ll all work to my good.  I may not know how, but I always win.  Yeah, sooner or later.”

And then, before you know it — or hours later, as is the case for me this morning – you realize that the lyrics aren’t encouraging you to believe — they’re practically shouting the command at you: “Hey, you may not see it but THE I AM is telling you it’s turning around right now.  It’s working in your favor. ” Translation: IT. IS. DONE.

That husband or wife that walked out.

Turning around.

That son or daughter that left.

Turning around.

That bank account that never seems to be enough.

Turning around.

That relationship that failed.

Turning around.

That dead-end job.

Turning around.

Your low self-esteem.

Turning around.

The tears you cry at night, when no one is around.

Turning around.

The emptiness you can’t seem to fill.

Turning around.

The loneliness you battle.

Turning around.

The bills piling up.

Turning around.

It’s turning around.

It’s ALL turning around.

Look, you may not see it.  You may  not understand how you’ll win this.  How you’ll overcome this.  How you’ll bounce back from this. 

But the Word is clear and God cannot lie:

Romans 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.

Tap into your Holy Spirit vision.  Remember the promises God’s told you about who you are, what you can do, what He wants for you.

Remember His promise in Jeremiah:

Jeremiah 29:11 NIV

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

And then look at your circumstances, your situations, your momentary setbacks through the lens of those promises.

Can you see it now?

Can you feel it now?

It’s turning around for you.

It’s turning around FOR YOU.

Look, I don’t know what brought you here today.

I don’t know what heaviness you’ve carried in your heart and in your mind.

I don’t know your demons or your battles.

But I know that our God is bigger than any demon in hell; any problem on earth; and has already overcome and defeated every thing in this world.

And He’s faithful to bless you and to keep you because He declared that NO WEAPON – no bill, no collector, no person, no relationship, no sin, no mistake or misstep, no past, no NOTHING – shall prosper.

You win.

You’ve won.

All you have to do now is see it to receive it.

I won’t lie to you: this devotional, this entry today, is as much a pep talk for myself as it is intended to be for you.  I’m on the cusp of so many blessings and so much favor and so many new seasons that I felt a little overwhelmed when I first sat down to write this.

But I’m smiling now – exhaling the heavy and inhaling the peace of the Holy Spirit – because I know it’s turning around.

Here are the lyrics to Mr. Mitchell’s song (courtesy of Song Lyrics dot com).  If you can’t remember a single scripture, if you can’t remember a single sermon, let this hymn minister to your Spirit.

RIGHT HERE.  RIGHT NOW.  IT’S ALL TURNING AROUND FOR YOU.

Sometimes discouraged, but not defeated
Cast down, but not destroyed

There are times I don’t understand
But, I believe it’s turning around for me

I’ve had struggles and disappointments
There are times I felt so alone
Some of my friends they let me down
But, I still believe it’s turning around for me

Around for me
Around for me
Around for me
It’s turning around for me

Around for me
Around for me
Around for me
It’s turning around for me

I can see the breaking of day
God is making a way
A change is coming for me
If I stand strong and believe
There’s no reason to doubt
I know He’s working it out
And it’s turning around for me

And it won’t always be like this
He will perfect that concerning me
And sooner or later it will turn in my favor
It’s turning around for me

It won’t always be like this
The Lord will perfect that concerning me
Sooner or later turn in my favor
Sooner or later turn in my faovr
It’s turning around for me

Around for me
Around for me
Around for me
It’s turning around for me

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.

 

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!