June 23 Leap of Faith Prayer Call

Many thanks to everyone who joined our next to last prayer call.  They’re going by so quickly! Next week is our last week already.  I pray this series has been a blessing to you Ladies.  It’s certainly been a blessing to me.

To hear the recording from last night’s call, use the call-in credentials below:

Playback Number: (641) 715-3589
Access Code: 859-866
Reference Number: 4

Below is a transcript of the devotional I shared:

I didn’t prepare a traditional devotional tonight because I really just want to talk to you; to encourage you.

Sometimes, when we stop to think about the enormity of our God, how good He is and how undeserving we are, we can become frozen in our own tracks.  The enemy will begin to lie to us, telling us we have nothing to offer.  Or trying to convince us that we’ll never be able to get our lives together enough to be of service to such a good God.

But my prayer tonight is that in sharing a little bit of my testimony that you’ll be encouraged — not just to tell the devil to go to hell (literally!), but to also keep pursuing God on your walk with him.

I won’t bore you with the details of my birth story or anything quite that long ago.  But what I will tell you is that in late February/early March of this year I felt like God was so far away.  I felt like for all the good I thought I was doing, I wasn’t sure where God was and I wasn’t sure that He was pleased.

In January, I’d done a stint of praying everyday at the same time.  And from that time with God the idea — and the guest — for my first Leap Luncheon Series™ was revealed to me.  But, like I always had, I soon found myself “too tired” to stay up later or to get up earlier.  And, the “habit” quickly became past-tense.

The following month, when I tried to recreate the magic of the first luncheon, I found that I was a day late and a dollar short.  An advisor told me that invites to really notable folks had to go out a month in advance, if not sooner.  And just like that, what was supposed to be a monthly luncheon was on its first hiatus.

I sulked for a little while over why my event seemed so short-lived and what the Holy Spirit revealed to me was that I’d stopped seeking the Source.  I’d become so enamored with the gift, that I’d turned my eyes from the gift giver.

The revelation convicted me and I immediately committed to returning to my 4:45am prayer and meditation times.

Since then, I’ve had five more successful Leap events.  I’ve been blessed to bless others — giving gifts of money and resources to other folks who cross my path.  I’ve been invited to be a guest speaker at a few different events as well.  And the future looks…exciting.

I look back now, seven months into my decision to give God the first hour of my day, and I realize that it wasn’t until I chose to physically and literally seek God first, as we’re admonished in Matthew 6:33 that things started to turn around for me.

I decided to live out the truth that God was and is my Source.  That means not worrying when bank accounts run low – or overdrawn – but choosing to trust God instead.  And He’s proven that He is indeed an on-time God.

I decided to live out the truth to lean not to my own understanding and to commit my ways to Him.  That meant asking God simple things like, What should I put on my to-do list today?, and then prioritizing the things He gave me.  And He’s proven that every detail of my life is important to Him.

What I’ve found was that at that time  when I started this daily prayer time, I felt like I didn’t have anything to give God.  I literally felt like, I have nothing to offer you, God.  But I know you’ve been good enough to warrant me missing a few winks, so here I am.

There have been mornings when I’ve hit snooze one too many times and had to make up my prayer time at the end of the day.  There have been mornings that I’ve been so tired that I’ve fallen asleep intermittently throughout.  And times when I literally wrote in my prayer journal, God, I’ve got nothing to say this morning.  I’ve gone to Him angry and disappointed.  Sad and confused.  I’ve prayed in tongues some mornings, sobbed uncontrollably others, and simply sat in silence for some others.

But in the six or so months since I’ve been really trying to commit to this thing, God’s moved in a mighty way in my life.  He’s grown this luncheon idea to a multi-city brand that one day may make me a little money and give me a national platform.  On May 19th He told me write down some declarations.  One of them described a house in great detail that I, at the time, never thought I could have or afford.  Today, I’m excited to say we’ve placed an offer on the very house He described to me and we’re just waiting for the confirmation that its ours.

I’ve often in the past few months made it a priority to give big gifts, to give when it hurts, or to give when I’m down to my very last dollars as a means to show God I trust Him and/or to sow seeds for the desires He’s placed in my heart.  Just last week a couple gave my husband and I a substantial sum of money to help us get our down payment together for the house God told me was ours.  Just like that.  Out of the blue.

Look, I’m not perfect.  And I don’t share these testimonies with you to brag or to somehow say I’m better than anyone.  I’m a sinner of the worst kind perhaps.

But I share these bits of my story with you to say this:

1.  God sees you.  He knows how you’re sacrificing and sowing in tears and labor.  He sees all that you’re doing and going through and He is faithful to reward your efforts.  I’m a witness to that.

2.  You are all the gift God needs.  Don’t ever think that you have nothing to give God.  If all you give HIm is your time and attention – and it doesn’t have to be all at once or for some long period of time, it can be throughout the day, while you’re sitting in traffic, or even in the shower.  But if you give HIm you, if you choose to seek Him first literally, He’ll bless you for your efforts.

And 3.  You are not alone.  I struggle all the time with figuring out how to get it all done in a day.  Whether you’re juggling a business, a husband, and kids like me, or you’re just trying to figure out where to live, what to do, or who to date, you aren’t alone.  God loves you and He cares about every detail of your life.  If you’d ask His opinion, tell Him, Lord, I’ll do whatever you want me to today, He’s faithful to direct your path.  I’m a witness.

I don’t always get up in the morning.  And I jack up on my walk many times every hour of the day.  But I can say that since I’ve decided to prioritize time with God, my faith has grown, my expectation has grown, and the room that I leave in my life for God to do miracles has grown, too.

The sellers of our new house haven’t accepted our offer yet, but they will.  I don’t yet have all of the money I need for a down payment either.  I don’t know how we’re going to afford the renovations and I’m not sure when we’ll move in.

But of this one thing I am certain: Philippians 4:19 NIV.  God will meet all of my needs.

And He will meet yours too.  Just have faith, have expectation, and trust Him enough to take the LEAP He’s planted in your heart.

…all He really wants in return is you.

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Measuring Up

I love the Amplified version of James 1:17, the first half in particular. It reads:

“Every good gift and every perfect (free, large, full) gift is from above…”

The expounding upon perfect is the part that really gets me: free, large, and full.

How many times do we pray for a thing and, in our excitement and haste to see/get/have it now, we begin trying to make it happen?

We pray for a mate, so the next time a young man or lady catches our attention and gives us the time of day, we are already thinking forever…even though the signs are there that s/he isn’t the one.

We ask God to get us a new job with more pay, so we begin applying to jobs based on the salaries we want…even though something inside tells us we won’t enjoy the job or the people or the mission of the organization.

Or we ask God to grow our own business with more income, so we start chasing every person or organization with a bank book…even though none of what they do aligns with our gifts or interests or talents or capacities.

But what we find in the first half James 1:17 are some good parameters by which to measure our “blessings” to determine if they are from God, or just an attempt to distract us from God. Are they something we want to further our own plans, or are they a part of God’s plan advancing for us?

Let’s take a few minutes to unpack the parameters laid out for us in this passage of James.

Perfect (verb) – I love this word used here. God is perfect. Jesus is perfect. And God made us perfect in His image to fulfill His purposes for our lives, and then sent his only Son to shed His blood so we could be reconciled back to Him and His perfect will. That means that in Christ every messy, uncomfortable detail of our lives is perfected, because only that which is perfect (the Son) can make perfection out of flawed materials (us).

So no matter how jacked up we think we are or our lives are, they — and we — are made perfect by Christ. This act, this action, of making the flawed as good as it possibly can be is the definition of the VERB perfect. So, literally, God is always WORKING for and through and on us. It’s the nature of who He is and what He does through his Son.

Perfect (noun) – When we look at the definition of “perfect” as a noun, it says: “having all the required or desirable elements, qualities, or characteristics; as good as it is possible to be.”

This is what God gives us. When He blesses us, His blessings, His gifts, have everything we need (and likely much of what we want!) and there is nothing better that exists. That’s why His will and plan for our lives is perfect: there is no better way. His love for us is perfect: it never changes, covers all of our faults, and is unconditional. Glory to God!

So if the “blessing” you are claiming isn’t in alignment with God’s perfect will or His perfect plan for your life, it doesn’t measure up.

Free – As cliché as it is, Jesus really did pay it all. So when God blesses, the cost has already been paid. There’s nothing you can do to earn it because God blesses us out of the character of who He is not out of what we can do. If this new “blessing” you are claiming requires you to pay in ways that aren’t in alignment with God’s character or His plan for your life, or asks you to do or say things that just plain don’t feel right in your gut, then it isn’t free and it ain’t measuring up.

Large – We serve a big God. He’s bigger than the vastness of space and time that He created. His word tells us in the latter half of Matthew 6 that He guarantees us the necessities of life – food, shelter, clothes, and their trappings. And the Word also tells us that He knows what we need (utility bills, maintenance on the car, tuition for the kids, down payments, etc) in Matthew 6:8 and will in fact supply all those needs as well (Philippians 4:19). So knowing this, and that His plan is to draw everyone unto Himself, if the “blessing” you’re claiming isn’t big enough to give God glory and credit and show Him to others (or just plain show him mighty in your own life), something there ain’t measuring up.

Full – Does this “blessing” you’re claiming require you to add to it, fix it, adjust for it, or otherwise do something to make it complete or to make it fit your need/prayer? If you answer yes, hold on — something isn’t measuring up. Full
means to capacity, no extra room, no free space. God-blessings leave no room (or need!) for us to add to it. Period.

The reality is that yes, it is necessary, that we make sure the “blessings” we claim measure up because we are called to a higher calling, a higher purpose.  If folks of the world are created to, expected to, conform and just take what the world sends their way, how much more do we, the children of the Most High God, have to be diligent to ensure that all that we allow into our lives meets the standards of the God whose delight it is to bless us?

The patience and faith it takes to let something that ain’t for you go can be tremendous.  But the energy it takes – the spiritual, physical, and mental energies – to deal with the consequences of trying to rush or force the Hand of God is far greater.

Let’s decide now this year we will take the time to ensure that every new person and opportunity that crosses our path measures up to what God has promised us.  And then let’s endeavor to support one another in letting some “blessings” keep right on going, because if we err on the side of caution and let something go that God did intended for us, it’s still ours and His word says that as long as we’re acting out of what we believe to be His will, He’ll bless us all the same.

 

How ya living?

During my reading and journaling this morning I found myself – dare I say it – complaining. ::gasp:: Yes, on the first day of the new year, I was rattling off all of the problems I was facing. I was quoting to God HIS own words and promises and demanding He tell me where He was in all of my problems.

Imagine my surprise when He literally cut me off mid-sentence, “I know about your situation. You made the decisions that put you in these circumstances. I did my part. I upheld my word. Now do your part!”

I sat for a while in silence. Ironically, or at least unexpectedly, I was grateful for His candor and response, even though it pinned the blame squarely on me. And as I sat there, repenting and walking through how He’d have me to right the ship, a peace washed over me.

But somewhere, in the darker recesses of my mind and heart, I still felt pangs of anger and frustration and accusation. A victim mentality that was bubbling up seeking to usurp the peace I’d just had restored.

So I asked God, “What about this anger? This frustration?”

I didn’t actually have to ask really. He saw me struggling and offered this answer:

Galatians 5:22-23 NIV
[22] But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, [23] gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

…and I read on, with verse 25 hitting me like a ton of bricks:

Galatians 5:25 AMP
[25] If we live by the Holy Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. If by the Holy Spirit we have our life in God, let us go forward walking in line, our conduct controlled by the Spirit.

It said I IF we live by the Holy Spirit.

Look, this may not be the “new year! new you” message you were looking for, but the truth is that I don’t believe we can simply and cleanly walk into 2014 by forgetting 2013. There are people like me who still are learning from 2013. Who are still waiting on promises from 2013, walking through tests that began in 2013, and are still seeking truths and new direction from decisions we don’t want to repeat this year.

If this is you, you could be, like me, finding yourself feeling left behind, left out of the jubilant celebrating of the new year of those around you. You could feel frustration and wonder where God is in your new year when you lost sight of him last year.

If you aren’t seeing the manifestation of God’s promises in your life, I’ll ask you like God asked me this morning: How ya living?

Are you seeking his kingdom first, striving to show others and yourself the fruit of the Spirit?

Or have you, like me, found yourself mired in what feels like unending fatigue, frustration, impatience and overall blahness?

If we live by the Holy Spirit…

If you closed out 2013 feeling like God was far away, know that it is you who moved. Somewhere along the lines your focus shifted and we met a new calendar year stuck in our last spiritual year.

But we don’t have to remain stuck. I took God’s loving rebuke this morning, accepted that I’d stopped chasing him to pursue other things. And realized that those pursuits are what caused the distance and the darkness.

I am excited this morning to know that although I may not have rang in a new year in my Spirit when the clock struck 12, I have now turned the page on 2013 in my heart and can move forward in peace and with expectation now.

I walked away from my quiet time this morning with these takeaways:

    God’s promises and plans for our lives don’t change because we walked away/got off track. He’s still faithful and still wants to bless me.

    The only thing standing in the way of God manifesting me seeing God’s blessings in my life is me.

    IF I live by the Spirit, I am seeking Him first and He WILL add all good things unto me.

    God wants to demonstrate his immeasurable, limitless and surpassing grace and blessings in my life. (Ephesians 2:7,10)

    Per Joel Osteen’s I Declare, ” I will see an explosion of God’s goodness, a sudden widespread increase.”

You can have all of this, too. In fact, I believe God wants you to. But you’ve first gotta do some real soul-searching to find out…

How are you living?

Because how you’re living will dictate what you see manifested of God’s giving.

Square Biz

Yesterday, something that my pastor, Pastor Mark Batterson, said hit home:

What possession are you holding onto, what thing are you chasing so fervently, that you’ve gone from possessing it to it possessing you.

That thing stung, y’all.  I mean, lower-your-head-rasie-your-hand-and-say-ouch kinda conviction there.

For the past week or so I’d just felt so tired, physically, emotionally, mentally.  Drained.

No amount of sleep was fixing it.  No amount of meditating was doing it.  Not even prayer did the trick.

And then Pastor Mark said that, and it all came together.

In the span of a few minutes God revealed to me the source of my fatigue: I’d somehow moved from chasing God to chasing other things and those other things.

Now, before you go and get all high and mighty on me, I’ll share that the “other things” were family things: more money to pay tuition; more clothes for the kids for the fall; more, more, more…stuff.

I’d somehow become so driven to give more and do more that I forgot that God is our source and our everything.  He knows what we need, what we desire, and if we seek him first, as it says in Matthew 6:33, then all good things will be added to us.

It was hard to hear that I’d gone from relying on God to provide to driving myself into the ground trying to do things on my own, but it was a welcomed revelation because after I repented and quietly sought God’s guidance to understand what my wrong priorities were and how I’d gotten then, I was freed from the fatigue and the heaviness and the burden.  I could go back to joyfully and freely depending on the one and only true provider, God Himself.

I bet if you were honest with yourself there are times – or have been times – where you too have strayed.  Perhaps your story is like mine where you sought God consistently and earnestly for godly promotion, and when you got it you all of sudden thought you had to make things happen, achieve greatness and success, by yourself and in your own might.  But how many of you know that there’s no way to succeed alone in what God has ordained and divinely gifted to you?

I know that now.

Or maybe that’s not your story.  Maybe you started out genuinely trying to be a Proverbs 31 woman, or a man after God’s own heart, on a path closely tied to scripture.  But somewhere along the way the competition of arriving “there” first and better overshadowed the journey of traveling in trust with God, and now you feel overpowered by a spirit of drive and competition and acquiring more stuff: more titles, more money, more things, more status.

Whatever the origin, chances are that you are now feeling a heaviness and a tiredness that you can’t put your finger on.  You’re getting more sleep.  Exercising.  Trying to eat better.  You’re trying to take time throughout the day to be quiet, to unplug.  But you just can’t shake this feeling of…burden, desperation.  This feeling that no matter how far you’ve come there’s still infinitely farther to go and you’ll never get there.

See, that is evidence of being overtaken by a maverick spirit.  A spirit of discontent (remember Paul who famously learned to be content no matter his circumstances in Philippians 4), selfishness and/or covetousness have befallen you and without revelation from God you won’t be able to shake it.

That’s what the enemy does best I think.  He waits along the wayside, watching us follow God blindly and joyfully.  Then he waits until God gives us a taste of that which we’d sought Him for before starting to wedge himself between us and God.  He’s discrete about it at first: the job we prayed for doesn’t pay EXACTLY what we wanted so now we want to work harder to earn a bonus or get ahead faster.  Or the car/iPhone/thing we couldn’t wait to have just a few months ago is now yesterday’s news, so we’re unhappy, focusing now on getting the next best thing.

Or even in our relationships.  That husband or that wife that we prayed for forEVER is, we later find, HUMAN (shocker) and it looks easier to start anew somewhere else than to put in the work where we’re planted.

It can happen to any of us.  And if we’re honest, it has happened more than one.  But the great thing about the God we serve is that He’s merciful, always extending His grace to us.  He’s patient, waiting for us to want to come back to Him.  And He wants nothing more than the absolute best for us.  But He wants us to want it, His way.  And in order to ensure that we do, He’s willing to wait.  He’ll wait until we open our hands to release that thing we’re holding on to, pursing recklessly, obsessed with achieving on our own…He waits.  And when we’re ready, He unfurls His beautiful plan and blessings before us inviting us to once again follow Him.

There is someone reading this now who all of sudden realizes that my story, this story I’ve just shared, is your testimony right now.  You somehow became so blinded by what you wanted and were working for – which could very well be a God-given dream/goal – that you’ve stopped following the One who gave you the dream chasing the dream itself instead.

Well, I have good news for you: it’s not too late to get back on track.  It’s not too late to say, “Un-uh, promotion/boyfriend/girlfriend/new car/new phone/new thing/stuff, I want you, but only if it’s what God wants for me.”  And once you repent, and let God show you where you went astray, you’re restored to right standing with Him, just like that.  Seriously, it’s that easy!  Then that heaviness, that burden, that discontent, that discomfort, they’ll all melt away and the joy that God promised us, the peace He said was our for the taking, it’ll come back.

Today I am a new woman because I repented, God forgave me, and I’m back on track.  The reality is that I’ll never feel like I have enough money or am giving enough to my kids.  That’s the way life in this world is; we’re conditioned to feel inadequate so we can constantly consume the “stuff” the world is forcing on us.  But today, right now, in this moment, I am content in knowing that my Father in Heaven wants the absolute best for me; He has a plan to give it to me; and I don’t have to do anything extra to earn it other than love and follow Him.  Period.

You know, there’s something else that Pastor Mark said yesterday that still sticks with me.  He said, “If God loves you and plans to give you life and life more abundantly.  Then the devil hates you and he has a plan to harm you.”

We are spiritual beings living in a natural world.  As Pastor Mark said, we were born right in the middle of a battlefield between God and the enemy.  It’s the devil’s job to make our life hard, to get us off track from time to time, because only when we realize that we’re off track can we experience the renewal of being restored, redeemed and rebirthed into God’s light and goodness for us.

So shake off the weights that are weighing you down!  God’s waiting to restore your joy and peace and contentment.

This may not be a typical devotion, but it’s the square biz folks.  Because I love you and I want God’s best for you!

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.

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?

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!

The B-Side

I’ll start this post by providing a disclaimer: for some, this post may be uncomfortable.

It was uncomfortable for me to receive this loving conviction this morning, but it was a necessary reality check.

Consider this post the B-side to all of the “He’s gonna bless you/Wait on Him/It’s Coming” posts of late.

Let’s start with the scripture…

Isaiah 43:16-24 MSG

[16-21] This is what God says, the God who builds a road right through the ocean, who carves a path through pounding waves, The God who summons horses and chariots and armies— they lie down and then can’t get up; they’re snuffed out like so many candles: “Forget about what’s happened; don’t keep going over old history. Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new. It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it? There it is! I’m making a road through the desert, rivers in the badlands. Wild animals will say ‘Thank you!’ —the coyotes and the buzzards—Because I provided water in the desert, rivers through the sun-baked earth, Drinking water for the people I chose, the people I made especially for myself, a people custom-made to praise me.

[22-24] “But you didn’t pay a bit of attention to me, Jacob. You so quickly tired of me, Israel. You wouldn’t even bring sheep for offerings in worship. You couldn’t be bothered with sacrifices. It wasn’t that I asked that much from you. I didn’t expect expensive presents. But you didn’t even do the minimum— so stingy with me, so closefisted. Yet you haven’t been stingy with your sins. You’ve been plenty generous with them—and I’m fed up.

Anyone else saying ouch, yet?

As  I sought God in my quiet time this morning, pouring out my frustrations and needs and wants for what must be the millionth time, the Lord led me to this scripture.

As I read it, two things became clear to me.

1. God knows what I need.  He knew before I asked and He is working things out for me even now.  But I’ve been so self-absorbed, so focused on the job applications that were denied; the doors that were shut; the temporary circumstances around me that I’d fail to see the new connections He’d blessed me with; the new opportunities He was placing before me; and the BIGGER, BETTER plan that He has for me.

I bet I’m not alone in this.  Sometimes we reach a point where the sum total of our woes appear to overwhelm us; they’re all we can think about.  And instead of seeking the Blesser and the Way Maker, we begin looking only for His blessings and for a way to be made on our behalf.

We must never allow our temporary circumstances to cause us to take our eyes off of what’s important and Who is important.  In fact,  when I asked God this morning, “Well, what should I be thinking about? I feel like this is all I can see.”  He took me to Matthew 6:25-34 (to remind me that indeed He is aware of my situation) and Philippians 4:8-9 (to tell me what I should be focused on).  And then, as if to drive the point home of what order my priorities should be in, He reminded me of Matthew 6:33 again: SEEK. GOD. FIRST.

2. God isn’t an ATM.  I cannot continue to go to Him, broken, seeking and desperate, taking withdrawal after withdrawal of his peace, reassurance, favor, and grace.  The reality is, this is a relationship, a two-way street of give and take.  Will it ever be balanced?  No, I will never be as faithful as God nor is it possible to out-give Him.  But He blesses and appreciates my effort.

The second part of the scripture above – “You did not even do the minimum” – really struck me.  At a minimum, God wants us to take note of all He’s done for us.  At a minimum, God wants us to say thank you, to give Him the worship and honor and glory and praise that He’s due.  At a minimum, He wants us to at least look around, consider how our lives could be and praise Him like the God who has saved our raggedy behinds time after time after time.  Like the God who made ways out of no way.  Who healed us.  Saved us. Protects Us. Calls us.  Anoints and appoints us.  AT A MINIMUM.  Doesn’t that God – that all-knowing, all-powerful, all-present God – deserve the best worship we can give Him?   And not our sloppy seconds.  I’m guilty.  Thinking I’m going to stay up for a few minutes longer to get my prayer and Bible time in after I’ve given my best and my all to my job, my kids, my husband, my house, and my own interests.

How dare I?  I have not been giving God the minimum of what He’s due.

Lord, I repent.  I am so sorry.  Please forgive me.

***

This post isn’t for everyone.  I know that.  But I believe that there is someone like me who finds themselves weighed down with all the “stuff” in their lives: responsibilities, desires, wants, needs, even God-given dreams and visions.  And we’re in a place where those things are now so all-consuming that even though we desire to get back to God, we don’t know the way back.  We feel stuck, overwhelmed with a reality we no longer recognize or want.

If that’s you, know that the only things you need to do to reclaim the joy and peace that is rightfully ours through Christ Jesus are to repent for your selfish thoughts; receive God’s forgiveness; refocus on what He’s done (count your blessings! — perhaps literally!); and start giving God the worship and honor and praise that He’s due.

Period.

He’s a good God.  He won’t hold it against us that we got lost, that we ended up in this “It’s All About Me” wasteland.  And He won’t change His BIGGER, BETTER plans for us either.  He’ll just keep loving us, blessing us, protecting us, and being the awesome God that He is.

We can praise that, can’t we?  At a minimum?

I decided this morning, when I emerged from my prayer closet, that I’m taking back the joy and the peace that is mine.  I’m shifting my focus from me to others and am committed to thanking God with each breath I take through my actions, thoughts and words.

He’s just that good.

It’s the least I can do.