Labor Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Video: Keyondra Frederick YouTube

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Staying Power

I woke up this morning with the Walter Hawkins classic, “God Will Open Doors”, on repeat in my Spirit.

Check it out (YouTube courtesy of minjcj1961):

 

Man, my home church, the New Canaan Worship Center in Richmond, used to ROCK this!  I remember Mrs. Comer used to sing this and when they got to the end, they’d kick up the tempo a little bit on the chorus and sing it over and over again.  The director, Min. James Paige, would get to kickin’ the back of that piano, pounding the keys, and the Spirit would just be so high.

This song has staying power simply because, just like the Bible, its emphasis, its power, and its TRUTH are unchanging.  Yeah, I think it was recorded in the 80s, but I bet you there’s not a church mother at a Baptist, Pentecostal, Apostolic, Charismatic, or WHATEVER church in the south who doesn’t remember swaying and GOING IN to this!  Somebody call the Deacons and get the Deaconnesses to prepare those prayer cloths because folks WILL be slain on this joint!

But you know another reason why this song has staying power?  Because it’s built on, based on and all about a God who also has staying power.  A God that no matter how bad it looks, how hard it gets, how long you’ve been waiting…a God that no matter what your mother says, your father did, the doctor diagnosed…a God that no matter how high the bill, how tough the challenge, how seemingly invincible the foe, that God – who after more than two thousand years – is not only still here, but STILL has an undefeated record and is STILL in the life changing, way making, miracle creating, heart fixing, mind regulating, path straightening, bill paying, tear drying, devil defeating business!

And what may even be more shout-worthy than that is this truth: that the same power to stand and prevail in the face of ANY and EVERYTHING the devil may throw at you (or that you may get yourself into — let’s be honest) is within us.

No matter what we’re up against, just like the song says, through your darkest days, and even though you can’t see the way, God will open doors for you.

When you’re walking down a path that you’ve been walking down with seemingly no results for so long that you begin to question whether it was God’s leading in the first way and you have no idea now where you’re headed.  Know that, just like the song says, when you can’t see your way, and you feel that you have gone astray, doing all you know to do. God has not forgotten you.  Hold your head up and be true, for God will open doors for you.

In some ways I feel like I’m coming out of a season just like that.  I began praying God-given requests in the beginning of 2013.  Dreams and goals so specific, yet so foreign to me that only God could have given them to me.  Now, as we are more than halfway through the year, God is manifesting in my life those very things I circled in prayer repeatedly over the past several months.  The job I wanted.  The salary I asked for.  The schedule I needed.  The blessings for my children and husband.  They’re all coming to pass now.

I say this not to brag – because surely I deserve NOTHING that God has blessed me with — but to encourage you.  Someone reading this has been circling the same prayer(s), praying for the same thing(s) for days, weeks, months, maybe even years.  When you started your petition for that thing you had no doubt that God orchestrated and ordered it. But now, after so long, and seemingly so little progress, you wonder from time to time, Should I even keep praying this?  Is it worth it? Was it ever God’s will?  Does God hear me?  Has He forgotten about me?  Does He see what I’m going through?  Does He care?  Maybe I should just give up.

I may have shared this with you guys before, but if you find yourself wondering those things, I implore you to read, memorize, meditate on, and recite to yourself and that lying devil the Amplified version of Philippians 4:6:

Do not fret or have any anxiety about anything, but in every circumstance and in everything, by prayer and petition (definite requests), with thanksgiving, continue to make your wants known to God.

There are two things I need you to get from that scripture.  The first is the definition of “petition”, which is “definite requests”.  We don’t serve an ambiguous, passive, laissez-faire God.  In fact, my pastor, Mark Batterson, wrote in his book “Draw The Circle” that it doesn’t honor God when we come to him with vague prayer requests.  What are you saying to the God of EVERYTHING when you come forth with timid, half-hearted, vague prayers?  You’re saying, I don’t know if you can do it, I don’t know if you’ll do it for me, and I probably shouldn’t even ask anyway, but here goes.

The second thing I need you to get — and this goes back to the foundation of this post about staying power — is that the end of that verse says “CONTINUE TO MAKE YOUR WANTS KNOWN TO GOD.”  We give up on God and ourselves and the dreams He’s given us too, the prayers we’ve prayed, we give up too easily and too soon.  When God’s ordained it – when He’s led you to pray for something, to do something, to ask for something, to believe in something, to trust Him for something – IT.  WILL.  HAPPEN.  Period.  So CONTINUE going back to Him saying, “You told me X, Lord, and I believe you will do it/give it to me/make it happen.”  Tap into your Holy Ghost-fueled staying power.  This glorifies God, grows your faith, and helps you remain focused on what God needs you to see.

NOW, in due diligence, I need to reiterate that you must pursue, passionately desire, thirst for, hunger for, seek after, and cling to what God wants for you in order for this to be a guarantee.  But don’t fret, if you can’t shake that dream, that goal, that feeling that you should be doing x, or helping y, or preparing for z.  And if, after every time you pray for it you come out of your prayer closet reassured and feeling at peace, then 9 times out of 10 it’s God prompting you and it will happen.  And in the 10th case, where maybe you misread the signals, the Word says that as long as we believe that what we’re doing is what God wants, He’ll make that work in our favor, too.

When you can’t see your way, feeling that you’ve gone astray…Hold your head up and be true.  God has not forgotten you.  I know my God will open doors for you…

I apologize to you all for my long absence.  As God began manifesting things in my life — blessings all over that indeed I do not have room to receive! – it was necessary that I focus on Him and me and where He was leading me.  But I’m excited to be back.  Grateful for your time.  And humbled that God loves me enough to use my life to bless someone else.

Remember, you’ve got staying power.  God WILL open doors for you!  And He specializes in those doors no one can see but Him!

 

Who’s Fighting?

Ephesians 6:13 says this in the NLT version:

Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm.

Let’s just get something clear that this verse in fact makes crystal clear: you’re going to have to go through.

There.  I said it.  No matter what you’ve been told, the reality is that we’re all going to go through.

We’re going to have storms, tests, trials, disappointments.  We’re going to have seasons of waiting and of hurt, of healing and of preparation.

We’re gonna have a little hell to go through from time-to-time.

And the sad part isn’t that we somehow think otherwise.  No, the real travesty is that we come through looking like we’ve been through hell.

We’re whipped.  Tired.  Beat down.  Tore down.  Broken.  A mess of a person.  We look like we just got in the ring with Tyson and are happy just to have our lives.

That’s a grave misunderstanding of whose we are and who we are called to be.

We were created to be victorious and for our very lives of victory to give glory to the King.

So much so that not only should we NOT be surprised to make it through, but we should expect it and walk out looking like victors.

…instead of the sad sacks that crawl out of the least little storm looking like they’ve been to hell and back.

That scripture, Ephesians 6:13, tells us that all we need to do is prepare and stand.  Period.

Nowhere in that scripture does it say we have to fight or attack or strategize.

Nope.

It says do all you can and then stand.

You see, the reason we come out look like death warmed over is because we’re trying to fight spiritual battles – the Lord’s battles – in our own strength, our own time and our own way.

Instead of preparing – by hiding the Word in our hearts and heads – and then standing still and letting God secure the victory He’s already promised to us with the blood of Jesus (whew!), we try to figure out how to make it work; how to get out of our uncomfortable situation; how to get through this test unchanged, unfazed, and unscathed.

We have to do this.  We must prepare and stand.  So God can fight and be glorified and so we can win.

It’s just like Donald Lawrence’s new song, The Gift, says, “You don’t look like what you’ve been through.”

Why let the enemy think He’s won any ground by allowing him to affect your countenance, your disposition, your joy, when you already know – AND HE KNOWS – that he’s defeated at every turn?

Aside from robbing God of the fullness of his praise and glory, there is another risk to trying to fight your own battles: you end up tired.

Sarah Young says it like this in her devotional, “Jesus Today”:

I will fight for you; you need only to be still. I know how weary you are, My child. You have been struggling just to keep your head above water, and your strength is running low. Now is the time for you to stop striving and let Me fight for you. I know this is not easy for you to do. You feel as if you must keep struggling in order to survive, but I am calling you to rest in Me. I am working on your behalf; so be still, and know that I am God.
Quieting your body is somewhat challenging for you, but stilling your mind may often seem downright impossible. In your striving to feel secure, you have relied too heavily on your own thinking. This struggle to be in control has elevated your mind to a position of autonomy. So you need the intervention of the Holy Spirit. Ask Him to control your mind more and more – soothing you from the inside out. Take time to rest in the shadow of the Almighty while I fight for you.
Exodus 14:14 – Psalm 46:10 – Romans 8:6 – Psalm 91:1

So what’s it gonna be?  Are you going to keep trying in vain to fight battles you were never meant to fight for a victory you already had?  Or are you going to prepare, stand, and let God secure the victory and get his glory?

You can keep scheming, trying to find ways to get through or get over or get past, but know this: there is no shortcut to who God’s created you to be.  Without every lesson, every test and trial, you cannot become who He needs you to be.

So, stop trying.  Start trusting.  Prepare and stand.

This battle is not yours.  It’s the Lord’s…and all you can do is win.

Don’t be Ungrateful

This week, I was convicted…for being ungrateful.

Here’s the deal.

During the Lenten season, God birthed very specific dreams and prayers in my spirit.  I prayed those prayers – circled them, as my Pastor has taught me – for weeks upon weeks and month after month.

I moved from a place of cautiously accepting that these were God-inspired thoughts, to faithfully expecting these prayers to come to fruition.

To answer my prayers and further His plan for my life, God had to create an opportunity.  Just. For. Me.

The plan that He unfurled before me checked each of the specifications of my prayers to the letter.  It was both exciting and humbling.  Overwhelming and perfect.

Just as His plan was coming to fruition though, I began to question whether it was indeed the path I was supposed to take.

(Despite the fact that He confirmed and reconfirmed that that was indeed my path in many a subsequent prayer.)

Well, I guess He finally got fed up with my double-mindedness.

One morning this week during my prayer and quiet time He said, “I created this opportunity just for you.  It is exactly what you asked for to accomplish exactly what I need for your life.”

And just like that I got the revelation that I was being ungrateful.

Not in the strictly traditional sense of not appreciating a gift given to me, but in a new way of not rejoicing fully in an answered prayer – a gift custom-made for me.

Somehow, this brand felt like a deeper, different kind of ungratefulness and I quickly repented, overjoyed to return to the peace of knowing that I was walking in God’s will and plan for my life.

But man, the memory of knowing that I was ungrateful, that I’d allowed my worldly eyes to discolor the truth of what God said I could do and have.  That still stings.

Here’s what I know now friends: it can be hard to see this flavor of ungratefulness because it doesn’t present itself as the sour-mouthed, plain face one usually recognizes when the gift you’ve just received isn’t quite what you expected.

No this kind of ungratefulness presents itself as, “I just want to be sure it’s you God.”  “Hmm, is it really God’s will or mine?”  Or even, “This is too good to be true; it can’t be for me.”

So, let me share these three quick tips with you so you can avoid being ungrateful when God answers your prayers so well you just can’t believe the blessing is for you:

1. Don’t doubt the power of your own prayers.  Often we ask for and look for and seek prayers from others thinking that if Sister So and So and Brother So and So pray for your situation then surely God will move.  The reality is that yes, there is power in numbers, but each of us has our own individual relationship with God and can go to Him for ourselves thanks to Christ.  I prayed a prayer birthed in my Spirit months ago.  God heard it and immediately began working on my behalf.  Faith in God is critical.  Belief in the power of YOUR prayers is too.  Combined, these things will be the confirmation we need when God shows up and shows out on our behalf.

2. Don’t resent the down time.  I wanted God to answer my prayer when I wanted it; much sooner than God’s timeline.  I became so married to seeing God move according to my schedule that when it didn’t happen I started to question if I was going in the right direction, if the path I was on was in fact where He wanted me to go.  But, I learned early on in this season that promotion before preparation results in poor performance — and sometimes failure.  So I’m contently waiting for God to align things EXACTLY how they need to be for me to succeed and for Him to get ALL the glory.  In the meantime, opportunity after opportunity is being thrown my and my family’s way.  I’ve realized that they aren’t all for us to move on them now — they’re a foretelling of what’s to come and a reminder to soak up this down time.  New seasons often mean increased demand on us (spiritually and in the world) so rest up now because promotion soon comes.

3.  Don’t lose sight of your dreams.  For me it was a number.  A number that I felt like came out of nowhere, was too high, and I didn’t deserve.  It was a dream.  A dream that at different times along this journey other paths seemed to promise me.  But it was in those times that I knew I had to stay focused on God’s will, God’s plan, and His path.  Sometimes what looks like “options” are actually just distractions to keep you from getting where God wants you to go.  God knows us, but most importantly, He knows what He’s put in us.  Don’t let viewing your God-given dreams through the lenses of this world cause you to doubt the very things God has said He wants to give to you.  He’ll do it…He never fails.

You know, the word says in Proverbs 3:5-6:

    Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

If we really, truly, deep down believe this scripture then there is no way that we should ever be surprised, overcome/overwhelmed, anxious or fearful to the point of freezing in place when God answers our prayers directly.

I think somewhere along the way religion made us believe that the only way we could ever really get anything good in our lives was to go through hell.  But, I would argue that that is contrary to the word of God which tells us that He orders our steps and makes our paths straight.

So the next time you see the manifestation of some audacious prayer that you’ve prayed, don’t be ungrateful.

Our God is a God of right now, suddenly, and exceedingly and abundantly.  And He loves you enough – SO MUCH in fact – that He delights in blessing you.

So, whoever you are reading this.  I believe God led you here because you’ve been asking Him for confirmation.  You’ve been asking Him to give you a sign that this huge blessing, this too-good-to-be-true blessing is really for you.

Pray once more asking God if this is the sign.  And if afterwards you feel peace about accepting your blessing, know that it was God answering your prayers and believe that He tailor-made that blessing just for you.

And please, don’t be ungrateful.

I’ll leave you with this classic hymn that serves as a reminder to not just be grateful, but that our God is a God of balance.  So no matter how tough your trials have been, know that your blessings will be just that big!

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!

DEVOTIONAL: Mind Your Mouth

You may not know this, but, in addition to being fishers of men, we are also called to be builders.

Not the worldly kind of builders – with physical brick and mortar building.

No, our tools of building are our words.

You see, it is written in Proverbs 18:21 that the power of life and death lies in our tongues.

In fact, the Bible is chocked full of directives telling us to speak things, because there’s something powerful about putting those words out into the atmosphere in heaven and earth.

The very words we speak have the power to prosper and bless OR to curse and condemn, others as well as ourselves.

So with every word we speak we’re either building something up – whether it’s another person, or ourselves, our futures, or our hopes – or we’re tearing something down, speaking curses, ill will, and idle words out into the atmosphere.

And let’s remember that we are admonished in Matthew 12:36 that we will be judged by our idle words.

Haven’t we all been guilty at one time or another?

You know what I’m talking about.  The conversations we sometimes find ourselves in with other people when we aren’t really talking about anything, just killing time or trying to be social.

What starts out as small talk about the weather or the game unsuspectingly devolves into gossiping or complaining, or listening to others to do those things.

In those times – and really every time we speak – we should think about what our words are building.

We really must mind our mouths.

Are we speaking truth and light and God’s word?  Are we building people up with encouragement and living water?

Or, are we tearing them down with negative words, selfish thoughts, and empty chatter?

***

There’s an old hymn that goes like this:

My hope is built on nothing less

than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.

I dare not trust the sweetest frame,

but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

Refrain:

On Christ the solid rock I stand,

all other ground is sinking sand;

all other ground is sinking sand.

Word by word, brick by brick, we are either building something or tearing something down.

Let’s endeavor today to be mindful of every word that falls from our lips.

Not just because they power they wield, but because of what they tell us about ourselves…

Luke 6:45 (NLT)

45 A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart.

It is imperative that we are mindful of what we say.  Not simply because our words are not just tools of creation or destruction, but because they are also one of the easiest ways to know what is in our hearts and who we are as people.

 

Devotional: Keepin’ it 100

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

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

We put on a good front for others.

We say the right things, pray the right things.

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

Literally we’re one paycheck from ruin.

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

We’re just one more thing away…

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

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

 

Look at 1 Corinthians 15:10:

New Living Translation (NLT)

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

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

Romans 12:3:

New Living Translation (NLT)

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

2 Corinthians 3:5:

New Living Translation (NLT)

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

 

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

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

It doesn’t work.

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

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

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

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

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

So, the next move is up to you.

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

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