“He’s making a list and checking it twice; gonna find out Who’s naughty or nice. Santa Claus is coming to town” are part of the lyrics to the Christmas Carol Santa Claus is coming to town. For many years parents and teachers have used this thought process to scare their children into doing the right thing in hopes to get a bunch of gifts. Unfortunately for many Christians we live our lives thinking that God is making a list of all our good and bad actions in fear of losing gifts from him. If you’re like me it’s easy to get into the rat race of striving to check off every box to ensure that I have “fulfilled” my obligations to God each day. My daily checklist items have included but not limited to spending no less than an hour reading my bible, interceding on behalf of others more than once a day, making sure that I follow every directive given me by well-meaning people, fasting at least once a week and continually being emotionally available for everyone. Are you tired from reading my list? Yeah me too! Like many others I found myself doing these things out of obligation versus relationship and guess what the result was: I was a complete mess. I was so stressed out and full of fear that I couldn’t appreciate my relationship with God. I saw him as a task master that was waiting for me to mess up, so he could punish me versus the loving God that he is. It may not have been the punishment of beating me, but it may have meant that he would withhold something I desired from me for not being the perfect little church girl. I was so fearful that if I didn’t do these things that would disqualify me from hearing his voice. I was so fearful that if I didn’t do everything on MY checklist that I would somehow forego the promises that he already spoke to me before the beginning of time. And then one day I realized that instead of resting in God trusting in his love that I was striving. I was striving to be perfect when that wasn’t possible but somehow, I felt that it was, and I was failing miserably. I realized that if I continued to strive to gain his approval I would never be able to appreciate his loving relationship. If you find yourself trying to check off a thousand to-do-list items to gain God’s approval, please stop now. You already have approval because you are his child and he loves you uniquely and completely. As with any parent he may not agree with every choice but please remember that his love will never waiver because your checklist isn’t complete. The only reason that God is going back and forth on the earth is to see whom he may strengthen (2 Chr. 16:9). Take it from one ex-striver the best thing you can do now is to lay down your list and ask God to show you how to rest from your striving. If you find yourself dealing with attempting to strive for God’s love instead of resting in his love join me for 30 days to resting in God beginning January 1, 2018. This will be an interactive 30 days with daily devotionals with study questions, weekly videos and a once a week Facebook live instructional meeting. If you are interested please sign up prior to December 30, 2017 here: https://goo.gl/forms/k3kAg4XuQjI65n883
When faith is exasperated Scriptural Reference: Matthew 9:20-21
Truth moment: Life can be hard! Whew I am glad that I got that out because sometimes we think that if we admit that it’s hard then we are less of a Christian and we aren’t! Contrary to what the world tells us it is okay to admit that life is hard because that’s what releases God to move in our situation. When we’re going through a hard place in life we must remember that the first step we need to take is to admit it to God before we contact others. I know that it feels great to vent and get other people’s opinions but sometimes going to man makes things worse, even when the intentions of others are good. Just ask the woman with the issue of blood who went to many physicians but still had no cure. She went to the right place but they couldn’t cure her. The bible says that not only did she go to many doctors she spent a lot of money trying to find a cure still to no avail. I don’t know what you are dealing with today but what I do know is that no person on this earth can fix it nor can your money cure it either. That doesn’t mean that we isolate ourselves instead it means that we stop by Jesus first then reach out to others for our arms to be strengthened while we endure it. The only thing that will cure any of our problems is when we go low to God. Going low doesn’t mean that we beg God for answers instead it means that we get into a posture of worship which opens the portal for blessings and joy. There are certain seasons in our lives that will cause us to get on our knees, crawl in, and press until we get to Jesus and there will be others where we can walk right into the room with no pressure. It’s in the seasons of going low that we are growing in humility and dependence on God. It’s in those seasons that we say to God that no matter what we must go through we’re not going to give up fighting or run. It’s in those seasons that we learn that our fight is not really about what we are facing instead it’s about will we stay faithful to our God. It’s when we learn that our struggle is about will we stand and fight or run and hide. I am speaking from experience because I am an ex-runner, ya’ll I ran from everything hard but in the seasons of hard I learned to stand and fight. We must decide that we won’t quit just because of what we’re facing and all the obstacles that come our way; no instead we are going to go lower in hopes of simply touching God’s hem. Sure, we may want to admit defeat but it’s in those moments that we reach out to our friends and say I need you to hold up my arms right now because I am going to quit if not. When the woman left her house, she desired to get well but once she touched him she was made whole. That means that not only was she cured of her disease she was restored to the life that she had been missing. Some of us are in seasons where we are crying out for healing but God is using the process to make us whole. He’s using the process of our hard season to sharpen us for later but we must want to keep going. What if the woman had lost all fight and just quit? She’d still be sick and we wouldn’t have read about her. What will happen if you give up instead of continuing to press in for your wholeness? I am in no way minimizing the toughness of the season you may be in but we must remember that as Christian’s God is here for us. We are not like the world who gives up because they are uncomfortable! No, we are children of God who are going to press into the next place of God even if we have to go low! Stand strong the end is near and it’s bringing wholeness with it!
When the “will’s” collide Scriptural Reference: Matthew 26:39
Every day brings with it the choice of whose “will” will we take. Will we choose to follow the will of God resulting in blessings or will we choose our own will resulting in consequences? During the 2017 elections the then First Lady Michelle Obama said, “when they go low we go high” when responding to negative words and accusations spoken against her family. While there were many who applauded her words I wonder how many of us live by the same declaration? When hearing those words, we immediately think of all the ways that others have come against us, caused us harm, lied on us but there is a flip side to that. How many people have we come against, caused harm, lied on, even unintentionally? It is very easy to count the wrongs of others but it’s not easy to admit that we’ve done others wrong as well. That’s going high when the world goes low. The world focuses on how they’ve been wounded but we the church are to focus on reconciling the ones we’ve wounded. The bible tells us in Matthew 5:44 to love, bless, pray, and do good to those who curse, persecuted, hate and make themselves our enemies. This is going high when they go low. The bible also tells us to respect and pray for those in governmental, job and spiritual leadership but it seems as if in this season many are not afraid to disrespect leadership ultimately disrespecting God. We do this by not honoring our governmental leaders, disregarding the policies and procedures at our jobs and 2nd guessing everything pastors say. Let’s be honest this is not easy nor is it first nature but it ultimately is the will of God. When Jesus was in the garden of Gethsemane he too was faced with going high or low but ultimately, he chose to go high. He too was persecuted, didn’t necessarily agree with the governmental leadership and the spiritual leaders of his day were legalistic but you never read of him disrespecting them. Instead we read various accounts of him submitting to the wills of others because he understood that order is order no matter if we like it or not. His submission to man was easy because he had already submitted to God. He chose to submit to the will of God for his life because he saw the bigger picture. He recognized that if he chose to say “no” to going to the cross he would not only be denying us forgiveness of our sins he would also be calling God a liar. After all God had already ordained this to happen and Jesus’ entire ministry was built on the fact that he would die but God would resurrect him making fools of those who came against the will of God. Jesus was submitted to his God given assignment but what about each of us? Will we submit to the process of going further for his will to be carried out in the earth? When we choose to walk in our own will we are saying that God is not great enough to empower us to do whatever it is he’s called us to do. In fact, we are saying that our way of doing things is better than God’s. We may not know the fullness of what God has ordained for us to do in advancing his kingdom but we know that we are created to worship him. We may not know what tomorrow may bring but we know that we are to care for those less fortunate than us. We may not have millions of dollars but we know that God is calling us to pray for others. We may not enjoy our current situation but we know that in all things we are to be grateful to God for he’s there with us as we endure it. We may not have all the answers but we know that our world is in a horrible place right now and we need to be the light. We know these truths but the question remains, will you go high or low? Will you choose God’s will or your will? How may God be calling you to go higher in this season? Many of us are transitioning to a new season but the success will be defined by whether we go high or low. Choose to go high! Be blessed
The trap of self-righteousness
Scriptural Reference: Luke 18:9-14
Recently I have had to combat trap of the enemy of the believer and I am sure that I am not alone. It’s not the trap of sexual sin, condemnation or even doing something illegal instead it’s something much subtler. It’s something so subtle that if it’s not dealt with quickly it can be a hindrance to God’s kingdom assignment in our lives. The trap you ask: Self-righteousness! Self-righteousness is when we begin to think that somehow our works entitles us to things from God more so than who others who seemingly aren’t saved nor living a righteous lifestyle. The oxymoron about believing that somehow because we fast, pray, tithe, doing what we deem holy or right in God’s eyes qualifies us for his blessings over someone else is that we forget that our works don’t make us righteous. 2 Cor. 5:21 reminds us that it’s only through Jesus Christ that we are made righteous. Not our acts of devotions, not our dotting every I or crossing every t. Nope it’s simply the blood that Jesus alone shed for our sins that makes us righteous and justified by God. Self-righteousness can be active in our lives especially if we don’t fully understand grace. Grace is afforded to us all by the sacrifice of Jesus and not by works that some of us have been taught. We like the Pharisee have bought into the false doctrine that if we do certain external things we are qualified to receive certain privileges from God while others are not. Our hearts position toward God is what qualifies us for the grace of our God. It’s so subtle that the Pharisee (church goer) came to God telling him all the he had done that qualified him to be called righteous while the seemingly unsaved man (tax collector) didn’t even feel worthy to come close to God. There are millions of people that we as “churched” people don’t consider followers of Christ because of their lifestyle, career path, clothing choices, etc. but the truth is they may be the ones God chooses to use for his glory over those of us who think that because we do things correctly we are safe. Sure, none of us may not be as bold as the Pharisee in our prayers but if we take a closer look at our thought process we may see that we are more like him than we want to admit. One sure way to determine if one is self-righteous or being tempted by it is to ask yourself: “Do I believe that fasting, prayer, reading my bible, tithing, living a ‘clean’ lifestyle, etc. qualifies me for God’s blessings over someone who live a questionable lifestyle?” Ask yourself “what disqualifies someone from the grace of God that includes his blessings?” Let us all beware of the trap of self-righteousness by remaining humble at God’s feet recognizing it’s only through Jesus that we are made clean and righteous not our works. Let us remember that the disciplines of attempting to live right are not for reward instead they are what brings us closer to God in a more intimate relationship with him.
“When it’s time to move” Ex. 14:15
Countless times in the Old Testament we read where God is commanding someone or a group of people to move from one place to the next. It first began with Adam and Eve after their partaking of the tree that was forbidden. Then we read about him telling Noah to get a move on and start building the ark because of the coming judgement. After that we find Abram being commissioned to move away from what is familiar because God has something greater for him than what he already knew. Now we come to God again telling people to move but this time it’s because they are about to walk through the Red Sea which means they are about to walk into the place where their prayers to God are about to be answered. This is just not any sea but it’s the sea that symbolized their freedom from the bondage that has held them captive for 400 years. It seems strange that someone would fear the answers to their prayers would be answered but if we’re all honest there are somethings that we’ve been crying out to God about for a long time and the answer scares us. You may say “I am not scared I wish it would hurry up” but there’s still this nagging thought of “will it last this time?” or “am I really ready for this?” All of these questions are a sign that your Red Sea experience is about to happen because your spirit man is letting you know by your flesh bringing up your own fears of un-readiness. Undoubtedly we would all be a little nervous about going forth when God is telling us that all we have to do is walk right through this sea and you’ll be free. To some it sounds too easy and we wonder where is the catch. To others it’s scary because the other side of the sea is unknown territory and we’re not sure of ourselves. If we’re honest many times when God is telling us to go we paralyze ourselves due to the fear of not having all of the steps outlined or we honestly don’t trust that we hear his voice clearly. Either way we find ourselves stuck. It is in this season that I believe that God is ushering each of us to our own Red Sea experience but we have to choose if we desire to stay where we are and drown with our enemies or will we move on trusting that the other side is greater. Recently God has given me the commission to once again pack up and move from where I was but it wasn’t a physical move instead it was an emotional move. He challenged me to move from a place of pain from rejection and isolation to a place that is full of promise. It was scary at first because in the place where he commissioned me to leave I also had been given promises from God and I feared that if I left that place they wouldn’t come to pass. I feared that if I moved the promise wouldn’t be able to find me. Boy was I wrong. Not only is the promise running me down it’s coming in overflow. It’s not financial overflow but it’s access overflow which many times is better than money because access gives me the training for the next place in God. As we all come to the place in the season where God commissions us to move from one place to the next remember that on the other side of the sea is overflow but it will require you to give up the security of that which has held you captive for many years. I hope to see you on the other side of the sea!
What is joy and when does it come? These are two questions that I have pondered recently because God has me studying joy in this season. Unbeknownst to me joy is not based on the current state of being but instead it is a fruit that God has given all believers. It’s not in the finances that we have, the marriages we have, our children’s success and not even in the churches that we attend. In fact true joy has nothing to do with external but everything to do with our focus on the eternal God. In Psalm 30:5 David pens very comforting words that many of us have leaned on many days, “weeping may endure for a night but joy comes in the morning”. Have you ever wondered when does morning truly show up? I mean really who hasn’t spent many nights crying only to wake up in the morning and our situation is still the same? We have all been there where we are constantly saying that although I don’t see any changes I trust you God but having a heart that is still disappointed. So the question remains, when does morning come. At a closer look at this Psalm we are reminded that morning has been there along but the situations in life have not looked like it. I am not sure when David penned this Psalm but what I do know is that it was birthed out of a confidence that God was not going to allow him to be overtaken by his situation. I am not sure if this Psalm was penned after a victory but from the words I know that David’s joy wasn’t built based on what he saw but on he knew. This Psalm reminds us that although our situation doesn’t always look as we hoped our God is still in control. David teaches us that in morning comes when we begin to extol God more than we focus on our situations. David reminds us that although we weep for a night God’s favor is forever so that means that his everlasting covenant lasts longer than our painful night season. I don’t know about you but there have been times in my life where it looked very bleak but when I began to sing praises to God and extol him for who he is the situation seemed lighter. It’s in the moments of fear that I begin to speak out loud the promises of God that the tension of my body leaves because I have tapped into my source which gives me peace. It’s in the moments when I don’t see an out I begin to remind myself by extolling God that he’s Jehovah Jireh-The Lord who provides that I begin to see the ram in the bush. It’s in the moments when I am shamed before men that I extol God that no matter what happens he will never leave me nor forsake me. It’s in those moments when it looks bleak that we are reminded that morning comes when we get into the very presence of God and speak well of him. Morning comes when we begin to praise God for who he is and not for what he’s giving us. Morning comes when we honor our Father for being in control and resting in no matter what it looks like he’s taking care of it. Joy is not a feeling that we pursue instead joy is the manifestation of a decision we make to praise our God daily. Joy doesn’t mean that our situation will change but joy is what fuels us to continue enduring what we are facing. I am not sure where you find yourself today but my prayer is that you tap into your morning by extolling your God rather than festering over your problems. Be blessed and have a great day!!!
The growth curve (Is. 40:31)
Have you ever watched as a baby is learning to walk? I have and I must say that it is one of the cutest things that a person can observe. The process of watching a child learn to take steps may be cute to us but to the baby it is the hardest thing in the world. It begins first with the scoot, then they graduate to the crawl which leads them to learning to stand up then to the first step accompanied by man falls but eventually they learn how to keep their bodies up and move. At first the steps are helped along by holding onto something or someone who is stronger than them but ultimately, they get to the point where no help is needed instead it’s time to be on guard because they have more access. Much like the process of babies learning to be proficient in walking our walk with learning to wait on God goes. We start out scooting trying to figure out how to maneuver in this new place and the more we try the more we grow. This is an encouragement that you don’t have to do it all at once or even know how to wait properly all at once. Learning to wait is a process just like learning to walk is for a baby. Don’t be discouraged if it seems like everyone has this thing together because no one does, not even the one penning this post today. We all grow in the things of God day by day and I want to encourage you to keep the faith and take one step at a time. Eventually you will learn your own strength but in the meantime, it’s okay to lean on others for help steadying yourself. God desires that we all lean on him as we wait. Join us tonight as we learn about the waiting process of Joseph from the pit to the palace. See you soon friend and happy waiting! It’s only a test and with God’s help you will pass it! Be blessed