You’ve Met Your Match!

We live in a polarized society that thrives on separation and exclusion. Elaborate and aggressive cross-channel marketing plans send the perpetual message that we are never quite good enough – that we need to constantly improve our exterior to attain the worldly definition of success. Titus 2:11-12 says For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;”

This sense of inferiority can spill over into our spiritual lives. We may feel that so many regrets and mistakes have pervaded our lives that we are not good enough for God either. We have a warped sense of identity that can weigh us down and hinder our growth. Our prayer lives fade away and our relationship with our heavenly Father grows distant.

How do we return? How do we recover from these feelings of unworthiness? The longer we go without having conversations with our Creator, the more natural it seems. Yet, connecting with our Creator through prayer is one of the most natural things we can do. 1 Chronicles 16:11 says Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always.”

We return by studying God’s word. Knowing God’s promises means that we can pray and hold Him accountable to what He says. God is never far from us. He is always eager to meet us. Romans 8:38 reminds us that nothing separates us from God’s love: “And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.”  He also meets us where we are. In scripture, Jesus was not stationary. He did not stay in one place and extend invitations for those in need to stop by and see him. He went out and met people where they were, in whatever state they were in. From healing lepers to the man at the pool of Bethesda to the woman at the well to healing the blind, Jesus continued to extend his message of salvation, love, mercy, and grace to everyone, regardless of their past or present state. He does the same thing today. Salvation, deliverance, peace, wisdom, restoration, healing, and everything else we need is readily available. Whatever need we have, the Lord is able to meet us where we are and provide His very best to us. James 1:17 says “Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.”

We never have to worry nor feel defeated because, through faith in God, we’ve met our match!

 Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen. – Jude 24-25

Plan “Be”

I was anticipating a fun-filled weekend when suddenly it happened – an unexpected knee injury sidelined me for three days. Disgusted, I reshuffled priorities, bowed out of commitments, canceled appointments, and prayed for healing even as I practiced the RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) method in hopes of accelerating my recovery.

Just when I thought I couldn’t feel any worse, I received a disturbing phone call where I learned that a friend of a friend had taken her own life. I was jolted out of my self-pity party and plunged into a different type of despair.

I think many of us have had moments where life felt so burdensome that escaping temporary troubles with a permanent solution seemed like a feasible option. We considered giving up and surrendering to defeat. Our highest hopes, best-laid plans, or greatest expectations went into a sudden downward spiral, wrecking our hearts, troubling our minds, and shattering our dreams in the process. In other words, our Plan A was ruined.

Fortunately for us, Plan A is not the only one that exists. In His sovereign wisdom and everlasting love, the Lord allows our self-designed plans to fail so that we can grow and He can be glorified. Let’s face it: Our Plan As seem grand to us, but may be limited compared to God’s plans.  Also, if our Plan As always succeeded, then we would glorify and praise ourselves instead of the Lord. Only God can step in and take us far beyond our subconscious, self-imposed limitations. When situations don’t initially work out in our favor, rather than falling into a pattern of distancing ourselves from God, we must operate according to the Holy Spirit. It may feel counterintuitive to our human nature, but we must seek God as never before. Only by spending time and aligning with Him can we prepare for the next phase of our journey. Our eternal Father invites us to consider His alternative Plan “Be”, one that is ultimately more beneficial than anything we could imagine. When you are frustrated by your Plan A, pray and ask God to reveal His Plan “Be” which reminds you to [BEs capitalized for emphasis]:

“He says, “BE still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” -Psalm 46:10

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will BE given to you as well.” -Matthew 6:33

“The LORD will fight for you; you need only to BE still.” – Exodus 14:14

“But as for you, BE strong and do not give up, for your work will BE rewarded.”
-2 Chronicles 15:7

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts BE troubled and do not BE afraid.” -John 14:27

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not BE dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” – Isaiah 41:10

“BE on your guard; stand firm in the faith; BE courageous; BE strong.” -1 Corinthians 16:13

When your Plan A fails, rejoice because God’s Plan “Be” is springing into action!

IMPORTANT: If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts, know that I am praying for you! Please click here to connect with local crisis resources for your country.

Now Worries vs. No Worries

Matthew 6:34 says “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Each day that we live is actually three in one. First, there is the day that we expect considering our obligations and commitments. Second, there is the day we actually have with its unexpected delights or difficulties. Finally (if we choose to acknowledge it), there is the day where we see God constantly at work in every circumstance.

The day that we anticipate can be easy, difficult, or somewhere in between. Ecclesiastes 3:1 says “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:” There are joyful days that can seem to take eons to arrive and pass in the blink of an eye. There are also difficult days that speed toward us like a train, threatening to run us completely over. 

We can waste time being worried about situations that can profoundly affect us, yet are outside of our control. Worry is packaged in many shapes and sizes. If it goes unchecked, the worry that begins as a mental weight can breed anxiety and stress that takes a physical toll on us. The more concerned we are about a situation, the more difficult it is to admit our lack of control. The truth is that we are in a constant battle between our spirit and flesh. In our flesh, we want to be in control and “make things happen”. In our spirit, we are admitting our reliance on God, seeking His strength so that we can weather the storm. Fear is a tool that the enemy uses to undermine and sabotage our faith. Ultimately, the enemy hopes to discourage us enough to abandon our relationship with God altogether.

As Believers, we must pray and spiritually confess our fears, admit our worries, and release our anxiety to God. If we are busy harboring our worries, feeding our fears, then our faith cannot grow. God never promised that our lives would be smooth and easy. In fact, John 16:33 says “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” 

We must remind ourselves of the promises of God as revealed in many scriptures including:

  • Psalm 46:1 “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”
  • Psalm 94:19 “When my anxious inner thoughts become overwhelming, your comfort encourages me.”
  • 1 Peter 5:7 “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.”
  • Isaiah 46:10 “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
  • 1 John 4:18 “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

The book “God’s Psychiatry” was first published in 1953. In it, the author Charles Allen, prescribes the 23rd Psalm. Just as we might take a medical prescription multiple times a day, he offered the 23rd Psalm morning, noon, and night for spiritual healing. It made a significant difference in the outlook of those who followed this practice. When you suddenly find yourself in the midst of trouble, find scriptures that minister to you, bringing peace and joy to your heart. Our triune God can turn “now worries” into “no worries”.

2 Timothy 1:7 “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”

Heavenly Fellowship

My schedule has been jam-packed lately. While reflecting on the past week, I thought about the many ways that I’ve recently connected with loved ones: one-on-one phone calls, conference calls, individual and group text messages, emails, online meetings, and (my favorite) face-to-face interactions.

No matter how brief or extended the exchange, love and concern were the common denominators. Whether it was a prayer conference call, a text from my Mom, or dinner with friends, the love in those exchanges is what made them so enjoyable.

As Christians, universal love is our distinguishing characteristic. John 13:35 says Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” In his sermon about loving our enemies, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. quoted Matthew 5:43-44 which says “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!” Ancient Greek culture had seven different words to represent various types of love, including the universal agape love for man, nature, and God. 

Modern society flings the word love around, making it undervalued. We allegedly “love” a lot of material possessions that can be here today and gone tomorrow. Yet, we are often reluctant to invest the time, attention, and energy to express concern or encourage others around us. Sometimes we love selfishly, expecting reciprocity. That’s not love – that’s a business arrangement. Sometimes we hoard our love, trying to ration it out to those whom we deem as deserving. That’s a deception because God loves us all. Furthermore, as the saying goes “Love does not divide, it multiplies.” Life events can harden and close our hearts, for fear of vulnerability or further pain. The trouble is, when something is hard and closed, nothing can go out nor in.

As we pray, we can petition God for the wisdom, strength, and courage to love and encourage those who touch our hearts (in a good or bad way). We can ask God to soften and open our hearts. We can receive and extend forgiveness. Psalm 103:8 says “The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.”

Those who know God can demonstrate agape love. 1 John 4:8 says “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” Therefore we are not the source of love within ourselves. God is our source of love. We are merely conduits of His love. We are the channels that God’s love flows through. We do not have to be stingy with our love, because we tap it from an unlimited source.

For this reason, when people of God gather, love flows through us, making our times of fellowship, whether we are gathered for a meal, worship, or other activities, a glimpse of the divine. As the song goes, when all of God’s children get to heaven, what a time! Times of fellowship is a glimpse of heaven on earth.

More importantly, as we travel through our various spheres of influence, it is even more critical that we demonstrate love in unexpected places and everyday situations. Dr. Cornel West said “You’ve got to be a thermostat rather than a thermometer. A thermostat shapes the climate of opinion; a thermometer just reflects it.” We are ambassadors of The King! You never know how much your simple, genuine extension of God’s love can bless someone else. Wherever you are, there should be a sweet spirit of love and heavenly fellowship.

“May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” -2 Corinthians 13:14

Majoring in the Minor

As the saying goes, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions”. I am a recovering perfectionist. Recently, amid looming deadlines and competing priorities, I planned a busy day to optimize progress on multiple fronts. I was up ahead of the sun, working, cleaning, planning, and organizing. My logic was that if I made a Herculean effort that day, it would alleviate later stresses.

Throughout the day, I repeatedly encountered unexpected delays and challenges that resulted in me not making nearly the level of progress that I had hoped. By that evening, my perfectly productive day had morphed into a frustrating mess. I was irritated and feeling like an underachiever.

Dejected, I flopped into a chair, then sighed to myself as I realized I needed to get right back up to retrieve something that I needed for my next task. It was then that I caught a glimpse of my reflection. I barely recognized the frowning, stressed-out person that I saw looking back at me. I immediately had a reality check with myself, praying and asking God to help me. I had unintentionally tried to fly solo that day, not seeking God’s guidance on my To-Do List. I’d failed miserably. I invited God into the situation, asking Him to help me recover and prioritize.

The truth is, God wants to be involved every aspect of our lives. He does not want us worried, anxious, nor distracted. Those are tools of the enemy. Philippians 4:6-7 says “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” We need to pray and invite God into every situation that concerns us. Psalm 138:7-9 Though I walk in the midst of trouble, You will revive me; You will stretch out Your hand Against the wrath of my enemies, And Your right hand will save me. The Lord will perfect that which concerns me; Your mercy, O Lord, endures forever; Do not forsake the works of Your hands.” How often do limp along in our weaknesses and frustrations, injured and struggling for so long that we no longer recognize it? Job 12:13 says: “To God belong wisdom and power; counsel and understanding are His.” God already knows all things in detail. He doesn’t need to come up to speed because He IS the speed.

It took years for me to realize it – but my deep-seated desire for perfection is born of a spirit of pride. Proverbs 16:18 says Pride goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before a fall.” I didn’t have to fall far. It only took a relatively minor level of frustration to help me see the error of my ways. I spent some time in prayer, asking God’s forgiveness and confessing my need for Him. I continued to pray, asking God to bind up a spirit of pride and loose a spirit of humility. I needed God to order my steps. I did not want to operate in frustration one moment longer. To my relief, as I sealed my prayer in the matchless name of Jesus, a spirit of peace came over me. I returned to my To-Do List with a different mindset. I quickly distinguished between which tasks were critical vs. optional. I reprioritized and remixed my To-Do List based on what I felt God thought was important. A few hours later, I retired for the evening feeling both peaceful and victorious because, in His loving and merciful way, my beloved heavenly Father taught me how to stop being the captain of my own tempest in a teacup. He showed me how to avoid majoring in the minor because only what we do for Christ will last.

“So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.”
-1 Corinthians 15:58

Calling on the Name

Over the holiday weekend, I was delighted to give and receive messages from many loved ones. Yesterday, I reflected on my multitude of life roles and the various names that I answer to. I am a daughter, sister, aunt, cousin, sorority sister, neighbor, girlfriend, coworker, customer, intercessor, classmate, worshipper, and the list goes on. A unique name accompanies nearly every role. I thought about how I am sometimes able to identify a sender or caller based on how I am addressed.

These thoughts led me to think about our expectations when we call on the Lord. As we transform from being self-centered to Christ-centered, knowing the various names of the Lord – who we trust God to be – is vital to our spiritual growth. God is all-encompassing. According to Exodus 3:14, God is the great I AM: “God said to Moses, I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’” The I AM reference is not a limitation as if the statement is an incomplete sentence. Rather, it is the opposite. I AM refers to the fact that God is omnipotent (all-powerful), omniscient (all-knowing), and omnipresent (everywhere at the same time). There are no boundaries nor limitations. The Lord knows us intimately and understands our motives and intents, even when we are unable to articulate them.

There is no question about how well God knows us. The question becomes how well do we know God? We sometimes restrict God, deciding for whatever reason that a situation is not God-sized. In those moments, we should remind ourselves of God’s names.  There are entire books devoted to the names of God the FatherGod the Son, and God the Holy Spirit reflecting His triune identity as our:

  • Creator (Genesis 1:1)
  • Provider (Genesis 22:14)
  • Healer (Exodus 15:26)
  • Banner (Exodus 17:15)
  • Peace (Judges 6:24)
  • Shepherd (Psalms 23:1)
  • Righteousness (Jeremiah 23:6)
  • Savior (Luke 2:11)
  • Redeemer (Job 19:25)
  • Mediator (1 Timothy 2:5)
  • Rock (1 Corinthians 10:4)
  • Peace (Ephesians 2:14)
  • Way (John 14:6)

This is not an exhaustive list, just a glimpse into the powerful entity that we can directly access through prayer. The Lord provides opportunities to learn about Him across his broad spectrum of identities. We need only to believe in Him and call on His name to tap into that transformational power.

The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him – the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.
-Isaiah 11:2

 

 

 

 

 

How Big is Your Praise?

As I left a lovely worship service with echoes of “Ride on King Jesus” still stirring in my heart, I went to get a palm branch – a tangible reminder of the victory we have in Jesus – when I was thunderstruck. The palm branches were so large that they were not in buckets but in large barrels! Delighted, I took a palm branch that was nearly as long as I am tall. This plant set my spiritual imagination on fire as I imagined Jesus being welcomed into Jerusalem with people waving these huge palm branches and laying them down on the road as he humbly entered the city. It was a far cry from my original vision where palms were the size of a small hand fan.

As I rode along with the edges of the palm leaves blowing behind me, I began to think about the importance of praise and thanksgiving. Earlier this week, I received a thought-provoking text which asked: “What if you woke up tomorrow with only what you had thanked God for today?” That convicted my heart. We take so much for granted every day. We tend to focus on what’s next or what we don’t have, instead of acknowledging God’s faithfulness which constantly blesses us in so many ways.

Praise and thanksgiving are essential parts of a rich prayer life. Praise gets God’s attention. It shifts focus from us to our Creator. He is the one who can make things happen. John 15:5 says “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.” It is interesting that we can holler, cheer, and cry during a performance or sporting event but praise for our Creator often arrives in hushed and reserved tones. Psalm 100:4 says “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.”  Everyone likes to be appreciated. Hasn’t a compliment lifted your mood? When your sacrifice is acknowledged, doesn’t it make the sacrifice feel worthwhile? How much more is it with the Master of the Universe? When The One who knows us intimately knows that we appreciate and acknowledge what He does, it gets his attention ahead of submitting our petitions.

I believe just like palm branches of yesteryear, my praise used to relatively small and somewhat mechanical. However, as God brings us through difficult trials, our faith grows. As our faith grows, our praise grows. As our praise grows, our thanksgiving grows. We more readily reflect on situations where He has stepped in to correct, deliver, help, heal, comfort, provide for, and keep us. We see His favor at work in our lives. We experience joy unspeakable as we come into an awareness of Him moving on our behalf. We learn to watch for God’s leading and have a sense of peace that goes beyond our current circumstance. Our life focus shifts, moving from a self-centered existence to one where our every action become an act of worship as God becomes the center of our joy.

I encourage you to wave your spiritual palm branch, honoring God with your praise, worship, and thanksgiving. I believe that no matter what size your praise may currently be, giving thanks to ALLmighty (that’s not a typo) God helps your praise to grow. 2 Corinthians 4:15 says “All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.”