Have you ever been around that one person whose very presence makes you feel warm inside. Just the thought of knowing they are close to you gives you an unspeakable joy? Lately I have been longing for the very presence of God because I know when he is present anything that is opposite of who he is has to leave. When I would experience great anxiety I just knew that if I could press into the presence of God, I would be ok. There was a comfort I got in knowing that he was able to protect me from my fears and hold my hand through some of the hardest challenges I had to face. There are so many things we are searching for gratification in…things that will never give us the gratification a true relationship with Christ provides. We get excited when people like us on social media even if they despise us in real life, we smile from ear to ear when a cute guy tells us we’re beautiful, we feel great when some one gives us something we always wanted…but how do we feel in the presence of God? The one who sacrificed his only, who loves us without costs, who looked at us as his creation and called us good…even when we were far from it. The pleasure and fanciful pleasantries we receive from this world are only temporary. The pleasure of his presence is the kind of thing that never leaves us half empty but grants us what we need and more to make it through. I used to want to have people around so that I wouldn’t feel alone but now I realize that what God provides is more than any relationship or “thing” could ever give me.
When you make the choice to do something you love, you give it your all. Sometimes giving it your all means “at all costs”. In the pursuit of my own personal passions and Christ, I have understood the importance of sacrifice. I have been through some of the most difficult years of my life for the past 8 years. I have fought through tears, broken hearts, misunderstandings, sickness, and more but I have learned the importance of endurance. We gain victory through our will to endure. If you don’t learn to endure you will never get past where you currently stand. The only way you will get from where you are now to where you want to be is by making the decision to move and acting upon that decision. Never let a bad yesterday keep you from obtaining a brighter tomorrow. God has provided us with hope and a future but we have become to comfortable where we stand and not we’re not fed up enough to leave! Those who win the battle are those who fight. So I’m telling you today to fight!! Fight depression, fight low self-esteem, fight abuse, fight anything that is blocking you from reaching the purpose that God has for you. I have come to the realization that where I stand is only a temporary place. It is a space in time that my feet are occupying until I tell them to go else where. Remain faithful to God, ask him to direct your path and I promise he won’t let you down.
When we get comfortable with something, that’s when we start to take it for granted. It becomes easy to us…like second nature. This is the way we’ve become in our relationship with God. We call and we expect him to show up and give us an abundance of blessings while we salvage through our scraps to give him the pieces of us that we have left. I used to think I had it all together. I thought I really knew what being a “Christian” was all about. I felt just because I was obeying all ten of the commandments and I did good by other people that meant I was OK… to me that meant God was please. But what about all of the things that I DIDN’T do as often as I should’ve—if I did them at all? Things like share the gospel, talk to God often through prayer, fasting, discipleship, studying and applying his word. Sometimes we can slip right in the middle of what it means to have a relationship with God. Saying I’m a “Christian” is just a title, but what are you doing with the profession you’ve made? It’s just like those people who say “I didn’t lie” but they didn’t tell the truth either. Just because you’re NOT doing something, doesn’t mean that you are pleasing God. I could choose not to smoke or drink but if I’m not spreading the gospel then what am I really doing? My mom said it so clearly during our church bible study…”It’s not just in the name, it’s in the nature”. What is your nature [character] saying about what you believe? Don’t get stuck in the middle of not being a lover of the world and not walking in the life that Christ as laid before you. Like Taylor Swift said on an episode of NBC’s The Voice, “If you’re coasting, you’re backsliding”. We have to walk worthy of the life we’ve decided to live and apart of that means to actually start walking;) Are you walking in your purpose as a child of the King or are you just carrying the name?
I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; (Ephesians 4:1-2 KJV)
Everyone tries to start the new year off with their clean slates, fresh perspectives, “new year, new me” rituals, and vision boards. It’s so easy to fall into the ritualistic things we do in the beginning of the year, promising ourselves and God that we’re going to be better. I’ve realized that things don’t change unless I do. This year instead of taking on the “new year, new me” mantra…I decided to just proceed with purpose. You possess a great deal of purpose but you won’t know how effective or impactful you will be unless you go forth in what you have been appointed to do. The reason you have felt the need to continuously press restart is because you haven’t really started! Things with purpose move and function because they have been equipped with something to do. When your life serves a purpose, you fill a need in the earth that no one else can fill. Everyone has purpose, no matter who you are or where you come from. No purpose is too big or too small to carry out when you consider that God carries us when we carry his purpose.
We were created to subdue the earth, not be consumed by it. I find it quite interesting that God gave man command over the things of the world but the world finds a way of commanding US. We allow the stresses and fear of living in this world to make us feel discouraged, worried, stressed, and even depressed. I can remember vividly how fear used to run my life. I had witnessed some traumatic occurrences in my life, and for a long time I was tormented. We say we trust God but most often times then not it is with the things we are comfortable with releasing. We have all been scared of something, no matter how big or small, why can’t we trust God to protect us? It’s because we have come to fear what man can do to us instead of trusting the God who created the man. Our experiences have become our teacher and our teacher has taught us that life’s forecast can be gloomy. How do we reverse the cycle of fear and control it before we allow it to control us? 1) We must remember that fear does not come from God. When Paul wrote to Timothy he reminded him that God has not given us the spirit of fear but of power, and love, and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7). We have been given the power to conquer fear. I’m reminded that we have “greater than” dwelling inside of us. That means that God has given us the dominion to be greater than those things that make us afraid. I think about Peter’s walk on water, the moment he lost sight of the one who stood in front of him (Jesus), he begin to sink. Whenever we are feeling afraid we have to remember who stands in front of us, we must remember who our God is, we must keep our attention set on him regardless of the storm. I wonder if Peter ever realized that God had given him the ability to stand on waters he was once afraid of? Imagine that! I can admit that it is never easy to face our fears but I have been taking little steps to overcome them. I am so glad that “greater than” lives inside of me and he is in control of my world. Remember that where love abides, fear cannot exist.
I’m sure you’ve heard this at some point in life, “be careful what you ask for”. My encounter with this statement has been a journey that has taught me persistence, greater passion, discipline, and responsibility. There was a point in my life when I wasn’t really sure what my purpose was in life. I felt like a nomad who aimlessly wandered around with no place to go. I didn’t want to be a person full of potential but no purpose. So after years of living a misguided life I started to focus and asked God for what I really wanted. I wanted an increase in business, opportunities to use all of my talents, I wanted to go back to school to get my Master’s, and I wanted to work more in ministry. Well, I got every bit of what I prayed for. I mean all at once the blessings started to flood in and I was completely overwhelmed. To whom much is given much is required. Too many times we ask God for the blessings instead of praying for preparation. I was happy that I had it all but not if I was going to enjoy abundance with mediocrity. I begin to doubt myself and would ask questions like, can I really do this? Am I really qualified for this? God reminded me that beauty is produced through pressure. I had to remember what I was fighting for and why it was worth it. You appreciate the results when you are challenged beyond what you believed you were capable of. You remember those moments when you were stretched beyond what you thought you were capable of. The pressure I was experiencing was only preparing me to receive what I prayed for. I encourage you to develop a press in your spirit. The kind of press that doesn’t fold under pressure but perseveres through persistence & faith. Every time you start to doubt just speak to yourself and say “I can do this”.
I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. (Philippians 4:13 KJV)
Normally when you wait for something you are eagerly anticipating it… hoping that at a blink of an eye it will arrive at the doorstep to which you’ve beckoned it. But what happens when you have been calling on God and asking him for something for years? What if you are going through the struggle of your life and it seems there is no opportunity for reprieve? This has happened to me and I’ve seen it happen to the people I love. My father has to be the most Godly man I know. I mean he puts the needs of others before his own, he visits the sick, has paid people’s rent, put groceries in their fridges, given young men jobs when no one else wanted to hire them, gave his last to the beggar. I mean I’ve never known someone who prayed and fasted so much in my life!lol….Someone who didn’t just experience God when he was preaching his Sunday sermons but he actually knows God!! Yet for years I watched him as Job, experience some of the greatest hardships of his life. His prayers to God would be my morning alarm clock and I could sense the desperation of him needing God to do something mighty…and for years I watched as it seemed things only got more difficult. Then there was me. I was certainly not a perfect person by a long shot, but one thing I was sure of is that I loved God and I sacrificed so much to live my life for him, even when others didn’t understand. It wasn’t because I didn’t face challenges but I just absolutely knew that I wanted God more than I wanted temporary happiness. Yet there were things that I laid before God, praying that he would come through. I would watch years go by and still nothing happened. I experienced failure after failure. I asked God to reveal to me his purpose for my life because I wasn’t seeing it too clearly in any area. So finally after 7 years of praying and waiting it seemed things were starting to look up for us. Awesome! We prayed and now God is coming through, however, there was something so significant I learned about the process in journeying from the pit to the palace. There is something called the wait after the wait. It is the holding pattern of our lives. It’s like that moment when you get on a plane and you are anticipating getting to this place you have planned to go. You are right over your destination just lingering but you haven’t landed. What you don’t know is that there are things that are happening on the ground that you can’t see. Things are being cleared so that you can land safely at your appointed destination. It is the same with us. Sometimes we are right over that blessing we have been waiting for for years. We wonder why we are only getting glimpses of something we are ready to receive in its fullness. God is moving a million things around just to make sure that when we arrive to that immeasurable overflow of the promises he has prepared for us, we land without anything interrupting or interfering with us arriving to our appointed blessing. I know the Lord is going to come through because he is not a man that he should lie and his word doesn’t return to him void but it accomplishes what he sends it out to do. Just because I can’t see it doesn’t mean that it’s not going to happen. It is the process that produces a greater purpose within us. Look at Joseph, when he arrived at the place of his purpose he had no idea what God had planned for him. He had waited to see his dream be fulfilled as he saw it, because it felt that real to him. This was the same dream that landed him in a pit and caused him to be sold into slavery! At first things weren’t bad. He was placed in Potiphar’s house and wasn’t doing too shabby…until he got put into jail for a crime he didn’t commit. I would call the jail his “wait after the wait”. Even though he was in the right place for his dream to be fulfilled, he wasn’t in a favorable position. But his gift of interpreting dreams caused him to be the second in command in Egypt and now he was better off then when he first began. Honor the process. Know that when it seems you’ve been waiting all you can and nothing is being produced, you are in the wait after the wait. You are hovering over your blessing and God is preparing you to land. Remember that those who wait on the Lord shall gain renewed strength. His plan is always bigger than ours.
I wait for the Lord, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope. My soul waiteth for the Lord more than they that watch for the morning: I say, more than they that watch for the morning. (Psalms 130:5-6 KJV)
So last week I had a serious wake up call about what it means to love. I mean the kind of love that is self-sacrificing, putting the desires of others before its own wants and needs. The kind of love that isn’t based on mutual exchanges of “you’ve been good to me so I’m obligated to be good to you”. A few weeks ago my mom fell ill right after my dad. I knew she needed someone with her to make sure she had been taken care of but I had a ton of work to finish. Immediately I begin to complain about me always sacrificing what I have to do to make sure that everyone else is taken care of…that sounds so horrible right? I had to pause and really get my attitude in check. Isn’t this what true love is all about? The same kind of love that caused God to sacrifice his one and only son so that we would be able to live under the dispensation of grace. Not because we were deserving but because he loved us beyond condition and prerequisites. Love is never about you. True love will cause you to see that you are flawed but will love you in a way that makes you forget your imperfectness. True love pushes you outside of your comfort zone and true love denies self. That moment God convicted me and I was taught a lesson in what love was not. I ended up staying with my mom to assure she was okay and changed my attitude from feeling like I was being accommodating to doing it because I love her. God knew I still had lessons to learn in unconditional love. You see, my mom normally takes care of my nana but because she wasn’t feeling well I had to step to the task. I picked up my nana’s prescriptions as my mom had requested and would drop them off to her house. When I arrived we caught up and I asked her if she needed me to do anything for her. Anyone who knows me knows that I abhor germs. I do not like touching trash bins or trash…not to mention I cannot function in clutter. She asked me if I could dump her toilet waste as she is unable to travel up and down the stairs. My mom is a nurse and she normally does this for my nana but me doing it was a whole other story. But I thought about the lessons that God had taught me earlier about unconditional love and without second thought—I did it. I didn’t complain doing it either because I love my nana and I knew that she isn’t as strong as she used to be. No one else who lived with her would do it and I couldn’t imagine being in the same position and not having someone to help me when I am unable to do for myself. When I got home me and my mom spoke about my visit and she was proud of me for doing a job she knew was outside of my comfort zone. That day I gained a new perspective about myself and the way that I give love. That day my mom sowed a seed into my life. I never expected it but God knew I needed it. God blesses you when you honor his people. There is a blessing in loving others and I’m do glad about the daily lessons God is teaching me about unconditional love.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8 NIV)
A car needs fuel in order for it to drive and without fuel not only will it not drive but it is considered “empty”. We are the same without Christ—dormant, empty, and at a stand still. I have been searching so long to understand what my purpose is and how I can walk in that purpose effectively. For a long time I had my priorities in the wrong order. I would take care of the things that I felt was most important first and then God was more like an afterthought. I remember so many times hearing him telling me that if I trust him and obey, he would supersede my expectations. But I did not trust him fully….I felt that I was better equipped to put matters into my own hands. This year I decided that I was tired of feeling “empty”. I didn’t like the results I got when I tried to handle things on my own and my failures were an example that I was incapable of handling my own dreams. God’s plan for us is bigger than our plans for ourselves. First I decided that I would trust God with my heart. The only problem was that he did not have it completely. We always say we trust God but it’s funny how we fear being hurt. Trust and hurt can not live in the same place. 1 John 4:18 is one of my favorite scriptures…it’s the scripture that helped me to see that I didn’t “trust” God as much as I thought I did. It says “there is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. (1 John 4:18 KJV)”. Needles to say the one I thought was the “one” wasn’t the “one” that God had for me. I realized that I had to loosened the reigns and know that my creator knows me more than I know myself, which means he also knows who he has tailored made just for me. So I decided to wait without questioning or trying to manipulate his plan to fit my agenda. Relationships were not the only area of my life that I hadn’t surrendered to God. I realized that I was a complete control freak. One day I heard God say that all he wants is a surrendered life. I didn’t understand what that meant because I always had my hand to the same plow he told me to leave in order to claim my greater. So this year I decided that I would do something differently…I would trust him. I decided that my first priority would be to honor God whenever I encountered success and even when I failed. It wasn’t easy but I believed that there was a plan that he had set for me. This year I started Graduate school and I was freaked out to say the least. I had way too much on my plate and I had no idea how I would pay for it. I got accepted to Liberty University and decided I would not stress about the finances, God opened up financial aid that covered my entire tuition. This was only the beginning and I was thankful that trusting God had yielded good results. In the beginning of the semester I was completely stressed, I had a business to run that I committed 65+ hours to per week, I held multiple positions in ministry, I was getting booked to perform or be apart of different events, and I still had to be a daughter, aunt, sister, and friend. I was completely worn. So here I was with a load of work and a limited amount of time. This was the Sunday I had to preach, we had two services, and I had countless work due by 11:59pm. As I sat at my iMac flustered, God told me if you take care of my business, I’ll take care of yours. That day I closed my books and focused on the word that he gave me. I decided not to be anxious but instead I trusted him and obeyed his command. As the semester unfolded I had one professor who it seemed gave more work than I could handle, and challenged me with every turn of the course. I decided that I wouldn’t complain but I was really frustrated because I was challenged and the coursework wasn’t a walk in the park. At one point I even had to restructure my thesis statement and rework ALL of my research. But I remembered the commitment I made to God…when I said that I would trust him and surrender my will for his. With every step forward God constantly reminded me, “be anxious for nothing but in all thing with prayer and thanksgiving make your request known unto me”. So this time that’s what I did. Everyday…I told God I really want to get A’s in both my courses. It seemed like after taking my finals, it took forever to get my grades back. Today, I went to review my final grades and guess what? I got an “A” in both of my classes!! I am so grateful because God is showing me step by step that if I trust him, seek him, obey him, and put HIM first…he will give me the desires of my heart. I just want to encourage you and let you know that we have to be completely empty so that God can fill us up with everything he desires for us. Now that I have surrendered every area of my life to him he has exceeded my expectations. Everyday I realize that today is great, tomorrow will be greater, I am walking into greatness not because I’m great but because I serve a great God.
Scripture to Ponder
But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. (Matthew 6:33 KJV)
I remember when I was the girl that was afraid of embracing who she was. Especially during college. I had friendships with people who made me feel that what I had to offer externally was far more important then who God created me to be on the inside. Everyday I would dress up to show up but on the inside I was messed up. I had no concept of who I was because I had no concept of my value. When God created us, he placed value inside of us. What he thought we were worth was priceless, so priceless that he gave his only son to die on the cross for our sins. How many of us can honestly say that we would give our last and only because we had hope that someone could be greater than what they currently are?
When Christ found me, I was a complete mess. Such a mess in fact that pleasing people meant more to me then pleasing God, finding someone to love me the way that I loved them became my mission, I was a vain liar, I was completely depressed, and I had no identity. I knew God but I chose to neglect his voice. I knew God had given me purpose but I was afraid to accept the call because people wouldn’t like someone like me. I was tired of being called a “goodie two-shoes” or being told by guys how great of a women I was but they just couldn’t be with someone who is a virgin. I even had a guy tell me that he couldn’t be friends with me because I was a virgin. I never realized how selfish I was. Here was a loving savior who had given up everything for me and I wouldn’t even deny myself to acknowledge that he was calling me. I was in broken relationship after broken relationship, looking for someone to love me the way Christ was already loving me.
So I ended up in a verbally abusive relationship with a man who demeaned who God created me to be by saying things like “she’s weak” and “I can have any other girl out here” and “Any other woman would love to have sex with me”. But I continued to stay, and even though I remained a virgin, I took so many other losses that pulled me further and further away from God. I would be in churches where the presence of God was falling on everyone else around me and I couldn’t feel anything. I would try to pray and it felt like my prayers were hitting the ceiling only to shatter on the ground. After 2 years of my mind, body, and spirit being completely drained…I heard God say “Timea, it’s either going to be me or him”. It’s the first time I had heard him speak to me in almost 2 years…so without second thought, I left my relationship. After that moment, the devil would not let me forget the mistakes that I made. He would try to make me remember that I was a dirty mess. Questions would flood my mind like “how could God love someone like me”, “how could I have been so blind that I begin to make relationships my God”, “Why would God want to use me after I deliberately turned my back on him?” I was condemning myself for things God had already forgiven me for.
Being a virgin doesn’t mean that you will not get tried. I honored God and I wanted to keep my commitment to submit myself to him heart, body, and soul. If I was still a virgin, why did I still feel so bad? I still left out of the storm with some of my integrity intact right?–wrong. The devil still tried to destroy my mind because I had been tied to someone so long who was not connected to God and so I had to work double time to rid myself of all of the habits, thoughts, and ways that I received from that person, which polluted my relationship with God. When God tells you to leave a place you don’t belong, you shouldn’t walk…you should run! But even in your obedience don’t think that the enemy won’t try to keep the chains of your past attached to you. Condemnation are chains!! When God for gives us, he casts our sins as far as the east is from the west, never to remember them again.
Your past does not belong to you anymore. God has given us a hope and a future in him. That future can not live in what was when we have been called to what will be. I had been praying that God would help me get through the pain and guilt of my past. I will never forget…I was at a service and the evangelist prayed for me and said “God said when my foot almost slipped, you almost slipped but God kept you from falling, he said stop condemning yourself, I have let it go and you need to let it go, I have forgiven you”. You are not what you’ve been…you are a flawed beautiful being. A being that God knew would make mistakes, disobey, and be wreckless with the gifts he gave. But sometimes he allows us to become a complete mess so that our mess can bring us back to our maker.
Here is the scripture that encouraged me through this time: “I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely: for mine anger is turned away from him. I will be as the dew unto Israel: he shall grow as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon. His branches shall spread, and his beauty shall be as the olive tree, and his smell as Lebanon. They that dwell under his shadow shall return; they shall revive as the corn, and grow as the vine: the scent thereof shall be as the wine of Lebanon”. (Hosea 14:4-7 KJV)
I woke up this morning to my normal workload–a flood of emails, phone calls from clients, and other mundane daily tasks. I was excited about some recent breakthroughs that were finally happening for my company and I love to ride that wave. When work is flowing and things are happening, it definitely feels awesome! But where does God fit into all of this? After everything I did today when did I truly spend time with the one who put me on? I mean the God who granted me favor and opened doors today? We start to get into a routine of giving God the laziest two minutes of our time through the quick prayer we blurt out at some point during the day. I felt so convicted today because while I’ve been overwhelmed with work and school trying to make things happen, I’ve been neglecting the one who can can make anything happen. Life makes it so convenient to put God where he fits in our schedule but what if he did the same thing to us. I want to be intentional about spending time studying my word, praying, fasting, and worshipping God for who he is to me. When you’re so consumed with life, it is so easy to forget God. Don’t allow that to happen! Fight for your relationship with him like you’d fight for your need to breathe air in order to survive. Let’s work on this together.
Repeat this prayer: Lord, without you I am nothing. Please don’t allow me to forget that it is you who had granted all the joys of life that I have the privilege of experiencing. Don’t allow me to forget that I need you to survive through this life. Forgive me for being selfish and not putting you first. Please allow me to be intentional and generous with the time I spend with you because all time is your time and you’ve been nothing but “on time” for me.