Sunday, April 30, 2017

Trusting God's 'No' (feat. Todd Galberth's "Lord You Are Good")

"I was sitting in the kitchen and I was like, Lord, what am I gonna do? I have all these responsibilities, all this going on, & I feel like I'm doing all that I can for You... [and it feels like I] took 5 steps forward and two steps back..." This is the beginning of Todd Galberth's hit single, "Lord You Are Good." A month ago when I heard the song for the first time, I listened to it a second time, a then a third, and then I bought it on Google Play. I don't think I've ever purchased a song so fast, but it resonated with me just that much. We've all been there at some point in our lives where we feel like we're doing exactly what we're supposed to be doing, giving our all to God, and the enemy's still throwing punches. In those instances, we have to remind ourselves that:

          Lord, You are good,

          You've been so good,

          Lord, You are good,

          You've been better than good

          I can't praise You enough,

          I owe You my life,

          Can't praise You enough,

          Even if I tried

I was already hooked from that first verse alone, because although it seems simplistic, if we sit back and think about just how good He's been, an ugly cry will ensue. Just when I didn't think it could get any better, in came the bridge:

          So many doors You've opened,

          So many ways You've made,

          So many times You've healed me,

          You've been better than good to me

I've had "Lord You Are Good" on repeat off and on for the last month, but one line in particular has been ringing in my spirit the most these last few days: So many doors You've opened...  I took some time to reflect on the doors He's opened in my life, and I am so grateful for them. In my reflection, though, I had an epiphany. Yes, the doors He's opened have been wonderful, but we should be grateful for the ones He's closed too. I wasn't exactly sure why, but the other day, I felt compelled to pray this prayer:

Dear God,

Thank You for protecting me from what I thought I wanted/needed. Help me to only walk through the doors that lead me to You; and if the door is closed, make me take my hand off the doorknob. Help me to understand that closed doors are not necessarily the final "no;" they just mean greater is coming.


Your child

As Christians, sometimes we get so caught up in what God can do for us and all the yes He's given us, that we forget to thank Him for the times He told us no. We forget to praise Him for blocking us from those things/people we just KNEW were forever, who were actually  stumbling blocks sent by the enemy to impede us in our Christian walk. Sometimes we wrap ourselves up in the idea of certain people and things that we convince ourselves that God said yes to something that He clearly said no to. Just because you want something doesn't mean that it's what God has for you. That's a hard pill to swallow, especially because we are emotional creatures, but sometimes it's necessary. If God slams a door in your face, no matter how hard He slams it, even if the force of the slam knocks you off your feet, you have to be strong enough in your faith to know that He will help you get back up and move on. Whatever you do, do not try to reopen a door that God has shut. Know when to take your hand off the door knob, because if you open that door, you may never be able to close it again. Doors open and close in our lives for a reason. Even if we don't understand it, there is a method to everything that God ordains, even if, at the time, it feels like madness.

Dear God,

You've opened so many doors for us. You've made so many ways when there seemed to be no way. We thank You for every yes and no you've given us, no matter how much it hurt, because every door, open and shut, is leading us towards our destiny. Let every slammed door make us stronger and more focused on You, because only You know where we're going. Regardless of how many doors You choose to close, help us to remember that You love us and to recognize that You are still good. Help us learn to follow Your lead and fully surrender to Your will.

In Jesus' name,


Monday, April 24, 2017

Easter Recap: Why Briana "Bri" Babineaux is "The One" to Watch

On Easter Sunday, I visited Christian Provision Ministries in Sanford, NC to see psalmist Briana Babineaux in concert. I first heard of "Bri" in 2014 shortly after her impromptu worship session with friends went viral on YouTube. After the goosebumps on my arms went down and I dried the tears from my eyes (her worship will mess you UP!), the first thing I thought was, This girl needs a record deal NOW!, and not too long after that video broke the Internet, she got one. The 22-year-old is signed to Marquis Boone Enterprises, the same label that manages Gospel powerhouses Casey J and Kelontae Gavin.

Keys To My Heart / Amazon

Although I've been a fan of Bri's music for awhile now, I didn't know her whole story. Turns out, the worship session that started her career almost didn't happen. In a brief interview with CPM's senior pastor, Bishop Charles Mellette, Bri spoke candidly about a rough patch she went through in late 2014 when she battled with suicidal thoughts and depression after a bad break up. Her home church in Lafayette, Louisiana has a women's conference every year, but Bri is a college student (she's currently in her junior year at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette majoring in criminal justice) and she didn't have enough money to attend. She hadn't planned on going anyway, because she'd gotten to a point where she "didn't want to be here anymore," but to her surprise, someone (she later found out that "someone" was her parents) had paid for her to go to the conference. When she got there, she felt led to go up for the altar call and she prayed that God would refresh her spirit and give her a new lease on life. While she was at the altar, someone prayed for her and gave her a prophesy: "God is getting ready to blow your mind." And that He did.

The next day, Bri's friend invited her to his house for a casual worship session, but she was reluctant to go because she wanted to take time to reflect on what happened at the altar call. She went anyway, and as she sang Tonex's "Make Me Over," she began to speak over herself and cry out God and tell Him what she wanted Him to do in her life. Little did she know, she was being filmed. Literally overnight, Briana Babineaux became an Internet sensation. Within 24 hours of that altar call, God fulfilled his promise and blew her mind.

Bri had not planned to be a worship leader. In addition to her gift of music, she's also athletically inclined. In high school, she played basketball and volleyball and ran track. When she wasn't playing a sport, she was listening to Gospel music with her grandparents. If she'd had it her way, she would be singing in a Gospel quartet like Harvey Watkins and the Canton Spirituals. As she's grown in her gift, she says she's learned to cater her music towards what God's people need to hear. This led to her Stellar Award-winning debut album Keys To My Heart, released in March 2016, which features the soul-stirring hit, "I'll Be The One."

Seeing Briana Babineaux perform live is a special treat because what you hear on the CD is what you get in person...and then some. When she sings, it feels like the audience is just listening in on her personal conversation with the Father. Her unfiltered praise is direct evidence of her close relationship with Him. It's powerful to watch. She began with my favorite song on Keys To My Heart, a simple yet profound ballad called "My Everything." Then, taking the focus off her own music and taking off her shoes (which let me know she was about to REALLY worship; there's nothing like a no-shoes praise!), she invited a few members of CPM's youth choir onstage to sing backup for her, covering songs like "The Anthem" and "He's Able." Bri did exactly what she came to do: She gave God's people what they needed to hear. And it was clear that her gift made an impact, because a lot of young people gave their lives to Christ at the altar call that followed. I had the opportunity to meet her after the service, and it was refreshing to see how humble and down to earth she is. I pray that God keeps her grounded as she continues to sing for His glory.

Image source: My Instagram

To learn more about Briana "Bri" Babineaux and find out if she's coming to a city near you, click here.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Accepting Unapologies: Take Your Power Back

I grappled with what to write this week because I wanted to avoid cliché topics related to Easter. Over the weekend, I saw so many posts alluding to Christ's resurrection, and while all of them were great, I wanted to do something different. While brainstorming, I found this quote, "I never knew how strong I was until I had to forgive someone who wasn't sorry and accept an apology I never received." - Author unknown

I've seen this quote floating around Facebook for a few months now, and I've always thought it was poignant, but it seems especially appropriate on Easter. Some of Jesus's last words in Luke 23:34 were, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing" (NIV). Even as He hung on the cross with nails in His hands and feet and a crown of thorns on His head, Jesus still managed to ask God for forgiveness for the very ones who crucified Him. As humans, it is common for us to struggle with forgiveness, to hold grudges against those who have wronged us. Oftentimes we feel like we are owed an apology and that they don't deserve our forgiveness, but forgiveness is not given because the other person deserves it. We should extend forgiveness to others for a number of reasons. First, consider this: Think of all the times God forgave you when you didn't obey Him, all the times He spared you when it looked like you wouldn't make it, all the times He provided for you when you didn't have the means. We fall short of God's glory every day and He still looks out for us. He forgives us even when we know that what we are doing is wrong.

Image source: Byron Katie Blogs / Shape [edits are my own]

Not only is forgiveness a godly thing to practice, it's also necessary for our peace of mind. We should extend forgiveness not for the sake of the person who wronged us, not because they earned it, but for ourselves. In Matthew 6:14-15, Jesus says, "For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins" (NIV). When we hold a grudge against someone, we inadvertently give them an amount of power over us. When we forgive them wholeheartedly, without allowing ourselves to harbor anger and resentment, we take our power back.

If you're still angry about a situation, that means you haven't fully let it go, and if you don't let it go, you're giving it permission to keep eating away at you. Sometimes, you'll never get the 'I'm sorry' you think they owe you. Don't lose sleep (or salvation) over it, because 9 times out of 10, the person who wronged you is moving on with their lives not caring about the fact that you're hurting. Ask yourself this: Is whatever they did to you worth giving up your spot in Heaven? If the answer is no (The answer will always be no!), forgive and give it to the Father. Take your power back. Your eternal life depends on it.

Monday, April 3, 2017

#MessageMonday - Do Not Resuscitate: Walking In God's Will

First Baptist Church of Glenarden, main campus exterior / Metro Acoustics

First Baptist Church of Glenarden, main campus interior / Metro Acoustics

I've been a virtual member of First Baptist Church of Glenarden in Upper Marlboro, MD since the first time I visited there in 2014. I have a local home church in NC, but I call FBCG my home away from home. Based on size and seating capacity, FBCG would be classified as a mega church. At a whopping 205,000 square feet, it seats 4,000 people, but it feels personal.

Every Sunday, members greet the guests with warm smiles and heartfelt prayers, making them feel like part of the family. Under the leadership of Pastor John K. Jenkins, Sr. and First Lady Trina Jenkins, the church fulfills its mission, "Developing Dynamic Disciples through Discipleship, Discipline, and Duplication," both inside and outside the sanctuary through community outreach, classes and activities ranging from departmental retreats to health expos. The ministry at FBCG is something truly special, and the fact that so many of their members are active in the community at large is exemplary of how the Church should be, not just a building, but a body.

Pastor John K. Jenkins, Sr.
First Lady Trina E. Jenkins
I watch FBCG's noon service almost every Sunday, but yesterday's sermon particularly blessed me. It was a powerful message called "How to Know God's Will," as referenced in Ephesians 5:8-17. In the message, Pastor Jenkins touched on a few key things we have to do in order to make sure our life is aligned with God's will, but I'll focus on the two points that resonated with me the most: 1) Walk as children of light and 2) Stop having fellowship with unfruitful works of darkness. These seem fairly simple, but they're easier said than done.

Until we make the choice to be saved and accept Jesus Christ as the head of our lives, we are walking in darkness. When we become born again, God turns the proverbial light on in our lives so that we can discover our purpose and our truth. Just like we have to decide to accept Christ as our Lord and Savior, we have to decide to walk in the truth that God shows us. Once we know the truth, we have to make decisions that reflect the truth. If we're not making the right decisions after the light has been turned on, our lives will be a mess because we are not living according to His will.  We can't continue to live in darkness.

Pastor Jenkins' discussion of darkness was a segue into his second point. In order to align our lives with God's will, we have to choose to cut out ALL darkness in our lives; the darkness we recognize in ourselves as well as the "dark" people in our circle. This reminded me of a quote I saw awhile ago on Twitter from pastor and psalmist Smokie Norful: "Sometimes elevation requires isolation."

In other words, the growing process, the process of relinquishing your will to God's will almost always require you to cut people off. Cuts hurt, but they will be worth it. Some people in life weigh you down. You may not understand why right now, but every person God removes from your life is removed for a reason. Everybody can't go where God is taking you because what God has for you is tailor made for you. There's no room for negativity where you're going, and God won't take you higher until you cut off that deadweight: pessimists, jealous "friends" who are secretly praying for your downfall, bad ex-boyfriends/girlfriends, and anything else in your past that you've been holding onto long after God said no. All of that has to go in order for you to grow and get the blessings that God has for you.

If it's already dead, leave it alone. Trying to resurrect it can ruin you. Some of us try so hard to resurrect situations that are already dead, and before we know it, dead things consume us. We know that we're being called to go higher, but we can't move forward because we're so busy looking behind us. Some of us have things in our lives that need to die, but we keep resuscitating them. We speak life into situations that should've died a long time ago because we're afraid of the change that will occur when they're over. If you're dealing with something in your life that needs to die, let it go and trust your process. Trust that God will replace those people/places/things in your life that stunted your growth with new opportunities and relationships that will encourage you to keep pressing toward Christ. Say, "Lord, your will be done," and mean it, then watch God work in your life. His plans are always better than ours.