Wednesday, June 27, 2018

#WednesdayWisdom: From 'Yes' to 'Amen'

"For no matter how many promises God has made, they are 'Yes' in Christ. And so through him the 'Amen' is spoken by us to the glory of God." - 2 Corinthians 1:20 (NIV)

If you grew up in church, you've probably heard this scripture phrased as, "God's promises are yes and amen." The first time I heard this as a child, I, of course, asked, "What does that mean?" Adults explained to me that it simply meant that God will fulfill His promises for my life. It wasn't until adulthood that I realized the meaning of that phrase, when I added a ellipsis: God's promises are yes...and amen. This week's dose of #WednesdayWisdom sits on the ellipsis of almost but not quite.

Image source: The Praying Woman

Yes is an agreement. It's approval, affirmation, a sure and definite answer. If God promised you something, YES, it is guaranteed, YES, it will happen. Amen means "it is so." It's the verification of the God guarantee. When we give God our "yes" in exchange for His and seal it with "amen," we are proclaiming that the promises are fulfilled even before their fruition. This is where it gets complicated: Amen declares, "It is so!" but life's 'what ifs' often change that declaration to a question: is?

Sometimes, we feel like there's a long distance between giving God our yes and seeing, grasping, a tangible "amen." We see the "big picture," the overarching purpose, but the problem is, we don't know how to get to the "amen" that seems just out of reach. So we hang on the ellipsis between yes and amen, lunging for it and reeling back empty handed. I've been in the lunging position for a long time, and honestly, I've worn myself out.

We spend so much time wondering how and when we'll see the "big picture" that we forget to look for beauty in the details. Constantly straining towards the amen tells God we don't trust Him enough to wait for Him to bring us to it, we'd rather skip the process and bring it to us. This word is for you and for me: Stop straining!

God doesn't need your help to fulfill His promises. He's God all by Himself, and He knows what you're purposed for. Instead of trying to figure it all out right now, live in the right now. Take it one day, one step at a time. Stand on the promise of the expected end, but don't focus so much on getting to the end that you miss what's in the middle. That's where the good stuff is. Even when you don't see it, it IS so! #WednesdayWisdom

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

The Perks of Being Called 'Friend'

I debated on whether or not to post last week's blog because I always want to use this platform to be a light for the Kingdom. As an optimist, I try my best to look at life from a glass-half-full perspective. The post had a "happy ending," but was, for the most part, pessimistic. I decided to post it anyway because I'm called to show people a God who will meet them where they are. People need to know that following Christ is the best decision they can ever make. God is marvelous, matchless, gracious, all that and more--however, even in following Him, especially in following Him, there will be days when you cry. There will be days when you're frustrated, when you don't know what's next, when you know there's a light at the end of the tunnel, but you're just tired of being in the tunnel...and that's okay. God loves you enough to "meet" you where you're tired, but here's where you hold up your end of the bargain: You have to be willing to let Him take care of you.

Image source: Alexandria First Baptist Church

Last week, I said I was tired of being in timeout, but I realized that only part of that was God allowing me to stay there. The other part was simply self-inflicted frustration, kicking and screaming.

O, what peace we often forfeit

O, what needless pain we bear

All because we do not carry

Everything to God in prayer!

This excerpt from the old hymn, "What a Friend We Have in Jesus" has been ministering to me so much in the past week. We complain to God that we have no peace, but the truth is, WE rob ourselves of peace when we try to be in control. In John 15:13‭-‬15, Jesus says: 

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. (NIV)

A friend is someone you can trust, someone you can lean on in times of distress, someone who will listen to you and be honest with you, who will not tell you what you want to hear, but rather, what you need to hear. God is the best friend we could ever hope to have. He wants to see us flourish, but before we step into the things He's promised us, we have to be pruned.

If God is taking you through something, it means He wants you to grow, most likely in anticipation of the next season. A good friend wouldn't send you to a new level unprepared. If it hurts now, it's because God is equipping you! Ask Him to open your heart and mind so He can speak to you in the pruning season. Ask Him to open your eyes so that you can see beyond your current situation and look into your future, but in the meantime, figure out what you're supposed to be learning. There is a lesson to be learned in every season. As James 1:2‭-‬4 reminds us, there is joy even in the in-between:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (NIV)

What a friend we have in Jesus,

All our sins and griefs to bear!

What a privilege to carry

Everything to God in prayer!

You don't have to bear the pain in this season. Relinquish the hold, trust Him and turn your frustration into expectation. You've got friend privileges. Use them!

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Trusting God in Timeout

I used to think the most frustrating part of the Christian walk was talking to God and not being able to hear Him, feeling like He wasn't listening. I've been there, and when I was there, it felt like I would never come out. Thankfully, I've been delivered from that, but in the years since, I've discovered something I think is even worse. So far (at least for me), the most frustrating thing in the Christian life is knowing full well what God has promised and having to stand on those promises even when you don't see the manifestation of them.

I grew up in church. I accepted Christ at the age of 6. I went to the altar by my own volition, but I based my need for salvation on what I'd heard from my mom, my aunt, and grandma, and who they told me God was. Around age 20, at what I thought was rock bottom, I got to know Him for myself, but even before then, I knew what He said about me. Prophecies of greatness have been spoken over my life since before I was born. I've always been told that He would use me to do miraculous things. I know what God has promised me, but I haven't seen it yet. In last week's post, I said I didn't mind waiting, but I retracted that statement and admitted that I actually do mind. I'm waiting for so many things, and the truth is, I mind all the time. I get frustrated because I know who He's called me to be, but I'm still figuring out what I need to do and where I need to be to carry out the assignment that He's given me.

The Church teaches us to trust God and lists all these things He'll give us if we put our lives in His hands. They don't tell us that accepting Christ as Lord means entering into a perpetual tug-of-war between flesh and spirit, heart and mind, holiness and worldliness...prosperity gospel doesn't cut it anymore. Spiritual warfare is REAL.

Image source: Kids First Pediatrics

Don't get me wrong, it's not that I don't trust God. It's just, I'm growing tired of being stuck in limbo, in the distance between the declaration of the promise and the fruition of it. I want to see it, and I want to see it NOW...but the thing is, I know good and well it doesn't work like that. I know that "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens" (Ecclesiastes 3:1, NIV), but that doesn't make it any easier. In fact, I think that makes it more difficult because it makes us want to ask Him, How much longer? When will it be my turn? It's like being in timeout. I feel like I'm facing a wall, and every time God hears me grumble under my breath in complaint, he adds another minute, another day, another month, another year to my wait.

I strive to live life on fire for God. There's nothing I love more than spreading His light and His message, but it's hard to encourage others when I feel stuck. The other day, though, still in "timeout," I realized something: This "I don't mind waiting...but hurry up!" attitude is basically the same as being lukewarm. Even in the in-between stages of life, this walk is all or nothing. In or out. Hot or cold. Black or white.

If, like me, you're waiting for something, ask yourself this: If God gave you what you're asking for right this second, would you be able to handle it? Could He trust you with it? For children, timeout is often a consequence of wrongdoing, but for Christians, that's not always the case. Sometimes, God puts you in the corner so that you will have no choice but to take time out to hear from Him. The season of "timeout" teaches us several lessons. First and foremost, it teaches us patience. It forces us to stand still and know that when the time is right, we will no longer be confined, limited by what seems to be in our way. Not only that, it also makes us appreciate the freedom that is afforded to us when we can finally come out of the corner.

The good news is, timeout is temporary. It might feel like punishment right now, but it's actually for our good! Romans 8:18 says, "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us" (NIV). So, don't get discouraged. It may not be comfortable at the moment, but take comfort in knowing that every promise God made, He will keep, no matter how long the wait seems. Timeout is almost up!

In the meantime, let's shift our focus to show Him that we can be trusted. As my granddaddy and I used to sing, "I'll just say, 'Thank You Lord' / And I won't complain!"

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

The Wait: Practicing Contentment

Birthdays have a funny way of triggering self-reflection. My 24th is tomorrow (June 7th), so I guess now is as good a time as any to update you all on my relationship status: I'm still single...but practicing contentment. In last year's birthday post, I spoke openly about my virginity and my decision to remain pure until marriage. I've always wanted to get married, but I didn't mind waiting...until 23 stirred up something in me. Suddenly, almost overnight, singleness wasn't comfortable anymore. In the last 363 days, I've learned a lot about being "okay" with waiting. My biggest lesson was differentiating between learning the art of contentment and practicing it.

At the beginning of this year when singleness was weighing heavily on me, I was scrolling through my recommendations on YouTube and I came across "Don't Mind Waiting" from William McDowell's 2016 release, Sounds of Revival. Since I'd never heard the song before (I know, I'm late lol), I didn't know what to expect...and I certainly didn't expect it to affect me the way it did. "Don't Mind Waiting" is a declaration that the worshipper will wait on God, no matter how long it takes. Instead of becoming impatient, the closer God comes to fulfilling His promise, the louder their worship will get. While they wait, desperation will increase, but they won't be desperate for the thing they're waiting for. They'll be desperate for God. Check out the video below:

I found this song exactly when I needed it. It really comes in handy on the days that I DO mind waiting.

The problem wasn't that I didn't know how to wait, I've been doing that all my life...literally. The problem was, I started dwelling so much on the "when" that I began losing sight of the "why." The only "why" I cared about was why I was still single when it seemed like everybody else was "Boo'd Up" (shout out to Ella Mai). Then I remembered that the promise is so much bigger than a "boo."

This year, singleness is my birthday present. Literally, it defines my present relationship status, but it's also a tremendous gift. In singleness, I am, of course, living for God, but I also have the freedom to live for myself. I can take as much time as I want to do what I want. I don't have to account for anyone else's needs. Marriage, on the other hand, won't allow me to be so selfish. I'll still be submitted to God, but I'll also have to submit to my husband. When he finds me, singular will become plural and two will become one. Our individual relationships with God will branch into collaborative service, a collaborative prayer life and collaborative worship. While I wait, I'm realizing that a happy marriage doesn't start in marriage. A happy marriage begins with practicing contentment in singleness--and practice makes perfect.

If I'm not careful, impatience in this season could lead to settling, and settling would be doing a disservice to my purpose. I might be tired of waiting, but there's too much on the line to mind. So Lord, for the remainder of my wait:

I need You...even on days when I don't mind waiting, and especially on days when I do. I never want my desire for anything else in this life to outweigh my desperation for You. The closer I get to You, the louder my praise will become. While I wait, I won't grow weary, impatient or doubtful. Instead, I'll focus on walking in your will, confident that You will fulfill Your promises. I won't forfeit the gift of singleness to satisfy myself, but one day, I will exchange that gift for a union ordained by You. In the meantime, thank You for blessing me with 24 years of life. Part of practicing contentment means knowing that You are responsible for writing my story. I can't wait to read the next chapter.