Tag Archive | trials

I Wonder . . .

“if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land,” 2 Chron. 7:14, NIV

I Wonder . . .

I wonder if our government would be stronger if we, particularly Christians stopped acting like God is a republican or democrat and recognize that He is holy.

I wonder how much more effective our prayers would be if we stopped playing the in-group/out-group game, realizing that there is corruption on both sides of the aisle and began praying for politicians, in general, not just the ones we like and want to “win.”

I wonder how many believers spend more time praying for President Trump than criticizing or complaining about him.

Oh, I wonder . . .

I wonder how impactful our churches would be if we didn’t act like our denomination is the only one who has it “right” and realized that God is not Baptist, Pentecostal, Methodist, etc., but once again, He is holy.

I wonder if our places of worship would exude humility if we cared less about titles and more about the ministry. Why isn’t the moniker of brother or sister good enough?

I wonder how many souls would be saved if we stopped focusing on having the “biggest” or the “best” buildings, celebrations, or choirs/praise teams, and instead, concentrated on giving our best efforts to witnessing to others for Christ.

Oh, I wonder . . .

I wonder how much the world would change if we were all others-centered instead of self-centered.

I wonder if our children would grow up and stray less from the Word if we modeled Christ in our homes and not just in public.

I wonder how much more effective our witness would be if we didn’t pretend to be perfect but admitted our struggles and how we get through them with Christ rather than act like we are the holiest of holy.

Oh, I wonder . . .

I wonder how much stronger sermons would be if preachers stopped using the pulpit as a platform to promote their preferences (political, personal, or otherwise) and strictly stuck to the Word.

I wonder how much more people would listen if we stopped lecturing and trying to change them and trusted the Holy Spirit to work in their lives.

I wonder how long it will take for people to get that consistent and sincere prayer is the key to true change.

Oh, I wonder . . .

Christianity and the Development of Character, Scholarship, and Leadership

“We also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope,” Rom. 5:4, NKJV

Character. Scholarship. Leadership. Those are fundamental tenants of the doctoral program in which I am enrolled. As I reflect on these principles, I see that they not only apply to my educational journey but also to my spiritual journey.

Character is the core of our being. It’s the thing that determines if a person handles accomplishments with humility or pride. Character reveals if someone is trustworthy, honest, or values loyalty. Character is not who others think we are, but it’s who we are when no one is watching. While we can fool others sometimes, we can never deceive God because He sees our hearts.

In my doctoral program, scholarship refers to the program’s aim to train students how to have informed views (as opposed to believing something without knowing why) and then to appropriately apply what we learn. As I think about scholarship in relation to my spiritual walk, I am drawn to Paul’s instructions to Timothy in 2 Tim. 2:15 (NKJV) to “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” As Christians, we must be assiduous about studying Scripture so that we can correctly apply the Word to our lives and share it with others. As we learn and internalize the Word, it will have a profound impact on our character.

Finally, leadership involves having influence and power over others. The Bible shows examples of how leadership was used for good and for evil. For example, when David was king, he used his power for self-serving interests when he took advantage of Bathsheba and subsequently arranged for her husband to be killed (2 Sam. 11). We also see positive examples of David’s leadership throughout Scripture. One instance that stands out to me is how David carefully instructed Solomon about Solomon’s new role before David passed away (1 Kings: 1–9). As king, David had led many others, but at that moment he was leading his son.

Leadership is multi-dimensional. A person doesn’t have to have a title to be a leader. Furthermore, one’s leadership can be passive (1 Pet. 3:1). The bottom line is that we never know who’s watching us and the impact that our behavior will have on others. It is important that leaders be persons of good character. As we see in David’s life, there’s a dichotomy of good and bad that can exist within a single person. Yet, even with his shortcomings, David was still a man after God’s own heart (1 Sam. 13:14; Acts 13:22).

Our character is shaped by our life experiences and how we respond to them. I’m not necessarily shouting “Amen” right here because experiences can be painful. It would be great to skip the experiences and get to the end result. (By the way, it would be nice to receive my doctorate by avoiding the tuition payments, long hours of studying, and writing of many papers, but that ain’t gonna happen!) Rom. 5:4 makes it apparent that our character is shaped by our trials. As you go through your character-building experiences, cling to the Word. Not only will you build your own spiritual muscles, but you have no idea how the way you walk through your journey will impact others.

Total Dependency

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“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” Phil. 4:13, NKJV

In January, I embarked on a new venture. It’s one that has been percolating in my spirit for some years, but the timing to begin pursuing this goal didn’t happen until recently. I am now a doctoral student. Even writing it seems crazy because when I finished my master’s program in 2000, continuing my education was the furthest thing from my mind. In fact, school was like a bad word, and now it has worked its way back into my vocabulary and life. Okay, God, I see…You got jokes!

Being a student again has shifted my world. There’s tons of reading, homework, and those tuition payments that serve as a reminder of how costly this endeavor is. (I’m trying to avoid becoming friends with Navient and Sallie Mae at all costs.) When the term began, I was shaking in my boots. I questioned my sanity, kept trying to find an out (e.g., God if this isn’t what I’m supposed to do…), and questioned my ability to complete such a rigorous program.

Managing my school work along with all other hats I wear has been a balancing act. Each day of this new journey re-enforces my need for total dependence on God. Depending on Him not only involved praying my way through difficult assignments, but also listening to Him as I re-aligned my priorities. For a girl who enjoys absolutely everything she does, letting go of some things wasn’t easy.

While I know there are people who complete doctoral studies without merely acknowledging God let alone depending on Him, for me, going through this program without Him is not an option. My support system is great. My loved ones cheer me on, listen to me vent, and pray me through these educational hurdles. As grateful as I am for them, I’m most thankful for the relationship I have with my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It is through Him and because of Him that I can do all things…including get through this doctoral program that is stretching me in ways that I didn’t know I could go.

What challenges do you face? On Whom are you depending? On our own, we don’t have super powers, but with Christ, we have supernatural strength to complete whatever journey lies ahead.

Goodbye and Thank You

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“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,” James 1: 2-4, NIV.

As many of you know, 2017 was a difficult year for me, but I didn’t have to go through it alone. One of my sister-friends was also going through her own struggles and we were able to encourage (and cry with) each other. She wrote a letter to 2017 that was so inspiring I wanted to share it. May you be encouraged by the following words written by the Poetic Prophetess, Tifani D. Kendrick.  

Dear 2017,

I am grateful to have met you and even more glad to see you go! But I give thanks nonetheless. Thank you for every lesson. I even met a few companions I choose to leave with you:
To the Spirit of heaviness, thank you for helping me value joy more greatly. Your pressure caused pain pressed tears from the surface of my heart, I was drowning in your sorrow. Tonight, I release you. I leave behind every low thought and cast down every imagination that sets itself above the Most High. No longer bearing your weight, I Am Light.
I Speak Life. I say goodbye to every murmur and complaint. Throughout the year, my tongue painted pictures of despair across many of my conversations. I retold negative narratives masked as honesty. But today, I allow God to rewrite my story. May His words speak through me as an overcomer’s testimony.
For a long time, I repeated sorrow’s song like a broken record. My heart was scratched by the sharp edge of grief. I was fragmented forgetting my true identity. Now it is the hand of God that mends me. He pieces my peace back together piece by piece. I am healed by His Love. I am whole. I Am Loved.
So, dear friends when you ask me how I am, and I affirm that I Am Well, it is simply my declaration of healing. The Great Physician has pierced me so deeply that living waters flow from my belly. I shall live and not die. I claim good health and eat to live. I move to breathe. I am free and more alive than I have ever been, and I’m thirty-seven stretching towards thirty-eight.
Standing tall with posture straight, I am strong. I stand on God’s promises and will not grow weary. But even when I am weak, through Christ I can do all things. I am planted by living waters; I am a tree, gaining balance as my roots run deep. My limbs extend toward heaven, preparing to produce much fruit. I ascend toward the Highest Good.
I am postured for purity. I repent of lust, pride and greed. I reclaim this sacred space of my body, His temple. I forgive every thief of my past who attempted to steal God’s best from me, including me. Christ’s death and resurrection is a chance even for the least of these to have life more abundantly.
So, I follow the Way, the Truth, and the Life. I follow the way of Christ. I know the way to Go. I walk by faith and turn away from fear. Jesus has touched my eyes so I can clearly see the path He has set for me. I leave comparison behind because it only brings misery. I embrace my unique identity.
Joy is my portion for 2018, and no heaviness or complaint,
no fear of pain,
no mental illness or disease,
no weakness, lust or greed, or deep sense of insecurity can take the joy of the Lord away from me.

I Am Light.
I Speak Life.
I Am Love(d).
I Am Well.
I Am Strong.
I Am Pure.
I follow Christ; I know the Way to go.
It is with these Truths I say farewell to 2017 and speak nothing but blessings over the years to come. Amen and Ase’ for it is so!

Trusting God to Heal

Mended Heart

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds,” Psalm 147:3, NKJV.

Someone recently said to me that difficulties in life tend to reveal the true nature of those around us. When we are going through, we discover who is there for us and who isn’t. Sometimes we are pleasantly surprised by those who step up when we need them most. Other times, we are hurt when someone we counted on lets us down. Depending on the depth of the offense, it can take time to overcome, especially when the person doesn’t seem to understand the damage that his or her actions/words have caused.

My mother’s passing has left me feeling pain that I’ve never before experienced. I appreciate the outpouring of love, prayers, cards, words of encouragement, emails, phone calls, etc. that I’ve received. The fact that so many people have gone out of their way to see about me during this season means more than I can ever express in words. Simultaneously, the behavior of a close friend during this time has deeply wounded me. Her actions seemed selfish and insensitive and as a result, I lashed out. Recently, I met with her in an attempt to explain my outburst. Though our encounter was peaceful, I left the meeting feeling like our relationship may be strained for quite some time.

I know myself. If I’m not careful, my heart can become hardened as I navigate through this grieving process. I don’t want it to be. I’ve learned from past experiences that a hardened heart toward one person can lead to me building walls with others for no other reason besides not wanting to get hurt again. The Lord has shown me that when I build these emotional walls, not only do I keep myself from giving love to others, but I also block myself from being a recipient of their love as well. And so I’ve made a decision . . . no walls.

For real, for real, I’m not putting up emotional barriers. (By the way, when people say “for real” twice, they are serious.) Instead of focusing on the emotional support I didn’t get from that individual, I’ve turned my attention to being grateful to God for all the other human angels He sent to help me through this time. While I’m wounded by my friend’s actions and words, I can either choose to become bitter or I can make a conscious decision to take my hurts to God and let Him heal me. It may take some time, but I choose healing.

For real, for real. 😊

As you journey through your own challenges in life, remember that people are fallible and hurt isn’t always intentional. Don’t focus on who isn’t with you, rather concentrate on who is. Ultimately, the One you need by your side is Jesus. My friend may not understand the magnitude of the pain I feel about my mom’s death and her subsequent actions, but God does. People will let us down, but He never will. As long as we trust and lean on Him, He will make sure we have everything and everyone we need to help us through tough times.

“The best way to heal a broken heart is to give God all the pieces.”  — unknown

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Unbreakable

Unbreakable

We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed,” 2 Corinthians 4:8–9, NKJV.

In 2005, my husband and I were going through a turbulent time in our marriage. It was so bad that we separated twice for a total of about 10 months. Our first separation was right before the release of my first book, Soul Matters, and I found myself having to travel and put on a “happy face” when I was torn about the fate of my marriage. I remember God leading me to the book of Daniel and the three Hebrew boys who had come out of the fire unscathed. Though David and I were in a fire, I was given assurance that we would emerge unharmed.

This is not to say that we haven’t had other rough seasons over the years. (If any married couple states that they never go through strenuous moments, please run . . . fast! No marriage is perfect no matter how good and healthy it is.)  We have certainly had our share of ups and downs. All experiences have worked together to shape who we are as a couple. No matter how tough things got, we learned one important lesson — we’re not built to break.

I don’t only feel that way about my marriage, but also my person. Over the years, I’ve learned that I could survive things that I thought would kill me or, at the least, send me to the loony bin. At this point in my life, I believe I can make it through everything if I remember that I can’t get through anything without God. Ultimately, He’s in control. If I believe that, then I also believe His Word. I don’t understand why He allows certain things to happen and I’m sure I’ll go to my grave not knowing. What I understand for sure is that nothing catches Him by surprise and, if I am determined to trust Him no matter the outcome, I will be okay.

These last two years of my life have been extremely stressful. Some stress is external; some internal. With everything I’m going through, I am constantly reminded that I’m not built to break. God didn’t wire me to crumble. Trials serve a purpose. In James 1:2–4 we learn to “count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”

God is my source of strength. He can be yours as well. Whatever life has you enduring at the moment, remember, like the slogan for Ford, you were “built to last!”

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