Friday, April 3, 2009

When God Speaks: "Micah Meets Optimus Prime" (Micah)

When God Speaks:“Micah Meets Optimus Prime”
April 3, 2009

On that great day," God says, "I will round up all the hurt and homeless, everyone I have bruised or banished. I will transform the battered into a company of the elite. I will make a strong nation out of the long lost, A showcase exhibit of God's rule in action, as I rule from Mount Zion, from here to eternity. "And you stragglers around Jerusalem, eking out a living in shantytowns: The glory that once was will be again. Jerusalem's daughter will be the kingdom center." Micah 4: 6-8

We can call it sleep deprivation (considering that it is 3:00am and I’m up writing this) but when I read this scripture, I started singing (and desired a bowl of Fruit Loops): Transformers! More than meets the eye! Autobots wage their battle to destroy the forces of the evil Decepticons! Transformers! Robots in disguise! Transformers! More than meets the eye!

Don’t laugh. That is the first- and only- thing that came in my head reading this portion of Micah. I thought about how Micah was assuring God’s people that He would transform them from hurt and empty into healed and whole. He was going to take them from victims to victors. And that’s the exact same thing that happened with the Autobots. For the first twenty minutes, Megatron and his crew would straight thrash Optimus Prime, Bumble Bee and the rest of the Autobots and then, they’d regroup, rethink their strategy and end up defeating the Decepticons. We can learn a lot from those Ford 150s turned heroes. Don’t believe me? This is going to be fuuuun!

We have more power than we (or the enemy) realize.
Did you ever notice how the theme song talked about the Autobots being “more than meets the eye” and “robots in disguise”? That meant there was something inside of them that not everyone could see. Let’s face it; they were beat up Camaros and pickup trucks. On the surface, if they made it up a hill, it was an accomplishment. But on the inside, they were machines well equipped to complete the task. That’s the same with you. People (maybe even you) are focusing on the outside: you’re not the prettiest (and ain’t that subjective); you’re not the smartest; you don’t have the qualifications; you don’t possess the stature. But on the inside, you are in possession of the greatest force in the world: the power of God! And along with that power comes favor, grace and mercy. You may not have the resume that enables you to get that job but guess what? You have it! Your grades may not have been “summa cum laude” status but you got the scholarship! The God in us confuses our enemy; he never understands how what he plans for us never succeeds. You’d think he’d get it by now, huh?

The power in us will always be tested and the test won’t be easy.
Despite the power Optimus Prime had and showcased (every week), Megatron always came up with a new attack; and each attack got stronger and more intense. Sometimes (more times than not), the attack would take Optimus back to the drawing board. And every week, without fail, little kids around the world would wonder how the Autobots were going to get out of this one. Though, Megatron would be victorious, the most important lesson was not realizing that he would be the overcomer but recognizing why he was being attacked. Megatron and the Autobots were responsible for keeping Earth safe. That’s a pretty big responsibility. Those with purpose will always be targeted. Maybe you’ve endured hurt from a friend, betrayal in a relationship, the loss of a job or home, or you’re feeling the brunt of this recession and your resources are becoming constrained. Now, if you’re a Believer, you already know you’re victorious but do you know why you’re being attacked? You’ve got something to give this world. Your reason for being is so impactful that the enemy has to work overtime to get you so frustrated about your current circumstances that you lose focus of the bigger picture: what you’ve been called to do. Don’t give him that much credit. God never said we wouldn’t tested but with Him, we pass with flying colors!

The powerful are special people.
I love how The Message Translation of this passage says that God will transform us into a company of the elite. Elite means chosen- a little better than the rest. You know what the Transformers were called? They were called an elite fighting force. Everybody couldn’t be a Transformer. Your 87 Honda Accord LX couldn’t kick it with Bumblebee. Optimus Prime was not about to let your deuce and a quarter be his apprentice. You had to be special and favored to be an Autobot. Oh how wonderful it is that God favors us! Because He’s chosen us, we get special treatment. We’re living when that sickness or accident should have killed us years ago. We’re enjoying the fruits of some things we didn’t labor for. People don’t understand it. They try to figure it out. They lost their job six weeks ago and are going crazy; you’ve been out of work two years and God’s still keeping you. His hand never leaves you because He can trust you with what He gives. The Autobots could be trusted with their power and responsibility. You can be trusted with your gift and your anointing. You may not dot every “i” and cross every “t” but God can depend on your heart and for that, He calls you away and sets you apart and you eat off the fat of the land.

I’m going to bed now. I’ll wait until later to eat those Fruit Loops! But it’s amazing what you can learn from a thirty minute show. I had the Transformers action figures, lunch box, posters, bed sheets (I went through a tomboy stage. Thank God I didn’t stay there) and played it with my cousins all the time growing up. I didn’t recognize how much power I was playing with back then. Shoot, I didn’t recognize how much power I’m joking around with now. Ohhh….but I got it and because I got it, watch out! I intend to possess everything meant for me and fight with all I have to never lose it. Will you? Autobots Unite!

©BirthRight, 2009

Monday, March 30, 2009

When God Speaks: "Displaced And Unnecessary Anger" (Jonah)

When God Speaks: “Displaced And Unnecessary Anger”
March 30, 2009

But Jonah just left. He went out of the city to the east and sat down in a sulk. He put together a makeshift shelter of leafy branches and sat there in the shade to see what would happen to the city. God arranged for a broad-leafed tree to spring up. It grew over Jonah to cool him off and get him out of his angry sulk. Jonah was pleased and enjoyed the shade. Life was looking up. But then God sent a worm. By dawn of the next day, the worm had bored into the shade tree and it withered away. The sun came up and God sent a hot, blistering wind from the east. The sun beat down on Jonah's head and he started to faint. He prayed to die: "I'm better off dead!" Then God said to Jonah, "What right do you have to get angry about this shade tree?" Jonah said, "Plenty of right. It's made me angry enough to die!" God said, "What's this? How is it that you can change your feelings from pleasure to anger overnight about a mere shade tree that you did nothing to get? You neither planted nor watered it. It grew up one night and died the next night. So, why can't I likewise change what I feel about Nineveh from anger to pleasure, this big city of more than 120,000 childlike people who don't yet know right from wrong, to say nothing of all the innocent animals?" –Jonah 4: 5-11

Jonah was angry. Here, he’d heard God’s command to go to Nineveh and preach, ignored it and went the other way, was thrown overboard and swallowed by a whale, spent three days in its belly before being thrown back up and ending up where he needed to be, only to have God decide to spare Nineveh from His destruction. And then the one thing that gave him comfort, God took away. Yea, Jonah was HOT! Jonah had gone through all of that and the people who should have been punished were getting off easily. Where was God’s justice in that? And instead of addressing the issue with God, Jonah started going off about a dead tree.

It’s the same with us. The ones who don’t study or come to class are getting the scholarships. The cheaters are the ones in relationships with lovers devoted to them. The schemers are getting the raises and the manipulators seem to be breezing through life. It’s just not fair. Funny thing is- Jonah wasn’t angry at that shade tree. He was upset with God, just as we sometimes are. We’re saying “God, I’m living right. I’m going to church. I’m praying. I’m paying my tithes. I’m repenting. I’m treating people the way I want to be treated and the way you want me to treat them. So why are the ones doing the total opposite seeing more of your mercy than me? Why did they get accepted? Why did they get the promotion? Why did they get that opportunity? Why did they get the house? Why did they get the car? Why?” And the beauty about God is that He showed Jonah and shows us just how crazy that thought process is. The same God whose shown us compassion was now the target of our frustration after showing it to others. Isn’t that sad?

God takes us through things to refine His will in our lives but, from the outside looking in, it seems that He doesn’t take others through half of the things He takes us. There’s no additional chapter of Jonah so we don’t really know how he responded after God “set him straight”. But I hope it was with an act of repentance. Sometimes, I have seen what I considered to be a “blessing” for “unjust people” that I “a righteous one” should enjoy. What a conceited thought! The sun and God’s love shines on us all. Just as He used Jonah’s presence in Nineveh to bring His children back to Him, God can use anything to get His children to recognize where their help comes from- even an “unmerited blessing”. I don’t know about you but the wiser I get (getting older doesn’t always equate with wisdom. I know I’m not the only one who knows a couple of old fools), I appreciate God’s compassion on me and others more. This is, sometimes, a hard life to live and who wouldn’t appreciate a break every now and then? Stop being angry at God for giving Himself to those you think don’t deserve it and start thanking Him for giving Himself for you when you didn’t deserve it…and never will. God is compassionate, loving, just and righteous to us all; and isn’t that why we love Him? I thought so.

©BirthRight, 2009

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

When God Speaks: "Necessary Plateaus and Road Trips *TSU Edition* (Obadiah)

When God Speaks:“Necessary Plateaus and Road Trips (TSU Edition)
March 24, 2009

You thought you were so great, perched high among the rocks, king of the mountain, thinking to yourself, 'Nobody can get to me! Nobody can touch me!' Think again. Even if, like an eagle, you hang out on a high cliff-face, Even if you build your nest in the stars, I'll bring you down to earth." God's sure Word. –Obadiah: 3-4

Two hours after my initial departure time on Friday, I arrived at Damon’s. We’re heading to Nashville where I was to issue a charge to student leaders at my alma mater. I could have flown; I would’ve been flying the friendly skies for two hours before I touched down “in the land of golden sunshine.” However, I decided to drive. It had been a while since the road and I communicated for a significant length of time. But I needed a partner- there was no way I could have (or wanted to) tackled those miles by myself. So a great friend and fellow alum got in the car with me and we headed out of North Carolina and into Tennessee. And boy did I need this trip! Have there ever been times where you needed to get away- for your own sanity? You needed to ask God some questions in surroundings that are not consistent with your everyday circumstances? You needed to laugh with a friend to know that everything is going to be okay…or be reminded that it already was? I was there!

There are times when everything is going well for us. Our jobs are stable and secure. Our relationships are healthy and whole. Our energy is optimal and productive. Our faith is strong and intentional. We’re doing fine. In these times, it can become so easy for us to lose sight of what (or who rather) is allowing these successes. So we cruise along, believing we are invincible or believing that specific scenarios won’t play out in our lives, and then BAM! It hits us; we’re slowed down. We’re not moving. We’ve been in the same position for what seems like forever and other people are getting the promotions. We make four steps forward in the quest to build the legacy that our kids will stand on and then the co-laborer does something, breaks our heart and sets us back six steps. We’ve been working out, getting in shape, losing consistent pounds each week and now haven’t lost anything in a month. We’ve desired and longed for this breakthrough but it has yet to materialize and now we feel forgotten. We have hit, what one of the panelists identified Saturday at the conference as, a plateau.

In a plateau, there’s little to no change and that’s what can become the most frustrating. However, as the panelist, there is a way to get out of them. You must eliminate excuses, recognize what’s fundamentally causing the plateau and approach it correctly. As he continued to deliver his point, he said sometimes we’re in a plateau because we’ve allowed the negative things said about us to become what we believe and, consequently, we lose momentum. And then, there are other times where God is trying to get us to shift our focus and priorities back on Him and what He wants us to do. Immediately after Mr. Davis from Cummings International said that, I laughed and said “Okay, God. I hear you.” Whether it’s a failed relationship, lost job, uncomfortable situation or all of the above, God is trying to get our attention. Immobility should force you to desire to be mobile again and, spiritually, that will come through conversations with the Father regarding His strategy. He does know best after all. I thought I was going to ride up to Nashville, talk to the “kids” (because I learned this weekend that the Class of 2004 is officially an old one), eat some Buffalo Express, hang with my friends, go to Born Again and relax. I am so thankful that God had other plans. The necessity of this trip helped to reveal lessons that are paramount to the next levels of my purpose and destiny. When He does a thing, He does it well.

One hour after my initial departure time on Sunday, I arrived at Damon’s (being on time is one of my New Year’s Commitments…be patient, it’s only March). We were heading back home. Having a day to fully process this trip and all it means, there will be more shared as this week progresses. But for now, embrace the fact that plateaus aren’t forever. Figure out why you are there and what you need to do to leave. Before I headed for Nashville, my mother said “You’re going there for something and I hope you get whatever it is.” When I was able to tell her “Ma- I got it”, I felt something. I was moving again.

©BirthRight, 2009

Friday, March 13, 2009

When God Speaks: "The Weight of the Call" (Amos)

When God Speaks: “The Weight of the Call”
March 13, 2009

"Out of all the families on earth, I picked you. Therefore, because of your special calling, I'm holding you responsible for all your sins." –Amos 3:2

Yea, I read the verse twice too; God is not a game! Amos was delivering the message of God to the Children of Israel. He began by telling them that God was calling them into account- every family He delivered from Egypt would be made accountable for their actions. He’d given them a second chance. God took them from bondage and enabled them to start over and they were still acting crazy. He told them that because of their “special calling” (the work He placed in them to complete), He was going to hold them responsible for everything they did. He does the same to us, too. My mom and I were talking the other day about this new movement where people think they can do whatever they want without consequence. Knowing my mother, I also knew she was using it as an opportunity to illustrate to me what I was doing that she wasn’t necessarily a fan of (I hear it’s a gift that only comes with motherhood). She said to me “Candice, it boils down to one question: Do you want to God to use you or not? If you answer yes, then you have to be willing to die in every way that’s necessarily to live for Him and if you answer no, you have to be ready to die and know you’re not going to live at all.” Say it again, Mama!

The fact remains that, because we each know (or have some idea of) where God is taking or wants to take us, we also know that the responsibility of that level will require a surrender in us that could render our current lifestyles nonexistent. The surface is: Because God called me to do a specific work, I need to stop drinking, I need to stop letting him like it without putting a ring on it, I need to stop cursing, I need to stop half paying my tithes. That’s the easy “to-do” list. The harder things are: Because God called me to do a specific work, I need to stop doubting that I can do it, I need to stop becoming frustrated when what I want to do doesn’t work, I need to stop looking for excuses to continue doing the unproductive, I need to stop believing in everyone else and give myself some of that faith. These are all things that God will hold us accountable for when we fail to recognize what we can’t do for Him without Him. The weight of our call is heavy and we are weak; but isn’t His strength made perfect right then? Riiight.

I will be the first to admit that walking in the call God has spoken over your life is difficult, whether you’re at the stage where you first recognize it or have been travelling down the road for a minute. But what I do know is that He gives us specific and deliberate grace to complete every assignment- and since He gave us the assignments, He’s got our backs. Don’t be fooled. The ones “called” aren’t just the preachers. God’s called the teachers, attorneys, physicians, counselors, bankers, politicians, artists, engineers, mechanics, marketing strategists, barbers, stylists, musicians, authors, trainers, husbands, wives, children- He’s called us all to do a work that only we can do that will benefit the kingdom greatly. And because of that work, there are certain things we know we can’t do. It’s hard (believe me…I know how hard it is) and every day, we don’t hit the mark. But don’t stop trying to; that’s when we fail and God becomes displeased. Recognize your call and the power within you to do it. You can do it, you know. You really can. He wouldn’t have given it to you if you couldn’t.

Wow. That just made me smile. And I know you are, too.

©BirthRight, 2009

Monday, March 9, 2009

When God Speaks: Redeem The Time (Joel)

When God Speaks: “Redeem The Time”
February 21, 2009

"I'll make up for the years of the locust, the great locust devastation-Locusts savage, locusts deadly, fierce locusts, locusts of doom, that great locust invasion I sent your way.You'll eat your fill of good food. You'll be full of praises to your God, the God who has set you back on your heels in wonder. Never again will my people be despised. You'll know without question that I'm in the thick of life with Israel, That I'm your God, yes, your God, the one and only real God. Never again will my people be despised.” –Joel 2: 25-27

When you get a chance, read the entire second chapter of the Book of Joel. God had brought destruction on Israel and they didn’t know what to do. Over and over again, His instructions to them were clear: REPENT AND COME BACK TO ME! And that’s exactly what they did. All of the Children of Israel set aside a day of fasting and repentance to God for their actions. They were sincere in their request for forgiveness; and God went to work on their behalf. He restored their land and all their belongings and gave them the best of what He had for them. But He also did something else, particularly magnificent, for them: God made up for the years they lost!

Have you ever looked at something you’ve done and been disappointed that you can’t get that time back. Maybe you went to school and majored in something you wanted to major in and not what God said. Now you’re ready to do God’s will for your life but the thought of having to go back to school and take a completely different set of courses is stopping you. Maybe you were in a relationship that you know was not in God’s perfect will for your life. The relationship is over and you’re looking at all the time you’ve wasted. You’ve even contemplated going back to it because it’s easier to stay there than to wait, patiently, on God’s promise for your life. Maybe you’ve ran from the call that God’s placed on your life and now you’re ready to say yes but have become disappointed with all the years you’ve spent running. Fear not, beautiful people. God can and will redeem the time.

The beauty in the Savior we life for is that His correction is never truly about punishment. If it were, we would have never been introduced to grace and mercy. No, God’s correction is about charting us back on the right path for His glory. Don’t concern yourself with the classes you’ll have to take. Don’t worry about the fact that you’ll have to reemerge into life “single”. No sleep should be lost over how many years you could have been operating in God’s call for your life. You’ve given yourself to Him and He will give you all of those years back and then some. Sit back and thank Him for that. The Devil really thought he was doing something, didn’t he? Little did he know you were getting all that time back and had the wisdom, this time around, to use it the way you were supposed to in the beginning. My, how time flies when you’re living right!

©BirthRight, 2009

When God Speaks: Sailing...And Every Other Thing God Uses To Keep Us On Track (Hosea)

When God Speaks: “Sailing...And Every Other Thing God Uses To Keep Us On Track”
March 10, 2009

If you want to live well, make sure you understand all of this. If you know what's good for you, you'll learn this inside and out. God's paths get you where you want to go. Right-living people walk them easily; wrong-living people are always tripping and stumbling. –Hosea 14:9

It's not far down to paradise/ At least it's not for me/ And if the wind is right you can sail awayAnd find tranquility/ The canvas can do miracles/ Just you wait and see/ Believe me
Sailing/ Takes me away/ To where I've always heard it could be/ Just a dream and the wind to carry me/ And soon I will be free

I will be honest; when I read this passage, Christopher Cross’ “Sailing” was the first thing that popped in my head. I began to sing it and sway from side to side like I do every time I hear or think about that song. To me, it is one of the most beautiful songs ever written. Cross said that he wrote it because, as a teenager, he and his friends would resort to sailing to stay out of trouble and escape life’s trials and tribulations. Being in the midst of God’s creation kept him close to the Father and His plan for his life. Had he not gone sailing as a child, he may have never been all that God wanted him to be and the world may have never heard the beauty that is “Sailing”. Now, I completely understand why I thought of that song as I read this passage.

God has a plan for all of us. Okay; and how many times have you heard that? Exactly. He has a plan for us: this we know. Sometimes it’s what that plan actually is that can perplex us. Are we supposed to be working where we’re working or is God telling us to step out and do a new venture? Is God calling us to sow into the life of someone and we don’t necessarily understand why? Is this path requiring a level that we’ve not yet reached or are afraid to? Do we really want to, right now, let go of what we know we have to let go of to get where we need to go? Does God plan require that we walk away from a love we believed would be forever? All of these are valid questions. I once was rushing trying to get the answers to them and my brother Robert told me plainly “Sis, you’re not that special. You probably won’t ever get the answers but you just keep living anyway.” For a moment, his “take it or leave it” honesty made me mad but I got what he was trying to get me to understand.

If I am in the hand of God, He has me. No man put me there and no man can take me out of it. No adverse circumstance can affect the Lord’s will for my life because everything has to be permitted by Him. He gives permission to my life. Wow. God permits me to live. How can we not yield to such power? What I like about this passage is that it says “Right-living people walk them (God’s path) easily.” Don’t be confused. This doesn’t mean that the Elect of us won’t have problems; we do and they will continue. But what this means is that we don’t frustrate, worry, cold calculate, cry or fear going through them. We walk (easily, might I add) through life because we understand that God has mapped it out to our benefit. That phone call out of the blue brought you closer to purpose. That school acceptance letter pushed you a little further into destiny. The ability to love yourself more and walk into every promise spoken over your life helped make things clearer. And that sailing trip back in the day allowed you to appreciate it all.

©BirthRight, 2009

Monday, March 2, 2009

When God Speaks: The Trap They Set For You Was Actually For Them (Daniel)

When God Speaks:“The Trap They Set For You Was Actually For Them”
March 2, 2009

Because the king was in such a hurry and the furnace was so hot, flames from the furnace killed the men who carried Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to it, while the fire raged around Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Nebuchadnezzar went to the door of the roaring furnace and called in, "Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the High God, come out here!" Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego walked out of the fire. All the important people, the government leaders and king's counselors, gathered around to examine them and discovered that the fire hadn't so much as touched the three men—not a hair singed, not a scorch mark on their clothes, not even the smell of fire on them! – Daniel 3: 22, 26-27

You are sooo favored. God really has His hand on your life. The plans He has for you will change the destiny of your family. The Lord desires for you, specifically, to carry out His will in a way that many will not appreciate. These, my friend, are your haters. They are those who won’t understand why God is using you the way He is. They’re upset because you benefit greatly from grace and mercy. It makes them sick that you bow to no will other than God’s. So what do they do? They set a trap and wait to watch you fall. But what’s most comedic about a hater is that the best ones never reveal themselves that way, at first.

Just in the chapter before, King Nebuchadnezzar promoted Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego as a result of Daniel interpreting his dream. He admired them and their God. However, when he got full of himself and built a false god for the people to worship, he became enraged when his three friends did not. Isn’t it amazing how haters, who disguise themselves as friends, get upset when you don’t do what they think you should? Have you noticed how they become slightly enraged when you continue to hold the standard they let go of a long time ago? You, for them, become a target. At all costs, they have to prove that you aren’t who you say you are or punish you for your strength. King Nebuchadnezzar got so angry with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego for disobeying him that he wanted them to pay in the worst way; he had the furnace turned up seven times hotter than normal. Now, we all know the story that God covered the three Hebrew boys and they were not harmed. But did you check what happened to the men who were in charge of their fate? They were the ones killed by the furnace. Talk about your enemies coming to eat of your flesh and stumbling and falling!

They may have tried to take your job but they ended up being the one fired. They may have even lied on you but, in the end, were exposed as the liar. Remember, the weapons form but they don’t prosper. If you’re living right and submitting to the authority of God, all your haters can do is hate. They don’t stop anything; they only aid in their own destruction. Some of you may have some Nebuchadnezzars in your life right now. They say you won’t finish school. They say you won’t start that business. They say you won’t get married. They say you won’t amount to much. They say who you are right now is all you’ll ever be. Don’t sweat it. Sit back and relax. With each word, they seal their own fate.

God’s got you. Yes He does.

©BirthRight, 2009