Intimacy With God Through Worship

This is in accordance with [the terms of] the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him [that is, our faith gives us sufficient courage to freely and openly approach God through Christ].                    Ephesians 3:11-12 AMP

In my last publication, I discussed having an intimate relationship with God and how going to Church is not synonymous with having an intimate or personal relationship with God. In this publication, I would like to discuss how our praise and worship can lead us into an intimate fellowship with God.

In the Old Testament, according to Esther 4:11, the queen had to wait for the king to request an audience with her. She could not approach his throne unless he summoned her.  Jesus, however, through His blood, has provided unhindered, unlimited access to the King of Kings. Hebrews 4:14 AMP states, “Now that we know what we have – Jesus, this great High Priest with ready access to God – let’s not let it slip through our fingers.” When we see worship as connecting with God in an intimate and personal way, we will cease every opportunity to enter into worship.

Churches are filled with talented singers, musicians, ministers of music and worship leaders, and all of those are great; but they do not replace hearts and minds fixed on the One that we came to worship. Praise and worship is not a concert; it is not time to merely observe; it is a time that we participate in worshiping our Lord. Although we may come together with other Believers to worship God, each Believers’ worship is personal just as each Believers’ relationship with God is personal. Worship is not about which song the praise team is singing, and it is not about how we feel at the time; it is exclusively about the One we worship. When we get this and we do this, worship becomes an intimate personal time of fellowship with our Lord.

The enemy often condemns us because of something that we have done or failed to do, so we are ashamed and feel unworthy to enter into worship. He uses this trick is to keep us from worshiping, because the enemy knows that if we continue to fellowship with God, we will become stronger, wiser and more confident. God already knew that the enemy would use condemnation to hinder us from worshiping Him, so He already made provisions for us to defeat the enemy in that area. The scripture states in Hebrew 4:16 AMP, “Therefore let us [with privilege] approach the throne of grace [that is, the throne of God’s gracious favor] with confidence and without fear, so that we may receive mercy [for our failures] and find [His amazing] grace to help in time of need [an appropriate blessing, coming just at the right moment].” The King James Version reads, “Come boldly unto the throne of grace…” It is our privilege and our birthright, as children of God, to enter into worship and intimate fellowship with our Father.

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INTIMACY WITH GOD

My beloved spoke and said to me, “Arise, my darling, my beautiful one; come with me.” Song of Solomon 2:10 (NIV)

One definition of intimacy is “a close, familiar, and usually affectionate or loving personal relationship with another person.” (Dictionary.com). The very intent of being intimate with someone requires you to be “close,” to be “familiar,” and to be in “a personal relationship” with them. Therefore, when the Lord invites us to “come with me,” Song of Solomon 2:10 or “come unto me,Matthew 11:28, it is an intimate gesture/invitation into His personal space. He is calling us to Himself; He is asking us to come near to Him; He is inviting us into an intimate place with Him. A place where we are in His presence, a place where we get to know Him (“learn of me,” Matthew 11:29), become familiar with Him and a place where our relationship with Him grows and develops (“But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” 2 Corinthians 3:18).

The very act of intimacy requires us to be alone with the one we are intimate with. It also requires quietness. This alone goes against the mindset of “church” being our “time with God.” Church is our time of fellowship with other believers in the presence of God.  (“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another…” Hebrews 10:24-25). However, to spend time with God, we have to be alone with Him. So, when we are in a quiet place, alone with God, mind fixed on Him, we are experiencing intimate time with Him. The more intimate time we spend with God the more of Him we will desire.

During our intimate time with God, He produces in us the fruits that He desires revealed in our lives (Galatians 5:22-23): it produces love; it produces joy (…you will fill me with joy in your presence…” Psalm 16:11); it produces peace; it produces endurance; it produces kindness… Intimacy with God also produces a steadfast confidence in God, because we have spent time with Him; we have gotten to know Him; we have learned of His ability; and we have learned to trust Him completely.

An invitation for intimacy is a loving, warm and affectionate gesture. What an honor and privilege to be asked into an intimate place with our Lord. Will you answer yes, and come.

“Come!” say the Spirit and the Bride. Whoever hears, echo, “Come!” Is anyone thirsty? Come! All who will, come and drink, drink freely of the Water of Life! Revelation 22:17 (MSG)

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Spending Time With God

You will show me the path of life: in your presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand, there are pleasures forevermore. Psalm 16:11

I actually was asked to write on this topic by someone who is seeking a deeper more meaningful relationship with God, but did not know how to spend time with Him and did not know what to expect. As I thought about it, I realized that, for the most part, Christians consider going to Church as spending time with God. I did until I learned that was far from the truth. Even though we are in the presence of the Lord when we are in Church; it is as a collective body worshiping Him and hearing His Word. On the other hand, when we spend time with God, it is intimate time alone with Him.

From a practical standpoint, spending time with God is just getting away from outside distractions, getting quiet and stilling all the inward noise that is going on in our own minds and hearts. It is a time to be still and give our sole attention to the things of God and to Him. Therefore, our mind and hearts are on Him and His goodness. We may have a devotional reading or scriptures that we read during that time, or we may just sit quietly there knowing that He is there with us and just rest in His presence.

God may or may not speak to us during this time, but when He does, we will know. It may be something He puts on our hearts or minds; it may be a scripture or even a song that is placed in our hearts. Try not to get hung up on Him speaking as much as just enjoying His presence.

For me, being still before the Lord, gives me a profound peace in the deep recesses of my soul. It is not so much that He is speaking during that time, but it is just His reassuring presence that leaves me with total peace. I also spend time with God when I am gardening. It is a peaceful, quiet time for me and I just allow myself to get lost in the quietness. It clears my mind and my heart; when my heart and mind are clear, I can sense His presence and His peace; in turn, it causes me to be able to hear Him clearly.

The beach or ocean also draws me into a keen awareness of God’s presence. It helps me to silence the constant warring in my mind. Again, when I still my thoughts, I am peaceful and peace draws me closer to Him. I can think on Him instead of all the ninety million things I have going on – and when I do that – He puts ideas, solutions, and instructions in my heart that helps me to take care of my to-do list. Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen; I will be exalted in the earth. Psalm 46:10. Getting still in His presence exalts Him in our earthly vessel.

The most important aspect of spending time with God is not how you do it or when you do it, it is doing it. In the book of Daniel, chapter 11, verse 32, it states, “but the people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits.” To know God, you have to spend time with Him and studying His Word. This is how we acquaint ourselves with Him. It’s the same principle as getting to know anyone else. If you do not spend time with a person, you will not know them.

God will surely do this for you, for He always does just what He says, and He is the one who invited you into this wonderful friendship with His Son, even Christ our Lord. 1 Corinthians 1:9 (TLB)

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My Life Is In His Hands

But I am trusting you, O Lord. I said, “You alone are my God; my times are in your hands.”  Psalm 31:15(a) TLB

Yesterday was my 59th birthday. I had been thinking about this birthday for some time. Not to plan a party or festivities, but thinking of the blessing in it. You see, my oldest brother, Joseph, died when he was 39; my oldest sister, Jackie, died when she was 48; and my middle brother, Marvin, died when he was 57 – all lives shortened at young ages. Here I am blessed to have lived longer than my siblings; so my reflections on my birthday were, and still are, filled with much gratitude and thanksgiving.

In spite of the losses in my life and in spite of life’s disappointments and pain, I am thankful for the lessons I have learned and the wisdom gained through those lessons. Most of all I am thankful that life’s troubles taught me to trust (lean on, rely on and depend on) and obey God. (“Though He was God’s Son, he learned trusting-obedience by what He suffered, just as we do.” Hebrews 5:8). Therefore, I am grateful and thankful not for just being alive, but being content with my life (But godliness with contentment is great gain. 1 Timothy 6:6). Grateful that I am comfortable in my own skin and that I like who I am, while in the process of becoming who He wants me to be. I am thankful to be in a place where I am not chasing anything or anybody. I am not chasing paper, nor am I chasing connections and greatness. I am satisfied knowing that the great One resides on the inside of me, and it is His greatness that will be revealed through me. (…greater is He that is in you… 1 John 4:4). Also thankful that I no longer wonder where God is during personal struggles and crises, because I know where He is – He is always with me (…I am with you always [remaining with you perpetually—regardless of circumstance, and on every occasion], even to the end of the age. Matthew 28:20). Grateful for truly knowing and understanding, that “If God is for us, who can be against us?” Romans 8:31(b).

I am truly thankful for a clear mind and a clear heart. Grateful that I am not confused nor am I lost. Thankful that I believe and trust that all is well in my life, not because every promise has been fulfilled, but because I trust the one that promised (Let us seize and hold tightly the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is reliable and trustworthy and faithful [to His word]. Hebrews 10:23). And I know and am confident that He is able to keep those things that I have committed to Him (…for I know [perceive, have knowledge of, and am acquainted with] Him whom I have believed [adhered to and trusted in and relied on], and I am [positively] persuaded that He is able to guard and keep that which has been entrusted to me and which I have committed [to Him] until that day. 2 Timothy 1:12).

The life you see me living is not “mine,” but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. Galatians 2:20

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THE ONLY FATHER I’VE KNOWN

…And I will receive you and will be a Father unto you, and you shall be my sons and daughters, said the Lord Almighty.  2 Corinthians 6:17(b)-18

I recall watching an Oprah special on “Daddyless Daughters;” and I remember being shocked because the women in the audience were still grieving for their fathers. There were grandmothers, mothers, and daughters of all ages. Their fathers had not died, but instead had walked out on them as children. The women’s pain was very tangible. I could literally see it on their faces and hear it in their voices. In one case, there was three generations struggling with negative behavior patterns established in their lives, because the grandmother’s father walked out on her and the pattern followed her daughter and then her granddaughter. I sympathized with these women but I could not understand why their pain still ran so deep. After all, they were no longer little girls; they were now adults with their own children, and for some, grandchildren.

This, of course, led me to think of my own biological father who had not been in my life. At that very moment, my mind wandered to an incident that happened when I was a teenager; I believe I was in middle school. A friend and I had walked to a neighborhood store and on our return walk, I saw my biological father’s car, so I attempted to flag him down to give us a ride. He kept going. Interestingly, I was not upset but I made an instant decision to no longer recognize him as my father. In my young mind, I said, “If he does not know me, I do not know him.” From that point on, he was instantly removed from my heart and mind to the extent that I never thought about this incident again until I watched the Oprah special. I continued to see him around town, especially when I got older and could drive; but there was nothing there – I had no emotion whatsoever connected to him; he was just like a stranger. I never acknowledged him again; not even in his death.

After watching the Oprah special, I realized that I could have been just like those women. Their story was my story – I grew up daddyless too. However, in that moment of reflection, I discovered that my Heavenly Father had protected my heart at a young age from knowing that pain. I believe my Heavenly Father protected my heart by allowing me to accept things the way they were instead of going through life wishing and hoping they would change. My Heavenly Father protected me from walking through life wanting and craving affirmation from someone that was incapable of giving those things to me. Instead, my Heavenly Father led me along a path of peace with being a daddyless daughter, and He surrounded me with uncles, brothers, and cousin-brothers that filled my life with goodness. And then He mercifully led me to Himself and showed me through His lovingkindness and unfailing love that all along He had been and is my Father; He had been and always has provided for and protected me; He had been and is always right here for me. The revelation of who my Father truly is changed my life forever.

Therefore, on this Fathers’ Day, I honor the only Father I’ve known – my Heavenly Father. Thank you Father for all that you have done and all that you continue to do for me daily. Thank you for your abiding presence and unconditional love. Thank you for being my safe place and my place of peace. Thank you that I can always come to you and receive whatever I need, whenever I need it. My gratitude to You, my Heavenly Father, is endless!

To our God and Father be the glory forever and ever. Amen. Philippians 4:20

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Savior, Redeemer, Healer

…by His wounds you [who believe] have been healed. 1 Peter 2:24 (AMP)

I did not want this month to pass without taking the time to share with you that I celebrated five years cancer free – to God be all the glory! Typically, doctors tell you that once you meet the five year mark, you are “home free,” meaning it is unlikely that the cancer will return. I thank God for the medical care I received and for now being “released.” However, the Holy Spirit released me the same day I received the diagnosis five years ago!

Five years ago, my daughter drove me to hospital for a “routine” colonoscopy. I was supposed to have had one at the age of 50, but I had been putting it off because of fear – not the fear of having cancer – the fear of something going wrong during the procedure. A dear friend finally said something that resonated with me, so I scheduled the colonoscopy. I was 53. When I awoke from the procedure, the doctor came in with the dreadful news. I was stunned, shocked, in complete disbelief. I had always been healthy with no more than a cold here and there. It was absolutely the last thing I expected to hear. The doctor insisted that my daughter and I come to her office that same day to get the paperwork started for surgery and I am so glad she did. It was there that the Lord showed me that everything was going to be okay, and it was from that point on that I began to look and listen for God in that situation.

While seated in the doctor’s waiting room, a woman stood up and asked if we (those of us in the area) would mind if she shared something with us. No one said a word, so I looked at her and said sure. She proceeded by telling us that she was there for a check-up after  having had surgery to remove a large malignant tumor from her colon. She shared that she had a portion of her colon removed and had also gone through radiation therapy. She went on to say that she had not felt as good as she did that day in a very long time. She went on to encourage us that whatever we were facing there that day that just like He brought her through, God will bring us through. Really, how likely is something like that to happen in a doctor’s office? I knew it was God reassuring me and I rested in that. Immediately, He had shifted my focus from the disease to Him.

Although I underwent testing prior to surgery to determine if the cancer was contained or had spread, the doctor told us that she could not be absolutely certain until she received the results of the biopsies after surgery. For that reason, I did not know the extent of the treatment I would require such as radiation or chemotherapy, but I did know that regardless of what I would have to go through, I would be okay. Thank God, the biopsies came back negative and I did not require further treatment.

Surgery was painful and recovery was very difficult, and some days I wondered when I would start feeling better. I would often reflect on that day in the doctor’s waiting room. It was a slow process; nevertheless, I made it and I will forever be thankful and grateful to my Savior, my Redeemer and my Healer for His faithfulness to me.

This is the short version of my testimony. There is so much more I could share about my healing process, but I’ll stop here least this Blog turns into a book.  I do, however, want to leave you with this one thing – if you are at least 50 years old and have not done so, please schedule a routine colonoscopy. I had no symptoms; no reason to think anything was wrong. Thank God for using my friend who convinced me to just get it done. I pray that this encourages you to do the same.

Jehovah-Rophe – The Lord Our Healer!

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FREEDOM

Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.  Galatians 5:1

A common phrase that we often hear as it relates to the military is “freedom isn’t free.” This is an accurate statement whether speaking about the military or about Christians. Our freedom was purchased by the blood of Jesus. Christ willingly laid down His life so that we could be free. (“You were bought with a price [you were actually purchased with the precious blood of Jesus and made His own]… 1 Corinthians 6:20, AMP). Freedom in Christ not only comes from understanding the price Christ paid for our freedom. It also comes from knowing and understanding the Word of God that defines who we are in Christ. It comes from knowing and understanding that we are defined only by what God says about us and nothing and no one else. “So if the Son makes you free, then you are unquestionably free.” John 8:36, AMP. The Message translation states, “You are free through and through.”

In Galatians 5:1, Paul lets us know that Christ has made us free, but it is our responsibility to maintain our position of freedom. We must “stand” in the freedom that we have been given in Christ. To take a stand on something means that we stay in that particular position without moving. It does not matter what happens or what is going on around us we do not move. When we take that position, we refuse to be a slave to sin; we refuse to be a slave to other people’s opinions; we refuse to be a slave to men’s rules.

Although there is nothing as liberating as living free in Christ, I must warn you that there will be opposition. The enemy of our soul never wants us to come into the revelation of the power, authority and freedom that Christ has given us; therefore, he will use others to try to discourage and confuse you in an attempt to enslave you. However, once you have been enlightened and have experienced freedom in Christ, you will willingly fight to stay free.

Freedom in Christ does not mean we are free to do what we want, how we want. Christ set us free from the bondage of sin. As a result, we are no longer slaves to sin; we are no longer slaves to the desires of our flesh; we are no longer slaves even to our emotions. We have been made free from those things, so we have to fight against these very things that try to take us hostage again. It also does not mean that we are free to disregard or disrespect authority (For God is not a God of confusion and disorder, but of peace and order. 1 Corinthians 14:33). When we are submitted to the Word of God and the Spirit of Christ, He will instruct us on the how-to and when-to in every situation.

Christ has also set us free from the opinions of others. He has made it very clear in His Word what He thinks of us and His love for us. If we fully receive Christ love and thoughts towards us, the opinions of others will not matter. (“‘For I know the plans and thoughts that I have for you’, says the Lord, ‘plans for peace and well-being and not for disaster to give you a future and a hope.’” Jeremiah 29:11, AMP). We will not be so easily hurt and discouraged when others do not embrace or support us, our vision, or our gifts. (“You were bought with a price [a precious price paid by Christ]; do not become slaves to men [but to Christ]. 1 Corinthians 7:23, AMP). We become slaves to people when we live our lives as a people pleaser. But if we flip that and become more desperate to please Christ than people, we will experience a freedom worth fighting for.

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Truth

Lead me in your truth, and teach me: for you are the God of my salvation… Psalm 25:5

Truth has almost been redefined. We say, “Well the real truth is…” Is there an unreal or false truth? That would be considered an oxymoron. We also say, “That’s his truth” or “that’s my truth.” The truth of the matter is, it is not his truth nor is it my truth – it is “his story” and it is “my story.” There is a vast difference between what is true, and the story we tell ourselves, and the story we tell to others. However, we have convinced ourselves that the story we have been telling over and over again is the truth.  Unfortunately, our story consistently gets in the way of the truth.

We label our stories as truths and we believe them. We have justified our ways with our stories. In some instances, we add in some religion to our stories to really convince ourselves that we are right. We even run from ourselves – surrounding ourselves with empty noise, meaningless relationships and associations, so that there is no moment of solitude for the truth to sneak up on us. Selah.

Sometimes we cannot hear the truth because we are not ready, but most times, it is because we do not want to hear the truth. We do not want our story interrupted, because our story allows us to remain in that familiar place where we can continue the story. Most people say tell me the truth, but what they really mean is tell me what I want to hear or agree with me.

After the Prophet Nathan had confronted David about his sins against Uriah and Bathsheba (2 Samuel 12:1-9), David cried out to God in repentance in Psalm 51:1-19. Verse 6 reads, “You desire truth in the innermost being, and in the hidden part (of my heart), You will make me know wisdom.” David concluded that God wants us to know the truth, not only about Him, but about ourselves. He wants our hearts to be wise so that we can discern and judge our own actions. Did not David know that he had committed adultery when he slept with Uriah’s wife? (2 Samuel 11) Did not David know that he had committed premeditated murder when he had Uriah murdered? Did not David know that he was breaking the laws of God when he did those things? Of course he did. Then why did God have to send a Prophet to David before he acknowledged his sin? And, why did David not discern that the Prophet was speaking of his sins. David had done just like we do – he had convinced himself that he had made everything right. He was walking around living the story that he had told himself, until God interrupted his story with the truth.

Yes, the truth is sometimes hard to bear, but it has so many wonderful benefits. Jesus told us in John 8:32, “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” If you really want to be free, open yourself up to hearing truth regardless if it is difficult to hear, and regardless if it rips your story to shreds. Just like David, once we let go of our stories, God can come in and “restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.” Psalm 51:12

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Love like That!

Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of Himself to us. Love like that. Ephesians 5:2 (MSG)

It is important to note that Christ does not love like we love. We love for reciprocation – we exchange our love for the other person’s love. However, Christ loves us without expectation of anything in return. As a matter of fact, scripture declares that, “God demonstrated His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8.

In the above scripture, we are told to observe – notice/perceive how Christ loved us. How did He love us? The scripture states that He was not cautious or careful with His love, but He was extravagant; He was over-the-top; He was overgenerous with His love for us. Listen, Christ did not love us in order to get something from us, but to give everything of Himself to us – even His own life. “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13.

After the scripture describes how Christ loved us, we are told to love like that – love just as Christ loved us. We are to be generous with our love. We are to love because that is what Christ did for us – not for any ulterior motives. We are to love because when we were sinking in sin, it was Christ’s love that lifted us. We are to love because that is how we are identified with Christ. “By this (love) shall all men know that you are my disciples (followers), if you have love one to another.” John 13:35.  We are to love because Christ commanded us to love. “A new commandment I give unto you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” John 13:34.  Again, we are instructed to love like that – as Christ has loved us.

 

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God Is A Restorer

He restores my soul… Psalm 23:3

It seems as though we were just bringing in the New Year and here it is the end of January. Although, traditionally, we celebrate the beginning of a New Year with new and renewed hopes and dreams, there are some – myself included – that have hurt, pain, losses, and unresolved conflict that carried over into the New Year. My New Year’s declaration was and still is, “expecting God to finish some things He started in 2015 and expecting Him to do some new things in 2016.” If you can relate and you also find yourself trusting and believing God to complete what carried over from last year, and you find yourself not quite in the “newness” of this year; I want to encourage you – just as I have encouraged myself.

David knew something about needing to be restored; made whole again. When the enemy (Amalekites) took all the valuables and the women and children, and burned down Ziklag, the city where David and his men were camped; David remembered who had restored him in times past. The scripture states, “David encouraged himself in the Lord his God.” 1 Samuel 30:6. It is important to pay attention to what had taken place prior to David encouraging himself. Scripture states David and all the men had cried and wept until there was no more strength left in them (30:4). David was in even greater distress because the other men were blaming him for the capture of their families, and they were talking about stoning him. (30:6). So, David felt the pain; he felt the loss; he cried; he felt the betrayal of his men turning against him; but he still remembered his God. Like David, we have to remember our God; we have to remember His promises to us; “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28.

In addition to encouraging himself, David also inquired of the Lord; he sought God; he asked God for instructions (1 Samuel 30:8). We too must continue to seek God for directions and instructions. This is why David could say, “In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried unto my God: He heard my voice out of His temple, and my cry came before Him, even into His ears.” Psalm 18:6. Not only did God hear David, He answered him – “And He answered him, Pursue: for you shall surely overtake them, and without fail recover all.” 1 Samuel 30:8. In Psalm 34:6, David said, “This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles.” God restored to David all that the enemy had stolen – “David recovered all.” 1 Samuel 30:19.

When God delivers us, He always does it bigger and better than we ever expected. “Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think…” Ephesians 3:20. God did the same for David. He did not just recover what was taken from him and his men; he also recovered what was taken out of the land of the Philistines and the land of Judah (1 Samuel 30:19). David came out with more than enough. Proverbs 6:31, But if he (the thief) be found, he (the thief) shall restore sevenfold; he shall give all the substance of his house.

Continue trusting, believing, leaning on, relying on, and seeking God. He will restore to you everything the thief has stolen; and He will give you more.

He makes me whole again… Psalm 23:3 (Voice Translation)

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