Friday, February 21, 2014

The Promise of Immanuel

"Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be My people. And walk in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well with you." Jeremiah 31:33

"As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you." - Joshua 1:5

"'...and they shall call His name Immanuel,' which is translated, 'God with us.'" Matthew 1:22-23

"...and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Matthew 28:20

As I was preparing for work this morning I began thinking about family and friends who had been with us through tough situations, cross-country moves, unexpected diagnoses and events that shook us to the core. When I was seven, my family moved hundreds of miles away from extended family and friends because my father got a better job. We were one of a handful of black families in our town and I was the first black child in my school. I clearly remember my first day when no one spoke to me until we lined up to go home. A girl standing in front of me with long orange (strawberry blond) braids and spots (my first encounter with freckles) on her face turned to me and said, "My name is Mary Jean. I'm bringing a ball to school tomorrow. Will you play with me?" My first friend in a strange place. Immanuel - God with us.

The beauty of this relocation was that my family was warmly accepted into our church and I was accepted in its school. Many of my new friends' parents became my parents' friends and whenever there was a family in need, we were all there for each other. Immanuel - God with us.

When I went off to college, I went from living a sheltered life to a new freedom and exposure to people from all over the world. I wasn't under my parents' watchful eyes and had the freedom to explore the world around me. I lived through some unsafe and painful situations, but God spared me. Immanuel - God with us.

Years later, I relocated to the southwest and watched how God blessed my family with friends and teachers who helped us adjust to a new life in a new city. We were cared for when disabilities and illnesses were diagnosed and blessed by way of hand-holding, Starbucks coffee, manicures, mini celebrations, promotions and love. Immanuel - God with us.

In this present season of my life, I believe God has called me to minister to His daughters in a unique way and every time I sit before Him asking how, instead of answering with a plan, He gives me visions of what it will be. The visions keep coming and the understanding that this ministry is bigger than I will ever be keeps growing. I continually question if I am qualified or ready and keep thinking there is more I need to do before the ministry will come together. The larger it gets, the more unqualified I feel. But God has a plan and a way of letting me know Who is able to take the impossible and blow it out of the water! It's not me; it's Immanuel - God with me.

As I was reflecting on where we have been God said, "Didn't I take care of you in the past? Don't you think I will take care of you in this ministry, too?" Whew! Knocked to my knees with this truth and grateful for His words of revelation and assurance. This ministry is not about me and what I am able to accomplish. It is about God doing in and through me for His glory. He opens the doors, enables, provides, covers and keeps. At the end of myself I am weak, but in this place God is able to do exceeding abundantly by the power that is within me (Ephesians 3:20). Immanuel - God with me.

The Apostle Paul said that he was able to do all things through Christ who strengthened him (Phil 4:13). Paul experienced great hardship, but he persevered because he knew the power within him, the power of the Holy Spirit, would enable him to endure as Christ did. Immanuel - God was with him.

As I continue to prepare and connect with others for this God-designed ministry, I pray that I will always remember Immanuel - God is with me, that I belong to Him and that His daughters will know the same.

Be blessed,

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Letting Go for Greater - Jesus

"...who being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross." Philippians 2:6-8 (NKJV)

"...but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. And, whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and give His life  ransom for many." Mark 10:43-45 (NKJV)

"Oh My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will." Matthew 26:39 (NKJV)

Part of this letting go phase of my life is surrendering my plans and understanding as to how I should start and build the ministry God has called me to. I have worked for a small business owner for several years and learned the ropes of sustaining something successful in the marketplace - hustle. I have a great many skills and extensive training under my belt and I am always eager to learn more. I am equipped and qualified with knowledge, experience and ideas as to how this should look and be done. But God has a different plan that is the opposite of my worldly knowledge and understanding.

If we examine God's plan for salvation using Christ as a sacrifice, our common sense and understanding would rally that His great work could have been done without persecution and bloodshed. Jesus could have kept His deity and saved Himself. He was God! But, He surrendered His all, accepted His task, let go of what was expected, refused to resist what was His reality of persecution and a slow, agonizing death for something greater. Obedience to and pleasing the Father, salvation, reconciliation, restoration, freedom, righteousness, and a permanent unity between God and humanity are the greater He lived and died for.

In this transition into new life in Christ, I am learning that like Him, my power is not in myself but in Him. The route for the fulfillment of my call is to be done His way, not necessarily the way of my understanding and need. The complaining, whining and fretting needs to cease. Just as Jesus' mission was God's plan and in His control, my mission is to be carried out the same way. "A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master"(Matthew 10:24). Dying to self gets clearer and clearer the greater the letting go.

The challenge in this lesson is how do you know when to let go and when to plow ahead? For me, it has been when I stop creating my noise of frustration and disappointment. Instantly there is zero tension and chaos. When I let go of what I think should be a part of this ministry, especially what I dread doing, there is a peace in my spirit. I accept His invitation given in Matthew 11:28-30 and rest comes. A lighter yoke is seen and there is assurance that what is seen is the answer. There is no excess attached to it. The core is pure and simple. Jesus lived to show us surrender (a death to self) and died to give us new life in Himself. Life for death and death for life.

As you learn to let go of what God is urging or nudging you to surrender, examine what challenges you? What is this letting go costing you in relationships, time, money, service, etc.? I encourage you to be courageous in sharing your journey here as it may give someone else the permission and courage they need to let go. And if I can pray for you along the way, it would be my pleasure!

Be blessed in Him,