Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.
I’m standing on the sidewalk of a busy street with cars racing back and forth. I’m stuck in both fear and anger as my god son defiantly walks into the busy street. As I roar over the noise of the cars, “Come back over here right now!” using the best authoritarian-auntie voice I could, he stops, looks at me with this look that’s both innocent and mischievous, then turns and continues to walk to the other side of the road. Prayfully, he makes it to the other side without getting run over.
Frustrated, I run down the sidewalk and wait for the sea of moving cars to no longer be a barrier between us. I cross the street already contemplating in my mind how I’d take advantage of the spanking…I mean “discipline” privileges his parents allotted me. I pull him up close to me really quickly, grip his dark blue hoodie, kneel down until my eyes meet his, and begin to express my concern for his rebellious acts -- using only my words. I forfeited my spanking privileges and decided that a strong talking-to, cased in loving words, were most appropriate for this four-year-old.
Seconds later, I wake up from this dream. I laid in bed recalling the intricate and vivid scenes of the night, and unsurprisingly, my Heavenly Father spoke to me about this particular dream involving my rebellious god son.
And the Lord said,
“Indeed, my dear child, this is you. Recently, you have been trying to avoid Me calling after you. You have attempted to hide in the busyness of your life and responsibilities thinking the noise would drown out My calling. You know full well that you are running away in disobedience, and yet fear propels you further away from My reach. My child, my eyes will always be fixed on you; ensuring your safety and care regardless of your stubbornness. I will be right there to snatch you up and bring you into my presence. I will meet you where you are. For you have been called specifically for My mission. I love you too much not to pursue you even as you run in the opposite direction of your purpose, place, and position. Will you stop running? Will you hide in my everlasting, relentless love? I will be waiting. Love, Your Heavenly Father.”
As I reflected on His words so graciously spoken over me, I became overwhelmed by His perfect heart that calls to me and speaks security and love over me. I will be the first to admit that I have run away from a few assignments the Lord’s placed in my path – or at least I have tried. For me, I typically ignore him and distract myself with work and busyness. Can anyone else relate? I often use the excuse that I am doing for God already. Why, how, or when will I be able to add in this “extra” assignment. Ha! Like He really NEEDS me to do anything. And yet, He calls me anyway.
God pursues us so fervently despite the fact that we may, and oftentimes do, disobey Him. He calls us to partner with Him – to be His hands and feet. Not because He needs us, but because He wants us. Because He knows what’s good for us. This is His character. He is father, and no matter how much we kick, scream, slam doors, pout, or pretend we don’t hear Him, He will always be there – prepared to shower us with forgiveness, courage, and reassurance. The Lord is ready and willing to always take us back. Are you done running?
Hebrews 3:18-19 says, “And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient? So, we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.”
It was very clear I had been a rebel and thankfully God would not allow it! I avoided His invitation to share my writing publicly for years. I hid in the lies that it wouldn’t be good enough and no one would want to hear anything I had to say. I convinced myself that any wisdom God wanted me pour into others through a public platform was already being communicated to people by another committed Christian. Why repeat? What difference would it make coming from me? What could I add to the world that isn’t already being provided? These thoughts produced fear, doubt, and unbelief; so, I ignored God’s call to act. I was disobedient and I realized it was because I didn’t believe God would do what He said He could. I, unfortunately, made an agreement with unbelief.
What assignment, mission, or directive has God given you? Where have you allowed unbelief to settle in?
The seed of disobedience is unbelief and the fruit of disobedience is separation from our Father. When we fail to honor God with our compliance and submission, we create distance between ourselves and the trinity. We slowly lose sensitivity to the Holy Spirit’s counsel, Jesus’s voice becomes more and more faint, and God’s presence is less and less tangible. We mustn’t allow ourselves to hide in the current responsibilities of our lives thinking, “Well, God. Aren’t I already doing enough?!” We mustn’t allow pride or fear to steal our belief in His power to complete the work He began in us.
Is that calling too big for you? Absolutely! Are you really ill-equipped for this new promotion? Perhaps! Will you make some of the same mistakes your mother did as a parent? Quite possibly! But how amazing and glorious is it that He doesn’t call the qualified but qualifies the called! He is doing the work. We are His vessels! Bless the Lord that we have a Father in Heaven who desires us to participate in His plans, and guess what? He’s going to do the work through you!
Will you just take the small step toward obedience as I did and trust Him? Be humbled that He not only desires to use you, but He will equip you each and every step of the way. All He calls you to do is walk. Take that first step. Sure, go kicking and screaming. You can go palms sweaty, knees weak, and arms heavy. Just go. Your Father is waiting.
My prayer for you is that He facilitates an opportunity to speak to you concerning your call to action. For me, He speaks to me through dreams. For you, it may be through a scripture, a mentor, a sermon, or conviction by the Holy Spirit. Listen for Him. Seek Him. Remove the distractions that keep you from being still long enough to know His voice. If you’re one of those children of God who tells Him “no” a lot, I pray He will give you a new heart and new spirit; removing the spirit of disobedience and giving you a heart that is responsive to His call. A heart that says yes even when you don’t see the whole puzzle. And personally, the best way I knew to accomplish such a task is to ABIDE. For I cannot bear fruit in and of myself unless I am connected to the True Vine…and neither can you.
Some of you are right at the edge of a breakthrough and answered prayer. You’ve experienced long periods of resistance, and have come up against hardships, challenges, and struggles. You decided to keep going, but then resistance became a secondary antagonist to the weariness covering you. And it’s right there, in dark exhaustion, you would want to stop, quit, and slack off; refusing to move through the force that’s pushing back at you -- but you mustn’t! You have to keep pushing!
Joseph, the son of Jacob, was betrayed by his brothers, thrown into a pit, sold into slavery, falsely accused, taken to prison, and then forgotten. For thirteen years, Joseph experienced a unique dichotomy between suffering and favor. Even in his hardships and bondage, he was graced with relief through God’s repeated favor. But the relief wasn’t the resolve.
The resolve is in the breakthrough.
When Pharaoh appointed him as a ruler over Egypt, he was no longer enslaved. He was appointed and anointed the second in command to Pharaoh. It was that very moment was Joseph’s rightful breakthrough. (Genesis Chapters 37-45)
I believe the Lord is saying that some of you are experiencing the pitfalls of life, and throughout your journey there have been some breaks of relief (God’s favor). But then you find yourself right back enthralled by life’s circumstances. You are currently at the point where you may not be experiencing any pause. Lately, there hasn’t been any Joseph moments of becoming a head officer of the king’s home or chief jailer in Pharaoh’s prison. And it’s right there, in the dark exhaustion, you would want to give up. The Lord is saying DON’T! Your breakthrough is right around the corner. Do not settle for the breaks or pauses. For in My proper time, I will break the veil of adversity on your behalf. I have anointed and appointed you to be more than a chief or an officer. I am bringing you RESOLVE.
My friends, if this is your season of pushing through, you may be at the very last leg of the race. Whenever you feel resistance, push back and keep going. We often throw in the towel too soon; not knowing that we’ve almost arrived. You are almost there. Don’t give up!
“So let’s not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don’t give up or quit.” Galatians 6:9 MSG
“See, I have inscribed your name on the palms of My hands.”
You are a permanent thought to the Lord. Not once has He forgotten your name; and you are not too far from His reach. He desires to be close to you and for you to fall deeper into His all-consuming love. Fear has prevented you from experiencing the fullness of His provision, and unbelief has propelled you away from His Truth. He is asking, “Will you let go of the worry and look up to see Me - I am here. My love and attention are gifts you don’t have to fight for. I see you. I am beside you. I long to be near you.”
“See, I have inscribed your name on the palms of My hands.” You are engraved into the thickness of Jesus’ skin and it can never be erased. Not even your sins can wash away the inscription. In His hands, you are claimed, protected, and secure. He will never separate Himself from you. Will you trust Him? Will you believe that He is the Good Father who’s given Himself to you? Will you surrender your own ways and allow Him to be the Way? Will you let go of the control that petitions to take over His design for your life? Will you let Him fill that void?
He says, “Forgotten is not your truth. Rejected is not your name. Abandonment is not your portion. I have called you Chosen, Adopted, and a Holy Possession. This is the truth I urge you to capture. Because I have not forgotten you. See, look at the wounds of My hands. Your name, My beloved, is written there.”
Without pause, God has thought of you. Search Him in the stillness of your soul. Sit with Him. Allow your ears to be pressed against His lips. He is not too far from you and you are not too far gone. He is calling you to come.
Will you take hold of the very hand He carved your name into?
In 2019, the focal theme God gave me was “She Kept Pouring”. It comes from the biblical story about a widow and a jar of oil written in II Kings 4. In this passage, the woman cried out to the prophet Elisha saying that her husband had died, and she had incurred all of his debt. This widow had no money and became fearful that she would have to offer up her two sons as indentured servants in order to pay off the debt.
Elisha responded to her cry, “Tell me...What do you have in your home?” She answered, “Nothing, but a small jar of olive oil.” Elisha then instructed her to ask her neighbors for empty jars and to not just ask for a few. He then said, “Go inside and shut the door behind you and your sons. Pour the oil into all the jars (or vessels) and as each one is filled, set it aside.”
The widow with the small jar of oil did as she was told. She collected jars from her neighbors, went home, closed the door behind her and her sons, and her sons brought the jars to her...and she kept pouring. When there were no more jars, the oil stopped. She went to tell Elisha and he said, “Go and sell the oil to pay back your debt, and there will be an overflow for you and your sons to live on the rest.”
If there were two words to describe my last year, it would be “Closed Doors”.
Last year in January, God led me to the widow’s testimony, and He spoke three words: Sustain (Endure), Maintain, and Gain. As I reflected on 2019, I realized that I was in a season of sustaining. A few definitions of sustain reads “to endure without giving up; to keep going; to continue for an extended period of time without interruption”. The definition of endurance that I liked reads “the power of enduring an unpleasant or difficult situation without giving way”.
I’m not sure how many neighbors the widow had to talk to, nor do I know how many jars she collected. My guess is a lot. She had to walk all over her neighborhood and carry the jars back to her home. I can only imagine how long it took her to just begin the task especially without quality transportation. Endurance. She then had to pour and pour and pour and pour the oil into each and every jar. Endurance. The Lord spoke to me saying that 2019 would be a year of me pouring and pouring and pouring. He will build my endurance and be my strength for what I’ve been called to do and build my character for who He’s called me to be.
I cannot express how badly I’ve wanted to give up this past year in various areas of my life. It was draining and exhausting. It also increased my anxiety and depression. It felt like I was running on a treadmill with no breaks, and every so often, my Heavenly Coach would increase my speed and incline. I'd reach a maxout and He'd be there saying "Go! Pour! Don't give up." And folks, I wanted to. But this widow who had lost everything -- her husband, her possessions, and was on the verge of losing her sons -- she didn’t give up.
She kept pouring.
It was behind a closed door that God provided for this woman, saved her sons from slavery, and encouraged her to have faith; knowing that He can do exceedingly more than she could ask, think, or imagine (Ephesians 3:20). I believe 2019 was not only a year of building my endurance, but a year of testing my FAITH. There were many prayers answered this year; countless things to celebrate and be thankful for. However, many of the answered prayers and high hopes were followed by closed doors. Whether my attempt to restore a familial relationship, decision to purchase a house, battle to overcome depression, or the start of a new relationship; the outcomes resulted in anger and resentment, anxiety and denied offers, continued recommendation of medication, and unexpected bruised emotions. It sucks and it’s painful, but the encouragement is that I chose to live on the basis of my faith not my feelings. I took risks and leaps of faith, and my Father honors that.
“Taking a step of faith doesn’t mean there’ll be no pain, and just because pain exists doesn’t mean you are defeated.” DeVantae Dews, Divine Unity Community Church - ENC Leader
You see, God loves me through closed doors. I know some people may not understand. We are supposed to be hopeful, expectant, and yearn for open doors. But I find there’s this one-sided view of favor. God’s blessings aren’t always pretty nor wrapped up in positivity. Jesus dying on the cross for our sins is a great example of this. Therefore, if our only frame of reference of God’s blessings are open doors, healed hearts, and times of joy - we will miss it. We will miss the beauty of God’s love, intentionality, and care of our souls. We must gain the awareness that God’s love for us comes in a variety of packages - the pretty and the ugly. I’ve learned to appreciate the ugly blessings - maybe even more than those advantageously wrapped. God loves me through the conflict, struggles, and obstacles. So, I get excited about the inaccessibility of closed doors! Closed doors are God’s kisses on my cheek because I know without a shadow of a doubt, He is working out everything for my good!
Romans 8:28 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
My faith in God overrides what I experience here on this earth. And every mile I have walked to collect my jars, and all of the oil I’ve poured without stopping has been a test of faith. I’m not sure I’d be able to stand firmly in joy and contentment in 2020 if I didn’t endure the hardships of 2019. My hope, faith, and trust are in His processes and promises.
Now, I would be lying if I said I didn’t ask God “why”’. "Why give me the gift I’ve prayed for only to have it taken away? Why tell me to go only to have me stop? Why haven't I overcame this yet - You promised?!" I’m sure I’m not alone in questioning God. In the scripture, you’ll notice there wasn’t one time the woman questioned Elisha. She didn’t ask why jars, why my neighbors and not the flea market, why can't I just ask for a few - I don't want to be a burden, why do I have to shut the door, why use the only oil I have left. There were no questions, excuses, or bargaining like many of us do today in our earthy relationships. She committed herself in faith to Elisha’s instruction knowing that God’s provision and His strength was be her portion.
This revelation changed the posture of my heart and my dialogue with God. What I desire more than figuring out the reasons why crap happened to me is the reassurance and revelation my Father gives in spite of. The reassurance that He still loves me, He has not left me, His promises are still true, that I’m still worthy of love, I am enough, I am not too much, and that my PURPOSE IS STILL INTACT. We cannot hang our hearts on others nor put our confidence in people. People disappoint, and your response should not be based on the person or the thing that hurt you. Let’s not give power to the enemy through how our flesh wants to respond. Empower your spirit by responding with praise and thanksgiving.
You can always tell where your foundation lies based on how you respond and react to life’s circumstances. If your foundation is in Christ Jesus, the firm foundation, you will not waver, and your heart will not harden. Instead, your response will be joy and the pouring out of your worship and praise onto our Heavenly Father. When you worship in the weather, it doesn’t mean it didn’t hurt, it doesn’t mean it wasn’t terrible, and it doesn’t mean you can’t cry or want to throw a chair across the room. (Healthy ways of dealing are important, folks!!) But when you choose to worship, it loosens the enemy’s grip, it gives your heart permission to accept the oil of joy instead of mourning - because if your hands are lifted high in praise - you can give your wounded heart permission to let go of the pain and place it in the hands of the Pain Reliever. He loves to have your worship, along with your tears; and through it all, He is faithful and just.
Romans 12:12 "Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer."
There were a lot of answered prayers in 2019; followed by people walking away, crushed hopes, and promises being unfulfilled. But Hebrews 10:23 says, “Let us hold unswervingly [and maintain] the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.” This is my scripture for 2020. I’m hanging my heart on His faithfulness and truth. To maintain an unwavering faith in Jesus and the promises He has for me!
I don’t know what horrible things happened to you last year. Perhaps, you’ve had to conjure up “the power of enduring an unpleasant or difficult situation without giving way” just like me. I know that God will provide the revelation to you in His timing; and like the widow with the oil, your faith will not only give you enough to get through, but there will be an abundance left over to sustain you for life. Behind a closed door is the incentive and empowerment to choose Christ, the author and finisher of our faith.
Could you treat your closed doors as a blessing and an opportunity to be the trusting, empty vessel, He longs to pour into? #BeEncouraged
Scripture: 2 Kings 4