1“Be careful to obey all the commands I am giving you today. Then you will live and multiply, and you will enter and occupy the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors. 2 Remember how the Lord your God led you through the wilderness for these forty years, humbling you and testing you to prove your character, and to find out whether or not you would obey his commands. 3 Yes, he humbled you by letting you go hungry and then feeding you with manna, a food previously unknown to you and your ancestors. He did it to teach you that people do not live by bread alone; rather, we live by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. 4 For all these forty years your clothes didn’t wear out, and your feet didn’t blister or swell. 5 Think about it: Just as a parent disciplines a child, the Lord your God disciplines you for your own good.
6 “So obey the commands of the Lord your God by walking in his ways and fearing him. 7 For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land of flowing streams and pools of water, with fountains and springs that gush out in the valleys and hills. 8 It is a land of wheat and barley; of grapevines, fig trees, and pomegranates; of olive oil and honey. 9 It is a land where food is plentiful and nothing is lacking. It is a land where iron is as common as stone, and copper is abundant in the hills. 10 When you have eaten your fill, be sure to praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you.
11 “But that is the time to be careful! Beware that in your plenty you do not forget the Lord your God and disobey his commands, regulations, and decrees that I am giving you today.
As human beings, there is a fragility that we carry within our existence that makes us forget easily. We tend to focus on what is next, and desire to move on to the next big thing. This human nature may cause us to miss important moments in our lives, when God shows Himself strong and mighty.
It is the desire of God to see us prosperous. God wants us to multiply and grow in the blessings He has bestowed upon us as we willingly obeying Him. The Lord continues to reveal Himself to us through everything we do or experience.
Remove the notion or mentality that God desires to see you suffering or going around and around in cycles. He is not rejoicing over your bondage and hardship, but has provided a way of escape through His word and by the willful power of your obedience.
Your mind can begin to play tricks and games on you, to make you think that you are so minute in the presence of God, and your destiny is insignificant in the grand scheme of things. That is not true. The Lord desires His provision, blessings and sustenance to outlive you, and touch the next generations.
Simply said, it is a compliment to God when you are living your best life. That is what He desires for you. Remind yourself today, you are blessed, things are working out for your good, and obeying God wholeheartedly is a heritage that will yield more profits to you than losses.
I would like to take this time to thank you, for the blessings you have bestowed upon my life over the years. Sometimes I lose focus and wallow in self-pity because I am constantly reviewing what I do not have, or criticizing myself for what I have not yet done. I receive the reminder that I have the power to change my life, by the power of obedience, free will, trusting, and believing your word.
I desire to have a legacy that testifies to your faithfulness in my life. Let me desire the blessed life, and be willing and obedient to follow the pathway of righteousness. This is my heart’s desire, beginning today.
You’re going to rebel once you get to college,” they said to me.
“They” were my high school friends. I was always the Goody Two-Shoes of the group and they always let me know just how weird I was and just how much they hoped I would change my ways. My friends believed that I was a Goody Two-Shoes because my mom was strict. She had very specific guidelines about with whom and where I could socialize when I was in high school. While I thought some of the rules were a little extreme, as all teenagers do, I mostly understood and always respected them.
However, it wasn’t the rules that kept me disciplined. It was me.
Well, it was actually the Holy Spirit. I just didn’t know it back then.
While I’m grateful for my mother’s rules, and even plan to repeat many of them with my own children to ensure their safety, I wasn’t interested in being a rebellious child in the first place. I had zero interest in parties. I never desired to take a drink. Sneaking out of the house was not on my radar. I loved to study. I was completely obsessed with being in the band and on the speech team. My idea of a good time was diving into a good book and grabbing a white chocolate mocha from the local Caribou Coffee. To put it frankly, I was genuinely uninterested in what a lot of other teens were into. I never understood why kids my age were interested in certain activities and substances that would jeopardize their health and safety for a few fleeting moments of fun. It just wasn’t worth it to me.
Fast forward to college.
To be honest, I was so nervous about college for this very reason. I knew that the college atmosphere was about drinking, partying, and being as irresponsible as possible with your newfound freedom. I figured I’d struggle making friends due to my “Goody Two-Shoes” nature. Who wants to hang out with the girl who would rather read a book than go to a party?
I was right.
When many of my college peers found out that I wasn’t into going to the club on Friday night, they showed no interest in pursuing a friendship. Others befriended me, but they also tried to make it their mission to get me to engage in certain activitiesthat I was not comfortable with. They were convinced that I was too uptight and “just needed to loosen up a bit.” Eventually, I was the one walking away from those friendships.
Thankfully, I found some friends who accepted me for who I was, but I couldn’t help but wonder what was it about me that wasn’t interested in what everyone else my age was interested in?
Let’s be real here. Your college years and your twenties are known for happy hours, going to the club, random hookups, and the like. Yet, not only was I uninterested in the typical idea of fun, it actually made me feel rather uncomfortable and I avoided it at all costs. The big question I couldn’t answer at the time was, “why?”
When I was 16, I began slowly pursuing a relationship with Christ. I started to learn even more about Jesus as I matriculated through college. During my senior year, I completely surrendered my life to Christ. My heart was all-in and I never looked back.
The stronger my faith grew, the more disciplined I became in my thinking and my actions. However, I didn’t make the connection at the time between my faith and my personality. I thought my personality was just one that didn’t identify with the same thought patterns and behaviors as many other people I knew.
“Therefore we were buried with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too may walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in the likeness of his death, we will certainly also be in the likeness of his resurrection. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be rendered powerless so that we may no longer be enslaved to sin, since a person who has died is freed from sin” (Romans 6:4–7, BSB).
The beauty of a relationship with Christ is that we get to walk in freedom. I think sometimes this freedom gets taken for granted. It doesn’t always feel like a super spiritual feeling that we may have imagined it to be. We may not feel like we are floating on air, dancing in the fields with butterflies, and smiling from ear to ear on a daily basis. In fact, many of our days will be challenging, stressful, and mundane. That does not negate the fact that we are still walking in freedom. Freedom from sin, freedom from the Law, freedom for our future, and freedom to walk in the fruit of the Spirit.
Walking in this freedom may look like a loss of interest in certain activities as the Holy Spirit reveals to you their sinful nature. Walking in freedom might also look like a newfound discipline in the habits you set for yourself and the goals you desire to accomplish. Perhaps this freedom looks like a care for your future that you didn’t have before. Prior to Jesus, you were living day by day, taking life as it came, without much of a plan for tomorrow. Now, you look forward to the future and align your daily actions with that hope.
I was baptized when I was 16. I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior, but my 16-year-old brain didn’t understand the vastness of the freedom that I was walking in. All I knew was that my thought process and desires were much different than those of my peers. I couldn’t explain why, but I was confident in my choices. While others described my discipline to be restrictive, I found my discipline to be the most freeing thing ever, and I still do. The choices I made 10 years ago have resulted in abundant fruit as I enter middle adulthood. By following Christ, I am not a slave to the consequences of poor choices I could have made when I was younger. Seeing the fruits of my labor motivates me to continue with a more disciplined lifestyle now because I know that I will continue to bear fruit as I get older.
I’m now a 30-something year-old married mama of two little girls and the need for discipline is even more prevalent today than it was 10 years ago, but for different reasons. It’s easy to feel like children, discipline, routines, structure, etc., take away the freedom from your life. Adulthood reminds you that the ways of your younger years just don’t cut it anymore. The donuts you ate for breakfast show consequences around your midsection and at your next doctor’s visit. The late nights you once tolerated in your twenties result in poor job performance the next day when you’re in your thirties. As a parent, your life now revolves around the needs of your children. You lay down your selfish desires to serve your family. You wish you could have more time to yourself, but your children need to eat lunch. All of these realities can, understandably, make you long for those younger years that “felt freer” than the ones you are living in.
Much like submission to Christ results in freedom from sin, submission to the discipline that is required of adulthood results in freedom from the long-term consequences that lack of discipline will result in.
Discipline is freeing.
The Christian life is freeing.
But we must value the result of freedom more than the short-term pleasures of sin.
The fruit you will bear as a result will always be worth it.
In the first year of King Cyrus of Persia,[a] the Lord fulfilled the prophecy he had given through Jeremiah. He stirred the heart of Cyrus to put this proclamation in writing and to send it throughout his kingdom:
2 “This is what King Cyrus of Persia says:
“The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth. He has appointed me to build him a Temple at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. 3 Any of you who are his people may go to Jerusalem in Judah to rebuild this Temple of the Lord, the God of Israel, who lives in Jerusalem. And may your God be with you! 4 Wherever this Jewish remnant is found, let their neighbors contribute toward their expenses by giving them silver and gold, supplies for the journey, and livestock, as well as a voluntary offering for the Temple of God in Jerusalem.”
5 Then God stirred the hearts of the priests and Levites and the leaders of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin to go to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple of the Lord. 6 And all their neighbors assisted by giving them articles of silver and gold, supplies for the journey, and livestock. They gave them many valuable gifts in addition to all the voluntary offerings.
7 King Cyrus himself brought out the articles that King Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the Lord’s Temple in Jerusalem and had placed in the temple of his own gods. 8 Cyrus directed Mithredath, the treasurer of Persia, to count these items and present them to Sheshbazzar, the leader of the exiles returning to Judah.
There are particular trials or situations that we deal with for such a long time, that it becomes a part of us. We connect and identify with the issue, wake up and go to bed with it, add it to our schedules and regular life, because that is all we know. We have never seen what life would be like, without it.
The danger we face when this happens, is we never prepare for what life will be like when we are free of this trial or situation. When the time of liberation happens, we can end up having withdrawal symptoms, missing the trial because we were so accustomed to the dysfunction it created in our lives.
There is a reason why God identifies Himself as the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. The ending of a thing is just as powerful as its genesis. It symbolizes finality, the ushering of a new season, the conclusion of what was.
As a believer, there are certain things you should desire to end in your life. We were not created for constant bondage and captivity. To refuse to yearn for freedom is equivalent to the belief that we are serving God out of routine and religiosity, not out of the faith that He is able to deliver. When was the last time you truly believed and asked God for deliverance, and expected that He would do it?
Ezra 1 is a powerful chapter that depicts the timing of God and the power He has over the hearts of those in leadership. God is so true to His word, that He touched the heart of a king to release the children of Israel who were in captivity, so that a word He had released to the Prophet Jeremiah years before would be fulfilled.
Do not give up on any prophetic word that you received from the Lord. He is not a liar, it may not manifest the way you want it to, or when you think it is supposed to, but it will come to pass
Renew your mind daily, to ensure you are not in double captivity. It is one thing to constantly deal with your trial, but another, to invite that trial to become bondage in your mindset. You begin to believe that you are worthy of the captivity, and in the moment liberation comes, you may detest freedom, because your mind is bound
Survive if you have to, but do not quit. The blessing of surviving after a storm is the evidence that you are an overcomer. Living in survival mode and becoming a survivor mean different things. To become a survivor is a sign of victory. You endured something that should have broken you, but you made it to the other side. Living in survival mode is a mindset that makes you believe there is nothing better out there for you, and there is no point in trying. You live life to just make sure you are alive, not living life because you are alive
When your captivity ends, worship and thank God because His deliverance has come. Do not allow yourself to become bitter and angry because of the years you have spent dealing with the trials and tribulations. It is not easy, and you will hurt and cry sometimes, but do not become bitter. Bitterness will blind you, and corrode you with anger. When freedom comes, your hope will have been tainted and all you will have is regret
Captivity has an end date, and the trial you are facing today, has a season that God has called “End”. Do not give up, do not stop praying, remember He is faithful, and He is watching His word to perform it in your life.
Today, give me the heart of a child, to pray and share with you where it hurts. Let me not assume that you are not powerful enough to deliver me. Forgive me, for placing my situation at a higher place of focus than the power of your love for me. You will save me, you will deliver me, you will favor me, you will release me from every captivity, because you are a good God, and you keep your word. Remind me today, I serve a God of pure integrity, and revive my faith and hope in you that this trial, has an expiration date. This too, shall come to pass, and I will live to testify of your goodness towards me.
As you lay in your bed at night, maybe you feel a sharp, persistent pain in your chest that will not leave. Or perhaps it is a sunken feeling in your stomach that feels like you swallowed a golf ball. For another person, it might be an inability to click the off-switch on your thoughts. Like waves, one thought continually crashes over the other until, eventually, it feels like you’re drowning in an ocean of thoughts that you cannot escape. Still, for another, the opposite may be true. Instead of a flood of thoughts, there is an obsession or a constant preoccupation with a single thought. Whatever it feels like for you, we have all felt it. It’s worry. It is one of many things that God warns us against, and yet, countless people still wrestle with this feeling on a daily basis.
For me, worrying was a way of life. In the morning, I would lie awake in bed and work myself up over all that I had to do that day. As I dwelled on the what-ifs, I could feel my heart pounding in my chest as it beat faster and faster. What if I fail? What if the money never comes in? What if I drop the ball? What if they don’t like me? What if I’m not as intelligent as they say I am? What if my child gets sick? The shackles of worry became so familiar to me that I did not realize I was bound by them. I had no concept of life without worry. As a result, I became dependent on my worry and anxiety, and I stopped depending on God. I relied on my endurance to overcome each day. I trusted my intelligence and my accomplishments to assure me of my future. I put my hope in measurable and calculated outcomes that I analyzed over and over in my mind. Slowly, my faith began to dwindle. Deep down, my heart was satisfied with wallowing in worry, and I started to think that God had left me stranded.
My story, and so many others, remind me of how God’s chosen people lost their faith even though God redeemed them from hundreds of years of oppression and slavery. When the Israelites were challenged by difficult circumstances, they worried and they complained. Their immediate reaction to trouble was not to trust God—instead they trusted their worries. When the Egyptians chased after them, they worried that they would die at the hand of their oppressors (Exodus 14:10-12). Two months after they escaped Egypt, they came to a wilderness and the waves of worry came crashing down on them again (Exodus 16:1-3). There was probably no food or water in sight and they all thought, what if we die out here? They complained to Moses and Aaron saying “You’ve brought us out into this wilderness to starve us to death, the whole company of Israel.” (Exodus 16:3 The Message). Like me, they became so comfortable in their fear and worry that they thought God had left them stranded to die.
Yet, it was not too long before that moment in the wilderness that God instructed his people to remember their redemption through the celebration of the Passover meal. Could it be that God instituted Passover because He knew the Israelites would succumb to their worries? Could it be that God knew that their worries would chip away at their faith, so He gave them a strategy to rebuild it? For the Israelites, Passover was their wake-up call. It was a reminder of God’s redemptive power, and if God could free them from slavery, He could save them from anything.
So, why worry? One could only speculate, what if the Israelites’ story would have unfolded differently? If they had clung to the story of their redemption instead of worrying, maybe they would not have crafted a powerless god made of gold. If they had remembered the day they were set free, maybe they would have mustered up enough faith to escape their worrying in the wilderness. If they had only remembered the meaning of their Passover meal, and the freedom that it represented, perhaps we would be reading a different story today.
Our story, however, is not finished. Every single day, when life’s troubles seem to be closing in on us, we have to make a choice—will we worry or will we remember? As we reflect on the Passover story and its representation of freedom, we should also remember our own redemption stories. I remember mine quite well. When I was a little girl, my parents thought I was going to die. After a severe allergic reaction, I laid on my parent’s bed in my childhood home, breathless. As my father administered CPR he cried out to God in his heart. He began to make plans for funeral arrangements and he thanked God for the six years that he spent with me. And then, as he retells the story to me, he heard a gentle voice affirmatively tell him that I was not going to die. Seconds later, I coughed—and then I took a breath. In my adulthood, I now often recall the day that God saved my life. I really mostly recall waking up in the hospital, because I was unconscious during the most severe moments of the allergic reaction. And when I awoke, I saw my mother and father by my side and they said to me, “You almost died.” When I think about that moment in time, it reminds me that God saved me, and my worries slowly begin to disintegrate. The pain in my chest goes away, and the waves of anxious thoughts transform into still waters of peace and clarity. Thinking back on my day of redemption freed me, and the freedom from worrying was in the remembering.Remember your day of redemption. Remember the day that God freed you. Remember the day He rescued you. Remember, and watch as your worries melt away into triviality.
Pentecost is only a few weeks away, and for many of us living through the pandemic we have lost track of important days. Amid negative news, racial unrest, and daily frustrations, there is more than enough reason for prayer. Today is the National Day of Prayer, but it is not on a lot of people’s calendars this year. The National Day of Prayer was instituted in 1952 by President Harry Truman and has continued for the past 69 years with various presidents, congress people, and other officials observing it each year. There is a non-profit organization called the National Day of Prayer Task Force that coordinates events surrounding the day with particular themes and bringing some unity to Christians observing the day.No matter the theme or who recognizes it, whether official or informal, it is always a good time to pray.
We all face challenges and we are always in need of God’s peace. It is enough to worry about what is going on in our homes, our classrooms, and our communities without having the constant worry of the world we are aware of through social media. Especially as black believers living in this moment, we are carrying more questions than answers. The world as we know it has been turned upside down, and not in a good way. Many of us are struggling to redefine our faith and feel connected to God and other people we haven’t felt present with in a long time.
Psalm 35:6 encourages everyone who is godly to pray at the acceptable time. The Apostle Paul encourages believers to pray without ceasing in 1 Thessalonians 5:17. Jesus tells His disciples a parable in Luke 18:1 to teach them to always pray and never give up.
Philippians 4:6-7 is one of the most well known passages about prayer in the Bible. Paul says:
6 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7 NLT)
This verse in Philippians reminds us that when we pray, the peace we will experience surpasses our understanding! It is peace that we feel, that we can rest in when nothing else makes sense.
I remember the days after my grandfather died of COVID were filled with worry, anger, sadness and frustration. There were so many barriers to getting answers, making arrangements, honoring the life of a man whose legacy I am living. When I realized I was doing worse than I expected I got a phone call from a friend. He had no idea what I was going through but asked could he pray for me. When he finished praying I felt the weight of the world lift from me. I couldn’t explain it, because I had just received peace that exceeded my understanding.
That same peace is available for all of us when we pray, and when we receive prayer from others. Take some time today to pray for yourself. Acknowledge something you are worrying about to God, He cares about all that concerns us. Then pray for someone else. Pray that God will meet them with His perfect peace. Reflect on the fact that today, you are praying alongside millions of Christians across the country. And may the peace of Christ will meet you in a way you do not have to fully understand to fully receive.