Need a Break?

Can I ask, have you been resting with the Lord?

In my time of prayer, the Lord reminded me, as I learned last week, that He is the Lord of the Sabbath (Mark 2:28) and that He has gifted us with times and seasons of rest.

It all dawned on me this morning when I stood up from prayer; I could see God’s will confronting my own. On a Saturday morning, what was I heading to do after prayer? I was going to dive straight into my work email (what a trap)! Right then and there, the Lord reminded me of who He is- the Lord of the Sabbath. I am expected to rest in Him and with Him.

As I reflect upon my week, I have noticed that I have developed a new habit of starting work early and ending work later at night- even to the point of using my down time to mentally prepare my to-do list for the next day!

The Lord began to show me my terrible habit of filling my days with work, school, sometimes choosing to take on too many bible studies at one time. I have this habit of always filling myself up to the max! And the Lord is reminding me to be strategic with my days, so that I can be fruitful in my work, in my vocation and in my spiritual life.

I pray that you too are resting with our Lord and allowing Him to order your days. I pray that you experience an even greater sense of peace and contentment today and even into your most busiest seasons of life.

Becoming

I cannot believe this is happening! I remember the night before anything big was to happen, I would be so incredibly nervous. But now look at me; I’m calm, and relaxed, totally copasetic.

I know I’m called to speak. Besides the fact that this has been confirmed through people; I know this because it’s like the only thing I do that makes me feel alive, in control and most true to myself. I see that people are touched by my words and through my voice. But truth is, it’s not me working magic. It’s actually Christ operating through me! That’s it. I yield my will to His and He operates through me. It’s an arrangement we have, that you can have too!

So tomorrow I lead my first in-depth bible study on the book of Mark. Not a big deal for some, but for me it is. I just cannot wait to see who I evolve into after 5 years of leading and studying.

What do you feel is your purpose? How do you know? Who are you becoming?

Fear

COVID-19 has me in my bible like it’s nobody’s business! I’ve always wished for more time but could never find it. Either I was caught up with work, family, or other obligations that I could never do what I actually wanted to do. So while COVID-19 has signified many things to many different people, for me, it has represented peace; peace to do what I wanted to do when I wanted to do them. This is how I found myself in the word; literally tearing it a part after such a long season of secretly wishing I had more time. What are you secretly wishing you could do? And how can you begin to steward that desire? For me, I currently find myself digging for jewels…and the more I dig, the more I want.

Precept Ministries has been such a blessing to me because it has taught me to study the word of God for myself. I didn’t realize you actually don’t need a Theological degree to read, study and understand the word of God. Even though I greatly value education- a theological degree at that, it should not have been an excuse for me to run away from studying the bible. Rather, it should have compelled me to dig even more! To this day I am stunned and feeling slightly guilty for not engaging with the scriptures in the way God has called me to.

In my digging, I found God speaking to me, probing me to start a bible class. As always, I was giving Him some kind of excuse like; ” Yes, I think that’s a great idea God, just after a few more studies- that way I feel more knowledgeable.” How ironic that after studying the book of Judges, which heavily focuses on idolatry, that I find myself holding onto knowledge as a crutch, needing it to stand on, holding onto knowledge as if it were my idol! This classic excuse had me thinking, ‘what am I really afraid of? What is holding me back? Why is this thing that God is urging me to do causing so much discomfort? Why am I scared?’

Why are we afraid?

It’s such a loaded question. What is it about fear that jolts us back? What is it about fear that paralyzes us; keeps us stuck; inhibits us from moving forward?

Just as the disciples were asked, I ask you: Do you know who God is?

Take a moment to reflect on your life. Who do you know God to be or Who has He personally proven Himself to be? In your answer, is that specific characteristic not greater than what you fear?

For the disciples on the boat in Mark 4, they had seen Jesus preform miracles before. They saw Him heal the sick, and feed thousands with two loaves and three fish; but on this boat, they were introduced to the God of Creation. This was a God they had not known. And it caused them to be terribly afraid! More afraid of the storm itself.

When fear arises, we should be asking, ‘what is this fear indicating? And what is it rooted in?’

For the disciples, this fear indicated that they weren’t prepared to see such a display of force. In verse 40 of Mark 4, when Jesus asks them, ‘why are you afraid?’, that word afraid points to a cowardly disposition, but the word afraid in verse 41 points to a standard that had exceeded their expectations because of how large or how great it was. In other words, when Jesus told the wind and sea to hush, and it obeyed; that force displayed was so large or great that it far exceeded their expectations. It’s that Jesus and that level of authority, they did not recognize! Their original fear was rooted in unbelief; but the fear that followed was provoked by a recognition of God’s deity. When Jesus calmed the storm, it blew the disciples out of the water. It far exceeded their expectations of what they knew Jesus could do. Out of this awe, came the fear of God.

What are you so afraid of? Must it not bow to the authority and deity of God? I had to ask myself these hard questions.

Often times, fear is symptomatic of our trust in something or someone outside of God.

@msmochambers

I was afraid because in my leading of a study, it would reveal that I’m not as knowledgeable in the word as I’d like to be. I was afraid of being asked a question and not being able to answer it. I was afraid that I didn’t know enough cross-references, enough bible stories and enough theological principles to lead women towards God. I was afraid of simply not knowing enough.

But if I was to be really honest, my fear was showing that I trusted and valued the opinions of people more than I trusted God.

Once I got a hold of that revelation, I then asked, ‘must the opinions of people not bow to the authority and deity of God?’ The answer is yes. So then why wouldn’t I put my complete trust in Him?

The following week, I signed up to be a bible study leader. I posted on Instagram my upcoming class and the time and I began to prepare for my first online study on fear.

Here’s what I didn’t know.

I didn’t know how impacting my yes would be. The women that joined all shared how much they enjoyed studying together and how they appreciated that I chose to lead this class. What they didn’t know, was that my yes almost became a no. And because I chose to walk in obedience to the nudge in my heart, I latter learned that one of the ladies’ husbands, who struggled with alcohol, drugs and a gambling addiction would hang around and listen in; insisting that she would turn up the volume because he wanted to hear what we’d be sharing together as a group. He would never otherwise show up in a bible study class in a church building, but to hide in a corner while his wife participated in a study online, that he could do! Needless to say, he was disappointed that our 7-week study had come to an end.

How amazing that God would use the yes of an insecure woman to plant seeds of the word of God into the lukewarm heart of a husband! Could you imagine what He do if you simply decided to confront your fears and walk in obedience to Him? I dare you to give it a try!

A Dream, a Vision or a Goal. So what?

I was in the middle of constructing a program for girls when an inner voice spoke to me saying, “These aren’t just girls with a dream Monique, they’re visionaries!” You see, it’s one thing to dream or to simply hope for something, because that’s what a dream is- the creation of the imagination or a state of mind marked by a release from reality; but it’s a whole other thing to see what’s not yet in existence. According to Marriam- Webster dictionary, a vision is the power of seeing: a supernatural appearance that conveys a revelation. 

God was probing me to empower these girls to be more than merely a dreamer. And this is exactly what He wants for you and I, to not only create things by using our imagination; rather, He wants us to see what He sees so that we can live the revelation!

The word ‘see’ in the greek is “beten” and it relates to this idea of seeing from a hollow place; the belly, the womb or womb of the spirit. It means seeing from within. Vision then looks at seeing the intangible or the invisible to perceive the will of God for our life. 

People think that vision is something that comes from the top of our head. When really, vision should be coming from within! We should be pulling out God’s vision for our lives from within by using our spiritual discernment. 

The Bible reminds us that we are only able to see and know in part (1 Cor 13:12). We’re only shown part of the picture. But God sees and knows the details of the entire picture. This is why it’s not ‘a vision’, but it’s ‘the vision’ for our life.

“I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out, plans to take care of you, not to abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for (Jeremiah 29:11 MSG).” 

Since God has the blueprint for our lives and sees the future that we hope for, it only makes sense that we go to the Father to retrieve the vision.

Carve out some quiet time and then go ahead and ask, Lord, what is your vision for my life? Show me in detail what you want for me. Be diligent about seeking Him. Then quiet your voice and your spirit to listen. He will answer you, I promise! Everything He shows you, because more than likely it will be through visual imagery or words- write it down. This is important because the answer may not come all at once. It might come over the course of days, weeks or even months. But be patient and be diligent. It will come!

Once the vision is revealed, create tangible stepping stones- the goals and the markers for EACH area of your life. Yes, God is concerned about every detail of your life! Without knowing the terminal points for which you must direct your effort, you will never move towards your God-given vision. 

Don’t let this year be like past years. Align your faith and direct your effort towards your God-given vision, in spite of how things may appear! 

Feel free to share in the comments below. What do you see for yourself? What steps do you need to take; or have you missed?

Lessons from the Pulpit Part Two: Positioning our Heart

I’d like to believe that I am a lot more humble and selfless than I actually am. I’d like to believe that I think of others more than I think about myself. As kind and gentle as I am towards people, and as comfortable as I make others feel who come into my home or church for the first time; truth is, I am not as humble as I’d like to be. And I didn’t realize this until I recently took stock of the attitude of my heart.

Paul says in Philippians 2:3-4 “Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others more important than yourselves. Everyone should not only look out for his own interests, but also for the interests of others (HCSB).” 

HOW DO WE VIEW OTHERS OUTSIDE OF OURSELVES?

This not only begs the question, do we treat others better than ourselves? But it’s really asking, do we look, view or consider ALL people as more important than ourselves? This is a completely different question, because we could do right before others, but in our hearts, we view them as unworthy of our treatment

It’s time we take stalk of our attitude of heart.

As I was embarking on a new ministry opportunity, this scripture resonated with me, because the requirement of the position was to minister to sex workers- which by the way, was one thing. But it was a whole other thing to provide visitations to their homes, massage parlours and strip clubs. This was wayyyy beyond my comfort zone! Immediately, I became scared and rejected the entire idea.

But then God convicted me.

As ministers of the gospel, must we be in a comfortably cozy environment to share The Good News? Is there an extent to whom we minister? And is there a limit to the extension of our helping hand?

When I think about Christ, I am reminded that He is the Son of the Most High God. Clothed in His deity, Christ being equal to God, emptied Himself to assume the position of a slave (Phil 2: 6-7). And He took on the likeness of man to walk the earth with some of the most rejected people of society; prostitutes, the sick and the dying.

Yet we, who have earned no position of authority nor honour, restrict ourselves to what is most convenient and most comfortable!

Why is this the case? What is it about me or what is it about my upbringing that has caused me to think this way? What experiences am I lacking that would help me understand the experiences of others more?

I had to ask myself these big questions. Who am I to judge others?

I am reminded of Jonah who did not want God to show compassion to a people who he thought were undeserving. He had one mission. And he could not complete that mission with a humble and compassionate heart. As a matter of fact, God questions Jonah and asks, “Do you have a good reason to be angry? (4:4)” I want to re-frame this question by asking;

“Do we have a good reason to judge others?”

I pray that our attitudes become like that of Christ’s- who was willing to give up everything; His status, His comfort and His honour for a greater cause that you and I may become beneficiaries of the Gospel. May we position our hearts to a low place, a place of humility that we may truly demonstrate this glorious Good News!

Amen

Lessons from the Pulpit: Plug into the Power Source

I once heard a man say, “If Jesus was to visit some of our churches today, we’d have to give Him a complete orientation. We’d have to explain to Him what an usher is, why we have a board of directors, and help Him become a bit more acquainted with our Sunday morning program; our 4 songs, prayer, offering and sermon…” I literally burst out laughing when I first heard this because really, a lot of what we do is out of religion not out of necessity.

While this post is not intended to critique the church, because I do understand the need for some of our programs as it relates to the day and age we live in; I really want to get into the condition of the heart for those of us who serve in ministry.

Firstly, when I think about Jesus, I think about a man who was always about His Father’s business (Luke 2:49).  For Him, God was a priority. Numerous times in scripture we see Jesus isolating Himself from the regular rhythms of life to spend time in the presence of God (Matthew 14:13Mark 1:35Mark 6:45-46Mark 14:32-34Luke 4:42Luke 5:16Luke 6:12Luke 9:18John 6:15).

Now silence and solitude might feel uncomfortable at first, especially when we turn on the news in the morning or at night and all we see is doom and gloom. Truth is, silence and solitude is a form of meditation. And what meditation is, is time spent orientating our hearts and minds towards a specific thought or ideal. Studies show that people who take the time to meditate throughout their day are happier; living fuller intentional lives, then those who do not. Given this definition, why would we not orient our hearts and minds towards our Source; not just once or twice, but right throughout our day? Especially first thing in the morning.

Today, I name God the Father our Source, because when we look at the life of Jesus and how effective He was right through out His day, the Bible tells us that on His way, miracles were happening! He may have had an intended assignment but on His way to His destination, a woman with an issue of blood was healed (Matt 9:20-22); and on another occasion, 10 lepers were healed and transformed (Luke 17: 12- 16a). I could go on and on but the fact of the matter remains, Jesus was plugged into His Power Source; His Heavenly Father, which made Him just as effective as He was. 

How incredible would it be if we were regularly plugged into our Power Source? This would enable God’s power to move through us on our way to our intended assignments.

Could you imagine the kinds of testimonies that would arise?

@msmochambers

You see, Jesus had insight. He knew that if He was going to make a mark on this earth, and if He was going to prove Himself to be The Way, The Truth and The Light, He would have to be plugged into His Source.

As believers, the only outlet we have today is in Jesus Christ. It is through Him that we have access to the Source. I challenge you to plug into Him daily- and right throughout your day, to retrieve the kind of ‘God power’ you will need to make a mark on this earth and within your ministry. Let the Source recharge, refuel and renew your passion for what ministry is truly about. 

Define Your Life

While sitting around eating lunch, I found this quote which says,

I don’t want to get to the end of my life and find that I just lived the length of it. I want to have lived the width of it as well.

Diane Ackerman, Poet

Isn’t that the truth? If most of us were to be honest, we would agree that merely living is not enough. Rather, most of us want to live meaningful lives. Most of us want to live prosperous lives!

But what does living a prosperous life mean to us personally?

When hearing the word prosperity, ideas around money, power or fame naturally come to mind. Rarely do we define prosperity by taking into account the prosperity of our souls. Why is that? Perhaps it is because we are humans- mortal beings that cannot help but focus on the external, the physical and the flesh.

The Bible says in Proverbs 27:20, “Death and destruction are never satisfied, and neither are human eyes.” We have this tendency to always look to gratify our flesh, but the problem is that our flesh is never satisfied!

Think about it…

If you were to buy a car today, I guarantee you after about 3 months or so, when the new car scent has faded, you would be looking to see what’s new on the market. Nothing is wrong with the one you’ve got, but as time passes, your mind begins to wonder- looking to the next best thing. We do this with people, places and things; we move onto the next best thing. Why, because our flesh is never satisfied.

This is why it is so dangerous to relegate our understanding of prosperity merely to outward measures or by the accumulation of things. This kind of prosperity focuses on getting, rather than giving.

And so, people who define prosperity by this ideal- always needing to get a newer car, home, position etc., cheat themselves out of life. They often spend their days working long hours, stepping on others to move up the corporate ladder or by compromising themselves in different ways trying to get ahead. These people who focus on the acquisition of things always end up neglecting their families, relationships, and even their health just to fill a temporary void- a void that will come back again because it will always need refilling.

Why? Because the flesh is never satisfied. 

Our personal definition of prosperity must take our internal needs into account for the prosperity of our souls. 

How would you define prosperity? For you, what does it mean to live a prosperous life? Are you so focused on the external; the accumulation of things, that you’ve neglected the internal or experiences as a marker of cause?

Today, I pray that your personal definition of prosperity reflects God’s view over the world’s. He doesn’t want you to merely live the length of life, He wants you to live the width of life too!

Religion, Yuck!

I’ve always hated the idea of religion. I just think, too many rules, too many mandates and just too many important people!

So as I began this journey on getting to know God for myself through the scriptures, my ideas around religion is shifting.

These days I’ve been enjoying the book of James during my devotional time. And as I was going through, James 1:27 really hit me which says;

Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

James 1:27

The first thing that struck me while reading this is the first line: pure and undefiled religion. What is that? For many of us who grew up in church, we have adopted so many ways that we consider normal; or that we believe is even scriptural. For example, I was brought up in a household where my mother refrained from wearing a wedding ring for the longest time. As a matter of fact, she, many years later after all of us were born, went out and bought her own wedding ring to wear. I remember one day asking my mother as a young girl why my father didn’t initially buy her one? Her reply was, “The church didn’t believe in it at the time”. I cannot stress how much the church influences peoples ideas of the bible, our walk with the Lord or even our ideas about God Himself. And rightfully so! It should…as a matter of fact, it’s one of the purposes of the church. However, it becomes problematic when the church presents false ideas, ideals or even doctrines (intentionally or not) about God and His purpose for His people.

Religion isn’t about the external. It doesn’t focus on what we can or cannot wear. Rather, it focuses on how we purposefully care for others

@msmochambers

This being said, contrary to popular opinion or what some of us have learned over the years,

  • Pure and undefiled religion is for the eyes of God
  • Pure and undefiled religion creates a sense of belonging for those in distress
  • Pure and undefiled religion cultivates acceptance in a divisive world

This is powerful because often times, we have our own ideas of what religion should be or shouldn’t be. But James is urging us to keep ourselves unstained by the world; through secularism or by any other standard or expectation that is outside of the framework God has outlined as religion.

Therefore, as Paul writes to the church in Rome, which is reiterated by James earlier on in the same chapter above, to not be hearers of the Law but also doers (Rm 2:13). And the Word of God says [by Jesus Himself actually],

‘For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You? The King will answer and say to them, “Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.”

(Matt 25:35-40 NASB)

Again, pure and undefiled religion is about how we purposefully care for others.

  • Before reading these scriptures, what was your understanding of religion?
  • Has anything changed or shifted in your understanding?
  • If someone was interested in being a part of your religion, what would they see? In other words, how are you living out what you believe?

The Messed Up ‘Cookie-Cutter’ Life

Never in a million years did I think I’d be the one. I never thought I’d fit into the role of a minister. Maybe someone else, maybe someone more qualified, but certainly not me!’

Those were my initial sentiments when I was called into the eldership role at my local church.

As feelings of ‘not qualified and not good enough’ began to roam my mind; I realized, indeed I had a problem on my hands…

I mean, why not me?

For as long as I could remember, the Man Upstairs and I have always had a relationship. Sure we’ve gone through seasons where I’ve been distant, but I can’t remember a day in my life where I’ve ever doubted His existence.

Going back, I could remember being very young having bold conversations with the Lord. The awareness of His omnipresence was evident to me; it was as if I knew He was right there next to me in the room. 

Growing up in a Christian home helped instill these values, ones that never seemed to have left me. Simple things like, “read your Bible and pray every day so you will grow, grow, grow…” was a song that rang in my heart. Even today, it dictates my daily practices.

And can I tell you how many books on prayer, how to study the bible, how to become a woman after God’s own heart, concordances or other biblical resources I have coming out of my ears; all because they happen to be of interest to me. I have so many books, my poor library can barely contain them all!

I have this burning desire to grow- to ever become a better person, the best I can be! And this same message I desire others to have. 

I know it may not be what a conventional person may want, let alone pursue, but it is my deepest desire. It truly is.

Now, inspite of how spiritually perfect this blog post is beginning to make me sound; don’t get it twisted, I was not at the least bit perfect. Nope, not at all! 

Actually, I’ve always been and remain quite far from it.

I have made so many terrible mistakes in my teens and early adulthood that I couldn’t even begin to tell you how much the Lord has worked on me…and continues to work on me!

POINT OF THE MATTER IS, WE ARE ALL LIVING PROOF OF GOD’S GRACE AND HOW NECESSARY HIS GRACE IS FOR OUR CALL. 

Most of us, if not all of us, fail to live the perfectly cookie cutter life. We just can’t, we’re humans! But that does not in the least bit disqualify us from being called or from walking out the call God’s placed on our lives. 

Sometimes we forget that God calls us, even before we recognize the call within ourselves. The Bible says, before we knew Him, He knew us and intricately mapped out our lives (Psalms 139). The call was placed on our lives before we knew Christ. And according to Romans 8, He called us knowing that He’d need to justify our wrong doings and all of our inadequacies so that we could be counted in, not out. In justifying us, God is glorified through us! 

So here we are. We’re all ministers! You don’t need a piece of paper or title to qualify you. Certainly these help the congregation or others around you to recognize what you already know in and of yourself. But really, God’s already qualified you with an irrefutable calling!  

Therefore, I don’t have to be perfect, nor do you! We need to recognize the grace of God on our lives and live just that- live in the consciousness of His grace by way of His call. In doing this, others will see Christ and be drawn to Him. 

Plainly put, that’s our role as ministers. 

So again, why not me? Better yet, why not you?