The rainbow was God’s promise to Noah that He would never again use a storm to wipe out the world. The rainbow is our reminder of the application of that promise in our own lives. The rainbow reminds us that our storms are temporary and they will not obliterate our hopes, our dreams, our futures or our destinies.  There is no storm that will ever wipe us out!

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Most recently, I have been lamenting over the significance of the human existence—both the brevity of life and the stench of death.  As Christians, we are taught that death is to be celebrated.  However, many of our celebratory instincts often wane when death is untimely and protracted.  In the era of digital news, it seems as though death is ubiquitous.  It could just be that even (or especially) in the digital era, the old journalism mantra of “If it bleeds it leads,’ still rules.   As such, the news cycles are often inundated with stories of tragedies, many of which we, as a society, have become immune.  The headlines are riddled with stories of murders, suicides, overdoses, illnesses and police brutality, just to name a few.  Although the loss of all human life is significant, none is more impactful to me that the loss of young life—the loss of someone who had yet to reach his or her prime—had yet to experience his or her “better days.”

 

The thought of untimely death has made me question and challenge God’s sovereignty and humanity.  Though I must confess, typing the word “humanity” made me chuckle.  I realized that in my quandary, I had somehow brought God down to my level.  I wanted His ways and His thoughts to be akin to mine.  I knew it was unreasonable and irrational, but I still felt that He owed me an explanation.  Like Job, I felt as though the Creator of the Universe owed me an explanation.   While my meditation did not yield quite the answer that I was looking for, it did provide a story of hope, which I will share with you below:

 

The Time is Closer Than You Think!

 

For eons, many have prophesied about the Last Days.  Each generation has cited turbulent times as evidence of impending doom.  Most recently, I have wondered what those day would look like.  For a glimpse into the future, I turned to Revelation, one of the most allegorical books in the Bible. Revelation 19:19 says, “Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to wage war against the rider on the horse and his army.”  The verse talked about Jesus returning with his army to wage battle.  Many Biblical scholars are divided between whether that army would consist of solely angels or a combination of angels and those that have gone before.   The thought made me wonder in merriment.

 

Today, there are approximately seven billion people walking the planet.  According to the Population Reference Bureau it is estimated that approximation 107 billion people ever lived.  I image that if a war was declared between the Heavens and Earth, Heaven’s armies would necessitate at least that many “soldiers.”  That’s a lot of angels!  The debate about the composition of Jesus’s army is a complex theological debate that is beyond the scope of this post.  However, I will explore that notion of what it would look like if Jesus’s army consisted of both saints and angels.

 

Disclaimer: The opinions presented below are simply conjecture provided to stimulate thought—a mental exercise.

 

Now that that is out of the way, here are my thoughts:  What if the end was closer that we thought?  What if the increase prevalence of youth mortality was actually a battle call?  What if those who died young were being called home early for a greater purpose—preparation for battle?  Maybe your 23-year-old son that lost his battle with cancer is now a general in the battle of Armageddon.  Maybe that 16-year-old that die in the car accident is now a comrade in Heaven’s army.  I would imagine that if Jesus’s army does consist of saints and angels, some “training” would be necessary.  Imagine if during the final battle, you saw your loved one dress in white linen at the battlefront.  Imagine how good you would feel to know that God has given you beauty for ashes.  While no one know the precision of God’s plan, we do know this:  God’s ways are not our ways and His thought are not our thoughts.  God’s plans might seem inexplicable and painful at times, but we have to trust that HE IS GOD and that He still sits on the throne.  Isaiah 61 (NIV) says:

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
    and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor.

They will rebuild the ancient ruins
and restore the places long devastated;
they will renew the ruined cities
that have been devastated for generations.
Strangers will shepherd your flocks;
foreigners will work your fields and vineyards.
And you will be called priests of the Lord,
you will be named ministers of our God.
You will feed on the wealth of nations,
and in their riches you will boast.

Instead of your shame
you will receive a double portion,
and instead of disgrace
you will rejoice in your inheritance.
And so you will inherit a double portion in your land,
and everlasting joy will be yours.

“For I, the Lord, love justice;
I hate robbery and wrongdoing.
In my faithfulness I will reward my people
and make an everlasting covenant with them.
Their descendants will be known among the nations
and their offspring among the peoples.
All who see them will acknowledge
that they are a people the Lord has blessed.”

10 I delight greatly in the Lord;
my soul rejoices in my God.
For he has clothed me with garments of salvation
and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness,
as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
11 For as the soil makes the sprout come up
and a garden causes seeds to grow,
so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness
and praise spring up before all nations.

 

Regardless of what the world has managed to throw our way, God will continue to give us beauty for ashes!

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What happened to human decency? There was a time when decorum played a vital role in our society. We thought before we spoke, and we actually considered the consequences of our words and actions.  Many blame the disappearance of valor on the advent of the Internet. But is the Internet the cause of society’s visceral conduct or is it simply a conduit? I am more inclined to lean towards the latter. There are many factors that are contributing to the implosion of our humanity, but today, we’ll focus on the Internet.

Here is a thought to ponder: The Fall of Man began with Adam and Eve’s decision to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.  Well, today, we could say that it seems as if history is repeating itself.  Our vehement pursuit of information has taken us into uncharted territory.

The Internet is laden with all sorts of information–some good; some bad.  However, the sheer presence of information does not always equate to knowledge.  Information is simply raw data.  Knowledge and wisdom is the prudent application of information and the distillation between fact, fiction and opinion.

One of the greatest reasons why the Internet serves a great conduit for the breakdown of decency is because it is anchored by anonymity.  Even when sites are hosted by well known companies, we never really know who sits behind the screen.  Almost every company and every individual has an Internet persona/alias. Social media platforms and website comment sections allow us to hide behind our usernames and spew our opinions under our veiled protection.

Like with anything else, anonymity, when used appropriately, could be beneficial. Whistleblowers and tipsters use anonymity to defend the truth and expose wrong doing. Not everyone is brave enough to oppose evil face-to-face, and that is okay.  In a functional society, we need these types of system in place to maintain order.  Anonymity has also been used to advance and prosper others.  For example, many well-intentioned, good people have made anonyomous donations and gestures for benevolent purposes.  While there are some benefits of anonymity, if we are not careful, it could be dangerous.

Anonymity = the state of being anonymous (secret, nameless, featureless, unidentifiable)

Loosely defined, anonymity is hiding or covering the truth (or a lie).

When something is covered, it is veiled. It is in a darkened state.  Darkness, by definition is the absence of light. Light is representative of truth, goodness and purity.  However, with anonymity, there is a temptation to stray from truth and honesty, which appeal to our primal affinity for darkness. The Internet’s inherent anonymity could potentially satiate our basic appetites for wickedness and cruelty.  Moreover, recent online cultures enable us to be reckless with our careless words because there is little accountability for those who hide behind the armour of user/screen names. In a rather paradoxical way, the anonymity provided by the Internet perpetuates self aggrandizement at the expense of common courtesy and decency. In fact, it’s easy to dehumanize others for shares and likes when we don’t have to look them in the eyes, or face any consequences. In today’s society the old adage, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words may never hurt me,” has never been further from the truth. Words are weighty and consequential. The power of life and death is in our words (the tongue).  Hopes, dreams, aspirations, failure, fatigue and suicides have all been triggered or ignited by words.

So what do we do? The truth is there is no easy, singular answer to yield a resuscitation of decency. However, a good start is individual accountability. Each person has to be responsible for his or her words and actions. While we might not be able to change anyone else, we can definitely change ourselves.

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Truer words have never been spoke. Sometimes, saying no is enough. Period!

I can’t believe that three weeks have already gone by.  Today is the last day of our 21-day journey together.  It has been such an amazing experience for me.  For those who have followed me for these past 21 days, I hope these posts have made an impact on you as well.  Today, I end the series with the most important lessons that I have learned on this journey:  Don’t be afraid to go it alone.  Sometimes, we have to learn to be our own best friend—our own cheerleader.

Earlier this week, I thought about the lives of David and Joseph.  Both of these two men were significantly used by God to impact His Kingdom, and yet both faced extended periods of isolation as God prepared them for greatness.  Joseph was sold into slavery and was later accused of rape, for which he was placed in prison.  David was initially overlooked for kingship, and then when selected he was persecuted by his predecessor, King Saul.  As I read about the lives of both of these great men, I wondered, where were their friends.  There was no recount of friends who tried to free Joseph from slavery or of those who had visited him in prison.  The same could also be said of David.  The only friend that the Bible mentioned was Jonathan, Saul’s son, and I wondered just how much he confided in him considering that he was the son of his archenemy.  Yes, both of these two men were isolated, and perhaps, lonely.  They had to learn to develop a deep reliance on God and a comfortability in their own skin.  They had to learn to be their own best friend.

God was intentional when He separated David and Joseph from the masses. In those moments of isolation, He taught them about faith, courage, strength, self-reliance, God-dependence, grace, humility and friendship.  I’m sure they learned a lot about friendship.  According to a very popular Internet quote, “In good times your friends know you, but in bad times you know your friends.”  One of the greatest lessons that David and Joseph probably learned during their period of isolation was discernment.  They not only learned to hear and recognize the voice and the will God, they also learned to recognized those things that were or were not in alignment with His will for their lives.  Yes, our periods of isolation, which we have all gone through or will go through, are difficult.  They are lonely.  They are depressing, but they are important.  It is important that God separates us from the noise and the distractions.  God’s voice is seldom heard over the noise and the chaos.  It’s often heard in a whisper.  Just ask Elijah:

“Go out and stand before me on the mountain,” the Lord told him. And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper,” (1 King 19:11-12).

God has amazing plans for all His children.  There are things on the heart of the Father that cannot be heard during the midst of chaos.  In order for God to reveal His plans, we have to be willing and prepared to spend moments alone, separated from the crowd.

That’s just the way I am!  You’re too judgmental!  Maybe you are just too picky?

Relationships are hard, both platonic and romantic.  They require work, sacrifices and compromises, especially since we are all broken, imperfect people with a suitcase filled with baggage.

It is impossible to navigate the world alone.  We all need friends.  “Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed.  If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble,” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, NLT).  With that said, we have to learn to choose our friends wisely.  Relationships should be supportive, encouraging and empowering.  The people in our lives should directly and indirectly champion us to become better versions of ourselves.  We are the company that we keep.  The Bible reminds us of that in 1 Corinthians 15:33: “Bad company ruins good character” (NLT).

Compromise is needed to make any relationship work, but it should never be license for mistreatment.  Yes, we should all accept people for what, who and where they are, but this does not mean that we have to accept what they are willing or capable of offering.  For example, if we are in a place in our lives where our emotional love tank needs to be filled at a level eight capacity in order to make us feel whole, loved and valued, and someone is only willing or able to give at a level two capacity, then it is within our right to terminate or reposition that relationship.  The problem is that oftentimes, people with relational deficiencies take offense to being reassigned.  They often say things like, “You should accept me the way I am” or “You’re being judgmental.”  Yes, it is true that we should accept people as is, and that we should not be judgmental, but it is equally true that we don’t have to accept what someone is giving us simply because they are unwilling or unable to give us more.  It doesn’t mean that they are bad people, nor does it mean that we are.  It just means that we not compatible at the particular moment, which could change in the future.  It is okay to say that we want and need more from our relationships.  It’s even okay to say that we deserve it.  We should be in relationships with people who allow us to make demands of them, and who are willing to make an attempt to meet our needs.  With that said, we must be willing and able to do the same.  We also must be okay with others telling us that we do not fulfill their relationship criteria.  Some relationships are seasonal, and maybe those seasonal relationships have run their course.  That’s also okay.

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Yesterday, was pretty dreary and soggy on my end of the world.  It had been gray for most of the day until about 8:30 p.m. when suddenly skies burst forth with the most radiant light.  It looked more like late afternoon than evening.  I rushed outside to catch a glimpse of the delayed sunset, but it was hidden behind the trees and the other houses.  Instead, I caught a glimpse of the most spectacular double rainbow.  It was God’s subtle reminder that He is always omnipresent, even during the midst of a storm.

Believing in God is difficult.  Our sinful nature is hostile towards God (Romans 8:7).  When it comes to faith, many of us struggle with some of the most rudimentary principles of Christianity: Does God exist?  If God does exist, could we trust him to do what he said he would do in the Bible?  If God does exist, is the Bible the true Word of God?  These are all heavily-loaded, spiritual questions, far too profound for the scope of this discussion.  However, I will say this, we all have made conscious decisions to place our faith in something or someone.  If any of us have ever driven on the highway or walked down the street, then we have faith.  We have faith that the highway will not collapse beneath us or that one of the thousands of cars on the street won’t skip the median and run us over as we stroll.  For some of us, the veracity of the object of our faith is irrelevant.  For others, we have to have empirical evidence of our faith.  Again, without going into too deep of a discussion, a lot of Christianity has been proven scientifically, archeologically and historically.  Nonetheless, there are some x-factors, unknown variables that have yet to be verified.  The same could be said of science.  There comes a point in both science and Christianity where some things just have to be taken as given—based on faith.

If we opt to believe that God does exist, there will come a point where we just have to trust that God is who He said He is and that He is going to do what He said He would do.  When we have gotten to the point in our lives where we’ve tried everything and all else has failed, why not try God?  It’s not my intention to reduce God to a plan B alternative, but why not take a chance on Him?  What do we really have to lose by opting to believe in God?  Yesterday’s rainbow was a simple reminder of God’s wonderment. The rainbow is a symbol of God’s promises—His covenant with humanity—a representation of His mercy.  It is also a reminder that God can make all things new.  Rainbows usually manifest after a storm, right before it completely clears.  The Bible says that God is not a man that he should lie (Numbers 23:19).  Therefore, if the rainbow is representative of the veracity of God’s covenant with humanity, then it should serve as a reminder that God is true to His Word—all of them.

Telling the truth isn’t always easy.  In fact, sometimes, it’s downright hard!  However, one of our greatest challenges on our road to self-discovery and reinvention is learning to be a person of integrity—let our yeses be yeses and our noes be noes.  We have to learn to engage in difficult conversations, which might result in disappointment for some.  Doing the right thing includes the understanding that we cannot please everyone.  When we try to please everyone, we ultimately please no one, including ourselves.  People might not always like the truth spoken in love, but more often than not, they respect the person speaking it.  When you and I are people of integrity, others can count on our words and our deeds.  When people opt to speak half-truths and untruths, they become untrustworthy, and even their truths are tainted by the perception of deception.

The spirit of deception is duplicitous.  It steals from both the deceiver and the one being deceived.  Most people, unless they are social deviants, typically act dishonestly out of fear and/or cowardice.  They are either unwilling or incapable of telling the truth due to a misguided perception of the repercussions of their honesty.  Instead they opt for what they perceive as “the easy way out.”  However, the “easy way out” is not without consequences, and it isn’t particularly easy.  There are many internal and external ramifications of being untruthful.  One of the internal penalties of not being a person of integrity is the stress of having to remember the lies—what story was told to whom and when.  There is also the perpetual fear of being caught, being found out.  Finally, some people (excluding those who have sociopathic tendencies) who suffer from poor integrity face anxiety knowing that they have this internal character flaw.  As far as the external repercussions go, those who lack integrity are often at risk for having a bad reputation.  They could erroneously be perceived as people of reprehensible moral character.  This misconception could significantly impact both their personal and professional relationships.  Our failure to be honest during difficult times could create a narrative about our character that is simply untrue.  When we hurt others by our actions, or lack thereof, few people are gracious enough to evaluate the cause of our behavior.  The why is irrelevant to them.  All they know is that they have been hurt and offended.

Our failure to exhibit integrity could create irreparable rifts in our relationships, which at the end of the day, are one of the few things of value that we possess.  The moral of the story is, if we want to grow and become better people, we have to learn to be honest and truthful, especially when it is difficult.

“The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity,” (Proverbs 11:3, NIV).