Archives for the month of: July, 2013

A few days ago, we talked about accepting people as they are and allowing them to change at their own pace. However, there was one critical component that we neglected to mention.

Whenever we ask someone to alter his or her behavior, we should recognize that change is not always easy or immediate. Oftentimes, we expect colossal leaps, and are disappointed when all we see are baby steps. Our disappointments are seldom embraced in silence. We usually let the objects of our disappointment know how much they have let us down. But if we knew anything about growth, we would know that growth is a process. Change in behavior could mean breaking down foundations that took years to develop. Our behaviors are often so embedded into our infrastructure that sometimes we don’t even know where to start to get back on track. The truth is, in order to progress forward, we often have to alternate between forward and backwards steps, and that is not easy. We should keep that in mind when we are in relationship with others. Regardless of whether someone else’s rate change is to our liking, we should give credit for progress. Even the slightest change could have taken great courage. Know that positive reinforcement is often a better effector of change than criticism or ridicule.

When it comes to experiencing change in a relationship, we should know that ultimately, it comes down to being patient with each other. We should know that none of us would be where we are if someone did not invest in us and allow us the room to grow.

Would you allow yourself to be patient with someone and allow them to grow? If someone you love is trying to make a change, but is still plodding along, encourage them. Congratulate them on the small changes you see. According to the old adage, “A little encouragement goes a long way.” You might just see that the change you desire is not so far removed once you start to acknowledge the small accomplishments.

Today’s Prayer:
Lord, we pray that we could learn to be patient with each other. Soften our hearts and allow us to view each other with a spirit of gratitude. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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I try not to preach from my soapbox too often.   However, sometimes there are things that burn me up, and I can’t help it.  Today, I would like to talk about Christians.

What I am about to say is a view that I have heard expressed by several of my Christian and non-Christian friends alike.  Many of them have asserted that in their experience there are times when being in relationship with Christians is more difficult that being in relationship with people of the world.  Their concerns are disheartening.  As a Christian, I would hope that people would recognize a palpable difference in my demeanor and that I would serve as an example of Christ’s light and love.

The more I started to think about the topic, the more I started to wonder: “Has society placed unrealistic expectations on Christians?”  After all, we are humans just like everyone else.  If it weren’t for Christ, most of us would be broken and falling apart.  Actually, let me rephrase.  Many of us are broken and falling apart, myself included.  Considering that humans are all imperfect beings, is it fair that we Christians be held to a different standard of morality because of our relationship with Christ?  The answer is simple: yes!  The Bible says that although we are living in the world, we should not conform to it (Romans 12:2).  This does not mean that we are called to perfection.  It simply means that we are called to a higher behavioral standard.  Those who know better do better, Maya Angelou.

So why are so many people put off by Christians?  The truth is, some of us are mean.  Our hearts are hardened and bitter.  Frankly, there are some of us that do not treat others very well.  Some of us Christians live as though we are ignorant of the fact that God has given us the promise of eternity—blissful eternity for those who receive Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

So why are we so standoffish?  Truthfully, I couldn’t begin to know how to answer that question.  Actually, I don’t even care to.  What I do know is, we should individually and collectively evaluate whether our behavior is truly representative of God.  Would our actions draw others closer to Christ?  Are we attractive or repulsive?  I know that not everyone will be liked by everyone, but as a rule of thumb, are people generally attracted to us?  The answer to this question will require deep introspection.  Some might be able to assess themselves honestly while others might be oblivious.  I know this chore may even be burdensome for some, but as Christians, Christ instructed us to take up our cross and follow Him.  We have a responsibility to make sure that our actions are not deterring people from God’s Word.  We are called to build up and not destroy.

We can still live the life of a Christian and still be flawed.  In fact, the people who are watching us want to see our imperfections.  This allows them to know that God can love THEM in their imperfection as well.

One Final Note:  It’s slightly off topic, but I figured while I’m on a roll, I would throw it in the pot to stew.  Charity begins at home.  Which brings me to the topic of missionary work.  The Bible has called us to take care of the fatherless, the widow and the orphans, in other words, the disenfranchised.    So, we should burn with desire to help those who cannot help themselves, especially those living in impoverished countries and communities.  However, before we venture overseas, we should make sure that our homes are taken care of.  If our neighbor asks us for a piece of bread, we should not deny him and claim that we are saving it for someone in a distant land.  We should serve our family and honor our friends first.  How could we love a stranger that we do not know if we cannot love those whom we can see?

In 1 John 4:20, John states, “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.”  One of the underlying assertions that John is making in this passage is that it is easier to love in proximity.  It’s only once we have mastered that love that we can venture outside of our physical reach.

 

Today’s message doesn’t really tie into the theme.  However, it weighed heavily on my heart, so I decided to blog about it. 

There are times when it feels as if the Father of the Universe, our Father, has forgotten about us.  Why wouldn’t He?  It would make sense that He would.  Surely the ruler of the Universe has more important matters to attend to than our daily minutia.  Or does he?

I don’t know how many of you have ever heard the saying, “the devil is in the details.”  I would like to turn that saying around and say that, “God is in the details.”  He is in the very minute details of our lives.  He knows the number of hairs on our heads (Luke 12:7).  I don’t think God is in the business of wasting time.  He did not just count the hairs on our head for the sake of being idle.  I believe the point He is making is that when it comes to us, nothing is inconsequential.  He knows and He cares about it all.  Please know that God may be seemingly silent, but He is never absent.  He is always with us.  Isaiah 41:10 says, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

 Know that life is cyclical.  Just as winter turns into spring and summer to fall, bad times also relent.  If God has not delivered on His promise to you, it simply means that your season for deliverance has not yet arrived.  God will never promise and fail to deliver.  He is not a man that He should lie (Numbers 23:19).  He is also faithful when we are not (2 Timothy 2:13).  Do no lose hope.  You have come too far to give up now.  I pray that someone needed to hear this.  May God bless you!

Beloved,

I stand before you –lost in the abyss of your gaze.  Your eyes fixed upon mine—silent—glaring.  I can sense you studying me.  You watch me with an unfamiliar intimacy.  Although I’ve known you deeply, my memories of you are vague.  It’s only when I close my eyes that your essence saturates my memories and infuses my spirit.  Inhale.  Exhale.  I closed my eyes.  I can remember what it felt like to frolic freely—limitlessly—unbounded.  Memories.  Only the heavens could define our limits?  Experience became our adversary and time became his accomplice.    I yearn to reestablish the childlike faith of that girl in the mirror.

God definitely has a way of speaking to us.  This morning, I open my prayer journal and the scripture at the bottom of the page was Joshua 1:9: “Be strong and courageous.  The Lord your God be with you wherever you go.”  I then opened my bible and it opened to Joshua 10.  The highlighted verse on the page was Joshua 10:25: “Don’t ever be afraid or discouraged,” (NLT).

I guess I could safely say that the message of the morning is to be strong and courageous.  Life has a tendency to throw many projectiles in our way.  If we don’t stand on the word of God, we could feel as if we were constantly running for cover.  However, in these verses God is commanding us to not be afraid and to not become discouraged.  In fact, God is telling us that He will be with us in the midst of trial. 

How wonderful is it that no matter where we are, the creator of the universe is right there with us?  We are mere mortals, yet God considers and cares for us and places everything in the Earth under our authority (Psalm 8:-6).  God cares so much for his people that he even gave a man by the name of Joshua the power to command the sun to stand still (Joshua 10:12-13).

“Joshua prayed to the Lord in front of all the people of Israel.  He said,

                                    ‘Let the sun stand still over Gibeon,

                                    And the moon over the valley of Aijalon.’

So the sun stood still and the moon stayed in place until the nation of Israel had defeated its enemies.”

If God allowed the sun to stand still for one man, He will allow the sun to stand still for ALL men.  What battles do you have in your life?  What battles are you facing in your relationships?  Know that darkness cannot reign in the presence of light, so ask God to allow the sun to stand still so that He can shed light on EVERY situation in your life.  God will allow the sun to stand still until you have defeated your enemies.  He will allow the sun to stand still until you have conquered all your vices.  He will allow the sun to stand still until your relationships have been mended.  He will allow the sun to stand still until all your needs are met. 

Before I close, I have to mention that there is a final piece to this puzzle. In John 14:6 Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”  In John 8:12 he also said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”  Here is the final point.  If Jesus is the light, and there is no other way to the father except through Jesus, then every day that we invite Jesus into our lives and into our situations, God has allowed the sun to stand still.  Jesus is the answer to our sun stand still prayers!!

Lord, I pray that whatever darkness we face in our lives and in our relationships, I pray that you allow the sun to stand still.  I pray that Jesus will shine into every dark crevice and reign over our darkness to give us victory.  In Jesus’ name I pray amen!

If you haven’t figured it out by now, I am a big music fan.  One of my favorite gospel songs is, “I Need You to Survive,” by Hezekiah Walker.  The first time I heard the words to this song, they pierced my soul.

I pray for you
You pray for me
I love you
I need you to survive
I won’t harm you
With words from my mouth
I love you
I need you to survive

Hezekiah Walker

Wow!

“I pray for you.  You pray for me.  I love you. I need you to survive.”  What remarkable words.  If you evaluate the words of the song, it suggests that we need each other’s prayers to survive.  I once heard a pastor preach that we should always have someone in our corner to pray for us, because there might come a time when we cannot pray for ourselves.  There will be a time when we are so weighed down by life that we just cannot find the words in our hearts to pray.  It’s in those moments where we need prayer the most.

Times of adversity are not the only times we need others to pray for us.  As Christ followers, we are called to pray for each other all the time.  We are called to pray when times are good, bad and neutral.  Sometimes it’s hard to pray for others because we are so focused on self-what we want and when we want it.  Even when we do pray for others, it usually tends to be a drive-by prayer:  “Thank you God for ‘so-and-so.’  God bless them.  Amen.”  How often do we pray an intercessory prayer for others—a deep soul/gut-wrenching prayer—one we would pray for ourselves?  When was the last time we fasted solely for someone else and not simply as an add-on to our prayer requests?

I pray for you.  You pray for me.  I love you.  I need you to survive.”

In order to survive, we do need the prayers of others.  I know with EVERYTHING that I know that I know that I know, where I am is a product of many prayers from many different people.  I could not have survived without prayer—prayers of blessing, prayers of protection, prayers of provision.  As a result of the many known and unknown prayers that have been said on my behalf, I also pray earnestly for the people I love, and in some cases, people I don’t care too much for.  I don’t do this because I am some great person.  I do this because this is what God expects of me.  The Bible says to whom much is given, much is required (Luke 12:48).  We should pray for each other.

Our prayers should speak blessings into our loved ones lives.  Sometimes our prayers might even require that we put aside our selfish inclinations for the betterment of our partners.  On occasions, we should even try to pray for the needs of others before we pray for our own needs.  Imagine how much that could spice up a marriage.  There is nothing sexier than selflessness.

Lord, Create in us a generous heart—one that has compassion for others.  Give us the desire to pray for others more than we pray for ourselves.  In Jesus’ name. Amen!!

One of the best things we could do in our relationship with God and others is to have a spirit of thanksgiving.  We honor God and others with our praises.  It’s so easy to find fault and complain.  Today, we should take a different approach.  Praise God and thank Him.  Also, give honor and thanks to those in our lives.  A little thanks goes a long way. 

 

Today, let someone know just how grateful you are for them and all that they do.

 

Today’s prayer:

Lord we praise you and thank you for everything in our lives, including unanswered prayer.  Bless us with a spirit of gratitude for everything and everyone in our lives.

We all have baggage, but if we are not careful, our baggage could weigh us down and prevent us from living our best lives ever.  Sometimes our baggage could be the company that we keep.

Show me your friends and I’ll show you who you are.”

The Bible says, “Bad company ruins good character,” (1 Corinthians 15:33).  When it comes to our relationships, we have to be wary of the company we keep and the advice we receive.  Not all advice is well-intentioned, and even well-intentioned advice usually comes from an individual’s frame of reference.

A couple of weeks ago, I was given some disturbing advice on marriage from two COMPLETELY different individuals.  Not only was the advice similar, it was within a week apart.  The similarities were so eerie that I started to wonder whether God was trying to speak to me through these two people.  Their advice made me perceive marriage in a way that I had never thought of before.  On the surface, their message made a lot of sense, except it just didn’t align with God’s word.

For several days after the initial conversation with the two, I could not shake the impression their words made on my heart.  However, after much deliberation I started to think about the spirit behind the words.  Even though these two individuals were polar opposites, they had one thing in common: Divorce.  One had gone through a divorce and the other was in the middle of one.  Their advice came from a place of hurt, pain and anger.  There was no ill intentions towards me.  It was just that their views were tainted by their own personal experience. Now, does that mean that just because they had a negative experience they cannot give sound advice?  Absolutely not.  It simply means that I should be cognizant of the source when taking advice.  What is (are) their motive(s)?  What is (are) their experience(s)?

The first step when receiving advice from anyone is to make sure that it aligns with the Word.  Second, we have to make sure that the person who is giving us advice has our best interest in mind.  Lastly we have to make sure that they are not speaking solely from a negative experience.

Lord our prayer for today is:

Please allow us to carefully consider our source when receiving counsel.  Grant us the discernment to act in a manner that will preserve the integrity of our relationships and act according to the will of God.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen!

There are definite stand-out moments in our lives that transforms the way we think.  A little over a year ago, I had one of those moments.  It was a Sunday morning.  One of the pastors at my church had decided to relay a story that he had read about on a blog.  The story, he said, was written by a pastor’s wife.  Her blog began by stating that she had a seemingly perfect marriage until she received devastating news that would change her life forever.  Her husband, and pastor of their local church, had confessed to participating in an extramarital affair that resulted in his mistress’ pregnancy.  The blog further went on to describe the range of emotions that the pastor’s wife experienced after receiving the news.  She was angry.  She was hurt. She was humiliated.  Not only did her husband cheat, he had created a life-time reminder of his deception.  In her hurt and fury, she decided that she would separate from him.  During that time, she sought counsel from one of her pastors.  The advice that she received from this pastor was far from what she expected.  In fact, it was so startling that it not only impacted her life, but it also resonated with my soul when I heard this third-hand story. Her pastor said that she had every right to leave and punish her husband.  He went on to say that what her husband did was so egregious that no one would fault her for leaving and never forgiving him.  It’s what came next that made my heart race.  He said:

Even though you would be perfectly within your right not to forgive him, would you be willing to be a part of his redemption.”

Wow!  Would she be willing to be a part of his redemption?

Would you be willing to be a part of his redemption?  I bet you didn’t see that coming.  I didn’t see it coming, but that simple question has since shaped the way I perceive forgiveness.

Forgiveness is one of the hardest things that we are called to do.  It goes against our natural inclination.  When we are hurt, we either want to retreat or retaliate.  Forgiveness is seldom our first instinct.  Most of us have to make a concerted effort to forgive.

I have often heard that forgiveness is more about us than it is the other person.  While this is true, that pastor’s assertion suggests that forgiveness is also very much about the other person.  Sometimes our forgiveness allows others to forgive themselves.  This message is so critical that it is worth repeating.  Our forgiveness sometimes gives others the solace to heal.

“Are you willing to be a part of his redemption?”

Are we willing to be a part of some else’s redemption, especially if they have wounded us?  That is such a hard question and a costly demand.  It is impossible to get to this place of forgiveness without God’s help and grace.  We just don’t have it in us.  In those moments that require forgiveness, we have to ask God to step into our hearts and our circumstances.  There may be some situations so painful that only God can provide healing.  Know that only God can restore and heal that which has been broken.  Know that we will ALL be hurt by someone we love because we are all imperfect beings.  Remember, even though the degree and nature of the deception might vary, God is constant.  He never changes.  If we allow God into our broken relationships, HE WILL restore them.

If your trust has been violated and you don’t know how your relationship will ever survive, ask God into your situation right now.  Ask God to mend all that has been broken (e.g. your trust, your heart, your vows, your self-worth, your spirit, your dignity, your faith, your hope, your marriage, your relationship, etc).

I bet you are wondering what ever happened to the pastor’s wife.  Well, as the story went, she decided to forgive her husband and take him back.  Not only did she forgive him, she also adopted the child that was the product of the affair.

My prayer for today:

Lord, soften our hearts to forgive those who have hurt us.  Create within us the desire to be a part of some one else’s redemption.  Mend all that has been broken.  In Jesus’ name. Amen!

It’s amazing how when we become attuned to God’s frequency we begin to see examples of His glory in everything around us.  As I was driving to work in the rain this morning, I saw a group of blackbirds picking at remnant French fries that spilled into the streets from a tattered McDonald’s bag.  Immediately, I thought about the verse in Matthew where Jesus likened God’s desire to take care of us to his commitment to the birds in the sky.  In the verse Jesus went on to say,

Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life,” (Matthew 6:25-34, NLT)?

As I waited for the light to change, I watched the birds fill their beaks with the morning treat.  Some quickly flew away after they had their fill.  When the light changed, the few birds that remained on the ground danced between the cars as they zoomed by.  I marveled at how carefree they were.

Imagine if we could be that way—never worrying about anything.  Trusting in God gives us that very freedom we desire.  In Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus said,

Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

When we lay our burdens at the foot of the cross, Jesus gives us rest, but we have to trust Him.  We have to trust Him with EVERYTHING.  That includes our relationships.  Remember, God’s purpose for relationships is to create partnerships that will advance His kingdom.  Therefore, if you are single, trust that God will bring the right person in your life at just the right time.  If you are married, trust God to bless, preserves, maintain and/or heal your relationship.  Know that what God has put together, no one can separate (Mark 10:9).

It is God’s desire that we have and maintain successful relationships.  His plan is to prosper us in EVERY facet of our lives, but we have to trust Him.  My prayer for today is that you would trust God with your relationships, both existing and those to come.

Today’s prayer:

Lord, marriages are under attack.  Integrity is diminished and dissention is celebrated.  The D****** word is often the weapon of choice.  Lord, we know that with you we have a defense.  It’s called your Word.  The Bible says, that the Word is sharper than any two-edged sword, and “it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow,” (Hebrews 4:12).  We pray that what you have bound, no one, including us, can separate.  We pray your blessing, favor and provision over ever union you have created.  In Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen!