Archives for the month of: October, 2013

I’m usually not the best at reciting jokes, but this one I had to share.  A man went to God and said, “God, your power is so infinite and your resources are so limitless.  For you, a million years is like one second and a million dollars is like one penny.  Surely, you would have no problems giving me a million dollars.”  God looked at the man and said, “I sure don’t.  Just give me one second.”

The truth is God’s timing is not the same as ours.  When everything ceases to exist, He will still remain standing.  God has seen empires rise and fall.  He has seen generations created and destroyed.  He is the beginning and the end of time.  So, sometimes it does beg the question:  Could God truly sympathize with the fact that we are but a mist in the spectrum of time?  Even though He created us, does He really understand that our Earthly bones decay daily?  Does He truly understand that for us a million years is not the same as one second?  As I explored the answer, perhaps answers, to this question, I came across an interesting passage in Scripture.  It’s a little long, but just bear with me:

A Valley of Dry Bones

The Lord took hold of me, and I was carried away by the Spirit of the Lord to a valley filled with bones. He led me all around among the bones that covered the valley floor. They were scattered everywhere across the ground and were completely dried out. Then he asked me, “Son of man, can these bones become living people again?”

“O Sovereign Lord,” I replied, “you alone know the answer to that.”

Then he said to me, “Speak a prophetic message to these bones and say, ‘Dry bones, listen to the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Look! I am going to put breath into you and make you live again! I will put flesh and muscles on you and cover you with skin. I will put breath into you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’”

So I spoke this message, just as he told me. Suddenly as I spoke, there was a rattling noise all across the valley. The bones of each body came together and attached themselves as complete skeletons. Then as I watched, muscles and flesh formed over the bones. Then skin formed to cover their bodies, but they still had no breath in them.

Then he said to me, “Speak a prophetic message to the winds, son of man. Speak a prophetic message and say, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, O breath, from the four winds! Breathe into these dead bodies so they may live again.’”

10 So I spoke the message as he commanded me, and breath came into their bodies. They all came to life and stood up on their feet—a great army.

11 Then he said to me, “Son of man, these bones represent the people of Israel. They are saying, ‘We have become old, dry bones—all hope is gone. Our nation is finished.’ 12 Therefore, prophesy to them and say, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: O my people, I will open your graves of exile and cause you to rise again. Then I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13 When this happens, O my people, you will know that I am the Lord. 14 I will put my Spirit in you, and you will live again and return home to your own land. Then you will know that I, the Lord, have spoken, and I have done what I said. Yes, the Lord has spoken,’” (Ezekiel 33:1-14, NLT)!

This story should give each and every one of us great comfort.  You see, when the bones first came together, they had no life.  They were just going through the motions.  It wasn’t until God breathed His Spirit into them that they came alive.  This passage illustrates three really important principles.  First, it is quite possible that you and I can make plans absent of God.  Our plans might even create the illusion of success.  I am sure that had there been distant onlookers, the regenerating bone might have given the appearance of life.  But just like the bones, our plans do not experience true life until God breaths His Spirit onto them.  The second point is, regardless of how dead something is, God can bring it back to life.  The fact that those bones were dry throughout suggests that they had been there for some time.  The bones probably surpassed any memories of the individuals’ existence, but God was still able to bring them back to life.  To us, our dreams might appear dead and forgotten, but God can bring them back to life by breathing His spirit into it.  The truth is, our very existence is proof of that.  We were dead before we were born, and God breathe life into us and caused us to exist.  The third point is easily overlooked.  God could have resurrected the bones on His own, but he used Ezekiel to perform the works.   God commanded him to speak to the bones and the wind.  What is He commanding us to speak to in our lives?

I love the way this passage end.  Even though God had given this illustration as promise to the nation of Israel, we should know that our God is not a partial God, and that the promises He makes to one is applicable to all.  With that said, God promised the Israelites that He would open their graves of exile and cause them to rise again.  Wow!  How many of us are living, but we still have one (or both) foot (feet) in the grave?  The truth is, it does matter.  God has promised us that He can rescue us from the tomb and bring us back to life.

Today, we should be encouraged that regardless of where we find ourselves, we should know that God has the ability to rescue us.  He sees us.  There is nothing that can separate us from His love.  He has not forgotten about us or given up on us.  Many may say that it is too late.  The doctor might have predicted when someone will draw his final breath, but only God breathes life.  Critics might say that our dreams have an expiration date and that we are too old to achieve God’s plan, but God gets the final word!  In fact, He has also shared that final word with us.  We need to speak life into our situation today!

Repeat after Ezekiel (via God):

“‘Dry bones [FILL IN THE BLANK WITH YOUR OWN CIRCUMSTANCES], listen to the word of the Lord!  This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Look! I am going to put breath into you and make you live again! I will put flesh and muscles on you and cover you with skin. I will put breath into you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord….Come, O breath, from the four winds! Breathe into these dead bodies so they may live again….‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: O my people, I will open your graves of exile and cause you to rise again. Then I will bring you back to the land of Israel. When this happens, O my people, you will know that I am the Lord. I will put my Spirit in you, and you will live again and return home to your own land. Then you will know that I, the Lord, have spoken, and I have done what I said. Yes, the Lord has spoken, (NLT).’”

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In today’s society, success is usually thought to be determined by degree or pedigree.  I am here to tell you that neither of those things are absolute qualifiers for success.  When Paul spoke to the church in Corinth, he reminded them that few of them were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called them.  He further went on to say that God often chooses the “things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful,” (1Corinthians 1:26-26, NLT).  Now, this is not to say that there isn’t a value to education, for we know that God honors those who seek knowledge, counsel and wisdom.  It is simply to say that our circumstances do not disqualify us from being great.  Look at Gideon.

Too often God places a dream on our heart, and we erroneously think that we need an ensemble team to bring the vision to fruition.  We are inclined to decline opportunities because we think that we lack the skills needed to accomplish the task.  In the Old Testament, Moses tried to hand over the opportunity to lead the Israelites out of bondage to Aaron because he thought that being a successful leader was directly correlated to an ability to speak well.  Fortunately, God is more interested in using those who can walk the walk rather than those who talk the talk.  So how does that tie into the story of Gideon?

God had called Gideon to defeat the Midianites.  Like many of us, Gideon doubted that God could really use him to do something so extraordinary.  Thankfully, what Gideon soon came to realize was that his weakness was inversely proportional to God’s strength.  In other words, he realized that when he was weak, God was strong, and it was that epiphany that allowed him to grow in strength.

Prior to battling the Midianites, Gideon had 32,000 men.  God told him to send home those who were fearful.  Twenty-two thousand men left.  Gideon was left with an army of 10,000.  Still God was unsatisfied.  He ordered Gideon to bring the men to the stream and “[d]ivide the men into two groups. In one group put all those who cup water in their hands and lap it up with their tongues like dogs. In the other group put all those who kneel down and drink with their mouths in the stream,” (NLT).  There were three hundred men that drank from their hand.  Finally, God was satisfied.  With a total of 300 men, God delivered the Midianites into the hands of the Israelites (Judges 7).

The story of Gideon serves as an amazing demonstration of God’s ability to elevate us above our circumstances.  In the natural, there was no way that Gideon could have defeated an entire army with only 300 men.  However, God reduced the size of Gideon’s army so that He would receive the glory.  The first lesson that you and I should learn from Gideon is that when we are called to do the impossible with only a skeletal crew, it’s not because God is punishing us.  It’s simply because He wants us, and others, to know that success is not based on a formula, but is predetermined by God.  The second lesson to be learned from Gideon is that not everyone in our camp is destined or willing to fight.  Know that the dream that God gave us was given to us.  Not everyone in our camp is meant to go with us to battle.  In order to achieve victory, sometimes, we have to get rid of those who are stumbling blocks.  In the case of Gideon, had God not gotten rid of those who were “timid or afraid,” it might have cost them the battle.  Under pressure, those eliminated individuals might have surrendered or betrayed their camp.  The third lesson to be learned from Gideon is that when God gives us a dream, it’s better to have a faithful few than a lazy bunch.  Those who drank from their hands proved to be hard workers and go-getters.  They didn’t just kneel at the stream and waited for the water to flow into their mouths.  They took the initiative.  We want people in our camps that take initiative.  The last lesson that we learned from Gideon is a little off topic, but equally important. 

The Bible says that God will make our enemies our footstool (Luke 20:43).  We should know that oftentimes, God will use our very enemies to announce our victory.  In the case of Gideon, God used the Midianites to announce the Israelites’ victory:

The Midianite camp was in the valley just below Gideon. 9That night the Lord said, “Get up! Go down into the Midianite camp, for I have given you victory over them! 10 But if you are afraid to attack, go down to the camp with your servant Purah. 11 Listen to what the Midianites are saying, and you will be greatly encouraged. Then you will be eager to attack.”

So Gideon took Purah and went down to the edge of the enemy camp. 12 The armies of Midian, Amalek, and the people of the east had settled in the valley like a swarm of locusts. Their camels were like grains of sand on the seashore—too many to count! 13 Gideon crept up just as a man was telling his companion about a dream. The man said, “I had this dream, and in my dream a loaf of barley bread came tumbling down into the Midianite camp. It hit a tent, turned it over, and knocked it flat!”

14 His companion answered, “Your dream can mean only one thing—God has given Gideon son of Joash, the Israelite, victory over Midian and all its allies!”

15 When Gideon heard the dream and its interpretation, he bowed in worship before the Lord. Then he returned to the Israelite camp and shouted, “Get up! For the Lord has given you victory over the Midianite hordes,” (Judges 7:8-15, NLT)!

Know today that God has called each and every one of us for something great.  If God can use flawed individuals such as Moses, Gideon, David, Ruth, and Esther, imagine what He could do with us.

It ain't over until God said it's over!

On Sunday, I watched a rerun of Tyler Perry’s interview with Oprah on OWN TV. Towards the end of the interview, he talked about being fatigued by failure early in his career. He mentioned how he faced homelessness, shame and failure. At the time, he had invested everything he had into his plays, yet he had not seen the fruits of his labor. He described being at his wits end.  He told God that he had enough. It was at that moment that he said he heard God’s voice clearly say, “It ain’t over until I say it’s over.” He said that as soon as he heard the voice he looked downstairs and saw scores of people lined up around the block to see his play. God had spoken. It wasn’t over for Tyler then, and it’s not over for you now!  It’s not over until God says it’s over!

Shut-Up-Graphic-09

 

Shut up
Just shut up
Shut up [3x]
Shut it up, just shut up
Shut up
Just shut up
Shut up [3x]
Shut it up, just shut up

Black Eyed Peas, Shut Up, Elephunk Album (2003)

Shut Up is a song from Black Eyed Peas’ 2003 Elephunk album.  It’s one of my all-time favorite songs.  It’s no wonder why when I thought about this topic, it was one of the first thing that popped into my mind.  I believe many of us could take a cue from the lyrics:

JUST SHUT UP!

For many of us, one of our biggest problems is that we talk too much—myself included.  Yesterday, I was reminded of that.

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of listening to a young, married couple share their personal testimony on the trials and rewards of marriage.  But it wasn’t so much their testimony that struck a chord with me.  It was their answers to one of the audience questions that impacted me the most.  Although the questions were submitted via secret ballot the tone of the question suggested that the person asking was female.  In essence, she asked the couple whether they believed that it was possible for God to reveal detail-specific information to her even though there was no supporting evidence.  The wife answered.  Here is what she said that resonated with me.  She said that there are some things that God reveals to us that are meant to remain between us and God, at least until the appointed time.  I was blown away by her answer for this reason:  What she said was reminiscent of a similar conversation that I had with my minister uncle a few months prior.  He said that there are some things that are so sacred that God wants them to remain secret until the appointed time of revelation.  Many of us, in our excitement to share our blessings (e.g. victory/breakthrough), blab prematurely, and instead of going through the open doors we anticipated, we end up running into brick walls.  We fail to realize that in the natural progression of any birth, there is a significant difference between conception and delivery.  Just as with a natural child, if a dream is birthed before time, it will be premature.  I am quite sure that any parent of a premature child would agree that children who are delivered prematurely face more developmental challenges than do children who were birthed full term.  The same is true of God’s revelations.  When you and I speak them out loud before time, it’s possible that we could birth our dreams into a toxic environment where they might have to fight for survival.  You and I have to know that there are some plans that are so critical to God’s kingdom that the only way that you and I can keep them safe is to keep our mouths shut.  If you don’t believe me check out the story my uncle shared with me about John the Baptist’s birth.

In the Old Testaments, the Ancient prophets prophesized that there would be a man who would pave the way for Jesus Christ.   Scripture has since revealed to us that person was John the Baptist.  Even before he was born, John the Baptist’s destiny was predetermined.  Remember, the Bible says that God’s word will never return to Him void.  So, it’s no wonder the angels did everything they could to protect the birth of this one man.

Zechariah and Elizabeth were the parent of John the Baptist.  Both were very old and had never had a child because Elizabeth was unable to conceive.  One day, when Zechariah, a priest, was serving God, the angel of the Lord came to him and told him that his wife would give birth to a son who would prepare people for the One to come.  Zechariah was doubtful because of his age.  This is the part of the story where we need to pay close attention.  Listen to what Gabriel said to Zechariah:

“I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. 20 And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time,” (Luke 1:19, NIV).

Essentially, Gabriel told him to SHUT UP!  Not only did Gabriel tell Zechariah to shut up, he shut him up.  In fact, Zechariah was not able to speak again until John the Baptist was born.  Too often you and I speak prematurely into our situations and allow negative spirits to seep in, including doubt, fear and envy.  Maybe, just maybe, had Zechariah been allowed to speak, he might have spoken death (literally) into his situation.  He might have been so riddled with doubt and insecurity that he could have caused Elizabeth to go into premature labor or deliver a still birth.  Remember what we said earlier about those premature births.  Elizabeth was already old in age.  She didn’t need any additional stress.  Who knows, she probably had her own insecurities and issues.  She sure didn’t need to take on anyone else’s.  Isn’t that the same with our dreams?  God reveals it to us, and we blab and allow others and ourselves to speak doubt into our situation.  Speaking God’s revelation before the appointed time could be our manifestation of pride and arrogance.  In addition to wanting others to see the hand of God at work, we want them to see just how blessed and favored we are.  In our arrogance, we can sometimes overlook one small factor:  Not everyone in our camp is cheering for us.  While we are praying life, they are speaking death.  Part of allowing God’s revelation to mature is learning how to discern with whom we should share our revelation.  We want to make sure that those who are smiling with us are also praying for us.  Thankfully, the good news is: God’s words will never return to Him void.  His plans will ALWAYS come to fruition.  No man, force or spirit can thwart God’s plans for our lives.  However, we can make our journey difficult.  Therefore, we have to be careful how we speak our dreams out loud.

Today, my encouragement to you is: If God has given you revelation for your life, seek His directives.  He might tell you to shout it from the mountains, or He might tell you to keep it to yourself.  Trust me, if you ask Him for clarification, He will let you know!

**Graphics from commentsyard.com.  No endorsement of site content, just a really cool pic.

Pride

Pride is one of the hardest words to define.  Most of us could probably recognize pride when we see it—usually in someone else.  However, we probably couldn’t nail down a precise definition.  Words such as haughty, pompous, arrogance have been used to define pride, but even those words need further definition.  So what is pride? Some might say that pride is where one’s perception of one’s self is greater than reality.  But I am not quite sure about that definition.  That’s very subjective.  Some might reason that a person’s high opinion of themselves is not pride, but confidence.  That confidence might even be valid and warranted.  I am sure none of us, God forbid, would like to be on the operating table of a doctor who didn’t think highly of himself and his skills.  So again, I ask, what is pride?  The best definition that I have been able to come up with is this:

Pride is thinking of one’s self as comparable to God.

The inclination to liken ourselves to God is the definition of pride that God warns us against.  Such behavior is what the Bible says will cause our fall.  In fact, it’s that very same thinking that caused the Fall of man.

Adam and Eve’s sin was far graver than disobedience.  Their greater sin was pride.  Disobedience is simply a manifestation of pride.  Disobedience is our way of asserting that our views or beliefs are better (more accurate).  By eating the apple, Adam and Eve were essentially telling God that He was incorrect when He said that they would die as a result of eating the fruit.  The other act of pride that occurred in the Garden was Adam’s and Eve’s desire to be like God.  In Genesis 3:4-6, the serpent promised Eve that once she ate the fruit, she would be like God.  When she heard this, she did not want to be like God in the way that Jesus has commanded Christians, she wanted to be God.  There is a difference.  When you and I are confident and we acknowledge that we are great through the grace of God, then we become like God.  However, when you and I assert confidence independent of God, we become prideful, and God goes after the proud—after us.     Proverbs 11:2 says, “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom,” (NIV).  As soon as Adam and Eve ate the apple, they realized that they were naked and they became very ashamed.

God abhors pride so much that he refers to everyone who harbor pride in their heart as an abomination (Proverbs 16:5).  After thinking about the story of Adam and Eve, we could only image why God detests pride.  The entire Earth fell from grace because of a couple’s pride.  If two people’s pride was enough to cause mankind to fall, imagine what our pride could do to the world around us.  In fact, I don’t think we have to imagine.  All we have to do is look around.  Pride has destroyed empires.  It has devastated relationships (e.g. marriages, friendships, families or working partnerships).  Pride has ignited wars and nullified treaties.  Pride has fueled devastation and yielded loneliness.

So now that we know what pride is, how do we know whether we suffer from it?  Easy!  Pride is present in us whenever we have asserted an ability to do something that only God can do.  Galatians 6:3 says, “If anyone thinks he is important when he is nothing, he is fooling himself,” (New Life Version).  We should know that as humans, we can do nothing without Christ first strengthening us (Philippian 4:13).  We are nothing born from dirt (Genesis 2:7) and were molded like clay from the potter’s hands (Isaiah 64:8 and Jeremiah 18:2-6).  All our talent are from God and for His purpose.  Our gifts are to be shared and not to be abused, which include boasting.

Pride is stealth, and it could easily sneak up on us if we are not careful.  The Bible says that the enemy is always on the prowl and constantly looking for someone to devour (1Peter 5:8).  Know that nothing can devour us more quickly than pride.  In the Garden, the snake was looking for an opportunity to whisper in Eve’s ear.  He was able to find her Achilles’ heel.  Thankfully, there is hope.  The Word promises that if we resist the devil, he will flee from us (James 4:7).  We should resist the urge to be God, instead we should embrace opportunities to be like God.  We should also know that those who lift themselves up will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be lifted up, (Matthew 23:12).  With that said, we should be bold and confident in all that we do, but we should also acknowledge where our gifts come from.

Have you ever felt like God has left you hanging?  C’mon, tell the truth! Never?  Let me ask it a different way.  Have you ever experienced a time when you know within your heart that God has instructed you to do something specific, yet when you did what you thought He told you to do, the results were not what you expected?  In fact, not only were the results not what you expected, they seemed to cause you more shame and heartbreak than happiness and reward.  Still can’t relate?  What about one of the following examples:

  1. Have you ever followed God’s instruction to quit your job with the intention of starting a new business only find yourself unemployed with no business?
  2. Have you ever pursued a relationship on God’s instruction only to be rejected and humiliated?
  3. Have you ever moved to a new state (or country) on God’s command only to experience the worse loneliness you have ever experienced?
  4. Have you ever made yourself vulnerable only to be scoffed at?

If you have ever experienced any of the following, know that you are not alone.  You are probably thinking, “Great! So, now what?”  The pious thing to say would be, “Trust God and everything will work itself out.”  While this is true, it’s not always easy. 

Sometimes, pursuing what we believe to be the voice of God could lead to humiliation, exhaustion, disappointment and doubt.  Remember Joseph?  He told his family that God had revealed to him in a dream that he was going to be a great leader. Imagine how embarrassed he must have felt when he sat in jail, falsely accused of rape.  How many times did he question himself?  How many times did he question God?  How many times did he ask whether he had heard God correctly?  What about you?  You have testified to others about God’s greatness, but you have yet to see the fruit of your labor (or belief/obedience).  The business that you know that God told you to build is under water.  You poured everything you had into it.  The relationship that you thought would prosper is nonexistent or failing.  Your enemies are secretly (or publicly) triumphing over your failures.  You are exhausted.  What do you do?  You are beginning to wonder whether you heard God correctly.  You are beginning to wonder whether you would ever get it right.   How could you be so wrong?  The pain is overwhelming.  So what do you do?

The first thing I want you to do is put on your seatbelt.  What I am going to tell you will probably give you spiritual whiplash.

What might seem to us like a spiritual goose chase could actually be a divine appointment.  Know that it is not a bad thing to return to God empty-handed after you have pursued His directives.  Here’s why.  When God sent you out, He sent you out armed with a promise.  However, a promise is just the beginning of the story.  In order for the entire story to be assembled, you will need additional directive from God.  So you go off with the promise.  You have to plant the promise at your destination because you will need to return to God for further directions, and you cannot return with the promise.  Why?  The Bible says that His Word cannot return to him void.  Are you excited yet?  This is the point where most of us miss the mark.  We go back to God and quarrel with Him about being empty-handed.  However, we should be celebrating.  Instead of accusing God of disappointing us, we should be asking him how to water the seed we just planted in the place He just sent us. 

This revelation should excite us.  It might not stop the pain and the sadness, but it will give us some insight into who God is.  In Psalm 37:25, David said, “I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread,” (NIV).  According to David, the apple of God’s eyes, God will never forsake us.  If we delight in God, he will give us our heart’s desires (Psalm 37:4).  We should know that God’s thoughts are not our thoughts and our ways are not His ways (Isaiah 55:8).  Sometimes, we might have to water His planted promises for a while.  However, once they are planted THEY cannot return to Him void.  Take heart tonight and know that God will never take us somewhere that His grace would not sustain us.

When most of us think of our top 10 desired, vacation destinations, we think of cities such as Rome, Paris, Barcelona and Nineveh.

I know what you are thinking.  You are thinking, “Did she really say Nineveh?”

Yes, I did.

Most of you probably couldn’t even spot Nineveh on the map.  Prior to writing this blog, neither could I.

I am not much of a historian, but here is what I do know about Nineveh.  Nineveh was the capital of Ancient Assyria.  It was one of the most powerful cities of its time.  Today, the ruins of Nineveh are located in Mosul, Iran.  What’s left of Nineveh are the shadows of a once prevailing city.

Knowing that, would I still want to go to Nineveh?  Would you?  What if I were to tell you that many of us have probably visited (or will visit) Nineveh at least once in our lifetime?  Hmmm!

Today, my pastor mentioned Nineveh in passing.  He described Biblical Nineveh as a treacherous city plagued by debauchery.  The prophet Nahum described Nineveh as a place of great wickedness.  It was no wonder why when God directed Jonah to travel to Nineveh to prophesize the people’s impending destruction, Jonah ran in the opposite direction.  Imagine how Jonah must have felt when God instructed Him to deliver the gloomy news.  I am sure he asked God, “Why me?”  He must have thought, “Surely, there is someone else more qualified to deliver the report.”  Jonah probably didn’t even care about Nineveh or the people there.  Thankfully, God did.  When it came to the people of Nineveh, God was not interested in sparing Jonah’s feelings.  He was more interested in saving their souls.  You see, when Johan delivered the news to the people of Nineveh, they repented and God relented.  By delivering those individuals, God not only saved them, He saved generations not yet born.  Speaking life into one man’s life also speaks life into his entire bloodline.  You can imagine that those individuals who were spared went on to have children, and their children went on to have their own children, and so on and so forth.

How many of us currently find ourselves in a Jonah situation?  We are doing everything in our power to run away from our assigned Nineveh.  Our “Ninevehs” could very well be our families, our marriages, our relationships or our jobs.  Just like Jonah, God might have assigned us to our current situation to save His people for imminent destruction.  Remember, in the story of Jonah, Jonah’s message of destruction was so horrific that it caused the people to repent.  It could be very possible that God is using us as Jonahs in our personal Nineveh.  Salvation for one could often mean salvation for many.  Remember Abraham?

When Abraham questioned God in the Old Testament about whether He would refrain from destroying Sodom for the sake of the righteous, God said he would (Genesis 18:22-33) not destroy the city if He could find righteous people there.  Maybe our presence in our Ninevehs (or Sodom) could spare the destruction of those around.  As Christians we are called to shine our light wherever we are.  Regardless of wherever we are called to be, God can allow His light to shine through us and reflect His goodness and mercy!  So, the next time we try to escape from our situations, we should determine whether we are trying to escape our Nineveh.  If we are, we might find ourselves in the belly of a whale.

When it comes to theories that govern the human experience, there are only two choices:  Faith and chance.  We either believe that there is a higher power that controls the world’s affairs, or we believe that everything is randomized and left to chance/luck.  Everyone believes in something.   While those who believe in a higher power might not agree on who or what that higher power is, they all agree that there are forces greater than themselves at play.  By default, even those who have asserted a belief in nothing (i.e. atheist or agnostics) have confirmed their belief in something—in chance.  Here is why:  Life is still occurring, and in order for life to continue, some force must be in place.  So if there is no higher being, no God, then chance must come in play to perpetuate life.  Here is the problem, change is random, which means that it’s disorganized.  In order for life to be sustained, there must be organization.  Organization is a characteristic of faith.  More specifically, organization is a characteristic of Christ.

The more I mature in my walk with Jesus Christ, the more I begin to view my life experiences as more than mere coincidences but instead divine appointments.

In life, there are seasons when we wrestle with being content knowing that our current situations do not align with our heart desires.  In those seasons, it becomes difficult to reconcile with the fact that even when we chase after God and the dreams that He has placed on our hearts, God could appear distant and silent.  Like Joseph, God has given us all dreams where the journey from the pit to the palace tends to be an arduous voyage.  Most pastors and spiritual leaders would urge us to praise God though those difficult times.  The truth is, it is difficult to worship in the midst of disappointment and heartbreak.  Though that’s what we should do, it’s not what most of us do.  We quarrel with God for our disappointments.  We get angry with Him for our heartaches.  Sometimes, even when we do praise Him, we “secretly” grieve.

During this season, I have grown to love King David.  God labeled David as the apple of His eyes.  David was transparent.  He was not afraid to be vulnerable with God.  Yesterday, on my commute to work, I found myself having one of those Davidic moments.  I vented my frustrations to God.  I told God that I had grown weary waiting for revelation and I wanted to experience the manifestation of my faith not just the anticipation of my expectation.

I must be honest.  It felt good to let it all out.  After my vent, I listened to a few worship songs, and then I went to work.

At lunchtime, I ate in my car.  My mood had changed from that of the morning.  A sense of peace overwhelmed me as I continued to listen to my new Hillsong CD.  I had spent about 30 minutes eating, relaxing and meditating.  I thought of the story in Genesis where Jacob wrestled with God:

22 That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two female servants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23 After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions. 24 So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. 25 When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. 26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”

But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”

27 The man asked him, “What is your name?”

“Jacob,” he answered.

28 Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”

29 Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.”

But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there.

30 So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared,” (NIV).

I believe that God touched Jacob’s hip to let him know who He was.  But even after Jacob had the revelation that the man was indeed God, Jacob did not let Him go.  He replied that he would not let God go until God blessed him.  Wow!!! What a revelation!  I believe what this passage is saying is that even when we wrestle with God, we should not let Him go until He blesses us.  That is the true definition of faith–believing in God despite our circumstances and holding on to Him until we see the manifestation of His promises.

Today’s take home message:

Even when we wrestle with God in seasons of disappointment, do not let Him go.

Even though we may wrestle with our anger towards God, do not let Him go.

Even though we wrestle with man, do not let God Go.

Even though we wrestle with sin, do not let God Go.

In the end, Jacob refused to let God go, and as a result, God blessed him.  God said that even though he wrestled with God and with man, he did not let go.

IN ORDER TO ALLOW GOD TO BLESS YOU, DO NOT LET GO!!

Greed

The name of this blog is called That Next Level Thinking.  Part of the reason why I decided to write this blog is because I believe that in order to separate ourselves from the pack, we have to learn to think outside the box—to think on that next level.  In a spiritual context, that means leading with our spiritual minds and seeing past the vision of our natural eyes.  Today, I am starting a new series called the “Seven Deadly Sins.”  Hopefully, over the next seven days, I will challenge you to think outside the box as we look at these seven vices and discuss how they impact our Christian walk.

The theory of the seven deadly sins has captured the interest of scholars, historians, philosophers, artists and even movie directors for centuries.  In 1995, the American movie, Se7en, told the story of two police detectives who tracked a serial killer who profiled his victims based on the seven sins: wrath, gluttony, sloth, greed, pride, envy and lust.

Although the concept of the seven deadly sins is not Biblical per se, some scholars have said that the principle has a Biblical derivative, specifically Proverbs 6: 16-19 and Galatians 5:19-21:

16 There are six things the Lord hates,
seven that are detestable to him:
17  haughty eyes,
a lying tongue,
hands that shed innocent blood,
18   a heart that devises wicked schemes,
feet that are quick to rush into evil,
19     a false witness who pours out lies
and a person who stirs up conflict in the community, (Proverbs 6:16-19, NIV).

19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God (Galatians 5:19:21).

TODAY’S DEADLY SIN: GREED

What is greed?  Greed is an insatiable appetite for possessions.  In other words, it’s a bottomless desire for more “stuff.” Usually, that “stuff” is material in nature.   According to 1 John 2:16, “For everything in the world–the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life–comes not from the Father but from the world,” (NIV).

As I was thinking about the topic of greed this week, the parable that came to mind was “Jesus and the Prince of Demons.”  In the parable, Jesus cast out a demon from a possessed man.  As usual, the Pharisees tried to entrap him.  They accused him of being in allegiance with the prince of darkness.  Jesus responded to them saying:

19 And if I am empowered by Satan, what about your own exorcists? They cast out demons, too, so they will condemn you for what you have said. 20 But if I am casting out demons by the power of God, then the Kingdom of God has arrived among you. 21 For when a strong man like Satan is fully armed and guards his palace, his possessions are safe— 22 until someone even stronger attacks and overpowers him, strips him of his weapons, and carries off his belongings, (Luke 11:19-22, NLT).

I am sure many of you are not quite seeing the greed connection.  Just bear with me.

If greed is from the devil, then it stands to reason that the devil himself is greedy.  He IS the father of greed.  We should also keep in mind that the devil is a spiritual being, hence, the things that the devil craves are not “natural”.  In other words, the devil is not enticed by designer labels and premium neighborhood.  He craves spiritual possessions.  He has an insatiable appetite for our souls.  He’s greedy.  This brings me back to the passage: “For when a strong man like Satan is fully armed and guards his palace, his possessions are safe,” (NLT).

Satan tries to gather us like possessions.  One of the possible reasons why many of us have not experienced our breakthrough is that we haven’t realized that there are principalities that are trying to resist us.  Ephesians 6:12 says we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities.  Our battles are spiritual.

Now, I feel like I need to interject for a second.  We should understand that we are never outside of God’s reach.  Some of us are exactly where God wants us to be.  Just like Jesus, the Spirit drove us into the wilderness.  Others of us, on the other hand, have created our own wilderness experience.  The good news is that even when we detour off course, God can use our mistakes for our edification and for His Glory.  However, regardless of which situation we find ourselves in, we have to acknowledge that there is a spiritual battle taking place.  The “strong man” is always trying to vie for ALL our souls (greed).  Verse 21 says that “when a strong man like Satan is fully armed and guards his palace, his possessions are safe,” (NLT).  Thankfully, there is a caveat to that statement.  The following sentence in that verse says that Satan’s possessions are safe with him “until someone even stronger attacks and overpowers him, strips him of his weapons, and carries off his belongings,” (NLT).  We should know that even though we have an enemy, we also have an ally who is far stronger and will rescue us from the devil’s wiles.

Today, if there are any of you facing difficulties or praying for breakthroughs, ask God to tie up the “strong man” so that you could walk out of his house and into your destiny with ALL of your “possessions.”  In Jesus’ name.  Amen!

Photo Credit: Peterheck.com (No endorsement of content.  Just loved the graphic:-) )

The closing ceremonies for the Hillsong 2013 NY Conference was almost two days ago, and I am still savoring the glory of the experience.  There were so many amazing stories and testimonies shared.  The one that most compelled me was that of Joel Houston.  He is the lead singer of Hillsong United and co-pastor of Hillsong Church NYC.  He testified that his walk with God did not always immunize him from insecurity and loneliness.  Joel, a man of God and a pastor, stood before thousands and shared a part of himself.  The authenticity of his vulnerability was palpable.  It was raw.  How much courage that must have taken?  Surely, he must have considered what other would have thought of him.  What would his flock say?  Would they frown on him as a leader for admitting his fallibility, or would they honor him for his humility?  The answer is both!  The truth is, you could never be everything to everyone, but you could be something to someone.  When you and I are vulnerable, it allows others to embrace their own imperfections.

A lot of my confidence has evolved by experiencing other’s vulnerability.  For example, as a recently graduated dentist, I had the opportunity to work with an amazing Endodontist (Root Canal Specialist).  She had worked previously as a general dentist.  Her vulnerability and transparency gave me courage to face my insecurities.  It took great courage for her to share some of her pitfalls with me.  She stepped out on a limb and trusted that I would not use the information she shared to judge her or scale myself to her.  I have to tell you, her act of kindness boosted my confidence.

When we express vulnerability it allows the recipient to know that they are not alone.  Vulnerability allows others to know that it is possible to be victorious despite their circumstances.

When Joel shared his story, it reminded me that even those closest to God are still refined by fire.  Joel’s testimony not only renewed hope, but it created an opportunity for the development of freedom.  Unfortunately, even Christians are held captive by false ideologies.  The idea that trials are punishment for misdeeds still permeate the Christian world.  That concept is nothing new.  Look at Job.  His friends thought that his misfortune was directly correlated with his sin.  Thankfully, grace is free.  God created it in a way where we can’t earn it.  We can’t buy it, and, we definitely can’t lose it.

Today, my prayer is that you allow others to experience freedom through your vulnerability.  The notion that we always have to have it together is false and dangerous.  It creates fodder for negative spirits (e.g. insecurity, doubt, envy and fear).  Ask God to grant you the vulnerability to set someone free.  In the process, you will learn that the person who will experience the most freedom is YOU!