Archives for the month of: November, 2013

The Best Is Yet To Come!

Habakkuk 2:2-3 NLT

Then the Lord said to me, “Write my answer plainly on tablets, so that a runner can carry the correct message to others. This vision is for a future time. It describes the end, and it will be fulfilled. If it seems slow in coming, wait patiently, for it will surely take place. It will not be delayed.

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Pride
Being thankful could be difficult— sometimes VERY. The mind is hard to silence and the heart is equally difficult to humble. Being thankful requires us to be intentional. It requires faith.

Ecclesiastes 11:5-6 says, “5 Just as you cannot understand the path of the wind or the mystery of a tiny baby growing in its mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the activity of God, who does all things. 6 Plant your seed in the morning and keep busy all afternoon, for you don’t know if profit will come from one activity or another—or maybe both,” (NLT).

We have to trust that even during what we perceive as difficult seasons, God is still on the throne. We have to believe that even when the desires of our hearts seem to be light years away, God has a plan for victory. No one said that walking by faith and not by sight would be easy, but we have to remember who God is. He is the same today, tomorrow and forever (Hebrews 13:8). If He did it before, He will do it again! If He did it for one, He will do it for all! He will do it for you.

King Solomon, the wisest man that ever lived cautioned:

9 Young people, it’s wonderful to be young! Enjoy every minute of it. Do everything you want to do; take it all in. But remember that you must give an account to God for everything you do. 10 So refuse to worry, and keep your body healthy. But remember that youth, with a whole life before you, is meaningless, (Ecclesiastes 11:9-10, NLT)

King Solomon was right. Everything in life is meaningless. Can any of us remember the worries that we had 10 years ago? Sure, we might be able to remember that we had some cause for concern, but those visceral emotions have fade. Even the memories of joyous events have faded. It is impossible to relive a moment. It is for that reason that we have to be thankful. We cannot relive today. Today is a new day. It’s not tomorrow or yesterday.  When you and I are not thankful for today, we spend our day wishing it were tomorrow, and in some cases, yesterday. Doing so never allows us to live in the present. The problem is, time doesn’t stand still when we fail to engage the present. In fact, it quickly sifts away. Before we know it, days have turned to months and months have morphed into years, even decades. We have to give thanks for where we are today, for tomorrow is not promised. Not only is tomorrow not promised. It does not exist. Tomorrow is a mirage. The moment we experience tomorrow, it has already become today. So, why are we living for tomorrow? We should enjoy today! We should give thanks for today!
Dear God, we thank you for today. We thank you for every moment—happy or sad. Lord, we know enough to know that we know nothing at all. We thank you that you have the universe and our lives under control. We thank you for the rainbow that hails after the storm because we know that is your promise of things to come. God, we simply thank you! Happy Thanksgiving!!!

DramaMasks
Is God a stage mom? Wow! That’s a loaded question.
What is a stage mom? Wikipedia defines a stage mom (or dad) as a parent of a child actor who “aggressively manages” the careers of their child (children). In fact, with so many more people looking for their “big break,” the definition has expanded to include a broader scope of entertainment, including the sports arena.
So, what does this have to do with God? Growing up, I have often heard several religious leaders say that God is more concerned with our process than He is with our outcome. In other words, God is more into character building. Let’s assume for a moment that’s true. Most of us could probably intellectualize the fact that untoward events build character. However, when we are hurting, character building is the last thing on our minds.
In order to answer the question, “Is God a stage mom” we must first ask and answer the question, “Does God really care about how we feel during the process.”
The Bible says that God is our “Comforter.” Here is where the problem starts for many of us. Our ignorance can often lead us to a misguided sense of emotions. You see, for me, when I think of a comforter, I think of someone who shows up AFTER an incident has occurred. It make sense, right? We would not need to be comforted if an unfavorable incident/event has not occurred. See, if that is my definition of comforter, then it could be very easy for me to misunderstand who God is, especially in those moments where it feels like God is absent during the midst of my storms. It this is my definition of comforter, I could easily believe that God only shows up at the end or my storm to give me the proverbial “there-there,” “way to go” pat on the back.
Here is a moment where I feel like I have to be completely transparent to drive the point home. There have been times in my life where I have felt like God has said, “Just suck it up. It’s for your own good. It will all work out in the end.” This leads me to the comparison of the stage mom.
The stage mother pushes her child, sometimes beyond the level of comfort, because she know that if she pushes her child hard enough, he or she will enter stardom. The truth is, a lot of children of stage parents do go on to become entertainers and/or athletes. However, many of them become broken in the process. Look at some of our child stars. Yeah, the outcome was “great,” but the process broke them. This is where my point comes home. The focus on process over outcome is what separates God from the stage moms. Stage moms are concerned with outcome resulted in children, and eventually adults, who were broken in the process. God is concerned about the process, which when done correctly, can yield the same, or better, outcomes.
I must say that there have been seasons in my life where I have felt disappointed while going through the process. However, I cannot think of one moment where I have ever regretted a God-directed outcome. NEVER!
So, what about that whole comforter issue? Again, life is all about perspective. The Greek word for “Comforter” or “Counselor” is “parakletos.” It means “one who is called to the side of another” or “one who is called to plea a cause,” (Bible Dictionary). The name “paraclete” was given by Jesus Christ to the Holy Spirit. It means Advocate and helper as well as comforter. Imagine, Advocate was the name given by Jesus to the Holy Spirit—the third person of the trinity (John 14:16). So, now when we hear that God is our Comforter, it should means so much more to us. It should signify how much God loves us. He loves us so much that He sacrificially gave a part of himself so that He would always be with us. The fact that God dwells in us means that it is IMPOSSIBLE for us to ever be alone. If our Comforter is the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit ALWAYS lives inside us, then we are ALWAYS comforted. We should take great cheer tonight to know that God will always be our “paraclete.”

Life is always about perspective!

Jesus Christ is said to be the finisher of our faith. In Hebrews 12:2, the NIV Bible refers to him as the “pioneer and perfecter of faith.” Philippians 1:6 says, “I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns,” (NLT). What does this all mean? It means that God will never start something and not carry it through to the end. Remember, He is not a man that he should lie (Numbers 23:19). So, if He said it, it must be so!
If you have a dream in your heart, and you are wondering how God will ever bring it to pass, then this message should give you hope. God will never place dreams in our hearts and then taunt us by making them unachievable.
The Bible says that in order to live our best lives, we must have faith. Hebrews 11:6 says, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him,” (NIV). Here is a critical point that is often lost on most of us, including myself. Faith, or lack thereof, isn’t our biggest problem. Many of have faith, or we think we do. The problem is, not our faith per se. The problem is, we don’t know who God is. Re-read Hebrews 11:6 more carefully. It says that anyone who comes to God must believe that He exists AND that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him. I would argue that most believer would agree that God exists. I think most people, believers and non-believers alike, struggle with the fact that God genuinely wants to reward them. I believe that before we can truly have faith in God, we have to learn a little more about who He is. It’s impossible to have faith in someone we know little or nothing about.
I could use a million examples to illustrate who God is, but today I want to focus on just one. Hopefully, we could meditate on this example throughout the day and allow the words to truly marinate. In Genesis 28:15, God told Jacob that “I will not leave you until I have finished giving you everything I have promised you.” A few chapters later, Jacob wrestles with God in Genesis 32:22-32.  In the passage, Jacob was alone when:

a man came and wrestled with him until the dawn began to break. 25 When the man saw that he would not win the match, he touched Jacob’s hip and wrenched it out of its socket. 26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking!” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” 27 “What is your name?” the man asked. He replied, “Jacob.” 28 “Your name will no longer be Jacob,” the man told him. “From now on you will be called Israel, because you have fought with God and with men and have won.” 29 “Please tell me your name,” Jacob said. “Why do you want to know my name?” the man replied. Then he blessed Jacob there.

How many of us are currently wrestling with God regarding our current situations?  Our relationships are broken.  Our marriages are not what we would like them to be.  We haven’t met the partner we thought we would have.  Our business ventures have failed.  We have no idea how to initiate the dream that God has laid on our hearts.  Our children are not where we would like them to be. There are so many ways that we all wrestle with God, yet He remains faithful. I believe that the moment that we truly realize that God is faithful, even when we are not (2Timothy 2:13), is the moment that we can truly begin to have faith. Today, remember that God promised Jacob that He would never leave him until He had given him everything that he has promised. Know that the promises made to Jacob are also applicable to us. It is also important to remember that God has also placed eternity in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Therefore, if God has promised us eternity, and He won’t leave us until He has given us everything He has promised, then God will NEVER leave us. This should comfort us to know that God will never leave us!

 

 

Today, as I was reflecting on God’s word in and for my life, I learned a very important lesson on gratitude.  It was also a lesson on humility.

One of my biggest pet peeve is when people answer the question “how are you” with the statement, “it could be worse.”  Oh my!  That phrase just makes my blood boil.  Yes, we all know it could be worse.  We could all be dying of hunger, suffering from scabies and burying our favorite dead dog—all in the same day.  Yes, it could be worse.  I guess the point that people are trying to convey when they say “it could be worse” is that we should be grateful.  However, I believe when we start to see our problems through the lens of “it could be worse,” we allow ourselves to adopt an attitude of pessimism.  The idea that “it could be worse” inadvertently traps us into mediocrity.  Somehow, it suggests that we have plateaued in our current situations.  If all we have is the notion that “it could be worse,” the worst case scenario, why would we aim higher?

Here is a novel idea:  IT COULD BE BETTER.   Regardless of wherever you and I find ourselves, there is always room for improvement.  When we take the stance of “it could be better,” we set the stage for optimism.  We are creating an environment where we could see our glasses as half full rather than half empty.

Now that we have established that life “could be better,” I must add a caveat to the argument.  Although there is always room for improvement in our lives, we must be grateful in our current situations.  In fact, some of the things that we take for granted might be the very thing that someone else is praying for.  Just think about it.

The first thing that most of us do when we arrive home late at night is turn the lights on.  We have taken our ability to distinguish between light and dark for granted.  For the individual praying for sight, he is always in darkness.  Some of us who have had the privilege of attending a concert might complain that the music was too loud, but for the person praying for hearing, everything is silent.  For the parent who complains about her child’s messy bedroom, there is a barren women praying for a baby.  I think you get the point.  We do have a lot to be grateful for.  However, our propensity for praise should not be based on what we do not have, but what we do.  For example, we should not praise God for our hearing by thanking Him for not being deaf.  We should praise him that we could hear.  The moral of the story is that we have to develop a heart of praise and thanksgiving.

This morning I read Luke 16:10-12.  It says, “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. 11 So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? 12 And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own,” (NIV)?  The passage humbled me.  For the first time, I was able to read it in a completely different light.  Here is what God laid on my heart based on this passage:

If God cannot trust us to be grateful and praise Him for the little miracles in our lives, how could He trust us to praise Him for our heart’s desires?  Maybe, just maybe, if we started to praise Him for the “little things,” we might start to see some manifestations of our bigger dreams.  In other words, if we praise Him for the “little things,” He just might trust us with true riches.

Have you ever had one of those philosophical moments where even the simplest action ignited a myriad of thoughts?  Well, for me, today was one of those days.

This morning as I drove to work I began to wonder: What did Jesus mean when He said, “whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father,” (John 14:12, NIV).  What do those greater works actually look like today?  Back then, Jesus sighted the blind, healed the lame and raised the dead.  So what does greater works look like in 2013?

As I continued my drive, I reflected on the act of driving.  Could the fact that I was driving a car be an example of the greater works that Jesus mentioned?  Back in His day, travel was either by foot or by animal.  Truly, when we think about it, our technological and mechanical advances are pretty miraculous.  Through God’s grace we have been able to explore the Earth and challenge some of it laws.  Our planes challenge the laws of gravity.  Our submarines manipulates the force of buoyance.  Our miracles don’t just stop at transportation.  Modern medicine has also come a long way since Jesus’ time.  People are living longer and healthier because of human advances in medicine.  However, as wonderful as these advances are, and they are wonderful, in my heart, I wonder whether our technological advances are the “greater works” Jesus was referring to.  With that being said, I beg the question, “What are the greater works that Jesus was referring to?”

When Jesus gave us the promise of “greater works,” it was given as a conditional and not an absolute.  In order for us to see the manifestations of greater works, Jesus said we had to believe in Him.  This belief is not simply an acknowledgment of Jesus’ existence but a conviction of His might.  This belief has to be activated by our faith.  Maybe, just maybe, the reason why we haven’t seen an abundance of “greater works” is because we are limited on our faith.  In the Bible, we saw numerous examples of great faith and great works.  When the woman with the issue of blood touched the hem of Jesus’ garment, she knew that she was healed.  In fact, Jesus told her that her faith had healed her.

In 2013, there is no reason why we should not be experiencing people being raised from the dead, limbs being regenerated, diseases being cured and people walking into their Canaan. If you think that this sounds a little silly, then that’s actually part of the problem.  I think that when we begin to believe, God will do the supernatural (the impossible.)  He will either do it the old-fashion way by simply yelling, “Lazarus, get up,” or He could do it new-school by yelling, “Clear” (reference to a defibrillator in a hospital).

There is no reason why you and I should not be able to see greater works.  When Jesus died and was risen, he left us the gift of the Holy Spirit.  In Joel 2:28-29 God said, “And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people.  Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, (NIV).  In John 14, Jesus said that He would not leave us as orphans (verse 18).  Jesus left us the Holy Spirit to teach us, guide us and protect us.  With the Holy Spirit guiding us and protecting us, there is no reason why we should not be seeing our “greater works.”  My prayer is that, today, God’s people will begin to believe and do greater works.  In Jesus’ name, Amen!

EnvyA few weeks ago, we started a new series called the seven deadly sins.  Those sins are:  pride, envy, greed, wrath, gluttony, sloth and lust.  In our previous discussions, we mentioned that 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, NIV).

So far, we have talked about pride and greed.  Today we will talk about envy!

Previously, we mentioned that pride was the original sin that caused man to fall.  If I were to rank the seven deadly sins in order of egregiousness, I would say that pride would be a first place contender, and envy would be a close runner up.  Of the seven deadly sins, I believe that these two are the most vile of them all.  I would even argue that pride and envy are what I would call gateway sins.  When they take root in our lives, they open the gates for other sins.  Let’s take a look at James 4:1-4 to illustrate this point.

What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us? But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:

“God opposes the proud
but shows favor to the humble.”

James 4:1-4, NIV

So, in James 4:1, the Bible says that our desires that battle inside us is what causes us to quarrel and fight.  That is pride and envy 101.  It was pride and envy that caused Adam and Eve to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  Their pride told them that they were entitled to God’s knowledge.  Their envy made them begrudge the fact that God possessed the knowledge that they thought they deserved.

Now, here is why I call pride and envy the gateway sin.  James 4:2 says, “You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight.”  Remember pride makes us feel entitled and envy makes us think we should have the product of our entitlement.  So what happens when someone has what we think we should have? We become envious and that envy could lead to rape, murder, adultery, lying,  greed, and any other vice we could think of.  Let’s look at some practical applications.  For example, a man cheat on his wife with another man’s wife.  Why?  Somehow, deep down inside, he has reasoned that he is entitled to the value that other man’s wife brings to her husband.  The man who is doing the cheating might have reasoned that he deserved to be respected, loved and honored.  Since he is envious of his perception of the other man’s wife’s values, he “steals” her from the other man.  His pride has told him that he is entitled, and his envy has precipitated his adultery, lying and stealing, and in some cases, killing.

Let’s use another example.  A woman shoplifts from a department store.  Why? Somewhere in her mind, she has determined that she is entitled to the items she has stolen.  She is also envious that the store owners/stock holders have move than she does.  Most of the time when we listen to the excuses of people who shoplift, they say things like: “They have enough stuff;” “They’ll never miss this;” or some variation of “I should have this stuff too.”  This is jealousy and pride.  That jealously and pride have caused them to resort to lying and stealing.  First, the individual in our shoplifting scenario has lied to herself in an effort to convince herself that she deserve someone’s miracle/destiny/blessings.  Second, she has lied to herself by trying to convince herself that she is not hurting anyone.  Lastly, she will have to lie to avoid getting caught.

The problem with envy and pride is not that they are inherently bad, even though they are.  The problem is that they set us up for failure each and every time.  It is impossible for us to have someone else’s blessings because that blessing was custom fitted for that individual.  You see, God knows each and every one of us inside out.  Just as no two people have the same fingerprints, no two people have the same spiritual DNA.  When God considered our blessings, He considered our gender, our race, our backgrounds, our personalities, our idiosyncrasies, our level of faith (or lack thereof), our maturity and so much more.  It is IMPOSSIBLE that any another person on the planet would align with us on ALL of those thousands, maybe even millions, of variables.  We could save ourselves a tremendous amount of heartache and pain if we understood that no matter how much we envied someone, we could never have what they have.  Their blessing weren’t made for us.  The other thing is this.  We do not know how much time, effort and prayer someone has put into their blessings.  The problem with many of us is we think that our story ends when God grants us our blessings.  Friends, in many cases, this is just the beginning.  God has an expectation that we will take care of what He has given us.  Let’s use another example.  We might look at our neighbor and say, “Wow, they have such good, accomplished children.  I wish mine were like theirs.”  The problem is we don’t know how they got to that point.  How many days did that mother fast for her children?  How many nights did that father pray for their success?  What about their ancestors?  Imagine how they could have prayed and planted seeds.  They truth is we just never know what people’s true circumstances are.

The final point I would like to bring home is this: James 4: 2-3 says we have not because we ask not.  It also says that sometimes the reason that we do not have is because we ask for the wrong reasons.  Friends, if God owns the cattle on a thousand hills (p.s. He owns the hills too), why aren’t we asking Him for everything.  No matter how small our requests, we should bring them to God.  If we do not get the answer we desire, we should not automatically think that we are asking with wrong motives.  Instead, we should ask God to check our heart and purify our desires.  If we have done a heart check with God and we still find ourselves with the same desire, then the answer is simple.  We have to wait and trust that His timing is perfect.  We have to know that though others might appear to be experiencing their Jordans, their timing is not ours.  We have to trust that God knows what we need and will come through when we need it.

God,

My prayer for today is that you settle the hearts of your people.  Grant us your peace that surpasses all understanding.  Thwart in us any temptation for pride and envy.  Allow us to know that you have custom-fitted blessing designed specifically for each and every single one of us that will be revealed at just the right time.  I pray blessings over all your people.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen!

One of the things that I love most about working out is actually one of the things I “hate” the most.  It’s that sore feeling.  Feeling sore reminds me that my muscles have been challenged.  The soreness lets me know that what I am doing is actually working.  Sure I hate walking down stairs after have done leg exercises, but I love knowing that my legs will be toned.  Thankfully, that soreness is fleeting.  Those of you who have worked out for any period of time, know that the more frequently we challenge our muscles, the less likely they are to fatigue and ache the next time we do the same exercises or use the same amount of weight.  In fact, there comes a period in the workout regime when we have to increase the weight in order to get the same or better results.  With any workout routine, there is a tendency for our bodies to plateau.  Similarly, this plateau phenomenon is not just limited to our bodies.  Our spirits function in the same capacity as well.

There are times in our spiritual journey when we will experience a spiritual plateau phenomenon.  Just as muscling building requires a gradual increase of weights for deeper muscle penetration, spiritual building requires a heavier message for deeper spiritual penetration.  Here is what I mean.  There will come a point in our spiritual journey when superficial, anecdotal messages are not enough.  Sure, we might get the gist or receive an occasional word because God’s Word always provides revelation.  However, our spirits were designed to want more.  At some point, we will need to pack on the weight and increase the heaviness to challenge our spiritual muscles.  This might simply mean attending a new church, reading new books/devotional or even changing our circle of influence/friends.  Think about it this way.  When we first learned to read, we probably started with picture books and eventually graduated to chapter books.  While I’m sure that as an adult it might be fun to read an occasional picture book, and we probably could learn a fact or two, however, reading a picture book as an adult would not be as edifying.  Imagine if all we read as adults were children’s picture books.  Our growth would be stagnant and our knowledge limited.  The reason why as we progressed throughout our formative school years our curriculum increased in difficulty was because growth requires an increase in intensity.  So if we want to see an increase in our spiritual live, we have to turn up the proverbial fire.  We have challenge our spirits.

10 tips to success!