Archives for the month of: October, 2014

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil…

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According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s 2012 Crime Clock Statistics, a burglary occurs every 15 seconds. A few years ago, my family was victim of that statistic.

What started as a typical summer day turned out to be one of life’s defining moments. Although some years have passed, and the fine details have become a little fuzzy, I still remember that day like it was yesterday.

I was the last person to leave my home that morning. My summer biology course didn’t start until late morning. My spirit must have sensed that something was amiss because I had unconsciously surveyed the perimeter of my house before I drove off to face what I thought would have been another typical day.

I spent the greater part of that morning and early afternoon in biology class. For anyone who has ever taken a summer college course, you can relate to the joys of trying to cram a semester worth of information into a few short weeks. It’s no wonder that by the time class was over, all I wanted to do was to head out of dodge. However, thank God for divine intervention. One of my classmates had missed lecture the week before and had asked me to copy my notes. I told her that she could borrow them and return them at the next class. She insisted that she would prefer to just make copies and be done with it. She didn’t want to be responsible for keeping them. I was slightly agitated. I just wanted to go home, but she insisted, and I complied. About an hour later, I headed home.

As I got out of my car, the first thing I noticed was that the side gate was ajar. It was closed when I left that morning. The hairs on the back of my neck stood on edge. I brushed off the sensation. I figured that there had to be a valid explanation. Maybe my dad had come home for lunch and had walked out back and had forgotten to close the gate behind him. Word to the wise, never ignore that spirit inside of you.

The layout of our old family home was an open floor plan. The front door faced the family room, and my parents’ bedroom was immediately to the right of the front entrance. That day, as I opened the front door, the very first thing that I noticed was that the blinds covering the family room windows were disheveled. Even with the evidence in front of me, I could not wrap my head around the idea that danger could be lurking in my home–my sanctuary.

My entry was pensive. I left the door open behind me. Somehow, I needed confirmation of what my spirit has already revealed to me. I made a deal with myself. The deal was, I would quickly peer my head into my parents’ bedroom, and I would leave upon any sign of a disturbance. I peeked. The room was ransacked, and I fled to the next door neighbor’s house where I called the police.

The nights following the event were the scariest nights that I had ever experienced. During the burglary, the thieves had removed the back windows, leaving an empty window frame. That evening, after the police had conducted their investigation, my parents called a few companies to have the windows repaired, but the window sizes were customized and the stores did not have the sizes in stock. We had to wait until they could be ordered. For what seemed like forever, we felt vulnerable to a subsequent break in. For me, nights were the hardest. Not knowing whether or not the criminals were planning to return was difficult. Eventually, we replaced the windows. The following year, we moved.

Earlier today, God brought that story to my memory. I remembered how fearful I was I nights. God also reminded me how He carried me and my family through. Those burglars never return, and my family and I were kept safe.

God never promised us that bad things would never happen to us on Earth. However, He did promise that He would carry us through and He would be with us during our darkest days. “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil” (Psalm 23:4). Why? The verse goes on to give the reason why we should not be afraid, even in the face of death. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me.” No matter what trials we are facing, know that God is with us. He has not forsaken us. He is right there in the fiery pit. He is the same God today as He was yesterday. If He did it before, He will do it again.

Today, take heart, that no matter where you are, God is right there with you.

I can never escape from your Spirit!     I can never get away from your presence! If I go up to heaven, you are there;     if I go down to the grave, you are there. If I ride the wings of the morning,     if I dwell by the farthest oceans, 10 even there your hand will guide me,     and your strength will support me, (Psalm 139:7-10, NLT).

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The Bible says that many are called, but only few are chosen (Matthew 22:14). Imagine getting to the end of our lives and realizing that we missed out on being chosen because we refused to answer God’s call.

This afternoon, as I was doing my devotional, I decided to meditate on Mark 9:28-29, “28 And when he was come into the house, his disciples asked him privately, Why could not we cast him out? 29And he said unto them, ‘This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting,’” (KJV). Here is a little background on that verse. Jesus had just returned from his transfiguration experience with Peter, James and John to find the remaining disciples quarrelling with some of the teachers of religious law (Mark 9:14). At the epicenter of the debate was a demon-possessed boy. According to the boy’s father, the child had been plagued by the demon since he was a little boy. Long story short, Jesus freed the little boy of the demon. So, let’s take a look again at verses 28 and 29, “28 And when he was come into the house, his disciples asked him privately, Why could not we cast him out? 29And he said unto them, ‘This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting,’” (KJV).

After I read this passage, I knew that there was something deeper that God wanted me to receive in my spirit. I prayed for His revelation, and He gave it to me. I will share with you what He revealed to me.

Whenever we read a passage in Scripture, we should always try to read it in context. Look at what came before and what comes after. Prior to meeting up with the other disciples, Jesus has just experienced one of the most amazing experiences of His Earthly life—Transfiguration. Without minimizing this miraculous event or getting into too much detail, the Transfiguration was essentially God smiling down from heaven and giving Jesus His spiritual seal of approval–a spiritual thumbs up (Mark 9:1-13). Now, this is the part of the story where my wheels started to turn. Jesus had 12 disciples, yet He only brought three with Him to share the experience. Where were the other nine? They were away from Jesus arguing about religious laws. Here is my first revelation. Friend, whenever you and I are more focused on religion than we are Jesus, we set ourselves up for being outside of Jesus’ company. Here is the second revelation. We can become so distracted by religion that we are unable to complete our assignments. We have to realize that our religion is not enough to yield the miracles we desire. In the passage, it wasn’t until Jesus stepped into the picture that the demon was cast out. I believe  that God wanted to illustrate that being religious is not equivalent to being Godly.

When the disciples asked God why they could not cast out the demon, He stated that the type of miracle that they were looking for could be revealed by only two things: prayer and fasting. This brings me to my last two points.

The fourth point is this: God is not moved by our pomp and circumstances. He is moved by our faith which is manifested in our prayer. Notice in Mark 9:19, Jesus said, “‘You faithless people! How long must I be with you? How long must I put up with you? Bring the boy to me,’” (NIV). Catch what Jesus is saying. Faith is trusting God even when we cannot see Him with our natural eyes. Even though Jesus was not physically with the other disciples while He was on the mountain, He was with them in spirit. However, it was impossible for them to sense His presence because they were burdened by religion. Friend, Jesus is not in our ceremonies, our ideologies, our oils, our rituals, our holy water or our idols. He is in our prayers.

Here is the final point that Jesus made in Mark 9:29. “‘This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting,’” (KJV). There are some “demons” in our lives that we can cast out only with praying and fasting. Why fasting? Fasting is simply preparing the atmosphere for prayer. Fasting allows us to silence our environment so that we can focus on our prayer. There are some things in our lives that will not be answered in just one prayer. We have to get up daily and knock on God’s door like the story of the woman and the judge (Luke 18:1-8). If we are not spiritually, mentally, emotionally and physically prepared, we will fail before the manifestation of the prayer. Fasting prepares us for this. Therefore, today I ask you, “What are you believing God for? What thing(s) in your life can only be changed by submitting it to fasting and prayer?” Philippians 4:6 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God,” (NIV). However, when we do, we have to believe that our prayers are enough. God is enough. “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus,” (Philippians 4:19, ESV).

Have you ever been screwed over? I mean really screwed over—tramp took your man, business partner stole your money, best friend betrayed you—screwed over. If you haven’t, get ready. You will. If you have, then you know what I am talking about.

Over the past few years, God has taught (and is teaching) me how to handle betrayal, more specifically, how to treat those who have wronged me. In this season of my life, I have related a lot with King David. David is what I would call a spiritual gangsta. He was perfectly imperfect, and he served God with a raw transparency that is seldom duplicated. In fact, God loved him so much that He labeled him the apple of His eyes.

The psalms are filled with David’s cries to God. One of my favorite desperation cry is Psalm 3:7, “Arise, O Lord! Rescue me, my God! Slap all my enemies in the face! Shatter the teeth of the wicked,” (NLT). Some translations say, “Strike all my enemies on the jaw; break the teeth of the wicked,” (NIV). Other says, “Up, God! My God, help me! Slap their faces, First this cheek, then the other, Your fist hard in their teeth,” (MSG)!

Yes, now that’s the kind of justice I’m talking about. Slap them in the face, God! Knock out their teeth! Give them the Holy Ghost smack down!

As I chuckled at the verse, God nudged my heart and reminded me that the verse was intended to be metaphoric and not literal. Although, secretly, I think I prefer the literal interpretation.

My carnal nature wants my enemies to pay. It wants God’s judgment to be upon their deeds and upon their heads. All too often, my heart cries out to God, “How could you allow them to get away with this?” In those moments, God reminds me that vengeance belongs to Him, and the task of forgiveness has been assigned to me. He reminded me that my FU’s have to be personified and applied: I FU, which translates into, “I Forgive You!”

One of the hardest things that we will ever have to do in this life is to forgive those, who in our estimation, do not deserve our forgiveness. However, without forgiveness, we become slaves—slaves to our oppressors. Without forgiveness, there is a transference of our oppressor’s evil spirit. The demons that once (or still) plagues them, now plagues us. Remember, we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities (Ephesians 6:12). The devil is always looking for a way in our spirit. Don’t give him a foothold. If someone has wronged you. Pray to God to allow you to let it go. Pray that instead of saying FU, God will allow you to says, “I FU—I forgive you.” Your happiness depends on it!

A few years ago, God urged me to create this blog called That Next Level Thinking. The call to action was to challenge individuals to think on a deeper level. Above all, God has gifted me with the ability to think. I am a thinker. Beyond my ability to write, the gifting that I share with you is my ability to think. The bible says that whatever our gifts are, we should use them to bless others:

10 God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. 11 Do you have the gift of speaking? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you. Do you have the gift of helping others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen, (1 Peter 4:10-11, NLT).

Today, I am going to challenge you. With everything that I have I am going to challenge you to think. For the next few minutes as you read this devotional, I am going to challenge you to go deeper. Before you continue reading, I urge you take a second to ask God to prepare your heart to receive what I am about to say….

…Children of God, there is a bounty on our heads. Satan wants us dead. The minute that we decided to take up the cross and follow Jesus, Lucifer’s henchmen went on the attack. Since the beginning of time, the devil’s mission has been to annihilate the word of God. Friend, media have done a good job personifying the devil. Now, we think that we can recognize the devil with our natural eyes. The visual that we have is of a ghastly, gory beast whose eyes are deep set and piercing. Based on the devil’s PR photos, we would definitely recognize him when we see him. Right? Wrong! I am here to caution, no, to beg you to dismiss such erroneous thinking. Ephesians 6:12 tells us that, “For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places, (NLT).” The passage says “unseen world.” In the natural, the devil is charismatic, sexy, beautify and alluring. Tell the truth, if we were to see the media-depicted devil approaching us, we would run for our lives? Unfortunately, the devil is the master of disguises. He uses our vices. He’s our depression, our anxiety our doubt, our prostitution, our cocaine. We invite him in our hearts and our secret places daily. We romance him. We caress him. He erodes us from the inside out. Seldom are his attack external. Why would his attacks be external when he unsuspectingly cause us to self-implode?
Satan is a virus. To demonstrate what I mean by this, let’s use the HIV virus as an example. Outside of our bodies, the HIV virus is harmless. It is only an impending threat. However, once it enters the body, it uses the body’s cell mechanism to reproduce itself. Once the virus has replicated itself, the duplicate viruses then attack the body from the inside. Satan works in a similar fashion. He looks for holes in our infrastructure. He uses our fears, our doubts and our weaknesses. Once he has a stronghold inside of us, he uses our own mechanisms to tear us down. Friend, I am here to tell you that the heaviness and weightiness that we feel is not always the burdens of clinical depression, which is valid medical diagnosis. Sometimes, it’s a spiritual attack. Satan knows we have a calling on our lives, and he will attack us with everything that he has. Even as I write this devotional, the devil is trying to distract me. I feel a deep conviction that God will use these words will liberate someone. Psalm 91:3-7 says,

“For he will rescue you from every trap and protect you from deadly disease. 4 He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection. 5 Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night, nor the arrow that flies in the day. 6 Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness, nor the disaster that strikes at midday. 7 Though a thousand fall at your side, though ten thousand are dying around you, these evils will not touch you, (NLT).”

Please know today, that regardless of what you are facing, God has already devised a plan. Before the beginning of time, God knew that the enemy would come after us. However, we should take delight in the fact that the devil has already been defeated. Jesus comforted us by saying, “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world,” (John 16:33).