Archives for the month of: February, 2016

The biggest tests of love and loyalty are failure and success.  If we ever wanted to know where our true supporters are, we should either try living successfully or failing miserably.

 

Our lives are probably the most difficult to assess during the status quo—those moments where our daily routines are nothing short of monotonous.  It’s usually when life’s pendulum swings to either side that we typically get a clearer understanding of our lives and our relationships with others.  When times are really great, or really bad, we tend to learn who is really in our corner, or who is simply taking up space.

 

Imagine any one of the following scenarios.  We finally landed a great mate, but instead of being happen, our single friend is secretly resentful.  We got a promotion at work, but our so-called best friend can’t muster up the energy to be happy for us.  We got our heart broken, but the friend with whom we cried with until 3 a.m. in the morning after her break up can’t pretend to be interested long enough to listen to us vent.  Sounds familiar?  The scenarios might not be exactly the same, but they are probably resonating.

 

Nothing reveals an individual’s true feeling towards us more clearly than his or her reactions to us in our moments of need and celebration.  True friends understand that, for the most part, life is typically inconvenient.  Wouldn’t it be great if we all experienced our happiness and sadness simultaneously?  No, not really!  The truth is, our greatest victories might come at the height of someone’s biggest disappointment.  However, that should not be a hindrance for celebration.  Sometimes we have to learn to celebrate others even when our lives are seemingly in shambles.  The opposite is also true.  Sometimes, we have to pause our celebration to embrace someone who is hurting.  Why?  That’s what true friends do.

 

A few years ago, I read a quote by Mya Angelou.  She said, “When people tell you who they are, believe them.”  For many of us who have experienced, what I will call, serial disappointments in our relationships, we have to be honest with ourselves and admit that, oftentimes, the writing is usually on the wall way ahead of time.  Typically, in relationships, most people make incremental revelations of their character throughout the course of a relationship.  Seldom do people “flip the script” and act completely out of character.  If we are truthful with ourselves, we would probably admit that the terminal behavior (the straw that broke the camel’s back) is not a new revelation.  With that being said, we have to admit that being disappointed or betrayed, regardless of the foreshadowing, is hurtful.

 

As hurtful as it might be to lose a friend, we have to learn that not every relationship is meant to go the distance.  There are times in our lives when God is doing a new thing and He has to clean house in order to take us to a new level.  Sometimes, we need to be pruned, and that pruning needs to be done in isolation.  Think about the Biblical story of the Israelites.  When God made them into a great nation, He did so in isolation.  It wasn’t until the Israelites had grown into a great many that the Egyptians took notice.

 

As hard as it is, we should be thankful for the people whom God has allowed to leave our lives.  If they cannot support, embrace or console us, what purpose do they really serve other than taking up space?  The dream that God has place on our hearts is too big to be bogged down with frivolity.  We need people who can be champions with us on our journey towards our purpose.

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The divides we face should never be along racial lines.  We, regardless of who we are, should always side with truth and justice.  In the Bible, Jesus often spoke about showing favor and mercy to the widow, the alien, the fatherless and the poor.  Many of us have fallen, or will fall, into one of those categories.

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Our greatest cry of desperation is most often echoed by our perception of defeat.

Tears full stream; Face soaking wet,
Mind embrace the thought of death.
Angels screaming, “wait, not yet.”
SOS—extreme distress!
This is an emergency signal, not a test.

The lights they fade to a blurry haze,
Symbolizing life’s darkest days.
Hopes and dreams they’ve slowly fade,
Not completely gone, but far away.

Signals of that final cry,
More shouts hello than it screams goodbye.
But before you cleave that final breath,
Just know that Jesus has already conquered death.

36Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to His disciples, ‘Sit here while I go over there and pray.’ 37And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and distressed. 38Then He said to them, ‘My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me.’ 39And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, ‘My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will,’ (Matthew 26:36-39, NLT).

38Then He said to them, ‘My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me,’ (v. 38).

Many times, we read the Bible and we forget that Jesus represents a coalescence of divinity and humanity. He was a 100 percent human and a 100 percent divinity. The Bible says that in his humanity, he was deeply grieved to the point of death. Now we could spend all day arguing theology as to why Jesus was grieving, but the point still remains that Jesus was sorrowful. When I read this passage, my initial interpretation was that Jesus, in the natural, was depressed, maybe even suicidal. Let’s meditate on that. I think too often, in our efforts to avoid being deemed faithless, we avoid entertaining certain thoughts, which might be the very thoughts that we need to engage in order to set our minds free. It is so important for our walk and our growth in Christ to know that Jesus, in that moment, embraced many of our fears. He embraced our sadness, our grief, our rejection, our doubts, and, ultimately, our death. Only when we embrace the knowledge that Jesus actually shared our human experiences can we truly trust him with our lives. If we only see Jesus as a deity who is completely removed from the human experience, then our excuse will always come down to our assertion that God does not know what it is like to be confined by the flesh. I believe in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus allowed His humanity to show. However, His humanity was tempered by His divinity. In the Garden, Jesus was able to conquer death because he surrendered to God’s will: “‘My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will,’” (v.39).

The moments in the Garden must have been one of Jesus’ darkest hours. He faced many of the same fears that many of us face today. However, the moment that he decided to let God reign supreme was the moment that ultimately set Him free. Today, Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father. For his obedience, God has given Him dominion over all the Earth. Jesus just had to push through His darkest days to get to His greatest promise, which is our deliverance. Today, what is God asking you to push through?

29“Yes,” Jesus replied, “and I assure you that everyone who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or property, for my sake and for the Good News, 30will receive now in return a hundred times as many houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and property—along with persecution. And in the world to come that person will have eternal life,” (Mark 10: 29-30).

 

For some ministries, the word “prosperity” has become a four-letter perversion.  Whenever pastors predominantly preach about God’s provisions, many of the pious authorities mock them and label them “prosperity pastors.”  The critics of “prosperity pastors” claim that “prosperity ministries” do not present an accurate representation of the Bible.  The question is, “Is the alternate stance any more accurate?”  If we are not careful, the directive “to pick up your cross” could overshadow everything else that God has said.  If we read the above verse, the Bible asserts that there will be persecution.  However, it ALSO promises prosperity, not just in heaven, but here on Earth as well.  Unfortunately, although the above-quoted verse clearly states one of God’s promise of prosperity, the preceding verses are often misquoted and misrepresented.

 

One of the biggest misrepresentations of Biblical prosperity stems from the story of Jesus and the Rich Man.  In the story of Jesus and the Rich Man, The Rich Man asked Jesus how he could achieve eternal life.  In return, Jesus questioned the Rich Man about whether he knew and upheld the Commandment.  The Rich Man assured Jesus that he did uphold the Commandments.  Jesus then challenged the Rich Man to “’Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me,’” (v. 21, NLT).  The Rich Man went away sad because he had many possessions.  When the disciples questioned Jesus about this interaction, “23Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, ‘How hard it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God!’ 24This amazed them. But Jesus said again, ‘Dear children, it is very hard to enter the Kingdom of God. 25In fact, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God,’” (v. 27, NLT).  Unfortunately, some have used this verse to assert their position that Christians should some how live in squalor here on Earth. Here is my take on the story of Jesus and the Rich Man.  What if the story of Jesus and the Rich Man was a God-Abraham-Isaac moment?  What if Jesus was trying to make a bigger point?

 

In the early days, family and lineage were significant.  God had promised Abraham that he would be the father of many nations.  Abraham waited several years before he experienced the first manifestation of that promise.  After years of infertility, Abraham and his wife, Sarah, had a son Isaac.  Abraham finally hit the jackpot, and then, Boom!  The bottom fell out.  God asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac—the very promise He had given him.  What would have happened had Abraham said no?  What would have happen had the Rich Man said yes?  We know exactly what would have happened to the Rich Man.  In Mark 10:29-30, Jesus tells us exactly what would have happened: “Yes,” Jesus replied, “and I assure you that everyone who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or property, for my sake and for the Good News, 30will receive now in return a hundred times as many houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and property—along with persecution. And in the world to come that person will have eternal life,” (NLT).

 

I don’t believe that it was the Rich Man’s riches that Jesus was highlighting in this story.  I believe that it was his “love of his riches” that Jesus was pointing out.  1Timothy 6:10, yet another verse which is often misquoted, says that the “love of money is the root of all evil.”

 

When Jesus was asked which of the Ten Commandments is the greatest, he replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’38This is the first and greatest commandment. 39A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  40The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments,” (Matthew 22:38-40, NLT).  Oftentimes, Jesus gives us a heart check.  Do we love him, or do we love the things of this world more?

 

I was so inspired when I read this quote this morning.  It reminded me that God is very much aware of the sacrifices that we have made for Him and His Kingdom.  According to the verse above, God will reward us 100 fold for what we have given up.  Maybe, just maybe, sometimes, all we have to do is to be willing to put our riches on the altar.