Archives for the month of: July, 2017

I can’t believe that three weeks have already gone by.  Today is the last day of our 21-day journey together.  It has been such an amazing experience for me.  For those who have followed me for these past 21 days, I hope these posts have made an impact on you as well.  Today, I end the series with the most important lessons that I have learned on this journey:  Don’t be afraid to go it alone.  Sometimes, we have to learn to be our own best friend—our own cheerleader.

Earlier this week, I thought about the lives of David and Joseph.  Both of these two men were significantly used by God to impact His Kingdom, and yet both faced extended periods of isolation as God prepared them for greatness.  Joseph was sold into slavery and was later accused of rape, for which he was placed in prison.  David was initially overlooked for kingship, and then when selected he was persecuted by his predecessor, King Saul.  As I read about the lives of both of these great men, I wondered, where were their friends.  There was no recount of friends who tried to free Joseph from slavery or of those who had visited him in prison.  The same could also be said of David.  The only friend that the Bible mentioned was Jonathan, Saul’s son, and I wondered just how much he confided in him considering that he was the son of his archenemy.  Yes, both of these two men were isolated, and perhaps, lonely.  They had to learn to develop a deep reliance on God and a comfortability in their own skin.  They had to learn to be their own best friend.

God was intentional when He separated David and Joseph from the masses. In those moments of isolation, He taught them about faith, courage, strength, self-reliance, God-dependence, grace, humility and friendship.  I’m sure they learned a lot about friendship.  According to a very popular Internet quote, “In good times your friends know you, but in bad times you know your friends.”  One of the greatest lessons that David and Joseph probably learned during their period of isolation was discernment.  They not only learned to hear and recognize the voice and the will God, they also learned to recognized those things that were or were not in alignment with His will for their lives.  Yes, our periods of isolation, which we have all gone through or will go through, are difficult.  They are lonely.  They are depressing, but they are important.  It is important that God separates us from the noise and the distractions.  God’s voice is seldom heard over the noise and the chaos.  It’s often heard in a whisper.  Just ask Elijah:

“Go out and stand before me on the mountain,” the Lord told him. And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper,” (1 King 19:11-12).

God has amazing plans for all His children.  There are things on the heart of the Father that cannot be heard during the midst of chaos.  In order for God to reveal His plans, we have to be willing and prepared to spend moments alone, separated from the crowd.

That’s just the way I am!  You’re too judgmental!  Maybe you are just too picky?

Relationships are hard, both platonic and romantic.  They require work, sacrifices and compromises, especially since we are all broken, imperfect people with a suitcase filled with baggage.

It is impossible to navigate the world alone.  We all need friends.  “Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed.  If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble,” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, NLT).  With that said, we have to learn to choose our friends wisely.  Relationships should be supportive, encouraging and empowering.  The people in our lives should directly and indirectly champion us to become better versions of ourselves.  We are the company that we keep.  The Bible reminds us of that in 1 Corinthians 15:33: “Bad company ruins good character” (NLT).

Compromise is needed to make any relationship work, but it should never be license for mistreatment.  Yes, we should all accept people for what, who and where they are, but this does not mean that we have to accept what they are willing or capable of offering.  For example, if we are in a place in our lives where our emotional love tank needs to be filled at a level eight capacity in order to make us feel whole, loved and valued, and someone is only willing or able to give at a level two capacity, then it is within our right to terminate or reposition that relationship.  The problem is that oftentimes, people with relational deficiencies take offense to being reassigned.  They often say things like, “You should accept me the way I am” or “You’re being judgmental.”  Yes, it is true that we should accept people as is, and that we should not be judgmental, but it is equally true that we don’t have to accept what someone is giving us simply because they are unwilling or unable to give us more.  It doesn’t mean that they are bad people, nor does it mean that we are.  It just means that we not compatible at the particular moment, which could change in the future.  It is okay to say that we want and need more from our relationships.  It’s even okay to say that we deserve it.  We should be in relationships with people who allow us to make demands of them, and who are willing to make an attempt to meet our needs.  With that said, we must be willing and able to do the same.  We also must be okay with others telling us that we do not fulfill their relationship criteria.  Some relationships are seasonal, and maybe those seasonal relationships have run their course.  That’s also okay.

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Yesterday, was pretty dreary and soggy on my end of the world.  It had been gray for most of the day until about 8:30 p.m. when suddenly skies burst forth with the most radiant light.  It looked more like late afternoon than evening.  I rushed outside to catch a glimpse of the delayed sunset, but it was hidden behind the trees and the other houses.  Instead, I caught a glimpse of the most spectacular double rainbow.  It was God’s subtle reminder that He is always omnipresent, even during the midst of a storm.

Believing in God is difficult.  Our sinful nature is hostile towards God (Romans 8:7).  When it comes to faith, many of us struggle with some of the most rudimentary principles of Christianity: Does God exist?  If God does exist, could we trust him to do what he said he would do in the Bible?  If God does exist, is the Bible the true Word of God?  These are all heavily-loaded, spiritual questions, far too profound for the scope of this discussion.  However, I will say this, we all have made conscious decisions to place our faith in something or someone.  If any of us have ever driven on the highway or walked down the street, then we have faith.  We have faith that the highway will not collapse beneath us or that one of the thousands of cars on the street won’t skip the median and run us over as we stroll.  For some of us, the veracity of the object of our faith is irrelevant.  For others, we have to have empirical evidence of our faith.  Again, without going into too deep of a discussion, a lot of Christianity has been proven scientifically, archeologically and historically.  Nonetheless, there are some x-factors, unknown variables that have yet to be verified.  The same could be said of science.  There comes a point in both science and Christianity where some things just have to be taken as given—based on faith.

If we opt to believe that God does exist, there will come a point where we just have to trust that God is who He said He is and that He is going to do what He said He would do.  When we have gotten to the point in our lives where we’ve tried everything and all else has failed, why not try God?  It’s not my intention to reduce God to a plan B alternative, but why not take a chance on Him?  What do we really have to lose by opting to believe in God?  Yesterday’s rainbow was a simple reminder of God’s wonderment. The rainbow is a symbol of God’s promises—His covenant with humanity—a representation of His mercy.  It is also a reminder that God can make all things new.  Rainbows usually manifest after a storm, right before it completely clears.  The Bible says that God is not a man that he should lie (Numbers 23:19).  Therefore, if the rainbow is representative of the veracity of God’s covenant with humanity, then it should serve as a reminder that God is true to His Word—all of them.

Telling the truth isn’t always easy.  In fact, sometimes, it’s downright hard!  However, one of our greatest challenges on our road to self-discovery and reinvention is learning to be a person of integrity—let our yeses be yeses and our noes be noes.  We have to learn to engage in difficult conversations, which might result in disappointment for some.  Doing the right thing includes the understanding that we cannot please everyone.  When we try to please everyone, we ultimately please no one, including ourselves.  People might not always like the truth spoken in love, but more often than not, they respect the person speaking it.  When you and I are people of integrity, others can count on our words and our deeds.  When people opt to speak half-truths and untruths, they become untrustworthy, and even their truths are tainted by the perception of deception.

The spirit of deception is duplicitous.  It steals from both the deceiver and the one being deceived.  Most people, unless they are social deviants, typically act dishonestly out of fear and/or cowardice.  They are either unwilling or incapable of telling the truth due to a misguided perception of the repercussions of their honesty.  Instead they opt for what they perceive as “the easy way out.”  However, the “easy way out” is not without consequences, and it isn’t particularly easy.  There are many internal and external ramifications of being untruthful.  One of the internal penalties of not being a person of integrity is the stress of having to remember the lies—what story was told to whom and when.  There is also the perpetual fear of being caught, being found out.  Finally, some people (excluding those who have sociopathic tendencies) who suffer from poor integrity face anxiety knowing that they have this internal character flaw.  As far as the external repercussions go, those who lack integrity are often at risk for having a bad reputation.  They could erroneously be perceived as people of reprehensible moral character.  This misconception could significantly impact both their personal and professional relationships.  Our failure to be honest during difficult times could create a narrative about our character that is simply untrue.  When we hurt others by our actions, or lack thereof, few people are gracious enough to evaluate the cause of our behavior.  The why is irrelevant to them.  All they know is that they have been hurt and offended.

Our failure to exhibit integrity could create irreparable rifts in our relationships, which at the end of the day, are one of the few things of value that we possess.  The moral of the story is, if we want to grow and become better people, we have to learn to be honest and truthful, especially when it is difficult.

“The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity,” (Proverbs 11:3, NIV).

I am a logophile, someone who love words.  I am also a lover of numbers.  Although I am not sure whether there is a special word for that, I do love to create mathematical equations of numbers and try to make sense of them.  I guess you could say that I’m a bit of a nerd.  Today, I decided to blog about the concept of gratitude. Here is what I learned about this trisyllabic concept.

Gratitude is one word, nine letters and three syllables.  According to Biblical symbolism, the number nine refers to divine completeness or finality.  Jesus died on the ninth hour of the day (3 p.m.).  Gratitude.  Nine letters.  Three syllables.  The number three is also significant.  It’s the number of completion.  Jesus was placed on the cross on the third hour of the day (9 a.m.) and died at the ninth hour (3.m.). Gratitude.  Nine letters.  Three syllables.

If I were to be completely honest, I didn’t really know the significance of these numbers until I decided to do some research for the post.  All I knew was that gratitude was nine letters and three syllables.  However, the revelation of the numerical significances was not lost on me.  As Christians, gratitude is more than being grateful for what we have, it’s about recognizing and appreciating Jesus’ sacrifice—his ultimate sacrifice, where he gave his life so that we could have freedom.  Yes, our Earthly possessions do provide us with some comfort, and we should be grateful for them, but more than that, we should be grateful for the opportunities that have been laid before us because of what Christ did on the cross.  Our lives on Earth is not just a gift of terrestrial gratification, it is an opportunity for celestial investments.  While on Earth, we not only get to enjoy the planet, but we also get to make preparation for our final destination.  This investment is only made possible by the sacrifices of Jesus Christ.  So, no matter what we go through in this life we should find gratitude in the fact that there is something to look forward to beyond our time in this world.  Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world,” (John 16:33, NIV).

Gratitude.  Nine letters.  Three syllables.  There is some finality inherent in the concept of gratitude.  Oftentimes, gratitude is the final step of introspection.  When many of us reflect on our lives, we often resign to a place of reconciliation where we realize that we have a lot to be thankful for.  Our relatively health and happiness are reasons enough for celebration.

Gratitude, that three-syllable word, also makes us complete.  It closes the gaping hole in our hearts and our spirits by allowing us to realize that we truly have more than we need and that we lack nothing essential.

Today, my challenge for all of us it to be grateful—express a little gratitude.  “All of this is for your benefit. And as God’s grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory,” (2 Corinthians 4:15, NLT).

Greater success is often found in failures than in victories.  When we really think about it, what lessons do we truly learn from our conquests?  Our succession of wins simply makes us better winners, and in worse cases, sore ones.  Failure is where we experience the immensity of our growth. Our ability to reason, to reflect and to progress expands when we are faced with situation where the problems presented by our circumstances are beyond the scope of our current knowledge.  Those situations challenge us to learn and to grow.  If every action we took was executed with precision and perfection during the first pass, then we would be stagnant, and frankly, boring.

 

Our inclination to steer towards perfection is exhausting, and not to mention, impossible.  In fact, trying to achieve perfection is a waste of time and is one of the greatest impediments to growth.  The pursuit of perfection yield paralysis.  It creates a stumbling block in our minds.  The hypothetical what ifs have a tendency to fabricate and aggrandize the worse-case scenarios.  Oftentimes, the results of our actions are never as horrific as we have imagined, and so what if they were?  Short of doing something immoral or illegal, there is nothing wrong with stepping outside of our comfort zones—challenging ourselves.

 

Aside from the inherent fear of failure, many of us also get distracted by how we think others will react to and perceive our mishaps.  The truth is, most of us are doing the best we can, and no one is an authority on life.  Even the experts have achieved their portion of wisdom through trial and error.  Therefore, we should cut ourselves some slack.  We should be kind to ourselves.  There is nothing wrong with trying something new, even something scary.  We should now that we are flawed and imperfect, and that is okay.

Although this life can get hard sometimes, there must be at least one thing that brings you joy. On the days where the skies appear to be the darkest shade of gray, dig deep into the recesses of your mind and your heart, and find a reason to smile!  Close your eyes.  Inhale. Exhale, and smile from ear to ear.

“A glad heart makes a happy face; a broken heart crushes the spirit,” (Proverbs 15:13).

 

My past two blog posts have been about prayer, particularly, praying in general.  I was going to move on to a different topic all together until I came across another individual’s blog on the topic (Pretty good read.  Check it out: https://themirific.co/2015/05/20/stagnant-christians-stagnant-enemies/ ).  In this post, the author wrote about praying for our enemies.  Yes, it is true, Jesus challenges and instructs us to pray for our enemies.  But have you ever wondered what those prayers should look like?  If I were to be completely transparent when it came to praying for my enemies, I would say that I preferred some of the move Davidic prayers found in the Psalms such as, “slap all my enemies in the face” or “shatter the teeth of the wicked,” (Psalm 3, NLT).  Those prayers speak to the core of my anger when I am hurt by my enemies.   I also figured, if it worked for David, it should work just fine for me.

While I slightly kid, I must say that the question of praying for my enemies did resonate with me this morning.  I discussed the issue with my uncle, and he provided some insight which I will share with you:

Our earthly battles all seem to come back to Ephesians 6:12, “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities.”  In the Old Testament, David was waging war for a physical kingdom.  The sacrifices made in his day were physical in nature.  Today, we waging war for a spiritual kingdom.  Circumcisions in the Old Testament were physical, while today they are spiritual.  When we say those Davidic prayer, they should be prayed against the spirituals that dwell in the individuals, not against the individuals themselves.  When we truly understand that we are in spiritual warfare versus physical warfare, then we would realize that we should be praying for the deliverance of our enemies from the captivity of the evil one.  In the most rudimentary sense, the individuals who commit acts of evil are merely host to principalities.  Now, this does not completely absolve individuals of responsibly under the notion of the devil made me do it, for we all have free will.  However, it does allow for compassion towards our enemies.  For whatever reason, their free will has sent them down a path that has created a stronghold in their lives.  As we all know, bad habits are hard to break, and so are strongholds.  That is why we need to pray for our enemies.  We need to pray for their deliverance.  Notice that when Jesus prayed, he always prayed for others to be delivered from their infirmities.  Oftentimes, their blessings were found in the deliverance.

This whole topic of prayer brought me back to a previous blog where I begged the question: “How different would our world be if we simply prayed for things that weren’t already being prayed for?”  Imagine if we got to heaven and God told us that we could have dramatically changed the world, but we didn’t because those prayers were never released.  Would that knowledge change how we prayed today?  For me, one of the biggest frustrations, and even hesitations, with prayer is that I don’t always see the results of my prayers.  Sometimes, I feel as though God hasn’t heard me or that He is slow to act.  The Bible reminds us that, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient…” (2 Peter 3:9, NIV).  We have to remember that God is sovereign and that He might not answer our prayers in the manner and time we want, but He has His reasons for His approach.

Today, I challenge all of us to put on the armor of God:  the belt of truth, the shoes of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:12).  Let us pray for our world, our government, our enemies, our families and friends and ourselves.  Included below is a prayer of protection over our family and friends:

Today, Lord I pray an anointing over myself and my family.  I pray a hedge of protection around us.  I pray that the enemy and his allies would not be allowed to penetrate this fence, and that the gates surrounding the hedges are locked and sealed with the blood of Jesus Christ.  I pray that angels will be dispatched to the four corners of this fence and that they will protect and defend us from all attacks.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen!

When all else fails, pray, and then, pray some more. “…The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much,” (James 5:16, KJV).

“But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days.People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy,without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people,” (Matthew 3:1-5, NIV).

When Jesus hung from the cross, he pleaded with God, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do,” (Luke 23:34, KJV).  The evening news and the Internet are filled with stories of evildoers who do truly understand the weight of their sins.  They do not realize that the dirt that they heave upon their opponents is actually being poured upon their own heads—burying them.  If many truly knew the ramifications of walking the path of wickedness, they would immediately switch courses.  They fail to realize that there will come a time when each of us will have to give an account of all our actions and careless words.

Although the Bible foreshadows humanity’s depravity, it also reminds us of God’s sovereignty and goodness.  Ephesians 6:12 says that we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities.  When we see displays of injustice and immorality in our world, we should pray.  “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds,” (2 Corinthians 10:4, NIV).  We might not be able to change hearts, minds, behaviors or outcomes by our accord, but God can!