Archives for category: Asking God

When we think about relationships, what are some of the core values that many of us desire/crave?

  • Love
  • Trust
  • Honesty
  • Intimacy
  • Respect
  • Honor
  • Loyalty

Although the above-mentioned list might not be all-inclusive, it’s a good foundational core.  Not many of us would renounces any of those virtues.  This bring me to today’s discussion: Our relationship with God.

Is our relationship with God based simply on blind faith, or is it, or should it be, something more?  In other words, should we just trust God wholeheartedly and NEVER ask any questions? Today, I will explore what those question means to me.  Sidebar: If you have followed my blog for any period of time, you probably have noticed that I typically resist groupthink and encourage individual critical thinking.  In providing my answers, I do not claim to be a Biblical scholar, but more of a Socratic pupil.  So, with that being said, here are my thoughts.

If God wanted our relationship with Him to be solely linear, where we simply did as we are instructed, then there would be no need for free will.  In essence, God would have made us robots, but He didn’t. He made us reasoning beings.

Before I delve further into my thought about what a relationship with God should look like, I will begin by asking a more immediate question: How do we know that God wants a relationship with us?  We’ve heard pastors and religious orators say so, but is that assertion true? For the answer to that question, we have to look at how the Bible describes God.  Oftentimes, when the Bible references God, He is described by relational terms such as father, friend, husband and provider.  One example of God as a father is found in Acts 17:23-28.

22 Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.

24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring,’(Acts 17:23-28, NIV).

So, what should our relationship with God look like?  I believe that our relationship with God should model our ideal, human relationships.

Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen, (1 John 4:20, NIV).

My interpretation of this verse is that it is impossible to love God in a manner that is different from how we love each other. Therefore, if we acknowledge that our human relationships should be comprised of reverence, love, trust, honesty, intimacy, respect, honor and loyalty, then so should our relationship with God.  Additionally, healthy human relationships require reciprocity.  As such, our relationship with God should have the same expectations of reciprocity.

When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers—
the moon and the stars you set in place—
what are mere mortals that you should think about them,
human beings that you should care for them?
Yet you made them only a little lower than God
and crowned them with glory and honor.
You gave them charge of everything you made,
putting all things under their authority—
the flocks and the herds
and all the wild animals,
the birds in the sky, the fish in the sea,
and everything that swims the ocean currents.

Psalm 8:3-8, NLT

In my life, I have faced my fair share of adversities.  Oftentimes, people have told me that it is not my place to question God’s sovereignty.  I wholeheartedly, and respectfully, disagree.  If God and I are in relationship, then by definition, I have every right to ask him the questions that matter to me, and, by definition of our relationship, he is obligated to answer me.  When Job questioned God, God did not ignore him.  He simply explained to Job that the answers to his questions were beyond his comprehension.

I believe that many of us do not get the answers to many of our questions because we are fearful to approach God for answers for fear of being viewed as irreverent.  I do not believe that the God we serve will smite us for simply seeking answers to issues and concerns that are important to us.  In fact, Jeremiah 33:3 says, “Ask me and I will tell you remarkable secrets you do not know about things to come,” (NLT).

Relationships are built on trust.  Faith is developed when trust is cultivated. We cannot have faith without trust. Therefore, we have to first trust God before we can have faith in Him.  In other words, we have to believe that God is who He says He is and that He will do what He said He would do.  When we begin to trust God, we will develop our relationship with Him, and we will, in turn, have faith in His character and His word.

As we begin to trust God (and he begins to trust us), we will learn that there are some secrets that God will keep close to His chest (for reasons only He knows).  However, there are some secrets that He will reveal to us, but the answer will require pursuance of our relationship with Him. Additionally, as our relationship with God matures, we will begin to trust and be comforted by the sovereignty of His “yes,” “no” and “not now.”

 

Most recently, I have been lamenting over the significance of the human existence—both the brevity of life and the stench of death.  As Christians, we are taught that death is to be celebrated.  However, many of our celebratory instincts often wane when death is untimely and protracted.  In the era of digital news, it seems as though death is ubiquitous.  It could just be that even (or especially) in the digital era, the old journalism mantra of “If it bleeds it leads,’ still rules.   As such, the news cycles are often inundated with stories of tragedies, many of which we, as a society, have become immune.  The headlines are riddled with stories of murders, suicides, overdoses, illnesses and police brutality, just to name a few.  Although the loss of all human life is significant, none is more impactful to me that the loss of young life—the loss of someone who had yet to reach his or her prime—had yet to experience his or her “better days.”

 

The thought of untimely death has made me question and challenge God’s sovereignty and humanity.  Though I must confess, typing the word “humanity” made me chuckle.  I realized that in my quandary, I had somehow brought God down to my level.  I wanted His ways and His thoughts to be akin to mine.  I knew it was unreasonable and irrational, but I still felt that He owed me an explanation.  Like Job, I felt as though the Creator of the Universe owed me an explanation.   While my meditation did not yield quite the answer that I was looking for, it did provide a story of hope, which I will share with you below:

 

The Time is Closer Than You Think!

 

For eons, many have prophesied about the Last Days.  Each generation has cited turbulent times as evidence of impending doom.  Most recently, I have wondered what those day would look like.  For a glimpse into the future, I turned to Revelation, one of the most allegorical books in the Bible. Revelation 19:19 says, “Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to wage war against the rider on the horse and his army.”  The verse talked about Jesus returning with his army to wage battle.  Many Biblical scholars are divided between whether that army would consist of solely angels or a combination of angels and those that have gone before.   The thought made me wonder in merriment.

 

Today, there are approximately seven billion people walking the planet.  According to the Population Reference Bureau it is estimated that approximation 107 billion people ever lived.  I image that if a war was declared between the Heavens and Earth, Heaven’s armies would necessitate at least that many “soldiers.”  That’s a lot of angels!  The debate about the composition of Jesus’s army is a complex theological debate that is beyond the scope of this post.  However, I will explore that notion of what it would look like if Jesus’s army consisted of both saints and angels.

 

Disclaimer: The opinions presented below are simply conjecture provided to stimulate thought—a mental exercise.

 

Now that that is out of the way, here are my thoughts:  What if the end was closer that we thought?  What if the increase prevalence of youth mortality was actually a battle call?  What if those who died young were being called home early for a greater purpose—preparation for battle?  Maybe your 23-year-old son that lost his battle with cancer is now a general in the battle of Armageddon.  Maybe that 16-year-old that die in the car accident is now a comrade in Heaven’s army.  I would imagine that if Jesus’s army does consist of saints and angels, some “training” would be necessary.  Imagine if during the final battle, you saw your loved one dress in white linen at the battlefront.  Imagine how good you would feel to know that God has given you beauty for ashes.  While no one know the precision of God’s plan, we do know this:  God’s ways are not our ways and His thought are not our thoughts.  God’s plans might seem inexplicable and painful at times, but we have to trust that HE IS GOD and that He still sits on the throne.  Isaiah 61 (NIV) says:

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
    and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor.

They will rebuild the ancient ruins
and restore the places long devastated;
they will renew the ruined cities
that have been devastated for generations.
Strangers will shepherd your flocks;
foreigners will work your fields and vineyards.
And you will be called priests of the Lord,
you will be named ministers of our God.
You will feed on the wealth of nations,
and in their riches you will boast.

Instead of your shame
you will receive a double portion,
and instead of disgrace
you will rejoice in your inheritance.
And so you will inherit a double portion in your land,
and everlasting joy will be yours.

“For I, the Lord, love justice;
I hate robbery and wrongdoing.
In my faithfulness I will reward my people
and make an everlasting covenant with them.
Their descendants will be known among the nations
and their offspring among the peoples.
All who see them will acknowledge
that they are a people the Lord has blessed.”

10 I delight greatly in the Lord;
my soul rejoices in my God.
For he has clothed me with garments of salvation
and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness,
as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
11 For as the soil makes the sprout come up
and a garden causes seeds to grow,
so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness
and praise spring up before all nations.

 

Regardless of what the world has managed to throw our way, God will continue to give us beauty for ashes!

screenshot_20170708-220749.jpg

Lately, I’ve found that the first thing I do after waking up and the last thing I do before going to bed is to read the news.  It’s actually gotten pretty depressing.  The typical news story portrays the world as one that has gone to hell in a hand basket.  Stories of savagery and inhumanity are ubiquitous.  Murder, rape, and pillaging are some of the most common headlines.  The sensationalism is beyond the categorical scope of yellow journalism.  The story contents are vile and the commentaries are even more viscous.  This morning, as I attempted to scroll the Internet for my daily dose of news happenings, a small, still voice told me to stop.

 

Proverbs 4:23 says, “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life,” (NLT).  In this visual age, our world has become inundated by sensory images, and unfortunately, most of the tactics have been subliminal.  Everything and everyone is vying for our attention.  We have to be cognizant of the information that we filter through our eyes, our hearts and our minds because what we allow to resonate in those places often shape our emotions and our actions.  While it is important that we keep abreast of current events, it is critical that we filter out the hysteria and the nonsense.  The seeds that we water will be the one that will take life and grow.  If we plant seeds of negativity and despair, then our days and our lives will be filled with doubt and turmoil.  If we plant seed of hope, then our lives will be fruitful and productive.  So, during these days of fake news, political turmoil, and civil unrest, let’s take heart that goodness still exists.  God still sits on the throne.  He is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8).  The promises that God made yesteryear are still relevant today.  Filter out the negativity and embrace the promises.

Go ahead! Quit your job!  Purchase that house!  Tell your pesky neighbor where to stop off.  For goodness sakes, make a decision.  Take a leap of faith! What’s the worse thing that could happen?  I say all this in jest.  Yes, we must exercise wisdom and caution when making decisions, especially life altering ones, but far too many of us seek other people’s permission to chase after our hearts.  Our paralysis is symptomatic of our indecisiveness and our insecurity.  We ask for permission because we are fearful of pulling the trigger.  We believe that if we place the onus of making a decision on someone else, it absolves us of the responsibility.  Here’s the truth: Every decision has consequences—some good and some bad.  Unfortunately, sometimes, we just cannot avoid the negative consequences of our actions.  It’s a part of life in this fallen world.  The good news is that many successes are birthed from misfortunes.  Failure is a part of life. It’s a part of growth. When we ask others for their permission before we act, we are relying on their gifting, perception of life and past experiences, which may be different from ours.  Additionally, we make the assumption that the people from whom we seek permission have our best interest in mind.  Those individuals could have a malevolent agenda.  The Bible says that it is wise to seek counsel.  It does say that we should ask permission.  Next time, before we ask people for permission, we should seek God and His Word.  Why wouldn’t we ask the author of our story about our role in His script.  The next time we attempt to seek advise on a course of action, we should pause and ask ourselves whether we are seeking counsel or whether we are asking for permission.  If we are asking for permission, then we should go to God instead.

Baggage.  It can, at times, be a four-letter word.  We all have it.  Some of are not only carrying our own baggage, but we have allowed ourselves to become saddled by other people’s “stuff.”  Learning to release is one of the most important things that we can do for ourselves.  Galatians 5:1 says, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery,” (NIV).

Christ died on a cross for us to be free.  Why then do we continue to enslave ourselves?   Slavery prevents us from running the race that God has set forth for us.  When our minds are cluttered with nonsense, we cannot focus on our priorities.  As such, we’re tired.  We’re sad.  We’re angry.  We are everything but productive.  On the road to self discovery, one of the most important things we could do for ourselves is to let go.  Letting go allows us to focus on the things that are important to us.

One way to re-center our focus is to carve time out to do some of the things we like to do (e.g. exercising, writing, taking a walk on the beach).  Another way is to write down our plans.  Habakkuk 2:3 says, “’Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it.   For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false.  Though it lingers, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay,” (NIV).

Seeing our goal, dreams and/or desires affixed on paper allows us to remember what is important to us.  We need to do what it takes to preserve our focus.  Relax.  Breathe.  Meditate.  Yesterday, we wept it out.  Today, we are letting it go!

The theory that it takes 21 days to create a new habit has been debunked over the years.  New research has suggested that the time it takes to create a new habit could vary between individuals.  Additionally, changing a habit also varies in the duration of time it takes to fully adopt a new behavior.  However, I do believe that there is some merit to the 21 days.  The time frame is short enough to not be daunting and long enough to be impactful.  So, with that said, we are going to go all in for the next 21 days on a path to self discovery and reinvention.
Day 1: Weep It Out

There is nothing like a good cry.  Right?  You know the type I’m talking about—the ugly cry—the one where you snort spastically because you can hardly catch your breath and your nose and eyes leak like faucets and muddle your face with a sludge of mucous and tears.  Even Jesus did the ugly cry.  John 11:35 said that Jesus wept.  The verse did not say that he cried; it said that he wept, implying an expression of deep sorrow.  Bawling is cathartic!  It raw!  Most of all, it’s honest.  For many of us, the ugly cry is our first step in acknowledging our vulnerability and/or our humanity in particular areas of our lives.  Weeping is a release of toxicity—pent up emotions.  It’s an opportunity to face our demons head on.  How can we expect to fight what we don’t see.

 

Our inclination to cry out is not just an expected manifestation of our humanity; it is commandment, not to be confused with the Ten Commandment.  The Bible tells us to cry out to God.  Sometimes, if we are not careful, we could tend to minimize the word ‘cry’ and use it interchangeable with the word ‘call.’  Crying out to God does not equal calling on Him.  The former implies a sense of desperation and urgency.  There are times when we have to be completely undignified in expressions—let it all hang out.

 

The good news is that our cries never fall upon deaf ears.  Psalm 18:6 says, “In my distress I called to the LORD; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears,” (NIV).

 

So, tonight, let it all out.  This blog post is the permission that you need to let it all hang loose.  Weep.  Sob.  Ugly cry.  Let it go.  Psalm 30:5 says, “For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime! Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning,” (NLT).

Today, I pose a few hypothetical questions.  What if when we get to heaven we realize just how literal God was when he said, in Genesis, that He had given man dominion over the Earth?  What if when we get to heaven we realize just how many of our life outcomes were under the control of our prayers and our tongues?  What if we realize that our lives and the lives of others could have been dramatically changed by a simple declaration of our faith?  Would we do things differently now?  Would we declare more things in the name of Jesus?  We do know that nothing happens outside of God’s will, but what if much of our lack (e.g. spiritual, physical, emotional and financial) is due to a failure to ask—a failure to make a bold declaration?  What if many of our prayers confused begging for asking with belief (i.e. faith)?  I don’t recall the woman at the well begging Jesus to heal her.  She simply touched Him, and she knew that she was healed.  In fact, Jesus told her that her faith had made her well.   How about we hedge our bets here on Earth and start declaring things that be not as though they were.  What do we have to lose?

Then David asked the Lord, “Should I chase after this band of raiders? Will I catch them?”

And the Lord told him, “Yes, go after them. You will surely recover everything that was taken from you,” (1Samuel 30:8, NLT).

 

Have you every felt like you’ve done everything right, but you still can’t catch a break?  You’ve lived and played by the rules only to conclude that maybe nice guys do finish last.  Well, you are not alone.  In 1 Samuel 29, David wanted to fight alongside King Achish, but the Philistine commanders rejected David and his army.  The Philistine commanders feared that David and his army would eventually betray them.  Ultimately, King Achish gave in to the Philistine commanders’ demands to part ways with David.  King Achish admitted that even though David had been loyal, and had done nothing wrong, he would yield to the request of the Philistine commanders.  As such, King Achish ordered David to leave their territory.

Imagine how rejected and disappointed David must have felt.  To add insult to injury, when David and his men returned home three days later, they found that their town had been raided and destroyed by the Amalekites who also made off with their families and belongings.  The Bible says that when David and his men saw what had happened, “they wept until they could weep no more,” (1 Samuel 30, NLT).   As a result, David’s men plotted to stone him.  What a week?  Sounds familiar?

 

David had every reason to give up.  His mentor abandoned him.  He lost his family and everything he had, and he was about to lose his life.  Fortunately, the Bible said, “David found strength in the Lord his God,” (v.8).

There will be a time, in your darkest moments, when God is all you have left.  There will come a time when those who once supported you have now abandoned you; the friends you used to have, are no longer championing in your corner; and the enemy has stolen everything from you.  What will you do then?  What did David do?

 

Then David asked the Lord, “Should I chase after this band of raiders? Will I catch them?”

And the Lord told him, “Yes, go after them. You will surely recover everything that was taken from you,” (1 Samuel 30:8, NLT)!

 

  1. Identify your raiders.
  2. Identify what they have stolen from you.
  3. Ask God whether you should go after them.
    1. If the answer is yes, then, the next question is: How and when?

 

Two key points to remember:

  1. The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me,” (Psalm 118:6, NIV).
  2. 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).

 

Sometimes, God wants us to physically go after our enemies.  However, sometimes, he wants us to wield the weapon of prayer and/or fasting.

 

The Bible says that, “David got back everything the Amalekites had taken, and he rescued his two wives. Nothing was missing: small or great, son or daughter, nor anything else that had been taken. David brought everything back. He also recovered all the flocks and herds, and his men drove them ahead of the other livestock. ‘This plunder belongs to David!’ they said,” (1 Samuel 30:18-20, NIV).

Tonight, after you have wept and gotten it all out, go to God in prayer.  Identify your plunder.  Ask God whether you should go after the raiders.  If they answer is yes, then begin to circle your circumstances in prayer, and ask God about the “how.”  Place your confidence in God, and know that God is not a respecter of persons.  If He did it for David, He will do it for you.  Know that everything that was stolen from you will be retrieved untarnished, unharmed and unscathed.  In Jesus name!

This poem is dedicated to those who are praying without ceasing and are tirelessly waiting to hear from God.

Echoes of Silence 

The echoes of silence are all that I hear.

Humbled by life, I seek you in prayer.

A knock on the door—is anyone there?

Then it dawned on me—

Maybe He heard me, but don’t really care.

For the first time, I looked in the mirror and stared,

And wondered where is the God of old that nations once feared.

Who cared—

Who dared—

To put nations and empires to shame,

And recued those who called upon him by name.

Elohim, El Shaddai, El Roi,

Jehovah Jireh, Rapha, Nissi, my Adonai.

 

The echoes of silence are all that I hear,

Chanting the chorus, “God are you still there?”

World upside down.  Life—Unfair.

God, is silence from you just really a “no?”

My faith is slipping, and I’m letting it go.

Faith lukewarm.  Heart now cold.

Faded memories of faith once bold.

 

The ghost of Isaac and Abraham, they knock at my door.

The prophets and saints that went on before.

They said, “If He did it once, then He’ll do it once more.”

Like the judge who couldn’t ignore the knock on the door.

 

When echoes of silence are all that you hear,

When it seems like your prayers, they fall on deaf ears,

And the core of your life is rooted in fears,

Just trust and believe when he tells you He cares.

He’s the same one who says that He bottles your tears.

Loves you so much that He counted your hairs—

On your head.

And even notices that a sparrow drops dead,

For not one of these can fall outside of His care.

Ears fine-tuned.  Your whispers He hears.

His voice so soft—not found in the echoes or blares,

But in the spirits of those He consoles.

Remember Jesus?  His wrist: bloodied with holes.

He feels your pain.  Trust me! He knows.

Yet He overcame death and from ashes He rose.

 

When the echoes of silence are all that you hear,

Your beating heart is proof that He’s near.

 

Copyright 2016 Khadine Alston.  All Rights Reserved.

 

God is greater than all.  I yearn to see the powerful hand of God at work.

 

The Bible says that there is a time and place for everything.  I believe this to be true of our prayer lives as well.  There is a time to pray quietly and solemnly.  There is also a time to charge into the presence of God and pray ferociously, as if our very existence depended on it.

 

Today, I call on the authority of the Great I Am—the Alpha and the Omega—the one upon whose shoulders all governments rest.  I stand on the authority of Christ, before whom demons bow and all nations will confess.  I hide behind the shield of Christ’s shadows as He forge forth into the camps of my enemies.  I cling to the arms of the one who is greater than all.  I petition Him to hear my cry as He prepares a table before me in the presence of my enemies.  Greater is He who is in me than he who is in the world.  Greater things will I do in His name.  Today, I pray that God’s people will not be put to shame.  Lord, I pray that you send your chariots of angels into the darkest places to thwart the plans of the enemy and his cohorts.  Lord, demolish the plans of the wicked and provided comfort to the righteous.  Lord, wield your arrow of justice.  Show your power to those who believe.  Answer the war cry of your people, for we stand upon your Word as we remind You of Your promises to never leave or forsake us.  You promised that your Word will never return void.  You promised that we would never see the righteous forsaken or his seed begging bread.  You promised that you have a plan for our lives–to give us hope and a future.  You promised that no one could ever snatch us from Your hands.  You promised us that the enemy is already defeated.  Lord, I pray today that you show your hand mighty in the lives of Your people.  As we remind you of your promises, I pray that you remind us of who you are–Lord of all lord; King of all kings and Master of all.  We remind you, not so that you should be reminded, but so that we could be convicted.