Archives for category: Blessings

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).

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If we were to count the things in our lives that went wrong, the list could be endless.  But what about the things that have gone right?

Thank you, God, for waking me up!

Thank you, God, for making it through traffic!

Thank you, God, for not falling ill!

Thank you, God, for not falling!

Thank you, God, for protection against things I cannot see!

Thank you, God, for the rainy days!

Thank you, God, for the sunny days!

Thank you, God, for the birds!

Thank you, God, for provision!

Thank you, God, for family!

Thank you, God, for friends!

Thank you, God, for clothing!

Thank you, God, for shelter!

Thank you, God, for love!

Thank you, God, for laughter!

Thank you, God, for peace!

Thank you, God, for discernment!

Thank you, God, for revelation!

Thank you, God, for all the things that I should have thanked you for but did not!

Thank you, God, for being YOU!

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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!

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Sometimes, it can feel and seem as though the wicked are triumphing. David said that he almost lost his footing when he saw the prosperity of the wicked (Psalm 73:2).

Recent news stories of increased human wickedness could lead us to believe that virtue is a sentiment of the past and that our best days are behind us. But David reminds us that the prosperity of the wicked is only temporary (Psalm 73).  Additionally, goodness is not just reserved for a distant future. There is goodness in the land of the living (Psalm 27:13-14). There is goodness on Earth. Grace, kindness, peace, humanity still exist today!

For the past few weeks, I have been itching to write a series. In the past, I have written several, but recently I have not been able to find the time to commit to writing one.  However, the topic, “I am not a Slave,” has been resting on my heart for some time.  So, tonight, I figured I would give it a go.

“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,” (Galatians 5:1, NIV).  In our fallen world, there are so many things in our lives that have come to take us captive.  War is constantly being waged against our freedom.  Fear, regret, pain, poverty, past failures or world systems are just a few of the strategies that the enemy employs to attempt to reel us into slavery.  Today, we will highlight one of the greatest enemies of freedom: The tongue.

“The tongue can bring death or life” (Proverbs 18:21, NLT).  In the beginning of time, God said, “Let there be light,” and so it was.  In just a few words, God spoke life into existence.  I believe that much our lives’ path is determined by the words we speak over ourselves.  Unfortunately, the perils of life have caused many of us to have suffered temporary, spiritually blindness and spiritual amnesia, which have manifested in our speech.  Our declarations have become influenced by our past and current circumstances.  We forget that Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8).  We forget that the same God who delivered us from the valley of the shadow of death yesterday is the same God who, today, declares Jeremiah 29:11 over our lives: “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future,’” (NIV).  In our amnesia and blindness, we have a tendency to decree failure over ourselves.  This altered state also allows us to tolerate the actions of those who speak words of destruction over our lives.  Unfortunately, we fail to realize that our negative words have the power to prophesy a yoke of bondage and slavery over our lives and our future.

Today, I decree that we are not slaves to our tongues.  We should recognize that our words are powerful.  They can shape how we, and others, respond to the world around us.  Our words can build up or they can tear down.  Today, I ask that we use foundational words that can positively impact our lives and the lives of generations to come.

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?

Seldom do I use my blog as a platform to jump on my soapbox.  Typically, I try to inspire.  However, there are times when I also try to provoke thought by presenting an alternative point of view.

A few nights ago, I watched a story on the local, evening news about a robbery and a possible assault in an upscale neighborhood.  Both the neighbors AND the reporter were incensed, and even offended, that crime had infiltrated, what the reporter described as a “swanky” community.  I found the coverage and commentary perplexing, and frankly, a bit scary.  It is asinine, and prideful, that people should expect, and in some cases, desire that crime be marginalized to neighborhoods with lower socioeconomic statuses.  There is no community that is impenetrable to crime.  There is no community that exists in isolation.  In fact, isolationism is the antithesis of personal security and safety, and it typically stems from the most degenerative human vices:  pride, greed and hate.

Pride and greed tell us that we can never have enough and that only we alone deserve to have it all.  The concept of “survival of the fittest” may work in the animal kingdom, but it is not beneficial for human communities.  Here is the problem.  When we create skewed supply and demand systems, where only a few are equipped to succeed, we create marginalization.  Marginalization oftentimes creates desperation.  When people are backed into a corner, and their propensity for success is truncated, they often resort to crime.  When we create communities where destitution and desperation is prevalent, we do not get to retreat to our ivory towers, throw up the moat and hope that the insurgents relent.  Behaviors and mindsets that are being bred and developed in the adjacent communities will infiltrate.

There are those who will argue that each person is responsible for his or her action and that destiny is determined by an individual’s choice.  I would argue that while that argument might be true to some extent, such conjecture is a fallacy.  Again, we do not live in isolation.  To make the argument of “to each his own” is try to absolve ourselves of our social responsibilities.  In society, and in communities, we have a responsibility to more that just our families and ourselves.

I recently read an article about the push to end the free-lunch program.  It reminded me of how short-sighted we can sometime be.  Oftentimes, budget cuts are targeted at programs that support those who have the biggest need and the smallest voice.  I would venture to guess that many of the decision makers are probably far-removed from the desperation that many program recipients face.  Here is the honest truth.  There will always be those who try to beat the system and slip through the cracks.  Cheaters will always exist, and yes, we should have efficient checks and balances in place.  However, do we punish those in need for the actions of a few?  If the answer of societal obligation is not appealing, then self preservation might strike a cord.  When people in these “swanky” communities invests in individuals from disenfranchised communities, crime actually decreases because people then feel as though they have options.  When individuals’ options are increased, so is their sense of purpose.  When people have viable options, and they have something to live for and to look forward to, they are less likely to jeopardize that by committing crimes.  The problem is there are people in our culture that have a pauper’s mentality.  They believe that supplies are limited and if shared, might cut into their portion.  There are also those who have an even more sinister mentality.   Their mentality is one of hatred, which is reflected in their actions.  Both of those mentalities have excluded the grace and goodness of God.  According to Jeremiah 29:11, God stated that he has a plan to give us hope and a future.  God’s plan to prosper us asserts that heaven’s supplies are not limited and are not governed by scarcity.

Ultimately, as earthly cohabitants, we all have a responsibility to take care of each other.  If nothing else, at the VERY LEAST, we have a responsibility to ourselves and to our families.  Who know, by investing in others, we could very well end up sparing ourselves and our families from being accosted by the career criminal who dropped out of primary school because he couldn’t concentration on his lesson due to hunger-induced confusion.  We never know.  Life is filled with very many ironies!

 

 

About a year ago, I read an interesting post from one of my friends on Facebook.  He said that when we die and go to heaven, we will realize just how many things about God we actually got wrong.  I couldn’t agree more.  There is not a single person alive who gets it 100 percent right at all times.  For most of us who identify ourselves as Christians, we try to live a life reflective of who we believe Jesus has called us to be.  However, we are shackled by our imperfections.  We have imperfect actions, thoughts and reasoning abilities, which even impact the way we interpret the Bible.  Proverbs 14:12 says, “There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.”

When it comes to interpreting the Bible, I believe that it is impossible to completely comprehend God’s word solely through scholastic measures. Spiritual discernment and revelation is also needed.  Additionally, I also believe that our relationship with God is an intimate one.  While Biblical truths are absolutes, there will be times when our Biblical interpretation will be based on our discernment and personal relationship with God.  With that said, here’s a cute funny story.

Sometimes, we forget that God knows just how imperfect we are.  In our pride, we try to camouflage our shortcomings.  We fail to realize that it’s during our most vulnerable moments when God can really reassure us of who He is.  The story of Gideon reminds us of just that.

In the story of Gideon, God had given Gideon a specific assignment.  However, in his humanness, Gideon doubted God, and he asked God for a sign to reassure him that he had heard him correctly.

36Then Gideon said to God, ‘If you are truly going to use me to rescue Israel as you promised, 37prove it to me in this way. I will put a wool fleece on the threshing floor tonight. If the fleece is wet with dew in the morning but the ground is dry, then I will know that you are going to help me rescue Israel as you promised.’ 38And that is just what happened. When Gideon got up early the next morning, he squeezed the fleece and wrung out a whole bowlful of water,” (Judges 6:36-38, NLT).

Twice Gideon asked for a sign, and twice God obliged him.  God did not chasten or chastise him.

Oftentimes, we feel as though we have to be perfect before God, and that is not the case.  The story of Gideon shows that it’s okay to ask God for confirmation.  I am not saying that we should have a lot system approach to God.  What I am saying is that God is sensitive to our humanness. With that said, here is the cute, funny story:

A few moons ago, I was experiencing a tumultuous season.  Although there seemed to be no immediate resolution to my situation, I felt as though the Spirit of God was reminding me that everything was going to be okay.  However, I wasn’t sure whether I could trust the voice in my heart because everything around seemed far from okay.

One night, as I laid awake trying to figure out the solution to all my woes, God laid the story of Gideon on my heart.  As I read the passages in the middle of the night, I was moved by Gideon’s humility.  In that moment I decided to ask God for my own sign.  I figured if He did it for Gideon, He could do it for me.  A part of me felt silly.

“What could I pray for,” I thought.  “What sign could I ask for, and what was the confirmation that I was looking for?”

I wanted to ask for a sign that I could not blame on mere coincidence.  I wanted my sign to confirm the words that were whispered in my heart.  After a few minutes of deliberation, I had finally come up with one, and it had to do with birds and my patio.

My entire back patio, with the exception of a small hole at the top where the squirrels had once used the mesh as a makeshift trampoline, is enclosed by a screen. That night, I prayed that if by morning, a bird had fallen through the hole and landed in the patio that would be my confirmation that everything would be okay.  A part of me felt silly for making such an arbitrary prayer request. Nonetheless, the first thing I did the next morning was check the patio.  There was no bird.  Secretly, I was disappointed.  More than that, I felt even more silly, but then a funny thing happened.  Later that day, I was watching television on the sofa when something caught my eye.  Hopping around in the patio was this guy:20150811_142611

I couldn’t contain my excitement.  I just know my circumstances were about to change.  I just knew that the breakthrough that I was praying for was about to take place.  But it didn’t.  A few weeks had passed and nothing had changed.  My circumstances were still the same.  But even though I felt silly, I couldn’t resist the urge to ask for another sign.  This time I asked God to send a different kind of bird.  When I awoke that morning, I had resigned to the fact that I had officially lost my mind. Then I heard a loud thud on my roof.  I ran to the living room and peer outside, and this is what I saw:

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I know many are probably thinking that these are all coincidences, but to me, they are the miracles that I had prayed for.  I wish I could say that my circumstances changed that day.  They didn’t.  Though my circumstances hadn’t change,  I had.  That day, I had gotten the confirmation that I needed.

A lot of life is about perception and what we chose to believe.  Oftentimes, our beliefs and our miracle coincide within the same space in our minds.  Though I might not have seen a physical change that day, I did receive a peace that surpasses all understanding.  I also learned that I didn’t have to be afraid to show God my humanness.  I also learned that He was not afraid to meet me where I am.  Perhaps He could meet you where you are too.