Archives for category: Christ

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.”

 

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Over the past few years, in what some might view as a season of flagrant political and social discord, the term identity politics has become ubiquitous in many political commentaries.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, identity politics is “a tendency for people of a particular religion, race, social background, etc., to form exclusive political alliances, moving away from traditional broad-based party politics,” (Dictionary.com).  The dangers of identity politics is that people who participate in this strategy might even align themselves with a particular political point of view simply because they identify with a specific demographic.  There are even times when individuals who participate could even support and propagate beliefs and policies that are contrary to their best interest.  The root of identity politics is counterintuitive and typically exclusionary.  These tactics are seldom steeped in virtues such as love, honor and respect.  Identity politics is typically based on selfish ambition, pride (hubris) and entitlements.  None of these characteristics have been known to advance or enhance culture or society.

 

The more I meditated on the concept of identity politics, the more I began to realize that, if left unchecked, “identity” culture could become a carcinogen that could seep into other aspects of our lives, particularly our Christian lives.  Before I continue, I feel the need to make a clarification.  There is nothing inherently wrong with identifying with and celebrating our culture, background or heritage.  In fact, a healthy self-awareness is imperative to our growth and development as individuals.  This awareness includes, but is not limited to, an acknowledgment of our history, culture, religion, etc.  However, this healthy self-view could become pathogenic if it is perverted by sentiments of superiority, indulgence, entitlement, pride and wickedness.

 

As a Christian, I have noticed that, in some circles, we have become victims of what I would like to call identity Christianity.  If I had to define identity Christianity, it would be as such: a tendency for Christians to form alliances based on financial, social, economic and/or racial proclivities or identities.

 

During the course of my adult life, I have visited many different Christian churches.  Whenever, I venture into a new city for longer than a week, I would often try to find and worship at a local church.  However, one of the tragedies that I often encounter is that many churches are segregated, even within congregations.  Cliques are often divided among racial, financial, economic, educational and/or social lines.  Even piety makes an appearance.  How can we, as Christians, make “outsiders” feel accepted and welcome when we have a problem embracing each other?  There are those of us who attend church and affiliate with only people whom WE deem redeemable and worthy. In such cases, our fellowship is homogenous and self-indulgent—the antithesis of God’s grace and mercy.  When many of us think about the topics of mercy and grace, we often view them through the prisms of forgiveness, but what if this post challenges a different perspective— that of allowance.  What if we allowed people the grace and the mercy to be different?   It is by the grace of God that we have favor, so why not have mercy on those who are less favorable?  It is by  the grace of God that we have riches, so why not have mercy on someone less fortunate? Are we truly experiencing God’s fullness for our lives when we limit our interactions to people who are like us? Maybe, just maybe, our personal limitations and our various lacks hinge upon our resistance to go into uncharted territory!  Maybe our spiritual, financial or physical breakthrough is in the hands, hearts and minds of the person(s) across the aisle—the one(s) whom we have relegated as inferior. Oftentimes, with God, the answers to our prayers are right below or noses—hidden in places that we should have looked, but we didn’t.

 

“Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful,” (1 Corinthians 1:27, NLT).

 

17 When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, “If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” 18 So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea,” (Exodus 13:17-18).

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!

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).

“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!

One of the greatest and most humbling reminder on our road to self-discovery and reinvention is that we are not Jesus!  Yes, as Christians, we are meant to bare each other’s burdens, but we are not called to save, to fix or to restore anyone, including ourselves.  That’s Jesus’ job.  Some many of us in our quest to become Christ-like, or just plain liked, have resorted to becoming a receptacle for others to unload.  We allow others to dump all their “stuff” on our doorsteps.

 

Healthy relationships should be symbiotic, meaning each person should take turns serving the other.  There should be a healthy balance.  Our relationships should improve our lives and well being.  If we find ourselves giving more that we receive, we place ourselves in a position to become out of equilibrium, which puts us at risk for suffering emotionally, mentally or even spiritually.  Additionally, when we fail to set boundaries in our relationships, it sends the message that it is okay to not respect us. It tells others that our feelings do not matter.  That’s not only unfair, it’s also unhealthy!

 

One of the best ways to stop being a receptacle is to learn to love ourselves.  At times, loving ourselves might often mean putting ourselves first.  As Christians, we sometimes have a tendency to pervert the Gospel.  The phrase “die to yourself” has been misused and abused.  In fact, when asked by the Pharisees which of the Commandment was the greatest, Jesus replied that we should first love God, then love our neighbors as we would ourselves (Mark 12:30-31).  In that verse, Jesus commands us to love God, ourselves, and then our neighbors—in that order.  In order to love someone as we love ourselves, it is implied that we first love ourselves.  It is imperative that we love ourselves.  Oftentimes, this might mean saying no to others.  Additionally, it is important that we set aside time for ourselves to allow for a reset.  We will find that by doing so, we will also redefine the boundaries in our lives and have more healthy and productive relationships.

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Most of us are doing the best that we can.  At the half-way mark of our 21-day journey, I remind you to be kind to yourself!

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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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We all have our own emotional baggage—some more than others.  Each one of us has areas where we suffer from insecurities.  In other words, we all have our own ish!  So why do so many of us get caught up in the waves of other people’s emotions?  Our emotions get so entangled with those around us that when they are up we are up, and when they are down, we are down.  This propensity can make it difficult to sort through our own issues.  More importantly, taking on other people’s issue is draining—physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.  It creates a whirlwind in our minds and our hearts.

One of the biggest things we could do for ourselves on our path to self discovery and reinvention is to guard our hearts.  Proverbs 4:23 says, “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.”  The first thing we need on the path to guarding our heart is to be aware of when people are trying, whether advertently or inadvertently, to suck us into their personal cataclysm.  The next step toward guarding our heart requires us to put on our invisible armor to ward of penetration of any and all toxicity.  For our sanity, we have to be careful that we are not going through someone else emotions.

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.