Archives for category: Christ

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.

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?

For the past few evenings, God has been nudging my heart to read the Book of Job.  If you’ve ever read the Book of Job, then you know exactly why I wasn’t jumping at the bit to read it.  It’s not the most cheery book in the Bible.  However, tonight, I decided to hunker down and sludge through the 42 chapters.  After all, it was only 20 pages in my Bible.  I grabbed my Bible; snuggled under my covers and I began to read.  I never made it past the first chapter.

 

After just a few verses, I found myself angry with God, even doubting him.  The fact that God had allowed Satan to test Job was counterintuitive to me.  I was especially mad at the fact that God was even talking to Satan.  After all, the Bible said that God detested evil and stayed far from the proud and the wicked.  Well, Satan is definitely the embodiment of all things wicked and evil.  So, why was God even chatting with Satan?

 

As I was having my existential breakdown, I contemplated whether my questions grieved the Holy Spirit.  Surely, I could have skimmed past the verses that didn’t make sense to me and pretended that my uncertainty didn’t bother me.  But what sense did that make?  God knew my heart, so, there was no point of even pretending.  Additionally, my Type A personality couldn’t allow me to move forward.  As strange, or as wrong, as it may have been, God needed to make sense to me.  At the very least, His existence had to be consistent with who He says that He is because, at first glance, my image of God in the first chapter of Job, seemed anything but consistent with who the Bible says that God is.

 

In an effort to better understand the first chapter of Job, I meditated on the words found in Job 1:6: “One day the members of the heavenly court came to present themselves before the LORD, and the Accuser, Satan, came with them,” (NLT).  I asked God for revelation.  I earnestly wanted to understand the chapter.  Moreover, I earnestly wanted to understand God’s character.  Like Solomon, I prayed for wisdom, and God gave the following revelation:

 

According to Job 1:6, the members of the heavenly court, or angels, came and presented themselves before God, and the Accuser, Satan came with them.  The phrase “presented themselves before God” seemed to suggest that the angels, including Satan, had to give an account to God for their activities/actions.  Perhaps they were going before God for judgment.   There are several passages in the Bible that corroborate the notion that even angels are subject to judgment.  For example, in the New Testament, Paul stated that believers should exercise good judgment when attempting to resolve secular disputes as there will come a time when believers will not only judge the world, but they will also judge angels as well (1 Corinthians 6:2-3).  As a sidebar, I must note that the translation of the Greek word for judge is krino, which also means to rule or govern.  I digress.  Another example that indicates that angels are also subject to God’s judgment is 2 Peter 2:4. The passage reads: “For God did not spare even the angels who sinned. He threw them into hell, in gloomy pits of darkness, where they are being held until the day of judgment,” (NLT).  Even Jude, the half bother of Jesus, weighed in on the topic by saying, “And I remind you of the angels who did not stay within the limits of authority God gave them but left the place where they belonged. God has kept them securely chained in prisons of darkness, waiting for the great day of judgment,” (Jude 1:6, NLT).

 

The above passages support the notion that Satan presented to God in the book of Job, not as a peer or comrade, but as one who is subject to God’s authority.  In Job 1:7, God asks Satan, “Where have you come from?”  The question required Satan to give an account for his actions.  This is similar to when God asked Adam, “Where are you,” (Genesis 3:9, NLT)?  Considering that God is omniscient and omnipotent, we could conclude that God knew the answer in both cases. In both examples, God was not interested in unearthing the truth.  He was exposing their pride.  Proverbs 16:5 says, “The Lord detests the proud: they will surely be punished,” (NLT).  When God asked Satan about Job, God knew the status of Satan’s heart and that Satan had already set his sights on Job.  In fact, when God brought up Job’s name, Satan didn’t even flinch or pause.  He immediately knew exactly who God was talking about.  When God mentioned Job, Satan must have been ecstatic because he thought that he had finally found God’s Achilles’ heel.

 

As Satan roamed the Earthy, he must have noticed how the angels, who are at God’s command, fawned over Job.  In fact, in his accusation against God, Satan said, “… Job has good reason to fear God. You have always put a wall of protection around him and his home and his property. You have made him prosper in everything he does. Look how rich he is!  But reach out and take away everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face,” (Job 1:10-11, NLT)!

 

In allowing Job to be tested, God was exposing Satan’s pride.  He knew that Job was indeed faithful and that Job would not be tested beyond his limit.  Scripture tells us that God will never allow us to be tempted beyond what we could bear (1 Corinthians 10:13).

 

As I attempted to conclude my studies, my reading took me back to Jude.  Verse nine was of particular interest.  It read: “But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not himself dare to condemn him for slander but said, “The Lord rebuke you,” (NIV)!  The verse reminded me that judgment belongs to God and God alone.  To further understand the verse, I went on a quest to find out more about the archangel Michael.  My search brought me to Daniel 10.

 

In Daniel 10, the prophet Daniel had been praying and fasting to God for an answer to a vision that he had been given.  After 21 days, an angel appeared to Daniel and advised him that that the answers that he sought had been delayed because he, the angel, had been held up by a spiritual battle that both he and Michael were still involved in.  The angel replied, “Do you know why I have come to you? Soon I will return to fight against the prince of Persia, and when I go, the prince of Greece will come; but first I will tell you what is written in the Book of Truth. (No one supports me against them except Michael, your prince,” (Daniel 10:20-21, NIV).

 

Ephesians 6:12 says, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places,” (KJV).  Both the verses in Daniel and Ephesians remind us that there are things of this world that we do not understand and cannot explain.  There are battles and wars being wages in the spiritual realm that are beyond the scope of our comprehension.

 

In the Book of Job, Job’s spirit waned.  He eventually questioned God about the calamity he faced.  God’s answer was similar to the conclusion that we just drew.  There are things of this Earth that are simply inexplicable.  We just have to trust God and stand on his word.  “For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires,” (Hebrews 4:12, NLT).  Like Daniel, we should take comfort in knowing that Word of God has power to break strongholds.  According to 2 Corinthians 10:3-4, “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds,” (NIV).

 

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!