Archives for category: Endurance

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!

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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!

The video below that I posted is a must see.  I viewed it earlier on YouTube, and it brought tears to my eyes.  It reminded me so much of the passage found in Matthew 7:11:

“If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him,” (NIV)!

The video captures the young boy’s disheartenment at the thought that his father had forgotten his birthday.  He was devastated.  Fortunately, not only had his father remembered his special day, his dad had already prepared for him an extraordinary gift.  How much more valuable are we to our God?  He has a memory that never fails, and He owns the cattle on a thousand hills.  He has not forgotten nor will He forget about us.  His promises are unfailing, His word is unshakeable.  Tonight, know that God has definitely NOT forgotten about you!  Enjoy the video!

Have you every prayed really hard for something only to get it and think, “God, get me out of this thing as soon as possible.  This is not what I signed up for?”  I’m sure we have all been there.  The lessons we learn in these cases are:  Things aren’t always what they seem and usually require more effort than we realize.

 

During these past few years, one of the Bible verses that most heavily rests on my heart is “God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it,” (Numbers 23:19, ESV)?  How many of us when praying for a miracle simple pray for said miracle without any accompanying manifestations?  Seldom.  We dream about our miracles.  We fantasize about them.  Our prayers are often layered petitions.  We dream of owning a home so that we could share it with our loved ones.  We dream of getting an education so that we could impact a generation.  Many of our prayers are gateway requests.  Imagine what could happen if we cut God off at the path when we ask Him to revoke our granted prayers.  We could potentially block other blessings associated with our initial prayer. Could it be that the reason that God does not readily rescind on what we might perceive as misguided prayer requests is, not because of punishment, but, out of a desire to bless us?

 

In Genesis 32:22-28, Jacob is all alone in the camp when and a man came and wrestled with him until the dawn began to break.  “When the man saw that he would not win the match, he touched Jacob’s hip and wrenched it out of its socket. Then the man said, ‘Let me go, for the dawn is breaking!’  But Jacob said, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me.’  ‘What is your name?’ the man asked.  He replied, ‘Jacob.’  ‘Your name will no longer be Jacob,’ the man told him. ‘From now on you will be called Israel, because you have fought with God and with men and have won.’”

 

Maybe that very thing that you are trying to escape from is the living God himself.  Let’s break down Genesis 32:22-28.

 

  1. Jacob was all alone when a man came and wrestled with him until dawn began to break.
    1. Jacob was all alone.
      1. God’s greatest works in our lives are usually found in moments of great solitude. Those moments can often be a time of great loneliness.
    2. A man came and wrestled with him.
      1. It would appear that this man sought out Jacob. Jacob did not go looking for this man.  John 15:16 says, “You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name,” (NLT).
    3. Jacob wrestled with the man until dawn began to break.
      1. Dawn is the period of day right before the light rises. Even though Jacob was shadowboxing in the dark, daybreak, light, was on the horizons.

 

 

  1. When the man saw that he would not win the match, he touched Jacob’s hip and wrenched it out of its socket.
    1. The previous verse said a man came and wrestled with Jacob. It did not say who started the fight.  What if the “man” came in peace and only responded to Jacob’s engagement?
    2. Could it be that maybe “the man” tried to plea his case to Jacob, but could win against Jacob’s harden heart?
    3. Jacob was so enraged and defensive that the only way “the man” could get his attention was to throw him off guard by “wrenching” his hip out of its socket.
      1. Are there any areas in our life where we are wrestling with God?
      2. Is there any potential area in our life where God has touched it and wrenched it out of its socket?

 

  1. Then the man said, ‘Let me go, for the dawn is breaking!’
    1. Sometimes we are not always on the same page as God. The Bible says, His ways are not our ways nor his thoughts our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9). Jacob could have been interpreting the comment literally.  Maybe he thought God was telling him to release him physically. Maybe when God told Jacob to let Him go he was telling him to stop fighting with Him.  Maybe God was telling Jacob to release the anger that he had towards Him.  Ephesians 4:26 says, “’In your anger do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry,” (NIV).  Maybe God was telling Jacob to let go of his anger, to forgive, before dawn broke.

 

  1. But Jacob said, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me.’
    1. Again, it seems as if Jacob might have been referring to a physical restrain. Nonetheless, he had the wherewithal to know that he was in the presence of divinity, and he wasn’t willing to let go of that opportunity to be blessed.  He had fought too hard throughout the night to walk away empty-handed.
      1. If we have been struggling for some time, it would be foolish of us to walk away without our blessings.
      2. Let go of the anger, but do not let go of God.
  • As we let go, we should ask God to bless us before we leave from the place we find ourselves in.
  1. Your name will no longer be Jacob,’ the man told him. ‘From now on you will be called Israel, because you have fought with God and with men and have won.’”
    1. Jacob did not give up, and God rewarded Him.
    2. Jacob might not have gotten it right, but he did the best he knew, and God rewarded his faithfulness.
    3. At the end of the battle God gave Jacob a new identity.
      1. We can never go through the trenches with God and come out the same. Matthew 23:12 says, “But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted,” (NLT).

 

Summary of Genesis 32:22-28

  1. God will isolate us so that he can begin a transformation in our life.
  2. Let go of our anger and press into God’s grace.
  3. Don’t be afraid to ask God to bless us. Matthew 7:7 says, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you,” (NIV).

DECLARATION:

I WON’T LEAVE HERE UNTIL YOU BLESS ME!

 

Traditional slavery, chattel slavery, is officially illegal in all countries.  However, while most of the world has since eradicated the antiquated systems that once forced multitudes of people into involuntary servitude, today, there is a new form of slavery—a new slave master.

 

According to Cambridge Dictionary, slavery is defined as “the condition of being legally owned by someone else, or the system in which people are owned by others.” Wikipedia puts it this way:  Slavery is “a legal or economic system in which principles of property law are applied to humans allowing them to be classified as property, to be owned, bought and sold accordingly, and they cannot withdraw unilaterally from the arrangement. While a person is a slave, the owner is entitled to the productivity of the slave’s labor, without any remuneration.”  In today’s capitalist economy, financial institutions have become the new captains of the slave trade.

 

Proverbs 22:7 says, “The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender,” (NIV).  No where is this truer than in “free trade.”  The average American is shackled by debt.  According to an article published on Nerdwallet.com, as of October 2015, the U.S. household consumer debt profile was as follows:

  • Average credit card debt: $16,140
  • Average mortgage debt: $155,361
  • Average student loan debt: $31,944

 

The article further went on to say that the total debt owned by American consumers was:

  • $11.85 trillion in debt
    • An increase of 1.4% from last year
  • $918.5 billion in credit card debt
  • $8.09 trillion in mortgages
  • $1.19 trillion in student loans
    • An increase of 5.9% from last year

 

The median household income for 2014 was $53,657. As the numbers suggests, most Americans are in over their heads in debt.  The problem is not so much the debt itself.  The problem is the issue of usury, which is illegal and morally reprehensible.  Merriam-Webster defines usury as, “the lending of money with an interest charge for its use; especially:  the lending of money at exorbitant interest rates.”  How does one quantify and/or qualify exorbitant?  Today’s credit card APR can range from low 13% all the way to 29.9 %.  I would make the argument that even 13% could be considered exorbitant.  Who determines exorbitance?  I’m sure it’s not the average citizen.

 

The main difference between traditional slavery and economic slavery is that most individuals, at some point, voluntarily entered into their financial engagement(s).  However, the similarity that both conditions typically share is the inability to readily disengage from the entanglement.

 

Let’s take another look at the definition of slavery.  The first part of the definition of slavery asserts that slavery is orchestrated by “a legal OR economic system.”  By definition, the financial system is an “economic system.” So, check.  The second condition of slavery is that an individual is “legally owned” by another individual(s).  Yet, another check.  I must say this, although individuals are not physically owned by financial institutions, they are economically imprisoned and shackled.  Before I expand on this though, I would like to state the third condition of slavery, which is “they cannot withdraw unilaterally from the arrangement.”  Check!

 

Most financial institutions are in the business of buying and selling debt.  It is not uncommon for people who are saddled with debt to see their loan(s) change hands several times during the lifetime of their loan.  With each change of ownership, there are new notices and disclosures, which are usually multiple, page documents that are typically indiscernible, microscopic fine-print with an inherent obligation for compliance.  In essence, the borrower does not get to pick and choose which terms and conditions they accept and agree with.  Once the loans are sold, the borrower’s finances become subject to the new lender’s (“owner”) discretion. The borrower cannot readily disengage from the financial obligation without legal recourse or ramifications.  In some cases, many individuals are working solely to pay debts.

 

There are people who are reading this post and are probably thinking that individuals who are indebted are in the position that they are in because of poor decision-making.  While that may or may not be true of some, it’s not true of others, and I caution such thinking.  There are many individuals, who have made prudent decisions, yet have still found themselves victims of circumstances, including divorce, life, sickness, death, fraud or even hunger.  Not everyone in debt is living above their mean.  Some people are simply trying to live.  A mother who uses her credit card to buy food and clothing for her family is a far cry from a squanderer.  A young, doe-eyed humanitarian who made a prudent decision to attend medical school to refine his God-given gifts and impact his community and the world around him is far from what I would call irresponsible.  While I am sure there are people who’ve placed themselves in the lion’s den, this is not everyone’s story, and the truth is, even if it were, do they deserve to be eternally imprisoned?

 

King Solomon said it best when he said, “I have seen something else under the sun: The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all,” (Ecclesiastes 9:11, NIV).  One on the worse things that any of us could do on our journey on this Earth is to make distinctions between “us” and “them.”  If anyone has lived on this Earth long enough, one of the valuable lessons learned is that time is the ultimate equalizer where “they” often becomes “me.”

“But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.”

1 Corinthians 1:27

 

I pray that this quote encourages you as much as it has encouraged me today.  God is about to do something in the lives of the unassuming—the brokenhearted, the forgotten and the unrecognized.  He is about to elevate leaders that the world has criticized, mocked, beaten, captured and imprisoned.  He is about to do a new thing.

 

I know that I am speaking directly to someone’s heart today.  The Lord is about to use you in ways that defy imagination.  He is about to make your enemies your footstool.  Every tear that you have shed has been captured.  Psalm 56:8 says, “Record my misery; list my tears on your scroll — are they not in your record?”  God has heard your cries.  There might seem as if there is no way out.  It might appear as if everyone has abandoned you and told you ‘no,” but please know that it is during your darkest hours when God does His finest work.  It was during the darkness that God called light into existence.  It was after Pharaoh’s heart was hardened that God parted the Red Sea and delivered the Israelites from the hands of the Egyptians.  It was after Job had lost everything that God restored him two-fold.  Please be reminded that God is a God of grandeur, and while his preparation might be done in seclusion, His restorations are never done in private.  God’s promotions are for His glorious victory.  Therefore, they are always on display. Matthew 23:12 says, “those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted,” (NIV).

 

Be grateful for all who denied you.  God is elevating you in a manner that you will be indebted to none other than He.  The blessings of the Lord make a man rich, and it adds no sorrow with it, Proverbs 10:22.  Know that God has already blessed you, and He is about to make a public proclamation.  In Jesus, name, Amen!  The Bible also says that even before God restored Job, Job repented and humbled himself.  He praised God even while he was covered in ashes and riddled with sore.  Wherever you are, praise God.  Praise His glorious name.  Know that the end of your story was written even before the beginning, and it’s not over until God says that it’s over.  Glory to God.

2But as for me, my feet had almost slipped;

I had nearly lost my foothold.

3For I envied the arrogant

when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

Psalm 73:2-3

 

During this season, I have experienced some of life’s greatest disappointments and setbacks.  Most recently, I entered a business venture. As part of my due diligence, I implemented all the necessary safeguards to reduce, if not, eliminate my risks.  I read.  I researched.  I hired an attorney. I had a contract drafted.  However, life sometimes teaches us that there are no failsafe plans.  There are no world systems that could entirely mitigate moral corruption.  Although most, if not all, legal agreements are drafted based on the worse case scenarios, most people enter contacts with the assumption that the opposing party has some semblance of integrity, or at the very least, he or she has a fear of or a reverence for the law.  A year and a half after signing my contract agreement, the opposing party involved still managed to express flagrant disregard of the agreement by violating several terms of the contract. This morning, as I evaluated my situation, I thought about the above verse.

 

Oftentimes, it feels as though the lives of the wicked are bountiful.  Many of them cheat, lie and steal, yet they still manage to thrive beyond the imagination of the meek.  It’s easy to look at the proud and the arrogant and be envious.  They leap and abound.  Their lives are grand.  They enjoy fine things, and they seldom seem concerned with the toils of those who are pure at heart.  “They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong…they are not plagued by human ills,” (verse 4 and 5, NIV).  They play by their own rules.  They scoff at honor and valor.  The lives of the wicked seems grand, indeed.  However, there will come a time when the Earth’s grandeur will cease.  Each man will be equal, and God will judge each man according to his deeds.  “God will judge us for everything we do, including every secret thing, whether good or bad,” (Ecclesiastes 12:14).  It’s so easy to want the wicked to pay—to take vengeance into our own hands because it might seem as though God is moving too slow.  However, Romans 12:19 says, “Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the LORD,” (NLT).

 

The truth is, waiting on God can seem slow, and, at times, feel torturous.  However, “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance,” (2 Peter 3:9, NIV).  In His justice, God has given even the sinners time to change their wicked ways.  Psalms 73 goes on to say that God has placed the wicked on slippery ground.  The wicked will perish if they continue to do wickedness.

 

To those who are longsuffering, I ask that you give your suffering to God.  Leave your vindication in His mighty hands.  God is just, and He judges fairly.  Even King David, whom the Bible refers to as a man after God’s own heart, experienced God’s immense favor despite being reprimanded for his egregious sins. Although David had many shortcomings, God did not forget the promises He made to David.  During earlier times, God decreed that David would not only rule as king over all Israel, God also promised David that he (David) would always have a line to the throne (Jesus).  One of David’s biggest fall from grace was when he had an adulterous affair with Bathsheba, the wife of one of his soldiers named Uriah.  As a result of the affair, Bathsheba became pregnant.  In an effort to cover his tracks David tried to convince Uriah to sleep with his wife, Bathsheba, so that he could pass off the baby as Uriah’s.  Uriah, who was a committed soldier in David’s army, refused to lay with his wife because he did not want to break his allegiance to his fellow fighters by indulging in merriment during battle time.  After David realized that his attempt to cover his tracks had failed, he gave orders to have Uriah killed.  Fortunately, God did not allow David’s position as both king and the “apple of His eyes” to usurp Uriah’s life.  God was not only faithful to David, He was also faithful to Uriah, because the Bible says that God is not a respecter of man (Acts 10:34).  God avenged Uriah’s death by destroying the seed that was created from David’s and Bathsheba’s deception. Thankfully, God did not stay angry with David forever.  He pursued David and blessed him.  Moreover, David repented for sinning against God.

 

In all of our lives, there will be times when we feel forgotten about—by family, by friends, and even by God. Many of us feel like Uriah, a lone soldier in a vast army—a number in the crowd.  The temptation is to give up on God because we feel neglected or betrayed by Him.  However, just like God fought on behalf of Uriah, He will avenge us too.  The Bible says that God will leave the 99 sheep to find the one that has wondered away (Matthew 18:12-14).  It is during our weakest moments that God will seek us out and pursue us.

A few years ago, I created this blog to challenge the way we think–to open our minds. Today the old adage, knowledge is power, is probably truer than ever before. Many of us fear what we do not know.

On Tuesday, I sat in front of my television, as perhaps millions of others, and watched as Charlie Sheen disclosed what was probably his biggest personal obstacle to date: his HIV status. As I watched him, I saw an individual who was the embodiment of the human experience–wonderful, flawed and broken, all at the same time. At times during the interview, he look bewildered, as if he were having an out of body experience–as if it were happening to someone else.

Days before the Matt Lauer interview, I already knew what Charlie Sheen’s disclosure would be. The Internet was already abuzz. The opinions and speculation varied from support to condemnation. As I read through some of the posts, I was reminded of King David. During one of his fallen moments, he declared, “It would be better to fall into the hands of God than to fall into the hands of man.”

God’s grace reminds us that we are ALL wonderful, flawed and broken. In all of our lives, we will experience moments where our actions will take us to dark places from where only God can deliver us. The truth is, only God can judge.

Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Whether we know it or believe it, we are all called for God’s purpose. He can take our biggest mistakes, failures and shortcomings and use them for His glory. One of the positives that came from Sheen’s disclosure is the open dialogue about HIV and AIDS. There is still so much misinformation and stigma surrounding the disease. As having had the experience as an HIV educator and working with HIV researcher, I understand the value of these teachable moments.

Last year, I wrote and produced, “What is Your Status: An HIV Awareness Story ” to highlight some of the issues that still surround HIV and AIDS.
Please check out the video below:

Empty Well

It is so important for us to read the bible in context.  So often, we memorize key verses and phrases, and neglect to see the bigger picture.  This morning, as I thought about this blog on empty wells, Galatians 6:2 came to mind: “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ,” (NIV).  But as I meditated on the verse, I realized that it was the second verse of the chapter.  What did the previous verse say?  In fact, the previous verse served as a cautionary statement.  It said: “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted,” (NIV).  The New Life Version reads, “You who are stronger Christians should lead that one back into the right way. Do not be proud as you do it. Watch yourself, because you may be tempted also.”  Firstly, the verse calls for the “stronger Christians” to lead his brother/sister back into the right way.  Secondly, it cautions the “leading” individuals to refrain from becoming proud and to be careful of falling into the same trap.  The truth is, we all have areas where we are strong and areas where we falter.  Moreover, these areas may vary by season and/or circumstances.  It is important for us to understand that while God has called us to bear one another’s burdens, there is only one Savior.  We were not designed to save everyone.  In fact, if we do not continue to replenish our wells, then we run the risk of running emotionally and spiritually dry.

If you are consistently playing the role of the go-to person in your relationships, there will come a point where your well will run dry.  If you incessantly pour out and do not replenish your reserve, you will bottom out.  This could have multiple physical, mental and spiritual ramifications.  Below are a few things that I have found helpful during some of my darkest moments.

  1. Be kind to yourself
    1. Know that some days you will fly, and some days you will fall. Some people will think you are the greatest, and some will think that you are the worse.  However, neither one of these things define who you are.  Only God defines you.  He made you, and He knows who He has called you to be.  No one else has that authority, including you!
  1. Keep inventory of your “well” reserve
    1. Most credit counselors advise against credit card use. Why?  With credit card usage, there is a tendency to spend more than we have.  Debit card are just as bad.  I would venture to say that most people are not balancing their account ledger after each swipe of their card.  It’s no wonder the banking industry makes so much money on overdraft fees.  The same is true of our emotional bank account.  If we are not keeping an accurate account of our balance, there will be a tendency to over extend and/or over commit.  If we don’t keep accurate accounting, we will spend more than we have to give.  This brings me to Item #3.
  1. Learn to say “No!”
    1. Saying “no” is way more than simply refusing a request. Sometimes saying “no” could mean declining to answer an email, a text or a missed called.  For some, this is the biggest step towards establishing healthy boundaries in relationships.
  1. Keep inventory of those who are making deposits and withdrawal into and away from your wells
    1. Relationships are seldom equal. However, our relationships must be mutually beneficial.  In other words, we will have relationships where one person brings more to the table than the other.  The important thing for us to remember is that we should maintain a healthy balance of the different types of relationships in our lives.  Again, if we are always giving more than we are receiving, then our relationships are out of sync, which will eventually lead to a dry well.
  1. Take note during your hour of darkness.
    1. Who are the ones calling solely to check on you—not to gossip, not to vent, but simply to check on your well being?  Oftentimes, when you tend to be the strong one in your relationships, people erroneously think that you don’t have problems or that your problems are secondary to theirs.  Please understand that is an unfair and unrealistic expectation.  The people in your life must be able to acknowledge that you too are human, and as such, you too have your cross to bear.
  1. Know that you cannot be everything to anyone person.
    1. I recently had a conversation with a friend who said to me that in relationships, we meet our needs by drawing from the many wells in our lives. Whenever, we start to draw predominantly from one well, we put that other person in an unfair position, which is too much pressure to place on any one person.

Now, after having said all that, I will say this:  When we are weak, God will make us strong.  There are times when God will push us beyond what we thought we could do or where we thought we could go.  However, the problem in many of our lives is that we fail to ask Him for His counsel, and we busy ourselves with things, people and tasks that He never commissioned us to take on.  Sometimes, God is doing a work in our lives and He is doing work in others’ lives as well.  My final parting note is that we should seek God in all that we do, and He will give us the guidance that we so desire.

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A few weeks ago, I took a trip to California, which for the past few years, has been my default happy place.  I was a bit underwhelmed during my recent travels.  The effects of the drought were ubiquitous, and in an instant, my fond memories of the once picturesque landscape were deflated.  As I navigated around the city, I couldn’t help but notice how California’s fertile grasslands now appeared dry and barren.  However, that wasn’t entirely true.  Speckled throughout the desolate terrain were pockets of life—areas of new growth—hope.  As I drove along the multicolored mountain sides, I began to remember what the City used to look like.

During our walk as Christians, we often go through dry seasons—seasons of drought.  Just like the California drought, there are so many lessons to be learned during those periods.  The first, if not the most important lesson, is despite our circumstances, there is always a glimmer of hope.  As long as we have life in our bodies, there is hope.

The second lesson that our dry season teaches us is to pay attention to those who are around during our drought.  Are there people, who were once in our courtyard, who have since faded into the background?  Are the remaining people in our lives watering our garden or depleting our soil?

As I continued to marvel at the California desert, I started to notice how readily discernable the weeds were from the vegetation.  They were now more prominent and readily visible.  I believe the same is true of our walk in life.  God uses our drought to extract our “weeds.”  During our seasons of prosperity, it can be difficult to discern between our foes and our friends, because our enemies, just like the weeds, are also capable of infiltration and camouflage.  It is important that during our drought we identify and uproot the weeds in our garden.  If not, the dry season will come to an end, and we will be left with the same infestation that plagued us during our feast.

Many of us view our dry season as God’s punishment, but if we look at if more carefully, it’s an opportunity—a chance to start afresh.  It’s a chance to take off all that entangles and run our race uninhibited.

If you are going through a dry season in your life, take note of the weeds.  Uproot them.  Do not turn back.  God is about to turn it around, and He wants you to be free to enjoy the feast-the end of the drought!