Archives for category: Faith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Psalm 8:3-8, NLT

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

The Time is Closer Than You Think!

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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What happened to human decency? There was a time when decorum played a vital role in our society. We thought before we spoke, and we actually considered the consequences of our words and actions.  Many blame the disappearance of valor on the advent of the Internet. But is the Internet the cause of society’s visceral conduct or is it simply a conduit? I am more inclined to lean towards the latter. There are many factors that are contributing to the implosion of our humanity, but today, we’ll focus on the Internet.

Here is a thought to ponder: The Fall of Man began with Adam and Eve’s decision to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.  Well, today, we could say that it seems as if history is repeating itself.  Our vehement pursuit of information has taken us into uncharted territory.

The Internet is laden with all sorts of information–some good; some bad.  However, the sheer presence of information does not always equate to knowledge.  Information is simply raw data.  Knowledge and wisdom is the prudent application of information and the distillation between fact, fiction and opinion.

One of the greatest reasons why the Internet serves a great conduit for the breakdown of decency is because it is anchored by anonymity.  Even when sites are hosted by well known companies, we never really know who sits behind the screen.  Almost every company and every individual has an Internet persona/alias. Social media platforms and website comment sections allow us to hide behind our usernames and spew our opinions under our veiled protection.

Like with anything else, anonymity, when used appropriately, could be beneficial. Whistleblowers and tipsters use anonymity to defend the truth and expose wrong doing. Not everyone is brave enough to oppose evil face-to-face, and that is okay.  In a functional society, we need these types of system in place to maintain order.  Anonymity has also been used to advance and prosper others.  For example, many well-intentioned, good people have made anonyomous donations and gestures for benevolent purposes.  While there are some benefits of anonymity, if we are not careful, it could be dangerous.

Anonymity = the state of being anonymous (secret, nameless, featureless, unidentifiable)

Loosely defined, anonymity is hiding or covering the truth (or a lie).

When something is covered, it is veiled. It is in a darkened state.  Darkness, by definition is the absence of light. Light is representative of truth, goodness and purity.  However, with anonymity, there is a temptation to stray from truth and honesty, which appeal to our primal affinity for darkness. The Internet’s inherent anonymity could potentially satiate our basic appetites for wickedness and cruelty.  Moreover, recent online cultures enable us to be reckless with our careless words because there is little accountability for those who hide behind the armour of user/screen names. In a rather paradoxical way, the anonymity provided by the Internet perpetuates self aggrandizement at the expense of common courtesy and decency. In fact, it’s easy to dehumanize others for shares and likes when we don’t have to look them in the eyes, or face any consequences. In today’s society the old adage, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words may never hurt me,” has never been further from the truth. Words are weighty and consequential. The power of life and death is in our words (the tongue).  Hopes, dreams, aspirations, failure, fatigue and suicides have all been triggered or ignited by words.

So what do we do? The truth is there is no easy, singular answer to yield a resuscitation of decency. However, a good start is individual accountability. Each person has to be responsible for his or her words and actions. While we might not be able to change anyone else, we can definitely change ourselves.

That’s just the way I am!  You’re too judgmental!  Maybe you are just too picky?

Relationships are hard, both platonic and romantic.  They require work, sacrifices and compromises, especially since we are all broken, imperfect people with a suitcase filled with baggage.

It is impossible to navigate the world alone.  We all need friends.  “Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed.  If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble,” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, NLT).  With that said, we have to learn to choose our friends wisely.  Relationships should be supportive, encouraging and empowering.  The people in our lives should directly and indirectly champion us to become better versions of ourselves.  We are the company that we keep.  The Bible reminds us of that in 1 Corinthians 15:33: “Bad company ruins good character” (NLT).

Compromise is needed to make any relationship work, but it should never be license for mistreatment.  Yes, we should all accept people for what, who and where they are, but this does not mean that we have to accept what they are willing or capable of offering.  For example, if we are in a place in our lives where our emotional love tank needs to be filled at a level eight capacity in order to make us feel whole, loved and valued, and someone is only willing or able to give at a level two capacity, then it is within our right to terminate or reposition that relationship.  The problem is that oftentimes, people with relational deficiencies take offense to being reassigned.  They often say things like, “You should accept me the way I am” or “You’re being judgmental.”  Yes, it is true that we should accept people as is, and that we should not be judgmental, but it is equally true that we don’t have to accept what someone is giving us simply because they are unwilling or unable to give us more.  It doesn’t mean that they are bad people, nor does it mean that we are.  It just means that we not compatible at the particular moment, which could change in the future.  It is okay to say that we want and need more from our relationships.  It’s even okay to say that we deserve it.  We should be in relationships with people who allow us to make demands of them, and who are willing to make an attempt to meet our needs.  With that said, we must be willing and able to do the same.  We also must be okay with others telling us that we do not fulfill their relationship criteria.  Some relationships are seasonal, and maybe those seasonal relationships have run their course.  That’s also okay.

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Yesterday, was pretty dreary and soggy on my end of the world.  It had been gray for most of the day until about 8:30 p.m. when suddenly skies burst forth with the most radiant light.  It looked more like late afternoon than evening.  I rushed outside to catch a glimpse of the delayed sunset, but it was hidden behind the trees and the other houses.  Instead, I caught a glimpse of the most spectacular double rainbow.  It was God’s subtle reminder that He is always omnipresent, even during the midst of a storm.

Believing in God is difficult.  Our sinful nature is hostile towards God (Romans 8:7).  When it comes to faith, many of us struggle with some of the most rudimentary principles of Christianity: Does God exist?  If God does exist, could we trust him to do what he said he would do in the Bible?  If God does exist, is the Bible the true Word of God?  These are all heavily-loaded, spiritual questions, far too profound for the scope of this discussion.  However, I will say this, we all have made conscious decisions to place our faith in something or someone.  If any of us have ever driven on the highway or walked down the street, then we have faith.  We have faith that the highway will not collapse beneath us or that one of the thousands of cars on the street won’t skip the median and run us over as we stroll.  For some of us, the veracity of the object of our faith is irrelevant.  For others, we have to have empirical evidence of our faith.  Again, without going into too deep of a discussion, a lot of Christianity has been proven scientifically, archeologically and historically.  Nonetheless, there are some x-factors, unknown variables that have yet to be verified.  The same could be said of science.  There comes a point in both science and Christianity where some things just have to be taken as given—based on faith.

If we opt to believe that God does exist, there will come a point where we just have to trust that God is who He said He is and that He is going to do what He said He would do.  When we have gotten to the point in our lives where we’ve tried everything and all else has failed, why not try God?  It’s not my intention to reduce God to a plan B alternative, but why not take a chance on Him?  What do we really have to lose by opting to believe in God?  Yesterday’s rainbow was a simple reminder of God’s wonderment. The rainbow is a symbol of God’s promises—His covenant with humanity—a representation of His mercy.  It is also a reminder that God can make all things new.  Rainbows usually manifest after a storm, right before it completely clears.  The Bible says that God is not a man that he should lie (Numbers 23:19).  Therefore, if the rainbow is representative of the veracity of God’s covenant with humanity, then it should serve as a reminder that God is true to His Word—all of them.

My past two blog posts have been about prayer, particularly, praying in general.  I was going to move on to a different topic all together until I came across another individual’s blog on the topic (Pretty good read.  Check it out: https://themirific.co/2015/05/20/stagnant-christians-stagnant-enemies/ ).  In this post, the author wrote about praying for our enemies.  Yes, it is true, Jesus challenges and instructs us to pray for our enemies.  But have you ever wondered what those prayers should look like?  If I were to be completely transparent when it came to praying for my enemies, I would say that I preferred some of the move Davidic prayers found in the Psalms such as, “slap all my enemies in the face” or “shatter the teeth of the wicked,” (Psalm 3, NLT).  Those prayers speak to the core of my anger when I am hurt by my enemies.   I also figured, if it worked for David, it should work just fine for me.

While I slightly kid, I must say that the question of praying for my enemies did resonate with me this morning.  I discussed the issue with my uncle, and he provided some insight which I will share with you:

Our earthly battles all seem to come back to Ephesians 6:12, “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities.”  In the Old Testament, David was waging war for a physical kingdom.  The sacrifices made in his day were physical in nature.  Today, we waging war for a spiritual kingdom.  Circumcisions in the Old Testament were physical, while today they are spiritual.  When we say those Davidic prayer, they should be prayed against the spirituals that dwell in the individuals, not against the individuals themselves.  When we truly understand that we are in spiritual warfare versus physical warfare, then we would realize that we should be praying for the deliverance of our enemies from the captivity of the evil one.  In the most rudimentary sense, the individuals who commit acts of evil are merely host to principalities.  Now, this does not completely absolve individuals of responsibly under the notion of the devil made me do it, for we all have free will.  However, it does allow for compassion towards our enemies.  For whatever reason, their free will has sent them down a path that has created a stronghold in their lives.  As we all know, bad habits are hard to break, and so are strongholds.  That is why we need to pray for our enemies.  We need to pray for their deliverance.  Notice that when Jesus prayed, he always prayed for others to be delivered from their infirmities.  Oftentimes, their blessings were found in the deliverance.

This whole topic of prayer brought me back to a previous blog where I begged the question: “How different would our world be if we simply prayed for things that weren’t already being prayed for?”  Imagine if we got to heaven and God told us that we could have dramatically changed the world, but we didn’t because those prayers were never released.  Would that knowledge change how we prayed today?  For me, one of the biggest frustrations, and even hesitations, with prayer is that I don’t always see the results of my prayers.  Sometimes, I feel as though God hasn’t heard me or that He is slow to act.  The Bible reminds us that, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient…” (2 Peter 3:9, NIV).  We have to remember that God is sovereign and that He might not answer our prayers in the manner and time we want, but He has His reasons for His approach.

Today, I challenge all of us to put on the armor of God:  the belt of truth, the shoes of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:12).  Let us pray for our world, our government, our enemies, our families and friends and ourselves.  Included below is a prayer of protection over our family and friends:

Today, Lord I pray an anointing over myself and my family.  I pray a hedge of protection around us.  I pray that the enemy and his allies would not be allowed to penetrate this fence, and that the gates surrounding the hedges are locked and sealed with the blood of Jesus Christ.  I pray that angels will be dispatched to the four corners of this fence and that they will protect and defend us from all attacks.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen!

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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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.