Archives for category: Fellowship

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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The Revolution Will Not Be Televised is a poem/song by Gil Scott-Heron (1949-2011), in which the title phrase has been cemented into modern-day vernacular.  Scott-Heron’s influence has transcended cultural, economic and regional borders.  In The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, Scott-Heron challenges our apathetic despondence, which fuels our inclination towards complacent mediocrity.  He calls us to take action in a world of unpredictability.  The Revolution Will Not Be Televised asserted that our inaction is an action of dire consequences.  The poem also suggests that our call to action should not be precipitated by the possibility of fame or pursuit of grandeur.  It further states that the greatest revolutionaries are the ones who go unsung and unrecognized.  They are the ones who are willing to go into the battlefield with no guarantees of victory.  They are the ones who are willing to take a chance—to lay it all on the line.  They are usually the ones who truly make a difference.  They are the Esthers, the Daniels, the Davids, the Josephs and the Abrahams.

We are living in revolutionary times.  More specifically, we are in the middle of a revolution, and it’s time that God’s people spring into action—get off of the sidelines and jump onto the battlefield.  We can’t afford not to.  Many Christians are governed more by fear, doubt and insecurities more than we are the Holy Spirit.  Oftentimes, we sit idly by as the World advances its agenda, because we are afraid to speak out, offend or interject.  We rather murmur than make a difference.  We use phrase like, “Who am I to say/judge?” and “To each his own” as spiritual clutches.  Let me be very clear, as Christians, we have every right to say.  We were called to say.  When Jesus issued the decree not to judge others, He did not mean that we should stand in passive agreement of sin, He meant that we should not condemn others because of it.  A society with no governing laws/standards is governed by anarchy, complete disorder, which by definition is contradictory to the nature of God, which is order.  We are called to make a difference.

Over the past few months, I have read various devotionals and books where the authors have suggested that we are in the final days; and we should pursue life passionately.  The truth is, no one but God knows when the final days are.  However, the fact that we do not know when the final days are should ignite a fire in our souls.  Imagine that tomorrow was indeed the last day.  Wouldn’t you want to make today count?  Wouldn’t you want to know that your life counted and that you gave it all you got?  If you answered yes, then you need to start living like you are dying!

The truth remains that despite whether or not tomorrow is indeed our last day, we are indeed dying.  We approach closer to death with every breath of life we take.  The more we live, the more imminent death becomes.  For many people, this topic of conversation is rather macabre.  Those individuals would rather talk about sunshine and rainbows.  However, the harsh reality is that during the time it took you to read this post, time has been withdrawn from your flesh and the withdrawal in non-refundable.    We know that time waits on no man, and that it does not stand still.  The fact that we only have one life to live means that we only have one lifetime to make a Kingdom difference.  So, why not give it all that we have?  Why not go for broke?  Why are we not pursuing our God-sized dreams?  Going for that business? That career goal?  That missionary work? That dream that only you and God know about?  Moving forward, let’s take back what the enemy has stolen and place it back into the hands of those who can properly steward it for God.  There is a revolution, and it has already started.  Where will you stand?

The closing ceremonies for the Hillsong 2013 NY Conference was almost two days ago, and I am still savoring the glory of the experience.  There were so many amazing stories and testimonies shared.  The one that most compelled me was that of Joel Houston.  He is the lead singer of Hillsong United and co-pastor of Hillsong Church NYC.  He testified that his walk with God did not always immunize him from insecurity and loneliness.  Joel, a man of God and a pastor, stood before thousands and shared a part of himself.  The authenticity of his vulnerability was palpable.  It was raw.  How much courage that must have taken?  Surely, he must have considered what other would have thought of him.  What would his flock say?  Would they frown on him as a leader for admitting his fallibility, or would they honor him for his humility?  The answer is both!  The truth is, you could never be everything to everyone, but you could be something to someone.  When you and I are vulnerable, it allows others to embrace their own imperfections.

A lot of my confidence has evolved by experiencing other’s vulnerability.  For example, as a recently graduated dentist, I had the opportunity to work with an amazing Endodontist (Root Canal Specialist).  She had worked previously as a general dentist.  Her vulnerability and transparency gave me courage to face my insecurities.  It took great courage for her to share some of her pitfalls with me.  She stepped out on a limb and trusted that I would not use the information she shared to judge her or scale myself to her.  I have to tell you, her act of kindness boosted my confidence.

When we express vulnerability it allows the recipient to know that they are not alone.  Vulnerability allows others to know that it is possible to be victorious despite their circumstances.

When Joel shared his story, it reminded me that even those closest to God are still refined by fire.  Joel’s testimony not only renewed hope, but it created an opportunity for the development of freedom.  Unfortunately, even Christians are held captive by false ideologies.  The idea that trials are punishment for misdeeds still permeate the Christian world.  That concept is nothing new.  Look at Job.  His friends thought that his misfortune was directly correlated with his sin.  Thankfully, grace is free.  God created it in a way where we can’t earn it.  We can’t buy it, and, we definitely can’t lose it.

Today, my prayer is that you allow others to experience freedom through your vulnerability.  The notion that we always have to have it together is false and dangerous.  It creates fodder for negative spirits (e.g. insecurity, doubt, envy and fear).  Ask God to grant you the vulnerability to set someone free.  In the process, you will learn that the person who will experience the most freedom is YOU!

Moment

“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them,” (Matthew 18:20, NIV).

If we were to take Matthew 18:20 literally, we would be inclined to assume that when the author spoke of a gathering, he was simply referring to a natural occurrence—an assembly of people.  We couldn’t be more wrong!  The Bible is filled with double, even triple, entendre.  What if I were to tell you that it is possible for people to gather without meeting?

This weekend, I attended the 2013 Hillsong Conference, which was held at the world-famous Radio City Music Hall in NYC.  Although Hillsong Church, which was founded in Australia, has hosted several conferences in the past, this was their first conference in NYC.  In fact, about three years ago, Hillsong Church set their sights on the Big Apple, and Hillsong NYC was birthed.  As I sat in the audience and listened to the stories of some of the pioneers, I noticed one common denominator.  God had made an impression on each individual’s heart, and each individual followed up with prayer.  Their prayers for NY made me think of my own NY experience several years prior.

Picture this: New York City, Lower East Side (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.  I love Sophia from the Golden Girls.  For those of you who have no idea what I am talking about, you’re missing out).  I digress.

Picture this: New York City, Lower East Side.  I was a young, naïve woman living in the City of Lights—not a very safe place for the young and vulnerable.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love NYC.  It is a great place with golden opportunities.  The “theys” have said that, “If you can make it in NY, you can make it anywhere.”  That is certainly true.  There are a lot of hopes and dreams that have been birthed in the concrete jungles of NY.  However, there is a dark side to NY.  It can be a predatory environment.  The treacherous and the ill-intentioned have also flocked there.  They too are looking for opportunities, but opportunities of a different kind.  They are there to deceive and defraud.  When I moved to NY, I knew I needed to be grounded.  I knew I needed to find a church home.

When I first arrived in NY, I knew no one.  I found my first church through an online search from slim pickings.  Eventually, I found one that was in walking distance from my dorms.  I was excited.  My excitement was short-lived.  Let’s just say that five minutes into the service, I knew that I would NEVER return.  The following week was equally eventful.  My new find was also in the City, but a little further away from my first location.  I guess I should have known something was amiss when the cabbie pulled up in front of the church and asked me whether he should stick around while I scoped out the scene.  Those who are familiar with stereotypical NY City taxi drivers know that offer was unusual.  Typically, they speed off while you still have one foot in the vehicle.  All kidding aside, stubbornness got the best of me.  I told the cab driver to leave, and proceeded inside.

Service was scheduled for 11 o’clock on Sunday morning.  This time, I had taken extra precautions to ensure that I would have a positive experience.  Early Saturday afternoon, I had called the church office to confirm the time and location of the service.  I arrived at the church around 10:45.  To my surprise, there was only one other person there, and he gave me the creeps.  He was a talk, middle-aged man dressed in a black suit and a top hat.  He tried to make small talk, but I couldn’t hear him over the intensity of my heart pounding. Between questions, he would intermittently open and close the door to the entrance of the church.   My pulse raced each time the door closed.  Maybe he was a standup Christian man, or maybe he had stacks of bodies in the church basement.  I didn’t want to stick around long enough to find out.  During one of the open-door intervals, I bolted, and I did not look back.

That was week two.  By the third week, I had grown tired of being disappointed and frustrated.  In my heart I whispered, “If I don’t find a church that I like this week, I will stop looking and just not go.”  Thankfully, we serve a God that responds to silent SOS.

On the third week of my church quest, I found yet another Manhattan church online.  That Sunday morning, I got dressed and headed down the elevator as I had the weeks before.  As I was about to exit the building, I stopped and chatted with my building’s front desk security guard.  He was a Christian, and we had spoken about Christ many times before.  That morning he asked me a question that changed my life.

“Where do you go to church,” He asked.

I smiled and replied, “I don’t know.  That’s what I’m trying to find out.”

When I told him that I was having difficulty finding a church, he suggested that I look up the Brooklyn Tabernacle.  His suggestion resonated with my spirit.  I dashed upstairs before he could place the final period on his sentence—I couldn’t have move fast enough.  That afternoon, I attended the 12 o’clock service at the Brooklyn Tabernacle.  I was fed there for almost five years—the entire time I lived in NY.

This is the point where our story comes full circle.  Although I LOVED the Brooklyn Tabernacle and would never trade my experience, there were weekends where I wished that the City offered more variety for hungry Christians and famished unbelievers.  Oftentimes, I would pray that individuals who had also had difficulties finding a church home would not be discouraged.  I prayed that God would give them a place of worship where they could hear about His Word and His greatness.  Those were some of my prayers.  Who would have thought that somewhere across the globe people that I did not know, would be “GATHERING” together with me in prayer for the same thing.  Though we were separated by space and time, we were still able to gather together in God’s name.

Several years later, God answered the cries of His people.  Due to the gatherings of many faithful people across the world, God responded to the cries of the City.  As a result, newly planted churches such as Hillsong joined previously established NYC churches to create and even bigger movement of God.

The revelation that the term gathering could be interpreted as a “spiritual meeting” is not to minimize or discredit the importance of intimate, personal fellowship and prayer, for the Bible does say that we should not forsake the assembly of believers (Hebrews 10:25). However, the antidote simply serves to illustrate that our God is not impeded by our limitations (e.g. time or space).

Today, please know that you are not the only one praying for your situation.  Others are, or have been, gathering, whether personally or spiritually, on your behalf.  Isaiah 55:11 says that God’s Word will not return to Him void.  In other words, your prayers that have been rooted in His promises WILL be answered.  So be of good courage tonight and know that God will do what He said He will do!