Archives for category: Freedom

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.

Tupac Quote

“I gotta stop treating people like I owe them something,” Tupac.

This quote came across my social media page the other day, and it stopped me in my tracks. Wow! How liberating.

I have always believed that no one owes me anything. I had never thought about that sentiment from the opposite perspective. However, it was something that I needed to hear. It’s something I believe that many of us need to hear.

As Christians, particularly Christian women, we believe that we have to be everything to everyone. We can’t. There is only one God, and only He can be everything to all. We are human, and we will fail and falter. The problem is, when we have conditioned people into thinking that our role in their lives is to be subservient to them, this becomes the expected norm of the relationship. They call. We answer. They ask. We give. They dish. We take. Most people do not like change. So, oftentimes, we find that once we try to redefine these skewed relationships, people become resistant and some often get angry. They might say things like, “You’ve change,” “You’re just not the same person,” “You’ve gotten brand new.” The truth is, you probably haven’t really changed. You’ve probably always hated being treated like a doormat, but you just never said anything. To those people whom you’ve allowed to walk all over you, there was no perceived problem in the relationship, because as far as they were concerned, their needs were being met. You filled the lonely gaps between romantic relationships. You picked up the pieces after the break up. You spent hours “talking” while they vented about a problem. For them, there was no problem. But what about your lonely nights, broken heart and failed dreams? Were they on the phone for hours listening to you cry and vent like you had been for them?

“But, they are my friend,” you say. “I’ve know them since (fill in the blank).”

“Ten years ago, they did that one favor that I feel obligated to repay over and over and over again.”

Whenever we judge the merit of a relationship, we should never judge it based on the question, “What have you done for me lately?” However, relationships MUST be symbiotic. If you find that you keep holding yourself hostage to that one, kind deed that an individual performed many moons ago, and you constantly feel indebted and need to repay that act, it might be time that you reevaluate your motives and reevaluate your relationships. Yes, we must remember kindness. So many of us are quick to forget. Yes, we must maintain a sense of loyalty, but we do not owe anyone anything. We have a responsibility to love God and to love His people, but we are not indebted to anyone.

In my own life, I have had to redefine several relationships. There were people who were always used to me running to their beck and call. They called. I answered. They asked. I gave. They dished. I took. Now that I have established new boundaries, there are those who’ve said that I have changed. They don’t like the fact that I am no longer their doormat. However, I can’t be who God has called me to be and go where He wants me to go if I am wrapped up living people’s lives and riding the waves of their emotions.

One of the biggest lessons that God taught me a few years ago is that the reason why many of us cannot get past our current season is that we keep bypassing our exit and repeating seasons with people who are currently in the season that God is trying to graduate us from. Friend, sometimes the very thing that we are trying to save someone from might be the fire that God is using to refine them. So, now, instead of moving into our new season, we are going into battle against God and getting burned.

For 2015, I encourage you to evaluate ALL your relationships. The Bible says, “Iron sharpens iron,” (Proverbs 27:17). If you are in relationships that are not allowing you to grow, move on. Those lopsided relationships might be the very things that are hindering your growth.

Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words will crush your spirit, break your heart and demolish your dreams. For those of you who have ever heard that old childhood adage, you know that isn’t quite how the saying goes. In fact, that playground saying taught us, as children, that words are meaningless and non-impactful. However, nothing could be further from the truth. Words ARE powerful. They mold and shape us. It was with words that God created the heavens and the earth. Words have the ability to create and destroy. That is why it is so hard to escape the clutches of words, particularly negative criticisms.

When trying to overcome the aftermath of criticism with positivity, the ratio is seldom 1:1. Rarely, do we reverse the effects of one incident of spoken negativity with only one kind word. Oftentimes, the antidote for the venomous sting of harsh words is a superfluous amount of positive affirmations. Our human nature has a natural proclivity to negativity. We would sooner believe the worse about ourselves (and others) before subscribing to a kinder truth. Why do we accept harsh words as true, and why do we deliver them as fact? One of the best answers to that question came to me from a quote in Francis Scott Fitzgerald’s book “The Great Gatsby:”

“They were careless people, Tom and Daisy- they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.”

Many of us are like Tom and Daisy. We are careless and reckless, particularly with our words. We go through life regurgitating our unstrained thoughts on our unsuspecting victims and then we retreat into our ignorance, our wealth, and in some cases, our apologies. We hide behind popular colloquialism like, “I keep it real” or “I call it as I see it.” Here’s a truth: We don’t just get to impose our “truths” on others. We don’t have a right to just say what we feel—uncensored, unadulterated and unfiltered. Our words should edify and administer grace to those hearing it (Ephesians 4:29). It should not cause people to retreat into despair and desperation. We should also note that not everyone is equipped or called to deliver criticism. Criticism that is truly meant to correct should be delivered with love and with consideration given to the appropriate timing. Like they say, “timing is everything.” Constructive criticism should also be devoid of hatred, pride and/or malice. In other words, it should come from a good place.

In a perfect world, people would have tact and decorum. But our world, and the people in it, are far from perfect. So what can you do to disarm the sting of hurtful words? Below are my top ten ways.

  1. Know who God is!
  2. Know who you are! Know that everyone on this earth, including you, was made on purpose and for a purpose. You are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14).
  3. Know that you are not perfect, and that’s okay. Know that it is okay to be human.
  4. Know that not every criticism is a personal attack. Sometimes, other people have issues that have nothing to do with you.
  5. Learn to be introspective. Sometimes, you have to learn to look deeper at yourself. Even criticisms that come from a negative place might have some merit. Weigh the message and the source. Apply what’s applicable and discard the rest. The person you are today should always strive to be better than yesterday’s version.
  6. Know that you cannot please everybody. Strive to be your best, but know that some people will always be disappointed.
  7. Learn to laugh at yourself. Don’t take yourself too seriously.
  8. Learn to laugh at others. Don’t always take people too seriously.
  9. Develop relationships with people who will keep you morally, spiritually and personally accountable.
  10. Don’t just wait for others to affirm you, compliment yourself. Sometimes, you have to learn how to encourage yourself.

I was born a slave.  As an ancestor of the son of man, I was born a slave to sin.  As a black woman living in the United States, my ancestors were owned by man.  Even today, there are so many things in this world that attempt to hold me hostage. Thankfully, I embrace the freedom that Christ has given to me. Christ died on Calvary to set me free, for who the Son has set free is truly free indeed, (John 8:36).  Nonetheless, there are still forces that be that attempt to incarcerate me. One of the greatest of them all is money.
Many Christian erroneously think that having money is sinful. It’s not. That belief is not even Biblical. Having money has never been an issue. It’s the love of money that’s the problem (1 Timothy 6:10). Why? The love of money equal idolatry, and God will not stand for anything or anyone being placed ahead of Him. However, Christ understood that in this world’s system, money is needed, and in some cases, required. Christ illustrated that best when he produced the coin from the belly of the fish when asked to pay His taxes. This miracle illustrated two things:
1. Even Jesus, the most powerful man that ever lived, honored the laws of the land.
And
2. God will make a way where there seems to be no way.

In today’s upside down world, there are those that use money to keep people in bondage. Debt is the biggest shackle of them all. Proverbs 22:7 says that, “The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender.” As I sat today to pay my student loan, I thought to myself, “Wow, this world’s system is created to make us perpetual slaves.”  The truth is this, no one told me to go to school, and no one forced me to acquire debt to pay for my education. However, the system is designed such that there is a cost for advancement, one which neither my family nor I could independently afford, even though a great portion of my education was funded by academic scholarships. Like many, I knew that in order to advance the visions that God placed on my heart, I would have to assume some liability—take risks, including possible debt. But advancement of our dreams, if we are not careful, could result in situations where we are in the same, or worse, positions than before, particularly financially. If we are not careful, instead of making an impact on the world, we could find ourselves just trying to make a dent in our debt.
Many of us are slaves to the lender, which is exactly where the lenders want us to be. Let’s face it, the system is designed that there are more poor people than there are those who are rich. If everyone had a million dollars, we would all be equal, and the enemy is not a fan of equality.  The customary practices of usury in our society is designed to create and maintain a distinction between the haves and the have nots. Think about how many great ideas were conceived by financial slaves, whose visions were stillborn, or worse yet, stolen and nurtured by others with the financial wherewithal.
In the world’s system, debt is inevitable. But in the body of Christ, even the inevitable can become the remarkable. If we were to be honest with ourselves, most of us do not have the initial financial resources to attend college, start a business or pursue other ventures. One thing I do know is that we can use debt as a launching pad, but we do not have to remain indebted indefinitely. Our finances is an area where many of us overlook and underestimate the power of God and the power of prayer. Though it might seem weird, pray over your stack of bill. Ask God to help you to be a good financial steward of your money and resources. Ask God to make supernatural provisions. Also, set up a plan. Many of us do not have a financial plan. We can always ask God to move on our behalves, but sometimes, we have to take that first step.
Today, I want to issue a financial challenge. Over the next 30 days, incorporate a financial plan and budget. Write down where you see yourself financially at the end of 30 days, 1 year, 5 years, 15 years and 30 years.  Pray over the 30 -day course that God will give you favor, wisdom and abundance. Also, pray Deuteronomy 28:13 over your life:

The LORD will open the heavens, the storehouse of his bounty, to send rain on your land in season and to bless all the work of your hands. You will lend to many nations but will borrow from none. 13 The LORD will make you the head, not the tail. If you pay attention to the commands of the LORD your God that I give you this day and carefully follow them, you will always be at the top, never at the bottom. 14 Do not turn aside from any of the commands I give you today, to the right or to the left, following other gods and serving them, (NIV).

 

The promises that were made in Deuteronomy were made to the Israelites. But our God is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). The promises that were made to one are still available to all today and forever.  Therefore, I pray that God will make us the head and not the tail; above and not beneath; and a lender and not a borrower, in Jesus’ name. Amen

In the book of 2 Timothy, Paul describes the last days as a time when,

…people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. 3 They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. 4 They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. 5 They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly.”
Paul further encourages us to, “Stay away from people like that!

I know that every generation before has thought that they were living in the final days. The truth is, no one knows when the final days will be. The Bible says that when Jesus comes, He will come like a thief in the night, (2 Peter 3:10). However, it seems to me that we are closer to the above prophesy than ever before. More and more, you find people who are selfish, proud, arrogant, unforgiving, unyielding and outright cruel. It makes you wonder about the state of the heart of man. In such a time as this, it’s so easy to throw our hands in the air and give up on valor and virtue. But I caution us not to do so. Now is the time to let our light shine. The insatiable hunger of darkness is only quelled by light. Those of us with the gift of the light inside of us have to continue to burn bright. The Bible says that we are the light of the world and a city built on a hill cannot be hidden, (Matthew 5:14). We have to continue to intercede in prayer on behalf of the nations. We have to continue to pray for those who are afflicted by infirmity, poverty, cruelty and inhumanity. I still believe that God hears the cries of His people. I still believe that God answers the plea of the broken and the fallen, which, my friend, is all of us. If He didn’t then, the Bible would be a lie. But the Bible says that “God is not a man, so He does not lie,” (Numbers 23:19).

 

Some of you who are reading this might be wondering, “How can I use the subject of my argument to prove its validity.” The answer to those people is this: “We do it all the time, and we have accepted the results as truth.” Science is defined by science. Logic is defined by logic. Mathematics is defined by mathematics. Whenever we have a theory in the sciences, the arts or in mathematics. Those theories or principles are usually confirmed or denied by using theories/hypotheses in the same discipline. If such is the case, then why is it so difficult to believe that the Bible could be proven using the Bible? Is it because our senses cannot “perceive” Biblical principles? If that’s the case, then that argument nullifies every scientific theory. When was the last time you experienced/”saw” the Pythagorean Theorem?
Here is one final point: Other than Biblical principles, no other theory of existence asserts a power higher than itself to confirm its existence. For example, when existence is sought to be confirmed by science, the asserting scientific principle is no greater than the principle in question. When Biblical principles are asserted, it assert that there is a higher power at work. Additionally, in science the known ALWAYS justifies the known and is justified by the known. Even if a variable was titled as “unknown” prior to discovery, once it’s discovered, it becomes known. In Biblical principles, the “known” AND the “unknown” is justified by the unknown. The unknown can NEVER be justify the known because it is just that—unknown. Therefore, scientific reasoning has a limit.

Whew! That was a long tangent. I said all of that to say that God is true to His Word because He said He is, and it is that simple. So with that being said, I ask that we join together and pray for those Nigerian girls who were captured by rebels. I pray for their safe release and that they continue to trust in the name of Jesus—the name that saves.

God, I pray that the 200 plus girls were kidnapped be returned safely to their families. In Isaiah 43:13, God said, “From eternity to eternity I am God. No one can snatch anyone out of my hand. No one can undo what I have done.” Lord, your word also says in John 10:27-30, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me, 29 for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand. 30 The Father and I are one.”  Jesus, we thank you that no one or nothing can claim for themselves what you have already claimed as your own. We pray your favor over those girls. When Jesus died on the cross, he said, “It is finished!”  Lord we pray that “it is finished.”  In Jesus’ name, Amen.