Archives for category: Fun

Have you ever had one of those philosophical moments where even the simplest action ignited a myriad of thoughts?  Well, for me, today was one of those days.

This morning as I drove to work I began to wonder: What did Jesus mean when He said, “whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father,” (John 14:12, NIV).  What do those greater works actually look like today?  Back then, Jesus sighted the blind, healed the lame and raised the dead.  So what does greater works look like in 2013?

As I continued my drive, I reflected on the act of driving.  Could the fact that I was driving a car be an example of the greater works that Jesus mentioned?  Back in His day, travel was either by foot or by animal.  Truly, when we think about it, our technological and mechanical advances are pretty miraculous.  Through God’s grace we have been able to explore the Earth and challenge some of it laws.  Our planes challenge the laws of gravity.  Our submarines manipulates the force of buoyance.  Our miracles don’t just stop at transportation.  Modern medicine has also come a long way since Jesus’ time.  People are living longer and healthier because of human advances in medicine.  However, as wonderful as these advances are, and they are wonderful, in my heart, I wonder whether our technological advances are the “greater works” Jesus was referring to.  With that being said, I beg the question, “What are the greater works that Jesus was referring to?”

When Jesus gave us the promise of “greater works,” it was given as a conditional and not an absolute.  In order for us to see the manifestations of greater works, Jesus said we had to believe in Him.  This belief is not simply an acknowledgment of Jesus’ existence but a conviction of His might.  This belief has to be activated by our faith.  Maybe, just maybe, the reason why we haven’t seen an abundance of “greater works” is because we are limited on our faith.  In the Bible, we saw numerous examples of great faith and great works.  When the woman with the issue of blood touched the hem of Jesus’ garment, she knew that she was healed.  In fact, Jesus told her that her faith had healed her.

In 2013, there is no reason why we should not be experiencing people being raised from the dead, limbs being regenerated, diseases being cured and people walking into their Canaan. If you think that this sounds a little silly, then that’s actually part of the problem.  I think that when we begin to believe, God will do the supernatural (the impossible.)  He will either do it the old-fashion way by simply yelling, “Lazarus, get up,” or He could do it new-school by yelling, “Clear” (reference to a defibrillator in a hospital).

There is no reason why you and I should not be able to see greater works.  When Jesus died and was risen, he left us the gift of the Holy Spirit.  In Joel 2:28-29 God said, “And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people.  Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, (NIV).  In John 14, Jesus said that He would not leave us as orphans (verse 18).  Jesus left us the Holy Spirit to teach us, guide us and protect us.  With the Holy Spirit guiding us and protecting us, there is no reason why we should not be seeing our “greater works.”  My prayer is that, today, God’s people will begin to believe and do greater works.  In Jesus’ name, Amen!

EnvyA few weeks ago, we started a new series called the seven deadly sins.  Those sins are:  pride, envy, greed, wrath, gluttony, sloth and lust.  In our previous discussions, we mentioned that although the concept of the seven deadly sins is not Biblical per se, some scholars have said that the principle has a Biblical derivative, specifically Proverbs 6:16-19 and Galatians 5:19-21:

16 There are six things the Lord hates,
seven that are detestable to him:
17  haughty eyes,
a lying tongue,
hands that shed innocent blood,
18   a heart that devises wicked schemes,
feet that are quick to rush into evil,
19     a false witness who pours out lies
and a person who stirs up conflict in the community, (Proverbs 6:16-19, NIV).

19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God (Galatians 5:19:21, NIV).

So far, we have talked about pride and greed.  Today we will talk about envy!

Previously, we mentioned that pride was the original sin that caused man to fall.  If I were to rank the seven deadly sins in order of egregiousness, I would say that pride would be a first place contender, and envy would be a close runner up.  Of the seven deadly sins, I believe that these two are the most vile of them all.  I would even argue that pride and envy are what I would call gateway sins.  When they take root in our lives, they open the gates for other sins.  Let’s take a look at James 4:1-4 to illustrate this point.

What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us? But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:

“God opposes the proud
but shows favor to the humble.”

James 4:1-4, NIV

So, in James 4:1, the Bible says that our desires that battle inside us is what causes us to quarrel and fight.  That is pride and envy 101.  It was pride and envy that caused Adam and Eve to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  Their pride told them that they were entitled to God’s knowledge.  Their envy made them begrudge the fact that God possessed the knowledge that they thought they deserved.

Now, here is why I call pride and envy the gateway sin.  James 4:2 says, “You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight.”  Remember pride makes us feel entitled and envy makes us think we should have the product of our entitlement.  So what happens when someone has what we think we should have? We become envious and that envy could lead to rape, murder, adultery, lying,  greed, and any other vice we could think of.  Let’s look at some practical applications.  For example, a man cheat on his wife with another man’s wife.  Why?  Somehow, deep down inside, he has reasoned that he is entitled to the value that other man’s wife brings to her husband.  The man who is doing the cheating might have reasoned that he deserved to be respected, loved and honored.  Since he is envious of his perception of the other man’s wife’s values, he “steals” her from the other man.  His pride has told him that he is entitled, and his envy has precipitated his adultery, lying and stealing, and in some cases, killing.

Let’s use another example.  A woman shoplifts from a department store.  Why? Somewhere in her mind, she has determined that she is entitled to the items she has stolen.  She is also envious that the store owners/stock holders have move than she does.  Most of the time when we listen to the excuses of people who shoplift, they say things like: “They have enough stuff;” “They’ll never miss this;” or some variation of “I should have this stuff too.”  This is jealousy and pride.  That jealously and pride have caused them to resort to lying and stealing.  First, the individual in our shoplifting scenario has lied to herself in an effort to convince herself that she deserve someone’s miracle/destiny/blessings.  Second, she has lied to herself by trying to convince herself that she is not hurting anyone.  Lastly, she will have to lie to avoid getting caught.

The problem with envy and pride is not that they are inherently bad, even though they are.  The problem is that they set us up for failure each and every time.  It is impossible for us to have someone else’s blessings because that blessing was custom fitted for that individual.  You see, God knows each and every one of us inside out.  Just as no two people have the same fingerprints, no two people have the same spiritual DNA.  When God considered our blessings, He considered our gender, our race, our backgrounds, our personalities, our idiosyncrasies, our level of faith (or lack thereof), our maturity and so much more.  It is IMPOSSIBLE that any another person on the planet would align with us on ALL of those thousands, maybe even millions, of variables.  We could save ourselves a tremendous amount of heartache and pain if we understood that no matter how much we envied someone, we could never have what they have.  Their blessing weren’t made for us.  The other thing is this.  We do not know how much time, effort and prayer someone has put into their blessings.  The problem with many of us is we think that our story ends when God grants us our blessings.  Friends, in many cases, this is just the beginning.  God has an expectation that we will take care of what He has given us.  Let’s use another example.  We might look at our neighbor and say, “Wow, they have such good, accomplished children.  I wish mine were like theirs.”  The problem is we don’t know how they got to that point.  How many days did that mother fast for her children?  How many nights did that father pray for their success?  What about their ancestors?  Imagine how they could have prayed and planted seeds.  They truth is we just never know what people’s true circumstances are.

The final point I would like to bring home is this: James 4: 2-3 says we have not because we ask not.  It also says that sometimes the reason that we do not have is because we ask for the wrong reasons.  Friends, if God owns the cattle on a thousand hills (p.s. He owns the hills too), why aren’t we asking Him for everything.  No matter how small our requests, we should bring them to God.  If we do not get the answer we desire, we should not automatically think that we are asking with wrong motives.  Instead, we should ask God to check our heart and purify our desires.  If we have done a heart check with God and we still find ourselves with the same desire, then the answer is simple.  We have to wait and trust that His timing is perfect.  We have to know that though others might appear to be experiencing their Jordans, their timing is not ours.  We have to trust that God knows what we need and will come through when we need it.

God,

My prayer for today is that you settle the hearts of your people.  Grant us your peace that surpasses all understanding.  Thwart in us any temptation for pride and envy.  Allow us to know that you have custom-fitted blessing designed specifically for each and every single one of us that will be revealed at just the right time.  I pray blessings over all your people.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen!

I’m usually not the best at reciting jokes, but this one I had to share.  A man went to God and said, “God, your power is so infinite and your resources are so limitless.  For you, a million years is like one second and a million dollars is like one penny.  Surely, you would have no problems giving me a million dollars.”  God looked at the man and said, “I sure don’t.  Just give me one second.”

The truth is God’s timing is not the same as ours.  When everything ceases to exist, He will still remain standing.  God has seen empires rise and fall.  He has seen generations created and destroyed.  He is the beginning and the end of time.  So, sometimes it does beg the question:  Could God truly sympathize with the fact that we are but a mist in the spectrum of time?  Even though He created us, does He really understand that our Earthly bones decay daily?  Does He truly understand that for us a million years is not the same as one second?  As I explored the answer, perhaps answers, to this question, I came across an interesting passage in Scripture.  It’s a little long, but just bear with me:

A Valley of Dry Bones

The Lord took hold of me, and I was carried away by the Spirit of the Lord to a valley filled with bones. He led me all around among the bones that covered the valley floor. They were scattered everywhere across the ground and were completely dried out. Then he asked me, “Son of man, can these bones become living people again?”

“O Sovereign Lord,” I replied, “you alone know the answer to that.”

Then he said to me, “Speak a prophetic message to these bones and say, ‘Dry bones, listen to the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Look! I am going to put breath into you and make you live again! I will put flesh and muscles on you and cover you with skin. I will put breath into you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’”

So I spoke this message, just as he told me. Suddenly as I spoke, there was a rattling noise all across the valley. The bones of each body came together and attached themselves as complete skeletons. Then as I watched, muscles and flesh formed over the bones. Then skin formed to cover their bodies, but they still had no breath in them.

Then he said to me, “Speak a prophetic message to the winds, son of man. Speak a prophetic message and say, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, O breath, from the four winds! Breathe into these dead bodies so they may live again.’”

10 So I spoke the message as he commanded me, and breath came into their bodies. They all came to life and stood up on their feet—a great army.

11 Then he said to me, “Son of man, these bones represent the people of Israel. They are saying, ‘We have become old, dry bones—all hope is gone. Our nation is finished.’ 12 Therefore, prophesy to them and say, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: O my people, I will open your graves of exile and cause you to rise again. Then I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13 When this happens, O my people, you will know that I am the Lord. 14 I will put my Spirit in you, and you will live again and return home to your own land. Then you will know that I, the Lord, have spoken, and I have done what I said. Yes, the Lord has spoken,’” (Ezekiel 33:1-14, NLT)!

This story should give each and every one of us great comfort.  You see, when the bones first came together, they had no life.  They were just going through the motions.  It wasn’t until God breathed His Spirit into them that they came alive.  This passage illustrates three really important principles.  First, it is quite possible that you and I can make plans absent of God.  Our plans might even create the illusion of success.  I am sure that had there been distant onlookers, the regenerating bone might have given the appearance of life.  But just like the bones, our plans do not experience true life until God breaths His Spirit onto them.  The second point is, regardless of how dead something is, God can bring it back to life.  The fact that those bones were dry throughout suggests that they had been there for some time.  The bones probably surpassed any memories of the individuals’ existence, but God was still able to bring them back to life.  To us, our dreams might appear dead and forgotten, but God can bring them back to life by breathing His spirit into it.  The truth is, our very existence is proof of that.  We were dead before we were born, and God breathe life into us and caused us to exist.  The third point is easily overlooked.  God could have resurrected the bones on His own, but he used Ezekiel to perform the works.   God commanded him to speak to the bones and the wind.  What is He commanding us to speak to in our lives?

I love the way this passage end.  Even though God had given this illustration as promise to the nation of Israel, we should know that our God is not a partial God, and that the promises He makes to one is applicable to all.  With that said, God promised the Israelites that He would open their graves of exile and cause them to rise again.  Wow!  How many of us are living, but we still have one (or both) foot (feet) in the grave?  The truth is, it does matter.  God has promised us that He can rescue us from the tomb and bring us back to life.

Today, we should be encouraged that regardless of where we find ourselves, we should know that God has the ability to rescue us.  He sees us.  There is nothing that can separate us from His love.  He has not forgotten about us or given up on us.  Many may say that it is too late.  The doctor might have predicted when someone will draw his final breath, but only God breathes life.  Critics might say that our dreams have an expiration date and that we are too old to achieve God’s plan, but God gets the final word!  In fact, He has also shared that final word with us.  We need to speak life into our situation today!

Repeat after Ezekiel (via God):

“‘Dry bones [FILL IN THE BLANK WITH YOUR OWN CIRCUMSTANCES], listen to the word of the Lord!  This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Look! I am going to put breath into you and make you live again! I will put flesh and muscles on you and cover you with skin. I will put breath into you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord….Come, O breath, from the four winds! Breathe into these dead bodies so they may live again….‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: O my people, I will open your graves of exile and cause you to rise again. Then I will bring you back to the land of Israel. When this happens, O my people, you will know that I am the Lord. I will put my Spirit in you, and you will live again and return home to your own land. Then you will know that I, the Lord, have spoken, and I have done what I said. Yes, the Lord has spoken, (NLT).’”

In today’s society, success is usually thought to be determined by degree or pedigree.  I am here to tell you that neither of those things are absolute qualifiers for success.  When Paul spoke to the church in Corinth, he reminded them that few of them were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called them.  He further went on to say that God often chooses the “things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful,” (1Corinthians 1:26-26, NLT).  Now, this is not to say that there isn’t a value to education, for we know that God honors those who seek knowledge, counsel and wisdom.  It is simply to say that our circumstances do not disqualify us from being great.  Look at Gideon.

Too often God places a dream on our heart, and we erroneously think that we need an ensemble team to bring the vision to fruition.  We are inclined to decline opportunities because we think that we lack the skills needed to accomplish the task.  In the Old Testament, Moses tried to hand over the opportunity to lead the Israelites out of bondage to Aaron because he thought that being a successful leader was directly correlated to an ability to speak well.  Fortunately, God is more interested in using those who can walk the walk rather than those who talk the talk.  So how does that tie into the story of Gideon?

God had called Gideon to defeat the Midianites.  Like many of us, Gideon doubted that God could really use him to do something so extraordinary.  Thankfully, what Gideon soon came to realize was that his weakness was inversely proportional to God’s strength.  In other words, he realized that when he was weak, God was strong, and it was that epiphany that allowed him to grow in strength.

Prior to battling the Midianites, Gideon had 32,000 men.  God told him to send home those who were fearful.  Twenty-two thousand men left.  Gideon was left with an army of 10,000.  Still God was unsatisfied.  He ordered Gideon to bring the men to the stream and “[d]ivide the men into two groups. In one group put all those who cup water in their hands and lap it up with their tongues like dogs. In the other group put all those who kneel down and drink with their mouths in the stream,” (NLT).  There were three hundred men that drank from their hand.  Finally, God was satisfied.  With a total of 300 men, God delivered the Midianites into the hands of the Israelites (Judges 7).

The story of Gideon serves as an amazing demonstration of God’s ability to elevate us above our circumstances.  In the natural, there was no way that Gideon could have defeated an entire army with only 300 men.  However, God reduced the size of Gideon’s army so that He would receive the glory.  The first lesson that you and I should learn from Gideon is that when we are called to do the impossible with only a skeletal crew, it’s not because God is punishing us.  It’s simply because He wants us, and others, to know that success is not based on a formula, but is predetermined by God.  The second lesson to be learned from Gideon is that not everyone in our camp is destined or willing to fight.  Know that the dream that God gave us was given to us.  Not everyone in our camp is meant to go with us to battle.  In order to achieve victory, sometimes, we have to get rid of those who are stumbling blocks.  In the case of Gideon, had God not gotten rid of those who were “timid or afraid,” it might have cost them the battle.  Under pressure, those eliminated individuals might have surrendered or betrayed their camp.  The third lesson to be learned from Gideon is that when God gives us a dream, it’s better to have a faithful few than a lazy bunch.  Those who drank from their hands proved to be hard workers and go-getters.  They didn’t just kneel at the stream and waited for the water to flow into their mouths.  They took the initiative.  We want people in our camps that take initiative.  The last lesson that we learned from Gideon is a little off topic, but equally important. 

The Bible says that God will make our enemies our footstool (Luke 20:43).  We should know that oftentimes, God will use our very enemies to announce our victory.  In the case of Gideon, God used the Midianites to announce the Israelites’ victory:

The Midianite camp was in the valley just below Gideon. 9That night the Lord said, “Get up! Go down into the Midianite camp, for I have given you victory over them! 10 But if you are afraid to attack, go down to the camp with your servant Purah. 11 Listen to what the Midianites are saying, and you will be greatly encouraged. Then you will be eager to attack.”

So Gideon took Purah and went down to the edge of the enemy camp. 12 The armies of Midian, Amalek, and the people of the east had settled in the valley like a swarm of locusts. Their camels were like grains of sand on the seashore—too many to count! 13 Gideon crept up just as a man was telling his companion about a dream. The man said, “I had this dream, and in my dream a loaf of barley bread came tumbling down into the Midianite camp. It hit a tent, turned it over, and knocked it flat!”

14 His companion answered, “Your dream can mean only one thing—God has given Gideon son of Joash, the Israelite, victory over Midian and all its allies!”

15 When Gideon heard the dream and its interpretation, he bowed in worship before the Lord. Then he returned to the Israelite camp and shouted, “Get up! For the Lord has given you victory over the Midianite hordes,” (Judges 7:8-15, NLT)!

Know today that God has called each and every one of us for something great.  If God can use flawed individuals such as Moses, Gideon, David, Ruth, and Esther, imagine what He could do with us.

Shut-Up-Graphic-09

 

Shut up
Just shut up
Shut up [3x]
Shut it up, just shut up
Shut up
Just shut up
Shut up [3x]
Shut it up, just shut up

Black Eyed Peas, Shut Up, Elephunk Album (2003)

Shut Up is a song from Black Eyed Peas’ 2003 Elephunk album.  It’s one of my all-time favorite songs.  It’s no wonder why when I thought about this topic, it was one of the first thing that popped into my mind.  I believe many of us could take a cue from the lyrics:

JUST SHUT UP!

For many of us, one of our biggest problems is that we talk too much—myself included.  Yesterday, I was reminded of that.

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of listening to a young, married couple share their personal testimony on the trials and rewards of marriage.  But it wasn’t so much their testimony that struck a chord with me.  It was their answers to one of the audience questions that impacted me the most.  Although the questions were submitted via secret ballot the tone of the question suggested that the person asking was female.  In essence, she asked the couple whether they believed that it was possible for God to reveal detail-specific information to her even though there was no supporting evidence.  The wife answered.  Here is what she said that resonated with me.  She said that there are some things that God reveals to us that are meant to remain between us and God, at least until the appointed time.  I was blown away by her answer for this reason:  What she said was reminiscent of a similar conversation that I had with my minister uncle a few months prior.  He said that there are some things that are so sacred that God wants them to remain secret until the appointed time of revelation.  Many of us, in our excitement to share our blessings (e.g. victory/breakthrough), blab prematurely, and instead of going through the open doors we anticipated, we end up running into brick walls.  We fail to realize that in the natural progression of any birth, there is a significant difference between conception and delivery.  Just as with a natural child, if a dream is birthed before time, it will be premature.  I am quite sure that any parent of a premature child would agree that children who are delivered prematurely face more developmental challenges than do children who were birthed full term.  The same is true of God’s revelations.  When you and I speak them out loud before time, it’s possible that we could birth our dreams into a toxic environment where they might have to fight for survival.  You and I have to know that there are some plans that are so critical to God’s kingdom that the only way that you and I can keep them safe is to keep our mouths shut.  If you don’t believe me check out the story my uncle shared with me about John the Baptist’s birth.

In the Old Testaments, the Ancient prophets prophesized that there would be a man who would pave the way for Jesus Christ.   Scripture has since revealed to us that person was John the Baptist.  Even before he was born, John the Baptist’s destiny was predetermined.  Remember, the Bible says that God’s word will never return to Him void.  So, it’s no wonder the angels did everything they could to protect the birth of this one man.

Zechariah and Elizabeth were the parent of John the Baptist.  Both were very old and had never had a child because Elizabeth was unable to conceive.  One day, when Zechariah, a priest, was serving God, the angel of the Lord came to him and told him that his wife would give birth to a son who would prepare people for the One to come.  Zechariah was doubtful because of his age.  This is the part of the story where we need to pay close attention.  Listen to what Gabriel said to Zechariah:

“I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. 20 And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time,” (Luke 1:19, NIV).

Essentially, Gabriel told him to SHUT UP!  Not only did Gabriel tell Zechariah to shut up, he shut him up.  In fact, Zechariah was not able to speak again until John the Baptist was born.  Too often you and I speak prematurely into our situations and allow negative spirits to seep in, including doubt, fear and envy.  Maybe, just maybe, had Zechariah been allowed to speak, he might have spoken death (literally) into his situation.  He might have been so riddled with doubt and insecurity that he could have caused Elizabeth to go into premature labor or deliver a still birth.  Remember what we said earlier about those premature births.  Elizabeth was already old in age.  She didn’t need any additional stress.  Who knows, she probably had her own insecurities and issues.  She sure didn’t need to take on anyone else’s.  Isn’t that the same with our dreams?  God reveals it to us, and we blab and allow others and ourselves to speak doubt into our situation.  Speaking God’s revelation before the appointed time could be our manifestation of pride and arrogance.  In addition to wanting others to see the hand of God at work, we want them to see just how blessed and favored we are.  In our arrogance, we can sometimes overlook one small factor:  Not everyone in our camp is cheering for us.  While we are praying life, they are speaking death.  Part of allowing God’s revelation to mature is learning how to discern with whom we should share our revelation.  We want to make sure that those who are smiling with us are also praying for us.  Thankfully, the good news is: God’s words will never return to Him void.  His plans will ALWAYS come to fruition.  No man, force or spirit can thwart God’s plans for our lives.  However, we can make our journey difficult.  Therefore, we have to be careful how we speak our dreams out loud.

Today, my encouragement to you is: If God has given you revelation for your life, seek His directives.  He might tell you to shout it from the mountains, or He might tell you to keep it to yourself.  Trust me, if you ask Him for clarification, He will let you know!

**Graphics from commentsyard.com.  No endorsement of site content, just a really cool pic.

Greed

The name of this blog is called That Next Level Thinking.  Part of the reason why I decided to write this blog is because I believe that in order to separate ourselves from the pack, we have to learn to think outside the box—to think on that next level.  In a spiritual context, that means leading with our spiritual minds and seeing past the vision of our natural eyes.  Today, I am starting a new series called the “Seven Deadly Sins.”  Hopefully, over the next seven days, I will challenge you to think outside the box as we look at these seven vices and discuss how they impact our Christian walk.

The theory of the seven deadly sins has captured the interest of scholars, historians, philosophers, artists and even movie directors for centuries.  In 1995, the American movie, Se7en, told the story of two police detectives who tracked a serial killer who profiled his victims based on the seven sins: wrath, gluttony, sloth, greed, pride, envy and lust.

Although the concept of the seven deadly sins is not Biblical per se, some scholars have said that the principle has a Biblical derivative, specifically Proverbs 6: 16-19 and Galatians 5:19-21:

16 There are six things the Lord hates,
seven that are detestable to him:
17  haughty eyes,
a lying tongue,
hands that shed innocent blood,
18   a heart that devises wicked schemes,
feet that are quick to rush into evil,
19     a false witness who pours out lies
and a person who stirs up conflict in the community, (Proverbs 6:16-19, NIV).

19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God (Galatians 5:19:21).

TODAY’S DEADLY SIN: GREED

What is greed?  Greed is an insatiable appetite for possessions.  In other words, it’s a bottomless desire for more “stuff.” Usually, that “stuff” is material in nature.   According to 1 John 2:16, “For everything in the world–the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life–comes not from the Father but from the world,” (NIV).

As I was thinking about the topic of greed this week, the parable that came to mind was “Jesus and the Prince of Demons.”  In the parable, Jesus cast out a demon from a possessed man.  As usual, the Pharisees tried to entrap him.  They accused him of being in allegiance with the prince of darkness.  Jesus responded to them saying:

19 And if I am empowered by Satan, what about your own exorcists? They cast out demons, too, so they will condemn you for what you have said. 20 But if I am casting out demons by the power of God, then the Kingdom of God has arrived among you. 21 For when a strong man like Satan is fully armed and guards his palace, his possessions are safe— 22 until someone even stronger attacks and overpowers him, strips him of his weapons, and carries off his belongings, (Luke 11:19-22, NLT).

I am sure many of you are not quite seeing the greed connection.  Just bear with me.

If greed is from the devil, then it stands to reason that the devil himself is greedy.  He IS the father of greed.  We should also keep in mind that the devil is a spiritual being, hence, the things that the devil craves are not “natural”.  In other words, the devil is not enticed by designer labels and premium neighborhood.  He craves spiritual possessions.  He has an insatiable appetite for our souls.  He’s greedy.  This brings me back to the passage: “For when a strong man like Satan is fully armed and guards his palace, his possessions are safe,” (NLT).

Satan tries to gather us like possessions.  One of the possible reasons why many of us have not experienced our breakthrough is that we haven’t realized that there are principalities that are trying to resist us.  Ephesians 6:12 says we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities.  Our battles are spiritual.

Now, I feel like I need to interject for a second.  We should understand that we are never outside of God’s reach.  Some of us are exactly where God wants us to be.  Just like Jesus, the Spirit drove us into the wilderness.  Others of us, on the other hand, have created our own wilderness experience.  The good news is that even when we detour off course, God can use our mistakes for our edification and for His Glory.  However, regardless of which situation we find ourselves in, we have to acknowledge that there is a spiritual battle taking place.  The “strong man” is always trying to vie for ALL our souls (greed).  Verse 21 says that “when a strong man like Satan is fully armed and guards his palace, his possessions are safe,” (NLT).  Thankfully, there is a caveat to that statement.  The following sentence in that verse says that Satan’s possessions are safe with him “until someone even stronger attacks and overpowers him, strips him of his weapons, and carries off his belongings,” (NLT).  We should know that even though we have an enemy, we also have an ally who is far stronger and will rescue us from the devil’s wiles.

Today, if there are any of you facing difficulties or praying for breakthroughs, ask God to tie up the “strong man” so that you could walk out of his house and into your destiny with ALL of your “possessions.”  In Jesus’ name.  Amen!

Photo Credit: Peterheck.com (No endorsement of content.  Just loved the graphic:-) )

I am who I am

And I don’t give a damn

Whether you understand

The plan of I AM

Because he says I can

Be the woman

Born from a man

To Fulfill the Plan

Of the one named I AM

And whose plan

Is Greater than

Any man

For He is the I AM

Who made me

Who I am.

“Who am I,” is a very difficult question for most people to answer.  However, the answer it so critical to where we are and where we want to be.  If we do not have a solid understanding of who we are, we could end up being who and what others want us to be.  The problem with that is, if we have no true foundation of who we are, we end up moving in circles instead of moving forward.  When we try to please everyone, we end up pleasing no one, including ourselves.  It is impossible to simultaneously satisfy everyone’s taste.  Some of the very same people who are trying to fix us are also trying to find themselves.

The Bible says let your yes be yes and your no be no (Matthew 5:37).  Malcolm X said, “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.”  There comes a point in our lives where we cannot straddle the fence.  We have to choose a side.  While there is always the risk of alienating some, we have to be true to ourselves.  We have to have a point of view.  Having a point of view does not mean that we are immune to correction or improvement, it simply means we have a solid foundation.  When our foundation is solid, we are less apt to sway with the wind and less inclined to be blown away.  We are less likely to be disappointed by other people’s actions, or lack thereof, because our worth is not based on someone else’s expectations.

So, how do we begin to discover who we are?  Simple!  We have to know whose we are and how we were made.

Knowledge of a product’s manufacture details is not a prerequisite for use.  Most of us probably do not know how the majority of our daily products are made.  In the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t seem matter.  But, au contraire, mon frère!  Knowledge is power.  Knowing how a product is made does give some insight into the intricacies of the product.  Knowledge allows for better usage.  How differently would we act if we knew the following?

  • We are God’s masterpieces, created in the image of Jesus Christ (Ephesian 2:10).
  • As co-heirs with Christ, we are royalty—princes and princesses (Romans 8:17).
  • The story of our life was written before we were born (Psalm 139:16).
  • We don’t have to be afraid of anything or anyone because the same God who created heaven and earth goes before us (Joshua 1:9).

Would our knowledge of the above statements change how we perceive ourselves?  It should because when we don’t know who we are, we set the stage for others to define us.  When we allow others to define us, we cannot reach our potential because our potential was never established by anyone other than God.  We cannot expect people to guide us on a path that they did not create or have never seen.  If we rely on others to define who we are, we will always be limited by that person’s imperfection.  When we rely on God to define us, we are freed by perfection, which has no limits.  Therefore when we rely on God our possibilities are limitless.  Given my choices, I would rather be freed by an infinite God than limited by a finite mind.  Wouldn’t you?

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.  By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible,” (Hebrews 11:1-3, NIV).

Most of us have said at some point that we won’t believe it until we see it.  But according to the verse above, even the things we CAN see were birthed from the things we COULD NOT see.  Therefore, our beliefs in the tangible (the things that are seen) is the beginning of faith.  Basically, what God is saying is that nothing is impossible.  He made what is perceived as possible from the impossible.  This gives us the comfort to know that the absence of a promise in our lives does not preclude its manifestation.  We have to trust that God is working out the details.

It was by faith that Noah built a large boat to save his family from the flood.  He obeyed God, who warned him about things that had never happened before (Hebrews 11:7, NLT).

Not because something has never happened before does not mean that God can’t or won’t allow it to happen in the future.  However, sometimes the promise(s) made to you is not for you, but for your generation.  For example, God gave Martin Luther King Jr. a dream that he did not get to see, but his generation is experiencing the manifestation of his dreams.

All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it. They agreed that they were foreigners and nomads here on earth (Hebrews 11:13, NLT).

On this final day of the 30-day Marriage Challenge, I want to remind you of one final point:  When Jesus died, he said, “It is finished,” (John 19:30).  Please know that the end of Jesus’ life was actually the beginning of ours.

You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
15 You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
16 You saw me before I was born.
Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
before a single day had passed. (Psalm 139:13-16, NLT).

The above passage in Psalm says that before we were born, God had recorded every day of our lives in His book.  Before we were born, it was finished.  Every promise in our lives was finished before birth.  Every dream was finished.  Every relationship was finished.  Every soul was finished.  When Jesus gave his life, it was finished.  In other words, He finished His life so that we could begin ours.  It is finished!

I hoped you have enjoyed the 30-Day Marriage Challenge series.  This series was never intended to be solely about earthly marriages.  It was about our marriages to God.  You see, before we can commit to anyone, we must first commit to God.  Isaiah 54:5 says, “For your Creator will be your husband; the LORD of Heaven’s Armies is his name! He is your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel, the God of all the earth, (NLT).

Our spiritual marriage should supersedes our natural marriage.  God is and should be our husbands before we walk down the aisle.  If our relationships with God is faulty, then our earthly relationships WILL fail.  We will never be the right spouse.  We will never chose the right person.  Our relationships will never reach their potential because Jesus was never the center.  People cannot and should not complete us.  No person can fill the God-shaped void in our lives.  Today, wherever you find yourself, single or otherwise engaged, trust God.  Do not attempt to live a life independent of God.

Dear Father,

Today, I pray that that we will trust you.  Be our husbands, Lord.  Lord of Heaven’s Armies, please be our redeemer.  Give us the strength and the courage to trust you.  Let us place all our desires, dreams, relationships and promises in your hand knowing that, “IT IS FINISHED!”  Let us not settle for earthly counterfeits when we could have true treasures.  Let us not give in to the desires of our flesh out of desperation or out of a spirit of fear.  Let us wait on your word and trust that you will order our steps,  because Jesus has already said that, “IT IS FINISHED!”

I grew up in a conservative, Southern-Baptist Church.  Services were an hour tops, and if the preacher even dared to preach a minute over the allotted time, everyone stated shuffling, clearing their throats or looking at their watches.  There was no such things as dancing to the melody of the hymns.  If the spirit moved you, you could “reverently” sway your body, but you could not break a sweat.  Loud shouting or cheering weren’t common place.

As I got older, I began to wonder, “Is it irreverent to become animated in church?  Over the years, I have thought a lot about that question.  In fact, I thought about it today.

Today, my church had a very charismatic guess preacher who delivered an impactful message, which was nothing short of electrifying.  But, as I looked about the auditorium few people jumped out of their chairs and cheered.  I’m not saying that the congregation was not moved.  All I am saying is the atmosphere was not explosive.

Throughout my life, I have attended sporting events and concerts where I have screamed so long and hard that my throat was sore for days.  Some might even argue that my behavior at such events could be classified as undignified—rather un-lady like.  But the truth is, most people are probably just like me.  At a concerts, sporting events, or night clubs in some cases, they are not afraid to “break it down” (i.e. drop it like it’s hot or twerk it) while shouting, “That’s my jam.”  In those settings, letting loose is expected and normal.  However, when it comes to church, we all or a sudden become sanctified (i.e. prudish).  So why don’t we get that excited for God?  Why don’t we hoot and holler for God?  They did in the Bible!  In 2 Samuel 6:14, the Bible says that King David danced before God with “all his might.”  Dancing with “all his might” was not simply swaying from side to side.  In secular vernacular, David was “getting it in.”  He was getting down.  He was not being shy.  Now, that is not to say that we should all worship this way.  We all have different personalities.  Some individuals are introverts, while some are extroverts.  The point is, we should not feel embarrassed, or prideful, to fully worship God, especially when we have no qualms about cheering for man in other arenas or venues.

I must be honest.  It took me some time to get accustomed to raising my voice, or even my hands, in church.   I am still a work in progress.  However, I have realized that withholding from God what I freely give to man is what’s truly irreverent.

God,

I pray that we do not let our pride or fear prevent us from freely worshiping you.  Lord, allow us to experience the joy that comes from fully committing ourselves to you.  In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen!

We never have to worry about missing the memo from God.  If we failed to receive it the first time, He always provides an opportunity for our lessons to be repeated.

Last night, I attended a midweek, young-adult service at one of my local churches.  Actually, the Tuesday night worship experience at this particular church is not your typical, midweek service.  The atmosphere is charged with and electrified by the Spirit.

The message of the night was from James 1:2-4:

Dear brothers and sisters,when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing (NLT).

The take home messages of the night were:

  1. God uses our trials as an opportunity for growth.
  2. We should find joy in the pain of growth.
  3. When it looks like all is lost, God has one more move.

Wow! How many of us can perpetually see the glass half full?

Last night was my God reminder.  I heard God say, “Just in case you missed the memo the first time, ‘I am reminding you of who I am.’”  During the service, I remembered that God had laid this very message on my heart a few month ago.  I was excited to go home to find my journal entry and be reminded of what God had said then.

Once we embrace the fact that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever,” (Hebrews 13:8) we can rest in the knowledge that what He promised yesterday is still valid today.

Below is my 2/13/13 journal entry on James 1:3-4.  I hope it blesses you as much as it has me.

For you know that when your faith is tested,
your endurance has a chance to grow.  (James 1:3, NLT).

Endurance is preparation for the next time.  Think about jogging.  The first time you commit to jogging, you might only be able to run one block.  But in running that one block, the body is being conditioned.  The cells are being oxidized, and the muscles are being strengthened.  The next time you run, you might either

  1. Be able to run the same distance with less fatigue

Or

  1. Run further

Each time, however, there is an increase in strength that occurs.  The same is true of faith.  Each time you exercise your faith, your spiritual muscles increase, yielding increase endurance.  The things that you endured today might have seemed impossible last year.

So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing, (James 1:4, NLT).

Think about the jogging analogy.  Let’s say you were training for a 5K.  There would come a time in the training process where you could run the 5K without stopping, or without fatigue.  So as far as the 5K level, you would need nothing.  You would be perfect and complete.  However, if you decided to train for a half-marathon, additional training would be required and the cycle would repeat.

The same applies to our faith.  There are different levels of completion.  When you reach, what I will call, “level-one faith,” you are perfect and complete for THAT level.  It doesn’t mean that you are perfect and complete for life.  It simply means that you are ready to be graduated to the next level of faith.  There is always a growth curve—at least until death.

Dear God,

During this season, you have challenged so many of us to have faith in your word and your character.  I pray that we will continue to trust you as you develop us.  I pray that we will trust you with our lives, our relationships, our finances, our destinies, our purposes and our hearts.  In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen!