Archives for category: God

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Psalm 8:3-8, NLT

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

One of the greatest and most humbling reminder on our road to self-discovery and reinvention is that we are not Jesus!  Yes, as Christians, we are meant to bare each other’s burdens, but we are not called to save, to fix or to restore anyone, including ourselves.  That’s Jesus’ job.  Some many of us in our quest to become Christ-like, or just plain liked, have resorted to becoming a receptacle for others to unload.  We allow others to dump all their “stuff” on our doorsteps.

 

Healthy relationships should be symbiotic, meaning each person should take turns serving the other.  There should be a healthy balance.  Our relationships should improve our lives and well being.  If we find ourselves giving more that we receive, we place ourselves in a position to become out of equilibrium, which puts us at risk for suffering emotionally, mentally or even spiritually.  Additionally, when we fail to set boundaries in our relationships, it sends the message that it is okay to not respect us. It tells others that our feelings do not matter.  That’s not only unfair, it’s also unhealthy!

 

One of the best ways to stop being a receptacle is to learn to love ourselves.  At times, loving ourselves might often mean putting ourselves first.  As Christians, we sometimes have a tendency to pervert the Gospel.  The phrase “die to yourself” has been misused and abused.  In fact, when asked by the Pharisees which of the Commandment was the greatest, Jesus replied that we should first love God, then love our neighbors as we would ourselves (Mark 12:30-31).  In that verse, Jesus commands us to love God, ourselves, and then our neighbors—in that order.  In order to love someone as we love ourselves, it is implied that we first love ourselves.  It is imperative that we love ourselves.  Oftentimes, this might mean saying no to others.  Additionally, it is important that we set aside time for ourselves to allow for a reset.  We will find that by doing so, we will also redefine the boundaries in our lives and have more healthy and productive relationships.

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Lately, I’ve found that the first thing I do after waking up and the last thing I do before going to bed is to read the news.  It’s actually gotten pretty depressing.  The typical news story portrays the world as one that has gone to hell in a hand basket.  Stories of savagery and inhumanity are ubiquitous.  Murder, rape, and pillaging are some of the most common headlines.  The sensationalism is beyond the categorical scope of yellow journalism.  The story contents are vile and the commentaries are even more viscous.  This morning, as I attempted to scroll the Internet for my daily dose of news happenings, a small, still voice told me to stop.

 

Proverbs 4:23 says, “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life,” (NLT).  In this visual age, our world has become inundated by sensory images, and unfortunately, most of the tactics have been subliminal.  Everything and everyone is vying for our attention.  We have to be cognizant of the information that we filter through our eyes, our hearts and our minds because what we allow to resonate in those places often shape our emotions and our actions.  While it is important that we keep abreast of current events, it is critical that we filter out the hysteria and the nonsense.  The seeds that we water will be the one that will take life and grow.  If we plant seeds of negativity and despair, then our days and our lives will be filled with doubt and turmoil.  If we plant seed of hope, then our lives will be fruitful and productive.  So, during these days of fake news, political turmoil, and civil unrest, let’s take heart that goodness still exists.  God still sits on the throne.  He is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8).  The promises that God made yesteryear are still relevant today.  Filter out the negativity and embrace the promises.

 

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We all have our own emotional baggage—some more than others.  Each one of us has areas where we suffer from insecurities.  In other words, we all have our own ish!  So why do so many of us get caught up in the waves of other people’s emotions?  Our emotions get so entangled with those around us that when they are up we are up, and when they are down, we are down.  This propensity can make it difficult to sort through our own issues.  More importantly, taking on other people’s issue is draining—physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.  It creates a whirlwind in our minds and our hearts.

One of the biggest things we could do for ourselves on our path to self discovery and reinvention is to guard our hearts.  Proverbs 4:23 says, “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.”  The first thing we need on the path to guarding our heart is to be aware of when people are trying, whether advertently or inadvertently, to suck us into their personal cataclysm.  The next step toward guarding our heart requires us to put on our invisible armor to ward of penetration of any and all toxicity.  For our sanity, we have to be careful that we are not going through someone else emotions.

Baggage.  It can, at times, be a four-letter word.  We all have it.  Some of are not only carrying our own baggage, but we have allowed ourselves to become saddled by other people’s “stuff.”  Learning to release is one of the most important things that we can do for ourselves.  Galatians 5:1 says, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery,” (NIV).

Christ died on a cross for us to be free.  Why then do we continue to enslave ourselves?   Slavery prevents us from running the race that God has set forth for us.  When our minds are cluttered with nonsense, we cannot focus on our priorities.  As such, we’re tired.  We’re sad.  We’re angry.  We are everything but productive.  On the road to self discovery, one of the most important things we could do for ourselves is to let go.  Letting go allows us to focus on the things that are important to us.

One way to re-center our focus is to carve time out to do some of the things we like to do (e.g. exercising, writing, taking a walk on the beach).  Another way is to write down our plans.  Habakkuk 2:3 says, “’Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it.   For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false.  Though it lingers, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay,” (NIV).

Seeing our goal, dreams and/or desires affixed on paper allows us to remember what is important to us.  We need to do what it takes to preserve our focus.  Relax.  Breathe.  Meditate.  Yesterday, we wept it out.  Today, we are letting it go!

For the past few evenings, God has been nudging my heart to read the Book of Job.  If you’ve ever read the Book of Job, then you know exactly why I wasn’t jumping at the bit to read it.  It’s not the most cheery book in the Bible.  However, tonight, I decided to hunker down and sludge through the 42 chapters.  After all, it was only 20 pages in my Bible.  I grabbed my Bible; snuggled under my covers and I began to read.  I never made it past the first chapter.

 

After just a few verses, I found myself angry with God, even doubting him.  The fact that God had allowed Satan to test Job was counterintuitive to me.  I was especially mad at the fact that God was even talking to Satan.  After all, the Bible said that God detested evil and stayed far from the proud and the wicked.  Well, Satan is definitely the embodiment of all things wicked and evil.  So, why was God even chatting with Satan?

 

As I was having my existential breakdown, I contemplated whether my questions grieved the Holy Spirit.  Surely, I could have skimmed past the verses that didn’t make sense to me and pretended that my uncertainty didn’t bother me.  But what sense did that make?  God knew my heart, so, there was no point of even pretending.  Additionally, my Type A personality couldn’t allow me to move forward.  As strange, or as wrong, as it may have been, God needed to make sense to me.  At the very least, His existence had to be consistent with who He says that He is because, at first glance, my image of God in the first chapter of Job, seemed anything but consistent with who the Bible says that God is.

 

In an effort to better understand the first chapter of Job, I meditated on the words found in Job 1:6: “One day the members of the heavenly court came to present themselves before the LORD, and the Accuser, Satan, came with them,” (NLT).  I asked God for revelation.  I earnestly wanted to understand the chapter.  Moreover, I earnestly wanted to understand God’s character.  Like Solomon, I prayed for wisdom, and God gave the following revelation:

 

According to Job 1:6, the members of the heavenly court, or angels, came and presented themselves before God, and the Accuser, Satan came with them.  The phrase “presented themselves before God” seemed to suggest that the angels, including Satan, had to give an account to God for their activities/actions.  Perhaps they were going before God for judgment.   There are several passages in the Bible that corroborate the notion that even angels are subject to judgment.  For example, in the New Testament, Paul stated that believers should exercise good judgment when attempting to resolve secular disputes as there will come a time when believers will not only judge the world, but they will also judge angels as well (1 Corinthians 6:2-3).  As a sidebar, I must note that the translation of the Greek word for judge is krino, which also means to rule or govern.  I digress.  Another example that indicates that angels are also subject to God’s judgment is 2 Peter 2:4. The passage reads: “For God did not spare even the angels who sinned. He threw them into hell, in gloomy pits of darkness, where they are being held until the day of judgment,” (NLT).  Even Jude, the half bother of Jesus, weighed in on the topic by saying, “And I remind you of the angels who did not stay within the limits of authority God gave them but left the place where they belonged. God has kept them securely chained in prisons of darkness, waiting for the great day of judgment,” (Jude 1:6, NLT).

 

The above passages support the notion that Satan presented to God in the book of Job, not as a peer or comrade, but as one who is subject to God’s authority.  In Job 1:7, God asks Satan, “Where have you come from?”  The question required Satan to give an account for his actions.  This is similar to when God asked Adam, “Where are you,” (Genesis 3:9, NLT)?  Considering that God is omniscient and omnipotent, we could conclude that God knew the answer in both cases. In both examples, God was not interested in unearthing the truth.  He was exposing their pride.  Proverbs 16:5 says, “The Lord detests the proud: they will surely be punished,” (NLT).  When God asked Satan about Job, God knew the status of Satan’s heart and that Satan had already set his sights on Job.  In fact, when God brought up Job’s name, Satan didn’t even flinch or pause.  He immediately knew exactly who God was talking about.  When God mentioned Job, Satan must have been ecstatic because he thought that he had finally found God’s Achilles’ heel.

 

As Satan roamed the Earthy, he must have noticed how the angels, who are at God’s command, fawned over Job.  In fact, in his accusation against God, Satan said, “… Job has good reason to fear God. You have always put a wall of protection around him and his home and his property. You have made him prosper in everything he does. Look how rich he is!  But reach out and take away everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face,” (Job 1:10-11, NLT)!

 

In allowing Job to be tested, God was exposing Satan’s pride.  He knew that Job was indeed faithful and that Job would not be tested beyond his limit.  Scripture tells us that God will never allow us to be tempted beyond what we could bear (1 Corinthians 10:13).

 

As I attempted to conclude my studies, my reading took me back to Jude.  Verse nine was of particular interest.  It read: “But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not himself dare to condemn him for slander but said, “The Lord rebuke you,” (NIV)!  The verse reminded me that judgment belongs to God and God alone.  To further understand the verse, I went on a quest to find out more about the archangel Michael.  My search brought me to Daniel 10.

 

In Daniel 10, the prophet Daniel had been praying and fasting to God for an answer to a vision that he had been given.  After 21 days, an angel appeared to Daniel and advised him that that the answers that he sought had been delayed because he, the angel, had been held up by a spiritual battle that both he and Michael were still involved in.  The angel replied, “Do you know why I have come to you? Soon I will return to fight against the prince of Persia, and when I go, the prince of Greece will come; but first I will tell you what is written in the Book of Truth. (No one supports me against them except Michael, your prince,” (Daniel 10:20-21, NIV).

 

Ephesians 6:12 says, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places,” (KJV).  Both the verses in Daniel and Ephesians remind us that there are things of this world that we do not understand and cannot explain.  There are battles and wars being wages in the spiritual realm that are beyond the scope of our comprehension.

 

In the Book of Job, Job’s spirit waned.  He eventually questioned God about the calamity he faced.  God’s answer was similar to the conclusion that we just drew.  There are things of this Earth that are simply inexplicable.  We just have to trust God and stand on his word.  “For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires,” (Hebrews 4:12, NLT).  Like Daniel, we should take comfort in knowing that Word of God has power to break strongholds.  According to 2 Corinthians 10:3-4, “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds,” (NIV).

 

Seldom do I use my blog as a platform to jump on my soapbox.  Typically, I try to inspire.  However, there are times when I also try to provoke thought by presenting an alternative point of view.

A few nights ago, I watched a story on the local, evening news about a robbery and a possible assault in an upscale neighborhood.  Both the neighbors AND the reporter were incensed, and even offended, that crime had infiltrated, what the reporter described as a “swanky” community.  I found the coverage and commentary perplexing, and frankly, a bit scary.  It is asinine, and prideful, that people should expect, and in some cases, desire that crime be marginalized to neighborhoods with lower socioeconomic statuses.  There is no community that is impenetrable to crime.  There is no community that exists in isolation.  In fact, isolationism is the antithesis of personal security and safety, and it typically stems from the most degenerative human vices:  pride, greed and hate.

Pride and greed tell us that we can never have enough and that only we alone deserve to have it all.  The concept of “survival of the fittest” may work in the animal kingdom, but it is not beneficial for human communities.  Here is the problem.  When we create skewed supply and demand systems, where only a few are equipped to succeed, we create marginalization.  Marginalization oftentimes creates desperation.  When people are backed into a corner, and their propensity for success is truncated, they often resort to crime.  When we create communities where destitution and desperation is prevalent, we do not get to retreat to our ivory towers, throw up the moat and hope that the insurgents relent.  Behaviors and mindsets that are being bred and developed in the adjacent communities will infiltrate.

There are those who will argue that each person is responsible for his or her action and that destiny is determined by an individual’s choice.  I would argue that while that argument might be true to some extent, such conjecture is a fallacy.  Again, we do not live in isolation.  To make the argument of “to each his own” is try to absolve ourselves of our social responsibilities.  In society, and in communities, we have a responsibility to more that just our families and ourselves.

I recently read an article about the push to end the free-lunch program.  It reminded me of how short-sighted we can sometime be.  Oftentimes, budget cuts are targeted at programs that support those who have the biggest need and the smallest voice.  I would venture to guess that many of the decision makers are probably far-removed from the desperation that many program recipients face.  Here is the honest truth.  There will always be those who try to beat the system and slip through the cracks.  Cheaters will always exist, and yes, we should have efficient checks and balances in place.  However, do we punish those in need for the actions of a few?  If the answer of societal obligation is not appealing, then self preservation might strike a cord.  When people in these “swanky” communities invests in individuals from disenfranchised communities, crime actually decreases because people then feel as though they have options.  When individuals’ options are increased, so is their sense of purpose.  When people have viable options, and they have something to live for and to look forward to, they are less likely to jeopardize that by committing crimes.  The problem is there are people in our culture that have a pauper’s mentality.  They believe that supplies are limited and if shared, might cut into their portion.  There are also those who have an even more sinister mentality.   Their mentality is one of hatred, which is reflected in their actions.  Both of those mentalities have excluded the grace and goodness of God.  According to Jeremiah 29:11, God stated that he has a plan to give us hope and a future.  God’s plan to prosper us asserts that heaven’s supplies are not limited and are not governed by scarcity.

Ultimately, as earthly cohabitants, we all have a responsibility to take care of each other.  If nothing else, at the VERY LEAST, we have a responsibility to ourselves and to our families.  Who know, by investing in others, we could very well end up sparing ourselves and our families from being accosted by the career criminal who dropped out of primary school because he couldn’t concentration on his lesson due to hunger-induced confusion.  We never know.  Life is filled with very many ironies!

 

 

Sometimes, I wonder whether hard work, drive and ambition are dying virtues—extinguished—buried somewhere along with chivalry, good manners and decorum.  Our social media culture has created the expectation of overnight success and instant stardom.  A few decades ago, people were trying to keep up with the Jones.  Now, it seems as if most people are trying to keep up with the Kardashians.  Once upon a time, resumes were reflective compilations of tenacity, hard work and dedication, a stark contrast to today’s Internet culture where opportunities are heavily reliant on self aggrandizement and even, self deprecation.  Followers equal dollars.

 

Here is my question:  If everyone is off becoming an Internet super star, who’s actually learning and training to become our next leaders—our doctors, our lawyers, our teachers, our philosophers or our politicians?  Where are the new, future world changers?  I’m not saying that the next visionary cannot be discovered behind a computer screen.  What I am saying is that there is a low probability that ALL our future leaders will be discovered on YouTube.  The sobering fact is that many of us are going to have to put in a little elbow grease in order to achieve success.

 

The pursuit of celebrity is nothing new. The over-the-top lifestyles that are oftentimes depicted in movies, magazines and television can be alluring, but there is a cost.  You are either going to pay in time or in kind.  Oftentimes, shortcuts are more expensive in the long run because nothing is ever truly free.  The question is: Are you willing to pay the associated price?

 

I think we need to go back to a time where we revered the people in our communities—people whom we actually know and have seen the results of their tireless efforts.  The unsung heroes in our families and our neighborhoods are often the ones who are making the most difference in our society.  They should be the ones whom we celebrate.

 

Fame and fortune should never be terminal goals because as independent virtues, they are both inherently valueless.  They should be deemed as conduits for change—a means to an end.  To whom much is given, much is expected (Luke 12:48).