Archives for category: Growth

Have you ever noticed how some people always seem to have an opinion that is far from encouraging?  Not only are these people opinionated, they are seldom shy about expressing their views.  Well today, I want to express some views of my own, and I hope they encourage you.  So here goes:

Today, I want you to know that God is NOT mad at you.  In your life, so many people will try to lead you to believe that your misfortunes are directly correlated to your disloyalty to God.

Before I move any further, let’s just get one thing straight, none of us are faithful to God.  We are all adulterous people.  The good news is that we are saved by Jesus’ righteousness, not our “good deeds.” Just know that if God was in the business of punishing us based on our actions, we would all be goners.  Thank God for grace.  However, with that said, know that we can be within God’s will and still face turmoil.  Doubt it?  Look at Job.  He was right smack in the will of God, yet he faced the fight of his life.

I don’t know where you are right now.  Maybe you made some bad decisions along the way.  Maybe you haven’t.  The truth is, it doesn’t matter.  Thankfully, God has never been a God that dwelled in the past.  He has always existed in the present.  The current condition of our heart is all that matters.  God will guide us through the rest.

In order to be encouraged, we need to know that there will always be people who judge us and say that our circumstances are due to our lack of faith, prayer, or action.  Know that their opinions are irrelevant.  God is the only one who truly knows our heart, and only He can judge.

Maybe, we are exactly where He wants us.  Maybe God is using our trials, not a punishment, but to develop our character and better prepare us for our future blessings.  Job’s friend had erroneously thought that his adversities were the result of dishonoring God.  They couldn’t have been more wrong.  Maybe our friends are wrong about us too.

When it comes to life, there are no experts.  The “expertise” of man can only take us so far.  The problem is, even the most scholastic theologians have based some of their theories on hypotheses and suppositions.  At some point, each and every one of us will have to embrace our Spirit and the Word of God in order to determine our right course of action.  The closer we get to God, the more we will be convicted about whether or not our actions are in line with His will.  The take home message is this: Don’t let others cast doubt into your relationship and your walk with God.  Find out who He is and who you are in Him so that you will be better equipped to ward off the attacks and commentaries of the enemy.

Integrity—It’s who you are when no one is watching.  In today’s world, it can often appear as if honor is a forgotten virtue.

2 Timothy 3:1-5 says, “ Don’t be naive. There are difficult times ahead. As the end approaches, people are going to be self-absorbed, money-hungry, self-promoting, stuck-up, profane, contemptuous of parents, crude, coarse, dog-eat-dog, unbending, slanderers, impulsively wild, savage, cynical, treacherous, ruthless, bloated windbags, addicted to lust, and allergic to God. They’ll make a show of religion, but behind the scenes they’re animals. Stay clear of these people,” (The Message).

Wow! Those words are prophetic.  We ARE living in days where people are indeed lovers of themselves.  Many people are “self-absorbed, money-hungry, self-promoting, stuck-up, profane, contemptuous of parents, crude, coarse, dog-eat-dog, unbending, slanderers, impulsively wild, savage, cynical, treacherous, ruthless, bloated windbags, addicted to lust, and allergic to God.”  I wouldn’t be surprised if there were more people allergic to God than to penicillin.  In fact, just the mention of God on the airways seem to send some people into anaphylactic shock.  Some of you reading this blog might even be turned off merely because the content is about God.  We are living in a culture where many have built up a disdain for God and the things of God.  Even many “believers” has succumbed to the customs of the world.  Many of us are self-absorbed, money-hungry and cynical.  When confronted with the state of affairs of the world, there are Christians who respond with “it is what it is,” “people are who they are,” and “what can we do to change it?”  We have become cynical about whether God’s good can triumph over bad.  Many of us have embraced injustice as the new normal.  I am here to tell you that such thinking is contrary to the word of God.  2 Timothy 3:14-17 says,

14 But you must remain faithful to the things you have been taught. You know they are true, for you know you can trust those who taught you. 15 You have been taught the Holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. 17 God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work, (NLT).

Yes, in order to receive victory against all forms of evil in today’s world, we must remain faithful.  We must trust that the Holy Spirit will give us the wisdom, courage and strength we need.  We should not accept or succumb to the practices of the world.  One person CAN make a difference.  If we would realize and understand that while we might not be able to directly change the people around us, we can change ourselves.  When we begin with a change in ourselves, that very change can and will inspire others to take a stand, which could cause us to see a marked difference in the world around us.  We don’t have to just accept things the way they are.  We can make a difference!  Sometimes, we have to simply decide who we will be.  #Integrity!

One of the signs that we are getting older is that we are no longer as cool as we think we are.  Nothing reminds us of that more that working with teenagers.

During the past few months, I have been volunteering with a group of youngster who remind me that my limited arsenal of “slang” words might no longer be cool.  With that said, I am going to resuscitate my 1990’s colloquial vernacular.  The title of today’s blog is, “I Am No Spiritual Punk.”  In the 90s, a punk was someone who would be considered a softie.  It was someone who shied away from conflict because of fear.  A punk could also be defined as a coward—someone who would be determined to be weaker  (spiritually, physically and/or mentally) than the average person.   Once someone was labeled a punk, they would most likely be subjected to conflict and possibly bullying.  Why do I say all of this?  As Christians, if we are not careful, the world could view us as “spiritual punks,” therefore, subjecting us to bullying and unnecessary conflict.

Let’s go off on a tangent.  Isn’t it easy to look out into the world and marvel at all the wonderful things that are happening to everyone else?  It is so easy to challenge God and ask, “Why not me?”  At first glance, the Christian life could be seen as a life riddled with failure and hardship.  Even many Christians have perpetuated the negative image of Christian life by inappropriate referencing Scriptures such as, “take up your cross daily, and follow me,” (Luke 9:23) along with many other Scriptures that when cited incorrectly and exclusively paint a hopeless Christian existence.  While Jesus did make it clear that the Christian life would be no bed of roses, the Bible also does depict a clear picture of hope, joy and prosperity.  Unfortunately, pastors who preach messages of hope such as the promise found in Proverbs 10:22 (The blessings of the Lord brings wealth, without painful toil for it, NIV) are often stereotyped as prosperity pastors, and their messages are frequently erroneous titled as motivational speaking.

Where am I going with all of this?  My point is, the world, including some Christians, is waiting to see whether God is going to show up as the Bible promises He would and like many of us Christians are believing that He would.  Many are waiting to see whether Christians are going to “punk” out before the watching world in the face of disappointment.  In response to that, my question is this: Are we as Christians going to put up our “spiritual dukes” and show the world that despite our perceived setbacks and/or shortcomings, our God is greater?  Are we going to live a life that exemplifies that greater is He who is in us than he that is in the world?  The truth is, it is NOT our reputation that is on the line.  It’s God’s.  If everything that we do is supposed to give glory and honor to God, then when we cry out to Him in faithful obedience, He MUST show up.  A non-responsive God depicts a powerless, unfaithful, dishonoring, uncaring and dishonest God. However, as Christians, we have to believe that is not the case. We have to know that if God is not a man that He should not lie (Numbers 23:19), then we must also know that His very nature dictates that He MUST fulfill His promises.  Psalms 31:19 says, “Your goodness is so great! You have stored up great blessings for those who honor you. You have done so much for those who come to you for protection, blessing them before the watching world,” (NLT).  As Christians, we have to stop behaving as though our blessings are from man, because, they are not.  Oftentimes, we fear man more than we fear our Creator.  We, as Christians, have to get into a place in our Spirit where we know that our blessings and promotions come from God ALONE.  Man does not have the ability to fire us, hire us, promote us, increase us, or define us.  We have to get out of that “Spiritual Punk” mentality and embrace the fact that we are heirs of the throne of God.  As heirs, we are entitled to our Father’s blessing and we should know that what God has blessed, no man can curse!

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

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

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

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

A few weeks ago, shortly before New Year’s Eve, I was going through some old journals and reading over prayer requests from previous years. Many of those prayers had been answered in one form or another, while others still remained “unanswered.” For some reason, this made me ask the question: What does faith really look like? Immediately, I started thinking about Jesus’ ministry on Earth. More specifically, I started thinking about the people who Jesus impacted. As far as I could remember, I could not think of one where an individual’s prayer was not immediately answered the moment that they encountered Jesus. For example, the woman with the issue of blood had been bleeding for years, yet the moment she touched the hem of Jesus’ garment, she was healed by her faith in Jesus. The same could be said of the lepers, the lames and the blind. The MOMENT they encountered Jesus, their prayers were heard and answered.

Most of us know that God does not act on our timetable. His ways are not our ways, and His thoughts are not our thoughts. However, those stories did challenge the way I perceived my faith. I believe the reason why all of those people received an immediate response was because of the desperation of their fate. Jesus was all they had left. I am sure that the woman with the issue of blood must have seen all the experts of her day, assuming that she could have even afforded their services. The lepers were scorned, mistreated and exiled. Few people might have even cared enough to offer them assistance. I mean, how could they? Most people would have been scared for their own safety, as leprosy was a highly infectious disease at the time.

The people who came to Jesus were desperate. He was their last hope. In fact, He was their only hope. He HAD TO work. This made me ask myself the question: When was the last time I was that desperate? When was the last time I said, “Jesus HAS TO work?” I wonder how many of those “unanswered” prayers in my journal had to do with my own lack of desperation (i.e. lack of faith)?  How many times have I made God my last resort instead of my only hope?  With that being said, it’s important that I clarify one thing.  God’s ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts.  Sometimes, no matter how hard we pray and believe, things just don’t work out the way that we anticipated.  Sometimes, God has plans that are different than ours, and even though we’ve exercised our faith, we still do not receive the answers we desire.  This purpose of this post is not to assert that all unanswered prayers are due to lack of faith, but to challenge the way we pursued Jesus.  I guess my question for all of us, including myself, is how desperate are we? Is Jesus our only hope?

Father,
Tonight, we come before you with desperation. We desperately want to make Jesus our only hope. We put our trust and faith in Him and Him alone. In your Word, You said that if we have faith the size of a mustard seed, we can command mountains to move. Today, we stand on your word and your promises and command the mountains in our lives to jump into the sea. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

25

Wow! How quickly did we burn through the days of 2013? For many of us, January 1, 2013 is but a distant memory. So many of us started 2013 with a laundry list of goals and aspiration. For some, our enthusiasm and exuberance dwindled as the days faded. Now, with only 31 days left to the conclusion of the 2013, it’s so easy to give up on those 2013 dreams if they have not yet materialized. However, keep this in mind. The year is not over yet. In one instance, Jesus caused a fig tree to wither; He calmed a raging sea and He mended the skin of a leper. If he did that in one instance, imagine what He could do in 31 days! As we draw near to Christmas, instead of acknowledging all the couldas, wouldas, shouldas; let’s spend the next 25 days giving thanks for all the things that are going right. Over the next 25 days, I would us to embark on a 25-day thanksgiving journey. Each day, I will challenge you to list the one thing that you most grateful for in 2013. Here goes:

25-Day Thanksgiving Christmas Countdown
Day 25: Today I am most thankful for DISAPPOINTMENTS!

DramaMasks
Is God a stage mom? Wow! That’s a loaded question.
What is a stage mom? Wikipedia defines a stage mom (or dad) as a parent of a child actor who “aggressively manages” the careers of their child (children). In fact, with so many more people looking for their “big break,” the definition has expanded to include a broader scope of entertainment, including the sports arena.
So, what does this have to do with God? Growing up, I have often heard several religious leaders say that God is more concerned with our process than He is with our outcome. In other words, God is more into character building. Let’s assume for a moment that’s true. Most of us could probably intellectualize the fact that untoward events build character. However, when we are hurting, character building is the last thing on our minds.
In order to answer the question, “Is God a stage mom” we must first ask and answer the question, “Does God really care about how we feel during the process.”
The Bible says that God is our “Comforter.” Here is where the problem starts for many of us. Our ignorance can often lead us to a misguided sense of emotions. You see, for me, when I think of a comforter, I think of someone who shows up AFTER an incident has occurred. It make sense, right? We would not need to be comforted if an unfavorable incident/event has not occurred. See, if that is my definition of comforter, then it could be very easy for me to misunderstand who God is, especially in those moments where it feels like God is absent during the midst of my storms. It this is my definition of comforter, I could easily believe that God only shows up at the end or my storm to give me the proverbial “there-there,” “way to go” pat on the back.
Here is a moment where I feel like I have to be completely transparent to drive the point home. There have been times in my life where I have felt like God has said, “Just suck it up. It’s for your own good. It will all work out in the end.” This leads me to the comparison of the stage mom.
The stage mother pushes her child, sometimes beyond the level of comfort, because she know that if she pushes her child hard enough, he or she will enter stardom. The truth is, a lot of children of stage parents do go on to become entertainers and/or athletes. However, many of them become broken in the process. Look at some of our child stars. Yeah, the outcome was “great,” but the process broke them. This is where my point comes home. The focus on process over outcome is what separates God from the stage moms. Stage moms are concerned with outcome resulted in children, and eventually adults, who were broken in the process. God is concerned about the process, which when done correctly, can yield the same, or better, outcomes.
I must say that there have been seasons in my life where I have felt disappointed while going through the process. However, I cannot think of one moment where I have ever regretted a God-directed outcome. NEVER!
So, what about that whole comforter issue? Again, life is all about perspective. The Greek word for “Comforter” or “Counselor” is “parakletos.” It means “one who is called to the side of another” or “one who is called to plea a cause,” (Bible Dictionary). The name “paraclete” was given by Jesus Christ to the Holy Spirit. It means Advocate and helper as well as comforter. Imagine, Advocate was the name given by Jesus to the Holy Spirit—the third person of the trinity (John 14:16). So, now when we hear that God is our Comforter, it should means so much more to us. It should signify how much God loves us. He loves us so much that He sacrificially gave a part of himself so that He would always be with us. The fact that God dwells in us means that it is IMPOSSIBLE for us to ever be alone. If our Comforter is the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit ALWAYS lives inside us, then we are ALWAYS comforted. We should take great cheer tonight to know that God will always be our “paraclete.”

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!

One of the things that I love most about working out is actually one of the things I “hate” the most.  It’s that sore feeling.  Feeling sore reminds me that my muscles have been challenged.  The soreness lets me know that what I am doing is actually working.  Sure I hate walking down stairs after have done leg exercises, but I love knowing that my legs will be toned.  Thankfully, that soreness is fleeting.  Those of you who have worked out for any period of time, know that the more frequently we challenge our muscles, the less likely they are to fatigue and ache the next time we do the same exercises or use the same amount of weight.  In fact, there comes a period in the workout regime when we have to increase the weight in order to get the same or better results.  With any workout routine, there is a tendency for our bodies to plateau.  Similarly, this plateau phenomenon is not just limited to our bodies.  Our spirits function in the same capacity as well.

There are times in our spiritual journey when we will experience a spiritual plateau phenomenon.  Just as muscling building requires a gradual increase of weights for deeper muscle penetration, spiritual building requires a heavier message for deeper spiritual penetration.  Here is what I mean.  There will come a point in our spiritual journey when superficial, anecdotal messages are not enough.  Sure, we might get the gist or receive an occasional word because God’s Word always provides revelation.  However, our spirits were designed to want more.  At some point, we will need to pack on the weight and increase the heaviness to challenge our spiritual muscles.  This might simply mean attending a new church, reading new books/devotional or even changing our circle of influence/friends.  Think about it this way.  When we first learned to read, we probably started with picture books and eventually graduated to chapter books.  While I’m sure that as an adult it might be fun to read an occasional picture book, and we probably could learn a fact or two, however, reading a picture book as an adult would not be as edifying.  Imagine if all we read as adults were children’s picture books.  Our growth would be stagnant and our knowledge limited.  The reason why as we progressed throughout our formative school years our curriculum increased in difficulty was because growth requires an increase in intensity.  So if we want to see an increase in our spiritual live, we have to turn up the proverbial fire.  We have challenge our spirits.

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).’”