Archives for category: Miracle

In the simplest of terms, a covenant is an agreement, a contract or a bond between parties—a binding promise.  When a covenant is called into effect, there is an expectation that the agreed upon terms will be enforced.  In our legal system, most people go into covenants with the assurance that the legal system will enforce the terms and conditions of the agreement.  However, while the law can often guarantee that all parties will abide by the term of the covenant, a level of trust is still required between the parties.  Most people do not enter into covenants with people whom they know to be unscrupulous.  Most legal covenants are often measures that reasonable people establish to safeguard themselves against unforeseen events.  Again, most people enter covenants with the assumption that the opposing party has a certain amount of integrity.  This brings me to the point of this blog: God’s covenants.

 

Number 23:19 says, God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill,” (NIV)?  This passage indirectly speaks to the Abrahamic Covenant where God promised Abraham that he would bless the Israelites and Abraham’s family line.  In Number 23, Balak wanted Balaam to curse the Israelites, but Balaam replied with, “‘I have received a command to bless; he has blessed, and I cannot change it,’”(v. 20, NIV).

 

God cannot and will not change His mind.  He is in covenant with His people.  Number 23:19, not only speaks to the nature of God, but it is also a covenant in and of itself.  God is saying that his Word is bond.  Once he has said it, it is done.  Below is an exercise that I challenge all of us to do.

 

Covenant Agreement Between God and me

This Agreement made this __________ day of ____________20______ by and between _______________ and God.

 

Standing on the promises of the Abrahamic Covenant, I am believing God for:

  1. _______________________
  2. _______________________
  3. _______________________
  4. _______________________

 

The Bible verses that I rest my beliefs on are:

  1. _______________________
  2. _______________________
  3. _______________________
  4. _______________________

 

This agreement encourages us to remind God what He has promised.  With that said, we should also remember that God’s thoughts are not our thoughts and His ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8).  There will be times that our prayers go unanswered for reasons we cannot understand, but we should go into agreement with God knowing that He has heard our petitions and that He will answer; and if the answer is not what we expect, it is what God intended because He has deliberate acted.  Below are a just a few examples of how God acted on behalf of his people’s prayers.

 

Prayer for healing:

  • Hezekiah was on the brink of death and cried out to God to spare his life.
    • “‘Go and tell Hezekiah, ‘This is what the LORD, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will add fifteen years to your life,’” (Isaiah 38:5, NIV).

 

Praying for a Godly partner:

Abraham, though his servant, prayed that God would find a specific wife for Isaac.  God led Abraham’s servant to Rebekah.  Isaac and Rebekah were later married (Genesis 24: 1-67).

 

Praying to have children:

Isaac pleaded with the LORD on behalf of his wife, because she was unable to have children. The LORD answered Isaac’s prayer, and Rebekah became pregnant with twins,” (Genesis 25:21, NLT).

 

Released from jail:

“But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out,” (Acts 5:19).

 

Financial breakthrough:

“The blessing of the LORD makes a person rich, and he adds no sorrow with it,” (Proverbs 10:22, NLT).

 

Spiritual breakthrough:

The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds,” (2 Corinthians 10:4, NIV).

 

Fulfillment of God’s promise:

  • God had given Joseph a dream that he would become a mighty man. However, over the course of time, he was kidnapped, sold into slavery, accused of rape, imprisoned and forgotten.  Fortunately, God did not forget about him or the promise that he made to him.

 

  • 38 And Pharaoh said to his servants, “Can we find a man like this, in whom is the Spirit of God?” 39 Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has shown you all this, there is none so discerning and wise as you are. 40 You shall be over my house, and all my people shall order themselves as you command. Only as regards the throne will I be greater than you,” (Genesis 41:38-40, ESV).

 

Today, I pray that you remember the covenant agreement that God has made with you and with Abraham.  Stand on His Word as you pray for His favor!

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They say the pen is mightier than the sword. So, today I want to pierce though these pages and make a declaration: God is still on the throne, and He is not dead. Although the enemy has come to kill, steal, and destroy, God has already won the battle.

Have you ever felt like David? Well, today, I am David. I am crying out to God and asking Him “how long?” How long, God, will the wicked prosper? How long will the wicked triumph over men of God—your people? How long before God intervenes in the face of injustice? Will the man with no conscience reign forever? Will God be blinded forever to the evil man’s acts of injustice?

Here’s the funny thing about God. If we are quiet long enough to wait for His answers, we can sometimes find them in whispers. Here is what God whispered to my heart today:

Psalm 5

O Lord, hear me as I pray;    

 pay attention to my groaning.

Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God,    

for I pray to no one but you.

Listen to my voice in the morning, Lord.     

Each morning I bring my requests to you and wait expectantly.

O God, you take no pleasure in wickedness;     

you cannot tolerate the sins of the wicked.

Therefore, the proud may not stand in your presence,   

 for you hate all who do evil.

You will destroy those who tell lies.     

The Lord detests murderers and deceivers.

Because of your unfailing love, I can enter your house;    

 I will worship at your Temple with deepest awe.

Lead me in the right path, O Lord,     

or my enemies will conquer me. Make your way plain for me to follow.

My enemies cannot speak a truthful word.     

Their deepest desire is to destroy others.

Their talk is foul, like the stench from an open grave.     

Their tongues are filled with flattery.

10 O God, declare them guilty.     

Let them be caught in their own traps.

Drive them away because of their many sins,     

for they have rebelled against you.

11 But let all who take refuge in you rejoice;    

 let them sing joyful praises forever.

Spread your protection over them,     

that all who love your name may be filled with joy.

12 For you bless the godly, O Lord;     

you surround them with your shield of love.

 

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

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

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

 

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

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?

If anyone has ever taken a road trip with children, they would know that one of the most incessantly asked questions of any vacation voyage is, “Are we there yet;” to which the most frequently given response is, “We’re almost there.”  Whether we are five minutes or 105 minutes away from our destination, the answer is usually the same: We are almost there.  In those moments, it seems like we just cannot get there fast enough.  Sometimes, this is not only true of our physical journey, but our spiritual journey as well.  Sometimes, it can feel like the light at the end of the tunnel is light-years away.

Have you ever noticed that it is usually the children who ask, “Are we there yet” on road trips?  Why is that?  One reason is that the adults are the ones who, for the most part, know the final destination, including where it is and how long it takes to get there.  Also, most adults are mature enough to know that they must endure some temporary discomfort (e.g. cramped spaces, long ride frequent bathroom breaks, etc.) before they get to their final desired destination.  In other words, before we can be free to enjoy our fun in the sun at the theme parks, we have to endure the turmoil of the four-hour car ride.

So, you might be asking yourself: What does this have to do with our Spiritual lives?  I think it’s safe to assume that many Christians are living an “Are we there yet” lifestyle.  Most of us have faith and trust God, yet there are moments when we believe that we have not yet seen the manifestation of our faith.  We have put one foot in front of the other, yet we have not arrived at our desired destination.  We often find ourselves asking God, “Are we there yet?”  Sounds familiar?  How about one of these scenarios below?

  • God, it’s been years, and I have been praying for healing; yet I am still sick.  Are we there yet?
  • God, I have been believing in you to mend my marriage, but it’s still falling apart.  Are we there yet?
  • God, I have been praying so long for you to bless me with my partner, yet I am still single.  Are we there yet?
  • God, I have been praying to you for years to bless my womb with life, yet I am still childless.  Are we there yet?
  • Lord, I have been praying that you would bless my business ventures, yet I have only experienced closed doors.  Are we there yet?
  • Lord, I have been praying for my wayward child to return home, yet he (or she) is still so far from you and from home.  Are we there yet?
  • God, I have been praying for financial breakthrough, yet I am still in debt.  Are we there yet?
  • God, I have been praying for (fill in the blank), yet (fill in the blank). Are we there yet?

Yes, many of us have been asking God, “Are we there yet,” for quite some time.  But consider this revelation.  In order to get to a place of peace, we have to realize that we are God’s children, and that we are in the backseat of His proverbial car.  We have to know that when we allow God to drive us, He knows exactly where He is going and how to get there.  When God drives us, we never have to worry about Him being pulled over for going too fast or being honked at for going too slow.  Like children in the back seat, we have to be patient, mature and know that if we buckle up and sit tight, we will eventually arrive at our destination.  We might also realize that if we quit whining and complaining, we might actually enjoy the ride.  Ultimately, our lives and our walk with God comes down to this one simple truth, “We are either going to trust God, or we are not.”  Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.,” (NIV).

You and I have to believe that even though to the naked eye it might seem like we are light-years away from our desired destination, God is still in control and that He has a plan to bless and prosper us.  You see, in our minds, we might be thinking weekend getaway, while God is planning a vacation destination.

Father God,  Please continue to bless us with your peace that surpasses all understanding.  In those moments when we are tempted to ask, “Are we there yet;” comfort us.  Allow us to know that you are still in control and that you have a plan for our lives that will supersede our expectations.  In Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen!

“Talitha koum!”
“Talitha koum!”
“Talitha koum!”
A few days ago, I read a story on the news about a little girl in California who underwent a routine tonsillectomy surgery in a California hospital and is now on life support after profusely hemorrhaging post operatively. The little girl’s name is Jahi. On Friday, December 20,2013, Jahi’s family filed a restraining order against the hospital that would disallow doctors to discontinue Jahi’s life support despite being pronounced brain-dead.
The first time I read the story Jahi, my heart went out to this little girl I did not know. My prayer was that God would bring her back to life. If there were ever a perfect time for a miracle, this would be it. Christmas is always a time of hope and new beginning. That was my original prayer. However, today when I read the updated story, I zoned in on the little girl’s name. Immediately, my thought went to the story in the Bible of Jairus. It was not lost on me that there was a similarity in both the names and the circumstances.
In Mark 5:21-41 (and Luke 8:40-56), the story is told of a man named Jairus who pleaded with Jesus to save his dying 12-year old daughter. However, before Jesus could get to Jarius’ house, a messenger had sent word that Jarius’ daughter had died (Luke 8:49). Jesus instructed Jarius not to fear and told him that his belief would make his daughter well (Luke 8:50).

When Jesus arrived at Jarius’ house, everyone was mourning the loss of the child. Jesus instructed them:

 “Don’t cry; the child is not dead—she is only sleeping,” (Luke 8:52, NLT)!

When Jesus told them that the child was not dead, they laughed at him (Mark 5:40). Despite this, Jesus, his disciples and the girl’s parents went to the room where she laid. Jesus took her hand and he said:

“Talitha koum,” Mark 5:41, NLT)!

Little girl I say to you get up,” (Mark 5:41, NLT).

The truth is, no one knows God’s will. His ways and His thoughts are higher than ours. However, if it is in His will, today, my prayer for 13-year old Jahi is “Talitha koum!” Little girl, get up. I pray that those who are “laughing” (e.g. the doctors, the hospital staff and the naysayers) would be put to shame in the same manner as those who were laughing in the house of Jarius. In Jesus’ name, I stand on the promise of the Word of God.

“Talitha koum!”

Today, as I was reflecting on God’s word in and for my life, I learned a very important lesson on gratitude.  It was also a lesson on humility.

One of my biggest pet peeve is when people answer the question “how are you” with the statement, “it could be worse.”  Oh my!  That phrase just makes my blood boil.  Yes, we all know it could be worse.  We could all be dying of hunger, suffering from scabies and burying our favorite dead dog—all in the same day.  Yes, it could be worse.  I guess the point that people are trying to convey when they say “it could be worse” is that we should be grateful.  However, I believe when we start to see our problems through the lens of “it could be worse,” we allow ourselves to adopt an attitude of pessimism.  The idea that “it could be worse” inadvertently traps us into mediocrity.  Somehow, it suggests that we have plateaued in our current situations.  If all we have is the notion that “it could be worse,” the worst case scenario, why would we aim higher?

Here is a novel idea:  IT COULD BE BETTER.   Regardless of wherever you and I find ourselves, there is always room for improvement.  When we take the stance of “it could be better,” we set the stage for optimism.  We are creating an environment where we could see our glasses as half full rather than half empty.

Now that we have established that life “could be better,” I must add a caveat to the argument.  Although there is always room for improvement in our lives, we must be grateful in our current situations.  In fact, some of the things that we take for granted might be the very thing that someone else is praying for.  Just think about it.

The first thing that most of us do when we arrive home late at night is turn the lights on.  We have taken our ability to distinguish between light and dark for granted.  For the individual praying for sight, he is always in darkness.  Some of us who have had the privilege of attending a concert might complain that the music was too loud, but for the person praying for hearing, everything is silent.  For the parent who complains about her child’s messy bedroom, there is a barren women praying for a baby.  I think you get the point.  We do have a lot to be grateful for.  However, our propensity for praise should not be based on what we do not have, but what we do.  For example, we should not praise God for our hearing by thanking Him for not being deaf.  We should praise him that we could hear.  The moral of the story is that we have to develop a heart of praise and thanksgiving.

This morning I read Luke 16:10-12.  It says, “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. 11 So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? 12 And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own,” (NIV)?  The passage humbled me.  For the first time, I was able to read it in a completely different light.  Here is what God laid on my heart based on this passage:

If God cannot trust us to be grateful and praise Him for the little miracles in our lives, how could He trust us to praise Him for our heart’s desires?  Maybe, just maybe, if we started to praise Him for the “little things,” we might start to see some manifestations of our bigger dreams.  In other words, if we praise Him for the “little things,” He just might trust us with true riches.

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!

Moment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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