Archives for category: Relationships

That’s just the way I am!  You’re too judgmental!  Maybe you are just too picky?

Relationships are hard, both platonic and romantic.  They require work, sacrifices and compromises, especially since we are all broken, imperfect people with a suitcase filled with baggage.

It is impossible to navigate the world alone.  We all need friends.  “Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed.  If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble,” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, NLT).  With that said, we have to learn to choose our friends wisely.  Relationships should be supportive, encouraging and empowering.  The people in our lives should directly and indirectly champion us to become better versions of ourselves.  We are the company that we keep.  The Bible reminds us of that in 1 Corinthians 15:33: “Bad company ruins good character” (NLT).

Compromise is needed to make any relationship work, but it should never be license for mistreatment.  Yes, we should all accept people for what, who and where they are, but this does not mean that we have to accept what they are willing or capable of offering.  For example, if we are in a place in our lives where our emotional love tank needs to be filled at a level eight capacity in order to make us feel whole, loved and valued, and someone is only willing or able to give at a level two capacity, then it is within our right to terminate or reposition that relationship.  The problem is that oftentimes, people with relational deficiencies take offense to being reassigned.  They often say things like, “You should accept me the way I am” or “You’re being judgmental.”  Yes, it is true that we should accept people as is, and that we should not be judgmental, but it is equally true that we don’t have to accept what someone is giving us simply because they are unwilling or unable to give us more.  It doesn’t mean that they are bad people, nor does it mean that we are.  It just means that we not compatible at the particular moment, which could change in the future.  It is okay to say that we want and need more from our relationships.  It’s even okay to say that we deserve it.  We should be in relationships with people who allow us to make demands of them, and who are willing to make an attempt to meet our needs.  With that said, we must be willing and able to do the same.  We also must be okay with others telling us that we do not fulfill their relationship criteria.  Some relationships are seasonal, and maybe those seasonal relationships have run their course.  That’s also okay.

Advertisements

Screenshot_2016-06-11-17-24-12-1.pngEvery now and then, I come across what I would call a social media gem.  The other day, I was scrolling through the pages of social media when I caught a glimpse of a quote that made me pause and take notice.  It read:

 

 

“STOP ADDING PEOPLE TO YOUR LIFE WITH THE SAME CHARACTERISTICS AS THE PEOPLE YOU ASKED GOD TO REMOVE.” Unknown.

 

I’m not quite sure who said it first, as many social media pages have posted the quote as their own.   Nonetheless, it struck a cord with me.

 

Relationships are as hard as people are imperfect.  We all have our ways—that thing about us that probably irks the life out of everyone else.  However, in order for us to have healthy, successful relationships, we have to be willing to overlook, and sometimes embrace, others’ shortcomings, just as we would expect them to embrace ours.  Relationships will never be equal, but they should be reciprocal.  In other words, there will be time when we give more than we receive, but it should balance out in the end.  We should strive to surround ourselves with people who replenish our cup, not deplete our well.

 

Many of us want great relationships, but, the truth is, many of our views on relationships have been skewed by our current dysfunctional relationships.  Some of us have become so accustomed to being in a position of lack that we don’t know how to ask for what we want and to receive what we deserve.  Oftentimes, the status quo becomes our new normal because we don’t know any better and because we have no measure against which to judge whether or not our current relationships are worthy investments.  Although I am no expert on the topic, however, below are a few pointers that I have picked up along the way:

 

  1. Know that when all else fails, God loves you, and He will NEVER forsake you.
  2. Know that you are worthy to be loved.
  3. Know that it’s okay to say, “I deserve better!”
  4. Learn to recognize when you are being taken for granted.
  5. Learn to recognize when you are being used.
  6. Observe the way the people in your life treat other people.
    1. This statement could go two ways:
      1. If the people in your life treat others badly, then, they will probably disregard you at some point.
      2. If the people in your life always put others before you, then they are probably taking your relationship for granted.
    2. Learn to be a friend.
    3. Learn to say no.
    4. Know that you don’t owe anyone an explanation.
    5. Don’t become a victim of faux loyalty and nostalgia.  Sometimes relationships were only meant to be seasonal.

 

Relationships take work.  They require effort.  People who value us and truly desire to be in relationship with us WILL put in the work.  If we are the ones who are always taking the initiative in our relationships, then we need to reevaluate and reposition those people in our lives.   We need to take note.  Are we the ones who are always calling, text or planning?  If we are, then we might want to evaluate whether value is being placed on our friendship—on us.  Sometimes, it’s better to be alone than to exhaust ourselves on toxic relationships.  The problem is many of us are creatures of habit.  Whenever we get rid of one bad seed in our lives, we often replace it with another of its kind.  At some point, we are the common denominator.  Ultimately, we have to realize that there is something that we are doing that enables and attracts these types of people and behaviors.  Again, we need to look at some of the pointers from above and remember that we deserve to be treated well.  We deserve to have genuine, honest relationships.

Relationship Checklist Pic

So many of us have such a clear idea of what we want in a friend or a romantic companion.  But, how do we compare to that list?

Today marks the fourteenth day of our 21-day Challenge.  The purpose of this challenge is for us to fearlessly trust God for 21 days.  A big part of trusting God requires us to take a look at ourselves.  Over the past few days, I have blogged about different topics in an attempt to challenge our perspective.  Today, I want to challenge all of us, myself included, to be the person on our relationship checklist.

Many of us, at some point, have asked God to bless us with relationships, whether platonic or romantic.  We want God to bring the “perfect” people into our lives, but we have not taken stock as to whether or not we are that person we are praying for.  We have to remember that we are not the only ones with wants and needs.  Other people have the same prayerful expectation of the people that they want God to bring into their lives.  Perhaps, we need to spend today determining what our expectations of relationships are and comparing ourselves to that list.  Below is a sample checklist and some ideas of how we can check ourselves against that list.

Relationship checklist:

  • God Fearing
    • How is your relationship with God?  How is your relationship with other people?
    • “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ but hates a Christian brother or sister, that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we cannot see,” (1 John 4:20, NLT)?
  • Generous/Kind
    • Do you share your resources (i.e. your time, your money, your belongings)?
  • Trustworthy/Has integrity
    • How do you act when no one is looking?
  • Thoughtful/Understanding
    • When was the last time you did something “just because?”
    • Even something as simple as sending a text to say “hello” could mean the world to someone else.
  • Forgiving
    • Do you hold a grudge, or do you let things slide?
  • Patient
    • Do you understand that others might not be as quick on the uptake as you, and therefore, it takes them longer to get things that might take you a shorter time?
  • Good listener
    • Do you actively listen, or are you always waiting for a pause in the conversation to initiate your turn to talk?
  • Caring
    • Can you see past other people’s shortcomings?
    • How do you treat others who aren’t your friend?
    • How do you treat people you don’t like?
  • Loving
    • How do you talk to and about people?
    • Are you quick to judge and point out other people’s faults?
  • Even-tempered
    • Are you quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger, (James 1:19).

There is something about flying that makes us think. I guess it has something to do with sitting still with nowhere to go.

As I sat in my seat on my flight to Canada, I got a change to think-I mean really think. Maybe it had something to do with the book I was reading: How Successful People Think by John Maxwell. I paused on the sentence where Maxwell talked about iron sharpening iron. I thought about the irons in my life-the people who challenge and encourage me to be a better version of myself. I also thought about past friendships that didn’t exactly edify me.

There were many lessons that I learned during this season in my life. I learned to evaluate my motives and the motives of those around me when giving and receiving advice, respectively.  I also learned to evaluate whether my relationships propelled me forward, or whether they held me back. The last, and possibly, the most valuable lesson that I learned this season was the value of being able to be myself without fear of judgment.

If we are not careful, sometimes we can become prisoners to other people’s issues and opinions, and people have a lot of issues and opinions. When we do, we can begin to take on personalities and characteristics that are not inherent to our nature.

I’ve heard it said that people dislike in others what it is that they hate about themselves. If I could add to that, I would say that people also hate in others the very thing they wished they had. All too often, I have seen people criticize other people about a particular characteristic or circumstance only to embrace that same characteristic or circumstance when they achieve it. The problem is, if we are not careful, we could be walking around holding on to baggage that wasn’t even our issue to begin with. Meanwhile, the original owner of the baggage has moved on and has left us standing in the aftermath of the wreckage—bitter and broken.

So what do we do? The first and most important thing is to remember who we are in Christ. We are God’s masterpiece—every one of us. We are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalms 139:14). The second thing to remember is that we should not be afraid to be ourselves. If someone cannot appreciate our quirks and personality, that’s okay. Move on. It is okay to move on. Lastly, we should not let other people’s insecurity become our problems. In life, we all have our crosses to bear. The last thing we should want to do is to take on someone else’s. It impedes our happiness. Remember, you don’t have to apologize to anyone for being happy—for being you!

20140622_100201-1On Monday, February 17, 2014 I started a countdown to what I thought was going to be my emancipation.   I had two target dates. The first was March 28, the date of my very first production—What’s Your Status: An HIV Awareness Story. The second was May 5. In my heart, I believed that was the date that the tides of my life were going to change. However, May 5th came and went without much fanfare. In fact, the entire month of May was rather uneventful, yet, in my heart I felt I still needed to continue the countdown. As each day went by, I crossed it off my calendar. I was in unknown anticipation of something spectacular yet to come. It wasn’t until the end of this weekend that I realized what I was counting down to.

Before I continue, I must go off on a brief tangent. A few weeks ago, I had a conversation with my uncle. We were discussing the topic of evangelism. Our discussion about sharing the gospel stemmed from an earlier conversation that I had with an acquaintance who had questioned me about Christianity and my relationship with Jesus. My acquaintance asked me whether I believed that Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation. My answer was simply, yes. Now, I say the word “simply” in gest because it wasn’t as simple as just saying yes. I have found that people who question the authenticity of Jesus have a hard time believing that He is the only way. Truthfully, if I were not a Christian, I too might have a hard time acknowledging the fact that someone that I didn’t believe in controlled my destiny—my fate—my eternity.   However, the fallacy of that argument is that belief does not precipitate truth. Whether or not someone choses to believe in a particular principle (or person) does not negate or validate the authenticity of the argument. Needless to say, I found the conversation with my acquaintance uncomfortable. I felt silently attacked. I felt judged. I couldn’t gage whether this individual’s questions were genuine interest or whether they were an attempt to be argumentative. Nonetheless, I answered the questions that were asked of me as best as I could. Even after the conversation was over, I still felt a little unsettled. I wondered whether I had said all the “right things” and whether I said them the “right way.”

I relayed my ambiguity about my conversation with my acquaintance to my uncle, and the very first thing that he said shook my core and resonated with my soul. My uncle reminded me that long before anyone talks to an individual about God, God has already revealed Himself to that person. In John 15:16, God said that we did not choose Him. He chose us. The second point that my uncle made was that no one, single person is ever responsible for the salvation of another. We all fall in line on a chain of messenger. Each person plays their specific role in delivering the message. Furthermore, God uses everything in and of the Earth to draw His creations closer to Himself. You see, it’s never about us. It’s always about Him. When we try to take on the role of conversion, we are placing way too much pressure on ourselves—pressure that God never intended for us to bear. The best way that many of us can share the Gospel of Christ is by sharing our lives and our stories. How we live and what we do should convey what we are trying to preach. People will seldom listen to our words if our actions fall short.

So that was my tangent. Back to the countdown. This past weekend, I finally realized that the thing that I had been subconsciously counting down to was the Vous Christian conference that I attended over the weekend. It was a life altering event. Thousands of young adults packed the Filmore Auditorium in Miami Beach, Florida and celebrated Jesus. In fact, they were blowing the roof off of that auditorium. It was spectacular. The preaching was great and the worship was amazing. As the weekend drew to a close, I realized that the reason that I had been counting down was that God was preparing my heart. He was drawing me to Himself. It’s great to know that even in 2014, God still choses me, and He also choses You!

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!

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!

Shut-Up-Graphic-09

 

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

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

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

JUST SHUT UP!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When most of us think of our top 10 desired, vacation destinations, we think of cities such as Rome, Paris, Barcelona and Nineveh.

I know what you are thinking.  You are thinking, “Did she really say Nineveh?”

Yes, I did.

Most of you probably couldn’t even spot Nineveh on the map.  Prior to writing this blog, neither could I.

I am not much of a historian, but here is what I do know about Nineveh.  Nineveh was the capital of Ancient Assyria.  It was one of the most powerful cities of its time.  Today, the ruins of Nineveh are located in Mosul, Iran.  What’s left of Nineveh are the shadows of a once prevailing city.

Knowing that, would I still want to go to Nineveh?  Would you?  What if I were to tell you that many of us have probably visited (or will visit) Nineveh at least once in our lifetime?  Hmmm!

Today, my pastor mentioned Nineveh in passing.  He described Biblical Nineveh as a treacherous city plagued by debauchery.  The prophet Nahum described Nineveh as a place of great wickedness.  It was no wonder why when God directed Jonah to travel to Nineveh to prophesize the people’s impending destruction, Jonah ran in the opposite direction.  Imagine how Jonah must have felt when God instructed Him to deliver the gloomy news.  I am sure he asked God, “Why me?”  He must have thought, “Surely, there is someone else more qualified to deliver the report.”  Jonah probably didn’t even care about Nineveh or the people there.  Thankfully, God did.  When it came to the people of Nineveh, God was not interested in sparing Jonah’s feelings.  He was more interested in saving their souls.  You see, when Johan delivered the news to the people of Nineveh, they repented and God relented.  By delivering those individuals, God not only saved them, He saved generations not yet born.  Speaking life into one man’s life also speaks life into his entire bloodline.  You can imagine that those individuals who were spared went on to have children, and their children went on to have their own children, and so on and so forth.

How many of us currently find ourselves in a Jonah situation?  We are doing everything in our power to run away from our assigned Nineveh.  Our “Ninevehs” could very well be our families, our marriages, our relationships or our jobs.  Just like Jonah, God might have assigned us to our current situation to save His people for imminent destruction.  Remember, in the story of Jonah, Jonah’s message of destruction was so horrific that it caused the people to repent.  It could be very possible that God is using us as Jonahs in our personal Nineveh.  Salvation for one could often mean salvation for many.  Remember Abraham?

When Abraham questioned God in the Old Testament about whether He would refrain from destroying Sodom for the sake of the righteous, God said he would (Genesis 18:22-33) not destroy the city if He could find righteous people there.  Maybe our presence in our Ninevehs (or Sodom) could spare the destruction of those around.  As Christians we are called to shine our light wherever we are.  Regardless of wherever we are called to be, God can allow His light to shine through us and reflect His goodness and mercy!  So, the next time we try to escape from our situations, we should determine whether we are trying to escape our Nineveh.  If we are, we might find ourselves in the belly of a whale.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dear Father,

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