Archives for category: Thinking Outside the Box

Today, I pose a few hypothetical questions.  What if when we get to heaven we realize just how literal God was when he said, in Genesis, that He had given man dominion over the Earth?  What if when we get to heaven we realize just how many of our life outcomes were under the control of our prayers and our tongues?  What if we realize that our lives and the lives of others could have been dramatically changed by a simple declaration of our faith?  Would we do things differently now?  Would we declare more things in the name of Jesus?  We do know that nothing happens outside of God’s will, but what if much of our lack (e.g. spiritual, physical, emotional and financial) is due to a failure to ask—a failure to make a bold declaration?  What if many of our prayers confused begging for asking with belief (i.e. faith)?  I don’t recall the woman at the well begging Jesus to heal her.  She simply touched Him, and she knew that she was healed.  In fact, Jesus told her that her faith had made her well.   How about we hedge our bets here on Earth and start declaring things that be not as though they were.  What do we have to lose?

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Wasn’t technology supposed to make our lives better and easier?  Clearly, that isn’t always the case.  Nowadays, it seems as if our lives are even more complicated than ever before.  The limits of our boundaries are constantly being ebbed away.  The idea of personal and family time has almost been obliterated.  That person who dares to leave work at exactly 5:00 p.m. is either a trailblazer or simply lazy.  Whatever happened to the days when our free time was just that—free?  Once upon a time, we were not slaves to our cell phones or emails.  People didn’t always have an expectation that others should immediately beckon to their every request.  Today’s employees, particularly those who are salaried, are expected to be available around the clock.  Somewhere throughout the course of employment, an employee’s negotiated, and agreed upon, hours of employment became blurred and transcended into a 24-hour service.  Over time, there became an unspoken, and sometimes verbalized, expectation that employees should come in early and leave late.  Don’t even think about leaving “on time” if you ever want to be considered for promotion.  Doing so would almost always guarantee that you would be placed at the bottom of any promotion list.

 

Before I continue, I must make one disclaimer.  Generally speaking, this post is geared solely towards honest, hard-working people, not individuals who go to work to buy time between paychecks and whose morning and evening clock outs rotate around their 20 coffee, water and bathroom breaks.  It’s not geared towards those who approach work and life with a sense of entitlement and a spirit of mediocrity.  While those individuals might go through the motions of pretending to work, their attention and focus are usually elsewhere.  Those individuals are usually toxic and, almost always, help to further tax and over burden their co-workers, who then inadvertently take on their share of the workload.  I digress.

 

Diminishing boundaries are stifling our quality of life and potentially the productivity that we so desire. It is impossible to continuously perform at a 100 percent capacity without hitting our refresh or reset keys. Think about our computer programs.  Sometimes, in order to get them on the right track, we have to restart the program, which require that the computer is complete turned off.  As far as I know, there is no way to partially restart a computer.  Every terminal action is usually an attempt to force a program to quit and start over.  In our personal lives, the end of each day should be an opportunity to quit and start over.  However, too often, our days and nights have become one continuous blur.  Many of us in corporate America have become slaves to the grind.  We have become slaves to capitalism.  However, Christ did not die on the cross for us to be slaves.  Galatians 5:1 says, “So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law,” (NLT).  It is important that we heighten our awareness of the things in our lives that challenges our freedom and try to draw us back into the confines of slavery.  We have to constantly reaffirm that we are not slaves.  We are free.  Christ died on the cross so that we could be free.  We are not slaves!  I am not a slave!

 

 

Empty Well

It is so important for us to read the bible in context.  So often, we memorize key verses and phrases, and neglect to see the bigger picture.  This morning, as I thought about this blog on empty wells, Galatians 6:2 came to mind: “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ,” (NIV).  But as I meditated on the verse, I realized that it was the second verse of the chapter.  What did the previous verse say?  In fact, the previous verse served as a cautionary statement.  It said: “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted,” (NIV).  The New Life Version reads, “You who are stronger Christians should lead that one back into the right way. Do not be proud as you do it. Watch yourself, because you may be tempted also.”  Firstly, the verse calls for the “stronger Christians” to lead his brother/sister back into the right way.  Secondly, it cautions the “leading” individuals to refrain from becoming proud and to be careful of falling into the same trap.  The truth is, we all have areas where we are strong and areas where we falter.  Moreover, these areas may vary by season and/or circumstances.  It is important for us to understand that while God has called us to bear one another’s burdens, there is only one Savior.  We were not designed to save everyone.  In fact, if we do not continue to replenish our wells, then we run the risk of running emotionally and spiritually dry.

If you are consistently playing the role of the go-to person in your relationships, there will come a point where your well will run dry.  If you incessantly pour out and do not replenish your reserve, you will bottom out.  This could have multiple physical, mental and spiritual ramifications.  Below are a few things that I have found helpful during some of my darkest moments.

  1. Be kind to yourself
    1. Know that some days you will fly, and some days you will fall. Some people will think you are the greatest, and some will think that you are the worse.  However, neither one of these things define who you are.  Only God defines you.  He made you, and He knows who He has called you to be.  No one else has that authority, including you!
  1. Keep inventory of your “well” reserve
    1. Most credit counselors advise against credit card use. Why?  With credit card usage, there is a tendency to spend more than we have.  Debit card are just as bad.  I would venture to say that most people are not balancing their account ledger after each swipe of their card.  It’s no wonder the banking industry makes so much money on overdraft fees.  The same is true of our emotional bank account.  If we are not keeping an accurate account of our balance, there will be a tendency to over extend and/or over commit.  If we don’t keep accurate accounting, we will spend more than we have to give.  This brings me to Item #3.
  1. Learn to say “No!”
    1. Saying “no” is way more than simply refusing a request. Sometimes saying “no” could mean declining to answer an email, a text or a missed called.  For some, this is the biggest step towards establishing healthy boundaries in relationships.
  1. Keep inventory of those who are making deposits and withdrawal into and away from your wells
    1. Relationships are seldom equal. However, our relationships must be mutually beneficial.  In other words, we will have relationships where one person brings more to the table than the other.  The important thing for us to remember is that we should maintain a healthy balance of the different types of relationships in our lives.  Again, if we are always giving more than we are receiving, then our relationships are out of sync, which will eventually lead to a dry well.
  1. Take note during your hour of darkness.
    1. Who are the ones calling solely to check on you—not to gossip, not to vent, but simply to check on your well being?  Oftentimes, when you tend to be the strong one in your relationships, people erroneously think that you don’t have problems or that your problems are secondary to theirs.  Please understand that is an unfair and unrealistic expectation.  The people in your life must be able to acknowledge that you too are human, and as such, you too have your cross to bear.
  1. Know that you cannot be everything to anyone person.
    1. I recently had a conversation with a friend who said to me that in relationships, we meet our needs by drawing from the many wells in our lives. Whenever, we start to draw predominantly from one well, we put that other person in an unfair position, which is too much pressure to place on any one person.

Now, after having said all that, I will say this:  When we are weak, God will make us strong.  There are times when God will push us beyond what we thought we could do or where we thought we could go.  However, the problem in many of our lives is that we fail to ask Him for His counsel, and we busy ourselves with things, people and tasks that He never commissioned us to take on.  Sometimes, God is doing a work in our lives and He is doing work in others’ lives as well.  My final parting note is that we should seek God in all that we do, and He will give us the guidance that we so desire.

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!

Greed

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

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

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

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

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

TODAY’S DEADLY SIN: GREED

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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