Archives for posts with tag: Authority

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.

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A few weeks ago, I took a trip to California, which for the past few years, has been my default happy place.  I was a bit underwhelmed during my recent travels.  The effects of the drought were ubiquitous, and in an instant, my fond memories of the once picturesque landscape were deflated.  As I navigated around the city, I couldn’t help but notice how California’s fertile grasslands now appeared dry and barren.  However, that wasn’t entirely true.  Speckled throughout the desolate terrain were pockets of life—areas of new growth—hope.  As I drove along the multicolored mountain sides, I began to remember what the City used to look like.

During our walk as Christians, we often go through dry seasons—seasons of drought.  Just like the California drought, there are so many lessons to be learned during those periods.  The first, if not the most important lesson, is despite our circumstances, there is always a glimmer of hope.  As long as we have life in our bodies, there is hope.

The second lesson that our dry season teaches us is to pay attention to those who are around during our drought.  Are there people, who were once in our courtyard, who have since faded into the background?  Are the remaining people in our lives watering our garden or depleting our soil?

As I continued to marvel at the California desert, I started to notice how readily discernable the weeds were from the vegetation.  They were now more prominent and readily visible.  I believe the same is true of our walk in life.  God uses our drought to extract our “weeds.”  During our seasons of prosperity, it can be difficult to discern between our foes and our friends, because our enemies, just like the weeds, are also capable of infiltration and camouflage.  It is important that during our drought we identify and uproot the weeds in our garden.  If not, the dry season will come to an end, and we will be left with the same infestation that plagued us during our feast.

Many of us view our dry season as God’s punishment, but if we look at if more carefully, it’s an opportunity—a chance to start afresh.  It’s a chance to take off all that entangles and run our race uninhibited.

If you are going through a dry season in your life, take note of the weeds.  Uproot them.  Do not turn back.  God is about to turn it around, and He wants you to be free to enjoy the feast-the end of the drought!

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, (Psalm 5:1-3, NLT).

Day 21—We made it. Wow! What a journey this past three weeks has been. In the beginning of the challenge, I told you that one of the primary reasons why I started this challenge was in response to story about a pastor who after a yearlong journey of “living without God” decided that He was now an atheist. I wanted to challenge myself and my readers to see what life looked when we actively pursued God. So what did we learn?

The first thing that we probably discovered was that life is not easy. In Matthew 16:24-26, Jesus told His disciples, “’Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul,’” (NIV).

The Message translation puts it this way:

“’Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What kind of deal is it to get everything you want but lose yourself? What could you ever trade your soul for?’”

The moment that we decided to embark on this challenge, the devil got busy. There were obstacles and roadblocks that attempted to make our journey difficult. However, here is what I learned. Greater is He who is in us, than he who is in the world, (1 John 4:4). In John 16:33, Jesus said, “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world,” (NLT).

The name of Jesus is greater than any other name in this world, (Philippians 2:9). The name of Jesus is greater than death, Satan, sickness, sadness, fear, debt, worry, loneness, anger, and the list goes on and on.

As I officially close this 21-day challenge, I issue this lifetime challenge. Embrace the verses in Psalm 5:1-3:

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, (Psalm 5:1-3, NLT).

Know that God is not deaf to our prayers. Psalm 6:9 says “The Lord has heard my plea; the Lord will answer my prayer,” (NLT). The verse does not says that God might answer our prayers. It said that He WILL answer our prayers. Today, know that as we wait patiently on God’s answers to manifest, the answer is already waiting in the wings.

Lord, more than 2000 years ago, you sent your one and only son, Jesus Christ, to die for all our transgressions. Lord, we thank you. We thank you for your mercy and your deliverance. On Jesus’ final moments on the cross He spoke the final words that confirmed our destiny on Earth and in Heaven. Jesus’ final words were: It is finished! Lord, thank you that everything that has ever been promised to us has already been delivered since before the beginning of time. Lord, we thank you that IT IS FINISHED!

This is what the Lord says:  ‘Cursed are those who put their trust in mere humans, who rely on human strength and turn their hearts away from the Lord. They are like stunted shrubs in the desert, with no hope for the future.  They will live in the barren wilderness, in an uninhabited salty land. ‘But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water.  Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought.  Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit, Jeremiah 17:5-8, NLT.

A few days ago, I came across the above scripture while reading my devotional.  It really got me thinking.  Where is my trust?  In whom do I place my confidence?  Is it truly in God, or is it in man?

The Bible says that God will open doors in our lives that no one can shut (Revelation 3:8).  This does not mean that God does not use people as His vessels.  It simply means that the opportunities we seek are not man’s to bestow.  No man can give us our “big breaks.”  Again, this doesn’t mean that God does not give us favor with people in high positions.  It simply means that our destiny is not contingent upon another man’s approval, or disapproval.  This should be a relief for many of us.  Here is why.  David said it best in 1 Chronicles 17:27: “For when you grant a blessing, O Lord, it is an eternal blessing,” (NLT)!  When God says yes, the answer is YES!  He does not lie, and He does not change His mind, (Number 23:19).

You and I have to start to refocus our thinking.  The opportunities that we are awaiting are not going to come from our bosses, company executives, publishing companies, television directors or anyone for that matter.  It will come from God only.  He might use those people as His vessels.  He might not.  For example, God could promote you at work, and never include your boss in the process.  God could have you write a book or score a film and never go through conventional channels.  Yes, there will be people involved in each step of the way because we do not live in an isolated world.  However, the opportunity will come from God and God alone.

I believe that once we recognize that only God controls or destiny, we will stop tiptoeing around people and their opinions.  The Bible says, “The LORD is for me, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me,” (Psalm 118:6, NLT)? The answer is nothing.

Today, as we round the bend of our 21-day challenge, I say that we focus more on pleasing God than pleasing others. Once we aim to please God, we would have done right by man. This does not mean that man will always be pleased with us, it just means that we have done the best that we could. That’s all we can do!

Today’s prayer:

Lord, we thank you that whenever you grant a blessing, it is an eternal blessing. We thank you for who you are. We honor your name. Thank you for each person reading this prayer today. Lord, please bless every heart’s desire. In Jesus’ name. Amen!

Have you ever wondered whether it (whatever it may be) was all worth it? Well, you are in good company. During the middle of John the Baptist’s deepest pain, he sent his disciples to ask Jesus whether or not He (Jesus) was the chosen one. Essentially, John the Baptist wanted to know whether the sacrifices and the choices he made were all worth it (Luke 7:18-35, NLT).

James 1:5-8 says:

If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do.

These verses tell us that we should:

  1. Ask God for what we want.
  2. Don’t waiver.
  3. KNOW that we have received what we have asked for.

I know today that there are people right now who are struggling with their faith in God. You feel like you have made sacrifices. You have trusted God. You have stepped out on faith, but you still have not seen what it is that you have believed for. I ask that you just hold on. Apply the formula found in James 1:5-8.

  1. Ask God for what you want.
  2. Don’t waiver.
  3. KNOW that you have received what you have asked for.

Early in the Book of Genesis, a great flood washed over the earth. Noah and all the animals were weathering the storm aboard the ark. It must have felt like the storm was not going to relent. I wonder if Noah ever questioned whether he would survive the flood. I wonder if Noah questioned whether God had forgotten about him.

During the greatest storms in our lives, it is easy for us to think that God has forgotten about us. Thankfully, He does not forget. Genesis 1:8 says, “But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and livestock with him in the boat. He sent a wind to blow across the earth, and the floodwaters began to recede,” (NLT).

Just know that God has not forgotten us and left us to fend for ourselves in the storm. At just the right time, He will cause the tides to recede and to relent.

Today, I pray that your floodwaters will recede and that God will answer your prayers. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Yesterday, I watched an episode of House Hunters International where a young, American woman from Maryland made preparations to move to Paris to pursue a career as a nutritionist. As she searched for an apartment in and around the big city, her realtor constantly told her that in order to achieve her dream of living in a Parisian-style apartment that fit into her budget, she would have to make some compromises. Ultimately, she reminded her that, “You can’t have it all.”

The realtor’s words got my wheels turning. How many of these catchphrases have we embraced and taken as truth? Who says we can’t have it all. I believe that this saying and many other catchphrases of its kind are lies the devil told to keep us confined by the walls of mediocrity. If God said it, we can do it, and we can have it. This made me think. What other lies have the devil told and disguised them as aphorisms?

1. You can’t have it all.
2. No good deeds go unpunished.
3. All good things must come to an end.
4. Nice/Good guys/gals finish last.
5. It ain’t over until the fat lady sings. No, it’s not over until God says it’s over.
6. The devil’s in the details.

The Bible says that the power of life and death lies in the tongue. We have to be cognizant of the things we say because they sow the seeds for what we will eventually believe and become.

Today’s Prayer:
Lord, we stand on the Word of God. We declare what it says. We speak life into our dreams. We thank you, and we praise your name. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen!

It’s so easy to give up on God, isn’t it?  Why wouldn’t it be?  We can’t see Him.  We can’t hear Him?  We can’t experience Him with our five senses, at least not conventionally.  Having faith requires way more energy than just existing.  The notion of waiting patiently can often feel painstakingly disappointing.  Sometimes, it’s so much easier to say, “Why bother?!”

When most people talk about the pinnacle of faith, they usually cite Abraham.  His faith in God allowed him to be the father of many nations.  However, he almost allowed himself to be talked out of the blessings that God had promised him.

God had promised Abram that he would be the father of many nations.  However, many years had passed, and his wife Sarai was still barren.  Not only was she barren, she was also up in age.  For years, there was no sign of God’s promise.  In Sarai’s desperation, she offered Abram, her husband, to her servant Hagar.  The Bible said that, “Abram had sexual relations with Hagar, and she became pregnant,” (Genesis 16:4, NLT).

Now, let’s look at this scenario from a human standpoint.  Unless, Abram was a one-hit wonder, he probably didn’t hit the ball out of the park on the first attempt.  That probably meant that he had multiple encounters with Hagar.  I imagine that in Sarai’s attempt to increase the possibility of conception, she probably chose a young, pretty servant.  In other words, Hagar was probably younger and prettier than Sarai.  Imagine how horrible Sarai must have felt.  Not only was she subject to the feeling of inadequacy, she was now subjected to shame, rejection, humiliation and jealousy.  Additionally, when Hagar found out that she was pregnant, she began to mistreat Sarai, who ultimately became angry and resentful.

There are so many Biblical and cultural implications of the story of Hagar and Abram that we will not get into today.  Let’s fast forward some 13 to 14 years later.  Sarai and Abram whose name were now Sarah and Abraham, respectively, had a son, whom they named Isaac.

Hebrews 12:1-3 says:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up, (NLT).

The Bible illustrated that Abraham struggled with waiting on God (i.e. faith) as we ALL do.  But here is the revelation that I had.  Abraham and Sarah were desperate, but instead of taking their desperation to God, they took their desperation into their own hands and made a huge mess.  Thankfully, God is faithful even when we are not.  He never holds our past against us.  The moment that Abraham took his desperation to God, God refreshed him (Abraham) and reminded him of the promise that He made to him.  Shortly thereafter, Sarah became pregnant.

Here is the other revelation that I had:  Don’t allow others to talk you out of what God has promised you.  Only you know what your conversations with God were.  It’s possible that God’s directives to you might seem ridiculous to others.  It doesn’t matter.  They weren’t meant for them.  They were tailored to you!

I know that there are many people reading these words right now who are on the cusp of giving up on God.  You are desperate.  You are at the point of taking matters into your own hands, which might even include walking away from God.

At this, Abram fell face down on the ground. Then God said to him, “This is my covenant with you: I will make you the father of a multitude of nations! What’s more, I am changing your name. It will no longer be Abram. Instead, you will be called Abraham, for you will be the father of many nations. I will make you extremely fruitful. Your descendants will become many nations, and kings will be among them! “I will confirm my covenant with you and your descendants after you, from generation to generation. This is the everlasting covenant: I will always be your God and the God of your descendants after you. And I will give the entire land of Canaan, where you now live as a foreigner, to you and your descendants. It will be their possession forever, and I will be their God,” (Genesis 17:3-8, NLT).

I believe that one of the reasons why God changed Abraham’s and Sarah’s names was to remind them that He does ALL things new.  God is the author and the finisher of our faith.  He is the Alpha and the Omega.

At this time, I encourage you to fall on the floor.  Roll around if you have to.  Scream out to God in desperation.  Ask Him to remember the promises that He made to you.  If you can’t think of a specific one, Jeremiah 29:11 is a good place to start.  There, God promised to prosper you and give you hope and a future.  Psalms 27:13 says, “I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living,” (KJV).

Today’s prayer:  Lord, we come to you in desperation.  We fall at your feet in reverent humility.  Hear our hearts’ cry.  Do not allow us to take matters into our own hands.  The Bible says that you know us better than we know ourselves.  Meet us at the point where our faith is weak and we can no longer stand.  Lord, Sarai’s and Abram’s desperation set in because they did not see you move.  They became weak waiting on you to move.  Proverbs 13:12 says, Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life,” (NLT).  God, today, our hearts’ cry is that you step in before we take matters into our own hands.  Do not let us become so desperate that we move in our own accord.  Lord, show us your power.  Show us that you are the same God of Abraham–the God who created the Universe in His sovereign power.  Lord, we thank you, and we bless your name.  In Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen!

©2015 Khadine Alston.  All Rights Reserved.  Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2007, 2013 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

In the last days there will be very difficult times. For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that! They are the kind who work their way into people’s homes and win the confidence of vulnerable women who are burdened with the guilt of sin and controlled by various desires. (Such women are forever following new teachings, but they are never able to understand the truth), (2Timothy 2:3-7, NLT).

Those words that Paul spoke to Timothy over 2000 years ago are reflective of our culture today.  Debauchery is so ubiquitous that it makes me wonder what God must be thinking as He looks around at us.  Is He angry with us?  Is He indifferent? Does He care?  How does He feel?

Sometimes, I wonder whether these tumultuous times are signs that the end is near.  As a believer, I guess it shouldn’t matter.

Now concerning how and when all this will happen, dear brothers and sisters, we don’t really need to write you. For you know quite well that the day of the Lord’s return will come unexpectedly, like a thief in the night. When people are saying, “Everything is peaceful and secure,” then disaster will fall on them as suddenly as a pregnant woman’s labor pains begin. And there will be no escape. But you aren’t in the dark about these things, dear brothers and sisters, and you won’t be surprised when the day of the Lord comes like a thief. For you are all children of the light and of the day; we don’t belong to darkness and night. So be on your guard, not asleep like the others. Stay alert and be clearheaded. Night is the time when people sleep and drinkers get drunk. But let us who live in the light be clearheaded, protected by the armor of faith and love, and wearing as our helmet the confidence of our salvation. For God chose to save us through our Lord Jesus Christ, not to pour out his anger on us. 10 Christ died for us so that, whether we are dead or alive when he returns, we can live with him forever. 11 So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing,” (1Thessolonians 5:1-11, NLT).

In the above passage, God quelled my hunger for answers.  He reminded me that in a world of darkness, we need only worry about being a light.  Yes, one person, one prayer, can make a difference.  God just needs one obedient heart.  In Genesis, God would have saved the entire city of Sodom had Abraham been able to find at least five righteous people, (Genesis 18:16-33).

20 Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God. 21 He was fully convinced that God is able to do whatever he promises. 22 And because of Abraham’s faith, God counted him as righteous. 23 And when God counted him as righteous, it wasn’t just for Abraham’s benefit. It was recorded 24 for our benefit, too, assuring us that God will also count us as righteous if we believe in him, the one who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, (Romans 4:20-24, NLT)

Yes, one is not too small a number for greatness.  John the Baptist was also a lone voice in the wilderness, yet God used him for greatness.  Here is the secret.  As Christians, we are never really one.  We are one plus God, which equals greatness.  When we call upon the name of the Lord, we are never acting in our own strength.  We have to remind ourselves that regardless of what we see going on around us, CHRIST is greater than it all.  The name of Christ Jesus is above all other names.

Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father, (Philippians 2:9-11, NLT).

Lord, as we press into you over the next few days, please hear our battle cry. We will shout the names of Jesus as we walked around our spiritual walls of Jericho. Jesus!! We ask that you step into the dark places and rescue the captives. Jesus!!!! We ask that you shed your light on the darkness. Jesus!!! Jesus!!! Jesus!!!! Jesus!!! Jesus!!! Jesus!!!! Jesus!!!!!

Today’s Prayer: Lord, there is so much sadness on the news and in the world around us. However, we know that you are greater than any forces of darkness. You are greater than hate. You are greater than fear. You are greater than ANY and ALL principalities. Lord, release your Spirit on our lives and on your world. We pray for a revival. Let the people of this world know that you are God. God we ask that you reveal yourself. Do not be silent Lord! Remind a generation of the God of their ancestors. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen!

The Internet has revolutionized the world by allowing, for the most part, a free exchange of thoughts and ideas.  Information on the Web is instantaneous.  Long gone are the days when news took days, weeks or even years, to travel from one side of the world to the other.  Social media has also influenced our culture by encouraging the liberty of free speech.  However, the impact of social media has not always been positive. Oftentimes, it allows ill-spirited people to spew hatred from behind the protective shield of a computer screen and from behind the anonymity of a screenname.

A few weeks ago, I was thinking about King David.  In fact, I’m always thinking about King David.  He’s one of my favorite people in the Bible.  I love his naked transparency.  He was perfectly imperfect, if such a thing exists.  God loved him too, so much so that the Bible labeled him the apple of God’s eyes.  The stories of David teach us that even though God loves us and always forgives us, there are times when He holds us accountable for our actions.  In 1 Chronicles 21, David sinned against God.  He did something that God instructed him not to do.  As a result, God held him accountable.

God was very displeased with the census, and he punished Israel for it. Then David said to God, “I have sinned greatly by taking this census. Please forgive my guilt for doing this foolish thing.” Then the Lord spoke to Gad, David’s seer. This was the message: 10 “Go and say to David, ‘This is what the Lord says: I will give you three choices. Choose one of these punishments, and I will inflict it on you.’” 11 So Gad came to David and said, “These are the choices the Lord has given you. 12 You may choose three years of famine, three months of destruction by the sword of your enemies, or three days of severe plague as the angel of the Lord brings devastation throughout the land of Israel. Decide what answer I should give the Lord who sent me.” 13 “I’m in a desperate situation!” David replied to Gad. “But let me fall into the hands of the Lord, for his mercy is very great. Do not let me fall into human hands,” (1 Chronicles 21:7-21).

David’s response to God’s three choices has been something that I have held on to in my life.  David said that he would rather fall into the hands of God that into the hands of men.  Oh, how true!  As I read many of the pop culture news stories, I often ask myself the question, “How long should we be made to pay for our past mistakes?”  God said that we are new creatures in Christ, (2 Corinthians 5:17).  So often, people want to define us by our past.  So often, people want us to carry the scarlet letter of sin to the grave.  They want us to walk with our heads hung low for things we have done in our past.  I would rather fall into the hands of God than into the hands of man.  God makes all things new (Revelation 21:5).  Just as any good parent would, there are times when God does punish us for our sins.  However, the punishment is finite.  There IS an end.

The Lord is compassionate and merciful, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. He will not constantly accuse us,  nor remain angry forever. 10 He does not punish us for all our sins; he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve. 11 For his unfailing love toward those who fear him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth. 12 He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west. (Psalms 103: 8-12, NLT).

The heart of men tends to incline toward eternal condemnation.  Thank God, there is freedom in Christ Jesus.  We are not defined by our past.  We are not who we were.  Christ allows us the freedom to reinvent ourselves yearly, monthly, daily and even secondly.  In one minute, we could be the devil reincarnate and in the other, we could be ambassadors for Christ.  This is the freedom found in the blood of Christ.  Man does not define us.  They cannot.  Man cannot define what he did not create.

As we lean into God today, I want to remind you that you are not who you were yesterday.  During the next few weeks of this challenge, consider taking a break from social media.  Unfortunately, today, so much of who we think we are is tied up in other people’s opinions and validation, or lack thereof.  We need to reset our standards.  Over the next few weeks, learn who God says you are.  Learn who He created you to be.  Remember, when God created man, He created him in His own image.  When He was finished, He said, “This is good,” (Genesis 1:27-31).  God did not say, “Wow, this is bad.  Back to the drawing board.”  He said, “This is good!”  Therefore, He intended for us to see ourselves as such.  We are His masterpiece, (Ephesians 2:10).

Today’s prayer:  Lord, remind us who we are.  Never allow us to fall into the hands of man.  Lord, we know that when you punish us, your judgment is swift and fair.  Lord, allow us to learn who we are in you.  Remind us that Christ has made all things new.  In Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen!

Martha Picture

When I think about the adult life of Jesus, I often wonder what life was like for Him. Besides His disciples, did He have a lot of friends?  I imagine that most people who befriended him were more interested in His miracles than His friendship. But what about His disciples? Where they His friends?  I believe He loved them all dearly, even though, He might have been a bit partial to Peter, James and John.  I also believe that Jesus had a genuine friendship with Mary, Martha and Lazarus. He loved them dearly, so much so, that He wept when Lazarus died.

Jesus, if you would have been there, my brother would not have died. Jesus, if you would have been there, my father would not have gotten cancer.  Jesus, if you would have been there, we wouldn’t have lost our child. Jesus, if you would have been there, I would have been delivered from the clutches of drugs and alcohol. Jesus, if you would have been there, I wouldn’t have been molested. Jesus, if you would have been there, I wouldn’t have gone to jail. Jesus if you wouldn’t have been there, I wouldn’t have (fill in the blank).  Do any of the above scenarios strike a chord? How many times has Jesus wept in our lives? Instead of giving him the benefit of the doubt, we scold him. We curse him. We abandon him.

I believe the reason Jesus cried was probably deeper than what we see on the surface. I don’t believe that Jesus cried because Lazarus died. Why would he? He was the Son of God, and he knew that he was about to raise him from the dead. In fact, in John 11:4, Jesus said, ““Lazarus’ sickness will not end in death. No, it happened for the glory of God so that the Son of God will receive glory from this.” Jesus had promised that Lazarus would not die in that moment. However, the caveat was that God would receive the glory.

When it came down to it, Mary and Martha, whom he loved dearly, did not trust him. They called themselves His friend, yet they didn’t even give him the benefit of the doubt.  The body was already buried.  The wailers were already mourning.  They had fully embraced death.  I believe in that moment Jesus’ humanity took over. And he was deeply saddened.  To make matters worse, Martha had the nerve to give Jesus a piece of her mind.  Now, it’s easy for me to sit on this side of time and judge her through the lens of retrospect.  However, Martha is no different from me.  How many times have I “reprimanded” God for not delivering a promise on my timetable?  How many times have I buried living promises because their slow movement mimicked rigor mortis?  How many times have you?  Thankfully, God is faithful, even when we are not (2 Timothy 2:13).

40 Jesus responded, ‘Didn’t I tell you that you would see God’s glory if you believe?’ 41 So they rolled the stone aside. Then Jesus looked up to heaven and said, ‘Father, thank you for hearing me. 42 You always hear me, but I said it out loud for the sake of all these people standing here, so that they will believe you sent me.’ 43 Then Jesus shouted, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ 44 And the dead man came out, (John 11:40-43, NLT).

Here is one of the pivotal things that Jesus did when He was surrounded by unbelief. He praised God. Psalms 100:4 says, “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name,” (NIV). Before Jesus attempted to access the promise, He ignited His praise. So often, so many of us cannot wait to get in God’s court, not so that we can praise Him, but so that we can wag our finger at Him and give Him a piece of our minds.

The Bible says that we should enter His court with thanksgiving. Doing so, reminds us of our rightful position before the throne. We serve God, not the other way around. God encourages us to be authentic–to share our hearts with Him and surrender our pain. However, we need to acknowledge that He is God.

Today, as we embark on our second day of our challenge, I challenge you to enter His gates with thanksgiving. For the next 20 days, start your morning by thanking and praising God. Before you open your eyes in the morning, enter His court with thanksgiving. It doesn’t have to be a long sermon, just thank Him. Also, throughout the day, thank Him for your “Lazaruses.” Thank Him for those promises that are not dead, but are sleeping and waiting on the right time to bring glory to God.

Today’s Prayer: Lord, we step into your court with thanksgiving. We thank you for being God. We thank you for making all things new. “Father, thank you for hearing me. You always hear me,” (v.41). Lord, on the authority of Jesus, I pray, “Lazarus come out!” Lord, you know us individually, and you know what our “Lazaruses” are. Lord, we speak to those promises that appear to be dead, but are only sleeping. Come out! Come out! Come out. In Jesus’ name. Amen!